Wednesday, October 15, 2014

October Book Review

Every month, we review a book from the Museum Library.

Alan Watts
The Book on the Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are
(Vintage Books)

One of our American supporters, Walter Cambra, recently donated a copy of the 60s classic of alternative philosophy, The Book on the Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are by Alan Watts.

As the title suggests, Alan Watts discusses how society and belief systems conspire to suffocate our awareness of our true relationship with the universe. Much of what he says, for example about our dependence on technology most of us don’t understand, is (perhaps depressingly) even more relevant now than it was fifty years ago.

Strongly influenced by Indian Vedanta philosophy, he argues that the distinction between the inner self and the outer universe is an illusion – an idea that will strike a chord with many who take a mystical view of magic. Rather than “a separate person caught up in a mindless and alien universe” each of us is in fact “one particular focal point at which the whole universe expresses itself.”

This is a slim book densely packed with challenging ideas, and written in just the right tone of wry indignation to be provocative and inspiring. At one point Alan Watts claims, “It is symptomatic of our rusty-beer-can type of sanity that our culture produces very few magical objects.” It is encouraging to think that our collection at the Museum of Witchcraft shows there are people trying to put this right at least! 

Reviewed by Joyce

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