3 out of 4 stars
Review by James Craft
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From the outset, this book intends to be contradictory and inflammatory, warning upfront that it isn’t for everyone. Rather: “It is for the brave few willing to leap first into a new way of seeing spirit, themselves, and the world in which we live.” Those words come from the beginning of the book and set out some pretty major expectations for what this book will do.
The book attempts throughout to make some lofty claims about the ideas of spirit and how religions and other books about the topic get it wrong, but I'm not convinced that it was actually successful in making its point. The problem is, like those same religions, it is discussing an intangible thing that is faith-based as much as anything else. The book also spends a lot of time asking questions, though many of them are meant to be seen as rhetorical and unanswerable. This helps the book at times, but it also occasionally works against the ideas presented.
Each chapter opens with an interesting quote that helps to set the reader’s expectations for what the chapter will be about. I think my favorite of these came from Wayne Dyer near the middle of the book: “If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.” It was an interesting, if overused, way of beginning each chapter and I could tell that the quotes were chosen with care.
The first complaint I have is with the formatting: often, the spacing was inconsistent between various paragraphs and there was a lot of hyperlinked text that was completely unnecessary. For example, at the end of each paragraph there was a hyperlink to move to the next paragraph which was literally on the next page. It felt wholly unnecessary and confusing. There were also a few grammatical errors littered throughout, but they weren’t very distracting and didn’t detract from the overall work.
My main complaint with this work is that it bemoans certain ways of defining spirit because of the methodologies they use in their considerations, and then it uses much the same methodology in this text to present a new world view of spirit. At times it felt like there was a little bit of heavy-handed salesmanship in the writing, and I would have preferred if the author had spent less time trying to convince me and more time just presenting information.
In fact, the most enjoyable parts of the work for me centered around the author’s life up to this point and what drove him to write this book. I agreed with a lot of the opinions the author gave, for example that spiritual care in a hospital is often focused more on the patient’s religious beliefs than their actual spirit. I thought that the definitions and explanations of various terms throughout were interesting and useful, as well, though sometimes the explanations became rather verbose and could have been trimmed and still been as useful.
Re-Visioning Spirit by Mark W. Neville was a fascinating read, but I think that in certain ways it fell short of the huge expectations it set out for itself. I’ll rate it a 3 out of 4 stars for the quality of the writing and the information presented. The reason it only got three was because of the reasons mentioned above regarding the salesmanship and formatting.
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