4 out of 4 stars
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Climbing Higher by Robert Wheeler, Ph.D., is a speculative work combining philosophy, psychology, and anecdotes about mountain climbing as it relates to the need for human beings to realize what Dr. Wheeler refers to as “the ontological imperative.” Dr. Wheeler describes ontology as: “the branch of philosophy that studies reality at its most basic level, involving the meaning of existence and purpose of life.” In Climbing Higher, he attempts to provide evidence that the ontological imperative is “a personality trait innate to all thinking humans,” using mountain climbing as a metaphor for the human need to challenge oneself to reach for goals that may, on the surface, seem impossible.
Climbing Higher is not a self-help book, it is an academic examination of human psychology and the need to strive for experiences beyond the self and everyday troubles and concerns. The book examines the need for a belief in a transcendent force, even in a world that has come to see the idea of mysticism as quaint. Dr. Wheeler postulates an attitude of nognosticism, meaning that a person can believe in the possibility of a transcendent force while doubting the existence thereof. It is his theory that such an attitude has positive benefits for the human psyche.
The thing I liked best about the book was its novel presentation of the human need to find something of importance beyond our own daily lives. I resonated with the material presented in Climbing Higher and give the book an enthusiastic four out of four stars. It is not often that I, as an agnostic (or nognostic, as Dr. Wheeler suggests), find a book addressing the idea that there very well could be a higher power or powers, but we just don’t know. While I appreciate the works of some of the more liberal theistic thinkers and some of the more tolerant atheist philosophers, it is rare to find a book that closely aligns with my beliefs. Dr. Wheeler has given me that book, and I profoundly appreciate it.
The book was professionally edited. It has a few minor typos but nothing which would distract from the overall enjoyment of the thoughtful and well-executed text. The pictures of the mountains are striking. If Dr. Wheeler were to release a book of his photographs from his various adventures, I believe it would find an appreciative audience.
Climbing Higher is a good choice for those who are interested in the studies of philosophy and psychology. It would not be a good choice for someone seeking a fast-paced thriller. Although there was nothing that I really disliked about the book, some of the explanations about various personality tests and academic theories did bog down a bit for a layperson. Overall, however, the pace of the book flowed well. It is filled with fascinating and thought-provoking ideas.
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