Saturday, May 23, 2015

AlignIt Synopsis, from August, 2014


On an April Sunday in the near future, Greg and Sara Cobb and their five-year old Tara arrive at the Oakland International Airport.  They’ve come from Seattle for a week-long visit to Bayside Village, a techno-utopian community on the San Francisco Bay shoreline whose mission is to recover sacred science.  The novel’s background emerges from nuanced conversation in the taxi—Greg met AlignIt inventor Roger Barnes at last year’s semantic web conference; Roger invited Greg to visit him at Bayside Village, consult on AlignIt, and teach philosophy at the Bayside Village’s Bridge Institute; Greg is eager to visit, Sara is unsure.  In the taxi, the couple shares concerns about Bayside Village—it’s only six years old and its unproven.  Yet Bayside Village could be a dream come true—it’s filled with sages, tech gurus, and grand new social experiments, all of interest to Greg and Sara who could live many shared values at once, in one place.  Put off by the ugly, post-industrial surroundings at first, the couple is pleasantly surprised as they arrive on campus.  From their Lodge room to a brief walking tour, small surprises arouse delight and curiosity.

At a Sunday evening reception, Greg finds AlignIt inventor Roger Barnes and introduces his family.  Roger in turn introduces key figures at Bayside Village.  Through introductions, parts of the story are foreshadowed, parts of Bayside Village’s history and mission are revealed, and some of the novel’s key themes are introduced.  There, the novel’s week-long narrative structure is given in seed form—a two day orientation for visitors, followed by three days of interviews and meetings for Greg and Sara, climaxing in an AlignIt Commons board meeting on Friday for which Greg is consultant and guest speaker.  Unexpectedly, Sara, an industrial designer in a boutique Seattle design firm, gets a job interview for an Art and Communications Director position, which promises to open doors for her.  Some of the novel’s principal challenges are also introduced in the reception—Greg can’t connect with HR which is coordinating his academic recruitment, and he overhears that Roger’s venture advisor Chris Mueller wants a call first thing Monday morning—to discuss Greg.  

On Monday and Tuesday, Greg and Sara take the Bayside Village orientation and campus tour. Leading Bayside Village figures present on utopian programs and the recovery of sacred sciences. On Wednesday through Saturday, Greg meets with faculty and subject matter experts on developing AlignIt.  Together, Greg and Sara meet gurus of Indian Tantra, Buddhism, Taoism, Sufism, and more.  The couple considers moving to Bayside Village, exploring housing, school, and jobs.  During Greg’s meetings, Sara makes her own explorations that peak under the rug of Bayside Village.  


Behind the tours and meetings, tensions mount as Roger takes a disturbing call from venture advisor Chris Mueller.  Chris wants to sack further plans with Greg and AlignIt’s “experimental” features, and drive AlignIt toward immediate revenue generation.  Roger and colleagues work rapidly to uncover Chris’s commercial networks before Friday’s board meeting which Chris will guest chair and where he’ll meet Greg.  Meanwhile, Greg tries to reach Amelia Blocke in HR on the hiring paperwork, but is put off.  Roger and Greg discover, independently, a connection between Mueller and Blocke that opens questions about how ideals can get subverted, how projects get taken over, touching on themes of stewardship and responsibility.  The fate of Mueller and Blocke is left unsolved, and the decision of Greg and Sara whether to join Bayside Village comes close but remains to be answered.



AlignIt is now available on Amazon.com. The novel and cover art are copyright 2014 by Rick Whitney. All rights reserved. This blog post was written August 3, 2014 and is copyright 2014/2015 by Rick Whitney, CC BY-NC. See more here: http://alignit.blogspot.com/search/label/License.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

AlignIt -- Hard or Soft Science Fiction?

Science fiction may be classed into two categories: hard and soft.

Hard science fiction places specific technologies front and center and explains the scientific mechanism at work behind them.  The rationale and plausibility of the scientific laws at work in the story are explored, even if those laws are fictional.  AlignIt may be a candidate for hard SF since the technology platform, called AlignIt, is central and its ontology explored in detail.  This was my whole point in writing AlignIt as a novel--to explain how AlignIt, the technology, works.  A bit of biographical rationale has it that science fiction writers with science and engineering backgrounds, like Asimov, Clark, and Heinlein, also push one's work into the hard SF category.  On this score, I've worked 10+ years in academic technology transfer, covering biotech, engineering, computer science, physics, and space sciences.  Immersion in a culture of cutting-edge science at a top research university certainly should count here.

Soft science fiction is said to be focused more on social sciences than engineering and hard sciences like physics and astronomy.  It is also more concerned with character development and imaginary societies than the mechanics of new technologies.  Some may also consider explorations into mystical dimensions as soft SF.  AlignIt may be a candidate for soft SF as well since the work explores religions, alternative communities, spiritual practices, human potential and expanded consciousness in loud, living color.

AlignIt is now available on Amazon.com. The novel and cover art are copyright 2014 by Rick Whitney, under U.S. copyright law. This blog post was written in 2012 and is posted and copyright 2015 by Rick Whitney, CC BY-NC. See more here: http://alignit.blogspot.com/search/label/License.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

World Religions and a Temple for the Future

The Bayside Village setting of AlignIt features a Temple that houses diverse spiritual traditions.  Included among the tenants are groups of Tibetan Buddhists, Indian Tantrikas, Taoists, Sufis, Rosicrucians, Christians studying Pseudo Dionysius, Qabalistic Jews, and a few Western esoteric groups including Hermetists and the Builders.  They have joined together around the central project of recovering sacred sciences and rebuilding civilization.  The novel's underlying structure and story line, no less its central technology AlignIt, are deeply rooted in the world's religions, particularly their mystical and esoteric teachings.  This is the bedrock, the deep structure, of AlignIt.  Below is a link to a brief excerpt about the Bayside Village Temple.  It exemplifies a brand of perennial philosophy inspired by Houston Smith's The World's Religions and Sayyed Hossein Nasr's The Need for a Sacred Science.  It also carries the flavor of Sri Aurobindo's integral philosophy. 

See this excerpt on diverse spiritual paths in the Bayside Village Temple on Medium.


For an early articulation of this perennial / integral philosophy, see these blog posts, Sacred Science in AlignItInspirations for Sacred Science, and Utopia.


AlignIt is now available on Amazon.com. The novel and cover art are copyright 2014 by Rick Whitney. All rights reserved. This blog post is copyright 2015 by Rick Whitney, CC BY-NC. See more here: http://alignit.blogspot.com/search/label/License.

Intentional Community in AlignIt

In AlignIt, I put my heart and soul into describing my experience of intentional community, and my vision for it.  I've lived in three intentional communities and two residential programs (a Zen Center and a Yoga ashram).  AlignIt pushes farther, exploring new ways of living together based on sacred sciences.  As the subtitle suggests, the novel is focused on civilizational creativity, that is, on cultivating the seeds of new ideas that can help bring about fundamentally new culture and structures for our civilization.  One of my purposes is to inspire, nourish and support efforts to build and sustain intentional communities.  AlignIt provides some materials for readers who have experienced, who live in, or who seek, intentional community.  The following are two such excerpts focused explicitly on the theme:

Visit to Bayside Village Community
Tour of Bayside Village Housing

Some materials on intentional community did not make my final cut for AlignIt and may appear in the sequel.

AlignIt is now available on Amazon.com. The novel and cover art are copyright 2014 by Rick Whitney, under U.S. copyright law. This blog post is copyright 2015 by Rick Whitney, CC BY-NC. See more here: http://alignit.blogspot.com/search/label/License.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Excerpt -- An Experiment in Waldorf Education

c. 2014, Rick Whitney
Below is an excerpt from AlignIt.  Randy Seton gives a guided tour through the Bayside Village, stopping at each of its grand social experiments.  In this section (from AlignIt, pp. 103-104), the tour group stops before a type of Waldorf school adapted to the Bayside Village aims of recovering and updating sacred science and culture.

Randy walked on to the building next door to [Academy of Elder Professionals], and the group followed, reorganizing itself around him where he stopped.  “Here we have the Bayside Village School and Daycare.”
Sara moved over to Keith and Leah.  “This is where we have Tara.”
Greg scanned the tour group for Neil.  But Neil had wandered down the path, talking on his mobile. 
“Our vision for the school is to create a family-based community,” Randy said.  “At Bayside Village we support and nourish families.  And our School and Daycare is designed to rebuild sacred culture for families.”  Greg and Sara looked at each other, visibly impressed.  “When I say we’re a family-based community, I mean that we recognize that parental involvement in the school and daycare is a critical element of the child’s—and the family’s—overall education.  Many schools have high parental involvement.  We don’t mean just parents volunteering on a board or selling raffle tickets to raise money.  So what distinguishes us?  Bayside Village School and Daycare encourages parents to get involved intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually in the school and the educational process, not just socially and financially.  We encourage parents to create rhythms in the home that match the child’s environment at school.  And teachers work with parents as much as with children.  Parents often discover they need to undertake the journey of learning along with the children.”
“That’s like music to my ears,” Sara said to Greg.
“Mine, too,” Greg echoed.
“The school cultivates in our children those same values the Bayside Village promotes in society at large,” Randy said, “including those in our demonstration projects.  And you’ll notice the school is right next to the Academy of Elder Professionals, so that we can easily bring together young and old, receive the service of elder volunteers, and provide a platform for intergenerational programs. 
“Now,” Randy said, “the school is part of our overall effort at the Bayside Village to rebuild sacred culture in the West.  By sacred culture, we mean culture based on deep themes in spiritual traditions, as found in the arts, in stories, in craft, in sacred science, in philosophy and in psychology.”
“I love this,” Greg said to Sara.  “This theme keeps coming up—rebuilding sacred culture, recreating civilization.” 
Sara nodded.  She listened, allowing herself to imagine more now than she had in the weeks leading up to the visit.  Perhaps the school could be more than just a daycare.  

See also the post Rudolf Steiner's Influence on AlignIt and this excerpt on Rudolf Steiner's Thought and Works.

AlignIt is now available on Amazon.com. The novel and cover art are copyright 2014 by Rick Whitney. All rights reserved. This blog post is copyright 2014 by Rick Whitney, CC BY-NC. See more here: http://alignit.blogspot.com/search/label/License.

Excerpt - on Rudolf Steiner's Thought and Works

Below is an excerpt from AlignIt (p. 170).  On Randy Seton's tour through the Bayside Village's Raymond Lully Museum, showcasing the history of sacred sciences, the group encounters Rudolf Steiner's thought and works.

Again, Randy waited and then continued to the next and last exhibit for Christian sacred science.  “Rudolf Steiner is a modern, twentieth century figure who drew upon Goethean science and the Rosicrucian stream of Christianity to develop a number of modern applications, from biodynamic farming to anthroposophical medicine.  He is known most widely as the founder of Waldorf education.  Steiner’s work is also deeply grounded in correspondence theory and a hierarchy of spiritual beings after the work of Pseudo Dionysius, but is decidedly less systematic and computational.” 
The group studied the images collaged on the mural, some featuring diagrams of Steiner’s anthroposophical science, many from drawings and paintings by Steiner himself.
Randy moved forward to the next exhibit—a case of six inch figurines with flowing robes, each demonstrating a different posture or movement.  “Here is an alphabet Steiner conceived in dance movements, an art form he called Eurythmy.” 

Greg and Sara stepped forward, amazed at the art form.  They had seen a performance at a Waldorf school Tara could attend in Seattle.

Note: the statement that Steiner "is decidedly less systematic and computational" has a context in the greater narrative this excerpt is drawn from.  Steiner is being compared here to Raymond Lully, Giordano Bruno, and Gottfried Leibniz as early developers of more thorough and computational systems of qualities.  

See also the post Rudolf Steiner's Influence on AlignIt and this excerpt on an Experiment in Waldorf Education

AlignIt is now available on Amazon.com. The novel and cover art are copyright 2014 by Rick Whitney. All rights reserved. This blog post is copyright 2014 by Rick Whitney, CC BY-NC. See more here: http://alignit.blogspot.com/search/label/License.

Rudolf Steiner's Influence on AlignIt


Rudolf Steiner's influence on AlignIt is rich.  In fact, not only Steiner's works, but the living communities of Waldorf schools, and the larger context of Anthroposophical communities and projects all influenced AlignIt and show up in its pages.  It is true that my daughter has gone all the way through a Waldorf school so far (and is now in a Waldorf high school), but my own study of Steiner began in grad school (before her birth).  It was then that I discovered Steiner's approach to art, aesthetics, and imagination.  I had studied Jung and worked at the San Francisco C.G. Jung Institute, and it was there that I discovered Gerhard Wehr's fine work, Jung and Steiner, bridging the ideas and methods of these two great men, especially illuminating their respective approaches to the imaginal.  Then I spawned a child and soon after brought her to a Waldorf School.  I then read Steiner's Knowledge of the Higher WorldsThe Education of the Child in the Light of AnthroposophyOccult Scienceand many smaller works.  Years of being a Waldorf parent, with schools, workshops, and Anthroposophical organizations, have also inspired and nourished me.  Like my earlier experience both reading Jung and working in a Jung Institute, I have also both read Steiner and participated in the streams of Anthroposophical influences.  It is one thing to read philosophy in texts; it is quite another to participate in living communities where teaching is embodied, expressed in art, craft, word and deed.  So how do Steiner and Anthroposophy figure in AlignIt?  

1.  Early in the novel, Randy Seton's guided tour through the Raymond Lully Museum highlights Rudolf Steiner's many scientific, artistic and literary outputs, places Steiner's thought in the context of other philosophers of sacred sciences, and presents a showcase of figurines embodying a sacred alphabet in movements through a dance form Steiner called Eurythmy.  In another part, protagonist Greg Cobb notices that a Eurythmy performance will be given in a playhouse.

2.  The character of Catherine Stone, Professor of Imagination at the Bridge Institute, was inspired by a living light of the San Francisco Bay Area's Waldorf community, a master teacher with whom I took classes and attended groups.  I am indebted to this wise soul, whose presence, guidance and teaching influenced my life and family, hence many more parts of AlignIt than can be said.  See also this post, Jung's Influence on AlignIt -- Imagination.  

3.  The Bayside Village School and Daycare in AlignIt were influenced by many years of my daughter's Waldorf education, including exposure to several experimental schools.  Drawing inspiration from the fact of these experiments, I endeavored to apply principles of sacred sciences to Waldorf education at the Bayside Village School and Daycare.  My question was how to establish coherence between several streams of ideas while honoring the integrity of a school and its pedagogy.  I think one should always feel circumspect about toying with something given from a "higher" perception (like Steiner could give).  Yet Steiner's own approach was evolutionary and adaptive, and I think this creative play of mine has a place in the world of Steiner's ideas.  I am indebted to another master Waldorf teacher, a founder of a school on the East Coast, for deeply inspiring discussion about an approach to daycare.

4.  Rudolf Steiner also worked with Rosicrucian ideas.  It is no doubt due to the Rosicrucian resources made available through Anthroposophical publishers that I, too, have studied it over some years.  I have noted in this blog (on the Inspirations page) that Sir Edward Bulwar Lytton's Rosicrucian novel Zanoni inspired me.  Other materials have, too.  In AlignIt, I made a place for a Rosicrucian Christian community in the multipath Temple.  I didn't develop this notion in the novel beyond merely mentioning it, and I didn't connect it with Rudolf Steiner or Anthroposophy.  But it's there.  I may develop it further in the future.

These are some of the specific outcomes of Steiner's influence on AlignIt.  It must also be said that a way of thinking, of seeing, can also be found throughout AlignIt, and this may be more indicative of Steiner's influence, though harder to spot than specific story elements.

See also these excerpts: Rudolf Steiner's Thought and Works, and an Experiment in Waldorf Education.

AlignIt is now available on Amazon.com. The novel and cover art are copyright 2014 by Rick Whitney. All rights reserved. This blog post is copyright 2014 by Rick Whitney, CC BY-NC. See more here: http://alignit.blogspot.com/search/label/License.

Friday, January 2, 2015

Why the AlignIt subtitle, "A Tale for a New Civilization"?

c. 2014, Rick Whitney
What's in the AlignIt subtitle, "A Tale for a New Civilization?"  The beginning of a New Year is a time to contemplate new beginnings, creativity, new growth.  Its fitting to explore new civilizational forces, what I call in AlignIt the "seeds of a new civilization."

AlignIt is a novel focused on pervasive civilizational problems; the theme arises throughout its pages--reflections on civilizations past, on what makes them thrive and die, on the perils facing us today.  But the focus is on the future--where we can go from here.  The utopian Bayside Village is organized to facilitate experiments and develop proof of concept projects for a new civilization.  Bayside Village President Steve Bateson speaks for all when he says: "Our role is to create demonstration projects for the seeds of a new civilization."  (p. 265) This is the grand design behind the "utopianizing" endeavor of Bayside Village--to explore, develop, transfer and scale new ideas that can spawn new civilizational currents.  This is what draws protagonists Greg and Sara Cobb to visit Bayside Village.  This is why Roger Barnes invented AlignIt.  And this is the threat when nefarious interests move in to thwart AlignIt.  No less than the productive forces for a new civilization are at stake.  The subtitle of the novel concerns this important theme, civilizational creativity, or the work to explore and cultivate the seeds for a new civilization.  AlignIt is a tale for our time, fostering new civilizational forces.  

Read a series of excerpts on Medium.com on civilizational creativity (a term coined in AlignIt) and how Bayside Village inspires and cultivates the seeds for a new civilization.  


AlignIt is now available on Amazon.com. The novel and cover art are copyright 2014 by Rick Whitney. All rights reserved. This blog post is copyright 2014 by Rick Whitney, CC BY-NC. See more here.

Now You Can Read Excerpts from AlignIt Here

c. 2014, Rick Whitney
For years, I have written on this blog about AlignIt.  Now that AlignIt is published, I have added a blog page with excerpts from AlignIt.  Many are brief.  I have also added a Label called "Excerpts" (in the left hand column) to easily find posts that have excerpts or links to them.

Please take a few moments to enjoy these excerpts.  If you feel moved, I would love to hear your thoughts, impressions, and feedback.  Contact me here.

AlignIt is now available on Amazon.com. The novel and cover art are copyright 2014 by Rick Whitney. All rights reserved. This blog post is copyright 2014 by Rick Whitney, CC BY-NC. See more here.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Excerpt -- on Daniel Cramer's Emblemata Sacra

c. 2014, Rick Whitney
I noted in my post, Alchemy in AlignIt, that two sections of AlignIt deal with alchemical materials.  Below are three such excerpts from AlignIt (taken from pp. 169-172).  (See this post for the other section.)  On Randy Seton's tour through the Bayside Village's Raymond Lully Museum, showcasing the history of sacred sciences, the group encounters emblems from Daniel Cramer's treatise Emblemata Sacra (1617).


      Much to see, Greg thought; quick impressions must satisfy. 
“And in the Protestant Reformation,” Randy said, “several scholars and theologians developed elaborate systems, some of them integrating Alchemy and Cabala with Christian theology like these images from Daniel Cramer.”  An entire mural was devoted to a system of Cramer’s Christian visual devotional aids—emblems with their scriptural quotations and alchemical aphorisms.
Keith was fascinated, and he pointed out to Leah the various Bible verses there from Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Daniel.  Leah saw those, but she also saw strange drawings and wondered about them....

"I’ve studied religion in college.  But I’m surprised that I don’t recognize any of these Christian examples, except maybe Aquinas.  But I’ve never studied Aquinas.  Are there Christian sacred sciences based on the Bible?”
“This question is somewhat related to the last,” Randy said.  “Christianity has certainly interacted with sacred sciences, and within Christendom there have certainly been exponents of sacred sciences.  Now, I’m not a scholar in church history or Christian theology, and I’m not sure I’ll understand the same thing as you by the term Christian.  But if you look further into the work of Daniel Cramer in the Protestant Reformation, and others like him, you’ll find many biblical references of what I’d consider an evangelical character, and you’ll find Christ referred to as the philosopher’s stone—in other words, the most important goal of the Christian’s quest.”
Keith’s eyes dilated as he heard these words and recalled the Bible verses engraved above Cramer’s woodcut images.  Despite the unfamiliar material, Keith felt that Randy intuitively picked up on his more specialized kind of Christianity and the web of questions and needs spun out from it.....

Daniel Cramer's Emblem 4
Sara was transfixed now by Cramer’s Emblem 4, titled “I love,” with the image of a flame growing out of a heart.  She read the associated scriptural verse from Song of Solomon, 4:16: Blow upon my garden, that the spices thereof may flow out.  Then the associated verse of Cramer’s pen: Let me be kindled, Jesus, by your incense and breath; I flame, let yours be the love; I am fragrant, let yours be the scent.  She was moved. 

AlignIt is now available on Amazon.com. The novel and cover art, and the excerpt posted here, are copyright 2014 by Rick Whitney, under U.S. copyright law.  All rights reserved.