Vale Zoltan Torrey — uplifting and inspiring author

May 2, 2014

Long-time Socialist Alliance member Zoltan Torrey — a gentle, thoughtful, uplifting and inspiring man — died suddenly at home on January 16.

He wrote two extraordinary books. Out of Darkness is his memoir. He describes his youth in Hungary when it was occupied by Nazi Germany, and his arrival in Australia post World War II.

The core theme is how he used his imagination to "see" after he was blinded in an industrial accident. His imagination was accurate. He replaced the roof of his house and one night (he worked at night, because it was cooler) he fell off. As he fell he could see just where everything was, and twisted his body to avoid landing on the fence. His memoirs are powerful in evoking a visual sense of his experiences, as if watching a movie.

His second book, The Crucible of Consciousness is a fascinating exploration of the material basis of mind. He wrote: "When the DNA formula of living structures is known and the substrate of matter almost understood, the source of all this knowing, the conscious mind, is still a mystery. This is the Achilles heel of our rational understanding of the world."

The book’s second edition has been completed and is due for release this year.

In a sense the books are related testimonies to the power of material imagination, of how free will can operate in a deterministic universe. Despite the complexity and detail of The Crucible of Consciousness, it reads more like a stroll with a well-informed and articulate companion than the exceptional scientific work that it is.

Zoltan had the extraordinary gift of somehow making you feel better about yourself, of making you feel inspired and hopeful about being a socialist activist. One of his comments was that when he came to Australia in the 1950s there were only two choices really: to become an insipid Englishman, or to become a Marxist. He certainly was not insipid.

He is survived by his wife and muse, Dawn, and son Brett.

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