the art of intuitive reading

sparrow wrests the great books from the hands of intellectuals with a No. 2 pencil

illustration by

…It is a pleasure to read without the pressure to learn, study – or even comprehend. In the same way that we may listen to music without understanding the complexities of counterpoint and the pentatonic scale, everyone can read Samuel Johnson. It is, in fact, your birthright!

Tear the Great Books away from the "intellectuals"! Let everyone enjoy them, through Intuitive Reading!

Another influence of Intuitive Reading was the yogic practice of Svadhyaya, the reading of sacred scriptures. Swami Sri Yukteswar wrote in The Holy Science, "The highest aim of religion is Atma-jnanam, Self-Knowledge. But to attain this, knowledge of the external world is necessary... Svadhyaya consists of reading or hearing spiritual truth, pondering it, and forming a definite concept of it." (My meditation group, the Ananda Marga Society, suggests that we read one page a day, aloud, from the writings of our guru.) In fact, at this point I have three separate little piles of daily reading, and one is my "sacred scriptures" pile.

The practice of daily reading magnifies your intellectual powers. The thought of sitting for six hours and five minutes studying the Upanishads (or Sartre's Being and Nothingness) is terrifying, yet one minute a day yields six hours and five minutes in a year.

Gradually, I noticed that after about 7:30 p.m., I found it much more difficult to concentrate on my reading. Thus I created a rule – "no reading after 7:30." (However, I also developed exceptions to this rule. The one book I am reading for fun is allowed to go into overtime. And, if I have no choice but to begin my reading late, I may reread the previous day's paragraphs.)

Warning: Intuitive Reading requires patience. You may wish to push through a book, but the page you are reading may forbid you. You must read what the book allows. The book is speaking to you, and it may fall silent – the way a person can.

Sparrow lives with Violet Snow, his wife, and Sylvia Mae Gorelick, his 14-year-old daughter, in the hamlet of Phoenicia (in the Catskill Mountains). He awakens to the voices of angry crows, and trucks on Route 28. Sparrow is in the Ananda Marga Society. America: A Prophecy is his newest book


Copyright ©2007 ascent magazine, first Canadian yoga magazine, yoga for an inspired life