Logical Levels and the Ordering of Life (R4)

The cover of Room Four

An extract from ROOM FOUR referring to Logical Levels…

 Combologue 4

There’s a model of analysis that covers the whole of human life in a sequence known as ‘Logical Levels’; the idea in its current form seems to have emanated from Gregory Bateson: we exist in an ENVIRONMENT where we DO various things knowing full well that we have the CAPABILITY of doing so much more, given the imagination and BELIEF and shift in values, to rededicate ourselves, to reshape our IDENTITY, maybe in accordance with some higher SPIRITUAL guidance. The model is usually presented as a hierarchy up from sticks & stones to some form of ethereality.

The curious thing is that in practice the model is neither ‘logical’ nor meaningfully structured in ‘levels’, though it is presented thus as a kind of uncritical mantra in certain circles.  It’s all too easy to operate out of  mental cages; the words bequeathed to us determine the way we think. On the other hand, the concept of ‘Logical Levels’ works very well when you see it as a way of thinking, a way of punctuating experience…

When I first heard of ‘Logical Levels’ twenty years ago, I well remember thinking why should the Spiritual be higher than the Environmental ‘level’? Richard Jefferies, ace hero of mine and fundamental model for my whole being, is referred to as a ‘Nature Mystic’: his ‘spirituality’ derives entirely from his deliberate focussing on the natural environment; this is not a matter of ‘levels’ but a quick flip from environment to what you could, if you were so inclined (but notice what happens linguistically when you do so) call a species of ‘divine ecstasy’, via kinaesthetic behaviour and visual drinking in of hill, sky, and distance. You’d be hard put to analyse where Environment ends and Spirituality takes over. The concept of  ‘Logical Levels’ is a human invention which seeks to classify experience; like all human inventions the concept is a mechanical  imposition on an infinitely fluid process.

So where does the Magic that appears to transform experience of sticks & stones into some kind of mystical afflatus  happen? Magic occurs not on some purely conceptual ‘Higher Level’ but somewhere between two or more equal ‘I’s: as a simple example, when there’s an  ‘I’  in you that suddenly becomes the sound of waves; it’s not a matter of levels at all but a quick side-stepping from I(E) into I(O) (Environmental-I to Observer-I) backwards and forwards—a moment of what is called Satori in Zen Buddhism. You just have to put a circle on the floor step into it and get it to contain ‘the sound of waves’ (for instance) for you (I(E) ) and then step into another circle labelled I(O) to get the effect of the shift.  Not at a Higher Level but simply in adjacent circles, adjacent ‘I’s, I-trances, parts or states.

We make a fundamental mistake when we think of ourselves as a single unitary ‘I’; on the contrary we consist of Multiple ‘I’s, multiple identities.  This has many practical ramifications; a simple example: we kick ourselves when we make a decision to change something in ourselves and then fail to transform the resolve into behaviour; the administering of a stern kick is the result of imagining that the same ‘I’ that made the initial decision is also the ‘I’ that fails to put it into operation is also the ‘I’ that goes into harsh words. It isn’t. There is a Decision-making-I and there is a Taking-action-I and a Mouthing-harshwords-I and they all need to find a Being-creative-I then check the Ecology of decision-making with all the other ‘I’s. There are countless other ‘I’s all of whom might have a part to play.

Sensory awareness, as always, is the start point. There’s an ‘I’ that sees; another ‘I’ that hears, an ‘I’ that’s well-practised at feeling and so on. There are Environmental-I’s, ‘I’s that Do things, ‘I’s that are Capable of doing far more than they do at the moment and so on; there are Historical-I’s and Future-I’s and somewhere at the centre of all these swirling galaxies of ‘I’s there’s a Meta-I, Mastering-I or Observer-I, the precise naming is not important.  Right now there’s an ‘I’ in me that I call Working-the-computer-I; shift trance a bit and I can notice a Vigorously-two-finger-typing-I or a Seeing-colours-out-of-the-window-I or more specifically a Noticing-a-daffodil-I.  The I-trances are endless.

We have Equal Access to a million & one ‘I’s… A notional  hierarchy becomes a set of equal relationships between ‘I’s: so it is profitable to ask what happens when Being-playful-I meets up with Being-serious-I—they might enter into a pact to behave in a somewhat new way; then together they might meet up with a Compassionately-kind-I and a Win-win-I to form another new bonding not at a higher level but on a level playing field.

Attendance at one of my Enneagram courses will enable you to learn how to apply all this to your coaching sessions, to your ability to create and generally manage your life… Knockdown prices for people who are trying to survive Cameron’s Cut-everything-that’s-beneficial-to-human-life-I…

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