Cont from Memoir -1, 22
Jan. ’72 The Greenwood Press
You mentioned this before. Tell the rest of the story.
This is a very long story, but I can give you a short version of it. I was in San Diego to interview for the Herb Trade Association position, which I obtained, which launched me on my new career. I met Dr. Strong during the same weekend and he told me about the Voynich as the summit of cipher studies and that he had deciphered it. I thought of the Voynich as my gift for entering the herbal field. It is a secret herbal, from the 16th century, now at Yale University, in the Beineke Rare Book Library, of unknown authorship, thought to be by Roger Bacon, probably not, or a forgery by John Dee, probably not, or by Anthony Askham, most likely. Dr. Strong had deciphered it and had established the authorship, but had not divulged the key to the full decipherment. He only had access to three pages at the time he worked on it, although he had successfully deciphered them. Robert Brumbaugh, a philosopher at Yale, whom I knew from his work on Plato’s mathematics, had written a book about the Voynich, called The Most Mysterious Manuscript, detailing the failed attempts and announcing that he had succeeded, but it was premature. He had worked hard on deciphering it and had come close–verbs and nouns, but not entire sentences.
Where does John Dee come in?
John Dee had owned it and had sold it to the Holy Roman Emperor, the bizarre, Rudolf II, whose interest in the occult and the esoteric is well known. Dee received a considerable amount of gold for it. It was thought to be a secret treatise on the Elixir of Life, by Roger Bacon. You see, it follows in the tradition of the secret herbal of Aristotle, of Pseudo-Apulieus-Platonicus and even Albertus Magnus. A secret about a secret elixir, an herbal concoction, an elixir of life, an immune enhancer, a Mithridate. I might as well mention Hildegard of Bingen, who is also included in this line of famous herbalists. She received herbal remedies from the Christ in prayer. I discovered her in the herbal field before she became known for her music. You see the tradition operating here.
So Dee sold it to Rudolf.
Dee received a large amount of gold for it. In the tradition of the Secret Herbal of Aristotle.
In that tradition. So I took a deep interest in Dee, whom I had never heard of and he turned out to be one of the most important but relatively unknown figures in the history of Western thought. Philosopher to and favorite of Queen Elizabeth, he was the visionary of the British Empire and Britannia, a term he coined, through his angel-conjuring or skrying, which he did with his side-kick Kelly or Kelley.
You heard right. That’s partly what accounts for his obscurity. History conspired to forget him, as it were. I brought Ralph Abraham into the project and it renewed our friendship–almost twenty years ago. Leonell called the cipher “a reversed arithmetical progression”; he drew this circle in the air with his finger and then bisected it, I’ll never forget it, so I thought Ralph, as a mathematician, might help. Instead, we took on Dee as a subject matter to study and eventually we organized the John Dee Society to revive interest in his work, which we have up on the World Wide Web.
So this is a result of your collaboration with Ralph Abraham.
Now we know a lot. Ralph decided to teach a course on Dee in the history of mathematics, because Dee was an accomplished mathematician and helped introduce Euclid to England and applied Euclid to navigation. I helped teach the course–the one where I felt like Rip Van Winkle, as it was my first return after a fifteen year absence. It was enjoyable going in under cover, so to speak, to teach a course in mathematics on an angel-conjurer.
Did you get any angel-conjurers?
Believe it or not, they were in the front row for the first lecture and then introduced themselves. I thought “uh, oh, now what?”, as they walked up with a knowing smile on their face, made up and dressed like Goths. They were followers of Aleister Crowley, which was spooky. He thought of himself as the re-incarnation of John Dee. They put on an angel-conjuring evening for us, but no one came. No angels, that is. I think they were on acid. The conjurers, not the angels. I wouldn’t have come either, if I were an angel.
What happened to the Voynich?
A friend of mine–Tim Rayhel–who had studied ciphers in the army, picked up the project and has worked on it for years. I think he has finally succeeded in deciphering it, although he lacks scholarly credentials, so it may be difficult for him to publish his results. The last I heard he turned it over to some guys in Texas. He took all of Strong’s work and confirmed it. The text turns out to be by Askham, just as Strong said, who wrote an herbal. So the Voynich is simply a cipher of that herbal and an almanac, according to Rayhel, which is very disappointing. No elixir of life, I’m sorry to note. It is another strange episode as a result of my herbal interests.
Do you realize how –I don’t even know the right word for it–bizarre, odd, strange–this all sounds? And you owe all this to Chadwick?
He introduced me. It would not have happened without him. He opened the world of herbs to me. He thought herbs were the key to any garden and planted herbaceous borders accordingly. I became interested in Padua, as the first botanical garden in Italy, after I found out that Goethe had visited there. Chadwick and his apprentices designed an herb garden on the Paduan example in Covelo–great astrological concentric circles. Chadwick was the original vital rooter, as far as I was concerned. He had the closest affinity to the meaning of organic nature and thought of himself as the custodian of it. What he created in his gardens was pure magic, no one could match him. Life forms grew from his finger tips. He had the greenest of thumbs. And all of this he freely transmitted to anyone who wanted it.
You have had more than your share of strange experiences.
Just enough, as John Cage might say.
Tell me about your herb garden.
We had a nice backyard lawn with a stream running behind it and one day I thought, I own this yard, I can dig holes in it if I want. So I dug beds in the lawn and planted herbs and it became a wonderful herb garden. I collected varieties of thyme and eventually found out there were over three hundred, although I never had more than two dozen. It has been a stunning experience, watching the garden metamorphize over the years. It definitely has a life of it’s own. I should have kept track of its various moments, but c’est la vie. When I dug my first bed, I decided to plant Artemisia, in honor of Artemis, as the first herbalist in the Western tradition and it grew to about fourteen feet in height, the biggest one I have ever seen, a sort of omen. One day I discovered the Eupatoriums growing in our stream–the spring of Spring Street. That was an event! They just appeared there after I discovered Mithridates Eupator the Sixth. Knocked me out. We found a great liver tonic in milk thistle–Silybum marianum , and, lo and behold, it volunteered in my garden. It just appeared and announced itself. I once had a marijuana plant, I think it was a volunteer, and it grew into a twenty foot tree. No one knew what it was it was so big. How’s that for a weird kind of confirmation.
If you don’t know, don’t ask.
Wasn’t your garden featured in a number of publications?
Yes. It made it’s way into Rodale’s magazine and in a book written by Steven Foster on herb gardens: Herbal Bounty. He lived with us for about six months and helped with the garden. It has gone through successive transformations, however. We used to keep a grid of the plantings in each bed, but now it just grows by itself and we go out and watch. It is Spring and all the bulbs are starting to show and the trees are budding out and the Orris root or Iris are about to bloom and the foxglove I brought back from the Island of Madeira are looking good. It is one of my chief delights. My garden.
Any other Chadwick influences?
Of course. Old species roses. He loved them. We learned about them from his plantings at the garden and he introduced us to Tillotson’s, now known as Roses of Yesterday and Tomorrow, in Watsonville, a source for old roses. I found the Goethe Rose there. We have large plantings of Cecil Bruner, Banksia, Seven Sisters or Rose of Seville, Lavender Lassie, Charles DeMille, Celsiana, Rosa Moisea, Mermaid, Iceberg, Perle D’Or, Queen Elizabeth, American Beauty, Bourbon Queen, the Chestnut Rose, on and on. My wife and I share a passion for them with Virginia Baker. It is another issue of vital roots versus hybrids, although developing a phobia for hybrid roses is a little extreme, but it happened to me, although we grow a few.
What’s your best rose story?
One of my friends went to Tibet and sent me seeds from a Tibetan rose and told me to propagate them. I had never grown a rose from seed; it is very hard to do. But I went ahead. I called our rose lady–who told me about the mixture which was very simple, some sand and some peat and some potting soil. Then I ran into this guy from Minnesota, I forget his name. He was promoting bird song as a way of getting big yields. You play taped bird song to your plants or crops and they think it’s morning and they make an extra effort and grow like mad. Yields times ten. And he had an algae spray. So I played the tape and sprayed the seed. Waltz of the Flowers. I kid you not. And by god the seed germinated and I got three plants. One finally bloomed three years later on Easter Sunday. How about that!? Easter Sunday!
Wouldn’t you like to design and develop a major rose garden at Pogonip?
It is my chief dream, part of my vision of Santa Cruz as Ecotopia which is a continuation of the Chadwick legacy. I want to say right now that this format, this interview, is such a relief to me. I am enjoying this chance to get my ideas and the history of this work expressed, finally, after many fits and starts. The last time I tried to write up the story it was three books in one and just didn’t work. It is very hard to develop a straightforward narrative when so many associations occur. This format is just right.
I’m glad you like it. What is Pogonip?
It is a large parcel lying just below the University campus with views overlooking Monterey Bay. Partly because the Chadwick Garden adjoins the property and partly because I rode my horse, Xanthos, there almost every day for years. I formed the Greenbelt Group, in 1977 and we laid the groundwork for the Greenbelt Initiative, in 1979, which saved Pogonip. Mark Primack, who first told me about the London Greenbelt, and was part of our original group, drew the poster which included the sacred oak, my great tree, which stands in the middle of the property. It is now a 612 acre city park, although the Greenbelt, as such, cuts a swath across the upper region of the City. Pogonip is the perfect site for a botanic garden of the order of the great gardens of Europe. An effort on that scale, of course, is impossible now, but with various plantings, you can make a paradise. Chestnut or Linden allees as at Vaux le Vicomte and St. Germaine en Laye, and roses, roses, roses. A labyrinth hedge in box. An herb garden that wouldn’t quit. All of the thymes in one place. It would put Santa Cruz on the map, so to speak, and fulfill our vision of Arcadia, or Ecotopia, as I now call it, the point of destination for the eco-tourist. It’s interesting how Arcadia is the past garden and Ecotopia is the future garden. Parterres. Avenues. Clairvoyees. Words I learned from Chadwick and saw for myself, in the great French formal gardens, on a trip my wife and I recently made, a trip of a lifetime.
You have big dreams.
You have no idea.
Do you think you can bring it off:
It isn’t just up to me. It is a combination of events, a gestalt, a constellation, with all kinds of players and circumstances and resources. It either comes together or it doesn’t. All I can do is hope and work towards its actualization which I have been doing. I have been biding my time. Something has to click. I like orchestrating it. It is a magic wand effect. Something that Page Smith taught me. He gave me the sense that whatever we wanted to do we could do because he was behind it. He had that kind of power. Now I have to do it without him.
Tell me about Page.
O. K. He was my great friend. He was a little bit older, part older brother, which I never had, I was an only child, and part father and wise uncle. We could never be equals, although he was as diffident as anyone I’ve known about his own power and authority. Diffident is the right word, even though he lorded it over me, just because he was a lord. Everyone recognized it. He was a leader. He was a Major in the army at the Italian Front, the 12th Mountain Division, which was a ski corps. He stepped on a land mine and blew his legs up, but not off. He was paralyzed from the waist down for some months and then spontaneously recovered, although he walked with a kind of swaying movement. He played tennis until late in life. He played with Alan and got such a kick out of Alan jumping over the net to retrieve the ball, as if Page was too old or crippled to do it himself. Alan was a nut. It was all part of the fun. There is too much to say about Page and his wife, Eloise, they formed such a major part of our life. Page and I were left-handed Virgos, so we took one another for granted and just coasted into all the stuff we did. We jumped into the stream together and the current carried us. There was never a plan or a feasibility study–we just did it. I am proud of the fact that I gave him the time and occasion to write his history–his eight volume Peoples’ History of the United States–one of the great achievements of historiography of this century. I liked calling him America’s Greatest Historian. He always shrugged it off. He dedicated his Dissenting Opinions to me. I loved him for saying there is nothing as contemptible as a fact.
You were going to mention his connection with Chadwick through the Civilian Conservation Corps.
It’s a connection I was only able to make later. It has some strange permutations. If you think of experience as somewhat occult, forces operating under the threshold of consciousness, an intuition of which occurring only now and then, you can get my meaning. Freud talks about consciousness as a mystic writing pad. It’s like that. A palimpsest is another metaphor, a text written over a text, where it is hard, but not impossible, to discern the hidden text. It has a certain opaque depth to it. Occultation is another word for it, a term from astronomy, where one heavenly body passes in front of another, obscuring it from sight. What a great word. I am trying to understand its meaning in a number of philosophers such as Husserl and Heidegger, who talk about the concealed and the unconcealed. It is question of hide and seek. I wish I had been more attentive to it, more equal to the task, while it was happening. It is a great sorrow. But “we get so soon old and yet so late schmart”. This was a motto in the Herbel’s market and butcher store across the street on Villard Avenue, where Igrew up, in North Milwaukee.
Isn’t this also your personal versus archive distinction?
It is very hard to keep open two channels at the same time, namely a participation in the events as they occur and a recording or collecting of them in order to preserve them, especially if the events are very dynamic and don’t give you much time to discern what’s going on to the extent you are absorbed by them. This usually comes later in retrospect and then one realizes through the advantage of hindsight all or some of the influences at work. It was impossible for me to be the archivist and the participant at the same time. You either live it or observe it in the tension of participation and detachment. Some people can do both, but I couldn’t. Tillich used to talk to me about “the personal Tillich versus “the archive Tillich”, which is a version of the same problem, although there were plenty of people who kept a record of what he did and who he was and published books of their account. There is a Tillich Archive at Harvard Divinity School. I would like to start a Chadwick Archive at UCSC, although I wasn’t even careful of letters Alan wrote to me or various documents that were important. There was a letter from the Chancellor that gave the land to the garden in perpetuity and I don’t know where it is.
How about cleaning up your garage. No telling what you might find.
There you go.
It sounds like you think you should have lived your life backwards, knowing it all already.
Yes, that’s a good way to put it. Sartre calls it “the retrospective illusion” or anticipating the outcome as if it has already happened. His negative is my positive. He called it an illusion because it involves the Holy Spirit, his term for the occult force. It is being guided by the Spirit with sighs too deep for words which has meaning for me. Sartre says he smashed the illusion by throwing the Spirit out of the cellar, which is why he was such an asshole, otherwise known as a sophist.
What do you mean?
Well, the Sophists were the first in the history of philosophy to say that existence precedes essence in the question of universals. Sartre was famous for saying that and added the dumb theme that man makes himself. As well as other such caffe themes. I had the best cup of coffee in my life at his Caffe–the Deux Maggots–last year, when we were in Paris. So I have to give him that.
Wouldn’t Sartre call your slogan–Et in Arcadia Ego–a retrospective illusion?
Good point in terms of the issue of retrospective. Sartre thought he was clever in saying that existence precedes essence, as I said, the position of the Sophists, in Ancient Greece, the nemesis of Socrates. Sartre is against the Perfect Tense of epic action, as I see it, where the essential dimension of one’s life is under guidance. For me, the sign of the perfect tense, is seeing one’s life in the epic dimension, epics are the genre of the perfect tense, the tense of accomplished action, which, when retold, happen again in the perfect tense, so that at every point you know the whole–past perfect, present perfect, future perfect. Augustine’s Confessions is a good example of the perfect tense in the form of autobiography in the life of the Spirit–he is the exact counterpart to Sartre. Socrates understood philosophy as perfect tense meditation and comprehension, which he called having-one-foot in-the-grave, so that you comprehend your life as a whole, from birth to death, looking back over the whole of it. As Beckett says in Waiting For Godot: “We give birth astride a grave. The light gleams for an instant and then no more. Isn’t that enough for you?”
You thought of the garden as your grave.
It was another slogan associated with the Arcadian theme: Let my garden be my grave. The raised bed, dug to scale. Gardens began on graves. I went to visit J. B. Jackson at Harvard, a famous architectural historian, and he told me about gardens and graves, when I told him about Chadwick and his raised bed technique. Speaking of garden/graves, the first resurrection appearance of Jesus is as a mistaken gardener. I like that. I have a Rembrandt woodcut of him wearing a large gardener’s hat and carrying a spade, as if he had dug himself out of the grave. Life into death into life. Adam was a gardener, so was the Second Adam. We should loosen up on these themes and learn how to live them. Jesus as the Christ–the child who grows up to be crucified–was born in the grave, which might just as well be symbolized as a garden bed: “Lo, How A Rose Ere Blooming.”
You know the Legend of Seth?
Of course, one of my favorites. The dutiful son of Adam and Eve. He re-traced his parents’ footsteps, when his father–Adam–died, to the entrance to the Garden of Eden, where the Angel still stood guard with the flaming sword. Seth begs the Angel for seeds from the Tree Of Life, access to which was denied when the expulsion from the Garden occurred, the leaves of which are for the healing of the nations, the Tree that overcomes our natural mortality, not to be confused with the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil or better translated–The Tree of the Knowledge that Everything is Possible! The Angel relents and grants Seth some seeds from the Tree of Life. Seth returns and plants the seeds in his father’s mouth, when he buries him. From those seeds sprang forth the Cedars of Lebanon which were used in the construction of Solomon’s Temple, one tree being saved to be made into the Cross of Christ, who was crucified on the precise spot where Adam and Eve sinned.
What do you make of legends like that?
The mythical symbolism is so tight, so perfectly musical, if I may use such a metaphor, that such legends provide the inspirational basis for what Voegelin calls “transcendence to the ground”. They orient us to the ground and power of being, the underlying symbolic matrix of our spiritual lives. Without them we are lost.
So the Eden/Arcadia theme is this “transcendence to the ground”?
Eden/Arcadia is the symbolic matrix for the original affirmation of the unambiguous goodness of creation, although every time I repeat this I realize I have to correct it. The first creation account, in Biblical criticism known as the Priestly account, Genesis 1 – 2:4, is the unambiguous affirmation; the Eden account, which is the second account, attributed to the Jahwist, is the ambiguous affirmation account, as it includes the prohibition not to eat of the Tree of the Knowledge that Everything Is Possible (Good and Evil), which arouses the desire to transgress and leads to the Fall. I have to mention this every time I use the term unambiguous. They are two distinct accounts each with their own symbolism.
Wasn’t there some relation of Arcadia to the Santa Cruz Mission?
I was amazed when I found the only book on the mission: Mission Santa Cruz, by Torchiana, where I read that it was the first in the mission system to be secularized. He has a chapter on “California Arcadia”, the period of the flowering of Mexican culture in California, after the mission period, the “Completion of the Secularization of the Missions”:
“California developed into a semi-modern Arcadia; that is to say, a Spanish Arcadia, as exists today in the district of Andalusia, southern Spain, where under the azure skies a smiling countryside offers a lovely sight of palms, orchards, orange groves, banana groups, olive trees, loaded with fruit, and what not.” p.354
It was the time of the great ranches, the haciendas, the maidens in their mantillas, the proud caballeros, before the gringos took it over, presumably before the arrest of Isaac Graham, a Santa Cruz pioneer, who was the nephew of Daniel Boone, and a fur trapper, who came west and settled in Santa Cruz and became Mayor, and opened a whiskey distillery near Watsonville.. He was arrested by the Mexican authorities and imprisoned in Mexico, so California was annexed, lest that ever happen again to another American citizen. Thus ended California Arcadia, only to return in Chadwick’s little garden, at least for those of us who were involved. Chadwick continued the great English tradition of naturalists represented by Gilbert White, whose The Natural History of Selborne, published in 1789, is one of the most widely read books.
So more about Page.
When Page was a student at Dartmouth, he came under the influence of Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy, a unique figure from European culture, a German professor, a polymath, who knew everything and knew it in a way that was unique to him. He was a kind of academic clairvoyant unique in his century. Tillich was comparable but different in many ways. At least we both had teachers who were summits and we both were equally devoted to them. Eugen’s central work,
Out of Revolution, Autobiography of Western Man, is one of the great books of the twentieth century but very little known, which is a shame. I would like to say that he was the greatest teacher in the history of American education, but I would have to know too much to make such a claim. I have been reading his lectures on Greek philosophy and it is a treat. There is no one like him. His insights are like beads on a rosary–you simply want to pray them–repeat them over and over–in order to commit them to memory. Some of the most important things I know I have learned from him, especially his caution about the Greeks and the history of philosophy and falling for rationalism. Eugen is like a cold shower in terms of my love of Socrates and Plato. Page’s relation to him was extremely close, an immensely profound spiritual tie, so much so, Page got tears in his eyes just at the mention of his name, the sentiment was so strong.
Wasn’t Freya Von Moltke the companion of Rosenstock-Huessy when he came to Santa Cruz?
Yes, that’s how we met. Page invited Eugen to teach at Cowell College after Eugen retired from Dartmouth and Freya accompanied him. We invited them to lunch and our fates were joined.
So you see the Garden as related to the past efforts of Camp William James and voluntary work-service?
All of these inter-connections eventually were disclosed. Eugen had been involved in voluntary work-service camps in Germany, with Helmuth von Moltke, before Hitler came to power. Hitler turned them into Hitler Youth Camps. Eugen came to America, taught at Harvard and then went to Dartmouth. He was interested in William James and the theme of “the moral equivalent of war through voluntary work service”–it is an incipient economy of gift, as I have come to understand it. You learn the spirit of self-sacrifice by devoting yourself to some cause for a couple of years, sharing the burden of the shit-work, so you get a sense of what some people have to suffer for a lifetime. It is the wedding of idealism and pragmatism, in an effort to alleviate the lot of those less fortunate or at least share their fate. It is at the core of American volunterism and the basis for civic virtue, contributing to your community.
How did Rosenstock-Huessy get involved in the C.C.C.?
Somehow, I forget how, Frank Davidson, a student at Harvard, came under Eugen’s spell and wanted to open the Civilian Conservation Corps (C.C.C.) to middle-class youth, in the spirit of William James’ vision, as well as Eugen’s vision of planetary service. Up until then, you had to be a delinquent or a poverty kid to get into the corps, a practical alternative to jail or indigence. There was a means test to gain entrance to prove your predicament. Frank prevailed upon Eleanor Roosevelt, the Roosevelt’s were family friends, to support the opening of Camp William James, as a leadership training camp for the C.C.C., under Eugen’s direction. Dorothy Thompson, the famous journalist, also was an advocate. Page was the first Camp Director, in Tunbridge, Vermont. Then the war started and Page and others were drafted off into the army and the camp was stillborn. Eugen writes about this in an uncanny way about how what was started there would eventually realize itself–he had a remarkable sense of timing. (include quote) So the prediction proved true when you started the Garden at Santa Cruz and from there, with Page, helped start the California Conservation Corps with Jerry Brown.
I came to realize that the Chadwick Garden was the successor, the eventual realization of what Eugen pointed to–comparable forces were at work–it had the same impulse. But I realized this only after Page and I left the University and started the William James Association in order to re-establish the Conservation Corps.
You went to Washington, D. C. and lobbied for it?
We did and some of the old camp guys came, Frank Davidson himself, who took us to the Cosmos Club for lunch, and Jack Preis, who wrote the book: Camp William James. We went around and met with senators and lobbyists, like Don Eberly, who were working in behalf of the voluntary work service theme. I remember going into Ted Kennedy’s office and meeting the most beautiful strawberry blonde receptionist I ever hope to see. But nothing really came of it and then Jerry Brown announced the formation of the California Conservation Corps. We linked up with Governor Jerry Brown and helped start the California Conservation Corps, so all of these forces connected again for us.
The Peace Corps would be another example of what you mean by voluntary work service.
I should mention that the Peace Corps was Page’s idea. He wrote a long letter to Hubert Humphrey proposing it and then Humphrey championed it. I have tried to locate the letter in the Humphrey Library in Minneapolis, but to no avail. Sargent Shriver refers to Camp William James in an encyclopedia article on the Peace Corps, so he may have known of Page’s proposal. It is an important text still to be retrieved.
The California Conservation Corps was one of Brown’s favorite accomplishments as Governor.
It was all scripted for us and we were dazzled by it. Page and Eloise were in Brown?s office when he announced it, because Eloise was about to be named Chairman of the State Art Council, which I helped arrange because I knew Baker-roshi, who recommended her to Brown. Brown was informed of our interest and invited us to help with the planning. We organized some encampments and even had Chadwick come and speak at one. It was my dream to utilize the Corps as an extension or training program for the Chadwick Method. That never happened, even though the California Corps became the inspiration for the inauguration of comparable state corps throughout the nation. Now almost every state has one and Clinton has done his best, against Republican opposition, to promote voluntary service at the Federal level. So the wheel turned and these forces came into a certain confluence even if they were not realized as I had hoped. Then came the homeless problem.
You and Page opened the first public shelter for the homeless in Santa Cruz in 1985.
Yes, it was the greatest work we did together. We had already run the William James Work Company, which found some thirty thousand jobs for those in need of short-term, part-time, employment. That was the problem in the ’70’s. No one heard of homelessness, which became the issue in the mid-80’s. We opened the first public shelter in Santa Cruz in l985,and then organized churches to take in the overflow–the Interfaith Satellite Shelter Program– and eventually we started the Homeless Garden Project, with support from personnel trained in the Chadwick program at the University. So the wheel turned again. I am hoping we might link the C.C.C. and the Americorps with our Homeless Garden effort and extend it accordingly. We hope to get 24 positions funded by the Americorps this year. We thought of turning our homeless guys in the shelter into the Santa Cruz Conservation Corps and give them public works projects but it never happened, although we did take a group out on two successive Saturdays and police the banks of the San Lorenzo River. I would still like to see the homeless as a potential conservation corps.. A shirt and a patch and their name over their pocket and a new identity–no longer homeless. So, if we get the Americorps positions, this hope will be realized.
Why didn’t you do it earlier?
It takes more organizational savvy than I have been able to muster. Everything in its proper time.
And now you have the Page Smith Community House.
Yes. It is a forty person transitional facility with a very tight rehab program and support system in order to help people get back on their feet, although this will be mitigated by our having twelve of our Americorps recruits living there, inasmuch as we will provide training that will offset their need for support services. They will be service providers as well as recipients as part of their work/service duties.
Don’t you despair of the effort to help the homeless in terms of their re-entering conventional society?
Of course. But one success makes it worthwhile for me. We have a fellow who found his way into the Homeless Garden Project–Bill Tracey–who would most likely be dead by now and he is the first to admit it. He put his life back together and became one of our best workers with remarkable talents in terms of public spokesman and a writer for the Garden Newsletter. One like him in ten years is all I need to make it worthwhile. The Homeless Garden Project provided an alliance with the Chadwick Garden and Apprentice Training Program at UCSC and closed the loop for me. We have had good ties with the program and have hired trained apprentices who practise the Chadwick method.
You still think some kind of spiritual force seems to be operating under the surface?
I wish I could discern it better. The great example for me is the fate of Kreisau, the home of the Von Moltke’s in Silesia, now Poland. It fell when Germany fell; the communists took it over. Now, after the fall of communism, it is a center for voluntary work-service, which is a return to the youth work service camp effort of Von Moltke before the war. It is a miracle, pure and simple, although unlike Job, the Von Moltke’s don’t want it back; they don’t want it returned to them, although they support the work-service camp effort and Freya is the Honorary Chairperson. Helmuth Kohl, in his wisdom, selected it as the place to meet the Polish Prime Minister for talks about border relations between Poland and Germany. He provided funding for the center and the restoration of the schloss. It has great symbolic significance, not only because Helmuth held talks there about the future of Germany, after Hitler, for which he was executed as a traitor, for his ideas about the future of Germany, but also because the old German General, his Great-Uncle, is buried there, the founder of the modern German army under Bismarck.
You have written a play about these themes?
I wrote a play about the early part–the relation between Helmuth Von Moltke and Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the Lutheran theologian and pastor, who was already a hero of mine and a great influence when I was at Harvard Divinity School–and their involvement in the assassination of Hitler; Helmuth con and Dietrich pro. It is called: “A Lullaby For Wittgenstein”. It was a great event to have Freya come to Santa Cruz some years ago when I staged a reading at my home where everyone took parts and we read the play. It was an amazing experience. A. R. Gurney, the dramatist, is an old friend of mine and he told me he would help if I staged a reading and then rewrote it. After listening to it, there was only one line I liked in the whole play, so the rewrite proved to be too daunting. He was right. I got it out the other day and read it in anticipation of hearing Elie Wiesel that night who was speaking in Santa Cruz. Now I like it. It is available on my home page. I sent a copy to Mr. Wiesel after he said he would read it.
Why is Bonhoeffer important to you?
Bonhoeffer represents to me the notorious Third Use of the Law in Lutheran dogmatics, thought to be a Calvinist heresy, which I think is odd. It presumably sneaked in under Melancthon when he wasn’t looking. I define the Third Use as “the free spontaneous behavior of the redeemed”. That’s a bit much for Lutherans, who, by and large, are a grim lot, willing to knuckle under to authority, in spite of their namesake, who was condemned by the Roman Church for being contumacious. One man’s contumaciousness is another man’s free spontaneous behavior. Nietzsche hit it on the nose when he said: “His disciples should look more redeemed.” However, I’m still Lutheran to the core thanks to my Norwegian-German heritage and these themes mean a lot to me. Bonhoeffer was a breath of fresh air when I was in divinity school. His Letters and Papers From Prison was a revelation for my generation of students. He sketched out a secular Christianity that described our situation.
What about the Two Kingdoms principle of Luther?
The issue of authority and domination versus freedom in the Spirit relates to Luther’s theory of the two kingdoms, his line-up with the nobles against the peasants and his rejection of Thomas Muenzer, who was an example of the free spirited rejection of imposed authority in the peasant revolt during the Reformation. Bonhoeffer notes that the Germans were very good at civil obedience and sacrificing themselves for a larger cause. Where they fell short was in the deed of free responsibility in taking unlawful actions for moral reasons. This is the great theme of the 20th century, announced by William James in his speech at Stanford in 1906: “A Moral Equivalent of War” and picked up by Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Cesar Chavez, and everyone involved in civil disobedience in the name of justice. Bonhoeffer writes extensively in great epigrammatic paragraphs about the free spontaneous behavior of the redeemed in a world come of age and therefore devoid of God, in his Letters and Papers From Prison. I met Bonhoeffer’s friend and translator–Eberhard Bethge–at Harvard and he summed up Bonhoeffer’s position as “justified godlessness”, a brilliant term, given the tradition of “justification” in Paul, Augustine, Luther and Kierkegaard and Tillich. It is a theological understanding of secularism, where God is teaching us how to live in a world without God, as Bonhoeffer put it.
In your play, you have a play within a play, written by Bonhoeffer.
I was astonished to find in his papers from prison that he had written a little play, about a deserter, back from the front, being interrogated by his insolent prison officer, where he has to face the music for his desertion, even though he had won the Iron Cross, a very sour note, indeed. Then there is another episode about a guy who had his face shot off and is returned to duty at the prison and no one can stand looking at him and while I read it I looked up at my Max Beckmann lithograph, hanging on the wall, from his “Hell” series, of Beckmann himself, looking at a soldier in the street with his face shot off. That was a moment! Two different world wars but the same destroyed face.
So you include the Bonhoeffer play as a scene within your play.
It fit perfectly. It is an inspired piece, so I set the context for it in terms of a debate over the need to assassinate Hitler. The play is inspired by the courageous example of Freya Von Moltke, as she writes about the last days of Kreisau, as well as this dramatic episode from Bonhoeffer’s prison experience.
You make me wonder at what people carry into their graves as a result of their death.
You can say that again. Many of us have a lot of balls in the air–it is one great juggling act, and then the balls are put to rest. Tillich has a wonderful sermon on the theme: “Fogetting and Being Forgotten.”
Do you think there is some great collective memory where it is all retained in spite of individual human forgetfulness.
No? I'm afraid not. There are no Jungian collective archetypes as receptacles for these matters, as far as I know. The Collective Unconscious as a kind of memory? Who knows? It is why the anxiety of being forgotten is the sting of death. It makes for great melancholia. The early Greeks were the masters of it, they talked about how it would have been better never to have been born, if one’s fate is to be forgotten.
Do you agree with that?
I sympathize with Greek melancholy. You can hardly be a philosopher and not be bitten by that bug. The Norwegian in me is prone to it. When Norwegians or descendants, relatives of mine, sit in a room they go “yah yah” in that peculiar way of sucking in their breath–it is the eccentric sound of Scandinavian melancholy. A kind of hic without the cup. I prefer another attitude. When the Apostle Paul envisaged the ultimate end of things in his famous ?Confession of Weakness? also known as ?The Thorn in the Flesh?–he refers to the vision of “the Third Heaven”, which no one may dare utter, the final mystery, when “God will be all in all”. He formulated this problem as well as anyone. So maybe our memory is taken up into God’s omniscience.
On pain of death. I heard Robert Thurman speak in Santa Cruz recently about death and dying from the Tibetan Buddhist perspective. He is such a consummate performance artist as a professor of religion he set me to thinking. I think “life after death” is a nonsensical combination of words, just as he said he thinks “nothing after death” is nonsensical. He re-translated The Tibetan Book of the Dead, which was a kind of bible of the psychedelic movement, thanks to the edition of Leary and Metzner. He read some passages from it about the “in-between”, which rings a bell because it is a great concept of Plato–methexis. I loved his talk, but I don’t believe it. Christianity is often misunderstood as supporting the immortality of the soul, but this is a mistake. Eternal life is something. else. The symbols are difficult to articulate properly, although Tillich makes a good attempt at it in a lecture he gave on the subject. As with most things theological, I follow him: “Symbols Of Eternal Life”. What a topic. It would take us into my long fascination with “the Myth of Er”, at the end of Plato’s Republic. I recommend it as required reading. I give it an existential reading, with Socrates as the unnamed prophet. There are fine commentaries by Voegelin and Heidegger. And then there is the discussion by Ricoeur in his autobiography about God remembering us. It is a beautiful reflection.
Can you tell us more about “an economy of gift”. It seems to be related to your other themes, like the Third Use of the Law. and redemptive behavior.
You’re right. Thanks to this interview, I’m beginning to see some new connections myself. I had another strange experience I’ll tell you about. I was on my way to New York to visit friends and I wrote ahead about an economy of gift and how I wanted to discuss this with him. I knew about Marcel Mauss and Levy Strauss. It is a great anthropological theme–the gift–or the potlatch– and my friend, who I was going to visit, is an anthropologist–Edmund Carpenter. He gave me the preface of Levy Strauss to the writings of Mauss. It is a very dense piece. Then Derrida came out with his interpretation–Given Time–and I picked it up at his favorite bookstore in Manhattan, on Madison Avenue. I saw the chair on the second floor where he sits for hours while they feed him books. That I would like to watch. The trouble with reading Derrida is that not much sticks after a reading, even multiple readings, but I have notes, and I can always go back and reread the book. There is usually such a flood of associations it is difficult to sort them out. One is more dazzled than informed. Ricoeur is better for me, much more straightforward and conceptual and the economy of gift is really his theme.
Another chapter and verse. What about redemptive behavior? I never thought of it before, but I can see what you mean.
Sometimes, the concepts get in the way. I’m amazed how I hang on to mental baggage, like so much ballast. This is one way to deliver oneself of it. Here’s a bag full of ideas on the relation of the third use of the law to the free spontaneous behavior of the redeemed. I think I need help.
Do you know where to turn?
I can annotate it all.
So Derrida turned his attention to an economy of gift.
His essay is an interpretation of Mauss and Levy-Strauss.. It is more food for thought. I found the inspiration for an economy of gift and the term itself in an essay on “The Golden Rule”, by Paul Ricoeur.
You were a student of his?
Yes, I mentioned how we became friends at Harvard when he was a guest in our home and then he and Madame Ricoeur visited us in Santa Cruz. When he stayed with us in Cambridge, he sat up all night reading our art books. A wonderful, indefatigable man, he is now one of the foremost philosophers in France. He is the true successor to Tillich. I edited the English for his Freud and Philosophy, with Denis Savage, who translated it. I have learned a lot from him We are on the same wave length with thymos and he has written about it astutely as “affective fragility”, which works better in French, in Fallible Man. He knows full well about the middle ground between reason and desire. His Symbolism Of Evil, I might add, is one of my favorite books and a superb introduction to Western thought.
Tell me about the Golden Rule.
Well, I had a snotty attitude toward it, as if it represented grade school ethics, before you learned the good stuff, like Kant’s “Categorical Imperative” and Kierkegaard’s “Teleological Suspension of the Ethical”. It went back to a joke I heard at Harvard that James Luther Adams, my Professor of Social Ethics, told, about riding on a plane and his companion turns out to be a physicist. He asks Adams, after he learns he is a professor at Harvard Divinity School, if religion can’t be summed up by the Golden Rule and Adams says, “sure, if you think physics is just twinkle twinkle little star”.
That fixed the Golden Rule for you?
That did it. Then I met Carol Guyer, the daughter of J. C. Penny, whose, daughter, Cynthia, was a student of mine in Organizational Climate, an innovative class I taught at UCSC. And then I met Mrs. Penny, the great-mother-of-us-all, who turned out to be one of the most vital and high-spirited women I have ever met, the embodiment of female thymos. Mr. Penny was a passionate practitioner of the Golden Rule, as the central principle of his Christian businessman’s ethic. He first called his stores “the Golden Rule Stores”. So the example of the Penny family continuing on through successive generations was a great inspiration on this very theme of generous giving of oneself in service to others.
Didn’t you wind up winning a J.C. Penny “Golden Rule Award”?
We won three in succession–Lynne Basehore Cooper, Paul Pfotenhauer, and me. When Lynne and the Homeless Garden won the J.C. Penny Golden Rule Award for Voluntary Service and we got a free lunch and a check, within the week, I was sent Ricoeur’s essay on “The Golden Rule”, where he very subtly develops his concept of an economy of gift and the whole thing fell into place, as if it was arranged. I am very grateful for it. I haven’t fully worked it out, as yet, but the rudiments, the contours, are clearly in mind. It will be an integral part of Ecotopia because it has been the inspirational source.
What is Ecotopia?
It is an economic development plan I have hatched to make Santa Cruz a point of destination for the eco-tourist in order to make enough money to solve the problem of homelessness for the first time in the country. By “solve”, I mean a definite plan and a design strategy. So the solution is realistic within specific parameters and goals. I have until 2000 to work it out on the Internet as a virtual design strategy and then implement it.
Do you have a web server?
Yes, at the Visual Math Institute in Santa Cruz. You can get http://ecotopia.org. for the asking.
Is Ecotopia a type of utopia?
As an economy of gift it would have to be. I’m happy not to share the cynical or sceptical reaction to utopia as wishful dreaming and a waste of time. I have an interest in the utopian literature which relates to my despair over industrial society–one might as well dream of a better state of things now that things seem irretrievably bad. Tillich has given some brilliant lectures on utopia now available in Political Expectations and Ricoeur has a book of lectures he gave at the University of Chicago: Ideology and Utopia. There is a good literature on the topic, both primary and secondary. Frank Manuel and his wife did a big reader on the subject. It is definitely food for thought. I know that utopia means nowhere or no place.
Has Ecotopia ever happened?
Formally, it means nowhere. I like the Ecotopia twist because it could happen somewhere, like Santa Cruz. The ‘u’, which is the negative, is dropped in favor of ‘eco’ which means household, after the Greek oikos: what is “inhabited”. So the ‘nowhere’ becomes a possible ‘somewhere’, as far as what is inhabited. But there are cultural approximations to utopia. The Italian Renaissance is as close to utopia as one might get. It was a utopian renewal of Western culture from its roots in ancient Greece. So Classical Athens would be another example of a utopian culture, with Plato’s Republic as the working text. And, remarkably, the Paradise Garden is at the center in the Italian development of great civic botanical gardens in the Renaissance, starting with Padua and Pisa, just as Plato’s Academy and Aristotle’s Lyceum were located in gardens. This, again, is George Huntston Williams’ theme of wilderness and paradise or garden and desert, the place of retreat for the refreshment and recreation of the soul.
Didn’t Mark Primack inspire you in terms of his botanic architecture?
That was the beginning. It never dawned on me to think of vegetation as habitation, partly because of my own estrangement from nature. I remember when my wife and I lived in Newburyport our first year, on a salt marsh, in a barn apartment. It made me nervous to be out in a natural setting, with the tide bringing in and taking out the ocean every day. I was a city guy. Nature made me nervous. I was living in my head, in my mind, where I was completely taken up. So gardening was my way back, under Chadwick’s influence and I discovered I had a green thumb. I wasn’t nervous any more. And summers in the North Woods of Wisconsin have helped a lot. But nature as habitation has become an important theme. The key is the classic orders–the columns of Ancient Greece. They were once trees. The Corinthian is the most obvious, with the Acanthus leaf. I developed a love for Palladio which I will go into later. I entered a door through him, through his villas, and had to discover why the attraction was so strong. I just trusted the impulse and enjoyed going with it. Show me, I thought. And I was shown. The Palladian columns are emblematic of his restoration of classical architecture. And then the whole sequence opened up for me when a series of books fell into place, beginning with The Architecture of Paradise, with illustrations from Viollet-le-duc and other French writers, showing the goddess of Architecture sitting there and watching the men struggling with the first habitation in a tree, tying some branches together, and then branches cut and tied in a teepee, and then in a rectangle, and then houses. Adam’s House, The Primitive Hut in History, was the next book, with many of the same illustrations, and then the tree into the classic columns, and I had the key and the evolution right up to Palladio. With this came the garden city idea and utopian thought about the ideal city–the history of city planning–from Plato to Frank Lloyd Wright. All of this became grist for my mill for ecotopia and Santa Cruz, which would serve as a perfect garden city. I am reminded how Lisbon became a garden city, with great garden boulevards, after the famous Lisbon earthquake which sent a shock wave through Europe. Plant your garden in this best of all possible worlds is the way Voltaire satirizes Leibniz in Candide in his discussion of the earthquake and then lo and behold it became a reality. They made Lisbon into a garden.
Bernstein’s great chorus at the end of his Candide is one of your favorite pieces of music: “Let your gardens grow.” Botanic gardens or philosophic gardens are a great interest of yours, aren’t they?
Of course. I want to be the philosopher of gardens, bringing philosophy of nature up to date. It used to be a great enterprise and was given up when nature was taken over by mathematical physics, beginning with Galileo and the mathematization of nature. The very word for nature in Greek is physis, which is the word for physics. In Greek, it meant what grows, or a “plantation”; since Newton and Galileo it means– “dead things in space”. One can hardly take in the reversal–it is so inside-out or upside-down. Husserl is the great commentator on this development in his Crisis. Naturalist used to be a dignified scholarly designation and then under the sway of Physicalism was relegated to the Vitalist garbage pile, but it composted; Rachel Carson made it respectable again, right through to E. O. Wilson at Harvard.
What do you know about botanic gardens?
We went through all this, but I’ll recapitulate. Padua was the first great Italian botanical garden, along with Pisa, and then civic gardens sprang up throughout Europe. The renaissance was expressed and celebrated in a great civic garden, the extension of the medieval herb garden. It was the age of the Plantocrat, a veritable plantocracy, where plant hunters went out worldwide to look for new specimens to be brought back to the civic gardens as collection centers. The initial motive was to look for the Garden of Eden. It was to be the locus for the New Adam and the Brave New World of Shakespeare. Columbus had Eden in mind in his search for the new world. When it wasn’t found, the civic gardens became Edens on their own, the reconstitution of paradise. Then, ironically, the gardens also or subsequently became seedbeds for modern science. Garden academies, which sprang up everywhere as centers of free inquiry, sponsored scientific investigation, beginning with botany. Astronomical observatories were added for the development of physics, as were chemical laboratories. It was only a matter of time before everyone went into the lab and stayed there, to the neglect of the garden. This shift in focus proved critical for the triumph of industrial society and the loss of organic integrity. The plantocracy became technocrats and the plantocracy a technocracy. Attention was re-focused. Modern science was on its way to the triumphant victory of Physicalism, as if they locked themselves in the lab and threw away the key. There is a famous etching depicting life in the lab where everyone is dressed to the nines, some wearing top hats, looking like they are at some great celebration, getting ready for the synthesis of urea on the way to smashing the atom and discovering DNA and cloning sheep. There’s no stopping them now.
You mentioned that Francis Bacon played a role in this?
Yes, a decisive one. He wrote a famous essay on gardens. I happen to have an original edition of his book on nature, a deliciously beautiful book, as though printed for a prince. Bacon saw the garden as an incipient lab. Here are some quotes that perfectly illustrate this line of thought:
“Aware of the botanic garden as a seed-bed of science, young Francis Bacon wished to improve it. He suggested the idea of collecting a library in a house with ‘a spacious and wonderful garden and a huge cabinet, and a still house furnished with mills, instruments, furnaces and vessels.” Bacon rang the bell for the scientific intellectual, of which he is the first major example, it’s very type and form. “Nature cannot be conquered by obeying her. Accordingly these goals, human science and human power, come to an end in action. To be ignorant of causes is to be frustrate in action.” So the “garden academies” sprang up everywhere in Europe, where Bacon’s program was put into effect. “This movement was given a name: ‘technology’. The word, significantly enough, was coined by Johann Beckmann (1739-1811), a former student of theology, who turned to mathematics and the natural sciences.” Armytage in The Rise of the Technocrat.
Here’s a good quote from one of my favorite books: The Garden Of Eden:
“For the first time since the Fall, thanks to the discovery of America, a truly encyclopedic collection of plants could now be made that would offer a complete guide to the many faces of the Creator. Since each family of plants was thought to represent a specific act of creation, that scholar would come to understand God best who found room in a pulvillus for every genus. This, then, was the Garden of re-creation into which the wise man would retire, and shut the door upon the busy, disfigured. world outside. Plants were restful things, free from motion, and, so it was generally imagined, from the perturbations of sex. In this they resembled God himself. Not only that: the leaves of the various plants having been appointed by God for physik (or medicine), a complete collection of plants from all over the world, must, it was supposed, supply a ready remedy for every injury and infection. Thus it was that, in a Botanic Garden, beside the fountain in the middle, a man could enter into communion with what was green and full of sap, recover his innocence, and shed his fear of decay. Some of the brightest hopes of mankind thus came to lie in principles of recreational gardening associated with the Botanic Gardens and with what was written about them. But these ideals could be adopted by other gardeners, both great and small, with notions of their own as to the many ways in which to recreate a ‘perpetual spring’. After the relative hopelessness of the medieval world view, and the division of Christendom at the Reformation, these attempts to recreate the Garden of Eden, backward-looking as they were, came as a sensitive, and immensely optimistic interlude in Western European history, before the march of modern science and of the industrial revolution began.” p. 10
You recently gave a four hour lecture on the history of gardens.
Yes. To the Master Gardener Class at UCSC Extension. I have a strong interest in the history of gardens and have collected some fine books, along with my herbal collection. I almost bought an original edition of the Padua Garden Book, because it was the first, although this is disputed, and because Goethe visited it and the urplant was identified and enshrined there, but it was too expensive. I do own the Pisa Garden Book, an exquisite folio, which was reasonable. It is a wonderful field of study. My wife and I made a tour of French Formal Gardens with the famous historian of French Gardens, Howard Adams, in October of 1995. It was the trip of a life-time. The four hour lecture gave me time to cover some of the major aspects of garden history.
Say something about the history of gardens.
Well, the first book for beginning one’s studies is the Hypnerotomachia Poliphili. It takes a while to memorize the name, but it’s worth it. It is the source of many of the motifs of formal gardens and it is particularly distinguished as a publication of the Aldine Press of Aldus Manutius in Venice, the most important press of the Italian Renaissance. I can give a good bibliography of the basic books, many of which I have collected, in terms of modern studies. They seem to come out weekly. There is an excellent bookstore in San Francisco devoted to architecture and gardens–Stout’s. I always go there when I go to the City and there is a great restaurant down the alley–Bix’s–which makes a great martini. There are three major national garden traditions in the West–the Italian, the French and the English. They have their respective styles and motifs and reflect their national origin. I was struck by the achievement of the French formal garden as the highest attainment of French culture, if you are sick of steak tartare or foie gras. I’m still stunned. It was a personal pleasure because of working on the Euclidean tradition with Ralph Abraham. I would not have had an appreciation of the relation of geometry to gardening but for that project, just as I developed an appreciation for the geometrical perspective applied to painting and architecture in the Renaissance, especially by Brunelleschi and Palladio. It gave the French an understanding of the metaphysics of infinity which they designed into their gardens. There is a very good book on the subject: The Metaphysics of Infinity: The French Formal Garden. It was a natural progression from Chadwick and herbal studies to take an interest in garden history, a wonderful scholarly field. It set me up for Palladio.
How is that?
I suddenly became a Palladio fanatic, which is the application of geometry to architecture. I fell in love with the sound of his name, which I like to repeat out loud. I bought every book I could find. I dreamt about buying one of his villas–there are some actual Palladian villas for sale, although I have retreated to the project of renting one which I plan to do–Villa Saraceno, owned by the British Trust and restored by them. Palladio is the greatest architect of the Italian Renaissance and his villa is the residence for an accompanying garden. The greatest Italian gardens are on estates other than Palladian but the whole context of Italian villas and gardens is the issue. The same for France and England. It is the architecture of paradise, both residence and garden together. Then I heard about how he got his name and that clinched it.
How did he get his name?
He was a stonemason by the name of Andreas Gondola and he was working for Trissino, a great Renaissance Man, a poet and so on, with a large salon. He recognized Gondola to be the greatest architect-to-be who ever would have lived (how?s that for an example of the perfect tense?) and took him into his salon to begin his training and renamed him Palladio. The name goes back to Pallas Athena, the Patron Saint of Athens who was represented by a large wooden statue of her which Aeneas brought from Troy to Rome to be housed in an underground chapel known as the Palladium. So just as Aeneas brought the goddess, Pallas Athena, representing classical culture, to Rome, so Palladio revived the principles of classical Greek architecture for Renaissance Italy. If anyone says that’s just a myth they should have their head examined.
Palladio aside, continue the history of garden line.
There is too much to tell. And there are any number of excellent books on the subject, as I mentioned. Now that I have toured the French gardens, I want to re-visit them, and take some more time to experience them. I want to plan a trip to Italy and then England, to complete the European experience. I also want to go to Kyoto and visit the Japanese gardens there. Then I would die happy.
You have given the references for some of your main sources such as Williams, Prest and Armytage, are there any others you would like to mention?
There are good bibliographies available in most of the major garden history books, such as Lazzaro, etc. And there is the Journal of Garden History, which is an excellent publication for keeping up to date on current scholarship in the field.
The enemy of an economy of gift. He is a basis for capitalism, as I look at it, and an economy of greed, because of scarcity of resources, as a presupposition. Dog eat dog. I got the point from George Herbert Mead, in his wonderful book: Movements Of Thought In the 19th century. Mead is so clear and concise, he must have been a superb teacher. He has a lecture on Malthus, the population theorist, who argued that because of the exponential development of human beings and the arithmetical development of jobs and the food supply, there would always be more people than food and more people than jobs. Food and jobs were linked on the short side. Therefore, you could pay a “starvation wage”, talk about a pernicious term, because there would always be more people than jobs; O.K., near starvation, you didn’t want your labor force to die. Thanks to the starvation wage, you could build up enormous profits. It is the guts of capitalism and it is heinous. The economy of greed. Darwin read Malthus and thought up the survival of the fittest, so we have social Darwinism on top of Malthus as the inner rationale of capitalist and industrial society–no wonder it is self-destructing, just as it is self-destructive. I saw a piece on the evening news last night detailing the salaries of some of the top C.E.O.’s in the country, with annual incomes from $10,000,000 to $100,000,000 and the argument that they are worth every penny, which makes you laugh out loud, while the downsizing and laying off of workers continues to increase. It is a major piece of evil. Chadwick showed me the way out of this impasse with an economy of gift through “too much zucchini”. The Chadwick Method could grow more than enough food for everyone–all you have to do is dig it. Now we are proving it with the Homeless Garden Project and our Community Supported Agriculture program, which I would like to see extended throughout the county.
Wasn’t that your inspiration for Ecotopia?
That’s what did it for me. I found out we were recruiting about 150 people to pay $400 for a share in the coming harvest of the garden and they wound up getting more than they paid for– the economy of gift was right there in practice. That’s when I made up the slogan of “too much zucchini”! From there, I started to think of Ecotopia, wanting to extend the spirit to the whole community if I could and have it serve as an example for everyone. I have four more years, having set myself the goal of 2000, to develop this plan. Santa Cruz is perfect for it. The right scale. And we have the momentum mounting to the next millennium. At least I’m counting on it. I’ve been wrong before. Not much seems to happen, and even what happens goes unnoticed, but I’m still hopeful.
So you think you can refute the Malthusian view.
China already has. They lost 100,000,000 people to starvation in the 19th c. That’s a million a year. I don’t know how many starve now, but I do know they grow food on every square inch of land and they utilize the French Intensive method, the raised bed and the double digging, for increased yields. I took a long train ride when I was there in 1982, and watched how the farms and gardens came right up to the tracks, reminiscent of the Schreber Gardens in Germany, which are all along the railroad tracks. I suppose it’s easy for me to talk, living in a sub-tropical climate, with no frost, almost never, and no snow. We can grow salads year round. It can be December 26th and I garden all day with temperatures in the high ’60’s, typical Santa Cruz weather.
Did you see anything similar in France?
Yes, there were allotment gardens in a number of places. Howard Adams, our tour guide, would stretch his neck and point them out–he had a kind of radar for them–as we were driving through the countryside.
How do you see this playing out in Santa Cruz?
It is an organizational problem. I have only thought about it in the most superficial way, playing with numbers, not much else. I need someone to carry it through who has the energy and the ability to work out the details and find the funding. This is how I started thinking about it. Take 10,000 social security recipients in Santa Cruz County and recruit them to the Community Supported Agriculture Program. That would mean about a million dollars @ $100 a share. Start with that. How many gardens would it take at what size, say, an acre or two per garden, plenty of space, with two or more gardeners working a site. There are all kinds of variables and intermediary considerations. Eventually, one could build to a two or three million dollar effort, providing organic, highly nutritious food to people on a fixed budget. County-wide.
How can you manage that?
I’m trying to see how we can extrapolate from our present model–the Homeless Garden Project. You could have asked me that ten years ago–how are you going to take care of the homeless? At that point, I didn’t have a clue, except to give them a place to lie down at night that was warm and dry–minimal shelter. That didn’t seem like a terribly complicated need to meet and yet the forces of opposition were humungous even for a small town like ours. I couldn’t have done it without Page. He took charge and we did it. Now I can point to the Homeless Garden, which is my particular project, and argue the shift in focus from liability to asset. How to see the homeless as an asset, as a contribution to the community, that’s the trick.
In other words, the bottom line of the Ecotopian vision is the resolution of homelessness–about as utopian as you can get.
As long as I have ten years into this effort, I might as well try to make the most of it. I would like to be the first person in the United States who claims the end to homelessness in his community. That’s my goal. I had to think big–Ecotopia–in order to get a handle on a solution, because the problem seems so intractable, so insoluble, and it gets worse every year. I fluctuate between despair and hope. I had to envisage a half billion dollar economy in order to even consider a solution possible. That’s how bad it is.
In other words, turn the economy of homelessness to an advantage.
Exactly. If I had to do it over again, I would issue annual reports of the Citizens Committee for the Homeless in order to show the economics of the effort. I am going to issue a decade report for the Citizens Committee for the Homeless and our projects in order to give an accounting of the economics of the effort. We have already spent millions of dollars over the past ten years. Where did that come from? What contribution did that make to the Santa Cruz economy? Our decade report will focus on our financial statements and our budgets. It’s time to get smart and argue on a level where everyone looks up instead of down.
Would Chadwick have gone along with such a scheme?
Absolutely. What could be an easier solution to homelessness than gardens and garden cottages? And yet in Santa Cruz at this point in time you can’t even pitch a tent because they have passed a law which prohibits sleeping. There is no homeless campground on the entire West Coast.
But there must be plans or design strategies that would meet this need.
I was thinking today of Chadwick’s relation to Frank Lloyd Wright. We could have created Wright’s utopian city here in Santa Cruz and Alan would have scored the garden aspect which was integral to Wright’s design. I mentioned the book: The Architecture of Paradise, which is a kind of design text for my idea of Ecotopia, especially in terms of the illustrations. The Muse of Architecture, watching the first attempt on the part of a man to make a tree house for habitation by tying some branches together is one of the best illustrations. It is a wonderful book and it lead me to Wright’s Garden City plan–Broadacre City, as well as his Usonian houses. Wright is another of my heroes. My grandparents settled in Wisconsin not too far from Taliesen, so it is very close to my roots, near the Kickapoo Valley and the Wisconsin River.
You mentioned the influence of your friend, Mark Primack, who calls himself a botanical architect.
Yes. He knew of the book and the illustrations when I brought it up recently. We did the Greenbelt Initiative together which saved about five thousand acres in Open Space in Santa Cruz. Andrew Morin, whom I recruited as an Environmental Studies student at UCSC, ran the project, which lead to Measure 0. Pogonip, now a city park, comprises 612 acres of the Greenbelt. It is the jewel of the belt. I see a major botanical garden being developed there–it would be a prime tourist draw.
Then you did the Circle Trail?
Yes, with the help of Don Weiss and Sylvia Knapton. It was her idea and she asked me to take it on. We signed it last June (1995). It is a seventeen mile circle walk on the West side of the San Lorenzo River and a 12 mile circle on the East side. The West side unites a series of environmental and recreational and educational attractions and resources–West Cliff Drive, along the ocean, where I walk every morning, the Greenbelt, the University, including the Arboretum, and the Chadwick Farm and Garden, Pogonip, as a City Park, the San Lorenzo River, the Homeless Garden Project, Lighthouse Field, Long Marine Lab, Antonelli’s Pond, and the Seaside Corporation Amusement Park where you can ride on a wooden roller coaster, the very same as featured in a Clint Eastwood film made here.
How did you bring that off?
We had a team, with sponsorship from National Parks and Trails. Without their help it would have been hard. They gave us a staff person who knew exactly how to do it–Susan Harris. And they paid for the brochures and the signs. It was a project of USA, now called United Services Agency, which is my nonprofit umbrella.
Ecotopia is your vision for these projects?
My big economic development scheme. I hope I’m riding a wave into the next millennium. Now we are planning a major event–an EcoThon–to bring attention to the Circle Trail. It turns out both circles are equal to a marathon, so we will have all sorts of athletic events and an EcoFair and hopefully unveil the first stage of the Ecology Hall of Fame. All of this is proceeding nicely and we still have almost three years to go.
Let’s go back to your sketch of the Physicalist/Vitalist conflict in the history of the sciences as you put it. Fill out some of the ideas.
The inclusion of Existentialism as chief mourner for defeated Vitalism was my own insight, a natural and obvious fit. I am astonished at how scholarship operates on discrete lines. I never would have learned about Aristotle’s father being an herbalist from the history of philosophy. I had to find that out when I studied the history of herbalism. It is very difficult to think across fields in a systematic way and yet the gains are enormous. Associative thinking is hard to come by and it’s what I have too much of. Anyhow, the conjunction of Physicalism and Vitalism with Existentialism nailed the thesis for me. It was the key link in the sketch, as far as I was concerned. No one has seen the link because the history of chemistry has almost no overlap with the history of philosophy and therefore the relation of Existentialism to refuted Vitalism as the result of synthetic urea has never been put together.
What was your source for “chief mourner’?
The “chief mourner” metaphor came from “The Ballad of Cock Robin”.
Who will be Chief Mourner? I said the Dove (Existentialism) because of my love.
So the ditty summed it up? The Ballad of Cock Robin.
Who killed Cock Robin (Vitalism)?
“I”, said the Sparrow (Physicalism).
“With my bow and arrow” (Artificial synthesis of urea)
Who will be chief mourner?
“I”, said the Dove (Existentialism)
“Because of my love”.
And all the birds in the sky fell to sighing and sobbing
When they heard of the death of poor Cock Robin.
When they heard of the death of poor Cock Robin.
The ditty summed it up. It is a memory device. Cock Robin is Vitalism and the Sparrow is Physicalism and the Bow and Arrow is the artificial synthesis of urea. Who sang the Ballad of Cock Robin? Rachel Carson, of course, in her Silent Spring, the lament over the death of robins from DDT, where she coined the term “eco-system”. She was my second inductee into the Ecology Hall of Fame, after Chadwick.
And Existentialism came to an end with Earth Day I, in 1970.
Yes, with the celebration of the environmental movement, which Rachel Carson ushered in with her book. Therefore, the environmental movement is seen as Neo-Vitalism, which the Physicalist Establishment, i.e., Modern or Industrial Science and Technology, thought they had laid to rest, once and for all, over a century and a half ago. Dead and buried. The lid was nailed down. I know the name of every nail. And then the coffin came unglued, as I like to put it, much to the surprise of the Physicalists, who thought they ruled the playing field. Until these forces and trends are clarified there is a pervasive confusion over the issues.
So this is your version of what some call Deep Ecology?
It is the underlying text. I was in on the origins of Deep Ecology, because I know Arne Naess, not the guy married to Diana Ross, who is his nephew, but the Norwegian philosopher. He wanted to call it “ecosophy”, but you have to be a native Norwegian to swallow that one.
You said the rest of the sketch fell into place?
I can’t remember how the subsequent steps came to my attention, but it was a logical sequence and a historical sequence. I’m willing to concede it is my construction. There may be better examples of the Physicalist takeover, but I have fixed on the ones that make sense to me. Helmholtz was a big one. The most famous scientist of his time, he wrote a couple of appreciative essays on Goethe, although they are condescending in tone, as if to say, what is a poet and a man of letters doing fooling with hard science where he can only be a softie, i.e., a Vitalist. And the gall of Goethe, to go up against Newton. Please. Aside from that, they attempt to be appreciative. Heisenberg’s essay on Goethe is more penetrating and understanding. Helmholtz is a perfect case for illustrating the attitude of the Physicalist after the victory. Then when I found out about the Oath, it nearly knocked me out. I knew about Brucke from Freud studies–I did my thesis on Freud at Harvard and concentrated on the early periods–the Brucke and Fliess periods–they were very much in the air at the time, because of the discovery of Freud’s letters to Fliess. Erik Erikson, who was my thesis advisor, wrote a very perceptive review of the publication of the Freud/Fliess correspondence, in which the notorious Project For A Scientific Psychology was published. It was Freud’s effort to make good on his Oath to unveil nature?s mysteries by referring to consciousness as a qualitative leap in the neurone, which sounds like a salto mortalis, a somersault of death. He sent it off to Fliess and there it remained among his papers. Brucke was Freud’s mentor in the experimental lab where Freud dissected the nervous system of a certain order of fish. That would have been fun to watch. Brucke was one of the formulators of the Oath with DuBois-Reymond, a vigorous ideologue in the Physicalist cause, otherwise known as a philosopher of science. Then I read in Julian Jaynes that the Oath was taken in blood. I don’t know how he knows that. I actually tried to call him the other day to ask him but I couldn’t find him. Eventually, everyone will have an e-mail address and information will be more available if not instantaneous. So that was the next step. From Helmholtz through Brucke to Freud.
Yes. And that puts us in Vienna, Freud’s hometown, where the Vienna Circle was forming around Carnap and Neurath–the Logical Positivists of the Vienna Circle, the philosophers of Physicalism.
I would have commissioned Max Beckmann or even better, George Grosz, to draw them. Neurath wrote the manifesto for the group, a kind of mission statement, which, when I found it, gave me the quintessential expression of the philosophy of Physicalism, which is what he calls it. It’s only a few pages long and therefore very succinct. After all, these guys were logicians at heart, so propositions were mathematical in principle. He rejects all “theses devoid of sense”, a rapier-like phrase and that, of course, meant all Vitalist-type statements. It was the death knell for everything incapable of verification through experimental laboratory protocols. Wittgenstein comes out of the Circle and so does Godel, two of the most brilliant cognition beamers of the century. I never understood Wittgenstein, but Godel is my hero.
Because he undermined the Physicalist program?
Precisely. His incompleteness theorem showed that math was incomplete and inconsistent and therefore without foundation so how could it be a foundation for the sciences. The Physicalist empire was undermined in a stroke. In 1931. It has taken a long time to assimilate. Derrida is one of the few philosophers who incorporates Godel, on the way to Chaos Philosophy, as I see it.
The year you were born.
Proudly. A left-handed Virgo with an afflicted Uranus. It is also the year when Dirac postulated the monopole. I like that.
Why was Physicalism undermined?
It is a long discourse and we can’t do it justice here. Husserl is a key player, for me, especially his Crisis of Western Science. There was an effort to consolidate the gains of Physicalism on a firm mathematical/logical footing or foundation, in order to erect a system of unified science, with the exclusion of Vitalism, which is what they meant by metaphysics. An enormous amount of work was done on the foundations of mathematics. Hilbert comes to mind. It was a concerted effort to bring to fruition the failed effort of Leibniz to develop a universal calculus. Now there is a theme worth pursuing. I would love to take a class from someone who knows the subject matter known as mathesis universalis. Derrida could do it–he is the erasure of the effort and I have read what he has written on it in his Of Grammatology which is very germane. I’ve developed a tendency to formulate what is universally the case, I suppose, to overcome the relativistic and willfully arbitrary.
What do you mean?
I can’t stand it when someone says “well I think that blah blah blab” and doesn’t have a clue. I. F. Stone on Socrates comes to mind, a book I hate as much as anything I have ever read. He took a course in philosophy in college and never got over it and late in life he writes the worst drivel on Socrates anyone has muddled up in print just to fulfill his sophomoric nonsense. I was stupefied by the success of the book and wanted to buy copies just to destroy them. Anyhow, I see universals in Socrates, just as Plato did. Plato has revealed them to me as they were revealed to him. It is a spiritual transmission. Plato talks about it in his Seventh Epistle, where a spark is ignited from teacher to student as a metaphor for philosophical enlightenment. There’s nothing like it when it happens. Socrates is for Plato what Jesus is for Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. It is the axiomatic substance of a spiritual transmission carried in a tradition of those who receive it and pass it on. If you don’t get that, you don’t get it at all. The Platonic Dialogues, the Gospel According to Plato, is practically equivalent to the Four Gospels in the New Testament. Something revelatory happened in both cases and the response is the reception of the revelation. In both cases it has universal significance. With Socrates, it was the appearance of rational self-consciousness, as an historical event, with saving power. He is the carrier and the occasion. There is a line of thought on the universal significance of this event which I have learned from Euclidean geometry, which is obviously true for everyone everywhere no matter what. Nobody argues about the definition of a triangle. It sets the standard for what is axiomatic. Apodictic is another word I like. Well, we would have to spend a long time laying out the material. I start with Husserl’s essay on The Origins of Geometry and Derrida’s Introduction. That opens up the line of thought to Husserl’s Crisis, which is an attack on Physicalism, a gold mine of stuff for me. I’m trying to work this out, as I said, as a prelude to chaos philosophy, so it will have to wait for the completion of that effort.
It sounds like more than anyone can handle.
As long as it is a mapping procedure it is not so difficult. To bring the material up into the right and proper formulations is another matter. Thought takes unexpected and sometimes arbitrary turns which eludes the point. I am prone to tangents. And there is the question of what is defensible and what is simply superseded or no longer the case. Husserl fascinates me in this regard. His lament over the telos of Europe and his very long stride from the Ancient Greeks, through Galileo, to the present period, based, as it is, on European hegemony, is difficult to argue now. There is a move from the global to the local in the context of theory formation. Pluralism is a good word, not hegemony, a very bad word in modern parlance, although I don’t mind it, is de rigeur. I suppose I have to admit I was trained in the old school, where the Western tradition of humanities and science was the light of the world. Well, there are grave reasons for seeing the bankruptcy in terms of the present muddle we’re in, but I don’t fault the tradition as such for this state of affairs. It as more a departure from the true spiritual meaning of the tradition than a negative fulfillment of it. It is a very deep well to draw from. But fewer and fewer seem to be interested. Like George Steiner fears, one day soon people will read the Book of Job the way they read the newspaper–for information.
You must have faced that before.
I remember exactly when. I was teaching in the Humanities program at Harvard and we were reading Augustine’s Confessions which had just clicked for me–the entire text lit up like an illuminated manuscript with the appropriate organ music and every part was related to every other part in one great symphonic whole. I was ecstatic. And a student came up to me after class, very exasperated–I think he was from Detroit–and said: “What do we have to read this crap for?” I was speechless when I should have kicked him and said: “for your edification, you dumb shit!”
But you can’t force edification on anyone.
No. But you can lead the horse to water.
But you can’t make her think.
I was stunned a couple of years ago when a former Radcliffe student, who was in the Harvard Humanities class I mentioned, looked me up. I remembered her well. She was as bright and lively as they get and she told me how bitter and resentful she was over her experience of those years and how intimidated and humiliated she felt taking classes at Harvard and how much this was shared by her whole generation of women. I never sensed it at all. So the guilt is painful now that the worm has turned. That’s why Husserl, for instance, reads like a target text for the accusation of white old Western European male hegemony. And yet I still try to extrapolate and re-interpret the truth of it. The substance. What is of worth and value in human self-interpretation.
So this interview can be read as an introduction to a host of themes, some of which we can expect you to deliver on.
God willing. Sim Van der Ryn has urged me to write up the Physicalist/Vitalist theme under the title of Who Killed Cock Robin?, so I may do that next. It is an account that should be given its own due.
Did you ever worry about over-inflating the importance of Chadwick?
Are you kidding? Over-inflating is my middle name. We were talking about Chadwick yesterday at the Penny University. Mary Holmes was cutting him down to size with her sharp tongue. I suppose you could easily make my formulation seem ridiculous–he replanted the vital root of existence in the late stage of the self-destruction of industrial society, etc., that one, but I don’t care. I was trying to formulate what it meant to me, what the renewal of a garden meant to all of us related to it. It carried a symbolic overload, which I try to express. But I know it sounds inflated. Every once in a while I think– that little piece of land, a couple of acres, and it meant what…? I finally found the word “orotund” and thought it characterized my tendency toward over-inflation. I should have the word tattooed on my forehead, although it is obvious enough.
Orotund isn’t your only problem. I’m surprised by the mix of scholarly and personal and anecdotal and factual, as well as the tangle of ideas from multiple fields of discourse. I can see why you have had a hard time doing a straightforward account.
I could never find my scholarly voice in terms of writing papers and publishing. I never read a lecture in all my years of teaching. I like thinking on my feet and now I can do it without notes. The spontaneous inspiration of the moment is my cup of tea, even though I am clear about the subject matter at hand. It’s not as though I am unprepared. But I know what you mean about the tangled net. It is hard to separate out the mix I have brewed for years–Lee’s stew. With a great big bouquet garni.
I suppose that brings us back to Ecotopia.
Better now than never again.
What is Ecotopia?
Why do you ask again? I gave you an initial response. It is the summation of all my hopes and dreams, no matter how dashed and squashed. I managed to perk up, let the juices flow, and out it came. It just popped into my head one day. I was inspired by the Homeless Garden Community Supported Agriculture Program, but it was a long slide going all the way back to Chadwick and beneficent productivity–the “too much zucchini” syndrome and an economy of gift. I had forgotten I had worked out the rudiments of it when we did University Services Agency. I wrote it up as: How To Become A Spiritual Millionaire Where Money Is No Object. “Spiritual millionaire” is a good way to put it. Ecotopia is a design strategy for the next millennium. I had to take it on the chin when I made a bet on land reform as the theme for the Bicentennial (1976). I was misreading the causative power of certain ideas–the timing was off. I was trading on Page Smith’s first two volumes on the American Revolution, which were written for the Bicentennial. I thought land reform would be the Next Big Theme. I was wrong. I organized a Conference on Land Reform at the Civic Auditorium in Santa Cruz, anticipating the Bicentennial and the only people in the audience were the speakers. I had this sequence in my mind of Gandhi and Vinoba Bhave and then Martin Luther King and Cesar Chavez, so I thought land reform was the logical sequel to civil rights and what happened in India could happen here. Riis Tijerina was another major figure at the time. Whatever happened to him? And Fred what’s his name, who ran for President. I was his local campaign organizer and I can’t even remember his last name. Fred Harris! So the conference was an expression of these forces, but I was unable to bring it off. Nobody came. I was embarrassed, but only a little. Fortunately, I invited about thirty speakers, so it wasn’t a complete bust. I knew then that I would have to lay low for a couple of decades and then bet again on the next millennium. So I have one more chance at a big one. It remains to be seen if I can bring it off this time.
Bring what off–your vision of Ecotopia?
Yes, I have initiated a process, basically a design process, to turn Santa Cruz into Ecotopia, as a point of destination for the ecotourist and I have myself in mind. Where would I like to go if I wanted to stay where I am–Santa Cruz–of course! I am shortening the American Express slogan to: “Don’t Leave Home…” period. I always liked coming back here. I go away for the summer to northern Wisconsin and I’m always happy to come back to Santa Cruz. The first thing that hits me is the quality of the air–there is an ozone lift here that is unique to my experience. I’m into coming without leaving or arriving where you started. The point of destination is the take-off point. Come to Santa Cruz without leaving home. It is the fulfillment of those rather dopey lines from T. S. Eliot’s Four Quartets
"We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
Well, it has a trite and sentimental ring and it is reminiscent of G. K. Chesteron’s book: Orthodoxy.
You don’t mean the orthodox believer, you mean the virtual ecotourist.
When I thought of 2 million ecotourists coming to Santa Cruz at my invitation, I started to worry a little about the infrastructure, but not a lot. I developed the Circle Trail, a seventeen mile walk, with this in mind. That could accommodate a bunch every day. I even had an auxiliary trail of ten or twelve miles for the overflow on the East side of the River. Another major point of destination, the next phase in the design is The Ecology Hall of Fame. That could accommodate a bunch. But the whole problem was solved for me when I asked Ralph Abraham if I could get 2 million to come on the Internet and the World Wide Web and they wouldn’t have to leave home, and he said: “Yes!” The Virtual Ecotourist! That initiated the design frame, not unlike Bucky Fuller’s Design Decade, only this was half the time. Now we’re down to three years. I think it will work. Critical mass is essential. And then like the Lutheran Reformation, it will take care of itself.
While you drink your beer?
Just like Luther said to Melancthon about the Reformation.
So Ecotopia is a design strategy?
Yes, on a big scale for a small community like Santa Cruz, where there is a profound need for a vision of the future. I learned that the hard way with the Greenbelt Initiative. There is enormous environmental sympathy in Santa Cruz. A large ranch had been saved called the Wilder Ranch which became a State Park and then Lighthouse Field was preserved as open space and then the Greenbelt and Pogonip, and now Grey Whale, an additional four great victories for the environment. This helped feed the vision.
Does ecotopia have a theme?
Frank Lloyd Wright gave me some of the slogans. The quote from Tennyson and the one about the idea leading to the plan, but mostly the one about poor people and the Day of Regeneration–no more mitigation, no more postponement. If we can’t use the energy the new millennium should provide to solve some of these problems, then I give up. I’ll be dead eventually anyhow, so the give up is inevitable. But while I live, I hope to see this come to pass. I am inspired by the example of Cosimo de Medici, who was honored by Florence as the greatest private citizen in the history of the human race.
They actually conferred it on him?
They did, indeed. There is a plaque in his honor in Florence that reads to that effect.
You see homelessness in your community as a problem to be solved?
No, I don’t. I’m glad you picked up on that terminology. I don’t really mean that. I mean design strategy. Turning human misery and human suffering into a problem to be solved is terrible in those terms. I don’t know what to do about that and never will. But as far as providing the basic necessities of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for some thousands of people in need, that I can think about and plan for and design and try to implement. There is no solution for human suffering–leave that up to God. I have to consider a reasonable goal, albeit a partial solution, and then try to achieve that. We already have a huge record of accomplishment to refer to if statistics matter at all. After ten years, it adds up. So many nights of shelter for so many people. We are close to half a million shelter nights. I abhor such figures, although I am trying to get over it. I recoiled from the notion of becoming a “shelter provider”. I was reminded of the old FTE terminology of the university which is pernicious through and through. FTE means Full Time Equivalent in terms of a faculty position. Of what? That was the big ha ha. Of what, indeed. It is obtuse bureaucratese. As soon as you capitulate to such jargon, your goose is cooked. You might as well put your member in a meat grinder. Then, at least, you could get the FTE of pork sausage. Or chopped liver.
So you look to utopia as the rescue point from such bureaucratese?
Utopia, Arcadia, and Gardens. That’s my pot au feu for city planning: The Architecture of Paradise.
You mentioned you found a book with that title?
Yes, it was a confirmation of everything I thought and yearned for. I bought all these books from my favorite mail order bookstore in Philadelphia and it was worth all the rest–that one book. And it was illustrated. It gave me exactly what I was looking for. I didn’t know such a book existed, which is how I felt when I found an earlier book on the history of the great botanic gardens by John Prest: The Garden Of Eden.
So these two books head up your bibliography?
Yes, and Adam’s House in Paradise by Joseph Rykwert. But, I would give George Huntston Williams the pride of place and then these three.
You mean Wilderness and Paradise?
Yes. Here’s my favorite quote from the book: “…we know with St. Paul that the whole creation has been in travail together with us until now. Only amidst the circumambient wilderness of tundra with its musk oxen, of the sea with its whales, the mountain fastness with its condor and its puma, the jungle with its tiger, the woods with its warblers and crows, the veldt or prairie with its gnu and its bison, can man [and woman] tend the garden … Unless some believers in every generation can, through that poverty by which we divest ourselves of all lordliness, join with St. Francis in his canticle addressed to the sun and the bears as brethren, to the snow and to the swallows as sisters, then in the present stage of mankind’s awesome capacity for enforcing lordship over nature–whether in ruthless urbanization of the countryside, or in exploitation of natural resources heedless of generations to come, or in any careless experimentation in the realm of life, disease, and death–we shall presently find that we can no longer address even one another as brother and sister and that a utilitarian view of nature will have blasted our human nature. We shall find that the garden of culture, like the garden which is the Church, will wither or bewilder when it is by artifice fenced off from the ground of our creatureliness.” p. 137
You said “Call My Bluff’ was one epitaph for your tombstone. What is the other one?
“The Sap Is Rising.”
Page Smith has the last word?
Here it is:
1909 — 1980
Dylan Thomas wrote to his father: “Do not go gentle into that good night, rage, rage against the dying of the light.” Alan Chadwick went greatly into the good night at Green Gulch, surrounded by people who loved and cared for him in a beautiful setting where he had started one of his great gardens. The “dying of the light” that Alan raged against was the light of our twentieth century civilization so heedless of the rich bounty of the earth. More than an inspired horticulturalist, Alan was like a furious Old Testament prophet, warning of the wages of our sinful treatment of the land. A visionary, he looked at a barren plot of ground and saw it bloom; the herbaceous border would go just there, opening to an enchanting view of the mountains or the ocean. The herb garden, the garden’s soul, would be here, in inviting terraces. The arbor would be over there. And magically, and by incredible labors, they appeared in time, or at least anticipations of them–at Santa Cruz, in Saratoga, at Green Gulch, Covelo, New Market, Virginia, wherever he paused in his flight from the unendurable realities of our technological society, or simply the obtuseness of humankind. Every garden contained a penance, concrete like hardpan, often the result of ceaseless tractor tracks, which had to be broken up so that the soul could breathe. This nourished that. That looked like a weed but drew necessary nutriments up from the deeper levels of the ground. Something rested in the shade of something else; and it in turn encouraged another flower or vegetable. It was all a marvelously intricate world of interdependent growing things: nature lovingly domesticated. In an age of “collective leadership,” Alan Chadwick was as imperious as a king. In a day of carefully modulated tempers and self-conscious “interpersonal relations,” he stormed and raged not just at abstractions like laziness or indifference or inattention but at the poor frail flesh of those who were the destined instruments of his terrible, unflinching will. And then suddenly, being the consummate actor for whom all the world was a stage, he would be as sunny, as playful, as irresistable as the prince of a fairy tale. An exotic past lay dimly behind him–British naval officer, Shakespearean actor, painter of pale watercolors, the remnants of Puddleston china and silver brought out for state occasions, reassuring evidence that he had not, after all, come from outer space as one was sometimes inclined to suspect.
Everything about him was remarkable and distinctive. His physique, his height and angularity, his face, his hair, his walk. Those who fell under his spell had generally to put up with a good deal. That so many were willing to do so is the best possible testimony to the power of what he had to teach, which was inseparable from the way he taught it and the person he was. Mystic, seer, creator, lover of fine wines, coffees, caviar, and champagne, man of prodigious energy and prodigious fury–his life taught us that “nothing great is accomplished without passion.” We will find his spirit in the gardens he or his disciples built, exhorting us to do better, to care more, to work harder, to recklessly expend love on an intractable world, to make the world a garden. And we will find his spirit in his vision of gardens never built but only dreamed of.”
The following list of annotated books is a study guide of sorts for the themes discussed in this book. I have read all of them and they have directed me to more than I could possibly read in my lifetime, but I still try, in this unending quest to find the fullest measure of truth vouchsafed to me in this dispensation.
UCSC: The Chadwick Archive, Special Collections, Santa Cruz, Ca.
Center for Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems, UCSC, Santa Cruz, Ca. They have an alumni directory–1967 to 1997–covering thirty years of organic gardeners and farmers, listing 444 names representing over half of the 700+ to 1996.
The Greenwood Press, 300 Broadway, San Francisco, Ca. Wes Jackson: The Land Institute, Salina, Kansas
Fukuoka: One Straw Revolution
John Jeavons: Ecology Action, Willits, California
Cabrillo College Botanic Garden
Organic Farming and Gardening, Rodale Press, Emmaus, Pennsylvania
Biodynamic Farm and Garden Association, Box 550, Kimberton, Pa. 19442
Community Alliance of Family Farmers, Box 464, Davis, Ca. 95617 Emerson College, Forest Row, England
Craig Siska: Verdant Earth
Homeless Garden Project, an affiliate of the Citizens Committee for the Homeless, Box, Santa Cruz, Ca.
Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) %Indian Line Farms, Box 85, Great Barrington, Ma. 01230
The following books are a sample of the reading I have done in connection with the garden. The list reflects my impulse to cross disciplinary boundaries in order to think through issues. It is impossible to come to terms with the many themes involved in this effort within any given discipline. In fact, one of the shortcomings of modern thought is this inability to cross boundaries, transcending a narrowly defined point of view, the ostensible goal of scientific effort, ever narrower and narrower, ever sharper and sharper. Systems theory tries to overcome this through an integrative approach and I regard this effort as one way to resolve the Physicalist/Vitalist conflict.
I am a voracious reader and enjoy pursuing leads. I almost prefer footnotes and bibliographies to texts. Therefore, I have taken pains to give the reader a sense of the literature behind this book to peruse at your leisure.
California Tomorrow Sunset Magazine
Tom Cuthbertson: Alan Chadwick’s Enchanted Garden, Preface by Page Smith,
Let the Crops Rejoice.
Video: The Garden Garden Song
Planting Hope, The Homeless Garden Project, Narrated by Harrison Ford
John Jeavons: How To Grow More Vegetables on Less Space
Biodynamic Farming and Gardening Organic Certification
Smith and Hawken Tool Co. Catalog
Rachel Carson: Silent Spring
Since Silent Spring
Reich: The Greening of America
The Spiritual Dimension of Green Politics
Theodore Roszak: Where the Wasteland Ends, Vintage Books, New York, 1969
Unfinished Animal, Harpers, New York, 1975
Max Scheler: Man’s Place In Nature, Noonday Press, New York, 1962
Ressentiment, Free Press, Illinois The Courage To Be
Theology Of Culture
“How Has Science Changed Man’s View Of Himself, M.I.T., Cambridge, Mass.
System of the Sciences
The Protestant Era, Chap. “The End of the Protestant Era”, U. of Chicago Press,
Erich Voegelin: “The Origins of Scientism”, Social Research, Michael Polanyi: Personal Knowledge
Ernst Cassirer: The Problem of Knowledge
The Logic of the Humanities
Jacques Elul: The Technological Society
The Technological Order, Wayne State U. P., 1963 Ernst Robert Curtius: European Literature and the Latin
Middle Ages, Bollingen Foundation, Pantheon Books, New York, 1953
Werner Heisenberg: Across the Frontiers
Alan P. Cottrell: Goethe’s View of Evil
Humphrey Trevelyan: Goethe and the Greeks
Wolfgang Leppmann: The German Image of Goethe Evan Thompson: Colour Vision, Routledge, New York, 1995 D. L. Sepper: Goethe Contra Newton: Polemics and the Project for a New Science of Color, Cambridge University Press, 1988
Edward Hyams: Great Botanical Gardens of the World Helmholtz: Collected Papers
Julian James: The Origins of Consciousness and the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind
Ralph Abraham: Chaos, Gaia, Eros: The Orphic Trinity, Harpers, New York, 1994
Johannes Merz: A History of European Scientific Thought in the Nineteenth Century, Two Vols., Dover, New York, 1904/1965
Journal of Chemical Education: A critical journal for the running discussion of the urea controversy, culminating with the article by McKie, in Nature, debunking the whole affair: “Wohler’s `Synthetic’ Urea and the Rejection of Vitalism: A Chemical Legend, by Douglas McKie, May, 1944
Bernard Jaffe: Crucibles: Lives and Achievement of the Great Chemists, Jarrolds, London, 1931 “There is first the groping after causes, and then the struggle to frame laws. There are intellectual revolutions, bitter controversial conflicts, and the crash and wreck of fallen philosophies.” Francis P. Venable. Quoted by Jaffe. B. Farrington: Francis Bacon Philosopher of Industrial Science, London, 1951
Charles Webster: The Great Instauration Science, Medicine and Reform 1626–1660, Holmes and Meier, New York, 1975
Jacques Monod: Chance and Necessity
George Herbert Mead: Movements of Thought in the 19th Century, University of Chicago Press, G. F. McCleary: The Maithusian Population theory
Augros and Stanciu: The New Biology, Discovering the Wisdom in Nature, New Science Library, Shambhala, Boston and London, 1987
Erich Heller: The Disinherited Mind
Armytage: The Rise of the Technocrat
Thomas Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions
The Essential Tension, U. of Chicago Press, Chicago, Ill, 197
Hans Jonas: The Phenomenon Of Life, Toward A
Philosophical Biology, University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 1966/1982
The first chapter is the best single piece in the literature on the Physicalist/Vitalist conflict, here understood as the ontology of death and ontology of life.
Jurgen Habermas: The Philosophical Discourse of Modernity, Twelve Lectures, MIT Press, Cambridge, 1990, Turgid but informative summaries and interpretations of major figures.
Ernest Becker: The Denial of Death, The Free Press, Macmillan, New York, 1973
Robert Lilienfeld, The Rise of Systems Theory, 1978
Paul Feyerabend The great anarchist who knew how to throw things without getting into the ring.
Richard Olson: Science Deified & Science Defied, The
Historical Significance of Science in Western Culture, Two Vols. U. of California Press, Berkeley, 1990
Godel: Collected Papers, Three Vols.
Who Got Einstein’s Office
Hofstadter’s review of Derrida: Introduction to Husserl’s: The Origins of Geometry Carl Mitcham and Robert Mackey, Editors: Philosophy and Technology, Readings in the Philosophical Problems of Technology, The Free Press, Macmillan, New York, 1983. A good bibliography. Includes the chapter by Gunther Anders, a meditation and manifesto on the occasion of the atomic bomb. He understood what had happened.
George Huntston Williams: Wilderness and Paradise
H. Paul Santmire: The Travail of Nature, The Ambiguous
Ecological Promise of Christian Theology, Fortress Press, Philadelphia, 1985
J. Christian Beker: Paul the Apostle: The Triumph of God in Life and Thought, Fortress Press, Philadelphia, 1980
Richard Heinberg: Memories and Visions Of Paradise,
Exploring the Universal Myth Of A Lost Golden Age, Jeremy Tarcher, Los Angeles, 1989
Paul Ricoeur: Freud and Philosophy Metaphor
The Symbolism of Evil Fallible Man
The Voluntary and the Involuntary Conflicts in Interpretation
“The Golden Rule,” N. A. Dahl: “The Parables of Growth,” Studia Theologica, 5:2 (1951): 132-66.
David Channell: The Vital Machine, A Study Of Technology and Organic Life, Oxford University Press, New York, 1991 Right topic, wrong author. This should have been a good book. It isn’t.
Two Great Scientists of the Nineteenth Century, Correspondence of Emil Du Bois-Reymond and Carl Ludwig, Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, 1982
Arthur Koestler: The Case of the Midwife Toad,
Janus, A Summing Up. This is one of my favorites in terms of a good read, which Koestler always is, a very learned account of the problem with terrific metaphors.
Ronald Gray: Goethe the Alchemist; A Study of Alchemica Symbolism in Goethe’s Literary and Scientific Works, Cambridge U. P., 1952
Rudolf Steiner: The Course of My Life
Goethe’s World View
Goethe, the Scientist
Lectures on Agriculture the philosophy lectures
Wolfgang Treher: Hitler, Steiner, Schreber, Ein Beitrag zur Phanomenologie des Kranken Geistes. Emmendingen i. Br. Selbstverlag, 1966. My old pal, Rolf von Eckartsberg referred me to this one. I can’t read German.
Heiner Stachelhaus: Joseph Beuys, Abbeville Press, New York, 1987, I mention Beuys not only because he was one of the weirdest figures of the 20th century but because he thought compost piles were sculptured art objects, which is not weird at all.
Phil Callahan: Ancient Mysteries, Modern Visions–The Magnetic Life of Agriculture, Acres, U.S.A., Kansas City
“The Detection of the Monopole”, Speculations in Science and Technology, vol. 9 (1), pp 51-59,1986.
Nature’s Silent Music, Acres U.S.A., Kansas City,
Bird and Thomkins: The Secret Life of Plants The Secret of the Soils
Marion Shoard: The Theft of the Countryside
Tom Cuthbertson: Alan Chadwick’s Enchanted Garden, Introduction by Page Smith, E. P. Dutton, New York, 1978
Robert Howard and Eric Skjer: What Makes the Crops Rejoice? Contains an appreciative chapter on Chadwick.
Fukuoka: One Straw Revolution
Seigfreid Gideon: Mechanism Takes Command
Werner Heisenberg: Across the Frontiers. Contains his chapter on Goethe.
Lewis Mumford: The Pentagon of Power, One of the best books on the Physicalist hegemony.
Richard Merrill, ed.: Radical Agriculture, Harpers, New York, 197, Inspired by Chadwick, Merrill has been the seminal force at the Cabrillo College Garden Project.
Wendell Berry: The Unsettling of America: Culture and Agriculture, Sierra Club Books, San Francisco, 1977
Home Economics, North Point Press, San Francisco, 1987
Wes Jackson, Wendall Berry, and Bruce Coleman: Meeting the Expectations of the Land, North Point Press, San Francisco, 1984
Carolyn Merchant, The Death of Nature: Women, Ecology, and the Scientific Revolution, Harper, San Francisco, 1980
Lynn White, “The Historical Roots of our Ecological Crisis”, Science 155, pp 1203-7 (Mar. 1967). A lopsided view of the role of Christianity in contributing to the crisis with an odd tribute to St. Francis.
Clarence Glacken: Traces on the Rhodian Shore, Nature and Culture in Western Thought From Ancient times to the end of the Eighteenth Century, University of California Press, Berkeley, 1967
Francis A. Yates, Giordano Bruno and the Hermetic Tradition, Routledge and Kegan-Paul, London, 1964
The Eighth Day of Creation is a superb account of the discovery of DNA and describes the continuity of experimental laboratory chemistry and molecular biology and immunology from synthetic urea to the secret of life.
The Making Of the Atom Bomb is enough to make your hair stand on end and provided me with the anecdotes about Fermi and the reference to the mathematical equation for the self-destruction of industrial society.
Arthur Holly Compton: Atomic Quest, A Personal Narrative, Oxford University Press, New York, 1956
Karl Jaspers: The Atom Bomb and the Future of Man, University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 1958/1963
Joseph Schwartz, The Creative Moment, How Science Made
Itself Alien To Modern Culture, Harpers, New York, 1992
Francis Fukuyama: The End of History and the Last Man, The Free Press, Macmillan, New York, 1992
Hegelian concepts swamp the effort but he has a remarkable
account of thymos and adds a new dimension to the word–the ability to say “no”, which he says he got from Joan Didion Dunne, which is fine with me.
Nils Jerne, Nobel Prize Acceptance Speech for Immunology, 1988 Edelmann
Everett Spees, “A ThymOs Primer”, Journal of the American Medical Association,
Bruno Snell, The Discovery of the Mind Onions, The Origins of European Thought
The Origins of Psychoanalysis: The Freud/Fleiss Correspondence
Carl Pribram and Merton Gill: Freud’s `Project’ Re-assessed, Basic Books, New York, 1976
Erikson’s review of the Fliess Correspondence
John Prest The Garden of Eden: The Botanic Garden and the Recreation of Paradise,
Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy: I Am An Impure Thinker Out Of Revolution
Jack Preis: Camp William James
Sargent Shriver: `The Peace Corps”, Colliers Encyclopedia Page Smith: A People’s History of the United States Dissenting Opinions
Killing the Spirit,
Von Moltke: Letters To Freya
Dietrich Bonhoeffer: Letters and Papers From Prison Paul Lee: A Lullaby For Wittgenstein, A Play in three acts
“Hermeneutics and Vitalism” ReVision, 10 (3) pp. 344 (Winter, 1988)
“On the Wings of Thymos,” in the Supplement to The Phaedrus, Greenwood Press, San Francisco “Vitalism and Hermeneutics” in Revision,
Introduction to Paul Tillich: The Meaning of
Health, The Platonic Academy, Santa Cruz, Ca. 95061, 1981
Metaphors of Consciousness, Von Eckartsberg and Valle,
“Goethe’s Italian Journey”, Festschrift for Frank Barron, edited by Montuori. 1996
“The Wayward Reaction”, Festschrift for Timothy Leary, edited by Robert Forte and Nina Graboi
The Quality of Mercy, Platonic Academy Press, 1983
Florence the Goose, Illustrations by Page Smith, Platonic Academy Press, 1983
Ralph Abraham: Chaos, Gaia, Eros: The Orphic Trinity 226
Dynamics, The Geometry of Behavior, Addison-Wesley, Reading, Ma., 1992
Abraham, McKenna and Sheldrake, Trialogues at the Edge of the West, Bear, Santa Fe, NM, 1992
James Gleick, Chaos, The Making of a New Science, Viking, New York, 1988
Morris Berman: The Reenchantment of the World, Cornell, Ithaca, NY, 1981
Rupert Sheldrake: A New Science of Life
The Presence of the Past Trialogues
The Rebirth of Nature: The Greening Of Science and God, Bantam, New York, 1991
Hans Peter Duerr, Dreamtime: Concerning the Boundary Between Wilderness and Civilization, Basil Blackwell, Oxford; 1978
David Mamout: Remembering Babylon
Fritjof Capra: The Role of Physics in the Current Change Of Paradigms, 1987
Mark Davidson, Uncommon Sense: the Life and Thought of Ludwig von Bertalanffy (1901-1972),
Father of General Systems Theory, J. P.
Tarcher, Los Angeles, Ca., 1983
Mary Hesse, Models and Analogies in Science, U. of Notre Dame, Bloomington, Indiana, 1966
W.H. Leatherdale, The Role of Analogy, Model and Metaphor in Science, North-Holland, Amsterdam, 1974
Hilda Hein, On the Nature and Origin of Life, McGraw-Hill New York, 1971
Hayek: The Counter Revolution of Science
Donna Jeanne Haraway, Crystals, Fabrics, and Fields: Metaphors of Organicism in Twentieth Century Developmental Biology, Yale, New Haven, 1976
Max Horkheimer: The Eclipse of Reason
Robert Lilienfeld, The Rise of Systems Theory, 1978
Erich Jantsch, Design for Evolution: Self-organization and Planning in the Life of Human Systems, Braziller, New York, 1975
The Self-organizing Universe: Scientific and Human Implications of the Emerging Paradigm of Evolution, Pergamon, New York, 1980
Jantsch was one of the first to understand the need to move from homeostasis (Cannon) to homeolability, introducing a dynamic theme: the ability to self-organize was based on the thermodynamics of the unsteady state–Max Eigen, Ilya Prigogine, Humberto Maturana, Francisco Varela, and Ralph Abraham have pursued their work in this vein, especially in reference to chaos dynamics.
Ernst Schrodinger: What Is Life?
C. H. Waddington: The Nature of Life, George Allen and Unwin, London, 1961
A. N. Whitehead: Process and Reality, Macmillan, New York, 1929
Henri Bergson: Creative Evolution, Macmillan, London, 1911
F. A. Lange: History of Materialism
William Irwin Thompson, ed., Gaia, A Way of Knowing: Political Implications of the New Biology,