James WeIlesley-Wesley died at home in St Bathelemy on 25th April 2007 of a heart attack following a serious bout of pneumonia and pleurisy. He was 81 years old.
James was closely associated with the Austrian futurist Robert Jungk, through Mankind 2000 (which they founded in London in 1965), in seeking ways to promote futures research -- especially with a focus on human development. James and Bob Jungk had travelled the world together in endeavouring to build up a network of contacts with such concerns. These efforts resulted in the organization of the first International Futures Research Conference (Oslo, 1967), with the collaboration of the Peace Research Institute Oslo (founded by Johan Galtung in 1959) and of the Institut für Zukunftsfragen (founded in Vienna by Bob Jungk in 1964). Bob Jungk and Johan Galtung edited the Oslo proceedings (Mankind 2000, 1969). The Oslo conference was followed by futures conferences in Kyoto (1970) and Bucharest (1972). James attended the inaugural meeting of the World Future Society where Bob was a speaker.
My dialogues with James at that time explored the contrast between the "objective collective" problem-oriented approach that was the preferred focus of the Club of Rome and the "personal subjective" dimension so characteristic of every individual's existential lived reality. The former had acquired a degree of academic and political credibility, whereas the latter had relatively little visibility in the mainstream. My own concern was the very limited range of "world problems" that were the focus of the Club of Rome's systemic analysis -- which certainly did not recognize the huge range of problems with which the many thousands of international organizations were concerned.
It was from these exchanges that the idea was born for a Yearbook of World Problems and Human Potential -- a collaborative initiative between Mankind 2000 and the Union of International Associations (UIA) where I was based (see original project proposal, June 1972). It was agreed that Mankind 2000, with funding arranged by James, would support the costs of the necessary editorial research work and that UIA would fund the final publication and marketing. The copyright would be shared. The initial fruit of this extraordinary collaboration appeared four years later in 1976, and was launched by Bob Jungk.
As an initiative, the Yearbook recognized right from the start that whilst there was a "market" for "problems", such interest was inadequate to the challenge of the future. However, whilst there was almost no "market" for "human development" in those early years, this was where the challenge lay. In fact the larger challenge was marrying the two seemingly incompatible preoccupations. The project was designed to give credibility to a more complex and subtler approach. For Mankind 2000, as catalyst of the international futures research movement, it was a means of bringing into focus its prime concern with the place and development of the human being in the emerging world society.
James and I have been friends since that time and I have had the delightful experience, on many occasions, of visiting James and his wife Trinette in the succession of locations where they have lived: Rome, Opio (near Nice), Tryon (North Carolina) and finally St Barthelemy (Caribbean). We have also travelled together, notably to futures-related events in different countries. It is too James that I owe my decades of associations with futures -- especially from a psycho-social and spiritual perspective. James was also an advisor to the World Network of Religious Futurists for whose president, Rabbi Moshe Dror, most significant was his nature as a truly gentle soul, embodying the powerful importance of quietude.
As those who have known James will readily attest, most striking was his friendship, hospitality, courtesy and modesty in seeking ways to enable fruitful things to happen -- often between people who were not necessarily enthusiastic about each others preoccupations. He offered me a wonderful education in the appreciation of food and wine.
In parallel with the Yearbook project in the period 1972-1976, James was very active through Mankind 2000 in seeking to promote a World Forum on Social Innovation (also envisaged as a World Forum on Social Transmutation) in collaboration with the Centre d'étude des Conséquences générales des grandes Techniques Nouvelles (CTN, Paris) and the Société Internationale des Conseillers de Synthèse (SICS). Key figures in those discussions were Georges Guéron and Armand Braun. These exchanges resulted in the creation of an International Foundation for Social Innovation to organize the event, although only a preparatory event eventuated -- Journées d'Etudes (Paris, 1977), for which introductory reports were produced on behalf of Mankind 2000.
Whilst resident in Rome in that period, James devoted considerable time to facilitating the work of the 1973 futures research conference by Eleonora Masini as leader of the organizing group IRADES (Istituto Ricerche Applicate Documentazione e Studi, Rome) -- appointed by a Continuing Committee at the Kyoto futures conference in 1970. James was associated with the process through which a draft of a charter, presented at the conference in Bucharest (1972), was prepared for a permanent worldwide body. He and Bob Jungk were present at the founding conference (Paris, 1973) hosted by Futuribles International (founded in 1967 by Hugues de Jouvenel). The World Futures Studies Federation was formally launched -- a culmination of their networking efforts.
Also in 1973, Mankind 2000 was established as a formal international organization under Belgian law with James as Executive Director. James's friendship with John McHale and Magda Cordell McHale, co-founders of the pioneering Center for Integrative Studies (based initially at SUNY Binghampton and now at SUNY Buffalo), resulted in an association with the Yearbook project at that time -- notably through the collaboration of Guy Streatfeild (former editor of the journal Futures). This was also the case with Julius Stulman as president of the World Institute Council (founded in New York in 1949) and publisher of the journal Fields within Fields within Fields.
I also recall a memorable visit with James and Trinette to the International Symposium on the Environment on the "The Dilemma Facing Humanity" (Spokane WA, USA on May 1974) in which they found themseves housed in a leaky caravan -- unusual for James, to say the least. It appropriately provided our first introduction to the Findhorn Foundation -- in its earliest days at that time. That same journey also included a memborable visit to Kenneth Boulding and Elise Boulding in Boulder -- and to her mountain hermitage. As one of the members of Mankind 2000, Elise had astounded participants at the 1973 futures conference by presenting to the plenary session the report of her working group in song form. At that time she was working on her magnum opus The Underside of History: a view of women through time (1977)
Work on the second edition of the Yearbook of World Problems and Human Potential (renamed "Encyclopedia") was initiated in 1983 and was completed in 1986. The third edition work was initiated in 1988 and completed in 1990. Work on the fourth edition was initiated in 1992 and completed in 1995. These editions were jointly funded by the UIA and its long-term publisher K G Saur Verlag (Munich) -- whose founder Klaus Saur explicitly saw as an affirmation of the inspiration of Bob Jungk. The editors of these editions, who became friends of James through this process, included Jon Jenkins, Tim Casswell and Jacqueline Nebel. The fourth edition, compiled by Nadia McLaren, was extended from two to three volumes by the addition of a third volume on global strategies and solutions, for which James provided essential seed funding on behalf of Mankind 2000.
With the advent of the world wide web, James also made it possible for the UIA to set up and participate in a cooperative providing internet services to international associations from 1995. This became the key for the very early development of the UIA's large website and the Encyclopedia databases it makes freely available thereon. This proven knowledge management capacity enabled the UIA to successfully head a consortium that obtained funding from the European Union for what amounted to a fifth web-based edition of the Encyclopedia -- a project started in 1997 and completed in 2000 on the initiative of Nadia McLaren. This achievement further enabled the UIA to successfully lead another consortium proposal that was accepted for World Bank funding, although funds were unfortunately diverted to the crisis in Yugoslavia.
In pursuit of his continuing interest in human development, James became a founding member and active participant in a series of semi-annual meetings of the highly experimental International School of Ignorance in the period 1994-1997 -- notably involving the editors of the Encyclopedia. He facilitated the participation of Bronislav Vinogrodsky (author of The Way of Tea), an extraordinary Russian scholar of Chinese culture and practitioner of Taoism and the tea ceremony -- founder of the Moscow Club of Tea Culture (an interest that resonated with those of James as a connoisseur of tea). His own participation was especially valued for his capacity to focus through pointed questions on essentials. He also participated in a related School of Unknowing.
It might be said that the personal tragedy of James derived from his Anglo-Irish origins. As a consequence he was too "Anglo" to be welcome in a politicized Ireland -- especially as a descendent of the Duke of Wellington. But, imbued as he was, to the highest degree, with the Irish intuitive understanding of place and Celtic magic, what he experienced as most essential did not make him fully credible to the "English", having lived and farmed by one of the most magical places in Ireland: Loch Gur (Co. Limerick). The Celtic triple spiral -- logo of Mankind 2000, open to various interpretations -- was one consequence. James had a romantic streak. Just before committing himself to the discipline of a Zen monastery, he received a telegram -- "I am out" -- from Trinette (a former girl friend), who had been a Catholic nun for 14 years. They were married soon after.
James came to see the mother/child relationship as being the most natural union of humanity throughout the world at large – trans-tribal, trans-national, trans-cultural, trans-faith – namely central to the extension of the family embrace from the nuclear to the global community.
His last initiative, prior to Easter 2007, when his infirmity became more evident, was proposed under the title Mum’s The Word. This was for a silent demonstration over the Easter period, by mothers in particular and others in general, protesting the current wanton devaluation and destruction of all forms of Life, including that of the human species, and proposing the provision of genuine mediational services in all circumstances of conflict whatever the scale. The demonstration was to involve the wearing of black armbands in mourning -- with the observation of silence as the most telling communication of disaffection.
James was a wonderfully steadfast friend. He will be sorely missed. His legacy is far from negligible or fully manifest -- and remains an inspiration.
This work is licensed by Anthony Judge
under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.5 License.