Fingerprints of God: The Search for the Science of Spirituality
Barbara Bradley Hagerty
Riverhead Books: May 14, 2009
It’s been nearly a week since I finished reading this book by NPR correspondent Barbara Bradley Hagerty, on “the search for the science of spirituality.”
When I was only about a quarter of the way into the book, I sat down with two fellow writers to talk shop, and mentioned what I was reading. I surprised myself by admitting to these two ladies — whom I like and respect, but whom I don’t know very well — that I had cried my way through roughly half of what I’d already read of Hagerty’s book. In those pages, I found a kinship with Hagerty — a professional reporter on the religion beat — in her deep interest in other people’s spirituality and her personal conflict over possibly allowing her own beliefs to color her work. Hagerty’s willingness to include her own thoughts and experiences in “Fingerprints,” alongside the findings of and her conversations with a plethora of researchers honestly moved me.
While raving about “Fingerprints” on Facebook, I wrote to another writer friend that I’d wished I’d been the one to write this book. I’ve been on a bit of an internal hike of late, reawakening interests that have been ignored or on the back-burner for a few years now. Noetic sciences. Quantum physics. Metaphysical sciences.
You know — the stuff that makes my heart sing and my mind reach, but makes other people look at me funny.
I’ve always been spiritually inclined, and it’s been both a blessing and a challenge these past two years to be in a relationship with a self-proclaimed atheist. (That dynamic will have to be left for another discussion.) I’ll admit that I’m sometimes intimidated by Mike’s rapid-fire questions about my beliefs, with no room between queries for me to attempt much of an answer. For a good while, I stopped engaging him on religious topics, shying away from the subjects that matter to me most.
But now, Mike’s questions and Hagerty’s book have me taking a harder, more intimate and more critical look at what I believe, and I’m asking myself, “Why?” Why do I believe what I do? What are the experiences I’ve had — now somewhat hazy in memory, or lost in the shadows — that have led me to where I am?
Hagerty’s approach of speaking with believers and non-believers alike — inside and outside the scientific community — has me wanting to put my own spirituality under the microscope, not so much to be able to answer Mike’s skeptical questions, but to have a better understanding of my own center and perspective.
Hagerty’s conclusion — not surprising, giving the title of the book — is that the “fingerprints of God” are all around us, even within us in our very makeup. I don’t disagree, but I think it’s time I launched my own investigation. I’m a “go see for yourself” kind of gal — which has drawn me over the years to sweat lodges, Reiki attunements, psychic surgery, shamanic soul retrieval, crystal and singing bowl healing ceremonies, interfaith seminary, wiccan rituals, transcendental meditation, burning bowls, metaphysics university and hypnotherapy training, in addition to cathedrals, temples, synagogues, mosques and more.
But I’ve also been a math and science geek, and even began university as an engineering student. The scientific study of spirituality definitely appeals to me.
I’m seeker, but somehow this has gotten stuck on auto-pilot as my life got more caught up with the mundane details of the world. This current push back into myself that I’m feeling may very well be part of the larger “mid-life re-examination” that I can’t seem to escape, in these weeks and months following my 40th birthday, but I do feel that — for me — Hagerty’s “Fingerprints of God” was absolutely the right book at the right time.