Permaculture Designers Manual




Section 4.20 –

The World We Live in as a Tessellation of Events in Permaculture

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I live in the crater of an ancient volcano, the caldera of which is in part eroded by the sea. Trees rise from the soils, and birds nest in them.

From the seeds and eggs in the trees arise new life forms. Great wind spirals sweep in from the west with almost weekly regularity, bearing the fractal forms of turbulent clouds and causing, in autumn and mid-summer, lightning and thunder.

On this peninsula, the terminal volcanic core stands fast, refracting waves to either side, and creating a pinched neck of sand which joins us to the mainland. The hills are stepped by successive sea-level changes, and record the pulses of long-term cycles and successions. Day follows night, and life follows death follows life.

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All of these phenomena are a unity of patterns long repeated and based on one master pattern, each one preparing for new evolutions and dissolutions.

It is the number and complexity of such cycles that give us life opportunities, and life is the only integrative force in this part of the universe. Let us respect and preserve it.

An understanding (even a partial understanding) of the underlying patterns that link all phenomena cre­ates a powerful abstract tool for designers.

At any point in the design process, appropriate patterning can assist the achievement of a sustainable yield from flows, growth forms, or information flux.

Patterns imposed on constructs in domestic or village assemblies can result in energy savings, and satisfactory aesthetics and function, while sustaining those organisms inhabiting the designed habitat.

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Patterning is the way we frame our designs, the template into which we fit the information, entities, and objects assembled from observation, map overlays, the analytic divination of connections, and the selection of specific materials and technologies.

It is this patterning that permits our elements to flow and function in beneficial relationships.


“The pattern is design, and design is the subject of permaculture.”


Bohm (1980) urges us to go beyond regarding ourselves as interactive with each other and the environment, and to see all things as “projections of a single totality“.

As we experience this totality, incorporate new information, and develop our consciousness, we ourselves are fundamentally changed.


“To fail to take this into account must inevitably lead one to a serious and sustained confusion in all that one does.”


The word “implicate” in the title of Bohm’s work comes from the Latin “enfolded“, and when we separate individuals, effects, or disciplines from this enfolded order, we must recognize only that we have part of the unknowable totality, not the truth itself.

There are no opposites, just phases of the one phenomenon.

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For myself, and possibly for you if you take up the study of patterns, the contemplation of the forms of life and flow has enabled me to bring to consciousness the unity of all things and the enfolded nature of Nature.

In the matter of genealogy we can become conscious of ourselves in the time and pattern stream, and it is startling to realize that (as origin) we “determine”, or rather define and are defined by, our ancestry as much as we define and are defined by our descent.

We do not doubt our physical connection to either ancestry or descent. It is the sense of “all are present here” that is revealed by pattern: to be encapsulated in, and a pervading part of, a personal genealogical pattern which is itself a result of a pattern of innumerable variables.

Patterns tell us that all is streams, all particles, all waves. Each defines the other. It tells us that all is one plan.

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Although we find it difficult to see pattern in the entire plan, it is there. We are the universe attempting to define its processes.

A Kalahari bushman would say we are the dreams of a dreamer. What I feel we can never define is substance (except as process; this is all it may be).

We can only know a few local patterns, and thus have some weak predictive capacity. It is the pattern that our local patterns cannot know that will surprise us, the strike of cosmic lightning from an un-guessed source or stress.

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Finally, pattern understanding can only contribute to the current and continuing evolution of new world views based on the essential oneness of all phenomena.

Lovelock (1979) has perhaps best expressed that combination of scientific insights and older tribal beliefs which assert the interdependence of animate and inanimate events.


“The universe, and this earth, behaves as self-regulating and self-generated constructs, very much akin to a single organism or a thought process.”

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The conditions which make life possible are balanced about such line tolerances that it seems close to certainty that many processes exist just to preserve this equilibrium in its dynamic stability.

From the point of view of biologists, Birch and Cobb’s The Liberation of Life [1984; see a review by Warwick Fox in The Ecologist 14(4)] denies the validity of the existence of individual organisms or separate events; all exist in a field of such events or as an expression of one life force.

Organisms such as ourselves exist only as an inseparable part of our event environments and are in continual process of exchange with the animate and inanimate entities that surround us.

We are acted upon and acting, created and creating, shaped and shaping.

Fox asserts, as I have here, that:

“‘we must view the cosmos as an infinite complex of interrelated events”; all things “are in actuality enduring societies of events.”


Theoretical physicists (Capra, 1976) contribute to such world views, all of which are in conflict with the current ethics that govern political, educational, and economic systems, but all of which are contributing to an increasing effort to unify and cooperate in a common ethic of earth care, without which we have no meaning to the universe.