Thursday, March 12, 2015

Chapter 53 - Question Marks: Part 3 - Question Marks

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.

When would the book be published? Would Crane come through with some money? How to close the Institute money gap in the meantime? And how would the Congress go? With these question marks as background, Korzybski once again took to the road.

First, from May 29 to June 2, he gave an intensive seminar at Dr. Hedin’s Interstate Clinic in Red Wing, Minnesota. He had most of the Institute staff come along since an overwhelming amount of other time-dependent work, especially related to the Congress, continued to need at least some of his direct attention. Korzybski probably would have preferred not going at all. But the Hedins made the situation somewhat more appealing by moving out of their home, staying with the Andersons, so Korzybski and his staff could have their cook as well as the run of their place. Korzybski found the seminar group an interesting one to work with. It included not only the Hedins and physicians from his clinic (and their wives), but also John Anderson and his wife Eugenie, Eugenie’s sister Mary (who would marry Charles Biederman at year’s end), other physicians and educators, as well as Isadore Fankuchin, a pioneer x-ray crystallographer and explorer in what would become known as “molecular biology”. The psychologist Charlotte Buhler and her psychiatrist husband Karl also attended a number of sessions. On June 9, Alfred was still in Red Wing doing post-lecture interviews, and only got back to Chicago a little before the June 16 start of the next intensive seminar scheduled at the Institute. July provided a break from seminars but not from the intense pace of work as preparations revved-up for the Denver Congress on August 1 and 2. 

Kendig arrived in Denver and set up an office on campus about a week before Korzybski got there, a day or two before the Congress began. About 300 attended, including University of Denver students and pre-registered people from around the country. The Program started on Friday morning, August 1, with some opening introductions and short addresses by Korzybski and others. Korzybski also spoke from notes to the entire Congress group in two general sessions, with material taken from his still unpublished “Introduction”. He entitled his first talk, after dinner on Friday evening, “Non-aristotelian Methodology: Neuro-linguistic and Neuro-semantic Factors in a Disintegrating Culture”. On Saturday night after the closing banquet he gave another talk to the general group entitled “Non-aristotelian Orientation: Neuro-social Integration without Regimentation”. Some 70 authors, most of whom attended the Congress, presented around 90 papers during two very full days in four concurrent sessions on: Psychosomatic Problems, Medicine, and Psychotherapy; Education; Speech and Speech Arts; and Public Affairs. 

One notable Congress contributor, engineer and anthropologist Benjamin Lee Whorf, had just died on July 26 at the age of 44. Korzybski had recognized him (and to some extent his mentor Edward Sapir) as an important non-aristotelian formulator. Through studying the Mayan, Aztec, Hopi, and other Native American languages and cultures, Whorf had come to conclusions similar to Korzybski’s about the relations of language, perceptual processes, and other behavior. Whorf referred to his theoretical framework as “the point of view of linguistic relativity”.(14) Whorf’s invited paper, “Languages and Logic: Chemical Compound or Mechanical Mixture, a Sentence Hides within its Structure Laws of Thought Profoundly Important to the Advance of Science”, was read at the Congress and later printed in the Congress papers. Whorf appeared to not have had much exposure to Korzybski’s work except through unreliable secondary sources. Whorf expressed concern to an editor in 1940 about having his work confused “with things like the recent popular stultification of a similar subject by Mr. Stuart Chase...” Earlier in 1941 he had written in a letter that, “For the immediate future, probably the loose-thinking ‘semanticists’ à la Stuart Chase, will introduce many popular cliche’s and make [the] term ‘semantics’ a hissing and byword, so that it will cease to be used by serious scientists.”(15) Korzybski was coming to conclude that too. Whorf’s agreement to participate in the Congress indicated a willingness to make a more direct connection to Korzybski and his work despite his hesitancy about popularizers like Chase. In his paper, Whorf had referred to the “far off event” in linguistic science of “a new technology of language and thought.” Korzybski and his students were already demonstrating that such a technology was not so far off after all. Whorf’s early death at this pivotal point of connecting with Korzybski was a lost opportunity for the work of both men. 

Korzybski felt unwell in Denver’s high altitude but at least one of the questions hanging over him had been answered very nicely: he felt very good about the Congress, which even got national publicity in an article in the August 11 issue of Time Magazine(Regrettably, the Time article started with a by-this-time common mistake: “Last week 200 sworn enemies of Aristotelian logic gathered at the University of Denver...”) (16)
...The congress was a genuine success, the papers were mostly important and the attendance large. The great psychiatrist Dr. Adolf Meyer of Johns Hopkins attended the Congress, presented a paper and participated in many discussions of medical papers. At the opening of the Congress he introduced me at length in such a way that some of the audience were moved to tears. I admit that the Congress, and the unqualified warm approval of Meyer made this one of the happiest events of my life. (17)
Korzybski probably did not find out until later about the death on July 23 of his friend George E. Coghill, among biologists one of his strongest advocates. Coghill, already an honorary trustee of the Institute, had last written to Korzybski in April when he agreed to serve on the advisory committee of the Congress. 

Korzybski’s work would have figured prominently in Coghill’s uncompleted book, Principles of Development in Psycho-organismal Behavior, “designed to present a psychological and philosophical synthesis of his studies on organismic development and the significance of mentation in these vital processes.”(18) From remaining notes, Coghill’s friend and biographer, the neurologist C. Judson Herrick, paraphrased his views about “...the emergence of the specific human type of the process which Count Korzybski calls time-binding—the conscious blending of the past and future into the now of present experience.” 
As he [Korzybski] so passionately argues, this is the badge of our humanity. Our ability to forecast the future in terms of the past is the secret of our superiority over the brutes in control of the forces of nature, including social forces and, most important of all, the course of our own cultural development. (19) 
Korzybski and Kendig returned home from Denver and left almost immediately for an August 11 to 23 seminar at State College, Pennsylvania, during which Kendig assisted. Emmett Betts, the head of the Pennsylvania State College Reading Clinic, was sponsoring it and even offering it to students as a two-credit Graduate Education course under the title, “Psychology of Reading”. Ora Ray Bontrager, a professor of teacher training at the State Teachers College in California, Pennsylvania, and Director of the Reading Clinic there, helped organize the Penn State Seminar and also attended it—his third with Korzybski. Bontrager had not been able to attend the Denver Congress but had his paper “Re-education in Reading: A Report of Applications of General Semantics in Remedial Work in Reading” presented there. (It remains one of the best analyses of reading problems I’ve ever encountered.) Bontrager, trained in mathematics and psychology and a seasoned educator, had absorbed a great deal from Korzybski and was becoming a friend and ally.

Wisely, Korzybski had agreed to cancel another intensive at the Institute, scheduled to start August 26. Soon after returning home, however, he gave a presentation at the Unity of Science Conference at the University of Chicago in the first week of September. (He had written a complaint to Charles Morris, the Conference organizer, when he saw the preliminary program after coming back from Denver: it bothered him that he had been put in a little section on ‘Language’—and scheduled to speak last, besides. After some back and forth, Morris agreed to at least change the name of Alfred’s section to ‘Language and Personal-Social Orientation’. He also included Adolf Meyer on the program at Alfred’s request.) (20) A week later Alfred began teaching another intensive, with the lectures running from September 8 to 15 (the personal interviews as always extended the actual seminar work for Alfred beyond the final date). For several months, he had intermittently noted to Mira his ongoing sense of exhaustion. By the middle of September, he felt dead tired. 

The Second Edition of Science and Sanity (already printed in July) still hadn’t been issued.(21) Korzybski had held back the official publication date because of the unresolved business with Crane. In the acknowledgements at the end of the “Introduction”, he had wanted to add another paragraph expressing his gratitude for Crane’s initial interest in and financing of the Institute. With Crane’s obligations unfulfilled, Korzybski didn’t feel he could do that. However, sometime in September, he had to make a decision. He simply couldn’t wait any longer. On October 1, the Institute issued an addendum to its publication list announcing the availability for sale of the separately printed booklet of the “Introduction To The Second Edition” with “Supplementary Bibliography”. The notice also announced the availability of the Second Edition starting on November 1. Neither the booklet nor the limited number of books getting bound for the publication date would contain any acknowledgement to Crane. That bothered Korzybski (not just for sentimental reasons) and he was going to use this missing acknowledgement in a final October 28 appeal to Crane. 
...People know that you started to finance the Institute. Suddenly you stopped paying. People know that we are broke, and have been struggling along for two years. Naturally everybody asks the simple question, ‘What is wrong with the Institute or with Crane? I know of course what is ‘wrong’, but could not tell because you were my student...For historical reasons I have to give credit to you in my new edition for your interest and original financial help in starting the Institute. You and I have definite obligations toward the staff for our salaries. Besides, I have definite moral obligations toward the trustees and honorary trustees to carry on the work of the Institute. I feel my obligations very strongly. What I publish must adequately represent the facts of the situation and so depends on your clearing up your relationship with the Institute. In the most realistic way possible it is today a question of your name, Crane, against my name, Korzybski, and my reputation for fulfilling my obligations, which I did and am doing in spite of handicaps. Let us be clear on this subject: it is a question of your name or mine, and I can not damage my work to protect you...Something must be done about it very quickly, so please answer this letter promptly. (22)
Korzybski would have to wait a bit longer to see how this would work. 

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. Whorf, in Congress Papers, p. 44. 

15. Whorf qtd. in Penny Lee 1996, p. 16. 

16. “New Kind of Sense”. Time Magazine, 8/11/1941. 

17. AK to Cornelius Crane, 10/28/1941. IGS Archives. 

18. “Biographical Memoir of George Ellet Coghill” by C. Judson Herrick. National Academy of Sciences Biographical Memoirs, Vol. XXII: (251-273) 1942, p. 252. 

19. Herrick 1949, p. 215. 

20. Pearl Johnecheck to Charlotte Schuchardt, 8/27/1941. ‘CS Private’ file, IGS Archives. 

21. AK to MEK 7/28/1941. AK Archives, Box 22, Folder 6.349.

22. AK to Cornelius Crane, 10/28/1941. IGS Archives. 

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