Wednesday, 2 December 2015

Annamaria Hemingway-Immortal Yearnings

Circle Network Book Review: Immortal Yearnings: Mystical Imaginings and Primordial Affirmations of the Afterlife by Annamaria Hemingway
Published by 6th Books Paperback Price: £14.99 Kindle Price: £5.76
Author website:  http://www.annamariahemingway.com/
Annamaria Hemingway's latest book, Immortal Yearnings, takes the reader on a journey exploring how, via the medium of mythology and symbolism, humanity wrestles with the metaphysical questions posed by our common experiences of living, dying and, in some cases, receiving intimations of an afterlife.

The scope of the book is vast, both in terms of the spiritual and psychological dimensions and it spans human history and cultures. Like all good tours, it starts and ends at familiar stations: she opens with more than a nod towards Jung and his concept of archetypes, and ends with some contemporary and moving accounts of transcendent experiences. 




But along the way, Dr Hemingway also introduces us to less well-known territory with an ease and familiarity born of a long professional interest in the field. She discusses traditions as diverse as Platonic idealism, the Greek mystery schools, Ancient Sumerian and Egyptian mythology, Native American (north and south) spiritual traditions and Islamic, Jewish and Christian mysticism. We revisit Jung because, after all, he has so much to say! This prepares us for a discussion of contemporary accounts of altered states of consciousness which we see in the context of a long tradition of accounts of altered states of consciousness, including Near Death Experiences, various other psychic phenomena and synchronicity. Here lies the true value of this book: having discussed the historical aspects of mythology and symbolism, Dr Hemingway shows how these contemporary experiences can be viewed as so much more than just straightforward factual accounts. Of course, factual they may very well be (this is tacitly assumed) but that is not the point. They are accounts redolent of deep meaning for the human condition and she thus speaks to all her readers, whatever their stance may be on the reality of these experiences.

To prove my point that for the purposes of discussion, "meaningful" is more the point than "factual", in one chapter Dr Hemingway takes a masterful look at our contemporary narratives, asking us to consider the mythological and symbolic allusions in films (examples including James Cameron's 'Avatar' and Clint Eastward's 'Hereafter') and then literature. Less controversially, she discusses the poetry of Wordsworth, Whitman, Dickinson and Brooke, the literature of DH Lawrence Leo Tolstoy, Somerset Maugham and the author's namesake, Ernest Hemingway. She's no snob, either, giving equal treatment to the modern bestselling author Dan Brown. She rounds off her discussion by considering mythology and symbolism in art and music.

Lately there has been a tendency for academics in some quarters to dismiss psychoanalysis and those who practice it as "unscientific", outmoded and useless. However, in this book, Dr Hemingway shows how the insights received from the unconscious mind link us to very ancient wisdom traditions. In short, the myths and symbols which arise from within are the upwelling of powerful unconscious and spiritual forces which guide humanity along the road leading from birth to death - and possibly beyond. It therefore follows that we should pay heed to these promptings and explore their texture rather than dismiss them.

Her points are well-made, cogent and, for those interested in pursuing the subject in more depth, well-referenced. If I have any criticisms they would be of a minor nature only and certainly do not detract from the work itself. I don't mind italics for emphasis, but there were rather too many for my liking and I'm really not sure what they were meant to indicate. For example, was there really any need to italicise the word "imaginal" every time it was used? Also, I found that having references at the end of each chapter made it harder to find them. But these points are merely a matter of style, not substance.

For those who are lucky enough to own the now rare but excellent Purnell encyclopaedia, Man Myth and Magic (edited by Richard Cavendish), this book would sit alongside it very nicely. This is serious stuff, well-written and worth re-reading as there is a lot to take in: a banquet rather than a quick snack but with a writing style that makes it easy to digest and leaves one hoping for further offerings in the future. Reviewer: Dr Ian Rubenstein, Author of 'Consulting Spirit - A Doctor's Experience with Practical Mediumship': http://www.drianrubenstein.com/


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