In this book, Berman accurately assesses the essential problem or dysfunctionality of the Cartesian approach to the world, and suggests that a "re-enchantment" of the world is needed. The problem is, he ultimately cannot humble his intellect sufficiently in order to allow such a re-enchantment to occur for himself, or those he would guide. I differ completely from those reviewers who feel that Berman is too "emotional" in this book (hardly!), or is "anti-scientific." He is "scientific" from beginning to end, and that is the problem!
Berman describes the inherent problem in the mechanistic, atomistic Cartesian worldview, which came into prominence in the late 1500’s: its arrogance that the observer could be separated from that which is observed, indeed its INSISTENCE on such an artificial separation. He argues that animist and even medieval alchemical worldviews contained more of the necessary “original participation” to allow for a “sensuous intellect” to be cultivated, where things could be learned through the manner that modern science actually shows IS the way that we learn: “through osmosis” or tacit knowing. Yet, Berman regards both Carl Jung and William Reich, whose works he feels transcended the Cartesian paradigm (pg 156) as inadequate to present us with a model forward. He felt Jung took an anti-intellectual approach and would have us return to “naive animism.” He also felt Reich was anti-intellectual. He tidily and with enormous dismissive condescension sums up all present-day mystical and occult “philosophies” as “winding up dispensing with thought altogether”, and turns to cultural anthropologist Gregory Bateson to provide his final complicated scientific “answer” to re-enchanting the world.
What I think it all comes down to, for Berman and the rest of us, is: how much of our domination by intellect are we willing to sacrifice or humble, in order to find re-enchantment? Berman is wrong in thinking that mystical and occult approaches simply end up dispensing with thought: that type of superficial prejudice is really unworthy of a man who’s proved himself so capable of complex thought. The truth is that mystical or occult, animistic or magical “re-enchantment” don’t dispsense with thinking, they just put it in its proper place: and its proper place is not as the high and mighty ruler of the realm. A magical world view allows the rekindling of a childlike awe and wonder, and innocence, something that comes prior to intellectualizing, as does intuition and emotion. Intuition and emotion aren’t irrational, as so many men have thought, and so many women have suffered being devalued for what women really seem to do so much better than men. Intuition and emotion are actually types of reasoning.
Yet I think that even non-mystical, non-occult paths of Buddhism and Hinduism, forms of spirituality which cultivate presence and mindfulness, will also reveal that the more a person cultivates presence, the more their thinking and intellect becomes “purifed” and brought into the proper place: a place which is secondary to presence, not dominating over it.
We don’t actually have to search long and far for re-enchantment, nor is the way to an innocent and simple way of life found only through negotiating a complex explanation of the metaphysics and epistemology of a cultural anthropologist. All we have to do is wake up and just start to experience an authentic, open relationship with the world around us. Enchantment comes naturally to those who open their hearts.
This is was a book review I saw from Moris Berman, called the Re-Enchantment of the world. Part of me kind of agrees that much of our progress makes the world seem less magical and amazing. It’s like when I figured out how emotions are chemicals or the wind and ocean aren’t really magic, or when Santa wasn’t real. It was like there is less magic in the world. I’m not sure about the Cartesian part but I’m pretty sure science doesn’t do it anymore