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Beyond the Postmodern Mind: The Place of Meaning in a Global Civilization Paperback – July 25, 2003
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"An invaluable collection of essays by the foremost religious writer in America today."
About the Author
Huston Smith, widely regarded as the most learned and literary contemporary writer on the history of religions, is Former Professor of Philosophy at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and at Syracuse University. His books include The Worlds Religions, Forgotten Truth, and the award-winning Why Religion Matters. He lives in Berkeley, California.
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I love this book. This is the book I wish I had written. In a sense, this is the book we all write, for even if we come down on the other side (the not-God side), this battlefield, this place, this crevice, this crystal, this light is that on which we all dance.
And - as if that were not enough - Huston also is a master chef of sentences, paragraphs, chapters, and re-delivery of essays and speeches that came before. Packaged here, the reader gets to ride on centuries of man's efforts to understand and get somewhere in Mind and also in the decades that shaped this one man's epic journey to the end - which remains the beginning.
As for the title of this review ("Weep, Cry Out, Laugh"), yes, those events took place in this reader.
As for "the side", his side being God's side - what is the other side? How could there be another side but the great, great strength of illusion.
As he says at the end, "It's all been very interesting."
While the chapters on the Perennial Philosophy and the relevance of the great religions are concise and to the point, it is the way that he deconstructs the deconstructionists that is unique and powerful. The way he proceeds to point out the flaws in the basic assumptions of the major modern schools of philosophy is refreshing to say the least. There is really no convincing foundation to the materialist (or naturalist) mindset. The scientism and dualist mindset that has grown to dominate the West since the 17th century has no real justifiable basis. The major thinkers in modern philosophy recognize this and have declared their own discipline as dead- except in the most technical and relatively insignificant technical areas. When they conspired to kill metaphysics they killed the source of all possible meaning in the world.
Still, it is not all an attack on modernity. When the author mentioned his discovery of Schuon's works I knew exactly the excitement that he was talking about. They served to validate conclusions that had been brewing in my mind for some time. In the same way, this book has served as a powerful validation.
One thing that jumped out at me was his discussion of the alienation and atomization that characterizes modern life. It is a direct result of the dualist mindset that has gained dominance over the past several centuries. So much of our lives are compartimentalized into separate closed boxes that no one sees us as total human beings- and as such they cannot reflect back this complete understanding to us. Combine this with bankrupt modern philosophies that deny even the possibility of meaning in the world- or our ability to even know reality- and you have the dehumanizing mess that that passes for modernity.
The author repeats the argument of Mara the Tempter when he tried to persuade the Buddha not to teach. The Buddha was told that it was hopeless since no one would be able to fathom his teachings. His response was, " There will be some who will understand."