Ravi Ravindra. Science and the Sacred: Eternal Wisdom in a Changing World. Wheaton, Ill.: Quest Books, rev. and abridged edition, 2002. Paperback, 190 pages.
Ravi Ravindra is a professor emeritus of comparative religion and also an adjunct professor of physics, and thus he is uniquely qualified to write a book such as this. An Indian-born Canadian, he has long championed the dialogue between science and religion (primarily in the form of mysticism). The essays of the present book articulate his key thoughts on this important subject.
Ravindra sets the stage by arguing that “[a] ny path by which human beings can be made whole and integrated is a form of Yoga,” which is somewhat to loose a definition, since Yoga is specifically an Indic path. I can, however, wholeheartedly agree with him that “most of what we call religion is actually an obstruction on a spiritual path.”
He begins his consideration with a discussion of the role of perception in science and Yoga. He notes that both areas of knowledge are eager to make perception as accurate as possible. Whereas scientists resort to the use of instruments, yogis seek to cleanse the organs of perception by purifying the mind. He goes on to examine the nature of reality, as conceived by Western scientists and Indian sages. Rather than seeing their answers as mutually exclusive, Ravindra rightly argues for their complementarity. He also believes that they can cross-fertilize each other.
In particular, he sees the possibility of a convergence between science and Yoga (mysticism) in the ideal of personal transformation. He writes: “Each one of us is an artist of our own life. . . . What we make of ourselves depends not only on our own abilities and work, but also on the various forces assisting or hindering us. But we must engage in the work of transformation; this is an imperative of our human existence.”
Because many of the chapters in this volume were previously published as independent essays, there is some repetition and overlap between them, but this will prove helpful for the lay reader unfamiliar with the scientific method.
Ravindra is a lucid writer and passionate about communicating the big picture, which can help us make sense of our lives. He has masterfully succeeded in reducing the grand theme of the relationship between science and mysticism to an intelligible size that anyone can comprehend.