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Thursday, June 22, 2017

The Crucible of Modern Thought by William Walker Atkinson

The Crucible of Modern Thought by William Walker Atkinson

The Crucible of Modern Thought by William Walker Atkinson is an important book for the readers of W. W. Atkinson as it gives answers to many questions about Atkinson. On the Internet, you may find some views and judgements about this writer and his writings. One statement is that they are mainly the Ghost Writings of the members of Theosophical Society. Another statement is that there was no trend or movement in America which could be called "New Thought Movement". You may find a statement which suggests that all his writings were a Possessed writing. In this title, one can find clues, and factual answers to many of such questions which are mainly based on rumours or unverified and half checked judgements and comments on these writings. However, all the queries and issues will not be settled.

In the compilation published by e-artnow, this book is placed on the third place. It should be placed in the first place. The compilation should begin with this title. It will give a good introduction to the working of the mind of the author and also to the actual nature of the whole anthology. This book has justified my plan to read the compilation from the first title itself. That is another thing, the way I have come across this compilation and the sequence of selection which I have adopted, imparts me a different experience. It is an adventure to explore a thing without any prior knowledge or without any expert guidance. It imparts pleasure to make a discovery on your own. It imparts those abilities or activates those abilities which no expert can make it possible for you and in you.

(TO BE CONTINUED)


The Nineteenth century is an important topic among the university scholars and academicians. This century established the superiority of science. The Science established its sway. The science was not the product of the nineteenth century. It was in the nineteenth century that its victory was established and granted full recognization. However, it also created a crisis for other fields of intellectual existence. It will turn out to be a lecture in a classroom if I try to elaborate on this point. However, some arguments and facts can help to emphasise that which I am trying to say. It was in the nineteenth century that Napolean created an empire. It was in the nineteenth century that the Concert of Europe took place. It was in the nineteenth century that the emperors allowed the subjects to establish their parliaments and frame their constitutions. It was in the nineteenth century that the books like The Wealth of Nation (1797), the Origin of Species, the Social Contract, the Das Capita were written and they became the important scriptures of the people who matter. It was in the nineteenth century that the subjects like sociology, economics, psychology, Physics, Chemistry etc were accepted as the full-fledged identities and got their name. It was in the nineteenth century that Penicillin was discovered. It was in the nineteenth century that Steam Engine was developed. It was in the nineteenth century that some crucial mathematic formulas were framed and solved. It was in the nineteenth century that Wireless became a reality. It was in the nineteenth century that internal combustion engine was developed. It was in the nineteenth century that the Petroleum was used for the general public. It was in the nineteenth century that the railroads were laid. It was in the nineteenth century that DC and AC (Tesla) were used. It was in the nineteenth century that an aeroplane took its first flight. It was in the nineteenth century that the Industrial Revolution took place. It was in the nineteenth century that the nations like Germany and Italy were unified. It was in the nineteenth century that the American Civil War took place. It was in the nineteenth century that the Periodic table was regularised. It was in the nineteenth century that the structure of Atom was fully accepted. It can be continued further. Behind all this, a single thing became the all pervading thing. It was the Scientific temper and also the scientific methods.

The nineteenth century declared and established the success of the Science. But, along with it, came the crisis for other methods of thinking and temper. The theology was questioned for its belief. Some of the subjects were pushed to the background. Many of the systems of thinking, beliefs and faith were abandoned. But they did not die. As Bertrand Russell had written in his History of Philosophy that these subjects raised some questions and dealt with them which the science could not do.

The above two thought streams were prevailing in the nineteenth century when the world entered into the twentieth century. It was a tumult, a crisis in academics, a fascinating debate among the intellectuals and the people in power running the states that marked the time. It is with this background with which 'the crucible of Modern thought' be understood.


There is a need to make a specific noting here. It is no that the nineteenth century was the only exclusive century. There are much more such periods which were epoch-making. The scholars tell that 6th century BCE was one of it. One can easily identify the exclusiveness of the Renaissance. This remark is needed to understand the idea of New Thought Movement about which Atkinson had talked and for which it seems that he was criticised. The Renaissance is also identified with the term New. In the present days, the world of interconnectivity through internet and computers based devices is also bringing in something which may be called the New. For every generation, there was a New and there will be a New. But, the records tell that the nineteenth century was definitely an exclusive century.


The first two chapters of the book, viz, The Twentieth Century Melting Pot and Old Wine in New Bottles are the results of the tumult and brewing about which it is mentioned in the preceding paragraphs on the nineteenth century.

The next two chapters are on Transcendental Thought and Emerson. The author is more concerned with Emerson's Transcendental System which seems to be the ruling thought in the USA in the first decade of the twentieth century. After the chapters on Emerson and his contribution, he takes up the history of western thought, a topic for which you can consult the book by Bertrand Russell titled 'History of Western Philosophy'. I would like to say one thing here. I had tried to read that book but not completed it. My understanding of the Western philosophy is based on the reading of philosophy of History. For that, I have read the book by Collingwood and two good authors from India namely B. Sheik Ali and E. Shridharan. I do not evade to accept it that I am not confident of my understanding of this topic. But, here, when I read these chapters written by Atkinson, I felt highly satisfied with the clarity which I acquired. It may have happened that the core material was already there with me. It is the writing style of the author and his good understanding and ability to write even abstruse and difficult concept in a way that his writing converse with its reader. I may again try to read Russell now.

There is a need to give another noting here. I must accept that in the course of my present reading, the offline dictionary, as provided with the Kindle, is a great help. The other features of making noting and highlighting are an additional asset. The Internet is also a blessing. If you do not understand a term, or a concept or an idea, you can readily browse the web through the Kindle link. You do not feel constrained by the non-availability of a good library. You are not obstructed by the need to visit a library to clear your doubts. You simply right click and give a command for browsing for the topic for which you need an immediate understanding. You do not seek a haughty and pseudo-intellectual for the explanation. You check Internet Encyclopaedias, various blogs and websites and acquire a working glimpse of the thought behind the new and unfamiliar term. In short, the reading is facilitated by these digital devices. I now strongly differ with those, who continue to assert that the paperbacks have their own beauty. I do not deny the aspect of beauty to that format. But for me, the digital devices and means are more effective, practical and productive.

Someone may consider it my overstatement but I must say that I have found his crucible a better book than that of Russell. Atkinson has taken up the orient thought also. He has talked about Vedanta, Buddhism, Zoroastrianism and Sufiism. It is another thing that he has not discussed a specific thinker separately among them. I do not know and also not able to learn about his selection of Orient thought. He writes that there are many thought traditions which are worthy of selection but he prefers those four. In the case of Russell, he had recognised the influence of the Indian or Vedantic thought on the Western thinkers but he did not make any chapter on that because he was writing about the Western Philosophy. Therefore, I find it a more effective narration. I may change my view after completing a fresh reading of Russell which is spread over nearly 800 pages. But, in this small book, Atkinson is able to perform a balanced job on the whole.

He has devoted one chapter to Theosophy and Christain Science. It is in this chapter that one can learn the actual meaning of the New Thought Movement as claimed by Atkinson. However, it is also evident that he was definitely in contact with the members of Theosophy Society and also in a way influenced by them. But this book is not a work of a possessive writing. In this book, the writer has written what he has understood.

One of a peculiar feature of perception of Western Philosophy that he has not included the name of Marx in the list of his study. He has talked about Materialists. He has talked about Hegel. He has some reservations with the materialist. But, nowhere, he has attempted to mention the name of Karl Marx.

The last chapter is titled the Dawn of Tomorrow. I have seen that he has a hidden desire to earn fame as an established thinker and prophetic writer. However, I do not want to describe much about the content of this chapter. He wrote this book somewhere in 1910. Now nearly a hundred years after, one can easily check that how far is his vision was a vision.

Another feature has turned up in this book and it is relating to the editor of this anthology and the publisher e-artnow. They have tried to fiddle with the contents. While you read Atkinson, you know that he had written his work between 1900 and 1930. In this book, the author has talked about George Bernard Shaw. The compiler of this work has given the year of the death of Shaw which took place in 1950. The editor is definitely unimaginative person. In one of the title also, I have failed to mark this in review of that title, that the publisher has written a introduction to the each chapter. It was a shoddy work. Similarly, the publisher has developed it as a bunch of his work. The publisher has not cared to add the years of the publication of the each title. It does not go well with such a type of work. In the same manner, he has not adopted any method in arranging the works of Atkinson. Like, this work is different from that which I have read in other works of Atkinson. I can suggest a classification of his work. These can be three sets and they can be as follows.

Work on Self Improvement Topics
Work on Mysticism
Work on Philosophy and Personal Essays.

This title can be placed under the third category and that is Work on Philosophy and Personal Essays.



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