Systems Thinking and The Fourth Way (R7)


You find something very complex. We often do. An explanation, a theory, the drift of an argument… No doubt underneath it all there’s something very simple going on. There usually is, but when somebody finds the simplicity of it and makes an attempt to reduce things to some kind of careful order they are often described as being ‘reductionist’ which suggests they should be ignored by ‘all intelligent people’.

But three-brained beings who describe an interlocutor gamely making such an effort as ‘reductionist’ rarely have much to offer in the way of an alternative explanation of all & everything related thereto.

The description ‘reductionist’ would indeed be very apt if the model-maker stuck there, if they continued to advocate some simplistic view of the world and work with it, but when you discover Blessed Simplicity it’s a kind of Primal Requirement to go back to Highly Exciting Complexity, otherwise self-calming sets it—an uncompromising smugness at what has been achieved—reduction to sound-bite, say.

Backwards & forwards to refine a model of how things appear to you—that’s the ideal process—backwards and forwards, constantly on a pendulum swing between Simplicity and Complexity in order to come to some 3rd position, not immediately specifiable, but which after a time you are able to verify, and probably modify, for yourself.

Though things seem to be separate, in fact, everything is connected up together according to Heptaparaparshinokh—the Law of Seven. Everything feeds off everything else and supports in turn whatever it feeds on—Gurdjieff, in his arcane way, calls this Iraniranumange… the universal exchange of substances, result of reciprocal feeding & maintenance of all active elements.

Everything in the universe, he says, exists and is maintained  solely on the basis of the ‘common cosmic trogoautoegocratic process’ in systemic (ecological), periodicity…

Perhaps that’s the complexity; Gurdjieff never did want to make things too easy—if something’s worth acquiring one ought to have to work hard at it.

How do you begin to discover the simplicity?

For a considerable number of years I’ve been on this Pendulum Excitement in relation to the fragments of things presented as The Fourth Way. It seems to be all over the place: Nicoll, Ouspensky, Gurdjieff, Pentland, the concepts all in a glorious & fruitful jumble. Maybe deliberately so, since, as JGBennett says, I think quite rightly, in Transformation, Anything too well and too neatly organised sows the seeds of its own destruction…    becomes too simple for its own good.

So I came to trying to make sense of The Fourth Way in my own terms, as anybody must do, always respecting the way others do it. Take all or take nothing, says Ouspensky, so I took all…

It may not be a System but it seems to me to be essentially systemic when you hack out all the fragments and work with them on yourself. You can discover how a body of ideas goes round and round in circles in an inevitable and positive sort of way… This is, at last, is my own working model, take it or leave it:-

Double left-click will get an expanded version of the diagram

It’s a system, systemic, because as soon as we imagine that we are awake we fall back into mechanicalness and so on round and round. The comforting thing is that the more you go round the system, it becomes marginally easier each time; you recognise the bits & pieces as they manifest themselves in your behaviour and in the mirroring behaviour of others.

3 thoughts on “Systems Thinking and The Fourth Way (R7)

  1. I’ve spent all morning researching for a paper I’m writing for a course called “Queer Perspectives on American Literature.” One of the sources I’m using for the paper is a book by Robert McRuer,”Crip Theory: cultural signs of queerness and disability.” One of the ideas in the book is an attempt to synthesis two seperate political identities, queer and disabled, into a conjunctural identity, polemic to the heteronormative Capitalist system whose own identity is unconsciously invisible, thus you find people scrambling desperately to be included under the umbrella of the “normal,” even and most of all those who have the most to lose.

    What I just wrote by no means sums up the complexity of McRuer’s system of ideas. I was taking a lunch break and jumped on the computer and there was your post, a serendipitous reminder to me, and a wondeful model for presenting my paper, which is titled, “Live in Your Head, Die in the Streets.”

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  2. Me too 🙂 I’ll be done with everything this week and then I’ll be able to send you some stuff including the video “Multiple I’s Goes Universal” Talk soon, thanks Colin for this timely post! Patrick

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