Exploring Our Legacy

R. Kerrick Murray, BCSI, has practiced RolfingĀ® Structural Integration since 1985. He learned about Dr. Rolf?s connections with Korzybski?s general semantics from RISI Instructor Jan Sultan in 1989. He has been an IGS member since 1995. This is his third formal attempt1 to light a ?general semantics flame? under RolfersTM and Structural Integrators.
Pages: 5-11
Year: 2010
IASI - International Association for Structural Integration

IASI Yearbook 2010

R. Kerrick Murray, BCSI, has practiced RolfingĀ® Structural Integration since 1985. He learned about Dr. Rolf?s connections with Korzybski?s general semantics from RISI Instructor Jan Sultan in 1989. He has been an IGS member since 1995. This is his third formal attempt1 to light a ?general semantics flame? under RolfersTM and Structural Integrators.

The Source

Alfred Korzybski (1879-1950) was raised in a wealthy Polish aristocratic family. As a highly educated engineer and Russian Army officer, he survived his wounds while serving on the horrific battlefields of World War I. In 1915 he was ordered first to Canada, and, in 1917, transferred to New York to serve as a Russian Army liaison overseeing munitions shipments. After the revolution of 1917, he was ordered to return to Russia. However, he preferred, as did many other Poles, to join the French-Polish Army, which was being formed in America to continue the war with the allies. Speaking six languages fluently, he worked as a recruiting officer and a War Lecturer. In 1919, after the armistice, he married and settled in America.

He had witnessed the destruction of his generation and seen a great, bright new age crippled. His post-war reflections left him obsessed and wrestling with questions. How could it be that humans could progress so quickly in the sciences, yet, in our dealings with other people and cultures, continue to exhibit ineffective and destructive behaviors resulting in misevaluations, bigotry, suspicion, hatred, and extreme violence? He took upon himself an attempt to understand what had gone so terribly wrong and find solutions.

It took him over a decade to ?get outside? the problem he was attempting to understand and to come up with both a critique and a proposed remedy. He theorized that the attitudes and methodologies responsible for advancements in the sciences and mathematics could be applied to the daily affairs of individuals, and ultimately, cultures. People could learn to use language more effectively. More effective communication could help avoid poor evaluations and costly misunderstandings. He called this new field general semantics, and introduced his ideas and principles as a practical, teachable system in his 1933 book, <i>Science and Sanity: An Introduction to Non-Aristotelian Systems and General Semantics.</i>

Even a casual glance at <i>Science and Sanity</i> (actually three books combined into one volume) reveals dense reading. Encouragingly, Korzybski asserted that the data necessary for mastering the system could be found in the first book of Science and Sanity.(5) Still, it can take years to even get through the introductory preliminaries prior to Book 1, and Korzybski recommended reading it at least twice. Ida read Science and Sanity before attending nearly half a dozen general semantics workshops. (6) This is not easy to do. Still, I have to believe that chapter titles like ?On Structure,? ?Colloidal Behavior,? ?The Organism-as-a-Whole,? ?On Order,? and ?On Relations,? simply had to have caught her attention.

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<center>Semantic Reactions</center>

If words are not things, or maps are not the actual territory, then, obviously, the only possible link between the objective world and the linguistic world is found in <i>structure, and structure alone.</i>?(7)

For a clear start, let?s clarify Korzybski?s terms. (8) Semantics is related to linguistics, which is the study of language. Semantics, by itself then, is the study of the meanings of language over time. So first you have language, then meaning. This ordinal relationship reflects a fundamental formulation of general semantics, called the ?semantic reaction.? A semantic reaction is a reaction to something. That something is language. Korzybski?s work stands apart because it investigates the study of our reactions to language. It is not a ?generalized? semantics. As a science, general semantics is largely the study of how living people react to language.

Reactions to language can vary widely. When we speak, read, write, or listen (especially when listening to our internal dialogues), what we abstract (or project), our neuro-logical experience, is pervasively influenced by the general structure of the language we use; the ?maps? of words that we choose or are subjected to. Our conscious awareness of maps can be quite useful. Our unconscious projection of these maps can be merely useless or worse, misleading.

Language can be regarded as a ?perception map.? In English, for example, when I say, ?it is raining,? I use the verb ?to be? as a predicate. I?m also implying that some unspecified ?IT? is causing the rain in a clear subject/predicate relationship. In Russian, however, I can?t use the verb ?to be? and must literally say, instead, ?Rain walks,? implying an animate ?nature? behind a ?walking?. When I change my language, I change myself as to what I perceive as an observer.(9)

We have been raised within a linguistic ?map? of the world that is anchored and saturated within an Aristotelian sense of logic: notions of ?all-ness? and absolutes that we often accept as ?common sense.? This structure of language with which we usually think and communicate, this every day ?tool,? evolved from a macroscopic conception of reality; i.e., when observation was limited to the macroscopic. Absolute names for things emerged: identical identifications. From these labels, elements arbitrarily dissected from wholes emerged (?body? and ?mind,? ?intellect? and ?emotion?). This leads to a largely unexamined acceptance of two-valued, either/or orientations, instances in a context of isolation and stasis; ?impenetrable? solids and ?empty? space; clockwork time separated from solid geometries.

Were you happier as a child? Perhaps you suffer from PCDD. What is PCDD? Why, it?s ?Prior Contentment Deprivation Disorder,? of course. You are likely one of billions of people suffering from ?it? today. Billions? Does everyone have it? Is it the opposite of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder? Can it be real? Is it a thing? Well, no, not really. I just made it up. It?s merely a verbal formulation that came from the wet, gooey parts of my brain. It illustrates a tendency in Aristotelian orientations that Korzybski called ?identification.? I?ve given something a label, so it must exist as a ?thing? in some elemental form.

Immersed as we are in language-as-an-environment, Korzybski postulated a direct effect on our physical structure. He postulated that at least submicroscopic colloidal disturbances(10) could propagate from our reactions to language through and into the macroscopic realm:

?Should we wonder that life, being a form of colloidal behavior on microscopic and sub-microscopic levels, conditioned by little colloidal ?wholes?, and structures separated from their environment by surfaces, preserves a similar character on macroscopic levels? We should, instead, be surprised if this did not turn out to be the case.?(11)

It?s easy to observe ?semantic reactions.? For example, recently I participated in a coalition to license massage therapists in my state (I was representing IASI to obtain exemptions for somatic practitioners). We met with a delegation of physical therapists to discuss our legislative draft. We were blind-sided by a sweeping counter-proposal: a complete new draft of law was presented, one in which massage therapists would legally surrender use of the term ?therapist.? Even to the casual observer, the visible, visceral responses of the coalition members were evident. (12)

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<center>Extensional Devices</center>

Training in general semantics involves developing a healthy, cautious respect for words and symbols. It?s not so much an educational journey as it is a self-challenging venture of genuine re-education. For many, tough stuff to take on. Useful results do not pop out ?automatically? after you?ve learned the terminology. Basically, ?doing it? involves acquiring first an understanding of the roots of language?specifically, that the roots of ?common sense? come from Aristotle, and there are pitfalls inherent in a 2000-year-old evaluation system. (13) From there, once one grasps an understanding of Korzybski?s basic system, the work begins by using the simple tools?applying the training?in order to clarify our understanding of the language environment we?re immersed in. This can be beneficial in our practices in surprising ways.

In logic, there are numerous theories of ?meanings? regarding words. It?s recognized that comprehensive or class terms have both a connotative or intensional orientation (stressing similarity; spelled with an ?s?) and a denotative or extensional orientation (stressing differences; also spelled with an ?s?). Aristotelian orientations consciously and unconsciously stress similarities that may be nonexistent. A foundational general semantics practice is noting when terms of exact ?same-ness? or ?all-ness? are used, because in living organisms these absolute assertions are likely inaccurate or misleading. (?You are stupid!! You never put the toilet seat down!!?) In general semantics a person trains in extensional orientations, which are usually more factual and descriptive. (14)

Korzybski repeatedly stressed the importance of an extensional orientation: It?s that wait-a-minute pause as we digest or create language: what is meant, and how do we know? Threading ?these levels of abstraction? apart?, grounding our abstractions as we talk about ?things? (like SI) can be as simple as qualifying our statements: to me, at this time, it appears as such-and-such, and more could be said. Korzybski condensed his training method to what he called extensional devices: Indexing, Dating, using the Et Cetera as working tools, with quotes and hyphens as ?safety devices.?(15) Who said it? When? What else? What were the exact words? Are there questionable or suspect terms? Are there unexamined assumptions?

If you have ever done a phone interview or use an application form you?ve had the opportunity for your SI client to tell you their stories. In good clinical practice we thread these stories together using extensional orientations, whether we know it or not. When you pause to clarify aspects of their histories? who, what, when, what else, etc. ? you?re largely practicing an ?extensional orientation? by looking for differences.

General Semantics training can improve how we make evaluations and how we can reduce our mis-evaluations. You may be surprised to learn that, like Structural Integration, training in both verbal and non-verbal levels is crucial.

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<center>Silent Level</center>

In general semantics there is a tangible training device called a Structural Differential (SD). On the SD, there is a place where only non-verbal, experiential ?feeling? is represented. No words allowed. For utility, this level is termed a ?first-order abstraction? or the ?silent objective level.? We sense before we can describe feeling. We?re a Living-Life before we ?think.? Korzybski thought that this was the ?natural order of abstraction? and we could become more conscious of it. Before we can explore higher orders of abstraction, we need to revisit a ?sensing? within ourselves that involves a personal evaluation of our silent experience; how we essentially experience our surrounds and our internal milieu.

A vital achievement in the practice of general-semantics is referred to as the <i>?cultivation of silence on objective levels.?</i>(16) Silence facilitates a delayed response. When used with extensional devices, Korzybski considered it necessary to develop a ?coveted?as in highly desirable?thalamocortical integration.? (17) It refers to a specific level of suspended awareness and feeling when creativity is fostered; when subjected to a verbal or symbolic event, a developed habit of pausing and observing, then carefully considering what was said prior to responding. This ?open attention? is where we abstract experience from our world without internal dialogue, without words, and parallels our training in SI evaluations.

How long can you suspend an internal dialogue and simply ?feel? the presence of a client in front of you, or under your hands? ?Seeing.? ?Listening.? ?Open attention.? Whatever else these skills entail, what they have in common is a tacit assumption that we can quiet our own internal dialogue long enough for empirical perception to emerge. With ?seeing,? what is generally meant involves primarily our visual assessment of a client before, during, or after a session. ?Listening? skills usually refer to tactile events. Developing abilities to ?see? and ?listen? require a quality of ?open attention.? Developing a capacity for ?open attention? is re-membering an ability we ?all? have: perceiving the world as a child or artist does.

This ability, however, must be coupled with clear thinking skills to realize its potential and effectiveness. The 15th century samurai warrior and Zen Buddhist monk Suzuki Shosan wryly observed that many of his fellow monks believed the state of ?no-thought? meant becoming empty- headed dolts. (18)

<center>Structural Integration: Descriptions, definitions, and our future</center>

?I must stress again that this difficulty is not inherent in our language as such, but depends exclusively on our attitude toward the use of language.? (19)

?My friend says you fixed his neck! Can you fix my back?? ?What is Structural Integration?? These are not unusual questions to hear on a phone conversation with a prospective client. Working as a structural integrator, there are no easy answers here, and many pitfalls. You might come to relish and dread these questions. From our initial contacts to closure in a series of work we will constantly be solicited by our clients to frame and describe our work within the intensional orientations of Aristotle: the cultural common sense that is often familiar, but can remain non-sense.

How we respond to these kinds of questions can cast us into the larger world on a path of logical fate: from our premises conclusions follow inexorably. Because we hear the siren song of ?You fixed me! You fixed me!? doesn?t mean we should start believing that is what we?re doing or that?s what we?re good at. If we frame our work as primarily directed at ?fixing? things, we firmly step onto a slippery slope that may prove disastrous. Yes, often, quite often actually, there is a correlation with series work and the dissipation of previously diagnosed conditions. Claiming causation and extolling ?cures? can be legally problematic. Dr. Rolf had very good rationales for calling us ?educators;? reasons that still have merit and are not obvious to someone not using their clear thinking skills.

Structural Integration is easier to describe than to define. It?s a subtle but profound difference, which I believe is important to consider regarding our future. Korzybski preferred functional descriptions?not what ?something? is, but what?s actually done. What?s done when we work as structural integrators? Can we describe how the ?integrator? and the ?integratee? behave? This will be a description, because it focuses on behaviors. Descriptions point out characteristics, but also tell you more about the values of the speaker, and less about the ?thing? being spoken of. What is it that we actually claim to do? Personally, I like to describe and think of SI work as ?gardening work:? re-potting whole bodies in ?gravity? where they grow better?better relative to ?gravity.? (20)

How we perceive, make meaning of, articulate, and communicate our experiences as Structural Integrators, will determine what the future of our profession will be. We are moving towards defining our profession, where we must actually take positions and state our greater objectives in declarative language; clear language that can stand legislative and/or judicial scrutiny. If we must attend a fight someday defending our profession (and the fight is restricted to word exchanges), remember Murray?s first rule of Word Fighting: Bring your clear thinking skills. Preferably, bring two kinds of clear thinking skills. Bring all your friends with clear thinking skills.

So, as best we can, we roll up our sleeves, get to work, and when appropriate, we try to describe a psycho-biological process involving two people, one of whom applies direct manipulation of the organic morphology (structure) in order to bring living ?parts? together into a more apparent functional relationship-as-a-whole-with-an- environment (integration). In the popular vernacular, we?ll describe something that we do to help people feel comfortable and (possibly and co-incidentally) release or relieve previously diagnosed conditions or disorders. Structural Integration, like General Semantics, encompasses a huge domain, and, if it ever becomes a science, it will probably become the study (at least) of how to help living people react to a felt sense of ?gravity.?


1. In 1995 the author presented a Rolf InstituteĀ® annual meeting workshop entitled ?General Semantics and Private Gravity.? In 1998 he wrote an essay for a Rolf Lines issue on Gravity entitled ?Analeptic Geotaxis and Anamnestic Entelechy.? In 2006 he presented a paper on somatic pioneers Ida Rolf and Emilie Conrad to the IGS 13th International Conference. (The conference theme was ?Making Sense.?)

2. Feitis, R., (1978), Ida Rolf Talks: About Rolfing and Physical Reality, Harper and Row Publishers, New York, p. 47. (See also Resources.)

3. Korzybski, A., (1933), Science and Sanity: An Introduction to Non-Aristotelian Systems and General Semantics, Englewood, NJ: International Non-Aristotelian library/Institute of General Semantics, (1994), 5th edition, p. xxi.

4. Ida Rolf Talks, pp. 11 f., 16 f.

5. Science and Sanity, p. xcvii.

6. Ida Rolf Talks, p. 11: In the Institute of General Semantics archives, it is documented that Dr. Rolf attended IGS seminars in December of 1952, and in August and November of 1953. Photographs of these three classes are reprinted here with permission of the IGS. She returned for weekend workshops in April of 1959 and June of 1962. Charlotte Schuchardt Read is also identified with Ida Rolf in the three photographs. Charlotte was Korzybski?s personal secretary for many years and was the executrix for his estate. In a 1995 phone conversation with the author, she fondly reminisced about ?Ida Pauline.? Links can be found on the IGS website,<a href=’http://www.generalsemantics.org’ target=’_blank’>http://www.generalsemantics.org</a>, to Charlotte?s biographical sketch of Korzybski?s life, and also short clips of Charlotte teaching sensory awareness circa 1948 and 1961.

7. Science and Sanity, p.61.

8. Systems are groups of interacting, interrelated parts forming a complex whole: non-Aristotelian systems here refer to a body of theories with a common method of thinking about the world and ourselves. Non-Aristotelian does not mean anti-Aristotelian. It?s labeling a larger domain in which Aristotelian orientations are a subset. Aristotelian orientations focus on symmetrical relations, etc. Non-Aristotelian orientations recognize asymmetrical and non-symmetrical relations, etc.

9. Asiatic languages have analogous examples: Chinese and Japanese are respectively similar to English and Russian in the given example. The five current taxons (2009) developed by the RISI Advanced Faculty, Structural, Functional, Energetic, Psycho-biological, and Geometric (possibly a meta-taxon) are obvious and relevant examples of how shifting language shifts perception.

10. Science and Sanity, pp. liii, 114, 162 f.

11. ibid., pp. 119, 121, f.

12. We were able to successfully argue that ?therapist? was a general term commonly used in larger domains. The incident reminded me of a succinct and relevant quote of Korzybski: ?Who rules our symbols, rules us.?

13. Distinguishing correct reasoning from incorrect reasoning (the purpose of Logic) obviously predates Aristotle and his culture. Though numerous Asian analects of logic exist, Aristotle is credited with the formulation of his system of orientations. Korzybski had this to say about Aristotle: ?To avoid misunderstandings I wish to acknowledge explicitly my profound admiration for the extraordinary genius of Aristotle, particularly in consideration of the period in which he lived. Nevertheless, the twisting of his system and the imposed immobility of this twisted system, as enforced for nearly two thousand years by the controlling groups, often under threats of torture and death, have led and can only lead to more disasters.? Science and Sanity, p. xciv. For concise reviews of Aristotle?s Laws of Thought: Copi, I. M., (1968), Introduction to Logic, Macmillan Company, 3rd edition, p. 244, ff., and Science and Sanity, p. 404, f.

14. There is a related general semantics formulation worth noting here: over/under-defined terms. Simply put, a fundamental characteristic of a word?s verbal definition will be that it is over-defined (over simplified and limited) by intension and under-defined by extension (more descriptive and denotational ?facts? can be made).

15. In addition to standard usage (direct quotes, marking off terms used metaphorically, playfully, etc.) single quotes are used as extensional devices to mark off terms and phrases that seem to varying degrees questionable for neuro-linguistic, neuro-physiological, methodological, or general epistemological reasons. Hyphens are used to point out links between related terms that may be separated linguistically in impossible ways. The late Robert P. Pula, a noted general semantics instructor and author, proposed that students adopt the term general-semantics, noting two typographical changes; in lower case and with a hyphen. His concern and wish was to convey the idea of general semantics as a discipline, akin to other lower case disciplines like agriculture or mathematics. He thought that deleting capitalization helped to avoid the temporal connotation associated with ?fads.? I would submit that our field of somatic practice would benefit, in the long run, if we considered adopting the term structural-integration, for similar reasons.

16. Science and Sanity, p.34, f.

17. ibid., p. lx, f.

18. Cleary, T., (1991), The Japanese Art of War, Boston, Shambala, p. 63, ff. (See index for more on Suzuki Shosan.)

19. Science and Sanity, p. liii.

20. Or, if you prefer to be more Einstein-esquely accurate, ?better? relative to a space-time free-float world-line where a client-as-tiny-planet ?orbits? the electric and elastic barriers of Earth?s surface with more aesthetic grace?but oh my, that?s a mouthful.


The IPR quote used as header for this article is from a class lecture where Dr. Rolf (in context) is discussing Gaston Bachelard?s ?epistemological profile.? J. Samuel Bois, the Instructor for Dr. Rolf?s advanced general semantics class, wrote extensively about Bachelard?s work. He introduced and developed the epistemological profile into a working, evolutionary model. (See Bois?s article ?General Semantics and Zen,? www.generalsemantics.org/etc/articles/18-1-bois.pdf , for additional commentary on Bachelard.) Bois later created “Epistemics,? a further development of general semantics, which strongly influenced Emilie Conrad, founder of Continuum. Copies of Bois?s Epistemics, The Science-Art of Innovating, The Art of Awareness, Communication as Creative Experience, and Explorations in Awareness are available through Amazon, or by contacting Dr. Gary David by email <[email protected]> with “Bois Books” in the Subject line.

Korzybski invited people to critique, discuss, and improve on his ideas. As the previous paragraph illustrates, there have been many valuable interpretations and spin-offs of general semantics that explore or utilize Korzybski?s teachings in highly readable and accessible ways.

To find out more, visit the Institute for General Semantics website, <a href=’http://www.generalsemantics.org’ target=’_blank’>http://www.generalsemantics.org</a>, for links to many highly readable primers and essays. I strongly recommend joining the IGS. Basic membership rates are highly affordable. IGS Membership includes receiving the quarterly publication ETC: A Review of General Semantics.

The late Dr. Marvin Solit created the Foundation for New Directions, aka Holistic Living Center, in 1966 with the assistance of Jean Le Vaux, an early student and general semantics instructor, who presented the non-directed movement session in Marvin?s stead at the IASI 2007 Boston Conference. Follow links to Dr. Solit?s commentary on general semantics, holistic geometry, physics, biology, and history at <a href=’http://www.fnd.org’ target=’_blank’>http://www.fnd.org</a>.

Further recommended reading

Drive Yourself Sane: Using the Uncommon Sense of General Semantics, (2001), revised 2nd edition, Extensional Publishing, Pasadena, CA, by Susan Presby Kodish, Ph.D., P.T., and Bruce I. Kodish, Ph.D., P.T.

Sensible Thinking for Turbulent Times, (2006), iUniverse Inc., New York, by Martin H. Levinson

A General-Semantics Glossary: Pula?s Guide for the Perplexed, (2000), International Society for General Semantics, Concord, by Robert P. Pula

Language in Thought and Action, (1990), Harcourt Inc., 5th edition, San Diego, by S.I. Hayakawa and Alan R. Hayakawa

People in Quandaries, The Semantics of Personal Adjustment, (2002), International Society for General Semantics, Concord, by Wendell Johnson

The Hidden Side of Babel, Unveiling Cognition, Intelligence and Sense, (2006), Evolucion, Buenos Aires, by Laura E. Bertone

The writings of science fiction authors Robert A. Heinlein and A.E. van Vogt. Both credited Korzybski as highly influential in their work.

If you have access to a copy of Science and Sanity, I recommend reading the introduction to the 5th edition (by Robert P. Pula) more than once. The introduction to the 2nd edition, written by Korzybski on the eve of the Second World War, is well worth the effort. Give yourself time with it.

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