Monday, August 9, 2010

The Third Man Factor: Surviving the Impossible

Book Club... And Then Some!

The Third Man Factor: Surviving the Impossible         

by John Geiger

Book Review by
Richard L. Weaver II, Ph.D.
There are 24 pages of notes in support of this 297-page book; however, as one reviewer noted, “I’ve never read a book that gave the source but ignored adding page numbers.  It’s a basic tradition of scholarship.  Give exact details so readers can confirm the source.  Readers who want to verify a quote from ‘Varieties of Religious Experience,’ for example, might need an hour or more to find the context; a considerate scholar will give the page and so guide readers in an instant.” 

Now, you have to understand as you begin reading these awesome, awe-inspiring stories, that even when people demonstrate a sheer determination to endure in life-and-death circumstances, whether it is the author’s interpretation or that of the survivor, the interpretation will be that “a faith in one’s ultimate survival, seen in so many of the cases in this book, is the power of the savior.”  I have always wondered why it is that people who begin with faith and pray mightily for their own survival in such circumstances end up dying?  We hear that faith creates survivors, but just as likely in life-and-death circumstances, faith can result in death.  Aren’t the odds 50-50 anyway?  And if the odds are 50-50 (do we have any proof otherwise?), then what is the true value of prayer?  Does it make you feel better?  More confident?  More secure?  More assured?  More courageous?  Or, does it simply buoy the spirits with hope and inspiration?  I’m not denying its value, but it doesn’t change the odds.

Whether you are a believer or not, the stories collected by Geiger are amazing.  For example, he begins with a story of a man who was trapped in the south tower of the World Trade Center on the morning of the 9/11 attacks who followed a “voice” and a “presence” who led him through smoke and fire to safety.  He was the last person to get out alive on that day.  (My assumption, of course, is that all of the others who did not get out alive were either those of no faith, little faith, or not the right faith.)

One reviewer of the book wrote, “The author doesn’t make any assertions as to what the third man actually might be, but after doing an in-depth study of other literature . . . and doing the practice of listening to the ‘still small voice,’ I now know that this is none other than our divine higher self—the god of us—in action . . . It is omniscient and will manifest itself whenever our normal human nature gets out of the way.”  For many, “normal human nature”—and the knowledge of science—will always interfere.  But that doesn’t change the odds in any way.

There is no doubt that “the book reads like a collection of anecdotes,” as one reviewer noted, and it can become tiring.  Nonetheless, that does not deny the impact of the stories.  This is an entertaining collection by a talented writer, and if you can be (or are) moved by messages of hope, then this is a great selection.


This book is available from The Third Man Factor: Surviving the Impossible

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