THE BELL NOTES: Journey from Physics to Metaphysics by Arthur M. Young

THE BELL NOTES: Journey from Physics to Metaphysics

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Excruciating diaries (1945-47) of a gifted engineer who fancied himself a religious philosopher. Young was a pioneer in the development of the helicopter in the Thirties and Forties (in 1941 he assigned his patents to Bell Aircraft and went to work for the company), but what he really dreamed about was the psychopter, ""the winged self."" After years of experimentation and several fatal crashes, the Bell helicopter became a triumphant success, but the psychopter never got off the ground--not in these disjointed and pretentious notes anyway. Young's journal is flawed from the outset by a fundamental hypocrisy: on the one hand, he treats the process of scientific invention and his role in it as a minor distraction, just so much samsara. On the other hand, he is full of self-importance and fiercely jealous of competitors. This leads to, among other things, the ironic result that the only time Young stirs our interest is when he's talking nuts and bolts. When he takes off on metaphysical flights--speculations on ESP, ruminations on a silly koan, ""What the horse eats in California, the ox digests in Maine""--he curdles the page with boredom. He dabbles in Boehme and the Bhagavad-Gita, he practices Hatha Yoga--and describes it in numbing detail. He rambles on about The Cloud of Unknowing, but after two years of this he's none the wiser, and neither are we.

Pub Date: May 18th, 1979
Publisher: Delacorte