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LibraryThing ReviewUser Review - LibraryThing
The title is a bit misleading - when I first picked up the book, I was under the impression it was a discussion on Cathar beliefs, particularly the concept of reincarnation. Instead it is the story of a psychiatrist whose patient, "Mrs. Smith" believes she lived in the 12th century, and died at the hands of the Catholic Church in the Albigensian Crusade. If one believes her version, she had a remarkably clear memory of that past life. From a purely historical perspective, the book is most enjoyable when the author researches the time period for exact details of life in that era: clothes and shoes that were worn, the arrangement of living spaces, coins that were minted and carried, even belt buckles and other religious symbols. The clarity with which Cathar belief is depicted is well researched and documented. The book is less enjoyable when the author resurrects the habit of hiding the identities of contemporary individuals with initials (leaving us with descriptions of written notes and letters passed from Count C. to Mrs. A. who then passed them to Miss F. while she was having tea with the Dutchess of H.) - and after splashing awkwardly through this alphabet soup, you want to humbly request that, should he write another book, "Just change the names, already!" Really. No, seriously. (Sorry, just a personal pet peeve. Casanova himself, protecting the honor of his conquests, didn't throw so many initials at you).* *That was a lie. Yes, he did. Whether or not you believe in reincarnation, a number of issues will bother you in this account. This psychiatrist appears to have carried on the bulk of his relationship with this patient through written correspondence -- which might be understandable if she were trapped in the Arctic Circle during the dead of winter, but inexplicable when they lived in the same town. Is an accurate assessment possible? She may have in fact been one step away from a locked psychiatric ward - how would he know her well enough to vouch for her truthfulness? Worse, the psychiatrist himself was - according to the patient - the reincarnation of her 12th century lover, a historically documented individual, Roger-Isarn, a member of the equally well-documented Mazerolles family -- which makes you wonder why, after he realized this, professional ethics didn't kick in. True, not all psychiatrists are known for their lofty ethics, but one hopes most of them - should a patient walk in the door and announce, "Oh, wow! I recognize you! You were my lover in a past life!" - would have promptly removed themselves from their end of the treatment process in favor of a more disinterested colleague. Just a thought. And finally, he worked way too hard to make us believe. Using one mask, he's the respectable doctor, trained in science. Using another mask, he's a genuine mystic, keeping dream diaries, suffering from nightmares as frightening as his patient's and marveling at an excessive number of "coincidences" that suggest some sort of celestial approval of his actions with Mrs. Smith. There are moments when you begin to suspect that the psychiatrist might have benefitted from some therapy of his own. On one page he insists, "I would never have said that!", and on the next, "I have no idea what made me say that"-- so, either he had some sort of control over his own utterances, or he didn't. Parts of the account are interesting - but it is unlikely that this will change anyone's minds on the subject of reincarnation, one way or the other. It may, however, make you regard the psychiatric profession a bit skeptically.
Review: The Cathars & ReincarnationUser Review - Patrick Sullivan - Goodreads
interesting. Read full review