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Re: [Meditation Society of America] Re: In Search of God

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  • 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 1 of 4 , Sep 30, 2009
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      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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