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Tuesday, June 13, 2017

The Art of Expression and the Principles of Discourse by William Walker Atkinson

Ultimately, I have read the first book in the compilation which is titled 'The Art of Expression and the Principles of Discourse' by William Walker Atkinson.

If, someone, reading the opening line of the post, is surprised at the expression, tone and diction of the sentence, then, kindly continue to read the next paragraph which explains the reason for framing such a sentence.

A Report:

I have a compilation of the unabridged works of William Walker Atkinson. I had virtually discovered it for myself. I was trying to find a good work on Patanjali. When I was searching it on the internet, I was attracted towards a portrait on a title. The title of the book was The Fourteen Lessons in Yogi Philosophy and Oriental Occultism. The name of the author was Yogi Ramacharak.

It was Patanjali who first gave the idea of Yoga. It was from his Yoga, the idea of Yogi developed. I was seeking knowledge on Patanjali. The desire to know Patanjali is basically a quest to know Yoga. A person who knows Yoga is called a Yogi. The price of the book by Yogi Ramacharak was also around ₹ 60/-. It was the amount which I could afford to spend. When I was able to find a book on Patanjali, which was by Swami Vivekananda and it was also available in a form of a compilation, I bought that book for ₹300/-. It was like getting a bonus when I also bought this unknown author Yogi Ramacharak, at least to me, along with the anthology of the works of Swami Vivekananda. I did not read Swami Vivekananda. I started reading Yogi Ramacharak. The narration was such that it grabbed my attention. Gradually I learned that the author knew about the Christian religion. He was also referring to numerous English authors. I developed a doubt about the learning of the author Ramacharak. I started searching for him on the internet. Soon, I learned that the name was an adopted name of William Walker Atkinson.

In the Fourteen Lessons in Yogi Philosophy, W. W. Atkinson had referred to many of his other titles. He had talked about the title of Raja Yoga, Hatha Yoga etc. In between, whenever I browsed the internet, I was attentive about the titles by William Walker Atkinson. Soon, I located this compilation by the publisher e-artnow (I do not know who are they.). It was priced at ₹ 48.23/-. It included the title The Fourteen Lessons. It also contained the title 'The Advance Course in Yogi Philosophy and Oriental Occultism'. In the book, the Fourteen Lessons, the author had repeatedly mentioned that he would elaborate on different points in his next book and he specifically mentioned it as the Advance Course. Therefore, after completing the reading of the book, I started the book the Advance Course. Again, in that book, he mentioned some of his other titles and suggested that one should also consult them in order to fully understand his elaboration in his book on The Advance course. Therefore, a sequence developed. I read the book and then shifted to another book as suggested in the course. I could do that because all those books were available to me in the compilation. Gradually I found that there is no sequence in my selection of the next title. After reading nearly 20 books out of that compilation, I thought of starting the compilation from the very first book as given in the compilation by the publisher.

The first book in the compilation by e-artnow is "The Art of Expression and the Principles of Discourse".

Now, let us review the experience which I had undergone while reading the earlier titles by W. W. Atkinson. In every book, he was suggesting and recommending a name of his other title which should also be read. I experienced that if you followed his suggestions, you could appreciate the contents of his books. I decided upon a plan that I should read the compilation from the beginning. Now, these two thought-sets worked together. I picked the first book which is 'The Art of Expression'. I read the first page. On the first page he suggested that one should read his book on Thought Culture and Logic in order to fully appreciate the contents of the book. I left the reading there and by following his instructions, I picked the book as suggested by him. I read the book on Logic. I read the book on Thought Culture. There were some more titles dealing with Thought Cutlure. However, in these two books, that was on Logic and Thought Culture, he talked about the aspects of Memory. He suggested that one should also read his book on Memory Development. I then read his books on Memory Training and Memory Culture. After reading these four books, ultimately, I read this book.

The Review of the Book:

There are fifteen chapters in this book.

Among all the chapter, I will like to emphasise that the Chapter X, The Argumentative Discourse, the Chapter XI, Argumentation and the Chapter XII, Evidence and Proof have attracted my attention and interest. William Walker Atkinson was a lawyer by profession. The ideas which he has taken up in the selected chapters has an imprint of his training and professional experience. The contents and topics are also relevant to my subject of History. I have virtually found a set of notes which I am going to use for my students. Let me take up a particular topic.

He has discussed the Cause and Effect relations. I had been teaching about the Cause and Effect relations to my students. I use the elaboration by E. H. Carr in "What is History" and also the Idea of History by R. G. Collingwood. It is substantiated by the book by an Indian author B. Sheik Ali. E. H. Carr had discussed it in his chapter on Causation. He has his style of explaining the topic. But, somewhere, I felt as if, E. H. Carr might have read his book. No, I do not pass any judgement here. I am just sharing by impression. Atkinson might have published this book before 1920. He had his bookseller agent based in London. E. H. Carr wrote essay somewhere around 1950 and his book was first published in 1954. Collingwood wrote his draft for the Oxford University Press in 1935 and it was later that his incomplete work was published. Now I am going to use them in my class.

I read those chapters with great interest. I believe that these chapters can be included in his title on Logic also. He made his book as logic as per the elaboration by William Stanely Jevons and other Logicians. No doubt, while talking about Logic, you must understand the core rules and principles. But, by incorporating it in that book, the rules and principles can be substantiated for the better understanding of the common reader. It can definitely be made a part of the book on Thought Culture.

On the sideline, I will also like to discuss a similar feature concerning one of his elaboration. In his Advance course, he has discussed about the features of the Absolute. While giving the features of the Absolute, he has written an essay which is as good as a note on Japaji Sahib, an Utterance of Guru Nanak Dev. I teach Sikh history also. We have to explain the features of the concept of the Absolute as given by Guru Nanak Dev. I have read many textbooks because of my professional needs for that topic. All the text books give a similar elaboration. Somewhere, I felt as if, all those text book had been borrowing from a common source and among them, the perfect elaboration is given by Atkinson. In his elaboration, nowhere, Atkinson has mentioned about Sikhism or Guru Nanak Dev. It is a feature of his writings that while discussing the Indian Mystic thoughts, he does not mention a single Indian name associated with scriptures or any Sanskrit work. He refers to Latin and Grecian origin of English words. He referred to words like Gyan, Raja, Hatha, Prana etc. But, he uses only those terms which are now readily included in the English dictionaries.

The topics of the first three chapters are Expression, Languages: It Beginnings and the Evolution of Language. It makes a fascinating reading. If one knows about the history of these topics, then it can be appreciated with great admiration that how these topics had dominated the intellectual circle of the world at the beginning of the twentieth century. I will suggest that in order to appreciate these topics in historical context, one should read this essay  titled Philosophy of Language on Internet Encylopedia on Philosophy, 

From chapter IV to Chapter IX, the topics are the Words, the Building of Vocabulary, The Choice of Words, the Figurative Speech and the Discursive Expression. While I was reading these chapters, I felt that he should have also given a chapter on Grammar or suggested the need for the grammar. I am a native of India. I live in Punjab. My dialect is Punjabi. But, I generally write and think in Hindi. I keep a grammar of English by Wren and Martin even today. I consult it again and again. But, suddenly, I realized that I do not have any grammar book of Hindi. If somebody asks me about the forms of Verbs or Kriya, or Adjectives or Vianjan, I will not able to tell. I do not even remember the alphabets of Hindi. I believe, because Atkinson was an English speaking native of America, therefore, he did not feel the need to suggest it. It is taken for granted that you know the rules of grammar in a natural way. It is another thing, that in his book on developing Memory, he has given a doggerel rhyme on Parts of Speech. It seems there is a difference in teaching methods at school level between India and Western World. One of my elders had told me that in his times, the history was always taught in the form of doggerel rhymes. Now a day, it is all that research based history and no one remembers the history.

In the chapter on the Expression, he has given the central idea of this book. He says there that the art of expression is concerned with oral expression or speaking and the rules and principles that can also be used for writing and composition. He has laid the limits in his explanation itself that the extent of the discourse in the book is limited. He has not talked about the skills of uttering a word, the stress on the different part of speech, the modulation of voice while explaining the elocution etc. On the whole, whatsoever he has given, can be made a good starting point to learn about elocution, speaking, oration and also the writing methods.

I end by repeating that I liked the chapters on Argumentative Discourse and Argumentation.

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