Wholeness: On Education, Buckminster Fuller, and Tao
Wholeness implies a way of being that honors the totality. When “parts” are overemphasized with little or no regard for the whole system (failing to see the forest for the trees), the loss of unity and cohesion is reflected in declining personal, societal, and environmental health. Wholeness offers practical tools for thinking and acting with wholeness perspective, explaining what this means, why it matters, and how it relates to every aspect of our lives. This book pertains to personal awareness, the condition of planet Earth and its life forms, “humanity’s option for success” (Buckminster Fuller’s term), and the ineffable mysteries of life. It is intended for all readers and particularly as a text for courses in education, ecology, philosophy, psychology, sociology, consciousness, design, international relations, etc. Regarding the subtitle: Education is used in the broadest sense, encompassing not only formal education but also the lifelong process of experiencing and learning; Buckminster Fuller developed an expansive philosophy of wholeness with practical applications that are in accord with the environment; Tao is used to indicate the inexpressible.
The greater complex is never predicted by the parts of the lesser complex. Therefore, I surmise that to learn anything you must start with the whole—with Universe.
Comprehension of the whole alone leads to discovery of the significant intercomplementary functions to be played by the parts.
Synergy—behavior of whole systems unpredicted by the behavior or integral characteristics of any parts of the system when the parts are considered only separately.
To be optimally effective, undertake at outset the most comprehensive task in the most comprehensive and incisively detailed manner.
(1895–1983; quotations from Cosmography and Critical Path)
Great knowledge sees all in one.
Small knowledge breaks down into the many.
(ca. 369–286 BCE; from The Way of Chuang-Tzu, by Thomas Merton)
“The only thing that can save us in our present devastation of the Earth is a sense of the integral community of the planet and of the universe beyond. The universe is a comprehensive communion of subjects, not a collection of objects. The understanding and the well-being of any component of the universe depend on the understanding and well-being of the other components in the unity of the whole. Here, in this book of Dr. Gerber, we find a clear presentation of this elementary bit of wisdom, a bit of wisdom that could guide our children safely through the twenty-first century.”
Thomas Berry, author of The Dream of the Earth and The Great Work: Our Way into the Future
“There is a tough, analytic wholeness that seizes the phenomenon in all its complexity, and there is a gentle listening wholeness that leads to intuitive understandings of ‘the 10,000 things.’ Gerber, by bringing Fuller and the Tao together, points a direction for education in the twenty-first century that joins analysis and intuition in a way that may help humans live more gently in the geo-biosphere of which we are a part.”
Elise Boulding, professor emerita, Dartmouth College, and most recently author of Cultures of Peace: The Hidden Side of History
“An expression of holistic wisdom…appropriate, in different ways, to all readership levels and groups.”
CHOICE (a publication of the American Library Association)
“A great green read.”
Earth Island Journal
“If every teacher read this book and applied its profound, simple wisdom in their classrooms, individual and social development would be enhanced and the human family could accelerate progress toward building a win-win world.”
Hazel Henderson, author of Building a Win-Win World and Beyond Globalization: Shaping a Sustainable Global Economy
“A bumblebee’s dive toward honey, Fuller reminds us, pollinizes the surrounding vegetation. This book likewise holds unforeseeable rewards for any reader who plunges into it.”
Hugh Kenner, professor emeritus, University of Georgia, literary scholar and author of more than two dozen books including Bucky: A Guided Tour of Buckminster Fuller
“Wholeness has inspired me to ignite the altruistic spark in my colleagues and students and will be required reading in all of my courses. I would also like every educator in the world to recommend it to their students, beginning as early as grade ten. This cogently and beautifully written book is applicable to behaviors in all areas of life. It is filled with excerpts from Buckminster Fuller’s works, including his recommendations for human and Earth survival and optimum functioning.”
Igor Kusyszyn, professor emeritus of psychology, York University, Toronto
“For our society, beset as it is today by reductionist thinking—that is,
denial of the metaphysical realm—and by the resultant disconnectedness and
deep polarization, nothing could be more curative, or more important for the
crucial realm of education, than awakening to the philosophy of wholeness.
Dr. Alex Gerber invokes, with wonderful Fuller ‘comprehensivity’ and with
delicate Taoist grace, the many practical effects as well as the
transformative power of a direct experience of wholeness. This is a
beautifully thoughtful and illuminating book and not only for educators.”
Anna F. Lemkow, author of The Wholeness Principle: Dynamics of Unity within Science, Religion & Society
“A scholarly, superbly crafted presentation…highly recommended.”
Midwest Book Review (“Reviewer’s Choice”)
“Well written and well organized, this is a good example of how much at home the Tao is here in the West.”
Red Pine (Bill Porter), translator of Lao-Tzu’s Taoteching: With Selected Commentaries of the Past 2000 Years and other Taoist and Buddhist classics
“Having been exposed to the concept of wholeness throughout my life, in the words and actions of my father Buckminster Fuller, I know its profound importance. This work of Alex Gerber’s is rich in its exploration and documentation of this pivotal subject, and approached in a manner that is both concise and very accessible.”
Allegra Fuller Snyder, professor emerita of dance and dance ethnology, University of California, Los Angeles
Alex Gerber (PhD, philosophy of education, University of Southern California) is a consultant, counselor, and musician. Established in 1989, Gerber Educational Resources is dedicated to the sharing of whole-system awareness and solutions (PO Box 2345, Olympia, WA 98507 USA).
Available online from:
Buckminster Fuller Institute