Books… • 28 September 2009

Ok yes, books make lousy fetishes. I dislike them because they are hard to live with, distrust them when they gather in showy groups, and idealize a relationship to writing that keeps alive what’s relevant and doesn’t cling to thoughts from the past. Living words, interesting; personal libraries, much baggage.

Perfect Bound Moon

But… it is good to glimpse an intellectual history. It is good to be reassured that people who do read deeply (will people still read books in 50 years?) are not reading pop spirituality. Since the latter is what crowds shelves everywhere (how many trees died so we could idly cogitate about The Now?… we'd do better watching Ramesh Balsekar on youtube), I forget there is a whole world of metaphysical writing apart from recent offerings by spontaneously awakened saints proffering insane and useless (!) methods for getting what they found quite by accident, novels and autobiographies of white people “finding themselves” by neo-colonizing countries where leisure is cheap, and ancient love poems that I’ve already read on the flash-animated intro pages of every yoga vanity website. But many beautiful things were written before the internet, and before the publishing industry turned into a big 4th-grade-level funnel of blah. 

I’ve been living for a few days in a worn-down, living library, not really reading anything but paging through all kinds of 20th century works and translations would never suggest I view. A few titles at semi-random…

Freedom from the Known – J. Krishnamurti (Oh my GOD)

The Polarity Process – Sills

Practical Mysticism – Underhill (challenging and disturbing: diamond-studded mystic nationalism)

Awakening the Spine – Scravelli (amazing images and history of the first western generation)

Focusing – Gendling

The Tibetan Book of the Dead – Fremantle & Trungpa, eds. (very accessible version)

Zen Action/ Zen Person – Kasulis (phenomenology for everybody)

The Vedas, the Ramayana, the Maharabata, etc. etc. (Menton’s trans. of the Ramayana…)

The Alchemical Body – D Gordon White (magisterial)

Sri Krishnamacharya the Purnacarya

Looking from Within – A.S. Dalal

The Unstruck Bell – Nilgiri

Full Catastrophe Living – Kabat-Zinn (for your mom)

One Taste – Wilber (his journals from one year – actually a delight)

Kindly Bent to Ease Us – Longchenpa’s Vajrayana commentary trans. Guenther

The Ochre Robe – Bharati (before neo-colonial autobiography)

Contemplative Prayer – Merton (perfect to give to the right person)