Category Archives: Book Review

Interview with Michelle Frost

Author of Elephant Songs

Michelle Frost has written an amazing book detailing her journey as a reluctant psychic. Elephant Songs is the autobiography of her life story from Africa to Scotland and from childhood brushes with spirits to a more mature spirituality. The book is engaging, honest, and very intriguing. Today she joins me to talk about the book and her experiences.  

Why did you decide to write an autobiography? How did it come about?

My mother was the first person to suggest that I write a book. She felt I should share my experiences, but every time I tried to write I’d start thinking about strangers actually reading my life and… I’d freeze up. Everything I wrote was stiff, deadly dull and boring. This book is very much owed to my internet friend, Richard Eldredge. He’s a rare thing – an open-minded sceptic. He’d constantly ask questions and I’d email back. By the time I’d finished answering all his questions I had 42 emails about my life and my abilities. They became the foundation of my book. 42 is the answer to “Life, the Universe and everything”, according to The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams. How could I resist that cosmic joke?

Do you thinking growing up in Africa influenced your on-going spiritual life?

Definitely. Africa is steeped in mysticism and its people are far more aware of magic and the unknown. Things that would be laughed at in the West are still seen as perfectly normal in Africa. I grew up with first hand experiences of witchdoctor curses and cures as well as the legends of magical places and legendary beasts. Anything feels possible in Africa.

How important was it to your spiritual development to keep a dream journal?

I’d say that it helped my self-trust mostly. When I first started a dream journal my intention was to prove why my dreams came true. I was expecting to find a rational explanation, but instead all I proved was that I really was dreaming of things before they happened. Having that proof helped me come to terms with the fact I had psychic abilities. I’m a rational person at heart and simply trusting my intuition does not come easy for me. Having my journal to return to has enabled me to look back over decades and see patterns as well as reasons that I was completely clueless about at the time.

How did your hospital stay of 2005 affect your abilities?

It was the first of two events that changed my abilities. I woke up from surgery to find I could “see” and “hear” at a level I’d never had as an adult. I’d been able to see spirits as a very young child, but that faded quickly as I grew up. The surgery seemed to trigger some change. A friend of mine suggested that the anaesthetic and morphine acted on my brain in a similar manner to the hallucinogenic plants South American Shamans use.

By “see” and “hear” I mean a state of awareness that is more clear and real than imagination, but not literal seeing or hearing.

You had a spirit-guide who revealed himself over a long period. This experience was far from what is commonly reported. Can you tell us a little about that? What advise do you have for others whose experiences don’t match the textbook case?

My “spirit-guide” (we both know the label isn’t a perfect fit, but to say more would be a book spoiler) revealed himself after the second major event to change my abilities. I was writing my second book, Wisdoms of the Light (sequel to First Light), in 2013. Writing that book changed me. It was an intense experience and I wasn’t alone in feeling that. A psychic friend of mine offered to be an extra proof reader. When he finished reading through the first draft, he sent me a message his spirit-guide dictated for me:

You have grown exponentially of late and it is because of the book, because of the creative process employed with the book and the unusual way in which you created characters from self, from “ALL”, from else-where’s lifetimes, to both create a fascinating narrative and also a healing, consciousness raising/expanding experience for you.

It was about a week after I finished that first draft that I HEARD my spirit-guide speak for the first time. HEARD because he was loud, clear and very real. A life-changing moment I will never forget.

I can’t comment much on “what is commonly reported” since I haven’t read any books about other people’s experiences with spirit-guides. My advice to others would be to trust themselves and their “gut feeling” over anything they read or are taught/told. We are all unique and nothing works for everyone. If something feels wrong – trust that it is wrong for you and move on. Same with what feels right. I’d have saved myself a lot of stress and grief if I’d relied on my gut and intuition more than my intellect.

Your spirit-guide repeatedly tells you to “think from the heart, not the head.” What does he mean by this?

I can start by saying what he doesn’t mean, this isn’t about connecting to your emotions.

Let’s start with some basics. We tend to use the heart as a symbol of love and emotion, just as we use the brain to symbolise logic and intellectual deduction. I’d say that modern humans have become exceptionally “head bound”. We revere the brain and all things related to it: book learning, diplomas in knowing stuff, facts and figures. And as a result, we often see emotions as being unstable and more of a weakness than a strength.

My spirit-guide explained that there has to be balance between the two for any human to be completely healthy and productive, but this “thinking from the heart” is something more than that. When he says this, he points or presses his hand on a spot a few inches below my throat; a place roughly half way between heart and brain. He says this area is where we hold the energy he describes as “the higher heart energy”. It’s the place from where we connect to “All” – our higher self, God and/or the Cosmos. Here is where we experience those feelings we call intuition or genius; those moments when we simply KNOW something instantly without any need to mull it over in our brains or run it through our emotional heart. 

He constantly nags me about this higher heart thinking. I’m still struggling with this. I’ll have the moment of instantly knowing (higher heart intuition), but then my brain starts asking questions and my emotions run off in all directions like a flock of hysterical sheep.

Were you ever concerned that writing a book as deeply personal as this, might open you to ridicule? Has there been any negative pushback? What about support from surprising places?

I’ve worried mostly about accidentally hurting or offending anyone, since this is a book about my life where I do talk about my experiences and people I know, friends and family. Ridicule doesn’t worry me as much. I was teased for being skinny and sickly as a kid, laughed at for being overweight as a suddenly healthy teen and ridiculed for all sorts of things (politics, religion, nationality, gender, etc.) as an adult. I’m fairly immune at this stage. My main concern was to keep it truthful without causing harm to others.

So far, I’ve not had any negative pushback. As for support in surprising places… I’ve had a few people contact me to say thank you for writing the book. They’ve all been people who can relate as they’ve had similar experiences. That’s been awesome.

In a time when it appears more and more of us are “waking up,” how important is it that stories like yours find their way into the world?

This is why I agreed to publish in the first place, because people like my mom and friends said, “this is needed.” I know dozens of people who have psychic abilities or have had esoteric/spiritual experiences and been too afraid to admit that fact for most of their lives. That, to me, is a tragic waste of human potential.

Thanks for being here today and sharing your journey! For more about Michelle Frost and her work, check out the links below.

Blog: http://crows-feet.blogspot.com/

GoodReads: http://goo.gl/swYHsB

Amazon: http://goo.gl/KKGKkD

Barnes & Noble: http://goo.gl/QH9tQe

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Gazing Skyward

The Fated Sky by Benson Bobrick, PhD.

Part 1

Fated Sky

There are many misconceptions about astrology. This book attempts a survey of its effects on Western Civilization. It’s a big job! This is a history book and astrology has been around a very long time. Most of us think astrology can be summed up by those little paragraphs written about your sun sign that commonly occur in magazines and papers. Some who have delved deeper know astrology is a science- one that predated and in part, gave birth to modern science. How is it that this thread is all but missing from history books? It is said that history is written by the victors and from that perspective (I suppose), astrology did not win. Bobrick’s book is not a book about whether astrology is a valid science. Rather, this is a book about how ideas and people’s understanding of them played a role in history.

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Bobrick opens the book with a very compelling case about how Columbus would never have set sail on a voyage of discovery except for having been inspired by an astrological idea that had come from the Persians through the Arabs and finally to the West by way of a French Cardinal and astrologer, Pierre d’Ailly. Known as the great conjunction theory, where Jupiter and Saturn unite, it was thought to herald great changes. The once- in- 960- year astrological event so excited Columbus, he decided it heralded the end of the world and everyone on the planet would need to be converted. He adopted the name Christophorus, “the Christbearer” and sought the financial aid of Spain. Columbus’ copy of the astrologer’s work who so influenced him, including his personal notes, can be seen in Seville. Ideas are no small matter!

Columbus

Man has always been intrigued by the skies. The origins of astrology go back to Mesopotamia, the Chaldean East, including areas of Babylonia and Assyria. From there, it spread to Egypt and Greece. Astrology was known in Greece at least as early as 1184 BC. Plato was tutored by a Chaldean astrologer. Astrology eventually incorporated Pythagorean concepts. But it wasn’t until Hellenistic Egypt that astrology came into its own and combined with Greek mathematical astronomy. By 150 BC, the earliest handbook on astrology was written. These ideas spread throughout Greece and on to India.

Babylonian astrology text

Babylonian astrology tablet, (photo: Poulpy)

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Astrological disc, Egypt (Ptolemaic 332-31 BCE)

During the Roman Empire, all classes of people were influenced by the practice of astrology. Astrologers were consulted at the highest levels and several Emperors were skilled astrologers (including Tiberius, Caligula, Claudius, Nero, Vespasian, Titus, and Domitian). The fundamental work on astrology (Tetrabiblos) in the classical world was done by Claudius Ptolemy who drew on ancient sources.

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Zodiac, (6th cent.) synagogue, Beth Alpha, Israel

 

Tetrabiblos

From Tetrabiblos (9th cent. Byzantine manuscript), zodiac & months

As the Roman Empire declined and the West fell into darkness, astrology flourished in the   East and the lands held by the Byzantines. By the 9th century, Islamic, Jewish, Greek. Persian, and Hindu scholars gathered in the intellectual capital of Baghdad. This was Islam’s Golden Age when cooperation, innovation, and learning flourished! The Arabs translated Greek texts and got to work on pioneering science. Arab scholars pursued astronomy, geometry, algebra, trigonometry, calculus, introduced a system of numerals, created a decimal system, refined the lunar calendar, and built observatories.  What came into existence then was what is today called “Arabic astrology”- a fusion of Greek thought and Arabic science. From this tradition, the formidable astrologer al-Biruni’s text, The Book of Instruction in the Elements of the Art of Astrology (1029), had a strong mathematical basis and he firmly believed no one could call himself an astrologer without a thorough understanding of all the sciences. Such was the nature of the profession.

astrolabe

Astrolabe, Islamic (1067AD), (photo: Luiz Garcia)

Timbuktu ms

Timbuktu manuscript

All of this is a fascinating way of viewing history through the perspective of the emergence of science. From this lens, astrology is the science that underpinned what we think of as modern science. This was the need to watch the skies, to take measurements, to create the mathematics and instruments for observations, and then to make it relevant. Of course, astrology is also the oldest of the occult (meaning “hidden”) arts. And so much more than those little paragraphs in magazines that pass as horoscopes.

In part 2, we’ll look at how the Church and European Courts have viewed the practice of astrology. (Have you ever seen an astrological clock or a stained-glass window with the full zodiac?)

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Of Chicks & Robots-

Becoming

The Intention Experiment

I’m reading a book called Becoming Supernatural by Dr. Joe Dispenza. In chapter three, he recounts research from an article in Wired (“Mind Over Matter,” Apr. 1995). Now from my perspective, this is not anything out of my understanding of things because this is the world I’ve been reading about and living in for the last couple of decades, but I know some of you are going to drop your jaws over this. Good! We want that kind of response. Your world is about to crack open. Here goes.

chick

photo:CSIRO

Rene Peoc’h is a French researcher who wanted to study the possibility that intention might operate in our world. He started with a computerized robot set up as a random event generator. Set lose in an area, the robot turned right half the time and left half the time, thereby covering the area equally over time. This is perfectly in keeping with the idea of a random generator. Then he allowed some chicks to imprint on the computerized robot as if it were their mother. So the chicks bonded with the robot creating an energetic bond on their part (at least). Once the chicks had imprinted, Peoc’h put them in a cage where they could see the robot but not go to it. What do you think happened?

robot

photo: Thomas Quine (not the robot from the experiment)

If you hold a materialistic view of the world, you would say nothing. The random event generator can’t be affected by the minds of the chicks. It’s ridiculous! But- the pattern of movement of the robot clustered near the chicks’ cage. No longer was the robot moving randomly, but now it had gravitated near the babies. Cool experiment, right? And easily replicated. The larger question becomes if baby chicks can influence objects around them, how much influence do we have? And how do we develop and control it??? That’s what Becoming Supernatural is all about. Interested? Grab the book but be warned, the work is hard and all-consuming. Advanced yogic practices are made accessible to everyone.

Hopefully, I’ll have more to share later but I wanted to share some personal happenings here, too. I am about four months out from returning to the US (YAY! I CANNOT WAIT!!!). My third book is about to be released (FINALLY!!!). The downside is that things are about to get very busy. This blog will probably be interrupted by these major life upheavals.

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Zealot by Reza Aslan

Zealot

This book has been around for a while and got a lot of attention because the author was a Muslim writing about Jesus. The furor took off when Lauren Green of Fox News hosted Aslan in what has been called the “most embarrassing interview Fox News has ever done” (and that’s saying something). Reza Aslan defended himself citing his four degrees as a scholar of religions having studied Christianity for twenty years.

I didn’t have a lot of interest in reading a book about Jesus then. It seemed ridiculous that the Christian right was so incensed with a religious studies professor writing a book about a subject in his career field. A few years went by and my son suggested that I read this because my view of Jesus the peacemaker was all wrong. He had just finished Aslan’s book.

Nazareno

Zealot is a fascinating read searching for the historical truth of a man called Jesus. It’s an in-depth examination of the political and social times in which he lived. Jesus lived in a time ripe with Messianic hope and the God Jesus knew was bloody. He had a Jewish mission, telling his disciples to avoid gentiles as much as possible. In its time, “Love thy neighbor” was restricted in meaning to include only Jews. The historical Jesus is not the one of the Gospels. He was a zealot but not a member of the Zealot Party which emerges later. And Aslan talks about the Gospels being a theological argument and not a biography of Jesus of Nazareth.

Jesus brings the promise of a new world order challenging Roman authority. Aslan believes he probably gave himself the title, Son of Man. This title tied him to the Book of Daniel and restoration of Israel, but he fell short of calling himself a messiah and its ensuing obvious danger.

The book often discusses Gospel accounts and how they differ from each other, as well as from historical sources. I won’t go through the vast amount of information presented but will say, it makes very interesting reading especially when you start to get a feel for what’s behind the intention of certain parts of the Gospels.

Penitent

The resurrection is central to Christianity but a difficult topic for a historian to cover. The author admits that something must have happened to push Jesus’s followers to continue the movement. Indeed, the resurrection narrative was part of early Christian teaching predating the virgin birth or passion narratives. Evangelicals wrote those narratives later to flesh out the story.

Jesus as a zealot and crucified Jew left behind a movement headed by his brother James (the Just). James was a follower of the law in Jerusalem. But Aslan makes the case that a crucified Messiah was not possible for the Jews and the new message that emerges under Paul finds ground only with more open-minded Diaspora Jews who are Greek speaking and urban. It’s Paul who triumphs bringing in a Jesus who is the end of the Torah. He takes this message to gentiles and succeeds. It is through Paul that the Jesus of the Gospel becomes the Christ- a divine being, the literal son of God.

Christus_Ravenna

The is a well written, easy to read book on a fascinating subject for many of us. It is perfect for the curious and open-minded. It’s one of those books, I’d say will stay with you long after you’ve put it down because of its thought-provoking nature. If you haven’t read it yet, add it to your list!

 

 

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Synchronicity (yes! again)

Super Synchronicity: Where Science and Spirit Meet by Gary E. Schwartz

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As soon as this book came out, I knew I had to read it and I’m glad I did. I’ve written about synchronicities before and they are sometimes very active in my life, and at other times- not so much. But always, there is this curiosity. After years of shaking my head (wondering if I was crazy), all the time my close family members laughing and rolling with it far easier than I did, I’ve come to accept them. I value the experiences, I laugh with the Universe (and the Universe has a glorious sense of humor), and I miss those coincidences when they lapse (do they lapse, or am I not observant enough?).

Along comes Harvard educated scientist Gary E. Schwartz, author and professor at the University of Arizona and the Director of its Laboratory for Advances in Consciousness and Health to write a book on his personal experience with synchronicity and start to ask the tough scientific questions.

A huge proportion of the book is devoted to examples of what Schwartz calls supersynchronicities. So, while a rather mundane synchronicity involves the occurrence of two or more events happening close together that don’t seem to have a causal connection but are meaningful to the individual, these super events must be linked six or more times. Most of us have had instances of the lower order and some of us (if we’re observant and lucky?) might have experienced a supersynchronity. Schwartz has had many and has become a sort of expert at spotting them. Chapter upon chapter of delightful tales involving dogs, ravens, movies, bears, and emeralds have us explore the wonderful and wacky ways these synchronicities unfold. Many are captivating, a few pull at the heartstrings, all test our notion of reality and all cry out for an understanding of deeper meaning.

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from: Moscow Art

While being immersed in this world, I realized I view synchronicities as personal experiences. So much so, that when people in my life report MY synchronicities showing up in THEIR lives, I get irritated and dismiss it. From a supersynchronicity point of view, these instances have to be counted and seen in the bigger perspective of our reality. This was my biggest lesson drawn from reading this book. The Universe is not just talking to me (well, maybe sometimes).

Schwarz spends a chapter on the scientific process of running synchronicities through a hierarchical list of explanations. Everything from self-deception to the collective consciousness is briefly examined. He uses a fascinating analogy of a jazz super orchestra to hint at how the universe might operate with billions of people. How would the universe create a meta-score uniting everyone and still allowing individual expression? How, indeed! How do these synchronicities point at our underlying interconnectedness? Again, what does it mean…?

shiva

photo: yumikrum

The book ends in an unsatisfying way for those looking for a better understanding of meaning. Perhaps, Schwartz’s next book will grapple with the new science (quantum synchronicity theory) he proposes. In the meantime, he encourages us to become active in becoming more aware of these instances in our own lives and start chronicling them. Remember to keep an open mind and enjoy the process.

 

 

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OWL KILLERS by Karen Maitland

Owl Killers

During the Middle Ages, a lay group of women dedicated to a life of prayer, hard work, and community service thrived in the Low Countries. Known as the Beguines, Karen Maitland imagines what it might have been like for a group of these women to have struck out on their own to settle in an unwelcoming English town. The atmosphere is tense as the women are seen as outsiders, not part of Mother Church and not part of the resident pagan tradition either. The women bring their ideas of Christian charity to the townsfolk who regard them with suspicion and sometimes open hostility. As the village suffers through a series of disasters, the power of the Church is threatened, dark forces from earlier times reawaken, and the beguines must decide to make a stand or return to the safety of their continental shores.

Karen Maitland novel is well-researched and executed. The story is told from the various viewpoints of the characters in the town of Ulewic. In this way, we learn each of the beguine’s has her own history and her own reasons for joining the group. We understand the struggles of the local priest as he fits into a system that leaves him little room for personal choice. A nobleman’s daughter helps us feel the restrictions of living as a young woman in Medieval society. An array of townsfolk completes the cast. The Owl Killers are a group of masked men who harken back to a day before law and order. They are definitely flesh and blood and do their share of evil, but Maitland has, at times, blurred the line. Although most of the story feels firmly planted in third dimensional reality, there are a few places where things take on an otherworldly creepiness. Man’s ability for cruelty can be disturbing and this book certainly has those moments. The ending may leave you wanting more or maybe something else entirely.

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THE DIVINE FEMININE FIRE:

Creativity and Your Yearning to Express Yourself by Teri Degler

 divine

“Love, begin the song, and let me hear how well you sing.” Mechthild of Magdeburg

In The Divine Feminine Fire, Teri Degler explores the similarities and differences of the divine feminine expressed in Shakti (Hinduism), Sophia (Christianity), and Shekinah (Kabbalah). She examines ancient and suppressed texts leading to some fascinating insights. The reason to explore these traditions is made plain by the need for understanding in our own time of the awakening going on in us and around us. Degler asserts that it is the divine feminine that is waking up, being ignited and transforming consciousness. The divine feminine is a creative force (not limited to the female gender, in any way) experienced in the human body as a birthright. This experience is one that exists along a continuum.

divine fem

photo: Kinjal bose 78

To get a feel for the extreme of the continuum, Degler examines the lives of a 12th Century Christian Saint (Mechthild of Magdeburg) and a 12th Century Hindu Saint (Mahadevi Akka). She draws some appropriate parallels and calls our attention to the whole of the transformation being rooted in the body. The stories of five modern women are also given to show the other end of the continuum. There was a compelling discussion about Gopi Krishna and how we have no reason to think we have a good handle on understanding what the far extreme of this transformation would look like. Things like where do Christ or Buddha fall on the continuum come to mind.

Shekinah_Glory_Enters_the_Tabernacle

Throughout the book, there are examples of what transformative experiences happen when the divine feminine is awakened. Again, these are on the continuum. The principle signs of transformation include mystical experience, paranormal abilities, and divine inspiration (inspired creativity).

The final chapter of the book is a call to live a balanced life. Whether we know it or like it, all of us are in the body going through transformation somewhere along the continuum. Creativity is the way the divine feminine is expressed and how consciousness is transformed. Many of us feel this call of transformation through our creative work and the whole of life can be viewed as creative expression.

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The Peculiar Miracles of Antoinette Martin by Stephanie Knipper

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This is a special book about healing and what it means to heal. At its core are two sisters who’ve had a falling out. The separation is painful for both of them. With the backdrop of a Kentucky flower farm, Rose is raising a severely disabled child alone. Ten-year-old Antoinette appears to have a form of autism that requires constant care but along with this disability comes a gift. Antoinette can connect to the vibrations of life and heal. A dead bird is raised. Flowers bloom before their time. Neighbors heal. When Rose becomes ill herself, she reaches out to her sister to come and help with Antoinette and the farm. But Lily has her own secrets and going back means she’ll have to confront them. Why does one little girl frighten her so much?

dav

I enjoyed the backdrop of the book reading it in a time when Belgium was dark, rainy, and in its pre-spring gray. The promise of a new cycle of life and healing is powerful. Can old relationships be healed? What does healing look like? What sacrifices will love allow? The descriptions of Antoinette’s abilities were intriguing as were the insights into the world of autism. Although I didn’t like the ending because the author took the easy way out, I’m sure many will find comfort in it.

 

 

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Visionary Fiction Writer Margaret Duarte

Duarte’s new book is based on her research in “… paganism, holistic theory, quantum mechanics, and transpersonal psychology, which takes readers deep into the depths of consciousness to the unified field underlying physical existence, where separateness is an illusion.” Definitely my kind of thing and maybe yours too.

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RATIONAL MYSTICISM by John Horgan

rational-mysticism

This is a book I thought long and hard about highlighting. I expected great things and was overall disappointed. Unfortunately John Horgan is a reductionist materialist and despite the access he had to various spokespeople on mysticism, he remains thoroughly unconvinced. He is a science writer who holds the dogmatic party line through the entirety of the book. That said, I think some valuable perspective can be gleaned from the people Horgan talks to. It’s worth the read to get an overall feel for the modern history of the topic and hear from some of the players.

Horgan begins with a definition of mysticism within the historical context. He interviews Huston Smith who discusses mysticism as a cross-cultural, cross-religious experience. Smith represents the notion of the perennial philosophy. The author’s search next takes him to a two day conference in Chicago where mysticism is treated as a literary phenomenon. These scholars know in great detail the texts left behind by Eckhart, St. Teresa of Avila, Shankara, etc. But sadly, none of them has any personal experience with anything remotely mystical. The journey continues with an interview of Ken Wilber dubbed ‘the weightlifting Bodhisattva’ by Horgan. Wilbur stands behind Smith adhering to the perennial philosophy but also embraces science as a way to explore and define mystical experience.

meditating

Photo: Thanabadhi

Important information is raised in the chapter called Can Neurotheology Save Us?. Horgan visits with Andrew Newberg, the doctor featured back in 2001 in Newsweek’s article, “God and the Brain: How We’re Wired for Spirituality.” Wouldn’t it be nice if brain scans could prove mystical states and help us to understand them? Unfortunately, a review of data collected on all sorts of meditation doesn’t support any nice clean conclusions according to Jensine Andreson, a theology professor at Boston University. And that in turn brings into question all the benefits touted for meditation. A review of the studies looking at meditation and its benefits Andreson believes, are poorly designed and won’t hold up to scrutiny. Of course, as it relates to mystical practice, mystics don’t meditate to lower their blood pressure but I would concede that a whole lot of Americans do increasingly view meditation as a health practice. Should they?

Continuing the scientific pursuit of mystical states, Horgan interviewed Michael Persinger of Laurentian University, Canada. Starting in the 1980s, Persinger began studying the brain’s response to electro-magnetic pulses to certain areas of the brain. 40% of Persinger’s test subjects experience a presence. The Canadian magazine Mclean’s called this device, “the God machine.” Persinger maintains that he has not addressed the God question with his work, rather his interest is in understanding the electrical pattern of the brain that leads to religious belief. But does the machine produce mystical experiences? No. Apparently, no one tested has reported the typical sensations of bliss, unity, or ineffability commonly reported by mystics. Scientific attempts to link temporal lobe excitation or epilepsy to mystical experience do not hold up either.

brain-scan

Horgan next turns to practitioner of Zen and neurologist, James Austin who penned the book, Zen and the Brain. Austin calls his approach perennial psychophysiology. Instead of gaining metaphysical insight, Austin thinks the mystic undergoes deep changes in personality. Someone who has had these experiences becomes more stable, more compassionate, and more selfless. As a specialist in brain disorders, Austin attempts to separate healthy mysticism from other illnesses. His approach relies on the idea that mystical experience releases excitotoxins which cause the loss of neurons. This in turn, allows us to get rid of those things that distort our view of reality. This is as scary as it is fascinating. For me, it makes mystical experience similar to brain damage. Can that really be?

No book on mysticism would be complete without a foray into drug induced mystical experience. Horgan looks at the history of LSD, DMT, and ayahuasca. He visits Stanislov Grof, who is involved in the transpersonal psychology movement. Grof believes that we must move into a new paradigm where mind has primacy over matter (the book was published in 2003, not a unique idea now). There’s an interesting discussion of Rick Strassman’s work as outlined in DMT: The Spirit Molecule. The colorful Terrence McKenna makes an appearance in a later chapter where he advocates the use of psychedelics.

chakra

Photo by: vishwagna.com

The book is a nice romp through lots of questions with little in the way of conclusions. I often had the feeling that the author was totally out of his depth. Why did this topic appeal to him? He remained a science writer who attempted to fill pages. Most of them are interesting. I wonder what the book would have looked like with another author or even what the book would look like if updated.

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