Books by Martin Green

GANDHI by Martin Green
Released: July 16, 1993

In a penetrating retelling of the life of the gentle Indian revolutionary, Green (Prophets of a New Age, 1992, etc.) attributes Gandhi's peculiar brand of saintly political activism to his contact, as a law student in London, with what Green calls the ``New Age'' movement—which, the author says, included Tolstoy, Ruskin, G.B. Shaw, and others. The story of Gandhi's life is well known, but, in a genuine contribution to Gandhian scholarship, Green (who previously wrote about the Indian leader in Tolstoy and Gandhi: Men of Peace, 1983) sees Gandhi's Hindu-based devotion to ahimsa (``nonviolence'') as reinforced by his involvement, in London from 1888 to 1891, with some advocates of the New Age. This group of thinkers and writers- -who emphasized vegetarianism, pacifism, harmony with the environment, and spiritual devotion—included Tolstoy (with whom Gandhi corresponded), the vegetarian Henry Salt, and Madame Blavatsky. While Gandhi's vision may seem distinctively Indian, Green sees much of his subject's career as a realization of New Age principles, and as a uniquely British Victorian exercise in heroic myth-making: Green compares Gandhi's long exiles in Britain and South Africa, as well as his spiritual evolution and heroic death, to the careers of such Victorians as David Livingstone and Charles Gordon. Discussing Gandhi's campaigns against British rule and cultural hegemony, Green portrays his subject as a flawed man who aspired to spiritual perfection; who revolutionized India through his campaign of nonviolent noncooperation with British rule; and who, after his death, left a vacuum in India's political and intellectual life. First-rate life that reduces Gandhi to human scale without diminishing his greatness. Read full book review >
Released: June 1, 1992

Green (The Mount Vernon Street Warrens, 1990, etc.) looks at the loosely connected set of ``ideas, icons, myths, and rituals'' that have recurred toward the ends of the past few centuries in order to energize and spiritualize the arid periods in between. The author defines the current New Age—which, he says, began in the 60's—in the historical context of two earlier, primarily English, ones: that of 1776-1800, and that of 1880-1910. The three periods, Green says, share preoccupations with political change, experimental music, medicine, sex, primitivism, Orientalism, and the familiar axis of love/nature/peace/spirituality. These concerns are manifested in three voices: ``authoritarian'' (political), ``systematic'' (intellectual), and ``naive'' (idealistic), and are incarnated in such figures as Tom Paine, Tolstoy, Gandhi, and Green's own hero, Gary Snyder. The author finds relevance, resemblance, and illumination among many diverse New Age expressions, from Doris Lessing to Shirley MacLaine, Shelley to D.H. Lawrence, feminists, vegetarians, occultists, ecologists, animal rightists, even satanists and the Arthurianists, who periodically revive the search for Camelot. Green explores alternative living arrangements from Robert Owen's geometrical garden cities of 1815 to Asconia, the Swiss experimental village founded in 1900, to Haight Ashbury. Occasionally, his similarities are strained—as when he places Norman Mailer in the tradition of William Blake. Green's history—personal, associative, intuitive, presenting an immense amount of diverse materials in a coherent, imaginative, and convincing form—is itself an expression of the New Age. (Illustrations—not seen.) Read full book review >