on the meaning game of systematics; associations and amplifications; puzzles and techniques; archetypes, alphabets and mathematics
How wide the Gulf & Unpassable! Between Simplicity and Insipidity
In Homo Ludens Huizinga describes the play concept as: ...a voluntary activity or occupation executed within certain fixed limits of time and place, according to rules freely accepted but absolutely binding, having its aim in itself and accompanied by a feeling of tension, joy, and the consciousness that it is "different" from "ordinary life". Dakota Brown
Anthony Blake 2006
Abridged for this web version
Full text available in hard copy from DuVersity (information www.duversity.org )
The Gathering would not have been possible without the kind hospitality of Karen and Jack Stefano, at whose home we met in a supportive environment.
We must also acknowledge the work of Kevin Chenette in maintaining and developing the web site www.systematics.org, which has been essential for gathering archives and providing a forum.
This is an extended report on Gathering VII. The Gatherings have been annual meetings for people interested in developing the theory and practice of systematics, the discipline of thinking as developed by John Bennett initially fifty years ago. The first series of reports centred on the idea of Globalization. There was then a gap, as we moved into more experiential realms, such as use of collage. During this time, the concept of systematics as a game developed from its intimations in early Gatherings and also from a growing understanding of the allied discipline of logovisual technology (LVT).
The report is based on audio recordings and photographs as well as personal memory. It is extended by the inclusion of explanatory material and extrapolations of the theory presented in a rudimentary way during the sessions. The overall theme of the report is a new enlarged vision of what systematics means – includes, is relevant to, etc. – that greatly enlarges its constitution and scope.
The key questions for the Gathering were:
The central idea of the report is the meaning game. Such a game is both creative and a means of communication. It appears to me now that both ‘classical systematics’ and LVT can be subsumed under the category of meaning games.
As was mentioned earlier, in symbology, as represented, numbers are connected with definite geometrical figures, and are usually complementary to each other. In the system of Cabala a symbology of letters is also used and in combination with the symbology of letters a symbology of words. A combination of the four methods of symbolism by numbers, geometrical figures, letters, and words, gives a complicated but more perfect method.
Then there exists also a symbology of magic, a symbology of alchemy, and a symbology of astrology as well as the system of the symbols of the Tarot which unites them into one whole.
G. I. Gurdjieff quoted in In Search of the Miraculous p. 283
The report is loosely constructed into four parts but with manifold ancillary material in the form of appendices. It is perhaps less of a report than an amplification of some important themes that emerged in the Gathering from our conversations.
The First Part is an introduction to the nature of systematics in several contexts such as the archetypes of Jung, mathematics, words and the alphabet, physics and so on. It sets the scene for an exploration that extends beyond the bounds of ‘classical’ systematics. Classical systematics dealt with the properties of multi-term systems as sets of terms. It did not deal with relations between systems, or the significance of ‘form’, or the ways in which terms can be arranged in a meaning space, consideration of which leads us into shapes and images as well as the more obvious characteristics of geometrical representation. We take up Bennett’s idea of ‘mutual relevance’ of terms as a fundamental idea which has been largely neglected heretofore. In the primary proposition that a system is a set of independent but mutually relevant terms we discover the two complementary sides of understanding: in the first we have a set of discrete elements – SET - while in the other we have some aspect of the continuum of wholeness – MUTUAL RELEVANCE. Both perspectives bear on the meaning of TERMS.
Part Two begins to address the placement of systematics with other disciplines and traditions, but also to enquire into the question of how systematics might be made more accessible to more people. This Part is largely based on our initial conversation about our experiences of using systematics with various groups.
In Part Three, we introduce the idea of systematics as a game and summarise the results of a meaning game we played based on the methodological context – mutual relevance of other known human disciplines of it.
The Meaning Game was conducted using the tools of Logovisual Thinking (LVT). This technology has been developed from the early work of John Bennett on Structural Communication with the Centre for Management Creativity, based in Yorkshire in the UK (see http://www.logovisual.com/).
In Part Four, the idea of systematics as a game is elaborated into eight categories. This represents a new theory of systematics. There is also an extended treatment of associating systematics with other disciplines.
Our deepening and extension of systematics leads us into the domain of structures that Bennett proposed were more concrete than systems per se. It touches upon the further domain of societies. Perhaps the most important feature of this approach is that it brings to the forefront the significance of having several minds thinking together, instead of the solitary expert. This was, in fact, the milieu of the early work done on systematics.
Our view of systematics embraces magic, divination, mathematics, art, language and so on impartially. It reveals systematics as the method par excellence of integration without rejection. The idea of meaning games gives us a way of practicing this method that is accessible and capable of producing unexpected results.
The emergent view of systematics was as an amplification of our natural and even instinctive abilities, a more conscious access to the dance of intelligence and not at all as a doctrine. It exists in the union of natural systems with symbolism, in a creative realm of discovery. We continue to seek for better forms of expression. The quote from Gurdjieff suggests that we have to be able to combine many approaches to arrive at an adequate understanding of symbolism. We are finding our way towards this unitive language. The essential antecedent to systematics is symbolism and we are always pulled towards ways of recreating this art for our times. [William Harris Meaning and Form in Literature www.middlebury.edu/~harris]
Part One – Nature of Systematics
Progression of the Twelve
Beyond Binary Thinking
Words about Words
The Enigma of the Alphabet
The Qualitative Nature of Systematics
Part Two – Relevance and Mutual Relevance of Systematics
Part Three – Making Systematics a Game
The Continuous Whole and the Discrete Parts
Three Classes of Game
Conflict and Co-operation
The Meaning Game
Part Four - Systematics as a Game of Games
The Sub Games
Number as Limitation
Equations between quality and quantity
Basis in Nature
The Aesthetics of Systematics
Enigma of Purpose
Arts and Sciences Relevant to Systematics
Feeling-images of Systematics