Other People Who Foresaw Aspects of the Aesthetic Phase Shift
Edmund Husserl, the ‘father’ of phenomenology, described this experience of the metapattern that connects. He called it the transcendental reduction and considered it to be the ‘absolute method’ of phenomenology: As formations developed out of practice applied in terms of gradual perfection, he said they served “a new sort of praxis out of which similarly named new constructions grow.” Fractal process, in other words.
Deconstructionist Jacques Derrida made it clear that if it’s to be historically redemptive, this analogical and self-similar structure of repetition must be repeated (as we did at the Goodman Building) “over and over again” in an “infinite approximation” of the ideal that’s intended. In The Truth in Painting he wrote, “The whole system which has its sight on that beauty supplies the course, determines vagueness as lack and gives sense and direction…its destiny and its destination. Analogism recapitulates or re-heads it.” A re-framing within an ideal unity that’s always differentiating itself, Derrida proposed it mimes “the acts of nature naturans—the operations of physics” and thus reconstitutes “the economy of mimesis” “This latter” he continues, “is the same, the law of the same and the proper which always re-forms itself…a new—economimesis.”
Phenomenologist Martin Heidegger also saw “the necessity of an explicit recapitulation of the question of Being” if humanity is to “escape oblivion.” He proposed this as the basis for a new metaphysics, a nonfoundational mode of being-in-the-world he called Dasein—“a new beginning of history and art.”
Philosopher Wilhelm Hegel's idea of the ‘Thing-in-Itself’ also comes to mind. It is the ultimate union of form and content so that shared work and the knowledge thereof become Objective Spirit. I stress however that aesthetic knowing and the pleasure it gives do not arise from conscious reason but from the primary, subcognitive processes of the body.
Anthropologist Gregory Bateson hoped to reconnect what he considered to be primary nonconscious cognition with secondary conscious cognition in a ‘circuit structure.’ This would be a conjunction of the body and the world so that we ‘permeate’ the world by recognizing that we’re continuous with it rather than trying to ’confront’ it as existing independently from ourselves. Arguing that ‘pattern precedes particle’ and declaring 'the pattern that connects is beauty' he viewed the modernist separation of the spheres of knowing as a disastrous, schismogenic break in what he saw as ‘the cosmic ecology of mind.’ As he wrote in Mind and Nature, “I hold to the pre-supposition that our loss of the sense of aesthetic unity was, quite simply, an epistemological mistake.”
French psychoanalyst and semiotician Julia Kristeva likewise locates primary process signification in the precursory signs, traces, and figurations of the body itself. She borrows the term chora from Plato’s Timaeus to denote “an essentially mobile and extremely provisional articulation constituted by movements and their ephemeral states. Differentiating this uncertain and indeterminate articulation from a disposition that depends on representation lends itself to phenomenological, spatial intuition, and gives rise to geometry.”
“Neither model nor copy” she continues, “the chora precedes and underlies figuration and thus specularization, and is analogous only to vocal or kinetic rhythm.” Semiotics, in Kristeva’s interpretation, thus goes beyond the sterility of linguistics and what she calls “the language object.” It proposes instead that art, poetry and myth are expressed in the metalanguages originating in the body itself. Thus these metalanguages are solely able to act to disrupt the patriarchal, symbolic order in a dialectic of rupture and articulation.” In Revolution in Poetic Language she put it this way: “logic and ontology have inscribed the question of truth within judgment (or sentence structure) and being, dismissing as madness, mysticism or poetry any attempt to articulate that impossible element which henceforth can only be designated by the Lacanian category of the real.”
Then pulling out all the stops she adds—“I would suggest that the wise interpreter give way to delirium so that, out of his desire, the imaginary may join interpretive closure, thus producing a perpetual interpretive creative force.”
Oxford mathematician Roger Penrose suggests in The Emperor’s New Mind that the worlds of matter and mind are actually “shadows” of an underlying Platonic world of ideal mathematical forms. He suggests a dodecahedral structure of higher information that unfolds through spacetime and mind by means of ‘loop’ quantum gravity and a previously forbidden five-fold symmetry.”
—the magical image that resembles a owl’s mask or a butterfly’s wings—as a model of this metapattern and its open, nondeterministic behavior. Thicker than a normal one-dimensional curve, its ‘thickness’ relates to its fine structure—its fractal dimension.
A symbolic act of phenomenological/transcendental reduction, of mimesis and poetic interpretation, its analogical/vortical dynamics, self-similar and fractal, have been articulated throughout this essay with varying emphases by Frederic Jameson, Edmund Husserl, Jacques Derrida, Martin Heidegger, Gregory Bateson, Julia Kristeva, Roger Penrose, Arthur M. Young, Lawrence Krauss, Michio Kaku, and Ralph Abraham.
The Strange Attractor: Catastrophe or Transition?
The G2 Institute studied these principles and produced this lecture series—‘Aesthetic Phase Shift’—to explore this shift as as it emerges culturally and throughout the disciplines, moving beyond postmodern irony, pastiche, and relativism toward an integral aesthetic ‘attractor.’
Chaos theorists describe this ‘strange’ attractor as a singularity that’s exponentially dissolving the fixed structures of the past several thousand years and compressing culture into a coherent hyperdimensional object—a catastrophic ‘bifurcation’ that threatens the survival of humanity and all life on the planet unless we evolve a unifying myth and structure.
A Symbolic Acting, A Collective Acting
The premise of G2’s ‘Aesthetic Phase Shift’ series is an aesthetic synthesis that I see arising from resolving the ever-mounting contradictions between art, science, theory, and a newly globalized consciousness that’s increasingly aware of the unsustainability of the existing social and economic order. In this synthesis beyond the world’s existing reality paradigm, art will cease to be an autonomous domain and expand in synch with the fractal expansion of consciousness as we learn what the mystery of dark matter really implies into a qualitative, stable, all-encompassing and higher dimensional reality.
All this suggests that in humanity’s collective unconscious, the formative, aesthetic imagination of the artist that David Bohm calls oneness with the unfolding holomovement can finally be released to create an aesthetically reconstructed life-world. It can heal the split between art and life that arose through a division of the categories of knowing at the beginning of the modern era.
© Martha Senger
Benoit Mandelbrot, the founder of fractal geometry who discovered its self-similar dynamics, has remarked on the resonance of fractals with Jungian archetypes, and with helping us “heal that break-up of knowing and feeling.” He predicted the following at a 1996 conference in Prague on “New Ideas in Science and Art”: “Fractal geometry may usher a new liberal art that transcends the boundary that usually separates the arts and diverse narrow academic disciplines from one another.”
Philosopher Henri Bergson expressed most eloquently the time-free nature of this dynamic in Creative Evolution: “Our eye perceives the features of the living being, merely as assembled, not as mutually organized. The intention of life, the simple movement that runs through the lines, that binds them together and gives them significance, escapes it. This intention is just what the artist tries to regain, in placing himself back within the object by a kind of sympathy, in breaking down, by an effort of intuition, the barrier that space puts up between him and his model. It is true that this aesthetic intuition, like external perception, only attains the individual. But we can conceive an inquiry turned in the same direction as art, which would take life in general for its object, just as physical science, in following to the end the direction pointed out by external perception, prolongs the individual facts into general laws.”
I believe that institutionalized art itself today is far from harboring such a revolutionary potential. It was this understanding of art’s self-limitation that led Hegel to reject art as the highest means whereby the self-movement of the Absolute would reveal itself, predicting it would arise instead from art’s sublation into philosophy.
As Hegel wrote prophetically in Introductory Lectures on Aesthetics: “The science of art is a much more pressing need than in times in which art, simply as art…was enough to furnish a full satisfaction. What we have to study is how the principles (of artistic beauty) pass into actual existence…the universal types which constitute the self-unfolding Idea of Beauty.”
And “Until we make the Ideas aesthetic, that is mythological, they have no interest for the people, and conversely until mythology is rational, the philosopher must be ashamed of it…. A higher spirit sent from Heaven must found this religion; it will be the last, greatest work of mankind.”
Like Roger Penrose and David Bohm, I too attribute this ‘turn around’ of the quantum of action, the collapse of the wave function, to the rotation of aesthetic judgment as it vortically unfolds ideal form through the material world while reducing entropy and reversing time; a trans-art praxis I’ve variously called ‘neo-vorticism,’ ‘aesthetic reconstruction’ and/or ‘performing the real.’
Physicist Lawrence Krauss in Quintessence: The Mystery of Missing Mass in the Universe compares the mystery of whatever dark matter is to Aristotle’s fifth essence, something Krauss likened to a “unique element, scarcely material in form, within which the operation of geometric law proceeds unclogged by any mechanical aid or impediment.” Suggesting “perhaps there is another phase transition yet to complete, and the vacuum energy we observe is merely that stored in the false vacuum state….in such a case, when the phase transition completes, it is quite likely that the properties of matter would dramatically alter, and with them the properties of the observable universe.”
Physicist Michio Kaku in Hyperspace also sees a potential phase transition, but while observing that the four-dimensional world may be starting to collapse, he suggests that higher dimensions are beginning to unfurl that can draw us into their compacted curvilinear configurations. Describing this as a phase transition from a quantitative to a qualitative, more stable state, Kaku relates it to the dialectical resolution of a conflict when there’s a sudden shift to a higher synthesis. That is, at the moment when tensions have reached a breaking point, “the object goes to a higher stage.” Kaku also speculates that beauty is a physical principle in the universe related to the compactification process!
Chaos theorist Ralph Abraham in Dynamics: The Geometry of Behavior used the chaotic attractor
discovered by Edward Lorenz shown here—
Phenomenologist Paul Ricoeur bears this out philosophically by proposing an ontological hermeneutics of poetic interpretation. He argued a ‘semantic innovation’ is necessary if we’re to be able to see and say ‘new worlds of possibility.’ While most phenomenological accounts of imagination have concentrated on its role as vision, as a special or modified way of seeing the world, with the hermeneutic turn in phenomenology and the move from description to interpretation, the imagination is considered less in terms of ‘vision’ than in the materiality of ‘language.’
What all this implies is not the dissolution of the figural and poetical dynamics of aesthetics. Instead, they are consciously activated within what Jameson called “the broad daylight and transparency of praxis itself.” In this way, consciousness reappropriates the mythic symbolism of an earlier epoch but with a grasp of form as the ‘form of content,’ as the dialectical structure of a ceaseless, and sublime, self-production of the ‘hidden master narrative’ of the emancipation of humanity; a revolution Jameson describes as “a self-transcendence of the aesthetic towards a ‘trans-aesthetic’ that lays a claim to the Absolute.”
Mathematician and philosopher Arthur M. Young in The Reflexive Universe proposed a geometry of meaning based, like Penrose’s twistor structure, on the topology of the torus. Contrasted with the simply-connected surface of the plane or sphere, the torus is a multiply-connected topology that expands and contracts, “the contracting accumulating the proceeds of the explosion.”
A vortical flow form, the torus is constellated by ratcheting icosahedra and dodecahedra spinning and nesting in fractal increments of the Golden Mean. In Godel, Escher, Bach, Douglas Hofstadter described this analogue patterning as ‘an eternally rising canon’—an ’eternal golden braid.’ In Science, Order, and Creativity, physicist David Bohm described such a flow as a subquantum ‘holomovement’ between an underlying ‘implicate’ order of dark matter and the ‘explicate’ order we ordinarily perceive.
Bohm said, “A dense gas of electrons—the holomovement—exhibits radically different behavior from other, normal states of matter, a highly organized system which behaves as a whole…almost like a living being.” He added, “I was fascinated with the question of how such organized collective behavior could go along with the almost complete freedom of movement of the individual electrons. I saw in this an analogy to what society could be, and perhaps as to how living beings are organized.”
Changing the Object, Reducing Mass, Increasing Coherence
Bohm compared this flow to the metamorphosis from caterpillar to butterfly. The holomovement unfolds creatively and improvisationally through the primary imagination, making it critical that we know our role in its shaping because we can and do block it with the fragmented, hierarchical thought patterns and technologies that we often impose.
The evolutionary implications of this new ordering are enormous. This finally makes it possible to rescue form from the purist position it held in modern art and reappropriate it as a dynamical co-ordering pattern between the utopian ideals of the collective unconscious and the repressive conditions of our objectified, reified world.
This in turn makes it possible to supersede the form/life dichotomy that has plagued Western philosophy since the 17th century. It reveals the parallel between human artistic creativity and the archetypal form of the cosmic evolutionary process itself. This replaces the empty images of modern life that assault us with the shift’s new sign that resists commodification—it is a symbol-laden map of a harmoniously mediated totality.
This new synthesis allows the abstracting, deconstructive role of the aesthetic imagination which symbolically reduces mass and entropy even as it also creates increasingly complex and coherent configurations. It thus fulfills the classic longing for abstraction from the concrete object that critic Frederic Jameson described in The Cultural Turn—‘changing the object’ and leading to a ‘utopian temporality.’
Spiraling Fractals, the Golden Ratio & A Shared Sense of Beauty
The ratio governing this hermeneutic reduction is the Golden Mean. Its fractal incarnation turns out to derive from a shared sense of beauty, as Kant proposed. This ratio has provided the measure of nature’s harmonic proportions since Pythagoras. Within this context of an integral aesthetics, it reappears as the ratio of an aestheticized reason and reconceived reality principle put into practice, which for short I will call praxis.
This new distillation of ‘objective conditions’ takes place in sync with the subjective desires of an evolving community (Kant’s 'sensus communis’) through analogue discourse. It is a collective iteration of shared aesthetic judgment that proceeds by a Golden Mean ratio. In this ‘edge-of-chaos’ process, coherence increases as complexity unfolds along a spiraling fractal trajectory.
In A Beginner’s Guide to the Universe Michael Schneider explains that spirals—like that hidden in the pentagram star below—express the geometry of self-similarity, writing “At first, the spiral doesn’t appear to be pentagonal but whenever you see a star you will find a spiral rolled within it. This self-similar accord” he adds, “repeating the same shape on different scales, is the basis of fractal mathematics, which is at the heart of chaos theory…each small part of a turbulent system turns out to be a model of the whole and can be described mathematically by self-replicating formulas;” adding “each is composed solely of unity interacting with itself…”
As he explains, ‘twistor’ geometry is curved not by space but by the quantum gravitational rotation of consciousness he relates to aesthetic judgment—our ability to feel necessary truths like truth and beauty. He further stresses that this sensing of patterns cannot be computed. As he wrote “One might argue that something inside our brains is acting more like an ‘analogue computer’ where the modeling of the external world is achieved not in terms of digital computation… but in terms of some internal physical structure whose physical behavior can be translated so as to mirror the behavior of the external system that is being modeled.”
Proposing an evolutionary process in which life and free choice emerge in cumulative states from original enmeshment in molar matter, humans are given the evolutionary opportunity to consciously learn the laws of cause and effect and, through self-control, escape the fixed, determined wheel into freedom. Modern man, however, as Young observes, “is at best still immersed in the problem of defining his own boundaries, of meeting the consequences of his own acts, of learning the law of cause and effect.” This recognition is the mark of stage five which is just beginning; the critical turn on the evolutionary process arc that would transform the compulsion to control and be controlled by the environment into a control of the self.
“Having learned the law” Young continues, “it (the monad) can then act deliberately; it can become cause. This is the turn, and it is followed by the self’s growth.” The fifth stage person throws off the self-centered expansiveness attained earlier and grows via building order against the general trend toward disorder, reversing entropy.
“There is only one true escape from the wheel” he concludes, “this is to reverse our direction upon it.” Instead of moving in the normal cycle of action which would precipitate it into a new involvement, “the self makes use of what it has learned to extricate itself by mastering the laws of matter. It turns around and goes the other way.” Acting in phase with the quantum of action, moving away from manifestation directly toward goals and unity, we thus, in his words, ‘become cause’. As he explains “The appropriate action, by foreseeing the result, can create the cause that will produce the effect.”
Psychologist Carl Jung's idea of synchronicity is probably the best known principle and example of self-similar patterning. As Jung’s acausal connecting principle, synchronicity acknowledges from a depth-psychological perspective the ancient alchemical and Taoist understanding of a pre-existing correspondence between the psyche and the physical world whose a-causal causation is to be found in their shared archetypal patterning. In Jung’s definition, “The archetype is the introspectively recognizable form of an a priori psychic orderedness”—an activating symbol of wholeness and beauty that’s held intersubjectively in the collective unconscious.
The ancient Greek philosopher Plato used the dodecahedron to describe the beauty and wholeness of the cosmos. He said “…the god used (the dodecahedron) for arranging the constellations on the whole heaven. In his Beginner’s Guide to Constructing the Universe, Michael Schneider described the dodecahedron as “encompassing and infusing the four elements—solids, liquids, gases, and electronic fire—with the life they cannot create by themselves alone.” As he explained, “the Pentad carries the flag of life” linking the material elements with “the mystery of the mathematical infinite, which is the mystery of life itself: the ability to regenerate.”
Chaos Architecture as a Collective Aesthetic Form
Frederic Jameson said ‘theory’ would become the site of the sublime when modern art declined. This was the experience I had in an artists’ enclave called the Goodman Building in San Francisco. We artists in the mid-seventies tried to save this economical and deeply integral way of collaborative life in the Goodman Building from redevelopment agency bulldozers. During that time I abandoned painting to shift full time into the aesthetic of art as living, not just art as performance.
In this way I came to experience beauty as the rhythmical and fractally proportioned unfolding of wholeness in life itself, which also describes my experience of the sublime. That is, it lifts the beautiful beyond the sensory, decorative, and contemplative to the very praxis where we repeatedly and proportionately gauge and deconstruct the sedimentation of history, even our own history. We mime nature’s process of aesthetic sublimation while reactivating the ideal geometrical structuring hidden beneath.
When we lost the Goodman Building, I led the effort to create another such ecology and wrote guidelines based on my research of toroidal dynamics to give our architect an idea of what we wanted. Thirteen years later, with financial help from the City, we opened Goodman2, the only affordable live/work building for artists ever constructed in San Francisco. The California Journal of the AIA published a paper I wrote on its design called “Goodman2: Chaos Architecture: A Metapattern That Connects.” The architect it called the first building based on a higher dimensional geometry of internal collaborative relations, and said, “Goodman2 is the first visionary architecture that’s ever actually been constructed.”
AESTHETIC PHASE SHIFT
Fusing Art, Life & the Cosmos
by Martha Senger
An Aesthetic Theory & Praxis of Everything
Here I present a theory on the coming global shift in consciousness. It is a synthesis of the three spheres of value that became separated at the time of the Enlightenment when (1) truth (as science) was separated from (2) beauty (as art) and (3) goodness (as morality under the law). This new theory reunites the spheres and becomes the matrix of a higher reality principle. In this ‘aesthetic phase shift,’ there’s a mutation of consciousness, matter, and global institutions. There’s a transcendental reduction and re-writing of history. In this shift, entropy is reduced and wholeness and complexity increase in a return to the quintessence.
This aesthetic shift is a cultural parallel to the Theory of Everything—or TOE—in physics that’s uniting relativity with quantum mechanics. It has implications for the evolution of consciousness, world culture, and a restoration of the global environment. It reveals that quantum wholeness, meaning and beauty unfold through space, time, and mind—not through mechanical, deterministic means but instead through analogue, aesthetic judgment. This shift is a fractal self-similar process that not only causes the universal ���wave function’ to collapse but reduces mass and entropy as it unfolds higher information. This leads to a deepened knowledge of, and participation with, the creative unfolding of nature.
The Iconic Torus
The self-organizing geometry of this evolutionary process is the vortex sphere or torus, the double-spiral form that’s been seen by cultures since the Neolithic era to symbolize the flow they experienced between nature and psyche, male and female, chaos and order.