The Science of Symbols

Other Worlds
Imagining the 'Placeless Places'
Where Emergent Properties and Network Agency Manifest

The Creative Dynamics at the "Edge of Chaos" are the 'Other Worlds' of Myth

  • The emergent properties of complex systems can be demonstrated by  before and after measurements

  • But how and 'where' these occur in the synchronic interdependency of network feedback is obscured

  • This mysterious zone of activity is, to quantitative measurement, a 'nether world' of "hidden layers" of interactions

  • Thus mythic imagination symbolizes it as a magical 'other world' normally hidden from our awareness

The Worlds Above, Below, or Behind The World


Systems science describes the dynamical context where unpredictably creative ordering arises as "the Edge of Chaos"--a type of activity that is roiling with existing order, disruptions, and spontaneously emerging ordering. It is out of this dynamical cauldron that purposeful agency takes on and changes its forms. Yet, though they pervade all complex systems in Nature and society, these confounding dynamics are no where directly observable to scientific method. They do not 'take place' in fully traceable, calculable sequences. This primary source of complex ordering in the world we see and can measure, yet cannot 'locate' is the reference for mythic symbols of 'other worlds' that are and yet are not 'of' the ordinary world. These are the domains of network interdependency where interactivity gives rise to transformations and agency, represented as the mythic dynamics of 'spiritual forces'.

Myth symbolizes the contending impulses shaping self-organization in the 'other world of this one'--

"at the Edge of Chaos" -- with tales like that of the gods and goddess

taking sides on the battlefield of the Trojan War


In the mythic view, science's 'nether realm' at "the edge of chaos" is the 'placeless place' where 'all becomes interconnected'--by the influences of 'spiritual forces' (science's network agency). The 'other worlds' of faeries, dwarfs, spirits, and divinities represent the purposeful flows of network interdependency from which complexity's emergent properties arise. Like the "hidden layers" of network interactivity, these imaginal realms are 'behind a veil," or 'above and below' the ordinarily perceivable world. Yet, as in science, so in myth: the 'material world' is infused with the self-organizing activities of that 'placeless place'--human ignorance of which leaves us blind to 'how the world actually works.'

The way science diagrams flows of feed back within a system network,

as well as between it and its environment, indicates the interplay of these 'two worlds' of ordering,

which is represented by mythic symbols from many cultures:

In the larger view, myth compels us to seek understanding of how network agency 'shapes the world' by imagining there is always some additional domain of activity, of 'willfulness', to what we normally perceive about order formation, by conceiving 'the other worlds of this one.'

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