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Steps To An Ecology of Mind by Gregory Bateson
Published by Jason Aronson Inc. 1987
Book Review by Bobby Matherne ©2002


Writing a review of this book is like doing the Encyclopedia Brittanica - where do you start? What do you leave out? It would require a review of each lecture and article contained to do justice the encyclopedic content of the book. Instead I will discuss my reaction to the book in my second reading of it after a 10 year hiatus.

The only way I can think that I could understand the book as well as I do is to have read it ten years before. During that first reading there were large segments of the book that were virgin ground to be plowed - and my plow skimmed the surface of that ground. The new areas of double-bind, schizophrenia, and Russell's Theory of Types certainly attracted my attention back then and have held it since, in no small part as a result of this book.

Reading the book again was for me a voyage of discovery - discovering how indebted I am to Gregory Bateson for pointing me to the study of Korzybski, Bandler&Grinder, Milton Erickson, Carl Jung, and others.

A section near the end of the book refers to Jung's Seven Sermons to the Dead which I had failed to look up on my first reading and had forgotten even the reference in Steps - even when I had occasion to read Sermons a year or two ago in a study group. Re-reading Bateson's comments on the creatura and pleroma added a cybernetics understanding of the concepts missing in Jung. Bateson added a similar understanding of Jung's concepts of archetypes and the collective unconscious.

Bateson's cybernetic story of the Eden myth is worth the price of the book. He identifies the Fall with a Leap into the use of planning by human beings. With planning comes the good of getting what you want and the evil of getting all the unexpected and unwanted side-effects.

By all means get the newly printed hardcover copy. My first reading of the mass paperback edition was sheer torture. Just keeping the book from falling apart while you wade through the complexities of thought in small print is a supreme challenge. And well worth it.

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