The Big Bifurcation

November 22, 1996

Roughly 2500 years ago in the west, there was a shift in emphasis from spoken to written communications. While history is recorded both in myth passed through oral story-telling, and in writing, the shift in values towards writing and language versus direct sharing of knowledge and consciousness has given us a biased view of history. Much of the oral tradition has been lost. The ideas of Heraclitus marked the end of the era of natural "consciousness" while the era of "mechanization", or the "golden era of rationality", as it sometimes termed relative to Greek history, came in with the ideas of Plato, Socrates and particularly Aristotle (i.e. with Aristotelian formalization of logic).

In symbolic, mathematical terms, this shift equates to a substituting, in the building of our view of reality, of linear logic (true/false or one/zero couplets) for the nonlinear (e.g. N/S) dipoles of nature. Building of mental models from the former elements involves fabricative assembly of discrete, disconnected parts. The law of the "occluded middle" in true/false sylllogistic logic, specifically ensures that there can be no "connecting field" in this approach.

On the other hand, the nonlinear dipoles of nature involve complementing yet opposing poles which are connected by a virtual "field" These poles are "unified" through oscillatory dynamics which characterize all of nature's systems.

A linear logical view of reality is built up from disconnected "material" while a nonlinear-rational view of nature is built up from interconnecting ordered, dynamic energy (oscillating dipoles). These differing views can have a profound impact on both our general perspectives and our behaviors. For example, in pre-Aristotelian times, the concepts of good and evil were very much akin to "strange attractors" influencing the orbits of material things, which one could get stuck in, or get out of, depending on subtle "conditions". Over the past 2500 years, we have indoctrinated our children from a very early age, through cartoons and fairy tales, that good and evil can be intrinsic in "things" such as God and Satan, or black and white. Once we stamp "things" with a label of good or evil, it is difficult to recategorize them, thus the public icons or images our society manufactures have tended to be "beyond" contamination or redemption.

As Wittgenstein observed, much of our understanding has been "hexed" by language. That is, in shifting from emphasis on oral traditions and pictographic language to phonetic language, we shifted our basis for building mental models from nonlinear dipoles and their connecting fields, to linear logic couplets which were fully disconnected and which were used to build models of reality in a brick-on-brick assembly manner. This shift can be seen, mathematically, in terms of complex versus real numbers.

The nonlinear dipole can be characterized by a complex number having a real and imaginary component. Such a number implies a virtual "phase" and rotational harmonics. The linear logical couplet, symbolized by the binary integers, one and zero, is fully real and has no "imaginary" component, no "phase" and no "harmonic" characteristics. If you like, there is no "music" and no "rhythm" in models we construct from Aristotelian syllogistic logic, and the relationships between things must be specified mechanically and "controlled" deliberately. In contrast, the elements of reality using natural dipoles possess innate "music" and "rhythm" characteristics, as well as self-organizing capabilities. If we place a large number of dipoles (e.g. magnetized iron filings) in proximity, their magnetic fields will instantaneously interpenetrate each others fields and the field at any point will represent both the local "part" as well as the "whole". While this self-organization is automatic, the self-organization of the material filings themselves requires only a random perturbation (i.e. it does not require deliberate logical organization) to give them the energy to shift into a harmony orchestrated by their composite field.

So, the bifurcation of roughly 500 BC in the west was one which saw our culture deny the natural organizing forces in nature, and put responsibility for organization into the hands of individuals using mechanical logic models. We now know, of course, that this has put our society into a fundamental discord with nature, and has led to many environmentally destructive effects, both in human and non-human terms.

The first signs of this bifurcation, in addition to the strong emergence of an economically driven phonetic transactional language (Phoenician and phonetic Greek), was the personification of the Gods in statues. Gods had previously been viewed in association with the forces of nature, and deification was in terms of etherial qualities which when personified, continually metamorphosed, reappearing in a variety of forms. When Brennus, a Celtic leader invading the Greek peninsula (279 BC) first saw the Gods personified in fixed human form in statues in the Temples of Delphi, he is said to have laughed out loud, thinking this form of representation to be childish and stupid.

Historically, backlash to this fixed symbolic representation of the Gods (and people) was manifest in the tradition of many non-Greek or Roman cultures, to knock the heads from statues. In North Africa, successive waves of opposition to the Greek, Roman and Phoenician cultures took care of most of the heads on the early statues in cities such as Leptis Magna, Carthage and Sabratha. Some of these regional cultural traditions, which appear to predate the formalizing of the Islamic religions, continue to resist the "freezing" or "capturing" of the soul which they see as inherent in living imagery, within a photograph. This view has much in common with the "systems" view of the world which sees living forms, including humans, as open "ecologies". The magic or "essence" of these forms is not in their material substance and external fixed imagery, but in the many dynamic relationships through which their "living" status is sustained. The wisdom of the "Vandals" in ancient and perhaps in modern times, is that they have both recognized and reacted to the false deification of material forms.

In terms of gender and sexuality, the virtual "phase" attributes of natural dipoles provide an essential differentiation between the female (relatively high virtual or relationship field component) and male (relatively high real or material component). In a world modelled by linear logic, this type of differentiation does not exist. Thus in the mathemetical terms of conjugation, in nonlinear dipoles, convolution has a phase spectrum which differentiates it from correlation, while with linear logical couplets there is no phase spectrum differentiation. Since the "real" spectrums of convolution and correlation are identical, there is a suggestion, that systems which are modelled with syllogistic logic do not differentiate between genders and thus do not differentiate between the "conjugation" of like or dissimilar genders. It seems likely that homosexuality which was common amongst the Greeks, grew out of the Aristotelian mindset rather than having been prevalent at earlier dates.

In summary, roughly 2500 years ago, a "Big Bifurcation" occurred which shifted our reality modelling tools from a nonlinear dipole base, to a linear logic base. This gave rise to many new ways of symbolizing our complex natural environment, including the material personification of the strange attractors of "good" and "evil" as "God" and "Satan" and thus influencing the doctrines of the Christian, Judaic and Islamic religions. It has also led to a doctrine of mechanical fragmentation and control in social structures and methods which denies natural harmonies in systems and generates discord. In addition, the logic approach vests qualities in material things as opposed to the medium of relational dynamics, and thus once a "thing" is labelled as "good", "bad" or etc., it tends to be viewed as a fixed property of that "thing". This aspect of logical modelling has led to prejudice and racial conflict.

Children continue to be educated via symbolics in school and at home (e.g. via TV) in which all properties of nature are attributed to real material forms, as opposed to inter-relational dynamics. Faced with rising complexity from inter-relational dynamics, facilitated by information technology, and without modelling tools which comprehend the nonlinear dipolar aspects of nature, youth is more hard pressed than ever to make sense out of a complex world. At the same time, economic drivers and feedback loops are almost exclusively based on linear logic and blind to the nonlinear nature of reality.

As R. D. Laing, the Scottish psychologist and author of "The Politics of Experience", "The Divided Self" and other works has noted, what we term normality is something which is very aberrant indeed. Ludwig Wittgenstein has made similar inferences and identified the source of the problem as being associated with the way in which consciousness ties to language and vice versa. This makes a lot of sense, since language is a means of modelling the reality which we experience visually through our cosciousness. Our consciousness is capable of high dimensional visual dynamics whereas our current form of language emphasizes fixed linear symbology (particularly in science and business). As communications theorists such as McLuhan have observed, "the medium is the message". In the days of pictographic languages such as Egyptian Hieroglyphs, the medium allowed for the conveying of phase and harmonics since what was being symbolized was complex "ideas" rather than linear "word-bricks" and mechanical causal assemblages.

The poetic form in our phonetic language similarly trades in ideas which are common to our consciousness, rather than expecting to be able to build them ground-up from word definitions. The complex concepts of connecting dipolar fields simply cannot be built from bottom-up real components. Our failure to teach these basic fundamentals of nature (as did the Celtic and North American Indian cultures) to the upcoming generation effectively leaves them with a legacy of flawed tools and modelling techniques which cannot hope to deal with the rising complexity in the world. As Laing said in 1967, a child born in the UK has a ten times better chance of being admitted to a mental hospital, than to a university. Failing some expeditious heavy-duty double loop learning in the west, we can expect these odds to get worse before they get better.

* * *