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5 August 2001 | Draft

Varieties of experience of past-present-future complexes


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Table 1 of Presenting the Future (2001)

Introductory comment

Tentative adaptation and development from Arthur Young's The Geometry of Meaning (1978) as applied to 12-phase learning / action cycles. See commentary on learning cycles in Cycles of dissonance and resonance. See also adaptation to Typology of 12 complementary strategies essential to sustainable development and to Typology of 12 complementary dialogue modes essential to sustainable dialogue. In this adaptation, the focus is on distinguishing 12 distinct "mixes" of past, present and future as they are experienced. Each mix offers a different quality of experience. (see commentary below)

Varieties of experience of past-present-future complexes
. . Non-duration
Timeless awareness 
Conscious adaptive response 
Calendar time
Linear time
Comparison with norms or memory of previous experience 
Initiating time 
Comparison with previous comparisons Patterns
Awareness of self-awareness
Transendental discontinuity
Cyclic time / Feedback
. . [A] [B] [C] [D]
. Symbol T0 T-1 T-2 T-3
[1] M0L Acts Abstract Schematic
L  "Specious present"
Observation; act of considering; position determination; reactive learning based on immediate registration of phenomena; assessment of distance; "sizing up"
L /T "Calendar time" Adaptive change; reaction; passive adaptation or change of position in response to changing circumstances

"Change of pace" Spontaneous initiation of transformative action; commitment to a new course of action


"Feedback" Control of transformative action. Cybernetics / Systems

[2] ML States Motivated Considered ML 

"Matters of moment" Recognition of moment(-ousness), relevance (as related to leverage), significance ; weight of facts; bringing matters into focus


"Impulse" Recognition of the momentum (of an issue) resulting from a change, namely the consequential transformation of awareness or perspective


"Forcefulness" Engendered, experienced or embodied as a result of transformative action; constructive (or disruptive) action potential; enhanced sense of being


"Discipline" Establishment of disciplined pattern of response; consolidated or harmonious control of action potential; holding forces in check

[3] ML2 Relationships Application Follow-through Commitment ML2

"Identification" Faith in paradigm of the moment; unexamined or habitual commitment to a process projection or understanding, irrespective of inconsistent disturbing factors. Moment of inertia.


"Decision" to act or initiate a process determining the future. "Angular momentum"


"Work / Energy" Achievement of a desired result by application of understanding (and adjustment of implicit beliefs) in response to external factors; working action on reality. "Torque" 


"Power" of acquired knowledge; know-how; integrated or embodied experience; capacity (including that of not acting); non-action


Arthur Young derived his systemization of the original action/learning cycles from consideration of the types of knowledge associated with piloting a helicopter. He himself was intimately involved in the design and development of the original Bell helicopter. The challenges of control and piloting in three dimensions provide rich insights into the challenges of navigating in space-time and knowledge space. He associated dimensionless constants, well-known to physics, with each dynamic feature of this process -- hence the symbols in the table.

Columns [A], [B], [C], [D] distinguish 4 different kinds of time:

Rows [1], [2], [3] bring in the knower/known locus of experience in 3 different ways:

Within each of the 12 cells of the table, space-time is "twisted" or knotted for the experiencer in different ways -- giving a different braiding together of "past", "present" or "future" in each case. These might also be understood as spatio-temporal knottings of knower/known.

Each of the 12 experiential modes has a vital function. The challenge is that their complementarity is not necessarily recognized -- nor the distinctions between the profound and superficial ways each may be understood. Certain modes are easily neglected -- at least in mainstream thinking -- notably those in Row 3 and those in Column D. Because of its lower "dimensionalty", it tends to be easier to engage in mode A1 or A2, for example, which are over-emphasized. The current challenge is to give meaning and force to modes of type D3, that correspond to sustainable development.

Torus representation: As implied above, the Row 1 modes of experience can also usefully be considered as bordering the Row 3 modes -- by rolling the table into a cylinder. Similarly the Column A modes can also be considered as bordering the Column D modes -- by connecting the ends of the cylinder to form a torus. It is on the surface of this torus that the connectivities between the mode types might be more appropriately comprehended. A possible representation of this structure, appropriately coloured, has been developed as a hypersphere to illustrate Arthur Young's insights (

Strategic correspondences

The words used to describe each of the 12 individual past-present-future modes are commonly encountered in describing strategies -- notably in the declarations of international organizations. The diagonals suggest a pattern of progressive engagement towards sustainable action "on the ground":

Negative variants of each mode necessarily also exist.

Meeting participation: It is also fruitful to see each of the 12 modes as reflecting the complementary views that need to be expressed at an archetypal strategic "roundtable" (Camelot style). The specific relationships between each such view have been tentatively explored in an earlier study on Toward a New Order of Meeting Participation ( that charts the Shadowy Roundtable Hidden within every Meeting. This endeavours to show how the seemingly "external" issues tend to be reflected in the different behaviour styles of meeting participants -- and the need for a new kind of participant contract to move beyond such constraints.

Styles of collective action: The table may be fruitfully explored to identity styles of action that are enhanced or inhibited in particular cases. Science favours the first row, whereas technology favours the second and third. Business and government agencies favour Rows B and C, especially where it is a matter of "business as usual" and Project Logic. Religion favours Column A. Much collective action is challenged by Column D, whilst aspiring to Cell D3.

Individual action: The relevance of the above typology can also be explored in relation to individual or community group action. The status of a "New Year's Resolution" with respect to personal sustainable development is then clarified -- it demonstrates the nature of the challenge for international organizations inspired by the many Resolutions on that topic.

Relationship to other mappings

The table above is a mapping. It is one form of presentation and therefore subject to the questions raised in the other parts of this paper. Such a map is necessarily not what it endeavours to map. It can only be a rough configuration of pointers. As argued by Magoroh Maruyama, even its tablular presentation is a very particular form of distortion of the experiential reality of navigating spatio-temporal experience. As in any periodic table, there is more continuity between the modes isolated here in cells of the above table than is implied by the cell boundaries of that structure. A person is continually shifting between the modes -- as with a helicopter pilot flying "by the seat of his pants", or a surfer riding a wave. When "in the flow" such movement is more like a dance, or playing an instrument -- with several modes active as a chord at any one time, and the table reframed as an existential keyboard. "Control" as a metaphor may indeed be inadequate in situations in which the capacity to let go and be controlled is also significant.

This is one reason why there are a number of such configurations. In principle they should all map onto each other in some way. But each is effectively a distorted limited projection (of a more complex reality) into whatever can be presented in two dimensions. It is therefore a mistake to seek too close a correspondence between one mapping and another. It is however useful to see such mappings as all pointing towards a more comprehensive mapping, even though it is unclear what form(s) it might take -- and recognizing that one particular mapping may be at any time more convenient for one purpose (or culture) than for another.

What is required is a tentative methodology for juxtaposing mappings as complementary perspectives on a more complex reality. In many respects such mappings may be incommensurable. However what is important is that each suggests alternative ways of thinking that are not sufficiently explicit in other mappings in the set. Premature closure, or particular preferences, are what needs to be avoided.

In these terms, consider some of the possibilities:

Symbolism: Arthur Young himself sought a relationship between his action/learning cycles and the qualitative insights associated with zodiacal symbols and their astrological significance. This is one way of putting flesh on an otherwise intellectual abstraction and establishing a relationship to a symbol system with which many identify personally, if only out of casual interest.

Enneagram: It would be interesting if 9 of the modes identified in the table could be related to the traditional enneagram mapping of 9 modes. This would of course imply ignoring one set of 3 modes -- perhaps those in the first column. The enneagram offers powerful ways of exploring a network ofrelationships between 9 modes, notably in relation to work cycles.

Phenomenological epoche: Similarly it would be interesting if Francisco Varela's (1997) mapping of the phenomenological epoche into three interlinked cycles corresponded in some way with the three rows of the table. His description of the braiding together of these processes indicates the limitation of any tabular "presentation" and the necessary circularity (which would be clearer in the suggested projection of the table onto a torus):

We can make out, at the heart of the process of becoming-aware, which is the reflective act or the phenomenological reduction in action, the two sides of epoche which are the reflexive/redirection and the reception/letting-go, a correlated double movement. We can also describe its components as moments of emergence, as the unfolding of the process. The first unfolding, which leads to reflection (and on to expression) is characterized by a turning in on oneself; the second unfolding, which leads to a letting-go (and ends in a tacit intuition) is characterized by an openness to oneself.

In the first case, the described movement corresponds to a loop which leads back to itself without, however, closing in on itself, since from this loop the second movement sets out, that of receptivity towards oneself and the world. These two movements can be expressed by the metaphor of the braided axis, like diastole and systole, of contraction and dilation. The first axis is rooted in pre-reflective consciousness (pre-discursive, pre-noetic, ante-predicative, tacit, pre-verbal, prelogical or non-conceptual; take your pick), whose reflective capacity partially deploys the structure of pre-reflectedness, an intentional content. This is the cognitive axis of becoming-aware. The second axis is equally rooted in pre-reflective consciousness, but whose manifestations are not due to its reflective capacity, but to the parallel and indissociable gesture of letting go, intrinsically related to the affective and involuntary dimension of experience. When the gesture of letting go intervenes, it becomes a moment of revelation, a receptive availability. Such is the affective axis of becoming aware. These two axis are braided in single thread, as the unity of cognitive reflection and its inseparable affect, overlapping each other in a dynamic way in bringing each other about. This dynamic structure of metonymy between the core of what we have called épochè and the act of becoming aware in its totality is, indeed, remarkable.

Buddhism: Another kind of mapping is offered by the Buddhist insight into navigation of experiential reality as prescribed by the Eightfold Noble Path. Understood as a set of distinct injunctions concerning conduct in the moment, the necessity for these guiding parameters to be used in practice as a dynamically interwoven set is easily lost -- although the moment-by-moment interplay of controls is otherwise obvious to the driver of any other kind of vehicle. From a Buddhist perspective, it is very much a question of appropriate control of the human "vehicle" using the following eightfold set:

Right view / outlook Samma Ditthi
Right intention / thought Samma Sankappa
Right speech Samma Vaca
Right action / behaviour Samma Kammanta
Right livelihood Samma Ajiva
Right effort / endeavour Samma Vayama
Right mindfulness Samma Sati
Right concentration Samma Samadhi

Within Buddhism there are carefully detailed explorations of how to acquire the skills associated with each of these "controls", and the consequences of failure to do so. It would for example be intriguing if there was a correspondence between that set and 2 rows of the earlier table, probably the lower two -- which highlight the relationship of knower and known.

Virtues and sins: Somewhat similar to the Buddhist guidelines are those presented by the Christian tradition in terms of virtues and sins, whose number has variously been presented as 7 or 8. Assuming that some kind of correspondence is possible with two of the rows of the above table, these may be usefully presented to highlight the consequences of any failure in "good control of the vehicle" on a moment-by-moment basis:

Virtues in relation to Sins
Virtues Sins
Hope, which is expressed both individually and collectively Excessive consumption of resources, especially energy
Will (or Courage), especially in frequent appeals for the "generation of the political will to change" Anger, especially expressed in violence
Purpose (or Dedication), increasingly evident in the formulation of "mission statements" and implicit in "resolutions" Greed, especially in the accumulation of resources
Competence (or Discipline), increasingly stressed as vital for effective management Envy, especially for resources controlled by others
Fidelity or Loyalty, increasingly a concern of corporate human relations programmes and security procedures Pride, typically as arrogance and triumphalism
Love, increasingly explicit in "green" approaches to the environment and traditionally implicit in recognition of the "brotherhood of mankind" Lust for power, typically as expansionism
Care, especially evident in relief programmes Apathy, typically in response to emerging problems
Wisdom, occasionally acknowledged in calls for collective wisdom and statesmanship Despair, typically in acknowledging current impotence and in recollecting past failures

Collective implications are suggested in the above table. The value and relevance of any such set to moment-by-moment experience would however be much more easily recognized if the correspondences to the control challenges of common vehicles (in surfing, riding a motor bike, etc) were elaborated in the languages and jargons of their "drivers". The traditional sets suffer a major disadvantage of appearing irrelevant to the needs of individuals in the moment.

Collective sins: The collective implications of failure of individual "driving skills" in the moment may be seen writ large in, for example, Nobel prize-winning ethologist Konrad Lorenz's Civilized Man's Eight Deadly Sins (1974). The past that Lorenz feels we must know (before judicious understanding can prevail) is not historic, but prehistoric. We must become aware, he insists, of the presence within us of our phylogenetic past. The eight deadly sins of his title are the consequences of what were once virtues bred into us by evolution. These pose the challenge of identifying the corresponding collective virtues that might be basic to collective strategy making. Both imply some kind of correspondence with the other mappings.

Collective sins (Lorenz)
Overpopulation, which turns a society into a behavioral sink and reinforces the other sins
Devastation of the natural environment, with consequent atrophy of our esthetic and ethical feelings
Ruthless "intraspecific" competitiveness, which in the absence of effective "extra-specific" influences, "works in direct opposition to all the forces of nature, destroying all the values they have created"
Entropy of feeling, an increased sensitiveness to unpleasurable experience combined with a decreased capacity for pleasure and a childish insistence of instant gratification
Genetic decay, the loss through domestication, through the loss of extraspecific selecting pressures, of "all delicately differentiated behavior patterns of courtship and pair formation" an of our natural sense of justice
Break with tradition, with culture, a body of adaptive knowledge that "has grown by selection in the same way as it develops in an animal species" and that is just as hard to begin from scratch as a new species of animal; plus the consequent conflict between generations
Easy indoctrinability of modern man, especially by behaviorist ideology -- "the present-day rulers of America, China and the Soviet Union are unanimous in one opinion: that unlimited conditionality of man is highly desirable."
Willingness, resulting from the first seven sins, to manufacture and use weapons of mass destruction

Acquisition of learning: As with any driving skills, it might be argued that existential skills appropriate to the moment are only acquired progressively, namely the modes identified in the table derived from Young might be achieved in some meaningful order. In Erik Erikson's scheme (Childhood and Society, 1963), each individual goes through 8 stages in life. In each stage a value crisis is experienced which is crucial for continued development. These crises might be understood as crises in capacity to manage the moment. The stages, with their corresponding crises are as follows:

Life stage Existential dilemma
infancy mistrust trust
early childhood doubt autonomy
play age guilt initiative
schhol age inferiority industry
adolescence role-confusion identity
young adulthood isolation intimacy
adulthood stagnation generativity
mature adulthood despair integrity

12-step Methodologies: Given the 12-fold structure of the initial table based on "learning/action", it is instructive to compare it with any 12-fold learning processes. As indicated by Samantha Angelina Haylett (Applied Psychology of Addictive Orientations: studies in a 12-step treatment context, 2001), the best known 12-step methodology was formulated in relation to alcoholism and extended to substance abuse. White (1988) reported on the existence of over eighty 12-step related fellowships, including: Narcotics Anonymous, Over eaters anonymous, Gamblers anonymous, and Sex and Love Addictions anonymous. There are also groups designed to support family and friends of people who are suffering from addiction, for example Al-Anon is a Twelve-step programme for the families of alcholics. The Twelve Steps were first published in 1939 and contain the original concepts and inspiration of Alcoholics Anonymous:

    1. We admitted we were powerless over alcohol - that our lives had become unmanageable.
    2. Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
    3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him
    4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
    5. Admitted to God, to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
    6. Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character
    7. Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
    8. Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.
    9. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
    10. Continued to take personal inventory, and when we were wrong, promptly admitted it.
    11. Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of his will for us and the power to carry that out.
    12. Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs" . (Alcoholics Anonymous, 1976).

These were associated with six principles of recovery. The 12 steps were partly inspired by William James's book Varieties of Religious Experience (1902). This provided the conceptual basis for the necessity of the subjugation of the self and the acknowledgement of powerlessness, which became known as the first step of AA. However, little is understood about 12-step programs from a cross-cultural perspective, and the efficacy of culturally developed programs addressing the spiritual needs and alcohol problems of specific cultural groups, (e.g., American Indians) have been inadequately studied.

An interesting variant has been developed for weather forecasting methodologies:

    1. Which medium range models are available?
    2. Keep track of latest model changes and updated model characteristics and biases
    3. Use mean height maps...teleconnections and climate patterns to establish storm track
    4. Compare initial and model forecast fields to observed data
    5. Contrast medium-range model runs...assess plausibility and consider the forecast problems of the day
    6. Check model continuity and trends
    7. Utilize ensemble forecasting techniques
    8. Check vertical and spatial model consistency
    9. Use short-range guidance to update forecast
    10. Choose model(s) or an adjusted solution
    11. Use experience to apply sensible weather forecasting techniques after assessment of forecast confidence and uncertainity
    12. Verification makes you smarter!

There are a number of 12-step design procedures. One trade-marked variant has been developed for computer system's "complete life-cycle from specification through design through installation through secure ongoing operations, maintenance and support". Another details its steps as: grok, spec, partition/map, implement, simulate, compile, simulate, place, route, analyze, bring-up, archive.

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