LINDISFARNE CAFE – MEMOIR
With Gregory Bateson’s Mind in Nature
We were six sitting on the porch of Gregory Bateson’s cabin at Lindisfarne. The late summer evening’s light was shining through the scrub oak trees onto the waters of Fishcove in Noyack Bay, and all of us were feeling the relaxed atmosphere, not just of the end of the day, but the end of summer and the end of four years of Lindisfarne in Southampton. Always before we were piously at work, winterizing the 29 cabins, repairing the central Lodge, and transforming a playing field into an organic garden; and, of course, to sustain all the work, fund-raising. For four years the huge mortgage consumed whatever funds I could raise, but, at last, I knew that it was no use, that I would have to give the facility back at summer’s end to default on the mortgage and lose everything the community had put into the place in terms of labor and money, so now we were resigned and at peace, and for the first time, were simply enjoying the property: the beach, the walks through the marshes off Swamp Road near Sag Harbor where Gregory stalked a rare osprey with his costly Nikon zoom lens and his even more precious understanding. We relaxed in the peace of letting go, and I relaxed the community rules and decided to permit the conviviality of wine to touch the hitherto strict severity of our “spiritual” life. Like many of my generation who had made the Journey to the East in the seventies, I was trying very hard to be “spiritual” and not merely intellectual. In that summer of 1977, Gregory was our Scholar-in-Residence and had introduced the very British and civilizing custom of having Dry Sack and Stilton cheese as we met on the porch of his cabin at the end of the workday to philosophize or simply to socialize. On that particular afternoon, Gregory leaned back and regarded me through the distorting lens of his glass of sherry, and said: “William and Beatrice. Harrumphh!” William and Beatrice were the names of Gregory’s parents. And since William is my first name and Beatrice is my second wife’s name, I thought about Gregory’s double meaning. It was not so much that I was Gregory’s father-figure, for I was forty years his junior and a good English foot shorter; it was more that I was–as the founder–the Big Daddy of Lindisfarne. I was also not one of Gregory’s fans, breathless in adoration, who surrounded him at Lindisfarne and Esalen, but was always prodding and pushing him intellectually, as if I knew something that he didn’t. Perhaps this was the style of dialogue his father had used with him long before. Gregory was deep into the writing of Mind and Nature, and since I had the cabin next to his, I often noticed that his light would be on at four in the morning as he got up to begin his writing day. As the community rose to attend the morning’s seven o’clock sitting of meditation, he would put on his tape of Glenn Gould’s Goldberg Variations. From the look in his eye when he had earlier spoken about “William and Beatrice,” I sensed that he felt the book to be his intellectual last will and testament, and in summing up a life’s work, he had also summoned up the ghost of his famous father, the geneticist William Bateson, and the shadow of inferiority it had cast across his life. Gregory had resolved to prove himself to the scientific patriarchy; it was not enough for him to rest easy with the hero-worship of such fringe institutions as Lindisfarne, Naropa, Esalen, or Zen Center in San Francisco; no, he wanted both Cambridges to admit that he knew something that they didn’t. And indeed he did. But neither Cambridge has yet owned up to it, and the reviews that were later to come in such voices of the scientific establishment as Naturewere to be very patronizing indeed. Recently, however, there have been signs of a change, and Gregory seems to be finding his rightful place as a permanent feature of our intellectual landscape as the anthropologist who took the next step after Poincaré in extending the new science of complex dynamical systems into understanding the workings of the family, rituals in culture, and the conscious civilizational process in the larger extended mind of the living environment. On another one of those afternoons of Sherry and Stilton, I was with Christopher Bamford, Michael Katz, and the eternally silent Dian Woodner and Will Marsh—members of the Lindisfarne community and avid students of Gregory’s work. It was Christopher, Dian, and Michael who had first introduced me to Steps to an Ecology of Mind. The three of them were making a film on ecology and Gregory’s ideas and came to visit me at Lindisfarne “on a dark and stormy night” in the hopes that I would fund their project. But it was to be Dian who was later to help with funding for Lindisfarne-in-Manhattan and at the Cathedral. I was open to hearing their pitch about Bateson because I had used Gregory’s Naven in my undergraduate Honors Thesis at Pomona College in 1962,[i] but I had not caught up with Steps until 1974. That year Gregory, Joyce Carol Oates, and I were members of a panel for a conference in New York that was to help raise funds for Esalen Institute, so I used the occasion to do some catching up on Gregory’s more recent work. Michael Katz offered a seminar on Steps to the residents of Lindisfarne, and I took the opportunity of meeting Gregory in New York to invite him to visit us out in the Hamptons. In 1975 Gregory joined us in one of our Lindisfarne Conferences on “Conscious Evolution and the Evolution of Consciousness.” This conference developed into a hockey face-off between the Confucian mandarinism of Jonas Salk and the ecological Taoism of Gregory Bateson, and the gathering was featured in an article by Ted Morgan in the New York Times Sunday Magazine.[ii] All of us at Lindisfarne were more sympathetic with Gregory than with Jonas Salk. When I invited Jonas, I specifically asked him not to give the same speech on “Epoch A and Epoch B” that he gave at a conference we were attending in Washington D.C., and that I would have everybody read his book, The Survival of the Wisest, before the Lindisfarne conference. But Jonas gave his stump speech, so I was annoyed and frustrated that we could not take it to a higher intellectual level. I was frustrated because in the Lindisfarne form of conference I had come upon a way to avoid the boring panel discussions in which there were too many speakers for any one person to be able to say anything of lasting value, or the even more boring reading of papers that was the model for most hotel-type conferences that prevailed in the academic world. Our conferences began with a long breakfast, from 8:00 to 10:00, in which lively conversations and debates began over coffee around the tables of the dining room overlooking Fishcove. At 10:00 we moved into the adjacent lecture room, where one speaker was given a full hour to sing his or her intellectual aria. Then we would break for coffee, and after the break one of the other speakers would give a ten minute comment to open a period of general discussion that often lasted for an hour and a half. We would then move back to the dining room for lunch, but after lunch there were no afternoon sessions scheduled, so people could break into small groups and take walks along the beach, or go into the village. Those who found the Lindisfarne rule of “no alcohol” too Puritan often went to the Driver’s Seat pub in the village to have a drink. We would gather again together for evening meditation, then dinner, and at 8:00 we would gather for a single evening lecture, which was, once again, followed by a ten minute comment and an open discussion.
The discussions were exciting, the relaxed atmosphere encouraged the development of friendships, and there often appeared a general sense of participation in a group spirit that was quite extraordinary. Gregory generally preferred small conferences in which a handful of participants could sit around the table, but he warmed to our larger gatherings of seventy or more, and made many new friends which he kept to the end of his days. To keep the conferences from falling apart, I served as both the host and the director of our intellectual chamber music ensemble. At the opening night of the conference, I would give a welcoming talk that presented an intellectual landscape in which all of those present were important features of the terrain, and at the end of the conference, I would give a wrap-up talk that put all the talks we had heard into a new imaginative landscape that had implications for our future. During the conference, I would introduce the speaker, discuss the importance of his or her work, and show how it related to the work of the previous speaker. The task of being the host at Lindisfarne was no simple toastmaster general’s job, but required that I read all the speakers’ books beforehand and put these stars into some coherent philosophical constellation.
What emerged in this imaginative landscape of Lindisfarne was a new relationship between epistemology and ecology in Gregory’s critique of “conscious purpose” and John Todd’s “Living Machines.” Baconian science is a strategy of separation, analysis, and control. This is the familiar world I had known at MIT in which “Man” dominated nature. But in John Todd’s designs for bioshelters, the bacterial realm was reintroduced in bioplasms that served to break down and digest “pollutants” in a form of environmental remediation that was quite literally cultured.
John Todd’s “New Alchemy” was bringing forth a new kind of science based upon pattern recognition, imaginative articulation, and cultural participation. At the conferences we all could feel that we were in the presence of something new, not simply a new idea or theory, but a new world view. When the critique of Computationalism in the “Embodied” cognitive science of Francisco Varela was added to this world view in 1977, and then the Gaia evolutionary theory of James Lovelock and Lynn Margulis in 1981, it began to be obvious to all of us that a more human science was showing its face at Lindisfarne and that just such a science was as critical to the process of planetization as any esoteric philosophy of the past. In my lectures, both at the beginning and end of these Lindisfarne conferences, I tried to make this imaginary landscape visible to all, for I believed this new world view held out our best hope for effecting the transition from a disintegrating industrial civilization to an emerging planetary culture. After the intellectual excitement of the summer conference of 1975, Gregory became part of the horizon of Lindisfarne. To recognize that in the presence of people like Gregory and Mary Catherine Bateson, E. F. Schumacher, David Spangler, John and Nancy Todd, and Hazel Henderson, a new kind of group soul was being embodied of those who expressed the spirit of what I called the new planetary culture, I decided to create the Lindisfarne Fellowship within the Association. No longer were teaching fellows simply to be resident faculty or staff, but a special group of those around the world whose works served to help us in articulating and effecting the shift from one world civilization to another.
But this palpable feeling of a group soul or angelic mind overlighting our conferences began to introduce a fault line in our midst, as if tectonic plates were separating into two different continents. The real community was this fellowship, this noetic polity; the intentional community did not carry this sense of presence, except at moments in times of silent group meditation. The intentional community seemed to become possessed by a matristic neolithic archetype–the shadow of the Great Mother–and was pulled down into a kind of collective neurosis, or psychodrama, in which individuals played out the pain of having been damaged in the families of their childhood.
On one side, the young men in the community wanted to assume an alpha male leadership in our primate band and resented my alpha role as founder and fund-raiser; and on the other side, the women in the community resented the pushiness of the alpha and subdominant males in the community meetings and wished to assert a new feminist sisterhood. It would seem that the intentional community, in trying to go forward into the future, was turning on the spiral in a process that McLuhan called cultural retrieval and was retrieving both the primate band of leadership through dominance, and the matristic neolithic village of collective leadership through “the old Ma’s.” And yet, when the Lindisfarne Fellows arrived for the gatherings, we all seemed to be lifted up out of this emotional morass of the unconscious and bathed in the light of a larger world of art and science and global green politics. Later, in a lecture at the Frankfurt Book Fair in 1984, when James Lovelock and Lynn Margulis had already joined the Lindisfarne Fellowship, I would call the political implications of this new culture the Gaia Politique. [iii] In 1977 I had raised a small amount of money from the Rockefeller Brothers Fund—a grant of $15,000 a year for three years—to support a scholar-in-residence program for our new facility in Manhattan, and Gregory was my first choice to start up this program. We had acquired an abandoned Episcopal Church at the corner of Twentieth Street and Sixth Avenue in Manhattan. The facility included the Church, the Parish Hall, the Rectory, and a small town house called “the Sisters’ House”—sisters meaning Episcopal nurses. The rent was only a dollar a year for ninety-nine years, but the White Elephant catch was that the buildings were in very bad shape, and the heating alone would consume $15,000 a year.
Gregory accepted my invitation, both to enjoy the last summer of our place by the sea in Southampton, and to flee the steady stream of devotees in California who came to admire but also interrupted. Since Gregory was a slow and painstaking writer, interruptions were often welcome relief, but he knew that it was getting late and that the book had to be finished. Besides, Gregory was not interested in merely being admired; he wanted to be understood, and then respected. So the fact that I liked to argue with him and refused to become a Bateson devotee made him feel more at home at intellectual Lindisfarne than at sensory-awakened Esalen. When Gregory arrived, we got together to plan a small conference on “Mind and Nature” that would help him gather his thoughts for the final work. His daughter Mary Catherine Bateson was first on our list to invite, because she was absolutely brilliant in helping conferences to focus on the ideas developing among the speakers. Mary Catherine had been indispensable to Gregory in his 1968 Burg Wartenstein Conference in Austria, and she had been equally indispensable to us at our Lindisfarne Conference in 1976. To extend our discussions into physics, technology, and culture, we decided to invite the physicist David Finkelstein and the inventor Arthur Young. And when Gregory and I turned to biology, we both came out with the name “Francisco Varela!” at the same time. Gregory had already met Varela at a conference in California, and I had read Varela’s paper from that conference, “Not One, not Two,” that Stewart Brand had published in the Whole Earth Review. Varela was a destined choice, for in that small Mind and Nature conference, he proved so perfect a colleague to us all in the Lindisfarne community that I decided to award the second scholar-in-residence position to him so that his period of residency could follow Gregory’s return to California. Even with the loss of the Southampton property, those were good days, but on that particular day on the porch I was enjoying a good argument with Gregory. One of the things about me that frustrated Gregory was that I was a peculiar combination of ignorance and intuition, emotional confusion and intellectual clarity. After my wrap-up lecture in the 1975 conference, in which I tried to show how Gregory’s Taoist thinking was more politically benign than the Confucian elitism of Jonas Salk’s Survival of the Wisest, a few scientists and engineers became angry at me and fumed about the limits of “metaphoric thinking.” Lakoff and Johnson had not yet taught the engineers that all thinking is inherently metaphoric—mathematics included—so in those heady days engineers still labored under the illusion that mathematical rigor lived above in a realm of mind uncontaminated by the body.[iv] Gregory came nobly to my defense with all his impressive stature and seniority, and paid me a compliment that I still fondly recall: “It takes one to know one,” he said with finality, “and Bill’s got it!” But in the next year’s first Lindisfarne Fellows Conference on “Art and the Sacred,” I went beyond Gregory’s limit of tolerance for metaphoric thinking as I began to wax too eloquent about the poetry of structures revealed in Edgerton’s famous photograph of the milkdrop corona.[v] I was picking up where I had left off in my honors thesis on the philosophy of history and riffing on about four-fold patterns in everything from Vico to Carnot cycles to the Archaic-Classic-Baroque-Archaistic/Romantic stylistic sequence in the development of Maya pyramids, and Gregory sprang to the attack as I finished. A milkdrop was a collision of particles; a pyramid was an artifact: one was of the pleroma, the other of the creatura. One was a mechanical collision, the other “news of a difference” that constituted information. I was not then, nor am I now, convinced that Gregory’s strict body/mind dualism of the pleroma/creatura is anything other than a cultural framing of perception by a modernist viewer. In my own peculiar combination of Celtic animism and the panpsychism Whitehead discussed in his philosophy of organism, I refused to recant and continued to play Celtic Druid to Gregory’s St. Boniface chopping down the idolatrous oak tree. That summer’s afternoon on the porch, however—a few months after the spring Fellows Conference—Gregory and I continued with the argument, but this time it was my turn to attack, but from two flanks at once: my Celtic animist’s monistic rejection of dualism, and Varela’s Buddhist position of non-dualism. We both had a good deal of fun with the old mysticism versus science debate, for Gregory was a repressed mystic, and I was a repressed scientist. Both of us had difficulties owning up to our repressions, and both of us chose the same strategy for living with our contradictions: we chose our friends well and then let them carry the repressed side of our natures. And so Gregory surrounded himself, at Lindisfarne and Esalen, with mystics whom he loved to patronize in intellectual superiority, and I surrounded myself with scientists whom I loved to patronize in mystical superiority. Although it was great fun in arguing with Gregory about things like astral projection–prodding him with anomalies in which the subject’s out-of-the-body perceptions were not simply dreams but could be externally verified by a third party–he was not willing to change his mind, and at that particular time of his life, the last thing on Earth he wanted to become was a New Age mystic. So I leaned back in my chair, looked at Gregory over the rim of my sherry glass, and took another tack: “You know, Gregory, it’s interesting: here we are, three students of your work, all men in our thirties, but we are all going further with it than you want. Michael here has moved on into Buddhism and is actually sitting zazen. Christopher is into Christian mysticism and is at work on an anthology of the Western esoteric tradition. And I am carrying on with this Celtic “revitalization movement” called Lindisfarne. The image that I see in my mind’s eye is that all four of us have come to the end of the mind of Europe, but now that we are at the edge, we have jumped into the water and are calling back to you to come on in, that the water is warm and fine. But you keep standing there at the edge, refusing to strip yourself of all your European clothing and habits of mind to start swimming.” “Harrummphh!” was all that Gregory said in a deep leonine growl that reverberated in the enormous depths of his 6’6″ frame. At least Gregory did not stroll back and forth along the edge with starched collar and walking stick, making profound speculations on the viscosity of water. He was not like Heidegger, thinking about being, but unwilling to be anything but a Western European thinker. Gregory knew that there were other modes of life out there, and he had been on close and personal terms with dolphins, native peoples, and schizophrenics; it was just that he had some things he needed to finish. For him, the stripping off of Europe would be the final act in a contemplative death—one that he carried out with courage and honesty when he died three years later at Zen Center in San Francisco. It is easy to understand why Gregory would refuse to indulge in the New Age thinking of California, and why he would hold on to European science in that last imaginary dialogue with his father, or why he wished to complete a life’s work with final recognition from the patriarchate of established science; but it was not always easy to accept Gregory’s role as the objective observer who held to the edges of experience, looking for “news of a difference,” yet one who remained unwilling to commit himself to either the continent of the past or the ocean of the future. Characteristically, on those times when he chose to join the community in the morning sittings of silent meditation, he would keep his eyes open to study the postures and body language of others, just as once he had filmed the Balinese going into trance. He remained the anthropologist, haunting the edges of civilization and savagery, and loving the shore that allowed him to have the best of sea air that came from the touch of ocean and land. Small wonder he spent so much time at Big Sur. Gregory was not willing to be a brittle, dried-up thinker from Britain, nor a soggy and self-indulgent touchy-feely from California, and he never was. Later during that summer of 1977 in Southampton, when Francisco Varela came to join us for the small conference on “Mind and Nature” that Gregory chaired, I asked him about Gregory’s intellectual hesitancy, and he answered:”Gregory has completed one major scientific revolution in his lifetime. You can’t expect a man to make a second, especially in his seventies.” Looking back on the cultural period of the seventies in the United States, I think Gregory was right to hold back. We have all seen some trendy scientists leave the community of practicing scientists to launch themselves onto the New Age lecture circuit, where they can only be admired by people who really have no way of knowing whether what they say is true or false. And although Gregory, like the aged Heidegger, was beginning to see that the Buddhist philosophy of mind had something to contribute toward a reconceptualization of epistemology, he knew that the younger generation of people like myself, Francisco Varela, and my son Evan Thompson—who as a fifteen year old was listening in on all our conversations—was in a better position to rethink Europe in the context of the East.[vi] For Gregory’s generation the shadow of his parents, and the shadows of the cultural grandparents, Darwin, Marx, and Freud, demanded a turning around in California to face toward Europe. But for the people of my generation there could be no simple going back. The giants of modernism, whether Wittgenstein or Joyce, had culturally finished Europe; and although intellectuals like Jurgen Habermas and Jacques Derrida carried on with the old life of the intelligentsia, a xerox of a xerox was not an original. It is time to swim out or sail on, even though the waters can be dangerous. As one moves away from the shore, that ultimate extension of Europe into California where Gregory spent his last days, one can begin to see how the shore relates to the continental shelf. For most people, Gregory’s last work, Mind and Nature, is his ultimate work. For me, Steps to an Ecology of Mind is the greater work. The historian of science, Steven Toulmin, characterized Gregory as a scout and the David Levine caricature in the New York Review of Books shows Gregory on a horse, learning the territory in advance of the scientific townsfolk who will settle down into their tenured professorships. In Steps, Gregory brought together anthropology, cybernetics, epistemology, and psychology together in a freshness of vision that calls to mind the first man to climb out of the Colorado River to look at the entire Grand Canyon and understand the story the strata told. In Mind and Nature, Gregory went back to the townsfolk and tried to talk to them in their terms and on their turf. The Batesonian intelligence is there, but it is a routinization of charisma that lacks the visionary power of Steps. Steps shows Gregory with all his strengths in evidence, but Mind and Nature shows his weaknesses in mathematics, biology, and philosophy. Precisely because Gregory was not a professor of mathematics or philosophy, he was free to be original, but constrained also to reinvent the wheel, mainly because he refused to read very much. Gregory came from a privileged class, and at Cambridge he got used to receiving knowledge orally by being present when Russell or Whitehead were presenting their ideas, and that is why he preferred to learn from small conferences, like the Macy Conferences, in which the major players were there in the flesh to embody their ideas.[vii] I don’t think Gregory ever sat down to read Varela’s books, cover to cover. Gregory did not know the basic literature of Western philosophy, and he never rushed about, trying to keep up with all the disciplines that were moving so fast around him. He was a genius, but he was a slow thinker, and his mind moved like a tectonic plate; but when it had moved, the whole landscape was transformed. Gregory’s idea of the “double bind” is no longer thought to be the cause of schizophrenia, but in the way that scholarship is often disguised autobiography, the double bind may have been the cause of Gregory’s intellectual genius. Faced with the cognitive dissonance of an intolerable contradiction, his mind had to shift from simple perceptions to creative imagination. For me, Gregory’s essay “Form, Substance, and Difference” is a perfect gem of philosophical literature. It has the vernacular freshness of an early Platonic dialogue or Descartes’ “Discourse on Method.” And just as Descartes’ “Discourse” in French was not a tract in Latin intended for Church fathers rooted and rutted in centuries of scholasticism, so Gregory’s talks at the end of Steps are not merely “papers” read to academic congresses; they are forms of life. Looking back at the way in which the shore relates to the cliff, and the way the cliff relates to the mountain range, I would say that Gregory Bateson is an important part of the intellectual history of the twentieth century. In the final century of the second millennium Anno Domini, there were four major phases to the uncovering of the unconscious. First came the uncovering of the instinctive unconscious, of the basic mamalian life of Eros and Thanatos in the work of Freud. Then came the uncovering of the human psychic life of the collective unconscious in the work of Jung. Then came the uncovering of the intellectual unconscious, of the “positive unconscious” or “episteme” of a preliterate tribe or a literate epoch in the work of Lévi-Strauss and Foucault. And at the end of the century came the uncovering of the civilizational or Spiritual unconscious, that unconscious part of the body-politic or noosphere that we call “the other” of the environment. This Gaian unconscious of contemporary industrial civilization is now the dark, polluted, global ecology in which we all dwell. It is that “organism plus the environment” that is not described by the conscious boundaries and capitalistic goals of our “rational” industrial nation-states, or by our political and technological systems of governance through “conscious purpose.” The transition from the uncovering of the intellectual unconscious with Foucault to the uncovering of the civilizational unconscious is expressed in Gregory’s essay, “The Effects of Conscious Purpose on Human Adaptation.” The conference that Gregory chaired at Burg Wartenstein in Austria in 1968 was a prophetic form of discourse, for what Gregory saw early, all now can see on the evening news about the death of forests and coral reefs, and the melting of glaciers, permafrost, and ice sheets. To honor Gregory’s contribution to the Macy conferences in the forties and fifties, the Burg Wartenstein conference in the sixties, and the Lindisfarne conferences in the seventies, I asked the Lindisfarne Fellows to come together in a memorial conference at San Francisco Zen Center’s Green Gulch Farm in 1980 and again in 1981. Heinz von Foerster, one of the founding members of the Macy Conferences, joined with the Santiago School of the Biology of Knowledge represented by Humberto Maturana and Francisco Varela, and the French school of self-organizing systems biology, represented by Henri Atlan. To take these developments in complex dynamical thinking one step further, I also invited James Lovelock and Lynn Margulis, the exponents of what was then called the Gaia Hypothesis. These four groups and had never met before, and I began to see that this bringing together of separate groups so that they could see the larger imaginary landscape in which we all were situated was my truly esoteric mission with Lindisfarne.
Present also in these gatherings were Mary Catherine Bateson, Gary Snyder, Wendell Berry, Wes Jackson, John and Nancy Todd, Heinz and Elaine Pagels, Paul Winter and for the 1980 gathering the Governor of California, Jerry Brown. [viii] As I opened the conference with a moment of silence in memory of Gregory’s death at Zen Center the year before, it was evident from the very people in the room that Gregory’s work had been at the heart of something new.[ix] Gregory stepped, and we are stumbling, but the true Ecology of Mind remains to be realized.
[i][i] Notes The Philosophy of World View, Honors Thesis presented to the faculty in partial fulfilment of the degree of Bachelor of Arts, Pomona College, 1962. In this, my first book-length work, two chapters of which were published in Main Currents in Modern Thought in 1962 and 1964, I recognized Bateson’s important contribution in modeling a multi-causal process or cyclical chain, but even then I challenged his dualistic schema of ethos and eidos and invoked Whitehead. “This dualistic scheme of ethos and eidos, like all dualistic schemata, is at once convenient and perplexing, for on one hand, the scheme allows us to make distinctions, and on the other, it bifurcates essentially organic experience.” p. 89.
[ii] See Ted Morgan, “Looking for Epoch B,” New York Times Magazine, Feb. 29, 1976, p. 32. “I went to Lindisfarne to find out what was new in the 70’s…If an avant garde can be found today, it is not in art galleries or book stores. Painting and literature may have lost the capacity to startle, but Lindisfarne was startling.”
[iii] See Gaia, a Way of Knowing: Political Implications of the New Biology, ed. William Irwin Thompson (Hudson, NY: Lindisfarne Press, 1987).
[iv] See George Lakoff and Mark Johnson, Metaphors we live by (Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press, 1981), and George Lakoff and Rafael Núñez, Where mathematics comes from: how the embodied mind brings mathematics into being (New York: Basic Books, 2000). 4 Mary Catherine Bateson also recalls her father’s response to this talk and mentions it in her memoir of her parents, With a Daughter’s Eye (New York: William Morrow, 1984), p. 60.
[v] In the eighties, Varela and I met with Nishitani Keiji in Kyoto. I published Pacific Shift in 1985, and Evan Thompson and Francisco Varela gave lectures together at the Lindisfarne Fellows Conference in Perugia, Italy in 1988 and published their The Embodied Mind: Cognitive Science and Human Experience (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press) in 1991.
[vi] The talks at this conference were subsequently published in Gaia, A Way of Knowing, op.cit.
[vii] The Macy Conferences served to articulate the new science of cybernetics by bringing all the major contributors together. For a history of this period, see Jean-Pierre Dupuy, The Mechanization of the Mind: on the origins of cognitive science, (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2000).
[viii] Stewart Brand had introduced Governor Brown to the people and ideas he had encountered at the Lindisfarne Conferences in the seventies, both in Southampton and Manhattan, and the Lindisfarne Fellows Rusty Schweickart and Sim Van der Ryn were given appointments in Brown’s administration and Gregory was made a Trustee of the University of California. If Governor Brown rather than Governor Reagan had become President of the United States in 1980 and had implemented the Green politics of the Lindisfarne Fellows, we might not now be facing the American decline and possible global dark age that is in front of us. But Governor Brown was dismissed as “Governor Moonbeam,” and Americans voted to ride out the end of industrial civilization in their Humers and Lincoln Navigators. Character is destiny, and the American character of its “Know Nothing” nativist mentality so perfectly expressed in the world view of Michelle Bachmann and Sarah Palin seems about to bring about our decline.
William Irwin Thompson (born July, 1938) is known primarily as a social philosopher and cultural critic, but he has also been writing and publishing poetry throughout his career and received the Oslo International Poetry Festival Award in 1986. He has made significant contributions to cultural history, social criticism, the philosophy of science, and the study of myth. He describes his writing and speaking style as “mind-jazz on ancient texts”. He is an astute reader of science, social science, history, and literature. He is the founder of the Lindisfarne Association.
His book, Still Travels: Three Long Poems was published in 2009 by Wild River Books. Order a copy from Amazon.
Works by William Irwin Thompson
Memoir – Farewell Address at the Lindisfarne Fellows Conference
Memoir – Pilgrimage to Lindisfarne: 1972
Memoir – The Founding of the Lindisfarne Association in New York, 1971-73 – Part I
Memoir – The Founding of the Lindisfarne Association in New York, 1971-73 – Part 2: A Community in Fishcove, Long Island
Memoir – Building a Dream – Part One: Lindisfarne in Crestone, Colorado, 1979-1997
Memoir – My Dinner with Andre Gregory: Lindisfarne-in-Manhattan, 1977-1979
Memoir – Building a Dream/The Shadow Side Part Two: Lindisfarne in Crestone, Colorado, 1979-1997
Memoir – Building a Dream/The Cathedral Part Three: Lindisfarne in Crestone, Colorado, 1979-1997
Memoir – Conclusion: The Economic Relevance of Lindisfarne
Memoir – Raising Evan and Hilary: Reflections of a Homeschooling Parent
Memoir – Sex and the Commune
Memoir – Raising Evan and Hilary
Memoir – With Gregory Bateson’s Mind in Nature
After Heart Surgery: Hokusai’s Great Wave
A Lazy Sunday Afternoon
Nancy Grayson’s Bookstore
On Reading “The Penguin Book of English Verse”: on my iPad and Exercise Bike
Wild River Books/Poetry – Nightwatch and Dayshift: Cezanne
Anatolian Days and Nights and the Cultural Evolution of Spirituality
And the Votes are In: The American Elections of 2010
Avatar – When Technology Displaces Culture
Bedtime Story for a Civilization
The Big Picture: Reflections on Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines
The Big Picture, II
Child Abuse and the Catholic Church
The Digital Economy of W. Brian Arthur
From Shamanism to Religion, Part Two
From Religion to Post-Religious Spirituality, Part Three
From Religion to Post-Religious Spirituality: Conclusion
January 1, 2011: Reflections on the Philosophical Notions of Republicans
January 6, 2011 – Part Two: The Etherealization of Capitalism
Nature and Invisible Environments
Of Culture and the Nature of Extinction
On Nuclear Power
On Religion – Part One
On Religion and Nationalism: Ireland, Israel, and Palestine
On Transnational Military Interventions
A Pagan Ur-Text of the Lebor Gebála Érenn
Part 1 – The Shift from Industrial to a Planetary Civilization
Part 2 – The Shift from an Industrial to Planetary Civilization
Part 3 – The Shift from an Industrial to a Planetary Civilization – The Recovery of a Cosmic Orientation
Part 4 – The Shift from an Industrial to a Planetary Civlization – The Global War for Drugs
Part 5 – The Shift from an Industrial to a Planetary Civilization – The New Jerusalem
Part 6 – The Shift from an Industrial to a Planetary Civilization – Catastrophes as the Spur to Institute Tricameral Legislature
Part 7 – The Shift from an Industrial to a Planetary Civilization – Complex Dynamical Systems and Tricameral Legislatures
Part 8 – The Shift from a Industrial to a Planetary Civilization – Israel and Palestine: Sic transit gloria mundi
Part 9 – The Shift from an Industrial to a Planetary Civlization – On Sarah Palin and the Technocratic Society
Part 10 – The Shift from an Industrial to a Planetary Civilization – On Conspiracy Narratives as Expressive of the Transition from the Nation: State to the Noetic Polity
Part 11 – The Shift from an Industrial to a Planetary Civilization – Global Awareness and Personal Identity
Part 12 – The Shift from an Industrial to a Planetary Civilization – Conclusion: The United Nations
Political Meditation for the Fourth of July, 2011: Can We Shift from Empire Back to Republic?
St. David’s Day, 2011, Technology and Social Change
Saint Patrick’s Day, 2010: Us and Them: Identity and the State
Some Reflections on Hurricane Sandy and an Outline for a New Civilization
Technical Hubris: and the Sinkhole of Obama’s Centrism
Television and Social Class
Thanksgiving Day, 2010: The Uses and Abuses of History
The Elections of 2010
Thoughts on My new Kindle App: on My Mac iPad