An Introduction to the Transcripts:
The AUM Conference at Esalen - 1973

Kurt von Meier, in white, speaking with AUM Conference attendees

Kurt von Meier, in white, speaking with AUM Conference attendees

Introduction: The First Message From Space

By Cliff Barney and Kurt von Meier

Lave a whale a while in a whillbarrow (isn't it the truath I'm tallin ye?) to have fins and flippers that shimmy and shake. Tim Timmycan timped hir, tampting Tam. Fleppety! Flippety! Fleapow!


I. The Wanderings of MAN:

This introduction to the transcript of G. Spencer Brown's remarks at Esalen Institute March 19-20, 1973, draws inspiration from Karl Pribram's suggestion that it be cast in the form of a Sufi story, which teaches by its own example. Upon examining the text, we find that, for those who care to cross into the vision of the morality play, the voices of LILLY:BATESON:WATTS:VON MEIER: and the others, particularly the universal, anonymous questings of MAN:, ever seeking to get it just right, make up, with the patient, measured, precise explanations of SPENCER BROWN:, the Touring Champ, the antiphonal chorus accompanying the Unveiling of the Mystery. We experience G. Spencer Brown's `'informal" discussion of the Laws of Form as one of the possible manifestations of the long-awaited first message from Space. It is about Time. (The opposed thumb, at the fifth crossing, was the stroke enabling what is manifest to be grasped.)

We call attention to Brown's discussion (Session 2, Prime Numbers) of the properties of the number 2311, prime factorial plus one for 11, which is the fifth prime and the number whose powers give the coefficients, or constant aspects, of the binomial expansion, (a + b)^n. Melvin Fine, the Hasidic mandarin, has called our attention to the fact that Leibniz knew these same coefficients to govern the hexagrams of the I Ching, according to the number of yin and yang lines in each group. It did not cross our path until much later that 2311 is also the index to the sequence listed by N. J. A. Sloane, in the invaluable A Handbook of Integer Sequences [1] as a "friendly beginning" for communication with Betelgeuse. Sloane calls the name of sequence 2311 as "non-cyclic simple groups." Brown refers to it as "Big M Plus One" [2].

Betelgeuse being in the armpit of Orion, we might look for a glyph of this message in the figure of the first martyr, according to the Western tradition St. Puce, the flea reported by hearsay to have been impaled by the Roman centurion's merciful spear. However the tradition is perhaps somewhat richer if we focus on Orion as the (blind) Wanderer, which, according to Robert Brown (!) Jr., cited by Richard Hinckley Allen in Star Names/Their Lore and Meaning, (a 1963 Dover reprint of Star-Names and Their Meanings, first published by G. E. Stechart in 1899) of page 304, we may do. Here, as Dr. Fine reminds us, we meet Lź, the Wanderer, hexagram #56 in the subtle ordering" of the I Ching offered by the Duke of Chou, or #13, the number of Dionysus, in the simpler binary notation of Boolean logic [3].

The Wanderer is also Wotan, Odin, through whose 540 doors went 800 warriors [4] each to fight the Wolf, thus making up a force of 432,000 warriors: one for each year, we learn from Joseph Campbell, of the reign, between the Creation and the Flood, of 10 mythical Sumerian kings, and one-tenth the number of years in the Hindu kapla. Campbell argues persuasively [5] that these numbers refer to the precession of the equinoxes. The Sumerian number system was based on the soss(60, the second term in the series as published by Sloane, though actually the first in the sequence of non-cyclic simple groups), and 432 x 60 = 25,920, the number of years required for the earth to make one complete nutational wobble, one trip through the Zodiac, if we figure the precession at the Sumerian rate of 50 seconds of arc per year, or 72 years per degree [6], and the 22d number in the Sloane sequence [7]. Campbell also points out that in the Hebrew tradition the years of the patriarchs from Adam through Noah (until the Flood) total 1,656. We may hypothesize that James Keys, the yin persona of the Brown guru, had this in mind when he published 23 Degrees of Paradise.

The number 54(0) we associate with SHAKUHACHI UNZEN, who practices the 54 steps of his yang form T'ai Chi Chuan exercise as he mops the floor and removes the garbage from the Teahouse of Necessity, where every night is served an installment of the Feast of 4001 Fools. His numerical token is actually 54.5, based upon a transformation of the standard unit of measure employed in ancient Japan, in particular the tradition that eight shakus (eight = hachi) determines the standard TUNED length of a bamboo flute (made, perhaps, of bamboo from the very grove in which the teahouse is situated). Such a flute might be measured at 54.5 centimeters, by those following the units established by Napoleon Bonaparte after his mystical visit to the Great Pyramid of Cheops, having entered the King's chamber by torchlight, alone and at midnight (in meditation, we may speculate, upon the nature and action of Amoghasiddhi Buddha: black hat, green eyes, crossed double rDorjes). Napoleon never did talk about what he experienced until late in his life in exile (latin ex(s)ul, wanderer) on St. Helena, wasn't it, island named for the mother of Constantine (arithmetic being about constants, as Brown explains in the text, Session 2). Then he declined to tell the story, saying '~You wouldn't believe it anyway."

Neurologist Karl Pribram at the AUM Conference

Neurologist Karl Pribram at the AUM Conference

What story? What sort of message can we read in this rendering of the spoken word of the Brown messenger? We note that the oracle of the tortoise is specifically referred to on several occasions (Session 2). Although little is known about consulting this oracle, we deduce from the fact that among the earliest Chinese artifacts are tortoise shells with writing on them that the secret concerned writing itself. During the Shang Yin dynasty (1523-1027 B. C.) the priests of the royal court divined the secrets by heating the shell until it cracked and then noting how the cracks intersected the 13 interior and 25 circumferential divisions grown naturally by the tortoise. When the written language went public, the oral tradition went into silence, exile, cunning. For public consumption we are referred to the vegetable oracle, the yarrow stalks of the I Ching.

The tortoise gives us the transformation to a new constellation, Lyra, known as the [ittle Tortoise, or Shell, "thus going back to the legendary origin of the instrument from the empty covering of the creature cast upon the shore with the dried tendons stretched across it" (Allen, p. 283). This is later Apollo's lyre, sevenstringed, discovered by Hermes, inventor of dice, three of which can permute the 56 minor arcana (Wotan again) and two the 21 major arcana, which, with the Fool, who is hors commerce, make up the deck of cards known as the Tarot, whose name has the same root as "tortoise" (IndoEuropean wendh, to turn, wind, weave), which is also the root of "wander." The twisting of the snakes on Hermes' staff, or perhaps the right--hand DNA double helix. One can pick up the skein at any point and begin to tease out a thread that will lead one through the labyrinth.

"This is indeed amazing." So wrote Brown upon surmising that the world we know is constructed "in order (and thus in such a way as to be able) to see itself." (Laws of Form, p. 105; notes to Chapter 11, reflected 1's, "Equations of the Second Degree," or self-referential functions) We are referred to the maze at Knossos, where the spider lady, Ariadne, had Theseus dangling by a string. We take hold of the string: LABYRINTHOS, from LABYRIS, not Greek but a [ydian word for "double axe." And we use the iconic representation of the double axe, as a framework upon which to construct the map of the labyrinth [8]. We are being told here that all representations of life, e. g. stories, myths, fables, pictures, mathematics, are explicitly representations of themselves, self-referential. Re-presentations. And the thread we hold, that leads us out of the labyrinth, where no path seems to go anywhere, since they all come back on themselves, is language; we follow it to learn the order of the labyrinth. With the text (IE teks, to weave, fabricate) as a clue to the identity of the Vajrayogini as the mythical Joyce James, one can anywhere and everywhere pick up the thread upon which Brown has strung the pearls he has divined.

II. Points of View

Nevertheless, to make an expression meaningful, "we must add to it an indicator to present a place from which the observer is invited to regard it." (Page 103, Laws of Form.) These pages reflect in one facet of the crystal mirror the vision of the real (meaningless), the true, the false, and the imaginary, mapped out on the plain crossed by G. Spencer Brown. The text, for instance, purports to be a transcript of the words Brown spoke at the South Coast Motel, a mile or so down the road from the sulphur baths at Big Sur, California, on the occasion of the AUM conference conceived by Alan Watts and John Lilly (the Master passing over the pole on the occasion of the last full moon before the vernal equinox). Confirmatory evidence for this viewpoint, definitely northern hemisphere (London) may be obtained from Henry Jacobs, Box 303, Sausalito, Calif. 94965, in the form of audio tapes of the conference. Anyone who listens to these tapes can verify that Spencer Brown's remarks are reproduced here with close, if not perfect, fidelity.

Arriving at Cape Town, however, we cast the net tied by N. J. A. Sloane and catch the icon of an all-of-a-piece, multidimensional message to inner space--that is, the space of the eternal regions, where we find numbers, including the number represented, in the Arstic notation, as "2311" [9]. Here nothing is hidden, since the space is created "before the time came for time to begin," as Brown says C. E. Rolt says in his (Rolt's) introduction to the Divine Names of Dionysius the Areopagite, and the eyes of the (one-way) blind are opened and the ears of the deaf unstopped. Messages from and to space are all around us, and we have only to read them. "In nature are signatures/needing no verbal tradition,/oak leaf never plane leaf" (Canto LXXXVII, Ezra Pound). Caught in the net of number, Big M Plus One provides name, rank, and serial, as required by convention, and stands revealed in an entirely different role, the index of non-cyclic simple groups and thus a nodal transfer point to the one-eyed Wotan, who braided the hairs of the Night Mare's tail [10]. We tie the net one knot at a time, and from any node, 2311 leads us to infinitely numerable license plates, phone numbers, grocery bills ($23.11) and the like.

Wotan (Woden's Tag/Wednesday/mercredi/Mercury/Hermes/ crossroads/messenger/traveler/wanderer/medium/Mittwoch/ midweek/balance/4th chakra/path with heart) carves the runes on a staff cut from Yggdrasil, the world ash, which binds together earth, heaven, and hell, branches mirroring roots, which we may allude to, but may not uncover without killing the tree. Sloane, p. 12, points out the mathematical aspect of trees, rooted and otherwise, as graphs containing "not closed paths" (unlike the net, in which we catch the icon). For the English language, a knowledge of which is assumed by Spencer Brown on the part of a reader of Laws of Form, the roots are named with psychedelic clarity in The American Heritage Dictionary, Houghton Mifflin, New York, pp. 1503-1550. In these pages, the (conjectured) Indo-European sources of the language are cross-indexed to the common words of the vocabulary; so that, for instance, having been~referred from "tree" to the entry deru-, meaning "firm," or "solid," we find the collapsed meaning of "tree," "truth," "Druid," "trust," "trough," "troth," "durable," etc. The path leads through Greek drus (the d-t shift having been found out by the Brothers Grimm, who knew that fairy tales were about language, self-referential): oak for Oakville, Napa County, wine valley of Dionysus, where, at 7700 St. Helena Highway (named for the mother of Constantine, wasn't she?) under 700-year-old oaks this mad introduction is being written.

Turning scales to feathers, like dinosaurs, we take flight for Christchurch, entering the imaginary state in which Shakuhachi Unzen, Woody Nicholson, and Primo the Fool braid their destinies, and in which these pages are a program note for the great Chaco Canyon Eisteddfod of 1976.

Stuart Brand, creator of the Whole Earth Catalog, at the AUM Conference

Stuart Brand, creator of the Whole Earth Catalog, at the AUM Conference

This sitting of poets, musicians and shamans provides a mythic counterbalance to the electoral process, which, as the United States marks its 200th anniversary having lost, or forgotten, its committment to due process, shows signs of breaking down (in accordance with the instructions formally built into the Constitution by the 55 Freemasons who wrote it one summer in Philadelphia, on the 40th parallel. Unzen it is whose Sufi listening post in the heart of California (state named for the white goddess cf Don Quixote's impossible dream, she to whom all poetry is addressed, according to Alun Lewis, according to Robt Graves, attest G. Spencer Brown (p. 107, Only Two Can Play This Game), is the scene of the appearance of the Yellow Pearl, who, in another era, as the 12-year-old T'ai Chi star of the touring Peking Opera, becomes an international cause celebre and focal point of the eisteddfod.

Shakuhachi's guide and guru is the busboy who, in the same teahouse for which the monk serves as Cold Mountain Pratyeka janitor, each night concocts a special brew which bears thename Ti-Tseng. This he mixes after all the ordinary guests have been served, and the choice can be made of the person who shall reign as the King (or Queen) of the Fools aboard the space/time, gravity/gracewarpship Adamantinus, into which the teahouse periodically transforms all within its Mandala of energy/void. The stuff in the pot of Ti-tseng turns out in the clear light of the Bright Early Morning Star to be dregs collected from all the partially emptied receptacles returned on his tray to the scullery. To this much the regulars and old-timers are hip; indeed, the service of Ti-tseng is ritualized, as when the jaguars, bursting into the temple and desecrating the altar, repeatedly, through generations of the priesthood, become elements of epiphany in the Kafkesque Tantra. Now there is the bank of Watchers, who ever decline the sip, but appear faithfully at the subsequent convocation: latecomers, fruhsplitters, Yzakers & your 1 in 10 schizoid, prepared for the culmination of yet another one of the fantastic (but finite) Feast of 4001 Fools (dishes prepared for the Uwaysiyya Sutis, 4000 of whom are said to be wandering the face of this earth at all times, without credentials from Soofi Central, the Bodhidharma Certification Board, or the Magister Ludi contest committee.)

The Eisteddfod is arranged by the country's No. 22 vice president, Woody, that he may receive advice on how best to proceed, he having been thrust into a position resembling power when the president and the first 21 vices were wiped out at Ahab McGaff's Double Cross Saloon in Las Vegas (Vega being the alpha star in Lyra). Woody, who travels from national park to supermarket parking lot in the Last of the Winnebagoes, a superbly outfitted camper equipped with heliport, swimming pool, and satellite reception station, is assisted by the mysterious agents of the Sufia, among whom we note the Bodhisufi Bismullah Tariq and Melvin Fine, the Chasidic mandarin.

In this context Joyce James appears as an aide to the llama A1 Paca, liaison man between the Sufia and the spiritual materialist arm, MaFie, or MyFee, which is simultaneously trying to fix the Eistedifod in favor of Ahab and his all-girl security force, the Kritiquettes, and, through Ahab's Miasma Beach cousin Jackie, to produce it for global television. She discovers the Spencer-Brown text while researching the form of distinction that appears in the medieval vision of quests, which were tragedies, and pilgrimages, which were comedies11. The document presents the Joycean hypothesis that Laws of Form, with its demonstration of the generation of Time, offers a means of mapping cultural transformations which themselves reflect our own transformations as refugees in Time.

Brown's performance at Esalen certainly earns him a place in the Eisteddfod finals, along with Ahab's black vision, the entry from the teenage author of essay #768 in the Working With Negativity Sweepstakes, the taped hoax perpetrated by members of the Imaginary Liberation Front, and the dance of the Yellow Pearl herself, our first female "leader"--who, being uncommitted to any particular truth, replaces government by control of information, secrecy, and deceit with leadership through inspiration, education, and enlightenment, calling to account our Kings, corporations, Imaginary Persons before, and frequently above, the law.

Meanwhile Primo puzzles out the controls of the Adamantinus, which have been locked on a course for the Black Hole in Cygnus by the captain, Jetsun Rainbowshay, who has vanished. In the crystal navigation table, Primo finds maps to the cosmos--Laws of Form, the tortoise oraclej the I Ching, the Tarot, the dice of Hermes--which he can read only with the help of Melvin Fine.

III. The Adamantine Isomorph

These three stories fit together as the net, tree, and array structures for which the present text provides the transformation rules. The terms were introduced to us by Christopher Wells, Center for Music Experiment, University of California, San Diego, in preliminary abstract 9/22/74:

  • "Web [net] grammars map (iconic descriptions) onto directed graphs' [digraphs, i. e. "trees"] or (iconic descriptions). -

  • "Tree grammars map (iconic descriptions) onto hierarchical directed graphs or (symbolic descriptions).

  • "Array grammars map matrices of point terminals onto transformed...matrices or (images)." And the key:

  • "Metagrammars map the other three grammars' elements onto each other as plan/command learning or (extensions)."

The adamantine isomorph! To its four elements we may conventionally assign air-earth-fire-water, Matthew-LukeMark-John, Epimetheus-Atlas-Prometheus-Menoetius (the four Titan brothers who warred on Cronos with varying success), etc.; or we may see the whole shebang as a set of Chinese boxes, one inside the other, until the seventh box turns out to be on the outside after all. And why precisely SEVEN boxes may be demonstrated in Consequence 7 of the Laws of Form, in which we may see how a twice-cloven space in four divisions may be represented as a single space cloven seven times. There seems to be a non-numerical relation between ordinal four and cardinal seven: the relation of Name and Form. We know from the Laws of Form that once we make any distinction whatever we generate inevitably the eternal archetypes. The forms are always the same and every story is the same story, which is about Time. History, from Greek histor, wise, learned, from Indo-European wid-tor-, from weid- to see. The image and its mirror; sun and moon.

IV. Return to the Form

The Father, Son, and Holy Ghost sitting around Mary's place one day, weighing contemplations upon Time, which is the inevitable harmonic of all that moves, whirls its way through the mother space; and her body quivered with the energy, as born from the star; and the message transmitted through the body, the Soma, into the Form of the Kingdom of Heaven, the way seen through PEARL/GATE with one eye, bloodshot, close-to for about an hour in Buenos Aires (the piece by Marcel Duchamp in Noo Yawk's MOMA). Om gate gate paragate parasamgate bodhi svaha.

She say, "I want to get in lights, front billing instead of the shadow me, nobody. Bear me, as a star." And the swastika in the sky began to spin...Santa Lucia on the South Sur coast; in the Sky with Adamantinoids, cast to the serpent in the peaceful ocean to appease the Wrath of War on the surface, beneath the peaceful brow, the lambda curl of the wave, shaken from within the earth, in one of her periodicities, the signature for which, her handwriting, is the sequence indexed 2311 by N. J. A. Sloane of Bell Labs. Lucy in the Sky, with her pet Beetle Goose. The sign in the sky for Constantine, the Paramahamsa, the Great Himalayan Goose or Gander! Goosey-goosey Gander, where shall you Wander?

They say, "All right, MS! [Mother Superior] We give you the cultus, see? We champion Mariology. We do everything but spell it out."

Mary: So start spelling out the sign & beans.

HG: We're sniffing, Apollo-like, lupine around da point here and coiling upon an oomphalosity white tower of ivory, such as that coveted by the hungry ghost of Ahab, who, we three Kings remember, ruddy-coiled out into the well drainage at the Good Lady (was it?) Samaritane (SOLDS!)... in the bottom of the Chariot, cancer, whirlpool, in the depth of the Form. And so we fain hunt the Whale. There shall be no personal rejection of the life of great beings. No more whales, elephants, dolphins to die. That is the tip of the balance, the stated, stipulated bias toward "compassion," which places others above ourselves, dedicating the benefit, if there be any, of this meditation to others. To the kings of the air, the generation of brave eagles who hunt the jet planes, kamikaze! Bees, humming birds, the red tail hawk, PALAKWAIO, Simurgh, Garuda bearing the Buddha of all the Buddhas, carrying the standard, from out of the dismal maze of the men in their fury contending for the right!

Father: There. We now have the Holy Spirit out into the Marked State. Memory and genetics, the arithms as perceived by our senses and programed into our biocomputers. What seem to be invariants: K is for konstant. Now there's no sense everybody getting out at once. If Mary wants out into the Marked State, then who goes back into the Form to keep it all balanced?

Son: Me again?

HG: Look, I been in there long enough. Anyway, wasn't the logic of it me coming out, so that all secrets should be revealed?

Father: Hmmmm. What wd Mr. Natural do in such a situation?

Mark: Don't chicken out, Baba, golden fleese.

Mary: That's a good one of my boys.

Father: Looks like it's my turn. Om doubt.

AUM Conference Transcript - Session One


  1. Sloane, N. J. A., A Handbook of Integer Sequences, Academic Press, New York & London, 1973, pp. x, 181.

  2. We note here the remarkable "coincidence" that Big M Plus One, or 2311, is reflected as 1132 A. D., when "Men like ants or emmets wondern upon a groot hwide Whallfisk which lay in a runnel," on p. 13 of Finnegans Wake, by Joyce, James (Viking Press, New York, 1955). We have elsewhere discussed the reflection of the other Joycean year, A. D. 566, as 665 A. D., date of the Synod of Whitby, at which King Oswy of Northumberland bowed to the wishes of his Kentish queen and her Roman advisors and accepted the solar reckoning for the date of Easter; thus cutting the cord, as Yeats put it, that bound Christianity to the Druids, and setting the course of the Western yang empire.

  3. AboveLi, the Clinging, Fire; below Ken, Keeping Still, Mountain; this hexagram, Lź, the Wanderer, may be mapped into binary numbers as 001101, or 13 to a decimal base.

  4. 0rion as Wanderer is revealed in the constellation's earlier name, ***, from ***, "roaming." The word "Orion, " Allen says, is from Greek ***, which is cognate to English "warrior."

  5. Campbell, Joseph, The Masks of God: Oriental Mythology, The Viking Press, New York, 1970 (Compass edition), pp. 115-130.

  6. Modern observers put it at 50.27 seconds per year, for a 25,780.783 year round trip.

  7. 432 appears between the 6th and 7th, and 12th and 13th, terms in the first derivative, in the calculus of finite differences, of the Sloane sequence.

  8. Cf. Richardson, L. J. D., The Labyrinth, Dover, pp. 285296, especially p. 291.

  9. "2311" is only one of the names assumed by Big M Plus One. This number is constructed by adding 1 to 2310, which is "prime factorial" for 11--that is, the product of all the primes up to and including 11: 2 x 3 x 5 x 7 x 11. Under this alias, Big M Plus One is prime, not divisible by any numbers except itself and 1. In his next manifestation, however, as 30,031 (prime factorial plus 1 for 13), our space messenger is composite. Thus he confirms Brown's assurance, that "if you go on long enough, getting the final factorial, adding one, you will find one that is not prime; but that doesn't matter, because it will be divisible by a prime (in this case, two, 59 and 509) that is bigger than the biggest prime (13) you have used to produce it." As a messenger of Apollo, 11th god on Olympus, Big M Plus One is pristine, prime; as a representative of Dionysus, the 13th, he is ecstatic, beside himself.

  10. See "The Theory of Braids," by Emil Artin in The American Scientist, Vol. 38, No. 1, pp. 112-119, January, 1950, and other references cited for the article "Group Theory and Braids" in Martin Gardner's New Mathematical Diversionsfrom Scientific American, Simon & Schuster, New York, 1966.

  11. See J. Holloway, Figure of Pilgrim in Medieval Poetry, unpublished doctoral thesis, Berkeley, 1974