Soul Awakenings

Author: Michelle Quigley
Genre: Spirituality
Reviewed by Patricia Ferguson, PsyD

566The author of Soul Awakenings interviewed a hundred women, mostly from Chicago and Colorado, but including a total of eleven states and Washington, DC. After hearing the author talking to her friends about the content of her book, most of the women interviewed asked to be interviewed. The only reason I mention this is to point out that this is not a random selection or in any way a "research" book as researchers would typically define it. Most research, for instance, would include women who did not ask to be interviewed but agreed to it anyway. Therefore, one can reasonably expect that this book would include women who are in agreement with the author regarding the topic of the book, or the general and specific answers to the interview questions. This does not mean that it is not an important book, or not a valid book, but simply that there may be many other women who would not feel the same way. In fact, there are several times when the author comments that "all one hundred women…" essentially said the same thing.

With this understood, Quigley hypothesized that all women are connected "spiritually." As she states at the beginning of the book, when she "embarked on her own spiritual journey," she decided to combine this journey with her work with women. She has been working as a nurse with women (and I assume men, too) for many years. But she says her interest has always been in women, so it would be natural for her to combine the two interests for a book.

The women interviewed ranged in age from 23-91, and Quigley states that the spiritual perspective of the women depended on their individual stage of life and maturity. For instance, often teenagers and people in their twenties who may have been raised in one religion focus on other issues for a time, and also need to find their own spirituality. That may or may not end up the same as the type of spirituality that they were raised with. However, at least where I live, I see more young people involved in youth groups (often) of their own choosing, and actively involved much more than people my age were when we were that young. This is just a perception, and it may be related to living in a fairly conservative town (now) where religious affiliation is as important as high school in terms of where the young people make their friends and with whom they associate. Yet I grew up in a different time, in a much more liberal area, and spirituality was not a concern for my friends or me until we were much older.

The book is divided into twenty-one chapters and an epilogue and four appendixes. The last appendix is the interview questions, and the book is divided up into chapters that answer each question, i.e., chapter one is the culmination of the answers to question one. Also one of the appendixes is a description of some details of the women, such as first name, age, occupation, marital status, and religious/spiritual affiliations. Interestingly, many of the women worked in some capacity for children or in a helping profession, even if peripherally, such as nutritional consultant for Head Start.

Some of the questions, and thus, chapters, were on such topics as how spirituality is impacted by work experiences, barriers to a woman's spirituality, the impact of one's spirituality on others, and the emotional spiritual connection. Other topics included the importance of spirituality in a male-female relationship, how spirituality eases a woman's life, and moments when a woman feels most spiritual. The development of spirituality and spiritual mentors are also discussed. At one point in the book, the author discusses how she was raised by spiritual parents, but because she grew up in the sixties, she "foolishly placed" her spirituality on the backburner. This is similar to what I stated above, and I also grew up in the sixties. I'm not so sure it was the sixties that caused one to place spirituality somewhere else as much as the age. A teenager often puts religion aside, feeling perhaps immortal or unable to see the "big picture." At any rate, I found it interesting that Quigley and I had similar experiences but attributed them to different causes.

I think this book would be quite helpful to other women who are just finding their spiritual way, or would like to connect with other women who are comfortable with their spirituality. For that matter, I think it is important for women to connect with women for many reasons and certainly spirituality is as good as any to get started. I know this book took a lot of time and energy for Quigley to put it all together, and I'm sure many women will enjoy reading it.


June 13, 2004 in Spirituality | Permalink | Comments (0)

Song of Salvation

Author: Rajendra Kher
Genre: Spirituality
Reviewed by Jeremy M. Hoover

552Song of Salvation is an all-encompassing and far-reaching narrative about the truths that are taught in the Bhagavad-Gita. It is a novelization of the core of that sacred book: the discussion between Sri Krishna (the guru) and his disciple Arjuna. The setting for this novel is a battle between two families that are descended from the same family. The Pandavas, exiled for twelve years as a result of losing a rigged dice game, have returned from exile to reclaim the kingdom that is rightfully theirs from the Kaurava family.

Of course, the Kauravas want nothing to do with this. They believe that the Pandavas did not follow the terms of their exile. We find out later that this argument rests on a technicality of whether the lunar or solar calendar was followed. The Kauravas, while accurate from their point of view, are wrong when considering the Pandavas’s point of view. The Pandavas (and some within the Kauravas’s court) press for the return of their kingdom because the terms of their exile have in fact been fulfilled.

A standoff ensues between the two families, and millions of warriors who have taken up arms for one family or the other. When the battle is about to begin, Arjuna, a warrior for the Pandava family, begins to worry about the war. He feels sorrow and pain within for thinking that he may have to kill his own family members. For Arjuna, this war is nothing but a civil, inter-family war.

Krishna comes to Arjuna’s aid and discusses with him the truths of the Bhagavad-Gita (this conversation is the essence of that scripture) to calm Arjuna down, and to help him overcome his doubts about the justness of the war.

Arjuna’s central struggle is with detachment. He must rise above his concern for what is temporal (the fear of killing his own family) and focus on what is eternal. To do so, he must seek self-actualization, where defects of the mind are eliminated. Krishna encourages him to practice karmayoga, the path of duty.

Krishna repeatedly tells Arjuna to do things for duty’s sake, detached from any sense of reward. Arjuna must not give up action, but the desire that makes him act in some ways but not others. Nature exemplifies this selfless duty: Rivers flow and make soil fertile. A river never returns to gauge its work; but it keeps flowing and moving forward, performing its duty without ego.

Finally, Arjuna is able to reach a point where his mind is free from anxiety and he can pursue duty for duty’s sake. At this point he is able to enter into war with the Kauravas, because to not wage war would be unjust: the desire of avoiding personal pain would be the driving force behind his actions.

This is a good story. It is difficult to decide whether to review the story or the philosophy, since the latter makes up much of the former. As for the story, there are some interesting devices used. For example, many parts of the story pertaining to ancient history are told in flashback to bring a better sense of immediacy to the story. The story also uses the “divine sight” of Sanjaya to narrate the conversation between Arjuna and Krishna to a third party. Yet, the story is marred by many typographical errors that interrupt the flow of reading.

The story was difficult for me to work through, but only because I was unfamiliar with this philosophy and many of the people involved. Yet, I found it very rewarding. Detachment, and the pursuit of duty for duty’s sake, has much merit behind it. Perhaps the greatest compliment this book can be given is for a reader to be sparked to begin contemplating the Bhagavad-Gita itself. I, for one, will do so.


May 19, 2004 in Spirituality | Permalink | Comments (0)