PCT reading club

Hi all,
Besides reading all kinds of PCT related papers and books, I also enjoy reading other stuff. Since PCT however, I noticed that I really enjoy understanding everything I’m reading (and re-reading) from a PCT perspective. When non-fictional psychological literature doesn’t match PCT, I notice that my interest quickly disappears.

However, there are a number of books that, without explicit connection, do match PCT. I would love to discuss these works with other PCT’ers (that’s the reading-club part).
I’ll start my list here:

1. Robert Pirsig - Zen and the art of motorcycle maintenance.
The author searches for an understanding of ‘quality’, and I believe he finds it in the connection between precise perception in the here-and-now and his ideals. Quality emerges in that process, and I think that this is a description of control.

2. Spinoza - Ethica (and other works or secondary works).
Spinoza, a 17th century Dutch philosopher, wrote about how humans function and how to live a good life. I have the sense that his view matches PCT very close; he doesn’t use the word control, but the model he outlines has many overlapping aspects. Spinoza’s view on emotions is particularly interesting - he recognizes that sadness comes from a loss of perfection (perfection in this sense meaning control); joy from a step towards perfection. I have tried to read Spinoza before, but failed. With the PCT framework, I now have the sense that I understand what it’s about.

3. Oliver Sacks
I just listened to the audiobook versions of a few books of Oliver Sacks; An Anthropologist on Mars; the Mind’s eye and A River of Consciousness. Oliver Sacks was a man with very precise observations, and his descriptions of neurological cases are beautiful. Moreover, in his work on consciousness, I think he touches many aspects that could relate to PCT. If anyone is interested, I’d love to reread this work in a precise way and note where to connect PCT.

4. Astrid Lindgren
I recently read Ronia the Robber’s Daughter ( Ronja rövardotter, 1981) to my children, and noticed how in this story, conflict between people and inside of people is beautifully described, and resolution is reached by going up a level. Ronia is torn between her father, the Robber, and her own principles of being good to people; torn between her own Robber’s band and the band of her friend Birk. These conflicts are described in many ways. Eventually, through some dramatic and emotional scenes, Ronia manages to unity the competing robbers. It’s the perfect MOL story of resolving conflict by going up a level.

Any more suggestions, ideas?


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I could not agree more, Eva. (And I Ioved readingAstrid Lindgren’s books to my children. Brava Pippi!)

I’ve been thinking along the same lines. Some recent reading and some remembered books that delineate important variables at higher levels of control:

  • Diangelo, Robin (2018) White fragility. Boston: Beacon Press.
  • Fromm, Erich (1973) The anatomy of human destructiveness. New York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston.
  • Buber, Martin, I and thou [various translations]
  • Snyder, Timothy (2017) On tyrrany: twenty lessons from the twentieth century. New York: Tim Duggan Books.
  • Gessen, Masha (2020) Surviving autocracy. New York: Riverhead books.
  • Bateson, Gregory (1972) Steps to an ecology of mind. [repr.] New York: Bantam Books.
  • Bateson, Gregory (1979) Mind and nature: A necessary unity. [repr.] New York: Bantam Books.
  • Berne, Eric. (1964) Games people play. New York: Grove Press.

Nice list, Bruce!
Here’s a reading assignment I made for our MOL students about Ronja, the robber’s daughter. It’s in Dutch but google translate might help to get the gist. https://methodoflevels.nl/artikelen/ronja-springt/. I think ideas like these might be very useful to convey the principles of pct.

Stories are a wonderful way to do right to the complex causality in control systems. Sometimes I stumble upon a reading experience that connects very well to PCT. I believe the best writers have an understanding of how the mind works that could easily translate to PCT.

Here are some quotes from Jeanette Winterson’s memoir Why be happy when you could be normal? (Vintage, 2012).

page 145 - she mentions Jung but it sounds like MOL doesn’t it?

I was thinking about the pattern; the past is so hard to shift. It comes with us like a chaperone, standing between us and the newness of the present – the new chance.

I was wondering if the past could be redeemed – could be ‘reconciled’ – if the old wars, the old enemies, the boarhound and the boar, might be able to find peace of a kind.

I was wondering this because I was thinking of visiting Mrs Winterson.

That there might be a level we can reach above the ordinary conflict is a seductive one. Jung argued that a conflict can never be resolved on the level at which it arises – at that level there is only a winner and a loser, not a reconciliation. The conflict must be got above – like seeing a storm from higher ground.

p170 - the nature of the control system is to stay in control

I often hear voices. I realise that drops me in the crazy category but I don’t much care. If you believe, as I do, that the mind wants to heal itself, and that the psyche seeks coherence not disintegration, then it isn’t hard to conclude that the mind will manifest whatever is necessary to work on the job.

p229 - how conflict is resolved: hold these things together and feel them both/all

Ann came to London. That was a mistake. It is our third meeting and we have a serious row. I am shouting at her, ‘At least Mrs Winterson was there. Where were you?’

I don’t blame her and I am glad she made the choice she made. Clearly I am furious about it too.

I have to hold these things together and feel them both/all.

As a young woman Ann wasn’t given much love. ‘Mam didn’t have time to be soft. She loved us by feeding us and clothing us.’

When her own mother was exceedingly old Ann found the courage to ask the question, ‘Mam, did you love me?’ Her mother was very clear. ‘Yes. I love you. Now don’t ask me again.’

Love. The difficult word. Where everything starts, where we always return. Love. Love’s lack. The possibility of love.

I have no idea what happens next.

And there’s more of course. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I do and let me know if these kinds of thoughts resonate with other books!


Hi all,
Has anyone of you read/listened to Ed Yong’s an immense world? It’s an extensive account of how the animal kingdom controls. No mention of perceptual control however, but Yong stays away from explanations, luckily. The descriptions are mesmerising!