Two Books

I previously mentioned that with stimulus check #2, I stimulated the economy by buying some books. Two of the seven books I purchased were the Prometheus Trust’s A Casting of Light and The Song of Proclus, compiled by Guy Wyndham-Jones, which are distributed in the USA by Opening Mind Associates which are distributed by Kindred Star Books in North America.

These have been haunting me for some time now because I wasn’t sure what they were, exactly, beyond that they are presentations of some passages by Platonists in a bite-sized manner. For the benefit of others who have been wondering the same thing, here is my assessment (semi-review? they’re not really intended for cover-to-cover reading) of them.

The two books upon my writing desk, with my glass cat paperweight. My table is currently half-saturated with sunlight, and I set this up so A Casting of Light was in the light intentionally.

They’re smaller than the Prometheus Trust’s Thomas Taylor books, and the paper and binding are very lightweight. A lot of attention has been given to the design of the pages.

Two of the pages from the morning section in The Song of Proclus.

The books contain a table of contents divided into sections by time of day: Morning, Afternoon, Evening, and Night. Each passage contains a title, i.e., “Filled with Nectar,” “Catharsis,” Cause of Corruption,” “Self-Visive Light,” “Symphonic Dance Through Life,” and “Fountain of Beauty.” In addition to the images in the upper parts of the pages, there are images in the section transitions.

Two of the pages in the afternoon section.

Incidentally, “Fruits of Delight” gives me an opportunity to talk about how I read not only this, but other texts like the Orphic Hymns. Generally, in texts that are using man in a generic sense, I verbally/mentally replace the word with people because the word people has the benefit of (a) evoking personhood and (b) de-emphasizing humanity, as humans are likely only one of many species throughout habitable worlds (and, indeed, even on Earth, considering cetaceans and elephants and so on) that have the double-edged sword of advanced cognitive capacity. I also mentally or verbally replace the antiquated gender-neutral he with the more neutral le, we/us, I/me, or they depending on the context. Especially in texts like the Orphic Hymns, which I recite while praying, I’m less concerned with a strict translation of those words than the intent behind them, which is that the people praying open ourselves to the goodness of the God(s) via prayer. Elsewhere in Thomas Taylor’s translations of Plato and Platonists, the soul is often referred to as she, and I tend to keep that because it’s coming from the noun class of the Greek word for soul, ψῡχή (psūkhḗ) in Ancient Greek or ψυχή (psychí) in contemporary Greek.

An afternoon passage from A Casting of Light.

The passages themselves are not attributed in the main section of the book. There is a guide, though, at the end of the book; this could also be useful if someone wants to scan for a specific author. I found the Hermias passage “Symphonic Dance through Life” because I noticed his name in the passage list (below) and love his Phaedrus commentary, so I went back.

And that’s that for the two books in question! I think these will be useful for reminding me of things I’ve read. The other thing I often do is open commentaries I’ve previously read to a random page, a mnemonic tactic that veers towards bibliomancy.

If you’re curious about the identities of the other five books, I bought one of the Plato volumes and a volume of Proclus’ essays and fragments from the PT via Opening Mind Associates; print-on-demand copies of Iamblichus’ De Anima and a nitty-gritty academic analysis of Proclus’ hymns; and the book After the Ecstasy, the Laundry, an interfaith contemplative compilation of essays from people who had transformative religious experiences and how they handled it afterward. This doesn’t include my eBook purchases, which I should probably mention — there’s something about the digital format that makes me forget to incorporate them into book haul counts —: Pandit Rajmani Tigunait’s The Secret of the Yoga Sutra and The Practice of the Yoga Sutra, which are more practical commentaries on the Yoga Sutras than the overly dissociating one by Bryant that I’ve been trudging through for years; L’Héra de Zeus, which will help me maintain my French while teaching me more about Hera; Ascendant II: Theology for Modern Polytheists; Twenty Worlds: The Extraordinary Stories of Planets Around Other Stars; Alien Oceans: The Search for Life in the Depths of Space; Wingbeats: Exercises & Practice in Poetry; and Host of Many: A Devotional Volume for Hades and His Retinue.

The two exoplanet books are partly for professional development, partly for research work related to my current poetry project. Wingbeats is for improving my poetic skill. I’m often struck when reading Tigunait’s Yoga Sutra commentary by how similar (with some differences, admittedly) the topics under discussion and the unfolding of the discussion resemble things that the Platonic commentators say when they discuss matters of the soul, especially in the Damascius commentary on the Phaedo that I’m reading right now. Both these passage similarities and the letter fragments I’ve previously read from Iamblichus to educated nonphilosophers who looked to him for teaching and sensemaking really drive home how cruel history has been to Mediterranean polytheistic philosophical schools and how much possibility lay (and may lie) ahead for commentary traditions to distill some of these things to interested non-philosophers.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s