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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Dazzling. This book changes lives.
I heard the author in a spirited public debate between him and biologist E.O. Wilson a couple years ago, at the old Town Hall in Boston. The mutual respect between the two men was palpable (perhaps because they are both outspoken advocates for wild nature). Yet they hold richly contrasting views regarding human society and its relation to the earth. Abram's eloquence...
Published on March 16 2004

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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars HMMMM....
Dr.Abram's book introduced me to a whole new way of looking at language and especially writing in relation to the sensuous earth, and for that I am grateful (and that is why i rated it a 3 out of 5). I would definitely recommend this book for anyone interested in the study of language, philosophy or the environment.
Published on Dec 31 2003 by S.J. Snyder


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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Dazzling. This book changes lives., March 16 2004
By A Customer
This review is from: The Spell of the Sensuous: Perception and Language in a More-Than-Human World (Paperback)
I heard the author in a spirited public debate between him and biologist E.O. Wilson a couple years ago, at the old Town Hall in Boston. The mutual respect between the two men was palpable (perhaps because they are both outspoken advocates for wild nature). Yet they hold richly contrasting views regarding human society and its relation to the earth. Abram's eloquence there moved me to order this book. Upon reading it I was, in a word, stunned. It's easily one of the most important works I've come upon in thirty years of serious reading.
A few of the reader reviews below are absurdly off the mark. One of them claims that the book is anti-science. That's simply inane; I'm a working biologist, and can avow that this book is entirely consonant with the best of contemporary natural science. Indeed "The Spell of the Sensuous" got a rave review in "Science" (the journal of the American Academy for the Advancement of Science). Here's a brief excerpt from that review: "A truly original work. Abram puts forth his daring hypothesis with a poetic vigor and argumentative insight that stimulate reconsideration of the technological commonplace...With Abram anthropology becomes a bridge between science and its others." (Science, vol. 275)

In any case, this is a book that NEEDS to be much more widely known. (I've just read it a second time, and I'm still reeling at the implications.) A bunch of other reviews by a range of well-known thinkers are printed in the paperback edition. I'll copy them here, since they give a fine sense of both the depth and the span of Abram's book:
"This is a landmark book. Scholars will doubtless recognize its brilliance, but they may overlook the most important part of Abram's achievement: he has written the best instruction manual yet for becoming fully human. I walked outside when I was done and the world was a different place."
~Bill McKibben, author of "The End of Nature"
"A masterpiece - combining poetic passion with intellectual rigor and daring. Electric with energy, it offers us a new approach to scholarly inquiry: as a fully embodied human animal. It opens pathways and vistas that will be fruitfully explored for years, indeed for generations, to come."
~Joanna Macy, Buddhist scholar and author
"Speculative, learned, and always 'lucid and precise' as the eye of the vulture that confronted him once on a cliff ledge, Abram has one of those rare minds which, like the mind of a musician or a great mathematician, fuses dreaminess with smarts."
~The Village Voice
"Long-awaited, revolutionary. . . This book ponders the violent disconnection of the body from the natural world and what this means about how we live and die in it."
~The Los Angeles Times
"The outer world of nature is what awakens our inner world in all its capacities for understanding, affection and aesthetic appreciation. The wind, the rain, the mountains and rivers, the woodlands and meadows and all their inhabitants; we need these perhaps even more for our psyche than for our physical survival. No one that I know of has presented all this with the literary skill as well as the understanding that we find in this work of David Abram. It should be one of the most widely read and discussed books of these times."
~Thomas Berry, author of "The Dream of the Earth"
"I am breaking a vow to cease all blurb-writing for three years, but Abram's Spell must be praised. It's so well done, well-written, well thought. I know of no work more valuable for shifting our thinking and feeling about the place of humans in the world. Your children and their children will be grateful to him."
~James Hillman, author of "Revisioning Psychology"
"The Spell of the Sensuous does more than place itself on the cutting edge where ecology meets philosophy, psychology, and history. It magically subverts the dichotomies of culture and nature, body and mind, opening a vista of organic being and human possibility that is often imagined but seldom described. Reader beware, the message is spell-binding. One cannot read this book without risk of entering into an altered state of perceptual possibility."
~Max Oelschlager, author of "The Idea of Wilderness"
"Read it and get your gourd rattled smartly."
~ Jim Harrison, author of "Legends of the Fall"
"Disclosing the sentience of all nature, and revealing the unsuspected effect of the more-than-human on our language and our lives, in unprecedented fashion, Abram generates true philosophy for the twenty-first century."
~Lynn Margulis, co-originator of the Gaia Hypothesis,
"When rumor had it that David Abram was writing a book, we expected it to be very special and very powerful. Those expectations were justified. This book has the ability to awaken us. . ."
~Arne Naess, University of Oslo, founder of "deep ecology"
"A tour-de-force of sustained intelligence, broad scholarship, and a graceful prose style that has produced one of the most interesting books about nature published during the past decade."
~ Jack Turner, in "Terra Nova"
"Nobody writes about the ecological depths of the human and more-than-human world with more love and lyrical sensitivity than David Abram. "
~Theodore Roszak, author of "Where the Wasteland Ends"
"This book by David Abram lights up the landscape of language, flesh, mind, history, mapping us back into the world..."
~Gary Snyder, author of "Turtle Island"
"David Abram's passionate knowledge of language, mythology, landscape and his meditations on the human senses - all make for highly-charged, memorable reading. Without sermon, dogma, or academic bluster, The Spell of the Sensuous deftly tours us through interior and exterior terrains of the spirit, right up to the present. This is a major work of research and intuitive brilliance, an archive of clear ideas. At the end of a century of precarious ecology, "The Spell of the Sensuous" strikes the deepest notes of celebration and alertness - an indispensible book!"
~Howard Norman, folklorist, author of "The Bird Artist"
"Brilliant in its own field of environmental philosophy, it is destined to change the way we think about linguistics, literature, anthropology, and comparative religion, as well as the living landscape around us. . . . Beautifully written, elegantly argued, immensely original, The Spell of the Sensuous is the kind of book that comes along once in a generation. Like Carson's Silent Spring, it will become the touchstone for environmental literacy in the years to come."
~ Christopher Manes, in "Wild Earth"
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5.0 out of 5 stars everyone should read, May 1 2012
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This review is from: The Spell of the Sensuous: Perception and Language in a More-Than-Human World (Paperback)
This book was suggested to me by my dissertation director. I don't hesitate to suggest it to everyone!! It's an education in itself.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Change the way you think, and the things you think will change..., Jan. 25 2011
By 
M. Auer "Nixego" (Canada) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Spell of the Sensuous: Perception and Language in a More-Than-Human World (Paperback)
Despite aboriginals being so sidelined on our society, haven't you been curious about their stories? what they mean? how it is to operate in the world without being literate and how it may affect your worldview? This book dives really deep...

It is absolutely incredible how we have taken the written word, literacy, as such a leap of human develepment. Yet where has this 'development' got us? Look around. The world is crumbling. Maybe literacy is just a tool like a knife: used to fillet a fish or to kill a fellow man...

David Abram makes you wonder: what is progress? what is time? what is truth?

If you seek enlightenment in the crazy, impersonal world we live in - READ THIS BOOK.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Cool book..., Aug. 6 2003
By A Customer
This review is from: The Spell of the Sensuous: Perception and Language in a More-Than-Human World (Paperback)
...detailing the way academic philosophy can be adapted and shaped to aesthetics and lifestyle, or an appreciation of nature. Some very nice insights, and very nice desciptions of natural/cultural processes. I would mainly recommend this to academic philosophers who never get out in the sun.
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5.0 out of 5 stars at last--, Aug. 1 2003
By A Customer
This review is from: The Spell of the Sensuous: Perception and Language in a More-Than-Human World (Paperback)
I just read the last page of Spell of the Sensuous and I am eager to read more. Having spent the summer studying western philosophy-- I found this book engaging. If the goal of philosophy is to help us make sense of the world around us and to help us strive to be "better humans" this book suceeds in a way that is urgent for the times. We have made great strides in language and science and mathmatics, but we must return from the abstract to the sensuous if we are to survive as a species.
Abrams' premise is that the development of the alphabet created an abstract world which became the foundation of western philosophy and religion, and that our involvement in this abstract world allowed us to separate ourselves for the first time from the natural world, eventually leading to this moment in time when we have all but forgotten our connection to nature.
I was especially moved by Abrahams definition of truth, that all our truths are false if they result in destruction of the planet. We must become aware of the reciprocality of the relationship we have with other living and nonliving things, including the very air we breathe.
How compelling to read that the very air for indigenous and early communities was considered sacred, connecting all living creatures with the world around them and with the creator,then to consider the relationship contemporary culture has with the invisble air, not as the breath of God, but as a dumping ground for pollution.
This book contains the framework for a new way of thinking about ourselves in the world. At the very least, it accomplishes what it sets out to do, which is to encourage an awakening of the senses. Through poetic prose, Abrams calls us outside of ourselves into a more vibrant and living world.
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5.0 out of 5 stars The most profound book I've ever read, Feb. 7 2003
By 
DavidP (Berkeley, CA United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Spell of the Sensuous: Perception and Language in a More-Than-Human World (Paperback)
There is much talk these days about a paradigm shift. I certainly hope that this is true. We really need one. And if there is, I am convinced that this book will be looked back on in the years to come as the most significant book of our times. It will be viewed as the book that cemented the shift.
I didn't think I would ever find a book like this. It not only gives beautiful expression to a world and a world of thought that I had come to think as irretrievably extinct, but it does it with so much power and background knowledge drawing with clarity and precision from many fields that are normally viewed as distinct disciplines (Philosophy, Anthropology, History, Linguistics) and puts it all together into a whole that is certainly greater than the sum of it's parts.
But it is also far more than an academic tour de force. David Abram is a magician in more than one sense. This book is itself truly a piece of magic.
For anyone who cares about planet earth, nature, mankind and our future, this book is an absolute must-read! Sure, some people will misinterpret it or read into it what they want. Maybe even reject it's basic premise outright. But if any book has the power to turn our thinking around (which I believe must happen for us to survive), this is it. Or at least, it's a fabulous start.
Good work, David!
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5.0 out of 5 stars I'm waiting for his next book, Oct. 15 2002
By 
Musher X (Ann Arbor, MI United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Spell of the Sensuous: Perception and Language in a More-Than-Human World (Paperback)
I read this and loved it. Afterward, it occurred on me that I wouldn't be able to find anything as good for quite a while so I immediately read it again. Sure its about the intertwined relationship of our perceptions, language and the environment. I expected that. What I didn't expect and was very surprised by was how, after reading 80 or so pages, I walked outside and the world looked very different, much more alive and involving than before. I think that maybe after a new kidney or heart for the sake of a transplant, this may be the best present I could get. Its a great primer for folks lost in the muck of analytic philosophy about the world they live in. And for the people that don't care about philosphy, its like a wonderful love letter to the earth. This book rocks. I am anxiously awaiting the next book from David Abram. I've been waiting for about 4 years now. Dave, are you listening? We want another book. Thanks.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A most excellent immersion, May 4 2002
By 
Sean Pearson (Upstate NY United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Spell of the Sensuous: Perception and Language in a More-Than-Human World (Paperback)
I read this for a grad-level seminar and was not expecting much substance. I was wrong, but only in the sense that this book opened my eyes to the power of language in a way that's different than immersing myself in good prose. A lifetime of reading and learning bits about other languages prepared me for the synthesis of this book, and I look forward to the summer so I can re-read it more leisurely to get even more from its rich construction.
In particular, I was fascinated by the suggestion that one name of God, "Yahweh", may actually be a symbolic representation of the Breath of Life, as the syllables correspond to the sounds of the intake and outtake of air. Abram does a better job explaining this than I can here, but it's worth reading just for that section alone, at least for me. The inference was that God would then be in all of us as the breath of life, making spirituality as real and tangible as any other part of life. It's not a religious book but that section -- maybe just a few paragraphs, really -- struck a part of me that hadn't expected to be affected by an environmentally focused book.
You might read this and have an entirely different reaction, based on your personal worldview and the symbology reflected therein. You might even find it weak or New Age-y. But if you give it a chance, you might find yourself breathing differently, too. I think that's worth the reasonable price.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Magnificent! A Literary Masterpiece!, April 24 2002
This review is from: The Spell of the Sensuous: Perception and Language in a More-Than-Human World (Paperback)
"The Spell of the Sensuous" is one of the freshest, most enlightening and insightful books I've ever read. As I turned each page I kept saying to myself, "amazing;" amazing in its wisdom, amazing in its expression, and most amazing that it has not yet received a Pulitzer Prize. David Abram, whose uncanny perception and deep understanding and appreciation of life, coupled with eloquent and inspiring presentation, has produced a significant and beautiful piece of literature for now and for all times. And it couldn't have been written at a better time, when the suffering world is examining its misplaced priorities and seeking the insight for understanding our connectedness, our interdependence, our oneness. Abram has cast his spell with brilliance and perfection. Under it, the readers and seekers are inspired in their quest.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Change Your Mind, Aug. 2 2001
By A Customer
This review is from: The Spell of the Sensuous: Perception and Language in a More-Than-Human World (Paperback)
Few books have the power to change the way we experience our existence, but this book opens up vast new horizons. Among other virtues, it includes an uncommonly accessible presentation of the key ideas of the phenomenological philosophers Husserl and Merleau-Ponty. Most amazingly, it provides an approach to understanding the human mind that somehow manages to be both abstract and very concrete. It is a compelling guide to the inner and outer worlds that we inhabit, prodding us toward a richer participation in the possibilities of those worlds.
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