Midwest Book Review June 2014

Diane Donovan. Senior Ebook Reviewer MBR

The original can be viewed here:

Involution-An Odyssey Reconciling Science to God
Philippa Rees
CollaborArt Books
ISBN: ebook: 9780957500211
Printed book: 9780957500228
Ebook $8.55 (Amazon) Paperback $27.99


(From Canto the Seventh)

‘Then the cleft fell like an axe/Split Eden’s innocence/ Sent Man into Exile with a brain/ With which he could survive….Until he traced full circle ( as any planet orbits sun)/ Old soldier with his bandaged eyes/Returns limping to what he once called home/And does not recognize…

At a quick glance, Involution-An Odyssey Reconciling Science to God seems like a scientific or spiritual read, and possibly a dry one, at that. But those too ready to judge a book by its title may be in for a surprise, here: for Involution is in actuality a poetic-based exploration of the Western thinking process, and is more focused on the process of Mankind’s incremental rediscovery than scientific or spiritual analysis.

It’s neither poetry nor science, spiritual reader nor philosophical investigation – but it incorporates elements of each. Nor is it ‘fish nor fowl’ – which makes its intended audience and placement a bit ambiguous. How do you tell an audience mired in one discipline that there’s value to be had (and elements of that discipline) in a book that crosses genres? Therein lies the presentation challenge; for it’d be a shame for the reader of science, spirituality, philosophy or history to miss the unexpected treats embedded in Involution.

So what, exactly, is ‘involution’? It’s defined here as the basic idea that the progress of science in fact reflects its ability to recover memory, or involution. Strictly speaking, ‘involution’ happens when something turns in upon itself; but in this case it’s more than a geometric or mathematical expression, more than a medical description, and more than the path the soul takes to become more self-realized. Here it’s described as the impetus to the evolutionary process, key to understanding the idea of scientific investigation and progression: “Involution, the in ‘folding’ of memory, and its recovery by man, does not seek to challenge Darwin, whose world is the evolution of outer forms, but offers a counterbalance, the in ‘forming’ of evolving awareness that shapes his creatures and their relationships. The central premise of this book is that evolution, prior to man, has been achieved through the infolding of experience – involution – and that its legacy, memory, resides in the very structure of matter.”

And if all of this sounds too challenging a view from the get-go, then Involution isn’t the book for you. While its tone is lively and its delivery understandable, it’s not ‘light reading’ per say, despite its unexpected vehicle of poetry as the delivery wagon of choice.

Poetry? Really? Yes: because poetic structure in this case lends well to a survey that has to speedily traverse all of time, but which requires slow, careful reading for maximum benefit. Anyone seeking a quick set of insights despite the lightening effects of its poetic structure will be disappointed. Its light-heartedness belies the depth of its insights on the human adventure.

Perhaps Involution can best be described as an ‘ambitious work exposing the inspired development of science and philosophy (and parallel art and music) wrapped in the mantle of epic poetry’. Surely its conception marries the disparate worlds of science and religion more firmly with a structure and presentation that will capture readers of either genre. The poetic evocation (addressed to the instinctive right brain, and the heart) is unambiguous, direct and occasionally breath-taking.

Perhaps ideally one should have a familiarity with classical poetry and an appreciation of thinking anew from first principles in order to fully appreciate the purposes, language and history provided in Involution: “But why address the already long converted?/ When science is in greater need of vision/Believing, as it does, it holds all truth./Scientists were caged, not by commission,/Invisible are the bonds to its repute…” It is the ‘blindness of the old soldier’ (science) that is here offered new eyes to see, in its own history, an alternative spiritual journey of purpose and meaning.

‘Saints and scientists break the same bread’

Here you will find it all: poetic cantos, scientific footnotes, discussions of ideals of liberty, Renaissance history, the psychology of love and reunion…all provided in a unique format with a distinctive perspective; perfect for multidisciplinary, college-level readers who want a scholarly yet evocative presentation of the concept and workings of involution through its increasingly unifying stages. This broad-brush journey through the history of Western culture offers an alternative vision of Man’s powers and his destiny; a return to Eden, now as co-Creator, conscious of the unity of all creation.

Incidentally, Involution-An Odyssey Reconciling Science to God has been nominated runner-up Book of the Year (2013) by the Scientific and Medical Network. It’s easy to see why it deserves this accolade.

2 thoughts on “Midwest Book Review June 2014”

  1. I think I get the point about Involution as opposed to Evolution and the idea fascinates me. I’ve often wondered, though, about the mental states and internal processes of animals. I know this is biology, but how much like us are they? I don’t think you are a supporter of Creation theory – I hope not – but mentions of GOD ‘the bastard who doesn’t exist’ according to Beckett’s character Hamm, might turn many enlightened readers off.


  2. Sorry it has taken me some time to reply (Your comment was into my spam filter!) and thank you for writing. If I subscribe to creation ‘theory’ it is only in the sense of consciousness incrementally encoded and determining the direction of the next action…again encoded. So God working within rather than from ‘without’. But the use of God is problematical for all sorts of lumber it carries, yet what else would you call that which is in everything, and is everything?


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