The Canonical Formula of Myth

Further Reading:

Claude Lévi-Strauss / The Structural Study of Myth, The Journal of American Folklore, 68, 270, Myth: a symposium, American Folklore Society,

Lévi-Strauss’s ‘double twist’ and controlled comparison: transformational relations between neighbouring societies

Jack Morava / On the Canonical Formula of C. Lévi-Strauss, arXiv:math/0306174v2 (2003)

James B. Harrod / A post-structuralist revised Weil–Lévi-Strauss transformation formula for conceptual value-fields, November 2018, Sign Systems Studies 46(2/3):255

Jean-Loïc Le Quellec, Marc Thuillard / A phylogenetic interpretation of the canonical formula of myths by Levi-Strauss, December 2016

Mark S. Mosko / The Canonic Formula of Myth and Nonmyth, American Ethnologist, Feb., 1991, Vol. 18, No. 1 (Feb., 1991), pp. 126-151,

[*9.128, *12.64]



I’ve written a few times about relating two different fourfolds and juxtaposing or comparing them in one eightfold diagram. A normal analogy is usually written as A:B::C:D, which means A is to B as C is to D. So if you have two such fourfolds, one way to write it as an eightfold is A:B::C:D:::E:F::G:H. I think a good name for this is a hyper-analogy. I couldn’t really find anything of merit about this concept, but perhaps it goes by another name.

I’m not sure what diagram arrangement shows this the best. Some ideas are 1) A-D are arranged vertically (as well as E-H) and both are arranged horizontally (side-by-side), or 2) A-D are the triangles pointing down, and E-H are the triangles pointing up. Or, 3) A-B can be the upper left and C-D the lower right squares, and E-H can be the upper right and lower left squares. Or, one can use the radial eightfold schema, and have 4) A-D are the triangles on the inside, E-H are the triangles on the outside (or vice-versa).

For example, here I show the Four Causes combined with my Structure-Function. Also, please examine my Eightfold Metaphysics, which combines Space-Time-Matter-Energy with Structure-Function. Additionally, another I like is the one for Tanabata, which relates the astronomical with the symbolized. I could go on and on, and probably will.

Further Reading:



Flowing and Falling

Some philosophers say everything is process. From the cosmic scale of the universe to the submicroscopic scale of atoms, physical forces marshal matters and energies to and fro. In between these at the human scale, biology is ruled by flows of energy from the sun and nutrients from the environment as well as from other living beings. Dynamical forces such as temperature, weather and tides also affect biology and even the cultural processes of higher lifeforms.

At the scale of the solar system, gravity collects gases to ignite stars and form planets. Once stars reach their limits to burn, gravity can collapse them to dense cinders and black holes or even to rebound and spread their atomic matters in novas and supernovas. Even light spread by the stars can be gathered together into gravity wells such as black holes. Stars in turn are gathered into galaxies by the gravity of black holes and even unknown dark matters.

At the scale of atoms and molecules, temperature differentials and water can partition certain types of elementary constituents to form membranes and segregate insides from outsides. If an inside is protected sufficiently, then there is time and the conditions to harbor and perpetuate the delicate structures and processes that form cells. Cells can even gather together and continue as multicellular communities, or only temporarily to fruit and disperse again as simple creatures known as slime molds.

At the individual human or societal scale, there are flows for nutrients and excreta, materials for habitation and the manufacture of tools, distributed energies such as electricity, fossil fuels, and information for learning, work, and civic participation. Even speech and writing can be thought as flows of information. But just as flows of nutrients and materials and energies can prove toxic to biological health or ecologies, so can information.

For two-dimensional dynamical systems, certain common elements can be mapped out: sources and sinks, saddles and centers. Sources have flows out from a point or region, and sinks have flows in. Saddles have a roughly stationary center, due to balanced flows in and out at (not necessarily) right angles. Centers are circular vortexes about a stationary point or region. Sources and sinks can spiral, saddles can twist, centers can become eccentric or elliptical.

For example, think about everyday weather forecasts. The atmosphere is relatively thin compared to the earth and so the flows of air can be considered two-dimensional, at least at the ordinary strata of human habitation. There are air pressure highs and lows (sources and sinks), and air temperature cold and warm fronts (usually not saddles though), stationary fronts (centers?), and even circulations (hurricanes are spiraling sinks I guess).

Ordinary, human-sized change has conditioned many of our intuitions and insights about the way the universe works. Heraclitus famously said that all was change, and so he thought fire was the primal element. His predecessor Thales thought that water was instead the basic element, and it is pretty mutable also. Lucretius, inspired by Empedocles, thought none of the four classical elements were foundational, but all were composed of tiny bits that fell and bounced against each other through an endless void.

As earth is in opposition to air, and fire to water, the seasonal changes of temperature and moisture were considered by Hippocrates. Heat gains dominion over cold in Spring and Summer, but cold replaces it in Fall and Winter. Similarly wet and dry quarters cycle through the seasons. These oppositions gave rise to the theory of the four temperaments or humourism. Even to this day these considerations have inspired various theories of personality, like the Myers-Briggs Assessment.

Is everything a struggle of opposites? Empedocles, already mentioned, thought love and strife were the relations that respectively attracted and repelled all matter in their dance and change. Now we know that things fall towards the earth, not for the love of it, but because of the shape of space that the earth’s mass makes. Heat flows into the cold because both even up. Order dissolves into chaos since the latter is more likely, unless fed by other sources of order turning to disorder.

Is everything a flow between opposites? Light spreads out and diminishes into darkness, but gravity gathers matter together. Enough gravity can even gather light and bind it into the darkness of a black hole. A drop of ink spreads out in a glass of water, never to return to that inky state, unless the glass sits and the water evaporates until only a drop remains. Even epidemics and pandemics can be thought to be flows of transmission and contagion. Here, the small becomes the large, and the few the many.

Further Reading:

Also note that these four classifications are somewhat analogous to four valued logic: True is Source, False is Sink, None is Center, Both is Saddle.

[*12.52, *12.56]



Conditional Branching is Not Necessary

Four simple instructions are sufficient to evaluate any Turing computable function using self-modifying programs: LOAD, STORE, GOTO, INCREment.

Further Reading:

Raul Rojas / Conditional Branching is Not Necessary for Universal Computation in von Neuman Computers, Journal of Universal Computer Science 2,11 (1996) 756-768

William F. Gilreath, Phillip A. Laplante / Computer Architecture: A Minimalist Perspective



The Red and the Blue

Our representational government is frustrating, to say the least.

We have political leaders at the city, county, state and national levels, and the political affiliations of the levels above you may be quite different from your own leanings. Often it feels like one is not represented at all, and even disenfranchised, because mechanisms are in place to diminish a person’s concerns and voice. I feel sometimes like I’m at the center of a Matryoshka Doll, with different and indifferent political parties around me.

For example, if I’m Blue and in a state that has mostly Red politicians (for my Congressional district, Senators, and Governor), and I reach out to my Congressperson or Senator or Governor with matters of importance to me, I usually feel rather belittled by their quick party-line response. I know that’s how representation works, and I should keep trying to bring my concerns, but still. If I move to a Blue county or state, would I feel better? A little bit, perhaps.

And on a national level, we have a Red president that cares nothing for the concerns of the Blue voters who he mentions with vitriol. And who (even though impeached) has been kept in office by the quick dismissal of the Red Senate. And a presidential election process that gives rural, less-populated states more power to elect a president. And now the Supreme Court that has judged that states with laws that make all electors vote as a group are fine, because sadly it is constitutional.

Part of the problem is the extreme polarization in our country, fed by our fragmented media and news sources. Another part of the problem is the lobbyists and the money, the PACS and Super PACS, exacerbated by even more money. Another part of the problem is the widening income inequality in our country, which just worsens the problems. Another part of the problem is the pervasive racism that still remains in our institutions and politics. But what’s the solution?

And now we have the pandemic.

Further Reading:

Charts: America’s Political Divide, 1994–2017


Separation of Powers

The notions of “Separation of Powers” and “Checks and Balances” are intended to work within our three-branched government to guard against an abuse of power or dereliction of duty by any branch in regard of their responsibilities, by giving oversight abilities to the other two. If instead two branches work in collusion or bad faith to guard against any rectification by the third, then this separation breaks down.

Specifically, the Senate under the current majority is approving federal judges just as fast as possible to alter the political makeup of the Judiciary for decades to come, since they have life-time appointments. You may ask why are so many seats vacant? Because the Senate quelled the approval of the previous president’s nominees, including one to the Supreme Court. Many more examples exist, unfortunately.

This built-in ability of checking and balancing seems that it’s just not working as well as it should. The conservative party as it exists today relentlessly speaks of “broken government” and then goes about to indeed break it, or to “drain the swamp” and fill positions with the swampiest candidates possible. Do we need a fourth branch of government to protect us from this dangerous predicament?

Further Reading:

Separation of Powers Metaphor”separation+of+powers”&tbm=nws”separation+of+powers”&tbm=isch






The Tao of Thoth

Ethan Indigo Smith’s recent book, “The Tao of Thoth,” is a companion to a previous book of his I reviewed, “The Matrix of Four“. But instead of dwelling on fourfolds from ancient and esoteric sources, this book’s appeal to me is mainly for eightfolds. The sources are again traditional and occult, and indeed the title’s constituents come from ancient Asian and Egyptian cultures. Smith encourages us to contemplate these venerable concepts to reclaim simplicity in our lives and move away from any unnecessary complexity of modern life.

Certainly Smith is legitimate in critiquing present-day institutions and mentalities that valorize profit and consumption over ecological and humanitarian well-being. Can we learn from ancient cultural precepts and use them to heal the earth as a whole as well as enhance the health of our own lives, our descendants lives, and that of our follows? We seem to be avoiding the simple fact that current lifestyles are unsustainable for the earth and even harmful to our own psyche.

The first chapter introduces us to the Taiji, or Yin Yang, as well as the Tao of Asian study. The “Tao of Thoth” is also introduced and seems to be the relationship between the Taiji and the Tenets of Thoth (also referred to as Thoth Energy). Several claims are then made as to their separate and related simplicity and applicability. The next two chapters deal with this so-called Thoth Energy and the Taiji in more detail.

In Chapter 1 the Egyptian god Thoth is described in some detail, and his connection to gods in other mythologies, both Eastern and Western. The term Thoth Energy seems to describe the principles conceptualized by his attributes. That these principles are found in separate traditions is indicative our common humanity, rather than cultural approbation (maybe except for continuity between the Egyptian (Thoth), Greek (Hermes), and Roman (Mercury) gods). Next the Eight Trigrams of the Bagua and the eight deities of the Ogdoad are discussed.

A list of the Seven Tenets of Thoth close the chapter: Mentalism, Correspondence, Vibration, Polarity, Rhythm, Cause and Effect, Gender, and their relationship to the Tao. Hermetic and occult principles are often associated with individual self-development and not social coherence common to institutions. These tenets are the Seven Hermetic Principles mentioned in Chapter II of the Kybalion. Hermeticism is also deeply connected with Alchemic principles.

Chapter 2 discusses the Tao, Taiji (Yin Yang), and Taiji practice (Tai Chi). The Eight Layered Body is mentioned (the physical body, the chi body, the emotional body, mental body, psychic body, causal body, body of individuality, and the body of Tao). The next seven chapters deal with the seven hermetic principles which are hinted to align with Taoist principles as well, but do they do so in clear ways? Perhaps I need to study both the Kybalion and the Taiji in depth before I understand their connection.

And so briefly:

  • Chapter 3 (Mentalism) mentions The Eightfold Path.
  • Chapter 4 (Correspondence) mentions the Seven Minor Physical Planes (Chapter VIII of the Kybalion).
  • Chapter 5 (Vibration, Chapter IX of the Kybalion) mentions the Eight Limbs of Yoga.
  • Chapter 6 (Polarity, Chapter X of the Kybalion) mentions the Eight Energies or Gates of Taiji and the fourfold Known Knowns.
  • Chapter 7 (Rhythm, Chapter XI of the Kybalion) mentions the Bagua and Eight Taiji Principles.
  • Chapter 8 (Cause and Effect, Chapter XII of the Kybalion) mentions the Eight Auspicious Symbols of Buddhism.
  • Chapter 9 (Gender, Chapter XIII of the Kybalion, and Mental Gender, Chapter XIV) mentions the Eight Auspicious Offering Bowls and the Eight Secrets of the Tao Te Ching.
  • In Chapter 10, I am certainly glad that Smith rounded out the Seven Tenets to Eight with Patience. Mentioned are Chakras and the Spectrum of Light and the fourfold Wu Wei. In contrast, the last Chapter XV of the Kybalion deals with “Hermetic Axioms,” discussing several of the principles together.

After each chapter discussing a tenet, Smith suggests a Taiji or Taiji-inspired meditative practice that embraces a core concept: standing meditation, champion posture, shaking, arm swinging (Renunciation/Reintegration, Evaporation/Condensation), spiraling balance, pressurization, integrating Yin and Yang, walking.

It would be nice to have a bibliography and index included in this book, as many sources are mentioned and it would be convenient to have it as a quick reference. I must say that I didn’t find this short book as rewarding as “The Matrix of Four,” nevertheless, I found it worth reading and it piqued my interest for trying Tai Chi.

Further Reading:

Ethen Indigo Smith / The Tao of Thoth

The Three Initiates / The Kybalion

[*12.50, *12.51]




Crisis-Response and Covid-19

The RSA (Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce) has written several articles recently on the ongoing impacts of Covid-19 on society. Their great-sounding motto is that the RSA “believes in a world where everyone is able to participate in creating a better future.” I’ve enjoyed several of their animated videos over time, with signature black and red colors and sped-up hand drawing illustrating a featured talk.

I’ve been meaning to read a few of their recent articles on Covid-19, but hadn’t until I spotted an interesting two-by-two matrix labeled Crisis-Response Measures. Actions or practices that are performed during and after a crisis are divided over four cells as to whether they are stopped or started in those two times. Thus we examine the actions or practices that are:

  • Jettisoned (Let Go): Stopped During Crisis, then Stopped Post-Crisis
  • Transitory (End): Started During Crisis, then Stopped Post-Crisis
  • Restarted: Stopped During Crisis, then Started Post-Crisis
  • Amplified: Started During Crisis, then Started Post-Crisis

When in the middle of a crisis, one often is so busy that there’s no time to think about what one should be or should not be doing, and to be in that situation is certainly poor planning. Plus we should try to determine what we should plan to be doing in the future, thus giving our planning a normative consideration. Just because we’ve been doing something before the crisis or began something because of it doesn’t mean we should continue.

Indeed, there may be few or even no reasons to go back to the old ways of doing things, and a crisis is a grand opportunity to change the bad and maybe find good new practices and institutions for maintaining them. Of course when good and bad are in great dispute you have a lot of difficulty in coming to a consensus of action. And being in the midst of a crisis is perhaps not the best of times to come to a meeting of the political minds.

Also, these charts don’t describe the actions that are transformations of old actions, only distinguishing them as being new or old. Anything started during the crisis is new (transitory and amplified) and anything stopped during the crisis is old (jettisoned and restarted). However, there are many great ideas in these essays and we certainly need to build bridges to a future that we can look forward to living in.

Further Reading:


Everything is Four

Out of the None comes One,
out of the One comes Two,
and from the twain comes forth
the One as Four.

— Not the Axiom of Maria

How do you solve a problem like Maria?

— From The Sound of Music

Further Reading:

[*12.18, *12.20]




Scenario Thinking and Covid-19

Scenario Planning, Analysis, or Thinking is a technique for probing into possible futures when you are anticipating or overwhelmed by tumultuous challenges. One often starts by examining two factors that have both great Importance and Uncertainty and then considering two extremes of each. For their four different mixtures, you can posit causes, how to recover from bad outcomes, what actions would be favorable for all scenarios, etc. In other words, one can develop related stories about these different futures.

In these slides by authors Steven Weber and Arik Ben-Zvi, the two important and uncertain factors are Public Health and Economics, both affected by the Covid-19 pandemic, and for their initial purposes independent of each other. For public health, the disease could kill far more than estimated (a secondary wave) or kill less (vanish like a miracle). For the economic impact, the toll could be sustained (a long term depression) or the recovery could be relatively quick (v-shaped). So the two factors and their extremes are

    • Economic recovery is slow (depression, recession), or fast (v-shaped)
    • Health and death toll is worse (than estimates), or better (yay)

The four scenarios that are named are basically

    • Economy good, Health good: Americans Win
    • Economy bad, Health good: Fractured USA
    • Economy good, Health bad: Resilient USA
    • Economy bad, Health bad: Coronavirus Wins

and the scenario stories are told with respect to January of 2021 at the next state of the union address. Each of these scenarios are quite detailed and then followed by Insights and Implications for all. Often Scenario Thinking is used for more distant future analysis, but this shows it can be used for a mere nine months as well.

Further Reading:

Continue reading Scenario Thinking and Covid-19

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