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Diagram Concrete Facilitator.htm Emotion Confidence Contributor Teacher Mercy Server Perceiver Abstract Analytical Associative

Listen to an audio explanation of the diagram. Try the Cognitive Style Test.

Peer-Reviewed Articles

I have published two short articles in academia letters. This is a brand new journal, but it is peer-reviewed. The first article describes the methodology used by mental symmetry by comparing it with image stacking, which is a method of increasing the resolution of some image by ‘stacking’ a number of fuzzy pictures of that image. The second article discusses the concept of theoretical emotion. Using the language of mental symmetry, Teacher thought evaluates theories emotionally, guided by feelings of order-within-complexity. These are short articles, so read them if you want to know more. The first article made it up to the top 1% of academia letter articles while the second article went up to the top 0.1%.


NEW: A 28 page academic paper has been uploaded to researchgate, which uses mental symmetry to analyze a number of second language acquisition (SLA) theories. This is a carefully researched article that discusses both the cognitive and social aspects of SLA as well as using mental symmetry as a framework for neurological research on linguistics.


A 150 page academic paper has been uploaded to researchgate, which uses mental symmetry to analyze most of the basic elements of micro- and macroeconomics. And when one takes a cognitive perspective, then an extensive parallel emerges between macroeconomics and academia.


An updated analysis of neurology has been turned into an academic paper that is 85 pages long with about 180 references, which has been uploaded to researchgate. This paper began as an update to the webpage on neurology. That webpage was originally written back in 2011 and there have been a lot of new findings since then. A 70 page updated analysis of neurology was added as an appendix to Natural Cognitive Theology in 2015, but that information was not available on this website. About 400 neurological papers were examined for this update, and the expanded webpage quotes from about 150 papers, most of them published in 2015 or later. A more recent 42 page academic paper with about 140 references looks at the role played by the ventromedial prefrontal cortex in the mental networks that define culture, identity, paradigms, and ideology. And the academic paper on linguistics mentioned above also looks at the neurology of linguistics.

Cognitive Prophecy

NEW: An academic paper has just been finished that analyzes the Trinity and incarnation from a cognitive perspective and uses this as a framework for the prophetic analyses of Matthew and Luke. A two part 550 page essay on Luke 1-12 interprets the Gospel of Luke as a detailed prophecy of Western civilization. The Gospel of Matthew was previously interpreted as a detailed prophecy of Western civilization. That essay is 800 pages long and has been divided into four parts. These essays are so unusual that a new term is required to describe them. They combine a cognitive analysis of a Gospel with a cognitive survey of Western civilization. For those who are unfamiliar with Biblical prophecy, this depth and rigor of analysis is unprecedented because these two essays contain about twenty times as much detail as any other book on Biblical prophecy. I should emphasize that this analysis uses the same methodology that I have used for all my cognitive analysis—both secular and religious. Going further, Revelation 4-11 has been re-analyzed in the light of the Gospel of Matthew and appears to describe similar events at the same level of historical detail. This supporting evidence is in a 170 page essay. And the same sequence starting with the Enlightment can be found in Daniel 11-12, which is discussed in a 130 page essay. I should add that these essays make rational sense purely as a cognitive analysis of Western history—when looking at what is our past but would have been the future for the original authors. And a 380 page essay on Acts 1-12 extends this to the near future. These essays total about 2000 pages of historical and prophetic analysis that goes phrase by phrase through the biblical text in the original language. Spoiler: It appears that some transition is about happen, but scripture does not support the concept of a Rapture in which God magically removes Bible-believing humans from earth and then rains judgment upon modern technological society.

Science and Theology

A 42 page paper with 120 references on mental networks and theoretical (Teacher) emotion has been uploaded to Academia. The first part of the paper shows that mental networks provide an integrated explanation for the function of the ventromedial prefrontal cortex and applies this to concepts of self and Theory of Mind. The second part combines the idea of theoretical emotion with mental networks to explain paradigms, ideologies, and sweeping statements as well as mysticism, theology, fundamentalism, and associated concepts of God. This paper focuses upon the emotional side of social interaction and religion.

An 86 page academic paper has been uploaded to researchgate, which presents an integrated explanation of scientific thought and theology. The goal of this paper is to reformulate the core doctrines of evangelical Christianity in a manner that is consistent with scientific thought. In addition, a sample analysis of two passages from the essay on Matthew is included in a form that is academically rigorous.

Cognitive Theology

My recent focus has been analyzing books of the New Testament from a cognitive perspective. I have discovered that it is possible to use the theory of mental symmetry to analyze entire books at a verse by verse level, looking at the original Greek, and including the symbolism. I have come to the conclusion that the Bible should not be viewed as a holy book but rather as a technically accurate textbook of cognitive development. The following Biblical passages and books have now been analyzed: the Gospel of Matthew, Matthew 24 and parallel passages, the Gospel of John, Acts 1-12, 1 Corinthians, 2 Corinthians, 1 Thessalonians, 2 Thessalonians, the book of Hebrews, 1 John, 1 Peter, 2 Peter, and the Revelation of John. These essays total 3000 pages and cover over half of the New Testament, including all of the passages that are considered to be prophetic. One can see the progress that has been made by comparing the more simplistic earlier essays with the more detailed later essays. In essence, this analysis establishes a new field of Cognitive Theology as well as a totally new field of Cognitive Prophecy.

Family History

My grandfather I. P. Friesen took a trip to Ottoman Palestine in 1910 and wrote a book called Meine Reise nach Palästina about his Cook's Tour of the Mediterranean and Europe. His younger brother H. P. Friesen was accused in 1924 of stealing $5000 from Henry Braun, a Russian Mennonite immigrant. He wrote a book called Fangs of Bolshevism about the five year long Friesen-Braun trials in which he was eventually exonerated. Neither of these books are available on the Internet. Therefore, in order to preserve family history, I have digitized and uploaded copies of both of these books.

Site Index

Much of the information on this website is buried in long essays. Therefore, I have put together a site index with links to all of the topics and Bible passages discussed on this website. This page also includes an index to the topics and Bible verses discussed in Natural Cognitive Theology and God, Theology & Cognitive Modules.


Mental symmetry is a meta-theory of human cognition based in cognitive styles that uses analogy to examine the mechanisms driving human thought and behavior. Translating this into English:

  • A meta-theory is a general theory that ties together other theories. Currently, my main method of research is to examine the theories of others and explain their findings in terms of mental symmetry.
  • My topic is cognition. In other words, when I examine the theories of others, I try to understand why they are thinking the way that they do and decipher what is happening under the surface within their minds.
  • I use analogy to evaluate theories and concepts. Whenever a person performs some activity or builds some theory, the mind is being used. A person cannot do or think anything without using his mind. Therefore, it should be possible to discover the structure of the mind by comparing how people think and act in different contexts.
  • My goal is to discover mechanisms and not just describe behavior or pose questions. This focus upon 'how does it work' is a result of my engineering background. I suggest that a search for general mechanisms makes it possible to combine theory and practice. If similar cognitive mechanisms show up everywhere, then one has discovered a general theory. But, if this theory describes how the mind functions, then it is possible to use this understanding to reprogram the mind so that it functions in a better manner, something that is eminently practical.
  • Finally, what holds everything together is the diagram of mental symmetry shown above. It is fairly simple and does not contain any complicated math (though both books use this model to explain core cognitive mechanisms behind math).

If you are a beginner to the theory of mental symmetry, I suggest starting with A Programmer's Guide to the Mind, which I wrote back in 1997. Even though it is slightly out of date, it still gives a good introduction to a number of basic concepts and is written at a fairly basic level. The book is also available in five sections on this website and can be accessed from the Psychology page. The intermediate student may want a comprehensive summary of the theory.

If all of this seems too complicated, then it is possible to approach this topic simply in terms of cognitive styles. Mental symmetry divides the mind into seven cognitive modules. Every person has a whole mind with all seven cognitive modules, but each cognitive style appears to be conscious in one of these seven cognitive modules. For instance, the Mercy person is conscious in the Mercy module. Therefore, if one wants to know how a cognitive module functions, one can observe the behavior of a person with the corresponding cognitive style. For more information about cognitive styles, click on the various sections of the diagram above.

Links to all my latest material can be found on the forum page where comments and questions can be posted.

Printed Book

In 2015 I published a book entitled Natural Cognitive Theology, which can be purchased on This is a book of systematic theology that presents an integrated explanation about fundamental topics such as God, religion, personal salvation, and human existence. The very concept of theology has become discredited in most circles today. However, I suggest that emphasizing spirituality while ignoring theology is like following technology while ignoring science; in the same way that technology is the fruit of science, so I suggest that spirituality is the fruit of theology.

New Book

This book presents a cognitive theology that is based in how the mind works. N.T. Wright claims that Christianity is unique in being the only religion that is based in theology. If one starts with the theory of mental symmetry, then the system of systematic theology that emerges is consistent in detail with biblical Christian theology. Mental symmetry also provides an explanation for religious practice in general as well as the different variants of Christianity. Finally, the theory of mental symmetry is natural--in several ways. First, it is consistent with cognitive mechanisms that have been discovered by researchers. Second, it is consistent in detail with the latest findings of neurology, a claim that is backed up by a 70 page summary that quotes from almost 100 recent neurological papers, most published in 2010 and later. Third, if one uses the theory of mental symmetry to analyze how the mind integrates general abstract understanding with concrete personal existence, then this matches in detail with the way in which both math and science can be used to describe the natural world, as well as the description of incarnation that is found in the Bible.

For those who have the book and are looking at the website, you will find a lot of supplemental material here. The book refers only peripherally to personality traits, so I suggest clicking on various words on the diagram above for more information. Make sure that you also click on the sublinks that are on those pages.

Recent Work

2012: The 490 page book God, Theology & Cognitive Modules was published, which is available on Amazon.

One of the primary results of this book was extending the model of mental symmetry to the TESOL field, in collaboration with Angelina Van Dyke. TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) ties in very well with mental symmetry because students are experiencing major personal transformations in both linguistics and culture. Angelina Van Dyke and I presented a paper at the Canadian national TESL conference in 2012.

2013: An updated version of the cognitive model was presented at the BC TEAL 2013 conference. In addition, we wrote a paper that uses the theory of mental symmetry to analyze Slobin’s prerequisites for grammar acquisition, Thomas Kuhn’s paradigms, Lakoff and Johnson’s metaphors, O’Donnell’s Community of Practice, Grice’s implicature, Arundale’s politeness theory, Culhane’s cultural model, Norton’s identity and power struggles, Habermas’ societal stages, Love and Guthrie’s cognitive development, Higgin’s possible selves, Dornyei’s motivational research, and Pollock’s Third Culture Kids.

My summer project for 2013 was to put together the framework of a systematic natural theology by examining different branches of Christianity from a cognitive perspective. Please click on the Christianity tab for more details.

2014: Angelina Van Dyke and I gave a presentation using mental symmetry to explain core aspects of both TESOL and Christianity at the CELT 2014 conference, where we attempted to guide an unsuspecting audience through a double paradigm shift in two hours. A paper was also written describing this material.

2015: A paper summarizing the CELT presentation was delivered at the Pacific Northwest AAR (American Academy of Religion) regional conference.

The 448 page book Natural Cognitive Theology was released and is available on This is a total rewrite of the volume released in 2012, which presents a systematic theology based entirely in the theory of mental symmetry, with extensive quotes from other researchers and biblical passages, as well as 70 pages on the latest neurology.

The papers and the PowerPoint slides from the presentations can all be downloaded from my academia page. I have added a 16 page written explanation to accompany the 2013 PowerPoint. I have also added a 55 page essay on Third Culture Kids as well as a 65 page essay on Language and Power, the book that helped start the approach known as critical discourse analysis.

2016: A logically coherent, integrated system of eschatology was developed using the theory of mental symmetry to analyze several books of the New Testament. Three videos on the book of Revelation have been posted as well as 420 pages of material on the books of Revelation (part 2), 1 Corinthians, 1 John, Matthew 24, 1 Thessalonians, and 2 Thessalonians. The biblical analysis is a verse-by-verse study that looks at the original Greek text, guided by cognitively natural symbology. This analysis leads to the concept of an intelligent God guiding human society to mental wholeness, which is quite different than the typical Protestant concept of a vengeful God wreaking physical havoc upon the world during a Great Tribulation while Christians escape to heaven.

2017: The cognitive analysis of the New Testament was continued, leading to a 300 page essay on the Gospel of John, and a 400 page essay on the book of Hebrews. The essay on John presents an integrated view of Christology while the essay on Hebrews adds extensive details to the timeline of eschatology.

2018: A paper was presented at the Canadian CSCA Conference. The presentation can be viewed on YouTube and the presentation notes are also available.


The CELT 2014 presentation was recorded and can be viewed on YouTube here and here. For those who want a more detailed explanation, I have added several hours of unscripted narration to the CELT 2014 PowerPoint. The links to these seven videos can be found on the TESOL page.

Seven additional videos are on YouTube. These are all scripted, narrated PowerPoint presentations. The first four introduce basic principles of mental symmetry: Two concepts of God, Identity and mental networks, Truth and Belief, and Mysticism. The last three videos present a new interpretation of the book of Revelation as a single, connected, rational sequence of cognitive steps based in cognitively natural symbology: Revelation 4-9 part A, part B, and Revelation 10 - 20.

Back in 2006, I gave a two-hour introductory seminar on cognitive styles to some friends in Jerusalem. I have posted this seminar in two parts to YouTube. Unfortunately, you cannot read the overhead slides on the video, but the quality of the recording is OK. This is not an academic seminar but was given to a religious lay audience at Christ Church Anglican church, which happens to be the oldest Protestant church in the Middle East.


Those who are interested in the history of this cognitive model can see what the mentalsymmetry website looked like back in 2002 as well as the level of understanding at that time. The earliest version of the mentalsymmetry website dates back to 2001. There is an earlier website from 1998. The original version of that website is from 1996. It was not archived but looked like this. These earlier websites were set up by my older brother Lane Friesen and contain a combination of material written by Lane and myself. The 2001 version contains about 800 pages of hyperlinked descriptions of the seven cognitive styles backed up by quotes from 150 historical biographies, all written by Lane Friesen, which can be accessed the most easily here. When reading this earlier material please be aware that far more is now known about the brain. A 2019 paper on the latest neurology can be accessed on researchgate. However, the biographical quotes provide extensive qualitative evidence for the system of cognitive styles upon which mental symmetry is based, and the descriptions are still quite accurate, though they do portray the typical expression of each cognitive style and do not describe all the variations that result from culture and personal development.

Mental Symmetry

I have been working on the theory of mental symmetry for over thirty years. While my first two books have been hosted on another website for several years (the second book was available at Book 2 and can now be downloaded from, I decided in the summer of 2010 that it was time to put together a website of my own on the subject. This website currently contains over 5000 pages of text.

The theory of mental symmetry began life as a system of cognitive styles—a way of dividing people up into seven different categories. One could find a lot of information about personality types at, along with a personality test that started out several decades ago as the project for my Master’s Degree but has since been massively rewritten and expanded. Lane Friesen is my older brother, he did the initial work on cognitive styles, and we did a lot of research together, though he no longer uses the diagram of mental symmetry. (This site is currently down but I have rewritten the personality test to run on javascript.)

When one does research, it is proper to acknowledge others who are working in the field. Don and Katie Fortune have been teaching seminars since the 1980s using the same system of cognitive styles as mental symmetry and their main book has sold over 300,000 copies. They approach cognitive styles from a strongly Christian perspective and their website is here. I have attempted to analyze how a 'Christian perspective' affects a description of cognitive styles. I should mention that I have not collaborated with the Fortunes, and instead of placing cognitive styles within a fundamentalist Christian framework as they do, I use the theory of mental symmetry to analyze Christianity. But since we have both been using the same system of cognitive styles for over 25 years, their work should be recognized and I admit that the writing style of Katie Fortune is more readable than mine. The oldest reference that I can find is here (I have made a local copy of the webpage because the original site no longer exists and it is not on waybackmachine). I have been told that some book written about 1900 was the first to interpret Romans 12 spiritual gifts as cognitive styles, but I have been unable to trace this further. If anyone knows about this, please let me know.

The theory of mental symmetry has the following attributes:

  • It can be used to analyze personality traits and predict personal compatibilities and conflicts.
  • It maps onto major brain regions. Obviously, the brain is far more complicated than the diagram of mental symmetry. However this seems to be the simplest model that encapsulates mental functioning.
  • It explains cognitive development. Mental symmetry does not just divide people up into various fixed categories. It also explains how the mind develops and the major stumbling blocks that emerge on the path to growing up, and provides a theoretical framework for the research that was done by Jean Piaget on cognitive development.
  • It explains economic behavior. Economists talk about value, money, inflation, and the marketplace. Mental symmetry explains the mental processing that lies behind all this activity.
  • It explains many psychological conditions. Psychologists like to diagnose and treat various neuroses and psychoses. I have focused on analyzing how the mind works when it is functioning properly, which also provides a clue as to what has gone wrong when a syndrome strikes.
  • It includes fundamental aspects of MBTI® (the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator) as a subset. The MBTI® categories are viewed as mental splits which must be integrated—at great personal cost—in order to achieve mental wholeness.
  • It helps to understand history. Many years ago, I first read A Study in History, by Arnold Toynbee. While Toynbee came up with a number of significant concepts, the theory of mental symmetry allows one to go much further with the analysis of history.
  • It can be used to explain the philosophy of science. Quine's Web of Belief is analyzed in detail in the Appendix to God, Theology & Cognitive Modules. Mental symmetry looks at the cognitive basis for scientific thought and extends this method to the subjective and the nonmaterial. Saying this another way, mental symmetry suggests how one can escape the materialism of scientism without abandoning the rational thought of science.
  • It provides a rational, discussable basis for morality. According to mental symmetry, the ultimate personal goal is to achieve mental wholeness, which simply means having all seven mental modes working together in harmony. In essence, mental symmetry adds cognitive details to Kant's categorical imperative.
  • It makes it possible to analyze religion. The cognitive science of religion analyzes folk religion but avoids theology. Mental symmetry uses a similar but extended approach to analyze folk religion, theology, and the cognitive science of religion. After all, a good cognitive theory should be able to analyze both the topic being studied and the researcher doing the studying.
  • It provides a possible rational framework for UFOs and the supernatural. We all know that 'serious scientific work' avoids such fringe topics. However, in the same way that physicists explore concepts such as Flatland by altering natural laws in systematic ways, so I have found that if one uses the model of mental symmetry to explore the 'mirror image' of human existence, then descriptions of what we call the supernatural make some sense. This type of analysis seems to be consistent with the strangeness contained within quantum mechanics. Even if such a mirror-image non-physical realm does not exist, it appears that humans will be mentally driven to try to develop such a realm and will attempt to impose the resulting 'inhuman' structure upon the rest of humanity. Bureaucracy is one example of humans functioning in a mirror-image manner that is incompatible with normal human existence.

Obviously, when one is using a single cognitive model to analyze topics as diverse as religion, science, philosophy, psychology, culture, neurology, and 'aliens', then the very fact that these various topics are being mentioned in the same sentence may be taken by some to indicate that serious research is not being done. In contrast, I suggest that excluding certain topics from analysis indicates that one has an incomplete model. For example, if UFOs do exist, then materialistic theories of science need to be expanded to include such phenomena. If UFOs do not exist, theories of cognition still need to be expanded to explain why people are attracted to such ideas.

If one takes a cognitive approach guided by a cognitive model, then one can tackle a broad range of topics in a rational manner. For instance, instead of trying to prove whether or not God exists, one can focus upon how the mind forms a concept of God, something that can be rationally analyzed independently of the existence of God. Even if God does not exist, a mental concept of God is sufficiently potent to drive the entire course of a society. One can also evaluate religions from a cognitive perspective. If one discovers that the steps which must be taken to reach mental wholeness correspond to the doctrines of a certain religion, then one can make the hypothesis that this is a valid religion.


The Structure of Scientific Revolutions by Thomas Kuhn is an insightful set of observations about how science works in practice and the many inherent contradictions that one finds in the supposedly rational pursuit of scientific knowledge. Kuhn makes the following general statement:
"The scientific enterprise as a whole does from time to time prove useful, open up new territory, display order, and test long-accepted belief. Nevertheless, the individual engaged on a normal research problem is almost never doing any one of these things. Once engaged, his motivation is of a rather different sort. What then challenges him is the conviction that, if only he is skilful enough, he will succeed in solving the puzzle that no one before has solved or solved so well” (p. 38).

My overall goal is to 'open up new territory, display order, and test long-accepted belief,' and I have found the theory of mental symmetry to be amazingly powerful for doing this. However, Kuhn calls this type of thinking 'revolutionary science', and he claims that the typical scientist 'is almost never doing any one of these things.' Instead, Kuhn says that normal science consists of solving intellectual puzzles guided by 'the rules of the game'. Thus, there is a major disconnect between what science claims to do (which is what the typical person thinks that science does), and what science actually does.

My personal experience lines up with Kuhn's observations. I have also found that academia is often more interested in procedure and methodology than it is in discovering facts and building theories. Part of the problem is that there is no established methodology for the type of research that I am doing, because I am not using technical thought to solve problems within some paradigm, but rather using analogy to build a meta-theory that ties paradigms together. The idea of using analogy to analyze human thought has recently become well-established, for instance see Philosophy in the Flesh: The Embodied mind and its Challenge to Western Thought by Lakoff and Johnson. However, the tendency is either to use analogy in a non-rigorous way by jumping to poetry or myth, or to suggest that the mind uses only analogy, as do Lakoff and Johnson.

Therefore, I would like to mention the principles which I attempt to follow in order to make analogy semi-rigorous:

  • Look at details: If situation A is merely like situation B, then this is not a rigorous analogy. But if the details of A also correspond with the details of B, then this makes the analogy more rigorous. That is why I do 50 page analyses of key books rather than quote a few paragraphs from many books, because analyzing an entire book in detail forces the construction of more rigorous analogies.
  • Compare many situations: If situation A is analogous to situation B, then the rigor of this analogy will be increased if one discovers that the same analogy is also present in situation C, or maybe even D. Therefore, I find that rigor can be added to the model of mental symmetry by using it to analyze more theories or fields.
  • Compare independent situations: If one discovers an analogy between fields that normally are not related, then this is more impressive than discovering an analogy between closely related fields. Thus, I suggest that finding analogies between scientific thought and religious thought carries more weight than simply noticing parallels within science or religion. That is why the theory of mental symmetry attempts to analyze both the accepted and the unusual.
  • Anchor an analogy in technical thought: Analogy goes beyond the boundaries of specific paradigms, but this does not mean that one ignores existing theories or established disciplines. Instead, an analogy becomes more plausible when an analogy includes aspects of technical thought. Therefore, even though it is impossible in today's world to become an expert in many fields, I have attempted to become at least reasonably competent in the various fields that I discuss.
  • Test analogies with empirical evidence: The theory of mental symmetry attempts to go beyond physical evidence, but this does not mean ignoring physical evidence. It is still possible to test analogies in the areas where analogies touch physical reality. In terms of an analogy, it may not be possible to empirically test the entire iceberg, but it is possible to test the part of the iceberg that sticks above the water, and then make sure that the rest of the iceberg is consistent with the part that sticks above the water. For instance, while mental symmetry explores many areas that are not studied by neurology, I have tried to make sure that the theory of mental symmetry is consistent with neurology in the areas where these two overlap. And as one can see from the updated page on neurology, there is now far more overlap between mental symmetry and neurology than there used to be.


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