November 25, 2007

Book Review: No Soul Hurricanes Here

The Call of Spiritual Emergency: From Personal Crisis to Personal Transformation-How to deal with the disorientation that can accompany death, illness, injury, childbirth, drug experiences, sex, meditation, and all life-transforming experiences by Emma Bragdon, PhD (Harper & Row, 1990, 0-06-250104-6)

This book was written by Emma Bragdon, who states that she does not fear death because she knows that it "would be a passageway into the ultimate peace that [she] had felt when [she] nearly drowned." (p.12) Dr. Bragdon "went from being an art student to being a Zen Buddhist Nun" (p.16) at the age of 20, and is ""not only a sensitive receiver, responding to the stimulation of others, but an organism looking for ways to express itself." (p.18) She has also undergone Neo-Reichian therapy while pursuing a life devoted to meditation so that now she "can help people to integrate their spiritual experiences with their ordinary reality, to reach levels of development beyond ego," (p.23) this is due in part to the fact that, "life and death, the archetypal opposites, had made love on [her] doorstep." (p.22)

What is in this book: "Guidance and reassurance in understanding your spiritual experiences." (p.9) The term spiritual emergency is used in this book not to describe emergencies in the sense of soul earthquakes, essence fires, or spirit floods, but rather to describe "critical points in the process of spiritual emergence" (p.15). This book has been written because people with emerging spirits may suffer from "a framework that classifies their experiences only as evidence of mental disease."(p.8) Since "intense spiritual experiences and inspired states of mind often look similar to psychosis," (p.16) and "the difference between psychosis, which is a breakdown, and spiritual emergency, which is a breakthrough, can be very subtle," (p.214) this book is necessary to let people at those critical points know that they're not going crazy.

What is not in this book: Permission to go crazy. "Psychotic states that are pathological, rather than gateways to higher functioning, are very real, and need to be treated by health professionals" (p.16). Dr. Bragdon notes that the way to tell the difference between inspired state and psychotic break is that "visual and auditory hallucinations, delusions, and inability to communicate" (p.16) are clear symptoms of psychotic behavior, and illustrates the difference by providing accounts of spiritual emergence from individuals who have heard eerie whistling noises unlike anything they have known (p.120), have had wild hawks land on them (p.146), see visions of purple orbs taking up all of space (p.95), and who are so overcome by their spiritual experiences that they don't want to communicate with those around them (p.142).

Would you recommend this book to cheerleaders? No. This book will do nothing to help for either spirit rallies or spirit week.

Would you recommend this book to either Carrot Top or Ed O'Neill? No. Spiritual emergence does not "dial down the center" when it calls, and is not interested in learning how to do so.

What was interesting about this book: The excerpts that Dr. Bragdon has included from sessions with her clients, describing their own moments of spiritual emergency. One client, "Louise," had "wanted to experiment with MDMA, a psychoactive drug, when it was still legally available [...] Since many of her patients had abused drugs, Louise wanted to try a drug "trip" once, because she felt it would help her understand her patients in more depth." (p.26) Louise states that after she began her experience with MDMA, her husband "knew that if [she] was taken to the hospital, they would give [her] antipsychotic medictaion to stop the process, so he decided to be with [her] at home."(p.26)
Also of interest is the section at the end of the book on how to help in a spiritual emergency. Of interest to those who have friends or family members undergoing a spiritual emergency, it offers helpful tips like "A woman who is mistrustful of men may be more comfortable appealing to a feminine personification of divine energy such as Kuan Yin, the goddess of compassion, than appealing to Jesus Christ or a masculine God"(p.206).

Digg this Stumble Upon Toolbar

November 7, 2007

Book Review: Newborns Are Ugly

Birth Without Violence: The Book That Revolutionized The Way We Bring Our Children Into The World by Frederick Leboyer (Healing Arts Press, 1995, 0-89281-545-0)

This book was written by: Dr. Frederick Leboyer, who studied traditional childbirth practices in remote areas of India unaffected by Western-style obstetrics. He graduated from the University of Paris School of Medecine, where he served as Chef de Clinique, and has written this book to explore the termination of the relationship "between the uterus and its prisoner."(p.62) His love of children is clearly conveyed through his lyrical, almost poetic style of writing, such as the passage where he discusses how there should be no external light at birth, since "in the darkness, the mother will be able to make out her child's features only faintly. And this is all to the good, since newborn infants are almost always ugly."(p.37)

What is in this book: A re-examination of birth, focusing on the fragility of infants and the sensations that they experience. Their skin, "thin, fine, almost without a protective surface layer--is as exposed and raw as tissue that has suffered a burn."(p.19) Furthermore, "the air, which enters and sweeps through the trachea, and expands the alveoli, is like acid poured on a wound."(p.20) After establishing why current birthing methods are traumatic, he offers alternatives that include giving birth in darkened rooms and immersing newborns in water.

What is not in this book: Graphic descriptions of axe kicks, inverse piledrivers, and turnbuckle stomps performed in the delivery room. Apparently, the violence Dr. Leboyer is writing about is largely metaphorical and/or symbolic.

Would you recommend this book to Marv Albert? No. This is a book about birth without violence, not conception without violence.

Would you recommend this book to a classical musician? I'm not sure. The author does not discuss his stance on birth without violins.

What is interesting about this book: Dr. Leboyer's description of how one should touch a newborn baby. While he acknowledges that some may find his methods overly sensual, "making love is the sovereign remedy for anguish: to make love is to rediscover peace and harmony. In the cataclysm of birth is it not fit that we should call upon this sovereign comfort?"(p.64) He is unapologetic in the advocacy of his methods.

"Without rediscovering this visceral slowness that lovers rediscover instinctively, it is impossible to communicate with the child.
But, people will say, you're making love to the child!
Yes, almost."(p.64)

Digg this Stumble Upon Toolbar

Read more reviews...