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This article is taken from PN Review 14, Volume 6 Number 6, July - August 1980.

Von Custer's Last Stand Lawrence Sail

GIVEN the scope suggested by this booklet's title, it is perhaps inevitable that its thirty-three pages should be some thing of a disappointment. Not that the subject requires of necessity the verbosity of Spengler's Decline of the West (with which the title invites comparison), but it does demand a breadth and depth of treatment impossible on this small scale. The text comprises seventeen brief sections, any of which might be sufficient matter for a separate book-with headings such as "Imagination, Alchemy and Sorcery", or "The Cult of Disorder". After examining the origins of the word "imagination" and its significance in Vedanta, the author discusses the role of imagination in society and the need to train it; undertakes a lightning tour of Western civilization, where he discerns the triumph of idle day-dreaming; and concludes with a re-assertion of the supremacy of the imagination as the way to spiritual truth. This is undeniably an interesting topic and one which merits investigation: but here the overall effect is both arbitrary and confused. Shakespeare, Keats, Coleridge, Blake, Goethe and the Alchemists are called, amongst others, to witness to the importance of the imagination, while Rousseau and Sterne are castigated as day-dreamers (warnings against this vice are recurrent and persistent), and Schiller for failing to see the point. Others whose experience and writing might be thought highly relevant- for instance, Baumgarten, Schopenhauer, Darwin, the French Symbolists, Eliot-are simply omitted altogether. This leads to a naive over-simplification which at times appears incongruous. Thus "the fate ...

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