All leaders of organisations I meet live with the question: "How can I motivate my people that they deal themselves, out of their own sense of responsibility, with the work challenges they meet, the goals they strive towards, the changes they experience, and that they take the right initiatives?" Co-workers I meet in organisations live with the question: "How can I make sure that they will listen to us, so that finally we can share the real problems we are facing in the work: what are they all doing up there creating changes all the time?" In this book we explore a new methodology for handling the gap between bosses and workers, in particular a methodology that supports the way we deal together with complex changes of organisations, with 'slow questions' that have no easy answers. This methodology meets the inner inspiration that shows itself in the outer movement. It is connected to recent developments in social sciences that are characterised in this book. It is also connected to the practices of leaders in organisations that search for and find new ways for dealing with resistant change issues and processes and with 'slow questions in swampy circumstances'.
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Translated from Dutch to English
by Els Klijnsma
The Body is
The Spirit is
The Soul is not
The Soul appears
Spirit Song Over The Waters
The soul of man
From heaven it cometh,
To heaven it soareth.
And then again
To earth descendeth,
Down from the lofty
Streams the bright flood,
Then spreadeth gently
In cloudy billows
O’er the smooth rock,
And welcomed kindly,
Veiling, on roams it,
Tow’rd the abyss.
Oppose its progress,–
Angrily foams it
Down to the bottom,
Step by step.
Now, in flat channel,
Through the meadowland steals it,
And in the polish’d lake
Wind is the loving
Wooer of waters;
Wind blends together
Spirit of man,
Thou art like unto water!
Fortune of man,
Thou art like unto wind!
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749–1832)
A remarkable book
Core notions and presentation of the question
Question and point of view
Research into the soul
Philosophical reflections as mirror for the organised soul
Philosophy of organised life
Understanding the natural and cultural world of the human soul
The I appear in the soul
Essential soul qualities
Self-regulation of the soul
The soul and organised life
How does the I show itself in the soul as the free soul in organised life?
Process patterns of human constructing
2 Principles of organising
Core processes of human action, reflection and judgment
The soul and beacons for change
Leadership and sense giving
To a new vision on leadership: horizontal leadership
The soul of a bank
This is a remarkable book, written by a remarkable man. In his magnum opus Adriaan Bekman has connected three major lines to a road map that is as bold as it is inspiring. Those who are prepared to critically and attentively follow the path he shows, will be led to the heart of the big social questions of our time.
The first line he sets out is about the central position organisations have in present-day life. ‘Individual life has become completely inflated in an organised social context and everyone participates, whether he likes it or not’, Bekman writes. His exploration of this line is a continuation of the many books he has written preceding this major work, especially his long-term research – as an adviser, a manager, a teacher and a coach – into the tension between vertical and horizontal organising and into the crucial part sense giving plays in and for organisations. In this book he continues his research, but now connected to a second historical and philosophical line. He makes a bold attempt to reread the western philosophical tradition of the last 2500 years with an eye to its relevance for present-day organised life. The big questions of freedom, community and the meaning of life that have been put by so many, from the ancient Greeks up to postmodern philosophers of today, and that have been answered in new ways all the time, must in our time, according to Bekman, be looked into from a completely new perspective.
‘This perspective is the life that we all live today.’ His concern is the key question how to turn the world into a moral one. The elaborate answer to the question that he develops in this book, leads to the soul and to care for the soul that is to our inner world, especially the development we manage to initiate in this, in and from our own contribution to organised life. Do we succeed in letting questions of inspiration and meaning become leading questions and in taking up leadership in this ourselves?
This brings me to the third line which in my view is defining for the road map to the key questions of our time that Bekman poses to his readers: ‘It is high time to rehabilitate the soul.’ Not only does he write this, he also demonstrates it. This is a book by an inspired and inspiring man who, when writing, achieves one of his most important insights right in front of the readers’ eyes: it is not about final answers to the slow sense-giving questions of our existence, it is about our turning to these questions. It is about horizontally dealing with them in our organised lives, by undertaking them ourselves, by repeatedly starting dialogues about them from our own sources whenever they are broken off or blocked, and by showing in actions that – through organising and being organised – sense and connection can emerge. The patient and inspired unfolding of this great notion makes this book an important one, which I hope will find many critical and attentive readers.
What induces someone to write a book like this one? What underlying motives are there? Why has it been done in this way?
These questions are not easy to answer. After all human actions are not only driven by conscious motives and impulses. Much takes place from an area or process unknown to man him self.
Still I would like to start by trying to render insight into how this has occurred and I will do this in the hope that the reader will continue to internally follow the reading process because he is to some extent aware of the author’s motives.
I have advised organisations and their directors in their questions of human and organisational development for over forty years. After my sociology and business administration study I coached military staff that had to upgrade the didactics of army schools. In some thirty schools similar themes were taught in completely different ways. The question was: what are good didactic fundamentals for effective and meaningful training of militaries? I advised some hundred older officers who were in fact redundant on setting up and undertaking research, developing programs, studying new didactic forms of learning and such. All this took place under the inspiring guidance of younger well-trained professional officers. Here I experienced how change can occur in the inner world of people with outspoken fixed opinions and what resistance this causes. It is useless to try and convince others; they have to experience themselves what it means to change the way they were used to doing things.
After this I worked for eight years with the international staff of Shell companies as an internal consultant on processes of organisational development. This was a completely new work field, unknown and at first unloved. The Shell top, led by ultimately responsible visionary Wagner, was of the opinion that it would be useful to try and find new work forms for management and employees since the old ones were no longer consistent with the zeitgeist. We started projects as a new way of working across fixed connections, we started work meetings, we started management training, reorganisations, practising social skills, organisational development in which the development of vision and strategies parallel to working effectively and efficiently became related to each other. Thus next to on-going operationalization of work and community it created room for development that working people could participate in. I remember how workers in wells at the Dutch Oil Company in the Netherlands were asked for the first time in their lives to join a three-day course in social skills. At home the wife was wondering how to cope without husband for three whole days. The well man sat in a strange room trembling with fear and was asked to open his mouth. After a few days’ practice there were lively conversations about work, cooperation, management and what they expected of working life: a very new and exciting experience. We are talking about the seventies of the previous century here.
Since that time I have advised organisations of various sizes and complexity, active in different social fields, in different parts of the world on their human and organisational development. I captured a lot of what I have learned in a series of published books. I experienced how in various fields of work – production, administration, logistics, marketing/sales, finances, personnel, terms of employment etcetera - over and over again new systems were introduced, on-going professionalization took place, an increasing amount of procedural control instruments was introduced and IT and communication was set up worldwide. I saw the glorious rise of management, of management systems, of the scientification of business management, and parallel to all this I saw the magnificently extended social infrastructures that should substantiate and guide all this. We created a socially-economically organised 24/7 life for man. All life processes were organised.
As clients and employees, as suppliers and owners, we all go through organised life and have to learn to deal with it. Individual life has become stretched up in this organised social context and everyone takes part whether he likes it or not.
In worldwide society this organised life is shown in the victory march of economic liberalism, later neoliberalism. All ideological social movements that had dominated the scene for centuries, the religious-ecclesiastical movement, the political-ideological movement, the workers/employees emancipation movement, the feminist liberation movement, all these were overtaken and swallowed up by this liberal socio-economic violence of organised life.
This development, sketched extremely shortly here in less than no time, produces a question of quite a different nature. This is the question that takes place inside people, takes place and has taken place differently now that everyone participates in this worldwide socio-economic empire and must give shape and sense to his life in it.
This question is the question of inspiration and sense giving.
What occupies the inner world of people, what are they engaged in, what do they aspire, what fulfils them and what frustrates them? This is the question that does not have organised answers, answers that can be organised through an infrastructure. This is the question of man and community, the question of the sense of life.
It touches upon the questions that philosophy has dealt with for centuries, the questions about our origin, the sense of it all, a creative space for man, the existence and the freedom or lack of freedom of the human soul.
These questions that have been consistently examined by philosophy for three thousand years on the basis of what was discussed by independent thinkers have to be examined once again and from a whole new perspective. This new perspective is the organised life that we all live today. It is the life that is distinguished from the original natural life that we come from. It is the life created by ourselves that we, while organising, carry out in an ever-differentiated construction of processes. It also is the life that does not contain sense in itself but that we have to give sense ourselves: the life inspired by man himself.
The society we live in has become an organised society in which life processes take place in an organised way. Everyone takes part in it; man/woman, rich/poor, young/old. It is the world in which we industrially fatten and slaughter animals, put air, water and earth at our own service, use them and convert them to products, carelessly dispose of our waste and at best process it. We act as clients, employees, owners and citizens in various social roles in this organised world.
The positive consequence of this new socio-economic global society is that every human being has the opportunity, irrespective of blood and soil, ideology and religious belief, to come to cooperation, dialogue and interaction with any other person and thereby to create a meaningful existence for himself and the other person. What mainly counts in this is whether and how the soul, appearing as the inner world of man and of human creation, is fulfilled, meaning that organised life responds to what man perceives as meaningful, inspires him and responds to what he wants to add to his organised life as sense.
In this organised society it is the institutions created by us that carry the welfare of people and human society. Organised society is made up of an endless differentiation of institutions that support entirely different life processes of people. Schools, hospitals, trains, mail and telecom traffic, tax authorities, transport networks, harbours, etcetera, are all institutions that make sure that the community and the individual person can participate in society in a regulated way. This goes hand in hand with an extremely sophisticated bureaucratic machinery that in turn is controlled by a varied network of managers and leaders. These people most influence and establish culture, people’s welfare, the sense of life and the development of society. I would even like to assume that everything that is political, that is religion and that influences human welfare ideologically is based on these social institutes that direct and guide organised life. Connected to this is the fact that leadership, sense giving and community formation and the way managers control employees, serve their clients and satisfy their principals is to a large extent in the hands of these managers.
In this light it is extremely relevant to deal with what takes place in this area of management, what leading notions are dominant there, how these notions are expressed in social institutions, aims and policies.
Here the question comes to light that is examined and discussed in this book, in this philosophy. It is the question of ‘what occupies man’s soul, what notion leads him and how this is expressed in community practices that increasingly determine people’s lives and the welfare of our society, even of our earth and world.’
We would like to refer to the work of philosopher Harry Kunneman (1948) who investigates this question in an expressive language and makes statements about it that are worthy of notice.
He phrases this investigation as the reflection and the work on the ‘slow questions’ of life, which we do in ‘places of strain’.
In the ‘small publication’ Small values and great values of his inaugural speech in his new professorship Normative Professionalization (2013) he raises ‘important questions’ dealing with the welfare of people and communities, as the result of lifelong research inspired by distinguished philosophers such as Habermas and Foucault.
He refers to Donald Alan Schön (1930-1997) who makes the intriguing distinction between ‘higher grounds and swampy lowlands’ and poses that ‘problems of the greatest human concern’ are located in the swampy lowlands.
Partly on the basis of my own course of life I have become increasingly interested in swampyness as an existential experience and condition. It is about the painful and frightening experience of going down in swampy soil in which you fail to find any footing and feel at the mercy of an event you have no control over whatsoever. This is primarily a physical experience that is manifested concretely in the form of illness, injury, hunger and exhaustion, with all related emotions such as pain, fear, despondency and despair. But it is also to a large extent a social and relational condition connected to experiences of violence, exploitation, neglect and indifference, becoming victim of discrimination, contempt and exclusion.
Kunneman calls this ‘dolor complexitatis’. He continues:
Understanding this existentially adds a new layer of meaning to Schön’s notion of ‘high grounds’. The great attraction of security, safety and controllability that high grounds promise to provide can also be understood from the ‘horror complexitatis’ that can be evoked by one’s own painful experiences with incontrollable complexity as well as by the fear and pain of others who threaten to drown in a physical, social or relational swamp. The ‘dolor’ of the one evokes the ‘horror’ of the other.
An example Kunneman gives is ‘the professional who has adhered to protocol, regardless of the distress added to the situation of client, patient or citizen.’
Kunneman does not leave it at that and introduces a third ‘complexitatis’, a new relation to complexity, and calls this ‘amor complexitatis’. He sees this ‘amor complexitatis’ as originating from ‘the development of horizontal forms of morality and of horizontal epistemological perspectives.’ This forms the basis of ‘good craftsmanship in swampy conditions.’
After Kunneman has posed these qualities, he points out the inner swampyness.
The complexity of our own inner selves and the contradiction of our emotions very much contribute to the swampy complexity that professionals encounter in their work. This then brings us to the essence of the argument: In the light of all this we may have to face the fact that modern freedom and the autonomy of the individual and its constant confirmation in the context of neo-liberal modernisation do not at all lead us away from our inner swamp and all related relational problems, but mainly encourage us to suppress this swampyness; and thus they diminish rather than enlarge the room for values in which we can move. The contemporary shift towards horizontal forms of morality points in a different direction, more promising in my view, particularly because of the horizontal relation and the instructive friction between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ that this opens up also on an inner level. The shift towards horizontal forms of morality provides the possibility to recognise our inner complexity, that is to say the tense merging of contrary desires and needs in our inner life and in our primary relations with others, and the affiliated instability and opacity.
Kunneman sees the ‘‘amor complexitatis’ as a decisive component of normative professionalization as a working learning process.’
This reinforces the importance of dealing with questions related to the inner world of people, whether or not they are fulfilled, their connection to the social communities in which they live and move about, their sorrow and desires, in short, the question of inspiration, and all this in particular in the context of the organised life that we lead, also with each other.
This requires our concentration on what we consider to be the sting in the whole story, namely what takes place in the inner world of what we together can call managers and management, the managerial strength or weakness of organised life, the leadership that touches and moves man and community, and steers in often unwanted directions.
We do this from the perspective that it is the managers, and their cooperating professionals, who can, yes, must even more strongly acquire Kunneman’s quality of ‘amor complexitatis’ as an inner orientation on dealing with complex questions if organised communities that function under their direction can fully bring morality to fruition within themselves, the morality that is their responsibility for the welfare of people and society.
I see this ‘amor complexitas’ as an ultimate human quality that makes our man created world into a moral one, as a result of which we can take care of the earth, the world and the inner world of people responsibly. The corresponding essential values/qualities of being human – the qualities of freedom, love and respect in all that we think and do, in all that connects us to others – that I name hereafter, these are the values that make our organised world into a moral one.
Earlier I mentioned my forty-year-long efforts to support organisations and people in their development, in doing the right thing in this, also with a view to ‘the unknown other person’, the client. It is a joyful experience when managers and people with the ultimate responsibility pick up this responsibility with full consciousness. Not only is this discussed, but acting and perceiving are also attuned to it. However, I have to state that in the mainstream of anonymously functioning business operations, but also in the relation of consuming users to these operations, this responsibility is not at all or only partly found. In spite of courageous efforts all over the world by passionate, involved people to make people in their community alert and sensitive to often disastrous effects of their own behaviour on others and make them aware of this essentially destructive conduct and try and change it, we see that this only minimally and very slowly becomes part of the community. This shows us that we are dealing with fundamental slow questions that live in places of strain and that cannot simply and quickly be answered and solved. These are questions that complement the search people have pursued for centuries for their own responsibility in a world and on an earth that is finite and vulnerable.
This is what we want to take as a starting point and further explore in this book.
The most important immediate cause for starting to write this book was a question posed to me by a colleague, professor in humanistic philosophy, who addressed me like this:
‘We have known each other for some time now, every now and then we have dinner together and talk about how we are. When I look at your work and how you are engaged in it, I can only express my admiration for it. You also write interesting but thin books. I like reading them and they always provide something useful. Still I have been wondering for some time what is the basis of all this work. What is your starting point and is your possible foundation solid? You should write a nice big book about all this.’
This was his invitation and it got me thinking. That evening I did not have a straight answer.
After a few weeks it dawned on me that I had received a question I had to say a definite yes to. I had no idea what it would involve, but I was ready for this question and prepared to work on it in the following years.
After I had casually discussed this intention with some colleagues, I decided to draw up a first rough framework and from there develop a picture of this research into my foundation in a very systematic and precise way. My colleague Klaas IJkema, doctor in philosophy and theology, was prepared to critically read what I had produced.
In this survey I included the idea to read myself the original works by famous philosophers who had taken a decisive step in their own time, and draw from this for my question. I started work and in the past years read philosophical works by Plato to Foucault.
Philosophising for 2500 years with ultimately the permanent basic question in mind: What about ‘God’, or in other words our origin, what about the soul, or in other words the inner world of man and humanity, and what about freedom, or in other words us being intended yes or no, and how do these questions manifest themselves in our organised life?
Basic questions are questions that have endured for centuries and that still inspire us. I realised that these basic questions have taken us human beings further in the course of centuries. Not that we have found definitive answers, but we as human beings have been able to develop and change our inner and outer world because of these questions. They are sense-making and inspiring questions.
A decisive discovery in this research process was the insight that man is part of two completely different worlds. First we are part of the natural-cosmic world into which we are launched, in which we dwell and find ourselves and which we endeavour to get to know. Besides however, we as humanity gradually have become part of a second world, which we can characterise as our own creation. This is a world that we increasingly are part of as individuals and which will dominate our lives to an ever-greater degree. I came to the conclusion that these basic questions are the questions we can, no, have to ask from this second world, the world of our own creation, the organised world.
What in essence characterises these two worlds?
The natural-cosmic world is a world, which our bodies and spirits are at home in. Both, body and spirit, appear on this earth as unique beings. The unique ‘I’ is the appearance of one’s own spirit, and the unique body is that in which we dwell. In its uniqueness it is nevertheless part of the world of ‘being’. This world of ‘being’ is objective and systematic – the heart beats, the skin breathes, the blood flows, the nerve works. In this world of ‘being’ object and subject coincide as they are of the same order. That is why this world is a world of ‘harmony’, in which all that is stands in relation to each other in a given proportion. In philosophical explorations body and spirit play the part of the anchor, they are assumed to be part of ‘being’.
We can get to know this world in which we live, up to a certain point, and we can also use this world to create a second world. This is the world of the soul. This second world is a world of ‘becoming’. It is not objective and true, but inter-subjective and it is not provided with a sense other than the one we give it. The world of the soul manifests itself in everything people accomplish, both in their own inner world and in the outer world that surrounds us.
In contrast with the natural-cosmic world, a harmonic world, the world of the human soul is first of all characterized by paradoxicality, it is a world of contrasts and polarities. In this light the soul appears as our thinking, feeling and willing in the inner world, as our own human world brought about by thinking, feeling and acting.
The question of the relation between the world of ‘being’ and the world of ‘becoming’, an extremely exciting question in the whole of human development but also in the development of every individual, can be examined when we focus on questions of inspiration and sense giving as urgent key questions about our existence.
All this provides a good starting point for the description of the philosophy of organised life as it has developed over the years. This starting point of two completely different worlds that we are part of, the natural and the organised world, is absolutely justified in the light of the fruits of 2500 years of philosophising, and it is, as I gradually realised, very suitable as a basis for sketching the sense of my own work in the perspective of inspiration and sense giving.
Good! But what does it look like?
Philosophising is dealing with real life questions that occupy people in certain periods of time. Philosophising does not therefore mean looking for abstract and scientific explanations for what is and what appears, but it is ‘by research trying to get close to reality and staying there in order to become able to live and act from it.’
The basic question of 2500 years of philosophising appears in the ever-current dilemma whether life is about pleasure or knowledge. This in a certain way occupied Plato/Socrates and Foucault and all philosophers in between. Under this question of pleasure or knowledge the question is hidden of free thinking, free will, free judgement. Will my life occur from responsibility – I follow what drives me –, or does my life occur from the free choices I make myself?
In the course of my journey of exploration and examination it became clear to me that man is a multiple being, that he is part of various worlds, that he is established in harmony as well as in paradox, is driven and also makes his own choices.
It is mainly the human soul, its existence and its development where this manifests itself and occurs, and this has occupied us for centuries.
Not so much the body, not so much the human spirit but the human soul is what occupies us in philosophy and divides our spirits. In our practical life however it is the care of body and spirit that gets all the attention.
The current zeitgeist is one in which body and mind gets scientific attention, but the soul is neglected.
The body gets all the attention where the ever increasing number of scientifically proven deviations and failures in an ideal body is concerned and the way to treat and remedy these, and also the permanent commercial aim to encourage and seduce people to get an ideal and vigorous body. We live in a body culture, in a fashionable world of perfect bodies including the laborious efforts required of each of us to come to a perfect body and to keep it that way.
This body culture is also illustrated by our incessant creation of material constructs, systems, adequate quarters, working infrastructures, perfectly fitting clothes as conditions for a well functioning whole.
The mind gets attention because we live with ideals that we want to get to work in our practical life. This does not always succeed in organised life, which causes for instance an increasing flood of mental deviations and mental illnesses that we ascertain scientifically and want to reduce to normal minds with medicine and therapy. This hardly seems to succeed considering the growing number of people with mental problems. Thus it becomes a social problem.
We also see a growing interest in spirituality as the source of wellbeing and life perspective.
This spirit culture is also shown in our incessant scientific efforts to come to truth and to indicate what is good and bad for man. The moral dogmas of religion and science are to us defining norms and values of our lives.
As people we are ‘imprisoned’ in our body and spirit which are increasingly put under pressure to meet demands mainly based on scientific research that are required of us from social and political systems.
Babies are measured according to standard norms and must be adapted right from the start to what science provides as norms. Schoolchildren are also measured according to norms and are stimulated to reach pre-defined achievements and required success. Students keep being tested and screened. People who work do this in achievement systems with demanding aims and results and the chance of failure. Adults then have the responsibility for and the management of material and social constructs that they have diligently created and now have to sustain. All too often we fail in this at certain moments.
Between body and spirit – the word ‘mind’ is often used too – there is the chance of a permanent short circuit because of this permanent necessity for more and better. Depressions, stress, feelings of failure, keeping up appearances of success, and consequently the use of drugs, medicines, escape routes, all these illustrate such a short circuit.
But it is the soul in which all this manifests itself.
Left to his own devices in an organised community in a social-economic social system man experiences, in my view, a neglected and denied soul. I see the soul as ‘everything that is in between’, between spirit and body, between you and me. In it social life takes place, experience, reflection, process, dialogue, sense, inspiration.
The soul as a notion has become obscure in our organised culture, soft, non-existent, something for dreamers and losers to hold on to.
To a large extent this has to do with the fact that where in earlier times the soul was embraced by faith, now science – the dominant, valuating, religion replacing organisation and sole representative of the spirit – has difficulty with the soul. The soul is elusive, vague, variable, appearing and disappearing, it does not provide any footing to science.
The soul is in its nature not objective, it is not connected to absolute truth, to everything that up till now has given us any footing, as body and spirit do. It is a question, a challenge, and is connected to fundamental questions that we have asked ourselves for thousands of years; questions about origin, meaning of life, who we are, about the future.
The dominant empiric based conception of natural science, the falsifying conception of science, has set itself the task of inactivating the three basic questions that cannot be answered. God as origin, soul and freedom have become enemies of this empirical conception of science: they cannot be empirically identified and we cannot falsify them. They cannot be proved, statistically demonstrated. It is better to assume: there is no God, no soul and no freedom.
What is overlooked in this conception of science, the dominant adviser of politicians, managers and other influential authorities in society, is that these unanswerable slow questions are sense giving to humanity. They have in them the sources for man to come to a meaningful and inspiring life, a sense giving that feeds the inner world, can fulfil man, offers the perspective to continue in an inspired way and not give up.
It is high time to rehabilitate the soul. And not by reverting to old images and truths or by fighting the empirical conception of science and its sometimes mendacious excesses, but in my case by showing the current practical life of people as the appearance of the human soul.
This can free us from the failing effort to make our bodies and spirits expect that they will solve the questions of soul and that they can lead us to a happy, satisfying, fulfilled and inspired life.
It can free us from the prison of empirical, technical, gauging science (we are our brains, we are the result of our social environment), but also from the alluring call of spiritual liberation by medial powers or creeds. This can encourage us to permanently take up the development of our consciousness by working on our own artistic, religious and philosophical explorations of our own life questions, in dialogue with people we meet in life, in the context of the communities that we make ourselves part of and that we are part of.
My ultimate aim is to write a philosophical work that in an unparalleled way deals with basic questions in a world and zeitgeist that I describe as organised life in an organised society, as the managed construct. The main issues in this book have become soul and freedom. These two are connected and present themselves in personal inspiration. Where body and spirit are embedded in natural-cosmic regularities and necessities, the human soul – that appears as human thinking, wanting and feeling, as judging and decision taking – has been given the possibility of freedom, that is to say, as a paradoxical being it appears as both creator and creation.
The most important dimension of this soul as a paradoxical being is human fate. Is this fate fixed or is there human freedom of fate? Is fate part of a natural-cosmic scenario written by others or do we write it ourselves?
In all these questions I presume plurality.
We are embedded in being. I have this body with certain possibilities. I am this person, this spirit and not another one. But this does not apply to the soul. The soul for instance is not only plainly personal but can also encompass more than one person. It has the colour and taste of the people who are together and how life is lived in dialogue. Exciting questions surface here about responsibility, changeability, making choices.
It is these questions that play a decisive role in organised life.
Consequently I see the human organisation as the most emphatic appearance of the human soul. It is the managers and professionals of our time who are intensively faced with this soul question, but who at the same time fail to see the relevance of soul questions – often slow questions – in relations, living as they are under the operational pressure of the system in places of strain.
At the end of this preamble I can state that I have also chosen as starting point the fact that the world we create ourselves is in the first place an economic-social world. In this world, that appears as a global economy, all people who before from a natural-cosmic perspective could not spend a single day with each other, who would have wanted to kill each other because of blood and soil and ideology, can interact and live together in a meaningful way all their lives in an organised economy. It is in this context that man appears as an individual, his own personality. This gives us the moral quality to take responsibility in this world, to make do with each other and create a sense that does justice to what people can be as moral beings.
This can be a useful answer to pressing ecological and social questions, questions about the conservation of our earth, our human worthiness, the wellbeing of animals and plants. These questions need a reflective space of sense-giving dialogue between people that induces them to take responsibility and ‘do the right thing’ in an inspired way.
This book aims to be a philosophical treatise that – on the one hand in relation to the historical development of philosophy and on the other hand in relation to present day organised life practice – wants to contribute to the philosophical opinion of essential life questions of people and communities, living and working in organised contexts: questions about our origin, the human soul and human freedom. These questions are shown in questions about inspiration and sense giving.
At the background we find the question about the essence of God or the origin of man. This question about the existence of God has embarrassed us the most in all these centuries. In this we have always escaped to the belief in God because here knowing meets boundaries it cannot pass. Or we have said goodbye to this notion of God and have him act as nature as the cause of all being.
However we deal with this question, it obviously continues to live in man and we cannot let go of it.
To me the notion that these questions are not truth questions that lead to a true knowing but life questions that lead to a life sense is a very inspiring thought.
Using these questions of origin, soul and freedom we can come to a steering of our own lives and also to meaningful communities of people.
In the course of many centuries we have seen these questions emancipate from a natural-cosmic perspective - we are part of a larger whole – to a pure, human perspective – we are independent. When before we were part of existing worlds and were guided by them, today we are part of our own world in which we can move about and meet others from it. Acting from this own world we are able to lead meaningful lives that is not only ruled by the natural powers of life and death but also by the creative actions we and others perform.
When dealing with the three basic questions of our existence, the questions about our origin, soul and freedom, we choose as a starting point that in this we want to reconcile ‘being’ and ‘appearing’ as man and world. We are part of a natural-cosmic ‘being’ and we ‘appear and disappear’ on an earth planet that we can call our world.
The world of ‘being’ is a world that we are part of and that expresses itself in our individual existence as our body and our spirit.
The world of ‘appearing’ is a world of becoming that expresses itself as our soul.
The world of ‘being’ is a world of God, of origin, of nature, of a being, of a word, a power present in everything that supports existence.
The world of ‘appearing’ is a world of man as soul, a question, a next step, a development that acquires existence through all people.
The world of ‘being’ is a world of harmony, of natural-cosmic coherence, of obviousness, of systematic inherent sense.
The world of ‘appearing’ is a paradoxical world of human-organisational coherence, of creating and recreating and sense giving by man himself.
This relation between ‘being’ and ‘appearing’ is a relation that has occupied philosophers and philosophy for thousands of years. It has become a source of knowledge about this question of ‘being’ and ‘appearing’. It has become a sense-creating question for being human.
It is these philosophical sources that we want to nourish ourselves from in the process of describing the philosophy of organised life. We want to explore the basic questions of our origin, souls and freedom in an organised humane context, a world that we have created ourselves in which we live and work. In this world of man we have come to our own personality, an I-spirit that appears in our soul. This process of emancipation and appearing has taken place, and still does, in meeting another person who becomes the source of our own soul development.
In this part we will explore the presentation of the question and expose the core notions used to research the question. What will continuously occupy us is the question how in our organised life important questions such as sense-giving questions may get space in a new way, a space that they have taken up for centuries in the more natural life as fully belonging to this life. Since we have come to a wholly organised life, a life that we have to keep up, change, renew and provide with sense with all our strength, not much attention has been paid to giving space to the fundamental sense-giving questions of organised life. In organised life questions about our origin, soul and freedom are not easily brought to the fore. The natural spaces for reflection in which we dwell on vital life questions such as our Sunday rest, have collapsed under the pressure of our busy life. In organised reflection processes such as coaching and therapy we are sometime enabled to ask these questions and dally with them with professional support. In organised work life however it is all about action and less about reflection. Still, this is the place where drastic processes of change take place all the time and where we are put to the test.
First of all I will describe life situations that show how I experience life, as examples of the organised life. After that we will elaborate on the question and expound on the supporting core notions.
In which situation do we find ourselves? Has this situation remain unchanged during centuries of human development? How are questions about our origin, soul and freedom present today? What is this shown in?
These are questions that can help paint a picture of the situation in which we find ourselves regarding the basic questions about our origin, soul and freedom that are again asked in this book.
A philosophical view on these questions will, in the tradition of philosophising, have to remain close to practical life questions, to our own life practice as observed and experienced by the philosopher, in order to develop explanatory power.
At first I want to sketch the situation with the help of anecdotal life stories from my own life practice and then assess in that light the basic questions of our human existence here on earth.
Carnival in Rio
I am flying to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, to take part in a two-day meeting of the steering group of an international group of advisers. It is my first trip to Brazil. On arrival my Brazilian colleague suggests that we at least take the time to experience the Rio carnival, a street parade. It is an opportunity not to be missed. A taxi takes us to a main street where the parade will pass. ‘It may take hours’, my colleague says. I prepare myself for this.
The first carnival school passes by. Beautiful floats with men and women dancing erotically ride past us. The same melody is played constantly. The audience in the stands are passionately involved. It takes an hour for this parade to pass by, in their wake the street sweepers swingingly cleaning the route of all that is left behind. Then the next school comes along.
My colleague tells me later that every school has practised for months, all costumes are homemade, that he loves to participate himself in his school every year and that eventually everything comes together on the day of the parade.
Around this spectacle there is a network of activities that makes it all possible. Taxis come and go, consumptions are distributed, the police watches and guards; the whole city is focused on this as tourists fly in and travel to the hotels they have booked. Pickpockets are active.
It starts to dawn on me how brilliant this human organisation is designed. It really is a miracle that something like this can work every year: tens of thousands of people all together in one process.
Collecting taxes In The Netherlands
The Dutch Tax and Customs Administration employs 30.000 people. They collect taxes from people and companies. This organisation includes fiscal police. Three values are important: expertise, justice and loyalty. The management decide to work towards horizontal supervision. Instead of carrying out extensive inspections at for instance companies, agreements are made with reliable companies about the way they deliver data. Every now and then there will be more extensive checks, after consultation. It saves both parties a lot of time and energy. I talk to employees who have to execute this. The older employees initially had problems with this. ‘Before we were really busy, now we drink coffee together’, they say. The younger employees are enthusiastic. ‘In this way we can consult together and coordinate. It brings attachment and prevents unnecessary work.’ And there are more public services that want to take this step. ‘Let us make positive contact with each other and do an effective work process together, starting from a dialogue’; this is the idea.
We can trust each other, is the foundation.
The neighbour has three children. She and her husband both work as independent professionals. The children are of a school going age now and when they are at school, she does her work. Her husband works for one of the train companies on a large project for train tickets. You use the ticket at departure and on arrival. The costs are paid for automatically in a bank transaction. It is called the OV-Chip card – the chip card for public transport. It is obvious that their household has to be strictly organised. Apart from school there are sports clubs, music lesson, playing with friends. The parents also have a busy social life. Every now and then there are some fierce clashes, yes, the relationship is about to break up. Up till now they managed together, but now they have decided to split up.
The college I work at as a lecturer has 13.000 students who get their education there. The deans of the college organise the lectures. Embedded lecturers do research. The students divide their attention between their study, their jobs and their social life with friends and family. In his classes the student has to work in groups on set assignments. In the job extra money is earned, the friends give life energy. In a minor of ten weeks students who enrol can research leadership in organisations. For this they hold discussions in small groups in an organisation about a question that is important to a customer there. Good discussions in their opinion. Their image of the organisation, each other, themselves, changes during these ten weeks.
I am with a group of people from various countries and we look into the social questions with regard to organization development. Each of us tells a story, the others have to deduce the essential part from it, that which manifests itself through this story. A USA participant tells us: he and his wife go out to dinner in their favourite Italian restaurant. They are early but the restaurant is already open. They sit down and order. It is quiet. After they have ordered, the owner turns on the music. The couple asks: ‘ Can you please turn if off for the moment?’ ‘Well, no,’ the owner says, ‘ When there are clients, there is music too.’ The narrator himself sketches what he thinks this means. ‘Everywhere you come, there is this background music. You hardly hear it but still it pokes its velvet nose into your business.’
A new client has a new question. The client’s organisation is in Hannover. We make an appointment and I ask for his address for my TomTom. At five in the morning I drive off after having set my Tom-Tom. A melancholy female voice keeps giving me directions. I follow them and I arrive at a place I do not know on time.
If at all possible I take a daily walk of half an hour or an hour. Usually the same route when I am at home. Elsewhere I keep to the paths. I think that regular healthy outdoor exercise is the basis of my health. In this way I can live more intensely and enjoy what nature and the weather bring me.
On Saturday we buy our groceries. First my wife and I visit the biological butcher, then the Green Shop. Usually the same products are bought. The owner is always there. We greet each other when we enter the shop, ask how we are doing. Sometimes we drink a cappuccino with a piece of cake in the Italian shop further on. It always tastes very good.
I sit at my computer and start surfing on the internet. First I manage my bank affairs. After that I write bills for my clients and send them off. I deal with my e-mails. I work on a text for an article. Now and then I make a cup of coffee and a sandwich for lunch.
I am on my way to an appointment in the south of Germany. I drive on the A61 with a smile on my face. All too soon a sign saying ‘ Road works’ is grinning me in the face, immediately followed by a congestion of traffic. Slowly the cars creep along. Three lanes have become two, they are narrow and the maximum speed is sixty kilometres an hour. This lasts for ten kilometres. There are no road workers to be seen anywhere. A bit later, when traffic has regained speed, I see another sign and the same ritual starts. No more smiles, the dominating mood in the car is one of annoyance.
Thus everyone wanders through a multitude of situations in which ‘organised life’ takes place. A long time ago we have fallen from the natural contexts of life and arrived in an organised life in which I meet others and participate in the worldwide socio-economic life. In this I appear as a functioning person.
I imagine how different this life has become over time.
In the old cultures nature and cosmos were deciding orientation landmarks. In practical survival people orientated themselves on what nature could bring them and on the cosmic phenomena of the plants they observed. Sun and moon played the leading part. Rituals were used to exorcise natural-cosmic powers.
Later man arrives step by step in a world created by other people. Gradually man starts thinking about what takes place with him and between him and others. This opens a world of enlarged insight and knowledge. The direct life of satisfying needs will in future be paired to a life of gaining insight. In this the human soul grows into a highly developed life organ. Outside man his constructed, created world appears; inside man his inner world appears of knowledge, feelings and motives for actions.
Thus man as part of a natural-cosmic community has been transformed to a network of communities supported by him as an individual. He is transformed from a fixed role in a permanent community to a variety of roles in many organised communities. He is transformed from a soul occupied by the community to an individualised soul with his own substance and sense.
What effect does this have on our questions about our origin, soul and human freedom?
Traditionally God is there as an all-embracing being. It is a world that is present, a world that we do not know but that manifests itself in us and outside us as necessarily taking place. The human soul was seen and felt as God’s creation in which man can stand up. Freedom is only there if we respond to what is asked of us out of our own willpower.
In the course of centuries this world of gods has disappeared behind the horizon of our consciousness. This is expressed by ‘God is dead’. The soul is called in question, ‘ there is no soul’. ‘Freedom is a delusion, things just take place, do not have any illusions’. There is no life before birth and after death. The basic questions have been silenced in our organised existence.
Still there is a continuous longing for experiencing sense, a large need for inspiration, an incessant driving force to come to new knowledge and insight.
God as origin, soul and freedom has been obscured now that mans own I has become isolated and wishes for admittance to the soul. We have been lined up outside of the essential being, we are in the dark where it concerns vital questions. Art, religion, even science turn out to be incapable of giving us personally answers to the basic questions, on the contrary, their authority diminishes for the individual person who every day and all his life wanders through the material organised context of life.
We see man’s desperate efforts to ask the sense-giving question in this organised life. This search for spirituality goes hand in hand with a profound incessant material satisfying of wants.
But especially now that answers to these questions no longer convince us nor give sense to people’s souls, the question about the sense of life becomes existential for the individual person.
In recent years I have increasingly been confronted by the question of clients how they should deal with the ‘ why question’. We have become very good at reflecting on ‘ what we must do’ and even ‘how we want to do it’.
Now that we are well on our way, another question crops up.
We do many things and we all struggle trying to manage everything. And we fail to see clearly what results we can get and what has contributed to this and what has not. Stress increases and many busy people walk around with a feeling of no fulfilment.
A new guiding question appears in our organised life, the ‘why question’!
The why question cannot be easily answered in a functional and result oriented context.
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