22nd June 2007 | Draft
Emergence of Cyclical Psycho-social Identity
Sustainability as "psyclically" defined
- / -
Identity as expression of interlocking cycles
Viability and sustainability: recycling
Transforming "patterns of consumption"
From "static" to "dynamic" to "cyclic"
Emergence of new forms of identity and organization
Embodiment of rhythm
Generic understanding of "union of international associations"
Interlocking cycles as the key to identity
Identity as a strange attractor
Periodic table of cycles -- and of psyclic identity?
Complementarity of four strategic initiatives
Development of psyclic awareness
Space-centric vs Time-centric: an unfruitful confrontation?
Metaphorical vehicles: temples, cherubim and the Mandelbrot set
Kairos -- the opportune moment for self-referential re-identification
Governance as the management of strategic cycles
Possible pointers to further reflection on psyclicity
The identity of individuals and collectivities (groups, organizations, etc) is typically associated with an entity bounded in physical space or virtual space. The boundary may be defined geographically (even with "virtual real estate") or by convention -- notably when a process of recognition is involved, as with a legal entity. Geopolitical boundaries may, for example, define nation states.
The focus here is on the extent to which many such entities are also to some degree, if not in large measure, defined by cycles in time. For example many organizations are defined by the periodicity of the statutory meetings by which they are governed, or by their budget or production cycles. Communities may be uniquely defined by conference cycles, religious cycles or festival cycles (eg Oberammergau). Biologically at least, the health and viability of individuals is defined by a multiplicity of cycles of which respiration is the most obvious -- death may indeed be defined by absence of any respiratory cycle.
This exploration follows from earlier investigations relating to time (Knowledge Gardening through Music: patterns of coherence for future African management as an alternative to Project Logic, 2000; Varieties of Experience of Past-Present-Future Complexes, 2001; Engaging Macrohistory through the Present Moment, 2004). The concern here is with the introduction of a temporal dimension into any understanding of "union" further to related concerns (In Quest of "Meta-Union"? Interplay of generic dimensions of any "union of international associations", 2007; Dynamic Reframing of "Union": implications for the coherence of knowledge, social organization and personal identity, 2007).
The fundamental point to be made here is the relative lack of conscious awareness of how an individual, for example, is an embodiment or expression of interlocking cycles of vastly varying periodicity. In this sense an individual exists in time as in space as that temporal interlock -- a knot in time. This opens the charming possibility that the quality of longer-term relationships, already confirmed by "tying a knot", may be usefully distinguished as different kinds of knot -- temporal knots of different topology.
Boundaries in time may of course be defined by events such as birth or death, but these distract from the sense in which the individual exists in cyclical time -- and the life of any entity may be fruitfully understood in terms of its embodiment of cycles in temporal space, perhaps to be described in terms of temporal topology. Cyclical time provides a special sense of continuity and integrity that may otherwise be absent. There is a case for exploring the significance of neolithic stone circles as devices for holding collective identity -- especially given their relationship to astronomical cycles. The "fairy rings" associated with pagan and druidic traditions also merit consideration from this perspective. Fascination with "crop circles" suggest an archetypal resonance -- although also proposed as a mode of communication by extraterrestrials, for which psychoactive circles might indeed constitute a form of logo analogous to heraldic insignia.
To emphasize the implications of this argument, the suggestion is made here that the manner in which an individual, or other conscious entity, identifies psychologically with the cycles of which "it" may be the embodiment could usefully be understood in terms of a neologism -- "psyclicity" -- as an indication of "psyclical" identity and the associated "psyclical" integrity. This highlights the possibility that some entities may exist to a greater degree, if only on their own terms, as cyclically defined entities in time than as spatially defined entities as conventionally understood.
In terms of widespread concern with health, viability, sustainability, renewables and recycling, these may all be fruitfully reframed "psyclically". For unless there is some degree of comprehension and psychological identification with the cycles in question, the ability to sustain and increase viability will be severely inhibited (cf Psychology of Sustainability: embodying cyclic environmental processes, 2002).
Unless, and until, people understood how their identity is defined by cyclic feedback loops, there will be little opportunity or encouragement for them to give credibility to, or to identify with, subtler and more complex feedback loops -- as more powerful attractors for a sense of identity they might aspire to affirm.
In the communication between cultures, the dominant emphasis on linear time has placed at a disadvantage those cultures giving preference to cyclical time. And yet it may be cyclical time that is the key to sustainability. Understandably any identification with the linearity of the arrow of time typically avoids awareness (within that metaphor) of either the point of the arrow or the condition at the end of its trajectory -- with all the consequences for the psychological condition of the elderly whom most are destined to become. This sets up a somewhat unfruitful conflict between identification with linear time or with cyclical time -- especially to the extent that identification is with a small portion of a cycle necessarily then perceived as linear in the absence of any larger temporal context. This highlights the focus of differential calculus on using the linear method of differentiation to understand change at a point -- in contrast with the complementary challenge of integration.
More speculatively, and in the light of persistent conflict over territory, there is a case for exploring the extent to which the "territory" more appropriate as a focus of identity is a temporal one rather than a spatial one (The Isdom of the Wisdom Society: embodying time as the heartland of humanity, 2003)
Much is made, for example, of the need to transform "patterns of consumption" -- otherwise to be understood as "habits". The challenge of rendering such an option credible, and of responding to it, is recognized to be daunting (cf Dysfunctional Cycles and Spirals: web resources on "breaking the cycle") . However, in terms of the argument made here, such "patterns" tend to be understood counterproductively in static terms -- as in a systems diagram or a carpet -- failing significantly to highlight the manner in which identity is embodied into flows within patterns. Typically also such static patterns obscure the very dynamics in which people, for example, are engaged and by which they tend to feel that their identity is defined.
Ironically the only web reference found at the time of writing to "identification with cycles" was in a course by Ruth K. Shelton (Merchandising, chapter 3) where the focus was on consumer identification with cycles, distinguishing:
The advocated shift in emphasis suggests a valuable reframing of the classic statement by Gregory Bateson (Mind and Nature: a necessary unity, 1979) in making the point that:
It is from this perspective that he warns in a much-cited phrase: Break the pattern which connects the items of learning and you necessarily destroy all quality. A fruitful reframing might be of the form:
Such a reframing of patterns, understood as "habits", is also relevant to more fruitful engagement with -- and transformation -- of dysfunctional "habits of mind" as recognized in various domains (cf Antonio de Nicolas, Habits of Mind, 1989). Psyclicity is an expression of that engagement (cf Walking Elven Pathways: enactivating the pattern that connects, 2006) suggesting the importance of a further reframing as:
It is perhaps not inappropriate to recognize that electrical energy, on which so much of civilization is increasingly dependent, only "works" when "a circuit is completed" -- a "connection" is made, not in linear terms, but by completing such a circuit. Such understanding might be extended to human relationships in terms of how "connections" are made and sustained. This contrasts with the linearity of thinking based on projects -- possibly enabled by missions -- designed in terms of bullet-pointed objectives, relating to the desired impact on targets to whose condition there is some objection. This military logic reinforces connotations of "missiles", "projectiles" and "rules of engagement" -- perverse in the case of development processes (Missiles, Missives, Missions and Memetic Warfare: navigation of strategic interfaces in multidimensional knowledge space, 2001; Enhancing sustainable development strategies through avoidance of military metaphors, 1998).
The contrast between "static" and "dynamic" is frequently made (cf From Statics to Dynamics in Sustainable Community, 1998; Transforming in a transforming world, 1999). However whilst "static" is readily defined, notably in systems terms, by boundaries, "dynamic" is far more complex. It may be considered desirable, as with a programme offered by the Waldren Group and promoted in the following manner:
A related concern is the "temporal identity" of organizations as understood in the light of strategic planning and the changes to which it must necessarily lead (Michael Hay and Jean-Claude Usunier, Time and Strategic Action: a cross-cultural view, Time and Society, 2, 1993, 3, pp. 313-333)
Dynamic may however be readily recognized to be disorderly, unpredictable and chaotic. Hence the concerns of the complexity sciences. But a key tool in the effort to elicit a degree of order from the dynamics, of what is otherwise perceived as chaotic, is the recognition of the interlocking cycles by which much apparent variance may be "captured".
The argument here is therefore for a recognition of "cyclic" as a comprehensible means of ordering "dynamic" without recourse to conventional understandings of "static". The point here is to avoid the tendency to treat a cycle, once detected, as reinforcing reliance on a static mindset. It is the psychological engagement with the dynamics of the cycle as a framework of identity that allows the richness of more complex understandings to emerge.
This psyclic engagement has to some extent been made evident in the transaction games characteristic of many relationships -- and the focus of transactional analysis (cf Cardioid Attractor Fundamental to Sustainability: 8 transactional games forming the heart of sustainable relationship, 2005). These are therefore a way of comprehending certain temporal relationship knots.
Daniel Goleman (Social Intelligence: the new science of human relationships, 2006) summarizes a wide range of research on social neuroscience indicative of the manner in which identity is established and sustained by cyclic psychosocial processes. Whereas the circulatory system is a closed loop, the emotions are an open loop system sustained by cognitive processes that allow others to help manage individual emotions more appropriately. Goleman uses the term "looping", which readily recalls the anxiety that people may feel to be "kept in the loop". Empathy creates a feedback loop as people work towards a "fit" between their own perceptions and the reality of another -- such that looping enables a person to feel within themselves the distress expressed by another. On the other hand, looping too tightly -- excessive mutual entrainment -- can be experienced as suffocating in a relationship. He distinguishes between "positive" and "negative" (or toxic) loops.
The author of a vital source of reflection on self-reference Douglas Hofstadter (Gödel, Escher, Bach: an Eternal Golden Braid: A metaphorical fugue on minds and machines in the spirit of Lewis Carroll, 1979) has explored the theme further in a sophisticated manner that might be considered complementary to that of this paper -- if not directly supportive of its basic point as reflected in the title of his book (I Am a Strange Loop, 2007). The essence of his exploration, extensively supported by anecdote, is what makes a loop strange through self-referential processes. Here however the focus on "cycle" as a "dynamic locus" of identity tends to obscure that quality of strangeness that is associated with a self-referential loop. His "conclusion" might be summarized by the following extract from the book's epilogue:
He immediately continues with the central question relating to the psyclicity explored here, although also obliged to use that static term "locus" for what is essentially a dynamic:
Hofstadter frames "our central quandary" regarding the response to this question in the terms of two contrasting preferences:
He concludes as follows:
Despite his well-elaborated argument however, he seemingly avoids attention to the process dynamic through which such loops are constituted -- perhaps ironically exemplified by his own intellectual explorations in elaborating his insights of 1979. The loops tend to be described anecdotally or statically as is characteristic of conventional system descriptions. For example, the term "dynamic" does not figure in his extensive index and he refers only very briefly to what he describes through his neologism as "thinkodynamics". By contrast, it is the very engagement with the cyclic dynamic of loops, self-referential or otherwise -- their embodiment -- that is the focus of the exploration here. This is not incompatible with his approach but offers a way of radically reframing his question-answer dynamic, as suggested elsewhere (cf Am I Question or Answer? 2006), by grounding it in cycles (including the learning cycles from which his study emerged).
This existential psyclic engagement is implicit in the oft-cited quote of poet T S Eliot:
We shall not cease from exploration
The knowing of the place implies a new emergent sense of identity on the part of the knower -- specifically through a process of psyclic identification. Curiously this psyclic knowing resonates with the understanding associated with "ringing true".
On a larger scale, such arguments point to the unhelpful use of terms such as "state of the union", "state of the environment" or "state of the future" -- when it may be the health of the dynamics of cyclic interlocking that calls for attention. However Chris Lucas makes the point (in a personal communication) that:
It can be argued that misunderstandings between people of different cultures are in part based on their different attitudes towards time (cf E T Hall. The Dance of Life: the other dimension of time). There is however the possibility that for some their identity is more closely centred on time ("time-centric") rather than space ("space-centric"). Time-centric may be curiously associated with the "centre" of circles by which circular time is represented, just as space-centric may be focused on the central spirit of a particular place. As stated by Chuang Tzu: When the wise man grasps this pivot, he is in the center of the circle, and there he stands while "Yes" and "No" pursue each other around the circumference (The Pivot).
It is from such understandings that it may become apparent that new kinds of entity may be detectable -- whether as collective identities, through which people may act, or as individuals whose dimensionality is to a greater degree defined by the cycles they embody. Descriptive phrases such as a "man for all seasons", or a person "whose nature became apparent over time", are indicative of how such identity is sensed. It could of course be argued that, through the use of a personal schedule "organizer", the identity for some is well-defined by the schedule -- and to be without a schedule is effectively to lack identity.
In the case of collective entities and initiatives, the emergence of new forms may be far more appropriate to the challenges of governance in a turbulent society (cf Dynamically Gated Conceptual Communities: emergent patterns of isolation within knowledge society, 2004). Curious precursors of such emergent identity are evident when "spectators" gather to observe races (of people, horses, greyhounds, etc) around an arena of circular shape or in their practice of the "audience wave" -- suggesting an unconscious effort to "re-member" such a collective identity (cf James Surowiecki, The Wisdom of Crowds: why the many are smarter than the few and how collective wisdom shapes business, economies, societies and nations, 2004).
In the case of individuals new forms may offer temporal frameworks through which people can affirm a richer sense of identity and integrity. Arguably this points to new possibilities for those preferring (or constrained to) kinesthetic expression -- honouring what is felt to be attractive in that mode.
It is however well-recognized that religious liturgy has made extensive use of daily, weekly and annual cycles of ritual to enhance a sense of identity that could most appropriately be seen as dependent on cyclic time:
It is interesting how rhythm has been an area of contention between older and newer expressions of religious identity.
It is to be expected that such insights will emerge most clearly in studies of identification with rhythm or identification with music -- now recognized to be playing an ever increasing role in the process of identity construction of young people (Keith Roe, Music and identity among European youth, Journal on Media Culture, 1999).
Dick Oliver (Fractal Vision, 1992) makes a fundamental point with respect to rhythm associated with the body:
Ramón H. Rivera-Servera (Embodied Archives: dance, memory, and the performance of Latinidad, 2003) demonstrates how identification with rhythm relates to the process of globalization:
For Julie Ann Huntington (Transcultural Rhythms: an exploration of rhythm, music and the drum in a selection of francophone novels from West Africa and the Caribbean, Vanderbilt University, 2005) the allegory of the drum not only transforms the structure of the novel, filling it with a sense of rhythmic sensibility and poetic musicality, but it also also:
Bruno H Repp (Embodied Rhythm, Empirical Musicology Review, 2, 1, 2007) reviewing research notes that increasingly it is found that perception, rather than being the achievement of modular sensory and cognitive systems, is often grounded in actions that people need to carry out in their daily lives. In particular Neil Todd (The Dynamics of Dynamics: a model of musical expression. Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 91, pp. 3540-3550) .and his collaborators have consistently emphasized the role of the human body in rhythm perception and music performance.
Much has been made of forms of cultural imperialism that have appropriated sacred spaces (and temples) of indigenous peoples -- reframing them as places of worship for religions of the dominating culture. Less attention has been given to the manner in which the cycles of ritual of indigenous peoples, evoked by those spaces, have been forbidden, disrupted or supplanted through the process of church planting. Alternatively the original cycles may be appropriated and reframed as expressions of the dominant culture.
The whole debate regarding the value of calendar reform documents the dysfunctionality induced by the current out-of-sync calendar. The most intriguing arguments and proposals are made by the World 13-Moon Calendar Change Peace Movement instigated by Jose Arguelles.
The above argument could of course be reinforced and enriched by:
As noted above, this argument has been developed as part of the process of reframing "union" within the context of a generic understanding of the terms of a "union of international associations" (Dynamic Reframing of "Union": implications for the coherence of knowledge, social organization and personal identity, 2007; In Quest of "Meta-Union"? Interplay of generic dimensions of any "union of international associations", 2007) ). In that sense "psyclicity" suggests a fruitful new understanding of "union" -- notably its dynamic, its invariance and the nature of its closure -- especially as a configuration of interlocking cycles (discussed below).
An entity so defined might indeed be understood as finite but unbounded (cf Union of International Associations -- Virtual Organization Paul Otlet's 100-year Hypertext Conundrum ? 2001). The generic understanding of "inter-", as bonding across boundaries, here acquires a temporal dimension -- perhaps to be fruitfully associated with terms like resonance, notably jargon use of "vibration". Then "associations" can be understood in terms of the cycles so connected.
As normally represented, cycles are typically portrayed as circles in two dimensions -- a bending of the one-dimensional "arrow of time" back to its origin. Clearly "three dimensional cycles" are not only a challenge to visualize, they are also a challenge to comprehension. They are of some interest in mathematics as indicated by a survey of the transcendental methods in the theory of three-dimensional algebraic manifolds (A. N. Tyurin, The middle Jacobian of three-dimensional varieties, Journal Journal of Mathematical Sciences, 13, 6, 1980). More generally, complex cycles are extensively studied in mathematics, but whether or not a matter of common or unusual experience, such understanding is difficult to communicate otherwise.
A different approach may be taken in that a circle is often used as a representation of a bounded entity, notably in systems diagrams. Phrases such as "circling the wagons" or "circle of trust" are an indication of how a circle may become emblematic of an entity calling for protection (see also Dynamically Gated Conceptual Communities: emergent patterns of isolation within knowledge society, 2004). Such use may be extended to strategic understandings of "spheres of protection" or "spheres of influence". Even "global" may carry some understandings of a bounded domain, not only in a geopolitical sense. A sphere then better holds what is associated with understandings of wholes or holons -- but such terms typically have spatial connotations. The challenge is how to get "out of the box", even if it is shaped like a sphere, and introduce a temporal dimension.
Missing from these examples is how the dynamic works or is to be understood in three dimensions. Some discussion of this is offered elsewhere (Comprehension of Requisite Variety for Sustainable Psychosocial Dynamics: transforming a matrix classification onto intertwined tori, 2006). Note that a torus may be understood as a generic form of the sphere. In the light of the reference above to a temporal knot, it is appropriate to note Jacques Lacan's argument regarding the greater relevance of a torus to psychoanalysis:
Lacan's approach, until his final explorations, could be said to be atemporal, as indicated by Jacques-Alain Miller (Lacan's Later Teaching, Lacanian Ink, 21):
It is most unfortunate that the possibility of investigating the relevance to psyclicity of the mathematical tools used for the exploration of cycles in topological structures has been rendered totally suspect by the so-called Sokal Affair hoax which implicated Lacan's explorations. Specifically the question is the extent to which an individual can identify experientially with the "cycles" identified by such tools (see cycles in homology and cohomology). How do the mathematical insights become psychoactive? Fruitful leads (prior to that mess) had been provided by Ron Atkin (Combinatorial Connectivities in Social Systems: an application of simplicial complex structures to the study of large organizations, 1977; Multidimensional Man; can man live in 3-dimensional space? 1981) as reviewed elsewhere (Social Organization determined by Incommunicability of Insights, 1994).
In the words of Anil Somayaji (Towards a Homeostatic Operating System, 1999):
Intuitively it would seem clear that it is not single cycles or unrelated cycles that provide a framework for identity in time. Perhaps the most relevant explorations of these matters are those undertaken or inspired by R Buckminster Fuller (Synergetics; explorations in the geometry of thinking. 1975-79). However his emphasis, as an architect/designer, is on "systems" that are too readily understood as static -- whatever he may have intended, and however much his work emphasizes energy systems.
With a somewhat different emphasis, his concept of a minimal "system" can be understood as minimally comprehensible "identity". His thorough exploration of polyhedral and tensegrity spatial structures, and their definition by different patterns of interlocking circles, also lends itself to interpretation in terms of temporal structures -- or at least spatio-temporal structures. The interlocking circles -- notably when well-named as "great circles" -- are then to be understood as interlocking cycles.
As discussed elsewhere (Threshold of Comprehensibility: a fourfold minimal system? 1983), the interrelationships of circles was extensively studied by Buckminster Fuller as the basis for a model of the non-transient existence of energy and material systems. He makes the point that:
Not until we have three noncommonly polarized, great-circle bands providing omnitriangulation as in a spherical octahedron, do we have the great circles acting structurally to self-interstabilize their respective spherical positionings by finitely intertriangulating fixed points less than 180 degrees apart... (46, I, 706.20)
Furthermore, the more minutely the "sphere" so delineated is subtriangulated by other great circles, the lesser the local structural-energy requirements and the greater the effectiveness of the integrity resulting from such mutual interpositioning. This interlocking is then spontaneously self-stabilizing ( I, 706.22).
Assuming the circular representation of cycles, Fuller is in effect saying that it takes at least three interweaving cycles before there is interaction (entrainment?) of a type to stabilize the abstract processes within a minimal non-abstract form which their interlocking brings about, in this case a sphere. With less than three, the form can exist only as a transient phenomenon, if at all. In his terms, three cycles is the condition for a minimal system.
But whilst three such cycles can interlock to engender a system, the system can only become comprehensible if a fourth cycle (corresponding to the processes of the observer's involvement in a comprehended system) is added. With less than four, the system may be identified with, opposed, proposed, or participated in, but it can only be partially contained within any communication. Its totality is only apparent as a succession of experiences in time. The unity of a minimal system as a whole only emerges in terms of a minimum of four event foci ( I, 400.08).
In Fuller's terms "Systems are aggregates of four or more critically contiguous relevant events..." (I, 400.26). All conceptually thinkable experiencings are fourfoldedly characterized (II, 1072.22). This is the basis for the "the minimal thinkable set that would subdivide Universe and have interconnectedness where it comes back upon itself" (I, 620.03) and is differentiated from its environment (I, 400.05).
This suggests that not even a conceptual process involving the three classic processes of the dialectic can render any kind of meta-answer comprehensible. It is no wonder that unitary or dualistic answers are insufficient, even though they may be necessary as part of a larger scheme.
These considerations cause Fuller to distinguish four interwoven processes which relate to the learning perspective. "Life consists of alternate observing and articulating interspersed with variable-recall rates of 'retrieved observations' and variable rates of their reconsideration to the degrees of understandability." These four are therefore: observation (or recall), (re)consideration, understanding, and articulation. ( I, 513.06-07).
Such considerations subsequently evoked the argument (cf Transformative Approaches to International Organization, 1994) that:
Such possibilities led to the conclusion elsewhere (Spherical Configuration of Categories to reflect systemic patterns of environmental checks and balances, 1994) that the challenge was to configure such interlocking cycles appropriately:
Variants of such understandings are to be found in such religiously inspired calendars as the Mayan, composed of interlocking cycles of time. Similarly Hindu time is itself a series of interlocking cycles extended out in all directions to describe a universe, itself based on the idea of a cycle. Equivalent cyclic complexity is to be found in the Balinese calendar. In the latter cultures reincarnation might be better understood as a process of psyclic incarnation -- "binding oneself to the wheel" -- a pattern of "returning" in Buddhist terms.
To the extent that a work of art "works", the ability to "identify with" a poem, a song or a piece of music is dependent on the capacity of the work to express (carry or hold) the identity of the person (or collectivity) in time (or over time) -- a capacity associated with such processes as "resonance" and "entrainment" (cf Liberation of Integration, Universality and Concord -- through pattern, oscillation, harmony and embodiment, 1980)
The danger however is always that the cyclic understanding obscures the associated psyclic challenge of the psychological significance of such interlocking and the forms of identity it enables. A potentially useful metaphor, somewhat consistent with the complexity sciences, is to consider the multidimensionality of interlocking cycles to be effectively centred on an attractor (cf Human Values as Strange Attractors, 1993). Metaphorically, the effect of this attractor is to render the interlocked system "lighter" than its surrounds -- "rising" in consequence, somewhat as would a hot air balloon. By extension, hence the expectancy associated with balloons.
Identity might itself be considered as a strange attractor. Such widespread experiences as depression and loss of self-esteem may be best understood as a consequence of a form of psyclic impoverishment -- a reduction in the number of psycles with which identity is associated and expressed as highlighted in endangered indigenous cultures (cf Darrell A. Posey (Editor), Cultural and Spiritual Values of Biodiversity: a complementary contribution to Global Biodiversity Assessment, 1999).
In the case of organizations, Bruce Millett (Understanding Organisations: the dominance of systems theory, International Journal of Organisational Behaviour, 1995, 1(1), pp. 1-12) indicates:
Millet then notes:
Irrespective of the psyclic dimension, it might be asked whether there is any knowledge of the number of cycles required to constitute and sustain a living entity -- especially a human being. Such information does not seem to be readily available, however it might be fruitfully reframed in terms of requisite feedback loops or classes of cycles. If there is no systematic knowledge of the operation of closed feedback loops in the body (or any need to determine how many there are), clearly there is little possibility of dealing appropriately with the open social variety.
One indicative exploration is framed in biochemistry in terms of the identification of selected metabolic pathways -- understood as a series of chemical reactions occurring within a (human) cell. Wikipedia even has a Wikiproject Metabolic Pathways, notably resulting in clickable maps. (See also Metabolic Pathways of Biochemistry, Kegg Pathway Database, and especially the IUBMB-Sigma-Nicholson Metabolic Pathways Chart, 22nd edition, 2003). The use of the term "pathway", as with "conveyor", obscures the implicit cyclic connectivity so evident in many metabolic cycles (Potential Misuse of the Conveyor Metaphor: Recognition of the circular dynamic essential to its operation, 2007). At this point it would appear that, unlike the detailed identification of roads on the surface of the globe (via Google Earth and GPS maps), there is only an understanding of the main "highways" and those favoured by particular scientific disciplines.
Another potentially fruitful approach to identifying and ordering cycles is that of "periodic tables". In chemistry, the periodic table classifies the chemical elements by means of the periodicity of their chemical properties -- offering the possibility of some striking visualizations [more]. Mendeleev's classical table is described as periodic because it has patterns that repeat; however, at every second repeat the length of the cycle increases as a result of a new family of electron orbitals coming into play [more]. Presumably a count of the number of such "orbitals" would precisely identify the number of "cycles" in the set of chemical elements (and their isotopes). In terms of the above argument, the identity of an element is indeed to be understood as an interlocking set of electron orbitals -- suggesting that molecular orbital theory offers richer metaphors through which to understand identity of multifacetted individuals and their combination in groups. Efforts are also made to identify and represent larger scale chemical cycles (water cycles, energy cycles, etc).
A potentially interesting approach to the estimation of the number of cycles in biological and psychosocial entities is through a combination of the efforts of Edward Haskell to generalize Mendeleev's periodic table and the insights of general systems theory (Edward Haskell (ed). Full Circle: the moral force of unified science, 1972; chart) as originally presented to a meeting of the Society for General Systems Research (Boston, 1969). Unfortunately Haskell's presentation tends to obscure the implicit cyclic dimension. His "moral" framing, imposed by his financial sponsors, obscures psyclic implications relevant to the above argument.
However Haskell's periodic framework could nevertheless be fruitfully combined with the uniquely comprehensive study of James Grier Miller (Living Systems, 1978). This spans systems from the individual cell, through groups, to the supranational system using 19 generic, critical subsystems to provide structure. Nine subsystems process matter-energy; nine process information, and one processes both matter-energy and information. (cf James Grier Miller and Jessie L. Miller, Applications of Living Systems Theory. Adapted from Analysis of Dynamic Psychological Systems, Volume 2: Methods and Applications, edited by Ralph L. Levine and Hiram E. Fitzgerald, 1992). Although Miller makes relatively little reference to cycles as such, the systemic dynamics he identifies could be framed in cyclic terms to highlight the possibility and variety of psyclic identity.However Miller notably omits any reference to the subjective dimension.
These issues were considered in the development of a richly structured classification system for the range of international organizations and their preoccupations (Functional Classification in an Integrative Matrix of Human Preoccupations, 1982). More recently a self-referential dimension is to some extent introduced through a periodic table of modes of representation.
It is of course possible to view the representation of the Mandelbrot set (in two dimensions or, as the Buddhabrot, in three) as a form of periodic "table" of attracting cycles. In contrast to the "table" it may be undertood as an elegantly self-organizing set of cycles or attractors. This suggests the merit of its exploration as a self-referential classification of the varieties of psyclic identity (Psycho-social Significance of the Mandelbrot Set a sustainable boundary between chaos and order, 2005). More intriguing is its use as a coherent indication of the variety of identities which an individual or a collectivity may potentially embody to some degree under certain conditions -- and of how they are related to each other. The metaphors of an isotope, its half-life, and any associated shift in energy level is suggestive.
In the separate discussion of four complementary initiatives responding to the generic challenge of a "union of international associations" (In Quest of "Meta-Union"? Interplay of generic dimensions of any "union of international associations", 2007), these were represented as interlocking circles on a single diagram. The initiatives are:
Clearly the two-dimensional representation can be considered some form of projection of a three-dimensional representation in which the circles become spheres (reminiscent of the four-faced curious symbol associated with Ezekiel 1:10). In the above-mentioned toroidal discussion, the dynamics of some such representation are explicitly considered -- notably in relation to the psycho-social dynamics that might be mapped by the Klein bottle.
Understood as a necessarily distorted two-dimensional representation of the classical packing of a set of twelve spheres, each of the 12 "spheres of discourse" then have useful epistemological implications for what was elsewhere explored as a "dodecameral mind" of requisite complexity to the challenges of a turbulent environment (12 Complementary Languages for Sustainable Governance, 2003; Union of Intelligible Associations: remembering dynamic identity through a dodecameral mind, 2005).
It is useful to consider the curious association between an understanding of the daily cycle and the role of the Sun -- awareness of which is shared by all species of the biosphere in some way. Arising from "primal" and "unconscious" immersion in this process is a representation of deity as a Sun god -- by a circle. Subsequent to this representation in a culture, the single wheel then emerges as a piece of technology. The water wheel is the best example. Awareness of other cycles, notably that of the moon (also lending itself to representation by a circle), disposes thinking to the emergence of paired-wheel technology of which the cart and chariot are good examples -- typically preceded by recognition of counteracting divinities (constructive and destructive). Curiously these vehicles are empowered by two-footed entities (humans) or four-footed entities (draft animals).
It is only subsequently that the technology evolves to integrate the cyclic action of the draft-entities into vehicle technology -- as with the emergence of the bicycle or the automobile. This process is associated with the development of technologies embodying many more cycles, notably in the form of gears integrated as transmission systems. Trucks emerge with many pairs of wheels. The airplane evolves through one or more propellers cycling in parallel -- finally to include the helicopter in which counteracting propellers of different orientation are required.
However, whilst it is easy to trace the development of wheel-based technology, it is far less clear what has been the matching psychological development within a culture -- if the development of one is to be considered as enabling and reinforcing the development of the other. Intriguingly, Arthur Young, as developer of the Bell helicopter, subsequently became fascinated by the possibility of the analogous development of what he termed a "psychopter" (the "winged self") -- a fascination fundamental to his "Rosetta stone" of meaning.
An effort could be made to explore systematically studies suggestive of the development of more integrative pcyclic interlocking based on 5, 6, 7, 8, etc cycles (cf Patterns of Conceptual Integration, 1984). Of particular interest is the manner in which such "vehicles" -- based on greater numbers of temporal cycles by which some subtler form of identity is transported -- imply a different relation to the medium with respect to which they function. Clearly it is no longer a 2D material surface or a 3D airspace (see discussion on Beyond the plane of Möbius: form and medium in terms of the calculus of indications in Psychosocial Work Cycle, 2007). It would seem that they engage with their environment to a higher degree -- as might be implied, by analogy, with the traction associated with "all-terrain" tracked vehicles. All-terrain might then indeed include media whose cognitive bonding is symbolized by earth, air, water and fire.
If then the four strategic initiatives discussed above are associated (as suggested) with 12 "spheres of discourse", within what medium might such a 12 "wheeled" vehicle be understood to move? Does its movement effectively involve a psychological reframing of subject-object and space-time as implied by other explorations (Walking Elven Pathways: enactivating the pattern that connects, 2006; Navigating Alternative Conceptual Realities: clues to the dynamics of enacting new paradigms through movement, 2002; Authentic Grokking: emergence of Homo conjugens, 2003)? To what extent do vehicles become metaphorical in the navigation of semantic space (Metaphors as Transdisciplinary Vehicles of the Future, 1991)?
The world is increasingly dependent on the economics of dematerialization, the virtualization of a knowledge-based society, challenging faith-based governance, and a musically-sustained population (Cyclopean Vision vs Poly-sensual Engagement, 2006). Could the collective "organization" of the above-mentioned four initiatives, as discussed elsewhere (In Quest of "Meta-Union"? Interplay of generic dimensions of any "union of international associations", 2007), then involve the forms of significant cognitive entrainment implied by use of a multi-keyboard "organ" as the "king of instruments". This would be consistent with the focus given to organ music in the study of self-reference by Douglas Hofstadter (Gödel, Escher, Bach: an Eternal Golden Braid: A metaphorical fugue on minds and machines in the spirit of Lewis Carroll, 1979) [review].
Does this suggest a more complex understanding of the dynamics (described in popular tales) of the Olympic dodekatheon -- as the framework from which western civilization emerged? Does this help to explain the fascination with Ezekiel's vision (1:10) by the religious, through the many efforts to represent it [images accessible via Google] -- but notably by UFO enthusiasts intrigued by alien technology [more more more]?
There is a curious symmetry to human engagement with space-centric vs time-centric conditions. Seeking to occupy a space is a feature of staking a claim, acquiring property, "conquering" a mountain, and -- for a man -- "conquering" a women through spatial entrapment. It could be argued that engagement with time -- notably for a woman -- involves a degree of encirclement by processes through which a man is constrained in a temporal container, a time trap. To a degree, men have a key to space, whereas women have a key to time (if only epitomized by the menstrual cycle).
Both processes are vulnerable to frustration. Conquering a mountain is an achievement of the moment, however long that may last. It is not inherently sustainable over time. Efforts at dynamic encirclement of another is frustrated by the tendency to flee the space of the hearth -- epitomized by post-coital tristesse. The potential dysfunctionality of relationships follows: rape, violence, betrayal, etc.
For both man and woman the resolution is to engender progeny -- reproduction as a means of ensuring continuity in space-time. The child becomes a form of space-time "vehicle", notably carrying paternal genes into the future following extended maternal dependency. Any effective response to unsustainable growth in human population must address the need to conquer time in this way.
Another response to engaging with the cycles of space-time is through the construction of temples which embody understanding of the interface between space and time, embodying a set of cycles in their architecture and evoking ritual cycles in resonance with them. Hence the fascination in many cultures with fourfold cherubim-like entities (exemplified by those of Ezekiel's vision) -- engendering pyramidal, four-square architecture into which many cyclic metrics are embedded. Given the ritual cycles associated with temples, it is natural to conclude a relationship between temple and time. Temples might indeed be considered a form of time machine (cf Entering Alternative Realities: astronautics vs noonautics -- isomorphism between launching aerospace vehicles and launching vehicles of awareness, 2002). The Knights Templar (cf French: temps, templiers) might also be understood to have long-term preoccupations in their concern with temples.
More congenial to contemporary disciplines is the complex interface between space and time represented by the Mandelbrot set (Psycho-social Significance of the Mandelbrot Set: a sustainable boundary between chaos and order, 2005). This boundary is defined in terms of attracting cycles of different period. It is effectively an embodiment of attracting cycles thus constituting an exemplification of a space-time entity. How a person, or a collective entity, is fruitfully to comprehend their identity in such terms is another matter. The various alternatively coloured and patterned renderings of the Mandelbrot set suggest intriguing possibilities for comprehending psyclic identity (see Illustration of alternative colouring conventions inside the M-set, 2007) and the stages in its progressive emergence (see Progressive emergence of M-set through succession of iterations, 2007).
A qualitatively significant period of time, possibly experienced as timeless, was termed kairos by the Greeks in contrast to chronos as sequential quantitative time. Modern echoes are to be found in:
Kairos may be described as an "irreducible singularity" -- an experiential singularity in contrast with, or by analogy to, a technological singularity. How the singularity of experience can be thought through the concept of a "technics of the self" is explored by Jean-Philippe Milet (Experience as Technique of the Self, Tekhnema 2: Technics and Finitude, Spring 1995). It could be understood as a cycle of periodicity zero -- perhaps as implied by the final image in the series of 10 Zen ox-herding pictures.
It is perhaps no coincidence that this transformative moment is echoed in the spirit of flamenco -- as described in a review by Stephanie Merritt of Jason Webster's Duende: A Journey in Search of Flamenco (2002)
As famously described by the Spanish poet, Federico Garcia Lorca (Play and Theory of the Duende, 1933):
In an account of the Greek deities of time, Amanda Núñez (Los pliegues del tiempo: Kronos, Aión y Kairós), notes with respect to Kairos: Esta tercera divinidad es menor (en el mejor de los sentidos de la palabra). No es un gran dios de lo eterno, sino un diosecillo, un duende, un daimon o demonio, que llamarían los griegos. As notably adopted by Andalusian gypsies, the account of duende by Joseph Rouzel (L'éthique dans les pratiques sociales, 2004) relates it to an iberian adaptation of the djinn of Arab culture, itself related to the daimon of Mediterranean cultures -- to which Socrates famously accorded attention at his death.
For the Greeks of Plato's time, the "gods" were understood to be archetypal or imaginal figures accessed through the arts, dreams, oracles and other forms of active imagination. It was considered that their invocation called on imaginal personifications with autonomous natures, capable of imparting information -- inspiration -- not easily accessible to the ego. A form of communication with such a daimon was possible -- much as modern artists may attentively cultivate communication with their "muse". With the establishment of the church, the daimon was "demonized" and its more "agreeable" (less mischievous) aspect was transformed into a "guardian angel." [more more]. It has however been argued from a psychotherapeutic perspective by James Hillman (The Soul's Code, 1996) that such demonization arose from a focus on situations of dysfunctional relationship with a personal daimon.
The nature and role of the early understanding of the Platonic daimon -- the "inner voice" -- and its aesthetic evocation, was a central theme of the Renaissance philosopher Marsilio Ficino (cf Composing the Present Moment: celebrating the insights of Marsilio Ficino interpreted by Thomas Moore, 2001). Neil Mann (The System of W. B. Yeats's A Vision) provides a helpful account of the relevant understanding of the Irish poet W B Yeats (The Daimon). As might be expected a relationship of his fourfold vision to that of Ezekiel and William Blake is noted, in commenting on Blake's fourfold symmetries (Yeats's Vision and William Blake) -- as by Kathleen Raine (W. B. Yeats and the Learning of the Imagination, 1999).
Rouzel's commentary on Lorca's account offers useful insights into how the duende or daimon might be apprehended and embodied as an autonomous, elusive, time-centred "entity", evoked by the aesthetics and rhythm of poetry and music -- in the moment.
A related embodiment of rhythm through song -- of great cognitive significance -- has been well-described by poet-philosopher Antonio de Nicolas (Meditations through the Rg Veda, 1978) in relation to a fourfold tone-based language of Vedic culture (as quoted with regard to Playing with fundamental quaternaries in: Dynamic Reframing of "Union": implications for the coherence of knowledge, social organization and personal identity, 2007).
It is in such a temporal condition of kairos that the above-mentioned fourfold strategic initiatives are meaningfully interwoven as an imaginative cognitive fusion, embodying environmental cycles, and reframing conventional understanding (seemingly mischievously). Their comprehension, otherwise, as disparate incompatible initiatives is characteristic of what Magoroh Maruyama terms "sub-understanding" -- a failure of "polyocular vision". It is their qualitative fusion that enables imaginal transformation of energy resourcing -- to which psyclic time is the key.
Given the cross-cultural, management cybernetic perspective from which he argues (Magoroh Maruyama, Polyocular Vision or Subunderstanding, Organization Studies, 25, 2004, 3, pp. 467-480), it is possible that many modern problems of governance -- environment, resources, health, energy, education, employment, overpopulation -- could be fruitfully reframed as sub-understanding of psyclicity and the embodiment of rhythm. Such sub-understanding is a failure to "re-member" and see Bateson 's "pattern that connects" -- where "see" and "pattern" are necessarily to be reframed through a kind of cognitive synaesthesia, rather than through Maruyama's uni-modal poly-"ocular" (cf Cyclopean Vision vs Poly-sensual Engagement, 2006).
There is an irony to the fact that government is defined by electoral cycles, preoccupied by them, and by associated budgetary and programming cycles. And yet curiously the art of governance is not seen as the art of managing cycles, especially those beyond that by which the government was brought into power. The criticism of "short-termism" could be fruitfully framed in cyclic terms, notably in relation to the cycles of longer periodicity already understood to be fundamental to non-rewable resources, indebtedness, climate change and population overshoot.
There is also a curious contrast between the apathy engendered by modern governance and the enthusiasm engendered by efforts to engage with its issues through music, song and dance. This was epitomized by the contrast in 2005 between Live 8 and the simultaneous G8 meeting -- an argument elaborated elsewhere (A Singable Earth Charter, EU Constitution or Global Ethic? 2006).
Is it possible that governance of longer term relevance will need to rely on cyclic understandings best rendered widely comprehensible by aesthetics (Aesthetics of Governance in the Year 2490, 1990)? Is this an indication of the role of "national epics" like the Mahabarata and the Kalevala cycles? How else to benefit from more sophisticated understandings of "harmony" in response to "cycles of violence"? What form might the diversity of a "United Nations" then take and how would the cycles of programmes of its various agencies interlock as the embodiment of a higher pattern of coherence -- a dynamic global identity?
With respect to the challenge of "cycles of violence", and in explicit response to Samuel Huntington's "clash of civilizations" framing, Amartya Sen (Identity and Violence: the illusion of destiny, 2006) indeed regrets the narrow categories into which identity is conventionally "boxed". But his stress on the composite of many such affiliations (as more appropriate to the identity of most), ignores the more dynamic possibility that any degree of sharing of identity might be more richly understood in psyclic terms -- as suggested above with respect to molecular orbital theory. Any "clashes" would then be exemplified by out-of-phase cycles, for which musical dissonance is an admirable illustration. "Cycles of violence" might then be better understood as engendered and sustained by the encounter of contrasting identities describable in psyclic musical terms -- perhaps well illustrated by contrasting martial music of the past or the chants now used to psych up opposing football teams.
The contrast is illustrated by the (intrinsically psyclic) phrase "in sync" (or "in synch"), as recognized in a chapter on "rapport" by Daniel Goleman (Social Intelligence: the new science of human relationships, 2006). He notes that social intelligence leadership "starts with being fully present and getting in sync. Once a leader is engaged, then the full panoply of social intelligence can come into play, from sensing how people feel and why...". The range of manifestations of synchrony has been summarized by mathematician Steven Strogatz (Sync: the emerging science of spontaneous order, 2003). But with respect to the interpersonal manifestation of such synchrony, Goleman summarizes the work of Frank Bernieri and Robert Rosenthal (Interpersonal Coordination: behavior matching and interactional synchrony, 1991) as follows:
Curiously, as an an alternative to the divisive foreign policy of the Bush regime as inspired by the neocon Project for the New American Century, a new bipartisan report by the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs (Princeton University), titled Forging a World of Liberty Under Law, US National Security in the 21st Century (2006), notably proposes an appropriate charter for the establishment of a "concert of democracies"as discussed elsewhwere (Policy implications: a "Concert of Democracies"? 2006).
As noted above, such arguments point to the unhelpful use of terms such as "state of the union" or "state of the environment" when it may be the health of the dynamics of cyclic interlocking that calls for attention -- especially if psyclic interlocking is necessary for sustained remedial response.
Curiously the set of challenges to governance is exceptionally well embodied in the cyclic processes and symbols of the encounter between individual psyclic identities of opposite gender -- (uncontrollably) "governed" as they are by attraction to a fundamental experiential singularity. The processes include: attraction/repulsion, alternation, polysensual engagement, bonding, consecration, congress and consummation. It is understandable that, whether as (daringly) illustrative metaphors or in (scandalous) practice, the interpersonal and the political have been eternally interwoven -- as power games or otherwise.
The parallel is strangely highlighted by the focal issues of both: relationship breakdown ("losing touch"), "power", "energy", exhaustion of "non-renewables", competitivity, and (re)productivity. Tantalizingly a "ring" is held to be indicative of the possibility of sustainability, whether as the marriage ring or as a toroidal vessel for fusion energy production. Ring mythology is a powerful cultural archetype (Wagner's Ring Cycle, Lord of the Rings, etc). The parallel is implicit in essentially vain injunctions by authority regarding a remedial return to "family values" -- and even to the "rhythm method". The nature and legitimacy of "authority" is of course fundamental to both.
The terrible irony may be that a key to a more creative approach to the world problematique lies in a better understanding of when and where "space is traded for time" and "time is traded for space" -- inappropriately and irresponsibly in terms of the consequences for "space" (environmental degradation) and for the "future" (non-renewables). This is perhaps exemplified by the spatial focus of growing "up" and the temporal focus of growing "old".
Any confusion resulting in undue focus on spatial exploration as a surrogate for meaningful temporal exploitation has direct resource consequences (energy, emissions). The confusion is partially expressed by the French adage: si les jeunes savaient, si les vieux pouvaient. For commerce and governance this confusion is exacerbated by the commercialization and "spatialization of time" (time-sharing, scheduling, "futures"), or on the "temporalization of space" -- terms well-recognized in the arts..
Unfortunately it is precisely the inability of governance to engage in sophisticated ways with longer term cycles that will most probably result in a combination of population overshoot and technological singularity -- a global singularity of periodicity zero -- to be heralded and perversely welcomed by some as the prophesied "end times" (Spontaneous Initiation of Armageddon: a heartfelt response to systemic negligence, 2004).
The following are provided for consideration, whether as helpful metaphors or as interesting indicators of aspects for further reflection. Of particular importance are the contrasting implications for understanding of:
Adding to possible confusion are associated notions of temporal identity, whether:
It is particularly interesting to note the historically challenging development of comprehension:
Useful comprehensive listings of cycles are:
B. Bechtold. Chaos Theory as a Model for Strategy Development. Empowerment in Organisations, 1997, 5, 4, pp. 193-201.
Robert F. Port and Timothy Van Gelder. Mind as Motion: explorations in the dynamics of cognition. MIT Press, 1995
Steven Strogatz. Sync: The Emerging Science of Spontaneous Order. Hyperion, 2003
D. Svyantek and R. DeShon. Organisational Attractors: a chaos theory explanation of why cultural change efforts often fail. Public Administration Quarterly, 1993, Fall, 17(3), pp. 339-355
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