IGS Mourns the Passing of Allen Flagg, NYSGS President, IGS Board Member, and Longtime General Semantics Advocate
It is with great sadness that the Institute of General Semantics reports the passing of Allen Flagg, a board member for IGS, as well as a recent president of the New York Society for General Semantics, not to mention a longtime advocate of general semantics.
Allen passed away on May 30, 2016, in New York City.
The NYSGS website hosts more information on Allen’s life. Allen was a vibrant, energetic, and charismatic leader of general semantics education. He was adept at bringing people outside the world of general semantics into meetings and allowing them to share their perspectives, expanding the reach of general semantics and its overlap with other fields.
In 2006, ETC: A Review of General Semantics (ETC 63:3) ran an interview with Allen Flagg by Martin H. Levinson. The interview ran with a photo of Allen. Below is the text of the interview:
ALLEN FLAGG, the president of the New York Society for General Semantics, is 83 years young. He grew up in Ord, Nebraska and went to college at NYU where he majored in math and minored in physics and English. After World War II, Allen worked as an insurance casualty underwriter for many years. He lives in New York City in an apartment overflowing with books in every room. I interviewed him there on February 6, 2006.
Levinson: How did you first get involved with GS?
Flagg: I attended a lecture at the New York Academy of Sciences in 1952 given by Horace Kallen, an NYU philosophy professor who was talking about a book that he had written. At that lecture a form was passed around from the New York Society for General Semantics, which had an office in the Academy of Sciences building, requesting that people put their names and addresses on a
mailing list. I put my name on the list.
Levinson: What happened next?
Flagg: I attended NYSGS meetings. In the spring of 1959 I became Harry Maynard’s teaching assistant for an “Introductory to General Semantics” course that he taught at Great Neck High School. Harry was an executive with Life International Magazine and when he was out of town I took over the teaching duties. In the fall, Harry taught an intermediate GS course at Great Neck High and I taught the intro course. A student taking my course was also attending Queens College, and he asked the college administration if they would add general semantics to their program. They agreed to do that so I also taught GS there. I have also taught general semantics classes for IBM, the New School, and Fairfield University. And, in the 1970s, I served as Executive Director of the New York Society for General Semantics.
Levinson: Have you attended IGS seminars?
Flagg: I have gone to perhaps 6 or 8 seminars. My interest in IGS seminars started in 1954, when Charlotte Read invited me to participate as a working scholar. I recall that Buckminster Fuller came to one the seminars I attended. Some prominent seminar presenters I remember include Francis Chisolm, who took Korzybski’s place, Samuel Bois, Marjorie Swanson, and Harry Holtzman. I have also attended a great many Alfred Korzybski Memorial Lectures. I went to all of them till about 1975, when work took me to California. I have helped organize some recent AKMLs.
Levinson: Have you studied Science and Sanity?
Flagg: During the 1950s and 1960s, I participated in a NYSGS Science and Sanity discussion group. Kendig and Charlotte Read, along with a dozen other experts, led presentations involving different parts of Science and Sanity. I found it a very stimulating and enlightening way to reflect on Korzybski’s seminal work.
Levinson: Have you written about GS?
Flagg: I have written several articles for the General Semantics Bulletin and two that have been published in books — one on dream education and general semantics that appeared in Understanding Sanity and Human Affairs and one on GS group participation exercises.
Levinson: What are some of your other interests besides GS?
Flagg: I am very interested in working with dreams.
Levinson: How did that interest evolve?
Flagg: I had a strong interest in dream analysis for a long time and that enthusiasm became intensified when I met Clara Stewart, who later became my wife in 1966 (Pearl Eppy, a board member of the New York Society for General Semantics, introduced us). Clara knew quite a bit about dream-work. She followed dream expert Kilton Stewart’s system of using dream symbols to improve the work, and I incorporated her knowledge into my dream studies. I find working with dreams is a useful complement to GS — GS emphasizes intellectual and cognitive factors while dreams are useful for understanding unconscious, intuitive levels. Both areas are concerned with knowledge and consciousness and how we know what we know.
Levinson: Are you a member of any dream organizations?
Flagg: I am the vice president of Friends of the Institute of Noetic Science (FIONS). That organization was founded by Edgar Mitchell, the sixth man to walk on the moon. When Mitchell was coming back from the moon he saw the earth, in black space, as a glowing green, blue, and white sphere and this produced in him a feeling of oneness with humanity. When he arrived on terra firma he collected friends of his and organized FIONS. Interestingly, Buckminster Fuller, who gave an AKML lecture, was famous for talking about “spaceship earth.”
Levinson: What are some of your other interests?
Flagg: I like to run. I am a “benefactor member” of the New York Road Runners Club and I have many trophies from races that I have won. I currently do three and four-mile runs in Central Park. I also attend Marine Corps reunions. I served active duty with the Marines during World War II.
Levinson: How has GS changed over the years that you have been involved with it?
Flagg: Many people and organizations have taken pieces and chunks of GS and developed useful offshoots from it. For example, Neil Postman took aspects of general semantics to develop the discipline of media ecology; the field of Neuro-Linguistic Programming took some of the neuro-semantic aspects of GS; and Albert Ellis has emphasized various elements of GS in his psychotherapy.
Levinson: What do you see as the future for GS?
Flagg: We need to get more people involved with GS. At the New York Society for General Semantics we offer meetings focused on verbal and nonverbal communication. We consider ourselves as a matrix for human communication that includes the sciences, humanities, art, dance, architecture, writing, literature, and drama. When people come to our meetings we offer them GS literature and encourage them to subscribe to ETC and learn more about general semantics. The idea is to show that GS is a multi-faceted discipline that expands one’s awareness of oneself and the world.
Share your thoughts and memories of Allen in the comments below.
A bit of recent news from our sister organization, the New York Society for General Semantics:
Fordham Communications professor Lance Strate, Ph.D., has become the new president of the New York Society for General Semantics. He will be conducting monthly NYSGS meetings in the fall at The Players Club in New York City. More information to follow.
Dr. Strate recently posted an update on NYSGS on his blog.
For information on future NYSGS events, please visit http://www.nysgs.org.
On April 23, 2016, in Paris, France, Vanessa Biard-Schaeffer (Secretary of the Institute of General Semantics) hosted a five-hour workshop titled “Introduction to General Semantics in Paris, France.” The event took place at the Paris American Academy.
Biard-Schaeffer documented the event.
The Institute of General Semantics is proud to announce that Friday evening, October 21st, 2016, psychiatrist and author Iain McGilchrist will deliver the 64th Alfred Korzybski Memorial Lecture at The Princeton Club in New York City. The lecture will be preceded by a dinner at The Princeton Club.
Saturday and Sunday, October 22nd-23rd, 2016, The Princeton Club will host a symposium sponsored by the Institute of General Semantics titled “Language in Thought and Reality.”
First given in 2009, the Institute of General Semantics awards the S. I. Hayakawa Book Prize to the most outstanding work published in the past five years on topics of direct relevance to the discipline of general semantics, and includes a cash award of $1,000.
Awarded annually by the Institute of General Semantics, its presentation precedes the 64th Alfred Korzybski Memorial Lecture (AKML) at the Princeton Club in New York City held October 21st, 2016.
Call for Papers: ”Language in Thought and Action”
A 2-Day Symposium Sponsored by the Institute of General Semantics
October 22-23, 2016
Submission Deadline: August 31, 2015
The Institute of General Semantics is sponsoring the 2-day symposium titled “Language and ‘Reality,’” co-sponsored by the New York Society for General Semantics and the Media Ecology Association. The symposium will be hosted at the Princeton Club in New York City October 22-23, 2016.
The symposium will follow the 64th Alfred Korzybski Memorial Lecture, which will be presented on Friday evening, October 21st, 2016, by psychiatrist and writer Iain McGilchrist (author of The Master and His Emissary).
Email papers, proposals, and inquiries on this year’s theme, “‘Language in Thought and Action” by August 31, 2016, to presentations [at] generalsemantics.org and/or mandklevin [at] aol.com.
For more information, contact Martin H. Levinson, President of the Institute of General Semantics, by phone at (212) 729-7973 or by mail at:
Martin H. Levinson
c/o Institute of General Semantics
Attn: 2016 Symposium
72-11 Austin Street #233
Forest Hills, NY 11375
Vanessa Biard-Schaeffer (Secretary and Trustee of the Institute of General Semantics) will be hosting an event in Paris, France, titled “Introduction to General Semantics in Paris, France.”
The event will occur on Saturday, April 23, 2016, from 2:00pm-6:30pm at the Paris American Academy.
Paris American Academy
275, rue St Jacques
Vanessa Biard-Schaeffer, Secretary of the Institute of General Semantics, has shared that she and the Institute of General Semantics were recently mentioned an article in Metronews, a daily newspaper distributed in offices and the Paris subway.
Titled “Calais : parler de ‘jungle’, est-ce raciste ?,” the article, published February 24, 2016, featured this passage:
A quoi renvoie le terme de “jungle” ?
Par extension, la “jungle” est aussi en Français l’endroit où la loi qui prime est celle du plus fort. “Le cerveau fonctionne par métaphore et par la mémoire de souvenirs anciens”, nous explique Vanessa Biard, membre de l’institut de sémantique générale (ISG). Selon elle, la définition du mot dépend de qui l’utilise et découle d’une “réaction émotionnelle correspondant à une culture, une histoire commune et de sa propre expérience”. Autrement dit, la notion discriminatoire ou raciste supposée de l’utilisation du mot “jungle” varierait selon les personnes qui l’utilisent.
Mme. Biard-Schaeffer provided this English translation of the passage:
What the term “jungle” refers to?
By extension, “jungle” also refers in French to the place where the toughest rule. “The brains function with metaphors and the recall of older memories” explains Vanessa Biard, from the Institute of General Semantics. According to her, the definition of a word depends of who uses it and comes from “an emotional reaction that corresponds to a culture, a common history and one’s own experience.” In other words, the discriminatory or supposedly racist use of the term “jungle” would vary from the person who uses it.
ETC: A Review of General Semantics is in the mail and is now available for download from the IGS Store in searchable PDF format.
We have just added video of presentations to the IGS YouTube account from the 63rd Alfred Korzybski Memorial Lecture & 2-Day General Semantics Symposium, sponsored by the Institute of General Semantics at the Princeton Club in New York City, October 2-4, 2015.