While prepping some materials on Gregory Bateson for my work in progress, I was perusing the University of California, Santa Cruz’s Inventory of the Gregory Bateson Papers. While Bateson was known for his interest in what Andrew Pickering, following W. Grey Walter, calls the “strange performances” of the mind, the contents of box #80 stuck out in my mind as particularly curious:
Session with Jenny O’Connor, English psychic who channeled “The Nine”, Esalen Institute, unedited transcript & notesFeb. 7, 1979
In my post Into the Mystic: Capitalism and the Structuralization of Spirituality, I wrote about how as time went on, Esalen, under the successive leaderships of Richard Price and Julian Silvermann, became estranged from its countercultural roots and transitioned into a kind of ‘wellness center’ for corporate retreaters. Poking around, I was surprised to see this:
Dick [Richard Price] still maintained his scan of the spiritual/psychological horizon and was willing to embrace, at least for a while, unusual explorations “along the psychological-spiritual front.” One of his last such explorations was what he called his “research project in paranormal intelligence,” involving an English woman named Jenny O’Connor who, by automatic writing, channeled “the Nine” – a group of extraterrestrials from the star Sirius. Dick used the Nine as paranormal management consultants and adjunct Gestalt facilitators. Around Esalen, however, the Nine were much better known for performing the role of extraterrestrial hatchet men, than for giving insight into how Esalen might improve its operations. (Gestalt Legacy Project, The Life and Practice of Richard Price: A Gestalt Biography, pgs. 137-138
Jenny and the Nine, as they came to be called, were also quite controversial within the Esalen community, not because of O’Connors’ alleged psychic powers or because the Nine happened to be from the star Sirius (that was fairly normal fair), but because Dick decided to ask Jenny and the Nine to help him make tough administrative decisions, which including firing and hiring individuals. (Jeffrey Kripal, Esalen: America and the Land of No Religion, pg. 366)
Anyone out there in the interwebs have other information or insight into this? I’m very curious in Bateson’s interview with O’Connor, but unfortunately it appears the requesting archival material from UC Santa Cruz is rather difficult.