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The Passion of Picasso

Written by eastern writer on Thursday, February 28, 2008

Pablo Picasso (1881-1973) was the most influential visual artist of the 20th century. Whether he was also the greatest artist of the century can perhaps be disputed. However, having visited the huge exhibition "Pablo Picasso: A Retrospective," which ran this summer at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, I would offer no argument against a claim for Picasso’s supremacy. The show’s sheer volume (over 900 works), together with the incredible quality and diversity of Picasso’s art, virtually bludgeons one into granting the most extravagant praise for the artist.

Diverse Styles

The exhibition was a marvel. That so much of the Picasso corpus and virtually all of his masterpieces could have been gathered for the occasion is a tribute to the influence of the Museum of Modern Art. Also, the circumstances were all but perfect. Some examples: The Picasso heirs are still in possession of a large body of Picasso’s works. The Musée Picasso in Paris has not yet opened, and so its vast collection was available. The enormous and famous Guernica has not yet been sent to Spain, whence it has been in exile since the Franco years. So comprehensive an exhibit is unrepeatable. [See brief review of the exhibition catalogue in Recent Arrivals, p.924. -- Ed.]

The whole artistic biography of Picasso was sumptuously documented. From the Picasso Museum in Barcelona came many of the formative student works. When Pablo was only 13, his artist father gave his own painting utensils to the boy and said he would never paint again, for his son had already surpassed him. By his 16th year, Picasso had achieved the style (but of course had not attained the artistic accomplishment) of such masters as Van Dyck, Velasquez and El Greco.

In his early 20s, Picasso began the development of his many personal styles, which followed one after another in rapid succession: the Blue Period (1901-04), the Pink Period (1904-06), the Iberian Period (1904-07), the African Period (1907), Analytic Cubism (1907-12), Synthetic Cubism (1912-21), Neo-Classicism (1918-24). By 1924 he had returned to Cubism with a rather decorative form of that style, and by 1925 this decorativeness yielded to a violent, expressionistic Cubism that would dominate much of his work from then on. Also, in 1925 some of his work began to reflect his alliance with Surrealism.

Further, at every stage of his development, Picasso paralleled his abstract art with realistic works. The man could, when he chose, draw with the realistic precision of a camera. Picasso never did works of pure abstraction. There was always an object that provided his initial inspiration.

Any one of Picasso’s many periods would have provided a stylistic frame of reference on which to build a reputation as a major modern artist. It was his peculiar genius to have developed them all. Picasso has been criticized for having resorted to imitating himself in his later years, or for having been content merely to "delight" his audience. However, even in his last years, in his 80s, works of great power and tragic estrangement continued to come, from his brush.

The Cubist ‘Lie’

It is ironic that Picasso, a man of towering ego and deep individualism, should have made his first gigantic impact on Western art not as a solitary artist working in romantic isolation but in intimate artistic partnership with another great artist, the Frenchman Georges Braque. Together they "invented" Analytic Cubism, a profoundly restrained, disciplined style that rendered the subject in what has been called a "vocabulary of dismembered planes." Analytic Cubism reduced the object to its geometric forms, with these forms rearranged so that the work could more fully explore the multifaceted character of the concrete object. Multiple points of view were combined to create a wholly new form.

Some critics saw Analytic Cubism as an artistic counterpart to Einstein’s theory of relativity. The real world is not as it appears to the naïve eye. The permanent laws of Newtonian physics do not reflect the world as it really is. In fact, in the atomic substrata, all is relative.

Picasso rejected such a "scientific" understanding of his purpose. Analytic Cubism was not an experimental means to discover the truth in the world as it "really" is. A cubist painting is not some allegedly "truer" understanding of the world. Rather, as Picasso put it in 1923: "We all know that art is not truth. Art is a lie that makes us realize truth. At least the truth that is given us to understand."

Since the Renaissance, Western painting has attempted to create the illusion of space by the technique of perspective. The two-dimensional canvas surface is made to appear three-dimensional. But in Analytic Cubism, the two-dimensionality of the canvas is not denied. Space and volume are expressed by geometrical form alone. This means that an object can be spatially represented without a rigid commitment to the appearance of the visible world. The "lie" of illusionist, perspective need not be the only way to express space. There was now the cubist "lie" that expressed space geometrically.

Cubism enabled Picasso and Braque to solve certain basic problems left to them by 19th century artists, especially Cezanne, by moving into abstraction; but also, having achieved an abstract art, they were able to open the door to the whole abstract movement in the 20th century.

Revealing the Essence

Nonrealistic art is not unique to the modern world. It is in fact the modern world’s return to the mainstream of art. In the history of art the attempt to achieve realism virtually as an end in itself is a minority report, Greco-Roman classicism and the Renaissance being the lone examples. The great mainstream of humankind’s art has been nonrealistic, often abstract, usually expressionistic and deeply related to religion.

To judge from the history of art, it would appear that the "natural" style of religious art is nonrealistic. This is understandable, for religion probes beneath the surface of existence as it appears to us, in order to uncover the meaning of life in religious myth and symbol (Tillich). An art associated with the religious enterprise will inevitably express meaning in a manner stylistically paralleled to religious myth and symbol.

Certainly classical and Renaissance art dealt with religious themes; however, these realistic styles developed at periods in their respective cultures when traditional religion was under attack and eroding. Having lost faith in the capacity of religion to reveal truth, the culture and its artists sought to find meaning in the only place that was left -- the world as it appears.

Modern art, reflecting modern culture, finds itself in a painful dilemma. The world as it appears has proved to be not the full truth of things. The essence of things can be revealed only abstractly and expressionistically; however, the abstracted "lies" of modern art, the myths and symbols of our time, are, with few exceptions, devoid of specific religious doctrine or even subject matter.

Modern art reveals to us the religious void of a modern world came of age. Human beings cannot live by realistic bread alone. The so-called "real world" itself contains illusions. There is no "meaning" in brute empirical perception grounded in a materialistic world view. Thus, the materialistic Picasso, and most modern art with him, can express an essentially nonreligious love of the world in all its materialistic carnality only within the framework of a highly "spiritual" -- i.e., abstract -- style. Religious need remains even when religious belief lies dead or dormant. The very fact of the dominance of abstract art in the hedonistic Western world reveals the profound estrangement -- indeed, contradiction -- of Western post-Christian civilization.

A Terrible Prophecy

Analytic Cubism, a highly intellectual phenomenon, is an art of muted color, deliberately lacking in emotionalism. It is remarkable that Picasso should have curbed his passionate nature for some four or five years to work in a style so foreign to his essentially expressionistic, passionately Spanish temperament.

Curiously, the painting that launched Picasso in the realm of Analytic self-restraint, the work that suggested the possibilities which Analytic Cubism sought to explore, was not itself dispassionate but was one of the most violent -- indeed savage -- works he was ever to accomplish. This work is, I believe, the single most important painting of the 20th century: Les Demoiselles d’Avignon (1907).

This proto-cubist work pictures five nude prostitutes ironically called "Les Demoiselles." Bridging Picasso’s Iberian and African periods, it portrays the nudes in a blatantly unsentimental way. Their barbaric, masklike faces look out soullessly from a world in which the reliability of sense experience has eroded. A new sense of space is demanded in a world where such "demoiselles" can take shape. The painting is a terrible prophecy of the transvaluation of all values which Nietzsche proclaimed and which World War I was soon to visit upon Europe.

It was in such powerfully brutal expressionism that Picasso’s truly modern work began, and it is to such expressionism that the mature Picasso would return. Analytic Cubism proved the breadth of Picasso’s talent and the greatness of his painterly intellect. It also proved his capacity for artistic self-discipline, a discipline also manifested in the purity of his Neo-Classicism.

Yet above everything, he was a passionate talent, His periods of self-restraint are fully matched and, on balance, overwhelmed by his moments of reckless self-indulgence. He is perhaps the most unabashedly sexual and violent painter in Western art.

A Personal Outcry

Sex, violence and finally death dominate his mature art, but his true subject is always his own feelings, his passions about his themes. His Cubism finally proves to be not the means of self-restraint, but a powerful tool whereby he can allow his personal response to his world a reckless, almost limitless expression.

Perhaps Picasso’s most famous work is Guernica, a painting regarded by Paul Tillich as the most "protestant" of all modern paintings. It was painted in outrage over the bombing of civilians in Guernica during the Spanish Civil War. It is a masterpiece of expressionistic Cubism and, as such, it is above all a personal outcry against the Franco-Nazi atrocity, the point being that always Picasso was a subjective, not a political, artist.

The Marxist Picasso critic John Berger, in his not altogether successful book The Success and Failure of Picasso, is certainly correct in this observation. Though Picasso painted Guernica, The Charnel House (a 1945 work in response to Hitler’s death camps), and Massacre in Korea (1951), he was not providing the basis for a political art (notwithstanding the fact that he joined the Communist Party in 1945). There is no social program in these paintings; there is only a very personal, "autobiographical" expression of horror. The "subject" is really Picasso’s anger, Picasso’s imaginings as to what these slaughters must have been like to those who experienced them.

The essentially apolitical character of Picasso’s art is not simply in the work itself. After all, his work from 1914 to 1918 simply ignores the war. In 1917 when the carnage was three years old, Picasso was doing set and costume designs for the Ballets Russes as if nothing were happening. Juan Gris described the 1917 cubist ballet Parade as "unpretentious, gay and distinctly comic." Similarly, during the years of World War II, his art does not reflect world events.

Of the war paintings, Berger remarks:

To find these subjects Picasso scarcely had to leave his own body. It is through the experience of his own body that he painted erotic pictures, and it is through his own physical imagination, heightened by sexual experience, that he painted the war pictures. (It is interesting to note that in the latter almost all of the figures are women.) The choice of his subject was limited to what was happening to him at a very basic level (The Success and Failure of Picasso [Penguin, 1966]).

Berger finds this a distressing failure of "revolutionary nerve." He is ultimately critical of Picasso’s having squandered his genius on the merely subjective and of the way in which Picasso’s work ends in personal despair. As Berger stresses, much of the later work, in which deformed old men look leeringly at beautiful women, symbolizes Picasso’s outrage over the impotence of old age. Ironically, Berger the revolutionary would censure Picasso for the very reason that he finds Picasso lacking in what our courts call "redeeming social value."

Lust and Despair

Picasso was not above simple pornography, but even in his serious works there is a strong emphasis on the sex act: Cubist sex. Surrealistic sex. Realistic sex. It’s all there in abundance. His nudes are, very often, manifest objects of sex. One can understand the anger of many feminists, for what Picasso is painting is sex as he experienced it, women as they aroused him. What is it that aroused Picasso at that moment, in that woman? The belly? The buttocks? The breasts? His cubism permits him to exaggerate and juxtapose these various parts of the female body.

Even in those paintings in which the emphasis is on the psyche of the woman, the mystery is often in Picasso’s own mystification: his realization that in understanding another person, one can go only so far; his realization that in understanding oneself, one can see only "through a glass darkly" This is reflected profoundly in his famous 1932 painting Girl Before the Mirror,

While Berger finds in all this subjectivism the reason for Picasso’s "failure," I find in it simply Picasso. Berger contends that Picasso’s great success blunted his revolutionary zeal and made his work decadent. In fact, Picasso’s "decadence" is his own. Even had he been a worldly failure, left to paint freely, he still would have found his way to his true subject -- himself.

The violence, the lust, the despair and finally the darkness of his art are the passion he finds in himself. It is for the viewer to generalize: Does this view of things awaken in me a larger view of reality in which I share? Even though I may not wish to share it, does it convict me of its power?

Glittering Brokenness

There is another period in Western art which shares Picasso’s finally dark vision of the human possibility: Romanesque art of the 11th and 12th centuries. An art of almost cubistic distortion, it is drastically expressionist. It confronts human frailty directly and, like Picasso, portrays the passion of human existence without the least trace of prudery. It is an art which embraced the Augustinian view of humanity reflected in the Confessions, but without Augustine’s incessant moralizing.

Yet there is also a fundamental difference in perspective. Though Picasso occasionally portrayed the crucifixion, such works were always remarkably devoid of religious conviction. His interest in the crucifixion was an interest in anguish. Picasso’s only answer to the problem of suffering was beauty.

Romanesque art is, of course, beautiful, but since it is finally religious art, it speaks to the suffering it portrays in terms of the redemption it also presents. Just as Picasso makes use of drastic juxtapositions, so the Romanesque artists placed fall and redemption in drastic tension. It is not unusual to see in the sculpture of a Romanesque church such a thing as the graphic portrayal of lust placed alongside a saint contorted by the ecstasy of revelation. The darkness is always controlled by the light of redemption.

In Picasso, finally, we find only the glittering brokenness, a brokenness which can be reconstructed solely by the beautiful "lies" of art. But finally, the artist himself must die. For Picasso, the hope is in the beauty of now; the rest is darkness.

I do not intend to close on an eristically apologetic note; i.e., "See, oh moderns, how even the greatest genius of our age saw that the only reasonable response to the human dilemma without Christ is despair." It would be a betrayal of the sheer beauty of Picasso’s art to use it in such a dishonorable fashion. Surely Christianity is not in such bad shape that it must resort to using great art merely as a tool with which to tear humanity down so that we can later use Jesus to build it up again.

I am trying to understand why I respond so powerfully to Picasso. I don’t share his ultimate vision. I sometimes don’t even approve of him -- his glorification of rape, for instance; or his reduction of atrocity to merely subjective outrage. And yet I am grasped. My response is not unrelated, I hope, to my confidence that humanity reflects so truly and completely the glory of God that there is glory even in the fragmentation of the human.

Author: Ronald Goetz. He is a Century editor at large, holds the Niebuhr distinguished chair of theology and ethics at Elmhurst College in Elmhurst, Illinois. This article appeared in the Christian Century, October 1, 1980 pp. 906-909. Copyright by The Christian Century Foundation; used by permission. Current articles and subscription information can be found at This material was prepared for Religion Online by Ted and Winnie Brock.

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Art and Propaganda

Written by eastern writer on Thursday, February 28, 2008

If someone were to tell me that it lay in my power to write a novel explaining every social question from a particular viewpoint that I believed to be the correct one, I still wouldn’t spend two hours on it. But if I were told that what I am writing will be read in twenty years time by the children of today, and that those children will laugh, weep, and learn to love life as they read, why then I would devote the whole of my life and energy to it.

The man who wrote those words, Leo Tolstoy, vacillated continually between art and propaganda. People are still laughing, weeping and learning to love life as they read his books, but others are also reflecting on, arguing with and reacting to his particular viewpoint on social, moral and religious questions. Although in this statement Tolstoy claims to come down firmly on the side of art, veins of “propaganda” run throughout his novels, inspiring some readers and infuriating others. In nonfiction works like What Is Art? the great novelist leans toward propaganda -- even, as some conclude, at the expense of true art.

Like a bipolar magnet, the Christian author today feels the pull of both forces: a fervent desire to communicate what gives life meaning counteracted by an artistic inclination toward self-expression, form and structure that any “message” might interrupt. The result: a constant, dichotomous pull toward both propaganda and art. Propaganda is a word currently out of favor, connoting unfair manipulation or distortion of means to an end. I use it in a more acceptable sense, the original sense of the word as coined by Pope Urban VIII. He formed the College of Propaganda in the 17th century in order to propagate the Christian faith. As a Christian writer, I must readily admit that I do strive for propaganda in this sense. Much of what I write is designed to convert or to lead others to consider a viewpoint I hold to be true.

Counterbalancing the literary tug away from propaganda, many evangelicals exert, an insidious tug away from art. They would react to Tolstoy’s statement with disbelief -- to choose a novel that entertains and fosters a love for life over a treatise that solves every social (or, better, religious) question of humankind! How can a person “waste” time with mere aesthetics -- soothing music, pleasing art, entertaining literature -- when injustice rules the nations and the decadent world marches ineluctably to destruction? Is this not fiddling while Rome burns? Currently, novels written by evangelicals tend toward the propagandistic (even to the extent of fictionalizing Bible stories and foretelling the Second Coming) and away from the artful.

Somewhere in this magnetic field between art and propaganda the Christian author (or painter or musician) works. One force tempts us to lower artistic standards and preach an unadorned message; another tempts us to submerge or even alter the message for the sake of artistic sensibilities. Having lived in the midst of this tension for over a decade, I have come to recognize it as a healthy synthesizing tension that should be affirmed. Success often lies within the extremes: an author may succeed in the evangelical world by erring on the side of propaganda. But ever so slowly, the fissure between the Christian and secular worlds will yawn wider. If we continue tilting toward propaganda, we will soon find ourselves writing and selling books to ourselves alone. On the other hand, the Christian author cannot simply absorb the literary standards of the larger world. Our ultimate goal cannot be a self-expression, but rather a God-expression.

C. S. Lewis explored the polarity in the address “Learning in Wartime,” delivered to Oxford students who were trying to concentrate on academics while their friends fought in the trenches of Europe and staved off the German aerial assault on London. How, asked Lewis, can creatures who are advancing every moment either to heaven or hell spend any fraction of time on such comparative trivialities as literature, art, math or biology (let alone Lewis’s field of medieval literature)? With great perception, Lewis noted that the condition of wartime did not change the underlying question, but merely accelerated the timing by making it more likely that any one person would advance soon to heaven or hell.

The most obvious answer to the dilemma is that God himself invested great energy in the natural world. In the Old Testament he created a distinct culture and experimented with a variety of literary forms which endure as masterpieces. As for biology and physics, everything we know about them derives from painstakingly tracing God’s creative activity. For a Christian, the natural world provides a medium to express and even discover the image of God. Nevertheless, while Lewis affirms the need for good art and good science, he readily admits that Christianity knocks culture off its pedestal. The salvation of a single soul, he says, is worth more than all the poetry, drama and tragedy ever written. (A committed Christian must acknowledge that intrinsic worth, and yet how many of us react with dismay when reading of such terrible tragedies as the burning of the library in Alexandria, the destruction of the Parthenon during the Crusades and the bombing of cathedrals in World War II while scarcely giving a thought to the thousands of nameless civilians buried in the rubble of those edifices?)

The dilemma of art and propaganda is essentially a tremor of the seismic human dilemma of living in a divinely created but fallen world. Beauty abounds, and we are right to seek it and to seek to reproduce it. And yet tragedy and despair and meaninglessness also abound, and we must not neglect addressing Ourselves to the human condition. That is why I affirm both art and propaganda. As an author, I experiment with different forms; I hope to express my propaganda (if the word offends you, read “message”) as artfully as possible, and to imbue my art with a worthwhile message. I embrace both art and propaganda, rejecting the pressures to conform to one or the other.

In dealing with the tensions of art and propaganda, I have learned a few guidelines that allow for a more natural wedding of the two. Whenever I have broken one of these guidelines, I have usually awakened to the abrupt and painful realization that I have tilted too far toward one or the other. In either case my message gets lost, whether through pedantic communication or through a muddle of empty verbiage. Because Christian Writers are mainly erring on the side of propaganda, not art, my guidelines speak primarily to that error.

1. An artful propagandist takes into account the ability of the audience to perceive.

For the Christian writer (or speaker) who wants to communicate to a secular audience, this caution cannot be emphasized too strongly. In effect, one must consider two different sets of vocabulary. Words which have a certain meaning to you as a Christian may have an entirely different, sometimes even antithetical, meaning to a secular listener. Consider a few examples of fine words which have had their meanings spoiled over time. “Pity” once derived from “piety”: a person dispensed pity in a godlike, compassionate sense. By responding to the poor and the needy, one was mimicking God and therefore was pietous, or full of pity. Similarly, as any reader of the King James Version knows, “charity” was an example of God’s grace, a synonym for love (as In the famous I Corinthians 13 passage). Over the centuries, both those words lost their meaning until they ultimately became negatively charged. “I don’t want pity!” or “Don’t give me charity!” a needy person protests today. The theological significance has been drained away.

Similarly, many words we now use to express personal faith may miscommunicate rather than communicate. The word “God” may summon up all sorts of inappropriate images, unless the Christian goes on to explain what he or she means by God. “Love,” a vital theological word, has lost its meaning; for common conceptions of it, merely flip a radio dial and listen to popular music stations. The word “redemption” most often relates to trading stamps, and few cultural analogies can adequately express that concept. Blood is as easily associated with death as with life.

As words change in meaning, Christian communicators must adapt accordingly, selecting words and metaphors which precisely fit the culture. Concepts, too, depend on the audience’s ability to absorb them, and often we must adapt downward to a more basic level. If I see a three-year-old girl endangering herself, I must warn her in terms she can understand. For example, what if the child decides to stick her finger first into her mouth and then into an electrical outlet? I would not respond by searching out my Reader’s Digest Home Handyman Encyclopedia and launching into an elaborate monologue on amps, volts, ohms and electrical resistance. Rather, I would more likely slap her hand and say something like “There’s fire in there! You’ll be burned!” Although, strictly speaking, the outlet box contains no literal fire, I will choose concepts that communicate to the comprehension level of a three-year-old.

Andrew Young reports that he learned an essential principle of survival during the civil rights struggle. “Don’t judge the adversary by how you think,” he says. “Learn to think like the adversary” he voiced that principle in the days of the Iran hostage crisis when news accounts were using such adjectives as “insane, crazed, demonic” to describe Iranian leaders. Those labels, said Young, do nothing to facilitate communication. To understand Iran, we must first consider its people’s viewpoint. To the militants, the shah was as brutal and vicious as Adolf Hitler; they were reacting to the US. as we would respond to a country that deliberately sheltered a mass murderer like Hitler.

In a parallel way, when Christians attempt to communicate to non-Christians, we must first think through their assumptions and imagine how they will likely receive the message we are conveying. That process will affect the words we choose, the form and, most important, the content we can get across. If we err on the side of too much content, as Christians often do, the net effect is the same as if we had included no content.

Alexander Solzhenitsyn, who has walked a tightrope between art and propaganda all his life, learned this principle after being released from the concentration camps when his writing finally began to find acceptance in Soviet literary journals. In The Oak and the Calf he recalls: “Later, when I popped up from the underground and began lightening my works for the outside world, lightening them of all that my fellow countrymen could hardly be expected to accept at once, I discovered to my surprise that a piece only gained, that its effect was heightened, as the harsher tones were softened.”

(We must use caution here, as Solzhenitsyn learned. A new danger may seep in: the subtle tendency to lighten too much and thus change the message. Just drop this one offensive word, the Soviet censors coaxed Solzhenitsyn. There’s really no need to capitalize God that’s archaic. If you want us to publish One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, merely cross out this one problem line. Solzhenitsyn resisted these last two requests; he capitalized God and left the controversial passage: I crossed myself, and said to God: “Thou art there in heaven after all, O creator. Thy patience is long, but thy blows are heavy.” Acceding to such pressure would obliterate his whole message, he decided.)

Whenever a Christian addresses a secular audience, he or she must maintain a balance between leaving the message intact and adapting it to that audience. We who are Christians stumble across God everywhere. We ascribe daily events to his activity. We see his hand in nature and the Bible. He seems fully evident to us. But to the secular mind, the question is how is it even possible to find God in the maze of cults, religions and TV mountebanks, all clamoring for attention against the background of a starving, war-torn planet. Unless we truly understand that viewpoint, and speak in terms the secular mind can understand, our words will have the quaint and useless ring of a foreign language.

2. Artful propaganda works like a deduction rather than a rationalization.

Since 1957 psychologists have begun to define an instinctual process of rationalization in the human mind, sometimes labeled the theory of cognitive dissonance. Basically, it means that the human mind, intolerant of a state of tension and disharmony, works to patch up inconsistencies with a self-affirming process of rationalization.

I am late to a meeting. Obviously, according to this theory, it cannot be my fault -- I start with that assumption. It must be the traffic. Or my wife. Or the others at the meeting, who showed up on time.

Or an article I have written is rejected. Instantly I start consoling myself with the knowledge that hundreds of manuscripts were rejected that day. The editor could have had a bad breakfast. Perhaps no one even read my manuscript. Any number o factors arise to explain my rejection. My mind tries to quiet the jarring cacophony caused by this bit of news.

I define the process of rationalization very simply: it occurs when a person knows the end result first, and reasons backwards. The conclusion is a given; I merely need to find a way to support that conclusion. I ran headlong into an example process of rationalization while doing research on a book chapter about the Wycliffe Bible Translators. Since rumors of Wycliffe’s CIA involvement proliferate, I felt it essential to try to track them down. I telephoned outspoken critics of Wycliffe all over the country. One, a professor in a New York university, insisted that Wycliffe was definitely subsidized by that government agency. I asked for proof. “It’s quite obvious,” he replied. “They claim to raise their $30 million annual budget from fundamentalist churches. You and I both know there’s not $30 million available from that source. Obviously, they’re getting it from somewhere else.” Had that professor done a little research, he would have discovered that each of the top five TV evangelists pulls in over $50 million annually from religious sympathizers. Certainly the pool of resources in the U.S. is large enough to account for Wycliffe’s contributions. But he started from a foregone conclusion and reasoned backwards.

Solzhenitsyn encountered a startling case of rationalization when the Soviet editor Lebedev said to him, “If Tolstoy were alive now and wrote as he did then [meaning against the government] he wouldn’t be Tolstoy.” Obviously, Lebedev’s opinion about his government was so firmly set that he could not allow a plausible threat to it, and so he rationalized that Tolstoy would be a different man under a new regime.

Sadly, much of what I read in Christian literature has an echo of rationalization. I get the sense that the author starts with an unshakable conclusion and merely sets out to discover whatever logical course could support that conclusion. Much of what I read on depression, on suicide, on homosexuality, seems written by people who begin with a Christian conclusion and who, in fact, have never been through the anguished steps that are the familiar path to a person struggling with depression, suicide or homosexuality. No wonder the “how-to” articles and books do not ring true. No conclusions could be so flip and matter-of-fact to a person who has actually endured such a journey.

A conclusion has impact only if the reader has been primed for it by moving along the steps that lead to it before being confronted with the conclusion. The conclusion must be the logical outgrowth, the consummation of what went before, not the starting place.

C. S. Lewis, Charles Williams and J. R. R. Tolkien struggled with these issues intensely as they worked on fiction that reveals an underlying layer of Christianity. Lewis and Tolkien particularly reacted with fire against well-meaning Christians who would slavishly point to all the symbolism in their books by, for instance, labeling the characters of Aslan and Gandalf as Christ-figures. Even though the parallels were obvious, both authors vigorously resisted admitting that had been their intent. Those characters may indeed point to Christ, but by shadowing forth a deeper, underlying cosmic truth. One cannot argue backwards and describe the characters as mere symbolic representations -- that would shatter their individuality and literary impact. (I often wonder if Lewis erred on the side of propaganda with Aslan and thus limited his non-Christian audience, whereas Tolkien’s greater subtlety may last for centuries.)

Several novels by Tolstoy and Dostoevsky begin with poignant quotations from Scripture. Their authors selected those verses because they summarize a central message. Yet are the novels Anna Karenina, Resurrection, The Idiot and The Brothers Karamazov propaganda? Only a hardened cynic would say so. The novels, rather, incarnate the concept behind the Bible references so compellingly and convincingly that the reader must acknowledge the truth of what he or she reads. To be effective, a Christian communicator must make the point inside the reader before the reader consciously acknowledges it.

3. Artful propaganda must be “sincere.”

I put the word sincere in quotes because I refer to its original meaning only. Like so many words, sincere has been pre-empted by modern advertising and twisted so badly that it ends up meaning its opposite.

Consider, for example, a shy, timid salesman, who doesn’t mix well at parties and cannot be assertive on sales calls. He is sent by his manager to a Dale Carnegie course to improve his self-confidence. “You must be sincere to be a successful salesman,” he is told, and he practices various techniques for sincerity. Start with the handshake -- it must be firm, confident, steady. Here, try it a few times. Now that you have that down, let’s work on eye contact. See, when you shake my hand, you should be staring me right in the eye. Don’t look away or even waver. Stare straight into me -- that’s a mark of sincerity. Your customer must feel you really care about him.

For a fee of several hundred dollars, our insecure salesman learns techniques of sincerity. His next customers are impressed by his conscientiousness, his confidence in his product, and his concern for them, all because he has learned a body language. Actually, an acquired technique to communicate something not already present is the opposite of the true meaning of sincere. The word, a sculptor’s term, derives from two Latin words, sin cere, “without Wax.” Even the best of sculptors makes an occasional slip of the chisel, causing an unsightly gouge. Sculptors who work with marble know that wax mixed to the proper color can fill in that gouge so perfectly that few observers could ever spot the flaw. But a truly perfect piece, one that needs no artificial touch-up, is sin cere, without wax. What you see is what you get -- there are no embellishments or cover-ups.

Propaganda becomes bad propaganda because of the touch-up wax authors apply to their work. If we can truly write in a sincere way, reflecting reality, then our work will reflect truth and reinforce our central message. If not, readers will spot the flaws and judge our work accordingly.

When I read The Oak and the Calf, I laughed aloud as I read the Soviet censors’ advice to Solzhenitsyn, because their script could have been written by an evangelical magazine editor. Three things must not appear in Russian literature, they solemnly warned Solzhenitsyn: pessimism, denigration add surreptitious sniping. Cover up your tendencies to realism with a layer that might soften the overall effect, they seemed to be saying.

Biography and fiction written by evangelicals too often show wax badly gaumed over obvious flaws. We leave out details of struggle and realism that do not fit neatly into our propaganda. Or we include scenes that have no realism just to reinforce our point. Even the untrained observer can spot the flaws, and slight bulges here and there can ruin a work of art.

All three of these temptations to propagandize in the bad sense increase with a captive, supportive audience. When we no longer have to win people over to our point of view, for example, realism can become an impediment. The Christian public will applaud books in which every prayer is answered and every disease is healed, but to the degree those books do not reflect reality, they will become meaningless to a skeptical audience. Too often evangelical literature appears to the larger world as strange and unconvincing as a Moonie tract or Daily World newspaper.

For models of these three guidelines of artful communication, we can look to the Creator himself. He took into account the audience’s ability to perceive in the ultimate sense -- by flinging aside his deity and becoming the Word, one of us, living in our cramped planet within the limitations of a human body. In his communication through creation, his Son and the Bible, he gave only enough evidence for those with faith to follow the deductions to truth about him, but yet without defying human freedom. And as for being sincere, has a more earthy, realistic book ever been written than the Bible?

A friend of mine, a hand surgeon, was awakened from a deep sleep by a 3 A.M. telephone call and summoned to an emergency surgery. He specializes in microsurgery, reconnecting nerves and blood vessels finer than human hairs, performing meticulous 12-hour procedures with no breaks. As he tried to overcome his grogginess, he realized he needed a little extra motivation to endure this one marathon surgery. On impulse he called a close friend, also awakening him. “I have a very arduous surgery ahead of me, and I need something extra to concentrate on this time,” he said “I’d like to dedicate this surgery to you. If I think about you while I’m performing it, that will help me get through.”

Should not that be the Christian author’s response to God -- an offering of our work in dedication to him? If so, how dare we possibly produce propaganda without art, or art without meaning?

To those few who succeed and become models of artistic excellence, the Christian message takes on a new glow. Looking back on T. S. Eliot’s life, Russell Kirk said, “He made the poet’s voice heard again, and thereby triumphed; knowing the community of souls, he freed others from captivity to time and the lonely ego; in the teeth of winds of doctrine, he attested the permanent things. And his communication is tongued with fire beyond the language of the living.”

Author: Philip Yancey. He is a free-lance writer and an editor at large of Christianity Today. This article appeared in the Christian Century March 31, 1982, p. 371. Copyright by the Christian Century Foundation and used by permission. Current articles and subscription information can be found at This material was prepared for Religion Online by Ted & Winnie Brock.

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Fantasy Literature’s Evocative Power

Written by eastern writer on Thursday, February 28, 2008

The fact that Ballantine Books has created a special division to publish only fantasy literature testifies to the enormous interest in such works. Indeed, the purchases -- and one would assume the reading -- of fantasy books are staggering. According to the New York Times Book Review (October 16, 1977), this year Ballantine expects to sell 850,000 copies of J. R. R. Tolkien’s Silmarillion, a work which the author abandoned early in his career but attempted to revise and finish before his death, and which was finally completed by his son Christopher. Sales of Richard Adams’s Watership Down, a fantasy work of the first order, are expected to reach 125,000 copies during: its fourth year in print -- the figure attained in one month by an "epic" fantasy, Terry Brooks’s The Sword of Shannara. And 100,000 copies of the perennial Winnie-the-Pooh will move into young and eager hands.

The list could be continued, on into the satellite propositions such as the Brothers Hildebrandt’s Tolkien Calendar which sold nearly a half-million copies last year. But numbers alone, however impressive, are relatively meaningless -- particularly in the publishing world. For example, over 8 million books on Elvis Presley were sold in the three months following his death (5 million ordered in one week). We also recall that Raynor Unwin (of George Allen & Unwin, Tolkien’s British publisher) expected to lose £1,000 on the first edition of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, which had an initial printing of only 10,000 total copies.


However entertaining and impressive -- the figures, we have to look well past them to assess the significance and grasp the meaning of fantasy literature.

Fantasy literature as a genre has the capacity to move a reader powerfully. And the motions and emotions involved are not simply visceral as is the case with much modern literature -- but spiritual. It affects one’s beliefs, one’s way of viewing life, one’s hopes and dreams and faith. Since I have had all these -- beliefs, hopes, dreams, faith -- affected by such literature, I feel compelled to ask somewhat uncomfortable questions about the experience.

Questions like these: What is the worth of this thing fantasy? What does it do? Why and how does it do what it does? I have not found these questions adequately addressed in the dozens of secondary works I have read on fantasy and fantasy writers. That the works do have such an effect everyone readily admits, but few care to say just how it comes about.

Indeed, it may be precisely in defiance of such theorizing that fantasy exists. Still, I am concerned, professionally and spiritually, with its why and how. Something that works this powerfully on the human spirit needs to be understood. Thus my concern here will not be to craft a paean to fantasy literature, but to attempt a theoretical understanding. In considering why, how and to what end fantasy literature operates, I am tempted to turn to well-known authors -- Lewis, Tolkien, Le Guin, Tennyson, L’Engle -- for convincing examples. I shall resist that temptation insofar as possible and stay with the theory.

First, a confession: After my initial reading of J.R.R. Tolkien’s works, I was not immediately swept into "Hobbidolatry," and I still resist that adulation which conceives of Tolkien as a presiding deity over his created world. Too many people, it seems, want to leave our world for a fictive one. Like Robert Frost, I feel that "earth’s the right place for love." Further, it strikes me as all too easy, as in some recent critical circles, to make a point, however flimsy; gloss it with a quotation from C. S. Lewis; and consider it thereby as apodictic truth, beyond disputing.

The understanding of the form is important, I believe, because authors of fantasy are often visionaries of the spiritual nature of man. The question which has confronted them in making their art is this: Given that vision of man’s spiritual nature, his spiritual needs and the answer to them, how does a writer incarnate the vision in art so that others may also see? Further, how can the artist focus the optics of insight so that others not only see, but see themselves within the vision, so that the world the artist creates becomes the world of the reader?

Ideally, all literary art strives for this interpenetration of the reader and artist in another world reached by the mind, so that the "I" of the reader becomes one with the "I" of the work. The great task of all literary artists is to show others their vision, posing it in such a way that others may say: Yes, this is true, this is a part of my life, this is valid for my life.

"A child," J. R. R. Tolkien wrote, "may well believe a report that there are ogres in the next country: many grown-up persons find it easy to believe of another country" ("On Fairy Stories," The Tolkien Reader [Ballantine, 1966]). Here is the invitation fantasy holds out to the reader: to recover a belief beclouded by knowledge, to reaffirm a faith shattered by fact. We know there are no ogres in the next country, yet we may well believe there are. The lure of this recovery has attracted thousands to Tolkien’s writings, has sent readers tumbling through the enchantment of his literary kingdoms, has in fact delivered what it promised: a recovery of being, a refreshment, a keener realization of the importance of our spiritual nature. The surprise is that so many readers are surprised by the experience. The lure of great literature has long been precisely this which fantasy holds forth in a new way: the lure of losing self in order to rediscover or recover one’s self in a fresher, revitalizing perspective.


In order to characterize a work as fantasy literature, I would argue, there are six traits which must be present to some degree: story, common characters, evocation of another world, use of magic and the supernatural, a clear sense of good and evil, and the quest.

The fact that fantasy relies on a compelling, well-spaced story, while seemingly obvious, nevertheless is often overlooked. Stated quite simply, the story is the narrative plot line, the unfolding of events, the fleshing out of characters into living beings who think about actions, who do act, and whose actions have effects. Moreover, a story must move through a beginning, a middle and an end, and in the process must move the reader.

By describing the story in traditional terms I thereby exclude from fantasy literature the allegory, which is frequently mistaken for fantasy. The fantasy story must be significant in its own right and not, as in allegory, always subservient to the interpretation -- a situation that casts reins and boundaries upon the imagination. Story seeks to free the imagination, to allow it for a time to live in another world. Allegory imprisons the imagination within an intricate puzzle. Essentially two dimensional, allegory moves without variation from the plane of the narrative to the plane of the allegorical meaning in an interrelationship that must be patterned, precise. There is a certain satisfaction in fitting the pieces of the puzzle together, but that is the end of the matter. Story, on the contrary, has the capacity to live on in us. Rather than merely working out someone else’s puzzle, we appropriate the story as our own.

Such a view of story would also disallow a great deal of what is variously described as "reflective," "analytic" or "stream-of-consciousness" fiction. While the characters in fantasy often have powerful mental and spiritual struggles -- struggles that lead them through vales of sorrow and dark tunnels of the mind -- they never forget that they are acting in a drama which involves others and which is moving resolutely to an ending. The mental struggle itself is not the end. The characters in fantasy can be as profound as life itself or as illuminating as a sunrise, but the life moves somewhere and the sun not only rises but sets. In fantasy the story, often a powerful tale, is compelling upon the reader, but it is also impelling in the work, providing action, encounter, desperation and resolution.


The second trait of fantasy literature is that the central characters are of a common nature. In the fantasy tale they might be any one of us -- and that is precisely the point. We are asked not to stand on the outside and survey this tale from detached perspective, but to enter into it so that the story becomes ours. Thus we find characters quite like ourselves.

Even when the characters are not human beings, they are like us; Tolkien’s hobbit far prefers an easy chair and a pipe full of good tobacco to an adventure. Elwin Ransom of Lewis’s Space Trilogy, a philologist by profession, is forced to undertake a quest. Many of the central characters of fantasy are country people, like those in Evangeline Walton’s Mabinogion tales and other Welsh fantasies, The wizard Ged of Le Gum’s Earthsea Trilogy is the son of a bronzesmith on a rustic island and is referred to as "goatherd."

By virtue of the common character it thereby becomes easier for readers to see themselves in the action. Even though we may all like to play Superman, in literature it seems that we stand outside the larger-than-life hero. He is ably equipped, after all, to fight his own battles. In fact, we usually know at the outset who will win; we’re just not certain how. But with common characters we recognize their shortcomings (they are our own), and want to come to their aid. When a character gets knocked down, which occurs frequently, we would like to help -- from the safety of our easy chair. Maybe between us we can pull it off.

There are two other considerations that account for the trait of the common character. First, the common character is naïve, retaining a certain innocence rather than becoming cynical, hard-bitten, or spoiled by the world. Common characters have not lost the childlike trait of wonder, the willingness to engage adventure. Tolkien explored this idea in his essay "On Fairy Stories," and Lewis has commented on the nature of the fantasy character, albeit indirectly. Often the characters of fantasy are children, since authors have found in children a universal, common human nature, unspoiled by the specialized, regimented and categorized adult world.

The second reason for the use of a common character has to do with heroism. In literary history the hero has often been a figure who acts for us, who stands in our place in the face of danger and by superhuman powers overcomes on our behalf. The theme in fantasy literature is that anyone may be called on to become the hero. Each person may be summoned to tasks which seem beyond his or her capability -- tasks such as a sojourn through sorrow, a struggle to define the nature of goad and evil, the quest for joy. Each person has to act in these instances, has to rely on his or her own insights, cunning, or in some cases strength. Even in tales which clearly envision a supernatural presence, a ruling God, the individual is forced to act on his own strength.

The point of a fantasy is not to hand us tidy morals, but to provide us with growth by experience. Since in fantasy we learn not morals but lessons on life’s way, it is necessary that we clearly recognize this distinction through the characters. They are called not to be heroes, but to be human -- to recognize the human situation for what it is. and what possibly can be done about it.

Evocation of another world, the third trait characterizing fantasy literature, has received attention in critical circles and has been well elucidated by such scholars as Eric Rabkin, C. N. Manlove and J. R. R. Tolkien. So I will simply remark on several qualities of the created (in Tolkien’s terms, "subcreated") world in which fantasy characters live and move and have their being.

First, the world of fantasy is not a dream world, a never-never land, but a world that matches ours in reality. The characters confront the same terrors, choices and dilemmas that we do. Why, then, create a fantasy world at all? The reason is to make it possible to confront more openly and daringly a spiritual reality too often ignored in our world of system and fact, According to Eric Rabkin (The Fantastic in Literature [Princeton University Press, 1976]), "Admittedly, the fantastic is reality turned precisely 180 degrees around, but this is reality nonetheless, a fantastic narrative reality that speaks the truth of the human heart." Perhaps it is the case that when these realities of the human heart are devalued in daily life, one must look to another world where such realities can be restructured and given credence and value.

It follows, then, that the world of fantasy is not an escapist world but one through which we begin to see our own world more clearly. No one, I believe, has addressed this quality more eloquently than Tolkien in his essay "On Fairy Stories." Rather than attempt to reproduce his argument, which would somehow seem to derogate it, I refer the reader to it. In fantasy there is always this reciprocating action, an interchange between two worlds. One of E. Nesbit’s stories is entitled "Whereyouwantogeto" and ends "Whereyoustartedfrom." Precisely.


In Modern Fantasy: Five Studies (Cambridge University Press, 1975), C. N. Manlove has argued that the use of the supernatural -- and I would include magic -- is not simply a possibility in the fantasy tale; it is a driving force in the story and takes a central role in the development and shaping of characters as well as plot. In going into this fourth characteristic of fantasy literature, magic and the supernatural are terms which I use interchangeably (at some risk) to connote the presence of powers whose origin and nature lie outside of human knowledge or common experience.

One form that magic takes is found in the tradition known as "high fantasy," with the supernatural or magical power providing much of the story’s driving impetus. The story is, if you will, about magic and how it affects people. In this form of fantasy the powers are always mysterious, but by certain rites, incantations or motions they can be drawn upon by humans and used to human ends. In Le Gum’s A Wizard of Earthsea (Bantam, 1968), the mage Ogion says to young Ged:

Ged, listen to me now. Have you never thought how danger must surround power as shadow does light? This sorcery is not a game we play for pleasure or for praise. Think of this: that every word, every act of our Art is said and is done either for good, or for evil. Before you speak or do you must know the price that is to pay!

Not only are the powers of good or evil controlled by people, there is, further, a sense of balance between such powers, an equilibrium. People can tip the balance either way.

Another form of magic in fantasy occurs when authors, specifically Christian authors, reject what in this approach appears to be a Manichaean dualism with good and evil in conflict and with its resolution left in human hands. Authors in this camp clearly establish the view that the power of evil is limited, and that the power of good (or God) is the absolute authority which sets the limits. Evil does wield a certain power when individuals allow themselves to become a receptacle through which it can operate. Even so, the power of good is always seen as the prior and absolute power, not dependent on human nature but always working directly. In fact, people are often surprised at its appearance, for it lies beyond human expectation and comprehension. Because this power is wholly outside their control, the characters sometimes describe it by the adjective "magical" simply to indicate that it is not understood. One might also use the word "miraculous."

The fifth trait follows from the above, for in all fantasy literature there is a keen recognition of forces of good and evil, a sense of right and wrong -- but also a driving necessity to act on such recognition. It may be the case, however, that in the character’s human struggle to act on choices between good and evil, the distinction becomes blurred. Often the character does not know for certain whether the action is correct until he or she has acted. Often the choice must be construed from what appears to human perspective as a gray area, and it is precisely this, as Robert Browning pointed out in The Ring and the Book, that constitutes "life’s terrible choice." Distressed by the obscuring of the clear word in the modern age, Goethe rephrased the first chapter of the Gospel of John as "In the beginning was the deed." And so too in fantasy. One must act in order to see clearly. The act itself may be committed in great tension and uncertainty, but it is only by acting that one arrives at certainty.

In fantasy’s portrayal of such choices is a keen awareness of the terror of life as well as its joy. There is held forth as one of fantasy’s central tenets the belief that the end of a successful fairy story is joy: not a joy apart from sorrow, however, but a joy distilled from the experience of agonizing choice and a painful awareness of the errors in human decision-making. Only through such decisions, and the actions attendant upon them, may the often hazy edges of good and evil be clarified.


The final, and perhaps most important, characteristic is that fantasy is always marked by a quest. If one must act, one must often seek long and desperately for a basis for action. The quest is distinguished from mere adventure, a trait which marks a great deal of nonfantasy fiction (going back, perhaps, to the picaresque novel). While the adventure may be undertaken for any number of reasons and may lead anywhere, the quest is always toward something, although that fact often becomes clear only with the seeking of the goal. It is generally a spiritual or religious undertaking, with its grave or serious nature contrasting with what may well be frolic in the adventure,. Further, the quest is always marked by a sense of struggle, of imminent or actual danger in which all of the character’s will and power will be called forth in order to push on.

In his essay "The Quest Hero" (Texas Quarterly, 4 [1962]), W. H. Auden distinguishes the nature of the true quest in historical literary tradition, illuminating as well this central factor of fantasy. The true quest, he argues, is typified by the following:

(1) A precious Object and/or Person to be found and possessed or married.

(2) A long journey to find it, for its whereabouts are not originally known to the seekers.

(3) A hero. The precious Object cannot be found by anybody, but only by the one person who possesses the right qualities of breeding or character.

(4) A Test or series of Tests by which the unworthy are screened out, and the hero revealed.

(5) The Guardians of the Object who must be overcome before it can be won. They may be simply a further test of the hero’s arete, or they may be malignant in themselves.

(6) The Helpers who with their knowledge and magical powers assist the hero and hut for whom he would never succeed. They may appear in human or in animal form.

Auden observes, moreover, that each of these six elements "corresponds to an aspect of our subjective experience of life." That observation, I believe, is of crucial significance in fantasy, for frequently the quest is an interior or spiritual one. The real struggle is for self-realization. For example, The Hobbit has a clear-cut quest which fulfills all of Auden’s criteria. Yet the book’s real quest goes on within the protagonist, Bilbo Baggins. Hence, when Bilbo descends into the dark cavern to confront the mighty dragon Smaug (who possesses the "treasure"), the narrator can say that Bilbo "fought the real battle in the tunnel alone, before he ever saw the vast danger that lay in wait."

There, in essence, lies the goal of fantasy: to lead the reader into a keener self-understanding. This is the central point of the genre. The artist of vision and fantasy expects us to learn something about ourselves by having made a sojourn through fantasy, to probe our spiritual nature, to grow in experience, to resolve our lives toward new directions. If fantasy begins in another world, it is in order to reach that mysterious other world of the human soul.


There is a further question I personally have to consider, and that concerns the role of fantasy in a Christian life. On this issue, fantasy literature has come under some insensitive and often bitter attack. For example, Dove magazine, a publication of Faith Ministries Association in Pittsburgh, once carried an essay that denigrated fantasy as pernicious, false and a tool of Satan ("Satan’s Fantasy," March 1974). Tolkien, for one, suffered unmercifully in the attack, although the writer gave no evidence of any firsthand reading of Tolkien.

There are other reasons for such questioning of fantasy, however, and several of these tie in with what I have already written. For example, many distrust the power of fantasy to affect the human spirit. That is precisely why I felt compelled to consider the nature of the genre in a systematic fashion.

Can one, however, construct a convincing argument for the appropriation of fantasy in a Christian life? In many respects, the Christian life is not wholly unlike fantasy as I have described it. (In fact, Tolkien maintained that the gospel was the world’s greatest fairy tale.) Consider these points.

Christianity cherishes story, not in the sense of a fictitious tale, but rather in a view of life which is whole, with a beginning (creation), a middle (the incarnation and crucifixion), and an ending (the resurrection). History is often said to be God’s story, the revelation of God to humankind. In a sense we are actively partaking of that story. We are characters in the universal drama which God is writing in time.

Notice too that the characters of this story are common. Jesus Christ, himself a carpenter from Nazareth, proclaimed that he came to save sinners. That, I would contend, is our common unity -- our fallen nature. No one can write the eternal story of ones own life; all of us are wholly dependent on Bethlehem’s child-king.

Christianity does more than merely evoke another world; the Christian, albeit with faltering footsteps, attempts to walk in the Kingdom of God, a world we live in now as we try to do the king’s will. This other world is not a never-never land, one divorced from everyday reality. Indeed, it is the true world of the spirit by which we are called to redeem the world of the present age.

I have sought to indicate the different perspectives by which fantasy views and engages themes of magic and the supernatural. In the Christian life there is no "magic," yet the word may serve as a marvelous term (properly understood) for the illimitable power of God, who works in ways which we cannot comprehend and whose response to our need is often beyond expectation. Whatever we see shadowed in part always seems to us something magical.

Moreover, this ultimate power reigns sovereign over evil. From our worldly perspective good and evil seem to be at war, and often we can’t tell which is winning. Yet, the Christian "fantasy" presents us with a vision of evil as being eternally cast in chains, and a vision of God’s daily protective power against evil. It was with keen recognition of this struggle that Paul wrote the moving eighth chapter of Romans. Also, we Christians are mindful that we are instrumental in the struggle. We are not allowed to sit on the sidelines awaiting the final outcome, but must be players in the game, often frustrated, joyful when there are small gains, and always in the thick of it.

Through all this, however, the Christian is steadfastly confident that the struggle on earth is not the end of the matter. The quest to do the Maker’s will finds completion in the lost treasure of the Quest, that treasure from which we were separated at the fall and which we eagerly anticipate: the restoration of union with our Maker. Then the fantasy will indeed be recognized as reality itself.

Author: John H. Timmerman. He is a professor of English at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan. This article appeared in the Christian Century, May 17, 1978, pp. 533-537. Copyright by The Christian Century Foundation; used by permission. Current articles and subscription information can be found at This material was prepared for Religion Online by Ted and Winnie Brock

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Boris Pasternak: "Doctor Zhivago" (1956)

Written by eastern writer on Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Man is born to live, not to prepare for life. Life itself, the phenomenon of life, the gift of life, is so breathtakingly serious!
-Boris Pasternak

Most of us are only familiar with Doctor Zhivago from the epic David Lean film version (indeed this is one of the books I come across most frequently at book sales, almost always unread). The movie is beautiful but strangely inert, has a somewhat disjointed narrative and conveys no clear philosophical message--flaws which I always assumed were a function of the difficulty of converting a Russian novel to film and the inexplicable casting of two really awful actors (Omar Sharif & Julie Christie) in the lead roles. But now, having reread the novel, it seems to me that these weaknesses are inherent in the novel. Just as Lean seemed most interested in the story as a vehicle for presenting cinematic images, the real life in Pasternak comes less from the narrative itself than from the poetry that Zhivago produces. And the message of the novel, assuming that there is one, is presented awfully subtly.

Zhivago himself, the name means "life" in Russian, is a pretty docile leading man. The story follows him as he is buffeted by the winds of change in Russia from 1903 to his death sometime after WWII.
We can take at least a twofold message from the novel. Pasternak seems first of all to be speaking out, however obliquely, against a system which denies life and destroys artists, as the Soviet regime had. However, he also seems to be saying that the artist is relatively helpless against the tides of history. It is ironic in light of this that Pasternak became such a cause celebre. A good deal of this novel's reputation surely rests on the Western reaction to Soviet efforts to quash it. Perhaps I've simply lost the ability to read between the lines of samizdat, but I thought the condemnation of Communist Russia in the book was exceedingly mild, almost too much so. And there is one section in particular, right at the end of the book, where Pasternak waxes optimistically over how the nation may be entering a period of renewed freedom now that the war has been won. This kind of wishful thinking comes across as incredibly naive. I guess I too will have to fall back on the reaction that the novel provoked and assumed that even such feathery criticism as the book contains was important in crystallizing opposition to the regime.

But Doctor Zhivago is understood to be semi autobiographical and to the extent that Zhivago is acted upon rather than acting himself, perhaps he is intended to convey Pasternak's own ambivalence about the role he had played by remaining in Soviet Union and continuing to work. Indeed, there is a really poignant moment in Isaiah Berlin's piece on the author, where Pasternak, near desperation, seeks to solicit Berlin's opinion on whether people believe that he has collaborated with the government because he remained in the USSR or whether they instead accept that he felt compelled to stay. In fairness to Pasternak, it should not be necessary to leave a country (as did Solzhenitsyn) or be disappeared (as was Isaac Babel) or be imprisoned (as were countless others) in order to demonstrate the legitimacy of your opposition to an evil government.

To be honest, the subtlety of Pasternak's message and our increasing distance from the time when even such subtleties could prove incendiary, served to deaden the effect of a novel which already suffers from being a tad too episodic. In the final analysis, I guess I respected the book more than enjoyed it and found it more interesting as a key artifact of an age that is quickly receding from memory than compelling as a novel

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The mystery of the white injury

Written by eastern writer on Tuesday, February 26, 2008

The principal frontage of the house D’Emily Dickinson in Amherst.

"the house is my definition of God" declared Emily Dickinson (1830-1886). Blow, it lived more than twenty-five years recluse at it, in Amherst, in Massachusetts. A residence become a place of pilgrimage.

Emily Dickinson incarnates a form D’absolu: L’absence in the world. Not the withdrawal or the jamming of the tracks which manufactures the myths in Salinger, non: voluntary reclusion in the carmel D’a room, far from the glances, with Cœur burning L’gasoline of the things.

Emily Dickinson or the paradigm of the tower D’ivory, this pale and dense matter on which the light slips. Wrapped whiteness, vêtue of flax, C’are with the matity of the paper qu sheet’it entrusts its heart, its enchantments and its angers, its visions, its interrogations, its certainty. No one or almost N’will know anything of it.

Seventy years S’will run out before a complete edition of its thousand seven hundred and seventy-five poems appears, founders with those of Whitman of American poetry. And almost a century before the first reliable biography, that D’a girl of the middle-class D’Amherst, Massachusetts, which one day was withdrawn in its house, then in its room, and N’left there more jusqu’to its death.

During twenty-five years, no one in Amherst did not see its face. Time with other, however, it sometimes happened to him to descend a bread D’spices with the end D’a cord for the children. The residence of cossue neo-classic family of style gave on the street. Of its window, Emily Dickinson could follow L’animation of Street Hand. L’different bay, it saw Evergreen, the house of his/her brother and Susan, his beautifulœur with which it had tied, a few years during, an impassioned friendship. The world is not indifferent for him or foreign, it finds it in the veins D’a petal or the buzz D’a fly.

It is understood that Christian Bobin saw, for a long time, in the white Injury, an Sœur D’election. And text qu’it devotes to him delivers Emily Dickinson to us secret and vibrating, very whole granted to the interior music which L’lives. Qu’one S’does not mislead there. Nothing mièvre, but on the contrary the rate/rhythm haletant of that (celui?) who seeks far from the noise and the fury to tear off with silence some spangles of vérité: "the tyranny of visible done us of the blind men. L’glare of the verb bores the night of the world ", notices it. Nothing narcissistic or D’hypocritically identificatoire, for as much. Not de: "I make pretence speak D to you’it but C’is of me qu’it S’acts" Christian Bobin S’erases, and this obliteration is the only trace, in hollow, of its presence. With him we penetrate in the residence D’Amherst, and the doors are closed again, us delivering in all their purity the search D’Emily, its passions and its despairs "the house is my definition of God", writes the young woman at the same time éperdue of transcendence and rebel to the religion of his pars. As for the father himself, Edward Dickinson, member of the Congress, with Cœur "pure and terrible" according to words' of his daughter, it is the main beam of this house where each one, according to the word of Vinnie, the Sœur, is a king of its own kingdom.

One is grateful in Christian Bobin D’to have penetrated this kingdom without effraction: no psychology (a mother melancholic person, an authoritative father, etc.) but the dialogue with a perforated life of mysteries, woven in the banality of the daily newspaper. Emily gathers its poems per packages of twenty, sews them and arranges them in a drawer "At the same time when she revêt her dress white, points out Christian Bobin, Rimbaud, with the furious negligence of youth, gives up her fairy-like book in the cellar D’a printer and flees towards L’Orient stupefied" both "work to be made forget". Amherst, like Charleville, became places of pilgrimage.
Évelyne Bloch-Dano
The white Injury, Christian Bobin, éd. Gallimard, "L’one and L’different", 120 p., 14,50 €.
Because L’good-bye C’is the night, Emily Dickinson, éd. Gallimard, "Poetry", 448 p., 9,80 €.

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Simone de Beauvoir, the passion of freedom

Written by eastern writer on Tuesday, February 26, 2008

The Literary Magazine n°471.
January 2008

In the Ceremony of the good-byes, Simone de Beauvoir notes qu’in November 1976 the literary Magazine published "a length and very interesting" maintenance with Sartre with Michel Sicard in connection with L’Idiotic of the family. As D’different events with the glory of Sartre had surrounded this number, Simone de Beauvoir, S’while congratulating for him, S’exclaimed: "What a beautiful come-back! "And Sartre to answer, malicieusement: "a funerary come-back" Its health did not cease being degraded and Beauvoir consigned with a precision relentless the stages of this slow dilapidation in a newspaper which will give the Ceremony of the good-byes.

C’is aujourd’today with the turn of Simone de Beauvoir to make its come-back. Hundred years after its birth – on January 9, 1908 – a come-back D’in addition to-falls! Through various conferences, special numbers, biographical republications, and tests – of which that of Daniele Sallenave – this commemoration will be abundantly celebrated. Beauvoir left its purgatory to become a figure prodigiously present and alive. L’History gave wrong to those which décrièrent combat qu’it carried out for the women, reproaching him for alienating them with the male model. L’one of the large priestesses of the MLF, Antoinette Fouque, had these terrible words at the following day of its death: "This death N’is not an event. C’is an adventure which perhaps will accelerate L’entered of the women the xxie century "Judgement extremely hasty whose virulence is with L’image of the attacks undergone by Beauvoir throughout its life.

Vilified in France at the time of its publication, the Second Sex had to await the American dedication for S’to impose as a book founder of the feminist thought; aujourd’today still, in fact the theories of the kind, developed on the other side of the Atlantic put at the foreground the analyses of Beauvoir. In two short sentences, L’author of the Second Sex opened an immense breach: "One is not born woman. It is become ", wrote it since 1949, putting at bottom the quiet certainty of the triumphing patriarchate.

Beyond the combat for the women, Beauvoir knew to develop a philosophy which one perceives aujourd’today L’extreme richness. According to its most radical disciples, it would have blown in Sartre the premises of the thought existentialist. More certainly, it knew, starting from the substrate which was common for them, to develop an original philosophy, L’applying as well to female condition qu’with the question of the old age, in connection with which it had also a role of pionnière. It is time to read again its tests like its autobiographical novels and its accounts. L’together of sound œuvre, marked by the taste of the word right and sparing, guard an intact force.


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BibleKeeper #1

Written by eastern writer on Tuesday, February 26, 2008

This is a good information for you who are interested in reading and researching scripture on the Internet. Now you can dig your religion understanding with a free Online Bible study resource. Ya, please visit This site offer the Bible in 28 different languages as well as a variety of versions.

Choose menu "Bible Study Tools". Search the Bible by chapter and verse or by specific text. On the drop-down menu, you can select a book, chapter, and verse.

Some of the Bible's listed require special fonts be installed to be viewed properly.
This site provided instructions below to assist you in setting up your web browser. You may not have the proper fonts installed on your computer so you may need to download them. You can find most fonts for free simply by searching in Google for the name of the needed font.

Here you can find instructions about Netscape's Navigator/Communicator and Microsoft's Internet Explorer. We used Greek encoding as an example but these instructions should work for most fonts.

Start learning Bible Online

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Professional Web Desgin

Written by eastern writer on Monday, February 25, 2008

If you are going to run a business, having a website will be a must. You can promote your product easily through your website. This is important to reach the worldwide market. Selling product online will cut your work in effective and efficient way.

But, the problem is, not all people who have been a master in the conventional business which is not support with online marketing system, know how to built a website. Now, if you are planning to run a business with online marketing support system, you can use some web design service. Among this service, I highly recommended you to see a professional web design service from NVI montreal web design team.

NVI provides montreal-based web design solutions that fit small and large businesses with one goal in mind: to reach their online objectives.

NVI offers montreal web design through a montreal website design dedicated team. NVI delivers professional, unique, made in montreal website design to any type of business worldwide.

Here is a list of NVI web design services:

>> Custom website design - Design in Montreal
>> Montreal e-commerce
>> SEO marketing
>> Montreal search engine optimization
>> Content Management System
>> Canadian web hosting
>> Corporate Branding Strategy

NVI: dedicated
montreal web design company

With NVI, you redefine the process of electronic business. You live a transparent, open-minded and cooperative experience with our montreal web design team. We offer strategic consulting to allow you to achieve your business objectives. Be ready to discover a unique place for all your website design needs in Montreal and across North America. Our montreal website design team is waiting for your ideas to make them real.

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How to Write a Poem

Written by eastern writer on Sunday, February 24, 2008

Writing a poem is all about observing the world within you or around you. You can write about anything from love to the rusty gate at the old farm. As long as you are enjoying it or finding it releases something from inside you, you're on the right track.

Just follow the following steps:

1. Read and listen to poetry. Whether someone who has never seen a sonnet nor heard haiku can truly be a poet is an open question. It is almost certain, though, that any poet who has been published or who has garnered any following enhanced their skills by reading or listening to good poetry, even if they later scoffed at conventional notions of what was "good." "Good" poems fall into two categories: those that are recognized as classics and those that you like. Poems typically being short, there is no reason not to explore plenty of both.

2. Learn about modern poetry. You may remember rhyming poetry from textbooks. That is an old style. Modern poetry does not usually rhyme at the end of lines. Search the Internet for a list of poet laureates. Read the poetry written by the current poets on that list to see what is popular today--especially if you are interested in publication of your poetry.

3.Original manuscript of Longfellow's "The Village Blacksmith." The revisions on the page give us an idea of how the poem evolved.
Find a spark. A poem may be born as a snippet of verse, maybe just a line or two that seems to come out of nowhere. That's what's usually called inspiration, and once you have that beginning you simply need to flesh it out, to build the rest of the poem around it. At other times you may want to write about a specific thing or idea. If this is the case, do a little planning. Write down all the words and phrases that come to mind when you think of that idea. Allow yourself to put all your ideas into words. It may sound difficult, but do not be afraid to voice your exact feelings. Emotions are what make poems, and if you lie about your emotions it can be easily sensed in the poem. Write them down as quickly as possible, and when you're done, go through the list and look for connections or certain items that get your creative juices flowing.

4. Think about what you want to achieve with your poem. Perhaps you want to write a poem to express your love for your boyfriend or girlfriend; perhaps you want to commemorate a tragic event; or maybe you just want to get an "A" in your poetry class. Think about why you are writing your poem and who your intended audience is, and then proceed in your writing accordingly.

5. Decide what poetry style suits your subject. If you see "Winter icicles / plummeting like Enron stock..." perhaps you've got a haiku in your head. As a poet, you have a wide variety of set forms to choose from: limericks, sonnets, villanelles ... the list goes on and on. You may also choose to abandon form altogether and write your poem in free verse. While the choice may not always be as obvious as the example above, the best form for the poem will usually manifest itself during your writing.

6. Listen to your poem. While many people today have been exposed to poetry only in written form, poetry was predominantly an aural art for thousands of years, and the sound of a poem is still important. As you write and edit your poem, read it aloud and listen to how it sounds.

7. Write down your thoughts as they come to you. Don't edit as you write, or do edit as you write - the choice is yours. However, you should try both methods at least a couple times to see what works best for you.

8. Choose the right words. It's been said that if a novel is "words in the best order," then a poem is "the best words in the best order." Think of the words you use as building blocks of different sizes and shapes. Some words will fit together perfectly, and some won't. You want to keep working at your poem until you have built a strong structure of words. Use only those words that are necessary, those that enhance the meaning of the poem. Choose your words carefully. The differences between similar sounding words or synonyms can lead to interesting word play.

9. Use concrete imagery and vivid descriptions.
* Love, hate, happiness: these are all abstract concepts. Many, maybe all, poems are, deep down, about emotions and other abstractions, but it's hard to build a strong poem using only abstractions - it's just not interesting. The key, then, is to replace or enhance abstractions with concrete images, things that you can appreciate with your senses: a rose, a shark, or a crackling fire, for example. The concept of the objective correlative may be useful. An objective correlative is an object, several objects, or a series of events (all concrete things) that evoke the emotion or idea of the poem.
* Really powerful poetry not only uses concrete images; it also describes them vividly. Show your readers and listeners what you're talking about--help them to experience the imagery of the poem. Put in some "sensory" handles. These are words that describe the things that you hear, see, taste, touch, and smell, so that the reader can identify with their own experience. Give some examples rather than purely mental/intellectual descriptions. For example: "He made a loud sound" versus "He made a loud sound like a hippo eating 100 stale pecan pies with metal teeth".

10. Use poetic devices to enhance your poem's beauty and meaning. The most well known poetic device is rhyme. Rhyme can add suspense to your lines, enhance your meaning, or make the poem more cohesive. It can also make it prettier. Don't overuse rhyme. It's a crime. In fact you don't have to use rhyme at all. Other poetic devices include meter, metaphor, assonance, alliteration, and repetition. If you don't know what these are, you may want to look in a poetry book or search the internet. Poetic devices can make a poem or, if they bring too much attention to themselves, they can ruin it.

11. Save your most powerful message or insight for the end of your poem. The last line is to a poem what a punch line is to a joke--something that evokes an emotional response. Give the reader something to think about, something to dwell on after reading your poem. Resist the urge to explain it; let the reader become engaged with the poem in developing an understanding of your experience or message.

12. Edit your poem. When the basic poem is written, set it aside for awhile and then read the poem out loud to yourself. Go through it and balance the choice of words with the rhythm. Take out unnecessary words and replace imagery that isn't working. Some people edit a poem all at once, while others come back to it again and again over time. Don't be afraid to rewrite if some part of the poem is not working. Sometimes you just can't fix something that essentially doesn't work.

13. Get opinions. It can be hard to critique your own work, so after you've done an initial edit, try to get some friends or a poetry group (there are plenty online) to look at your poem for you. You may not like all their suggestions, and you don't have to take any of them, but you might find some insight that will make your poem better. Feedback is good. Pass your poem around, and ask your friends to critique your work. Tell them to be honest, even if it's painful. Filter their responses or ignore them altogether and edit as you see fit.


* Do you find that you never feel inspired when you sit down to write a poem? It's a common problem, and you can solve it by carrying a notebook with you everywhere in which you can jot down poem ideas as they come to you. Then, when you're ready to write, just get out the notebook and find an idea that catches your fancy.

* You might want to listen to soothing music or look at pictures to calm and inspire you.

* Don't forget that surprise makes art (writing) extra special. If you're going to drag out the tired old rose metaphor in a love poem, put your own twist on it.

* Don't give up. You'll probably find that your poems become better and easier to write as you write more of them.

* Poems can make a great gift.

* Keep all of your poetry in a book whether you like it or not. In the future, you might be able to salvage some of the throwaways or publish your best work.


* Avoid cliches or overused images. "The world is your oyster," is neither a brilliant nor an original observation.

* If you are writing a poem to be sent to a newspaper or a family-friendly magazine, choose your words and topic with care. You don't want the paper to censor your original work or reject it because of profanity.

* Avoid sharing your work with people who do not appreciate poetry. This is a mistake that can discourage you from being a poet. It is often difficult to explain that you are just trying your hand at something new. The best thing to do is ask someone you know who will support you (who also happens to appreciate the art of the written word) to kindly critique you.

* To guard against plagiarism, do what you can to reinforce your copyrights to your work. One way to do this is to make a copy of your work, seal it into an envelope, place a stamp on it, and mail it back to yourself. When you receive it in the mail, don't open it. The un-opened envelope can provide additional evidence that you are the copyright holder should it ever be in question, although it is not guaranteed to prove it in court.

* If you have too much imagery, it can actually hurt your poem. "Explosively radiating sunshine slammed through my window" is just over the top.

* If you want others to read your poetry, ask yourself "If somebody else showed me this, would I like it?" If the answer is "no," edit the poem some more.

* If you're simply brimming with ideas and inspiration, don't try to fit it all into one poem. You'll have the chance to write more in the future.


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How To Read a Difficult Book

Written by eastern writer on Sunday, February 24, 2008

Even if you have lots of experience in reading books, you will still come across books that are just difficult to get through. You may find the reading slow because of the subject matter, the language, word usage, or the convoluted plot and character elements. When you are just attempting to get through the book, it may not really matter to you why the book is difficult. You just want to finish the work, so you can move on to your next reading pick. Here are some tips...

Difficulty: Hard
Time Required: Varies
Here's How:

  1. Find your reading spot--a place where you can be comfortable and read. Under what conditions are you able to concentrate, study, and read most effectively? It may be easier for you to read at a desk, at a table in a quiet library, on the grass, by the lake, or in one of those cushy chairs at Starbucks. Some readers can't concentrate when there's any noise around them, while others can read anywhere. Reproduce those ideal conditions--particularly when you're reading a difficult book.
  2. Keep a dictionary with you as you read the book. Look up any words you don't understand. Also, jot down literary references that are escaping you. Are comparisons being made that are escaping your understanding? Look those references up!
  3. Look at how the book is organized by reading through the table of contents and reading the introduction (which may give you some idea of what the book is about, and why it is important).
  4. Don't let the book discourage you. Read the entire book, so you'll get a sense of what the book is about: who the characters are, what is happening, what some of the themes or contexts may be, etc. This technique is sometimes called "skimming," but make sure you read as much as possible. The idea of to get a sense of what the book is about and what the author is trying to accomplish with the work; so when you go back and re-read the material, it won't be as difficult.
  5. If you own the book you are reading, you may want to highlight passages that seem important. Otherwise, you can take careful notes--keeping track of quotes, characters, or passages (with page numbers). Some readers find that by using flags or page markers, they can more easily find those sections that are essential to an understanding of the book. Or, you may mark sections that you don't understand, so you can come back for a closer read later.
  6. Don't become bleary-eyed. In other words, if the book seems too overwhelming, stop reading for a bit. Take this time to organize your ideas about the book. Write down the questions that you have so far--about characters, the plot, the author, the setting, ideas, etc. If the concepts are still too difficult to grasp, sketch out your ideas--with images or colors. Or, try talking about it with a friend--to flush out what you are thinking (and feeling) about the work.
  7. >Don't stop reading for too long. It can be tempting to put off finishing the book when the book seems too difficult, but don't give in to that temptation. If you put off continuing your reading, you'll forget what you've accomplished thus far. You may forget about important elements of the plot or characterization. The gist of the book may begin to slip away as well. So, just keep on reading!
  8. After you've read through the book once, re-read the book. Fill in the gaps that you missed the first time. As you read and re-read passages of the novel, try reciting the book out loud. Some readers can more easily grasp difficult language and/or concepts when they hear the words while reading. Read those difficult passages that you skipped over the first time. Start making connections between the book you're reading and other works you've read.
  9. Get help! If you're still having a difficult time with the book, a tutor might be able to answer your questions. Also, consider talking with your teacher about your confusion. Ask him/her specific questions about the book.

What You Need:

* Difficult book
* Time
* Patience
* Dictionary
* Pen
* Paper
* Highlighter
* Page Makers/Flags

This tips written by Esther Lombardi, published at

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Bibliography: Women and the female in Buddhism

Written by eastern writer on Sunday, February 24, 2008

The following is a selection of books about women, the "divine feminine", and the female influence in Buddhism. Most of the books are by women, although male authors are also included. Where possible the number of pages and ISBN are given.

Please note that, where the author has an ordained name, the last of these is read as a "surname". This is not correct usage, strictly speaking, but this is how these texts are likely to be catalogued by librarians and publishers.

  1. Aitken, Molly Emma, ed. Meeting the Buddha: On Pilgrimage in Buddhist India. Riverhead Books (Tricycle), 1995 (370pp).
  2. Allione, Tsultrim. Women of Wisdom. London: Arkana, 1984 / New York: Arkana, 1986. ISBN 0-14019-072-4 (282pp). A selection of life stories of great Tibetan women teachers, with a lengthy introduction to the topic of women and the female principle in Tibetan Buddhism.
  3. Bartholomeusz, Tessa. Women under the Bo Tree: Buddhist Nuns in Sri Lanka. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1994.
  4. Batchelor, Martine. Walking on Lotus Flowers: Buddhist Women Working, Loving and Meditating. London: Thorsons/Harper Collins, 1996. ISBN 0-7225-3231-8.
  5. Batchelor, Martine and Brown, Kerry, eds. Buddhism and Ecology. Cassell, 1992. ISBN 0304303756 (114pp.).
  6. Beck, Charlotte Joko. Everyday Zen: Love and Work. San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1989. ISBN 0-06-060734-3.
  7. Beck, Charlotte Joko. Nothing Special: Living Zen. San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1994. ISBN 0-06-251117-3 (277 pages). See also the review by Fumyo Mishaga.
  8. Benard, Elisabeth. Chinnamasta: The Aweful Buddhist and Hindu Tantric Goddess. Motilal Banarsidass, 1995.
  9. Beyer, Stephan. The Cult of Tara: Magic and Ritual in Tibet. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1973. A study of Tibetan beliefs and practices concerning Tara, the Bodhisattva of compassionate activity.
  10. Blakiston, Hilary. But Little Dust. Cambridge: Allborough Press, 1991.
  11. Blofeld, John. Bodhisattva of Compassion: The Mystical Tradition of Kuan Yin. Boulder: Shambhala, 1978. A study of Avalokiteshvara, the Bodhisattva of Compassion, in the female forms of Kuan Yin (Chinese) and Tara (Tibetan).
  12. Boucher, Sandy. Opening the Lotus: A Woman's Guide to Buddhism. Boston: Beacon Press, 1997. "An introduction to Buddhist philosophy and practice for women." ISBN 0-8070-7308-3 (hardcover), list $18.00 U.S.
  13. Boucher, Sandy. Turning the Wheel: American Women Creating the New Buddhism (387pp). San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1988. An extensive series of interviews with women active in North American Buddhism.
  14. Byles, Marie B. Journey into Burmese Silence. London: George Allen & Unwin, 1962.
  15. Cabezón, José Ignacio, ed. Buddhism, Sexuality, and Gender. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1992.
  16. Campbell, June. Traveller in Space: In search of female identity in Tibetan Buddhism.. London: Athlone Press, February 1996. ISBN 0-485-11494-1 (236pp.)
  17. Chayat, Roko Sherry, ed. Subtle Sound: The Zen Teachings of Maurine Stuart, with a foreword by Edward Espe Brown. Boston: Shambhala, 1996. ISBN 1-57062-094-6. A collection of teachings by the late female Roshi Maurine Stuart - a principal American student of Soen Nakagawa Roshi and a teacher at the Cambridge Buddhist Association.
  18. Chödron, Pema. Start Where You Are: A Guide to Compassionate Living. Boston: Shambhala, 1994. The author is the abbess of Gampo Abbey in Nova Scotia, Canada, and a senior student of the late Ven. Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche.
  19. Chödron, Thubten. Open Heart, Clear Mind. Ithaca (NY): Snow Lion Publications, 1990. Thubten Chödron is the seniormost female teacher within the Foundation for the Preservation of the Mahayana Tradition (FPMT), a Tibetan Buddhist organisation founded by the late Lama Yeshe.
  20. Chödron, Thubten. Taming the Monkey Mind. Lutterworth, Leicestershire: Tynron Press, 1990.
  21. Chögyam, Ngakpa. Rainbow of Liberated Energy: Working with Emotions through the Colour and Element Symbolism of Tibetan Tantra. Forthcoming, Aro Books; formerly Longmead: Element Books, 1986.
  22. Coleman, Rev. Mary Teal (Ven. Tenzin Yeshe). MONASTIC: An Ordained Tibetan Buddhist Speaks on Behalf of Full Ordination for Women (99pp).
  23. David-Neel, Alexandra. Magic and Mystery in Tibet (321pp).
  24. Dowman, Keith. Sky Dancer: the secret life and songs of the Lady Yeshe Tsogyel. London: Arkana, 1989; originally London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1984. ISBN 0-140-19205-0 (379pp). A sacred biography of the Tibetan yogini Yeshe Tsogyel, consort of Padmasambhava and regarded in her own right as a great mystic, teacher and lineage-holder.
  25. Dresser, Marianne, ed. Buddhist Women on the Edge: Contemporary Perspectives from the Western Frontier. North Atlantic Books, 1996. ISBN 1556432038 (321 pages). The CIIS Bookstore says of this book: "The essays ... explore issues of gender, race, class, and sexuality; lineage, authority, and the accessibility of Buddhist institutions; monastic, lay, and community practice; the teacher-student relationship; psychological perspectives and the role of the emotions; crossscultural adaptation and appropriation; and how spiritual practice informs creativity, personal relationships, and political/social activism."
  26. Drolma, Delog Dawa. Delog: Journey to Realms Beyond Death. Padma Publishing, 1995.
  27. Edou, Jérôme. Machig Labdrön and the Foundations of Chöd (244pp). Ithaca (NY): Snow Lion Publications, 1995. A book about the Tibetan Buddhist practice of chöd, founded by the great female mystic Machig Labdrön.
  28. Ehrlich, Gretel. Questions of Heaven: The Chinese Journeys of an American Buddhist. Boston: Beacon Press, 1997. "A haunting pilgrimage to one of China's holy mountains." ISBN 0-8070-7310-5 (hardcover), list $20.00 U.S.
  29. Feldman, Christina. The Quest of the Warrior Woman: Women as Mystics, Healers and Guides. London & San Francisco: Aquarian, 1994. ISBN 1-85538-323-3 (239 pp). The author co-founded Gaia House, a retreat centre in Devon, England. She is also an international adviser to the Buddhist Peace Fellowship.
  30. Feldman, Christina. Woman Awake: A Celebration of Women's Wisdom (155pp).
  31. Friedman, Lenore. Meetings with Remarkable Women: Buddhist Teachers in America. Boston: Shambhala, 1987.
  32. Galland, China. Longing for Darkness: Tara and the Black Madonna (392pp). New York: Viking, 1990.
  33. Grimshaw, Anna. Servants of the Buddha: Winter in a Himalayan Convent. London: Open Letters, 1992. A woman from Lancashire visits a Ladakhi Buddhist convent.
  34. Gross, Rita M. Buddhism After Patriarchy: A Feminist History, Analysis, and Reconstruction of Buddhism. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1993. (The online journal CyberSangha offers a review of this book.)
  35. Gyatso, Geshe Kelsang. Guide to Dakini Land: A Commentary to the Highest Yoga Tantra Practice of Vajrayogini. London: Tharpa, 1991. A guide to the Highest Yoga Tantra practice of the female Buddha Vajrayogini.
  36. Halifax, Joan. The Fruitful Darkness: Reconnecting with the Body of the Earth. New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1993. ISBN 0-06-250369-3 (240pp). A personal and very moving journey in which Halifax "weaves diverse themes of deep ecology, shamanism and Buddhism into a colorful literary tapestry" [Andrew T. Weil]. An appendix includes the Precepts of the Order of Interbeing by Ven. Thich Nhat Hanh.
  37. Havnevik, Hanna. Tibetan Buddhist Nuns. Oslo: Norwegian University Press, 1990. The definitive work on the subject.
  38. Hopkinson, Deborah, Michele Hill, and Eileen Kiera, eds. Not Mixing Up Buddhism: Essays on Women and Buddhist Practice. Fredonia (NY): White Pine Press, 1986.
  39. Horner, Isaline B. Women Under Primitive Buddhism. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1930 (reprint Delhi: Motilal Barnasidass, 1975).
  40. Kabilsingh, Chatsumarn. A Comparative Study of Bhikkhuni Patimokkha. Chaukhambha Oriental Research Studies, vol. 28. Varanasi: Chaukhamba Orientalia, 1984. On the vows and rules of fully ordained nuns (bhikkhuni [Pali] or bhikshuni [Sanskrit]).
  41. Kabilsingh, Chatsumarn. Thai Women in Buddhism. Berkeley: Parallax Press, 1991.
  42. Kalyanavaca, editor, The Moon and Flowers - A Woman's Path to Enlightenment Birmingham:Windhorse Publications, 1997. Brings together essays written by nineteen women who have been ordained within the Buddhist tradition.
  43. Khema, Ayya. Being Nobody, Going Nowhere. London: Wisdom Publications, 1987. An introduction to Buddhist practice by a German-born bhikshuni (fully ordained nun) of the Theravada tradition.
  44. Khema, Ayya. When the Iron Eagle Flies: Buddhism for the West. London: Arkana, 1991.
  45. Khong, Chan. Learning True Love: How I Learned and Practiced Social Change In Vietnam. Berkeley: Parallax Press, 1993.
  46. King, Sallie B., trans. Passionate Journey: The Spiritual Autobiography of Satomi Myodo. Boston: Shambhala, 1978.
  47. Klein, Anne C. Meeting the Great Bliss Queen: Buddhists, Feminists, and the Art of the Self (307pp). Boston: Beacon Press, 1995. (Click here to see a reproduction of a thangka of Yeshe Tsogyal in the form of Dechen Gyalmo, the Great Bliss Queen.)
  48. Kunsang, Erik Pema. Dakini Teachings: Padmasambhava's Oral Instructions to Lady Tsogyal. Boston: Shambhala, 1990. ISBN 0877735468 (189pp.).
  49. Kunsang, Erik Pema. The Lotus-Born: the life story of Padmasambhava. Composed by Yeshe Tsogyal. Boston: Shambhala, 1990. ISBN 0877738696 (321pp.).
  50. Law, Bimala Churn. Women in Buddhist Literature. Varanasi: Indological Book House, 1981.
  51. Levine, Norma. Blessing Power of the Buddhas (155pp). Describes observable physical manifestations, e.g. relics and other sacred objects, of the Buddhas' blessings.
  52. Majupuria, Indra. Tibetan Women (Then and Now). Lashkar, India: M. Devi, 1990.
  53. Murcott, Susan. The First Buddhist Women: Translations and Commentaries on the Therigata (219pp). Berkeley: Parallax Press, 1991.
  54. Neumaier-Dargyay, Eva K. The Sovereign All-Creating Mind - The Motherly Buddha: A Translation of the Kun byed rgyal po'i mdo. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1992.
  55. Norberg-Hodge, Helena. Ancient Futures: Learning from Ladakh. Vintage, 1991. Preface by H.H. the Dalai Lama, introduction by Peter Matthiessen.
  56. Norman, K.R., trans. The Elders: Verses II: Therigatha. London: Pali Text Society and Luzac & Company, 1971.
  57. O'Halloran, Maura. Pure Heart, Enlightened Mind. Riverhead Books (Tricycle), 1994. Lovely story of a young Irishwoman who became a recognised Zen master in Japan.
  58. Palmer, Martin and Ramsay, Jay with Kwok, Man-Ho. Kuan Yin: Myths and Propecies of the Chinese Goddess of Compassion. London/San Francisco: Thorsons (HarperCollins Publishers), 1995. ISBN 1 85538 417 5 (226pp).
  59. Pao-Ch'ang, Shih. Lives of the nuns: biographies of Chinese Buddhist nuns from the fourth to sixth centuries. Trans. by Kathryn Ann Tsai. Honolulu: Univ. of Hawaii Press, 1994. ISBN 0824815416 (188pp).
  60. Padmasuri. But Little Dust : Life Amongst the Ex-Untouchables of India . Birmingham:Windhorse Publications, 1997.
  61. Paul, Diana Y. Women in Buddhism: Images of the Feminine in Mahayana Buddhism. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1985; formerly Berkeley: Asian Humanities Press, 1979.
  62. Rhie, Marylin M., and Robert A.F. Thurman. Wisdom and Compassion: The Sacred Art of Tibet. New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1991. A magnificent large-format book of sacred art (statues and paintings) from Tibet (from the art exhibit of the same name). Includes depictions of numerous female Buddhas, bodhisattvas and protectors.
  63. Rhys-Davids, C.A.F. and Norman, K.R., translators. Pitakas/Khuddaka: Poems of Early Buddhist Nuns (Therigata). Headington, Oxford: Pali Texts Society, 1989. ISBN 0860132897 (233pp).
  64. Roberts, Bernadette. The Experience of No-Self. Boulder, Colorado: Shambala, 1984. A practising Catholic's experience of anatta or no-self.
  65. Salzburg, Sharon. Lovingkindness: The Revolutionary Art of Happiness (193pp). Shambhala. Co-founder of the Insight Meditation Society and Barre (Massachusetts) Center of Buddhist Studies.
  66. Savvas, Carol D. A Study of the Profound Path of gCod: The Mahayana Buddhist Meditation Tradition of Tibet's Great Woman Saint Machig Labdrn. Ph.D. dissertation: University of Wisconsin-Madison, 1990 (493 pp). A detailed study of the origin and practice of chöd with translations of many essential texts and commentaries.
  67. Seneviratne, Maureen. Some Women of the Mahavamsa and Culavamsa. Colombo: H.W. Cave & Co., 1969.
  68. Shaw, Miranda. Passionate Enlightenment: Women in Tibetan Buddhism. Princeton (NJ): Princeton University Press, 1994. ISBN 0-691-03380-3 (291pp). A riveting look at the little-known role of female teachers and lineage-holders in the Vajrayana tradition. Essential reading for Tibetan Buddhist women.
  69. Shin, Nan (pseud.). Diary of a Zen Nun: Every Day Living. New York: E.P. Dutton, 1988.
  70. Sidor, Ellen S. A Gathering of Spirit: Women Teaching in American Buddhism. Cumberland (R.I.): Primary Point Press, 1987.
  71. Srimala, Breaking Free : Glimpses of a Buddhist Life Birmingham:Windhorse Publications, 1997. The remarkably honest, moving, and often very funny story of a woman's journey to spiritual freedom.
  72. Subhuti (Alex Kennedy). Women, Men and Angels. Birmingham: Windhorse Publications, 1996. An exposition of the provocative views of Sangharakshita, the founder of the Western Buddhist Order/FWBO, on women and men in the spiritual life.
  73. Tsomo, Karma Lekshe, ed. Buddhism Through American Women's Eyes. Ithaca (NY): Snow Lion Publications, 1995. ISBN 1-55939-047-6 (180 pp). A selection of essays "by practitioners from the Theravada, Japanese Zen, Shingon, Chinese Pure Land, and Tibetan traditions, who share their thoughts on Buddhist philosophy, its practical application in everyday life, and the challenges of practicing Buddhism in the Western world."
  74. Tsomo, Karma Lekshe, ed. Sakyadhita: Daughters of the Buddha. Ithaca (NY): Snow Lion Publications, 1989. Lekshe is a bhikshuni (fully ordained nun) in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition and is Secretary of Sakyadhita International. She founded the Jamyang Chöling Institute for Buddhist Women in India and is currently in the Philosophy Department at the University of Hawai'i. This book is a collection of essays and presentations by women who attended the first international conference of Buddhist women, with significant content relating to the ordination of nuns.
  75. Tsomo, Karma Lekshe. Sisters in Solitude - Two Traditions of Buddhist Monastic Ethics for Women - A Comparative Analysis of the Chinese Dharmagupta and the Tibetan Mulasarvastivada Bhiksuni Pratimoksa Sutras. New York: SUNY Press, 1996. ISBN 0-7914-3090-1 (paperback) or 0-7914-3089-8 (cloth), 192 pp. This landmark book is the first translation into English of two versions of the Bhikshuni Pratimoksha Sutra, the precepts and rules of conduct for fully-ordained Buddhist nuns.
  76. Tulku, Tarthang, trans. Mother of Knowledge: The Enlightenment of Ye-shes mTsho-rgyal, by Nam-mkha'i snying-po, ed. Jane Wilhelms. Berkeley: Dharma Publishing, 1983. Another translation (see Dowman, above) of the sacred biography of the Tibetan yogini Yeshe Tsogyel.
  77. Willis, Janice D., ed. Feminine Ground: Essays on Women and Tibet. Ithaca (NY): Snow Lion Publications, 1989; reprinted 1995.
  78. Willson, Martin. In Praise of Tara: Songs to the Saviouress. London: Wisdom Publications, 1986.
  79. Wilson, Liz. Charming Cadavers: Horrific Figurations of the Feminine in Indian Buddhist Hagiographic Literature. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1996.


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