A case for novelty as pattern language in guided imagery and the mapping of inner presence. Thoughts on reading Edith Cobb’s The Ecology of imagination in childhood


Idea: Within deeper forms of Guided imagery accessible thru creative intelligence (a rich kind of novelty - a new or unfamiliar thing or experience - inducing fields of a new pattern language) are living systems of  centers of intelligence - a union of interplay for engaged attentional healing. 

Presented here are six concepts as stepping-stones for healing intelligence, which intersects with the vision of holistic nursing.This blog expands much of the conversation on where newer forms of guided imagery are heading in the field of neurobiology and plasticity.  We all have a mine of imagery embedded in our nervous system. Guided imagery is a rich narrative of a creative form of a living sensory language that may be analogous to living systems as a vast library of knowledge, imagination and intelligence. Computer scientists would call this library of all possible images “space”. Essentially, a model (think fractal if you like geometry) were all living forms are relational to one another, were all possible conversations, all possible mathematical formulas, all possible patterns are experienced like a hike through the space of all carbon–based life–forms, an upward trek past the contour lines of the “almost survived” to the mountain peak of survivors - a healing pilgrimage of creative intelligence. 

Creative intelligence prepares one for the trek, the expedition and is the door into mindbody, into spirit; it is a kind of “theater of perception”. This theatre of perception is the stuff of novelty, a spark, and the catalyst for imagination. It is a form of imaginal poetics of both sign and image that opens our deepest senses!

Cobb shares a poet’s encounter into Pattern language as a first recognition, a presence of the senses.

“There was a child went forth everyday,

and the first object he looked upon, that object he became,

and that object became part of him for the day, or certain part of the day

or for many years were stretching cycles of years” Walt Whitman

Much of this article is influenced from an early work in the 70’s of Edith Cobb’s The Ecology of imagination of the child. I chose it because the concept of novelty aligns with imagination and her perspective shines a light on the language of pattern, novelty, implied maps for guided imagery and pathways in spirit mindbody teachings. Please sit, have some tea and see if you agree!

Concept one: Perception is pattern making and can be the prime mover for a deep guided imagery! To start Cobb quoted Sir Herbert Reed – (I’m taking a liberty here in synthesizing his actual quote to present my case for deepening understanding of guided imagery pattern language). “Perception is not only pattern–making, pattern–selecting function of gestalt formation   (ed. a whole system), but also an activity actually made possible by the fact that pattern is inherent in the physical structure or in the functioning of the nervous system” therefore, it follows “that matter itself analyzes into coherent patterns or arrangements of molecules” and “that all these patterns are effective and ontologically significant by virtue of an organization of their parts which can only be characterized as aesthetic”. 

Concept two: Creative imagination is counterpoint to artistic creative intelligence inherent in an ecology of living systems. 

Cobb quoted the artist Paul Klee.

“There must, after all be some common ground between layman and artist, where they can meet halfway and the artist will no longer look like a mere eccentric, but like a creature set down unasked, as you were, in a world of innumerable forms, and who, like you, must get his bearings in it as best you can”.

Creative intelligence (the ascension of imagination) by default is a physiological counterpoint between the microcosm of the body and the macrocosm of the universe; it is the technology of healthy achievements - an integration through spirit.

Cobb then went on to Michael Polanyi, “physiology is purposeful in the sense that organs have evolved for definite purposes. The human, the ever inventor and explorer is likened to a creature “passionately pouring herself into an existence closer to reality” an evolution into consciousness. Surely this is due to her passionate consciousness striving to join forces with the universe in this passionate pursuit of the realities of temporal and spatial relations. As all living systems this drive towards exploration has its beginnings in the instrument of the developing nervous system.” This drive is the stuff of enduring novelty.

Expanding this idea further this concept drifts into that of creative intelligence (a key principle in holistic nursing and energy healing) which is at the core of what in our culture we often refer to as the foundation of genius; sometimes taken from the word genie which implies a mythic like universal creative consciousness embedded and released through forms of interplay. Arnold Gesell gives us insights on genius “ as a continuity, a growth phenomenon, an evolutionary phenomenon, at bio-cultural levels, beginning with the natural genius of childhood and the “spirit of place.” 


Concept three:  As a living system we evolve our creative intelligence through a kind of metabolic “appetite”. We hunger for creative intelligence! This spirit of place at its post-conscious core meets us in a kind of open–system.  Place, a perceptual system evoking meaning, a conjunction of mind and nature  (mindbody).  This is a kind of metabolic “appetite” of brain cells; an appetite which organically develops as a formative impulse and awakened in a kind of poetic creative principle from which the artist or poet or the healer activates the muses. Again this concept is being conceptually adopted in the field of Holistic Nursing as a way into compassionate service and integrating healing consciousness.

(Holistic nursing is on course and integrating what Florence Nightingale knew)

“Art helped people heal long before modern science began delving into the matter. In her Notes on Nursing, she wrote: “Little as we know about the way in which we are affected by form, by color and light, we do know this, they have an actual physical effect. Variety of form and brilliance of color in the objects presented to patients are actual means of recovery.”

Novelty, metabolic appetite and guided imagery

Concept four: Breath is a metabolic action and a kind of living pattern.

Breath, the active principle of novelty that is embedded is the evolutionary impetus in our evolutionary cycle towards deeper consciousness and healing. It is a kind of soul or breathing  “a metabolic action pattern”  a giving spirit field to energize a kind of genius, a living ecological relationship between an observer and an environment, a being in the place.

Maps, territory and the breath

Basically this process of creative intelligence of this deep pattern resonance reduces itself to a form of sensing as we seek to express a new language. In our uploading updates for a pattern language of guided imagery we mobilize thought processes into constellations or psychological landscapes in which the churning, exploratory mind can continue to find its way towards definitions of reality as distinct from fantasy. The mapping of formation of patterns is one such concept.

Concept five: forming a process of mapping the patterns of living systems stimulates an organizing learning process we call imagination. Here Cobb explored Thomas Pollack’s work on The nature of literature. “Map and mapping are both key terms they express any immediacy of experience of organism and environment that has been extended, extrapolated, and transformed into systems, map making and mapping. In other words imagination used in the language of pattern fuses the spatiotemporal experience of the perceiving nervous system into a form that has in turn, a symbolic abstraction, a condensation of level upon level of experience and information fused into symbol” this form of map-making in theory is like the making of a map. It does not discover new territory; it analyzes certain existing relationships. Mapping follows exploration, which awakens or arrest the relational map–making type of tension and permits condensation into symbolic pattern or form… these perceptions are maintained on many levels, but because of our complex sentences perceptions has undoubtedly been the ruling experience in the development of human culture and language. 

Thank you for sticking with me. 

If you got this far then let me connect the dots 

Pattern language is a process of sensory engagement on a micro level – a kind of stereoscopic/microscopic discovery of deeper aspects of everyday things we encounter. What we don’t often understand is that certain principles are at play, which deepen our experience. For example, in a field of centers as in a field of flowers are patterns or circles, imagine them as hubs which are in fact wholes, wholes then recombine back into centers, cellular constructs also are living systems and are fields of centers that share other patterns such as repetition, sense of calm, boundaries, oscillation etc. These are not metaphoric constructs but are rich sensory inputs that create states of being. This work is found in the theories of patterns by Christopher Alexander ( see earlier blog) and is the essence in living systems that we encounter harmonically or as dissonance. Every living system has its patterns that can become tools as a visual palette for a deeper guided imagery. A guided imagery that enters essence and influences living systems.

Yet human learning at a deeper sensory level requires a constant process of expanding knowledge into intelligence. Pattern language and novelty retain this capacity as a type of creative purpose and can be observed as a kind of “ fingering over” of the environment in sensory terms, a questioning of the power of materials as preliminary to the creation of higher organization of meaning. But meaning in the world requires something more profoundly related to nature then can be rendered by the visual or verbal image alone. Again it is this living nature that is the wonder, the appetite for intelligence.

Concept six: Pattern language enlightens living systems through its unfolding wholeness offering a state of presence. To be meaningful, the dimension of time must achieve expression in some pattern. Like music and other coordination’s with biological rhythm that transcend sheer animal heritage. Language (ed. Pattern) must achieve sequence, must have beginnings and endings, and must possess some characteristics of the “good gestalt” that give shape and structure to meaning, whether in the linear causal sequences emphasized in Western culture or any reticulate approach to knowledge and perceptual worlds more characteristic of any Eastern and pre-literate cultures. The reticulate or net like image of nature and knowledge clearly derives from levels that are closer to sensory experience and the earth even when they are elaborated to high levels of sophistication and technology as well as in art. Intuition can remain as guesswork until given shape by intellect; intellect, unless it is serviced by sensory experience and intuitive levels, becomes mechanized, computerized memory–colorless and dehumanized. Thus returning to computer science a crashing of the creative intelligence the hard drive of intuition leading to extinction of creative intelligence and is why the call for novelty! An entrance, a presence!

Summary: Guided imagery is a construct of spirit mindbody. Novelty through its capacity to hold attention, wonder and ahh as an expressive/impressive modality of perception is an active organizing process, itself possibly including an element of purpose. It is a kind of principle of expectancy inherent in the nervous system of man. The deep guided imagery of pattern language is a theory of healing. Implied is through a deep form of a pattern language as a language of healing and the experiencing of novelty and intuition as a dynamic living presence, as an inner music, at a living systems level we become reformed and informed; states not dissimilar to those experienced in neurophysiology as plasticity and aspects of epigenics (shifting a gene’s blueprint for inner directed change). We are our story, our narrative painted with a new image palette of a pattern language, which is a guide for our guided imagery – A healing spirit mindbody journey!

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