by Barbara Bradley Hagerty.
Riverhead, © 2009
Paperback, 336 pages. From $14.97
Lifelong Christian Science devotee Barbara Bradley Hagerty, inspired by a spiritual encounter she could not explain, spent years exploring the nature of God. Fingerprints documents her journey through the labyrinth of stories from people who’ve experienced a transcendent connection with something Other that changed them forever, and Hagerty’s quest to learn whether there is hard, documented science to explain these experiences. Through more than a decade of interviews with scientists, medical practitioners, and neurotheologians, she sought answers to questions like “Is spiritual experience real?” and “Is there a reality outside this one?” and “What do people really see during near-death or other out-of-the-body experiences?” From the MRI chamber to the all-night peyote ceremony, Hagerty followed every available lead, chased every clue, with surprising—and sometimes astounding–results. Along the way, she met extraordinary people with remarkable tales that cast credible doubts on the lines between “real” and “imaginary.”
Hagerty starts out as a Christian Scientist. Throughout the book, she compares her new findings to the belief system that has supported her throughout her lifetime. By the end of the book, she admits to having lost some of her long-held assumptions, but overall her research only informs what she believed all along. The big difference is that she no longer believes her own religion is the only right, true faith. She has come to understand that, as she says in the book, faith is like a spoked wheel. God is the hub. All spokes lead to God. It doesn’t matter which one you choose. And—she asserts this clearly—it is a choice. Science can’t prove there is a Divine, any more than they can prove there is not. The choice is up to us how we interpret these experiences, and how we allow them to inform our lives.
Now let me tell you right up front that this is not the first time I’ve read Fingerprints. Still, as a deeply spiritual woman with personal numinous experience, I am always inspired by this book. Hagerty asks hard questions and presents intriguing scientific data from documented experiments. She reminds me of mystical Truths I already knew but had forgotten in the day-to-day business of life. Each time I read it, I find myself reevaluating my own assumptions, adjusting my beliefs to fit new knowledge, and remembering that I am a part of, not apart from, the Whole. For me, it is a refresher course that never seems to disappoint.
Hagerty’s book will suit anyone who ever asked the Big Questions, anyone who ever had a mystical experience, or anyone who seeks connection with something beyond All This. Whether you maintain a particular religious faith, or consider yourself a Seeker, Fingerprints offers deep and satisfying food for thought.