A book attempts to bridge the divide between mysticism and materialism.
“Every culture has stories of saints meeting angels and devils,” the author writes in his latest nonfiction work, “sages rising into heaven, shamans transforming into animals, and mystics entering transcendental trance states in which their awareness expands beyond the usual body-centered limits.” What lies beyond those limits is the main subject of Hill’s (The Kosmic Web, 2015, etc.) volume, in which he attempts to present a more balanced view of both the materialist, verifiable reality all around his readers and the immaterial, subjective experiences they feel every day—what he refers to as “the sound of two hands clapping.” The book explores typical New Age phenomena like remote viewing and out-of-body experiences—both the author’s own and those of others—regularly reminding readers that “openness to enchantment drives the mystical outlook.” He focuses on personal perceptions during heightened states of awareness. Hill also takes readers on a cogent and inviting tour of mysticism throughout the last 3,000 years and its intricate connections with the births of both philosophy and science—including the long pursuit of alchemy, which preoccupied a number of great scientists, such as Isaac Newton. The author’s goal in all of this is to encourage his readers to “acknowledge subjectivity equally with objectivity,” insisting that “only when the spooky is normalised as just another way to experience reality, will we be able to accept that our existence encompasses two hands clapping.” The book’s besetting weakness is the way it misunderstands science to make its larger points. Hill writes, for example, that the existence of Paleolithic cave art is “miraculous” and that doctors “regularly perform miracles” when they reattach a severed hand or perform a heart transplant. But these things are not miraculous—and not analogous to mystical experiences that can’t be verified or tested.
An upbeat but uneven treatise that tries to create a level playing field for science and spirituality.