Despite my personal beliefs of spiritual openness and freedom, I never forget my native religious language of Christianity. I don't let that limit me spiritually, but I also don't exclude it from my worldview. Since I read many books about spirituality from many different faiths and traditions, I constantly have to check my natural Christian leanings and embrace many other ways of knowing. Most of the time, this is easy because I have plenty of practice. I respect another person's spiritual journey and do not like being critical of it. ?I have no idea how the Divine is calling and forming that person.
This is the disclaimer I always consider when reading books about spirituality and one I had to use when reading Judy Weinberger's book Soul to Soul: A Guide. This book is her understanding on why things happen from the soul's perspective. Just as I speak and see the world through a native Christian lens, Weinberger does the same through a Jewish lens. Like me, Weinberger does not believe there is one correct or good religion. This allows her freedom to develop many interesting ideas about how one's soul works-both before birth and during life-to help guide a person to a meaningful life. As an artist, Weinberger writes with accessibility often not used by most theologians. Ideas are simple, to the point, and reinforced by wonderful paintings created by Weinberger to help flesh out the concepts. These concepts include intuition, why bad things happen to good people, and letting go of hurt.
This book was a wonderful read that tacked many difficult concepts. Books like this are right up my alley: inclusive, spiritual, and personal. I drink books like this much in the same way I like to drink cow milk.
So here is the big however. As much as I am a spiritually open and free person, I have this other side that is steeped in a theological and philosophical background. This means that when I see something that is not quite right, I need to make note of it. There are two areas of this book that gave me pause: Weinberger's mention of the Roman Catholic Immaculate Conception dogma and her endorsement of the illogical free will concept.
One needs to be careful in describing Immaculate Conception because it is not what most people think. Weinberger references Neville Goddard, who “compared the phenomena of visualization to the biblical story of the birth of Jesus” (73). Goddard kept referring to Immaculate Conception in regards to Jesus' birth, Mary's pregnancy, and the creation of one's thoughts and ideas. My issue with this whole conversation is that Goddard, and eventually Weinberger, did not realize the Immaculate Conception is about Mary's birth, not Jesus' birth. I understand the point Weinberger is trying to express, and perhaps I am being fussy about this. However, it is weak scholarship when one continues to spread an error without bothering to research its validity first.
Weak scholarship is one thing, but weak philosophy is quite another. Weinberger is very clear that she believes in free will.
Thankfully, God has given us the blessing of free will and with that the freedom to choose wisely or not so wisely. (150)
However, Weinberger did a philosophical about-face with this comment.
We in our limitedness cannot see if a tragedy was chosen by us in our pre-birth planning or not. (158)
One cannot have completely free will if there is any sort of pre-birth planning. This is not logically or theologically sound. The free will concept interests me because I have a theory that many people often claim they have it without fully developing their thinking about it. During my short seminary career, I got into a heated discussion about free will with a fellow student who claimed she had free will and yet soundly professed a Lutheran faith. She became irritated when I recommended that she read Martin Luther's Bondage of the Will.
Anyway, the best one can muster is compromised will, because everyone is affected in some fashion by their environment and situation. One can make choices on the micro level, but they are too influenced on the macro level to make a truly free choice. In my opinion, free will needs to be explored fully before one can claim that God has bestowed any sort of free will, Weinberger included.