The Palm at the End of the Mind


“[Jackson] has produced a book that is no straightforward text in either religion or theology. It is, rather, an exceptionally good example of an autobiographically framed critical reflection upon many themes and issues that are varyingly religious and/or theological in nature.” — Douglas Pratt, Reviews in Religion and Theology

“The whole book is permeated with twists and often unexpected developments revealing the complexities of human life. Habits are ruptured; restrictive knots of social life are loosened. It seems as if the stories from the book would themselves stand in a twilight zone between day and night, between waking and sleeping, when illusion becomes real and reality an illusion, when poetry is lived and life itself becomes poetry. From the moment I took the book into my hands, I found it hard to put it down. This ethnography of the borderlands of human experience captures the reader enabling him or her to reflect not only upon the intricacies of relatedness and religiosity but to move beyond thought, into the realm of ‘the palm at the end of the mind,’ and look at the world through more sensitive and compassionate lenses.” — Borut Telban, Anthropological Notebooks

“As always . . . Jackson writes with beauty and great clarity on demanding and elusive topics.” — Hayder Al-Mohammad, Social Anthropology

“Jackson excels at an interpretive method in which the power resides in storytelling. The Palm at the End of the Mind is a book to think with as it evokes the beauty and mystery of our experiences. Its stories haunt the imagination and so illustrate the power of phenomenology.” — Rebecca A. Allahyari, Anthropology and Humanism

“Michael Jackson’s sixty-one short essays, based on his experiences in disparate geographical settings, are designed to speak to each reader individually like a sophisticated musical composition, rather than advancing a linear argument. . . . Jackson’s case that ‘history, religion, spirituality, culture are shop-worn terms,’ and should be replaced by ‘the image of life at the edge of language, a shoreline on which the sea washes ceaselessly,’ is given substance by his own literary skill. And it is possible to glimpse here the makings of a shared ‘religious’ sensibility that may be fitfully emerging to unite different peoples and traditions, in ways influenced by, but not entirely decreed by, the gods of the marketplace.” — Jonathan Benthall, Times Literary Supplement

“Elegant and harrowing, this book takes us to the borderlands of human experience, where normal habits of thought and rules of social location are lost and ruptured, ‘where we confront sides of ourselves that ordinarily do not see the light of day, yet from which new modes of consciousness may take shape.’  As Jackson moves fluidly between storytelling, poetry, memoir, metaphysics, social commentary, interior exploration, and existential reflection, we travel with him around the globe and through incongruous histories: ‘penumbral domains’ that he argues do not belong exclusively to the language of religion, or even to language itself.  The Palm at the End of the Mind insists on the integrity of transmutations, even terrible ones, for these are still eternally precious and deeply true. It bears witness to the cosmic connections forged in such mystery, refusing to let us look away.  Long after its last page, it haunts, it sings, it prophesies.  This is a brilliant ethnography of the heart.”  — Kimberley Patton

The Palm at the End of the Mind is a marvelous work of deep scholarly and artistic significance. Michael Jackson reflects on those things—love, loss, pain, courage, resilience—that define the human condition. Bringing a lifetime of work in anthropology to bear, he provides a rich description of the irreducible dynamics of living in social worlds that are in continuous flux.”  — Paul Stoller, author of, The Power of the Between: An Anthropological Odyssey