Tim Eastman Unties the Gordian Knot: Complete Seminar (Sessions 1-9)

Above is an embedded playlist featuring all 9 of the Eastman Seminars that I facilitated for the Science Advisory Committee of the Cobb Institute from June 2021 through February 2022. Tim Eastman, a plasma physicist and philosopher, is the author of Untying the Gordian Knot: Process, Reality, and Context (2020). These seminars invited other scholars prominently cited in Eastman’s book for dialogue with the author and the interested public. I’ve recently reviewed Eastman’s book HERE. Those interested in the implications of a rigorous process philosophical interpretation of quantum physics for science, the humanities, and spirituality will benefit from Eastman’s book and reviewing these seminars.

Session 1 “Quest” features Mikhail Epstein and Judith Jones.

Session 2 “Relations–Logoi” features Randall Auxier, Michael Epperson, and Elias Zafiris.

Session 3 “Gordian Knot to Logoi Framework” features Ruth Kastner and Epperson.

Session 4 “Causation, Emergence, and Complex Systems” features Alex Gomez-Marin, George Lucas, and Anderson Weekes.

Session 5 “Information and Semiotics” features Epstein and George Strawn.

Session 6 “Complex Whole” features Auxier, Gary Herstein, and Brian Swimme.

Session 7 “Peirce’s Triads and Whitehead’s Process: Fundamental Triads and Schemas” features Edward Kelly and Farzad Mahootian.

Session 8 “Contextuality–From Experience to Meaning” features Thandeka, Dan Dombrowski, and Kelly.

Session 9 is a wrap-up and features Epperson and myself offering concluding remarks.


  1. I would like to devote a day to this, though I know not when. I think you know I read and commented on two of his manuscripts as he prepared his book. I doubt that I did so with the keen insight you offer.


  2. This is a tremendous series on a really important book by Timothy Eastman. I have so far just watched the first session and wanted to comment on the excellent and deeply important point made by Alexi Sharov regarding the relationship of these ideas to Biosemiotics and the extremely important concern regarding the issue of organismic agency. What is it that makes relation primordial as distinct from substance? Why might we recognize, along with Peirce, the fundamental distinction between what Peirce called ‘Synechism’ and what he opposed, namely ‘modern’ Nominalism associated with a substance-oriented Scientism? And a critical distinction between continuity in the former and discontinuity in the latter, and why this is of fundamental importance? I would argue that the fundamental issue, as pointed out by John Deely, is the idea that communication or ‘trans-action’ is fundamental and of the deep nature of reality, where trans-action involves an exchange of information/energy/mass. So the primordial issue is connection oriented around connection to alterity associated with ‘trans-action’ or, in more complex systems, ‘communication.’ And that it is communication that is the ultimate and necessary function that requires ‘mediation’ or what Peirce called ‘Thirdness’. Which is the path of return to an overriding Unity. That is, triadicity is the necessary path of return to Unity by way of duality. So that, ultimately, the critical issue is the medium through which such communication can occur, which underlines the famous statement made by Marshall McLuhan that ‘The medium is the message’. It also relates to the ‘Transactional Interpretation’ particularly the probablistic/relativistic version of this interpretation due to Ruth E Kastner. This also relates to John Deely’s recognition that we are currently in the midst of a fundamental transition in human understanding from an ‘Age of Ideas’ based on a Nominalistic materialism, and a Cartesian dualism, to an ‘Age of Signs’ that fully recognizes the primordial nature of relationality, and the reality of communication in the context of trans-action and ‘free-will’ agency.

      1. Yes, Matthew. Peirce was way ahead of his time and was warning about the ‘threat of Nominalism’ over 100 years ago as documented in ‘Peirce and the Threat of Nominalism’ by Paul Forster. And as far as the ‘dawning of the Age of Signs’ is concerned which, in effect, is a dawning of an ‘Age of Relationality’, the writing of John Deely helps to provide a reasonable context, particularly his magnum opus, ‘The Four Ages of Understanding’ which is a broad-brush history of philosophy that, from my perspective, is pretty breath-taking… IMHO.

  3. By the way this critical and necessary transition from the ‘Age of Ideas’ to the ‘Age of Signs’ corresponds to the transition from the now ‘deficient’ and actively destructive perspectival Mental/Rational structure of consciousness to the aperspectival Integral structure of consciousness, as described by Jean Gebser in his book, ‘The Ever-Present Origin’… which will involve, among other realizations, the ‘concretion of time.’ Which I am not going to unpack here. But which is a critical step away from ‘Actualism’ and back into a more balanced aperspectival position that recognizes the primordial nature of relation versus the related relata. As Deely pointed out, the relation is ‘suprasubjective’ as distinct from the relata, which are ‘subjects’ of the relation.

  4. Another comment regarding Peirce and the link to Iain McGilchrist’s ideas about the fundamental difference between the left and right cerebral hemispheres (ie LH vs RH). Throughout his life, Peirce was focused on the understanding of the deep nature of the concept of continuity. Because at the central focus of the distinction between Nominalism (which associates with McGilchrist’s idea of the basic idea of the functioning of the LH) and Synechism (which associates with the RH) for Peirce was coming to a clear understanding of the basic nature of continuity. This is a huge issue related to Tim Eastman’s book because it is the distinction between ‘Potentia’ which arise out of the depths of the primordial continuum (PC) vs. actualizable physical ‘elements’ (let’s call them ‘Actualia’). This distinction between the ‘realm of Potentia’–as the domain of the RH–vs the ‘realm of Actualia’–as the domain of the LH–is of fundamental importance because of the basic distinction in the forms of logic applicable in the realm of Potentia as opposed to the realm of Actualia. To understand this, one needs to take into account Fernando Zalamea’s work on Peirce’s Logic of Continuity. (see: https://www.docentpress.com/books/peirces-logic-of-continuity/ ) Which we can assume would inform Tim Eastman’s idea of the ‘Logic of Potentia’, which Peirce referred to as ‘Relative Logic’ as distinct from the ‘Classical’ binary logic that applies in the realm of Actualia.
    I think we also need to be very careful about making a clear distinction between the realm of Potentia (which relates to Ruth Kastner’s ‘QuantumLand’) and the realm of Actualia (which relates to our sensible world), recognizing this as a distinction between what is effectively ‘hidden’ from our physical senses, and that which is ‘revealed’ to our physical senses directly. So all of this then can be seen as a question of how what is ‘revealed’ is dependent upon and connected to what is ‘hidden’ to our physical senses. ( this relates to one of my favorite quotes from Leonard Cohen: “Blessed be the covenant of love between what is hidden and what is revealed.” )
    Also, one can relate this distinction to the work of Donald Hoffman who has shown that our connection to the realm of Actualia is an ‘interface’ that we have derived through biological evolution which is fundamentally NON-VERIDICAL and thus, in effect, hides the realm of Potentia, the underlying ‘Reality’, from us. Hoffman’s work, I think, is very important here in understanding the human (which generalizes to the organismic) predicament which involves our dependence upon our non-veridical interface that we have evolved in order to survive as embodied beings, who are, in essence, RELATIONAL beings. So, in effect, we are in a position to be led into the belief that our ‘interface’ is our ‘reality’, when, in fact, it is not. Hoffman looks at this as analogous to the human interaction with a computer via the graphical user interface. The reality of the computer’s operation involves understanding the flows of electrons through millions of switches on a microcomputer chip. The actuality for the human operator is what is seen on the CRT screen. The human operator is then led to believe that the computer’s reality IS the operations apparent on the screen, when, in truth, it is nowhere close!
    The basic point, in my mind, in the distinction between the realm of Actualia vs the realm of Potentia, is the distinction between ‘Continuity’ (ie. the ‘supramultudinous’ continuum defined by Peirce) and ‘Discontinuity’. Which relates to Peirce’s distinction between his ‘Synechism’ (which is associated with his ‘Semiotic Realism’) and his description of a modern form of ‘Nominalism’. The former being associated with RH and the latter with LH in McGilchrist’s divided brain theory. Continuity is the basic characteristic of the hidden Reality, while Discontinuity is the characteristic of the revealed Actuality.
    This is of deep fundamental significance for human beings and their sense of their existence. And the concept of what McGilchrist identifies as ‘The Sense of the Sacred’ which he examines at the conclusion of his most recent book about metaphysics called ‘The Matter with Things. Our Brains, Our Delusions, and the Unmaking of the World.’ Which is a book that really links at a basic and extremely important level with Tim Eastman’s book. Bringing these two books and conceptual understandings together into congruence offers a tremendous opportunity, I think. But that is a whole other post!

      1. Cognitive Neuroscience and structure/function relationship with respect to central nervous systems is my point of entry into all of this, personally. My work was in Brain Injury Medicine which is that in which I was immersed for nearly 40 years. So, Iain has really broke open a whole new fascinating territory of investigation by simply changing the question about the two cerebral hemispheres from ‘What does this hemisphere do?’ to ‘How does this hemisphere function?’ The point being that both hemispheres participate in most cognitive functions, but they contribute different features based on the left hemisphere’s specialization in locality and the right hemisphere’s specialization in ‘globality.’ He developed the basic ideas in ‘The Master and His Emissary. The Divided Brain and the Making of the Western World’ published 10 years ago, and he has recently published his two-volume masterpiece called ‘The Matter with Things. Our Brains, Our Delusions, and the Unmaking of the World’, which deals with the whole issue of the related metaphysics that arise out of his approach to the differing functionality of the two hemispheres. There is also a documentary film called ‘The Divided Brain’ which is a lot of fun to watch and which, I think, gets some key points across, including the connection to the type of panpsychism maintained by indigenous cultures of the Americas, as laid out in a conversation between Iain and Leroy Little Bear, that, for me, is the highlight of the film. See: http://thedividedbrain.com/ I am happy to serve as your ‘advisor’ and ‘associate subject matter expert’ with regard to what Iain is saying about the connection between the function of the hemispheres of the brain and the ‘bigger picture’. It is a ‘great adventure’ and, I think, it fits beautifully together with what Tim Eastman gets at in his book. The LH view is a nominalistic, ‘thing-oriented’ worldview that comes out of its tendency to focus on objects and, for the human being, to ‘name’ them. The RH view is a relational, holistically oriented worldview that comes out of the tendency to see the world at an organizational and processual level. We are imbalanced currently toward the LH and we need to work on recovering balance between the LH and RH. Not to completely nullify the value and importance of the LH perspective but to realize that its purpose is to serve as the ‘Emissary’, and not as the ‘Master’. From the perspective of the work of Donald Hoffman, the LH is our ‘actuality instrument panel’ that we have acquired through the course of biological evolution which is fundamentally NON-VERIDICAL and, effectively, hides reality from us, but allows us to function as physically embodied creatures who are fundamentally relational beings, if that makes sense.

  5. The human predicament is that we are the ‘Semiotic Animal’ (as Deely referred to the human ‘animal’) because of our capacity for linguistic communication. Which confers upon us the possibility of a secondary form of consciousness which one can understand as ‘Meta-consciousness’ which involves the capacity to reflect and communicate about how it feels to be a conscious creature. Which is quite distinct from the Primary Consciousness which relates to the Consciousness that pervades the Universe, when one understands that everything is imbued with this capability for conscious agency–which is the way I understand the philosophical position of Panpsychism. This form of Meta-consciousness tends to distance us from Primary (ie ‘Primordial’) Consciousness even though this Primary Consciousness is related to the totality of human experience that includes the ‘ineffable’ such as the pure experience and feeling of awe and wonder. And it also tends to lead to the mistaking of Meta-Consciousness for Primary Consciousness and its associated alienation between human existence and the natural world. The issue is that Language is a Synecdoche for Experience. Experience and its examination (ie Ontology) exceeds Knowledge about which we may speak and think and its examination (ie. Epistemology). The former associates with the Reality that is based on a primordial temporal continuum while the latter associates with the Actuality that is based on timeless separated ‘frames’ corresponding to what Lee Smolin distinguishes between a Temporal Naturalism (in which time is real–and CONTINUOUS in the Peircean sense) and a TImeless Naturalism (in which time is effectively annihilated by being broken into separated ‘frames’ and thus is no longer an intact continuum). The former corresponds to the operation of the RH while the latter corresponds to the operation of the LH. The former corresponds to the world of Primary or Primordial Consciousness of the Universe which is shared with the rest of the universe and corresponds to Peirce’s Synechistic ‘Reality’, while the latter corresponds to the ‘Meta-Consciousness’ which is the limited Nominalistic world about which we may speak and think, which Tim Eastman calls ‘Actualism’, a world that excludes the ‘ineffable’ experience such as that of awe and wonder which exceeds our capacity for linguistic expression which I refer to above.
    So the fundamental issue then is the nature of the ‘supermultudinous’ Primordial Continuum which is fundamentally temporal such that each moment has infinite ‘depth’ that becomes the source of all novelty, of anything creative or new. This is the continuum which language separates us from in the context of Meta-Consciousness, again, because of the distinction between the linguistic world of ‘actuality’ and the affective experiential world connected to this primordial continuum associated with the ‘hidden’ realm of Reality, of QuantumLand.

  6. By the way, this general perspective becomes clearly apparent in studies of mystical literature such as the Zohar (the ‘Book of Splendor’ written by Moses de Leon and published in the 13th century which is a major work within the tradition of the Kabbalah) about which I am personally most familiar–but I suspect is also present in most of the other mystical faith traditions, and in the concepts that come forward in the belief systems of the indigenous cultures of North America and the shamanistic cultures of central Asia out of which these cultures were derived–as maintained by Peter Kingsley in his book ‘A Story Waiting to Pierce You’ and in Betty Kovacs’ book, ‘Merchants of Light.’ It also connects to Jungian ‘depth’ or ‘analytical’ psychology as has also been shown in the writing of Jung’s disciple, Erich Neumann, and the concept of the personal ‘Shadow’. It is also, most importantly, connected to the issue of human ethical requirement, as discussed by Neumann in his book, ‘Depth Psychology and a New Ethic’. Which relates to nothing less than the ultimate survival of our species and the necessity of connecting back to our foundation in ‘meaning’ and what Jeremy Lent calls the ‘Web of Meaning’, as distinct from a lifeless, disenchanted world of physical Actuality.

  7. So the narrative to be ‘recovered’ that is currently hidden in our Nominalistic culture is as follows:
    1. The world is imbued with meaning which is connected to the dynamicism of life founded on a temporal continuum.
    2. Everything is conscious–as maintained by Panpsychism.
    3. Consciousness becomes apparent in action, ie. in conscious agency. Agency that manifests consciousness.
    4. Conscious agency is the foundation of ‘Trans-action’ or ‘communication’ involving the exchange of information/energy/mass given that these three forms are equivalent.

    It is through this fundamental process of ‘Trans-Action’ that Peirce’s ‘Thirdness’ appears in a metaphysical context as what he termed as ‘Evolutionary Love’ or ‘agapism’, and it is quite likely that, as Peirce intimated, this is related to the reality of the gravitational force and how it comes about.

  8. There is a ‘pragmaticistic’ bottom line on all of this which has to do with what Peirce referred to as his definition of the ‘Summum Bonum’: the Growth of Concrete Reasonableness. This is a critical point because there needs to be a fundamental bottom line in all of this discussion that informs human action in the context of morality and ethics. And, given the state of the world and what is now taking place in the Ukraine with the threat of possible nuclear war, nothing could really be more important at this point in human history. What is Peirce talking about and what are the implications for human choice and moral behavior? It has to do with finding an appropriate balance between action motivated by reason and action motivated by ‘love’ or by ‘concern for the welfare of the Other person’, or ‘concern for Alterity as ‘other-than-self’…
    Thus when Peirce indicates that the crucial issue in human ethical behavior is to take action on behalf of the growth of concrete reasonableness, it is a moral imperative, and ethical instruction, to act in such a way that knowledge and love as considerations are balanced in terms of the tendency for the action taken to induce an increase of both knowledge and love in the context of concrete reality. This is a principle that is a driving force for the nascent field of ‘Semioethics’, or semiotically informed ethics. It can also be related to the ethical position that arose out of Continental phenomenology brought forward by Emannuel Levinas whose philosophical position was informed by the idea that ‘ethics precedes ontology’ and that the ‘Other commands me.’ Interestingly, Levinas also identified his philosophical project as ‘the deformalization of time’ and summarized his philosophical ethics in the French phrase ‘Apres-vous’…
    So, in the end, Semioethics tells us that there are fundamentally important practical concerns that are addressed in the context of the implications derived from Timothy Eastman’s important book. And it is all of fundamentally important relevance to our current situation on planet Earth, the Pale Blue Dot that is our only home. We are at a fundamental turning point in our history as a species in which the next few decades will be critically determinant of our future as a species. Which underlines the importance of this work and the associated perspectives, and particularly its critique of our current worldview in the Western ‘first world’ and where it is leading us… there is a need to listen, listen carefully to what ‘Untying the Gordian Knot’ means, and what this understanding should stir us to do, how we are so inspired to take action and to modify our understanding of human existence on Planet Earth, our only Sanctuary…. and what this means about our interdependence, our fundamental interconnection and how we are intended to treat each other and all of Alterity…

  9. Here is a favorite quote from CS Peirce that captures the concept quite nicely and in Peirce’s uniquely authentic voice….
    “…what he adores, if he is a good pragmaticist, is power; not the sham power of brute force, which, even in its own specialty of spoiling things, secures such slight results; but the creative power of reasonableness, which subdues all other powers, and rules over them with its sceptre, knowledge, and its globe, love.” —Charles Sanders Peirce (CP 5.520, c.1905).

    Unfortunately, his implication that the ‘sham power of brute force…secures such slight results’ has been undone by subsequently developments of the 20th century…

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