Rupert Sheldrake is a biologist and the author of more than 90 technical papers and fourteen books, including one of our favorites Dogs That Know When Their Owners Are Coming Home and Other Unexplained Powers of Animals. He is currently a Fellow of the Institute of Noetic Science in Petaluma, California, and of Schumacher College in Dartington, Devon, UK.
We are in total agreement with the author when he states in the introduction: "Never before has any civilization had access to almost all the world's spiritual practices." Most dramatically, these practices can transport us "beyond normal, familiar, everyday states of consciousness. They can lead to experiences of connection with more-than-human consciousness, and a sense of greater conscious presence."
In this energizing and exciting book, Sheldrake pins down the interplay between science and ways of reaching beyond ordinary awareness. He started this exploration in his 2018 book Science and Spiritual Practices, where he covered such classic practices as meditation, gratitude, rituals, chanting, and pilgrimages. In this book, he looks into practices in seven areas:
- 1. The Spiritual Side of Sports
- 2. Learning from Animals
- 3. Fasting
- 4. Cannabis, Psychedelics, and Spiritual Openings
- 5. Powers of Prayer
- 6. Holy Days and Festivals
- 7. Cultivating Good Habits, Avoiding Bad Habits, and Being Kind
In the first section of this paperback, Sheldrake references an initiative launched by Pope Francis titled "Sport at the Service of Humanity." Six virtues were heralded as growing out of this human activity — joy, compassion, respect, love, balance, and enlightenment.
This confirms the widespread feeling that sports promote spiritual growth and character development. He goes on to discuss the anthropology of sports, the pioneering work of Michael Murphy, the study of positive psychology, Oriental martial arts, extreme sports, and more. He concludes with two ways of experiencing flow through sports.
This is just a brief overview of one of the ways to go beyond explored in this book. Sheldrake's insights and purview clearly establish relationships between spirituality and science.