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Saturday, September 30th, 2006

Time Event
10:09p
Catching up ...
This was another one which was "hard to write about", but for different reasons. What Survives?: Contemporary Explorations of Life After Death (edited by Gary Doore), is an interesting book, but, by its very nature, uneven. This comprises a collection of 20 papers more-or-less on the title theme, assembled under four major headings: "The Evidence for Survival", "The Challenge of Materialism", "Death and Beyond in the Perennial Philosophy", and "Transcendence of Death". Many "leading lights" of modern new-age thought lend their words ... Ken Wilber, Colin WIlson, Stanley Krippner, Rupert Sheldrake, even Ram Dass ... each with a different stance, pacing, and style, making some parts of the book flow effortlessly, and others drag on. Needless to say, the subjects of the various papers also ranged all over the board, from looks at studies of reincarnation reports, to philosophical over-views on death, to shamanic systems, to a step-by-step look at the Tibetan Bardo teachings, to reports of hospice workers, to NDE reports, to the "usual suspects" new age theorizings bent to at least touch on the theme of the book.

I found parts of this fascinating and extremely thought-provoking (especially in relation to the fairly recent loss of my Mother), and others tiresome ... but I guess that could be expected from having 20 approaches to the subject strung together like this. I was somewhat disappointed that there wasn't a section of "dissenting voices", the "Challenge of Materialism" part was comprised of responses to the materialistic stance, and not a representation of that view ... however, I suspect that the Tarcher folks decided that would only irritate their target audience!

This is yet another volume that has been sitting around on my to-be-read shelves since the early 90's, but it seems less dated than many of those. There was plenty here to keep my head busy with "compare and contrast" churning (especially in relation to stuff like the remarkable Zen Physics or some of the books on multi-dimensional cosmologies, etc.) here, although I couldn't say I particularly enjoyed the read.

As such, I can only give a tepid recommendation for What Survives? ... if you have a particular fascination/interest in "death issues", this would certainly be a good book to add to your mental storehouse, but unless you are particularly looking for things along this line, I'd give it a pass. Like many of my "stale" books, this seems to be out of print, but is available via the Amazon new/used vendors for as little as a buck used, and nine bucks "new". If you're looking for a wide spectrum of views on possible survival of death, this is worthwhile, but it's hardly a "page turner" for the average reader!


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