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.

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. 

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