Well, this is starting to be a regular feature. And here I said I wouldn’t do that. Should have asked for it in print. A few curios, some which were once in print, lying around on, well, you know…
R.A. Gilbert, The Elements of Mysticism (Shaftesbury: Element, 1991).
Part of an introductory series on religious and spiritual practices of various sorts, from alchemy to Zen. Other books in the collection are written on things like Taoism, psychosynthesis, earth mysteries, visualisation, pendulum dowsing and even the Grail Tradition. Eclectic enough to spare. This one, on mysticism, seems fairly interesting so far. “Mysticism” is a difficult word, but for this writer it evokes aspects of neo-Platonic philosophy, Eastern transcendence, random Sufi practices, Qabalah, and the spiritual exuberances of Christianity. He also takes what is at once a universal and a critical perspective. In his chapter on “the nature of the mystical experience,” Gilbert discusses the subject in psychological terms, referring to “altered states of consciousness”. Sounds about right. Interesting little book.
Lin Carter, Imaginary Worlds (New York: Ballantine, 1973).
Carter was an American sci-fi author and critic of some note. This book is quite ambitious in its scope, attempting a synthesis of fantasy fiction “from William Morris to the present day”. He goes back deeper still, however, discussing the ancient Babylonian epics in his first chapter. Carter has a sensibility about this genre that’s quite inspiring. While I’ve only thumbed through this text a little it looks like a comprehensive and fascinating read.
Thomas Pynchon, V. (New York: Bantam, 1963).
A weird classic by a classic weirdo. One of the authors I’ve wrestled with a fair bit. I actually prefer one of his shorter pieces, The Crying of Lot 49 — a brilliant book anticipating aspects of the Silicon Valley revolution. Likely Pynchon’s most widely read early work.
John Rosevear, Pot: A Handbook of Marihuana (New York: University, 1967).
Um, I have no idea where this came from. Really, I swear. It’s one of those “myth-busting” books that just gives you the straight dope…Sorry.
Isaiah Berlin, The Roots of Romanticism (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1999).
This is a brilliant synthesis of Berlin’s thoughts on romanticism and its intellectual origins. Derived from a series of A.W. Mellon Lectures he gave on the subject in the spring of 1965 at the National Gallery of Art in Washington and further enhanced by comments he also made around the same time on the BBC. Probably a definitive work on romanticism, exploring its provincial German roots (c.f. Herder) and contrasting this with the emerging cosmopolitanism of the philosophes, whose thought anchors Enlightenment rationalism. Because of the original format (spoken word) this is energetic and dynamic scholarship, not overburdened by excessive detail and instead focused on the “big picture”. An impressive intellectual canvas.
Neil Postman, Technopoly: The Surrender of Culture to Technology (New York: Vintage, 1992).
A swan song for art and individuality as it existed before the digital age. Technocrats beware!!
Richard Kearney, ed. Twentieth-Century Continental Philosophy: Routledge History of Philosophy, Vol. 7 (London: Routledge, 1994).
Secondary essays on continental philosophy. Essentially a scary bunch of academic stuff I should read but probably already sorta know. Moving on to…
Well, that’s it, actually.
Wow. Weak finish. I knew I should have written something about the October Revolution today.