btripp_books (btripp_books) wrote,
btripp_books
btripp_books

Hey, I did get something read these past few weeks!

Well, while I have been largely otherwise occupied these past few weeks, I didn't totally abandon my reading ... in fact about half the sleep I got had this book flopped over on my chest. I'm hoping that things will get more linear in the next week!

The above "sleep" comment is not to suggest that A.T. Mann's Sacred Architecture is a snoozefest, because it really isn't ... in fact, it's quite interesting, if in an odd disjointed way. I, frankly, had hoped this book was going to be something of a manual for Sacred Architecture ... a nuts-and-bolts sort of book that was going to tax my faculties (because, honestly, I don't "get" a lot of the "symbolic geometries" stuff) but leave me enlightened on the subject. I mean, I've read stuff about "The Golden Mean" for decades without getting a sense of what it means (if you excuse my pun-like sentence structure). To Mann's credit, I could now (following his diagrams) illustrate the concept should, for example, my 10-year-old daughter encounter the term and ask me what it was. However, I still would be stumped were she to ask me "why is it special?" or "what is it good for?", and the same is certainly true for the "Vesica Piscis" that he seems to see in everything.

The book does start promisingly, as he explains that he was a young architect who kept waiting for the time when "the ancient secrets" would be revealed to him, only to find in a post-Bauhaus world, there were no architects who thought about that stuff (even if a few might be privy to the information). Unfortunately, he, too, seems to be only willing to skirt the issue ... he did give the subject a name, "The Canon", and provided at least one footnote to a source (remarkably, still in print) ... and spends most of the book drawing those inescapable newage diagrams where one takes a map or a building plan and starts sketching out squares, circles, triangles, pentagrams, etc. over it in an effort to "prove something", with neither the "something" nor the "proof" very evident at the end.

On the plus side, the book has a lot of pretty pictures to look at as he covers temples, "the sacred", feng shui, "earth magic", mandalas, and the sacred architecture of Egypt, Islam, and Medieval Europe. He then veers off into a thing about "memory theater" in which he seems to try to link ancient Greek dramatics with Shakespeare, and various Hermeticists, Rosicrucians, and Kabbalists along the way.

Now, this all builds up to the last chapter which is fascinating, and could have well be spun off into two books. The first of these would be the less interesting, focusing on his hissy-fit about modern architecture, contrasted by only (it would appear) the works of Steiner and Wright; the second would be a very interesting look at "Type I" and "Type II" religions, in which he posits the "downfall" from the former to the latter being in the abandonment of Astrology. Frankly, I think he misses the boat here (or perhaps leaves the unstated hanging in the air), and rather than blame the rise of science and rationalism for the ossification of the "Type II" religons, he should be suggesting that it is time for a "Type III" religion/worldview, one that both embraces logic and reason but has room for the intuitive, and the mysterious.

Anyway, despite its frustrating points, Sacred Architecture is quite an interesting read, and if you're given to understanding what's meant when folks start drawing lines all over floorplans, I'm sure you'd get quite a lot out of it! Like most of my current reading list, this has been out for a while, and does not seem to have a current version in print, but through the magic of Amazon's new/used vendor program, a "new" copy can be had for a couple of bucks. And, come on, a book like this has got to be a better use for the price of a Mac, soda, and fries!


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