No. 6


Dmitry Mikhalevskiy 

Translated from the Russian by Dmitry Mikhalevskiy and James Franklin  



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 anthropomorphic system. 

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 drawbacks. 

     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 of man”.

     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.
   Fig. 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 Phases.

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  Ancient World Middle Ages Elizabethan England  One,
The Second Cycle  Renaissance Mannerism  Baroque Two,
The Third Cycle  Enlightenment  Romanticism Symbolism, Naturalism, Impressionism and thereafter  Three,
The Space Dominant Outer Space Transcendental space Inner 
Human space

     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 mainly direct.

     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 Development

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 development.

     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 groups.

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.



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