A Voice at the Borders of Silence Essay - Critical Essays

A Voice at the Borders of Silence

William Segal (1904-2000) was an American publisher, writer, and artist. He was the creative force behind and publisher of eleven magazines of which American Fabrics and Gentry are the most well-known.

His intellectual, creative, and business interests led to involvement with an avant-garde current in twentieth century western culture that looked to the philosophy and spiritual practices of the East. He was well-acquainted with Zen Buddhism through his association with D.T. Suzuki and through his travels to Japan. He also was deeply influenced by G.I. Gurdjieff, an American spiritualist who established the Institute for Harmonious Development of Man in France and the Russian spiritualist, P.D. Ouspensky who had a communal center at Franklin Farms in New Jersey.

Although A Voice at the Borders of Silence: An Intimate View of the Gurdjieff Work, Zen Buddhism, and Art is called an autobiography it is really more of a collection of primary sources that document William Segal’s life, works, and philosophy. These documents include transcriptions of interviews with Segal, some letters that Segal wrote, numerous photographs and reproductions of many of his art works, and reminiscences by friends. Segal’s second wife, Marielle Bancou-Segal provides brief explanatory comments that introduce some chapters.

For readers already familiar with Segal and his intellectual and spiritual masters, the book serves as a valuable resource documenting aspects of this twentieth century movement. However, the lack of narrative unity or historical context will leave readers not already acquainted with these figures and ideas with little enlightenment about them.