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The Spell of the Sensuous: Perception and Language in a More-Than-Human World Paperback – February 25, 1997
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"Only as the written text began to speak would the voices of the forest, and of the river, begin to fade. And only then would language loosen its ancient associations with the invisible breath, the spirit sever itself from the wind, the psyche dissociate itself from the environing air," writes Abram of the separation caused by the proliferation of the written word.
In writing The Spell of the Sensuous, Abram consulted an engaging collection of peoples and works. He uses aboriginal song lines, stories from the Koyukon people of northwestern Alaska, the philosophy of phenomenology, and the speeches of Socrates to paint a poetic landscape that explains how we became separated from the earth in the first place. With minimal environmental doomsaying, Abram discusses how we can begin to recover a sustainable relationship with the earth and the nonhuman beings who live among us--in the more-than-human world. --Kathryn True
From Publishers Weekly
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
There is a paradox here, because Abrams' book exposes the drawbacks of literacy and abstract, logical thinking. But it is itself a piece of very well-argued written discourse. However, it works, and not just because Abrams' arguments are so convincing. Part of their power stems from the fact that Abrams is an artist; he has the gift of using words and imagery that can reach below the logical brain to inspire a more direct way of perceiving the world. The result is a book which is a moving combination of philosophical writing and pure poetry.
Abrams works from a phenomenological standpoint, and the book begins with a discussion of phenomenology's history and major ideas.* This is a readable and unintimidating introduction to the subject. Abrams then proceeds to show how, starting at the time of alphabetization, the Western mind began to grow away from direct physical knowing of the world and toward abstract, conceptual representations. Our language became removed from nature, and helped us to remove ourselves from it and to inhabit an almost entirely human-centered world.
As a counterpoint to the Western use of language, Abrams goes on to show how people in non-literate cultures use language as a way to connect with the body and the physical realm.Read more ›
The first chapter, about Abram's experiences as a sleight-of-hand magician in Nepal and Indonesia, is lyrical and gorgeous. I admit that I also caught myself thinking, "Dude! I want some of what you are smoking!"
I thought chapter two might advocate wearing amethyst pendants. Not remotely. The next two chapters -- on philosophy and linguistics -- require black coffee and a clear-headed morning. It is exhilarating to watch someone think this way -- like watching a daredevil making leaps over cars -- except the leaps he is making are not sport but the leaps we need to survive on the planet.
Abram investigates the present, the past, the future, and where each can be found in the landscape. He even goes so far as to offer, on page 202, a meditation on how to dissolve time. (Of course I annotated my copy; you never know when you're going to need just this sort of thing.) The last section is about writing, how the Hebrews left out the sacred vowels but the Greeks left us marooned in the abstract. My crude summary does violence to the text. It is exhilarating to read.
Then comes the coda and, a few pages before the end, he says, basically, "This might be true and it might not and what is true anyway? Truth is what heals the planet and falsehood is what harms it." Part of me agreed and part of me felt like the victim of a sleight-of-hand magician. I want my truths to be, well, true and not just gorgeous. The whole section made me feel uneasy.Read more ›
Abrams shares this basic idea with others - phenomenologists, philosophers, linguists, ethnographers and anthropologists many of whom performed research on indigenous peoples from around the world. For an indigenous person the intimacy between the landscape and the inner space of feeling is rather ordinary and normal, certainly nothing special. That someone has to argue that this communication even exists is, to someone living close to nature almost incomprehensible.
Be that as it may, Abrams quotes other people (indigenous folks and their observers) copiously and not always consistently. His own contribution I find a bit sketchy and perhaps even problematic. For example, he goes to great length trying to shift the blame for the ecological blindness of Western man away from his/her absurd belief in a warlike, genocidal and jealous Hebrew deity onto Greek philosophers and their use of abstract language. This is not a little disingenuous, since it wasn't ancient pagans who wrecked the relationship between the Western World and forces of nature, but rather the fanatic followers of the 3 monotheistic religions blindly marching towards promised salvation. Now the entire planet is paying for soteriological orthodoxy and its distrust of the body and nature.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I love this thought provoking book. Facinating ideas. Enjoyable to read. I highly recommend it!Published 2 months ago by Amazon Customer
This was an intriguing read where the author explores the connection or lack thereof that people have with the natural world. Read morePublished 2 months ago by Taylor Ellwood
"In 1905, Albert Einstein Challenged the Newtonian View of absolute time and absolute space with his "special theory of relativity".... Read morePublished 2 months ago by doug k
Good read for those looking for psychological advancement and a better understanding of magic.Published 4 months ago by Brett Chapman
It seems impossible to read this book and have one's relationship with the biosphere remain unchanged. Read morePublished 4 months ago by Martin E. Schmidt
Abram’s Spell of the Sensuous is well-written, passionate and a source of revelation in connection with the role language has played in forming worldviews. Read morePublished 4 months ago by Amazon Customer
A fascinating analysis of how written phonetic language has contributed to our cultural disengagement from the natural world, the author argues that beginning with the introduction... Read morePublished 5 months ago by Bill