Strange Attractors, Enantiodromia and the Karmic Law
If you followed the unfolding commentary on the previous post, this one won’t add much to what is already discussed there. The extended discussion followed from Dwig’s reference to C.S. Holling’s “adaptive cycle” and the question whether the adaptive cycle says something pertinent and true about the flux of energy and evolution, and also whether it might reveal what Gebser refers to as the “implicit pattern” in the evolutionary dynamic. After mulling it over for a few days, I don’t think the adaptive cycle and Rosenstock’s “cross of reality” (both contenders for that “implicit pattern”) are actually that far apart.
But, let’s address Holling’s adaptive cycle on its own merits and see what it can reveal about the energetic flux or even for illuminating the ever enigmatic William Blake.
Here’s Holling’s representation of the adaptive cycle, and as you can see it also presents a fourfold model of dynamics.
The first thing to note about the adaptive cycle is that it is an application of a Lorenz Attractor or “Strange Attractor” that is a basic illustration of the “Butterfly Effect” and an essential component of Chaos Theory (thermodynamics or the energetic flux). The similarities are obvious
The pathways taken by an energy entity in the strange attractor correspond to the “nested hierarchies” of adaptive cycles Holling refers to in his description of the adaptive cycle. The phrase “Butterfly Effect” largely takes its name from the peculiar “butterfly” shape of the attractor itself. The attractor is a picture of the saying “big things come in small packages” (or small initial conditions can have very large and unpredictable outcomes or nonlinear effects).
What the Adaptive Cycle (as Strange Attractor) first brought to my mind was that it was a picture of enantiodromia, or reversal at the extremity. That’s beautifully represented in the Strange Attractor and in the Adaptive Cycle. There is a limit to the centrifugal force and a limit to centripetal force, and one is continuously metamorphing into the other. As such, the Strange Attractor can also be considered as an image of coincidentia oppositorum.
“Enantiodromia” — or what we also call “reversal of fortune”, “perverse outcome”, “revenge effect” or “ironic reversal” and so on — wasn’t a word available to William Blake (it was coined by Carl Jung in homage to Heraclitus) but the principle is always referenced in Blake’s mythology (“Excess of sorrow laughs. Excess of joy weeps”). Blake insisted that there was a “Limit to Expansion” (centrifugal force) and a “Limit to Contraction” (centripetal force) and these two limits he called “Mercy”. Blake calls it a Mercy because without these limits and reversals, form would dissolve completely into the Void (meaninglessness). In other words, precisely what we call “Nemesis” is what Blake calls, instead, “Mercy”. Nemesis and Mercy form a paradox, another “coincidentia oppositorum“.
If the Strange Attractor is, then, an image of enantiodromia and coincidentia oppositorum, then it must also be a representation of the karmic law of action and reaction, the laws of dynamics and of the energetic flux. And if that holds, then McGilchrist’s description of the “divided brain” in The Master and his Emissary could also be seen as the description of a Strange Attractor, or that neurodynamics also forms a Strange Attractor. So, in that sense, too, Holling’s “adaptive cycle” must also say something about the interactions of the divided brain.
It’s possible to consider Blake’s “fourfold vision” (and his diagramme of that) as forming a Strange Attractor as well,
And that raises the obvious question of whether Holling’s four stages of the adaptive cycle might have some connection with Blake’s four Zoas, too, and who furthermore live “in the Human Brain” — a rather remarkable insight for a man not lettered in neuroanatomy.
If that is so, the error of dialectics and of dualism too will be seen immediately. It is one and the same energy but in two or more different states. In that sense, it is fine to think of dialectics as reciprocity of contraries (polarities) but not in the sense of oppositions or negations (as Blake says).
Does Holling’s adaptive cycle, as a Strange Attractor itself, say something true about the energetic flux and the implicit pattern of evolution? It probably does. It is, at least, very suggestive for connecting those things that may have previously been seen to have no connection or no “betweenness” as such.
And I’m sure there are even more secrets of the energetic flux for which the Strange Attractor can suggest new interpretations.