Reading Synergetics: Some Tips
This is a slightly updated version of the
original as published in Vol. 6 No. 3 (Autumn 1991) of Trimtab.
Reading Synergetics: Some Tips
has lucid, clear passages and very difficult passages. Both occur in
each chapter. I feel there are several reasons for the difficulty of
the text. First, Fuller does his best to avoid being misunderstood and
so chooses sentences that tend to be intractable until one looks at them
from an appropriate angle. Most reader's school-taught reflex thinking
is a little off from the world view proffered by Synergetics. Finally,
it seems to me that Fuller has presented the material so as to ask the
reader to re-discover the validity of the ideas in their own terms -
Fuller has no Key to the Universe. The doors are already open!
Until one is determined to read Synergetics systematically (no
one says you must read a book sequentially), one can get quite a
lot out of the text by browsing it. I would recommend reading
chapter eight "Operational
Mathematics" before beginning a systematic study of the text.
This chapter reveals much about Fuller's perspective, concerns and
methodologies in a relatively readable presentation. By building the
models described and carefully examining Fuller's approach, one will begin
to see some of the crucial points necessary to understand synergetics.
After reading "Operational Mathematics" one could begin a sequential
study of the text or continue browsing interesting passages.
Once one decides to take the plunge into the inviting waters of this tome,
these tips may prove useful:
2 is like the "claims" section of a patent application.
It is more summary than introduction. Most of its content is better
explained later on. If you get stuck, you can skip it.
- Start a Synergetics notebook. Include questions and problems you have
with the text and its content. Write an analysis of these difficulties.
Record your hypotheses about what Fuller is trying to say in each passage.
Also include any reflections or ideas that the text may inspire (even
if they seem far removed from its gist). The idea is this: the text
interacts with itself synergetically. So it is important to have well
developed ideas about each section. Then you can build upon your dawning
understanding as you read additional passages and try to integrate them.
By degrees comprehension will come!
- Build models to visualize and test concepts and assertions in
- Remember you are really only interested in the truth. Fuller
challenges us to develop our own notions about reality. Fuller's
writing seems to say "here is something that is very interesting.
This is what I think about it." Look at the system he points at.
Search for the significance, properties and interrelationships of
- Think of Synergetics as a guide to discovering Universe. The
particular ideas presented may be less important than the effect
upon one's attitude, thinking processes, and way of looking at
- Recognize that any path-opening work will have some contradictions
and scattered errors in it. Try to ferret them out and resolve them.
- Synergetics is NOT a program which you plug into your head (it is
not a super algorithm for understanding the Universe). It is, instead,
a world view or approach one takes to look at the world. It is often
more revealing than one's previous views.
- Synergetics is systemic. Often we try to get a one frame-view
of Universe. But in synergetics we have many interacting systems.
We must change our angular perspective to focus on the relationship we
are interested in. Often in synergetics some interesting system will
only be partially and tantalizingly explored by Fuller in the text.
So you begin to ask some of your own questions. Now is the time to
begin an investigation - to try your hand at cosmic fishing. In order
to answer your questions, you may have to repeatedly change tacks and
reconsider the system anew until gradually the resolution of the problem
- If you get a copy of Synergetics 2, read
the Demass Model scenario
(Sec. 986). This is an excellent introduction to both volumes.
Many of Fuller's other books are less demanding than Synergetics
and provide alternate angles of approach to the material of
synergetics. The best introduction to Fuller's work might be
Operating Manual for
Spaceship Earth. However, "Critical Path", "Grunch of Giants,"
and "Tetrascroll" are all relevant to synergetics. Fuller's essay
"Omnidirectional Halo" in "No More Secondhand God" covers the
geometry of thinking in a nice presentation. Hugh Kenner's "Bucky"
is an outstanding source. But the classic interpretation of Fuller's
Synergetics is Amy Edmondson's A
Fuller Explanation: The Synergetic Geometry of Buckminster Fuller.
Edmondson opens large sections of Synergetics to the previously frustrated
In Synergetics 2 there is a
of scenarios in the text. "Each scenario is a narrative sequence of
geometrical exposition written - and intended to be read - as a separate
continuity." I have reviewed volume one and have developed a list of
scenarios for it. These scenarios are ideal for browsing and becoming
acquainted with Fuller's idiosyncratic writing style. They are gems:
well written essentials of synergetics.
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