A New World of Love. Maturana, Davila, Scharmer, Senge.

Helio Borges
20 min readMay 26, 2020

To love is letting the other appear from his/her legitimacy. Starting from that affirmation we are going to state this systemic law that says “When you distinguish what you want to preserve, everything else changes around what you preserve.” Ximena Davila

Loving is letting the other appear. Presencing Institute

The Event

On May 22, 2020, the stage was set for an unprecedented online event of GAIA en Español, GAIA Journey’s Spanish language channel. GAIA Journey is a 14-week impromptu initiative of the Presencing Institute that hosts every 15 days, 7 different Inhale sessions in 7 different languages ​​with more than 7,000 participants. This day the GAIA session in the Spanish language track had summoned more than 800 attendees from different parts of the world to see and listen via Zoom and Live Streaming to some special guests: Humberto Maturana and Ximena Dávila from Matríztica de Chile, Otto Scharmer from the Presencing Institute and Peter Senge of the Society for Organizational Learning. The interviewers — translators were Florencia Estrade and Mery Míguez, and behind the scenes, the entire technical team of GAIA en Español, managing three Zoom rooms of almost 300 people each, and the simultaneous parallel translations from Spanish to English for Otto Scharmer and Peter Senge.


Toni Moya prepared the atmosphere with relaxing piano pieces, and at 2:00 pm, Florencia opened the session. Flor recounted where we were in relation to the 14-week journey that began on March 27, with three sessions of “ Staying with Deep Listening and Dialogue “, passing on April 24 to a stage of “Deep Resonance and Connection with the Source”, remembering that the Inhale weeks are sessions designed to inspire us with special guests who bring their particular message, and the Exhale weeks are to process, reflect, and meet at the Social Solidarity Circles to bring that learning to our daily lives. Now, we are beginning the Crystallizing cycle, where we come from deep resonance and begin to move into action, and prototyping. This is the time to change our paradigms, to observe what our mental structures are and how they influence our actions.

The GAIA Journey

Now we are going to talk and reflect, first listening to Otto, Humberto, and Ximena. Later on, we will go to small circles of conversation, then, we will return for a resonance in the larger group, and in the end we will have the participation of Peter Senge.

Cultural Biology

Otto. Hello everyone, thank you Florencia for the introduction. It is an honor and a pleasure for me to be part of the conversation with you Humberto and with you Ximena. I also look forward to bring Peter´s voice into the conversation a little later on. Earlier today we had one session with Peter Senge and another with Frithof Capra, and what these two shared with me is such a great admiration of your work Humberto. We are all so much inspired by your work and we are also grateful for being part of this conversation. So, I want to start it by acknowledging how the work of both of you has been inspiring generations of educators and change-makers in a variety of sectors, and I am interested in picking that up with a leading question Humberto.

Otto Scharmer

When I went to the university in Germany we learned from the Social Autopoietic Theory from Nicklas Luhman, which is very influential in Europe right now, and that is inspired by your early work, but I am not even sure that it is the right understanding of your work, but it definitely is referenced in your work and is a class of Social Systems Theory. I am not even sure how you look at that, because a little peculiarity of Luhman´s approach of the Social Autopoietic Field is basically ignoring the human being, while in your work, particularly in the latter work with Ximena, you have been pioneering that the human being and the humanness are very much at the center of it. I would be interested in how you would look at the evolution of your own work and how it has evolved particularly in the two of you working together towards Cultural Biology. How in your own account is it that other people chose from your approach maybe understanding it right or differently and how do you see the evolution of your own work particularly in the light of the past few decades?

I asked him why in his theory he left the human being out …

HM. I am going to start by referring to Niklas Luhmann when I met him. He invited me in 1990 to go to Germany to talk to him because he had a thesis in which he said that social systems were autopoietic systems of communication. I disagreed with him because autopoietic systems are systems of molecules. I spoke at those moments only of autopoiesis. Then, knowing Ximena, she showed me that the name really had to be complemented. It was not enough to speak of autopoiesis only, but of molecular autopoiesis, since molecular autopoietic systems relate to living beings. Since then I have been talking about molecular autopoietic systems, but at the time I met Niklas Luhman I did not, and there was a lot of confusion. At this meeting I asked him why in his theory he left the human being out. If he wanted to talk about the social, in a communications context, why did he leave the human being out? He told me that human beings were unpredictable beings, and he wanted to make a predictive theory. He realized that autopoiesis involved interactions of elements that were molecules, but he did not see it that way, but instead spoke of communication. We had several meetings and attended seminars together in which we disagreed wonderfully about social issues. I told him that the social fact had to do with ways of living together, and he said that it had to do with communications.

The Cultural Origin of Human Pain

That is part of the story, but all of this is central to speak about what we do with Ximena when we refer to Cultural Biology. At that time, before 1997, when they asked me what a social system was, I said it was a biological phenomenon, but when I met Ximena, she made this fundamental statement to me; She said that she had realized that the pain for which relational help was requested was always of cultural origin. There I realized that culture was not a mere social phenomenon, it was a human phenomenon. In that conversation she showed me that the pain for which help was requested arose from having lived through some denial, and abuse that was validated by the culture, and that had been preserved throughout the life of the person asking for help, being present throughout his/her life. I realized that this was something very different, I was talking about conservation, and what she was showing was that pain was conserved because the culture validated the circumstance in which one had lived that denial or abuse. From there arises the concept of Cultural Biology, because we realized that the biological and the cultural were intimately intertwined, they were not separable, and that the social fact had to do with conversations, and language, whereas the biological had to do with biological processes. When we speak about Cultural Biology, we are talking about human beings as whole entities, not composed of biology and culture as separate units, but rather that we are a unit not dissociable with biological and cultural living.

Molecular Autopoietic Systems

XD. After saying hello, she says: I was talking to my friend Dennis Sando about the epistemological tragedy. As Bateson says, “ the great human problem has to do with the epistemological tragedy “, and that if we continued to preserve autopoiesis in social systems, there would be an epistemological tragedy from the thinking and understanding of what is today Cultural Biology.

Social systems are not autopoietic systems …

Social systems are not autopoietic systems. Living beings are autopoietic beings because they produce themselves. A stone is not an autopoietic system. An organization is not an autopoietic system. An organization is made up of living beings, and as such they are autopoietic molecular systems, but the organization is not. As I was saying to Humberto, things when they are implicit are not seen, they don´t exist, so we must speak of molecular autopoiesis. The only molecular autopoietic systems are those made up of molecules, like us as living beings that we are. The word autopoiesis is used as self-organization, which is a seductive concept, but it is not valid. What the word autopoiesis says is that we are molecular autopoietic systems that produce themselves.This is the basis of the entire foundation of what is today Cultural Biology.

HM. The interesting thing about this concept is that the Molecular Autopoietic System and the living being are the same. When I speak of a living being, I speak of this entity living his/her life in a realm with other living beings as a whole.

When I speak of a molecular aoutopoietic system, I speak of the processes that have to occur for the result to be something that is going to be called a living being. It is a living being because we can observe characteristics about them with which we can recognize them, such as autonomy, and self-evolution. When I speak of the molecular autopoietic system, I speak of all the dynamics that constitute it as a system. They are two ways of looking at the same thing. Life does not exist as an object, it is a noun that I use to refer to what happens to this living being that is a molecular autopoietic system in its operation as a whole.

Cultural Transformation

Otto. Thank you so much, Humberto and Ximena for this clarification, which very much resonates with what I always felt. I always felt uneasy with Luhman´s way of picking up on your work, and the way you clarify that, really resonates with all my experiences. So thank you for that. Humberto, can you clarify how meeting Ximena has shifted your own perspective about humans, actually connecting with other humans. The shift of the focus of your own inquiry and the perspective that you have been developing around Cultural Biology, and biology of love, really is grounded in learning from and with each other. It is wonderful to see how much of what we receive as theories at the end, actually, emerge from your relationship and from respecting each other´s views. In the session we had earlier today, there is a lot of, on one hand, a lot of outpouring of compassion and love, which we see as a reaction of society as the response to the pandemic. On the other hand, we also see an amplification of brutality and of trauma and structural violence. The sense that many of us have is that we live in a very fragile situation where things can develop one way or another. I wonder if Cultural Biology, from the deeper feelings and emotions, is the deeper source out of which social relationships emerge. What is it that you can share with us that might be helpful in connecting and responding to the current situation in a way that is aligned with our humanness, with our humanity, and it is not amplifying some of these other factors of violence, structural violence that we also see?

XD. When people speak about democracy in different countries, this distinguishes a way of living together in mutual respect and honesty, which gives way to collaboration. Collaboration is not an instruction manual, it is an attitude that I have towards the world when I am in a relational space of mutual respect and honesty. Honesty, mutual respect, and collaboration are not behaviors or relationships that have been cultivated in human history, in schools, and the family, because we have cultivated competing, winning over another, being successful, arriving first, having more than another. They are all values ​​of cultural origin. When we talk about cultural transformation, it is not that you are going to take a workshop and leave it transformed.

Cultural transformation is a process that has to do with the purpose of life. In order to advance in this direction, there is a fundamental fact that must be assumed, understanding what kind of beings we are as living beings and as human beings. There are those who ask, what are the principles of cultural diversity? Cultural diversity has no principles. Cultural diversity is an understanding. When you have a principle, you have a theory. On the other hand, when you have an understanding, you have a process in which you are having experiences and you are appropriating it.

As Rudolf Steiner said, “ Don’t believe me, don’t follow me. You, if it makes sense to you, verify in your living, in your experience, what I say.” Therefore, we are inviting you to understand cultural diversity, verifying it from from your own experience, if it makes sense to you in your daily living.

The best and worst of humanity appear when we see what is happening today, fear, violence, pain, and not agreeing with each other. The best, when those democratic sensibilities appear when they applaud this lady who got better and left the hospital. When there is democratic sensitivity there is hope that all is not lost, that we can follow the path of finding ourselves in a world of mutual respect, honesty, and therefore collaboration.

A Systemic Law: What Do We Want to Preserve?

Otto asked Ximena to lead the attendants to a collective reflection before going into the breakout rooms.

XD. We are going to make an invitation to reflect by stating a systemic law first. We speak about change, however when we invite people to change we do not let them appear. To love is letting the other appear. Of course, letting the other appear, has its expectations, has its demands. If I don’t like the world that the other brings by his/her hand, I don’t share it, then, we separate. Therefore,

To love is letting the other appear from his/her legitimacy. Starting from that affirmation we are going to state this systemic law that says “When you distinguish what you want to preserve, everything else changes around what you preserve.” This occurs in all parts of the world.

Although someone says they don’t want to be where they are, they are always where they are because they are preserving something. When someone complains about the job, they may be asked why do you continue on that job? The answer could be because I keep a salary that provides a decent living. Today we are in a different moment of humanity. What are all human beings preserving on this planet at this moment in time? Life! Staying at home, putting on masks, not having physical contact. You always preserve what you preserve because it is something that you want for your life. So the question to the people who are in the different small groups would be the following:

What do you want to keep preserving in your daily lives? And, what do you not want to keep preserving in your daily life?

The 800 participants were divided into small groups of between 3 and 6 people who had the opportunity to discuss the questions raised. My group was of 4 people, and this was our reflection.

Lina, Colombia. Emotional education for children. Preserve. Hope. The opportunity that this moment in history is giving us. Not preserve. The fear that life will end.

Marcela Arreaga, Guatemala. Laboratory of social innovation. Preserve. A state of stillness, of listening, of collective learning, compassion. Not preserve. Non-collaborative attitudes, violence, insecurity, absence.

Juan Nuraddin. Spain. Universal Peace Circles. Preserve. Corona has made us very humble. Thanks, health, family relationships, collaboration. Not preserve. The complaint, the vision of lack. Search for success at all costs. Sense of self-destruction.

Helio. Venezuela. Change agent. Preserve. Life, sense of life, health, living in the present moment. Not preserve. Selfishness, violence, search for power.

Social resonance. Based on the conversation we had in the small groups, Mery Míguez invites us to write three words on Menti.com that respond to: What do we see? What do we feel? What do we sense? This word cloud reflects the responses. Mery also invites us to focus on our bodies as we watch the cloud form. She also invites voices from the audience to express what they want to keep and what they don’t.

What do you see? What do you feel? What do you sense?

Voices from the audience. Preserve. The willingness to serve us and others. Democracy. The rhythm of life we ​​are in now. Focus on the essential. Meaningful relationships that connect with the Being. Listen to our interior. To appreciate our vulnerability. Close and authentic links with others and with nature. School as a place of balance. Look at ourselves as people, community, humanity. Respect for the cycles of nature. Interest and curiosity. Empathy. Opening. Listens.

Not preserve. The selfishness of economic leaders. Indifference towards ourselves and towards others. Rush. Excessive activities. Systemic violence. Injustices. Inconsistencies. Ego, individualism. Friction with others and with nature. Absence, living in the future. Fears of the unknown, when undertaking. Limiting attachments.

To Love Is Letting the Other Appear

XD. I appreciate the participation of Hernán, Juan Carlos, Margarita, Ileana, and Patricia, they are people with names because we have been able to verify with their testimonies that we always want to preserve something that generates well-being and the feeling of being alive. No one has said “ I want to preserve war, my self-destruction”. Everything that we do in Cultural Biology is simple if one comes to understand that this is simple and that it is within us. Understanding it from the systemic, systemic, systemic perspective, realizing that systemic is recursive, not linear, not theoretical. The systemic is constitutive of the living. A living being is born and if it has the conditions of its niche, then, it will adapt to the world in which it lives spontaneously. The difference with human beings is that we adapt to the adult world, where everyone else lives in a culture that has a certain way of relating, of looking at the world.

To love is to let the other appear …

What we do in cultural biology is what the fish does when it swims in the water — it is not aware of the water. We invite people to see culture as water is to fish. We realize from the answers that what we want to preserve is, first, to live our molecular autopoiesis and the preservation of our relational dynamics with others and with the environment in the “letting appear”, which is love, leaving the egos out. Someone spoke of attachment. Living in attachment is living a situation in which something causes us pleasure and something causes us harm. What this particular systemic law does is to make conscious what I have been preserving in my life history without realizing it. When I do it consciously I can transform it. The difference between the conscious and the unconscious is that the conscious is to be aware. That is when I realize that the next step to be done is that something has to be transformed in my way of relating. This reflection places you in front of a mirror. When you look at yourself in the mirror, there are things that you like and others that you don’t, but since the nervous system is plastic, we are always in continuous transformation.

HM. I will make a reflection. If I make a synthesis of what I heard, what you want to preserve is a sense of community, everything is centered around it. To preserve is to be part with others of something that is desirable, that generates well-being, a sense of community. We desire to live in a culture based on the relationship with the community. Community means being together with others in a common wellbeing environment, that is life, life is nothing else, it is not more complex. What you don’t want to preserve, I felt, is fear. Fear of what? To the breakdown of the community. To be suddenly found abandoned, alone, denied. Ximena pointed out in her reflection that all of that is resolved in love, in letting appear. Because if I let it appear, it means that I am not demanding and that I am not imposing. So, I see things as they are, I see where I am, I see what I want, I see what I don’t want. If I let it appear, I can reflect on it, I can give it, I can choose it, I can not choose it, I can understand it, but from a place of awareness.

XD. The other side of the coin is that to let it appear I have to let go of my expectations and my certainty. I am naked before the other. I have no reasons, expectations, demands. I am open and curious about what will appear. If I have a very big ego, I have great expectations, I know everything, I have no way to let it appear. Letting the other appear is an art of humility, of our self-respect, in which one has always a curious attitude towards life because always, one has something to learn that the other wants to show you. The act of letting go of certainty in order to let the other appear requires boldness and balls.

The act of letting go of certainty…

HM. In other words, love is a courageous act.

XD. Sure!

HM. Sure, because love is letting appear.

XD. Sure! If I don’t let myself appear, how do I let the other appear?

HM. Now if I want to understand something I have to let it appear to be able to look at it. If I want to do science. What is science? It is to let it appear to understand and to be able to explain something that I do not see if I do not let it appear. To do that, I have to drop the theories, the principles, to be aware of where it is, to reflect, and to choose.

XD. That is why I do not do therapy, I do liberating conversations with therapeutic consequences because if we are strict in thinking systemic, systemic, systemic, one can never help another human being. We have no idea, when we say what we say, of what the other is listening about because we are only triggering a certain process in each person from their history and from their listening process. Trying to help another in this way leads to another act of humility, so as to not fall into the vanity of believing that one can make the other change or believing that the other does what one wants him/her to do.

HM. In other words, vanity is actually the greatest blindness, I think that I own what I don’t know, I think that I own something I don’t have. Not only that, but I feel great because I feel that I have everything and I never let it appear. Because if I let it appear I will find something that I do not know and that I have to look to know.

XD: What is fear? We learn fear since childhood because the culture we live in does not allow us to be spontaneous from our experience. We can continue here all afternoon, so let’s give way to what follows. Thank you very much Mery.

HM. Thank you.

To Be Present Is to Appear

Otto invites Peter Senge to participate.

Peter Senge

Peter Senge. It is hard to know where to start. Maybe I will start with some of what we talked about in our small group. One common thing that emerged, and I am sure this is not coincidental to Humberto and Ximena. The conservation of the ability to just be present emerged as a very simple theme. The idea that everything is contingent in a way of how we show up. So, if we show up with expectations, then the expectations may not be met. If we show up with demands we are entering into a relationship based on imposing our ideas on another. But if we show up with just presence, we use the term neutral, just being there. Then, awareness can develop. If we don´t show up with presence, habit develops. That was a very interesting reflection that we had in our conversation.

XD. I’m going to say hi to Peter first. How are you Peter? Greeting each other is our first act of presence. Mindfulness, being present, being there, arises in letting appear. I do not let appear if I am not in total presence, I do not have how to do it.

“When the boy pulls his daddy’s face …”

When the boy pulls his daddy’s face and says “daddy”, what he means is “daddy, I want you to be with me, look at me!” Being present is like being whole. You are always whole where you are, what happens is that the emotional, psychic space makes that presence appear. If I am whole, and in the center of myself, there is going to be an encounter of letting the other appear. When I have a conversation, there is a time when there is a co-niching with the other. We start out as individual niches and end up in a single niche in the conversation. We co-nichened, there is a co-niching because we have let ourselves appear. For this we must let go of our demands, expectations, our egos. We are in the wonderful emotion that children are always in, which is curiosity because we are grown children.

HM. We are children even when we grow old, to the third or fourth age.

Worst! haha! Vanity alone is not being present.

XD. How much do we play? How much do we expect that the plans turn out and the plans never turn out when one sticks to what is planned? One plans to have a certain order of things. We met with Otto before, but what is emerging here is emerging. Presence is when you have emptied yourself of yourself, and you are centered, thus, the others will appear without effort, without demand, without expectations, and you will feel that there is a sensitivity, an energy, a feeling, and the person knows that he/she is being received by the other with all sincerity.

HM. In other words, the enemy of being present is vanity.

XD. The vanity of wanting to be present.

HM. Worst! haha! Vanity alone is not being present.

The Process of Letting the Other Appear

Mery thanks Ximena and Humberto and gives the pass to Margarita Reyes, who was present at the conversation, drawing it.

To love is letting the other appear. Margarita Reyes

Margarita. There was plenty to listen to, here are some of the main aspects. People are molecular autopoietic systems. There is a difference between being alive and living. The pain for which help is sought is of cultural origin. At the root of this conversation arises the theory of cultural diversity. They spoke to us of three important terms, collaboration, respect, and honesty. They are principles that govern us. You have to change the principles for understanding. In the principle we are closed, in the understanding we are open to the democratic sensitivity that guides us towards democracy. Loving is letting appear, letting go of expectations and certainties. Bravery, curiosity is needed to make it appear. To let the other appear, we empty ourselves. We can never heal the other, it is the other who appears and does his/her process. Leave our own niches to co-niche with each other. We want to preserve service others, love, openness. We don’t want to preserve our self-reference, our not listening. Peter told us that we have to preserve being present. Be careful with the vanity that does not let us be present.

Otto. It was such a gift to be part of this session, even though for the most part we had real difficulty to really understand the translation. I could follow the conversation only in part during the first part. I want to close with a reflection Ximena and Humberto, in terms of what you were sharing at the end, which is the process of making conscious, or the process of letting the other appear.

Flor dismissed the session expressing that 90 minutes was not enough for the quality of the conversation that was generated, leaving the doors open for the conversation to be repeated on another occasion. She also invited the attendees to watch the videos to get a better perspective and to join the Social Solidarity Circles and the thematic Hubs.



Helio Borges

Executive & Team Coach & Mentor. Cultural Transformation Change Agent & Consultant. Twitter: @hborgesg. Instagram: @heboga. FB: helio.borges.35. Uriji: @hborges