Category Archives: cycle

Charles Fourier and the Theory of Four Movements

Nothing is too wonderful to be true if it be consistent with the laws of nature.

— Michael Faraday in his Laboratory Notebook

There are many things to scratch one’s head about in Charles Fourier’s “Theory of the Four Movements,” first published anonymously in 1808. However, his progressive political thought influenced many in France and in the United States. Fourier was a utopian and a socialist, and thought social cooperation and unity were the only ways to overcome the discord and strife he observed in his times. His theory is based on a hierarchy of “movements” within four realms, from low to high: the Material, the Organic, the Animal, and the Social.

As he elaborated on these movements, Fourier claimed that social history went through four main periods of unhappiness and happiness, ascending from a chaotic period, through two harmonious periods which were each seven times longer, before descending into another chaotic period of length equal to the first. In order to achieve this happiness, he thought that we must envision and engineer a new social order to achieve a common purpose. Nowadays, of course, socialism has a noxious connotation to those of the right-leaning and hyper-capitalist persuasion.

  • Ascending Chaos
  • Ascending Harmony
  • Descending Harmony
  • Descending Chaos

And now, the United States teeters on the brink of choosing four more years of terrible leadership, all to maintain the status-quo of funneling more money into the pockets of the wealthy and more power into the hands of the already dominant.

Further Reading:

Charles Fourier / The Theory of Four Movements

[*9.62, *12.63]





Lo! ’t is a gala night
Within the lonesome latter years!
An angel throng, bewinged, bedight
In veils, and drowned in tears,
Sit in a theatre, to see
A play of hopes and fears,
While the orchestra breathes fitfully
The music of the spheres.

— From The Conqueror Worm, by Edgar Allen Poe

The worm, turns.

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]




The Adaptive Cycle

As we all wonder how the current world order will be transformed by the Covid-19 pandemic, perhaps now would be a good time to read up on the Adaptive Cycle. Worried about societal and economic collapse, I was originally thinking about the notion of social cycles, but came across this more general notion of cycles within ecological systems. It is also applicable to insightful investigation of social institutions and organizations.

The Adaptive Cycle is usually shown as a figure-eight loop, with four main segments (Growth, Maturity, Release, and Renewal), inhabiting a space of two or three variables (Potential, Complexity, and Resilience):

  • Growth or Exploitation: (r)
  • Maturity or Conservation: (K)
  • Release or Collapse: (Ω)
  • Renewal or Reorganization: (α)

Thus these charts indicate a closed trajectory of a system’s state within a state space over time. This concept was originally applied to cycles within ecological systems, measuring certain attributes of systems in order to predict their ability to handle, recover, and adapt from significant disruptive changes in environment, species populations, genetic landscape, etc.

These cycles can form steps on chains of greater systems where an individual cycle is a quasi-stable element but the overall state can jump and grow to higher forms of complexity and potential, or indeed collapse and fall to lower forms if the resilience is weak. As well, the multiplicities of cycles can represent a range of spacial scales for systems that have smaller cycles nested within them, operating concurrently.

This greater notion of change within systems has been called Panarchy. In contrast to hierarchy or even anarchy, Panarchy is neither the top-down or bottom-up of the other two. Panarchy tries to describe how actual ecological and social systems can change and transform yet endure and return to similar states, across scales of space and time.

Further Reading:

View at

Images of the Adaptive Cycle:

Images of Panarchy:

Social Cycle Theory



Carl Jung’s Alchemical Tetrameria

Jung’s diagram of his alchemical tetrameria is supposed to represent the evolving self, and suggests movement, succession, and change and yet stillness, consistency, and renewal. His own diagram is quite different from mine, but I do think that mine has some merit.

What are those elements A, B, C, D, and a, b, c, d, and the subscripts 1, 2, 3, 4, indicating the modification of them? I’m not quite sure that it matters, except that for the relationships between the two, and the relationships between the four squares, and the relationships between the four parts of the four squares.

In Jung’s diagram, A equals a cycle of a, b, c, and d, and likewise B a cycle of a1, b1, c1, and d1, etc., and so we can instead say A is a cycle of Aa, Ab, Ac, and Ad, and likewise B is a cycle of Ba, Bb, Bc, and Bd, etc. In that sense my diagram denotes much the same as Jung’s.

Nevertheless, I’m going to have to cycle through some more thoughts about why one should spend too much time contemplating this diagram.

Further Reading:

Murray Stein / Jung’s Map of the Soul: an introduction

Leslie Stein / Becoming Whole: Jung’s equation for realizing God

Carl Jung / Aion

[*12.10, *12.11]


The Twelve Houses of the Zodiac

How does one circumscribe the totality of human experience, both for the individual as well as for culture? One of the oldest ways is the twelvefold division of the Houses of the Zodiac, which may have its origins in Babylon. Other similar systems were used in India, China, Europe, etc. In my diagram above I’m using Latin numerals along with the Latin names of the houses.

For Western Astrology, four groups of three houses are divided by the four classical elements and then into triplicities (from Wikipedia):

  • Fire : Identity (I, V, IX)
  • Earth : Material (II, VI, X)
  • Air : Social and intellectual (III, VII, XI)
  • Water : Soul and Emotional (IV, VIII, XII)

And somewhat similarly for India, the divisions of Vedic Astrology are broken into four Bhavas or “needs” (from Wikipedia):

  • Dharma : (Duty) The need to find our path and purpose
  • Artha : (Resources) The need to acquire the necessary resources and abilities to provide for ourselves to fulfill our path and purpose
  • Kama : (Pleasure) The need for pleasure and enjoyment
  • Moksha : (Liberation) The need to find liberation and enlightenment from the world

There are more recent and scientific divisions of human universals, such as those by George Murdock, Robin Fox, and Donald Brown, as mentioned by Jungian analyst Anthony Stevens in his book “Archetype Revisited”. These are also grouped into four categories (from Wikipedia):

  • Language and cognition
  • Technology
  • Society
  • Beliefs

Further Reading:

Anthony Stevens / Ariadne’s Clue: a guide to the symbols of mankind

Note that John Crowley’s “AEypgt Quartet” uses the Latin names of the Houses as “books”, three to a volume.





The Hero’s Journey

Professor of Literature Joseph Campbell [1] popularized the monomyth of the “hero’s journey” [2], a recurring template for the plot arc or cycle of many heroic characters found in mythologies and even popular modern stories. From his most famous book, “The Hero with a Thousand Faces”:

A hero ventures forth from the world of common day into a region of supernatural wonder: fabulous forces are there encountered and a decisive victory is won: the hero comes back from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons on his fellow man. [3]

Quite a few diagrams are available showing the generic journey of the hero or heroine; some are more complete than others, and the one I present here is no exception. Campbell’s schema is said to have seventeen basic parts to it, but not all elements need to be present in any specific narrative. I list four basic “acts” (separation, descent, ascent, unification) and twelve basic events, including four thresholds: 1st) crossing into the special world, 2nd) surmounting the supreme ordeal, 3rd) returning to the normal world, and 4th) journey’s end and / or beginning.

  • Call and Refusal
  • ——–< Separation >
  • Meet the Mentor
  • Crossing Over (1st Threshold)
  • Tests, Allies, Enemies
  • ——–< Into the Abyss / Descent >
  • Inmost Cave / Whale Belly
  • Supreme Ordeal (2nd Threshold)
  • Ultimate Boon / Reward
  • ——–< Magic Flight / Ascent >
  • Road Back / Refusal
  • Crossing Back (3rd Threshold)
  • Return with Elixir / Resurrection
  • ——–< Unification >
  • Master of Two Worlds
  • Freedom to Live (or Die) (4th Threshold)

Any hero’s journey must be transformational, and so has associations with alchemical change. It must be of such difficulty that it utterly changes the nature and the mindset of the traveler. Even though many supporting characters may influence, help, and even hinder our hero, it is ultimately about their journey, their sacrifice, and their reward. But what the hero brings back with them is also key to the story, because it is for the benefit of others as well as for themselves.

An interesting dissertation by Richard Warm that I ran across recently proposes that leaders, like heroes, need ordeals and trials in order to bring back the inspiration and wisdom to motivate others. From the abstract:

This dissertation will explore leadership as a mytho-poetic transformational journey toward self-knowledge, authenticity, and ultimately wisdom; the power to make meaning and give something back to the world in which we live; and the necessity of transformation. I view leadership as a transformative process and a transformational responsibility. As leaders we must undergo our own transformation in order to lead change on a larger scale. The dissertation will be both philosophical and theoretical, exploring how the threads of the hero’s journey, transformation, wisdom, and leadership intertwine. …[4]

These ordeals may also be of an intellectual or moral kind, and not just feats of strength or stamina, although those are important too. Warm also has a company [5] for coaching you on your leadership, life, and legacy.

One of my favorite books that I think of when the hero’s journey comes to mind is “Figures of Earth: a comedy of appearances” by James Branch Cabell. It is a bit of a spoof on fantasy tropes, well before its time. However, I’m not quite sure what the “magic elixir” is that the hero returns with except for his story: that life is what you make of it, or what it appears to be to others, or what you can convince yourself that it is, or that it is what it is and must be sufficient to you in the end.




[3] Joseph Campbell / The Hero with a Thousand Faces



Further Reading:

“There are one or two things that I do not fancy the looks of in this torture-chamber.”

[*6.38, *6.133, *6.149, *9.200, *11.70]


The Scientific Method

The Scientific Method (SM) is often shown as a cycle of four steps: Observation, Hypothesis, Prediction, and Experiment. This cycle is somewhat similar to Kolb’s Learning Cycle, but there are important differences. Experiment is in both, but in Kolb Experience is the result of Experiment, and in the SM, Experiment follows Prediction. I think that Prediction would ideally be a part of both, and in the SM, Experience could be included in Observation.  Perhaps Kolb’s Active Experimentation is really SM’s Prediction and Kolb’s Experience is SM’s Experiment.


[*6.24, *7.26]