In one of Fr. Dwight Longenecker’s recent posts he explores the problem of rage that is currently dividing and consuming our nation. This is an excerpt (which I originally read in his book on Praying the Rosary for Inner Healing) that has given me pause many times before this.

In my book Praying the Rosary for Inner Healing I explore the roots of our emotions and suggest that our adult emotions are rooted in the earliest experiences of our lives. Here’s an example: I was once asked to help a fifteen year old boy who had suddenly become irrationally angry and rebellious. He had been a sweet looking kid, sang in the church choir and had been delightful. At fifteen he became a “Goth”. Black hair, black leathers, eye make up…the works. He also started stealing cars. We asked him why he did so. He didn’t know. We asked if he knew that he would go to jail. He did, but didn’t care. He was in a tailspin, and there was no rational explanation. He said he was mad at his Mom and Dad and found external reasons, but they were all groundless.

In an attempt to discover the roots of his rage we asked him mother about his early years. She said he was adopted, and that he was conceived in the back seat of a car when his mother was fifteen. She carried him for nine months in an attitude of rage, frustration, rebellion and hatred. The other priest I was working with realized that in some strange way the boy was acting out not just his own rage, but the rage and rebellion of his mother. He was working through and acting out (according to the priest’s theory) the disturbing circumstances that lay at the very foundation of his personality

The first experiences of life take place while we are still in a sub-linguistic and sub-rational existence. For the infant, and certainly for the unborn child, life is nothing but a stream of emotional and instinctive stimuli and reactions. We exist in those pre-rational and pre-linguistic years in an emotional and instinctive soup, and the reason this is important is that just as in these early years our mind and body is forming, so our emotional life and emotional resources are forming.

This is why God ordains that we are conceived in a moment of self giving and beautiful love between a man and a woman, and that this conception takes place within the sacrament of marriage so it is also blessed and inspired by God. Likewise, the first nine months in the womb are to be a time of peace, health, love and happiness for mother and child. As the child receives nourishment from the mother, so he also receives love, confidence and peace. These contribute to a healthy and confident child. If the atmosphere is also one of spiritual nurture, prayer and worship, then the child’s spiritual life also receives a healthy and confident foundation.

I happen to agree that the pre-conscious and pre-linguistic period of formation in the life of a child is of incredible importance in the shaping of that child’s later emotional resources. I know, for instance, from my studies in neuroscience, that metagenetic mechanisms preferentially select more or less functional stress reaction pathways (cortisol and its related enzymes, to name one specific mechanism).

Now, I want to avoid the appearance that I am suggesting anything remotely deterministic. I am positing that the pre-conscious and pre-linguistic experience of every human influences their subsequent development in profound ways. Nor do I wish to suggest that these alterations are necessarily unmanageable or cannot be overcome by better later life environment, training and decisions (c.f “The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to our Brains” as well as numerous more scholarly researches on the role of neuroplasticity in overcoming negative behavioral and cognitive patterns.)

I also want it to be understood that a stress-free environment for a child, even if such a thing were possible in this world, would most likely be just as bad as, if not worse than, an environment filled with fear and neglect. Stress in the right types and amounts provides an adaptive function in nature, especially in human nature. Just as bones that are not stressed in childhood are weak and brittle, so are personalities that are never stressed. Problem solving is developed as a response to stress, and is absolutely essential to functional existence in society.

Nor, finally, do I want to suggest that these modern insights into some (likely only a fraction) of the possible mechanisms for this reality represent any real increase in knowledge. We have ALWAYS know that it was bad for children and babies to be in fear for their lives, to be treated with neglect, contempt or abuse, or even to be simply unwanted, unloved or uncared for. We have always known that the role of the family is to provide a stable, nurturing, and challenging environment for children to develop stable, nurturing and challenging selves. These three qualities are prerequisites for learning to love, and love is the only goal worthy of a human person.

It does, however, cause us to think and to re-evaluate what is most important in our lives. The only thing that matters is teaching children how to love, or providing a space for other people to teach their children how to love. It puts my own profession into perspective, at any rate, or rather professions (i.e. warfare and medicine). My warfare is pointless self-aggrandizement and thrill seeking if it does not help someone, in America or Afghanistan or wherever, live at peace and raise their children free of warfare. My medicine is meaningless unless the people I treat are real people instead of Medical Record Numbers or lists of signs, symptoms and diagnoses. My task is not to make them live longer but to help them live well.

And of course, both of those professions are meaningless if I am not there for my own family, within the limitations of doing my duty to others. It means that my ability to protect another man family’s right to raise their children in peace flows directly from my family’s sacrifice of peaceful time with me at home. Whether it is crippled or empowered by that sacrifice remains to be seen.

Which brings me to one of my favorite quotes from C. S. Lewis, with which I will close:

The State exists simply to promote and to protect the ordinary happiness of human beings in this life. A husband and wife chatting over a fire, a couple of friends having a game of darts in a pub, a man reading a book in his own room or digging in his own garden — that is what the State is there for. And unless they are helping to increase and prolong and protect such moments, all the laws, parliaments, armies, courts, police, economics, etc., are simply a waste of time. In the same way the Church exists for nothing else but to draw men into Christ, to make them little Christs. If they are not doing that, all the cathedrals, clergy, missions, sermons, even the Bible itself, are simply a waste of time. God became Man for no other purpose. (Mere Christianity)

 

Science Was Born of Christianity: The Teaching of Fr. Stanley L. JakiScience Was Born of Christianity: The Teaching of Fr. Stanley L. Jaki by Stacy Trasancos
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

There is a certain irony in the fact that I am reviewing and commenting on this book, since it is itself a review and commentary of the corpus of work of Fr. Stanley Jaki. However, Stacy Trasancos’ book fills a very necessary and unique niche, which I will try to explain.
Fr. Jaki was a Benedictine priest, theologian, physicist and historical researcher, world famous lecturer and honorary member of the Pontifical Academy of the Sciences. He decades researching, studying, writing and lecturing on the philosophy and history of science, and specifically the nature and origins of science in history. The upshot of this lifetime of study was a pair of startling claims.
The first was a definition of science as “the quantitative study of quantitative aspects of objects in motion.” This claim is startling because it seems somewhat reductionist at first glance, too simple. It excludes all of what we now call “scientism,” i.e. the belief that science can explore and solve all human problems, by insisting that science is and can be concerned only with:
1. Material reality (i.e. objects in motion)
2. States of those objects that can be observed (“quantitative aspects”)
3. And measured and expressed in an exact numerical fashion (“quantitative study”)
All other realms of study fall under what Fr. Jaki terms “reasoned discourse.” This, of course, limits the “science” under discussion to quantities amenable to experimentation and measurement. So, for instance, physics is the only true, exact science. Chemistry takes on the nature of an exact science as we bring it down to the molecular level and study the interactions of subatomic particles. Biology and medicine are even less exact, although as study of their molecular basics advances the claims about those atomic interactions may become simultaneously more limited in scope and more scientific, in the Jakian sense.
It is also important to understand that Jaki speaks of the historical origins of this science he is speaking of the development of a self-perpetuating culture of quantifiable study and discovery leading to further study and discovery in a “system of systems.”
This brings us to the second startling claim, this the much more controversial one. This is the claim that science was born of Christianity. In short form, Jaki claims that the culture of systematic, ongoing quantitative study of nature arose within, and only within, the theological, philosophical and psychological milieu of Christian medieval Europe, and that it arose because of that milieu. Jaki describes seven other ancient cultures, predating Christian medieval Europe by centuries to millennia, and covers their scientific and technological advances in some detail before returning to the historical fact that these real advances and discoveries, and the scholastic cultures and institutions that they developed within, never coalesced into a systematic, self-perpetuation culture of quantitative study of nature. He traces these failures (referred to as “stillbirths”) to the philosophical and theological pre-suppositions of the cultures, including cyclic views of history (Platonism and Aristotelian cosmology), pantheism, animism, impersonal deism or extreme transcendent deism (i.e. the Muslim conception of Allah as so completely utter that he cannot be bound by any human law, including the laws of reason.)
What these worldviews had in common was the assumption that the world was ultimately a futile place, either because whatever happened was based solely upon the whims of the gods, or the fates, or the magical spirits inherent in the celestial bodies, or that life was simply an endlessly repeating cycle from which there was no escape, or escape only by detachment from nature and the body. These philosophical underpinnings were not conducive to the hope of a rational, discoverable universe.
Jaki contrasts these worldviews with the theology of Catholic Christianity, which saw the universe as a separate creation of a personal God who, though transcendent was nevertheless rational. This led to the belief that He had created the universe to run by its own set of laws rather than by mere divine whim, and as such it was predictable, rational and discoverable. Jaki points to this belief as setting the necessary cultural and psychological groundwork in which a system of physics could arise and flourish.
I understand that this claim will seem controversial. I myself am fully convinced of its plausibility, although this book does not go into sufficient detail to establish its factuality. I do not think that was Dr. Trasancos’ intent. This book is intended to introduce readers to the concepts, and to provide a reference to Dr. Jaki’s work in a brief, accessible outline form. I can pay it no higher compliment than to say that it made me wish I had time to read Dr. Jaki’s work myself, but that since I do not have that time, I am grateful that someone else has done the laborious work of reading and summarizing it for me. It was done with sufficient care and detail that I confidently accept the thesis as the most plausible working theory, pending further research.
The book’s format is concise and logical, beginning with a chapter establishing definitions, and then describing in turn the stillbirths of science in other cultures, the rise of Christian culture and what set it apart from previous and co-existing cultures, and finally a brief overview of some of the scholars who contributed to the process of developing the scientific worldview as an explicit component of their theological and philosophical beliefs and study. She then follows up with a chapter briefly addressing some of Jaki’s critics, and a chapter containing her own reflections on the role of Christianity in science going forward, and of the role of Jaki’s thesis in ecumenical and evangelical efforts.
Overall this book is a very strong review, remarkable for its concise coverage of such vast material. It could have benefited from a more careful proofread in the grammar and punctuation department, but while distracting, the few typographical errors did not materially detract from the content. While most of it is an expose’ of the work of other people, Dr. Trasancos’ own thoughts on the role of Christianity in science were interesting and valuable. More so, her insight into the metaphor of stillbirth vs. birth and the analogy of the Church as the “mother” of Science was beautiful and suggestive of far greater realities, coming as it does from a woman who is not only a scientist, but also herself a mother who has experienced the visceral reality of both live and still births in her own life.
I highly recommend this book, and look forward to reading more from Dr. Trasancos.

View all my reviews

incognito
https://www.amazon.com/Incognito-Secret-Lives-David-Eagleman/dp/0307389928

I recently finished reading the book “Incognito: the hidden lives of the brain,” written by David Eagleman. It purports to be an expose’ of the best and most recent developments in neuroscience. The author wants “to do for neuroscience what Carl Sagan did for astrophysics,” that is, to demystify the current research on consciousness and to explain to the average lay reader how it all works.

This is, admittedly, a very difficult task and Eagleman sets to walking a very fine line between absurd reductionism and misty-eyed material mysticism on the other. As with Newberg and D’Aquilli’s “Why God won’t go away” it is a discussion of where supernaturalism fits in the light of science, but with less perspicacity and more brash materialism.

In the first half of the book Eagleman explicitly tries to debunk the myth of the “little man” in the brain, that is, of consciousness as an entity independent of the biology of the brain, over and above its biological functions. In essence, the “mind” is not separate from the “brain.” Mind is the sum total of electro-chemical activity in the brain. He explicitly contrasts this with all spiritualist views that posit an extra-material soul which control the mind, and of which the brain is just a mouthpiece.

He does this by deconstructing free will, using case studies and other studies that show the influence of the subconscious upon perception and decision making, including extreme cases of people being turned into murderers, compulsive gamblers and pedophiles by organic brain lesions. His conclusions:

  1. Consciousness is an “elaborate trick” and is not in charge of the brain. It is one small part of total brain activity, and does not drive that activity. Mostly it rationalizes it after the fact.
  2. Free will is an illusion. Our ‘decisions’ are made for us by countless automated brain sub-routines which are the result of deterministic electro-chemical processes.
  3. Consciousness is an emergent property arising from spontaneous interactions between those thousands of automatic sub-routines.
  4. Therefore a “person” is a “team of rivals” somewhat analogous to a government made up of thousands of independent yet interacting functions, each with its own origin and goals. Our thoughts and actions are the sum total of their interactions.
  5. Contradicting #1, he allows the possibility that consciousness serves (or rather is) the function of arbitrating and goal-directing the interactions of the sub-routines.

After making these points and explaining how they contradict the religious and non-materialist point of view (more on that later) he goes into a critique of criminal justice based on a concept of punishment, insisting that in some future “enlightened” society neuroscientists will “test” criminals to find the biological roots of their anti-social behavior and to determine which ones are treatable and which are not. The ones who are treatable will be “treated” and the ones who are not will be “removed” for the sake of society. He does not discuss what either “treatment” or “removal” might entail, but both give me a shudder and remind me of C. S. Lewis’ critiques of treatment based criminal justice.

But I digress.

In the final chapter he steps right off the line and goes straight into what I have come to call “evo-devo spirituality.” He acknowledges in passing that science has not ruled out the existence of an extra material spiritual realm (he does not address the idea of God) but he speaks with certainty of its inevitability. He also admits to having destroyed the concept of a soul, but insists that it has not removed the basis of morality or of spirituality, or of numinous awe. Instead of that morality, spirituality and awe being based upon some transcendent being somewhere “out there” it is based upon observable natural processes which he extolls in a rhapsodic chapter rivaling the exultant prose of Carl Sagan.

My critiques of the book are:

  1. Most of the research he presents is not new, but it is one sided. He presents tons of cases showing how biological processes influence cognition and decision making, but does not present the balancing research showing that cognition and decision making influence neurobiology.
  2. The spiritualism that he claims to refute is one-sided and simple, more of a straw man. In fact, in the statement “If there’s something like a soul, it is at a minimum tangled irreversibly with the microscopic details” is as good a refutation of Gnosticism as I have ever heard, and squares fully with what the Catholic Church has always taught about the nature of the human person.
  3. The interpretation of the science that he offers as a revolutionary insight, i.e. that the human mind is a collection of multiple competing elements all clamoring for ascendency, is not a contradiction of traditional philosophy or religion. It is not even new. It is, in fact, the very reason for the existence of moral philosophy and most religious traditions. They have always seen the human person as something of a chimera, and have all been oriented towards unifying that conglomeration of competing elements, albeit by various means.

In conclusion, Eagleman’s book is an entertaining read, and the first half presents some interesting studies, albeit ones which are capable of a multitude of various interpretations reflecting the reader’s worldview. His interpretations and his ultimate program of social reform are neither very coherent, nor very attractive.

116482This book although highly interesting, is a book that must be read with critical faculties fully on the alert. It begins with a neural imaging study done on a Buddhist monk at the peak of meditation. The authors find significant an interesting patterns of brain activity which they also find subsequently in other Tibetan Buddhist meditators and in scans of Franciscan nuns at prayer. From this and an apparently somewhat cursory reading of mystic literature from a variety of traditions they attempt to unravel the neurobiology of mystical experience. They succeed in arguing a cogent case for the fact that a mystical experience is within the possibility of a normal functioning brain. That is, it is not  a pathological state such as a seizure, or a psychological maladjustment, as is often assumed by intellectuals and academics.

More boldly still the authors then undertake the question of whether a mystic state may actually be what it claims to be, i.e. a glimpse into a larger and more real reality than what we typically think of is real life. They do this by deconstructing the imagistic nature of our apprehensions of ordinary sense data and pointing out that our experience of the real world is, in fact, a construct cobbled together from sensory input. What we think of as “the real world” is not directly known, but is instead only known through electro-chemical inputs into our brain. The brain determines what is real or not by comparing these electro-chemical impulses and piecing them together into a construct of the world.

While this is a bit of an oversimplification, and overlooks the use of reasoning, critical evaluation and consensus in shaping our worldview, it does bring out an important point, namely, that the mystic and the materialist both argue for the truth of their experience on precisely the same neurochemical basis, i.e. that specific activity actually occurred in their brains.

Again, this is an over-simplification, since the claims that the materialist and the mystic make about the source of these experiences are radically different. It is because of this over simplification (which is necessary in the context of such a short book on such a weighty subject) that the book cannot stand alone, but must be read in context of a good base of knowledge on mysticism, philosophy and theology. When the authors discuss what religious people and mystics believe, the reader must be able to fill in the blanks, or he will be developing very serious misunderstandings.

Throughout the book they conduct themselves with great intellectual honesty, and admit that the ultimate questions of whether God exists, or if he does what his nature might be, or whether mystical experience as they define it is correlated with an objective metaphysical reality, are questions that science cannot answer. They also make an honest attempt to distinguish clearly between facts established by research and their theoretical interpretations of these facts. If this is not always clearly delineated in black-and-white, I believe it is not due to Malisour confusion on their part, but simply the difficulty of explicitly stating every single time they make a statement whether it is a fact or a theory. This is why I say that this book must be read with the critical faculties wide-awake.

My study of Buddhism thus far has been so shallow that I am not qualified to comment on it. My studies of Judaism, Hinduism, Islam and other major religions even more so. However I have read a good deal of Christian mysticism, as well as the Christian theology that goes with it. My strongest critique of this book is that their understanding of Christian mysticism and how it fits into Christian theology is shallow at best and inaccurate in places. Specifically, throughout the book they present Christian mysticism as a an opposition to or even a contradiction of the black-and-white, dogmatic nature of Christian, by which they especially emphasize Catholic, theology. They demonstrate no understanding of the close ties between mysticism and theology within the Catholic tradition.

As an example of the care and attention this book requires, the authors present two significant “myths” of their own. The first they claim explicitly as a myth, a theoretical description of how religion might first have evolved from a mystical experience. The second purports to show how the self might arise spontaneously from the neurology of a newborn infant and his interactions with the external world. While they do cursorily remind the reader in passing that this also his only hypothetical, it is presented with much less emphasis on it’s purely speculative nature than the previous myth. A lazy or unfocused reader might make the mistake of thinking that
All in all, this book is well worth reading although slightly behind the times as scientific works go. It is not a pop psych book, nor is it a rigorous scientific treat us, but something in the middle. It is worth reading critically by any reader believer or not.

Last Saturday the Kraeger family conducted split-team ops, which is Special Forces talk for “some of us did one thing in one place, and some of us did another thing somewhere else.” Evie and Mommy went to visit Grandpa for his birthday.

And went shopping at Kohls, where Evie bought shoes. She was very excited about the carts with the baby seat mounted on the front where she could see everything. She also enjoys shoe shopping and purse shopping. Go figure, right?

The wearing of the shoes? Not so much. She still prefers to be barefoot.

In the meantime, Ryan went backpacking up Mount Ranier with three guys from MC, Joe, Daniel and Andy.

The original plan was for six guys to hike up to Camp Schurman, a base camp on the Eastern side of the Mountain, stay over night, and hike back down the next day. Let’s just say, things didn’t go as planned.

First view of the Mountain from the trail. First view of the Mountain from the trail.

First off, we were unable to fill all the slots on the team. The sixth spot was filled and unfilled fully half a dozen times as people decided to go and then cancelled due to other plans. Then our fifth guy, Gus, bailed at the last minute because he couldn’t find someone to cover for him playing the piano for 10:30 Mass the next day.

View from Glacier Basin, the end of the maintained trail. View from Glacier Basin, the end of the maintained trail.

So we started off from the White River trail head, four men instead of six, and hiked up the trail along the river. We made it to Glacier Basin in good time, about 3.1 miles and not too much elevation gain. It would be a decent picnic hike.

Water resupply using Andy's sock as a filter. Andy's bottle was the first to be filled using the sock. Water resupply using Andy’s sock as a filter. Andy’s bottle was the first to be filled using the sock.

After water resupply in the White River, a ghost of its former self, the hard part of the hike began.

Kathleen's Dad's cousin used to have a hotel up here. This was the generator. Kathleen’s Dad’s cousin used to have a hotel up here. This was the generator. That-a-way, guys! Looks easy. That-a-way, guys! Looks easy.

Getting onto the ridge West of Mt. Ruth, a landmark on the way to Schurman, was the first major gut check. We gained nearly 2,000ft Elevation in about a mile.

About a third of the way up the ascent of the ridge. Daniel is fresh as a daisy. About a third of the way up the ascent of the ridge. Daniel is fresh as a daisy.

That was a slow, hard slog up the ridge. Daniel, our seminarian, is in great shape and didn’t seem bothered by it. I told him when he becomes a priest he is going to be recruited for this sort of thing all the time. Mountain top Mass? I think yes!

Possibly my favorite picture from the whole hike. Possibly my favorite picture from the whole hike.

Some of us were not quite so light and in-shape.

There is something sort of apocalyptic about this picture. There is something sort of apocalyptic about this picture.

It took us nearly two hours to make the top of the ridgeline overlooking the Emmons Glacier.

The weirdly gorgeous Emmons Glacier. The weirdly gorgeous Emmons Glacier.

It should have taken about half of that. We boogied up the ridgeline as fast as we could, but Andy was beat from the ascent of the ridge and it took too long.

Andy is miserable, but still trucking along. He did not quit the whole time, which is what Badassitude is made out of. Andy is miserable, but still trucking along. He did not quit the whole time, which is what Badassitude is made out of.

After taking over an hour to go the next kilometer, we held a meeting and realized that we didn’t have enough good daylight to make it around Mt. Ruth, up to Steamboat Prow and then down into Schurman safely, especially since we were about to enter the huge scree field on the Eastern slope of Mt. Ruth, and we could expect it to slow us down even more dramatically.

Ranier summit seen from the South Eastern side of Mt. Ruth. Ranier summit seen from the South Eastern side of Mt. Ruth.

So we turned around and headed back down. After a quick snack in Glacier Basin, we hiked back down the White River trail and made it to the truck before dark.

Last view of the White River valley with the Mountain barely visible through the haze from the wildfires. Last view of the White River valley with the Mountain barely visible through the haze from the wildfires.

So it was a valiant effort. Next year, hopefully, everyone will be in training for it and it will be an even more valiant effort. Of course, next year Ryan will be in school, so…

The rest of the week was pretty much par for the course.

Evie is talking much more now. She says, “Mama” when she wants something, or when she is upset with Daddy. She is also conducting experiments in the Great Outdoors.

Hypothesis: This is food. Hypothesis: This is food. Design an Experiment: If it is food, it will be delicious. Design an Experiment: If it is food, it will be delicious. Conduct Experiment: Hmmmmm...... Conduct Experiment: Hmmmmm……

Turns out it is not yummy, after all. However, like the true scientist she is, Evie repeated the experiment under various conditions just to be sure and plans to conduct a series of ongoing investigations to determine conclusively whether her results can be generalized of all rocks, or only apply to this particular rock.

Daddy just plays with food.

This took about 6 minutes to make. This took about 6 minutes to make.

And on Thursday, Evie and Daddy went to go visit Uncle Adam down at the river where he was trying to catch some salmon fishes.

Evie all hatted up in Camo and ready to get this fishing thing ON! Evie all hatted up in Camo and ready to get this fishing thing ON!

She thought the river and the woods were very exciting.

No, Uncle Adam, you're doing it wrong. Let me show you. No, Uncle Adam, you’re doing it wrong. Let me show you.

No, she didn’t catch anything. Next time!

Catholic Guide to Depression

By Aaron Kheriaty, John Cihak

Overall this book is an excellent addition to a topic of deep personal interest to many people, i.e. that of depression. It is an orthodox and insightful Catholic take on the issue of depression, written by Psychologist Aaron Kheriaty. Kheriaty briefly and succinctly describes what depression is, and most of the current major theories about its causes. He also devotes a chapter to an overview of the current treatment modalities. All of this information is readily available from many sources, without need to consult scientific journals or academic works. As far as that goes it is equivalent to many other popular works on depression, and superior to many, primarily because of its balanced approach and broad look at the complex interplay of physiological, cognitive, social and behavioral factors that make depression what it is. He successfully avoids the most common error of popular expose´s of medical and psychological science, i.e. that of focusing exclusively on one aspect of the total body of research and theory to the exclusion of all others. Kheriaty makes a conscious effort to touch briefly on all the major factors currently understood, and successfully avoids getting pigeon-holed in any one of them.

The necessary down-side of this approach is that his overview is broad and general. Those interested in detailed information on any particular component of depression or treatment modality will have to look elsewhere. As a reader with some medical background I found this to be a little bit disappointing, but not overly so. I know how to find more information in the academic literature, and after all, it is not meant to be a textbook. The book is exactly what it sets out to be, just a general overview.

However, where this book really shines is in its execution of Kheriaty’s primary goal, that of integrating current scientific understandings of depression with the timeless truths of the Catholic faith. To do this he goes into some depth on the Catholic understanding of the human person as a body/soul creature where necessary, but again, does not get lost in the details. His theology is basic and accessible. He addresses such questions as:
– Whether and how human sinfulness causes or contributes to depression.
– Whether depression is “The Dark Night of the Soul” or vice versa.
– The role of the spiritual life in treating or preventing depression.
– Whether a non-Catholic or even non-religious mental health practitioner is a viable option for a Catholic suffering from depression.
– The role of Confession in treating depression.
His treatment of this potentially complex subject is in depth enough to be helpful, but general enough to place each individual issue solidly within its proper overall context, both in terms of science and of faith.

I recommend this book, not only for those who suffer from depression, but also for those who have friends or family members who suffer from depression, and especially for people interested in going into the medical field. It will not replace psychological counselling or treatment, and it will not replace textbooks and in depth study. However, as a starting place to get a general schema for the integration of Science and Faith on the topic of depression, I know of no better resource.