Thursday, 19 January 2017

Speaking Tree - The Holistic Union Of Matter And Spirit



Speaking Tree - The Holistic Union Of Matter And Spirit

Having committed to a religious way of life and in pursuit of the divine and the sacred i have been interested in current trends in the burgeoning sphere of neuroscience.

 It is imperative that we factor in the findings of scientific research and its impact on the universal experience of the spiritual.

Spiritual experience of every hue has a biological basis. While the term neurotheology is comparatively new, its basic ideas have been around for thousands of years says Michael Winkelman from the department of Anthropology, Arizona State University. 

Neurotheologians argue that the structure and function of the human brain predisposes us to believe in God. 

Among the limbic structures that have been associated with religious belief the most are the hypothalamus, amygdala and the hippocampus.

Considering that the brain is increasingly being associated with having a role in everything we think, feel and do it is probably just a matter of time before it is postulated that religious belief has a neural substrate. 

The question of how the brain may be hardwired for spirituality has captured the interest of many investigators who have established careers in neurology, theology and neuroscience. 

This has created the new discipline of Neurotheology.

Rhawn Joseph, a prominent neurotheologian, goes a step further to suggest that the limbic system is dotted with “God neurons” and “God neurotransmitters”. Research subjects, put through functional MRI scans during meditation, show that thinking about God changes the way the brain works. 

If so, there may be some inherent neural imperative to believe in God in the first place. This discovery is supported by findings that people who are happy, depressed or obsessed demonstrate that these phenomena are brain-driven.

Ilia Delio who is a member of the Roman Catholic Franciscan order and holds doctoral degrees in pharmacology and historical theology gives this account of how neurotheologians conflate theology and neuroscience to make the case for a religious neural substrate. 

“It is tempting to speculate that there is a ‘God module’ in the brain and that such a module is located in the area of the limbic system. However, such speculation must be made cautiously. What the findings do point to, however, is that spirituality involves the brain. For the first time in human history we are beginning to understand spiritual experience not as something apart from the physical human but bound up with human matter. Thus matter and spirit are no longer seen to be opposed but indeed mutually related if not one and the same.’’

Moreover, Dale Carnegie in his book “How to win friends and influence people” suggests that the majority of people are driven by how they feel. 

Not by what makes sense. There are people who visit places of worship and read religious texts but feel there has to be something more. They want meaning. 

They want explanations for uncanny occurrences in their lives or beautiful friendships they create or people they fall in love with.

 It is here that the emotional brain comes into play. It is here that we do not reduce the spiritual to the intellect alone but must include the bodily and the transcendent.

Faith in God is not merely an act of will but has a bodily component.  Such a conviction is in its incipient stage but we need to have an open mind and submit ourselves to the findings of scientific research. 

There are persuasive arguments for the essential connection between body and soul. The notion that our bodies are temples of God make thorough sense, even in scientific terms. 

The union of matter and spirit is crucial for holistic health and is central to who we are as human beings.
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