Prismatic Thinking

A developmental model explains how a society develops and progresses through different stages during hundreds and thousands of years [general], or how an individual develops through their lifetime [personal]. These models are relevant for both cases.

Z: I describe the first three stages.

[1]  Absolutistic thinking
[2] Relativistic thinking
[3] System thinking

: I think there is a lesser developed factor inside system thinking that is not well understood yet. You can approach an event from multiple perspectives, multiple points of views (according to backgrounds) and then you abductively create the argument¹, but there are also dimensions² of abstraction within each point of perspective [surface characteristics > the content > the descriptive rules]²³ .

[4]³ Prismatic thinkingₘ

This paper is created in collaboration with Z. It explains the 4 stages before Prismatic thinking and forms a lead into the 1st step into understanding Imaginational Theory.

Video introduction into Imaginational Theory

¹ Read more about abductive interference in End of the line.
² Read Dimensional Design Theory.
³ Examples of applied Dimensional Design: M1 [§] : Dürer's monistic masterpiece and Paul Charlemagne; Cubism without Style

Level: Middle ¦ Difficulty: Middle



Interference I (2021), Marcel Moonen©

Absolutistic thinking means that you only have developed one point of perspective. When you observe an object in the world you believe that this object exists on itself, and you are not able to question how it is there in the first place. Unconsciously you compare it to your own frame of reference [Memory] to make it relative.

Z: For example, you show a two-sided credit-card to a 3-year-old. One side displays black numbers on a white background, the other side shows a colourful image.

Then you ask the child: What colour do I see?

The young child, thinking absolutist, can only see one side of the card, and would answer that the card is black/white.

He/she cannot understand another point of reference as its own and is not able to understand that I see a lot of other colours; pink, blue, yellow, green. The child is at a level of mental development not able to observe and understand from a different point of perspective as its own, or in other words a relativistic perspective.

Even adults, a lot of times, do not think relativistically, not even to speak about system or prismatic thinking.

M: What is evidence?

Z: Most people think that evidence is facts, absolute, strictly true, but they forget the role of their own mind in the decision process. For example, an agent discovers a hair at a murder investigation and takes a DNA sample; they relate this data with other evidence and build a case.

I can choose two sides in this case:

  • No, I do not believe that it is connected to the crime. The hair could be there before the crime was committed; it is only used to make the case against the accused person.

  • Yes, I believe the storyline constructed with the evidence present to me is true. The hair is from the killer {relativistic thinking}. Absolutistic thinking is that you believe that the evidence itself is proof.

Our own mind makes a final decision.

M{Z} : What is evidence?

Z: The evidence is not in the object itself; DNA, a gun, a knife, or a fingerprint.

M: A diagnosis of the storyline is abductively interfered by using pieces of evidence. In both scenarios, there is not a 100% guarantee of correctness. It is you that decides the trueness of the story presented with the evidence.

Interference II (2021), Marcel Moonen©

Z: Another example; this car moves 67 km/h on the road.

Z {M} : Is it an absolutistic measurement or relativistic?

Absolutely thinking people believe it is absolutely 67, it is given, but they do not understand that it is 67 km relative to the ground, because relative to the sun or the moon it will be a totally different speed. They do not understand that there is a reference point that we use to measure occurrences.

Through our individual life we progress through stages, and in some parts of our life we develop higher levels of thinking, of understanding complexity.

Z: Things do not exist, you cannot explain anything by itself.

Absolutistic thinking in adulthood means that you believe that a person is charismatic, you forget that this is an opinion. Maybe many people think that this person is great, very charming but you forget that it is just a consensus of an opinion, and it is your own thought.

M: If I say this person is not charismatic to me, I am aware of my own mind.

Z{M}: If you say that this person has a quality of being charismatic, you think absolutistically.

Nothing has a quality by itself, it is always expressed from a relativistic perspective.

A Cubist Worldview

Counter Composition Y (2021), Marcel Moonen©

“Beauty is in the eye of the beholder”

Everybody understands this, but not everybody can apply this relativistic thinking to many other aspects of their life. Blindly believing in the singular scientists; Oh, but this person is a scientist! 

Or the other way, with religion. The church said this, it must be true, or this one scientist said that he is always right. They do not understand these people are just people in the spotlight. They want to achieve something, they experiment; they talk about something from their point of perspective inside their clearly boxed domain. 

M: A person stating its own sequence of evidence to the bigger crowds.  Time consensus filters out true findings. 

Z: The next stage is into relativistic thinking, when you understand that everything is seen from points of perspective.

M: I have a different mindset.

M{Z}: You have a different mindset, so we see the world differently.

Z [after showing both sides of the card]: What colour do I see?

5 Yr Old: Green, blue, yellow, pink!

Good! You understand that I have a different perspective, and this is not absolutist.

Cause ~ Effect

Interference II I (2021), Marcel Moonen©

One big development in relativistic thinking is Cause ~ Effect. One cause, one effect. It means that something happened, and it caused something {a scientific mindset} .

Science always uses reductionist thinking to create reproducible experimental set-ups. They want to understand one element, how this one element contributes to that other one, so they do not look at the complexity of events as a whole, they divide it up into bits, and ever smaller bits. They want to understand if I isolate these bits, I can understand how this impacts that one.

M: Puzzling all the way down into quantum dimensions.

Z: In scientific research in the early 20th century there was a big debate about light. Is it a particle or is it a wave?

Scientists on both sides developed their own experiments, both proved what they wanted to believe. The scientists who believed light is a wave created an experiment, and they proved the wave characteristics of light.

Scientists who believe light to be a particle,  created a different experiment, and also they, in their case, proved their point of view.

M{Z}:  Eventually somebody realised; the results depend on how you measure light. It is relative to the frame of the observer, you will set up the experiment to justify your point of perspective.


Warpzone (2018), Marcel Moonen©

<surface characteristics>
Y: Then B. (1923) integrated this into a more complex theory which encompasses the two opposing sides at the same time; the wave ~ particle duality of light. He was able to observe and understand more realistically this next stage of thinking: system thinking.

Y ~Y: In our times, theoretical scientists like E. Witten
[95 : M-Theory] developed even more advanced thinking models; skipping the point perspectives to observe, and instead focus on the connections, and thereafter incorporating the multiple {strings} at once. Thus breaking with the traditional view of cause and effect.

<descriptive rules>
YIII : “The conjecture M-Theory combines the five different string theories (along with a previously abandoned attempt to unify General Relativity and Quantum Mechanics called 11D-Supergravity) into one theory.

E. Witten predicts that all these different theories were connected. The combination is accomplished by knitting together a web of relationships between each of the string theories called dualities (specifically; S-duality, T-duality, and U-duality). 

“Nobody knows what the M might stand for” (possibilities include Magic, Mystery, Membrane and Mother). Regardless of what the M might possibly mean at the moment, as our understanding of this model is still vague, M-theory has become one of the most interesting areas of research in theoretical physics today.

Bouncing Fields (2021), Marcel Moonen©

Environmental consciousness

Most individuals will never achieve system thinking capability, in a best case they stay in the relativistic mindset, they understand there is a cause and an effect, nothing more.

M: Paper-reality

But the world is super complex; there is not one pole, one cause and then an effect follows. Take for example the stock market. Oh the price went up because there is a trade negotiation, and a conflict between China and the US that is why the stock prices went up or down, because people hope this is relativistically correct. Choosing one aspect only and explaining what happened, but there are millions of things that influence the price movement on that day.

A person who believed this simplistic thinking: 1 causes 1…

M:  Whatever you investigate, it was caused through a dimensional web of interactions.

M{Z}: System thinking firstly means you realize that the world out there is infinitely complex, never one cause, and one effect. One event influences many other events, sometimes directly, sometimes indirectly. If you are not able to think in this way, you are still in the relativistic stage.

Z: Most people today have a phonetic belief in static science (M: Instead of fluent theory) or religion, or they do not understand that their opinion is just one perspective. They argue about politics, religion and family matters they do not understand. They believe there is one single truth.

“Why don't you see the truth, you are stupid!?
Why don't you believe me? I am clever and I see the truth.”

They are not able to see that whatever they are saying, this is just their own individual perspective. There are many other perspectives, and nobody is right or wrong, everybody is following one perspective.  If you adopt the thinking that I am right and you are right from a different perspective, you will be in a much more constructive state.

Z: In a practical example I explain these three stages of thinking models. We evaluate a sales manager's performance.

Absolutist thinking means that there was a 50% drop in the sales this year compared to the previous year, so the sales manager is responsible for the drop. The sales manager was lazy, did not pay attention to the job, it is his fault; one element. You explain the result is the performance of the sales manager, it is inside the sales manager.

Relativistically thinking would involve another perspective. For example: The marketing plan was not very good, and the sales manager just implemented this, so there was a cause that had an effect in the drop of the sales.

Or maybe the product development department did not develop a new product on time, so there was nothing to sell. It is always using one, maybe two, three explanations why the sales managers performance dropped.

Y1 (2021), Marcel Moonen©

System thinking means that the drop in the sales is the impact of a lot of factors, the organization of the company as whole, but it could also incorporate the economy. But let us take the company first; the company produced less sales, not a sales manager, the company.

Maybe the marketing department impacted the sales, maybe the R&D department had a factor in impacting the sales, but maybe the top-level management made a mistake in choosing the wrong strategy, or maybe the incentive systems were set out wrongly. There are many reasons interacting with each other that contributed to the drop in sales.

This is only looking at the company from an inner perspective, but maybe the outer world perspective was a factor too. For example, the competitors developed something better, maybe the customers' need for this product dropped, maybe the company did not keep up with the quick phased changes in the world, maybe the whole economy in the region, country or the whole world changed negatively. If you look at the whole system, the whole world economy, the financial situation,  environmental consciousness, you notice that the sales drop of that company was the result of the whole world.

M{Z}: Maybe it is the interaction between the factors on itself, the structure of the connections.

Not even one company, but politics, new laws, regulations, and environmental consciousness of the customers. Everything influences in some part the outcome.  This is system thinking, not one cause or a few causes creating an effect.

Towards Prismatic Thinking [2025]

Z: This developmental model can explain a lot of things. We were born with an empty mind, we develop and first we usually go through the absolutist mindset, we are not even aware of our own mind, we become more and more aware of ourselves, but we are not aware of another person's mind. Around the age of five/six when we develop these skills, we start to understand there is another perspective.

Y: But still most people in their whole life are stuck in their own perspective.

M{Z}: They think that my perspective is evidence. No, this is evidence for you, it is not evidence for other people. Because the religious leader, the politician, or the scientist said this, they believe that they are the sole owners of the truth, there is only one truth

H{*}: This is truth!

Then some people move into relativistic thinking, they understand there are multiple perspectives, they do not start to argue because they understand this is my perspective. I understand you have a different perspective.

Z: It is also true for the whole human civilization, thousands of years ago it was basically absolutistic thinking and for around 500 years ago, in the Renaissance and the uprising of the scientific movement introduced relativistic thinking.

YIII (2021), Marcel Moonen©

This paradigm shift that everything is relativistic, it improved science, it improved technology.  Only in the last 50-100 years have we moved into the domain of system thinking. We understand that we contribute to environmental problems; the oceans moving garbage everywhere, killing plants and species with our absolute attitude. The interconnectedness of economics.

M{Z}: The interconnectedness of thoughts.

Y: And even emotions.

M{Z} = [Y]

We realise that the world is complex, and we only recently started to develop these thinking tools; AI and Machine Learning that can process huge amounts of data that humans cannot, discover solutions for problems and lead to new human insights.

Also, on the theory level, system thinking is still not mainstream, only a few people know about it. The mainstream thinking is absolutistic and relativistic. Soon, with the arrival of newer generations we will notice the impact of system thinking. Whatever we do it will have an impact, and nothing is by itself determined with one or two causes.

M{Z} = Y : Now we have jumped over the edge into prismatic thinking.

We, all humans, the environment, the animals, and the plants are all interrelated, and we must bring our thoughts into a higher domain. Technology and theory will make it possible, but it all takes time.

Prismatic Thinking All thoughts abductively interfered by Z{M}. This paper is co-authored: Explanation of the three thinking models with examples by the educator Z.  Adaptations, additional information, images and formulation; a conjecture of the prismatic model by Marcel Moonen. 06.2021 [EDUCATIONAL PURPOSE ONLY] Triple-A Society, M. Production