THE PERIODIC LAW OF THE DEVELOPMENT OF CULTURE
The text of a report made at THE SEVENTH INTERNATIONAL
CONGRESS IN PHILOSOPHY AND CULTURE, August 29th 2004, St. Petersburg Scientific
Center of the Russian Academy of Sciences
The Periodic Law
The evolution of anthropomorphic systems is based on the
PRINCIPLE OF EMBEDDED THREEFOLDNESS. This means that the history
of man (both as an individual and as a group) and the products of his creative
activity can be presented in three Cycles. Each of these Cycles consists
of three Phases. Such Phases, if they are long enough in time such
as Antiquity or the Middle Ages for example, also demonstrate a distinct
internal threefold structure. The quality of these Phases, which
is manifested through space presentations, repeats itself within every
Cycle. This order is true for all levels of a multilevel complex
The Specifics of Space in the Sphere of Humanities
Serious investigations of space within the framework of
the humanities are extremely uncommon. One of the first to study
this idea was Oswald Spengler who considered space to be “the sign and
expression of life and its primordial and most powerful symbol.”
He clearly understood the potential of space: “The character of extension
(third dimension) should henceforth be called the great symbol of culture.
It is possible to derive from the character of extension all the language
of forms of reality and its physiognomy...”
Separate aspects of the problem
of space (philosophical, aesthetic, psychological, etc.) were studied in
the first half of the 20th century by Russian scholars F. Losev, B. V.
Asafjev, M. M. Bakhtin, L. S. Vygotsky and P. A. Florensky. Florensky,
just like Spengler, proposed that “space is one of the primary concerns
in the fine arts…. and even more so in the understanding of the world in
general.” But today, his conclusions, especially in the area of theatre,
seem to be paradoxical. This can be the result of some of his theoretical
A new wave of interest in the
problem of space was raised in the 1960s and 1970s. In 1969 Martin
Heidegger, in one of his later articles entitled “The Art and the Space,”
asked many questions, the overwhelming majority of which have remained
unanswered. “Remarks on the fine arts, on space and on their mutual
interaction remain as questions, even when they are presented in the form
of statements,” — wrote this famous philosopher.
Space is something that we take
for granted but it is really an abstract concept. Being as “natural”
as breathing, it is not perceived directly by our senses. It is accessible
to us indirectly though objects that surround us and therefore is secondary
to them. Hence, space is a complex phenomenon of culture, corresponding
to the current level of psychological development of man.
This fact, remaining without
attention, results in a number of mistakes, that lead to the most serious
consequences. Within the framework of cognitive psychology there is a mess
between the understanding of space as an everyday worldview based of three
coordinates and space as a media, which contains objects of the external
world. Modern psychologists are deeply involved with cybernetic models
and complex mathematical approaches. At the same time, they accept the
idea of Immanuel Kant of apriority of space.
In this connection it is significant
that the very term “space” was first introduced into European languages
during the Italian Renaissance. This fact, noted by Heidegger, makes
it possible to assume that the phenomenon of space might not have been
perceived by man before the Renaissance. Indeed, the very first description
of landscape in Western European culture was made by Francesco Petrarca
in 1333 when he recorded his observations and experiences of his journeys
through Northern France and Germany. Prior to today, the English
language hasn’t had a clear word for the environment as a medium, since
the term “space” is primarily used to describe the “interplanetary” cosmos.
The specifics of space described
above causes us to overlook another important phenomenon: we lack any personal
memory of our earlier experiences of space. This means that either
we must make a big effort to recall our own experience of space of an earlier
age or we lack them completely. The problem becomes even more complex
and less understood when we try to reconstruct the spatial representations
of other historical epochs. Modern researchers mistakenly believe
that our ancestors two or three thousand years ago perceived the world
around them just as we do today. This lack of understanding of the
development of space perception as a process over time has created numerous
misunderstandings in the humanities.
Space Model of Man
In contrast to other approaches to the problem of space,
I have proposed a model that is based on the premise that man deals not
with one, but with two different spaces: external and internal. (Fig. 01)
External space is the world
that surrounds man. Science, in which we trust so much, has perpetuated
the concept of external space as described by Newtonian physics.
But from a psychological point of view the “subjective” external space,
that is the only real space for a man in his everyday life, looks rather
different. Russian academician Raushenakh discovered that this space
is non homogeneous and consists of two zones: the near and the distant
zone. These zones differ both in the way that they impact on life-activity
and in the way that they are perceived. We really see the distant
zone in three dimensional perspective of the “Renaissance” type or as it
is reproduced through optical systems such as photography, film and TV.
On the other hand, the near zone is perceived in reverse “medieval” perspective
well known in the icons.
Inner or spiritual space is the
“internal world” of a man. In this aspect it was described by Karl
Jaspers. The development of internal space defines man as an individual.
We can also speak about transcendental (or external) spirituality in connection
to the inner space. In this connection the inner space is responsible
for the development of system of values of a man. Hence we can recall
the words of Nikolai Berdiaev that “value is a transcendental function
It is rather obvious that external
and internal spaces are not constant but they enlarge through the life
of man. If this process goes in a different way it is possible to
speak about psychological problems of a person.
The external and internal spaces
are closely connected. This follows directly from the analysis of
the transition from black figure to red figure Ancient Greek vase painting
made by Raushenbakh. Elaborating on this idea a little further, we
come to a rather unexpected but even more significant conclusion: the inner
space is the more dominant. This means that the capability to perceive
external space is determined by the level of the development of one’s inner
space. It is necessary to underscore — I am not speaking about an
idealistic approach. The external world that is perceived is the
objective world and independent of the spectator. But the character
its perception by man is determined by the inner world. In other
words, external space is accessible to us in direct proportion to the development
of our personality. This point makes it easier to understand the
real meaning of the ideas of Kant, which later generations of philosophers
tried to explain as idealistic.
1. Space model of man.
The Fundamental Role of Space Paradigm
High level psychic processes are determined by the
development of man’s mentality. But the brain deals with two different
data flows of information coming from two sources: external and internal
spaces. Going in opposite directions, these two data flows collide
within the brain and inevitably influence each other. (Fig. 1) The larger
these spaces, the stronger the information flows and the better developed
are the mental processes. Therefore, the growth of these spaces and
the development of the thinking process appear to be directly connected.
So the size of the two spaces
act as the major characteristic capable of determining objectively the
level of the psychological development of a man and the character of the
products of his creative activity. To describe the current configuration
of external and internal spaces I introduced the notion of “Spatial Paradigm.”
The psychological aspects of this spatial paradigm allow us to arrive at
much broader and scientifically authentic conclusions about different areas
of human activity.
Here we approach the sphere of
culture as man unconsciously records his Spatial Paradigm in the products
of his creative activity irregardless of their initial objective, as the
spatial process operated on a subconscious level. Works of fine arts,
political, social, economic, natural science models as well as religious
concepts appear to be exact spatial copies from their author. In
this sense man and his creative products, taken in the broadest sense,
appear to be mutually identical anthropomorphic systems. This provides
a new and reliable basis for cross disciplinary conclusions and gives us
the opportunity to study the levels of the intellectual and psychological
development of a person.
These concepts apply not only
to individuals but also to groups and immediately makes all areas of culture
and science a “data base” in our research into the development of man through
history. The objective character of this “data base” is of extreme
importance for research in the humanities.
The Law of Increase of the Number of
Dimensions of Space as Perceived by Man
It was said before that “spaces” “mastered” or “developed”
by man throughout his lifetime increase in size. However this element
of “quantity” is not the only parameter of the dynamics of space. The element
of the “quality” of space is a second parameter. In my research into
Ancient culture it was shown that man, in his evolution, goes through several
distinct stages of development each being characterized by a particular
number of perceived dimensions of space. These stages or levels of
development can be determined as the following:
a zero dimensional world of points: an impersonal being
of a man within the limits of a near zone and complete identification with
the environment. Man perceives the external world through emotional identification,
rational thinking is not developed. The major informational and communicative
form is myth.
a one-dimensional inner world: man becomes separated
from his environment but proceeds to live within the limits of a near zone.
He appreciates the “feeling” of time — a one-dimensional category. This
is the time of a one-dimensional epos.
a two-dimensional flat plain world view: still the impersonal
man achieves a sense of two-dimensional continuity and generates different
kinds of binary mental products — dialogue, dialectics, dual deities, oppositions,
binary built form of tragedy. Methods of abstract thinking emerge.
a two plus one dimensional world: man lives in a world
that can be modeled as a two-dimensional plane with a vertical component,
he starts forming his inner world and discovers the far zone and finally
a three dimensional world. Man develops his personality
and perceives space as a continuous media.
Fig. 2. The development of perception of dimensions in
time for a single person (top) and for a group (bottom).
Each of these stages of space
perception manifests a particular level of thinking in abstract categories
which correspond with point, single, binary
and triple archetypes of mentality. This law of
the increase in the number of dimensions can be applied both to a single
person and to groups of any size. Strictly speaking, the number of
dimensions perceived is probably determined by the level of archetype (mono-,
binary-, triple-), that is the basic mental feature. But the number
of dimensions is somehow a more obvious parameter. (Fig. 2)
The above described dependence
has a geometrical embodiment that is most important for understanding the
development of the forms of culture. These geometrical forms are
“the Pythagorean figures”: a dot, a line, a plain, a pyramid (a cone) and
a cube (a sphere). (Fig. 3) They visualize structures that constitute
all forms of man’s creative activity at every stage of his evolution: state
systems and religious views, for example. Every ethnos, like any
other group or personality, goes through these same stages of development
and these basic forms identify its psychological age, that is, the level
of development of man. Unfortunately the lack of time prevents me
from dwelling on this question and giving some examples. Many of
them are given in my book “Ancient Greece the Unknown…”
Fig. 3. The Pythagorean figures.
The Phases of a Cycle of Periodic Development
From the analysis of the space model of man it may be
supposed that the process of man’s development is also characterized by
the focusing of man’s attention between his external and inner spaces.
So the space paradigm should demonstrate a recurrent type of development.
This periodicity may be assumed to be higher than binary if we take into
account the above mentioned complexity of these spaces.
The analysis of the history of
culture allows us to suggest a threefold principle for this process (Fig.
5): In the first phase of each triple cycle man is oriented to the external
space. There, in the world that surrounds him, man learns new symbols.
The second phase is dominated by the transcendental space. During
this period of development man forms his system of values. In the third
phase man concentrates on his personal “human” inner space. Here
the results of the two previous phases are brought together to reach a
better understanding and expression of himself.
Fig. 4. The development of space dimensions’ perception
within the Ancient Greek ethnos.
After man develops through these
three phases the triple cycle starts again from the beginning.
We can attempt to bring together
these three phases with different dimensional models described by the Pythagorean
figures. Analysis made of Ancient history clearly shows that during
the first “external space” phase man’s space presentation goes through
a dot, a line and a plane. The second “transcendental” phase correlates
to the “two plus one dimensional” model that develops into a pyramid or
a cone. It corresponds with an “idealistic” position. The third
“personal” or “human” phase is connected to the development of the three
dimensional perception of space embodied in a cube or a sphere.
Fig. 5. The triple cycle of the development of a
space paradigm of an anthropomorphic system.
All levels of a complex anthropomorphic
system demonstrate the same regularities. The lower levels go through
the triple cycle which as a whole is characterized by one of the three
space characteristics. Hence it forms one third of a triple cycle
of a higher level than the basic one.
Each new cycle is characterized
by a higher dimension of external space perception. This means that
after the one-dimensional cycle, consisting of three phases, there should
come a two-dimensional and then a three-dimensional cycle. However,
the “quality” of products of culture, specific to phases located within
the same position on different levels, should be similar, and repeated
in each triple cycle. This fact of recurring returning to the styles
and forms that existed before is well known in the history of
culture. (Fig. 6) This regularity may be considered
to be the most fundamental law of anthropomorphic system development.
Fig.6. The development of space paradigm during the history
of Western European culture.
The Recurring Periods of the Development of Culture
This approach allow us to present the history of Western
European culture from Antiquity to present in a table form, where horizontal
rows present the three triple Cycles, and three vertical columns — the
Let’s start our analysis of the table with the columns.
||The First Phase
||The Second Phase
||The Third Phase
||The number of dimensions of the outer space perceived;
The character of Communication/Culture
|The First Cycle
|The Second Cycle
|The Third Cycle
||Symbolism, Naturalism, Impressionism and thereafter
|The Space Dominant
The first Phases of the three
Cycles are: the Ancient World, the Renaissance and the Enlightenment.
Man studies his external space and creates methods of its presentation.
The events and objects of the outer world are depicted. For these
periods the “direct” renaissance approach to perspective is typical in
painting, objects are depicted “from outside,” even emotions are presented
in the way that demonstrate an “external” or superficial character.
The second Phases are: the Middle
Ages, Mannerism and Romanticism. Man forms a system of values.
The sign of these periods is transcendental “external” spirituality.
As the external world plays a subordinate role, its objects are used as
symbols for the supernatural and their forms are transformed to strengthen
the dominant vertical. Space perception becomes limited by the near
zone and the medieval “reversed” perspective starts being typical for the
time periods of the second Phases.
The third Phases are: the Elizabethan
England, the Baroque period, Symbolism (Impressionism, Naturalism) and
thereafter. Man is concerned with himself demonstrating the synthesis
of the results of the first two Phases — the external symbols are used
to depict the processes of the man’s
inner world. The function of the external space
is changed. From the object of depiction it turns to be the means of depicting
the inner space of man. For painting in the third Phases it is typical
to make accent on masses of objects, to reveal their “inner filling.”
So textures on the surfaces are actively developed, the perspective is
The succession of the epochs
of Western European culture development comprises three triple Cycles presented
by the horizontal table rows.
The First Cycle — the first horizontal
row: the Ancient World, the Middle Ages and Elizabethan England.
For the majority of people living within this Cycle personality is poorly
developed. General man remains within his near zone. That is
a statistical estimate. Common men reaches the level of the one-dimensional
world view. Their visual perception is limited by the near zone and
they can not perceive space. The external world is seen as consisting
of isolated objects separated by emptiness. Verbal communication
dominates over visual tradition. This Cycle finds its culmination
point in the Shakespearean “theatre for the ear.” It is characteristic
that the English national school of painting was formed fifty years after
Shakespeare died. These are the basic specifics of the first Cycle.
Even in the third Phase of this Cycle man doesn’t reach the heights of
personality development and Hamlet remains an impersonal being leaving
this mystery to the generations of scholars who treat him as their contemporary.
The Second Cycle, presented by
the second horizontal row: the Renaissance, Mannerism and the Baroque.
This cycle commences when a large group of Italian reached the two dimensional
level of development characterized by the perception of the far zone of
the external world. People started seeing it and the “discovery of
space” became the sign of the epoch. The very term “space,” symbolizing
the media filling in gaps between the objects, was first introduced into
the European languages. The external world was mastered in all possible
ways. However, this far zone was displayed through two-dimensions
so Fine arts were dominated by painting. Renaissance perspective
became the norm in painting. The Second Cycle was culminated by the
masterpieces of Rembrandt, who reached Shakespearean dramatic effects with
the medium of oil painting. During this cycle the artistic conventions
of painting reached their zenith and later painting existed either in academic
forms or as experiments leading beyond the limits of painting.
The Third Cycle is presented
by the third horizontal row of the Table. It includes the Enlightenment,
Romanticism and finally Symbolism, Impressionism, Naturalism and thereafter.
Man reaches such a high level of personality development that provides
him the opportunity to perceive and to display the external space
through three-dimensional forms. From the beginning of the Enlightenment
theatre dominated not only the Fine Arts but practically all spheres of
public life. The deeper man went into his inner world the more distorted
became the external form of the artistic products which he created. These
stylizations were needed to express this new scale of personal message.
This Cycle is crowned by the great discovery of Gordon Craig, opening the
way to the presentation of the verbal achievements of Shakespearean drama
in visual form, through dynamic abstract scenography. These principles
and approaches would be later brought to live in other spheres such as
sculpture and different types of design (interior design for example).
The Multilevel Character of Anthropomorphic Systems
The processes described above operate on different levels
and are organized into an embedded triple structure that describes the
complex human society and its culture development. Every phase of
each high level in this model will be divided into three sub phases following
the same cyclic development. The process can be most clearly seen
in such “long” epochs as Antiquity and the Middle Ages. Ancient Greek
history, for example, is divided into three periods: Early, Classical and
Hellenistic. The Middle Ages, correspondingly — Early, Romanesque
and Gothic. The similarity of the “quality” of culture of the corresponding
phases is rather obvious and doesn’t need further explanation. (Fig. 7)
For Western Europe it is easy to identify as the highest
the level of historical epochs. The lower level is formed by different
European ethnoses. Every ethnos, as an independent organism, is responsible
for a particular epoch. Then comes the level of different social
groups located within an ethnos which were first formed on the principle
of personality development. And finally there lies the lowest level
of individual man.
Fig. 7. The multilevel character of anthropomorphic systems
Multilevel structure generates
the effect of the actualization or amplification of the processes happening
on different levels. This effect is caused by the resonance of spatial
paradigms that have the same “quality.” Hence in this case it is
possible to speak about a “vertical resonance.” The resonance for
each particular period of time can be compared to the energization of some
particular group or individuals. So this mechanism would well explain
the problem of personality in history.
The higher the level — the larger
its impact on resonance. That is why external space, characteristic
of the first Phase, dominated all other periods of Antiquity. Everything,
including gods, was treated in a “materialistic” way. The idealism of Plato
was also “materialistic.” The Middle Ages, on the contrary, were
dominated by the second Phase of the “historic” level and everything developed
under the sign of transcendental spirituality, and the first period — the
Early Middle Ages — remained in a shadow of the Romanesque and the Gothic
periods for a long time.
The Geographical Aspect of the Periodic Process
Man and his culture developed in the geographical space
of the European continent. This energy goes as a transverse wave
every climax of which forms a particular historical period, realized by
a certain ethnos. From every center of activity circular waves go
in all directions.
The impulse of the First Cycle
goes from the South to the North: from Egypt, through Mediterranean Isles,
to Greece, Rome, Central Europe (Franks’ Kingdom) and the British Isles.
The Second wave, that determines
the Second Cycle, is born in Italy. It is started by the wave that
earlier left to the Near East and now has returned. The beginning
of the Second Cycle coincides with the third Phase of the First Cycle.
So English culture of the Elizabethan times is usually identified as Renaissance,
though these two cultures were very different in character.
The third wave returns from the
British Isles to Central Europe. New countries are absorbed by this
process. The superposition of the Second and the Third waves brings to
life the Third Cycle of the West European culture development.
This dynamic, which is rather
clearly seen, allows us to abandon an amorphous linear presentation of
history, and to understand the real sense of the cultures of different
historic periods and their correlation with each other.
It is well known that different levels of a complex system
must follow the same laws of development. So the general analysis
of the periodic table allows us to see how an individual develops in his
personal history and make some general conclusions about the specifics
of every particular period and psychological crises that separate them.
This provides a scientifically grounded prognosis both for individuals
and for groups. In other words, as Mrs. Lubava Moreva said in her opening
address, “to see the perspective and the modern problems in perspective.”
Now using the above mentioned
information, I would like to comment on some things that were mentioned
by other reporters.
Fig. 8. The parallel resonance of space paradigms in different
The universal character of space as the basis for analysis
seems to have a great potential for the solution of humanitarian problems
of different kinds.
Persons and groups characterized
by different dimensions of worldview have various basic values and the
exchange of the information between them on fundamental questions is extremely
complicated. This aspect should be taken into account when attempts
are made to organize dialogue, a necessity that was repeatedly spoken about
during first days of our Congress. This difference makes it possible
to understand the distinction in ethics for the representatives of different
space paradigms. It is not correct to make the problem of entering
“the alien world” look simple. “Simple language,” as a means
of information interchange, appears to be insufficient in this situation.
My model allows us to connect the number of dimensions with ideal representations.
For every particular period “the ideal” is the space paradigm of the next
stage of development and forms of culture that are appropriate to it and
which will appear in the nearest future. But the major part of society
is reactionary, being the carrier of the out-of-date spatial paradigm.
The above said allows us to see the in a new light the problem of the domination
of an idea in minds of masses, or the problem of friendship and war, as
they were discussed in the context of a report made by professor Jelena
Celma or how not to get lost in the immense expanses of a “Global village.”
For the organization of a dialogue
inside one ethnos there exists a serious problem. It is connected
to an intensive interaction between groups that
have the same paradigm, but belong to different ethnoses.
This phenomenon can be considered as “parallel resonant effect.” (Fig.
8) It is capable to aggravate a conflict situation inside some ethnos.
Such a mechanism, to my mind, is responsible for a notorious conflict in
Russian society known as the opposition between the “Western oriented”
intellectuals and the “Eastern oriented” ones.