Religious Experiences and the Brain

I was forwarded this article and thought it would make for good discussion.

Are religious experiences, a feeling of closeness with the Gods or transcendence, something that’s totally within the mind? This article begs the question.

do you ever get tingling sensations in a band around your head or just in the back of your head and starts down your spine? what do the mean? and sometmes it happens just listening to certain music.

if there is a non-physical sapect to THE MIND it must interface to THE BRAIN in some way.

Dal Timgar

Wouldn’t anything that affects the brain necessarily be physical?

**dal_timgar wrote:

if there is a non-physical sapect to THE MIND it must interface to THE BRAIN in some way.**

The whole point of the article seems to be; we’re hard-wired to have religious or transcendental experiences or, there’s a genetic component to having a religious experience. I’m sure the atheists out there are going to love that.

if there is any metaphysical purpose to reality it makes sense that our bodies be designed to serve that purpose. but it means there must be some connection between our physical and metaphysical selves. if metaphysical reality cannot be DETECTED BY ANY physical device that means the communication link between the non-phsical human MIND and the physical human BRAIN is the only source of information. you are stuck with judging info from other people and of course doing your own psychic experiments.


contains the most detailed metaphysical explanation of what’s going on that i have ever read. of course that doesn’t qualify as evidence.

the best documentary evidence that something wierd is going on is:

OLD SOULS by Tom Shroder

of course that still doesn’t qualify as proof.

but what does it mean when people say they have “religious and transcedental experiences” and it can be observed with brain scans? is it just more fuel for intellectual debates or are we seeking a point to life?

Dal Timgar

Well, this atheist has no problem with it. Frankly, I think the ubiquity of theological experiences among human populations throughout history was very strong indirect evidence that a hereditable component was present in at least some religious experiences.

For that matter, if one believes that consciousness is entirely explained by material components then there are only two options:

  1. Religious experiences do not occur.
  2. Religious experiences are characterized by one or more physical (neurological) events.

Now, arrogant as I might be I have never believed that no human has ever experienced a moment of personal religious import. Of course, believing that the eperience happens says nothing about how accurately the experience reflects reality.

Fascinating reading.

Of course, the final paragraph of the cited article says something of what I’d point out.

My second comment would be that the whole idea of “natural vs. supernatural” is of human creation, regardless of where you stand on the “is there a god/are religious experiences ‘real’” issue. Just as an act of sex, purely physical in nature, may result in a fully conscious human being who will debate whether or not his life has some ultimate meaning to the universe, so anything that happens “supernaturally” has some grounding in natural phenomena. “Hardwiring of the brain for transcendental experiences” may be simply the result of a Gouldian coincidental selection for another trait genetically linked, or it may be the handiwork of a god who intends that his conscious creations be able to experience his reality.

This merely furnishes more data to ground the age-old argument on.

The master electrician: he he. :stuck_out_tongue:

Well, pretty soon that means we’ll have the ability, in theory, to simply stimulate that part of the brain to induce a “religious” experience, or at least what feels like one.

Unfortunately it STILL wouldn’t disprove religious experiences, IMO, because, well, how do we do it ourselves? Master electrician nothing, some is flipping the switch. :wink:

[sub]spiritus, welcome back! Hope you had a good time[/sub]

QUOTE: “if metaphysical reality cannot be DETECTED BY ANY physical device that means the communication link between the non-phsical human MIND and the physical human BRAIN is the only source of information.”

Yet the physical human brain IS a physical device. So this argument assumes its’ own negation.

is the metaphysical CONTROLLING the physical the same as the physical DETECTING the metaphysical? i gather it has something to do with chakras, but who has time to wade thru all the metaphysical bullsh!t. it’s like computers. lots of books, most of them redundant, confusing drivel, only it’s more dificult because the subject is so vague. at least you can buy a computer and see that it exists and works.

i don’t try to pretend i KNOW what i DON’T KNOW. i suggested some reading. investigate it or not, your choice.

Dal Timgar

Still reading the article, but I’d like to point out that people have been doing this for centuries! Heck, I thought this was the kind of thing most folks in favor of “mind altering drugs” were after.

Well, to be sure, tourbot. But the distinction I was trying to make was that we…

Well, yeah.

I recall something about ministrokes and spiritual experience, as well - if you have a mini stroke, it can basically force an area into a permanent on or off state. So you lose, say, your capacity to think jokes are funny, or you get stuck in a state of transcendant bliss. The article I am remembering (WAYYYYY back, maybe 10-15 years?) described a man who had a ministroke that turned his ‘religious bliss’ center ON. And stuck it that way. So every blessed moment of the day was a profound religious experience. Everything from eating to stubbing his toe to paying his bills. He knew it was the result of a stroke, but he couldn’t stop the feeling. He ended up taking orders so he could live in a monastery for the rest of his life. Seemed the only logical place to go.

So, here’s my question - if you see something with your eyes (technically, an object outside yourself), it triggers brain activity that can be mapped on a computer. Doesn’t that show that some neurological events are triggered outside the brain/body? The brain activity did not create the object that was seen. Is the brain function interpreting the experience of Divine connection, or causing it? Does the sky exist just because seeing it caused your brain to react in a certain way? Does the sky NOT exist, simply because all people who see the sky have a certain area of their brains fire up? Sure, we can track the light bounce into the eye, so we can say it is external… but I’ve heard the argument that just because don’t understand HOW the divine info is provided to the brain, doesn’t mean there isn’t a ‘sense’ we haven’t discovered, which picks up the info and provides it to the brain. (I presume there is no specific external organ for it, of course, or we’d have figured that out by now, right?)

I agree with those who say that all this article (and related research) does is give more data for the argument. There’s still plenty of fighting room here. :slight_smile:

Read the article again.

The Buddhist monk meditates to start the process. He is creating this state of mind himself.

The nuns in the study start praying then the state of mind comes.

The article mentions about rythmic noise being able to bring about this state. If you only get this state from say “praying the rosary” (a very rythmic expierence) what does that suggest? What if the brain gets the same reaction from dancing to disco music for an hour? (or any music with a strong beat that dosen’t vary tempo much) If a constant pulsing of sound makes this part of the brain shut down and you get this expierence, the fact that you can have this happen from praying and dancing it think brings it to a physical occurence. Remeber if you are talking about ‘feeling’ something that the responses to the same stumuli will be very different from person to person. If my brain does this and a very religious person brain does this they may say ‘I felt God’ where I may say ‘I felt good’. So by testing monks and nuns they are getting responses of ‘it was God’ but I think they need to test some club kids to even things out.

Actually, the evidence is more damning than that.

What the article states is that the feeling of enlightenment is the result of a **lack **of brain activity in certain areas. Normal sensations, whether they result from stimuli outside the brain (seeing a blue sky) or within it (recalling the memory of a blue sky) can be correlated to specific activity in the brain. A lack of activity should correlate with a lack of stimulus, right? If you interpret the “religious experience” as actually being caused by god, you are left with the conclusion that god is a stimulus which causes no response.

*Originally posted by tourbot *
A lack of activity should correlate with a lack of stimulus, right?
I apologize for the lack of specifics here (and any clumsiness with the system, as this is my first post), but I remember reading awhile back about certain brain conditions in people suffering from epileptic seizures. Normal brain wave patterns are very irregular in wavelength, but usually confined to a certain amplitude. It seems that the cause of a seizure is the brain wave pattern becoming more regular, and essentially stuck in a rut. The regularity interferes with the normal functioning of the brain, and it begins to spasm, if that’s the right word.
While this isn’t the same response that a believer experiences, it would seem to answer at least in part the questions concerning whether or not the brain can somehow influence its own internal conditions. Unless you want to go under the assumption that God causes seizures as well as rapture.
It’s also an example of how an initial lessening of brain acitivy can produce violent responses in itself and the body.

[Apropos Gratuitous Bible Quote mode]

The Kingdom of God is within you.

[/Apropos Gratuitous Bible Quote mode]

True, but I’d personally describe praying as the act of clearing a space inside that gives God room to move into. (As Mother Teresa said, “God cannot fill what is already full.”) He still has to do the moving.

Here’s a link to a book on this subject, as well as the Amazon link to the same book. Haven’t read this, but it sounds interesting. Whether or not it does answer (or even can) the question of whether religious experiences are generated or received by the brain, I don’t know; but it seems fairly certain that the area of the brain responsible for our having the experiences can be determined with a fair amount of accuracy, from what I’ve heard.