Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Chapter 19 - The Time-Binding Club: Part 7 - Maggots In The Cheese

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.

The ‘Time-Binders’ were not all about serious discussion. They had fun while they sat in Walter’s apartment and, as Walter remembered much later, “…discussed many aspects of our problems, drank homemade brew [Prohibition had taken effect on Jan. 15, 1920 and would last until 1933], ate sardines and hoped for the best.”(31) Alfred regaled his friends with stories and gave them his rendition of the Petawawa Camp Song: ‘...There are maggots in the cheese over there. over there,....’. To people in the group, this seemed to describe the condition of those who operated without sufficient awareness of their time-binding debts to the past or their time-binding responsibilities to the future. As Keyser put it later, “We have been and are living in the midst of a great civilization like maggots in a cheese.” Both he and Walter used the analogy in later writings. (32)

Alfred still didn’t have a publisher by the end of the year. The ‘Time-Binders’ had briefly considered putting together their own publishing company but decided against it. Meanwhile, the Management Section of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers was planning a tribute to H. L. Gantt and Walter for the Society’s Annual Meeting, scheduled for December 7–10 in New York. Walter planned to formally introduce “time-binding” in the course of summarizing Gantt’s contribution to management thinking. In November, Walter was circulating a draft of his presentation to his friends and invited Alfred, Wolf, Wood and another engineer, Hugh Archibald to serve as discussants to the paper at the meeting. (Both Polakov’s paper and the comments of Korzybski and the others were published in the April 21, 1921 issue of Mechanical Engineering.) The meeting provided Alfred with his first national audience (at least among the engineers attending the conference). “Time-Binding” had been launched.



Notes 
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. 
Chapter 19 – The Time-Binding Club
31. Polakov to AK, June 20, 1947. IGS Archives. 

32. Keyser in “Man and Men” in Keyser 1927, p. 189 and Polakov in “Maggots In The Cheese” (a Review of Keyser’s Mathematical Philosophy) in The Call, Dec. 10, 1922. AKDA 3.162.


Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Chapter 19 - The Time-Binding Club: Part 6 - Steinmetz

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.

Club members were also helping Alfred to make important outside connections. Alfred never hesitated in approaching the ‘biggest’ people in whatever field he was writing about. Probably at the suggestion of Polakov, Alfred had read the 1916 book, America and the New Epoch, by Charles Steinmetz, a mathematician, engineer, and socialist born in Prussian Poland in 1865. Steinmetz—a wizened hunchback and, in Polakov’s words, a “big-hearted” genius—had come to the U.S. in 1889. Since then Steinmetz had established the mathematical theory of alternating currents, made possible the expanding national power grid, and become the head of the research laboratory at General Electric Corporation. Steinmetz’s book had analyzed what he saw as a necessary historical shift from an era emphasizing individualism and competition to one emphasizing cooperation.To Korzybski writing his engineering appendix, Steinmetz’s book gave “a most correct engineering picture of the political situation in the world…”which fit in with the message of human engineering that Alfred wanted to convey in his own book.(23) He hoped he might be able to get Steinmetz interested in his work and perhaps get his critique and endorsement. 


Polakov, who knew Steinmetz, wrote a letter of introduction for Korzybski. At the beginning of September, Alfred sent it, along with his own letter and a manuscript of his book, to Steinmetz’s home and office in Schenectady, north of New York City.(24) About a week later two mysterious men—special government agents?—visited Polakov asking questions about “the Korzybski theory”. Walter and Alfred wondered: Did some of Palmer’s ‘red hunters’ intercept the manuscript sent to Steinmetz? After he had heard no word from Steinmetz for a month, Alfred sent another letter to him and also one to General Electric.(25) The letter addressed to G.E. finally got through. Within a few weeks, Steinmetz wrote back to him indicating he had not received the manuscript or the two previous letters addressed to him.(26) Alfred sent him another manuscript in mid-November via private messenger but didn’t hear back from him for another month. It was certainly not lack of interest on Steinmetz’s part. He had a busy laboratory at his home at “Liberty Hall” and was now in the midst of an exhaustive research project on lightning which would lead two years later to the first effective lightning arrester for the power industry. It turns out that both of Korzybski’s manuscripts had gotten misplaced in Steinmetz’s lab. Steinmetz finally wrote back to Korzybski on December 21; the manuscript had finally reached him: “...I started reading it [and] am getting interested; will write you soon.”(27)

In early 1921, with Korzybski madly revising his manuscript, Steinmetz wrote expressing further interest in the new material on human engineering but provided no other comments.(28) He was just too busy to do much more than express his sympathy for Alfred’s work. Korzybski wrote back expressing some frustration he wasn’t able to personally meet and get more input from Steinmetz as the book neared publication—although he had decided to add Steinmetz to his list of people acknowledged in the “Preface”.(29) Steinmetz didn’t object.

Steinmetz spent his last few years extremely fruitfully. He built an artificial lightning machine, formulated a method of suppressing lightning damage to power lines, and wrote one of the earliest books explaining the theory of relativity. Korzybski apparently never met him in person. Steinmetz died unexpectedly in October 1923 of heart failure—probably related to the strain of his severe kypho-scoliosis, i.e., “hunchback”, combined with his relentless activity. Polakov wrote the following in an obituary of him published in that year’s November 7 issue of The Nation:
…[Steinmetz] often stated that the aim of engineering is to control the forces of nature for the well-being of mankind. What are these “forces of nature”? Are they limited to “non-human nature,” or do they embrace as well the forces of “human nature”? On this point Steinmetz never wavered.  
In interviews that were broadcasted across two continents he sharply defined the goal of success for the engineer—“to find out how human forces work.” For only then,” according to Steinmetz, “can we expect any great human progress.” That is why he became such a warm supporter of Korzybski’s theory of man…(30)

Notes 
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. 
23. Korzybski 1921, p. 259. 

24. AK to Charles Steinmetz, 9/12/1920. AKDA 4.808.

25. AK to Charles Steinmetz, 10/9/1920. AKDA 4.357. 

26. Charles Steinmetz to AK, 10/26/1920. AKDA 4.319. 

27. Charles Steinmetz to AK, 12/21/1920. AKDA 6.607. 

28. Charles Steinmetz to AK, Feb. 1, 1921. AKDA 6.598 

29. Korzybski to Charles Steinmetz, Ap. 7, 1921. AKDA 5.418 

30. Steinmetz Obituary by Walter N. Polakov in The Nation, 11/7/1923. AKDA 3.202.


Monday, September 15, 2014

Chapter 19 - The Time-Binding Club: Part 5 - The Time-Binding Club

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, Mira, Polakov, and Keyser had been promoting “time-binding”, “human engineering”, etc., among people they met. Interest was growing. Walter decided to organize a “binding time” club, which by October, was getting together once a week at his studio apartment at the Hotel des Artistes on 1 West 67th Street.(16) (Polakov had become single again, though his teen-age daughter, Catherine, was still living with him.) Among others, the group of regulars at the meetings included Polakov and Alfred; Robert B.Wolf, an engineer, management consultant, and Vice-President of The American Society of Mechanical Engineers; Alfred’s friend Julian Grove-Korski who worked at the Polish Consulate in New York; William John Fielding, an advertising copywriter for Tiffany’s and Company who reviewed books and wrote articles on “free thought” and sexology; and Charles W. Wood, an editorial writer for The World newspaper and, for a time a couple of years later, a contributing editor to The Liberator, Max Eastman’s monthly radical socialist newspaper. In addition, people like Mira, Keyser, Catherine Polakov, Jacques Loeb, historian James Harvey Robinson, and E. A. Ross, a sociology professor from the University of Wisconson and former President of the American Sociology Association, occasionally attended. The meetings continued at Polakov’s home for several years—sometimes when Alfred was not in town—before finally petering out by the fall of 1923. (17) 

Among the members of what soon became known as the “Time-binding Club”, Korzybski’s formulations seemed to have the effect of a “brain revolution”, as Polakov called it. Keyser was rewriting Mathematical Philosophy to include his new conscious awareness of time-binding. Polakov now understood Gantt’s method as a way of consciously implementing it in business/industrial planning.(18) In light of his ongoing reading and his discussions with Alfred and others, Polakov was also moving away from orthodox Marxism. In a few years, in the first of a series of articles on “Science and Labor” for The American Labor Monthly, he would write, “Marxism and the so-called radical theories springing from it are not free from this [scientific] criticism. Let us be impersonal. The theory of scientific socialism is based on gross materialism which is no longer tenable in view of the strides made by the positive sciences.”(19)

Robert B. Wolf, somewhat younger than Alfred and Walter, also found time-binding an “epoch-making concept”.(20) His enthusiasm was indicative of a larger fact: Korzybski’s work by no means appealed only to so-called free-thinking, radical types. Wolf had written a number of pamphlets and articles such as “Individuality in Industry”, “Non-Financial Incentives”, and “Creative Spirit in Industry”. His approach had struck a chord in industrial engineering and management audiences and he had built a successful business in industrial consulting. Wolf espoused a kind of mystical Christianity and in his management work attempted to combine Gantt’s methods with the esoteric theories of Fabre d’Olivet, among others.(21) Now he was trying to fit time-binding into this framework as well. Hard-headed Poly had his suspicions. But Alfred seems to have enjoyed mentoring Wolf.

The engineers in the group had a strong influence on Korzybski. He decided to increase his emphasis on “Human Engineering”. For a time he even changed the title of the book to the unwieldy Human Engineering or The Science of The Manhood of Humanity and Its Universal Application. In this regard he started writing a third appendix to the book entitled “Engineering and Time-Binding”.

Discussions with fellow “time-binders” in the club, as well as critiques from others to whom he had sent parts of the manuscript, were definitely helping him to refine his ideas and tighten up his writing. For example, Alfred had noted in the manuscript that the three classes of life (plants, animals and humans) could be said to represent different and incommensurable dimensions (using examples from algebra). Polakov apparently gave a presentation discussing these classes of life in terms of geometrical dimensions, specifically the co-ordinates of a cube, using a simple illustration with three lines. This illustration made clearer Alfred’s argument about confusing dimensions. By focusing only on its components—i.e., points, lines, or surfaces—a cube could get mistakenly characterized in terms, say, of its surfaces. Its higher-dimensionality—its ‘cubeness’—could get entirely neglected. In a similar manner, viewing humans—a higher dimension of life—as animals appeared as wrong as calling a cube a “square”. The geometric analogy seems obvious in hindsight but Alfred apparently had not developed it on his own. When the book was finally published, he included Polakov’s illustration (see Manhood of Humanity, p. 61) but didn’t mention Polakov as the source of it, even though Walter had requested he do so.(22) Probably an innocent oversight by Korzybski in the rush to publication, this may have contributed to some of the tension which later surfaced between the two friends.

Notes 
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. 
16. “Korzybski, Time-Binder, Upsets Darwin and Proves The Golden Rule True”  by Lincoln M. Schuster. Boston Evening Transcript, Wed., June 22, 1921. AKDA 3.13. 

17. Walter N. Polakov to Robert S. Gill, 8/6/1923. AKDA 10.31. 

18. Polakov to AK, 10/6/1920. AKDA 4.362.

19. “Science and Labor”  by Walter N. Polakov in American Labor Monthly,  April 1923. AKDA 3.171. 

20. Robert B. Wolf to AK.,12/3/1920. AKDA 6.610. 

21. Robert B. Wolf to AK, 10/27/1920. AKDA 4.320 

22. Polakov to AK, 4/11/1921. AKDA 5.439. 


Sunday, September 14, 2014

Chapter 19 - The Time-Binding Club: Part 4 - "Ideals of Socialism"

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.

The compatibility of Korzybski’s and Polakov’s views extended to socialism. Korzybski may not have wanted to call himself a socialist or to do away with private enterprise, but he certainly admired the goals of socialism. In a letter to Lincoln Steffens in 1922, Korzybski wrote, 
Old capitalism is not scientific, [it is] based on animal standards and therefore it breaks down every little while. Socialism must be built upon REALLY scientific premises or it will also have sad failures. As far as the ideals of socialism go I have nothing to say and am in accord with them. BUT THE METHOD the PREMISES must be made scientific. (11) 
That his biases in the early 1920s inclined towards socialism can definitely be seen in a 1922 letter to Luella Twining, recounting a dinner he and Mira had just attended in Milwaukee:

…Some bankers gave us a dinner, and they asked me what I think about the bloodshed and terror in Russia, it was a trap because obviously the question was idiotic. I answered that as a soldier I have no use for killing whomever, but I said that I refuse to be blind on either sides, and explained that I do not see no [sic] difference between Lenin and Trotzki lets us say and Morgan and Rockfeller [sic] let us say, both groups have corpses behind them, the difference is that the first COUNT them at least the others HIDE them, in this respect I have more use for those who at least are not cowards. (12) 
Throughout his life, Korzybski continued to disparage “commercialism” and felt strong antipathy (perhaps with some justification) towards what he considered the excesses and abuses of the banking system, unrestricted profit motive, etc. (See Science and Sanity, passim.) However, his general political-economic views moved further away from those of Polakov. Perhaps Keyser exerted some moderating influence here. Keyser once wrote to Alfred, “The gabble of a ‘radical’ tends to make me conservative and the gabble of a ‘conservative’ tends to make me radical.”(13) By the mid-1940s, Korzybski had became a qualified supporter of Harry Truman and later felt positive about the possibility of Eisenhower for President—hardly radical political choices.

Nonetheless, he maintained some of his old sympathies until the end of his life. For example, speaking at a luncheon given in his honor in 1948, he was strongly critical of “the anti-human character of Soviet Communism”, and its leadership, but still spoke positively about socialism.(14) In the 1930s, Korzybski had given general support to Roosevelt’s “New Deal”, and apparently continued to have no objection to applying statist solutions to socio-economic problems. Ralph Hamilton had many conversations with him and noted, “He thought the government should take a more decisive hand in controlling and managing natural resources instead of letting them be claimed by any chance venturer. And of course it should support worthy causes like [his work].”(15)  

In his 1944 book, The Road to Serfdom (which Mira got and Alfred may have perused) economist Friedrich Hayek expressed an alternative viewpoint that ran against the current of then popular economic opinion. Hayek, following von Mises and other economists of the Austrian school, argued that inevitable limitations on human knowledge meant that any centralized, “New Deal”-like governmental planning and control would inevitably lead to economic foul-up and point a democracy in the direction of totalitarianism. This suggested that a market economy, whatever the flaws of commercialism, might better serve a time-binding class of life. At around this time, Korzybski had begun to more fully explore the relation of democracy and dictatorship to time-binding, but he never got around to grappling with the implications of the work of Hayek, et al., for his own formulations.


Notes 
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. 
11. AK to Lincoln Steffens, 1/28/22. AKDA 8.589. 

12. AK to Luella Twining, June 5, 1922. AKDA 8.205. To place the deeds of Morgan and Rockefeller, whatever their greedy machinations, on a similar scale with those of the two Soviet leaders seems arguable. By this time, Lenin and Trotsky (as Korzybski would acknowledge) already had the blood of millions of Russians on their hands. Despite Alfred’s perhaps-skewed 1922 perception of ‘capitalists’ like Morgan and Rockefeller, he was not an admirer of the Soviet system. 

13. Keyser to AK, 3/17/1924. AKDA 10.362. 

14. See “Summary Of Remarks by Alfred Korzybski” in “Understanding Human Potentialities, Key To Dealing With The Soviet Union” in Collected Writings, p. 640. 

15. Ralph Hamilton, Interview, Oct. 2005. 

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Chapter 19 - The Time-Binding Club: Part 3 - Universal Labor and Time-Binding

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.

In the fall of 1920, the U.S. economy was in a recession, as was Walter’s consulting firm. Though Polakov was not making much money, he was at least trying not to waste his time. He was keeping himself busy writing—he had just finished the “Preface” of Mastering Power Production, a book analyzing the economics and technology of industrial power production in the U.S. Although now ready for publication (with a 1921 copyright date), the book did not actually come out until January 1922; Walter’s publisher couldn’t pay the printer’s bill. In the meantime, when he met Alfred, probably sometime in late August, he had already started working on a new book, Quo Vadis, America? (an analysis of the 1920 U.S. economy which Walter ultimately abandoned). The two men exchanged manuscripts. 

Polakov found Alfred’s work compelling. Korzybski’s explicit formulation of time-binding and emphasis on a mathematical and engineering approach to social problems affirmed Polakov’s own views. After only a short time with the manuscript, he concluded that Korzybski’s “philosophy of Human Engineering” constituted “a foundation of new philosophic thought”.(7) Even Polakov’s revered Marx, whom he considered “the founder of the science of political economy”, had not come to the clear definition of the human class of life that he felt Korzybski had reached.(8) Polakov spoke modestly here. While working on Mastering Power Production during and after the war, he had independently arrived—in passing—at a recognition of the phenomenon that Korzybski had defined, labeled, and put at the center of his book. Korzybski readily saw this and agreed about the congruence of his and Polakov’s views. After reading the manuscript of Mastering Power Production, Korzybski accepted Polakov’s notion of “Universal Labor” as “Corresponding exactly to Time-binding”.(9) Alfred had typed out for himself some material from Polakov’s “Preface”, including the following:
…in my discussion of Universal labor, I attempted to show that the cumulative work of past generations lives through the ages and benefits posterity thus, through creative work of engineering minds, we approach the eternity.  
If we apply this criterion to all our work—the human energy expended for production of any result—we must apply it in relation to time not only because we live within a limit of time, not even because time can not be created, stopped or extended but principally because the conception of time is distinctively human, is the factor and the exponent of the entire progress of human life. (10)

Notes 
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. 
7. Polakov to C. L. Boone, Sept. 13, 1920. AKDA 6.615. 

8. Polakov 1925, p. 60. 

9. Korzybski 1921, “Appendix III, Engineering and Time-Binding”, p. 262. 

10. Polakov 1921, p. ix. Qtd. by Korzybski in typed notes, AKDA 4.365.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Chapter 19 - The Time-Binding Club: Part 2 - "Poly"

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.

If Keyser could be called Alfred’s formulational father, then Polakov (whom Alfred usually addressed as “Walter” or “Poly”) qualifies as Korzybski’s main intellectual ‘brother’. Polakov grasped more quickly than most the overall shape of Alfred’s developing work. After all, for Polakov—a lover of mathematics and a practicing engineer with a strong sense of social responsibility—Alfred’s work seemed more than anything like a clarification and confirmation of what he already felt and knew. Walter became close with both Alfred and Mira. He also became friends with Keyser, Loeb, and many of the other people Alfred was also meeting at this time—indeed he introduced Alfred and Mira to some of them. Soon after he met Korzybski, Polakov began to study Keyser’s work and many of the other works Alfred was also discovering at this time. Polakov’s studio in upper Manhattan become a place where Alfred could share his views, receive criticisms, and get suggestions. Polakov not only contributed to Alfred’s formulating, he also became the earliest significant popularizer of the world view and methodology Korzybski was trying to delineate through the 1920s—although Polakov’s published writings are now relatively unknown. 
Walter N. Polakov

Polakov was born in Luga, Russia in the same year and month as Alfred. Apparently Jewish (his name appears in the 1922-1923 American Jewish Year Book in the listing of “Jews of Prominence in the United States") (3), he seems to have had a completely assimilated upbringing. (None of his later published writings or letters show a trace of Jewish background or interest, although he certainly did not seem antisemitic—just indifferent.) He got his degree in Mechanical Engineering at Dresden’s Royal Institute of Technology in 1902, and did advanced graduate work in psychology and industrial hygiene at the University of Moscow. After working for the Tula Locomotive Works and as Chief Engineer and Naval Instructor in the Russian Department of Navigation and Harbors, he emigrated to the United States with his wife and a daughter in 1906, just after the first Russian Revolution. He quickly became proficient in English and became well-known in the U.S. as an expert in power plant operations and in industrial engineering and management. (4)

Before he met Alfred, Polakov had already come to a clear understanding of the power of a form of representation to affect behavior and the added importance of using a dynamic form of representation (adequately accounting for the time factor) to represent dynamic events. His work with the Gantt Chart, which focused on the element of time, no doubt enhanced this. He had worked closely with H. L. Gantt to develop this system of project management during the war and was rightly considered one of the world’s leading experts in its use. (Polakov helped edit and supplied an appendix to Walter Clark’s definitive book on the subject, The Gantt Chart: A Working Tool of Management, published in 1922.)

In his consulting work, Polakov was obsessed with reducing waste in industry—defined as restricted, reduced, interrupted, or lost productivity. Since for him the ultimate waste resulted from workers getting treated like animals or commodities, his use of the Gantt methodology required worker involvement and brain power. Indeed, as indicated in the title of a talk he gave at the December 1921 meeting of The American Society of Mechanical Engineers, he considered “making work fascinating as the first step toward reduction of waste”.(5) The connection to Korzybski’s emphasis in Manhood that “Man is not an animal”, seems obvious. Polakov’s career as an industrial engineering consultant to businesses and governments could be summarized in a credo he had gotten from Gantt: the purpose of technology and business was “rendering rigorous service”. Both he and Gantt belonged to a larger movement in 1920s America among socially-conscious engineers and management thinkers.(6) In applying the notion of “making work fascinating” to industrial management, Polakov qualifies as a precurser to the movement for Total Quality Management.



Notes 
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. 
3. “Jews of Prominence In The United States”, Compiled by I. George Dobsevage, in American Jewish Year Book, Vol. 24 (1922-1923), pp. 109 - 218. American Jewish Committee Archives, http://www.ajcarchives.org/AJC_DATA/Files/1922_1923_5_SpecialArticles.pdf 

 4. Daniel Wren’s 1980 article “Scientific Management in the U.S.S.R., With Particular Reference to the Contribution of Walter N. Polakov” provides many details of Polakov’s career and early life. D. J. Kelly’s 2004 article, “Marxist Manager amidst the Progressives: Walter N. Polakov and the Taylor Society” analyzes in more detail Polakov’s work and ideas in relation to the beginning of the scientific management movement. 


5. See Polakov 1925, p. 205-–227. 


6. Best, p. 88. 


Chapter 19 - The Time-Binding Club: 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.

Since Alfred was describing his work as an effort in “human engineering or mathematical sociology”(1), he believed progressive-minded engineers, like the ones who had been involved with Gantt’s and then Ferguson’s “New Machine”, would find something of value in what he had to say. Not surprisingly, just after he got back to New York in the autumn of 1920, a couple of men he knew recommended his getting in touch with Walter N. Polakov, a Russian-born engineer living in New York City who had worked with H. L. Gantt. Alfred wrote to Polakov and the two men soon began a lifelong friendship.(2)


Notes 
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 Harvey O’Higgins, 8/8/1920. AKDA 4.539. 

2. The last letter from Polakov to Korzybski that I found in the IGS Archives (non-digital) was dated June 20, 1947—ten years after the presumed year of his death as given in Wren 2001, p. 238. I have been unable to adequately determine the actual date of Polakov’s death which obviously had to have occurred after this letter was written. 



Thursday, September 11, 2014

Chapter 18 - Alfred And The Jews: Part 5 - Lifelong Misconceptions

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.

Notwithstanding Korzybski’s subsequent greater knowledge and more accurate perception (which indeed did lead him to marvel), he never quite overcame certain misconceptions about Jews. For example, reinforced by a misreading of the Hebrew Bible, he considered the notion of “the chosen people” a doctrine of racial superiority and a precursor of Nazism.(20) For someone who prided himself as a constructive and sympathetic reader, I opine that Korzybski failed by his own measure here. Without knowing the accompanying rabbinic commentary based on oral tradition, the Hebrew Bible—in terms of the normative Jewish interpretation—cannot be adequately understood. Korzybski gave no indication that he ever recognized the importance of this commentary and tradition where, as Chaim Potok later pointed out, “...The notion of chosenness...is an assumption of responsibility, not superiority.”(21) Korzybski’s error here may have resulted in part from a tendency towards a crude anti-clericalism that he never quite got away from—despite his stated opposition to dogmatic atheism. His truncated view of Jewish belief was one that he shared with many ‘enlightened’ people, including a number of assimilated Jewish intellectuals. That alone didn’t make him an antisemite—only mistaken.


Notes 
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. 
20. See “Hitler And Psychological Factors In His Life” in Korzybski’s “Introduction To The Second Edition 1941” of Science and Sanity, p. lxxiv.

21. As Chaim Potok later wrote:
...The notion of chosenness...is an assumption of responsibility, not superiority. That the notion of chosenness may have been the basis for various theories of national and racial superiority indicates to me nothing more than that all ideas are potentially corruptible when taken up by small minds. That does not mean that those with great minds should cease thinking…Judaism is one configuration of thought and action. There are many others. Judaism is the responsibility of the Jew. As such, it makes no claim to being the only source of salvation for the world. Its sole criterion for the worth of one who is not Jewish is whether or not he observes the universally applicable Noahide Code. Such observance, in the Talmudic terminology of approbation, makes the non-Jew worthy of the world-to-come. Some of the rabbis of the Talmud went even further: a moral non-Jew is more worthy in the eyes of God than a sinful high priest. [The Conditions of Jewish Belief, pp. 175-176] 

Chapter 18 - Alfred And The Jews: Part 4 - Turning

Korzybski: A Biography (Free Online Edition)
Copyright © 2014 (2011) by Bruce I. Kodish 
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What Korzybski subsequently did about his antisemitic views seems more unusual—he consciously examined and turned against them. Unlike many other antisemites, Alfred’s expression of prejudice in his August 16, 1920 letter functioned for him as an impetus for serious self-evaluation and change. In the letter he had put his prejudices clearly out in the open, keeping a carbon copy for himself (as he nigh always did). They had become facts on record available for his inspection, introspection, and correction. And there is every indication he did so via conscious use of the spiral ‘thought’ process he was formulating about.

A number of factors probably pushed his effort to rid himself of the poison of antisemitism. For one thing, he was beginning to associate with many individuals who—if not socialists or communists—at least had liberal sympathies towards what they perceived at the time as more ‘progressive’ notions for organizing society. And the year 1920 had been a difficult year for people with such views. In 1919, a small number of fringe extremists had indulged in violence and bombings against ‘capitalist’ targets throughout the U.S. In response, the U.S. government began to clamp down indiscriminately on people perceived as communists or communist sympathizers, whether violent or not. On New Years Day 1920, with little or no control from the infirm President Wilson, U.S. Attorney-General A. Mitchell Palmer launched raids around the country, arresting and detaining over 6,000 communists or presumed communists. Eventually many if not most of those arrested and held illegally were released. But despite considerable outcry against the unconstitutional nature of the Attorney General’s actions, Palmer’s raids, as part of what became known as “the Red Scare”, had a chilling effect even among many peaceful and well-intentioned liberals, who did not want to be considered radical. Although there were Jews among the ‘radicals’ (some of them prominent), not all radicals nor even a majority of them were Jewish. (And, the majority of Jews had nothing to do with radical politics.) Alfred and Mira knew many people in the so-called progressive camp, so Alfred had direct evidence of the nonsensical nature of claims about the specifically Jewish nature of radical politics.

In his letter to Keyser, and in keeping with the message of the Protocols, Alfred had also proposed a conspiratorial Jewish marriage of capitalism and communism—Jews controlling both Bolshevism and the banks. The theory, advanced in the Protocols, would likely strike any sensible person as contradictory and absurd. At some point, it must have begun to seem so to Alfred as well. He began to investigate.

He had been familiar with the contents of the Protocols for some time. As noted in a previous chapter, at the end of 1919 he had obtained a copy of Senator Overman’s Committee Report on Bolshevik Propaganda. In a notebook entry labeled “The Overman Committee on the Bolshevik activities”, he wrote out the following, which copies part of page 135 of the Overman Report:
Testimony of Rev. Mr. George A. Simons parson of the Washington Square Methodist Episc. Church 121 W Fortieth Str there is a gentleman Dr. Harris A. Houghton in Bayside a Captain in the Intel. Service “Jewish protocols book Redasti anti Christ”. But the average person in official life here in Wash. and elsewhere is afraid to handle it Houghton says that even in his Intelligence bureau they were afraid of it.(6)

The rumor of a Jewish plot of world domination had come into the news again with the fall 1920 publication, by G.P. Putnam & Sons, of The Cause of World Unrest. Alfred had clipped out the book notice for his notebook:
History of a conspiracy in which the author contends that the plans for domination outlined in the document upon which this volume is based have apparently been followed in the recent movements in Russia.(7) 

This book, by an anonymous author, offered a compendium of articles on the alleged Jewish-Freemason-Bolshevik conspiracy against the Christian World that the ‘reputable’ London Morning Post had printed earlier in the year. The book also announced the forthcoming publication by Putnam of Harris Houghton’s version of the Protocols. In October Louis Marshall, President of the American Jewish Committee, wrote to Major George Putnam protesting the publication of both books. Letters between the two men continued through the month and in early November Putnam decided to not publish Houghton’s book.(8) 

Despite the vehement tone of Alfred’s letter to Keyser, he clearly was not unremittingly invested in the views put forth in the Protocols. Once he began investigating, its claims began to unravel for him. Having had the Overman report in his possession since the end of 1919, it would be surprising—given his reading habits—if he didn’t at least look through the 1,265 page document. He probably wouldn’t have missed the testimonies of Louis Marshall; Simon Wolf, chairman of the board of delegates on civil rights of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations; and Herman Bernstein, a journalist with the New York Herald and an anti-Tsarist, anti-Bolshevik Jew who had reported in Russia in 1917 and 1918. Marshall, in a letter, and the other two men in personal testimony, provided substantial refutations of the idea of a Jewish-Bolshevik plot.

Korzybski, a kindly man at heart, had not reacted with indifference to the post-war anti-Jewish pogroms in Eastern Europe. Even earlier, during his time serving in the Russian Intelligence Service on the Eastern Front, he had saved from further prosecution a number of Jews, who had been brought to him as spies on the flimsiest of charges.(9) He could not have read Simon Wolf’s introductory remarks to the Overman Committee and comfortably maintained the views expressed in his letter to Keyser. Wolf had stated:
I am not at all surprised by the accusations against a certain portion of the human family entitled the Jewish...always made the scapegoat of every movement. It has been so from time immemorial. I am also reminded of the Irishman who beat the Jew and when asked why he did so said that he had killed Christ. When the answer came that had been done thousands of years ago, the Irishmen replied that he had never heard of it until that day. 
And again, when a Jew was walking along the street, a stone was thrown from the opposite side. Naturally the Jew dodged and the stone went crashing into the plate-glass window. The owner sued the Jew for damages and the judge decided that the Jew must pay, for had he not dodged the window would not have been broken. A great judge—but the misfortune is that the Jew throughout all history has been dodging those kinds of missiles and subjected to such unjust decisions. (10) 

Now, Alfred had another ‘bee in his bonnet’ and set off on a program of serious research in Jewish history, religion, and philosophy. One page of his notebook is devoted to Jewish libraries, publishers, and communal organizations in New York City.(11) Elsewhere in the archives, several pages of notes show extensive annotated lists of various sources of Hebrew literature and history, including translations of the Talmud (Jewish Law Commentaries) and Kabbalah (Jewish mystical literature).(12) A number of the books he acquired on Jewish topics became part of the Institute of General Semantics library, including Arsene Darmesteter’s The Talmud, and Emanuel Deutsch’s The Talmud, Abraham Schomer’s 1909 book The Primary Cause of Antisemitism, Gustave Karpeles’ Jews and Judaism in the Nineteenth Century, Philip C. Friese’s Semitic Philosophy, William F. Bode’s The Old Testament in the Light of Today, and Rabbi Sigmund Hecht’s Post-Biblical History: A Compendium of Jewish History. Korzybski’s collection of Judaica also included the curious 1889 volume, Anglo-Israel or The Saxon Race Proved to be the Lost Tribes of Israel in Nine Lectures by Rev. W. H. Poole, which he probably acquired in 1919 or earlier (the book is marked with Alfred’s stamp from the National Arts Club). Clearly his interest in Jews and Judaism was not entirely new.

One book he took extensive notes on was Richard J. H. Gottheil’s Zionism, published in 1914, part of a series on “Movements in Judaism”. The book documented the history to that date of Modern Political Zionism, which sought to restore a significant Jewish presence to the land of Israel. The passages Korzybski copied into his notebook indicate, among other things, the diversity of opinions among Jews regarding options towards the increasingly hostile environment of Europe. Korzybski’s notes also refer to the book’s accounts of public meetings of Zionists in Europe starting in 1898.(13) What Gottheil’s book documented could hardly have been more different than the monolithic, hidden conspiracy depicted in the Protocols. Korzybski’s reading of Gottheil’s book may mark the beginning of his support for Zionism. (Almost a decade later, in 1929, two Jewish newspapers in Kansas City, Missouri—where he was speaking at The Young Men’s and Young Women’s Hebrew Association, declared him “an outspoken Zionist” in articles announcing his lecture. Korzybski never denied that ‘charge’. Indeed, he seemed proud of it, clipping the articles and writing positively to friends about the “enthusiastic” newspaper coverage.(14) 

Alfred’s personal contact with Jews such as Jacques Loeb and Walter N. Polakov (see the following chapter) may also have influenced his changing attitude toward Jews and Judaism. For example Loeb, a German Jew, had had plenty of first-hand experience with anti-Jewish bigotry both in Germany and the U.S. He made no secret of his ethnic origins or of his opposition to racism and unfair treatment. But we will probably never know to what extent Loeb contributed to the attitude change Korzybski was in the midst of undergoing.

In the text of Manhood, which he was revising, Alfred wrote “...if we teach humans false ideas, we affect their time-binding capacities and energies very seriously, by affecting in a wrong way the physico-chemical base.”(15) This reflected not only his new spiral theory but also the sober result of his own self-examination. Among the books Alfred read around this time was Freidlander’s translation of Moshe ben Maimon’s (Maimonides’) Guide for the Perplexed. Alfred copied this quote from Chapter XI into his notebook:
All the great evils which men cause to each other because of certain intentions, desires, opinions or religious principles, are likewise due to non-existence, because they originate in ignorance, which is absence of wisdom. (16)

Was Korzybski somehow acknowledging here his earlier mistaken opinions about Jews? (Later he would often emphasize the dual nature of ignorance—passive ignorance and, to him, the much more dangerous, active ignorance of false knowledge/half-truth.) At any rate, in later letters and published works after 1920, there is no trace of the Jew-hatred contained in the Keyser letter. Although he referred to the ‘white race’ in later writings, his references could not be considered ‘racist’ by a careful reader, except perhaps against the so-called white race.(17) 

For the rest of Korzybski’s life he maintained an interest in antisemitism and talked and wrote about Judaism and the Jewish people with sympathy. Throughout the following decade, in letters to his friend psychologist A. A. Roback, who wrote a number of books on Jewish topics, Alfred would often inquire about the Jewish ethnicity of various mathematicians and scientists. He came to feel that the Jews as a group, like the Poles and the Scots, had especially developed a “‘time’ or process orientation” foreshadowing the modern way of thinking he wanted to formulate more clearly—although he felt that creative individuals from all groups also tended to express this. The Jewish people constituted the only ethnic or religious group (including the Poles) about whom Korzybski ever published anything specific (see his Foreword to “The Essence of Judaism” by Hans Kohn, first published and distributed in 1943 by the Institute of General Semantics, along with a reprint of Kohn’s 1934 article).(18) He was also an early outspoken critic of the Nazis and wrote openly and condemningly about their ideology and their persecution of Jews—quite a shift for someone who had once sounded like a proto-Nazi himself.

Korzybski’s efforts at self-education regarding Jews and Judaism reflected an all too rare but much to be wished for condition, something writer Erich Kahler (a Jew) later noted:
One day when I was discussing the problem of anti-Semitism with the eminent Austro-Jewish poet, Richard Beer-Hofmann, he said to me: “I am not at all astonished at the fact that they hate us and persecute us. But what I cannot understand is, why they do not marvel at us more than they do.”  
Well, marveling at the strange phenomenon of the Jewish people would imply some knowledge of their history, some general perception of the Jewish destiny. And if there were such knowledge and such perception, there could not be so much hatred and persecution. …(19)


Notes 
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. 
6. Note from Overman Committee report, in “AK Personal Notebook, Early 1920s”. AKDA 37.720. 

7. Advertisement for The Cause of World Unrest. AKDA 37.769. 

8. “The Protocols Come to America”. Jewish Virtual Library, http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/anti-semitism/protocols1.html 

 9. “Count Korzybski To Speak at ‘Y’ Monday Evening”. The Kansas City Jewish Chronicle, 3/29/1929. AKDA 3.319. 

10. Overman Committee Report. See U.S. Congress, Senate, Committee on the Judiciary, 1919. Bolshevik Propaganda..., p. 381. 

11. “Jewish organizations” in “AK Personal Notebook, Early 1920s”. AKDA 37.720. 

12. “Hebrew literature”. AKDA 34.747-749. 

13. Notes on Gottheil’s Zionism in “AK Personal Notebook, Early 1920s”. AKDA 37.762-763. 

14. AK to C. B. Bridges, 3/31/1929. AKDA 22.146; AK to G.Y. Rainich, 3/31/29. AKDA 22.145. 

15. Korzybski 1921, p. 234. 

16. Maimonides quote from Friedlander, trans. p. 267 in “AK Personal Notebook, Early 1920s”. AKDA 37.764. 

17. See Science and Sanity, p. 404 and 406. 18. Korzybski’s “Foreword to “The Essence of Judaism” by Hans Kohn” inKorzybski, Collected Writings, pp. 401-404. 

19. Kahler, p. 1.