David Abram


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--a great intro to "embodied knowldedge"--

"Land is text, and meaning is found everywhere, through movement. gesture, sound, rhythm. When you drive traditional people off the land, you drive them out of there mind." -David Abram

"David Abram's first book, The Spell of the Sensuous - hailed as "revolutionary" by the Los Angeles Times, as "daring and truly original" by Science - has become a classic of environmental literature. Now Abram returns with a startling exploration of our human entanglement with the rest of nature..."-[From] http://www.wildethics.org/becoming-animal.html

KEY QUOTES FROM "THE SPELL OF THE SENSUOUS" [Selected by David Abram] : http://www.wildethics.org/essays/key_quotes_spell_of_the_sensuous.html


"... In a thoroughly palpable sense, we are born of this planet, our attentive bodies coevolved in rich and intimate rapport with the other bodily forms--animals, plants, mountains, rivers--that compose the shifting flesh of this breathing world...So it is the elemental Earth that has lent us our proclivities and gifts, our specific styles of behavior. Our ways of moving, our modes of perception, our unique habits of thought and contemplation, have all been informed by the variegated nature of this wild-flowering world. Thus, the enfolding biosphere provides the inescapable template for our experiences of any other realm we must discover or devise...the brain did not evolve in order to understand itself...focus...back upon itself...The complex organization of the brain evolved as a consequence of our sensorial and muscled engagement with the complex, dangerous, and ever shifting landscape that surround us. The brain has thus a natural proclivity to help us orient and interact with those enigmatic surroundings...yielding an image of things profoundly informed by our animal body and its accustomed habitat...it is time to listen...it is time to unplug our gaze from the humming screen, walking out of the house to blink and piss under the river of stars. There are new stories waiting in the cool grasses, and new songs..."-David Abram (Becoming Animal pg.78-80.)

"...it is not only other animals, plants and simpler organisms that have contributed, during the course of evolution, to the unique character of the human creature, but also the fluid ocean, and the many rocks that compose the soils, and the way the mountains gather clouds above the high ridges. These planetary structures are not extrinsic to human life- they are not arbitrary or random aspects of a world we just happen to inhabit . Rather they are the constitutive powers that summons us into existence, and hence are the secret allies, the totemic guides, of all our actions. They are as much within us as they are around us; they compose the wider , deeper life of which our bodies are apart."-David Abram (p77, Becoming Animal)

"If we accept Darwin's insights, and concede that the human species has been shaped by the creative flux of evolution, then we must acknowledge that the enfolding biosphere is the very matrix within which our organism came to acquire its current form. Our senses have coevolved with the chemistry of these waters and this air, shaping themselves to the particular patterns of the animate earth. Our human eyes have evolved in subtle interaction with other, non-human eyes--our ears are now tuned, by there very structure, to the howling of wolves, and the thrumming of frogs. While gliding in huge, undulant schools through the depths of amniotic oceans, or latter, while crawling upon our bellies from puddle to puddle (our scaly skins glinting in the sun)--while racing beneath the grasses as tiny, nocturnal mammals, or leaping from branch to branch as long-tailed primates--our brainy bodies have steadily formed themselves in dynamic interaction with the textures and rhythms of terrestrial nature".-David Abram (Becoming Animal, pg. 78)

European civilization's neglect of the natural world and its needs has clearly been encouraged by a style of awareness that disparages sensorial reality, denigrating the visible and tangible order of things on behalf of some absolute source assumed to exist beyond, or outside of, the bodily world- some historians and philosophers have concluded that the Jewish and Christian traditions with there other- worldly God are primarily responsible for civilizations negligent attitude towards the environing earth... Along line of recent philosophers, stretching from Friedrich Nietzche down to the present, have attempted to demonstrate that Plato's philosophical derogation of the sensible and changing forms of the world--his claim that these were mere simulacra *of the eternal and pure ideas existing in a nonsensorial realm beyond the apparent world-- contributed profoundly to civilizations distrust of bodily and sensorial experience, and to our consequent estrangement from earthly world around us.
*a shadowy likeness; deceptive substitute. -David Abram

We have lived 98% of our evolutionary existence as hunter-gatherers carrying on an animistic conversation with every flapping form. This is what we are made of!- David Abram

New Age spiritualism regularly privileges pure sentience, or subjectivity, in abstraction from sensible matter, and often maintains that material reality is itself an illusory effect caused by an immaterial mind or spirit. -David Abram ss66"

(the assumption implicit in Christian civilization)...that the spirits of the dead persons necessarily retain their human form, and that they reside in a domain outside of the physical world to which our senses give us access. However, most indigenous tribal peoples have no such ready recourse to an immaterial world out side earthly nature. Our strictly human heavens and hells have only recently been abstracted from the sensuous world that surrounds us, from this more-than-human relm that abounds in its own winged intelligences and cloven -hoofed powers. For almost all oral cultures the enveloping and sensuous earth remains the dwelling place of both living and the dead. The "body"- whether human or other wise- is not yet a mechanical object in such cultures, but is a magical entity, the minds own sensuous aspect, and at death the body's decomposition into soil, worms, and dust can only signify the gradual reintergration of ones ancestors and elders into the living land scape, from which all,too are born. -David Abram

My family and old friends all seemed so oblivious to the sensual presence of the world. The present, for them, seemed nothing more than a point, an infinitesimal now separating the "past" from the "future". And indeed the more I entered into conversation with my family and friends, the more readily I, too, felt my consciousness cut off, as though by a sheet of reflective glass, from the life of the land. -David Abram

Linguistic meaning for him ( Merleau- Ponty ), is rooted in the felt experience induced by specific sounds and sound-shapes as they echo and contrast with one another, each language a kind of song, a particular way of "singing the world"...it is the sensuous, gestural significance of spoken sounds- their direct bodily resonance that makes verbal communication possible at all. It is this expressive potency- the soundful influence of spoken words upon the sensing body that supports the more abstract and conventional meanings we assign to those words. - David Abram

Although we may be oblivious to the gestural, somatic dimensions of language, having repressed it in favor of strict dictionary definitions and the abstract precision of specialized terminologies, this dimension remains subtly in all our speaking and writing-if that is, our words have any significance what so ever. For meaning as we have said, remains rooted in the sensory life of the body- it can not be completely cut off from the soil of direct, perceptual experience without withering and dying.- David Abram

While these theorist aim (deconstructionist) to effect a deconstruction of all philosophical foundations, Merleau-Ponty's work suggest that, under all those admittedly shaky foundations, there remains the actual ground that we stand on, the earthly ground of rock and soil that we share with other animals and plants. This dark source, to which we can readily point even in silence, will out last all our purely human philosophies as it out last all other artifactual structures we erect upon it. We would do well, then to keep our thoughts and theories close to this non arbitrary ground that already supports all our cogitations. -David Abram

Land is text, and meaning is found everywhere, through movement. gesture, sound, rhythm. When you drive traditional people off the land, you drive them out of there mind. -David Abram

[In the shaman's practice] ... we should not be so ready to interpret these dimensions as 'supernatural', nor to view them as realms entirely 'internal' to the personal psyche of the practitioner. For it is likely that the 'inner world' of our Western psychological experience, like the supernatural heaven of christian belief, originates in the loss of our ancestral reciprocity with the animate earth. When the animate powers that surround us are suddenly construed as having less significance than ourselves...When the generative earth is abruptly defined as a determinate object devoid of its own sensations and feelings, then the sense of a wild and multiplicitious otherness (in relation to which human experience has always oriented itself) must migrate, either into a supersensory heaven beyond the natural world, or else into the human skull itself- the only allowable refuge, in this world, for what is ineffable and unfathomable.-David Abram

Only by temporarily shedding the accepted perceptual logic of his culture can the sorcerer hope to enter into relation with other species on there own terms; only by altering the common organization of his senses will he be able to enter into a rapport with the multiple non human sensibilities that animate the local landscape. It is this, we might say that defines the shaman: the ability to readily slip out of the perceptual boundaries that demarcate his or her particular culture- boundaries reinforced by social customs, taboo, and most importantly, the common speech or language in order to make contact with, and learn from, the other powers in the land. His magic is precisely this heightened receptivity to the meaningful solicitations- songs, cries, gestures- of the larger, more-than-larger human field.-David Abram

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