A collection of 5 short reviews of significant works, including Elemental Philosophy: Earth, Air, Fire, and Water as Environmental Ideas by David Macauley, The Crucifixion and the Qur’an: A Study in the History of Muslim Thought by Todd Lawson, Morals and Mysticism in Persian Sufism: A history of Sufi-futuwwat in Iran by Lloyd Ridgeon, Akbar by Andrew Wink, and Islamic Tolerance: Amir Khusraw and pluralism by Alyssa Gabbay.
In her richly imagined biography of Mary Webb, Gladys Mary Coles notes the similarity of Webb’s mystical love to that of the Sufi poets. To compare Webb’s rapturous animism with the God-centered esotericism of the Sufi tradition might at first seem incongruous, but I think that Dr. Coles’ perception of a resemblance deserves serious consideration.
The Prophet Muhammad didn't start out as a prophet; neither was Jesus the Christ from day one. These divinely inspired men became what they were meant to be. And right alongside both, there were women.
Peter Kingsley's work is so unique, urgent, demanding and liberating, that I find it difficult to conjure the best metaphors for who he is and what gifts he brings us. I think of him as a renegade philosopher preaching in the marketplace rather than teaching in academia, an alchemist, a poet of the soul, an explorer of uncharted regions. Now, with his new book, A Story Waiting to Pierce You, he becomes a Buddhist archery master as well, and his humble target is the death and rebirth of worlds.
I can’t say where The Great Bay: Chronicles of the Collapse, an ambitious new novel by poet and psychoactive plant pioneer Dale Pendell, fits into the apocalyptic literary landscape, but it certainly demands the attention of anyone concerned with how we imagine the future, and how these visions affect the present.
The Challenge of Islam is a recent posthumously-published set of seven transcribed lectures originally delivered at Tufts in 1981, and one essay written as a conference paper. In it, Norman O. Brown (1913-2002) poses three vital and interconnected challenges.
Red Book, the dream journal of the great Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung, was published in the fall of 2009. It sold out before publication, and is already in its fifth edition. While many knew of its existence through references Jung made to it, the complete work remained hidden for decades, banished to a dark bank vault in Switzerland. Few were privileged to actually see or read what lay between the richly bound red leather covers. Like the secret truths of some ancient mystery tradition, Red Book gathered an awed respect.
When printed manuscripts were first introduced, they appeared as incunabula and were made to look like medieval hand-illuminated vellum rather than printed paper. When new Victorian hand guns were introduced, they were covered with vines and made to look more like a plant than a weapon.
Several milestones in my life came this past week as I continue climbing into and beyond my post-car-crash ordeal of the last four months. One came Sunday afternoon, when Phyllis and I saw our first movie-movie (in a movie house, not DVD) since August.
The film was Avatar. It is an obvious metaphor for the European-USA destruction of Native America and Africa; for the corporate destruction of the Amazon forest and its tribal human eco-partners; for the US destruction of much of Iraq and parts of Afghanistan.
It is a rare human act that is utterly reprehensible. Some glimmer of grace, some hope for redemption shines through nearly all of our efforts. And then, Jonathan Safran Foer reminds us in his new book, Eating Animals there is factory farming of living creatures.
On Wednesday October 7, 2009 the long awaited publication of The Red Book by W. W. Norton was celebrated by a series of events in NYC that commenced with the opening of an exhibit displaying the original C.G Jung masterpiece.
At last—I can suggest a page-turner to the reader who wants to catch the sense of early seventh century Arabia and experience the colorful, brilliant, contradictory woman who was Aisha. Perhaps Pasha goes a bit overboard in describing her as a beautiful white-skinned redhead based on the nickname “Little Reddish One” given by her husband, Muhammad, but that’s poetic license.
Though most would agree with Benjamin Franklin’s maxim that “In this world nothing is certain except death and taxes,” mainstream culture has little to offer on how to prepare for the former. Without a shared, collective story about the ultimate human transition, the dying and their caregivers are left to orient themselves as they enter bewildering worlds of medical protocol, emotional upheaval and rapidly shifting existential landscapes.
A central theme that appears graffitied in the background of several scenes of director Zack Snyder’s new movie “Watchmen” is Socrates’ question from the Republic: “Who watches the watchmen?” As humanity struggles with looming nuclear disaster, the movie follows a set of characters who are equipped with superhuman strength, intellect, and/or the ability to rearrange matter. The heroes of “Watchmen” live with no authority strong enough—or relevant enough—to oversee them. Whether they help or harm the people around them depends on their individual and collective moral compasses, which are distorted by the violence that permeates their lives as well as their own pathos.
When asked to explain the mission of Seven Pillars, I generally begin by outlining the four core areas. As I invoke the words Cosmology, Revelation, and Mysticism, I am typically greeted with beaming approval. Then comes Chivalry. Now my listener has a furrowed brow. Peering through that brow I can almost read the thoughts it encloses: Chivalry is sexist, elitist, and violent. Chivalry is dead.
Dante’s relationship with Islam and Islamic thought is something of a conundrum. On the one hand, Dante notoriously assigned Muhammad (peace be upon him) a miserable fate in the eighth circle of Hell. On the other hand, the entire structure of The Divine Comedy bears an unmistakable resemblance to Muhammad’s fabled mi’raj or ascension, as Miguel Asin Palacios demonstrated nearly a century ago.