Dr. Ellipsis A. Interval

Dr. Ellipsis A. Interval is a pseudonym for Bruce Schuman

Coincidentia Oppositorum

Coincidentia Oppositorum

A little story, about “Born in Berkeley”


In mid-1966, I was living in the Haight-Ashbury section of San Francisco. Mandalas and LSD and “the summer of love” were everywhere. My friends were artists and jazz musicians, and I was virgin to psychedelics. My friend jazz trombonist Jackson Stock had some good contacts, and he arranged to get me some high-grade LSD. One beautiful Saturday afternoon mid-summer we got in his little green Volkswagen sedan and headed north across the Golden Gate Bridge towards the Valley of the Moon. Right in the middle of the bridge, I dropped the acid.

It takes a while to come on – maybe 30 or 40 minutes. Jackson got us out into the country and it started to happen. We were in isolated farmland. I got out of the car, climbed through a barbed-wire fence, and was out in the field. The place was bursting with green – and these fabulous purple thistle plants in full bloom. I stood out in that field for about two hours, just staring with utter wonder at the beauty of these plants and everything around me. And then something amazing happened. There were cows in that field – and right there, very near me, a cow gave birth to a calf as I stood there. That was stunning. I watched the whole thing. Bobby Dylan said, “He not busy being born is busy dying.” What an amazing metaphor or sign.

Back home in the city, I wondered what had happened to me. Psychedelic experience is not verbal, it doesn’t happen in the verbal range of the brain. In general, it’s impossible to describe. Back in those days, the experience was everywhere – but nobody could describe it. “Wow, man! Far out!” That was about the extent of the articulation. You might be the greatest yogi or mystic in the world, but you might not have any more to say than that. WHAT was THAT???!!

But a phrase did creep into my brain – just a single sentence, that stood there so strongly for so long. It just arrived shortly after, as a puzzling thesis, a mysterious stab of lightning. “Emanation from a point explains everything”. Just exactly those immortal words. I had no idea what that meant, I just sensed it was precious, and I had no thoughts about where this could go, no idea what influence it might have. But it resonated.

A couple months later, I got a notification of my acceptance from the University of California at Santa Cruz – an absolute jewel of a university campus, set at the edge of redwoods overlooking Monterey Bay and the Pacific Ocean, in the second year of its existence. Not a speck of litter, not a bruised plant or fern, buildings brand new, the best California has to offer. I enrolled as a psychology major, and was thinking, “This is my encounter with history – with the great minds of the past.” I actually think I was the only person ever to go straight from the Haight Ashbury to the University of California at Santa Cruz. Nobody ever comes back from that place – but I did.

That first quarter, I enrolled in Dr. Paul Lee’s course on Pre-Socratic Philosophy. Dr. Lee was a special guy, just arriving from Harvard Divinity School, where he had worked directly with Timothy Leary and Richard Alpert (Ram Das, author of Be Here Now). Dr. Lee arrived with a huge personal library – enough to fill up the entire little library in the courtyard by the fountain at Cowell College, all with his own personal stuff. UCSC was brand new then, and to help kick the place off some noble soul had donated a large private library of mystical books to the main university library – things like Blavatsky, or maybe St. John of the Cross. I guess the UCSC librarians thought these subjects were not quite appropriate for a public university, so this big stack of once-treasured mysticism was sold off very cheaply in a courtyard. I bought a number of these books, including Theosophy and Sir John Woodruff’s The Serpent Power. So those materials were rattling in my brain, along with Heraclitus and William James’ classic The Varieties of Religious Experience, the main text for my Psychology of Religion class.

Dr. Lee assigned our class to write a thesis about some Pre-Socratic subject of our choice. I chose “The Opposites”.

I had a little cabin north of Santa Cruz, near Ben Lomond. One night as I was working on this thesis, maybe with the influence of some green smoke, something suddenly happened. I had this flash. Suddenly, a holistic thought leapt into my imagination. I saw this design – like a mandala, a set of concentric rings, redifferentiated at every level as the rings radiated from the center. I scribbled down that design – for the first of hundreds of times – and wrote my thesis around this idea. The center was the whole, the commonality, and all differentiation radiated from that point. Opposites were defined as the “rays” or differentiations that extended from that center. But my claim was stronger than that. My argument was – you can “prove syllogisms” on this model (!) Induction works from the circumference towards the center, deduction in the opposite direction. Where did I get all of this stuff?? I had tons of ideas. I kept scribbling.

Well – could this be the interpretation or meaning of that mysterious sentence—“Emanation from a point explains everything?” Years later I discovered Plotinus, and his theory of “emanationism”. Right up my line. Kind of a big bang theory of logic. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plotinus#Emanation_by_the_One

At first, Dr. Lee wouldn’t accept my thesis, and said I would have to re-write it. He said it could be a sideshow down at the Santa Cruz beach boardwalk. But after impassioned conversations, he did accept it, and we become friends.

Ove the next couple of years of independent study, I kept tinkering with this idea, while continuing in psychology and philosophy. I started learning strongly towards engineering models of cognitive structure, and was constantly buying engineering books. I took a class in cybernetics from the famous David Huffman, Hollywood-handsome creator of Huffman Coding who used to ride to class on a unicycle. I bought a lot of books on these themes. Control theory. Continuous variation. Analog stuff. The optimization of linear systems. At one point I had 30 books on the nature and theory of time.

In 1969, I discovered a little book by Martin Gardner, an editor for Scientific American (over the years, I bought 200 Scientific America reprints on subjects have to do with interesting mathematics and computers) called Logic Machines, Diagrams and Boolean Algebra. The first chapter was about the mysterious 12th C Spanish mystic and saint and writer Ramon Lull, and featured his Ars Magna, his Great Art. https://goo.gl/2BvYdi

I’ve been in Barcelona a couple of times, to interfaith conferences, and Lull is venerated there. There are statues and paintings of him in the subway. At Montserrat monastery near Barcelona, there is a statue for him, in the form of a spiral staircase ascending levels, like the Great Chain of Being.

So over the years, I stuck with this original vision. I worked in interfaith and intercultural projects – and I hammered on engineering, the theory of programming languages and modeling, and I kept returning to mandala-like models.

Just tonight, I was back into Beethoven, and the very rousing high-energy version of the 9th Symphony and Ode to Joy by the Venezuelan symphony orchestra and Gustavo Dudamel, playing in Barcelona at this magnificent music hall


The entire “Mandala of Logic” project kinda looked like this – the ceiling of the symphony hall Palau de la Música Catalana, in Barcelona


Interesting that Ontolog participant and system librarian Claudio Gnoli has an image from Ramon Lull on his web page


Bruce Schuman Santa Barbara CA USA, 805-705-9174