THE THEFT OF THE SPIRIT by Carl A. Hammerschlag


A Journey to Spiritual Healing with Native Americans
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 An eclectic accumulation of life experiences and sound advice for healthier living from Hammerschlag (a former longtime chief of psychiatry with the Indian Health Service; The Dancing Healers, 1989--not reviewed). The attention to tribal belief systems here turns most often to southwestern groups--Hopi, Navajo, Apache--in keeping with the author's many years of service to the Indians of that region. But Hammerschlag casts his net more widely as well, partaking in Native American Church ceremonies; seeking out a Mayan healer in Belize; and generally making himself receptive to pearls of wisdom, whatever their sources. Even a chance encounter with an elderly woman in Manhattan's Metropolitan Museum of Art proves fruitful, as she enlightens Hammerschlag in the true value of wearing sneakers. The personal odysseys and quests that accompany descriptions of spiritual healing are equally diverse, ranging from a repressed southern businesswoman's taking years to find the means to tell a domineering subordinate he's fired, to Hammerschlag's own battle to overcome his Holocaust-engendered bias that all Germans are Nazis at heart--His better judgment ultimately prevails during a visit to his ancestral home in Germany, where gentile friends of his father's welcome him with open arms. Here, autobiography and anecdote are mainstays in the rambling course to enlightenment--but while the storytelling is engaging, the testimonial approach too often seems an end in itself, with the whole proving rather less than the sum of its parts. As sincere and compassionate as it is disorganized--but of merit for its insightful moments, and for its underlying faith in the ability of individuals to redeem themselves.

Pub Date: July 9th, 1993
ISBN: 0-671-78023-9
Page count: 256pp
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15th, 1993