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Genesis of a Historical Novel

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

new books and personal identity

Snow fell through the night. There is still a wet layer of white, turning to translucent slush, outside. Snowmelt drips from deck and rhododendron.

A book arrived yesterday in the post, and two today. Yesterday's was Beyond the Essene Hypothesis by Gabriele Boccaccini; today's are Identity: Youth and Crisis by Erik H. Erikson and The Challenge of Youth, edited by Erikson. I have wiped down the covers of these used books with a damp cloth, entered them in my Excel book inventory, and inscribed my name, along with the month and year, in them. (The Erikson books, paperbacks from the 1960s, had their previous owners' names inscribed in them still: Roger King and Jane Boyle, respectively.) My library is augmented.

Boccaccini's book was mentioned in Uriel's Machine by Christopher Knight and Robert Lomas, which I've got about half read. Knight and Lomas's book is about the astronomy of the Book of Enoch, which in turn was a core text for the Qumran community. Boccaccini's book is subtitled The Parting of the Ways between Qumran and Enochic Judaism, and apparently argues that the Essene community at Qumran was in fact the offspring of something he calls the Enochic party, which, he claims, contributed to the birth of the parties led by John the Baptist and Jesus. I felt I could not afford to overlook this book.

The Erikson books came out of my quest earlier this month into my own life and its development, its story. Erikson is the preeminent psychologist of personal identity and its development. In astrology, the identity is represented by the Sun in the birth chart. In my case this identity, and its realization, are conflicted by the situation of Neptune in what's known as a square aspect to the Sun. The tension is heightened by the Sun's placement in my 4th house of the inner world and domestic situation, suggesting a life focused on self-discovery and the arrangement of my own inner world, and by Neptune's placement in my 1st house of contact with my environment. The arrangement points to someone who, by life calling, is searching for his own identity (Sun in the 4th) while at the same time is inclined to mirror back other people's wants and wishes (Neptune in the 1st)--to be what others want him to be. Not hard to see the possible difficulties posed here.

So: Erik Erikson. Of the three books that have just arrived, I think I'll start with his major work Identity. It relates not only to my own life, but to my work, where I see the issue of identity as an important theme. Maybe I can see how it all fits together, and how the art is more intimately related to my life than I thought.


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