By J. P. DONNELLY Culture and Creed by the Rev. Nick Earle (Thames and Hudson, 12s. 6d.).
THE student of to-day is more and more becoming a kind of intellectual astronaut locked inside the shell of a highly specialised examination course. The General Studies Library of which this is the first in the series, is a new series designed to help him to step outside his warm little capsule and move around among other fields of thought and achievement.
The book is ambitious in scope. It is a study of human beliefs seen in relation to their cultural background and it ranges from the pre-Socratic philosophers to Paul Tillich. Philosophers, founders of religions and scientists file past in 97 pages, with 52 further pages of extracts from their writings and a final list of suggestions for extra reading.
An obvious' criticism is that the book is attempting too much. (liven its scope and subject, it
_uld have become a mere cata
logue, but Mr. Earle has avoided this danger by opting for a partisan view. What he has to say will certainly provoke discussion. and this is one of the aims of the series.
To give two brier examples, he does not regard the Gospel of St. John as a source of information about the life of Christ; it is "... the first attempt at Christian de-mythologising." Likewise, St. Augustine's theory of the soul's progress to God is to be understood in terms of "sexual sublimation." There has not been room, however, to develop these and similar views at reasonable length and the book in consequence suffers from cramp.
The second book to appear, From Peace to War by M. G. Bruce covers the period 19181939, which seldom figures in school history syllabuses. Here compression is again evident, but to a lesser extent. An interesting outline of the period is given, with illustrations and references to poetry and the novel Is well as political source material. This new series is certainly worth the attention of anyone who deplores fanatical specialisation.