THE SPELL OF THE SENSUOUS
LANGUAGE AND PERCEPTION IN A MORE-THAN-HUMAN WORLD

Here is a major work of ecological philosophy, one that startles the senses out of habitual ways of seeing and hearing, awakening us to our immersion in a living world.

An accomplished sleight-of-hand magician as well as a gifted philosopher, David Abram has lived and traded magic with indigenous sorcerers on several continents. Starting from the intimate relation between these traditional magicians and the animals, plants, and natural elements that surround them, The Spell of the Sensuous draws us into a remarkable series of investigations regarding the fluid, participatory nature of perception, and the reciprocity between our senses and the sensuous earth.

The book unfolds into an exploration of language, and of the power our words have to enhance or to stifle the spontaneous life of the senses. Contrasting the spoken stories of diverse indigenous oral cultures with ways of speaking common to literate civilization, The Spell of the Sensuous reveals the profound impact that the alphabet has had upon the human experiences of time, of space, of earthly place.

In prose at once poetic and precise, Abram demonstrates that our most cherished human attributes - from the gift of language, to the awareness of past and future, to the rational intellect itself - all emerge in interaction with the animate natural world, and remain wholly dependent upon that living world for their coherence. Animal tracks, word magic, the speech of stones, the power of letters, and the taste of the wind all figure prominently in this astonishing and intensely ethical work.


"Forges a thoroughly articulate passage between science and mysticism....Speculative, learned, and always 'lucid and precise' as the eye of the vulture that confronted him once on a cliff ledge, Abram has one of those rare minds which, like the mind of a musician or a great mathematician, fuses dreaminess with smarts."

- Village Voice Literary Supplement

"This is a landmark book. Scholars will doubtless recognize its brilliance, but they may overlook the most important part of Abram's achievement: he has written the best instruction manual yet for becoming fully human. I walked outside when I was done and the world was a different place."

- Bill McKibben, author of The End of Nature

"Abram manages, almost magically, to stir in us a long-lost memory: deep in our bones, in our blood, in the air we breathe, we know that the world lives and speaks to us....He shows that it is possible to reawaken the animistic dimension of perception and feeling without renouncing rationality and intellectual analysis....A joy to read and a brilliant gift to our rapidly darkening world."

- Shambhala Sun

"This is a major work of research and intuitive brilliance, an archive of clear ideas. At the end of our century of precarious ecology,The Spell of the Sensuousstrikes the deepest notes of celebration and alertness - an indispensable book!"

- Howard Norman, author of The Bird Artist

"The outer world of nature is what awakens our inner world in all its capacities for understanding, affection and aesthetic appreciation. The wind, the rain, the mountains and rivers, the woodlands and meadows and all their inhabitants; we need these perhaps even more for our psyche than for our physical survival. No one that I know of has presented all this with the literary skill as well as the understanding that we find in this work of David Abram. It should be one of the most widely read and discussed books of these times."

- Thomas Berry, author of The Dream of the Earth

"Abram's Spell must be praised. It's so well done, well-written, well thought. I know of no work more valuable for shifting our thinking and feeling about the place of humans in the world. Your children and their children will be grateful to him."

- James Hillman, author of Revisioning Psychology

"A truly original work. Abram puts forth his daring hypothesis with a poetic vigor and argumentative insight that stimulate reconsideration of the technological commonplace. . .With Abram anthropology becomes a bridge between science and its others."

- Science

"A masterpiece - combining poetic passion with intellectual rigor and daring. Electric with energy, it offers us a new approach to scholarly inquiry: as a fully embodied human animal. It opens pathways and vistas that will be fruitfully explored for years, indeed for generations, to come."

- Joanna Macy, Buddhist scholar and activist

"The Spell of the Sensuous does more than place itself on the cutting edge where ecology meets philosophy, psychology, and history. It magically subverts the dichotomies of culture and nature, body and mind, opening a vista of organic being and human possibility that is often imagined but seldom described. Reader beware, the message is spell-binding. One cannot read this book without risk of entering into an altered state of perceptual possibility."

- Max Oelschlager, author of The Idea of Wilderness

"This book by David Abram lights up the landscape of language, flesh, mind, history, mapping us back into the world..."

- Gary Snyder, author of Turtle Island

"Nobody writes about the ecological depths of the human and more-than-human world with more love and lyrical sensitivity than David Abram."

- Theodore Roszak, author of Where the Wasteland Ends

"Disclosing the sentience of all nature, and revealing the unsuspected effect of the more-than-human on our language and our lives, in unprecedented fashion, Abram generates true philosophy for the twenty-first century."

- Lynn Margulis, co-originator of the Gaia Hypothesis, author of What Is Life?