The Shape of the Soul: What Mystical Experience Tells Us About Ourselves and Reality


Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2019.

“When Paul Marshall began to pay attention to his dreams, he could not have anticipated the transformative experience that would follow. A tremendous expansion of consciousness exposed the insignificance of his everyday self but also revealed unsuspected depths of mind and hinted at a deeper self that holds the universe within.

In The Shape of the Soul, Marshall—now a mysticism scholar—draws on personal experiences, along with a wealth of religious, philosophical, and scientific ideas, to explore this deeper self, sometimes experienced in mystical and near-death states as spherical in form. Drawing inspiration from the philosophers Plotinus and Leibniz, Marshall takes mind to be more fundamental than matter and views the basic units of nature as perceptual beings. We ourselves are such beings, striving for fulfilment in a long evolutionary journey of soul-making.

Bringing together mysticism, philosophy, biology, and even some physics, The Shape of the Soul offers a deeply integrated vision of the self and the universe. Addressing the mind–body problem, the origin of the world, evolution, reincarnation, suffering, and the nature of God, Marshall delivers what will surely prove an intellectual classic.”

Publisher webpage

Reviewed by Jerome Gellman, The Journal of Religion, 2022 (102/1)

Reviewed by Jan-Olav Henriksen, Reading Religion website (December 2019)

Reviewed by Chris Hill, Fortean Times, FT 387 (Christmas 2019)

Reviewed by Ralph W. Hood Jr., ‘The Soul Divine’, Journal of Parapsychology, 2020 (84/2)

Reviewed by Martin Lockley, Paradigm Explorer (2019/2)

Mystical Encounters with the Natural World: Experiences and Explanations

mystical encounters with the natural world

Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005.

“Some experiences of the natural world bring a sense of unity, knowledge, self-transcendence, eternity, light, and love. This is the first detailed study of these intriguing phenomena. Paul Marshall explores the circumstances, characteristics, and after-effects of this important but relatively neglected type of mystical experience, and critiques explanations that range from the spiritual and metaphysical to the psychoanalytic, contextual, and neuropsychological. The theorists discussed include R. M. Bucke, Edward Carpenter, W. R. Inge, Evelyn Underhill, Rudolf Otto, Sigmund Freud, Aldous Huxley, R. C. Zaehner, W. T. Stace, Steven Katz, and Robert Forman, as well as contemporary neuroscientists. The book makes a significant contribution to current debates about the nature of mystical experience.”

Publisher webpage

Oxford Scholarship Online webpage

Google Books webpage

Reviewed by Matt Colborn, Journal of the Society for Psychical Research, July 2006 (70.3, No. 884)

Reviewed by Jeffrey J. Kripal, Religion, 2009 (29/1)

Reviewed by Peggy Morgan, BASR Bulletin, 2007 (No. 110)

Reviewed by Chris Nunn, Journal of Consciousness Studies, 2005 (12/12)

The Living Mirror: Images of Reality in Science and Mysticism

living mirror

London: Samphire Press, 1992 (revised edition 2006).

“How can human experience, vibrant with colours, sounds, flavours, emotions and meanings, arise from the skeletal dance of matter depicted in the physical sciences? Today the mind-body problem confronts not only metaphysicians and moral philosophers, but also workers in the fields of cognitive science, artificial intelligence and neuroscience. Paul Marshall offers a radical solution to the mind-body problem by rejecting the idea of a purely material world and asserting instead the primacy of experience. As many have recognized before, experience is not reducible to material bodies and processes alone. Marshall goes a step further and suggests that the matter investigated by modern science corresponds to structural features of an experiential universe that supports and includes our familiar experiences. Utilizing clues furnished by mystical experience and responding to a challenge posed by the physics of motion, Marshall takes up Leibniz’s philosophy of ‘living mirrors’ and arrives at a holistic world-picture that has suggestive links with quantum physics and the visionary cosmologies of East and West.”

Google Books webpage

Reviewed by Max Payne, Network Review, August 2000 (No. 73)

Reviewed by Mark Seelig, Journal of Consciousness Studies, 1998 (5/3)

Fortean Times, August – September 1994 (Issue 76)

Reviewed by John Turner, Northern Star, 3 June – 10 June 1993 (No. 789)

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