Cybernetics in the 3rd Millennium (C3M) --- Volume 6 Number 2, May 2007
Alan B. Scrivener --- www.well.com/~abs --- mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org
The Dark Side of Enlightenment
~ OR ~
Dispatches From the Mind Control Wars
(Part 1 of 2)
[There was no C3M for March 2007.]
ANOTHER COUNTY HEARD FROM
In a July 2006 episode of the satirical comedy "The Colbert
Report," Stephen Colbert announced the neologism WIKIALITY,
a portmanteau of the words Wikipedia and reality, for his
segment "The Word." Colbert defined wikiality as "truth by
consensus" (rather than fact), modeled after the approval-by-
consensus format of Wikipedia. He ironically praised Wikipedia
for following his philosophy of TRUTHINESS, in which intuition
and consensus is a better reflection of reality than fact:
You see, any user can change any entry, and if enough other
users agree with them, it becomes true. ... If only the
entire body of human knowledge worked this way. And it can,
thanks to tonight's word: Wikiality. Now, folks, I'm no fan
of reality, and I'm no fan of encyclopedias. I've said it
before. Who is Britannica to tell me that George Washington
had slaves? If I want to say he didn't, that's my right.
And now, thanks to Wikipedia, it's also a fact.
-- "Wikiality" entry in Wikipedia
( en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikiality )
Well, for those of you who've been with us since fall of 2006,
I asked my readers to vote on what I write about, and summarized
the results in a web page.
( www.well.com/~abs/Cyb/4.669211660910299067185320382047/votes.html )
Since then another reader, "WA," has responded and -- since the
sample size is so small -- the poll reults changed, so I revised
the web page.
( www.well.com/~abs/Cyb/4.669211660910299067185320382047/votes2.html )
The biggest changes were that "Truthiness and the Growth of Government"
moved into the top 5 while "Second Order Cybernetics: Threat Or Menace?"
Oh, and this issue's topic, originally called "The Dark Side of NLP,"
moved from #2 to #5, but I was already half done writing it at that
point, so here it is. (And I want to clarify that the poll results
are only guidance; I will still choose the topics.)
PROLOGUE: MONSTERS FROM THE ID
Homo sum: humani nil a me alienum puto.
(I am human and I let nothing human be alien to me.)
-- Terentius Afer (African slave)
( www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B0008CT9SE/hip-20 )
One of the things Gregory Bateson taught me is that making "process
comments," about the context -- as opposed to the content -- of
communication, is generally taboo. Nevertheless, just as doctors
and medical researchers must deal with nudity taboos, healers of
the mind and researchers into the neurosciences must confront
the taboo against discussing process.
Another class prone to violate these taboos are the sociopaths.
Just as lockpickers share tools and tips, grifters discuss the
mechanics of deception.
Herman Melville's final novel, "The Confidence Man" (1857)
( www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/039397927X/hip-20 )
( en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Confidence-Man )
has been called by some critics "the first modern novel."
Indeed, it presents a perplexing puzzle to the reader, meeting
a series of characters on a Mississippi riverboat, some of
whom can be deduced to be the same "confidence man" in a
multitude of disguises.
Sociopaths unsettle us. They give us "the willies." We'd much
rather contemplate criminals who feel compelled to betray themselves,
from the supervillians of Batman comics
( www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1563898195/hip-20 )
like the Riddler and the Joker who always give clues of future crimes,
to the stories of "stupid criminal tricks" in the newspapers, such as
thieves who get stuck in chimneys or steal money and new clothes but
leave the loot in their old pants.
( www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0740726943/hip-20 )
And of course we tend to be made nervous about reports of hypnosis,
and the cure of both physical and mental ailments with hypnotism.
The tendency is to either deny that it works at all, or to distrust
the people who possess the skill, or -- paradoxically -- both.
(Less disturbing are the yogis of the Orient, or Occidental stunt-men
like Harry Houdini, who prove that the body's physical limits can
sometimes be transcended.)
Hypnosis seemed to begin in charges of scandal and charlatanism.
In the 1770s and '80s Franz Mesmer began experimenting with what
he called "animal magnetism" (to distinguish it from the "mineral
magnetism" of ferric materials.) He struggled in vain to explain
the effects he observed as a field (like electromagnetism) or a
fluid (like lymph), but in hindsight we can see he was exploring
placebo effects and the "power of suggestion."
A naturally persuasive man, he was accused on occasion of being
too persuasive with women, presaging similar problems in theraputic
as well as stage hypnosis in centuries to come. His name gives
us the word "mesmerize." The Wikipedia entry for him
( en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mesmer )
See also "Mesmer" (film), a 1994 film written by Dennis
Potter, directed by Roger Spottiswoode, and starring Alan
Rickman as Mesmer.
( www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/6305835551/hip-20 )
Mesmer's work inspired James Braid fifty years later to invent
what he called "nervous sleep," and later, "hypnosis." His
1843 book "Neurypnology: or the Rationale of Nervous Sleep"
( www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B000IFYA2G/hip-20 )
is the only thing he published on the topic.
( en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_Braid_%28physician%29 )
And of course Braid's work informed Freud, who in the 1890s and
following decade, revealed and evolved his theory of the unconcious.
( en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Freud )
I never read anything by or about Freud until college, but
I knew he was controversial and his work had something to do
with sex. Allan Sherman sang:
That's where there's a statue up of Sigmund Freud
In Peyton Place!
I had also seen as a child (on TV in the afternoon!) the movie
"Freud" (1962) directed by John Huston,
( imdb.com/title/tt0055998 )
in which the good doctor presents his theory of infant sexuality
to a conference of physicians in Vienna, and is spat upon.
Two of Freud's most promising students broke with him over dogma
and stared their own psychological "schools," Carl Jung
( en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carl_Jung )
and Wilhelm Reich.
( en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wilhelm_Reich )
Reich also believed in a type of field (analagous to electromagnetism)
that explained results he observed; he called it "orgone energy."
Also a naturally persuasive man, he too was accused on occasion of
being too persuasive with women.
STUPID HUMAN TRICKS
A power so great, it can only be used for good or evil!
-- The Firesign Theater, 1974
"The Tale of the Giant Rat of Sumatra"
( www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B00006BNDR/hip-20 )
( en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Tale_of_the_Giant_Rat_of_Sumatra )
As a boy I was fascinated by stage magicians. An egg is broken
into a small pan, then lit on fire, smothered with the lid and
when it is removed -- astonishingly -- a dove flies out: shazzam!
But I knew it was all tricks; the second pan with the dove
was hidden in the lid.
Even then I was suspicious of placebo and "psycho-somatic" cures.
When I got planters warts on my hand and knee, and medicine
failed to remove them, I mentioned it to my great-grandmother,
"Mamaw." Acting almost like a faith-healer or witch-doctor,
she used a "laying on of hands" to heal my planters warts. I
was skeptical. "It only works if you believe in it!" I insisted,
unaware of the irony if I outsmarted myself out of a cure. "It
works whether you believe in it or not," she replied. And it did.
The following week both warts were gone, much to my annoyance.
The bio-pic "Man on the Moon" (1999) directed by Milos Forman,
( www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B00003CWTL/hip-20 )
about the life of performer Andy Kaufman, has a scene in which this
notion of outsmarted oneself out of a cure is taken to the extreme.
Andy has cancer, and travels to some Third World country to see a
faith healer who seems to pull tumors out of people. He sees that
it is done with sleight-of-hand. He realizes that the illusion has
the ability to trigger remission ins some people, as a faith-based
placebo effect, but since Andy saw through the trick, the placebo
effect won't work on him, so the joke is on him, the "smart" joker
from Hollywood. Ha ha.
The first time I recall seeing a stage hypnotist was at the county
fair, on an outdoor stage while we watched from aluminum bleachers.
As is always the case when hypnotism is practiced as entertainment,
the performer culled his subjects from a group of volunteers,
performing little tests on their suggestibility, and selecting the
most succeptible to hypnotism. Of course he had subjects laughing
at "the funniest movie you ever saw" and other mildly embarassing
things, but the thing I found most fascinating was the "post-hypnotic
suggestion." The hypnotist told one man that after the man left the
stage, right as he walked out through a little gate, he would turn
and say, "Aw, you're a fake!" Of course he did.
And always as I was growing up in San Diego, down at the the Gaslight
Supper Club in Point Loma, hypnotist Dr. Michael Dean performed live
as a nightclub act. Once he came to our high school for an assembly.
Another time I'll tell how the "Sign of the Phoobah" came to be
from the hypnotized behavior of one of my friends at this event.
Later in my teens a former Sunday school teacher of mine offered
to hypnotize me and my friends at a party. He gave a post hypnotic
suggestion for "Jack" to say 5 specific digits when he heard the
word "empire" -- and THEN FORGET HE'D DONE IT. It worked. We
said "empire" and Jack said the numbers. "Why'd you say those
numbers?" we'd ask. "What numbers?" said Jack. We tape recorded him
and played it back for him. "How'd you get that on the tape?" he
It was also about this time I discovered I could pull myself out
of trances with some concentration and internal dialog. Later
I realized this was self-hypnosis.
I suppose my first experience AS a hypnotist was when, at church
camp, I discovered there was a girl there so ticklish that I could
tickle her through a pane of glass.
All of this is so,
And here is how I know:
I'm your friendly neighborhood giraffe!
-- Allan Sherman, 1963
"The Aardvark Song"
on "My Son the Nut" (album)
( www.scoutxing.com/songs/songs_1473.htm )
Reading the autobiographical caption on my picture in my high
school yearbook, Grossmont High School class of '71, one notices that
I spent only a year in many activities: football, basketball, band,
rocket club, Tolkien club, speech team, drama, literary magazine...
I hung out with the same friends through grades 10 through 12,
though, an informal group I sometimes called the "misfit club."
A few of these friends had animal totems, like aardvark and turtle.
Mine was giraffe. "The semi-objective observer," I would explain,
"part of the herd and yet above it all."
Another friend in this crowd liked to engage in what he called
"Gestalt-tapping." Like me, he was a serial joiner. He liked
to attach himself to small, dynamic groups with charismatic
leaders and become one of them, and then disconnect and process
the experience alone. (It occurs to me that this is a defense
mechanism againt cult-like behaviour.) In college I had another
friend who did similar things with self-help groups, spiritual
movements and the like; as he explained it it he would enter the
belief system of the group and experience it that way, and then
exit the group and that belief system and re-experience it alone
from within his old belief system (which he, of course, considered
a "meta" system).
A few years later I learned that this had been the approximate
methodology of English mystic Aleister Crowley (1875 - 1947).
( en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aleister_Crowley )
As Robert Anton Wilson (1932 - 2007)
( en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Anton_Wilson )
explained in "Cosmic Trigger: Final Secret of the Illuminati" (1973),
( www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1561840033/hip-20 )
Crowley wrote at one point of a methodology in which he would study a
diety, for example the Egypyian god Horus, and engage in the rituals
and prayers to Horus as the ancients had, to the best of his analysis,
until such time as he achieved a direct spiritual revelation or
ecstatic experience from the god. At that point he would stop,
carefully document what had occured, and move on to a new diety.
REVOLUTION FOR THE HELL OF IT
My favorite all-time hate letter was "Just wait 'till Jesus
gets his hands on you, you little bastard!"
-- Abbie Hoffman, reality hacker
( en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abbie_hoffman )
While I was in high school (1967 - 1971) the outside world
was going pretty crazy. A few items from the Wikipedia entry
for just one year, 1968,
( en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1968 )
shows what I mean:
* January 30 - Vietnam War: The Tet Offensive begins, as
Viet Cong forces launch a series of surprise attacks
across South Vietnam.
* March 31 - U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson announces
he will not seek re-election.
* April 4 - Martin Luther King, Jr. is assassinated at the
Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee. Riots erupt in major
American cities for several days afterward
* April 23-April 30 - Vietnam War: Student protesters at
Columbia University in New York City take over administration
buildings and shut down the university.
* May - Agitations and strikes in Paris lead many youth to
believe that a revolution is starting. Student and worker
strikes, sometimes referred to as the French May, nearly
bringing down the French government.
* June 5 - U.S. presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy is
shot at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles, California by
* August 20 - The Prague Spring of political liberalization
ends, as 200,000 Warsaw Pact troops and 5,000 tanks invade
* August 22-August 30 - Police clash with antiwar protesters
in Chicago, Illinois outside the 1968 Democratic National
* October 2 - Tlatelolco massacre: A student demonstration ends
in a bloodbath at La Plaza de las Tres Culturas in Tlatelolco,
Mexico City, Mexico, 10 days before the inauguration of the
1968 Summer Olympics.
* November 5 - U.S. presidential election, 1968: Republican
challenger Richard M. Nixon defeats Vice President Hubert
Humphrey and [independent] candidate George Wallace [who
would run again and be shot but not killed in 1972].
* December 24 - Apollo Program: U.S. spacecraft Apollo 8 enters
orbit around the Moon. Astronauts Frank Borman, Jim Lovell and
William A. Anders become the first humans to see the far side
of the Moon and planet Earth as a whole. The crew also reads
Of these events, the Democratic Convention, "Chicago '68" probably
showed up highest on my radar. TV reporters were telling us Americans
that the cops were running wild and clubbing everybody on the streets
of Chicago. Zowie!
A year later the Trial of the Decade had the Nixon administration
pinning the blame on 8 "conspirators" under the new Civil Rights Act
-- the part put in to make "the pigs" happy -- that made conspiring
to incite riots across a state line a Federal felony. Among the
"Chicago 8" were Abbie Hoffman and Jerry Rubin, so-called founders
of the so-called "YIPPIES."
Hoffman and Rubin's story was that they made the whole thing up,
there was no "Youth International Party," certainly no organization,
they just had a press conference and sold the idea to gullible
reporters, and the next thing you know all these Yippies showed
up in Chicago.
By the summer of '69 I was back in church camp (!) and one of
the counselors had a copy of Hoffman's newest book, "Revolution
for the Hell of It"
( www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1560256907/hip-20 )
and was using it as a textbook on "guerrilla theatre" and
"monkey warfare." I wasn't a hardcore revolutionary; like
John Lennon I thought
If you go carring pictures of Chairman Mao
You ain't gonna make it with anyone anyhow.
But I was a practical joker from way back, and some of the creative
disruptions of the Yippies really intrigued me. I thought it was
hilarious that Hoffman had engineered a protest at the New York
Stock Exchange in which he and others threw money -- mostly ones --
off of the balconey of the gallery onto the trading floor, leading
to a mad dash by brokers which stopped trading and cost the exchange
millions. I also thought it was hilarious when the House Un-American
Activites Committee (HUAC) issued a subpoena for Jerry Rubin, and he
showed up in a rented "minute man" uniform complete with tricorner
hat, evoking the American revolutionaries at Lexington and Concord.
HUAC had enough sense to not let this archetypical image go on TV,
and they sent him home.
I also thought it was hilarous later when I read Rubin's book
"Do It! Scenarios of the Revolution" (1970)
( www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/067120601X/hip-20 )
in which he described how the U.S. Army wanted to build a
base in an area, and so Rubin and some other "Yippies" put up
signs on trees in a neighborhood nearby, saying:
WARNING Army war dogs training in this area. Very Dangerous.
Keep all children and pets within sight. If Army dog
approaches do not move under any circumstances.
Public outcry stopped the base from being opened.
Later Greenpeace copied the Yippie's methods, creating what they
called "mind bombs" -- footage so riveting the TV news HAD to
show it. For example, Greenpeace protesters steering "Zodiac"
inflatable boats under barrels of nuclear waste being dumped off
a ship into deep ocean, having their boats flipped over by the barrels.
THE WILD WEST
The answer is never the answer. What's really interesting is
the mystery. If you seek the mystery instead of the answer,
you'll always be seeking. I've never seen anybody really find
the answer -- they think they have, so they stop thinking. But
the job is to seek mystery, evoke mystery, plant a garden in
which strange plants grow and mysteries bloom. The need for
mystery is greater than the need for an answer.
-- Ken Kesey
( www.zaadz.com/quotes/Ken_Kesey )
But beyond the politics and the simple meme-wars ("America --
love it or leave it" vs. "All we are saying is give peace a
chance"), there were deeper mind-wars at work in the hipper
parts of the Western world. A COUNTER CULTURE was establishing
its own darknets, and across that network struggles ensued
for what some called "power."
I missed this at first. I thought the consciousness of
the flower children stated and ended with "All you need is love."
(Of course I had a "Wonder years" view of whole thing, being 13
during the Summer of Love.)
In 1967 Timothy Leary distributed his pamphlet "Start Your Own Religion"
( www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1579510736/hip-20 )
( en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timothy_Leary )
reprinted in "The Politics of Ecstasy" (book of essays, 1968).
( www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1579510310/hip-20 )
It seemed like a sunshiny approach to spirituality. But then, in
"The Electric Cool-Aid Acid Test" (book, 1968) by Tom Wolfe
( www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0553380648/hip-20 )
told the tale of Ken Kesey's "Merry Pranksters" who overtly
struggled with the question of "whose movie" they were to be in.
In "Woodstock Nation" (book, 1969)
( www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0394705769/hip-20 )
Abbey Hoffman bears witness to the backstage struggle for power
and money at the Woodstock Music Festival. And the autobiographical
"Amazing Dope Tales" (book, 1980) by Stephen Gaskin,
( www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1579510108/hip-20 )
who later founded the commune called "The Farm" in Tennessee,
( en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Farm_%28Tennessee%29 )
describes the outlaw quality of self-dosing drug experimenters
in Haight Asbgbury trying to "cop the head" each other, as in,
"That guy isn't cool; he's always trying to cop my head, man."
But perhaps the clearest metaphor for the lighter and darker side
of the "crazy years" in the late '60s is in an article
called "Meeting Manson" by Timothy Leary, first published in
Larry Flynt's "Oui" magazine and later reprinted in "Neuropolitics:
The Sociobiology of Human Metamorphosis" (book of essays, 1977).
( www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0915238187/hip-20 )
By way of background Leary explains:
When Manson was released from prison in March 1967, he brought
to the loose, open, gullible, happy, flower-child culture
of the Haight-Ashbury the three fear-provoking skills he
had learned in crime school: physical threat, emotional
dominance and dogmatic repetition of symbols. To these primitive
methods, however, he added the fourth and most effective
source of his power: moral coercion.
Before the Sixities, most domesticated humans were unaware
of the way in which moral threat determined their behavior.
They were oblivious to the coerciveness of family, clan,
church, school, and civil law, and how each tried to limit
behavior to that which would benefit the hive, the clan,
the species. In the Sixties, however, a cultural revolution
occurred which allayed the fear which is variously known
as sin, guilt, evil and taboo. Millions of young people --
and some flexible older people -- were left floating in
an ethical vacuum. Into this void moved the spiritual
promoters and ethical mafias -- the soul f###ers.
America, in [that] decade, became a spiritual Wild West,
with San Francisco as its Dodge City; religious gang leaders
and ethical gunslingers competed for control, among them
the Diggers, black militants, hippie gurus, Hindu swamis,
hedonic prophets, Jesus freaks, makeshift messiahs,
health-food fanatics, soul pimps and hope dealers.
Into this Byzantine situation came Manson, fresh from the
academy of fear, brandishing a book that cites the highest
ethical authority to justify ritual murder, a 3000-year-old
text loaded with prescription and pronunciamento designed
to strike fear into nonbelievers: the book of REVELATION.
Leary goes on to describe having a cell next to Manson's
in solitary confinement in Folsom prison. Leary and Manson
are able to speak although they can't see each other.
"I've been waiting to talk to you for years. Our lives
would never have crossed outside. But now we have plenty
of time. We were all your students, you know." The voice
is low with the assurance of a fundamentalist minister.
"What do you mean?" The Wizard is leaning against the
bars, cocking his ear to catch the soft, self-assured words.
"You know how it happened. I had been in prison all my life,
and when I got out in the middle of the Sixties, there was a
whole new world. Millions of kids cut loose from the old
lies, free of hangups, waiting to be told what to do." The
voice takes on a slight edge of complaint. "And you didn't
tell them what to do. That's what I never could figure out
about you, man. You showed everyone how to create a new head
and then you wouldn't give them the new head. Why didn't
you? I've wanted to ask you that for years."
"That was exactly the point," the Professor replies wearily.
"I didn't want to impose my realities. The idea is that
everybody takes responsibility for his nervous system, creats
his own new reality. It's the end of the monotheism trip,
remember. You can be anyone this time around. Anything else
"That was your mistake," the voice says in a ghost-hollow
whisper. "Nobody wants responsibility. They want to be
told what to do, what to believe, what's really true and
BETWEEN K-MART AND JUPITER
But the most exciting and by far the most important
part of our Florida project... in fact, the heart of
everything we'll be doing in Disney World will be our
Experimental Prototype City of Tomorrow. We call it
EPCOT. EPCOT will be an experimental prototype community
of tomorrow that will take its cue from the new ideas
and new technologies that are now emerging from the
creative centers of American industry. It will be a
community of tomorrow that will never be completed,
but will always be introducing and testing and
demonstrating new materials and systems.
-- Walt Disney, 1966
"The EPCOT Film"
( www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B0000BWVAI/hip-20 )
( www.mouseplanet.com/mark/mg040324.htm )
The sixities and seventies were also a time of great
experimentation in more traditional instititions. The Century
21 Expo in Seattle in 1962 (when the Space Needle was built),
the New York World's fair in 1964, and Expo '67 in Montreal
were all publicizers of change being in the air, and one institution
that rose to the challenge was the University of California, which
opened its "experimental" campus in a redwood forest overlooking
the seacoast town of Santa Cruz in 1965.
( en.wikipedia.org/wiki/UCSC )
The college I attended there, Kresge, was founded the year I arrived, 1971.
( en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kresge_College )
(My roommate Kim Levitt found a matchbook that mentioned
K-Mart, Kresge, and Jupiter stores, and it inspired him
to write a column in the college newsletter called "Between
K-Mart and Jupiter.")
One of things the faculty did to prepare for the creation of
Kresge College was to hire consultants, including social writer
Philip Slater, who brought with him a concept he'd described in
his recent book, "The Pursuit of Loneliness" (1970)
( www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0807042013/hip-20 )
-- that of "leader killing" in group dynamics. This concept
entered the lexicon and folklore of Kresge. I heard about it
during the college orientation in the fall of 1971, when Michael
Kahn and others were explaining how the college grew. I was
reminded of a old "word jazz" recording by Ken Nordine,
( www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B0000032ND/hip-20 )
called "Flibbity Jib." In his deep gravelly voice Nordine said:
There was this stranger who came into our town.
He was tall; and had a dark look about him; and a
special brilliance was in his eyes. When he looked
at us, it was the feeling that he could see right
down to the bottom. We may have been mistaken in
this, but at the time no questions were asked. The
questions always come later. All we cared about was
the mystery we sensed in this stranger, and we waited
to see what would happen.
One evening, that was different from any other, he got
us all together in the big auditorium. He stood there
on the huge stage. The only light was on him and
we waited in the dark. Then out of his tallness
came the chanting; first as a whisper we could hardly
hear: "The flibberty jib bom the bippity bop; the
flibberty jib bom the bippity bop." It didn't make
any sense. We were caught up in something we didn't
understand. He had trapped us without our knowing it.
Possibly it was his manner. And we came alive to him
as he slowly moved us with his chant through the land
of hush, into insistent savage throbbing crescendos of
ecstasy. As if it were the only thing we could do, we
started to chant with him, "The flibberty jib bom the
bippity bop; the flibberty jib bom the bippity bop."
And he was up on the high stage laughing with all his
might, saying, "Yes, yes, yes."
But there were those among us who were jealous of his
powers. Who felt they should be in the center of the
stage with the light shining on them. They were against
our hero and the chanting and our going to be with him
every free moment. And so little by little a little
later, these critics set to work to make nonsense out
of the sense of what we were doing; and they succeeded.
They destroyed our hero's faith in himself. He didn't
have it any more. After a few disappointing times in
the big auditorium, the light gone out of him, we all
stopped going. And the man who had once seemed so tall
and who now seemed so much smaller, left our town,
saying, "No, no, no."
We lived through the boredom of the time that followed,
telling each other pale stories of what once was and
what might have been if. We lived on histories and
hopes. We did this, until the miracle we never thought
would happen again happened. Another stranger came into
our town, and he too was tall and dark and had eyes that
could look right down into the bottom of you. And he
got us all together in the big auditorium, and with the
light on him (we were in the dark), he chanted, "The
flibberty jib bom the bippity bop; the flibberty jib
bom the bippity bop." And we joined in and the magic
was in us, and he was laughing and all his might was
with him and he was shouting, "Yes, yes, yes!"
But there were those among us who were jealous, and
so forth, you know, you know what they did. Little
by little a little later, they put us back on the
narrow path. This is the way things have been our
town for as long as anyone cares to remember.
By the way, how are things in your town?
Into this context came the new faculty and students of Kresge.
As Wikipedia summarizes:
Kresge is the sixth of ten colleges at UCSC, and originally
one of the most experimental. The first provost of Kresge,
Bob Edgar, had been strongly influenced by his experience
in t-groups run by NTL Institute. He asked a t-group
facilitator, psychologist Michael Kahn, to help him
start the college. When they arrived at UCSC, they taught
a course, Creating Kresge College, in which they and the
students in it designed the college. Kresge was a
participatory democracy, and students had extraordinary
power in the early years. Distinguished early faculty
members included Gregory Bateson, former husband of
Margaret Mead and author of Steps to an Ecology of Mind;
John Grinder, co-founder of Neuro-linguistic programming
and co-author of The Structure of Magic; and William Everson,
one of the Beat poets.
In the early days, Kresge had a threefold focus: Humanistic
psychology, Women's Studies and Environmental Studies. In the
late 1970's, UCSC underwent a radical reorganization, as most
of what made the original colleges unique was destroyed. Today,
the college hosts the literature, women's studies and writing
A prevalent buzz-word around Krege was "communication," which
covered everything from Kahn's self-realization to Grinder's
reprogramming to women's studies, and also included my old friend
Doren Kim Levitt's self-invented "Synthology" major and "Time
Parade" final project, and an experience I had watching myself
on videotape read my own poetry.
(Mason Williams once described, in a PBS TV special called
"Reflections of the Artist Upon Leaving the Sixties,"
how after seeing himself on TV he began to mimic himself.
This unfortunate effect happened to me as well.)
One of the last things I did at Kresge was to appear in
a college cabaret and perform Ken Nordine's "Flibbity Jib."
Afterwards Michael Kahn came up to me and said, "You've got
more courage than I do."
Concave or -vex,
Whatever you dream
Will be about sex.
-- Piet Hein
I'd known since youth that Dr. Freud said "it's all about sex,"
but it seemed to me that made no sense; if everything was "about"
sex, then nothing was.
In Robert Altman's hilarious comedy of manners "A Wedding"
( www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B000JLQPRC/hip-20 )
a nerdy and fairly clueless teenage boy is being teased by
a gay college student, who mentions an obsession with another
man's fly. "The Fly," says the kid, "wasn't that a psych-fi --
uh, sci-fi movie?"
What we see here is that in pop culture "psych" and "sex"
are indelibly associated, almost to the point of one being
a code word for the other.
At UCSC I took Psych 1 - "The Three faces of Psychology" and
Psych 5 - "Humanistic Psychology" from Michael Kahn. I began
to understand what Freud was getting at, and why one of the
seven taboo words you can't say on TV (according to George Carlin)
is the compound word m#####f#####. But really fascinated
me was the idea of REPRESSION, and the various strategies used
by the subconscious mind to repress taboo or threatening content.
These included amnesia, hallucination, negative hallucination
(not seeing what's there) and good old fashioned distraction
* * OH MY GOD, I JUST SPILLED HOT COFFEE ON MY LEG! * *
What was I saying? Oh, never mind.
Air stewardess: secrets of my five-mile high sex romp
with Ralph Fiennes
Qantas stewardess tells how she fell for Hollywood star
in Seat 2K...and how after a mad, passionate fling he
abandoned her to face the sack...
-- Jo Knowsley, writing in "The Mail"
( www.mailonsunday.co.uk/pages/live/femail/article.html?in_article_id=436846&in_page_id=1879&in_a_source= )
A few years ago one of my readers wrote to say:
I am familiar with many of your pointers. I came to it from
other pathways (in no particular chronological order):
Chance readings of The Harrad Experiment in 1970 lead me to
read some of the books in its bibliography. That led me to:
I wrote back that I too had read "The Harrad Experiment" (1973)
by Robert H. Rimmer,
( www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0879756233/hip-20 )
a description of a college designed to be a sexual utopia,
and some said it was like Kresge, but what I found the novel
lacked was homosexuality, people molested as children, other races
and ethnicities (for the most part), and especially, professors
hitting on students.
A more accurate tour of the sexual landscape of UCSC is found
in "Sports Car Menopause" (1977) by Page Stegner,
( www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0316812242/hip-20 )
son of Western writer and historian Wallace Stegner,
( en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wallace_Stegner )
which bore witness to the graceless promiscuity of Santa Cruz,
with the same keen eye his father had used to describe the
arid ranchlands of the western U.S. (Wallace Stegner once
said about his writing, "In fiction I think we should have
no agenda but to tell the truth." His son seems to follow that
dictum as well.)
( sfpl.lib.ca.us/librarylocations/main/envir/wsbio.htm )
My wife went to the same college, and I asked what she thought
of all the "dirty old men" there. She surprised me by saying
that from her view it looked like there were a lot of "predatory
coeds," i.e., female students seducing male faculty. But however
you look at it, hookups occured, mostly between male faculty and
female students (sometimes in ways that would probably be
flat-out illegal in California today).
I have struggled with the ethics of what to write here. I was
witness to some indiscretions, heard about others, and lived
in a community with "open secrets." I could share all the
juicy details here, but it seems uncalled for. I still
respect the people I knew, and what they were trying to
do in the way of an educational experiment, too much
to sully their reputaions here. But suffice it to say,
this stuff happened all the time at Kresge. As a freshman
I was jealous, resenting that I got to be a bottom-feeder
in the sexual ecology of the college. By the time I was
a senior, I was working on going out with first year women,
trying to use the tilt in my favor.
Now I look back through the paradigms of sociobiology --
see "Sociobiology" (book, 1975) by Edward O. Wilson
( www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0674002350/hip-20 )
-- and memetics -- see "The Selfish Gene" (book, 1976) by Richard Dawkins
( www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0199291152/hip-20 )
-- and it all makes more sense. Men tend to choose women for
fertility (youth and beauty=normalcy) while women choose men
for control of resources (often seniority related).
Several of Tom Wolf's essays in "Hooking Up" (2001)
( www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0312420234/hip-20 )
deal with these issues, as does his latest novel "I Am
Charlotte Simmons" (2005),
( www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0312424442/hip-20 )
in which he comes right out and says:
Every woman wants to f### a star.
That's certainly an over-generalization, but it also the way
of the world.
The bigger and more abstract the activities an organization has
to perform, and the less real human contact is necessary to
maintain a steady state, the more its form of written
communication will . . . incorporate modes and phraseology
from the natural sciences and from economics in an effort to
add prestige and borrowed forcefulness.
-- Lionel Tiger, 1987
"The Manufacture of Evil"
( www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/071452929X/hip-20 )
Tom Wolfe was also the first person I was aware of to object to
the metaphor of "power" being abducted from physics into psychology.
In the essay "The Boiler Room and the Computer" collected in
"Mauve Gloves & Madmen, Clutter & Vine" (book of essays, 1976)
( www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0553380591/hip-20 )
During Freud's university years (the late 1870's and early 1880's)
young enthusiasts in the fuzzier disciplines, such as psychology,
liked to borrow terminology from the more rigorous and established
field of mechanical physics. The borrowed terms became, in fact,
metaphor; and metaphor, like a shrewd servant, has a way of ruling
its master. Thus Freud wound up with the idea that libido or
sexual 'energy,' as he called it, is a pressure that builds up
within a closed system to the point where it demands release,
as in a steam engine.
Wolfe went on to offer, in effect, that sometimes a libido can
be like an electronic circuit undergoing positive feedback, and
risking a "blowup."
In "Neuropolitics: The Sociobiology of Human Metamorphosis"
(book of essays, 1977)
( www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0915238187/hip-20 )
Timothy Leary says:
Power corrupts, rots, destroys, curses those who
impose their rules upon others.
When I met Gregory Bateson and began to read his book "Steps to
an Ecology of Mind: Collected Essays in Anthropology, Psychiatry,
Evolution, and Epistemology" (1972)
( www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0226039056/hip-20 )
I found the critique stated even more forcefully and simply:
They say that power corrupts; but this, I suspect, is nonsense.
What is true is that the IDEA OF POWER corrupts.
Bateson even organized a conference on "broken power"
to attempt to "deconstruct" the metaphor if you will.
(This was after organizing a conference on "The Effects
of Conscious Purpose on Human Adaptation," to try and
understand if it was doing us any good to have so much
I knew from my physics classes that energy cannot be created
or destroyed. How can we have an energy crisis then? That
question, though important, I'll leave for another day,
except to recall in the old educational Disney movie "Our Friend
the Atom" -- available in the "Walt Disney Treasures" series of
DVDs in a collection called "Tomorrowland: Disney in Space and
Beyond (1957)" (2004)
( www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B0000BWVAI/hip-20 )
-- they showed a nuclear explosion and complained of all the
wasted power. Here we begin to see the distinction between
energy and useful energy.
I knew that attention, or will, or awareness, or consciousness,
or whatever you call a mental "state" or "capability" --
whatever it is, it definitely can be created and destroyed.
In this it was more like information than energy.
So, such concepts as "The Power of Positive Thinking,"
"empowerment," and "Fear Into Power" (we'll come to
that later), and even the "Starwars" chestnut, "Use
the force, Luke!" all are based on this flawed energetic
Only Bucky Fuller, of all the writers I read, seemed to
keep it all straight. He talkled of "energy slaves"
when he meant real energy, from the wall socket, and he
used the term "capabilites" to describe what most of
us would call "power."
I was also making a study of the history of cybernetics,
and had uncovered the etymology of the word "control."
It came from the Latin for a COUNTER ROLLER in a gear
mechanism that detected and corrected a missing tooth in
the main gear. (Because of its symmetry -- each gear was
the other's counter-roller -- it could also detect and correct
a missing gear in itself.) Any INCONGRUENCE was fixed.
This later became the model for dual-entry accounting
controls as well.
Another teacher at Kresege was John Grinder, who, with Richard
Bandler had a lot to say about congruence as well.
THE STRUCTURE OF MAGIC
If I had my college years to do over again I would certainly pay a
lot more attention, having a better appreciation now of how great
my teachers were. (I'm still getting over the fact that of the
Kresge faculty mentioned in the Wikipedia article for the college,
they're all from the first few years and I took classes from all
One of the amazing things is that Grinder and Bandler were inventing
Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) right before our eyes.
The web page "Fountains of Language - NLP Information"
( www.btinternet.com/~fountain/nlp/index.html )
has a summary with pictures.
Two under-appreciated factors that influenced this process were:
1) the growing popularity of the hypnotic "Don Juan" books of
Carlos Castaneda, who by then had penned "The Teachings of Don Juan --
A Yaqui Way of Knowledge" (1968)
( www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0520217551/hip-20 )
followed by "A Separate Reality" (1971), "Journey To Ixtlan" (1972)
and "Tales of Power" (1974) (there's that word again), each claiming
to supercede all the previous ones with a complete recontextualization,
and 2) the mysterious, confrontational and sometimes miraculous
therapies of "gestalt psychology" founder Fritz Perls, author of
"Gestalt Therapy Verbatum" (1968) among many others.
( www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0939266164/hip-20 )
Richard Bandler was interested in "modeling" both of these
hypnotists when he teamed up with John Grinder at Kresge, and
Gregory Bateson introduced them to supertherapist Milton Erickson
at the veteran's administration hospital in San Francisco.
The scuttlebutt around the VA hospital at the time (so
I've been told) was "don't let Erickson shake your hand, he'll
make it disappear." He could hypnotize people just by touching
them, without using words.
He could also do miracle cures, with many different people,
often in brief encounters. A famous example occured when
Erickson was treating a series of patients on-stage for other
psychiatrists and students. They brought out a boy who had
a history of juvenile delenquency. Erickson looked at him
and asked, "How surprised will you be when you find next
week that you've completely changed?" The boy defiantly
answered "I'll be bloody surprised!" Erickson motioned
for the boy to be taken away. The staff thought he'd
decided not to work with the boy, but the following week
the boy turned his life around.
Other therapists wanted to learn how to perform these cures too.
But when Erickson tried to explain how he did it, he gave only
unintelligible analogies to things like leaky pipes, and nobody
could learn it from him.
Enter Grinder & Bandler. Bandler the student is a perfect
mimic, and can "model" people having practiced on Perls.
Grinder the professor is a linguist, and extremely good at
high-speed taxonomy and anlysis, and he articulates what
Bandler models. (They sort of reminded me of Penn & Teller.)
Watching Erickson, and also studying audiotapes and movies of him,
(and doing the same with supertherapist Virginia Satir), they
derive and WRITE DOWN methods of "brief therapy," which they
call NLP. I first saw some of this material in purple-inked,
faint ditto pages they handed out in classes in 1975.
One handout had a heading that just said "The Meta-Model."
It explained that NLP was first and foremost pragmatic, and
the key was to do what works. This established a context
within which to model specific practitioners, and learn
their techniques. The goal was not a grand theory of the mind,
which they though we'd seen too much of already, but a "bag of
tricks" for therapists.
Simultaneously, they were cranking out several books, including
"Patterns of the Hypnotics Techniques of Milton Erickson, M.D."
by Judith DeLozier, Richard Bandler and John Grinder
v. 1 (1975) & v. 2 (1977)
( www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1555520529/hip-20 )
( www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1555520537/hip-20 )
and "The Structure of Magic: A Book About Language and Therapy" (1975)
by Richard Bandler and John Grinder,
( www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0831400447/hip-20 )
followed "The Structure of Magic II: A Book About Communication and
Change" (1975) by John Grinder and Richard Bandler.
( www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0831400498/hip-20 )
At the time everybody at Kresge seemed to be reading dittoed
fragments of "The Structure of Magic," and later the hardback
version when it came out. Nobody seeme too interested in the
Erickson book. Recently I discovered I had a copy of volume 1 of
the Erickson book which a friend left at my place in Westborough,
Massachusetts in 1979. (P.G., send me your address, I'll return it.)
I went ahead and finally read it in preparation for this 'Zine,
and found some interesting stuff:
- The book does seem to be thrown together, done perhaps
to preserve some documents and establish some publication
precendence. There is an amazing story of the loss of
Aldous Huxley's unpublished writings and notes in a
California wildfire, along with them notes for a
collaboration with Erickson on creative trances (except
for one preserved fragment which appears in the book).
- Erickson is quoted early on as saying that the context of
therapy gives the therapist the power. People come with
problems and pain, and grant power to the therapist in the
search for solutions and relief.
- Still, his explanations are rarely useful. He does describe
the use of 'word salad' constructs, pacing and mirroring
(matching posture, breathing and linguistic patterns with
a client) and the use of embedded command. (Saying "Don't
trip!" can trigger someone tripping.)
- What Grinder & Bandler add is descriptions of the effects
of Erickson's patterns: amnesia (forgetting), anasthesia
(unable to feel), paralysis (unable to move), negative
hallucination (not seeing what's there).
Seeing the paucity of what they mined explicitly from Erickson,
I begin to appreciate just how much G&B had ADDED in their languaging
of the methods of hypnosis. They taught us some extremely useful
- no mind reading - Don't say "he's angry" only "he's loud, his
skin is red, he's breathing heavily and has elevated heart
- congruence - Don't pre-judge which of mixed messages are "true,"
just report that they are not in congruence.
- visual-auditory-kinaesthetic - This may be the most powerful
distinction they drew. We each trust the three main
sensory channels to different degrees. A primarily
visual person will see the big picture, but that may
not sound good to an auditory or feel right to a
- unnominalizing - Don't take processes and name them and then
talk about them like nouns, i.e., "hostility." All nouns
should be easy to visualize in a wheelbarrow, i.e., your mother.
- you can talk right to the parts of people - They would walk up
to someone and say "I'm talking now to the part of you that
is allergic. The rest of you can listen, but I'm talking to
you, the part that sneezes. If you understand me, sneeze."
And the part would cause a sneeze. They had "parts parties"
for students at which everyone would would play the part of
one person. How do you know which parts are there? Any part
is there if you invoke it. (Patients of Freudian analysis have
id, ego and superego, because they have been invoked, while
"Transactional Analysis" patient have "Parent-Adult-Child" for
the same reason.)
ADVERTISING MAKES IT HAPPEN
Ad men remain hucksters, it seems, whether they are selling
dissent or Dentyne, imbued with priestly powers to mesmerize
all who gaze upon their work.
-- Nick Gillespie, April 2007
"Designing Dissent: Protest Posters and the Blind Spots
of the Modern Left"
I've covered this ground before, in C3M Volume 3 Number 11, Dec. 2004,
"Bateson and Me (Part Two of Three)"
Let me quote:
Spring quarter I continued taking Bateson's seminar, and also
an independent study with him for the purpose of writing the first
half of my senior thesis. I had convinced him to sponsor my
individual major in "Whole Systems." I also . . . signed
up for Grinder and Bandler's class, Linguistics 188, "Pragmatics
of Human Communication."
. . .
["The Structure of Magic"] later that year came out in hardback.
The glowing introduction was by Bateson. He closed with:
May it be heard!
In Grinder and Bandler's class my final project, with several
other students, was an analysis of the use of NLP techniques
in advertising, including magazine, radio and TV commercials
vintage and current. (My favorite was the campaign introducing
"Pringle's New-Fangled Potato Chips" in which the "pop" made by
opening the can was a major selling point.)
To present our final project in class, we had to go to the
Kresge college office, to the A/V (audiovisual) room, and
check out equipment like a TV and VCR on a cart, an opaque
projector, a record player, and a P/A (public address) system.
As we rolled everything out of the office and up the Kresge street,
an office employee, Helen (who signed notices in the newsletter
"Helen-in-the-office" and we sometimes called "Hell-in-the-office")
came running after us, shouting "Stop!" She accused us of being
stooges for John Grinder, sent to check out equipment for him.
It turned out he'd kept A/V equipment overdue so many times the
staff had banned him from cheking any out. We got a chance to
"practice our NLP techniques" as we begged her to let us use the
equipment, denying any conspiracy and saying that it was for
our final project, which we had to complete to pass, etc. etc.
What we presented was a fairly complete catalog of every
technique G&B had taught us illustrated in ads. Two
questions we did not explore were 1) how did the "Madison
Avenue" guys get this supposedly brand new knowledge, and
2) what were the ethical implications of using theraputic
techniques for commercial propaganda purposes?
THE FLAW IN THE OINTMENT
In no system which shows mental characteristics can any
part have unilateral control over the whole.
-- Gregory Bateson, 1972
"Steps to an Ecology of Mind: Collected Essays in
Anthropology, Psychiatry, Evolution, and Epistemology"
It used to annoy me when female students seemed to be hitting
on G&B, but it really upset me when they asked us to share
what we learned using our new knowledge in "the real world"
and students talked about messing with bank tellers by mirroring
them, and stuff like that.
Continuing with the previous quote:
In their class, I had a hard time accepting their methods.
After some struggle I came up with the analogy that when
you learn a martial art, like judo, the master teaches you
an ethical framework for using it, so you don't go around
beating up old ladies for fun. It seemed to me that they
were teaching people a sort of mental judo and then ENCOURAGING
them to beat up old ladies.
I actually confronted John Grinder near the end of the academic
quarter. (By confront I mean I tried in vain to get his
attention while he seemed to be flirting with a student I'll
call Cherry, who I had once dated, and finally I poured water
He agreed to talk to me. I made a snide remark about how excited
Cherry seemed to getting his attention, and he said she was in a trance,
age-regressed to 5 years old. He wanted to know what was on
my mind. I told him I thought NLP needed an ethical framework. He
asked me to write down my ideas for one. I sat down in the college
coffee house adjacent to the Kresge Town Hall "The Idler Cafe" and came
up with a page that expressed what is in the above paragraph. As
I shared it with him I began to experience red eyes, a runny nose,
and congestion. He asked me about the symptoms. "It's hay fever,"
I said. "Hay fever," he echoed sarcastically.
I wish I'd kept a copy of that piece of paper, but Grinder wanted
to keep it and data was harder to copy then than now.
As my sneezing worsened I sought out my girlfriend and complained
of my symptoms. I also felt just yucky, uptight, almost oppressed.
I yearned to feel "free." I went out into one of the meadows
that surround Kresge, took off my shirt, and rolled down the hill
in the wild grass.
Hindsight is 20/20. I now understand that, for me, allergies
manifest at the level of stress times pollen. Confronting
a professor was very stressful for me, but also, there was
a lot of pollen coming from the spring meadows, and rolling
down the hill gave me the equivalent of a "home patch test"
for allergies. My back broke out in hives and I soaked in
a tub, having a cathartic histamine reaction while my girlfriend
scrubbed my back.
Still continuing with the previous quote:
Bateson also had a falling out with G&B. He actually wrote
them a letter rescinding his introduction and endorsement of
their book, in which he called them
pu rposive pu nks
quoting from e. e. cummings in "ECONOMIC SECU"
rity'' is a cu
use among pu
tting the arse
before the torse
I wish I had a copy of that letter, which I only got a brief look at.
In the on-line essay "Strategies, Brains, Neural Networks, and
Cognitive Science: Re-Programming the P of NLP by Joseph O'Connor
and Brian Van der Horst,
They explain how they think the founding flaw in NLP was the
metaphor of programming people. (I've wondered the same
thing. What if they'd called it Neuro-Linguistic Healing
O'Connor and Van der Horst ask:
How has the programming metaphor influenced NLP? Think of
modeling. NLP developed originally by taking the patterns
of idiosyncratic geniuses (Perls, Satir and and particularly
Erickson) and applying them in different fields. This has
been incredibly useful and generative in some ways and
disastrous in others. Patterns have been taken out of context
and this has led to the whole morass of manipulation and values
issues. If you extract Erickson's incredible hypnotic influencing
skills and treat then as if they can be transferred independent
of Erickson's ethics and values you are asking for trouble.
The trouble caused is proportional to the power of the tools
you have. Perhaps this is why Gregory Bateson, who
enthusiastically endorsed Structure of Magic 1 by Bandler
and Grinder, is later reported to have said, "NLP? If you
come across NLP, run as fast as possible in the opposite
direction. I have stopped sending people to study Milton,
they all come back power hungry."
There is a parable at the beginning of "The Structure of Magic: A Book
About Language and Therapy" (1975) by Richard Bandler and John Grinder,
that is instructive, though perhaps not in the way they intended:
The Prince and the Magician
Once upon a time there was a young prince who believed in all
things but three. He did not believe in princesses, he did not
believe in islands, he did not believe in God. His father, the
king, told him that such things did not exist. As there were
no princesses or islands in his father's domain, and no sign of
God, the prince believed his father.
But then, one day, the prince ran away from his palace and
came to the next land. There, to his astonishment, from every
coast he saw islands, and on these islands, strange and
troubling creatures whom he dared not name. As he was
searching for a boat, a man in full evening dress approached
him along the shore.
"Are those real islands?" asked the young prince.
"Of course they are real islands," said the man in evening dress.
"And those strange and troubling creatures?"
"They are all genuine and authentic princesses."
"Then God must also exist!" cried the prince.
"I am God," replied the man in evening dress, with a bow.
The young prince returned home as quickly as he could.
"So, you are back," said his father, the king.
"I have seen islands, I have seen princesses, I have seen God,"
said the prince reproachfully.
The king was unmoved.
"Neither real islands, nor real princesses, nor a real God exist."
"I saw them!"
"Tell me how God was dressed."
"God was in full evening dress."
"Were the sleeves of his coat rolled back?"
The prince remembered that they had been. The king smiled.
"That is the uniform of a magician. You have been deceived."
At this, the prince returned to the next land and went to the
same shore, where once again he came upon the man in full
"My father, the king, has told me who you are," said the
prince indignantly. "You deceived me last time, but not
again. Now I know that those are not real islands and
real princesses, because you are a magician."
The man on the shore smiled.
"It is you who are deceived, my boy. In your father's
kingdom, there are many islands and many princesses. But
you are under your father's spell, so you cannot see them."
The prince pensively returned home. When he saw his father,
he looked him in the eye.
"Father, is it true that you are not a real king, but
only a magician?"
The king smiled and rolled back his sleeves.
"Yes, my son, I'm only a magician."
"Then the man on the other shore was God."
"The man on the other shore was another magician."
"I must know the truth, the truth beyond magic."
"There is no truth beyond magic," said the king.
The prince was full of sadness. He said, "I will kill myself."
The king by magic caused death to appear. Death stood in
the door and beckoned to the prince. The prince shuddered.
He remembered the beautiful but unreal islands and the
unreal but beautiful princesses.
"Very well," he said, "I can bear it."
"You see, my son," said the king, "you, too, now begin to
be a magician."
Reprinted from The Magus, by Fowles, Dell Publishing Co.,
Inc.; pp. 499-500.
I was pondering this parable on July 4, 1976, the Bicentennial,
as I wandered through the Capitol building, exploring the
when I heard whispering that seemed for a moment, to be saying
"Hassan i Sabah." I realized it was a trick of the acoustics,
but it got me thinking about the old man of the desert.
He used to say, "Nothing is true, everything is permitted."
With me were August and Matt, two friends from Kresge who
taken some NLP classes, and I shared with them this realization:
Grinder and Bandler are like Hasan i Sabah. (Nowadays I also
recognize the analog to Aleister Crowley's "Do what Thou wilt
shall be the whole of the Law" from 1904's "The Book of the Law".)
What I didn't know then is that while I was bicycling
across the continent looking for America, G&B were
melting down. As this old newsgroup posting
From: Lee Lady
Subject: Linguistics and NLP ( was Re: General Semantics)
Summary: NLP is an offshoot of General Semantics.
Date: Thu, 2 Sep 1993 05:58:48 GMT
Neurolinguistic Programming never developed into an academic
subject. Grinder was denied tenure at Santa Cruz despite the
strength of his research, because in his Linguistics 101 course
he was putting students into trances and doing many other
outrageous things that resulted in the course becoming known
as "Dr. Grinder's mindf### course." Besides that, the original
developers of NLP simply did not have an academic temperament
(with the exception of Robert Dilts and Steve Gilligan, who
eventually went on to get a Ph.D. in Psychology from Stanford
and is now a licensed psychologist, as well as giving seminars
in Ericksoe Hypnosis). Furthermore, at the time Bandler and
Grinder had some fairly severe personal problems, including
Bandler's heavy usage of cocaine.
For a while, Bandler and Grinder thought that they could turn
NLP into a product which could be promoted to the general
public for a lot of money. I'm sure that they must have had
the examples of L. Ron Hubbard and Werner Erhard in mind.
(You have to remember that at this point they had no academic
position and were living on the edge of poverty. But of course
this sort of attitude certainly didn't endear them to the
Much later, an NLP student of Grinder's named Tony (Anthony)
Robbins would become quite successful in offering a very watered
down version of NLP to the public. (You can see his infomercials
on late night television and his books on prominent display in
bookstores.) But nobody doing serious NLP has ever managed to
get rich from it. The subject is just too demanding to appeal
to the new age crowd.
Nasrudin sat on a river bank when someone shouted to him from
the other bank: "Hey! how do I get across?"
"You are across!" Nasrudin shouted back.
-- old Sufi tale
American self-improvement peddlers are are an archetype that has
been around at least as long as the Medicine Show.
The old glad-hander Dale Carnegie in "How to Win Friends and
Influence People" (book, 1937)
gave common sense advice on how to be likable.
Grand master Napolean Hill wrote "Think and Grow Rich" (book, 1937)
at the urging of steel tycoon Andrew Carnegie, who challenged Hill
to make a study of self-made wealthy men and divine the common factors
in all their stories.
Upbeat preacher Norman Vincent Peal wrote "The Power of Positive
Thinking" (book, 1952)
just prior to the Soviet Union getting the H-bomb.
One of personal least-favorites, Maxwell Maltz wrote
"Psycho-Cybernetics" (book, 1960)
about the benefits of self-hypnosis and what we now call
"affirmations" but also confused a lot of people about
what "cybernetics" is.
Just about every contemporary self-help guru pays homage to
Jim Rohn. A recent tape of one of his motivational talks is
"The Art of Exceptional Living" (audiobook, 1994).
I love how he described when people are "behind in their promises"
and you ask them why, they blame the economy, the company, the
government, etc., but it never occurs to them to say, "Well,
it's this lousy philosophy I've got."
Robert Allen gained fame with "Nothing Down" (book, 1984)
and then branched out into "Multiple Streams of Income" (book, 2000).
I've attended a few of his seminars, and one thing he deals with
that I really like is how you react to failure. Positive thinking
is great, but if you insist "I will never fail because I'm a winner"
then if you DO fail, what does that make you?
In the breakout indie hit "Little Miss Sunshine" (movie, 2006)
(which won two Academy Awards) Greg Kinnear plays a struggling
self-help guru who doesn't have a plan to deal with failure,
either for his clients or himself. But challenges and setbacks
forge our character -- the autobiographies of our presidents
all seem to agree on this (especially Nixon).
Another lesson I learned at a Robert Allen seminar wasn't from
him, but from another attendee. She served as one of the most
powerful NEGATIVE examples I have ever met. She had read every
book by Robert Allen, and had his most recent one, "Multiple
Streams of Internet Income" (2002)
which she had marked up with color tags. The color codes of
the tags indicated WHY EACH SUGGESTION OR PLAN WOULDN'T WORK.
"My word," I thought, "if only she'd devoted that amount of
effort to working on one project in the book, she might have
a new income stream by now."
In my forthcoming self-published book, "A Survival Guide for the
Traveling Techie" (2007) by Alan Scrivener,
I explain why I like self-help courses:
Some of the biggest fools I've ever met would insist
loudly that they were "fine" and didn't need any improving
whenever the subject of self-improvement came up. Mind you,
I didn't have to recommend anything to them, or tell them
I thought they needed any help; all I had to do was just
mention that I was taking a seminar and it would set them
off. (Interestingly, none of these people seemed happy or
successful, even by their own modest standards, but their
explanation for this always seemed to involve blaming others
for what they perceived as unfair treatment.)
Conversely, all of the people I have met who were wildly
successful were keen on self-improvement regimes of one kind
or another. Some take seminars, some practice meditation,
some go to mass several times a week and pray frequently,
some say daily affirmations, some listen to inspiration or
motivational audio tapes in their car, some read self-help
books, and some do a combination of the above.
When I talk about these tools for personal betterment, two
questions I frequently get are:
* "Does this stuff really work?"
* "Is there a chance that some of this stuff may do
more harm than good?"
For the first question I answer, "yes."
For the second question I typically tell people that if
they watch television or listen to the radio, nothing they
encounter in a seminar or on a tape could possibly be nearly
as bad for them as some commercials. (It's a lot like
worrying about pesticides in your water when you smoke
cigarettes -- the government's tests on rats indicate that
cigarettes are about forty million times more likely to give
you cancer that the trace chemical pesticides in your water.)
Advertisers spend billions of dollars trying to reach you
with their message. I sometimes run into people who insist
that advertising "doesn't work," usually the same people who
insist they are "fine" when I mention self-help technologies.
But businesses wouldn't spend the billions if they weren't
getting the results. Advertising's mission is to create
dissatisfaction, to make you some how unhappy with your
life as it is, and then to offer a solution in the form of
their product. You spend a lot of mindshare every day
fending off these mental attacks, and many of them penetrate
your defenses and work their unpleasant business below
the threshold of your consciousness. (Maybe it's because
I live in an area with a high density of bio-tech drug
companies, but I am always hearing ads on the radio looking
for people with clinical depression to participate in drug
trials. "Are you feeling low energy? Does nothing excite
you any more? Do you remember when you used to enjoy doing
things?" I swear, you can end up depressed just listening
to the ads!) What seminars, books and tapes typically do
is to use this same technology to propagandize you into
being more self-actualized, more motivated, more empowered,
more confident, and to have higher self-esteem, courage
and resourcefulness. What could be wrong with that?
In the novel "Ragtime" (1975) by E. L. Doctorow,
there is encounter between -- if memory serves -- John D.
Rockefeller and Henry Ford. Rockefeller tells how he journeyed
to Egypt and studied the teachings of Rosicrucians and achieved
enlightenment. Ford says he found a fortune in a Cracker Jack
box and achieved enlightenment.
The same patterns seem to appear over and over in this stuff.
There was a parody of self help by Will Powers (really Lynn
Goldsmith and Sting) called "Adventures in Success" (1983),
Adrenalynn `Music (BMI) / Reggatta Music / Illegal Songs Inc. (BMI),
Island Records, Inc. Its lyrics were:
It's you. Only you. [repeat]
You are an important person. A rare individual. A unique
creature. There has never been anyone just like you and never
will be. You have talents and abilities no one else has. In
some ways you're superior to any other living person. The power
to do anything you can imagine is within you when you discover
your real self by practicing a few simple laws of success.
First law of success. Take inventory of your assets. Don't be
modest or critical. Be open and objective. Get a pencil and
paper. Write down every good thins about yourself you can think of.
It's you. Make it habit. Make it happen. Only you. [repeat]
Second law of success. Write a description of the person you'd
like to be. Describe your personal dress, your home, your
automobile, your desired occupation and income. Be honest.
Now, go even deeper. Describe the inner person you'd like to
be. Let your mind run wild. Assume you can become anything
that you desire. The fact is, you will become the person you
honestly describe. You can't avoid it.
It's you. Make it habit. Make it happen. Only you. [repeat]
Third law of success. Concentrate on a mental image of the
person you'd like to be. Paint a picture in your imagination
of who you want to become. Constantly hold this visual in your
mind's eye. See yourself performing and responding like a
champion. Feel the confidence and courage that radiate from
this type of person.
It's you. Only you. [repeat]
These three laws are powerful and effective in changing lives.
They'll work for you without fail if you're persistent in
Make it habit. Make it happen. Make it habit. [repeat]
It's you. Make it habit. Make it happen. Only you. [repeat]
An alternate ending to this song, not in the video on MTV and "Night
Flight" but in the radio airplay version, included an additional
post-hypnotic suggestion that shed some lights on the memetics of
self-help. As chronicled on a web page
was released in an extended version which featured
additional spoken lyrics that devolve into a
unit-pushing free fall:
"Your relationships will become more meaningful. But you
must do one thing. You must go to the store and buy this
record. You must not borrow it, you must not tape a copy
from a friend. You must not ask anyone to 'pick it up'
for you. This is an investment in yourself. YOU must
PUT OUT to GET BACK. YOU must take responsibility in
order to begin ... your adventures ... in ... success."
When I first got involved with modeling people in the field
of psychotherapy, I would ask them what outcome they were
working toward when they made a maneuver, when they reached
over and touched a person this way, or when they shifted
their voice tone here. And their answer was, "Oh, I have
no idea." I'd say, "Well, good. Are you interested in
exploring and finding out with me what the outcome was?"
And they would say, "Definitely not!" They claimed that
if they did specific things to get specific outcomes that
would be something bad, called "manipulating."
We call ourselves MODELERS. What we essentially do is to
pay very little attention to what people SAY they do and a
great deal of attention to what they DO. And then we build
ourselves a model of what they do. We are not psychologists,
and we're also not theologians or theoreticians. We have NO
idea about the "real" nature of things, and we're not
particularly interested in what's "true." The function of
modeling is to arrive at descriptions which are USEFUL. So,
if we happen to mention something that you know from a
scientific study, or from statistics, is inaccurate,
realize that a different level of experience is being
offered you here. We're not offering you something that's
TRUE, just things that are USEFUL.
We know that our modeling has been sucessful when we can
systematically get the same behvioral outcome as the person
we have modeled. And when we can teach somebody else to be
able to get the same outcomes in a systematic way, that's
an even stronger test.
-- Richard Bandler and John Grinder, 1979
"Frogs Into Princes: Neuro Linguistic Programming"
I can honestly say I learned a lot more from Grinder and Bandler
from their books than I did from their class. In addition to
the above-mentioned pair of 2-volume books, they have published
many others, of which I have read:
A more complete list is on Amazon.
Here are some crucial concepts I've gleaned from the reading:
- avoid psychotheology - In "Frogs..." they wrote: "Most
knowledge in the field of psychology is organized
in ways that mix together what we call 'modeling'
-- what traditionally has been called 'theorizing'
-- and what we consider theology. The descriptions
of what people do have been mixed together with
descriptions of what reality 'is.' When you mix
experience together with theories and wrap them
all up in a package, that's a PSYCHOTHEOLOGY.
What has developed in psychology is different
religious belief systems with very powerful
evangelists working from all of these differing
- the importance of feedback between researchers and practitioners
- As they wrote in "Frogs..." "Another strange thing
about psychology is that there's a whole body of people
called 'researchers' who will not associate with the
people who are practicing! Somehow the field of
psychology got divided so that the researchers no
longer provide information for, and respond to, the
clinical practitioners in the field. That's not true
in the field of medicine. In medicine, the people doing
research are trying to find things to help the
practitioners in the field. And the practitioners
respond to the researchers, telling them what they
need to know more about."
- Ross Ashby's "Law of Requisite Variety" - In Ashby's
"Introduction to Cybernetics" he frames the law
that to control a finite digital system the CONTROLLER
must have the same or greater VARIETY (= information
= number of states) as the CONTROLLED. G&B applied
this to a situation in which they toured a mental
hospital, and upon entering one ward were told "be
very quiet, this is where the catatonics are."
They pointed out that if they were catatonic, it
must be VERY HARD to disturb them, and also that
if the mental health professionals were to be
effective as healers they were going to need greater
variety than a bunch of catatonics.
- trying to beat repression is a tough game - A few times G&B
tried to tackle a patient's repression mechanisms
"head on." It hardly ever worked. People can
repress anything. They can go amnesiac in a hot
New York second.
- pranks as therapy - When they were doing counseling at Kresge
G&B had one woman who said she had trouble
confronting people or showing anger. They told her
to wait in the waiting room while they sat in their
office (reading magazines) for more than an hour,
until finally she burst in shouting. One of them
said to her, "So you CAN show anger and confront
people..." I also was told by a fellow Kresge
student how Grinder asked her to help him break into
his own office, where he had a patient waiting who
had a phobioa about break-ins.
- the importance of anchors and triggers - An emotionally
intense experience "E" accompanied by a distinct
sensory experience "A" sets an anchor. Later
reptition of A triggers the state from E. Example:
movies set anchors such as the bass violin music in
"Jaws." Later, when yolu go to Universal Studios
and ride the tram, the driver can push a button to
play the bass violin music, triggering the anchor.
- reframing - A change in context can change behavior like
- hypnosis can cure almost anything - There seems to be almost
no limit to what hypnosis can heal. Change blood
sugar: yes. Treat heroin addicition: yes. Heal
broken bones: no. (But probably the healing can be
sped up somewhat.) Cure cancer: sometimes.
- trance inductions - G&B's work is full of trance inductions
of all types. There was one in "Trance-Formations"
that I read aloud to my wife one evening while she
washing dishes. She stood there quietly for a while
holding a dirty knife while the water ran down the
drain before I realized she was in a trance. She
scolded me afterwards, "Don't do that to me while
I'm washing knives," she said. "I might cut myself."
- no trance needed - Ultimately G&B discovered, in Erickson's
work and their own, that a trance isn't really needed.
A hypnotist may spend many minutes, or even many
sessions, geting a client into a "deep trance"
in order to give themselves permission to deliver
hypnotic commands. The same commands delivered with
the same tonalities and body language to an awake,
relaxed person can have the same results.
TO BE CONTINUED...
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