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Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Neurotheology: Aha moments

Thalamus (Red Arrow)   (Image from AxelBoldt)
We’ve often heard the expression “No brain, no gain,” but does that also hold true for spiritual progress?

The relatively new field of neurotheology is bent upon solving that conundrum. The Atlantic recently ran an article by Lynne Blumberg titled “What Happens to the Brain During Spiritual Experiences?”  The answer somewhat depends upon the type of spiritual experience it is.

Dr. Andrew Newberg, a pioneer in “the neurological study of religious and spiritual experiences,” has thus far viewed approximately 150 brain scans of spiritual practitioners.  These
practitioners included nuns, charismatics, mediums and meditators.  He also studied the brain scans of atheists.

Spiritual techniques that involve repetitive concentration on prayers or mantras “tend to activate the frontal lobes…”  Those that involve a surrender of will, such as channeling or glossolalia, instead tend to activate the thalamus.

While interviewing meditators about their subjective spiritual experiences, Newberg also observed that “everyone defines God a little bit differently even when they belong to the same religion.’

Copyright June 11, 2014 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

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