Nora Bateson
44 min readNov 4, 2021


Aphanipoiesis. Photo: Tim Gasperak


Nora Bateson, President, International Bateson Institute

Author Note

Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Nora Bateson, International Bateson Institute. Email:

If you would like to cite this paper prior to its upcoming publication in the International Society of Systems Sciences Journal please use the following citation:

Bateson, N.,(2021). Aphanipoiesis. In Journal of the International Society for the Systems Sciences, Proceedings of the 64th Annual Meeting of the ISSS, Virtual (Vol. 1, №1) — under review.

This work was presented at the Annual Biosemiotics Conference June 2021, the Annual Conference of the International Society of Systems Sciences July 2021, and the Annual conference of the Institute of General Semantics September 2021


The multiple entities of a living system are always mutually responding to the shiftings of each other in ways that constitute both stability and change. It may be possible to name the changes that form, but before such naming, deeper abductive possibilities have already begun to quicken. Gregory Bateson sometimes described abduction as the way one context describes another. Charles Sanders Peirce more often described it as a way to hypothesize between contexts.

A New Word to Describe an Aspect of Living Systems: Aphanipoiesis

Pathology and vitality in living systems may be observable and describable; however, the ways in which they come to occur are at least in part unseen. “Insidious” describes dangerous outcomes that “creep up” through the combination of unseen contributing processes. But a way to describe a similar but life giving process, by which vitality, healing, and creativity come into being by the coalescence of multiple unseen factors, is lacking.

Aphanipoiesis (n.) combines two words from ancient Greek to describe this way in which life coalesces toward vitality in unseen ways. (Aphanis comes from a Greek root meaning obscured, unseen, unnoticed; poiesis is from one meaning to bring forth, to make.) Other words which also carry the root aphanis include phantom, diaphanous, and phenomenon, while the root poiesis is familiar from the word poetry, along with Maturana and…



Nora Bateson

Filmmaker, writer, educator, lecturer, President of the International Bateson Institute. Books: Small Arcs of Larger Circles 2016, Warm Data *upcoming 2019