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Record Type: Review   ID: 78

Soulmaking: Uncommon Paths to Self-Understanding (2nd ed)

Grosso, Michael

This is a new edition of philosopher/soulmaker Michael Grosso's "personal spiritual and psychic autobiography," as Raymond Moody calls it in his foreword. The chapters are the same, although Whitley Streiber wrote the foreword to the first edition and Moody this one. For a review of the first edition, titled Soulmaker: True Stories From the Far Side of the Psyche. (also in the EHE Book Review)

Why am I reviewing the second edition, which at first glance is more or less the same as the first? It is a matter of emphasis, and of the evolution of Grosso's thinking about soul. Whereas in the introduction to the first edition he refers to "the soul" and the "idea of soul," he refers to his explorations in the inner world in this (the new) edition. He refers to his search for the "boundaries of the soul," and ways in which "the soul" can travel. In similar fashion, I began the study of EHEs by examining examples of as many types as possible, with special attention to those that were transformative. Like Grosso apparently did, I thought of the experiences as events occurring at a moment of space/time, some of which could have life-changing effects-which in their turn were events occurring along the subsequent time/space continuum.

Another change between the first and second editions of Grosso's book is the title. The first was Soulmaker: True Stories From the Far Side of the Psyche. The second edition, however, is titled Soulmaking: Uncommon Paths to Understanding. He is now thinking of EHEs such as transformative dreams, drug experiences, encounters with saints, the music of the spheres, astral sex, and Marian apparitions. All of these, which he has had and describes, plus others, he now views as paths, as part of a process. Similarly, in following up on the aftereffects of EHEs, which all of Grosso's experiences are, I realized they were only the beginning of a process that could potentially unfold, if cooperated with willingly, the way a seed can give rise to a tree. In the introduction to the new edition, Grosso change it from "The Mystery of Soul" in the first to "The Art of Soulmaking" in the second. Soulmaking is a process. The soul is no longer a given. He no longer asks the question "Do we have a soul?" He now thinks this may not be the most useful one to ask.

There is another approach to soul, and he sets it forth in this book. "The idea … is that we make our souls. It is a question of making, not of having or not having. So this is a book about soulmaking ... we treat soul as an experiment, an experience, and an exploration" (p. 11). He provides the highlights of the history of soulmaking. He now is consciously aware of why he wrote this book, especially the second edition, but it was the hidden impetus behind the first as well. Although these experiences are "at odds with mainstream under-standing," he urges us to pay attention to them. "We owe it to ourselves to consider the enigmatic hints of experience that point toward the unknown depth and unexplored spaces beyond the edges of ourselves" (p. 17). This echoes my plea that we heed our exceptional experiences, listen to them, follow them, discover where they want to take us. Grosso selects Keats as the first to argue that there may be a spark of divinity in all of us. We are in a sense charged with the task of giving an identity "so as ever to possess a bliss peculiar to each one's personal existence" (p. 19). Keats felt a world like ours, that often goes so counter to our wishes, is required in order for the soul to evolve. In essence, Grosso points out, "we do not have, but make our identity. Making identity out of difference is the soul of soulmaking" (p. 19). Again, this mirrors the development of my thinking about the role of the Other in the EHE process, or that which is different from us, and also the necessity to develop our own difference from anyone else. Grosso also discusses James Hillman's book, Re-Visioning Psychology, in which soul is viewed as "a way of seeing the world." Again, this echoes what studying EHEs has shown me: the result of potentiating EHEs is that the person discovers his or her unique path (difference) in doing which he or she feels united with all. The end result is a new identity and a new worldview. Grosso calls it the process of transhumanizing. These experiences enlarge one's conception of soul. My favorite view is that of William James: that they introduce us to the MORE that we are. Grosso invites the reader to read his personal experiences and what they led to in the hope that they will encourage him or her to "attune to his or her own uncommon path" (p. 29). The many EHEs I have studied indicate that it is only by developing our unique difference can we come to the place where we know the unity of all.

If you haven't, or even if you have, read Grosso's new edition of this book, I urge you to read or reread it, this time with the concept of soulmaking foremost in mind.

Publisher Information:Charlottesville, VA: Hampton Roads Press, 1997. 203p
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