Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Today's crop

The New Year resolution has long since been forgotten and the 'postperson', on their fab tricycle, has kept feeding my habit for books.

Today, as opposed to yesterday's one, there were three! I wish I could say that they were reflective of a disciplined and focused mind; however, as usual they reflect my dispersed interests - though if you stare hard enough you can trace a common thread (or two or three).

Yesterday's offering was 'The Island of Knowledge: The Limits of Science and the Search for Meaning' which is not, as its title might suggest, a tract that having demolished science pulls form its hat the rabbit of religion. It is by Marcelo Gleiser who is a double Professor (of Natural Philosophy and Physics and Astronomy) at Dartmouth College and wishes to explore the inherent limits in our capacity for knowledge as an invitation both to a better understanding of ourselves and to the adventure of fashioning ever more compelling models of reality whilst never confusing the more detailed, imaginative mapping with reality as such. The scientific project is humbly enfolded within our own capacity to experience and yet recognises the extraordinary nature of our awareness.

Today arrived, first by way of opening, Paul Kleber Monod's 'Solomon's Secret Arts: The Occult in the Age of the Enlightenment'. This is an intellectual history of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries in England recognising that the dominant narrative of the advance of science and a certain version of reason needs to be counterpoised with an entwined, continuing belief in the 'occult' and the 'supernatural', often harboured in the same breast. Newton was as occupied with alchemy as he was with physics; and, the eighteenth century ended with a Romantic resurgence of the more than natural.

Second came a modern vindication of the continuing concern for that which steps beyond the boundaries of our conventional science namely Ervin Laszlo's 'The Immortal Mind: Science and the Continuity of Consciousness beyond the Brain' which seeks a story for the priority of consciousness from the evidence of near death experience, after death communication, etc. Evidence that mainstream science tends either to ignore or attack often departing from its principles of enquiry in the process, finding that things cannot have come to be because our current theories will not let them.

Third came Karen Armstrong's 'Fields of Blood: Religion and the History of Violence'. I expect that the aim of the book, based on the reviews, is to liberate religion from the apparent confines of its presumed history and show forth its actual life and potentiality for good - religion as caught up with violence rather than its cause. However, I expect that I will not agree for, I sense, with Aldous Huxley, that religion, when practised from a certain, all to common perspective, does become ideology and can wreak the havoc of the same!

The commonality is, I suppose, knowledge and its connection to the spiritual core of what it means to be human, variously interpreted; and, an accompanying high minded seriousness. Now that is a reflection of this particular addict!


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