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Book Review: After Reason by Arianna Stassinopoulos

NOVEMBER 01, 1981 by JOSEPH C. TOWLE

(Stein & Day, Scarborough House, Briarcliff Manor, N.Y. 10510)
240 pages • $10.00 cloth

the erudite and articulate author of this book writes a most persuasive brief for the thesis that our capacity for rational thought is only one of the several faculties of the mind, perhaps not even the most crucial one. That part of the mind which can draw an inference or frame a syllogism is only the upper, conscious, layer of the mind, sustained by layer upon layer below. Reason dissects and analyzes external realities; it orders sense experience; it arrives at conclusions and tempers judgment. Reason is our only route to some truths, and it is a tool of survival. But reason has allies in the deeper layers of the mind, the seat of intuition, imagination, and poetic creativity. At these levels pc-curs the subconscious recording of individual experience and that of the race, and the perception of metaphor in spiritual reality—mental functions which play an important role in aligning the individual with his life’s meaning and purpose. It is not reasonable to depend on reason alone, for this limits or denies entry to other essential mental functions.

In the book’s opening paragraph Miss Stassinopoulos declares that “the individual . . . has been searching more and more urgently for a spiritual path out of the closing trap.” She might have said, in somewhat different terms, that modern life has become ugly in many ways because the human spirit no longer has space to exist, much less a climate for growth. The great Greek dramatists convey the same truth. The lesson of Euripides, Philip Vellacott his translator tells us, “is that civilized men ignore at their peril the world of instinct, emotion and irrational experience.”

Against Utopianism, a product of sterile, formulated reason, just how does the unscholarly, perhaps inarticulate working man define and defend his rough but real spiritualness, his need to transcend daily toil and worry, and his almost palpable sense of the reality of his inner life? The glib, smooth rationalists, gnostics, planners, social “scientists,” educators, politicians—the intellectual elite, mostly spiritual dropouts—all would make rhetorical hash of what he knows he needs to make his life go tolerably.

They would cheapen and ridicule his spirit, the lore and wisdom of his fathers, and the symbols he depends upon to bear him up in often hostile surroundings and dark days.

Miss Stassinopoulos brings sure understanding to the problem in clear, well documented prose, free of the jargon and sophistries so beloved of our intellectual masters. In her thorough, though occasionally repetitive inquiry she strongly attacks the hubris and mendacity of the New Class—especially the “progressive” academy, clergy and politicians—and their specious and fraudulent schemes to rescue every man and all men from their own actions. This is to be done first by discrediting their inherited wisdom and spiritual values and then by re-engineering the abstraction called society—faceless men and women. The New Class never bothers to define “society,” which in fact does not exist as an entity. In reality, there are endless numbers of vastly different individuals each with his unique, disparate qualities, which make him go, do and live like no other.

After Reason is a sort of primer for the men and women who haven’t the luxury of much time for reading and reflecting, but who know that things are not going well and are not sure just why. To the farmer, businessman, shopkeeper, laborer and their fellows, Miss Stassinopoulos lends a strong guiding hand through the cleverly constructed maze of perplexities and obstacles to reality so grandly and condescendingly presented by the sycophants, sophists and other engineers of our spiritual, intellectual and moral decline.

Here is a searching, honest and heartening work by a woman of exceptional gifts. She will be heard again—and not too soon for this reviewer.

ASSOCIATED ISSUE

November 1981

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