Tuesday, September 27, 2011

New Books

I am madly, madly scurrying to finish my thesis, and beginning to realise the annoyance of not having key books at home. So in my attempt to remedy this I have a new pile of books exclusively for research. From the top:

Jung and Tarot by Sallie Nichols - Jung becomes increasingly important as my dissertation progresses, so I am trying to buy what I can cheaply. And this subject would normally intrigue me anyway.

On The Social Contract by Jean-Jacques Rousseau - The thing that bothers me with this is that I once owned a copy (from my old days of studying political science) but got rid of it in one of my book purges. Never do a book purge.

The Rampa Story by Lobsang Rampa - I think I read this when I was a teenager. When I was putting together a seminar on Buddhism and self-help I suddenly found myself referring to Rampa a lot - have to go back and re-visit the old rogue.

The Mystic Life of Alfred Deakin by Al Gabay - Theosophical history in Australia.

True You by Janet Jackson - Well....it IS self-help, though. I love Janet!

Thorson's Principles of Jungian Spirituality by Vivianne Crowley - I'm a bit of a dunce, and when I discovered this one at the Theosophical Society library I actually found it immensely helpful in understanding Jung, so I bought my own copy.

The Buddha Book by Lillian Too - This is just such a beautiful book! Ostensibly for my chapter on Eastern Religion.

Four Archetypes by C. G. Jung - My supervisor was very keen on me extending on the uses of Jungian archetypes in self-help, so I thought I'd better read up.

Meditations by Marcus Aurelius - Funny how this has been revived in recent years as a self-help book. One discoveres it cited everywhere now. Thought I should actually read the whole thing.

Sartre in the Seventies by Jean-Paul Sartre - The seventies were pretty cool, and I wanna get a bit of Sartre in to my thesis.

Mysticism: The Experience of the Divine - This is very slight, and not at all what I expected. Doubt it will be useful.

Adieux: A Farewell to Sartre by Simone de Beauvoir - See above.

C. G. Jung Speaking by William McGuire and R. F. C. Hull

Aion by C. G. Jung

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Walter Mason now has a Tumblr Account

For what it's worth, I have just started a Tumblr account, where I post moderately interesting stuff every day.
Do come over and visit and even follow me if you like.


Thursday, September 8, 2011

Some new books to explore

In the absence of time to read a lot of books very carefully and provide detailed, academic and nuanced reviews, here are some overviews of books I've been looking at:

Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway is one of the self-help classics of the 1980s. Apart from having an exceptionally good title, it is also written in a lively and engaging manner, is intensely practical and on the whole was probably deserving of its bestseller status. The author Susan Jeffers is a psychologist, and uses her autobiography quite skillfully in the book as inspiration and moral lesson. Like some other self help greats (How To Win Friends and Influence People), Feel the Fear... started life as a course at a community college, and is filled with stories of students and patients that Jeffers has known in the course of her professional life. I've actually read the book several times, and have found it incredibly helpful over the years. Indeed, it is one that I often recommend to people. Strangely, I haven't quite been able to situate it in my thesis, and so far it remains un-referenced in my dissertation. I continue to read it, however (and I have the audio version, too!).

The use of axiom, proverb and pithy sayings is endemic in self-help literature, and whenever I come across a particularly hoary old one I am always drawn back to Benjamin Franklin's Poor Richard's Almanack, the source of so many nuggets of popular wisdom, such as:

"Light purse, heavy heart." "To lengthen thy life, lessen thy meals."


"He that won't be counsell'd, can't be help'd."

This collection of folk sayings was drawn from Franklin's years of publishing a popular yearly almanac. It really is the most extraordinary book, and quite fun. I recommend you read it.

I have been aware of the work of Geneen Roth for many years. She was big in the 80s and popularised the idea of compulsive eating. She seems to have moved beyond the addiction model now, and in this, her most recent bestselling book, she seems to be associating obesity with a lack of spirituality. Oprah loved this book and featured an interview with Roth talking about Women, Food and God in her final series, thereby guaranteeing the book's enormous success. Like many of the writers that emerged from the recovery movement, Roth is compulsively confessional (her books are very similar in style to those of Melody Beattie), and she uses this confessional mode to establish quite an intense intimacy with her readers. This book is quite mystical in tone, as the title would warn, and veers occasionally into the downright enigmatic, with Roth toying with ideas that seem inspired by both Zen Buddhism and Vedanta. Interesting that the publisher took the risk of identifying this book as being solely for women, when in fact its content is not so exclusive that it would rule out a male readership. They obviously know who's going to be buying the book. Still, I'm not sure I would have chosen that title, and as it is I am too embarrassed to read the book on the train.

Just a gripe - this book's jacket design does what every bookseller in the world hates the most: it puts the subtitle ("50 Lessons to Find and Hold Happiness") above the book's actual title (Life's Little Detours) and in clearer font. This means that 90% of people will remember the book by the subtitle (I do), which means when they look for it on-line or go into a shop and ask for it...well, you can figure out why this is a disaster. It's a lovely little book, in the age-old "Numbered List" format ("50 Lessons...") which seems to be eternally popular. Each lesson started life as a newspaper column, and the author's sparing, journalistic style makes this book all the more successful and readable. I bought it on a whim when I was absently wandering through a bookshop, and liked the few pages I read. Not sure that it belongs anywhere in my dissertation, though.