The Spiritual Nature Of Animals: A Country Vet Explores The Wisdom, Compassion, And Souls Of Animals, by Karlene Stange
This book is a disappointment largely because it does not live up to the claims of its title. Given that the author and I have diametrically opposed views when it comes to spirituality, it is unlikely that I would ever have liked or appreciated this particular book, regardless of how it was labeled. That said, this book sets up expectations that it does not deliver, and as is frequently the case in books with a neo-pagan or New Age or Buddhist mindset (and this book blends those views together in turn), the author assumes herself to be a worthwhile spiritual guide despite her lack of insight and knowledge when it comes to Christianity and despite her obvious hypocrisy and self-serving rhetoric. Despite all of this, though, the author does at least present some of the problems faced by vets who must blend their general fondness for animals with a legal and cultural climate that encourages or even commands ill animals to be put down rather than allowed to suffer. Since it is suffering that provides human beings with a great deal of our wisdom and insight, this would appear to be contrary to the author’s claims about the importance of the souls of animals, and demonstrates that while she can talk compassionately about animals that her behavior does not live up to her claims, an all too common problem among would-be spiritual guides.
This book is about 300 pages long and is divided into nine chapters. The athor begins with her discussion of her belief in the souls of animals and in her childhood as a (not very observant) Baptist as well as her contemporary Buddhist beliefs as well as her beliefs in how to heal, questions of judgment and pain, and the relationship of fear and fortitude (1). After that the author explores creation myths about the garden and seeks to provide a spiritual journey that includes the Hopi, Australian Aboriginal peoples, African myths, as well as the biblical history of Creation (2). This leads into a detailed discussion of shamanistic thought and her respect for the hunter-gatherer and the vision quests involved in such heathen worship (3). Another chapter provides a look at mother nature and her views of transformation that can be found in the contrast between the contemporary livestock industry that she views with contempt and ancient heathen religious thought from Egypt and China as well as contemporary neo-paganism (4). The author then spends a couple of chapters looking at the spirituality (only sometimes related to animals) in both Hinduism (5) as well as Buddhism (6), before the author vents her spleen in negativity towards the Bible in a chapter that only tangentially deals with animals in the Bible as it relates to the faiths of Christianity, Judaism, and Islam (7). After that the author seeks to ground her mysticism as having scientific validity (8) before closing the book with a chapter that seeks insight from clairvoyants and channels and animal mediums (9) before providing a happy ending as well as notes, an index, and some information about the author.
In the end, I found it impossible to view the author as a credible witness to the spiritual lives of animals. The author struck me as one of those people who can abide neither the moral enlightenment of biblical religion nor the strict materialist assumptions of the scientific community while desiring a hodgepodge of ancient heathen religious thoughts going back to shamanism and Eastern religion that makes her feel like a good and noble person and that views animals as having a certain degree of nobility without requiring her to actually act in a moral way towards them. One commonly sees this sort of self-serving praise of compassion on the part of people whose actions towards others, human or animals or plants, are anything but genuinely compassionate. That doesn’t mean that one has to appreciate this. That said, though, even with all of the negatives that come with reading a book by someone who is an obvious and flagrant hypocrite who lacks basic insight into matters of spirituality, the book does at least remind us of our need to better care for animals and for the tormented souls who try to care for them and who frequently find it necessary to wantonly kill those whom they believe to be possessed of souls just like their own, and who as a result frequently kill themselves in sorrow and despair.