Kirkus Reviews QR Code
COMING INTO BEING by William Irwin Thompson


Artifacts and Texts in the Evolution of Consciousness

by William Irwin Thompson

Pub Date: June 24th, 1996
ISBN: 0-312-15834-3
Publisher: St. Martin's

Meandering millennial meditations by a self-described cultural historian, Wissensk√Önstler, Marshall McLuhanite, and yogic proselytizer. Perhaps it is unsurprising, then, that this book is more stream-of-consciousness than history of consciousness, as Thompson (The American Replacement of Nature, 1991, etc.) jettisons such Western prejudices as order and coherence while he whimsically skips from Proust to Earth Goddesses to the Rig Veda to comparing translations of Lao Tzu. When Joseph Campbell engages in such dazzling eclecticism, it usually works. Here it seems misconceived. Electrified by the constructed significance of the year 2000, Thompson also succumbs to an apocalyptic variant of the Whig fallacy of history. Instead of viewing the present as the grand culmination of centuries of meliorations, he sees it as the beginning of a final transformation of humanity involving ``the recovering of the feminine, the deconstruction of the patriarchy, the deconstruction of capital-incentive economies of scale run by military-athletic-entertainment-industrial complexes with their shadow economies of drugs, arms traffic and crime; and a general resistance to medibusiness taking over the human body.'' If we do not throw off all these old bonds, if we do not subjugate science to ancient wisdom, Thompson predicts a violent, long-drawn disintegration of civil society, ``darkness and entropy in a war of each against all.'' In any book so fruitcake-rich with ideas and theories, you're bound to find at least a few tasty morsels, and Thompson does not disappoint. He offers some provocative—though unoriginal—ideas on the evolution of consciousness, and his discussion of the limits and fallibilities of academia and science is first-rate. But the healthy skepticism he shows here completely vanishes when it comes to matters more mysterious and arcane. Things must be in a pretty bad way if science and reason cannot save us, and we must cast ourselves instead on Thompson's haphazard ruminations. (18 b&w illustrations)