This week’s remarkable photo

From a memoir piece by Sissela Bok in the Spring 2015 issue of The American Scholar, “Meeting the Mystics: My California encounters with Gerald Heard and Aldous Huxley”, about a time in her life shortly after she married Derek Bok (in 1955) and settled in the United States. Through her husband, she met a set of mystics, rebels, and countercultural icons. A photo from January 1960 in Southern California:

Left to right: Gerald Heard, Christopher Isherwood, Sir Julian Huxley, Aldous Huxley, and Linus Pauling

Rebels all, mystics, LSD explorers, and so on. All, of course, men. And all in suits; well, the ’60s had not really gotten underway yet. You can tell that Heard was the true rebel because he’s the only one with a beard.

On Heard, from Wikipedia:

Henry FitzGerald Heard (6 October 1889 – 14 August 1971), commonly called Gerald Heard, was a historian, science writer, educator, and philosopher. He wrote many articles and over 35 books.

Heard was a guide and mentor to numerous well-known Americans, including Clare Boothe Luce and Bill Wilson, co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous, in the 1950s and 1960s. His work was a forerunner of, and influence on, the consciousness development movement that has spread in the Western world since the 1960s.

(Isherwood, the Huxleys, and Pauling you can look up yourselves, if you don’t know who they were.)

On Sissela Bok and her husband (this will be relevant in just a moment):

Sissela Bok (born Sissela Myrdal on 2 December 1934) is a Swedish-born American philosopher and ethicist, the daughter of two Nobel Prize winners: Gunnar Myrdal who won the Economics prize with Friedrich Hayek in 1974, and Alva Myrdal who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1982. … She is married to Derek Bok, former president (1971-1991) and interim president (2006-2007) of Harvard. (Wikipedia link)

Derek Curtis Bok (born March 22, 1930) is an American lawyer and educator and the former president of Harvard University. He is the son of Pennsylvania Supreme Court justice Curtis Bok and Margaret Plummer Bok; the grandson of Ladies’ Home Journal editor Edward W. Bok and Mary Louise Curtis Bok Zimbalist, founder of the Curtis Institute of Music; the cousin of prominent Maine folklorist Gordon Bok; and the great-grandson of Cyrus H. K. Curtis, founder of the Curtis Publishing Company, publisher of national magazines such as The Saturday Evening Post. (Wikipedia link)

Now the personal story. The Boks were both fellows at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences (on the foothills above Stanford) in 1991-92. As it happens, I was a fellow there in 1981-82 and a visitor in 1990-91 (working with Geoff Pullum), and I came back for lunches several times in 1991-92 (it’s a small and companionable place). Derek Bok was, in fact, installed in the study that Geoff and I had used the previous year. I attempted conversation with the Boks, to little avail; Sissela Bok was especially frosty. That’s when I realized that these people were members of the social and academic aristocracy and I was a mere plebeian; they were accustomed to distancing themselves, protecting themselves, from the peons.

A familiar story in my life. The elite of Wyomissing PA (the families who owned and ran Wyomissing Industries, where my grandfather worked his life on the factory floor at Textile Machine Works). The privileged men of Princeton (who openly disdained guys working their way through school). Sad that it should crop up in my 60s at CASBS.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: