Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Chapter 31 - "The Tragedy Of My Work": Part 3 - Graven

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 a certain sense, Alfred’s basic thesis could be boiled down to a few seemingly simple, even childish, statements: “An event is not an object, a word (label) is not the object, and a statement about a statement is not the same statement.”(6) The ramifications were not childishly simple, however. Not only did they imply a theoretical revision of all the sciences. They also led to practical techniques for the re-education of people’s ‘thinking’ which also had psychotherapeutic implications—or at least implications for preventive mental health.

With the heavy theoretical implications of his work and its potentially far-reaching practical consequences, Alfred’s two Time-Binding papers would simply not suffice. He had to rally enough interest in his work for laypeople and educators to even consider trying it. If it proved useful, more people would apply it and do research with and in it. He would then have a chance to make a living from it. However, because of its heavy scientific basis, he felt he first needed to gain acceptance among mathematicians, scientists, psychiatrists, etc. To do that, he was going to have to spell out the theory in much greater detail in the forthcoming book and provide empirical evidence of the effectiveness of his methods. With Philip Graven, the brilliant young psychiatrist who had been driving him to the hospital, Korzybski felt he had in hand a solution to the problem of gathering the first round of evidence.

For the last several months, Alfred had been giving Graven a private course of instruction, for several hours a day. After medical school at the University of Chicago’s Rush Medical College, Graven had gone to Vienna to specialize in psychiatry and study psychoanalysis with both Wilhelm Stekel and Sandor Ferenczi. He had worked at St. Elizabeths for about a year when Korzybski arrived.(7) In addition to his work at the hospital, Graven had a private psychotherapy practice and had recently begun to apply Alfred’s methods, including the use of the Anthropometer, to his patients.

Korzybski realized, “...If the preventive claims [for his work] are true there should be some direct cures in a theoretically small and narrow class of mental ills, but which in life happen to be very numerous.”(8) Graven was already getting significant preliminary results. So, at least to start with, Korzybski hoped the gifted and enthusiastic young doctor, who had recently published two case studies in The Psychoanalytic Review, would provide an appendix on psychiatry with some case studies for the book.

He also realized that any empirical investigation of his work, case study or otherwise, would have to make allowances for the fact that it was not a panacea. And among those who might be able to benefit from it, verbal assent was not enough. Observable results would take time. From the few people who had actually made a concerted effort to apply it so far—including Korzybski himself—he had found that it could take a number of months of intensive study and work with the Anthropometer, to internalize the non-aristotelian viewpoint sufficiently to make a significant difference in a person’s behavior. He would continue to emphasize this point for the rest of his career. But it was a point that many people found difficult to grasp—both those dismissing his work as platitudes and those who verbally approved it.

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. AK to Edwin E. Slossen, 1/7/1927. AKDA 19.525.

7. Philiip S. Graven to MEK, 1/23/1927. AKDA 18.55. 

8. AK to Miss E. Leona Vincent, 6/25/1927. AKDA 20.505.

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