Read The Invisible Pyramid by Loren Eiseley Paul Gruchow Online


In 1910 young Loren Eiseley watched the passage of Halley’s Comet with his father. The boy who became a famous naturalist was never again to see the spectacle except in his imagination. That childhood event contributed to the profound sense of time and space that marks The Invisible Pyramid. This collection of essays, first published shortly after Americans landed on the mIn 1910 young Loren Eiseley watched the passage of Halley’s Comet with his father. The boy who became a famous naturalist was never again to see the spectacle except in his imagination. That childhood event contributed to the profound sense of time and space that marks The Invisible Pyramid. This collection of essays, first published shortly after Americans landed on the moon, explores inner and outer space, the vastness of the cosmos, and the limits of what can be known. Bringing poetic insight to scientific discipline, Eiseley makes connections between civilizations past and present, multiple universes, humankind, and nature....

Title : The Invisible Pyramid
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ISBN : 9780803267381
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 173 Pages
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The Invisible Pyramid Reviews

  • Dylan
    2019-04-22 02:38

    Thanks for the recommendation. I found myself really relating to his almost casual style of thought exploration, and despite some reservations I had with his admiration for Francis Bacon I found myself unable to essentially disagree with anything he said. He has a bravery to try to objectively consider ideas that conflict with his personal prejudices, like the possibility that there is an innate human drive to consume the planet until no option remains but escape to outer space. After a long discussion of this possibility and its implications, he concludes that our destructiveness is not innate as demonstrated by our four million years of hunting and gathering. He distinguishes this long experience of our "first world" of nature from our more recent immersion in the "second world" of culture. Complex agricultural society plunged us exclusively into this second world, enabling us for the first time to observe nature with the detachment that would give rise to modern science, the "invisible pyramid." (p.87) Before that, earlier civilizations devoted similar attention and energy to the construction of the real pyramids which memorialized their belief that the second world is of primary importance.We, the "world eaters," continue to manifest this now demonstrably mistaken belief in our current society as we gobble up every non-renewable resource as fast as we can. Eiseley says that, propelled by modern science, we are the most aggressive society in history, that "the future has become our primary obsession." (p.105) We took to heart all of Bacon's scientific genius, but we ignored his belief that the all learning should contribute to the enlightened life. (p.69) Science, and the epistemology of any culture, pursues a comprehensive understanding of the natural world that is meaningful to us in cultural terms. While our modern science is of great value on its own terms, on a larger scale, its value is less certain. Through myth, past cultures "had achieved what modern man in his thickening shell of technology is only now seeking unsuccessfully to accomplish." (p.114)The question that arises to me is, wrapped up in these unquestionables of science and technology, is there a kind of social power that desperately needs to be questioned with at least as much vigor as the power of the state and capital? Eiseley does not break it down this way, and I suspect he would resist my doing so. He saw the hippies (contemporary to Eiseley's writing) as another manifestation of the same rejection of tradition--"Faustian hunger" (p.109)--that remains our culture's greatest pride and most lethal attribute. He is conservative because change--restlessness--is what drives the world eaters. But his conservative impulse that would be desirable in a sustainable culture seems incompatible with the task of changing our unsustainable one.This is probably the source of the resignation I detected, which bothered me a little bit throughout the work. In the end Eiseley expresses a sincere and heartfelt love for the world: we must make a "conscious reentry into the sunflower forest" (p.155) which our culture has turned into "an instrument," a "mere source of materials." (p.143) If we succeed in doing so, he imagines that we will have realized something of the "axial" values of Christ, Buddha, Confucius, and Lao-Tse. But when he associates the social tumult of the 1960s with the culture of the world eaters, he presents a real challenge to the possibility of the social revolution that is required to achieve the end he desires.

  • Jim
    2019-05-12 06:32

    When Loren Eiseley died on July 9, 1977, America and the world lost a scientist and thinker it needed to find its way out of its Faustian paradox. The title comes from Eiseley's symbol of a civilization as a pyramid that we begin working on -- one with a wide base -- that extends far beyond our grasp to complete it. I think of our plans to colonize Mars by 2030 (as if!). If we fail as a civilization, we will leave behind a pyramid that is largely invisible.The Invisible Pyramid consists of a series of lectures delivered by Eiseley in 1969 at the University of Washington. It is far more coherent, in fact, than most series of lectures -- one that should be required reading for anyone trying to understand the human animal. As I sat in my uncomfy chair reading this book, I would suddenly come to attention upon reading thoughts that became as in engraved in granite on the surface of my mind:We have long passed the simple point at which science presented to us beneficent medicines and where, in the words of José Ortega de Gasset, science and civilization shaped by it could be regarded as the self-objectification of human reason. It is one thing successfully to plan a moon voyage; it is quite another to to solve the moral problems of a distraught, unenlightened, and confused humanity.But then, Eiseley did not foresee that science in our own time, some forty-five-odd years later, was in danger of being dragged off its pedestal by a society that proposed to replace it by an anti-intellectual pseudo-religious cult. But then, Eiseley also foresaw the possibility of that happening:Some decades ago Henry Phillips of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology expressed this dilemma succinctly. "What will happen five minutes from now is pretty well determined," he wrote, "but as that period is gradually lengthened a larger and larger number of purely accidental occurrences are included. Ultimately a point is reached beyond which events are more than half determined by accidents which have not yet happened. Present planning loses significance when that point is reached.... Here is the fundamental dilemma of civilization.... there is serious doubt whether the way forward is known"Reading Eiseley is a humbling experience. Here there is no unimpeded march to the heights. He knows: He is holding the bones and other relics of failed civilizations in his hands.

  • Douglas Dalrymple
    2019-04-28 09:24

    Echoing Socrates, the Roman philosopher Seneca asks in one of his letters, “What good does it do you to go overseas, to move from city to city? If you really want to escape the things that harass you, what you’re needing is not to be in a different place but to be a different person.”The same sentiment animates much of Loren Eiseley’s The Invisible Pyramid. This book collects a series of lectures delivered by Eiseley shortly after the Apollo moon landing. It was a heady time but Eiseley warns against scientific triumphalism and the temptations of magical thinking. Beware the intoxication of accomplishment, he says. You may travel to the stars, but at what cost and for what gain? Look at the mess we make of things here at home and ask yourself whether this is something we can in good conscience export to other worlds. The human species is poised to become, perhaps, a cosmic parasite, a spore bearer, a galactic infestation.People have an impressive capacity for memory (especially as aided by language, etc.), but they have no lesser talent for forgetting. How is it, after all, that men of the same generation that saw hell unleashed twice in wars of near-global scale could allow themselves to indulge in utopian visions of a future beyond this planet? Would we not be planting the same species of world-eaters in any new lands we managed to reach?We human beings have a longing for transformation that will not be educated by experience. We are blind to what we actually are and see only what we imagine we may be. Our technologies enable us only to amplify and extend our conflicted, tempestuous nature; they do not heal us. “Every man tracks himself through life,” Thoreau wrote in his journals, and Eiseley comments: “Thoreau meant that the individual in all his reading, his traveling, his observations, would follow only his own footprints in the snows of this world. He would see what his temperament dictated, hear what voices his ears allowed him to hear, and not one whit more. This is the fate of every man. What is less well known is that civilizations, which are the products of men, are in their way equally obtuse.”This is not to say that transformation (or transfiguration, if you like) does not occur. Eiseley would of course point out that it happens through the process of evolution, but only according to timescales that delete civilizations in the blink of an eye, and in ways that are finally unpredictable and no guarantee of moral betterment. I would suggest that transformation may happen, too, by more numinous means - means that work upon individuals more effectively than upon populations. But either way, heaven, if and when it finds us, will not be of our own making.

  • Rhonda
    2019-05-13 10:51

    I was ill prepared for how wonderful this book is. Most of what I have ever read of cultural anthropology has been rather tedious and flecked with egoism and hope that some propounded theory will provides the metaphysical glue which hold long enough to achieve notoriety. Eisley writes with no such prejudices and with so much joy that it is easy to accept his statement that his childhood finally ended when he was 50.One has to admire someone who is capable of absorbing the world around him as a child. During one of his sojourns into the cold dark winter, he discovers a discarded Christmas tree and strokes it apologetically and finally takes it home for a closing ceremony which he believes that it missed. This is to say his observations are childlike rather than childish. His reading breadth is nothing short of amazing and I was glad to see him acknowledge the genius of Francis Bacon as the father of modern empirical science. It is not the supposition or the imagining of what something of our world is like, but the discovery which is significant. It cannot be stated strongly enough how much such thinking changed our world to the point where the statement is almost obvious.While his chapter on World Eaters was profound, the comparison of men and their ideas as spore bearers was beautiful imagery. Our ideas are necessarily thrown out into the world .. and there is great waste about such because they are a mere best guess of a direction, but generally it is hoped that a few will be pollinated and thrive. It gives one a sense of both the necessity of having created various ideas and the reason they never germinate: after all, he suggests, nature is rather wasteful too! Man is not a creature to be contained in a solitary skull vault, nor is measurable as ,say, a saber-toothed cat or a bison is measurable. Something, the rainbow dancing before his eyes, the word uttered by the cave fire at evening, eludes us and runs onward. It is gone when we come with our spades upon the cold dead ashes of the campfire four hundred thousand years removed. This book reminds us of something which Einstein said, something those of us who seek God's closer nature ought to bear in mind more often than we do. Man pushes onward through time as he must. The paradox remains, as he points out quoting Maritain, that God exists out of time

  • Matthew
    2019-04-23 07:35

    In this collection of essays Eiseley is feeling grumpy about the moon landing and the unrealistic hope placed on space exploration and technology.To Eiseley, space exploration is an invisible pyramid: an amazing, yet petty achievment that does not even leave a pretty landmark behind. Man is in the slime-mold stage, firing spores into space in hopes of continuing our race. He makes it quite clear that a hope to eventually leave this home planet is delusional. He decries our habit of using creative innovation to divorce humanity from his origins, abusing new discoveries before we've thought about the consequences. As usual with Eiseley, a brilliant stew of references and quotes from philosophers, anthropologists, scientists, and poets.

  • Marcel
    2019-04-23 09:43

    I enjoyed most of this book. His writing is beautiful and really enjoyable to read. This book is really interesting and somewhat autobiographical at times. I will be reading much more of Eiseley's works.

  • Chilton Miller
    2019-05-18 02:48

    A book that is necessary for all in the modern age to read.

  • Bill
    2019-05-21 07:31

    The Invisible Pyramid, by Loren Eisely, is a poetic essay full of images and metaphors to make his argument both rational and esthetic that man's culture has alienated him from the nature from whence he arose, and that a return to that nature of vast time, vast space, and green earth is essential to avoid the extinction of that culture and the human species. Technology has enabled humankind to temporarily dominate the environment, but in the end, that invisible, time-effacing, future oriented invisible pyramid of technology will collapse. However, it is not technology in and of itself that is the problem; it is the animal brain residual that must be overcome in order for humankind to survive. He makes this point with exquisite prose: "Creatures who evolve as man has done sometimes bear the scar tissue of their evolutionary travels in their bodies. The human cortex, the center of high thought, has come to dominate, but not completely to suppress, the more ancient portions of the animal brain. ...We know that within our heads there still exists an irrational restive ghost that can whisper disastrous messages into the ear of reason." Beyond despair, he does see a way out: "The story of the great saviors, whether Chinese, Indian, Greek, or Judaic, is the story of man in the process of enlightening himself, not simply by tools, but through the slow inward growth of the mind that made and may yet master them through knowledge of itself." He is a poet and a prophet, and he is well worth reading.

  • Abby
    2019-04-28 03:30

    I must not penalize the old dudes for being old dudes. But I have been assigned a great density of them all at once, and they're getting me down. It's know, I get enough of being preached at in my not-reading-life that it's hard to take from Loren Eiseley. I'm sure he is very wise, but his anthropology is outdated and his tone is unbearable.At this point, this is a bit of a historical piece on the academics of many decades ago. I was trying to imagine what Intro to Anthropology must have been like with this guy. He is such a generalist in the four subfields of anthropology--cultural, biological, archaeology and linguistics--and in that way so unlike his modern counterparts. Few people aspire to make these kinds of sweeping statements today, and maybe I should applaud his boldness rather than choking on his racism. He does a lot of unifying various fields. It is a bold book in its way.Still no girls in here at all--this really is just "mankind" that he's talking about. Although he occasionally does read books by girls.

  • Sharon
    2019-05-22 03:31

    If there were six possible stars, this book would get every one of them! Loren Eiseley is a scientist, a naturalist and a humanist. He writes beautifully and he makes you think deeply. He talks about how human kind has gotten where it is today and where it is most likely headed, and why. This book is not depressing or negative, but it does force you to realize that we are the product of choices made long, long ago and that our future on earth is very much in doubt unless we change is a major way. His kind of 'changing' is not at all about using more fuel efficient cars or recycling or moving off the grid. He suggests we have to change our very nature. We have to totally rethink what we want as a human race.

  • Matthew
    2019-04-25 05:34

    A fascinating book that I picked up in a secondhand bookstore in Manhattan, Kansas. The author's perspective from the time of the Apollo moon landings creates an interesting historical vision, but his overall message is still relevant today, as we still have not dealt decisively with the challenges Eiseley identifies as the greatest threats to our species: overpopulation and overconsumption. A broad statement from a wonderfully-educated mind, reminiscent of Joseph Campbell and Julian Jaynes (I will be checking Jaynes' bibliography for this book when I get the chance). A fortuitous discovery back in 2010, and we'll worth returning to now.

  • Erik Graff
    2019-05-10 03:33

    Despite being a life-long fan of science fiction, I agreed with Eiseley that the U.S. space program is suspect. While one can argue for communications and mapping satellites, maybe even a space station, the costs involved in the manned exploration of other planets at this time seem prohibitive given the miserable state of much of humanity and of the planet's ecology. Added to this is the high probability that most space exploration, including the satellites, has had military justification--just what we don't need!

  • Andrew Schrader
    2019-05-20 03:24

    Also a wonderful book by Eiseley. After The Immense Journey, I think this is my next favorite. His style takes some getting used to; for me, he gets harder to read the deeper I go into his career. The way he weaves his chapters into a grand statement about what "the invisible pyramid" is, is completely insane. I really lack the words to describe his work. I love it so much. This is one I will pick up again in the future. Now onto The Firmament of Time and Darwin's Century...

  • Painting
    2019-05-09 03:35

    This is the first book I'd read by Eiseley and I have not been the same since.

  • Charles
    2019-05-08 02:44

    More essays from Eiseley, perhaps our greatest naturalist of the modern age.

  • Rissi
    2019-05-03 10:48

    Fascinating.... Read long ago. Think I'll re-read.

  • Mark Underwood
    2019-05-21 06:22

    A sometimes grim, occasionally eloquent essay. Consider the opening remark, "If I term humanity a slime mold organism it is because our presernt environment suggests it." That was published in 1970.

  • mm
    2019-05-19 04:42

    Language as a prison. Humanity as a spore. Science as an invisible pyramid.What is the point of conquering space if earth is in ruin?The ideas in this book need time to digest.

  • Pablo
    2019-05-04 07:35