Book review: The marriage of sense and soul

Science gives us truth. Religion gives us meaning. We need both. In this book Ken Wilber argues that we need a world view that unifies science and religion/spirituality, which is hardly news. What was new (to me at least), is that he claims that such a world view is possible, without distorting the essential nature of the two.

However, Ken Wilber does identify some demands that each camp must meet, if common ground is to be established.

Religion must open it’s dogmas to scientific verification. “Did Moses really part the red sea? Was Jesus actually born by a virgin? Does the earth really rest on a divine serpent? Did creation really occur in six days? Was Lao Tzu actually nine hundred years old when he was born?” These claims clash with scientifically obtainable data, and no reconciliation with science is possible as long as these claims stand. Religion must center on a core of “direct mystical, transcendental, meditative, contemplative or yogic experiences […] data seen with the eye of the mind.”

Science on the other hand must broaden it’s horizons. If spiritual insights can be arrived at through scientific methods, then science must accept these insights. And according to Ken Wilber, spiritual knowledge can indeed be gathered through processes that satisfy the scientific method of gathering the necessary knowledge, performing the experiment and then communally accepting or rejecting the claim. Specifically, many religions embody meditative practices, that consistently give practitioners to spiritual experiences.

This is deep stuff, but it helps that the book is beautifully structured and very well written. And indeed it has to be – Ken Wilber is treading a minefield here, and the risk is that instead of uniting science and religion he’ll end up pissing off both. Therefore his reasoning needs to be impeccable.

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