15 July 2009

Many Lives, Unconvincing Masters

I just finished reading Many Lives, Many Masters by Dr. Brian Weiss, and I must say it was a lot like Random Harvest: the exciting final chapter didn't make up for the several boring ones that preceded it. The Masters part of the title is a reference to spiritual "masters" whom the author speaks to throughout the past life regressions of his patient. I am disappointed for a number of reasons, mostly relating to the lack of science (Weiss admits this was not a scientific study, unfortunately he does so half way through the book so any potential readers wouldn't know this until after having bought it). There is one test subject (a neurotic hospital employee with supermodel good looks), and none of the information from the rather vague past life regressions was ever checked for accuracy! Yes, when certain lifetimes were recalled months apart the details were the same, but that doesn't make up for any of the previously mentioned lacks.

I am struck by just how many times Weiss must mention his patient's physical attractiveness. Isn't there an ethics issue involved here, and isn't he married with children? Does a book about reincarnation need passages like "I knew she was smoking hot before, but now that she's cured..." (not actually in the book).

The revelations from the "masters" seem like fancy new age-isms that never once struck me as profound (definitely not as profound as the author claims them to be) and many contradict the findings of the past 150 years of mediumship research, NDEs, and what genuine spiritual masters have told us over the centuries. For example, one of the "masters" says that we are not all created equal, to which Dr. Weiss casually muses, what would the founding fathers have thought about this? Well, if you're talking spiritually all souls come from God and to God they must return. All souls possess the same potential for enlightenment. If you're talking physically we all start at ground zero as infants, completely helpless, unable to do anything. Certainly we all possess different talents which set us apart from one another (Mozart was a musical genius and Hank Aaron could hit home runs better than anyone until steroids came along), but if, as the book mentions several times, the point of life is to grow more godly over several lifetimes then shouldn't we look past these transient talents at the soul within?

In fact the good doctor seems to contradict himself on this point at the very end. In what was my favourite part of the book, he recounts a dream he had months after the regressions:

On another night, in a different dream I was asking a question. "How is it that you say all are equal, yet the obvious contradictions smack us in the face: inequalities in virtues, temperances, finances, rights, abilities and talents, intelligence, mathematical aptitude, ad infinitum?"

The answer was a metaphor. "It is as if a large diamond were to be found inside each person. Picture a diamond a foot long. The diamond has a thousand facets, but the facets are covered with dirt and tar. It is the job of the soul to clean each facet until the surface is brilliant and can reflect a rainbow of colors.

"Now, some have cleaned many facets and gleam brightly. Others have only managed to clean a few; they do not sparkle so. Yet, underneath the dirt, each person possesses within his or her breast a brilliant diamond with a thousand gleaming facets. The diamond is perfect, not one flaw. The only differences among people are the number of facets cleaned. But each diamond is the same, and each is perfect.

"When all the facets are cleaned and shining forth in a spectrum of lights, the diamond returns to the pure energy that it was originally. The lights remain. It is as if the process that goes into making the diamond is reversed, all that pressure released. The pure energy exists in the rainbow of lights, and the lights possess consciousness and knowledge.

"And all of the diamonds are perfect."

The book is slow, repetitive, and unconvincing. I would recommend giving this one a pass.