Exchanges Within: Questions from Everyday Life
Selected from Gurdjieff Group Meetings with John Pentland in California 1955-1984
John Pentland was was a student of the Ouspenkys, Gurdjieff, and Madame Jeanne de Salzmann, and was instrumental in spreading Gurdjieff's teaching throughout the United States. He was president of the Gurdjieff Foundation of New York from its inception in 1953, and established the Gurdjieff Foundation of California. [back cover]
In 1955, responding to inquiries from interested people in California, Lord Pentland first visited there; and soon groups formed around him in San Francisco and later in Los Angeles. The material in the present book is drawn from group meetings in California between 1955 and Lord Pentland's death in 1984. [p. xxiii]
What exactly is it about California? Since the 1960s, it's been the breeding ground for all manner of high weirdness, perhaps best epitomized by Esalen Institute and the New Age rage for spiritual perfection that that quintessentially Californian institution spawned.
Perfectionism is a key concept of the New Age. Pushed too far -- and the push needn't be all that great -- it becomes pathological. And pathological perfectionism morphs all too easily into a narcissism that has nothing at all to do with "self-esteem" -- at best a code word to camouflage the underlying pathology. At the core of this sickness lies shame, and a desperate attempt to mask it.
But it goes back much further than the '60s. California was the Westward bound of manifest destiny. Only the Pacific ocean could stop America's apparently desperate need for more lebensraum. Is it far fetched to associate such an overtly Nazi concept with the great state of California? Read on and decide for yourself whether perfectionism applied to the self might not be the result of frustrated attempts to perfect others -- just as geographically frustrated manifest destiny eventually drove Californians not out of, but into their heads. From colonizing Mexican territorial space to colonizing the space of mind -- all it takes is 100 years of practiced arrogance, a couple hits of acid and a hot tub.
But we needn't belabor the metaphor.
Edwin Black, author of War Against the Weak: Eugenics and America's Campaign to Create a Master Race, wrote an article that appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle on November 9, 2003. Its title: Eugenics and the Nazis - the California connection. Here are a handful of high points...
...the concept of a white, blond-haired, blue-eyed master Nordic race didn't originate with Hitler. The idea was created in the United States, and cultivated in California, decades before Hitler came to power. California eugenicists played an important, although little-known, role in the American eugenics movement's campaign for ethnic cleansing....
If you weren't white, you weren't perfect. And anything less was offensive to those who were. Anything less was to be surgically removed from society. Here's one more clip from the same article...
During the Reich's early years, eugenicists across America welcomed Hitler's plans as the logical fulfillment of their own decades of research and effort. California eugenicists republished Nazi propaganda for American consumption. They also arranged for Nazi scientific exhibits, such as an August 1934 display at the L.A. County Museum, for the annual meeting of the American Public Health Association.
But all that is over, right? It did happen here, but it can't happen here again. Don't bet on it. This is from Genetics and Reductionism (Cambridge University Press, 1998, p.1):
There is very little doubt that the genetic explanation of human behavior has returned with a vengeance, not only in scientific and semiscientific circles, but in the popular imagination as well. This renewed faith in genetics has emerged hand-in-hand with a new-found popular deification of DNA. New Age bookstores in San Francisco have begun offering music based on the frequency spectra of DNA molecules.... [A] California company plans to sell pieces of DNA -- possibly encoding genes -- cloned from pop idols including rock musicians and movie stars.
"Stern brilliantly exposes the dark role that the Golden State played as a leader in the closely-linked eugenics and early conservation movements. By demonstrating how theory became practice in California's institutions and laws, and how those ideas persist today, she reveals the survival of demons we thought we had vanquished."
~Gray A. Brechin, author of Imperial San Francisco: Urban Power, Earthly Ruin
and a primary source by the men who made it happen...
Twenty-eight years of sterilization in California, Paul Popenoe and E.S. Gosney, Human Betterment Foundation, Pasadena, 1938
~Library of Congress Subject Heading: Involuntary sterilization - California
"Underpinning the institutional structuring of white supremacy were notions such as 'manifest destiny' ... California remains a contested racial frontier..."