Friday, January 30, 2015

Chapter 44 - On The Road: Part 5 - Barstow School

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.

As its Head Mistress and Education Director at Barstow School for Girls, Kendig had set out to teach it to children—to center the entire curriculum around evaluation and language. Before the First American Congress for General Semantics scheduled for early March, she had an entire month to see how Korzybski could stir up the cauldron at her elite Mid-Western school. She had made up a work schedule for Alfred soon after his arrival:
January 21, 1935
Alfred Korzybski - -  
Call at office each morning and at 4:15 for communications, will be left on big table. This is our clearing-house. 
Please write out stuff for press. They wish a typed handout with each interview. 
There is an exhibit of Polish art at Nelson Gallery and Museum this month—make tie-up. 
See Calendar of events on Bulletin board in hall outside the Study Hall. 

You will lecture to faculty every Monday and Wednesday evening: January 30, February 4, 6, 11, 13, 18, at 7:30, beginning lecture Tuesday night, January 29. 

You will work with a group of 8th Grade girls every morning from 11:30 to 12:10, beginning Monday, January 21, with Ruth Faison Shaw till Friday, January 25. After that, alone (with an observer) every morning throughout the visit; Ruth will explain cases and so will I. Having you with her first will make a natural transition which must always be considered in any work with young people in School.

Monday at 4:00 o’clock, Ruth Shaw will talk to a group of 12 most intelligent (Honor Roll) Juniors and Seniors and they will try out Finger Painting. This will give you an orientation. 

I will outline other work with girls later. (12) 

Among other things, Alfred appreciated the opportunity to directly work with Ruth Faison Shaw, whom he had met earlier in New York City. Her book, Finger Painting: A Perfect Medium For Self-Expression had come out in October 1934 and it immediately grabbed his interest. A North-Carolina-born teacher, Miss Shaw had opened a school for American and English children in Rome in 1922. While there, in the latter part of the decade, she had discovered/invented finger painting. As she later wrote,
It all began, in the most natural way in the world, with a little boy at the school who smeared the bathroom wall with iodine. All the children liked to “smear”—“smearing” with the hands is a primary impulse, a way of having fun and of learning. So I went about the task of compounding a suitable medium [non-toxic earth pigments on moistened sheets of special paper] with which they could smear to their heart’s content without damaging results. (13) 
Lucien Aigner / Corbis
The Shaw System of Finger Painting
The technique she evolved provided a means for personal symbolic expression not requiring verbal facility, which had surprising, beautiful, and sometimes therapeutic results for young children—and also adults. Korzybski believed Miss Shaw’s work involved “important semantic [evaluational] factors which are quite unique”. He had been recommending her book to others since he had read it and wanted her to give a presentation at the upcoming Congress on “the semantic aspects of finger painting”.(14) But she couldn’t comply because she was continuing from Kansas City to other Mid-Western towns as part of a tour to promote her book. Korzybski would continue to have an interest in finger painting and refer to Ruth Shaw’s work in his seminars for some years to come.

As Kendig realized when she invited Ruth Shaw to Barstow, finger painting could be used to introduce general semantics to even the youngest children there. Years later, in a 1961 talk, Kendig described the process:
...No one in my school was allowed to ask the child, ‘What is it?’...They made a finger painting, and you said well ‘tell me about it’. Or what does it represent to you? Or what do you call it...And you can by the way your teachers speak to the child....I always remember this one little child who made a finger painting, she was probably five. And it was just some brown and some green, and she’d just done this. And we said tell us about it, and what do you call it. She said ‘it’s Jo-jo in the park.’...Well she had a dog named the old days, at least, the teacher would have said, ‘well that’s not a picture of a dog.’ We just said, well you were in the park with Jo-jo? Yes. Then of course it occurred to us that Jo-jo in the park was the way she was petting Jo-jo...But if someone had said ‘what is it,’ and ‘but that doesn’t look like a dog to me,’ well see what you’ve done.’ (15)

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. 
12. Barstow School Agenda for AK, 1/21/1935. AKDA 34.315. 

13. Shaw 1947, p. 5. 

14. AK to Ruth F. Shaw, 2/6/1935. AKDA 33.441. 

15. Kendig, “Talk in Los Angeles”, 1/18/1961. IGS Archives. 

< Part 4      Part 6 >

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Chapter 44 - On The Road: Part 4 - Tears for the Human Cauldron

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.

Soon after he arrived in town, a feature story about him appeared in the January 23, 1935 morning issue of the Kansas City Times. The newspaper account gives a plausible portrayal—in keeping with other accounts and private letters of the time—of Korzybski’s appearance and state of mind. “The man who is so pessimistic that he has become an optimist stirred the human cauldron in a visit with friends at the Barstow school last night and laughed. It was so funny so tragically funny.” The newspaper article continued:
The whole world has been fooling around near the animal level because of assumptions based on the stupid definitions of words. And there was Count Alfred Korzybski, bald and dramatic, who has laid the foundation for a new start in a book,...“I am an optimist because I have reached the climax of pessimism and am ready to do something about it,” he said. “The old way of thought is hopeless, but there is another way. I am an optimist because I am so pessimistic that I doubt the doubts.”   
With a cane in one hand, wielded in the manner of the Polish nobleman, he took a few strides around the room. He is lame as a result of wounds received when he was a staff officer in the Russian army. Stupid, wasn’t it? By the way, there is an incident in connection with war which proves even Count Korzybski retains a few of the animal reactions...You know the experiments of Pavlov with his dogs. A bell would ring, food would be produced and the dog’s saliva would flow. After a time the saliva would flow at the ringing of the bell, regardless of the food. Bell—saliva, Count Korzybski likes to repeat the formula, bell—saliva; it explains so much of human response here on the near-animal level.
The animalistic response retained by Korzybski is tears. Whenever he thinks about the war, the tears flow. Last night he demonstrated. He started thinking of horrors, blinked his eyes a few times and there, sure enough, were tears. Purely mechanical. He explained that all the time he was thinking he was in a perfectly happy state of mind.

The Korzybski attitude, however is not so simple as that. He called it simple as he sat laughing at the abject horror in the human cauldron; but his hearers had to take a few long breaths and look blank from time to time.

“Don’t call me ‘high-brow!” he exclaimed. “A child can understand it. We teach it to 5-year-old children.” (11)

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. “This Is All A Mistake”. The Kansas City Times, 1/23/1935. AKDA 2.742.

< Part 3      Part 5 >

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Chapter 44 - On The Road: Part 3 - Gypsy Teacher

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.

1934 ended for Korzybski with a flurry of activity. He visited the Boston area for a couple of weeks in October to confer with John Lynn and other psychiatrists at McLean Hospital, as well as various people at Harvard and around Boston, including Miriam Van Waters, a woman teaching general semantics to some of the inmates at the Massachusetts Reformatory for Women. Then in November he made a quick trip to Lancaster, Pennsylvania to The Science Press headquarters to pay off the main part of the balance he still owed the printer. In mid-November he and Mira attended a daylong meeting of the National Committee for Mental Hygiene, topped by an evening banquet given at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in Manhattan. The program for the day focused on the mental hygiene needs of children, with speakers calling for educational curricula and research. They seemed to be asking for just the kind of thing Trainor, Potts, Kendig, and others were in the process of doing with his work. 

The meeting may have served as the location for the following, related by Korzybski in 1947 to Charlotte Schuchardt [Read] who took notes:
A Situation. New York? 15 years ago? Important Psychiatric Meeting of foreign & USA psychiatrists, Meyer included. MEK [Mira] was with AK [Alfred]. [Adolf] Meyer of course was a god. MEK ‘knew better’ than AK. When we sat down to talk at table, Meyer brought a chair to me, pushed me down, said (in front of great specialists,.) ‘Don’t talk now, we are all baffled by GS let the Countess explain it.’ MEK burst into speech with the most [psychiatrically] idiotic stuff although the feeling was OK. ‘From an artistic point of view’. Of course the national and international authorities were ‘convinced’ GS was ‘all bunk’. (10) 

Few people knew the extent to which Mira had helped with Alfred’s work (not only supporting him financially but also making publishing decisions with him, and serving as a major editorial sounding board throughout the writing process). Yet Mira’s explanations of his work to others had often seemed inadequate to him. He seemed to have held her, as his wife, to a higher standard than he held other people. This complex of factors, suggested in the story above, would become a significant issue in Alfred and Mira’s relationship over the next few years, during which time he and Mira would again be separated for long periods of time—always a strain for them both.

At the end of January, Alfred would be leaving home to visit Barstow School, attend the Congress, and make other presentations. He would spend much of the next three years on the road: from 1935 into early 1938, Korzybski would crisscross the United States by train a number of times, giving many lectures and beginning his signature training-seminars. He would present to a variety of groups including children, college students, teachers and other professionals, as well as mental hospital staff and patients. He would continue to develop and refine his formulations and methods in significant ways as he seriously involved himself with helping individuals to adopt an extensional orientation in their lives. He would give several papers at conferences and publish one of them, plus an important review, in a psychiatry journal. His work would begin to gain an unprecedented level of public recognition (some of which became a mixed blessing). He would find crucial supporters who would help him launch the final, institutional phase of his work.
Korzybski crisscrossed the United States on passenger trains like this one.
The next few years would also tax him personally. He would have to deal somewhat helplessly from afar with his mother’s increasing disability and distress and then with her death. In 1936—after what seems like a precipitous move that he and Mira would make from their long-time Brooklyn apartment to Cambridge, Massachusetts—his relationship with Mira would come close to the breaking point. And during these years the great depression would continue and he would watch the world move closer towards an apocalyptic war he could predict but do little to prevent.

During this period, Korzybski’s whirlwind pace gave the impression of a traveling road show. He gave lectures and taught seminars wherever he could, preferably for at least his expenses. He was looking for sponsors and trying to develop interest in his work so ultimately he wouldn’t have to continue moving around as an itinerant, gypsy teacher.

By the end of 1937, plans—spearheaded by two of Korzybski’s psychiatrist students—would be set in motion for an Institute of General Semantics to be formed in Chicago. From May 1938 on, the Institute would give him—if but little rest—a home base to work from and a small staff of people to help him teach, develop, and promote his work. But at the end of January 1935, the future of his work seemed hidden behind a giant question mark, as he said goodbye to Mira and headed west—first stop, Kansas City, Missouri.

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. 
10. Memo, “BIOG.”, 4/16/1947. IGS Archives.

< Part 2      Part 4 >

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Chapter 44 - On The Road: Part 2 - "The Horror of Hitlerism"

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 latter part of 1934, Korzybski had been busy writing. In September, he worked on and sent out a letter to co-workers like Kendig and Trainor. The letter emphasized the extensional practices he felt people must make habitual in order to apply his work. (Kendig, who recognized the letter’s importance, later included it in Korzybski’s Collected Writings.) (1) 

He also intended to finish the “Outline of General Semantics”. He planned to present it at the Ellensburg Congress and then use it for further publicity. For this purpose, he had sent drafts of it to some of his friends for editing, including Philip Graven. Korzybski’s reaction to some of Graven’s comments, related to the topic of “Hitlerism”, demonstrated some of Korzybski’s concerns about the state of the world at the time. It may also partly explain his further falling away from the already strained relationship with Graven.

Throughout 1934—though under the gaze of foreign governments and the international press—Germany, in its second year under Nazi rule, had further descended into barbarity. On June 30, in “the night of the long knives”, elite SS storm troopers, who had pledged their special loyalty to Hitler, murdered Ernst Roehm and the other leaders of the SA Brown Shirts, a Nazi party militia that had formed from the street thugs who had served Hitler during his rise to power. When President Paul von Hindenburg died in August, Hitler became President of Germany as well as Chancellor. The German military establishment, which had been concerned about encroachments on their leadership by Roehm and the SA, seemed assuaged by Hitler’s purge of them. Every German soldier was asked to swear an oath of personal allegiance to Hitler. His power seemed complete.

In the meantime, political opponents, Jews, Romany (Gypsies), and other German ethnic minorities, the mentally ill, and mentally retarded, as well as overt homosexuals, among others, were beleaguered by increasingly harsh Nazi laws. German Jews remained the special targets of the Nazi government. Seven to eight percent of the German Jewish population had already fled the country by the end of the year. Like the kind of semantic (evaluational) infection Korzybski had written about in Science and Sanity, antisemitism—including government-sponsored discrimination against Jews—had become widespread throughout not only Germany, but Eastern and Central Europe, including Poland. Alfred had followed the news of all this and felt deep concern, making references to the problems of Hitlerism and Germany in his “Outline” draft— references which Graven found objectionable.

As already noted, Korzybski had long felt an almost indefinable sense of connection with Jews and Jewish culture. This connection became clearer earlier in the year, when he read an article that appeared in the Spring 1934 issue of the American Scholar, “The Essence of Judaism” by Hans Kohn, a Prague-born, Jewish historian and political scientist then teaching at Smith College. The article presented a bold contrast between Hellenism, the static, ‘space’ orientation of Greek civilization (more or less equivalent, in Korzybski’s terms, to ‘aristotelianism’) and Judaism, the dynamic, ‘time’ orientation of Jewish civilization. To Korzybski, the Nazis represented an extreme example of the first. Whereas, the orientation Kohn depicted as ‘the essence of Judaism” seemed to Korzybski like what he was aiming for with ‘non-aristotelianism’. He had already recommended the article to Graven in August 2 and referred to it again in a letter to the psychiatrist on September 29, partially quoted below:
...I know you associate often with people who praise Hitler. [In 1934 America, this was by no means an anomaly, and Graven’s German-speaking wife apparently had strong positive feelings towards the new German regime.] But also you do not read carefully reports from the world (I DO STUDY THEM). Hitler happens to be a sick man,...on his nerve[-]shaken masses he has succeeded of imposing his conditions. Even now Germany is a victim of this illness as the world enmity and fear will doom them as an outstanding nation. They base their whole movement on falsified ‘science’. I write about it because one cannot profess Gen. Sem. and not perceive the horror of Hitlerism. You know he hates the Jews. All of us as persons have perfect right to select their friends, but these personal attitudes should never be generalized. This issue is fundamental for us and between us. PLEASE read carefully in the American Scholar, Spring, 1934 an article by Kohn ‘The Essence of Judaism’. With some revision of language what he says is profoundly true, but applies not only to Jews but many individuals in every nation...Remember please the issue is sharp either ‘space-binding’ etc., Greek and animalistic, or ‘time-binding’, Gen. Sem. and human and sane. We are up against these issues dear Philip, it is better to be forewarned. (3)

On October 10, Graven wrote back to Alfred:
To put it mildly, I do think your comments regarding Hitler were exceedingly biased, unfair, unkind. He merely represents a reaction to gangster diplomats of Europe. Look what they did to our Wilson. It is regrettable to hear you voice such jingoist petty politics. (4) 

Korzybski responded quite mildly to his friend but firmly reasserted his position about the unique semantic (evaluational) status of the Nazis, who seemed to him to be consciously but perversely using linguistic, evaluational manipulations (propaganda) to further their pathological political aims. The two men discussed this and other business in letters over the next month. Finally, on November 15, Korzybski wrote to Graven, that among his other editorial helpers with the “Outline” draft, “...all approved the inclusion of the German tragedy in it (really human tragedy).”
Dear Philip you do not want me to be scientifically dishonest. I would feel this way if I would disregard one [of] the most serious tragedies on human record. I know through personal connections and friends you feel differently...As the author of G.S. I have a further vision, quite clear which as yet is not explained in writing, as it is extremely long to write, but the movement of Hitler...[is] definitely culturally retrogressive, anti-semantic, anti-world culture, etc., a very long list, and in all honesty, I as a student of individual and group behaviour cannot disregard this...What I will do however is change the term ‘hitlerism’ which may be considered by some ‘offensive’ and make a serious human sentence out of it, which could not be considered ‘offensive’ or anything else,...(5)

Korzybski had deferred to his friend by taking some of the ‘juice’ from his article (probably to its detriment). Nonetheless, Graven still seemed offended, asserting without irony: “I must accuse you of talking sheer rubbish whenever you open fire on the Germans and poor little [H]itler...I do not believe you can be fair to the Germans in one sentence, nor in a chapter...”(6) Graven didn’t seem open to reconsidering his stand.

By the following year (1935), after he began his intensive period as an itinerant lecturer, Korzybski had stopped giving way to Graven’s opinion. He was beginning to make public his views about Hitler and Germany—even predicting a second world war. In August 1935, while he was in Berkeley giving a three-week seminar at the Williams Institute, a local paper carried the following story:
Count Sees Germans As Menace To Peace 
“A sick nation of 66,000,000 people led by a sick man will plunge the world into another war!” 
Thus Count Alfred Korzybski, world-renowned “human engineer,” now lecturing at Williams Institute in Berkeley, characterizes Germany and her Fuhrer, Adolph Hitler, and predicts another conflagration as the result of Germany’s determination to turn backward on the path of human progress.  
The distinguished Polish scholar whose recent book, “Science and Sanity,” is acclaimed by many of the world’s foremost scientists as the last word on “the true nature of man,” analyzes Germany’s persecution of the Jews in psychological terms:  
“The Jews have always had a sense of the time process. They were dynamic, drivers, time-binders. Jesus, Freud, Marx, Einstein—all were conscious of the fourth-dimensional time-world.  
“Hitler is avowedly Aristotelian, and in constant opposition to Jews because of a fundamental antagonism. The Greek or Aristotelian, was a static orientation. 
“Einstein was the first to catch up with the modern world. Germany which considers itself scientific, disowns him!”...(7) 

The following day this short follow-up piece appeared in the same newspaper:
This open expression of views, unpopular at a time when most Americans seemed isolationist, would have made it more difficult for Alfred to avoid discussing the topic with his friend. And as time went on, he became even more vociferous. By 1937, he was more urgently sounding the alarm against Hitlerism, publicly suggesting that concerned psychiatrists ought to get involved in fighting it—a theme he would continue to develop.(8) Perhaps not surprisingly, the frequency of Alfred’s correspondence with Graven gradually dwindled until the two friends eventually ceased having contact. Graven’s early attitude toward Hitler seemed to have demonstrated something Korzybski noted in the “Outline”, and which he often repeated elsewhere: “...even one identification, can ruin a human life, a science, or a social, etc., system.”(9) Or a friendship.

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. “Letter to Co-Workers”, in Alfred Korzybski Collected Writings, pp. 729–735. 

2. AK to Graven, 8/16/1934. AKDA 30.199. 

3. AK to Philip Graven, 9/29/1934. AKDA 30.164. 

4. Philip Graven to AK, 10/10/1934. AKDA 30.156–159. 

5. AK to Philip Graven, 11/15/1934. AKDA 30.134. 

6. Philip Graven to AK, 11/23/1934 AKDA 30.130. 

7. “Count Sees Germans As Menace To Peace”. Oakland Post-Enquirer, 8/9/1935. AKDA 2.792.

8. “Hitler Called “Sick Boy”; Rulers’ Mental Test Urged”. Asbury Park, New Jersey Evening Press, 11/24/1937. AKDA 2.877. 

 9. “An Outline of General Semantics”, in Alfred Korzybski Collected Writings, p. 213. 

< Part 1      Part 3 >

Monday, January 26, 2015

Chapter 44 - On The Road: 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.

In 1934 Joseph Trainor, with his colleague Selden Smyser, started planning for a conference on general semantics at the Washington State Normal School, which they eventually scheduled for March 1 and 2, 1935. They would call it the First American Congress for General Semantics. Meanwhile, after Kendig had been at Barstow School for several months, she asked Korzybski to come to Kansas City to work with her students and teachers. She and Korzybski arranged for an extended visit by him starting at the end of January 1935, continuing through most of February. From there he would travel to Ellensburg, Washington for the Congress. On the way home afterwards, Alfred would engage in as many paid presentations as possible. He was taking Science and Sanity on the road.

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. 

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Chapter 43 - 'Scientists Don't Read': Part 6 - Things Look Up

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.

Mira came home from Newport in September. With whatever portrait work she had found, she and Alfred were financially surviving, but not thriving, in the closing months of 1934. As for the family property in Poland, Alfred now had only dim hopes of recovering anything from it. And a year after publication of Science and Sanity, he and Mira still had only minimum income from the book. By the end of the year, sales had reached about 500 copies—not exactly a best seller. Alfred had also given some lectures with minimal remuneration. And neither the Roosevelt government nor any grant-giving foundations had so far shown interest in supporting his work.

Still, by the end of the year, the overall response to the book showed promise. Given the book’s rather limited distribution and Alfred and Mira’s inability to pay for advertising or other marketing, the large number of reviews and other newspaper and magazine articles about his work seemed remarkable. They were filling up the pages of their scrapbook. And reviews and articles continued to come in—as they would for a number of years to come.

So far he had heard and seen only a few truly bad reviews. But other than Keyser’s Scripta Mathematica review (which he cherished) and perhaps Tyler’s early newspaper review, most of the positive reviews seemed tepid and had left him feeling rather tepid himself. He couldn’t complain about the recognition. But, as he wrote to Trainor, the responses of ‘grand, grand’ from people who had not seemed to study it in any depth were not what he wanted.(31)

Reading what he called the “splendid” new review of Science and Sanity by Markus Reiner in the October 1934 edition of The Psychoanalytical Quarterly surely must have buoyed up Alfred’s mood. Reiner, a Palestinian Jew living in Jerusalem, only had psychoanalysis as a side interest. As an engineer and applied mathematician, he had helped found and name a new branch of mechanics—rheology, the study of flow and deformation of complex materials under stress. After the founding of the state of Israel, he became a professor at the Technion, the Israeli Institute of Technology, in Haifa, where he taught for many years. Regarding his 1934 review of Science and Sanity, Kendig later wrote in the General Semantics Bulletin, “No reviewer-critic who tackled the book cold (i.e., without training) has surpassed Reiner’s grasp of the basic formulations and clarity in expounding them.”(32) With responses like Reiner’s, Korzybski felt encouraged. He’d had good responses to his lectures too. And he felt heartened that Lynn, Trainor, Potts, and Kendig (among others) had begun to use and research his work.

It also did him good to know that his old friend Walter Polakov supported his work. Walter had finished his first reading of the book earlier that year and was doing his best to push it. Walter had written a review for The New Republic, which had instead published Ernest Nagel’s short but dismissive book note. The magazine later published Walter’s reply to Nagel, more than twice as long as Nagel’s notice, for which Alfred felt grateful.(33) At a regional conference of the Progressive Education Association held in New York City in late November, Walter also gave a presentation on “Science’s Contribution To The Social Sciences” which featured Alfred’s work and later got published in the monthly journal of the association.

And earlier in the year while still working for the Tennessee Valley Authority, Walter—on the lookout for non-aristotelian trends for his friend—had informed Alfred about the theoretical research of Vytautus A. Graicunas and Lyndall F. Urwick on a manager’s span of attention or control. Graicunas had published a short paper, “Relationship in Organization”, in 1933, now considered a classic of management. According to him and his colleague Urwick—who wrote another 1933 paper on the subject, “Organization As A Technical Problem”—the number of relationships an executive would have to deal with, increased dramatically as he or she added assistants or major functions under his or her control. According to an equation involving exponential growth that Graicunas formulated, each addition of an assistant or function beyond about four would result in a sharp rise in complications. This could increase the likelihood for confusion and failure. Granted, other factors might increase or mitigate the complications. Nonetheless, in 1934 Polakov had begun to apply this in his consulting work. Korzybski considered it extremely significant and later made it the subject of a 1943 paper, “Some Non-Aristotelian Data On Efficiency For Human Adjustment” which included Polakov’s summary of Graicunas’ and Urwick’s original articles. Korzybski also came to impart the span of control as an important formulation in his seminars since it highlighted for him the havoc that could result in human affairs if people ignored non-additive factors. (33a)

Korzybski demonstrating the Graicunas diagram,
August 1947 IGS Seminar-Workshop
A year after the publication of the book, thanks to Walter and other readers, reviewers, and supporters with varying levels of enthusiasm, a great deal of interest had been stirred up. The potential for his work seemed promising. But there was no getting around it, Korzybski was going to have to meet more people, give more lectures, and publish more articles, if he wanted to sell more books, to get general semantics into the scientific and general culture—and to make a living.

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. 
31. AK to Joseph C. Trainor, 7/25/1934. AKDA 33.598. 

32. Kendig, “Introduction” to Markus Reiner “Science and Sanity, A 1934 Review”, reprinted in General Semantics Bulletin 28 & 29 (1961/1962), p. 119. 

33. Walter Polakov, “Was Korzybski Irrelevant?” in “Correspondence”, The New Republic, Oct. 24, 1934. AKDA 2.719.

33a. At, you can find both the Graicunas and Urwick articles in Gulick and Urwicks 1937 book, Papers On The Science of Administration, which Korzybski owned and carefully studied. 

< Part 5 

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Chapter 43 - 'Scientists Don't Read': Part 5 - Kendig

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.

On a Wednesday afternoon, August 8, 1934, Marjorie Mercer Kendig rang the doorbell at 321 Carleton Avenue in Brooklyn. Reading Science and Sanity for the first time only a few months before, she had gotten excited and phoned Korzybski to make an appointment. Now here she was to see him. She had just finished her course work at the Columbia University Teachers College, Department of Higher Education, with only her final thesis paper to complete in order to graduate with a Masters Degree in Higher Education (which she received the following July, 1935). In only a matter of days, she would be heading for Kansas City, Missouri to begin her new job for the fall term as the Head of Barstow School, a private academy for girls with about 500 students ranging from nursery school to college preparatory age. She entered the old brownstone building and began climbing the four flights of stairs to the Korzybskis’ ‘penthouse’ studio. Looking up, she saw a “round-faced, shaven-head, khaki-clad” figure—Alfred himself—“beaming” down at her from the top bannister. She was seeking his help in what she was planning for Barstow—a one-woman revolution in education. She would only realize many years later that the main ‘revolution’ for her—a slow, internal one—would take place within her self.(26)  At this point in 1934 at the age of 42, Kendig (as she liked to be called) had already reached an outer level of competence in her chosen field of education. She seemed mainly focused on changing the world around her—or at least the small piece of it at Barstow, she had just been charged with directing.

Born in 1892 in Utica, New York, Kendig—the sickly, only child of an apparently distant father and a possessive mother—got an unusual, informal early education. Her mother liked to read aloud to her for hours at a time from literary classics like Scott, Dickens, Thackeray, etc. As a result she had grown up with “a relatively high oral vocabulary without the slightest notion of how words and sentences look.” (She only learned to read and write at the age of 10.) (27) While she was still a child, her family moved first to Brooklyn, then to an apartment on Sutton Place in Manhattan, a prestigious New York City address. She entered Vassar College in 1911 at the age of 19, graduating in 1915 (a few years after one of her favorite poets Edna St. Vincent Millay) with a Bachelor of Arts degree, having focused on history, chemistry, French and economics. She began work in the publishing business at Scribner’s, moving from the advertising to the publication department and then into editorial work. After the U.S. entry into the ‘Great War’ in early 1918, she volunteered for a Nurses Training Camp at Vassar becoming ill during the influenza epidemic near the end of her training at New York City’s Presbyterian Hospital (where she ended up being hospitalized herself). With the end of the war that winter, she didn’t continue with nursing but reentered the publishing business, working throughout the nineteen-twenties first at Doran and later at Consolidated Magazines Corporation where she became Director of the Department of Educational Information, until 1931.

Looking back many years later (in the late 1960s/early 1970s) Kendig saw her younger self (from her childhood into at least the early 1930s) as a rather alienated person. She had participated to some extent in the revelries of the “roaring twenties”, but although she appeared immersed in the literary mileu surrounding F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, the “Crowd”—as it was called—didn’t involve her much.(28) Indeed, by 1931 (as she described herself later) she felt “very alone, against the world and afraid.” She had become a workaholic with a tough outer shell she used to protect herself from powerful feelings of fear and anger, etc., that she had learned to suppress as a child. As she said later, “I wasn’t happy. I just wasn’t unhappy as long as I drove myself.” And by 1931, despite her professional success, life within the ‘smart set’ of the New York publishing world no longer seemed enough for her. She felt drawn to the world of education. “For years I had been asking ‘What’s wrong with education?’ and what could we do to develop ‘intelligence’ — if we gave up defining it as inborn and unchangeable.”(29) Her questions and dissatisfactions had much in common with Korzybski’s pre-1914 malaise about society and science.

Kendig left New York City in 1931 to study and work in Europe for the next two years. She had already read Ogden and Richards’ The Meaning of Meaning. Then she met C.K. Ogden in Nice, France at an international meeting on Progressive Education. She went to England for a brief time to study with him, reading his Basic English and other works. Under Ogden’s guidance, she then went to Geneva, Switzerland where she took courses at the University of Geneva, Switzerland with Piaget and others while working as Assistant to the Director of the American College for Women in Geneva. As a result of her studies, she became more and more convinced that the answer to her questions somehow involved the relations of ‘language’, ‘thought’, and ‘behavior’.

After returning to New York City and stumbling into a brief and unhappy marriage, she enrolled in 1933 into the Masters program in Higher Education at Teachers College, Columbia, training to teach at the college level. Her degree was in problems of instruction in institutions of higher learning. When she read Science and Sanity in April 1934, she felt that she had found a basic key to her long-standing quandaries.

At their first meeting, Kendig and Korzybski talked for hours. It was a fateful day for them both. In Korzybski, Kendig had found a mentor who provided her with a specific approach for the practical reformulation of education and improvement of ‘intelligence’ in the way that she had long envisioned. She intended to make ‘language’ (as she understood Korzybski’s formulation of it) the central focus of all the teaching at her school. As she would come to say over the next few years at Barstow, “Every class is an English class.” (She would later somewhat modify this emphasis on the centrality of ‘language’ per se as she developed a better understanding of general semantics).

Conversely, in Kendig, Korzybski found a highly intelligent student who would shortly become one of his most hard-working and dedicated co-workers. After her time at Barstow, Kendig would devote the rest of her life to helping Korzybski while he lived, and promoting his work long after his death (she died in 1981). Of course, when they first met in August 1934, neither of them knew this. 

M. Kendig, circa 1940-1941

But Korzybski nigh certainly knew that Kendig’s work at Barstow could help him immensely in applying, researching, and promoting his work. Kendig had superb educational credentials. She was intent on applying and testing his general semantics in the most rigorous manner she could. In her position as Head of Barstow School, she was planning to turn the entire school, not just one classroom, into a test laboratory for Korzybski’s methods. He certainly felt more than willing to help her.

One of the first things he did was to provide a topic for her thesis paper. As he usually did with people he met, he put her in touch with a number of his other contacts, friends, and associates. She soon learned more about Trainor’s and Potts’ classroom research. She decided to write a research proposal on the effects of general-semantics training entitled, “A Proposed Research Investigation Valuable in the Improvement of Teaching on the Junior College Level: Application of a Method for Scientific Control of the Neuro-Linguistic and Neuro-Semantic Mechanisms in Learning”. Her paper laid out in detail the rationale and protocol for a controlled two-year study on the effects of general-semantics training on “academic success, and increased ‘emotional’ stability and ‘social’ and ‘individual’ adjustment.” The actual study never got done (over the next few years at Barstow, she had her hands full with many other things) but the paper sufficed for completing her Master’s Degree requirements.(30)

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. 
26. M. Kendig, personal notes,11/22/1965. IGS Archives. 

27. Kendig to Henri Laborit, 2/20/1968. IGS Archives. 

28. In a September 30, 1970 letter to her life-long friend Priscilla Sheldon, whom she had met at the Nurses Training Camp, Kendig wrote:
...I found Zelda [by Nancy Mitford] as fascinating as you described -- and pathetic, too. Yes, the book was full of ghosts of my life in the 20’s and 30’s. Slightly, in one way or another, my life touched many of (the) persons in the Fitzgeralds’ saga...Actually, though, I recall all too well the Fitzgerald Epoch, I was not much in touch with the “Crowd,” but that is hardly the important thing about the book as a tremendous production and its evocation-impact personally. [Kendig qtd. in Priscilla Sheldon, “A Tribute to M. Kendig, Memorial Gathering, January 10, 1982”. General Semantics Bulletin 50, pp. 17–18]

29. M. Kendig, personal notes, 8/6/1965. IGS Archives. 

30. Kendig 1935. “A Proposed Research Investigation Valuable in the Improvement of Teaching on the Junior College Level: Application of a Method for Scientific Control of the Neuro-Linguistic and Neuro-Semantic Mechanisms in the Learning Process” (Paper presented to complete the requirements for Master’s Degree, Department of Higher Education, Teachers College, Columbia University, July 1935.), in Baugh 1938.

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Friday, January 23, 2015

Chapter 43 - 'Scientists Don't Read': Part 4 - My Work is Preventive and Educational

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 multi-faceted nature of Korzybski’s work opened up multiple possibilities for misinterpretation. Each reader could approach his system like a blind man standing before an elephant, groping around, and prematurely identifying the beast in terms of whatever part he didn’t find useful. To some ‘educated’ laymen, intimidated by equations and other scientific trappings, it might seem like he was teaching mathematics and science, although he was not so much interested in the technical details as in the method and mode of human behavior they demonstrated. To some mathematicians and physico-mathematical scientists, his background review and examples from math and physical science might seem obvious, even trite. And why was he dragging in the other stuff from psychiatry, biology, etc. Some psychiatrists, on the other hand, might puzzle about the physico-mathematical stuff.

                                        The Blind Men and the Elephant
                    Illustrator unknown - From The Heath readers by grades, D.C. Heath and Company (Boston), p. 69.

He wanted to help people solve problems in living. But his ultimately simple methods could get lost in what might seem like a forest of technicalities which provided their rationale. On the other hand, his methods could be dismissed as trivial. Or, as he would encounter more and more frequently as his work became more widely known, they could get neglected by enthusiasts more interested in talking and theorizing than in doing. In his “Outline”, he was emphasizing this last point especially: general semantics involved physiological, “neuro-semantic”, “neuro-linguistic” mechanisms that had to be worked to be useful.

As he wrote and re-wrote his outline, sending out drafts to friends like Tyler and Keyser for editing suggestions, his eagerness to find people applying and researching his work—or interested in doing so—bubbled to the surface. In August, Mira had gone to Newport to paint. Alfred, as usual, chained to his desk in Brooklyn, sent out a form letter to several dozen psychiatrists, psychologists, and educators around the country who had ordered his book:
August 16, 1934 
Dear __ , 
I am preparing a paper on General Semantics giving some data on experiments in psychotherapy and education. I wonder whether you have had an opportunity to experiment yourself, and if so, with what results? I would be very grateful if you could give me some data.  
     With Appreciation,
     Yours Very Sincerely, (23)

or some time he had been getting interesting and positive reports from Joseph C. Trainor, a psychology instructor at Washington State Normal School in Ellensburg, Washington. Trainor clearly appeared smitten with general semantics. The school’s library had ordered a copy of Science and Sanity, which Trainor had already read once by the time he wrote what looks like his first letter to Korzybski at the beginning of November 1933. By the start of 1934, Trainor had ordered his own copy of the book and started on his third reading (he was reading it aloud to his wife this time). Like Tyler, Trainor had some physico-mathematical background and seemed to take naturally to Korzybski’s work. It provided him with a conscious framework and language for an orientation that before then he’d been struggling towards unconsciously on his own.

He already had begun restructuring his beginning psychology and social psychology courses according to non-aristotelian principles. He made a copy of a structural differential out of wall-board to use in his classrooms. Even though Trainor had unintentionally violated his copyright, Korzybski didn’t get upset when he found out. He told Trainor—a young man he seemed eager to encourage—to destroy his copy once he received the hand-made mahogany differential Korzybski sent to him. Trainor also experimented with teaching non-aristotelian principles to his young son. In addition, he started a non-aristotelian study group in Ellensburg with Seldon Smyser, another teacher at the Normal School, who had been corresponding with Korzybski since mid-1933. Over the next year, Trainor gathered data from his psychology classes, where he was bringing general semantics into the lectures and drilling his students in Korzybski’s methods, including the use of the structural differential. Student writings and interview comments, as well as pre- and post-course intelligence and personality testing (using paper and pencil tests) indicated remarkable improvements in I.Q., mental health, and problem-solving measures.

In a study he presented the following year (1935), Trainor measured a mean increase in I.Q. test scores from 137 to 173 in an experimental group of sophomores in his Beginning Psychology class. They received extensional training according to the guidelines given in Chapter XXIX of Science and Sanity. With 30 students in his reported test group, Trainor was the first to admit, “It is impossible in an experiment as limited in scope as this, or with so many factors unmeasured, to give a highly detailed explanation of the results obtained in the usual cause-and-effect formula.” However, given the dramatic changes he observed and measured in his students, he concluded, “[f]urther and extensive research is imperative and its advisability would seem to be indicated by the results given.”(24) 

Korzybski was also hearing about the research of Harold M. Potts, a principal in the Olympia, Washington public school system, who had also gotten interested in general semantics after contact with Trainor, probably from participation in the Ellensburg non-aristotelian study group. Potts found a teacher in his school, whom he called a “natural non-aristotelian” to work with. The two studied Science and Sanity together and then designed a classroom plan to train a group of mentally retarded children ranging in age between 12 and 17 years old with I.Q.s ranging from 56 to 80 on the Binet-Simon Individual test. The children received lessons in general semantics from one half to one hour per day for four months and then a lesson every two weeks for a total of seven months. In his report “Some Results of Extensional Training of “Mentally Retarded” Pupils”, also presented in 1935, Potts detailed a “typical example of classroom procedure in abstracting” which began as follows: “The teacher writes upon the blackboard the word rain, as a symbol of an event taking place outside at the time and under observation of the children in the class. They are then asked to tell all that they know about the rain.” Remarkably. by the end of the lesson “[t]he class [of retarded children] began to see the infinite nature of an object [rain].” Among the results of training noted by Potts:
...5. The method seems to impress them almost immediately, tending to enhance interest and sound curiosity, eliminating feelings of inferiority, hopelessness, inertia, etc., and this is reflected in the general orientations of the pupils. 
6. Restlessness, etc., due probably to some extent to their incapability of solving their own problems by intensional methods and language, disappear and marked calmness, hopefulness, careful self-reliance, etc., make their appearance. 
7. The value of knowing that an event has extensionally an infinite number of characteristics, from which our nervous system abstracts only the object, has an unconscious effect upon the pupils over a period of time. It has been eight-months since this method was first applied and at the present time when a new center of interest is started they consciously try to discover or explore the many-sided (infinite-valued) aspects of any event without overt urging. 
8. They do not feel inferior to others, because they know that, although some know more about an object or a situation than they do, nevertheless no one knows ‘all’ about the simplest things, and they enjoy field trips and experiments to discover new data...(25) 

Extensional training appeared to benefit both college students and retarded children. This was just the kind of research Korzybski wanted to see. He would mention the work of both men in his “Outline”. But obviously much more needed to be done.

It seemed less and less likely that Philip Graven would come through with publishing any of his case studies, although Alfred continued to correspond with him and encourage him. He referred to Graven’s unpublished case studies in the “Outline”. Clearly Alfred was going to have to begin cultivating other psychiatrists—a number of whom he had already met—who might be more likely to write and publish about his methods.

Among this group, John G. Lynn—a young psychiatrist who had recently begun his psychiatric residency at McLean Hospital, a prestigious private mental hospital in Waverly, Massachusetts near Boston—had gotten terribly excited by Korzybski’s work. Lynn, who didn’t seem to have a problem with writing, began a program of treatment for two of his patients with alcohol-abuse problems and in the following year presented a case report on the men, “Preliminary Report of Two Cases of Chronic Alcoholism Treated By the Korzybski Method”. Korzybski and Lynn would have a great deal of contact over the next few years and Korzybski would visit McLean, among other psychiatric hospitals, to observe and give presentations on his work.

Korzybski didn’t object to ‘psychologists’ (he would usually place the term in quotes) doing research related to his work. For a number of years he had remained friendly with psychologist Abraham Roback, who later wrote about Korzybski in his 1952 History of American Psychology. After the publication of Science and Sanity, psychologists like Gardner Murphy and Henry Murray had also begun to express interest in Korzybski’s theories. Nonetheless, he seemed to esteem psychiatry much more than ‘psychology’. In the coming years, he would focus more of his attention on psychiatrists. Why?

For Korzybski in 1934, psychology—having only recently emerged as a scientific discipline separate from philosophy—still generally seemed not quite scientific enough. Elementalism seemed rampant in the profession, with behaviorism ascendant (a dead end as far as Korzybski was concerned), while psychologists mainly ignored the vast area of human activity, science and mathematics, that he had come to consider as basic for understanding human behavior. On the other hand, although psychiatrists also seemed to have ignored science and mathematics as behavior, they somewhat made up for this lack by their study of insanity. And as physicians, psychiatrists necessarily had training in medicine. So however poorly they did so, psychiatrists tended to connect their work to other sciences, such as biology, chemistry, etc. As a branch of medicine, psychiatry was also inherently oriented towards application. And their casework with individual patients gave psychiatrists an extensional push to gather data and notice the differences between generalizations about behavior and what they might see in an individual. Despite Korzybski’s attitude toward ‘psychology’, many more psychologists would become interested in his work. (Although, as far as I know, no psychologist would seriously take up his suggestion to replace the term “psychology” with “psycho-logics”.)

Korzybski’s personal aim was not to reform psychology or psychiatry (he hoped he might inspire others in those fields to do so). He didn’t aim to do psychotherapy either. The region overlapping mental hygiene and education, which he considered inseparable, would constitute his main teaching arena. As he often emphasized throughout his career, he saw general semantics as primarily ‘preventive and educational’. But demonstrating prevention could be difficult. Getting psychiatrists to use his methods could test the power of his educational approach for ameliorating even so-called ‘psychiatric’ problems, many of which he felt convinced had their origins in semantic (evaluational) factors—not traditionally considered medical. Any resulting ‘cures’ could thus help substantiate the case for prevention. Conversely, educators like Trainor and Potts could also help to show the link between education and adjustment. In the late summer of 1934, Korzybski was to meet one of the most important people among those who would help him in his quest to demonstrate this link and develop his work in education for sanity.

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. AK to Professor H. M. Johnson, 8/16/1934. AKDA 25.128. 

24. See Trainor’s report “Experimental Results of Training in General Semantics Upon Intelligence-Test Scores” in Baugh 1938, p. 60. I understand that 140 and above is now considered at the “genius” level. Perhaps the high before-and-after scores of Trainor’s students has something to do with the particular kind of test scale he was using in 1934/1935 (the Detroit Intelligence Test, Advanced Form); in 1939, Wechsler introduced a new scale which then became the standard. 

25. Potts, pp. 63–64.

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