FIRE IN THE SOUL by Joan Borysenko

FIRE IN THE SOUL

A New Psychology of Spiritual Optimism
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KIRKUS REVIEW

 More well-meaning New Age psychopop from the author of Guilt is the Teacher, Love is the Lesson (1990), etc. According to psychologist Borysenko, who tends to gush, her ``soul has burned with the question why''--specifically, why does God allow suffering? The answer is found in this, as she puts it, ``extraordinarily special'' book that offers a ``new and much needed psychology'' of healing--new, that is, if one has never cracked open a self-help book or watched Oprah, Phil, or Sally. Borysenko's basic premise is, in fact, as old as the hills: that suffering is ``an opportunity for soul growth.'' She tries valiantly to situate this idea in world religious thought, but she constantly mangles her sources--for instance, repeatedly misreading John of the Cross's ``dark night of the soul,''which refers to an aridity that comes in advanced stages of contemplation, as equivalent to psychological disorders (in Borysenko's own case, a childhood bout with compulsive-obsessive disorder). On the other hand, Borysenko does know her transpersonal psychology, and the book teems with condensations of the ideas of Larry Dossey, John Bradshaw, Stanislav Grof, et al., as well as innumerable plugs for Borysenko's earlier volumes. Despite minor differences, all these writers broadcast the same idea: that spiritual growth is possible but takes effort, including the overcoming of fear, addiction, and other deep-seated traumas. As for methodology, Borysenko seems fond of women's confessional groups, men's drumming groups, and, above all, past-life therapy (we travel back to medieval Britain, among other locales). She's keen on meditation as well, and offers a watered-down, de-Christian-ized version of centering prayer, and a watered-down, de-Buddhist-ized version of walking meditation. This fire in the soul may warm already converted New Agers, but most others will find it wan comfort indeed.

Pub Date: April 7th, 1993
ISBN: 0-446-51466-7
Page count: 256pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1st, 1993