Friday, November 21, 2014

Chapter 30 - Saint Elizabeths: Part 3 - The 'Logic' of 'Insanity'

Korzybski: A Biography (Free Online Edition)
Copyright © 2014 (2011) by Bruce I. Kodish 
All rights reserved. Copyright material may be quoted verbatim without need for permission from or payment to the copyright holder, provided that attribution is clearly given and that the material quoted is reasonably brief in extent.

Soon after Alfred arrived at Government Hospital for the Insane, he met the doctor who ran the women’s department—a friend of Dr. White. She was interested in having Alfred study the women confined in the hospital. He wanted to study them too since he felt curious about differences between disturbances in men and women. Each unit of the hospital typically had a room where he could read patients’ charts and then have conversations with them. Any female patient he intended to interview was accompanied by a female nurse acting as a chaperone, as much for his sake as the patient’s. He soon confirmed the wisdom of this precaution:
It was impossible. Perfectly impossible. What can you do with a patient, for instance, the first thing they do…they hold up their skirt. Immediately. What to do. You can do nothing about that. Of course, I was always with a nurse, and the nurse pulled the skirt down. That’s not a solution. How can I talk with a patient who behaves that way? (14)
As a result, Alfred decided he was not going to have private interviews with female patients at St. Elizabeths.

Of course, he knew he also had to be careful with the male patients for reasons of his physical safety. When he went into a room to have a conversation with a psychotic man, he would have a guard nearby. In addition, as an experienced ex-fencer, he remained acutely aware of body language and the distance between himself and whomever he was talking with. He knew there could be a great element of unpredictability in a patient’s reactions, even to the most innocent-seeming remarks or gestures. Surprises could happen that he might have to respond to quickly. He would later tell students of his, working with severely disturbed people, to remember to keep their distance.

Alfred had one of his most interesting patient interviews in the St. Elizabeths receiving ward. Alfred got permission to speak with a just-admitted mathematics teacher. The two men talked for a couple of hours; that is, the patient mostly talked and Alfred listened. What fascinated Alfred more than anything else was the sense he’d found his own ‘insane’ double, in whom the mechanism of logical fate seemed clearly evident:
He was so clear-cut about everything he had to say except that he was ‘insane’ and except that everything he said had nothing to do with so-called ‘reality’. But his manner, being a mathematician, his exposition to me of his ‘insane’ ideas were a shock to me. I could recognize myself, in my method of representation, in that insane person. (15) 
Alfred was not the first person to see a kind of ‘logic’ in insanity. Clifford Beers, founder of the Mental Hygiene movement in America, had written earlier about a period of his own mental illness:
Most sane people think that no insane person can reason logically. But this is not so. Upon unreasonable premises I made most reasonable deductions, and that at the time when my mind was in its most disturbed condition...During the seven hundred and ninety-eight days of depression I drew countless incorrect deductions. But, such as they were, they were deductions, and essentially the mental process was not other than that which takes place in a well-ordered mind. (16) 
Alfred encountered other patients who confirmed Beers’ point for him. One fellow he met had “grand parole”, permission to freely move around the hospital. As Korzybski later recalled,
[The man appeared]…quite harmless. One year he was Julius Caesar. Another year he was Napoleon, and it was a habit to address him, “Your majesty”…Whenever doctors came to America, they had to visit St. Elizabeths Hospital. It was really, and justly so, a showplace. So a visitor came, and the doctor and I were showing him the place…that fellow [the visitor] came the year before. I did not know that. And he remembered that patient as Napoleon…and he met the same fellow who he remembered, but by this time [the patient] was Julius Caesar. And he said to the patient, “I believe I met you before, your majesty. But you were then Napoleon, now you are Julius Caesar. How come?” You know what the patient said? “Oh yes, this was by my other mother.” 
To Korzybski, this answer seemed “perfectly logical” however out of touch with life facts.(17) Indeed, a detachment from facts and a preference for verbalism seemed starkly evident in just about every hospital resident he saw. There was the patient born in Washington D.C., who had never left the city and who had elaborated a fictional family history based on the word “Washington”. His father ‘became’ governor of Washington state, his brother the mayor of Seattle, and his own place of birth the state of Washington. The word had become the thing for him.

After a short time at the hospital, Alfred refined his notion of the continuum of time-binding, in terms of sanity and logical fate. A mathematician, insofar as he functioned adequately as a mathematician, didn’t accept his premises as true. At best, he only considered them correct. Following up on correct premises, he abided by them—one of the main reasons why mathematics had turned out so useful for science. It allowed theories about the world to be worked out with exactness so testable predictions could be made. The theories could then be revised if necessary. If a person could function that way in the rest of his life—Korzybski didn’t think that most mathematicians or scientists necessarily did—he could be considered well-adjusted or sane. An ‘insane’ person believed in foolish premises and abided by them with absolute conviction resulting in little or no revision and poor adaptation to life. (Alfred thought this might explain why some extremely fine mathematicians could go insane—they could carry out the implications of foolish premises better than just about anyone else.) A so-called ‘normal’ person might accept foolish premises as true but often didn’t abide by them. This led to better, though in the long run inadequate, adaptation to life.(18)

After more psychiatrists knew about Alfred’s analysis of behavior in terms of logical fate, confusion of levels of abstraction, etc., he got used to hearing the criticism that “Korzybski fancies that a human being is a piece of euclidean geometry.” Alfred sometimes replied, with tongue only partly in cheek, that “It is even worse than euclidean geometry.” At St. Elizabeths he saw patients acting “like automatons, following their delusions…their premises… and they walk[ed] and react[ed] like automatons. We do the same thing except that we [so-called ‘normals’] are slightly more flexible. The mechanism is the same.”(19)  

On one hand it seemed hopeful to see sanity as a continuum varying as a matter of degrees among individuals. Perhaps it was possible—even with some institutionalized patients—to use the methods Alfred was developing to help people become aware of and revise their faulty premises. In this way, they could move, if only a little further, along the road to greater sanity. On the other hand, it could seem disquieting to consider sanity as a relative quality. Who then could be considered completely sane? Many so-called ‘normal’ people certainly didn’t seem to be moving along the road to greater sanity. Indeed, Alfred had seen many ‘automatons’ not confined to mental hospitals. Out on the streets and in their homes; working in offices, universities, government departments; leading governments; etc., they followed their delusional premises and conveyed them—sometimes with verve and great skill—to others.

Sometime in the next few years, Philip Graven would supply Alfred with a word for the vast middle group of so-called ‘normal’ people—the “un-sane”. Alfred eventually concluded that most of us could be considered un-sane to some degree. Sanity, adequate adjustment to life facts (which included one’s own potential), seemed like an art that required taking unceasing aim at a perpetually moving target. But it was important to aim. If science and mathematics, as forms of human behavior and language, provided superior means for adjustment to facts, then why couldn’t they be generalized to help aim oneself towards greater sanity? Korzybski didn’t expect that his connecting of “physico-mathematical methods” to psychiatry would make his next book popular. Either subject area could put off a huge portion of potential readers. Linked together, the two subjects seemed likely to drive off even more. So be it. The more patients he saw, the clearer the connection became for him.

For example, by 1925 a mental status examination had become a standard part of the hospital admitting procedure. Not uncommonly, some severely disturbed people had trouble answering questions like, “What is your name?”, “Who are you?”, “Where are you?”, or “What day is today?” A patient might not be able to recall his name, or not know the exact city, place, day or even year. Instead he might provide vague generalities as answers. The doctor might write in the chart, “Disoriented in space and time” (Alfred would say “space-time”). Korzybski saw that, in a less obvious way, an un-sanely behaving ‘normal’ might also have some form of space-time disorientation which led him or her to confuse orders of abstraction: one individual/situation at one time and place incompletely specified would get mixed-up with another individual/situation or with itself at another time and place. How many kinds of ‘normal’ disturbances and misevaluations involved some such form of space-time disorientation?

In relativity physics, an event was not adequately specified until its space-time coordinates were given and the observational frame of reference noted. This physico-mathematical technique based on space-time ordering could be applied to life. Alfred might have remembered his own jumpiness after he first arrived in New York at the end of 1915. He had felt tension as if he was expecting artillery shells to burst near his hotel room. He had ‘cured’ himself by reminding himself that his hotel room in New York City in December 1915 was not an Eastern Front battlefield in 1914.

Korzybski’s advocacy of physico-mathematical methods may have seemed novel to psychiatrists, but his view on sanity as a continuum was not at odds with psychiatric thinking—at least the thinking of some of the psychiatrists he met while at St. Elizabeths. One of them was Harry Stack Sullivan, a brilliant but temperamental doctor, who had worked at St. Elizabeths several years before and had then moved to the Shepherd and Enoch Pratt Hospital in Baltimore. Sullivan had written a recent paper on the “Peculiarity of Thought in Schizophrenia” and had attended Korzybski’s June lecture with interest. The two men exchanged papers and began to correspond. Sullivan, relatively untrammeled by the growing orthodoxy of Freudian psychoanalysis, went on in the 1930s and 1940s to develop “interpersonal psychotherapy”, one of the first of the non-psychoanalytic forms of psychotherapy in America.

Sullivan became known for his “one genus postulate”, first stated in print in 1938: “We are all much more simply human than otherwise.” Sullivan’s postulate emphasized that, ...all the things observed in the persons whom we call psychiatrically ill are present to lesser extents in the persons whom we call emotionally healthy.”(20) As far back as 1917, Dr. White had likewise noted that, “Because of the preponderance of similarities between ourselves and others we must be prepared to see ourselves in those others, to look in the phenomena we are studying for reflections of ourselves.”(21) In 1933, he stated his own “one-genus postulate” in the clearest of terms: “The difference between the so-called insane person or the criminal on the one hand and the so-called sane or normal person on the other is only a difference in quantity, a difference in the strength or weakness and the balanced relations of the various tendencies and stimuli with which he has to deal.”(22) Korzybski would probably have added, ‘and what a difference even a little difference can sometimes make’.

You may download a pdf of all of the book's reference notes (including a note on primary source material and abbreviations used) from the link labeled Notes on the Contents page. The pdf of the Bibliography, linked on the Contents page contains full information on referenced books and articles. 
14. Korzybski 1947, p. 237. 

15. Korzybski 1949 (“1948-1949 Holiday Seminar”), p. 111. 

16. Beers, p. 54. 

17. Korzybski 1947, p. 240-–241.

18. AK to C. J. Keyser, 7/11/1925. AKDA 16.638. 

19. Korzybski 1949 (“1948-1949 Holiday Seminar”), p. 2.

20. Chapman, pp. 140-141. 

21. W. A. White 1917, p. 30. 

22. Qtd. in Perry, p. 184, from W. A. White, Crimes and Criminals (New York: Farrar and Rinehart, 1933), p. 31. 

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Chapter 30 - Saint Elizabeths: Part 2 - "Korzybski is in St. Elizabeths"

Korzybski: A Biography (Free Online Edition)
Copyright © 2014 (2011) by Bruce I. Kodish 
All rights reserved. Copyright material may be quoted verbatim without need for permission from or payment to the copyright holder, provided that attribution is clearly given and that the material quoted is reasonably brief in extent.

Alfred wryly recounted an incident that occurred soon after his arrival at the Government Hospital for the Insane. He had become friendly with the doctor in charge of the hospital’s unit for the criminally insane. Speaking in front of a group of psychologists—some of whom were familiar with Alfred’s work—the doctor had said, ”Do you know that Korzybski is in St. Elizabeths?” One of the psychologists answered, “I knew he would be there, but I did not expect so soon.”(4)

Alfred’s story had a serious point. The mechanism of time-binding (logical fate, abstracting, etc.) worked for better or worse in everyone, himself included. Human behavior could be viewed on a continuum of time-binding power. At one end, the mathematical approach—including physico-mathematical method—showed the extreme of efficiency. At the other end, ‘insanity’ represented the extreme of inefficiency. No one lived totally at either extreme. Everyone—Alfred included himself—functioned somewhere in the middle. He had already spent a lifetime getting the feel of mathematical method. Now, he thought, he should know something more about ‘insanity’.

Since reading psychiatrist Frankwood Williams’ Mental Hygiene review of Manhood in 1922, Korzybski had read a lot in the psychiatric literature. He had now reached a stage in his work where he felt he needed some outside direction for his studies. Perhaps more importantly, he now knew enough from his reading to realize he could no longer get what he needed to know from just reading. He did not yet have a good enough ‘feel’ for serious ‘mental’ illness though he had spent a lifetime observing people and had seen a great deal of both bizarre behavior and human unhappiness. He believed the best way to get a feel of insanity was by studying the ‘insane’—observing and interacting with seriously disturbed psychiatric patients.

Alfred had written to William Alanson White, the Superintendent of St. Elizabeths asking him “whether I would be allowed to study” there:
…the answer was yes. Then there was a lot of red tape. To be allowed to study in St. Elizabeths I had to have the permission of the Secretary of the Interior [whose department had jurisdiction over the facility] and … the permission of the ambassador of Poland,…So we went through all of that red tape and finally I got the permission to study. (5) 
Alfred arranged to rent a house just outside the hospital’s huge campus in Anacostia, an area in southeastern Washington, D.C. (He could walk to St. Elizabeths in about 10 minutes.) With Mira still away, Alfred hired a truck in mid-May 1925 and had their stuff hauled to the house. Jesse, who had been back at the farm for several weeks, felt sad to see him go.(6) Alfred felt a tinge of regret as well, not only because he liked Jesse. He had gotten used to the farmhouse and was leaving behind the four kittens he and Mira had adopted. They had slept with him and Mira and had followed them both around the property. Alfred had called the kittens his “categorists” (he had felt sorry they didn’t have “dogmatists” too). But he couldn’t take the “categorists” with him. (7)   

For $35 a month, he had found a one-story house with a storage shed. With a peaceful setting overlooking trees and meadows, it seemed as if they were in the country, not in Washington, D.C. The woman who rented the house before them had had marital and financial problems and could no longer afford to stay there. The Korzybskis (Alfred, basically) agreed to take over the lease and let her stay rent-free in one room in exchange for doing housekeeping. She had a child, whom she said she was going to give over to the care of some relatives. Alfred anticipated they might be there for three or four months and he wanted quiet. At first, he was delighted with the place and the arrangement with the woman. But the sick and noisy child stayed with her. The woman was not doing much in the way of housekeeping either. After about four weeks of bother, the Korzybskis moved again in mid-June to another place in Anacostia, about 10 minutes north of the hospital by car.

The new place, where they remained for the rest of their time in Washington (until early 1927), was the second floor of a large house at the top of a hill with a view over the city. The house, set back from the street, was fronted by a big gated garden.(8) For $30 a month, they got three rooms with a private entrance and a screened back porch.(9) An elderly lady lived on the first floor. The place had a large backyard with stands of trees and lush growths of flowers. They liked to sit there some afternoons and drink tea. The place seemed perfect—above all else it had the quiet Alfred craved when he was working. After they had lived there awhile, Alfred and Mira seriously discussed buying the place in the eventuality that they would stay in the United States.

Probably around this time, Mira returned from New York City with a small kinkajou she bought in a pet store there. Kinkajous, also known as “honey bears”, nocturnal, arboreal animals related to raccoons, have narrow noses, long tongues, and long prehensile tails. They can grow a few feet long. As a roaming portrait painter, Mira—who had had pets as a child—wasn’t able to follow her whims to have them again until after her marriage with Alfred. The kinkajou was the first, but not the last, exotic pet they would have. Alfred, who was probably already having problems with Mira’s impulsive spending decisions, likely wasn’t entirely pleased about their new housemate. But he indulged Mira and the kinkajou for as long as they had the creature. (It is not clear if it died or if they had to give it away before leaving Washington in 1927.) Alfred set up a large tree branch in the screened-in porch where the kinkajou could climb without risk of escaping. Otherwise, “the kink” seemed to have the run of the place. As Mira described some of the kinkajou’s antics with Alfred:
This kink selected the bathroom soiled-clothes basket for sleeping in the daytime. Alfred would be working at his desk when the kink would climb quietly up the back of his chair swinging his long prehensive [prehensile] tail around Alfred’s neck for anchorage, then climbing on the top of his shaven head would get very busy licking it. (10) 
Alfred commuted to St. Elizabeths every Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. (This may have changed to a more frequent basis later on.) He had a regular car ride from Philip Graven, an attending psychiatrist at the hospital, who picked up Alfred on his way. Otherwise Alfred worked at his desk at home. When Alfred first saw Dr. White at the hospital, White told him he could do pretty much what he pleased. The two men had met more than a year before and White seemed to have complete confidence in Korzybski’s judgment and to fully support his study plans. He assigned Alfred a room in which to work and arranged for him to have full access to the hospital’s library, pathology laboratory, staff meetings, etc. However, because Korzybski was neither a psychiatrist nor a psychologist, White told him, “The hospital is yours. Do what you damn please, but never ask my permission because I will say no.”(11) Despite this, White had smoothed the way for Alfred to work at St. Elizabeths.

Soon after his arrival in Washington, Alfred had been invited by one of White’s most trusted staff members, Nolan D.C. Lewis, M.D., to give a presentation on June 25 to the Washington Society for Nervous and Mental Diseases. Alfred had just moved to the second place in Anacostia and had no time to write out a paper. He entitled the talk, which he delivered from an outline, “Mathematics and Psychiatry, An Introduction to Humanology”. As evident by its absence from the title, he was abandoning the term “human engineering”.

An organization named “Pathfinders – Scientific Character Builders” had begun using “human engineering” to label their “positive-thinking” style educational programs. As far as Alfred was concerned, the “Pathfinders” programs had little to do with either science or engineering. After getting their materials, he protested to its director who refused to stop using the term. Since Alfred didn’t want what he was doing confused with their work, he began using “humanology”, a synonym for “human engineering” he had used in Manhood, to label his work. He would continue to do so over the next few years.(12) After Korzybski’s presentation, Dr. White addressed the audience—filled with members of St. Elizabeths’ psychiatric staff—for another half hour. White highlighted what he considered some of the important points Alfred had made. Alfred felt happy with his talk and grateful to White for giving him such an introduction. For the most part, he was made to feel at home at St. Elizabeths and, from the start, received a great deal of help there.(13)  

St. Elizabeths, under White’s direction, had a population of around 5000 patients at the time that Korzybski arrived. Before White became the Superintendent in 1903, St. Elizabeths—which served Federal employees, military personnel, and residents of the District of Columbia—had become a dehumanizing warehouse for the insane. Since then, White had done his best to re-humanize the place. Patients no longer slept on straw pallets. He had done away with the use of straightjackets for restraint. He had opened a beauty parlor for the female patients. He had done his best to expand services to his patients and made serious efforts to provide both occupational therapy and psychotherapy. To promote research he had expanded the pathology laboratory where deceased patients and their brains could be autopsied and the possible physiological aspects of their illnesses explored. White had turned St. Elizabeths into the one of the premier psychiatric hospitals in the world.

Still, in 1925 effective treatment for seriously disturbed psychiatric patients seemed, generally speaking, somewhat limited. Sometimes patients got well enough to leave. Whether this happened as the result of any treatment was another question. Many were there for life. At least under White’s regime they were treated humanely. Freudian psychoanalysis was becoming ascendant as a framework for explaining and treating psychiatric problems. Though he had helped to promote psychoanalysis in America, White was no doctrinaire advocate. He had been involved in the mental hygiene movement since its inception and had written extensively about prevention. Could Korzybski offer something useful to his staff and his patients?

As part of his study routine, Alfred would circulate to various units in the hospital where, with doctors’ permission, he would read patients’ charts and then interview them. In the beginning, he had trouble with only one M.D., who insisted Alfred needed to get permission from White before seeing a patient’s records. As predicted, White said “No.” Alfred simply got the records from another physician. Alfred never had any other problems getting records or interviewing patients during his time in the hospital.

Alfred tried to make very clear to all concerned at St. Elizabeths, his primary purpose there was to study the patients, not to work with them. Years later, he would give classes or do individual work with psychiatric patients (not his own) only if they had the permission of their psychiatrists to work with him. Many doctors not only saw no harm in sending patients to his classes, they also felt curious about what Alfred could do—even with seriously disturbed people. Psychiatrists themselves, starting with White and Graven, also studied with him. As his work developed, he realized that for a large number of people, their maladjustments seemed less medical than doctrinal, i.e., resulting from their ‘philosophies’ of life. Alfred definitely wanted to teach psychiatrists how to work with such people using the orientation he was developing. However, from the beginning of his time at St. Elizabeths and as he reiterated throughout the rest of his career, his only claim for his work was educational and preventive. He liked to emphasize that he never claimed to do psychotherapy.

You may download a pdf of all of the book's reference notes (including a note on primary source material and abbreviations used) from the link labeled Notes on the Contents page. The pdf of the Bibliography, linked on the Contents page contains full information on referenced books and articles. 
4. Korzybski 1947, p. 244. 

5. Ibid., p. 235. 

6. J. L. Bennett to AK nd. AKDA 16.504. 

7. AK to E.T. Bell, 11/22/1924. AKDA 15.684; MEK to John Macrae, 1/12/1925. AKDA 16.214; AK to C.J. Keyser, 1/16/1925, AKDA 16.216; AK to J. L. Bennett, 5/25/1925. AKDA 16.505. 

 8. AK to Helen Hastings, 11/2/1925. AKDA 15.29. 

9. AK to George Lytton, 6/13/1925. AKDA 16.547. 

10. MEK, Unpublished Memoir, p. 47-48. 

11. Korzybski 1947, p. 236. 

12. J.F. Wright to AK, 8/29/1924. AKDA 15.470; AK to J.F. Wright, 9/29/1924. AKDA 15.471. 

13. AK to David and Marian Fairchild, 7/5/1925. AKDA 16.622. 

Monday, November 17, 2014

Chapter 30 - Saint Elizabeths: Part 1 - Introduction

Korzybski: A Biography (Free Online Edition)
Copyright © 2014 (2011) by Bruce I. Kodish 
All rights reserved. Copyright material may be quoted verbatim without need for permission from or payment to the copyright holder, provided that attribution is clearly given and that the material quoted is reasonably brief in extent.

Korzybski at Jesse Lee Bennett's Farm in Arnold, Maryland

At the end of January, Alfred—growing a beard and a big mustache—declared that he wouldn’t shave until the the book was finished.(1) Several months later, the amount of material he’d accumulated seemed to have increased exponentially. He shaved. 

Meanwhile, isolated on the farm that winter with the outhouse close-by, Alfred—who had a lifelong tendency towards constipation—tried the Battle Creek diet, using agar and mineral oil as food supplements, with apparently successful results.(2) While snowed in together, he and Mira—who had joined him in the former experiment—also tried another one with a somewhat less favorable outcome. Mira had asked Alfred a number of times to help her work with the Anthropometer and “grind a word through it” (perhaps the parabola on top reminded her of the receiving end of a meat grinder). Her metaphor for the Anthropometer indicated to Alfred that she might not actually understand it as well as he’d thought. Still, he was willing to proceed with her request by using the Anthropometer as a tool for analyzing their conversations. After about two weeks—in a continuous state of tears—she acted as if she had been put through the grinder herself. They wisely ended the exercise.(3)

Now at the end of March 1925, they were leaning towards staying on at Jesse’s place for the summer. Mira could easily get to Philadelphia or to Washington for portrait work and Alfred could finish his book. But between then and mid-April, their plans changed.

Alfred had been invited to speak at Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire on April 10. On April 6, he and Mira left the farm together. They went through Baltimore and Philadelphia to New York City where they stayed together a few days before Alfred left for Hanover. Afterwards, he returned to New York for a few days with Mira and to see Polakov and perhaps Keyser. Mira had ongoing business in New York and Philadelphia and Alfred got back to the farm alone around April 15.

Waiting for him were plaintive letters from Jesse, who was still in New York, hoping the Korzybskis were going to stay in Arnold. Jesse projected the wonderful time they would have there with visitors, discussions, and consultations throughout the summer. By this time, Alfred had concluded this would not do. Above all else, he wanted quiet in order to work without distractions. Mira and he decided to move to Washington, D.C., partly to avoid the anticipated ‘melee’ at the farm and partly so that Alfred could do some research at Saint Elizabeths (the correct spelling), once officially known as the “Government Hospital for the Insane”.

You may download a pdf of all of the book's reference notes (including a note on primary source material and abbreviations used) from the link labeled Notes on the Contents page. The pdf of the Bibliography, linked on the Contents page contains full information on referenced books and articles. 
1. AK to R. D.Carmichael, 1/29/1925. AKDA 16.274. 

2. AK to C. J.Keyser, 4/4/1925. AKDA 16.411. 

3. AK to Ethel Dummer, 1/28/1926. AKDA 18.205. 

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Chapter 29 - A Quiet Place In The Country

Korzybski: A Biography (Free Online Edition)
Copyright © 2014 (2011) by Bruce I. Kodish 
All rights reserved. Copyright material may be quoted verbatim without need for permission from or payment to the copyright holder, provided that attribution is clearly given and that the material quoted is reasonably brief in extent.

Just before he and Mira left for Toronto, Alfred had gotten an invitation to visit with Jesse Lee Bennett, a writer whom Alfred described as an “old Maryland aristocrat”, probably a few years younger than him. Bennett, formerly a journalist at the Baltimore Sun newspaper, lived with his mother in Arnold, Maryland, on a nonworking farm estate. This overlooked the Magothy River, about 25 miles south of Baltimore and 9 miles north of Annapolis on Maryland’s Western Chesapeake Shore (near the current location of the Anne Arundel Community College). Bennett had written a book earlier that year entitled What Books Can Do For You. Although Korzybski liked parts of it, he detected an anti-science component, which bothered him and he wrote Bennett a letter. Bennett replied and the two men developed a friendly correspondence. Bennett, visiting New York that spring, even came to see Korzybski at the Grenoble one evening. 

Bennett, known as “the philosopher on the Magothy”, had made his house there, near the water, into a meeting site for literary and artistic types from the Baltimore-Washington region.(1) He found Alfred a stimulating companion and was eager to get him (and Mira) to visit. By the end of August, after Alfred and Mira had returned from Toronto, Bennett thought that Alfred might be able to stay in the farmhouse of a neighbor. But money had become ‘tight’ again; Alfred considered the rent beyond their budget. Then it dawned on Bennett. He had an empty nine-room farmhouse on his property. Alfred could stay there rent-free. As soon as Bennett made the offer at the end of August, Alfred—eager for a peaceful, isolated, and cheap place to work outside of New York City—said yes.

Alfred took the train to Baltimore on September 13, bringing his and Mira’s baggage, while Mira stayed in New York to conduct some business with Macrae. From Baltimore, he took another train, which stopped at the Arnold station on the way to Annapolis. Jesse was waiting for him there with transportation to the farm about three miles away. The empty farmhouse where Alfred would be staying was a half mile (a 10 minute walk) from Jesse’s house by the water. It took Alfred a couple of weeks of hard physical labor to get the place into reasonable shape for Mira’s arrival at the end of the month.

The spartan living suited Alfred well enough. Compared to his living conditions during the war it seemed positively luxurious. It was going to be more of an adventure for Mira, who was used to living in hotels and in the mansions of wealthy clients. But it seemed to suit her too during her time there. (She also made several forays into Washington, Philadelphia, and New York City on various kinds of business during their eight months on the farm.)

Water had to be drawn from a well. An outhouse stood nearby. For heat, Jesse provided an old coal stove. Concerned that sparks from the stove could set fire to the chimney, which had wide cracks in it, Alfred separated the two and linked them with a series of metal exhaust pipes that he arranged along the ceiling.(2) For cooking, he bought a gasoline-fueled camp stove, which he placed alongside the house. For food, Alfred would go to an A & P grocery and a butcher shop in Annapolis. Once winter set in, he had supplies mailed to him special delivery and the mailman was kind enough to trudge the half mile to bring the packages to Korzybski’s place. Especially important were the weekly shipments of “dark sour rye bread” from Harry Gold’s Bakery in Baltimore. Jesse had beds, mattresses and pillows but Alfred and Mira brought their own sheets and blankets. There were a few cots, chairs, and a table and Alfred made more furniture out of old boxes. Jesse had a laundry he used where they sent their clothes to be cleaned. Jesse had a couple of men who worked on his property who were able to lend a hand with chores. And a man in Arnold with a truck for hire drove Alfred when he needed to go somewhere.

When Alfred first arrived, Jesse—who seemed rather extravorted—liked to see Alfred as much as possible. Once or twice a week he had what amounted to a salon with people coming down from Johns Hopkins in Baltimore, or from elsewhere, for intellectual gatherings. Korzybski certainly wasn’t a hermit and seemed to enjoy these get-togethers, but he was basically there for the quiet and solitude. When Jesse and his mother left for New York City for a few months sometime in December (Jesse was editing an anthology, The Essential American Tradition, and had publishing business to do in the city), Alfred did not feel distressed to be left alone—just him, Mira, and the few other people around the place. Occasionally, he and/or Mira went up to Baltimore to visit friends, such as Pearl, Jennings, Meyer, or Rainich. Occasionally he went to Annapolis to shop or to look around. But mostly he worked.

He was reading and taking notes by the light of an oil lamp. It was becoming more and more obvious that the book, which he saw as an expansion of the Toronto paper, was going to take more time than the few months he had anticipated when he first got to Arnold. To many people he’d encountered, the Anthropometer and the theory behind it (at least the parts they thought they understood), seemed simple, even platitudinous—and thereby dismissible. A much more extensive account of the scientific data from many fields which supported the theory would make it harder to dismiss. Also people might be more likely to take the Anthropometer seriously if he had more detail on how to use it to train people in consciousness of abstracting and on the necessity for doing so.

He had planned to give a talk and show the Anthropometer at the annual AAAS meeting in Washington, D.C. at the end of December. But at the last moment, he decided not to go, even though he had been given a place on the program. He decided that at this point, his time would be better spent working on the book than giving another superficial 20-minute talk. If he was going to produce and sell Anthropometers and make some kind of living through this work, he would need to make the training device’s usefulness much clearer by means of a definitive and exhaustive exposition. (Though Alfred stayed in Arnold, Mira did go to the AAAS meeting to confer with Carmichael and other friends of Alfred about the Library plans.)

After she returned from Washington, Mira went up to New York City in mid-January to confer with Macrae again and then went to Philadelphia for a portrait exhibition and commissions with some of Philadelphia’s super-rich. With Mira away so much of the time and Jesse gone for the winter, Alfred was alone. He cherished his snow-bound isolation. He must have seemed like an odd figure to the inhabitants of this still very rural part of Maryland. Robert P. Pula, who was teaching in the area in the 1970s, reported meeting, “an Arnold native who told me that he knew an old man from there who remembered Korzybski and who reported that the locals used to refer to that fellow in the abandoned farmhouse as “the Rooshin”.”(3 ) That would have amused the steadfast Pole.

Alfred had times when he felt dismay at the daunting task he had set for himself. But he was nothing if not persistent. The appearance of Polakov’s book Man and his Affairs in January 1925 seems likely to have stoked the fire under his ambition. Not that he appeared jealous. Walter had produced what was basically a popularization of Alfred’s latest work (with Walter’s own take on it—no question of plagiarism). But Alfred had yet to publish the book with his own account of his newest work (he didn’t count the Toronto booklet). He had to keep pushing.

Related factors fueled Alfred’s persistence. People with whom he had met and discussed issues were producing articles and books that led Alfred to at least wonder about his influence on them. For example, Jennings had published an article on “Heredity and Environment” in the September 1924 Scientific Monthly. The article and the subsequent book based on it entitled Prometheus, contained a sharp discussion of misleading language in biology. If Alfred’s discussions with Jennings had had an unconscious effect on Jennings’ formulating, he felt glad of it. But, if so, he wanted to make sure that his own work was sufficiently known that he would be more likely to be given credit for it. (He claimed that it wasn’t a matter of ego but rather of eventual income.) Besides, the analysis that Jennings provided in his article was focused on one specific area in biology. Korzybski’s theory provided a more general analysis of misleading factors in human knowledge with the potential to affect not only biology but all of the sciences—and more—with seemingly endless applications.(4) 

Further encouragement to carry on his work, despite the difficulties, came from his study of C. K. Ogden and I. A. Richard’s The Meaning of Meaning, which Alfred had first read soon after its publication in 1923. Unlike Korzybski, the two English authors came from literary—not scientific—backgrounds. But Korzybski could see that he and they had arrived, at the very least, at a similar general area of inquiry, as indicated by Ogden and Richard’s subtitle: A study of the influence of language upon thought and of the science of symbolism. Mira had met English playwright Halcott Glover, a friend of Ogden, in Chicago in the spring of 1924. Alfred became friendly with Glover who put him in touch with Ogden—with whom Alfred was soon corresponding. (Their correspondence would continue for at least 10 years.)

During the early part of their relationship, Alfred had some hope that he would be able to combine efforts with Ogden. This eventually didn’t work out, since by 1933 Ogden had pooh-poohed the importance of time-binding and considered Korzybski’s growing “non-Aristotelian emphasis as a side-issue.”(5) Indeed, Ogden’s mature appraisal of Korzybski’s work seems to have bordered on contempt. Korzybski genuinely admired much of Ogden’s work, especially his later efforts in Basic English—another auxiliary international language. However, eventually he gave up trying to get some cooperation from Ogden. He came to see Ogden as a “d…..f [damned fool]”—Korzybski didn’t spell it out—for not taking his work seriously. How could one have an adequate “science of symbolism”, as Ogden said he wanted, if the physico-mathematical and other factors that Korzybski brought to the fore were treated as side-issues?

The cold, quiet winter had passed. March 1925 rolled into April. The weather was warming. Mira was back. And Jesse and his mother were going to be returning home soon from New York. Alfred was nowhere close to where he wanted to be with the book. If he was going to produce what he considered necessary for a foundation of an adequate science of symbolism, a science of man, he would definitely need more time. If Polakov, Jennings, and Ogden served in various ways as positive touchstones for his efforts, Alfred also had a few negative touchstones, which inspired—no—required him to persist. These consisted of particular works and/or individuals embodying attitudes he sought to avoid. And his interest in avoiding these attitudes guaranteed that he would need more time.

One of these negative touchstones—sentimentality—was represented for him by George Santayana’s book Skepticism and Animal Faith. Almost a year before, at the beginning of May 1924, Alfred had gotten a review copy from the publisher. By the end of that month he had written a review and submitted it to The Monist. The review, entitled “The Modern Lucretius”, was never published. In Mathematical Philosophy, Keyser had written about Lucretius’ early discussion of infinity, which gave a good feel for infinity but nothing workable from a mathematical perspective (that would happen centuries later with the work of Cantor and others). Similarly, in Alfred’s opinion, Santayana’s book seemed unlikely to produce anything workable for human affairs. With its beautiful poetic style and fine feeling, the book expressed the kind of attitude that Alfred was trying to establish in more exact terms. But with its traditional philosophical language (which seemed to Alfred more and more crucial to avoid) and without a physico-mathematical approach, Alfred considered that the reader was likely to come away with noble sentiments but no change in behavior. Granted, Santayana didn’t seem interested in changing anyone’s behavior. But Alfred was interested. From the perspective of human engineering, he didn’t want humanity to have to wait until centuries later, if he could help it. Fine feelings and beautiful words were not enough. Santayana’s book represented for Alfred a submission to sentimentality that he wanted to avoid in his own work.

The second negative touchstone seems difficult to label with one word. It involved a foolish fixedness, an inflexible refusal to entertain anything outside of one’s habitual viewpoint with a concomitant failure to heed correction, that at its extreme could merge into serious maladjustment. Alfred had observed one aspect of such fixedness in the behavior of some scientists and mathematicians towards his own work. Alfred had no problem with those who didn’t see much in it but admitted that they might be missing something and needed to study more, even if they then put his work on the shelf. But there were ‘skeptics’ who never questioned their own initial evaluation and simply dismissed his work as some combination of trivia and nonsense. Such skepticism seemed to him utterly unscientific, at odds with a postulational spirit of inquiry which initially demanded granting a speaker or writer his or her premises and finding out what they led to. Alfred, who accepted that a genuine skepticism required doubting your doubt, had cultivated that attitude in himself: if he encountered someone whose work held an inkling of promise in relation to his own work, he would do his best to approach it with openness.

Alfred realized that if one could close oneself to new possibilities, one could also become fixed—go down the path of fools—in another way. His experiences over the last few years with Scudder Klyce provided a sterling example of this second side of formulational inflexibility. Klyce, a man of Korzybski’s age, had retired from the Navy and was living in Winchester, Massachusetts as an independent writer and scholar. Dealing with issues related to science, mathematics, language, and life in a way that mirrored Korzybski’s concerns, he had maintained long and extensive correspondence with many of the most important mathematicians, scientists, and philosophers of early 20th Century America, including John Dewey, R. D. Carmichael, and William Emerson Ritter, among others. Korzybski had learned about Klyce from Ritter and began corresponding with him in the fall of 1921, just before Klyce brought out his self-published book, Universe.

The two men exchanged books. Alfred found 
Universe an idiosyncratic work with a difficult style. As he wrote to Keyser “sometimes he seems sound sometimes not.”(6) But he deferred definite judgment about the book until further study. Still he felt some sympathy with what he thought Klyce might be aiming at: a critique of elementalistic science that sought to renew the sense of relationship, connection, and unity of the world that had become neglected over the last few centuries by many scientific researchers focusing on minute analysis. Whatever its faults, Alfred also saw some promise in Klyce’s quest for answers in people’s attitudes towards language. He double-underlined in red the following passage in his copy of Universe: “The human race took words, mere words, far too seriously—made idols of them. The race have been highbrows:—idolaters of words, the last species of a long line of idolaters of more tangible things. …”.(7) 

Unfortunately, Klyce “kicked” too much at mathematicians and scientists for Alfred’s liking. He felt that Klyce needed to read more, update his physico-mathematical knowledge, and root out illegitimate totalities in his formulating.(8) Alfred gave him reading and other suggestions, but Klyce didn’t seem sufficiently open. The two men’s correspondence, though for a time quite active and always civil, pretty much ceased after the 1925 publication of Klyces’s second book, Sins of Science, which Alfred didn’t like. Alfred gave up on trying to help him, less because of the eccentricity of his ideas, than because he didn’t seem amenable to correction.(9) Klyce died in 1933 and is now more or less forgotten as a formulator.

Alfred wanted to avoid the ‘sins’ of Klyce. As a theoretical explorer, he had begun to link topics that few—if any—people had connected before, i.e., mathematical method and psychiatry, science and sanity. There were times when he would wonder in letters to his friends whether he had not indeed gone down the path of fools himself.(10) The apparently vast implications and applications of his latest formulations could easily be interpreted as overblown. That appearance, he knew, did not invalidate his claims. But having begun to synthesize vast areas of mathematical and scientific material for his book, he knew he would need to check whatever he wrote with recognized experts in every field of knowledge he was going to deal with. He realized that it was possible to start with something legitimate and potentially useful and move into something unsound.

You may download a pdf of all of the book's reference notes (including a note on primary source material and abbreviations used) from the link labeled Notes on the Contents page. The pdf of the Bibliography, linked on the Contents page contains full information on referenced books and articles. 
1. “Author Stricken Fighting A Fire”. New York Times, April 22, 1931. 

2. MEK, Unpublished Memoir, pp. 36-38. 

3. Pula 2003c, p. 72. 

4. AK to R. D. Carmichael, 10/24/1924. AKDA 15.614. 

5. C. K. Ogden to AK, 1/23/1933, in Gordon 1990a, p. 37. 

6. AK to C. J. Keyser, 12/29/21. AKDA 11.574. 

7. Klyce 1921, p. 6. 

8. AK to Scudder Klyce, 3/12/1922. AKDA 8.431. 

9. AK to P. W. Bridgman, 10/14/1928. AKDA 20.191. 

10. AK to C. J. Keyser, 11/10/1925. AKDA 15.40.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Chapter 28 - Advancing Human Engineering: Part 4 - The International Mathematical Congress, Toronto (1924)

Korzybski: A Biography (Free Online Edition)
Copyright © 2014 (2011) by Bruce I. Kodish 
All rights reserved. Copyright material may be quoted verbatim without need for permission from or payment to the copyright holder, provided that attribution is clearly given and that the material quoted is reasonably brief in extent.

By August 3, Alfred felt relieved to get the manuscript of the Toronto address to the printer. Keyser had not been able to edit it and Alfred had struggled, rewriting it again and again. Taken as a whole, he considered it at best “not very rotten”. As he was preparing “A Short Bibliography” in “Science, Method”; “Mathematics, Mathematical Philosophy, Logic”; “The Theories of Relativity”; “The Newer Physics”; “Psychiatry”; “Miscellaneous”; and “Human Engineering”; he seemed to be wondering at his own ‘folly’. What did he think he was doing? The bibliography seemed so heavy and ponderous. Could he really expect others to take seriously the program he had embarked on and had outlined in the paper? It seemed hopeless. He did not travel to Toronto with very great expectations.(30)

Perhaps as a result, he found The International Mathematical Congress, held from August 11-–16, a great success as far as his work was concerned. He and Mira stayed at Toronto’s King Edward Hotel. Mira attended at least some of the sessions at the University of Toronto with him. There was a large gathering due to the concurrent annual meeting (August 6–13) of the British Association for the Advancement of Science. American scientists—including some psychologists, biologists, and others whom Alfred knew—also attended. Alfred socialized with E.T. Bell, saw his friends George McEwen and Abe Roback, met psychologist William McDougall, chatted with Arthur Eddington, and had a friendly meeting with D’arcy Thompson.

Alfred also met Giuseppe Peano, one of the founders of mathematical logic and set theory and a respected elder statesman in the international mathematics community. The two men became fast friends when Peano, who knew little or no English, discovered that Alfred spoke fluent conversational Italian. They spent a lot of time together, including a half day trip to Niagara Falls during which Peano sat with Alfred and Mira on the special train provided by the Canadian government for Congress attendees. Peano had invented Interlingua, also called “Latino sine flexione” (basically a simplified form of Latin), intended as an international auxiliary language. Alfred, who respected this effort, joined Peano’s international organization to promote it—not a major commitment on Korzybski’s part since it amounted to paying a few dollars for membership and receiving an occasional bulletin. Peano, in turn, became interested in Korzybski’s plans and agreed to serve as one of the editors of the Library of Human Engineering. The two men continued a friendly correspondence until Peano’s death in 1932.

The people in Alfred’s group of presenters, Section IV– History, Philosophy, and Didactics, included two men he knew, Florian Cajori and Louis C. Karpinski. Korzybski, who had been given twenty minutes for his presentation, spent hours in his hotel room cutting things out of his printed essay and timing his talk. But when he got in front of the group, he dropped what he had prepared and spoke ad lib. The section leader gave him ten extra minutes and although he was not sure about the initial response of the audience, he later could see he had had some effect on them. Although the Section IV talks usually had 10 to 12 people in the audience, Mira counted 54 people for Alfred’s talk. Twenty people immediately asked for his booklets and soon other people at the Congress were approaching him for copies.(31) This response certainly exceeded Alfred’s expectations.

In general, he felt quite warmly received. Many of the mathematicians at the Congress found Alfred’s work— “dealing with human life from a mathematical point of view”—an appealing novelty. But as he later discovered, the initial romance of many mathematicians —and scientists—with his work would often turn out to be platonic, i.e., they weren’t willing to help him in his work in the whole-hearted way he wished.

Nonetheless Korzybski—who saw what he was doing as applied mathematical (physico-mathematical) method—appreciated whatever recognition he got from mathematicians. He felt honored by the amount of interest he got at the Congress and with the number of “friendly relationships” he made there.(32) The favorable impressions Alfred made may have led to the invitation to join the American Mathematical Society that he received the following January (1925) from R.G.D. Richardson, Chairman of the Brown University Mathematics Department and Secretary of the Society:
Dear Count Korzybski,  
You have been suggested to me by a mutual friend as one who is interested in the progress of mathematics and who might well join the American Mathematical Society. I noted your presence at the International Congress in Toronto last August and this makes me venture to expect a favorable reply to the invitation which our council has authorized me to extend to you. Our new president, Professor G. D. Birkhoff of Harvard University, is joining me in recommending your name on a form which I am enclosing for your use...(33) 
Alfred accepted immediately. Earlier in 1924, he had been invited to become a member of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). He remained a member of both organizations for the rest of his life. 

You may download a pdf of all of the book's reference notes (including a note on primary source material and abbreviations used) from the link labeled Notes on the Contents page. The pdf of the Bibliography, linked on the Contents page contains full information on referenced books and articles. 
30. AK to R.D.Carmichael, 8/3/1924. AKDA 15.287. 

31. AK to R.D.Carmichael, 8/17/1924. AKDA 15.347, 348 

32. Korzybski 1947, p. 230. 

33. R.G.D. Richardson to AK, 1/27/1925. AKDA 3.263.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Chapter 28 - Advancing Human Engineering: Part 3 - Time-Binding: The General Theory

Korzybski: A Biography (Free Online Edition)
Copyright © 2014 (2011) by Bruce I. Kodish 
All rights reserved. Copyright material may be quoted verbatim without need for permission from or payment to the copyright holder, provided that attribution is clearly given and that the material quoted is reasonably brief in extent.

Alfred replied immediately to the invitation to the International Mathematical Congress in Toronto. He would present one substantial paper and began working on it at once. Since this would be his first-ever presentation at an official scientific forum, he especially wanted to have maximum impact. Although he had been struggling with the book, what he had already outlined and written for it provided what he would submit for the August Congress. His immediate goal was to organize this material into suitable shape and send his abstract to the conference organizers as soon as possible. Here is the abstract he sent on June 5 (14):  
Korzybski, A.: Time-Binding: The General Theory.
Dependence of human knowledge on the properties of light and sound (speech). Importance of correct symbolism and its conditions.“Organism as a whole” and “joint phenomenon”—two fundamental principles. Applications. The Anthropometer. The mechanism of time-binding. Confusion of types and orders. The problem of meaning, its solution. Geometrical structure of all human knowledge. Consequences. Theory of universal agreement. Its effect upon educational and scientific methods and the revision of doctrines in general. The connection between correct symbolism, postulational methods, “Doctrinal Function” (Keyser), and modern physico-mathematical developments. Deductive “natural” and “social” sciences. The deductive sciences of Man. (15) 

Alfred left for the Midwest a few days later, first stopping in Urbana where he spent a couple of days with Carmichael to talk about Library of Human Engineering business. He arrived in Chicago on June 10. He and Mira hadn’t seen each other for more than three months. She was finishing up her work in Chicago; he would help her wrap up her business and get things packed. In addition, he would contact some noteworthy and influential people interested in his work, whom Mira had met. Among those eager to meet him was George Lytton, Vice President and Manager of Henry C. Lytton and Sons, a major clothing store in Chicago. The Lytton Building, also known as “the Hub” had become a Chicago landmark. While in Chicago, Mira and Alfred socialized with Lytton, his wife, and G.H. Sturtevant, a friend of Lytton, associated with a large building supplies firm in Chicago. Lytton and Sturtevant were so taken with Korzybski’s ideas, they got together to pay for a special suitcase/trunk for Alfred’s deluxe display Anthropometer.(16) Unfortunately, Lytton died unexpectedly in 1933 and so was unable to help Alfred later on when he needed financial backing for his work.

Mira also helped arrange a talk Alfred gave to the University of Chicago Philosophy Club on June 18. The president of the club, graduate student Charles W. Morris, would go on to become well known in American philosophy as one of the founders of semiotics, the theory of signs. He had liked Manhood of Humanity and continued to have good things to say about Korzybski later on in his career. Alfred invited his friend E. T. Bell to attend the lecture. Bell, then a University of Washington mathematician, was teaching in Chicago for the summer. Bell had gotten his PhD at Columbia under Keyser, had been impressed with Manhood of Humanity when it first came out, and had been corresponding with Korzybski for about a year and a half. This was the first face-to-face meeting for the two friends. Also attending Alfred’s talk was the Harvard logician, C. I. Lewis, with whom Alfred would continue to correspond.

Alfred’s and Mira’s time together in Chicago was darkened by their worry over the fate of their dear friend Keyser. Keyser, whose health had been iffy for some time, sent Alfred and Mira a brief note saying he was having abdominal surgery on June 16. Alfred had already lost one close mentor, Jacques Loeb, earlier in the year, which may have increased his anxiety since he and Mira were even closer to both Doctor and Mrs. Keyser. When the date came, they telegrammed Mrs. Keyser and the hospital to express their best wishes and check on Keyser’s status. Keyser would experience a siege of medical troubles over the next two months including a blood clot in his leg and a second abdominal surgery. Having a rather hearty constitution, he survived but would require a rather long convalescence. One thing for sure, he wouldn’t be going to the Toronto conference with Alfred.(17) Primarily because they wanted see the Keysers, Alfred and Mira felt anxious to get back to New York City and left Chicago the last week in June.

Alfred and Mira had a month to get ready for the Mathematical Congress, which they planned to attend together. After that, their plans were unclear. If he could get the book completed quickly enough, they had a chance to get to Poland reasonably soon. Meanwhile, Alfred put the finishing touches on his paper and hired a printer to print 1000 copies in the form of a 40 page booklet with a cover. He wanted a few hundred to distribute at the Congress. In addition, even though he paid for the printing himself, he got Macrae’s permission to put Dutton’s imprint on the title page. Dutton agree to keep a few copies in stock on sale for $2.00, an exorbitant price, which Alfred felt would discourage sales but still keep something available for purchase by the scientifically interested until his book came out. Alfred also had enough copies left over to send to those whom he wanted to have it. He had previously applied for a copyright for the diagram of the Anthropometer and he made sure to copyright the booklet which, with the patent he hoped to be granted soon, would confirm the Anthropometer as his intellectual property.

As he said later, if he had died immediately after writing his 1924 paper, discerning readers could find in it the rough skeleton of his entire work. Time-Binding: The General Theory [1924] began with a bold statement: “ALL HUMAN knowledge is conditioned and limited, at present, by the properties of light and human symbolism.”(18) Alfred’s “inquiry into the structure of human knowledge and symbolism”(19) introduced the Anthropometer to the world and also provided some fresh formulating about logical destiny. One of the main points he sought to get across: “...all human knowledge is geometrical [mathematical or postulational] in structure...”(20), involving undefined terms (postulates), “theorums” (vocabulary), and metaphysics. Thus, every word contained a world. Once one got down to the level of undefined terms, the basic philosophy or ‘metaphysics of the maker of the vocabulary’ would be revealed. In everyday life, most of us were ‘slaves’ to the makers of our vocabularies, while the power to examine ones assumptions and revise them (the postulational attitude) provided a way to master one’s logical destiny:
He who accepts uncritically the vocabulary made by X, accepts unwillingly and unbeknowingly X’s metaphysics. This fact is of very great importance. If we accept the vocabulary made by X and the metaphysics made by Y, we are lost in inconsistency, the world is an ugly mess, unknown and unknowable. (21)
Korzybski’s treatment of mathematics as a language and a form of human behavior had led him to make a startling connection of his work with psychiatry, which he now ventured to put in print. Issues of scientific controversy, personal problems and unhappiness, and even insanity showed a single mechanism at work:
The geometrical structure of human knowledge shows that man is extremely logical, if we grant him his conscious and unconscious premises (language). Whoever has any doubts about all of the mentioned issues should visit an asylum, where he would see the working of this general theory in its nakedness. In daily life and in semi-insane cases the issues are veiled by customs, habits, overlapping vocabularies, and other doctrinal complications. It is known that “insane” people are extremely logical. In many instances “insanity”is cured by making the unconscious premises conscious. (22)
Having by this time read a great deal in the psychiatric literature and having made some initial forays into preventive education with the Anthropometer, Alfred felt confident enough to make the following claim:
Psychiatry, as yet, has no preventive methods. The Anthropometer is such a preventive educational method against many cases of insanity and different unbalanced states, due to inherited or inhibited false doctrines. (23)
Alfred’s forays into preventive education had so far included work using the Anthropometer with himself, with friends like the Fairchilds and Roy Haywood discussing personal problems (nothing very heavy), and with someone he had encountered earlier in the year. A wealthy woman in Chicago who had read Manhood of Humanity several times, had gone out of her way to find Mira when she learned Korzybski’s wife was in town. The woman became fascinated by Mira’s discussion of the Anthropometer and came to New York City specifically to see Alfred and learn more about it. In deference to Mira, Alfred agreed to meet the woman. They met three times, once at a tea party, once for a personal interview with Alfred where he explained the Anthropometer to her in greater detail, then in an extraordinary final session where the lady unburdened herself to Alfred with her story of personal tragedy and unhappy family life. When the woman returned to Chicago she saw Mira, told her about the meetings with Alfred and, as Mira wrote to Alfred, reported “a complete solution of her troubles in the ‘bug’, and that her whole life has been adjusted.”(24)  

The implications of his work seemed wide-ranging and startling. It was also clear the paper was going to ‘turn off’ some readers who could easily object to the torrent of formulations relating areas which many, if not most, people hadn’t previously seen as related—such as mathematics and psychiatry. The content was certainly not conventional. But there was nothing Alfred could do about that. Alfred felt convinced that “Man is ultimately a doctrinal being. Even our language has its silent doctrines, and no activity of man is free from some doctrines, so that the kind of metaphysics a man has, is not of indifference to his world outlook and his behavior.”(25)  If so, then the examination of doctrines and their connection with human behavior, which Alfred was engaged in, would involve every field of human endeavor, mathematics and psychiatry included. Indeed, those fields would be able to ‘throw light’ on each other.

The Anthropometer showed that human beings constituted “a knowing class of life”. For Korzybski, this appeared a matter of urgency:
A “knowing class of life” begins with “knowing,” therefore scientific method and science is not a luxury for the privileged few; it is the very thing which differentiates “Smith’s” “thinking” from Fido’s “thinking.” The consciousness of abstracting which is so fundamental for man, is the awareness of a faculty, and in this special case we can use this faculty only when we are aware that we have it. (26) 
For Korzybski, the “scientific temper” consisted first and foremost in the ability to examine and revise one’s doctrines when necessary. With the greatest urgency, he felt his work had the potential to bring the scientific temper to the masses.

His urgency about “universal agreement” may have gotten Alfred into trouble. The dream of universal agreement had long figured in his formulating and he gave it special prominence in this paper. Indeed, around this time he submitted a version of the paper to a essay contest on world peace with the title “Universal Agreement: The General Theory”. For a long time before 1924, and for a significant time afterwards, Alfred seemed convinced universal peace was possible, if universal agreement could be achieved. Universal agreement in turn depended on rigorous demonstration, definition, and correct symbolism—provided for by his theory.

Alfred’s emphasis on universality was not surprising given his view of knowledge. Although he was calling himself a “relativist” in 1924, he was not a relativist in the way many people understood and still understand that term. He emphasized the relativity of all observers in the abstracting process as a necessary starting point in the quest for invariant formulations true for all observers.(27) Universal agreement would be the necessary end point (the limit) of an indefinite process of scientific inquiry. And because Korzybski accepted the notion—going back at least to Socrates—that “wisdom carries its ethics with it”(28), universal peace would tend to follow.

The conclusion teetered on sloppy symbolism. ‘Agreement’ constituted one of the verbal variables Korzybski had written about. The term needed to be defined and specified according to time and place. Perhaps okay as an ideal, universal agreement otherwise smacked of absolutism—an illegitimate totality. Alfred’s discussion of it put off some people who otherwise might have sympathized with his work.

For example, Korzybski had sent British physicist and philosopher of science Norman Campbell a copy of the Time-Binding booklet and Campbell wrote back early the following year. While Campbell was interested in Korzybski’s work, he strongly disagreed about the possibility of universal agreement, except in what he called “the subject matter of science.” In other areas of life, i.e. art, politics, religion, etc., agreement to disagree seemed to Campbell the best result possible.(29)

Alfred’s hazy discussion of universal agreement had not helped to get Campbell’s agreement. Yet Alfred would continue to write about “universal agreement” for some time, mentioning it in two places in Science and Sanity in 1933, even though it didn’t figure there as a significant part of his system. Gradually, his usage of it dwindled during the 1930s, and in the last decade of his life and work, he avoided using the terms “universal” and “agreement” together in his writings. Surely his work on logical destiny and abstracting indicated some of the main sources of human disagreement and provided methods people could apply to increase the likelihood of sometimes coming to an agreement about a specific issue at a particular time and place. But as the Nazi and Communist menaces became clearer in the 1930s and 1940s, Korzybski seemed to agree that universal agreement at a given date (unless it was agreement to disagree) might be neither necessary nor desirable.

You may download a pdf of all of the book's reference notes (including a note on primary source material and abbreviations used) from the link labeled Notes on the Contents page. The pdf of the Bibliography, linked on the Contents page contains full information on referenced books and articles. 
14. AK to John L. Synge, 6/5/1924. AKDA 15.157.

15. Qtd. in Abstracts, the International Mathematical Congress, Toronto, Canada, Aug. 11-16, 1924. AKDA 3.247 

16. AK to R.E. Sturtevant, 8/2/1924. AKDA 15.283. 

17. AK to R.D.Carmichael, 8/3/1924. AKDA 15.287. 

18. “Time-Binding: The General Theory (First Paper)” in Alfred Korzybski Collected Writings, p. 59. 19. Ibid. 

20. Ibid., p. 74. 21. Ibid., p. 75. Interestingly, Korzybski’s emphasis in this paper on what he called “undefined terms” was later taken up by J.L. Synge, the secretary of the Mathematics Congress, who saw Korzybski’s paper, and may have attended his talk. Synge, who had a long and distinguished career afterwards as an applied mathematician, invented a game called “Vish” based on the ‘vicious circle’ which results from attempting to define every term one uses. Eventually as Korzybski pointed out you will reach the level of undefined terms, where the words start ‘doubling back’ on themselves. As Synge put it “In defining some word [with other words], you are bound to use a word whose final definition you are seeking.” [J. L. Synge, Science: Sense and Nonsense, p. 23] 

22. “Time-Binding: The General Theory (First Paper)” in Alfred Korzybski Collected Writings, p. 75-76. 

23. Ibid., p. 76. 

24. AK to R.D.Carmichael, 5/3/1924. AKDA 13.751. 

25. “Time-Binding: The General Theory (First Paper)” in Alfred Korzybski Collected Writings, p. 77. 

26. Ibid., p. 72. 

27. AK to T. Percy Nunn, 8/27/1924. AKDA 15.378. 

28. AK Notebooks circa 1920. AKDA 37.774. 

29. Norman Campbell wrote to Korzybski:
…I was much interested in your work, and your main ideas are certainly striking and original. But I fear I am rather a sceptic of very wide-sweeping generalizations and am not quite the right person to appreciate their value fully. It seems to me in particular that your conception of “universal agreement” is radically different from mine. I think that universal agreement is possible in only a very narrow range of human affairs, those namely which form the subject matter of science. Outside that range, in everything which concerns art or politics or religion or indeed the daily life of mankind, I am much more impressed by the diversity than the similarity of human nature. It seems to me that the solution of human antagonisms (which are the source of most of the evils of this world) will come when it is recognized that on very many things we must agree to differ and come to some practical compromise on our differences. An attempt to discover laws in what is essentially irregular is, in my opinion, the main fallacy in most philosophies. I fear therefore that though I shall always read your writings with interest and enjoyment, we can neither of us look to the other for support in our particular outlook.” [Norman R. Campbell to AK, 2/14/25. AKDA 17.78.]