Mantras, those ubiquitous and enigmatic utterances characteristic of the religions of India and of cultures that have fallen under her spell, are the subject of a valuable collection of essays published by SUNY Press as a part of its Series in Religious Studies (Robert Cummings Neville, Editor). The contributors are all expert in one or more periods of Sanskrit philosophical literature, and their essays are uniformly well grounded and soundly researched.
Assembled by Harvey P. Alper- this was indeed the last work of that distinguished Indologist-these are essays in the original and best sense of that term: attempts to explain a phenomenon that does not easily yield to understanding. So obdurately hermetic are mantras that the authors cannot even agree whether they are language. Even if mantras do not mean anything, however, they are certainly intended to do something, and the instrumentality of mantras is a theme introduced by Alper and taken up in a variety of ways by many of the other contributors.