One of the books that have played a pivotal role in my psychological development is Ghost In The Machine by Arthur Koestler. This is a prodigious writer whose name and titles I had encountered in mostly second hand bookshelfs since my younger days in Durban as well as Cape Town and Joburg.
The titles of his books always intrigued me, and I would browse and never got around to buying the books. After my father commited suicide in 1993 when I was 15 years old, I came close to purchasing the author’s autobiographies; Dialogue With Death, Scum Of The Earth and The God That Failed, they all just appeared serendipitous, but all I did was spwnd hours in the darkest corners of dusty old bookshops (when they still existed) and read until closing time. His essay’s such as Reflections On Hanging, The Lotus and The Robot, The Roots of Coincidence and Drinkers Of Infinity all drew me in as if they were echoes from my own teeming mind, they provided a kind of morbid carthasis. In retrospect, I realise now that reading helped me to not turn againsr myself and to feel pity rather than hate for humanity, they provided an elixir against despair.
Here is a quote from a chapter of THE GHOST In The Machine which is the only book I actually own by the author. I obtained this copy through “dubious” circumstances from a smitten librarian in Harare during our sojourn there.
“Triggers And Filters”:’All the time the Guard was looking at her, first through a telescope, then through a microscope, and then through an opera-glass. At last he said, ‘You’re travelling the wrong way …’
You turn a switch or push a button on a machine, and this simple, effortless gesture releases the co-ordinated action of hundreds of wheels, pistons, levers, vacuum tubes or what have you. Such trigger mechanisms, where a relatively simple command or signal releases extremely complex, pre-set action-patterns, are a favourite devise in biological and social organisation. By this means the organism (or body social) is able to reap the full benefits of the autonomous, self-regulating character of its sub-divisions – its holons on lower levels. When the Cabinet decides to raise the Bank Rate from six per cent to seven per cent, or to send troops to a trouble-spot in the East, the decision is worded in brief, laconic terms, which merely imply, but do not specify, the intricate sequence of actions that will follow. The decision triggers various department headsand experts into activity; these will provide the first set of more specific instructions …
Like all our previous generalisations, this, too, it is meant tk apply to all types of hierarchies – including, for instance, the hierarchic sequence of embryonic development.” TBC