Ishmael draws on a lifetime of reading on all the subjects you mention. You might say that, starting in about 1960, I adopted the life of a cultural detective. One clue led to another across all conceivable disciplinary lines.
This hasn’t changed. Recent reading includes a study of African divination systems, an anthropological history of preindustrial Europe, a study of feral children, a study of war in prehistory, and a study of the Gnostic tradition in Central Asia.
Here are some of the books lined up on my waiting-to-be-read shelf: A study of feeding strategy (Behavioral Ecology); a study of borderline personality disorder; a history of blasphemy; a study of the “secret knowledge” of medieval and early modern times; a study of the development (and aberrations) of personal identity in early eighteenth century England; a study of how saints become canonized in the Roman Catholic Church.
How did I develop the arguments? Painstakingly. Slowly. Atom by atom. In an almost evolutionary way, by a process not unlike natural selection; every bit of it was challenged by every test I was capable of devising. (This is one reason why so many teachers find it acceptable for use in their classrooms.) It all seems very obvious—once it’s said. It certainly wasn’t obvious when I started.
updated: 30 Oct 2004