21st March 2007 | Draft
Psychosocial Work Cycle
Beyond the plane of Möbius
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This is an exploration of the possibility of designing (or recognizing) new types of psychosocial energy system dependent on the skillful interweaving of "positive" and "negative" energy. This would reflect the pattern of development of energy systems exploited by the industrial revolution -- offering the possibility of "generating" psychosocial energy. The exploration is based on interrelating metaphorically the patterns associated with the Van der Graaf generator, the Möbius strip, the thermodynamic work cycle, the process of enantiodromia, and the dynamics implicit in the BaGua symbol. The design process here involves the juxtaposition or superposition of patterns variously indicated through metaphor -- thereby used as design elements to explicate the whole.
The exploration is part of a study of the distinction between the century-old Union of International Associations (UIA1), an implicit Union of Intelligible Associations (UIA2) and an emergent Union of Imaginable Associations (UIA3) to which references are variously made..
The following argument was developed to explore the implications of use a more complex medium than the plane surface (as with this page) as a support for insights. In contrast to the plane surface of a simple matrix (or the tabular presentation of Table 1), a torus holds an interesting position in the discussion of the relationship between form and medium as fundamental to advanced theories of communication (Comprehension of Requisite Variety for Sustainable Psychosocial Dynamics: transforming a matrix classification onto intertwined tori, 2006). The points made are in many respects relevant to the possibility of writing an integrative text on a continuous Möbius strip (or on a Klein bottle surface, as discussed below).
"Space" as a key to reflexivity: The torus notably featured in the work of Niklas Luhmann (Die Gesellschaft der Gesellschaft, 1997) and discussed by Michael Schiltz (Form and Medium: a mathematical reconstruction, Image [&] Narrative, 6, 2003) in relation to the calculus of indications of George Spencer-Brown (Laws of Form, 1969/1994). Schiltz notes that form/medium is "the image for systemic connectivity and concatenation", as described by Humberto Maturana and Francesco Varela. Schiltz notes, that the notion of "space" is the key to reflexivity appropriate to any discussion of form and medium, citing Spencer-Brown as follows:
A somewhat related point has been made by R Buckminster Fuller (Bias on One Side of the Line In: Synergetics: explorations in the geometry of thinking, 1975, #811.00). What are the implications of the added emphasis above for elaborating psychosocial development strategies?
Covert conventions: Schiltz then comments (in language that calls for a longer quotation to convey the richness of the subtle argument -- emphasis added) :
There is at least the possibility that shifting out of planar articulation of any "peace process" in the Middle East, for example, might clarify more coherent options.
Re-entry of distinction with itself: Schiltz concludes:
The theoretical usefulness of the distinction (and potentially its significance for sustainable development) is demonstrated by Schiltz through the exemplary medium of money.
Undermining insight using planar surfaces: The general argument raises the question of the impact of paper and flat computer screens (and "pull down" menus) in undermining any desirable emergence of non-planar surfaces for the presentation of information more capable of enabling and enhancing sustainable development. Perhaps there is a case for the "crystal balls" of the futurists of yore! The challenge is particularly evident in the articulation of any "global ethic", strategic "vision", mission statement or global plan -- like Agenda 21 (cf Structure of Declarations Challenging Traditional Patterns, 1993; Distinguishing Levels of Declarations of Principles, 1980 ). What would be the consequence of endeavouring to articulate these on a torus, for example?
Closure as the imposition of fixity: Related questions of interest are to be found in the philosophical discussion of closure by Hilary Lawson (Closure: a story of everything, 2001). He notes that "things" occur and emerge with closure:
In considering such closure elsewhere (Psychology of Sustainability: embodying cyclic environmental processes, 2002), Lawson's position was cited as follows:
To what extent are the various approaches to sustainable development, and the search for alternative paradigms, to be considered as efforts to achieve new -- and more encompassing -- forms of closure?
Quadrant systems: Given the importance of 4-quadrant systems for the organization of thought, it is not surprising that mathematical and visualization techniques have been developed, notably by Michael Ax (Four Quadrants), to show how they model linearity and non-linearity to serve as a bridge for the modern mind looking to understand, integrate and use various insights through a concise model. There are of course numerous 4-fold images, including the four-leaved clover.
Möbius strips: Numerous images are available illustrating the Möbius strip. That on the WolframMathWorld site enables interaction with it [more]. Anu Garg has an interactive VRML Mobius Strip. The University of Michigan Virtual Reality Laboratory offers several interactive animations. As noted, the artist M. C. Escher was skilled at depicting Möbius strips of which one (Möbius Strip II: Red Ants, 1963) is on the aforementioned virtual reality site. A flash movie and VRML presentation have been produced by Drastic-Creations.
Klein bottles: A true Klein bottle in four dimensions does not intersect itself where it crosses the side. It is a closed but borderless surface with no inside or outside, which can be embedded only in a four-dimensional space. Again numerous images are available illustrating the Klein bottle. That on the WolframMathWorld site enables interaction with it [more].
The 2D representation of epistemological domains as circles in Table
1 is of course only indicative of an abstraction with experiential
significance. A more powerfully significant representation is
in 3D form with spheres rather than circles. The wrap-around experience
of a sphere as a closed domain then more accurately suggests the self-sufficient
nature of experience within such a cognitive "world". The other
domains are then well-sensed as "other worlds" whatever the relationship
to them -- and however distant they appear (Towards an Astrophysics of the Knowledge Universe: from astronautics to noonautics? 2006)
Klein bottle: The 3D analogue to the Möbius strip, to which reference is often made, is the Klein bottle. Even more than in the case of the Möbius strip, this poses a challenge to comprehension, especially given the constraints on its visualization as an "impossible" structure (through being twisted through the fourth dimension). Aside from visualization, as an external object, the question here is how it may be considered indicative of cognitive interaction between a "positive" ("us") and a "negative" ("them"). More specifically, how does one identify, through the pattern it offers, with the process of encountering a "them" who may be understandable as "us" -- an "outsider" who may well, appropriately understood, be an "insider"? Comprehension of this possibility is assisted by Polthier's animation.
As discussed elsewhere (Symbolic relationship between positive and negative, 2005; Snoring of The Other: a politically relevant psycho-spiritual metaphor? 2006), the classic depiction of opposite yin-yang complementarities in the Tao symbol can be understood as a two-dimensional projection of the topology of a Klein bottle (as suggested to the author by Nadia McLaren). Melanie Purcell (Imperatives for unbiased holistic education: the Klein bottle, a universal structure: an archetypal image, 1999; What are The Relationships Between Infinity and Zero?: the diagonally woven single joined thread Klein bottle, and the implications of a cyclic universe, 1998; Looking at the Universe through the belly of a Klein bottle, 1999) has explored this as follows:
Whereas Purcell has focused on understanding topological manipulation of
the lines used to represent yin and yang, and the associated classic symbolism
(notably of a pelican
pecking at its breast, discussed below), the symbol of the Tao can itself be understood
as a two-dimensional representation of a Klein bottle (and as a stylized
approximation to that of the pelican). The symbol then constitutes a
2D schematic of the comprehension challenge of the Klein bottle. The symbol of the Tao
might then be usefully understood as a Klein bottle as represented by
Möbius and Klein representations: Purcell herself clarifies the relationship of the Klein bottle to the more readily understood Möbius strip. A Klein bottle can be produced by gluing two Möbius strips together along their edges (as illustrated by Polthier); this cannot be done in ordinary three-dimensional Euclidean space without creating self-intersections (thus distinct from Varela's understanding of "re-entry").
Like the Möbius strip, the Tao symbol/Klein bottle then offers a continuous single surface -- without a distinct "inside" or "outside". In the case of the Tao, emphasis (by Taoists) is typically placed on the illusory nature of the distinction -- as being one of limited awareness.
This illusion may be clarified in the easier case of the Möbius strip where observation of it from any particular point does indeed create the illusion of two sides. It might be decided to colour white the proximate side (directly visible from that perspective) and to colour black the part that is perceived as distant (and crossed by the white portion) -- with the implication that this may also be the colour of a significant part of what is hidden. Such contrasting colouring is typical of representations of the Möbius strip. This distinctive colouring is of course seen to be mistaken when the Möbius is manipulated and viewed from another perspective. The white/black discontinuity is recognized to be erroneous and inappropriate. But, even when theoretically aware of the structure of an uncoloured Möbius strip, comprehending this continuity is a challenge to grasp -- as it is with the continuities between any polarities (cf Douglas Flemons, Completing Distinctions, 1991). Clearly the case of the Klein bottle is even more challenging -- especially given the implied "cognitive twist" in 3D.
The "dynamics" potentially associated with the Klein bottle, as presented by Konrad Polthier (Imaging maths: inside the Klein bottle, 2003), probably offers one of the most powerful illustrations of the environmental challenge of recycling. This is especially because of the manner in which it effectively incorporates the necessary cognitive twist. Here the twist is associated with the challenge of rendering (re)consumable what one excretes -- no mean feat for the squeamish!.
Cognitive twist as a dynamic in 3D: It is therefore interesting to explore some suggestive examples of the challenge -- each contributing to comprehension of the generic case of the relation between "positive" ("us") and "negative" ("them") in which the "twist" functions as some kind of "transformative insulating device". The examples below, generalizing from a Möbius belt "around" an epistemological domain, are based on the intuition that in the 3D situation "around" is associated with some kind of dynamic "encompassing" process -- probably fundamental to many dynamic relationships. The ability of topology to describe a Klein bottle rigorously completely obscures the possibility that it may be associated with a challenging cognitive dynamic (as partially illustrated by Polthier). This issue has been explored in relation to a torus, where interrelated tori may be significant to comprehension of the twist (Comprehension of Requisite Variety for Sustainable Psychosocial Dynamics: Transforming a matrix classification onto intertwined tori, 2006)
Many of these expressions are used metaphorically as indicators of experiential significance.
In the Möbius case, the mechanical movement of a (conveyor) belt is suggestive of how a feedback loop "works". But in each row in Table 4 (above), in the 3D case, this process is more closely represented by the operation of annular muscles -- as with the rhythmic contraction of smooth muscles (peristalsis) to propel food contents through the digestive tract. The experiential feel for the process, and the twist, is illustrated by phrases such as "I could eat you up" (whether amorously or in a business situation); "swallowing" or "being swallowed" (by a business competitor). The dynamic may be better described and understood in terms of cognitive catastrophes (Cognitive Feel for Cognitive Catastrophes: Question Conformality, 2006). Most curiously, in the light of any Klein bottle modelling of "engulfing", the term is frequently used as a descriptor by mystics of the experiential relation to "god" (cf Alec Irwin, Devoured by God: cannibalism, mysticism, and ethics in Simone Weil, Cross Currents, 2001).
Transcending distinctions: A very well-documented study by Douglas Flemons (Completing Distinctions, 1991) endeavours to interweave the ideas of Gregory Bateson and Taoism in a unique approach to therapy. He starts from the position that:
This clearly relates to any distinction between "positive" ("us") and "negative" ("them"). With respect to the Tao, where such distinctions are neatly indicated by yang and yin, he continues:
That phrase could be a description of a Möbius strip. But he continues:
As emphasized earlier, the attribution of a "positive" coding or a "negative coding may be a matter of convention, choice or perspective so that an alternative interpretation is also significant -- typically highlighted in discussion about the nature of what kind of "power" is relevant in any analysis of the interplay between man and woman. In this sense it may be appropriate to alternate between:
Where the polarization is between past and future, through the present, of relevance is:
Both are psychological drivers, often of overriding importance, to reproduction, dynasty building and ensuring a legacy -- whether in the case of ordinary families or leaders of groups and nations.
Symbolic clues: The pelican symbolism is common to Christianity [more] and to 18th Degree of Freemasonry (Knight of the Rose Croix, also known as the Knight of the Pelican). The pelican is an alchemical symbol for the stage known as mortificatio or nigredo, the breaking open of the outer shell to reveal the inner person (cf Enlightening Endarkenment: selected web resources on the challenge to comprehension, 2005). As the mother pelican was believed to feed her young from blood pecked from her own breast, she is also sometimes used as a general symbol of self-sacrifice. From a depth psychology perspective into alchemical symbolism, Craig Chalquist (Cooking For The Collective Unconscious: An Alchemically Enlivened Recipe) points out:
Comprehending the set of epistemological domains: Applying these considerations to the relationship between any pair of epistemological domains, it can be understood that any one domain will engage in a complex process of seeking to encompass and engulf another -- or to be encompassed and engulfed by another. The cognitive relationship between the four domains of Table 1 therefore benefits from being understood in terms of the higher dimensionality implied by the Klein bottle. There is continuity -- but through a complex "twist". The situation is clearly much more complex because of the number of domains distinguished. When the feedback "loop" relationships is represented by mechanical belts, Table 1 is a comprehensible mechanical system -- potentially typical of a factory in the early phases of the industrial revolution. The 3D case is however a challenge for the psychosocial revolution of the 21st century.
The four epistemological domains of Table 1 can also be fruitfully considered in terms of the insightful descriptions of Flatland (1884), Sphereland (1965) or Flatterland (2001), regarding the experience in 3D of four fingers of a 4-dimensional hand. There is then no comprehension of their mysterious interconnections or of how they function together. AQAL points towards such comprehension by using concentric circles centred on the intersection of the four quadrants.
Is there a case for recognizing conventional understanding of organization to be as cross-sections through a Klein bottle? Does this suggest possibilities for reframing exploration of unexplored pathways in the Middle East situation?
Of Greek origin, the term "enantiomer" (also "enantiomorph", particularly in terms of structure) refers to a mirror image or an opposite reflection. It is used in a number of contexts, including architecture, molecular physics, political theory, and computer system design. C G Jung introduced the related term "enantiodromia" into philosophy as the dialectical movement in which a force, in its fullest development, turns into its opposite:
In the context of Jung's focus on consciousness, it is the process by which one mindset becomes its opposite, and the subsequent interaction of the two as when an individual or a group comes to adopt a set of beliefs opposite to those held at an earlier stage. Enantiodromia, possibly in contrast to enantiomer, then represents the process whereby the excessive emphasis of one force inevitably produces its contrary. Typically it may be associated with the emergence of unconscious understandings contrary to those previously held consciously (see also John Fudjack, The Structure of Consciousness: liminocentricity, enantiodromia, and personality, 1999). Eventual recognition of the "underside" of Wilber's conveyor belt could be understood in these terms.
With respect to the relation between any two epistemological domains in Table 1, enantiodromia is then indicative of the process of inversion in cycling "through" the cognitive twist. The nature of the cognitive inversion associated with the "twist" is well-encoded in the complementary pairs of trigrams making up the BaGua -- which thus portrays a cyclic pattern of enantiodromia (further discussed below).
Understanding opposites: As discussed elsewhere (Toward an Enantiomorphic Policy), the cultural historian William Irwin Thompson (From Nation to Emanation; planetary culture and world governance, 1982) has sharpened considerably the ecology-sensitive intuition concerning the psycho-social lessons to be learned from cooperation between co-evolving systems. He stresses the importance of an appropriate understanding of the interaction between opposites by citing E F Schumacher (A Guide for the Perplexed, 1978):
Field of interacting opposites: Of interest in relation to consideration of the four epistemelogical domains of Table 1 above, Thompson develops his argument by exploring in some detail "one model for a field of interacting opposites". He uses the traditional psycho-cultural image of the quaternity, a geometrical version of William Blake's Fourfold Vision (cf Marcel O'Gorman, The Fourfold Visions of William Blake and Martin Heidegger). This permits an enantiomorphic juxtaposition of the four basic political orientations that Thompson distinguishes: conservative, liberal, radical, reactionary.
These four political parties "attempt to play out certain values in time...". He suggests that the structure can also be used to interrelate the four basic political and economic worlds he distinguishes: the capitalistic first world, the communist second world, the resource rich third world, and the fourth world of least developed countries:
Incorporation of contradiction: Others, such as Sohail Inayatullah (The Futures of Cultures: present images, past visions, and future hopes, 1988), have used these insights to make a powerful point (of cautionary value to Wilber's "one-sided" use of the "conveyor belt"):
These arguments are consistent with those of Donald Michael (On the requirement for embracing error. In: On Learning to Plan and Planning to Learn, 1973) and John O'Brien (Embracing Ignorance, Error, and Fallibility: competencies for leadership of effective services, 1987).
Cycle of learning: Yolles (Knowledge Cybernetics: a new metaphor for social collectives, 2005) has insightfully interrelated a number of these threads:
Of particular interest is his adaptation of the cycle of learning styles of David Kolb (Experiential Learning: experience as the source of learning and development, 1984). [more]. Elsewhere, Maurice Yolles and R Frieden (A Metahistorical Information Theory of Social Change, Organisational Transformation and Social Change, 2, 3, 2005) have explored the ideas of change in the large scale cultures of Pitirim Sorokin (Social and Cultural Dynamics, 1937-1942), and formulated an enantiomer theory of cultural change. Frieden's new rational constructivist information theory, which derives from Fisher Information, provided a useful means by which epistemological considerations can be conditioned according to rigorous rules embedded in its mathematics and the social geography of a Social Viable System (SVS).
Again, with respect to the relation between the four epistemological domains in Table 1, to what extent should they be understood as a form of learning cycle through a succession of cognitive twists? This relates to the preoccupation of Arthur Young (The Geometry of Meaning, 1978) with the learning-action cycle and his "Rosetta Stone of meaning"
Given the interest of M C Escher in depicting the Möbius strip, and his interest in topology, some of his other striking works also justify describing him as the artist most skilled at depicting the process of enantiodromia, as noted by John Fudjack and Pat Dinkelaker (Escher's Liminocentric Eye, 2000).
A heat engine is a physical or theoretical device that converts thermal energy to mechanical output. A Carnot heat engine is a hypothetical engine (a thermodynamic cycle) that operates on the reversible Carnot cycle. Sadi Carnot used water as an analogy for the processes associated with heat in the heat engine. The suggestion to be explored here is that there is therefore a case for examining the extent to which the thermodynamics derived from its study may be used to explore the relationship between "heat" and "work" in the learning cycle relating the epistemological domains discussed above. Specifically, are there relationships to be understood between any "heat" of psychosocial interaction with the associated "energy" generated or the "work" done?
As noted earlier, the necessary rigour with which Carnot explored the analogy between water and heat is discussed by Dedre Gentner and Michael Jeziorski (The shift from metaphor to analogy in Western science, 1993). It is claimed that perhaps the most important contribution Carnot made to thermodynamics was the process of abstraction of the essential features of the steam engine, as it was known in his day, into a more general, idealized heat engine. This only began to have a real impact when modernised by Émile Clapeyron, in 1834 and then further elaborated upon by Clausius and Kelvin, who together derived from it the notion of entropy and the second law of thermodynamics.
Transformations over time: As explored elsewhere (Composing and Engendering the Future: presenting the future, 2001), the notion of a work cycle is introduced here because it is relatively clear that a living system cannot exist in a state of stasis on interfaces between past, present and future. Living is synonymous with one or more active work cycles through which energy is moved through feedback loops to ensure integrity in the moment. The most obvious in mammals may be the respiratory cycle (and others implied by Table 3).
This energy may take the form of attention -- even vigilance, as typically recognized in certain forms of meditation. Those drawn to the enneagram are particularly attentive to the cyclic structure of work as mapped by that diagram (see Anthony Blake, The Intelligent Enneagram, 1996) . The structure might be usefully considered to map six intermediary positions necessary to hold a relationship between past, present and future -- whether as interfaces or different ways of understanding time.
The concept of a work cycle is basic to thermodynamics -- as exemplified by the Carnot cycle. The question here is whether this provides insights into a necessary dynamic relationship between past, present and future in terms of the nature and focus of attention or the transformation of collective bodies. Is there a sense in which living embodies some such cycle -- of which the heat engine is merely a limited material analogue? The heat engine cycle does indeed have to relate past, present and future in order to sustain its activity.
Psychosocial "work cycles": Curiously it is Gregory Bateson in a section on Form, Substance and Difference of his book Steps to an Ecology of Mind (1972) that relates the depth psychology work of Carl Jung to the thermodynamics of Sadi Carnot. But it is in another book, translated by Jung's colleague Richard Wilhelm (1929), that Jung comments on a fundamental cycle identified in a Chinese text T'ai I Chin Hua Tsung Chih (The Secret of the Golden Flower) -- more recently translated by Thomas Cleary (1991) [Note also an online variant translated by Walter Picca in 1964].
This focus has also been compared to the Nestorian Gospel of St Thomas -- although within the Christian tradition careful attention has indeed been paid to the significance of a "rota" as a cycle of duty, of which there may be musical variants. The much-cited Chinese work discusses the "circulation of the light" of awareness through various conditions during meditation reminiscent (if only in the metaphors used to describe them) of stages of the Carnot heat cycle.
The insights of such circulation may also be evident in the psycho-social attraction of certain pattern dances -- presumably providing some kind of time-binding resonance transcending past, present and future for participants.
Engendering flow: The interesting contrast between the electromechanical (or organic combustion) case and the psychosocial case is that, in the second typically little attention is paid to how "work" is derived from an appropriately designed encounter between "positive" and "negative". Rather the focus is typically on the elimination of the "negative" as rapidly as possible -- even avoiding exposure to it, as in the legend regarding the problem-free childhood of the Buddha. In a society increasingly conscious of the need to recycle to conserve energy resources, the equivalent process is probably limited to "recovery" programmes (for criminals, substance abusers, etc), although many labelled "negative" are also labelled "losers" and "basket cases" -- and beyond recovery. Pressure to "eliminate" those stereotyped as "negative" may facilitate their death -- as in argument supportive of systemic neglect and genocide (Spontaneous Initiation of Armageddon a heartfelt response to systemic negligence, 2004).
In a social transformation process, however, the art is readily assumed to be that of framing and charging the new as "positive" and the current (or older) situation as "negative" (Being Positive and Avoiding Negativity: Management challenge of positive vs negative, 2005). People may be "psyched up" through empowerment techniques -- or future prospects may be "talked up" by appropriate selective information management (as in the financial markets). Highly problematic use may be made of some form of negative stereotyping (or even demonisation) to achieve this end -- as is typical of racial stereotyping leading to genocide.
The "positive" then becomes an attractor towards which movement takes place (away from the "negative") -- as in the case between high pressure and low pressure weather systems. The implication of the latter metaphor is that the movement relieves the stress of the higher pressure condition. The challenge is however to recognize the return part of the cycle -- from negative to positive (as in Wilber's conveyor belt).
The suggestion here is that from a general systems perspective this may be generalized to apply to other forms of difference and other forms of work -- making it potentially relevant to new insights into socio-economic cycles necessary for sustainability (notably in the light of theory regarding the maximum efficiency of a Carnot cycle engine). The perceived difference between "positive" and "negative" may also drive such a cycle, possibly at an axiological level.
The feedback loops of Table 1 can be usefully reframed and explored as such reversible processes.
As discussed elsewhere with respect to psycho-social heat cycles, a variety of heat engines have been constructed. The question to be asked is whether an analogous variety of "heat engines" could be usefully recognized in psycho-social systems. For example, might the variety of such cycles correspond to the variety of metaphorical uses of "heat" currently recognized:
The thermodynamic parallel has notably been explored in relation to economics:
Of relevance to such explorations would be Marshall McLuhan (Understanding Media, 1964), given the distinction he explored between "hot" and "cool" media (cf Gordon Gow. Thawing out Media: Hot and Cool, 1995; G E Stearn, McLuhan: Hot and Cool, 1967). A hot medium is one that extends one single sense in high definition. Hot media are, therefore, low in participation, and cool media are high in participation -- requiring completion by the audience. Also of relevance is the work of Orrin Klapp (Opening and closing: Strategies of information adaptation in society, 1978). Potentially of greater interest is the exploration of psychosocial driving forces such as "hope" and "depression", "optimism" and "pessimism" in terms of the Carnot cycle -- notably in relation to "heated" or "inflated" argument. To what extent are some phases ("upbeat" or "downbeat") to be understood as "cognitive catastrophes" ? (cf Cognitive Feel for Cognitive Catastrophes: Question Conformality, 2006).
The manner in which the Carnot cycle might be related to Haskell's coaction cardioid is explored elsewhere (Sustainability: interrelating the Carnot cycle with the Cardioid "cycle", 2005). The role of the cardioid in the Mandelbrot set is explored separately (Sustainability through the Dynamics of Strategic Dilemmas: in the light of the coherence and visual form of the Mandelbrot set, 2005). The relation of the Haskell coaction cardioid with that of the Mandelbrot set is being explored by Kent Palmer.
The processes of the Carnot cycle can usefully be understood in terms of enantiodromia -- as a process about reversal. As argued by H Sabelli (Entropy as symmetry: theory and empirical support, 1994), process theory provides a framework unifying thermodynamics and evolution, as well as a methodology to study entropy and dimensionality in complex processes. He argues:
The study by Douglas Flemons (Completing Distinctions, 1991), in the light of Gregory Bateson (Mind and Nature: a necessary unity, 1978) and Taoism, distinguishes a a number of processes relating to difference that could be understood in terms of a cycle:
These may be usefully related to the four-fold model of nowness of Francisco Varela (The Specious Present: a neurophenomenology of time consciousness, 1997). This four-fold model of nowness is based on flows and dynamical trends, as discussed elsewhere (Present Moment Research: exploration of nowness, 2001). These may be very helpful to understanding the cognitive twist in the reversible process of enantiodromia -- especially since it could be related to the topological structure of the Borromean knot as used by psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan to define the relationship of the symbolic, the real, and the imaginary (and helpfully discussed in an anonymous blog of 20 January 2007 and 21 January 2007) [more].
Varela analyzes this relationship in a later paper (The Gesture of Awareness, 1999) [see also Claus Otto Scharmer. Three Gestures of Becoming Aware: Conversation with Francisco Varela January 12, 2000]. Curiously, in the light of the work cycle argument (Composing and Engendering the Future, 2001) and Flemons terminology, he proposes a 3-fold cycle at the core of the act of becoming aware in the moment: "an initial phase of suspension of habitual thought and judgement, followed by a phase of conversion of attention from 'the exterior' to 'the interior', ending with a phase of letting-go or of receptivity towards the experience." Varela sees the phenomenological epoché as "the ensemble of these three organically linked phases", for the simple reason that the second and third are always reactivated by, and reactivate, the first. He provides a valuable discussion of the three interlinked cycles and the obstacles traditionally recognized to some of their processes.
Power: The importance of "power" is significant to both technical innovation and social contexts. Value is attached to acquiring power. It may be taken or attributed. Recent decades have seen value attached to social processes of "empowerment".
Lack of "power" is resented and a source of frustration -- whether the power derives from fuel to drive some device or in a social situations typified by popular unrest. Ironically major concerns are currently expressed both about the constraint on non-renewable energy resources (oil, etc) as well as about the disempowerment experienced by the average citizen (and especially the underprivileged). The latter may be expressed in terms of increasing inequality -- namely difference -- between the "powerful" and the "powerless". As with electromechanical devices, differences in psychosocial systems (including those under transformation) are typically sustained by appropriate "insulating" barriers -- "energy containers".
Power generation: Within this context it is worth reflecting on the technology of empowerment in the light of the devices for electromechanical power generation . An instructive example is the case of electrostatic power generation such as with the Wimshurst machine, the Tesla coil, or the Van der Graaf generator -- typically a feature of demonstrations in school physics laboratories. The latter is an electrostatic machine which uses a moving belt to accumulate very high voltages (up to 5 megavolts) on a hollow metal globe [more].
Can such devices be meaningfully used to model generation of power in psychosocial systems? Do they model forms of movement through which a "positive" charge is built up in relation to "negativity"?:
A static mandala is used as a systems diagram to focus meditation. In the light of the insights of general systems theory, for a person (or a group) is it indeed possible to model psychosocial "power generation" by a form of identification with the systemic design and processes of such devices -- possibly as a "motor" or a "dynamo" (terms both widely used with respect to psychosocial systems)? Some sense of what is involved is offered by understandings in design, especially in static terms, of "goodness of fit" (Christopher Alexander, Notes on the Synthesis of Form, 1964. This understanding may also be expressed dynamically in the sense of a design that "works", notably in the case of clothing with reference to an "ensemble that works".
What role might "alternation" and "wiring" play in such processes? ****
Engines and gearing: The past century has provided widespread familiarity with engines, notably combustion engines in motorbikes and other vehicles. The operation of the piston cycle has entered collective consciousness in many ways -- as well as the distinction between 2-stroke engines and those with multiple cylinders. This suggests a line of inquiry as to whether thinking itself can be understood as operating in cycles that might be usefully modelled by such engines for many people.
In this sense a basic cycle would alternate between the extremes of any form of polarized thinking -- with each extreme providing a turning point. One might be associated with the charge that drives the cycle. Clearly this might be understood as a cruder pattern than that associated with multiple cylinders -- if their operation could be integrated to reinforce a common rotation. Of special interest in this respect are rotary engines (cf the Wankel rotary engine).
It could be argued, for example, that common combustion engines are a particular materialization of a much more generic cycle of relationships through which power (generically understood) is engendered.
Following from the earlier discussion of an 8-fold pattern of relationships (according to Chinese culture) in relation to Table 1, this pattern could be understood as offering a schematic of how any generic (psychosocial) engine might work. As noted, the typical schematic, widely disseminated as the BaGua symbol, leaves the dynamics implicit and to be precisely inferred from the standard line-coding by which each is represented. The dynamic is recognized in the shift around the BaGua when an unbroken line transforms into a broken line, or vice versa. Such movement has been explored elsewhere (Navigating Alternative Conceptual Realities clues to the dynamics of enacting new paradigms through movement, 2002)
Particularly suggestive is the degree to which the conditions encoded by combinations of two lines represent the qualitative extremes of the four epistemological domains in Table 1 -- including their "positive" or "negative" charge, again as generically understood. The 8 conditions encoded by 3 lines then represent the relationships between them. Note however the inherent fluidity associated with determining (in the moment) how such lines are to be understood to represent either "conditions" or "relationships" between them.
BaGua dynamics: Within this context there is a remarkable potential correspondence between the operational requirements of a standard "combustion engine" and the dynamics of the BaGua. Such a correspondence is recognized in Taoism in the case of the "internal combustion" engine -- where "internal combustion" corresponds to insights of Taoist alchemy associated with the dynamics of meditation. The human body is indeed an internal combustion engine (of a chemical nature). Fully understood, this is indeed the Secret of the Golden Flower. But it is perhaps more meaningful to more people to map the well-known dynamics of the (automobile) combustion engine into the dynamics of the BaGua and vice versa:
Should the BaGua be understood as the operational schematic -- the minimum instruction set -- for a standard V-8 combustion engine? The sort of schematic that extraterrestrials might endeavour to communicate to catalyze psychosocial development on a planet?
The operation of the combustion engine, in the light of Maruyama's argument, could be thought of as a subunderstood variant of the "operating principles" of the BaGua. The irony of course is that it will be primarily within the Chinese culture that this relationship would be understood to the degree of being able to make any psychosocial interaction "work" as an "engine". This use of traditional metaphor has been well-argued and foreseen by Susantha Goonatilake (Toward a Global Science: mining civilizational knowledge, 1999) as discussed elsewhere (Enhancing the Quality of Knowing through Integration of East-West metaphors, 2000).
Engines of greater power: Potentially of even greater interest are more sophisticated "psychosocial engines" involving more complex feedback loops and cycles -- for communities and nations. Again it is intriguing the extent to which, by adding more lines to the schematic (from 3 to 4, to 5, to 6, to 7, to 8), more powerful (more generic) "engines" may be identified. It is in this sense that the 64-conditions resulting from 6-line encoding could be understood -- with all the challenges to self-reflexive comprehension embodied in the commentaries on the set of 64 dynamically interrelated I Ching hexagrams (Relationship between Hexagrams of the Chinese I Ching, 1983). The same could be said of the 81-conditions resulting from 8-line encoding embodied in the Tao te Ching or the T'ai Hsüan Ching (see studies in Documents relating to Patterns of I Ching / Tao te Ching). Should both of these be considered as schematics of possible "psychosocial engines" -- or of the same one at different degrees of virtualization?
This indicates potentials beyond the basic "2-stroke" engine characteristic of contemporary preferences for distinguishing "positive" and "negative" (without consideration of "grey areas") -- and endeavouring to construct a sustainable cycle from them. It also points to the implications of deliberately, or inadvertently, avoiding the possibility of more complex cycles. It is worth considering the extent to which this "2-stroke" approach is significantly incapacitated by "backfiring" -- to the point of inoperability.
Related to such understanding of an engine is that of gearing whereby overly rapid rotation is translated into slower and more powerful rotation that can perform certain kinds of work (Hyperaction through Hypercomprehension and Hyperdrive: necessary complement to proliferation of hypermedia in hypersociety, 2006). Many forms of thinking might be associated with rapid cycles. These need to be geared down to speeds that can mesh with operations in the material world (see Conceptual Birdcages and Functional Basket-weaving. 1980). This challenge might be seen in relation to that of gearing down principle to practice.
It would be instructive to engender a dialogue between Eastern and Western experts on combustion engines -- with some sensitivity to the dynamics of their own "internal combustion" as meditators.
Cognitive "gateways": Elsewhere (Navigating Alternative Conceptual Realities: clues to the dynamics of enacting new paradigms through movement, 2002) the question was raised of how to configure, juxtapose and superpose sets of categories (3, 4, 5, etc) to create a "door frame" governing integrative cognition -- to frame any response to the riddle of life in the present. This challenge can now be presented dynamically as a learning cycle of phases, or a sequence of such cycles. This is most easily described in terms of a particular kind of fair ground challenge involving a a tunnel through which one must walk -- in which the frame of the tunnel rotates. To make life difficult, the tunnel frame is made up of successive segments with a triangular, square, pentagonal, hexagonal, or other cross-section, each rotating independently.
In the cognitive analogue however the challenge in the present moment is to position relevant conceptual sets of 3, 4, 5, etc aspects (thus essentially incommensurable) in relation to a common centre in order to move/navigate through them -- even if they rotate at different rates in relation to one another around such a common axis. As in the segments of the fairground tunnel, each "side" is effectively a trap to which it is a mistake to cling more than temporarily -- but such features frame the cognitive doorway. This challenge may also be described metaphorically by the geometry of magnetic bottles used to contain plasma to ensure nuclear fusion, where containment can only be successful if the plasma is effectively prevented from touching (and being "quenched") by any such contact.
The conceptual implications of this challenge have been most clearly articulated by Ron Atkin (1981) in describing the navigation of different degrees of complexity in a multidimensional space. He illustrates the challenge by use of a simple triangle [more].
These considerations raise the question of how fundamental sets of principles are to govern behaviour, especially in the moment. Whether it be the basic "Liberty / Equality / Fraternity" that originated with the French Revolution, or variants of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights with its 30 principles, it is how these governing principles relate to each other dynamically, rather than statically (as with conceptual laundry list), that is a vital key to viable navigation. There is also the intriguing possibility that the associated patterns of "values" and "virtues" (so extensively articulated in eastern belief systems) may in fact encode attitudinal control "mechanisms" (and traps) for the effective navigation of knowledge spaces in the moment [more] ***
It is within this framework that the function of "vicious" problem loops -- as with "cycles of violence" in the Middle East -- and the corresponding "serendipitous" problem loops becomes evident. Of course the same thinking could be applied to "vicious" strategic cycles and to corresponding "serendipitous" strategic cycles (Transformative Approaches to International Organization, 1994; Configuring Relationships between World Problems and Cognitive Resources, 1995).
Subunderstanding: autism, ADHD and schizophrenia
The phenomenon of subunderstanding has been noted above as framed by Magoroh Maruyama. If there is a "psychosocial engine", at some degree of virtualization, whose essential cycle is to be more fully comprehended, it is appropriate to note other ways of framing the challenge of doing so.
One approach, cited in an earlier study (Societal Learning and the Erosion of Collective Memory: a critique of the Club of Rome Report: No Limits to Learning, 1980), is Doris Lessing's fictional description of the poignant encounter of a "development specialist" from an advanced galactic culture with a leading representative of a "developing" planet:
The same study also provided a citation from R.D. Laing (The Divided Self; a study of sanity and madness, 1960) to highlight the degree to which world society might in effect be suffering from a form of chronic schizophrenia (see also From Apartheid to Schizophrenia: ecological ignorance and the logic of depersonalized "separate development", 1971).
A potentially more fruitful approach is that indicated by current research into mirror neurons (Vilayanur S. Ramachandran and Lindsay M. Oberman, Broken Mirrors: A Theory of Autism, Scientific American, November 2006; Giacomo Rizzolatti, Leonardo Fogassi and Vittorio Gallese, Mirrors in the Mind, Scientific American, November 2006). As a newly discovered class of nerve cells, these appear to be fundamental to social interaction because of their role in empathy, the perception of another's intentions and as a patterned reflection of the outside world. This may possibly also imply an inhibited capacity to anticipate later phases in any cycle of phenomena. Research indicates that dysfunctions of this neural system could explain some of the primary systems of autism, including social isolation and absence of empathy -- specifically the capacity to relate the actions of others to one's own. Many suffering from autism have difficulty in understanding metaphors, sometimes interpreting them literally. Comprehension of metaphor requires the ability to extract a common denominator from seemingly dissimilar entities.
To what extent might humanity as a whole be considered to be suffering from what could be metaphorical understood as dysfunctionality of the mirror neuron system -- whether in its existing communications systems or in the emergent "global brain" (Simulating a Global Brain: using networks of international organizations, world problems, strategies, and values, 2001)?
Is the process of "civilization" closely associated with the development of such a mirror neuron system? Is the collapse of a culture, as documented by Jared Diamond (Collapse: how societies choose to fail or succeed, 2005) in any way a consequence of pathology of that system? Might some form of collective autism explain the unbalanced degree of intellectual focus on certain functions -- with the exceptional development of scientific specialization to be compared to the talents of autistic savants, suffering from Savant Syndrome?
The challenge of recognizing a "psychosocial engine" might also be framed in terms of other forms of dysfunctionality of collective memory as explored elsewhere (Societal Learning and the Erosion of Collective Memory: a critique of the Club of Rome Report: No Limits to Learning, 1980).
Perhaps most intriguing, given recent widespread publicity, is the phenomenon of attention deficiency hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Many commentators have acknowledged the problems associated with the increasing pace of life, short-term "business" and policy-making, and the inability to recognize or relate to longer term cycles (Engaging Macrohistory through the Present Moment, 2004). This is notably a focus of the Long Now Foundation.
The attenuation of such capacities is well-modelled for all by the experience of progressive loss of memory with advancing age and the progress towards senility and dementia. Whether singly or in combination, any of the above phenomena, as characteristics of contemporary cultures (or some of them), could severely inhibit recognition of a "psychosocial engine". Alternatively failure to do so could make individuals or groups the unknowing "victims" of such dynamics (cf John Ralston Saul, The Unconscious Civilization, 1997). This may be the case with the all too evident vicious "cycles of violence".
Is humanity on the threshold of a major breakthrough to a new kind of psychosocial technology for handling "positive" and "negative" charges?
Have many electromechanical innovations anticipated the patterns of insight required to design and operate such processes? Does "technogeny" in some way anticipate or replicate "psychogeny"? This may be an implication of the proposal of the term by Edward Haskell (Full Circle: The Moral Force of Unified Science, 1972), where technogeny is coined to mean forms of control (such as manufacture, transport, agriculture, communication, simulation, etc), the capacity to do which is transmitted, not mentally, but genetically.
This argument has pointed to the possibility of designing (or recognizing) new types of psychosocial energy system dependent on the skillful interweaving of "positive" and "negative" energy. It would reflect the pattern of development of energy systems exploited by the industrial revolution -- offering the possibility of "generating" psychosocial energy.
For detailed conclusions, see complete version of Annex 3
this work is licenced under a creative commons licence.