Thursday, May 28, 2015

Chapter 61 - "I Don't Care A Damn About Those Yahoos...": Part 3 - Members of the Institute

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 Society, having officially cut loose from its former responsibilities to the Institute, now unfortunately seemed in competition with it for people’s attention and money. As Korzybski wrote in his March “Protest” letter, I am afraid to promote the Society or ETC., lest those who are interested in my work become monopolized, not only financially, but with harmful, incompetent dilutions of the discipline which amount to misinformations and misrepresentations of its fundamentals by commission or omission. (14) 
Perhaps the Institute and Society could work out ways of coordinating their separate functions. Perhaps even Hayakawa and others in his camp could come around in their treatment of him and his work—at least insofar as to take his input into account before publishing definitive articles on ‘general semantics’. But in the meantime, the Institute seemed in immediate financial peril—again. Both Korzybski and Kendig had stopped drawing their salaries and Kendig was spending her own money, as she put it “like a drunken sailor”, in order to get the house and property in shape.(15) Later in the year, Korzybski got upset when he found out Charlotte had stopped cashing her salary checks.(16) 

In spite of the difficulties, moving to Connecticut had also opened up new possibilities. A group of people outside of Chicago (many but not all in the New York City area), felt sympathetic to Korzybski in his problems with the Society and had an interest in contributing to the Institute’s survival and development. At a Trustees meeting at the end of 1946, Douglas Kelley was appointed the fourth Fellow of the Institute on the basis of his work using GS in wartime psychiatry (the three existing Fellows, including Hayakawa, still had to approve of him). Kelley, beginning a teaching stint at the Bowman Gray Medical School Psychiatry Department, also was appointed Institute Director of Research (his work in this area didn’t end up amounting to much) and with two other men, John Jacobs from Denver and Bob Redpath, was voted in as a Trustee of the Institute.

At the 1947 Annual Meeting of the Institute Trustees in May, the existing Board changed the By-laws of the Institute to allow for a total of sixteen Trustees and voted in eight additional members including: three from the New York City area—W. Benton Harrison; Marian Tyler Chase, the wife of Stuart Chase; and Marion Harper of the McCann-Erickson Advertising Agency—as well as Irving Lee and Wendell Johnson, both of whom were somewhat sympathetic to Korzybski’s concerns despite their involvement with Hayakawa and the Society; Elwood Murray; Delaware Supreme Court Judge George B. Pearson; and Captain James Saunders. Given the existing situation with Hayakawa, the IGS Board also changed its By-laws so new Institute Fellows no longer had to be confirmed by a unanimous vote of existing Fellows. Four new Institute Fellows—Ray Bontrager, Francis Chisholm, Elwood Murray, and Allen Walker Read—were appointed by Korzybski and Kendig and confirmed by the Trustees at the May meeting. While the initial group of Fellows had been chosen in 1941 for their publication of GS articles and books, the emphasis now was on Fellows who had shown exemplary competence in teaching and writing with the kind of rigor Korzybski had come to prize and who had demonstrated their interest in serving the Institute.

The Institute now had the personnel. It had a general plan to make clear its role as the world center of authority and training in Korzybski’s non-aristotelian extensional discipline. Now, what about funding?

At the next Trustees meeting in July, a finance committee was appointed to develop a membership/fundraising plan, and in August the committee approved materials and prepared for an all-out membership drive. Kendig and others had no illusions that this could substitute for other kinds of fundraising, but they hoped the membership drive would make a significant dent in their immediate need for money. Guthrie Janssen, whose Korzybski Fellowship was coming to an end, agreed to stay on as an Institute employee to administer the membership campaign. Membership benefits would include tuition and book discounts, a newsletter, special mailings of Korzybski’s and others’ writings unavailable elsewhere (Korzybski would no longer submit his writings to ETC.), and a “General Semantics Yearbook” that they intended to get into publication. Along with an information sheet and a reply card, the initial membership invitation letter signed by Bob Redpath went out to the Institute mailing list in August, leading to immediate good results, and also fomenting a minor crisis, as a result of the following passage:
Note we are offering you membership in the Institute of General Semantics, not the Society. When the Institute was incorporated its original by-laws provided for a membership structure. This was not acted upon because in 1942 the Society was formed ‘to secure financial support and wider recognition for the Institute’. Last winter in adopting a new constitution the Society abandoned this aim and formal connections with the Institute. This means that to keep in touch with Korzybski’s work and support it you should become a member of the Institute. We feel sure you will want to. Because of a severe drain on money reserves in the past year occasioned by having to move from Chicago the Institute badly needs your help NOW to keep going while we put long term programs into effect. The membership plan makes it easy for you to help. (17)

By October, 300 people had become members, contributing a total of $6000. New members received a special mailing, a copy of Korzybski’s unpublished Britannica article, “General Semantics: An Introduction To Non-Aristotelian Systems”along with a personally signed letter from Korzybski, dated August 1947, which read in part:
Dear Students and Friends:... 
‘Young birds,’ wrote Tolstoy, ‘...know very well when there is no longer room for them in the eggs’, nor ‘...can the fledgling be made to re-enter its shell.’ It often happens that the beak of the little bird is too soft or the shell is too hard, and the result is a rotten egg, utilized sometimes in political debates. 
...Our human shell of habits and prejudices is very hard and our old aristotelian beaks are not strong enough for us to emerge to mature and fuller life. In my work I tried to forge a method to break through the confining shell, but one man’s effort is not enough. My co-workers and I need your help, now. 
We live in a period of socio-cultural spasms, and we as individuals must unite in a concerted effort toward more maturity, to bring about the eventual ‘manhood of humanity’. (18)  

Until the first issue, in 1950, of the promised IGS yearbook, the General Semantics Bulletin, the Institute sent a series of at least 12 special mailings to members consisting of articles by Korzybski and others not available in ETC. Over the next few years, the membership program would account for about 25% of the Institute’s income. With few other major contributions, this and other income wasn’t enough to allow them to begin the training program Kendig had envisioned and to free Korzybski as they had wished, but it did allow the Institute to keep going.

The aforementioned minor crisis had to do with Irving Lee, now an Institute Trustee, who had also just gotten elected as President of the Society. Lee did not approve of the invitation letter, feeling that it misrepresented the facts of the relation between the Institute and the Society and would lead to conflict. He and Francis Chisholm, representing the Society, met on August 31 with the Institute representives: Bontrager, Kendig, and Robin Skynner (a British medical student who had just attended Korzybski’s summer seminar and would later become a well-known psychiatrist). The five of them hashed and thrashed out the Institute’s main difficulties with the Society, but the meeting seemed curiously unproductive. (Bontrager wrote a memorandum for Korzybski later published in Collected Writings.) Lee appeared conflicted—more or less defensive about Hayakawa’s actions and editing as well as Society decisions that the Institute had found problematic. He suggested he might resign from the Institute Board. Kendig said she would regret that and Lee ultimately didn’t do it. Otherwise the meeting ended with nothing solid, only a general sense of commitment among those attending about the need to reconcile the two organizations.(19) Lee and Chisholm pushed through a resolution at a November Society Board meeting to “earnestly request” that Korzybski withdraw his resignation as Consulting Editor of ETC. Lee, as Society President, officially wrote to him with this request, and Korzybski—although the ‘injured party’—agreed to continue having his name listed in ETC., where it remained until his death (although he would no longer offer anything for publication there).(20) The Society became more careful in its discussion of general semantics in subsequent circulars. And attempts at reconciliation from both sides would continue over the next two years.

Hayakawa seemed unmoved by any of this. It didn’t seem to matter to him what the Institute did or didn’t do. Korzybski’s complaints seem likely to have constituted for him (and Rapoport) more evidence of authoritarianism. One might expect Hayakawa, who had written about the ethics of time-binding, to at least acknowledge the lapse on his part for not consulting with Korzybski before having the Britannica article published. I’ve seen no evidence he did so. In the Autumn 1947 edition of ETC., he did print a long, civil but critical letter to the editor by Guthrie Janssen that critiqued the content of the article in some detail. But Hayakawa’s headline for Janssen’s letter, “Hayakawa’s Article Censured”, doesn’t seem accurate, while striking a resentful, censorious tone of its own. Hayakawa’s subsequent behavior on and off the pages of ETC. doesn’t indicate that he ever took seriously Janssen’s (and Korzybski’s) concerns, persisting in his private view of Korzybski as an embarrassment to academically respectable ‘semanticists’ like himself, continuing in his public treatment of Korzybski’s work as an extension, however brilliant, of linguistic semantics.

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. Korzybski, March 1947 “Protest Letter to the Editor of ETC” in Alfred Korzybski Collected Writings, p. 821–822. 

15. M. Kendig to Vocha Fiske, 7/4/1947. Ralph Hamilton Papers. 

16. AK to MEK, 8/13/1947. AK Archives, Box 22, Folder 1. 

17. Robert Redpath, member solicitation letter, nd. AKDA Scrapbook 5.174. 

18. Letter from Korzybski to new IGS members, August 1949. Alfred Korzybski Collected Writings, p. 585. 

19. O. R. Bontrager, “Memorandum to Korzybski on meeting with president of the Society and Institute representatives on 31 August”, 9/4/1947. Supplementary V (6) in Alfred Korzybski Collected Writings, p. 827–831. 

20. “Letter of the Society President [Irving J. Lee] to Korzybski”, 11/17/1947. Supplementary V (7) in Alfred Korzybski Collected Writings, pp. 833–835.

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