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Amazon Exclusive: Barbara Bradley Hagerty on Fingerprints of God
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.
Starred Review. In her first book, National Public Radio correspondent Hagerty acts as a tour guide through the rocky terrain of scientists who study religious experience. Is there a so-called God gene? Why do some people have mystical experiences while others never see the so-called light? Right up front, Hagerty reveals that this is not an entirely objective exercise. As a Christian, she wants to understand her own mystical encounter with the divine and why she believes when others do not. Yet to each interview, whether with a world-renowned neuroscientist or a back-road mystic, she brings a suitably skeptical eye. Along the way, she manages to explain some pretty cutting-edge science—psychoneuroimmunology, anyone?—and unravel some people's pretty hard-to-comprehend religious experiences without sacrificing depth or complexity. Then, with equal aplomb, she dances off to peyote ceremonies, church services and Alcoholics Anonymous meetings. The real beauty of this book lies in watching Hagerty gracefully balance her own trust in faith and science and, in the end, come down with one foot planted firmly in both. (May)
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A very biased search. Starts with the premise that there is something to find, i.e. God. If you do not understand the faulty logic of this, then this book is for you.Published 13 days ago by Swing man
What a fascinating book. I'll remember it always...Deep & insightful.Published 1 month ago by Sheryl Pearson
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 6 months ago by Isho Tea
This was engaging reading and will probably be the next book our book group will read.Published 8 months ago by Shirley Frederick
Really enjoying this review of scientific research related to spiriuality.Published 9 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 12 months ago by Marilyn Miller