As part of my quest to work through some of the books that have been on my selves for many years, I decided to read this one. I purchased it a long time ago through one of those book-of-the-month clubs and it has occupied shelf space ever since.
The book is a collection of short stories, most of which are science fiction, but there are a couple which could be classified as magical/fantasy tales.
For me, I see the Illustrated Man as a symbol for how humanity is shaped by the stories we share. Each story creates an image upon our being. They paint pictures inside us, and those inner pictures manifest themselves upon our physical existence.
How can I explain about his Illustrations? If El Greco had painted miniatures in his prime, no bigger than your hand, infinitely detailed, with all the sulphurous color, elongation, and anatomy, perhaps he might have used this man’s body for his art. The colors burned in three dimensions. They were windows looking in upon fiery reality. Here, gathered on one wall, were all the finest scenes in the universe, the man was a walking treasure gallery. This wasn’t the work of a cheap carnival tattoo man with three colors and whiskey on his breath. This was the accomplishment of a living genius, vibrant, clear, and beautiful.
One of the short stories in the collection, “The Exiles,” deals with the subject of book burning and censorship. This tale echoes the importance of stories and how they are part of our very existence.
“God rest him. Nothing of him left now. For what are we but books, and when those are gone, nothing’s to be seen.”
All the stories in this book are excellent and worth reading. Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to share in my musings. I hope you are reading something good today; “For what are we but books?”
This is a book that has been on my list for a while, and I finally got around to reading it. Considering the state of things in the world right now, one might think that an apocalyptic tale might be a little too depressing, but that was not the case. The abundance of wit and satire which Vonnegut brings to this tale forces the reader to chuckle at the abundant idiocy that permeates our modern culture.
There is a lot in this text that I could discuss, but since brevity is the soul of wit, I’ll keep this post short and focus on just two passages. The first, which is a little long, is a discussion about what would happen if the writers of the world decided to stop writing, and how that might affect humanity.
“I’m thinking of calling a general strike of all writers until mankind finally comes to its senses. Would you support it?”
“Do writers have a right to strike? That would be like the police or the firemen walking out.”
“Or the college professors.”
“Or the college professors,” I agreed. I shook my head. “No, I don’t think my conscience would let me support a strike like that. When a man becomes a writer, I think he takes on a sacred obligation to produce beauty and enlightenment and comfort at top speed.”
“I just can’t help thinking what a real shaking up it would give people if, all of a sudden, there were no new books, new plays, new histories, new poems . . .”
“And how proud would you be when people started dying like flies?” I demanded.
“They’d die more like mad dogs, I think—snarling and snapping at each other and biting their own tails.”
I turned to Castle the elder. “Sir, how does a man die when he’s deprived of the consolations of literature?”
“In one of two ways,” he said, “petrescence of the heart or atrophy of the nervous system.”
“Neither one very pleasant, I expect,” I suggested.
“No,” said Castle the elder. “For the love of God, both of you, please keep writing!”
(pp. 231 – 232)
I am a firm believer that artistic expression is what defines our collective humanity. Books are important. Music is important. Visual arts are important. Without these our society becomes sterile and diseased. A healthy and vibrant artistic community has a direct correlation to the well-being of a community. As Vonnegut states, when an individual is deprived of literature, or any of the other arts, that person’s heart will petrify and turn to stone. The ability to empathize and connect with other human beings will fade, and that would be a symbolic death of all that is human within someone.
The other passage that stood out for me, because it is something I often think about, deals with what hope there is for humanity at this stage.
“What hope can there be for mankind,” I thought, “when there are such men as Felix Hoenikker to give such playthings as ice-nine to such short-sighted children as almost all men and women are?”
And I remembered The Fourteenth Book of Bokonon, which I had read in its entirety the night before. The Fourteenth Book is entitled, “What Can a Thoughtful Man Hope for Mankind on Earth, Given the Experience of the Past Million Years?”
It doesn’t take long to read The Fourteenth Book. It consists of one word and a period.
This is it:
While this may appear to be just a cynical and pessimistic view, I don’t see it that way. But there is definite irony. If one considers ice-nine to be a symbol of a technology which humanity is not yet ready for, then what Vonnegut is implying is that as long as humanity remains on its present trajectory, striving after technological advancement while neglecting to advance the arts and that part of us which defines our humanity, then there is no hope for us. But, if we can shift our collective focus and turn away from the latest and greatest gadgets designed to ensnare our attention, then new horizons become possible.
Thanks for taking the time to share in my thoughts. I hope you have an inspired day.
This is the third book in Taschen’s “Library of Esoterica” series. These are art books that explore esoteric fields of study through art. While this volume was not as good as the first two—Tarot and Astrology—in my opinion, it was still an interesting read.
The book is a collection of essays, which augment the artwork presented in the book. Pam Grossman sums the text up nicely in her Foreword.
What follows is a kaleidoscopic, wide-lensed look at depictions of witches throughout history – both as we’ve imagined them and as they self-identify. The tome spans time and space, gender, and geography. You’ll find real rites and contemporary rituals in its pages alongside wild, unbridled visions by artists through the ages.
In the essay “Art is a Spell,” also written by Grossman, she establishes a parallel between artists and witches, which I found interesting.
Like a witch, the artist conjures, shapes reality, manifests. The practice of magick is sometimes referred to as “the arte magickal” or “the dark arts.” That there is a kinship between those who craft magick and those who conjure art is undeniable. And sometimes they may be one and the same, and the Venn diagram of artist and witch collapses and melts into its own magick circle.
And this succinctly sums up what the strength of this book is—a blending of art and magick that demonstrates how one influences the other. Because, there is no question that throughout history, art has inspired those on the spiritual path, and likewise, spirituality and mysticism have been an endless source of inspiration for artists across all mediums.
I think that’s all for this post. Going to keep it short. Thanks for stopping by, and have an inspired day.
In “Chapter XXXII: Rosicrucian Doctrines and Tenets,” Manly P. Hall states:
The Rosicrucian medicine for the healing of all human infirmities may be interpreted as a chemical substance which produces the physical effects described or as spiritual understanding—the true healing power which, when a man has partaken of it, reveals truth to him. Ignorance is the worst form of disease, and that which heals ignorance is therefore the most potent of all medicines. The perfect Rosicrucian medicine was for the healing of nations, races, and individuals.
At first pass, this might seem like a harsh statement, especially when one considers the plethora of physical ailments and the devastating effects they have on individuals. But if we step back and reflect, the veracity of this assertion becomes evident. The fact is, we do not know about that which we do not know. In other words, we are ignorant of our own ignorance. If you don’t recognize and acknowledge that there is a problem, then it is almost certain that you will not take any steps to rectify that problem. For example, an alcoholic who does not see that he or she has a problem with drinking will never take the first step toward recovery. Ignorance, therefore, like addiction, is one of the most insidious of diseases, and often individuals fail to become aware of the problem until the damage is done.
We see validation of this claim in our current world. Social media, biased news sources, and “smart web search” technologies have created information silos that keep people ignorant about the broader spectrum of views and ideas, the result being the fractured, angry, and mistrusting society in which we all live. Never, it seems, have we been in greater need for the “perfect Rosicrucian medicine” that would provide for “the healing of nations, races, and individuals.”
I challenge everyone to keep an open mind in these strange days. Things are changing, and they are changing rapidly, and it is in our best interest to be as thoughtful and reflective as possible. It is certainly OK to adhere to a belief, but at least validate it by considering an opposing idea.
Thanks for reading and thinking. Have a great day.
This is the second book in Taschen’s “Library of Esoterica” series. These are art books that explore esoteric fields of study through art. So far, I have been thoroughly impressed with these texts.
In addition to the stunning illustrations, the book provides an historical overview of astrology’s development, as well as some information about the symbolism behind the signs and planets.
Of all the esoteric practices, astrology is perhaps the most ancient, developed by the peoples of the earliest known cultures: the Sumerians, the Babylonians, and the Egyptians. Long-ago civilizations throughout Africa, the Islamic lands, Asia, and South America, documented their study of the stars and planets and created a shared and interconnected mythology. Astrology, in some form, has been ritualized in nearly every ancestral tradition around the world.
It is not surprising that both astrology and astronomy developed along with calendar systems, which were important in agricultural societies.
For many, the advent of astrology – and astronomy – occurred alongside the development of calendar systems tied to agricultural seasons and their feasts. In ancient Egypt, for example, the annual flooding of the Nile created a discernable pattern of events: the star Sirius, the brightest in the sky, would appear in the east just before sunrise, heralding the arrival of the waters.
(pp. 18 – 20)
After Copernicus advanced the heliocentric model of our solar system, science distanced itself from astrology; but artists and writers continued to draw inspiration from the practice.
But all was not lost post-Copernicus. While astrology was cut loose from astronomy and science, its practices and lore spread to places where mystery was still permitted – literature, art, and psychology – where it animated and inspired the work of artists and thinkers including Goethe, Byron, Blake, and eventually, in the 20th century, Carl Jung.
One fact that I found particularly interesting was that “during World War II, both the Axis and Allied forces used astrologers, especially for propaganda purposes.” (p. 45) Having studied propaganda in school, I can envision how governments could employ astrology to bolster their “information.”
I personally feel that practices like astrology are more valuable as tools of self-exploration than as predictors of events. This method of using astrology is tied to the field of psychology.
The advent of psychology in the 19th century changed the practice of astrology from being mostly a predictive tool that looked toward the future to an interrogative tool for exploring the inner, rather than outer world.
To conclude, this is a beautiful book and a nice addition to any personal library. I suspect I will be returning to it again and again. Thanks for stopping by and have a great day.
In “Chapter XXVIII: Qabbalistic Keys to the Creation of Man,” Manly P. Hall cites the following:
Prof. Crawford Howell Toy of Harvard notes: “Manuscripts were copied and recopied by scribes who not only sometimes made errors in letters and words, but permitted themselves to introduce new material into the text, or to combine in one manuscript, without mark or division, writings composed by different men; instances of these sorts of procedure are found especially in Micah and Jeremiah, and the groups of prophecies which go under the names of Isaiah and Zachariah.” (See Judaism and Christianity.)
The importance of this statement cannot be overstressed. Many ancient texts are considered to be absolute truths, either the exact words of the author, or sometimes, the exact words of the Divine. Add to that the fact that translations of text in ancient languages do not capture the details of the original words, and it becomes evident that what we read today in English translation may be vastly different from an original scroll that appeared on the desk of a scribe for copying over a thousand years ago.
Now, this does not mean that we should reject ancient texts, or dismiss reading them because they are in translation. We should of course read these texts. But, we should do so with the understanding that we may need to work a little harder to get to the essence of what the original author was trying to convey. In other words, we must always read critically.
I think that is all I have to share on this topic. Thanks for stopping by, and keep reading interesting stuff.
The strategists have a saying: I dare not be a host, but rather a guest; I dare not advance an inch, but rather retreat a foot.
This is called marching without moving, Rolling up one’s sleeves without baring one’s arms, Capturing the enemy without confronting him, Holding a weapon that is invisible.
There is no greater calamity than to under-estimate the strength of your enemy. For to under-estimate the strength of your enemy is to lose your treasure.
Therefore, when opposing troops meet in battle, victory belongs to the grieving side.
I must confess, when I first read this, I was not sure I would have much to say about it. Military strategy is not really my thing. But I thought a little about the principles expressed through the passage, and I realized it is applicable to our broader society.
There is a socio-political trend right now which is to oppose anything that is contrary to one’s beliefs, and to staunchly refuse to compromise or give in on anything, regardless of how trivial it is or whether the opposing viewpoint has merit. This is a problem, and it is contributing to the stark divide in our society. No matter what the issue is, both sides seem poised to dig in and not give an inch. A society cannot function in this way, nor can a government. There has to be compromise, and compromise needs to be on both sides, not the version of “compromise” where we demand the other party change their views to align with ours.
Eventually, things will have to change. We will either learn to work together with respect and consideration, or our social structure will collapse. I personally am hopeful for the first option.
I recently read a beautifully illustrated art book on the Tarot, which inspired me to order the Dali Tarot set. This is a gorgeous reproduction of the Tarot Universal Dali deck that Salvador Dali created. In addition to the cards, which are large and of high quality, the set also comes with an oversized book that describes the symbolism associated with each card. All of this is packaged in a rich purple velvet case. I have to say, it was well worth the money.
In the Preface to the book, Annette Kroger provides a nice introduction.
In the mid-1970s, Salvador Dali created the Tarot Universal Dali, which was originally published as a limited-edition signed artwork. Based on the age-old tradition of tarot, Dali created a new artistic version by drawing on nearly 78 masterpieces of Western civilization from antiquity to modernity, including some of his own.
Thus, at the age of 70, he became one of the many great names in art history to surrender to the magic of playing cards.
For me, Dali’s artwork seems to tap directly into the deep recesses of the unconscious mind. And what is so useful about the accompanying book is that it draws your attention to the subtle symbolism that Dali incorporates into the artwork on each card. I will site an excerpt from the description of the Wheel of Fortune card.
The disk in the middle is divided into two parts, indicating human consciousness and the unconscious mind. Both parts of the image complement each other, but differences are also apparent. The lower section is filled with symbols and signs, while the upper areas are empty. This might suggest that the messages of the unconscious are conveyed through symbols alone.
If you are fascinated by Salvador Dali’s artwork, then this is a worthwhile purchase, even if you are not a reader of tarot cards. The artwork itself makes it well worth the $60 investment. I do have one criticism, though. The Preface and Introduction in the book, while highly interesting and worth reading, are gold text on a deep purple background. This makes reading very difficult, even if you are not vision impaired. Thankfully, the majority of the book is black text on white background, but you would think that the publisher of an art book would take into consideration the design aspects of color contrast between text and background. But this is just a minor flaw in an otherwise great set.
This is the first in a series of books published by Taschen exploring metaphysics through art. I picked it up while perusing the shelves in a local indie bookstore. I only needed to skim a few pages to know I had to have this on my shelves.
This is, first and foremost, an art book. It is lavishly illustrated with stunning images of tarot cards from a myriad of decks, as well as images of artwork inspired by tarot and photographs of individuals who played prominent roles in the development of modern tarot. Additionally, there is some great information in the book, providing a history of tarot as well as explanations of the symbolism associated with the cards.
What I personally find fascinating about the tarot are the archetypes and how they can be used as a method of self-discovery. Penny Slinger, an artist who wrote the foreword section of the book, describes this nicely.
We all have archetypes within us, once we expand our limited sense of self. In this way, Tarot is transformational, allowing us to see the alchemy of ourselves. Tarot allows us to get past the barriers we put up that prevent us from seeing the path of least resistance. That is what the cards are meant to do. They are signposts along the way. The whole process of divination, in fact, is one that allows us to access the energy of who we are, without having ourselves get in the way. Tarot enables a direct connection to the spirit, to the divine, to whatever we want to call those forces that work both within and along with us. It is a practice that lets us listen to our inner voice, the intuitive self.
If you are even slightly interested in tarot, then I highly recommend this book. The information and artwork are both inspiring and educational. And it is just a beautiful book that will look nice on any shelf.
There are two more volumes so far in the series, and yes, I have already bought them too. I look forward to exploring those in the not-too-distant future. Cheers!
This is the fourth book in Castaneda’s series detailing his apprenticeship with the Yaqui sorcerer don Juan Matus. The concepts presented in this volume are infinitely more complex than those addressed in the first three books. Castaneda goes deep into explanations of the nagual and the tonal, shamanic terms used to describe the levels of reality available to a sorcerer. This information is far too dense for me to cover in a short blog post, so I won’t even attempt to do so. Instead, I want to discuss a passage that resonated with me and that I think can be adequately explored in a post.
“At this precise point a teacher would usually say to his disciple that they have arrived at a final crossroad,” he continued. “To say such a thing is misleading, though. In my opinion there is no final crossroad, no final step to anything. And since there is no final step to anything, there shouldn’t be any secrecy about any part of our lot as luminous beings. Personal power decides who can or who cannot profit by a revelation; my experiences with my fellow men have proven to me that very, very few of them would be willing to listen; and of those who listen even fewer would be willing to act on what they listened to; and of those who are willing to act even fewer have enough personal power to profit by their acts. So, the matter of secrecy about the sorcerers’ explanation boils down to a routine, perhaps a routine as empty as any other routine.”
The crossroads is one of my favorite symbols. In addition to representing a choice, it is also the intersection between the material and the spiritual planes. Combining these two interpretations, the crossroads can become a symbol for a choice as to whether to take a spiritual path or a material path. Echoing what don Juan says, there is never a final crossroad; every moment of your life provides you with an opportunity to make a decision which path you will follow. I will even be so bold as to assert that after taking your last breath, you are still at a crossroad where you will have to decide a path to take. Crossroads, like the circle, are infinite.
The other thing I found interesting in the cited passage is the secrecy associated with occult and mystical teachings. In the past, when certain teachings and ideas could land someone on a rack or in a bonfire, the need for secrecy was vital. But this is not the case anymore. Yet, some groups and societies still adhere to the practice of secrecy. I suspect this is habit or routine, as don Juan says, or out of greed for holding on to power, which I personally feel is the primary motivator. And I completely agree with the explanation that most people choose not to listen to esoteric teachings, and of those who do, few choose to practice and fewer still have the ability to be successful in the mystical pursuits. There is more information available for seekers than any one person can consume, and most of this is ignored or rejected.
I have been really enjoying rereading Castaneda’s works, but I think I am going to take a little break and catch up on some other reading before I dive into the fifth book: The Second Ring of Power. Thanks for stopping by and have a great day.
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