Reading Groups for the New Year 2019

(Geoffrey Edwards) #1

Hello all, I am in the process of planning out my time and commitment to run reading groups to begin in the new year. Several that have been discussed are priorities for me, and I plan to put some of these in motion.

  1. Plenum discussion and reading group

This is an idea that has been put forward by @Douggins which I think could be a very productive ‘experiment’ not just for myself but potentially for others in the future. The idea is to form a reading group around my novel ‘Plenum : The First Book of Deo’ which I have submitted to Metapsychosis for publication. We are not currently well set up to provide detailed editorial feedback about book-length manuscripts (not enough ‘editors’) - the ones we have are already largely maxed out on managing shorter pieces for Metapsychosis. We also have a writer’s group, but this seems to work for critiquing shorter excerpts and not so much for a full book. So we are looking for alternative ways of providing feedback for book length manuscripts. My book has already been vetted by an outside (freelance) editor, so it is not a ‘virgin’ manuscript, but it needs a kind of “alpha reading” exercise. Doug proposed that we deal with this as a reading exercise via a reading group, and I think that is a great suggestion - several people expressed interest (@marythaler, @Kiss, @hfester… ?) So I am proposing to set up such a group in January. I have drafted a quick list of potential participants and these include folk in Europe as well as the West Coast, so I am thinking that a time slot 12 noon to 2 p.m. EDT may be a good time to do it - this will be 6 p.m for Europeans and 9 a.m. for West Coasters. Tentatively I am looking at Wednesday or Thursday, but am open to other suggestions. I am expecting that the group would run over something like eight weeks (four to five chapters a week, roughly) - compared to other reading groups we’ve done this is quite slow but the pace would allow discussion of alternative writing possibilities as well as the reading feedback directly. It is a suggestion, but we could do it faster than this if we choose as a group to do so.

  1. Bateson Reading Group

This is an idea we have been talking about for about eight months, and I’d like to move it into play. The idea is to read, in parallel, Gregory Bateson’s “Steps to an Ecology of Mind”(STEM) and his daughter Nora Bateson’s recent book “Small Arcs of Larger Circles” (SALC) - something like one chapter of one (GB) interspersed with two chapters of the other (NB) so the two books could ‘speak to each other’. STEM is a challenging book which has, however, some gorgeous pieces within it (including his wonderful metalogues), SALC is an easier read but draws heavily on GB’s ideas. I will propose a schedule for the reading shortly. Potential participants include the Colorado group (Marco @madrush et al.), Johnny (@johnnydavis54), Ed maybe? ), Cora might be interested (@Coralee) and I have contacted the International Bateson Institute about a potential introductory session (Sweden), so time-wise I am thinking about 11 a.m. EDT to 1 p.m. The day of the week would also be Wednesday or Thursday, depending. I see this group as running until the summer - there are 26 chapters in STEM and 53 in SALC, so this kind of works. We could do one STEM chapter one week and two SALC chapters every second week.

  1. I would also like to continue the Sri Aurobindo effort with a group reading of Savitri. The idea we discussed in the final Divine Life Aurobindo session would be to read the book aloud on alternative weeks, and discuss the readings and bring in related material (e.g. comparisons with Milton’s Paradise Lost and other relevant material) on the intervening weeks. There are roughly 50 cantos. We could aim to read two cantos each reading session. If we want to go faster, we could always choose to do that. For Savitri, I have in mind a late afternoon session so that our Europeans who would like to participate can do so without having to be up in the wee hours of the morning. So a time slot such as 3 to 5 p.m. EDT. This will mean things can be finished by 11 p.m. in Germany (@MarcoM, @justcallmetony, Ed? ) , and mountain time folk will be on early afternoon (@madrush, @Matteo ?). For day of the week… Friday? I suppose it could be Wednesday, after the earlier session (see above). I’m trying to stay clear of Tuesday because of the Cafe sessions…

A show of hands for any of the above groups would be great, just to get an idea who might participate. I plan to get these groups underway by mid January - likely the Plenum and Savatri in the second week of January and the Bateson group in the 3rd week of January.

(Geoffrey Edwards) #2

I meant to include @achronon and @KPr2204 in the invitation but the system limits me to a maximum of ten links to Cosmos participants ??? I suppose to prevent spamming but ten seems rather a small number as we get bigger! (@madrush?)

(Douglas Duff) #3

Definitely would like to be a part of the Plenum discussions. Wednesdays or Thursdays 12-2 EST will typically be open for me.

Couldn’t the acronym be STEAM, which you made us aware of in the linked thread? :wink: I would like to at least read along, if not contribute to the conversations if scheduling allows.

(john davis) #4

I can definitely commit to the Bateson reading. Thanks, Geoffrey, for organizing this.

(Geoffrey Edwards) #5

Note that the pdf of Gregory Bateson’s book “Steps to An Ecology of Mind” is available free online :

Also, for those that have not seen any of the discussions concerning my novel Plenum, it is the first instalment of my science fiction opus called “The Ido Chronicles”, and deals with life within a religious community in the distant future. Here is a “blurb” that describes the story : “In a far flung future of the Humanitat, Vanu is a novice in the Kinship of the Suffering God. Of neutral gender, Vanu needs to find hir place among the complexities of life aboard a space platform in a religious community. Should s/he opt for a more technical vocation, such as stellar engineering with its life cut off from the rest of the community, or something more mundane, such as habitat maintenance, where s/he could be closer to hir sibs? An encounter with an exotic outsider stirs up a storm of conflicts within the usually quiet community. The rigid and authoritarian culture of the Kinship is revealed to have more sinister origins than Vanu could ever have guessed. And reactions to the turmoil raised by Vanu’s situation may threaten more than just Vanu’s life choices. A tale of the consequences of moral dilemmas in a changing environment.”

(Mary Thaler) #6

I’d love to be involved in the Plenum discussion, and the time slot works for me. The Bateson group also sounds intriguing. I might not be able to make it to every meeting (particularly in spring when I’m starting a new residency), but I would love to be able to drop in when I’m able.

(Geoffrey Edwards) #7

We do try to get a group that commits, but the reality of running one of these reading groups is that not everyone can always come - life tends to intrude to some extent. As leader, I’m on the hook, but nobody else is, strictly speaking!

(Marco V Morelli) #8

Hi Geoffrey, this is fantastic. Thanks for your forethought and initiative. As you know, I have an especial interest in the Plenum discussions as part of our conception and launch of Untimely Books…so I will follow up with you and Doug specifically on that.

Regarding the other groups, I am interested, but am going to withold committment until I can get the overall process of group creation, promotion, and archiving into more of an orderly form, as I’ve begun working on here: Template for Reading Group Creation. As well, my main focus next year will be on writing, so I want to make sure I am following through on that before making new commitments. On the other hand, I am very committed to helping the reading groups flourish as a whole, so I will be following up soon on how we might best make that happen.

(Heather Fester) #9

Hi, @Geoffrey_Edwards, I’m interested in both the plenum and the Bateson group. Thank you for organizing this! And, in case timing is still flexible, I’m freest on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Friday. On M & W, starting Jan 22, I’ll be teaching at 9:25, 12:15, 3:05, and 4:45 (1:20 min blocks). And, I often have Friday morning meetings.

(Geoffrey Edwards) #10

This is actually really useful, Heather! I have another commitment IRL on Thursday afternoons which makes it difficult for me to run two seminars on Thursday, but I will see if I can move my RL weekly appointment to Wednesday and then set up both groups for Thursday. Friday pm might also be a possibility, but it would be Friday evening for Europeans which is not ideal.

(Geoffrey Edwards) #11

I have worked out a tentative schedule for the Bateson group, as follows. The group would run for 20 weeks following an introductory session. It turns out that many of the chapters in Nora Bateson’s book are actually poems or small essays, and so they can be easily accommodated in parallel with the chapters from Steps to an Ecology of Mind. They are also often whimsical and totally charming, as well as being deep much of the time, and so they are a wonderful counterpoint to Gregory Bateson’s book. I have been thinking about whether this could be done faster, but there are a number of reasons to take our time. Several of the chapters are quite challenging to understand, and I don’t want to overload ourselves with this. Furthermore, although the book is now nearly 50 years old, and several of the earlier papers that form part of the collection are actually 70 or 80 years old, they are sufficiently complex and well argued that they do not come across as especially “dated”. Third, several of these papers (chapters) have had profound impact in a broad range of 20th century thinkers and are worth studying in their own right for this reason alone. I have, however, grouped some texts together. So, to paraphrase @johnnydavis54, we are going to “chunk down and chunk slow” on Bateson!

I am proposing to begin Thursday, January 10th - for scheduling reasons, it will be easier for me to do this from 10:30 to 12:30 EDT rather than the 11 am to 1 pm slot I originally suggested.

Legend : GB=Gregory Bateson’s “Steps to an Ecology of Mind” ; NB=Nora Bateson’s “Small Arcs of Larger Circles”

Week 1

GB: Metalogue : Why do things get in a muddle?
GB: Introduction
NB: Acknowledgements/Foreword
Participants Intros

Week 2

GB: Culture Contact and Schismogenesis
NB: If you knew me well you would know that I would give you everything
NB: Breathable (poem)

Week 3

GB: Experiments in Thinking about Observed Ethnological Material
NB: Mental Mono-Cropping
NB: (inter)Facing an Ecology of Mind…

Week 4

GB: Metalogue : Why do Frenchmen?
GB: Moral and National Character
NB: Identity with an I (poem)
NB: We are wine (poem)

Week 5

GB: Bali - The Value System of a Steady State
NB: Policy for Government in the Future
NB: Nourishment

Week 6

GB: Style, Grace and Information in Primitive Art
GB: Comment in Part II
NB: Rain (poem)
NB: Knowledge and Complexity

Week 7

GB: Metalogue : About Games and Being Serious
GB: A Theory of Play and Fantasy
NB: Crispy Dry Moods (poem)
NB: It Goes Without Saying

Week 8

GB: Epidemiology of a Schizophrenia
GB: Towards a Theory of Schizophrenia
NB: River’s Muscle (poem)
NB: Old Growth Redwoods

Week 9

GB: The Group Dynamics of Schizophrenia
NB: Daphne and Apollo
NB: Configuring (poem)

GB: Minimal Requirements for a Theory of Schizophrenia
NB: What’s the Opposite of Opposites
NB: Tears at the Bus Stop

Week 10

GB: Metalogue : How Much Do You Know?
GB: Double Bind
NB: Therapy (poem)
NB: Zombies and the Hitchhiker (or Context Produces Possibility)

Week 11

GB: The Logical Categories of Learning and Communication
NB: The Thing Is… (poem)
NB: Transcontextuality

Week 12

GB: The Cybernetics of « Self » : A Theory of Alcoholism
GB: Comment in Part III
NB: Leadership within the Paradox of Agency
NB: Nothing’s Changed (poem)

Week 13

GB: Metalogue : Why A Swan?
GB: On Empty Headedness Among Biologists and State Boards of Education/The Role of Somatic Change in Evolution
NB: Framing the Symmetry (Art and Complexity)
NB: Almost (poem)

Week 14

GB: Problems in Cetacean and Other Mammalian Communication
NB: Reckless (poem)
NB: Non Trivial Economy

GB: A Re-examination of ‘Bateson’s Rule’
GB: Comment on Part IV
NB: Liminal (poem)
NB: An Ecology of Hurt

Week 15

GB: Metalogue : Why Do Things Have Outlines?
GB: Cybernetic Explanation
Other readings: Norbert Wiener, The Human Use of Human Beings
NB: Quo Vadis (for Tobbe - poem)
NB: Me Watching You Watching Me Watching You

GB: Redundancy and Coding
NB: Whole Peace (poem)
NB: The Fortune Teller

Week 16

GB: Conscious Purpose Versus Nature
NB: While We Slept
NB: Fools See Outlines (poem)

GB: Metalogue : What is an Instinct?
GB: Effects of Conscious Purpose on Human Adaptation
NB: Practicality in complexity
NB: Sound of Sun (poem)

Week 17

GB: Form, substance and difference
GB: Comment on Part V
NB: What do you see when you look at her face? How is she feeling now?
NB: Stop that Thing You Do (poem)

Week 18

GB: From Versailles to Cybernetics
NB: Ecology of Love (poem)
NB: Parts & Wholes, Hope & Horror

Week 19

GB: Pathologies of Epistemology
NB: Symmathesy
NB: Integrity (poem)

GB: The Roots of Ecological Crisis
NB: Who Are We Now?
NB: Film-making in the Tidepools

Week 20

GB: Ecology and Flexibility in Urban Civilization
NB: Christmas is a Time Pivot
NB: Ink

Week 21

Wrap-up, further readings (Where Angels Fear to Tread : Towards an Epistemology of the Sacred)

(john davis) #12

I read all of these back in the 90’s with very little comprehension but with much fascination. It will be a great pleasure to return to Bateson to figure out what perplexed me about him so much back then. Wilber, I recall, said Bateson was a flat thinker. That puzzled me. Since then I have had a tendency to reverse engineer my engagements with Wilber and with the much of Integral Theory, which appears to me to have become a bit of dead end. It seems, now, and I may revise this, that Wilber may have done better to focus attention on Bateson’s Levels of Learning, which I have used often working with groups in crisis. Bateson had a huge influence on those of us who were drawn to metaphor and narrative when working with paradox. Bateson and Mead were both students of trance states. They took the first steps towards what I believe is currently becoming a Second Order Culture. I really look forward to this study group.

(Marco V Morelli) #13

Wow, Geoffrey. This sounds like it will be something. Do you think you would be able to get me the various pieces of info for an overview/invitation page by the end of the week? As per: Template for Reading Group Creation

If so, we could add it to Metapsychosis event calendar, which is looking good to be done this week, and I could also send out an email invitation to our list, if that would be amenable to you.

(Geoffrey Edwards) #14

I will do this tomorrow, Marco.

Personal Introductions (forum-wide)
(Geoffrey Edwards) #15

Okay, I have succeeded in moving my RL (real life) appointment from Thursday afternoon to Wednesday afternoon, so now my Thursday is clear.

Bateson group : We will do the Bateson group on Thursdays from EDT 10:30 to EDT 12:30 (2019-01-10T15:30:00Z2019-01-10T17:30:00Z) every week from January 10th for 21 weeks.

Plenum group : We will do the Plenum reading likewise on Thursdays from EDT 13:30 to EDT 15:00 (2019-01-17T18:30:00Z2019-01-17T20:00:00Z) every week from January 17th for 8 weeks. I am staggering the starting date by a week to give me time to settle in with the Bateson group before Plenum takes off… For Plenum, it will be a closed group once we start, but anyone who is interested may contact me for an invitation to participate. So far, interested parties appear to be @marythaler, @madrush, @hfester, and @Douggins. If I have missed anyone, let me know!

Here is a tentative schedule for the Plenum reading group (numbers shown are word counts). The text is available on the Cosmos Google Docs site for those who are members of the Writers Underground group.


Week 1
1 How Big is God - 2160
2 Star Nursery - 1490
3 Thrailpard - 2195
4 Childhood - 1185
Total word count : 7030

Week 2
5 Kinla Val - 2635
6 Dev - 675
7 Overgame - 2020
8 Ranee - 2655
Total word count : 7985

Week 3
9 The Yard - 3375
10 Shosee - 935
11 Encounter - 960
12 A Vision of Darkness - 475
13 Kinla Pater - 2325
Total word count : 8070

Week 4
14 Criticism - 2340
15 Greatbear - 2175
16 There but for the Grace of God - 1120
17 The Book of Doctrine - 1455
Total word count : 7090

Week 5
18 Return to the Annex - 2010
19 Disciplinary Committee - 2105
20 Mat Status - 955
21 DeoFax - 2110
Total word count : 7180

Week 6
22 Lessons in Penitence - 1920
23 Gender Trouble - 1090
24 Identity Matters - 1145
25 Cross Currents - 745
26 Dissident Movement - 1470
Total word count : 6370

Week 7
27 Joh - 1380
28 Oracle - 1240
29 Action! - 1115
30 Machine Platform - 865
31 Station Transit - 1195
32 From Station to Core - 1605
Total word count : 7400

Week 8
33 Solution? - 1220
34 The Core - 915
35 The Wellhead - 1805
36 Down the Well - 2090
37 Sunspot - 1675
38 A New Life - 830
Total word count : 8535

(Ed Mahood) #16

The thought that has gone into this is impressive, but I do believe there are a few organizational issues that need to be addressed as well. It came as somewhat of a surprise that the group would actually be starting this week. I know that’s what you proposed, but it now seems to be cast in stone, so I a proper thread/channel/etc. is probably necessary.

Since the online sessions will be at a time that I may find difficult to manage, I’d still like to follow along with the reading, and while I did get the books just yesterday, I didn’t realize how much reading I had to get done by the day after tomorrow.

It’s not my intention to be a pain in the butt, but … I’d at least like to have a thread to flag so that I get notifications of activity. Otherwise, I – and several others as well – may miss out on a great opportunity.

(Geoffrey Edwards) #17

Hi Ed,

It is not cast in stone, despite appearances. The schedule can be changed - it is following a first meeting that we can discuss the process and the reading demands. For the first week (this week), the only reading is the metalogue, which is short and thoroughly enjoyable, the Introduction to Gregory Bateson’s book and the Foreword to Nora Bateson’s book, which are also both short. I would insist on the metalogue but not the others, but I don’t think that is particularly difficult to manage. It is next week we start with a bang - the Schismogenesis chapter is a “doozer”.

That said, the reading over the course of the winter will be demanding, more so some weeks than others, but already I feel that 20 weeks is long and would prefer not to lengthen the time by slowing down the reading still further.

Agreed. We are late getting this up, Ed. Give us a moment and it will be there, I promise!

(Geoffrey Edwards) #18

Here is a link to the page that describes the reading group, for starters :

(Heather Fester) #19

Is there a separate page for the Plenum group, @Geoffrey_Edwards? I usually have trouble with interfaces and entering and leaving systems, so sorry for all my hiccups!

See you in the morning either way!

(Geoffrey Edwards) #20

I added one in the wee hours of this morning, with a zoom ID. Note to others that it is in the Writers Underground, so accessible only to those Infinite Conversations members who are part of the Writers Underground :