A Four-Term Logic: Holling Adaptive Cycle, Cross of Reality, and Sacred Hoop
Since there seems to be some great confusion and misunderstanding of the purposes and meanings of The Chrysalis, which is primarily about the ongoing and rather turbulent shift from the cosmic number 3 to the cosmic number 4 — or from a reality construed in three dimensions to a reality construed in four dimensions along with the corresponding restructuration of consciousness that is implied in this — I’m going to reach back into The Chrysalis archives and raise once again the key issues in the transition or metamorphosis — the emergence of the quadrilateral or fourfold as it is represented in the Holling Adaptive Cycle, Rosenstock-Huessy’s “cross of reality”, the native North American “Sacred Hoop”, and on to what William Blake also means by his “four Zoas” and “fourfold vision”.
The turn to a four-term logic to replace the already antiquated three-term, dialectical logic of the Newtonian-Cartesian worldview — which has entered into its manifest “deficient mode” as cultural philosopher Jean Gebser describes it — has become a pressing necessity, but also arises in the face of resistance from conservative forces manifestly nostalgic for the psychological securities, predictabilities, familiarities, and certainties of the Old Order or ancien regime.
In his book Quantum Revelation, Paul Levy also addresses the deficiencies of an “either/or” type logic and this need for a “four-valued” or four-term logic, which I will quote at some length as a way of also re-introducing previous discussions of the fourfold and transition to the fourfold as also illustrated in the quadrilateral logics of Holling, Rosenstock-Huessy, and the indigenous Sacred Hoop.
Instead of needing one or the other viewpoint to be true, in a radically new form of logic—called “four-valued logic” in Buddhism (also known as “paralogic”)—we can hold seemingly contradictory statements together as both being true simultaneously. This higher form of logic is be able to hold paradox in a new way; we can cultivate our ability to appreciate—rather than solve so as to get rid of—“fruitful ambiguities,” which opens up all kinds of new possibilities. The apparent paradoxical nature of quantum reality cannot be resolved within the framework of the standard Aristotelian, two-valued logic which is basic to Western analytical thought. Western civilization has been hypnotized by this limited form of “yes/no” logic where things are either true or false, exist or don’t exist. Aristotelian logic deals with certainties, thereby subliminally programming us to invent fictitious certainties in a world that is riddled with uncertainty.
Many of the seeming paradoxes of quantum physics are themselves a direct function or artifact of the intrinsic limitations built into the nature of a mutually exclusive, binary, two-valued logic. Having a definite utility, two-valued logic works by contrast, giving attributes to things and making distinctions, thereby limiting them. Something is “this” only by defining it as not “that.” Our very language itself, in categorizing things and ideas, conditions us into a dualistic, two-valued, logical way of thinking. The axiomatic set through which we view the world and its logic conditions and shapes our minds and thus affects the state of consciousness we inhabit. To get insight into the non-ordinary reality of the quantum world, we have to introduce a higher form of logic in order to wrap our minds around what we are dealing with. Interestingly, logic has been described as the science of thinking correctly.
Instead of needing one or the other viewpoint to be true, in a radically new form of logic219—called “four-valued logic” in Buddhism (also known as “paralogic”)—we can hold seemingly contradictory statements together as both being true simultaneously. This higher form of logic is characterized not by the two-valued logic of either/or, but by the four-valued logic of both/and, where things can be true and false at the same time. Two-valued logic is based on the law of the excluded middle in which things are either (1) true or (2) false. By contrast, four-valued logic includes the middle and the ends surrounding it, so that things are (1) true, (2) false, (3) both true and false, and/or (4) neither true nor false.
Levy, Paul. Quantum Revelation: A Radical Synthesis of Science and Spirituality (pp. 57 – 58). SelectBooks, Inc.. Kindle Edition.
In another passage, Levy describes why a four-value logic is desirable and necessary,
Four-valued logic is the logic of interdependence, unlimited wholeness, and the unity of all things. Quantum reality requires that our either-or thinking be replaced by a more nuanced, layered, and fruitful integration of surface and depth, inside and outside, the part and the whole, the root and its branch. The alternatives offered by four-valued logic represent all the possible standpoints from which every problem can be viewed; instead of there being only two extremes (yes or no), we have an infinite spectrum of choices between the extremes. This logic gives new insight into how what may appear to be contradictions at one level can be part of a deeper consistency and completeness from a higher, more inclusive level.
Truly subversive, four-valued logic undermines undermines our ability to hold on to any fixed position whatsoever. By rejecting any one view as well as the ultimate truth of all views, four-valued logic is in essence rejecting the competence of standard Aristotelian reason to comprehend the fundamental nature of reality. We are unable to conceptually understand four-valued logic, however, with a mind that has been conditioned to think with two-valued logic. Four-valued logic helps us to begin to get a sense of what we are dealing with in our encounter with the quantum realm.
Ibid. (p. 58 59).
Levy’s characterisation of what a four-value logic would look like — one that also incorporates the paradoxical — is adequate for the following discussion of the three or four models of reality we will introduce here — the Holling Adaptive Cylce, Rosenstock-Huessy’s “cross of reality” and the “Sacred Hoop”
We could, of course, also bring in other representations of this fourfold pattern as has been done in past posts (Blake, Jacob Boehme, Rumi, alchemy or Hermetic Philosophy, or even Buddhism and Christian “mysticism”, etc), but these three will do for now. But they all indicate that, in one way or another, this “four-value logic” has always been the intuitive or tacit knowledge of the human species.
What these diagrammes represent is the flow or flux of energy, or what we have referred to earlier as “the field”, and the various phases or stages of that energy in the process of manifestation or realisation, or the process we call “maturation”. They represent the life-stages or phases of any dynamic or energetic process whatsoever. So, in many respects, a the term “four-value logic” means also a “four-phasic logic”.
Now, the Holling Adaptive Cycle is a particularly interesting example of this. Originally derived from the study of ecology, and of energy flows (thermodynamics) through an ecological niche or system, it is relevant to any energetic system whatsoever.
There are four phases in the circulation of energy, which are also phases or stages of realisation: “Re-organisation”, “Exploitation”, “Conservation”, and “Release”. The connection with the traditional four seasons, here, is rather obvious — spring, summer, fall, winter. The German historian Oswald Spengler made himself famous for describing the rise and fall of civilisations in such seasonal terms, although his pessimistic conclusions about that (in The Decline of the West) have been rejected by philosophers like Jean Gebser and Rosenstock-Huessy as too fatalistic and deterministic. The phases also have some correspondence with the life stages described as birth, youth, adulthood, and old age which also belong, among other matters, to the cardinal points — East, North, West, South — of the indigenous Sacred Hoop.
In mythological terms, the four phases of the Holling Adaptive Cycle, or the four directions of the cross of reality and the Sacred Hoop, were called “The Guardians of the Four Directions”, and which also have some relation with William Blake’s “four Zoas” and Carl Jung’s “four psychological functions”, and with Gebser’s four civilisational types as “structures of consciousness” (the archaic, the magical, the mythical, and the mental-rational).
Rosenstock-Huessy’s cross of reality model and sociodynamics, where he introduces the terms “traject” and “preject” to supplement the spatial terms “subject” and “object” arose coincident with the inclusion of time as the “fourth-dimension”. In sociological terms, “trajective” and “prejective” correspond to the conservative and progressive moods or orientations — backwards or forwards to supplement the inwards and outwards. The “conservation” phase in Holling’s cycle corresponds to Rosenstock-Huessy’s “trajective” phase (or traditionalism) while the “re-organisation” phase corresponds to Rosenstock-Huessy’s “prejective” (or progressive) phase of the cycle that follows the “release” phase, which we would call the “decadence” phase in sociological terms.
And so, what you have also described in the Holling Adaptive Cycle is the Gebserian “double-movement” of disintegration and re-integration — that is, the release and re-organisation phases of the Holling cycle which have become coincident — the “coincidence of the opposites” and what makes for present chaos is the release phase coincident with the incipience of the re-organisation phase. Optional terms for this are “expirational” and “inspirational”.
And this is one reason why the “both sides” argument is quite banal and fruitless, and even the meaning of Jesus’ remark “I would that you were hot or cold, but because you are lukewarm, I will spew thee from my mouth”. The phasic nature of the ecodynamic laws and a four-value logic are clear, and that the “exploitation” and “conservation” phases cannot go on forever, but reach a limit of sustainability or coherence and revert to decadence and re-organisation. In historical terms, this re-organisation is called a “revolution” and the release phase is what we call “corruption”.
Also to be noted is that the Holling Adaptive Cycle is not a closed loop, but is open-ended. Although the fourfold pattern recurs, it never recurs in exactly the same way, for if it did, we would never have “evolved” outside any of the previous structures described by Gebser — the archaic, the magical, the mythical, the mental-rational, or foresee the possibility of the “integral”. So, the “re-organisation” is never a replication or repetition. And while there are indeed “eternal verities” in this sense, the “facts” or “truths” of any one phase of cycle are not equivalent.
What these symbols signify is that consciousness and what we call “identity” must become more fluid. It’s this that Rosenstock-Huessy, for example, calls his “ecodynamic laws of society” in his book on The Multiformity of Man. The Multiformity of Man is an appeal not to get stuck in one one phase, or any one arm of the cross of reality. Human freedom depends on being able to circulate freely through the four phases and at the appropriate times — trajective, prejective, subjective, objective or, in Holling’s terms, conservation or reorganisation, exploitation (objective) and release (or “letting go”).
What is important, though, in all these representations is what Jean Gebser also calls “the vital centre”, the quintessence. It’s not the “commanding heights” that are important, but this “vital centre”, because its at this vital centre where you perceive all four directions — the whole. That vital centre, even in the Holling diagramme, is what we call “critical juncture” or “the crucial” or “the pivotal”, and it is crucial or pivotal in a way described by Gebser, as affording the crucial knowledge of “when to let happen and when to make happen”, and these correspond to the right and left sections of the Adaptive Cycle and which are largely in conflict today.
It’s also possible to see don Juan/Castaneda’s “four enemies of the man of knowledge” in these symbols — fear, clarity, power, old age. Fear corresponds to the release phase, clarity to the re-organisation phase, power to the exploitation phase (use or pragmatic knowledge) and old age to the mature or conservational phase, but even that must necessary followed by the release phase, which don Juan calls “dancing for one’s death”. But the only reason these are called “enemies” is because they represent seductions and temptations to remain stay stuck in that phase, which is true of individuals as well as civilisations and consciousness structures. These “enemies” are, otherwise, also the famous Guardians of the Four Directions.
So, there is no “both sides” argument to be made here that has any validity. At any one phase of the process there are responses that are appropriate and others which are inappropriate. It’s a matter of discerning which phase we are in and responding appropriately and decisively, which Rosenstock-Huessy calls “timeliness”. Nietzsche’s “two centuries of nihilism” is the release phase — no question. But it is also on the threshold of the re-organisation phase, and this re-organisation phase is what Nietzsche means in saying “one must have chaos within oneself to give birth to a dancing star”.
These symbols have a lot of explanatory power, along with the newer four-value logic described by Levy as well, and also to describe the life-cycle of any of Gebser’s “four structures of consciousness” from their “effective” to their “deficient” modes of expression and their reorganisation in different structures or Gestalts.