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About “phase”

The concept of “phase” in science is quickly becoming a key metaphor for understanding the relationships between disparate fields both in the realm of discourse and the realm of the world at large.  It helps us get to the heart of what can be considered a coherent field or entity in the first place, and therefore what creates the very conditions of a specific state of space and time.  The reason being that both the world of motion and meaning depend on the ordering of space within a certain timing scheme that wholly depends on both the “observer” system, (which is actually a higher order system symmetry, descended from symmetry breaks even higher upstream), and a reference system with which we orient and create a world from.  This timing scheme depends on a resonant relationship between these observer and reference systems that is accomplished in what is often called the “phase” space, or possibility space, or in some sense what can be also thought of as time/space–the reciprocal of space/time.

Douglass A. White defines phase as: “the condition of a system or a portion of a periodic system in space/time relative to some point of reference “external” to the system.”  He goes on to detail the importance of the phase wave in defining the reference frame for an “observer physics”:


What this ends up meaning is that everything we see is only visible because of an attractor in phase space we use to orient our own rhythms.  All the higher order complexity of life and mind arise out of rhythmic patterns whose timing is a function of an organizing framework brought to bear by the organism.

Phase is also used in complexity/systems thinking to talk about all emergent, higher-order phenomenon, as in “phase space”, which basically means “possibility space” or “state space”, an abstract modelling of what we can think of as an inner relational space whose various states of possibilities are then manifested or “projected” out of this realm into the world of measurable manifest qualities.  But phase is not so much a specific realm as much as way of talking about the connections between realms.  A phase relationship really just means a correlation through sympathetic rhythm, defined through reference to some contextual frame.  It isn’t just mind or life, but an aspect of order itself, since all ordered movement needs a still point from which to define it.

Reductive science has no way of conceiving of even normal emergent-higher complexity organization; while the complexity turn in theory, of which I think both post-modern philosophy and post-classical physics/ quantum theory were both discovering though not understanding, is able to understand even what normally are considered “spiritual” forces, beings, the soul, etc. through looking at those resonant connections that depend on the very “real” power that ordered systems have to create their own space/time.  Modelling complexity depends on an engaged an open system of reciprocal coherence to bring the creative asymmetrical and non-commutative operations of “consciousness” and time into symmetrical spatial quantities that can be measured.  All “higher” order emerges or more properly, incarnates, as the subject of a reciprocal coherent relationship with the object, which itself is merely the repressed denominator, the message or meaning’s carrier wave. The carrier wave is always the conjugation of certain waves in the right proportions that allow for a complex system to develop as a vehicle for the higher order process to animate.
A detailed theory of physics and chemistry was worked out decades ago using this logic of conjugate opposites called Reciprocal Systems Theory developed by Dewey Larson and extended by others using the Steiner tradition’s version of projective geometry in what they call RS2. The language they use is what the RA material speaks of as time/space as opposed to space/time, which is one of the basic reciprocal distinctions. But the relationship between different systems is what requires the concept of phase and in my mind serves as the missing link between all sciences and systems of reality.  It also is what mainstream science already uses when studying open systems. And as Douglass A. White argues,  even in reductive physics, the phase wave is the imaginary number component that is right there in the most fundamental equations but they tend to ignore because they are closing the system.