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Zen in the Art of Flower Arranging
Gustie L. Herrigel
Foreword by Daisetz T. Suzuki
Published by Routledge & Kegan Paul in 1974

A Book Review by Bobby Matherne ©2002


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In this delightful book the wife of Eugen Herrigel follows the tradition of "Zen in the Art of Archery" set by her husband. She discusses her introduction, describes the components of a Japanese flower arrangement, and gives some background and history of the development of flower arrangement from its roots in Zen Buddhism.

As in archery, flower arranging is a solitary art performed in a silent manner. Herrigel performs a service by providing a verbal description for Westerners of a non-verbal Eastern practice. Her goal is to interest her Western readers in studying Japanese flower arranging more than in teaching them how to do flower arranging from the book. She shows the heaven, earth, and spirit components and the male/female aspects of an arrangement so that the average reader can begin immediately to identify these in any arrangement. She illustrates the book with ink drawings of many different flower arrangements in the various styles described in the book.

Since I first read this book, I began arranging fresh flowers in our living spaces each week. Here's an example of one of my arrangements. Thanks, Gustie!

Her descriptions of the process of learning flower arrangement under a master is similar to her husband's description of learning the art of archery. In both cases the target of the art is the artist and when the target is hit, it is the archer (or flower arranger) that is changed. This is an important change from the normal Western view of either archery or flower arranging where importance is counted by the number of bullseyes hit or the opinions of some flower critic. Herrigel does a splendid job of describing the zen approach to self-knowledge and peace through the medium of flower arranging.

Her book is an excellent guide to inner re-arrangement and harmony whether one arranges flowers or not.


Any questions about this review, Contact: Bobby Matherne


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