I really enjoyed this book and want to share my excitement with anyone who might be interested. I have a good familiarity with Gregory Bateson’s later work from the 1970’s and this book gave me the deep background from his prior years to fill in what I didn’t know and give me greater context for understanding what I did.

His work was a seminal part of my thinking as I developed my method of counseling/art psychotherapy and was lucky to have known a former student and friend of his, Janie Rhyne, with whom I collaborated for presentations at conferences of the American Art Therapy Association, and Rodney Donaldson, Bateson’s archivist, who  I knew though the American Society for Cybernetics. Any of you who heard my talks at conferences, took a class with me, or saw mw for therapy, might recall how frequently I mentioned Gregory Bateson.

The author provided a great deal of information about Bateson’s place in the changes that took place in science, psychotherapy, and even politics from the 50’s through the 60’s. The author, Anthony Chaney, showed how Bateson’s theory developed and held strong through the years and changing contexts.

I came away with a greater appreciation for Bateson, someone who I even greatly admired before. And I appreciated the authors attention to detail which, mostly, was not a drag on the flow of the reading experience. At a later point in the book Chaney writes that to go on into Bateson’s later years would double the size of the book, so he stopped where he did. I, for one, would love to see the sequel.

If any of you do go and read this, please return here to comment and let me know your experience or your discussion about Bateson.

Art as Therapy: Alain de Botton on the 7 Psychological Functions of Art

Here’s a philosophical take on the therapeutic value of art. i don’t need any more convincing but its always interesting to get a fresh perspective. thanks to Maria Popova at Brain Pickings- http://www.brainpickings.com.

The Flying DrumThe Flying Drum by Bradford P. Keeney
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Keeney is a therapist who used systems theory and cybernetics and had a national reputation with several publications in the 80’s. He was a student of Gregory Bateson and Heinz von Foerster. He has developed a radical approach to therapy which is deeply informed and shaped by shamanism.

If you are interested in this, there is an engaging podcast available that I would recommend with an interview with Keeney by Tami Simon of Sounds True. Here is a link to this podcast.

“The Flying Drum” book is a fast read. He tells his personal story of his own “professional” development and describes his way he met with shamans from all around the world, received initiations and instructions, and brings what he learned to the world. It is literally fantastic, operating in that domain of what seems unbelievable and yet here in direct experience.

While the book has similarities to New Age books like those of Lynn Andrews, etc., it feels to have more substance and is more grounded in ordinary reality while not shy of stories of the seeming impossible. It is also a bit like Carlos Casteneda’s books with many descriptions of encounters and personal experiences but without going into as much of the detail of the stories of his contact with the shamans.

I found this book to be validating and inspiring.

Personal Effects 

I am excited and intrigued to see that a new book, Personal Effects: Dark Art,  has been published, written by J. C. Hutchins and Jordan Weisman that includes an art therapist as a leading character.

          From Publishers Weekly:

Starred Review. Hutchins, author of the audiobook podcast trilogy 7th Son, makes his print debut with the stellar first of an interactive supernatural thriller series. Zach Taylor, an art therapist(emphasis mine), must evaluate Martin Grace, a blind audio engineer suspected of a dozen homicides, to determine whether Martin is mentally competent to stand trial for the murder of hip-hop singer Tanya Gold, whose body was torn literally limb from limb. Martin claims he’s an unwitting psychic sniper, foreseeing crimes actually committed by a Russian demon or Dark Man. One of his possible earlier victims was Martin’s psychiatrist, Sophronia Poole, the girlfriend of Zack’s dad, William V. Taylor, the New York City DA seeking to convict Martin. Weisman, an alternative reality game whiz, is responsible for the items inside the book’s front pocket—a psychiatric report, family photos, death and birth certificates, etc.—that allow the reader to follow a multimedia trail of clues. (June)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

I have not had a chance to read it yet- I have a copy on order- but, as an art therapist myself, I am excited to see this and wanted to get the word out to you all. If you read it, let me know what you think.

Update June 25, 2011:

I read about halfway through this book and, alas, I could not sustain my interest. I’m not sure if it was because of the way it is written, the story line, the character development, or something else. I wanted to like this book. Too bad. If you’ve read it, let me know what you think in the comments.

Whole Earth Catalog in Plenty

September 15, 2008


The magazine Plenty, Issue 124, has a well researched and written article on the phenomenon of the Whole Earth Catalog. The entire life of the publication was short- 1968-1972. But its influence was, and is continuing to be, long and significant.

The Plenty article has statements from the original parties involved with he publication, including the founder, Stewart Brand. The article says it best so I won't repeat much here except to point to its influence on yours truly. I collected every publication I could find by these folks because it represented not just information about tools and ecologically sound,  well designed products but also a way of thinking about ourselves, our culture, our country, and our world. The whole-systems based approach to knowing was a revelation to me and I devoured those publications for a world view I found nowhere else.

After 36 years, I still have a box full of those catalogs and other related publications. I don't read them any more, and I sometimes think about selling them (contact me here), but the influence those catalogs and their writers have had on me is profound and I am grateful to have had them in my life.
Addendum, January 9, 2009:

I have discovered that the The Whole Earth catalog folks have a web site where all their publications can be viewed electronically! 

Also, you can view here on YouTube the 2005 commencement speech given by Steve Jobs of Apple, where he mentions the early effect of the Whole Earth Catalog on him.