Monday, January 07, 2008

Psychiatrist reviews The Spiritual Brain in The Anglican Planet

The Anglican Planet, a Canadian Anglican publication, edited by Toronto photojournalist Sue Careless, published a review of The Spiritual Brain by Toronto psychiatrist John McCormick which said, among other things,
Dogmatically holding that only physically observable phenomena are real is incompatible with honest, open scientific inquiry. Studying mystical experiences can and should be done using a harmonized framework of biological, psychological, social and spiritual approaches. The brain may be seen as a transducer of spiritual realities, rather than an originator of them, much as a television set receives and interprets radio waves broadcast from elsewhere.

I recommend this book for the thoughtful general reader. It is an excellent review of the philosophical questions faced by people who take their science and religion seriously. It has helped me further pull together related fields that are too often not on good terms with each other.

Enough technical material is presented to support its contentions but not to overpower the reader. The depth of scholarship is apparent in the 146 pages of references and notes. A six-page glossary is not exhaustive but covers some of the main anatomical, psychological and philosophical terms. A number of black and white diagrams orient the reader to the main neuroanatomical structures. Sidebars give further detail to technical concepts. As one who works daily with patients, I found this book heavy and substantial reading, but well worth the effort. It is one book I plan to read several times.

And, while we are here, I recommend The Anglican Planet to all who are interested in global Anglican/Episcopalian affairs. (Anglicans (called Episcopalians in the United States) are the English-language Reformation church.)

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