Torus, Time-Space, and Themes of History: A Doughnutology?

We are all outsiders to some extent. And we make that distinction for ourselves. Inside, outside, back inside, then outside again and then reentry and knowing the place for the first time. A Self-reflexive mystery.

I find it deeply moving that Bucky Fuller, unemployed, having lost his infant daughter, contemplated suicide. Thank God he didn’t. I posted a link to his talk below which you might enjoy In a complex unstable system moving towards chaos, none of us is really qualified. We can embrace the dramatic difficulties of time. Bucky is doing Big History!

And gentle enough for a child…a lovely metaphor

Whether we focus on Bucky or Young or someone else I hope we can support one another in taking some risks, of stepping a little bit out of our comfort zone. All manner of thing shall be well!


Note: Quigley came to mind because of the seven stages idea. Many of his conclusions are dated (especially in Chapter 6) and I would recommend Chapters 2, 3, and 5 and the ‘must-read’ sections for the interested.

I might have known that Duane Elgin (who appears on the video Marco shared above) has weighed in on this as well with seven stages of his own:

1 Like

This looks like a good read, TJ. I’ll work on it tomorrow. And after viewing the last Bubbles video, I was struck by how much information was being circulated. Because there is so much available to us, the great benefit of having peer to peer meshworks is that we save precious time, and stay on track. When we express our preferences and focus attention we can help re-direct each others attention in ways that may be more fruitful, than if we drift around aimlessly. We get a “sixth sense” about what others might find useful, about what resources to develop.


Fuller, Buckminster (1975) Synergetics: Explorations in the Geometry of Thinking, In collaboration with E.J. Applewhite, with a preface and contribution by Arthur L. Loeb, Macmillan, NY, 1982.

This is sometimes referred to as Synergetics 1, for there was also a follow-on volume

Fuller, Buckminster (1979) Synergetics 2: Further Explorations in the Geometry of Thinking, Macmillan, NY, 1983.

More familiar works of his are his perhaps best, or most well-known:

Fuller, R. Buckminster (1969) Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth, Simon & Schuster, NY.

And one of my all-time favorites of his where he introduces and clarifies his notion of ephemeralization (doing more and more with less and less):

Fuller, R. Buckminster (1969) Utopia or Oblivion: The Prospects for Humanity, Bantam Books, NY.

Fuller was too techy, I believe, for most people. Opening either synergetics texts can be more than intimidating for anyone who doesn’t find a certain pleasing esthetic in mathematica formulas and complicated diagrams of various platonic and non-platonic solids. Given your background, I’m sure you aren’t one of these folks. The other two of his texts that I have and listed above were written more for the general (though perhaps more academically inclined) reading public and give good insight into how far-reaching his thought was/is.

Fun fact (or not): Fuller was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1969, but the prize was awarded instead to the International Labor Organization (ILO).

Hope this helps.


And is there anything else about the dance? Does dance have a size or shape or movement? What kind of dance is that dance…and the discussion that pulls you in?..and when you get pulled in what happens next?

And is there anything else about peripheral vision? And when an integral city, and robust …and gentle… is there anything else about robust? Whereabouts is robust? Does it have a size or shape? Whereabouts is gentle? Does gentle have a size or shape? what determines robust/gentle? And what happens to the child when gentle enough?

My intention. I’m asking “clean” questions about your language without adding content as in normal conversational mode. I am using your language to locate patterns in a perceptual space. My main interest is developing and making connections between concrete and abstract portions of experience.

I am not conducting a formal interview but just opening up the semantic space with some clean questions, to pay attention to our attention, and the metaphors that may arise and then we can start to point to that.

Geoffrey’s dance…TJ’s peripheral vision…and is there a relationship between the Torus and the doughnut w(hole)? …and compelling future(s)…and with all of that what wants to happen at our seminar?

I imagine this kind of interplay between metaphors generated by our group could bring attention to how we are paying attention. This is probably an exercise to be done in a public live event like the way we did with the Bubbles conversations. Marco can sponsor us and give us the tech support, we can find a good time to do this seminar and we can prepare for that event here, through, our written communications. Marco expressed curiosity about the self-organization. Me. too. As a participant-observer, how will this seminar organize, how will it happen?

I do believe ( notice I am noticing a belief) that it is possible to create organizations and groups that are mindful of one another’s metaphors and symbolic landscapes. This could be a catalyst for exploring the bifurcation points I mentioned previously.

A belief for me is a temporary structure that I use in an ‘as if’ fashion. I’m open to believe and then work with that hypothetical belief in an abductive way, seeking for the analogy that connects. I’m always open to doubt my own beliefs. A belief is like a costume I try on for a play. I can put it on for a specific part and then take it off. I draw a lot of my metaphors from theatre. This is like a rehearsal

Thanks for your attention!


As I reflect upon my own reflections I notice how a meta-awareness awakens.

I am really interested in the interplay of writing and speech in a group and what happens to communications within and beyond the group?

This a vast project and I’m sharing my expectation that we can develop, through our study of Visionaries, our own visionary capacities, moving towards a more poly-phasic culture, sensitive to the liminal zones. How can we start to model complex adaptive observing systems such as ourselves?

Observing Bucky’s process of developing definitions for structure, his experiments with the necklace is fascinating. He places high priority on the experiential as he formulate his definitions, which is precise. He is meta-aware at a very high level.

A task for me would be to go back and forth from the portions of the written text on structure and the portions of the video where he discusses his process, paying attention to the verbal/non verbal, then perhaps I can make a report about what I pick up. Youtube is a real treasure trove! We have all of these stunning performances to draw inspiration from and also to help give us a much needed direction! I have watched the first two hours three times. I am going to watch the entire program. Wish me luck! It might fry my para-brain!

I’m off to a café with a ton of books…open to feedback!


I am curious about what distinguishes the various authors being discussed as part of this seminar—or rather, what draws them together?

Bucky Fuller and Teilhard de Chardin both strike me as a “visionaries,” which I think has something to do with “seeing the future” (or seeing some possible future, through seeing the deepest potentials of the present) and communicating it to the “here and now,” perhaps coaxing other humans to co-create that future as a compelling reality.

Feynam, Quigley, Young, as far as I can tell, are describing ‘what is’, or broadly doing science, but without the creative (future-invoking) dimensions that Fuller activates…though Ingold argues that anthropology should not be ‘neutral’ with respect to its field of study, but serve life itself (i.e., the experience of being alive) through participatory study. It seems these writers are all describing larger patterns and integrative meta-narratives (at various scales from biological to historical to cosmic, etc.), which are not necessarily part of mainstream science, but involve expansive and insightful moves in relation to it.

Heidegger, meanwhile, extols the figure of the “thinker,” who is closely related to the “poet,” but still enacts a distinct relationship to Being in responding to the “call of Being.” The “thinker” for Heidegger, is a more enduring figure than the philosopher of Western metaphysics, which Gebser identifies with the philosopheme of mental consciousness. A bit of a mystic, and a bit of a poet, but not quite exactly either, the Heideggerian thinker is “picked” by Being to bring forth the Being of beings as a uniquely individuating task.

In another thread, we’ve talked about Sloterdijk as a kind of “magician.” However, I would not regard his Spheres trilogy as “visionary.” When I read Sloterdijk, I often feel that I’m reading philosophy as literature. I’m not really expecting scientific validity (even broadly and generously understood) as much as a certain creativity in the writing itself, and the potentials this opens up for discussion.

And what might a doughnutology be? Or what kind of author might it imply‚ if not a confectionary baker?!

To be clear, I’m not merely trying to tease out a typology between ‘visionary,’ ‘scientific,’ or ‘literary’ writers and their works. Rather, I’m wondering how these authors and their writings intersect—why are they arising in the same space? What is it they have in common? What is the seminar really about? Generative ideas?

Time-space, synergetics, movement, emergence, evolution, historical cycles, complex forms, clean language, structures of consciousness, lines of becoming, mind-bending meta-questions, polyphasic culture, singularity, idiosyncrasy, science fiction, the indicible…something BIG. Is there a name for this place on the map?


Pragmatism, an international philosophical movement, started with a reading group, in Cambridge, Mass, after the crisis of the Civil War, during the big Darwin debates. Charles S Peirce, William James, Oliver Wendell Holmes were members of the group. They called themselves the Metaphysical Club.

James and Peirce were definitively in the Visionary world class of thinkers, but both of them were still young, unknown and experimenting with ideas. Both of them considered philosophy to be a conversation. James famously said, " Truth is what happens to an idea ."

Peirce claimed truth emerged not out of logic but out of communities who had intentions that they acted upon. To my surprise I found out recently that they were both hugely influenced by Swedenborg, one of the great clairvoyants of all time, who communicated directly with Angels. Philosophy according to James always comes with an autobiography. He was upfront and personal and blended first and third person perspectives beautifully.

Peirce said of James," His comprehension of men to the very core was most wonderful. Who, for example, could be of a nature so different from him as I. He so concrete, so living; I am a table of contents, so abstract, a very snarl of twine. Yet in all of my life I found scarce any soul that seemed to comprehend my concepts, the mainspring of my life, better than he did." These guys were really good writers. I wish we had some videos of them on YouTube.

I mentioned earlier that I am less interested in who we study but in the bifurcation points of the group. So I will act ‘as if’ there will be a future that we are willing to think about together. And maybe it’s not something BIG but something small and of great personal interest?

What do you do when you don’t know what to do? I like to re-read my journals and look for key words and concepts. I get a meta-perspective on my own scattered process, get in touch with the Stranger within. Sometimes I find the whole attempt to make sense a lost cause, and then I take a deep breath and relax and open to the field…


What links the writers here – from Feynman, Young, and Fuller, as scientists with a pragmatic (I’m avoiding the word engineering on purpose) bent, to Quigley, as scientificly inclined historian, to de Chardin, particularly his noosphere, is consciousness, and I use the term as loosely as possible without it losing its meaning all together. What they have in common is a focus on strong, disciplined ways of thinking about humans that is bigger than any particular, singular individual.

Where Heidegger seems to be talking about the thinker/poet as a type, all the others are concerned with the totality of reality as mediated by human consciousness. This isn’t to say that Heidegger can’t or won’t think in such terms, it is merely an observation that that was not his primary concern and focal length.

Some (I’m thinking of @Geoffreyjen_Edwards in particular) may not see Feynman fitting as easily into this group, but when you look at his approach to physics, his relentless attempt to distill the complexity of physical reality into terms that anyone who hasn’t been dropped on their head too often, should be able to understand. In other words, making his particular object of focus accessible to anyone and everyone. In this regard, there is an extremely strong didactic component in all their work: they wanted others to understand more deeply and more completely what it means to be a living, experiencing human being in a wonderfully complex and, at times even intimidating, reality.

To be sure, I’m doing all of them a terrible injustice in the very moment that I’m trying to lift them all up as examples to be followed, but it seems to me that each of them, in his own peculiar way, allowed for and encouraged us to recognize that we humans had more going for us than our historically documented behavior would lead us to believe. I seem to be hearing each of them saying, "Well, if we better understood , we’d have a better chance of using that understanding in much more positive ways than merely making a lot of money or raping the environment or thinking any one of us is worth more than any one else or whichever other overly narrow perspective one could take on the human condition. Or something along those lines at any rate.

This is certainly not far from the “describing larger patterns and integrative meta-narratives (at various scales from biological to historical to cosmic, etc.), which are not necessarily part of mainstream science, but involve expansive and insightful moves in relation to it” that you speak of as well. But none of them talk or speak in such terms (and they certainly are more eloquent than me). It is as if they say, “Look! Here!” and if you’ve got your eyes open, you’ll see it. Or, to put it in Gebserian terms (and you didn’t think I’d miss the opportunity, now, did you?), it is not integrative, but integrating, a kind of waring, if you know what I mean.


That was a beautiful video, @johnnydavis54. That Roden Crater project that Turrell is working on looks like a perfect destination for an art pilgrimage one day.

I have become very curious about the relationship between consciousness and light, so it’s interesting to read your comments re: the pragmatists and things BIG and small, alongside @achronon’s suggestion that our common subject here is, arguably, consciousness itself.

And at times, while out and about, I’ve been practicing seeing the ‘light of consciousness’ emanating from other people’s eyes. To the extent that it’s there, what is it like? What qualities? What feels? How do the various ‘lamps’ of individuality (as in the example Sloterdijk provides from Pseudo-Dionysus, p. 589) transmit an originally undifferentiated light?

And what is the relation between this ‘conscious light’ and the ‘physical light’ of Einstein? Is light merely a metaphor for consciousness—or the thing itself? And how do we talk about consciousness without collapsing it into an object? (This was Heidegger’s concern.)

I don’t expect hard and clear answers on any of these questions, of course! But I’m onto another twist of the donut, as ever curious about how these inquiries might make a difference or mean something more.


I totally agree, Ed (@achronon), that it is consciousness that is the common connection. Even Feynman wasn’t unfamiliar with the linkages between quantum theory and consciousness, I think. And consciousness, while it has become a realm of scientific study, this study is still largely defined by the Dennetts of the world, the arguments around Searle’s Chinese Room analogy, and the Turing test more than about the connections to creativity, meditation and emotional sensitivity (although some do address the latter). I think a discussion about the broader contemporary thinking around consciousness is entirely appropriate for this particular nexus in history.

I wanted to come back to this wonderful story by @johnnydavis54 about @johnnydavis54… While my early experience with Shakespeare was not quite so driven as this, my father had a copy of the Complete Works of Shakespeare, and I think partly at my own instigation, my family used to read them aloud to each other, particularly A Midsummer Nights Dream, perhaps because it was more “childlike” than some of the other plays, although I can also remember doing parts of The Tempest. I remember I used to do a wicked Bottom from Midsummer Nights Dream, and this early experience with Shakespeare carried me forward into encounters with, for example, the Paul Scofield film of King Lear, Hamlet of course, Macbeth (a favourite) and later Romeo and Juliet and so on.

I have (almost) finished reading the Ingold book (the last bit is more about anthropology as a practice and is somehow a little less interesting than the rest - I will read it, but I am less motivated for it), and aside from his over-emphasis on the role of story as the “only” form of knowledge (even as he discusses other forms of knowledge), I thought the book quite extraordinary and touching on many of the issues we are discussion here. Yesterday a wrote a kind of summary that I sent to my colleague here in Australia and I’m going to excerpt part of the text because I think it is relevant here (and this shows the extent to which these discussions intersect with my academic life!) :

To begin with, a few relevant quotes from Ingold (remember this is his book, “Being Alive”) :

“To create any thing, Aristotle reasoned, you have to bring together form (morphe) and matter (hyle). In the subsequent history of western thought, this hylomorphic model of creation became ever more deeply embedded. But it also became increasingly unbalanced. Form came to be seen as imposed by an agent with a particular design in mind, while matter, thus rendered passive and inert, became that which was imposed upon. My critical argument in this chapter is that contemporary discussions of art and technology, and of what it means to make things, continue to reproduce the underlying assumptions of the hylomorphic model, even as they seek to restore the balance between its terms. My ultimate aim, however, is more radical: with Deleuze and Guattari, it is to overthrow the model itself, and to replace it with an ontology that assigns primacy to the processes of formation as against their final products, and to the flows and transformations of materials as against states of matter.” p. 210

Then this particularly brilliant piece of writing, IMHO…

“The world we inhabit is not made up of subjects and objects, or even of quasi-subjects and quasi-objects. The problem lies not so much in the sub- or the ob-, or in the dichotomy between them, as in the -ject. For the constituents of this world are not already thrown or cast before they can act or be acted upon. They are in the throwing, in the casting.” p. 214

Within his discussion, Ingold is talking about the process of drawing (and making, and cursively writing) as distinct from taking photographs or typing on a computer screen…

“The act of drawing… is intrinsically dynamic and temporal, leaving its traces ‘as eddies on the surface of the stream of time’ (Berger.: 124). It is about becoming rather than being. You cannot be a mountain, or a buzzard soaring in the sky, or a tree in the forest. But you can become one, by aligning your own movements and gestures with those of the thing you wish to draw, as Heidegger would say, in its ‘thinging’.” p. 217 “It is a mistake to think that the camera does the same as a pencil, only faster; or that the photographic image achieves the same as the drawing, only with greater accuracy. For the pencil is not an image-based technology, nor is the drawing an image. It is the trace of an observational gesture that follows what is going on.” p.225

And finally, a comment about science as it should be practiced (Ingold is talking about anthropology, but I think one could extend his argument to embrace all of science) …

“My suggestion is that a descriptive endeavour … whose instrument is the pen or pencil rather than the camera and keyboard, would yield studies that are with people rather than of them. Where studying of is a process of othering, studying with is a process of togethering. The first is transitive, the second intransitive.”

Now to my own personal remarks about Ingold …

I think Ingold brings two contributions to our discussions. First, he situtates the act of drawing as a process of making, or “worlding” (word he uses readily but which was introduced by Heidegger and taken up again by Deleuze and Guattari), the practice of working within the flows of materiality rather than imposing some outside order upon materials. As he states, drawing is not an image, “it is the trace of an observational gesture that follows what is going on”. He reinforces this idea by stating the “fish-in-the-water can be understood as but one of many possible emanations of line, of which others would include the words and pictures painted or inscribed upon the surfaces of paper, bark or canvas.”

Along another line of enquiry, I have been exploring the difference between “metaphor” and “metonymy”. Metaphor has been extensively studied for the past several decades, metonymy on the other hand, has been neglected. Metaphor is a comparison of things between domains, it is a kind of mapping, and hence a kind of representation - metaphor privileges the words “like” and “as”. Metonymy is where a part stands for a whole within the same domain. It is a form of abduction, and privileges the word “is”. “The 1:03 is usually on time” is an example of metonymy I thought about this week, refering to the bus numbered 339 from the corner where I live. I think Ingold’s assertions that the line emanates fish-in-the-water is an example of metonomy rather than metaphor. The line, painting, description, etc. are part of a constellation of worlding that includes “fish-in-the-water”, and the line is hence the part that abducts the whole. [This fills in my earlier point about the relationship between metaphor and metonymy. I said I viewed metonymy as more powerful than metaphor. What I meant is, metonymy is a way of “doing” (i.e. abduction) and not only “showing” (i.e. mapping), it is therefore more “magical”, it engages us more fully. Still having trouble explaining myself …]

For his second major contribution, this has to do with [the following] area of inquiry, the question of the relationship between research/researcher and the public. But here the issue is more subtle. Although you can maybe see the argument emerging from the above comments. Essentially, if the making, drawing, and even writing processes are the means by which “practitioners bind their own pathways or lines of becoming into the texture of the world”, then the public must be involved in this for it to have any lasting value.

The key insight is in Ingold’s statement, “The problem lies not so much in the sub- or the ob-, or in the dichotomy between them, as in the -ject”. And then, “the constituents of this world are not already thrown or cast before they can act or be acted upon. They are in the throwing, in the casting.” So the engagement with a participatory public is necessary, in order to ensure that research, “the throwing”, is enacted in pertinent ways. In this sense, “knowledge translation” is a misnomer, because there is no knowledge without enacting. There is no “before” and “after”, no two stages, the research/writing and the reading/understanding. To separate this into two stages is to weaken the process substantively, in fact it leads to only a shadow of knowledge-sharing as it should be. [Note this is part of a larger discussion about so called “knowledge translation” which is a strategy adopted in medical research to ensure that the results of research are taken up by communities of practice - but the idea and the terminology is clearly based on the “hylomorphic model” that Ingold presented earlier, and the public or publics are held at arms distance from the work. Ingold’s arguments suggest that this has to cease, the public needs to be engaged much more fully and much more directly into research itself than is usually done…]

[I continue with my notes…] We buy into this because we believe that knowledge can exist in abstract forms - Ingold makes a case that such knowledge is one of categories and schema. He argues that real knowledge is story-based, or itinerary-based (the unfolding line during drawing). I actually feel that perhaps he goes too far in his argument at this point. He asserts, but does not prove, that all knowledge is story-based, sequential in nature, whereas I believe that some categorizing, some ability to discern whether ideas are close or distant to each other, is also necessary. I am not sure if allowing for this means that knowledge in schematic forms must exist, however. I do believe that one can argue that our existing understanding of knowledge generating practices, which adopt what Ingold calls the “hylomorphic model”, can be recast within a non-hylomorphic framework without losing any of their strengths (although somebody has to work this out, see below). The basic idea is that when scientists read papers by other scientists, their extensive experience leads them to understand papers in terms of research practice, and this is what they “bind into” their own practice. Hence, knowledge is re-enacted rather than coded and then decoded (cf. the hylomorphic model). Similarly, lay readers must contextualize scientific discourse within their own practices in order to “understand” it - they must perform a reenactment. There is no “decoding” going on here, either. This is why it is often so hard for the lay public to understand the nuances of scientific discourse, they have no experience with the practice of science, no matter how carefully things are spelled out. But if all “knowledge translation” requires some form of enactment or renactment, then engaging them in appropriate ways all along would be a much more fruitful approach.

[So this is the point for the Infinite Conversations and Doughnutology discussion … that people don’t really understand the world except through a story-like reconstruction (re-enactment) of knowledge, so you can’t, much as most of science would like to, separate the personal experiences from the knowledge itself. Knowledge doesn’t exist, really, in abstract forms (maybe I have come round to Ingold’s story-only argument…). So Johnny’s @johnnydavis54 discussion of how he encountered Shakespeare as a young man and my own somewhat different encounter with Shakespeare constitute directly relevant contributions to the knowledge building going on here, despite (well, actually, because!) of their deeply personal nature. We need to bring the personal in more in order to develop this new knowledge. Without it, we are left with abstractions that are difficult to assimilate, whereas with the personal background, we learn new ways of being and functioning in the world. So, BRING IT ON!!! :smile:

Long-winded way of saying something, but relevant… I think.


Young states categorically that these are one and the same, and he goes to great lengths to justify this assumption. I don’t know if it can be proved, which is why I use the word “assumption” here.

This is an old idea which was often taken as “mere” metaphor, but which Young tries to base his approach on: it is light that evolves, and the manifestations of consciousness result from that process. This is one of the reasons I think it would be worthwhile to group-read Young so that we get a more intense thinking through of the consequences of his original thought.


Very well put and very thought-provoking. I think you raise some important points in regard to our meta-discussion and practice that are worth thinking about more deeply, more intensely.

I couldn’t agree more. This kind of thinking, and serious explorations in these directions have been around for quite some time. I was trying to sort some of this out when I was writing my German MA thesis on foreign-language learning and reading comprehension [cf. 1, 2, 3, 4 below]. The notion of “schema/schemata” was being tossed around and thought about, but concomitantly computer technology was advancing and the ideas were picked up and eventually taken over by the IT folks. As a abstract construct; that is, as a way of thinking about and imagining what is going on in the mind of learners (who are, in the end, anyone who is alive at every moment of their lives).

Each of us organizes whatever it is we think we know in ways that make sense to us. I have often pictured this as a coat rack, for example. Students would just hang stuff on these mental racks until there was absolutely no room left to put anything, and they would instantly and automatically create a new one to accommodate the new “stuff” to hang on it. The trouble was (for me as a teacher) that there is no way of knowing what those racks look like or whether they are fit for purpose or effective or whatever. They were individual, that much was clear. What things looked like after the re-creation and reorganization of inputs only came out over time and with careful observation. It was one way of explaining why some kids “just had weird ideas” at times. The schemata as I was considering them fit in well with Piaget’s notions of assimilation and accommodation, and none of these ideas and thought have lost any of their validity or efficacy, regardless of how resolutely they are rejected by our currently dominant high priests of neuro-cognition.

It was this notion of schemata that I believe led to the fascination (and finally obsession) with neural nets, which, as far as I can tell, the materialist attempt to manifest physically an abstract construct. That’s OK as far as it goes, but what some neuroscientists are trying to do with these ideas goes overboard, just as you – I believe – properly recognize Ingold does when he tries to reduce ALL knowledge to narrative. I haven’t encountered an absolutism yet that works. There are different kinds of knowledge just like there are different kinds of apples or chemical compounds or thoughts.

In other words, there is most certainly part of what we know (and what can be known) that is organizational, structural, or whatever else you may want to call it. Semantic distance is every bit as important as physical distance, or conceptual distance, etc. And, while for a long time structure was emphasized at the expense of process, the corrective is not to emphasize process at the extent of structure, but to look for the ways in which the two interact to produce synergistic effects that we then recognize as knowledge.

Schemata as I was thinking of them were definitely non-hylomorphic, and I believe that they still are. For example, if as some conscious researchers postulate, the brain operates holographically, then the resultant forms would be perhaps physical but not necessarily material (and we could have long, intense debates about this, which would bring us back round via fractals and Lord knows what else to Young and @madrush and the relationship between light and consciousness perhaps :wink:). I would certainly be in favor of searching for alternative characterizations of knowledge and learning (the long-neglected “epistemology debate”?) and I think you are heading down a fruitful path. I just wanted to add that there has been a lot of good work done in relevant areas that would also be valuable for what you are thinking about, but it has been, to a great extent, simply disregarded. I see here @johnnydavis54’s oft-referred-to “label-and-dismiss” tactic very much at work.


[1] Aebli, H. (1980) Denken: Ordnen des Tuns [Thinking: The Ordering of Doing], Vol. I, Klett, Stuttgart.

[2] Bott, R.A. (1979) A Study of Complex Learning: Theory and Methodologies, University of California at San Diego, CHIP Report No. 82.

[3] Norman, D.A. (1978) “What Goes on in the Mind of the Learner?”, unpublished paper (to be published in W.M. McKeachie (ed.) New Directions in Learning and Teaching, Jossey-Bass, San Francisco, 1979).

[4] Rumelhart, D.E. & D. A. Norman (1978) “Accretion, Tuning, and Restructuring: Three Modes of Learning”, in J.W. Cotton & R.L. Klatzky (eds.), Semantic Factors in Cognition, Erlbaum, Hillsdale, NJ, 1978.


I’m almost done with Young (and some other quick reads including a little background on some fellow named Alfred North Whitehead). I had wanted to actually finish before contributing further but this latest flurry of stimulating thoughts demands acknowledgment.

Another who would take issue with the notion that “all knowledge is story-based, sequential in nature” is none other than our dear “pessimist” Spengler, who placed much stock in analogy over chronology as the proper way to understand history, a stance certainly at odds with the ‘modern’ penchant for arranging data in temporal order rather than seeking insight from the past. Of course, matter-in-motion has little need for insight.

Young’s universe is an intriguingly purposeful place. I wonder what, if anything, Carl Sagan {“For we are the local embodiment of a Cosmos grown to self-awareness.”} thought of Young’s ventures beyond the limits of materialist assumption. But the image of the existent exploring its way to, and then through, us sentient mortals is compelling, pregnant with all kinds of thought-lines. One of which I submit for consideration in our emergent structure/process doughnut: the repeated (certainly less than absolute, but more than arbitrary?) utility of 7 in modeling evolutionary changes.

That Elgin sets out seven stages in the development of ‘civilization’ (singular = human heritage) and identifies seven properties of self-organizing/reflecting systems may be his direct citing of Young as an influence. Quigley outlines seven stages in the development of ‘civilizations’ (plural = parallel cultural configurations in space-time), as a slight modification of Toynbee’s genesis to disintegration approach. Toynbee fell out of favor when he began to suggest that the cycles of civilizations might, when taken together, be steps toward greater spiritual awakening in man as a whole. For Quigley and others concerned to make the human record a measurable (and predictable?) ‘scientific’ phenomenon, the “purpose” behind history is reducible to the cumulative effect of people simply trying to survive in their environments and communities. The emergence of “big history” in recent years, as exemplified by the model of David Christian, is likewise in this vein, despite its intended appeal as a unifying myth. [Christian identifies seven “thresholds of complexity” by the way (particles, galaxies (clouds), stars, planets, chemistry, life, and man) though for him it is the three methods of evolution that matter (physical (1-5), biological (6), and cultural (7)).]

But Young leaves plenty of room for madness behind the method and so when he says “…civilization is the vehicle, not the end product” (p. 183) it is significant. And it should be noted that Toynbee and Quigley, in order to avoid determinism when it comes to Western civilization (one of the unspoken objections to Spengler appears to have been his daring to point out that Western man, for all his undoubted and unprecedented achievements, is still man), end up having to hint - or suggest outright in Toynbee’s case as I mentioned - that there is potential for the cycle to be built upon if not transcended.

Just for grins and giggles, let’s take a look at “seven-ness” in action for a moment: Young’s stages of evolution and related “powers”; Quigley’s phases of civilization development; and Elgin’s properties of self-organizing systems*…


  1. light (potential)
  2. particles (substance)
  3. atoms (form) [He also places “identity” here.]
  4. molecules (combination)
  5. plants (organization)
  6. animals (mobility)
  7. ? (dominion) [Young places man here, but suggests that “man” is not necessarily the fulfillment of this stage or the ultimate purpose of the reflexive universe. I would use a word like “sentience” here to distinguish from the ‘intelligence’ which really begins to find solutions to the problem of life in stage 5, but Young’s concept is deeper than even this.]


  1. mixture (indeterminate culture forming from the intermingling of peoples)
  2. gestation (establishment of unifying myths for the emerging culture)
  3. expansion (staking out social, political, and geographical space)
  4. age of conflict (working out the various meanings and implications of culture - warring states, yes, but also the creativity spurred by competition)
  5. universal state/empire (temporary integration of the whole under authority - stability, but also the exhaustion of ideas, instruments become institutionalized)
  6. decay (unifying myths questioned and increasingly rejected)
  7. invasion [An interesting choice of words - the “collapse” is accompanied by an influx of new peoples and ideas and potentially ushers in a new "mixture.]

Elgin *[His system properties in the order he lists them interestingly parallel Quigley’s stages. Of course, following Young, he outlines a more linear path for the human story as a whole.]

  1. identity (centeredness allowing further development of the system)
  2. consciousness (self-reflection, the system “gets a hold of itself”)
  3. freedom (growth of the system…)
  4. paradox (…through juxtaposition of the seemingly contradictory…)
  5. community (…and mutual influence on neighboring systems)
  6. emergence (unpredictable combinations)
  7. enlarged experience

This would all look better on a table, but I hope the gist comes through (for example: combination, age of conflict, and paradox occupying the same relative position, etc.). The concept of consciousness, fuzzy as it may be, is indeed the thread in these musings, and the lengths to which the justification for ignoring its role must reach are themselves interesting. Or so I’m finding.

In any event,

yes, and yes.

I guess as the OP it is my place to specifically invite as much commentary on The Reflexive Universe to happen here as time and inclinations allow…


Yes! I did want to make at least one post in this forum in which I did not mention a certain German-Swiss thinker at all! :laughing:


" To any one who has ever looked on the face of a dead child or parent the mere fact that matter could have taken for a time that precious form, ought to make matter sacred ever after . It makes no difference what the principle of life may be, material or immaterial, matter at any rate cooperates, lends itself to all of life’s purposes. That beloved incarnation was among matter’s possibilities."-William James

According to the tantric sage, Abhinavavagupta, the subtle body is a hybrid, made of consciousness as spirit and consciousness as matter, which are on a continuum. Macro-psychokinetic phenomena are possible but we humans have learned to identify ourselves with stain of karma, the stain of duality, the stain of smallness. These three stains inhibit our capacity to create in the physical and in the extra-physical. By overcoming these limiting beliefs Macro-PK would not be considered miraculous or against the so called laws of nature. Macro- PK would be the new normal.


This is a terrible burden for many of us as we are stuck in these dominant, increasingly paranoid world views. Our latent powers for creating new structures and working with processes of all kinds are high jacked. We are still caught in the arrested development of those who extract from nature in dangerously unecological ways. Rather than coordinate nature/mind, in more satisfying and aesthetic relationships, we create havoc.

Bucky and perhaps Young were working with light in complimentary ways. Bucky certainly was plugged into the Cosmogenetic current. I believe as we model these modelers we become more adept at handling the light but it is not a light that rejects darkness. Goethe claimed it is at the border of light and dark that color arises.

" To draw a firm line between the normal and the paranormal disregards the logical verity that there is only one universe, so if there is any capacity, if it exists in that universe, it is both normal and para-normal." Richard Grossinger


I love Whitehead and all the process philosophers. I wish I had a better handle on them.


Let us assume, just for the sake of argument, that we’re tori (or hyperspheres … and in the section “Quantum physics and the control phase” in Appendix 2 of Young he makes this particular case); Young also demonstrates, I believe fairly convincingly, why spheres and being spherical just doesn’t do much for you; it’s a kind of dead end, really, and well, you all know how I feel about our friend Peter and dead ends … but I digress. Spheres, as he shows, lack consciousness, the ability to learn, and are, in the end, determined entities.

It is the introduction (or inclusion) of the phase (or 5th) dimension (as he says, at 90 deg. offset to space-time) that introduces consciousness in a meaningful way, for it is this dimension (and it’s description of angular momentum – which, by the way is what his other book, The Geometry of Meaning, is all about) which introduces conscious action into the story. This is, in a sense, how we get from sphere to torus, and it is the torus which, due to its topology, brings seven-ness into the game in a significant, if not necessary, way. In other words, can we understand seven-ness as a kind of key which reveals to us (in a sense from within the system toward its outside) an aspect of our “true” nature. As such, a proclivity to find “sevens” in the world becomes a lot less far-fetched.

I only say “far-fetched” because there are many (and @Geoffreyjen_Edwards has indicated he’s most likely part of this group) who feel the hair stand up on the back of the neck when any kind of relationship is made between number and meaning. I can understand that. There has been a lot of humbug perpetrated in the name of, say, some sort of “theology of numbers” which has been handed down from the Gnostics, Neo-Platonists, and so-called Pythagoreans, and it is not unwise to approach the subject with a good dose of skepticism. Still, in the reasonable sense that Young is progressing at this point in his appendix, the significance of this number need not be simply dismissed out of hand. Seven-ness is a significant feature of tori, and if we are tori, then seven could have significance for us. It would explain why – for very different “reasons” (i.e., self-imposed justifications) – this particular approach shows up.

As you have pointed out, Elgin was influenced by Young, so there’s no mystery there. Quigley ended up with seven because, even though he considered the number arbitrary, it seemed to be a very reasonable one to work with (I’m hearing echoes of Goldilocks here … not too big, not too small, but just right). In other words, there would be a natural affinity between the sevenish nature of the torus and things we try to figure out, for example.

What Young also introduces in this section is the learning cycle. Perhaps the most well-known version of this is Kolb’s (the Open University, for whom I tutored for nearly 15 years, was really big on Kolb … there wasn’t a piece of tutor training material that at some point didn’t bring him into the picture), and his model, while simple, is nevertheless quite powerful. What I found particular interesting in Young’s example is that the knowledge resulting from the particular learning cycle involved was non-narrative. The learning makes possible a narrative, but the learning is not narrative itself. What is more, it is non-linear, which I find significant, but don’t ask me why.

What also fascinates me at the moment (which may be some vestige of rednecks-are-attracted-to-and-fascinated-by-shiny-things) is that Ingold (yeah, where did he come from?) is exploring lines, and if we go off 90 deg. from the line (1D) we get the (Euclidian) plane (2D), another 90 shift and we have (Cartesian) space (3D), 90 deg. off of that we have spacetime (think of @Geoffreyjen_Edwards’ introducing us to worldlines and spacetime diagrams) (4D), and 90 deg. off of that we have the phase dimension (5D), which is, as Young points out, the uncertainty of quantum theory or the curvature of relativity. That makes it for me rather integrating (not necessarily integral), as it opens up the configuration for perhaps determining what all this means.


I totally agree! As an aside I had the good luck to play Bottom on stage, many years ago, surely one of the most whimsical parts, in the most enchanted play, in all theater. I noticed the young people enjoyed the language very much and are often quicker to get the punch line than their parents.

I have had a most rare vision. I have had a dream—past the wit of man to say what dream it was. Man is but an ass if he go about to expound this dream. Methought I was—there is no man can tell what. Methought I was, and Methought I had—but man is but a patched fool if he will offer to say what Methought I had. The eye of man hath not heard, the ear of man hath not seen, man’s hand is not able to taste, his tongue to conceive, nor his heart to report what my dream was. I will get Peter Quince to write a ballad of this dream. It shall be called “Bottom’s Dream” because it hath no bottom.


Hehehe, Kolb: sounds like the “plan-do-check-act” model we used for quality assurance reporting for many years…

I think you are quite right about the significance of non-linearity in Young’s learning cycle and the related elements of choice and “play” in his conception: some light remains free; most neutrinos continue on their merry ways through vacuum and matter; a large portion of Earth’s bio-mass remains bacterial; the hunter-gatherer life still makes the most sense in certain parts of the world. Neither are timelines in history (or in the investigations I conduct sometimes for work) often established but after a distinctly a-chronological compilation of information. The narrative is indeed made possible later.

“The real difficulty is in translation. Not only are myths in a special language, i.e., the language of symbols, but in the final analysis, there is no language for the ultimate nature of things.” (Young, p. 229)