The Gathering began with an open-ended conversation on the practice and future of systematics. The group included the following professions: Safety manager and now consultant (using the Process Enneagram), Systems Designer, Construction Manager, Artist, Jewellery Maker, Business Manager, Psychotherapist, Inventory Checking and Philosopher. What follows is an edited version of what emerged during the conversation and shows links to MMs which were then produced to summarise key points (more were added later).

The starting issue was the question of making systematics more accessible to a wider range of people. This has implications for the problem of educating others to continue the work when the present practitioners have gone.

The threads of the conversation are on the right, and the MMs or 'molecules of meaning' extracted from the conversation are on the left. Some transitional text is also shown on the left.

In the awareness of the facilitator
In its practical application, systematics involves people in conversations to explore issues. They do not have to think about the systems but the facilitator can be greatly helped by these ideas in conducting group conversations. He is more able to manage them. His awareness is able to contain the thinking of the group and enhance the coherence of its conversations.
It is archetypal and compelling
People in such groups can use already worked out versions of systems but they are not likely to be able to develop them for themselves. However, they already have unconscious powers at the archetypal level.
In a crisis structure emerges spontaneously
In a crisis, people really pay attention. People change instantaneously in the way they work. They focus on the problem and stop playing games. Once the crisis is over, they revert to ‘being jerks’ and seem to forget what really happened. They do not step back and ask, ‘How were we able to work so effectively?’ Patterns seem to come into operation in front of need. There is no learning in the ordinary sense or any kind of process of preparation. Models about learning are mostly illusory. Plato argues that learning is more like memory, of bringing to consciousness what has been forgotten.
It is archetypal and compelling
In ordinary working life, people believe that things happening because of ‘the man’, the leader who gets things done; but in crisis situations, leadership pops up everywhere. In conducting groups, a critical thing is put the group in front of a ‘compelling question’ that they can recognise and feel that is matters to them.
Participatory visualization
There was a case of someone bringing systematics into a small group that was observed by a larger one. This did not work. Everyone needs to participate. The work is slow and cycles back on itself and there do not appear to be any short cuts. People tell stories – they do not vote! Only then can change be fast. The process needs to be transparent and not manipulative.   It is hard to learn how to ‘lead’ a group in the right way.
In a company in which systematics was introduced the management split into insiders and outsiders and this was destructive. A small group then self-organised to continue the substance of the work, called the ‘no name network’.
Does systematics need another method

One of its members went on to assimilate the new ideas of chaos theory and self-organisation and extended these ideas from physical systems to social ones. He found that the coming together of systematics with these new ideas was intensely creative. Maybe the collision of two different bodies of information is essential. In order to further systematics, it may have to be combined with something that has arisen independently.
People cannot be told

A great untapped resource is people. Ordinarily, they put 10% into their work. There is a problem that we do not see what can be in front of us. We only see what we believe or expect. What we do not see we cannot be told. We can look at someone and not understand why they do not see what we see. But when there is a working group - in open conversation, guided by someone who is awake to patterns – it can make a ‘collage’ of all the different pieces held by different people. Organisations have 90% of the information they need, but they do little talking and sharing.
An example was given from the work of Bert Hellinger on ‘natural systems’.
An issue is raised by someone and from the conversation he or she picks people to play the various roles involved. The players can then be questioned to reveal further information. They do not need to ‘know’ about it in the ordinary sense and most people find that they can respond ‘as if they knew’. Anne Schutzenberger (see The Ancestor Syndrome) in dealing with transgenerational issues asks questions and often says that someone in the room will know the answer. This shows that there is a kind of knowledge that people have that they do not know they have until it is brought out.
Can elaborate fixed ideas

Different people have different centres of gravity and their energies are channelled into different regions of experience and action.
Systematics can be used to validate a person’s belief system rather than to transcend it.  It can also play a role in creating something new that challenges past beliefs. Between these two, it can help to organise our thinking.
Only connect
Can there be an educational process by which people can be produced capable of creative systematics? Someone remarked that in Japan one can gain a certificate of enlightenment! Is this entirely stupid? Can there be an effective way of at least preparing for systematics? Different people start from different bases and there can be a variety of ways in which they tap into systematics. An example was given from Chinese culture. Through Buddhism, a cosmology was evolved that became ever more complex. But there was also a move towards simplicity and direct experience as in Ch’an and Taoism. Someone can feel just one archetype but this implicitly draws on all of them.
The Process Enneagram may be an example for us.

This contains the systems 1 to 9. But if someone worked with just the triad or tetrad they can get a feeling of the whole, just any one of the jewels in Indra’s Net reflects the whole.
The Zen of systematics
There may be very simple ideas people can respond to. Could there be something like the famous ‘wax-on, wax-off’ training of the young American by a master in the movie The Karate Kid? Children can respond to systematic ideas and an example was give of a discussion with two children aged nine around the dyad according to Gurdjieff’s  formulation ‘every stick has two ends’. Can there be a Zen systematics that brings it all down to one moment?
Multidimensional synaesthesia
Systematics offers a prospect of a universal language that encompasses pictures, music, management, crafts and so on. It does not matter what the content is. For many people, however, a difference of medium or content presents an impossible challenge. There are those who just cannot deal with pictures as pictures but have to translate them into concepts. Asked to associate from an image into images, they are incapacitated. Though a picture can evoke a way of seeing the world as an archetypal situation exemplified in countless ways common to all people it is sometimes quite foreign to some people who study systematics. (This relates to William Pensinger’s concept of MUSCULPT)
People do not see
People (we) are switched on only in certain parts of their brain/mind. Only so much energy is available and most of it goes through only certain parts. There is nobody to see this in action, and nobody who can just change things and make the energy flow in different regions. Relevant information (from the standpoint of the total view) never lights up because it does not have any ‘fuel’.  That is why most activity including thinking is just repetition. If divine beings came down and uttered ultimate truths we would not be able to hear them.
Systematics could enable us to go from one language to another, one way of experience to another, one form of expression to another. But it cannot do this without energy. This may relate to previous remarks about the remarkable effect of crises. There is nothing better than conversation between different kinds of people. But language itself can be seen as a ‘parasite’ or ‘disease’ (as William Burroughs suggested) that creates blindness. Having to talk together involves something radical about our relation to words. For instance, every word we utter carries with it the inevitable sense that it refers to something. We should be careful in talking about ‘systems’ and not fall into the trap of believing that they exist. Try the experiment of inventing a word – ‘muring’ for example – that did not exist before and use it a few times and we will find that we starting to imagine that there is such a ‘thing’.

Gurdjieff distinguished between mentation by word and mentation by form. He called the former ‘subjective’ because different people will use the same word in different ways and even the same person can use n different ways at different times. The latter form of mentation arises from the landscape in which we spend our formative years (and relates very much to the work of Joseph Rael) which gives rise to the form of mind we have. It corresponds to a more objective language.
An example was given of working with a small group of students studying science. At the time of this work, some educationalists were concerned with the fact that students were learning the words of their subjects but not understanding the way of thinking of science. The discipline brought to the group was to demand that every time any technical word was used – such as ‘atom’ – the students had to articulate the corresponding mental image they had of its meaning. By articulating mental images, they were able to reflect on and transform how they were using words. The articulation of images was a mode of mentation by form
Form thinking
A word by itself is meaningless, in that it has no isolated usage. It will mean different things to different people. But, for the most part, this is not consciously appreciated, which leads to much confusion. The use of words is shaped by form. There is an instinctive, inherent, instantaneous application of the word, which acts before our consciousness comes into play. The domain of mentation by word is slow and never catches up with what has made it happen.
Create new images
The use of images as a way of accessing form is problematic. People have images and work from images all the time, but they are not aware of them as images. Having thoughts as verbal concepts is relatively rare. Both words and images can be degenerate forms of apprehension. Both require us to become more conscious of them ‘as they are’, so that we will not be their slaves.
Shift out from locked room
To produce change, we need to unravel the fixity of images. This amounts to a huge shift in thinking. When we break the moulds, we need to be careful and this is where systematics can help because it can be used to make the breakage constructive. People have information that can help them change, but they need an invitation and a willingness to be heard. And they need to appreciate that just because they cannot think of an answer this does not mean that other people do not have it. It is often the case that high-level technical investigations are made that prove fruitless while the man on the job can provide the answer if only he is asked.
We cannot think of systematics in isolation. It only appears so on paper.
There is a conundrum: we want to be creative but creativity is beyond consciousness. There are Sufi stories about pupils being set complex and exhausting exercises and tasks to distract them, because otherwise their conscious minds would interfere with a more inward action. What is truly creative is what one does not know. One has to trust.
Perceptual insight
There is always a complementarity. If there is something we know, there will be something we do not know. Stacey has spoken about this in terms of the shadow side of organisations.
Systematics can be dealt with on the lines of an organisation chart – ‘doing it by the numbers’. In another approach, it is like a gymnastics to keep the ‘muscles of the mind’ in trim. Then, it is not to solve problems or do anything. It is only concerned with seeing. It develops ‘organs of perception’. Colleges do not develop perceptions but enable people to use handbooks!
In our existence, structures, forms, etc. play a role in the formation of our minds. These are the homes, jobs, political parties, beliefs and so on that can be seen as mechanisms that are remnants of past insights. We can be said to be ‘asleep’ when it is these various mechanisms that shape mind. Systematics starts when that stops.
A way of seeing
. Maybe there are little sparks of free energy, fragments of divinity and life, from which creative systematics begins. Systematics provides a matrix or ‘womb’ in which new forms can be realised. 
When things are confusing one can wait for a form to emerge. Systematics is based on a willingness to see what forms emerge. As they do so, it makes us happy. We need to be careful not to interfere. This condition of waiting in seeing is not passive but it has to be called a receptive mode of work (which reminds us of Bennett’s receptive lines of work as described in The Sevenfold Work)
A metaphor is that of an eel-basket which is set in the current. It just ‘sits there’ but when eels swim into it, they cannot escape.
Finally, we can be sure that the insight comes but not how it came


The MMs were grouped in the following manner. They include other MMs added during the process.

Spontaneous organisation
John Bennett, Hazard, p. 65
Let me take an example of how one can see an association forming that has all the qualities of a real association and relationship. We saw this very much in London during World War II, when there was the blitz. A house would be bombed and it would be in flames, people would be coming out, and there would be many things to be done. It was one of the most astonishing and, I think, wonderful experiences of those who went through it to see how quite spontaneously, without anyone taking the lead or giving any orders and so on, people formed an association to deal with this immediate situation.
It need hardly be said that this was a situation of hazard. The extraordi­nary thing about this is that an association was formed in front of a need and lasted as long as the need was there; then it dissolved and everyone went their own way. Nobody thought of saying, "Here we have been through all this to­gether, let's meet again tomorrow and do it again." The kind of association that arises from meeting hazard is like making a move in a game and once that move is made, it is made, and a new situation arises. You do not think you would somehow improve the game by playing the same move over and over, yet people often think that somehow a society would be improved if it could be perpetuated or a relationship would somehow become more merely by its continuing. So long as the situation that makes the relationship right exists, it can be right; when it does not exist, it cannot be right.

Indra’s Net
fusion anomaly – Indra’s Net (

William Pensinger

Musculpt has been discussed as universal semiosis, as form-language underlying all natural verbal languages.

Receptive Work
John Bennett, The Sevenfold Work, p. 25






















FORM AND IMAGE from the Vastusutra Upanishad