Books by Robert Lawlor

Released: Jan. 1, 1992

Lawlor, whose professed credentials include ``many years studying the thought forms of ancient civilizations,'' six years of living in grass huts in South India, and some time spent talking with Australian Aborigines and studying their culture, presents a remarkably comprehensive and fascinating account of the Aboriginal world view and its potential usefulness in imagining future directions for our own faltering culture. An end to our civilization is all too easy to imagine. What we Westerners are forgetting in our panicked apprehension, suggests Lawlor, is that death—of a culture or an individual—is not always such a terrible prospect when the potential for rebirth exists. Acting on the assumption that the Aboriginal culture of Australia, which is among the oldest and least altered of ``primitive'' cultures still surviving, may provide inspiration for a new and healthier cultural growth in our own polluted soil, the author painstakingly explores the Aboriginal approach to such concepts as the creation of humanity, time and space, the power of the earth's magnetic forces, kinship, life cycles, male and female roles, sexuality, death, and mysticism. Comparing the holistic, cyclical world view of the Aborigines with the compartmentalized, open- ended, and increasingly desperate nature of Western civilization, Lawlor points out that ideas that Westerners are now only beginning to rediscover—living in harmony with nature, accepting death as part of the process of life, recognizing the futility of exaggerated individualism—have long been practiced and understood by a civilization the West nearly destroyed, and may yet serve to help all of us ``dream'' of a healthier future. Lawlor's careful, accessible exploration of Aboriginal customs and beliefs, plus a spectacular collection of 20 color plates, 80 b&w photographs (many dating back to the turn of the century), and beautifully detailed line art, are truly worthwhile. And his central argument certainly is au courant—it's the same one used by Daniel Quinn in his Turner Tomorrow Award-winning novel, Ishmael (p. 1308). Read full book review >