My rating: 4 of 5 stars
The book looks at the intersection of Science and Religion by digging into the realm of human psychology and sociology to understand the impact of belief/faith, ritual/practice and cognitive dissonance encountered within a religious framework (even removed from the spiritual connections) on general health and wellbeing. This is an ambitious goal to be sure. The basic premise is that the relative success of religion through-out human history points to something they must be doing right … and the author calls these "spiritual technologies.” He then makes a parallel with the bioprospecting of biologics in the early history of modern medicine to argue that we should also be examining these spiritual technologies to see what actually works and why.
“Recent experiments have shown that even an arbitrary set of actions, when ritualized, can help people … Which rituals - which combinations of elements - work best? And it’s here that religions have a vast head start. They’ve ‘debugged’ the technologies that they’ve used through centuries."
DeSteno explores the following:
1. Infancy: Welcoming and Binding … how communities help from the very beginning of Life
2. The Formative Years: Learning What’s Right and Wrong … how the moral teaching within religions work
3. Coming of Age: Adulting Isn’t Easy … how Rites of Passage work
4. Transcending the Twenties and Thirties: Love, Connection, and (Maybe) Ecstasy … how physical intimacy works ... along with meditation and asceticism (right-handing path) and mysticism (left-hand path) to transcend the mundane into the sacred. (Echos of Dr. Campbell here)
5. The Business of Midlife I: Maintenance for the Body … how the power of belief works (Placebo effects are legit)
6. The Business of Midlife II: Maintenance for the Spirit … getting in touch with our mortality and reflecting on the end (Reconciliation and Detachment) and the midlife transition to service of others
7. Saying Goodbye: All That Lives Must Die … how ‘Last Rites” work and preparing for the End.
While all of this was very interesting and educational, it lacked solid experimental support (generally because of ethical reasons inhibiting such experimentation). In the end, this was not as illuminating as I was expecting, but still well worth the read.
I was given this free advance reader copy (ARC) ebook at my request and have voluntarily left this review.
View all my reviews