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Someone long ago created a special feature in our old house to catch the rising sun on the winter solstice

As soon as we saw it, we fell in love with the quaint old farmhouse on a gently-sloping hillside overlooking Bantry Bay in the south-west of Ireland.

My wife Angie is Irish and we’d been planning to move home from the UK to Ireland for some time. We made an offer for the house, which was accepted, and we moved in during the early spring of 2011.

We loved the quirky corners and contours of our new home on the Beara peninsula: the red-tiled roof, the rugged stone walls, the exposed beams, the big wood-burning stove, the gardens with conifers and cabbage palms, and the way the house — 200 years old to its foundations — faces south-east to welcome the day. …


Two remarkable new books with visions of global upheaval and hope of renewal

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Road to ruin?

Many now see the world poised between two futures, one characterised by competition, greed and waste of human potential, and the other by a humanely productive, just and creative reality founded on a shared concern for the well-being of everyone.

Two new books set out starkly the implications of the choices facing us: The End of the Megamachine: A brief history of a failing civilisation, by Fabian Scheidler (Zero Books, UK £19.99 / US $29.95, September 2020), and After the Apocalypse: Finding hope in organising, by Monika Kostera (Zero Books, UK £14.99 / US $23.95, …


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Are young girls and women more likely to be victims of alien abduction as a new book suggests?

Invited by the publishers to review this slender volume — Harvest: The true story of alien abduction by G L Davies (6th Books, UK £8.99 / US $16.95, October 2020) — I found it a most perplexing read, but I couldn’t resist engaging with it, as you’ll see from the length of this review.

Harvest is about a young woman from West Wales who believes she was the victim of visitation and abduction by terrifying beings with ‘inhuman designs’, namely, the cruel ‘harvesting’ of human body parts and organs.

The identity of the woman is not divulged; we know her only as Susan (not her real name), and her story is told mainly, we’re asked to accept, in her own words. Reading between the lines, possibly she is a medical student. She tells of encounters with unearthly creatures in her own home, horrific dreams, visions of Armageddon-like destruction, and claims that alien abduction accounts for the disappearance of the thousands of people, especially the women and girls, who go missing every year. …


Fear of crossing thresholds is central to Daphne du Maurier’s unsettling Gothic novel Rebecca, a new film version of which has just been released

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Manderley in the 1940 Alfred Hitchcock movie version of ‘Rebecca’.

‘Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again.’ The famous opening sentence of Rebecca is pregnant with the importance and effect of the house called Manderley, the setting for Daphne du Maurier’s 1938 novel, a best-seller which has sold millions of copies and has never been out of print.

Rebecca has been adapted numerous times for theatrical performance, but surprisingly only once as cinema: the Academy Award-winning 1940 version directed by Alfred Hitchcock, starring Laurence Olivier and Joan Fontaine. As for television, there have been more than a dozen adaptations, both as TV movies and as serialisations. Now there’s the Netflix adaptation, released on October 21, 2020. …


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Amazingly, the same monumental blunder struck memorials to two famous men 160 years apart

Captivated by the form of a ‘miraculous spiral’, a 17th century Swiss mathematician and a 19th century Scottish anatomist each asked for one to be carved on his tombstone — but their wishes failed to be granted.

Illustrious mathematician Jacob Bernoulli (1655–1705) was so impressed by the beauty of the equiangular, or logarithmic, spiral that he wrote a treatise on it, entitled Spira Mirabilis (‘miraculous’ or ‘marvellous’ spiral), and wanted the Latin motto: Eadem mutato resurgo — ‘Although changed, I rise again the same’ — next to the carving on his gravestone. …


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Lavinia and Marcus portrayed by Flora Spencer-Longhurst and William Houston in ‘Titus Andronicus’, directed by Lucy Bailey at the Globe Theatre, London, in 2014. Photo: Tristram Kenton

‘…but when the planets / In evil mixture to disorder wander, / What plagues and what portents! what mutiny! / What raging of the sea! shaking of earth! / Commotion in the winds! frights, changes, horrors, / Divert and crack, rend and deracinate / The unity and married calm of states / Quite from their fixure!’ Ulysses in Troilus and Cressida, Act 1, Sc 3

Seismic social ferment and fear of plague dominated Shakespeare’s world, just as they do in ours right now, and the Bard has much to tell us that’s relevant in these tumultuous times of coronavirus. …


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A new book takes a fresh look at the strange phenomenon that has baffled and bothered people down the centuries

It can be asserted that the poltergeist, like that strange creature, the duck-billed platypus, really exists, and that some of its habits have been positively established — so says the late Colin Wilson in the final pages of his 1981 book, Poltergeist! A study in destructive haunting (New English Library).

Such habits, typically, of the poltergeist — the word, from the German, means literally ‘noisy’ or ‘banging’ ghost — include knocking, rapping and scraping sounds, the movement or levitation of even large objects (even including people) by some invisible force, and the unexplained disappearance and reappearance of household items; poltergeists are also claimed to have struck, bitten or pinched people. …


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The Giza plateau: icon of the ancient world. Photo: Geoff Ward

Admittedly, I’ve come late to Laird Scranton, his new work Primal Wisdom of the Ancients: The Cosmological Plan for Humanity (Inner Traditions, US $16.99 / UK £12.99, August 2020), being the first book of his that I’ve read — and impressive it is in its scholarly scope, profundity and sanguine expectation.

Now, since 2002, the author of ten books in the field of ancient mysteries, metaphysics and cosmology, Scranton is an independent software designer whose research was sparked in the early 1990s by the mythology and symbolism of the Dogon people of Mali, West Africa; his first book was The Science of the Dogon (Inner Traditions). …


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Arthur Schopenhauer by Angilbert Göbel, 1859

Bernardo Kastrup’s new book redresses a tragic misunderstanding of the metaphysics of the influential German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer

The work of the German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer (1788–1860), best known for his 1818 work, The World as Will and Representation (expanded 1844), is seen as a classic case of philosophical pessimism.

In a nutshell, Schopenhauer is typically described as seeing no special worth in human beings; that people need to be liberated from an everyday life full of struggle, frustrated desire and suffering — the worst of all possible worlds — and that, really, despite some positive values being attainable by some people, non-existence would be better. …


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‘Humanity … does need me. But what it doesn’t need is yet another self-help expert, guru, New Age preacher or self-promoting mystic.’ The remarkable story of the late Thomas Daniel Nehrer (1947–2019) is recapitulated in his new book, published posthumously.

At the age of 24, having left a career in chemical engineering to travel in Europe and Africa, Tom Nehrer, from Pennsylvania, had a mystical experience as he gazed across the ocean towards mainland Greece from a sunny beach on the island of Corfu. It ‘rattled my scientific view,’ he said, and set him on a ‘path to understanding’.

It was a moment of epiphany: ‘I could perceive, utterly clearly, and absolutely apparent, that I wasn’t one thing looking out over a collection of other things … but that I was a Oneness, looking at itself/myself from within its/my own…

About

Geoff Ward

Writer, poet, tutor and mentor in literature and creative writing (MA and BA Hons degrees in English literature), editor, journalist and musician.

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