A writer offers a philosophical inquiry into humanity’s “old wounds”—and how to overcome them.
McGrath’s slim, decidedly unconventional nonfiction debut seeks to fuse Christian theology, Eastern medicinal philosophy, and some concepts gleaned from the worlds of paleobiology and sociology. The author's quest to delve into the deeper meaning of reality began decades ago on a small farm in Vermont when she suddenly saw an old tree stump as “vibrating energy.” This led to a lifetime of studying both science and spirituality, and in these pages it leads McGrath to speculate on the ultimate origins of humanity’s deep “wound” of being constantly at war with itself in what she refers to as “our frenetic dance with the annihilation of life as we know it on this planet.” The author looks at what she considers the two driving instincts of life on Earth, dominance and nurture. She attempts to map them during the crucial shift primordial humans underwent from hunters to herders, a transformation she considers a warping event for the psyche of the entire species. These speculations are accompanied by some of the book’s most captivating thinking, exploring the prehistoric forces that shaped the development of modern humans. Perspective changed, for example: “Four million years ago, some primates shifted their center of gravity and stood erect….What had been underneath was now in front.” In addition, extensive grooming rituals “demanded an attuned sphere of awareness,” she writes, teaching human ancestors’ hands “to connect with the other in love as acceptance, affection, forgiveness, comfort, and healing.” The enthralling nature of these insights is only slightly marred by some of McGrath’s more controversial claims, whether about the nature of physical reality (“Energy and matter, we now know, are interchangeable”) or her own supposed ability to heal injuries on a cellular level. But in the main, the wide-ranging book’s eloquent intertwining of science and spirituality (“Trees are magnificent manifestations of life dancing with gravity, demonstrating height, balance, symmetry, and strength”) is consistently intriguing.
An engrossing and though-provoking blend of religion, philosophy, science, and a quest for the healing properties of human nature.