Books are magical inventions. By carrying meaning, they gives us glimpses of experience and knowledge from a different world. Phonetic language, being cut-off from time and place, the Now, helps both to encapsulate the ego more, but also to offer guidance to make it poriferous, letting Eros free. Without books we would lose this guidance. And in these times of dire ecological and cultural crisis, we need new ways to respond to the ecosystem that we simultaneous are and are imbedded in. These are the books that can lift our spirits to a necessary higher existence.
If you’re done reading this list and want to level up more – check out part two!
Thus Spoke Zarathustra – Friedrich Nietzsche
Thus Spoke Zarathustra is Nietzsche’s most prophetic book in which he offers his teachings through the words of Zarathustra, based on the Persian prophet Zoroaster, who, after spending ten years on a mountain in meditation only accompanied by his Eagle and Serpent, comes down to offer his wisdom to the world. This book is proof that Nietzsche’s mighty words can still break down old metaphysical worlds only to discover a more empowering perspective lying in the ruins. This book contains his teachings of the Übermensch, Will To Power and the Death of God. It is both philosophy and literature, a brilliant master piece that will hurl the stronger readers into His abyss.
Becoming Animal – David Abram
Abram’s first book The Spell of the Sensuous convincingly argued that being human is inseparably interconnected with everything that is not human. Without this ‘Other’, which can be anything from the mating calls of paradise birds, the wetness of the rain or the smell of pine trees in fall, the human world starts only to reflect upon itself and will finally collapse unto itself. Where The Spell of the Sensuous dis-covers how phonetic script paved the way to becoming an enclosed ego which uses technology to stay abstracted from the rhythmic pulsing of the flesh, Becoming Animal re-covers how our bodied existence is full of lively intelligence, ready to be remembered, integrated into the information membrane that is us, the human and the Non-Human.
One thing that can ‘break open the head‘ is language, or should I say poetry, used in such a way that it bites its own tail, which in turn reveals that language is insufficient to deal with ‘What Is’ because it only references itself. Watts does just this. In Cloud Hidden, Whereabouts Unknown, a collection of short essays written just before he passed away, Watts plays and experiments with language so as to have an effect on the reader to see through some of our cultural illusions. He is easy understand and hard to disagree with as he deals with Tantra, Meditation, Taoism, Ego, Nature and Control.
The Story of B – Daniel Quinn
Few books carry the ability of changing the reader’s perspective so fundamentally as The Story of B. In this amazing novel, Quinn, the author of Ishmael, retells the history of mankind and the desire of our current institutions to keep this knowledge a secret. A new spiritual teacher is attracting a following by explaining a moment in our history he calls ‘The Great Forgetting’, the point where totalitarian agriculture and the ‘Fall of Man’ overlap. The church interprets this as the coming of the Anti-Christ and tries to do away with the one they call B. But who is B? In a dazzling turn of events, the book becomes self-reflexive and lures you into the circle of those who know.
Narcissus and Goldmund: A Novel – Herman Hesse
Hesse, the Novel Prize winner for literature, builds two opposite but complementing characters in this magical book called Narcissus and Goldmund. Narcissus is a man devoted to asceticism and the pursuit of rational knowledge, Goldmund grows up as a man who has a heart that flows over with passion. While Narcissus stays in the cloister, perfecting the life of self-discipline and learning, Goldmund sets out into the world to follow his senses on the path to aesthetic mastery. In the end, the two friends meet again, culminating in a poetic treatise between the abstract and the practical. What is it that makes life worth living? Is it the abstract God the Father or the lively Earth, our Mother?
Original Wisdom: Stories of an Ancient Way of Knowing – Robert Wolff
While we live in a modern world that is captivated by control and neuroses, we often forget there are more ways of knowing and Being. In this humble yet profound book, Wolff succeeds in making us look through the eyes of indigenous people and seeing a world that is fundamentally different than our own. Robert describes his experience of the Sng’oi tribe, a people who know no fear, no desires and a mastery of knowing, a knowing he calls ‘Oneness’, an intimate knowing of fundamental connectedness with everything while at the same time being this ‘Allness’. Robert juxtaposes their way of life with our modern culture, as one commenter of Amazon eloquently put: “We are brought up to act like machines only to find ourselves replaced by machines built to act like humans.” This book is a strong chemical, you can not touch it without having a reaction.
Food of the Gods: The Search for the Original Tree of Knowledge A Radical History of Plants, Drugs, and Human Evolution – Terrence Mckenna
There are many things yet still unknown about the evolution of our direct felt experience as the gaze of our attention and the co-evolution of plants and animals. Mckenna argues in his book Food of the Gods that these are closely interrelated and still necessary for human evolution today. As the world steers towards destruction, it is evident our current cultural glasses are insufficient to look for a solution. Psychedelics, especially the heroic ‘5 grams dried mushrooms alone in utter darkness’ dose has the power to upgrade our glasses completely, to get back to what makes ‘sense’ and to become more self-reflective only in order to find no self at all. And this alone, Terrence argues, will foster the creativity that is direly needed to save the world. If you dare to enter the literally forbidden world of mind-exploration, read Food of the Gods.
If you want to read a very challenging yet highly paradigma-breaking and creative update on Mckenna’s ideas, read Darwin’s Pharmacy: Sex, Plants, and the Evolution of the Noosphere (In Vivo) by Richard Doyle. For a not-so challenging but highly entertaining book on the power and need to use psychedelics read Breaking Open the Head by Daniel Pinchbeck
In a world that is dominated by ever stronger technologies designed to grab hold of your attention, a way to empower yourself is to bring that attention back to where you want it tp shine. This book offers just that, in The Attention Revolution, Wallace describes the path to attaining Shamatha, a buddhist meditation state of mind that has no flickering of distraction. It is a hard and long path, probably not possible for us to reach in this lifetime, however, even getting to stage two or three will make everything in life easier. A great introduction to meditation, The Attention Revolution will inspire you to take on the challenge and see what training your mind can actually achieve.
Original photo by June