Homage to Stretcher Bearer: The Human Oscillation Between Two Sensations of Oneness is about two different sensations of oneness that occasionally engulf us. One is often correlated with Oriental culture, the other with the Western worldview. "Oriental oneness" is a mystical perception of wholeness, which entices us to merge with an infinite void with annulling the self. In contrast, "Western oneness" is an intellectual sense of awe in the face of the grand scheme of things, which sooner or later requires us to make ethical choices. At times we spontaneously gravitate toward one and at time toward the other.
This book advocates that both sensations of oneness are not only legitimate but are essential to our well-being. We are not obliged to choose between them. Nature has blessed us with the capacity to constantly oscillate between the two and make the best of both. This is a timely message, well suited to the increased interest we take in both "halves" of our inner composition. It also points at what our evolutionary path may hold for us in the Third Millennium.
The book draws its title from French Jesuit Priest Pierre Teilhard de Chardin who was decorated for his courage as a stretcher bearer in the trenches of WWI. Afterward, when he was appointed Professor of Geology at the Catholic University of Paris his future looked bright. However, his parallel studies of religion and science created a conflict when he tried to reconcile creationism and paleontology.
Our book is about the two onenesses. This is our theme, from which will follow variations. Variations being what they are, they must start cautiously. That is to say, they must begin with gentle deviations from the main theme. They had better not gallop away from the theme too abruptly, so as to maintain continuity and, with it, harmony. Differently put, variations had better start at the beginning.
Following this prudent convention, our variations on the theme will begin with an attempt to identify the roots of the two sensations of wholeness. We will endeavor to fixate them in our inner composition, anchor them in the bottom of our soul. We will legitimize their coexistence and, by doing so, we will, it is hoped, put in place a sufficiently firm foothold for the variations that will subsequently follow.
The two onenesses are not products of our own thinking capacity. We did not invent them, as such. They do not result from conscious, head-scratching, attention-consuming mental efforts of ours. Rather, they are products of our inner structure, of the way we are. In the normal course of thinking and pondering, we do not "figure out" the two onenesses. We just gravitate toward them, simply by letting ourselves go, or letting ourselves be carried on the waves of awe. So much so, that it is almost impossible to surrender to thought, or to ponder, without being at some point overtaken by that swirl of gravity that throws us into a place where oneness dwells. At times we gravitate into the empty void, at other times into dense intellectual elation. Both are as overwhelming. By the same token, both are hardly avoidable. We do not choose to gravitate. It just happens.
There are probably many different factors that direct this flow of inner traffic that bustles within us, to one destination or to the other. There is an entire array of green and red traffic lights, alongside some amber lights of indecisiveness, that flicker in our mind and direct us to this oneness or to the other, by a traffic program the logic of which we can hardly comprehend. Whether we find ourselves in a state of thinking, or in a state of pondering, is hardly a matter of conscious choice.
The internal traffic lights that direct us to this or that state of mind come in all sorts of shapes and sizes. They vary. They reflect our mental state of the moment, our physical state, and external circumstances. In short, there exists a very rich menu of traffic lights directing us throughout the narrow, winding lanes leading to the two onenesses - so much so that we will make no attempt here to catalogue and categorize this array.
One observation that we can make, though, about how and why we navigate toward each of the two onenesses, is the following: We are generally directed at the voidish experience of wholeness when we are overwhelmed by a necessity to escape, to rest, to find shelter in a safe haven. And we are directed toward an intellectual experience of wholeness when we are overtaken by a craving for help and guidance. Soothing shelter, and a firm guiding hand, are two basic needs of ours, while constantly seeking satisfaction in the bosom of one sense of wholeness or another.
"Tolkowsky is an exacting analyzer of theories. He untangles them from their sometimes convoluted roots and uncovers the bare concepts. A stimulating read for the philosophically minded, especially for abstract thinkers and those stout with intellect." - Kirkus Reviews
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"Intellectual thought, in this instant in the form of philosophy, is broadly perceived as an intimidating force that is not worth the fight. Homage to Stretcher Bearer, takes large strides in bridging this gap, fighting that uphill battle." - The Philosophe
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