Courageous Souls: Do We Plan Our Life Challenges Before Birth?
By Robert Schwartz
Paperback: 327 pages
Publisher: Whispering Winds Press; 2nd edition (December 16, 2006)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0977679454
ISBN-13: 978-0977679454

When writing a review, it is necessary to be critical. If most reviewers are honest, this means that they may, sometimes, have to be brutal in their criticism; it might be necessary to find some fault with the book they’re reviewing. However, with Courageous Souls, this was no easy task as the book is, in my opinion, without a flaw. Let’s start with the design on the jacket of the book. What is featured is a beautiful sunset scene by the beach. Only, the sun has been substituted with a picture of Earth; this landscape serves only to emphasise the prevailing sense of calm when reading the book.

What, indeed, is Courageous Souls about? A non-fiction piece of work, the author has provided an answer to this question on the cover of the book by stating the following:
So often, when something “bad” happens, it may appear to be meaningless suffering. But what if your most difficult experiences are actually rich with hidden purpose-purpose that you yourself planned before you were born? Could it be that you chose your life’s circumstances, relationships, and events?
Within these pages are stories of ten individuals who-like you-planned before birth to experience great challenges. Working with four gifted mediums and channels, author Robert Schwartz discovers what they chose – and why. He presents actual pre-birth planning sessions in which souls discuss their hopes for their upcoming lifetimes. In so doing he opens a window to the other side where we, as eternal beings, design both our trials and our potential triumphs.
This is not the only question to which the author has provided a substantial answer. You see, in the Preface of the book, the author explains how he came to ‘… make a contribution to the world that would be “uniquely…”’ his. Mr. Schwartz’s journey into the adventure of writing this book begins in May 2003 when he had an experience which had a profound effect on him. Thereafter, he engaged in intense study, inner explanations, consultations with experts and indeed, personal experience in what became the subject matter of Courageous Souls. The Preface ends with the desire of the author that we, as his readers, recognise the tremendous courage we show all the time when we reaffirm our decision to embrace and learn from our challenges. He adds that with that recognition, we will find our souls.
The next thing on my mind was the manner of presentation of the work. For instance, during the many sessions with the mediums, I wondered how the souls managed to speak so eloquently all the time. They never made mistakes, and indeed, they seemed so ‘in-tune’ with our modern lingo. I must admit that in this I was influenced somewhat by the works of other writers in this genre like the writings of Edgar Cayce and so on. The language in those books can sometimes be very ‘serious’ to the point where incomprehension sets in. I expected the same thing to happen here. And yet, in Courageous Souls, the language employed is fluent and easy, which made me wonder whether there had been some sort of ‘tampering’ with what was said. Anticipating such a query, Mr. Schwartz has been at pains to point out, in the chapter entitled ‘Introduction’, that, ‘Both the personal interviews and the readings with the mediums were edited for clarity; syntax was amended to enhance readability.’
When I wondered about just why Mr. Schwartz wrote this book at all, I find he says this: ‘My purpose in writing this book is not to persuade you of the absolute reality of pre-birth planning, but rather to offer, in a spirit of helpfulness, an idea that has been profoundly helpful to me.’
Mr. Schwartz explains that his interviewees have been categorised under six different chapters of Physical Illness, Parenting Handicapped Children, Deafness and Blindness, Drug Addiction and Alcoholism, Death of a Loved One and Accidents. In each of these chapters, the stories, conversations with souls, guides and their mediums is discussed in detail. However, the illnesses chosen are ones like AIDS, cancer and even the planting of a bomb. This careful selection of topics to concentrate on makes this an extremely topical book.
Dig deeper and one finds that Mr. Schwartz has tackled other issues which are far more intense. To do justice to the deep and meaningful lessons in this book, it is vital to highlight some of these very lessons.
For example, it has been a long held belief in many eastern schools of philosophy that everything is energy in some form or other. Page 42 of Courageous Souls states:

“All incarnations in your realm,” answered the angel, “are designed to move across the baser levels of darkness. There is a vibration of hatred. The vibration of separation from God, the vibration of nonacceptance, the vibration of fear – these things all exist there as hidden levels of a frequency we would equate to sound. It has an effect on human bodies that is unbeknownst, unseen, not measurable. …”

There is also useful advice from Sharon, who had to come to terms with her son’s drug addiction; on page 155 she says, “I have a lot of perspective now. The big thing I’ve learned is that I can’t control Tony’s behavior. I can support the positive. I can not enable him. I can’t control him. I can only control how I respond to him.”
Have you heard the saying ‘Laughter is the best medicine’? Well, now, Courageous Souls provides an explanation of just why this is so:

Laughter is very healing. It starts a cascade of hormones that wash over the body, wash out toxins, and promote circulation of fluids. Does it alter DNA? It prevents the toxic alteration of DNA. It is more of a preventive maintenance than an altering. There are times when people like cancer patients can engage in laughter therapy to heal on a cellular level, but it does not in and of itself produce changes on the DNA strand. It enables the body to function more positively and in harmonic resonance to itself.”

And, indeed, on page 46, Courageous Souls advises, “When we close our hearts, we block energies – primarily the energy of love – from healing us. For this reason, the emotional hardening of the heart leads to its physical hardening.”
For those who find themselves judging others, here are some words of wisdom, which can be gleaned from page 173:

… Judgments are thoughts, and thoughts are living, moving energy. Because energy attracts like energy, judgment attracts judgmental people. The world is a mirror in which we glimpse ourselves. If there are judgmental people around us, it may be that life is asking us to examine our own willingness or tendency to judge. … Nothing is done, nothing is said, nothing is thought that does not create a ripple effect.

If you’re suffering from a marital breakup, Mr. Schwartz says, “In the course of my research, I have found that we generally know before birth whether a marriage will last. Divorce is not failure; rather it is part of our plan. We intend to come together in marriage to teach and learn from each other and to balance karma. When this growth is accomplished, the marriage has served its divine purpose.”
The story of Pat was one I enjoyed reading very much and again, the author put into words my very thoughts when he said,

“As I listened to Pat speak, I thought of the many people who are criticized by their friends and family either for choosing an alcoholic partner or for remaining with that person over a long period of time. Such decisions are often viewed as unwise, indicative of a lack of self-esteem, perhaps even self-punishing. … What was really transpiring between these two souls was something far more beautiful than most would ever imagine. … What some would brand as weakness or retreat is actually a full, unflinching embrace of one of the greatest challenges a soul can plan.

If you’re suffering because someone close to you has passed away, then take heart for on page 245, it is stated, “For you who feel you caused or should have prevented another’s death, know this: no one dies without consent. Therein rests your self-forgiveness. Therein lies your peace.”
Sometimes, in books where there is a segregation of topics, one finds that after a full discussion about topic A, the author goes on to topic B and never again mentions topic A. For me, the fact that Mr. Schwartz made links between chapters and this only goes to make the entire tale a complete and organic whole. The stories of the subjects were not told just by regurgitating fact after fact. The author put in his own thoughts, views and impressions of the people he was talking to. Through his words, I knew things like the fact that Pat had a sense of humour and Christina had unparalleled courage. The description of the story which brought tears to my eyes was the story of Valerie who lost her son.
When I came to the end of the book, I was sad that my sojourn into another world had ended but was mightily pleased to note that Mr. Schwartz is working on another book of this nature. I look forward to reading it when it’s complete. In the meantime, while I would certainly offer this book as a gift to someone, I would never part with my copy of this book. I’d buy another and certainly recommend readers of this review to do the same.
In closing, perhaps it is best to quote from the book, yet again.

‘…If we choose to incarnate in the current epoch – one that nonphysical beings sometimes refer to as the Age of Reason because of its emphasis on mental processes – we may lose touch temporarily with out hearts as we immerse ourselves in our intellect. In short, we explore who we are not. Because painful life challenges can be genuinely understood – and healed – only by the heart, they force us to shift from analyzing to feeling. No longer exalted on a throne, the mind now serves the heart that was once subservient to it. … Life challenges bring us to that love, showing us that it lives within, reflecting to us that we are the great loves of our lives.’

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