5-Star Review by Author James V. Jordan
Review of The Reluctant Messenger Returns
Authored by Candice M. Sanderson
Reviewed by James V. Jordan
Paul Gauguin famously wrote these words in paint on his painting of the same title: D’où Venons Nous/ Que Sommes Nous/ Où Allons Nous— Where Do We Come From? What Are We? Where Are We Going? These ontological questions have been asked since before the beginning of recorded history and there have been many attempts to answer them spirituality (including religiously) and empirically (scientifically), or both. The first category requires faith: an emotional experience buttressed by strong beliefs. The second requires perception by one or more of our physical senses: which may be intellectually rewarding but emotionally satisfying? perhaps not so much.
No one, other than Moses himself, for example, saw G-D speaking to him in the form of a burning bush that didn’t burn—a supernatural phenomenon. But Moses’ account has been accepted literally, rejecting disbelief, or metaphorically (the fire representing G-D’s anger). And so it is with the wonderfully written second memoir of psychologist Candice M. Sanderson, The Reluctant Messenger Returns. She writes of supernatural experiences. There is much to be gained whether the reader chooses to accept them literally or as metaphor.
This book and its prequel, The Reluctant Messenger, chronicle the spiritual journey first taken by Ms. Sanderson many years ago, perhaps beginning when she met two angels (though she didn’t recognize them as such at the time) on the day of and shortly before the death of her beloved husband Daryl in 1987. After Daryl’s death Ms. Sanderson moved to the city of Naples in southwest Florida where she worked as a school psychologist until her retirement June 2018. In retirement she’s divided her time between the study of various forms of meditation and spirituality, caring part time for her granddaughters, and writing her memoirs in astonishing short periods of time, inspired by nonphysical muses who brought and to this day bring her spiritually uplifting messages and information about people transitioning from their former physical life on earth to the nonphysical life that is beyond this one.
If readers accept on faith the telling by Ms. Sanderson of her supernatural spiritual experiences or if they are willing to suspend their disbelief until the end of The Return, they will be rewarded with beautiful portrayals of and fascinating insights into being and consciousness.
Ms. Sanderson recognizes her muses as messengers in The Reluctant Messenger but comes to understand and describe many of them as angels in the sequel, the subject of this review: The Reluctant Messenger Returns. The messengers (angels) had been speaking to Ms. Sanderson since 2013, and she recorded what they said. When she retired from her school psychologist career, Ms. Sanderson began organizing the messages into a flowing (flowering Ms. Sanderson might say) coherence, culminating, as I’ve said, with her personal understandings of being and consciousness that the angels revealed to her.
The nexus of the origins of modern psychology in America and spiritualism has a remarkable pedigree. William James and his student at Harvard, G. Stanley Hall, are referred to interchangeably as the fathers of American psychology. Hall considered Mrs. Leona Piper, well known at that time in Boston, to be “without question the most eminent American medium.” This was not meant as a compliment, he said, yet he often patronized Mrs. Piper who in séances related to him the welfare of his deceased wife and daughter.
In 1885, shortly after the deaths of his infant son and his famous father, James first visited Piper. In a trance, Piper related to James the wellbeing of his son and gratitude from his father for publishing his papers. In her March 27, 2011 article in The New Yorker titled “Twilight,” Harvard professor of history, Jill Lapore, wrote of Hall and James’s visits to Piper “In grief, solace, in death, life.” In this article, Professor Lepore quotes Hall writing of Piper’s hold on James: “For years she has been the more or less private oracle of one of our leading and very influential psychologists . . .”
In his volume of lectures titled The Varieties of Religious Experience James writes that “the ordinary religious believer” of mainstream modern religions—and he mentions Christianity, Islam, and Buddhism—that “His religion has been made for him by others, communicated to him by tradition, determined to fixed forms by imitation, and retained by habit.” Whereas the founders of these and most other religions had unique supernatural spiritual experiences from raising the dead, as Jesus did, to listening to angels if not directly to God. Today when people relate supernatural experiences, even if they are spiritual, all too often they are denounced as deluded, as Hall said of Piper despite his repeated visits to her, or even pathological, as James said of the founder of the Quaker religion, George Fox, even though Moses spoke directly to God.
The foregoing is to say that Ms. Sanderson’s experiences with the supernatural can be or become foundational ontological inquiry for those who choose to stand upon it.
I have purchased and read a print version and purchased and listened to the audio version of The Reluctant Messenger Returns. The audio narration is excellent: pitch perfect, just the right tonality in a vibrant and clear performance that is bound to draw the listener into this book and reward him or her as it builds to its astonishing ending of experiences and insights of consciousness and being.