7.  Why aren't Logical and Neuro-logical Levels covered in the Glossary?

(Revised January 2011)


Short Answer

In brief - because they don't make sense.

In what appear to be attempts to make Neuro-Linguistic Programming [sic] appear "scientific", Robert Dilts has "borrowed" various labels from genuinely scientific sources - Unified Field from Einstein, Logical Levels from Russell and Bateson, etc. and attached them to his own theories.
In the case of "Neurological Levels", the term has been "borrowed" from medical science, where, when used correctly, neurological level:

Refers to the lowest segment of the spinal cord with normal sensory and motor function on both sides of the body.  In fact, the segments at which normal function is found often differ by side of body and in terms of sensory vs. motor testing.  Thus, up to four different segments may be identified in determining the neurological level.
(Canadian Paraplegic Association website, at http://www.canparaplegic.org/en/SCI_Facts_67/items/8.html)

An important objection here, in my opinion, is the apparently deliberatly misleading presentation of the models.

In a nutshell, words seldom have a single meaning, and there is nothing inherently wrong in borrowing words from other areas of study - as long as you make it clear to your readers that this is what you have done, and that you have attached your own meaning(s) to the word(s) in question.

In the case of the terms "logical", "levels", and "neurological", alone or in combination, none of the words are used in the sense that they have been used for many decades.  Nevertheless, we are assured that the models are based on the work of Bertrand Russell, Gregory Bateson and Alfred Whitehead.  Which is a long, long way from the real life situation (see below).
To do this through ignorance would be unfortunate, but would hopefully be rectified as soon as the person concerned became aware of their mistake.  In this case, however, the action seems to be part of a long-running and recurring pattern.  And far from trying to rectify the situation, the creator of these models appears to have made them the focal point of the majority of his activities.
I cannot think of any circumstances in which that can be regarded as acceptable behaviour.

Warning to the reader:

This FAQ basically echoes John Grinder's claim that Robert Dilts' so-called "neurological levels" models are NOT "logical levels" and "clearly not within the domain of NLP" (Whispering in the Wind, pages 302 and 305, respectively).
It is my personal contention that anyone who genuinely believes that any of Robert Dilts "levels" models are part of the FoNLP does not understand what NLP and the FoNLP are really about.

If you find this claim unacceptable, you are advised to stop reading this FAQ right now, to avoid any annoyance it may cause you.

And if you're still here -

I wanna tell you a story

A man went into a very upmarket car showroom and asked to see what they had in the way of Rolls Royces.
"Ah, sir is a man who knows his motors," said the salesman, rubbing his hands together as though they needed a good wash.  "And it just so happens that I have an excellent example of that manufacturer, if sir will come this way."
The two men walked towards the back of the showroom, to the area where a shiny new car was standing.
"There you are, sir," said the salesman.  "A brand spanking new 'Roller' - the very latest model!  We've already sold several of them to 'discerning customers,' if you know what I mean."
The customer looked, and looked again.
"This isn't a Rolls Royce," he protested.  "It's a Volkswagen 'Beetle'!"
"Oh no, sir," replied the salesman.  Just look at the hub caps.  That's definitely a Rolls Royce."
But the customer was not convinced.
"Well I agree it has Rolls Royce hub caps, though they don't seem to fit very well.  But you can't just stick four hub caps on a 'Beetle' and call it a Rolls Royce."
"Ah," said the salesman, "with all due respect to sir, that's exactly what we have done.  In fact I think you'll find quite a lot of dealerships are doing exactly the same thing.
You'd be amazed how many new car owners can't tell the difference."

Back to Basics

The so-called Neurological levels models are most surely the Achilles Heel of NLP - a fatal flaw which lays the whole field open to question.  Not least because so many NLPers (including many who write books and/or offer training in NLP techniques) seem to be either unwilling, or unable, to understand why Dilts' "levels" models are not a valid element within NLP.
Let us start, then, by looking at the basic terminology.

Don't Blame Gregory Bateson!

Alder and Heather (NLP in 21 Days, 1999) and Knight (NLP at Work, 2002 (2nd edition)) are typical of the many "experts" who have written commentaries on the "Levels" models in that both books have section headings which refer to the neuro-logical levels model, yet only discuss the logical levels model.
(In Appendix C of his book Changing Belief Systems with NLP (1990), Dilts uses the term "neurological levels" to cover all versions of his levels model, including logical levels, neuro-logical levels (with hyphen), etc., etc.  On this basis there is no single neurological levels model, only three or four (?) neurological levels models (plural)).

Both books also feature the frequently quoted claim that the logical levels model was based on a previous model devised by Gregory Bateson, as though Bateson himself created the original neurological levels model.
That is to say, we are apparently being asked to believe that there is a genuine link between Bateson's model of "logical levels of learning" and any or all of the so-called "Neurological" models. ' One that goes beyond mere superficial appearances.
Which seems to leave us with two options.

  1. Either the terms "logical" and "levels" for Dilts' models because he has no idea what Bateson meant by those terms.  Or
  2. The terms are actually being used quite differently as compared to Bateson's (conventional) usage, and the claim that the models are based on Bateson's work is deliberately misleading.

    That is to say, if Dilts is claiming that his models are genuinely derived from Bateson's, this only makes sense if he is using the same meanings that Bateson had in mind when he uses the same terms as Bateson.  Indeed, Dilts ties himself down even more firmly in his book Sleight of Mouth when he extends his claim thus:

    "I adapted the ideas of Russell and Bateson to formulate the notion of 'Logical Levels' and 'Neuro-Logical Levels' in human behaviour and change.
    (page 246)

    Dilts cannot have it both ways.  Either he was genuinely basing his work on that of Russell and Bateson - or he wasn't.  Since he uses the two key terms "logical" and "levels" in a substantially different way from the meanings shared by Russell and Bateson then Dilts' claim is at best misguided and it is time he stopped using it.

    Moreover it is a warning to the NLP community as a whole when we find that so many NLPers, including some well-known trainers/authors, have blindly followed Dilts' lead on this subject.  One web page, authored by someone called Louise LeBrun makes this point all to clearly in the claim that:

    The first six Levels of Thinking, as developed by Bateson and Dilts, have been extremely effective in ordering information.

    LeBrun even claims to have:

    ... added the seventh Logical Level of Choice ... taking that which has always been present and yet transparent to the process and bringing it to conscious awareness.

    None of which has anything whatever to do with Bateson's model (see below), which is based around "levels of abstraction".
    The extent to which these claims perpetuate an obvious nonsense can be measured by the fact that Bateson himself commented that it was pointless to develop his model beyond the fourth level because what you got at Level IV and beyond (the numbering of levels starts at zero, not one - see below) wouldn't be matched by anything in the real world.

    What is perhaps even more surprising is the fact that some presumably very-well educated supporters of Dilts' neurological levels models don't seem to understand the models they are so keen on.  Thus another author, who has qualifications in conventional medicine, NLP and hypnosis, and claims to have a number of years' practical experience in the use of NLP, refers to:

    "The logical levels model (sometimes called the neurological levels model)..."
    (Dr Lewis Walker, Consulting with NLP (2002), page 26.  Italics as in the original)

    Which is true, of course - but only by people who don't understand Dilts' labelling system.  Which leads to the question of whether this writer knew the difference himself, or whether he, too, regarded the labels as being synonymous?


    Based on Dilts' use of the labels in his book Changing Belief Systems with NLP:

    Neurological levels
    Since the whole of Appendix C is headed Neurological Levels it seems that without the hyphen "neurological" refers to the whole group of "levels" models, regardless of how many there may be.  In which case there is clearly no single "neurological levels" model.
    Logical levels
    This is the model most people actually describe even though they may refer to it as the "neurological" or "neuro-logical" model.  Although Dilts describes the elements in this model as "logical levels", in fact they are neither "logical" nor "levels" in the sense that Bateson uses those terms, and any apparent similarity between the models created by Dilts, and the model created by Bateson, are pure superficial.
    Neuro-logical levels
    With the hyphen "neuro-logical" refers to the basic "levels" model with additional labelling which, according to Dilts, describes the way in which, "These different levels each bring a deeper commitment of neurological 'circuitry' into action." . As we will see later on in this FAQ, the description of this model is pure psycho-babble which shows a complete misunderstanding of genuine, evidence-based knowledge of human neurology.

    To be fair, these errors simply mirror the confusing manner in which Dilts' own writing deals with this topic.  For example, in his 1999 book Sleight of Mouth, Dilts names BOTH models, and then refers to a SINGLE "levels model":

    "I adapted the ideas of Russell and Bateson to formulate the notion of 'Logical Levels' and 'Neuro-Logical Levels' in human behaviour and change.  Drawing from Bateson, the levels model proposes ..."
    (page 246)

    And more recently, in From Coach to Awakener (2003):

    "The structure of this book, is founded upon the Neurological Levels model [sic], which was inspired by the work of Gregory Bateson.  (The relationship between Neurological Levels and Bateson's work is covered in depth in Appendix A.)
    (page xi)

    Unfortunately the appendix in question - A Brief History of Logical Levels - only serves to continue the confusion around the way Dilts slides back and forth between labels.
    As does this passage from the latter part of the book:

    "The term logical levels, as I have used it in NLP, was adapted from Bateson's work, and refers to a hierarchy of levels of processes within an individual or group.  The function of each level is to synthesize, organise and direct the interactions on the level below it."
    (page 300)

    Note:   On the strength of this statement it would appear that as late as 2003 Dilts still didn't understand the point that his models are neither "logical" nor made up of "levels" in the sense that Russell and Bateson used the terms.

    What is not immediately obvious about the first and third passages is that they don't really say what they appear to say.
    In the second quote I see nothing whatever worthy of argument in Dilts' claim that his models were "inspired" by Bateson's work.  It tells us nothing of any substance about the relationship between Bateson's model and Dilts', nut if that's what rang his bell, so be it.  We cannot say the same, however, when Dilts claims that his models are "adapted" or "drawn" from Bateson's work".  In that situation, the bell that starts ringing should be the one with ALARM painted on it.

    The phrase "I adapted" is incredibly vague and actually tells us nothing about the relationship between the ideas of Bateson, or Russell, on the one hand and Dilts' logical levels model on the other, other than that Dilts is the intermediary between the two.  It is intriguing that no one, not even Dilts, has bothered to apply the meta model to Dilts' claims:

    WHAT, precisely, does Dilts mean by the word "adapt" in this context?
    WHAT, exactly, did he adapt?
    To WHAT EXTENT did he "adapt" whatever he adapted?

    What the phrase certainly does not tell us, despite appearances, is that Dilts' model is a direct extension or development of Bateson's work in the sense that many people seem to read into it.  Indeed, given such a tenuous link, Dilts might just as well have said, 'I got the idea of logical levels from looking at a block of flats [i.e. an apartment block] and thinking about how the floors are stacked one on top of another.'

    The phrase "Drawing from Bateson" is likewise empty of any real content:

    WHAT does Dilts mean by the word "Drawing" in this sentence?
    WHAT, exactly, was drawn, or drawn upon?
    To WHAT EXTENT did Dilts "draw" from Bateson?

    He then goes on (Sleight of Mouth, page 247) to describe as Neuro-Logical Levels, the elements which, by his own definition in Changing Belief Systems with NLP, page 210, make up the Logical Levels model.  I can only assume that he thinks this comment, which appears at the end of the description, somehow distinguishes which model he is describing:

    "From the NLP perspective, each of these processes involves a different level of organization and mobilization and commitment of neurological 'circuitry'. "
    (page 248.)

    Yet in practise this comment is just as vague and content-free as the use of "adapted" and "drawing from" described above, because we are never told what this wanna-be scientific phrase "a different level of organization and mobilization and commitment of neurological 'circuitry'." actually means.
    Contrary to all that we have learnt about the exquisitely complex inter-activity between the various parts of the human brain and nervous system, the Neuro-logical Levels description would apparently have us believe that our neurology is basically fragmented, and that some functions simply aren't involved when we are engaged in the so-called "lower levels" of the model.  Indeed, according to this model the only time our entire nervous system goes into action is when we our attention is focused on spiritual matters!

    By this "logic", when we are consciously focused at the "environmental level", or any other "level", all "higher" levels and their allegedly corresponding neurological functions somehow lapse into a sort of "Norwegian Blue" mode*.  They are, according to the model, disengaged, AWOL (absent without leave), non-functioning, incapacitated, "on hold", taking a tea break, etc.  The whole notion falls apart, however, the moment we understand that ALL of the areas described in Dilts' models are available for use ALL of the time, even when we are asleep or unconscious.
    To put it another way, just imagine the physiological chaos that would ensue if our immune and endocrine systems only did any work when we were focused on our identity, and went into borderline "Norwegian Blue" mode as soon as we redirected our attention to our beliefs, our behaviour or the world around us (environment).

    (*   In a classic Monty Python sketch, a Norwegian Blue parrot is returned to a pet shop on the grounds that it is deceased, defunct, no longer breathing, a "polly gone", etc., etc. through a whole list of synonyms for "dead".)

    The Dustbin of History

    Dilts has, in fact, now fleshed out this explanation - demonstrating in the process that his models are both way out of date, and were created in a manner completely contrary to the way in which the rest of the NLP tools and applications were developed:

    Bateson himself (Steps to an Ecology of Mind pp, [sic] 249-250) contended that the hierarchy formed by various levels of learning would correspond to "hierarchies of circuit structure which we may - indeed, must - expect to find in the telencephalized brain". (page 318.)

    In other words, contrary to the thoroughly pragmatic developmental style adopted by Bandler, Grinder, et al, Dilts seems to be saying that he arrived at his "levels models" via a purely hypothetical piece of hero worship - Bateson is wonderful, Bateson says xyz must be so, therefore I will build a model that reflects Bateson's belief.  And this despite the fact that Bateson published his hypothesis 15 years before Dilts first invented his own levels model, and before almost the whole of the most momentous period of research into the workings of the human brain.
    And in any case, Dilts himself had already blown this claim out of the water in his earlier book Effective Presentation Skills (1994).

    In Chapter 2 of that book, in the section headed Levels of Learning (pages 36-42), Dilts does not, as we might have expected, describe Gregory Bateson's "logical levels model" - he describes his own basic logical levels modeling, though he does make the ludicrous claim that:

    Anthropologist Gregory Bateson identified four basic levels of learning and change - each level more abstract than the level below it but each having a greater degree of impact on the individual.
    These levels roughly correspond to:

    a. Who I Am - Identity Who?
    b. My Belief system - Values and Meanings Why?
    c. My Capabilities - Strategies and States How?
    d. My Environment - Specific Behaviours What?
    e. Who I Am - External Constraints Where? When?

    The key point to note here is that by overlaying Bateson's model with his own, Dilts has completely obscured what Bateson was proposing.  There are no commonalities whatsoever other than that both models can be depicted as a vertical list.  If we had not other evidence at all this surely demonstrates that Dilts' inaccurately named "logical levels" model is nothing to do with the model he claims to have been building on.  No subsequent explanation, from Dilts or anyone else, has done anything at all to contradict this conclusion.

    Moreover Dilts further confuses the issue first by describing his model in reverse order (despite the fact that the elements of his list allegedly have a fixed order), and then by calling one diagram of the model "'Nested' Levels of Experience" (page 38), followed by a summary description on page 41 BOTH "Levels of Experience and Learning" AND "Levels of Learning".

    Aha! you might say, but he isn't calling it "logical levels of learning" like Bateson's model.  Which is theoretically correct, but practically wrong.  That is to say, insofar as Dilts claims that his own model is of "logical levels", it presumably follows that if he uses that same model in the context of learning, then it surely follows that he is implying that this is a model of "'logical levels' of learning", does it not?

    Reality Check

    Gregory Bateson labeled his own model: "Logical Categories of Learning and Communication" - no mention of the "and change" as claimed by Dilts in the quote above.  On the contrary, the model came out of his investigation into the process of what is called "epistemology" - which simply means, the study of 'how' we know what (we think) we know.  In Bateson's model, each level is a "holder" for all items at the next level down, thus:

    Level III Learning how to learn how to learn "Enlightenment" (?)
    Level II Learning how to learn Can create new options if necessary, based on understanding of learning process(es)
    Level I Learning Selects from options, learns from feedback
    Level 0 Rule-based actions Obeys the rules - no "trial and error", hence no learning

    This has nothing whatever to do with the so-called logical levels models found in NLP, which a growing number of better informed authors are openly acknowledging are neither "logical" nor about "levels" in any sense that Bateson (or Russell and Whitehead) used those labels.

    To re-emphasise an earlier point, Dilts seems to overlook the fact that Bateson's model is, in effect, a ladder of abstraction.  There is nothing beyond Level III for that very reason - that Level IV and beyond, if they did exist, would be so abstract as to have no equivalent in the real world.
    Dilts, on the other hand, claims that at least the first five "levels" of his models correspond to something in the real world.  There is no evidence that the concept of "abstraction" plays any part in his models.

    This oversight is all the more incomprehensible because, in From Coach to Awakener, Dilts actually quotes Bateson on this point:

    "The Class cannot be a member of itself nor can one of the members be the class, since the term used for the class is of a different level of abstraction - a different Logical Type - from terms used for members"
    (Steps to an Ecology of Mind, Ballentine Books, 1972.  page 202.
    (Quoted in From Coach to Awakener, page 318.  Italics added for emphasis)

    So what are the "logical levels" models found in NLP?

    "Logical"? "Levels"?

    Well, the "logical levels model" looks something like this (the precise nature of the diagram tends to change from time to time, but the labels and the ordering of the labels has remained pretty consistent).  This example, together with the "neuro-logical levels" model which follows, are based on the information in Appendix C of Robert Dilts' book Changing Belief Systems with NLP (Meta Publications, 1990):

    The Logical Levels Model

    Spiritual --- (who else) Transmission
    Who I am Identity (Who) Mission
    My Belief System Values, Criteria (Why) Permission & Motivation
    My Capabilities States, Strategies (How) Direction
    What I do Specific Behaviours (What) Actions
    My Environment External Context (Where, When) Reactions

    The Neuro-Logical Levels Model

    According to the 1990 description, "These different levels each bring a deeper commitment of neurological 'circuitry' into action."

    Spiritual: Holographic Nervous system as a whole
    Identity: Immune system and Endocrine system Deep life-sustaining functions
    Beliefs: Autonomic Nervous System (ANS) (e.g. heart rate, pupil dilation, etc.) Unconscious responses
    Capabilities: Cortical Systems Semiconscious actions (eye movements, posture, etc.)
    Behaviours: Motor system (pyramidal and cerebellum) Conscious actions
    Environment: Peripheral Nervous System (PNS) Sensations and reflex actions

    So what's wrong with the models?
    Wyatt Woodsmall has written a lengthy and detailed study of the models - So Called Logical Levels and Systemic NLP - which can be accessed online at: http://www.cnlpa.de/presse/loglev.html

    The discussion in this FAQ is mainly a further exploration of the validity of these models, and, by implication, the various other wanna-be scientific models found in NLP.

    Logical Levels?

    Given the frequent assertion that Dilts' models are based on or developed from Bateson's work, it seems reasonable to expect that Bateson's model of "logical levels of learning" and Dilts' "logical levels" should have certain significant features in common.  But they don't.  On the contrary, they differ in every important respect:

    1. Bateson was describing logical levels of learning.  Dilts' model is simply labelled "logical levels" - there is no explanation as to what the models are logical levels of.
      As if to prove that no one really knows what Dilts' models are all about, one writer, with no hint of an explanation, calls them "logical levels of experience", and a new (2004) introduction to NLP calls them "logical levels of change". One highly skilled and experienced NLPer who uses NLP in his therapeutic work, suggests that they are "logical levels of intervention," whilst someone else calls them "logical levels of learning."  Yet none of these definitions can actually be true unless it is also true that the "levels" in question represent a genuine hierarchy so that what happens at one level would automatically "cascade" down, having an effect at "lower levels".  And that is not the case.
    2. If a model is said to involve logical levels then there should be some kind of logical relationship between the various items.  There is in the Bateson model, but not in the Dilts model.  The logical relationship in the Bateson model is recursive - each level 'contains' all instances of the next level down.  For this to be true in the case of the plain Logical Levels model, for example, "Behaviours" would have to be the set of ALL "Environments"; "Beliefs" would have to be the set of ALL "Capabilities", and so on.  This is clearly not the case.
    3. Bateson's model describes genuine "levels".  That is to say, there is an inherent hierarchical relationship between the items.  Dilts claims that his model has an "internal hierarchy in which each level is progressively more psychologically encompassing and impactful."  In practice, however, the claim falls flat on its face, so to speak, when confronted with even the simplest question, such as: In what sense is the "environment" a description of a psychological level?

    Obviously the Bateson model of "logical levels of learning" has nothing to do with Dilts' "logical levels", and Dilts' models are therefore not a development or extension of Bateson's work.  In fact, the "logical levels" and "neuro-logical levels" tags appear to be nothing more than a misguided attempt to give the models some semblance of academic/intellectual respectability by association.

    Neuro-Logical Levels?

    We need do no more than examine the labels of two of the elements in the "neuro-logical levels" model to realise that it is hopelessly flawed because it blatantly contradicts simple physiological facts.

    According to the "Neuro-logical Levels" model, the Autonomic Nervous System (ANS) is three levels "higher" than the Peripheral Nervous System (PNS).  For this to be true the ANS should in some sense "bring a deeper commitment of neurological 'circuitry' into action" than would the PNS.  Unfortunately, as we can easily discover from any relevant text book, this description just doesn't make sense.

    Peripheral Nervous System hierarchy

    In simple terms the rather ambiguously named "peripheral nervous system" is actually our entire nervous system apart from the central nervous system (which consists of the brain, the brain stem and the spinal cord).  Far from containing the PNS, the ANS (autonomic nervous system) is part of, or contained within the PNS.  Moreover, as Professor Donald Hebb put it:

    "The autonomic nervous system is ... a primitive, though still complex, set of motor pathways to smooth muscle and glands.  [it is] a primitive motor system, much of whose action is diffuse rather than specific and not well controlled by cortical systems."

    On what possible basis, then, can we suppose that the ANS brings "a deeper commitment of neurological 'circuitry' into action" than the PNS (which it is part of)?  In practise, as the diagram shows, when the PNS (as a whole) is functioning it involves the "commitment" of a far greater amount of "circuitry" than just the ANS.
    To put it very bluntly, Dilts is basing his claims on an assumption made by Bateson about certain elements of brain circuitry.  Bateson reached his conclusions on a purely hypothetical basis because he was writing a number of years before brain scanning equipment was developed which gave us a reasonably accurate and detailed picture of what actually goes on in the brain.

    With respect to Bateson, his hypothesis was rather wide of the mark, and because Dilts' models are still based on this out-of-date material they, too, are at odds with the structure of the "reality" they supposedly map.
    And that's only part of the fiasco.  According to the view of the situation expressed in Dilts' book From Coach to Awakener:

    "To experience the environment, a person can passively adjust his or her sense organs.  To take action in a particular environment, a person needs to mobilize more of his or her nervous system. ... A sense of self arises from a total mobilization of the nervous system at all the other levels.  In general, then, higher levels of process mobilize a deeper commitment of the nervous system.
    (page 319.)

    Which makes no sense at all unless we suppose that bits of the nervous system are constantly being switched on and off depending on which of Dilts' "levels" we are operating on.  Which is a complete nonsense.
    Our nervous system may be passing more messages if we are actually performing some physical task, as compared with sitting staring at the sunset,  But that doesn't mean that bits of the nervous system only come into play when we become physically active.  On the contrary, the nervous system, as with the brain itself, is constantly "talking to itself," even when we are asleep.
    Moreover, by assigning different functions to different "levels" these models directly conflict with the NLP presupposition that "Brain and body are parts of a single system."  If different functionality is on different "levels" then we clearly aren't looking at a true "system".

    And if that weren't enough of a problem, there is no evidence to show that the brain, the nervous system and the immune and endocrine systems are on different neurological levels.  The fact is that the original NLP presupposition is right.  The brain and body are a single system, and that means the different subsystems work hand in hand and not depending on whether you are thinking about your environment, your behaviour or whatever.

    As leading researcher Dr Candace Pert explains in her book Molecules of Emotion:

    "... the point I am making is that your brain is extremely well integrated with the rest of your body at a molecular level, so much so that the term mobile brain is an apt description of the psychosomatic network through which intelligent information travels from one system to another.  Every one of the zones, or systems, of the network - the neural, the hormonal, the gastrointestinal, and the immune - is set up to communicate with one another, via peptides and messenger-specific peptide receptors.  Every second, a massive information exchange is occurring in your body."
    (pages 188-89, Simon & Schuster Pocket Books edition, 1999.  Italics as in the original)

    What's in a Level?

    But the biggest flaw in the Dilts models is simply this - most of the alleged "levels" are not separate.
    Contemplating the environment and taking action may be distinct activities (though only by degree - even just sitting still involves a continuous series of actions at the level of the nervous system).
    But what about the so-called higher levels?  Above behaviour we have "capabilities," "beliefs and values," "identity," and "spirituality."  But what are these "levels"?  You can "behave," but you cannot "capable." you cannot "beliefs and values," you cannot "identity," and so on.  In fact you can only think about all of these things - anything more takes us straight back to "behaviour."  So what the models offer us is actually only two "levels" deep - thinking and behaving - and not the six levels that Dilts proposes.  Moreover the environment (within which the thinking/behaving occurs) cannot be both inside and outside the system and therefore doesn't really belong within the model in the first place.

    A New Approach

    In short, the neuro-logical model seems to be little more than mere psycho-babble, and looks as though it has been constructed to fit an unproven hypothesis and with little or no regard for our day-to-day experience.  Insofar as it assumes that the only internal communication within the nervous and related systems is via the medium of "neurological circuitry" (axons-synapses-dendrites?), the neuro-logical model is not only inaccurate in 2004, it was already inaccurate when it was first devised in the mid-1980's!
    There are far too many flaws in the neurological models for them to have an credibility, and representing them as useful models of reality merely demonstrates to outsiders the apparent gullibility of the many NLPers who are inclined to swallow this stuff hook, line and sinker.

    In my view, in order to use this material effectively, it is better thought of in line with the model below, which I call "The Stack":

    Diagram - 'The Stack'

    A "Stack" will consist of a large number of "platters", each of which can be likened to a mental map (remember, this is only intended as a model, not as a literal representation of some part(s) of the brain's physiology) which are sorted in some way, such as by context.

    The key flaws in the "Logical Levels" models that are resolved in this representation include:

    • There is no need to assume that effects of change can only cascade downwards/travel in one direction.
    • The fact that all sectors touch every other sector is consistent with the cybernetic view that any change in one element of a genuine "system" may, if necessary, trigger compensatory changes in other parts of the system
    • By removing the notion of "levels" we arrive at a genuinely systemic model in which no element is superior to any other element.
    • The model places the system elements within the context instead of (mistakenly) trying to characterise the context as part of the system.  So whilst the elements within the system may all be equal, no such equality can be assumed between the system and the context, or between any particular element of the system and the context.
    • It gives us a workable model which is free from pseudo-scientific and pseudo-psychological mumbo jumbo
    • and so on.

    Incidentally, I chose the word "context" rather than "environment" for the outer circle with the intention of clarifying the interactive nature of the relationship between the environment and the system.  The elements of a system do not exist in isolation from the environment, nor does the system itself include the environment.  Nor are the elements of the system interacting with the whole of the environment.  Rather the elements of the system are able to interact with the current context - the particular part the environment the system is currently occupying - at the same time as they are interacting with other parts of that system.
    Indeed, because of the nature of a system, even an element which is not, at a given moment, directly interacting with the context can still be influenced by the context via the interaction of another element within the system which is directly influenced by the context.  For example, a person bathing in the sea may be firmly convinced that they are an excellent swimmer, yet rapidly lose that belief if they suddenly find themselves caught up by an unexpected current which is stronger than their swimming skills are able to cope with.
    So it's not just a question of "where am I?" - at home, indoors, outdoors, at work, etc. - but also:  What am I doing?  Who else is here?  What are they doing?  What else is happening?  And so on.

    Does it Really Matter?

    Some NLPers object to criticisms of the "logical level" models on the grounds that the labels don't matter:

    "...although some would say that it [the logical levels model] is not necessarily either a logical or a hierarchical levels model as first conceived.  Nevertheless, as is usual with NLP, we are not concerned so much with the 'truth' as with pragmatic usefulness in the real world."

    This is quite a revealing claim when it comes from people who allegedly understand that "Neuro-Linguistic Programming" refers specifically to the way that our language directly influences the way we think!  Nor does it make much sense in relation to what may be the best-known of the NLP-related presuppositions:

    The map is not the territory

    Because the complete version of the original statement goes further than that:

    A map is not the territory, but, if correct, it has as similar structure to the territory, which accounts for its usefulness.
    (Science and Sanity, Alfred Korzybski, 1994 (5th edition).  IGS, Englewood, New Jersey.  Page 58.  Italics as in the original text)

    We might also ask what value does any model have if it is effectively beyond definition?
    The fact is that these models, far from being a benefit, are a liability.  The pseudo-scientific packaging encourages novice NLPers to believe that these models are firmly based in reality.  In such cases, some people, regardless of how well-educated and/or intelligent they may be, become increasingly rigid in their views on NLP, even to the point of making ridiculous claims such as:

    "No one can be a good coach without knowing NLP", and
    "A [business] trainer can't do their job effectively if they haven't been trained in NLP techniques"
    (Both of these comments appeared on a UK online discussion group for business trainers, HR personnel, etc.)

    I don't question the positive intentions of the people who make these claims.  Indeed, sad to say I believe they were made in good faith - albeit without much understanding.  Nevertheless, however useful the various NLP-related concepts and techniques may be, there is no truth in these statements.  Indeed, it seems to me that it is extremely disrespectful to skilled, experienced professionals to tell them that if they haven't studied "NLP" then they can't be any good.
    I do, however, believe that this nonsense is encouraged by the use of pseudo-scientific labels such as the "Unified Field" model (label courtesy of Albert Einstein), the "Re-imprinting" technique (label taken from Konrad Lorenz), and "logical levels" (label borrowed from Bertrand Russell via Gregory Bateson), etc., etc.

    The Pragmatic Fallacy

    And finally, we need to consider what is called the pragmatic fallacy - "If it works it must be true".

    Sorry, folks, this is no proof at all.
    It is certainly true that some people think some version of these models works, and from that beginning assume that their chosen model is both true and useful.  What we don't know is what is meant by "works", or what is actually "working" in any particular instance.  Is it that the model itself is accurate, so a literal interpretation or application of the model is effective in some way?  Or is it simply that these people are interpreting and/or applying the model in a way which "works" for them?

    The information I have collected from various sources suggests that lack of clarity is a major factor in both the popularity of these models, and in the claims that the models "work".  For example, one author (who is a member of one of Dilts' organizations), writing about the application of NLP in education, recommends the use of the logical levels model - even though the version he presents in his book is not a match for any of the versions set out in Changing Belief Systems'.
    So if we were to successfully utilise this particular model, would it provide validation of the neurological models, or only this "rogue" offshoot?

    At present the multiple definitions of the model are so fluid that the only requirement needed to make the claim true seems to be that someone thinks it is true.  They don't have to be able to describe how it worked, or why it worked, or whether the result they claim to have got lasted more than an hour or two.  And they don't have to be able to remember what they did with the model.  In fact, as we've seen here, they don't even have to be able to accurately describe the model they claim they are using!  Which means that we actually have no evidence at all that the model itself is either true or that it "works", only that some people believe that they have applied an unspecified version of the model after which the expected results have allegedly been observed for an unspecified period of time.  No wonder Carmen Bostic St. Clair and John Grinder question whether the logical levels model belongs "within the field of NLP" at all (Whispering in the Wind, page 303).
    How far removed is this from Korzybski's statement that the value of any map (which is what a model is, in this context) depends on how closely it matches reality?

    Any NLPers who assume that if they address the elements in the "logical levels" models and get what they regard as a positive result is proof of the validity of the model as a whole are invited to test out the single level model shown above and see if that also works.  I suspect that they may find it works just as well, or better, and without the inherent confusion or controversy associated with the "logical levels" models.