cover image The Left Hand of God: Biography of the Holy Spirit

The Left Hand of God: Biography of the Holy Spirit

Adolf Holl. Doubleday Books, $23.95 (368pp) ISBN 978-0-385-49284-3

Now that Jack Miles has written God's biography, it's only fitting that someone write a biography of the third person of the Christian Trinity, the Holy Spirit. Yet this is less a biography than an episodic novel. Holl (Jesus in Bad Company) traces the ""life"" of the Holy Spirit from the baptism of Jesus, which Holl calls the ""first decently reliable news about the intervention of a Holy Spirit,"" to the Spirit's dictation of the Koran to Muhammad and the influence of the Spirit on Freud, Jung, Rilke and Joyce. Holl ranges through an incredible body of literature and religious history as he chronicles the activity of the Holy Spirit. He also encourages readers to determine whether the reported activity is the work of a divine Spirit or simply the workings of the human mind. While Holl's ideas are certainly playful, this is a confusing book. He treats synonymously the Holy Spirit--a distinctly Christian phrase that has limited religious currency--and the Spirit, which he uses to refer to just about any quality of the human personality. Even though the book is eloquently written, and equally well translated, it simply fails to deliver what it promises. (Nov.)