Posted by: Khepera | Thursday, 10 July 2008

Divining the Brain

This is an interesting article on research done on the behavior of the brain during meditation, trance and other religious experiences. One wonders though, at the relative value of such research rather than indulging in the direct benefits of the experience. It’s sort of like being more fascinated with the camera than what you are photographing…or, for that matter, again, experiencing directly.

This may be another attempt to ‘particularize’ one’s understanding of what goes on during meditation. However, the irony here, imho, is that if meditation is what millions have known it to be for millennia, then it is about a communion, a connection, a conversation with energies & substance we have no devices to detect. This brings us back to our western conundrum of parsing brain, mind & consciousness — what many non-western traditions recognize as a fluid continuum, a fusion without partition. This conflation continues in the false assumption that ‘religious’ and ‘spiritual’ are synonymous. Nonetheless, there are some interesting points, particularly as their neurophysiological & neurochemical enquiries dovetail into research over the years involving the function of the pineal gland — what esotericists refer to as the ‘3rd eye’. There are clearly subtleties at work here, energetically as well as transcendentally, no pun intended.

Divining the Brain

…People can describe a religious experience as being anything from a mild sense of awe to a profound mystical experience, where the person changes fundamentally how they understand the whole world. Now, religious or spiritual experiences do seem to be among the more complex sets of experiences. When somebody meditates, it involves a lot of different parts of the brain. There’s not just a religious part of the brain. And that makes sense when you look at the richness and diversity of these experiences.

But I think you’re also asking one of the most important questions: Are we really capturing something that’s inherently spiritual? This is a big philosophical question. If the soul or the spirit is really non-material, how does it interact with us? Of course, the human brain has to have some way of thinking about it. Perhaps the most interesting finding I could have would be to see nothing change on the brain scan when one of the nuns has an incredible experience of transcendence and connectedness with God. Maybe then we really would capture something that’s spiritual rather than just cognitive and biological.


  1. Nice

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