Strong Woman: Unshrouding the Secrets of the Soul
M. Sue Benford
P.O. Box 292231, Nashville, TN 37229-2231
Strong Woman: Unshrouding the Secrets of the Soul
M. Sue Benford
P.O. Box 292231, Nashville, TN 37229-2231
Sue Benford is a remarkable woman who has had a remarkable life. Furthermore, she deals today with remarkable subjects in quite remarkable ways. Strong Woman: Unshrouding the Secrets of the Soul is her autobiographical, or rather autospiritugraphical, account of her life and current mission. Reader be warned, this one is a doozy. In fact, it is such a doozy that it took me quite a while to decide if I should even write this review. Basically, we're talking about a woman who believes she communicates with God and Jesus and his disciples -- via voices (maybe supplemented by prayers and dreams) -- and of course their current incarnations on earth. Now, I am a long time lover of all things and all subjects, have studied philosophy and religions worldwide quite extensively, so have no problem with "religion" per se. I study and review books all the time on just about any topic. But there are those books that make you laugh or shake your head, like wild anal-probing UFO abductees, Atlantis rediscovered in the author's backyard because he is the reincarnation of its last high priest, or the New Agers with their reencarnated or Mu, Egyptian, Atlantean, etc. shaman power of the month club. Very much a part of the New Age movement is the neo-evangelical and neo-Southern Baptist-style books on angels, Christ, hearing voices and talking in tongues, demonic possession, and the bestselling yet never occurring endtime apocalypse, all of which seem so en vogue in certain parts of America today. Hey whatever floats your boat, but usually with the bulk of this junk I simply don't waste time reviewing it. A lot of it really is too psychotic or poorly written to warrant a review. But I digress, so we return to Mrs. Benford. And her voices.
Yes, the things she says and promotes are at times wild and utterly unbelievable. However, there is a difference. She was a skeptic and self-proclaimed unbeliever in the mystical and in God, and now adamantly believes in what she is saying, clearly states it, and attempts to seriously back up everything she claims not just with logic but with science (which already excludes about 90% of the usual New Age crap). Furthermore, from a literary standpoint, she writes extremely well, with lucid, interesting, and even exciting prose. To be blunt, she can tell a story. She thereby lifts herself out of the herd and into a very unique position. Her work is a joy to read, professionally presented, and just profound enough to make you pause and consider it on its merits. This is utterly unlike most of the books along similar topics I have read (usually with characters/powers/dieties that have mishmash names and powers, most likely derived derived from pulp era impressions of "lost civilizations" like Mayans or Incans or Egyptians). It is also the reason I write this review. Her work is profound and intriguing and deserves a review, despite the "wildness" of her claims.
There are two distinct parts of this book. One, the biography. This is interesting and rather profound. She has had a hard, dramatic life with disfiguring and life-threatening illness. She has also accomplished things beyond the norm, such as defying medicine and odds to become a three-time World Powerlifting Champion who set all the world records in her weight class. Strong woman indeed! That in and off itself could have been a book or movie. Secondly, there is her mysticism and interest in mysticism. Now, if she just heard voices and thought she was in touch with God, um, well, whatever. But she questions and acts. She investigates. She has accomplished a few major discoveries in the science of the metaphysical, especially dealing with the Shroud of Turin. She is the lady who validly questioned and proved scientific discrepancies in the dating of the shroud, despite not being a scientist. She has done much more work in this area, some of which is detailed in this book, including an intriguing section on the potential of what she calls QuantaGraphs better known as DelaWarr images. There are some fascinating theories and scientific queries occurring here. One wonders if they would get more attention and merit if hey were shrouded in "voices." But, she claims this is how her ideas arise, so who are we to judge. She seems to be telling the truth.
I realize this book is a spiritual growth guidebook and a chronicle of someone's spiritual awakening. However, I feel it could have equally been a biography or a book of scientific inquiry. This is both a testament of her writing ability, and a statement on how fragmented or diverse is the point of the book. It seems to try to capture the entire spectrum, instead of being one color. Is that a strength or a weakness? I don't know. At least she pulls no punches, makes no apologies, speaks up loudly and stands up to the world for what she believes in. That makes her a strong woman in every sense of the word. Bottom line, she has written a very fascinating, very unique book here. It'll have something for everyone and something to chase everyone away too. But hey, when you unshroud a soul, you reveal a maelstrom, now don't you? Definitely worth a read for any number of reasons.
Review from Journal of Religion and Psychical Research, v26, number 4 (October 2003), pp. 230-231.
STRONG WOMAN: UNSHROUDING THE SECRETS OF THE SOUL by M. Sue Benford; Foreword by Gregg Braden; Source Books, Inc., P.O. Box 292231, Nashville, TN 37229-2231; ISBN: 0-9665312-2-1; Library of Congress Catalogue Card Number: 2002095870, Copyright 2002, 243 pages, $17.95.
Although I have never met Sue Benford in person, I have met her through e-mails and the telephone several times over the last few years, and I have known her research as a result of having published several of her articles in The Journal of Religion and Psychical Research that she wrote alone and in collaboration with Joseph Marino. Her work is of the highest quality, and although some of her findings could be considered controversial, the evidence she presented was well documented.
In Strong Woman, I see reaffirmation of her research potential but also other sides of this incredible woman of which I was never aware. First of all, this book is very well written. The first two-thirds are in the style of a novel-like autobiography. We learn of Sue's crushing start in life, having been diagnosed with Wilm's tumor (a kidney cancer) when she was only five years old. Although at that time, the odds on survival were only 10%, Sue suffered through surgery, radiation and chemotherapy to come out a winner. However, in addition to the outward scars, Ms. Benford was left with a physical impairment that left the left side of her torso (ribcage to the hipbone) in such a condition that it remained the size of a five-year-old. When she was seven, another disaster befell her. Sue's mother attempted suicide. Although her mother recovered, this had a lasting impression on Sue. Another blow occurred years later, when Sue was a nurse. The traumatic death of one of her most loved young cancer patients was devastating to Ms. Benford.
Early in life Sue was neither religious nor spiritual. The numerous physical and psychological wounds did nothing to lead her to believe in God, religion or spirituality. However, Sue persisted in trying to improve herself physically. Even though she had become flabby (36% bodyfat) as the result of multiple abdominal surgeries and lack of exercise, she decided to attend an exercise class. Sue was married at the time a met a trainer who got her into powerlifting and later became her second husband. In spite of her small stature and injuries, Sue was able to overcome them and become a world-class powerlifter. In fact, she became the strongest woman in the world in her weight class. This mastery of powerlifting greatly impressed me since I, too, had been involved with competitive weightlifting in my youth. However, the only odds I had to overcome was being a skinny, weak youngster. After numerous beatings by a neighborhood bully, I began lifting and eventually became Captain of the CCNY weightlifting team that placed second in the nation in 1955. My best weightlifting feat was taking second place in the 165 pound weight class at the 1954 Eastern Intercollegiates. So I marvel at Sue Benford's weightlifting accomplishments with all that she had to go through.
To get back to Sue's life, things went on a downward spiral after her powerlifting accomplishments. Sue's married life with her trainer was far from smooth. They had two daughters, but her husband had had affairs, and this marriage also wound up in divorce. I do not want to give you the rest of the details about the life of Sue Benford.
Suffice it to say, that in spite of several more shattering events, she became a changed person because of her mystical, meditative encounters with Jesus Christ, the disciple, John, and the apostle, Paul. According to Sue's declarations, these encounters guided her in both private life encounters and research studies. Being a scientist, I cannot take these encounters as being scientifically documentable. I can only attest to the fact that the research studies described in the last one-third of the book are of the highest caliber. The reader can choose to believe or not believe that Sue Benford's research was guided by her mystical encounters with Jesus, John and Paul. However one may choose, Strong Woman: Unshrouding the Secrets of the Soul is excellent and certainly well worth reading both for its style of writing and fascinating content. I would also suggest that those individuals who want to understand how to given an excellent presentation of controversial religious and parapsychological issues should also read Sue Benford's recent research studies published in The Journal of Religion and Psychical Research. These include: "The Shroud of Turin: Bridge Between Heaven and Earth?" by Marino and Benford, 22(2): 95-105, April, 1999; "Rebirth, Resurrection, and the Millennium" by Marino and Benford 23(1): 17-26, January 2000; "In Pursuit of the Soul: Examining the Catharsis from Life to Afterlife" by Benford, 23(1): 27-38 January 2000; and "Can a Theory Derived From Recent Experimental Data Explain Precognition and Other Mystical Phenomena?", by Benford, 24(3): 132-141, July 2001.
Donald R. Morse, DDS, Ph.D.
1017 Cardinal Lane,
Cherry Hill, NJ 08003-2943
The following review appeared in Volume XXXIV, 2003, no. 1 issue, pp. 74-75 of Spiritual Frontiers and was written by the editor, Frank Tribbe.
STRONG WOMAN: Unshrouding the Secrets of the Soul. By M. Sue Benford. Nashville, TN: Source Books, 2002. 243 pages. $17.95, paper.
As a child Sue Benford survived cancer with multiple handicaps. Her inner strength propelled her through long and rigorous physical exercises which finally resulted in her becoming a three-time World Powerlifting Champion, and holder of all the World Records in the 97-pound weight class. Strong woman, indeed!
Subsequently, as a strong mystic-psychic, she has received messages throughout her life from Jesus, John and Paul. As a scientist researcher she became convinced of the legitimacy of the Shroud of Turin image and, with Shroud researcher Joseph G. Marino, has presented evidence at a world conference to clearly show why the carbon-dating claims of 1988 (re the age of the Shroud cloth) was a badly-flawed scientific fiasco. Recommended.