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The Seat Of The Soul by Gary Zukav. A Fireside Book, Simon & Schuster, Simon & Schuster Building, Rockefeller Center, 1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020, 1990; 255 pp., $8.95.
Overall Rating: 9.5 (out of 10)
Difficulty Level: 6 (out of 10)
Recommendation: This is a great book; don't miss it!
Gary Zukav, author of the acclaimed The Dancing Wu Li Masters (New York: William Morrow, 1979), has done it again. In 1975 Fritjof Capra gave the world The Tao of Physics (Boulder: Shambhala Publications), an extraordinarily popular account of the parallels between Eastern mysticism and modern physics; four years later Zukav authored Wu Li Masters, and many felt this was the more elegant, sensitive, and faithful account of the relevant subject matter. It has been a full decade now since Zukav last published. It was well worth the wait.
The Seat Of The Soul is an important, successful, and even profound book. It is also sometimes a bit too much, but its excesses - its gushiness, its over-poeticizing, its black-and-white stances, and its occasional unbelievability - go hand-in-hand with the secret of its success. For Zukav has achieved something that Galileo Galilei, Thomas Kuhn, and Paul Feyerabend could be proud of: a coherent and compelling account of the next phase in human evolution from the platform and perspective of what appears to be a viable candidate for that new, emerging worldview or paradigm.
Thus, Zukav spends no time apologizing for his perspective, or hemming and hawing about whether we really do have souls, or worrying about how we might prove the soul's existence. Instead, he simply assumes, or rather simply knows, and then effectively communicates - with great clarity, sincerity, and straightforwardness - that we do indeed have souls, and what our soul-ness means to us:
Every person has a soul, but a personality that is limited in its perception to the five senses is not aware of its soul, and therefore, cannot recognize the influence of its soul. As a personality becomes multisensory, its intuitions - its hunches and subtle feelings - become important to it.
He tells us that tremendous changes occur when we consciously recognize and experience that we are not just "five-sensory" human being but are actually "multi-sensory" human beings, and that it is vital - both for individuals and the entire world - to evolve into this multi-sensory perspective:
We are evolving from a species that pursues external power into a species that pursues authentic power. We are leaving behind exploration of the physical world as our sole means of evolution. This means of evolution, and the consciousness that results from an awareness that is limited to the five-sensory modality, are no longer adequate to what we must become.
Early on, Zukav states his purpose, which is to create a new vocabulary for discussing matters of the new paradigm:
We need to give that which we as a species are now touching consciously for the first time a vocabulary that is not clouded so that it can be identified clearly in the acts and judgments of the human race, so that it can be seen clearly, and not through veils of mystery or mysticism, but simply as the authentic power that moves the force fields of this Earth of ours. I hope that this book will assist.
The words comprising this new vocabulary are often familiar, but the way he arrives at them, and the way that he makes use of them, are novel. His discussion of "reverence," for example, takes a word which already has many spiritual connotations and transforms it into an entire worldview, reminiscent of Martin Buber's "I-Thou" stance. Zukav's favorite method, however, is to use pairs of contrasting terms to indicate the growth from the "five-sensory" to the "multi-sensory" human. Thus we have "external power" versus "authentic power," "personality" versus "soul," and "marriage" versus "spiritual partnership."
What we end up with - and what will make this book very uncomfortable for some - is a worldview which mixes certain Western themes (Zukav more than once shows great respect for the authentic power embodied by Jesus Christ, and he includes a brief but interesting gnostic discussion on Eden and the apple), a fair number of Eastern beliefs (e.g., karma, reincarnation, and illusion), and a great deal of (dare we say it) New Age notions. These New Age concepts, however, are never identified as such, but are instead derived from his starting principles and precepts.
If nothing else, then, this book presents believable, non-sensationalized discussions of such topics as: non-physical guidance and teachers, the creation and co-creation of reality through human intention, the erroneousness of conceiving the physical world as a zero-sum game, and the way in which "every experience that you have and will have upon the earth encourages the alignment of your personality with your soul." It must be admitted, however, that Zukav does get carried away sometimes. For instance, his discussion of the difference between human souls and animal souls (and the differences between the souls of different types of animals) seems questionable.
Zukav's writing is, on the whole, exemplary. Some will object that it is sometimes too gushy and flourishy, but again, this is part of the book's special power, and supports its ability to charm the reader into a further understanding and acceptance of the new paradigm's, the soul-paradigm's, worldview. Moreover, the book is all Zukav: he quotes and cites virtually no one else, and he makes no claims for non-physical guidance or inspiration.
The Seat Of The Soul is an important book, because it successfully narrates a new perspective from the platform of that new perspective. Zukav does not argue for the new paradigm, he beckons from it. It is also important for its clear, even-handed, and rationally arrived at presentation of many New Age themes. It is a successful book, because it elegantly accomplishes its task of suggesting a new vocabulary for discussing the evolution of the human species into the soul-paradigm. And, finally, it is a profound book, wisely, gently, and sincerely offering us spiritual insight. Zukav's basic stance is positive, he offers many dynamic, experiential suggestions, and the entire book feels quite comfortable and familiar.
The Seat Of The Soul is a rare offering, one fit for the rare times we find ourselves in. Zukav concludes his forward by telling us that "We are in a time of deep change. We will move through this change more easily if we are able to see the road upon which we are traveling, our destination, and what it is that is in motion. I offer what is in this book as a window through which I have come to see life." We will be lucky if, in another ten years, Zukav can produce another window of such clarity.
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