BOOK REVIEW: The First and Last Freedom by Jiddu Krishnamurti

The First and Last FreedomThe First and Last Freedom by Jiddu Krishnamurti
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

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The edition of the book I’m reviewing is the Harper Collins e-book with a Forward by Aldous Huxley and in which more than half of the page count consists of appendices of Krishnamurti’s answers to various broad-ranging questions (i.e. What is the meaning of life, and such?) Jiddu Krishnamurti was a philosopher of Indian origin who passed away in 1986. This was one of his early books (first published 1954, though this is a 2010 edition) and it covers quite a bit of philosophical ground.

Krishnamurti’s teaching attracted a unique audience and existed in a unique space—at least back in his time. The topics he addressed were traditionally in the domain of spiritual philosophy, theology, or theosophy, but Krishnamurti downplayed belief and spiritualism. His teachings were attractive to those who were interested in developing their minds and selves, but who were dismayed by religiosity and all that such proclivities brought with it. Like mysticism, his ideas are about turning inward, but sans the notion that there’s a deity residing inside. In Krishnamurti’s writings, one hears echoes of Emerson’s suggestion that one must trust oneself and not get tangled up in the ideas of others—though, again, Emerson was clearly a believer. There’s also overlap with the ideas of some secular humanists, though they tend to be more scientists and less interested in meditations of the sort that have usually been relegated to spirituality in the past. (This has, of course, changed considerably in the decades since Krishnamurti’s death. Now this is a thriving space.)

The book itself consists of 21 chapters, and then there are 38 question-appendices. The chapters are 140+ pages and the appendices are cumulatively the same length. The appendices may be offered to attract readers who read the original book in a different edition. (It’s not so much a padding situation, because the 21 chapter book is long enough to stand as a book in print edition in and of itself.) The question section offers past readers a substantial amount of new material while providing an opportunity to reread the book.

There’s too much material covered by this book to make it worth accounting for it all. The overall theme of looking within to find one’s answers plays out across topics like fear, desire, the tension between individual and society, etc.

There’s good and bad news about readability. The good news is that, as one might expect of a book with almost 60 chapters (or chapter-like appendices) in a book of less than 300 pages, the information is delivered in bit-sized chunks. The bad news is that Krishnamurti was a thinking-man’s thinker. He’s not troubled to employ story-telling, humor, or the spinning of interesting language. This is raw philosophizing, and so it reads incredibly dryly unless one is a philosophy-lover to the core.

I would recommend this book for philosophy lovers.

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