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It took me more than a decade to muster the courage to write Fingerprints of God. The seed was planted on June 10, 1995, when I was reporting a story for the Los Angeles Times Sunday Magazine about evangelical churches. Kathy Younge and I were sitting on a bench outside Saddleback Church. She told me that her melanoma had returned after a remission, and she believed that the disease was not meant to kill her, but to give her a transcendent purpose. As we talked, the night darkened to indigo. The streetlamp next to our bench cast a perfect circle around us, creating the eerie sense that we were actors on a stage. The temperature had dropped into the 50's. I was shivering but pinned to the spot, riveted by Kathy and her serene faith.
My body responded before my brain, alerting me to some unseen change. My skin began to tingle and my heart started beating a little faster. Imperceptibly at first, the air around us thickened; it grew warmer and heavier, as if someone had moved into the circle and was breathing on us. I glanced at Kathy. She had fallen silent mid-sentence. Neither of us spoke. Gradually, and ever so gently, I felt engulfed by a presence I could feel but could not touch. After a minute, although it seemed longer, the presence melted away. We sat quietly, while I waited for the earth to steady itself. I was too spooked to continue with the interview, and a few minutes later I was driving back to my hotel room.
But I could not shake the questions. Was that experience a delusion, or was it real? Is there a spiritual reality that exists beyond our everyday physical world? Is there evidence of God? Not just people’s beliefs, but hard, scientific evidence? And most basic of all: Is there more than this? For a decade, I looked for books that would answer these questions. Finding none, I decided to investigate the only way I knew how – as a journalist.
In 2006, I took a year-long leave of absence from National Public Radio to research the emerging science of spirituality. I spoke with dozens of prominent scientists who are bushwhacking through this controversial territory, often drawing the ire or ridicule of their colleagues who believe that everything can be explained by material means. In the meantime, I took a journey peppered with surprises and ridiculous situations. I traveled to Canada and donned the "God helmet" to see if activating my temporal lobes would unleash an encounter with the "divine." I attended to a peyote ceremony (although, like our former president, I barely ingested) and visited Johns Hopkins University in search of a chemical that would manufacture a mystical experience. I arranged for a minister to have his brain scanned while he prayed at the University of Pennsylvania, and tried to see if I could physically change my own brain through two weeks of meditation at the University of Wisconsin.
And I spent endless hours with people who had enjoyed dramatic spiritual experiences. Some had had spontaneous mystical experiences, right out of the blue. Some transcendent moments were triggered by a trauma, others by drugs, or epilepsy, or near-death experiences. Some people spent hundreds of hours in prayer and meditation to cultivate the ability to connect with the divine.
I confess that my exploration was not an entirely clinical. I was raised a Christian Scientist, and while I now consider myself a serious mainstream Christian, I have always believed in the presence and power of God. At the beginning I nursed a nagging concern that perhaps this God business is just a ruse, self medication in the face of certain death. I fretted that science would prove that all mystery, all transcendent experience, can be boiled down to brain chemistry and genetics.
What I found—well, you’ll have to see. But I can say this: By the end of my research, I had redefined God and my view of reality. And perhaps at the end of the book, you will too.
This is a very thought provoking and inspiring book. Many times I have to reread lines, then set the book down to hope to absorb it more fully. Read morePublished 3 months ago by Isho Tea Amy K
This was engaging reading and will probably be the next book our book group will read.Published 5 months ago by Shirley Frederick
Really enjoying this review of scientific research related to spiriuality.Published 6 months ago by Morgan
For those interested in spirituality this book is a "must read". Detailed stories of near death experiences confirm the reality of life after death.Published 9 months ago by Marilyn Miller
Ms. Hagerty takes you on a journey with her to explore what the world has to say about whether or not God exists and how those who say yes have done their work to "prove"... Read morePublished 11 months ago by D Wagenhals
What I disliked about this book:
-- I listened to it on CDs, read by Cassandra Campbell. I cannot think of a worse choice: she sounds just like a "valley girl,"... Read more