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When Souls Had Wings: Pre-Mortal Existence in Western Thought 1st Edition

4.5 out of 5 stars 12 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0195313901
ISBN-10: 0195313909
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Editorial Reviews

Review


"Givens could make a reader stop and think twice about a joke on a LaffyTaffy wrapper. Imagine what he could do with a concept as deep, rich, and personal as the preexistence of the soul...For a greater appreciation for (and understanding of) the idea of preexistence, this unique book is a must-read." --Association for Mormon Letters


About the Author


Terryl L. Givens is Professor of Literature and Religion and holds the James Bostwick Chair of English at the University of Richmond. Some of his books include Viper on the Hearth: Mormons, Myths, and the Construction of Heresy (Oxford, 1997), By the Hand of Mormon: The American Scripture that Launched a New World Religion (Oxford 2002), which the New York Times called "provocative reading," People of Paradox: A History of Mormon Culture, which was named Best Book of the Year by the Mormon History Association for 2007, and most recently, The Book of Mormon: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford 2009).
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1 edition (October 8, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195313909
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195313901
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 1.1 x 6.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,901,683 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Jeffrey Van Wagoner VINE VOICE on January 3, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a subject that I have always been interested in. I am LDS and was aware that we were one of the few western religions that believe in a pre-existence. I also knew that Plato and a few early Christians such as Origen believed in the concept. I was not aware of the many others that believed in pre-existence and the diversity of views that it entailed. This book has exceeded my expectations and made me aware of many other schools of thought on the subject.

Givens has a very impressive resume and is professor of Literature and Religion at the University of Richmond. He has done an extensive study of the subject of pre-mortal existence and the results are condensed into this book. Here he covers religion, philosophy, and poetry that cover this subject.

The book covers from Mesopotamian times to modern times. Highlights include Hebrew traditions, Plato, Gnosticism, Origen, Augustine, the Kabbalah, and the Cambridge Platonists. Philosophers that tackled this subject include Descartes, Leibniz, and Kant. In 19th century religion major players were Wilhelm Benecke, Joseph Smith, Edward Beecher and Julius Muller. Poets that covered the subject include Blake, Coleridge, Wordsworth, Shelley, Byron, Lermontov, Carlyle, and Goethe.

His final chapter is more philosophical and discusses the views of Jung and others and how the idea pre-existence can solve many philosophical and religious problems. He notes that this paradigm never succumbed to philosophical or scientific critique. It has great explanatory power, but did not fit in with the western idea of creation out of nothing and that fact that God is the only eternal being.

This book is a must for anyone interested in the idea of a pre-existence. Givens explores the religious, poetic, and philosophical implications of this belief and for someone like myself who loves theology and philosophy was a wonderful exercise in thought.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Great scholarly work which provides historical insight into why the doctrine of preexistence has surfaced throughout the ages for various reasons and why it became anathema when it conflicted with the doctrine and theology of the Creeds and the Council of Nicea and the Orthodoxy that evolved in the centuries following Christ's death and resurrection.
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Terryl is something of a treasure hunter who discovers gems from the age of antiquity to the present day. He did all the digging for these gems and presents them quite articulately for us to behold. Pre-mortal existence is a haunting, enigmatic theme that just doesn't seem to want to go away. Maybe it's time to stop ignoring this theme. Perhaps it's a very relevant reality.
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I really enjoy reading this book! Terryl Givens is my favorite LDS writer! This book is kind of like a humanities text book but givens makes pre earth life enjoyable by comparison to plato and philo and early thinkers.
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Format: Paperback
Simply a joy to read. The coverage is wide, the prose delightful and the book particularly well-edited [something sadly not always true of Oxford publications]. It would be interesting to consider Eastern ideas of pre-existent souls and karma in the light of the book, but the author has chosen to keep to the West and to ask for more would be greedy.
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Interesting, but some what difficult to read. I felt as if I was back in college and reading a text book. I would recommend this book, however.
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