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  Neuro-theology
Scholarship Posted by Xnoubis on Tuesday January 23, @09:36AM
from the laud-a-nerve dept.

An infuriating article about a fascinating development. Researchers have apparently linked the experience of mystical union with decreased activity in a particular region of the brain, a region responsible for "finding the border between self and world."

What's infuriating is the article's implication that this proves that the state of union is a neurologically based hallucination. A more natural conclusion, to my mind, would be that the border between self and world is a neurologically based hallucination.

In any event, one might speculate that these findings could eventually lead to improved methods of artificially inducing Samadhi (floatation tanks and neurofeedback already being tentative steps in that direction). Far from spelling the end of religion, such techniques could have the salutary effect of bringing the field of psychology closer to the world of mysticism.




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    Re: Neuro-theology
    by Tau Aleph on Tuesday January 23, @10:23AM
    What's infuriating is the article's implication that this proves that the state of union is a neurologically based hallucination. A more natural conclusion, to my mind, would be that that the border between self and world is a neurologically based hallucination.

    I'd have to agree with you there. Hallucination implies neural activity, so to call a lack of neural activity in a specific part of the brain "hallucination" merely reveals the prejudices of the researcher and/or writer.

    While this does not necessarily imply that "the border between self and world is a neurologically based hallucination", it certainly identifies it as a neurologically based mental construct, a mental artifact rather than the natural state of a mind at rest.

    Re: Neuro-theology
    by Mr. Snug on Tuesday January 23, @03:58PM
    This study is in no way complete, and much less frustrating. The Tibetan subject of the study has definitely altered the results, seeing that he uses Jasmine incense every day. Jasmine is highly sensitive and bears similar hallucinogenic constituents to its sister Yellow Jasmine, which can paralyze and blind its user.

    If anything, I like the fact that *more* attention is being paid to the Mind. (But what a ya expect from NBC?)

    Re: Neuro-theology
    by Uskorpius 777 on Friday January 26, @12:59PM
    From what I understand of the article, this sounds very much like theta EEG research, a branch of neurophysiological research that has been clearly linked to paranormal and mystical phenomena by Green and Twemlow (and others, such as Cytowic in synesthesia and La Berge in lucid dreaming, who do not directly mention theta but implicate it in their work).

    Re: Neuro-theology
    by Apples and Oranges on Monday January 29, @09:09AM
    This is good news. Now we can cut through all of the pseudo-ritual clap-trap and find out what 'really' works. Or, even better, how about "mystical union in a bottle"! Talk about saving time. Won't all of those yogis feel silly?

    The real point is that instead of guessing what we need to do to acheive "enlightenment," we can now find out some very precise steps to take to reach this end: a true scientific study of the mystical experience.

    • Re: Neuro-theology
      by Xnoubis on Monday January 29, @12:10PM
      > Now we can cut through all of the pseudo-ritual
      > clap-trap and find out what 'really' works.

      I think it's important to consider that there may be more to self-realization than the state of union with God. Or to put it another way: removing the boundary between self and universe doesn't necessarily imply that the self is going to relate to the universe in an integrated way. Being able to artificially induce samadhi might turn out to be a great tool for the Work, but it might not.

      > The real point is that instead of guessing what
      > we need to do to acheive "enlightenment," we
      > can now find out some very precise steps to
      > take to reach this end: a true scientific study
      > of the mystical experience.

      First of all, mystical union is not enlightenment by anyone's book, as far as I know. But also, why would a scientific study of the mystical experience be of so much greater value than enlightenment?


      • Re: Neuro-theology
        by Mikal on Tuesday January 30, @10:02AM
        Reading all this reminds me of what one scholar of Eastern mysticism (it may have been R.C. Zaehner) said during the Psychedelic Psixties, when it seemed that the hallucinogens could instantly produce the altered states only previously obtained by years of hard work and study.

        This unnamed scholar said that a spiritual path was like a climb up a high mountain, where the view at the top was the reward for all the sweat and toil in getting there. Sure, you could take a tram or helicopter straight to the top and make the whole trip a lot faster and less painful, but would that breathtaking view really mean the same as if you'd truly struggled for it?

        In a sense, the long, slow and painful route towards higher consciousness is a vital part of the whole deal. Whether by meditation, ritual work, Yoga, prayer, or whatever method you prefer, the inner strength and discipline developed by the steep-trail-up-the-mountain ways to Enlightenment is necessary for to both the emotional and spiritual growth of the student, and to properly preparing and grounding him/her for when that summit finally is in view.

        Or to use a Kabbalistic example I once heard: chemical shortcuts will shoot you straight up the Middle Pillar to the Light, but you have to come back down fairly soon, or you'll either go insane or die. The step-by-step ascent of the Tree allows a gradual growth that will allow one to permanently integrate the new states of awareness into one's consciousness.

        Any thoughts on all this?

        Mikal,
        the World's Laziest Metaphysicist


    • Re: Neuro-theology
      by Xnoubis on Tuesday January 30, @10:18AM
      It belatedly occurred to me in the bath this morning that the name "Apples and Oranges" was intended to signify the author's sarcastic intent. Enlightenment and mystical union are apples and oranges.

      Oops. Back to the meditation cushion for me.



     
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