There are few first-hand accounts of the AUM Conference at Esalen in 1973. Clifford Barney’s account in the Pacific Sun Newspaper is one, and this article by Carole Levine in Paul Krassner’s iconic publication The Realist, is another. Von Meier tape recorded all the discussions and Barney produced transcripts of the tapes (all available here), but Levine’s account provides yet another, and less technical, slant on the conference and its participants. Here’s link to all AUM Conference articles on this website.
This recording made by Kurt von Meier during the AUM conference at Esalen includes a short Tuesday evening discussion led by mathematician Douglas Kelly and a longer Wednesday morning session dominated by a presentation by Gregory Bateson, an English anthropologist, social scientist, linguist, visual anthropologist, semiotician, and cyberneticist (pictured above circa 1974), followed by group discussion. Heinz von Foerster provides his insights about paradox, tautology and contradiction while others -- Kurt von Meier, Alan Watts, and Douglas Kelly chime in with their perspectives. While focused on the mathematics of Laws of Form, the recording contains welcome moments of humor and laughter as the group struggles to make sense of G. Spencer Brown's ideas. The recording lasts about one hour and a half; the volume varies as speakers were in differing positions relative to the single microphone.
Heinz von Foerster (pictured at left during the AUM Conference), scientist and expert in cybernetics, delivered an engaging talk during the AUM Conference at Esalen in 1973 about the way in which we as individuals form hypotheses about reality, confirm them and then construct descriptions of that reality. He also reviews the function and limitations of our sensory apparatus, and how we know what we know.
Kurt von Meier recorded von Foerster’s talk; his presentation lasts about 30 minutes.
As Clifford Barney has written, Brown departed the AUM Conference in 1973 after only two days of attendance, concluding his visit with these final remarks about Laws of Form and its underlying mathematics. From his tone, one senses Brown felt he'd said everything he had to say; he encouraged his "audience" to ask a couple of questions. What ensued was wonderful; lucid, intriguing and entertaining remarks about The Five Levels of Eternity, consciousness and contradiction, Eastern vs. Western concepts, the use of injunctive language in mathematics, mystic utterances, and that "there's no feedback in heaven." The talk runs about 35 minutes.
Some of the treasures in the Archives of von Meier are recordings of the AUM Conference at Esalen in 1973. Until recently, it was believed these recordings had been lost. In attendance were Alan Watts, Ram Dass, Heinz von Foerster, John Lilly, Karl Pribram, Stewart Brand, Kurt von Meier and other notables. In this recording of the opening session, the participants introduce themselves, and then all turn to G. Spencer Brown (pictured above in 1973) and his discussion of Laws of Form, the book that had brought the group together. Brown discusses, among other topics, his personal history, Four Color Theorem, the Order of Unlearning, Entering the Kingdom of Heaven, and the Theory of Types. The audio runs about one hour and takes a minute to load.
In 1973 Kurt's friend and collaborator Cliff Barney penned this article which appeared in the Pacific Sun newspaper. As Barney tells it, "There really was a conference at Big Sur at which G. Spencer Brown discussed his calculus with a group of far-out scientists." By conference, he means the AUM Conference at Esalen, and by far-out he means an assortment remarkable individuals exploring the cutting edge of human consciousness and culture, like Alan Watts, Ram Dass, John Lilly, Heinz von Foerster, Kurt von Meier and more. The transcripts of the AUM Conference at Esalen can be found here.
G. Spencer Brown's book Laws of Form fascinated and preoccupied Kurt and his close friend Clifford Barney for years. One outgrowth of that was a conference held at Esalen, featuring von Meir, Barney, Brown and a gathering of distinguished scientists, gurus, health professionals, mathematicians. Articles and transcripts followed.