Paths Between Head and Heart: Exploring the Harmonies of Science and Spirituality
Published by O Books
Nominated for the SSSR Distinguished Book Award 2020 and Shortlisted for the Scientific and Medical Network Book Award 2018
“This book plays a vital role in building a bridge between science and spirituality, demonstrating that they are natural partners in the evolution of our understanding of the universe and providing a comprehensive account of attempts to synthesise them. I particularly commend its dialectical structure, which puts the topic in a broader context than usual.” Prof Bernard Carr, Professor of Mathematics and Astronomy at Queen Mary University of London
This book presents science and spirituality as complementary forces in our lives and discusses why this matters for you and your development as a person.
Despite the dominance of science and technology as forces that shape our lives, and the decline in religious attendance and affiliation in many Western countries, spirituality is rising in popularity. The number of people who report spiritual experiences is increasing, while meditation and other forms of spiritual practice are more widely practised than ever. Why is it that "spirituality-beyond-religion" is thriving in our time of science? This book presents an answer. It argues that both science and spirituality have separated from institutionalised religion over the modern era, to become independent yet complementary domains of progressive enquiry, based on the modern values of innovation, pluralism, experience-based knowledge, and the empowerment of the individual.
In the book, I set out a dialectical way of understanding this complementary relationship, via the following seven polarities:
Science emphasises the first term in each of these pairs, which is associated with “head” knowing. Spirituality emphasises the second term, associated with “heart” knowing or intuition. Between each pair of opposites runs a continuum, and in the middle science and spirituality overlap. Interaction between the two is becoming more commonplace in our time, suggesting a cultural drift towards integrating them and so bringing the head knowing of science and the heart knowing of spirituality together.
“The relationship between science and spirituality is a key issue in our time. In this brilliant, wide-ranging and engaging book, Oliver Robinson gives us a fresh take on this interface, proposing an informative new model of complementarity adapted to our age of interconnectedness. He also shows how we can integrate theory and experience, head and heart in our own lives. This is a stimulating and significant contribution to the field, which deserves to be widely read.”
David Lorimer, Programme Director, Scientific and Medical Network, author of Whole in One: The near-death experience and the ethic of interconnectedness
“Oliver Robinson is a rare combination of academic rigour and courageous spirituality. We desperately need a spirituality that has a heart but doesn’t require a brain bypass. This excellent book gives us a map.”
Jules Evans, author of Philosophy for Life: And other dangerous situations and The Art of Losing Control: A philosopher’s search for ecstatic experience
"Oliver Robinson’s Paths Between Head and Heart is a call for change. It is first of all an understated polemic on the value of integrating thinking. Drawing on histories of science, phenomenology and religious thought and practice, it opens up into an exploration of new spaces of knowing between science and spirituality. Never reductive, beautifully written, it is both an urgent call for connecting heart and head in a world that has forcibly separated them, and a considered reflection on the nature of knowledge itself in modernity." Rev Dr Claire MacDonald, minister at Lewisham Unity
"A wide ranging and thoroughly stimulating book that boldly balances the metaphysical with the physical, and elucidates why both are vital together. As the great chemist Albert Hofmann was fond of saying, a scientist who is not a mystic is no scientist. The same goes the other way around too as Oliver Robinson ably shows us." Dr David Luke, author of Otherworlds: Psychedelics and Exceptional Human Experience
“As we stand at the brink of a momentous occurrence, the alignment of science and spirituality, there are few credible studies of this phenomenon. Paths Between Head and Heart by Oliver Robinson provides a crucial study of the split between science and spirituality and how, in fact, there is a relationship and continuum between the two. This book is an essential tool for bridging concepts in this field, even providing a way in for the skeptical who will be able to find their place in the holistic model Robinson provides.”
Dr. Manjir Samanta-Laughton, author of Punk Science and The Genius Groove
"Very lucid writing and full of interesting observations and insights" Tim Freke, author of Jesus and the Lost Goddess: The Secret Teachings of the Original Christians
"Oliver Robinson brings a refreshingly creative approach to the dialogue between science and spirituality. Contextualising his thinking in a penetrating historical overview, he demonstrates clearly the ways in which a grasp of spirituality can illumine a range of scientific areas, most especially the study of psychological processes. In my view, his concluding map of the landscape in which science and spirituality intersect will become a valuable guide for those working in this area for many years to come."B Les Lancaster, Emeritus Professor of Transpersonal Psychology, Liverpool John Moores University
“This book explains the paradox of the unity of science and spirituality. Oliver Robinson shows that these two ways of looking at the world, so often seen as opposing forces, actually come from the same source, and we need to hold them in balance. Fascinating.”
Jennifer Kavanagh, author of The World is Our Cloister and Heart of Oneness: A little book of connection
“Oliver Robinson is an exceptionally perceptive observer of spirituality and its practices, in an age that routinely lacks insight about such matters. He is alert to both philosophical and psychological dimensions, and can bring them together. This is a book that you cannot fail to read without feeling illuminated, provoked and inspired.
Dr Mark Vernon, author of 42: Deep Thought on Life, The Universe and Everything, and After Atheism: Science, Religion and the Meaning of Life
“This book plays a vital role in building a bridge between science and spirituality, demonstrating that they are natural partners in the evolution of our understanding of the universe and providing a comprehensive account of attempts to synthesise them. I particularly commend its dialectical structure, which puts the topic in a broader context than usual.”
Bernard Carr, Professor of Mathematics and Astronomy at Queen Mary University of London