Some men seem able to go on working steadily with little success and no reassurance from outside. I am not one of these. I have needed to know that somebody else believed that my work had promise and direction, and I have often been surprised that others had faith in me when I had very little in myself. I have, at times, even tried to shrug off the responsibility which their continued faith imposed on me by thinking, "But they don't really know what I am doing. How can they know when I myself do not?"
My first anthropological field work among the Baining of New Britain was a failure, and I had a period of partial failu60re in research with dolphins. Neither of these failures has ever been held against me.
I therefore have to thank many people and institutions for backing me, at times when I did not consider myself a good bet.
First, I have to thank the Council of Fellows of St. John's College, Cambridge, who elected me to a Fellowship immediately after my failure among the Baining.
Next, in chronological order, I owe a deep debt to Margaret Mead, who was my wife and very close co-worker in Bali and New Guinea, and who since then has continued as a friend and professional colleague.
In 1942, at a Macy Foundation conference, I met Warren McCulloch and Julian Bigelow, who were then talking excitedly about "feedback." The writing of Naven had brought me to the very edge of what later became cybernetics, but I lacked the concept of negative feedback. When I returned from overseas after the war, I went to Frank Fremont-Smith of the Macy Foundation to ask for a conference on this then-mysterious matter. Frank said that he had just arranged such a conference with McCulloch as chair-man. It thus happened that I was privileged to be a member of the famous Macy Conferences on Cybernetics. My debt to Warren McCulloch, Norbert Wiener, John von Neumann, Evelyn Hutchinson, and other members of these conferences is evident in everything that I have written since World War II.
In my first attempts to synthesize cybernetic ideas with anthropological data, I had the benefit of a Guggenheim Fellowship.
In the period of my entry into the psychiatric field, it was Jurgen Ruesch, with whom I worked in the Langley Porter Clinic, who initiated me into many of the curious features of the psychiatric world.
From 1949 to 1962, I had the title of "Ethnologist" in the Veterans Administration Hospital at Palo Alto, where I was given singular freedom to study whatever I thought interesting. I was protected from outside demands and given this freedom by the director of the hospital, Dr. John J. Prusmack.
In this period, Bernard Siegel suggested that the Stanford University Press republish my book, Naven, which had fallen flat on its face when first published in 1936; and I was lucky enough to get film footage of a sequence of play between otters in the Fleishhacker Zoo which seemed to me of such theoretical interest as to justify a small research program.
I owe my first research grant in the psychiatric field to the late Chester Barnard of the Rockefeller Foundation, who had kept a copy of Naven for some years by his bedside. This was a grant to study "the role of the Paradoxes of Abstraction in Communication."
Under this grant, Jay Haley, John Weakland, and Bill Fry joined me to form a small research team within the V.A. Hospital.
But again there was failure. Our grant was for only two years, Chester Barnard had retired, and in the opinion of the Foundation staff we did not have enough results to justify renewal. The grant ran out, but my team loyally stayed with me without pay. The work went on, and, a few days after the end of the grant, while I was writing a desperate letter to Norbert Wiener for his advice about where to get the next grant, the double bind hypothesis fell into place.
Finally Frank Fremont-Smith and the Macy Foundation saved us.
After that there were grants from the Foundations Fund for Psychiatry and from the National Institute of Mental Health.
Gradually it appeared that for the next advances in the study of logical typing in communication I should work with animal material, and I started to work with octopus. My wife, Lois, worked with me, and for over a year we kept a dozen octopuses in our living room. This preliminary work was promising but needed to be repeated and extended under better conditions. For this no grants were available.
At this point, John Lilly came forward and invited me to be the director of his dolphin laboratory in the Virgin Islands. I worked there for about a year and became interested in the problems of cetacean communication, but I think I am not cut out to administer a laboratory dubiously funded in a place where the logistics are intolerably difficult.
It was while I was struggling with these problems that I received a Career Development Award under the National Institute of Mental Health. These awards were administered by Bert Boothe, and I owe much to his continued faith and interest.
In 1963, Taylor Pryor of the Oceanic Foundation in Hawaii invited me to work in his Oceanic Institute on cetacean and other problems of animal and human communication. It is here that I have written more than half of the present book, including the whole of Part V.
While in Hawaii, I have also been working recently with the Culture Learning Institute of the East-West Center in the University of Hawaii, and owe some theoretical insights regarding Learning III to discussions held in that Institute.
My debt to the Wenner-Gren Foundation is evident from the fact that the book contains no less than four position papers written for Wenner-Gren conferences. I wish also to thank personally Mrs. Lita Osmundsen, the Director of Research of that Foundation.
Many also have labored along the road to help me. Most of these cannot be mentioned here, but I must particularly thank Dr. Vern Carroll, who prepared the bibliography, and my secretary, Judith Van Slooten, who labored with accuracy through long hours in preparing this book for press.
Finally there is the debt that every man of science owes to the giants of the past. It is no mean comfort, at times when the next idea cannot be found and the whole enterprise seems futile, to remember that greater men have wrestled with the same problems. My personal inspiration has owed much to the men who over the last 200 years have kept alive the idea of unity between mind and body: Lamarck, the founder of evolutionary theory, miserable, old, and blind, and damned by Cuvier, who believed in Special Creation; William Blake, the poet and painter, who saw "through his eyes, not with them," and knew more about what it is to be human than any other man; Samuel Butler, the ablest contemporary critic of Darwinian evolution and the first analyst of a schizophrenogenic family; R. G. Collingwood, the first man to recognize—and to analyze in crystalline prose—the nature of context; and William Bateson, my father, who was certainly ready in 1894 to receive the cybernetic ideas.
The book contains almost everything that I have written, with the exception of items too long to be included, such as books and extensive analyses of data; and items too trivial or ephemeral, such as book reviews and controversial notes. A complete personal bibliography is appended.
Broadly, I have been concerned with four sorts of subject matter: anthropology, psychiatry, biological evolution and genetics, and the new epistemology which comes out of systems theory and ecology. Essays on these subjects make up Parts II, III, IV, and V of the book, and the order of these parts corresponds to the chronological order of four overlapping periods in my life in which these subjects have been central to my thinking. Within each part, the essays are in chronological order.
I recognize that readers are likely to attend most carefully to those parts of the book dealing with their particular subjects. I have therefore not edited out some repetition. The psychiatrist interested in alcoholism will encounter in "The Cybernetics of ~Self' " ideas which appear again in more philosophic dress in "Form, Substance, and Difference."
Oceanic Institute, Hawaii Apra 16, 1971
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