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Feedback on Discovering Richer Patterns of Comprehension to Reframe Polarization

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This page has been posted as a convenience. Those providing feedback on the original paper (Discovering Richer Patterns of Comprehension to Reframe Polarization, 1998) have not been identified by more than their initials since they may prefer it that way -- names can be added on specific request. Those providing feedback may have seen earlier, rather than later, drafts of the text.


PvS: The I Ching works with wholes - parts of wholes - parts and parts of parts - symbols and signs - metaphor and myth. So maybe I am too close to that when I look at your paper.  Where we seem to have dissection and flattening out.

AJ: My concern in producing the paper was that whilst there is much talk about wholes and holisms, there is little understanding about how to relate this understanding to polarized situations like the Middle East, Northern Ireland or female-male relationships. The framework of the exercise is based on the assumption that it is worthwhile looking at parts in terms of how they relate together to work as wholes -- however that can be understood. So yes indeed there is dissection and flattening out -- but are not the 64 hexagrams but a dissection of yin and yang?

PvS: Two columns Time - - and Space ---   differentiated  but where is the reintegration? Then the relationship tree or nested boxes is flattened out - spread flat -- with a series of ever increasing binary choices.   So instead of getting more wholeness we seem to get more (a)partness.  More choices no patterns of bring together.

AJ: Reframing the question: two columns "Male and Female"....the integration is in the dynamic between them and how we understand them. In the early phases, the distinction is absolute. In the subsequent phases the distinctions are adulterated to offer many intermediary positions. We need those intermediary position to handle the nunaced relationships in society. Not everyone is happy to box themselves into "Male" or "Female". Many of us work to different degrees with both modes. So with Time and Space. So with Western and non-Western approaches to the land. In what ways are Male and Female brought together as a whole and where is this exemplified (other than in the Kama Sutra!)

PvS: In this binary type of division - even when in two dimensions - columns and lists - by defining 'everything' or more precisely forcing things into 2s or 4s or 8s ......... one has excluded all the complexity and the connectivity.  One is back in a them or us situation of 'Western' v Indigenous or East v West  - still splitting not joining at a 'higher' level, or dissociation not integration again.

AJ: The reality of political life and decision making is a forcing into polarized 2s -- or, if one is lucky, 4s. Most adversarial (2-party!) politics is based on this. Where is the wholeness -- Parliament? Where is the complexity and connectivity there? But the 4s, 8s and 16s, etc open up intermediary possibilities for consideration by of us who cannot understand the dance of wholeness. What are the possibilities excluded by a static focus on 2s or 4s -- notably in relation to the land? With what cognitive tools do we understand wholeness?

PvS: All the Buddhist etc - texts etc - of the 4s or the 8s exist within a whole - they have NO real use on their own.

AJ: What is the whole within which they exist -- the fact that a circle is drawn around a configuration? The issue is whether the circle carries meaning in wider society. Indeed it does symbolize a whole, but what meaning does it have in practice? One can draw a ying-yang symbol with opposing political sides, but does that help the politics of their working together -- as in Northern Ireland or in Australia? We can claim that Men or Women have no real use on their own. But that is not how some men see it, nor how some women see it! Somehow saying they form a whole is not helping us cognitively in social contexts.

WH:         thanks for the reference to your new paper.  i've reviewed your previous material and find it stimulating, well thought-out, and notable for its attempt to apply the i ching's "sacred technology" to the practical matters of human affairs.

you write:
>I am especially interested in improving the parts of the text that reflect non-Western perspectives, >notably those relating to time.
        --so i will try to respond to those points.......

When we look at the i ching and seek to tease out its "non-Western perspectives, notably those relating to time" we need to at least consider its origins in the shamanic tradition.  essentially, consulting the i ching (even in just reading its text--or attempting to "translate" its content into more contemporary terms) is the equivalent of consulting a priest-shaman-oracle, whose function in the community includes arbitration of disputes:  as a "neutral" authority identified with the ancestors, the
oracle possesses knowledge of history as well as of the future (destiny).

AJ: I guess that I was really cheating in mailing the text to people deeply familiar with the I Ching, for it was not my intention to base the argument on the I Ching but rather to use the I Ching as one of the richest examples of use of such a coding system. The intention was to work up to the 64-phase I Ching through steps with which people claim to identify and distinguish features of social reality. The I Ching does this too in using family relationships. So I am not trying to rely on I Ching understanding but rather to use (or be inspired by) its method, perhaps very simplistically, in order to communicate the challenge to people who would not consider the I Ching in a month of Sundays.

WH: This bears directly, of course, on the issue of time.  it is extremely difficult share the experience of  "non-linear, cyclic time" with those who have never stepped out of the Western perspective of time.  on the most personal level, however, many people do find that there is "always something the same" about anniversaries (birthdays, annual holidays, new years eve, etc) that registers, at least unconsciously, as non-linear and cyclic.  wilhelm's translation of the i ching makes a strong and consistent reference to the calendrical associations of the i ching.  The 384 "line changes" of the i ching, it should be remembered, probably reference a workable lunar calendar of 13 lunations of 29.538461 days each (a calculation that is accurate for 10 ten years at a time).

T he perspective of an "oracular technology" attuned to the cyclic repetitions of time is not isolated to chinese culture.  we find a nearly identical cultural construct in the mesoamerican sacred calendar of 260 days.  this construct, too, incorporates the shamanic priest who is identified with the ancestors.  because of the extensive trade routes in the pre-columbian americas, the mesoamerican perspective of time (expressed as both history and destiny) spread both north and south, where its worldview can still be encountered to this day.

Your application of this perspective to "territory" is, i believe, especially relevant.  one of the strongest features of this "non-Western perspective" is its identification of time and space (what one author calls the "spatialization of time").  this is expressed in its most essential form as an 8-pointed "map" (indicating the cardinal and inter-cardinal points) in which the seasons of the year are superimposed upon the compass points of space (wilhelm's "sequence of earlier heaven"
and "sequence of later heaven").  again, a nearly identical construct can be found in the pre-columbian mesoamerican culture. 

AJ: The focus on territory/space in relation to time was to create categories through which to position other kinds of relationship to space or time, notably those in non-Western cultures -- and to open up exploration of the dynamics between them. Specifically of course the issues of whether other notions could offer a way out of the impoverished dialogue over Jerusalem -- a prime symbol of a whole for 3 religions!. How many ways can someone relate to territory -- or to space/time?

WH: This "spatialization of time" reflects the prototypical non-Western perspective of both time and space, resulting in ancillary technologies like geomancy/feng shui, whose practitioners read and manipulate the "circulation of the vital force" coursing through-between a three-tiered world comprised of the realms of nature, humankind, and the supernatural. this perspective is, in fact, an organizing principle (a negentropic force) by which the contingent (entropic) world can be comprehended and experienced in a meaningful way.

AJ: The challenge is how such perspectives relate to those that deny them. And presumably there is also the denial of Western perspectives by those subscribing to non-Western perspectives.

WH: Foremost among the ramifications of this perspective is a "sacralization of territory" whose physical and psychic boundaries are not always identical---but whose psychic boundaries define the identity of a people.  because territory is sacred and a people identify themselves with the sacred (however they might define it), the physical territory they occupy may not be the psychic territory they occupy (this is self-evident in the behaviors of displaced peoples; it is more subtly expressed in the behaviors of colonized peoples who have to "share" their territory with invaders; and it is especially enigmatically expressed in the behaviors of the colonizers-invaders-conquerors, who have to develop intricate strategies to justify their right to occupancy over the long run.  this latter point is, of course, extremely complicated in regions like the middle east where multiple groups may claim historical rights to the same territory.).

AJ: It is this kind of concern that needs a framework to hold the different positions that are held to be viable. How are such perspectives currently held and distinguished?

WH: I cite this background material apologetically, since much of it is undoubtedly familiar to you.  but it serves to establish a common ground from which to actually roll up our sleeves and go to work......

The heading of your paper indicates that you are exploring a context by which to "reframe polarization".  this context is explicitly set forth in the i ching (in what you term the "4-phase" set).  the basic metaphor laid out there is this:  "sooner or later, everything changes into its opposite".  politically, this plays itself out in the following dynamic:  "sooner or later, the conquered always conquer the conquerors". (this can be seen in the americas currently with the dramatic widespread
acceptance of native american beliefs; globally, the indigenous-rights movement has, likewise, found wide support for its causes; psychologically, this can be seen in jung's dynamic of the "superior
function" changing into the "inferior function" in later life).

This context is so intrinsically fundamental to the i ching, that it can probably be termed its quintessential paradigm.  any representation, then, of a framework built on this dynamic should attempt to express the fluidity of process and avoid, to the extent possible, any semblance of a static, linear, nature.  this isn't to idealize a paradigm beyond its ability to sustain itself in practice--rather, it's a reminder that negotiation/arbitration/conflict resolution is a process-based dynamic.  if the i ching teaches us anything, i think it is this: "things" are not polarized--it is the nature of human perception that makes them appear polarized.

AJ: I agree completely. The dilemma is that any effort to use a coding system, such as hexagrams, appears static. The dynamic comes from knowing that the lines move. People bring the understanding of the dynamic to the coding system. I doubt there are any coding systems of dynamics -- whether at the atomic level or the social level.

WH: In this sense, the "polarities" of the i ching are "categories" of perception, broken down into finer and finer increments of distinction (your "2-phase" to the "4-phase"  to the "8-phase" to the "64-phase").

i  am well-aware that you've explored and written about several of the topics i am touching upon here--just as i am well-aware of how difficult it is to represent the i ching's dynamics in a form that minimizes the chance of its being read as "static".  so my assumption is that your representation
is intended to express the dynamic and not the static. however, that isn't coming across as cogently as i think you wish.

AJ: I do take your point. I would offer the example of a piano keyboard -- nothing could be more static to the eye. The dynamic comes from how the user chooses a sequence of keys and chords  and gets into a rhythm of play. But that rhythm cannot be represented -- even by musical notation which itself can be experienced as highly static, if one is not a player and cannot engage the dynamic experientially.

WH: i don't know if this requires additional explanation/introduction or if it requires slightly different usage of concepts--but it does seem to need some more "juice" if the reader is to "get it".  despite your best efforts, the categories seem to me to be coming across as "types" rather than "transformations" (whose inevitably cyclic "stages" are difficult to perceive in their current form).

AJ: I take your point. But maybe what you experience makes the point that any effort at categorization is totally inadequate (to coin a phrase) to carry understanding of the dancing transformations of a whole. I am trying to stress that the dynamic lies not in the boxes and categories but between them and in how they are used. I understand the juice problem. I experienced it in exploring the numbers 1 to 20 (text) -- a sterile exercise indeed -- doing scales!

WH: Specifically, I wonder if it's necessary to differentiate between "spatial" and "temporal" concepts (the left and right columns of your paper through the 8-phase set).  as i noted above, the non-Western viewpoint would not necessarily make this distinction.  and the Western viewpoint would probably be beneficially challenged by encountering a less polarized representation of the "space-time dichotomy".

AJ: As I indicated earlier, I think that my assumption is that it is no longer sufficient to talk "whole" and "dynamic" -- for the phrasing does not carry the kinds of understanding in real world political and social situations. One can try it and people do -- the many "one world" and "transformational" "change-oriented" initiatives. The question is whether describing change in this way entrains and engages -- like talking about the Tao! Does speaking wholeness make it so? Motors and dynamos work specifically because they play with opposites. The opposites have to be designed in -- rather than talking about the transformation that occurs as a result of the design. In political situations, the differences have to be acknowledged and given their due -- as in any family relationship! Designing out differences through mediation, does not necessarily result in a viable whole.

WH: i also wonder if it wouldn't make your categories come even more alive (for you and therefore your reader) if you collapsed your readings into a single descriptor (blended your "space" and "time" descriptions into a single column).  the resulting synergy might kick up the respective meanings a rung or two on the ladder........

AJ: I take the point. But everything hangs on what you call "collapse" -- or maybe conflate. Who understands space-time? Who understands male-female? Who understands Catholic-Protestant or Jew-Muslim? This sounds a bit like "uni-sex"! We are condemned to explore our understanding through the dynamic using the categories as keys -- as with a piano -- and provided we have enough keys to carry the music to encompass that complexity. I would argue that your "synergy" may well be what the religions fear from "syncretism".

WH: I don't mean to just throw out criticism (which has been, i hope, tempered by appreciation for your work), which is easily enough done when it entails no contribution in recompense...... so:  i would offer these little ideas in the hope that you might find them interesting, even if they are not ultimately useful......

First, i would generalize out further in the 2-phase and 4-phase sets.  your concepts in the 8- and 16-phase are anticipated by those that precede them.

AJ: I understand the suggestion but recognize my own limitations in giving particular kinds of example. My limitations to give better examples are an indication of the challenge -- for me. I am also aware of the difficult in making finer distinctions. I believe that many are very effectively made in literature -- but the mapping is beyond me at this time. But I do know of groups who have gone successfully down this route (Institute of  Cultural Affairs, of example).

WH: For example, joining the spatial and temporal categories in the 2-phase, one might consider correlating yang with "controlling" and yin with "participating".  these are categories that reflect, i think, the essential meanings of what you are expressing.  by "controlling", i mean the top-down management of territory and time by the force of will; by "participating", i mean the "fish-in-the-ocean" management of self in relation to circumstances in which one is engulfed.

Because all people (individually or collectively) have some experience with both these categories, you do not lock any group out of either category--and transformations between these categories can be identified relatively well through concrete examples that are both social-political and psychological-spiritual.  sustained use of this metaphor generates a framework in which no class of persons is excluded by definition other than the circumstances of the transformative stage currently occupied.

AJ: I understand, but as any dictionary will show, there are several ways in which words can be understood -- so I am not convinced that this approach guarantees a solution. It is the dialogue between the alternatives which offers greater potential in my view.

WH: Sustaining the metaphor into the 4-phase, i would suggest as a starting point the following:

Such a schema can be applied to both territorial and temporal issues; it can also speak to the very real political dynamics you are addressing; and it can be used to represent fairly accurately, i think,
the observable cycles of power that runs its course through the predictable "history" of human affairs (i won't impose my own interpretation of such stages on you here, since i am well aware of your
ability to do so!). beyond this, i believe it's a schema that flows relatively well into your 8-, 16-, and 64 phase sets.  [note also that use of verb-forms reinforces the transitional nature of the categories]

AJ: Interesting to reflect on.

WH: Hope you find this hasn't wasted your time--i've enjoyed the opportunity to read your work and trust you receive this in the spirit of constructive collaboration in which it is written.

AJ: I much appreciate the effort you have put in and the clarifications it calls for.

CL: Thanks for the link. I have read it and I find some 'problems' with your associations re the different phases you emphasise probably because my perspective is 'different' to the norm.

AJ: I think that this is the essential political and social challenge -- namely how to work with what is different to what some group defines as the norm.

CL: I see the phase distinctions as reflecting improved levels of analysis where the perspective is always of  'a whole' and each level of analysis is a refinement. As I argue elsewhere, the use of dichotomy is a fundamental process built in to our neurology and supported by the same neurology's preference for making maps based on whole:aspects distinctions which we see in the I Ching and Taoism as Tai Chi (the whole) and yin/yang (it's aspects). Thus for ANY whole so ALL hexagrams are applicable but in a chain that goes from the most applicable to the least (where the least is the opposite of the most).

AJ: I do not have any disagreement with this -- if I understand you correctly.

CL: The I Ching thus serves as an excellent metaphor for describing these mappings and is valid at all levels of analysis in toto.

AJ: Again, the framework could be seen as a simple coding system for differences -- which only merges into the I Ching for those who find that meaningful.

CL: When we view the brain so we see these whole:aspects distinctions in the form of:

At the 'base' level this is the distinction of A from NOT A (~A).

The Fu Hsi pattern (binary based) is thus 'sourced' in the left and each instance of recursion leads to the next refinement and 'heading towards' the right (which is the side of 'change' compared to the left which favours specific identification and so 'no change'.) What is implied by this is that at the base level, so '~A' is absolute negation but as we go deeper so this distinction becomes 'diffuse' in that negation becomes more the affects of context on the whole (aka text). We then start to see that
'the whole' is not so until we have determined all parts as well as all static and dynamic relationships -- a whole 'out of context' is but a potential and so not whole! As we study the '~A' so we refine our
understanding of the whole to a degree where transformation can take place.

AJ: OK. But I think I would distinguish between what you are saying is so and how you have chosen (or accepted) a particular representation of this. I am also concerned with the user's involvement in making the coding (cf Spencer Brown). The problem with a traditional system is how others are expected to relate to it and make it their own in dealing with their own environment. My point would be that they can start small -- with a simpler coding and explore variations -- only then to favour or oppose a traditional system.

CL: Thus transformation takes place in the right when an aspect is emphasised (either positively or negatively) and so emerges something 'total' and the cycle starts again.

In this context so a 'jump' appears at the level of the trigrams in that we can move from eight forms to sixty-four without going through the intervening levels since the meanings derived either way are 'the same'.

AJ: I would not deny this, but I would also point to the possibility of intermediary systems -- however distorted. The point is whether the distortion carries meaning for the user, not whether the distortion should be rejected because it does not meet a higher standard that the user has no current relation to.

CL: This development path is the path that uses feedback and so the eight trigrams are mixed to produce sixty-four hexagrams and the sixty-four hexagrams  are mixed to produce four thousand and ninety-six 'states' that are best described as text/context relationships; a text hexagram and a
context hexagram where the latter instigates change in the former ... and by knowing the patterns so you can instigate change by introducing a 'novel' context.

AJ: Well I confess to being more than stretched when faced with 4096! In the case of human relationships, I am not sure that I can get beyond 8! What are the human relationships that correspond to 64, or the relationships to land?

CL: As I am sure you are aware, my website lays-out the underlaying pattern for all of these processes of categorization and that includes the Myers-Briggs Identifier and ANY other categorization system based on the use of recursive dichotomisations and whole:aspects relationships. The template is the base for all metaphors/symbols based on 1:many based distinctions and applies at ALL levels of analysis (and so 'meaning' for any one hexagram is 'rich' in aspects).

AJ: I appreciate your efforts in this direction and will explore your site again.

CL: If we review the development of the I Ching and include the MBTI dichotomies so we get a pattern in that at the 2 phase comprehension so we have:

4 phase

This is the first level of 'mixing' or 'weaving' the yin/yang threads into patterns:

You can see from this the emergence of the ancient categorizations of earth/air, fire/water where the latter emerges from the former.  Also note that once we go past the initial distinction so we are weaving patterns and we need to be wary of making 1:1 distinctions when we have moved into
1:many distinctions (hierarchy).

ANY dichotomy is mappable to this e.g. wealth : poor is the same as 'wealth/~wealth'. This is the base level distinction. At the next level emerges the 'middle' as we see above...

With these distinctions so comes meaning in that meaning, in the form of feelings, is in-built to the system:

It is these meanings in 'refined' forms that are behind the I Ching, MBTI, Mathematics, etc etc etc and so enable the use of analogies in that these feelings are 'in' the template and so we 'see' so much in the I Ching etc simply because these feelings are patterns that resonate and are invariant -- the words are 'random' and serve as pointers to the patterns and so we can share 'meanings' with each other...

AJ: I guess my concern is with why we do not see. How is it that meaning is not adequately carried? Why has the I Ching proved irrelevant to social problems across cultures? How come it does not appear to provide a framework for better understandings of relationships -- or for attitudes to the land, and their complementarity?

CL: BTW from you 'opposites' table, note that believers are always 'totalist' in their thinking but are also values biased and so the presence of text/context interactions -- mixing of left and right.

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