The collective intelligence of the imaginal cells

This afternoon, I heard of “imaginal cells,” the first time, from Peter Merry. I’ve immediately googled the term but found mostly bio-science references, except one webpage that had some thought-provoking excerpts from Butterfly , a bookby Norie Huddle , published on Earth Day, 1990.
I thought if fans of collective intelligence are a little bit like me, then they’ll appreciate Norie’s beautiful story about the butterfly’s ‘imaginal cells. It evokes images of possibility to escape to a higher level of intelligence and fitness, with utter naturalness and eloquent simplicity.
Here’s the story:


“The caterpillars new cells are called ‘imaginal cell.’ They resonate at a different frequency. They are so totally different from the catepillar cells that his immune system thinks they are enemies…and gobbles them up–Chomp! Gulp! But these new imaginal cells continue to appear. More and more of them! Pretty soon, the caterpillar’s immune system cannot destroy them fast enough. More and more of the imaginal cells survive. And then an amazing thing happens! The little tiny lonely imaginal cells start to clump together, into friendly little groups. They all resonate together at the same frequency, passing information from one to another. Then, after awhile, another amazing thing happens! The clumps of imaginal cells start to cluster together!.., A long string of clumping and clustering imaginal cell, all resonating at the same frequency, all passing information from one to another there inside the chrysalis.”
“A wave of Good News travels throughout the system– Lurches and heaves…but not yet a butterfly.”
“Then at some point, the entire long string of imaginal cells suddenly realizes all together that it is Something Different from the caterpillar. Something New! Something Wonderfull!….and in that realization is the shout of the birth of the butterfly!”
Happy Birthday Butterfly!!!
“Since the butterfly now “knows” that it is a butterfly, the little tiny imaginal cells no longer have to do all those things individual cells must do. Now they are part of a mult-celled organism– A FAMILY who can share the work.”
“Each new butterfly cell can take on a different job.—-There is something for everyone to do. And everyone is important. And each cell begins to do just that very thing it is most drawn to do. And every other cell encourages it to do just that.”
“A great way to organize a butterfly!”

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15 Responses to The collective intelligence of the imaginal cells

  1. m00ndirt says:

    Interesting post. It made me wonder if there is one point in the catepillar-butterfly process where the catepilla suddenly disappears and the butterfly appears.
    m00ndirt

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    • Good question. The answer is no, because the caterpillar gradually dissolves into its nutrients as the butterfly forms and feeds upn them. There is no clear point of transition, no sudden disappearance of caterpillar.

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  2. Bruce says:

    What happens if the butterfly has .. or develops .. imaginal cells?
    Utopian systems of all is good, all is fair, all is — all, have one fatal flaw…. what if someone is unhappy? What if a cell doesn’t want to be a butterfly but a grasshopper instead?
    Just being the devil’s advocate!

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    • Only humans have that kind of choice, Bruce. The imaginal cells always existed as stem cells in the caterpillar and in that sense have always belonged to it. They lie dormant until the caterpillar is no longer viable and then begin to develop ..as a butterfly, because they actually carry a different genome. The caterpillar’s immune system, however, does not ever attack them (this was information given to Norie in Japan, but it did not hold up). See the whole story at my website http://www.sahtouris.com By the way, you should be glad that cells can’t suddenly decide they want to be a different kind of organism…you would not want some of your cells suddenly deciding they want to be elephant or mosquito cells,

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  3. Larry Victor says:

    Hello, again, George – it has been a long time, too long. I stumbled onto your “Blog of Collective Intelligence” site because of a note from Tom Atlee that he had been invited to participate. I am “again” in (permanent) transition, and in the process of establishing a nu virtual presence, which I will inform you about as soon as it is operative. I will explore more about your upcoming Learning Expedition.
    I comment here because of your recent reference to “imaginal cells” and the “story” given for them, which differs from the “story” I have been telling for decades.
    SEE URL

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  4. Larry Victor says:

    Continuing the previous comment, as I don’t yet know all the protocols for this system. My comment is rather large, with many links and in html. Do I past it into this space, html or WORD doc?
    So, I added the URL in the space provided, but it is accessed by clicking on my name in Posted by: — which normally brings up a send email window. So I add the URL to my full comments here:
    http://home.comcast.net/~nucoms/George_Por_comment_re_Imaginal_Buds.htm
    From what I see in PREVIEW, I am not sure that this will work either, but here goes with POST. I don’t see how I might edit my posts.

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  5. Pingback: On the way to conscious humanity: the infinite game of regional metamorphosis |

  6. Pingback: Evolving Open Commons Regions « evolutionarycities

  7. http://www.thesocializers.com/imaginalcells.html

    “The awakening of the global heart results from transforming the body politic from the unconscious, over-consuming bloat of the caterpillar into a creature of exquisite beauty, grace, and freedom. This coming of age process takes us to a new mythic reality, a larger story, ripe with meaning and direction. It takes us from the naïve egocentricity of childhood into a larger reality of interdependent reciprocity. It is not a passage that ends in the gray grimness of adult responsibility, denying the colorful spirituality of childhood innocence. Rather, it is a reclaiming of wholeness that denies little, and embraces all.”

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  8. The caterpillar->butterfly imaginal cell negentropy etc. concept is interesting on it’s own but not nearly as interesting as contemplating what initiates/originates the new pattern the imaginal cells are said to resonate to in the first place. The subtext suggests a collective emergent intelligence – but as the previous commenter pointed out, there is no apparent reason caterpillar imaginal cells should decide to resonate with butterfly template rather than something else.
    Seems the pattern work of Gevin Giorbran http://everythingforever.com/ and the work of Don Watson http://www.enformy.com/$wsr02.html hint at worthy explorations into a whole other dimension in the conversation of negentropy with associated emergent systems implications.

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  9. Pingback: Imaginal Cells | The Caterpillar’s Job to Resist the Butterfly

  10. George Pór says:

    a video presentation of the caterpillar story with a political angle:

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  11. George Pór says:

    Another version of THE IMAGINAL CELL STORY

    The caterpillar’s new cells are called ‘imaginal cells.’
    They are so totally different from the caterpillar cells
    that his immune system thinks they are enemies… and gobbles them up.

    But these new imaginal cells continue to appear. More and more of them!
    Pretty soon, the caterpillar’s immune system
    cannot destroy them fast enough.
    More and more of the imaginal cells survive.
    And then an amazing thing happens!

    The little tiny lonely imaginal cells start to clump together
    into friendly little groups.
    They all resonate together at the same frequency,
    passing information from one to another.
    Then, after awhile, another amazing thing happens!

    The clumps of imaginal cells start to cluster together!
    A long string of clumping and clustering imaginal cells,
    all resonating at the same frequency,
    all passing information from one to another there inside the chrysalis.

    Then at some point,
    the entire long string of imaginal cells
    suddenly realizes all together
    that it is something different from the caterpillar.
    Something new! Something wonderful!
    …and in that realization
    is the shout of the birth of the butterfly!

    Since the butterfly now “knows” that it is a butterfly,
    the little tiny imaginal cells
    no longer have to do all those things individual cells must do.
    Now they are part of a multi-celled organism—
    A FAMILY who can share the work.

    Each new butterfly cell can take on a different job—
    There is something for everyone to do.
    And everyone is important.
    And each cell begins to do just that very thing it is most drawn to do.
    And every other cell encourages it to do just that.

    A great way to organize a butterfly!”

    * Nori Huddle’s story from her book, Butterfly, adapted version by Bill Veltrop

    Like

  12. Pingback: Augusto Cuginotti | Imaginal Cells | The Caterpillar’s Job to Resist the Butterfly

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