“The Official Version”
What follows is drawn from a letter I wrote to an old friend who had been examining, and encouraging the examination of some “old materials”. I hope you will find it of interest as I think similar issues arise around the questions of the T-Cards, the Method and a number of other issues.
And how could it be otherwise given the range and number of papers, books, exercises, practices etc that were generated by Silo, his school and followers, in the first 4 decades or so of his teaching. Contrast that to the sober two volumes that compose his self-declared “Obras Completas”. Note the name as it is in Spanish not the possibly open-ended “Collected Works” as it was rendered in English but the more definitive, “Complete Works”.
I’m not inferring that this larger corpus should not be attributed to Silo, in an ample sense at least. Nor of course, am I saying one shouldn’t be interested in these semi-orphaned works – after all, I for one am. And any way aren’t we advised to “learn without limits”. Nonetheless, I think it is also important that we understand how, and perhaps even why, Negro distinguished between the works he recognized as part of his official ouvre and all these other works.
Anyway here is the relevant part of the letter I sent. I hope that it proves useful and doesn’t add to any confusion. When it first circulated beyond the person it was originally addressed to a number of people wrote me somewhat incensed that I had “objected” to the study of old materials. I hope that you understand that this is not what I intended, nor was it what I wrote. But judge for yourself.
…Thank you again for circulating these wonderful and thought-provoking materials.
And let me take this opportunity to let you know how much I appreciated your talk….
I have already bored a number of our friends with my thoughts about old materials but ignoring their glazed over eyes, and their indulgent but very audible yawns, I decided to share these comments again. I hope they will indulge me and take them – not as a call for any kind of censorship but as one more element in framing the diverse and rich treasury left in our care.
It sometimes strikes me as odd that so many of us have a fascination (that goes, I believe, beyond the scholarly) with the older, and better yet oldest, materials. I am not accusing others but observing a tendency in myself that I think is, at least in part, part of a very deep aspect of our cultural mental form. As is seen in myths of a Golden Age, the psychoanalytic tendency to seek the origins of neurosis (etc) in childhood or even infancy, etc. etc. This tendency to look to the past is something that we (thanks to the teaching of our friend) understand. But it’s different to understand and to see that tendency in action in oneself. Which is funny because that too is a theme one would have found in old materials like the Pancard which, among other things, illustrated the flow of theory (understanding) and experience uniting in comprehension.
Be that as it may, I sometimes find myself wondering about my deep fascination with these earlier materials, works and definitions. I like to think it is the equivalent of studying one’s biography – a preparation for moving into the future. However, as I suggested earlier, in my case at least, it’s more like someone who remains hypnotized by some real or imagined childhood event, or endlessly fascinated with their ancestry, or lost in relieving childhood minutiae.
When contemplating these themes I like to offset my deep and abiding interest in our origins with two broad ideas. Which I like to think as correctives or counter-balances to this “archeological’” research.
The first is the very long, careful and well-considered work in which our friend after much deliberation created a self-declared definition of his obra, i.e. the written body of his life’s work.
As those like yourself who were lucky enough to have a long and close relationship with him know, he spent a number of years trying to define with precision what he considered, and wanted others to consider as his body of work. He knew more about what he had produced over the years (and why) then any of us but some of it he included and some he decided to exclude. That meant he winnowed out many old materials; not surprisingly some were no doubt burdened by their epochal, tactical, or similar limitations. Some were writings believed to be his that were in fact other peoples notes about his chats. Not surprisingly these were often accurate and often contained errors of understanding, interpolations, and even humorous asides that were misinterpreted as serious statements.
For many years Silo culled through the enormous amount of writing produced both directly by him and also by his friends, students, and orientees. He said repeatedly, that the material on silo.net was what he considered his official teaching. In English we changed the name of the printed collection but the title in Spanish Obras Completas – Complete Works is very significant. When it was suggested that it would be more precise to call it Collected Works rather than Complete Works since he was still producing new materials, he agreed this was OK in English but he indicated, I felt, that we had missed something important about the name (which of course he didn’t change in the Spanish).
When talking about these themes he would point to that collection and the more ample selection that was to be found on Silo.net It was his often stated intention that he would leave this behind as a trustworthy source of his teaching where anyone, now or in the future, could find out what Silo said, without relying on third parties.
Though many insist on reading my comments as some kind of moralistic wagging finger, I don’t mean to imply that aren’t many interesting, even wonderful, materials, writings, chats, supposed chats, etc that contain important ideas and which are not found in those official works, only that he excluded them (no doubt for a wide range of reasons).
If the first corrective is remembering that we have a body of work selected by its author as his, the other is a brief conversation. A few months before his death I was visiting our friend in Chacras. As we walked out of a cafe he started speaking about the apocrypha; not in the sense of the non-canonical (fake, unofficial, or rejected) books of the bible, nor simply in the more general meaning of “falsely attributed” or of “dubiously attributed”. He was speaking of the works attributed to him (falsely, dubiously, erroneously, or simply unofficially). We know that some of the works attributed to him are mistakenly attributed these are often notes someone(s) took of meetings or conversations, and represent their understanding of their memories. Fair enough – a valuable resource if correctly attributed. Others are contributions on themes that circulated during a time when there was very little official bibliography and, as you’ll remember, one had to largely make due with texts (fiction and non-fiction) that were not ours but had some affinity with our project. Since most of our works were authored anonymously at the time it was very simple for some of these monographs, studies and so on to later be attributed to others. We know of more than one case like that.
In the absence of the living presence of our friend, at least in any easily universally accessible form, we need to distinguish what he expressly said is his teaching from things from the apocrypha….
Anyway I think that covers more than enough for the moment.