Sunday, August 31, 2008

Hair: Harbin as Assemblage, Ashram, Envisioning Anew, and Its Milieu

Harbin as Assemblage

Harbin is a very virtual place – and I think this has to do with its culture or 'assemblage' in a Foucauldian sense – and this assemblage is both beautiful, unique and a discourse. In many ways, Harbin could have inspired "Hair: The Tribal Love-Rock Musical," except that Harbin is in northern California ~ Hair Poster.

{Eastern} Spirituality at Harbin

Harbin is also an ashram, in a sense. People come to Harbin in a similar way to that which they might spend time in an ashram in India, but this Harbin emerged in the 1970s in northern California with a lot of experimentation and innovation, and was created by a wide variety of hippies. Many of these folks went to India in the 60s and 70s and had spiritual teachers, from the East and West, but mostly with Eastern spiritual names. And around 2005, Harbin built its Temple, a very beautiful structure that harbinizes - harmonizes with and reflects a oneness - with a Harbin 'vision.'

At Harbin, some people are very sincere in their engagement with Indian spiritual traditions, through service, devotion, meditation or self-study, for example. Harbin, while supportive and receptive to these practices, is its own assemblage, with its own practices, which I see as embracing and innovating with some of these spiritual practices. The 1960s and 1970s also drew a lot on an amazingly widespread array of spiritual practices from the East, although Hinduism and India did feature prominently. And a fair number of people at Harbin - residents and guests - have and use spiritual names, for a variety of reasons.

Now, in 2008, people at Harbin are still engaging far-reaching spiritual language, but in a slightly less-widespread way as in the 1970s, I think.

I've seen some beautiful yoga asana (postures) done on the sun deck in the past few days. I think this is a result of the wide-spread growth of yoga beginning in the 1960s and 1970s.

And all of these practices bring practitioners at Harbin closer to a kind of oneness.

Envisioning the Possible

Harbin also shows people a whole new range of possibilities. Coming from outside – the SF Bay Area or northern California - it sort of 'resets' what you might think is possible to the possible again. Harbin is very cool this way. So, if one's been away from Harbin for a while, it reminds you that creative possibilities exist. And if you're completely new to Harbin, it can be very mind-expanding. In a sense, Harbin opens the possibility to envision things anew.

Harbin's Milieu

A day at Harbin tends to take on a life of its own in remarkable ways. People's 'flow' emerges in relation to Harbin's milieu. (Harbin may minimize cell phone use and wireless internet access to shape this possibility.)


Saturday, August 30, 2008

Leaf: Harbin - Conference Center, Dances, Seeing, Human Condition

The Conference Center, with its outdoor pools, that I've rarely seen anyone in (but I also have not yet taken a workshop here), provides space for workshops ranging from Human Awareness Institute's "Love, Intimacy, and Sexuality" to "Laughter" workshops, to space for musical events and dances. All of these workshops and events happened at Harbin in the spring of 2008. I've mostly done unconditional dance in the Conference Center, over numerous years (since around 1995, when I first came to Harbin). The Conference Center's physical design facilitates both dancing - there's ample space, as well as both carpeted and nice, wooden floors on which to dance - as well as a sense of harmony, openness, and simplicity. The building has clean lines with a lot of wooden beams and walls, a high ceiling, a porch and surrounding open area where other workshops could be held in parallel. It's settled in a lovely, wooded location, across a wooden bridge, and separate from Mainside with its Stonefront Lodge, the guest rooms in Azalea, Walnut, Fern, and the main pool area, and the (new) cob and bail Temple (2005) across the creek, as well as the Domes on the same side of the valley, and the village where many residents live up the main Harbin road, and all the rest of Harbin's buildings. As part of Harbin, the Conference Center facilitates possibilities for guests and residents to come together for dancing, and the taking of workshops which come to define Harbin's culture, - assemblages or patterns that make up the life of Harbin. This includes what people like to do at Harbin - the free ideas of Harbin - that is, Harbin's fabric of life. Harbin's dances, Kirtan (chanting), and evening events all include Harbin residents and guests, and bring this community together in a variety of ways. After the dances, many people often go to the pools, which inform much of the tenor of life, and the Harbin experience. When workshops are taking place in the Conference Center, dances are held in the Temple, which is also a lovely space, but smaller.

Harbin Dances

The dances are interesting at Harbin. They involve an exchange of non-verbal energy, where people find a kind of 'flow: the psychology of optimal experience' experience, but which also unify the group and Harbin, and through movement. The way I see it, if tensions emerge 'neurophysiologically' at Harbin, where language won't mediate, dance opens possibilities to see who a person 'is,' that they dance freely, which somehow rights things.


Someone has strung a tie die hammock to the right of the Heart pool between two grape arbor supports, and is lying in it. I haven't seen that before. I continue to see things at Harbin again and again which I haven't seen. For all its constancy – there are only a few new buildings since Ishvara bought the land in 1972 - there's still a lot of newness and nowness.


People seem to like to see and be seen, and this process is quite open here at Harbin. In fact, Harbin's pool area is designed for this in a way. Men and women undress together in the dressing room, into and out of which people can see. The pool's water is clear and it often has a light blue light, (although this morning it was deep green blue) and the area around the pool is very visually open, so people see here too. From Fern kitchen one level above the pools, one can see both the pool area, and part of the pool. The walkway through the middle of the pool area is visible from all angles. Sometimes people dress very spectacularly and walk through this area. Although 'watching' the human dance - the human condition - through millennia seems to continue, it's often been mediated in a stadium, or by media, while at Harbin it's very immediate.

How is it that the day smiles here at Harbin, especially on weekends? People come out, take their clothes off, talk with friends, soak in the pools, seem pretty content and relaxed in a natural way, that emerges from the milieu. There's normal, content, human happiness, as well as community at Harbin.


Friday, August 29, 2008

Cosmos: Harbin Art, Unreally-Realness and Words

Art at Harbin is emerging. And there are a lot of artists here, each unique in his or her own way.

The Domes, e's paintings, the water way, the Temple, the Dragon Gate, the Whale in the hot pool, the railings in the hot pool, d's photos, as well as a lot of other art in the Harbin woodwork. The Harbin Valley itself is very beautiful, and I see it as art, too. View Stonefront Lodge and Harbin Mainside at night from and including the Temple, and you might see a vision of Shangri-la - Ounmalin on the water (Ursula LeGuin). Much of this beauty has happened organically, - it just unfolded, accreted and came together as a whole. Design also played a significant role. And this art and beauty contributes richly to Harbin's virtualness.

Un-really Real

Harbin is very un-really real - a kind of 'magical realism' has arisen here – and in Northern California. There are a lot of long-haired folks here, all living quite fully, especially when they get here. And if Harbin didn’t exist, someone would have to invent it. And Harbin kind of lives itself. No one is in charge, in a sense, and it's very self-regulating, in a Taoist sense. Some dramas unfold here between the residents and visitors, among residents and among guests. And lots is said and thought – some negative - about how Harbin is changing, and what goes on here. But people just keep coming through the gate, each on their own trip, and all varied, which kind of balances out and puts into perspective some of the dramas here, as well as life.

Harbin's virtualness emerges in peoples' minds, through a kind of shared experience, shared vision (culture?), and perhaps shared neurophysiology. This informs a lot of different experiences.


To “Harbinize” – after soaking in the pools, - coming in touch with a kind of harmony, happiness and relaxed space, that is in sync with the fabric of Harbin. This stems directly from the oneness - the unique relaxation response (my language) - that the pools give rise to.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Balm: Harbin Hot Springs as Healing Place, Identity

Harbin is a healing place. So many people find wellness here, through an amazingly wide variety of approaches - both spiritual and health promoting - as well as by just going into the pools. Ishvara envisioned it from the beginning as a Gestalt Center with hots springs, as well as a place informed by Taoism, – that is, Lao Tzu and Chuang Tzu's thinking, I think. And there’s a great degree of freedom here to do just what wants, interact freely in the way one can create, - with a community to support this.

Harbin is a place of energy, an energy center, that, in its complexity, is hard to characterize. It's in the water, the earth of the Harbin Valley, in people's interactions, and takes form elsewhere.

People wear beautiful, colorful clothes here, – and people come to shine.

Interactions with people can be very real at Harbin, with folks who aren’t alienated. Recently I met a very present and beautiful woman, with her boyfriend, who is from Santa Cruz. She had long dark hair, with some colors woven into it, which looked like they were streaming down. When I first saw them together she was naked sitting in his lap on a chair, - so relaxed and open - among a whole bunch of other people, all lying naked on the sun deck near the pools.

In Harbin's culture, 'readings' of what people want take shape in interesting ways, and play out in remarkable ways, and sometimes indirectly.

So, there is a lot of individualism here.

And people with strong personalities come to stay and play here. Harbin often receives them and these folks find a place here, but in other cases not. In general, Harbin is a very receptive and fluid place socially.

What works out in the soup is a kind of hippie commune in the 2000s, - where people come to stay for years. But in response to this degree of stability or longevity, Harbin doesn’t seem to move in the direction of more structure, authoritarianism, or any corporate-like practice. It's quite non-hierarchical; Harbin's culture is great.

People play music by the river. People sleep in tents - and through the winter, too - and some of these tents are very beautiful, with lovely fabrics inside.

And decisions get made through talking, where people say what they will do and do this, with all their human foilibles, but at other times decisions emerge in unspoken ways. In general though, Harbin folks make responsible decisions, informed by a vision of the Harbin experience - its identity - and the meditative qualities of the pools that can evoke oneness.

So, friendly hippie culture in all its variety is settled here - a kind of Harbin identity. People embody it. Northern California and the world gave rise to it – from its roots in the 1960s and 70s – and it finds a degree of sustainability here. Those residents who stay the longest seem to me to take a slightly retiring, living-in-a-village approach. There are a lot of Harbin residents, but you don't see very many of them. They seem to slip quietly into life in and around the Harbin Valley and Middletown area here.

Children come to visit here, too, with their parents. And residents have kids.

And the processes of coming inwardly, and softening - the relaxation response - are very present here, too. People relate often from this soft space or place, and with imagination and warmth.

To some degree at Harbin, people find a way to define their own lives, in response to modernity, post-modernity, the system, through a kind of Harbin identity, a way of categorizing the world, of otherness.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Canopy: World University: The Global, Virtual/Digital, Open, Free, Degree-Granting, Multilingual University & School

Here's our new wiki introduction for World University - Feel free to add to it.

Welcome to World University

The Global, Virtual/Digital, Open, Free, Degree-Granting, Multilingual University & School

where anyone can take or post (teach) classes

We're presently in the process of both envisioning and realizing a global, degree-granting (Ph.D., M.D., I.B., & Music School, etc.), free-to-students, open, virtual university and school, with great universities (e.g. Harvard, MIT, Ivy League Schools, Stanford, U.C. Berkeley, Oxford, T.U.M., Sorbonne, L.M.U., Juilliard, Cambridge, Cal Tech, etc.) as key players, using a Wikipedia model, and for everyone and especially the developing world - that anyone can edit, primarily by adding or taking courses.

In many ways, World University is already open. You can take classes, for example, through MIT's Open Course Ware by clicking on the courses to the left, and learn, for example, what is the equivalent of a Masters in Physics or in "Society, Technology and Science" at MIT right now. MIT's Open Course Ware's listing contains around 1800 courses, with many video lectures already posted. Or you can post a very fun class about Mozart, massage, painting, calculus, sculpture or your area of specialization. Also, create a page with what you know, what courses you'd like to teach or take, and what courses you've taken. Use the links to the left to begin adding a free course, by language, country, degree, or to take a course.

For the time being, World University might offer degrees over a 10 year horizon. So, for example, World University might offer four courses, at first, in each of these countries and in many languages, to be engaged possibly on One Laptop Per Child and video-capable, programmable iPhone-like devices. And people in these countries, of course, can add their own courses to this Wiki, with knowledge they would like to share. In terms of possible degree-granting, Harvard professors, for example, might also teach 4 courses at the undergraduate level, and 1 graduate level course, in the fall of 2009, for matriculated students and with at-large participation possible, simply by having a camera in their classroom, and another instructor in a virtual world. A video-capable, iPhone-like device would allow people who are illiterate to take and post courses to this wiki. But credit and degree-granting isn't yet pragmatic. If two paths emerge in World University, - degree and open course ware, - MIT Open Course Ware is our model for degree-granting academic course work.

While all countries (around 200, perhaps starting with the countries in, and all languages, (possibly 3000, but starting with those languages in Wikipedia) will be part of this, we'd like to focus at first on the countries that MIT's One Laptop Per Child is also engaging - Rwanda, Ethiopia, Colombia, Haiti, Mexico, Peru, USA (Birmingham, Alabama), Uruguay, Afghanistan, Mongolia, Cambodia, & Papua New Guinea - as well as your interests.

Almost every aspect of learning that takes place in a classroom or learning situation now, is possible to engage interactively in virtual worlds like Second Life today, and these virtual world technologies will develop a lot in the next few years.

World University may extend thousands of years into the future, potentially generating a remarkable archive of courses over time.

This multilingual University is open to almost all possible courses, including Ph.D.-related ones, and those in Medicine, Music (both Western and Indian classical, with possible instrumental training), Veterinary Medicine, Law, Electrical Engineering, etc., as well as 'harmonizing' and therapeutic courses in fields like yoga, Watsu, and acupuncture.

People ultimately train their own bodyminds in whatever learning context, and World University may well facilitate this in new ways. World University furthers a familiar approach to knowledge generation where learning also occurs through various forms of dialogue and conversation, such as that which occurs in seminars and through libraries, books and journals. And World University will engage the far-reaching potentials of the Information Technology revolution to make learning and teaching - knowledge exchange, very widely construed - global and innovative in an ongoing way.

Envision learning, teaching and idea-exchange anew, building on the existing 'University.' Here are some tools to do so: a wiki, video, as well as interactive virtual worlds with group type chat, voice, and real time streaming video. :) Add your own.


Calochortus plummerae: Theorizing Anthropology vis-a-vis Computing

To speculate about theorizing anthropology vis-a-vis computing, I'd like first to suggest that human bodyminds are like computers, that is, we're input / output bodymind systems that have sex {sperm in vagina is input} and have babies {which is output}, eat (input) and defecate (output), can read music (input) and play musical instruments (output), can study medicine, for example, with course readings, etc., (inputs), giving rise, after mental processing, to medical interventions, diagnoses, prescription-writing (outputs), design of clinical studies, etc., as well as hear/read a very wide range of ideas and speak about them, processing them neurally and symbolically.

I'd like then to explore the idea that human communication - primarily involving symbolization - is like networking computers sharing software {there are 3000-8000 languages}, with meme-influenced subcultures shaping culturally relative understandings.

But, John Money's "Concepts of Determinism" - pairbondage, troopbondage, abidance, ycleptance, foredoomance (Money 1988: 116-118) - are transcultural, transhistorical, and universal, and therefore fascinating to articulate with the culturally relative processes (such as language) above.

I'd then like to suggest that evolutionary biology~nature-the world creates human computers {input output systems}.

Culture is common software which develops.

And people learn, and can theorize anthropology anew.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Fish: Harbin Hot Springs, Immersion as Method, Pools

It’s the qualities of immersion and mingling which people experience in the Harbin warm pool that is a very good example of how soft, fluid, together and free-form life can be. People trickle in and out of the pools any time all year long, and 'harmonize,' in a sense. It’s the well-being (that can lead to happiness), togetherness and, in some ways, the not-knowing-people yet still being curiously connected through water, that is so interesting. The language that Harbin posts in the pool area on signs, for example, states that the warm pool is a meditation zone. And people meditatively, in a relaxed, unique-to-the-Harbin-pools way, commune in the milieu of Harbin and especially in the pools and pool area. A remarkably wide variety of people and experiences merge together in the Harbin pools, naturally with neurophysiological effects.

People from all walks of life, of all ethnicities, come to the Harbin pools, and return again and again, because they like them, and Harbin's milieu. Harbin is diverse and multicultural, and reflects, significantly, its proximity to the San Francisco Bay Area and being in northern California. And most people go naked in the Pool area, and this adds to the harmonizing effects of the Harbin pools and milieu.

Conducting fieldwork at Harbin gives new meanings to the ethnographic method and practice of immersion - participant observation - in the field, where life in the the Harbin warm pool, significantly, comes to parallel key aspects of field work. At Harbin, the warm pool becomes the field site, in an anthropological sense. To begin to understand Harbin ethnographically is to engage life in Harbin's pools, in all its variability and fluidity, and write about it. This process may well involve exploring the neurophysiology of the 'relaxation response' elicited by the Harbin pools, especially the warm and heart pools, from the 'inside.' Like a fish in water, immersion is key to learning about Harbin.

The waters, especially the warm pool, both draw people and come to significantly influence the culture at Harbin itself, as well as in the surrounding communities outside of Harbin in Lake County.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Whale: Harbin Poem Haiku-ish

A Harbin poem

Light in the whale room
Hot water! – cool – go deep inside
Up to the cold pool.


Friday, August 22, 2008

Seed: Learning at Harbin, Workshops and Singularity

Harbin Hot Springs offers the following opportunities as courses, workshops or gatherings:

Watsu, water dance, healing dance, Human Awareness Institute "Love, Intimacy and Sexuality" workshops, Tantric Love & Ecstasy workshops, Kirtan (chanting), massage, Yoga, (life - Harbin's culture) and many other areas. It's a fascinating range of therapeutic practices and teachings, that have emerged uniquely at Harbin in the aggregate, and around the baths.

Harold Dull created Watsu {water shiatsu} in the Harbin pools. Watsu is an unique-to-Harbin art & social form.

And each of the above makes up a unique community at Harbin.

How to explore these, for example, Watsu movement in water, in the creation of a virtual world will be interesting.

In terms of social theory, Harbin Hot Springs, in my view, is a remarkable example of singularization. In explaining how social objects gain meanings, the writer and social theorist Igor Kopytoff emphasizes the possibility of commodities or objects gaining social meanings in spheres apart from those determined by exchange, focusing specifically on the process of singularization. Using Durkheim as a starting point, he proposes a counterdrive to commodification in the form of culture, where excessive commodification is anti-cultural (Kopytoff 73).

"And if, as Durkheim saw it, societies need to set apart a certain portion of their environment, marking it as “sacred,” singularization is one means to this end.

Culture ensures that some things remain unambiguously singular, it resists the commoditization of others; and it sometimes resingularizes what has been commoditized (Kopytoff 73)."

Using a Durkheimian analysis, he thus suggests that the shaping of homogenized cultural meanings, i.e. commodification, occurs within the context of consumption and production and then examines the possibility of other possible spheres where social and cultural forces oriented to uniqueness shape meaning. By assuming a Durkheimian perspective and arguing that societies construct individuals and things in different ways, however, Kopytoff, fails to consider the role of authorship or agency in shaping social processes, which ascribe meaning to objects (MacLeod, May 24, 2002 -

In my ethnographic research, the founder of Harbin, Ishvara, has engaged an unique form of authorship in its creation, in conjunction with the very great number of people who have come through Harbin's gate since 1972.

Kopytoff, Igor. `The cultural biography of things: commoditization as process', in Arjun Appadurai (ed), The Social Life of Things: Commodities in Cultural Perspective, Cambridge. Pp. 64-91.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Music: Virtual Harbin, "The Magic Flute" and "Flow: the Psychology of Optimal Experience"

Here's a virtual chat conversation with a friend from a few months ago (Feb. 2008) about creating virtual Harbin vis-a-vis possible 'Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience" experiences therein: When I listen to some recordings of “Die Zauberfloete" {"Magic Flute"} arias, I regularly experience far-reaching neural cascades of great pleasure, - a specific 'information technology' giving rise to the chemistry of bliss.
Bos: All you need is a listening device...
me: The term "religio" does seem to open possibilities of a kind of connectedness I associate with bliss, which might have been furthered with psychedelics - the oracles at Delphi may have had a similar chemical aspect related to those pools [smile]
Bos: So how does one take this bliss to the masses?
me: virtual worlds' information technology, ... so naturally
Bos: I don't think the whole planet will fit in the hot tub
me: redefining naturally
Bos: but maybe you're onto something
me: away from chemistry, but toward information technology.
Bos: The big problem is to fully flood the body with an experience that may only be virtual
me: bath tubs facilitate the relaxation response, and while there aren't 6.5 billion bath tubs for all of the worlds' population, and I don't want to start a bath tub soaking craze, soaking in warm water in bath tubs does facilitate the Relaxation Response
Bos: I doubt that taking the laptop into the bathtub will make virtual Harbin real
me: When listening to "Die Zauberfloete," {Mozart's Magic Flute}, my mind is often fully absorbed - the definition of "flow" - focused mind . . .
Bos: I suspect the experience is more complicated than that. Yes. Not everyone gets this from the same things, and you want people to experience this together, I think.
me: Re-focusing some cultural practices of enjoyment might re-orient people to a kind of relaxation response - flow - bliss experience . . . These are elements of it . . . how to synthesize them into an accessible whole is the question . . .
Bos: I guess the question is what does technology bring to the task?
me: And a virtual world makes possible some of this in novel ways . . . being there (not the film) {Have you visited the "Gardens of Bliss" in Second Life, where I get visceral responses to both flight there and its beauty?}
Bos: I think more Virtual Reality technology is needed
me: For pragmatic reasons, I think I'll probably start with something like Second Life because it works and it's easy . . . it also privileges the visual (and auditory), which gives one a kind of overview (so to speak) of the specific kinds of flow experiences that Harbin's milieu makes possible . . .
Bos: Visual is the vast majority of the human sensory system
me: and Harbin is clothing optional, which seems to ease people's mind - a part of Harbin's flow, and why people go to Harbin
Bos: Thus, it's the best way to get info into the mind
me: [smile] yes of Harbin's 'flow'
Bos: Yes, I understand the experience from nude beaches and hot tubs, saunas, etc. But I wonder if it can be replicated in Second Life
me: Harbin also has 1700 acres of land, and it's 'chill' - meditative - relaxed, - due to the hot springs' retreat culture they create, the warm pools' "relaxation response," (I think) and what has emerged there . . .
me: virtual worlds are a start . . . and the very beautiful natural environment of Harbin, is another difficult aspect to 'simulacrate' – to represent accurately in a virtual world. This is yet another aspect of the Second Life - Real Life disjunction
Bos: I think being naked may be more important than being with other people who are naked. The contact with sun, wind and water may be more than the sort of shy intimacy between people on a nude beach (to color it with my experiences anyway). Yes, the natural world's beauty is hard to replicate in Second Life.
me: The pool area at Harbin is very visual, - seeing others in the pool area has been what it's designed for. I think this is significant and eases people's minds, I hypothesize . . .
Bos: There seems to be different tastes in Second Life, different senses of what's beautiful. Much of Second Life seems to embody a fantasy of what people wish they could experience in real life
me: Harbin requires membership {in Heart Consciousness Church}, and most everybody pays at the gate. Signs at Harbin are also important, and help to shape milieu, - so a "virtual world" - Harbin is a starting point
Bos: tropical beaches, fantastic architecture
me: Real Life Harbin is a realizing vision. Harbin has very nice and unique architecture, that has emerged gradually and organically, and is a starting place for modeling virtual Harbin
Bos: Yes. You're onto something there.
me: onto the day?
Bos: Maybe recreating the Harbin environment for Harbin members who can't get there in real life is a start. Then, if you flood the Second Life place with real Harbin people, they may bring the experience with them.
me: Yes . . . but I want to create the possibility for 'flow' experiences that may be novel as Virtual Worlds develop
Bos: It may be a matter of enough willpower coming to the virtual place to make the vision real
me: Does milieu shape ethos/discourse, that then gives rise to roles and actions?
Bos: I think it might have to be the reverse in virtual Harbin
me: One University I'm in contact with has made a significant investment in Second Life, and doesn't have much happening there. They even have a staff helping to develop their in-world . . . Hmmm
Bos: I'd bet it's very hard to create a place in Second Life that produces an experience
me: "Place" is the beginning in my analysis, and representational process . . .
Bos: I think the people produce the experience out of a sense of longing for something that they want in real life
me: real life Harbin isn't movable, so I drove out here (in January from the east coast). . . [smile]
Bos: But is place created by people or are we created by place?
me: And Harbin emerged from counterculture
Bos: Why is a sunset beautiful?
me: questions of determinism . . . co-constitution
Bos: But I think Harbin is rare in real life. And there are many beautiful places. Some put you into "flow" experience, but lack the social element of a Harbin
me: . . . I'll probably start with as much similarity with Real Life as possible in virtual Harbin - so people will have to pay at the gate in virtual Harbin, making it a little 'rare.' I envision this project first as a new kind of ethnography
Bos: I don't think you can reproduce the beauty sufficiently to make that the trigger. The trigger for "flow" will have to be the people.
me: There is an element of unfolding organically, that will develop . . .
Bos: Yes, pay at the gate is probably helpful, since it will select for people who want to be there. Do you need permission from real life Harbin? ...
me: First, a relatively realistic topography, and then I'll see what emerges, vis-à-vis Harbin....
Bos: If the right people approve, I suppose it may be worth some risk to go for it.
me: I like Harbin.

Metaphorically, I think a kind of improvisational opera is occurring at Harbin everyday, with each person's enjoyment and experience a contributing internal voice and instrument. I wonder sometimes how people might complement and add to this far-reaching Harbin experience, to facilitate furthering loving bliss there.

Curiously, I think exploring the relaxation response further, especially in the pools, may facilitate this.

Back to the pools . . .

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Butterfly: Wine Culture, Field Sites around the World, the Hippie Trail Today and Virtual Worlds

N, M, and I saw a butterfly from the small sun deck at Harbin traveling up a poplar-like tree near the swimming pool today.

N asked what was going on in our minds, neurophysiologically, as we were watching the butterfly. I said something about how our vision process, movement neural cells, and neural cones for perceiving color, were creating this lovely imaging that gets transposed semantically - meaningfully - as beautiful (understood in a cultural context), and which becomes a kind of 'flow: the psychology of optimal experience' experience as we watch, that is ongoing as the butterfly floats up the tree. I had been asking her and Molly about their thoughts about eliciting loving bliss neurophysiologically. And N pointed out this beautiful butterfly in bright sunlight.

Lovely and present, N's daughter M is working in wine industry of northern California, and just moving from Berkeley to a town in northern California. As M and I talked, I became interested in the cultures of these wineries in northern California. She mentioned that there are biodynamic wineries here. I mentioned that someone at Harbin now was a biodynamic farmer in the Western USA for more than 2 decades.

I'd like to find the countercultural wineries in the Napa Valley and northern California if they exist, for example, and the ones in exquisite little valleys of northern California, where people are exploring 'authentic' traditions of wine-making. I mentioned the possibility of living in France to M to learn about the culture of wine there that goes back millennia. M is interested as am I in such a trip. We talked a little about the best ways to learn French, about some family friends who are French, and the role information technology might play in learning languages. Perhaps we'll learn French together digitally.

Counter Cultural Field Sites and the Hippie Trail

In addition to the field sites below which I wrote about in this blog a few weeks ago, I'm also interested in the following sites for an ongoing research project on the anthropology of information technology and counterculture: Paris, France, Amsterdam, Hawaii, Spain, Vietnam, and the hippie trail. So many of these places today have people and legacies from the late 1960s and 1970s that will be fascinating to talk with and write about vis-a-vis counterculture. I'd like to be a butterfly on the hippie trail for years. But, first Harbin . . .

Virtual Worlds

It will be fascinating to explore representing aspects of these places and counterculture there in 3-D virtual worlds, as a form of ethnographic representation.

I think virtuality is a form of culture, and culture is virtual - that it gives rise to understandings we shape with our minds within the fabric of a discourse - that can be far-reachingly explored, not only in words, but with digital technologies (virtual worlds), vis-a-vis counterculture itself, about 40 years after the 1960s.

"Field Sites

I'm interested in the anthropology of counterculture, information technology {cyberspace & TCP/IP}, in California and the west coast of the U.S., India (esp. Kerala and the Malayalam language), Switzerland (German, Italian, French and Romansh languages), Greece, Turkey, and Scotland (Scots' Gaelic), - as field sites."

Roots: Source Code, Anthropology and Counterculture - Saturday, July 19, 2008

Monday, August 18, 2008

Air: Oneness in Living, Harbin Hot Springs and Community

'Oneness in Living' has emerged in multiple ways at Harbin since Ishvara bought the land in 1972. For one, Ishvara, the founder of Harbin Hot Springs, has written a book by that title. Also, 'oneness in living' emerges in and from the pools, that, in my experience, seems to happen naturally, and without effort - it's in the air, as it were. And, 'oneness in living' is a far-reaching vision for Harbin that gives rise to its unique fabric of life, with roots in counterculture.

In the context of thinking about oneness, individuals here - Harbin residents - have agency, of course - the ability to choose how to contribute to Harbin and what to do in their own time - in conjunction with receiving compensation for the work they do in keeping this hot springs' retreat center going, within the culture of Harbin, and, of course, because they have chosen to live here. This milieu has emerged organically, not without conflict, but around the pools, and has been significantly shaped by people who have been here the longest. Residents share and absorb this vision of oneness in unique ways. Ishvara, Bob Hartley, has been lived at Harbin at least 8 years longer than anyone else. Ishvara’s vision of people harmonizing with Harbin, its culture, and other people who live here, has developed in unique and unfolding ways.

'Oneness in living' also occurs at Harbin, especially vis-a-vis the pools and clothing-optionalness, as 'merging.' People merge together intimately, very readily and freely. Perhaps this sexuality is an expression of a tendency toward a kind of natural oneness. In the context of American society today, these kinds of openness and ease – also expressions of oneness, perhaps – are unusual. Harbin workshops - Watsu, water dance, HAI, Tantra, massage, etc. - that is, what Harbin teaches, are also expressions of 'oneness in living.'

Culturally vis-a-vis 'oneness,' in my observations of Harbin, people see their ‘mental stuff’ here, and come to face it, in interesting and sometimes affirmative, and at other times unsettling, ways. I’m curious about how a culture can give rise to this, and how ethnographic methods can interpret this. In my interest in writing an ethnography about Harbin, I was wondering what stuff of my own I would see, and of others’ stuff. One prevailing mode of cultural understanding here at Harbin is the New Age or spiritual understanding “I am that” or “I see things from your perspective” – a kind of monism or oneness expressed in the fabric of a New Age, hippie or alternative culture. This can lead here to a playing down of critical thinking, and instead to a being in the present, which can dis-affirm active engagement with ideas about what happens here and now or in the outside word, for example. Harbin also seems quite sophisticated; Ishvara has a subtle mind, as do many people here, and many interesting people from all over visit here, both from the San Francisco Bay Area, as well as internationally, and have done so for decades. Ishvara and Harbin have also responded to many unique situations vis-à-vis the ‘outside world.’ And in my experience, Harbin as field site at the end of road in relatively rural Lake County, California, does shape a kind of inside-outside way of seeing the world, because Harbin is a unique culture. So Harbin’s empathic culture, rooted in a New Age understanding of “I am that,” hippie-mindedness, and, to a degree, in intimacy and receptivity (I lived here for 4 ½ months in the first half of 2005) can (and often may seem to) create a culture where people see their own stuff, and in the context of oneness in living.

When oneness and the present - now - come together, Harbin can give rise to extraordinary experiences. Experience now.

~ Into the pools . . .

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Tortoise: Harbin - Real & Virtual, Purpose, Method

I’ve visited Harbin Hot Springs – - for over 15 years. During a five-month stay (January – June 2005), I became acquainted with Harbin’s residents and the community (a place that emerged out of counterculture) from the ‘inside.’

Other experiences that have prepared me in significant ways for this field of study include my research and teaching about Society and Information Technology, with a particular focus on the research of long-time Berkeley Professor Manuel Castells on the Network Society, as well as my academic interest in the Internet and virtual worlds.

Furthermore, at the University of Edinburgh (2004), I examined related virtual-real questions about emerging, nascent, online ‘place’ in my virtual St. Kilda project, developing methodologies and analytical approaches that I will use in this study.

I’ve been teaching and taking classes in Second Life on Berkman Island (Harvard) for 2 years (Fall 2006 – present). Second Life is a 3-D virtual world, an emerging society, where avatars (interactive figures representing computer users) can communicate, as well as build any object imaginable; Second Life also has an economy with a currency.

Anthropologists have historically studied in a geographically bounded field (Gupta and Ferguson). Examining Harbin Hot Springs on-the-ground and in a 3-D virtual world, as “field sites,” produces methodological questions relevant to the field, such as 1) How can one study both field sites ethnographically? 2) How can one represent them and compare them? 3) How can one theorize anthropology, based on this type of field research?

I’m interested in the people who participate in Harbin, in order to document Harbin for the future, as an anthropologically-constructed and -studied interactive 3-D virtual field site. To start, I propose to model Harbin in Second Life as accurately as possible, and then begin to study the life that develops there through avatar conversation/interaction. Not only are analyses of processes of ethnographic representation significant here, but also articulating and distinguishing on-the-ground processes vis-à-vis virtual ones.

Two other broad, related areas of anthropology interest me. I’d like to consider Harbin in the context of Darwin’s evolutionary theory vis-à-vis sociocultural anthropology. I’d also like to examine, perhaps metaphorically, culture as ‘code,’ including the significance of language and music, using 3-D modeling and the resulting avatar interaction as a starting point.
Studying Harbin as an ethnographic field site provides multiple avenues for exploration. Harbin has developed its own unique lifestyle. As a curious, hippie commune, it is also a liminal place (Turner), where fascinating forms of communitas take place, especially in the hot springs’ area. Harbin, which is legally both a church and a business, has 150+ residents who have lived there for at least a year.

Harbin has also given rise to a number of unique cultural forms and developments. Watsu (water shiatsu), bodywork (massage), and clothing options (where nudity is accepted, but not enforced) are all common practices at Harbin. From a medical anthropological standpoint, people can often find relief for a variety of medical conditions in the Harbin pools, otherwise not possible. While Harbin is the main site for its Watsu School, instructors travel around the world to teach Watsu as well. Harbin thus has given rise to unique educational and therapeutic practices, along with its own fabric of hot springs’ culture. Conducting fieldwork at Harbin gives new meanings to the ethnographic method and practice of immersion.

Harbin is owned and run by NACOB (New Age Church of Being) & HCC (Heart Consciousness Church), whose mission is to promote heart consciousness, a form of monism. Heart Consciousness Church also trains people to be ministers. Emerging out of the 1960s and 1970s, Harbin’s spirituality is informed by its embrace of New Age ‘religion.’ As such, Harbin Hot Springs is an embodiment of the common thread uniting the Human Potential Movement, the Holistic, Natural Movement, and Universal Spirituality ( As a culture and a spiritual community, Harbin boasts a fabric of life that can be very affirming; it is a fascinating place to think about its New Age practices. To visit Harbin, one person in the party must be a member of Heart Consciousness Church, although in general, however, HCC plays an unobtrusive role at Harbin, which in some ways is as free and open a place as humans can envision.

Since the social significance of virtuality and information technology is a developing anthropological field, I’d like to work with faculty on an ethnography of Harbin Hot Springs in the context of anthropological theory, to valorize information technology and virtual worlds as co-constituting what humans do, and as a new field.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Firefly: 'What’s not to like about Harbin?' & Social Theory

As you observed not too long ago, “What’s not to like about Harbin?”

And I ask myself how might I shape a ‘reading’ of Harbin that stems from a place of bliss and ease that is also richly regenerative for readers, and leads to helping to produce a new ethos? Perhaps I can do so in a virtual world, while spending a lot of time at Harbin.

Since our visit at Harbin in the spring of 2005, I’d like to evoke life at Harbin in relation to its way of life vis-à-vis its physical place – the valley, the pools, the main area, the conference center, the temple, and the domes, for example - in your mind with word pictures, and why I think these places are significant ethnographically. Each of these places here, as well as the valley itself, come together as a whole (the gestalt, meaning for me, also, ‘the whole,’ the milieu, context, or discourse, here) to give shape to the Harbin community. But the Harbin experience is unique for everyone who comes here, and finding and giving form to the right words, that sing ethnographically, would be very enjoyable.

But before I begin to examine how people explore the uniquely beautiful Harbin gestalt vis-à-vis its physical structures including the valley, the pools (which were built in ), the conference center, the walkway art between Stonefront Lodge and the guest rooms of Azalea / Walnut, the domes, the temple, the garden, the resident’s center, and the planning for the new guest room area in the meadow, as well as the three buildings with guest rooms, the Fern Kitchen (the community kitchen), the Harbin restaurant, the Harbin market, the Blue Room café, Stonefront Lodge and its library, main room the trailer park, the bookstore, the office, the residents’ dwellings, tents, the Warehouse, etc., I’d like to outline the theoretical approach I’ll take to this ethnography, moving toward a sophisticated ethnographic interpretation of Harbin.

But before I begin, I’d like, in brief, to outline other social scientific approaches, as well as some speculative ones, and why I won’t engage them, applicable as they may be to a rigorous study of Harbin.


In a broad sense, I’d like to suggest that Harbin emerges out of the 1960s and 1970s as a response to Modernity (Habermas). Modernity, with some of its roots in the Enlightenment and Industrialization, and now Globalization, shapes far-reaching ways of thinking against which counterculture resists. But Harbin hasn’t responded to Modernity in any direct way, if one can conceive of Harbin as an entity, - it just happened organically. And Harbin has explicitly stayed away from any direct analysis of Modernity, as a hot springs’ retreat center. But even as an identity has emerged here, the people who visit here live a life that they want at Harbin, quietly in a California County distant from metropolises.

Although Marx, Weber, Durkheim, Freud and Foucault offer specific analyses of Modernity, in the context of social science, that offer fascinating approaches to understanding Harbin, their analyses tend to obscure what an ethnographic, hermeneutical method engaging field work makes possible. A Weberian sociology of comparative religions’ approach provide ways to analyze Heart Consciousness Church and Harbin’s New Age, as well as rich insight into questions of meaning and agency here in what developed into a kind of hippie organization, where no one is really in charge – Harbin has succeeded due to its popularity - but Ish and the managing directors continue to make some decisions, I think a hermeneutic approach to understanding Harbin from the inside through ethnographic practice yields a wide variety of experiences that, using Weber as a starting point, would not help explain. And while a Durkheimian approach might help to shape a reading of Harbin as a social fact, where access to the Harbin pools, and Harbin’s yoga, for example, might somehow balance or bring into harmony other aspects of life here shaped by role specialization, if, following Durkheim, you conceive of Harbin as a social organism using the metaphor of the body. In this view, I think the pools could be understood as a symbol, like a totem, that ritually, but even more experientially, harmonize individuals and the eclectic group, but ethnography’s use of field work as the basis for ethnographic practice avoids many of the assumptions Inherent in such Durkheimian “social fact” analysis, because it allows for examination of what the actual Harbin experience, harmony-wise and milieu-wise, is here. The examination of multiple perspectives that empirically dispute such positivist assumptions of social processes, directly engages what individual actors experience. And while a Marxian approach could easily be shown to demonstrate the role that capital plays in the now globalized economic system, to create kinds of false consciousness through the media, stratifying workers and owners into contested relationships, and that this happens at Harbin Hot Springs and Heart Consciousness Church, an ethnographic approach offers insight into rich cultural phenomena here that Marxian totalizing analyses don’t take into account. I also haven’t heard of any attempts to unionize Harbin; a renters’ strike occurred at Harbin in the 1970s. And a rigorous Freudian reading of Harbin could make rich use in examining the role of desire, the unconscious, id and libido vis-à-vis ego principles, as well as giving rise to the emergence of Harbin as a place for society’s discontents, Freud’s work can’t usefully explain, as I see it, Harbin’s emergence in conjunction with counterculture, as well as the interesting linguistic expressions of individual Harbin residence, or the value of such a free place for libido, due to the Freudian tendency toward judgmentalism. Freud did, however, attempt to reason about questions of the mind and sexuality, thus giving rise to a far-reaching societal discourse. And Foucault’s examination of the relationship between discourse and power doesn’t really take into account the role that economics pay in influencing social processes.

And while each of these seminal (social scientific) thinkers, offer insights into ways in which structure and agency in social processes articulate with one another, none of them can explain these questions vis-à-vis Harbin, its hippie-ness, and its orientation to the New Age, as well as its success as the Heart Consciousness Church business. And in wishing also to document Harbin now and over the past 36 years, these approaches are also not helpful.

A sociology of religion of Heart Consciousness Church offers ways to examine how the New Age finds specific and historical expression as a syncretic religion mostly at the Harbin Hot Springs property, and less so at Sierra Hot Springs. But a sociology isn't a great approach for this project.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Mushroom: Counterculture, Harbin, Time


By countercultural, I mean those human articulations that reflect the transformations and radical re-envisionings of the 1960s and 70s - including the political, spiritual, sexual, psychedelic, communitarian, as well as the back to the land movements and revolutions. These heralded and creatively explored, in far-reaching ways, the possibility to change society for the better, often against corporate interests, as well as responded to limitations of tradition and modernity (including consumerism). People very creatively made art with life in a wide variety of ways. Significant and widespread parts of society were touched by these transformations and ways of thinking. Much of this began because mostly white, middle class youth had time on their hands to protest against injustice in American Society, against the war in Vietnam, and for civil rights, engaging their first amendment rights of freedom of speech, protest and expression. From this emerged a variety of ways of thinking, new traditions, organizations and institutions, including Harbin Hot Springs.

Harbin and Counterculture

Harbin’s freedoms found expression in the 1960s and early 1970s. Part of hippie-mindedness involves creating environments where people can do what they want - personal freedom - as a sensible reaction to some of society’s mores or limiting codes. At Harbin, there's an openness about bodies & a Beat or Bohemian quality of life that emerges from counterculture after 37 years, as well as a connectedness which, for all its fractures and disjunctions, gives rise to a culture, that is fascinating and freely normal.

There are only a few people who have been at Harbin for around 3 decades, and they have lived this, and also have a historical view of the Harbin experience and life at Harbin, which patterns and energies are fascinating and uniquely Harbin's own. The people who have come to Harbin since the 1960s and 70s, and especially since Ishvara bought the Harbin property in 1972, have all been part of this fabric of life that predominantly engages and embraces a kind of hippie-mindedness.

Time at Harbin ~ Now

Time works differently at Harbin compared with a city, for example, in my experience. How do people experience time at Harbin Hot Springs, specifically? The warm waters keep flowing, and the pools are always open, and they bring people into the present, in a very lovely and soothing way. The present - now - is also valorized richly at Harbin, by Harbin's culture, New Age thinking and by Ish, but Ish takes a pretty laid back role at Harbin, in many ways. Time to snuggle in the warm pool? ~ now. Time can expand here like a mushroom when you're in the moment, especially when you're in the Harbin warm pool.

People are relaxed, and work plays a unique role here, too. Time is slow and reflects both this particular retreat center's - Harbin is kind of a hippie commune-like - pace, as well as a rural one, but in the context of Harbin’s unique culture. The businesses at Harbin, like the Harbin Restaurant and the Harbin Market open and close according to a schedule, but Harbin is always open, so you can always come here - now. But as a hot springs retreat center run by the Heart Consciousness Church, the people who work 28 hours a week - residents - are also pretty relaxed. There's also the freedom to do what one wants here, especially for visitors, in the moment. And residents, too, have a lot of freedom, too, which affects everybody's sense of time. Visitors, especially, but residents too, are pretty free here to do what they want in the moment.

Harbin as liminal

In an anthropological sense, life is liminal (Turner) at Harbin - betwixt and between (Douglas), and out of social structure - and this is reflected in an easy-going approach to time, too. Residents find an alternative lifestyle, and visitors leave 'social structure.'

Virtual Harbin

With the development of virtual Harbin vis-a-vis real Harbin – virtual Harbin questions of time will become comparable. For example, Second Life calls their time Second Life Time (SLT), which corresponds with Pacific Time (Linden Lab is in California). But it's often light in this virtual world, and time isn't shaped there in relation to the sun.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Island: Virtual Harbin, Ethnography, Virtual Worlds

Harbin as virtual field site

Virtual Harbin

In this part of the ethnography I'm working on, I’d like to represent Harbin Hot Springs anthropologically as both an on-the-ground and a virtual, global field site. In doing so, I'll ask in what ways can we examine a multi-sited field that emerges from this real-virtual comparative and contrasting approach?

The “Field Site” in a virtual context vis-a-vis 'place'

As a virtual “field site,” will a virtual Harbin become a ‘destination’ unto itself? What would this mean in the context of a networked virtual universe (earth plus solar system), as well as for the Harbin experience? (I've done a related project about St. Kilda (2004), the island archipelago off the west coast of Scotland), as a nascent, virtual field site.

What are the implications of these new forms of communication for Harbin in terms of an anthropological conception of “the field,” in a globalizing world, but especially as a virtual field site itself? {This field site as a form of ethnographic representation could provide an ongoing and dynamic interpretation and representation of Harbin today that lasts thousands of years}.

Anthropologists have historically traveled to and done fieldwork in "the field," which has traditionally been geographically bounded.

In my view, Harbin Hot Springs is a traditionally “bounded” field site in some historical senses, while its residents and visitors are, by and large, open to counterculture. [Travel to and from Harbin by both residents and guests has shaped Harbin’s ethos in multiple ways over the past 40 years.]

Making a virtual Harbin as field site in a 3-d virtual world for ethnographic study is not 'bounded' in familiar anthropologically virtual ways.

Examining Harbin on the ground and online as a “field site” shapes interesting methodological questions in relation to the conception of “the field.”

First, Harbin as a real and virtual "field" is multi-sited, spanning national boundaries, and accessible by anyone with Internet access and enough memory.

Secondly, if one looks at virtual Harbin as a destination in itself, embedded and represented in a form of time-space compression and accessed by clicking a mouse, using a virtual world search engine or entering a SLURL (Second Life Uniform Resource Locator or World Wide Web address), the "cyberspace" of online Harbin Hot Springs, can be potentially viewed as another "field" with another set of methodological challenges, shaped by changing information technologies. In anthropological terms, the field in these cases becomes shaped by a variety of histories and living traditions, the processes of anthropological representation, i.e. the development of virtual Harbin, a specific concept of Harbin’s milieu, and the ways in which Harbin is represented on the Internet in the context of developing multimedia technologies for visitors, tourists and end users.

In George Marcus’ `Ethnography in/of the world system: the emergence of multi-sited ethnography,' the author's examination of recent methodological trends in anthropology shows the way in which anthropological approaches are beginning to examine complex objects and become multi-sited within the context of a world system and late capitalism. Marcus shows how ethnography is moving from a single-sited approach to cross-cut dichotomies of global and local, of "lifeworld" and system. Drawing on an extensive review of anthropological literature, he identifies the way multi-sited ethnography is now located within new interdisciplinary spheres including media studies and science and technology studies. One of Marcus' arguments is that "any ethnography of a cultural formation in the world system is also an ethnography of the system, and therefore cannot be understood only in terms of the conventional single-site mise en scène of ethnographic research, assuming indeed it is the cultural formation, produced in several different locales, rather than the conditions of a particular set of subjects that is the object of study." (Marcus, 1995, 99) For Marcus, "Multi-sited research is designed around chains, paths, threads, conjunctions, or juxtapositions of locations in which the ethnographer establishes some form of literal, physical presence, with an explicit, posited logic of association or connection among sites that in fact defines the argument of the ethnography." (Marcus, 1995, 105) By identifying field sites within the context of a world system, Marcus provides a methodological orientation in which to contextualize the idea of "the field" vis-à-vis a comparison and contrasting of real and virtual Harbin.

From an anthropological perspective, real and virtual Harbin Hot Springs, as a field site, extend an understanding of virtuality multi-sitedness across multiply national boundaries, specifically incorporating multiply historical and living traditions, for both on the ground and digital Harbin. In the aggregate, both Harbins also implicitly become the field for a very wide variety of agents which not only include the various local and regional producers and consumers of online and on the ground Harbin from their respective countries and language groups, but also a new series of questions relating to the ethnographic production of a virtual Harbin. The concept of co-constituting the Harbin experience, which in this case defines a cultural formation based on an interpretation of the countercultural and hippie-mindedness origins of Harbin, explicitly attempts to identify outstanding shared characteristics which transcend national boundaries, thus constructing a unique anthropological, global Harbin "fieldsite."

Real and virtual Harbin as bounded, island-like sites, arguably sharing a transnational, common expression are now produced and represented through interpretation, representations, and digitally mediated forms of communication on the Internet. In `Discourse and practice: "the field" as site, method and location in anthropology,' Gupta and Ferguson relocate the field in terms of social, cultural, and political locations, de-centering it from its constitutive (Stocking), ‘local,’ on the ground, anthropological origins. In the context of the Internet and cyberspace, online UNESCO world heritage sites, as a worldwide-accessible, digital field site, contribute to such an anthropological repositioning of the field by not only providing information about on-the-ground world heritage sites to a worldwide audience, but also by providing access to online representations of world heritage embodied in new information technologies, which are arguably sites themselves and which offer new ways of mediating communication. Social communication and communities involved in these new technologies and online UNESCO world heritage sites shape nascent ways of online interaction and meaning. Ethnographically, ‘cyberspace’ as a field site spurs questions about the ways in which visitors, tourists, end users, developers and producers interact, both globally and locally, using these new technologies in the context of a world system, especially vis-à-vis the new practices and discourse Information Technology engenders. Opportunities for new kinds of fieldwork, both online, and on the ground, are thus presented, which rewrite the ways in which the “Harbin Experience” is understood as well as how Harbin guests and residents, as well as producers, tourists, visitors, and end users utilize these representations and digital means of communication.

In a globalizing world, the implications of these new forms of digital communication for Harbin in terms of an anthropological conception of “the field” contribute to the reshaping and extension of on-the-ground Harbin in manifold ways. Real Harbin, as a “field site” and the ideas and experiences that have emerged there constitute a potential anthropological ‘field,’ as do the ways in which it is represented on the Internet for the actors and avatars that visit. New modes of digital communication also reformulate linkages, contours and associations articulating new forms of both on the ground and online “field sites.” Sites like real and virtual Harbin begin to shape a Harbin “field” as discourse in the context of a world system, thus contributing to an ongoing relocation of the anthropological concept of the “field.”

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Valley: Harbin Hot Springs as Real Life Field Site, Pools

Harbin Hot Springs as real life field site

Harbin Hot Springs, as an anthropological field site, at the end of a road in a rural California county, gives expression to a way of life that is unique and that emerges out of counterculture. Its remoteness and separateness, as a field site, gives rise to “the Harbin experience” that centers around the pool and Mainside areas, with a discourse which is hippie-minded, developing over the past 40 years. With 150 – 180 residents, and 200-1000 visitors on nice weekends, and a lovely valley, Harbin Hot Springs gives rise to an ethos, a sense of community through time, which is uniquely 'Harbin,' both as discourse and practice.

Harbin is a hot springs retreat center. The time I’ll write about ethnographically dates from 1972, when Ishvara – Robert Hartley - bought the land, and then gave it to the Heart Consciousness Church, which now owns and runs Harbin, as well as Sierra Hot Springs, in the Sierra Valley in northern California. Only a few residents have lived at Harbin since 1980.

Harbin’s successful approach to business as a hot springs retreat center, situated in a beautiful valley on 1700 acres of pristine land, 2 hours by car northeast of the San Francisco Bay Area, has made it sustainable, both as a community, and financially. And Harbin residents and visitors have created a kind of fabric of life that doesn’t exist anywhere else that I’ve seen.

The pools as one center of this community, in combination with the option to not wear clothes in the pools, reshape sociality here, compared with most places I know. Life is relaxed and easy, especially around the pools. There’s a meditative quality there, that is, people generally have relaxed, quiet minds at Harbin. I'm interested in examining aspects of minds anthropologically vis-à-vis Harbin. And people are attractive when naked, and Harbin's clothing-optional, bohemian, Beatnik-like culture, especially in such a beautiful place as the Harbin valley, becomes normalized here. Sexuality is also more present 'in the air’ and and in people’s minds – as a consequence of Harbin's culture, - here more than in most places I've ever been, partly as an expression of alternative, hippie culture. This adds . . .

Monday, August 11, 2008

Grapes: Loving Bliss & Music, Serendipity & Synchronicity, Harbin

The grapes in the arbor over the Harbin pools, especially near the heart-shaped pool, are ripe now, but the ones at the far end of the swimming pool are small and sweet.

Loving Bliss & Music

In exploring the development of guidelines for eliciting loving bliss - - as one would practice a musical instrument - the range and techniques of all kinds of music and Watsu ({water shiatsu} come to mind as approaches for thinking about this. Both music and Watsu offer avenues 'in,' neurophysiologically, to the brain. Both are remarkably wide-ranging and fluid.

Serendipity & Synchronicity

Serendipity & synchronicity occur in great measure at Harbin. How and why aren't clear to me, but people are pretty in touch with each other in unique ways at Harbin - culture - and this, in conjunction with the 'high' one may elicit through the relaxation response in the warm pools may accentuate this.

Serendipity - 'the effect by which one accidentally discovers something fortunate, especially while looking for something else entirely' - seems to emerge a lot at Harbin. For example . . .

Synchronicity - 'is the experience of two or more events which occur in a meaningful manner, but which are causally unrelated' - happens a lot at Harbin, too. For example . . .

Can one cultivate serendipity, through knowing people's ways of thinking - through shared culture - and then explore these possibilities?

Someone - a hippie - was giving away these luscious, ripe grapes at Harbin, in its library, and in the pool area, yesterday. Very sweet . . .

Into the pools . . . .

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Sundance: Sierra Valley in northern California, Native Americans & ritual

I went to the Sundance on Sunday, June 21, 2008. It was 10 miles away from Sierra Hot Springs in the Sierra Valley, near Calpine, California. From the very small town of Calpine, people drove along a dirt road, which was marked only by a flag on a tree, and went in about 1 mile. It was in a beautiful lodgepole-like pine forest, interspersed with meadows in the Sierra Valley. It was at about 5000 feet elevation, and there was a number of forests fire in the area, so the air had smoke in it. The forest near Calpine on the road had also seen undergrowth fire.

When I got to the area where the Sundance was occurring, a man, white with long hair, came over and said it’s the last day. I said yes. I had seen H, whom I know from Harbin, at Sierra Hot Springs, too, as well as some other First Nations' Canadian women and one man in the pools at Sierra Hot Springs They were wearing bathing suits, although Sierra Hot Springs is clothing optional, and most people are naked. (Sierra Hot Springs is also one of the nicest, uniquest and economical places to stay in the Sierra Valley for this Sun Dance). I had also met HF, who has Native American background, at Sierra Hot Springs.

The man at the entrance to Sundance said I could only go into the dance itself wearing bare feet or moccasins. I said my feet were chapping and cracking, and would it be possible to wear my Birkenstock sandals. He said no, and, looking at what I was wearing, also saying I couldn’t bring the sun glasses I was wearing or bring what I had in my pocket – a pen and Olay Regenerist skin lotion and sun protection, because my skin has been very dry. I said O.K. and removed them. He pointed to where I could park. The area was filled with tents & vehicles, all spread out haphazardly under an open forest of Lodgepole-like pine.

I walked through the area toward the drumming and found the Sundance. It was a circular area, with a kind of circular wood arcade covered with shade cloth, inside which the ritual was occurring. I saw the entrance to the whole circle, before which people could smudge themselves and enter, leaving their shoes behind. A few people were going in and out. There was a rope around the whole Sundance area that marked clearly what was inside and what was outside. And in the ritual, onlookers were marching their feet to the drumming, while the ritual participants were moving in and out toward the central pole, which was a upright, felled tree, wrapped with many colorful cloths, its leaves still on some branches, at the top, and also wrapped at the trunk with colorful, mostly red cloth, as well as some braided rope work.

Part of the Sundance ritual, I had read (Lawrence 1980 - (, involves a kind of self-mutilation - where people pierce their backs inside the scapula area, and their chests, inside and above their nipples. A native woman at the Sierra Hot Spring's pools this morning had mentioned this. This woman - with the 3 other native women and a native man from Ontario, Canada - was actually originally Micmac (tribe) from Nova Scotia. They were flying back to Ontario, Canada, on Tuesday.

As the ritual went on, with the regular beat of the drum in the background, I saw men, mostly dressed in red ankle and shin-length dress-like clothing, with naked torsos, and some with a ocher mark on their left temple, and many with long hair, many Native, a few white people, and one black man.

A group of dancers circled the perimeter of the ring, just inside the shade cloth, and at the head of the procession, two men accompanied another man who had one or two lines attached to his back – piercing the skin in two places right at the inner edge of the shoulder blades – and he was dragging 4 cattle skulls, which possibly weighed around 40 pounds together. A long parade of men in the ritual followed them, and the two men on either side of the man with the ropes attached to his back, seemed to act as support, as he probably was in pain. A large number of eople inside the cordoned area watched. As the man got to a place just in front of me – I was sitting 20 meters away outside the rope perimeter - the lines broke out of his back, and he continued forward, wincing a little. His skin had ripped. This was a peak of the ritual, it seems to me, when a kind of sacrifice of pain occurs.

This was the last day, and the last dance, and the Sundance proceeded for another 15-30 minutes, with men going into and away from the central pole, and other men going into a covered-with-shade-cloth central area at one side of the ring. At the end people broke into groups in the ritual area, and it looked like some people were passing around sage, and others maybe sharing a peace pipe.

Behind the ritual area were four teepees and between the main shade-cloth area on the side of the ritual circle and these teepees, were two large mounds, and a large hole and fire pit. From where I was sitting, I saw a flag pole outside of the circle, with U.S. marines, navy, air force and army flags on it, an incongruous addition to an already syncretic Native American event. Some people with native American blood were probably in the armed forces at one time. As people left the cordoned area of the ritual, they held one hand up and turned in a circle. I also saw E, who is a Harbin resident from E. in one of the closing group circles, come out of the ritual area. And I think I saw H lying down by the fire part after the ritual was over.

I walked to the other side of the circle, and, there, many of the ritual participants – men – lying on blankets, with one man in a kind of hole in bark covered earth which he had dug, were resting. They were still wearing their long red cloths, and some men were inside the shade cloth area resting in a similar way. It looked like ritual-resting to me, or perhaps the dancers were simply exhausted. They may have been dancing for 8 days. Other bystanders and viewers talked quietly sitting in small groups in and out of the circle. It was a friendly, family, open atmosphere. Whether the Sundance was primarily Sioux and Lakota, at root – both plains Indians – and then syncretic on top, I’m not sure, but this ritual is vitally important to a lot of people.

I decided to leave then, and perhaps I’ll come back for the feasting at night. I saw the woman, and the man she was with, whom I had talked with at Harbin the evening before, who characterized the event as harsh and a step back 500 years in time.

In some ways, the Sundance itself is a form of information technology, where the ritual (as a kind of information technology) may function to unify an identity, and where the people who participate in it exchange information.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Native Americans: Yakama Nation in central Washington, Hippies & Harbin

Hippies, as well as Harbin, can be very resistant to culturally homogenizing and normalizing processes, such as clothing, tastes, modes of thinking. Native Americans have been resistant for related reasons.

While taking a brief trip away from Harbin and visiting the Yakama Nation in Yakima, Washington, in March 2008, I was struck by how little resistance I saw there in the interactions with the enrolled tribal members who were running its cultural center. From a history of people being deceived at treaty signings, with some characterization of this in the Yakama Nation museum, the Yakama are now engaging Western cultural and corporate processes to look to the future for the 10,000 Yakima residents there. They have a museum, gift shop, theater, lodge, restaurant and library, in their cultural center, and they also have a number of businesses that are part of their reservation as corporation.

Harbin is a business, but Harbin is concurrently also creating a kind of unique cultural haven that is alternative, attracting a significant number of hippie-minded people, as both residents and visitors. In this ethnography I’d like to observe and participate in what has emerged and what will emerge here at Harbin. And I’ll contextualize my interpretation of Harbin as an expression of counterculture that includes resistance that emerged in the 1960s and 1970s

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Baobab: Anthropological Fieldwork, Science, Dr. Andy Weil's Integrative Medicine Website, & Global University, in Africa

Anthropology and Science

Anthropological fieldwork - participant observation - is the basis of sociocultural anthropology, which is a social scientific, interpretive practice that engages the same traditions of reason that 'hard' science does. Ethnographic writing here is both a practice and a genre. See for example Allaine Cerwonka and Liisa Malkki's "Improvising Theory: Process and Temporality in Ethnographic Fieldwork" (Univ of Chicago 2007). I'll try to post the "Oxford Companion to Philosophy's" short entry on science, in a week or so.

Dr. Andy Weil's Integrative Medicine Web Site

I find Andy Weil MD's web site's search field - - particularly helpful vis-a-vis western and alternative medicine. Weil is a Harvard-trained botanist (BA) and medical doctor who offers both allopathic (western medicine) analyses of specific medical conditions, and evidence-oriented integrative and complementary possibilities, drawing on clinical research. He also engages a far-reaching network of skillful and knowledgeable, alternative, healing practitioners, his own analyses, and is a skillful communicator.

Dr. Andy Weil's alternative medicine web site is a fascinating combination of allopathic medicine and integrative/complementary medicine - accessible through the Internet - as well as an important site for medical anthropology vis-a-vis the World Wide Web.

Global University, in Africa

Why not create a U.S. $10 solar, video-capable, iPhone-like device, in conjunction with One Laptop Per Child, to distribute easily in Africa, for example, in the Congo, so that peoples there might start to teach and learn courses vis-a-vis Global University's Wiki, in Agriculture, Business, Computer Science, English, and in Kikongo, Lingala, Tshiluba, Swahili, French and English languages (of the estimated 242 languages of the Congo)?

With this Global University Wiki, local teachers could use such devices to teach one-to-many wherever Internet access is available, in conjunction, to start, with the most competent University there, and to record courses directly to the World Wide Web.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Fruit: Remembrances of Gordon MacLeod, by Dick Robb MD

Remembrances of Gordon MacLeod

To remember Gordon is to
Think of his cheerful friendship,
Feel his interest in our lives.
Sense an inquiring mind,
Be surprised by an unexpected pun.

To remember Gordon is to
Know the challenge of wanting to understand and hear his regard for those who did,
Listen to the satisfaction of accomplishment,
Enjoy a gin and tonic and the conversation that accompanied it,
Or share a breakfast bowl of dry cereal piled high with fruit.

To remember Gordon is to
Know his love and regard for Janie,
Realize his hopes and affection for his boys,
Recall his tenacity in holding on to friends,
Think of his pride in the Boston Latin School.

To remember Gordon is to
Replay his thoughts on how to organize medical care,
Believe that hesitation and uncertainty are enemies to be combated,
Sense his pleasure in understanding how the world works,
Know his deep happiness at Cuttyhunk and his interest in its people.

Such remembrances are not easily dimmed.
He was part of us and we of him.

~ Dick Robb
August 2008

Read at Gordon MacLeod's memorial service on August 2, 2008 on Cuttyhunk Island, Massachusetts.



Saturday, August 2, 2008

Rosehip: Gordon K. MacLeod MD's - my father - Memorial Service on Cuttyhunk Island

Gordon K MacLeod MD’s Memorial Service

January 30, 1929 – November 25, 2007
Cuttyhunk Island, Massachusetts - August 2, 2008

I’d like to honor my father’s passing with a brief history of his life.

My parents met in Cincinnati, Ohio, in the Unitarian Church in the mid-1950s. They married there in 1957 on August 17.

My father grew up in Boston, Massachusetts, and went to Boston Latin School. He came to Cincinnati first to work at Proctor and Gamble as an industrial engineer, and then to go to the University of Cincinnati Medical School in the early 1950s. After marrying, they moved to Boston for my father’s internship in internal medicine at the Boston City Massachusetts General Hospital, and then, after, to a research position at Harvard Medical School.

Sandy and I were both born at Mt. Auburn hospital in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in 1964 and 1960, respectively. Sandy, my brother, is now a sculptor (see his web site at - was: Both of our wide-ranging interests reflect my father’s active, open thinking.

My father loved Cuttyhunk Island a lot, where rosehips abound in the summer. He came here first as a school kid in 1943. We started coming to Cuttyhunk in 1966, the year we moved to Hamden, Connecticut, where my father took a position at Yale University, working on the development of group practice and community health plans at the Yale Medical School.

Cuttyhunk Island has been a place of continuity and community for my father and mother, through a number of moves in their lives, prior to their move to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, in 1973.

My father was Cuttyhunk Island’s principal medical doctor during his vacations in August each year in the 1960s, 70s, 80s, and 90s, and provided medical advice for many who needed it for free.

My parents moved to the Washington DC area in 1971 where my father began the federal Health Maintenance Organizations' (HMOs) program, under Elliot Richardson in the department of Health, Education and Welfare. We stayed there until 1973, when he took a position at the University of Pittsburgh, in the Graduate School of Public Health. During the two years we lived in Bethesda, Maryland, we spent 6 months living in Geneva, Switzerland, from 1972-1973, utilizing a Ford Foundation Grant to study the health systems of three European countries in Denmark, Germany and Britain.

While at the University of Pittsburgh, my father ( - and -, in 1979, was asked by the then Governor Dick Thornburg to serve as the secretary of health in the state of Pennsylvania. Thornburg picked my father for this position because he had already set up a federal health program, and was recommended by a close adviser of his. Soon after this appointment - 12 days - the Three Mile Island nuclear accident occurred in central Pennsylvania. My father, the official responsible for managing the health issues, later openly criticized the Thornburg administration’s lack of preparedness for two main reasons. They didn’t have any physicians on what was the equivalent of Pennsylvania’s nuclear regulatory commission to bring forward health considerations in planning for the existing nuclear plants, – it only had engineers. And Pennsylvania didn’t have any potassium iodide stockpiled; potassium iodide protects the thyroid gland from radiation in the event of radiation exposure, such as that which occurred at Three Mile Island nuclear accident. My father resigned a year or so after the accident occurred and continued to speak and write publicly and critically of the country’s preparedness for nuclear accidents.

In the intervening years in Pittsburgh, my father continued to teach about Health Maintenance Organizations, and the U.S. health care system at the University of Pittsburgh, and also taught medicine (grand rounds) for years. My father also continued to speak internationally about health systems and nuclear preparedness issues. And my parents traveled a number of times around the world on Semester at Sea related voyages, once as the academic dean (1999); they also traveled on Semester at Sea in the summer of 2001 around Europe. They continued to travel to other places around the world in the 1990s and 2000s with a group of friends from Pittsburgh, as well.

In the last few years of my father’s life, my parents continued to participate actively in a Unitarian Universalist-related book group. And while very independently minded vis-à-vis religion, especially those religions in sociocultural fabric around him - he was very areligious {he was a nonbeliever} for a number of reasons - my father identified loosely with the open-mindedness, tolerance and freethinking of Unitarian Universalism.

My father, a wit, a word smith, a maverick with a keen political sense, an indomitable fighter, and a punner, with a very quick mind and a sharp, good memory - someone who exercised his mind, almost without thinking about it, like some people exercise their bodies - sustained a subdural hematoma, a head injury from a concussion, during a Semester at Sea alumni voyage in Belize on December 30, 2004. Over the following 3 years, he faced a number of health challenges that are a consequence of this.

In the last 6 months of his life, he started to practice a little yoga relaxation & movement with me - with enjoyment and benefit. We both enjoyed it when he elicited In about the last 5 years of his life, he also reversed his heart disease through life-style changes, with a very low-fat, nutritionally sensible, fruits, grains & vegetables' diet, and exercise, - his angina, or heart pain, disappeared.

My father was wonderful. He was an optimist and an idealist, with a twinkle in his eye, a smile on his face, and an engaged, articulated, intelligent comment about almost every life situation - and, in my experience, an ability to instantiate ideas, - to realize what he envisioned in sometimes complex ways. He also thought about things alternatively; in a way his information technology (his brain) was quite countercultural, - he saw things differently. (He asked the question 'why? a lot, as long as I knew him, and came to his own conclusions about life through this). He could also be very precise with language, very funny, was perseverant or persistent, proud, especially of his accomplishments, principled, and he aspired to excellence. {At his memorial service in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, on December 1, 2007, I almost read Dylan Thomas's "Do Not Go Gentle into that Dying Night," as it reflected an aspect of his character}.

My mother, a remarkable caregiver, with a creative spirit, weathered my father’s challenges in recent years, and helped him in remarkable ways.

My parents in their marriage, and my father with his interesting mind, have created a remarkable world for themselves, Sandy and myself. Although I’m very sad my father has passed away, I find some solace in the perspective that he is an unbroken link in a chain of life that extends back some 3.5 billion years, and that the challenges that he faced in recent years are in the past.

~ Scott MacLeod (

Thanks to the following friends who spoke and played music:

Jim Todd
Abby Williams (wife of Ken Williams, MD)
Richard Robb, MD
Reed Hinrichs
Alastair Craig, MD
Smoke Twichell
Nicholas Porter
Seymour DiMare, MD, and Judith Archer, harmonica and voice
Ned Prevost
Lucy Robb, piano
Cuttyhunk Cruisers, singing group

Sandy MacLeod produced a beautiful stone and sundial for our father's grave. The gravestone is inscribed in Latin with "Non Sine Lumine" ~ {"Not Without Light"}.

I also played my bagpipe before the memorial service in the Church, at the Cuttyhunk cemetery, and from the cemetery to in front of the Cuttyhunk Fishing Club.

Here's a video of Gordon MacLeod's memorial service:

There’s a Wikipedia Encyclopedia entry here ( about my father.

Here is the Memorial Service announcement we posted in the Cuttyhunk Post Office:

Memorial Service


Gordon K. MacLeod
Saturday, August 2, 2008, 1:00 PM

(at the Church, followed by a brief visit to the
Cemetery and light refreshments at the Fishing Club)

All Are Welcome