Book recommendation: “The Unexpected Universe”

Loren Eiseley

Loren Eiseley (September 3, 1907 – July 9, 1977) was an American anthropologist, educator, philosopher, and natural science writer, who taught and published books from the 1950s through the 1970s. He received many honorary degrees and was a fellow of multiple professional societies. Wikipedia


Drawing from his long experience as a naturalist, the author responds to the unexpected and symbolic aspects of a wide spectrum of phenomena throughout the universe. Scrupulous scholarship and magical prose are brought to bear on such diverse topics as seeds, the hieroglyphs on shells, lost tombs, the goddess Circe, city dumps, and Neanderthal man.  (Googlebooks)

“Man, since the beginning of his symbol-making mind, has sought to read the map of that same universe.  Do not believe those serious-minded men who tell us that writing began with economics and the ordering of jars of oil.  Man is, in reality, an oracular animal.  Bereft of instinct, he must search constantly for meanings.  We forget that, like a child, man was a reader before he became a writer, a reader of what Coleridge once called the might alphabet of the universe.  Long ago, our forerunners knew, as the Eskimo still know, that there is an instruction hidden in the storm or dancing in auroral fires. The future can be invoked by the pictures impressed on a cave wall or in the cracks interpreted by a shaman on the incinerated shoulder blade of a hare. The very flight of birds is a writing to be read.  Thoreau strove for its interpretation on his pond, as Darwin, in his way, sought equally to read the message written int eh beaks of Galapagos finches. ”

“The first land-walking fish was, by modern standards, an ungainly and inefficient vertebrate.  Figuratively, he was a water failure who had managed to climb ashore on a continent where no vertebrates existed.”

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