My name is Jeremy Lent and I’m the founder of The Liology Institute, an organization dedicated to fostering a worldview that could enable humanity to thrive sustainably on this planet.
For the past seven years or so, I’ve been researching the various structures of thought that form the foundations of different cultural constructions of meaning in our world and in history. I wanted to find a source of true, valid meaning in my life, and I didn’t want to take anyone else’s word for it on faith. I was equally unimpressed by reductionists who said “there is no meaning to life – we’re just a bunch of molecules and neurons” and by dualistic believers who tell us that the source of meaning comes from an unseen transcendent dimension.
In my research, I found that modern complexity science and systems biology offer a different conception of the natural world than reductionist science: one where purpose and meaning arise intrinsically from within the self-organized emergent structures that form life as we know it. And I was struck by how closely this related to the traditional Chinese sense of the Tao and its inexpressible manifestation in the material world.
I discovered that, during the Song dynasty in China, the school of philosophers known as Neo-Confucianists had systematized their understanding of the cosmos, synthesizing Taoist, Buddhist and Confucian ideas. They described a universe comprising two fundamental parameters: qi and li. Qi (pronounced “chee”) referred to what we think of in modern parlance as “energy/matter” – everything the universe is made of. Li referred to the dynamic principles by which the qi self-organized and became all the different things in the universe. What struck me profoundly is the realization that these Neo-Confucianists were describing the same principles of self-organization that systems biologists and complexity scientists were describing. I began to realize that our modern thinkers are applying mathematical models to the same underlying reality that the Neo-Confucianists saw as the expression of the tao in the material world.
This was an exciting revelation to me. I began to form a framework I called “liology” (pronounced “lee-ology”) – one which could integrate science and meaning in life and traditional spiritual wisdom with modern, analytical thinking, which saw spiritual meaning as embodied, intrinsic to the universe, rather than either non-existent or coming from a transcendent source.
And I began to formulate my research into writing a book called The Patterning Instinct. Volume 1, which I’m close to completing, is called A Cognitive History of Humanity’s Search for Meaning. (I know, it’s a catchy title, huh?). It uses cognitive science as a lens to examine the different ways humans have tried to impose meaning on the universe since we first evolved as hunter-gatherers to the present day. Volume 2 will be called Liology: Towards a Democracy of Consciousness. It uses systems thinking and cognitive neuroscience to explore human consciousness, and describes the confluence between the findings of complexity science and those of Neo-Confucian thought. It explores the profound and far-reaching implications of recognizing that meaning arises intrinsically from the natural world, and points the way to how we humans might shift our worldview to find a sustainable way of living on the earth.
I’m passionate about these ideas and the possibilities they hold for our way forward as our civilization careens down its current unsustainable trajectory. That’s why I founded the Liology Institute, and why I’ve dedicated my life to communicating these possibilities in the best way I can.
When I’m not writing and talking about liology, I’m enjoying my good fortune to be living a life imbued with love, harmony and kindness. I am joyfully married to my wife, Lisa, and we live in West Marin in Northern California. You can reach me by emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org.