09/01/2009

Recovering the Soul (by Larry Dossey)

I'd never heard of Larry Dossey. Perhaps not surprising, since he's a Texan doctor, although I gather he's written several books to date.

I would probably never have picked up one of his books, if it hadn't been for the recommendation of a friend, who lent me 'Recovering the Soul'. I'm not a scientist, and he writes from a scientific perspective. More significantly, his books - including this one - are categorised as 'New Age'. A label that, in the 1980s, caused evangelical Christians to throw up their hands in horror and leap back, as if they would be tainted by the sight of a book like this.

I'm beyond that stage of life now, but I still began this, a couple of weeks ago, with some reservations. However, it's quite a fascinating read. The author attempts to look beyond the early materialism of science, through quantum physics, and into unexplored realms that unite the spiritual and the scientific.

He begins with some fairly dramatic examples of experiments whose results simply cannot be explained by traditional science. Sick people who were prayed for got better much more quickly than those who were not prayed for. More bizarrely, bean seeds which were prayed for germinated more successfully than those which had no prayer offered on their behalf. There's plenty more in this vein. He gives extensive references, and although I didn't check any of them, I assume he's reporting fairly and accurately.

Dr Dossey's theory in this book is, primarily, that our minds are not the local entities we perceive them as, but 'non-local', and in a sense 'God'. The second part of the book explores (in a low-key way) some quantum physics and other scientific concepts, and the last section looks at religion as a whole, and God in particular.

It's not written at all from a Christian perspective, yet several Christian mystics and scientists from the past are quoted. The author seems to see the Christian faith as rather narrow-minded; whereas I could see much of what he discussed as fitting in quite well with my belief in God and eternity, he seemed to think that his theories were not directly compatible with any particular belief system.

He also tends to what appears like a universalism, or worse - he claims that we are all in God, and all part of the 'non-local mind' therefore we are all God. A spark of the divine, I agree. Eternal souls, yes - of course. But that does not make us God.

Overall, it was an intriguing read, if a little heavy and long-winded in places. Still, it's now twenty years out of date, and I have no idea if some of his science is now considered obsolete.

Worth reading, anyway, for an attempt at setting religion alongside scientific thinking, although strongly denominational or structured Christians (or indeed those of other faiths) might find some of it disturbing. Could give some atheists a few points for debate, however!

Still in print in both the UK and USA.

Review copyright Sue's Book Reviews, 9th January 2009

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