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The Marriage of Sense and Soul: Integrating Science and Religion Hardcover – March 24, 1998

4.1 out of 5 stars 53 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Ever since the Copernican revolution, the battle lines between science and religion have been drawn. In succeeding generations, science and religion have been depicted as two cultural juggernauts slugging it out to establish their ideas as the dominant worldview. In his new book, Wilber (A Brief History of Everything) contends that attempts to reconcile science (sense) and religion (soul) have failed because scholars have not taken into account the fundamental differences between the two. Science, he argues, is a product of modernity characterized by differentiation?a spiritless materialism. Religion, on the other hand, is a product of a premodern worldview less enamored of a portrait of reality (viewed as so much soulless matter) and characterized by an emphasis on humanity's connection to a spiritual dimension. Using A.O. Lovejoy's idea of the Great Chain of Being, Wilber fashions what he calls "the Great Nest of Being" in which soul, body, matter, mind and spirit intersect and coalesce. Imitating Plato's scheme of realms of truth, knowledge and reality, Wilber divides his Great Nest into four quadrants, each of which has a subjective, objective, intersubjective and interobjective dimension. Wilber contends that this scheme of unity-in-diversity provides the key to integrating science and religion. As ambitious as it is, Wilber's study is filled with simplistic generalizations ("Modern science and premodern religion aggressively inhabit the same globe, each vying, in its own way, for world domination") and mushy quasi-romantic pronouncements ("Art is the Beauty of Spirit/ Art is in the eye of the beholder, in the I of the beholder: Art is the I of the Spirit."). Moreover, in order to marry sense and soul, Wilber does violence to science by representing it in terms of spirit rather than on its own terms. Wilber's attempt to integrate science and religion is far surpassed by physicist Ian Barbour's trenchant Religion and Science.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

This book is an intriguing attempt at finding common foundations or agreements between scientific and religious world views. Wilber (The Eye of Spirit, LJ 2/15/97) relies heavily on traditional philosophers to support his argument for multiple layers of knowing and the potential of empirical science to accept it. At the same time, he suggests that the religious world needs to be open to new ways of spiritual knowledge and validation. Wilber is writing for a popular audience, and his easy-to-read work will likely be compared to Paul Davies's The Mind of God (S. & S., 1992) and Connie Barlow's Green Space, Green Time (LJ 11/1/97). While he has not given us the ultimate answer to the division between science and religion, his book is worth reading. For large public and academic libraries.?Eric D. Albright, Duke Univ. Medical Ctr. Lib., Durham, N.C.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 225 pages
  • Publisher: Random House; 1 edition (March 24, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375500545
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375500541
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 6.2 x 10 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (53 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,514,133 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Nathaniel T. Parsons on January 7, 2003
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I've read five Wilber books so far (Brief History of Everything, Theory of Everything, One Taste, Eye of the Spirit, and Marriage of Sense and Soul) and this one contains the most comprehensive, clear and complete exposition of his ideas. I don't know why Kirkus calls it "labarynthine", because I found it also among the most readable and humorous. I love hearing him slam away at the excesses of post-modern theorists. I also think this book has the most lucid descriptions of the quadrant theory, the pre/trans falacy and other big Wilber constructs. The "theory of everything" books both felt like he was always talking about the theory without ever really taking you through it. This is the one to get to really get going with Wilber.
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Format: Paperback
Ken Wilber presents a brilliant synthesis of the major branches of knowledge and clearly shows their relationship to "Religion in General". It is clear from some of the reviews, which rated this book poorly, that they do not understand where Wilber is coming from. Some reviews are just too stupid to even comment upon. (Eg. granpubah) The Kirkus review states that Wilber doesn't explain how the integration of the Great Chain of Being with the major differientiations of modernity is supposed to occur. I can't follow this line of reasoning as Wilber has clearly shown how this can be achieved. I do agree, however, that Wilber does not tackle the old epistemological question of the relation of consciousness/mind to matter, although he does touch on this question in pages 145-147. The philosopher Rudolf Steiner did an excellent job in solving this problem from an introspective point of view in his books "Truth & Knowledge" and the "Philosophy of Freedom". (No I am not an Anthroposophist!) Basically, Wilber tackles the problem of the unification of knowledge from an external perspective and clearly defines what he means by empiricism (observation/experiment) and knowledge (understanding of experience). These terms are not loosely equated as implied in the Kirkus review, far from it. Wilber also defines what he means by religion in a very precise manner, ie. religion is at its core, "direct mystical, transendental, meditative, contemplative, or yogic experiences". What else could it be? Virgin births or 'crossing the Red Sea' are unsubstantiated beliefs which have grown around religion. These myths may have symbolic meaning but they were not real events.Read more ›
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Format: Paperback
Have you ever found a book that looked fairly interesting but completley blew you away instead? Where you finished the last page only to sit there in stunned silence thinking, "Holy...this is exactly what I've been looking for!" This was that book for me. After reading it the first time, I felt as if I should have discovered this slim volume in a dusty, darkened attic trunk like some long lost hidden treasure, rather than at a book store at O'Hare airport. It's the first book by Wilber I read, and since then I've devoured everything else of his I could get my hands on. Yes, it's that good.

'Sense & Soul' is a great place to take a quick dip in the deep blue ocean that is Wilber's Integral Philosophy. His grand idea is simple yet profound, and a Herculean undertaking: everybody's right (to a degree), so we'll gather the best of all knowledge, east and west, from both the past and today while discarding what doesn't work, and create something new and remarkable, an integral philosophy. The breadth and depth of his work to integrate the world's knowledge into a functional and coherent system is nothing short of staggering and delightful.

Wilber's vision expands and deepens while becoming more refined with each new book, and it is clear that what he is creating is a viable blueprint for a globally and spiritually aware future for this planet and it's inhabitants. 'Sense & Soul' is a beautifully clear glimpse of this vision. I can't recommend it highly enough.

From here I would move on to 'A Brief History Of Everything' and then perhaps tackle 'Sex, Ecology, Spirituality'. After that, you're on your own to cherry pick as you please.

The ideas contained within Ken Wilber's works are utterly transformative, but don't believe me, come see the future for yourself.
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Ken Wilber is quite possibly the most significant philosopher writing today. Yet his work is dense, academic, and difficult for those outside of academia or professional psychology to grasp.

With "The Marriage of Sense and Soul", Wilber writes a popular introduction to Integral thought, in which he outlines the basics of his philosophy- the "nest of being", interiors vs. exteriors, prerational/rational/transrational thinking, mystical states of consciousness, and the rest of the essentials of his philosophy. While there's still a lot of terminology to digest, and Wilber drops more than a few names that non-academics probably won't recognize, Wilber does manage to strip his philosophy down to a brief introduction that is far more elegant and feels like less of an abridgement than "A Brief History of Everything".

At the same time, I don't know if Wilber succeeds in pulling off the mission of the book- "Integrating Science and Religion." While Wilber does a fine job of defining science and the limits of science, his definition of religion throws out the very components of religion that are most relevant to the typical religious believer! He strips religion down to meditative contemplation, while rendering the other components of religion irrelevant to his model. Ultimately, his "integration" is only possible by redefining religion into his model. While Wilber's philosophy is powerful and coherent, (and hence I'm not ashamed to admit to being a "Wilberian") his explaining-away of religion makes the own purpose of his book impossible. You might as well ask Richard Dawkins (the famously atheistic evolutionary biologist) to write a book on the integration of science and religion- it would be just as unsatisfactory.

Despite this, however, the book does do an excellent job of presenting integral theory to a broader audience. As a companion volume, I'd recommend Robert Wright's "Nonzero" as another fine book on the integral vision.
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