Today I was a Reader as well! I completed the first of 52 books that I shall read in 2013, Reincarnation and the Law of Karma by William Walker Atkinson.
I hate to say it, but I found the book rather disjoined and confusing... As such, I find it difficult to write about it.
Atkinson attempts to introduce the reader to the concepts of reincarnation and karma by showing the history of belief of both concepts. He divided his book into chapters based on the beliefs of several cultures, including the Egyptians, Romans & Greeks, the Hindus, and even Christians! The unfortunate thing is that he often quotes passages of other works, but rarely credits the work or the author. He introduces these quotes by saying things similar to "a famous man once said" or "in a work that is authoritative on the subject". This might have been an oversight, but I find it to be a little cowardly... If he doesn't cite his sources, no one can challenge his interpretations. I find my attitude a bit combative though, so I'll give the benefit of the doubt and go with the oversight suggestion!
Reincarnation is a tricky subject to write about. It's not a theory that can be tested with the means we have available today, therefore much of it has to be based on Faith. I think Faith is a beautiful thing, but philosophers tend to use a lot of "God-spackle" to cover holes in their logic. (An aside, I really wish I was clever enough to come up with that on my own, but I have to credit my philosophy professor Brett Miller) Moreover, we have to identify what reincarnates! Is it the mind? The Soul? Consciousness? To decide between these items (and any other options) we have to define these things. What is the mind? Is it sentience, in the fashion of Descartes' revelation of cogito ergo sum? And what of the Soul? Atkinson wrote of many cultures with 3-part and 7-part souls-- how can that be proven or dis-proven? And finally, consciousness baffles us with its complexity...
Unfortunately, all of the struggle and confusion that I just mentioned is not made any clearer in Atkinson's book. I can't blame him-- it's not easy! Not all stories can be gems.
Final thoughts on the book: It was worth reading for the sake of the journey, but compared with the amazing work of David Darling and Evan Harris Walker, I found this book to be lacking. I know it's not fair to make comparisons, so I'll frame it differently. This book did not meet my expectations-- I am unable to alter my expectations, and so am left disappointed. The moral of this story? I'll approach the rest of my 2013 reading list with the child's mind that I wrote about in my last post.
It is as if Atkinson's writings on karma have reached across time and space to slap me in my brain-hole... I find that I can't express myself-- I feel incredibly lacking as an author right now, so I'll end this post.
They can't all be gems.
By the by, David Darling's Zen Physics and Evan Harris Walker's The Physics of Consciousness were the works I referred to earlier. I even linked to the latter!