IV. Open Space
Learning as Death and Birth
Begin with a simple cyclic model to describe the act of learning or of social change.
Human energies, bound and flowing, form a stable system. Some are involved in maintaining the structure; some are expressed though it, with various degrees of health; and some are repressed or latent, connected with unmet needs. The structure breaks. An open space without coherent structure results: a Chaos. It contains not only the energies expressed or repressed by the structure, but those formerly bound in maintaining the structure's coherence, and the scattered fragments of the structure itself. In this live open space, tools, skills, and knowledge under some form of control -- freeing or authoritarian -- act upon and with the energies and fragments. Out of Chaos, a new coherence emerges, a new structure. Energies flow and hang until change again becomes necessary, and the process repeats.
From this perspective, significant learning or change in human systems is always explicitly revolutionary: it involves the death of one order and the creation of another. The rhetoric of this description is social and dramatic, at odds with our cultural mythologies about learning. In the real physical world, of course, change has proven to be quantized and discontinuous. But our social sciences lag behind our natural ones.
Whether the change be the elimination of racism, the learning of a mathematical theorem, or the recognition of love, what is involved is always the disruption of an organic human system, its death as an integral entity; and a birth. After learning to conjugate a Spanish verb or express a sigh, the new human system does not differ much from the old. But it is new, and its birth may become easier and more appropriate when understood as revolutionary. (1)
If learning is revolution, the goal of our new education is not a degree or a state, but a process: a healthy process of change and its attendant skills, in response to our needs and desires. Our learning to create this process seems to have three components: learning to break free from old and crippling frameworks of control: learning to think about the process of change; and learning to handle and build in the freedom we create and grow in.
Given this cyclic model, the key questions of learning theory become these: How is open space created, recognized, and maintained? What happens within it, and what is it good for? What skills and what forms of authority and control are necessary to survive and to build with health in Chaos? How are they developed? How can we construct human systems that will die gracefully when their time comes, or at least leave their people empowered to build in response to real needs?
Some first answers to these questions appear when we examine my generation's experience with free learning in open space. (2) For we are involved in a many-leveled system of alternative education, which transforms us as we invent it; and by considering its examples we can accumulate a more detailed model of our working knowledge of the process of change.
The FSM and the Open Circle Model
The Cop-Car Episode
On October 2, 1964, a police car drove onto the main plaza of the Berkeley campus of the University of California to arrest a young man at a civil rights table. A thousand students entrapped it with its hostage, and the Free Speech Movement began in high gear. A microphone was placed on top of the car. Sock-footed, Mario Savio stepped up to speak. He was followed by two hundred others. From that unprecedented podium, they spoke for thirty hours, creating the first true public dialogue I had heard in America.
The open space was not only that created by the neutralization of campus and legal authority. It was an internal open space of live energy gathered without expectations to limit its expression. No one had ever captured a cop-car before, nor spoken from its top within such an immediate, deep, and ongoing crisis: no one knew what form of speech was appropriate. Hence a diverse multitude of viewpoints -- on history, politics, poetry, morality, law, tactics, and our feelings appeared from a richly various population. None dominated or subordinated the others -- unlike a normal political rally -- which is to say that no central Authority was re-created. This permitted a deep commonality of feeling, perception, and intent to emerge.
It is hard now to remember the fragmented alienation that was the endemic state of pre-FSM Berkeley. In the open space around that car was born a long-latent group consciousness, which since has broken and reformed many times, growing slowly stronger and broader, into Community. At that moment it was sufficiently intense and coherent that, for the first recent time within white America, a group of her young were willing to face beating and arrest by 600 cops to defend what was theirs. In the pure, energy-filled Chaos of that conversation a shared understanding was born also. The politics, analysis, and strategy of the FSM were realized full-blown in those early hours; and the next three months of this first major campus movement were devoted to working them out in practice.
The Movement's Structure and Process
This working-out was accomplished in a different sort of open space. The FSM had a visible political structure: campus groups sent representatives to a large executive assembly responsible for policy-making, which elected a small steering committee to make immediate tactical decisions. But neither body had any significant control over the movement's members and their voluntary actions. Their main functions were in fact to handle information: to coordinate its flow within the movement and across the interfaces between the FSM and other campus power-groups, and to represent the FSM formally to the outside world. Power of course resides in the control of information, but at worst such power is only indirectly punitive. In this case it was used to enable the FSM's members, by making information-flow within the movement as free and comprehensive as possible (thus decentralizing power).
A distinctive style of organizing social energies resulted, one familiar to crisis politics. As a need became visible, a group of volunteers organized spontaneously to learn to fill it. Quickly some thirty autonomous groups involving over a thousand people appeared, to fill a spectrum of functions ranging from legal support to entertainment, from research to publicity. In general the two central committees were powerless to define, order, or direct their work; they could only facilitate it when possible, and by spreading its information help to spread its example and style.
Later accounts tried to explain the FSM's power and success by picturing it as efficient and highly organized, run by a core of highly skilled technicians, like some functional American bureaucracy. In fact, it was nothing of the sort: groups would form and be working for days before the steering committee even learned of them. Skills were mostly developed in situ, in a process of free learning, from fragments of past skills and training usually meant for other purposes. I had never before seen my peers able to come together on a mass scale and generate new work in response to their needs. Here many of America's elite and frustrated youth felt for the first time that they created coherent, satisfying, and productive work that used their human capacities. The space they moved in was both open and rich, in senses they had not encountered before.
The Universal Sit-In
The FSM climaxed in the first mass disruptive campus sit-in. A thousand students marched into the administration building "to bring the machine to a grinding halt." They expected arrest and police violence as well as suspension or expulsion from school.
In the freed space of that building, during the fifteen hours before the cops came, the nation’s first free university conducted its first classes atop civil-defense disaster drums stored in the basement. Movies were shown on the walls. A Chanukah service was held, followed by traditional folk dancing. Singers and instrumentalists performed in the stairwells. They were barred from the study hall to which the top floor had been converted, and avoided the improvised infirmary and kitchen. Pot was smoked in the corners, and several co-eds had their first full sexual experiences on the roof, where walkie-talkies were broadcasting news to the outside. The steering committee made political decisions in the women's john and organized in the corridors.
To an open space -- here physical rather than political or conversational, and of course always psychological -- the students brought their entire selves and concerns, true to the deep and multileveled nature of the conflict. The result was typical of what flowers in open space. Masquerading as a sit-in, an entire society-in-miniature was created in the liberated territory of Sproul Hall, using all the resources available.
Confrontation Politics and Personal Growth
One aspect of the FSM illuminates the question of liberation and growth, and the connection between their social and personal levels. In the six months following the sit-in, literally everyone I knew who had been deeply involved with the movement accomplished some major and long-delayed change in their personal lives. Examples were various: they left school, town, or their mates; some decided to finish their Ph.D.’s, take up painting, stop smoking, or get married. For all, the changes were intimate and deeply therapeutic.
Thus interior psychological space was opened by participation in a highly successful mass movement. Two factors seem clearly involved. First and simply: a sense of public, collective empowerment carries over into the private domain. Social behavior that shatters expectations of what is possible creates psychic space, in the form of a larger, partially-opened universe of personal possibility. (Conversely, individual learning of all sorts is inhibited in a stifled society.)
The second factor has to do with why people were in fact able to move in their open spaces, and is more complex. In the FSM, the anger of America's white young was directed for the first time against their parent, liberal institutions. All observers agree that a long-gathered and deep anger and frustration -- with the institution's processes and effects on the students' lives, and with their own inabilities to function -- provided much of the energy that built and ran through the movement.
These gathered emotions were catalyzed into available energy during the charged hours around the cop-car, while students discussed the administration's inept atrocities and waited for the cops to recapture the car. For most, it was their first serious demonstration. Each had to deal directly with his own live anger and fear -- the immediate tip of a massive iceberg -- and manage some temporary resolution. Most chose to stay, to resist dispersement nonviolently and continue the struggle afterward, and to face and endure the uncertain consequences of their choice.
The movement's later development can be viewed as the acting-out of anger in a social theater: the articulation and expression of collective repressed emotion. The main target was the administration, which continued to provoke conflict during this time. In widely varied symbolic theater, the students dethroned the coercive parental authority described above as the Authority Complex. Harsh emotions became tools to break, rather than reinforce, control. In the open space thus created, and in response to their other feelings and needs, there flowered a rich and various community and culture, and a multitude of individual changes.
Observers of campus conflict are familiar with the enormous amounts of energy liberated in the participants, with the striking efficiency of its translation into productive social and personal work, and with the heavy charges of anger and fear that must constantly be dealt with on many levels. It seems that to engage directly with these emotions is deeply therapeutic and freeing in a nonspecific way.
I believe that this connection between personal growth and the experience of being able to express anger holds true on the largest social scale, though modified by other factors, and is critical in explaining the connection between the recent political movements among the blacks and the white young and the broad movements of cultural change that are spreading in their wake.
The Open-Circle Process
Let me turn to a model of a learning environment that exhibits more directly the cyclic paradigm of learning sketched above. Its main features were visible in the cop-car episode; I have observed it in many other contexts and have created some of these deliberately. As a mass-learning form, it can be used as a tool with a high probability of successful operation under the right conditions. These include the presence, among a group of people, of a sufficient critical mass of emotional energy -- long stored up, or attached to some recent event -- and the need to create a public consciousness, not at alI monolithic, which individual consciousness can relate to and be defined against.
Several hundred people are seated in a circle -- the geometry is psychologically significant. They include a small core-group that organizes the form's energies by catalyzing and maintaining open space. The process begins with the breaking-open of space, through exhortation or ceremony, or a piece of angry or joyful theater, like the ritual murder of interrupting a planned speaker. The event must combine naked emotion with heavy and appropriate cognitive content; the dissonance between these is crucial to releasing energy. The aim is to provide a freeing example, to break open the expectations of what can happen in the circle, to provide an authority that does not limit or enforce appropriate behavior but gives permission to express what is there.
The core-group keeps the process open by preventing the redevelopment of the Authority Complex in any of its forms -- such as a faculty member speaking at length or in continual response to questions from students; prolonged two-person debate; cooperative effort by a small sub-group of sophisticates to keep the conversation focused on a narrow ideological track; and so on.
The core-group deals with the steady resurgence of the Authority Complex by isolating the individuals responsible (if any) and effectively removing them from the conversation: by making new behavior to break the expectations that re-form even without provocation; and by speaking directly to the larger group about the health of its process. The core organizers must deal also with the Authority Complex latent in their own presence, especially while the impact of the opening event lingers. (For example, the larger group must not feel that it is necessary to put on a show or stand naked in order to speak in the circle.) The core-group defines space with its energy, then draws back to leave the space open. When core members speak with the authority of organizers and tenders of the discussion. they speak only of its process. This authority must not be used to lend false weight to their personal speech as members of the whole. If this distinction is impossible to maintain. as is often the case in large groups, they are silent personally.
On one occasion, two of us began such a process among students at an educational-reform community meeting. All our past expectations and conditioning urged us to hang on to control after we first spoke. My companion kept calling on people and asking them to focus their discussion; I sat on the floor cross-legged, rocking violently, acting out with my body my frustration at knowing what everyone should, of course, agree upon. Finally I controlled him: sent him to shush musicians at the back so people could hear, and do other control-things to facilitate the meeting. Our drives to control were thus neutralized in the conversation, which went on for hours with high tension and freedom.
The pattern of a successful open-circle process is generally this: For, say, half an hour after the opening, speakers cope with their reactions to that event. These are always quite mixed and include much hostility (which usually accompanies the breaking of expectations). Then people's less-transient concerns take over. The conversation becomes various, not uniform. It is not debate, being poor in counterargument, nor continuous logical development of a topic -- the style of authority implicit within such forms of conversation is not flexible enough. Rather, the key mode of an open process is testament. Freed not so much from direct constraint as from the subtler tyranny of limited example and expectation, people improvise to fill space with whatever they have to express and feel is appropriate. They speak as the public fragments of a divided consciousness. When enough fragments have been presented so that the consciousness becomes clear enough for individual and group needs, (3) the process is satisfied, and typically breaks up without a climax or a formal closing ritual. When the process is working well, most of those who speak are not accustomed to performing in the public of their peers, and the emotional quavering in their voices as they present their real concerns is the surest index that open space has in fact been created.
As with all open processes, the quickest way to close this one is by creating a climate of fear. Most open circles fail when their speakers turn from testifying to arguing against what others have said -- reasserting by their stance of Critic the presence of the Authority Complex they have internalized.
Examples of Social and Cultural Growth in Open Space
Some understanding of how growth occurs in open space comes from examining five major social and cultural institutions now being developed by the white young.
The prototype "underground" radio station was San Francisco's KMPX, which early in 1967 began broadcasting an after-midnight hard-rock-and-rap program once a week to the enormous latent audience of hip young in the area. KMPX was then an obscure, struggling FM station, its airspace weakly held by a polyglot of ethnic/religious programs. Given the response to the new programming, the station was open to displacing the old segment-by-segment. Within a year, KMPX radiated New Culture twenty-four hours a day to an audience exceeded only by one local AM station, and changed the listening habits of a growing community.
Since KMPX was the first of its kind, there were few past expectations to guide and limit the conversation of its growth. Programming began by freely exploring the rich and changing music we called rock, and then expanded to include Bach, Ravi Shankar, jazz, music concrete, and old radio serials like "The Lone Ranger." Drop-in interviews with musicians and others of interest to the audience began happening unannounced. Sunday afternoons developed into a forum on matters of community importance, like abortion, the Great Pot Test Case, and the Vietnam War. During a local newspaper strike, KMPX broadcast favorite columnists and a daily news summary compiled by the left magazine Ramparts; a sister station went on to develop a new and wildly inventive form of dramatized news presentation. KMPX began to generate dances and demonstrations almost by itself. Its announcers were casual about mistakes and used frank language. They announced the arrival of pot shipments, reported lost dogs, and warned listeners about batches of poisoned LSD for sale.
In an open space, a many-faced institution was growing in response to the unmet needs of an emerging community, generating new ideas and examples of what a radio station might become. The speed and flexibility of its growth were directly due to the high degree and quality of feedback between KMPX and its audience. The announcers and engineers belonged to the community and responded to its constant phone calls, often putting them on the air. The station was even physically open to its listeners, who crowded in bearing food and their desires. (4)
The open space could not be maintained. The station's success made it the focus of powerful commercial and social influence from the larger society. Within a year, control of the broadcasts passed from the programmers to the station's managers and owners, and to undiscriminated advertisers. None belonged to the community; all represented outside social and economic interests. In a classic sequence, the Authority Complex re-entered and pruned KMPX's brief various garden back to acceptable limits. The station's staff struck to regain control, were unsuccessful, and left. KMPX's programming went downhill to a safe plastic hip style. The original staff was powerless to better this when hired to revamp a station owned by a major media-chain, for its style of control proved inimical to freedom.
By 1970, there were three hundred "underground" stations. Few had enjoyed even KMPX's brief flowering, and almost none had developed significantly beyond that model. The lesson is general: only collective control by the community involved in and affected by an institution can keep its space open. (5)
"When the mode of the music changes," said Plato, "the walls of the City shake."
The art medium now called "rock music" deserves study as an open social form. Though rock is blues-based, its evolution has been so rapid and decentralized that -- in contrast to tradition-rooted forms like jazz and classical music -- an Authority Complex operates relatively weakly within it, and its limits are radically open. The form's technology is one factor in this -- since records and tapes are cheap, plentiful, and ephemeral, their influence is as unconstraining as their production is rapid. Also. rock is generated from a remarkably decentralized base of small, changing groups with wide-ranging cultural inputs, who are rather responsive to local community audiences. The freeing style of authority inherent in this generative form works to keep the medium open and preserve its vitality.
In this open domain, the young are inventing music anew, with a freed sense of what is appropriate to the task. The measure of a form's freedom is the diversity of behavior it contains and develops from what is available. Rock now embraces and integrates musical styles and elements drawn from every American subculture, and from most major musical cultures known to the rest of the world and to history. Its instruments range from violins to computers, from tin pans to theremins. Its content -- as the Birch Society has long recognized -- is a many-leveled message about freedom and the destruction of the old style of authority, which is mirrored in the structure and process of the medium that bears it.
But counter-forces work to close the medium. By 1969, they were already beginning to damp its live diversity. Though the music was created from a decentralized musician base, it was produced and distributed through the centralizing apparatus of the music industry, which operates in hierarchical power-modes within an economic reward/punishment scheme, for the sake of preserving and extending its order. And though music is of all expressions the one in which the intrinsic authority of example should carry most clearly, within the Form of rock the force of an overriding Authority Complex has biased evolution and has restricted and standardized the language.
Here we can study in some detail authoritarian closure as it occurs in a communications medium. As a mediating valve in the cycle of energy between musician and listener, the industry regulated the information it carried. The principle of regulation was neither free dissemination of all (musical) viewpoints, as in an open-circle process, nor the focused dissemination of a community consciously putting a medium to its own constructive use. Instead, the industry chose music to push on the basis of its potential marketability in profit competition (and cultural "safeness"), and promoted musicians on the basis of their integrability into industrial production. A minute elite of decision-makers reinforced these choices with sales propaganda which tapped all the conditioning of their audience to re-create the hierarchies of Star and Superstar and convince people that what they got was what they needed.
Through this authoritarian valve, the rich output of people's first explorations of the open space of a new Form was restricted. Hardly was the Haight unveiled in '67 before the record companies were at work to define and market a pablumized San Francisco Sound. The Top Forty DJ's, their monopoly of most city audiences still unbroken, played it to death as an “in” thing. In thousands of garages across Amerika, kids hungry to make it as a group grabbed at the Sound, seeking something sure to get it on at the high-school dance, something the local promoters would find likely, or just one cut to send to RCA. Through a multitude of such cycles, rock music has grown stale. As of 1971, this Form was back under familiar control.
Rock music has an open and eclectic aesthetic, which characterizes the other art forms -- painting, clothing, poetry, graffiti -- the growing edge of the young culture, and which is foreign to the parent culture. Call it the Santa Claus Aesthetic, for one never knows what the medium wearing it may bring. This aesthetic is a phenomenon of first growth within freeing forms, fed by open access to treasuries of raw material. Yet it may not be ephemeral. For the Santa Claus Aesthetic is surely also a function of the emerging nature of those who invent and delight in its gifts: and perhaps, in this age when we resurrect and ransack the cultures of the world and the past and human consciousness transforms itself by miraculous technologies, it may presage a stable cultural style new to human history.
Such dreams came naturally in the heady atmosphere of the first rock-dances, held in the now-legendary Fillmore Auditorium and elsewhere in San Francisco. "Rock dances" is a thin misnomer for these first successful experiments in mass total-environmental theater. The battery of media employed has become familiar: films, liquid light projections, stroboscopic and "black" lights; incense and foods and feelables; live music and tapes. Their total and many-leveled impact overwhelms psychic barriers. To attend simultaneously through several senses to intense semi-related messages creates an internal dissonance that expands and opens inner space. Technicians of the mixed-media form were immediately familiar with the behavioral consequences of what they called "sensory overload."
The great halls held open space: physical, psychological, cultural, historical. Live energies of longing and contact refracted through a myriad of cross-cultural interfaces to open space further, as Hell's Angels, hippies, media-men, activists, socialites, teeny-boppers. blacks, and sorority girls came together in fantastical costume. In that space people sang, danced, rapped, took pictures, played instruments, voyeured, seduced, served Kool-Aid, painted faces and floors, spun in rings, stood drowned in light, freaked on acid, wept in corners, played balloon-ball, took notes and chanted, spun wildly through the crowd crowned with ivy or in the raw. There were no necessary roles, no established norms of clothing, conduct, or motion. Beyond their irreducible interior imprisonments -- often dramatically lessened -- the participants were free to define themselves and "do their own thing," even though that phrase was not yet current. The halls became a rich, compact arena for the free, improvisational theater which the young are developing now in the streets, classrooms, and supermarkets. (6)
In America and the West, the white young had always learned dances created by others, sometimes varying them slightly in learning. In this process -- caricatured by the white feet and black feet, 1-2, 1-2, of our childhood comic books and adolescent social nightmares -- the structure and operation of the Authority Complex are elegantly displayed. But in the open space of the Fillmore Auditorium, many were freed to learn a new style of learning how to dance. In a whirl of motions -- polka and cha-cha-cha, ballet spins and gymnastic stretching exercises, mambo and bunny hop, twist and camel, waltz and intercourse, kaleidoscope modern dance -- from a treasury of fragments and their own natural gestures they learned to synthesize dances whose names were only their own, relegating imitation to its proper place in the process of free learning.
The closed universes of personal possibility were broken open by the force of mutual example. In a climate that tolerated any collection of motions, guided by their own senses of coherence, individuals created and expressed their own dances. They were limited primarily by their physical capacities; by their abilities to grasp and combine disparate elements into coherent expression, and to tolerate the cognitive and other dissonances centrally involved in this process; by their senses of trust and fear; and by what they had in their selves to express. The particular importance of dealing with fear in this process of learning will be clear to most who remember learning to dance (even in a crippled way), or who strive for emotional openness.
Mixed media are not enough: the open space was not maintained, within the halls or for persons. The halls settled into successful commercial operation, in the familiar centralized forms of the profit economy. In ways direct and subtle, and in the style of the Authority Complex, this re-enforced old limits on behavior and expectations. This process was even acted out physically, while the capacity overcrowds of greed were compressed into a uniform mass on floors that had no space for dancing, and life-theater turned into passive concert.
This process of closure took about a year. The mass media played a considerable part, by shifting the nature of the audience and its expectations. But I do not think they hastened closure, despite the way we cursed them for cheapening this too. For, though closure processes are various, their common period seems to be some nine to eighteen months, (7) in any new form or institution that does not contain a sub-component that functions explicitly to keep the form open. The process of closure begins when dominant power relationships, in social or psychic space, start to be seriously challenged.
The Fillmore moved to Fillmore West, which might better be called Fillmore Lost. But its prototypical classroom for personal and freely developed dance and theater continues to be re-created at be-ins and happenings -- especially at those felt to be of historical and cultural importance. This Event consciousness is instrumental in creating open space. It is one version of the Hawthorn Effect (8) -- a general term for the way people's behavior changes when it takes on the important aspect of being an object of deliberate study. (The Effect is radically different when study is evaluation within a punitive framework.)
Two other factors involved in the successful creation of this learning form deserve mention. Typically, as in crisis polities, there are many objects, groups, actions, and individuals that provoke and invite participation and active response. From one perspective, this means that the drive and instinct of play are strongly excited; from another, that as a functional form such a process of energies is rich in feedback loops. Also, these events are often free, both in the simple economic sense, which is psychologically important, and in the deeper sense of an ethical mood prevailing -- one that licenses giving out and sharing without requiring return, and is often catalyzed by the example of the musicians.
Free Youth Ghettos
History has known other youth ghettos, less extensive and deliberate than those being created throughout America. Never have tbey contained "youth" largely in their twenties, nor served as the principal cradle for what Kenneth Keniston (9) speculates to be a second, para-adolescent developmental stage unique to post-industrial society and thus to human culture. Robert Lifton has given us the term "protean man" for the selves that may be the full products of this stage: selves capable of wide and continual transformation and application, bearing with them their conjugate society, which also may be called protean. What environments of learning and change will produce them, and how? This is perhaps the key analytical and political question of our age; surely radical social reconstruction depends upon it. One way to begin to poke for answers is to try to identify and understand the real leaming processes that have so far been at work among the young who provoke these speculations.
America's free youth ghettos still largely coincide with her college campuses, where they first developed in an incomplete form. Now, in a fuller form, they are growing in every major city. Their prototype appeared in San Francisco's Haight-Ashbury district.
Over a few years, perhaps 10,000 of America's most freed youth occupied the open urban space of a declining neighborhood, seeking with varying deliberateness a place to build a local society that would extend and embrace their individual changes. A tenuous ghetto grew denser. The Haight came to collective consciousness of itself as a distinctive place roughly at the end of 1965, aided by a successful neighborhood political battle to avert the carnage of redevelopment for a freeway. This consciousness was marked and defined by the development of a spectrum of small formal and informal groups -- political, social, cultural, economic -- whose functions were to clarify the nature of the society emerging there, to guide and express its growth, and to begin to develop institutions appropriate to its needs and nature. (See chapter X)
The Haight flowered in peaceful space for roughly a year. Then the mass media discovered it and created the Hippy, and it was swamped by an instant media deluge whose only precedent was the destruction of San Francisco's North Beach colony a decade earlier. The hospitality, trust, and resources of a young society were overwhelmed and its further growth was agonized and distorted. While Scott MacKenzie sang, "If you come to San Francisco, wear a flower in your hair;" the speedy economies of tourism and Mafia amphetamine pumped strange elements into the open arterials that nourished the Haight. When the hungry young arrived in force, they found a social sewer.
But there was another, ephemeral Haight never captured by the media, whose development, nature, and destruction have been described only in fragments already outdated. That story is equally about the growth of freedom in America's young, as their lives sketch a new society that feeds cruel hopes of its possible survival, and is too complex to go into here. Still, the original Haight presents some important parallels to the "rock dance" model of a learning environment.
First: The individual consciousness of its members was opened not by multimedia sensory bombardment, but by an analogous process in more general media. The catalogue of input is hopelessly long. Television brought the first indelible images of black liberation. The Bomb spoke in their nightmares, while they listened to a new music on transistor radios, read paperback science-fiction, dreamed of touching the moon. They were exposed to all the explosive potential liberations of a sudden qualitative change in man's social and industrial technologies, and to the deaths that these equally threatened. Raised among the gathering contradictions of a liberal corporate capitalist state unable to cope with its problems or maintain its authorities, the inner barriers of their perceptions were corroded by casual lay psychoanalysis and psychedelic drugs. The media were new and penetrating and bore intense, discordant, incoherent energies and images of life and death. The young came to the dance hall called Haight with their minds blown.
Second: The social norms of the Haight were those of its dancers at the Fillmore writ more broadly. They defined a context whose participants were somewhat freed to explore the dance of their selves as they had that of their bodies. There was no effective collective concept of deviant behavior. The boundaries of permissible and possible behavior became drastically enlarged under the multiple thrust of radical examples.
The media phrase "do your own thing" is a weakened version of the Haight's acid motto, "freak freely"; and members of the broader community now becoming self-conscious in America most commonly refer to themselves as “freaks." To freak freely is to let out fully and live in the energies and natures that have been repressed by our society through a process most usefully described as "niggerization": a process in the style of the Authority Complex, which inhibits the development of individual and cultural identity. The concrete experience of life among people who gladly think of themselves as freaks, as niggers learning the beauty of their black and other selves, is a carnival dream. For in a climate with almost no operative concept of deviance, bewildering in its variety of cultural input and individual example, personal change becomes richly possible.
Third: Of course, collective values and aesthetics were also revealed and developed in the space opened by the drastic diminution of that internalized Authority Complex that governs public and private behavior. The emotions of varied and explosive personal liberations overlapped and reinforced one another. They encouraged exposure, sharing, tolerance, mutual involvement and support. Norms and expectations of behavior developed, whose authority was freeing rather than constraining. (Their tangible symbol was the Haight's most typical social ritual, the offering of a joint of grass to the friend or stranger entering through the open door.)
Within the space they opened, much that was ugly occurred -- though more that was beautiful -- in terms of specific aesthetics that people shared. Indeed, the public presence of ugliness and failure seems to be one essential feature of the operation of an open form. (11) For such a form to continue successfully, its beauties must overbalance its uglinesses in a way that nourishes a commitment to an overarching aesthetic of freedom within which individual aesthetics can be pursued: and it must develop ways to deal with its failures. Making failure a visible and acceptable element of process is a necessary beginning. In this as in other ways, the parallels to personal therapy should be clear.
The imprint of a collective aesthetic of freedom is apparent in both the intent and the design of the institutions that began to evolve in the Haight to service basic human needs. Successful experiments in creating and distributing on a mass scale free culture, free food, free housing and clothing, free mass communications, and free medical and legal services began and progressed to some degree of institutional sophistication and stability, embodying an open and participatory organizational style. Correlated attitudes about sex were evident. So, most strongly, was an ethic and psychology of personal property new to America -- an open one, which seems appropriate to the full society of “post-scarcity” economy whose uncontrolled premonitions now fill the houses of the middle class and excite our imaginations. (12)
To some extent, all these values and phenomena seem to characterize every revolutionary context or process displayed in our Western history, despite the constraining influences of particular ideologies.
Fourth: The birth of revolution is glorious and noted for personal transformation: in it prostitutes turn pure. The Haight, like the FSM, was a rich and mobile environment of free expression, of mutual interaction and need. For a while, its energies were not focused to do immediate battle; and its internal social climate was even more nourishing, and incredibly tolerant and patient. Such a context is intimately therapeutic.
The Haight was a concentrated laboratory for the process at work in America's young, which may be seen as the therapeutic reconstruction of individual personality in a simultaneously developing social matrix. (13) The clearest examples -- which I believe to be extreme versions of typical individual processes -- involved the recovery, re-integration, and therapeutic growth, in communes, of personalities whom LSD experiences had pulled over the edge of what we inadequately describe as psychotic breaks. In a process inextricably involved with the evolution of its context, I saw such persons rebuild and build newly their selves with relative degrees of rapidity, humaneness, and completeness, for which nothing in my previous experience -- neither example nor rumor -- had prepared me.
I imagine the "success" ratio, however you measure it, was not very high. Surely it dropped as the young community grew paranoid, strained, and swamped, before its therapeutic lore was well developed. Even so, I saw enough. I do not believe that the clumsy, fragmenting operations of our specialists and specialized institutions match the present effectiveness of such total-context therapy, let alone its potential.
I will return to the question of what skills and factors are involved in such reconstruction, but several are familiar already. Examples of successful change in process provide ratification and encouragement. Without a strong concept of deviant behavior expressed in a punitive social framework, fear is dramatically reduced. Trust is an all-important variable, as is the supportiveness of the context. The tolerance of the Haight was not simply neutral, but often active: at its best, it led people to encounter and engage with all that was strange, including the brokenness of their brothers and sisters.
Certainly the Haight held a highly selected (though diverse) population. Their psychological profiles resembled those of the FSM arrestees, who as a large group tested out with unprecedentedly high scores in a cluster of variables centrally involved with free learning ability: autonomy, impulse-expression, fantasy-freedom, and others that contribute to the psychological aggressiveness and openness characteristic of good learners.
Are more general populations capable of undergoing such processes of learning as those described here? Can they deal even this minimally-well with the experiences and tools of open forms? Much evidence suggests that they can. The opening of space is a recursive activity now progressing in a favorable climate of historical potential. Minds blown by the FSM came to the Haight; and the instant televised images of both blew further minds across America, opening the universe of the possible. It is now clear that these two events represented the leading edge of a massive motion among the young, and that the technologies of change, which prepared their participants, have been operating throughout America with effects that are only now beginning to become apparent and are still accelerating.
The Berkeley Switchboard
A compact example of the reconstitution of authority in open space appeared in the interior organizing process of the Berkeley Switchboard, a standard hip community-service agency coordinating housing and transportation, providing medical and legal aid, and so on, for one of the Haight's sister communities. Sponsored by the Free Church -- an experimental ministry itself sponsored with few expectations by a collection of liberal groups and churches -- the Berkeley Switchboard's organizers were given free space in the form of a house and being left to invent their own thing.
Their constraints were operational goals: to achieve a stable internal society, which left its members free to create and coordinate their work. The style of this micro-society necessarily had to be that of the democratic commune or extended family which the larger community is evolving as its distinctive experimental life-module, often with a specialized work-orientation. In this example, the work was central, constantly evolving ,and therapeutic (the changing learning to help the changing change), which may be why some aspects of openness characteristic of this form show up most extremely here. The Switchboard had to organize itself around a constant flow of visitors and new members and major turnovers in its work functions and force -- and around persons who were freaks learning to work while freaking freely, who like as not would file cards while stoned on acid.
Sleeping bags, filing cabinets and freaks invaded an open space, graced by the attitudes of the Haight. At first there were simply no rules. In a voluntary behavioral Chaos, people lived and worked as they pleased, and invented elementary forms of cooperation. Services struggled into being. Garbage piled in the kitchen and collected rats. Drunken bikers beat itinerant hippies with chains in the living room.
After it became sufficiently clear that such phenomena seriously hampered the Switchboard's work, rules were instituted, bearing the authority of their self-conscious and public creation, and backed by ostracism and physical force. Such creations were difficult and instructive for a community deliberately oriented toward tolerance and non-violence.
Compassionate hospitality led them to open the place as a crash pad; a glut of transients closed space, and they had to learn to restrict the numbers without closing their doors. The Switchboard's people dealt constantly with this problem of developing appropriate limits on the free expression of their natural energies and impulses: limits that would not cause these to wither, but would permit them to flourish in a total social ecology.
The community's distrust of the Authority Complex and its reluctance to legislate helped create an environment in which rules and social norms were devised only when collectively felt to be absolutely necessary for survival and function. Such rules came about in response to specific and mutually recognized problems. They were tailored to suit the society's immediate nature and needs and -- in this high-feedback and participatory environment -- were constantly open to challenge and revision. Their governing aesthetic was that of minimal constraint consistent with operational goals.
Here the process was elegantly displayed; but this style of reconstituting authority is visible in each of the learning-environments described above. To build successfully in such open spaces requires in individuals not only the ability to tolerate and experience intense expressions of emotion, but also the ability to generate and deal with high and rapidly changing flows of social and personal energy. They must also be able to maintain themselves and function within the ambiguity and anxiety, the tensions and fears of partial social and psychological chaos. In large degree, the appropriateness of what they build will be proportional to their ability to sustain these dissonances and endure these stresses.
A critical question, then, is how are these abilities developed and improved? The most general answer is as important as it is simple: by practice, by a progressive sequence of relatively successful exercises. (The importance of such monotonic chains of experience in developing new behavior, within whatever framework of reward and failure, is well known throughout learning theory, beginning with the rat-running level of simple conditioning.)
From this perspective, most of the learning events described above are seen to be models of typical environments that depend on and nourish these abilities. Their historical progression occurred around some actual continuity of individuals -- though its implications and echoes are now nationwide -- and furnishes a partial and parallel recapitulation of the process of the development of these abilities within individuals. All of these learning forms -- from confrontation politics to therapeutic community -- are reproducible technologies and are re-usable in varying degrees and adaptations. They are coming into wide use.
Formal Educational Forms
Before continuing on the question of what tools develop the psychological skills necessary to change, I want to deal with some institutional environments of free learning that exhibit what is built in open space.
The Tussman Program
The Experimental Collegiate Program of the University of California at Berkeley -- informally called the Tussman Program, after its organizer -- began in Fall 1965, in the open space of a former fraternity house. The two-year program included 150 freshmen, and a faculty of five professors and five advanced graduate students, drawn from many disciplines. The formal curriculum each term consisted of intensive non-disciplinary study of a small core of readings drawn from a major epoch of cultural change, with three scheduled lecture/seminar hours and one paper each week. This, and the expected extensive informal interactions, accounted for four-fifths of the students' class load. The Program's plans were at best sketchy; it hoped to develop them in the process of evolving into a self-governing community.
In several senses, then, the Program was an open space. Its first years furnished a compact, luminous example of the crippled growth of free learning in the live but partial presence of the Authority Complex; and of the territorial competition between the two.
Real needs are revealed in open space. Entering a program explicitly promised to be theirs to help construct, the students tried to make it responsive to what they saw as their immediate needs, both personal and social. These may be symbolized by -- but were by no means limited to -- their needs to deal with psychedelic drugs and the War, felt most intensely in the current climate of Berkeley. In each case, the tasks were to choose some action or relation to the problem, to encounter and deal with its personal consequences, and to interact with others variously involved in this process. But drugs and the War played at most a peripheral part in the lives of the senior faculty. The professors were not interested in revising their conception of the Program to make these concerns central, and resisted attempts at this -- even when these concerns related directly to the studies of the program (e.g., concerning the Greek Oracles.)
The difficulties in implementing these needs were reflected in the Program by internal political struggle. This was largely concerned with educational governance: with the questions -- which at first seemed genuinely open -- of how and by whom the curriculum and its styles were to be shaped and implemented, and faculty chosen and retained. By the year's end, the answers were clear: the students had no formal say or effective power in these matters. The governing group was not open, and it came to be rigidly restricted to the senior faculty. (Even within their small ranks, the only stable mode of power and decision they could evolve was not communal or consensual but autocratic, operating in the classic style of the Authority Complex.)
Despite this, within the actual space of the Program, authority was heavily divided and conflicting in interest and style. This tension was maintained largely through the teaching assistants, who accounted for most of the direct student/faculty contact. In them overlapped the authority of their nominal roles, to which the students responded from deep conditioning; and the opposed and freeing authority of their examples as persons whose condition was close to that of the students, and who were struggling visibly with the same sorts of problems.
Whether personal or social, space in which conflicting forces and styles of governance struggle is electric with social and psychological dissonance. (14) Such fractured authority is typical of incoherent open space (coherent open systems are a different and Utopian matter, though these notes are meant as a guide toward their construction). Such space is fertile for growth, provided that most of the available energy is not bound rigidly into the conflict but can be disposed in a flexible and appropriate balance between the requirements of growth and the development of an internal framework of authority that will prermit and support it.
In the Program's case, the students' "academic" and other learning was on the whole adequate and often considerable, as measured by both the system's standards and their own; and they shared an intense and painful laboratory in the struggle of freedom and authority. But too much energy was in fact bound into the unsuccessful conflict and its immediate demands, and their knowledge, skills, and will were undeveloped. The students were unable to reconstruct an effective, collective authority of a different form from that of the Authority Complex.
Before its power, their concerns retreated into scattered private work, and the Program's human space became frozen in a permanent and standard division. One territory was public, common, and institutional; in it the Authority Complex held unchallenged sway, which was achieved and symbolized by firing the teaching assistants at the first year's end and eliminating them from the design of the Program and its successors. In the other territory, among a scattered community with no effective group structure, the students tried to deal privately with those needs for change and learning which the Program no longer held the possibility of satisfying.
This ultimate territorial partition was reflected early on by a tendency among the students to divide into two fairly-sharply defined groups, determined not so much by what they needed to learn as by the styles of learning for which they had been prepared. The Program's internal process forced and clarified this division. One group did not choose to try, and generally were badly able, to function outside of an authority-centered learning framework. (15) Though the others were not successful in establishing a collective alternate framework, as individuals they were distinctly more sure in their self-directed learning skills, and better able to deal with the anxieties, dissonances, conflicts, and emotions of the free-learning process within the Program's society. In these and other skills, the students' unperturbed self-evaluations were generalIy accurate -- a general truth that points to the importance of building change-systems that depend on the conscious self-selection of their participants and allow them maximal self-direction.
The contrast between authority-directed and self-generated behavior appears in every partially open space. In group interaction, as the politics of situation unfold, people sort out into subgroups that reflect these tendencies. Yet both tendencies inhabit each person in some unique balance -- as if this one were 30/70, and that one 60/40. This private balance is not fixed, nor are the characters of the social roles one plays determined entirely by it. Both change in response to the need of the social drama for players to fit its roles, so that he who would be a rebel in Sparta might be a tyrant in Athens, as many members of the Program found.
On the social or the personal level, this division escalates into polarized conflict whenever the context is not rich enough to satisfy both sets of needs; for a learning environment that refuses support is as tyrannical as one with no doors to freedom, and makes people as panicky. The polarization along psychological capacities and orientation split the Program's staff -- not entirely along lines of age, a hopeful sign. Most of the professors -- the Program's head, in particular -- were unable to endure the chaos and emotions necessary either to build within the Program a structure of governance and learning that the students felt dealt with their major needs, or even to engage with much intimacy or effectiveness with individuals around matters the students felt not to be peripheral.
True, the professors' experiences was deeply different from those of the students and had not developed in most of them the necessary skills. But beyond this, they were simply, deeply, and humanly terrified: of Chaos, of contact, of the anxieties of freedom and building newly, of the unknown depths and content all significant learning must involve -- the eternal terror in response to which Hobbes articulated the political theory of the Authoritarian State.
In this case, no social mechanisms developed to deal therapeutically with the terror, which instead was intensified by the Program's process. Both sorts of students came to feel themselves adrift and unsupported. The professors reacted classically, by closing whatever was open. Some acted this out by reinventing and restricting office hours and minimizing contact with students; by firing the teaching assistants, whose presence forced real contact with another reality; and even by literally fainting again and again. Mostly, they came increasingly to define their self-interest negatively, as the prevention of the destruction of their personal and social authorities. The remedy was to reassert total control wherever possible and to avoid the space outside this domain. To this they applied their energies successfully. Authority in the Program was tightened along unreconstructedly Hobbesian lines, in practice and in conscious theory. Despite its exterior features of newness, the Program collapsed toward a standard learning form, fragmenting and familiar in its process and consequences.
It is worth mentioning that the key professors involved in the Program's failure were noted and active political liberals: its head was a well-known exponent of civil liberties and responsibilities, another was a prominent member of a progressive school board, and another a constitutional lawyer in behalf of radical causes. The process of their attempts and failures to deal with the problems involved in creating a major new learning environment is typical, in outline and in detail, of a wide variety of related attempts by their peers. (16) Clearly, any style of educating has its own conjugate politics. The political knowledge and sensibilities of the American mainstream -- including in particular the Liberal current generally reflected in our present formal systems of education -- are simply not adequate to the problem of constructing on any human level systems of free learning.
Properly, an analytic catalogue of my generation's new learning forms should deal with the Teach-In, the first example of which was the Vietnam Teach-In at the University of Michigan in 1965. As a way of creating and structuring space for learning energies. teach-ins can be understood as intermediate between the models of the Tussman Program and the free university.
The Free University
What happens when the needs, orientations, and energies that were absorbed and distorted by struggle within the Tussman Program find a more genuinely open space? What first forms evolve naturally? Their ideal modular unit has been described above as a free learning group. Such units typically exist within a larger institutional form, visible in the hundreds of free universities and student-generated experimental colleges that have sprouted on campuses and around free youth ghettos.
Almost all campus-based free universities come to involve some 6 to 10 percent of the students -- indicating a class of persons psychologically predisposed to experiment with the content and process of learning. Yet the constancy of this proportion, from working-class state schools to private elite universities, implies equally that such personal readiness to experiment comes about in response to objective social conditions and the potential for collective experiment -- again, as if a chance to play a new social role drew forth the players. Given this fraction's involvements in politics, drugs, etc. (as reflected in Free U curricula), the figure of 6 to 10 percent provides a rough estimate of the fraction of (white) college youth willing to venture the edge of social change on an ongoing basis.
The first successful Free U was begun by San Francisco State College students in 1965. Three older students grew tired of grousing about the school and went down to Registration to hang out and gather volunteer groups of freshmen to talk about their education together. After a semester, some members created an interdisciplinary course for their general credits, with cooperative professors; in several years this evolved into a General Ed study group to design and implement major changes in San Francisco State's undergraduate requirements. Other members set about organizing more classes for whatever people wanted to learn. The next semester began with seventeen student-generated experimental classes, which soon banded together to form the Experimental College. Two years later, the carnival multiplication of learning groups involved 2,000 students, and the E.C. was discovered by the media and echoed in East Lansing.
The original organizers of the E.C. developed and analyzed a distinctive style of catalyzing change. Generally in our culture, the unit of change is conceived as a homogeneous mass population, like an economic or Economics class, to whom a rhetorical appeal is made, in the name of History, Learning, or whatever, urging appropriate change. (When possible, the rhetoric is backed by force.) This model describes equally the teacher lecturing, the style of the American Left of the thirties, and the social and economic legislation of the Johnson Administration.
In the contrasting model of the E.C., change is catalyzed by creating a climate of small, autonomous groups engaged in satisfying activities that generate the energy for them to go on. Change is stimulated more by building and exhibiting actual working examples than by trying directly to influence the whole of a large population. The presence of such new examples is, technically speaking, a mind-blower; that is, it breaks expectations as to what forms of personal and institutional behavior and reward are possible. In this expanded universe of possibility, those with available energy and skills can go about constructing their own examples: not in imitation, but after and out of their own sense of needs. Drawing attention to new examples is no problem, for the spectacle of people engaging in genuinely satisfying activity is rare enough that the vibes this generates are picked up by those who are ready to move. (17)
On an intimate scale, this model describes the catalytic mechanism of leadership in small free-learning groups (compare "Qualities of a New Style" in Chap. III). It also describes the multiplication of functional groups within the FSM and the Haight. On a broader social scale, it accounts for the almost instant reproduction across America of the examples of the FSM, KMPX, the Haight, rock dances and be-ins, communes, Switchboards, and free universities. On these two scales, the role of mass media in spreading examples is essential and deserves careful study in view of the way the mass media market false expectations along with real news. (18)
Organizing processes of this sort -- i.e., that propagate real examples by media and direct contact among people ready to move -- catalyze growth that is sudden, simultaneous, and deeply decentralized in that its forms and standards fall under no central control, not even an aesthetic one. (Consider the case of rock music.) The institutional form compatible with this free organizing process has a structure with decentralized editorial control and centralized administrative facilitation. (19) (Contrast the music industry.)
The clearest example of this form is the free university, a cooperative association of voluntary learning groups investigating a broad curriculum in a variety of old and new styles. Typically, the groups are completely autonomous within the institution they form, which is governed by a decision-making group open to all who wish to participate. Such a form can operate with gratifying success, as in the case of the E.C., which not only flourished in its classes, but was able to execute an open-ended series of major organizational restructurings over several years, each time strengthening group growth and opening new space.
This capacity was the product of deliberate design. The E.C.'s organizers set out to develop an institutional mode that would prove flexible to change, able to modify its nature to suit its discovered needs. The ongoing conversation responsible for this development also elaborated the model of a free learning group described above, of which it was itself a remarkably successful example. A collection of autonomous experimenters engaged in evolving fluid cooperation, and beyond them the Experimental College itself, functioned as a laboratory that tested its theories on, and applied its understandings to, its own shape and workings. Thus, like a model conversation, the core group became not only a focus for research and propagation but also its own product and end.
This operation of the E.C.'s core group within the larger form is a clear example of a reflexive institution, containing within itself explicit mechanisms for consciously examining the state and process of its growth, and for changing itself in response to this learning. The institutions of our present culture are all petrifications of the Authority Complex; their reflexive mechanisms work ineffectively when they even exist. But in order even to survive in this age of accelerating and chronic change, which dramatically exposes Man's condition as the active and involuntary creator of the changes of his being, all human institutions will in some sense have to include functional mechanisms for their own continual change. (20) This holds true on the small-group level, as in large institutional forms, and also within the interior, personal space of each changing man and woman. On all three levels, these mechanisms are analogous. They center on the consciousness of process and its deliberate manipulation. In the case of the small group, the reflexive mechanism is visible not structurally but in its operation -- as a set of roles and rituals for bringing group energy to focus on problems with process.
In the case of the E.C., several institutional processes overlapped to make the reflexive mechanism highly visible. The E.C. was a natural host for groups learning together about educational change; and these groups in turn generally contained the people who were instrumental in shaping the E.C.'s form and growth, who formed its ongoing organizing core, and who studied it within itself. Often they even received class credits within the formal parent institution for their study and organizing work. Thus the reflexive mechanism of change existed as a model sub-unit of the E.C.: unique only in its function, typical in its interior form and process and its nourishment by the larger structure.
It is crucial to note that this reflexive core group was neither a study group nor an element of a check-and-balance system. It was empowered, in part because its membership overlapped with that of other change-seeking subgroups, to open all of the system's energies into self-directed change. And it was open to active participation by anyone. (The contrast with the standard mechanism of change in American colleges is immediate and deadly.)
Beyond this, the general conversation about structural and educational change in the larger institution -- San Francisco State College itself -- came to be visible, centered, and organized as such in the Experimental College. The conversation was strong, well organized, and implemented with political skills which had been developing for six years within a climate moderately favorable to institutional change. Consequences included the design of a new student center and the complete revamping of the school's general education requirement, both accomplished totally within the E.C.; and a general loosening and revitalization of San Francisco State's curriculum, and of the process for instituting and crediting study within it.
The Experimental College was in part deliberately conceived as an experiment to develop a multi-phasic agency of institutional change within the larger institution, capable of whatever thought and action were appropriate. On this broader scale, we see again the successful operation of a reflexive form.
The main skills involved in the E.C.'s reflexive success were those of political consciousness. They were developed by learning the structure of power -- on all institutional levels -- and how to manipulate it.
Considerable open space was generated by a style of moving which aimed at avoiding a polarization of the environment's energies into opposed and paralyzed forces, frozen in conflict and expectations, and tried instead to make visible common areas of self-interest on which parties could begin to move cooperatively. In interaction with faculty and administrators, students upset expectations by not adapting the confrontationist postures currently expected of activists, and by initiating and making visible bodies of serious work. The E.C. itself, not being clearly either within or without the larger college, had an ambiguous institutional identity which confused expectation and response, opening further space.
These open territories began closing as soon as new growth reached a point where irreconcilable conflicts of interest were clearly revealed, as seems to be the general rule. In this case, open conflict began when the E.C. and the larger college contended for scarce physical space for their expansions; and when the E.C.'s styles and content began to make ponderable demands for space and credit within the larger institution, and thus for significant change in its forms and processes. Later, black and white student political movements -- in whose generation and nurture the E.C. had been critically involved -- were directed against the college itself, demanding massive changes, and by early 1969 San Francisco State became the battleground of the country's longest continuous student strike, largely around issues of affirmative action. The space of ambiguous identities closed quickly and permanently; and further building at San Francisco State occurred only in space pried open by the leverage of painfully cultivated skills and power. These were inadequate to preserve the Experimental College. After Governor Reagan appointed Hayakawa as Occupying Authority, control tightened, student funds and official sanctions were withheld from the E.C., and it finally died.
The Experimental College had a typical free university curriculum. Its subjects of study were mostly change-oriented: the perspectives and skills of social change, the skills of small-group interaction and the learning process, tools and workshops in various species of personal encounter and therapy. (Most of the remaining courses dealt with the products and production of a new culture.) The curriculum's methods were innovative and generally therapeutic, and were often explicitly designed to this end.
In liberated territory, guerrillas build hospitals and schools to care for the needs of their people, and factories for the machinery of the wars of hunger and freedom. The metaphor holds in rich detail. Understood broadly, it describes the creation of open space in territory and among people dominated by the imperialism of the Authority Complex; it understands what is built in that space, and why; it prescribes strategies for simultaneous struggle and growth on all human levels, for extending the space and that building.
From social forms to the human interior is no long journey. The sweet smell of grass will take you there from corridors and rooms wherever the young are learning. For the "psyche-expanding" drugs -- marijuana (grass), lysergic diethylamide acid (LSD or "acid"), and related chemical agents -- along with confrontation politics and a new music have provided the most intense learning experiences shared by large numbers of the young.
By 1969, perhaps one and a half million had dropped acid, and ten times that number used grass regularly. I class these drugs together because their immediate effects are similar in essence, though grossly different in scale, and their cumulative effects are comparable on both counts. Like Ac'cent (MSG). the psychedelics are a colorless, tasteless spice that heightens the flavor of whatever is cooking in the personal and social stewpot. They bring out and accelerate whatever change is going on, good and bad, in all its contradictions; and the deliberate will can use them to fix and extend what changes it will.
The surface parallels between psychedelic experience and participation in free learning groups, especially those oriented toward encounter and therapy, are immediate. Both result in a "high" or "stoned" condition, characterized by heightened inter- and intra-personal openness, and by a sensation of containing and being embedded in higher flows of psychic energy. The more often one has these experiences, within broad limits, the more permanently “high” one can become -- with the aid of other disciplines to preserve their breakthroughs -- and the more able to use contact with any source of live psychic energy to generate and sustain the high condition. (In drug culture, this phenomenon is called "contact high.") At first one just sits there stoned: dazzled and reveling in the perceptions, the sensations, and the energy flows, encountering the emotions these arouse. Then one begins to learn how to deal with the flow: it becomes a tool whose various colorations and powers are open to exploration. Successful experiences develop a greater sense of control within and upon these energies, wherever control is possible and appropriate.
But the parallels run deeper. For group learning, like all human change, is a cyclic process of breaking established patterns to create open space in which new ones are formed, and the psychedelic experience gives basic insight into some of its key features. The mind construes the reality of experience, and patterns are its image. To break open cognitive or social patterns is to break open simultaneously the minds that project their coherence. Thus the adverb often used to describe the psychedelic experience -- mindblowing -- will serve well to name the first process of the cyclic paradigm. Aldous Huxley spoke of the experience as “opening the doors of perception.” Into the house of the mind comes knowledge that transcends its immediate system. (21) This phenomenon of transcendence is responsible for the intimate and age-old association of psychedelic drugs with mystical insight and religious culture. For the purpose of our analysis, however, the knowledge is of needs, existences, resources, and potentialities not previously realized. (The skills and meta-skills of free learning are grounded in consciousness of these things -- see pertinent sections of Chapt. III.) Such new knowledge does not simply extend the system it appears within. Within, and ultimately without, the mind creates a new order.
A Digression of Definition
The space of a human system is not a vacuum but a collection of elements, organized by functional relationships or interconnections into a form. The space and form are closed insofar as new elements and interconnections are predetermined, and open insofar as they are not. Free learning is the organizing of form in open space: it generates new varieties of form, relationship, and element. Organizing in closed space is something else again: here form changes its scope but not its nature. Space fully organized by the style of the Authority Complex is only one possible variety of fully closed space (others may be less pernicious). Space governed partly by the Authority Complex and partly by another mode is incoherent, and open to the extent that the two organize there in live conflict.
Such abstract concepts provide a frame for any level of social reality. Some examples:
(1) Your consciousness is a tissue generated from experience: elements of perception are connected and these connections built into higher order. In our culture, most of these connections are causal: if this, then that: [(A--> B) and (B-->C)]--> (A-->C)], following the logic of hierarchy. To a great extent, you choose not to admit into your space elements and connections that do not fit your categories. Even so, you know what incoherence feels like.
(2) Consider a group of people, A, B, C ... They are elements of the group's space, as are their extensions -- their cars, houses, productive technologies. A and B are in love, etc.; A and C argue politics, etc. These are connections, <AB> and <AC>. But <AB> and <AC> are also elements, for in the process of the group these relationships may themselves be functionally connected: one factor of <<AB><AC>> may be the way <AC> draws off anger from <AB>; and so on. Now the group gets a new member, Z. Is its enlarged space more open? Probably not, if it's a business firm and Z is a secretary (though there's always some chance Z will seduce the management into turning production to new priorities). But if the group is a white commune and Z is black or a physician who can teach people to heal each other, the space opens.
(3) Recently, the whole of human space has opened into radical incoherence by the appearance within it of new elements -- qualitatively new means of production, which open the possibility of new relationships of every sort. In this space two principles of organizing contend. (22) All the examples in this chapter may be understood as experiments in shifting the balance between them.
Back to the Track
The psychedelics enrich individual perceptual space with new elements and new connections. Neglected or repressed sensory and emotional experiences and memories reassert themselves, often abruptly, and new varieties become immediately accessible, sometimes by seeing old ones in newly reflected light. What springs into consciousness is partly what already presses to enter; in this, selection is a function of the mind's immediate state and needs. But in significant part, selection seems to be truly open and random. Both the emotional relevance and the unpredictability of what appears in the opened space are the principal triggers of the fear that characterizes this -- as any other -- learning experience, and leads people either to avoid it or to freeze within it, unable to deal with its demands and possibilities.
Beyond this, the psychedelics facilitate the connection of diverse elements and thus the formation of new patterns or metaphors. (For this reason they are becoming the favored chemical tools of painters, writers, musicians, and visionaries.) Psychedelics enlarge the universe of possible similarities or commonalities among elements, by expansion, rephrasing, or relaxation of its limits -- or, equivalently, of the functional rules that govern the recognition of what we may broadly term "similarity" or "connectabiIity." In mathematical terms, the family of possible mappings-with-functional-structure (morphisms) among elements becomes enlarged, not so much by the addition of elements as by the passage to a higher level of abstraction that admits broader or wholly new concepts of morphism. (23) (In the cybernetic description of process, the corresponding passage is to a higher order of controI -- one that makes possible heterarchical rather than hierarchical control systems.)
In terms of poetry, the domain of possible metaphor expands. As Garcia Lorca described it, the new metaphor -- and the live energy of its creation, the tension that resides in the fresh, real joining of disparate elements and opens briefly a new way of seeing or consciousness -- is the core act and substance of poetry. This principle holds as well for the human poetries of learning and creating new social forms. When dissimilar metals are mated and heated, electric energy flows from their interface. And when man and woman, black and white, or two bodies of knowledge are scraped clean and put into new contact, raw energies are generated to turn toward new form. (24)
Within groups freely learning, the enrichments of element and connection parallel in detail those of the psychedelic process, on levels not limited to perception and consciousness. In particular, new connection among groups and among persons, and within each of these, begins with an organizing process -- perhaps not evident as such -- that makes visible aspects of similarity, in the form of common nature, needs, or interest. Whether it is possible to build on this common territory, and what is built and how, depend from this point onward in the process upon a complex of factors and remaining inner and outer limitations: need and choice, power, skills, taste, and tangible resources.
In groups, new elements and connections are suppressed or prevented by a limiting authority collectively subscribed to and created, as in the classroom game, and generally operating in the style of the Authority Complex. The blowing of the social mind is accomplished by the neutralization of this authority, in three ways: removal, repression, or confrontation. In the case of psychedelics, understanding the appearance of new element and connection scarcely seems possible without better understanding the nature of human consciousness and its changes; and this in turn depends in part on fully understanding their biochemical foundations. The recent researches of biochemistry in general and biopharmacology in particular suggest strongly that the analogy of the social process applies within the mind down to the cellular level, and that the psychedelics may function by neutralizing or suppressing inhibition of biochemical or neurological processes that are always present, actively or latently. (The biochemical functioning of such inhibitions within the cellular or systemic ecology is itself parallel to the Authority Complex as a system of control.)
Whether the young are guerrillas or not, it is natural to find hospitals and schools in their principal toys. The psychedelics provide general therapies and learning for which the young feel keen need. Grass and acid are used extensively as deconditioning agencies to prepare for new behavior in a culture that lacks the tools and skills to deal adequately with its pervasive and deep fears, angers, anxieties, and tight linear constraints.
• Fear is the first encounter. There is the outward fear -- decreasingly tangible but highly symbolic -- of breaking social law. (25) It is reduced by intimate embedding in a smaller, peer society, which not only sanctions psychedelic use by example but exhibits from this use experience and knowledge of evident attractiveness (whether to need or to desire). After this come the endless layers of the onion of inner fear. In entering space essentially unknown, progress into the levels of the experience is measured directly by the peeling of these layers. From outside, the tools of this progress are mainly peer support and knowledge about the process and its phases. From inside, the tools are a series of spiritual rituals and disciplines, which teach the renunciation of coercive power and control and bear the reward of increased ability to draw strength from one's being and nourishment from the partial harmonies and triumphs of one's changes. But tools alone are inadequate. That act or state of the will which faces fear itself, stripped of all names, is always necessary.
• The rituals of psychedelic use -- the joint passing round the circle, a trip with a guide -- are functional sacraments. (26) They are rituals of beginning, of entrance into a community of shared learning. Involving joining and some setting of norms, they are the most public of the simple transactions of trust so important in dealing with the emotions of the change process. They reinforce trust indirectly as well. For they are constant symbols of the creation of the counter-authority of peer-oriented learning, which in turn sanctions the relevance of shared knowledge about the process and its phases and trust in this knowledge as a tool against the first enemy of fear. The rituals also invoke the Hawthorn Effect and the sense of one's own presence as being centrally important to the process at hand -- a key to fruitful participation in any learning group.
Like any good learning society, the psychedelic society is one of voluntary self-selection, of mutual exposure and support, of open struggle with the processes of learning. Without a strong concept of deviance punitively expressed, fear is dramatically reduced: the climate becomes one in which failure is not only openly permitted but is followed by support; and in which people can learn to trust their own motions, rhythms, and common sense.
• Fear leads to anxiety. The psychedelics act to defuse this at low levels, when present or internalized sources of fear are not too strong to be handled. But when control over them is shaky, psychedelic openness often unhinges it: anxiety is magnified by negative feedback into paralysis, or sometimes into breakthrough, revealing the naked fear beneath. (Barbiturates, tranquilizers, and heroin seem to act on anxiety independently of fear, and to magnify neither.) Anxiety lives in If ... , and through its lens vision is oriented toward future and possible experience. The heaviest experiential characteristic -- immediate or enduring -- of psychedelic use is that one lives more intensely within the presence of one's experience, inner and outer. (27) Anxiety comes from and leads to the blocking of psychic energies by the mind's internalized authorities. But these, from logic to super-ego, are de-compulsified by grass and acid. In particular, the anxiety that knowledge, action, and experience itself be immediately coherent within a well-known and rigidly ordered framework seems to relax. To this extent, psychedelics are a technology of deep relaxation, of letting go.
• The effect of psychedelics upon anger and aggression is strongly debated. Some believe it to be direct inhibition. A considerable mythology has grown around this viewpoint, expressed most strongly in the edicts of some political groups -- in particular, those that most clearly display their own Authority Complexes, like the YSA -- that their members not smoke grass because it corrodes political consciousness and action. In my opinion, the first significant community organizers among middle-class white youth were the neighborhood dope-dealers, who delivered with their products a profound cluster of political and cultural attitudes and information. But the “passivity” mythology is beginning to fade only as experience makes clear that hippies will fight when attacked and will move in newer political forms.
The notion that psychedelics de-fuse anger is at odds with their general effect on emotions -- to facilitate consciousness and release, especially of emotions usually repressed. In fact, studies of grass-smokers in the Haight revealed that, while most experienced unusual levity or sexual impulse while under the influence, nearly all experienced unusual anger. Of course, this has something to do with their being persecuted as social criminals for their drug uses and other habits. But surely the connection of psychedelic experience with openness to anger is organic. A national survey of college students after the bombing of Cambodia (in Playboy magazine) showed that 9 percent of marijuana non-smokers believed that major social change necessitated violent revolution; 13 percent of light smokers; and 29 percent of heavy smokers. In this we see correlated with psychedelic use both the receptive consciousness necessary to forming any new political attitude, and the aggressive consciousness necessary to forming this one.
My own view is that psychedelics act not on the roots of anger and aggression but rather on their often-considerable magnification and redirection by anxecty. Grass and acid heads may appear passive in part because their aggressive/Yang will was always yoked by anxiety to destructive uses, and now, having been uncoupled by the aid of these drugs, drifts confused and untrained in what to do, or is absorbed internally in Holding Together within partial Chaos.
• The higher one's state, the less choice there is about incoherence and dissonance: they force their way in through open doors. The choice is to endure them, or to close: either negatively, by rejecting them, or positively, by contriving higher orders that embrace them. The appropriateness and strength of these higher orders depends partly on other knowledge and skills, and partly again on the ability to sustain the openness of Chaos while building within it -- and thus on being able to reduce to manageable proportions the fear and anxiety always present when facing the abyss.
In psychedelic experience, the appearance of new elements and new connections leads directly to dissonance, of perception and consciousness and, over time, to tolerance of this. As psychedelics also facilitate making new connections -- which, in any organizing process, is the basis for developing new coherence -- their use provides the strongest general training I know for the skills of dealing with the Chaos of learning. (They aren't likely to come into favor in the educational Establishment, however, because an alteration in the broader priorities of learning is usually connected with their use.)
Psychedelics affect the perceptual level, but not directly: rather, they act upon the perception of perception, i.e., meta-perceptually. They do not make you feel (see, etc.) new things. They lead you to feel (see, etc.) what you have been feeling but not feeling, from the skin level inward to the collective unconscious. In general, this action induces a doubled consciousness: consciousness itself plus meta-consciousness. You become not only newly aware, but aware of your awareness. This meta-consciousness may be generated by repeated access to an alternate state of consciousness that fluxes and wanes. It may also be due to the specific nature of that consciousness. For "psychedelic" consciousness is one of continual qualitative changes -- in fact, "the changes" are the most general characteristic of a psychedelic trip; and those familiar with the experience comprehend this phrase instantly. Thus this meta-consciousness centers in an intense consciousness of the changes and the process of their experience.
To speak precisely of matters meta-mathematical or cybernetic is awkward without symbols. I'll call this meta-consciousness process-consciousness hereafter. It can be induced or strengthened by many agencies, but I suspect that all their ways are parallel to the one described. This reflexive consciousness seems to be the component of inner space which is analogous to the reflexive mechanism of a reflexive institution. It is equally the personal analogue of the process-consciousness of a free learning group. Its development on any of these three levels leads toward its development on the others, though this may be inhibited by many factors, and such action is worked out slowly over time. If this development is blocked on any level, process-consciousness will tend toward parallel diminishment on the others; for consciousness tends toward integrality.
Process-consciousness bears with it a conjugate aesthetic, an aesthetic of recurrent qualitative change. We have met it above as the Santa Claus aesthetic; it might better be called "protean." Its eclectic sensibility goes with open universes and is typical of the indigenous arts of the young. (29) It deals in abrupt changes within a many-stranded consciousness, in sharp contrast to the aesthetics of that linear consciousness which Marshall McLuhan (30) describes as the product of our culture's particular visual and other media, and which may be equally well seen as the product of the hierarchical control systems of the Authority Complex. This protean aesthetic admits mystery, incoherence, and sudden change as central values.
The psychedelics de-compulsify and diversify the linear mind. They are typical of tools that help you to be where you are; and thus to linger and wander along paths that start right there -- as all the beginnings of free learning do -- and that future/anxiety-oriented sight overlooks. As much as process-consciousness, the protean aesthetic they induce is itself a tool to this end, and for the building of non-hierarchical, flexible systems of authority.
Even in casual use, the psychedelics induce consciousness that is revolutionary in its very texture, for it is a consciousness adapted to changes and thus to Transformation itself. I consider them at length because they are indeed magical drugs, and their experience yields many models to illuminate the mechanisms of Change.
Yet the broad consequences of their use are not intrinsic, but depend upon context and the consciousness applying them. Used in full and searching purpose, psychedelics are powerful agents for the complex self-transformations that must accompany the transformation of our society. But in Amerika today much of their use is unfocused, confused, and self-destructive. (31) The society of psychedelic use operated as a healthy open space for a few years in the Bay Area in the mid-sixties. Under great external and internal pressures it began closing in 1967. The quality of shared purpose and knowledge about psychedelic learning became diluted and degraded. As acceptance spread, the fear barrier diminished, and people began turning on more for exterior social reasons, or for escape, than in search moved by inner need. Thus the technology spread unaccompanied by its software, so to speak, and its uses became degraded.
Other factors in the closing of this space include the action of Hip Capitalists, who supplanted the early psychedelic missionaries to peddle good, ersatz, and poisoned drugs indiscriminately to "their community" -- not as sacraments of knowledge accompanied by use-lore but as naked commodities in profit-greed. Equally important has been the over-pressure of government and law, which have suppressed knowledge and, in league with Hip Capitalism, guided the white ghetto youth community through destructive habits into growing mass addiction to speed and smack. In this, government policies and actions have run parallel to those directed against black communities since the late sixties, to prevent ghetto rebellion. The Black Panthers term this "drug genocide" with good reason; but here the focus is cultural rather than racial.
This whole subject deserves separate discussion. (32) But one thing must be said here. The psychedelics do open a revolutionary consciousness -- on the first level, by opening one to inner and outer reality. But social reality is pretty confused and painful these days; sensitivity is anguish as well as ecstasy. Whoever does not move to fulfill new consciousness, by changing social reality, must move to deny it -- by repressing it directly, or by manipulating it to adapt oneself to the dominant power relationships. Those who cannot gain strength through moving to change objective conditions deepen their impotence by numbing themselves to the pain, via speed, smack, and non-chemical means. Thus grass indeed leads toward the numbness of heroin, as in the old order’s cautionary tales, unless we make something else real.
Soft Learning Forms
Most of the learning experiences described so far are "hard," in the sense that their primary objectives are specific external goals, like political change or building a functional social form. But there is a class of "soft" learning forms whose main motive is -- or should be, for they are often mis- or under-used -- the general development of learning skills that occurs during their process.
Within our specialized and fragmenting culture, soft forms occur formally mostly as stigmatized remedies for psychic crippling, in the various forms of classical and modern psychotherapy and analysis. Since 1965, they have started to proliferate in quick and multiplying variety, largely among the white young, who are coming to accept as natural the need for constant deliberate learning of the skilIs of learning, but also among orthodox professionals (again mostly young) in the fields of social work and change, who are belatedly discovering the need for such tools.
In addition to the conventional forms of therapy and analysis, soft learning forms include group therapy, the Synanon Game, encounter groups, sensitivity training, psycho- and socio-drama, Synectics (33), a variety of nonverbal games, and to some extent meditation and other spiritual disciplines (which deserve separate study in this context). The rapid spread of these examples is described above by the process-model of free university multiplication. So is the ingenious and unpredictable multiplication of their varieties -- a characteristic of free growth proceeding from richly diverse inputs in open space.
The processes of each soft form are easily isolated and observed, the more so since most totally lack a more-than-private social orientation and an explicit functional embedding as elements of an adequately comprehensive process of freeing change. This makes them both less effective and less interesting as objects of study. All deal with the slow or sudden dismantlement of internal authority systems; some attempt their replacement with something new. The latter especially illustrate clearly the vital importance of the trust generated and the security given by participation in a peer community of experiment or mutual-learning-and-aid, as well as the necessity of creating climates in which failure is not only permitted but is followed by support, and in which people can learn to trust their instinctive motions, rhythms, and common sense. They undoubtedly hold innumerable fascinating insights for a comprehensive theory of change. (34)
Taken together, however, they seem to illuminate no new major feature of the process of free learning. Conversely, the phases, problems, and skills of this process are all more or less completely revealed in the operation of each soft form and can be equally well described by the corresponding perspective and concepts. The terms of psychoanalysis offer a particularly convenient base for this description (e.g., the solving of a major technological problem can perhaps best be analyzed as deep therapy for a social and cognitive tension) and exhibit in more detail some aspects of the sub-process of rebuilding identity.
There are deep implications in the spread of these soft technologies. Freud came to America, not with his first translation in 1911, but when his concepts escaped the elite clinic and academy and, transformed and anonymous, entered folk-thought as common tools. Such slow processes are bringing to cultural life the magnificent knot of metaphors -- sociology, anthropologies, existentialism, psychologies -- that the West has generated in this century through which to view humankind's actively changing condition.
Now, for the first time, the nature of human interaction itself -- especially the workings of man as an animal learning with difficulty -- has become the proper and natural study of the young. Our time lurches across a great divide. Our cultural concerns shift from economic scarcity and things to psychological scarcity and persons, in concert with our industry as it shifts from goal and replication to information and process. The most important consequence of the spread of the soft technologies is not the temporary languages they create but the consciousness they induce. It is a reflexive consciousness, a consciousness of human process, compatible with the cybernetic consciousness of our hard technologies; and it is essential to our abilities to change.
The induction of process-consciousness, like some other sub-processes of free learning, is a recursive process: one that extends its results in progressive stages by applying the previous ones. The clearest model for this is the "bootstrapping" operation of computer cybernetics: generating a program to generate a program to generate an adequate program for a problem. Bootstrapping has powerful analogues in personal, group, and institutional development. In this case, with the process-consciousness generated by the soft technologies, pioneer workers in education among the young are becoming able to improvise new soft forms or learning games designed to produce specific skills whose variety has no apparent limits yet. This deliberate art is so new that little has been written about it. Yet I believe it to be the leading edge of creation of a new science of learning, which can radically empower group consciousness. [My book Learning-Games, written soon after the publication of this one, was Web-published in 2008.]
Soft learning forms are also spreading among private industry, which finds in them a tool with no immediate dangerous political consequence for developing certain skills of employees to increase efficiency and profit. Hard learning forms might develop these skills. But to be successful in this, such forms, I believe, must have as their objectives changes, constructs, or experiences that lead directly out of the systems of centralized and coercive power, fixed and hierarchical roles, which uniformly characterize the administrative, productive, social, and psychological processes of our economic institutions. Conflicts of interest appear immediately, and personal and social conflict follows. In private industry, as elsewhere within the domains of the Authority Complex, such confrontation can be tolerated only within narrow limits, as a safety valve to prevent change rather than to aid it. Thus "hard" free learning experience -- which always involves some form of social organizing -- is quickly halted or repressed. (Here, as elsewhere, hard free-learning forms flower only when they can defend a base of open space.)
Soft learning forms, on the other hand, seem to hold no terrors for industry. Their moderate use seems possible within any confined space without soon expanding its larger limits. Their broadly world-reconstructing influences seem to be damped and absorbed by the larger operations of the Authority Complex. In consequence, soft forms are coming to be deployed by our established institutions of government, education, and industry not only to develop limited skills in ways that do not threaten basic power relationships, but as instruments of containment, to adjust, direct, and inhibit energy that might flow freely. For college administrators faced with student "unrest," a standard reaction has recently emerged: provide encounter groups to absorb and distract the energies of discontent.
Overall, soft learning forms -- and the broad spectrum of new therapies (gestalt, Reichian, bioenergetic, body-remedial, etc.) that cluster with encounter groups under the Esalen umbrella -- are being employed in liberal consciousness rather than radical. That is, in a framework that teaches that there are no root conflicts of interest and nature, that might not be resolvable by compromise, but only problems of communication between people or of the self with its deep reaches. This line is a hip version of the standard Amerikan mystification that change is ultimately only a private affair; and under it soft forms, like misused drugs, function mainly to help people learn how to adapt to their niches in the established structures of power.
Surely we need better contact with our selves and each other; we are ill for its lack. Yet most of the breakthroughs that people achieve in soft forms now cannot be sustained in the everyday social climate. These forms are crippled in their power as learning agencies because they are not designed to help people create the structural social change necessarily conjugate to personal change. To the extent that soft-form learning is not organically related to transforming gross social relations, it is bogus learning, gaudy dress to hold interest in the same old roles of a destructive social game -– a bourgeois indulgence in experience, dangerous because it pretends by itself to portend ultimate remedies for what is a very real and general crisis. (35)
Yet the technology of soft forms is young, and the question is still open as to whether their cumulative effects can at least release energy and serve as useful preparation for the hard open struggle to change larger forms. The speculative framework of this book points in this direction. For soft-form skills to be translated toward the satisfaction of broader needs, the needs must be recognized and the skills understood as appropriate. The question depends on whether an Authority Complex can function indefinitely to prevent the development of a consciousness of needs and resources. Throughout our present systems, it seems not to be able to.
I think that the immediate utility and eventual consequence of soft forms depend on their being deployed as elements in a framework and process of self-directed change oriented toward comprehensive human goals. We are greatly in need of vision about their integration with other technologies of change, for the partial liberations of subjective condition that soft technologies work are a key to an enormous release of human energy, in which the action to liberate objective conditions can and must be grounded. It is time to liberate these tools from the Liberals, and redefine them, redesign them for revolutionary use.
This process is beginning slowly in some communes with high levels of consciousness. Yet young groups working on political change have almost universally avoided soft forms, rather than try to discover their uses as tools to their ends. I think this choice is a dangerous mistake, which has much to do with the way the political face of the youth movement is growing backward into familiar, limited, and harsh political forms and languages, having been unwilling -- more than unable -- to work seriously and well on its inner processes and persons. This current failure and the quite limited success of soft forms within industry both point toward key and symmetric principles. Politics with bad learning and learning with bad politics are equally limited and futile. Healthy change requires deliberate attention to both its product and its process; work on either is crippled without conjugate work on the other. Neither personal identity nor social identity can be successfully recreated alone: they are conjugate and must be dealt with simultaneously in their full depth.
Women’s, Gay, and Men’s Liberation
The consciousness-raising groups of these movements deserve a separate chapter as learning forms. I would not venture to speak for the two more established movements; and my experience with men's groups is too young to discuss.
Some Supplementary Paradigms of Learning
Before pulling together this excursion in change, I want to examine briefly some related paradigms.
Music itself furnishes the purest models, both of people learning to cooperate among different qualities, and of people generating structured series of change.
I cross the register-break in a dying slide pp from b to e' near the beginning of a Debussy piece. I undercut, lips too fluff-lax in anxious relaxation. Ears mark the distance from some Platonic standard, tuned more to the difference in timbre (weak, husky with exotic overtones) than in pitch (a bit flat). Lips tighten a trifle at the corners, pull the air-stream flatter, harder; hands roll the trembling tube inward a little, should more. Sound steadies and bells in the room, and I attack the next note.
One thing, perhaps the most important, about playing the flute: I seek that relaxation which permits the basic problem-solving cycle -- evaluate/formulate/assess/decide/implement/evaluate -- to proceed properly. Each instant of a note's life is a microcosm of choice: grass and attention slow the process enough to observe. What are the traps? If I am anxious for or about the next note, I do not listen to the one I am in. Be where 1 am. If I am anxious to hang on to the goodness of where I am, for fear any change may make the note more sour, my body translates this into frozen fingers and lips that cannot move. Don't be afraid to let go, learn to have nothing to lose. To move in holy indifference is not to be passive: I choose the changes I press on that sound. But only after actively being where I am and free to move, with neither fear nor possessiveness (which also is fear).
I enter a note over-tense, try to relax, let go too much control; my lips are seized with a sudden trembling. Later in the phrase, I am loose enough to leap a ninth with no change in timbre. Holding that looseness, again and more broadly my lips begin to quiver erratically; unable to control themselves gently, haunted by the muscle-memory of tight control, a legacy of cramping now released to rage through the tissue walls. That is always the problem in learning: how not to freak and pull back while beginning to create anew a new control in that chaotic space liberated from an old order or grasp. How, dogged by the ghosts of my own state, to ride with the uncontrollable vibrations of energy, hoping they do not tear apart my tone or self while new order is created from within.
The Act of Poetry
The Poet, be his medium words or society, sits before a candle burning, dripping, playing with its pool of wax in a cold room. He pokes his finger toward the hot core of the body of wax, pulls back. In its wake the world is seen for an instant, clear and specific in its distortion, as on a drop of quicksilver. But in no time the process of filming-over begins, a layer of wax congeals and deepens into opaqueness. He watches the lucent quality of the molten interior persist, diminish, disappear. The tentacle of the pool solidifies. On its surface, as in the minor Romantic poets and the welfare system, he can see only blurred and indifferent reflections of the complex energies that surround him. With his flesh, as much as he dares, he pokes at the rim of the flame, to lead its melt down again to a stable place where he can break the skin already forming.
By this process form builds. Each new integral tentacle of its substance flows over the others -- where soundly, melting into them -- and is configured by its own momenta and their shapes. As it rises, form comes to complete the circle around the flame, whose energy is not wasted, and the Poet comes to stare transfixed: first into the depth of the basin of clarity, eternal around the wick; then into the Fire itself, enmeshed in its severing and rejoining of the elements.
Thus our language and our institutions are skins through which we mediate our connection to the Cauldron, constantly to be broken and reformed as the Fire withdraws beneath them. Every fresh metaphor stales; every school's service is outgrown in a year or a millennium and is carried on in diminished routine, which no longer engages Invention. When we are not held prisoner by cold wax, Invention's energy turns to drawing forth or breaking open new pattern.
The condition before Form is like unto nothing, but it makes me think of a Center, the Well of Metaphor, a place of pure molten heat, of clear light. I slip or plunge in, go to some depth with hands outstretched, the light penetrating them, rendering even the bone translucent, erasing my sight. Then I am cast back, realize my ordinary outlines coming into focus like the shadow of a swimmer surfacing. As I withdraw through the zone where things separate, I become conscious that in my hands, congealing into Form, are clutched fragments of that primal Stuff. Their heat still live, my flesh twists and fuses to their shapes. Some time after I surface these embers grow cold, become merely their matter. I pry my fingers loose and go down again.
The Teachings of Don Juan
In a gem-like study of learning disguised as ethnology, Carlos Castaneda records the oral teachings of the Yaqui Indian Don Juan. Derived from a different cultural base, the main paradigm of his teachings parallels and illuminates our cyclic paradigm. I quote it almost in full because it is too beautiful and condensed to paraphrase, and because it gives the clearest account I know of the spiritual disciplines necessary to the act of learning. It describes the process of a "man of knowledge."
A man of knowledge is one who has followed truthfully the hardships of learning. A man who has, without rushing or without faltering, gone as far as he can in unraveling the secrets of power and knowledge. He must challenge and defeat his four natural enemies.
When a man starts to learn, he is never clear about his objectives. His purpose is faulty; his intent is vague. He hopes for rewards that will never materialize, for he knows nothing of the hardships of learning.
He slowly begins to learn -- bit by bit at first, then in big chunks. And his thoughts soon clash. What he Iearns is never what he pictured, or imagined, and so he begins to be afraid. Learning is never what one expects. Every step of learning is a new task, and the fear the man is experiencing begins to mount mercilessly, unyieldingly. His purpose becomes a battlefield. Fear is the first of his natural enemies. A terrible and treacherous enemy, it remains concealed at every turn of the way ...
He must not run away. He must defy his fear, and in spite of it he must take the next step in learning, and the next, and the next. He must be fully afraid, and yet he must not stop. And a moment will come when his first enemy retreats . . .
Once a man has vanquished fear, he is free from it because instead he has acquired clarity -- a clarity of mind which erases fear. By then a man knows his desires; he knows how to satisfy those desires. He can anticipate the new steps of learning, and a sharp clarity surrounds everything. The man feels that nothing is concealed.
And thus he encounters his second enemy: Clarity. That clarity of mind, which is so hard to obtain, dispels fear, but also blinds. It forces the man never to doubt himself. It gives him the assurance he can do anything he pleases, for he sees clearly into everything. And he is courageous and stops at nothing because he is clear. But all that is a mistake; it is like something incomplete. If the man yields to this make-believe power, he has succumbed to his second enemy and will fumble with learning. He will rush when he should be patient or be patient when he should rush. A man defeated in this way will fumble with learning until he winds up incapable of learning anything more. He may turn into a buoyant warrior, or a clown. The clarity for which he has paid so dearly will never change to darkness and fear again; but he will no longer learn, or yearn for, anything.
To avoid defeat, he must defy his clarity and use it only to see, and wait patiently and measure carefully before taking new steps; he must think, above all, that his clarity is almost a mistake. And a moment will come when he will understand that his clarity was only a point before his eyes. And thus he will have overcome his second enemy, and arrived at a position where nothing can harm him anymore. This will not be a mistake. It will not be only a point before his eyes. It will be true power.
He will know then that the power he has been pursuing for so long is finally his. He can do with it whatever he pleases. His ally is at his command. His wish is the rule. He sees all that is around him. But he has also come across his third enemy: Power.
Power is the strongest of all enemies. A man who is defeated by power dies without really knowing how to handle it. Power is only a burden upon his fate. Such a man has no command over himself, and cannot tell when or how to use his power. And naturally the easiest thing to do is give in; after all: the man is truly invincible. He commands; he begins by taking calculated risks, and ends in making rules, because he is a master.
He has to defy his power, deliberately. He has to come to realize the power he has seemingly conquered is in reality never his. He must keep himself in line at all times, handling carefully and faithfully all that he has learned. If he can see that clarity and power, without his control over himself, are worse than mistakes, he will reach a point where everything is held in check. He will know then when and how to use his power.
The man will be, by then, at the end of his journey of learning, and almost without warning he will come upon the last of his enemies: Old age. This enemy is the cruelest of all, the one he won't be able to defeat completely, but only fight away.
This is the time when a man has no more fears, no more impatient clarity of mind -- a time when all his power is in check, but also the time when he has an unyielding desire to rest. If he gives in totally to his desire to lie down and forget, if he soothes himself in tiredness, he will have lost his last round, and his enemy will cut him down into a feeble old creature. His desire to retreat will overrule all his clarity. his power, and his knowledge.
But if a man sloughs off his tiredness, and lives his fate through, he can then be caIled a man of knowledge, if only for the brief moment when he succeeds in fighting off his last, invincible enemy. That moment of clarity, power, and knowledge is enough. (36)
To this account -- which, though drawn from the searching-out, with the aid of psychedelic experience, of "paths that have heart," seems perfectly general -- I can add only two things. When clarity is not used only to see, it functions to create expectations; it reveals limits -- or possibilities, which are also limits -- that seem self-evident and self-justifying. And when power is used without fully self-conscious control (process-consciousness), it creates coercive and inappropriate rules: however benevolent its intent, it operates in the style of the Authority Complex.
The way out is to release that control, to make power not a possession of the ego. To realize that power is a mutual conspiracy, among men and between them and the universe; to find a path with heart, a path that traces the consequences and responsibilities of this realization. Such a path is an ethic, an aesthetic, a metaphysic: name it as you will, it is alive.
That path whose beginning I know is called the Tao. It leads through an elegant and comprehensive understanding of change, though by that point one does not write it down. Before then, it offers much insight into the process, the phases, the forces and motions of free leaming -- especially into the conjugate rhythms of change, and into the nature and construction of authority that furthers rather than exhausts. Increasingly, I am coming to understand the skills and phenomena of change through the metaphor of the Tao. But that is a different story -- it is only after one has passed beyond a thing that it can be written down -- and likely in a different style.
I should note here that the social image of the renunciation of control has been phrased most clearly among us by David Harris. It lies at the heart of the total life-metaphor with which he helped found the Resistance, a self-catalyzing organizing process that became the purest strong political movement among the young during the late sixties. Resistance focuses on the draft and through it on the coercive power of the "community" over the individual. To rebuild a total framework, begin by reversing our society's terms of power, and of "community" which does not honor the responsibilities of commonness. Build community that defines itself not by whom it excludes. but by its capacity to be open and include. Create power that empowers those in its domain and does not define their powerlessness. (37) Invent love whose laws are these natural functions.
We must believe that this is possible. Our growing experience taunts us with hope. Though Harris and five thousand others went to jail -- having vanquished fear, though perhaps resting overmuch in clarity -- the years they chose to accept were few and their preparation strong; they may come out the best men of my generation. Beyond jail, Amerika moves in reaction to kill: to accept the next live escalation of her control will be a death we may not grow soon enough to avoid. But that does not taint Harris' phrasing of the key tasks of the community of free learning.
A Personal Note
My mind started opening to the concept of open space in the later years of work with my analyst, Arthur Gladman. I remember realizing it concretely one day in my hobbit-hole on Ridge Road, surrounded by rich encroachments of objects, a junkyard treasury of life-trips. As from somewhere outside, I saw how little room there was to move, watched the constrained dance I threaded through the small avenues left among books, bed, mobiles, jungle, ticket-stubs, the vulture in the bathtub. Suddenly I understood how I reproduced physically the cluttered confines of my psychic space. There also I diminished my freedom of motion by grasping too hard the accumulations of experience which I kept to define myself by, and leaving, in the passageways of daily routine, little room for anything to happen.
This was back in '63 or so. Had I been more in touch with my body, I likely could have read out through it the feeling of suffocation I was experiencing in my inner and outer roles -- like so many in pre-FSM Berkeley, energy pulsing in a closed system. As it was, I opened up as much space in my room as I could, pushed things to the wall, and proceeded to blow some holes in my mind. I think it was even before I got into grass and acid that Gladman led me to understand directly the existence of what I now recognize as the primal fear of Chaos itself. I remember how hard it was for me to grasp that my fears were not all assignable each to dread of specific injury or pain, but welled also from a deeper stratum, in reaction to the void of dissolution and the unforenameable beyond. (In the light of our interplay I caught sight also for the first time of my capacity for deadly anger, spontaneous as a cat's claw springing from its sheath.)
So the roots of this metaphor pass through the private practices of psychology. Given the consciousness of the time, our therapeutic dialogue lacked much social perspective and a political edge. Yet I gained vision by it; and in the space it helped open many Events happened, through which I moved with others to remedy its lacks.
Six years later, I was asked for an essay for a book about A.S. Neill’s influential book Summerhill. I spent some weeks setting down what I then understood about the process and psychology of free learning, i.e., a draft of this chapter. All the major new learning media of my generation seemed to embody similar patterns and phenomena, fleshing out a more detailed metaphor of open space and pointing toward a cyclic model of the process of Change itself.
As I tried to spell it out, I felt flashes of despair -- and not only because I was recording such dry skeletal sketches of the rich domains of experience I was traversing, seeking an inner Form. But also, I was writing of matters already two to five years old, trying to describe an initial phase of the evolution of free systems, while around me the dialectic of our movements and my own life had quickly progressed to new phases of consciousness and need. By the time this book appears three more years will have flown; even more are we dealing with orders of question beyond the fragmentary vision of this metaphor, and the events it interlaces have disappeared into History. (By this schedule, how long will the thought forming now take to surface?)
Yet the cycle is continually renewing, and whatever knowledge gathered of it becomes useful again, as all who move for liberation go through their versions of these changes.
How can one comprehend the learning of a generation within pages? I have sought a narrow focus: to slice across our main change-experiences in a way that reveals some of the structure of the process of free learning and its characteristic phenomena and skills. The ways people free space and build in its openness can be abstracted and detached from the real history of a particular culture. But they can be understood only through such a history; for their understanding is their use, which is real. So I deal with the learning of my experience, the understanding that we now exhibit, in all the imperfection and life of a beginning (38); and try to indicate some of the flavors and directions of our change -- in part because change must be understood within a context of particulars, but also because our particular transformation points toward Change itself.
The redundancy of my account is not due simply to windy choice of detail, but also to the deep unities that underly all of our major changes. Within each, most of the main features of all may be discovered -- so in effect, I have tried to slice diagonally through a series of parallel studies. It is time to collapse this overlapping account of the changing flesh of a generation back down to its abstract skeleton -- the cyclic model of learning outlined at the beginning of this chapter -- and see what has been gathered along the way. I will use a summary of diagrams, supplemented by some miscellaneous notes. These diagrams index most of the topics considered above and set them in perspective with some others, as important but neglected here.
Open space is discovered as such, or through the opening of what is closed. Sometimes it is tangible, generated by a group newly together, a new artistic or social form, a new energy source. Its base may be purely physical, as in the case of the vacant lot in Berkeley where grew the People's Park.
More usually, open space is a matter of consciousness, of seeing differently and newly. Any new technology, physical or social, opens areas or levels of consciousness. So does personal or social contradiction, revealed when the conflict between a system's operations and needs grows critical. The rituals of new identity -- of entrance into community, of expression of gathered emotion -- invoke new consciousness.
Exposure to new examples of behavior extends the limits of expectation if these are implicit, or breaks them if overt. (When such exposure is direct and mutual between persons, its operation may be understood in the terms of cross-cultural encounter (39); when it occurs through media, it opens more simply.) Exposure to examples of change or empowerment on any social or personal level expands the universe of possibility of any other level nonspecifically (a resonance effect induced by social and psychological embedding).
Like new element, its conjugate -- new connection -- creates new consciousness, as though sight passed through the new medium of a flaw within a lens: total consciousness now embraces partially coherent and conflicting visions and opens into incoherence. Such is the action of new metaphor, cognitive or social, before its vitality is exhausted by its integration into a coherent frame. (The example of dissonant mixed-media stimulation is perfectly general, as is that of space governed by fractured authority.) Process-consciousness is a permanent and indefinitely mutable reservoir of incoherent consciousness, leading to new form; and the space that shifting from content-level to meta-level opens is accessible by accident or design. A limited variety of process-consciousness is involved in the Hawthorn Effect, a strong example being the realization of personal or community self-construction in history, which leads toward full process-consciousness.
To open new consciousness is to blow the mind, to break the conjugate patterns of cognition and behavior. Space is freed from the control of the internalized, operant logics -- the Authorities -- of the mind, the spirit, the society. In the minimum degree, this is expressed in the brief de-linearization of our construction of reality; in the maximal degree, by that state which might as well be called holy indifference, or simple -- that transcendent order which embraces the partial harmonies of all that is real and incomplete and within which the Tao of transformation operates in full harmony.
To free space, the Authorities of closure must be removed, counteracted by inhibition, repression. or confrontation, or broken through struggle. In general, conflict is overt at some level of personal and social space, though its ways and forms may be obscure. Behavior that truly reduces the control and threatens the existence of the Authority Complex is not likely to go unnoticed or uncountered.
All ways of conflict are truly dangerous: they threaten failure or, worse, exhaustion of free energy and paralysis. And they threaten success. For the urge for birth and the fear of death are conjugate impulses, and the struggles for and against new life necessarily mirror and shape each other's tools and consciousness. That closed cycle is familiar, it leads our freed energies back into old forms. Though conflict is necessary now, it can open out of the Authority Complex -- which knows no real yielding and is thus incomplete in the Tao--only by opening into a form within which the tools of the death of a system, though live and powerful, can be subordinated to the uses of birth: a transcendent form that embraces the old order within a higher one.
Herakleitos of Ephesos wrote that Strife is common to all; that Strife is Justice; that by Strife all things come into life and conjugate death in a universe of continual transformation. The meaning of his terms is nearly as removed from us in time and culture as Lao-tzu's realization of the Tao. Yet the Chaos of Strife is the elemental condition alI our motions disclose, and all our systems of knowledge and society are constructed to deny. The action of knowledge at man's interface with his conjugate Universe -- the construction. destruction, and reconstruction of natural science -- displays the general paradigm perfectly.
About science, as about all systems of applied thought, our cultural mythology is powerful, explicitly anti-revolutionary, and dead wrong. In his elegant little study. The Structure of Scientific Revolution (University of Chicago Press, 1962), T. H. Kuhn describes how the system of world-construction we call science grows closed, is broken open into partial chaos, and then re-formed throughout, at first freely, in cycles of transcendent revolution. The processes he describes parallel those considered here and extend them in important directions.
If I seem unduly concerned with Chaos, that's because my culture denies this and other Mysteries. Yet the live face of Chaos is one with the existential crisis of freedom and choice, which defines the edge of learning. For this reason, the Chaos of encounter and confrontation opens political and psychological space, and crisis politics is rich in learning. In denying Chaos our culture had to provide a substitute. It has chosen tools of coercion to inspire crises that galvanize our development in stiff and inappropriate ways. Our consumer economy increasingly descends from the technology generated for the Warfare State; and every student's later productive life depends heavily on his ability to learn desperately tonight for tomorrow's test. Yet there must be a better way; for death is the message of every closed system.
The structure of Chaos as we experience it is richly incoherent. It holds fragmentary forms and live energies, elements connected in harmony and strife, each pressing to be seen newly in the vividness of being unbound, each a universe of coherence defining by its incompleteness a conjugate universe of higher orders of incoherence. To embrace incoherence is to face the unknowable: it evokes primal Fear.
Fear of the known is specific and is dealt with cleanly (well or not). I take fear of the unknown to be the central psychological/spiritual problem of learning. Its conjugate expression is the use of power to control and ultimately to prevent change, which is correctly anticipated as the death of a total organic system. The question of when fear of the unknowable justifies the paralyses of anxiety and power is not my study here. Mind you, I don't object to a little structure in Chaos -- enough to hold off the total Panic that closes breath, little enough around the open space of the lungs to breathe freely while we learn to live with our changes. (41)
Various contents of Chaos have been sketched or hinted above -- there is no typical example -- along with skills involved in building within it and learning forms that foster these. For more detail, confront your life.
One aspect of Chaos deserves special mention. If the birth of new forms is the death of old systems. then anger is intrinsic to the process, for no system dies willingly. All the changing forms of Amerika -- technological, social, cognitive -- now threaten us intimately with the Chaos of our freedom. And as the death of systems gathers, so does anger; repressed and swollen, its unexpected energies now flood into any free space, whether opened in anger or not, to entangle and paralyze growth.
The process of building new form is a bootstrapping one, in which, in order to work against fear, it is necessary to live maximally in and through the open potential of what is being created. This is hard to do in our culture. The nourishment of the will is a function of love: of love for the creation of our being, its substance and process. But our systems of learning, production. and life run by punishment and shame: they niggerize us, teach us to dislike ourselves and to distrust and repress our capacities. We should be angry. We are, but fear forbids us to express it directly: our anger sours to the hatred of the flesh that becomes the effect of our cities and the strength of some of our churches. And the conjugate voice of love is stilled equally, souring to greed. People so trained find it difficult to believe in each other enough to learn from or act with, let alone to create healthy mechanics of change and brave the uncertain hand of history. So the first problem in building a revolutionary movement or learning group is getting people to take themselves seriously, to believe in their beauty and dignity and potential collective power, and to celebrate fully all their achievement. (The cry "Black Is Beautiful!" now spreading across America opens the space of our future.)
Amerika is now just waking to formal public recognition that the violence of anger acted out uncontrollably is its grossest national product. As the pace of transformation accelerates, our need for its potentials becomes live, and the frustration of our energy becomes acute. We translate our anger at our death by strangulation within our rigid systems into a general hatred and murder.
Within my lifetime, the mainstream of the literature and art of Western Man has turned to a rich expression of powerless agony -- in which light I choose my preference for a music of equal celebration and tragedy -- as a dying culture races to work out its most ambitious and blind creation: the death of its species and an entire planetary ecology. These are but two of the cultural barometers that register the burden of our anger and point starkly to the fact that -- with almost unbroken generality -- we do not know how to build social or personal forms and processes that deal adequately with the anger gathering within them or govern its expression. Instead, we generate our continual helpless violence. (42)
We must learn to make our anger open, choose to take off the mask frozen in a smile before we are forced to, before there is nothing left to expose but the indirect dagger of our murder. But our culture denies the expressions of anger, dying with polite legislation. We act it out clearly only in wars which grow more removed from control and sports which slowly escape participation, attended by passive audiences. Beyond this, our culture is rich in rituals of inhibition and destruction, while those of creation and expression have lost their vitality.
We are newly rediscovering the positive rituals. They must deal with accumulated necessity, and many lead through anger and violence -- but openly, with self-interest proudly clear. Frantz Fanon argues that deliberate violence is necessary to the formation of new identity by a colonized people; all the literatures of revolution support him. If, as I believe, Amerika makes niggers of all her children by the reigning processes of the Authority Complex, which act through her every form and tool, then the play of this violence must be translated in the theater of every action that creates a new identity. (43) For the burden of anger is equal among all her populations, no matter how otherwise favored, and, undealt with, sabotages all their creations equally.
The infant's first cry from out of the blackness, free and total, is of anger and fear. Entering through their inescapable purity as an isolate entity into the Chaos of World, the infant begins the act of learning, and the will of life transforms these emotions to the aggression that powers growth. (44) However it goes, I know that today anger must be dealt with equally with fear in the act of learning; and that the proper governance of anger, unlike that of fear, requires more machinery than the nourished will.
That machinery is built by bootstrapping up from almost nothing. A small functional group cultivates a consciousness attentive to the health of its process: one that recognizes the presence of anger and the need for work to deal with it, and begins by establishing norms of openness to permit its expression. Beyond this, the skills and forms for anger's useful government must be developed deliberately. To give one example: in an educational reform work group oriented toward theater, the larger work process becomes stifled by accumulated anger among persons and frustration of goals. They unblock by recognizing this and shifting to a therapeutic sub-process: breaking into couples who act several energetic cycles of anger/aggression/reconciliation in nonverbal mirror games. The immediate energies of frustration dissipate through body expression. Talking together, they focus on personal conflicts and arrange to deal with them later in another sort of session. Then they resume work.
The Skills of Free Building
This essay has a narrow and culture-bound focus because I am young and of the white dominant class, and the skills of interest are the ones we do not have or cannot use properly. Our institutions condition us efficiently in some skilIs -- especially in those necessary to create and function within limits. Our problem is to learn to use these as tools rather than tyrannies of our will: to break them free from the Authorities they are embedded in and bear. That process is one of deconditioning; one model is the psychedelic experience. In general, deconditioning restores harmony in the competition between skills -- for example, between the abilities to defer and to accept gratification, where our training has left us with a harsh imbalance.
Deconditioning and competition do not extinguish the skills in which the Authority Complex has drilled us so fearfully. They remain our tools, and are not so much corroded as depended upon less. Acid-freaks can write a straight letter to their Probation Officer in linear typographic logic. This is no joke: as most heads know who have had to respond to an emergency while stoned, the lower reaches (at least) of the psychedelic experience provide a clear model of a free-learning technology which within its process permits its users to reassert essentially full control over their gathered skills when they choose to.
Our culture trains well for the skills that can be trained, given that it is an impoverishing environment for those that must be learned -- which include not only the functional skills of autonomous learning, but an associated battery of psychological and spiritual skills. These define personal strength and group society, and are functional skills on the meta-level, i.e., they are involved in the control of the functional skills. Their best cultivation seems to come in learning-forms that deliberately provide for continual rotation among all members of all roles and functions, and thus for mutual training in all the skills of process and content.
We must believe our songs, the cries of our need. The message ringing through all levels of the new art and politics dawning in Amerika is about control, about the fearful greeds of power: it calls. Let go! Let go! It calls for the move to a higher order of control that can satisfy more needs than those we have managed. That move is a move of consciousness. Its essence is spiritual; but for the purpose of building healthy functional social groups, and in the terms of linear analysis -- which at this point in our history is itself deeply suspect as a tool -- I find it is best described as a process-consciousness whose construction and operation is clearest in small learning groups. The model of process-consciousness drawn from them applies also to social institutions and, more awkwardly, within the individual consciousness. It depends in particular upon skills of the psyche, in ways that have been sketched above.
It also depends upon the deliberate construction of its operation, for reasons most clearly seen on the gross cultural level. Today, the process of change is happening so rapidly that we are forced to relate not only to individual changes but to change itself as a phenomenon, and to develop a corresponding and appropriate consciousness. This process is carrying us back toward the fruits of ancient cultures, the visible metaphysics that deal with change -- the Tao in particular.
But we must go beyond. No culture in human history has ever before been called upon to develop institutions and processes whose function is to render healthy the process of change itself. That this function must be conscious is implicit in its nature, which is to render visible; we are not likely to mistake its appearance. The kingdoms of Old China governed by the corruptions of Lao-tzu's Way did not flourish within the Tao despite their pretensions, which have been taken at face value by later commentators and used to prove the Tao an avenue of powerless quietism into defeat: they were static and inadequate societies. Nor does our own civilization display much evidence of reflexive self-changing capacity. It is clear that our present modes of politics are completely inadequate. Sometimes we generate vital information about process, but in general the information is without action-consequence and thus incomplete.
For a clear example, consider our universities. Within their departments of psychology, experiment has proven for decades that our whole system of testing and grading assesses not knowledge or learning skills, but the successes of social conditioning. Yet that system of punitive evaluation continues as the dominant motivational framework for learning. What will it take, short of total revolution, for us to be able to apply our knowledge to our goals?
A culture is an organic entity. The quality of its needs is uniform, within individuals and within institutions. The necessary skills and process must be approached in a total context, within the total society and with the total being -- which of course means in ways that run directly counter to the teachings and practice of our fragmenting age.
The problems with our learning are so deeply coupled with the societies of our learning-environments that we must speak in terms of the creation of a radically new order. The social image of process-consciousness must, I think, be a full form of participatory democracy, for the functioning of such a consciousness requires that every segment be represented and empowered directly in the governance that affects it. The mechanisms of truly democratic governance vary from level to level. They are largely unknown, though we have invented some successful and reproducible small-group forms in which they can be painfully studied. There, as on the larger social level, they seem always to require radical decentralization of functional structure and of power -- an imperative now clearly faced by our cities, our governments, our educational and productive systems, etc. That decentralization has its interior analogue in the process of learning to let all of one's voices without words to have their say. (0) Both seem to require an adequate social and personal taste, or at least tolerance,for incoherence.
Process-consciousness, whose social face is freedom, reflects a total cultural framework: a metaphysics, an aesthetic, an ethics, a politics. Perhaps this is not possible in a fulI form. The existential crisis of free choice may be impossible to endure on a full-time basis. But history still seems to offer the possibility of a maturity defined not by fixed social and personal identity, but by personality whose major commitment is to flexible roles and to change. The construction of a conversation with no limits, always instantly open to new elements, connections, and directions, is clearly a convenient fiction: limits must continually be ecnerated for building to proceed. But from within, not without, and ever again broken in a rhythm of eternal revolution. We have no choice about that cycle; we can learn only to tend the health of its process, which at present means more to make than to prevent revolution.
One danger in dealing with process should be mentioned. The consciousness and control of process can easily become a tyranny rather than a tool. This is seen most clearly in small groups inexpericneed in its use, who, by inept work, snarl process worse than they could by straightforward ignorance. Incomplete process-consciousness replaces the Authority Complex as a system of control and conflict that absorbs energy unto paralysis. Process-consciousness must govern the health of its own operation. The answer is a balance in its use, an ability to let go of a created consciousness. Surely this is difficult: our creations always call to us to rest in them as sufficient, work to freeze the energies of their creation into proud duration. This process may be read as the pure, primordial operation of the Authority Complex, or, as some modern Protestant theologians are coming to do. as the workings of Original Sin. But it does seem possible to go on from there,
(1) See the diagram below. which portrays the cycle and also indicates the area of this chapter's concern. This view may seem weird. But since leaving school and the official systems of knowledge -- so curiously limited in their ability to teach people how to learn -- I've been re-examining familiar things, and this is how they look to me.
(2) You might look at the "Digression of Definition" in the Psychedelic Experience section before reading further, for I use these terms often before trying even so loosely to make them precise.
(3) This form isn't hostile to goal-oriented discussion: through its use, groups may make tactical or political decisions. In the cases I've witnessed, a critical factor of such decisions has been information about the internal states of the persons and the group making them -- information difficult to come by within a less flexible form. My book Learning Games contains extensive discussion of open-circle forms.
(4)(4) When steering committee members faced decisions during the FSM. they sometimes went on campus, stopped the first twenty people wearing FSM buttons, and asked them what they thought should be done.
(5)(5) The best present model of this for radio is offered by the listener-supported Pacifica Stations in Berkeley, Los Angeles, New York, and Houston (though some other stations are more advanced in their internal organization as collectives).
(6) See Abbie Hoffman's Revolution for the Hell 0f It (Dial, 1969). for a lucid exposition of the dramaturgy and social function of this style of theater.
(7) See the discussion of periodicities of learning in Chapter VII. I am speaking here of forms that are unified through physical or electronic contact; closure may take longer in others.
(8) So-called from its pioneer description in a study of the motivation of industrial workers.
(9) In Young Radicals (Harcourt, Brace and World, 1968) and later papers.
(11) In this sense, the present openness of Amerika's ugliness qualifies it as an open form.
(12) Goodman, Theobald. and others have speculated about the economic processes and institutions of post-scarcity society -- but the subject of its personal and social psychology has hardly been touched.
(31) The interplay between engagement in personal and in collective reconstruction has necessary rhythms (and definite periodicities, which begin with those described here.). Many a movement activist has burnt out for a time or forever by working too long in a phase of intense outer activity and not honoring the rhythm of her need for space to recuperate and integrate her changes. (Such misjudgments of need are common in the absence of careful collective lore about tending ourselves through change.) Symmetrically. rest turns ripe and yields motion; but its ripeness is often wasted stale by groups who fail to grasp that public engagement renews private refreshment. (Only through heightened political consciousness can a group manage a regenerative balance of inner and outer engagement.)
(14) See Chapter XI for an example.
(15) That much of their real learning was in fact somewhat self-directed is moot, because they were not conscious of it as such.
(16) Since 1965, many campuses have deployed such semi-autonomous mini-colleges as part of a broad offensive of containment aimed at the freer energies of today's students. See "The Context of Campus Violence," in The Wedding Within the War.
(17)) The problem more often is how to moderate exposure, to avoid a glut of the ill-prepared coming to close the space and resources of experiment.
(18) In particular. the fidelity or corruption of an example's transmitted image seems to depend on how strongly an editorial Authority Complex operates within the medium, and thus ultimately on whether the structure of power within the medium is centralized or decentralized. (Network television and the underground press furnish two contrasting examples. See also "A Highly Abstract Digression" in Chapter VII.) The information conveyed by such images is somewhat independent of their corruption. however. for it is also a strong function of common culture and common needs among its recipients.
(19) Such processes and forms are also dealt with in Chapter VIII.
(2) Analysis of their construction and function seems most appropriate from the cybernetic perspective on the processing of information. which offers simple and instructive models and theory. See e.g. Gordon Pask’s Cybernetics (Fernhill, 1961); and his later papers on hierarchical control systems, which provide a model of authority and control distinct from that of the Authority Complex.
(21) The echo of Marcuse here is deliberate and precise. See his One-Dimensional Man (Beacon, 1964) for insight into the mechanisms by which our culture inhibits the development of social and cognitive knowledge transcendent to its system. That Marcuse has become an intellectual idol of the young -- the impossibility of whose transcendent appearance he so brilliantly described -- is a choice irony.
(22) Their characteristic mandalas and features are described in Chapter VII.
(23) Beyond this, the concepts, construction, and processes of mathematics all bear important analytic models for aspects of the learning process, though they have been little studied in this light.24" title="" id="_ftn24" >(24) See the remarks below about cross-cultural learning; and in Chapter V about hybrid learning forms.
(25) Parental and social authority arc in this case quite specific and fairly easily avoided, save for 200,000 grass busts annually. Thus psychedelic experience provides an arena in which fear may be investigated at considerable depth without proportionately dangerous social consequences.
(26) Rituals are live magic, which reinforce a culture's realities. Americans might drink from a common cup, but instead they clink separate ones in a ritual that began when men poured a bit of their drinks back and forth for safety against being poisoned by each other. But for grass smoking we choose a form symbolic of open community and mutual trust. ln this circle we define ourselves by an illegal conspiracy, "breathing together" forbidden chemicals to explore beyond the Law we were taught.
(27) The wide use of psychedelics is thus intimately connected with the aesthetic of spontaneity into which the young are growing. In The Uncommitted (Dell, 1970), Kenneth Keniston describes how the mechanisms of accelerating social change condition us to the psychological stance of "living in the present." He does not speculate about the changed styles and needs of learning that this stance may require and permit.
(29) James Joyce, who was a morphine-head, was an early literary precursor. More recent and popular are Joseph Heller (Catch-22) and Ken Kesey (One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest). whose books, in literary representation of Marcuse's analysis, described American society as a gigantic, self-closing Language System -- albeit one that could be transcended by a simple desperate act of will when its closure and exhaustion became inescapable.
(30) In Understanding Media (McGraw-Hili, 1964).
(31) Though the level at which action is purposeful may be deep indeed. How are we to judge those who use psychedelics to disable themselves for the "normal" uses of society, in an age when survival calls for our giving up the greeds of the Ego and dismantling the inner machineries of Control?
(32) For more on this, see my articles in Drugs: For and Against (Hart, 1971) and in Organ (#IX, July 1971).
(33) Synectics deserves special attention. and not just because it's the only soft form sponsored primarily by industry. A deep though very verbal game, Synectics develops and serves as the main tool for a semi-permanent team, who integrate diverse backgrounds into a structure of flexible roles and constant attention to process. Synectics trains for personal and, especially, team skills in the basic act of industrial or artistic creation. It trains people to creale new metaphors, which can be made tangible and applied. The method of Synectics is ceegant and powerful; and its processes of team training and team working are lucid paradigms of free learning. See William J. J. Gordon, Synectics (Harper and Row, 1961).
(34)) The newest soft forms spreading in 1971 were the permission groups of radical women's therapy, and Co-counseling, a nonhierarchical group therapy centering on personal emotional release. Both operate with heavy norms against negative expression and for positive -- setting a context useful for a while but surely half-blind in the long run.
(35) Notice that the "human potential" movement is all phrased in terms of the potential for private or intimate growth, and not in terms of the human potential for collective commitment, nurture, concern. and justice.
(36) Carlos Castaneda, The Teachings of Don Juan: A Yaqui Way of Knowing (Ballantine, (1969). Castaneda's second book on his apprenticeship to this Indian sorcerer -- A Separate Reality (Touchstone, 1972) -- is even more elegant and astounding, in itself and as an essay on learning.
(37) Harris speaks clearly of the difference between the I the man whose example enfeebles because it is mysterious and inimitable, and the hero, whose example empowers because it springs understandably from a common life-circumstance. Contrast the American and Cuban adulations of Che; consider leadership in learning groups.
(38) Due to this, the detail of my analysis is limited to the earlier stages of the change cycle. So much remains to be dealt with, especially the particulars of how old and new skills are brought together to bear on the building of new form. The full-scale practice of psychoanalysis is rich with models that describe the maturation of change. Yet I am suspicious of them, for they describe the reconstruction of personal identity within larger social relationships that remain essentially unchanged.
(39) Every act of human learning is inherently "cross-cultural" in that it involves crossing a limiting interface of personal and cultural identity into unknowable space, and then reconstructing these newly. Not surprisingly, what is commonly recognized as cross-cultural experience provides training and models for change, especially in regard to therapies for the fear of the unknowable. Indeed, the best general model I know for the functional skills and meta-skills of autonomous learning (and their contrasting counterparts fostered in our present systems) is provided by a study on preparing people to teach within other cultures, written for the Pence Corps from the perspective of trainers in the new behavioral sciences. See Roger Harrison and R. L. Hopkins. "The Design of Cross-Cultural Training: An Alternative to the University Model," Journal of Applied Behavioral Science, 3, 1967.431-460.
(41) And Chaos does have structure. Karen has just walked in with a slip from a fortune cookie. which reads: "Even if we study to old age, we shall not finish learning." And mine. broken open, reads: "If you neglect study when you are young, what of your old age?"
(42) For many years, the peace of the Amerikan classroom has been the silence of frustration and the boredom of death. Since 1964, an enormous charge of anger has begun to be acted out against the established educational system. It does not simply vanish in the alternate educational system we are developing. In general, throughout the free universities, when people come together to replace authority-centered learning with a self-regulated group, they must deal with stored and unexpected anger, not only at first but at each group nexus of decision and change.
(43) Confrontation makes explicit real conflicts of interest and serves an essential function in the creation of new identity. See "Dear Michael: Two Letters on Confrontation" (Change Magazine, January 1969).
(44) Anger springs continuously from frustration in the learning process. It can turn for or against the self, to aid learning or to block it. In the individual it becomes introjected, its power directed against the self in a piggishness of negative judgment, paralyzing the will against trying. In groups, such introjection is both personal and interpersonal, equally sabotaging group will. But on either level. when anger-energy is fully accepted, grasped, and outered, it reappears as the playful and fierce aggression integral to the problem-tackling will -- the Yang motor of going-on.
(45) One current aspect of this process is the investigation of decision-making tools from other or earlier cultures -- the I Ching, astrology, the Tarot, etc. Unlike the corresponding tools of our culture. which gather information about external phenomena, these (however one explains their working) provide information about the internal states of the decision-making system. Such tools are essential to process-consciousness.