Awakening into reality


This is the end of human history, the end of the growth of humanity.

These words sound ‘kind of like’ Biblical prophecy, why is that?  It is presumably because they seem to speak to the absolutes of ‘existence’.

There IS something BIG going on that the above words literally address, if we examine them carefully.

Ernst Mach, a so-called ‘relationist’ amongst ‘absolutists’ spoke about in a century ago, and so did Nietzsche.  Mach spoke about in terms of ‘figure and ground’ and that led to the development of ‘gestalt psychology’.   But Mach wasn’t talking merely about ‘what goes on in the mind’, the realm of the ‘psychical’.  He was talking about ‘physical reality’.

Essentially, he was saying that the world dynamic is ‘transformation’ and that the common discourse of what goes on in the world in terms of ‘the dynamics of material things-in-themselves’ are representation based ‘appearances’ facilitated by language that should not be confused for ‘physical reality’.   Nietzsche was influenced by Mach’s philosophical understandings and was of the same mind, saying;

“And do you know what “the world” is to me? Shall I show it to you in my mirror? This world: a monster of energy, without beginning, without end; a firm, iron magnitude of force that does not grow bigger or smaller, that does not expend itself but only transforms itself; as a whole, of unalterable size, a household without expenses or losses, but likewise without increase or income …” –Nietzsche, ‘The Will to Power’, 1067

The figure and ground problem, in the manner that Mach intended it [which is clear from his overall philosophical context], is like this.  Supposing you were observing a mercator projection of the entire earth’s atmosphere on a display screen and you could see the birth, development and dissipation of huge local systems or ‘figures’ in the general back ‘ground’; i.e. ‘hurricanes’.   There are two things going on here at the same time.   One is the continuing transformation of the dynamic ground or turbulent medium of atmosphere, and the other is the birth, life and death of local, visible, material systems.

Why stop with mere hurricanes, we could examine this figure and ground dynamic in the case of human figures; i.e. we could observer our self and others.  No, we couldn’t witness our own birth and death, but we could witness the middle part of our lives, and if we were part of a research team, the trans-generational persistence of the observing research team could study the relationship of the self, other and ground.

As with the hurricanes, the first thing to note would be that the space on the surface of the earth is a finite space that keeps ‘growing crops of humans’.   That fits Nietzsche’s description, and Mach’s, where space or ‘ground’ stays the same size but undergoes transformation [changes in spatial relations].  The understanding is clear.  The physical reality is ‘transformation’ and the figures that continually and emerge are, as Mach points out, ‘objects of sight and touch’ or ‘appearances’ [Schroedinger’s ‘schaumkommen’].

This is not to say that the figures, whether hurricanes or men, ‘do not exist’.  A hurricane ‘exists’ but just not as a ‘thing-in-itself’ with its own internally driven and directed dynamics, as we commonly represent it.  To say ‘the hurricane is moving north’ is misleading.  The physical reality is that the fluid ‘ground’ is transforming [spatial-relationally] and that, as Emerson put it in ‘The Method of Nature’, this evolutionary force not only inhabits the dynamic figure, but creates it.

As Mach pointed out, there is a conjugate relation between figure and ground: “The dynamics of the figures are conditioning the dynamics of the ground at the same time as the dynamics of the ground are conditioning the dynamics of the figures.”

In other words, the ‘figures’ APPEAR as ‘things-in-themselves’ with their own internal process driven GROWTH [Darwin’s assumption, ‘genetics’] and their own internal process directed BEHAVIOUR [the common doer-deed world view], but that is APPEARANCE that should not be confused for PHYSICAL REALITY.

The culture that dominates in the world today is a ‘science worshipping’ culture that commonly CONFUSES APPEARANCE FOR PHYSICAL REALITY.    Mach calls the belief in material ‘things-in-themselves’, the CHURCH OF PHYSICS, and in spite of being given a final pep-talk from his friend, Albert Einstein [who acknowledged Mach’s mentorship], withdrew from that ‘religion’.

Mach’s view, and Nietzsches accords with the view of the Amerindian cultures; ‘mitakuye oyasin’, … ‘we are all related’.

Returning to our satellite viewing thought experiment, we can check out the different types of logic we can use to get these two different culture worldviews, … or, … ‘belief systems’, … or ‘modes of understanding’.  They don’t have to be ‘belief systems’ if we accept that we have at hand, two different ‘modes of understanding’.

Two different types of logic associate with the two different modes of understanding.  Let’s call the two modes of understanding (a) relationist [where we understand the figure and ground to be in dynamic conjugate relation as in Mach’s principle] and (b) absolutist [where we understand he figure to be a ‘thing-in-itself’ and the ground to be mutually exclusive of ‘things-in-themselves’.

The absolutist ‘EITHER/OR’  logic is the Aristotelian logic of the excluded third that we are most familiar with since we are living in a mostly absolutist science-believing/following culture.  If we observe the figure’s P and Q on the satellite view of the earth, we understand that P=P and Q=Q and that P ≠ not.P and Q ≠ not.Q.  This excludes the possibility of there being a ‘third element’, Z, such that P=Z and Q=Z which would mean that P = not.P.

The relationist ‘BOTH/AND’ logic is the ‘logic of the included third’.  In this case, P = not.P and Q = not.Q since there is a third element Z, or why not G [for ‘ground’] where P=G and Q=G whereupon it follows that P=not.P.

This is the ‘logic of quantum physics’ and it is captured in Mach’s principle and in the notion of ‘complementarity’; e.g. the act of observation/engaging transforms both the observer and the observed [the circuitry of the galvanometer is changed when the galvanometer is connected to the circuit it seeks to measure and so is the circuitry to be measured].  Mach’s principle is the same and applies generally (i.e. at the macro level); e.g. the dynamic of the inhabitant is transformed by the dynamic of the habitat it is engaging with at the same time as the dynamic of the habitat is transformed by the inhabitant’s engaging with it.   This is a long-winded way of saying that the logic of the included third applies.

The end of growth and the end of history

The above phrase has this dramatic sound to it, once again, like a Biblical prophecy, and that is because it employs ‘absolute’ concepts.  But this declaration is intended in the sense that; if we see the GROWTH of ‘green circular spots’ on the satellite view of the earth as might associate with cultivated land irrigated by those large rotating sprinkler systems, … such GROWTH is in conjugate/reciprocal relation to DECLINE in undeveloped land.

What is REALLY going on is ‘transformation’ of the persisting space on the surface of the earth.  There is no such thing, in ‘physical reality’ as GROWTH.   Sure, the economists of the world will call it ‘growth’ and they will associate monetary value to it, but those green circles whose expansion in size and number we can measure constitute GROWTH… ONLY IN APPEARANCE.  In physical reality, what is going on is ‘transformation’ of spatial relations.   On our satellite coverage of the atmosphere, we can observe what happens to the fluid-dynamics of the atmosphere as the concentration of thermal energy builds in a northerly direction toward the pole from the equator, the fluid dynamics of the atmosphere undergoes transformation that shows up as the development of ‘boils’ or vortices.   We can measure the GROWTH in size and number of these ‘boils’ aka ‘tropical storm-cells’, but such GROWTH does NOT constitute PHYSICAL REALITY, … such GROWTH is APPEARANCES/SCHAUMKOMMEN.  In other words, ‘space’ is more like an energy-charged fluid-dynamic than an absolute fixed empty and infinite ‘operating theatre’ for the dynamics of absolutely existing dynamic figures [things-in-themselves].

‘The end of HISTORY’ comes about the same way as ‘the end of GROWTH’ with the acknowledging that space, aka ‘dynamic ground’, is a relationally transforming energy-charged spatial-plenum with ‘ripple-forms’ in it, as quantum physicists like David Bohm and Erwin Schroedinger see it.

‘HISTORY’ is a TIME-based narrative description of the movement and development of a nation, person, world or, … in general, … THING-IN-ITSELF… deemed to have a persisting ‘thing-in-itself-identity’.

‘HISTORY’ works the same way as growth but incorporates ‘transformation’ as something that happens to a ‘thing-in-itself’ with persisting ‘identity’; i.e. it starts with the notion of a ‘thing-in-itself’ and follows ‘ITS DEVELOPMENT’ over TIME, its growth and its decline etc., ignoring the dynamic figure/dynamic ground conjugate relation.

We need to be clear about how the ‘measurement’ process works.  Referring back to the GROWTH of green spots on our satellite coverage of the world, we have the option of ‘grounding’ our understanding the never-beginning-never-ending [from our mortal point of view] transformation of spatial-relations that constitutes PHYSICAL REALITY.  In order to speak about the GROWTH of developed areas, we have to ‘forget’ about ‘growth and decline’ as being dual aspects of the single dynamic of transformation of the space on the surface of the earth.  What helps us to ‘forget’ is the tool of an absolute measuring grid [Euclidian] that we superimpose over the green spots and then we make a succession of such absolute space measurements and examine the change which gives us the impression of ‘the GROWTH of the green spots’ [developed areas].  It is our own ‘succession of measuring acts’ that gives us a sense of TIME, so that the notion of GROWTH depends upon the concept of absolute space and absolute TIME.  ‘TIME’ being whatever our watch reads when we take each successive measurement.

‘TRANSFORMATION’ has no need of TIME.  It is ‘timeless’ because it is purely ‘relational’.   TIME is needed when we measure CHANGE relative to an absolute reference grid.  Then we are interested in the relative rates of change or the change of some thing-in-itself as a function of time.   As Poincaré notes in ‘Science and Hypothesis’, this is where ‘differential equations’ come from and they have been built into the foundations of classical science.

Note that ‘growth and decline’ were simultaneous and compensatory in the transformational view; i.e. the growth of developed areas and the reciprocal decline of undeveloped areas were simultaneous.  ‘OPPOSITES’ are simultaneous in the transformational view which, as Mach contends, is PHYSICAL REALITY.

Heraclitus was of the same mind.  As he said;

 ‘The unity of things lies beneath the surface; it depends upon a balanced reaction between opposites’ [figure-ground-mutual transformation]

‘An unapparent connexion is stronger than an apparent one.’

‘The real constitution is accustomed to hide itself’

‘They do not apprehend how being at variance it agrees with itself [literally: how being brought apart it is brought together with itself] : there is a back-stretched connexion, as in the bow and the lyre.’

In the development of ideas in the Western culture that is now dominant around the globe, it has been suggested that Aristotle made a major error in his interpretation of the ideas of Heraclitus in regard to the ‘simultaneousness of opposites’ which has continued to have more influence than his screw up in contending that men had more teeth than women and that ‘bodies fall to earth at a rate proportional to their weight’;

“Plato clearly distinguished between Heraclitus’ SIMULTANEOUS unity and plurality of the cosmos and Empedocles’ SEPARATE PERIODS of Love and Strife. At the same time, they are mentioned together as both alike in believing in the unity and plurality of the cosmos; and Aristotle’s coupling of the two might conceivably have been motivated by the Platonic comparison, the important distinction between them being overlooked.”

[Plato, Sophists 242D, DK 22A 10, see also Guthrie HGPI, 455f. and 458, with further references, and D. Wiggins, ‘Heraclitus’ conceptions of flux.’, in ‘Language and Logos, Schofield and Nussbaum, 1982] … as cited by Kirk, Raven and Schofield in ‘Presocratic Philosophers’

The point here is that ‘HISTORY’ puts simultaneous opposites into a sequential framework.  Instead of growth and decline going on at the same time as in transformation, growth and decline become part of the TIME-based developmental HISTORY of some ‘thing-in-itself’.

You can see here, that science has developed an entire, internally consistent framework or mode of understanding here, by using the dual references of absolute space and absolute time.  The relational notion of ‘transformation’ of the dynamic ground of an energy-charged spatial-plenum has been SYNTHETICALLY REPLACED by an absolute x,y,z,t ‘box’ that serves as an absolute ‘theatre of operations’ for world dynamic that is now understood in terms of the development, movement and interactions of a diverse multiplicity of things-in-themselves’.   Imagine the scope for developing this view as we watch the satellite coverage of the world.

Instead of understanding conflict in terms of simultaneously opposing tensions that resolve through relational transformation, we understand conflicts as things that occur in sequential time, as in “SEPARATE PERIODS of Love and Strife”.

This is the Western understanding and the belief is that ‘this is the way that nature works’.  This is why Western belief sees ‘revolution’ as inevitable [the toppling of one regime by another] instead of acknowledging the possibility of ‘transformation’.  The ‘historical’ view constrains the understanding of ‘change’ to a historical process, thus it understands the resolution of conflict in terms of a time-based ‘purification’ process wherein the causal agents of conflict are progressively removed.  That is the architecture of the Western system of justice.

The Amerindian [and aboriginal, in general] tradition of ‘restorative justice’ understands conflict in terms of simultaneous opposites, as in Heraclitus, and thus ‘resolvable’ in terms of mutual transformation.   In the peacemaking circle, the parties in conflict are brought together in a ‘healing process’ where there is no absolute judgement as to who is the ‘offender’ and who the ‘victim’ since the community takes responsibility for the brewing of conflict [i.e. there is no assumption that individuals are ‘things-in-themselves’ with locally originating, internal process driven and directed behaviours, as in, as Mach would call it, the absolutist Church of Physics].  Even in the modern practice of restorative justice the murderer can reconcile with the family of the child/man he has murdered, both are transformed, mutually.   This is ‘the observer effect’ or ‘complementarity principle’ or Mach’s ‘conjugate figure-ground relation’ in action.  The assumption is that the relational dynamics of community are the deeper source of conflict; i.e. the dynamic ground expressing itself through the dynamics of the figures.

As Neils Bohr put it;

“the principle of complementarity can help us understand that every contact with a foreign culture also involves an intervention in it, while at the same time the observer cannot remain an unaffected and independent watcher, but must expect to have his view of the world altered.”

Nelson Mandela did not simply ‘change history’ by seeking out the powerful leaders of the faction that imprisoned him as a terrorist and sought to hang him and forgiving them.  This was a mutually transforming process that exposed the folly of confusing ‘sequential periods of strife and love’ for ‘physical reality’.   The physical reality is only experienced in the present, in the simultaneous tensions of the opposite.  Resolution can only be achieved by way of transformation in the continuing present.  Resolution does not occur by an endless succession of periods of love and strife, by an endless succession of one political regime achieving dominance over the other.  Resolution is achieved ‘in the heart’ by way of mutual transformation.

Nelson Mandela used transformation to trump ‘history’; i.e. to expose ‘history’ as ‘appearance’.  The historical account told by European colonizers of their building a wonderful new world in South Africa clashed with the historical account of indigenous peoples whose historical account spoke of the colonizers destroying a wonderful established world in the region.  These historical accounts would lead one to seek retribution/vengeance if they were truly believed, however the entire worldspace was in a continuing condition of transformation which was the deeper animative sourcing of what was being expressed in terms of notional ‘things-in-themselves’ and ‘what things did’.

Advocates of restorative justice [e.g. Kay Pranis, co-author of ‘Peacemaking Circles’] argue that restorative justice is the natural way for a community to sustain balance and harmony; i.e. conflict in the form of simultaneous tension of opposites is the fuel of continuing evolution.  Conflict is an opportunity for healing/transformation/evolution, just as continental and oceanic plates butting against each other is the fuel for transformation of the space they both share inclusion in.  Those coming from or now advocating the restorative justice approach term the Western absolutist justice system “institutionalized vengeance”, the sort of thing that continues on in an endless SEQUENCE IN TIME, a historical purificationist process, because resolution in the present, by way of the mutual transformation of opposites, is never sought for since it doesn’t arise in the absolutist mode of understanding.


‘GROWTH’ and ‘DEVELOPMENT’ and ‘HISTORY’ and ‘TIME’ and ‘SPACE’ and ‘THINGS-IN-THEMSELVES’ and ‘CAUSES’ and ‘EFFECTS’ are ‘appearances’ rather than characteristics of PHYSICAL REALITY.

The title of this essay; … AWAKE!  The End is Nigh: – The End of History.…  can now be put in context.  There are no new beginnings in a world of transformation because there is no growth and decline.   Growth and decline, along with birth and death apply to notional ‘things-in-themselves’ which are sensory impressions [objects of sight and touch] rather than ‘physical reality’ [physical reality is relational transformation].

The currently world dominating Western culture employs, predominantly, the scientific mode of understanding.  As Mach says;

 “Science itself, … may be regarded as a minimization problem, consisting of the completest possible presenting of facts with the least possible expenditure of thought. –Ernst Mach

This Aristotelian logic based ‘absolutist’ mode of understanding teaches us to direct our behaviours on a ‘doer-deed’ basis, to achieve a desired ‘future’ state of affairs, such as ‘eliminating conflict’.   Because science tells us that the ‘figures’ in the ‘ground’ are ‘real things-in-themselves’ that are fully and solely responsible for their own dynamics, our behaviour assumes that the future is the result that arises from the totality of ‘what-things-in-themselves-do’ over ‘time’.   This one-sided view fails to acknowledge/address the physical reality wherein ‘growth’ and ‘decline’ are dual aspects of the one ‘physical reality’ of relational transformation.  The farmers and the economy thus orient to ‘growing’ the green circles as if that were a complete view of such dynamics.  Of this, Frédéric Neyrat writes in ‘Biopolitics of Catastrophe’;

“In extending his living space in a manner that destroys the space of others, he destroys his own space. Not initially his inside space, his ‘self’, but his outside space, this real outside-of-self which nourishes his ‘inside-of-self’. The protection of this outside space now becomes the condition without which he is unable to pursue the growth of his own powers of being.”

In our Western Justice system, the scientific ‘doer-deed’ mode of understanding in terms of absolutely-existing ‘figures-in-themselves’ and ‘what figures do’, criminal actions are viewed as being sourced fully and solely from the interior of the individual criminal [the absolutist mode of understanding that leads to institutionalized vengeance] rather than erupting from tensional conflicts in the relational dynamics of habitat/community [the restorative justice view that seeks mutual conflict-transmitter, conflict receptor transformation].

Because of the one-sidedness of behaviour of the absolutist mode of understanding, as in the relentless pursuit of growth of ‘inside-of-self’ development out of the context of the reciprocal decline/destruction of ‘outside-of-self’ that nourishes the inside-of-self, we are experience ‘implosion’.  That is, the growing ‘green spots’ depend on the reciprocal ‘wilderness’ space that delivers water and nourishment to the ‘green spots’, and to pursue continual growth is thus suicide since it will destroy the ‘outside-of-self’ that is nourishing our ‘inside of self’.

Similar, public protests and ‘the Arab Spring’ are evidence that people want solutions ‘in the now’ since that is where their life experience is [where they understand physical reality to be].   They no longer want to hear about solutions engineered in doer-deed fashion over ‘time’.

Of course everything COULD BE TRANSFORMED in the present.  The Potlatch is a way of mutually transforming rich and poor.   In Western absolutist mode of understanding, ‘what’s mine is mine’ and it ‘stays in the bank’.  As Chief Maquinna of the Nootka’s said;

“Once I was in Victoria, and I saw a very large house; they told me it was a bank and that the white men place their money there to take care of, and that by-and-by they got it back, with interest. We are Indians and have no such bank; but when we have plenty of money or blankets, we give them away to other chiefs and people, and by-and-by they return them, with interest, and our hearts feel good. Our potlatch is our bank.” [for the full letter and associated context (jailing of first nations people for continuing with the potlatch tradition) see ‘First People First Voices’, edited by Penny Petrone, University of Toronto Press, 1991]

The GROWTH of the green circles on the satellite view of the world is the source of GROWTH of the wealth of the owners of the growing green circles who are held fully and solely responsible for producing this GROWTH of the farming industry and the GROWTH of wealth that goes with it.  Trouble is, it is all ‘appearances’.  The time-based HISTORICAL narrative that describes the GROWTH is ‘appearances’.   The reality is ‘transformation’ in the continuing present. The GROWTH of the foreground FIGURES derives from GROUND they share inclusion in.

The mode of understanding of Maquinna and Mandela and the advocates of restorative justice is that the world dynamic derives from relational transformation in the continuing present.  One’s behaviour can be orchestrated by the potentials for mutual transformation.   The alien in the foreign community, the observer and the observed, the so-called ‘offender and the victim’ can resolve the tension of opposites through mutual transformation.  That can become the guiding ethic of one’s behaviour, to realize the potentials for transformation in the continuing present.

In which case, ‘GROWTH’ and ‘DEVELOPMENT’ and ‘HISTORY’ and ‘TIME’ and ‘SPACE’ and ‘THINGS-IN-THEMSELVES’ and ‘CAUSES’ and ‘EFFECTS’ would be acknowledged to be ‘appearances’ rather than characteristics of PHYSICAL REALITY.

Working against this ‘awakening’ is the fact that communications technology has been outpacing transportation.  In order for ‘alien’ and the ‘foreign culture’ to mutually transform, they must physically engage.  Electronically circulated historical doer-deed narratives that are acted up remotely are the robotic implementation of the absolutist mode of understanding.  Guantanamo incarcerations and secret trials are the antithesis of ‘restorative justice’ and the complementary transformation [healing, restoring of balance and harmony] it can bring.

Whether or not there will be a ‘general awakening’ is anybody’s guess.  But the Aboriginal/Machean mode of understanding is definitely ‘knocking on the door’, and who else is going let it in but us?   Absolutist science and absolutist religious belief, meanwhile, continues to play the gate-keeper role.

* * *



The relationist understanding of Mach provides a different way of understanding self, other and the world.  It suspends all the absolutisms in our currently dominant way of understanding self, other and world.  The understanding of the difference between ‘psychical’ and ‘physical’ phenomena are bound up in the relationist understanding differently than they are bound up in the absolutist way of understanding that currently dominates in the world.  The relationist understanding explains many phenomena that are enigma in the prevailing absolutist mode of understanding.

Is my understanding relationist?   Absolutely!

Relationist understanding can be understood by reflecting on the basic ‘trinity’ of ‘self’, ‘other’ and ‘space’ and the manner of ‘relating’ them, which differs fundamentally from how these three are seen to relate in the absolutist understanding. [N.B. relationism is also known as ‘pragmatist idealism’ and absolutism is also known as ‘realism’ and while their are good reasons for this labelling, this discussion is not dependent on them]

In the dominant ‘absolutist’ way of understanding, the ‘self’ is seen as an absolute local, independently-existing, material source of assertive actions and utterances [chirpings, growlings, hissings, croakings etc.].   ‘Other’ is seen as absolute local, independently-existing, material objects that can be the receptacles/receivers of the assertive actions and utterances of the self.   The absolutist understanding conceives of two types of receptacles, one like the self that is capable of absolute local, visible, material animative sourcing of assertive actions [which may include utterances], and another which lacks any absolute local animative sourcing.  The former understanding of ‘self’ is referred to as ‘animate’ and the latter as ‘inanimate’.  The absolutist understanding is built into classical physics via the absolute concept of ‘force’.  ‘Force’ is a notional influence that is understood as acting from out of a local ‘point’ in space and exerting influence that becomes manifest via the development and/or behaviour of animate or inanimate material forms; e.g. the ‘life force’ of an organism and the motive force of an ocean wave.

‘Force’ is an absolutist concept that deserves special attention.  ‘Force’ plays an essential role in the absolutist mode of understanding.  Since it is inherently ‘local’ in that it exerts influence out of a ‘point in space’ and acts  in a certain direction [note that force forces a defining of the nature of space], it is the animating source of locally jumpstarted ‘behaviour-in-itself’ which is used to give legitimacy to the notion of a ‘thing-in-itself’ with ‘its own behaviour’ and thus to split out of a dynamic space such as a ‘flow’, a dynamic form that might otherwise be understood in purely ‘relationist’ terms of understanding.  The storm-cell or whorl in the flow can thus be given a name, ‘Katrina’ and ‘personified’ [a key ‘absolutism’] as an animate thing-in-itself with its own internal ‘life-force’ that ‘explains’ [within the absolutist model] the notional local internal sourcing of the behaviour and utterance.

Key to the absolutist understanding, then, is this abstract concept of ‘force’.  Classical physics which brings us the absolutist scientific view, is all about ‘forces’.  Force is defined in physics relative to the absolutist concept of ‘material stasis’; i.e. material bodies persist in a state of rest [stasis] unless acted upon by an external force.  Such a statement, if we ‘buy it’, forces us to accept the absolutist notion of ‘material being’ [in the guise of the ‘locally existing material body’] as well as ‘stasis’.   The philosophy of Heraclitus [everything is in flux; i.e. in a condition of continual spatial-relational becoming]  collapses reciprocally with the rise/acceptance of this absolutist definition of ‘force’; a definition which demands our acceptance of the absolutisms of ‘absolute being’ and ‘absolute stasis’.

With ‘force’ to animate the dynamic forms of the universe with, it is no longer necessary to impute any animative sourcing to ‘space’.   Katrina becomes an ‘animate thing-in-herself’ thanks to her internal forces.  This mysterious ‘out of the blue’ absolute concept of force justifies the notion of the absolute locally existing ‘being’ of ‘material entities’ and ‘animate material systems’ such as the absolutist understanding calls ‘organisms’.

The absolutist understanding removes the animative sourcing of dynamics from the spatial-plenum are notional invests it in the contents of space, reducing space to a non-participant in the world dynamic [an absolute fixed, empty and infinite three-dimensional theatre of operations in which the material inhabitants seen as absolutely existing things-in-themselves ‘take over’ full responsibility for the sourcing of dynamics, with the help of the absolutist concept of ‘forces’].

This basic absolutist understanding, which sets out to describe the world dynamic that we experience in terms of ‘local material being’ and a space that accommodates ‘stasis’ as the base case, which is altered by ‘force’ so as to generate ‘dynamic behaviour’ [seen in the constrained terms of the ‘dynamics of the material things-in-themselves inhabitants’ of an absolute ‘habitat’  [an absolute x,y,z,t reference frame]… FORCES UPON US [we who are responsible for making this absolutist view hang together in reconciliation with our experiencing of physical reality] THE INVENTING OF SOME COMPLEMENTARY ABSOLUTIST CONCEPTS.

One of the most essential concepts forced by our initial absolutist assumptions is ‘growth’.  In the relationist worldview where ‘everything is in flux’ or ‘everything is in a condition of spatial-relational transformation’ there is no such thing as ‘growth’ because that implies absolute local existence of a ‘thing-in-itself’.   In order to explain the continuing development of the dynamic form, e.g. the storm-cell called Katrina, after we have defined it in the absolutist understanding tradition as a ‘thing-in-itself’, its changing form, rather than being understood as an enlarging ripple in the spatial-plenum [in the relationally transforming atmospheric flow or ‘spatial-plenum’], is instead is understood in terms of the GROWTH of an absolutely existing ‘thing-in-itself’.   This absolutist concept of ‘growth’ forces us to invent another absolutist concept [this is like telling a lie; i.e. it sucks one into telling a whole batch of lies to make a lot of related things consistent with the initial lie].  This addition absolutist concept is ‘absolute time’.

There was no need for ‘absolute time’ where we understood things in the relationist terms of the transformation of space; e.g. the relational transformation of the atmospheric flowspace was relative to itself, the spatial relations that differentiated, patterned and adorned the dynamic spatial unum.

If we project the entire atmospheric flow-space onto a flat screen, we can see that the changes in the features of that space are relational rather than absolute.  But if we focus in on a single ‘feature’ such as ‘Katrina’, such a focusing is notionally removing the feature from its actual relationships in the spatial flow-plenum and referring them instead to an absolute reference frame or absolute ‘coordinate system’ such as a latitude and longitude grid.  Successive measurements using this absolute grid reference define something we call ‘time’.  ‘Growth’ can only happen ‘over time’.  The ‘development’ of an animate thing-in-itself notionally happens by way of a succession of small changes which we can make as small as we wish.   Thus this notion of absolute ‘growth’ of a ‘thing-in-itself’ is also the foundation of ‘differential calculus’, the incremental change in size as a function of time being given by ‘dx/dt’ the so-called ‘time derivative’.  Neither the ‘x dimension of space’ nor the ‘t dimension of time’ are ‘real’.  They are absolutist concepts.  Transformation in spatial-relational terms as in ‘everything is in flux, in a continual relational becoming within the energy-charged spatial plenum’, … is a reality in which a ‘real’ ‘dx’ and a ‘real’ ‘dt’ have no place.  They are not real unless we assume the existence of a ‘thing-in-itself’ in which case, ‘dx/dt’ describes the GROWTH or shrinkage or deformation of the ‘thing-in-itself’.

The differential equations of classical physics, therefore, are not describing anything ‘real’, as Bishop Berkeley observed back in the early 18th century; a philosopher “much read if little followed”.

If mathematical differentials confuse the issue for you, the main point doesn’t require any discussion of differentials [that was only mentioned to show how what is not real finds its way into science as something we take to be real].  The main point is that the concept of ‘growth’ is a trade-off with the concept of ‘transformation of space’ as in a fluid-dynamical world view.   The universe can be understood as a relationally transforming space.  There doesn’t need to be any ‘growth’ going on anywhere.  The notion of ‘growth’ requires the notion of ‘absolute being’ as in a ‘thing-in-itself’.  We would have to make the universe a ‘thing-in-itself’ if we impute growth to it.  The Doppler ‘red shift’ that implies an expanding universe could be understood relationally in the manner that sea-floor spreading is understood; i.e. we could be situated in a zone where things were spreading out in all directions away from us unaware of the subduction that was occurring as if on the other side of a spherical [non-euclidian] space.  similarly if we were in a boat over top of a water source, this would not imply that the source was not complemented by a ‘sink’ that was beyond our view.

The simple fact is that the concept of ‘growth’ is an absolutist concept that is incompatible with the relationist understanding of relational transformation, and it [‘growth’] only makes sense if one assumes the ‘reality’ of absolutely existing ‘thing-in-itself’.  We have no problem in MEASURING ‘growth’ because we use an absolute x,y,z,t reference framing to measure it.  The growth of a hurricane is exactly reciprocally complemented by the shrinking of the calm portion of the atmosphere; i.e. the real physical phenomena is the relational transformation of the atmospheric spatial-unum.  The concept of growth is thanks to our absolute reference-frame grid we use for measuring stuff.  The so-called ‘growth’ of the hurricane is not REALLY relative to an absolute grid, it is relative to the spatial-unum of the atmosphere.  What is REALLY going on is ‘transformation’ of spatial relations rather than ‘growth’ in ‘time’ of a ‘thing-in-itself’ called ‘Katrina’.

Now, let’s return to the inquiry into the differences in how the absolutist and relationist understanding sees the relations between the trinity of self, other and space.

We can explore this historically, through Newton’s eyes as he worked out the ‘Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy’.

Newton, like Kepler, was working his way through principles 65 and 66 and trying to mathematize the dynamics of multiple bodies relative to one another, moving on to ‘three bodies’ from ‘two bodies’ when he hit a ‘brick wall’ in that the mathematics and philosophical concepts he was using were incapable of going from the two-body case to the three body case.   This came to be known as ‘the three body problem’ which philosopher-mathematicians such as Henri Poincaré felt was an important enigma that he worked on all his life and regretted never being able to solve.

Starting from Kepler, Kepler had noted that the most profound and beautiful aspect of the celestial dynamics was not in the motion of sun and planets taken two bodies at a time, but in the manner in which the multiple bodies moved in an overall harmony with respect to one another.  Kepler’s comment in ‘Harmonies of the World’ is highlighted in the following comeent from his ‘hometown university’ (Karlsruhe);  (see Fehlschläge      )

“Kepler had accepted, that he was unable to convincingly prove his harmony theory, but he continued to hold firmly to it. His findings were proof to him, of his theory. It’s true that he was unable to calculate the harmonies perfectly, but the values which he had, showed approximatively, his ‘mindbroadening relationships’. Thus he wrote the following in his sum-up:

“Now, the ‘harmony-of-the-whole of all the planets contributes more to the perfection of the world than the single harmonies by twos and the pairs of harmonies by the twos of neighbouring planets. For harmony is, so to speak, a volume of unity. A deeper unity yet is presented, when all the planets form a harmony with one another, as when just two at a time harmonize in a paired manner. In the conflict of these harmonies deriving from the dual harmonic line-ups, which the pairs of planets form with each another, the one or the other yield, so that the harmony-of-the-whole can prevail.”

…. One day, perhaps, his theory of the harmonies of the world might still be proven unequivocally.” (see ‘Die Ergebnisse’, the paragraph commencing, “Kepler hatte akzeptiert, das er seine Harmonientheorie nicht glaubhaft bestätigen konnte, hielt aber weiter an ihr fest.)

Kepler’s notion was that the harmony of the planets had to becoming from ‘space itself’; i.e. the relational quality of space since it was impossible for the harmony of the full collective to derive ‘bottom up’ from the individual participants.

When Newton came to the watershed where one has to up the ante of explaining the dynamic relations of bodies from two bodies to three bodies that moved under one another’s simultaneous mutual influence, he was stymied, and commented; “an exact solution for three bodies, if I am not mistaken, exceeds the force of any human mind.”

What Newton intended by this statement was the same as what Kepler had run into, that the animating influence of the dynamics could not be explained in terms of the ‘dynamics of things-in-themselves’; i.e. that the source of the harmony amongst multiple bodies derived from their relations with one another.  This would mean that their relations with one another TRANSCENDED their individual dynamics.

Acknowledging this  IS THE RELATIONIST VIEW.  It is the Machean view.

Newton didn’t ‘go there’.  He stayed with his ‘absolute space’ and his absolutist notion of ‘force’ that emanates from a point in absolute space [i.e. a vector force].  His solution for the physical phenomena of ‘gravity’ was to assume that every point in absolute space could be assigned a gravitational vector force.  Each such vector force could be calculated by calculating the mass distribution in that absolute space, assuming that the influence of distant masses could be neglected since they were so diminished by the inverse square law [where the influence of a mass declines in proportion to the square of the distance from the mass to the point in space where the gravity force acts.]  Newton’s mathematical principle of the natural phenomenon of gravity was therefore ‘action at a distance’ based.  Newton clearly distinguished between his ‘solution’ and the ‘physical reality’ he was trying to ‘mathematize’.  In other words, he declared his physics to be a kind of ‘simulation’ or ‘pragmatic idealization’ that should not be confused for ‘reality’, a warning that has gone unheeded.  Newton made the following three comments on this subject of the relations between the dynamic inhabitants of space and the spatial habitat and how the ‘harmonies of the world’ were beyond description, as Kepler had also noted, in terms of the dynamics of the things-in-themselves material inhabitants of space;

1. The unacceptability of his solution in terms of ‘action at a distance’ in which he was forced by the limitations of mathematical tools, to attribute the gravity-field to matter-in-itself, much like early views of the electrical influence and magnetic influence were attributed to ‘charged matter’ and ‘magnetized matter’, rather than putting the spatial-relational ‘field influence’ into a natural precedence over ‘matter’, as was the notion of Kepler and also Newton;

“It is inconceivable, that inanimate brute matter should, without the mediation of something else, which is not material, operate upon, and affect other matter without mutual contact; as it must do, if gravitation, in the sense of Epicurus, be essential and inherent in it.  And this is one reason, why I desired you would not ascribe innate gravity to me.  That gravity should be innate, inherent, and essential to matter, so that one body may act upon another, at a distance through a vacuum, without the mediation of anything else, by and through which their action and force may be conveyed from one to another, is to me so great an absurdity, that I believe no man who has in philosophical matters a competent faculty of thinking, can ever fall into it.”  – Newton in a letter to Richard Bentley (Cambridge Lecturer linking the Principia to Theology);

2. Newton was deeply religious and he believed that God’s blueprints were ultimately something that no human could see into, therefore, he was inclined to leave the explanation of the ‘harmonies in the celestial dynamics’ that were beyond his mathematized principles of natural phenomena, as part of those divine blueprints we could not get access to;

“… and the planets and comets will constantly pursue their revolutions in orbits given in kind and position, according to the laws above explained ; but though these bodies may, indeed, persevere in their orbits by the mere laws of gravity, yet they could by no means have at first derived the regular position of the orbits themselves from those laws.   The six primary planets are revolved about the sun in circles concentric with the sun, and with motions directed towards the same parts, and almost in the same plane.  Ten moons are revolved about the earth, Jupiter, and Saturn, in circles concentric with them, with the same direction of motion, and nearly in the planes of the orbits of those planets ; but it is not to be conceived that mere mechanical causes could give birth to so many regular motions, since the comets range over all parts of the heavens in very eccentric orbits ; for by that kind of motion they pass easily through the orbs of the planets, and with great rapidity ; and in their aphelions, where they move the slowest, and are detained the longest, they recede to the greatest distances from each other, and thence suffer the least disturbance from their mutual attractions.   This most beautiful system of the sun, planets, and comets, could only proceed from the counsel and dominion of an intelligent and powerful Being.” – Newton, from his summarizing ‘Scholium’ in ‘Principia..’

3. Newton did not want to leave the impression that his mathematized physical principles was ‘as far as humans could ever go’ in extending human understanding and commensurately shrinking those essential aspects of God’s blueprints that we would never get to see.  His following comment in the ‘Author’s Preface to Principia’ was to this effect;

“I wish we could derive the rest of the phaenomena of nature by the same kind of reasoning from physical principles; for I am induced by many reasons to suspect that they all may depend upon certain forces by which the particles of bodies, by some causes hitherto unknown, are either mutually impelled towards each other, and cohere in regular figures, or are repelled and recede from each other; which forces being unknown, philosophers have hitherto attempted the search of nature in vain; but I hope the principles laid down will afford some light either to this or some truer method of philosophy.”

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In my view, while Newton’s physics is ‘absolutist’, his philosophy is not necessarily ‘absolutist’ [could be pragmatist idealist since he is making pragmatic use of absolutist idealizations, … of ‘force’, ‘material being’, ‘space’ and ‘time’].  Meanwhile, monotheism is an absolutist belief system.

Of all the physicists I have met, there is only one other ‘Machean’ or ‘relationist’ that I can think of and he is an internet contact.  In terms of the literature, there is, besides, Mach, Poincaré, Bohm, Peat, Schroedinger, and the modern-day Quantum Gravity physicist, Carlo Rovelli (and his associates).

So far in this discussion, I have only been talking about ‘physical dynamics’ and how the dynamics of the physical trinity of self, other and space can be UNDERSTOOD in either an absolutist mode of understanding [based on absolute material things-in-themselves, absolute forces-in-themselves, absolute space and absolute time] versus a relationist mode of understanding where the relationships amongst the dynamic forms in space transcend the forms, ‘their’ development and ‘their’ behaviour [these forms being understood in the relationist mode of understanding, as ripples in an energy-charged, relationally transforming spatial-flow-plenum; i.e. appearances rather than ‘things-in-themselves.]

Now the time comes to explore how these two modes of understanding, absolutist and relational, bring into connective relation, ‘sensory experience’.

That is, ‘understanding’ has been used as a word we assume we understand, without having to define what we mean by it [how we understand the concept ‘understanding’].  This is an issue that has been batted about by Nietzsche as well as Mach [they are on the same page] and is a central investigatory theme of ‘psychology’.

Understanding can be explored by way of its ‘sourcing’.  The comment by the ‘relationist’, Heraclitus that “The knowledge of many things does not teach understanding” is a point of entry into this investigation of the nature of understanding.

As Mach contends, we make quasi-replicas of our sensory experience using ‘representations’ that can be captured in words/language constructs, animating them in time-based doer-deed historical narratives [personal perspectives] .  We store and accumulate these ‘representations’ in memory.  These representations or historical perspectives can be shared and thus we can acquire as knowledge, a crude conceptualized version of the personal experience of others.   This process allows us to extend our ‘view’ ‘in time’ over generations and in space, over and around the world.

Historical perspectives constitute ‘knowledge’ that is unlike ‘experience’, hence Heraclitus’ “The knowledge of many things does not teach understanding”.

For example, the historical perspective of the colonizing generations was that they were ‘building a wonderful new world in America’ and if this were taught to us, it would be knowledge extended in time [over past generations].   If the historical perspective derived from the indigenous peoples of Turtle Island, it would be in terms of the colonizers destroying a wonderful established world on Turtle Island.

Neither of these ‘historical perspectives’ or doer-deed reconstructions which extend our knowledge in space and in time informs us as to how the common living space/habitat we share inclusion in, is continually transforming.  The transformation of the habitat we are included in is ‘relational’ and it is shaped by everything that goes on within the habitat; i.e. by the dynamics of all the inhabitants; “The dynamics of the inhabitants are conditioning the dynamics of the habitat at the same time as the dynamics of the habitat are conditioning the dynamics of the inhabitants.” [Mach’s principle].   The dynamics of the habitat the colonizers and the indigenous peoples share inclusion in are transforming and this is what our physical reality sensed through our experience is all about.  What the colonizers are doing, and/or what the indigenous peoples are doing, and in general, ‘historical doer-deed perspectives’ as are constructed in science, are not speaking to ‘physical reality’.

Physical reality is in our experiencing of the continually transforming  space that we share inclusion in, not in the subjective historical doer-deed narratives that we each personally construct, that are often formulated in hero-and-villain perspectives, as in the case of history given by the colonizers and history given by the indigenous peoples.  Both histories speak to the ‘conditioning of the dynamics of habitat by the dynamics of the inhabitants’, as if the animative sourcing of the dynamics derived from the interior of the inhabitants.   For example, several families may put their cows to graze in a grassy meadow.   This is not because ‘great minds think alike’ but because, relationally, the meadow continually produces grass and the cows continually consume grass.   The dynamics of the meadow-habitat are conditioning the dynamics of the bovine inhabitants at the same time as the dynamics of the bovine inhabitants are conditioning the dynamics of the meadow-habitat.

The doer-deed historical narratives of nation states and corporations are not physical reaity.  They are subject animated representations of the same sort as Newton was using in his attempt to describe the celestial dynamics.  Newton, like Kepler, allowed that in the  physical reality of our sensory experience, the dynamic relations amongst things transcended the dynamics of the ‘things-in-themselves’ as was the rendering of dynamics in scientific terms.  It was as if the relational dynamics of the spatial medium not only shaped the dynamics of the inhabitants but created the inhabitants, as in a fluid-dynamic (a relational flow-space) that populated itself with ‘ripple-forms’; i.e. where the ‘dynamics of the spatial-relational flow are conditioning the dynamics of the ripples at the same time as the dynamics of the ripples are conditioning the dynamics of the spatial-relational flow”.

In this relational view, nature includes everything and excludes no thing.  Birth/creation and ‘death/destruction’ are conjugate aspects of the single dynamic of relational transformation, as in a fluid dynamic.  As Mach says, purely mechanical phenomena do not exist, they are ‘appearances’ within a relational physical reality that we concretize with conceptual representations that we animate in historical doer-deed narratives that play out in time.   These historical narratives are personal perspectives, they are not the ‘physical reality’ of our sensory experience;

“Purely mechanical phenomena do not exist.  The production of mutual accelerations in masses is, to all appearances, a purely dynamical phenomenon.  But with these dynamical results are always associated thermal, magnetic, electrical, and chemical phenomena, and the former are always modified in proportion as the latter are asserted.  On the other hand, thermal, magnetic, electrical and chemical conditions also can produce motions.  Purely mechanical phenomena, accordingly, are abstractions, made, either intentionally or from necessity, for facilitating our comprehension of things. … The view [wherein we] explain all physical phenomena by mechanical ideas, is in our judgment a prejudice. … The mechanical theory of nature, is, undoubtedly, in an historical view, both intelligible and pardonable; and it may also, for a time, have been of much value.  But, upon the whole, it is an artificial conception.” – Ernst Mach, ‘The Science of Mechanics: A Critical and Historical Account of its Development’.

The ‘complementarity’ or ‘conjugate habitat-inhabitant relating’ of our real-life experience is not captured in historical narrative.  As Neils Bohr observed;

“the principle of complementarity can help us understand that every contact with a foreign culture also involves an intervention in it, while at the same time the observer cannot remain an unaffected and independent watcher, but must expect to have his view of the world altered.”

‘Sensory perception’ is therefore not something that simply scans ‘what is going on out there in a doer-deed historical narrative sense’ and reports back on it, without altering it.  As in wave dynamics, the ripple that reaches out to change the flow it is included in, is the flow that it is reaching out to change.  The spatial relational aspect of this dynamic transcends the apparent ‘thing-in-itself’ based content dynamics that are understood in historical [time-based] doer-deed narrative.  The dynamic figure is the dynamic ground; i.e. the dynamic inhabitant is the dynamic habitat in the same sense as the convection cell is the flow it is included in [Mach’s ideas were the basis for gestalt psychology].

Sense perception is therefore ‘in the world’ as Kepler maintained.  It is not the capability of a thing-in-itself organism to report back on the ‘what is going on out there’ without altering it in the process.  It is a dynamic complementarity.  This was also the finding of Dennis Gabor in his quantum physics compliant ‘theory of communications’.  The ‘transmitter’ and ‘receiver’ were no longer understood as two separate things, the former capable of an assertive intruder into space in need of a receptive accommodating and the latter capable of a receptive accommodating in need of an assertive intruder.  Instead of the two being opposite functions, the two were conjugate aspects of a single circular dynamic which Gabor compared to the seemingly ‘opposing’ signals in the crossed poles of a dynamo; i.e. between the ‘stator’ and the ‘rotor’.  The signal in the rotor which is undergoing local, visible, material motion is 90 degrees phase shifted [= multiplication by the imaginary unit i or square root of minus one] to the signal in the stator which is the source of nonlocal, non-visible, non-material dynamics [rotating field].

As Heraclitus said;

‘The unity of things lies beneath the surface; it depends upon a balanced reaction between opposites’ [bidirectional innovation]

‘An unapparent connexion is stronger than an apparent one.’

‘The real constitution is accustomed to hide itself’

‘They do not apprehend how being at variance it agrees with itself [literally: how being brought apart it is brought together with itself] : there is a back-stretched connexion, as in the bow and the lyre.’

With this background, we have the necessary context to review how understanding based on knowledge [historical doer-deed narratives as in our remembrance] differs from our understanding based on experience.   In our life experience, wherever we travel, we are like an observer of a foreign culture; the foreign culture is physically altered by us in the process and so are we by it.  We are participants in the transforming of the common space we share inclusion in, in the same manner as the convection cells are in the flow they share inclusion in [the evolutionary force not only inhabits us, it creates us, as Emerson says in ‘The Method of Nature’].

The knowledge of many things does not accommodate inhabitant-habitat transformation.


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