21st December 2006 | Draft
Four modes of travelling and navigating the
- / -
Annex 4 of Towards an Astrophysics of the Knowledge Universe: from astronautics to noonautics?
Four modes of travel?
"Globe"... "planets"... "celestial sphere"?
"Global" as integrative
Travel where / when / why?
Constraints and possibilities
Travelling "songlines" to engender the knowledge universe
Songlines as "elven pathways" through the knowledge universe?
Embodying a universe of "stargates"?
Following from the arguments of the main paper, four distinct "universes"
can notably be distinguished, as in the following table
|objective and subjective
|neither objective nor subjective
This distribution benefits from the case made by Kinhide Mushakoji (Global Issues and Interparadigmatic Dialogue: essays on multipolar politics, 1988) for a quadrilemma (A, not-A, A and not-A, neither A nor not-A) as well as from the distinction, noted earlier, by Magoroh Maruyama regarding the different kinds of information universe (classificational, relational, and relevantial):
- Objective: With respect to an "objective" understanding
of the knowledge universe, the main approach to its organization and navigation has been widely
addressed through conventional knowledge organization and information systems and the possibilities of the world wide web.
- Objective and subjective: Beyond what might be caricatured as the management of conceptual "pigeon holes" and the conceptual "tunnels" between them, there is the potential for a more meaningful integrative approach, necessarily dependent on a subjective dimension and appeals to "values". Features of this are emerging in the conceptual dimensions of Web 2.0 and may be significant in the future of the semantic web. Some possibilities were explored in an earlier paper (From
Information Highways to Songlines of the Noosphere: global configuration of
hypertext pathways as a prerequisite for meaningful collective transformation,
1996). One suggestive direction for such
configuration was noted with respect to the subjective implications of the symmetries of sacred
of Hyperlink Geometry, 1997). The challenge to givernance might be understood in terms of an "information barrier" (Coherent Policy-making Beyond the Information Barrier, 1999)
- Subjective: In the light of any "subjective" approach,
consistent with the "cognitive engagement" discussed above, "travelling
the noosphere" could be understood otherwise (Entering
Alternative Realities -- Astronautics vs Noonautics: isomorphism between launching
aerospace vehicles and launching vehicles of awareness, 2002). This
explored the degree of isomorphism between the launching of vehicles into
planetary orbit and the "launching" of "vehicles" of
awareness into alternative realities -- based on the arguments in an earlier
Alternative Conceptual Realities: clues to the dynamics of enacting new paradigms
through movement, 2002).
- Neither objective nor subjective:
This modality has been described elsewhere (Walking
Elven Pathways: enactivating the pattern that connects, 2006).
Erik Davis (TechGnosis:
myth, magic and mysticism in the age of information, 1998/2004)
notably explores it with reference to the characteristics of
Hermes as being the godform of classical Greece most relevant to the
emerging knowledge society:
This excluded middle is where the postmodern Hermes is born: a sacred
ironist or a visionary skeptic, dancing between logic and archaic perception,
myth and modernity, reason and its own hallucinatory excess. And it is
precisely this tension, and not some abdication of critical intelligence,
that now leads so many intelligent and curious minds to conspiracies,
alternative histories, paranormal phenomena, and pop science fiction.
Typically how the knowledege universe is organized and navigated is a matter
of personal choice subject, and perhaps predominantly so, to cultural and other
constraints. The initial objective of astronautics and noonautics is to acquire "escape
velocity" and get into some form of orbit -- reframing the constraints
to the mundane world.
The term "noonaut" is used here as being more general than cybernaut,
infonaut, psychonaut or ideonaut:
- Cybernaut: This term is used to describe a person (an
"electronic astronaut") who makes extensive use of the internet,
specifically in terms of the exploration of cyberspace (cf Bruce Eisner, How
a Psychonaut Became a Cybernaut, 2005)
- Infonaut: This was introduced by Howard
for Thought: the history and future of mind-expanding technology,
1985): "The ones I call the "infonauts" are
the older brothers and sisters of the adolescent hackers you read about in
the papers. Most of them are in their twenties and thirties. They work for
themselves or for some research institution or software house, and represent
the first members of the McLuhan generation to use the technology invented
by the von Neumann generation as tools to extend their imagination. From
the science of designing what they call the "user interface"--where
mind meets machine -- to the art of building educational microworlds, the
infonauts have been using their new medium to create the mass-media version
we will use fifteen years from now". Erik Davis (TechGnosis...) has
an extensive discussion of the "gnostic infonaut"
- Psychonaut: Psychonaut is
used to describe one who uses trance technologies and, more specifically
mind-altering substances, more for their ability to act as entheogens than
for their inebriating (or social) effect. In effect, they are used as a means
to achieve states of mind in which different perceptions, unhindered by everyday
mental filters and processes, can arise. As such, psychonauts believe that
when used with this intent, the mind altering substance's effects can be
life altering and are not considered by their proponents to be mere hallucinations.
An alternate description is that while some aspects of the experience may
be hallucinatory, the realizations caused by those hallucinations and the
mental, emotional and long term impact of the experience is real, usually
positive, and enduring.
- Ideonaut: By implication this term might be applied to
those who explore online spaces (such as ideonaut.net initiated
in 2005) for
the organization and management of potentially complicated, non-linear networks
of thought, namely a forum for the visual manifestation and discovery of
the shared experience of inter-related ideas, memories, thoughts, and conclusions.
It contrasts with the normative funnelling of the rambling, interconnected
nature of cognition into linear expositions of speech and language.
Such terms may be variously understood in their relationship to noosphere,
cyberspace, infosphere and ideosphere:
- Noosphere: Understood as the "sphere of human thought",
noosphere is also sometimes
used to refer to a transhuman consciousness emerging from the interactions
of human minds, as proposed by the theologian
Teilhard de Chardin, who added that the noosphere is evolving towards
an ever greater integration.
- Cyberspace: Although the world of the internet cannot
be understood as a space, according to Erik Davis (TechGnosis...)
"spatial metaphors have emerged that lend the medium an imaginary dimension
that paradoxically make it more real". It is understood to consist of
transactions, relationships, and thouight itself, arrayed like a standing
wave in the web of our communications (cf John Perry Barlow, A
Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace***)
- Infosphere: Coined by Luciano
Floridi on the basis of biosphere.
the whole informational environment constituted by all informational entities
(thus including informational agents as well), their properties, interactions,
processes and mutual relations. It is an environment comparable to, but different
from cyberspace (which
is only one of its sub-regions, as it were), since it also includes off-line
and analogue spaces of information.
- Ideosphere: much like the noosphere,
the ideosphere this is the realm of memetic evolutionby
comparison with the biosphere as
the realm of biological evolution. It is the "place" where thoughts, theories
and ideas are thought to be created, evaluated and evolved. The health
of an ideosphere can be measured by its memetic diversity.
It is considered to be "inside the minds" of all the humans in the world.
- Cognosphere: In proposing this term, Thomas
through Knowledge Spaces) argues: "We
have created, for ourselves, a knowledge sphere. Maybe, for aesthetic purposes,
we should call it the cognosphere. The creation of the cognosphere did not
start with the development of the World Wide Web. It started millions of
years ago when people first passed information from one person on to a third
party; that is, it started with the invention of the spoken word. Since then,
the cognosphere has grown with every innovation in communications. The Web
just happens to be the latest in a long series of innovations that have increased
the richness of the cognosphere and have improved our ability to navigate
- Culturesphere: This term is variously used.
Use of "noonaut" and "noonautics" have the advantage of
their association with "noosphere" in emphasizing exploration of
more integrative dimensions -- in contrast with "lateral" movement
to parallel fields of knowledge, or "drilling
down" to more specific domains. However the focus on the navigational
metaphor of "nautics" obscures other understandings of integrative exploration
and "travel" (in "broadening the mind"), including forms of philosophy and
cultural development (cf Integrative
Knowledge and Transdisciplinarity Project).
Four modes of travel?
- Travelling the "objective" knowledge universe: This is typically the preoccupation of the information sciences. Where possible, it emphasizes the use of hierarchies (through "menus") that permit specializing ("drilling down") or generalizing to more abstract categories from which other specialized choices may be made. There is a sense of well-defined (and appropriately authorized) pathways and the possible extreme dangers of travelling "hors piste". As a form of exception to hierarchical organization, a certain degree of relational linkage is admitted, usually as an aid to comprehending hierarchical structure, but especially as a consequence of hyperlink preferences. In terms of any astronautical metaphor, it might be said that acquiring "escape velocity" is here associated with the capacity to generalize (up a hierarchy of objective knowledge) rather than be bound to a particular system of categories -- a particular orbit, or set of orbits (in the form of an array of menus)
- Travelling the "objective-subjective" knowledge universe: In this case much more emphasis is placed on subjective attribution of significance to what may or may not be universally considered objective. This is typical of cases where much greater significance is associated with the symbolic status of any element of knowledge and the values attributed to it. Again, in terms of any astronautical metaphor, it might be said that acquiring "escape velocity" is here associated with the capacity to dissociate from a particular system of symbols with which there is a degree of subjective involvement -- but here bound up more intimately with a belief system by which one is entrained. These symbols may be a pattern of preferences (web surfing "favourites", bookmarks, web rings, news groups, etc).
- Travelling the "subjective" knowledge universe: In this case the preoccupation is with an experiential organization of a universe, even a fantasy universe, with little content that can be rendered into a form that can be readily shared with others. The process of exploring one's universe may however be shared, as with entertainment, collective meditation or consumation of narcotic subjstances.
- Travelling the "neither-nor" knowledge universe: In this case the subjective-objective distinction is reframed or accepted in the moment, perhaps most strongly influenced by intentionality -- perhaps primarily through aesthetic engagement, as perceiver and creator. Objectivity is then a mode of allowing objective constraint, possibly to be reframed through a creative act. This is extensively explored by enactivism or radical constructivism (including second order cybernetics)
Types: Clearly different types of "vehicle" are envisaged and used -- and are required by understanding of the nature of the knowledge universe. In the first two cases conventional information systems create a vehicle through which the user interacts with that universe.
In the case of the second two understandings of the knowledge universe, Buddhism,
for example, recognizes five
vehicles to cater to the different capacities and capabilities of sentient
beings. "Vehicle" is then understood as a conveyance of deliverance
for sentient beings. Thus, when one cultivates according to the teachings of
these vehicles, one is conveyed or ferried from one shore to the other. That
is, from the present shore where there is an abundance of affliction and suffering
of birth and death, to the shore where there is bliss and enlightenment. Particular
emphasis is placed on three
- Hinayana or Theravada Buddhism ("Small Vehicle"): The doctrines for those who cultivate for the sake of personal liberation and aspiration for personal salvation. The highest level of attainment forcultivators of Hinayana Buddhism is the Arahat.
- Pratyeka-Buddha Buddhism ("Middle Vehicle"): Like those of the Small Vehicle Buddhism, practitioners of the Middle Vehicle Buddhism are not concerned about the salvation of other sentient beings.
- Mahayana Buddhism ("Greater Vehicle"): While the Small Vehicle is like a motorcycle or a bicycle which carries one or two persons at a time, the Greater Vehicle is likened to a train or a ship which can ferry many passengers on a single trip. Thus, the doctrines of the Greater Vehicle are for personal salvation as well as for the salvation of other sentient beings. Practitioners of the Greater Vehicle Buddhism aspire to ferrying both self and others to the shore of enlightenment.
These understandings of "vehicle" acquire particular significance
when they reflect a distinction between the environmental scope of what is
"drawn in" to constitute the vehicle of awareness in question. Thus in the
case of the Greater Vehicle this necessarily draws in and encompasses the full
range of conceptual entities. These are consequently "transported" as indicated
-- through the implicit cognitive transformation.
"Driver awareness": For noonauts, there is also
a challenge in recognizing what it is that justifies the extraordinary condition
in which their "vehicle of awareness"
operates once successfully launched into orbit. As a Zen proverb paradoxically
puts it: "Before enlightenment, chop wood, draw water -- After enlightenment,
chop wood, draw water". A case may be made for exploring the extraordinary
communication and observation opportunities reportedly associated with that
condition -- enhanced analogues to sight and hearing. But traditionally such siddhis -- and their advocates
-- are viewed as distracting side-effects of that condition [more]
-- although, controversially, one group of aspiring noonauts devotes considerable
resources to promoting the ability to teach levitation. Some noonauts, notably
shamans, report the ability to then travel widely to other parts of the solar
or galactic system. Of course much has been made of the symbolism associated
with the holiness of the condition -- notably by any religious system whose
doctrines and disciplines have supported the enterprise. ** Buddhism
"Vehicle control": Perhaps more interesting in the case of a spacecraft, are the problems of control
needed for orbit and "attitude" correction. Appropriately positioned
jets can be selectively fired to correct tendencies to roll, pitch, tumble or
yaw -- maintaining its stability. The noonauts in vehicles of awareness are
faced with similar challenges. Controlling and correcting "attitude"
is a process described in great detail in many spiritual disciplines -- most
obviously through the control dynamics associated with checklists of "vices"
and their compensating "virtues" (as discussed in the previous
paper). Also of interest are the health problems for astronauts associated
with extended time in orbit, including bone deterioration and muscle wasting.
This may perhaps be seen as echoed in the "wasted " condition of many
practitioners of certain spiritual disciplines -- most notably certain yogis.
"Orbital colonies": For a knowledge universe, as previously argued, these may be compares with conceptual communities (cf Dynamically Gated Conceptual Communities, 2004). Much speculation, notably by science fiction writers, surrounds the psycho-social
dynamics of orbital colonies and long-distance space travel. Despite significant
inability to address the unresolved problems of such intentional communities on the surface
of the planet, it is widely and enthusiastically assumed that they will be amenable
to resolution by reasonable people in space environments. Such attitudes are
paralleled in idealistic noonaut communities imbued with belief in the power
of "virtues" and peaceful reconciliation. Indeed a religious congregation
may be seen as a form of "vehicle" already launched into an alternative
reality -- in which the temple functions like a spacecraft, or an orbital colony.
However, as with spacecraft, it is relatively rare to find long-term, residential
communities in which challenging problems can emerge and have to be faced. Participation
in a religious celebration is usually briefer than modern space flights by
astronauts. Even "extended retreats" of weeks only resemble the extended
occupancy of an orbiting spacecraft. It is here that lifelong experience in
monasteries, convents and ashrams -- or other kinds of intentional community
-- may be considered to be dealing with dynamics and feedback loops as yet beyond
the ken of those concerned with astronautics. Curiously, the most stable spiritual
communities (of noonauts) are unrealistic in their avoidance of relationship
between the sexes -- and its consequences. The problems for a celibate priesthood
have recently proven only too evident. The question has been considered irrelevant
in the case of astronauts, as for example:
"People who are professionally very motivated and goal-oriented do not need
sex as an emotional release. A person who might experience such problem in
flight will most likely be a passenger on a spacecraft -- a journalist, a
politician or just a tourist." [more]
This lack of realism has also been evident in past and foreseen expeditions
in spacecraft [more; more; more; more; more] -- except as envisaged
by science fiction writers. No experiments have been done on this, as exemplified
in the case of Columbia Unversity's Biosphere
"Vehicle collision": Another concern for vehicles in orbit is the danger of impact with other orbiting
objects. The number of such objects has now reached a level that special efforts
have to be made to detect them to avoid the possibility of such collision. Noonauts
"in orbit" also face this risk of collision with other vehicles of
awareness following different pathways. The violence of these encounters can
endanger both -- as encounters between leaders of different spiritual traditions,
or "high-flyers" of any kind, have illustrated. It should not be forgotten
that vehicles in orbit, of either kind, may eject material -- waste matter --
that can endanger others subsequently. The challenge in both cases is to develop
more sophisticated techniques of recycling waste products.
"Re-entry from orbit": An obvious next step for orbiting vehicles is re-entry to return to the surface
(perhaps of another planet) -- a concern much explored with respect to aerospace, if only because of the
limited supplies of food and oxygen whilst in orbit. Re-entry can be exceptionally
dangerous because of over-heating as the descent is made through the atmosphere.
The problem of re-entry in the case of psychonauts is best illustrated by the
recovery of individuals from a drug trip -- as they reorient to the mundane
world. In the case of noonauts, this is more evident in the readjustment required
after lengthy meditations or following extended retreats for the "spaced out".
"Globe"... "planets"... "celestial sphere"?
Astronauts are faced first with the challenge of getting from the Earth's gravity-well
into orbit -- from which all the continents of the globe become equally visible
-- when they are not "in shadow" or "under cloud". Subsequently there would be issues
relating to achieving orbits around other planets, or escaping from planetary
orbit around the Sun. Planets may be used to give gravitational assists -- in
sling-shot manoeuvers -- to reach other bodies in the solar system. But in all
these cases the body around which the spacecraft may orbit is abundantly
clear -- as are the properties of that orbit. This is liable to be less so in those realms
of space subject to the influence of black holes.
For noonauts the "globe" from which they need to escape -- and around
which they at first need to orbit -- is much less clear. This is what makes
the identification of "up" so challenging in this case. For astronauts
it is the gravity-well associated with the material world. For noonauts, the
process has something to do with escaping from "materialism" as the
fundamental attractor in daily life -- even if this is only to be understood as a habitual pattern of activity.
Tentatively it might be assumed that this
attractor is defined by clues offered in various spiritual disciplines, or psychotherapy,
regarding the different psychological functions by which one may be entrapped
-- physicality, emotions, thoughts and intuitions, according to Jung. For Jung
the individuation process, through which these individual functions are integrated
together may suggest the path of "escape" for the maturing individual.
Whatever one's point of origin on the psychic "globe", in this process
one is obliged to come to terms with the "other side" of which one
is normally unaware -- the "shadow side". Subsequently the noonaut
may be influenced by the attractive force of the "planets" -- Marsilio
Ficino's "planets within" [more].
More generally, human values may themselves become the "strange attractors"
by which the noonaut chooses to be drawn [more].
"Global" as integrative
There is another sense of "global" which suggests another, less
subjective, variety of noonautics. The fashionable use of "global" focuses on
the spatially curved geographical dimension -- the planet as a whole which astronauts must start
by orbiting. This emphasis is the culmination of a century of successful effort
towards international understanding --of "thinking globally and acting locally",
of "global villages", of "global action plans", of "global ethics", of "global
consciousness" and of "globalization".
What has been largely lost in this process is the other sense of global, namely
some kind of comprehensible, integrative whole -- of which a geographically
bounded planet is but one particular instance. "Global" is too readily taken
to mean planet-wide and no more -- a recognition by certain regions that there
are others on the planet. This conceptually integrated whole is implied by terms
such as "interdisciplinarity", "transdisciplinarity" and "integrative" -- although
these have themselves evolved into holistic buzz words because of the essential
failure of the initiatives they represented in responding to the accelerating
fragmentation of knowledge. "Holistic" could even be considered as content-free.
"Global understanding" in this integrative sense has become almost a myth in
pursuit of which some heroes occasionally continue to quest.
Perhaps it is only in mathematics that the clearest, and most general, distinction
is maintained between "global" and "local". Unfortunately that discipline is
incapable of taking into account the essential psychological distinction between
the two that is associated with broader (rather than narrower) processes of
comprehension, communication and learning. It is possibly only using Q-analysis
that powerful mathematical clarification is given to the relationship between
degrees of comprehension (Atkin, 1981 [review]).
Just as one can travel around the globe without being able to see it as a whole
from any one perspective, so one may perhaps be able to "circumnavigate" a cognitive
whole without being able to "grasp" it. It is even possible that the understanding
which tends to "grasp" cannot be fruitfully termed "global" -- or that what
can be so grasped is not fruitfully understood as a whole of larger significance,
or of requisite variety (cf. Ashby's Law). In terms of the challenges of global
governance, the ability of a particular discipline to grasp the challenges of
society cannot in this sense be understood as "global". It is necessarily sub-global,
namely local in some way which honours the particular, "local" insights of that
A new sense of "global" may therefore emerge as a result of new approaches
to integration of purely conceptual knowledge -- in contrast to psychological
integration of the incommensurable functions that are the preoccupation of spirtual
directors and psychotherapists. This may be one of the most significant features
of the future development of artificial intelligence into a "global brain"
[more] -- notably as an
extension of the semantic web of interconnected computers and human interaction
with them. How noonauts navigate the resulting knowledge spaces is a matter
for the future -- possibly in metaphoric vehicles [more].
What is beyond "global" in this sense remains to be discovered.
Travel where / when / why?
Where? Astronauts are then faced with a need to define tasks
to justify their unusual situation, and the resources allocated to it. The main
tasks have been scientific experiment and placing "communication"
satellites in orbit -- with unknown proportions of this effort being for military
and surveillance purposes. This has been extended to constructing and repairing
spacecraft, possibly as a base for excursions to other parts of the solar system.
Much has been made of the symbolism of the collaborative, multi-national nature
of such endeavours.
Space travel enthusiasts and science fiction writers have proposed a multitude
of images of the possible goals of space travel -- within the solar system,
to the nearest stars, within the galaxy, to other galaxies, or even to parallel
universes. They have been relatively weak in clarifying what it is that travels
-- bodies, minds, genetic or memetic patterns -- or the purpose of such travel.
The purpose has tended to be simplistic and a reflection of current motivations
for travel around the globe: curiosity, adventure, trade, knowledge, proselytizing,
colonization, etc. One concern has been to escape the rapidly accumulating problems
on this planet. Most of the energy has gone into devising propulsion systems
that will make it all happen sooner -- to satisfy a profound sense of yearning
experienced by some.
In the case of noonautics, a prime concern has been to escape the suffering
associated with daily life -- spurred on by the belief that a far more desirable
condition is possible elsewhen. Its achievement may also be framed as a lifelong
yearning. Noonautics has devoted far more attention to the purpose of such travel,
the significance of the destination, and its definition as a journey. This has
tended to be expressed in religious terminology -- "union with God",
moving off the "Wheel of Life",
avoiding reincarnation, etc.
When? The nature of elsewhen and the journey to it becomes far more interesting when
conceptual closure is avoided in both astronautics and noonautics. For example,
the notion of "union with divinity" is not especially helpful when
the ways in which divinity is commonly defined tend to deny the results of years
of effort by some noonauts in endeavouring to understand its meaning and the
challenge of communicating any such understanding to others. This challenge
is usefully defined by the complexity of the multidimensional nature of reality
-- whose psychological significance would seem to be inaccessible to most, including
the mathematicians and physicists studying it, who can only express it through
formalisms that may well be characterized by the elegance of simple symmetries
reminiscent of those associated with mandalas as mnemo-technical devices.
It is at this point that the widespread current interest in the physics of
consciousness [more; more]
becomes relevant to the possible future "direction" of "travel"
of both astronauts and noonauts (as discussed in the previous
paper). It might indeed prove to be the case that the heightened union with
reality, and its embodiment by noonauts of high degree, is in some way associated
with speculations of astrophysicists considering navigation of multidimensional
reality -- at least in so far as the latter involves the transportation of some
form of conscious human awareness. For example, in reflecting on space flight
in the light of the possible reality of phenomenon associated with the UFO controversy, Jacques Vallee argues that it might be based on understanding beyond that of contemporary science.
For him it might reflect a level of consciousness as yet unrecognized, and which
is able to manipulate dimensions beyond time and space as currently understood.
In this sense it is interesting to explore the stages identified by some spiritual
disciplines beyond the "material" -- as in the case of Buddhist "immaterial" jhanas (see previous
paper) -- to the extent that these bear some resemblance to the possible
nature of quantum reality, as it might be experienced by an appropriately trained
noonaut. Astronautics and noonautics may then have more in common than is currently
imagined. Transportation to "distant galaxies" may become possible
earlier through more insightful understanding of consciousness and the manner
in which complex realities may be embodied and navigated.
Constraints and possibilities
The above pointers imply that we can choose to perceive
the knowledge universe through astrophysical metaphors, as previously explored (Being
the Universe -- a Metaphoric Frontier: co-existent immanence of evolutionary
phases, 1999). We can choose also to navigate
this reality like astronauts -- but necessarily constrained by disciplined
metaphors from astronautics. The pattern of a conceptual or behavioural "gravity
well" evokes the need to develop some form of "escape velocity" if we are
to detach from that sink and get into "orbit", possibly as a basis for travelling
This process of "detachment" is reminiscent of the preoccupations
of Buddhist meditation. All the challenges of astronautics contain lessons
for this process. And rather than thinking enviously about the opportunities
of future generations to travel the planets and the stars, the challenges
and thrills are in some measure readily accessible at this moment. But a distinction
needs to be made between thinking figuratively of such possibilities and actually
engaging in them by exploring the metaphorical constraints to the fullest.
As argued elsewhere (Hyperaction through Hypercomprehension and Hyperdrive: necessary complement to hypertext proliferation in hypersociety, 2006), in this sense faster-than-light (hyperspace) inter-galactic
travel (via wormholes and the like) may indeed be theoretically possible,
but it may also call for a degree of cognitive discipline that few will care
to develop. Again special relativity theory seems irrelevant to daily experience.
But this pattern may be immediately relevant when comparing two people (or
groups) who have followed quite different learning trajectories. How are they
to communicate meaning -- even when they are face-to-face? The learning rate
on some trajectories is such that it exceeds the ability to communicate outside
that frame back to one's point of departure. Relativity theory may be extremely
useful in explaining some communication problems between disciplines or even
between children and parents. Some learning can be so rapid that when subsequently
confronted with people one was with prior to the learning, they seem to be
from a pre-historic world!
The associated "gravitational" effects in communication, due
to incommunicability, are usefully explained through the mathematical analysis
of Ron Atkin (cf Ron Atkin: Multidimensional Man; can man live in 3-dimensional
Travelling "songlines" to engender the knowledge universe
Can the capacity to travel the universe of knowledge be fruitfully reframed in the light of the imaginative creativity of travelling "songlines"? These might be understood as any of the following:
- patterns of metaphoric associations, as celebrated in a person "of culture" or a person "for all seasons"
- as the configuration of hyperlink pathways in their current primitive form and as they may emerge through the facilities of the semanitc web (perhaps as a dynamic form of "favourites") -- the "cathedrals" in which the emergence of the future is celebrated
- as the enactive pathways explored by Varela *** and their resonance with the present moment engagement in the Dreamtime of the Australian Aborigines
Both the real-world implications and their problematic aspects are evident in:
- the increasing emphasis on faith-based governance -- and its dissociation from evidence-based reality
- the associated emphasis on "being positive" and "eliminating negativity"
In both cases these could be seen as crudely dangerous intuitive understandings of cognitive technologies of the future by which to power vehicles travelling through knowledge spaces engendered in the moment. In particular it is how "negativity" is understood to be "eliminated" (in the light of the laws of thermodynamics) that is the essence of most innovation in propulsion systems -- whatever the medium through which the vehicle travels.
The "songlines" can indeed be seen as having been set up (in the past) -- whether as as metaphoric associations as hyperlink pathways (variously tracked as a pattern for advertising or security purposes). The emphasis may be very much on potential possibilities and the "goodness of fit" of any recognized pattern. Or they may be understood as being set up in the moment through some kind of intuitively creative act. In either case they can be imaginatively understood as "wormholes" through the "hyperdimenionality" knowledge space. The transportation and reframing achieved through use of a metaphor indeed has fruitful resonances with travelling songlines and the cognitive aesthetics of what has been imagined for astronauts travelling through wormholes.
Any creative act may be associated with such a cognitive experience. It typically involves the pulling together or juxtaposition of otherwise disparate elements, possibly of lower dimensionality. The pulling together configures the elements as a higher dimensional construct -- just as suitably configuring poles, mud and and thatch can create a hut. A melody or a theory involves such a pulling together or concentration of elements -- associated with their transformation intio a larger whole. The prime characteristic of this whole is the "ease" with which one can travel between cognitive elements or entities that were otherwise conceptually distant. The construct offers a pattern of songlines.
Such a construct may also be understood through a different metaphor as a crystal. Indeed the emergence of a a complex whole is often described in terms of the process of "crystalization". This metaphor may be extended to that of polishing a precious stone into a jewel by appropriately identitying the planes of symmetry within the crystal. It is interesting that "facet" is a term common to this process and to the technicalities of information classification (cf Patterning Archetypal Templates of Emergent Order: implications of diamond faceting for enlightening dialogue, 2002). The architectural process of configuring elements to be constructed also offers insights. The powerful aggregation of significance in knowledge space in its most problematic sense can be imaginatively related to the construction of a "Death Star" portrayed in Star Wars.
Understanding metaphors as cognitive devices offering a means of travel across the vastness of the knowleedge universe stresses the different nature of the logic experienced in the moment of creating or being exposed to a metaphor. The distortion of knowledge space by such a devices has similarities to the bending of the space of astrophysicists as seen to be necessary for any form of hyperdimensional travel. Metaphor combines the technology of cognitive "vehicle" and a "wormhole" in a manner that justifies the term "songline". The different logic of a metaphor enables "easy travel for all" in a manner somewhat reminiscent of the London Transport advertising invitation to "Hop on a Bus". Curiously the travel association is echoed in the more traditional theory of "correspondences". This term is of considerable significance to travel between the well-mapped pathways of the Paris Metro system. It may be related to the middle eastern travel metaphor of "magic carpets" -- in which the map of the knowledege universe is effectively woven into the carpet design. Within this metaphor the challenge of empowering the carpet is dependent on (the user) weaving the pattern appropriately to constitute a vehicle.
There is a way in which any such pattern of travel engenders and dimensions a knowledge universe. It gives coherent and comprehensible form to knowledge space through engaging with complexity.
More intriguing is the sense in which, by establishing such a pattern of relationships, their configuration may imply an unsuspected point of focus of higher dimensionality. In the case of a jewel, light is reflected and refracted so as to amplify the incident light -- in terms of an implicit focal point for the jewel's action as a lens. For astronomers, in seeking to resolve a very distant object, emphasis is placed on the need for a very long baseline provided by an array of telescopes. This suggests that diversity of elements configured into a pattern of relationships, as a consequence of travel across the knowledge universe, may constitute such an array from which an otherwise unrecognizable focal point may become evident. The irony is that this difficult-to-resolve focal point is the viewpoint of the participant-observer of the pattern of experience of that travel. It is from this viewpoint that any coherence to the pattern of travel is evident.
- analogy -- isomorphism >>> continuum
- double/triple -- self-reflexive metaphors
- Council of the Whys
Songlines as "elven pathways" through the knowledge universe?
As discussed separately (Walking Elven Pathways: enactivating the pattern that connects, 2006), some of the characteristics of "elven
include (in no particular order):
- aesthetic associations: these are the core of design (interior
decoration, clothing design, landscape design, building design, etc); they
are also evident in other arts (poetic associations, musical associations,
dramatic associations, etc). Such associations are based on principles of
harmony, proportion and surprise that have long been studied. They enable understanding
to travel pathways between seemingly unrelated contexts -- possibly set in
opposition as complementaries. These aesthetic associations constitute the
pathways across the abyss of difference. Those engaged in this way have a
sense that they are engendering the future through innovative design.
- lateral thinking associations: these are now well-recognized as essential to breaking "out-of-the-box", to thinking creatively, notably in strategic situations to bring about a desired future
- humorous associations: however understood, these tend
to offer unforeseen (even mischievous) links between contrasting domains. Humour "works" through
providing a degree of credibility to such associations. Their subtlety for
the humourless is recognized in the challenge of "getting the joke".
- creativity: whether associated with aesthetics, invention or strategic thinking, creativity depends on making probable and possible the improbable and the impossible -- through giving form to unforeseen patterns. The emergence of the worldwide web exemplifies the manner in which new thinking pathways have totally transformed global communications -- as well as the understanding of globalization and the emerging knowledge society.
- intuition: however inexplicable, this is a well-recognized factor in creativity of all kinds. Through intuition unusual associations may be acknowledged as meaningful -- and emerging patterns may first be sensed
- appropriateness: this may be understood as a design criterion,
expressed as the "goodness of fit", but may possibly be as subtle
as a particular well-timed gesture -- prompted by intuition
- resonance: this may be understood in terms of sensed "vibrations" (eg "good
vibes") amongst people or groups between which such a "connection" could
not have been predicted. Between individuals it may be profoundly significant,
as with encounters described as "love at first sight" -- or some
other form of recognition. Any such mutual recognition may be the basis for
building more tangible relationships
- symbol and myth: the nature of several of the intangible
associations above may be intimated in the patterns of associations in symbol
or myth that may well be fundamental to the sense of identity of an individual
or a group. Reference to such devices may reinforce the credibility of aesthetic
associations and any sense of appropriateness.
- nature and wilderness: these of course exemplify subtle relationships and the varying extents to which they are recognized, by the most modest gardener or the deepest ecologist.
Curiously a fruitful way of understanding the experience of the pattern of songlines is the exposure to interweaving birdsong in a forest creating a soundscape pattern of associations.
Embodying a universe of "stargates"?
It is one thing to argue that humans can "be their own world" to sustain
its "patterns that connect", but how meaningful is this in relation to
extraterrestrials, from whom some expect a visit anytime? (cf current setting
of "The Paradigm Clock").
Should they be expected to share our "vision"? How are they to be designed
into one's script? How to understand the "pattern that connects" the stars?
Curiously, as developed by Tolkien, the High Elves were known as the People
of the Stars. Ironic if the aliens were to exhibit elven qualities --
being recognizably "fey" and enamoured of riddles!
Suppose that a holistic organization of the universe were to be taken seriously.
What might this mean? It could mean that every distant physical body was in
some way fractally "represented" on this planet. How might this work? Suppose
this "representation" was not so much physical as psycho-physical -- namely
involving non-physical dimensions. Modern physics is very free with its need
to have up to 11 dimensions to explain matters beyond the three-dimensional.
Within some such broader framework, each person, through their psycho-physical
makeup (how they perceived and dimensioned their universe), might then carry
a unique patterning "keyed" in some way to distant stellar bodies. The point
that merits reflection in relation to "keyed" lies in the experience of how
one encounters another individual. One can gain a sense of a quite unique
configuration of forces or energies that constitutes that individual's universe.
One can, to some extent, look into that person's universe. This process may
be tantamount to using the person as a "stargate".
If each of us is effectively bonded to a distant stellar body, then much
of our individual daily experience on this planet is interpreted through the
configuration of forces conditioned by the "stellar" bond particular to each
of us. We may be psychically as close to such apparently distant parts as
being a "hair's breadth away"; we may have much of our being elsewhere.
We may each of us be seeing and experiencing this world as "aliens". When
we encounter another person, do we meet "as stargates" -- each pulling or
distorting the significance of the encounter in terms of the psycho-physics
of distant parts of the universe?
People may therefore already be able to travel the universe in a most important
sense, and many may be engaged in doing so -- whilst physicists reinforce
an expectation that we are all dependent on their ability to develop faster
than light travel sometime in the future. Within you, or in collaboration
with others, you may have a more powerful manipulator of psycho-physical space
than all the particle accelerators and cyclo-synchrotrons put together. You
may be being deprived of that awareness by the emphasis of the scientific
establishment on the cost and dangers of such gadgetry and the sophistication
required to operate them safely! Note the embarrassment relating to cold
fusion -- maybe we can all do surprising things "at room temperature"!