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Record Type: Review   ID: 874

Out of This World: Otherworldly Journeys From Gilgamesh to Albert Einstein

Couliano, I.P.

 The author, who unfortunately was murdered while in his prime, taught religion at the University of Chicago. At base, this book is about the relationship of mind and matter. It would be of interest to the general reader, but it is also an important book to read for physicists, religionists, philosophers, historians, students of literature and art, anthropologists, parapsychologists, folklorists, sociologists, and psychologists, because he views otherworld journeys (in or out of time and space) as a prism with a facet devoted to each one of these disciplines. At one level it is a history of "otherworld journeys" as expressed in shamanism, Mesopotamian religion, Egyptian afterdeath and predeath excursions, Taoist crane riding, soul raising, and ghost brides in China, Buddhist mind journeys, ecstatic warriors of Ancient Iran, spiritual visions, Greek medicine men, Jewish mysticism, and interplanetary travel, all of which have intrinsic interest for many. But Couliano has a scholar's interest in these journeys to other worlds, and he seeks to demonstrate the relativeness of our own seemingly "enlightened" worldview by showing us how real these other views have been or still are. He seeks to give us the experience of alternate worlds. As Lawrence E. Sullivan points out in the Foreword, Couliano shows "that, on several grounds, it can be demonstrated that cultural creations have been held unjustifiably distant from one another: the imaginings of pure math and physics, the myths of ancient peoples, and the poetry, utopias, ecstasies, visions, and dreams of historically scattered humankind. The union of these creative traditions may fertilize our own worldview" (p. xiv). At base, Couliano hypothesizes that for human beings there will always be other worlds to wonder about, imagine, and explore. Our inner space will always expand beyond the known (in whatever day) limits of outer space. One might suggest that the widespread reportage of exceptional human experiences today demonstrates the expansive qualities of the mind, ever pushing back the space-time envelope. The first chapter, "A Historian's Kit for the Fourth Dimension," merits a place in several future anthologies.
Publisher Information:Boston, MA: Shambhala, 1991. 287p. Chap. bibl: 236-265; Name Index: 269-277; Place Index: 267-269; Subject Index: 277-287
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