NLP stands for Neuro-Linguistic Programming. Neuro as in your neurology, which means your whole nervous system not just your brain, Linguistic as in language, how you talk to yourself and others, and Programming as in a computer. You programme yourself by communicating with yourself.
The Trivium (from the latin meaning three ways) is the first part of the 7 Liberal Arts and comprises: Rhetoric, which is the art of persuasion; Grammar, which is using the appropriate linguistic structure; Logic which is about reasoning rationally. These are therefore the tools of communication and we all know how vital it is to communicate clearly. It seems to me that NLP is a re-coding of these very same tools.
In 1999 at the suggestion of a friend, I attended an NLP Practitioner training with Ian MacDermot's ITS in London. There were 120 people there, we met for 4 days a month for 5 months in the Polish Centre in Hammersmith. Ostensibly about techniques, which are undeniably powerful and effective, NLP is founded upon certain presuppositions, including, the philosophical concept that beliefs create reality.
In 2000 while studying Master Practitioner, again with ITS, another trainer, Tad James, came in to teach Hypnosis. He must have been good because I ended up in California that August to do Trainer's Training with him. Tad is an excellent trainer, he also introduced me to Huna, the Hawaiian secret tradition. I saw how he used NLP to model spiritual practice, extract the essential strategy, install it in himself and/or others, and then test it. Very simple, very effective, I was impressed, so I went to Hawaii in 2001 and again in 2002 to study more deeply with the Kahuna's, the whales and the volcanoes.
On my return I put into practice what I had learnt about the connection between NLP and shamanism, sure that here was a key, bearing in mind that Bandler and Grinder's first two books on NLP were called the Structure of Magic 1 and 2. Shamanism is ‘acting as if ‘ in NLP terms.
So what is NLP?
To quote the creators: Neuro-Linguistic Programming is the discipline whose domain is the structure of subjective experience. It makes no commitment to theory, but rather has the status of a model- a set of procedures whose usefulness not truthfulness is to be the measure of its worth. NLP presents specific tools which can be applied effectively in any human interaction. It offers specific techniques by which a practitioner may usefully organise and re-organise his or her subjective experience or the experiences of a client in order to de?ne and subsequently secure any behavioural outcome. ( from Neuro-Linguistic Programming Vol 1).
And indeed I found this to be the case. Delving deeper into the origins of NLP turns up names such as Gregory Bateson, Milton Erickson, Virginia Satir, and a very useful analogy linking the shift to relativistic, Einsteinian thinking in contrast to mechanistic, Newtonian concepts with the new acceptance of subjective experience in the humanities.
There is another fascinating analogy here, symbolically represented by Raphael in his famous depiction of The School of Athens. In the centre of the painting are Plato and Aristotle, their hand gestures indicate their differing models. Plato points up to world of conceptual patterns and Aristotle points down to the world of matter suggesting the Hermetic dictum “As above; so below.”
There is an intriguing linguistic link too: In Ancient Egypt Ptah was the creator God as in Pater, Father and pattern, and Maat was the mother, Mater, matter and matrix. From the abstract to the specific, all the Secret Teachings are about how thoughts (Thoth) become things. In NLP this is the Milton Model and the Meta Model.
In other words, if everyone's experience is valid and objectivity is an illusion, how should we proceed?
The most practical approach would be to recognise the inherent paradox and by accepting it, learn to work with it, surf it even. So if NLP provides the tools of communication, what are we communicating? This is where the other four of the 7 Liberal Arts come in. The Quadrivium comprises Mathematics, Geometry, Music and Astronomy and provides the rational, logical, empirical foundation for knowledge and wisdom. See Hidden Science for more on the Quadrivium.
In 1953 a book called Science and Sanity by Alfred Korcybski, a dense read by anyone?s standards, challenged the orthodoxy of Aristotlean logic and paved the way for NLP. It was Carl Jung, a true master, and to some extent Sigmund Freud who re-discovered the Unconscious Mind at the beginning of the 20th Century that changed everything.
The Myers Briggs psychometric test beloved by corporate HR departments is based on Jung's archetypes, which he based on an understanding of the Trump cards of the Tarot.
The Tarot may have appeared as early as 1392. It's origins are mysterious but it is said the truths contained in the Tarot are universal and belong to no one race, creed or culture, but constitute a text book for every serious aspirant on the Path of Light.
The Path of Light was all but extinguished in Europe during the Dark Ages, until the Jews translated the Arab wisdom in Spain, which acquainted the intellectuals of the Holy Roman Empire with Plato and Pythagoras. Unable to over throw the orthodoxy they encoded their understanding of the Perennial Wisdom in their buildings.
More stone was raised from 1000AD to 1200AD to create the astonishing Gothic Notre Dame cathedrals in France than in 2000 years of Ancient Egypt.
So traveling beyond the birth of Christianity we are face to face with the origins of our democracy, our culture, in almost every particular: Ancient Greece, Aristotle and Plato. The first clue was what Socrates refers to as the "Heavenly Model", an overt NLP type idea. It was at this time, October 2006, that an old friend and mentor, John Michell, initiated me into Sacred Geometry and Platonic philosophy. I say initiated because it was a revelation, I expanded into the spacious present, I saw the incredible beauty of the order and purpose behind the universe of things and I knew for certain, that everything is far better taken care of than we can possibly imagine.
It also became clear that in the past there existed many highly developed civilisations with the ability to design and build gigantic structures with incredible accuracy and often with significant astronomical alignments. The Pyramids of Giza and Stonehenge came at the end of this time. Since the end of the last Ice Age approximately 12,000 years ago sea levels have risen 300 feet covering up the much older evidence. Ironically it was the great tsunami of 2004 which, as the tide was sucked out of the Bay of Cambay in north east India, revealed enormous man made structures, before being swallowed by the waves again.
Further study with Keith Critchlow and the late John Michell revealed the depth of the 7 Liberal Arts on which I now base all my work because the study of them integrates usefulness, truthfulness and beauty inside the student. This is what Socrates called ‘the Heavenly Pattern’, a useful state to model because it provides a deep reassurance of the tremendous innate worthiness of every human being, and therefore the possibility of feeling confident all the time, which leads to reasoned thinking and ultimately fulfillment and happiness.