21st March 2007 | Draft
Psychosocial Work Cycle
Beyond the plane of Möbius
- / -
Part B of Psychosocial Energy from Polarization within a Cyclic Pattern of Enantiodromia
(Annex 3 of Emergence
of a Union of Imaginable Associations)
Part A: Interrelating Metaphors -- to enable a cycle of transformation between epistemological modes
-- Implications of the cybernetics of cybernetics
-- Psychosocial energy through a metaphorical technology
-- Schematic Denkmodel (Table 1)
-- Epistemological domains
-- Global vs Local (in Table 1)
-- Positive vs Negative (in Table 1)
-- Relationships (within Table 1)
Part B: Psychosocial Work Cycle: Beyond the plane of Möbius
--Beyond the plane of Möbius: form and medium in terms of the calculus of indications
-- Visualization: quadrant systems / Möbius strips / Klein bottles
-- "Sphering the Circle" (from 2D to 3D): a Klein-bottle relationship "belt
-- Enantiodromia: cycling through the "cognitive twist"
-- Psychosocial work cycle / heat engine
-- Psychosocial power and its generation
Conclusion: implication for sustainable development and governance
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..
Beyond the plane of Möbius: form and medium in terms of the calculus of indications
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:
In all mathematics it becomes apparent, at some stage, that we have for some time been following a rule without being aware of it. This might be described as the use of a covert convention. [… Its] use can be considered as the presence of an arrangement in the absence of an agreement. For example, in the statement and theorem.... it is arranged (although not agreed) that we shall write on a plane surface. If we write on the surface of a torus the theorem is not true […] The fact that men have for centuries used a plane surface for writing means that, at this point in the text, both author and reader are ready to be conned into the assumption of a plane writing surface without question. But, like any other assumption, it is not unquestionable, and the fact that we can question it here means that we can question it elsewhere.
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) :
It was our choice to write in a plane surface that has made that distinctions indeed do cut off an inside from an outside, that 'differences do make a difference' (Gregory Bateson). Covert conventions at a level deeper than the level of form, preceding the level of form, have determined what the form would do. There lies a chance for developing a medium theory here. In this concrete case: the medium of the plane surface makes the difference. And in general: the topology of the medium makes the difference between distinctions making a difference and distinctions not making a difference. 'It is now evident that if a different surface is used, what is written on it, although identical in marking may be not identical in meaning"... Spencer-Brown has shown us that the 'medium is the message' (Marshall MacLuhan).....
Spencer-Brown's solution to the problem of many-valued functions is well-known. He constructs a tunnel 'subverting' the plane, and connects the distinguished sides. As hinted to above, the topological qualities of space are thus altered. We are now writing in a space that grants a form the possibility of access to itself, yet denies the possibility of identity with or presence to itself (Michael Schiltz and Gert Verschraegen, Spencer-Brown, Luhmann, and Autology. Cybernetics and Human Knowing 9, 2002, 3-4). Hence, we are writing in a space that connects the level of first-order (operand) and second-order (operator) observations. That space is a torus. If considered operationally, distinctions written on a torus can subvert their boundaries and re-enter the space they distinguish, turning up in their own form. The marked state cannot be clearly distinguished from the unmarked state anymore, leading to the 'indeterminacy' of the form. As the calculus explains, the state envisaged as such is a state not hitherto envisaged in the form. It is neither marked nor unmarked. It is an imaginary value, flipping between marked and unmarked, thanks to the employment of time. The form of the re-entry, as described here, has been the source of many commentaries....
Such conceptualization diverts sharply from an intuitive understanding of a medium. As seen here, a medium is far from a Euclidean container. Rather is it introverted space, it is identical to the topology of the form, it is the form's 'deep structure'.
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:
If the medium of meaning is indeed the ultimate medium of psychic and social systems, i.e. if meaning is 'the medium of itself', then what is its 'form', the distinction through which it can be expressed? I perceive only one answer: the medium of meaning must be identical to the difference between form and medium, and the re-entry of that distinction into itself. Its consequent indecidability is the symbol of our dealing with the world. It expresses the fact that all our attempts to get a hold of the world are doomed to frustration....
Meaning as our phenomenology of this world can only be partial, as the difference between form/medium can only be actualized as a form. In mathematical terms: meaning is a lambda-domain occupied by communications that, by acting on themselves (= being a function of themselves), produce new communications in the same domain which can in turn act on themselves and further expand the domain. [cf Louis H. Kauffman, The Mathematics of Charles Sanders Peirce, Cybernetics and Human Knowing, 8, 1-2, 2001]
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:
Closure can be understood as the imposition of fixity on openness....It is the conversion of flux into identity, the conversion of possibility into the particular." Lawson uses a simple example of a piece of paper with many random dots on it. From that, we can perceive various patterns, lets say we can identify a face. That face - that 'thing' - is the result of a closure. The world of things, the world of chairs, music, quarks, algebra, society, and so on, are the results of closures. And, typically, closures are stacked upon other closures. For example, 'paper' and 'dots' are also the results of closures upon which the result of closure of 'face' rests. It is immediately clear, also, that closures incorporate a context of other closures; at the least, it is a ceteris paribus condition. [more | more]
In considering such closure elsewhere (Psychology of Sustainability: embodying cyclic environmental processes, 2002), Lawson's position was cited as follows:
Instead of seeing the world as a thing, a universe, whose truths we might uncover through for example the procedures of science, Closure proposes that we regard the world as open and it is we who close it through our stories. The resulting framework offers solutions to the central questions of contemporary philosophy: the character of language and meaning, of the individual and consciousness, of truth and reality. As a theory of knowledge Closure has dramatic consequences for our understanding of the sciences, changing what we think science is about and how it is able to do it. It also accounts for why we need and desire both art and religion. It reshapes our understanding of ourselves and the organization of society, our goals and our capacity to achieve them. But above all it makes sense of where we are and who we are.
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?
Visualization: quadrant systems / Möbius strips / Klein bottles
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 most interesting, with greatest supplementary information, is that of Konrad Polthier (Imaging maths: inside the Klein bottle, 2003). This enables access to various animations, including one showing how it is formed from two Möbius strips. A second shows how a cylinder (otherwise bent round to form a torus) can be used to make a Klein bottle: instead of adding a twist (as with the making a Möbius band from a strip of paper), one end of the cylinder is looped back through the cylinder and glued to the other end, with the two boundary circles given opposite orientations. Polthier also offers an animation of a figure-8 Klein bottle and a Lawson-Klein bottle (a Klein bottle in the 3-sphere S3, among a family of helicoidal - staircase-like - surfaces) as projected into 3-dimensional Euclidean space. Of particular relevance to the following argument is the animation illustrating the 3D analogue to a Möbius belt drive.
"Sphering the Circle" (from 2D to 3D): a Klein-bottle relationship "belt
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)
However, with respect to relationships between domains, the extension
into 3D does raise the issue of how they are to be understood as feedback
"loops" -- given that a loop is normally characterized by 2D thinking reflected in systems diagrams. Such a loop is only an abstraction which bears little experiential resemblance to how feedback is actually experienced. How
is a "loop" to be (better?) understood in 3D, and specifically one like the Möbius
strip? The matter is complicated by the fact that a Möbius strip
is a two-dimensional strip that acquires a degree of three-dimensionality
through being twisted through the third dimension.
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
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:
Truth is relative to the perspective of the observer, and the nature of
the perception of reality will determine the nature of the truth expressed.
In this presentation I want to explore the relationships between opposed
world views and how these oppositional perspectives will determine the
nature of truths held. Most models used to describe relationships create
an exclusive domain that exteriorises that which is outside or marginalised
by the structure.
The Klein bottle is one structure that creates no exclusive domain as
it is a modality that, through a structural twist, unifies the inside and
outside surfaces into a continuous surface. Through the use of such a structure,
seemingly opposed perspectives can be illustrated as aspects of the whole
where seemingly paradoxical environments necessitate a decisive shift from
an 'either / or' critique to a pluralistic 'and / both' scenario.
This structure allows for the relativity of truths to be realised as expressions
that are inextricably linked to relative world views, and therefore creates
a focus for a holistic approach to information generation.
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
the light and dark parts hold polarities such as "positive" and "negative".
But each of these (in more complex variants of the symbol) has a small "eye" of
the opposite colour. These may each be considered as an opening into the
larger part of the same colour -- a window (or a tunnel in 3D) from one part
to the other.
- the small black circle (within the white zone) is to be understood as
reduced to a "cognitive singularity" through which the black surface is
to be seen and by which access to it is obtained
- the small white circle (within the black zone) is to be understood as
reduced to a "cognitive singularity" through which the white surface is
to be seen and by which access to it is obtained
- effectively these two circles are the same singularity
seen from the different surfaces, one "inside" and one "outside" the higher
dimension Klein bottle
- the white and black surfaces are then continuous through the "cognitive
singularity", such that there are not two surfaces (distinctly coloured) but a single surface
that is readily seen as of two kinds (white and black), depending on from which side of the
singularity the surfaces are viewed.
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
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)
|Table 4: Indication of nature of "encompassing" cognitive processes, resulting in"inversion"
||Stage 2: "cognitive twist"
Many of these expressions are used metaphorically as indicators of experiential
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
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
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
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:
Any act of knowing, any knowing act, begins with the drawing of a distinction, with the noting of a difference. A boundary is created when a whole is distinguished from a part...Knowing is composed of boundaries imposed.
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:
Where is the Tao in all of this? Abductively extrapolating from the pattern we will be poised to look for it in the reciprocal relationship between the connection and separation of yin and yang, in the circuitous way their twoness is one and their oneness is two.
That phrase could be a description of a Möbius strip. But he continues:
Front can follow back only if they are cyclically connected, and indeed Lao Tzu does make reference to the Tao in terms of circular motion: Returning: Tao's moving". Tao is not a thing, or a conglomerate of parts, but a process of recursive relationship, emergent from the connected separation of yin and yang.
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:
|reifying (the other)
||identifying (with the other)
|identifying (the other)
||reifying (the other)
Where the polarization is between past and future, through the present, of relevance is:
- the seed of the future in the past
- the trace (or memetic heritage) of the past in the future
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
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
... the whole secret is in knowing the vessel. It must be thick so its boiling contents won't get away (projection, symptoms, psychosis). It must focus its heat on its center, aided by reflux condensers and the retort called the pelican, in which the distillate runs back into the belly. Put psychologically: in the sturdy vessel of an ego purged of personal issues, the contained nonego self can undergo transformation.
For further comments see Remo F. Roth (The
Seal of Solomon and the Pelican of Alchemy, 2003) in the light
of his study of The
Wheel Image of Nicholas von Flue
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),
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?
Enantiodromia: cycling through the "cognitive twist"
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:
This remarkable psychic change is one that usually occurs after the midpoint
of life has been crossed, and it might be described as a reversal of psychic
current. Only rarely does this subtle change of direction appear clearly
on the surface; in most people it takes place, like all important things
in life, beneath the threshold of consciousness. (Collected
Works, Bollinger Series Vol. 15, para. 8).
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):
The pairs of opposites, of which freedom and order and growth and decay
are the most basic, put tension into the world, a tension that sharpens man's
sensitivity and increases his self-awareness. No real understanding is possible
without awareness of these pairs of opposites which permeate everything man
does ... Justice is a denial of mercy, and mercy is a denial of justice. Only
a higher force can reconcile these opposites: wisdom. The problem cannot
be solved but wisdom can transcend it. Similarly, societies need stability
and change, tradition and innovation, public interest and private interest,
planning and laissez-faire, order and freedom, growth and decay. Everywhere
society's health depends on the simultaneous pursuit of mutually opposed
activities or aims. The adoption of a final solution means a kind of death
sentence for man's humanity and spells either cruelty or dissolution, generally
both. (1978, p. 127)
Field of interacting opposites: Of interest in relation
to consideration of the four epistemelogical domains of Table
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
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:
In the present transitional world-system, the interactions of the Four
Worlds are unconscious, full of projections, and laden with conflict and
of structural violence...The purpose of invoking the archaic Quaternity
in a modern context of international relations is to make the unconscious
conscious...The Quaternity enables us to see and model relationships of
a more complex, polycentric variety. (p. 50)
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"):
New visions of the future must empower without power becoming oppressive.
And finally new visions must articulate their own dark side, must construct
polities that incorporate their own contradictions, that is, they must develop
structures to counter what cultural historian William Irwin Thompson calls
enantiodromia, the tendency for institutions and structures to become their
opposite, to become what they are fighting against. To do this, these movements
need to be aware that oppression exists in every age, and that while intellectual
knowledge expands in every generation, wisdom often does not and each generation
must learn the painful experiences of previous generations. This is the idea
that revolutionary and reform movements have emerged before with mixed results
and at times they have become the new oppressors.
Thompson's conclusion: "good" conscious intentions are no longer adequate
motivational bases to guide revolutionary movements or political programs.
If we are to reduce the relentless frequency and powerful aftermaths of these
enantiodromias in the future, then we must be able to discern and integrate
what is underneath conscious motivation and that is the full spectrum of
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
Cycle of learning: Yolles (Knowledge Cybernetics: a new metaphor for social collectives, 2005) has insightfully interrelated a number of these threads:
In this paper we explain how this metamodel can be established as a social geometry, the epistemological content of which entertains knowledge cybernetics, the structures and processes associated with knowledge that enable identity, degree of autonomy and coherence to be explored.... The form of the metamodel is defined by its ontology, while its content is epistemological. This content derives from a variety of works that include contributions from Beer's cybernetic approach, Habermas's (1979) Knowledge Constitutive Interests, Marshall's (1975) knowledge schema that links with the ideas on generic forms of knowledge by Schutz and Luckmann (1974). The general model is referred to as Social Viable Systems (SVS), and its epistemological nature as knowledge cybernetics.
In particular we have shown that, redefined within a learning context,
there is a close connection between Jung's ideas on personality style (and
Myers-Briggs development of this), Kolb's notions of learning style
(and Honey and Momford's development of this) and our knowledge profiling
extended to include extroversion and introversion.
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).
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).
Psychosocial work cycle / heat engine
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
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].
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).
Reversible processes and enantiodromia: The Carnot cycle, when acting as a heat engine, is composed of four distinct reversible processes -- four successive and contrasting operations:
- expansion of a gas at a constant "hot" temperature: the
gas causes the piston to do work on the surroundings, driven by absorption
of heat from the high temperature source
- expansion without change in amount of heat: as a result of adequate
insulation, the gas continues to expand, doing work on its surroundings, but
associated with a cooling of the gas to the "cold" temperature
- compression at a constant "cold" temperature: with the
environment doing work on the gas, causing heat to be removed from the gas
into the low temperature source
- compression without change in amount of heat: as a result of adequate
insulation, the environment works on the gas to compress it and causing the
temperature to rise to the "hot" temperature..
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:
- political heat ("diplomatic heat")
- heated market ("heated competition", "heated rivalry")
- dialogue heat ("heated dialogue", "heated debate", "heated
argument", "heated communication")
- psychological heat (whether "internal" to an individual or to a community)
- theological or religious heat (of particular debates)
- spiritual heat
- intellectual heat
- emotional heat
The thermodynamic parallel has notably been explored in relation to economics:
- Juergen Mimkes: A Thermodynamic Formulation of Economics
- Steve Berman: The Carnot Cycle of Intellectual Capital and Perpetual Discovery: Innovation (Collaboration and Transformation, Global Digital Technology and Media Conference) [more]
- C Bianciardi, A Donati and S Ulgiati: On the relationship between the economic process, the Carnot cycle and the entropy law Ecological Economics, 8, 1993, 1, pp. 7-10
- Stefan Baumgärtne: Entropy Internet Encyclopaedia of Ecological Economics, International Society for Ecological Economicsr February 2003
- A. Khrennikov: Financial Heat Machine. Physica A: Statistical Mechanics and its Applications, 350, 2003, 2-4, pp. 487-490
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
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:
- Every process and every structure includes two opposite components (enantiodromia): attraction and repulsion, union and separation, asymmetry and symmetry, left and right, positive and negative. For instance, every physical force of attraction has a range at which it repels.
- In the process formulation, the maximization of entropy (involution) and the production of information (evolution) are two opposite and inseparable aspects of the same process (enantiodromia)
- Process theory thus redefines the second law as a maximization of symmetry resulting from the generation of opposite processes. Evolution and involution coexist (enantiodromia, the union of opposite processes).
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:
- completion / connection / separation
- contraction / separation / connection
These may be usefully related to the four-fold model of nowness of Francisco
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
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.
Psychosocial power and its generation
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
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"?:
- in social movements, through movement of people in relation
to a leadership ("paying tribute", puja)
that thereby becomes empowered? This is exemplified in the design of "throne
rooms" for the reception of supplicants as with the design of many
religious edifices for the ritual reception of worshippers
- in a movement of opinion, through which supportive "facts" are progressively selectively distilled and configured to highlight a perspective?
- in personal reflection (and meditation) through which confirmatory insights
are gathered in support of a "positive" attitude? Nicola Tesla
further developed the Van der Graaf generator technology (cf Nikola Tesla, Possibilities
of Electrostatic Generators, Scientific American, March,
1934). Tesla was renowned for his capacity to simulate equipment operation
(such as the Tesla coil) in his mind for testing purposes. It is appropriate
to ask to what extent such capacity benefits from understanding of system isomorphism through metaphor
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
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
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
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,
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:
- combustion engine: Following from the earlier discussion
of the Carnot cycle and herat engine, well-illustrated and documented by
the Wikipedia entry, the internal
combustion engine is one in which the burning of a fuel occurs in a
confined space called a combustion chamber. This exothermic reaction of
a fuel with an oxidizer creates gases of high temperature and pressure,
which are permitted to expand. The defining feature of an internal combustion
engine is that useful work is performed by the expanding hot gases acting
directly to cause movement, for example by acting on pistons, rotors, or
even by pressing on and moving the entire engine itself. These elements
might be summarized in terms inflammable gas (= "air"), exhaust/cooling
(= "water"), spark (= "fire"), and cylindrical container
(= "earth"). But the "secret" of course lies in the
spatial and temporal configuration of the dynamics between them -- as with
the discover of the V-8 automobile
- BaGua and ki (qi or ch'i): Fundamental to the BaGua are of course the archetypal insights of fire, air, water and earth (R. G. H. Siu. Ch'i: a Neo-Taoist approach to life. MIT Press, 1976). The dynamics between these are associated with the energy of qi. The cautionary comments of Andrzej Kalisz (Qi: Magic Power?) are of relevance.
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?
|Table 5. Towards a codification of variable
institutional geometry based on BaGua dynamics
(with an indication of their positive and negative public images)
derived from Alternation
between Variable Geometries (1985)
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.
This challenge might be seen in relation to that of gearing down principle
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
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:
To say that he understood what went on was true. To say that he did not understand -- was true. I would sit and explain, over and over again. He listened, his eyes fixed on my face, his lips moving as he repeated to himself what I was saying. He would nod: yes, he had grasped it. But a few minutes later, when I might be saying something of the same kind, he was uncomfortable, threatened. Why was I saying that? and that? his troubled eyes asked of my face: What did I mean? His questions at such moments were as if I had never taught him anything at all.
He was like one drugged or in shock. Yet it seemed that he did absorb information for sometimes he would talk as if from a basis of shared knowledge: it was as if a part of him knew and remembered all I told him, but other parts had not heard a word. I have never before or since had so strongly that experience of being with a person and knowing that all the time there was certainly a part of that person in contact with you, something real and alive and listening -- and yet most of the time what one said did not reach that silent and invisible being, and what he said was not often said by the real part of him. It was as if someone stood there bound and gagged while an inferior impersonator spoke for him. (Doris Lessing. Re: Colonised Planet 5 - Shikasta, 1979, pp. 56-57).
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.
Jacques Attali (Noise: the political economy of music, 1985)
makes a case for innovations in the organization of music anticipating
innovations in social structure. The discredited recapitulation
theory in biology that generally, if a structure pre-dates another structure in evolutionary terms, then it also appears earlier than the other in the embryo. Species which have an evolutionary relationship typically share the early stages of embryonal development and differ in later stages. Ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny is
now reframed to suggest that if a structure pre-dates another structure
in evolutionary terms, then it also appears earlier than the other in the
embryo. Elsewhere it was suggested that a form of psychogeny (the genesis
of mind) may replicate ontogeny [more].
Psychogeny is a neglected phenomenon of possible relevance to the near future
(Wayne Viney, William Douglas Woody, Psychogeny:
a Neglected Dimension in Teaching the Mind-Brain Problem, Teaching
of Psychology, 22, 1995; Y Lebrun, From
Psychogeny to Organicity: Is the Brain Going to Outgrow the Psyche in the
Third Millennium? Brain and Language, 71, 1, 2000).
Ken Wilber has hypothesized that psychogeny equals sociogeny, namely that
the development of individuals is reflected in the development of society
and vice-versa (cf D. Matzke, Subjective "I" requires
extension of information paradigm, Quantum Theory, 04.03,
Abstract No: 905). *** Technogeny (coined term) Forms of control (q.v.)
such as manufacture, transport, agriculture, communication, simulation,
etc. the capacity to do which is transmitted, not mentally, but genetically.
E.g. nest construction by termites.[more]
Conclusion: implication for sustainable development and governance
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
See complete version of Annex 3