A simultaneously grounded and inspiring approach to appreciating the benefits of both science and religion.

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.

Pub Date: Aug. 28, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-64009-117-7

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Counterpoint

Review Posted Online: May 23, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2018



This a book of earlier, philosophical essays concerned with the essential "absurdity" of life and the concept that- to overcome the strong tendency to suicide in every thoughtful man-one must accept life on its own terms with its values of revolt, liberty and passion. A dreary thesis- derived from and distorting the beliefs of the founders of existentialism, Jaspers, Heldegger and Kierkegaard, etc., the point of view seems peculiarly outmoded. It is based on the experience of war and the resistance, liberally laced with Andre Gide's excessive intellectualism. The younger existentialists such as Sartre and Camus, with their gift for the terse novel or intense drama, seem to have omitted from their philosophy all the deep religiosity which permeates the work of the great existentialist thinkers. This contributes to a basic lack of vitality in themselves, in these essays, and ten years after the war Camus seems unaware that the life force has healed old wounds... Largely for avant garde aesthetes and his special coterie.

Pub Date: Sept. 26, 1955

ISBN: 0679733736

Page Count: 228

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Sept. 19, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1955


A very welcome instance of philosophy that can help readers live a good life.

A teacher and scholar of Buddhism offers a formally varied account of the available rewards of solitude.

“As Mother Ayahuasca takes me in her arms, I realize that last night I vomited up my attachment to Buddhism. In passing out, I died. In coming to, I was, so to speak, reborn. I no longer have to fight these battles, I repeat to myself. I am no longer a combatant in the dharma wars. It feels as if the course of my life has shifted onto another vector, like a train shunted off its familiar track onto a new trajectory.” Readers of Batchelor’s previous books (Secular Buddhism: Imagining the Dharma in an Uncertain World, 2017, etc.) will recognize in this passage the culmination of his decadeslong shift away from the religious commitments of Buddhism toward an ecumenical and homegrown philosophy of life. Writing in a variety of modes—memoir, history, collage, essay, biography, and meditation instruction—the author doesn’t argue for his approach to solitude as much as offer it for contemplation. Essentially, Batchelor implies that if you read what Buddha said here and what Montaigne said there, and if you consider something the author has noticed, and if you reflect on your own experience, you have the possibility to improve the quality of your life. For introspective readers, it’s easy to hear in this approach a direct response to Pascal’s claim that “all of humanity's problems stem from man's inability to sit quietly in a room alone.” Batchelor wants to relieve us of this inability by offering his example of how to do just that. “Solitude is an art. Mental training is needed to refine and stabilize it,” he writes. “When you practice solitude, you dedicate yourself to the care of the soul.” Whatever a soul is, the author goes a long way toward soothing it.

A very welcome instance of philosophy that can help readers live a good life.

Pub Date: Feb. 18, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-300-25093-0

Page Count: 200

Publisher: Yale Univ.

Review Posted Online: Nov. 24, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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