On transcribing Dennis Stephens’ lectures – The Exclusion PostulatePosted: October 15, 2019
This is the first of an occasional series of posts where I’m presenting some new, edited transcriptions of Dennis Stephens’ Supplementary TROM Tapes.
All that is known to exist of Stephens’ research notes consist of his published book and about 20 cassette tapes, most of which were not widely known until transcribed by Pete McLaughlin in 2012.
A few aricles by Stephens were published in 1994 and 1995 by International Viewpoints, who had his agreement to edit the spoken text into a more concise and formal style; it seems that due to fading eyesight he had to supply copy as audio and was unable to check proofs. The Supplementary TROM Tapes were recorded from late 1992 to late 1994, perhaps with a view to their eventual publication. They are mostly informal chats addressed to Greg Pickering, who had already edited The Resolution of Mind for publication, with digressions from his prepared notes. He frequently repeats statements several times and occasionally spells out a word to make sure the listener can duplicate it, corrects mistakes by leaving the incorrect phrase ahead of the corrected one or flicking the on-off button. A push-button cassette recorder didn’t provide much facility for tape editing!
Dennis grew up in the East End of London (Tottenham and later Edgware) and so his accent was basically East Ender although not Cockney. In 1957 he settled in Australia. Judging from these tapes he didn’t adopt many Australian idioms; for example, he still refers to Wellington boots instead of gum boots. But he picked up our Australian habit of flattening vowels: compared to the more musical sound of educated English, Aussie vowels tend to converge toward an indeterminate “uh”. So it may be hard for American listeners (for example) to catch all he says. Cairns might sound like ‘Cannes’, or cleft stick like ‘cliff stick’.
In these new transcriptions I’ve endeavoured to capture all the content that Stephens intended, as if editing them for hard-copy publication in a journal by:
deleting corrected phrases to leave the correction
reorganising sentences and correcting grammar where necessary
In a letter tape of 6 May 1993 to Greg Pickering, Stephens said that the lectures The Unstacking Procedure, The Exclusion Postulate and Dissociation should be published for use by students on Level Five. By 16 November 1993 he’d reconsidered and told Terry Scott that the Supplementary TROM tapes should not be made public, at least at that time. However, in another tape to Scott on 19 January 1994 he said they are essential for students on Level Five, and would also be valuable for scientists interested in the logical basis of TROM.
The Exclusion Postulate by Dennis Stephens
This lecture is about much more than its title suggests, and is Stephens’ major statement about the nature of postulates. He adopted L. Ron Hubbard’s non-standard usage of ‘postulate’ for a causative thought since English lacks a precise word for this. A postulate in this sense is a mental act, a decision such as “Apples must be known” or “All crows are birds”, directed as an intention or goal to bring something into existence, take it out of existence or relate it to something else.
The first big idea he presents is that postulates limit the possible and thereby define the reasonable, with a discussion of what we really mean by “reasonable” and why games are inherently unreasonable.
Then comes the defining law of this universe, that it’s possible to know anything that has been brought into existence to be known but nothing that has not been brought into existence. Consequently it’s futile to try knowing something that doesn’t exist, or not-knowing something that does. A thing cannot both exist and not exist simultaneously.
Next (and we’re still only up to the ninth page), Stephens explains the two other laws that apply to postulates but not to perceived objects within this universe.
Then follows the definitive explanation of how games become compulsive, in terms of double-binds or false identifications. The mechanism of exclusion postulates is not introduced until near the end, in a discussion of the practicalities of running Level Five of TROM.