Union of Imaginable Associations (Complementary initiatives and historical context) University of Earth Union of the Whys Cognitive Fusion Reactor (ITER-8)
University of Earth
16th May 2007 | Draft

Emergence of a Union of Imaginable Associations

engendered by a Union of Intelligible Associations
from a Union of International Associations

- / -

Contrasting organizing principles: international, intelligible, imaginative (Table 0)
Strategic context
Evolution of knowledge management
Nature of an emergent Union of Imaginable Associations? Associations | Imaginative | Union
Historical origins: Stage 0?
Three-stage emergence? (Table 1) (Annex 1)

Progressive dematerialization and virtualization of vehicle identity (Table 2)
Associated disintegrative processes (Table 3)
Reclaiming the heritage of misappropriated collective endeavour (Table 4)
Comprehending the transformative challenge of "stages" and their relationship
Metaphors of stage separation and emergence
Distinguishing stages in the light of potential (mis)understanding (Table 5)
Conclusion (Table 6)

Detailed description of stages (exemplifying challenges in other organizations) (Annex 2)

Stage 1: Union of International Associations (UIA1): Contextual challenges | Internal challenges
Stage 2: Union of Intelligible Associations (UIA2): Contextual challenges | Internal challenges
Stage 3: Union of Imaginable Associations (UIA3): Contextual challenges | Internal challenges
Comprehension of stage separation (decoupling / detachment) in transformation processes

Psychosocial energy from polarization within a cyclic pattern of enantiodromia (Annex 3)

Implications of the cybernetics of cybernetics
Psychosocial energy through a metaphorical technology
Schematic Denkmodel (Table 1)
Epistemological domains
Global vs Local (in Table 1) | Positive vs Negative (in Table 1) | Relationships (within Table 1)
Beyond the plane of Möbius: form and medium in terms of the calculus of indications
Visualization: quadrant systems / Möbius strips / Klein bottles
"Sphering the Circle" (from 2D to 3D): a Klein-bottle relationship "belt drive"?
Enantiodromia: cycling through the "cognitive twist"
Psychosocial work cycle / heat engine
Psychosocial power and its generation

Emergent higher-order symbol as a cognitive/existential "keystone"
Operational implications
Indicative examples of 2nd and 3rd order environments


This "story" explores the underlying inspiration of the century-old Union of International Associations (UIA) in its currently challenged effort to continue to function as a clearinghouse for information on the diversity of bodies responding to social challenges of every conceivable variety -- including major institutional systems such as the United Nations and regional bodies such as the European Commission.

The process of creation of the Union of International Associations from 1907 can be understood as an audaciously imaginative act -- at the origins of international society as it is now known and prior to any form of international legal framework through which the existence of any such body could be recognized. Although it may subsequently be said to have acted -- despite the severe disruption of two world wars -- in the name of international bodies present at its creation, it cannot be said to have been representative of them in any conventional democratic sense. This is especially the case following its reconstition in 1951 as an institute based on individual membership. To a significant degree it has remained an act of the collective imagination of those directly involved who have sustained a highly productive pattern of self-funded activity over past decades. This has also, to a certain degree, sustained the illusion of the existence of a "Union of International Associations" as originally intended -- an illusion that has contributed to the success of the initiative.

Efforts to reform and transform the UIA ("UIA1") are here framed as having effectively engendered a distinct "transitional" vehicle, usefully named here as the Union of Intelligible Associations ("UIA2"). This has emphasized a strategic knowledge management function beyond the conventional information gathering and classifying preoccupations of UIA1. The fundamental challenge to UIA2, as presented here, usefully models similar inadequacies in many institutions variously seeking to enhance collective intelligence in response to information overload in the face of social and strategic complexity.

Confronted by its own inadequacies, UIA2 is however understood here as having itself created a context for the emergence of a Union of Imaginable Associations ("UIA3"). This could be understood as more relevant to the integrative possibilities and culture of the times -- and to the strategic flexibility and forms of cognitive engagement for which they call. These three different "stages" are first described before subsequently exploring the necessarily unusual, counter-intuitive challenges to how they may be fruitfully understood as interrelated -- if UIA3 is to be of any significance.

A vital thread implicit in this story lies in the various understandings of the "existence" of collective "international" bodies, the ownership of their (intellectual) "property" in an increasingly open information society, and the claims that may "legitimately" be made on both by those who actively sustain them over decades. Such considerations are especially relevant in the transition over a century through the colonial era to one in which post-colonialist, participative values are upheld. The emergence of a Union of Imaginable Associations is therefore presented (in Annex 1) as a progressive reclaiming of a heritage of misappropriated collective endeavour.

Fundamentally, however, this exploration is not so much about a "UIA" but rather about how comprehension is organized integratively in response to collective challenges in the world -- and what can be learnt to that end from the challenges and evolution of a "UIA". In this sense the emergence of a Union of Imaginable Associations offers a template for a radical reconfiguration of how these opportunities may be dynamically encountered -- whether for the individual or for any collective initiative.

The intent here is not to explore any 3-fold ontology (or theology) of organizational "body", "soul" and "spirit" -- as distinguished in some management literature. Rather the focus here is on the nature of distinct vehicles for collective intent -- and of how a vehicle of one form may effectively be necessary in order to engender another of subtler form and of greater integrity and efficacy, better adapted to the challenges of the 21st century. Nor is the intent thereby to frame a potentially discriminatory scale of excellence through privileging a particular form. As is shown (in Annex 3), distinct stages may well be more fruitfully understood as interrelated as a cycle through which psychosocial engergy is generated -- such that the seemingly subtlest necessarily engages in the process of engendering the most concrete. Each stage may then be understood as a transitional vehicle through which insight and action are expressed in response to challenges and opportunity.

The exploration raises the question whether the stages of evolution of "UIA" over a century reflect the evolution of collective emphasis in the shift:

In this context, it is therefore appropriate to celebrate the centennial of the imaginative act, through which the Union of International Associations was first created, by another imaginative initiative appropriate to the 21st century and consistent with the original inspiration -- namely the instigation of a Union of Imaginable Associations.

Contrasting organizing principles: international, intelligible, imaginative

Table 0: Transition from international to imaginative
notions of
"global" and "order"
(multi-, transnational
via interrelationships across geo-political boundaries)
(intelligence, knowledge
via interdisciplinarity and multi-culturalism)
(creativity, innovation
via intuition and inspiration )
existence legally-defined bounded domains (sovereign nation states) cognitively-defined domains (accepted / authorized / approved / proven / traditional) potential / possibility of enactable domains (unproven and unauthorized)
significance pattern of agreed stable bonding across boundaries (international cross-boundary organization): charters, constitutions, edicts, directives, constraints cognitive coherence in terms of acceptable relationships between known patterns and accepted "ways of knowing" (interdisciplinarity) surprise / challenge of emergent patterns ( paradigm shift, innovation, "neologism")
geometry transnational organization / gated access procedures [centric] networks of relationship between disparate entities / dynamically-gated conceptual communities [poly-centric] recognition of (paradoxical) complementarity (it "fits", it "works") [a-centric]
communication static agreement between incommensurate dynamic method: compatibility ensured by protocols of continuous conversion (translation) transdisciplinary metaphors enabling communication through reframing ("transreference")
uniqueness unique message, doctrine, propaganda diversity, choice, alternatives ("zapping" ) happening, news, discovery
insight imposed interpretation of "pattern of dots" constrained emergent interpretation of "pattern of dots" (groupthink) innovative interpretation of "pattern of dots" (the "pattern that connects")
participation imposed submission acceptance (through persuasion and conversion) creative reassociation
conflict territorial conflict conflict ("clash") between disciplines, faiths, or cultures conflict between contrasting aesthetic styles and preferences ("hearts and minds")
operating style campaign, crusade, jihad, programme, project networking, network of excellence, think tank, incubator, media lab, research lab chaordic organization, open organizations, cultural creative communities, flocking/swarming dynamics
community style conventional community (rule-governed) intentional community (democratically governed) community of embodiment
cybernetic order first-order cybernetics second-order cybernetics third-order cybernetics (complex adaptive systems)
image? "bottin" (reductionist image of UIA) network-embedded person (cover of 1976 Encyclopedia) Mandelbrot set (cover of knowledge management presentation of UIA)
metaphors? solid liquid gas
"caterpillar", "millipede" "cocoon" "butterfly"

Note to the reader: This document is relatively long and complex, with many links -- all of which may be unwelcome. It is a metaphor of the theme it explores. In part it fulfils the function of a set of detailed notes to a longer study. As such it is designed as a set of headings and bullet points that may be quickly scanned to locate items of interest. An alternative is to skip directly to the concluding sections or to the conclusion itself.

Strategic context and organizing themes

This is an effort to weave together the implications of a variety of seemingly quite distinct themes and associated processes into a coherent transformative "story". The themes are:

It is easily argued that what is required at this time is a simple global solution whose implementation everyone accepts -- even if fear-driven or threat-based (Promoting a Singular Global Threat -- Terrorism: strategy of choice for world governance, 2002). Unfortunately many have such solutions and are typically hostile to those proposed by others. There is therefore a need to accept the complexity of the situation and the challenge it poses to understanding. As is argued metaphorically below, it is a potentially fatal mistake to assume naively that piloting a helicopter involves knowledge of only a few variables and a few controls. The strategic challenge is presumably considerably more complex. The question here is what can be learnt from the evolution of a "UIA" that may point to the kinds of learnings that are required for the world at large?

Evolution of knowledge management

There has recently been official recognition of the "failure of imagination" by the international community in relation both to "terrorism" (Failure of imagination to deal with an alternative logic, 2005) and to many other challenges calling for new thinking and a "paradigm shift" (cf Documents relating to Paradigm Change, Social Transformation). The question is whether there is a more fundamental failure of imagination in relation to the emergence of insight -- and its expression through forms appropriate to the challenges of the 21st century. The role of UIA1 has been widely acknowledged in articulating the organizational diversity of the emergent international system from 1907. But, given its own challenges and those of UIA2, these may perhaps now serve as a lens through which to look at the nature of the ills and inadequacies of international bodies in 2007.

What insights might this exploration offer into an emergent Union of Imaginable Associations ("UIA3") capable of embodying the essence of the emergent knowledge system required for the strategic challenges of the 21st century? In particular, how can the transformational challenge of a century-long investment in a "Union of International Associations" be used to explore the comparable challenges of other bodies?

What might then be signified by "union", "associations" and "imaginative" for the future? What is it that is progressively refined through such processes of staged organizational emergence as a result of collective learning? What insights or forms of understanding is society endeavouring to elicit as a basis for engendering structures and processes appropriate to the complex challenges it has evoked?

Do the stages of evolution of "UIA" over a century reflect the evolution of collective emphasis in the shift:

Or should it be an "inspiration space" fundamental to an "inspiration society" -- depending on how "inspiration" and "imagination" are together understood and experienced?

As a century-old laboratory experiment that has been an early innovator in the application of technical mutations of increasing significance to the times, such questions highlight the merit of exploring the challenges and transformations of a "UIA" in relation to the management of collective knowledge and insight. Understanding these processes may offer insights into the challenges of other bodies faced with the need to transform their operating paradigms and modes of operation -- or disappear.

Gregory Bateson (Mind and Nature: a necessary unity, 1979) made the point that:

"The pattern which connects is a meta-pattern. It is a pattern of patterns. It is that meta-pattern which defines the vast generalization that, indeed, it is patterns which connect.".

And it is from this perspective that he warns in a much-cited phrase: "Break the pattern which connects the items of learning and you necessarily destroy all quality." The cover of The (Updated) Last Whole Earth Catalog (1974) carried the phrase: "We can't put it together; it is together". But, combining these understandings, it is not a question of whether the connectivity is "there". Rather it is a question of whether it can be given the meaning necessary for it to be sufficiently comprehensible to carry the quality and coherence with which we wish to be experientially associated.

What then are the "associations" that form that pattern and through what form of "union" is the degree of integration to be appropriately comprehended -- as a focus for collective action? Are "imaginative" associations the most generic form -- entraining the highest degree of comprehension and the most appropriate forms of action?

Nature of an emergent Union of Imaginable Associations (UIA3) ?

The following reframing is a generalization first suggested elsewhere (Significance in a Name: Union of International Associations) with respect to UIA1 and subsequently explored in the initial presentation of a UIA2 (Union of Intelligible Associations: remembering dynamic identity through a dodecameral mind, 2005) at the World Academy of Art and Science.

"ASSOCIATIONS": In "getting it together" the following "associations" might be fruitfully considered as potentially relevant to the requisite emergent "union":

What characterizes such "associations" that is so vital to insightful responses to the challenge of the times?

The focus here is shifted to "imaginative" relationships and to how the dynamics of their emergence are sustained -- however such understanding then interfaces with any form of focused action. This of course raises the particular (memetic) challenge of how appropriate patterns of association are wisely recognized and comprehended in order to inform such action.

"IMAGINATIVE": Given the above "associations", the "imaginative" processes (or "inspirational" processes) might include some of those characteristics implied by models and metaphors such as the following:

The imaginative dimension may be illustrated by the real, idealized or romanticized processes in dialogue environments such as:

A particular challenge with what is labelled as "imaginative thinking" is that it is most readily recognized (and rewarded) in response to the more simplistic framings of a problem -- with no reference to constraints characteristic of a broader understanding, to more complex or intractable problems, or to their longer-term implications. What are the inspired imaginative processes appropriate to the challenge of the future?

More intriguing is the nature of the distinctions between conditions which are:

In a classic text, Henri Corbin (Mundus Imaginalis, or the Imaginary and the Imaginal, 1964) notably distinguishes the imaginal world where everything existing in the sensory world has its analogue, known in Sh'ite Islam as ‘alam a mithal, the "eighth climate", or in Persian as Na-kojd-Abad, the "land of No-where":

... if we usually speak of the imaginary as the unreal, the utopian, this must contain the symptom of something. In contrast to this something, we may examine briefly together the order of reality that I designate as mundus imaginalis, and what our theosophers in Islam designate as the "eighth climate"; we will then examine the organ that perceives this reality, namely, the imaginative consciousness, the cognitive Imagination.... What is the organ by means of which that migration occurs -- the migration that is the return ab extra ad intra (from the exterior to the interior), the topographical inversion (the intussusception)? It is neither the senses nor the faculties of the physical organism, nor is it the pure intellect, but it is that intermediate power whose function appears as the preeminent mediator: the active Imagination. Let us be very clear when we speak of this. It is the organ that permits the transmutation of internal spiritual states into external states, into vision-events symbolizing with those internal states. It is by means of this transmutation that all progression in spiritual space is accomplished, or, rather, this transmutation is itself what spatializes that space, what causes space, proximity, distance, and remoteness to be there. [comment]

These issues have been more recently explored by Ervin Laszlo (Stanislav Grof, Ervin Laszlo's Akashic Field and The Dilemmas of Modern Consciousness Research, World Futures: the journal of general evolution, 62, 1-2, 2006). Curiously these overlap with constructivist epistemology, notably as brought into focus by Paul Watzlawick (Invented Reality: How Do We Know What We Believe We Know? 1984) as fundamental to social constructivism.

That the imaginal dimension is dramatically relevant to contemporary preoccupations is variously illustrated by:

As a "strange attractor", the imaginal is a core organizing focus in a complex world (Human Values as Strange Attractors: coevolution of classes of governance principles, 1993). Curiously, so-called imaginary numbers are vital to the exploration of the boundary between chaos and order by the complexity sciences (Psycho-social Significance of the Mandelbrot Set a sustainable boundary between chaos and order, 2005)

Imagination is a vital quality sought and cultivated, notably by politicians, in envisaging viable future possibilities -- beyond the tired formulas of "business as usual" and "more of the same".

"UNION": Initially this may be seen as having been characterized by the intimate early relations that "UIA1" (through a "UIA0"?) had to the origins of the international classification sciences, especially through its close association (through Paul Otlet) with the International Institute of Bibliography (cf W Boyd Rayward, The Origins of Information Science and the International Institute of Bibliography / International Federation for Information and Documentation (FID), 1997). In the development of the Universal Decimal Classification (UDC), it is understandable that the "universal classification" of knowledge was a fundamental dimension of the early understanding of "union" -- employed by UIA1 through to the 1960s. [NB: The argument which follows has been generalized in Dynamic Reframing of "Union": implications for the coherence of knowledge, social organization and personal identity (2007)].

Breaking away from the UDC, this understanding was further developed within UIA1 in the light of the following:

Other approaches to a more generic understanding of "union", as explored through UIA2, under the notional auspices of UIA1, have included:

Such "union" necessarily evokes, or is dependent upon, other attributes:

Historical origins: Stage 0?

Potentially relevant to this exploration, but only considered in passing here, is the emergence of the Union of International Associations (UIA1) in association with the highly ambitious Mundaneum, founded in the same period on the initiative of Paul Otlet (1868-1944) and Henri La Fontaine (1854-1943) -- and within which the documentary activities of UIA1 were set (despite the termination of its support by the Belgian government in 1934). The final separation only occurred when UIA1 was reconstituted by Georges Patrick Speeckaert after 1948, following the chaos of World War II during which efforts were made by the Nazi regime to take it over (W. Boyd Rayward, The Universe of Information: the work of Paul Otlet for documentation and international organization, 1975).

The reconstituted Mundaneum now describes itself as the "paper internet", notably in the light of recognition by historians of the role of Otlet as a precursor visionary of hypertext and the internet (W. Boyd Rayward, Visions of Xanadu: Paul Otlet (1868-1944) and Hypertext, 1994; Anticipating the Digital World: Paul Otlet and his paper internet, 2002).

For the purpose of this exploration, given the predominant ("parental") role of the Mundaneum, the period up to 1948 is considered a process of gestation and incubation for UIA1 -- perhaps to be distinguished as UIA0.

Also potentially relevant to a story of larger scope is an "elder sister" organization, previously created in Brussels in 1895 as the International Institute of Bibliography (IIB) by those responsible for UIA1. This body went through a number of changes of name that reflect changes of conceptualisation both of the field in which it operates and the way in which it should operate in this field. In 1931 it became the International Institute for Documentation (IID); in 1937 it became the International Federation for Documentation (FID); and in 1988 it became the International Federation for Information and Documentation (cf W. Boyd Rayward, International Federation for Information and Documentation, 1994). It declined into dormancy in 1998, just after its centenary -- for reasons, and through a process, which are poorly understood. Although it currently exists legally, metaphorically it might be described as being in a catatonic vegetable state. As a close "relative", and given its preoccupations, this is a striking lesson for UIA1 -- especially as it might be said to have ceased any operational relations with FID from the inception of UIA2 (1972) and with the abandonment of the UDC as a classification system by UIA1.

Three-stage emergence? (Annex 1)

In Annex 1, Table 1 endeavours to portray the relationship between the various stages. It presents each subsequent phase as being conceived and effectively initiated during the course of the previous stage that thus provides a supportive framework within which it was configured. Typically there is a degree of rupture on the actual emergence of the new stage. It is in this sense that an initial Stage 0 (UIA0) is presented in the table, since until 1948 UIA1 was effectively embedded within the Mundaneum, possibly to be understood metaphorically as a "womb". The files of UIA1 were literally then extracted from the archives of the Mundaneum (to the latter's considerable dismay) in what might, in that metaphor, be termed a caesarean birth. As discussed below, it is a matter of reflection as to whether the emergent Stage 3 form, painfully "birthed" from Stage 2, will represent the mature form of a "UIA" that will in its turn "plant an egg", be the "womb" for such an "egg", or be an "egg" itself.

Thereafter the focus in Annex 1 is on the following themes:

Progressive dematerialization and virtualization of vehicle identity (Table 2)
Associated disintegrative processes (Table 3)
Reclaiming the heritage of misappropriated collective endeavour (Table 4)
Comprehending the transformative challenge of "stages" and their relationship
Metaphors of stage separation and emergence
Distinguishing stages in the light of potential (mis)understanding (Table 5)
Conclusion (Table 6)

Of particular interest is how, from within the processes of any stage, the relationship to any previous or subsequent stage may be framed or reframed -- "negatively" or "positively" (as discussed in Annex 3). The situation might even be compared to the psychosocial processes of the colonised, or the enslaved, seeking to "reclaim their heritage". This is an issue for many nonprofit organizations where the altruistic aims by which employees are attracted to work enthusiastically are exploited by their executive bodies, notably through sub-economic salaries justified by various forms of moral blackmail -- potentially comparable to the traditional practices of absentee landlords. As retirees on generous pensions, the latter may typically be seen as memorials to problems and inspirations of the past -- frequently ethically "challenged", to say the least -- whose prime expertise lies in bringing a great deal of goodwill to the daily challenge of avoiding any meaningful strategic decisions (The Art of Non-Decision-Making, 1997).

Reframing the institutional past, and revisioning its future, is therefore tantamount to a "political act" by former "wage slaves" -- to be justified in ways comparable to those of various movements of conscientization and liberation. It could thus be argued that within every strategically inadequate organization there is a more adequate one "trying to get out" -- whether in the case of a "UIA" or a "United Nations" (with its decades of vain efforts at "reform"). The "violent" post-war separation of UIA1 from an ailing Mundaneum-UIA0 could be seen in such terms.

As with the challenge of indigenous peoples, subject to the appropriation of the land with which their identity has long been associated, the "legal" claim by distant "statutory authorities" to the exploitation and disposal of such "valuable" "property" (in the name of "values" upheld only in name) merits careful examination. Such inherently divisive and simplistic understanding of "property" reflects a mindset and language that is not "fit for purpose" in the turbulent environment of the 21st century. People have a right to reclaim their heritage in its rich diversity -- which they were persuaded by specious argument to give up for "glass beads" or a "mess of potage". How do they reclaim the form with which their values, identity and inspiration are associated? (cf In Quest of Radical Coherence, 1994)

It is appropriate to recognize the statutory facade that is maintained by bodies like UIA1 in order to sustain and justify the pattern of exploitation and the strategic inadequacy to the challenges of the times. Metaphorically changes to the facade, in the name of "reform", may be interpreted in the light of the classic tale of the Emperor's New Clothes. More intriguing, in seeking to understand the relationship between transformative stages, is the philosophical concept of the "ghost in the machine" as developed by Arthur Koestler (The Ghost in the Machine, 1967) -- whereby later developments to the human brain build upon more primitive forms which can overpower higher logical functions. However in the case of organizations:

This "ghost of times to come" then corresponds to an understanding of entelechy -- the possibilities encoded within (cf Entelechy: actuality vs future potential, 2001). As with the strategic intentionality of those associated with UIA2, this is an inherent regulating and directing force in the development and functioning of an organism, the actualization of form-giving cause as contrasted with potential existence (with which future orientation is strongly associated). For Deirdre Lovecky (Warts and Rainbows: issues in the psychotherapy of the gifted, Advanced Development: a journal on adult giftedness, Jan., 1990):

Derived from the Greek word for having a goal, entelechy is a particular type of motivation, need for self-determination, and an inner strength and vital force directing life and growth to become all one is capable of being. Gifted people with entelechy are often attractive to others who feel drawn to their openness and to their dreams and visions. Being near someone with this trait gives others hope and determination to achieve their own self-actualization.

Detailed description of stages (exemplifying challenges in other organizations) (Annex 2)

Detailed description of stages (exemplifying challenges in other organizations)
   -- Stage 1: Union of International Associations (UIA1): Contextual challenges | Internal challenges
   -- Stage 2: Union of Intelligible Associations (UIA2): Contextual challenges | Internal challenges
   -- Stage 3: Union of Imaginable Associations (UIA3): Contextual challenges | Internal challenges
Comprehension of stage separation (decoupling / detachment) in transformation processes

Psychosocial energy from polarization within a cyclic pattern of enantiodromia (Annex 3)

In seeking ways to sustain UIA3, and to ensure that it thrives, Annex 3 is an exploration of the possibility of designing (or recognizing) new types of psychosocial energy system dependent on the skillful interweaving of "positive" and "negative" energy. This would reflect the pattern of development of energy systems exploited by the industrial revolution -- offering the possibility of "generating" psychosocial energy. The exploration is based on interrelating metaphorically the patterns associated with the Van der Graaf generator, the Möbius strip, the thermodynamic work cycle, the process of enantiodromia, and the dynamics implicit in the BaGua symbol. The design process here involves the juxtaposition or superposition of patterns variously indicated through metaphor -- thereby used as design elements to explicate the whole.

This clarifies how successive stages in the evolution of an organization involve the framing of previous stages as "negative" and future stages as "positive" in order to ensure appropriate separation and emergence of the subsequent stage -- as with the distinction between the century-old Union of International Associations (UIA1), an implicit Union of Intelligible Associations (UIA2) and an emergent Union of Imaginable Associations (UIA3).

The argument within Annex 3 is ordered as follows:

Implications of the cybernetics of cybernetics
Psychosocial energy through a metaphorical technology
Schematic Denkmodel (Table 1)
Epistemological domains
Global vs Local (in Table 1) | Positive vs Negative (in Table 1) | Relationships (within Table 1)
Beyond the plane of Möbius: form and medium in terms of the calculus of indications
Visualization: quadrant systems / Möbius strips / Klein bottles
"Sphering the Circle" (from 2D to 3D): a Klein-bottle relationship "belt drive"?
Enantiodromia: cycling through the "cognitive twist"
Psychosocial work cycle / heat engine
Psychosocial power and its generation

Emergent higher-order symbol as a cognitive/existential "keystone"

Integrative tools: As noted earlier, it has become relatively clear that the disciplines individually, or variously clustered and integrated according to currently favoured interdisciplinary methodologies (including the systems sciences and complexity sciences), have not proven capable of furnishing integrative approaches of requisite power and credibility for the challenges of the times. This is apparent both with regard to mega-problems (eg environmental degradation, regional conflict) and to seemingly simple problems (eg marginalized social groups, delivery of health care).

Such failure opens the door to the dubious abuses of faith-based reality and justifies the ambiguously quixotic title of the dropping knowledge initiative (cf Enabling a Living Library: reconciling "free voices" and "intellectual propriety", 2006). The capacity to get collective intelligence to work, to manage knowledge intelligently and fruitfully, to augment intellect and to elicit wisdom, is unfortunately inadequate to the challenges in the daily news headlines.

Those reflecting on the significance of the World Wide Web, and its possible future variants (Web 2.0, Semantic Web, etc), have waxed enthusiastic regarding its significance for humanity -- even associating it closely with the emergence of "planetary consciousness" (cf Ervin Laszlo, Planetary Consciousness: our next evolutionary step, Cybernetics and Human Knowing, 1997; The Imaginal within the Cosmos: the noosphere and cyberspace). This echoes Paul Otlet's reflections on such potential, although he saw a degree of integration of knowledge being achieved through use of the Universal Decimal Classification.

Missing from reflections on the future of the web is any sense of how knowledge is fruitfully to be integrated and how it is to facilitate integrative reflection -- rather than reinforce tendencies to tunnel vision (facilitated by "drill down" search engines) and groupthink as a characteristic consequence of fragmented disciplines and information overload. The challenge can only increase through current initiatives to digitise all books. With regard to cognitive engagement with integrative knowledge -- recognizing that the web as currently envisaged may not be the nec plus ultra of knowledge management achievements for all time -- there is a case for reflecting on what might prove to be a central feature of an emergent UIA3. In addition to those discussed in Annex 3, some reflections to that end include:

In the current situation the following integrative tools might be said to be of relevance beyond the framework of particular disciplines and ways of knowing:

Psychoactive integration: Such cognitive tools raise the question of how they are interrelated (cf Patterns of Conceptual Integration, 1984). Additionally there is the key question of how identification with them is "activated" -- how they become "psychoactive" and to what degree. James Lawley (When Where Matters: How psychoactive space is created and utilised, The Model Magazine, January 2006) clarifies this non-drug use of the term as follows:

Once a space becomes psychoactive for a person they are effectively 'living in their metaphor'. Then, when something changes in that perceptual space (often spontaneously), more of their mind-body is involved. This usually produces a more embodied and systemic change than just 'talking about' changing.... Psychoactivity is a particular kind of relationship between a person, their body, what they perceive and the context of that perception. Psychoactivity occurs when a person's thoughts, emotions and body sensations take on symbolic significance in response to what they are perceiving....Space becomes psychoactive once a person's mind-body starts to react symbolically to their physical surroundings and/or to their imaginative mind-space.

Often activation may be achieved through traumatic events with which they are associated -- as with regimental flags stained with blood from "battlefields of honour". The current significance of such intangibles is evident in the recognition of the critical importance of the "battle for hearts and minds" where previously it had been assumed that hardware and "spin" were sufficient (cf Missiles, Missives, Missions and Memetic Warfare: navigation of strategic interfaces in multidimensional knowledge space, 2001)

There is however another process which has become more accessible (and credible) to conventional thinking. That is the cognitive fusion through which complex sets of information -- presented through symbols -- are integrated in operational conditions (cf G. Jakobson, L. Lewis and J. Buford, An Approach to Integrated Cognitive Fusion, 2004). Studies of this phenomenon focus on the challenge for fighter pilots in navigating in three-dimensional space -- recalling the helicopter inspiration of Arthur Young (Geometry of Meaning, 1978) discussed in Annex 3.

The question is where one might look for a fruitful interplay of psychoactive symbols with cognitive fusion. One possible response is in the mandalas carefully elaborated for meditation purposes in (Tibetan) Buddhism -- and the subject of extensive study by Carl Gustav Jung (Mandala Symbolism, 1973). The possibility has been explored in relation to a new kind of "reactor" (cf Enactivating a Cognitive Fusion Reactor: imaginal transformation of energy resourcing and notably an annex: Cognitive Fusion through Myth and Symbol Making). A western variant is the Basque lauburu. That these matters are non-trivial is indicated by the past challenge of the swastika and the possibility of future collective challenges of that kind in an age of "spin".

Knowledge organization: Given the concerns and processes of UIA3, what might they encompass (and how) in relating such symbolic foci to other potentially significant organizations of knowledge? Useful possibilities for consideration include:

Symbolic form: As a potentially ideal symbol, large-scale static depictions of the spherical Earth fail however to honour adequately the cognitive challenge of the many belief systems and ways of knowing. It is, for example, an irony that the necessarily simple, static logo of the United Nations features the laurel crown of leaves given dubious prominence by Imperial Rome. More tragic is the inability to elicit a cognitive "surface" to hold together the mindsets and identities of the conflicting parties in the Middle East -- of which the ridiculous Christian territoriality in the Holy Sepulchre, with its Islamic guardian in a Jewish context, is perhaps the most tragic (cf And When the Bombing Stops? Territorial conflict as a challenge to mathematicians, 2000; Reframing Relationships as a Mathematical Challenge: Jerusalem a Parody of Current Inter-Faith Dialogue, 1997). By comparison, as noted above, the global ocean conveyor is effectively a richer dynamic symbol, central to an endangered planetary dynamic, but indicative of the requisite degree of complexity to reconcile contrasting worldviews and belief systems -- currently endangering the coherence of planetary psychodynamics.

Despite their current importance to faith-based governance and their etymological association with the dynamic process of linking and connecting, it is curious that religions are indeed framed as "worldviews" and "perspectives" (Guidelines for Critical Dialogue between Worldviews , 2006). This implies an essentially static function -- perhaps as a viewing lens on divinity. As such they effectively exclude the dynamics of dialogue with any Other, notably other religions. They can only "clash". As belief "systems", they are closed to each other -- being asystemic in any larger sense. As currently understood, they have no effective commitment to the "pattern that connects" in Bateson's terms. Water, however, and notably the sea, is indeed a valued traditional spiritual symbol worldwide. In the light of the dynamic of the global ocean conveyor as a model, with its many phases and three-dimensional "twists" around the globe (consequent upon positive and negative changes in temperature, density or salinity), a "fluid" understanding of religion could only be articulated in terms of the continuous dynamic between the various modes of engaging in spirituality. This is the qualitative essence of the "pattern that connects". (cf Edward de Bono, I Am Right-You Are Wrong: from Rock Logic to Water Logic, 1992)

The symbolic form able to constitute a "union" of "imaginable associations" would presumably have characteristics such as:

The discussion of the BaGua in Annex 3 is significant as an example of a psychoactive integrative symbol functioning as a form of Rosetta Stone and providing an interface between "external" and "internal" environments. Should its elaboration in the set of hexagrams of the I Ching be understood as a schematic of the dynamics of a Union of Imaginable Associations (Relationship between Hexagrams of the Chinese I Ching, 1983) ? Could "infinite games" be understood in this light (James Carse, Finite and Infinite Games: a vision of life as play and possibility, 1986) ?

Dependence on metaphor: The "imaginable associations" of such conceptual tools provide a sense of the "union" constituting the vehicle that is the "Union of Imaginable Associations" (UIA3). It is through an appropriately comprehensible configuration that the potential of collective cognitive fusion then becomes apparent -- beyond the preoccupation with "augmenting human intellect", whether individually or collectively. The imaginative nature of this fusion process is significantly dependent on metaphor (cf Metaphors as Transdisciplinary Vehicles of the Future, 1991) especially within any strategic governance processes (cf Documents relating to Metaphor for Governance)

As stressed by Gregory Bateson in concluding a conference on the effects of conscious purpose on human adaptation: "We are our own metaphor"  (Mary Catherine Bateson, Our Own Metaphor, 1972). In this respect the insight of Kenneth Boulding (The Image: knowledge in life and society, 1956), as an early contributor to general systems thinking, is relevant:

"Our consciousness of the unity of the self in the middle of a vast complexity of images or material structures is at least a suitable metaphor for the unity of a group, organization, department, discipline, or science. If personification is only a metaphor, let us not despise metaphors  - we might be one ourselves." (Ecodynamics: a new theory of societal evolution, 1978 p. 345)

How might this be understood with respect to the identity of a "Union of Imaginable Associations"? Possibilities are intimated in:

But the challenge is how and why any "union" is dynamically understood as a process that activates insights -- as indicated by authors such as George Lakoff and Mark Johnson (Philosophy in the Flesh : the embodied mind and its challenge to Western thought, 1999 ) or Francisco Varela (Laying Down a Path in Walking: cognition from an enactive viewpoint).

Operational implications

Enactive embodiment: Significantly consistent with the intimations of Paul Otlet (Monde: essai d’universalisme: connaissance du monde, sentiment du monde, action organisée et plan du monde, 1935), UIA3 may be understood as subsuming the category focus of UIA2 and UIA1. It is consistent with the implied sentiments of the title of the widely appreciated song We are the World (1985), possibly to be articulated as:

Such insights may prove to be a key to the mindset required to engender remedial transformation of the world. The conventional attitude reinforces an instrumental approach to the exploitation of a separate world -- a form of institutionalized non-responsibility for a world that is somebody else's property -- "not mine". This is to be contrasted with an attitude through which the experienced phenomena of the "external" world are significantly to be understood as a "magical" mirror of the processes through which one "imagines" one's own identity and integrity -- with a degree of responsibility for actively seeing things whole.

Classic Zen tale illustrative of the challenge of engaging with the environment
through oneself in order to remedy imbalance
A rainmaker is invited to come to a rural village, to bring rain -- for the village is experiencing drought. The rainmaker requests a cottage far from the village, and asks not to be disturbed. Three days later, rain and snow fall on the village. The rainmaker explains that he did not bring the rain. As he had felt immediately infected by the imbalance of the village people upon arrival, he took refuge to balance himself -- naturally balancing the outside world through that process -- and it rained.

Such considerations reconnect with the traditional insights of indigenous communities through which the surrounding world is the encoding or embedding of a knowledge map (cf Darrell A. Posey, Cultural and Spiritual Values of Biodiversity, 1999; David Abram, The Spell of the Sensuous: perception and language in a more-than-human world, 1997; Jeremy Narby, The Cosmic Serpent : DNA and the Origins of Knowledge, 1999). This is associated with a process of land nám, coined by Ananda Coomaraswamy (The Rg Veda as Land-Nama Book, 1935), to refer the Icelandic tradition of claiming ownership of uninhabited spaces through weaving together a metaphor of geography of place into a unique mythic story. This territorial appropriation process, notably practiced by the Navaho and the Vedic Aryans was further described by Joseph Campbell (The Inner Reaches of Outer Space: metaphor as myth and religion, 1986):

Land nám ("land claiming or taking") was [the Norse] technical term for this way of sanctifying a region, converting it thereby into an at once psychologically and metaphysical Holy Land.... Land nám, mythologization, has been the universally practiced method to bring this intelligible kingdom to view in the mind's eye. The Promised Land, therefore, is any landscape recognized as mythologically transparent, and the method of acquisition of such territory is not by prosaic physical action, but poetically, by intelligence and the method of art; so that the human being should be dwelling in the two worlds simultaneously of the illuminated moon and the illuminating sun. (p. 34)

As Campbell notes, this is a variant of the archetype of a "promised land", namely "a spiritual region, or condition of mind, wherein phenomenal forms are recognized as revelatory of transcendence". Such a worldview justifies recognition of "songlines" and associated processes of "singing the land" in order to sustain it, as with Australian Aborigines. Curiously geographical renaming by colonial and post-colonial regimes may be understood as "appropriative naming" towards such an end -- for the colonizers. Similarly, however inadvertently, scientific naming may seek to appropriate, in support of a particular worldview, the phenomena characterizing a coherent indigenous knowledge system. The most dubious abuse of such appropriative naming is highlighted by the case of the indigenous tribes of North America (Cornel Pewewardy, Renaming Ourselves On Our Own Terms: race, tribal nations, and representation in education, Indigenous Nations Studies Journal, 1, 1, Spring 2000) or, more generally, by prohibition of indigenous languages as psychoactive templates of cultural identity.

Especially intriguing at this time is the possibility that virtual environments, whether imaginable "vehicles" like UIA3, or "real estate" in Second Life (Virtually Real Estate, Financial Times, 3 March 2007) may be susceptible to being rendered psychoactive in a similar manner (Sacralization of Hyperlink Geometry, 1997). How then might it be appropriate -- if it is -- to distinguish between engaging in such a process "seriously and for real" as opposed to "playfully"? (Humour and Play-Fullness: essential integrative processes in governance, religion and transdisciplinarity, 2005; Playfully Changing the Prevailing Climate of Opinion Climate change as focal metaphor of effective global governance, 2005).

"Craziness": In pointing towards the relevance of "wisdom" (Global Strategic Implications of the Unsaid: from myth-making towards a wisdom society, 2003; The Isdom of the Wisdom Society: embodying time as the heartland of humanity, 2003), UIA3 may for some be characterized by what has been termed "crazy wisdom" -- intentionally transgressive acts, in thought if not in actual practice. Humour may be used precisely for this reason to elicit new levels of insight -- exemplified by the tragi-comic Sufi tales of the Mullah Nasruddin [more], the "crazy wisdom" and "spiritual foolishness" promoted by Taoists such as Chuang Tzu as paradoxical "ways of knowing", or the deadly paradoxes and savage black humour of Tukaram (Recognized Role of Humour: in politics, leadership, religion and creativity, 2005).

In this light -- given the call for radically new approaches in response to the challenges of the times (and their urgency) -- there is every possibility that the imaginative craziness required is of a different order than that conventionally envisaged by international institutions and their supporting "think tanks" (Meta-challenges of the Future: for networking through think-tanks, 2005; "Tank-thoughts" from "Think-tanks" metaphors constraining development of global governance, 2003). Such a point was well made in the much-quoted statement by physicist Niels Bohr in response to Wolfgang Pauli:

"We are all agreed that your theory is crazy. The question which divides us is whether it is crazy enough to have a chance of being correct. My own feeling is that it is not crazy enough." To that Freeman Dyson added: "When a great innovation appears, it will almost certainly be in a muddled, incomplete and confusing form. To the discoverer, himself, it will be only half understood; to everyone else, it will be a mystery. For any speculation which does not at first glance look crazy, there is no hope!" (Innovation in Physics, Scientific American, 199, 3, September 1958)

If the challenges of a world "gone crazy" are more complex than those faced by physicists, with what "craziness" is the "union" of what "associations" to be imagined -- and engaged in?

Indicative examples of 2nd and 3rd order environments

It would be useful to articulate the ways in which a range of existing psychosocial experiements reflect the contrasts made above between the mindsets (or mindscapes) of UIA1, UIA2 and UIA3 or in some way fail in their intentions. Approaches to detecting the exemplification of higher order, self-reflexive contexts -- "centres of embodiment" as opposed to "centres of excellence" -- might include:

In each case the challenge is to distinguish claims for those environments to a higher order condition from the actuality thereof. It is also the case that any such claims might well be an indication of the aspiration to some such condition when it has not indeed been successfully embodied in practice.

Of particular relevance for the immediate future is the facility with which such environments may be created virtually. Perhaps a Third Life rather than a Second Life (Bryan Alexander, Towards Third Life, 20 February 2007)?


This exploration highlights the emergence of a Union of Imaginable Associations (UIA3) engaged with the present and its future challenges -- rather than seeking to sustain a capacity to serve and reinforce the mindsets of the past and the problems they engender (as would seem to be the destiny of UIA1 and UIA2 if they survive) .

As noted, it is easily argued that what is required at this time is a simple global solution whose implementation everyone accepts and comprehends. Unfortunately many have such solutions and are typically indifferent or hostile to those proposed by others. There is therefore a need to accept the complexity of the situation and the challenge it poses to understanding.

This challenge to governance was clarified in terms of a generalization by Arthur Young of the many variables to be taken into account in piloting a helicopter (as discussed in Annex 1). It is consistent with the explorations of other cultures (Navigating Alternative Conceptual Realities: clues to the dynamics of enacting new paradigms through movement, 2002) and with challenges of knowledge organization (Envisaging the Art of Navigating Conceptual Complexity in search of software combining artistic and conceptual insights. Knowledge Organization, 1995).

In a further development of his thinking, Arthur Young speculated in 1947 on the possibility of a "psychopter... the winged self. It is that which the helicopter usurped -- and what the helicopter was finally revealed not to be." As a vehicle operating on the boundary between order and chaos, the helicopter prefigures the challenges of chaordic organization explored by the founder of VISA International (Dee Hock , Birth of the Chaordic Age, 1999) through the Chaordic Alliance. Within such a challenging design context, vehicles like UIA3 might be understood as examples of an "orgopter" -- responding to the self-reflexive dynamics of complex adaptive systems (or third order cybernetics).

The Union of Imaginable Associations provides a context for further investigation into the questions raised by the staged story above, notably:

The much-quoted verse of T S Eliot gives a sense of the latter.

“We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know it for the first time.”
T S Eliot, Little Gidding, 1942


[NB Other references in Annex 3]

Joseph Campbell. The Inner Reaches of Outer Space: metaphor as myth and as religion. New World Library, 1986/2002 [review]

James P Carse. Finite and Infinite Games: a vision of life as play and possibility. Random House, 1986

Ananda Coomaraswamy. The Rg Veda as Land-Nama Book. London, Luzak, 1935

Edward de Bono, I Am Right-You Are Wrong: from Rock Logic to Water Logic. Penguin, 1992

K. Edwards. The Integral Cycle of Knowledge: Some Thoughts on Integrating Ken Wilber's Developmental and Epistemological Models, p 2. Frank Visser's Ken Wilber website: http://www.integralworld.net ***

R Buckminster Fuller. Synergetics; explorations in the geometry of thinking. New York, Macmillan, 1975 (vol. 1), 1979

Shirley Hazzard. Defeat of an Ideal: a study of the self-destruction of the United Nations, Macmillan, London, 1973

Francis Heylighen and C Joslyn. Cybernetics and Second Order Cybernetics. In: R.A. Meyers (ed.), Encyclopedia of Physical Science & Technology, Vol. 4, 2001, p. 155-170. [text]

Anthony Judge:

Françoise Levie:

Jeremy Narby. The Cosmic Serpent : DNA and the Origins of Knowledge. New York, Jeremy P. Tarcher/Putnam, 1999

Paul Otlet:

W Boyd Rayward:

Manfred Saynisch. Beyond Frontiers of Traditional Project Management: the concept of “Project Management Second Order (PM-2)” as an approach of evolutionary management. World Futures: the journal of general evolution, 61, 8, December 2005, pp 555 - 590 [text]

Richard A. Slaughter. Knowledge Creation, Futures Methodologies and the Integral Agenda. Foresight, 3, 5, Oct 2001, pp 407-418 [text]

Union of International Associations:

Paul Watzlawick (Ed). Invented Reality: How Do We Know What We Believe We Know? W W Norton & Co Inc, 1984

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