A Discussion of Systematics
By Dick Knowles
Systematics is a conceptual tool that Bennett, a
student of Gurdjieff, developed. It seeks to understand the world by
investigating the underlying patterns revealed by looking at systems from a
variety of perspectives. Put very simply, this is the idea that we can
identify significant qualitative distinctions that are intrinsically
associated with different numbers and the systems represented by those
numbers. He called these numbers "terms," and developed a series of tools
that use an ever-increasing number of terms to look more and more deeply
into the issues of life. This provides a profound way to see and to
understand our world. The one-term system, for instance, he called the
monad. In the monad we try to get very clear on what it is we're talking
about. If we think of the world as a blank sheet of paper, for example, and
then draw a circle on the paper, we can ask what's inside the circle and
what's outside of it. This is the work of the monad. By using this approach
to address a particular subject, we come to a better understanding of it.
As we talk about what is inside and what is outside of
the monad, we encounter either/or questions about polarity and tension. We
can see these as two-term systems he called dyads. True dyads, like
male/female, are unresolvable, and we must learn to live and work in their
paradox and ambiguity. To do this easily, we need to view what we are doing
from a different perspective, so we move to the three-term system called
In the triad, Bennett points out that there is a
dynamic struggle we must engage in to find reciprocity, difference and
reconciliation. Bennett believed that without this struggle, no real change
could be made in the world. It's in our exploration of the triad that we
can learn to live and work together, even though there are unresolved
When we begin to ask ourselves about what's really
happening in a particular situation, we must move into looking at the
purposeful activity needed to address the problem facing us. To do this we
move to the tetrad.
These first four systems help us to clarify our
thinking and our activities. When we begin to ask about the significance
and potentiality of what we are doing, we come to the five-term system
called the pentad. For meaning to emerge, our work needs to be more than
just an end in itself.
When we move to making our thinking and activities more
concrete and to identify the field of action for our work, we move to the
six-term system called the hexad. This is where the potential of what we're
talking about comes into reality. There are higher term systems such as the
heptad, octad and so forth that are even more complex, but they are beyond
the scope of my work The Leadership Dance.
In an enneagram, each point can be explored more deeply
using any one of or all of the Systems to do this. Each point of the
enneagram we can be explored more deeply using enneagrams focused more
narrowly on the particular topic. The use of the enneagram this way is
fractal; we can find enneagrams "all the way down." We can also say it's
monads and dyads, etc. all the way down.
The way I've (Dick Knowles) chosen to look at each
point on the enneagram is to identify points 1, 2, 4, 5, 7 and 8 with the
monad, dyad, triad, tetrad, pentad and hexad respectively. I then go on to
relate these systems to Identity, Intention, Issues, Principles and
Standards, Work, Learning and Structure and Context, respectively.
John Bennett (Deeper Man, Charlestown, WV.
Claymont Communications, available from
point 0 as being related to functioning in our physical world which I
relate to our Identity. He describes point 3 as being related to our state
of being ( our state of availability or energy) which I relate to our
visible behavior in Relationship. He describes point 6 as our will, that
which decides our actions. This point I relate to Information for on the
basis of this we can decide to act. Bennett goes much more deeply into
these than I do using Identity, Relationship and Information.
In doing this, I developed the Process Enneagram© as an
integrated progression of systems that brings great clarity to our work in
organizations and enables us to engage in and to make real change in our