The Whole and the Parts

When we begin to relate totalities we create levels of visualization. It's like to visualize a landscape: the sand, the stones, the sea, the waves, the horizon, the clouds, the people wandering.

The non-perception of these levels is responsible for the lack of globalization that finally generates unilateralizations. To perceive totalities without globalize them is so elemental as the associationism. In this sense, the holistic vision (Holism) is also elementaristic: it supposes a whole, it supposes a totality and goes on looking to reach the postulated whole. In 1912, Koehler, Koffka and Wertheimer (Gestalt Psychologists), did not accept to be called holistic, and use to say that the whole is a structured and configurative gestalt, it is not an emergence (something which emerges). The whole is not a resultant, it is a configurative unity that when globaly apprehended, totalize itself. Holism, now a days, is synonym of the whole as the sum of parts. The elementarism of the holistic attitude has operationalized and instrumentalized so much the idea of the whole, the idea of totality, that it has unmasked itself. We see the disaster of the elementaristic-associationistic attitude in astrology, psychology and medical science, for exemple, when they state: "you are an individuo formed by your education, your culture, your experiencies, your symbols, your personal story, your martian, plutonian and netunian functions etc"; and more "your organism is a totality which results from your food intake, your idiosyncrasies, your genetic constitution etc".

Holos in Greek, is an adjective and an adverb, it's a manner, a way of. The holistic views have utilized 'whole' as adverb. In Gestalt, the whole is the adjective which expresses the perceptive form, parcialized, distorted or globalized without distortion. This explains, for exemple, the causalistic, the deterministic and dualistic ideas. In Psychology, the Gestaltism is a clear demarcation (Koffka, Koehler and Wertheimer through the concept of Figure-Ground): it is the possibility to apprehend the globality. The context of what happens and of the perceiver, in the relation, does establish the levels of perception and, as a consequence, does establish the thought and the experience of the phenomena.
When one perceives the totality as part of another totality, of another unity, one creates a perceptive distortion. It is like as if the law of better direction (fig.A) would not be effective because of the interference of factors of simmilarity (fig.B):


A clear exemple of this has happened when the objective and the subjective were considered as complementaries, as restaurateurs of the human unity. This part/whole distortion has created the classical dualism found in social sciences, where the man is sometimes view through his subjective aspect, sometimes through his objective aspect, always through an excludent, antagonistic or complementary way.

The same occurs on the Theory of Knowledge. The same occurs on our day-to-day life when we think that the haven or the hell is the other one.

To speak of complementarity, antagonism or polarity, we are supposing contexts, we are supposing totalities. We shall focus on these poles, focus on these complementarities and antagonisms as parts which have to be perceived from the whole as the whole is their configurative context. In our case, to speak of subject and object as polarities pressuposes the totality: the human essence.

Of course, in other contexts, this totality - human essence - may be a part. And in this sense we may are with a partial view. For exemple: if we are focusing the cosmic totality, the human essence would be a part and it is already a distortion to transform it in an unity which possibilitates resultants. It is important to emphasize that, from the psychological point of view - the man as a transcendence of his organic dimension - everything begins and ends in the perception. Perception is the context from where we think, we understand, we love, we hate, we accept and from where we do not accept the limits of being in the world. Everything which is psychological, which is behavioural, results from the perception. Even the relations established with oneself, with one's organic structure, happens on the relational perceptive context and it is through the perception itself that the levels of existence of the Being are established.

These levels establish themselves as survivel, as function, as immanence to one hand, and as existence, as contemplation, as transcendence to the other hand.

According to the Gestalt Psychologists, any perception happens in terms of Figure-Ground - and there is a reversibility, that means, the Figure becomes Ground and the Ground becomes Figure - but what is perceived is the Figure. The perceived being the Figure, we can synonymize the perception as understanding of the manifest, as equivalent to the manifest, equivalent to the explicit, to the expression. This necessarilly would suppose the implicit, the subtil, the non-manifest and even the occult. In this sense, it is possible to understand without dualism, what would be the levels of the manifested and of the occult.

It is worthy of note that an age-old problem between idealism and materialism, material and spiritual, dense and subtil, occult and manifested, can be understood through Figure-Ground. The idea that the human being can transcend the level of survival and reach the level of contemplation-existential, is, in itself, the idea of changing. It is the unique manner to realize the freedom, transcending one's constituent limitations and reaching humanized and occult dimensions, dimensions which are not explicit or that are wrapped by the fights for survival. It's equivalent to the passage from the crawl stage to the walk stage. It is the autonomy in relation to the defining limitations. It's when I break the positions of subject and object, being here and now with me, and so being with the other one. In this way, I'm able to integrate the contemplative dimension and this gives me the disponibility responsible for the infinit reversibility and for the continue and enchained apprehention of the Figure in the successive transformations of Figure-Ground. I integrate myself. I do not coagulate positions, I do not auto-referentiate, I'm with the other one and with myself in this way in the world. This state of non-compromise is what enables freedom, which is no more than the exercise of the human possibilities. To have freedom is fundamental not-be limited, not-be limited even to one's own perception. This is only possible in the existential level where the slipping configurates the exercise of the possibility of to-exist. While we are attached to results, to the fruits of our work and enterprizes, we will be mixing the referentials and will be dedicating ourselves to the polarities. In this way we will achive fulfillment, but to the cost of being exiled from our totality and defining unity. It happens that we live inside limits, since the limit of age, of phisical time, until the limit of space. This is why dedicate oneself and contemplate creates the infinit and recuperates the imprisoned totality. A simple exemple can be seeing when we perceive that we do not have a problem but that we are the problem. To dedicate oneself to this questioning, I mean: why we are a problem, and not be dreaming of not be a problem, this attitude is something which amplifies, which diversifies and transforms our perception, our relations, our behaviours.
[Extracted from the book "Terra e Ouro são Iguais" - pgs.19,20,21,22]
After the reading of this text, it becomes easy to figure out the distorted perception, or the error of Perl: he never desisted from the idea of internal and external realities, in spite of Gestalt be, for him, a word that denotes totality. In Perl, the totality was apprehended in the elementaristic context of unconscious, of goal, of instinct, and the whole (the totality) for him becomes the sum of the parts. It's not by chance that his followers speak of "open gestalt, close gestalt".

Vera Felicidade de Almeida Campos
- August 1996 -