Ervin László

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Laszlo Ervin

Ervin László (born May 12, 1932) is a Hungarian philosopher of science, systems theorist, integral theorist, originally a classical pianist. He has published about 75 books and over 400 papers, and is editor of World Futures: The Journal of General Evolution.


  • We are living in a time of dissent, upheaval, revolutions and struggle, frequently aimed at mutual destruction.
    • Ludwig von Bertalanffy, Ervin László (1972) The Relevance of general systems theory: papers presented to Ludwig von Bertalanffy on his seventieth birthday. p. 185.
  • With each technological ‘revolution’, more energies began to be accessed, stored, and used than had been in the preceding epoch…On the whole, technological change is irreversible: whatever the nature of a technological revolution, it is always from the hoe to the plough, and not the other way around…Improvement generally means greater efficiency in the use of energy, materials, or information. It means greater speed, less investment of time and money, and operation on a larger scale.
    • Laszlo (1986) "Technology and Social Change: An Approach from Nonequilibrium Systems Theory". Technological Forecasting and Social Change 29, p. 280; As cited in: K.L. Dennis (2003) An evolutionary paradigm of social systems. p. 38.
  • In sum, the processes of evolution create initially comparatively simple dynamical systems on particular levels of organisation. The processes then lead to the progressive complexification of the existing systems and, ultimately, to the creation of simpler systems on the next higher organisational level, where complexification begins anew. Thus evolution moves from the simpler to the more complex, and from the lower to the higher level of organisation
    • Laszlo (1991) The Age of Bifurcation: Understanding the Changing World. Philadelphia: Gordon & Breach. p. 112; As cited in: K.L. Dennis (2003, p. 69).
  • [ Technology is] the instrumentality for accessing and using free energies in human societies for human and social purposes.
    • Laszlo (1992) "Information Technology and Social Change: An Evolutionary Systems Analysis". Behavioral Science 37: pp.237-249; As cited in: K.L. Dennis (2003, p. 36).
  • The new information technologies can be seen to drive societies toward increasingly dynamic high-energy regions further and further from thermodynamical equilibrium, characterized by decreasing specific entropy and increasingly dense free-energy flows, accessed and processed by more and more complex social, economic, and political structures.
    • Laszlo (1992) "Information Technology and Social Change: An Evolutionary Systems Analysis". Behavioral Science 37: p. 247.
  • The description of the evolutionary trajectory of dynamical systems as irreversible, periodically chaotic, and strongly nonlinear fits certain features of the historical development of human societies. But the description of evolutionary processes, whether in nature or in history, has additional elements. These elements include such factors as the convergence of existing systems on progressively higher organizational levels, the increasingly efficient exploitation by systems of the sources of free energy in their environment, and the complexification of systems structure in states progressively further removed from thermodynamic equilibrium.
    General evolution theory, based on the integration of the relevant tenets of general system theory, cybernetics, information and communication theory, chaos theory, dynamical systems theory, and nonequilibrium thermodynamics, can convey a sound understanding of the laws and dynamics that govern the evolution of complex systems in the various realms of investigation.... The basic notions of this new discipline can be developed to give an adequate account of the dynamical evolution of human societies as well. Such an account could furnish the basis of a system of knowledge better able to orient human beings and societies in their rapidly changing milieu.
  • Progressively higher levels of organization are attained as catalytic cycles on one level interlock and form hypercycles: these are systems on a higher level of organization. Thus molecules emerge from a combination of chemically active atoms; protocells emerge from sequences of complex molecules; eukaryotic cells emerge among the prokaryotes; metazoa make their appearance among the protozoa and converge in still higher-level ecological and social systems.
    • E. Laszlo (1994) Vision 2020: Reordering Chaos for Global Survival. Philadelphia: Gordon & Breach.
  • Underlying the diversified and localized gross layers of ordinary consciousness there is a unified, nonlocalized, and subtle layer: “pure consciousness.”
    • Ervin Laszlo (2007) Science and the Akashic Field: An Integral Theory of Everything. p. 120.
  • As we have already glimpsed and will continue to discover, we are able to expand our awareness beyond the perceived limitations of our own person and access the dimensions of a transpersonal consciousness. As we open ourselves to the realization of the in-formed universe, this shift in our collective awareness heralds a resolution of the schisms that have divided us for so long—both among and within us
    • Ervin Laszlo, Jude Currivan (2008) CosMos. p. 101.

Introduction to Systems Philosophy (1972)[edit]

Ervin László (1972) Introduction to Systems Philosophy: Toward a New Paradigm of Contemporary Thought.
  • The notion of "system" has gained central importance in contemporary science, society and life. In many fields of endeavor, the necessity of a "systems approach" or "systems thinking" is emphasized, new professions called "systems engineering," "systems analysis" and the like have come into being, and there can be little doubt that this this concept marks a genuine, necessary, and consequential development in science and world-view.
    • p. xvii.
  • General systems theory is the scientific exploration of "wholes" and "wholeness" which, not so long ago, were considered metaphysical notions transcending the boundaries of science. Hierarchic structure, stability, teleology, differentiation, approach to and maintenance of steady states, goal-directedness — these are a few of such general system properties.
    • p.xviii.
  • Systems philosophy first must find out the "nature of the beast" This is the question of what is meant by "system", and how systems are realized in reality in various levels of observation. In Laslo's terms, this is the methodology and theory of natural systems. Secondly, there is epistemology, i.e. the methodology and theory of cognitive systems.
    • p. xix.
  • Each system has a specific structure made up of certain maintained relationships among its parts, and manifests irreducible characteristics of its own.
    • p. 12.
  • Yet while they exist, regardless of how long, each system has a specific structure made up of certain maintained relationships among its parts, and manifests irreducible characteristics of its own.
    • p. 12.
  • A system in one perspective is a subsystem in another. But the systems view always treats systems as integrated wholes of their subsidiary components and never as the mechanistic aggregate of parts in isolable causal relations.
    • p. 14.
  • The systems view is the emerging contemporary view of organized complexity, one step beyond the Newtonian view of organized simplicity, and two steps beyond the classical world views of divinely ordered or imaginatively envisaged complexity.
    • p. 15.
  • Early scientific thinking was holistic, but speculative -- the modern scientific temper reacted by being empirical, but atomistic. Neither is free from error, the former because it replaces factual inquiry with faith and insight, and the latter because it sacrifices coherence at the altar of facticity. We witness today another shift in ways of thinking: the shift toward rigorous but holistic theories. This means thinking in terms of facts and events in the context of wholes, forming integrated sets with their own properties and relationships,
    • p. 19; As cited in: Bela H. Banathy (1996) Designing social systems in a changing world. p. 156.
  • Even the brain, that most delicate and complex of all known organs, is not merely a lot of neurons added together. While a genius must have more of the gray matter than a sparrow, the idiot may have just as much as the genius. The difference between them must be explained in terms of how those substances are organized.
    • p. 32: Partly cited in: David Rock, Linda J. Page (2009) Coaching with the Brain in Mind: Foundations for Practice.
  • Now "cybernetics" is the term coined by Wiener to denote "steersmanship" or the science of control. Although current engineering usage restricts it to the study of flows in closed systems, it can be taken in a wider context, as the study of processes interrelating systems with inputs and outputs, and their structural-dynamic structure. It is in this wider sense that "cybernetics" will be used here, to wit, as system-cybernetics, understanding by "system" an ordered whole in relation to its relevant environment (hence one actually or potentially open).
    • p. 38.
  • There is nothing supernatural about the process of self-organization to states of higher entropy; it is a general property of systems, regardless of their materials and origin. It does not violate the Second Law of thermodynamics since the decrease in entropy within an open system is always offset by the increase of entropy in its surroundings.
    • p. 44.
  • Systems at each level of integration function as wholes with respect to their parts and parts with respect to higher level wholes.
    • p. 67.
  • Opposed to atomism and behaviorism, the systems view of man links him again with the world he lives in, for he is seen as emerging in that world and reflecting its general character.
    • p. 79.
  • In the contemporary systems view man is not a sui generis phenomenon that can be studied without regard to other things. He is a natural entity, and an inhabitant of several interrelated worlds. By origin he is a biological organism. By work and play he is a social role carrier. And by conscious personality he is a Janus-faced link integrating and coordinating the biological and the social worlds. Man is, in the final analysis, a coordinating interface system in the multilevel hierarchy of nature.
    • p. 79.
  • Imagine a universe made up not of things in space and in time, but of patterned flows extending throughout its reaches. What flows is a mysterious, nonindividualized something we call energy. It flows along pathways structured by the metric of integral space-time. It flows smoothly, without crinks or wrinkles, over vast stretches of this cosmic matrix, and it becomes contorted in some regions.
    • p. 80.
  • In some regions, under especially favorable conditions, the level of organization reaches that of enormously heavy organic substances, such as protein molecules and nucleic acids. Now the basic building blocks are given for the constitution of self-replicating units of still higher organizational level: cells. These systems maintain a constant flow of substances through their structures, imposing on it a steady-state with specific parameters. The inputs and outputs may achieve coordination with analogous units in the surrounding medium, and we are on our way toward multicellular phenomena. The resulting structures — organisms — are likewise steady-state patterns imposed steady-state patterns imposed on a continuous flow... The organic systems themselves, define the supra-organic (ecological or social) community. Ultimately the strands of communication straddle the space-time region within which the primary systems have come together, and those of its layers which provide conditions favorable to such structuration become organized as systems in their own right. We reach the level of the global (ecological, and on earth also sociocultural) system.
    • p. 83.
  • Evolution may not “drive” toward humanoid qualities at all, even if it uses them under rather special circumstances. What evolution may be up to could be merely the continuing structuration of the biosphere through increased levels of communication between systems of one level, resulting in more integrated supersystems on the next.
    • p. 86.
  • The systems view of nature and man is clearly non- anthropocentric, but it is not non-humanistic for all that. It allows us to understand that man is one species of system in a complex and embracing hierarchy of nature, and at the same time it tells us that all systems have value and intrinsic worth. They are goal-oriented, self-maintaining, and self-creating expressions of nature's penchant for order and adjustment. The status of man is not lessened by admitting the amoeba as his kin, nor by recognizing that sociocultural systems are his supersystems. Seeing himself as a connecting link in a complex natural hierarchy cancels man's anthropocentrism, but seeing the hierarchy itself as an expression of self-ordering and self-creating nature bolsters his self-esteem and encourages his humanism.
    • p. 118.
  • We may not be the center of the universe and the telos of evolution, but we are concrete embodiments of cosmic processes in their particular terrestrial variation. And, albeit accidentally, we did happen to evolve a most remarkable property: self -reflection. In virtue of this we may be among the very few species of natural systems in the universe which are able not only to sense the world and respond to it, but to know their own sensations and come to reasoned conclusions about the nature of the universe. To be a man is thus to have the almost unique opportunity of getting to know oneself and the world in which one lives. It is surely shortsighted to disregard this opportunity and confine oneself solely to the business of living. A failure to exploit our capability for rational knowledge is, moreover, contrary to the business of living.
    • p. 119.
  • The natural philosophy of the new developments in the sciences is a systems philosophy. When properly articulated, it can give us both factual and normative knowledge. Exploring such knowledge and applying it in determining our future is an opportunity we cannot afford to miss. For if we do not, another chapter of terrestrial evolution will come to an end, and its unique experiment with rational consciousness will be written off as a failure.
    • p. 120.

Evolution: the general theory (1996)[edit]

Ervin Laszlo (1996) Evolution: the general theory.
  • The search for meaning is not limited to science: it is constant and continuous--all of us engage in it during all our waking hours the search continues even in our dreams. There are many ways of finding meaning, and there are no absolute boundaries separating them.
    • p. 3.
  • One can find meaning in poetry as well as in science in the contemplations of a flower as well as in the grasp of an equation. We can be filled with wonder as we stand under the majestic dome of the night sky and see the myriad lights that twinkle and shine in its seemingly infinite depths. We can also be filled wit awe as we behold the meaning of the formulae that define the propagation of light in space, the formation of galaxies, the synthesis of chemical elements, and the relation of energy, mass and velocity in the physical universe. The mystical perception of oneness and the religious intuition of a Divine intelligence are as much a construction of meaning as the postulation of the universal law of gravitation.
    • p. 3.
  • A new level of organization means a simplification of system function, and of the corresponding system structure, it also means the initiation of a process of progressive structural and functional complexification.
    • p. 28.
  • Just as organic species evolve toward the use of greater densities of a wider variety of free-energy sources in their environment, so human societies develop to access, store, and use in greater densities larger quantities of free energy through the ongoing improvement of their technologies. As a consequence societies, the same as natural systems, tend to grow larger in size, develop more intricate relations among their diverse components, and create more massive and flexible modes of interaction among them.
    • p. 125.

The systems view of the world (1996)[edit]

E. Laszlo (1996) The systems view of the world: A holistic vision for our time.
  • The beginning of the twentieth century witnessed the breakdown of the mechanistic theory even within physics, the science where it was the most successful... Relativity took over in field physics, and the science of quantum theory in microphysics... In view of parallel developments in physics, chemistry, biology, sociology, and economics, many branches of the contemporary sciences became... ‘sciences of organized complexity’ — that is, systems sciences.
    • p. 8 as cited in: Martha C. Beck (2013) "Contemporary Systems Sciences, Implications for the Nature and Value of Religion, the Five Principles of Pancasila, and the Five Pillars of Islam," Dialogue and Universalism-E Volume 4, Number 1/2013. p. 3 (online).
  • The worldview of the classical sciences conceptualized nature as a giant machine composed of intricate but replaceable machine-like parts. The new systems sciences look at nature as an organism endowed with irreplaceable elements and an innate but non-deterministic purpose for choice, for flow, for spontaneity.
    • p. 10-11.
  • The classical worldview was atomistic and individualistic; it viewed objects as separate from their environments and people as separate from each other and from their surroundings. The systems view perceives connections and communications between people, and between people and nature, and emphasizes community and integrity in both the natural and the human world.
    • p. 11.
  • When the classical worldview was applied to social science, the dominant notions turned out to be struggle for survival, the profit of the individual, with at best an assumed automatic coincidence of individual and societal good (through Adam Smith's "invisible hand"). When the systemic vision inspires the theories of social science, the values of competition are mitigated by those of cooperation, and the emphasis on individualistic work ethos is tempered with a tolerance of diversity and of experimentation with institutions and practices that foster man-man and man- nature adaptation and harmony.
    • p. 12.
  • Cultures are, in the final analysis, value-guided systems.
    • p. 75.
  • Independent of biological need fulfillment and the reproductive needs of the species, cultures] satisfy not bodily needs, but values. Values define cultural man's need for rationality, meaningfulness in emotional experience, richness of imagination, and depth of faith. All cultures respond to such supra-biological values. But in what form they do so depends on the specific kind of values people happen to have.
    • p. 76.
  • Values are goals which behavior strives to realize. Any activity that is oriented towards an end is a value-oriented action. To the ancient Greeks, their culture was guided by an attainment of ‘the good life.’ In the early days of Christianity, the ‘good life’ was shifted from this lifetime into the next. Newtonian science and the modern era brought values under rational scrutiny, and a desire for empirical order. Modern capitalism introduced the value of ‘good’ as more production per capita, and ‘better’ as even more production. There is nothing in the sphere of culture which would exempt us from the realm of values—no facts floating around, ready to be grasped without valuations and expectations
    • p. 80 as cited in: Sherryl Stalinski (2005) A Systems View of Social Systems, Culture and Communities. Saybrook Graduate School. p. 11.
  • Systemicity is imposed as a set of rules binding the parts among themselves. But these rules do not constrain the parts to act in one way and one way only; they merely prescribe that certain types of functions are carried out in certain sequences. The parts have options; as long as a sufficient number of sufficiently qualified units carry out the prescribed tasks, the requirements of systemic determination are met.
    • p. 85-86 as cited in: Sherryl Stalinski (2005, p. 23).
  • In systems such as contemporary society, evolution is always a promise and devolution is always a threat. No system comes with a guarantee of ongoing evolution. The challenge is real. To ignore it is to play dice with all we have. To accept it is not to play God—it is to become an instrument of whatever divine purpose infuses the universe.
    • p. 139 as cited in: Sherryl Stalinski (2005, p. 17).

You Can Change the World (2003)[edit]

Ervin Laszlo (2003) You Can Change the World: The Global Citizen's Handbook for Living.
  • Evolving our consciousness is not something we do only for ourselves — it is something we do also for others... for all others, and for the Earth. Because when we open up and let our body and mind feel our ties with others and with nature, we change ourselves, and change others around us. When a sufficient number of people pray or meditate together, or find another path to evolve their consciousness, other people are affected as well. More sick people heal, divorce and suicide rates drop, crime and violence diminish. When many people open up, a powerful force develops — a leap of consciousness takes place. All the great prophets and sages of history knew this, Jesus as well as the Buddha, Mohammed as well as Zoroaster — and more recently Bahá'u'lláh the same as Sri Aurobindo, Teilhard de Chardin and the Dalai Lama.
    • p. 86.
  • The evolution of our individual consciousness paves the way toward the evolution of our collective consciousness. This individual-collective evolution, more than anything else, can and must change this world.
    • p. 68.

Cosmos: A Co-creator's Guide to the Whole-World (2010)[edit]

Ervin Laszlo (2010) Cosmos: A Co-creator's Guide to the Whole-World.
  • We are beginning to see the entire universe as a holographically interlinked network of energy and information, organically whole and self referential at all scales of its existence. We, and all things in the universe, are non-locally connected with each other and with all other things in ways that are unfettered by the hitherto known limitations of space and time.
    • p. ix.
  • The power of our intention and the energy it unleashes are dependent on our levels of coherence and intensity. The affirmation of our positive intentions in thought, feeling and action increases the power of our abilities. Nonetheless, it is important to appreciate that the matrix of physical, emotional, and mental levels of consciousness through which our personal and collective intentions and choices are explored and experienced require a “health warning” on interpreting the Law of Attraction too simplistically.
    • p. 119.

Quotes about Ervin László[edit]

  • Where Wilber outlined what an integral theory of everything should look like, Laszlo actually created one.
    • Stan Grof (2008) "A Brief History of Transpersonal Psychology", International Journal of Transpersonal Studies 01/2008; 14: Grof compares László's work to that of Ken Wilber

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