Gestalt Definition

An  organization or integration of components that are so interdependent , the whole is otherwise not easily described or easily summated.

  •  Most often use to describe spatial and /or temporal “phenomena”  or observable happenings..
  •  but can be used to describe  constructs and relationships.
  •   The organization or integration could graphically described as  a figure that is forming from a backround, where it remains in “contact” the ground.  That is: ” what is the gestalt” is always” in contact with “not the gestalt, globally”.

An example of a gestalt being not otherwise easy to describe or not easy summate might be   hand writing on paper and the hand eye coordination required.

  • One could study the functions of the nervous system and arm and fingers as it writes on paper.
  • One could study the visual process of the nervous system and eyes watching as one writes.

However, one could not just add the data of the  two studies  and expect to understand the interplay of hand an eye that is  involved with writing.  Instead one might treat and study hand eye coordination in writing as an integrated whole or Gestalt, because the components mention formerly are rather interdependent.

“The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.”

is the creed of gestalt psychology ( a scientific and holistic study of perception that commonly uses gestalts) and a rather striking statement.  Mathematicians familiar with calculus and  analytic geometry might take issue with the literal value of this statement.  but consider the following examples:


In this visual example  of “closure” or “reification”:  an image of a triangle will  appear to a viewer.  the visual data of a triangle(in the right image above) is only constructed with the viewers  biology (his brain, eyes,etc.) and with all the components of the image viewed as a whole.  simply adding the visual components will not produce the visual data that is the triangle.
It would seem that  the arrangement of the smaller components must be involved in producing the triangle in any equation, but this would be hard to predict without at least considering the image as an integrated whole… or gestalt.

See if you can read the following:

you slouhd be albe to read  tihs sneetnce esliay
buscease yuor mind orangiezs waht you raed itno wohles.

(to check your “translation” mouse-over the highlighted above.)

Practical Investigations with  Gestalts

A gestalt   could be an organism,  family, community,  a social movement  a widget in a visual environment on your computer, a market place in business,  a symbiotic relationship inside an ecosystem and so on.
Since some things are difficult to study internally due interdependence  of its components and properties, thinking with gestalts may be helpful.  For example one may study cultures, subcultures and social movements. by comparing and contrasting “what is not” the culture, subculture, and social movement in question.  Graphically, one defines  a gestalt  by its borders, where it interacts with “other”.
The same  comparison is also done in Gestalt therapy  ( * not the same as gestalt psychology) where a client  focus on where and how “he”, or “she”  contacts and interacts his/her  world, environments and circumstances to define him or herself.

Gestalt is a graphical interpretation, that can include approximation. It is origionally a German word to describe a form, shape,or figure. I think that it is an ugly word when spoken yet beautiful in its usefulness.


White Cloud, Blue Mountain, and Zen

“The blue mountain is the father of the white cloud. The white cloud is the son of the blue mountain. All day long they depend on each other, without becoming dependent on each other. The white cloud is always the white cloud. The blue mountain is always the blue mountain.”

Tozan, translated by Shunryu Suzuki (Zen Mind, Beginners mind.)

While Western thinkers debated through the centuries about  free will and determinism. the Zen mind found in him self  a fluid process, a relatively self autonomous being yet still interconnected to and affect by the otherness around him, embedded in his present circumstance. Always influencing and being influenced by ‘otherness” of  his world  still He is He.
A subject is a subject and his/her otherness is otherness, Yet they interconnected while being neither completely independent or dependent.

The organism and the field
breather and air
the teacher and the student
The husband and Wife.
Figure and Ground
“Heaven” and “Earth”

In a moment of  Zazen meditation one may  experience a sense of complete independence and dependence… a sense of freedom and singularity. Alluding to a metaphor of  Zusuki: one’s breathing is the swinging door between.

When one is  himself, he is at the center of is world, moment to moment he lives both relatively independent and dependent of the world. When living his active daily life that “swinging door” is often described as “Contact“.
Contact is the meeting of differences, a permeable boundary between two, a doorway to be mindful of.  Contact is also interdependence and difference, where two influence each other. From the first person point of  view, Contact is the swinging door between self (as subject) and other. When we meditate contact happens with  breathing.

In  Zen thought, one may be mindful of circumstances of when two are in opposition or when when two move together in the advantage of their harmony. One witness his  influence on his world and his worlds influence on him.  One recognize his autonomy and the world that is its own means.

video posted by Emptymindfilms.

We live in a series of “nows” one immediately after the other. Circumstances always change. The white cloud is always changing.The white cloud is always the white cloud. The Blue Mountain is always the Blue Mountain.

moon breath vibration


meditation happens anywhere and anytime.

Laying on my porch glider and enjoying the warm damp pleasant evening:
I observe the moon and the faint blue clear sky. I observe the moon. I give the lonely moon, that is evening sky, my full attention….
…until it is just my breath and the moon… then… just the moon.

The is a hoard of neighborhood  children playing outside.The sounds of laughter and yelling…and the sound of skateboards chattering against the pebbled sidewalk distracts me.

I turn my attention to my breathing, then back to the moon.
The swirling sound of the children-at-play becomes a vibration through me, proving light stirring of feeling.

A momentary interdependence arises in the lazy evening: The interdependence of The moon, vibration and breath, that fill my awareness.

ten, 20 , 30 minutes pass by, who knows… Its time to inside and make dinner.