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The Scalpel and the Soul: Encounters with Surgery, the Supernatural, and the Healing Power of Hope

4.05  ·  Rating Details  ·  332 Ratings  ·  59 Reviews
A Harvard-educated neurosurgeon reveals his experiences-in and out of the operating room-with apparitions, angels, exorcism, and after-death survival, and shares the lessons he learned.

A young burn victim remains in a coma until a ghost appears.
A doctor discovers he can predict when a patient will die.
A clinically dead patient later recounts extraordinary details about
Hardcover, 254 pages
Published March 13th 2008 by Tarcher (first published January 1st 2008)
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Community Reviews

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Jul 02, 2011 Trina rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
What a great premise! What a terrible disappointment. I hate it when a book writes like it's saying something totally earth shattering when it's really just watered down personal stories. I kept waiting for this book to kick in but it never did; too bad really. I made it through just over half. My roommate that actually bought the book didn't even make it that far.
Jul 20, 2011 Karen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I just finished "Heaven Is For Real" and the friend I borrowed it from gave me this book to read. Sooo interesting to read a neurosurgeon's comments about spiritual and unexplained happenings in his career and in his life.
Noran Miss Pumkin
Oct 15, 2009 Noran Miss Pumkin rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: no one
Recommended to Noran by: Border's
The doctor offers little in ways of stories to support his intriguing title! His ego spreads an auto bigraphy piece meal throughout the book, without any flow, or connections. He is a poor boy working dog kennels with a vet, then next we find him at Harvard Med school?!?! How?!? Never told. His back is injured from a fall during Desert Storm, where he was a doctor--how did he fall? Never told! Now these would have made the Boi part more interesting. Then suddenly one chaprter--he is a mountain c ...more
Apr 11, 2009 Darce rated it it was ok
I liked the premise of this book better than the book itself. Although I give Dr. Hamilton credit for his unvarnished storytelling (unapologetically referring to a pediatric burn unit as "Crispy Critters" or a toddler with hydrocephalus as a "pumpkin head"), it wasn't until the epilogue, when he wrote about how his own experience as a surgical patient left him physically unable to continue practicing neurosurgery that I felt any sense of connection to him. And just in case the reader missed the ...more
Lynn Sneyd
Apr 24, 2009 Lynn Sneyd rated it it was amazing
I started reading this book while having breakfast at a restaurant. I don't know how much coffee I consumed, but it had to have been quite a bit, because I couldn't put the book down. The stories that Dr. Hamilton, a Harvard- trained neurosurgeon, shares about his patients and his experiences with them touch your heart, your soul, and that inherent well-spring of hope we all have. This is a physician who has learned from his patients the significance of spirituality in health and in healing. Any ...more
Kathryn Vessel
Jun 18, 2014 Kathryn Vessel rated it really liked it
Good observations, though it gets a little preachy at times. I'm not sure if I was convinced by the book, but I defiantly enjoyed reading about all the different cases and pondering the existence of the soul.
Trudy Jaskela
Apr 16, 2015 Trudy Jaskela rated it it was amazing
Powerful book about lessons learned by a neurosurgeon and his patients. Book is a series of very interesting stories of patients' and the neurosurgeon's experiences with the spiritual dimension and with hope.
I love the quote in page 125 "The mind is the greatest secret of all medicine. You cannot heal if you cannot feel. Healing isn't from the brain but the soul. You've got to look for it in the right places with the correct attitude".

Other quote I love and hope to be brave enough to practice
Apr 07, 2011 Felisha rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a great read. I really enjoyed it and recommend it to anyone.
Mary Mahaney
Jan 02, 2013 Mary Mahaney rated it really liked it
reinforces my belief on the compatibility of science and spirituality
Camille Cusumano
Dec 01, 2012 Camille Cusumano rated it really liked it
This book is a fast-paced read. I recommend Hamilton's memoir to those reviewers who seem to not like memoirs that are too revealing about the author.* Hamilton tells a little about himself but each chapter is about his encounter with one of his patients, some of them heartbreakingly sad (burn victims, brain tumors). But also Hamilton is that rare physician who sees beyond the physical world and he embraces the unexplained miracles and metaphysical experiences. The book is hopeful and yet unsent ...more
May 23, 2008 Sheryl rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Everyone with an open mind
My, my. What a good read this was. I finished the book in 2 days which is unusual for me. Dr Hamilton writes in a very personal way which feels authentic and heart felt. The stories he tells in the book are fascinating and thought-provoking.
The last story in the book is about a woman who received surgery under his hand for a brain aneurysm. For this type of surgery, the body is cooled to stop physiological processes for a period of time. During this time, when the brain showed no sign of electr
Kate Coombs
Jul 28, 2009 Kate Coombs rated it it was amazing
I don't read a lot of nonfiction, but I'm on vacation at my mom's house, and she said, "You should read this, it's really good." I started reading and couldn't put the book down, an experience all of you readers know very well. The Scalpel and the Soul is by a neurosurgeon who tells stories about how he got into medicine and about his patients, especially spiritual/supernatural experiences. These encounters have contributed to shaping the doctor's own spirituality and world view.

Hamilton has a s
Mar 15, 2011 Stephanie rated it it was ok
Neurosurgeons generally have strong egos and aim to be quite fearless, when it comes to technical, intellectual and physical challenges, giving people the impression that they are supermen and superwomen. This book was written by a brain surgeon and former department chairman who became a patient left disabled after several spinal injuries and debilitating surgery. That experience possibly solidified his understanding of what it means to be on the other side of the knife, what the impact is of t ...more
Rudy Dyck
Dec 19, 2014 Rudy Dyck rated it it was amazing
Great book. Some really cool stories, many of which cannot be explained by science (and some may never be). Heart wrenching tragic deaths also fill some of the pages so this isn't a Happy Endings book. Very pleased with the purchase.

Jun 21, 2009 Mike rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
This is a very well written book, full of great real-life surgical stories that get you in touch with what the patient and the surgeon go through on a very personal level. Written with honesty, passion, and deep reflection, it keeps you interested with enough details about each surgical procedure and disease, experiences of the patients and their loved ones, and some amazing encounters with the supernatural. I read this book in just a few sittings, it really grew on me, so if the title is at all ...more
Apr 23, 2012 Eileen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I look forward to attending one of Dr. Hamilton's presentations.

I have been a nurse involved in operating rooms for over 40 years and am always humbled by the trust that patients place in the hands of the operating room team. I believe most physicians know that the healing experience is between the patient, their family and their spiritual connections.

The 'take-away' from this book is his "Twelve Rules to Live By"...we would all do well to copy them and keep them available for reference during t
Rebecca Bauer
Mar 28, 2013 Rebecca Bauer rated it it was amazing
One of my favorite lines, "The mind is the greatest secret in all of medicine. John's great shamanic gift was this: You cannot heal if you cannot feel. Healing isn't from the brain but the soul. You've got to look for it in the right places, armed with the correct attitude. Without impeccability, there is no healing power." Nice storytelling and account of his earlier years as an intern - if you can handle the descriptions of seeing the worst. Incredible what Dr. Hamilton has done throughout his ...more
Sep 10, 2009 Arbella2 rated it really liked it
This was a quick read. The author shares stories about many of his brain surgery patients, and how his experiences with those patients deepened his spirituality. He also describes personal health issues that eventually made it impossible for him to continue as a surgeon, and what he did to "retool" for the next phase of his life. He is a thoughtful and open-minded man, which added to the pleasure experienced in reading his stories.
Barbara P
Aug 10, 2009 Barbara P rated it it was amazing
The author is from Tucson and I had heard him at an Integrative Medicine patient conference. Then we heard him speak, after reading the book, at a church in Tucson. How wonderful for a noted surgeon to write a book, stories about the spiritual/even mystical happenings in his life with his patients. The book left me with much hope and a reminder to always keep an open mind about metaphysical happenings.
May 30, 2012 Christine rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this book. Sure, he is clearly a physician and not a writer, and so considering writes aptly enough. But the stories are what carry the book - and the hope that they do provide of something greater than us - of God truly working and supernatural things really existing. I already believed that; it's nice to have someone in the medical field implying it.
Feb 19, 2013 Laura rated it it was amazing
What an amazing book; I am so glad I found it. If you aren't a Christian, or in the medical field; read it anyway! All of us will be in the hospital at some point. The insight into what our souls, and therefore our essence is though-provoking and eye-opening.

While I may let friends and family read this book, it's one that will stay on my bookshelves for a long time to come.
Lisa Knapp
Jul 29, 2015 Lisa Knapp rated it really liked it
This was an interesting book written by an amazing neurosurgeon. It was very depressing at times and I had to step away from it, but in the end it was a very enlightening book. It makes you wonder what exists beyond just what we can see with our eyes. It left me with a good feeling and I would recommend it to anyone in the medical profession especially.
Jun 22, 2009 Tonya rated it really liked it
Since this book was in the New Age section I expectied spectacular stories of the supernatural. Instead the "supernatural" was usually more subtle. This did not make the stories any less important in the greater scheme of things. This book posed questions like why the good die and do superstitions have a place in the modern world.
Mar 30, 2008 Katie rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Everyone
Recommended to Katie by: Radio interview
A good read about a neurosurgeon's life and his stories that he shares about his patients and ups and downs that he has encountered throughout his practice. I really liked his last chapter which states his "rules" about taking charge of your life as a patient or a loved one of a patient going through major health issues.
Jul 22, 2008 Melissa rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Melissa by: I heard an interview with the author on NPR
This book is an extraordinary mix of medical science and the unexplained. Some of the stories are heartbreaking...many are inspiring. The most intriguing was of a woman who was clinically dead during a surgery who when she awoke recounted conversations that the OR personnel had during the operation.
Jul 21, 2008 William rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2008
A surprising page-turner from a surgeon whose tales of alternative and integrative moments in medicine -- along with his many experiences with inexplicable events -- are fascinating. Besides, this man appears so open and honest that the reader can't help but to sympathize with him and enjoy his narrative.
Dec 21, 2010 Brian rated it it was ok
Dr. Hamilton summed up everything you need to know about this book at the end of chapter 2: "That's how it is with superstition. I choose to believe."
I have enormous respect for Allan, and his gift of storytelling is mesmerizing, but I simply cannot follow him in his choice...
Mar 12, 2011 Tao rated it really liked it
This was a rather sad book about a neurologist telling his stories. When the successes in your field are that you made someone live for 5 more years you know it's a hard career path. This book was bittersweet and it has the potential to hit hard. It was hard to put down.
Jun 17, 2010 Amanda rated it liked it
Interesting book, with lots to think about. I am a true believer in the power of the placebo, and the mind/body connection. The book would have been much better if it was non-fiction, as I like knowing exactly what happened over reading an amalgamation of stories.
Jan 17, 2009 Diana rated it it was ok
This was interesting, but seemed somewhat naive for a neurosurgeon. I guess I'm a skeptic...I atribbute the "amazing" to our lack of knowledge and understanding. That said, I think the human body and mind are VERY amazing, even without miracles or magic.
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“No one accomplishes anything in this life on his or her own. Even when we stare in awe at what might appear to be a solitary feat - like climbing to the top of a mountain alone - there is invisible support. There are loved ones at home who cherish the adventure. A mentor to teach. A colleague with whom the experience can be shared. And unseen magic too.” 3 likes
“Death is not an end. It is a new beginning. It entails a magnificent reunion with God and all the wonderful souls that we've ever loved or will love. This is our destination when we pass over. Dying is not the end but rather s shift to a fresh form of life, a new and glorious manifestation of ourselves.” 2 likes
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