17th June 2013: Esoteric Order of Beelzebub

For the past few months, I have been corresponding with Houston-based EBM/darkwave musician Paul Frederic (Asmodeus X).

 

We share some common interests that were a major part of my life in the 199os, and whilst writing for and editing the Disinformation website: the Gurdjieff Work; the Temple of Set; Spiral Dynamics; Neuro-linguistic Programming; futures studies and strategic foresight (which I studied in a Masters program at Australia’s Swinburne University); and the metaprogramming approaches of John C. Lilly and Robert Anton Wilson. The deep theme running through these different currents, organisations and methods is willed, sovereign, self-change and creative Action in the world.

 

I recently joined the Esoteric Order of Beelzebub: a confederation of independent artist-entrepreneurs (James Altucher), which Frederic made me aware of. The EOB’s mission statements is “leveraging conscious evolution!” Its public imagery draws on diverse sources: astrobiological space imagery; comparative religion and historical daemonology/goetia; libertarian economics; and the contemporary techno-sciences.

 

Many of my EOB contributions will be posted to this personal blog.

5th August 2012: Year 20 Personal Reading List

This is a personal reading list of books, ideas, and conceptual frameworks that have shaped my self-work, journalism, and Masters and PhD studies in strategic foresight, counterterrorism, and strategic culture. It draws on a range of contexts including two editorial stints with the alternative news website Disinformation (1998-2003 site archive); the Gurdjieff Work; the Temple of Set; and an evolving, personal research program. The TS letter codes refer to the research codes that Dr. Michael A. Aquino created for the Temple of Set’s publicly available Reading List (PDF).

 

Foundations

 

I Am A Strange Loop by Douglas Hofstadter (New York: Basic Books, 2007). (TS-4). Hofstadter is a cognitive science professor at Indiana University. He interrogates the ‘I’ – a person’s unique sense of consciousness – using mathematics, cybernetics, memoir, and analogical reasoning. Personal identity emerges for Hofstadter from self-referential perceptions that he likens to mathematician Kurt Godel’s ‘strange loops’. Hofstadter evokes a radically different ontological conceptualization of human identity, capability, and possibility.

 

Emotional Alchemy: How The Mind Can Heal The Heart by Tara Bennett-Goleman (New York: Harmony Books, 2001). (TS-3). Bennett-Goleman’s ‘emotional alchemy’ fuses Tibetan Buddhist mindfulness practices with Jeffrey Young’s schema therapy, developed as an offshoot of cognitive behavioral therapy to deal with destructive emotional patterns (schemas) that are often traceable to childhood history and family dynamics. Bennett-Goleman outlines an unfolding series of practices that – like Mihaly Csikzentmihalyi and Martin Seligman’s contributions to positive psychology – can lead to clarity, happiness, equanimity, and connection to a modern wisdom tradition. Jeffrey Young, Janet Klosko and Marjorie Weishaar’s Schema Therapy: A Practitioner’s Guide (New York: The Guilford Press, 2003) (TS-4) provides a clinical overview of Young’s initial development of schema therapy, the different schema modes, and has specific guidelines for borderline personality disorder and narcissistic personality disorder. (There are now more recent books for clinical practitioners that advance the schema therapy approach.) Jerome Blackman’s 101 Defenses: How the Mind Shields Itself (New York: Brunner-Routledge, 2004) (TS-4) outlines the major psychological defense mechanisms that psychoanalysis has discovered.

 

The Art of Learning: An Inner Journey to Optimal Performance (New York: The Free Press, 2008). (TS-1). Waitzkin is a chess grand master and Tai Chi Chuan world champion profiled in the book and film Searching For Bobby Fischer. This book explores Waitzkin’s approach to deep play, learning and performance: it parallels Mihaly Csikzentmihalyi’s study of ‘flow’ optimal, psychological states.

 

Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman (New York: Penguin Books, 2011). (TS-1). Kahneman and his late colleague Amos Tversky developed prospect theory: the scientific study of cognitive biases and decision heuristics. Kahneman was awarded the 2002 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics for this influential research program. Thinking, Fast and Slow is an accessible guide to prospect theory that distinguishes between System 1 (associative memory) and System 2 (rational, controlled thinking). It includes coverage of anchoring, availability, framing, narrative fallacy, representativeness, and other major cognitive biases and decision heuristics. Frank Partnoy’s Wait: The Useful Art of Procrastination (London: Profile Books, 2012) (TS-3) elaborates further on Kahneman’s insight that controlling time can lead to more effective decision-making.

 

Willpower: Rediscovering The Greatest Human Strength by Roy F. Baumeister and John Tierney (New York: The Penguin Press, 2011). (TS-3). Baumeister is a psychology professor at Florida State University whose research program focuses on the will, psychological self-regulation, and the reasons for ego depletion. This is a popular account of Baumeister’s experimental psychological research and it shows how habits and routines are one way to a healthy psychological existence. Some of Baumeister’s own books and research papers have greater clarity in writing.

 

Causal Models: How People Think About The World and Its Alternatives by Steven Sloman (New York: Oxford University Press, 2011). (TS-1). Sloman is a professor of psychology at Brown University. This book presents Sloman’s research program which combines cognitive science, Bayesian networks, and mathematics to explain how people perceive cause-effect patterns in the world. Judea Pearl’s second edition of Causality: Models, Reasoning and Inference (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2009) (TS-4) presents advanced research on causality. James Woodward’s Making Things Happen: A Theory of Causal Explanation (New York: Oxford University Press, 2003) (TS-4) offers an alternative approach to causal explanation. For an in-depth understanding of counterfactuals, Stephen Morgan and Christopher Winship’s Counterfactuals and Causal Inference: Methods and Principles for Social Research (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2007) (TS-4) and Richard Ned Lebow’s Forbidden Fruit: Counterfactuals and International Relations (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2010) (TS-4) offer a mix of methodological insights and provocative thought experiments. On analogical reasoning, Richard Neustadt and Ernest May’s Thinking In Time: The Uses of History for Decision Makers (New York: The Free Press, 1986) (TS-3) is influential in politico-military and political science circles. Helen Beebee, Christopher Hitchcock and Peter Menzies’ The Oxford Handbook of Causation (New York: Oxford University Press, 2009) (TS-4) surveys contemporary research into causality and causal modeling.

 

Social Science Methodology: A Unified Framework by John Gerring (2nd ed.) (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2012). (TS-4). Gerring is a professor of political science at Boston University. This book is an integrative approach to social science methods, conceptualization, description, measurement, and causation. Gerring synthesizes insights from diverse sources to explain the importance and rigor of research design and methodology in a way that is relevant to qualitative, quantitative, and mixed methods research. Peter Godfrey-Smith’s Theory and Reality: An Introduction to the Philosophy of Science (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2003) (TS-1) offers clarity on the Popper-Kuhn-Lakatos-Feyerabend debates, the ‘science wars’, and other recent developments. Perri 6 and Christine Bellamy’s Principles of Methodology: Research Design in Social Science (Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, 2011) (TS-4) is an introduction to methodology and research design.

 

Psychology of Initiation

 

Gurdjieff: An Introduction to His Life and Ideas (New York: Jeremy P. Tarcher/Penguin, 2004) by John Shirley. (TS-1). An accessible, informed introduction to the Graeco-Armenian ‘Teacher of Dances’ and the Gurdjieff Work. Shirley is cyberpunk’s ‘patient zero’, a gifted novelist and short story writer about objective conscience, and a screenwriter (The Crow) who has studied with philosopher Jacob Needleman. He clarifies several complex issues about Gurdjieff’s life and his ‘line of transmission’ through different people. Jeanne De Salzmann’s The Reality of Being: The Fourth Way of Gurdjieff (Boston: Shambhala, 2010) (TS-4) provides a glimpse of what long-term engagement with the Gurdjieff Work can bring to individuals. Peter Ouspensky’s In Search of the Miraculous (New York: Harcourt, 1949) (TS-3) remains an influential memoir of Gurdjieff’s teachings.

 

Character and Neurosis: An Integrative View by Claudio Naranjo, MD (Nevada City, CA: Gateways/IDHHB Inc. Publishers, 1994). (TS-4). In the mid-1970s, Helen Palmer ‘leaked’ the Enneagram – a psycho-dynamic model of human traits – from Oscar Ichazo’s Arica Institute and created a pop psychology and publishing craze (similar to the fate of Neuro-Linguistic Programming). Naranjo’s study remains one of the most in-depth and nuanced Enneagram studies, informed by his knowledge of Ichazo’s Arica philosophy, the Gurdjieff Work, and Fritz Perl’s Gestalt psychology. Naranjo provides a conceptual overview; a guide to the nine major ennea-types and their dynamics; and has suggestions for further work and differential diagnosis.

 

Prometheus Rising by Robert Anton Wilson (Tempe, AZ: New Falcon Publications). (TS-3). This book presents the Wilson-Leary ‘eight circuit model of consciousness’ and features ‘guerrilla ontology’ exercises to unleash the brain’s neuroplastic potential. Wilson synthesizes diverse sources including Alfred Korzybski, George Gurdjieff, Aleister Crowley, Buckminster Fuller, Timothy Leary, John Lilly, Jack Sarfatti, and cybernetics into an influential countercultural framework for consciousness expansion. Wilson’s initiatory memoir Cosmic Trigger I: The Final Secret of the Illuminati (Tempe, AZ: New Falcon Press, 1977) (TS-3) is also highly recommended. Make sure you do Wilson’s exercises.

 

Hidden Wisdom: A Guide to the Western Inner Traditions by Richard Smoley and Jay Kinney (Wheaton, IL: Quest Books, 2006). (TS-3). In my early twenties I was influenced by Smoley and Kinney’s Gnosis Magazine which explored diverse metaphysical, religious and spiritual systems. Hidden Wisdom collects their insights on the Kabbalah, Gnosticism, Sufism, Shamanism, Theosophy, and other traditions.

 

Lords of the Left Hand Path: Forbidden Practices and Spiritual Heresies by Stephen Edred Flowers (Rochester, VT: Inner Traditions, 2012). (TS-1). The first scholarly descriptive and analytical history of Left Hand Path metaphysical and spiritual traditions, methodologies, and historical exemplars. Flowers is a leading Runic scholar who has reinvigorated the Northern Tradition. This book surveys Egyptian, Greek and Zoroasterian sources, and traces the Left Hand Path via various metaphysical systems to Anton LaVey’s Church of Satan and Michael A. Aquino’s Temple of Set. The Left Hand Path emerges from Flowers’ study as a path of individual, creative dissent.

 

A Blue Fire: Selected Writings By James Hillman edited by Thomas Moore (New York: HarperPerennial, 1989). (TS-3). James Hillman founded the post-Jungian school of Archetypal Psychology. A Blue Fire collects his major writings on the poetic nature of the psyche; the fictions of therapy and imaginal work; and the challenges of eros and the animus mundi. Hillman reached a broader, mainstream audience with The Soul’s Code: In Search of Character and Calling (New York: Warner Books, 1996) (TS-3). Also relevant is Healing Fiction (Putnam, CT: Spring Publications, 1994) (TS-4) in which Hillman re-evaluates the case history approaches of Sigmund Freud, Carl Jung, and Alfred Adler.

 

Spiral Dynamics: Mastering Values, Leadership, and Change by Don Edward Beck and Christopher C. Cowan (Malden MA: Blackwell Business, 1996). (TS-4). Clare W. Graves (1914-1986) was a professor of psychology who conceptualized a biopsychosocial systems model of human intelligences. Beck and Cowan – who knew Graves – combined his work with memetics research and their own conceptual models to develop a framework for understanding change and values systems in people. This book appealed to a management audience who were familiar with Peter Drucker. However, like the Enneagram and Neuro-Linguistic Programming before it, Beck and Cowan’s work diffused outside its original, appropriate context, leading to very different personal syntheses from other authors, and an obsession by some readers with concepts like ‘Spiral Wizardry’ and ‘Second Tier’ thinking. Graves’ original research program is detailed in Christopher C. Cowan and William R. Lee’s Clare W. Graves: Levels of Human Existence (Santa Barbara, CA: ECLET Publishing, 2002) (TS-4). Graves’ unpublished papers can be found in Christopher C. Cowan and Natasha Todorovic’s The Never Ending Quest: Clare W. Graves Explores Human Nature (Santa Barbara, CA: ECLET Publishing, 2005) (TS-5) which was a landmark archival achievement.

 

Book of Lies: The Disinformation Guide to Magick and the Occult edited by Richard Metzger (New York: The Disinformation Company Ltd, 2003). (TS-3). Metzger founded the alternative news website Disinformation (which I did two editorial stints for) and the culture website Dangerous Minds, and is a Los Angeles-based warlock. Book of Lies evokes Metzger’s initiatory journey as Timothy Leary described it to “Find the Others” and to curate a new culture. The anthology features Grant Morrison, Genesis Breyer P-Orridge, Joe Coleman, Paul Laffoley, Phil Hine, Gary Lachman, Stephen Edred Flowers, Michael Moynihan and other collaborators. It might be considered TS-1 if you practice ritual magic and explore the contemporary occulture. Metzger’s Disinformation: The Interviews (New York: The Disinformation Company Ltd., 2002) (TS-3) collects the best material from his Channel 4 and SciFi Network television series. Jason Louv’s Generation Hex (New York: The Disinformation Company Ltd., 2006) (TS-3) passes the Promethean Flame to a new generation of magicians. My pre-Disinformation internet encounters were influenced by Stuart Swezey and Brian King’s AMOK Fourth Dispatch: Sourcebook of the Extremes of Information In Print (Los Angeles, CA: Amok Books, 1990) (TS-3). Simon Dwyer’s Rapid Eye Movement (London: Creation Books, 2000) (TS-3) also influenced me.

 

Revelations: Alien Contact and Human Deception (New York: Ballantine Books, 1991). (TS-5). Vallee is an influential cybernetics and information systems researcher, and was a member of Anton LaVey’s Magic Circle. Revelations evaluates the artificial mythologies about Unidentified Flying Objects (UFOs) around the Roswell incident, Hangar 18, Majestic 12, Area 51, the UMMO documents, the Gulf Breeze 6, and other cases of sightings and abductions. Vallee considers several explanations, ranging from cognitive biases and hoaxes, to psychological operations and guerrilla ontology. Vallee’s “control hypothesis” can be found in The Invisible College: What a Group of Scientists Has Discovered About UFO Influences on the Human Race (New York: E.P. Dutton, 1975) (TS-3) as a new religious form. This anticipated my own encounter aged five with Metis (craft, cunning, skill, and wisdom) in Richard J. Anobile’s photo-novel Alien (New York: Avon, 1979) (TS-5).

 

Macrohistory and Macrohistorians: Perspectives on Individual, Social, and Civilizational Change edited by Johan Galtung and Sohail Inayatullah (Westport, CT: Praeger Publishers, 1997). (TS-4). “Macrohistory is the study of the histories of social systems, along separate trajectories, in search of patterns. Macrohistory is ambitious, focused on the stages of history and the causes of change through time (diachronic)” (p. 1). Galtung – a leading Peace Studies scholar – and Inayatullah – a Pakistani futures studies scholar – develop a theoretical framework to understand macrohistory. This volume examines 20 macrohistorians including Augustine, Ibn Khaldun, George Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, Max Weber, Oswald Spengler, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, and Arnold Toynbee. Galtung and Inayatullah develop a comparative model of these macrohistorians, and models of macrohistory for personal microhistory and world macrohistory. Inayatullah’s doctoral dissertation Understanding Sarkar: The Indian Episteme, Macrohistory and Transformative Knowledge (Leiden: Brill, 2002) (TS-4) examines the specific macrohistorical contribution of Ananda Marga founder Prabhat Rainjan Sarkar.

 

Global Brain: The Evolution of Mass Mind From the Big Bang to the 21st Century by Howard Bloom (New York: John Wiley & Sons, 2000). (TS-4). Bloom is an independent scholar whose Howard Bloom Organization was influential in the late 1970s and the 1980s in music industry public relations and artist development. Bloom portrays human evolution in the context of a complex adaptive system which has reshaped Earth. Global Brain outlines the Bloom Pentad: an interdisciplinary and dynamical model of how human culture unfolds, and why different conflicts occur. All of Bloom’s books are highly recommended.

 

Cunning Intelligence In Greek Culture and Society by Marcel Detienne and Jean-Pierre Vernant. Translated by Janet Lloyd (Hassocks, England: Harvester Press, 1978). (TS-4). Detienne and Vernant examine the role of Metis (cunning, craft, skill and wisdom) in classical Greek mythology and as a way to engage and to adapt to transient, changing life conditions. They consider the role models of Athena, Hephaestus, Hermes, Aphrodite, Zeus, Odysseus, and the octopus. Lisa Ann Raphals’ Knowing Wisdom: Wisdom and Cunning in the Classical Traditions of China and Greece (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1992) (TS-4) considers the Chinese art of the stratagem as metic intelligence. William Patrick Patterson’s Struggle of the Magicians: Exploring the Teacher-Student Relationship (2nd ed.) (Fairfax, CA: Arete Publications, 1997) (TS-3) considers metic intelligence in a Gurdjieff Work context. Michael Rosenbaum’s Kata and the Transmission of Knowledge: In Martial Arts (Boston, MA: YMAA Publication Center, 2005) (TS-4) considers metic intelligence in a martial arts training context.

 

The Psychological Assessment of Political Leaders – With Profiles of Saddam Hussein & Bill Clinton edited by Jerrold M. Post MD (Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press, 2005). (TS-4). Post is a professor of psychiatry, political psychology and international affairs at George Washington University. This volume considers the use of leadership development in government policy and intelligence; psychoanalytic and operational code models; and assessment challenges including ‘at a distance’ profiling. The World War II roots of these psychological assessment techniques are detailed in Daniel Pick’s The Pursuit of the Nazi Mind: Hitler, Hess and the Analysts (New York: Oxford University Press, 2012) (TS-3). Post’s The Mind of the Terrorist: The Psychology of Terrorism from the IRA to al-Qaeda (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007) (TS-3) uses these psychological assessment techniques to analyze terrorist groups and their leadership.

 

Why Intelligence Fails: Lessons from the Iranian Revolution and the Iraq War by Robert Jervis (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2010). (TS-4). Jervis is a professor of international affairs at Columbia University. This book includes his post-mortems on the “intelligence failures” of the Ayatollah Khomeini’s coup d’etat in Iran in 1979, and Al Qaeda’s terrorist attacks on the United States on 11th September 2001. Jervis finds a mix of causes: individual cognitive biases, insufficient attention to analytical methods, and organizational culture issues. His analysis of the politics and psychology of intelligence includes consideration of deception, strategic surprise, politicization, and reform opportunities. Amy B. Zegart’s Spying Blind: The CIA, the FBI, and the Origins of 9/11 (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2007) (TS-4) is an historical, evaluative analysis of United States intelligence reform commissions.

 

Cultural Realism: Strategic Culture and Grand Strategy in Chinese History by Alastair Iain Johnston (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1998). (TS-4). Johnston is a professor in world affairs and international relations at Harvard University. This is the published edition of his 1993 doctoral dissertation about cultural influences on the decision-maker use of force in Ming China. Cultural Realism advanced an historical, analytical and methodological understanding of strategic culture which has shaped my own doctoral research program.

 

Human Existential Problems

 

Uncoupling: Turning Points In Intimate Relationships by Diane Vaughan (New York: Vintage Books, 1990). (TS-3). Vaughan is a Professor of Sociology at Columbia University. Uncoupling examines the psychological dynamics and patterns of human relationships, romantic break-ups, oath-breaking and betrayal, and divorces. Vaughan followed Uncoupling with The Challenger Launch Decision (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1996) (TS-4), an influential sociological study of the ‘normalization of deviance’ at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, and the impact of organizational power and politics on internal decisions and events which led to the Space Shuttle Challenger explosion on 28th January 1986. Vaughan’s Challenger study also paralleled Charles Perrow’s study of ‘tightly coupled’ systems in Normal Accidents: Living With High-Risk Technologies (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1999) (TS-4). Joanne Wieland-Burston’s Chaos and Order in the World of the Psyche (London: Routledge, 1992) (TS-3) examines archetypal patterns of the ‘psychotherapeutic chaos encounter’ in divorce, family conflict, and death. Kenneth Kamler’s Surviving The Extremes: What Happens To The Body and Mind At The Limits of Human Endurance (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2004) (TS-3) examines how and why humans survive extreme environments.

 

Assessment, Treatment, and Prevention of Suicidal Behavior edited by Robert I. Yufit and David Lester (New York: John Wiley & Sons, 2005). (TS-4). Suicide can be viewed as a failure to adapt to changing life circumstances and human existential challenges. This clinical practitioner volume covers the screening and assessment of suicidality risks; intervention and treatment; outpatient treatment; art therapy; and college student risks. Major assessment instruments like Aaron Beck’s scales and the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventories are outlined. The therapeutic approaches range from no-suicide contracts to dialectical behavior therapy, voice therapy and family therapy. James Hillman’s Suicide and the Soul (Dallas, TX: Spring Publications, 1976) (TS-4) provides an Archetypal Psychology interpretation that is also influential in post-Jungian therapeutic circles.

 

The Lucifer Effect: How Good People Turn Evil by Philip Zimbardo (New York: Random House, 2007). (TS-5). In 1971, Philip Zimbardo ran the now-notorious Stanford Prison Experiment (SPE) on social power dynamics. The Lucifer Effect is Zimbardo’s first in-depth assessment of SPE and its broader, ethical implications, combined with his expert testimony about SPE-like conditions in the Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay prisons during the second Bush administration’s Global War on Terror. Chris Mackey and Greg Miller’s The Interrogator’s War (New York: Little, Brown & Company, 2004) (TS-3) is a journalistic account of SPE-like social power dynamics in Afghanistan, where the United States military battled the terrorist organization Al Qaeda. John Kekes’ The Roots of Evil (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2005) (TS-4) provides a broader historical and philosophical approach to SPE-like social power dynamics, covering the Albigensian Crusade, Robespierre’s Terror of 1793-94; Nazi death camp commander Franz Stangl; the psychopaths Charles Manson and John Allen; and Argentina’s “dirty war” in the late 1970s.

 

Destroying the World to Save It: Aum Shinrikyo, Apocalyptic Violence, and the New Global Terrorism by Robert Jay Lifton (New York: Metropolitan Books, 1999). (TS-4). Lifton uses psychohistorical insights to examine what led Aum Shinrikyo to undertake a sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway system in 1995 and the role of leader Shoko Asahara’s belief systems. Through interviews with mid-level members and ex-members, Lifton captures the ‘emic’ or internal reality of Aum Shinrikyo and the cultural dynamics of its covert biological and chemical weapons development program. Lifton’s interpretation is shaped by his ‘psychological totalism’ framework, study of religious and cultic gurus, the visibility at time of writing of ‘new terrorism’ frameworks, and his research into the psychology of nuclear weapons. Haruki Murakami’s Underground: The Tokyo Gas Attack and the Japanese Psyche (New York: Vintage, 2003) (TS-3) presents Studs Terkel-style interviews with Aum Shinrikyo members and the sarin gas attack victims. Jeremy Varon’s Bringing The War Home: The Weather Underground, the Red Army Faction, and Revolutionary Violence in the Sixties and Seventies (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2004) (TS-4) is an interesting comparison on the role of historical memory, leadership, inter-group dynamics, and learning.

 

The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable (New York: Allen Lane, 2007). (TS-3). Taleb is a philosopher and former quantitative hedge fund manager and trader. This book examines the epistemology of low-probability high-impact events and the role of common biases (confirmation bias, narrative fallacy, ludology fallacy, and others) in decision-making. The Black Swan builds on David Hume’s skepticism and Taleb’s previous book Fooled By Randomness: The Hidden Role of Chance in Life and the Markets (New York: Penguin Books, 2005) (TS-3). Peter Bernstein’s Against The Gods: The Remarkable Story of Risk (New York: John Wiley & Sons, 1998) (TS-3) examines the history of risk whilst Aaron C. Brown’s Red-Blooded Risk: The Secret History of Wall Street (New York: John Wiley & Sons, 2012) (TS-3) covers Wall Street’s use of risk management techniques. William Poundstone’s Fortune’s Formula: The Untold Story of the Scientific Betting System That Beat The Casinos and Wall Street (New York: Hill and Wang, 2005) (TS-3) explores the Kelly Criterion and Ed Thorp’s career in mathematics, casinos, and hedge funds. The cautionary story of Long-Term Capital Management’s rise-and-fall is told in Roger Lowenstein’s When Genius Failed: The Rise and Fall of Long-Term Capital Management (London: Fourth Estate, 2002) (TS-3).

 

Personal Change Methodologies

 

Taproots: Underlying Principles of Milton Erickson’s Therapy and Hypnosis by William Hudson O’Hanlon (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1987). (TS-1). Milton Hyland Erickson (1901-1990) revolutionized the scientific study of hypnosis and trance states, and created an influential school of strategic psychotherapy. O’Hanlon identifies Erickson’s major patterns; the common phases of Ericksonian therapy; the format of common trance inductions; and has a useful bibliography. Jay Haley’s Uncommon Therapy: The Psychiatric Techniques of Milton H. Erickson, MD (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1973) (TS-3) is another influential introduction to Erickson that emphasizes different strategic therapeutic interventions over the human lifespan. Dan Short, Betty Alice Erickson and Roxanna Erickson-Klein’s Hope & Resiliency: Understanding the Psychotherapeutic Strategies of Milton H. Erickson (Bancyfelin, Wales: Crown House Publishing, 2005) (TS-3) identifies Erickson’s six core strategies as: Distraction, Partitioning, Progression, Suggestion, Reorientation, and Utilization, and so offers a different presentation to O’Hanlon and Haley. Stephen R. Lankton and Carol Hicks Lankton’s The Answer Within: A Clinical Framework of Ericksonian Hypnotherapy (Bancyfelin, Wales: Crown House Publishing, 2005) (TS-4) is, like Haley’s book, a very influential clinical approach to Ericksonian hypnotherapy and strategic psychotherapy. Stephen Lankton’s emphasis on epistemology can be found in Assembling Ericksonian Therapy: The Collected Papers of Stephen Lankton (Phoenix, AZ: Zeig, Tucker & Theisen Inc., 2004) (TS-4) which links Erickson’s work to brief therapy. Ronald A. Havens’ The Wisdom of Milton H. Erickson: The Complete Volume (Bancyfelin, Wales: Crown House Publishing, 2005) (TS-4) is a collection of selected quotes from Erickson’s published work that provides insights into his research program’s evolution. Erickson’s influence on Neuro-Linguistic Programming circles is evident in Richard Bandler’s Guide to Trance-Formation (Deerfield Beach, FL: Health Communications, 2008) (TS-3), and Bandler’s use of metaphor, nested loops, altered states of consciousness, and unconscious installation strategies in his NLP training seminars with Michael Breen and Paul McKenna. However, the above contributions illustrate that there is far more to Erickson’s strategic psychotherapy than what is often taught in NLP training seminars. An overview of non-Erickson approaches can be found in Steven Jay Lynn, Irving Kirsch and Judith W. Rhue’s Casebook of Clinical Hypnosis (Washington DC: American Psychological Association, 2006) (TS-4) which includes case studies on depression, childhood trauma, and post-traumatic stress disorder.

 

The User’s Manual For The Brain Volumes I and II by Bob G. Bodenhamer and L. Michael Hall (Bancyfelin, Wales: Crown House Publishing, 2000 and 2003). (TS-4). Richard Bandler and John Grinder developed Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) in the early 1970s as an epistemology to model human excellence. These books represent Bodenhamer and Hall’s interpretation of Richard Bandler’s Practitioner and Master Practitioner trainings circa the early 1990s, and Hall’s development of Neuro-Semantics models based on Alfred Korzybski’s General Semantics. To-date this is one of the only in-depth attempts to systematically integrate NLP developments, models and patterns (although there are different opinions about the content) in what is a fragmented literature with different lineages and no agreed-upon certification standards or accreditation bodies. Hall’s The Spirit of NLP: The Process, Meaning, and Criteria for Mastering NLP (Bancyfelin, Wales: Crown House Publishing, 1996) (TS-4) covers Bandler’s Master Practitioner class from the early 1990s, during the time Bandler developed his Design Human Engineering methodology. The ‘origin story’ of Bandler and Grinder’s original modeling of Fritz Perls, Virginia Satir, Milton Erickson, and Gregory Bateson is told in Carmin Bostic St. Clair and John Grinder’s Whispering In The Wind (Scotts Valley: J&C Enterprises, 2001) (TS-4), which emphasizes Grinder’s ‘New Code NLP’ approach. NLP has developed outside the academic research community, so it often lacks the Popperian cumulative knowledge, methodological rigor, and evidence-based advances of scientific research.

 

Knowledge Base of Futures Studies: Professional Edition edited by Richard Slaughter, Sohail Inayatullah and Jose M. Ramos (Indooroopilly, Queensland: Foresight International, 2005). (TS-1). Slaughter conceived the KBFS project in the mid-1990s to build the meta-discipline of futures studies and strategic foresight. This edition includes the three original books on the foundations, practices and directions of futures studies, and adds a collection of futurists’ personal narratives and case studies. Slaughter founded the school of critical futures studies and is past president of the World Futures Studies Federation. The Australian Foresight Institute period of Slaughter’s work including his collaboration with Ken Wilber on Integral Futures is detailed in Futures Beyond Dystopia: Creating Social Foresight (London: RoutledgeFalmer, 2004) (TS-4).

 

The Art of the Long View: Paths To Strategic Insight For Yourself And Your Company by Peter Schwartz (Sydney: Richmond Ventures, 1996). (TS-3). This book presents the Global Business Network’s approach to scenario planning and the strategic conversations practice. Scenarios are a way to gather and evaluate information and signals about possible, preferable, and plausible futures; to explore creative possibilities; and to inform critical decision-makers. GBN’s approach became popular in the 1990s via Fast Company, Wired and other business and technology publications. Schwartz’s Inevitable Surprises: A Survival Guide For The 21st Century (New York: The Free Press, 2003) adapted these ideas to trend analysis. John Petersen’s Out of the Blue: How To Anticipate Big Future Surprises (Lanham, MD: Madison Books, 1999) (TS-3) offers an alternative approach to GBN on assessing high-impact events.

 

The Fifth Discipline: The Art & Practice of the Learning Organization by Peter M. Senge (rev. ed.) (New York: Random House, 2006). (TS-1). Senge’s book popularized the concepts of personal mastery, mental models, learning organizations, and the MIT-based Society for Organizational Learning’s interpretation of systems thinking and common systems archetypes (such as ‘success to the successful’ or ‘fixes that fail’). Thinking In Systems: A Primer by the late Donella Meadows (Burlington, VT: Chelsea Green Publishing, 2008) (TS-1) is an important book by a very influential systems thinking pioneer who worked on the Club of Rome’s Limits To Growth World-3 computer simulations.

 

Rules of Play: Game Design Fundamentals by Katie Salen and Eric Zimmerman (Boston, MA: The MIT Press, 2004). (TS-5). Salen is a game design professor at DePaul University and Zimmerman is an award-winning game designer. Rules of Play is one of the most in-depth conceptual and theoretical explorations of ‘ludology’ and game design: games, rules, play, culture, and simulation. The perspectives explored include uncertainty, information systems, cybernetics, game theory, and conflict systems. Some aspects of Initiation can be modeled using game design perspectives. I spent part of 2004 examining this field for the Smart Internet Technology CRC research consortium, and interviewed both authors, and other game designers and software developers. Salen and Zimmerman’s follow-up book The Game Design Reader: A Rules of Play Anthology (Boston, MA: The MIT Press, 2006) (TS-4) surveys the best practices, conceptual insights, and theories of game designers. Salen and Zimmerman have also influenced the development of alternative reality games (ARGs).

 

The Innovator’s Dilemma: When New Technologies Cause Great Firms to Fail by Clayton M. Christensen (Boston, MA: Harvard University Press, 1997). (TS-3). Christensen is a business administration professor at Harvard Business School. The Innovator’s Dilemma is the published version of Christensen’s doctoral dissertation on Disruptive Innovation Theory and case studies on the hard disk and mechanical excavator industries. I spent much of 2006 working on an unpublished research monograph for the Smart Internet Technology CRC research consortium about Christensen’s work. How Will You Measure Your Life? by Christensen, James Allworth and Karen Dillon (New York: HarperBusiness, 2012) (TS-1) covers Christensen’s lessons on business, relationships, and marginal versus full thinking.

 

Agile Software Development: The Cooperative Game (2nd ed.) by Alistair Cockburn (Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education Inc., 2007). (TS-4). Cockburn is an influential software engineer in the object oriented and agile software development communities. Agile Software Development outlines his Crystal methodology; strategies for dealing with information, teams, and methodological development; and learning strategies from Miyamoto Musashi (The Book of Five Rings) and others. Venkat Subramaniam and Andy Hunt’s Practices Of An Agile Developer (Raleigh, NC: The Pragmatic Bookshelf, 2006) (TS-3) discusses common practices in agile software development methods which include Scrum and Extreme Programming (XP).

 

Argumentation Schemes by Douglas Walton, Chris Reed, and Fabrizio Macagno (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2008). (TS-4). An academic overview of argumentation research including schemes, classification, and computer systems. Argumentation Schemes includes 96 commonly used argumentation schemes and their epistemological structures. Philippe Besnard and Anthony Hunter’s Elements of Argumentation (Boston, MA: MIT Press, 2008) (TS-4) extends argumentation to logic, artificial intelligence, and algorithms.

 

The Daily Trading Coach: 101 Lessons For Becoming Your Own Trading Psychologist by Brett N. Steenbarger (New York: John Wiley & Sons, 2009). (TS-3). Steenbarger is an associate professor in psychiatry and behavioral sciences at SUNY Upstate Medical University and a hedge fund consultant. This book is a collection of psychological self-observation exercises influenced by George Gurdjieff and others. Steenbarger, along with the late Ari Kiev, and author Mark Douglas, is influential in trading circles for his performance insights. The closest thing trading has to a wisdom tradition is Jack D. Schwager’s Market Wizards series (considered TS-1 if you trade financial markets), of which the latest is Hedge Fund Market Wizards (New York: John Wiley & Sons, 2012) (TS-3).

 

Creative Lives

 

Hunter: The Strange and Savage Life of Hunter S. Thompson by E. Jean Carroll (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1993). (TS-3). Hunter S. Thompson (1937-2005) pioneered ‘gonzo’ journalism: a variant of the New Journalism that emphasized journalistic subjectivity, first person narratives, ethnographic techniques, and creative non-fiction techniques. Carroll’s biography captures Thompson’s rise-and-fall as a Rolling Stone countercultural hero from multiple viewpoints. This book convinced me to use ‘gonzo’ techniques for a year as reporter for La Trobe University’s student newspaper Rabelais and for a 1995 Noam Chomsky profile for Australia’s REVelation magazine. Thompson’s best writing is collected in the anthology The Great Shark Hunt (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2003) (TS-3). Tom Wolfe and E.W. Johnson’s anthology The New Journalism (New York: Harper & Row, 1973) (TS-3) places Thompson’s contribution in an historical context and shows how others experimented with creative non-fiction techniques.

 

Robert Fripp: From King Crimson to Guitar Craft by Eric Tamm (Boston: Faber and Faber, 1990). (TS-4). Musicologist Tamm attempts to understand the complex, enigmatic guitarist Robert Fripp and the progressive rock band King Crimson. This book (which can now be found online) introduced me to the Graeco-Armenian ‘Teacher of Dances’ George Gurdjieff, and is notable for covering Fripp’s collaborations with Brian Eno; Fripp’s study with John Godolphin Bennett at Sherborne House; the ‘Drive to 1981’ creative period; and Tamm’s personal experiences in 1986 with Fripp’s Guitar Craft school. Tamm concludes that Fripp is part of an Objective Art lineage that can be traced via Bennett and Gurdjieff to Pythagoras. Fripp felt Tamm’s account only captured part of King Crimson’s creative dynamics and Guitar Craft’s aims, and the book was published before the ‘Endless Grief’ events that led Fripp to found Discipline Global Mobile. The best account of King Crimson remains Sid Smith’s In The Court of King Crimson (London: Helter Skelter Publishing, 2001) (TS-4) in which Smith managed to interview current and former band members. For a background on the creative and psychological dynamics of the ‘Drive to 1981’ period, Simon Reynolds’ Rip It Up and Start Again: Postpunk 1978-1984 (New York: Penguin Books, 2005) (TS-3) is insightful.

 

Divine Invasions: A Life of Philip K. Dick by Lawrence Sutin (New York: HarperCollins, 1991). (TS-5). Philip K. Dick’s legacy of science fiction novels, short stories, and inspirations for Hollywood films have created influential subcultures and new artificial mythologies. Divine Interventions charts Dick’s initiatory journey from pulp fiction writer to science fiction celebrity to philosopher. Sutin captures the complex growth of Dick’s subjective universe; the impact of United States drug counterculture; and the 2-3-74 encounter with a Vast Active Living Intelligence System (VALIS) that changed Dick’s later life. This period is explored in Sutin’s anthology The Shifting Realities of Philip K. Dick: Selected Literary and Philosophical Writings (New York: Vintage Books, 1995) (TS-3) and in The Exegesis of Philip K. Dick edited by Pamela Jackson and Jonathan Lethem (New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2011) (TS-5).

 

Transit Lounge: Wake-Up Calls & Travellers’ Tales From The Future edited by Ashley Crawford and Ray Edgar (North Ryde: Craftsman House, 1997). (TS-3). The print incarnation of Australia’s 21C was a futures-oriented culture and technology magazine with a social conscience which is now a collector’s item. Transit Lounge collects together some of 21C’s best material including interviews with and articles on Philip K. Dick, J.G. Ballard, Marshall McLuhan, Robert Anton Wilson, Bruce Sterling, Greil Marcus, and more.

 

Follow For Now: Interviews With Friends and Heroes edited by Roy Christopher (Seattle, WA: Well-Read Bear, 2007). (TS-3). Christopher is a Chicago-based media culture critic and writer. Follow For Now is an interview collection with cultural luminaries on science, technology, media, music, culture and literature that charts the Network Society’s cartographies in the early 21st century. Includes interviews with Douglas Rushkoff, Howard Bloom, Erik Davis, Terence McKenna, Howard Rheingold, Rudy Rucker, McKenzie Wark, and others.

 

George F. Kennan: An American Life by John Lewis Gaddis (New York: The Penguin Press, 2011). (TS-5). Gaddis received the Pulitzer Prize for Biography in 2012 for this book. George F. Kennan (1904-2005) was a United States diplomat, historian and political scientist widely credited with formulating the ‘containment’ grand strategy (in the 1946 ‘Long Telegram’ and 1947 ‘X’ article) used to defeat the Soviet Union during the Cold War. Gaddis spent 30 years researching and 5 years writing this authorized autobiography which traces Kennan’s transformation of personal character from career diplomat to influential grand strategist in the US State Department and then to public intellectual and political administration critic. Gaddis evokes both Kennan’s subjective reality and the vast historical, social, and geopolitical forces that he anticipated and responded to. Kennan’s career and contribution can be contrasted with Henry Kissinger’s Harvard period in Jeremi Suri’s Henry Kissinger and the American Century (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2007) (TS-4), and Kissinger’s controversial White House period in Robert Dallek’s Nixon and Kissinger: Partners In Power (New York: Penguin Books, 2004) (TS-4). Historian Bruce Kuklick’s Blind Oracles: Intellectuals and War from Kennan to Kissinger (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2006) (TS-4) situates Kennan in the post-World War II evolution of civilian defense intellectuals, which included the RAND think-tank, Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, and personalities like Robert McNamara, Graham Allison, Richard Neustadt, and Ernest May.

 

Age of Greed: The Triumph of Finance and the Decline of America, 1970 to the Present by Jeff Madrick (New York: Vintage Books, 2011). (TS-3). Madrick’s critical history of corporate finance traces the interaction of economic philosophers, politicians, and business entrepreneurs to reshape the United States economy and civil society. Amongst those profiled are Walter Wriston, Ted Turner, Tom Peters, Jack Welch, Paul Volcker, Alan Greenspan, Michael Milken, George Soros, and Sandy Weill. Sebastian Mallaby’s More Money Than God: Hedge Funds and the Making of a New Elite (New York: Bloomsbury, 2010) (TS-3) is a revealing history of the alternative asset class and its enigmatic managers.

27th February 2012: The Book of Oblique Strategies

Oblique Strategies

 

The Book of Oblique Strategies (PDF) is a significant outlier in my body of work.

 

On 27th February 1998, my then-girlfriend/initiatrix/constant and I saw our first episode of J. Michael Straczynski’s science fiction series Babylon 5: the season three finale ‘Z‘ha’dum’. I was unfamiliar with the five-year narrative arc of Straczynski’s series, its characters, and world. The episode seemed to be about betrayal, the evolutionary dynamic of chaos versus order, and the Tibetan Bardo Thodol. I had studied script-writing and decided to take some notes. At about 8pm, I went to the home office of our house in Brynor Court, Preston, Melbourne (Australia) to write. I started in Microsoft Word with the B5’s open credits. The imaginal document then began to change, similar to Ericksonian hypnosis, Jungian depth psychology, and automatic writing. Ninety minutes later, I was exhausted, and The Book of Oblique Strategies was the result.

 

I knew immediately of the document’s personal significance. I had three previous experiences which seemed like tentative rehearsals. In March 1997, I had strange feelings whilst attending an Assyrian art exhibition in Melbourne. On 1st November 1997, after meeting Spiral Dynamics authors Don Edward Beck and Chris Cowan at a Melbourne seminar, I had an internet relay chat with linguist and scholar Connell Monette. During the chat, my subconscious mind demanded knowledge of healing praxis in Bektashi and Naqshbandiyya Sufism. On the evening of 27th January 1998, I had an Ericksonian trance experience which led to E.A. Wallis Budge’s The Egyptian Heaven and Hell (1905). I was reading Robert Svoboda’s Aghora and Riane Eisler’s Sacred Pleasure the week before the document emerged. I was also finding rare books like Hasan Shusud’s The Masters of Wisdom of Central Asia in Melbourne second-hand bookshops.

 

For five years before, I had also studied the literature on anomalous and numinous encounters. Nostradamus, H.P. Lovecraft, and Jacques Vallee’s UFOlogy work on cybernetics, information theory and human deception influenced my teens. I had studied the Gurdjieff Work’s extensive literature. I knew the media references in U2’s 1991-93 ZooTV tour and had studied cyberculture. I had read Exegesis excerpts on author Philip K. Dick’s encounter with a Vast Active Living Intelligence System. I had interviewed author J.G. Ballard, guerrilla ontologist Robert Anton Wilson, memeticists Richard Brodie and the late Aaron Lynch; and maverick physicist Jack Sarfatti on their individual experiences and philosophies. Terence McKenna told me that his encounter in the Amazon in 1971 was with the Hegelian Overmind. The Australian artist Vali Myers gave me advice. I had read Aleister Crowley’s Book of the Law, John Lilly’s floatation tank logs, Michael A. Aquino’s Book of Coming Forth By Night, Nema’s Liber Pennae Praenumbra, and Don Webb’s Book of the Heb-Sed (historical details). I had seen similar imaginal and noetic works as part of the Temple of Set’s internal literature which echoed the Tibetan Buddhist tradition of secret biographies. Webb had written about the psychological dangers of ‘inspired’ documents. I had Aquino’s ‘Black Magic’ essays and Church of Satan history which were not then publicly available, and had studied the Temple’s reading list. But the actual, informational experience of writing The Book of Oblique Strategies was like a jolting, surging electrical current.

 

My life changed dramatically in the next month. I hit a series of simultaneous inflection points or a Black Swan event cascade that overshadowed the document. REVelation Magazine folded and could not publish my interview with the late ethno-botanist Terence McKenna. 21C Magazine folded and could not publish my interview with space migration advocate Marshall Savage. The real estate manager sold out the rental house from beneath us. The relationship broke up. The 20th anniversary loomed of my mother’s death in a car accident on 28th March 1978. I experienced a period of referential ideation and had a nervous breakdown that my family helped me to recover from. I also struggled to pull together freelance magazine articles and public relations copy. When reconciliation was impossible with my former girlfriend, I attempted suicide in response to her ‘gestalt switch‘ and devaluation of me (which influenced a later article on the Nine Inch Nails album The Fragile). (I was caught in the Fixes That Fail archetype in systems thinking and exposed to iceberg risk.) A few months later I started to correspond with Richard Metzger and to write for the Disinformation alternative news site. I attended an academic seminar on process philosophy. Sean Healy invited me to This Is Not Art. I negotiated re-enrolling in my undergraduate degree on film and politics. Hence, the ‘Ordeals of Transmutation Fire.’

 

Oblique Strategies refers to Brian Eno and Peter Schmidt’s 1975 oracular, aleatory deck. I used readings from this deck in Disinformation’s daily newsletter from 2000 to 2008. Joe Nolan interviewed me about this period. I’ve written about Eno’s 2009 ‘Scenius’ talk and what researchers can learn from him. I’ve also commented on Alfred Hermida’s ambient journalism and its creative implications. But the document isn’t an Eno pastiche. It isn’t an attempt to copy Crowley’s Book of the Law. I wasn’t on a grandiose ego trip: I knew of the ‘magus of the week’ phenomenon on the alt.magick and alt.satanism newsgroups and I didn’t found my own organisation. I was struggling to make sense of cryptic, dense, multi-layered information with multiple meanings and significances. John Lilly likened such experiences to the ‘supra-self meta-programmer’ that can reshape the Self. The first hermeneutic ‘analysis and commentary’ document came to 50 pages. The 2011 commentary is about 30 pages and remains confidential.

 

The document has several layers and strands. Its structure is closer to hypertext, sampling and popular culture. U2’s Zooropa (1993) and Radiohead’s OK Computer (1997) are juxtaposed with INXSKick (1987) as commentaries on love and existential loss. There’s a ton of cyberculture references (with specific, contextual and philosophical meanings) from William S. Burroughs (The Cities of the Red Night), Blake’s 7 (the finale Blake’), Doctor Who (‘The Ark in Space‘ and ‘Logopolis‘), King Crimson and Celtic Frost (Tristesses de la Lune) to J.R.R. Tolkien (The Lord of the Rings), Frank Herbert (Dune), the 1986 Challenger space shuttle disaster and Ronald Reagan’s Strategic Defense Initiative. I was a cinema studies undergraduate major hence the film list. There’s a strand on post-traumatic growth and resilience; on the epistemology of conscience; on Aleister Crowley, George Gurdjieff, and Anton LaVey; on Michael A. Aquino’s battle to clear his name in the Presidio scandal (PDF) and the resulting lawsuits and internet conspiracy theories (which circulated at the time of writing); on the Temple of Set’s internal politics, leadership, and initiatory system; on the Hindu goddess Kali and the Semitic goddess Astarte; and on the Laibach documentary film Predictions of Fire, the Balkans genocide, the design of early warning systems, and the Responsibility to Protect doctrine in international relations. A recent personal paper (PDF) describes the future — one of several counterfactual possibilities — that  emerged.

 

Most poignantly, a section foreshadows the Bush administration’s Global War on Terror (GWOT). ‘Dakshineswar’ = both the Kali worship centre of Dakshineswar, India and ‘War Shines Da(r)k’. ‘I return Home in the Year of the Fire to unleash fiery Helter Skelter’ = the 11th September 2001 terrorist attacks and the ensuing confusion. (The internal representation of these lines was an image of fire seen from space: probably the influence on me of the 1982-83 nuclear war scare.) Bush announced the GWOT on my birthday — 20th September 2001 — as I was in-flight to attend author Howard Bloom’s wedding in New York City. The document thus has an underlying, consistent and self-generative metaphysics, ontology, cosmology and epistemology that emerges with hermeneutic analysis. I later discovered that others like Zeena and Nikolas Schreck had their own experiences with Kali and war archetypes at a similar time-period. Whilst studying counter-terrorism in 2005, I discovered that cyberculture had also influenced Shoko Asahara and Aum Shinrikyo cult members. Elsewhere, I have explored the moment that the GWOT emerged and the initial media reactions to it.

 

I am making The Book of Oblique Strategies publicly available (PDF) for others to comment on. Just make sure you read Robert W. ChambersThe King In Yellow (1895); Leon Festinger, Henry Riecken and Stanley Schachter’s When Prophecy Fails (1956); John Lilly‘s The Deep Self (1977); and Jacques Vallee’s The Invisible College (1975) and Revelations (1991) first. Watching Inception might also help.

The One-Species Dilemma

Dr. Michael A. Aquino once posed a central question of Setian philosophy to me. Rephrased from memory, it was something like: ‘Why is it that Earth has only one species which has the self-aware consciousness to create civilization, symbolic systems, and other complex manifestations? Why not two or more? What would it be like if there was more than one species?’

In this email exchange Dr. Aquino did acknowledge research into ape and dolphin communication, which perhaps has significance for Lilith Aquino’s Utterance of Arkte. I pose this as a philosophical, existential dilemma, and not as a position of species infallibility.

Within the Temple of Set, Dr. Aquino and others referred to this self-aware consciousness as the Gift of Set. Category 17 of the TS Reading List explored this in more detail, in the following categories.

Continue reading “The One-Species Dilemma”

A Challenging Conversation on Integral Futures

The Journal of Futures Studies (Tamkang University, Taiwan) has published a ‘trialogue’ on Integral Futures between colleagues Josh Floyd, Jose Ramos and myself.

The trialogue is an exploratory method that the late ethnobotanist Terence McKenna used at the Esalen Institute and Omega Institute to cocreate new knowledge informed by interdisciplinary expertise.  McKenna’s trialogues featured mathematician Ralph Abraham and biologist Rupert Sheldrake.  More recently, Erik Davis and Douglas Rushkoff have continued the tradition.  The theoretical physicist David Bohm developed a similar method for dialogue and group work.

Floyd, Ramos and I discussed this approach in February-April 2006 after taking three different
iterations of Advanced Professional Praxis a ‘capstone’ project unit in
Swinburne University’s Strategic Foresight program.  Richard Slaughter provided a focal point as he assembled papers for a special issue of the journal Futures (Elsevier) on Integral Futures Methodologies (November, 2007).  For over a decade, Slaughter had synthesised a Futures knowledge base of new frameworks, methodologies and visions.  Informed by Ken Wilber‘s Integral vision, Slaughter proposed Integral Futures as a “broader and deeper” horizon for Futures work.  Wilber and Slaughter galvanised a new cohort of practitioners to develop new Integral Futures methodologies.  Yet new creative horizons may create new problems.

How can Integral Futures practitioners be ethically informed about their new methods?  Our trialogue proposes Embodied Foresight as one possible way to achieve this: the cultivation of ethical sensitivity, situation awareness about the Teacher-Student relationship and pedagogical barriers, and self-reflection on the transformative potential of initiatory knowledge and wisdom traditions.  Or, “foresight-in-context” may anticipate and prevent hazards that might have unforeseen consequences.

The trialogue creates a space for each of us to bring theoretical frameworks and practitioner reflections into the discussion.  Floyd brings expertise in Zen Buddhism, cognitive science and phenomenology, and a familiarity with Wilber and Evan Thompson‘s research.  Ramos brings transcultural experiences in Futures, action research, and postcolonial insights on “model monopolies”.  I added some insights from mid-1990s exploration of the Gurdjieff Work and the Temple of Set, and experiences during Masters studies, publishing and research projects.

From our trialogue’s conclusion:

Embodied Foresight offers some emergent solutions for the individual practitioner to the challenges and difficulties of Integral Futures practice. These reflexive ‘problems’ are part of diffusion, initiation and knowledge transfer in many wisdom traditions. Our ‘trialogue’ has raised several ‘reflexive’ problems-from Teacher-Student relationships and pedagogical barriers to the archetypal dangers of Phobos and Thanatos-that each of us has personally experienced within the Futures Studies community and in other initiatory and wisdom traditions.