May 20, 2009 § 2 Comments
Date of Publication: 1962, Tuttle Publishing
Number of Pages: 112
Synopsis (from back cover): Shinto, the indigenous faith of the Japanese people, continues to fascinate and mystify both the casual visitor to Japan and the long-time resident. This introduction unveils Shinto’s spiritual characteristics and discusses the architecture and function of Shinto shrines. Further examination of Shinto’s lively festivals, worship, music, and sacred regalia illustrates Shinto’s influence on all levels of Japanese life.
Fifteen photographs and numerous drawings introduce the reader to two millenia of indigenous Japanese belief in the kami – the sacred spirits worshiped in Shinto – and in communal life, the way of the kami.
Review: As someone who is interested in all things Japanese, I was really excited to read Dr. Sokyo Ono’s Shinto: The Kami Way. This book is held as the standard introduction to Shinto for Western readers, and for the most part, I wasn’t disappointed. The author, a recognized expert on the subject, presents Shinto to the reader in plain, simple language. The bare essentials of Shinto are explored, including the architecture and layout of Shinto shrines and the rituals and festivals that are celebrated within. Unfortunately, I was seeking a more philosophical discussion of Shinto, and the author really only includes a short chapter in the back of the book that delves into the actual beliefs of Shinto. Still, the influence of Shinto on the daily life of the Japanese is addressed throughout the book and gives Western readers a glimpse into the way the Japanese have evolved along with their indigenous beliefs. I would recommend this book to all readers interested in world religions and philosophies. This is definitely a must-read for anyone who hopes to understand the Japanese people even a little bit.
September 15, 2008 § 1 Comment
Disclaimer: Since I’ve started school, my reading time has been spent primarily on textbooks. This is one of them. I want to assure you all, though, that I will be reading fascinating things this semester and that I will review them all for this blog. Also, there are some books that have been sent to me by publishers in good faith, and I hope to have them all read and reviewed very soon. So, if you notice large gaps of time in between reviews, just know that I am feverishly reading all my assigned texts and reading everything else in between essays. Now, on with the review!
Philosophical Dictionary by Voltaire
Translated by Theodore Besterman
Date of Publication: 1764 (my edition, 2004 by Penguin Books)
Number of Pages: 400
Synopsis (from back cover): Voltaire’s Philosophical Dictionary, first published in 1764, is a series of short, radical essays, which form a brilliant and bitter analysis of the social and religious conventions that dominated eighteenth-century French thought. One of the masterpieces of the Enlightenment, this enormously influential work of sardonic wit – more a collection of essays arranged alphabetically than a conventional dictionary – considers such diverse subjects as Abraham and Atheism, Faith and Freedom of Thought, Miracles and Moses. Repeatedly condemned by civil and religious authorities, Voltaire argues passionately for the cause of reason and justice, and criticizes Christian theology and contemporary attitudes towards war and society – and claims, as he regards the world around him: “common sense is not so common”.
Review: The issues explored in this book are still relevant today. I found myself agreeing with a lot of his views, especially those on Tolerance and Beauty. His definition of beauty, of its relativism, is often repeated today: “beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” This is of course true, but often forgotten in today’s Hollywood-obsessed world. We are barraged by images of stick-thin models and actresses and told that this is the standard of beauty. The truth is, there is no standard of beauty. Even Voltaire, almost 250 years ago, understood this.
His views on Tolerance, however, are even more relevant today. In our deeply divided society, it’s becoming more and more obvious that there is a lack of tolerance. I even admit that I have had a less than tolerant attitude toward certain right-wing politicians. Voltaire also states, quite emphatically, that Christians, although their religion preaches tolerance, are actually the most intolerant people in the world. Again, I agree with this statement and believe it remains true today. I believe there is too much self-righteousness and a quickness to proselytize in modern Christianity that takes away from its message of love, peace, and yes, tolerance.
These were not the only essays that touched me. The entire book is filled with diverse subjects, and will surely appeal to a wide range of modern readers. You don’t have to agree with all his views to appreciate Voltaire’s intelligence and quick wit. I recommend this to anyone who is interested in philosophy, history, or political science, and it was a wonderful treat to get to read this for class credit!
June 4, 2008 § Leave a Comment
Date of Publication: 1994
Number of Pages: 229, including index
Synopsis (from back cover): The feminine divine is the balancing principle that has been missing from our human spiritual evolution for too long. Maiden, Mother, Crone explores our lost but vital connection with the Goddess in all her diverse and glorious myths and archetypes, with goddess lore from around the world.
Meet Siren, Ceres, Freyja, and others as you become reacquainted with your inner goddess through understanding each aspect of her: Maiden, from infant to puberty; Mother, adult and parent; and Crone, the wise elder. The simple rituals and guided meditations will help you attain awareness and strengthm while a dictionary of mythic symbols lends practical support.
Review: This was my first foray into the realm of Goddess worship, and this book is great for beginners. Conway explains the three faces of the Goddess and why she was obliterated from modern religions. The book introduces you to the Goddess slowly, then delves not only into the details of each aspect, but provides numerous examples of each face of the Goddess from around the world. I found the similarities between goddess of Asia, America, Europe, and Africa to be quite startling. It seems that almost all cultures have recognized these three aspects of the Great Goddess, and had incorporated them into their mythologies. When patriarchal societies took over, many thousands of years ago, these goddesses were lost or demoted: a great tragedy.
I found myself identifying with all three faces of the Goddess, especially the Maiden. But each can correspond to all stages in life, and I found myself relating to all of them. The meditations and rituals were helpful as practical guides, as was the symbolic dictionary (you want to know what an Ankh is? Or the significance of a cauldron?). This book can show modern people, used to living in patriarchal societies, how to reconnect to the feminine divine in their lives, leading to a more peaceful existence. I would recommend this book to anyone who is ready to start that journey and bring the Goddess back into their lives.