Rationality and Science, Fouring and Verbing

07 Jul 2000

Dan Moonhawk Alford

Diane, Paul, Lars, Arupa, and others -- thank you for a stimulating discussion. I hope nobody got the idea that I'm against rationality, but I am for a more nuanced understanding of what we're otherwise merely giving blind faith to.

Please note the following progression, through the centuries for the last two millennia, of terms meant to inspire confidence in the hearer/reader that the thinker/researcher used the maximum of intellectual rigor currently known:

logical -> rational -> philosophical -> scientific
They're all synonyms for "rigorous," with temporal flavorings.

So -- I agree that research into psi, intuition, and other cover terms for a great mystery can use all the rigor humanly musterable. But we must always realize that "rational" in a S->NP+Pred language will be different than in a S->Pred language; in lay terms, whether a sentence or complete thought requires a subject noun-phrase as well as the verb/predicate; even clearer, what is "rational" is determined by the grammar of a language, and different grammars carve up the world in entirely unfamiliar ways.

Hmm -- Paul, I have a reply to your Cosmic Light essay that I'm gonna post right here, if you don't mind. I think it serves this discussion well.


Here are some thoughts of mine on reading your recent essay on the different levels and meanings of "light, ending with your three realms of existence and no more.

A. 3 and 4
>From the depths of my 54 years on earth, and my 30 years listening to Indian America, I urge you to have an open mind to what I say.

Consider 4ing instead of 3ing.

3 is the age-old magic number of Western civilization, corresponding to the three dimensions of space, while for untold millennia, American Indians developed a spiritual philosophy of 4: the hero tries once, a second time, a third time almost right; then he sits down and contemplates all of the ramifications and is fully successful the 4th time.

The 4th is a right understanding of the antisymmetric space of "time", and its integration into physically whole spacetime.

As illustration of 4, consider brainmind from the view of the elusive 4th dimension as primary rather than 3D space -- and we wind up with the TIMING rhythms of brainwaves: delta, theta, alpha & beta, from slowest to fastest.

My scientific predecessors in looking at this issue have erred, first, in choosing the physical 3D "substance" as primary, with anything else as "epiphenomenal". Hence, second, the numbering: some see everything in binary terms, and so the left/right-brain divisions; others see 3 instead as the magic number, and so (McLean, Sagan) we get two physical Old Brains -- reptilian/R-complex and limbic system -- and the New Brain, the neocortex, ignoring the importance of its evolutionary, functional splitting.

The further synthesizing I have done, due in no small part (resonance!) to my cognitive/spiritual sojourns in Indian America, thus links up the two Old Brains with the two functional New Brains within the four scientifically acceptable brainwave rhythms. 4 brains, each with their own "home" rhythm.

I call these delta, theta, alpha and beta speed-levels, and also physical, emotional, SOCIAL and formal, corresponding to the 4 functional brains; our closest evolutionary relatives, other primates, have McLean's 3 functional brains while humans split the evolutionarily last brain into two functional ones.

Most interestingly, these all further correspond to something very important: the developmental levels of thinking for human beings as Jean Piaget described them: sensori-motor [physical], pre-operational [emotional], concrete operational [social], and formal [formal].

In language terms, these are body language (postures, gestures, expressions), emotional language (using tones and tunes), simple words and sentences (family and formulaic ways, social idioms, etc.), and formal, extended talk/writing.

Thus, from an appreciation of the possible significance of 4 from my indigenous experiences, I find just that many brainwave rhythms, functional brains, qualitatively different styles of thinking, and kinds of languaging.

I suspect that 3-cultures of thought ignore the (in this 4-model) 3rd level -- the social, including for instance baby talk, children's songs, idioms and social talk, etc. -- as insignificant. Yet if I were to begin today to learn an American Indian language, I'm told, they would start me at this level and then build from there.

So while I'm in no way claiming this 4-plex view is "right" to the exclusion of other views, I do find it allows interesting new approaches to old questions to which other 4-plexes then adhere as readily as 3s to your 3-plex. While we are doing basically the same thing, your 3s are language/culture-bound (nothing wrong with exploring connections inside Western systems!) while my 4s, sharpened by my being outside the Western system, bring alternative interesting systems.

This part is intended to raise our words to a level of linguistic mindfulness, a goal I've taught for nearly 20 years.

The toughest job modern physicists always face is describing verby, quantum moving in a daily language that requires noun-phrase subjects for "complete thoughts and sentences." Whether the grammar does or does not require subjects, actors that perform the actions described, is of ultimate importance in thinking about and describing reality. My Native friends make a mind-boggling claim that they can speak all day long and never utter a single noun. We're in the presence of important worldview differences.

I'll try this as an overall analogy: a noun is a snapshot of a dynamic ongoing process or relationship. So we can watch the dancers or the dancing, and -- importantly -- grammars of languages actually conspire to assist us in watching either one; Euro-grammars assist us in paying attention to the dancers. But does it ever "force" us to create fictitious subjects that aren't there, just for the sake of that grammar?

In Hopi, one of many American Indian languages where a single word can be a complete sentence (throwing Western logic into shambles), "rehpi" means "flashed!" as in reporting a lightning strike or a flash of sunlight, where we must say that "It" or "A light" or "The lightning" was what was doing the flashing. But if you throw your eyes and mind slightly out of focus, you begin asking what the difference is between the "light" and the "flash"; not much when you think about it! There's "lighting" and "flashing," which seem to differ in length of time perceived. If the verbs can take care of things, what are nouns really needed for here?

That seems to be the watchword of millennia of independent linguistic evolution in America. In Sahaptin, the sounds we translate as meaning "Mother Earth" more accurately mean, when you dive for the roots, "gently supporting underneath the moccasin." As I've shown in my writings, even "God" is a verb in Native America, using bare predicates without subject nouns as names: "Great Mysteriousing," "Dwells Above," or my favorite, "Thinks Breath Creates." "Tepee" in Lakota Sioux, though we use it as a noun in English, really means "we dwell".

I hope you're starting to see the problem, and this is just using everyday examples. When we move toward the quantum realm, everything of course gets even weirder. Whitehead told us that all we know of an atom is its radiating -- yet there is no æthing' there radiating. Heisenberg lamented that we'd reached the limits of our language: that we want to describe the inner structure of an atom, but we find we cannot do so in ordinary [Euro-] language. As should by now be clear, not only full atoms but also protons, electrons, neutrons, neutrinos, quarks, etc -- all are fictitious nouns created to mask the fact admitted by the founders of quantum theory that there is only (verby) radiating; not only have we never seen the particles, there are no particles to see! And yet our grammar forces us to create them in order to talk at all about the eventings: thus our confusing distinctions about "light" and other nouns.

If by some miracle we could think in verby ways instead of nouny ones, as Natives do, we might look at your puzzlement over Peter Russell's various uses of "light" in a new way: "intuitively received inner wisdom," "Creative Mind" itself and "the expression of Mind's thinking" look like different things when stated as nouns, yet if you make them into verbs and think in terms of a dynamic relationship as primary instead of separate objects, paying attention to the dancing rather than the dancers, everything is transformed. When you tune a radio to a specific frequency, it is no longer "separate" from the station -- the relationship (dancing) holds the station, the transmission, and the radio (dancers) together as a whole.

Or, for instance, when we meditate and slow down our brainwaves to the same speed as the Schumann Resonance, an Earth Aura standing wave at about 8 cps, we become no longer separate from every other being around the world tuned in to that frequency; body boundaries dissolve as we become the Resonance inside ourselves -- much like the miracle of language itself, described by linguistics founder Wilhelm von Humboldt as an invisible envelope we are inside of but is also inside of us.

Taking your excellent "Cosmic Light" essay to which I've been obliquely referring and then bringing to it the alternative frames of four and verbing, as I could not by my experience prevent myself from doing, I had a different experience than probably any other of your readers.

As I began, groupings of 3 follow a 3D spatial orientation while groupings of 4 are more reminiscent of integrated spacetime -- an idea only a century old in Western thinking but millennia old in Indian America, as seen in any cosmologically orienting ceremony. While 3D thinking concentrates on artificially created static subjects and objects, the thinking of 4D integrated spacetiming concentrates on dynamic, ever evolving and unfolding relationships and processes.