Monday, 18 June 2007

The Spell of the Sensuous

The Spell of the Sensuous by David Abram (1996) Subtilted: Perception and Language in a More-Than-Human-World.

In his book (his only book as far as I can find out) Abram, a philospher and accomplished sleight-of-hand magician, describes the intimate relations between traditional magicians of many cultures, and the natural world which surrounds them. He then explores language and its power to 'enhance or stifle the spontaneous life of the senses.'

In the Preface he argues that 'Today we participate almost exclusively with other humans and our own human-made technologies. It is a precarious situation, given our age-old reciprocity with the many-voiced landscape. We still NEED that which is other than ourselves and our own creations.'

It is not his premise that we should renounce our modern technologies, but rather that we 'must renew our acquaintance with the sensuous world in which our techniques and technologies are rooted.'

Anyone who has lived long enough to remember a time when in our daily lives we still recognised our dependence on the natural world will be touched, and troubled, by Abram's message that 'Direct sensuous reality, in all its more-than-human mystery, remains the sole solid touchstone for an experiential world now inundated with electronically-generated vistas; only in regular contact with the tangible ground and sky can we learn how to orient and to navigate in the multiple dimensions that now claim us.'

Reading that, I was reminded of a recent survey undertaken with kids, which revealed that many of them didn't know that there was any connection between cows and milk, or that carrots grew in the earth!


Atticus said...

Thanks for this, Celia. I think you know that I am not well read, but this book looks intriguing. I shall track it down and read it with curiosity. I shall be careful not to confuse it with its lesser-known counterpart, 'The Smell of the Sensuous'.

Celia said...

Not well read, Atticus? Hmm. I wonder. You seem to be well up on Meredith and a few others!

I had a quick look on Amazon for Abram's book: two are available to buy, one a lot cheaper than the other. However, you could maybe get it through the Inter-library loan system to read-before-buying.

My copy came as a gift from the Anmerican textile artist, Michael James. He included a note which reads:
'It seems that reconnecting with the earth's spirit may be our only salvation - here perhaps is a step in that direction. So, to the song of the birds, the breath of the soil, we turn.....'

Atticus said...

Thank you, Celia.

Incidentally, I think George Meredith would have approved of Abram's book. Take a look at the closing lines of his poem SOUTH-WEST WIND IN THE WOODLAND which I reproduced in my Fiery Chariot blog just the other day:

The voice of nature is abroad
This night; she fills the air with balm;
Her mystery is o'er the land;
And who that hears her now and yields
His being to her yearning tones,
And seats his soul upon her wings,
And broadens o'er the wind-swept world
With her, will gather in the flight
More knowledge of her secret, more
Delight in her beneficence,
Than hours of musing, or the lore
That lives with men could ever give!
Nor will it pass away when morn
Shall look upon the lulling leaves,
And woodland sunshine, Eden-sweet,
Dreams o'er the paths of peaceful shade; -
For every elemental power
Is kindred to our hearts, and once
Acknowledged, wedded, once embraced,
Once taken to the unfettered sense,
Once claspt into the naked life,
The union is eternal.

Celia said...

Robert, I really must see what, if any, of Meredith's poems we have in the house. He's much, much better than I'd given him credit for. So, thank you for posting that.

As I walked out this afternoon, I was thinking about the 'reconnecting with nature' theme, so have made that my blog-for-today.

Lucy said...

Just a quick hello Celia, and to admire your blog. I came here by chance while googling for Helen Waddell's 'Peter Abelard', which is a great favourite and which I was thinking of contributing to Zephyr's page on 'Long grass books', ie books one loves but which are only to be found lying in the long grass, somewhat out of the mainstream. It looks as though you've found many such treasures!
I enjoy occasionally making these random blogging connections, and seeing where, if anywhere, the common ground might be; here it is Olga, who though I don't know well, is a friend of a friend, (tall girl at 'smoke and ash').

Celia said...

Greetings, Lucy! I looked at your photos and Joe's poems and have left a Comment.

The problem with this blogging is that one finds altogether TOO MANY fascinating and like-minded people! I'm pleased that you enjoy my blog about books - writing it is really just a way of keeping track of what I've read. I do also keep a notebook with a running list, but the blog is an encouragment to write a little more than random jottings - and the possibility that someone else might be interested is definitely a bonus!