4th July 2007 | Draft
El-Attractor -- Timeless Complex Dynamic
Health, Wealth, Stealth / Youth, Couth, Truth
- / -
Poesis as a prerequisite for autopoiesis -- in psychosocial systems?
Separately: Health, Wealth and Stealth
Binary combination dynamics
Triadic combination -- the dynamics of the attractor
Truth (Sooth), "Couth" ("Ruth"), and Youth
Symbolic representation of generic systems centred on attractors
Comprehension of the attractor dynamic as a resonance hybrid
This is an exploration of the complex relationship between health, wealth and stealth -- as they may be variously understood, notably in relationship to governance. They are seen here as forming a triadic pattern of relationships. The relation between any two being unstable under the influence of the one that is minimized, if not completely excluded. This dynamic pattern has as its governing focus a central attractor -- as understood by the complexity sciences. Triadically displayed the pattern highlights seven zones that merit particular reflection in relation to the whole.
As a meditation on the origin, understanding and operation of this attractor, one device used here is the phonetic commonality shared by health, wealth and stealth. They form a unique set in English rhyming dictionaries that includes no other words. In this spirit it is suggested that the common root "ealth" may be considered as related phonetically in an interesting way to "El", with its religious implications -- of notable significance in a world increasingly guided by faith-based governance. For convenience, the attractor is therefore named El-Attractor for reasons which are here made clear..
As a complement to the above exploration, its logic may also apply to the relationship between youth, couth and truth. Again it could be argued that these represent a unique set in phonetic terms with a complex pattern of relationships between them. As a complement it is argued that these too can be understood as centred on the same attractor.
The exploration was triggered by a project on the relationship between truth (faith) and wealth (prosperity) which gave rise to the value-related portion of Preliminary NetMap Studies of Databases on Questions, World Problems, Global Strategies, and Values (2006). Whilst this exploration is serious in intent, it is also to be understood as an effort to play fruitfully with possibilities (cf Humour and Play-Fullness: essential integrative processes in governance, religion and transdisciplinarity, 2005; Playfully Changing the Prevailing Climate of Opinion: climate change as focal metaphor of effective global governance, 2005).
Poesis: Ian Johnston (Lecture on Plato's Republic, 1997) explores the significance of poesis as attributed to Plato. Johnston chooses to see poesis (meaning making) as referring to all common forms of artistic creativity in the visual and plastic arts, music, drama, poetry, and prose fiction. His focus is on the connections between these common activities and the political and moral order. For the purpose of the following exercise the emphasis is placed on aesthetic associations and how they enable and reinforce a particular pattern of understanding.
Additional significance to poesis (or poiesis in Greek) is acquired from contemporary use of "autopoiesis". This shares the same Greek root and is used, notably by the complexity sciences, to describe self-creation or self-organization. It was originally used by Humberto Maturana to refer to "the center of the constitutive dynamics of living systems" (cf Humberto Maturana and Francisco J Varela, Autopoiesis and cognition; the organization of the living, 1980) [more]. It now refers to the dynamics of a non-equilibrium system, namely organized states (also called dissipative structures) that remain stable for long periods of time despite matter and energy continually flowing through them. It is this flow that maintains the organization of any such open system.(cf Humberto Mariotti Autopoiesis, Culture and Society).
In what follows, the poesis argument would rely solely on the mnemonic power of rhyme in constituting a pattern (or template) of significant connectedness -- and entraining a degree of identification, possibly even to a powerful degree. This is made evident in the problematic role attributed to violent lyrics (typical of rap) in promoting street violence. Rhyming chants are typical of political protest demonstrations, as notably exemplified during the Vietnam war ("Hey, hey, LBJ, how many kids did you kill today?").
This disruptive capacity was a factor in Plato's widely-noted reservations regarding poesis in The Republic. Such "defensive" reservations are strangely echoed by the US military (under the neo-conservative Bush regime) for whom 'poetry … presents a special risk, and DoD [Department of Defence] standards are not to approve the release of any poetry in its original form or language' (Leonard Doyle, Inmates' Words: The Poems of Guantanamo, June 2007). The Republic of the United States of America is the oldest constitutional republic.
Systemic linkages, typically of the kind valued in the collective memory of cultures, may therefore be expressed and "re-membered" through rhyme.
Epistemological role of sound: This is highlighted by Antonio de Nicolas (in a personal communication to form part of an article entitled Untenable Beliefs) as follows:
With respect to a tone-based (musical) argument, the reasons for the precautions expressed by Plato have been highlighted in tone-based terms in unusual studies by Ernest G. McLain (The Pythagorean Plato: prelude to the song itself, 1978; The Myth of Invariance: the origins of the gods, mathematics and music from the Rg Veda to Plato, 1978).
As with some religions, esoteric traditions of course attach great importance to music and its impact on consciousness. In the Renaissance period this was recognized in terms of natural or sympathetic magic, notably as articulated and practiced by Marsilio Ficino following his translation of the Corpus Hermeticum (1471). This was a major focus of the work of Frances Yates on memory (Giordano Bruno and the Hermetic Tradition, 1964; The Art of Memory, 1966; Theatre of the World, 1969). The classical Art of Memory is said to have been invented by a poet named Simonides. This process of re-membering suggests the value of exploring autopoiesis as re-membering "the pattern that connects" (in the terms of Gregory Bateson).
Music of course continues to be valued for creating ambiance and mood in support of an endeavour -- whether commercial, therapeutic or spiritual. A case may be made for its essential role in support of social change (cf A Singable Earth Charter, EU Constitution or Global Ethic? 2006). This possibility also applies to poetry (Poetry-making and Policy-making: Arranging a Marriage between Beauty and the Beast, 1993) -- hence its possible relationship to autopoiesis.
A complex case can also be made for the role of psychoactive drugs in enabling both poesis and consequently autopoiesis (cf Marcus Boon, The Road of Excess: a history of writers on drugs, 2002).
Emotional "logic": The assumption is widely made that arguments, to be credible, need to be made within a framework of causal logic susceptible to certain standards of proof. Failure to do so is then held to guarantee that the arguments do not carry any weight. The difficulty is that arguments articulated according to such standards are notable for their failure to convince and for their vulnerability to counterarguments. Many policy issues -- such as climate change, over-population, environmental degradation, proliferation of weapons, injustice -- do not "carry weight" despite such articulation. The arguments do not engage with the rhythm, pace and pattern of behaviour of the individual and therefore do not entrain people and engender action. This is the fundamental challenge of "generating the will to change".
The question might be asked how the following "work" (when they do): theory, design, song, poetry, credo, demo, chant, symbol (logo). In particular why are chants -- notably political chants -- significant in engendering work and change? What was the catalytic role of "Hey, hey, LBJ, how many kids did you kill today?" in Vietnam protest, or of Metro, Boulot, Dodo for 1968 French student riots? The response may lie in the manner in which they engage an emotional logic, or emotional intelligence, that offers a form of dynamic coherence that causal logic does not (cf Daniel Goleman, Emotional Intelligence: why it can matter more than IQ, 1966). This would be a form of dynamic gestalt engendering action where the excellent "arguments" of Michael Moore (Bowling for Columbine, 2002) and Al Gore (An Inconvenient Truth, 2006) significantly fail.
Given the role of alliteration, rhythm and rhyme in a political chant, it might be asked how many musically distinct chants are required to carry and engender the variety of changes necessary for sustainable development -- for stable change. Does the Declaration of Human Rights fail to "work" because it has not been designed to engender the requisite variety of chants -- an "octave" of chants? The challenge of integrating emotions into understanding political change is as yet at an early stage (as summarized by Emma Hutchinson and Roland Bleiker, Fear No More: emotions and world politics).
Paris Arnopoulos (Sociophysics: cosmos and chaos in nature and culture, 2005) has emphasized triadic clustering of concepts, notably in relation to political order. R Buckminster Fuller (Synergetics: explorations in the geometry of thinking, 1975) has demonstrated the need for omnitriangulation as a fundamental requirement of system integrity:
It is possible therefore that the integrity of psychosocial systems, and the connectivity of Bateson's "pattern that connects", involve an "omnitriangulated" emotional engagement. To that extent Bateson's mental focus on Mind and Nature: a necessary unity (1980) may be obscuring the need for an essentially emotional "glue" through which coherence is engendered and experienced -- as tends to be obvious from a depth ecology understanding as articulated by David Abram (Depth Ecology, 2002; The Spell of the Sensuous: perception and language in a more-than-human world, 1996). In discussing depth ecology (from the perspective of Abram and others) and the use of Merleau-Ponty's phenomenology in relation to reflection in a sensuous rationality, Chris Schlottmann (Embodiment and Embeddedness in Philosophies of Ecology: deep ecology, Confucian ecology, and Maurice Merleau-Ponty's phenomenology, 2002) argues:
Autopoiesis: However the case is also made in what follows for the fact that these aesthetic associations also effectively constitute a form of autopoiesis, namely that they point to, or evoke, an emergent system through which sets of values are organized to engender higher levels of significance -- notably of relevance from the perspective of the dynamics studied by the complexity sciences (cf Human Values as Strange Attractors: coevolution of classes of governance principles, 1993).
The triadic argument of Arnopoulos has been criticized by Chris Goldspink (review of Sociocybernetics: Complexity, Autopoiesis, and Observation of Social Systems, 2001) as:
In terms of the following argument however, this criticism may be flawed in its failure to take account of the manner in which individuals may engage emotionally to bind together sets of categories, otherwise treated as the "bloodless categories" of scholasticism. Chris Lucas (Ethics as Emotions: an evolutionary approach, 2004) argues that "ethics, as practised, are emotions and not thoughts and are in fact prior to ethical thought processes".
This is the question of how such "cognition" is "embodied" (George Lakoff and Mark Johnson, Philosophy in the Flesh: the embodied mind and its challenge to western thought, 1999). The triangulation may be understood as thereby "grounded" or "anchored" in a manner consistent with the arguments of enactivism. The triangulated pattern is thereby given coherence from a fourth "perspective" such that the resulting tetrahedral configuration is a fundamental systemic embodiment in a sense explored by Buckminster Fuller.
The sustainability of autopoiesis in psychosocial systems -- the capacity for sustained self-organization in response to new configurations of circumstances -- is dependent on poesis to re-member continually the factors intrinsic to that process, to the coherence of the outcome, and to its attractiveness. Autopoiesis in such systems is not sustainable if it is envisaged and designed in terms of "bloodless categories". This is the challenge of engendering and sustaining any "will to change".
Curiously each of these values, as fully possessed by an individual or collectivity, shares the characteristic of manifesting as an extreme form of inequality relative to any contextual community as a whole. As such that degree of difference may constitute a powerful driver for a dynamic.
They may be viewed as distinct generic (or virtualized) forms of accumulation -- as with the economic understanding of dematerialization. In this sense each implies a form of political contradiction. In any such community the distribution of any of them is typically indicated by a Bell curve -- with few exemplifying the extreme forms, and many exemplifying them to some degree, and few again lacking these attributes to an extreme degree.
In their consideration here it is fruitful to see the three terms as indicators of more generic qualities, rather than as might be narrowly interpreted with: health encompassing a spectrum of non-physical understandings, wealth encompassing non-economic forms, and stealth reframed to include skills vital to accommodating to challenging circumstances (requiring discernment of appropriateness and opportunity, including craftiness):
As these pointers indicate (and those to follow), there is indeed an advantage in exploring generic rather than restrictive connotations of each of them -- notably to avoid premature closure on polarized positive or negative connotations (as with "stealth").
Each may also be understood as the preoccupation or expression of institutions, whether at the national or the international level:
Reflection on the three extremes becomes more interesting when they are considered in their three dynamic binary combinations -- and in the light of the exclusion of the third (especially when the subtlety of these dynamics is illustrated by aphorisms and proverbs):
Each of the above binary combinations is curiously dependent on the missing third:
Together these dynamics are exemplified in the complex processes around those who combine these attributes in unique ways. The least problematic example is provided by "gurus". In various ways, but notably in order to sustain and enhance their status, their relationship to stealth ("secrets" to be imparted to an inner circle), health (engendered as a result of following prescribed practices), or wealth (in requirements of gifts from followers, advocacy of poverty, and the use of resources so accumulated), perceptions of the guru's resolution of these issues is complex and controversial and characterized by ambiguity. This is typically also the case with many traditional priesthoods.
In this sense it is the guru -- as an attractor -- who incarnates (to some degree) the fundamental dynamics of El-Attractor and the challenge to its comprehension. Typically it is the guru who also makes that very point.
Is there any feature of the terms health, wealth and stealth which is indicative of a more fundamental symbolic development of the argument?
It could be suggested that there is indeed fundamental significance to be attached to "el" -- from which the common root element "elth" or "ealth". In what way might "el" then be considered fundamental -- or usefully associated with the name of an attractor for fundamental processes?
Curiously "El", is translated into English from pre-biblical languages as either 'god' or 'God' -- or left untranslated as El, depending on the context. In the Levant as a whole, El or Il was the supreme god, the father of mankind and all creatures. Cognate forms are found throughout the Semitic languages. Elohim is a Hebrew word expressing concepts of divinity (being apparently related to the Hebrew word ēl), notably understood to means the powers of divinity. It has been attested to be the first word spoken by Adam. Among orthodox Trinitarian Christian writers it is sometimes used as evidence for the doctrine of the Holy Trinity.
A theophoric name (from the Greek: "bearing a deity") is such as to embed the name of a god, both invoking and displaying the protection of that deity. The practice, called theophory in onomastics, refers to this naming convention of adding a god's name (or the local equivalent of the generic term for god) to an individual's proper name. El theophory is especially significant in biblical names.
Does the case of health, wealth and stealth represent an interesting example of embedding in the names of fundamental values of an indicator of divinity? Does this in some way imply an understanding, through that symbolism, of the operation of divinity as an attractor -- as it might be understood within the framework of the complexity sciences? And in this case is that attractor "defined" in some way by the complex dynamics between health, wealth and stealth?
As noted above the original trigger for this exploration was a project on the relation between truth (faith) and wealth (prosperity). "Truth" contrasts with "Stealth" in suggestive ways. This pointed to the possibility of a matching set of rhyming values -- using poiesis as a possible means of evoking autopoiesis. And indeed a limited matching set for consideration is:
As with the previous set, their binary relations may be explored, namely:
And again the argument with respect to the triadic relation may also be fruitfully explored to note how each of the binary relations is essentially unstable and dependent on the missing third in the set. These dynamics are also exemplified in the complex processes around those who promote the combination of these attributes in unique ways -- again the case of a "guru" is fruitful as with many traditional priesthoods. In this sense, again, it is the guru -- as an attractor -- who incarnates (to some degree) the fundamental dynamics of an attractor and the challenge to its comprehension. Typically it is the guru who also makes that very point.
This approach becomes very intriguing if the "attractor" governing the value dynamic of the first set -- El-Attractor -- is considered as necessarily identical with that governing the second. In other the above schematics are co-centric.
The result is especially striking when the triadic representations are superimposed, rotating one 180 degrees with respect to the other.
Within this framework a number of systemic features can be explored:
The above schematic, of obvious symbolic associations within western cultures, is also to be found within the vedic tradition where it corresponds to the Anahata chakra. This is the fourth primary chakra -- the heart chakra -- according to the Hindu Yogic and Tantric (Shakta) traditions. In Sanskrit the word anahata means unhurt, un-struck and unbeaten. Anahata Nad refers to the Vedic concept of unstruck sound, the sound of the celestial realm. The six-pointed star is indeed found in many traditions. In the Hebrew tradition, as the Star of David, it also symbolizes the sphere of the heart. In the chakra tradition, the upright and inverted triangles symbolize balance, notably between polar opposites such as male and female, consciousness (spirituality) and creativity (practicality).
The traditional chakra representation offers further possible indicators, since the outer "petals" are labelled with the first 12 con-sonants of the Sanskrit alphabet: Kang, Khang, Gang, Ghang, Nang, Chang, Chang, Jang, Jhang, Ñang, Tang, and Thang. With these are associated values described respectively as: lustfulness, fraudulence, indecision, repentance, hope, anxiety, longing, impartiality, arrogance, incompetency, discrimination, and an attitude of defiance. These are presumably best to be interpreted in a more generic sense (Navigating Alternative Conceptual Realities: clues to the dynamics of enacting new paradigms through movement, 2002)
The bi-directional cycle is reminiscent of the distinction made by Arthur Young between learning and action through a 12-phase learning-action cycle, namely a cycle that could be traversed in either direction. The above schematic visually highlights these 12 phases (cf Characteristics of phases in 12-phase learning-action cycle, 1998).
More generally, given that the anahata chakra is the fourth in a set of seven, there is perhaps a case for seeing it as a generic representation of one kind of dynamic system (each centred on an attractor), which together with the others constitutes a typology of the range of systems of different complexity. Such an approach also points to the possibility of reflecting on the function of "deities", notably in any pantheon, understood as fundamental value-attractors of different types -- as with the Olympian dodekatheon.
The weakness of a schematic representation is that it obscures the nature of the dynamic. It is perhaps not for nothing that the above schematic is associated with the heart in quite different cultures. The essential characteristic of the heart is the dynamic which is the organic "motor" of the body. A heart is defined by that dynamic rather than as a static "thing". Whilst its role in that respect is fully documented as the preoccupation of the various cardiological disciplines, comprehension of its dynamic when used as a metaphor is less susceptible to disciplined reflection. However the challenges "of the heart" are well recognized in ever variety of romantic literature.
The question here is whether greater insight into the dynamic can be achieved by deliberately introducing a dynamic into the apparently static schematic above. One approach to this is offered through the counter-intuitive structural dynamic of the benzene molecule which is so fundamental to all organic forms (being effectively a definition of their fundamental constituent) and notably to human life. Of value in this approach are the learnings from the historical challenge to comprehending the structural integrity of that molecule -- despite extensive prior "analysis" of its composition as a supposedly static phenomenon.
As proposed by quantum chemist Linus Pauling, the integrity of the benzene molecule derives from its essential dynamic as a resonance hybrid [more]. The "bonds" between its six atoms may be understood to be in constantly shifting (re)configuration. It may in fact be understood as not one single schematic structure but as the alternation or oscillation between a set of distinct structures characterized by different configurations of bonds. No one of those structures is stable -- or even exists in reality. The gain in stability over the particular (non-existent) configurations is termed the resonance energy. This increases with the number of hypothetically (logical) "static" structures that are possible, especially when these (non-existent) structures are equal in energy.
Resonance therefore involves representing or modelling the structure of a molecule as an intermediate between several simpler but incorrect structures. Instead, the molecule exists in a single unchanging (quantum) "state", intermediate between the resonance structures and only partially described by any one of them. The challenge of comprehending and describing resonance in chemistry offers healthy precautionary insight into inappropriate assumptions about schematic representations and descriptions of a more complex reality -- especially that of psychosocial systems. The understanding is exemplified by the Sanskrit adage (and mantra) Neti Neti, meaning Not This, Not That.
Also unusual about the structure of the benzene molecule is the manner in which the atoms are bonded into a circular configuration. This was the profound insight of its original discoverer Friedrich Kekulé. It is has been frequently associated with the symbolism of the Ouroboros.
These characteristic elements suggest the possibility of interpreting the above schematic pattern around El-Attractor as taking the dynamic form of a resonance hybrid -- a structure in continual oscillation. As noted by William H. Calvin (Resonating with Your Chaotic Memories, 1996): Chaotic attractors are a more general way of thinking about resonance. Hence a focus on "resonance attractors". Relevant to this discussion of the hexagonal configuration of the benzene molecule, Calvin presents his arguments in terms of a hexagon's activity as an example of a relevant spatiotemporal pattern, raising the question of how this might be represented as a spatial-only pattern that could recreate it. He comments: It is presumably the synaptic connectivity within the hexagon (in actuality, within a minimum of two adjacent hexagons but, most of the time, likely spanning dozens):
A fundamental psychosocial system in which to explore understanding of resonance is the family -- especially in the light of so-called "family values". Consider the possibility that the generic connotations of the six values configured in the schematic above could in fact operate together as a resonance hybrid. This contrasts with -- but possibly helps to encompass and explain -- the typically fuzzy articulations of "family values", whether by priesthoods, by politicians, by cultures or by those associated with families. It offers the possibility of a pattern of dynamic integrity to the set of family values which (as with the benzene molecule) elude efforts at static representations -- and appropriately honours that dynamic at the heart of the psychosocial system.
The focus would then be on:
Curiously one of the most systematic approaches to introducing a dynamic into a static six-fold schematic is that of one of the central classics of Chinese culture, namely the I Ching (or Book of Changes). Its 64 hexagrams are understood to encode the variety of configurations in any psychosocial system and the patterns of transformation between them (Transformation Metaphors: derived experimentally from the Chinese Book of Changes (I Ching) for sustainable dialogue, vision, conferencing, policy, network, community and lifestyle, 1997). The abstraction of this logical code inspired Leibniz in reflections contributing finally to binary computer coding. These are rendered comprehensible and relevant by repeated explicit explanatory references to the dynamics of the family.
Ironically early expectations that determination of the static coding structure of the human genome would be a sufficient basis for explanation of variance were frustrated by recognition that some variance of significance could only be explained by the dynamics of protein folding. Inappropriate folding usually produces inactive proteins with different properties. This recent discovery can perhaps be fruitfully associated with the earlier discovery of the relationship between the binary coding of the I Ching and the genetic code, especially with respect to the vitamins basic to human life (Martin Schonberger. I Ching and the Genetic Code, 1992; Katya Walter, Tao of Chaos -- DNA and the I Ching: unlocking the code of the universe, 1996). It has been shown how the binary coding of the Book of Changes (I Ching), as a representation of the DNA genetic code, can be transformed in a natural way to an I Ching representation of the RNA genetic code. Does this suggests a key essential to psychosocial systems?
It is indeed possible that the Chinese culture would be inherently more capable of articulating a comprehension of the complex dynamics associated with El-Attractor. This possibility might follow from the arguments of Susantha Goonatilake (Toward a Global Science: mining civilizational knowledge, 1999).
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this work is licenced under a creative commons licence.