Tuesday, June 13, 2006
I liked Mr. Lachman's biographical sketch of Schwaller de Lubicz so much that I decided to buy his book. A Secret History of Consciousness covers an enormous amount of territory and does for theories about the origin and evolution of consciousness what Howard Zinn did for US history. Lachman is obviously interested in the occult and theories of evolution which fall outside the mainstream, but he avoids the casual errors of the writers of so many similar books--my favorite being a propensity by New Agers and conspiracy writers to speculate wildly and then within a few pages turn their absurd flights of fancy into accepted fact upon which to build further wild speculation. Lachman--one-time bassist for Blondie and guitarist for Iggy Pop--offers no deep insight into the theories of consciousness discussed, but does a rather extraordinary job of distilling mammoth works and theories into draughts palatable to a layman. For anyone suspicious of John Searle's absolutist materialism over the mind-body problem, or anyone with an interest in those things not "dreamt of" in Horatio's philosophy, A Secret History of Consciousness is a great read, and owes a debt to rational cataloggers of altnerative or esoteric thought like Colin Wilson. I learned some new names--Jurij Moskvitin in particular sounds interesting, as do Jean Gebser and Owen Barfield. Lachman does an excellent job of situating esoteric theorists in the context of their time and balancing them with heavyweights like William James, Hegel, Bergson, Whitehead. We get portraits of Rudolf Steiner, Madame Blavatsky, P.D. Ouspensky, etc. I'm more convinced than ever after reading Lachman's brief explanation of Steiner's phases of conscious evolution that Stanley Kubrick was a Theosophist (and perhaps Art Clarke as well). 2001 owes an obvious debt to Steiner's concepts of lunar consciousness and Jupiter consciousness, and Eyes Wide Shut resonates with Goethean/Theosphist color theory. (Some other nut has had a similar idea about Kubrick, and has been placing tiles around the world with a message about Kubrick and Toynbee (also discussed in Lachman's book) and resurrecting the dead on Jupiter.)
But I digress. A fun book, not too hysterical, but unafraid to pose interesting questions and to take pot-shots at rationalism.