The Cycle and the Spiral-Antenarrative:

A Quantum-Ontology-System Manifesto 

David M Boje, New Mexico State University

Aug 12 2011; revised 21 August 2011 For citation, Boje, D. M. 2011 The cycle and the spiral-antenarrative: a Quantum-Ontology-System Manifesto. NMSU Working Paper, on line at


There is a looming crisis in open and ‘general system theory’ (GST).  It is due to several reasons. First the use of abstraction and analogy in virtual-GST has substituted for the study of ‘living processes’ and ‘ecological biosphere’ so prevalent in ontic-‘living system theory’ (LST). Second, there is talk about complex adaptive systems to the environment in GST and LST, but when one looks at system and environment (open system, or not), it is without ‘place’ as conceived in Quantum-‘ontological system theory’ (Q-OST).  Third, the open system work of GST is humanist, instead of Quantum-posthumanist, which would address human and non-human beings as well as living things.  Finally, in the new quantum physics, it’s all intra-woven, intra-connected, intra-activity, and intra-penetrating particle/waves with discourse that suggests new alignments of GST, LST, and Q-OST.

In what follows I want to look at Deleuzian difference and repetition, and at some different types of repetition that I think will help what I envision as a Quantum-Ontological Systems Theory (Q-OST) to address the crisis of General System Theory (GST) and Living System Theory (LST), the gap between them. In Boje (2011a) I edited a handbook on antenarrative in which I differentiate cycle and spiral-antenarrative. 

fig 1 boje

Source for Figure 1 is Boje (2008a: p. 35).

I do not accept without proof that systems are in hierarchic levels. The nine levels of system, as I summarize them in Figure 1 (Boje, 2008a: 35) from work by Boulding, Pondy, Pirsig, and Polanyi, is also redeveloped in Ludwig von Bertalanffy (1968: 28-9), but the Transcendental (level 9) is replaced by ‘Symbolic systems’ and redefined as  “Language, logic, mathematics, sciences, arts, morals, etc.” by way of exemplars. I think there is a reason for this. Bertalanffy (1968: 45, 101, 186-7, 225, 227, 229, 232, & 240) repeatedly rejects Kant’s approach to system theory.  Kant (1781) favors the transcendental, the a priori of pure reason in defining the architectonic system. Ironically, both Bertalanffy and Kant reduce ‘architectonic’ to cognitive and reason, respectively.

A Storiers’ Ontology Manifesto

Storiers testify to the emptiness of GST, the emptying out of living stories of LST, not-noticing their ontic significance, representation by absence, leaving only abstraction, and virtuality templates.   Storiers testify to system-encounters in-Being, in ethic of caring, by inquiry into the fraud and corruption of wannabe system consultancy, overcast with GST templates, using LST as metaphor, yet clueless to how the representations actualize efficiency, but are not effective interventions, just wannabe hubris. Stories of Q-OST, engage in encounters, with an ethic of carrying, where Da-sein [Being-there] is an inquiry of encounters with system in-Being, an inquiry into how GST transforms LST. Put aside the emptiness of GST, all the emptied out living stories leaving absence in its wake, and abstraction in narrative representations without a trace of life, just dead text overlays. Q-OST seeks a new harmony between ontic-LST and virtual-GST.  LST survives in accommodation with the overlays of GST representational models. Perhaps we can make GST dissolve or disappear so that there is liberation from the social constructivism of GST.  This would mean becoming quantum activists who not only abandon the tenets of GST, but go beyond the ontic-LST [ontic is exists or not].  To beyond the virtual-epistemic knowing, and the ontic, we can seek an ontological system standpoint of encounters with in-Being, in a place, and a presencing of an ethics of caring for something, some-being, some-place. An ontological inquiry is encounters with system in-Being, by acts of caring, for systems-in-place, Being-there [Dasein]. 

The Open and Closed System Theory of Ludwig von Bertalanffy in Rejecting Kant

I want to show how general systems theory, its main elements, closed and open system theories, are, in reaction to Immanuel Kant’s (1781/1900) system theory.  I will start with Bertalanffy’s definitions of system in GST, and then summarize his critique of Kantian system theory of cognitive-architectonic-system and what Mikhail Bakhtin (1981) has done to it (an intra-animation of three discourses: cognitive, aesthetics, and ethics).  After that I will show how in reading Gilles Deleuze (1994) as well as Heidegger, we can develop a different orientation to systems theory, one that goes ‘beyond open systems theory’ (a goal Lou Pondy gave us in the class I took from him, once upon a time, in the mid-1970s), to what I am calling Q-OST.

Bertalanffy’s definitions: Bertalanffy defines system in GST as “set of elements standing in interrelations” (1968: p. 55, 83) and “expressed by the system of equations” (p. 83), and elsewhere (p. 19) as “organized complexity” and “nonlinear” (p. 19).  There are closed and open systems. A closed system is defined as “in equilibrium [that] does not need energy for its preservation…” (p. 125). “In open system, by contrast, the steady state is not removable as a wholeness in many individual reactions.”  There is also brief mention of ‘living systems’ (p. 14), yet not often, and not with anything beyond use of metaphoric representation.

Bertalanffy’s Critique of Kant’s System Theory: Bertalanffy (1968: 186) says “Kant’s philosophy is the culminating synthesis of physical science as it had developed since Galileo and Newton” and then accuses Kant of leaving out the “living organization” from his reason approach to the physical universe. For Bertalanffy (1968: 187, 227), with Einstein’s relativity theory, and even Heisenberg (p. 31) and quantum mechanics, and concludes that Kant’s approach to system, to space and time as a priori is no longer tenable. Throughout Bertalanffy there is a rejection of a priori and of vitalism. However, Bertalanffy, instead of grasping the implications of quantum physics for system theory, focuses instead of the Whorfian hypothesis, on the linguistic turn (p. 225), which is what he has swapped out the ‘transcendental’ term employed by Kenneth Boulding, for the ‘Symbolic system” one on p. 29. Bertalanffy (1968: 227) concludes “little is left of Kant’s supposedly a priori and absolute categories” such as space and time, and then adds “while in the Kantian system, the categories appeared to be absolute for any rational observer they now appear as changing with the advancement of scientific knowledge” (such as relativity, linguistic turn, and quantum mechanics). 

“According to the Kantian thesis, there are the so-called forms of intuition, space and time, and the categories of the intellect, such as substance, causality, and others with are universally committal for any rational being” (Bertalanffy, 1968: 226).   Bertalanffy as a bio-physicist adds “the biologist finds there is no absolute space or time but that they depend on the organization of the perceiving organism” (p. 229).  Just to be sure no one misses his point:

“The categories of experience or forms of intuition, to use Kant’s term, are not a universal a priori, but rather they depend on the psychophysical organization and physiological conditions of the experiencing animal, man included” (Bertalanffy, 1968: 232).

With such a devastating critique, one might ask, why read Kant at all?  There are some very good reasons.  Next we look to Kant’s side of the system story.

What does Kant say about space, time, and matter? Immanuel Kant (1781/1900) defines space, time, and system, as well as the “transcendental” in ways that “transcend the region of experience” (xiii).

What is time? “Of time we cannot have any external intuition any more than we can have an internal intuition of space” (Kant, 1781: 23).

Kant asks, “What then are space and time” (p. 23).

Answer: They are “predicates” the mind attaches to any object (Kant, 1781: p. 23).

What is space? “Space is not a conception which has been determined from outward experiences” and “… the representation of space must already exist as a foundation” (Kant, 1781: p.23). It cannot be borrowed from external (sensory) experience. “Space then is a necessary representation a priori, which serves as the foundation of all external intuitions” (p. 24).  Space is “considered as the condition of the possibility of phenomena, and by no means as a determination dependent on them and is a basis for external phenomena” (Kant, 1781: p. 24).

“Space is no discursive” and we “represent to ourselves one space… or parts of one and the same space… space is all-embracing” … “space is an intuition a priori and not a conception” (Kant, 1781: p.24).

As we shall see both Deleuze and Heidegger’s ontologies conceive of space and time as conceptions.

What is time? “Time is not an empirical conception” (Kant, 1781: 28). It is a representation that exists; a priori Kant refers to this as a “presupposition” (p. 28), and “that things exist together at one and the same time, or at different times, that is, contemporaneously, or in succession” (p. 28). “Time has only one dimension” and “different times are not coexistent but successive” (p. 28). “Different spaces are not successive but coexistent” (p. 28). “These principles cannot be derived from experience” (Kant, 1781: p. 28).

Just like space, “time is not a discursive” (Kant, 1781: p. 28). And just as there is one and the same space, “different times are merely parts of one and the same time” (p. 28). 

Typically we “represent the course of time by a line progressing to infinity, the content of which is only of one dimension” where we conclude “parts of the line are coexistent ‘while those of time are successive’” (Kant, 1781: p. 30).

What is Kant’s System Theory?

“By a system I mean the unity of various cognitions under one idea” (Kant, 1781: 466).


“By the term architectonic I mean the art of constructing a system. Without systematic unity, our knowledge cannot become science; it will be an aggregate, and not a system” (Kant, 1781: 466).


“Reason cannot permit our knowledge to remain in an unconnected and rhapsodistic state, but requires that the sum of our cognitions should constitute a system” (Kant, p. 466).

“This idea is the conception- given by reason- of the form of a whole, in so far as the conception determines a priori not only the limits of its content, but the place which each of its parts is to occupy. The scientific idea contains, therefore, the end and the form of the whole which is in accordance with that end. The unity of the end, to which all the parts of the system relate, and through which all have a relation to each other, communicates unity to the whole system, so that the absence of any part can be immediately detected from our knowledge of the rest; and it determines a priori the limits of the system, thus excluding all contingent or arbitrary additions” (Kant, 1781: 467).


“We require, for the execution of the idea of a system, a schema, that is, a content and an arrangement of parts determined a priori by the principle which the aim of the system prescribes. A schema which is not projected in accordance with an idea, that is, from the standpoint of the highest aim of reason, but merely empirically, in accordance with accidental aims and purposes (the number of which cannot be predetermined), can give us nothing more than technical unity. But the schema which is originated from an idea (in which case reason presents us with aims a priori, and does not look for them to experience), forms the basis of architectonical unity” (ibid).

In Boje (2008a, see chapter on architectonics) I summarize what Bakhtin has done to Kant’s architectonics, by adding two other discourses to Kant’s cognitive discourse of pure reason. The two that Bakhtin (1981) adds, are aesthetics and ethics. Not just any aesthetics, but one that is rooted in stylistics (see that chapter in Boje, 2008a).  Not just any ethics, but the answerability ethics of being that one person in the present moment of Being-ness who can act, who has the intelligence to intervene in a system of unethics.  Bakhtin is moving beyond the discourse, only in linguistic identity, to stylistic of many modes of communication (written text, oral speech, dramaturgy, architectural, and so on).  Bakhtin is moving beyond discourse about ethics to an ontology of answerability, to intervening in systems of unethics. As we shall see, Heidegger is pursuing an ethics of caring that also moves beyond the reason-based Kantian categorical ethics.

Ontology and System Theories: Beyond GST and LST

Let’s look at General System Theory (GST), Living System Theory (LST), and what I will call Quantum-Ontological System Theory (Q-OST) in relation to one another. GST (Bertalanffy, 1968) has a virtual idea, of parts-whole that is worked out in all scientific and cultural fields of study, including organization studies. Living system is both empirical, ontic (it exists), and not merely virtual.  Heidegger (1962) differentiates ontology (the meaning of in-Being) from ontic (exists or not).  An ontological system therefore is about a field of possibilities in-Being, and it is foretelling, fore-having, fore-conceiving of those possibilities in choices made in the moment of Being (a point where Bakhtin and Heidegger overlap). Heidegger’s Dasein means ‘Being-there’ (and is also translated by Galvan, 1989 as Being-here).  I am adding the word quantum, in the Heisenberg sense observer effect. 

The three sorts of systems: GST, LST, and Q-OST are related, as depicted in Figure 2.   


fig 2 boje

Figure 2 – Putting Three System Theories in Intra-relationship

Figure 2 looks at the approaches of Immanuel Kant, Henri Bergson, and Martin Heidegger, with the ‘difference and repetition’ of Gilles Deleuze’s ontology in the middle, between them. Bergson’s Durée of ‘immediate experience’ retrospectively apprehended is forerunner to Weick’s (1995) retrospective-sensemaking, in which there is a focus on the five senses, on the cognitive-sensory. I would like to amend Weick’s retrospective sensemaking (Boje, 2011f), because in Bergson’s (1992/1932: 100-101) Creative Mind, one finds the origins of retrospective sensemaking:

“It’s quite simple. Let a man of talent or genius come forth, let him create a work: it will then be real, and by that very fact it becomes retrospectively or retroactively possible. … That is why I tell you that it will have been possible today, but that it is not yet so… That one can put reality into the past and thus work backwards in time is something I have never claimed. But that one can put the possible there, or rather that the possible may put itself there at any moment, is not to be doubted. As reality is created as something unforeseeable and new, its image is reflected behind it into the indefinite past.”

Bergson (2005/1911) Creative Evolution, integrates “continuity of life, as stated in the concepts of duration and memory, and the discontinuity of creation. This integrative approach revels a understanding of change and its deeper causes” in the impulse of élan vital that is beyond duration but gets close to it, and Bergson’s (1991/1911: 13) Mind and Matter, memory is at the intersection of mind and matter, and in Bergson’s (1992/1932: 159) Creative Mind, intuition enters into matter (things) by approaching them from the outside.  Bergsonian reading of materiality, “matter is a clustering of ideas” (Bergson, 1992/1932: 114) and without guarantee of things existing outside our tacit and explicit knowing, and is definitely privileging epistemological over ontic and ontological.  Weick privileges actualization of sensemaking into ontic-experiencing, but stops short of ontological-caring or meaning of Being-there, in-Being. Bergson’s theory of Durée, the movement-image becomes change itself, where the corporeal-body is the meeting place of mind (sensory) and matter, in the immediate experience of duration. Bergson, (ibid, 122) says “knowledge in a single mind” is impossible’ because universal knowledge can no longer be known. Like Bertalanffy, Bergson reject’s Kant’s approach. Bergson (ibid, p. 128) says “Kant’s error” was trying to transport intuition outside the domain of sensory (aka, sensemaking), making it pure reason and the a priori (predicate).  And Weickian sensemaking as Bergson (p. 128) anticipates it, “cannot get out of time nor grasp anything else than change.”  It stays retrospective, and cannot grasp movement from the future, only change in a succession of now-pasts.

Both Bergson and Weick make out of retrospection, that now-past, after now-past accumulate in the present, and the prospective sensemaking about the future, is not the future coming into present. Heidegger (1962), by contrast, is all about foretelling, the future that arrives ahead of itself, in the present, in fore-having and fore-conceiving. This is not at all the same as the virtual future one reads in GST.

Bertalanffy’s ‘general system theory’ (GST) would fit what Deleuze (1994) calls ‘virtual.’ The actualization of the virtual-GST occurs through acts of sensemaking (retrospective-representation) to make the experience of now-past and now-present, be out of sort of the living system in its empirical (ontic-existence, or not). The first fold is sensemaking, and the second-fold is the ontic of existence, but for Heidegger (1962, 1999, 2003) there is a third-fold, the ontological.

Heidegger’s third-fold, the ontological, after the first-fold of sensory-cognitive, and the second-fold of reason (a priori) gives us a way to do inquiry. The living system, in Deleuze’s term, enacts dramatization. Through dramatization we arrive at system-encounters in an ontological sense. Kant ‘architectonic system’ rooted in ‘pure reason’ treats space and time as a priori, (transcendental level 9, in Boulding’s hierarchical-levels approach).   The inter-relationship is therefore one of architectonic, actualization, and dramatization. 

Morin (2008: 23) puts the relationship between cybernetics of GST, the self-organizing qualities and self-awareness of LST, and what we are calling Quantum Ontological System Theory (Q-OST) as follows: “Here, we can see that systemism and cybernetics are the first stage of a rocket that allows the launching of a second stage, the theory of self-organization, which in turn fires off a third, epistemological, stage, that of the relation between subject and object.” My quibble with Morin is that it’s not just epistemological, it’s ontological. GST 1st and 2nd order cybernetics of control and open systems brought us some understanding of deviation-counteraction feedback loops of causality interacting with deviation-amplifying loops of causality. LST brought some understanding of self-organizing process chains (dissipative structures) operating on the edge of chaos to bring about emergence of order (autopoiesis, etc.). But the Cartesian duality, the divide between mind and body, subject and object, internal and external, continues.  The cognitive and sensemaking theories dismiss materiality. The physics theories cannot grapple with consciousness or self-awareness. Both Bertalanffy (1968) and Capra (1996) dismiss vitalism, seeking alternatives to the vital principle in GST and LST, but in ways that continue the Cartesian divide as either/or alternatives “machine/organism, vital/reductionism” (Morin, 2008: 16).

Q-OST beings with the paradox of micro-physics that Niels Bohr and Werner Heisenberg observed, “depending on the experimental conditions, the same quantum of energy could manifest itself either as a particle— that is to say as a discrete, limited, material body – of as a wave – something immaterial and continuous” (Morin, 2008: 71). Karen Barad (2003, 2007, 2011) looks at the intra-activity of discourse and materiality, was a way to overcome the Cartesian divide. Heidegger (1962) uses the term, ‘de-severance’ as way of non-dualizing subject and object. He also gives credence to ‘place,’ to ‘Being-there’ (Dasein).

Kitarō was trying to work out a meeting of western and eastern philosophy, and in particular, how to integrate Bergson, Kant, Hegel, and Heidegger with Japanese (Buddhist) approach to ‘place’ [basho]. In Boje (2011f) I sort out the chronology of Kitarō’s writing: Kitarō (1990/1911) work on the Good was first published in Japanese, in 1911, and not until 1990 in English. That work began his quest to unite western and eastern philosophical differences. Kitarō (1987/1917) work on Intuition was first published in Japanese in 1917, and translated into English in 1987. And Kitarō (1970/1933-4), Fundamental Problems of Philosophy, considered the most coherent accomplishment of his quest first appeared in Japanese 1933-1934, and was among his earliest writing to appear in English, in 1970.

“The dialectic has such a meaning, i.e. that of the determination of place [basho]. But a dialectic process is still not a dialectic of absolute negation. For the mutual determination of individuals is to be understood from the self-determination of absolute space and the absolute present” (Kitarō, 1970/1933-4: 48).

And it is this determination of place [basho] that is Kitarō’s contribution to dialectic to recover Kant’s dialectic of one-qua-many, one person making their maxim a universal in relation to many others making their own claim. Kitarō develops his teleological causality in relation to his reading of Heidegger. As Kitarō (1970/1933-4: 117, bracketed additions mine) puts it: “true life exists at the place where the living thing individualizes its environment and the environment individualizes itself” in a “field of forces”, in a “field of motion” of a “living being [that] is not mechanical, but teleological” and “in teleological causality the end is in the beginning.”

This is not merely cognitive or Weickian sensemaking, and is not the thinking (pure reason) of Kantian a priori because for Kitarō the only true reality exists in place [basho] where in his reading of the durée of immediate present free will is worked out in relation to living things.

Critiques of GST and Open System Theory

            Robert Lilienfeld (1978) offered devastating critique of GST (as cited in Capra, 1996: 78):

Systems thinkers exhibit a fascination for definitions, conceptualizations, and programmatic statements of a vaguely benevolent, vaguely moralizing nature. … They collect analogies between the phenomena of one field and those of another … the description of which seems to offer them an esthetic delight that is its own justification. … No evidence that systems theory has been used to achieve the solution of any substantive problem in any field whatsoever has appeared.

Capra (1996: 79) deploys this critique as the basis for saying that Bertalanffy’s goal to make GST into a mathematical disciple applicable to all empirical sciences “was certainly never achieved.”  Capra goes on to position LST as meeting the challenges that GST could not overcome. “The understanding of living structures as open systems provided an important new perspective, but it did not solve the puzzle of the coexistence of structure and change, of order and dissipation, until Ilya Prigogine formulated his theory of dissipative structures. As Bertalanffy had combined the concepts of flow and balance to describe open systems, so Prigogine combined ‘dissipative’ and ‘structure’ to express the two seemingly contradictory tendencies the coexist in all living systems” (Capra, 1996: 180). One could argue that Capra falls prey to Lilienfeld’s critique.  Capra has a fascination for concepts and definitions, while making vaguely moralizing statements about nature, and uses metaphoric-analogies of phenomena in one field carried into another, without achieving solutions to substantive problems.  In particular, work in chemical processes is extended to cognitive processes, with the work of cognitive neuroscientists, Humberto Maturana and Francisco Varela on autopoiesis, said to overcome the Cartesian divide of cognitive science and bio-physics (Capra, 1996: 95).

Edgar Morin (2008: 16) argues that LST, with its focus on self-organization goes far beyond the current possibilities of GST, including 1st and 2nd order cybernetics. Despite being formulated by simulations, the theory of self-organizing systems that came from cybernetics and theory breakthroughs by Ashby, von Foerster, Gunther, and others – theory development by the cyberneticists atrophied. Like GST, LST remained “too abstract, too formal to deal with physic-chemical data and processes that make up the originality of living organization” (Morin, 2008: 17). Morin (2008: 60-1) looks at the problems inherent in three causalities, to which I will add a fourth: 

Harvard Graduate School of Education (2008) presents a study guide on six causal patterns: linear, domino, cyclic, spiral, relational, and mutual (or assemblage). In their presentation, spiral causality involves feedback loops of the whole spiral to its particular moments. “It is difficult to anticipate outcomes of later feedback loops during earlier feedback loops” (ibid).

In Boje (2011c: 7), I specify the four causal patterns in terms of antenarrative processes” “Four patterns of antenarrative are being proposed here. The first two using the ante-as-‘before’-narrative, and ante-as-‘bet’-predicting-the-future and the two new ones for more primordial-quantum-strategic-change (Boje, 2007c, 2011a) and ontological. This yields four sorts of causalities (linear, cyclic, spiral, & assemblage):

Deleuzian Ontology – I will begin with a quote from Gilles Deleuze (1994: 23) “Spirals whose principle is a variable curve and the trajectory of which has dissymmetrical aspects as though it had a right and a left.”   And I added in the 2011a book on antenarratives: ‘Only in the abstract, do revolving antenarrative cycles play out in perfect curves posited in representational abstractions. It is the differences that intra-play with the repetitions that are important to understand’ (see introduction, Boje 2011a).

Here I want to develop it further. The cycle-antenarrative is static-cadence-repetition of abstract concept, whereas the spiral-antenarrative is the quality or state of being of dynamic-difference-repetition most alien to cyclic. The cycle-antenarrative is revolving in Sameness by representation-mimicry, whereas the spiral-antenarrative state of being is dynamic-repetition that is evolving, amplifying-differences.  The cycle-antenarrative is abstract-representation of an Ideal (stage-by-stage Sameness normativity), whereas the spiral-antenarrative is grounded in the evolution of movement.  The cycle-antenarrative is symmetry that is mimetic, whereas the spiral-antenarrative is dissymmetry of alterity. Alterity means Otherness (Deleuze, 1994; Taussig, 1993). The spiral-antenarrative is authentic movement, whereas the cyclic-antenarrative is false movement. The spiral-antenarrative “unfolds as pure movement, creative of a dynamic space and time which correspond to the Idea” (Deleuze, 1994: 24). This Idea includes differences, and includes the spiral of movement itself in what Deleuze calls the “alterity of the Idea, in the heterogeneity of a ‘a-presentation’ ” (ibid, p. 24).

In socioeconomic consulting (Savall’s work), spiral-antenarrative is affirmative, occurring by excess in the Idea, or downward, occurring by deficiency in the Idea.  Taussig (1993: 129) argues that the [cycle] creating stability from all the instability is ‘no small task’.   Therefore cyclic-antenarrative has a positive socioeconomic role to play, as does the spiral-antenarrative, when stability prevents evolving and changing to something less deficient, less excessive.  Taussig sets up a dialectic relationship between mimesis and alterity.  Cycle-antenarrative creates stability in a small business, whereas spiral-antenarrative creates differences by becoming ‘Other’ instead of staying the ‘Same.’

To consult with a small business is to constitute a place of encounter, in a state of Being, that either shapes Sameness or shapes Differences.  The cyclic-antenarrative (sameness) shapes a cadence-repetition of stage-by-stage imitation of an Ideal. The spiral-antenarrative (difference) shapes heterogeneity of movement, woven by dynamic repetition that moves away from terrible static-cadence-repetition (be it excess or deficiency). This is done by consulting in an encounter with the client that is liberatory, redemptive turn of affairs that signifies movement in state of Being as opposed to the cyclic-antenarrative of “false movement of the abstract” representation (Deleuze, 1994: 23). 

Heidegger (1962) looks at the ‘encounter’ in-Being as an aspect of ontological enquiry. He gives attention to the ontology of Being-there, Being-here – in place. Vine Deloria and Daniel Wildcat (2001), and Gregory Cajete (2000).  Both books stress a caring for place, and the ethic of care is central to Heidegger’s ontological inquiry. Caring is an ethics of place, of relationships with the natural world, that is conveyed in a living story of actual places. Place refers to living web of relationships, an ecology of all beings: “plants, animals, stones, trees, mountains, rivers, lakes, and a host of other living entities – embodied relationships that must be honored” (Cajete, 2000: 178). An ethics of Caring for Place comes out of an ecological knowledge of sustainability, and through practices we will explore, such as storytelling, knowing not only aliveness, but the Center of a Place, and respecting the Spirit of a Place, such as the Land of Enchantment, of New Mexico.  

What would systems theory be like if ‘living processes’ and ‘place’ were taken seriously?  Environment would not be an abstraction and system would not be a concept map of abstract processes.  The Deloria formula is power-and-place-equal-personality (Deloria & Wildcat, 2001: 75). How can a ‘place’ have a personality?  Power and Place refers to power defined as “living energy that inhabits and/or composes the universe” (2001: 22-3), and place is defined as “being the relationship of things to each other” (p. 23). And it is “power and place [that] produce personality” (p. 23, bracketed addition, mine). In the Western systems theory, the conceptions of time, space, and energy surrenders place, power, and their personality.  The idea that everything is related, that in a quantum sense things are living, as beings are living is being given more credence in quantum physics (Boje, 2011b, c, d, e, f). Quantum physics takes a posthumanist position on systems which intra-play material world and the discourse world (Barad, 2003, 2007, 2011).  The posthumanist theory of living place and its personality shares something important with Heidegger’s ontology. As Deloria (in Deloria & Wildcat, 2001: 3) put it “familiarity with the personality of objects and entities of the natural world enabled Indians to discern immediately where each living being had its proper place and what kinds of experiences that place allowed, encourage, and suggested.” Knowing places, by being-in-familiarity, in encounters with the environs is a cornerstone of Heidegger’s ontology.

Deleuze (1994) stresses encounter with the ‘Other’ We learn to deal with the waves of the ocean, as a swimmer, but we cannot reproduce the movement of those ocean-waves, in our swimming.   Rather we learn to work with the waves, currents, and so forth.  The movement of our response in our swimming does not mimic the wave.  When a small business combines some of its stability-cyclic-antenarratives with the wave-processes of the spiral-antenarrative there is a way to swim between Sameness and Differences. It comes down to discerning the manner of static-repetition, from the more dynamic-repetition, and when each is most appropriate as an intervention into the State of Being of that small business, ongoing movement, adaption, evolution. The spiral-antenarrative “involves the Other – involves difference, from one wave and one gesture to another, and carries that difference through the repetitive space thereby constituted” (Deleuze, 1994; 23).

Therefore, when you find yourself as a consultant in an encounter with excess of instability, the cyclic-antenarrative intervention is positive intervention.  On the other hand, when stability of excess or stability of deficiency is being repeated in cadence-static-repetition, a spiral-antenarrative is a way to open up a place of liberatory movement, a turn of affairs that amplifies difference.   Find the repeater and the sort of repetition (static or dynamic) and engage in an encounter with the client.  “For there is no repetition without a repeater, nothing repeated without a repetition soul” (Deleuze, 1994: 23).  

Cycle and spiral are different manner of causality.  To consult with your client, is to ‘do with the Other’ in a place of encounter, where together you intervene to bring about more stability or change the stability by intervening to create dynamic repetitions that take spiral-antenarrative shaping a future of greater possibilities of upsurge.   When encountering a downward-antenarrative-spiral, with amplifications of increased excess or deficiency at every dynamic-repetition, then it is time to rein it in, and create a cadence of static-repetition, a cyclic-antenarrative intervention.  The consultant with the client, in an encounter must decide which State of Affairs, or State of Being, is the best intervention in-Being-ness of that small business.

The spiral whose principle is a variable curve (Deleuze, 1994: 21) moves to the right and to the left, by dissymmetrical aspects, in dynamic-amplifying repetitions.  It also moves upward or downward in its dynamic-repetitions, at the very same primordial-time.  Therefore, the small business has two rhythms, the cyclic-antenarrative, and the spiral-antenarrative, which the intervention can bring into balance. Cyclic and spiral-antenarratives are processes before-narrative lays in a step-by-step linearity plot (beginning-middle-end).  The linear-antenarrative lays that linearity into an Ideal, an ‘ante’ of the ‘bet,’ that is ‘before’ narrative-linearity by driving out all the differences (Boje, 2001).  The spiral-antenarrative is a different sort of ‘ante’, one that is ‘anteriority’ (ante-iority). The anteriority-antenarrative is liberatory, when it brings forth a plethora of possible futures, whereas the linear-antenarrative is that singular ‘bet’ on the one ‘end-state’ future that is rooted in a repetition-of-the-past, Sameness without difference (Boje, 2011 b, c).

The anteriority of spiral-antenarrative is connecting with living story, with the “‘mortal ‘evolution’ ” of difference that is “vital, positive, active procedure” (Deleuze, 1994; 20). The spiral-antenarrative, its anteriority, radiates asymmetrically from its center by distinguishing dynamic-repetitions as its rhythm of movement, by increasing or decreasing, upward or downward, by repeating inequalities or incommensurabilities, in a “poly-rhythm” (ibid, p. 21).

What is isochronic? Cyclic-antenarrative is isochronic. Isochronic is defined as: “1. Not varying in time; occurring at the same time or at a regular time. 2. Having the characteristics of a uniform rate of operation or periodicity; for example, as a pendulum or watch balance” (Found on  The cyclic is a static, and isochronic-repetition, in its cadence, it is clock-time, “an isochronic recurrence of identical elements” in stage-by-stage sequence “at equal intervals” (Deleuze, 1994: 21). Spiral-antenarrative, on the other hand, is dynamic-chronic, varying in primordial time, where sequencing exhibits heterogeneous elements, and inequality. 

Q-OST Inquiry


To inquiry using storytelling methods into the worldhood of quantum-ontological system (Q-OST) beans we have to disregard the presumptions of the theories of objectification in General System Theory (GST) and Living System Theory (LST). The Q-OST inquiry is defined by three steps. The primary worldhood of ontological-system and its quantum-ness (fundamental stratum of reality), have been pushed aside by the value predicates and theoretical-presuppositions (prejudices) brought in by GST and LST are substituted for what I call storytelling inquiry in-Being-ness encounters. GEST and LST are errant in the reliance on social constructivism, on mathematical proofs of system, rather than interrogating the referential relations by inquiry, into the mode of being-in-the-world, by placing oneself in the everyday encounters of a small business.

Question: What are the three steps of inquiry of encounter in the Spiral-Antenarrative of Concern?
Answer: ‘β’ (beta) ‘ϓ’ (upsilon) ‘α’ (alpha) are three steps of Heideggerian inquiry (characterization, aroundness, & worldhood), what I will call Quantum-Ontological-System-Theory (Q-OST), and the meaningfulness of the systems in which small business workers, consumers, and the natural environment constantly move.

Step 1: ‘β’ (beta) addresses the question of ‘how’ the system-entity shows itself in everyday spiral-antenarrative of concern and caring. The β step is the characterization of the specific functions of the small business by encounters of the consultant with the work-world, the nearest things in the environing world of that small business (Heidegger, 1992/1925, History of the Concept of Time). The encounters are with the dysfunctions, the stuff that is in excess, or deficient (even just plain absence). When there is an encounter with dysfunction, the consultant notices the “serving to,” the “determined to” and “relevant to” of the encounters, “always in and as reference to another” (Heidegger, 1992” 186). ‘Reference’ is a technical term in Q-OST defined as the “for which” of the “referential relations” in “co-presence”  as the Spiral-Antenarrative of Concern “shows itself in a manifold of environmental things” encountered (p. 186). Without the encounter with dysfunction, all that functionality of the Spiral-Antenarrative of ongoing Concern and Caring recedes into the background. The ethics of caring and concern is itself a virtue. Therefore the consultant lets the small business world be encountered in concern and caring, by entering into the Spiral-Antenarrative, to notice dysfunctions, in order to see the functions. With each encounter, record what is encountered in it (p. 187). The dysfunction occurs “when an entity of the character of ‘serving to’ breaks down in the serviceability, becomes unusable, is damaged” (p. 188). At that point of encounter, the dysfunction relation to the functional background becomes conspicuous, in the “course of concern” and caring “brought to a halt”  by the dysfunction, its “unusability” and that “forces us to pause” and take note (p. 188). Ironically, the consultant does not notice what is in the background, until dysfunction is encountered. With encounters of dysfunction, it proceeds to the foreground. In SEAM, this includes encounters with working conditions, work organization, communication-cooperation-conciliation, time management, training, and strategic implementation (Savall, Bonnet, & Zardet, 2008).  The work-world of the Spiral-Antenarrative of Concern and Caring is defined in the work, and in its relation to the environing natural world and the environing world of consumers (or users).  The Spiral of Antenarrative Concern and Caring is appresented at the same time the small business enters the public world of consumption and the natural environment to get things needed for work-world systems. The ‘β’ (beta) step is actual in situ encounters you the consultant have that foregrounds the general outline of the Spiral-Antenarrative of Concern and Caring.  In step one, you notice by way of the encounters that there is a manifold of things around the small business, that have co-present a “correlation of references” a “referential contexture” the ontological system’s “closed totality” (Heidegger, 1992: 186-7). For example, in my blacksmith shop, with its surroundings, and furnishings, are a manifold of things, such as hammers, anvil, post-vice, forge, coal, water, etc., in context, that have references to a specific familiarity a blacksmith would recognize. The referential contexture is to the natural environment (where coal, air, and metal-particles come from) as well as to the everyday concerns of stage-by-stage production processes, and to the consumers in the consumption environment.  A blacksmith makes use of natural elements via the forge, working to move metal, attending to these relations to the environs, in the place of the blacksmith shop, the smithy dwells in, and has involvements with fired metal. The reason step one is only the outline of the Spiral-Antenarrative, is that is because all the metal stuff is in blacksmithing an “obviousness and unobtrusiveness” (p. 187) of that spiral, because “things recede into relations” with the environs of the shop (p. 187). When the treadle hammer is working in a useless way, in the leaf-making process, of pounding veins into the metal, the dysfunction is apparent, and conspicuous, and the foreground process of the environing world (waste of natural resources, the consumer environment) comes to the foreground, the environing world of the blacksmithing in an emphatic sense, that is not just sensemaking (sensory-perception). Yesterday (8/20/2011) I did a fix on the treadle hammer, installing a guide piston, so the hammer’s blow was truer, putting more stability into the fullers, so they did not slip. These encounters bought the totality of the manifold of environing referents into view. I encountered the everyday “preoccupation of concern” and what matters, I put into my notebook, as the “moving” of the Spiral-Antenarrative, its twirls, took an upsurge, as I moved in the blacksmithing world of production, and got more familiar with the production process and the entire spiral, but only as an outline (p. 188).  The character of being of the small business became obstructed by the dysfunctions of the treadle hammer, that did not being here, which only makes sense “against the background of a primary familiarity, which itself is not conscious and intended by is rather present in this unprominent way” (p. 189). If I did not take care, the downsurge of the Spiral-Antenarrative would continue in “broken familiarity” with “unconspicuous presence” as the spiral went into downward motion (p. 189). Because the dysfunction encounter was noted, my small business Spiral-Antenarrative takes on more concern, more “compelling presence” because something is missing, a “breach of reference” and that is disturbing to my familiarity, broken, and out of place in my blacksmithing world, encountering the environing world (p. 189).  The Spiral-Antenarrative stands out in the encounter, the dysfunction makes it stand out, the absence of function is noticeable, and the spiral of worldhood, its reference to the environing world is in step one, merely an outline. In sum, the Q-OST holds that the Spiral-Antenarrative of Concern and Caring is backgrounded until an encounter with dysfunction gets our notice, and appresents in my shop “its worldhood appresents the specific thing of the world, references are encountered in a totality of references and individual things are encountered in the references” (Heidegger, 1992: 190).

Step 2: ‘ϓ’ (upsilon), the work-world is already there for one to encounter in the more specific interpretation of the Spiral-Antenarrative of Concern and Caring. There is a double-direction of the encounter, noticing the dysfunction, and the backgrounded Spiral coming into the foreground in all its worldhood, that is already on hand. In step two, we make a more detailed interpretation of the environing world of the small business becomes more than an outline. The work-world we have encountered in step one, what was in outline, in step two, there are many dysfunctions to pursue, and these enable the Spiral once lost in background to come to the foreground, though it was already there, and we had not taken notice until the encounters with the Spiral-Antenarrative of Concern and Caring. For example, I am a craftsperson, doing blacksmithing. I use tools and metal “in-order-to” and some tolls such as the cross peen “hammer” have an entire “range of usability” while the treadle hammer with its fitted fullers is a particular kind of use, the narrower sphere of use compared to more generic uses of the cross peen (p. 191).  I can use the cross peen hammer with other tools, such as a metal ring (made from a forged fragment of a coil spring), in order to shape the vein of a metal-leaf. Often I like it better than the cross-peen.  It is not the shape of the hammer that matters, but the stage of its use in the production process, as I shape the leaves that are used in the next stage of the metal-leaf-wind-sculptures. In fact, as a consultant, look away from the hammer as a tool-thing shape, or worse as a geometry, and see hammer as “equipment for to be used” in a stage of production process, “looking away from it as a mere thing on hand” in my blacksmith shop (p. 191).  Each hammer, and there are many, have a particular way of being. The cross peen and the ball peen are for different uses, at different stages. The ball peen is good for making the leaf have depth, whereas the cross peen is great for veins. Hammers are involved in stages of production, differently, in the “usability in which concern swells” in the Spiral-Antenarrative, in a place of production, a function of usability, where “the work is produced” and in “the referential totality of the craft” of blacksmithing, and its artistic range (p. 191).  “The public world is always already there with the work produced” and is in my shop, and as well with the elements of the natural environment, where coal, water, and metal particles come from (p. 191-2).

Step 3: ‘α’ (alpha) is much more detailed interpretation and exposition of ‘aroundness,’ the environing world of the Spiral-Antenarrative of Concern and Caring. Step three is about modifying the work, which is of course an intervention into the Spiral. My shop makes custom-made art, not the mass-produced stuff for some indeterminate (generic) consulter. In step 3, we ask ‘how the ontological system appresents?’ Along with usability of tools and materials, in the blacksmith work-world, there appresents the world in which users, consumers, and the natural world constitute the Spiral-Antenarrative of Concern and Caring in the environing work, which is both a public world of consumption, and a natural world where sustainability matters. “The public world is included in the very sense of the work and its usability, even though it is not itself known” until the encounters (Heidegger, 1992: 192). There is also the co-presence of nature, the ari in the shop, the fir in the forge, the coal and gas of the forge, etc.  We can look at clock-time and miss the “astronomical ordering of time” and the primordial time that is not clock-time (p. 193). And, “Every time we look at a clock, we are simply making use of the copresence of the world-system” (p. 193).

3 steps
Figure 3: Three Steps of Inquiry of Spiral-Antenarrative of Concern and Caring


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See study guide on Density