|The Fifth Love – Exploring Accounts of the Extraordinary
by Mark Fox.
Spirit and Sage, 50 Beaulieu Close, Kidderminster, Worcs. DY11 5EE. 2014.
978 0 9928197 05. Paperback. 182pp. £9.99 [Post free]
Readers will have encountered Dr Fox’s previous books on NDEs and Unusual Light Phenomena which were published some time ago. This book is shorter and aimed at the general public as well as the more academic scholar. As with his previous books he works on the Alister Hardy archive. On this occasion he has utilised material which has not been published before and he focuses on a theme which has often been referred to both in reverence to the archive and to other sources, as well as anecdotal material that those engaged in both research and pastoral ministry have encountered. The theme is that of the sense of being embraced at an individual level by a sense of love that transcends the personal. His title expresses his thesis that there is a dimension of love which transcends the four categories that C.S. Lewis explored in what proved to be one of his last books, The Four Loves. Fox presents over one hundred and fifty accounts of experiences that proved life changing to those who had them. Though some may have been triggered by bereavement, many were not.
Fox’s selected material is not so much concerned with the nature of death and its significance, as with the transformative aspect of a love that is sensed as having a source beyond the human dimension. For some it was experienced as of Divine origin, for others as emerging out of the natural world, whether earthly or cosmic, but of a different order to that which may have been encountered before. Such accounts will not come as revelatory to readers of this journal, but two aspects of the book will, I believe, be of significance. Firstly the concept of love, human and divine, should always be one of prime concern to Christians, as in every age we are challenged by the presence of the mystery of evil in all its aspects. These accounts may well provide encouragement to us. Secondly, it would be a useful text to give to people we may encounter who question the Christian proclamation of love, and find traditional religious assurances of little value. The book is compact and accessible and thus may be of pastoral value as well as being compelling in its own right. Fox does not suggest that his examples, and his commentary upon them will provide easy answers to profound questions, but suggests that reflection on the mystery of a love that is beyond the everyday may be a route to transformative encounters on the spiritual journey.