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.


"Long-awaited, revolutionary. . . This book ponders the violent disconnection of the body from the natural world and what this means about how we live and die in it."

- The Los Angeles Times

"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

"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

"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