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6th November 2010 | Draft

Missing the New Renaissance?

No Room at the In?

-- / --

Complementary questions
-- What is the New Renaissance?
-- When will the New Renaissance happen?
-- Where will the New Renaissance happen?
-- Which New Renaissance?
-- How will the New Renaissance be enabled?
-- Who emerges from a New Renaissance?
-- Why a New Renaissance?
Surviving cycles: Renaissance following Remorse?
Questioning the appropriateness of questions
New Language for a New Renaissance?

Produced on the occasion of a conference of the Scientific and Medical Network
to launch a compilation: A New Renaissance: transforming science, spirit and society (2010)


This is a reflection on Renaissance, especially on the New Renaissance, long awaited and on which many hopes have been placed. This can only be a continuing exercise, following a trail of previous efforts (Challenges of Renaissance: suggestive pattern of concerns in the light of the birth metaphor, 2003).

The questions asked here are to do with the ways on which one might engage fruitfully with that event, if only as an exercise of imagination -- which may well be the key to enabling whatever it constitutes as an archetype cherished by many. Imagination may also be vital to exploring the necessary complexity it must embody to be adequate to the challenges of the present time, as previously suggested (Imagining the Real Challenge and Realizing the Imaginal Pathway of Sustainable Transformation, 2007).

Framed as a "reflection" however, such an exploration is also an exercise in mirroring and self-reflexivity. It is insufficient to any engagement with its potential significance to approach it either purely objectively or purely subjectively, each having its limitations. It might in fact be an integral characteristic of an emergent New Renaissance that it transcends such a polar modality from which discourse and governance suffer so unfruitfully. There are few disciplines which enable such integrative transcendence. Hence the case for aesthetic playfulness, as previously argued (Enacting Transformative Integral Thinking through Playful Elegance, 2010). However in this mode there is also the archetypal challenge of "stepping into" a reflective mirror (Stepping into, or through, the Mirror: embodying alternative scenario patterns, 2008).

The following exploration is structured in terms of a set of questions. There is then a case for initially presenting the challenge to comprehension in terms of an adaptation of the classic poem of Edward Lear (The Akond of Swat). This humorous, "nonsense verse" offers an appropriate counterpoint to the "seriousness" upheld as characteristic of a "New Renaissance". The same poem, adapted otherwise, was used to reframe humorously the desperate trillion dollar quest for the most wanted person on the planet, Osama bin Laden (Engaging with Osama bin Laden in Swat, 2009).

In Quest of the New Renaissance

with apologies to Edward Lear (1812-1888)
especially for the introduction of an additional "chorus" line, best "shouted",
as recommended for the original chorus line by its author
Who, or why, or which, or what,
Is the New Renaissance?
Is it Renewal, or it it NOT?

Is it tall or short, or dark or fair?
Does it sit on a stool or a sofa or a chair,
The New Renaissance?
Is it Renewal, or it it NOT?

Is it wise or foolish, young or old?
Does it drink its soup and its coffee cold,
or HOT,
The New Renaissance?
Is it Renewal, or it it NOT?

Does it sing or whistle, jabber or talk,
And when riding abroad does it gallop or walk
or TROT,
The New Renaissance?
Is it Renewal, or it it NOT?

Does it wear a turban, a fez, or a hat?
Does it sleep on a mattress, a bed, or a mat,
or COT,
The New Renaissance?
Is it Renewal, or it it NOT?

When it writes a copy in round-hand size,
Does it cross its T's and finish its I's
with a DOT,
The New Renaissance?
Is it Renewal, or it it NOT?

Can it write a letter concisely clear
Without a speck or a smudge or smear
or BLOT,
The New Renaissance?
Is it Renewal, or it it NOT?

Do its people like him extremely well?
Or do they, whenever they can, rebel,
or PLOT,
At the New Renaissance?
Is it Renewal, or it it NOT?
If it catches them then, either old or young,
Does it have them chopped in pieces or hung,
or SHOT,
The New Renaissance?
Is it Renewal, or it it NOT?

Do its people prig in the lanes or park?
Or even at times, when days are dark,
The New Renaissance?
Is it Renewal, or it it NOT?

Does it study the wants of its own dominion?
Or doesn't it care for public opinion
a JOT,
The New Renaissance?
Is it Renewal, or it it NOT?

To amuse its mind do its people show him
Pictures, or any one's last new poem,
or WHAT,
For the New Renaissance?
Is it Renewal, or it it NOT?

At night if it suddenly screams and wakes,
Do they bring him only a few small cakes,
or a LOT,
For the New Renaissance?
Is it Renewal, or it it NOT?

Does it live on turnips, tea, or tripe?
Does it like its shawl to be marked with a stripe,
or a DOT,
The New Renaissance?
Is it Renewal, or it it NOT?

Does it like to lie on its back in a boat
Like the lady who lived in that isle remote,
The New Renaissance?
Is it Renewal, or it it NOT?

Is it quiet, or always making a fuss?
Is its steward a Swiss or a Swede or Russ,
or a SCOT,
The New Renaissance?
Is it Renewal, or it it NOT?
Does it like to sit by the calm blue wave?
Or to sleep and snore in a dark green cave,
or a GROTT,
The New Renaissance?
Is it Renewal, or it it NOT?

Does it drink small beer from a silver jug?
Or a bowl? or a glass? or a cup? or a mug?
or a POT,
The New Renaissance?
Is it Renewal, or it it NOT?

Does it beat its wife with a gold-topped pipe,
When she let the gooseberries grow too ripe,
or ROT,
The New Renaissance?
Is it Renewal, or it it NOT?

Does it wear a white tie when it dines with friends,
And tie it neat in a bow with ends,
or a KNOT.
The New Renaissance?
Is it Renewal, or it it NOT?

Does it like new cream, and hate mince-pies?
When it looks at the sun does it wink its eyes,
or NOT,
The New Renaissance?
Is it Renewal, or it it NOT?

Does it teach its subjects to roast and bake?
Does it sail about on an inland lake
in a YACHT,
The New Renaissance?
Is it Renewal, or it it NOT?

Some one, or nobody, knows I wot
Who or which or why or what
Is the New Renaissance?
Is it Renewal, or it it NOT?

Complementary questions

The following questions -- presented linearly -- are better considered as interwoven, even as braided themes -- as suggested by the final images below. The pattern of conventional questions is itself questioned below. Each gives rise to:

1. What is the New Renaissance?

At the time of writing, the New Renaissance is articulated through a book of that title edited by David Lorimer and Oliver Robinson (A New Renaissance: transforming science, spirit and society, 2010). It was launched to the media in London (6th November 2010) at a conference of the Scientific and Medical Network, whose speakers including many of the contributors to the book. This helps to make the point that the New Renaissance is neither the event launching the book, nor the contributions, nor the themes they evoke. Or is it necessarily all those, and more?

The book's contributors stress:

... an urgent need for change and renewal in a period of crisis for philosophy, science and society. The Florentine Renaissance, some six hundred years ago, took a huge leap forward into realism, rationality and self-awareness. It was born out of the waning authority of medieval institutions and beliefs. We stand now at a similar junction in history. It is apparent to many that reductionist science with its materialist values - the worldview that has driven modern culture for the last two centuries - is losing credibility.... The essays gathered in A New Renaissance are a cultural response to the failings of the materialist worldview.

The contributions are clustered into four parts:

The distinguished contributors have all written extensively in other works on the themes which variously address the question of what is the New Renaissance. Such themes include, or touch upon, according to their preoccupations, and those of others:

Whilst these explicit themes may be conflated (or confused) to some degree, any such checklist necessarily excludes:

Together these highlight a concern as to how a New Renaissance will avoid reactive closure clustering particular beliefs and articulations to the exclusion of others. This points to the challenge of the nature of a book as an integrative presentation, namely whether it is able to design in openness through the manner in which it interweaves its themes and opens them to what is not explicated there. The contrast is the form of integration defined only by the binding of the book -- once termed Buchbindersynthese.

The element of surprise might take several forms:

Potentially these forms of surprise are of course intimately related. That to which they may give rise might include:

More provocative and mysterious is the use of "new" in relation to "renaissance". There is considerable literature on the "Renaissance", with a general, but not unchallenged, consensus that it began in Florence (Italy) in the 14th century. What is far less clear is the nature of the earlier "Naissance" and when it occurred for rebirth to be subsequently claimed. It can be understood as relating to deep collective memories of the cultural birth of earlier ages, notably classical antiquity, or perhaps to the emergence of different religious revelations. As a metaphor, however, it raises issues of how it is to be brought about -- conception, gestation, labour? Emergence from entombment?

2. When will the New Renaissance happen?

Again the book launch helps to distinguish between:

The book launch specifically notes the culminating implications of forces engendering a New Renaissance:

It is apparent to many that reductionist science with its materialist values -- the worldview that has driven modern culture for the last two centuries -- is losing credibility. Its objectives of growth and acquisition, and its guiding principles asserting that there is no intrinsic meaning to life or purpose in the cosmos are now widely seen as creating an unsustainable world.

Any notion of "when" could also be reframed by other considerations:

These factors may well allow the "when" to be reframed as "whenever", depending on the capacity to engage personally with it and to enact it (Enveloping Development through Cognitive Enactivism, 2009; walking elven Pathways: enactivating the pattern that connects, 2006; En-minding the Extended Body: enactive engagement in conceptual shapeshifting and deep ecology, 2003).

3. Where will the New Renaissance happen?

Clearly in a very particular sense the New Renaissance "happens" in London with the launch of the book of that title. Others would favour locations of significance to their particular belief system, possibly including:

In the case of "locally", again this may take the form of special "zones" whether geographically or in cyberspace, which may well be experienced as "exclusive" by those who are unable to engage effectively with them (Consciously Self-reflexive Global Initiatives: Renaissance zones, complex adaptive systems, and third order organizations, 2007; Dynamically Gated Conceptual Communities, 2004)

4. Which New Renaissance?

The challenge of "which" is that it recognizes the existence of alternatives -- if only through their misguided advocacy by "others" lacking appreciation for the unique merits of one's own coherent understanding of New Renaissance. This is the provocative challenge of otherness and the associated problematic psychosocial dynamics amongst various parties all convinced of the validity of their particular perspective. Metaphors from geometry and topology may offer insights into how distinct forms of being "right" can coexist on more complex surfaces (Metaphorical Geometry in Quest of Globality, 2009; Geometry of Thinking for Sustainable Global Governance, 2009)

The challenge of "which" suggests possibilities such as the following:

Whatever the preferred approach, the challenge of intercourse with otherness remains -- with those who hold alternative views and "disagree", preferring to sing from another "hymn sheet" or to follow the sound of a "different drummer" (Us and Them: relating to challenging others, 2009; Human Intercourse: Intercourse with Nature and Intercourse with the Other, 2007). A particular concern are the understandings of any "silent majority", singular or multiple, and what is implied by the "unsaid" (Global Strategic Implications of the Unsaid: from myth-making towards a wisdom society, 2003).

The question of "which" is then a matter of whether the variety of views can be interwoven through dialogue in the light of a more integrative perspective. The book launch conference was explicitly framed as a "cross disciplinary dialogue". The divisive nature of "which" is then transformed into the aesthetic challenge of braiding themes into a significant whole then to be understood as the New Renaissance -- a degree of unity, of a higher order, within diversity. The question is the degree of subtlety and sophistication that can be brought to the process of eliciting that higher order -- and its comprehension by all (Dynamics of Symmetry Group Theorizing, 2008).

Given such possible complexity, and that it may be a feature of the requisite variety for a sustainable future, a particular concern is the capacity to elicit appropriate metaphors to interrelate radically distinct understandings of "which" such that choice is reframed into a richer modality (Decision-making: guiding metaphors and configuring choices, 1991). How does the contrarian get reframed as counterpoint in a larger harmony -- rather than as diabolus in musica?

5. How will the New Renaissance be enabled?

The London event is an indication of the challenge and, through its very own organization, offers a metaphor illustrative of how it might be addressed. As suggested by Gregory Bateson, in concluding a conference on the effects of conscious purpose on human adaptation: We are our own metaphor (Catherine Bateson. Our Own Metaphor, 1972, p.304).

The London event brought together, to enable the New Renaissance, an impressive cluster of:

If such a birth is to be compared with the archetypal Second Coming, clearly this assembly of magi is numerically far in excess of the original three wise men. At least the event included some women. However it was claimed that the Biblical magi visited only after the actual birth and therefore cannot be said to have been involved in facilitating the Naissance itself.

The process of birth has however become far more complicated since those times. Home birth is widely deprecated and a manger would be seen as exemplifying the lack of hygiene to which institutional birth is the recommended response -- especially if there may be complications, requiring tests, equipment and any of a very wide range of specialists. Coneern might be appropriately expressed regarding the influence of deep cultural memory of the former experience of the pain of birth now increasingly liable to engender birth trauma -- tocophobia -- and desire for caesarian delivery to avoid the pain of a Renaissance.

Which discipline would not consider itself to be of relevance to such a singular psychosocial event? Clearly cognitive hygiene is much to be desired in considering the requirements to enable a New Renaissance. A strong case could be made for the merit of "people of ignorance" to complement the many convinced of the unquestionable validity of their own perspective.

The challenge exemplified by A New Renaissance as a book, and the launching speeches of its contributors, is how the threads of insight are interwoven to ensure coherence for the birthing process -- or, switching metaphors, to achieve "lift off". Society has not clearly demonstrated the capacity to interweave the disparate insights of the disciplines, especially when the understanding of discipline extends beyond the conventional sciences -- whether to the "complementary" and "alternative" disciplines or into emotional and spiritual realms. Characteristically, many disciplines deprecate others as being totally inappropriate, if not totally dangerous. This was the challenge of those gathered on the launch occasion.

In anticipation of receipt of the book, and of viewing the web broadcast *** of the launching speeches, one can then only speculate on how the themes were braided together in an integrative pattern capable of encompassing the complexities of the birthing process -- a challenge previously discussed (Interweaving Thematic Threads and Learning Pathways, 2010). In echoing in some measure the aesthetic sensitivity of the Renaissance (notably to "natural magic"), rather than conventional linear discourse and text, presumably the insights articulated by each reflected off those of others so that a pattern emerged, as might be compared to:

Structured with such considerations in mind, the event must have been truly magically transformative -- perhaps to be represented visually by a mandala-style image such as those below. This might otherwise be understood as a psychoactive systems diagram or an archetypal "magic carpet" by which humanity could be transported into a new future (Magic Carpets as Psychoactive Systems Diagrams, 2010).

The problem for many may well be the difficulty of "seeing", "hearing", "feeling", or otherwise engaging with any emergent synthesis represented by such means. As with the tendency to dysfunctional bodyweight, the sense of vision or hearing may just be inadequate -- whether or not corrective measures and prosthetic devices can be found. As with the experience of many a mathematician or physicist, others may not be able to "see" the integrative marvels of their discoveries -- just as they may be blind to those of other disciplines. More provocatively one might ask whether the New Renaissance will be best "re-cognized", for some at least, as:

The "re-cognition" of the New Renaissance -- in terms of the subtleties of synaesthesia and cyclic time -- may then also be understood as "re-membering", in the sense of en-activating -- as suggested by the philosopher-poet Antonio de Nicolas (Remembering the God to Come: a book of poems, 2000).

It is in this respect that it is to be hoped that the Manifesto for Change: Crisis as Opportunity -- an appendix to the New Renaissance book -- was the focus for calls by contributors for rendering into song, following the inspiration of the renowned Biochemists Songbook (1982) to faciliate comprehension of complex metabolic cycles. The appropriateness of this approach was recognized by Franz Josef Radermacher (FAW - Institute for Applied Knowledge Processing, Ulm) in launching a book (Balance or Destruction: eco-social economy as the key to global sustainable development, 2002), in association with the Global Marshall Plan Initiative, accompanied by a CD of 12 songs of The Globalization Saga: Balance or Destruction (2004).

6. Who emerges from a New Renaissance?

As a birthing process, for which "what" may be inappropriate, "who" is it that is reborn as a new "identity"? Possibilities might include:

Potentially much more intriguing, in the face of a mandala-like orifice as a "birth channel", is whether the New Renaissance involves:

  1. "something" emerging from that orifice, to which humanity will then be called upon to relate -- as conventionally to leaders and new beliefs
  2. humanity being drawn into, and through, that orifice as a strange attractor -- as into a "black hole", or in media representations of a "stargate'
  3. a mysterious combination of (a) and (b), of "coming out" and "going in" -- namely a both-and situation beyond conventional binary understanding

It is the focus on modality (b) which highlights the challenge of whether there is "room for all" in the process -- or whether it may be a case of "no room at the in", at the "entrance".

Framed in terms of "who", rather than "what" (as above), there is also the implication of a new sense of identity, perhaps transcending conventional definition (Being What You Want: problematic kataphatic identity vs. potential of apophatic identity? 2008). This might transcend and reframe current senses of identity, whether focused on the individual or on community. Part of the challenge may be communicating the nature of any richer sense of identity. In that respect the comment by Kenneth Boulding is relevant with regard to the use of metaphor:

Our consciousness of the unity of the self in the middle of a vast complexity of images or material structures is at least a suitable metaphor for the unity of a group, organization, department, discipline, or science. If personification is only a metaphor, let us not despise metaphors - we might be one ourselves. (Ecodynamics: a new theory of societal evolution, 1978).

7. Why a New Renaissance?

Beyond the question of "where" the New Renaissance may happen, as discussed above, there is the question of "from where" the collective sense of an impending New Renaissance emerges. This helps to respond to "why".

Responses might then derive from the following, singularly or in some combination:

New insights into the nature of time emerge from the considerations of the mathematical physicist Roger Penrose (Cycles of Time: an extraordinary new view of the universe, 2010). He suggests that the ultimate fate of the current accelerating, expanding universe can actually be reinterpreted as the "big bang" of a new one. This pattern might be fruitfully applied to civilizational cycles and systems, suggesting that "why" is a consequence of the very acceleration of the pace of life in any one civilization, its associated expansion, and various manifestations of exhaustion (shortage of resources, accumulation of waste, etc), necessarily engendering a form of renaissance. In earlier works Penrose has expounded controversial theories regarding the relationships between physics and consciousness (The Emperor's New Mind: concerning computers, minds, and the Laws of Physics, 1989; Shadows of the Mind: a search for the missing science of consciousness, 1994).

Surviving cycles: Renaissance following Remorse?

Any cyclic perspective brings into focus the "New Death" which presumably is associated in some way with any "New Renaissance", the latter displacing what came before. Whilst "renaissance" has many valuable synonyms, this plethora is matched by a dearth of antonyms. There is therefore a case for using "remorse" as the appropriate antonym in this context -- being of similar form with related connotations. It holds the regret for the declining cycle and even fruitful associations to the postpartum depression following bith. Particularly valuable is the quality of "remorse" inherent in the multitude of regretful communications regarding the failures of humanity in this period (extinction of species and languages, degradation of the environment, etc). As a term "remorse" is also etymologically (but incorrectly) suggestive of "mourir" and "re-mourir". Appropriately, "remorse" is etymologically derived from "mordre", meaning to bite (back) -- perhaps suggestive of both "biting the dust" and recycling.

Within the context of the birth-death metaphor, it is appropriate to enrich reflection by associating the civilizational crises that humanity has narrowly survived -- such as world wars and nuclear incidents -- with the so-called near-death experiences reported by individuals as anticipating the experience of death. A global near-death experience has been variously articulated by Ken Ring (Heading Toward Omega, 1985) and Michael Grosso (Experiencing the Next World Now, 2004).

It is even more appropriate to note that the launch of the New Renaissance book occurred, coincidentally, on the occasion of an unprecedented exhibition at the British Museum of the 3500 year old Egyptian Book of the Dead -- translated as The Book of Going Forth by Day. Appropriate to a sense of cyclicity (also embodied in the Ouroboros) is one verse regarding the Sa-Ta serpent, or Sa-en-Ta ("Son of Earth"), disseminated (by Guardian-Science, 3 November 2010) immediately prior to the launch of A New Renaissance:

I am the Sata-snake, long of years, who sleeps and is reborn each day.
I am the Sata-snake, dwelling in the limits of the earth.
I sleep and am reborn, renewed and rejuvenated each day.

(Book of the Dead, chapter 87)

This is appropriately consistent with the myth of the Rainbow Serpent, central to the atemporal Dreamtime of Aboriginal Australia (see also Serpent-Symbolism and renewal in Wikipedia). Related implications have been explored by Jeremy Narby (The Cosmic Serpent: DNA and the origins of knowledge, 1999; Psychotropic Mind: the world according to Ayahuasca, Iboga, and Shamanism, 2010).

There is a case for recognizing the possibility that such understanding may hold insights into the paradoxical complexity now associated with the Mobius strip and the challenge for humanity of navigating the adaptive cycle, the strategic focus of the Resilience Alliance, as described by Thomas Homer-Dixon (The Upside of Down: catastrophe, creativity, and the renewal of civilization, 2006).

Indications of paradoxical complexity
(Egyptian Book of the Dead)
Adaptive cycle
(Resilience Alliance)
Mobius strip
(paradoxically single-sided)
Sata-snake Adaptive cycle Mobius strip

Together these may be understood as the cognitive challenge of engaging with what appears as "twistedness" (Engaging with Questions of Higher Order: cognitive vigilance required for higher degrees of twistedness, 2004; Adaptive Hypercycle of Sustainable Psychosocial Self-organization, 2010). It is appropriate to recall that management of "snake-like" twistedness was recognized in the first attempt at European monetary cooperation in the 1970s, aiming at limiting fluctuations between different European currencies (known as the snake in the tunnel). So-called "snake-like" perturbations and oscillations are a preoccupation in achieving sustainable performance of toroidal nuclear fusion reactors on which energy hopes for the future are placed -- and may well constitute a vital metaphor for the emergence of integrative thinking (Enactivating a Cognitive Fusion Reactor: Imaginal Transformation of Energy Resourcing (ITER-8), 2006). Rather than following a "straight and narrow" direction in the pursuit of objectives, the "twists" and "turns" characteristic of national and global policy also merit consideration in such terms. More concretely, highway layout and traffic flow now require extensive use of complex curving intersections. A striking dynamic model of a "snake" encircling the global is the Great Ocean Conveyor -- the thermohaline circulation of ocean currents on which environmental sustainability is heaviliy dependent.

The integration of feet (polarity) and coils (sinusoidal cycle) in the Sata image is a very creative representation of the strategic challenge of enabling and navigating the New Renaissance (Walking Elven Pathways: enactivating the pattern that connect, 2006). Given the other images above, appropriately the traditional commentary regarding the serpentine form and its transformations could be read from a topological perspective (Book of the Dead, ch. 87, Utt. 230 and 395). The charged associations of "Sata" with death and a "netherworld", subsequently echoed by the Abrahamic religions, emphasize the challenge of engaging with such otherness, as separately explored (Designing Global Self-governance for the Future: patterns of dynamic integration of the netherworld, 2010). The associations of "Sata" with the Earth, and the darkness of that netherworld, can be understood as a recognition (in psychological terms) of the spherical nature of the globe on whose other "side" the light does not shine -- during part of the cycle. In this sense the Book of the Dead indicates the transformative learnings to be obtained from the dark (Enlightening Endarkenment: selected web resources on the challenge to comprehension, 2005).

The psychoactive nature of the challenge can be recognized in the political "hot potatoes" on which debate is systematically avoided (Overpopulation Debate as a Psychosocial Hazard: development of safety guidelines from handling other hazardous materials, 2009). In tis sense there is this a case for mapping the collective cognitive "netherworld", as in the following, developed in an earlier exercise (Mapping the Global Underground, 2010).

Global Underground Map

In the light of the argument of Goonatilake (1999), a more appreciative understanding of the Eygyptian Book of the Dead, and of it equivalents (such as the Tibetan Bardo Thodol), might see them as an effort to communicate the various transformations appropriate to the navigation of chaotic, post-crisis, civilizational collapse. Then "death" can be associated with crisis or regime chage -- as with the death of any one pharaoh. The issue is what psychosocial skills are required to navigate the chaos which humanity may now face. The indicated transformations into various contrasting species of animals might be considered as metaphoric indicators of possibilities -- as with changing gears in a vehicle. The four-fold presentation of the adaptive cycle is reminiscent of the thinking of integral theory behind the AQAL set of quadrants, for example. Different cognitive "habits" may need to be donned to travel each of the "underground lines" above -- and to "circulate" around the underground system..

The challenge is usefully explored in various science fiction scenarios focusing on the comprehension of high degrees of complexity calling for decision-making under operational conditions (as is the case in global management). The problem is that of piloting or navigating a spacecraft through "hyperspace" or "sub-space", as imagined in the light of recent advances in theoretical physics and mathematics. Because of the inherent complexity of such environments, writers have explored the possibility that pilots and navigators might choose appropriate metaphors through which to perceive and order their task in relation to qualitative features of that complexity -- for example, flying like a bird, windsurfing, swimming like a fish, tunneling like a mole, etc. The mass of data imput derived from various arrays of sensors, and otherwise completely unmanageable, is then channelled to the pilot in the form of appropriate sensory inputs to the nerve synapses corresponding to his "wings" or his "fins". Perception through the chosen metaphor is assisted by artificial intelligence software and appropriate graphic displays. The pilot switches between metaphors according to the nature of the hyperspace terrain. Such speculations do at least stimulate imagination concerning a possible marriage between metaphor and artificial intelligence in relation to governance. Being a "snake" is but one option, as in the Book of the Dead. Such cognitive nimbleness is reminiscent of that presented in the The Book of Five Rings -- a classic martial arts text.

Such speculation is also fruitful in the light of the arguments by various authors for embodying the "external" features of nature as a clue to psychosocial survival (Gregory Bateson, Mind and Nature: a necessary unity, 1979; Henryk Skolimowski, The Participatory Mind: a new theory of knowledge and of the universe, 1994; David Abram, The Spell of the Sensuous: perception and language in a more-than-human world, 1997). Enactivating and navigating any New Renaissance may call for such "embodiment", as argued separately (Existential Embodiment of Externalities: radical cognitive engagement with environmental categories and disciplines, 2009).

Questioning the appropriateness of questions

It might fruitfully be asked whether an array of questions -- the set of so-called "WH-questions" above -- is the appropriate mode through which to engage with a New Renaissance. Is the New Renaissance thereby framed as an "answer" -- precluding the need for further questions?

Paris Arnopoulos (Nova Magna Moralia -- physics-ethics-politics: neoclassic concepts for postmodern times, Skepsis: a journal of philosophy and interdisciplinary research, 2002-3) explores the possibility of a "neoethics" -- which might be said to be a characteristic of a New Renaissance. Following his earlier work, he emphasizes a trilateral pattern of global morality combining physics, politics and ethics: physics because nature is the underlying context of global existence, politics because culture is the highest creation of human evolution, and ethics because it provides the conjunction between the other two. Consequently, neo-macro-morals take into account ecology, ethology and sociology. As he notes, to demonstrate this thesis:

... our method combines the four Aristotelian causes with the W5 (who, what, where, when, why) journalistic questions by reformulating his material, formal, efficient and final causes as what, how, who and why of ethics. To these, for the sake of completeness, we have added five more questions as to where, when, whether, whence and how much. We believe that by answering these questions as correctly as possible, one can explain a subject matter as completely as possible. [emphasis added]

He concludes this exploration of an emerging neoethic:

The merging of ethical nurture, political culture, and physical nature performed here correlates consultation, negotiation and conservation as the means of balancing cooperation, accommodation and competition in these overlapping realms. Only such trilateral PEP [Physics-Ethics-Politics] balance respects morality, civility and ecology, a combination of which is indispensable to sustainable human development in the EGO [Emerging Global Order] of this new century.

Whilst questions indeed have their place, and are vital to healthy critical thinking, the questioning posture can reinforce dysfunctional aspects of binary logic without enabling the transcendence of its limitations. Questions imply a requirement for answers, even encouraging a less than useful form of neediness in that respect. The dynamic also tends to preclude the fruitful dynamics associated with "not knowing" -- from which creativity, imagination and intuition emerge. And potentially any New Renaissance also?

Claims have been made that humanity knows all the necessary answers to address its condition. However this plethora of answers highlights the challenge of how answers are to be comprehended, whether they can be comprehended, and how they are to be meaningfully interrelated. The appropriateness of the New Renaissance may be inherently incomprehensible to many as currently conceived, especially in the light of its apparently requisite complexity (Comprehension of Appropriateness, 1986; Dynamics of Symmetry Group Theorizing, 2008; Imagining the Real Challenge and Realizing the Imaginal Pathway of Sustainable Transformation, 2007). It from this perspective that there is a vital need for enabling metaphors, whether of the simplest kind or from the frontiers of knowledge (In Quest of Mnemonic Catalysts -- for comprehension of complex psychosocial dynamics, 2007).

One (provocative) approach to reframing this situation is therefore as follows.

Reframing the question-answer "economy"
See further commentary in Sustaining the Quest for Sustainable Answers (2003)
Reframing the question-answer economy

Another approach is to emphasize the interwoven nature of the questions in providing a context through which Renaissance emerges.

Interweaving WH-questions
Using interwoven questions
to frame a "birth channel" for emergence

Associating questions
with 7 interlocking circles
Interwoven questions  framing a birth channel for emergence Associating questions with 7 interlocking circles

The left-hand diagram above suggests the form of a dynamic cognitive system, possibly to be understand as a resonance hybrid integrating the distinct modes of cognitive engagement associated with each question. It is the integrative emergent insight which would presumably enable the kind of cognitive transformation understood to be associated with a New Renaissance.

The possibility that the above set of WH-questions have some relation to the basic set of catastrophes has been separately explored (Cognitive Feel for Cognitive Catastrophes: question conformality, 2006; Conformality of 7 WH-questions to 7 Elementary Catastrophes: an exploration of potential psychosocial implications, 2006). This has been extended to the possibility of enabling a new understanding of integrative dialogue (Interrelating Cognitive Catastrophes in a Grail-chalice Proto-model: implications of WH-questions for self-reflexivity and dialogue, 2006).

The right-hand diagram above suggests ways of relating the set of questions to traditional patterns of interest to topology, such as Celtic knots. Borromean rings and, in this particular case, to a detail of the Flower of Life symbol considered fundamental to sacred geometry across cultures. Both images offer associations to the bi disk of corresponding significance in Chinese culture, appropriately emphasizing with respect to the central orifice through which the New Renaissance emerges:

It is the centre hole that makes it useful...
Therefore profit comes from what is there;

Usefulness from what is not there. 

(Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching)

New Language for a New Renaissance?

Arguably each new Renaissance gives rise to a new language. The essence of renaissance may be understood as the capacity to articulate (new thinking) in a new language.

The language of science may thus be understood to have emerged from that of the last Renaissance. What might then be the characteristics and requirements of a language appropriate to the New Renaissance? Arguably it will only be through the vehicle of that language that the significance of the New Renaissance can be appreciated. A sense of the nature of that language can potentially be conveyed by metaphor (Metaphors as Transdisciplinary Vehicles of the Future, 1991).

The possibility of an appropriate language for "The Making of Europe" has been explored by Umberto Eco (The Search for the Perfect Language, 1993). He summarizes the insights of philosophers, theologians, mystics and others for at least two millennia about the idea that there once existed a language, notably a "language of the birds", which perfectly and unambiguously expressed the essence of all possible things and concepts. He explores the history of that idea and of its profound influence on European thought, culture, and history.

In the light of the previous section, a case might be made for a language that reframed the elements of syntax -- including question and answer -- to offer new modes of cognitive engagement. Many possibilities are intimated by those non-western languages offering modes more akin to the unusual reflections of fundamental physics (Zelda Kalian Newman, Back for the future, forward for the past: tense and time in Modern Hebrew, Hebrew Studies Journal, January 2009; Rafael E. Núñez and Eve Sweetser, With the Future Behind Them: convergent evidence from Aymara language and gesture in the crosslinguistic comparison of spatial construals of time, Cognitive Science, 2006; Ø. Dahl, When the future comes from behind: Malagasy and other time concepts and some consequences for communication, International Journal of Intercultural Relations, 1995; S. Fleischman, The Past and the Future: are they coming or going? Proceedings of the Berkeley Linguistics Society, 1982; H. M. Klein, The Future Precedes the Past: Time in Toba. Word, 1987). Which way to the New Renaissance -- forwards or backwards?

Exploration of artificial and constructed languages point to possibilities, recognizing the challenges faced by Esperanto.

Myth and speculation offer other possibilities, as suggested by the mythical Language of the Birds, common to the memory of many cultures. These include Islam, Hinduism, Judaism, Christianity and shamanism, as indicated by Philip Coppens (Tweet Tweet: the language of birds). For some this esoteric language was used by the troubadours as well as being the language allowing for human communication with angels and deities. Separately the possibility that global use of Twitter can be understood as enabling the re-emergence of a form of this language (Re-Emergence of the Language of the Birds through Twitter?, 2010). Mythical understanding of "angels" and "deities" can then be understood in terms of the challenging patterns of complexity to which the fundamental sciences are sensitive.

The ancient hieroglyphic language of the Book of the Dead has itself been described as the "language of the birds". Ironically Twitter messages ("tweets") could now be transcribed into that hieroglypic language (see and Online Hieroglyphics Translator). This suggests the future emergence of a compressed idiographic language enabling more widespread comprehension of complexity and subtlety. Of course the hieroglyphic scripts could then be described as "tweeting Egyptian-style" -- 3,500 years ago.

However the ultimate test of any language appropriate to a New Renaissance is whether it sustains and enables humour as the capacity to embody unusual and unforeseen patterns (Humour and Play-Fullness: essential integrative processes in governance, religion and transdisciplinarity, 2005). There is even reason to suspect that, in the light of so-called crazy wisdom, the New Renaissance may emerge as the punch line of a cosmic joke -- or be best understood as such -- characteristic of the "laughter of the gods". Failure to "get" such a joke, even despite an "explanation", may be the essence of being "left behind". Echoes of this possibility are to be found in the nature of a Zen koan -- a necessarily subtle way of reframing the conventional dynamics of question and answer.

More problematic, but consistent with the sense of the "death" associated with any "rebirth", are the insights provoked by the funniest joke in the world, otherwise known as the killer joke. This joke is simply so funny that anyone who reads or hears it promptly dies laughing. The question is what identity, or pattern of coherence, "dies" or disintegrates?


This particular reflection was triggered by an invitation to attend the book launch of A New Renaissance (London, 6th November 2010) as a member of the Scientific and Medical Network. After some effort and consideration of finances, the determining factor was that there was effectively "no room at the inn" (hence the subtitle of this document). As a metaphor, this might well be true for many on the occasion of a New Renaissance -- as with the purported constraint of 144,000 in heaven: No one could learn that song except the 144,000 who had been redeemed from the earth (Revelation, 14:3-5).

Much is now made of those then "left behind" -- as in an extensive series of books, exploring that theme from a Christian dispensationalist, "end times", pretribulation, premillennial, Christian eschatological viewpoint (Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins, Left Behind, 1995-2007). In that sense the above argument is written as a "left behind" reflecting on what might have been -- as for those who are unable to get a seat in the Restaurant at the End of the Universe (1980). The majority of humanity has of course already been "left behind" -- given the nature of progress and the increasing degrees of inequality. Few have access to the insights of A New Renaissance.

The reflection is in a mode which was used to consider the experience of reading a typically rich copy of the Network Review of the Scientific and Medical Network (Musings on Information of Higher Quality, 1996). That raised the related issue of how one engages with the plethora of more (and less) insightful texts, now widely available and generated in ever increasing quantity -- with relatively little effort by their authors to elicit the "pattern which connects", highlighted by Gregory Bateson as his central thesis:

The pattern which connects is a metapattern. It is a pattern of patterns. It is that metapattern which defines the vast generalization that, indeed, it is patterns which connect. (Mind and Nature: a necessary unity, 1979, p. 11)


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