24th February 2011: 40K PhD Theme Map

High-level theme map of 60% of the concepts in the first 40,000 words of ‘draft zero’ notes for my PhD project. Taken using Leximancer 3.5 software for content analysis. The project examines the evolution of strategic culture — a framework used in strategic studies, history and military sociology — in the sub-discipline of counter-terrorism studies. The full theme map has a more dense structure and sub-concepts. I discarded 80,000 words for another project and still have 65,000 words from written notes to analyse.

23rd February 2011: The Secret Raven

Sharp, Daryl (1980). The Secret Raven: Conflict and Transformation in the Life of Franz Kafka. Toronto: Inner City Books. 128 pages.

Franz Kafka (1883-1924) was one of the 20th Century’s most enigmatic writers. The Trial (1925) and The Castle (1926) introduced the term ‘Kafkaesque’ to the English language: unreliable narrators who battle absurdist bureaucracies and who are caught in sudden, existentialist twists of fate. Kafka’s fragmented writing style mirrored his troubled life, diaries, and the continued international hunt for and legal battles over his unpublished work.

Sharp’s Jungian study focuses on two dimensions: Kafka’s psycho-biography and the psychological themes in his stories and novels about conflict and transformation. Kafka worked at an insurance agency and wrote in the evenings. He had an unstable family life and unsatisfying, distant relationships with several women. Sharp notes this social isolation figuratively shaped Kafka as an author and influenced the psychological themes he explored (24). Instead, Kafka lived in a divided world between the inner life of his writing and how he dealt with contemporary realities.

Kafka suffered from the ‘provisional life’ which Sharp diagnoses as ‘neurotic depression’ (75, 48, 61). Sharp suggests Kafka’s life was ruled by his ‘secret raven’: a chthonic shadow that created inner plight (48, 97-98).  Unable to find a ‘grounded’, everyday experience, Kafka used his writing as a vehicle to exteriorise his inner despair. He is caught between idealisation of marriage and sex phobia (56). Sharp suggests Kafka was overly dependent on his mother and that this became a barrier to his self-growth, sense of freedom and abilities to manifest his longed-for spiritual ideals (82). Only near the end of his short life does Kafka achieve transformation via a relationship with Dora Dymant and whilst battling tuberculosis (102). These experiences transform Kafka’s ‘provisional life’ into a state of numinous self-integration (109-114), or at least a clear step towards this possible healing.

Kafka’s life offers several important lessons. Whilst it is possible to lead a ‘dual life’ of inner reality versus the outer world, the two must become integrated and not remain in tension. Otherwise, conflicts will eventuate, which Kafka’s diary entries ruminate over in great, tortured detail. Without a framework to understand his journey and experiences, Kafka emphasised negative aspects of his life and writing (61-65). This gives his writing an elegiac, at times disembodied quality yet it also clearly affected his life-awareness. Sharp’s reflections on Jung’s constructs—the chthonic shadow, the anima, individuation, transformation—can inform our understanding of artistic and creative work, and the nature of initiatory quests.

We all may have our inner, secret ravens.

21st February 2011: Borders’ Bankruptcy

The bankruptcy of US booksellers Borders has shaken the Australian publishing industry.

Ebooks and online retailers are blamed.

Borders failed due to other reasons. Large floor space meant sales pressure and diversification away from core business. High retail prices, foreign currency exposures and sluggish turnover meant large store inventories. Private equity debt compounded the situation.

Borders was a victim of poor management and high cost structures.

18th February 2011: A Short Reading List

A short reading list:

Hofstadter, Douglas (2007). I Am A Strange Loop , Basic Books, New York. (TS-4). A guidebook to the self-referential ‘I’ through philosophy, consciousness research, mathematics, topology and feedback experiments.

Kekes, John (2005). The Roots of Evil , Cornell University Press, Ithaca. What connects Charles Manson, the Albigensian Crusade and Argentina’s ‘dirty war’? Through seven detailed case studies, Kekes evaluates how evil manifests in the world, from a ‘fatal fusion’ to ‘wickedness in high places’. Kekes argues that active cultivation of ‘moral imagination’ is vital.

Mau, Bruce (2004). Massive Change , Phaidon Press, London. (TS-1). Mau and colleagues at the Institute Without Boundaries provide a provocative overview of the global trends and design challenges which may shape the 21st century. Features commentary by 34 experts in the tradition of Buckminster Fuller.

Shattuck, Roger. (1996). Forbidden Knowledge: From Prometheus to Pornography , St. Martin’s Press, New York. (TS-3). (OTR-4). Shattuck discusses the axiology of ‘forbidden knowledge’ in art, literature and history. His ‘six categories of forbidden knowledge’ is extremely useful for metaphysical research.

Shirley, John. Gurdjieff: An Introduction to His Life and Ideas , Jeremy P. Tarcher, New York. (TS-1). A nuanced and comprehensive overview of the Graeco-Armenian magus George Gurdjieff, his work, methods, legacy, pupils, and cultural impact. Clarifies some difficult concepts in The Work such as humanity’s status as “food for the moon”.

Slaughter, Richard (2004). Futures Beyond Dystopia: Creating Social Foresight , RoutledgeFalmer, London. (TS-4). (OTR-4). Slaughter is the doyen of critical futurists and editor of the Knowledge Base of Futures Studies . This collection of his ‘later period’ academic essays discusses the limits of dystopias; professional standards and methodological renewal in futures work; and Ken Wilber’s Integral framework. Features an extensive, annotated bibliography to key works in futures and foresight.

Strogratz, Steven (2003). Sync: The Emerging Science of Spontaneous Order , Penguin Books, New York. (TS-3). An introduction to mathematical theories of self-organisation and synchronised oscillations. A scientific explanation for Xeperi (miracles, synchronicities).

Wieland-Burston, Joanne (1992). Chaos and Order in the World of the Psyche , Routledge, New York. (TS-3). A Jungian synthesis of Chaos as a ‘psychotherapeutic encounter’, science’s role, and strategies of ‘individuals in the face of chaos’. The forces of Chaos can paradoxically help an individual to re-establish their equilibrium.