Prime Time Replay:

Mathematician Louis H. Kauffman
on the "Pattern" revealed to Lynnclaire Dennis during her near-death experience

MsgId: *high_strangeness(5)
Date: Tue Apr 8 22:04:15 PDT 1997
From: Moderator At:

Hello, everyone! Welcome to High Strangeness on Prime Time Live. My name is Patrick Huyghe and I will be the moderator this evening. We are very happy to have as our guest Louis H. Kauffman, a professor of mathematics at the University of Illinois in Chicago. Dr. Kauffman will be discussing his work on "The Pattern." What is The Pattern?

On January 15, 1987 a woman named Lynnclaire Dennis lost consciousness while aboard a hot-air balloon over the Austrian Alps. During the near-death experience that followed she witnessed at the end of a tunnel of light the incredible beauty of a highly dynamic and luminous structure. It took Dennis four years to fully recall the archetypal pattern that had been revealed to her during her near death experience. The Pattern, as she calls it, appears to fascinate scientists, psychologists, mathematicians and spiritual leaders. (You can see The Pattern at One of the people fascinated by The Pattern is Dr. Kauffman, who has been studying knot theory and topology for the past 30 years. Dr. Kauffman, tell us how you first became aware of The Pattern and why did it interest you?

MsgId: *high_strangeness(8)
Date: Tue Apr 8 22:09:03 PDT 1997
From: Lou At:

The Pattern (with a capital P) refers to the vison that Lynnclaire Dennis had in a near death experience, and to the geometric and topological forms that she retrieved in the course of remembering her experience. I will describe those forms shortly, but first I should say that for me the Pattern also represents a rich symbol of fundamental process. Gregory Bateson said "The Pattern that connects is a Pattern of Patterns." Lynnclaire's Pattern is a representative pattern in the Pattern that connects and in a sense it is The Pattern that connects.
MsgId: *high_strangeness(9)
Date: Tue Apr 8 22:11:09 PDT 1997
From: Moderator At:

You make it sound like it is a pretty important pattern among patterns!
MsgId: *high_strangeness(10)
Date: Tue Apr 8 22:12:46 PDT 1997
From: Lou At:

Oh! I started to answer a rhetorical question that you posed in your introductory remarks. No matter! I was intorduced to the Pattern through an e-mail that Lynnclaire sent to the evl (electronic visualisation lab) at UIC (University of Illinois at Chicago). She said that she had a significant pattern and wanted to discuss it. We exchanged e-mail and I saw the pictures on her web page.
MsgId: *high_strangeness(11)
Date: Tue Apr 8 22:13:38 PDT 1997
From: Moderator At:

Now why did you find it so interesting?
MsgId: *high_strangeness(12)
Date: Tue Apr 8 22:15:11 PDT 1997
From: Lou At:

It interested me initially because it showed a knotted loop in a beautiful configuration. Professionally , I am a knot theorist.
MsgId: *high_strangeness(13)
Date: Tue Apr 8 22:15:54 PDT 1997
From: Moderator At:

How would a mathematician describe The Pattern seen by Lynnclair Dennis in her near death experience? Is it a knot?
MsgId: *high_strangeness(14)
Date: Tue Apr 8 22:19:44 PDT 1997
From: Lou At:

The picture of the knot on Lynnclaire's web page looked like a Lissajous figure. That is it looks like a pattern traced out by a point that vibrates with frequency two in one direction and frequency three in a perpendicular direction. I have always been intrigued with curves traced out by periodic vibrations. I wondered if the Pattern knot could be described by a further vibration in the third dimension. However, I knew a theorem that precludes this particular knot from having a pure frequency in that direction.
MsgId: *high_strangeness(15)
Date: Tue Apr 8 22:21:16 PDT 1997
From: Moderator At:

How are knots, and The Pattern, a "vibration"?
MsgId: *high_strangeness(16)
Date: Tue Apr 8 22:22:37 PDT 1997
From: Lou At:

Lets pause for a moment, as we are crossing messages. Yes there is a knot in the Pattern. It is topologically a simple overhand knot. But in the Pattern the knot is seen in a more complex picture that the usual picture of the overhand knot. The picture shows a weave that is not just alternating over-under-over-under...

Well, we do not do too badly with crossed messages! Knots and weaves are all about the strands crossing over and under one another. It is worth remarking that many mythological and artistic symbols use knots (Celtic weaves, mandalas, Buddhist knot,...). These knots and weaves always seem to alternate. By using a non-alternating version of the trefoil knot (in projection) the Pattern allows roon for the central sphere about which it forms an orbit.

MsgId: *high_strangeness(18)
Date: Tue Apr 8 22:28:28 PDT 1997
From: Moderator At:

Yes. Elsewhere you said that The Pattern consists in a form of overhand knot, which you call a trefoil, surrounding a central sphere, actually a polyhedral like a Bucky Fuller dome. Is this correct?
MsgId: *high_strangeness(19)
Date: Tue Apr 8 22:32:53 PDT 1997
From: Lou At:

You ask how the Pattern is a vibration. I think that vibration is very important for the metaphor of process. We all have our stories and intuitions about the creative process, whether it be the creation by a human being of a work of art or science or it be the emergence of form in the universe. All these descriptions involve the emergence of form from void , or opposites from one another. All involve the emergence of opposites that are part of a unity: A unity of opposites.

In the Pattern the opposites are the inner and outer spheres woven togehter by the knot that is not really a material knot but rather a pattern of energetic interaction between the spheres - a vibration that holds them together and highlights them at the same "time". I put time in quotes, as we are talking about a Pattern that is prior to time as we know it.

MsgId: *high_strangeness(21)
Date: Tue Apr 8 22:35:50 PDT 1997
From: Moderator At:

What do you think of the near death experience of Lynnclaire Dennis in which she saw this Pattern? Do you know if others have seen this pattern before? Have you seen anything like it before?
MsgId: *high_strangeness(23)
Date: Tue Apr 8 22:48:16 PDT 1997
From: Moderator At:

Dr. Kauffman is experiencing a server problem. He'll be back with us in a moment. I should add here that Lynnclaire Dennis has written a book on the subject called The Pattern. It is available at bookstores or by calling 1-800-575-1612. Also check out The Pattern web site at: And check out Dr. Kauffman's web page at:
MsgId: *high_strangeness(24)
Date: Tue Apr 8 22:52:13 PDT 1997
From: Lou At:

I am back.

I have not personally experienced a vision akin to Lynnclaire's experience. However, I believe that we all have rich inner experience of dynamic geometry that is often hard to express even to ourselves. Mathematics is a way to slowly tease out the strands of this experience. Lately we can accelerate some of this with the help of computers. All these are techniques to stimulate imagination, reason and intuition. The key inquiry is the question of the relation of the apparently internal and the apparently external worlds of experience.

MsgId: *high_strangeness(27)
Date: Tue Apr 8 22:57:15 PDT 1997
From: Moderator At:

You have been researching this Pattern over the past year. What have you learned about it?
MsgId: *high_strangeness(28)
Date: Tue Apr 8 23:08:59 PDT 1997
From: Lou At:

On February 3, 1997 (my birthday) I discovered that the trefoil knot CAN be represented by pure frequency two, pure frequency three and a mixture of frequencies five and three (for the three directions in space). This vibratory pattern gives a good approximation to the shape of Lynnclaire's Pattern knot. This is neat,because it also answers the question how to represent the trefoil in a "Fourier" way (remember that it cannot happen with three pure frequencies).

We are now looking at this representation in the CAVE a virtual reality facility here are uic. Your can dance with these images. In collaboration with Lynnclaire, my wife Diane and Bill Becker ( a Professor here in Design) we have found representatives for the inner and outer spheres as subdivided octahedron and icosahedron respectively and a way to weave the knot in between. This leads to many questions of relationship of the form of the Patern with matheamtics, physics and design.

MsgId: *high_strangeness(30)
Date: Tue Apr 8 23:10:22 PDT 1997
From: Moderator At:

I'm afraid that we've run out of time. Thank you, Dr. Kauffman for a delightful interview. We urge everyone to visit Dr. Kauffman's web page at to keep up with his work on The Pattern. For High Strangeness, this is Patrick Huyghe. Goodnight!

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