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Madness at the Gates of the City: The Myth of American Innocence Paperback – September 1, 2010

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 521 pages
  • Publisher: Regent Press (September 1, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1587901730
  • ISBN-13: 978-1587901737
  • Product Dimensions: 8.9 x 5.9 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #872,372 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


Thebes with his cousin, the god Dionysus who shows up at the gates of the city with the liberating blessings of madness as a stranger who is no stranger at all as the paradigm for a devastating psychoanalytical critique of contemporary America s attitudes towards the imagined outsider. The power of myth is that it is eternal, and Spector not only offers much to contemplate about today's society, but also new perspectives upon an ancient classic, Euripides tragedy of the Bacchants. --Carl Ruck, Professor of Classics, Boston University, co-author of ''The Road to Eleusis: Unveiling the Secret of the Mysteries'' and ''Persephone's Quest: Entheogens and the Origins of Religion''

Barry Spector's book is a strikingly imaginative rumination on our society, reaching back into Greek mythology to illuminate the world today. It is a fascinating blend of literature, history and myth, and while we have had many critiques of contemporary America, his is unique in the way it draws upon the Greek gods to examine, with devastating accuracy, our present deities of war and greed. This is truly an original work. --Howard Zinn, author of ''A People's History of the United States''

In this disturbing and evocative book, Barry Spector offers us a trenchant commentary on the ignorance, pathos and shadows residing in the American addiction to innocence. Mythologically wise and instructive, the author gives us keys to the hidden kingdom, and the potential to participate in an emerging new and creative story as we once again join forces with the genius inherent in myth and the guidance and warnings that it holds. This is a work that should be read by anyone who wants to make a difference. To respond and become proactive in the mythic tasks that are now upon us, our basic human nature is challenged by Spector to deepen, discover, evolve. We must become mything links. --Jean Houston, author of ''A Mythic Life''

About the Author

Barry Spector writes about American history and politics from the perspectives of myth, indigenous traditions and archetypal psychology. He is a regular contributor to Jung Journal: Culture & Psyche and the online journal Mythic Passages.

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Customer Reviews

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See all 11 customer reviews
A page-turner in every sense of the phrase.
Richard Fishenden
His book is a wake-up call to all of us to look deeply into our own understanding and involvement in the challenges and rewards of modern day life.
Ralph Bartholomew
And it makes you wonder what you're going to do about it!

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Sandy Eastoak on October 21, 2010
Format: Paperback
Madness at the Gates of the City is an essential ingredient in the medicine needed to heal our country. If you are troubled by the dysfunctionality of any aspect of American policy, read this book. If you are certain America is the best country in the world, read this book.

Referring back to ancient Greek mythology, Barry Spector examines the fundamental ideas that inhabit and shape the American psyche: the attitudes and beliefs that generate our actions and reactions. He painstakingly details the fundamental themes driving American history from Colonial times to the present. The facts and figures that populate his analysis concoct a potion almost too bitter to drink. Yet we must drink it to move into a viable future.

For some readers, his portrayal of the devastating wake of American "freedom" will be deeply shocking. But I've been working on paradigm change for over 30 years. I lived almost two decades with an Iranian intellectual. I work with Native American artists and healers. While some of his facts and figures are new to me, their portent is familiar. What I find brilliant is his thoroughness in gathering the distressing incidents into a coherent, identifiable syndrome. Every day I urge several more people to read this book because this identification empowers us to imagine and invite a cure.

I agree with Spector's premise that we must know how bad things really are. We must face the true costs of our "way of life" in historical and current genocide, economic injustice, environmental destruction, psychological disease, and spiritual oppression. He shows us how we suffer despair when we repress the terrible truth. When we see it, name it, and mourn it, we initiate the healing we all desire at the deepest levels of our being.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By RVaughan on December 9, 2010
Format: Paperback
Barry Spector's book is a wide-sweeping, provocative look at on American culture, from mythical, psychological and political perspectives, incorporating wisdom from ancient Greek traditions as well as from indigenous cultures in African and Central America.
Using the central image of the Ancient Greece god Dionysus, Barry looks at the archetype of the Other. According to Jungian psychology, the Other allows us to define ourselves by what we are not--defining Self by contrast with Other. Here in America, the ruling white (male) culture has historically defined itself by that which it is not--creating Others out of Native Americans, Black Americans, women, and most recently the Islamic world.
Barry adds an interesting extra layer of his own, defining the Inner Other and the Outer Other--others within the culture, and others without, and says this way of seeing ourselves and those around us grew from the very roots of the development of America, which combined a predatory world view, with a paranoid world view. His examination of American history and current foreign policy in light of all this is fascinating, and thought-provoking.
Refering to Ancient Greece, which venerated Apollo--god of reason, rationality, masculinity--Barry says the god Dionysus represented the Other, and held the shadow of the culture. But the Greeks gave room to Dionysus, in rites that celebrated sexuality, wildness--and grief. We in America, however, do not acknowledge our shadow, or allow the Other any humanity. Barry Spector's thesis is that this is because if we did, we would be pole-axed by grief at the reality of our 400 year history of oppression at home and abroad.
Instead, America lives by an unexamined myth of innocence.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By David Van Nuys on September 24, 2010
Format: Paperback
Barry Spector is a rare bird, an independent thinker, operating outside the academic environment. Yet, he has written a very thoughtful and I think penetrating analysis of the American psyche. I believe the book was written over a period of 9 years of research and reflection. It's very hard for books to get publicized and noticed these days. I think this is a book that deserves a wide audience. In my opinion, if it can find that audience, it has the potential to be one of those important milestone books such as The Man in The Grey Flannel Suit or The Lonely Crowd were some time back.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Bill Denham on November 17, 2010
Format: Paperback
There is an urgency abroad in the land. It is palpable.

Into this urgency, one among us, an ordinary citizen, has brought forth his gift. His gift is a book entitled, Madness at the Gates of the City: The Myth of American Innocence.

This is no political diatribe, no how-to manual.

It is a giving back to the community a life time of learning and a focused decade of reading and thinking about the soul of our land--a soul in distress, a land in distress.

It is a book, an essential book for any among us who see and feel this distress--regardless of political persuasion or religious affiliation or class or race or gender. Distress and yearning for a better world is not the exclusive provenance of any individual or any group.

In this book, Barry Spector, a furniture mover, a father, a grandfather, has given us a way to talk to each other about what we see and feel around us. It is a book that frames the conversation we so urgently need to have with one another in both an entirely new and an entirely old way.

It is a book that calls forth equal effort from its reader--a commitment to see it through, step by step to the end. It is not a book for the faint at heart but it rewards the effort by shifting our way of seeing things--everything.

It is as complex a book as any individual human being is complex--a profoundly human expression--filled with ideas but not ideological--nor is it linear, nor academic--though heavily researched and footnoted.

As silence--pauses define our experience of music or spoken word, so too one must pause frequently in the reading of this book. Sitting with the words, allows us to begin to re-imagine our world, the fundamental call we hear in Spector's words.

Read the book. Commit to the effort and go from there.
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