That sounds heady, but Donnell recounts her moments of illumination with inviting clarity and context, guiding readers through almost 20 years worth of these encounters with words, establishing how she arrived at each and what wisdom she now draws from it. Some insights are highly specific—she reports engaging in discussions with indigenous spirits, the disappearance of “the notion of a self separate from others,” and even, from her first encounter, a premonition of the sexual abuse scandal that would shake the Catholic Church. Others offer lessons that nudge readers, in a more general way, into the “infinite depth” of words, accessible when we stop “immediately conceptualizing rather than experiencing” them.
Donnell holds to no established spiritual dogma, drawing inspiration from Rilke and Eliot and Q’ero culture of the high Andes. She takes from her illuminations what she herself finds in them and demonstrates, in welcoming language, how readers can do the same. As a scientist, she approaches them in a systematic manner, breaking down how these “privileged moments” change both the “quality and the structure of awareness”—in other words, they heighten the senses while also pointing towards “a unification of all parts of awareness to form a total system.” Seekers and transcendent-minded readers will find Donnell’s accounts fascinating, and her example of growing with each “illumination” heartening.
Takeaway: Fascinating moments of transcendence, inspired by language, and insight into experiencing them.
Great for fans of: Neal Shubin’s The Universe Within, Joan Parisi Wilcox’s Masters of the Living Energy.
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