The great German engraver Albrecht Dürer’s illustrations of the Apocalypse (Book of Revelation) differ from contemporary televised images of warfare not only in terms of the armor and weaponry used, but also and more importantly by recording two worlds, the visible and the invisible, where the television camera records only the visible. The sky in television reports of war contains missiles and warplanes, and if anything “invisible” is depicted, it is invisible only by virtue of being viewed in the infra-red portion of the spectrum via night scope. Dürer’s sky is not merely “sky” but also “heaven”, and thus depicts that “war in heaven” alluded to in Revelations 12: 7, with its angels and demons and dragon, its Lady clothed with the sun, the moon under her feet, and crowned with the stars…
A crucial shift in the way in which we envision “reality” has occurred between Albrecht Dürer’s time and our own, and that shift has indeed largely deprived us of a real sense of the existence of an “invisible world” — whether it be the invisible world of faerie or sacrament, of poetic vision or apocalypse. That great modern prophet William Blake both predicted and lamented this loss, and his entire corpus of poetry and paintings can be viewed as a singular attempt to replace in our culture that visionary quality that our increasing scientism so easily deprives us of.
This shift in our understanding becomes exceedingly important when we come to consider the awesome potential of weapons now in the human arsenal: and nuclear weapons in particular. For while the “rational” conscious mind is considering Hermann Kahn’s Ladder of Escalation and other more recent “scenarios” and “game plans” in the “theater of war” with characteristic dispassion, the imagination by necessity views the imaginal… and our dreams, our hopes and fears are filled with those same ancient forces that John of Patmos perceived in his visions, and which Albrecht Dürer depicted in the imagery of his own time. As a culture, we are now largely “unconscious” of the war in heaven — but it has not ceased to influence our lives.
I remembered this when MSNBC host Bryan WIlliams told the presidential biographer Jon Meacham a day or two ago:
if you’re going to clear those better angels of yours fo takeoff, remember the air traffic controllers are working without salaries..
I don’t suppose Williams‘ mind made a big deal of the mildly ironic conflation of heaven and sky, angels and air traffic controllers, he’d managed here in what was surely a passing comment — but the juxtaposition is in fact a significant one, as significant as John Donne’s celebrated juxtaposition of the pre-scientific square earth and the scientific spherical one in the brilliant opening lines of his sonnet:
At the round earth’s imagin’d corners, blow
Your trumpets, angels,
Of such juxtapositions are light laughs and great poems made..
[ by Charles Cameron — a meander to ponder, wonder, wander, a maze to amaze, or as CS Peirce might say, a muse to amuse, an amuse-bouche ]
Here’s a quick, long run-down of my HipBone games, where they came from, and where they’ll be going if book and online game plans come together.
My various HipBone and related games are intended as playable variants on Hermann Hesse‘s great Glass Bead Game (GBG for short).
You remember this?
As I said before:
I don’t know how Theodor von Kármán came by his Vortex Street, and I’ve spent a decade in Pasadena wandering its streets and even picked up his four volume works — signed — at a CalTech book sale — but if he had the Van Gogh painting in the back of his mind, there’s the beginning, the seed of an awesome leap.
And you might say van Gogh made a mighty leap, pre-intuiting the von Kármán pattern in the night sky..
This DoubleQuote is my favorite move in the game that has obsessed me for the last thirty or so years, the Glass Bead Game as described in Hermann Hesse in his Nobel-winning novel of the same name.
Linking arts and sciences as it does, I see it as a move at the nave roof-apex of what Hesse describes as the “hundred-gated cathedral of mind”.
The essence of a move in Hesse‘s game is associative linkage.
I’m using this post as something of a primer on my game thinking, before proposing a recent instance of a type of associative leap / example of a game move.
There are many fairly basic types of associative linkage that provide the connextive tissue between the items in an ontology:
Human knowledge, at an elemental level, can be described as a “transformation” of data.
Complex ideas are built using layers of “transformations” with each layer feeding into the next (think pyramid)
We teach these transformations at home and at school to our children.
We communicate by sharing transformations.
Questions We Need to Answer in the Age of Cognitive Machines:
How many transformations would it take to model all human knowledge?
How deep (how many layers of transformation is human knowledge) is human knowledge? Both on average or at its deepest point?
How broad is human knowledge (non-dependent transformations)?
How fast is the number of transformations increasing and how fast is it propagating across the human network?
From a process orientation, it’s pretty clear that the fundamental way in which most associative leaps occur to human minds takes the form:
this reminds me of that
— and that holds true even of conspicuous creative leaps not just out of the box but into the unknown — as when Yutaka Taniyama proposed his hypothesis that there exists a correspondence between elliptic curves and modular forms in 1955. Andrew Wiles eventually proved the linkage in what is now known as the Modularity theorem, as the key part of his proof of Fermat’s Last Theorem in 1993 [don’t ask me to explain, I’m not a mathematician]
Creative leaps are in general the basis of much “opening of fields” both in the arts and sciences, as described by Arthur Koestler in his Act of Creation:
and elaborated by Douglas Hofstadter in eg his Fluid Concepts and Creative Analogies and Surfaces and Essences: Analogy as the Fuel and Fire of Thinking, and at a depth of penetration equivalent to Robb’s questions above, by Fauconnier and Turner in The Way We Think: Conceptual Blending And The Mind’s Hidden Complexities..
Level on level, the structure of a gothic cathedral is arch building on arch (forgive my Spanish):
Erwin Panofky‘s masterwork, Gothic Architecture and Scholasticism, argues for a common mental structure explaining the simultaneous occurrence of Gothic cathedral architecture and the scholastic argumentation characteristic of Peter Abelard and Thomas Aquinas..
The music of Hesse’s cathedral?
All the insights, noble thoughts, and works of art that the human race has produced in its creative eras, all that subsequent periods of scholarly study have reduced to concepts and converted into intellectual values the Glass Bead Game player plays like the organist on an organ. And this organ has attained an almost unimaginable perfection; its manuals and pedals range over the entire intellectual cosmos; its stops are almost beyond number.
And the game’s ultimate destination – besides the creation of an overarching synthesis uniting sciences and arts, great leaps of discovery and profound flights of imagination?
Every transition from major to minor in a sonata, every transformation of a myth or a religious cult, every classical or artistic formulation was, I realized in that flashing moment, if seen with a truly meditative mind, nothing but a direct route into the interior of the cosmic mystery, where in the alternation between inhaling and exhaling, between heaven and earth, between Yin and Yang, holiness is forever being created.
In the coincidence of opposites — the buttressed left side of the cathedral’s gothic arch leaning into, against and with the buttressed right side, culminating in the high vaulting that characterizes the nave — transcendence of the physical in the spiritual..
Okay, very quickly, one associative link that jumped out at one poster recently after the Democratic response to Trump’s resolute desk address was the similarity between Schumer and Pelosi‘s stilted appearance, standing shoulder to shoulder at a single podium [left], and — returning to our theme of gothic as in a fugue — the celebrated painting titled American Gothic [composite, right] —
That’s a “haha!” (comedic, laughter) rather than an “aha!” (creative, excitement) or “aah!” (tragedic, tears) explosion, to return to Arthur Koestler’s notion of bisociation and its various types and expressions.
But that’s just fun, and will quickly become dated.. that’s an aside.
A new category of linkage:
More seriously, I’d like to suggest that one faascinating type of linkage, close kin to “this is similar to that” is the category of mistake:
this is, has been, or can be mistaken for that
My example here is the weird sonic effect that seems to have physically hurt American diplomats and other embassy employees in Cuba, and confused national security analysts —
The patients complained of intense ear pain, hearing loss, headaches, dizziness and difficulty with balance, as well as increased anxiety and irritability, doctors found, but who or what caused the damage is still unknown.
From The Atlantic:
Various parties argued that the strange noise was the result of a sonic weapon, a microwave attack, or malfunctioning eavesdropping equipment.
And back to ABC:
“The possible sources and the medical findings we have here do not have a quick or easy solution,” said Dr. Carey Balaban, a professor of otolaryngology at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine who contributed to the study. “I wish someone could tell us that right now. I wish we’d have that.”
Damn commie Cubans!
The thing is, otolaryngologists and high-tech security experts were the wrong people to solve the problem. Whenentomologists listened to a recording of the sound, they recognizedd it —
as the mating call of Anurogryllus celerinictus, the Indies short-tailed cricket.
the cricket’s call has been mistaken for a devious commie attack on American diplomats
Very briefly, then, to wrap up, since the idea is to link one concept to another, I use graphs as my game boards, assigning the concepts (images, quotes, clips &c) to numbered positions (nodes) on the boards, with the lines between them (edges) representing their associative links, which can be spelled out in however much detail a given game requires:.
top left, the standard WaterBird board; top right, a board from the Sembl game as played on iPads in the National Museum of Australia; lower left, the Doublequote board, for direct comparison of two concepts / images; lower right, the Said Symphony board, for us in “aymphonic” games.
The idea of conceptual graphs precedes Margaret Masterman by centuries:
Left, the Sephirotic Tree of classical Kabbalah; middle: Oronce Fine’s diagram of the elements and humors; right: a medieval Trinitarian diagram
And as a grace note — my two now ancient pages on Masterman, Boole and that Trinitarian diagram are still a quiet delight for scholars of conceptual graphs and the like. Masterman really was an unsung genius, and her curious and vastlky erudite paper Theism as a Scientific Hypothesis proves it..
I wonder when AlphaZero will be playing a game like this:
[ by Charles Cameron — the Trinity and National Security, Game Boards and Mathematics, Japanese wave patterns, Maestro Harding on the interconnectedness of “all branches of human knowledge and curiosity, not just music” — plus Blues Clues at the tail end ]
Not only have the last couple of days been riotous in Washington, with more news to track than I have eyes to see, but today, still reeling under the weight of Mattis‘ resignation, McConnell‘s statement in support and other matters, I found myself with a richesse of board-game and graph-related delights.
Followers of this searies will be familiar with the Trinitarian diagram juxtaposed here with its equivalents from classical Kabballah and Oronce Fine:
That little triptych is from my religion and games avenues of interest, but of course I’m also interested in matters of national security, as befits Zenpundit, the strategy & creativity blog. You can imagine my surprise and delight, then, in coming across a natsec version of the trinity diagram, in a tweet from Jon Askonas.
Here’s my comparison:
My own attention was first drawn to the Trinitarian diagram as a result of reading Margaret Masterman‘s brilliant cross-disciplinary work, “Theism as a Scientific Hypothesis”, which ran in four parts in a somewhat obscure and difficult to find journal, Theoria to Theory, Vol 1, 1-4, 1966-67.
And finally, here’s an ugraded version of the other DQ of mine that seeks to bridge the arts and sciences — featuring Hokusai‘s celebrated woodblock print, The Great Wave off Kanagawa (upper panel, below) and Jakob aka nikozy92‘s fractal wave, which I’ve flipped horizontally to make its parallel with the Hokusai clearer (lower panel) — Jakob‘s is a much improved version of a fractal wave compared with the one I’d been using until today:
That brings me to the Met’s marvelous offering, to which J Scott Shipman graciously pointed me:
Finally, I’ve been delighted today to run across a couple of vdeos of my nephew, Maestro Daniel Harding, conducting the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra some years back in programs exploring the interplay of mathematics and other disciplines and music:
Daniel is not working the graph-based angle that my games explore, but his thinking here is pleasantly congruous with my own. His work with the SRSO has, he says in the first video here, “to do with all branches of human knowledge and curiosity, not just music — because everything is connected”.
You can’t get much closer in spirit to Hesse‘s Glass Bead Game than that!
[ by Charles Cameron — if you can lose your car in a multilevel parking garage, imagine how easy it is to lose your mind in a multilevel understanding ]
I mean, what is multicausal and multilevel understanding anyway?
We know what the words mean, and can possibly gloss over them without pausing for the question as I intend it. But pause, please. What is it, in terms of brain function and or training, that gives us access to multicausal and multilevel understanding?
How and why do people become involved in European homegrown jihadism? This book addresses this question through an in-depth study of the Dutch Hofstadgroup, infamous for containing the murderer of filmmaker Theo van Gogh, who was killed in November 2004 in Amsterdam, and for plotting numerous other terrorist attacks. The Hofstadgroup offers a window into the broader phenomenon of homegrown jihadism that arose in Europe in 2004 and is still with us today. Utilizing interviews with former Hofstadgroup participants and the extensive police files on the group, Becoming a European Homegrown Jihadist overcomes the scarcity of high-quality data that has hampered the study of terrorism for decades. The book advances a multicausal and multilevel understanding of involvement in European homegrown jihadism that is critical of the currently prevalent ‘radicalization’-based explanatory frameworks. It stresses that the factors that initiate involvement are separate from those that sustain it, which in turn are again likely to differ from those that bring some individuals to actual acts of terrorism. This is a key resource for scholars of terrorism and all those interested in understanding the pathways that can lead to involvement in European homegrown jihadism.
I’d expect Bart Schuuman fills the void in our understanding as described. But I was in another discussion today, in which a friend of mine, Mike Sellers, said he’d been trying to teach analysts at Ft Meade the kind of thinking that can hold two ideas, possibly contradictory, in the mind at one time. He found the task both interesting and difificult. But how do you manage the task of multicausal understanding without what I call contrapuntal thinking — the ability to hold two or more thoughts in mind at the same time?
My friend’s teaching is strongly influenced by systems thinking, as first devised by Jay Forrester of MIT. Mike has a great lecture on systems and systems thinking in the context of games — he was lead designer on games like Sims 2 —
My own approach in the HipBone Games is to ask players to create a single, deeply connected “thought” out for ten individual ideas on a suitable ten-move game-board — with a “two idea” board for my DoubleQuotes games:
Over the course of twenty years experimenting, I’ve realised my DoubleQuotes is the ideal format for teaching / learning “contrapuntal thinking” — basically, that same “ability to hold two or more thoughts in mind at the same time” — or “how to think in terms of systems” — or “multicausal and multilevel understanding”..
Hay, this is relevant and more than relevant. Macron‘s address to the joint session of Congress today included an appeal for a renewal of multilateralism:
This requires more than ever the United States involvement, as your role was decisive in creating and safeguarding the free world. The United States is the one who invented this multilateralism, you are the one who has to help to preserve and reinvent it.
Here, see how that works:
Multilateral means many-sided, eh? — and considering many sides at once requires the by-now familiar “multicausal and multilevel understanding”.
On Iran, he repeated his support for the nuclear trade deal and outlined a four-part solution to Trump’s concerns about the deal and Iranian expansionism in the Middle East.
So just the Iran deal requires a four-sided understanding at minimum. And let me remind us, four-fold vision was the highest hope of William Blake, who wrote to Mr Butts — but I’ll show you the poem alongside one of his illustrations of the concept:
Multicausal and — particularly, perhaps, in view of Blake — multilevel understanding may be more demanding than at first we think.
There is a blind spot in U.S. joint doctrine that continually hinders operational planning and strategy development. This blind spot is a failure to account for critical relationships with a person’s conception of god and their community, and how these relationships impact the operational environment.
Let’s just say I was a contributing edtor at Lapido Media until its demise, writing to clue journos in to the religious significance of current events:
Lapido is essentially countering the same blind spot at the level of journos, and hence the public conversation.
I haven’t focused on the relationship with community, but I have written frequently on what von Clausewitz would call “morale” in contrast with men and materiel. Prof Dawson addresses this issue:
Understanding religion and society’s role in enabling a society’s use of military force is inherently more difficult than counting the number of weapons systems an enemy has at its disposal. That said, ignoring the people aspect of Clausewitz’s trinity results in an incomplete analysis.
Essentially, war is fighting, for fighting is the only effective principle in the manifold activities designated as war. Fighting, in turn, is a trial of moral and physical forces through the medium of the latter. Naturally moral strength must not be excluded, for psychological forces exert a decisive in?uence on the elements involved in war.
One might say that the physical seem little more than the wooden hilt, while the moral factors are the precious metal, the real weapons, the finely honed blade.
And Prof Dawson is interested in “critical nodes” and the mapping of relationships, vide her title:
Relationships with God and Community as Critical Nodes in Center of Gravity Analysis
I could quote considerably more from Jessica Dawson’s piece, but having indicated some of the ways in which her and my own interests run in parallel, and why that causes me to offer her high praise, I’d like quickly to turn to two areas in which my own specialty in religious studies — new religious movements and apocalyptic — left me wishing for more, or to put it more exactly, for more recent references in her treatment of religious aspects.
Dr Dawson writes of ISIS’ men’s attitudes to their wives disposing of their husbands’ slaves:
This has little to do with the actual teachings of Islam
She also characterizes their actions thus:
They are granted authority and thus power over the people around them through the moral force of pseudo religious declarations.
Some ISIS fighters are no doubt more influenced by mundane considerations and some by religious — but there’s little doubt that those religious considerations are anything but “pseudo religious”. Will McCants‘ book, The ISIS Apocalypse: The History, Strategy, and Doomsday Vision of the Islamic Stat traces the history of ISIS’ theology from hadith locating the apocalypse in Dabiq through al-Zarqawi and al-Baghdadi to the loss of much of the group’s territory and the expansion of its reach via recruitment of individuals and cells in the west.. leaving little doubt of the “alternate legitimacy” of the group’s theological claims. Graeme Wood‘s Atlantic article, to which Prof Dawson refers us, is excellent but way shorter and necessarily less detailed.
On the Christian front, similarly, eschatology has a role to play, as Prof Dawson recognizes — but instead of referencing a 2005 piece, American Rapture, about the Left Behind series, she might have brought us up to datw with one or both of two excellent religious studies articles:
As their parallel titles suggest, Trump’s decision to move the US Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem — which received a fair amount of press at the time that may have mentioned such a move would please his evangelical base, but didn’t explore the theology behind such support in any detail — has profound eschatpological implications.
Julie Ingersoll’s book, Building God’s Kingdom: Inside the World of Christian Reconstruction, is excellent in its focus on the “other side” of the ceontemporary evangelical right, ie Dominionism, whose founding father, RJ Rushdoony was a post-millennialist in contrast to La Haye and the Left Behind books — his followers expect the return of Christ after a thousand year reign of Christian principles, not next week, next month or in the next decade or so.
Sadly, the Dominionist and Dispensationalist (post-millennialist and pre-millennialist) strands in the contemporary Christian right have mixed and mingled, so that it is hard to keep track of who believed in which — or what!
All the more reason to be grateful for Prof Dawson’s emphasis on the importance of religious knowledge in strategy and policy circles.
Let doctrine (theological) meet and inform doctrine (military)!
Zenpundit is a blog dedicated to exploring the intersections of foreign policy, history, military theory, national security,strategic thinking, futurism, cognition and a number of other esoteric pursuits.