30th December 2003 | Draft
The Isdom of the Wisdom Society
Embodying time as the heartland of humanity
- / -
Produced on the occasion of the UN World Summit
on the Information Society
(Geneva, 2003) in celebration of insights beyond
those of the "information society" and of the "knowledge society" [See
also website of Union of the Whys
Role of wisdom
Unexplainable nature of wisdom
"Isdom" -- the locus of wisdom?
Sustainable ecology of Isdom
Isdom's quenching boundary
Reification of the present
Emergence from Isdom
Memories and projections of Isdom
Dynamics of Isdom
Now-time of Isdom
Wisdom of Isdom
Being otherwise in Isdom
Sustaining dialogue of Isdom
Normality -- across the quenching boundary
Neti Neti -- none of the above
Many studies explore the importance of the distinctions in the sequence from
"data", through "information", then on to "knowledge",
and finally to "wisdom" [more].
At each stage there is a much-studied challenge of "management" (as
in "information management" and "knowledge management").
Arguments are also made for the importance of a corresponding "information
society" or of a "knowledge society" -- perhaps expressed as
a "knowledge-based society". But clearly it is easiest to argue the
case for an "information" focus, especially to hardware, software
and information vendors -- hence the title of the UN World
Summit on the Information Society. It is more challenging to make a case
for a "knowledge society", especially since "knowledge management"
is in process of being disparaged as a fad term lacking any real content --
notably in those corporate environments that claim to practice it. And yet it
is precisely the transfer of knowledge, in the form of "know-how"
that has been a preoccupation of the United Nations over many development decades.
But, as Margaret Mead is reported to have declared on a memorable occasion:
"We know all we need to know". The problem is that "we" do not know how to fit
it together into a meaningfully communicable pattern which could catalyze appropriate
action. As a philosopher, Mary Midgley (Wisdom, Information and Wonder: what
is knowledge for? 1989) asks the question:
"In what sense is a thing known if five hundred people each know one
constituent of it and nobody knows the whole? Or again; what if this truth
has a thousand constituents and half of them are not known to anyone, but
only stored in libraries? What if all of them only exist in libraries? Is
it enough that somebody knows how to look them up if they should ever be needed?
Indeed is it enough that this person should have access to a system which
will look them up? Does the enquirer even have to understand the questions
which these truths answer? (p. 6)
In fact there is no "we" with a shared awareness permitting coherent action.
But as is noted on the cover of The
(Updated) Last Whole Earth Catalog (1974): "We can't put it together;
it is together". It is wisdom that is called upon to respond to such dilemmas
-- not knowledge.
The following is therefore a necessarily naive exercise in envisaging the nature
of a "wisdom society" -- as distinct from the much-studied "knowledge
society". It follows from an earlier paper (Global
Strategic Implications of the Unsaid: from myth-making towards a wisdom society,
2003) which points to approaches (and web resources) of various groups envisaging
a wisdom society.
The focus here is not on its desirability in principle or as an ideal, but rather
on how it might already exist and function in reality -- for some at least.
In this sense it is primarily speculative -- and perhaps essentially so. It
is one thing to extol the archetype of an Arthurian Roundtable, for example,
but it is another matter to consider the dynamics of such a group -- and what
makes for its wisdom (with or without the presence of women).
Given the topic, the approach taken here is to emphasize, through hyperlinks,
the existence of supportive or complementary arguments and resources.
Role of wisdom
"Wisdom" has an intriguing status in relation to "knowledge"
and "information". This is especially so because of its traditional
role in relation to governance. Whilst the highest levels of governance may
be dependent on their information services, and the specialized knowledge of
their experts, ultimately it is on the "wisdom" in making decisions
when confronted with strategic dilemmas that the reputation (and survival) of
a governor (or government) depends. Given his considerable experience in government,
there is value to the distinctions made by Harlan Cleveland (Information As
a Resource. The Futurist Dec. 1982: 34-39): Information is horizontal,
knowledge is structured and hierarchical, and wisdom is organic and flexible.
As editor of a most valuable overview, R J Sternberg (Wisdom: its nature,
origins, and development. 1990) indicates the relevance of wisdom in these
It is hoped that research on wisdom will help to develop useful tools to
assist world and national leaders in the increasingly complex problems facing
humanity. Many crucial decisions, from nuclear waste to water use, face leaders
and policy makers each day. Thus, wisdom is not simply for wise people or
curious psychologists: it is for all people and the future of the world.
The role of wisdom has been well-positioned as a result of the dramatic intelligence
failure associated with weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. The quantity of
data from electronic surveillance was enormous -- even larger quantities
are now sought. This was selectively filtered into patterns of information
that was subject to knowledgable interpretation -- about which many questions
have been raised. But the final challenge for governance arose from the lack
of wisdom with which this necessarily partial knowledge was used.
Nicholas Mawell (From Knowledge to Wisdom: a revolution in the aims and
methods of science, 1984) argues that the radical, wasteful misdirection
of academic effort is actually a central cause of the tragedy and dangers of
the present era. For him:
Granted that enquiry has as its basic aim to help enhance the quality of
human life, it is actually profoundly and damagingly irrational, unrigorous,
for enquiry to give intellectual priority to the task of improving knowledge...
[rather than to]... create and make available a rich store of vividly imagined
and sevrely criticized possible actions, so that our capacity to act intelligently
and humanely in reality is thereby enhanced. [p. 2]
For UNESCO, as the intergovernmental body mandated for information-related
matters, it would appear that "wisdom" is subsumed under philosophy
(that so lovingly studies it) -- or as the acknowledgement of the "wisdom"
associated with indigenous knowledge, cultural expression, world religions,
or "wise use" of resources. For the Director-General:
Philosophy, as the term signifies, is the love of wisdom. Regardless
of its specific terminology in various cultures all over the world, tetsugaku
in Japanese, indicating the discipline of wisdom, or in Arabic, falsafa,
meaning science of wisdom, this act of thinking about thinking turns by definition
around the fundamental concepts and ideas that lie at the heart of existence,
both individual and collective. It is this act of philosophizing that is the
lifeblood of philosophy. And it is precisely this act of reflection, of analysis,
of questioning - whether of concepts that are taken for granted, ideas dulled
by time, or long-established paradigms... (Philosophy
Day at UNESCO, 21 November 2002)
But for the editors of participant interviews on the occasion of the UNESCO-sponsored
20th World Congress of Philosophy (Boston,
1998) (Michael Tobias, et al. A
Parliament of Minds: philosophy for a New Millennium, 2000):
Why has philosophy failed its public? Like so much else in our society, it
tried to become a speciality, a discourse only for experts. Yet it began life
as the pursuit for the arch-generalist, the license to speculate in the most
open an free manner. the dark narrowness of insistent explanation proved to
be its downfall.
And yet the UNESCO 1998 World
Declaration on Higher Education for the Twenty First Centrury: Vision and Action
(Article 6d) indicates: "Ultimately, higher education should aim at the
creation of a new society - non-violent and non-exploitative - consisting of
highly cultivated, motivated and integrated individuals, inspired by love for
humanity and guided by wisdom". As with other such secondary references
to "wisdom", including those in the UN Dialogue among Civilizations
(2000), it remains unclear what content is implied or how any "guidance"
is supposed to function in relation to governance.
And, with respect to "wisdom", the UNU's Global
Virtual University (created in 2002) has only this to say:
Well-designed information facilitates the construction of knowledge. Knowledge
in combination with experience may give sufficient wisdom to choose the right
tools and resources to be able to "cross the bridge" from theory to practical
implementation: a change in behaviour that entails a sustainable development.
(Global cooperation on
e-learning: Background and pedagogical strategy)
It is not for nothing that appeal is occasionally made -- even in industrialized
countries -- to "councils of the wise" (see Development
beyond Science to Wisdom: Facilitating the emergence of configurative understanding
in Councils of the Wise. 1979). It is also a theme in speculative popular
fiction as an imaginative attractor. The Club of Rome, and similar bodies, tend
to perceive themselves as such. Various groups of "wisdom keepers"
(possibly restricted to women) have been formed, notably in relation to the
concerns and insights of indigenous peoples [more
| more]. One
such group met on the occasion of the 1992 Earth Summit. An International Council
of Wise Women has been created and the creation of a World Council of Wise Women
has been proposed.
The expression "Council of Wise Men" (or Group of Wise Men) continues
to be used in contemporary society (notably in the UN, Commonwealth, OECD and
EU systems) [more
-- despite its sexist bias, less obvious in some languages (eg Conseil des
Sages) [more]. The Council
of Europe uses the formula "Council of Wise Persons" (earlier "Council
of Wise Men"). Other examples include:
- The transformation of the OAU into the African Union (2002-3) created a
Peace and Security Council, modelled on the United Nations Security Council,
and responsible for forming a Council of Wise Men (five person apolitical,
but recognised for their moral authority), to direct the decisions. [more]
- It has been suggested with respect to the future evolution of African parliaments
that: "Restoring the spirit of the council of wise men will lay the foundations
for a genuine constitutional jurisdiction with popular support" (Le
Monde Diplomatique, December 2000).
- Japan and Russia proposed in October 2003 to use the form to help resolve
their differences [more]
- Where the UNIDROIT Principles address issues also covered by the UN Convention
for Contracts on International Sale of Goods (CISG) and follow solutions found
in that Convention, the supranational committee of experts constituted to
devise those Principles "can be regarded as a council of 'wise men [and
women]' " [more]
- An EU review of Regulation of European Securities Markets was undertaken
by a the Group of Wise Men (Lamfalussy Group) and completed in February 2001
- In October 1999, European Commission President Romano Prodi ordered three
of his most senior advisers - the so-called panel of wise men - to report
on options for radical reforms to the EU's institutions as it prepares to
almost double in size over the next decade [more].
- The Institut für Friedens-
und Bewusstseinsbildung (Basel) argues that the world needs a council
of wise men and women who are capable of representing the interests of all
humankind as a unified entity and articulates its structure and operations
in unusual detail (see Pierre and Catherine Brunner Dubey. The
World Council: A Council of Wise Men and Women, 2002)
- Establishment in 2002-3 of the International Ethical, Political and Scientific
Collegium as a "group of wise persons", a new institution bringing together
(in the common search for the benefit of humanity) actors in the public sphere,
researchers and creators ready to listen to civil society and "who accept
the difficult merger of the quest for truth, beauty and justice with the exacting
standards that all forms of responsibility embody" [more]
- On the occasion of the 3rd Summit of the Americas (Quebec City, 2001) on
the social and economic integration in the Americas, the Hemispheric Social
Alliance (HSA) organized a parallel 2nd Peoples' Summit which included a 300-person
"Council of Wise Women" [more]
- On the occasion of an Africa Court of Women (Nairobi, 1999), a final session
"heard the voices of the Council of Wise Women, the members of the jury"
- Organized by the Gorbachev Foundation, the first annual State of the World
Forum (San Francisco, 1995) had a selected "council of the wise" (or "global
brain trust") indicated that "the wisdom distilled by all faiths" must determine
the values needed to guide the world into the 21st Century, namely that familiar
terms must be redefined to fit the new global perspective -- and the old beliefs
and political systems must be abandoned.
- In Plato's Republic and Laws, he has a council of wise men
and women to guide his ideal state.
- Amongst the Aztecs, the Council of Wise Men was usually composed of the
greatest warriors and wisest priests, themselves elected by their local "calpullis".
- In North America, the nations of native peoples maintained a council of
Interestingly UNESCO, despite its mandate, appears no longer to use the form
-- perhaps because of the male bias. In the UNESCO Report of the International
Commission on Education for the Twenty first Century chaired by Jacques
Delors (Learning: the
treasure within, 1996) the notion of wisdom appears only in the final
phrase of his introduction, despite this statement reporting on its first session
The worldwide issues forming the background to the Commission's thinking
prompted the fundamental question whether education could purport to be universal.
Could it by itself, as a historical factor, create a universal language that
would make it possible to overcome a number of contradictions, respond to
a number of challenges and, despite their diversity, convey a message to all
the inhabitants of the world? In this language which, ideally, would be accessible
to everybody and in which the maxims and views of the West would no longer
be preponderant, all the world's wisdom and the wealth of its civilizations
and cultures would be expressed in an immediately comprehensible form. [more]
Echoing Margaret Mead, one member of the UNESCO Commission, Karan Singh makes
It is not that we lack the intellectual or economic resources to tackle the
problems. Scientific breakthroughs and technological ingenuity have given
us the capacity to overcome all those challenges, but what is missing is the
wisdom and compassion to apply them creatively. Knowledge is expanding but
wisdom languishes. The yawning chasm will need to be bridged before the end
of the century if we are ever to reverse the present trend towards disaster
and it is here that education in the broadest sense of the term assumes such
vital importance. [more]
No guidelines appear to exist regarding the functioning of such councils to
elicit most effectively the collective wisdom of their wise participants. It
is unclear how the emergence of "wisdom" is recognized in such groups
-- or whether the pronouncements of participants are simply accepted as "wise"
because of the selection process. There appear to be no indicators or ciriteria
to assist in the recognition of wisdom although, for UNESCO, this is not the
case with respect to "wise practices" in dealing with resources (see
Characteristics of Wise
Practices 1999-2002; Wise
practice criteria as an international instrument, 1999) -- although
the distinction from the more widely used "best practices" is unclear.
Where are the responses to the challenge articulated by Julia Atkin: "What
are the powerful ideas and processes captured in human wisdom that form the
basis for, and enable lifelong learning?" (Reconceptualising
the Curriculum for the Knowledge Era, 1999)
On the other hand there are many who offer "wisdom" -- notably in
"schools of wisdom" -- or who are "keepers" of it. It is
also a traditional role of wise people. The wise are unfortunately much challenged
in practice when called upon to make available that wisdom -- or to reconcile
their views in response to any collective challenge faced by governance.
Unexplainable nature of wisdom
The distinctions between data, information and knowledge are increasingly problematic
as is to be seen in efforts to give content to "knowledge management".
It is perhaps helpful to see the sequence as a progression from more objective
to more subjective -- namely an increasing dependence on judgement, cognitive
ability, experience and the capacity for synthesis (see Evaluating
Synthesis Initiatives and their Sustaining Dialogues, 2000). Whilst
software can be provided to manage information, those packages designed in support
of "knowledge management" are far more dependent on the knowledgability
of the user. Similarly, whilst data and information can be readily explained,
this becomes more of a challenge in the case of knowledge. This is exemplified
in the case of appropriately ordered information on a food recipe. Although
the recipe may be followed, it is only in the light of the knowledge acquired
through past learning and experience that there is any guarantee that the result
will be tasty.
Again, whilst data and information can be sold and inherited as property, this
is not the case with respect to knowledge. The latter is the attribute of a
knower who knows how to make use of information -- as is evident in the "art"
of wine-making. As an art, it is only to a limited degree that it may be learnt
from books or websites.
In this light, it might be said with respect to wisdom that, because of the
degree of subjectivity involved, it does not lend itself to explanation.
Nor can it be inherited. In fact the term "explanation" points to
the challenge. Essentially wisdom is distinct from the geometrical perspectives
suggested by possibilities of "ex-plan-ation" -- as a perspective
over the "plane" of knowledge (perhaps understood as a gridwork of
category pigeonholes). It might usefully be said that it is more intimately
related to the properties of space-time -- notably because of its recognizably
timeless quality. Wisdom tends not to be time-bound. A valuable summary of current
thinking is provided by Helena Marchand (Overview
of the psychology of wisdom).
There are of course many books of wisdom appreciated for the inspiration that
they offer. As noted above, there may be wisdom schools and people of wisdom.
It could be argued that what they can successfully communicate is information
and knowledge -- pointing however to a mode of understanding to which they can
only allude through parable and paradox. Wisdom has more to do with the quality
of knowing and understanding -- and not the content. It is a higher order of
knowing -- begging the question of what ordering might make for "higher"
-- or whether that spatial metaphor is appropriate or misleading. It might be
described as knowing how to know -- with the emphasis on a quality of discernment
(as suggested by Peter Russell) largely absent from conventional knowing.
"Isdom" -- the locus of wisdom?
The suggestion above -- that wisdom is uniquely related to the properties of
space-time -- frames a question as to the locus of wisdom and of the quality
of knowing with which it is associated.
In what follows the suggestion is that this may be fruitfully explored in relation
to the quality of understanding in the present moment -- the Spirit
of Now, as articulated by Peter Russell (The
Global Brain, 1983; The
White Hole in Time: Our
Future Evolution and the Meaning of Now, 1992). This theme has been
explored in earlier papers (see Presenting
the Future, 2001; Present
Moment Research: exploration of nowness, 2001; Composing
and Engendering the Future, 2001)
Paradoxically, as one might expect with respect to a "timeless" quality,
its uniqueness derives from a way of "being in the present". This
focus on the present is echoed in many sources of wisdom -- as the key to appropriate
action in the more extended framework of space and time. Its proximity is for
example stressed in various religions. Judaism and Islam recognize that the
separation between Heaven and Hell is but a "hair's breadth" -- echoed
by Zen in the acknowledgement that the separation between enlightenment and
ignorance is again just one "hair's breadth".
It is for this reason that -- playfully -- it is suggested here that the domain
of wisdom might usefully be recognized as "Isdom". This might be seen
as corresponding to terms such as "Kingdom", "Dukedom" or
"Fiefdom" -- except that the focus is on the domain of "is-ness"
in the present. The suffix "dom", deriving from domain and dominion,
has connotations that include:
- the highest taxonomic category in biological classification ranking above
that of "kingdom"
- a sphere of knowledge, influence, or activity
- the set of elements to which a mathematical or logical variable is limited;
specifically: the set on which a function is defined (Note that an "integral
domain" is a mathematical ring in which multiplication is commutative,
which has a multiplicative identity element, and which contains no pair of
nonzero elements whose product is zero)
- a realm or region in which something is dominant or holds a pre-eminent
The domain, rather than emphasizing the spatial as is conventionally
the case, here emphasizes the temporal -- as one in which the time dimension
is pre-eminent -- a complex standing wave in time, for example. Additionally,
however, given the intensity of the subjective focus, it might be considered
to have echoes of the 6 "curled-up" dimensions of the 10-dimensional
framework of string theory (see Higher
dimensionality as the prime characteristic of human consciousness? 2003).
In the spirit of David Bohm (Wholeness
and the Implicate Order, 1980), it would then be associated in some special
way with implicate order [more
| more]. Arthur
Young (The Geometry of Meaning, 1978) has explored a related view in
terms of inverse time (1/T) rather than negative time (-T). Inverse time would
then be very short -- eternity in an instant -- implying that:
"in the 'anti' world there might be an unlimited amount of energy in
an instant àf time...This compaction of time would give it the character
of omnipresence -- not going 'backward' in time, away from the present,
but instead going more deeply into the present. This interpretation has the
merit of conforming to references in countless religions and mythologies to
the super-sensible, nonphysical celestial world..." (p. 81).
As argued elsewhere (Hyperspace
Clues to the Psychology of the Pattern that Connects, 2003), the focus
by cosmologists on Big-Bang type origins of the universe, to be eventually followed
by a Big-Crunch collapse, suggests that:
From a psychological perspective this concept might be interpreted as an
effort to project as far as possible from the present -- into the most inaccessibly
distant past -- a "golden era" of integration. And as an effort to project
into the inaccessibly distant future -- the possibility of re-integration.
This may be consistent with the continuing depersonalized globalization of
the world of material value according to a constrained logic -- as matched
by the continuing collapse of individual spiritual life, forced to "curl up"
into insignificance. It is perhaps no wonder that the importance of drugs
and substance abuse is increasing explosively to offer individuals access
to "knight's move thinking" ... with its more creative freedom of association.
But from a "psycho-spiritual" perspective, it is also interesting to speculate
on the possibility that the "communication space" experienced by an individual
is subject to an analogous explosive expansion at birth -- and to violent
collapse at death. Or, even more intriguing, that such an analogous explosive
expansion takes place in any significant moment of creativity in the life
of an individual -- to be lost (or quashed) with any subsequent reversion
to banality or loss of focus (or meditative concentration). This might accord
with some existential and meditative experiences which -- as with many high-energy
physical experiments -- would be difficult to demonstrate or replicate.
Any such significance in the moment derived from a Big-Crunch collapse could
also be derived from the various doomsday scenarios currently foreseen for the
current century for humanity and the planet -- including the temporal collapse
explored by Peter Russell (The
White Hole in Time: Our
Future Evolution and the Meaning of Now, 1992). Attention can be significantly
focused if humanity is considered to be on Death Row (see also Globalization
of Death: a checklist, 2003). The imagination of death is a a feature
of religious studies, mythology and spiritual discipline.
Sustainable ecology of Isdom
Identified in this way, Isdom may appear spatially distant (or temporally unattainable)
when the contrary is implied. Since, as argued, explanation is inappropriate,
the challenge in what follows is to explore ways of providing a sense of the
ecology of Isdom through which wisdom moves and has its being.
As the domain of the present moment -- the present instant -- Isdom is a place
of being characterized by a quality of appreciating that moment, and sustaining
that appreciation. It might be understood as the mode of expression and interaction
in the instants before conventional exchanges occur. As such it resembles a
kind of existential foreplay -- in part made of glances and understandings that
are global in their quality -- an interplay of being. For example, one international
event focused on The Butterfly Effect as the "coordinates of the
moment before discovery" [more].
It is the sparkle on a pool -- or in a person's eyes (or those of any other
The moment may be imbued with a sense of incipient knowing or of intuitive
re-membering -- of re-cognition. It may be understood through the anticipatory
quality of "happening" -- a sense of in potentia -- as when
encountering a significant other (perhaps for the first time). It is, for example,
the instant before any process of falling in love -- "at first sight"
-- namely before intentionality or action of any conventional kind.
As an encounter of being, such a momentary experience is necessarily evanescent
to any "be-holder" -- and is not to be "be-held". It springs
into being and disappears -- as with ancient memories and perfumes or a sense
of déja vu. The moment cannot be "caught" and "preserved".
What may be captured is something else. As with the quality of being in the
moment, it cannot be held onto -- although it may be danced with (see Beyond
Harassment of Reality and Grasping Future Possibilities: learnings from sexual
harassment as a metaphor, 1996)
Perhaps the sustainability of the ecology of Isdom is best to be understood
in terms of Gregory Bateson's "pattern that connects" (Mind and
Nature; a necessary unity, 1979) (see also Hyperspace
Clues to the Psychology of the Pattern that Connects, 2003; Psychology
of Sustainability: Embodying cyclic environmental processes, 2002).
Isdom's quenching boundary
As a domain, Isdom is surrounded by what may be termed a "quenching"
boundary. Its nature is "quenched" by any encounter with the cognitive
"not-ness" of conventional understanding of space-time.
The metaphor of quenching derives from the research on nuclear fusion (in contrast
with nuclear fission). This fusion process is dependent on plasma that can only
exist under extreme conditions of temperature and pressure and is "quenched"
when it comes into contact with the container in which the fusion reactions
take place. Many decades of research have been devoted to the design of a container
capable of containing plasma -- in order that nuclear fusion can take place
as a prime source of energy for the future. The art has been to contain the
plasma within a "magnetic bottle" such that magnetic field effects
repel the plasma from any part of the encircling container wall. In the larger
scheme of things, it is perhaps no coincidence that such research is now entering
a new phase with the construction of ITER
as a major international project to demonstrate the scientific and technological
feasibility of fusion energy. This work on the "governance" of fusion
processes essential to economic development may be as valuable as a metaphorical
pointer to governance of psycho-social processes of sustainable development.
Understanding "plasma" as a quality of intensity, of attention, it
might then be understood how the high energy "is-ness", characteristic
of the state of being within Isdom, can readily be quenched by contact with
any mundane cognition. Sustaining interaction within Isdom therefore calls for
an analogous existential technology to maintain the detachment of being from
that containing spatio-temporal world. This existential technology may be considered
as having been identified in many spiritual disciplines (see
Navigating Alternative Conceptual Realities: clues to the dynamics of enacting
new paradigms through movement, 2002; Psychology
of Sustainability: Embodying cyclic environmental processes, 2002)
It is useful to consider various efforts to capture and contain the essence
of the moment of being:
- beauty may be admired, sought and acquired as a possession, only to discover
that what is acquired is but a carrier for a quality that is not permanently
attached to it
- culture / art, as a form of beauty, may be sought and acquired for its own
sake -- perhaps with some expectation that the original qualities and creative
insights that gave rise to it will rub off on the possessor
- theories, notably in the form of Theories of Everything, are sought as the
ultimate instrument of conceptual control and of the creative moment from
which they arise
- merit-worthy actions, are a prime objective, notably in some religions,
as a means of improving subsequent chances of a "seat in heaven"
or "release from the wheel of life" -- ignoring the release offered
in the moment at which they were undertaken or the manner in which they may
be negated through being sought as an objective
- honours / initiations, are sought and offered as a reward for achievement
-- forgetting the dramatic contrast between the existential reality justifying
a medal (such as heroism under fire) and the subsequent institutional efforts
to appropriate this reality
- groups / hierarchies, may define themselves in such a way as to hold within
their higher and inner reaches an essential quality that may be of purely
symbolic significance, long dissociated from the existential reality that
gave rise to such nested levels of realization
- performance / expression / mandalas
- parties / happenings may be treated as a context for celebrating being alive
with all the confusion arising from the forms that happenings may take that
may be but a pale reflection of that sense
- charisma / gurus may be sought as a means of directly experiencing an alternative
reality in the moment -- without realizing that such external projection essentially
undermines subsequent interior realization
- property, namely the possession of artefacts or qualities as in many of
the above, establishes a relationship that negates the quality of being that
is assumed to be held by that possession
Reification of the present
The previous argument may be considered in terms of the forms of reification
of "is-ness". The recognition of physicists regarding the characteristic
increase in entropy in the universe is paralleled by, and reflected in, what
amounts to the increasing entropy of "is-ness" -- its reification
The sense of the present -- the Spirit of Now -- is ever-emergent, however.
Hence the widespread appreciation of the fountain as a central symbol across
cultures for the water of life -- and in the sense of a fountain of youth. It
may be indicative of spiritual rejuvenation -- offering a sense of aliveness
and invigoration. David DeMaris (Dynamic
Symbolism, Chaos, and Perception, 1995) explores the nature of an invisible
or virtual fountain.
What might then be the stages of reification as the quality of knowing in the
moment "hardens" into objective reality -- passing through analogues
to the states of matter (plasma -- gas -- liquid -- solid):
- wisdom as a plasma stage? This analogue is consistent with the often
fiery quality of wisdom in the heat of creation through which structures are
envisaged, formed and reformed
- tingle within an individual / group
- play like birdsong echoing -- resonant structures
- entrains in a dance -- birthing and rebirthing
- knowledge as a gaseous stage? This analogue is consistent with recognition
of the "hot air" so often perceived to be characteristic of knowledgable
discussions ("up in the clouds")
- associated pigeonholes -- pattern language
- semantic web
- information as a liquid stage? This analogue is consistent with the
recognition of "information flows"
- grid structure
- data arrays
- data as a solid stage?
A possibly more fruitful metaphor than this linear sequence is that of a phase
diagram such as that for water [more].
This is a representation of the states of matter (solid, liquid, or gas) as
a function of temperature and pressure. Lines separating the regions of space
indicate the pressures and temperatures where phases can coexist and are in
equilibrium with one another. Lines in the phase diagram may intersect at a
point where solid, liquid, and gas all coexist -- a unique "triple point".
Similarlry a "critical point" may exist that is characterized by large
fluctuations between the liquid and vapor states. Such diagrams are also used
in describing the conditions of plasma -- understood as an ionized gas [more].
Plasma is however characterized by much higher temperatures and pressures.
A highly simplified diagram of that type is adapted below to show the variety
of relationships between the different forms of insight -- especially indicating
that the transition from data to knowledge may not necessarily
pass via information. It suggests possibilities for resolving definitional
ambiguities associated with any assumed linear progression between them..As
the extreme ionization of gas, plasma is not directly represented in the diagram
(it would be far to the right). The diagram does however suggest possibilities
of exploring the ionization metaphor in relation to knowledge -- and the corresponding
implication of the bonds in the case of solids, liquids and non-ionized gases.
The adaptation calls for a metaphoric equivalent to temperature and pressure
-- which are both commonly used metaphorically in insight-related processes
(eg "feeling the heat", "under pressure", etc).
|Tentative adaptation of general phase
diagram (for water) to suggest non-linear relationship between
data -- information -- knowledge
|Curves: Indicate the conditions of "temperature"
and "pressure" under which equilibrium between different phases
of insight can exist
Critical point: The "temperature" above which the gas cannot
be liquefied no matter how much pressure is applied (the kinetic energy
simply is too great for attractive forces to overcome, regardless of the
Triple point: The particular condition of "temperature"
and "pressure" where all three states are in equilibrium
NB: Phases may be subdivided into a complex pattern of sub-phases (exemplified
by the variety of forms of ice as solid water) [more]
Of special interest are the implications for the transitions across the boundaries,
such as sublimation (from data to knowledge) and deposition (from knowledge
to data). The more tenuous bonds between elements of knowledge (corresponding
metaphorically to atoms or molecules in a gaseous state) call for exploration
in the light of implications of some equivalent to ionization. Aspects of this
may be intuited in language used to describe the degree of "excitation"
of a debate, whether academic or otherwise. Note that such excitation in an
exciting meeting, for example, does not necessarily make for the conditions
with which wisdom is associated. This may be more closely associated with the
intensity of that excitation and hos its focus and coherence can be sustained.
Another approach to this core experience of the moment is through what have
long been termed "peak experiences". As one of the original authors
to explore their significance through numerous books, Colin
Wilson (starting with The
1956) offers this description:
During these moments, the world seems renewed, revealing itself to be infinitely
complex and beautiful in all its aspects. Sights which have been viewed a
thousand times before suddenly seem rediscovered as if for the first time;
the endless bounds of possibility open before oneself; everything is suddenly
understood as being part of the song of the universe and one is filled with
the desire to experience everything, building one's own bar of the music to
a glorious crescendo. One greets the world with a child-like sense of wonderment.
Routines and neuroses are banished and objects become categories no longer...a
chair or a tree, for instance, but regain their existence in your eyes as
real things with unique and complex characteristics. [more]
Wilson has been especially concerned by the decay of this experience into banality.
Emergence from Isdom
It is interesting to explore initiatives that might be considered emulations,
recollections or commemorations in some way of the progressive emergence --
or reification -- of Isdom. This is most evident in the hierarchical structures
cultivated by various groups.
(Generalmajor, Generalleutnante, General, Generaloberst, General-feldmarschal)
Stabsoffiziere (Major, Oberst, Oberstleutnante)
Unteroffizier (Non Commissioned Officer)
Mannschaft (Soldat, Obersoldat, Gefreiter)
Master of the Royal Secret
31. Inspector Inquisitor
30. Prince Kadosh Consistory
29. Scottish Knight of Saint Andrew
28. Knight of the Sun, or Prince Adept
27. Knight Commander
26. Prince of Mercy
25. Knight of the Brazen Serpent
24. Prince of the Tabernacle
23. Chief of the Tabernacle
22. Knight of the Royal Ax, or Prince of Libanus
21. Noachite, or Prussian Knight
20. Master of the Symbolic Lodge
18. Knight of the Rose Croix Council of Kadosh
17. Knight of the East and West
16. Prince of Jerusalem
15. Knight of the East
14. Perfect Elu Chapter of Rose Croix
13. Royal Arch of Solomon
12. Master Architect
11. Elu of the Twelve
10. Elu of the Fifteen
9. Elu of the Nine
8. Intendant of the Building
7. Provost and Judge
6. Intimate Secretary
5. Perfect Master
4. Secret Master
3. Master Mason
1. Entered Apprentice
(Seraphime, Spirits of Love)
Cherubim (Cherubime, Spirits of Harmony)
Thrones (Thronos, Spirits of Will)
Dominions (Kyriotetes, Spirits of Wisdom)
Mights (Dynamis, (Spirits of Motion)
Powers (Authorities) (Exusiai (Elohim), Spirits of Form)
Principalities (Primal Beginnings) (Archai, Spirits of Personality)
Archangels (Archangeloi, Spirits of Fire (Folk))
Angels (Messengers) (Angeloi, Sons of Life (or of Twilight))
- The Refusal
VIII - The Great Transition
VII - The Resurrection
VI - The Decision
V - The Revelation The Part which Energy Plays in Inducing Revelation The
Place that the Will Plays in Inducing Revelation
IV - The Great Renunciation or Crucifixion
III - The Transfiguration
II - The Baptism in Jordan
I - The Birth at Bethlehem
Much tends to be made about progress "up" such hierarchies and concerning
the more profoundly integrative (if not holy) insights that that implies --
and the privileges that should necessarily follow from this emergence of insight.
Mountain climbing is then a favoured metaphor (as in René Daumal. Mount
Analogue, 1952). The assumption is one of progress from ignorance up
to wisdom -- after many years of experience under the tutelage of the wise who
have gone before. This ignores the implications of the Buddhist saying that
"the seeker is that which is being sought". Furthermore, the implication
that this is any form of progressive return to an initial insight that may have
been accessible at any time in the reality of the moment -- possibly at any
age -- is suppressed. This is the case despite calls to become "as a child"
once more as the key to wisdom. The insight of T S Eliot's poem is transformed
into an experience for the elderly alone, following appropriate tutelage:
We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
Through the unknown, remembered gate
When the last of earth left to discover
Is that which was the beginning... (Little
For others, humanity awaits the Externalization
of the Hierarchy through the Reappearance
of Christ (possibly under other names that may pose problems for Christians)
-- despite the centuries of highly problematic implementation of priestly wisdom
as intermediaries for such spiritual hierarchies. Again the possibility that
such externalization might be through recognition by each person of the wisdom
inherent in the moment is set aside in favour of metaphors recalling the arrival
of extraterrestrials on their spaceships in clouds of glory (offering up-beaming
rapture technology) -- and led at its hierarchical peak by a positive archetypal
counterpart to the ultimate malignant totalitarian dictator. This recalls, and
encourages, a polarized mindset evident in imperial courts throughout the ages
-- namely how to manoeuver through the antechambers, past the various gatekeepers,
to "get access" and "favours" from "on high".
The pattern is currently evident in relation to any charismatic personality
or guru. It is replicated in governmental bodies -- and in intergovernmental
organizations such as the United Nations and the European Commission.
Unfortunately alternative movements, despite their communication successes
with networking, have not been able to elaborate and implement viable alternative
models. As expressed by Naomi Klein with regard to the World Social Forum (What
Happened to the New Left? The Hijacking of the WSF, January 2003):
How on earth did a gathering that was supposed to be a showcase for new grassroots
movements become a celebration of men with a penchant for three-hour speeches
about smashing the oligarchy?
Memories and projections of Isdom
If indeed Isdom is as "close" in space-time as is implied above,
how are traces of its dynamics experienced?
It would seem that there is a tendency to articulate "memories" of
the experience through cultural "memories" of an historical golden
era. This may be delightfully refreshed for all ages by novels, and their movie
representations, such as those of J
R R Tolkien (The Lord of the Rings, The Silmarillion, etc)
about "Middle Earth" and the timeless realms of the elves (see David
Harvey. The Song of Middle Earth: J R R Tolkien's themes, symbols and myths.
1985). It might be useful to explore the ecology of such a mytho-poetic realm
in comparison with the potential interactions represented in a phase diagram
Such novels, and the "memories" they evoke, may hold patterns of
interaction reminiscent of Isdom -- especially including its problematic, shadowy
dimensions (see The
"Dark Riders" of Social Change: a challenge for any Fellowship of the Ring,
2002; also explored in the fiction of Stephen
Donaldson: The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever, 1993;
The Second Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever, 1994). A page-1
newspaper headline (Worldwide
quest for the magic of Middle Earth, Guardian, 20 December 2003)
points to a recently launched an international study on why The Lord of the
Rings is so popular -- which starts by asking participants: "Where,
in your imagination, is Middle-earth?" [more].
These fictional explorations may serve to sustain and echo the archetypal insights
of mytho-poetic folk legends in many cultures, notably those relating to elder
"ancestral" races who "withdrew into the stones" -- or to
those that may have been trapped therein, like Merlin and the proverbial geni
in the bottle (see Patterning
Archetypal Templates of Emergent Order implications of diamond faceting for
enlightening dialogue, 2002).
A similar effect may be achieved by projection of the imagination into the
future -- to a future golden era -- notably through science fiction. The pattern
dynamics of Isdom may well be projected into special types of games -- as with
Hermann Hesse's Glass Bead Game
(and attempts at its concretization)
or M A Foster's Gameplayers of Zan (1977). Such games have also been
developed to guide and sustain life in alternative communities (as with Findhorn's
Game and Damanhur's Game
of Life). More generally it might be argued that some interactive games
over the web are efforts to explore the dynamics of such psychic attractors.
Through exercising the imagination they offer a reflection and resonance with
the quality of being in the present offered by Isdom.
A more tragic possibility lies in the increasing recognition that some indigenous
peoples have held to beliefs consonant with the existence of an inner realm
of greater reality to them than the more secondary solid physical world that
conventional thinking holds to be primary -- despite recent advances in physics.
Indigenous groups holding to this primary inner reality have included the Muisca
people (Colombia) ravaged by the Spanish in search of an Eldorado
that may have been essentially mystical [more]
(see also the many examples presented in Darrell Posey (Ed.): Cultural and
Spiritual Values of Biodiversity, 2000)
Another catalyst for recollection of Isdom is the sense some have of there
being a lost language which articulated interpersonal dynamics in highly integrative
ways which we can now but vaguely intuit (see Umberto Eco. The Search for
the Perfect Language, 1995. and The
Dream of a Perfect Language, 1996). Tolkien, Hesse and Foster play on
this through the languages they describe. There is also a whole movement to
construct new languages with desirable attributes [more].
There is also the possibility that certain devices, like rosaries, have an
ability to catalyze such integrative recollection (see Designing
Cultural Rosaries and Meaning Malas to Sustain Associations within the Pattern
that Connects, 2000). One flavour of this is suggested by the title
of a book of poems by Antonio de Nicolas (Remembering the God to Come,
Perhaps the person who did most historically to render Isdom into an accessible
reality is Marsilio
Ficino (see Composing
the Present Moment: celebrating the insights of Marsilio Ficino, 2001)
through his concern with "natural magic" and ensuring that decor in
all its senses served to reflect and resonate with such inner dynamics (see
Thomas Moore. Planets Within: The Astrological Psychology of Marsilio Ficino,
1990). This accords well with the recent work of the Imagination Lab (above).
It is echoed in William Blake's classic comment as a poet: "And at length they
pronounced that the Gods had orderd such things. Thus men forgot that All deities
reside in the human breast." (In
The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, 1790)
But the concern here is the manner in which the essential quality of Isdom
is quenched (see above) by projection of its experiential reality onto cognitive
screens which are effectively a denial of its nature -- even though the pattern
of that reality may be traced out on such screens. The argument here -- following
the tale of Plato's Cave -- is that they readily run the risk of being but pale
analogues. This may be particularly tragic for those who are unable to sustain
themselves through "Project Logic" (see Knowledge
Gardening through Music: patterns of coherence for future African management
as an alternative to Project Logic, 2000)
Dynamics of Isdom
There is every reason to believe that "networking" as practiced does
indeed hide important insights into the nature of the wisdom processes within
Isdom. It is unfortunate that as a metaphor it has been downgraded to be synonymous
in many cases with a phone call or (old boy) clubbing. It is sad that it is
only the intelligence services that take "networks" seriously and
proceed to use the mathematical techniques of social network analysis in order
to discover their creative and controlling centres -- as a means of infiltrating
them or "taking them out".
It is therefore useful to explore further the implications of the plasma metaphor
of nuclear fusion as it can be used for insights into social change and transformation.
The interesting parallel here with a plasma container is that of the alchemical
vessel or flask whose symbolism was the subject of extensive exploration by
C G Jung (Mysterium
Coniunctionis: An Inquiry into the Separation and Synthesis of Psychic Opposites
in Alchemy (The Collected Works of C. G. Jung, Volume 14)) . Jung viewed
it as a container for interior work (see, for example, Adam McLean. The
Alchemical Vessel as Symbol of the Soul). As noted by John
One of the key works Jung based Mysterium on was an alchemical text
titled Rosarium philosophorum. This text consists of a series of symbolic
pictures which are reproduced in the Edinger book [The Mystery of the Coniunctio].
The pictures represent the Rosarium Cycle or a sequence of psychological events
that repeat themselves over and over. They are cycles. As Edinger remarks,
they are meant to illustrate the events going on inside the alchemical flask
or the containing vessel. Edinger notes that the alchemical vessel symbolizes
three different psychological contexts: 1) a process within an individual
2) a process between two people and 3) a process within a group or community,
a collective process. The "vessel" that contains them needs to be defined
when looking at the Rosarium pictures. The sequential stages of the pictures
are the following: The Mandala Fountain; Emergence of Opposites; Stripped
for Action; Descent into the Bath; Union, Manifestation of the Mystery; In
the Tomb; Separation of Soul and Body; Gideon's Dew Drops from the Cloud;
Reunion of the Soul and Body; Resurrection of the United Eternal Body.
Whilst Jung and his followers have almost exclusively focused on the transformations
of the individual, there is a valuable resonance between such "inner"
transformations and those which they evoke, sustain and render recognizable
in the "external" social context. The question is what reflections
arising from the "inner" dynamics are suggestive of "external"
dynamics that might sustain alternative processes vital to the viability of
alternative social movements? The isolation of any cognitive vessel is highlighted
by the statement of philosopher Marjorie Grene: "The philosopher's room
is a chamber that's sealed. All the doors are shut firmly against reality? It's
this self-contained game. and an awful lot of it has no connection with anything"
(in Michael Tobias, et al. A
Parliament of Minds: philosophy for a New Millennium, 2000, p. xvii).
The challenge of alchemical reflections by depth psychologists is that they
have a strong tendency to emphasize the duration of such processes -- implying
years of personal exploration and therapeutic assistance. Jungians have, as
yet, little to offer groups (see Thoughts
on "Psyche at Work": Implications of Jungian analysis for social groups,
1992). In this sense they deny the reality of the moment in which the essential
processes of Isdom take place. As with nuclear fusion there is a vital temporal
focus to be embodied in the understandings suggested. In a sense the projection
over time in extenso is a counter-productive distraction where the challenge
is effectively "in intenso" -- as with nuclear fusion.
It is for such reasons that the bridge established by physicist F David Peat
Consciousness and matter, form and information, 1997) between the vessels
of alchemical processes and those of nuclear fusion is of potential interest.
The psychologist Carl Jung gave us the image of the alchemical vessel in
which processes of sublimation and purification take place. Psychotherapy
provides this same kind of containment whereby a person's tensions and paradoxes
are contained within the therapeutic hour, charges with such energy that they
may eventually give way to active transformation. Within the alchemical vessel
there's no resolution of paradox and opposition, no compromise, no simple
order that ties in between. Rather, a transcendental functions required which
moves beyond the limits inherent in different positions by creating new domains.
But for this to happen it is necessary to have a period, and a means, of active
containment. Even nuclear fusion requires the hot plasma to be contained long
enough for fusion reactions to take place....
Most dramatically, form appears in the guise of the wave function. It is
the global form of the wave function (symmetric or antisymmetric) that is
responsible for the existence of Fermi-Dirac or Bose-Einstein statistics.
The fact that such forms are non-factorizable (into spatially independent
components) is the deep reason for quantum non-locality (Bell's mysterious
correlation between distant particles). The global form of the wave function
is ultimately responsible for collective modes in physics-plasma, superfluid,
superconductor and hypothetical Frochlich systems. The form of the wave function
orchestrates each of an astronomical number of particles into a highly coordinated
There is a surprising resemblance between the "wiring" patterns of
the magnetic "bottles" required to contain plasma for nuclear fusion
and that of the transformation pathways between the 64 hexagrams of the I
Ching (the Book of Changes) (see diagram;
of Hyperlink Geometry, 1997). Such a diagram is highly suggestive of
a container -- which in the taoist tradition would be understood as a container
for ch'i (see the work of biochemist Ralph
G H Siu: The Tao of Science: an essay on Western knowledge and Eastern
wisdom, 1957; The Man of Many Qualities; a legacy of the I Ching,
1968; Ch'i: a neo-taoist approach to life, 1974). The last of these is
an effort to deal with the nature of time. It has been suggested that the significance
of ch'i may be intuited as a perpetual "confluence of Time, Light and
Life" -- supporting self-healing practices such as T'ai Ch'i Chuan that
originated as an internal martial art.
There would appear to be some possibility that the many Chinese articulations
of understanding of the conditions and movement of ch'i could offer much
greater detailed understanding of the dynamics of Isdom -- especially since
the classics that are the focus of such studies (I Ching and Tao Te
Ching) are exemplars of books of wisdom. For example, the long-explored
relationship to the magic
squares of number theory suggests the possibilities of relating such insights
to the insights of physicists into hyperspace and associated explorations of
the physics of consciousness (see Hyperspace
Clues to the Psychology of the Pattern that Connects in the light of the 81
Tao Te Ching Insights, 2003). Susantha Goonatilake (Toward a Global
Science: mining civilizational knowledge, 1999) has suggested that it is
Asian cultural metaphors that will drive research in the coming century (see
Enhancing the Quality
of Knowing through Integration of East-West metaphors, 2000).
Now-time of Isdom
Much is made speculatively of the first few seconds at the beginnings of the
universe -- and of the millions of years of evolution since then. Much is made
of the emptiness of space at the subatomic level -- and of the millions of kilometers
of empty space between astronomical objects. Very little is made of the moments
of time -- the fractions of a second -- in which awareness moves before any
engagement in action or speech. And yet anecdotes abound on the capacity to
review a whole life in such periods when faced with death. Or the astounding
ability to recognize and respond to danger in that period -- as in the martial
arts. Or the ability to fall in love. Just as subatomic space is "spacious",
are such moments "time-full" in some way -- offering aeons of time
for the dynamics of awareness?
Studies based on the work of C P Fulford and S Zhang (Perceptions of interaction,
1993) have shown that learners have the cognitive capacity to process speech
at twice the rate at which a lecturer speaks [more].
It has been recently determined, with untrained volunteers, that it takes around
300 milliseconds to begin to understand a pictured object. A further 250 to
450 milliseconds is required to fully comprehend what it is. This suggests that
the "total speed of thought" is between 550 and 750 milliseconds (Hopkins
Scientists Clock The Speed Of Comprehension, 28 May 1998) [more].
These figures ignore the kinds of speeds associated with some jugglers and players
of musical instruments, such as the piano [more
| more | more
For a meditator the perspective may also be quite different as described by
José Argüelles (A Treatise on Time Viewed from Its Own Dimension) watching
the flow of thoughts with panoramic view, an awareness of time within non-conceptual
"With practice one can begin to see the current of thoughts and the ego attachments
and recognize that no thought is more or less important than any other. One
can come to distinguish that there is actually "space" between thoughts. This
space between thoughts is the original unobstructed nature of mind. To experience
this space is to taste the essence of now-ness. In the space of now there
is no history, no ordinary time, no ego, no beginning and no end. Because
one learns to see without concepts"
Other possibilities are indicated from a Chinese qigong perspective,
according to Yan Xin (Scientific
Qigong Research, 1999):
Physics teaches us that the speed of light is the fastest velocity at which
one may transmit material, energy, and information. Are there any material
phenomena that can travel faster than the speed of light? From a qigong
perspective, it seems very possible. But what kind of energy can make such
a speed possible? This is difficult to assess. At the moment, modern scientific
means still cannot discover or practically measure such an energy form. It
is likely that the speed of thought is faster than the speed of light, but
how can this be measured? How can this phenomenon be captured? Cultivating
this space is called "cultivating clear seeing."
In 1996 the Long Now Foundation
was established to develop clock and "library" projects as well as to become
the seed of a very long term cultural institution. For them progress lately
is too often measured on a "faster/cheaper" scale. The Foundation seeks to promote
"slower/better" thinking and to foster creativity in the framework of the next
10,000 years. In contrast, with respect to Isdom, the suggestion here is that
there is scope and merit in establishing a "Short Now Foundation"
for thinking that will break through the "faster/cheaper" barrier
-- but in the direction of instantaneousness.
There is indeed a "superficial" dimension to now-thinking (see Kato
Instantaneousness and Instant Globalism, 1992; [more])
perhaps first identified as a "blip culture" by Alvin Toffler -- and
now a characteristic of instantaneousness in warfare and simultaneity in economics
| more]. It was
Martin Heidegger who not only described the "abolition of distance" as a constitutive
feature of the contemporary condition -- now characteristic of globalization
-- but who linked recent shifts in spatial experience to no less fundamental
alterations in the temporality of human activity [more].
Dwain W. Higginbotham (How the
Universe Works) makes the point that "90 percent or more of the
'stuff' of the universe, is dominated by quantum weirdness, has instantaneousness
as a common thread, and has no dimensions, and is everywhere in the background
of the material/spatial aspect".
Conventional thinking about instaneity obscures the kind of thinking notably
explored by meditators or inventors ("a flash of insight"). For example:
"Instantaneousness is a fundamental quality of psychic energy, but people
have been accustomed to suppose that lengthy thought is the strongest. In such
a way they lose sight of the fact that time is not needed for thought"
What has been termed cosmic consciousness is characterized by its instantaneousness:
"The instantaneousness of the illumination is one of its most striking features.
It can be compared to a dazzling flash of lightning in a dark night, bringing
the landscape which had been hidden into clear view" [more].
It may also be characteristic of the religious conversion experience [more].
It is perhaps Mihaly
: The Psychology of Optimal Experience, 1990; Finding Flow: The
Psychology of Engagement with Everyday Life; Creativity: Flow and the Psychology
of Discovery and Invention. 1996) who has helped most to give credibility
to the dynamics of Isdom. He is renowned as the architect of the notion of flow
in creativity -- people enter a flow state when they are fully absorbed in activity
during which they lose their sense of time and have feelings of great satisfaction.
He describes flow as "being completely involved in an activity for its own sake.
The ego falls away. Time flies. Every action, movement, and thought follows
inevitably from the previous one, like playing jazz. Your whole being is involved,
and you're using your skills to the utmost." [more]
There is however relatively little information on "flow in groups"
-- despite Csikszentmihalyi 's work (Flow in Sports: the keys to optimal
experience and performance, 1999). But this work, together with that of
C Mainemelis (When the muse takes it all: A model for the experience of timelessness
in organizations, 2001), have been suggestive in exploring "collective
virtuosity" (see Mark Marotto, Johan Roos and Bart Victor. Collective
Virtuosity: The Aesthetic Experience in Groups Working Paper 2002-6
), namely the ethical and aesthetical aspects of social interaction in groups,
extending such notions of timelessness, "flow" and job crafting beyond the individual
level. As a focus of the work of the Imagination
Lab, "collective virtuosity" emphasizes the need to educate the
imagination -- so critical to the ability of the alternative community at Damanhur
to explore time travel (see Renaissance
Zones: experimenting with the intentional significance of the Damanhur community,
The Imagination Lab study offers many further clues to the dynamics of Isdom,
notably stressing the role of authenticity:
...ethics is about practicing who you are in the moment. The emphasis on
the moment is related to the immediacy of authenticity....For a group to have
collective virtuosity, the members must experience each other aesthetically....People
that experience authenticity of others are challenged, and often inspired.
this spark of transformation is the motor behind the recursive process and
virtuous circle that is collective virtuosity. Authenticity leads to dynamic
tensions between people. There is a rhythm of constant interaction, even conflicts
that arise in the immediate moment of authentic exchange. Since it is not
planned and controlled, there is a natural ebb and flow to the way people
interact and co-create with each other. Such synchronization of activities
is known as temporal patterning.
On authenticity, see also Evoking
Authenticity: through polyhedral global configuration of local paradoxes
Grokking: Emergence of Homo conjugens, 2003; Martin Buber. I and
Wisdom of Isdom
How then to envisage the wisdom of Isdom?
The Imagination Lab study does an excellent job of pointing to the practical
learnings from the interactive dynamics associated with jazz improvisation in
groups (a theme of studies by others, notably John Kao. Jamming:
The Art and Discipline of Business Creativity. Ken Kamoche, Miguel Pina
e Cunha Minimal
structures: From jazz improvisation to product innovation. Organization
Studies, Sept-Oct, 2001):
Jazz, as the exemplification of aesthetic awareness of the other combined
with an ethic of authenticity, has been proposed as a model for a pluralistic
and multicultural world (Welsh, 1999). The open musical conversations, intense
exchange and respect for the other musicians inherent in jazz is a metaphor
for how people of vastly different faiths and backgrounds can interrelate
and create community together.
This strongly suggests that collective wisdom has much to do with how people
"play" together -- a ludic quality (cf Johan Huizenga. Homo Ludens,
1950). For the individual it would then be a question of how indeed the individual
"played" with insights and perceptions and of whether there were more
fruitful ways of playing with them (see Enhancing
the Quality of Knowing through Integration of East-West metaphors, 2000).
There is a vast distinction between trivial play and that to which Hermann Hesse
Ludi: the Glass Bead Game, 1946). Johan Roos and Bart Victor even see
strategy making as serious play (Towards a Model of Strategy Making as Serious
Play, 1999) and have franchised a process
for business strategy to bring the creativity, the exuberance, and the inspiration
of play to the serious concerns of adults in the business world. (The
Science of LEGO SERIOUS PLAY)
Whatever the leads from jazz however, much remains to be discovered about how
(and under what conditions) this "play" engenders "wise"
strategic action in the face of dilemmas typical of the world as it is framed
today. It is perhaps here that the games noted earlier, whether real or imagined,
are indicative of dynamic support structures of emergent insight. But much may
depend on how the games are effectively internalized by the players -- rather
than being purely external exercises in skill and virtuosity. Humour may also
be vital to such play -- as implied by the Zen and Taoist concerns with crazy
It is in this sense that wisdom is then to a high degree in the process
of co-creation itself -- not in the product thereof. It is in the process
of interweaving and interplay that builds, sustains and explores associations
-- well-modelled in some respects by the improvisation of jazz. The contrast
has also been stressed in the process of poetry-making of which any poem produced
may offer only faint echoes (Poetry-making
and Policy-making: Arranging a Marriage between Beauty and the Beast,
Aspects of these questions in relation to "practical wisdom" have
been explored in a most valuable way by Matt Statler, Johan Roos and Bart Victor
of the Imagination Lab (Dear
Prudence: an essay on practical wisdom in strategy making). They take
as their point of departure the Aristotelian concept of prudence as practical
According to Aristotle, practical wisdom involves the virtuous capacity to
make decisions and take actions that promote the 'good life' for the 'polis'.
We explore contemporary interpretations of this concept in literature streams
adjacent to strategy and determine that practical wisdom can be developed
by engaging in interpretative dialogue and aesthetically-rich experience.
With these elements in view, we re-frame strategy processes as occasions to
develop the human capacity for practical wisdom....We then re-cast the importance
of strategy processes as an occasion to develop the practical wisdom required
to take appropriate action in situations when decision factors are clouded
by ambiguity and uncertainty....
To recapitulate: practical wisdom is not science because it deals with unpredictable,
dynamic aspects of human social life. On the other hand, it is does not refer
to the kind of clever intelligence that enables people to survive or achieve
advantage through cunning. Instead, it refers to the capacity to make judgments
and take actions that are good. Following the arguments outlined above, a
process-oriented notion of the ethical 'good' appears necessarily to involve
creative processes of dialogue and interpretation. With this definition of
the 'good' in mind, our guiding question concerning ontology and intentionality
leads us to inquire how practial wisdom might be developed among strategists.
Interestingly, our answer to this question is one that has been offered throughout
the Western tradition, but which has surfaced only recently and somewhat on
the margins of the mainstream strategy literature. In this section of the
essay, we explore aesthetically-rich experience as a category of activity
through which strategists may become more practically wise.
Wisdom imbued with aesthetic qualities may then be associated with the "pattern
that connects" and with bridging between cognitive incommensurables as
an exemplification of the ecology of which they are expressions. It is thus
the essence of that cognitive diversity that is capable of sustaining appreciation
of cultural and biological diversity and ensuring strategies for its appropriate
management. As such, metaphor plays a key role as a transdisciplinary vehicle
vital to strategic thinking (Metaphors
as Transdisciplinary Vehicles of the Future, 1991). As suggested elsewhere
(Metaphor as an Unexplored
Catalytic Language for Global Governance, 1993):
It is not that traditional policy models are ineffective or inadequate. The
difficulty is rather in the incompatibility of models, however useful in different
specialized domains, and the resulting weaknesses which emerge in any supposedly
integrated strategy. Suspicion concerning integrative models has become a
Beyond any structural modifications, the key to the success of future strategies
appears to lie in the imaginative manner in which valid, but seemingly incompatible,
initiatives are woven together. The challenge is highlighted by the absence
of models adequate to the reconciliation of "centralized" and "market" economic
strategies in the former socialist countries of Eastern Europe. There are
no available models because the challenge to the imagination transcends the
world of model builders by which strategies have been so influenced. It could
be concluded that new possibilities for global governance are to be found
beyond the strategic incompatibilities in which visions of its future tend
to become entangled.
It is metaphors which provide the imagination with "keystones" to balance
the tensions between tendencies which, without such integrative elements,
would appear incompatible. World governance in this sense is a question of
"imagination building" rather than "institution building".
Governance at the highest level should therefore focus attention on the emergence
and movement of policy-relevant metaphors -- that are capable of rendering
comprehensible the way forward through complex windows of opportunity. The
challenge lies in marrying new metaphors to models to ensure the embodiment
of new levels of insight in appropriate organizational form.
The more concrete implications for governance are explored elsewhere (see Coherent
Policy-making Beyond the Information Barrier, 1999).
Being otherwise in Isdom
The reference above to "crazy wisdom" suggests that -- in addition
to humour -- the frame of reference within Isdom needs to be understood as fundamentally
Other Wise: dynamics of a meaningfully sustainable lifestyle, 1998).
The role of humour in response to political and other adversity is well-recognized
(cf Patrick Rorke. The
Wisdom of Adversity, 1945; Victor S.M. de Guinzbourg. Wit and Wisdom
of the United Nations: Proverbs and Apothegms on Diplomacy, 1961), notably
through the Noble Prize of the Association for the Promotion of Humour in International
The contrast with conventional thinking is perhaps most succinctly demonstrated
by physicists' own need for "craziness". This is illustrated by the much-quoted
statement by Niels Bohr in response to Wolfgang Pauli: "We are all agreed that
your theory is crazy. The question which divides us is whether it is crazy enough
to have a chance of being correct. My own feeling is that is not crazy enough."
To that Freeman Dyson added:
"When a great innovation appears, it will almost certainly be in a muddled,
incomplete and confusing form. To the discoverer, himself, it will be only
half understood; to everyone else, it will be a mystery. For any speculation
which does not at first glance look crazy, there is no hope!" (Innovation
in Physics, Scientific American, 199, No. 3, September 1958)
The biologist J B S
Haldane opined: "Now my own suspicion is that the Universe is not only
queerer than we suppose, but queerer than we can suppose" (since referred
to as "Haldane's Law") -- an explanation for the increasing counterintuitiveness
of modern scientific theories. But whilst "craziness" is now acceptable
in physics -- and backed by high levels of funding -- yet such "craziness"
is quite unacceptable in the search for more appropriate responses to
the dramatic challenges of governance and personal identity -- and the planetary
crises of the foreseeable future. Why indeed is it not assumed that really "crazy"
solutions will be required -- and that those on the table are "not crazy
enough"? Why should physicists have a monopoly on such "craziness"?
And why should "crazy" strategic options only become acceptable, and
justified, in the craziness of warfare and knee-jerk responses to crises?
The nature of appropriate "craziness" is usefully clarified by George
the edge of lunacy, Guardian, 6 January 2004) in commenting on
the allocation of UK extensive foreign aid funds to the government-sponsored,
right-wing Adam Smith Institute (London):
The institute's purpose is to devise new means for corporations to grab the
resources that belong to the public realm. Its president, Madsen Pirie, claims
to have invented the word privatisation. His was the organisation that persuaded
the Conservative government to sell off the railways, deregulate the buses,
introduce the poll tax, cut the top rates of income tax, outsource local government
services and start to part-privatise the national health service and the education
system. "We propose things," Pirie once boasted, "which people regard as being
on the edge of lunacy. The next thing you know, they're on the edge of policy."
In this spirit, his institute now calls for the privatisation of social security,
the dismantling of the NHS and a shift from public to private education.
How to distinguish between this kind of disaster-prone "craziness"
and that which those in search of "alternatives" and "new paradigms"
appear to call for?
Perhaps to some degree, the key to Isdom lies in the ability to ask unusual
questions of a certain type -- as suggested by the wordplay: Why's-dom. Perhaps
it is these questions which "pluck" the strings of associations of
the "pattern that connects". Perhaps it is in some way an ability
to "play" on that pattern -- as on the strings of a guitar or a sitar.
In addition to the emphasis on the instant -- the present moment (see Presenting
the Future, 2001) -- there is a need to shift from the static
quality characteristic of conventional structures to the dynamic -- to
their "momentum" in the present moment as argued elsewhere (see From
Statics to Dynamics in Sustainable Community, 1998; Discovering
richer patterns of comprehension to reframe polarization, 1998)
How then may the identity of the dwellers of Isdom be understood -- those whose
psychic centre of gravity is therein? How might they be perceived? There are,
for example, allusive pointers in mytho-poetic references to the world of faerie
-- possibly also helpful to any reflection about how to conceive and communicate
with extraterrestrials who may indeed be well-ensconced in Isdom (see Communicating
with Aliens: the Psychological Dimension of Dialogue, 2000). Elsewhere
Templates of Emergent Order, 2002) it was suggested that:
Another modality calling for reflection is the process reality contrasted
with that of reified objects. The identities sustained by the dynamics within
process reality are then effectively "aliens" -- unrecognizable from a static
perspective to which they are not "linked". It might then usefully be asked
whether people could be distinguished on a continuum depending on the degree
to which their identity is associated with how they "move", as opposed to
how they are -- their "status". At the process extreme, in folk traditions
those of the "flow world" might then be readily recognized as spirits and
the like -- hidden fairies contributing coherence to the forest. The religiously
inclined might refer to them as angels or demons. In part, they would only
live through the dynamics between the static identities. The "demons" would
be of special concern as malevolent riders of those dynamics -- "dark riders".
What identities live through processes of overpopulation, starvation, disease,
injustice, pollution and violence -- or globalization itself? [more]
In an era of "spin doctors" and multi-media morphing, are there more fruitful
ways of understanding the conceptual implications of shapeshifting? [more]
Also helpful are some accounts of dream encounters with archetypes -- where
the significance derives from the encounter rather than of any description that
it is possible to give of it.
Also intriguing is the initiative of the Batuz
Foundation (initially with Inge Morath)
to give expression to a Société Imaginaire. For those with
the ability to do so, why should the ability to create and inhabit castles of
the collective imagination not be explored -- the castles in potentia
Another interesting lead is that articulated by the surrealists, notably by
André Breton in the First
Surrealist Manifesto (1924):
We are still living under the reign of logic, but the logical processes of
our time apply only to the solution of problems of secondary interest. The
absolute rationalism which remains in fashion allows for the consideration
of only those facts narrowly relevant to our experience. Logical conclusions,
on the other hand, escape us. Needless to say, boundaries have been assigned
even to experience. It revolves in a cage from which release is becoming increasingly
difficult. It too depends upon immediate utility and is guarded by common
sense. In the guise of civilization, under the pretext of progress, we have
succeeded in dismissing from our minds anything that, rightly or wrongly,
could be regarded as superstition or myth; and we have proscribed every way
of seeking the truth which does not conform to convention.
To what extent are such realities to be marginalized as mere "figments"
of the imagination? Efforts such as those of the Imagination Lab suggest prudence
with respect to premature cognitive closure. The central role of the imagination
at Damanhur confirms its value in sustaining the life of a community (see Imaginal
education, 2003). Perhaps the ultimate insight is provided by Kenneth
Boulding, author of Image (1956), who provocatively suggests:
"Our consciousness of the unity of self in the middle of a vast complexity
of images or material structures is at least a suitable metaphor for the unity
of group, organization, department, discipline or science. If personification
is a metaphor, let us not despise metaphors -- we might be one ourselves"
(Ecodynamics; a new theory of social evolution, 1978)
Sustaining dialogue of Isdom
The argument above suggests that wisdom is somehow an emergent characteristric
of an intensive dynamic within Isdom based on imaginative and playful dialogue
having an aesthetic quality. Conventionally dialogue of this type tends to be
described as "magical" and "transformative". It is the Holy
Grail of dialogue, although little is known of how to evoke it. One lead for
philosophers is the notion of the Platonic symposium (as explored, for example,
by Owen Barfield. Worlds Apart, 1963). On a a much larger scale, this
might be seen as reflected in the dynamics of a body such as the World Congress
of Philosophy. But the challenges in the latter case -- as articulated through
23 participant interviews (edited by Michael Tobias, et al. A
Parliament of Minds: philosophy for a New Millennium, 2000) -- highlight
the disappointing inability of the many schhols of philosophy to address the
cognitive ecology of philosophical perspectives as a whole, despite moves towards
various forms of "global dialogue", with or without a spiritual dimension.
It could also be argued that, for any integrative dialogue within Isdom to
be sustainable, a further self-reflexive twist is required (see also Evaluating
Synthesis Initiatives and their Sustaining Dialogues, 2000). Without
such a twist these characteristics may only be understood minimalistically and
conventionally -- without the degree of challenge that may be vital to sustainability
(no risk, no sustainability; no doubt, no dialogue?). There are various clues
to reflection on the nature of this twist, including:
- Crossing boundaries: Rather than operating within conceptual boundaries,
there is a need for a boundary crossing dynamic in dialogue. One relevant
exploration is that of Kinhide Mushakoji (Global Issues and Interparadigmatic
Dialogue: essays on multipolar politics, 1988) summarized elsewhere (see
challenges: interparadigmatic dialogue).
- Calculus of indications: This was pioneered by G. Spencer-Brown (Laws
of Form, 1969) and explores the notion of a distinction, and the consequences
of what there would be if there could be a distinction. In his further exploration,
Louis H. Kauffman (Virtual
Logic: the calculus of indication, 1998) indicates: "Our intent
is to explore a number of themes that are related to simplicity and vanishing.
As things nearly vanish, we reach regions where apparently distinct domains
touch, join and become one. As things come into being, apparently distinct
domains appear from an undifferentiated ground. These new domains grow in
great profusion and prolixity, sometimes obscuring the simple origins. We
are interested in creative growth. It is by returning to the origin that the
source of such newness is found. The calculus of indications is a gem retrieved
by a descent into nothingness."
- Varieties of variety: What forms of variety might emerge in Isdom,
as essential to the "pattern that connects"? For Ranulph Glanville (A
(Cybernetic) Musing: Varieties of Variety?, 1998) there are several
kinds of variety, or ways of considering variety (in a second order world,
these are equivalents): "There is the difference that Ashby created in
his two uses: variety as the number of states a system can attain (s-variety);
and the "entropically inspired" variety as the relationship between the logically
possible and the actual number of states a system could achieve (e-variety)....
To this confusion I have to add the confusion I find resulting from the need
to modify the Law of Requisite Variety that second-order understanding requires
and the experience that not only does the variety in a system often increase,
but it can (and must) be (re-)defined according to how the included observer
chooses to see it. Thus... variety can be seen as needing to be both static
and dynamic, both defined by the system and observer determined. Are there
other qualities that I have not considered here? I suspect so. Then what are
they?" (see also Varieties
of Dialogue Arenas and Styles, 1992; Varieties
of Dialogue by Number: experimental overview by number of perspectives represented,
- Spacings: For John Sallis (Spacings of Reason and Imagination:
in texts of Kant, Fichte, Hegel, 1987), a spacing is a "movement"
of the imagination "such as to open the very space in which it occurs",
a relation of the space to itself. It "leaves difference open, dis(assembling)
the plane of truth so as to set its parts at various angles to one another,
reintroducing depth, a new kind of depth... The release of spacing opens reason
beyond itself, disrupting that pure self-identity, self-recoverability, self-presence
by which spacing would be, was to have been, superseded, suppressed....As
such, it is (the movement of ) imagination. Occlusion, the release of spacings,
leads from reason to imagination". Sallis distinguishes four "outbreaks
of spacings" that disrupt the tranquil space of conventionally reasoned
dialogue (but bear an intriguing resemblance to language relating to the navigation
of hyperspace or the control of plasma):
- Tunnelings: "First an outbreak of what can only appear
as metaphoricity, reason metaphorized as tunneling; a metaphorics that serves
to expose certain fissures within reason and to space reason out into historicity".
- Hoverings: "Second, a certain decentering from reason
to imagination; and though a certain recentering supervenes in the end,
one can -- perhaps must -- withdraw from that end, withdraw to imagination
as the power of hovering between opposities, hence as a different spacing
of truth, a spacing also beyond being"
- Enroutings: "Third, the spacing of critical reason
as a certain eccentricity with regard to the route that reason could follow
back to the common root, that is an eccentricity with regard to the enrouting
of reason that, though categorically imperative, cannot but disrupt the
very spacing of reason and broach a root of reason."
- Tremorings: "Fourth, a certain movement that would withdraw
nature in its sublimity from assimilation to the supersensible space of
reason, the "true world", and that would thereby draw the tremoring
imagination out toward an abyss."
- Ending(s): "Finally, the slightest eccentricity, traced
in the very text in which imagination would be brought to its end...within
the most rigorous reduction of spacing in the entire history of metaphysics."
- Co-existence of multiple interpretations: As explored by Michael
Krausz (Limits of Rightness, 2000): "Might there be more than
one admissible interpretation, and under wxhat conditions would they obtain?
And under what conditions would it be inappropriate to speak of either one
or more admissible interpretation?" [more].
That which is interpreted in dialogue need not always answer to one and only
one fully congurent ideally adlmissible interpretation. There may be a one-many
match between that which is interpreted and its interpretation, and the interpretations
may be opposed but not exclusive.
- Oversimplification: In his work, Paul
Method, 1975) has explored the limitations of intellectual method
in the face of a rich and complex world. Thus (in Conquest of Abundance:
a tale of abstraction versus the richness of being, 1999): "The world
we inhabit is abundant beyond our wildest imagination... Still many are bothered...and
they react accordingly -- they try to "block off" what disturbs
them. For them the world is too complicated and they want to simplify it further...
The search for reality that accompanied the growth of Western civilization
played an important role in the process of simplifying the world... What we
find, with very few exceptions, are intellectual leaders repeating slogans
which they cannot explain and which they often violate, anxious slaves following
in their footsteps and institutions offering or withdrawing money in accordance
with the fashions of the day..." (see also Beyond
Method: engaging opposition in psycho-social organization, 1981)
- Openness vs Closure: Hilary Lawson (Closure: a story of everything,
2001) argues that: "In the new relative, post-modern era, there is no
unique history, no agreed morality, and no uncontested knowledge. In their
place a mass of alternative and sometimes incompatible theories, from 'chaos'
and 'string' theory to 'fuzzy logic' and 'consilience', proposing a theory
of everything." For Lawson, "Instead of seeing the world as a thing,
a universe whose truths we might uncover through for example the procedures
of science...[he]...proposes that we regard the world as open and it is we
who close it through our stories." However he acknowleges that Closure
is itself just another story that is simply "a pointer to that which
is not closure, a pointer in the direction of openness. As such it seeks to
undermine the arrogance of theories that suppose they might have uncovered
the true nature of reality....It is thus a reflexive theory. Like all other
closures it both seeks to be complete, and under scrutiny fails. It is on
the one hand the outcome of the desire for closure and on the other hand the
outcome of the desire for opennness."
It is preoccupations such as the above which are liable to inform the process
of dialogue within Isdom. They are of course echoed in the concerns of certain
schools of meditation. [See also
Navigating Alternative Conceptual Realities: clues to the dynamics of enacting
new paradigms through movement
, 2002; Psychology
of Sustainability: Embodying cyclic environmental processes
, 2002; Future
Generation through Global Conversation: in quest of collective well-being through
conversation in the present moment
Normality -- across the quenching boundary
The theme of the above argument is that there may well be a way of reframing
and refocusing our momentary understanding of space-time -- in the spirit of
the openness of contemporary physicists to the necessary craziness of insight
required to provide coherence to our understanding of these times and of our
place in them. This craziness may indeed be of the kind suggested in Zen by
the "sound of one hand clapping".
The core of the argument is that the true "heartland" of humanity
-- usually projected into elsewhere and elsewhen -- may well be in the present
moment understood in a different mode. Hence the reference in the subtitle of
this paper to "embodying time as the heartland of humanity" -- rather
than buying into seductive arguments that the essential truth lies elsewhere
and elsewhen. It is from this heartland -- Isdom -- that humanity has been essentially
divorced and estranged, forced to settle a cognitive landscape that is basically
impoverished and ill-adapted to psychic needs of survival and thrival. There
is also a continuing threat of encroachment on Isdom by banality -- despite
its counter-intuitive protection.
The world that people are all educated to inhabit may well be a true (but very
pale) reflection of the nature of Isdom -- a denatured reflection. In particular
the problems of that world may be a reflection of issues whose roots within
Isdom we do not choose to address (see My
Reflecting Mirror World: making Joburg worthwhile, 2002)
The art then may somehow involve consciously embodying or "incorporating"
Isdom -- or rather recognizing that, as noted earlier on the cover of The
(Updated) Last Whole Earth Catalog (1974): "We can't put it together; it
is together". Isdom necessarily "is" within the Spirit of Now. In
Sufi terms it is the perfection of what is.
The challenge of exploring the present moment could then somehow be associated
with the cognitive process through which the sense of the ordinary is sustained
in all its fragmented, and potentially alienating, bittiness and banality. It
would seem that there is a real possibility of re-membering that to whose cognitive
dis-memberment we contribute in every moment. There are aspects of our cognitive
processes that constitute, and sustain, the quenching boundary -- such as to
destabilize any effort to give coherence to Isdom in our understanding. It is
perhaps Francisco Varela (On
Becoming Aware: a pragmatics of experiencing, 1998; Laying down a path
in walking: a biologist's look at a new biology, 1986) and his colleagues
that have best focused academic thinking on the associated challenges -- through
their work on enactivism
(see also En-minding
the Extended Body: Enactive engagement in conceptual shapeshifting and deep
Such work points to the challenge of the widespread use of the spatial metaphor
of "the way" as the preferred mode of achieving wisdom (Pointing
the Way; The Way to Happiness;
the Way; The
Way of Perfection; The
Way of Qigong; The
Way: an ecological world view; Way
of Science; etc). This metaphor focuses thinking on envisioning somewhere
else, going there and gaining "access" -- a journey that will necessarily
"take time". The metaphor encourages extension and implicitly
denies the significance and value -- and learnings -- of the current place in
time. In many respects it is basically "green fields" thinking: somewhere
else is better. In its metaphorical association with "vision" (seeing
The Way), it elicits a disengaged, spectator role -- and raises the possibility
of ignored disorders of strategic vision: myopia, presbyopia, colour blindness
etc (see Developing
a Metaphorical Langage for the Future, 1994). Humanity continues to
invest very heavily in strategies implied by this metaphor -- "globalization"
may even be one consequence as is "growth".
In contrast to "the way", using a time-based metaphor as a catalyst
for activating wisdom might offer valuable support for alternative and more
feasible cognitive styles -- in accord with the rhythms by which people live,
as strongly argued by José
Arguelles (Time and the Technosphere: The Law of Time in Human Affairs,
2002) and others (Stephan Rechtschaffen. Time Shifting, 1996; Diana Hunt
and Pam Hait.The Tao of Time, 1990). A time-based metaphor might encourage
intention with a focus on timing -- with all its associations to music,
dance and rhythm in its many senses (see Knowledge
Gardening through Music: patterns of coherence for future African management
as an alternative to Project Logic, 2000).
As a basis for a new generation of "time management", Stephen Covey
(First Things First, 1994) suggests an "alternative paradigm"
based on the sensed "importance" of what people do, rather than the
urgency of tasks characteristic of conventional time management. In contrast,
Steve Randall (Performance
and Well-Being Depend on the Paradigm of Time, 1997) argues that "inner
time" is qualitatively different and that the flow of time is not objective
and external. Given that scientists have not discovered any flow of time in
nature, the perceived flow of time is a product of conditioning, and can be
controlled. For Randall, the flow reflects the degree to which people have separated
themselves from the task at hand.
A significant challenge of now-time is in the relationship to extended time.
Paradoxically this is most evident in the desire for instant answers without
effort (as with the slogan: "I want everything, and I want it now").
This attitude manifests in the assumption that the most complex issues can be
communicated within a limited attention span, whether to the most eminent (as
with the single-page, double-spaced briefing notes for presidents) or to those
mandating them. The dilemma with respect to information and knowledge has been
acknowledged in an aptly titled 1985 project of the United Nations University
(Information Overload and Information Underuse). The pressure is now towards
visualization of information and knowledge maps, and away from linear text (like
this document). But such tools are still far from being adequate catalysts to
gatherings -- with a variety of preferences for knowledge processing and a need
for a degree of instaneity and synchronicity to reflect and act coherently.
And yet it is from these that wisdom is expected to emerge.
The contrast between linear and inner time, or between the extended time of
exposition and that of the moment of mutual understanding, might be usefully
related to the distinction in ancient Greek between chronos (from which
chronological or sequential time is derived) and kairos (or chairos).
Kairos time, in contrast with chronos, has no equivalent in English. It has
been described as "in between time" -- an undetermined period of time in which
"something" special happens. Kairos is intrinsically related to the quality
of audience attention. Chronos might be understood as quantitative time while
kairos is qualitative. Kairos may be understood as the right or critical moment
of opportunity (Carpe Diem). For religions it may be understood as cyclic
sacred time ("God's time") as explored by Mircea Eliade (The
Sacred and the Profane, 1957) [see also Gary Eberle. Sacred
Time And The Search For Meaning, 2003; Restoring
Sacred Time: how the liturgical year deepens Catholic faith, 2002].
For Eliade, religious man needs to enter sacred time periodically because sacred
time is what makes ordinary, historical time possible. Kairos is a period of
disruption to the normal flow of things -- a time of paradigm shifting and the
emergence of the new. In Greek the contrasting disciplines of kairos derive
from metaphors of archery and weaving. [more]
In this light, rather than a journey elsewhere, entering Isdom across the quenching
boundary may more fruitfully be understood as resembling stepping onto a moving
circus round-a-bout -- a challenge in timing and coordination (in contrast to
"Stop the World:
I Want to Get Off"). It requires adjustment to a different rhythm,
possibly entrainment by it. The poet Henry David Thoreau provides a classic
quote that might be considered as distinguishing between the spatial metaphor
("pacing" out a journey) and the time-oriented metaphor ("stepping"
to music, as in a dance):
If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he
hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however
measured or far away. (cf M. Scott Peck. The
Different Drummer: Community-making and Peace, 1987).
The quenching boundary might therefore be understood as the interface between
linear (objective, profane) time (chronos) and cyclic (subjective) time
(kairos) that is characteristic of Isdom. But the challenge remains of
how to embody such cyclic time and provide the carrier waves for the movement
of memes that are the essential dynamic of Isdom -- cycles of liturgy may offer
a possibility for some. It is this movement which makes the metaphor of "heartland"
appropriate (see also Psychology
of Sustainability: Embodying cyclic environmental processes, 2002).
The two contrasting metaphors of kairos -- archery and the weaving --
are suggestive of the dynamic of the "pattern that connects".
Such considerations might also be related to speculations by physicists regarding
the feasibility of time travel. The General Theory of Relativity postulates
that matter "curves" the space in its vicinity. But under relativity, properties
of space are fairly interchangeable with properties of time, depending on one's
perspective. Theoretically this could allow timelines to curve around in a circle
and reconnect with their own past through what are called "closed time-like
curves", thus enabling time travel -- for which various spinning devices
have been designed [more].
However the emphasis here in relation to activating and sustaining wisdom would
challenge this perspective of encouraging "travel" in time -- which
allows the journeying metaphor to creep in again without any apparent gain in
|Eternity isn't some later time. Eternity isn't a long time.
Eternity has nothing to do with time. Eternity is that dimension of here
and now which thinking and time cuts out. This is it. And if you don't
get it here, you won't get it anywhere. And the experience of eternity
right here and now is the function of life. There's a wonderful formula
that the Buddhists have for the Bodhisattva, the one whose being (sattva)
is illumination (bodhi), who realizes his identity with eternity
and at the same time his participation in time. And the attitude is not
to withdraw from the world when you realize how horrible it is, but to
realize that this horror is simply the foreground of a wonder and to come
back and participate in it. Joseph
Power of Myth, Episode
2, Chapter 13-14).
Neti Neti -- none of the above
In many respects all of the above is more than presumptuous with regard to
the eminent who hold alternative views -- and especially if they are held to
The work of Alfred
Korzybski (Science and Sanity An Introduction to Non-Aristotelian Systems
and General Semantics, 1994) -- followed by David
Boulard -- make the case for extreme precaution in using the verb "to
be" to express dogmatic beliefs or assumptions. Perhaps, again, it is a
special form of play with assumptions of "what is" -- "isplay"
-- that is required to sustain the dynamics of Isdom. Without such play, declarations
of "what is" are reified into belief systems and institutions such
as to preclude any flexibility or openness to dialogue. Why might it be expected
that any form of wisdom could be sustained amongst such reifications?
As many texts of the wise affirm, wisdom is necessarily "none of the above"
-- the Sanskrit "neti neti" -- the not-ness of what is to be
affirmed that has traditionally been explored by mystics through the via
negativa. The affirmation of the first chapter of the Tao Te Ching
-- concerning the unreality of "the way that can be named" -- recalls
the remarks above concerning the "quenching" boundary of Isdom:
The Tao that can be described is not the eternal Tao.
The name that can be spoken is not the eternal Name.
The nameless is the boundary of Heaven and Earth.
The named is the mother of creation.
José Arguelles. Time and the Technosphere: The Law of Time in Human
Affairs. Bear and Company, 2002 [interview]
José Arguelles. The Mayan Factor: path beyond technology. Bear and Company,
P. Arlin. Wisdom: the art of problem finding. In: R.J. Sternberg (Ed.), Wisdom,
its nature, origins and development. Cambridge University
Press. 1990, pp. 230-243
A. Assmann. Wholesome knowledge: concepts of wisdom in a historical and cross-cultural
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