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Overview of 12 Systems

The twelve systems are not scientific models but insights into degrees of organisation. In his first major essay in this field, The Dramatic Universe (Vol. I) J.G.Bennett deals with the universe as a totality of twelve levels of existence, each more ‘potent’ than the level that precedes it. Later, he saw that the same principles applied to any living situation, big or small. We could look, for example, at a human enterprise in such terms. Everything ‘begins’ from simple wholeness and has the promise of progressing in depth to something significant for the greater whole.

The starting point of the series of systems, called the monad, is not a metaphysical absolute but simply ‘where one starts’. It is any simple, immediate sense of wholeness that is relatively undifferentiated and is rather like a ‘field’ of meaning. Usually, it is reached by a process of ‘dissolving’ our usual distinctions. It is not an object but unity in diversity and diversity in unity.

Each order of system is associated with a particular mode of experiencing the world, called the Systemic Attribute.

How Structures Work

  • The Monad gives totality – without distinction of parts, hence universality as the systemic attribute.
  • The Dyad gives difference without degrees, hence complementarity.
  • The Triad gives relatedness without relativity and hence dynamism as distinct from force.
  • The Tetrad gives structured activity and combines relativity and order, and hence activity as distinct from potential.

Why Structures Work (how they enter into the pattern of Reality)

  • The Pentad gives significance both inner and outer: hence also potentiality as distinct from actual occurrences. Here entities make their first appearance in the scheme of understanding.
  • The Hexad gives structure capable of transformation without loss of identity, hence recurrence and the character of events and so the historical character of experience. The systemic attribute is called coalescence.
  • The Heptad gives completeness combined with distinctions of quality: hence transformation.
  • The Octad gives the property whereby a structure can be understood in and for itself without reference to other structures, hence completedness.

The Harmony of Structures (the conditions that enable them to fulfill their destined purpose)

  • The Ennead gives harmonization.
  • The Decad gives Integrative Complementarity.
  • The Undecad gives Synergism.
  • The Duodecad gives Perfection.