The ways in which we presently accept and gather the information used in our actions presents four major concerns: (1) the seemingly unbridgeable gap between the primary referencing sources that inform most of humanity’s actions today and the essential survival information available from biophysical Reality; (2) the unrealized imprudence and recklessness of making an imagined reality the basis for action in Reality; (3) the rejection of presently available lifestyle choices for ways of life that would more naturally gravitate toward and accept biophysically based referencing as having supremacy over self-referencing; and (4) the seemingly absolute, even monumental, supremacy of our present self-referenced reality defining what we call “personal success” and even in remaining alive within its structures .
Before we can understand how the distortions and dysfunctions of self-referencing in the Consciousness System of Order (CSO) works, or doesn’t work, it is necessary to understand how referencing functions in the Living System of Order (LSO): A reference is that to which we refer in formulating an action, and by ‘we’ I mean the thing acting; this could be anything that responds to energy from a pebble to a vulture to a human. The referencing conditions are the context within which the action takes place – but more than context – the source of all the pertinent information, and primary forces, that informs the action .
Referencing in the Living System of Order:
To what do living things refer when formulating an action? The answer will be the basis for the referencing system of living things. Broadly the answer is: (1) genetically formed physical and behavioral options as (2) potentiated by environmental events and processes: genetically mediated behaviors, like reflexes, instincts and behavioral patterns are triggered by environmental events. Animals with large brains add a level of complexity by being able to refine genetically derived patterns based on learning specific responses to environmental details that present in evolutionarily unaddressable time-frames, are inconsistent within evolutionary time-frames or insufficiently energetic to drive evolutionary change, but still are usefully exploited to survival advantage; these learned references are still made to environmental processes and events.
Referencing in the Consciousness System of Order:
In the broadest strokes, the first and primary characteristic of the CSO is that it captures the complex learning which is characteristic of large brained animals and stores it in various forms that frees the learning from being locked in the singular brain that experienced the learning in the first place. It does this though the communication systems of humans, communication systems that not only allow the learned event to be processed as a Story framed in the communication system, but also can attach motivational elements to Story to make them more memorable: more possible, efficient and desirable to be repeated and more dominating as a referencing source. Different versions of Story begin to compete as the basis for action. The success of the individual in the community becomes a combination of the effectiveness of actions in the ecology and the attachment to and support of a version of Story that is valued by the community.
In the originating and must functional form, the community Story is a specialized adaptive mechanism that rapidly adjusts, with incredibly sensitive fine tuning, the whole community’s behavior to the deep subtleties of local and regional ecologies. Humans become the behavioral chameleon, but without the chameleon’s limitation of only being able to change within a genetically coded range of pattern; human possibility is essentially endless.
“Endless possibility” restrained and retained within strict ecological boundaries produces increasing refinements of detail. It produces art, religion , music, refinements of language, poetry, science, human diversity and social complexity, all functioning as integrated responses to climate, local biodiversity, the ecologically mediated sources of essential materials and foods, landscape and general habitat.
“Endless possibility” unrestrained and unbounded by any guiding design other that its own most previous iteration is a formula for chaos, the origin of madness. Distinctions dissolve and form with only the basis supplied by Story rather than Story responding to distinctions pressed forward by ecological Reality . Without a referencing structure attached to biophysical Reality, Story can no longer adjust behaviors into environmentally adaptive responses; it hasn’t done this for a very long time. And it leads people to believe that they have created their own world separate from and better than the ecological world of the earth’s narrow living space; that it is the created world to which we have a true allegiance and to which we must make our adjustments.
This last is, of course, true; we must form our behavior compatibly with the social, economic and political realities that have immediate impact on us, but it is also required that we have mechanisms to make those social, economic and political realities comport with the biophysical designs of the big kauna Reality delivered up by the chemistry and physics of earth’s physical and biological processes. That we could create a Story that the biophysical processes of the earth are secondary to our economic processes is proof enough of the incomprehensible dangers of self-referencing delivered up by the CSO.
The three primary systems of order, Physical System of Order (PSO), Living System of Order (LSO) and Consciousness System of Order (CSO) function on different order giving principles. The ordering principles of the PSO are distributed through all of matter/energy as physical properties and forces of interaction. The ordering principles of the LSO are a specific set of principles from the PSO unique to the surface of the living earth and the new centralized information handling and storage system of the DNA/protein nexus. The nature and capacities of the DNA/protein nexus set the limits for what life can be and create the structure for the possibilities for life within those limits. What cannot happen within the design of DNA selection, storage and implementation as protein construction cannot be part of life.
The ordering principles of the CSO are more challenging still. As with the LSO, the PSO is the base. The LSO with its genetic implications and limitations is substrate. And just as the central organizing principle of the LSO is unimaginable given only the PSO principles as a reference, so the CSO principles are unimaginable as direct consequences of the functioning of PSO and LSO principles. Information that existed as only uncaptured and uncapturable byproducts of PSO and LSO processes, information that was not information at all since it had no form, other than the fleeting occurrence as part of some more ‘earthy’ event, no device capable of realizing it and no place for it to be gathered; this nebulous effluvium ‘leaking’ inauspiciously from biophysical events has been turned into a new source of information for the CSO, and the CSO turned into a new way to organize the events and processes of the world.
The self-referencing consequence of CSO processes has carried us to the brink. And in a natural irony only CSO processes that can create the Story that will reconnect us to the biophysical reality from which comes the humorless decisions of survival. In the companion essay to this one, Changing the Story (in three parts) I try to offer suggestions.
 This is like playing a game in which the rules are made inviolable by the other players and no one is allowed to leave the field of play. Stepping back with perspective may make it clear that the rules are artificial constructions, that the playing field is artificially bounded and that other rules could adapt the game more satisfactorily to the increasing demands of the surrounding conditions, but the constant, unrestrained application of the rules in the moment makes change appear impossible.
 ‘Pertinent’ has two quite different meanings in this context. In the non-CSO situations pertinent refers to the energies that have a direct physical influence and the energies that can be perceived by sense organs and thus, through nervous system activation, activate actions disproportionate to their base energy levels. For the CSO, pertinent can refer to these same cases as well as to relationships, both real and imagined, to the content of Story and thus activate actions without reference to actual biophysical relationships.
 Not religion as we think of that behavior today – in fact, there is no single word or readily available concept in my understanding of our present language that really circumscribes my idea of what “religion” was in its formative origins. The best I can come up with is that it was a Story-based device that motivated the community to non-intuitive adaptive necessities of the ecology. The behavior of religion was a Story guided adaptive continuity with the ecology, the community and individual behavior.
 As I’ve intimated in this and other essays, ecological Reality can be considered trivial from the point of view of the present Story and the conditions of life generated by it. Getting a job, making enough money; dealing with banks, healthcare and family; economic and political actions that seem so potentially dangerous; what is a river minnow, a mountain top or a change in some ‘parts per million or billion’, or whatever, compared to letting my family down by not having a big Christmas?
I can only answer that that big Christmas would not be so much fun without safe or adequate food, clean water and oxygen in unpolluted air. We, humans, have become fully capable of tipping over the ecological balances that allow complex life to exist. The only thing that stops people from understanding this reality is that our present self-referenced Story says that the earth is infinite and also that God will protect us – along with a supporting cast of other illusions.