First women of philosophy

A prince and attendants visiting a noble yogini at an Ashram. Murshidabad sub-style, c1765. Image © Victoria and Albert Museum, London Philosophy was once a woman’s world, ranging across Asia, Africa and Latin America. It’s time to reclaim that lost realm by Dag Herbjørnsrud is a historian of ideas and founder of SGOKI (the Center for Global and Comparative History of Ideas) in Oslo. His latest book is Global Knowledge: Renaissance for a New Enlightenment, forthcoming (2016 original in Norwegian). Edited by Sam Dresser ‘I rise to challenge you, Yajnavalkya, with two questions, much as a fierce warrior … stringing his unstrung bow and taking two deadly … Continue reading First women of philosophy

Geographical Fun: A Victorian Teenage Girl’s Impressive Cartographic Caricatures of European Countries and Their National Stereotypes

Within a humorous gem, a serious reminder of how malleable even the seeming solidities of geopolitics are. BY MARIA POPOVA It is in times of uncertainty and complexity, particularly the kind catalyzed by political tumult, that we are most drawn to caricature — the art of parodic exaggeration and oversimplification. Political satire of the visual sort seems to hold a special allure to artistically gifted and precocious teenage girls — from fifteen-year-old Jane Austen’s parodic history of England, illustrated by her sister, to sixteen-year-old Elissa Jane Karg’s brilliant visual satire of 1960s counterculture. In 1868, a century and a half before London-based … Continue reading Geographical Fun: A Victorian Teenage Girl’s Impressive Cartographic Caricatures of European Countries and Their National Stereotypes

Incubation, Ideation, and the Art of Editing: Beethoven on Creativity

Beethoven by Joseph Karl Stieler “I carry my thoughts about with me for a long time, sometimes a very long time, before I set them down.” BY MARIA POPOVA “Invention, it must be humbly admitted, does not consist in creating out of void, but out of chaos,” Mary Shelley observed in contemplating how creativity works in her preface to the 1831 edition of Frankenstein. “It is strange the way ideas come when they are needed,” the physicist Freeman Dyson wrote nearly two centuries later in his account of the “flash of illumination” by which creative breakthrough occurs. It is a chaotic strangeness familiar to every creative person, be … Continue reading Incubation, Ideation, and the Art of Editing: Beethoven on Creativity

Leonard Cohen Under a New Light

Leonard Cohen performs in London in 1979. | Photo by Adam Beeson Two books, a biography and a collection of poetry, take a deeper look at the late musician’s inner life and Zen practice. By Matthew Gindin I was always working steady But I never called it art I was funding my depression Meeting Jesus reading Marx Sure it failed my little fire But it’s bright the dying spark Go tell the young messiah What happens to the heart —“Happens To The Heart,” The Flame October saw the arrival of two treats for fans of the late Leonard Cohen. The first, Matters of … Continue reading Leonard Cohen Under a New Light

Patti Smith Sings “The Tyger” and Reflects on William Blake’s Transcendent Legacy as a Guiding Sun in the Cosmos of Creativity

“The eternal loom spins the immaculate word. The word forms the pulp and sinew of innocence… William Blake never let go of the loom’s golden skein… He was the loom’s loom, spinning the fiber of revelation.” BY MARIA POPOVA “The tree which moves some to tears of joy is in the eyes of others only a green thing which stands in the way… As a man is, so he sees,” William Blake (November 28, 1757–August 12, 1827) wrote in his most beautiful letter — a soaring defense of the imagination. A genius both tragic and transcendent, Blake was among humanity’s deepest and farthest seers — … Continue reading Patti Smith Sings “The Tyger” and Reflects on William Blake’s Transcendent Legacy as a Guiding Sun in the Cosmos of Creativity

Why Henry David Thoreau was drawn to yoga

The famed author headed to the pond thanks to Indian philosophy. by Derek Beres The famed author was heavily influenced by Indian literature, informing his decision to self-exile on Walden Pond. He was introduced to these texts by his good friend’s father, William Emerson. Yoga philosophy was in American a century before any physical practices were introduced. Though yoga today is associated with expensive leggings and an infestation of Instagram selfies, the philosophical underpinnings have long predated the physical asana practice. In fact, the first century of yoga in America had little to do with postures, but the cognitive and emotional flexibility … Continue reading Why Henry David Thoreau was drawn to yoga

The great disillusionist

‘…the recognition of the irredeemable vanity and falsity of all beauty and all greatness is itself a kind of beauty and greatness that fills the soul.’ Inside the Pantheon, Rome. Photo by Thomas Hoepker/Magnum Photos In an age when so many people are at a loss to give life meaning and direction, Giacomo Leopardi is essential reading by Tim Parks is a British author, translator and essayist. He has written 14 novels, the latest of which is In Extremis (2017), and has translated works by Italo Calvino, Niccolò Machiavelli and Giacomo Leopardi, among others. He runs a postgraduate degree in translation at the IULM … Continue reading The great disillusionist