review by Harvey Gillman, of The Effect, where science meets spirituality by Linda Hoy, published by O Books, 2012. 270 pages
Linda Hoy is a well-known children’s novelist – one of her books is a set text in schools – and a Friend. She is also an explorer who has presented us with a book I can only describe as warm-hearted, imaginative, a mine of information, eccentric and slightly outrageous. It is wonderful to read something by someone who is willing to re-examine her own prejudices in such a witty manner and with such style. It is an autobiography of sorts, a description of an educational process, a journey into belief and meaning, with angels, and Quakers, and marginalised scientists in attendance.
There is a whole industry of books on spirituality from every conceivable angle. A sub-section of this industry deals with the relationship between spirituality and science. The columns of the Friend echo this debate, though I sometimes feel the driving force of this is a determined escape from the religious strictures of the past, rather than a deep examination of more enlightened thinkers, theologians, and mystics of the present. Linda Hoy has managed to draw upon a vast amount of research and literature to examine a numbers of theories that might once have seemed heretical in scientific circles: near death experiences, the curved nature of time and space, telepathy and so forth, but which are now being taken more seriously beyond the community of New Age adepts and scientific eccentrics.
This book has made me realise how agnostic I am on many issues. I simply do not know whether reincarnation makes sense – and there are a number of different understandings of reincarnation anyway. I do not know what form questioning and judgement take at the time of death or just after. I cannot say whether the sensation of déjà vu is based on the fact that the future has already happened in one of the myriad universes possible, or are they multiverses? But Linda holds my hand as it were into a discovery of worlds beyond words. It is the tone of the book which I find so enchanting. Linda is a reluctant explorer. She begins with the question, what if?… and allows her creativity to lead her where it will. She is self-mocking, sassy, down to earth, and seems to dare herself to go further. Each chapter begins with a quote from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, and through the Looking Glass, so we follow the White Rabbit down the whole, are perplexed with Alice about her size in relation to the world and the whereabouts of the key, and wonder how many seemingly impossible things we can believe before breakfast.
The title of the book, The Effect, comes from the writings of J.W. Dunne on time; the ‘effect’ she writes is his expression for finding a portal into DreamTime. So the whole matter of the book is a profoundly mystical one. How do we live deeply the present moment in such a way that we are in touch with that which is beyond time? (Linda is well aware of the sceptics even among Friends and imagines the reaction of some people to her writing, but her desire to explore further means that she will go on regardless.) In order to live at this level she feels the need to try to discern the relationship between time past, present, and future, the nature of space, and the relationship between waves and particles: quantum science suggests that everything is made from quivering waves of energy, waves which move and vibrate; these quivering waves pass through each other but then turn to particles when they’re being observed. If it is true that our observation makes a difference, then how much of our creativity alters our relationship with the world in which we live? Amazingly after all this speculation, analysis of experiments, reflection on physicists, astronomers, gazers of heavenly things, we are brought back to the simple question of why we are here and how we live among all these possibilities.
If you want an adventure into a land of wonder and are willing to put aside prejudices of every kind, I would recommend this book. Treat yourself.