Information on the book:

Book Review published in the Pretoria News 2001/06/05



Mammoth work of research


Dynamics of Spiritual Development Vol 2 of Old and New Evidence of Life: The Mystical World-view and Inner Contest by JHM Whiteman (Colin Smythe Limited)


I can only begin to imagine what a difficult task reviewers must have had when they had first to review the monumental works of Charles Darwin and Siegmund Freud when they first developed their theories on Evolution and Psycho-Analysis.


How do you review an amazing work by Professor JHM Whiteman, consisting of more than 600 pages, in a few paragraphs? It is a mammoth work, which requires an in-depth study by experts in the field of psychiatry, psychology, mysticism, criminology, law and religion.


He covers matters such as inner contests, personality structure, mystical release, psychopathology and psychical powers which includes an autobiographical account of his seven months’ mystical initiatory experience, bisexuality and female sexuality in all aspects.


What will also be of particular interest to the average reader and the media researcher is his gripping psychological analysis of two bizarre causes célèbres, the one being that of Marlene Lehnberg of the so-called Scissors Murder in which it was reported that she paid a 33 year old coloured man Marthinus Choegoe to murder her estranged married lover, Christian van der Linde’s wife.


She was found guilty and received the death sentence. Her sentence was later revised to that of a 20 years imprisonment. Marlene was recently released from prison.


Whiteman has made a most penetrating study of this trial and Marlene’s state of mind. According to him it would have been a travesty of justice if she had been executed.


It is not possible in this review to provide his reasons, but it would be a fascinating study for any enterprising journalist to investigate Whiteman’s views and make it widely known.


Briefly, Whiteman points out that the failure to consider the possibility of an episode, psychotic in character, was perhaps in part due to the Mental Health Act of South Africa not envisaging any such thing.


His investigation tries to fill in the whole picture with the help of firstly, a large quantity of highly relevant information which emerged after the trial and hearing of appeal, an secondly, a variety of crucial important findings in the rapidly developing research fields of pathological states of consciousness, drug influence and female psychology.


Whiteman has widely published contributions relating to spiritual development, psychology, and mystical or otherwise scientific matters.


He taught in the Department of Applied Mathematics at the University of Cape Town for 29 years (principally Relativity, Quantum theory and related subjects


He has also conducted classes in Sanskrit.


His previous books are: The Mystical Life (1961); Philosophy of Space and Time (1967); The Meaning of Life Vol 1 (1986) and Aphorisms on Spiritual Method (1993)


Cyrus Smith


The Dynamics of Spiritual Development

Volume 2: Old and New evidence on The Meaning of Life. (hard cover 624 pages)

Author J H M Whiteman

ISBN 0-86140-277-4


Spirituality Systematically Expounded


A sure sign of what many people’s feelings of insecurity and threat in a world that is experienced as chaotic and meaningless in the flight to the spiritual and mystical domain. Testimony to that is the multitude of new books published on a great variety of spiritual topics and the increasing popularity of writers and charismatic speakers such as Deepak Chopra

(Ageless Body, Timeless Mind; the Seven Laws of Spiritual Success) and Gary Zukav (The Seat of the Soul, and Soul Stories)


Most of such publications are aimed at the popular market and are characterised by an attractively random collection of esoteric ideas, terms and principles which are offered as therapy for the recovery of harmony of body, soul and spirit, and for healing peoples feelings of inner emptiness and loss of vital meaning. These writings are usually easy to read, but they often leave one with a feeling of unease about such things as oversimplification, all to easy solutions, and the impression that the content is often a case of “old wine in new bottles”.


Whiteman’s book also has the aim to assist spiritual development in troubled people, with the difference that his approach can be considered a systematic theory of spiritual development.


As an established author of spiritual, mystical and psychological publications as well as scientific work on the Theory of Relativity and Quantum Physics, this former teacher of Applied Mathematics and Sanskrit sets forth his ideas step by step and explains how they hang together in a hierarchy of significant ideas.


Thus, for example, by way of introduction he shows how common ideas such as stress, pain, suffering, faith, obedience and wisdom often have “counterfeit” or ‘false” meanings. That prevents their higher-level meanings, with their spiritual and mystical implications, from coming to one’s conscientiousness, and so leads to spiritual poverty. He therefore gives specific spiritual significance to such every day ideas, and at the same time points to places where  these higher meanings are found historically. In the process he spreads the interdiciplinary net widely over Christian, Buddhist and other Eastern spiritual principles, psychological ideas, and even aesthetics, so as to bring them reconcilably into a uniform pattern.


On the basis of these well- defined concepts Whiteman then maps the spiritual “plan to which humanity is called and the kind of equipment which each person has for giving expression to his/her own unique plan for life. In this process various adjustments are made, for example, over the spiritual reconstruction of so-called behaviour disorders and the sexuality of a woman in relation to that of a man.


Just because Whiteman goes to work so systematically, it is not an easily accessible book, such as can be read curious or with sleepy eyes. The reader must indeed keep his wits about him in order to follow the argument everywhere; but on the whole it can be a challenging experience for readers who want to read something more solid about spirituality and the mystical.


(Reviewer) Wilhelm Jordaan, Professor of Psychology at Pretoria University .

The dynamics of spiritual development  



There is a pressing need for work on the dynamics of spiritual development – that is for work designed to identify the stages through which such development passes, and the practices of most value at each stage.  However, such work requires someone who is not only an advanced practitioner him or herself, but who is knowledgeable in the wisdom traditions of both East and West, in modern science, in Western psychology, in psychical research, and in philosophy.  Among modern scholars Ken Wilber, Michael Murphy and of course Professor Michael Whiteman are three of the small number with these credentials, and Professor Whiteman’s latest book (Volume 2 in his series on Old and New Evidence on the Meaning of Life) may well become something of a classic.


* * * * *

Whiteman’s book is a whole library in a single volume.  After reading it one can return to it again and again, browsing through it in the way one browses along library shelves, always finding something new, always learning something more, and in the process invariably finding oneself caught up in the curios time-warp where hours pass like minutes.


* * * * *

In conclusion, I have to confess that no review can do justice to this masterpiece of a book.  It distils the wisdom not only of relevant areas of the great traditions but of Whiteman’s own long and extraordinary life (he is half-way through his ninth decade, with a mental clarity that inspires and humbles the reader).  He is a man who has always walked in two dimensions, the material world and the psycho-spiritual world, and he illumines our knowledge of both.  A sage of our time, the overall impression on reading him is one of overwhelming gratitude that the human mind can not only encompass these dimensions but can render them comprehensible to others.  Clearly, Whiteman pays us the compliment of believing that we can have the same access to these dimensions.  And if the daunting amount of work and the driving dedication involved proves too much for us, Whiteman would doubtless remind us that once we recognise that our individual minds are indeed ‘not located or sealed off in our physical bodies”, we have already entered upon the path.

I congratulate the publishers on their courage in bringing out such a weighty tome on what many (wrongly) will see as a purely esoteric subject.  Similarly Professor John Poynton, to whom Michael Whiteman pays a handsome tribute in his Acknowledgements, deserves thanks for all he has done to make this and Whiteman’s previous books available to us.

David Fontana is Distinguished Visiting Fellow at Cardiff University and Professor of Transpersonal Psychology at Liverpool John Moores University.


Network No 77 December 2001,


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