Summary prepared by attendees at Silo’s conferences in
mid-November 1975 in Corfu.
The Appendix “Physiological Bases of the Psychism,” was added towards the end of the same year.
1. The Psychism
As a Life Function
Since its beginnings, life has manifested itself in numerous forms. Many species have disappeared because they did not adapt to the environment, to new circumstances. Living beings have needs that they go to their environment to satisfy; this situation in the ecological environment unfolds in constant movement and change. The relationship is unstable and unbalanced, producing responses in the organism that tend to compensate the disequilibrium and thus enable it to maintain its structure which otherwise would abruptly disappear. Thus we see living nature deploy itself in a variety of forms, in an environment that has numerous characteristics that are different and variable; and at the base of living nature we see simple mechanisms of compensation in front of the disequilibrium that threatens the structure’s permanence.
The adaptation to external change. also implies an internal change in organisms for their survival. When this internal change does not take place in living beings, they eventually disappear and life chooses other paths to continue its growing expansion. The mechanism of responding compensatorily to disequilibrium will always be present in the sphere of life and life forms, and its complexity will be greater or lesser depending on each species’ degree of development. This task of compensating the external environment, as well as internal needs, will be understood as adaptation (and, specifically, as growing adaptation)—as the only way to prevail in the dynamic of instability in movement.
Especially, animal life will develop according to functions of nutrition, reproduction and locomotion. Of course these functions exist in plant life as well, and even in unicellular life; but clearly, in animals these functions constantly relate the organism with its environment, maintaining the structure’s internal stability. This will be expressed in a more specialized way as vegetative tendencies,, as “instincts” of conservation and reproduction. The first maintains the individual structure; the second, that of the species. In this preparation by organisms to preserve themselves as individuals and perpetuate themselves as a species, an inertia (we would say, the “memory”) is expressed that tends to ensure permanence and continuity, in spite of the variations.
In animals, the functions of nutrition, and reproduction will need locomotion in order to be deployed. This allows for displacement in space in order to obtain food. Internally there is also a mobility, a transporting of substances in order for them to be assimilated by the organism. Reproduction will be internal within the individual, and external in the multiplication of individuals. The first is verified in the form of the generation and regeneration of tissue; the second as the production of individuals within the same species. Both will need to use locomotion to accomplish their purpose.
The tendency to go toward the environment—from the search for food supply sources, to flight or concealment from danger—gives direction and mobility to living beings. These specific tendencies in each species form a team of tropisms. The simplest tropism consists of giving a response to a stimulus. This minimal operation, of responding to an element alien to the organism that provokes a disequilibrium in the structure, in order to compensate and re-establish stability, will later manifest itself in a diverse and complex way. All the operations will leave “tracks,” which will be preferential pathways for the new responses (in Time 2 the living being operates on the basis of conditions obtained in Time 1). This possibility of recording is of prime importance for the structure’s permanence in a changing external environment, and a variable internal environment.
As the organism tends to go toward the environment to adapt to it and survive, it will have to do so by overcoming resistances. In the environment there are possibilities but also inconveniences, and to overcome the difficulties and surpass resistances, energy must be invested; work must be done that requires energy. This available energy will be used in that work of overcoming environmental resistances. There will be no energy available again until the difficulties are overcome and the work is completed. The recordings of tracks (memory) will allow responses based on previous experiences, which will leave free energy available for new evolutionary steps. Without energetic availability, it is not possible to carry out more complex tasks of growing adaptation.
On the other hand, the environmental conditions present themselves to the developing organism as alternatives of choice, as well as being the tracks that allow it to decide between the different alternatives of adaptation. In addition, the adaptation is carried out by looking for the path of least resistance in front of the different alternatives, and that will require the least effort. This lesser effort implies less energy expenditure. And so, concomitantly with overcoming resistances, the attempt is made to do so with the least amount of energy possible, so that the free energy available can be invested in new evolutionary steps. In each evolutionary moment there is transformation, both of the environment as well as of the living being. Here is an interesting paradox: the structure, in order to preserve its unity, must transform the environment, and also transform itself.
It would be erroneous to think that living structures change. and transform only the surrounding environment, since this environment becomes increasingly more complicated, and it is impossible to adapt while keeping the individuality unchanged, just as it was created in its beginnings. This is the case of man, whose environment, with the passing of time, is no longer just natural, but is social and technical as well. The complex relationships between social groups and the accumulated social and historical experience create an environment and a situation in which man’s internal transformation will be necessary.
Following this roundabout description in which life emerges as organizing itself with functions, tropisms and memory) so as to compensate a variable environment and thus increasingly adapt, we see that a coordination among these factors (however minimal) is also necessary for the opportune orientation toward favorable conditions of development. When this minimal coordination appears, the psychism emerges as a function of life in growing adaptation, in evolution.
The function of the psychism consists of coordinating all the operations of compensation of the living being’s instability in its environment. Without coordination, the organisms would respond partially without completing the different compositional parts, without maintaining the necessary relationships; and, finally, without preserving the structure in the dynamic process of adaptation.