Top positive review
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Superb, essential reading for those interested in consciousness, but very challenging
on November 11, 2015
I hold this book in incredibly high esteem. It contains some of the strongest writing on any topic I have ever encountered. Only Naboakov's literature and Hindemith's music theory writing are of a similar level of clarity, power and beauty. Franklin's writing is absolutely top shelf.
I also think of Franklin Merrell-Wolff as the most lucid and penetrating commentator on consciousness that I have ever encountered. To put that comment in context, I have read 50+ books on consciousness, ranging from classical Indian, Chinese and Japanese texts, to modern English language writers. The only other book I put even close to Frankin's writing on consciousness is the Tao Te Ching (Stephen Mitchell translation) which is a timeless classic rendered in beautiful style. But while the Tao is beautiful and mysterious, Franklin's writing is penetrating and precise.
I don't write many reviews, but I wanted to take the time to recommend this book for a few reasons. First, it is a supreme achievement in writing on consciousness. Second, it has been of enormous help and value to me and to many of my friends who are committed to conscious living. Third, I see a few negative reviews which come from people who either didn't read the book or who were put off by the style of the book, and I would like to comment on and counterweight those reviews.
To comment briefly on the negative reviews: I read the negative reviews as saying essentially that Franklin's style is too difficult, too obscure, too tangential or too boring to be readable or useful. I would agree that there is a strong and unique style in the writing. I personally found his writing and style to be enormously challenging but also enormously rewarding. Franklin's writing is very academic and precise in style. He sounds like a professor, and indeed he was a professor of Mathematics and also of Philosophy at Stanford University before he left academia to dedicate himself to an ascetic lifestyle and realization of fundamental consciousness.
I'm not put off by "difficult" books and have patiently made it through many challenging texts by Heidegger, Derrida, Iser and others. Even given my patience as a reader, it took me 4 attempts over several years to finally make it through Franklin's writing -- the first three times I found it too dense, too opaque, and too tangential to my interest to keep going. But there was something in the book that kept bringing me back, as well as several of my friends holding the work in great esteem.
What finally helped me make it through the book was allowing myself to start the collection from a different entry point: this collection contains a few distinct works, and they are each of very different approach. When I stared with the second title in this volume, "Philosophy of Consciousness Without an Object," I found that piece to be a more concept-driven and holistic rendering of his topic matter, and that rendering agrees more with how I prefer to think and read. Afterwards, I returned to the other main work in the volume, "Pathways Through to Space," which is essentially a time-series of journal entries over the a period when Franklin was experiencing major shifts of consciousness. When I started reading the volume beginning with "Pathways," I found it too rambling and disorderly to make any sense of. But after having read "Philosophy of Consciousness Without an Object" and then giving another shot to "Pathways," then finally the richness of its journal-style narrative started to emerge and make sense. Lastly, it should be noted, there are a series of 50+ short aphorisms near the end of the volume; I consider these a timeless classic of writing on consciousness and they are very fitting for meditation or frequent rereading to "soak" in how Franklin considers consciousness. So, to wrap up my answer to the book's critics, yes the style is challenging, but if that is allowed for, there are many different entry points to the text, and with patient reading, the great merit of the content can come through.
I personally love the work and consider it very unique for a few reasons. First, Franklin has the conceptual clarity of a Mathematician and the linguistic precision of a Philosopher, reflecting his academic training. It can be very difficult to put into language ideas regarding consciousness, and Franklin is more adept than anyone I've ever encountered at putting penetrating observations on consciousness into clear (if challenging) language. Second, Franklin is no mere academic commentator, but rather he dedicated the majority of his adult life to pursuing a realization of higher consciousness, and by several accounts, met with major success. Franklin was a mentor to several other authors and teachers I know and respect, and Franklin was regarded as an esteemed expert in this area and visited by many foreign authors and sages. In my estimation, his work reflects true realization of higher consciousness. Third, as much as I like the old classic writings on consciousness, I greatly appreciate having work from a modern and native English-language author; in such a case, we have to worry less about ideas translating appropriately over barriers of time, culture, or linguistic differences.
In summary, if you are very interested in consciousness and conscious living, and like writing with a philosophical style, this volume of Franklin's work may be very rewarding for you. The style and rendering of the work can be challenging, but ultimately very rewarding due to its uncanny insight and precision. I have reread the volume 4 times and consider it to be the finest work on consciousness I have ever seen by a very wide margin. My recommendation: buy the book, derive great value and satisfaction from it, and tell your friends!