Coming Into Being

Coming Into Being

3.5 2
by William Irwin Thompson
     
 

In his best-selling The Time Falling Bodies Take to Light, William Irwin Thompson intrigued readers with his thoughts on mythology and sexuality. In his newest book, Coming Into Being: Artifacts and Texts in the Evolution of Consciousness, he takes the reader on a journey through the evolution of consciousness from the preverbal communications of

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Overview

In his best-selling The Time Falling Bodies Take to Light, William Irwin Thompson intrigued readers with his thoughts on mythology and sexuality. In his newest book, Coming Into Being: Artifacts and Texts in the Evolution of Consciousness, he takes the reader on a journey through the evolution of consciousness from the preverbal communications of early stone carvings, to the writings of Marcel Proust, around the monumental wrappings of Christo and up to the rebirth of interest in the Taoist philosophy of Lao Tzu. Owing as much to the rhythmic constructions of jazz as to established methods of scholarship, Thompson plays a riff on biology and culture seeing the birth of the mind in Proust's Madeleine, the displacement of humanity in Christo's wrapping of the Reichstag and, in Lao Tzu's Tao Te Ching, the path forward to a new planetary culture. In Coming Into Being, William Irwin Thompson presents a fascinating vision of our past, our present, and our future that no one will want to miss.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"wide-ranging and deep essays...Thompson [is] an adventurous thinker." —Publishers Weekly

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
In these wide-ranging, deep essays, cultural critic and philosopher Thompson (At the Edge of History) continues his investigation of what he perceives to be an emerging planetary culture. An unorthodox, adventurous thinker, he applies Buddhist concepts to map the evolution of life from bacteria to humans, skips from prehistoric Mother Goddess sculptures to Christo's outdoor environmental wrappings, jumps from Proust to the Bible. He wrestles with the emergence of consciousness, the advent of patriarchy and the postindustrial breakdown of literate middle-class culture. For Thompson, anthropological bestsellers like Richard Leakey's Origins and Donald Johanson's Lucy are myth-laden projections by "the men's club of anthropology" onto the African savanna, while the story of Mary and Jesus, deeply embedded in Near Eastern mythology of the dying male, is a retelling of the ancient Egyptian legend of Isis and Osiris. In Taoist sage Lao Tzu's classic Tao Te Ching, with its celebration of anarchic decentralization and the feminine principle, Thompson finds "the road not taken," an alternative to our world of hierarchy and rigid polarities. (June)
Library Journal
Thompson, a poet, essayist, historian, philosopher, and prolific author (Imaginary Landscape, St. Martin's, 1990) who has taught at Cornell, MIT, and other universities, integrates a synthesis of science, the arts, and his New Age faith and philosophy into a prediction of "planetary culture." Thompson maintains that scientific narrative is structured like folklore and a performance of myth, as illustrated by the theories on hominid evolution and their lack of "factual truth" in hominization. He sees contemporary society as a dark age leading to the establishment of the last of "five evolutionary stages or quantum jumps." The narrative is witty at times, especially when Thompson is discussing Zecharia Sitchin, the 12th planet, and Van Daniken's "pot-boiler" space alien theories. Familiarity with basic New Age jargon and concepts is assumed. Those who can move in such philosophical and spiritualizing thought, whether or not they agree, will find his work compelling.Eugene O. Bowser, Univ. of Northern Colorado, Greeley
Booknews
Fifteen philosophy scholars form a panel of essays answering to the major ideas and thoughts of Hannah Arendt, the influential and often controversial intellectual in the 1930s and through the 1970s. The contributors come from the most central philosophy schools in critical theory, communitarianism, virtue theory, and feminism, covering themes of political action and judgment, ethics and the nature of evil, Self and world, and gender and Jewishness. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
Kirkus Reviews
Meandering millennial meditations by a self-described cultural historian, Wissenskünstler, Marshall McLuhanite, and yogic proselytizer.

Perhaps it is unsurprising, then, that this book is more stream-of-consciousness than history of consciousness, as Thompson (The American Replacement of Nature, 1991, etc.) jettisons such Western prejudices as order and coherence while he whimsically skips from Proust to Earth Goddesses to the Rig Veda to comparing translations of Lao Tzu. When Joseph Campbell engages in such dazzling eclecticism, it usually works. Here it seems misconceived. Electrified by the constructed significance of the year 2000, Thompson also succumbs to an apocalyptic variant of the Whig fallacy of history. Instead of viewing the present as the grand culmination of centuries of meliorations, he sees it as the beginning of a final transformation of humanity involving "the recovering of the feminine, the deconstruction of the patriarchy, the deconstruction of capital-incentive economies of scale run by military-athletic-entertainment-industrial complexes with their shadow economies of drugs, arms traffic and crime; and a general resistance to medibusiness taking over the human body." If we do not throw off all these old bonds, if we do not subjugate science to ancient wisdom, Thompson predicts a violent, long-drawn disintegration of civil society, "darkness and entropy in a war of each against all." In any book so fruitcake-rich with ideas and theories, you're bound to find at least a few tasty morsels, and Thompson does not disappoint. He offers some provocative—though unoriginal—ideas on the evolution of consciousness, and his discussion of the limits and fallibilities of academia and science is first-rate. But the healthy skepticism he shows here completely vanishes when it comes to matters more mysterious and arcane.

Things must be in a pretty bad way if science and reason cannot save us, and we must cast ourselves instead on Thompson's haphazard ruminations.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780312176921
Publisher:
St. Martin's Press
Publication date:
06/15/1998
Edition description:
REV
Pages:
284
Product dimensions:
5.90(w) x 9.00(h) x 1.00(d)

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