26 Dec 2001
Coherent Patterns of Schism Formation, Bifurcation and Disagreement
and the associated bonding, encounters and agreements they
- / -
It is a characteristic of psycho-social processes that enunciation of a belief
in something eventually evokes enunciation of a contrasting belief. Historically
this has been most evident in the case of religion with the formation of schismatic,
breakaway movements -- possibly formally declared to be heresies. It is also
evident in the case of ideological movements and schools of academic thought
-- and of therapeutic or psychotherapeutic approaches. The breakaway may be
both dramatic and traumatic for many involved, leading to unresolved tensions
for many decades -- as in the separation of Protestants from Catholics, or Jung
from Freud. Such a process is also evident in personal relationships, with dramatic
separations resulting from some fundamental disagreement. It is perhaps most
explicitly acknowledged in the 18 contrasting schools of ** philosophy.
The question explored here is whether schism formation -- and the emergence
of disagreement -- in any way follows a pattern. Might the nature of this pattern
hold larger insights important to the understanding of the emergence of the
requisite variety necessary to the viability of any self-organizing system --
such as an 'ecosystem' -- whether linking biological, social or knowledge
And if there is a pattern to schism formation, might there also be some sort
of a matching pattern to the emergence of encounters that give rise to agreement
and bonding? If this proves to be the case, then it is at the level of the pattern
that responses to fundamental differences between religions and belief systems
should be sought -- especially when they are associated with bloody territorial
conflicts. Reconciliation may indeed be seen as a desirable coming together,
but it is only meaningful within a pattern that recognizes a necessary tendency
to break apart -- a pattern that both connects processes and holds the larger
quality that is expressed by such variety. Such patterns are perhaps best understood
in certain forms of drama and music.
This pattern needs to be explored in relation to the nature of any integrative
understanding as expressed in calls for 'unity', 'coherence',
'harmony', or other insights into 'wholeness'. Failure to
do so renders such 'global' perspectives essentially unsustainable.
The emphasis here is on the experiential quality -- the way in which the separation
is experienced as a consequence of disagreement or permanent schism.
The most obvious model of 'schism' formation is in the process of
cell division, notably following human conception. This has been extensively
explored in terms of 'bifurcation' leading to cell differentiation.
This ontogenetic development associated with successive bifurcation of cells
to constitute a given organism is recognized as echoing the pattern of phylogenetic
bifurcations leading to the emergence of the species in question. Such a pattern
of bifurcations creates a range of species adapted to fill a corresponding range
of niches in the environment. If there is a niche in the ecosystem, a species
will adapt to fill it by distinguishing itself advantageously from other species..
It might well be argued that much evolutionary learning has been invested in
this process. This is therefore likely to carry over into socio-cultural, psycho-cultural
and conceptual equivalents -- in preference to any alternate pattern. Do the
disagreements dividing social groups emerge in a manner in any way similar to
those of cell division or speciation?
Perceptions preceding schism
In a psycho-social context, a coherent belief system is eventually threatened
by perceptions in the left hand column (in the following table). These lead
to distancing, alienation and dissociation through a form of rejection. This
may well be aided by processes of attraction (right hand column) to some other
belief -- recognized progressively as a more powerful attractor.
|Alienation from known
||Attraction of new possibility
|Sense of distance
||Sense of attraction
|Sense of constraint
||Discovery Freedom to explore
|Predictability, Sense of closure
|Sense of going nowhere
|Sense of pattern repetition
||More correct, More truthful
|Less meaningful, Inadequacy
The new focus may successfully provide coherence for many. However some, possibly
of a later generation, will eventually be exposed to the same processes of disassociation
once again -- as they encounter, or evoke, some other attractor experienced
as more powerful.
Pathways of bifurcation and encounter
The emergence of religious movements, breaking away from those which preceded
them historically, provides a fairly well-recognized pattern. New movements
continue to breakaway from those so formed. The same is true of schools of thought
within many academic disciplines.
Such patterns are seldom presented visually -- often because those best informed
have a vested interest in denying the legitimacy or viability of breakaway movements
with contrary views (possibly to the point of denying their existence). There
is therefore little sense that such speciation is occurring in order to fill
an implicitly defined space of unknown geometry and extent.
The question here is whether there are interesting and meaningful ways to think
about the nature of such a space and its geometry. Hence the interest of the
18 schools of Indian philosophy.***
Before exploring this question, it is important to recognize that speciation
has a consequence, namely encounter between species. If two distinct belief
systems are formed by a speciation process, representatives of these species
will tend to encounter each other. They will have to develop behaviour to deal
with each other. The encounter may be associated with hostility or even violence.
More interesting however are encounters, between species that are not immediate,
direct descendents of the original undifferentiated belief system. Eight types
of inter-species encounter have been described (***). These encounters may involve
recognition of complementarity, even of attraction of opposites, namely a form
of bonding that is important to the viability of the psycho-cultural ecosystem
as a whole. In particular contrasting species may learn from each other -- a
process much extolled in relation to inter-disciplinary, inter-faith and multi-stakeholder
Encounters, especially those associated with learning or development of interdependency,
therefore constitute a kind of temporal mirror image of bifurcation -- perhaps
partially to be denoted by reconciliation. They may be especially significant
in the case of personal relationships and bonding. But of course the coherence
of such bonding is itself subject to subsequent bifurcation processes, if, and
when, those involved go their separate ways.
Thus although bifuraction creates differences, these nevertheless lead to new
'encounters'. The next encounter is like a 'reverse bifurcation'
or 'mirror' event. Encounters involve recognition of 'similarities'
-- leading to binding events between/across dissimilarities, namely a form of
'marriage'. These are not to be confused with 'complementarities'
which may be limited to similarities across the space (ie non-contiguous).
Curvature of bifurcation-encounter space
An ecosystem that effectively gives rise to a number of species, say 30, may
possibly be describable by the network of bifurcation and encounter pathways
that have separated the species over time and bring them together in time. This
network may indeed be considered as without any particular structure. However
it is interesting to consider the implications of two interrelated forms of
structuring features. The first is 'curvature' and the second is 'polyhedra'
as approximations to a sphere.
Curvature provides an interesting metaphor through which to understand the
'horizon effects' which impede visibility of very distant features
on what might otherwise be understood as a flat landscape. Curvature also provides
some sense of focus and containment of significance that otherwise tends to
be eroded by flat perspectives.
Such curvature offers a greater sense of integrity if it iis understood in
terrms of a sphere, with the pathways over its surface. Such a sphere provides
a kind of memetic equivalent to a 'gravitational' effect that constrains
those on its surface to exploration of the closed curvature. There are significant
challenges to getting 'off' the surface. (centrifugal / centripetal
- possible confusion between 'arrow of time' and 'circular time'
around the surface -- with circular eliciting a sense of 'remembering'
and finding again -- standing wave / Chladni
- separation or distancing around the surface creates communication challenges
(cf elephant and flea) that are part of the process of maintaining coherence
- cannot just have 'sports' -- must be somewhere on the map
- at least to human perception, any given perspective on this network would
find more meaning
- episystemic landscape
- well-rounded life as a coherent patern of bifurcations and encounters
Polyhedral approximations to spherical curvature
The integrity of episystemic bifurcation space can indeed be fruitfully associated
with a closed curved surface such as a sphere, as an ideal template for insights
into the integrative dimensions of unity. But to hold the reality of the contrasting
understandings created by bifurcation, it is useful to acknowledge explicitly
the 'flat earth' quality of each such individual 'holding'.
Like tectonic plates, each subdivision of the whole can be imagined as a relatively
flat surface. Different flat surfaces then meet at fault lines where the orientation
of the surface changes. Together the many such surfaces then make up (and cover)
the spherical surface -- constituting the integrity of the whole. Each such
flat surface may be usefully understood as a 'field' of knowledge.
One of the most helpful ways to explore how flat surfaces might be joined together
by bifurcation pathways to approximate a sphere is through the set of Platonic
or Archimedean solids. Matching these 3-dimensional polyhedra are characteristic
'nets' generated by rolling each solid on a flat surface such that
the edges of each of its surfaces represent links in the network consituted
by the edges and apices of the solid. Discussion of networks is normally focused
on what may be represented in 2 dimensions in this way. But 2--dimensional networks
may also be understood as wrapped around matching 3-dimensional polyhedra.
This approach is especially interesting when 'networks' are understood
as representing systems of relationships, as in ecosystems or communication
systems. R Buckminster Fuller has extensively explored the argument that all
systems are polyhedra.
Each polyhedron, or its matching net, then defines a viable pattern of variants
-- that might in turn be represented by coordinates on the surface of a sphere.
The coherence of the (eco)system represented is then associated with the properties
of the polyhedron or its net.
This metaphor then suggests an interesting distinction between:
- a 'jump' or 'shift' that occurs when the pattern as
a whole proves constraining to emergence of a more variegated pattern,
requiring use of a more complex polyhedra to hold the new pattern
- a 'collapse' to a simpler pattern when the transactions across
the pattern no longer sustain it -- when fewer species co-exist -- and requiring
use of a simpler polyhedron to hold the new pattern
The surface net effectively defines a kind of wrap-around periodic table --
projectable onto 2D with various distortions and assumptions -- to provide a
classification of the extant species within that system. Simpler systems of
lower species variety would be described by simpler tables. Nesting the nets
would gives a sense of how the corresponding paradigms are related to one another
-- matching apices, faces, edges, duals, etc.
- these problems are a feature of governance of a highly diversified society
- how to allow /sustain schism
- how to provide for mutuality
- how to recognize where separators/buffers/resistances are required
- how to recognize where midwife binders are required
- challenge of Bucky's 'kiss-touch'
- personality types
Filling structural / dynamic niches (theoretical biology? Consilience?)
may have 'jumps' to another solid/net
species/characteristic 'A' engenders 'not-A'
apartness: email dialogue
meaning / demeaning ?