December 24, 2003

The Screwtape Letters & Mysticism, in these critical times...

Posted at 03:44 AM Newsgroups

A suggestion for the Critical Texts for Critical Times page...

From: "Drew Clausen"
To: [Helprin List]
Sent: Thursday, September 20, 2001 6:56 AM
Subject: Re: [Helprin] Critical Texts for Critical Times

I've just finished reading C.S. Lewis's "The Screwtape Letters" for this first time (after many aborted attempts) and if you're open to something that's not "eastern" in thought or philosophy, I would definitely add this one to your list. Everyone knows the "plot," right? Through a series of letters, an elder demon instructs his nephew in the art of temptation.

What makes this book timely is that it is set at the start of World War II, and much of the conversation concerns the "patient's" thoughts and attitudes about war and his view of the enemy.
From: "Patrick Jennings"
To: [Helprin List]
Sent: Thursday, September 20, 2001 2:55 PM
Subject: Re: [Helprin] Critical Texts for Critical Times

Thanks Drew,

My reading list is growing by leaps and bounds for while I've some dim memory of it as a topic of discussion, I have not yet read "The Screwtape Letters." Given the quantity and quality of reviews it receives on the net, I'll add it to the list. CS Lewis also gathered three words together creating that most provocative of titles, "That Hideous Strength," a combination that has always struck a chord with me. I'm looking forward to fulfilling this addition on my reading list.

<grin> Philosophies other than Eastern are most welcome. For example, last night I added Martin Luther King Jr. to the list. Doris Lessing is somewhat influenced by Sufism, but Stanley Milgram is of a Western mind built upon the foundation of empirical science. Noam Chomsky is a secular Jew while John Ralston Saul, Kurt Vonnegut, Mark Twain and Nadine Gordimer span a wide experience and varied insight of Westernism. Heck, I've even got the philosophy of Hollywood in there ;-)

Still Buddhism and Daoism have an undeniable pull on me, though I'm certainly no practicing Buddhist or Daoist. (Don't even meditate.) A friend of mine cycled through China into Pakistan & Afghanistan a few years back, managing to get arrested a couple times in China and play with automatic weapons, anti-air guns and ride tanks with the Taliban in Afghanistan. The next year, I cycled across China, never got arrested once, spending my most memorable moments with Tibetan and Mahayana monks. Sometimes I envy the excitement of my friend's path, though not very often and not for very long.

The Dao De Jing is a gentle antidote to the hatred and ignorance professed by both those who we call enemies and those we more typically consider allies. And while it seems on the surface rather unWestern, it's not so 'alien' to the West as Helprin would have us believe. This has been demonstrated (lovingly and brilliantly) in Benjamin Hoff's "The Dao of Pooh," and is obvious from any considerate reading of the New Testament for that matter.


Presently contemplating:
The Screwtape Letters - C. S. Lewis

Presently contemplating:
The Dao De Jing - Lao Zi - Stephen Mitchel (trans.)

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