by Nancy K. Morrison
My rating: 1 of 5 stars
Sacred Desire / 978-1-59947-150-1
The premise of this book seems extremely intriguing: We are, as humans, supposedly bound inextricably to one another as a community and to our shared search for the sacred in our everyday life, and this binding desire can be explained in scientific terms of brain chemistry and psychology. Unfortunately, however, the authors do not live up to their end of the bargain - this book is painfully heavy on 'sacred terminology' and baseless assertions but exceedingly short on any actual science or evidence.
First, the 'sacred terminology' and nonsense jargon start in from page one, and for no good reason except to sound smart and cute. Oxycotin is dubbed the "The Holy Nectar"; adrenaline is referred to stubbornly as "The Power Potion". This is, in my opinion, patently ridiculous and seems more designed to let the authors play around with their cute new 'sacred terms' rather than an attempt to settle down to the business at hand and try to reconcile hard science with human spirituality.
Second, and this is really frustrating in a book that is supposedly a serious look at some serious subjects, the authors quote random folks early and often, and almost never explain who the people are, nor why their opinions should be taken as valid. (For that matter, it's tricky enough to suss out from the book what the *authors* exact qualifications are.) For the first chapter ("Womb of Compassion"), the underlying qualification of most of the quotes seems to be that the woman was pregnant at one point in her life. Jeannie B., for instance, tells us that during her pregnancy, she and her husband were "caught up in the wonder of the Divine." Peg S. notes that the very idea of not keeping her baby felt threatening to her and that "It was an honor to carry this child." The fact that Peg S.'s feelings (that the thought of not keeping her baby was threatening) are then airily attributed to all other women is simply astonishing - apparently, in the authors' world, there is no adoption, no abortion, no infanticide. To assert, perhaps, that such women are crazy or neurochemically different in some way would at least acknowledge the issue, but the authors do not even do that.
Peg also later notes that there was no pain during her labor, only an "experience of ecstasy", which the authors helpfully explain was the result of Peg being infused with The Holy Nectar. They fail to go on to explain why, for example, most other women feel incredible pain, nor why pregnancy is still the leading cause of death for women in many countries. Those little details would distract from the theme of the chapter which is that pregnancy is holy and perfect and sacred and divine and special. All pregnancies (apparently) result in rainbows and puppies and kittens, or at least that's what you would be led to expect from "Sacred Desire". Not a single *shred* of science is discussed in this chapter _at all_ except to define oxycotin as a Holy Nectar and, well, that's it. There's really nothing more to be said about oxycotin other than that it's a Holy Nectar, is there? Chapter One also contains a quote by one "Phyllis Tickle", who has no introduction or reference at all. She's just...there...apparently so famous that she needs no introduction at all. I can only hope that she's a scientist of some kind, but based on the preceding quotes, it seems more likely that she's simply been pregnant at some point and that was enough to get her into this rigorously researched book.
A word about the writing in "Sacred Desire": it's terrible. Truly ghastly writing like this takes a great deal of effort to pull off. Each and every page makes it perfectly clear that the authors were more interested in 'sounding' super-smart, super-special, and super-spiritual, with no attempt at actual communication with the reader. Take passages like this one: "Mothers, non-mothers, fathers, and non-fathers know "womb" experiences - hollow of holiness experiences, space of desire experiences. Womb experiences demand that we take seriously the fact that our bodies are made to be spirit-nurturers for one another." Where do I start with that regurgitated mess? To start with, this is the first and last mention in this chapter of "hollow of holiness" experiences - the term will not be defined further in the rest of the paragraph and we will not return to it again within this chapter. We just whiz by this sentence at full velocity before moving on again to the pregnant women quotes. To continue, these "womb experiences" are not explained in scientific terms (what causes them? where do they come from? what is the evolutionary advantage of them? can they be triggered by artificial means?) nor are they explained in spiritual terms (are they a sign that change needs to occur? how should one respond?). I, for one, do not take it as given the "fact" that our bodies are "made to be spirit-nurturers for one another". Made by whom? Why? For what purpose? Why do we require spirit-nurturing and are not completely independent? These are questions that must be asked and should be answered - or at least acknowledged. That the authors do not is, to my mind, incredibly intellectually dishonest, and it becomes clear that this aborted attempt at a book is merely a bunch of jargon and flowery words designed to look more impressive than they actual are.
I'm not even going to deign to deal with such nonsense as "We literally *are* relationship," and "Without knowing it, the mother says "Yes" to life through her gaze - and her infant gazes that "Yes" back to her."
Any book of morality must deal with the bad things in life. This book does not. Amidst all the fetal worship and pregnancy fetishism, there is no mention of the pain of pregnancy, no acknowledgment of miscarriage and other tragedies, no concession that not all pregnancies are wanted or desired (indeed, the authors imply strongly otherwise).
Any book of spirituality must deal with the basic questions of life: why are we here, what should be accomplish, how shall we live? This book will not. Amidst all the assertion that we just *are* relational beings, there is no discussion as to why, as to what purpose, as to why some people are solitary by choice.
Any book of science must provide evidence and data. This book cannot. Asserting your premise as fact and quoting a variety of literary and religious sources is not scientific data, and taking a few facts from a college biology book and using them out of context with nothing more than anecdotal evidence is the work of shysters, not scientists.
This book seems to be nothing more than a quick attempt to cash in on people's search to reconcile their spiritual drives with the science that we are daily confronted with. Failing to provide any answers, or even to pose the correct questions, this book boils down to all theory, no evidence; all style, no substance. Throw in a flowery writing style that seems more interesting in impressing the reader than communicating with them and one begins to wonder why authors so obsessed with 'connections' are unable to make the most basic one of communication. I cannot recommend this book to anyone - if you wish to explore your spirituality, a quiet session of meditation is worth far more than this ill-begotten book.
NOTE: This review is based on a free Advance Review Copy of this book provided through Amazon Vine.
~ Ana Mardoll
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