Books and Contemplative Life, the Royal Society, and Psychology Analysed

Our first new library selection this month is a Matheson Trust original audio recording of a conversation with Rowan Williams. The former Archbishop of Canterbury and current Master of Magdalene College, Cambridge, talks of the relevance of literature and reading for the spiritual life, including a precious insight into his personal library of spiritual classics.

The mistake we make very often is to suppose that we are out there in a void, facing an infinite distance to a remote God, rather than being part of a hugely rich interweaving of action in the universe, all of which is alive with the reflection of God’s glory.

• In an article on the early history of the Royal Society, Peter Harrison discusses the fascinating and unexpected relation between experimental science and religion.

The study of nature, Boyle suggests, ‘is the first act of religion, and equally obliging in all religions’ and is a kind of ‘philosophical worship of God.’ This form of worship is to be preferred to religious cult, for ‘discovering to others the perfections of God displayed in the creatures, is a more acceptable act of religion, than the burning of sacrifices or perfumes upon his altars.’ In this sense, experimental natural philosophers are really ‘priests of nature.’

• Finally, in his article “The Impasse of Modern Psychology”, Samuel Bendeck Sotillos examines the main schools of contemporary sciences of the mind from the point of view of the Perennial Philosophy.

As long as the discernment between the psychic and spiritual domains and the presence of integral spiritual forms and their practice are missing from psychology, the impasse of modern psychology will persist… The perennial psychology “is not a science for its own sake, and can be of no use to anybody who will not practice it.”