The Mind of the Steward: Inquiry-Based Philosophy for The 21st Century - by Eric Sommer (c) 2000 AD.
PART 6: INQUIRY.
Chapter: Inquiry as an Instrument for Being.
In this chapter I want to introduce the concept of `onto-poetic' or `being- seeking' inquiry. This kind of inquiry is an essential tool for those who would build patterns through which the human beings of the world, the natural beings of the world, and - if we believe in them - the divine beings of the world can co-operativly can work together to care for one another and the
Inquiry As An Attitude
Before beginning my formal discussion of inquiry, I want to give you an idea of the attitude involved in it.
As an attitude, ontopoetic inquiry involves a willingness to explore. It involves, that is, a positive but selective openness to our world. it is an active seeking, and a willing receptivity, to new information, new experiences, new perspectives, and new tools which may help to expand our being or that of others. it is a willingness to explore alternatives to our present concepts or
patterns. it is a capacity to supplement, and where appropriate to eliminate, our old patterns in favour of new more being-expanding patterns.
In exploring the world through ontopoetic inquiry we go beyond ourselves. We experience the refreshment and adventure stemming from stepping out from the circle of the habitual, from encountering the novel. We discover that the world is subtler, deeper, wider, more variegated, more curious, more ugly, and more beautiful than we imagined.
Meaning of Onto-poetic or Being-Seeking Inquiry
Now I want to explain the derivation and meaning of the phrase `ontopoetic inquiry'. `ontopoetic inquiry' is a phrase which I coined, as I was not able to find an existing word which would convey my meaning. `Onto-poetic' is derived from `onto' meaning being, and `poetic' which originally meant making. So `onto-poetic' means `being-making'. As for `inquiry', it means,
broadly speaking, the practice of exploring our world. This exploration may take various forms, but typically involves developing theories or hypotheses which are then tested by experiments or experience.
So `ontopoetic-inquiry' means, broadly speaking, exploration of the world and its potentialities - sometimes by way of theory-building and experimentation - in order to expand being. In terms of the previous discussion of eithics and Arta, Onto-Poetic Inquiry is the means of discovering - and enacting - patterns of interaction which best promote the being of a set of interacting
More succinctly, onto-poetic inquiry is being-seeking inquiry. In still another phrase, onto-poetic inquiry is exploration for the purpose of expanding being.
As shorthand, I will sometimes refer to `ontopoetic inquiry' as `inquiry'. But when I use the word inquiry in this chapter or in subsequent chapters I will, unless otherwise noted, mean ontopoetic or arta-seeking inquiry.
The necessity for ontopoetic, or being-seeking, inquiry flows from three factors. First, it flows from the nature of arta, the law of being. this law states, as previously explained, that for every interaction involving human, natural, or divine beings there is a network or range of choices or possibilities. These possibilities may be arrayed on a hierarchy from least to most desirable. But this set of possibilities is not necesssarily self-evident.
Nor is the optimal or artagrade selection from among a set of possibilities necessarity a self-evident matter. For the world, and its collection of potentialities, is greater then our knowledge of it. Inquiry is therefore necessairy if we are to discover and enact optimal interaction patterns between beings.
The second reason for onto-poetic inquiry is that our world is characterized increasingly by interconneciton, complexity, and rapid change. The increasing integration of our world in terms of production, communication, consciousness, and cultural excahnge makes the Arta of an interaction ever less likely to be self-evident. This `planetization' process, with its increasing
interconnection of our planet, and the expanding problems and possibilities related to this process, makes the use of being-seeking inquiry increasingly essential.
In a complex world we are apt to be initially unaware of the potential resources, or the potential hazards, for a particular interaction. Only being- seeking inquiry can enable us to effectivly utilize the potentialities, and respect the well-being, of our planet.
The third reason for onto-poetic inquiry is `diremption' or `fragmentation'. By `diremption' or `fragmentation', I mean the fragmentation of our relationships to the other human beings, natural beings, and - if we believe in hem - also to the divine beings resulting from the present stage of `economic culture'
based on market-place relationships on our planet.
This fragmentation or diremption is a condition in which we and the other beings of the world are not able - or at least not optimally able - to work together to promote one another's beings. Factors ranging from our emotional and spiritual structures, to patriarchal or racist attitudes, to culture clash due to different ethnic or sub-cultural backgrounds, to ingrained and unnecessarily devisive communication styles, to the pursuit of seperate carreer tracks in the market place, to simply living in different areas of the community, all act as barriers to effectivly working together to promote one another's being Only
conscious inquiry into how to counteract these centrifugal forces which are tearing us and our world apart can prevent disaster.
These three factors - the search for arta, the planetization and
complexification of the world, and the diremption or fragmentation of our relationships - point to the need for a new kind of inquiry. This kind of inquiry, which I call `onto-poetic inquiry' or `being-seeking inquiry', is the practice of discovering and enacting interaction patterns through which we can work together to promote one another's being.
Specific inquiry procedures for Stewards groups seeking to work
together to care for one another and the Earth can be found in
the section on inquiry in `The Stewards Code: Building A future Together'