The Marriage of Sense and Soul Summary

Ken Wilber

The Marriage of Sense and Soul

For the practical among us, Ken Wilber seems to have completed his mission of integrating science and religion in his first paragraph: “Science is clearly one of the most profound methods that humans have yet devised for discovering truth, while religion remains the single greatest force for generating meaning.”

In THE MARRIAGE OF SENSE AND SOUL: INTEGRATING SCIENCE AND RELIGION Wilber wants more than to delineate appropriate arenas for science and religion, he wants to unify science and religion wholly, to the core, and for all time, with politics and the arts thrown in. Thus it is no wonder that, by the end of the book, Wilber has lapsed into (as one bent toward science might say) or risen toward (as one bent toward religion might say) a rhetoric in which the whispering voice of Spirit is saying “love to infinity and find me there, love to eternity and I will be there, love to the boundless corners of the Kosmos and all will be shown to you.”

To his credit, Wilber constructs some useful analytical frameworks for approaching the perennial conflict between science and religion. For example, he characterizes premodern religion by its reliance on the Great Chain of Being—a hierarchy of matter, life, mind, soul, and spirit, and laments the fact that modern science has collapsed the last four elements of this hierarchy into the first: matter. He also provides an informative review of past attempts to integrate science and religion, though the writers he cites might be surprised to learn that this was their intent.

However, in trying to marry science and religion, Wilber asks religious practitioners to abandon a major feature of religion: the belief in the unbelievable (for example, that Moses did in fact part the Red Sea or that Lao Tzu was in fact nine hundred years old at birth). He also asks scientists to apply their skills to religious experience, a ho-hum exercise for all but a few clinical psychologists. Neither request seems likely to be fulfilled.