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Science as A Spiritual Practice

by Imants Baru_s
Imprint Academic, Exeter, UK, 2007
155 pp. Paper, $29 USD
ISBN: 1845400747.

Reviewed by Rob Harle


Baru_s, much to his credit, has dared to go where many others would not even dream of going with this book. In a sense, he takes on the whole scientific establishment and challenges them to break out of the dominant paradigm of "scientism" and once again start practicing true science. Baru_s sees true science as a process where investigators attempt to solve an existing problem by starting out with an open mind, then proceed using all the methods at their disposal, and subsequently report the findings, whatever they may be, and however much they are counterintuitive or contradict the status quo. Much of modern science does not do this.

It is not only scientists that are criticised in this book but virtually all of us who have not achieved some form of transcendence. Using the description that Plato contrived of individuals in the cave, Baru_s has this to say: "I think the point of this analogy is that our ordinary interpretation of the world is seriously wrong. We are the walking dead busy deciphering the whisperings of the shadows. We are the mentally ill suffering from a mass psychosis" (p. 27).

Science As A Spiritual Practice is a slim book at just 155 pages. It is arranged in three sections. The first section, Beyond Materialism deals with the problems and untenability of materialism and to a lesser extent physicalism. Baru_s suggests that if scientists would seek self-transformation, they would have a much better chance of understanding reality. The second section, Access To Inner Knowledge, argues that through states of altered consciousness, brought about by various means such as meditation, drug ingestion or various other spiritual practices, scientists could gain insights to the problems they are trying to solve via their newly realised inner knowledge. The third section, Seeking Transcendence looks at how by engaging in scientific practice, especially mathematical work, the practitioner may bring about transcendence. Baru_s discusses the claims of Franklin Wolff having achieved transcendence and also the philosophy of Wolff.

With the exception of parts of the third section, when the discussion becomes a little complicated by rather arcane mathematical concepts, the book is easy to read and understand. I found Baru_s’ constant use of "her" extremely irritating, this first-wave feminist convention, effective as it was at the time, is now passé. The use of the third person pronoun "their" or "they" draws far less attention to the actual writing style. The book has a good Index and exceptionally comprehensive Bibliography and reference section.

This brings me to my main criticism of the book which is its superficial treatment of a vast amount of material including DMT drugs, channelling (mediumship), teleportation, enlightenment, remote viewing, mystical states, trances, savants and so on and on. It is not that Baru_s is necessarily wrong in his presentation of these phenomena, nor that he is flippant in their treatment, it is simply in a book of this size it is impossible to discuss any of them in depth. The book should have been at least twice the size and concentrated in detail on only a few of the many possible aspects associated with achieving transcendence. This would have presented a more convincing solid case for science and the spiritual. After all, this book is pitched partly at scientists who generally dismiss superficial "popular" style writing out-of-hand.

Baru_s is widely read and appears highly knowledgeable about his subject, and if nothing else this book will serve as a guidebook for further detailed reading via the index and then the extensive reference section. The last sentence in the book pretty well sums it up, "Thus, this book is not an answer but a challenge. How can science be used as a spiritual practice?" (p. 126). I only hope the very scientists that should read this book don’t put it down prematurely as the possible rewards for themselves and the results of their investigations for the rest of us are immense.



Updated 1st November 2007

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