The Meaning of Life

Reviewer: David Christopher Lane
Publisher: FATE magazine
Publication date: mid-1980s

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Fate Magazine Book Review

The Meaning of Life

The Meaning of Life by J.H.M. Whiteman, Colin Smythe, Gerrards Cross, Buckinghamshire, England, 1986, 267 pages, $13.95.

Although thousands of books on mysticism have been written, few have broken new ground. Thus it is a great pleasure to read J.H.M. Whiteman's magnum opus The Meaning of Life which not only covers unexplored territory but also sets forth one of the first scientifically appropriate studies of the mystical dimension.

Unlike most works of its kind (which simply cross-reference each other), Whiteman deals with mysticism in a precise and rational manner, defining his terms cogently and setting up a rigorous methodology for interested seekers to test the reality of transmundane experiences. I am not indulging in hyperbole when I say that The Meaning of Life, subtitled "Volume 1; An Introduction to Scientific Mysticism," is one of the best books ever published on the subject in English.

Divided into four main sections, the books begins with an explanation of the five chief types of stabilized nonphysical (SNP) states of consciousness (focusing particularly on separative experiences where mind and body seem apart from one another) and the requisite skills, like active and continuous recollection, necessary for releasing and controlling these forms of awareness. Whiteman then proceeds, in Chapter Three, "A Scientific Evaluation of 'Other-World' States," to develop an ingenuous rating system for measuring the relative degree of reality in any nonphysical experience: an assessment schema (diagram) he calls "The General Index of Reality (GIR)."

In Part Two he tests his rating system on a variety of otherworldly experiences, including out-of-body experiences of Muldoon and Monroe, the fantasy excursion of Jung and the questionable accounts of reincarnation memories. The result is an impressive objective criterion for gauging the reality of mystical encounters.

Whiteman, like other pioneers in the field such as Harvard University's Aaron Talsky, has noted that there is a hierarchical spectrum of nonphysical experiences, each with an ascending degree of vividness and certainty. Thus it is vitally important not to dismiss all nonphysical experiences as fantasy, since there are fundamental differences between lucid dreams, OBEs, NDEs and conscious meditation transports. As Whiteman reports of his own mystical excursion, "Suddenly I was carried into full interior wakefulness --into a real state with clear consciousness of separation. By this term I mean the waking of the reflective consciousness in an interior space and time, existing in its own right, independent of physical space and time, but not out of touch with it."

Whiteman completes his study with a rich, suggestive overview of mystical transformation and a provocative reinterpretation of 20th- Century physics.

A watershed text in the history of paranormal research, The Meaning of Life deserves a wide reading.

The book is being distributed in this country by Samuel Weiser, Inc., Box 612, York Beach, Maine 03910.
--David Christopher Lane

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