e-book available online only
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This e-book is badged as an empirical study of whether the soul exists. This is not typically a question that science sets out to answer – it’s proof is more likely to be philosophical than scientific. However, there is a lot of evidence out there that needs to be considered – testimonies, clinical reports and even some clinical trials. There is certainly a ‘burden of proof’ that cannot merely be answered by science saying it is all subjective.
The book begins with a helpful historical overview of how the soul has been replaced with political (e.g.: Marxist) and physiological (e.g.: reductionist) theories; along the general line that the ‘god of the gaps’ is no longer needed in this enlightened age. However, it does not take much to see that many modern claims are as much faith-based and ‘priestly’ as the revelations of old. It is merely a matter of perspective. The author correctly points out that those who have a faith will see the evidence for this, where as ardent secularists will see fuzzy facts that can’t be trusted.
The next section looks at some of the ‘evidence’ – for example nearly 10% of people in some community studies reported an out-of-body or near-death experience. In quite a few of these cases, the person seems to then know something they could not ordinarily have known. There is also a growing literature on psychic (‘pre-cognitive’) dreams and para-psychology.
Jungian ideas about archetypes and universal consciousness are often used, possibly because that is the authors background. However, there is defiantly the feel that Jung as onto something, and these less universally accepted ideas of his have not gone away. . British analysis is less Jungian than many places, preferring the more concrete ideas of object-relations theory, but is something being missed. Elsewhere in the book, ideas from quantum and uncertainty theories are introduced as possible explanatory models, however I got the impression that this was less solid ground and just theorisation.
The destination, however, - that of a transpersonal psyche, or interconnectedness, is something that people of faith will easily identify with, and you do not have to be a Buddhist to do this. We know that it is not as simple to say that we are all individuals. Mankind has always been more than this – citizens, comrades and (for the Christian) disciples who are linked to our brothers and sisters like it or not.
It is to this end that the book argues – not so much that God be proven (for that is probably impossible as we would understand scientific proof), but that the idea of a soul or psyche be allowed to return from exile to take a more central place in psychology; and in science as a whole. The 20th century has seen much science motivated from a desire to supersede religion, but this has never been possible. Just as Newton gave way to Einstein who in turn gave way to Quantam Mechanics, so too has the ‘blind’ eye of science come to realise that there are questions it cannot answer unless it allows something of the soul back in.
Whilst not Christian in its stance or conclusions, this book provides an interesting exploration of things that cannot easily be explained away. Many will be left wanting to know more, to see the proof more scientifically. However, surely faith is more than this. The end of ‘psyche’s exile’ will not be a conclusive hammer-punch from the scientific hard right, but a growth of faith among all men. In this regard, the book is sympathetic to what Christians believe.
Jerry Kroth, 08/11/2011
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