A holistic exploration of spiritual and religious practices through a scientific lens.
In this slim but dense and well-reasoned book, biologist Sheldrake (Science Set Free: 10 Paths to New Discovery, 2012, etc.) delves into seven common spiritual practices and relates the many healthy and transformative effects that can be attributed to each. The author offers a unique perspective as a well-regarded scientist with a profoundly grounded spiritual awareness. In the preface, he shares his particular path to enlightenment, from the secular and atheistic stance of his early scientific education to his eventual spiritual awakening through early experience with transcendental meditation and eventual travel to India, as well as his study of Hindu philosophy and Christian mysticism. Through all his studies, he has come to realize that “the old-fashioned opposition between science and religion is a false dichotomy. Open-minded scientific studies enhance our understanding of spiritual and religious practices.” Sheldrake devotes separate chapters to meditation; the flow of gratitude; connecting with nature; relating to plants; rituals and their relation to the past; singing, chanting, and the power of music; and pilgrimage and holy places. Throughout, he displays his vast knowledge of religious history and a broad range of scientific research, and he closes each chapter with at least two examples for practical applications. By the concluding chapter, the author establishes further reasons for maintaining a balanced awareness of both scientific and spiritual studies, and he feels that scientism extremists are imposing an unjustly rigid worldview. “I was disillusioned when I found that some people have made science into a kind of religion and are often exceptionally dogmatic,” he writes. “They accept the scientific worldview on faith, impressed by the authority and prestige of scientists, and imagine that they have arrived at this worldview by their own freethinking. I still believe in the ideal of open-minded science….In my own experience, believers in scientism are more dogmatic that most Christians.”
A simultaneously grounded and inspiring approach to appreciating the benefits of both science and religion.