29.10.14

Free Will Hunting

Alfred R. Mele. Free: Why Science Hasn't Disproved Free Will. Oxford University Press. (November 13 2014)

Does free will exist? The question has fuelled heated debates spanning from philosophy to psychology and religion. The answer has major implications, and the stakes are high. To put it in the simple terms that have come to dominate these debates, if we are free to make our own decisions, we are accountable for what we do, and if we aren't free, we're off the hook.

There are neuroscientists who claim that our decisions are made unconsciously and are therefore outside of our control and social psychologists who argue that myriad imperceptible factors influence even our minor decisions to the extent that there is no room for free will. According to philosopher Alfred R. Mele, what they point to as hard and fast evidence that free will cannot exist actually leaves much room for doubt. If we look more closely at the major experiments that free will deniers cite, we can see large gaps where the light of possibility shines through.



26.10.14

Rock On

Peter Bebergal. Season of the Witch: How the Occult Saved Rock and Roll. Tarcher (October 2014)

This epic cultural and historical odyssey unearths the full influence of occult traditions on rock and roll—from the Beatles to Black Sabbath—and shows how the marriage between mysticism and music changed our world.

From the hoodoo-inspired sounds of Elvis Presley to the Eastern odysseys of George Harrison, from the dark dalliances of Led Zeppelin to the Masonic imagery of today’s hip-hop scene, the occult has long breathed life into rock and hip-hop—and, indeed, esoteric and supernatural traditions are a key ingredient behind the emergence and development of rock and roll.

With vivid storytelling and laser-sharp analysis, writer and critic Peter Bebergal illuminates this web of influences to produce the definitive work on how the occult shaped—and saved—popular music.

As Bebergal explains, occult and mystical ideals gave rock and roll its heart and purpose, making rock into more than just backbeat music, but into a cultural revolution of political, spiritual, sexual, and social liberation.


22.10.14

Hermetic Mysteries

Joseph P. Farrell. Thrice Great Hermetica and the Janus Age: Hermetic Cosmology, Finance, Politics and Culture in the Middle Ages Through the Late Renaissance. Adventures Unlimited Press (30 Oct 2014)

What do the Fourth Crusade, the exploration of the New World, secret excavations of the Holy Land and the pontificate of Innocent the Third all have in common? Answer: Venice and the Templars. What do they have in common with Jesus, Gottfried Leibniz, Sir Isaac Newton, Rene Descartes and the Earl of Oxford? Answer: Egypt and a body of doctrine known as Hermeticism.

In this book, noted author and researcher, Joseph P. Farrell, takes the reader on a journey through the hidden history of the Middle Ages, the Renaissance and early Enlightenment, connecting the dots between Venice, international banking, the Templars and hidden knowledge, drawing out the connections between the notorious Venetian Council of Ten, little known Venetian voyages to the New World and the sacking of Constantinople during the Fourth Crusade. That hidden role of Venice and Hermeticism reached far and wide, into the plays of Shakespeare (a.k.a. Edward DeVere), Earl of Oxford, into the quest of the three great mathematicians of the Early Enlightenment for a lost form of analysis and back into the end of the classical era, to little known Egyptian influences at work during the time of Jesus.


20.10.14

Symbols and Beliefs

Micah Issitt and Carlyn Main. Hidden Religion: The Greatest Mysteries and Symbols of the World’s Religious Beliefs. ABC-CLIO (October)

Covering secret societies, mysterious ancient traditions, and the often-mistaken history of the world's religious symbols, this book takes readers on a tour through the fascinating world of religious symbolism and reveals the most mysterious and misunderstood facets of religion.

Hidden Religion: The Greatest Mysteries and Symbols of the World’s Religious Beliefs not only explores the history and origins of widely recognizable symbols, like the Christian cross and the Star of David, but also introduces readers to more obscure symbols from religious traditions around the world—even defunct ones like those of the ancient Aztec and Mayan societies. In addition, the book discusses the "religious secrets" found in the major religions, including secret societies of Christianity, Judaism, Islam, and Buddhism.

Containing more than 170 entries, the encyclopedia is organized by religious category, such as Abrahamic, East Asian, and African Diasporic religions, then alphabetically within each category. Each entry is prefaced with a short introduction that explains where and when the religious tradition originated and describes the religion today. This information is followed by an analysis of the historical development and use of symbols along with an explanation of connections between symbols used by different religions, such as shared astrological symbolism in the form of moon, sun, or star motifs.


17.10.14

Rethinking Conspiracies

Are conspiracy theories good for us? This book seems to suggest the possibility:

Chris Fleming, Emma A. Jane. Modern Conspiracy: The Importance of Being Paranoid. Bloomsbury Academic (23 Oct 2014)

While conspiracy theory is often characterized in terms of the collapse of objectivity and Enlightenment reason, Modern Conspiracy traces the important role of conspiracy in the formation of the modern world: the scientific revolution, social contract theory, political sovereignty, religious paranoia and mass communication media.

Rather than seeing the imminent death of Enlightenment reason and a regression to a new Dark Age in conspiratorial thinking, Modern Conspiracy suggests that many characteristic features of conspiracies tap very deeply into the history of the Enlightenment: its vociferous critique of established authorities and a conception of political sovereignty fuelled by fear of counter-plots, for example. Perhaps, ultimately, conspiracy theory affords us a renewed opportunity to reflect on our very relationship to the truth itself.


15.10.14

Up North

An anthology of folklore and memorates, collected long before current interest in 'forteanism', 'cryptozoology' and 'contemporary legend'.

Michael Edmonds. Blue Men and River Monsters: Folklore of the North. Wisconsin Historical Society Press (14 Oct 2014)

The north is a treasure trove of folklore. From magical creatures of the old country to legends of the mysterious and macabre, this lore is a record of the stories people held on to and the customs, foods, and cures that filled their lives. Collected in the 1930s as part of the Federal Writers' Program, a Depression-era works project, these are the stories of Norwegian and Swiss immigrants, Native American medicine men and storytellers, and pioneers with memories of the earliest days of settlement in the Old Northwest.

In search of stories, legends, songs, and other scraps of traditional knowledge, researchers fanned out across Wisconsin and other states. The resulting handwritten notes, thousands of pages in length, capture history as people remembered it. Blue Men and River Monsters collects the most interesting and noteworthy of these tales, placing them alongside stunning artwork collected by the Federal Art Project in Wisconsin. Peruse these pages and discover a new history of the people and places of the old north.


Literature and Science

Examining the philosophical and scientific revolution in England at the time of the first Elizabeth.

Mary Thomas Crane. Losing Touch with Nature: Literature and the New Science in Sixteenth-Century England. Johns Hopkins University Press (16 Oct 2014)

During the scientific revolution, the dominant Aristotelian picture of nature, which cohered closely with common sense and ordinary perceptual experience, was completely overthrown. Although we now take for granted the ideas that the earth revolves around the sun and that seemingly solid matter is composed of tiny particles, these concepts seemed equally counterintuitive, anxiety provoking, and at odds with our ancestors’ embodied experience of the world. In Losing Touch with Nature, Mary Thomas Crane examines the complex way that the new science’s threat to intuitive Aristotelian notions of the natural world was treated and reflected in the work of Edmund Spenser, Christopher Marlowe, William Shakespeare, and other early modern writers.

Crane breaks new ground by arguing that sixteenth-century ideas about the universe were actually much more sophisticated, rational, and observation-based than many literary critics have assumed. The earliest stages of the scientific revolution in England were most powerfully experienced as a divergence of intuitive science from official science, causing a schism between embodied human experience of the world and learned explanations of how the world works. This fascinating book traces the growing awareness of that epistemological gap through textbooks and natural philosophy treatises to canonical poetry and plays, presciently registering and exploring the magnitude of the human loss that accompanied the beginnings of modern science.