“The Divine Life Of Animals:One Man’s Quest To Discover Whether The Souls Of Animals Live On”

By Ptolemy Tompkins. Crown Publishers. $22.99.

From Eastern to Western culture and from a black bear to a feisty rabbit, Ptolemy Tompkins leaves no stone unturned in a quest to give new meaning to the spiritual role pets play in our everyday lives. In the process, he offers hope we may see them again in heaven and on earth in a dream state. 

The author probes and interprets the published views of religious authorities, philosophers and animal behaviorists, seasoning those with warm, moving anecdotes involving himself and others, surrounding the animal soul.

You’ll meet Angus, a Netherlands dwarf bunny, which a 24-year-old Tompkins adopted “on a whim,” and eventually, upon its death, prompted him to ask: Do animals have souls? Are animal and human souls the same, or are they different?

And he summarizes the special bonding of a black bear called Little Bit with the authors of “Summers With Bears,” Jack Becklund and his wife Patti, at their house in Minnesota woods. 

“She (Little Bit) became one of those remarkable dual creatures that one so often reads about in animal books: one that, while completely retaining her membership in the wild world out beyond the human community, becomes an honorable member of the human world as well,” says Tompkins.

A profound passage from “Bears” is featured, after Patti received word her father had died of cancer in California, minutes before Jack returned from a walk to see her sobbing with her arms wrapped around Little Bit’s neck. “She sat quietly with the bear for another half minute, then Little Bit leaned her massive head against Patti’s. I knew she understood nothing what was going on, but she felt something and responded. It was a magic moment in a time of grief and one I will never forget.”

Tompkins seasons special modern-day anecdotal accounts while examining historical writings in a deep-rooted attempt to determine how man has viewed the animal soul through the ages. This far-ranging kaleidoscope ranges from Judeo-Christian perspectives to Greek philosophy, Islam and Far East religions. 

A warning: Through the process, the reader must stay clearly focused, for Tompkins’ refreshing narrative moves quickly while deftly dissecting others’ mindsets if animals have souls.

Animals need us, just as we need them, Tompkins believes, and those needs have been altered dramatically by cultural change. “The more estranged people became,” he says, “from the natural world beyond the borders of civilization, the more important pets became for them. Animal companions were no longer diverting or comforting. They were necessary.”

Will we meet the special four-legged friends from our earth’s journey some day again across that celestial Rainbow Bridge? Tompkins’ skillfully balanced work offers plenty of hope we just might