Psychiatrist’s groundbreaking book explores global religions


By Diane Welch

Most everyone has had some sort of spiritual journey, many finding a path that becomes true for them, according to Edward A. Siegel, M.D. However, this notion raised two major questions for the Solana Beach-based psychiatrist. How did man, from his earliest epoch to modern-day, arrive with the concept of an ultimate creator, despite the limitations of the brain to understand how something was created from nothing? And how did that evolve into thousands of faith-based traditions?

Siegel pondered these questions and asked friends about their religious opinions and experiences. It became obvious that despite the brain’s limitations, major religions—without exception—embrace the concept of an ultimate creator. Then on delving deeper into their varied belief-systems, Siegel observed distinct commonalities. What started as a curious notion to explore these variations has now been crafted into a ground-breaking book: “A Spiritual Odyssey to be with God (12000 BC-2012 AD) Despite Limitations of the Brain,” an anthology that presents the most personal retellings of the common themes of religion contributed by 14 co-authors, many of them highly distinguished in their respective fields. Excerpts from the writings of His Holiness, the Dalai Lama, provide an eloquent epilogue.

The anthology’s concept emerged when Siegel, an independent world-traveler, was on an extended trip that took 40 days and 40 nights. “I thought, ‘Gee that sounds a little biblical. I wonder if I’ll have a revelation?’” he recalled. Then 37 days into his trip he spontaneously composed a dense 81-word sentence, which he calls his “laconic synthesis.” This sentence states that all major religions provide a sense of belonging and identity, the expression of awe and faith, they teach us about gratitude and contrition, they offer opportunities to learn right from wrong, to have hope, and to help us celebrate life’s major events.

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