Franz Brentano

Franz Brentano

“Those who knew Franz Brentano, even if only through his work, saw him as representing modern man, struggling with the riddle of the universe … he was first and foremost a thinker, one who did not allow his thinking to wander at random … Franz Brentano himself estimated that his work on psychology would fill five volumes, but only the first volume was published. It is fully understandable to someone who knew him well why no subsequent volumes appeared … In order to find answers to the questions facing him after the completion of the first volume of Psychology he needed spiritual knowledge. But spiritual science he could not accept and, as he was above all an honest man, he abandoned writing the subsequent volumes. The venture came to a full stop and thus remains a fragment.” — Rudolf Steiner, from Aspects of Human Evolution, Lecture Five, 1917.

Introduction:

Now I See … is a page and an opportunity for Anthroposophists to present reviews of non-anthroposophical books in such categories as non-fiction, scholastic or academic, history, science, biography, autobiography, and the paranormal.  The books do not need to be current or recently published, and most should raise the disturbing question as to why Rudolf Steiner’s name — or Anthroposophy or Spiritual Science — is not included in the index and in the contents, and when the absence of these resources or answers is felt to be something of an acute or tragic loss, or at the very least as a serious omission. Another kind of book appropriate for review will be of interest to Anthroposophists due to its timely and relevant subject (such as Soul Survivor: The Reincarnation of a WWII Fighter Pilot, by Bruce and Andrea Leininger, about their son, James Leininger).

The reviews submitted should not be critical, but should be written with a thoughtful, deeply questioning and sympathetic point of view, similar to Rudolf Steiner’s quotation about the work of Franz Brentano, above.

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Psychism, Analysis of Things Existing; Essays, by Paul Gibier, MD, is published by ForgottenBooks.com. Forgotten Books, from the London-based publisher, Dalton House, “…utilizes the latest technology to regenerate facsimiles of historically important writings.” The books can be read on-line, downloaded as a PDF, or purchased in print. Psychism was originally published in the third edition in 1899 by the Bulletin Publishing Company, New York.

Paul Gibier (1851-1900) was a French doctor and bacteriologist who founded and became the Director of the New York Pasteur Institute. He was an active member of the Society for Psychical Research in London and gradually became known for studies and experimentations in the areas of psychic phenomena, subjects that he approaches with youthful enthusiasm and unbounded energy. “We must acknowledge that to the author has been given privileges granted to few men, but it is because having once been awakened by a most simple fact, he became eager to know and found time to seek those things which he has seen.” Criticized by many scientists and physicians of his day – including his teacher, Louis Pasteur (1822-1895) – he argues brilliantly and tirelessly in his book for increased understanding of psychism, e.g., telepathy, lucid somnambulism, clairvoyance, clairaudience and spiritualistic phenomena, because these things exist. Regarding the numerous naysayers, he writes that such subjects “do not appear to have attained the required degree of respectability for their introduction to the scientific societies and journals where the gentlemen alluded to exercise their pontifical functions.”

The book consists of four Parts divided into Chapters. Part III is the longest, with seven Chapters extending from pages 79 to 261. The title would be better without the addition of Essays, which according to the dictionary usually deals with subjects from a limited or personal point of view. The topics in this book are in no way limited in scope, and very little that is personal is given by the author, except for his vehement defense of psychism throughout, as well as through the work of the Society for Psychical Research.

To list some of the subjects that are delineated in summaries at the head of each chapter or are included in the chapters: the macrocosm and microcosm, the materialization of matter, the night of Brahma, the rapidity of the nervous current through the nerves, the causes which operate to breed disagreement among philosophers; the Procustean bed of ideas and facts; the Egyptian, Chaldean and Hindoo schools from which their inspiration was gathered by Pythagoras; the Neo-Platonicians, the Kabbalists, the Theosophists and the “spirits” of modern spiritualists; Pythagoras on the recollection of anterior lives; the facts which show that the mind may receive communications from other sources than the ordinary ones of the organs, etc.

The book is unfortunately missing a thorough index, although a Table of Contents at the end of the book lists again the Summaries of all the Parts and Chapters. 

After the long historic, scholastic and richly informational chapters of the book, Dr. Gibier begins to describe the personal spiritual experiences of others in Chapter III of Part III, titled A Study of the Psychical Constitution of Man. He progresses from haunting dreams of warnings, through the results obtained from hypnotism and suggestion (“…no subject will ever be placed under its influence without a preliminary conscious permission”) to mediumistic conveyances and “speaking ecstasy.” In Chapter VI of the lengthy Part III he finally arrives at a very critical and important junction in the book with his confession of terrifying and devastating experiences that occurred while he and others were conducting experiments with séances or “phenomenal psychism” in (unfortunately) an old anatomy lab in Paris in 1886. “We confess that our studies in this branch were followed with the customary fearlessness attributed to youth.” There follows a real life horror story, in graphic detail, that could well have led to serious illness or the death of the medium.

What Paul Gibier conveys about Louis Pasteur’s responses to the subject of psychism is one of the treasures of the book. From page 222:

“Our lamented teacher, Louis Pasteur, to whom we presented, in July, 1889, a new edition of one of our books on matters psychic, looked at us half reproachfully, and said: ‘How dare you meddle with a subject so dreamy, misty and intangible, wherein human reason finds nothing to grasp and is lost, when it is already so difficult to make more than groping paces on the grounds of investigation where we deal with objective matters falling under the control of our senses?’

‘Dear respected professor,’ we responded, ‘we can affirm to you that the matter on which this book treats may be placed under the ‘control of our senses’ as easily as are the erstwhile invisible microbes which, for the great benefit of mankind, you have been so fortunate as to ably reduce at command.’

“His intelligent face, at this assertion, became stern and thoughtful, and he appeared surprised. He remained silent for a while, then promised us to peruse our work. We have the impression that, while we write these lines, his spirit hovers over us and speaks approval of the work we are now preparing. Of the book we offered him, alas, he never spoke, for the Angel of Death had touched his brow!”

According to Wikipedia, Dr. Paul Gibier was killed in an accident with a runaway carriage in June 1900.

Paul Gibier on Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paul_Gibier

Louis Pasteur on Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Louis_Pasteur

See Rudolf Steiner’s Lectures on True and False Paths in Spiritual Investigation –  https://wn.rsarchive.org/Lectures/GA243/English/RSP1985/TrFa85_index.html

Psychism, Analysis of Things Existing; Essays is available as a Forgotten Books publication on Amazon.com.

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Finding Atlantis, A True Story of Genius, Madness, and an Extraordinary Quest for a Lost World, by David King. Published by Three Rivers Press, an Imprint of the Crown Publishing Group, New York, 2005.

Finding Atlantis is a 309-page book about Olof Rudbeck (Swedish, 1630-1702). The author writes that when Rudbeck was around the age of forty he began making careful studies of the old maps of Scandinavia, and he threw himself into the new world he was envisioning, Atlantis. “The lost world of Atlantis, Rudbeck was growing convinced, had actually been in Sweden! Its capital was in fact just outside the university, in a place called Old Uppsala.”

“Many Greek and Latin writers had recorded impressions about the Hyperboreans, and a number of Swedish thinkers had started to wonder if this enigmatic nation might have been located in the far north of Sweden.” Olof Rudbeck had no doubt about it.

The young Olof is described by the author as an almost inexhaustible optimist. He studied music, medicine, anatomy and dissection, and in 1655 he was offered a position with the medical faculty of the Uppsala University. He designed and helped construct a large university building, an arena-like Theatrum anatomicum or “anatomy theater.” He is today credited with the discovery of the lymphatic system (although a contemporary had made the discovery at the same time). Through his interest in plant life he created a large botanical garden, a work he regarded as a privilege. The garden is still in existence today in Uppsala and is known as the Linnaeus Garden, after a student of Olof Rudbeck the Younger, Carl Linnaeus. Rudbeck’s “measurements of the age of old monuments and graves by the thickness of the humus accumulated over them… anticipated the methods of modern archaeology.”

In keeping with his prosperous life, Olof married Vendela Lohrman, and according to the author’s Notes, this was by all accounts a happy marriage and the couple were blessed with seven children.

By July of 1670, however, the university began having serious financial problems, and Rudbeck, then a full professor and the rector of the university, was heavily criticized by his colleagues for his excesses, e.g., the size of the anatomy theater, and his increasingly costly search to prove that Plato’s Atlantis was in Sweden. There was also serious opposition to Rudbeck’s recognition of Cartesianism (René Descartes, 1596-1650, died in Stockholm). Rudbeck’s interest in Descartes would seem to indicate that he was not a man out of his time, nor was he losing his faculties in the Hyperborean mists. Read more…

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Silent Road - Tudor Pole

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The Silent Road, in the Light of Personal Experience,

by Wellesley Tudor Pole.

Published by Neville Spearman, The C.W. Daniel Company, LTD, Great Britain, 1960-1987.

Wellesley Tudor Pole, 1884-1968, was 76 years old when The Silent Road was published in 1960. The initial publication was followed by a series of five impressions, the last made in 1987. Tudor Pole writes in the Foreword of the book: “The search for Truth is a personal and solitary adventure. All we can do is to share ideas with one another, in the hope that by doing so the light of understanding may bring us a little nearer to Reality. In the long run it is through silence, and not through speech, that Revelation is received.”

There is a quote on the back of the title page that reads, “Jesus said: ‘Let not him who seeks cease until he finds, and when he finds he shall be astonished; astonished he shall reach the Kingdom, and having reached the Kingdom he shall rest.” – From the Oxyrhynchus Papyrus, Third Century A.D.

Tudor Pole further prepares his readers for the extraordinary supernatural accounts in this book with a short first chapter that is titled Passers By: “There is a saying attributed to Jesus which is recorded in an early Coptic script found in Nag Hamadi, Egypt, some years ago. According to this saying, Jesus enjoined those around him to learn how to regard their present existence on earth from the standpoint of a traveler in transit. (And Jesus said: ‘Learn to become Passers By’ – The Gospel According to Thomas.) This would suggest the wisdom of regarding life on earth as a temporary phase in a journey that acts as a link between a pre-existence and a future life. In my view such an attitude of mind can become the first step towards the extension of our perceptions and the widening of our understanding. It is my hope that the sharing of my personal experience in this field of research may prove of some service to those who are seeking but who have not yet found.”

In the lifelong heavenly experiences that Tudor Pole shares in this book (consisting of two Parts and 24 chapters), it is obvious through all processes and challenges that his feet have remained firmly on the ground. He was a businessman in industry, an Army officer in World War I, and the founder, with Winston Churchill, of the Big Ben Silent Minute in 1940, at the time of Dunkirk. (The Silent Minute is observed in the United States on Memorial Day, as well as after certain tragic events on a national scale.) Read more…

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Human and Cosmic Thought, by Rudolf Steiner

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Four Lectures by Rudolf Steiner, given in Berlin, January 1914.
Published by the Rudolf Steiner Press, 1961.
Reprinted in 1991, and in 2015 with a revised translation by Charles Davy.

The note at the beginning of the book regarding the need for specialized anthroposophical knowledge is discouraging for general readers. It would be better to provide Notes on the Lectures at the back of the book, clarifying certain aspects with one or two paragraphs. A note at the beginning could state that knowledge of the zodiac, the planets, and a genuine astrology will be helpful.

Lecture One is about the nature of thought and processes of thinking. “When man holds to that which he possesses in his thought, he can find an intimate relation of his being to the cosmos.” A brief history of thought is given, from the time of ancient Greece to the twentieth century. In Greece, thought took the form of pictures as a last phase of the old clairvoyance. The Middle Ages brought nominalism, which is a rejection of universal concepts. Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) tried to refute the proof of God by showing that one could not derive the existence of a thing out of a concept. Fritz Mauthner (1849-1923) cast doubt on any need for logic, as “thinking, for him, is merely speaking.” Rudolf Steiner calls for mobility in thought from a general concept using the example of a triangle. A triangle should not be thought of as a static thing but should be imagined or visualized as in continual motion, right-angled and obtuse-angled, while still a triangle. This is an example of the advance of thought from form to movement, from the realm of the Spirits of Form (the Urpflanze) to the realm of the Spirits of Movement (the Urtier).

At the beginning of Lecture Two, the need for a living grasp of what thinking involves in terms of actualities is stressed, as there are countless misunderstandings regarding the ideas people have about the world, and about one another. One man upholds certain views with many good reasons, while another has equally good reasons for his view. Rudolf Steiner begins to build what he refers to as the twelve mental zodiacal signs (Geistes-Tierkreisbilder), which are recognizable from their effects on the human soul. The mental zodiac, in the twelve shades of world-outlook, is illustrated by first placing Materialism in Cancer at the top, and its opposite sign of Spiritism in Capricorn at the bottom. A connection is then made between the two sides of the center, the 180 degree point, with a line between Idealism in Aries and Realism in Libra. Materialism extends down, on the viewers left side, to Mathematism in Gemini and Rationalism in Taurus, and then to Idealism. Beneath the central line is Psychism in Pisces and Pneumatism in Aquarius. Upward from Capricorn, on the viewers right, but still below the central line, is Monadism in Sagittarius and Dynamism in Scorpio. Above Libra at the center is Phenomenalism in Virgo and Sensationalism in Leo. The twelve world-outlooks are carefully described in the book, and there can be no more than these twelve, although variations in the outlooks can exist between the signs.   Read more…

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