BELL Trinity Diagram: First Draft

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Date: Thu, 20 Nov 1997 14:14:23 -0800
To: Kennexions Distribution List:;
From: Ronald Hale-Evans 
Subject: First attempt at glyphic Kennexions game


I just put up my first attempt at drawing a "glyphic" Kennexions game
instance. The game is in BELL, or Bliss-Encoded Logical Language, a way of
encoding Lojban/Loglan using Blissymbolics (also called Semantography) and
the Ogham alphabet. What I have up now is a BELL representation of the
scholasticism. As we iron out the rules for Kennexions, I hope to polish
this game into more grammatical BELL and to expand it by using kennings for
each of the three Persons of the Trinity based on the Maiden/Mother/Crone
and Brahma/Vishnu/Shiva trinities, and maybe even to make it
self-referential by bringing in the Oulipo constraint/potential/clinamen
triad I've posted about on Magister-L.

It's probably quite cryptic at the moment, but I'll explain it in depth
tonight, and probably post a pointer on ML and GBG too. Meanwhile, you can
see the glyphic diagram at

Question: aside from my rough drawing and crude scanning (I'm not very good
with the scanner yet), is it aesthetically pleasing? That is, can you
imagine someone "making an art of" rendering such a diagram
"calligraphically", as Hesse says the Castalians did, or is it unavoidably


Ron Hale-Evans...The Not Ready For Apocalypse

Mime-Version: 1.0
Date: Thu, 20 Nov 1997 15:16:06 -0800
From: Ronald Hale-Evans 
Subject: Re: First attempt at glyphic Kennexions game

At 2:31 PM -0800 11/20/97, M. Hale-Evans wrote:

>(Rearranging some pieces of the note for discussion purposes.)
>>Question: aside from my rough drawing and crude scanning (I'm not very good
>>with the scanner yet), is it aesthetically pleasing? That is, can you
>>imagine someone "making an art of" rendering such a diagram
>>"calligraphically", as Hesse says the Castalians did, or is it unavoidably
>I wouldn't say it's unavoidably ugly, but your particular drawing strikes
>me as a) trying to hard to "pretty it up", and b) overly obfuscatory, by
>which I mean the swirliness of it tends to veil the structure rather than
>bringing it out.  If I, as an artist, were to take on this subject, I
>wouldn't want to make a piece of art that was meant to distract the
>mind/eye away from the basic structure.  I wonder if you're not projecting
>your misgivings about the aesthetics of it, trying to decorate rather than
>express it?

Thanks, Marty. I worried about this too. Actually, this was a simple as I
could make it. I guess I could have made the lines straighter, but the
lines had to begin and end at particular positions on the "cartouche"
rectangles (e.g. left side, upper left corner, right side) because the
where the lines touch the cartouches has semantic value. This stems from
the fact that Lojban words have a "place structure" -- they have
"parameters" like functions in math or computer languages.

Here's what I mean: "tavla" in Lojban means "talk". But where you position
words relative to "tavla" has meaning. The more or less official definition
of "tavla" is "x1 talks to x2 about x3 in language x4." In Lojban this
looks something like "x1 tavla x2 x3 x4". So if I say "mi tavla do ti
lojban", it means "I talk to you about this in Lojban," where mi=I,
tavla=talk, do=you, ti=this, and lojban=Lojban (Logical Language). If I
said "mi tavla ti do lojban", it means "I talk to this [person] about you
in Lojban." See?

So I represent place structure in BELL by attaching the sumti (arguments)
at positions on the cartouches. Roughly:

    x1--|         |

The diagram above shows where the arguments attach to the "predicate" or
the sentence.


Ron Hale-Evans...The Not Ready For Apocalypse

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Date: Thu, 20 Nov 1997 21:24:17 -0800
From: Ronald Hale-Evans 
Subject: Re: First attempt at glyphic Kennexions game

(NOTE TO KARL: The diagram we are discussing is at

I will send you earlier posts to Kennex under separate cover.)

At 8:09 PM -0500 11/20/97, Derek Robinson wrote:

>Okay, now we've got something to chew on. First impression -- not ugly,
>maybe a bit swirly (but I like swirly, e.g. Celtic / Scythian / Oceanic

Thanks. I do too. Really the lines were mostly functional. If I could have
made it plainer, I would, and further drafts would probably be less complex
looking. As Marty said, all those swirls tend to obfuscate.

>If I had an objection it would be that the boxes [ = ] attached
>to the 3 arcs seem redundant, at least as far as this figure goes. "Whatever
>is universal can be ignored"

I would agree, except that the [ = ]s represent mekso cmavo
(mathematical-expression particles) that could just as well be [ > ] or [ < ].

>-- I think George Spencer Brown said this (his
>"Laws of Form" another stab at a bead game perhaps, though finally
>incomprehensible, at least to me).

I finally managed to get through it. Paradoxically, the hard part is the
"simple" stuff at the beginning. It's quite brilliant, really -- the
mathematical equivalent of "From the Tao came the one, from the one came
the two, from the two came the three, and from the three came the Ten
Thousand Things."


> Here all 3 links are doing the same
>thing, so I would question whether the directed arcs really require
>annotation beyond the tail / head (source / sink) distinction. Also, not
>knowing Blissymbolics or Lojban (and why do I always want to read that as
>'logjam'? ;-), the [ = ] says "equals", which goes against the one-way-ness
>of the relations depicted.

Well, the arrows don't really show directional _relations_; they're meant
to show syntax, i.e. the way the "sentence" is to be read. You follow the
arrows. So "x1 du x2" means "x1 = x2", and while it is _mathematically_
true that this implies "x2 = x1", since equality is commutative or
whatever, it is not a fact of Lojban _grammar_, which is what the arrows
are showing. Is this a flaw?

Sigh. It's true that I couldn't quite capture the elegance of the diagram
in Latin, which looks like this, and has, one might say, NO grammatical

                   PATER -- NON EST -- FILIUS
                     \ \_            _/  /
                      \   EST     EST   /
                       NON  \    /    NON
                       EST   DEUS     EST
                         \     |     /
                          \   EST   /
                           \   |   /
                            \  |  /

See also this link ("The Trinitarian
Game") at Charles's website, which was the inspiration for this little

>On the other hand, the ogham strokes affixed to the arcs seems a very
>natural way to 'qualify' or 'quantify' the meaning of the relations.

Thank you. I'm pretty proud of the idea. I was despairing over having to
come up with hundreds of abstract hatch marks for the lines to represent
all the different cmavo, and wondering if I could get the markings to bear
any semantic weight, when I realised I had a ready-made system in Ogham. It
completely fits in with the Kennexions philosophy of OOBOTS -- Out Of the
Box, Off The Shelf. We are playing with "the total contents of culture", as
Hesse said, so why reinvent the wheel? Grab objectivated elements from
culture and adapt them to Kennexions.

>I liked the echo between the top stick-figure and the lower left 'double
>caret' figure. Not knowing the intended ('literal') sense of the figure, I
>read it as "as above, so below" or "little, big" -- a sense of a sheltering
>mountain above a small tent, or a recursively nested series of
>selves-in-selves (or 'thinking about myself thinking about myself thinking
>...') -- but in any case the upper 'stick-figure' glyph then gets a dual
>reading, as 'human' but also as 'above & below connected by a path', which I
>find a pleasing visual pun. Of course this is an idiosyncratic
>interpretation, and it overlooks the third glyph entirely. Also, I don't
>have a legend or code-book to tell me what the intended / correct meanings
>of the figures are.
>Ron -- what ARE the meanings of the glyphs, stroke by stroke?

OK. Here goes. Brivla counterclockwise from top (I've already gone over the

1) Calling this a stick figure under a tent is pretty close to the mark.
Actually it represents a man under a roof -- roughly, "domestic man":
FATHER. This Blissymbol stands for the Lojban "patfu".

2) Two little legs under a roof: "domestic boy": SON. In Lojban: bersa.

3) This is a lujvo, or compound brivla. You see there are two smaller
rectangular cartouches within a single enclosing cartouche. In the first
sub-cartouche, we see a heart and a triangle. The heart means "feeling" in
Bliss, and the triangle means "Nature" or "Creation". Bliss compounds are
normally read from right to left (in BELL this only holds WITHIN a single
cartouche), so heart-triangle means Nature/Creation-feeling, or what we
feel when we regard the majesty of Nature: "awe". In the next sub-cartouche
we see three stacked semicircles, open downwards. A semicircle of this sort
is derived from the shape of the skull and means "brain," "mind", or
"thought" -- something like that. Three stacked up mean "soul" or "spirit."
So reading from left to right we have AWE-FULL SPIRIT, or HOLY SPIRIT. In
Lojban: censa pruxi or "cesru'i" for short.

4) In the center we have a triangle with a dotted circle in the center.
This is meant to be a simplified version of the "Illuminati"
eye-in-the-triangle, as it appears, e.g. on the back of a US dollar bill. I
use this to represent the Lojban "jegvo", or "Jehovist
(Jewish/Christian/Muslim) God", or, generally, a personal God.

Clear? You were warm above when you were guessing about the meaning of the
"patfu" glyph -- the Bliss is certainly easier to recognise and maybe
remember than all those Lojban words.

>Would it be appropriate to raise the question of personal interpretation,
>and ambiguity, vis a vis the ambition of Lojban to provide a presumably
>unambiguous 'logical language'?

Yes. Actually, this would fall under the heading of "clinamen atomorum" in
Oulipo theory, which I have largely adopted: the "swerving of the atoms" or
allowable deviation in formal art such as the GBG. For example, in
Kennexions, clinamen can enter through the fact that BELL does not
translate into Lojban 1:1 -- word order can vary, some cmavo are optional,
and so on. Emphasis can also be placed on words when pronouncing the Lojban
in a liturgical presentation (and there is often more than one way to
pronounce a Lojban sentence). BELLEs (BELL Expressions) can be drawn more
or less calligraphically, etc. Non-Bliss symbols (alchemical or
astrological ones, for example) can be used inside special cartouches at
the scriptor's discretion. And so on.

I really began to understand clinamen better when listening over and over
to Glenn Gould's classic recording of the Goldberg Variations while working
on Kennexions. Bach is so pure and formal, and when Gould plays the
Variations, his clinamen does not consist of altering the _values_ (pitches
or meanings) of the notes, but rather their _emphasis_ (speed and
duration). Clinamen is among other things a matter of inflection, style,
and tempo.

Just so, a formal work like the GBG need not be formally flawed for a
"human" element to enter in, just loose enough to let the sun shine through
the kinks.

That Sun is the Tao: what Christopher Alexander calls "the Quality Without
A Name" or QWAN. More on this later.


p.s. You guys have given me a three-step process for the book: first mail
out notes to you and respond to comments, then patch all the related
messages into one long message and send it to Magister-L, then paste it
into appropriate places in my manuscript and polish it. Before I only did
the last two steps, and I never got any feedback. Without feedback, mammals
do dumb things like walk down manholes. I am really grateful you guys are
here to consult and work with!

Ron Hale-Evans...The Not Ready For Apocalypse

Mime-Version: 1.0
Date: Fri, 21 Nov 1997 20:53:19 -0800
To: Kennexions Distribution List:;
From: Ronald Hale-Evans 
Subject: KENNEX: Shall we play?

It occurred to me tonight after talking with Marty that it needs to be made
clear that the "Trinity game" I have been sketching out is a _game
instance_ of Kennexions, not an intrinsic part of Kennexions itself. You
can play Kennexions using an infinite variety of kennings and BELL diagrams
-- the Trinity diagram is only one possibility.

We talked about learning styles tonight too. Marty prefers a structured,
top-down presentation of material, whereas I tend to dip in and skim here
and there in something I am trying to learn. This has led to my presenting
Kennexions material so far in a very scattered way. This may not be to the
liking of everyone on the list. (Also, Kennexions is like a half-built
skyscraper; I can't give you a top-down tour when there are floors missing.)

So barring a structured presentation of material, it seems like the best
way to learn about Kennexions (and to develop it at the same time!) is to
devise our own game instances. You've seen the one I'm working on at the
moment. Marty told me tonight she's been thinking about doing a game based
on LIFEHOUSE, an unfinished  rock opera by Pete Townshend, who also wrote
TOMMY. I thought this was interesting partly because Gail used TOMMY as a
move in a Hipbone game on ML during the games festival a few months ago.

Another possibility Marty and I came up with together is a Kennexions game
based on MY FAIR LADY. For example,

  Henry Higgins          Eliza Dolittle
 ---------------  ::   -------------------
  Pygmalion              Galatea

is a perfectly good kenning analogy and could provide the basis for an
interesting game instance. You don't need to know BELL to start playing the
game. You can do a first approximation in English.

What do you think? Do you have any ideas for game instances you can develop
as part of the learning curve and development process?


p.s. Is anyone interested in copies of the manuscript of my book? I can
email it in MS-Word 6 format to whoever wants it.

Ron Hale-Evans...The Not Ready For Apocalypse

Mime-Version: 1.0
Date: Tue, 25 Nov 1997 17:57:19 -0800
To: (Steven R. Cranmer),,
From: Ronald Hale-Evans 
Subject: Re: KENNEX:  Misc comments

At 4:27 PM -0500 11/25/97, Steven R. Cranmer wrote:

>Hi everyone,
>I don't think I've sent anything to KENNEX since Ron's big weekend-posts
>about the Bliss/Trinity iconography -- a lot is being talked about!!
>(Maybe too much for me to keep up on, since my primary Internet access
>is at work, and time is short these days.  You guys might not know that
>the Spartan satellite that the shuttle has been grappling with since
>last week, was partially built by our group at CfA, and we've been doing
>lots of "PR overtime" trying to keep up with it all...)

Cool! (Whatever you can do, Steve.)

>I like the visual look of the Bliss/Trinity diagram, and understand the
>need for the "wavyness" of the lines as a consequence of the Lojban

Thanks. Actually, I have a much-simplified Bliss/Trinity diagram that I
have yet to scan and put up on the Web. It's not so wavy and crazy-looking.

Actually, I can see now that a lot of the clinamen for a scriptor (someone
who actually sketches out a game on paper or onscreen) has to do with
getting the BELL diagram as clean and simple as possible, so it's easier to
see what's what.

>My question about the Trinity diagram
>is:  will actual KENNINGS be derived from it, and expressed in the same
>"visual language" as well?

Well, my intention is not that kennings will be derived FROM it, but
grafted ONTO it. That is, FATHER might become MALE-MOTHER (e.g., off the
top of my head), which might become.... who knows? There lies the potential.

Plans are in progress to expand the Trinity diagram with other "trinities"
like Maiden/Mother/Crone, Brahma/Vishnu/Shiva, and
Potential/Constraint/Clinamen, but I am taking very seriously Marty's
charge that I may be guilty of bad scholarship and co-opting/distorting the
mythic structure of other cultures.

>I do have some questions for Ron about
>what he envisions for...
>(1) the possible types of moves in Kennexions,
>    (So far we've seen two main types, I think:  (a) the establishment
>     or definition of a kenning, and (b) the expansion of one fourth of
>     a kenning with another nested kenning.  But is anything else possible,
>     structurally?

Yes, indeed. As I see at at this point, each move in a game is sort of like
a game in miniature, so that a game instance has a sort of fractal
structure. *Elements* of a game move would include defining kennings,
expanding kennexions, sketching out part of the BELL diagram,
intoning/chanting a "path" through the kennexion graph (e.g. "patfu na du
bersa") and translating it into the "vernacular" for the communicants (in
this case, "the Father is not the Son"), programmed meditations upon the
kennexion (inscriptio) in question or other relevant parts of the emblem
(the pictura or subscriptio), dance, and who knows what else? There has
never yet been a true Kennexions ceremony, so we don't know quite what
we're in for. Since a game move is a pattern in the pattern language, and
in a pattern language there are optional as well as mandatory elements,
every move and every game can incorporate different elements (game objects)
at the will of the auctor(s).

>  Can one player counter or challenge the move of another?

This is not part of my vision of the game. I have never liked the
competitive nature of Hipbone games. However, within the *social structure*
of Kennexions, there is plenty of room for competition of a sort, as I see
it: for example, politicking to get one's own favourite rules/patterns
adopted in the rule set, as for example, in such other games as Nomic or
the House of Representatives. :-) Also however, I can see a sort of move
that might appear from a certain perspective to be competitive, but would
be more along the lines of counterpoint in a fugue.

>     Can the ever-expanding "trees" of kennings be "pruned", or split into
>     distinct parts by taking "cuttings"?  Are tables-of-correspondences
>     going to be built into this move-structure, or are they only for
>     reference in creating individual kennings?

Brilliant questions, Steve. Why don't you try answering them? :-)

Seriously, that's why I asked you on board, because after seeing your post
way back last year that showed the tabular expansion of a kenning analogy
(the "psychedelic = psychedelic" one), I knew that you would have all kinds
of innovative approaches to possible game moves. I am definitely going to
be chweing over your ideas of "pruning", "taking cuttings" (and what about
the possibility of "grafting" cuttings on?!) and how tables-of-c can be
*built into* the game as opposed to just providing KENNIN' FODDER (heh
heh). Maybe you can too, and we can compare notes. It has been said that
brainstorming works best when members of a group do it separately, then
compare results.

>(2) the "goal" of an individual game of Kennexions.
>    (Aside from winning/losing, even Charles Cameron's most collaborative
>     and non-competitive Hipbone games do have a goal:  to fill up the
>     board.  Will there be some "empty" kenning-superstructures to choose
>     from, along these lines?  Or will the "goals" not be tied to any
>     specific patterns of kennings?
>     This issue of "goals" is probably not a critical one if games are
>     to be constructed as art-forms, e.g., Terrence Macnamee's liturgies.
>     But I think that having some constraints around (to keep the eyes on
>     the prize, as it were) is useful to keep games from wandering off
>     into la-la land...  :) )

Another excellent question. As I see it, the goal of transfinite games like
Nomic and Kennexions is simply to continue play and to grow (see Carse's
_Finite and Infinite Games_). And I like Terrence's approach to liturgical
games, and would like to do something similar in Kennexions. But! without
constraint to prune the tree, as it were, unrestrained growth in Kennexions
would probably result in something like what happens with unrestrained
cellular growth: something ugly and cancerous. So I think you're right; we
need some kind of _restraint_, some kind of _governor_ to keep the flywheel
from spinning so fast it snaps off and kills bystanders.

As I see it, the Glass Bead Game is not really a game, not really an
artform, not really a spiritual or intellectual exercise, but something
_sui generis_ that combines elements of all of these with its own unique
patterns. So if it is not really a game, but has gamelike elements, the
question is open as to whether a particular game has a finite goal or not.
If Kennexions is a transfinite game, then I don't see how it can have a
finite goal (how do you win it?) and remain a transfinite game. But it's
worth thinking about.... And if we don't have goals, what kind of
constraints can we have that will keep the game from spiralling out of

Here's an idea: what if one of the main constraints is to produce LIVING,
viable games, in the same way that C. Alexander's Pattern Language produces
"living architecture"? I have in mind a "critic" or "judge" lusor role
who/which comments on the game ("9, 9.5, 8! The judges liked that move!")
and "measures" the degree of "illumination" or QWAN (Quality Without a
Name, sort of a taoistic beauty) that the game instance lets shine through.
The units of this cale of QWAN would be called, of course, _qwanta_.

(I'm encouraging Marty to read _The Timeless Way of Building_, the "Pattern
Language manifesto". Derek already has, I take it. Steve, I recommend you
read it too, and tackle _A Pat Lang_ if you feel up to it. They're both
beautiful books. Tonight I will provide URLs for a sort of patlang FAQ that
tells you a lot of what you need to know about patlangs, if not QWAN, even
if you decide not to read the books.)

Derek, since you presumably know about QWAN, I anticipate your objections
that one should not try to measure it. My response is this: Alexander talks
about buildings that are "dead", "living", and partly alive. That in itself
provides a simple scale of qwanta from 0 to 2, or say, 0%, 50%, and 100%.
So a qwantum scale is possible in principle, though in practice, it may be
hard to make fine distinctions.

>Whew!  Sorry Ron, don't feel like you have to address all this at once --
>or even at all!!  :)   I just wanted to throw out a few ideas that might
>be worth thinking about if we're getting close to constructing actual games
>of Kennexions.

Hey, Steve and guys, never, never feel guilty that you're posting a lot to
KENNEX. Right now I'm between programming contracts and have a lot of time,
and anyway, this is my single main project. I guarantee that it will be
very hard to overwhelm me with input. I'm grateful for every drop! If it
ever does get overwhelming, we will assemble a Kennexions Council to take
over many of the functions of the overwhelmed gamemaster, yours truly.

I look forward to that day, because it will mean that Kennexions has
achieved its own momentum of sorts, has its own goals and purposes, and is
now a living thing that is no longer within my control.


p.s. Derek, still mulling over your objections to Lojban. Will reply soon.

Ron Hale-Evans
Founder, Center for Ludic Synergy
Gamemaster, Kennexions
Charter Member, Bamboo Garden of Seattle

Kennexions GBG | Center for Ludic Synergy

Ron Hale-Evans

Last modified: 23 September 1999