Working with Nine Ladies


Nine Ladies arose from a mixed philosophy study group when the women found they approached the subject differently to the men. Discussions had become so intellectual that the women found these ceased to have relevance, personally or practically. They began to explore alternative ways of working and over time developed their ideas into a more systematic ‘female approach to philosophy’. The name Nine Ladies came from a stone circle in the Peak District of Derbyshire which was near the venue for a work weekend.

Since it was founded in the 1980’s Nine Ladies has run local groups, residential courses and seminars. Group work has been central to Nine Ladies but not everybody has the luxury of kindred spirits living nearby; so if you are interested in the contents of this website but have no one else to work with please do not be discouraged. There are ways round it, so read on!

Nine Ladies is underpinned by a theoretical framework. This may seem inconsistent with the description ‘practical philosophy’, but it is necessary to avoid the problems common in discussions when people adopt entrenched positions and the conversation goes round and round in circles. Thoughts go round and round in circles too, and attitudes become entrenched, not just in relation to others but within ourselves, so whether you are working in a group or alone the theory can provide direction and different ways of seeing things.

Our theoretical framework in Nine Ladies is based on first principles. A principle is a truth or law. Principles can be relative; for instance, one person can live by a certain set of principles and another person by a different set, but others are more fundamental. As human beings we live in a ‘dualistic’ world.  We experience life in terms of opposites – dark in relation to light, up in relation to down, forward in relation to back etc. Dualism is described as a ‘first principle’ because it is common to all human beings. A theoretical framework based on first principles provides points of reference that everyone can relate to.

The Tetrahedron, which is constructed from triangles, is based on the principle of triplicity. Triplicity has a long association with women because our lives are divided into three distinct phases, traditionally known as the phases of the Maiden, Mother and Crone. These labels are somewhat anachronistic. In the past women had babies soon after puberty and aged quickly after menopause, but that is no longer the case, at least in modern developed societies. One of the ways in which the Tetrahedron has proved particularly useful is in addressing the issues that women face when medical developments blur these biological boundaries.

There is plenty of scope in everyday life to bring theory down to earth. A mother dealing with a toddler’s tantrums, for example, can learn valuable lessons about the relationship between the Stone and the Threads. The bonds between a mother and child are powerful, and a toddler’s distress is bound to affect her physically. Observing these effects can lead to a greater understanding, not just when it comes to the centre point of the base line in the Tetrahedron, but of the way this relates to the overall model.


When the members of a group live in the same vicinity weekly meetings help to build momentum. Workshops and residential weekends are fine when people come from further afield.

Group work requires some ground rules. We recommend the following:

  1. Commitment to regular attendance
  2. Have a set time for the start and finish of meetings and keep to it.
  3. A group leader. This need not necessarily be the same person all the time but can rotate amongst the group members.
  4. Consideration for others. This includes always speaking to the group as a whole and listening to what others have to say.
  5. Using physical awareness and whatever other techniques are found useful in order to be fully present during the meeting rather than ‘absent minded’.
  6. Tolerance, particularly when other people’s opinions do not conform to your own.
  7. The willingness to actively investigate tasks set between meetings and to report back on them faithfully.
  8. Being prepared to speak from your own experience rather than through theory or hearsay.


If you are working on your own it is a good idea to keep a diary. Set yourself tasks, using the topics suggested here as a starting point, and record your thoughts and observations. If you are able to travel you may find courses that can help you. For example, if you want to develop physical awareness you could do a course in Yoga or T’ai Chi. Unfortunately, some of these disciplines have become confused with the health and beauty industry, so if you join a class and find its aims do not accord with your own, avoid it.

Whatever your situation, please feel free to contact us if you need advice and we will do our best to help you.


The page called Topics and Tasks includes ideas for discussion at meetings and practical exercises to work on at home. These are just suggestions, and groups should add to them (or replace them completely!) with their own ideas. Beware the temptation to rush things. Think of the work as a journey and use the Tetrahedron as your map. Every step of the journey is valuable, and the more time devoted to it the better.