I finished The Spell of the Sensuous last night. I got the weird sense that this book was meant to be a sort of early graduation present. I feel like I’m about to graduate to the next level of my apprenticeship. Apprenticeship to what? Wisdom, I guess.
I feel like recently so many threads are converging finally—thanks to the writings or ideas of a host of people: Paul Shepard, Edith Cobb, Ellsworth Huntington, Nicholas Wade, Jared Diamond, Elizabeth Marshall Thomas, Barry Lopez, even Jung and Wilber, and now especially David Abram.
I couldn’t help but give a little grunt of disgust when I saw his book was published in 1996. All this time, this book that I so desperately needed was already out there! But I’m sure I’m only completely ready for it now, or else it would have fallen into my hands sooner. Even a year or two ago I would have definitely grasped what he was saying intuitively, but I wouldn’t yet have actually lived it. Grasping in the mind is one thing, experiencing with the body is something different entirely, so layered, rich, nuanced and sensuous.
I loved how his choice of words were often similar to mine. Sensuous is one word that we share in describing direct experience. And matrix was a word he used quite a bit to describe the totality of the earthly environment we are immersed in.
In page after page in this book came validation for me. I’d think Yes! And remember how I’ve attempted to describe the same things in this journal, albeit so much more clumsily. I couldn’t match the beauty of his language—how divinely connected to the larger matrix he must have been as he wrote, to be able to express it with such truth and beauty. I’ve been so overcome with emotion to have found another human being writing about these things—NO ONE ELSE IS!
If I quoted everything that resonated or moved me in this book, I would have to copy the whole thing down. But I do want to include a few quotes.
Here he talks beautifully about the way in which we are created by place:
The human mind is not some otherworldly essence that comes to house itself inside our physiology. Rather, it is instilled and provoked by the sensorial field itself, induced by the tensions and participations between the human body and the animate earth. The invisible shapes of smells, rhythms of cricketsong, and the movement of shadow all, in a sense, provide the subtle body of our thoughts. Our own reflections, we might say, are a part of the play of light and its reflections, “the inner—what is it, if not internalized sky?”
By acknowledging such links between the inner, psychological world and the perceptual terrain that surrounds us, we begin to turn inside-out, loosening the psyche from its confinement within a strictly human sphere, freeing sentience to return to the sensible world that contains us. Intelligence is no longer ours alone but is a property of the earth; we are in it, of it, immersed in its depth. And indeed each terrain, each ecology, seems to have its own particular intelligence, its unique vernacular of soil and leaf and sky.