An Interchange:

between Steve Andreas and L. Michael Hall on Logical Levels

In what follows NLP Trainer, Steve Andrews, takes numerous excerpts from The Matrix Model (Hall, 2003), Chapter 23, and adds his comments in (parentheses), which he then sent to Michael Hall for his comments.   The question that Steve was pursuing concerned “Logical Levels.”  The response in this interchange occurs in the second part.

As dynamic, fluid, and non-linear processes, they are shifting and changing thoughts-and-feelings.  They are our neuro-semantic way of thinking, emoting, and framing things.  So we need to describe this process using a verb, hence, “logical leveling.”

In so layering state upon state, the first state relates as a member of a class to the class itself.

(This certainly sounds like class inclusion.)

We are pointing to certain processes of thinking and feeling.  What we call “logical levels” are the mental processes, or ways that we think and/or punctuate experience.

Now suppose we get playful about our seriousness.  Suppose we bring other thoughts and feelings that involve a sense of lightening up and being playful to our seriousness.  Layering such mind-body responses (another state) upon our seriousness then creates a more complex situation, playful seriousness.  That gives us two levels and increases our resourcefulness.

(Playful seriousness would usually be understood as a subset of seriousness, a smaller class within the larger class seriousness—class inclusion again, though at a smaller rather than larger level.)

In this way we layer a set of thoughts and feelings upon another set.  We meta-state.  The thoughts we layer upon first thoughts operate at a higher logical level.  They operate beyond the first, and are about the first. We use the word “meta” to describe this relationship of using thoughts to transcend and include thoughts.  When thinking new thoughts about other thoughts we use the meta-function (Bateson’s terminology) to create levels of mind.  We are minding one thought in terms of another. The meta-thought becomes the class or classifier of the previous thought.

(Yes, but at a smaller level, rather than a larger level, if this is class inclusion.)

Suppose we don’t stop there.  Suppose we bring thoughts of compassion and kindness toward people to our seriousness.  Now we not only have playful seriousness, but also kind and compassionate seriousness.  This gives us a way to keep layering our thinking-feeling. As we layer thought upon thought, feeling upon feeling, we thereby texture our original state and embed it in these higher thoughts.  Doing this moves us to Level III.

(This is a different classification of seriousness, so it would be at the same level as the previous classification of it as playful. It would only be a level III thinking if it were “kind and compassionate playful seriousness.” However, that would be an even smaller subset of seriousness, not a larger one.)

This explanation (another thought with its corresponding feelings) further textures the seriousness, compassion, win/win seriousness that’s playful.  And we now have moved to Level IV.

(Again this is a yet smaller, more specific class of seriousness.)

“So you’re thinking in terms of the long-run?”  Level VI.

(In my understanding this is a scope shift, noticing the consequences of an activity, not a shift in categorization,

How do you model or track a mind that can do this kind of a thing?  How do we profile and understand a mind that is always jumping “logical levels?”  A complex mind that is always reflecting back onto itself and its previous thoughts and emotions?  A mind  that is always jumping up to a higher category to create conceptual realities and frames?

(You speak of a “higher category” but your examples so far have been smaller categories. Do you consider smaller categories to be “higher”? That is not the usual way of describing them.)

Meta-States pictures “logical levels” as processes, and specifically as a layering process that textures states.

(Can you denominalize “layering” and “textures”?)

But contextual meaning refers to the higher frames.  To have contextual meaning, we have to set an internal mental-emotional context that serves as a frame-of-reference by which we then make sense of something.  This is the beauty of meta-stating.  When we bring one state to bear upon another and apply one to another, the higher state functions as a contextual meaning or frame for the lower.

Playful seriousness

Playful and compassionately kind seriousness

Playful, compassionately kind, and win/win thinking for the long-term seriousness

(Again, to me these show a sequence of smaller contexts, yet you describe them as “higher.”)

Each layering of neuro-linguistic states not only textures the first state, but creates an entire neuro-semantic network of embedded frames (a “logical level” system).

(I agree that you are creating a set of embedded frames, but each successive one in your example is smaller rather than larger.)

By transcending, or going meta, to the first state, the meta-state includes the previous state.

(In your description, the larger state is seriousness, while the others are smaller subsets of it.  I am puzzled that you consider the smaller ones “meta” to the larger ones.)

A “logical level” system refers to a system of layers of thoughts-and-emotions about thoughts-and-emotions so that the higher layers classify (or categorize) the lower.

(You seem to be equating “layers” with “levels.” “. . . the higher layers classify (or categorize) the lower” sounds again like class inclusion, but in the example you gave, you seem to be saying that the smaller categories classify the larger ones, which is the opposite of the description of class inclusion.)

“Yes, when we identify ourselves or our sense of self with something that typically indicates layering several levels up.  And yet … What do you believe about how you have identified yourself?

(I agree that belief is a larger category, and therefore meta. Previously you used the word meta for a smaller category; now you are using it for a larger. Do you use the same term for both?)

Does it serve you well?

(This is a scope shift, going to consequences, not a recategorization—either smaller or larger—though attending to consequences may result in a recategorization–another consequence– as you indicate below.)

Would you want to update it and reinvent yourself?

(This is another consequence, not a categorization.)

Would you value that or find that important?  And if you did transform, who would you rather choose to be?  And if you make those decisions, what could you then expect of yourself?  And what would your highest intention be in doing that?

(These are larger categories, what most would describe as meta.)

Let’s say that I want to frame my thoughts about my experiences of fear and anger (which as primary state experiences refer to level I) with the realization that they are “Just Emotions,” that they are “Just signals in my mind-body about the relationship between my Map of the World and the Territory (experience) of the world.”

Here’s a high level idea.  It’s a central one to personal mastery that we wrote about in The Secrets of Personal Mastery.  When I bring this understanding or realization, as a higher idea, and set it as a frame about my everyday experiences of fear and anger, this idea as a concept and belief classifies or re-classifies my emotions.  It puts fear and anger into the category of “Just emotions..” .  The primary state experience of fear and anger become members of the class of “Just Emotions…”

(That certainly sounds like class inclusion to me. Emotions are a larger class that includes fear and anger—and joy and sorrow, etc.)

So what?

There’s much involved in this. Doing this allows me to play an entirely new Game.  It sets up the Game, “Emotions are Just Emotions, not a Report Card on Life or Self.”

(I understand this as redescription, substituting one larger category “just emotions” for the previous one “report card.”)


What we call “logical levels” are really the way we layer classifications and evaluations upon other thoughts and feelings to create meta-levels or frames that then govern the neuro-semantic system.

(This sounds like you are saying that ANY sequential thought/feeling is a new logical level, whether it is a larger or smaller classification or categorization. If that is correct, then “logical level” is equivalent to the word “sequence.” Does “logical level” have a meaning to you that is different.

Response to Steve Andreas’ Questions

I received the excerpts you took from the chapter on Logical Levels in The Matrix Model along with your comments and questions.   I trust your questions and exploration is in the spirit of truly attempting to understand the Meta-States and Matric models and some of the uniqueness that Neuro-Semantics brings to NLP and how we say that we have taken NLP to a new and higher level.

Before addressing the question about defining “logical levels” and that of classification, there are two things I think critical about understanding the reflexivity of Meta-States.

First, to understand these models necessitates a new and different kind of thinking.  It necessitates a systems perspective that is non-linear (rather than linear), that is holistic rather than dealing with elements or elementalism (Korzybski), and that uses the height metaphor of going up, meta, higher rather than down.

Second, there’s a concept from Korzybski that I think helps to explain why bringing any state of thought-emotion to bear upon another upon another, no matter how small, moves to a higher logical level and sets the frame and thereby classifies and categorizes the lower in the frame of the higher.  That is the idea of psycho-logics.  Korzybski said that it is a psycho-logical process and that why it may not be “logical” according to a syllogism, because of the self-reflexive nature of human consciousness, our reflexivity makes it psycho-logical.

With those two considerations, this explains why even bringing a “small” thought or feeling like Playfulness and bringing it to bear upon Seriousness creates playful seriousness which makes Playful the higher “logical level” and the class with Serious as the member of that class.  Can Serious be a member of the class of Playful?  Yes, if you apply, or bring to bear, Playful to Serious.  If you embed Serious inside of the Playful frame, then yes, Playful becomes the categorizing frame.

Next, suppose we layer yet another thought on top of that, say, “wanting things to be Win/Win.”  We would do that by accessing that thought (and whatever feelings it triggers) and apply that to Playful seriousness and we have yet another class, the class or category of Win/Win.  What new member have we put into that class?  Playful seriousness.  We have embedded it inside a higher Class.

In meta-stating, we set a higher frame as a Classification or Categorization so that the lower state becomes a member of that class.  This creates the embedding of one concept within another.  In this way we transcend a current state of thought and emotion to rise up to another and set it in a meta-relationship between the concepts.

The metaphor we use in Meta-States to explain “logical levels” is the image of a Diamond.  Each “level” or layer of awareness that we bring to something is like a facet of a diamond.  The facets are not different from, or other than, the diamond; they are within the diamond and they are the diamond.

If you recognize and agree that a belief is a higher “logical level” and therefore meta, then it is easy to recognize that every thought, every emotion, and every state can be put into a meta-relationship.   This means that every identification, intention, decision, memory, feeling, imagination, thought, etc. (we have 26 facets of the diamond of consciousness), that is, 26 logical level categories in our set of Meta-Questions.  This enables us to look at any subjective experience through the lens of 26 different facets, to detect it, flush it out, explore, and transform it.

In this, the meta-stating process of layering thought upon thought, feeling upon feeling, state upon state (which is the denominalizing of “layers” or “levels” or “textures”) does not depends upon the size or scope of the item brought to bear.  That’s why the tiniest little frame—an editorial frame of some cinematic feature in your movie can make an incredible transformation.  You call these “sub-modalities” but there’s nothing “sub” about the cinematic features of our movies.  Zooming in and out occurs outside of the movie as way of editing the movie.

“Now zoom the camera in … get a close up.   That’s right.  Now brighten up the colors of the face.  Good!  Bring in some music.”

These editorial decisions relate to some movie, are about some movie, and set frames about the movie: closer, farther; brighter, dimmer, etc.  We even have to step back (go meta) to the movie to notice these cinematic frames and then alter some feature.  While a smaller or finer distinction, they occur at the editorial level.

When we bring a thought-feeling about a consequence to bear upon another thought-or feeling state, we meta-state with “consequence” and so go meta, move up, classify, categorize, transcend and embed the lower inside the higher.  The size, scope, or nature of the thought or feeling with which we do this doesn’t matter.

That’s why we can start with the idea (the thoughts and feelings and state of) something valuable like “want to study NLP” and bring excitement to it and make “wanting to studying NLP”

a member of the class of Exciting Things.  We can then layer that with yet another thought or emotion, perhaps curiosity, or an intention (to become more skilled), or a meta-intention (to become successful in business), or an identification (to become a NLPer), or a consequence (to move through the sequence of NLP trainings and become a trainer), or a feeling (playful), or anything.

So, yes, in this any thought-or-feeling state of awareness can be used to meta-state, to create a new “logical level,” to layer one’s thinking and feeling with this quality and so texture one’s state with it.

The layering of thoughts and feelings is the sensory process that creates these psycho-logical levels and that textures our experience.  The quality of our experience is the gestalt that results.  The layering of yet another thought, awareness, feeling, emotion, state establishes yet another higher classification or category.

The trick in language is that all of the nominalizations that we use to describe inner mental life and phenomena – “beliefs, values, intentions, identity, memory, imagination, decision, prohibition, permission, etc.” (the 26 facets of the diamond of consciousness, and that’s just the beginning) … the trick is that all of these so-called “things” are not things, but processes and they are all just different words for the same thing– experience.

So each is at the same time (and this is where we truly have to think systemically to get this), all are simultaneous all of these things.  Take the meta-state— playful seriousness.

Is that a belief?   Yes, I believe in being playful in my seriousness or earnestness.

Is it a value?  Yes, I value being playful while doing something that I care about.

Is it a decision?  Yes, I have decided to be playful …

Is it an intention?  Yes, it’s my intention.

Is it an identity?   Yes, that’s not a part of the texture of how I experience myself.

Is it a memory?  Yes, I have memories of being playfully serious.

Is it an imagination?  Yes, I can create a mental movie of being playfully serious.

Is it a sound?  Yes I can hear a playful tone of voice.


These are simply different facets of the same thing.  That’s why the so-called “logical levels” and meta-levels of our psycho-logics do not stay “meta” for long but are always coalescing to bring these qualities down into our muscles and neurology and so getting into our flesh.  These higher meanings become the felt and embodied reality that we experience in our body, neurology, and physiology.

What counts in all of this is the layering process.  So whenever anyone thinks or feels or says anything, what they then say or think or feel about that becomes a higher frame.  That’s why we say that it’s the “thoughts in the back of the mind” that are more important and critical than the thoughts in the front of the mind.  As we layer thoughts or feelings we set up a meta-relationship.  The first thought becomes a member of the class of whatever we think about it.  Think, “That’s stupid!”  And we have just classified our first thought as a member of the class of “Stupid.”

It is that easy, that fast, and that slippery.  Our reflexive consciousness operates so quickly this way and jumps “logical levels” so fast that even a well-trained practitioner sometimes finds it very challenging to keep track of the meta-jumps.   Yet the meta-jumps which create the classes and categories which operate as the self-organizing higher frames in the mind-body-emotion system is precisely the mechanism that creates our Matrix of frames.   This describes the Meaning Matrix with the Intention Matrix in the background that drives all of the meanings that we create which, in turn, governs our everyday experiences and the “reality” that we live in.

Imagine two young people who are newly in love, in love for the first time in their lives.  The primary state is that of “first love.”  Do you have a picture of this?  Now, isn’t that sweet?  Oopps, just meta-stated a “logical level,” now didn’t I?  We just put first love into the Class of Sweetness.  Now what if someone saw the same with a couple in their forties and what if they said, “How disgusting!”  Now we have sweet first love as a member of the class of Disgusting.

First level: first-love.

Meta-Level: sweet first-love

Meta-Level2: Disgusting sweet first-love

Now imagine the corporate office in the central business district of a major city and a guy called in for a year-end performance review.  His manager’s overview of the guy’s work style is that he does things in a half-assed manner, doing enough to get by, but lowering the quality and reputation of the company in the process.  He has just put the guy’s work style in the Class of Half-Ass Things.  Is that a “logical level?”  Is that a psycho-logical level?  Yes.

If the guy disagreed with the evaluation, he might have explained that he was just coasting because this was his last year before retirement.  In that, he has classified, framed, and meta-stated himself and his work style as belonging to the Class of Coasting.

In all of this meaning-making and attribution, meaning is a function of our second thoughts and third thoughts and nth thoughts up the “logical levels” of our mind and matrix of frames, created as we layer and texture thoughts, feelings, ideas, concepts, etc. one upon the other.  To know that is to know how to begin to master your matrix.

I hope this provides the clarification that you inquired about.


Michael Hall