Robert Theobald Rode Out of the West with Some Prescient Ideas about the Interconnectedness of Reality and People. I’m Glad He Moseyed Past My Newspaper Desk More Than Once, Mustache, Sideburns and All

Thirty years ago, fresh out of graduate school and still bent on pursuing a career as if not a great writer at least a competent journalist, I took a job on the Sunday magazine of the Arizona Republic, the major daily newspaper in the state. I did so with considerable trepidation, since the publication was owned by the Eugene Pulliam family, a staunchly conservative business clan in Indianapolis. Since my very first newspaper job nearly ten years earlier I’d run into nothing but trouble from conservative newspaper employers, which were predominant in the American Southwest.

But the Republic’s then managing editor was an unusual guy, a nationally respected figure in American journalism, J. Edward Murray. As a foreign correspondent for UPI, Murray once had Christmas dinner with Winston Churchill and his family. He later was associate editor of the Detroit Free Press and publisher of the Boulder (CO) Daily Camera. Murray said, “Come on, we’ve got some interesting people for you to meet out here.”

One of the most interesting was a lanky, sideburned-and-mustachioed guy given to wearing Western shirts and bringing instant charisma to any room he walked into. That was Robert Theobald, the futurist. He lived in Wickenburg, Arizona, with his horses and family. Because the Sunday magazine was kind of a haven for radicals and misfits at the newspaper, Theobald often stopped by when he was in town.

I’m writing this because I ran across Theobald’s book, Beyond Despair: Direction’s for America’s Third Century the other day. Written in the mid-1970s, the book raised many of the same questions that we’ve raised in our seminars and books at Brain Technologies.

Mainly, what do we do with what Theobald called “the condition of amondie, or the lack of a world in which we can live effectively”? This is the central issue addressed in our latest work, The Mother of All Minds and the condition that we believe produces the arrival of Dr. Clare Graves’ 7th mind system, the one we call Beta.

Theobald advocated a number of things:
• “Strong chaining.” This is linking to other people who are prepared to act cooperatively.
• Letting new myths about how things work emerge from each of our already existing, if submerged, consciousness of a new kind of world.
• Applying new patterns of behavior within our own lives, families and communities.
• Understanding and accepting that we cannot make our bureaucracies honest “because this form of institutional organization is incapable of accurate movement of information.”
• Encourage people to “wear faces and destroy their masks”—that is, quit changing their outer personas as they move from setting to setting, moment to moment, in their daily lives. Instead, be strong selves and be just themselves, nearly all the time.
• Quit assuming that those who think they know how the world works know how the world works; quit electing them, quit listening to them, quit venerating them, quit following them, quit empowering them.
• Accept the need for large-scale change. Find others who share that understanding. And then—in today’s popular argot—network, network, network.

Rereading Beyond Despair, I find Theobald both prescient and naïve. Perhaps it was simply that he was early. He was sensing much that was to come but his understanding was too early and too incomplete to offer a very concrete and compelling plan of action. But to an impressionable thirty-something mind in the early 1970s, he was a forerunner of importance. I’m glad I had the chance to know him.

Robert Theobald died surrounded by friends in Spokane, WA, on Nov. 27, 1999, two years after having a cancerous esophagus removed. For details about his life and work, go here: “Robert Theobald Home Page”.

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