Some time ago, I wrote a review on a book called Star Maker’s Apprentice by F. L. Szot [AKA Ambassador Zot], which, on my first reading, seemed to contain some rather “far out” material, and yet it had some thought provoking concepts on cosmology and on human spiritual evolution. Mister Szot, in his comments to my post, has since recommended two more books written by an English philosopher and science-fiction writer named William Olaf Stapledon, Star Maker and Last and First Men, and so I have undertaken to read and review the new material in the hope that this might put together a more complete understanding of the concepts already outlined in Star Maker’s Apprentice by F.L. Szot.
The two books by Stapledon are intended to be companion stories. While these works are often categorized under science-fiction, they are also said to be much more than just stories. The use of allegory, metaphor and storytelling are nothing new to philosophers as they try to make their lofty ideas more tangible to the general public. Plato did this with his Allegory of The Cave. Gurdjieff adopted similar methods in his work Beelzebub’s Tales to His Grandson. The point I am trying to make here is that if we allow ourselves to get too carried away with critiquing a philosophical discourse in the same way we would a traditional novel or autobiography, we may miss the point altogether. My best advice, therefore, to the general reader is to suspend judgement on whether the characters are real, and to focus more on the concepts that the writer is trying to exemplify.
In the coming weeks I will be posting reviews, which will examine Stapledon’s work, so please watch this space for further developments.
~ Adrian M. McG
WHO OR WHAT IS SHAEDANDU?
The name Shaedandu is taken from Irish mythology. Shaedandu, [pronounced... Shay-'dan-duh], was the son of the legendary Irish hero Cu Culain [Pron. Koo 'Kul-in], about whom we will say more in coming articles. As for Shaedandu himself, his name has been phoneticised to make it easier for modern readers to pronounce. In old Irish Gaelic texts, the name was spelled ‘Setanta’ and pronounced Shay-’dan-duh.
The story goes that one day Cu Culain’s young son was attacked by a vicious dog owned by the village blacksmith. Without going into all of the gory details here, the boy, in self-defense, killed the mad dog.
Seeing the Blacksmith was so grief-stricken over the loss of his dog, the lad made amends by pledging his loyalty to the Blacksmith, and also promised to be Blacksmith’s ‘guard-dog’. Cu Culain’s son became known as Shaedandu. The name Shaedandu (or Setanta) actually means ‘guard-dog’ in Gaelic.
These little stories are often hard for the modern reader to digest and I don’t have the space here to offer a full interpretation; suffice to say that I will be gradually introducing more material on the understanding Gaelic mythology.
So why use the Shaedandu name for a website, we may well ask?… What does it have to do with the internet? The short answer is, “Nothing!”. The real answer becomes apparent when one considers the purpose of the Shaedandu website. All technical considerations aside, the only connection to computers or internet is that modern writers are exploring the new electronic media as a means of getting their message out to a broader community.
Shaedandu is primarily a writer’s website and has been put together as a vehicle for the owner to share ideas about life, philosophy and writing techniques with anyone who cares about such matters and, along the way, to showcase some of the owner’s work. We also need to consider the fact that most writers, whether amateur or professional, draw their inspirations from somewhere. Some draw from the present; some from the distant past; others from projections of the future (as in Sci-Fi).
Much of my inspiration comes from the ancient world, either historical or mythological. This doesn’t mean to say that I don’t care about what is happening in the present, but I think our present and our future are shaped by the past, and I firmly believe in learning the lessons of history and also in gaining wisdom from stories that the Ancient Ones have passed down to us. This is why I am so passionate ancient history, culture and mythology, with a focus on Celtic folklore… hence the name Shaedandu.
|Author: Michael Allin
Publisher: Bantam Dell Publishing
Publication Year: 1999
Media Format: Hard Cover (Print)
People often make remarks about how much they hated history lessons during their schooldays… how boring it was, and how it seemed to be just a dreary collection of facts that no one cares about these days. Yet, in our heart of hearts, many of us feel a need to know where we and our forebears came from and what influences made us what we are today. Historically-based drama and reconstruction can help to explore these issues in a way that never seemed possible when we were confronted by pedantic educators and their textbooks. A modern storyteller can breathe life into history and make it more accessible to us by helping us get into the hearts and minds of characters that had first-hand experience of a particular era.
While the Michael Allin does not use characters in the same manner that we would expect from an historical dramatisation, this real-life account of a giraffe being transported across Africa and Europe is what connects all the people who we encounter along the journey. I see the story of Zarafa as an allegory that entertains as well as informs. Zarafa the giraffe, the object of Michael Allin’s poetic fascination, turns out to have more historical connections than initially realised. This is why, in pursuing his mythical vision of a giraffe that possesses almost magical properties, Allin also embarks on a journey through time and history. The book is as much a re-living of French-African colonial history as it is about the tale of a giraffe captured in the highlands of Ethiopia and taken to Paris, France.
Allin has taken an interesting and refreshing approach to looking at history and, for me personally, this made the experience more enjoyable than reading some dry and dusty historical textbook. Having said his, however; the book meanders through a vast terrain of diverse historical sources, to the point that one wonders where all this is heading. Even Zarafa the giraffe doesn’t show up until almost half way through the book. This was off-putting for many readers in our discussion group, who found Zarafa [the book] to be ‘very busy’ if not too confusing. Having a passion for historical investigation myself, I appreciate Mr. Allin’s ideas and his original presentation, and yet, for many readers, he did not quite pull it off.
WRAP-UP (with star-rating out of 5):
*** … A complex maze of historical curiosities… short on analysis, but quite engaging for those who care to ponder the machinations of famous people of the Enlightenment era.
|Author: Carrie Tiffany
Publisher: Pan Macmillan Aust Pty Ltd…
… a Picador Book
Publication Year: 2005
Genre: Human Interest
Media Format: Hard Cover (Print)
The 1930′s… people in most western nations were suffering the effects of The Great Depression and times were particularly harsh for rural Australia, as they were during the Dust Bowl Migration of California in the United States of America. The Lyons government tried to bolster up agriculture by encouraging a more scientific approach, in ways that were strange to an older generation of the man-on-the-land. Some of these new approaches included the use of modern fertiliser chemicals such as super phosphates. The Australian government of the day sponsored travelling agricultural shows that moved across the country by rail, complete with a team of agricultural experts aboard who would propagate their scientific method to farming communities. In Carrie Tiffany’s novel, Jean Finnegan is a sewing instructor on the Better Farming Train, which chugs its way through the wheat fields, grazing lands and orchards of the Mallee and Wimmera districts of Victoria. On this project Jean meets her husband-to-be, Robert Pettergree, agricultural scientist, a man who has a great dream of improving the production and quality of wheat crops throughout the land.
Against this backdrop of domestic problems in Australia, World War II is looming… as dreams are tossed and blown on the swirling dusty winds, Robert, like most of the men, is ‘called’ to war. To some men, the war front is an adventure, to some merely a patriotic duty, to others a ready-made escape route away from their already harsh and uncertain circumstances. Whatever his reasons for enlisting to fight overseas, we are left with an overwhelming sense that Robert never realised his full potential, while Jean is left to draw upon her inner strength and carry on the farm at Wycheproof.
The Pettergrees’ neighbours may not have shown enough depth of character for some readers. For example, with Doris and Ern McKettering, was it just the problems on the farm that made them leave, or were there other things happening between them? Also the ending was somewhat abrupt, leaving us to only wonder whether Jean succeeded in her intentions to persist with the farm, and I was left wanting to know more about the fate of Mr Ohno. Perhaps there is a sequel in this.
Despite these shortcomings, I thought Everyman’s Rules for Scientific Living was well worth the read. It gives us an impression of life in the Victorian Mallee during the Great Depression years, and Carrie Tiffany has touched on the issues of irrigation and land management from a uniquely Australian perspective. Don’t go past the part on Ern McKettering’s water tank. Personally, I feel this is emblematic of the ‘Australian dilemma’… What good is a water tank if the rain doesn’t fall in the right places to fill it? Why, for that matter, keep building more dams that don’t catch the rainwater anyway? In a more modern context, should we be investing in smarter water recycling or desalination technology? Whatever your viewpoint, these questions are as relevant today as they were back in the 1930’s.
WRAP-UP (with star-rating out of 5):
*** … not a particularly gripping plot, for those who prefer adventure, intrigue or romance, but this book raises some thought provoking questions about the land and it’s European inhabitants.
|Subtitle: A Novel Exploration into Higher…
Dimensions and the Nature of the GodsAuthor:Francis Louis Szot
Publishers: Amazon Book, FeedBooks
eBook Ref: B004EPYT2M
Category: Philosophy / ReligionMedia
Format: [Paperback or eBook]
Author’s Website: https://sites.google.com/site/ambassadorzot/
The author introduces himself as a philosopher who is also the ambassador for a higher cosmic order that holds the keys to the evolution of humanity. Despite the reservations I have toward F. Louis Szot’s claims to be in touch with ‘Higher Entities’ who live beyond our own 4-dimensional existence, some of his opening remarks are the perfectly natural and reasonable concerns of any enquiring mind. Since human kind first walked the earth, great thinkers and simple folk alike have often wondered whether ‘the Universe is the result of a meaningless accident of inanimate physics’ or ‘Is the Universe guided by the intentions of a Higher Being?’.
I really don’t wish to disparage anyone’s spiritual beliefs and experiences here, and if the accounts presented in Mister Szot’s work ‘click’ with some people, I’m OK with that. My main difficulty with this book, however, is that Mister Szot seems to be asking the reader to take much on trust without citing any evidence for what he experienced on his rather fanciful journey. I say ‘fanciful’ from my perspective, even though I have no doubt that Francis Louis Szot believes in his own veracity.
Although I like to keep an open mind on the possibilities of alternative dimensions of reality, I personally can’t say I have experienced them yet. Perhaps one day I will be released from Plato’s Cave and see all these marvelous things for myself, but until then, I only have sense and reason at my disposal… and also the hope that there really is some higher purpose to our worldly existence.
WRAP-UP (with star-rating out of 5):
*** Star Maker’s Apprentice is well worth the read for anyone who enjoys exploring ideas on cosmology, but I have to conclude that I did not exactly find ‘The Holy Grail’ here. I also wonder how much of the content of this book was inspired by Mister Szot’s excursions into ‘psychedelically altered states’? I’m sure he must have been smoking some pretty good stuff at the time, but I don’t recommend the reader get involved with this kind of thing! I admire F. Louis Szot’s ideals but I question his methods.
ADDENDUM: To gain an even deeper understanding of the concepts that F. L Szot has touched upon in Star Maker’s Apprentice, go to the author’s website at https://sites.google.com/site/ambassadorzot/ and download this title to read for yourself. At the moment it is free unless you want the printed edition, but who knows how long Mr. Szot can keep giving it away? Don’t forget to read my article The Works of William Olaf Stapledon and any subsequent reviews I post on the topic, which might help put things into context for the general reader.
~ Adrian McG
|First Published in the USA…… by The Viking Press 1946
Published by Penguin Books 1976
ISBN: 0 14 015.026 9
Introduction by Alfred Kazin
Bibliography by Aileen Ward
Cover Design by Robert F. Hallock
William Blake, poet and illustrator, is sometimes mistakenly associated with the English Romantic poetry movement because he lived in the same era as his Romantic contemporaries Byron, Coleridge, Keats, Milton, Shelley, Tennyson and Wordsworth. Mister Blake’s poetic themes, however, were more mystical than worldly or sensual, even though he cared passionately about the social injustices happening in the real streets and alley-ways of London, England (ref: the poem “London”). He also took a keen interest in the revolutionary causes unfolding in Paris, France, and Boston, America.
Blake created entire mythologies and archetypes of his spirit world, many of which were intricate, lengthy and often obscure to the general reader. Having said this, William Blake made use of very compact simple sentences that were rich in powerful symbology. Attempting to read William Blake for the first time can be made easier by trying the shorter poems first, such as; The Sick Rose; A Poison Tree; London; The Tyger, etc. All of these poems use plain but intense language, and they are rich in imagery and have multiple layers of meaning.
To understand the more ambitious works in The Prophetic Books, you may need to find some good academic essays that offer informed insights into the Blakean world. You can read a few introductory articles at Questia’s web site:
An overview of the poetry and art of William Blake can be taken by looking up the following web links:
There have been, over the years, many fine books published in print, on William Blake, his life, poetry and art; so search your libraries and bookstores like a true brown-nose. The illustration at the top left is taken from my personal copy of The Portable Blake (The Viking Portable Library 1946 – Penguin Books 1976 Reprint). This edition still has a proud place on my bookshelf.
*Special Note: A word of caution regarding the paintings, prints, drawings and manuscripts of William Blake; most of these precious works of art are the property of various galleries, societies and private collectors, even though Mister Blake died almost two centuries ago; so be wary of reproducing and publishing copies of these artefacts without proper permission, as they are protected by copyright law. Always use authorised publications of Blake’s poetry and limit yourself to quotes and small extracts within your own essays and discussion articles, and acknowledge, where possible, your information sources.