Monday, December 17, 2012

Consciousnesses of Tao

© Igor Morski
The last of the five aggregates introduced in the Abhidhamma tradition - which contains all the previous - is Consciousness (vijnana), detailed as follows:
Consciousness is the last of the aggregates, and it contains all of the others. (Indeed, each of the aggregates contains those that precede it in the list.) It is the mental experience that goes with the other four aggregates; technically it is the experience that comes from the contact of each sense organ with its object (together with the feeling, impulse, and habit that is aroused). Consciousness, as a technical term vijnana, always refers to the dualistic sense of experience in which there is an experiencer, an object experienced, and a relation (or relations) binding them together.
Let us tum for a moment to the systematic description of consciousness made by one of the Abhidharma schools.

Categories of Experiential Events Used in Mindfulness/Awareness
The Five Aggregates (skandhas)
1. Forms (rupa)
2. Feelings/sensations (vedana)
3. Perceptions (discernments)/impulses (samjna)
4. Dispositional formations (samskara)
5. Consciousnesses (vijnana)

The Twelve-fold Cycle of Dependent Origination (pratityasamutpada)

1. Ignorance (avidya)
2. Dispositional formations (the fourth aggregate)
3. Consciousness (the fifth aggregate)
4. The Psychophysical Complex (nama-rupa)
5. The Six Senses (sad-ayatana)
6. Contact (sparsa)
7. Feeling (the second aggregate)
8. Craving (trsna)
9. Grasping (upadana)
10. BeComing (bhava)
11. Birth (jati)
12. Decay and death (jara-marana)

The Processes of Mind (citta/caitta)

A. Consciousness (the fifth aggregate)

1. Visual consciousness
2. Auditory consciousness
3. Olfactory consciousness
4. Gustatory consciousness
5. Tactile consciousness
6. Mental consciousness

B. Mental factors (the fourth aggregate, here treated as including the second and third aggregates)

Five Ever-present Mental Factors:
1. Contact (the sixth motif in situational patterning)
2. Feeling (the second aggregate)
3. Perception/Discernment (the third aggregate)
4. Intention (cetana)
5. Attention (manas)

Five Object-ascertaining Factors:
1. Interest (chandra)
2. Intensified interest (adhimoksa)
3. Inspection/mindfulness (smrti)
4. Intense concentration (samadhi)
5. Insight/discrimative wisdom (prajna)

Eleven Positive Mental Factors:
1. Confidence-trust (sraddha)
2. Self-respect (hri)
3. Consideration for others (apatrapya)
4. Nonattachment (alobha)
5. Nonhatred (advesa)
6. Nondeludedness (amoha)
7. Diligence (virya)
8. Alertness (prasrabdhi)
9. Concern (apramadtl)
10. Equanimity (apeksa)
11. Nonviolence (ahimsa)

Six Basic Unwholesome Emotions
1. Attachment (raga)
2. Anger (pratigha)
3. Arrogance (mana)
4. Ignorance (the first motif of situational patterning)
5. Indecision (vicikitsa)
6. Opinionatedness (drsti)

Twenty Derivative Unwholesome Factors
1. Indignation (krodha)
2. Resentment (upanaha)
3. Slyness concealment (mraksa)
4. Spite (pradasa)
5. Jealousy (irsya)
6. Avarice (matsarya)
7. Deceit (maya)
8. Dishonesty (sathya)
9. Mental inflation (mada)
10. Malice (vihimsa)
11. Shamelessness (ahri)
12. Inconsideration for others (anapatrapya)
13. Gloominess/dullness (styana)
14. Restlessness (auddhatya)
15. Lack of trust (asraddhya)
16. Laziness (kausidya)
17. Unconcern (pramada)
18. Forgetfulness (musitasmritita)
19. Inattentiveness (viksepa)
20. Nondiscernment (asampraja)

Four Variable or Indeterminate Factors
1. Drowsiness (middha)
2. Worry (kaukrtya)
3. Reflection (vitarka)
4. Investigation/analysis (vicara)

The mental factors are the relations that bind the consciousness to its object, and at each moment a consciousness is dependent on its momentary mental factors (like the hand and its fingers). Note that the second, third, and fourth aggregates are included here as mental factors. Five of the mental factors are omnipresent; that is, in every moment of consciousness the mind is bound to its object by all five of these factors. There are contact between the mind and its object; a specific feeling tone of pleasantness, unpleasantness, or neutrality; a discernment of the object; an intention toward the object; and attention to the object. The rest of the factors, including all the dispositions that make up the fourth aggregate, are not always present. Some of these factors can be present together in a given moment (such as confidence and diligence), others are mutually exclusive (such as alertness and drowsiness). The combination of mental factors that are present make up the character-the color and taste-of a particular moment of consciousness.
Is this Abhidharma analysis of consciousness a system of intentionality along Husserlian lines? There are similarities in that there is no consciousness without an object of consciousness and a relation. (Mind [seems] in the Tibetan tradition is often defined as "that which projects itself to other.") But there are differences. Neither the objects of consciousness nor the mental factors are representations. Most important, consciousness (vijnana) is only one mode of knowing; prajna does not know by means of a subject/object relationship. We might call the simple experiential/psychological observation that conscious experience takes a subject/object form protointentionality. Husserl's theory is based not only on protointentionality but also on Brentano's notion of intentionality as subsequently elaborated by Husserl into a full-fledged representational theory.
The temporal relationship between a consciousness and its object was the subject of great dispute among the Abhidharma schools: some held that the occurrence of the object and of mind was simultaneous; others, that the object occurred first, followed in the succeeding moment by the mind (first a sight, then the seeing consciousness).
A third claim was that mind and object were simultaneous for sight, sound, smell, taste, and touch but that the thinking consciousness took as its object the preceding moment of thought. This dispute became integral to philosophical debates about what things actually existed. There were also disputes about which factors to include and how they were to be characterized.
Despite the atmosphere of debate that surrounded some issues, there was unanimous agreement on the more experientially direct claim that each of the senses (eye, ear, nose, tongue, body, and mind) had a different consciousness - that is, at each moment of experience there was a different experiencer as well as a different object of experience. And of course there was agreement that no actual self was to be found in consciousness, either in the experiencer, the object of experience, or the mental factors binding them together.
In our habitual and unreflective state, of course, we impute continuity of consciousness to all our experience-so much so that consciousness always occurs in a "realm," an apparently cohering total environment with its own complete logic (of aggression, poverty, etc. ). But this apparent totality and continuity of consciousness masks the discontinuity of momentary consciousnesses related to one another by cause and effect. A traditional metaphor for this illusory continuity is the lighting of one candle with a second candle, a third candle from that one, and so on-the flame is passed from one candle to the next without any material basis being passed on. Taking this sequence as a real continuity, however, we cling tenaciously to this consciousness and are terrorized by the possibility of its termination in death. Yet when mindfulness/awareness reveals the disunity of this experience-a sight, a sound, a thought, another thought, and so on-it becomes obvious that consciousness as such cannot be taken as that self we so treasure and for which we are now searching.
We seem unable to find a self anywhere in each aggregate when we take them one by one. Perhaps, then, all the aggregates combine in some way to form. the self. Is the self the same as the totality of the aggregates? This idea would be quite attractive if only we knew how to make it work. Each aggregate taken singly is transitory and impermanent; how, then, are we to combine them into something lasting and coherent? Perhaps the self is an emergent property of the aggregates? In fact, many people when pressed to define the self (perhaps in a psychology class) will use the concept of an emergent as a solution. Indeed, given the contemporary scientific interest in the emergent and self-organizing properties of certain complex aggregates, this idea is even plausible. At this point, however, the idea is of no help. Such a self-organizing or synergistic mechanism is not evident in experience. More important, it is not the abstract idea of an emergent self that we cling to so fiercely as our ego; we cling to a "real" ego-self.
When we recognize that no such real self is given to us in our experience, we may swing to the opposite extreme, which is to say that the self must be radically different from the aggregates. In the Western tradition, this move is best exemplified in the Cartesian and Kantian claim that the observed regularity or pattern of experience requires that there be an agent or mover behind the pattern. For Descartes, this mover was the res cogitans, the thinking substance.
Kant was more subtle and precise. In his Critique of Pure Reason, he wrote, "Consciousness of self according to the determinations of our state in inner perception is merely empirical, and always changing. No fixed and abiding self can present itself in this flux of inner appearances. . . . [Thus] there must be a condition which precedes all experience, and which makes experience itself possible .... This pure original unchangeable consciousness I shall name transcendental apperception." Apperception basically means awareness, especially awareness of the process of cognition. Kant saw quite clearly that there was nothing given in this experience of awareness that corresponded to the self, and so he argued that there must be a consciousness that is transcendental, that precedes all experience and makes that experience possible. Kant also thought that this transcendental awareness is responsible for our sense of unity and identity through time, thus his full term for the transcendental ground of the everyday self was "the transcendental unity of apperception."
Kant's analysis is brilliant, but it only heightens the predicament. We are told that there really is a self, but we can never know it. Furthermore, this self hardly answers to our emotional convictions: it is not me or my self; it is just the idea of a self in general, of some impersonal agent or mover behind experience. It is pure, original, and unchangeable; I am impure and transitory. How could such a radically different self have any relation with my experience? How could it be the condition or ground of all of my experiences and yet remain untouched by those experiences? If there truly is such a self, it can be relevant to experience only by partaking of the world's fabric of dependency, but to do so would obviously violate its pristine, absolute condition.
We may present the difference between the Kantian and the mindfulness/ awareness views of self in the form of a diagram

In both the Kantian and the mind fulness/awareness traditions, there is, as we have seen, a recognition of the absence of a substantial self in the momentariness of experience (figure 4.1). The Kantian move avoids confronting the puzzle of our tendency to believe in a self in the face of this momentariness by positing a pure, original , and unchangeable consciousness as a ground - the transcendental ego (figure 4.2). In the mind fullness/awareness tradition , the attitude is to hold the puzzle of this momentariness vividly in mind by considering that the grasping toward a self could occur within any given moment of experience (figure 4.3).
At this point the reader will probably become rather irritated and say, "Fine, the self isn't really a lasting and coherent thing; it is just the continuity of the stream of experience. It is a process and not a thing. What's the big deal?" But remember, we have been looking for a self that answers to our emotional/reactional convictions. At this immediate experiential level, we do not feel as if the self is merely the stream of experience. Indeed, even to call it a stream reveals our grasping after some sense of solidity, for this metaphor implies that experience flows continuously. But when we subject this continuity to analysis, we seem able to find only discontinuous moments of feeling, perception, motivation, and awareness. We could, of course, redefine the self in all sorts of ways to get around these problems, perhaps even by following contemporary analytic philosophers who use quite sophisticated logical techniques, such as possible world semantics, but none of these new accounts would in any way explain our basic reactional behavior and everyday tendencies.
The point is not whether we can redefine the self in some way that makes us comfortable or intellectually satisfied, nor is it to determine whether there really is an absolute self that is nonetheless inaccessible to us. The point is rather to develop mindfulness of and insight into our situation as we experience it here and now. As Tsultrim Gyamtso remarks, "Buddhism is not telling anyone that he should believe that he has a self or that he does not have a self. It is saying that when one looks at the way one suffers and the way one thinks and responds emotionally to life, it is as if one believed there were a self that was lasting, single and independent and yet on closer analysis no such self can be found. In other words, the aggregates (skandhas) are empty of a self."

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

tribute to Tao: Pandit Ravi Shankar

It is with heavy hearts we write to inform you that Pandit Ravi Shankar, husband, father, and musical soul, passed away today, December 11th, 2012.
As you all know, his health has been fragile for the past several years and on Thursday he underwent a surgery that could have potentially given him a new lease of life. Unfortunately, despite the best efforts of the surgeons and doctors taking care of him, his body was not able to withstand the strain of the surgery. We were at his side when he passed away.
We know that you all feel our loss with us, and we thank you for all of your prayers and good wishes through this difficult time. Although it is a time for sorrow and sadness, it is also a time for all of us to give thanks and to be grateful that we were able to have him as a part of our lives. His spirit and his legacy will live on forever in our hearts and in his music.
- Sukanya & Anoushka Shankar

the Tao of programming: Book 2 - The Ancient Masters

Geoffrey James, 1987
Book 2 - The Ancient Masters

Thus spake the master programmer:

"After three days without programming, life becomes meaningless."


The programmers of old were mysterious and profound. We cannot fathom their thoughts, so all we do is describe their appearance.

Aware, like a fox crossing the water. Alert, like a general on the battlefield.

Kind, like a hostess greeting her guests. Simple, like uncarved blocks of wood. Opaque, like black pools in darkened caves.

Who can tell the secrets of their hearts and minds?

The answer exists only in Tao.


Grand Master Turing once dreamed that he was a machine. When he awoke he exclaimed:

"I don't know whether I am Turing dreaming that I am a machine, or a machine dreaming that I am Turing!"


A programmer from a very large computer company went to a software conference and then returned to report to his manager, saying: "What sort of programmers work for other companies? They behaved badly and were unconcerned with appearances. Their hair was long and unkempt and their clothes were wrinkled and old. They crashed our hospitality suite and they made rude noises during my presentation."

The manager said: "I should have never sent you to the conference. Those programmers live beyond the physical world. They consider life absurd, an accidental coincidence. They come and go without knowing limitations. Without a care, they live only for their programs. Why should they bother with social conventions?"

"They are alive within the Tao."


A novice asked the Master: "Here is a programmer that never designs, documents or tests his programs. Yet all who know him consider him one of the best programmers in the world. Why is this?"

The Master replies: "That programmer has mastered the Tao. He has gone beyond the need for design; he does not become angry when the system crashes, but accepts the universe without concern. He has gone beyond the need for documentation; he no longer cares if anyone else sees his code. He has gone beyond the need for testing; each of his programs are perfect within themselves, serene and elegant, their purpose self-evident. Truly, he has entered the mystery of Tao."

Tao cannot be mocked - III

Francois Xavier Fabre, Oedipus and the Sphinx, c. 1806-08, Dahesh Museum of Art, NYX
II Contradictory and Conflicting Themes
Another mental characteristic of larger systems can be exemplified from themes of Greek drama. In that complex corpus of shared ideas, there existed side by side with the Oresteia a second cross-generational sequence of myths bound together by the concept of anangke and starting from a specific act. Cadmus incurred the wrath of Ares by killing a sacred serpent, and this set the stage for repeated episodes of trouble in the royal house of Thebes. Eventually, the oracle at Delphi predicted that Laius, king of Thebes, would have a son who would kill him and marry his own mother, Jocasta, the wife of Laius.
Laius the tried to thwart the oracle and thus, in spite of himself, precisely brought on himself the working out of the tragic necessity. First he refused sexual contact with Jocasta to avoid the begetting of the son who would kill him. But she made him drunk and the child was begotten. When the baby was born, Laius commanded that he be bound and abandoned on the mountainside. But again Laius‘ plan failed. The baby was found by a shepherd and adopted by Polybus, king of Corinth. The boy was named Oedipus, or Swollen Footed, because the baby‘s feet were swollen from being tied together when he was exposed on the mountain.
As Oedipus grew up, he was taunted by the other boys, who said he did not resemble his father He therefore went to Delphi for an explanation and was condemned by the oracle as the boy fated to kill his father and marry his mother. Oedipus, not knowing that he was an adopted child and believing that Polybus was his true father, then fled. He would not return to Corinth lest he should kill.
Fleeing thus, he met with an unknown man in a chariot who rudely refused him right of way. He killed that unknown man, who was in fact Laius, his true father. Proceeding on his way, he encountered a Sphinx outside Thebes and answered her riddle: “What is it that walks first on four legs, then on two, and finally on three?” The Sphinx then destroyed herself, and Oedipus found himself suddenly a hero who had conferred a great benefit upon the city of Thebes. He became king of that city by marrying Jocasta. By her he had four children. Finally, plague struck the city and the oracle attributed the cause of the plague to one man‘s horrible action. Oedipus insisted on investigating this matter, although the blind sage Tiresias had advised him to let sleeping dogs lie. The truth was finally exposed. Oedipus, the king of Thebes, was himself the man who had killed his father and married his mother. Jocasta then hanged herself in horror and Oedipus blinded himself with a pin from her scarf.
Oedipus was exiled from Thebes and wandered the world, accompanied by his daughter Antigone. Finally, old and blind, he arrived at Colonos, outside Athens. There he mysteriously vanished in the groves sacred to the Furies, presumably accepted by them into their afterlife.
It is immediately interesting to note a formal contrast between this tale and the Orestes sequence, for Oedipus went spontaneously to the grove of the Furies, whereas Orestes was chased by them. This contrast is explained in the finale of Aeschylus‘ Orestes trilogy, where Athena lays down the law that Athens is a patriarchal society in which wives are not fully kin to their offspring, who remain in the gens, or clan, of the father. The mother is a “stranger” and matricide is therefore no crime. (After all, Athena never had a mother; she sprang fully armed from the head of her father, Zeus.) The Furies, on the other hand, matriarchal goddesses, will forgive Oedipus, the boy who kills his father and has four children by his mother, but will not pardon Orestes the matricide.
In fact, the culture of classical Athens carried two utterly contrasting mythological sequences, The Oedipus sequence, which is the nightmare of crime against the father, and the Orestes nightmare of crime against the mother.
I personally am dissatisfied with Athena‘s explanation, in which she dismisses the Furies as a bunch of old hags, obsolete survivors of a more primitive matriarchy. As an anthropologist, I do not believe that there ever existed any society that was one hundred percent matriarchal not any that was one hundred percent patriarchal. In many societies, kinship is asymmetrical, so that a different kind of relationship is developed on each side of the genealogy. The child has different obligations and privileges vis-à-vis his maternal uncles from those implicit in his relationship with paternal uncles. But always there are benefits and duties on both sides. The whole play, Aeschylus‘ Eumenides, is very strange, and also is the Oedipus at Colonos of Sophocles. I can only read the Eumenides as either extremely jingoistic Athenian patriotism, or, more probably, a caricature of that patriotism. The Colonos, on the other hand, is surely a very serious piece, no less patriotic than the Eumenides, since it, too, deals with the ancient history of the city of Athens. Strangely, the members of the audience are expected to understand the old, blind Oedipus is now a sacred figure and there is almost a war brewing between Oedipus‘ descendants in Thebes and Theseus, the founder of the new city of Athens. Both parties want Oedipus to die on their national territory and to become somehow a guardian spirit for that land.
My suspicion – and it is to illustrate this that I have introduced the tales – is that each myth owes something to the other, and they are a balancing pair that is a product jointly of a culture divided in its emphasis on matriarchy or patriarchy. I would ask whether this double expression of the conflicting views is not somehow typical of the divided larger mind.
The syncretic dualism of Christian mythology provides a similar but more astonishing example. Jehovah is clearly a transcendent god of Babylonian times whose location is on top of an artificial mountain, or ziggurat. Jesus, in clear contrast, is a deity whose location is in the human breast. He is an incarnate deity, like Pharoah and like every ancient Egyptian who was addressed in mortuary ceremonies as Osiris.
It is not that one or the other of these double phrasings is right, or that it is wrong to have such double myths. What seems to be true is that it is characteristic of large cultural systems that they carry such double myths and opinions, not only with no serious trouble, but perhaps even reflecting in the latent contradictions some fundamental characteristic of the larger mentality.
In this connection, Greek mythology is especially interesting because its stories did not draw the line between the more secular and human gestalten and the larger themes of fate and destiny the same way as these lines are drawn among us today. The Greek classification was different from ours. Greek gods are like humans, they are puppets of fate just like people, and the interaction between the forces of what seems a larger mind and mere gods and humans is continually being pointed out by the chorus. They see that the gods and heroes and themselves are alike puppets of fate. The gods and heroes in themselves are as secular as our superman, whom indeed they somewhat resemble.
In mythology and especially drama, the eerie and the mysterious – the truly religious overtones – are contained in such abstractions as anangke or nemesis. We are told rather unconvincingly that Nemesis is a goddess and that the gods will punish the arrogance of power which is called hubris. But in truth these are the names of themes or principles, which give an underlying religious flavour to life an drama; the gods are at most the outward, though not visible, symbols of these more mysterious principles. A similar state of affairs exists in Balinese religion, where, however, the gods are almost totally drained of all personal characteristics. They (except for Rangda, the Witch, and Barong, or dragon) have only names, directions, colors, calendric days, and so on. In dealing with each of them it is the appropriate etiquette that is important.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Tao and the selfish

The Sufi teaching story, "Bayazid and the Selfish Man", shows how difficult it is for an adult to free himself from the power of ordinary consciousness and consensus reality, even when he believes he wants to:
One day a man reproached Bayazid, the great mystic of the ninth century, saying that he had fasted and prayed and so on for thirty years and not found the joy which Bayazid described.

Bayazid told him that he might continue for three hundred years and still not find it.

"How is that?" asked the would-be illuminate.

"Because your vanity is a barrier to you."

"Tell me the remedy."

"The remedy is one which you cannot take."

"Tell me, nevertheless."

Bayazid said: "You must go to the barber and have your (respectable) beard shaved. Remove all your clothes and put a girdle around yourself. Fill a nosebag with walnuts and suspend it from your neck. Go to the marketplace and call out: 'A walnut will I give to any boy who will strike me on the back of neck.' Then continue to the justices'session so that they may see you."

"But I cannot do that; please tell me something else that would do as well."

"This is the first move, and the only one", said Bayazid, "but I had already told you that you would not do it; so you cannot be cured."
Shrine of Bayazid Bastami in Bastam near Shahroud.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Tao en-culturation

Kurt, Waterloo Station
Describing the ordinary state of consciousness Tart indicates the basic factors which bring to its individual training into a specific socio-cultural group, such the enculturation process - the training of the specific personal culture within a wider shared social culture - :

I have now mentioned several times that we believe certain things imply because we were trained to believe them. Let us now look at the training process by which our current "normal" or ordinary state of consciousness came about.

Figure 4-4 illustrates the concept of the spectrum of human potential. By the simple fact of being born human, having a certain type of body and nervous system, existing in the environmental conditions of the planet earth, a large (but certainly not infinite) number of potentials are possible for you. Because you are born into a particular culture, existing at a particular time and place on the surface of the planet, however, only a small (perhaps a very small) number of these potentials will ever be realized and become actualities. We can think of a culture as a group of people who, through various historical processes, have come to an agreement that certain human potentials they know of are "good," "holy," "natural," or whatever local word is used for positively valuing them, and should be developed. They are defined as the essence of being human. Other potentials, also known to the culture, are considered "bad," "evil," "unnatural." The culture actively inhibits the development of these potentials in its children, not always successfully. A large number of other human potentials are simply not known to that particular culture, and while some of them develop owing to accidental circumstances in a particular person's life, most do not develop for lack of stimulation. Some of these potentials remain latent, capable of being developed if circumstances are right in later life; others disappear completely through not being developed at an early, critical stage. Most of us know how to do arithmetic, speak English, write a check, drive an automobile, and most of us know about things, like eating with our hands, which are repellent to us (naturally or through training?). Not many of us, though, were trained early in childhood to enter a d-ASC where we can be, for example, possessed by a friendly spirit that will teach us songs and dances as is done by some cultures. Nor were most of us trained to gain control over our dreams and acquire spirit guides in those dreams who will teach us useful things, as the Senoi of Malaysia are. Each of us is simultaneously the beneficiary of his cultural heritage and the victim and slave of his culture's narrowness. What I believe is worse is that few of us have any realization of this situation. Like almost all people in all cultures at all times, we think our local culture is the best and other peoples are uncivilized or savages. Figure 4-4 shows two different cultures making different selections from and inhibitions of the spectrum of human potential. There is some overlap: all cultures, for example, develop a language of some sort and so use those particular human potentials. Many potentials are not selected by any culture. We can change the labels in Figure 4-4 slightly and depict various possible experiences selected in either of two states of consciousness. Then we have the spectrum of experiential potentials, the possible kinds of experiences or modes of functioning of human consciousness. The two foci of selection are two states of consciousness. These may be two "normal" states of consciousness in two different cultures or, as discussed later, two states of consciousness that exist within a single individual. The fact that certain human potentials can be tapped in state of consciousness A that cannot be tapped in state of consciousness B is a major factor behind the current interest in altered states of consciousness. Figure 4-4, then, indicates that in developing a "normal" state of consciousness, a particular culture selects certain human potentials and structures them into a functioning system. This is the process of enculturation. It begins in infancy, possibly even before birth: there has been speculation, for example, that the particular language sounds that penetrate the walls of the womb from outside before birth may begin shaping the potentials for sound production in the unborn baby.
Figure 4-5 summarizes the main stages of the enculturation process. The left-hand column represents the degree to which physical reality shapes the person and the degree to which the person can affect (via ordinary muscular means) physical reality. The right-hand column indicates the main sources of programming, the psychological influences on the person. The main stages are infancy, childhood, adolescence, adulthood, and senescence.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Tao metapatterns

Kybernetes, Vol. 36 No. 7/8, 2007
The concepts and metaconcepts of pattern, pattern which connects and metapattern - pattern of patterns - developed by Bateson in the context of the epistemology metascience, in his words outlined as:
It is the Platonic thesis of [this] book that epistemology is an indivisible, integrated meta-science whose subject matter is the world of evolution, thought, adaptation, embryology, and genetics – the science of mind in the widest sense of the word.
The comparing of these phenomena (comparing thought with evolution and epigenesis with both) is the manner of search of the science called "epistemology."

In my life, I have put the descriptions of sticks and stones and  billiard balls and galaxies in one box , the pleroma, and have left them alone. In the other box, I put living things: crabs, people, problems of beauty, and problems of difference. The contents of the second box are the subject of this book.
I was griping recently about the shortcomings of occidental education. It was in a letter to my fellow regents of the University of California
, and the following phrase crept into my letter:
"Break the pattern which connects the items of learning and you necessarily destroy all quality."
I offer you the phrase the pattern which connects as a synonym, another possible title for this book.
The pattern which connects. Why do schools teach almost nothing of the pattern which connects? Is it that teachers know that they carry the kiss of death which will turn to tastelessness whatever they touch and therefore they are wisely unwilling to touch or teach anything of real-life importance? Or is it that they carry the kiss of death because they dare not teach anything of real-life importance? What's wrong with them?
What pattern connects the crab to the lobster and the orchid to the primrose and all the four of them to me? And me to you? And all the six of us to the amoeba in one direction and to the back-ward schizophrenic in another?

Let me start again. The parts of a crab are connected by various patterns of bilateral symmetry, of serial homology, and so on. Let us call these patterns within the individual growing crab first-order connections. But now we look at crab and lobster and we again find connection by pattern. Call it second-order connection, or phylogenetic homology.
Now we look at man or horse and find that, here again, we can see symmetries and serial homologies. When we look at the tow together, we find the same cross-species sharing of pattern with a difference (phylogenetic homology). And, of course, we also find the same discarding of magnitudes in favor of shapes, patterns, and relations. In other words, as this distribution of formal resemblances is spelled out, it turns out that gross anatomy exhibits three levels or logical types of descriptive propositions:

1. The parts of any member of Creatura are to be compared with other parts of the same individual to give first-order connections.
2. Crabs are to be compared with lobsters or men with horses to find similar relations between parts (i.e., to give second-order connections).
3. The comparison between crabs and lobsters is to be compared with the comparison between man and horse to provide third-order connections.

We have constructed a ladder of how to think about – about what? Oh, yes, the pattern which connects.

My central thesis can now be approached in words: 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.

have been further developed mainly by Tyler Volk and Jeffrey Bloom, specifying a number of metapatterns applied in several fields:
Complicity, An International Journal of Complexity and Education
1 Spheres: maximum volume, minimum surface, containment; grapes, domes.
2 Sheets: transfer surface for matter, energy, or information; fish gills, solar collectors.
3 Tubes: surface transfer, connection, support; leaf veins, highways, chains of command.
4 Webs or Networks: parts in relationships within systems (can be centered or clustered, using clonons or holons, see 8, 11, and 12); subsystems of cells, organisms, ecosystems, machines, society.
5 Borders: protection, openings for controlled exchange; cell membranes, national borders.
6 Binaries: minimal and thus efficient system; two sexes, two-party politics, bifurcating decision process.
7 Gradients: continuum of variation between binary poles; chemical waves in cell development, human quantitative and qualitative values.
8 Centers: key components of system stability; DNA, social insect centers, political constitutions and government.
9 Layers or Holarchy: levels of webs, in which successive systems are parts of larger systems; biological nesting from biomolecules to ecosystems, human social nesting, engineering designs, computer software.
10 Emergence: general phenomenon when a new type of functionality derives from binaries or webs; life from molecules, cognition from neurons.
11 Holons versus clonons: parts of systems as functionally unique versus interchangeable; heart-lungs-liver (holons) of body versus skin cells (clonons) of the skin.
12 Clusters: subset of webs, distributed systems of parts with mutual attractions; bird flocks, ungulate herds, children playing, egalitarian social groups.
13 Arrows: stability or gradient-like change over time; biological homeostasis, growth, self-maintaining social structures.
14 Breaks: relatively sudden changes in system behavior; cell division, insect metamorphosis, coming-of-age ceremonies, political elections.
15 Triggers: initiating agents of breaks, both internal and external; sperm entering egg, precipitating events of war.
16 Cycles: recurrent patterns in systems over time; protein degradation and synthesis, life cycles, power cycles of electricity generating plants, feedback cycles, educational grade levels (cyclic design within an arrow of overall educational progress.

The metapatterns outlined by Volk and Bloom have been correlated to several characteristics of chaos and complexity:
by Anukriti Verma, M.Des student at Industrial Design Centre (IDC), IIT Bombay; site: Ravi Poovaiah


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