Reviewed by Moragh Mason
The idea for this book emerged during a turbulent period in the author’s life. As she moved through the healing process herself, Eleanor Stoneham wondered how we could hope to heal the world when so many of us have mental and spiritual wounds which produce destructive behaviour (pg 1).
The book is a call to action – to heal our wounds and our fractured society, and most importantly halt the violence we are inflicting on this planet before it’s too late. She points out that, through increasing urbanisation, most of us have lost contact with the land and the soil (pg 16) and as a result part of our soul has died. She draws on the myth of Chiron, wise centaur and wounded healer, and explores the difference between being healed and being cured, which tends to be the focus in modern medicine.
Stoneham writes from a Christian perspective but draws on the wisdom of other religious traditions as well. She assures readers that her message is for those of all faiths or none: what matters is that they possess ‘the honesty of intention’ (pg 235). She tackles big questions such as how we move into a new era of social responsibility, lay the foundations of a just society and reform our economic system so that we value people and not money.
What made a deep impression on me was a remark made by a Scottish crofter, who said that we need change not at the grass-roots level but at the tap-roots, which are rooted in the ‘ancient spiritual bedrock’ (pg 121). She gives plenty of sources of information so
that people can explore these issues further.
Stoneham then delves into the history of soul medicine and details how it was inextricably linked with spirituality and the whole person in mankind’s distant past (pg 162), until it was abandoned in the modern era with the rise of medical science. She draws on the work of two twentieth century writers previously unknown to me: Eric J Cassell, an American physician, and English Methodist preacher Leslie D Weatherhead, who wrote a thesis on the links between psychology, religion and healing.
Apart from giving insight into the works of these authors, Stoneham shows that, despite the best efforts of the shiny new world of techno-scientific medicine, the soul-centred, holistic stream has never gone away.
Finally, she explores healing through creativity. She points out that creativity can hurt as well as heal, for example when creative energies are put into devising things like violent computer games (pg 207).
Unfortunately we seem to have an inbuilt fascination with gruesome images and this is exploited to the full in our society (pg 208). Healing creativity can be found through dance, poetry and other arts but no less so through baking, scientific exploration or parenting (pg 225).
In her introduction, the author says she hopes that people will use her book as a basis for discussion, whether in a book club or faith group, and that each reader will choose and pursue at least one action that appeals, thus contributing to healing this fractured and increasingly dangerous world, starting a ripple of hope for the future (pg 14). There is certainly plenty of thought-provoking material here, it comes from the heart and, as Iain McGilchrist says in his foreword, ‘ the message of this book … is a wise one, and I have no doubt that the world would be a much better place if only we could bring ourselves to heed it’ (pg 5).