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The Divine Life of Animals: One Man's Quest to Discover Whether the Souls of Animals Live On Kindle Edition

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Length: 258 pages Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled

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A Self-Interview by the Author
Ptolemy: So, you can’t really be serious with the title of this book, can you? Animals don’t possess “divine” lives. They’re carbon-based products of natural selection--organisms with limited capacities for intelligence while they’re alive, and when the synapses in their brains flutter to a stop at death, that’s the end of it. I don’t see what, exactly, is “divine” in any of this.

Ptolemy: It’s true that if you are a big fan of Daniel Dennett’s Consciousness Explained or Richard Dawkins’ The God Delusion, or if you agree with Stephen Hawking’s general ideas about the nature and meaning of life in the universe, you’ll likely be highly skeptical about this book. But I would argue that it is entirely possible to embrace the discoveries of science and also be open to the possibility that the very specific and personal consciousness that animates a particular animal is capable of surviving the death of “the animal body,” as the church fathers used to call it.

Ptolemy: Speaking of church fathers, is this just some Christian argument about God “miraculously” allowing an animal’s consciousness to continue?

Ptolemy: No. Some people suggested, when the book came out, that because I wrote for Guideposts magazine for some years, the book is really Christian apologetic disguised as a genuinely open-minded exploration of the spiritual lives of animals. In fact, I make a number of fairly audacious statements about the Christian faith in the book. For example, that Christianity wouldn’t be what it is today without certain ideas about the divinity of animals that arose in the Paleolithic era, or about another, different set of ideas that arose with the arrival of agriculture many thousands of years later. I think that if we go far enough back in time to encounter the truly cosmic dimensions of the Christian religion, we make all kinds of discoveries about its relation to nature, and to other religions, that we might never have suspected.

Ptolemy (switching tack): Hmm. This sounds awfully complex, not to mention un-scriptural. I just want a book that will affirm that the soul of my dog is safe in the arms of Jesus, and that I will see her again when I go to heaven myself someday.

Ptolemy: Actually, the arguments in the book aren’t all that complex. After all, I’m a layperson, not an academic, and most of the time in the book I’m just trying to distil what I’ve learned from others. There are a lot of people who have a very basic, straightforward faith that there is something at work in the life of their pet that will not be extinguished at death. My suspicion is that those people are entirely correct, but I didn’t really write the book for them. I wrote it for people who want to believe what their hearts and intuitions tell them--that there is something more to animals than their physical bodies--but who feel like they live in a world that won’t allow them to believe that. I have a lot of respect for science, but I don’t have so much respect for what is sometimes called scientism--the freezing of certain scientific hypotheses into laws and the refusal to change them when they need to be changed. The fact is, science hasn’t disproved the existence of the spiritual world, and people who claim it has are, in my view, failing to see the whole picture. I tried to write a book that could be read with profit by a number of different kinds of people: an open-minded Christian, an agnostic with Buddhist leanings...even a straight-out unbeliever. Though in the case of that last reader, it’s definitely possible that, despite my best efforts, the book’s arguments will only provide fodder for ridicule. But you know, if you’re afraid of people ridiculing you, you really shouldn’t be writing a book on a subject like this to begin with.

Ptolemy: Do you have any pets yourself?

Ptolemy: Yes. At the moment, I’m the whole or part-time owner of two dogs (a Chihuahua and a schipperke), two cats, and five goldfish.

Ptolemy: What do they think of the book?

Ptolemy: Nothing. Neither dogs nor cats--nor goldfish for that matter--can read, or even conceptualize what a book is. Animals aren’t people in fuzzy suits. But you don’t have to think they are to believe that they have a spiritual component that’s genuinely real, and that survives the death of their bodies. To make that point in a believable way is why I wrote the book.

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Guideposts writer Tompkins (The Beaten Path) tackles the puzzling question of animal afterlife in this delightfully insightful and well-researched narrative. As a 12-year-old boy, Tompkins found a scraggly, malnourished dog on the Yucatán peninsula and fed him despite his adult chaperonesÖ advice against it; for years, he pondered the fate of¯the affectionate creature. As an adult, Tompkins loses his beloved rabbit Angus yet continues to feel his presence around his home. With this loss, he indulges his curiosities about the animal soul and discovers that people of all faiths and across history have had different insights about the same perplexing questions of the animal spirit world. TompkinsÖs book is incredibly entertaining while it also raises deep ethical questions about our human understanding of the animal soul. From animal ghosts and reincarnation to visions, the book uses a panreligious and historical methodology to challenge the reader to disbelieve the divine transcendence of our furry, scaly, and even slimy friends in nature. Compellingly, he makes¯the cogent argument that the enriching bond between man and beast suggests more than an earthly existence for both.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Product Details

  • File Size: 555 KB
  • Print Length: 258 pages
  • Publisher: Crown (June 3, 2010)
  • Publication Date: June 8, 2010
  • Sold by: Random House LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0036S4BYO
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
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  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #712,210 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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More About the Author

Ptolemy Tompkins is the author of Paradise Fever (a memoir focusing on the years in the mid-seventies when his father, Secret Life of Plants author Peter Tompkins, became obsessed with finding the lost continent of Atlantis in the waters off Florida), The Beaten Path (an examination of the good and not-so-good things that happen when one takes the teachings of popular modern wisdom authors like Alan Watts and Carlos Castaneda too seriously) and This Tree Grows Out of Hell (a spiritual history of the Maya and Aztec cultures focusing on their disturbing preoccupation with bloodshed). For just under ten years he was an in-house editor at Guideposts and Angels On Earth magazines. His work there led him to writing The Divine Life of Animals and The Modern Book of the Dead, a duo of books arguing for the continuing validity of the human belief in postmortem survival. The Modern Book of the Dead in turn led him to Dr. Eben Alexander, with whom he collaborated on the bestselling Proof of Heaven and The Map of Heaven.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

41 of 42 people found the following review helpful By Spudman TOP 50 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on July 23, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Anyone who's lost a beloved pet knows the pain, emptiness, even despair of the loss of an animal friend and companion. One suffering such a loss is wrought with feelings of guilt, disbelief, and uncertainty. In my case, questions of animal mortality or immortality came to mind so I wanted to read a book confirming my belief or rather hope that dogs too possess a spirit or soul that survives the body. Thus I decided to read "The Divine Life of Animals" looking for answers, support, confirmation, and perhaps some uplifting stories.

Reading this extensively researched book is like taking a long trip, a specific destination in mind, but delayed with what one at first perceives to be excessive detours, wrong turns, and dead ends. After reading the first of five sections, a laborious read exploring ancient religious beliefs, Mayans, Eastern religions, primitive man, and early and pre-Biblical Jewish beliefs I was ready to call it quits. My wife, who had read the book before me, suggested I persist because the book would soon take a turn for the better.

I'm glad I followed her advice. Once the author arrives in the present time with modern day anecdotes and current thought, my interest and enjoyment of the book heightened. In the last few chapters all the esoteric and the exotic and the mysterious came into alignment, into a merger of what I could even call enlightenment. The ending brings a satisfaction that makes the long, sometimes-arduous journey worthwhile. I may even pursue my newfound interest in the otherworldly topics brought up by Tompkins with further reading.

Overall the Tompkins does a masterful job with impressive research and background though the book's beginning reads more like a scholarly research paper or textbook than I would have liked.
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19 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Susan Lynch on August 5, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Wonderful book! For me, it confirmed what I already knew about my spiritual path and that of the animals I have loved and cared about on my journey. Highly recommended!
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27 of 30 people found the following review helpful By Beth Lowell on July 8, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
In his book latest book, The Divine Life of Animals, One Man's Quest to Discover Whether the Souls of Animals Live on, acclaimed author Ptolemy Tompkins (son of Peter Tompkins, author of The Secret Life of Plants) seeks to answer the question, do animals go to heaven? His search for the truth leads the reader down an intricate and fascinating path that explores not only whether animals have souls, but also the question of what a soul is, as it's been perceived through time and across cultures.

In his pursuit of understanding how the soul pertains to animals, Tomkins examines beliefs about the human soul, highlighting eastern and western religion, ancient philosophies and practices of prehistoric people. The story of the human soul is inextricably intertwined with man's relationship to the physical world and nature, and it is here where Tompkins reveals to the reader how the wisdom of the ages lives on in modern life. Woven through the narrative are the stories of Penny, a neglected dog, Angus, Tompkins' own pet rabbit, Moose the Manatee, and a bear named Little Bit, all of whom through their own distintiveness in both `animality' and personality touched human lives in a profound way and who illustrate the surprising reason why people and animals need each other now more than ever.

Beautifully written and thoroughly captivating, you'll want to read this book - even if you think you already know the answer to this question.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Greg on December 29, 2010
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
People have complained that this book is hard to read. I so totally disagree. Ptolemy Tompkins starts at the beginning (literally) and makes a very compelling and insightful argument for the "divine life of animals". He takes an anthropoligical cruise through prehistory and history to explain why so many of us these days think that animals do NOT have souls, and then why he thinks that they do.

He does use quite a few compelling anecdotes of specific animals, but this book is not a "Chicken Soup for the Animal Lover's Soul". It is in-depth, scientific, AND soulful. He says himself in the book "if you are even asking yourself whether animals have souls, you already know the answer".

I'm an animal lover since birth and am currently owned by 3 dachshunds and a large Siamese cat who thinks he's a panther. Don't tell me animals don't have souls! I know they do. This book just helped me put into words and theories why this is true. Give this book a chance to broaden your mind and challenge your thinking. Good good stuff.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Peggy Frezon on November 14, 2010
Format: Hardcover
If you wonder about pets and heaven, and want to move beyond the concept of the Rainbow Bridge, this book is for you. Ptolemy's deep and probing research explores multiple angles and traditions, analyzing the beliefs and scientific evidence that explain the divine life of animals. Interspersed with the weighty material are expriences from readers who responded to Ptolemy's earlier Guideposts' article on the same subject, and moving stories from Ptolemy's own life, involving a stray dog, a pet rabbit, and other animals. These personal stories are the best parts of the book, and what I take away as I think about my departed pets of the past, and my little spaniel Kelly who now rests at my feet.
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