Ramsey Duke’s What I did in my Holidays has been an important book for my personal growth and self-exploration. Not through its content, which is of varying quality, but through the changes in my attitude and belief-systems that accompanied the experience of reading the book. These changes in attitude and beliefs were not caused by the book itself – I started the book as a man of faith, a yogi, and a magician. I finish the book as a man of science, reason and scepticism. This transformation can not be accounted to the book, for I was forced to change my persona to pass my final university exams and deal with the build-up of psychological problems that I have accumulated during my 6 months of mystical study. I survived the transition, not unscathed, definitely a hell of a lot more arrogant than I used to be (which I do not count among the positives), blah blah blah
Most importantly with each new change in attitude and perception the book I was reading changed its meaning and importance. What started as an interesting exploration of alternative theory, ended as an attempt to cover too many themes that were beyond the author’s understanding. Some essays provoked ‘rightful’ anger in the humble reader when he witnessed gigantic gaps in logic or unnecessary leaps of faith. If I stayed in the same mind-set as I started the book in, these problems would have never arised. This does not serve to belittle the author, rather it serves to show how maleable we are as recipients of information.
Reading Duke’s book made me realise that books hold as much importance and relevance as we (sub)consciously give them. Our attitudes and beliefs shape the experience of reading a book (or any other action which is educational) and the effects that it has on us, including what we take away from it. When I was magically minded, the book was appreciated, after my scientific transition, the book lost most of its charm.
To add some relevance to this rag-tag article, I will at least add the last thoughs of Ramsey Dukes on his own work:
1. Ideas, beliefs, principles, assumptions… all these can be tyrants
2. They can also be saviours. Thus one idea triumphs over another by liberating us until it too turns out to be tyrant.
3. ‘Free Will’ is to dodge and duck as ideas do battle around and within us. In vain, while we are the battlefield.
4. It is necessary, therefore, to detach from ideas, beliefs, principles and assumptions. Step back and enjoy the struggle without becoming its victim.
5. This can be difficult and painful. It requires us to abandon our principles (provided that is ‘the one thing that we refuse to do’) and embrace relativity. It requires us to admit that even the most monstrous human beings have probably at times nurtured intentions every bit as benevolent as our own.
6. There is a precedent for this detachment: it was when mankind learnt to detach from Nature. This was progress: the bushman is in this one respect our inferior and we must therefore learn most carefully from them.
7. Detaching from Nature, from Mother Earth, was a phase of growing up. It was necessary for the development of Science.
8. Detaching from ideas is another stage of growing up. It is time to let go of Truth and discover our Selves. It is also necessary for the development of Magic.
9. Goodbye, Mother Earth. Goodbye, Father Sky.
10. A Great Adventure lies ahead.
This blog also offers an interview with the author himself: Interview with Ramsey Dukes.