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MicroscopeHerman Dooyeweerd

My examination of Dooyeweerd went through two phases: I first encountered Dooyeweerd through my cousin J. Glenn Friesen, who has put together a substantial, well documented website about Dooyeweerd. Going through the material on that site gave me what I thought was an accurate picture of Dooyeweerd, because Glenn quotes extensively from Dooyeweerd in the original Dutch. Several months later, the philosophy of Dooyeweerd came up in a conversation with a physics professor. When I mentioned Glenn’s site, his comment was that ‘the consensus is that Glenn does not get Dooyeweerd’. My goal here is not to determine who does or does not ‘get Dooyeweerd’. However, that chance comment did make it clear to me that there is a side to Dooyeweerd which Glenn is not emphasizing.

With that in mind, I took another look at Dooyeweerd, going through Andrew Basden’s site, who has also put together a substantial analysis of Dooyeweerd. Comparing these two sites, one gets the impression that one is talking about two entirely different philosophies: Glenn focuses upon the subjective and intuitive side of Dooyeweerd’s philosophy, whereas Andrew describes the objective and analytical side of his philosophy. And yet, both of these philosophical sides come from the same person, and both websites refer extensively to the writing and concepts of Dooyeweerd.

One of the fundamental tenets of Dooyeweerd is that he claims to have come up with a philosophy that bridges subjective and objective. Therefore, it is interesting to discover that two scholars can examine the philosophy of Dooyeweerd and come up with two radically different schemes, one describing the subjective, and the other focusing upon the objective. This strongly implies that Dooyeweerd failed to achieve his desired goal of integrating subjective and objective.

Glenn ‘solves’ this problem by describing Dooyeweerd’s system as non-dual: “I believe that Dooyeweerd's philosophy can best be described as ‘Christian nondualism.’ Dooyeweerd’s philosophy is neither a dualism nor a monism. And it is in this sense that I refer to it as ‘nondual.’ Advaita means ‘not-two.’ And ‘not-two’ is not the same as ‘merely one.’” Glenn states categorically that “Dooyeweerd opposes all dualisms,” and “Dooyeweerd also opposes monism.” However, whether Dooyeweerd opposes it or not, the contrast between these two websites strongly implies that there is an inherent dualism present in the philosophy of Dooyeweerd: One can either focus upon the subjective side of his philosophy or else focus upon the objective side.

In this essay, we will first look at Andrew’s analysis of Dooyeweerd, and then turn to Glenn’s analysis. On the objective side, Dooyeweerd makes a number of insightful comments and presents key concepts which I have not yet encountered elsewhere. We will go through these concepts, relate them to the theory of mental symmetry, and suggest that mental symmetry provides a more integrated explanation for these concepts. On the subjective side, I suggest that Dooyeweerd’s model is fatally flawed. Instead of presenting a system of ‘Christian nondualism’, as Glenn claims, I suggest that Dooyeweerd’s philosophy can better be described as a version of Buddhist nondualism, clothed in Christian terminology.

If one uses mental symmetry to explain the concepts which are presented by Dooyeweerd, then I suggest that it is possible to explain why Dooyeweerd’s philosophy contains an implicit dualism, why the subjective intuitive side of his philosophy is flawed, and use mental symmetry to replace the subjective, intuitive core of Dooyeweerd’s philosophy with something which is both rational and compatible with Christianity.

Before continuing, I should mention that I found this study of Dooyeweerd to be very helpful for clarifying my concepts. Every time that I use the theory of mental symmetry to analyze some topic, I end up with a theory that is clearer and more finely tuned. Therefore, I have tried to go beyond simply criticizing or explaining Dooyeweerd in this essay, and I will attempt to present the framework of a coherent Christian philosophy.

I should also mention that I did not read Dooyeweerd himself. I must admit that I found his writing style difficult to grasp. Instead, my understanding comes from the two websites which I’ve just mentioned, because they do a good job of explaining the concepts of Dooyeweerd. All of the quotes in this essay come from these two websites and can easily be referenced by ‘googling’ the appropriate phrase.

Because my knowledge of Dooyeweerd comes indirectly from these two websites, it may be possible that I am accusing Dooyeweerd of ignoring concepts which he actually does discuss. Unfortunately, I simply do not have the time to go beyond these two websites. However, both websites present an extensive portrayal of Dooyeweerd’s philosophy, and I am assuming that this portrayal is both accurate and comprehensive.

Finally, a brief word about referencing. Normally, when referring to some source one uses the last name of the source and not the first name. However, Glenn Friesen and I have the same family name. Therefore, in order to make it totally clear that I am referring to Glenn Friesen’s website and not to either Lorin Friesen (me) or Lane Friesen (my older brother who did the initial study of biographies on which the theory of mental symmetry is based), I will be referring to Glenn Friesen by his first name in this essay. And, in order to be consistent, I will also refer to Andrew Basden by his first name.


We will begin by looking at Dooyeweerd’s concept of aspects, which is a fundamental part of Dooyeweerd’s theory. This discussion will also explain the methodology which is used by mental symmetry, both in general as well as in my analysis of Dooyeweerd.

In Andrew’s words, “An aspect is a sphere of meaning, a way of being meaningful, and a sphere of law, a way in which things can be good. All the aspects together constitute a framework, which Dooyeweerd called the law side of created reality. That the aspects are distinct from each other, and yet intertwined with each other, are what explain the diversity and coherence of everyday experience, and indeed the whole of human life.”

Dooyeweerd divides existence into fifteen different aspects: numeric, spatial, kinematic, physical, biotic, sensitive, analytic, formative, lingual, social, economic, aesthetic, juridical, ethical, and pistic. In essence, Dooyeweerd says that each aspect is an independent domain with its own set of rules, its own meaning, its own role, its own kernel, and its own way of thinking.

Andrew uses writing in shorthand to illustrate the interaction and independence of various aspects: “In both reading and making the note, I was functioning primarily in the lingual aspect. But while doing that I found I was using a shorthand notation of my own making. This was not for lingual reasons but for spatial and economic reasons: there was not much space in the margin and shorthand was spatially smaller...As I make my margin note I often put clear spaces between the letters; this is for the sensitive reason of being able to see and recognise the letters and the analytic reason of making clear distinctions between them.”

We will look at all fifteen aspects in detail later on. Here we will focus on the big picture. In Andrew’s words, “A key claim by Dooyeweerd was that no aspect is absolute, in the sense that no aspect can ever be a solid, certain foundation on which other aspects may rest. All aspects are, as it were, ‘floating’, dependent on some other transcendent factor, external to themselves, to ‘ground’ them. If this is so, the most incisive and knowledgeable minds involved in the aspect will eventually discover this need for a transcendent factor, probably as a kind of gap or inherent inconsistency. e.g. Russell found such in logic, Wittgenstein in language, etc.” in other words, it is not possible to gain a complete understanding using only one aspect.

Andrew states that ‘science is essentially an analytical activity’. In other words, when a person is doing science, he is functioning primarily in the analytical aspect. Because analytical thinking is only one of fifteen aspects, it is not possible to use science to get a complete view of existence. As Andrew points out, philosophers and scientists are continually rediscovering that their field of thought is fundamentally incomplete.

This is a significant point which also forms a key aspect of the theory of mental symmetry. Mental symmetry suggests that the mind normally functions in a way which is open-ended, based in partial certainty, jumps to conclusions, and carries out plans which have only been partially formulated. Mental symmetry refers to this as normal thought, and it can be analyzed by looking at the operation and interaction of the seven different cognitive modules. However, it is also possible for the mind to enter a restricted, rigorous mode which mental symmetry refers to as technical thought. In technical thought, Contributor mode—one of the seven cognitive modules—uses concentration to limit thought, speech, and action to a ‘restricted playing field’, using a limited repertoire of clearly defined sequences, facts, and rules in order to generate conclusions in which it is possible to place absolute certainty. Both abstract and concrete thought can function in a technical manner. Abstract technical thought corresponds to what Thomas Kuhn calls ‘normal science’, which he describes as ‘puzzle solving’. It corresponds partially, but not completely, to Dooyeweerd’s analytical aspect.

Because technical thought by its very nature limits the mind to some restricted playing field, it is not possible to come up with a universal theory using technical thought. Similarly, because technical thought is only one mental circuit, it is not possible to use technical thought to come up with a complete understanding of the mind. As Dooyeweerd points out, science and philosophy continually rediscover this conclusion. However, the methodology of science still assumes that technical thought is the only valid form of thought, scientific literature uses technical thought to describe the limitations of technical thought, and academia only accepts input from individuals who have spent several years learning how to use technical thought—otherwise known as getting a Ph.D. This situation is starting to change, but there is still a strong institutional bias towards using only technical thought.

If one wishes to come up with a universal theory of existence, then I suggest that one must use normal thought and not technical thought. This does not mean abandoning technical thought, but rather using technical thought to explore the details of each aspect of universal structure, while realizing that the glue which holds these various aspects together is not technical thought but rather normal thought. This is consistent with what Dooyeweerd is saying. In my personal experience, this is not just an academic question, because I have discovered repeatedly that most professors are not willing to evaluate or even discuss content which is not presented in a technical manner or has not been derived using technical thought, even if this content is consistent with the conclusions of technical thought or provides solutions for problems which cannot be solved using technical thought.

Part of the problem is that technical thought is equated with rigorous thought. I suggest that this is where the theory of mental symmetry comes into play, because it provides a semi-rigorous meta-theory of human thought which can bridge the various aspects of human existence as well as describes the process by which normal thought can be developed and transformed to make it more rigorous.

Dooyeweerd mentions these two essential characteristics of normal thought, but he lacks a general theory that describes normal thought. First, Dooyeweerd says that the various aspects are related by ‘law-dependencies’: In Andrew’s words, “Aspects form a sequence, and the laws of the later ones require or depend on those of the earlier ones.” The order in which the aspects were listed earlier on summarizes this dependency; aspects which are later in the list depend upon aspects which are earlier. Thus, for instance, kinematic movement assumes spatial relationships; physical existence requires both space and movement; biotic, organic life exists within the physical universe; in order to function ‘sensitively’ by feeling and responding, a living being requires a physical, biotic body—and so on.

Second, Dooyeweerd says that the various aspects are related through analogy: “The second type of relationship among the aspects is that of analogy. In each aspect there is an echo of all the others. For instance, while causality is a major theme of the physical aspect, there is something rather like causality in other aspects.” However, Dooyeweerd provides only a sketch of the analogies which relate the various aspects.

Tying the Various Aspects Together

Dooyeweerd says that the ego, or human personal identity, transcends all of the various aspects: “The ego is the inner concentration point of all the aspects, and does not coalesce with the mutual coherence of the aspects, but is transcendent over it.” In other words, if one wishes to come up with a unified theory which bridges all of the various aspects, one must look at the human mind for an answer and focus upon personal identity. But, when we examine Dooyeweerd’s description of personal identity, we find him leaving the realm of rational thought and entering the realm of emotional identification, which is where Andrew’s analysis of Dooyeweerd stops and Glenn’s analysis begins.

In Dooyeweerd’s terms, the human heart ties everything together. Andrew describes this and suggests that this answer is inadequate: Dooyeweerd “proposed that the Created Order involves not only a Temporal Reality that is governed by the aspects, but also a SupraTemporal part. The human Heart is of the latter, which explains why human beings reach beyond time into eternity. The human heart is also open to the Divine by means of a religious orientation: the human heart orientates itself either to the True Divine or to some pretend non-Divine which is treated as absolute. But this does not feel entirely satisfactory, sounding too similar to the mediaeval notion of spirit and body. Many have criticised it. It may be that Dooyeweerd did not complete his working out of this area of thought, and this is left to us to work out.”

In contrast, Glenn states that “At the end of both the original Dutch edition, as well as the English translation, Dooyeweerd indicates that this idea of the supratemporal heart is in fact the basis of his whole philosophy, and he links what he said at the beginning of the work to what he says at the end. At the end of Volume III of De Wijsbegeerte der Wetsidee (p. 627), Dooyeweerd refers to man’s place in the cosmos as really the basic theme [grondthema] of his philosophy, and he says that his whole theory of the law-spheres and of individuality structures is continually set against the background of this central theme.”

Thus, what Andrew questions about Dooyeweerd is precisely what Glenn says is the core concept of Dooyeweerd, and Glenn uses the concept of the supratemporal heart as the common thread to integrate his analysis of Dooyeweerd. We will look at the supratemporal heart later on, when analyzing Glenn’s website. As I have already mentioned, if one compares Andrew’s treatment of Dooyeweerd with Glenn’s analysis of Dooyeweerd, one is left with the impression that there is a major dualism within Dooyeweerd’s philosophy. Glenn recognizes that this implicit dualism is present: “Later criticism rejected the Idea of the supratemporal selfhood because they saw it as still too dualistic! They argued that the division between supratemporal and temporal was itself a dualism. I believe that these critics are wrong. Dooyeweerd is not dualistic, but rather nondual. Furthermore, if we reject the supratemporal selfhood, we end up with a temporalized view of the selfhood. But why should we deny that we have experience of the supratemporal?”

In contrast, mental symmetry suggests that it is possible to explain the fundamental principles of Dooyeweerd without resorting to either dualism or non-dualism. Mental symmetry agrees that the following principles described by Dooyeweerd are fundamental: There are various aspects, each guided by their own set of rules; there is an order to these various aspects; the various aspects are related by analogy; understanding the human mind provides the key to bringing these various aspects together; and, including the human heart in this analysis is essential.

But, instead of simply asserting these principles, mental symmetry backs them up with a cognitive model and a methodology. The cognitive model is summarized by the diagram of mental symmetry. It is possible to use this diagram to explain how people think, leading to a model of the mind. The same diagram can be used to analyze how people act, speak, and interact, leading to a model of society; I am currently in the process of applying the theory of mental symmetry to the field of TESL, which studies linguistics—how people speak, and culture—how people interact. Going further, I show in God, Theology & Cognitive Modules that mental symmetry can also be used to explain scientific thought, math and logic, and Christian doctrine. Finally, the diagram of mental symmetry can be mapped easily on to the structure of the human brain, providing empirical evidence for the model.

While mental symmetry can explain how the mind functions when using rigorous logic, the theory of mental symmetry itself does not use rigorous logic. Instead, it uses analogy and symmetry. The analogy comes indirectly from the cognitive modules. Whenever examining a field, mental symmetry asks which cognitive modules are being used and how they are interacting. For instance, Mercy thought remembers experiences, while Perceiver thought looks for solid connections between experiences. In linguistics, Perceiver thought provides the meaning for words; when dealing with the physical world, Perceiver thought performs object recognition; in religion, Perceiver thought handles belief; in technical abstract thought, it assigns truth values to statements; when performing actions, it provides the map; when dealing with personal identity, it forms self-image. In each case, the same cognitive module is functioning, and the variations come from the various types of data which are being analyzed combined with the way in which Perceiver confidence interacts with Mercy emotions.

This is like analyzing various computer programs by the parts of the computer that are being used. For instance, a word processing program uses a hard drive to store documents; a spreadsheet program uses a hard drive to store tables of information; an operating system uses a hard drive to store programs. What ties these diverse programs together is the common computer architecture upon which they all run. Similarly, what ties together the various aspects of human thought and activity is a common cognitive architecture. This common cognitive architecture makes it possible to discover analogies between various fields which technical thought regards as unrelated.

The theory of mental symmetry also contains inherent symmetry, which is illustrated by the diagram of mental symmetry—and explains why it is called the diagram of mental symmetry. Perceiver and Server thought are related through symmetry, as are Teacher and Mercy thought. Exhorter, Contributor, and Facilitator thought can each operate in one of two different modes which are related through symmetry. In addition, a symmetry exists between abstract thought and concrete thought, and it is possible to conceive of existence in which these two switch places.

Dooyeweerd points out that the initial aspects deal with physical reality, whereas the later aspects involve social interaction. In other words, Dooyeweerd divides his aspects into two different realms, the physical realm and what he calls the social realm. Andrew points out that thinking within each aspect tends to be divided as well: “Dooyeweerd believed that each aspect provides the core of distinct sciences, so within a science we might expect a coherent view. But that is not so. Within the community of each science distinct paradigms exist and play out competing parts.”

Mental symmetry suggests that we are actually dealing with three different kinds of divisions, which are the result of related but distinct mechanisms: First, there is the matter of competing paradigms within an aspect. Mental symmetry says that this subdividing is an inevitable result of emphasizing technical thought. Technical thought, by its very nature, is only capable of functioning within a paradigm. As Thomas Kuhn points out, each paradigm is a self-contained domain and it is not possible to use the rules of one paradigm to prove another paradigm. However, mental symmetry suggests that it is possible to use normal thought with its analogies and symmetry to build bridges between one paradigm and another. Following this approach, I have managed to use the theory of mental symmetry to explain over half a dozen different fields at a reasonable level of detail.

Second, there is the matter of cognitive modules and cognitive styles. Mental symmetry suggests that the mind is composed of seven interacting cognitive modules and that people fall into seven distinct cognitive styles, each of which is conscious in one of these seven cognitive modules. Obviously, each cognitive style will naturally interpret existence from the viewpoint of conscious thought. As we shall see later, most of Dooyeweerd’s aspects correspond either to a cognitive module or to a basic trait that is characteristic of a cognitive module. Thus, when dealing with the issue of social interaction or mental integration one must come up with solutions which involve several cognitive modules. For instance, Exhorter thought wants excitement, whereas Perceiver thought looks for solid facts. Dooyeweerd’s concept of finding fulfillment within the law presents a concept of truth that is attractive to both Exhorter thought and Perceiver thought.

Notice that this second kind of division is related to the first. When the mind is using technical thought, then Contributor mode is in control of the mind. Therefore, it is common for Contributor persons to develop technical thought and to look down on other forms of thinking. The solution is to realize that mental wholeness is the goal for every person, regardless of his cognitive style, and the theory of mental symmetry can be used to analyze the steps that are involved in reaching mental wholeness.

Third, there is the matter of realms. Dooyeweerd’s philosophy refers to the physical realm, what he calls the social realm, and what he calls the supratemporal realm. Mental symmetry agrees that there are different realms, each subject to its own set of laws. As Dooyeweerd points out, the physical realm is subject to the deterministic rules of natural law. Dooyeweerd also states that the social realm is governed by normative law. Mental symmetry suggests that the normative law of Dooyeweerd’s social realm is the result of the structure of the mind, which can be described using the theory of mental symmetry.

In addition, Christianity explicitly refers to the existence of a supernatural realm peopled by beings who the Bible calls angels. Glenn states that Dooyeweerd does not include the supernatural within his philosophy: “Angels, like humans, are created beings in the aevum [a personal realm which is outside of time]. Dooyeweerd does not speculate about what they are like...Dooyeweerd did not believe it was philosophically fruitful to try to imagine what angels’ existence is like, nor what our own existence will be like in the afterlife when our ‘soul’ is divided from our body.”

One could argue about whether or not speculating about angels is ‘philosophically fruitful’, but one can definitely state that it is not scientifically acceptable. Thus, if one wishes to pander to scientific sensibilities, then one must do as Thomas Jefferson literally did, and cut out of the Bible any passage that refers to the supernatural.

However, angels, the supernatural, and life-after-death play a major role in the Biblical narrative. Thus, it seems to me that any system which does not attempt to analyze these elements is ignoring a major part of the puzzle and cannot claim to be a legitimate Christian philosophy. It seems hypocritical for Dooyeweerd to sweep the supernatural and life-after-death under the carpet as philosophically unfruitful, because Dooyeweerd accuses secular philosophy of committing the same crime—limiting thought to natural aspects while ignoring other parts of the puzzle.


While the theory of mental symmetry includes an explanation for the supernatural, this explanation did not come from focusing upon the supernatural. Instead, it was an indirect result of attempting to understand the mind. As I was developing my cognitive model of the mind, I gradually realized that a distinction needed to be made between the structure of the mind itself and the influence which the physical body and the physical universe have upon the content of the mind.

When one examines what it means to live as a human within the physical realm, one realizes that while physical existence is compatible with mental sanity and mental wholeness, human existence which is limited to the physical realm is also incomplete and cannot continue. In simple terms, if only physical reality exists, then life has insufficient meaning, and everyone will eventually die and cease to exist.

But, when one distinguishes between the mind and the influence which the physical body and the physical universe have upon the mind, one then notices that it is theoretically possible for a human mind to exist within a different ‘physical body’ and a ‘different physical universe’, leading to the concept of realms.

Mental symmetry suggests that realms function in a way that is consistent with Dooyeweerd’s concept of aspects: Each realm is subject to its own set of laws. For instance, the physical realm is governed by natural law, while the supernatural realm is governed by a different set of laws. Each realm is distinct from the other. For instance, it is not possible to find conclusive physical proof for non-physical existence.

However, if one analyzes peoples’ descriptions of supernatural encounters, one notices that it is possible to use mental symmetry to make sense of these encounters. And, because mental symmetry can also be used to explain the functioning of the human mind, one concludes that supernatural existence is compatible with the structure of the human mind; it is theoretically possible for a human being to inhabit the supernatural realm and remain sane. God, theology & Cognitive Modules takes a few pages to explore this topic in greater detail.

While the supernatural realm appears to be consistent with the structure of the mind, it is not consistent with the content of the natural human mind. That is because living within one realm will cause the mind to develop in a direction which is radically different than if this same mind were living in another realm. However, if the mind were reprogrammed to gain sufficient mental wholeness, then it would theoretically become possible for a mind to move between one realm and another, or to live within more than one realm at the same time. While the laws of one realm do not apply to other realms, mental symmetry suggests that the various realms are related through analogy and symmetry. For instance, the relationship between the supernatural realm and the physical realm appears to correspond to the relationship between energy and matter.

In addition, each realm appears to emphasize one aspect of mental structure. Thus, beings who live within a realm will acquire their initial mental content in the corresponding aspects. For instance, human minds live in physical bodies. As a result, Mercy thought, corresponding roughly to Dooyeweerd’s sensitive aspect, is the first to develop in the human mind. In contrast, Teacher thought, corresponding roughly to a combination of Dooyeweerd’s analytical and aesthetic aspects, would be the first to develop in a mind which inhabited a supernatural realm of energy. So far, it appears that the following realms could theoretically exist: Obviously, there is a physical realm. There is also a mental realm. As was mentioned, the Bible, as well as UFO encounters, describe a supernatural realm that is based in names and energy rather than bodies and matter. There could also be a spiritual realm in which external ‘reality’ is an expression of mental networks. Swedenborg’s description of heaven explores this sort of existence. (Swedenborg’s concept of heaven is compatible with Christian doctrine and with mental symmetry, but his basic theology appears to be deeply flawed.) Finally, there may be a divine-like realm in which external ‘reality’ is an expression of internal generality.

These various realms might not exist, and this list of possible realms might not be complete, but it appears that a human mind could theoretically exist in one or more of these realms. In addition, one can state with certainty that at least one non-physical realm must exist for human life to continue after physical death. Thus, mental symmetry suggests that the key task for humans is to acquire the mental content that is required to exist within a non-physical realm before leaving the physical realm. This may not be sufficient, but it is definitely necessary.

Throughout history, various people and groups have suggested that it is possible to open doorways between these various realms. This suggestion is compatible with mental symmetry. However, mental symmetry suggests that the fundamental difficulty is not ‘opening a doorway to another world’ but rather remaining sane within the presence of such an open doorway. Thus, even though one is dealing with realms which appear to exist independently of human thought, the primary question for a person is not whether or not such a realm exists, but rather whether or not such a realm exists for that person. If a person does not acquire the mental wholeness that is required to exist simultaneously within more than one realm, then even if such a doorway exists, a person will do everything within his power to keep it shut—for that person, the realm does not exist.

Notice how this relates to what Dooyeweerd says. According to Glenn, “Dooyeweerd rejects the view that ascribes our sensations to ‘things in themselves’ existing independently of the functions of our consciousness, so that our consciousness is one-sidedly dependent upon them, or that we passively receive sense impressions from them. Instead, he says that things do not exist independently of the functions of our consciousness (III, 45, 46). This does not merely mean that we have access to things. It means that things have no existence or reality apart from humanity as its supratemporal root (NC I, 100; II, 53), and that they have no qualities apart from humanity.” We will look at the reasoning behind this statement when we examine the supratemporal heart later on.

Dooyeweerd suggests that reality has no independent existence apart from humanity. Mental symmetry says something similar but for a totally different reason: Each realm does appear to have its own independent existence. Thus, for instance, physical objects do exist. However, existence is both a physical and a mental question. For example, cars may exist, but if I do not own a car or have access to a car, then as far as I am concerned, cars do not exist. Going further, if I physically own a car but do not know how to drive a car, then I do not really own that car, and my access to cars is still limited. Thus, there is a sense in which ‘things have no existence or reality apart from humanity’.

Summarizing, physical reality, human thought, supernatural existence, spiritual existence, and God may all inhabit realms which are inherently disconnected. As Dooyeweerd points out, it is not possible to use technical thought to come up with a universal theory which bridges all of these various aspects, or to apply the rules from one aspect to another aspect. Thus the scientist, who uses primarily the analytical aspect, has trouble acknowledging that anything exists outside of physical reality. But, by using mental symmetry, it is possible to show that all of these various aspects are compatible with human thought. Thus, a human mind which was sufficiently developed would be capable of functioning simultaneously in all of these various realms. And, because the concept of a Christian Trinitarian God emerges most fully when the mind is fully developed, all of these various aspects can also be viewed as expressions of a Universal Trinitarian God. But, unlike Dooyeweerd, who postulates that God is not subject to law, and that God’s essential nature must be grasped through emotional intuition, mental symmetry can extend rational thought to God, spirituality, and the supernatural. Saying this another way, if one uses analogy and symmetry, guided by the diagram of mental symmetry, then it is possible to come up with a rational meta-theory which extends all the way from the purely physical to the divine. Mental symmetry can then be viewed as an expression of God’s essential nature.

One might feel that it is presumptuous to claim that a mere theory can encapsulate the nature of a Universal Being. However, the seven cognitive modules upon which the theory of mental symmetry is based originally came from a holy book written 2000 years ago—the same book that describes the various attributes of a Trinitarian God. In addition, it is possible to explain the essential doctrines of other major religions as concepts that emerge when only part of the mind is functioning. Thus, mental symmetry can be viewed either as a philosophical system based in cognitive architecture, or as a system of theology which provides a systematic explanation for the essential content of a holy book.

Let us turn now to the question of methodology. I should point out that my research did not begin with technical thought. Instead, it started with cognitive styles, using a list of seven thinking types found in the Christian Bible. A list of traits for each of these seven cognitive styles was gathered through an extensive study of biographies, done by Lane Friesen. This led to the initial version of the diagram of mental symmetry, which was then mapped onto neurology. At that point, the theory was only able to explain a small range of topics. Expanding this theory was an iterative process; each time the theory was used to analyze some field, the concepts became clearer and better defined. Each expansion of the theory meant translating the concepts of other fields into the vocabulary of mental symmetry. Often, concepts would only become clear after several passes; an initial look at some field would uncover general concepts, while returning to that field later on would lead to a more detailed explanation.

As this process continued, mental symmetry started to expand beyond behavior and psychology to concepts that were being discussed by philosophy and other forms of rigorous thought. But, the methodology which I was using was not technical thought with its rigorous logic, but rather normal thought with its analogies and symmetries. For Thomas Kuhn, technical thought describes ‘normal science’, while normal thought describes ‘revolutionary science’. That is because technical thought defines normality for the scientist, while normal thought is considered to be the aberration. In contrast, I was using normal thought as my normal mode of thought, and entering temporarily into various aspects of technical thought in order to tighten up portions of my model. During the initial stages of my research, I did not realize that this is what I was doing. I only knew that I was making progress. It is only recently, as I have begun to look at philosophy in more detail, that I have understood my methodology, realized why it is effective, and seen how it relates to the ‘rigorous thought’ of academia.

Law and the Subject

Dooyeweerd asserts that personal identity is the key for tying together the various aspects and for coming up with an adequate concept of God. Mental symmetry agrees with this statement, but for a different reason. Dooyeweerd actually mentions the underlying elements of this reason, but he seems to be missing an understanding of how these elements can be put into place and he does not apply these elements to his concept of God.

As Dooyeweerd points out, modern thought is objective; it focuses on the facts while ignoring personal feelings. Dooyeweerd, in contrast, tries to bridge these two. Andrew explains this in the following way: “In responding to the laws of an aspect, the entity is subject of, or to, those laws. Entities that respond to our subject-functioning in an aspect are objects of that functioning... Owing to the fact that the laws pertain, whether we go with or against them, all functioning has repercussions. (Analogous to cause and effect.)”

Andrew explains further: “Dooyeweerd’s notion of Law is very different from that of liberal humanism, that sees law as constraint. Instead, Dooyeweerd saw Law as that which enables meaningful happenings, and that which defines which happenings are meaningful and good. Things happen, not by virtue of being-caused but by virtue of entities responding as subject to this framework of law. By this means entities have genuine Freedom. This kind of Law is the Gift of the Creator to the Creation to enable it to Exist and Occur apart from (though always depending on) himself. This Law is not just ‘You should do X’ but rather takes the form of ‘If you do X then Y will result’.”

Mental symmetry agrees with this concept, but also provides an explanation for the underlying cognitive mechanisms. This explanation is summarized by the arrows and lines connecting the cognitive modules on the diagram of mental symmetry. In brief, living in the physical world fills Mercy thought with experiences. Perceiver thought, observing from ‘next door’, notices that Mercy experiences can be organized into groups and categories, leading to object recognition. For instance, Perceiver thought will notice that the combination of leaves, branches, trunk, occurs repeatedly, leading to the concept of a tree. Continued Perceiver thought will lead to the formation of a mental map of facts and connections which ties together individual Mercy experiences. Initially, Perceiver facts will describe only static spatial connections. But, if Contributor thought connects Perceiver facts with Server sequences, then Perceiver facts will expand to include connections of cause-and-effect as well. In simple terms, the mental concept of cause-and effect emerges when Perceiver thought connects Mercy experiences which are separated by time but connected by a Server sequence. Perceiver thought connects these experiences because cause leads reliably and repeatedly to affect.

Mental symmetry also provides a description of the path by which the mind can learn how to think and function in terms of universal laws of personal cause-and-effect, something which is missing from Dooyeweerd’s system. Mental symmetry suggests that one of the key stumbling blocks is the interaction between Perceiver confidence and Mercy emotions. In order to believe that Mercy experiences are subject to Perceiver laws as Dooyeweerd states, Perceiver thought must have the confidence to assert these laws in the presence of Mercy emotions. Gaining Perceiver confidence could be compared to exercising: Lack of exercise will cause muscles to grow weaker; exercise that is too intense will damage muscles; a program of gradually increasing exercise will build muscles. Similarly, Perceiver confidence grows as a person repeatedly manages to hold on to the facts in the midst of emotional pressure. One can tell that Perceiver confidence has increased whenever one is able to recognize that facts and feelings are interrelated but independent: I may love chocolate, for instance, but this emotion is independent of the fact that eating too much chocolate makes me fat.

I should mention in passing that the Contributor person and Facilitator person do not seem to be consciously aware of the interaction between Perceiver confidence and Mercy emotion. In my experience, when I share this concept with a Facilitator person, then he will usually reject it. However, if one observes the Facilitator person, one notices that his mind is subject to this interaction. For instance, when he is talking about some emotional subject such as the death of a loved one, he will talk in rational tones as if he is describing some other person and then suddenly break down emotionally and be unable to continue talking, indicating that subconscious Perceiver thought within his mind has become overwhelmed by Mercy emotions. When this mental transition occurs, then the Facilitator person will feel muddled, and the typical Facilitator person will go to great lengths to control his environment so that it does not cause him to feel muddled. However, the average Facilitator person does not realize that feeling muddled is primarily a mental problem and that building Perceiver confidence makes it possible to handle increasingly emotional situations without feeling muddled.[1]

Mental symmetry suggests that there are two ways of increasing Perceiver certainty. First, one can build Perceiver confidence and learn how to hold on to the facts in the presence of emotions. Second, one can increase the emotional intensity until Perceiver thought becomes ‘blinded by the light’ and is mesmerized into ‘knowing’ what is ‘true’. As far as I can tell, the Facilitator person cannot distinguish mentally between these two types of knowing. Instead, both factual knowing and emotional ‘knowing’ appear to provide conscious thought within his mind with equal certainty.

Glenn describes the difference between factual knowing and emotional ‘knowing’ and states that knowledge about God is based in emotional ‘knowing’: “The knowledge concerning God, wherein religious self-knowledge lies enclosed, is thus primarily not obtained in a scientific or theological way. What in a rather inadequate way is termed ’theology’ is a theoretical knowledge, in a meaning synthesis of the logical function of thought and the temporal function of faith. Such theology is a knowledge that itself it totally dependent on the law-idea from which the thinker begins. True knowledge of God and of our self has its point of contact [raakt] in the horizon of human experience, and therefore also with the horizon of theoretical knowledge. It rests on a child-like trusting acceptance with our full personality, with the heart, of Divine Revelation both in an indivisible unity of its transcendental-religious sense as well as in its immanent-cosmic sense.”

Mental symmetry suggests that there is a sense in which this is true; knowing a person goes beyond merely knowing about a person, because knowing a person means interacting at the level of mental networks (which we will discuss later) and not merely at a factual level. But, knowing a person is still based upon facts which one knows about that person. Similarly, the expert musician transcends the notes performed by the technician in order to produce music. But, making music does not mean abandoning technique but rather allowing technique to be guided by emotions. When Dooyeweerd talks about knowing God, he seems to be describing abandoning technique in order to embrace emotions, rather than allowing technique to be guided by emotions.

If the mind does not know how to think rationally in the presence of emotions, then it will make a transition from factual knowing to emotional ‘knowing’ when it moves from knowing about a person to knowing a person. It will then divide truth into objective truth and subjective ‘truth’—as Dooyeweerd does. However, if Perceiver thought gains sufficient confidence to function in the presence of Mercy emotions, then a person will realize that going from knowing about a person to knowing a person does not change the nature of truth. What is changing is not truth itself but rather the mental ability of a person to determine truth. In other words, if man loses the ability to think rationally when dealing with emotional topics such as God or the human heart, man should not conclude—as Dooyeweerd does—that God and the human heart are irrational. Rather, man should conclude that man is irrational and that man needs to learn how to become rational when dealing with emotional topics such as God and the human heart.

Mental symmetry recognizes that learning to think rationally is not a simple task, especially when attempting to know self, others, and God. Thus, mental symmetry suggests that personal identity plays a key role in tying together the various aspects of thought for the simple reason that when personal identity is messed up, a person cannot think clearly, while transforming personal identity helps a person to think clearly. Stating this more rigorously, childish identity is naturally fragmented and inconsistent; experiences with strong emotions act as defining experiences which determine ‘truth’ for that context. For instance, seeing a desirable object may fool Perceiver thought into ‘knowing’ that this object is connected with personal identity—leading to theft. Because each emotional context determines its own ‘truth’, there will be no consistency between one context and another, which will make it very difficult to use analogy and symmetry to discover how one context is related to another, especially when attempting to understand subjective topics. In contrast, if facts are accepted regardless of how they make personal identity feel, then these facts will provide the raw material for using analogy and symmetry to relate one context to another. In simple terms, the childish mind is impure; it is an admixture of incompatible mental structures. In contrast, the transformed mind is pure; one mental context is consistent with another.

Mental symmetry suggests that a concept of God emerges when a sufficiently general theory applies to personal identity. If personal identity is impure and fragmented, then this personal fragmentation will obviously prevent the mind from forming an integrated general theory which applies to personal identity. Thus, only the pure mind will be able to see the universal order which ties together specific situations and brings structure to the various contexts. In Biblical terms, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” Thus, mental symmetry suggests that Dooyeweerd is correct in stating that personal identity is the key to forming an adequate concept of God. But, this is not because God must be approached intuitively and mystically using the heart, but rather because an impure heart will prevent a person from thinking rationally when dealing with personal identity.

Bringing Order to the Aspects

Moving on to the final point, Dooyeweerd suggests that there is an order to the various aspects. To a large extent, the order which he suggests makes sense. In the same way that one must first have a computer before one can run computer software, so physical reality and the physical body are prerequisites for mental functioning and social interaction. But, I suggest that Dooyeweerd appears to be missing two factors: First, because the mind begins with personal identity fragmented and opposed to rational thought, the various modules of the mind must be programmed in a certain order. In God, Theology & Cognitive Styles, I describe this process in detail. This programming order corresponds only partially to the order in which Dooyeweerd places his aspects. Second, as I mentioned before, it is possible for human-like minds to exist within non-physical realms. For such beings, the order of the aspects would be different, and the spatial, kinematic, and physical aspects would not be primary. Similarly, if personal existence continues after physical death, then the human mind would probably find itself existing within a realm in which the order of aspects is quite different.

Looking briefly at the order in which cognitive modules must be programmed in the human mind, mental symmetry suggests that four major mental struggles will occur in the process of reaching mental wholeness, and that these four major mental struggles are summarized by the four MBTI® divisions.[2] It is mentally natural for the developing mind to be characterized by these four divisions, but mental symmetry suggests that these divisions describe the untransformed, fragmented mind and not a whole mind. Mental symmetry also suggests that these four divisions must be integrated in a specific order in the human mind: first T/F, then P/J, then S/N, and finally I/E. Dooyeweerd’s system describes the integration of T/F and P/J: When Thinking and Feeling are integrated, then objective facts will be integrated with subjective emotions; Dooyeweerd emphasizes that this integration is essential. When Perceiving and Judging are integrated, then freedom will be found within the rules; this describes Dooyeweerd’s concept of being subject to the law and viewing law as a source of personal freedom. Dooyeweerd’s system implies that T/F and P/J should be integrated. Mental symmetry agrees with this assessment. But, as I have mentioned, Dooyeweerd does not seem to tell how T/F and P/J can become mentally integrated.

Mental symmetry analyzes morality in terms of mental wholeness: Whatever causes cognitive modules to function together is morally good; whatever shuts down cognitive modules, or causes one cognitive module to operate at the expense of another cognitive module is morally bad. Andrew describes morality in a similar manner using the concept of shalom—the Hebrew word for peace: “The word shalom is not used by Dooyeweerd, nor is the shalom directly discussed by him. But the name is ‘current’ in Dooyeweerdian circles, expressing the idea of multi-aspectual goodness: good in all aspects, leading, if we adopt the creation-fall-redemption ground-motive that Dooyeweerd also adopted, to ‘what God intended’ for human and other life... Therefore for optimum success, prosperity etc. in the broadest sense, it is necessary to function well in every aspect. But what Christians and others call human sin usually prevents this occurring in practice.”

Going further, “Dooyeweerd contended that there is no incompatibility between the aspects. None inherently work against others, but all work in harmony with the others, as instruments of an orchestra do when playing a symphony.” Mental symmetry agrees with these statements but expresses them in terms of cognitive modules and realms, which can be summarized by the diagram of mental symmetry. In order for the mind to function properly, all of the cognitive modules must function in an integrated manner.

For instance, the T/F split says that Thinking is separate from Feeling: Thinking uses Perceiver Facts but suppresses Mercy emotions; Feeling uses Mercy emotions to mesmerize Perceiver thought into believing Perceiver facts. This is not ‘shalom’ but rather is one cognitive module functioning at the expense of another. In contrast, when Perceiver thought is integrated with Mercy thought, then these two cooperate to evaluate situations: Mercy thought remembers the experience along with the associated emotions; Perceiver thought remembers how the elements of that situation are connected and how this relates to other situations. Similarly, the P/J split says that Perceiving is separate from Judging: Perceiving remains open-ended by emphasizing Exhorter excitement and novelty; Judging brings closure by using Contributor plans and Contributor decisions. As Dooyeweerd points out, freedom is found within the rules, but a person will only be able to apply this principle if he learns how to get Exhorter thought and Contributor thought to cooperate within his mind.

Shalom also appears to require the existence of multiple realms. When a person walks, he rests his weight upon one foot while moving the other foot forward. If the leg upon which he is resting his weight collapses, then he will fall to the ground instead of moving forward. Similarly, it appears that progress requires one realm which can act as a source of stability combined with another realm which can be changed. For instance, a person who is in a struggle for physical survival will not focus upon education or mental growth. In order to pursue education, a person must have a stable physical environment. Going the other way, the person who wants to transform his physical world must first come up with a solid mental plan. It also appears that long-term existence requires moving from one realm to another. For instance, we all know that our physical bodies will eventually die. If a person wishes to survive physical death, then it must be possible to look to some other realm for stability—such as a spiritual or supernatural realm. Obviously, the empirical naturalistic mindset which says that the physical realm is the only source of truth and stability will have its shalom shattered by physical death.

Ground Motives

We have looked at the four MBTI® divisions, and we have seen that integrating T/F and P/J forms a fundamental part of Dooyeweerd’s philosophy. Dooyeweerd states that normal human thought is characterized by fundamental splits, which he refers to as ground motives.

In Andrew’s words, “Dooyeweerd identified four ground motives that have driven Western thought and culture forward over the last 2,500 years: MFGM—the matter-form motive of the ancient Greeks (dualistic), CFR—the-creation-fall-redemption motive of Hebrew thought, NGGM—the nature-grace motive of Mediaeval Roman Catholicism (dualistic), NFGM—the nature-freedom motive of the Renaissance, Enlightenment and Modern times (dualistic).” Notice that CFR is the only ground motive which does not involve an inherent mental split.

Mental symmetry agrees that this analysis is both significant and accurate, but mental symmetry also provides an explanation for the cognitive mechanisms which lie behind these various ground motives.

MFGM emerges when the mind makes a distinction between Platonic Forms and reality. The mental mechanism behind Platonic Forms is described in detail in God, Theology & Cognitive Modules, and will be summarized here: Experiences from the external world are remembered by Mercy thought; Perceiver thought analyzes experiences for repeated connections, leading to object recognition. This is a basic aspect of concrete thought. However, Perceiver facts also provide the raw material for abstract thought. That is because whenever a ‘pile’ of Perceiver facts collects, then Teacher thought will feel emotionally driven to bring order to this complexity by assembling these ‘bricks’ into the ‘building’ of a general theory, which it does by simplifying, smoothing, and summarizing in order to discover the essential elements. This Teacher theorizing will lead indirectly to the mental formation of Perceiver facts which are simpler, more elegant, longer lasting, and more perfect than facts which came from analyzing the external world. And, because Perceiver facts organize Mercy experiences, these modified Perceiver facts will also cause imaginary images to form within Mercy thought of items which are simpler, more elegant, longer-lasting, and more perfect than those that exist in the real world. Mental symmetry suggests that these idealized, imaginary Mercy experiences are Platonic Forms. For example, when one thinks of a triangle, one does not think of a real three-sided object with uneven sides. Instead, one imagines the idealized concept of an unchanging perfect shape with three equal sides, with each side a perfect, idealized line. Thomas Kuhn’s concept of incommensurability describes how a paradigm can alter a person’s facts even at the level of object recognition.

As Dooyeweerd points out, the Greeks did make a separation between Platonic Forms and reality. And, as Dooyeweerd also points out, the Greeks made the error of focusing upon static objects. Mental symmetry suggests that this is because Greek thinkers did not use Contributor thought to connect Perceiver facts with Server actions. The reason for this is obvious: For Greek thinkers, physical action was associated with slavery and not with intelligent thought. Thus, because Greek individuals made a personal distinction between speech and action, Greek philosophy also made an intellectual distinction between speech and action. The solution is to combine Server actions with Teacher words, which means integrating the MBTI® S/N split.

Moving on, NGGM involves a distinction between religious and secular. As Dooyeweerd suggests, this is a Christianization of the form-matter split. Mental symmetry suggests that this is a natural result of basing religion in a holy book. A holy book uses Teacher words to describe God, perfection, eternity, and other Platonic-like concepts, triggering and reinforcing the mental mechanism of Platonic Forms. But, a holy book is accepted because of Mercy emotions; the author of this book is viewed as a person with Great Mercy Status. This leaves the impression that general Teacher theories have their ultimate source in defining Mercy experiences. As a result, the message of the holy book will become mentally associated with holy people, holy places, holy rituals, holy experiences, and holy items which acquire their holiness by being associated with the holy book and which protect the emotional status assigned to the holy book by being revered and worshipped.

Mental symmetry suggests that religion which is based in revealed truth is always accompanied by an attitude of personal self-denial, because the mind will only continue to believe in revealed truth if it assigns significantly greater emotional status to the Mercy source of ‘truth’ than to personal identity. Otherwise the religious believer will begin to doubt his ‘truth’, just as the growing teenager begins to doubt the words and concepts of his parents.

NFGM emerges when the ‘teenagers’ of society succeed in doubting the words and concepts of revealed truth. As I have mentioned, it takes Perceiver confidence to work out Perceiver facts in the presence of strong Mercy emotions. Thus, it is easiest for rational thought to emerge in areas where Mercy feelings are low, leading to the empirical, objective bias of modern science. The success of modern science and the personal benefits which science have brought through technology have caused the Christian message of revealed truth to be rejected, just as the teenage rebel rejects the words of his parents and regards them as ‘old fogies’ who are technologically inept and ‘behind the times’. However, because modern science suppresses Mercy feelings rather than gaining the Perceiver confidence that is required to handle Mercy feelings, subjective thought is left with a vacuum: Religious ‘truth’ has been discredited, but scientific truth has not provided an alternative. Thus, there is a division between Nature, which is guided by science and rational thought, and Freedom, which describes a personal identity that ‘believes’ that it is free of both Perceiver facts and Perceiver ‘truth’.

In opposition to these three mental splits, Dooyeweerd offers the Christian ground motive of CFR: creation-fall-redemption. Mental symmetry agrees with this statement, but suggests that Dooyeweerd has an inadequate understanding of what is meant by CFR, and, as we shall see later when looking at Glenn’s website, the interpretation which Dooyeweerd gives to CFR appears to be more consistent with Buddhism than with Christianity.

Mental symmetry interprets CFR in terms of mental networks and a mental concept of God. A mental network is simply a collection of related emotional memories which functions as a unit. Whenever isolated memories form into a mental network, then they will attempt to continue functioning as a mental network. Any input that is consistent with a mental network will generate the hyper-pleasure of integration, whereas input that is inconsistent with a mental network will generate the hyper-pain of fragmentation. The formation and breaking of a habit provides a simple illustration of how a mental network behaves. Mental symmetry suggests that the mind represents people as mental networks and that personal identity itself is merely a collection of mental networks. As was pointed out before, the childish mind will naturally develop a personal identity that is composed of inconsistent, fragmented, irrational mental networks that were originally formed by taking shortcuts to achieve short-term emotional gratification. Thus, ‘creation’ will naturally be followed by ‘the fall’ because of the self-deceptive thinking and action of childish identity, and ‘the fall’ will need to be followed by ‘redemption’.

In order to transform childish identity, the existing mental networks of childish personal identity must fragment and be replaced by a new personal identity. When a mental network which represents personal identity falls apart, then this will literally be felt as ‘dying to self’. And, when a new personal identity forms, then this will be felt as resurrection. Thus, CFR could also be described as birth-death-resurrection.

Mental symmetry suggests that birth-death-resurrection occurs by following the previous three ground motives to their conclusion. Form-matter uses Platonic Forms to form the mental image of a more perfect existence, but because Server actions are not added to Perceiver facts, it is not possible for a person to live within Platonic Forms. The solution is to add Server actions to Perceiver facts, leading to a sense of cause-and-effect.

Nature-grace does attempt to live within the Platonic Forms, but because these Platonic Forms are associated with specific Mercy objects, people, events, and locations, attempting to live within Platonic Forms leads merely to a limited caricature of human existence, in which one attempts to squeeze universal perfection into the restricted walls of holiness and one confuses action that is guided by Platonic Forms with performing physical rituals using the holy items that are associated with Platonic Forms. The solution is to understand the general Teacher theory that is being described by the content of the holy book, so that the Platonic Forms are held together by the Teacher emotions produced by a universal paradigm rather than the Mercy emotions generated by specific holy items.

Nature-freedom does attempt to live within Platonic Forms, and it does use the Teacher emotions of general theories to hold together Platonic Forms, but it limits this to the realm of the objective, ignoring personal identity. The result is the impersonal objective ‘salvation’ of technology. Things become better while people remain the same. The solution is to extend the salvation produced by science and technology to the realm of the subjective. As Dooyeweerd points out, this is a religious solution because a concept of God emerges when a general theory is applied to personal identity.

But, I suggest that Dooyeweerd makes the error of limiting a knowledge of God to the pistic realm of the intuitive heart. Dooyeweerd says that God is the source of all law and that all law finds its unity in God, but he then states that God is above the law and not subject to any law. In Glenn’s words: “God is not subject to law: As Sovereign Origin, God is not subjected to the law. On the contrary, this subjectedness is the very characteristic of all that which has been created, the existence of which is limited and determined by the law (NC I, 99, ft. 1).”

Mental symmetry, in contrast, suggests that the diagram of mental symmetry can be used to explain many—and possibly all—aspects of human thought, and then notes that the image of God that emerges when the mind pursues a path of mental wholeness is the same as the image of God revealed through the Christian holy book, implying either that the human authors of the Christian holy book were far more clever than their peers, or that the Christian holy book is some sort of divine revelation. However, if the human authors of the Christian holy book were far more clever than their peers, then why didn’t they come up with a universal model of human cognition? Instead, it appears that the human authors of the Christian holy book only had a partial understanding of what they were writing, suggesting that some supernatural being was the ultimate author, a claim which is made by the Christian holy book.


Dooyeweerd distinguishes between what he calls law-side and entity-side. Andrew describes it this way: “Reality has two sides, a law-side and an entity-side. The entity-side comprises all that exists or occurs in the cosmos, as concrete reality e.g. you, me, the polar ice cap, a rose, a government, a symphony, a computer program, the Second World War, the decision I made this morning over what to eat, my act of writing now. The law-side comprises the framework within which all can exist or happen. It concerns modalities in which entities operate, e.g. physical, social, biotic, ethical, technical, aesthetic.”

In approximate terms, law-side corresponds to Perceiver facts about Mercy experiences, while entity-side contains the Mercy experiences themselves. Dooyeweerd adds that universal laws can only be discovered by examining the law-side. In other words, if one wishes to build general Teacher theories then one must use Perceiver facts. So far, this is both significant and consistent with mental symmetry.

Andrew points out that this distinction “enabled Dooyeweerd to posit that there are indeed norms for the cosmos that transcend human knowledge or opinion. Such norms are to be found on the law-side. But it enables us to draw a sharp distinction between such law-side norms and norms as we experience them, such as social norms and codified laws and rules. Social norms and codified rules and laws are within the entity side, having been socially constructed and agreed. This, in turn, gives us a basis for deciding when to obey and when to question, disobey and alter such social norms and codified laws and rules, that is not based only on our personal preferences or whim.”

This also is an important distinction, for which mental symmetry suggests the following mechanism: In essence, social norms form when the entity-side intrudes into the law-side. Perceiver thought can be mesmerized by strong Mercy emotions; if some person with sufficient emotional status states that ‘A’ and ‘B’ are connected, or that ‘A’ and ‘B’ are not connected, then Perceiver thought will ‘believe’ that this is ‘true’, whether it corresponds to actual truth or not.

Finally, Dooyeweerd distinguishes between normative laws and determinative laws. Physical laws are determinate because one cannot choose to disobey them; they always apply. For instance, an apple cannot choose to fall up; it will always fall down. Normative laws, in contrast, can be violated, but there are consequences for either violating or following the law. Dooyeweerd says that normative law is not the same as social norms, and mental symmetry would agree. Mental symmetry explains these three in the following way: Determinative law is built into the fabric of the physical universe; anything that exists within the physical universe is automatically subject to it. Normative law is the result of mental hardware. The mind is constructed in such a way that some paths lead to mental wholeness and pleasant emotions whereas other paths lead to mental fragmentation and painful consequences. It is possible to follow mental software that is inconsistent with mental hardware, but this will take effort and eventually will reach a dead end. Saying this another way, determinative law describes the structure of the physical realm; normative law describes the structure of the cognitive realm. Going further, a ‘miracle’ does not violate either determinate or normative law. Instead, it is the result of applying, either deliberately or accidentally, the laws of some non-physical realm and experiencing the result of that application within the physical realm.

Social norms are the result of mental software, which may or may not be consistent with mental hardware or physical law. There are four main reasons why social norms tend to violate either mental hardware or physical law: First, childish identity develops mental software that pursues short-term emotional gratification. Second, childish identity warps thinking, making it difficult to analyze law rationally. Third, physical laws are not always obvious, and it is possible to construct an artificial world that masks painful physical consequences. For instance, if every cliff is protected by a fence, then people will encounter the social norm of the fence rather than the painful physical consequence of falling off the cliff. Fourth, mental hardware is also not obvious, and it is possible to use personal approval to mask cognitive consequences. For instance, if the government gives money to those who lack a work ethic, then people will experience the approval of receiving money rather than the painful consequences of being lazy.

Everyday Life

Dooyeweerd states that normal life does not use technical thought and his description of everyday life corresponds reasonably well to what mental symmetry calls normal concrete thought. In Andrew’s words:

1) “In everyday experience, we encounter things that persist as those same things until they lose their identity.” Dooyeweerd seems to be saying here that when one uses normal thought, one notices that the external world is composed of objects which act as if they have independent existence. (Dooyeweerd rejects the concept of independently existing objects. We will discuss this later when looking at meaning.)

2) “Everyday experience does not separate noumenon (thing in itself) from phenomenon (our experience or knowledge of it).” In other words, normal thought is used to working with partial certainty. For instance, when normal thought realizes that the phenomenon it sees does not appear to match the noumenon in the physical world, then it adjusts the lighting in order to get a better look at the object, or it laughs at the optical illusion that occurs when object recognition goes awry. Technical thought, in contrast, has an epistemological crisis, because it demands total certainty.

3) “Everyday life and attitude experiences life and the world as a whole, a diverse whole that is nevertheless integral. As opposed to the theoretical attitude, which tries to split life and world apart into separate spheres.” In other words, technical thought limits thinking or action to some specific context or playing field. In contrast, normal thought is open-ended and ties together many different contexts. For instance, one sees this distinction when comparing work at a company with life at home.

4) “Everyday life is ‘incapable of being combated theoretically’. When we take a theoretical attitude to something, we ‘stand over against’ something (‘Gegenstand’); everyday life is not something that we can ‘stand over against’ in this way.” Andrew defines ‘Gegenstand’ elsewhere: “When we think logically about an aspect, our logical thinking ‘stands over against’ or ‘opposes’ that aspect, just as two banks of a river stand over against each other. The aspect is the Gegenstand of our logical thinking. To use another term, logical thinking and the aspect become antithetical to each other...Not only does logic thinking create a Gegenstand between itself and the aspect of interest, but it also creates a Gegenstand between that aspect and all other aspects.” Mental symmetry suggests that this describes two basic characteristics of technical thought: First, technical thought starts with a caricature of what it is attempting to understand. One thinks, for instance, of the physicist who starts solving his problem by saying something like, “Let us begin by assuming that we are dealing with perfect spheres and that friction can be ignored.” Second, technical thought limits itself to some restricted context, ignoring that which lies outside of this context.

5) “Everyday experience is not ‘lesser’ than theoretical thought. Indeed, it has real power.” In other words, Dooyeweerd agrees that normal thought is a valid form of thought and that technical thought is not the only acceptable way of thinking.

6) “Modern living is still ‘naïve’ experience though that experience now includes the products of scientific and theoretical research (such as ‘telegraph, telephone, trains ...’).” In other words, technical thought can be used to come up with new products. But, when the products of technology are introduced into society, then they become part of normal thought, and will be treated as aspects of normal thought by those who do not use technical thought.

7) “Everyday experience is not infallible, and is influenced by our religious standpoint. ‘Naïve experience is not neutral with respect to the religious position of the I-ness.’” Normal thought works with partial certainty, jumps to conclusions, and can be mistaken. In addition, mental networks play a role in guiding normal thought. While Dooyeweerd describes the attributes of normal concrete thought quite well, it appears that he does not distinguish between normal thought and mental networks. Mental symmetry suggests that mental networks play a major role in religion and personal identity.

8) “It is a mistake to think of everyday experience as primarily individual. It has an important social aspect. ‘Naïve experience is doubtless first formed by social praxis.’” Mental symmetry suggests that the mind uses mental networks to represent emotional experiences with other people, and that these mental networks play a major role in guiding human thought and behavior.

Summarizing, Dooyeweerd’s description of ‘everyday life’ corresponds quite well to what mental symmetry calls normal concrete thought. What is missing from Dooyeweerd’s model is the concept of mental networks as well as a description of normal abstract thought. In contrast, the theory of mental symmetry was developed primarily by using normal abstract thought, using mental networks to direct attention, and technical thought to add rigor.

The Fifteen Aspects

We have discussed Dooyeweerd’s concept of aspects in general terms. We will now look at these fifteen aspects and relate them to the theory of mental symmetry.

1) Quantitative Aspect: Dooyeweerd describes this as relating to discrete amount, and says that this is the most fundamental aspect. This may be true if one views quantitative as a way of distinguishing finite creation from an infinite God. Finite can only exist if it is possible to divide infinite up into discrete categories, and finite can only grasp the concept of infinite if it is possible to organize these discrete categories into groups or sequences. Mental symmetry suggests that an image of God emerges when a general theory applies to personal identity. We shall see later that there are two ways to bring together general theory with personal identity: Mysticism jams the two together to create the emotional feeling that finite is infinite and that I am united with God. Incarnation, in contrast, uses Perceiver categories and Server sequences to bridge finite with infinite.

2) Spatial Aspect: Perceiver facts. Humans occupy physical bodies which inhabit the physical universe. In a physical universe, elements are related spatially. Mercy thought will be programmed with emotional experiences from the physical body. Perceiver thought will then organize these experiences into categories, leading to an object recognition and spatial connections. Thus, for the human mind, space is fundamental, but matter is equally fundamental, because Perceiver categories cannot exist without Mercy experiences.

3) Kinematic Aspect: Server sequences. For a human living in a physical universe, Perceiver thought is programmed before Server thought. But, it is possible to conceive of a supernatural realm in which Server sequences provide the fundamental elements and Perceiver thought moves between these Server sequences. This describes the mental relationship that occurs in Dooyeweerd’s lingual aspect, because the fundamental element of speech is the Server sequence of morphemes to which Perceiver thought assigns meanings.

4) Physical Aspect: Teacher memories and Mercy memories. Teacher thought works with waves while Mercy thought handles particles. Dooyeweerd places both energy and matter within this aspect as well as physical forces and field interactions. While it is true that matter and energy are ultimately equivalent, I suggest that it is a cognitive error to place Teacher thought and Mercy thought within the same aspect. First, this causes Dooyeweerd to miss the role that Teacher emotion plays in abstract thought. Second, mental symmetry suggests that an image of God emerges when a general Teacher theory applies to personal identity. If Mercy thought and Teacher thought are placed within the same aspect, then it becomes possible to form a direct Buddhist-like relationship between universal understanding in Teacher thought and personal identity within Mercy thought—which appears to describe Dooyeweerd’s intuitive approach to knowing God.

One could argue over what comes first: Mercy and Teacher content, or Server and Perceiver structure. The main point is that these are related; Mercy experiences are connected by Perceiver facts, and Teacher waves are organized into Server sequences.

5) Biotic Aspect: Biological life. Obviously, every human mind exists within a physical body, thus it makes sense to place the biologic aspect before mental aspects. Cognitively speaking, the four simple modules of Teacher, Server, Perceiver, and Mercy provide the content for human thought, while the three composite modules of Exhorter, Contributor, and Facilitator use this content to ‘give life’ to the mind. Thus, there is also a cognitive sense in which the spatial, the kinematic, and the physical come before the biotic.

In addition, there are some implications to consider, especially if one is attempting to put together a ‘Christian philosophy’. Mental symmetry agrees that the mind acquires its initial content from the physical body and that personal identity is strongly related to the physical body. However, when a person dies, then what remains is a disembodied mind. If the disembodied mind is to survive physical death, then some non-physical aspect must be found which exists prior to the mental aspects. Mental symmetry relates this to the concept of realms. In the book of Corinthians, the apostle Paul compares physical bodies with spiritual bodies, implying that there is a spiritual realm which can take the place of the physical realm after physical death. Mental symmetry suggests that a spiritual realm might exist which is independent of the physical realm, which is governed by universal laws which are different than physical laws. However, mental symmetry also suggests that both the physical and spiritual realms are compatible with human thought—as summarized by the diagram of mental symmetry. Such a mental compatibility would have to be present if a human mind could exist both within a physical body and within a spiritual body. As was mentioned before, Swedenborg does a fairly good job of exploring what it would be like to exist as a human mind within a spiritual realm, though as I have also mentioned before, one must distinguish between Swedenborg’s description of heaven and his theology.

6) Sensitive Aspect: Dooyeweerd includes emotions, physical sensation, as well as physical response. Physical sensations provide the raw material for Mercy thought, and as Piaget points out, the mind of the child is integrated around this emotional Mercy content. Thus it makes sense to place the sensitive after the biotic.

But, I suggest that it is important to make a distinction between physical sensation and emotional Mercy experiences. First, equating these two leads to the reductionism which Dooyeweerd is attempting to avoid. Researchers, such as Antonio Damasio, go to great lengths to explain consciousness and personal identity purely in terms of physical sensation and physical response. Second, by making a distinction between sensitive and pistic, Dooyeweerd gives the impression that Mercy emotions produced by physical experiences are qualitatively different than Mercy emotions that are produced by religious worship. Instead, mental symmetry suggests that both physical sensation and the ‘emotions of the heart’ involve Mercy thought and Mercy feelings. Separating these two into different aspects makes it possible to follow a Buddhist-like path to God.

7) Analytical Aspect: Dooyeweerd uses this to describe abstract thought and says that the key aspect is distinguishing one thing from another. Dooyeweerd says that logic belongs to this aspect, but Andrew has problems with this, and I agree with Andrew: “I am now not so happy with that. How do we account for deductions, deducible facts or propositions, within this scheme? For example, take the small set of formal predicates...We can deduce that Jill is the grandparent of Derek. But that does not seem to me to fit snugly into the analytical aspect of distinction. There seems to be something more than distinction going on here; the processes of deduction. Whether these are actual or just potential processes does not matter; what matters is: into which aspect do they fit, if any?”

Mental symmetry suggests that Dooyeweerd is confusing normal abstract thought with technical abstract thought, and one reason for this confusion is that Dooyeweerd does not recognize Teacher emotion as an independent quality. Instead, one finds a combination of Teacher emotion and Mercy emotion occurring later in the aesthetic aspect.

As Dooyeweerd states, Perceiver thought does play an active role in abstract thought by clarifying concepts, tightening meanings, and looking for similarities. But, the goal of normal abstract thought is to manipulate Perceiver facts in order to build a general Teacher theory, guided by the Teacher emotion of order-within-complexity—the ‘aha’ when the ‘light goes on’ on top of someone’s head. This occurs in induction. Technical abstract thought, in contrast, uses Perceiver thought to manipulate well-formed statements with clear meanings in order to solve intellectual puzzles within the constraints of an existing general Theory. This occurs during deduction. Because technical thought works within an existing theory, the presence of Teacher emotion is not always apparent.

I should emphasize that normal abstract thought and technical abstract thought are not different mental circuits. Instead, they are different ways of using the same mental circuit. Technical abstract thought emerges when Contributor mode uses concentration to restrict normal abstract thought to some paradigm, limits mental content to a set of prescribed Server sequences and Perceiver facts, and then insists upon both assuming and demanding total certainty.

Dooyeweerd emphasizes that abstract thought “is not bound to the data that comes from our sensory experience nor to the signals involved functioning of the brain, as some schools in psychology would assume - though it usually makes use of these data. This is one indicator that this aspect cannot be reduced to the sensory-psychic aspect.” Mental symmetry agrees with this statement. Technical abstract thought demands complete certainty, and it is currently accepted in scientific circles that only empirical, physical data is a reliable source of sufficient certainty. In other words, for modern science, seeing is believing. In contrast, I have used normal abstract thought to construct the theory of mental symmetry, using independent confirmation to error-check partially certain information from many different sources. As Dooyeweerd’s concept of aspects implies, it is not possible to use technical thought to come up with universal theories. Instead, technical thought can come up with partial theories, and normal thought must then be used to tie these partial theories together.

8) Formative Aspect: This aspect encompasses all human activity that is guided by understanding, which includes craftsmanship, technology, culture, and history, and the key concept is control and mastery. In simple terms, the formative aspect appears to be Server action that is the result of mental content, while the lingual aspect corresponds roughly to Teacher words that are the result of mental content. Mental symmetry points out that the human mind has two distinct ways of expressing itself, either through Server actions or through Teacher words. We looked earlier at the two mental splits of T/F and P/J. The distinction between actions and words appears to be responsible for the S/N split—in which the actions of Sensing are separated from the speech of iNtuition. Sayings such as ‘your actions speak louder than your words’ and ‘listen to what I say not to what I do’ suggest that it is quite common for the formative and the lingual to be quite unrelated, but there is also an expectation that they should be related. The success of science and technology demonstrates the power of combining the actions of craftsmanship with the words of mathematics. Thus, even though actions are obviously different than words and could be placed within different aspects, mental wholeness and societal transformation can only be achieved by integrating actions with words.

Dooyeweerd places craftsmanship, culture, and technology within the same aspect. Andrew discusses this juxtaposition: “How come creativity and control are in the same aspect? How come ‘culture’ and technology share the same aspect? It seems rather odd to Western thinking. Creativity seems somehow to be an opposite of control, art the opposite of technology. After all, creativity is to do with human freedom, while control, especially by the ‘authorities’ and the rationalists, stifles creativity. A long-standing presupposition in Western thought is that there is a dualistic opposition and even antagonism between determinism and freedom. This works itself out in the way we think when we oppose rationality to intuition, in our view of knowledge when we oppose fact to value, and in the way we do things when we oppose control to creativity. It lies at the root of the world-view clash between modernism and post-modernism.”

Mental symmetry agrees with Dooyeweerd’s solution but suggests that it will only occur to the extent that Perceiver thought has sufficient confidence to handle emotional Mercy experiences. When this Perceiver confidence is lacking, then the T/F split will be present: Thinking will use Perceiver facts while suppressing Mercy emotions; Feeling, in contrast, will use emotional Mercy experiences to mesmerize Perceiver thought into ‘knowing’ what is ‘true’. Technology will be based upon the Perceiver facts of Thinking, while art and culture will be guided by the ‘Truths’ of Feeling.

9) Lingual Aspect: This aspect includes all symbolic communication: talking, writing, gesturing, diagramming, listening, and reading. Dooyeweerd says that “we cannot understand theoretically what it is for a symbol or sign to refer or signify, but we can grasp it intuitively. But many in linguistics, trying to explain it theoretically, tend to speak of the (reference) relationship between symbol and its meaning as though those are two ‘things’ that exist separately and happen to be linked by a relationship of referring.” In other words, Dooyeweerd notices that technical abstract thought cannot adequately analyze communication, and both mental symmetry and current linguistic theory would agree with this statement. However, Dooyeweerd then equates Teacher words and Perceiver meanings and replaces these two with a single concept of ‘referring’, guided by his desire to follow ‘meaning instead of being’. I suggest that it does not make sense to equate words with their meanings and I can make that statement with some confidence because I have spent the last few months looking at recent research in linguistics.

Mental symmetry, in contrast, suggests that speech is primarily a product of normal abstract thought, in which Teacher thought handles the words themselves, Server thought handles syntax by organizing words and morphemes into sequences, and Perceiver thought handles semantics by assigning meanings to words, a proposal which is consistent with linguistic findings. Simple observation tells us that symbols and their meanings must be distinct, because it is possible to assign different meanings to the same symbols, or to use different symbols for the same meaning. Thus, it appears that Dooyeweerd is describing speech in terms of ‘referring’ in order to avoid the concept of Perceiver objects. Here I suggest that Dooyeweerd is not following the advice of Dooyeweerd. To paraphrase Dooyeweerd, a mindset which suppresses an aspect of human thought is not healthy and violates the principle of shalom.

10) Social Aspect: Dooyeweerd includes friendship, respect, manners, consensus, and social institutions within this aspect. Mental symmetry suggests that the core element of Dooyeweerd’s social aspect is Mercy mental networks. As was mentioned previously, it appears that the mind represents people as mental networks within Mercy thought; when I interact with another person or am reminded of that person, then the mental network which represents that person within my mind will be triggered and it will attempt to interpret input in a way that is consistent with its structure. For instance, when interacting with a salesclerk, I will expect that salesclerk to act in a way that is consistent with the mental network within my mind that represents salesclerks.

Modern society with its emphasis upon the objective tends to ignore Mercy mental networks, therefore it is important to include the personal dimension as Dooyeweerd does. This bias against analyzing the subjective is changing; concepts such as Theory of Mind or the Agency Detector are now regarded as academically acceptable. However, even though Dooyeweerd includes the social aspect, I suggest that viewing this as a distinct aspect is also inadequate. First, mental symmetry suggests that any collection of related emotional memories is capable of turning into a mental network, even if this mental network does not represent an actual person or living being. This mental effect is seen when one treats inanimate objects as living creatures with motives and emotions: “My computer is not cooperating today.” Second, mental symmetry suggests that the mind bases its initial structure upon the Mercy mental networks that represent important people and that mental wholeness can only be reached by going beyond ‘who is right’ to ‘what is right’. Finally, mental symmetry insists that mental wholeness can only be reached by tearing apart and rebuilding the childish mental networks that represent personal identity.

11) Economic Aspect: Dooyeweerd bases economics upon the concept of limited resources and frugality, and I suggest that this makes sense from the viewpoint of mental symmetry. I have suggested that Dooyeweerd’s philosophy reflects a mindset in which T/F and P/J are integrated, even though Dooyeweerd does not appear to describe how this integration can be mentally achieved. When this level of mental integration is achieved, then Exhorter mode and Contributor mode will cooperate with each other: Exhorter thought will generate urges based upon emotional content, and Contributor thought will choose to follow one of these urges. This will lead to two realizations: First, in order to make choices, there must be alternatives. This leads to a desire for conservation. Second, choosing one alternative means not choosing other alternatives. Thus, the ultimate limited resource is human attention. Even if every physical item had an unlimited supply, each human would still have to choose between the various alternatives. For instance, the Internet is essentially an unlimited source of information; but, choosing to read one webpage means that I am choosing not to read the other webpages.

Andrew mentions this concept of conservation: “If the kernel of the economic aspect is frugality rather than maximization or optimization, then protecting from extinction is a major norm. Extinction (e.g. of species) means the utter destruction of what might be seen, from the economic aspect, as a resource, such that it can never be recovered.”

Dooyeweerd suggests that the economic aspect comes after the social aspect. Mental symmetry suggests that the ultimate key is still cognitive development. Even if physical resources are obviously limited, people will not take this into account if T/F and P/J are not sufficiently integrated within their minds; I must first realize that I am a limited creature with finite mental resources before I will start treating my environment in a similar way.

12) Aesthetic aspect: Andrew’s description of this aspect describes primarily Teacher emotions combined with Exhorter excitement.

Andrew quotes C.S. Lewis describing art in a way that is consistent with the Teacher emotion of order-within-complexity: “‘The principle of art has been defined by someone as “the same in the other”.’ This seems to sum it up nicely. ‘The same’ speaks of harmony, while ‘the other’ speaks of something worth harmonizing; unity in diversity.” Teacher order-within-complexity is also described in the following quote: “Finding good echoes, perhaps analogies, between things is governed by this aspect. Much poetry relies on this. In visual arts the echoing of colour is important. In music varied repetitions of a theme are important.”

But, ‘interestingness as opposed to boringness’ is an expression of Exhorter thought, which is driven by a search for novelty. Nuance is also mentioned. Mental symmetry suggests that an appreciation for nuance only emerges when Exhorter thought and Contributor thought cooperate within the mind, because nuance is novelty within structure. This suggests that the aesthetic aspect depends upon mental development and that social interaction is not sufficient. If Teacher thought is not functioning within a person’s mind, then he will not appreciate aesthetics. For instance, orchestral music is quite effective for repelling teenagers who have not developed the mental ability to ‘appreciate higher culture’.

I suggest that there are two problems with Dooyeweerd’s aesthetic aspect: First, Dooyeweerd ignores the role that Teacher emotion plays in the analytical aspect. Second, the examples that are given of the aesthetic aspect also involve Mercy emotions: A symphony plays music, and the core of music is right hemisphere non-verbal communication that is rooted in Mercy thought and Mercy emotions. Eating and drinking produce Mercy feelings; fine dining adds Teacher emotions to this situation. Poetry and colorful adjectives both use Teacher words and contain Teacher order-within-complexity, but the primary purpose is not to convey a Teacher theory rather to generate a personal Mercy emotion. Thus, while the analysis of these examples explicitly describes Teacher emotions, the illustrations assume that Mercy emotions are also present.

This assumption lays the foundation for Dooyeweerd’s dualism between scientific theory and an intuitive grasp of God. Mental symmetry suggests that abstract thought is guided by Teacher emotions and that a mental concept of God emerges when a general Teacher theory applies to personal identity. In both cases, Teacher emotions are being generated by the presence of order-within-complexity. Mental symmetry suggests that Dooyeweerd is making an artificial distinction between Teacher theories that don’t involve personal Mercy feelings and Teacher theories that do, ignoring the role that Teacher emotions play in the former (the analytical aspect), while ignoring the role that Mercy emotions play in the latter (the aesthetic aspect).

13) Juridical aspect: This includes retribution, recompense, responsibilities, and rights. Andrew points out “that juridical relationships, centred on ‘what is due’, must be symmetrical, in that both parties in the relationship have a ‘due’ (even if it is a different due). This contrasts with ethical relationships, which are essentially asymmetric.” Mental symmetry agrees that the juridical aspect describes the core of practical ethics.

The cognitive mechanism for this is described in detail in God, Theology & Cognitive Modules and will be summarized here. Concrete thought builds a mental map of value by using Perceiver thought to connect emotional Mercy experiences. For instance, I may be sitting in a chair feeling thirsty, while across the room a refreshing cold drink is located within the fridge. Concrete thought then uses Server actions to go from my current state to a more desirable state. For instance, I can go from the state of being thirsty to the state of being refreshed by walking to the fridge, taking out the beverage, and drinking it. Every change of state carries with it a cost and a benefit. For instance, in order to experience the benefit of the cold drink, I must pay the cost of walking to the fridge and pouring the drink into a cup.

The juridical aspect emerges because of the Agency Detector: The mind represents people as Mercy mental networks; when a mental network is triggered it expects input that is consistent with its structure; when an event occurs, some Mercy mental network will attempt to ‘claim responsibility’ for this event. For instance, if I see a cold beverage sitting on the table beside my chair, then if my wife is home, I will assume that she was responsible for bringing it. The juridical aspect ensures that each mental network receives a benefit for its costs. For instance, if I say, ‘Honey can you bring me a drink?’ or if I find a drink beside my chair, then the juridical response will be to feel that ‘I owe her one’ and I will feel driven to ‘repay the debt’ by doing something nice for her.

As Dooyeweerd mentions, this implies social interaction, but mental development is still required in order to sense the need for juridical justice. In particular, mental networks must function within a map of value. If a servant brings a drink, for instance, a person feels no need to ‘equalize the score’ by doing something nice for the servant. Mental networks are being triggered and satisfied, because the servant is fulfilling the role of the servant. But, these mental networks are not functioning within a map of value. Instead, servants and masters are viewed as inhabiting unrelated maps of value. Perceiver thought may be used to compare servants with servants and masters with masters, but Perceiver thought will have insufficient confidence to compare servants with masters.

14) Ethical aspect: Andrew describes this as “self-giving love. Introduces extra goodness, beyond the imperative of due (Basden's intuitive rendering)...(Greek agape), which involves sacrifice and works itself out in generosity in everyday life.”

Mental symmetry relates the difference between the juridical aspect and the ethical aspect to the contrast between Kant’s hypothetical imperative and his categorical imperative. The hypothetical imperative is guided by a desire to obtain some Mercy reward, whereas the categorical imperative is motivated by a desire to apply a general Teacher theory.

Andrew states that “there is much confusion between ethical and juridical. One tendency is to reduce ethics to the keeping of rules. Another reduces it to the giving people their due. But these are really juridicality. True ethics normally requires these, but goes beyond them.” Mental symmetry suggests that the real misunderstanding lies in confusing Mercy emotions with Teacher emotions. We have just seen that the juridical aspect is motivated by the Mercy mental networks that represent people. In contrast, I suggest that the ethical aspect is guided by Teacher mental networks that represent universal law.

A mental network forms whenever there is a collection of related emotional memories. This could be a group of related emotional experiences leading to the formation of a Mercy mental network, or it could be a group of related emotional Teacher memories leading to the formation of a Teacher mental network. In simple terms, a Teacher mental network will form whenever a person adds sufficient structure to a general Teacher theory. A general Teacher theory which has not formed into a Teacher mental network can be ignored without experiencing any negative hyper-emotions. In contrast, a theory that has formed into a Teacher mental network will attempt to explain any incident that triggers it, and it will generate hyper-pain if it is triggered by a situation and not permitted to explain that situation. Mental symmetry suggests that a concept of God emerges when a general Teacher theory applies to personal identity. A concept of God acquires emotional power when it turns into a mental network. In essence, a concept of God is a Teacher mental network that is being interpreted as a Mercy mental network; a universal theory is being viewed as an intelligent personal agent.

The juridical aspect corresponds to Kant’s hypothetical imperative; a person is behaving in a certain manner in order to receive a reward from some Mercy mental network. The ethical aspect corresponds to Kant’s categorical imperative; a person is behaving in a certain manner in order to receive a reward from some Teacher mental network. Because humans live in concrete thought surrounded by people and emotional experiences, the default is for behavior to be guided by Mercy mental networks. Therefore, a Teacher mental network will only guide behavior if it exists and if no Mercy mental network claims responsibility for that behavior. In Biblical language, “he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.” (Heb. 11:6)

I suggest that this mental mechanism is triggered when a person performs altruism. Normally, a person does an action in order to receive a reward from another person, which describes juridical reasoning. However, if a person performs an action only because it is consistent with the Teacher mental network of a universal theory and not in order to receive a reward from any Mercy mental network that represents a person, then the Teacher mental network will ‘reward’ personal identity. When a person acts in a way that is consistent with understanding, then this is known in religious terms as righteousness.

The essence of righteousness is described in Matthew 6: “Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven. So when you give to the poor, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be honored by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. But when you give to the poor, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving will be in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.”

Once a mental connection has been made between personal behavior and universal understanding, then it is not necessary to continue acting purely in an altruistic manner, because Teacher understanding will continue to guide Server actions even when personal Mercy rewards are received. In other words, the goal is ensure that personal behavior is guided by Teacher understanding—to become righteous. One reaches the goal of becoming righteous by practicing self-denial, but self-denial is not the goal. Going further, the ultimate goal is not to become righteous, but rather one becomes righteous in order to pursue and achieve lasting emotional personal benefits, which we will later relate to the concept of meaning.

I have mentioned that religion which is based in blind faith will always be accompanied by an attitude of religious self-denial. Therefore, there will be a natural tendency to view self-denial as the essential aspect of ‘agape love’. In contrast, when religious truth is held together by the Teacher mental network of a universal theory rather than the Mercy mental network of some Very Important Person, then agape love will be interpreted in terms of Kant’s categorical imperative: “God is a universal being with universal laws. I must obey God rather than man. I do this by acting in a way that expresses universal understanding even when I am not expecting any personal reward.”

The idea of equating agape love with religious self-denial is so rooted in the Christian psyche that I will take the liberty of quoting some Biblical passages to show that this is not a Biblical concept, beginning with I Corinthians 13, the ‘love chapter’: “And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing.” (1 Cor. 13:3 NASB) This verse says that self-denial is not the same as love and says that self-denial does not lead to personal profit, while implying that the description of love which is given in the following verses does lead to personal profit.

Similarly, Hebrews 12 describes the motivation for Jesus, who is normally lifted up as the epitome of ‘self-sacrificing love’: “Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Heb. 12:1,2) Notice that Jesus practiced self-denial in order to achieve the personal benefit of lasting personal joy, and he eventually experienced the personal benefit of ‘sitting down at the right hand of the throne of God’.

A similar conclusion can be reached from Philippians 2, which describes Jesus’ ultimate act of self-denial in which he ‘emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant’ and ‘humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross’. The result of this self-denial is that ‘God bestows on him the name which is above every name’.

Andrew provides an illustration of the ethical aspect: “The Japanese car industry was based not only on just-in-time production but also on giving power to each and every worker on the production line - power, and in fact a responsibility, to shut down the whole line if they found anything wrong with the components that had come through. The result was cars of immense quality and reliability - and a reputation for the same. This was a self-giving of power to affect the whole. Contrast this with the British car industry of the time, when if workers complained about a lack of quality, middle management would override them to get the quota cars out of the door (and let the dealers deal with them) - and the result was that British cars gained a reputation for poor quality.”

Mental symmetry agrees with this illustration but suggests that the explanation is inadequate. When Mercy mental networks are in charge, then this implies that some people have sufficient emotional status to establish the rules while others do not, leading to the British factory situation in which management with its emotional status attempts to produce concrete Mercy results. In contrast, when action is guided by Teacher emotions of order-within-complexity, then personal status will no longer play a primary role, while quality will, because quality is an expression of Teacher emotion—a car which does not break down possesses lasting order-within-complexity.

15) Pistic aspect: Dooyeweerd includes faith, commitment, belief that is more firmly held than mere knowledge, self identity, role models, a deep concept of what is God, and our relationship with God. In more general terms, any commitment or trust is pistic.

All of this relates to core mental networks, as the following quote makes clear: “How to discern pistic directions of people? Pistic is deep, and so we cannot expect to read it off a display on the forehead of the person directly! Instead, we must learn to discern its presence indirectly. At least the three following give indications: By what seems to be despised without reason. By what seems to be applauded without reason. By what are used as axioms that stop an argument. These are things that all involved agree without question are the facts about the nature of things. By the direction that a society or community seems to be heading.”

Dooyeweerd points out that it is possible for the mind to build itself upon inadequate mental networks: “Most pistic harm comes from absolutization of what should not be absolutized. Many 'isms' are viewpoints in which some aspect is absolutized; aspects should not be. The result includes reduction to an overly narrow view, with consequent problems, an attitude of reductionism, and the marginalization of many valid and important points of view.”

Andrew states that general Teacher theories can also turn into mental networks: “We also find pistic commitments, of a deeper kind, to paradigms in science - to ways of looking at things. These paradigms dictate what research questions are considered worth exploring (and funding), and what types of answers are deemed satisfactory. In too many cases these adherences to paradigms take the form of almost unthinking following of (intellectual) fashions. Things outside these paradigms are sometimes sneered at. This is the downside of pistic commitments.”

So far, what is being said is consistent with mental symmetry. What is missing from this discussion is a description of the mental mechanism behind the pistic aspect as well as an understanding of how one alters core mental networks. As I have mentioned before, a mental network emerges whenever there is a collection of related emotional memories. Destroying a mental network is like breaking a habit. Whenever a mental network is triggered it will expect input that is consistent with its structure. For instance, a mental network that is based upon scratching my nose will cause me to automatically scratch my nose whenever my nose comes to mind. If I think about my nose without scratching it, then the mental network will respond with hyper-pain, because it is experiencing incompatible input. If I continue to think about my nose without scratching it, then I will begin to feel a deep sense of unease, which will instantly vanish if I choose to scratch my nose. On the other hand, continuing not to scratch my nose will eventually cause the mental network to fall apart—I will actually feel as if something within my mind is dying. But, once a mental network has fragmented, then it will no longer affect behavior. In the case of the nose-scratching habit, when I think of my nose, the idea of scratching will not even come to mind.

The potency of a mental network depends upon the emotional strength of the memories contained within this mental network. It may be possible to use free will to overcome a simple mental network such as scratching my nose. But, mental networks which contain the strongest emotional content provide the basis for mental structure. Free will cannot be used to question core mental networks because tearing them apart would literally lead to mental fragmentation. These core mental networks form the basis for the pistic aspect.

Mental networks will automatically arrange themselves in an emotional hierarchy; whenever two mental networks are triggered, then each will want to be obeyed, but the urge to obey the stronger one will be stronger than the urge to obey the weaker one. As a result, weaker mental networks will only survive if they are consistent with stronger ones, or else continually being reinforced by free will. However, a mental network will only affect behavior if it is triggered. Therefore, the mental networks which have the greatest influence will be the ones with the strongest emotions as well as the ones which are triggered the most often—and these will not necessarily be the same mental networks. For instance, in the mind of the child, the mental networks with the strongest emotions will probably be those that represent mother and father. However, the mental network that comes to mind most often will be the one that represents the physical body of the child, because a physical body cannot be ignored.

As I have already mentioned, a sufficiently general theory will also form a mental network which cannot be ignored. Simply learning a theory is not enough to form a mental network. However, if a theory turns into a Teacher mental network, then adherence to paradigms will acquire pistic overtones. As Andrew describes, a Teacher theory which has formed a mental network will insist upon explaining situations in its own terms and will feel hyper-pain if a competing theory is permitted to explain situations instead. This explains why the scientist has a tendency to reject competing paradigms in emotional terms.

There are two ways for a mental network to be repeatedly triggered. First, if a mental network applies everywhere, then it will continually be triggered. This describes what happens with a universal Teacher theory which has turned into a mental network. Because it is universal, it always applies and is always being triggered. Second, if the trigger for a mental network is continually present, then that mental network will also be continually triggered. This describes what happens with personal identity. Wherever I go, my physical body follows me. Therefore, the mental network that represents my physical body will continually be triggered because my body is always present. Personal identity can also result from knowledge and skills, because my mental content also accompanies me wherever I go.

As was mentioned previously, a concept of God will only acquire mental power when the underlying general theory turns into a Teacher mental network. Thus, the religious outsider may have an understanding of religious doctrine, but he feels no compunction to acknowledge, worship, or obey God. In contrast, the religious believer does sense hyper-pain when he experiences situations that are inconsistent with his concept of God.

Notice the essential difference between a scientific paradigm that has formed a mental network and a concept of God that has formed a mental network. A scientific paradigm which has turned into a Teacher mental network will insist upon explaining situations in its own terms. But, because scientific thought tries to ignore subjective Mercy emotions, the result will not be a mental image of God, and the scientist will insist that the Teacher mental network not be interpreted as a Mercy mental network. Thus, the concept of a supernatural intelligent agent is taboo in scientific circles. In contrast, with an image of God, the Teacher mental network is also being interpreted as a Mercy mental network—the universal theory is being viewed as a personal, supernatural agent.

Mental growth through Competing Mental Networks

It is not possible to use free will to question a core mental network. But, if two competing mental networks exist, then it is possible to use free will to choose between the two. As Thomas Kuhn says, the scientist with his paradigm cannot return to the state of thinking without a paradigm. Instead, he will only let go of his existing paradigm if he is given an alternative paradigm. Thus, by forming a new mental network and then continuing to choose to follow this new mental network instead of the old one, the old mental network will eventually fall apart and die. In Christian terminology, this process is known as ‘new birth’ or ‘dying to self’.

If one wants to experience new birth, then I suggest that it is imperative to distinguish between Teacher emotion and Mercy emotion and to not distinguish between different kinds of Teacher emotion. That is because the primary method of creating competing mental networks is by playing Teacher emotion against Mercy emotion. If one examines Dooyeweerd’s aspects, it appears that he has organized them in such a way that discourages new birth rather than encourages it. This is unfortunate, because Dooyeweerd claims that his ground motive is Creation, Fall, Redemption.

The first stage in personal transformation is to construct a rational understanding that is different than personal identity. Childish identity is irrational; Perceiver thought is being mesmerized by emotional Mercy experiences. Childish identity pursues instant gratification; its motto is, ‘If it feels good, do it’. Childish identity also rationalizes; it constructs Teachers theories that justify childish behavior; Mercy mental networks are in charge and any Teacher mental networks which develop are forced to be consistent with existing childish Mercy mental networks.

The solution for irrationalism is to gain the Perceiver confidence that is required to know facts in the midst of emotional pressure. The solution for instant gratification is to build a mental map of value, so that personal identity knows where it is and where it could be. The solution for rationalization is to construct a Teacher understanding that functions differently than personal identity.

Dooyeweerd short circuits each of these three requirements: By starting with meaning, Dooyeweerd actually locks Perceiver thought together with Mercy emotions. At this initial stage, it is very important for Perceiver thought to become independent of Mercy feelings. By denying the existence of objects, Dooyeweerd makes it difficult for Perceiver thought to construct a mental map of value. And, by placing both energy and particles within the same physical aspect, Dooyeweerd implies that it is not possible to construct a Teacher understanding that functions differently than personal identity.

The second stage of personal development is to apply rational understanding to personal identity. Remember that free will can be used to choose between two conflicting mental networks. Thus, if one wishes to escape the domination of childish Mercy mental networks, one must construct an alternative rational Teacher mental network—which was done in the first stage. A person can then choose between childish behavior and personal honesty. Childish behavior will reinforce existing Mercy mental networks, while personal honesty will reinforce the Teacher mental network of rational understanding by placing personal identity within the map of value. In simple terms, personal honesty accepts the facts about me, no matter how this makes me feel. On the one hand, this will lead to Mercy pain, because it hurts to face the facts about myself. On the other hand, this will lead to Teacher pleasure, because Teacher thought is gaining a rational understanding of personal identity.

Remember that a concept of God emerges when a general theory applies to personal identity. Therefore, applying rational understanding to personal identity will lead to a concept of a rational God whose very nature embodies universal laws. I should point out that it is also possible to start with the second stage and then apply the first stage. This describes the religious path in which one begins with an inadequate, human-like concept of God and then transforms this into a concept of God who is holy, universal, and law-abiding. These two alternatives are described in more detail in God, Theology & Cognitive Modules.

Again, it appears that Dooyeweerd’s system short-circuits the requirements. Instead of recognizing that Perceiver facts can be used to build an emotional Teacher understanding, Dooyeweerd’s analytical aspect includes Perceiver facts but ignores Teacher emotions. Instead of recognizing that a rational Teacher theory can be applied to personal identity, Dooyeweerd distinguishes between the analytical aspect and the aesthetic aspect; separating rational general theories from general theories that apply to personal identity. Instead of recognizing that Teacher mental networks need to shape Mercy mental networks, Dooyeweerd’s aesthetic aspect introduces Teacher emotions within the context of Mercy experiences. Thus, Teacher thought becomes an extension of Mercy thought rather than the other way around. And, instead of forming a concept of a rational, law-abiding God, Dooyeweerd says that God is above the law and not subject to law.

If these first two stages are followed to completion, then childish personal identity will eventually fall apart and be replaced by a personal identity that acknowledges the supremacy of rational thought. In contrast, Dooyeweerd’s pistic aspect uses personal identity to grasp intuitively the supremacy of non-rational thought. Thus, instead of transforming personal identity to be consistent with the concept of a rational God, the concept of God is ultimately based upon irrational personal identity. We will explore this further when looking at Glenn’s website.

The third stage of personal development is to become righteous by acting in ways that are consistent with Teacher understanding. This is when Server actions become consistent with Teacher words. In contrast, Dooyeweerd places words and actions within the two distinct aspects of lingual and cultural, suggesting that it is not possible to reconcile these two.


Dooyeweerd goes to great lengths to construct a philosophy upon meaning instead of being. Mental symmetry agrees with Dooyeweerd’s description of the problem. Modern science is objective and it focuses upon existence. As Dooyeweerd points out, focusing solely upon physical evidence leads to questions involving existence, while remaining objective leads to loss of meaning. Dooyeweerd responds by making meaning an essential part of his model. In Andrew’s words, “Existence emerges from Meaning, not the other way round. Meaning is given to the cosmos (by its Creator) as a framework in which it operates and exists. Specifically, the framework is a framework of law which provides guidance for how all entities function. There is a number of distinct aspects, each of which has different laws.”

I suggest that it is possible to evaluate Dooyeweerd’s solution and come up with a more complete answer by understanding the mechanism behind meaning. I should point out that we are not talking about verbal meaning, in which Perceiver thought assigns meanings to Teacher words. This falls within Dooyeweerd’s lingual aspect, in which Dooyeweerd replaces Perceiver meaning with the concept of reference—a vague combination of syntax and semantics. Instead we are dealing with something far more profound, such as the meaning of life. It is possible to give a feeling for this type of meaning with a simple question: Would the world be any different if I had never been born? Questions such as these strike at the heart of the concept of meaning.

In simple terms, I suggest that meaning assigns value to mental networks. As I’ve mentioned, value is a combination of Perceiver facts and emotional Mercy experiences. Concrete thought uses a map of value to guide actions and decisions by choosing options and items which have more value while avoiding those that have less value. Meaning extends this calculation to the mental networks that represent people, thus assigning value to people.

When Perceiver ‘truth’ is defined by people with emotional status, then being acknowledged by an important person can give someone a sense of personal meaning. “He noticed me. I am important.” However, in order to truly determine personal meaning, one must first decide what standard of value applies to persons. Many alternatives have been proposed such as power, or wealth, or fame. But, concrete thought is driven by emotional experiences, and attributes such as power, wealth, and fame are secondary ways of measuring this emotion. As Ludwig Von Mises the famous economist points out, the ultimate bottom line for economic activity is not money but personal, subjective emotion.

Perceiver thought organizes Mercy experiences into categories by looking for connections which are repeated and which do not change, resulting in object recognition. This makes it possible to determine the meaning of a word, leading to lingual meaning. As Perceiver thought gains confidence, it acquires the ability to organize emotional Mercy experiences into categories which are repeated and which do not change. This makes it possible to evaluate meaningful experiences, because a meaningful experience has lasting, personal emotions and Perceiver thought is needed to determine which experiences are lasting.

Going further, Perceiver thought defines self-image by determining which experiences repeatedly come to mind. When Perceiver thought organizes the mercy Mental networks that represent people, then it becomes possible to evaluate personal meaning. Obviously, this application of Perceiver thought requires significant Perceiver confidence. Many people reject the very concept of using logic and rational thought to assign personal meaning. However, if Perceiver thought is used to evaluate Mercy mental networks, then I suggest that two principles emerge: First, personal meaning will include a search for meaningful experiences; a person who has meaning will never pursue immediate sensory gratification; instead, he will look for lasting personal benefits. Second, personal meaning requires the continued existence of a person; if life ends at physical death, then the very concept of personal meaning becomes absurd, akin to doing interior decorating in a house that is slated for demolition.

The final level of meaning is cosmic meaning. An image of God emerges when a general Teacher theory applies to personal identity. Here, one is using Perceiver thought to evaluate a Teacher mental network that is being interpreted as a Mercy mental network. Thus, I suggest that a search for cosmic meaning asks questions such as “Why is the universe here?” or “What is God’s purpose?” I suggest that the theory of evolution cheats when addressing the question of cosmic meaning. On the one hand, the theory of evolution is designed to provide an explanation for the cosmos which does not require the presence of some universal agent. However, the very question of cosmic meaning assumes that some universal agent is acting. Thus, even though evolution insists that there is no universal agent, it assumes that some universal agent is carrying out a cosmic plan which is causing the universe and life to evolve in the direction of ever-increasing order and complexity. Evolution states that cosmic meaning is based upon the mechanism of random change. But, randomness is precisely the opposite of a Perceiver fact, and the vast majority of mutations head in a direction that is precisely the opposite of progress.

The interaction between personal meaning and cosmic meaning leads to the question with which we began this section: Would the world be any different if I had never been born? In other words, does the Mercy mental network that represents personal identity play any meaningful role in the formation or implementation of the Teacher mental network that determines cosmic meaning? In religious language, what is God’s plan for my life and do I play a meaningful role in God’s cosmic plan? Addressing this question means tackling theological questions regarding free will, predestination, and sovereignty. If God already knows exactly what choices every person will make, then there may be cosmic meaning, but I suggest that there is no such thing as personal meaning. At most, there is the illusion of personal meaning.

When Christianity is based in blind faith in the Bible, then I suggest that there will be a natural tendency to believe in some form of predestination. On the one hand, blind faith says that Perceiver truth is imposed by people with Mercy status, which implies that God must use his divine status to impose cosmic meaning. On the other hand, blind faith is accompanied by self-denial, which implies that personal meaning is of secondary importance when dealing with religious matters. Thus, cosmic meaning will be preserved at the cost of personal meaning.

In contrast, if God is rational, then God can achieve cosmic meaning by setting up a system of law and order while humans can achieve personal meaning by functioning within this system. Dooyeweerd follows this approach when dealing with the peripheral aspects, but he abandons it when tying these various aspects together. If one extends Dooyeweerd’s approach to the core of the subjective, then I suggest that this leads ultimately to a form of theology which is known as open theism. In order for open theism to be a valid alternative, a rational cognitive model is required which can describe both human thought and divine nature. If such a model is not present, then open theism will tend to degrade into process theology, which preserves personal meaning while questioning cosmic meaning. Open theism is not consistent with the attitude of blind faith, but it does appear to be consistent with the content of the Bible.

The secular individual also tends to make the mistake of pursuing global meaning while ignoring personal meaning. This occurs when a person tries to ‘make a name for himself’ or ‘leave a legacy’. As an individual, he is attempting to play a meaningful role in the greater plan, but if personal existence ceases at physical death, then this is ultimately meaningless, because he is no longer around to either evaluate or appreciate the meaning that he has created. One thinks, for instance, of the famous quote from the poem Ozymandias: “‘I am great OZYMANDIAS,’ saith the stone, ‘The King of Kings; this mighty City shows the wonders of my hand.’— The City's gone,—Nought but the Leg remaining to disclose the site of this forgotten Babylon.” In simple English, if everything and everyone eventually turns to dust, then even the greatest name becomes meaningless.

I suggest that Dooyeweerd provides only a partial solution for both personal and cosmic meaning. At the personal level, Dooyeweerd talks about being subject to the law, which describes Mercy identity existing within a Perceiver framework of rules. At the cosmic level, Dooyeweerd refers to fifteen different aspects, each with its own set of laws. However, if one examines the core of personal and cosmic meaning, then I suggest that Dooyeweerd’s answer is inadequate.

Looking first at personal meaning, Andrew says that the “existence of the human being cannot be completely accounted for by means of such aspects. The human ‘heart’ transcends all aspects, being something in human beings that reaches the Divine. Dooyeweerd claims this ‘heart’ is beyond the grasp of theoretical thought, so no theory may be made about it.” Andrew continues, “Personally, I find that a little unsatisfying because it smacks of the dualisms that Dooyeweerd sought to avoid, but perhaps because I do not yet fully understand what Dooyeweerd was getting at.”

By stating that the ‘heart is beyond the grasp of theoretical thought’, I suggest that Dooyeweerd removes the heart from the realm of meaning, and I agree with Andrew that this is a dualistic answer which does not make sense. However, there is a kernel of truth to Dooyeweerd’s answer. Personal identity is formed out of mental networks whereas scientific reasoning emphasizes technical thought, and these two are different, so in this sense Dooyeweerd is correct. However, if one uses normal thought, then it is possible to use the ‘analogies’ of cognitive modules to come up with a rational theory which can explain both mental networks and technical thought, making it possible to extend meaning to the core of personal identity.

I suggest that Dooyeweerd’s treatment of cosmic meaning is also flawed. In order for there to be cosmic meaning, everything must ultimately fit together into one grand plan. Andrew describes Dooyeweerd’s approach: “A central claim of Dooyeweerdian philosophy is that the aspects cohere ({D.3.2.8}). But wherein lies this coherence? On what is it based? ...The coherence between aspects, their relationship with each other, and their relativity, is not arbitrary but arises from cosmic time, the ‘temporal coherence of meaning’. Every aspect is an aspect of time, of temporality, rather than merely an aspect. Cosmic time is the ‘medium’ through which the meaning totality is broken up into a modal diversity of aspects. Dooyeweerd used the simile of a prism that splits light up into distinct colours; time is the prism that splits meaning up into distinct aspects.”

In other words, Dooyeweerd says that the fifteen aspects tie together because they occur in a specific order. While there is some merit to the order in which Dooyeweerd places his aspects, we have just looked at these aspects in detail and come up with a disturbing observation. The childish human mind is fragmented. In order to integrate the human mind, one must develop the cognitive modules in a certain order. In God, Theology, & Cognitive Modules, I present the hypothesis that the path by which one develops the cognitive modules to achieve mental integration corresponds to the ‘Christian path of personal salvation’.

But, we have just seen that Dooyeweerd’s aspects are defined in a way that makes it very difficult to follow the path to mental integration. Thus, we have a contradiction. On the one hand, Dooyeweerd says that the order and structure of the fifteen aspects reveals God. On the other hand, cognitive development says that the order and structure of these fifteen aspects obscures God.

Mental symmetry agrees that the human mind usually grasps the various aspects in a specific order. But, what ties everything together is an integrated theory. Not only can the diagram of mental symmetry be used to explain the development of human thought in a way that is consistent with Christian doctrine, but the same diagram of mental symmetry describes the attributes of a universal being that is consistent with the Christian description of God. Thus, cosmic meaning can extend to the very nature of God, without having to switch gears at some ‘supratemporal threshold’.

Dooyeweerd and Mysticism

Having said that, we will now switch gears and turn our attention to Glenn’s website, which focuses upon the subjective core of Dooyeweerd’s philosophy. We will introduce this by looking at Andrew’s description of how Dooyeweerd views personal identity, repeating a quote from the beginning of this essay: “What is the human Heart, if it is not accounted for by Dooyeweerd’s Entity Theory? Is it a piece of the Divine in us? Is it some kind of ‘spirit’-substance? Is it some kind of centre of freedom? (These three possibilities are how the human heart - the ‘essense’ of humanity - is dealt with under the three other Western ground motives, respectively those of Nature-Grace of the mediaeval Roman Catholic thought, Form-Matter of the Greeks, and Nature-Freedom of humanism.) Coming from a different direction, the ground-motive of Creation-Fall-Redemption, Dooyeweerd maintained it is neither Divine nor is it of the aspects. Rather, he proposed that the Created Order involves not only a Temporal Reality that is governed by the aspects, but also a SupraTemporal part. The human Heart is of the latter, which explains why human beings reach beyond time into eternity. The human heart is also open to the Divine by means of a religious orientation: the human heart orientates itself either to the True Divine or to some pretend non-Divine which is treated as absolute.”

As was quoted previously, Andrew also states that “The human heart is the concentration, the radix of temporal existence; it is I who am the central point of reference and the deeper unity above all modal diversity; it is the concentration point of all its cosmic functions, a subjective totality lying at the basis of all the functions.”

In other words, personal identity in Mercy thought ties everything together. Personal identity may not be God, but personal identity is the key to knowing God. Similarly, personal identity does not contain universality, but personal identity is the key to uniting complexity to form universality.

If one can regard Wikipedia as an authoritative source, then this combination describes mysticism: “The present meaning of the term mysticism arose via Platonism and Neoplatonism—which referred to the Eleusinian initiation as a metaphor for the ‘initiation’ to spiritual truths and experiences—and is the pursuit of communion with, identity with, or conscious awareness of an ultimate reality, divinity, spiritual truth, or God through direct experience, intuition, instinct or insight. Mysticism usually centers on practices intended to nurture those experiences. Mysticism may be dualistic, maintaining a distinction between the self and the divine, or may be nondualistic.”

Wikipedia continues: “Conventional religions, by definition, have strong institutional structures, including formal hierarchies and mandated sacred texts and/or creeds. Adherents of the faith are expected to respect or follow these closely, so mysticism is often deprecated or persecuted.”

Mental symmetry agrees that Dooyeweerd’s mysticism is suspect from a theological perspective. But, mental symmetry also suggests that mysticism and theology can be reconciled through the concept of mental networks. Religious and scientific academia emphasize the use of technical thought and, as Dooyeweerd accurately points out, technical thought, by its very nature, is only capable of exploring some limited aspect, paradigm, plan, or realm. God, by definition, is a universal being who transcends limited aspects, paradigms, plans, and realms. Going further, the concept of God emerges when a general theory applies to personal identity, and a concept of a universal God emerges when a universal theory applies to personal identity. However, the true emotional power of a concept of God emerges when this general—or universal—theory turns into a Teacher mental network.

Mentally speaking, there is no more potent force, and the leader who can link his personal identity to the mental concept of a universal God can potentially build or destroy civilizations, whether such a God actually exists or not. I suggest that the only way to overcome a concept of a universal God which has turned into a Teacher mental network is by showing that this concept of God is actually ‘a pretender to the throne’ which cannot truly claim to be universal. Saying this another way, the only way to defeat a core mental network is by replacing it with another core mental network. Thus, in the same way that the scientist will only abandon an existing paradigm if he is presented with a superior alternative, so I suggest that an inadequate concept of God can only be defeated by acquiring a more adequate concept of God.

We have seen that the childish mind naturally develops Mercy mental networks that are fragmented, inconsistent, personally destructive, and irrational. Christian doctrine describes this as being born in sin. Remember that when competing mental networks meet, then they will fight for dominance, because a mental network will respond with hyper-pain if a competing inconsistent mental network is permitted to express itself. Thus, one mental network will always end up becoming the servant or subset of the other.

When the Mercy mental networks of childish identity meet the Teacher mental network of universal understanding, then each will demand consistency from the other; one will become the master and the other will become the slave. When the Mercy mental network of childish identity is dominant, then general Teacher theories will be constructed through rationalization—‘understanding’ will be forced to be consistent with personal behavior; Teacher understanding will be the slave of Mercy identity. But, by definition, it is not possible to construct a universal Teacher theory using elements that are fragmented, inconsistent, destructive, and irrational. Thus, any concept of a universal God that begins with childish personal identity will be a false God—‘a pretender to the throne’ of universality.

The solution is to use rational thought to construct a universal Teacher understanding and then make personal identity the servant of universal understanding. But, because a childish personal identity already exists which is opposed to universal understanding, then existing childish personal identity must fall apart and be replaced by a personal identity which is consistent with universal understanding. Saying this in Christian terms, God is universal, man is a sinner, sin separates man from God, God demands that man die, and God bring salvation to man through the process of personal death and rebirth. This describes the essence of the Christian message.

Notice the core differences between these two approaches. Mysticism regards the Mercy mental network of personal identity as primary, whereas salvation regards the Teacher mental network of universal understanding as primary. Mysticism insists that both personal identity and God cannot be described by a rational universal theory. Salvation, in contrast, insists with equal fervor that both personal identity and God can be described by a rational universal theory. At the periphery, we have seen that Dooyeweerd follows salvation. At the core, though, it appears that Dooyeweerd is promoting mysticism and not salvation.

Dooyeweerd’s combination of peripheral salvation and central mysticism describes the norm in most current Christian circles. I suggest that this is an inevitable result of basing religious belief in the words of a holy book. Suppose that I am given a book that contains a perfect description of universal truth and that I am told that this book was written by the most important person who ever existed. To misquote Marshall McLuhan, the medium will warp the message. Because the message teaches universal truth, I will gain a rational universal understanding. But, because that the medium is a holy book, Perceiver thought will only have sufficient confidence to think rationally when dealing with the peripheral aspects of the message. When dealing with core emotional aspects such as revelation, God, and personal identity, Perceiver thought will be mesmerized by the emotional status of the source of this book. The end result will be a periphery of rational thought around a core of mysticism. The solution is to separate the medium from the message, which can only be done by restating the message in the form of a universal Teacher theory, thus turning the concept of God and universal truth from a Teacher mental network of understanding held together by the more fundamental Mercy mental network of blind faith to a Teacher mental network that is based in a universal understanding which expresses itself in the form of a Mercy mental network. In simple terms, this means explaining God, theology, personal identity, and the cosmos by a single rational universal theory—which Dooyeweerd says cannot be done and mental symmetry claims to do.

My Cousin Dr. J. Glenn Friesen

Having said this, let us turn now to Glenn’s website. Glenn includes a linked glossary defining about 500 different Dooyeweerdian terms, and Glenn refers extensively to the writings of Dooyeweerd, often translating from the original Dutch. Therefore, it is not possible for me to give an exhaustive analysis of Glenn’s treatment of Dooyeweerd. However, as one reads through Glenn’s website, one notices that certain themes keep reappearing, and we will attempt to mention and analyze some of these themes. Glenn also provides a detailed summary of Dooyeweerd’s philosophy on a single web page, organized in the form of ‘95 Theses’.

I suspect that what I say here will be regarded as intellectually inadequate by my cousin Glenn. However, I notice that Dooyeweerd himself falls short of Glenn’s academic expectations: “Dooyeweerd did not always document or acknowledge the sources that he used; he footnoted and referenced only those sources that he wants to acknowledge. Today this would be called plagiarism. But we must remember that Dooyeweerd’s works were essentially self-published. Dooyeweerd’s major work, De Wijsbegeerte der Wetsidee, was subsidized by the Kuyper Foundation, but there was no outside editor.”

Glenn’s website also contains an extensive biography of our grandfather, Isaac P Friesen, a Christian evangelist who emphasized the experience of being ‘born again’. Grandpa Friesen died in 1952, the same year that Glenn was born, whereas I was born nine years later, thus I did not feel as keenly the influence of our common grandfather. Because of our age difference, I never had the opportunity to form a friendship with Glenn, although I have fond memories of going often with my parents to visit his parents in their spacious home in Rosthern, Saskatchewan, where Glenn was always referred to in semi-reverent tones as the educated son with the Ph.D.

On his website, Glenn makes it clear how he feels about Isaac P Friesen and his message of religious conversion. In a section entitled Multi-generational trauma, Glenn says “Perhaps there are genetic reasons for the number of cases of psychological illness on my mother’s side of the family: depression, schizophrenia, hospitalizations, and even suicide. But I believe that they are due at least in part to the religious conflict experienced by my mother’s father (my maternal grandfather) I.P. Friesen (1874-1952). This religious conflict was a result of his rejection of the teachings and practices of the Old Colony Mennonite Church, and his attempt to find a substitute for this religion and yet remain a Mennonite. It continues to affect even his grandchildren. Both my mother’s family and my father’s family had significant disagreements with the Old Colony Mennonite Church. I am very grateful that both sides of my family freed themselves from its authoritarian rule. But on my mother’s side, there was a continuing dark side to the fundamentalist evangelical religion that I.P. Friesen substituted for Mennonite teachings.”

These are strong words, especially when talking about our grandfather. This suggests that Glenn’s attraction to Dooyeweerd is partially a repulsion from Isaac P Friesen. Like Glenn, I too was indirectly influenced by I.P. Friesen through my mother, who was I.P Friesen’s youngest daughter. Looking back, I see two main strands to this influence. First, like Glenn, I received a strict fundamentalist Mennonite upbringing (I am defining fundamentalism as ‘blind faith in a holy book’). But, I also received something else, which it appears that Glenn did not share. Whenever we discussed moral issues in our household, and my mother brought up the subject quite often, she would always attempt to understand the situation and not just judge the person: Why was that person acting in a way? What would it be like to be in that person’s shoes? What consequence was that person experiencing for acting in that way? One of my mother’s favorite sayings is “To understand all is to forgive all,” and my mother drilled into our minds that “We must not respond to painful situations by becoming bitter, either at people or at God.” Thus, while Glenn appears to be ‘throwing out the baby’ of evangelical religion with ‘the bathwater’ of Mennonite fundamentalism, I have been taking a different approach. I too find the method of fundamentalism with its blind faith repulsive. But, my mother started me on the path of analyzing the content that lies behind the method. Therefore, I am attempting to digest my religio-cultural background by separating the baby from the bathwater. Is it possible to have the content without the method? Can Christianity exist apart from fundamentalism? I have come to the conclusion that it can, but only if one packages the content in the form of a general theory.

This repackaging leads to two major benefits: First, the resulting general theory appears to be a universal theory of human cognition. I have thrown a number of topics at the theory of mental symmetry, and so far it has managed to digest every one. Second, the unpleasant aspects of religious fundamentalism go away. Like Glenn, my research has caused me to change some of my religious doctrines; building a system of theology upon the theory of mental symmetry has led to some conflicts between my theoretical understanding and the teachings of my Mennonite upbringing. However, in every case so far I have discovered that the problem appears to lie with the by-products of the method of fundamentalism and not with the content of the Bible. As far as I can tell, the theory of mental symmetry is consistent with Biblical doctrine. However, the theory of mental symmetry is not consistent with the method of fundamentalism. That is because an attitude of religious fundamentalism will warp a message in predictable ways—ways which can be analyzed using the theory of mental symmetry.

For instance, I have already mentioned that blind faith will always be accompanied by an attitude of religious self-denial, especially in the area of physical pleasure. This brings to mind the old Mennonite joke in which the little boy tells his mother that the donkey must be a very good Christian. When his mother asks why, he answers, “Because the donkey has such a long face.” This does not mean that the religious fundamentalist never has any fun. But, even when he is having fun, he senses the ‘little voice of God’ at the back of his mind warning him that he must not enjoy himself too much. One sees this especially in the Amish, the most conservative wing of the Mennonites. For the Amish, life is hard work, and anything that smacks of pride or brings attention to self is to be avoided.

One final observation. As I was reading through Glenn’s website, I was struck by how often the phrase ‘Dooyeweerd rejects...’ or ‘Dooyeweerd opposes...’ occurs. One of the basic traits of religious fundamentalism is the attitude that ‘My holy book rejects...’ or ‘My religious leader rejects...’ or ‘My religious group rejects...’ That is because blind faith bases its ‘truth’ in the Mercy mental networks of religious experts with great emotional status. Normally, Perceiver thought compares one situation with another and looks for common facts. But, when blind faith uses Mercy status to mesmerize Perceiver thought, the result is literally narrow-mindedness; if Perceiver ‘truth’ is not associated with the correct emotional source, then it will be rejected, even if the ‘wrong source’ is saying the same Perceiver facts. For instance, I remember giving a seminar in which a bible translator was in the audience. She agreed with me at the factual level but then concluded that I was completely wrong—because I was using the wrong method. Again, one sees this tendency to reject the outside world occurring quite strongly in the Amish.

Remember that a mental network looks for input that is consistent with its structure. This means that it is impossible to reject an attitude of fundamentalism, because one of the basic traits of fundamentalism is the attitude of rejecting what is ‘wrong’. Thus, the more that one rejects fundamentalism, the more one is reinforcing the Mercy mental network that lies behind fundamentalism. Instead, I suggest that one must explain fundamentalism, because explaining uses Teacher emotions of order-within-complexity to build a Teacher mental network that can act as an alternative to the Mercy mental network behind fundamentalism.

The Supratemporal Heart

Andrew mentions Dooyeweerd’s concept of the supratemporal heart. However, Andrew devotes most of his website to a discussion of Dooyeweerd’s aspects and spend very little time talking about the human heart.

In contrast, the supratemporal heart is the single thread which ties together all of Glenn’s analysis of Dooyeweerd. In Glenn’s words, “The idea of the supratemporal heart is one of Dooyeweerd’s key ideas. The first edition of Dooyeweerd’s magnum opus, entitled De Wijsbegeerte der Wetsidee, begins with this idea. On the first page of the Foreword (the very first part of the book), Dooyeweerd informs us about his discovery of the central significance of the heart, the religious root of the whole of human existence. Dooyeweerd says that it is the ‘root of all temporal reality.’ As such, the heart, as religious root, transcends time; later in the text he refers to it as supratemporal.”

“At the end of both the original Dutch edition, as well as the English translation, Dooyeweerd indicates that this idea of the supratemporal heart is in fact the basis of his whole philosophy, and he links what he said at the beginning of the work to what he says at the end.”

Glenn goes further to state that Dooyeweerd regards of the supratemporal heart as ‘the only possible starting-point of a Christian philosophy’: “Thus, this final page of A New Critique (remember, this is Dooyeweerd’s magnum opus) affirms the supratemporal heart as the central sphere of human existence in which we transcend the temporal horizon, and in which the entire temporal world is included. Note that Dooyeweerd also says that this is ‘the only possible starting-point of a Christian philosophy.’ Dooyeweerd had stressed the same point in 1931: ‘This is the principal point of departure for any truly Christian view of temporal society.’” Notice the strong statement that Glenn is making. In simple terms, if it does not start with the supratemporal heart, then it is not Christian philosophy.

So if we want to understand Glenn’s interpretation of Dooyeweerd, we must begin with the supratemporal heart. I suggest that the supratemporal heart plays the same role in Dooyeweerd’s system as the diagram of mental symmetry does in the theory of mental symmetry. Each functions as a central core which ties everything else together. But, the central core for Dooyeweerd is something emotional within Mercy thought, whereas the central core for mental symmetry is something emotional within Teacher thought; mental symmetry uses a general Teacher theory to tie everything together, while the heart is an expression of the core of Mercy thought.

We saw earlier the critical role that is played by ground motives. Glenn describes ground motives in terms of the supratemporal heart: “A Ground-Motive is a supratemporal force, relating to the direction of our supratemporal heart. Ground Motives are not rational or conceptual presuppositions, but the religious foundation for all concepts. We can obtain a theoretical Idea of the Ground-Motives, but Ground-Motives themselves are much more than Idea. But we can theoretically try to approximate them in a theoretical Idea, or Ground-Idea. Ground Ideas are ‘theoretical expressions’ of the underlying religious Ground-Motive.”

Glenn’s description of a ground motive is consistent with what mental symmetry calls a core Mercy mental network, and mental symmetry agrees that these play a fundamental role in guiding—or warping—human thought and behavior.

Dooyeweerd suggests that Creation, Fall, and Redemption is the Christian ground motive. Mental symmetry makes a similar statement by suggesting that the process of birth-death-resurrection should describe the essential character of core Mercy mental networks.[3] One finds this concept summarized in Philippians 2 with the passage that begins: “Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself...”

Mental symmetry equates the human heart with the Mercy mental network that represents personal identity, and mental symmetry agrees that personal thought and behavior flow from the heart. But, mental symmetry insists that the childish human heart cannot be trusted, and that it will only become trustworthy by going through the process of birth-death-resurrection. Thus, mental symmetry places the ground motive of Creation, Fall, and Redemption first and the heart second.

However, Glenn appears to be reversing the relationship between the Christian ground motive and the supratemporal heart: “The ideas of the supratemporal selfhood, and the Christian Ground-motive of creation, fall and redemption are related to each other. The one idea cannot be understood without the other. Without the idea of the supratemporal heart, we cannot understand the radical meaning of creation, fall and redemption. For creation, fall and redemption are all in relation to the root.”

For Glenn, the supratemporal selfhood comes first, and then the ground-motive of Creation, Fall, and Redemption: “The Christian answer to the three transcendental Ideas is governed by its religious Ground-Motive of ‘creation, fall and redemption in Christ.’ This Ground-Motive of creation, fall and redemption sees created reality in an integral and radical [root] way: there is a coherence of temporal reality that refers to a supratemporal created totality or religious root, which in turn refers to the eternal Origin, God. But Dooyeweerd warns that this Ground-Motive is not correctly understood unless creation, fall and redemption are all understood as occurring in relation to the supratemporal religious root. Many people use the terms ‘creation, fall and redemption’ in what appears to be an orthodox way, but they fail to understand theses doctrines in their radical meaning, in their relation to the supratemporal heart as religious root.”

Glenn also says that faith comes after the supratemporal heart: “Faith is an aspect of our temporal reality. It should not be confused with the religious choice of position in our supratemporal heart. Temporal belief is not the same as religion.”

Rationality as well is ‘only a peripheral function that finds its center in the heart’: “The distinction between our central supratemporal heart and its peripheral functions is emphasized by Dooyeweerd in the opening pages of his major work, De Wijsbegeerte der Wetsidee (1935). Dooyeweerd begins with a discussion of the importance of this central significance of the heart. Kant’s Copernican revolution was not central or radical (from ‘radix’), but only a revolution in the periphery, because rationality is only a peripheral function that finds its center in the heart. In contrast, a truly radical and revolutionary philosophy begins with the central supratemporal heart, which relativizes everything temporal, including our rationality. That is why Dooyeweerd can criticize the ‘autonomy of thought.’ Thought is not autonomous, but is only one temporal function of our supratemporal center.”

The supratemporal heart is also regarded as the root of physical matter: “Because temporal reality is necessarily related to the selfhood, Dooyeweerd denies the existence of things in themselves [Dinge an sich]. In fact, he denies that temporal reality has any existence apart from its rootedness in man as its supratemporal center. A full exploration of this important idea is beyond the scope of this article.”

Glenn states that the supratemporal heart overshadows the historical death and resurrection of Jesus: “Because the substitution of Christ as the New Root occurs in the supratemporal or religious horizon, Dooyeweerd tends to depreciate the historical temporal events in Christ’s life and death. There is also the sense that redemption has occurred in the supratemporal and that it is now only being worked out in the temporal. There is also a confidence in the efficacy of redemption in that nothing of the created world will be lost in Christ (NC I, 101).”

Glenn emphasizes that the supratemporal heart comes even before scripture and theology: “Dooyeweerd’s Christian philosophy is not based on propositions from the Bible or on theological exegesis of texts. Dooyeweerd criticized Groen van Prinsterer’s method of Scripture reading, using Scriptures as a final guide for temporal life. He also criticized Vollenhoven’s use of Scripture as a source for philosophy, on the grounds that this was theology and not philosophy. He criticized Van Til’s idea of revealed concepts in Scripture; he says that this shows Van Til’s ‘rationalist tendency.’ Van Til wrongly identifies the words of Scripture with concepts, and Van Til is wrong to say that man has to ‘think God's thoughts after him.’ For nowhere does the Bible speak of obeying the voice of God in terms of subjecting every human thought to divine thought. The Scriptures speak to our supratemporal heart, but they are not to be understood in a propositional way. The Scriptures do not use theoretical scientific concepts. The Christian Ground-motive of creation, fall and redemption cannot be determined by theoretical exegesis. Nor is the meaning of the religious centre of life, the root of man’s whole existence, the fall into sin, rebirth or the incarnation of the Word to be determined by exegesis. We recognize that Scripture ‘accords with’ our experience. But there is no theology or philosophy that can give us true knowledge of God and self; this is the fruit of God’s Spirit in our heart, and has a ‘religious enstatic character’. Dooyeweerd distinguishes between the Scriptures and God’s Word. He disagreed with a young theologian who claimed that the Bible was ‘inspired by God word for word’.”

Notice what Glenn is saying about the Bible: It is ‘not to be understood in a propositional way’ and it does ‘not use theoretical scientific concepts’; core doctrines such as the meaning of life, personal meaning, sin, rebirth, or incarnation cannot ‘be determined by exegesis’—a rational analysis of the Biblical text.

This is diametrically opposed to the approach that mental symmetry takes. Every Biblical quote within this essay can be ‘understood in a propositional way’ as rational communication. This essay uses the theory of mental symmetry to rationally analyze topics such as the meaning of life, personal meaning, sin, rebirth, and incarnation (coming up in a few sections), and we are coming up with conclusions that are consistent with Biblical exegesis. And, in God, Theology & Cognitive Modules, the same theory of mental symmetry is used to explain ‘theoretical scientific concepts’.

So, it appears that Glenn really is ‘throwing out the baby’ of theology and Biblical content. But, what has he done with the ‘bathwater’ of fundamentalism? If one examines Glenn’s words in the previous paragraph, one does not see logical analysis. Instead, one sees words such as ‘criticize’, ‘wrong’, ‘not’, ‘cannot’, and ‘no’, together with the explicit assertion that ‘Scripture accords with our experience’. This suggests that the ‘bathwater’ of fundamentalism is actually being preserved and that only the ‘baby’ of theology is being thrown out.

In fact, Glenn suggests that the supratemporal heart goes before all religious issues: “The antithesis between a Christian worldview and a non-Christian worldview is thus not between Calvinism and non-Calvinism, and not even between a Biblical and non-Biblical philosophy, unless the Bible is itself understood in terms of the religious root. The antithesis is between a worldview that affirms the supratemporal religous root and one that does not.” Thus, what has replaced the theological ‘baby’ is the supratemporal heart.

According to Glenn, denying the supremacy of the supratemporal heart is actually religous apostasy: “If the antithesis runs through each of our hearts, then each of us continues, at least to some extent, to deny the reality of our supratemporal selfhood as it participates in Christ, the new religious root. Our worldview is not consistent. We do not always consciously stand in this truth, and so our apostate attitude continues; and we then also fail to see God, selfhood, others, and temporal reality as they really are.”

I should mention that there is some truth to Dooyeweerd’s concept of apostasy. Glenn says that “Apostasy involves the absolutization of merely temporal reality” and adds elsewhere that “We absolutize an aspect of reality when we try to elevate that aspect of meaning to the totality of meaning. This is the source of all -isms in theoretical thought. In naturalistic thought, guided by the faith in the self-sufficiency of natural science, the theoretical self-consciousness is dispersed in its pre-logical ‘Gegenstände’(NC II, 328).” Mental symmetry agrees that one cannot build a universal understanding, find universal meaning, or construct the concept of a universal being upon the limited foundation of the physical realm or the analytical aspect. Saying this more generally, technical thought cannot come up with universal theories; it can only explore and develop limited paradigms. And, pure materialism is an inadequate foundation for personal or cosmic meaning. Glenn adds that “It is important to note that Dooyeweerd says that absolutization is only possible because of the law of concentration of temporal reality in the religious center of human existence.” Mental symmetry agrees that the ability to form mental networks makes it possible to base personal identity upon inadequate Mercy mental networks. And, Glenn notes that “Absolutization of an aspect of meaning is also making an idol of that aspect (NC II, 323).” Similarly, mental symmetry defines an idol as an inadequate Mercy mental networks that is based upon emotional experiences from the physical world.

Mental symmetry diverges from Dooyeweerd over the solution to this problem. Mental symmetry suggests that the solution is to use rational thought to transform the human heart; Dooyeweerd’s solution is to base rational thought upon the supratemporal heart. The core difference between these two solutions lies in one’s view of the nature of God and the human heart. Does one learn about God and the human heart by embracing rational thought or by rejecting rational thought? Is God rational or irrational?

For instance, a miracle is often viewed as proof for the existence of God. But, what is a miracle? If it is a violation of natural law, then this means that God is irrational, because God is acting in a way that contradicts rational thought and violates universal natural law. As Kant and others have pointed out, how can a universal being function in a manner that violates universal law? The scientist, with his belief in universal natural law, responds by saying that miracles do not occur. Mental symmetry, in contrast, suggests that a miracle is an expression of the ‘natural law’ of a non-physical realm which affects the physical realm.

I have accused Glenn of throwing out the theological baby while keeping the bathwater of fundamentalism. However, I do not think that this is a deliberate decision. Instead, I suggest that we are dealing with basic definitions. What is baby and what is bathwater? Does irrational thought define the bathwater or the baby? With this in mind, let us see what Dooyeweerd says about the supratemporal heart and how it functions.

Dooyeweerdian Mysticism

Glenn relates the supratemporal heart to mysticism: “Dooyeweerd’s emphasis on our supratemporal selfhood is a kind of mysticism. It is not a mysticism of identity with God, or any kind of pantheistic mysticism. It is a nondual mysticism, emphasizing our total dependence on God. We are ‘from, through, and to’ God as our Origin. Although the correspondence is not exact, I have compared this to panentheism. Nor is Dooyeweerd’s mysticism to be interpreted as a spiritualizing flight from the world. Although for Dooyeweerd our world is fallen, broken, and in need of redemption, we should not seek to escape from it. Rather, our task is to assist in the working out of its redemption, for this is the purpose for which we were created.” Note that three different kinds of mysticism are being contrasted. First, there is the mysticism which says that ‘I am God’. Second, there is the mysticism that regards the world as illusion. Third, there is the mysticism which Dooyeweerd teaches, which is different from the other two.

Expanding this elsewhere, Glenn says that “Dooyeweerd rejects any mysticism that divorces itself from the temporal world. He is opposed to any idea of a ‘supernatural’ cognition (NC II, 561-563). He also rejects any mysticism that fancies itself above God’s law (NC I, 522). Mysticism is not something other than nature, but rather an insight into the true nature of reality. In the true religious attitude, we experience things and events as they really are, pointing beyond themselves to the true religious centre of meaning and to the true Origin (NC III, 30). I believe that this true religious attitude is itself a kind of mysticism, especially when we consider how it relates to the experience of our supratemporal heart, to which we are related in our intuition.”

Mental symmetry suggests that mysticism is irrational, but can still be analyzed rationally in terms of cognitive mechanisms. Remember that an image of God emerges when a general Teacher theory applies to personal identity. This means that a concept of God involves an interaction between two kinds of emotion that are constructed in two different ways. On the one hand, Teacher emotion comes from the order-within-complexity of a general theory. On the other hand, personal identity is based in specific emotional Mercy experiences. Thus, we have an inherent conflict between universal and specific: God is universal; humans are specific. How can one reconcile universal and specific?

One option is to unite these two emotionally. If the Teacher emotion of universal understanding and the Mercy emotion of personal identity are activated simultaneously, then it will feel that these two are united, and if this feeling is strong enough, then Perceiver thought will be mesmerized into ‘knowing’ that infinite God has become united with finite man. The simplest way to do this is by asserting that ‘All is One’ and ‘I am God’. ‘All is One’ produces Teacher feelings of order-within-complexity by—saying that there is order to the complexity, while ‘I am God’ connects personal identity with a universal Teacher theory by—connecting personal identity with a universal Teacher theory. But, isn’t it obvious that All is not One and that I am not God? Only if Perceiver thought is functioning. But if Perceiver thought can be mesmerized by the emotions of mysticism, then Perceiver thought will ‘know’ that ‘All is One’ and that ‘I am God’. Thus, even though this process is irrational, it can be explained rationally in terms of cognitive circuits. Eastern religion tends to practice this kind of mysticism, which Glenn tells us that Dooyeweerd is not teaching.

Moving on to the second form of mysticism, Perceiver thought gains its initial content from the physical world. Perceiver thought learns to divide Mercy experiences into categories because the human mind lives in a physical world that is composed of distinct objects and inhabits a physical body that is also a distinct object. Thus, it is much easier to use emotions to overwhelm Perceiver thought if one avoids interacting with the physical world or finds some way of discrediting factual information from the physical world. This describes the mysticism which takes ‘a spiritualizing flight from the world’.

Glenn tells us that Dooyeweerd practices a different kind of mysticism. We can understand how this works by looking at Dooyeweerd’s concept of aspects. Remember that Teacher emotion comes from order-within-complexity. Teacher thought feels good when many items come together to form an integrated whole. Thus, a general theory requires both order and complexity, just as a kingdom requires both a monarch and subjects. A monarch without any subjects is not a kingdom. Dooyeweerd generates complexity with his fifteen different aspects, each with their own set of rules. These various aspects are then integrated through mysticism. Thus, Dooyeweerd alternates between rational thought and mysticism; rational thought produces the complexity and mysticism ties this complexity together.

Glenn describes this alternation. He defines using aspects to generate complexity as dis-status: “Dis-stasis is caused by the Gegenstand-relation in theoretical thought (NC II, 467-72). It is the splitting apart of our enstatic experience by the abstraction from the continuity of cosmic time. This splitting apart is an ‘uiteen-stelling’ as opposed to the ‘in-stelling’ of enstasis. Dis-stasis results in a dis-continuity. Dis-stasis is the ‘analytical dissociation of our experience in its different modal aspects’ (Twilight, 126).”

Order is then brought to this complexity through synthesis: “Following the dis-stasis or analytical splitting apart of temporal reality, there must be a joining of meaning or a synthesis. The dis-stasis is done by an epoché or refraining from the temporal coherence. We ourselves descend to the temporal level in order to perform the Gegenstand-relation. The synthesis requires a re-entering of the continuity of time, and this is done by our intuition. Intuition of time allows for joining together of meaning (II, 415). Our theoretical intuition is ‘actualized in synthetical thought’ (NC II, 479). Even in the theoretical abstraction from the continuity of time, in which we epistemologically split apart the aspects in a dis-stasis, the synthesis of meaning is presupposed (WdW II, 407; NC II, 472). The synthesis is a reintegration of what has been split apart. But the reintegration is deeper than the coherence had been before. This is because in the process there has been an opening out of the aspects.” Notice that synthesis uses intuition and not rational thought. Notice also that thinking rationally about the various aspects adds complexity to the order-within-complexity, in essence making the kingdom grander by placing more subjects under the monarch.

Describing this alternation between theoretical fragmentation and intuitive integration more succinctly: “Theoretical experience involves dis-stasis. Dis-stasis is the suspension (epoché) of the temporal coherence of systasis, a refraining from the fullness of the selfhood. It occurs in the theoretical Gegenstand-relation, where the act of thought of our supratemporal selfhood is set over-against [gegenüber or tegenover] our temporal functions. In this dis-stasis, the modal aspects of consciousness are split apart. This splitting apart is merely epistemological and not ontical. In theory, we move out of the resting enstasy of naïve experience...Following the theoretical dis-stasis, we need to return to the state of enstasis by means of our intuition, which relates our theoretical thought back to our supratemporal selfhood. If we do not do that, then we absolutize temporal reality.”

Glenn tells us that the proper way to bring order to the complexity of temporal existence is by going beyond theory and temporal existence to the supratemporal heart: “The center is the transcendent and religious reality. It includes our supratemporal heart. Humans function in all aspects, but their supratemporal center goes beyond all aspects (NC I, 51; III, 88). Animals lack this center (NC II, 114). The periphery is temporal reality as differentiated by cosmic time into diversity and particularity of meaning. The center thus expresses itself in the periphery. Our supratemporal selfhood expresses itself in its temporal functions. To focus on the periphery is to relate to the temporal cosmos, as opposed to the central supratemporal selfhood (WdW I,vi). That which is central expresses and reveals itself in the peripheral, and the peripheral in turn refers back to what is central for its meaning. Furthermore, the central is on a higher ontical level than the periphery. So God, Who is eternal, expresses and reveals Himself within creation (both temporal and supratemporal), and the creation refers back to Him for its meaning. And man, as the image of God, expresses and reveals his supratemporal selfhood in the temporal cosmos, and the temporal cosmos in turn refers back to man’s selfhood as the religious root for its meaning.”

Glenn adds that the purpose of philosophy is to help us to understand that we must to let go of temporal rational thought in order to embrace synthesis: “Philosophic thought is theoretical thought that is directed towards the totality [I, 7]. It is an act of knowing is a knowledge that is a distinguishing and joining of meaning while directed to the totality (I, 44). As an act, theoretical thought occurs in all aspects of temporal reality. Although it is limited by the temporal, it points beyond temporal reality. In pointing towards totality, it points in the transcendental direction, towards the transcendent selfhood (II, 407).”

Mental symmetry suggests that emotional ‘knowing’ occurs when Mercy feelings mesmerize Perceiver thought into ‘knowing’ what is ‘true’. Perceiver thought constructs its knowledge of truth gradually; it takes time to see which connections are repeated and it takes time to build Perceiver confidence. Emotional ‘knowing’, in contrast, is instant; A single emotional experience can mesmerize Perceiver thought into ‘knowing’ what is ‘true’. These two kinds of Perceiver knowing fight each other: If Perceiver thought is mesmerized, then it cannot function; if Perceiver thought is operating, then it is not mesmerized.

Glenn’s description of religious knowledge is consistent with emotional ‘knowing’ and Glenn states that this ‘knowing’ is different than the type of knowing that occurs when Perceiver thought is functioning: “We have immediate knowledge in our heart of the religious fullness of meaning. In self-reflection, the truth of the fullness of meaning in our inner concentration point is immediately revealed (I, 19; NC I, 15). This knowledge of our heart is not the same as our knowledge of temporal things by analysis and abstraction. It is rather true self-knowledge, which is dependent on true knowledge of God. This is not knowledge of God in Himself, but only in His relation to us, as Calvin says. But no science can say what the heart itself is, or what we ourselves are (October 12, 1937 response to Curators, cited by Verburg 223).”

Glenn tells us that the purpose of Christ’s salvation is a mystical, incomprehensible union with God: “Christ as the second root restores our mystical union with God. This union is of an organic nature: ‘Hence there can be no doubt that there exists a mystic union between Christ and believers which works by means of an organic connection, uniting the Head and the members in a for us invisible and incomprehensible manner. By means of this organic union the Holy Spirit was poured out on Pentecost from Christ the Head into us, the members of His body.’”

What happens if one attempts to use temporal facts and rational thought to bring order to the complexity rather than intuitive synthesis? Dooyeweerd refers to this as ‘immanence philosophy’: “Any philosophy that does not accept the Idea of the supratemporal selfhood is called ‘immanence philosophy,’ because it seeks totality and coherence within time. Even a Christian philosophy that acknowledges God as eternal Origin is still making a synthesis with immanence philosophy if it denies the supratemporal selfhood. It may acknowledge God as Origin, but it adopts an immanent view of totality. Dooyeweerd says that his philosophy makes a radical break with immanence philosophy in its idea that it understands that our whole temporal human existence proceeds from out of the religious root, the heart. Immanence philosophy seeks the Archimedean point of philosophy within theoretical thought itself instead of relating it to our ‘I-ness’—the ‘undivided center of all temporal human existence.’”

Glenn equates immanence philosophy with apostasy: “Apostasy is the seeking of our human personality and its Origin within the temporal...Apostasy is also called the ‘immanence standpoint’ by Dooyeweerd. By ‘immanence,’ he means the incorrect seeking of meaning within (or immanent to) temporal reality itself...Apostasy involves the absolutization of merely temporal reality...In the apostate attitude, one does not experience temporal things and events as they really are (NC III, 30). This implies that when the naïve experience is opened up to the transcendent, we do experience things as they really are. The true nature of things and events is as meaning, pointing beyond above themselves to the true religious centre of meaning and to the true Origin. When the transcendent religious dimension is shut out, there are mythological aberrations in naïve experience. Thus, if we restrict ourselves to the temporal, we do not experience things as they really are. Dooyeweerd warns us that when we lose sight of the supratemporal we fail to even view the temporal properly, and our own self-consciousness is weakened.”

Summarizing, Glenn tells us that Dooyeweerd teaches a form of mysticism which alternates between rational thought and irrational mysticism. Rational thought builds theories about temporal existence, but these theories are fragmented and full of complexity. Mysticism uses intuition to bring order to this complexity. The purpose of philosophy is to inform us that we must use intuition to put everything together. Intuition leads us to the conclusion that what ties everything together is the supratemporal heart, and this conclusion is supported by Perceiver ‘truth’ that is based in Mercy emotions. Thus, the problem of integrating universal God with finite personal identity has been ‘solved’: The world is full of complexity. But, by using intuition, we can bring order to this complexity. And, when we use intuition, we ‘know’ that everything fits together, which leads us to an encounter with God—because we now have a general Teacher theory that applies to personal identity.

In a nutshell, according to Glenn, “This movement to and fro between the unity of our selfhood and the temporal diversity of meaning gives a circularity to thought. Dooyeweerd refers to the meaning of ‘encyclopedia’ which is derived from the Greek enkyklios paideia, meaning ‘learning in a circle’. But it is not a vicious circle like logicism, which remains wholly within the temporal. Rather, the movement is from the supratemporal central to the temporal peripheral.”

Glenn says that universality is encountered through a mystical encounter by personal identity. Mental symmetry suggests that a concept of God emerges when a general Teacher theory applies to personal identity. The result is a mystical concept of religion and divine revelation: “‘This key of knowledge in its radical and integral sense cannot be made into a theological problem.’ He says that the Jewish Scribes and lawyers had a perfect theological knowledge of the Old Testament but Jesus said, ‘Woe unto you, for ye have taken away the key of knowledge!’ (Twilight, 145)...The acceptance of this ‘key of knowledge’ is a matter of (spiritual) life and death...‘the central motive of the Holy Scripture is the common supra-scientific starting point of a really biblical theology and of a really Christian philosophy. It is the key of knowledge of which Jesus spoke in his discussion with the Scribes and lawyers.’ (Twilight, 125) He emphasizes again this life or death importance: ‘...the true knowledge of God in Jesus Christ and true self-knowledge are neither of a dogmatic-theological, nor of a philosophical nature, but have an absolutely central religious significance. This knowledge is a question of spiritual life or death. (Twilight, 146).’”

Glenn realizes that this mystical view of God and written revelation is not consistent with Christian theology: “Dooyeweerd’s views offended theologians at that time, and they are sure to offend those theologians today who believe that theology is the basis of our faith. Theology is philosophically founded, and the only question is whether that philosophy is ruled by the central biblical basic motive or not (Twilight, 157). Dooyeweerd’s views will also offend those reformational philosophers who attempt to follow Dooyeweerd without accepting his view of time or the supratemporal heart. It is not possible. They have taken away the ‘key of knowledge.’”

Paradigm vs. Heart

What then is the difference between Dooyeweerd saying that the supratemporal heart is the ‘key of knowledge’ and mental symmetry presenting the diagram of mental symmetry as a general theory of human thought and religion? Are they not both equally suspect? This is a valid question that needs to be answered.

Since we are attempting to construct a Christian philosophy, let us look first at the Biblical perspective. The Bible clearly states that the natural human heart cannot be trusted: “The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; who can understand it? I, the LORD, search the heart, I test the mind, even to give to each man according to his ways, according to the results of his deeds.” (Jer. 17:9,10) In other words, our heart is not the key to understanding God, but rather, God is the key to understanding our heart.

In contrast, the seven cognitive styles which make up the diagram of mental symmetry actually come from a Biblical list mentioned within a context of mental wholeness and personal transformation: “Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect. For through the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith. For just as we have many members in one body and all the members do not have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, each of us is to exercise them accordingly: if prophecy, according to the proportion of his faith; if service, in his serving; or he who teaches, in his teaching; or he who exhorts, in his exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness.” (Rom. 12:1-8)

Notice what this passage says about God, rational thought, and meaning. The ‘spiritual service of worship’ that is ‘acceptable to God’ is described in the original Greek as a logical (logikos) service that pleases God. Similarly, one is transformed by renewing the mind (nous), which makes it possible to test or scrutinize (dokimazo) the complete (teleios) purpose (thelema) of God. In other words, God wants rational worship and one discovers cosmic meaning by transforming the mind so that one can think rationally about God. This describes the approach that is being taken by mental symmetry.

Second, as we already seen, Glenn’s interpretation of Dooyeweerd regards theology and scripture as irrelevant and misleading. Dooyeweerd “does not derive the philosophy from propositions in Scripture, but relies on the experience of our selfhood in its dynamic relation to temporal reality.” In contrast, I have repeatedly discovered that using the diagram of mental symmetry to guide my research has led me to conclusions that are consistent with scripture. Paradoxically, the more I expand the theory of mental symmetry, the more I find the Bible making obvious, logical sense.

Third, as I have already mentioned, Glenn’s description of Dooyeweerd seems to contain quite a few instances of ‘Dooyeweerd rejects...’ or ‘Dooyeweerd opposes...’ In contrast, there is strong neurological evidence for the diagram of mental symmetry, and it is possible to use the theory of mental symmetry to integrate a number of seemingly unrelated fields, including the two sides to Dooyeweerd’s philosophy.

Finally, from a philosophical viewpoint, if one wishes to form the mental image of a universal being, then it does not make sense to start with the finite human heart. Instead, I suggest that it makes more sense to search for a universal being within the realm of universal concepts.

Examining Dooyeweerd’s Points

I should re-emphasize that there is some truth to what Dooyeweerd is proposing. However, I suggest that Dooyeweerd is combining concepts which need to be distinguished.

Dooyeweerd emphasizes the limitations of technical thought. In Glenn’s words: “When we attempt to live our practical lives in the theoretical mode, we then live in an over-calculated, technical way. We can live our lives as if we were still doing theory! Theoretical concepts and abstraction can lead to a technicizing of our experience. Phenomenology recognizes this problem, but Dooyeweerd does not accept the solution offered by phenomenology—to go beyond the merely symbolical by penetrating to the thing's ‘essence.’ (NC I, 171).”

Mental symmetry agrees with this diagnosis. As Thomas Kuhn indicates, science has a strong tendency to regard technical thought as ‘normal science’. Philosophers of science may analyze normal thought, as Quine does quite successfully in the Web of Belief, but heaven help the individual who attempts to use normal thought to analyze normal thought within an academic context.

But, mental symmetry disagrees with Dooyeweerd over the solution to this problem. Dooyeweerd suggests that the various aspects can be related through analogy and succession while insisting that rational thought will never succeed in building a universal theory and that ultimate unity can only be found in an intuitive grasp of the supratemporal heart. Mental symmetry, in contrast, suggests that it is possible to use normal thought to build a universal theory of the human mind—including the heart, religious activity, and a concept of God, and presents the theory of mental symmetry as a candidate. Mental symmetry adds that the childish mind is not capable of using normal thought in a fully rational manner. Instead, rational normal thought must be seeded by revelation, rational normal thought becomes possible as Perceiver and Server thought gain the confidence to function in the presence of emotions, and personal identity can only submit to normal rational thought by going through death and rebirth. However, what holds everything together is a rational universal theory, and not a supratemporal heart.

Dooyeweerd rejects all temporal theories as ‘immanence philosophy’ and equates immanence philosophy with apostasy from God. Mental symmetry agrees that it is not possible to come up with a universal understanding or an adequate concept of God by accepting only the existence of the physical realm, as modern science does. However, mental symmetry suggests that an adequate concept of God is not formed by abandoning rational theory but rather by pursuing a path of mental wholeness, which means reprogramming core mental networks that are based in physical existence and replacing them with mental networks that include the physical realm as well as other realms. At the end of this process one ends up with a more universal, more integrated, but still rational theory. Thus, while mental symmetry would agree that building core mental networks upon physical existence leads to apostasy from God, mental symmetry also suggests that temporal theories are not wrong but rather incomplete. They may not contain the whole picture, but they do describe part of it.

Dooyeweerd says that theology cannot lead to a knowledge of God. Mental symmetry agrees that theology is inadequate. But, mental symmetry suggests that the answer does not lie in abandoning theology but rather in giving life to theology. Theology can be compared to a building or a body, whereas knowledge of God is like living in a building or giving life to a body. Cognitively speaking, an image of God becomes alive when a general Teacher theory turns into a Teacher mental network. But, the structure of this general Teacher theory comes from theology and can be analyzed in theological terms.

Dooyeweerd also says that intuition is needed to discover unity and encounter God. Mental symmetry recognizes the role that is played by intuition but suggests that intuition can be trained to be compatible with rational thought. In simple terms, mental symmetry defines intuition as thought which is guided by emotions. Perceiver facts and Server sequences build a mental ‘road system’ with highways and interchanges; intuitive thought then uses the ‘vehicle’ of emotion to ‘drive’ along this highway system. The reason that intuition is typically regarded as irrational is because it is difficult to hold on to Perceiver facts and Server sequences in the presence of strong emotions. Therefore, the natural tendency is for intuition to travel on ‘roads’ that were ‘constructed’ through blind faith and blind obedience. However, if personal identity is transformed and the mind acquires the ability to use normal rational thought, then intuition will be compatible with rational thought, even though it is being guided by emotions. One could compare this to a musician ‘playing by ear’. Even though the playing is being guided by feelings, the notes that are being played are determined by musical skill and knowledge.

Dooyeweerd says that God and the angels inhabit a supratemporal realm which goes beyond rational thought, and that what ties the supratemporal realm together with the temporal realm is the supratemporal human heart. Mental symmetry agrees that God and the angels inhabit non-physical realms. But, mental symmetry suggests that these various realms are consistent with human thought and can be rationally analyzed using the theory of mental symmetry. Mental symmetry also says that living in a physical body in the physical realm leads to the development of core mental networks that find the existence of non-physical realms to be deeply emotionally threatening. However, if these core mental networks are reprogrammed, then it is possible to construct mental networks which can move between one realm and another and function simultaneously in various realms.

Dooyeweerd states that God is transcendent and exists beyond the laws of any specific aspect. Mental symmetry agrees that God inhabits a non-physical realm and that man can never fully grasp the nature of God because man is finite and God is infinite. But, mental symmetry suggests that it is possible to use the theory of mental symmetry to describe the essential characteristics of God. Dooyeweerd says that philosophy supersedes theology. In contrast, mental symmetry observes that philosophy appears to be consistent with theology. The theory of mental symmetry can be used to analyze human thought, analyze a mental concept of God, and describe the path of must be taken to reach mental wholeness. But, mental symmetry also observes that these same cognitive modules, this same path, and this same concept of God is contained within a holy book that was written thousands of years ago, and that this book says that man was made in the image of God. Thus, man may use rational thought to gain an understanding of God and human nature, but this same understanding is described by an ancient holy book, and this understanding can only be gained by applying the principles contained within that holy book. Therefore, even though philosophy can be used to analyze theology, the conclusions are consistent with theology and the entire process began with theology.

Christian Philosophy?

So, is Dooyeweerd’s philosophy Christian? I suggest that the answer depends on how one defines Christianity. If by Christian, we mean ‘based in the Bible’ or ‘connected with Christian theology’, then it is clear that Glenn’s interpretation of Dooyeweerd has nothing to do with Christianity: “We obtain knowledge of God by divine revelation. But Dooyeweerd does not view revelation in terms of propositional exegesis of Scripture. Revelation is not theoretical in nature. Revelation primarily has a religious enstatic character.”

If by Christian, we mean centered upon the atoning death of Jesus the incarnation for human sin, then we must also conclude that Dooyeweerd’s philosophy is not Christian: “There is an at-one-ment in the Incarnation itself. This is quite a different view of the atonement than Anselm’s legalistic one based on the juridical analogy of a sacrificial death as substitution for our punishment. (Cur Deus Homo). In Dooyeweerd’s view, there is a substitution, but it is a substitution of Christ as the Root of Creation. And there is sacrifice, but that sacrifice is already involved in the movement out of love into the temporal world (the kenosis). And there is suffering: in becoming the New Root, Christ takes that suffering on himself. But the emphasis is very different from the traditional views of the atonement. Now some people may, on theological grounds, reject Dooyeweerd’s philosophy for this different emphasis in incarnation and salvation. But I find it a very wonderful interpretation. It avoids the image of the violent God that has bothered recent commentators, and it emphasizes the love and self-sacrifice of God.”

So, in what sense can Dooyeweerd claim to have developed a Christian philosophy? As I mentioned earlier, I suggest that Dooyeweerd’s combination of peripheral salvation and central mysticism describes the norm in most current Christian circles. The relative size of these two components may vary from one Christian denomination to another, but the existence of a rational periphery combined with a mystical core appears to be almost universally accepted in Christian circles. In Dooyeweerdian terms, I suggest that we are dealing with a ground motive. Dooyeweerd claims to have moved beyond the Nature/Grace ground motive, but it appears that his philosophy is still subject to some variation of this ground motive.

Glenn recognizes that “Critics of Dooyeweerd sometimes say that his idea of the supratemporal selfhood is based on a dualism...But the relation of the supratemporal to the temporal is one of center to periphery. That is not a dualism, although it is a dichotomy. Dooyeweerd says that the Biblical dichotomy of soul and body is not to be found in the temporal, but in the nonduality [twee (-een)heid] of the supratemporal religious center or the root (the ‘heart’ or ‘soul’) and the whole mantle of temporal functions (the ‘body’).” However, as the informal argument goes, ‘If it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it probably is a duck.’ Dooyeweerd’s philosophy looks like dualism, it functions like dualism, and it speaks the language of dualism. Therefore, one concludes that it is a form of dualism.

Mental symmetry suggests that the struggle between peripheral rationality and central mysticism is a byproduct of presenting universal truth in the package of a holy book. Blind faith uses Mercy status to mesmerize Perceiver thought; if a fact comes from a source with sufficient Mercy status, then Perceiver thought will ‘know’ that this fact is ‘true’. A holy book takes this mental mechanism to its extreme: The religious believer ‘knows’ that his holy book contains ‘eternal truth’ because he ‘believes’ that God himself—the Person with the ultimate Mercy status—wrote the book. However, mental symmetry suggests that all education begins with blind faith, and a quick visit to any primary classroom will show that this is the case; the primary student accepts truth because it comes from his teacher and from his textbook. Because the childish mind is driven by Mercy mental networks, it appears that blind faith is the only way to grab the attention of the childish mind.

But, suppose that a holy book accurately describes universal truth and encourages rational thought. We now have a mental conflict between the method of a holy book and the content of the holy book. On the one hand, the method uses emotional pressure to keep Perceiver thought mesmerized, while on the other hand, the content encourages Perceiver thought to wake up and think. Mental symmetry presents the thesis that this describes the situation with the Christian Bible, for if one analyzes the process by which one reaches mental wholeness and gains the ability to think and act rationally, then this corresponds, in detail, to Christian doctrine as described in the Christian Bible.

It is difficult to use Perceiver thought in the presence of Mercy emotions. Therefore, when dealing with peripheral, objective topics, the content of the holy book will guide thinking, making it possible to think rationally when dealing with peripheral aspects of theology and personal existence. In contrast, when dealing with core emotional issues such as personal identity, the heart, God, and personal salvation, then the method of the holy book will dominate, and the mind will know intuitively that all Perceiver truth is determined by Mercy emotions.

Dooyeweerd’s philosophy is such a hybrid. When dealing with peripheral topics such as science, analytical thought, everyday experience, and the fifteen aspects, then Dooyeweerd presents significant, rational concepts. Andrew’s treatment of Dooyeweerd focuses upon this objective side; here we find that Dooyeweerd presents a number of concepts that are consistent with Christian theology. But, when dealing with the subjective core, then Dooyeweerd bases everything upon the Mercy status of the supratemporal heart. When one emphasizes this side of Dooyeweerd, as Glenn does, then one comes up with a philosophy which is deeply anti-Christian and anti-scripture. Putting these two halves together, we conclude that Dooyeweerd’s system could best be described as a philosophy of Christian fundamentalism—of ‘Christianity that is based in blind faith’.

That brings us back to the matter of I.P. Friesen, the grandfather who had a strong indirect effect upon both myself and Glenn. Both Glenn and I have attempted to escape the mindset of Christian fundamentalism. But, which of us has been more successful? I suggest that the essence of Christian fundamentalism is a struggle between fundamentalism and Christianity—a tug of war between the mindset of blind faith and the content of Christian doctrine. The philosophy of Dooyeweerd perpetuates this attitude; it is consistent with the underlying mental network. Remember that a mental network wants input that is consistent with its structure. When one responds in a way that is consistent with a mental network, then one has not digested that mental network. Instead, it is still functioning intact. Thus, I suggest that when one adopts the philosophy of Dooyeweerd, one is actually perpetuating the ground motive of Christian fundamentalism and not escaping from it.

A Rational Explanation for Atonement and Incarnation

I would like to end this essay on a positive note. I mentioned earlier that mysticism is one way of bridging finite man with infinite God, which it does by emotionally ‘jamming’ these two together. I suggest that the other method to bring finite and infinite together is through incarnation. The concept of incarnation is described in detail in God, Theology & Cognitive Modules. Here, we will use the theory of mental symmetry to explain the core aspects of incarnation and atonement. I will try to make this explanation as clear as possible but I will be skipping over a number of details.

Mental symmetry divides thinking into abstract thought and concrete thought. Contributor mode plays a critical role in both of these forms of thought. If one looks at the diagram of mental symmetry, one notices that Contributor connects Perceiver and Server. In concrete thought, Perceiver facts are used to construct a map. This map is used to determine ‘where I am’ and ‘where I want to be’. Server actions are then used to go from ‘where I am’ to ‘where I want to be’. In concrete thought, Contributor mode plays the role of connecting Perceiver facts with Server actions, leading to a sense of cause-and-effect. When personal identity is added to cause-and-effect, then one ends up with conscience and salvation: Conscience compares ‘where I am’ with ‘where I should be’, whereas salvation takes me from ‘where I am’ to some place better.

In abstract thought, the relationship between Perceiver mode and Server mode is reversed. Here, Server sequences define the ‘map’ and Perceiver thought performs the ‘movement’. One sees this, for instance, in speech and writing, which is composed of sequences of Teacher words. When one communicates linguistically, one moves through Server sequences of morphemes, words, sentences, paragraphs, and chapters. These various Server sequences are tied together by their Perceiver meanings, and the goal is to construct a general Teacher theory of understanding. In abstract thought, Contributor mode plays the critical role of connecting linguistic Server sequences with their Perceiver meanings, usually at the level of words. When Teacher emotion is added, then one ends up with a search for generality.

Contributor mode integrates concrete thought with abstract thought by connecting cause-and-effect with generality. The mathematical function provides an illustration of this connection. Using the equation ‘y = 3x’ as a simple example, there are two ways to interpret this equation: First, one can view ‘x’ as the input and ‘y’ as the output. For instance, ‘x’ may represent the number of watermelons, and ‘y’ represent the cost of these watermelons. This summarizes the thinking of technical concrete thought (referred to elsewhere as Cp), which is under the control of Contributor mode. When one graphs a function, then one plots the input ‘x’ against the output ‘y’. Second, one can also interpret the equation ‘y = 3x’ from the viewpoint of abstract thought. Here what matters is the generality of the statement. The equation ‘y = 3x’ is more general than the equation ‘total cost equals three times the number of watermelons’ because the second equation applies only to watermelons, whereas the first equation could also apply to peaches, hours worked, time required to travel from one location to another, or many other situations. This summarizes the thinking of technical abstract thought (labeled elsewhere as Ci), which is also under the control of Contributor mode.

Now let us apply this concept to the topic of incarnation and personal salvation. As I have mentioned, childish personal identity is disordered, inconsistent, and fragmented. Teacher thought feels bad when items do not fit together and when there are exceptions to the rule. Therefore, when Teacher thought views childish personal identity, the result will be emotional pain. In religious language, sin separates man from God and man is born in sin. However, if Teacher thought views personal identity through the correct Contributor function, then this Teacher pain can be replaced by Teacher pleasure.

What is the ‘correct Contributor function’ that solves the problem of childish personal identity and makes personal identity consistent with Teacher understanding? It is the function of birth-death-resurrection. The Mercy mental networks of childish identity are inconsistent with the Teacher mental network of a universal theory. But, if the mental networks of childish personal identity fall apart, then it is possible to rebuild these Mercy mental networks into a form that is consistent with universal understanding. In technical Contributor language, the Contributor function of personal salvation leads through the process of birth, death, and resurrection. In religious language, Jesus saves me by living on earth, dying on the cross, and being resurrected, because the name Jesus means salvation, and ‘living on earth, dying on the cross, and being resurrected’ epitomizes the function of birth-death-resurrection.

Cp views a function as leading from input to output, in this case, leading from childish identity to adult identity. Ci, in contrast, evaluates functions in terms of generality. Thus, what matters to abstract thought is the generality of the function of birth-death-resurrection. If this is a general function, then Teacher thought will feel pleasure when thinking about this function. Christianity says that the function of birth-death-resurrection is the most general function. In religious language, it says that the name of Jesus is above all other names. Notice how Philippians 2 explicitly describes this relationship: “Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name.” Here we find the person of Jesus going through the process of birth-death-resurrection and the name of Jesus being given universality.

Now suppose that childish identity submits to the Contributor function of birth-death-resurrection. Childish identity then changes from being an expression of personal chaos to being an example of the universal function of birth-death-resurrection. By viewing childish personal identity through the lens of the Contributor function of birth-death-resurrection, Teacher pain is replaced by Teacher pleasure. In theological terms, man is reconciled to God by calling on the name of Jesus and submitting to the lordship of Jesus. Continuing from the quote in Philippians 2, “For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

Paul refers to these two aspects of submitting to the Contributor function of birth-death-resurrection in Romans 10:9. “If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.” The Teacher side deals with generality; a person verbally acknowledges the generality of the Contributor function of birth-death-resurrection. The Mercy side looks at going from input to output; a person believes that the Contributor function of birth-death-resurrection really can go beyond death to resurrection if it is backed up by a general Teacher theory.

We have looked at how atonement and incarnation use technical thought to reconcile childish identity with a universal holy God. But, we have also seen that technical thought by itself is never sufficient. I suggest that this principle also applies to the ‘prayer of Christian salvation’. In order to experience personal salvation, one must go beyond technical thought to normal thought. In terms of a school analogy, submitting to the Contributor function of birth-death-resurrection could be compared to enrolling in a school, while experiencing personal salvation could be compared to actually taking and passing the courses within that school.

In other words, what matters in personal transformation is the process of moving from childish identity to mental wholeness. This process is described in detail in the book God, Theology & Cognitive Modules, and this process appears to correspond to the stages in the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus as described in the historical gospels. In brief, it begins with new birth, it grows by applying truth to one’s heart, it expresses itself in righteousness, and it leads through personal death to new life. Mental symmetry emphasizes that this is a rational process which leads to the concept of a rational God and can be analyzed rationally using cognitive modules.

Romans 5 describes the relationship between these two aspects of personal salvation, comparing justification and reconciliation with salvation: “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.”

Finally, incarnation and atonement also operate at the level of mental networks. Here, the birth-death-resurrection of Jesus is a pattern which personal identity must follow. Just as Jesus went through the process of birth-death-resurrection, so the mental networks of childish identity must also die and be reborn. This is described in Roman 6: “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase? May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it? Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin; for he who has died is freed from sin.”

I suggest that Christians often fall into the same cognitive error as the typical academic, because both tend to think that it is possible to come up with a universal solution using only technical thought. For the Christian believer, this means thinking that ‘saying the prayer of salvation’ is sufficient to cause personal transformation. Mental symmetry suggests that placing the Contributor function of ‘Jesus’ between universal Teacher understanding and childish personal identity will cause a person to feel that ‘he is at peace with God’, however personal transformation only occurs when the mental networks of childish identity fall apart and are reassembled in adult form. The apostle Paul says the same thing in Roman 6, emphasizing that freedom from ‘the sin nature’ only occurs when the function of birth-death-resurrection is applied at the level of mental networks.

Summarizing, I suggest that if one wants to claim to have a ‘Christian philosophy’, then one must capture the essence of fundamental Christian doctrines such as atonement and incarnation at this level of detail. Using this standard, Dooyeweerd’s supposed ‘Christian philosophy’ is woefully inadequate. Notice that Dooyeweerd would reject the explanation given by mental symmetry as ‘imminence philosophy’ because rational thought is being used to compare the salvation of God with mathematical functions. But, notice also that this explanation is consistent with Dooyeweerd’s concept of aspects, because analogy and symmetry are being used to connect Dooyeweerd’s analytical aspect with his pistic aspect. However, Dooyeweerd’s concept of aspects is being extended to include both God and personal identity. Thus, while my analysis violates the subjective side of Dooyeweerd’s philosophy, it is consistent with the objective side of his philosophy.

This rational explanation is transcendent in the sense that it occurs in several different realms. Mental symmetry describes how it functions in the cognitive realm. The Bible claims that it also occurred historically within the physical realm and that it applies as well to the divine realm. But, it appears that a single rational cognitive model can still be used to explain and connect what is happening in all of these various realms. And, both mental symmetry and theology agree that, as far as humans are concerned, the core struggle occurs within the cognitive realm.

[1] While the Facilitator person appears to have a limited awareness of mental processing, he has a greater awareness of mental content than any other cognitive style. Because he has a surface awareness of all cognitive modes, he finds it difficult to believe in the concept of cognitive styles.

[2] These four divisions are T/F: Thinking vs. Feeling, P/J: Perceiving vs. Judging, S/N: Sensing vs. iNtuition, and I/E: Introverted vs. Extroverted. Whenever referring to these divisions, a capital letter will be used with the term.

[3] Remember that mental networks look for consistency and respond with hyper-pain when faced with inconsistency. Thus, I am suggesting that the structure of core Mercy mental networks should find the process of birth-death-resurrection consistent and not inconsistent.