I am finally reading Patrick Harpur's Daimonic Reality,
recommended to me over a year and a half ago when I was seeking out interesting books to wishlist for my birthday last year.
And wow... It is brain-explodey goodness. Thus far, we're into fairies, UFO sighting, religious visions, alchemy, Jung and Neoplatonism, and that's just in the first chapter or two.
I think I first started to get that little tingle of "This is going to be one of those
books!" when I read in the introduction that the book was partly an attempt to move beyond Western thought's insistence on strictly separating objective and subjective realities, something I've been wrestling with for some time.
And by "those
books" I mean the ones that draw me in enough that if I try and read them on public transit, I end up still with my nose buried in the book all the way off the subway, up the stairs, and out onto the street, until I actually physically run into someone. The ones that manage to crystallize some of the many disparate thoughts that are always circling around in my head, and bring them together into a new synthesis.
And thinking about that makes me realize, in turn, how many of the books that have had that effect on me are
syntheses -- books that cross disciplinary divides and bring together insights from seemingly unrelated areas. I think I gravitate toward those because that's a bit part of how my own mind works -- why I consistently opted for interdisciplinary programs and/or multiple majors in university (first anthropology and women's studies as a double major, then an interdisciplinary fine arts program, then environmental studies), and also why I never seem to be able to be content with any one spiritual path. I don't, like the stereotypical eclectic, lack the ability to stick with something long-term -- the fact that I've remained involved in Odyssean Wicca for 25 years should be evidence of that -- but I find that no matter where my studies are concentrated at any point in time, I'm always to some degree looking over the next hill, wondering what's over there
and how it might related to what's here.
If I try and focus exclusively
on one thing for any length of time I start feeling a sort of intellectual claustrophobia. I seem to be at my best when I'm synthesizing things, making connections, tracing patterns.
I think that sort of approach is somewhat out of favour now, at least among a lot of "serious" pagans these days. Perhaps because of the tendency of past scholars, particularly during the Victorian and Edwardian periods, to over-universalize, and look for commonalities between different cultures and traditions to the point of losing sight of their differences, and trying to force-fit everything into a common (usually Greco-Roman) model. But I think it's possible to go too far to the "splitter" side as much as to the "lumper" side. I suppose what I'm most interested in is finding a middle ground, where connections between things can be perceived without losing sight of the distinctiveness of the things being connected.
It's funny -- this is also reflected in a discussion taikakettu
and I had yesterday about one of the dynamics that seems to underlie a lot of our arguments. She tends to focus very much on specifics and I focus more on patterns or overall trends. Often, I'll want to discuss some pattern I see developing in our lives or our relationship, and she'll want specific, concrete examples, but I can't always think of them. Our levels of focus seem to be different... Which does not make either her perceptions or mine invalid, but means we sometimes seems to cause a sort of cognitive disconnect. I'm Forest Girl and she's Tree Girl.
Anyway, enough on that for now. My main point bringing this up was just to say that (a) Daimonic Reality
is thus far shaping up to be a great
book, which I will probably soon be urging everyone I know to read, and (b) many thanks to wire_mother
for recommending it!
I shall attempt a Real Journal Update sometime soon. It's been a while.