Books Have Souls Too

HARMON  Bro,  a well known author and sociologist once handed Edgar Cayce a new book, still in its postal wrapping, and Cayce held it with closed eyes. After a few moments he was able to tell Bro what the book was about and its overall ‘tone’. Bro, unwrapped the book, read it, and was able to confirm Cayce’s amazing accuracy.

Edgar Cayce was one of the great seers of our times, but many people can feel the inner quality or theme of a book by simply holding it for a few moments. Many people are quite unaware of this ability until they test it, Likewise, when they hold a photograph with eyes closed, and run their fingers over the surface, they receive mental impressions of the images on the picture.

A friend who once visited Raymund Andrea (one time head of the Rosicrucian Order in England) told me that Andrea held the book my friend had given him; without opening it he gave a full commentary on its contents, pointing out mistaken attitudes and certain poor qualities in the ideas expressed.

Cayce could go a step further than this. When he was learning to read as a child, he had great difficulty in remembering his lessons. One night, after his father had tried literally to beat some sense into him, and he was still unable to read the words, he had a vision! An angel seemed to tell him to put the book under his head and sleep on it for a little when he went to bed. This he did, and he awoke amazed to find he could remember every page without having read it.

His father was even more surprised, and cuffed him again because he thought his previous ignorance had been put on.

Many years later Cayce worked in a big department store, and, through sleeping on the catalogue, was able to remember every single item sold on the premises. The management used him as a walking catalogue, as he could repeat goods, colours, catalogue numbers, price, and all printed details.

But books go a lot more deeply into us than simply producing images of their printed words. They have a soul, and in some strange way, carry with them a quality or power imparted by their author. And, just as we are usually careful about the friends we make, we must be equally careful what books we read or take to heart.

When I was in the book business I bought a pile of old American magazines. My wife, was recovering from the birth of our first son and she began to read the magazines.  She sank very quickly into a deep depression  which  lasted  much  longer  than  it should have.

Only much later, could she see that she had already been near the edge of post-natal depression, and that the magazines had pushed her over the edge. The ideas they carried were negative and cloudy, and their darkness had been like an infection around a person whose resistance was low.

Open to the flow of ideas  

When we begin to be aware of what goes on within us, it becomes plain that books are very much like people, but perhaps more subtle. They carry a mood, an attitude, a gaiety or blackness, a hope or despair with them. So relaxed and open to the flow of images and ideas do we become as we read, that these moods and attitudes deeply penetrate us unless we read and know what we are doing. Only when we are firmly anchored to our own inner values, commitments, direction, and integrity, can we safely take in a mass of influence from somebody else, and digest it without being moved away from our own inner insight.

For instance, in our own moments of quiet we may find, deep within us, a desire to remain true in marriage; or a belief in God; or a certainty of life’s wonder and purpose. This is our own inner integrity, our own inner values.

On reading a cynical book, however, the force of its influence may be such that our own values are swept away by those held by the author. Even books supposedly sympathetic with one’s own integrity may yet carry unforeseen aspects of the author’s inner qualities.

I noticed this when I read two books about the same subject by different authors. Both books praised and dealt positively with the subject, yet after reading the first book I noticed I felt churned up inside. I had a headache, my mind would not slow down, and there was a general burdensome feeling. The second book, however, although it seemed to say very little, and what it did say was apparently simple, left me feeling inwardly at peace, calm, uplifted and sure of myself.

The soul of the author

I concluded from this that each woman or man had put his very essence into the book he had written. The first man’s soul was still in a turmoil, threshing about intellectually, not at peace with itself, whereas the second man was simpler in expression, yet had found the thing of which he wrote.

Of course, the same thing applies to films, plays, television, and the arts. Whatever we create, carries the stamp of our own inner condition. If we open ourselves to the writings or art of one who inwardly is a violent, materialistic and perhaps ‘animalistic’ person, those qualities enter into us. This is all very well if we are ‘centred’ or anchored on our own inner integrity. But if we have not found this unique integrity of our own, and are already in a condition of being possessed by our own hates, cynicism, habit patterns and fears, these other forceful influences will strengthen our own, and plunge us deeper into possession by them.

Emotions act as a creative force

Most people when they work creatively, whether on a book, or painting, or play, allow their emotions or fears, or intellect to act as the creative forces. Such fears, emotions or ideas then embody themselves, incarnate, so to speak, in the work being produced.

There are a few great men and women, however, whose creativeness has come from a different source. Through long discipline, they have centred their activities as in Zen art or archery. Perhaps this can be explained by using the body as an example.

The body is made up of billions of separate cells. These form organs, which together work as systems. Thus we have a heart, liver, kidneys, tongue, brain: and in the systems, digestive, circulatory, lymphatic system etc. All these billions of parts are united in function and expression – except in a sick body. In a sick body, harmony and unity is disturbed. One system or organ or group of cells, may function to its own advantage only, instead of to its own advantage within the common economy.

The thing uniting all aspects of our being, and directing them, is sometimes called the Self or Atman, and we may be in or out of harmony with the Self. If our sexual desires have become out of context with the whole, or our ambition or intellect does not work in harmony with our other aspects, such as sexual feeling and emotions, we have an unbalanced system or personality.

Yoga, which means union with the Self; or Zen, or most philosophical or religious disciplines, aim at opening up each of our functions to direction by the Self. Thus when this is achieved, sexual desire, intellect, all the emotions of the body are not denied or ignored,  but are directed in their activity in a harmonious united manner.

Dictated by an inner voice?  

To some extent many great writers and artists have achieved this harmonious creativity with the Self. Beethoven spoke of his composition as if it were dictated by a higher source – the Self perhaps – or as Emerson called it, the Overself. The author of the recent best seller, ‘Jonathan Livingstone Seagull,’ also says the book was dictated by an inner voice. St. Catherine wrote in a similar way, and most of the greatest religious works arose while the author’s conscious ego was united with the Self, acting as a channel.

When we read such books as ‘The Prophet’, by Kahlil Gibran, or The Bhagavad Gita, The Bible, we open our inner being, whether we are sensitive to it or not, to a soul condition which strengthens our own integrity. Written from an inner harmony on the part of the author, we feel something of his achievement, his contact with the Overself   his wonderful maturity.

Copyright © 1999-2010 Tony Crisp | All rights reserved