Scientist in search of a spiritual higher power

Springfield author takes on the big questions of life

click to enlarge Buff Carmichael, left, and author Dan Punzak. - PHOTO BY BRANDON TURLEY
Photo by Brandon Turley
Buff Carmichael, left, and author Dan Punzak.

A Spiritual Hypothesis: An Inquiry into Abnormal and Paranormal Behavior, by Daniel Punzak. 809 pages. AuthorHouse, Bloomington, Indiana, 2017.

Throughout recorded history, scientific minds have considered religious people to be superstitious. At the same time, those with spiritual feelings have considered science to be somewhat heretical. Now, Daniel Punzak, a Springfield resident, has published a book that attempts to bridge that gap. Published in 2017 by AuthorHouse, of Bloomington, Indiana, A Spiritual Hypothesis has received far too little attention.

Author Dan Punzak is a graduate of Griffin High School (now SHG) and has a degree in chemical engineering from Carnegie Mellon University. He is retired from Illinois Environmental Protection Agency. His writing passion has no connection to his career, but he has been published in Journal of Near-Death Experiences (JNDS) and Vital Signs, the newsletter of the International Association of Near-Death Studies. He has attended numerous conferences on near-death experiences. In addition to his writing, he is active with Bridge Club of Springfield and recently won the super senior division Men's City Golf Tournament. He is widely traveled and returned from a trip to Egypt late last year.

In his 809-page book (not counting appendices), Punzak has documented the belief in a spirit within humans that may even connect with the spirits in others. In order to present his hypothesis, he's taken a scientific approach to what most would consider a religious topic. Using thorough research, many case histories, and material published by respected authorities, Punzak has produced an admirable amount of details indicating that something exists within people that is not physical.

The conclusion includes evidence from many countries, cultures and religious perspectives. Examples come from resources dating back centuries and also many of recent origin. Using case studies of near-death experiences, out-of-body experiences, psychological and psychiatric conditions, paranormal events and religious awakenings, he does a compelling job of convincing the reader that something spiritual exists within everyone, regardless of their religion, culture or education level.

Reports on Shamanism and other practices of indigenous people are included in his research. Documented psychic events, divinely inspired miracles, faith healing and unexplainable coincidences are presented as evidence of an internal spirit power. This may be known by many different names, including conscience, soul or the divine. The degree to which magic, paranormal events and intuition corresponds is considered.

The book concludes with an index, exhaustive case studies, appendices and well-documented references. An index of abbreviations and acronyms in the print edition is helpful. (If you choose an electronic version, you would do well to have a pad to keep up with them all.)

If you are a believer in a higher power, this book can strengthen that belief. If you do not accept a higher power, this book may give you reason to reconsider. It's not a quick read, but one well worth the time and effort.

Buff Carmichael is the former publisher of Prairie Flame, an LGBT newspaper. He is retired from Illinois Emergency Management Agency. Currently he is an activist for LGBT issues and a member of numerous human rights organizations. Both Punzak and Carmichael are members of the Sangamon Valley Chapter of Mensa.

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