Note: This recollection, written for a memorial issue of the International Journal of Human-Computer Studies, tries to trace the development of our Interfaith Dialog - as it was modeled by Pask's Conversation Theory and his own Praxis.
When Providence flew me in 1974 to the New World, I had few hours to spend at the UK, and I called Gordon Pask, who instructed me how to come to Richmond. I have known Gordon briefly from the A.A where I studied during the gay years of 1964-67. There I've experienced my second "Satori" in my life - when I met Gordon for a consultation at his early System Research Lab on Richmond Hill 2. I explained to him the work I was getting stuck at, and Gordon was answering my questions - and the questions I actually intended to ask - and the questions that I should have been asking - all at once. For the first time in my life, I really felt it - an overwhelming feeling of being understood. I got so high, it took 24 hours to come down. (One day, I should elaborate about that, but now it suffices to say that it was an incredible delight, and it left traces in my mind).
That was in 1965, so now in 1974, I knocked at Gordon's door at the Montague Rd. address, and there was Gordon in his bow tie and stage-magician mantle to welcome me in. We first enjoyed the remnants of a Christmas cake (the first time I've seen such a thing), then he ushered me down to the sorcerer's lair, the System Research Lab, where CASTE was being cast in a quaint technology, redolent of what I knew at my childhood at my family's agency for Philips Radio.
When I made my rounds in the two Americas in 1974, my 2nd Guru, Julius Stulman (1st was Bucky Fuller), para-somethingly pried open my mind and synthesized a vision of "The Learning Womb" - where, within a great Bucky Dome, there were chambers within chambers of Paskalian teaching/learning machines. I ambushed Gordon on the Train from D.C. to N.Y.C., and we set there and outlined a doctoral candidacy for "The Global Conversation of Adam (Humankind) and Adamah (the Whole Living Earth)". A little later, after another four "satories" (or "enlightenments" or what you prefer) I've chanced to accumulate on my journey, and I was soldering chips to breadboards in Richmond, helping to assemble THOUGHTSTICKER and absorbing the "Paskalian" Scene.
In a week or so and I did see the Lights - in the LEDs marking the 64 cell pigeonhole for course-assembly topic files - and felt I got the message: "Gordon, surely we are building here the world's most intelligent Christmas Tree!". Gordon was overtly delighted by this possibility: "Isaac, If you can make THOUGHTSTICKER into a children's toy, this will really be our success".
On some later occasion he intimated, however, "it will take a Renaissance Man to use ThoughtSticker". The implication - that a new Christmas "InteligenTree" could nurture the emergence of a new Human Renaissance, took years to come into the light.
It was Gordon's memory that arose my spirit to suggest to Optomedic Medical Tech. Ltd (in which I recently became a shareholder) to cooperate on a holographic Christmas Tree. When I was asked how could a fine Jewish scholar like me mess with a pagan-Christian idolatry of Christmas Trees, I had Gordon's memory as a testimony for the great value of the frequent interfaith dialogues we held during these System Research years.
For I was receiving some spiritual benefits from Gordon's reverence for the Christian mystics. For instance, I was born on Mount Carmel, yet I needed Gordon in order to learn of Saint John's of the Cross "Ascent of Mount Carmel" and its requisite "Dark Night of the Soul".
Likewise I've learnt from Gordon that our scientifically-styled work was a re-application of Ramon Lull's Ars Magna (only much later I found about the Hebrew roots to Lull's art). I'd now say that with THOUGHTSTICKER, Gordon was trying in an idiosyncratic way to grow the bark of the Tree of Knowledge.
In his last year, Gordon became more explicitly religious. But I can testify that he was an unabashed Christian Mystic all along. The Gospel I was reading in that year was the proof-galley of the G.P. Green Book, where an evolving conversation was displayed in 26 "Icons" of the crucifix of the Conversation Skeleton and its progressive animations. In the graduate seminar at Brunnel he said once that the static inscriptions of an Entailement Mesh were analogous to the concept of "Disembodied Souls", and that these could be re-animated in an appropriate conversation. (In a dinner of the Academy of Jerusalem in London at 1995, Gordon toasted for "The Holy Quarternity of the Father, the Son, the Holy Spirit and the Blessed Mother of God".)
When it came to discussing my dissertation topic, I showed Gordon an outline of a novel in the form of "The Architect's Guide for Building The Heavenly Jerusalem". Gordon encouraged me to write for my Ph.D Dissertation a new Gospel Play instead, (it was eventually completed as " The Gospel of Judith Iscariot"). His only stipulations were that "It must be a musical" and that "It must be funny". This entailed a kind of a long dark night journey of uncertain duration. To present some dissertation on time, I meanwhile composed a more scholarly looking volume on " The Cybernetic Basis for Human Reconstruction".
Gordon apparently found no response in the science world for his mystical call, but his icons must have been burnt into my brain. For in that doctoral work, I extended Gordon's crucifix Conversation -theoretic Icons into the larger pattern of the Kabbalistic "Tree of Life". While treading irreverently through some 30 or so normally-distinct disciplines, I did religiously follow Gordon's progression, to show how all the other paradigms of the social sciences were but the degenerate forms of Pask's Conversational Paradigm.
Now, sixteen years later, I found Gordon's spirit still inspiring me to make that Christmas Tree I seem to have once promised him. As I watch the prototype and the patterns that forms on the matrix of LEDs, I find myself working with a "Learning Womb", where all these cooperative interactions specified by CT take shape, even as angels marked by the angles between selected nodes within the IntelligenTree Matrix.
I'm presently constrained from going into more details of that toy. But the conclusion I'd like to draw from the above flood of anecdotes is that at Systems Research, the two of us - Gordon Pask, a Christian, and me, a Jew - engaged in a magical interfaith dialogue that went very deep. So much so that it even outlasted Gordon's death. Leaving the consternation of my Jewish friends and acquaintances aside, it must take a great amount of Hutzpah for a Jew to come and offer the Christians a facility which in fact becomes an interpretation, an embodiment, of what lies at the core of their religious allegiance. I would not do it if not for this ongoing, living, relation with Gordon, my Christian Master-Teacher.
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