The Spell of the Sensuous

“…civilization has turned in upon itself, isolating itself from the breathing earth.”

“…wherever the alphabet advanced, it proceeded by dispelling the air of ghosts and invisible influences–by stripping the air of its anima, its psychic depth…In the oral, animistic world of pre-Christian and peasant Europe, all things–animals, forests, rivers, and caves–had the power of expressive speech, and the primary medium of this collective discourse was air. In the absence of writing, human utterance, whether embodied in songs, stories, or spontaneous sounds, was inseparable from the exhaled breath.”

“Hebraic writing had preserved [the mystery of the air] by refraining from representing the air itself upon the parchment or the page–by refusing to image, or objectify, this unseen flux that sustains both the word and the visible world. By breaking this taboo, by transposing the invisible in the register of the visible, the Greek scribes effectively dissolved the primordial power of the air.”

 David Abram is an ecologist and a cultural historian.

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