Saturday, February 21, 2015

Chapter 48 - The Institute Of General Semantics: Part 5 - Cornelius Crane

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.

After the September intensive, Korzybski had a break of a few weeks prior to the seminar starting October 10. He traveled to Ipswich, Massachusetts, north of Boston for discussions with Crane at Castle Hill, the country estate of Crane’s mother. Crane had ideas for developing the Institute. No doubt Korzybski had some things to tell him as well. Korzybski felt a responsibility towards Crane as the Institute’s main donor. Both he and Kendig had tried by means of letters to keep Crane informed of Institute goings-on. But some things were probably best said face-to-face.

Crane, then in his early thirties, was wealthy enough to have never needed to work for a living and had made a career for himself as a philanthropist and patron of science. His main accomplishment so far had involved leading a sailing expedition around the Pacific islands in the late 1920s, which had collected archeological artifacts and biological specimens for Chicago’s Field Museum of Natural History. In the late 1930s, Crane was providing financial support to a number of individuals besides Korzybski, including George Devereux, a Hungarian-born anthropologist who had done field research among the Mohave Indians and became known as a pioneer in applying psychoanalysis as a framework for anthropological research. Korzybski, initially impressed with Devereux’s brilliance and interest in GS, agreed to have him work at the Institute. Crane acted as if Devereaux’s salary was to be taken out of the Institute’s operational funds, rather than from a special fund for that purpose (as Alfred had understood the arrangement). Korzybski sought to dissuade Crane of that notion but the issue soon became moot because it turned out that Devereux’s and Korzybski’s personalities didn’t mix well. Korzybski dismissed him early in 1939. Later in 1939, Crane was paying to get psychiatrist N. E. Ischchlondsky’s books translated from German into English. Ischchlondsky had worked with Pavlov and written on the confluence of Pavlovian reflexology and psychiatry. Crane again asked Korzybski to dispense payments through the Institute and Korzybski, perhaps foolishly, agreed to do so. 

Cornelius Crane
Korzybski’s visit to Castle Hill in the fall of 1938 seemed to go well, with Crane enthusiastic about him and the work of the Institute. Crane’s extended family, with whom Alfred got better acquainted, seemed enthusiastic too. Indeed, in a few months, Crane attended the Holiday Intensive Seminar with his wife Cathalene and his adopted teenage daughter from his wife’s previous marriage—also named Cathalene (later, the mother of actor Chevy Chase). Crane, despite his enthusiasm, had a number of criticisms which he expressed in a letter to Alfred written on the first day of the Intensive. The letter clearly shows he felt uncomfortable with the out-of-the ordinary nature of general semantics; he expressed his distress upon hearing people talking about “the new cult” that he was interested in.

Korzybski’s demeanor and lack of concern for social conventions didn’t help: “I believe your foreign accent, shaven head, work clothes, constitute a bizarre general impression which may be beneficial and attractive if your conduct is at all times stable, suave, “gentlemanly”, etc.” He then went on with three more pages of complaints about Korzybski’s speech and behavior which he considered ungentlemanly, unscholarly, and suspicious—including the fact that Alfred kept a roll of toilet paper on his desk to blow his nose with. Some of the criticism seemed apt. For example, Crane wanted him to do better about keeping his fingernails clean and washing his hands before doing the hands-on work of ‘relaxing’ a student. Korzybski seemed unlikely to do anything about most of Crane’s concerns other than shrug them off as petty. Still the letter definitely showed Crane’s ambivalent feelings towards Korzybski and the Institute. Alfred was going to have to watch his step.

Crane had also invited Douglas Campbell to Camp Hill to participate in the discussions with Alfred. Campbell had recently left Chicago for New York City with his wife Berta (Bertha) Ochsner, a well-known Mid-Western dancer-choreographer. Among other things, Campbell planned to do psychoanalytical work with Karen Horney. He would remain in New York for a year. Whether his work with Horney did him any personal good seems hard to say. By 1940 after a twenty-year marriage, he would leave Berta, move to San Francisco, and marry Marian Van Tuyl, a dancer with whom Berta had worked in Chicago. Since 1937 Campbell had published a number of articles on psychiatry and general semantics in professional journals and given numerous presentations and courses on GS. Then, in 1942 Berta killed herself.(23) Afterwards, Campbell’s writing and work in general semantics virtually ceased (although he did remain on the IGS Board of Trustees for a number of years). Perhaps he felt embarrassed to do more than maintain minimal contact since Korzybski and others at the Institute knew Berta and likely knew the circumstances of her death. (Years after Korzybski’s death, Campbell—who died in 1983—made a kind of return to the Institute by agreeing to become an honorary trustee. He reminisced about his old friend Alfred at the Korzybski Centenary Celebration in New York City in 1979.)

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. See Wilson, Hagood and Brennan. Cambria Press, p. 50.

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