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In Search of God

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  • medit8ionsociety
    In the Sunday New York Times, there was an article dealing with Faith and in it, they cited this article from the New Scientist Magazine that deals with The
    Message 1 of 4 , May 3 3:46 PM
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      In the Sunday New York Times, there was an
      article dealing with Faith and in it, they
      cited this article from the New Scientist Magazine
      that deals with "The God Question" that in a way
      a previous recent post brought up. In any event,
      it is very interesting in its own right/write. Enjoy!
      ---------------------------------------------------
      http://www.phys.uoa.gr/~nektar/orthodoxy/explanatory/in_search_of_god.htm
      In search of God
      By Bob Holmes, New Scientist Magazine, 21 April 2001
      (http://www.newscientist.com/features/features.jsp?id=ns22871)

      Are our religious feelings just a product of
      how the brain works? Bob Holmes meets the researchers
      who are trying to explain our most sacred thoughts.

      EINSTEIN FELT IT. It's what draws people to church,
      prayer, meditation, sacred dance and other rituals.
      Chances are you've felt something like
      it too--in the mountains, by the sea, or perhaps
      while listening to a piece of music that's especially
      close to your heart. In fact, more than
      half of people report having had some sort of
      mystical or religious experience. For some, the
      experience is so intense it changes their life forever.

      But what is «it"? The presence of God? A glimpse
      of a higher plane of being? Or just the mystical
      equivalent of déjà vu, a trick the brain
      sometimes plays on your conscious self? At some
      level, of course, all our thoughts and sensations
      --however unusual--must involve the brain.
      Indeed, experiments on the brain have led
      neuroscientists to suggest that the capacity for
      religion may somehow be hardwired into us. If so,
      why do people's religious experiences differ so
      profoundly, moving some so deeply while leaving
      others cold?

      Andrew Newberg, a neuroscientist at the University
      of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, has been fascinated
      by the neurobiology of religion for more than a decade.
      He admits it's an awkward role for a scientist. "I
      always get concerned that people will say I'm a
      religious person who's trying to prove that God
      exists, or I'm a cynic who's trying to prove
      that God doesn't exist," he says. "But we try to
      approach it without bias." Earlier this month he
      published a book, which lays out the most
      complete theory to date of how mystical or
      religious experiences can be generated in the brain.

      Together with the now deceased Eugene d'Aquili, a
      colleague from Penn, Newberg was keen to study the
      sensations that are unique to religious
      experiences but shared by people of all faiths.
      One of these is the sense of «oneness with the
      Universe» that enthralled Einstein. The other
      is the feeling of awe that accompanies such
      revelations and makes them stand out as more
      important, more highly charged, and in a way more real
      than our everyday lives.

      But Newberg realised that rare, fleeting revelations
      would be almost impossible to study in the lab.
      It meant he had to ignore the one-off
      experiences that strike out of the blue and
      focus instead on meditation
      and prayer--sedate, but at least reproducible.

      Through a colleague who practised Tibetan Buddhism,
      Newberg and d'Aquili managed to find eight skilled
      meditators who were willing to undergo brain imaging.
      The volunteers came to the lab one at a time, and
      a technician inserted an intravenous tube into one
      arm. Then the volunteer began to meditate as
      normal, focusing intently on a single
      image, usually a religious symbol. The goal was
      to feel their everyday sense of self begin to
      dissolve, so that they became one with the image.
      «It feels like a loss of boundary,» says Michael
      Baime, one of the meditators and also a researcher
      in the study. "It's as if the film of
      your life broke and you were seeing the light
      that allowed the film to
      be projected."

      Hidden in the next room, Newberg and d'Aquili
      waited. When the meditator felt the sense of
      oneness developing--usually after about an
      hour--they would tug on a string. This signalled
      the researchers to inject a radioactive tracer
      through the intravenous line. Within minutes
      the tracer bound fast to the brain in greater
      amounts where the blood flow, and hence brain
      activity, had been higher. Later a scanner would
      measure the distribution of the tracer to yield
      a snapshot of brain activity at the time of binding.
      The technique, called Single Photon
      Emission Computed Tomography, or SPECT, allowed
      the subjects to meditate in the relative peace
      of the lab rather than the claustrophobic whirr of
      a scanner. Once the tests were completed, Newberg
      and d'Aquili compared the activity of the subjects'
      brains during meditation with scans taken
      when they were simply at rest.

      Perhaps unsurprisingly, the researchers found
      intense activity in the parts of the brain that
      regulate attention--a sign of the meditators'
      deep concentration. But they saw something else,
      too. During meditation, part of the parietal
      lobe, towards the top and rear of the brain, was
      much less active than when the volunteers were
      merely sitting still. With a thrill, Newberg and
      d'Aquili realised that this was the exact
      region of the brain where the distinction between
      self and other originates.

      Broadly speaking, the left-hemisphere side of
      this region deals with the individual's sense
      of their own body image, while its
      right-hemisphere equivalent handles its context
      --the space and time inhabited by the self. Maybe,
      the researchers thought, as the meditators
      developed the feeling of oneness, they gradually
      cut these areas off from the usual touch and
      position signals that help create the body image.

      "When you look at people in meditation, they
      really do turn off their sensations to the outside
      world. Sights and sounds don't disturb them
      any more. That may be why the parietal lobe gets
      no input,» says Newberg. Deprived of their usual
      grist, these regions no longer function
      normally, and the person feels the boundary
      between self and other begin to dissolve. And
      as the spatial and temporal context also disappears,
      the person feels a sense of infinite space and eternity.

      More recently, Newberg has repeated the experiment
      with Franciscan nuns in prayer. The nuns--whose
      prayer centres on words, rather than images--showed
      activation of the language areas of the brain. But they,
      too, shut down the same self regions of the brain
      that the meditators did as their sense of oneness
      reached its peak.

      This sense of unity with the Universe isn't the
      only characteristic of intense religious experiences.
      They also carry a hefty emotional charge,
      a feeling of awe and deep significance. Neuroscientists
      generally agree that this sensation originates in
      a region of the brain distinct from
      the parietal lobe: the «emotional brain», or limbic
      system, lying deep within the temporal lobes on
      the sides of the brain.

      The limbic system is a part of the brain that
      dates from way back in our evolution. Its function
      nowadays is to monitor our experiences and
      label especially significant events, such as
      the sight of your child's face, with emotional
      tags to say «this is important». During an intense
      religious experience, researchers believe that
      the limbic system becomes unusually active,
      tagging everything with special significance.

      This could explain why people who have had
      such experiences find them so difficult to
      describe to others. "The contents of the experience
      --the visual components, the sensory components--
      are just the same as everyone experiences all
      the time," says Jeffrey Saver, a neurologist at the
      University of California, Los Angeles. "Instead,
      the temporolimbic system is stamping these moments
      as being intensely important to the individual, as being characterised by great joy and harmony. When the
      experience is reported to someone else, only the
      contents and the sense that it's different can
      be communicated. The visceral sensation can't."

      Plenty of evidence supports the idea that the
      limbic system is important in religious experiences.
      Most famously, people who suffer
      epileptic seizures restricted to the limbic system,
      or the temporal lobes in general, sometimes report
      having profound experiences during
      their seizures. "This is similar to people undergoing
      religious conversion, who have a sense of seeing
      through their hollow selves or superficial reality
      to a deeper reality," says Saver. As a result, he
      says, epileptics have historically tended to be
      the people with the great mystical experiences.

      The Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoevsky, for
      example, wrote of «touching God» during epileptic
      seizures. Other religious figures from the past
      who may have been epileptic include St Paul, Joan
      of Arc, St Theresa of Avila and Emanuel Swedenborg,
      the 18th-century founder of the New Jerusalem Church.

      Similarly, neurosurgeons who stimulate the limbic
      system during open-brain surgery say their patients
      occasionally report experiencing religious sensations. And Alzheimer's disease, which is often marked by
      a loss of religious interest, tends to cripple the
      limbic system early on, says Saver.

      The richness that limbic stimulation brings to
      experience may explain why religions rely so heavily
      on ritual, claims Newberg. The deliberate,
      stylised motions of ceremony differentiate them
      from everyday actions, he says, and help the brain
      flag them as significant. Music, too, can
      affect the limbic system, Japanese researchers
      reported in 1997, driving it towards either arousal
      or serene bliss. Chanting or ritual movements
      may do the same. Meditation has also been shown to
      induce both arousal and relaxation, often at the same time. "Sometimes people refer to it as an active bliss,"
      says Newberg. That marriage of opposites, he thinks,
      adds to the intensity of the experience.

      Even if these feelings of oneness and awe fall
      short of the personal experiences of God that
      many people report, anyone who still doubts the
      brain's ability to generate religious experiences
      need only visit neuroscientist Michael Persinger
      at Laurentian University in the bleak
      nickel-mining town of Sudbury, Ontario. He claims
      almost anyone can meet God, just by wearing his special helmet.

      For several years, Persinger has been using a
      technique called transcranial magnetic stimulation
      to induce all sorts of surreal experiences in ordinary
      people (New Scientist, 19 November 1994, p 29).
      Through trial and error and a bit of educated
      guesswork, he's found that a weak magnetic field--1
      microtesla, which is roughly that generated by
      a computer monitor--rotating anticlockwise in a
      complex pattern about the temporal lobes will cause
      four out of five people to feel a spectral
      presence in the room with them.

      What people make of that presence depends on their
      own biases and beliefs. If a loved one has recently
      died, they may feel that person has
      returned to see them. Religious types often identify
      the presence as God. "This is all in the laboratory,
      so you can imagine what would happen if the person
      is alone in their bed at night or in a church,
      where the context is so important," he says. Persinger
      has donned the helmet himself and felt the presence,
      though he says the richness of the
      experience is diminished because he knows what's
      going on.

      Not everyone accepts that Persinger's apparitions
      could equal what religious devotees experience.
      "That is quite detached from anything
      that's a genuine religious experience, in the
      same way that psychoactive drugs can affect mood,
      but not in a legitimate way," says Julian
      Shindler, a spokesman for the Chief Rabbi's office
      in London. "It's not the genuine article, somehow."

      Whatever their validity, Persinger's experiments
      show that mystical experiences consist of not only
      what we perceive, but also how we interpret it.
      "We fit it into a niche, a pigeonhole," says Persinger.
      "The label that is then used to categorise the
      experience will influence how the person remembers
      it. And that will happen within a few
      seconds." There's a third aspect, too: the
      reinforcement that humans, as social animals,
      get from sharing religious rituals with others.

      "Religion is all three of those, and all three are
      hardwired into the brain," says Persinger. "We are
      hardwired to have experiences from time
      to time that give us a sense of a presence, and
      as primates we're hardwired to categorise our
      experiences. And we crave social interaction
      and spatial proximity with others that are the
      same. What's not hardwired is the content. If you
      have a God experience and the belief is
      that you have to kill someone who doesn't believe
      as you do, you can see why the content from the
      culture is the really dangerous part."

      So where does all this leave us? For whatever
      reason--natural or supernatural--our big, powerful
      brains clearly allow a novel sort of
      experience that we call religion. But it's difficult
      to say much more than that. "In a sense, biology evolving has discovered something new about the Universe,"
      says Charles Harper, executive director of the
      Templeton Foundation, a private institution that
      explores the interaction between religion and science.
      "Almost all cultures have this religious sense,"» he says.
      "Does that offer any insight for understanding the
      grain of the Universe? That's a haunting question."

      Sceptics of religion are quick to claim that the
      brain's hardwiring proves that God has no real
      existence, that it's all in the brain. "The
      real common denominator here is brain activity,
      not anything else," says Ron Barrier, a spokesman for American Atheists based in Cranford, New Jersey. "There is
      nothing to indicate that this is externally imposed or
      that you are somehow tapping into a divine entity."

      But Newberg isn't so sure. "We can't say they're wrong,"
      he says. "On the other hand, if you're a religious
      person, it makes sense that the
      brain can do this, because if there is a God, it
      makes sense to design the brain so that we can
      have some sort of interaction. And we can't say
      that's wrong, either. The problem is that all of
      our experiences are equal, in that they are all
      in the brain. Our experience of reality, our
      experience of science, our mystical experiences
      are all in the brain."

      In fact, he goes on, practically the only way
      we can judge the reality of an experience is by
      how real it feels: "You can have a dream and it
      feels real at the time, but you wake up and it
      no longer feels as real. The problem is, when
      people have a mystical experience, they think that
      is more real than baseline reality--even when
      they come back to baseline reality. That turns
      everything around." To Newberg, it means that
      reductionist science, powerful as it is, has
      its limitations.

      Religious experts agree. "You could say Shakespeare's
      sonnets are nothing but a combination of pencil
      lead and cellulose," says Harper.
      "But you could also say this is the outflow of
      a great soul, and that would also be true."
      He says there are different levels of explanation
      which are each true at their own level, but
      which don't offer a comprehensive explanation.

      Just as physicists cannot fully understand the
      electron as either a particle or a wave, but
      only as both at once, says Newberg, so we need
      both science and a more subjective, spiritual
      understanding in order to grasp the full nature of reality.


      --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

      Further reading:

      Why God Won't Go Away by Andrew Newberg, Eugene d'Aquili and Vince
      Rause (Ballantine Books, 2001)

      «The neural substrates of religious experience» by Jeffrey Saver and
      John Rabin, The Journal of Neuropsychiatry, vol 9, p 498 (1997)

      «Experimental induction of the 'sensed presence' in normal subjects and
      an exceptional subject» by C. M. Cook and Michael Persinger, Perceptual
      and Motor Skills, vol 85, p 683 (1997)


      --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

      >From New Scientist magazine, 21 April 2001.
      http://www.newscientist.com/newsletter/features.jsp?id=ns22871
      ---------------------------------------------------------------
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    • sean tremblay
      Bob, Its an interesting topic, one that seems to inspire some vey strong feelings in people, the statement in the artlicle I m out to prove God doesnt exist,
      Message 2 of 4 , Sep 29, 2009
      • 0 Attachment
        Bob,
        Its an interesting topic, one that seems to inspire some vey strong feelings in people, the statement in the artlicle I'm out to prove God doesnt exist, is something of a growing movement.  I would have to ask why somebody would feel the need to do that, is it to save us from our own ignornence, I have found my a faith can be a very powerfull thing

        --- On Sun, 5/3/09, medit8ionsociety <no_reply@yahoogroups.com> wrote:

        From: medit8ionsociety <no_reply@yahoogroups.com>
        Subject: [Meditation Society of America] In Search of God
        To: meditationsocietyofamerica@yahoogroups.com
        Date: Sunday, May 3, 2009, 6:46 PM

        In the Sunday New York Times, there was an
        article dealing with Faith and in it, they
        cited this article from the New Scientist Magazine
        that deals with "The God Question" that in a way
        a previous recent post brought up. In any event,
        it is very interesting in its own right/write. Enjoy!
        ------------ --------- --------- --------- --------- ---
        http://www.phys. uoa.gr/~nektar/ orthodoxy/ explanatory/ in_search_ of_god.htm
        In search of God
        By Bob Holmes, New Scientist Magazine, 21 April 2001
        (http://www.newscien tist.com/ features/ features. jsp?id=ns22871)

        Are our religious feelings just a product of
        how the brain works? Bob Holmes meets the researchers
        who are trying to explain our most sacred thoughts.

        EINSTEIN FELT IT. It's what draws people to church,
        prayer, meditation, sacred dance and other rituals.
        Chances are you've felt something like
        it too--in the mountains, by the sea, or perhaps
        while listening to a piece of music that's especially
        close to your heart. In fact, more than
        half of people report having had some sort of
        mystical or religious experience. For some, the
        experience is so intense it changes their life forever.

        But what is «it"? The presence of God? A glimpse
        of a higher plane of being? Or just the mystical
        equivalent of déjà vu, a trick the brain
        sometimes plays on your conscious self? At some
        level, of course, all our thoughts and sensations
        --however unusual--must involve the brain.
        Indeed, experiments on the brain have led
        neuroscientists to suggest that the capacity for
        religion may somehow be hardwired into us. If so,
        why do people's religious experiences differ so
        profoundly, moving some so deeply while leaving
        others cold?

        Andrew Newberg, a neuroscientist at the University
        of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, has been fascinated
        by the neurobiology of religion for more than a decade.
        He admits it's an awkward role for a scientist. "I
        always get concerned that people will say I'm a
        religious person who's trying to prove that God
        exists, or I'm a cynic who's trying to prove
        that God doesn't exist," he says. "But we try to
        approach it without bias." Earlier this month he
        published a book, which lays out the most
        complete theory to date of how mystical or
        religious experiences can be generated in the brain.

        Together with the now deceased Eugene d'Aquili, a
        colleague from Penn, Newberg was keen to study the
        sensations that are unique to religious
        experiences but shared by people of all faiths.
        One of these is the sense of «oneness with the
        Universe» that enthralled Einstein. The other
        is the feeling of awe that accompanies such
        revelations and makes them stand out as more
        important, more highly charged, and in a way more real
        than our everyday lives.

        But Newberg realised that rare, fleeting revelations
        would be almost impossible to study in the lab.
        It meant he had to ignore the one-off
        experiences that strike out of the blue and
        focus instead on meditation
        and prayer--sedate, but at least reproducible.

        Through a colleague who practised Tibetan Buddhism,
        Newberg and d'Aquili managed to find eight skilled
        meditators who were willing to undergo brain imaging.
        The volunteers came to the lab one at a time, and
        a technician inserted an intravenous tube into one
        arm. Then the volunteer began to meditate as
        normal, focusing intently on a single
        image, usually a religious symbol. The goal was
        to feel their everyday sense of self begin to
        dissolve, so that they became one with the image.
        «It feels like a loss of boundary,» says Michael
        Baime, one of the meditators and also a researcher
        in the study. "It's as if the film of
        your life broke and you were seeing the light
        that allowed the film to
        be projected."

        Hidden in the next room, Newberg and d'Aquili
        waited. When the meditator felt the sense of
        oneness developing-- usually after about an
        hour--they would tug on a string. This signalled
        the researchers to inject a radioactive tracer
        through the intravenous line. Within minutes
        the tracer bound fast to the brain in greater
        amounts where the blood flow, and hence brain
        activity, had been higher. Later a scanner would
        measure the distribution of the tracer to yield
        a snapshot of brain activity at the time of binding.
        The technique, called Single Photon
        Emission Computed Tomography, or SPECT, allowed
        the subjects to meditate in the relative peace
        of the lab rather than the claustrophobic whirr of
        a scanner. Once the tests were completed, Newberg
        and d'Aquili compared the activity of the subjects'
        brains during meditation with scans taken
        when they were simply at rest.

        Perhaps unsurprisingly, the researchers found
        intense activity in the parts of the brain that
        regulate attention--a sign of the meditators'
        deep concentration. But they saw something else,
        too. During meditation, part of the parietal
        lobe, towards the top and rear of the brain, was
        much less active than when the volunteers were
        merely sitting still. With a thrill, Newberg and
        d'Aquili realised that this was the exact
        region of the brain where the distinction between
        self and other originates.

        Broadly speaking, the left-hemisphere side of
        this region deals with the individual's sense
        of their own body image, while its
        right-hemisphere equivalent handles its context
        --the space and time inhabited by the self. Maybe,
        the researchers thought, as the meditators
        developed the feeling of oneness, they gradually
        cut these areas off from the usual touch and
        position signals that help create the body image.

        "When you look at people in meditation, they
        really do turn off their sensations to the outside
        world. Sights and sounds don't disturb them
        any more. That may be why the parietal lobe gets
        no input,» says Newberg. Deprived of their usual
        grist, these regions no longer function
        normally, and the person feels the boundary
        between self and other begin to dissolve. And
        as the spatial and temporal context also disappears,
        the person feels a sense of infinite space and eternity.

        More recently, Newberg has repeated the experiment
        with Franciscan nuns in prayer. The nuns--whose
        prayer centres on words, rather than images--showed
        activation of the language areas of the brain. But they,
        too, shut down the same self regions of the brain
        that the meditators did as their sense of oneness
        reached its peak.

        This sense of unity with the Universe isn't the
        only characteristic of intense religious experiences.
        They also carry a hefty emotional charge,
        a feeling of awe and deep significance. Neuroscientists
        generally agree that this sensation originates in
        a region of the brain distinct from
        the parietal lobe: the «emotional brain», or limbic
        system, lying deep within the temporal lobes on
        the sides of the brain.

        The limbic system is a part of the brain that
        dates from way back in our evolution. Its function
        nowadays is to monitor our experiences and
        label especially significant events, such as
        the sight of your child's face, with emotional
        tags to say «this is important». During an intense
        religious experience, researchers believe that
        the limbic system becomes unusually active,
        tagging everything with special significance.

        This could explain why people who have had
        such experiences find them so difficult to
        describe to others. "The contents of the experience
        --the visual components, the sensory components--
        are just the same as everyone experiences all
        the time," says Jeffrey Saver, a neurologist at the
        University of California, Los Angeles. "Instead,
        the temporolimbic system is stamping these moments
        as being intensely important to the individual, as being characterised by great joy and harmony. When the
        experience is reported to someone else, only the
        contents and the sense that it's different can
        be communicated. The visceral sensation can't."

        Plenty of evidence supports the idea that the
        limbic system is important in religious experiences.
        Most famously, people who suffer
        epileptic seizures restricted to the limbic system,
        or the temporal lobes in general, sometimes report
        having profound experiences during
        their seizures. "This is similar to people undergoing
        religious conversion, who have a sense of seeing
        through their hollow selves or superficial reality
        to a deeper reality," says Saver. As a result, he
        says, epileptics have historically tended to be
        the people with the great mystical experiences.

        The Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoevsky, for
        example, wrote of «touching God» during epileptic
        seizures. Other religious figures from the past
        who may have been epileptic include St Paul, Joan
        of Arc, St Theresa of Avila and Emanuel Swedenborg,
        the 18th-century founder of the New Jerusalem Church.

        Similarly, neurosurgeons who stimulate the limbic
        system during open-brain surgery say their patients
        occasionally report experiencing religious sensations. And Alzheimer's disease, which is often marked by
        a loss of religious interest, tends to cripple the
        limbic system early on, says Saver.

        The richness that limbic stimulation brings to
        experience may explain why religions rely so heavily
        on ritual, claims Newberg. The deliberate,
        stylised motions of ceremony differentiate them
        from everyday actions, he says, and help the brain
        flag them as significant. Music, too, can
        affect the limbic system, Japanese researchers
        reported in 1997, driving it towards either arousal
        or serene bliss. Chanting or ritual movements
        may do the same. Meditation has also been shown to
        induce both arousal and relaxation, often at the same time. "Sometimes people refer to it as an active bliss,"
        says Newberg. That marriage of opposites, he thinks,
        adds to the intensity of the experience.

        Even if these feelings of oneness and awe fall
        short of the personal experiences of God that
        many people report, anyone who still doubts the
        brain's ability to generate religious experiences
        need only visit neuroscientist Michael Persinger
        at Laurentian University in the bleak
        nickel-mining town of Sudbury, Ontario. He claims
        almost anyone can meet God, just by wearing his special helmet.

        For several years, Persinger has been using a
        technique called transcranial magnetic stimulation
        to induce all sorts of surreal experiences in ordinary
        people (New Scientist, 19 November 1994, p 29).
        Through trial and error and a bit of educated
        guesswork, he's found that a weak magnetic field--1
        microtesla, which is roughly that generated by
        a computer monitor--rotating anticlockwise in a
        complex pattern about the temporal lobes will cause
        four out of five people to feel a spectral
        presence in the room with them.

        What people make of that presence depends on their
        own biases and beliefs. If a loved one has recently
        died, they may feel that person has
        returned to see them. Religious types often identify
        the presence as God. "This is all in the laboratory,
        so you can imagine what would happen if the person
        is alone in their bed at night or in a church,
        where the context is so important," he says. Persinger
        has donned the helmet himself and felt the presence,
        though he says the richness of the
        experience is diminished because he knows what's
        going on.

        Not everyone accepts that Persinger's apparitions
        could equal what religious devotees experience.
        "That is quite detached from anything
        that's a genuine religious experience, in the
        same way that psychoactive drugs can affect mood,
        but not in a legitimate way," says Julian
        Shindler, a spokesman for the Chief Rabbi's office
        in London. "It's not the genuine article, somehow."

        Whatever their validity, Persinger's experiments
        show that mystical experiences consist of not only
        what we perceive, but also how we interpret it.
        "We fit it into a niche, a pigeonhole," says Persinger.
        "The label that is then used to categorise the
        experience will influence how the person remembers
        it. And that will happen within a few
        seconds." There's a third aspect, too: the
        reinforcement that humans, as social animals,
        get from sharing religious rituals with others.

        "Religion is all three of those, and all three are
        hardwired into the brain," says Persinger. "We are
        hardwired to have experiences from time
        to time that give us a sense of a presence, and
        as primates we're hardwired to categorise our
        experiences. And we crave social interaction
        and spatial proximity with others that are the
        same. What's not hardwired is the content. If you
        have a God experience and the belief is
        that you have to kill someone who doesn't believe
        as you do, you can see why the content from the
        culture is the really dangerous part."

        So where does all this leave us? For whatever
        reason--natural or supernatural- -our big, powerful
        brains clearly allow a novel sort of
        experience that we call religion. But it's difficult
        to say much more than that. "In a sense, biology evolving has discovered something new about the Universe,"
        says Charles Harper, executive director of the
        Templeton Foundation, a private institution that
        explores the interaction between religion and science.
        "Almost all cultures have this religious sense,"» he says.
        "Does that offer any insight for understanding the
        grain of the Universe? That's a haunting question."

        Sceptics of religion are quick to claim that the
        brain's hardwiring proves that God has no real
        existence, that it's all in the brain. "The
        real common denominator here is brain activity,
        not anything else," says Ron Barrier, a spokesman for American Atheists based in Cranford, New Jersey. "There is
        nothing to indicate that this is externally imposed or
        that you are somehow tapping into a divine entity."

        But Newberg isn't so sure. "We can't say they're wrong,"
        he says. "On the other hand, if you're a religious
        person, it makes sense that the
        brain can do this, because if there is a God, it
        makes sense to design the brain so that we can
        have some sort of interaction. And we can't say
        that's wrong, either. The problem is that all of
        our experiences are equal, in that they are all
        in the brain. Our experience of reality, our
        experience of science, our mystical experiences
        are all in the brain."

        In fact, he goes on, practically the only way
        we can judge the reality of an experience is by
        how real it feels: "You can have a dream and it
        feels real at the time, but you wake up and it
        no longer feels as real. The problem is, when
        people have a mystical experience, they think that
        is more real than baseline reality--even when
        they come back to baseline reality. That turns
        everything around." To Newberg, it means that
        reductionist science, powerful as it is, has
        its limitations.

        Religious experts agree. "You could say Shakespeare' s
        sonnets are nothing but a combination of pencil
        lead and cellulose," says Harper.
        "But you could also say this is the outflow of
        a great soul, and that would also be true."
        He says there are different levels of explanation
        which are each true at their own level, but
        which don't offer a comprehensive explanation.

        Just as physicists cannot fully understand the
        electron as either a particle or a wave, but
        only as both at once, says Newberg, so we need
        both science and a more subjective, spiritual
        understanding in order to grasp the full nature of reality.

        ------------ --------- --------- --------- --------- --------- -

        Further reading:

        Why God Won't Go Away by Andrew Newberg, Eugene d'Aquili and Vince
        Rause (Ballantine Books, 2001)

        «The neural substrates of religious experience» by Jeffrey Saver and
        John Rabin, The Journal of Neuropsychiatry, vol 9, p 498 (1997)

        «Experimental induction of the 'sensed presence' in normal subjects and
        an exceptional subject» by C. M. Cook and Michael Persinger, Perceptual
        and Motor Skills, vol 85, p 683 (1997)

        ------------ --------- --------- --------- --------- --------- -

        >From New Scientist magazine, 21 April 2001.
        http://www.newscien tist.com/ newsletter/ features. jsp?id=ns22871
        ------------ --------- --------- --------- --------- --------- -
        FAIR USE NOTICE
        This site contains copyrighted material the
        use of which has not always been specifically
        authorized by the copyright owner. We are
        making such material available in our efforts
        to advance understanding of environmental,
        political, human rights, economic, democracy,
        scientific, spiritual, and social justice issues,
        etc. We believe this constitutes a 'fair use'
        of any such copyrighted material as provided
        for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law.
        In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107,
        the material on this site is distributed
        without profit to those who have expressed a
        prior interest in receiving the included information
        for research and educational purposes. For more
        information go to:
        http://www.law. cornell.edu/ uscode/17/ 107.shtml.
        If you wish to use copyrighted material from this
        site for purposes of your own that go beyond 'fair use',
        you must obtain permission from the copyright owner


      • medit8ionsociety
        ... Yo Sean, I too found the article interesting and I did see many thoughts fly across my inner screen about it. I ve seen people become very high from what
        Message 3 of 4 , Sep 29, 2009
        • 0 Attachment
          --- sean tremblay <bethjams9@...> wrote:
          >
          > Bob,
          > Its an interesting topic, one that seems to inspire some vey strong feelings in people, the statement in the artlicle I'm out to prove God doesnt exist, is something of a growing movement.  I would have to ask why somebody would feel the need to do that, is it to save us from our own ignornence, I have found my a faith can be a very powerfull thing
          >
          Yo Sean,
          I too found the article interesting and I did
          see many thoughts fly across my inner screen about
          it. I've seen people become very high from what may
          have simply been caused by destimulation of both
          temporal lobes, or from parietal lobe shut-down, or
          from over stimulating the optic nerve, by whatever
          method caused it to happen, but the result was usually
          very impressive to those who experienced it. Common
          conclusions were similar to those described in the
          article - some thought they had been touched by God,
          some thought they had become "Enlightened", etc.
          But the thing they all had in common was that their
          consciousness had been expanded and this opened
          a door to the infinite and eternal that our
          usual activities and reactions never did. So one
          conclusion (if I may actually conclude definitively
          about anything!?!?) I have come to is that we can't
          have Faith in our bodies as they change every
          moment and will end up as dust or ashes, and we
          can't have Faith in our emotions as they too are
          in constant flux and will end with Alzheimers or
          ashes/dust, and similarly, ever our thoughts as
          they too face the same sure fate. We may have
          some Faith in religious concepts and perhaps
          specific Deities, but even Mother Theresa had
          her secret doubts. What we can and perhaps should
          have Faith in is consciousness. That is our hope
          when the body drops. And from what seems like all
          reported experiences of those who have been
          recognized as having been or are "Enlightened",
          a connection with a higher "unified with all and
          everything" consciousness is always present.
          Earlier tonight I happened to read something
          that may connect with this, and as I recognize
          simultaneity as a possible sign of a spiritual
          truth in action (I know this is kind of an immature
          spiritual attitude and sort of magical thinking),
          let me share it now. It's by St Timothy (Leary).
          Enjoy!

          He Who Knows The Center Endures

          Who knows the outside is clever
          Who knows the center endures
          Who masters others gains robot power
          Who comes to the center has flowering strength

          Faith of consciousness is freedom
          Hope of consciousness is strength
          Love of consciousness evokes the same in return

          Faith of seed frees
          Hope of seed flowers
          Love of seed grows

          Psychedelic Prayers VI-16
          > --- On Sun, 5/3/09, medit8ionsociety <no_reply@yahoogroups.com> wrote:
          >
          >
          > From: medit8ionsociety <no_reply@yahoogroups.com>
          > Subject: [Meditation Society of America] In Search of God
          > To: meditationsocietyofamerica@yahoogroups.com
          > Date: Sunday, May 3, 2009, 6:46 PM
          >
          >
          >
          >
          >
          >
          >
          >
          > In the Sunday New York Times, there was an
          > article dealing with Faith and in it, they
          > cited this article from the New Scientist Magazine
          > that deals with "The God Question" that in a way
          > a previous recent post brought up. In any event,
          > it is very interesting in its own right/write. Enjoy!
          > ------------ --------- --------- --------- --------- ---
          > http://www.phys uoa.gr/~nektar/ orthodoxy/ explanatory/ in_search_ of_god.htm
          > In search of God
          > By Bob Holmes, New Scientist Magazine, 21 April 2001
          > (http://www.newscien tist.com/ features/ features. jsp?id=ns22871)
          >
          > Are our religious feelings just a product of
          > how the brain works? Bob Holmes meets the researchers
          > who are trying to explain our most
          > sacred thoughts.
          >
          > EINSTEIN FELT IT. It's what draws people to church,
          > prayer, meditation, sacred dance and other rituals.
          > Chances are you've felt something like
          > it too--in the mountains, by the sea, or perhaps
          > while listening to a piece of music that's especially
          > close to your heart. In fact, more than
          > half of people report having had some sort of
          > mystical or religious experience. For some, the
          > experience is so intense it changes their life forever.
          >
          > But what is «it"? The presence of God? A glimpse
          > of a higher plane of being? Or just the mystical
          > equivalent of déjà vu, a trick the brain
          > sometimes plays on your conscious self? At some
          > level, of course, all our thoughts and sensations
          > --however unusual--must involve the brain.
          > Indeed, experiments on the brain have led
          > neuroscientists to suggest that the capacity for
          > religion may somehow be hardwired into us. If so,
          > why do
          > people's religious experiences differ so
          > profoundly, moving some so deeply while leaving
          > others cold?
          >
          > Andrew Newberg, a neuroscientist at the University
          > of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, has been fascinated
          > by the neurobiology of religion for more than a decade.
          > He admits it's an awkward role for a scientist. "I
          > always get concerned that people will say I'm a
          > religious person who's trying to prove that God
          > exists, or I'm a cynic who's trying to prove
          > that God doesn't exist," he says. "But we try to
          > approach it without bias." Earlier this month he
          > published a book, which lays out the most
          > complete theory to date of how mystical or
          > religious experiences can be generated in the brain.
          >
          > Together with the now deceased Eugene d'Aquili, a
          > colleague from Penn, Newberg was keen to study the
          > sensations that are unique to religious
          > experiences but shared by people of all faiths.
          > One of
          > these is the sense of «oneness with the
          > Universe» that enthralled Einstein. The other
          > is the feeling of awe that accompanies such
          > revelations and makes them stand out as more
          > important, more highly charged, and in a way more real
          > than our everyday lives.
          >
          > But Newberg realised that rare, fleeting revelations
          > would be almost impossible to study in the lab.
          > It meant he had to ignore the one-off
          > experiences that strike out of the blue and
          > focus instead on meditation
          > and prayer--sedate, but at least reproducible.
          >
          > Through a colleague who practised Tibetan Buddhism,
          > Newberg and d'Aquili managed to find eight skilled
          > meditators who were willing to undergo brain imaging.
          > The volunteers came to the lab one at a time, and
          > a technician inserted an intravenous tube into one
          > arm. Then the volunteer began to meditate as
          > normal, focusing intently on a single
          > image, usually a religious symbol.
          > The goal was
          > to feel their everyday sense of self begin to
          > dissolve, so that they became one with the image.
          > «It feels like a loss of boundary,» says Michael
          > Baime, one of the meditators and also a researcher
          > in the study. "It's as if the film of
          > your life broke and you were seeing the light
          > that allowed the film to
          > be projected."
          >
          > Hidden in the next room, Newberg and d'Aquili
          > waited. When the meditator felt the sense of
          > oneness developing-- usually after about an
          > hour--they would tug on a string. This signalled
          > the researchers to inject a radioactive tracer
          > through the intravenous line. Within minutes
          > the tracer bound fast to the brain in greater
          > amounts where the blood flow, and hence brain
          > activity, had been higher. Later a scanner would
          > measure the distribution of the tracer to yield
          > a snapshot of brain activity at the time of binding.
          > The technique, called Single
          > Photon
          > Emission Computed Tomography, or SPECT, allowed
          > the subjects to meditate in the relative peace
          > of the lab rather than the claustrophobic whirr of
          > a scanner. Once the tests were completed, Newberg
          > and d'Aquili compared the activity of the subjects'
          > brains during meditation with scans taken
          > when they were simply at rest.
          >
          > Perhaps unsurprisingly, the researchers found
          > intense activity in the parts of the brain that
          > regulate attention--a sign of the meditators'
          > deep concentration. But they saw something else,
          > too. During meditation, part of the parietal
          > lobe, towards the top and rear of the brain, was
          > much less active than when the volunteers were
          > merely sitting still. With a thrill, Newberg and
          > d'Aquili realised that this was the exact
          > region of the brain where the distinction between
          > self and other originates.
          >
          > Broadly speaking, the left-hemisphere side of
          > this region
          > deals with the individual's sense
          > of their own body image, while its
          > right-hemisphere equivalent handles its context
          > --the space and time inhabited by the self. Maybe,
          > the researchers thought, as the meditators
          > developed the feeling of oneness, they gradually
          > cut these areas off from the usual touch and
          > position signals that help create the body image.
          >
          > "When you look at people in meditation, they
          > really do turn off their sensations to the outside
          > world. Sights and sounds don't disturb them
          > any more. That may be why the parietal lobe gets
          > no input,» says Newberg. Deprived of their usual
          > grist, these regions no longer function
          > normally, and the person feels the boundary
          > between self and other begin to dissolve. And
          > as the spatial and temporal context also disappears,
          > the person feels a sense of infinite space and eternity.
          >
          > More recently, Newberg has repeated the experiment
          > with
          > Franciscan nuns in prayer. The nuns--whose
          > prayer centres on words, rather than images--showed
          > activation of the language areas of the brain. But they,
          > too, shut down the same self regions of the brain
          > that the meditators did as their sense of oneness
          > reached its peak.
          >
          > This sense of unity with the Universe isn't the
          > only characteristic of intense religious experiences.
          > They also carry a hefty emotional charge,
          > a feeling of awe and deep significance. Neuroscientists
          > generally agree that this sensation originates in
          > a region of the brain distinct from
          > the parietal lobe: the «emotional brain», or limbic
          > system, lying deep within the temporal lobes on
          > the sides of the brain.
          >
          > The limbic system is a part of the brain that
          > dates from way back in our evolution. Its function
          > nowadays is to monitor our experiences and
          > label especially significant events, such as
          > the sight of your
          > child's face, with emotional
          > tags to say «this is important». During an intense
          > religious experience, researchers believe that
          > the limbic system becomes unusually active,
          > tagging everything with special significance.
          >
          > This could explain why people who have had
          > such experiences find them so difficult to
          > describe to others. "The contents of the experience
          > --the visual components, the sensory components--
          > are just the same as everyone experiences all
          > the time," says Jeffrey Saver, a neurologist at the
          > University of California, Los Angeles. "Instead,
          > the temporolimbic system is stamping these moments
          > as being intensely important to the individual, as being characterised by great joy and harmony. When the
          > experience is reported to someone else, only the
          > contents and the sense that it's different can
          > be communicated. The visceral sensation can't."
          >
          > Plenty of evidence supports the idea that
          > the
          > limbic system is important in religious experiences.
          > Most famously, people who suffer
          > epileptic seizures restricted to the limbic system,
          > or the temporal lobes in general, sometimes report
          > having profound experiences during
          > their seizures. "This is similar to people undergoing
          > religious conversion, who have a sense of seeing
          > through their hollow selves or superficial reality
          > to a deeper reality," says Saver. As a result, he
          > says, epileptics have historically tended to be
          > the people with the great mystical experiences.
          >
          > The Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoevsky, for
          > example, wrote of «touching God» during epileptic
          > seizures. Other religious figures from the past
          > who may have been epileptic include St Paul, Joan
          > of Arc, St Theresa of Avila and Emanuel Swedenborg,
          > the 18th-century founder of the New Jerusalem Church.
          >
          > Similarly, neurosurgeons who stimulate the limbic
          > system
          > during open-brain surgery say their patients
          > occasionally report experiencing religious sensations. And Alzheimer's disease, which is often marked by
          > a loss of religious interest, tends to cripple the
          > limbic system early on, says Saver.
          >
          > The richness that limbic stimulation brings to
          > experience may explain why religions rely so heavily
          > on ritual, claims Newberg. The deliberate,
          > stylised motions of ceremony differentiate them
          > from everyday actions, he says, and help the brain
          > flag them as significant. Music, too, can
          > affect the limbic system, Japanese researchers
          > reported in 1997, driving it towards either arousal
          > or serene bliss. Chanting or ritual movements
          > may do the same. Meditation has also been shown to
          > induce both arousal and relaxation, often at the same time. "Sometimes people refer to it as an active bliss,"
          > says Newberg. That marriage of opposites, he thinks,
          > adds to the intensity of
          > the experience.
          >
          > Even if these feelings of oneness and awe fall
          > short of the personal experiences of God that
          > many people report, anyone who still doubts the
          > brain's ability to generate religious experiences
          > need only visit neuroscientist Michael Persinger
          > at Laurentian University in the bleak
          > nickel-mining town of Sudbury, Ontario. He claims
          > almost anyone can meet God, just by wearing his special helmet.
          >
          > For several years, Persinger has been using a
          > technique called transcranial magnetic stimulation
          > to induce all sorts of surreal experiences in ordinary
          > people (New Scientist, 19 November 1994, p 29).
          > Through trial and error and a bit of educated
          > guesswork, he's found that a weak magnetic field--1
          > microtesla, which is roughly that generated by
          > a computer monitor--rotating anticlockwise in a
          > complex pattern about the temporal lobes will cause
          > four out of five people to feel a
          > spectral
          > presence in the room with them.
          >
          > What people make of that presence depends on their
          > own biases and beliefs. If a loved one has recently
          > died, they may feel that person has
          > returned to see them. Religious types often identify
          > the presence as God. "This is all in the laboratory,
          > so you can imagine what would happen if the person
          > is alone in their bed at night or in a church,
          > where the context is so important," he says. Persinger
          > has donned the helmet himself and felt the presence,
          > though he says the richness of the
          > experience is diminished because he knows what's
          > going on.
          >
          > Not everyone accepts that Persinger's apparitions
          > could equal what religious devotees experience.
          > "That is quite detached from anything
          > that's a genuine religious experience, in the
          > same way that psychoactive drugs can affect mood,
          > but not in a legitimate way," says Julian
          > Shindler, a spokesman for
          > the Chief Rabbi's office
          > in London. "It's not the genuine article, somehow."
          >
          > Whatever their validity, Persinger's experiments
          > show that mystical experiences consist of not only
          > what we perceive, but also how we interpret it.
          > "We fit it into a niche, a pigeonhole," says Persinger.
          > "The label that is then used to categorise the
          > experience will influence how the person remembers
          > it. And that will happen within a few
          > seconds." There's a third aspect, too: the
          > reinforcement that humans, as social animals,
          > get from sharing religious rituals with others.
          >
          > "Religion is all three of those, and all three are
          > hardwired into the brain," says Persinger. "We are
          > hardwired to have experiences from time
          > to time that give us a sense of a presence, and
          > as primates we're hardwired to categorise our
          > experiences. And we crave social interaction
          > and spatial proximity with others that are the
          > same.
          > What's not hardwired is the content. If you
          > have a God experience and the belief is
          > that you have to kill someone who doesn't believe
          > as you do, you can see why the content from the
          > culture is the really dangerous part."
          >
          > So where does all this leave us? For whatever
          > reason--natural or supernatural- -our big, powerful
          > brains clearly allow a novel sort of
          > experience that we call religion. But it's difficult
          > to say much more than that. "In a sense, biology evolving has discovered something new about the Universe,"
          > says Charles Harper, executive director of the
          > Templeton Foundation, a private institution that
          > explores the interaction between religion and science.
          > "Almost all cultures have this religious sense,"» he says.
          > "Does that offer any insight for understanding the
          > grain of the Universe? That's a haunting question."
          >
          > Sceptics of religion are quick to claim that the
          > brain's
          > hardwiring proves that God has no real
          > existence, that it's all in the brain. "The
          > real common denominator here is brain activity,
          > not anything else," says Ron Barrier, a spokesman for American Atheists based in Cranford, New Jersey. "There is
          > nothing to indicate that this is externally imposed or
          > that you are somehow tapping into a divine entity."
          >
          > But Newberg isn't so sure. "We can't say they're wrong,"
          > he says. "On the other hand, if you're a religious
          > person, it makes sense that the
          > brain can do this, because if there is a God, it
          > makes sense to design the brain so that we can
          > have some sort of interaction. And we can't say
          > that's wrong, either. The problem is that all of
          > our experiences are equal, in that they are all
          > in the brain. Our experience of reality, our
          > experience of science, our mystical experiences
          > are all in the brain."
          >
          > In fact, he goes on, practically the only way
          >
          > we can judge the reality of an experience is by
          > how real it feels: "You can have a dream and it
          > feels real at the time, but you wake up and it
          > no longer feels as real. The problem is, when
          > people have a mystical experience, they think that
          > is more real than baseline reality--even when
          > they come back to baseline reality. That turns
          > everything around." To Newberg, it means that
          > reductionist science, powerful as it is, has
          > its limitations.
          >
          > Religious experts agree. "You could say Shakespeare' s
          > sonnets are nothing but a combination of pencil
          > lead and cellulose," says Harper.
          > "But you could also say this is the outflow of
          > a great soul, and that would also be true."
          > He says there are different levels of explanation
          > which are each true at their own level, but
          > which don't offer a comprehensive explanation.
          >
          > Just as physicists cannot fully understand the
          > electron as either a particle
          > or a wave, but
          > only as both at once, says Newberg, so we need
          > both science and a more subjective, spiritual
          > understanding in order to grasp the full nature of reality.
          >
          > ------------ --------- --------- --------- --------- --------- -
          >
          > Further reading:
          >
          > Why God Won't Go Away by Andrew Newberg, Eugene d'Aquili and Vince
          > Rause (Ballantine Books, 2001)
          >
          > «The neural substrates of religious experience» by Jeffrey Saver and
          > John Rabin, The Journal of Neuropsychiatry, vol 9, p 498 (1997)
          >
          > «Experimental induction of the 'sensed presence' in normal subjects and
          > an exceptional subject» by C. M. Cook and Michael Persinger, Perceptual
          > and Motor Skills, vol 85, p 683 (1997)
          >
          > ------------ --------- --------- --------- --------- --------- -
          >
          > >From New Scientist magazine, 21 April 2001.
          > http://www.newscien tist.com/ newsletter/ features. jsp?id=ns22871
          > ------------ --------- --------- --------- --------- --------- -
          > FAIR USE NOTICE
          > This site contains copyrighted material the
          > use of which has not always been specifically
          > authorized by the copyright owner. We are
          > making such material available in our efforts
          > to advance understanding of environmental,
          > political, human rights, economic, democracy,
          > scientific, spiritual, and social justice issues,
          > etc. We believe this constitutes a 'fair use'
          > of any such copyrighted material as provided
          > for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law.
          > In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107,
          > the material on this site is distributed
          > without profit to those who have expressed a
          > prior interest in receiving the included information
          > for research and educational purposes. For more
          > information go to:
          > http://www.law cornell.edu/ uscode/17/ 107.shtml.
          > If you wish to use copyrighted material from this
          > site for purposes of your own that go beyond 'fair use',
          > you must obtain permission from the copyright owner
          >
        • sean tremblay
          Hey Bob it s a great article but I was trying to delete a string of e-mail from my in box and I accidently hit send ... From: medit8ionsociety
          Message 4 of 4 , Sep 30, 2009
          • 0 Attachment
            Hey Bob it's a great article but I was trying to delete a string of e-mail from my in box and I accidently hit send

            --- On Tue, 9/29/09, medit8ionsociety <no_reply@yahoogroups.com> wrote:

            From: medit8ionsociety <no_reply@yahoogroups.com>
            Subject: [Meditation Society of America] Re: In Search of God
            To: meditationsocietyofamerica@yahoogroups.com
            Date: Tuesday, September 29, 2009, 10:27 PM

             

            --- sean tremblay <bethjams9@. ..> wrote:
            >
            > Bob,
            > Its an interesting topic, one that seems to inspire some vey strong feelings in people, the statement in the artlicle I'm out to prove God doesnt exist, is something of a growing movement.  I would have to ask why somebody would feel the need to do that, is it to save us from our own ignornence, I have found my a faith can be a very powerfull thing
            >
            Yo Sean,
            I too found the article interesting and I did
            see many thoughts fly across my inner screen about
            it. I've seen people become very high from what may
            have simply been caused by destimulation of both
            temporal lobes, or from parietal lobe shut-down, or
            from over stimulating the optic nerve, by whatever
            method caused it to happen, but the result was usually
            very impressive to those who experienced it. Common
            conclusions were similar to those described in the
            article - some thought they had been touched by God,
            some thought they had become "Enlightened" , etc.
            But the thing they all had in common was that their
            consciousness had been expanded and this opened
            a door to the infinite and eternal that our
            usual activities and reactions never did. So one
            conclusion (if I may actually conclude definitively
            about anything!?!? ) I have come to is that we can't
            have Faith in our bodies as they change every
            moment and will end up as dust or ashes, and we
            can't have Faith in our emotions as they too are
            in constant flux and will end with Alzheimers or
            ashes/dust, and similarly, ever our thoughts as
            they too face the same sure fate. We may have
            some Faith in religious concepts and perhaps
            specific Deities, but even Mother Theresa had
            her secret doubts. What we can and perhaps should
            have Faith in is consciousness. That is our hope
            when the body drops. And from what seems like all
            reported experiences of those who have been
            recognized as having been or are "Enlightened" ,
            a connection with a higher "unified with all and
            everything" consciousness is always present.
            Earlier tonight I happened to read something
            that may connect with this, and as I recognize
            simultaneity as a possible sign of a spiritual
            truth in action (I know this is kind of an immature
            spiritual attitude and sort of magical thinking),
            let me share it now. It's by St Timothy (Leary).
            Enjoy!

            He Who Knows The Center Endures

            Who knows the outside is clever
            Who knows the center endures
            Who masters others gains robot power
            Who comes to the center has flowering strength

            Faith of consciousness is freedom
            Hope of consciousness is strength
            Love of consciousness evokes the same in return

            Faith of seed frees
            Hope of seed flowers
            Love of seed grows

            Psychedelic Prayers VI-16
            > --- On Sun, 5/3/09, medit8ionsociety <no_reply@yahoogroup s.com> wrote:
            >
            >
            > From: medit8ionsociety <no_reply@yahoogroup s.com>
            > Subject: [Meditation Society of America] In Search of God
            > To: meditationsocietyof america@yahoogro ups.com
            > Date: Sunday, May 3, 2009, 6:46 PM
            >
            >
            >
            >
            >
            >
            >
            >
            > In the Sunday New York Times, there was an
            > article dealing with Faith and in it, they
            > cited this article from the New Scientist Magazine
            > that deals with "The God Question" that in a way
            > a previous recent post brought up. In any event,
            > it is very interesting in its own right/write. Enjoy!
            > ------------ --------- --------- --------- --------- ---
            > http://www.phys. uoa.gr/~nektar/ orthodoxy/ explanatory/ in_search_ of_god.htm
            > In search of God
            > By Bob Holmes, New Scientist Magazine, 21 April 2001
            > (http://www.newscien tist.com/ features/ features. jsp?id=ns22871)
            >
            > Are our religious feelings just a product of
            > how the brain works? Bob Holmes meets the researchers
            > who are trying to explain our most
            > sacred thoughts.
            >
            > EINSTEIN FELT IT. It's what draws people to church,
            > prayer, meditation, sacred dance and other rituals.
            > Chances are you've felt something like
            > it too--in the mountains, by the sea, or perhaps
            > while listening to a piece of music that's especially
            > close to your heart. In fact, more than
            > half of people report having had some sort of
            > mystical or religious experience. For some, the
            > experience is so intense it changes their life forever.
            >
            > But what is «it"? The presence of God? A glimpse
            > of a higher plane of being? Or just the mystical
            > equivalent of déjà vu, a trick the brain
            > sometimes plays on your conscious self? At some
            > level, of course, all our thoughts and sensations
            > --however unusual--must involve the brain.
            > Indeed, experiments on the brain have led
            > neuroscientists to suggest that the capacity for
            > religion may somehow be hardwired into us. If so,
            > why do
            > people's religious experiences differ so
            > profoundly, moving some so deeply while leaving
            > others cold?
            >
            > Andrew Newberg, a neuroscientist at the University
            > of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, has been fascinated
            > by the neurobiology of religion for more than a decade.
            > He admits it's an awkward role for a scientist. "I
            > always get concerned that people will say I'm a
            > religious person who's trying to prove that God
            > exists, or I'm a cynic who's trying to prove
            > that God doesn't exist," he says. "But we try to
            > approach it without bias." Earlier this month he
            > published a book, which lays out the most
            > complete theory to date of how mystical or
            > religious experiences can be generated in the brain.
            >
            > Together with the now deceased Eugene d'Aquili, a
            > colleague from Penn, Newberg was keen to study the
            > sensations that are unique to religious
            > experiences but shared by people of all faiths.
            > One of
            > these is the sense of «oneness with the
            > Universe» that enthralled Einstein. The other
            > is the feeling of awe that accompanies such
            > revelations and makes them stand out as more
            > important, more highly charged, and in a way more real
            > than our everyday lives.
            >
            > But Newberg realised that rare, fleeting revelations
            > would be almost impossible to study in the lab.
            > It meant he had to ignore the one-off
            > experiences that strike out of the blue and
            > focus instead on meditation
            > and prayer--sedate, but at least reproducible.
            >
            > Through a colleague who practised Tibetan Buddhism,
            > Newberg and d'Aquili managed to find eight skilled
            > meditators who were willing to undergo brain imaging.
            > The volunteers came to the lab one at a time, and
            > a technician inserted an intravenous tube into one
            > arm. Then the volunteer began to meditate as
            > normal, focusing intently on a single
            > image, usually a religious symbol.
            > The goal was
            > to feel their everyday sense of self begin to
            > dissolve, so that they became one with the image.
            > «It feels like a loss of boundary,» says Michael
            > Baime, one of the meditators and also a researcher
            > in the study. "It's as if the film of
            > your life broke and you were seeing the light
            > that allowed the film to
            > be projected."
            >
            > Hidden in the next room, Newberg and d'Aquili
            > waited. When the meditator felt the sense of
            > oneness developing-- usually after about an
            > hour--they would tug on a string. This signalled
            > the researchers to inject a radioactive tracer
            > through the intravenous line. Within minutes
            > the tracer bound fast to the brain in greater
            > amounts where the blood flow, and hence brain
            > activity, had been higher. Later a scanner would
            > measure the distribution of the tracer to yield
            > a snapshot of brain activity at the time of binding.
            > The technique, called Single
            > Photon
            > Emission Computed Tomography, or SPECT, allowed
            > the subjects to meditate in the relative peace
            > of the lab rather than the claustrophobic whirr of
            > a scanner. Once the tests were completed, Newberg
            > and d'Aquili compared the activity of the subjects'
            > brains during meditation with scans taken
            > when they were simply at rest.
            >
            > Perhaps unsurprisingly, the researchers found
            > intense activity in the parts of the brain that
            > regulate attention--a sign of the meditators'
            > deep concentration. But they saw something else,
            > too. During meditation, part of the parietal
            > lobe, towards the top and rear of the brain, was
            > much less active than when the volunteers were
            > merely sitting still. With a thrill, Newberg and
            > d'Aquili realised that this was the exact
            > region of the brain where the distinction between
            > self and other originates.
            >
            > Broadly speaking, the left-hemisphere side of
            > this region
            > deals with the individual's sense
            > of their own body image, while its
            > right-hemisphere equivalent handles its context
            > --the space and time inhabited by the self. Maybe,
            > the researchers thought, as the meditators
            > developed the feeling of oneness, they gradually
            > cut these areas off from the usual touch and
            > position signals that help create the body image.
            >
            > "When you look at people in meditation, they
            > really do turn off their sensations to the outside
            > world. Sights and sounds don't disturb them
            > any more. That may be why the parietal lobe gets
            > no input,» says Newberg. Deprived of their usual
            > grist, these regions no longer function
            > normally, and the person feels the boundary
            > between self and other begin to dissolve. And
            > as the spatial and temporal context also disappears,
            > the person feels a sense of infinite space and eternity.
            >
            > More recently, Newberg has repeated the experiment
            > with
            > Franciscan nuns in prayer. The nuns--whose
            > prayer centres on words, rather than images--showed
            > activation of the language areas of the brain. But they,
            > too, shut down the same self regions of the brain
            > that the meditators did as their sense of oneness
            > reached its peak.
            >
            > This sense of unity with the Universe isn't the
            > only characteristic of intense religious experiences.
            > They also carry a hefty emotional charge,
            > a feeling of awe and deep significance. Neuroscientists
            > generally agree that this sensation originates in
            > a region of the brain distinct from
            > the parietal lobe: the «emotional brain», or limbic
            > system, lying deep within the temporal lobes on
            > the sides of the brain.
            >
            > The limbic system is a part of the brain that
            > dates from way back in our evolution. Its function
            > nowadays is to monitor our experiences and
            > label especially significant events, such as
            > the sight of your
            > child's face, with emotional
            > tags to say «this is important». During an intense
            > religious experience, researchers believe that
            > the limbic system becomes unusually active,
            > tagging everything with special significance.
            >
            > This could explain why people who have had
            > such experiences find them so difficult to
            > describe to others. "The contents of the experience
            > --the visual components, the sensory components--
            > are just the same as everyone experiences all
            > the time," says Jeffrey Saver, a neurologist at the
            > University of California, Los Angeles. "Instead,
            > the temporolimbic system is stamping these moments
            > as being intensely important to the individual, as being characterised by great joy and harmony. When the
            > experience is reported to someone else, only the
            > contents and the sense that it's different can
            > be communicated. The visceral sensation can't."
            >
            > Plenty of evidence supports the idea that
            > the
            > limbic system is important in religious experiences.
            > Most famously, people who suffer
            > epileptic seizures restricted to the limbic system,
            > or the temporal lobes in general, sometimes report
            > having profound experiences during
            > their seizures. "This is similar to people undergoing
            > religious conversion, who have a sense of seeing
            > through their hollow selves or superficial reality
            > to a deeper reality," says Saver. As a result, he
            > says, epileptics have historically tended to be
            > the people with the great mystical experiences.
            >
            > The Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoevsky, for
            > example, wrote of «touching God» during epileptic
            > seizures. Other religious figures from the past
            > who may have been epileptic include St Paul, Joan
            > of Arc, St Theresa of Avila and Emanuel Swedenborg,
            > the 18th-century founder of the New Jerusalem Church.
            >
            > Similarly, neurosurgeons who stimulate the limbic
            > system
            > during open-brain surgery say their patients
            > occasionally report experiencing religious sensations. And Alzheimer's disease, which is often marked by
            > a loss of religious interest, tends to cripple the
            > limbic system early on, says Saver.
            >
            > The richness that limbic stimulation brings to
            > experience may explain why religions rely so heavily
            > on ritual, claims Newberg. The deliberate,
            > stylised motions of ceremony differentiate them
            > from everyday actions, he says, and help the brain
            > flag them as significant. Music, too, can
            > affect the limbic system, Japanese researchers
            > reported in 1997, driving it towards either arousal
            > or serene bliss. Chanting or ritual movements
            > may do the same. Meditation has also been shown to
            > induce both arousal and relaxation, often at the same time. "Sometimes people refer to it as an active bliss,"
            > says Newberg. That marriage of opposites, he thinks,
            > adds to the intensity of
            > the experience.
            >
            > Even if these feelings of oneness and awe fall
            > short of the personal experiences of God that
            > many people report, anyone who still doubts the
            > brain's ability to generate religious experiences
            > need only visit neuroscientist Michael Persinger
            > at Laurentian University in the bleak
            > nickel-mining town of Sudbury, Ontario. He claims
            > almost anyone can meet God, just by wearing his special helmet.
            >
            > For several years, Persinger has been using a
            > technique called transcranial magnetic stimulation
            > to induce all sorts of surreal experiences in ordinary
            > people (New Scientist, 19 November 1994, p 29).
            > Through trial and error and a bit of educated
            > guesswork, he's found that a weak magnetic field--1
            > microtesla, which is roughly that generated by
            > a computer monitor--rotating anticlockwise in a
            > complex pattern about the temporal lobes will cause
            > four out of five people to feel a
            > spectral
            > presence in the room with them.
            >
            > What people make of that presence depends on their
            > own biases and beliefs. If a loved one has recently
            > died, they may feel that person has
            > returned to see them. Religious types often identify
            > the presence as God. "This is all in the laboratory,
            > so you can imagine what would happen if the person
            > is alone in their bed at night or in a church,
            > where the context is so important," he says. Persinger
            > has donned the helmet himself and felt the presence,
            > though he says the richness of the
            > experience is diminished because he knows what's
            > going on.
            >
            > Not everyone accepts that Persinger's apparitions
            > could equal what religious devotees experience.
            > "That is quite detached from anything
            > that's a genuine religious experience, in the
            > same way that psychoactive drugs can affect mood,
            > but not in a legitimate way," says Julian
            > Shindler, a spokesman for
            > the Chief Rabbi's office
            > in London. "It's not the genuine article, somehow."
            >
            > Whatever their validity, Persinger's experiments
            > show that mystical experiences consist of not only
            > what we perceive, but also how we interpret it.
            > "We fit it into a niche, a pigeonhole," says Persinger.
            > "The label that is then used to categorise the
            > experience will influence how the person remembers
            > it. And that will happen within a few
            > seconds." There's a third aspect, too: the
            > reinforcement that humans, as social animals,
            > get from sharing religious rituals with others.
            >
            > "Religion is all three of those, and all three are
            > hardwired into the brain," says Persinger. "We are
            > hardwired to have experiences from time
            > to time that give us a sense of a presence, and
            > as primates we're hardwired to categorise our
            > experiences. And we crave social interaction
            > and spatial proximity with others that are the
            > same.
            > What's not hardwired is the content. If you
            > have a God experience and the belief is
            > that you have to kill someone who doesn't believe
            > as you do, you can see why the content from the
            > culture is the really dangerous part."
            >
            > So where does all this leave us? For whatever
            > reason--natural or supernatural- -our big, powerful
            > brains clearly allow a novel sort of
            > experience that we call religion. But it's difficult
            > to say much more than that. "In a sense, biology evolving has discovered something new about the Universe,"
            > says Charles Harper, executive director of the
            > Templeton Foundation, a private institution that
            > explores the interaction between religion and science.
            > "Almost all cultures have this religious sense,"» he says.
            > "Does that offer any insight for understanding the
            > grain of the Universe? That's a haunting question."
            >
            > Sceptics of religion are quick to claim that the
            > brain's
            > hardwiring proves that God has no real
            > existence, that it's all in the brain. "The
            > real common denominator here is brain activity,
            > not anything else," says Ron Barrier, a spokesman for American Atheists based in Cranford, New Jersey. "There is
            > nothing to indicate that this is externally imposed or
            > that you are somehow tapping into a divine entity."
            >
            > But Newberg isn't so sure. "We can't say they're wrong,"
            > he says. "On the other hand, if you're a religious
            > person, it makes sense that the
            > brain can do this, because if there is a God, it
            > makes sense to design the brain so that we can
            > have some sort of interaction. And we can't say
            > that's wrong, either. The problem is that all of
            > our experiences are equal, in that they are all
            > in the brain. Our experience of reality, our
            > experience of science, our mystical experiences
            > are all in the brain."
            >
            > In fact, he goes on, practically the only way
            >
            > we can judge the reality of an experience is by
            > how real it feels: "You can have a dream and it
            > feels real at the time, but you wake up and it
            > no longer feels as real. The problem is, when
            > people have a mystical experience, they think that
            > is more real than baseline reality--even when
            > they come back to baseline reality. That turns
            > everything around." To Newberg, it means that
            > reductionist science, powerful as it is, has
            > its limitations.
            >
            > Religious experts agree. "You could say Shakespeare' s
            > sonnets are nothing but a combination of pencil
            > lead and cellulose," says Harper.
            > "But you could also say this is the outflow of
            > a great soul, and that would also be true."
            > He says there are different levels of explanation
            > which are each true at their own level, but
            > which don't offer a comprehensive explanation.
            >
            > Just as physicists cannot fully understand the
            > electron as either a particle
            > or a wave, but
            > only as both at once, says Newberg, so we need
            > both science and a more subjective, spiritual
            > understanding in order to grasp the full nature of reality.
            >
            > ------------ --------- --------- --------- --------- --------- -
            >
            > Further reading:
            >
            > Why God Won't Go Away by Andrew Newberg, Eugene d'Aquili and Vince
            > Rause (Ballantine Books, 2001)
            >
            > «The neural substrates of religious experience» by Jeffrey Saver and
            > John Rabin, The Journal of Neuropsychiatry, vol 9, p 498 (1997)
            >
            > «Experimental induction of the 'sensed presence' in normal subjects and
            > an exceptional subject» by C. M. Cook and Michael Persinger, Perceptual
            > and Motor Skills, vol 85, p 683 (1997)
            >
            > ------------ --------- --------- --------- --------- --------- -
            >
            > >From New Scientist magazine, 21 April 2001.
            > http://www.newscien tist.com/ newsletter/ features. jsp?id=ns22871
            > ------------ --------- --------- --------- --------- --------- -
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