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PostSubject: What are Mystical Experiences?   Tue Apr 20, 2010 1:57 pm

What are Mystical Experiences?
The Neurobiology of the Spiritual Brain
Share Article | Nov 15, 2008 Mary Desaulniers

Neuroscientist Mario Beauregard disproves current theories that mystical experiences are the consequences of genetic function and neural stimulation.

Current theories of mystical experiences support the view that human spirituality is a genetically inherited and neural chemically induced state, an idea substantiated by claims that spiritual experiences can be electromagnetically stimulated in the temporal lobes. Such theories reduce mystical experiences to a series of chemical reactions or “delusions” created by neural disorders.

In his book, The Spiritual Brain: A Neuroscientist’s Case for the Existence of the Soul (New York: HarperCollins, 2007), neuroscientist Mario Beauregard refutes this materialist basis of current theories by showing through his research with the Carmelite Nuns that mystical experiences are not isolated in the temporal lobes; rather, they are whole body experiences engaging the entire neural circuit more consistent with an actual lived experience than the “delusion” of brain stimulation.

What are Mystical Experiences?
In general, mystical experiences involve several of the following characteristics:

a) They cannot be expressed in words.

b) They are often states of intuitive and instant knowledge.

c) They culminate in cosmic consciousness, a sense of wholeness or Oneness with the Universe.

d) They are life-changing.

e) They are often triggered by depression, prayer, meditation and natural beauty.

The Neurobiology of the Spiritual Brain

In his research on the Carmelite Nuns of Montreal, Beauregard conducted brain scans of nuns who relived their most significant mystical experiences. Using recall as an initial trigger, several nuns were able to reach an actual experience of deeply mystical states that revealed the neurobiology of the spiritual brain. These studies demonstrated the following “truths” about the nature of mystical experiences:

a) There is no single “God Spot” of neural stimulation.

b) Mystical experiences engage many brain regions, not just the temporal lobes. Brain areas involved in self-consciousness, emotion, body representation, visual and motor imagery were all activated in his study with the nuns; this variety of functions shows that mystical experiences are complex and multidimensional ( not the simple effect of an electrically stimulated impulse), more an experience that is lived than imagined.

c) The nuns experienced a marked change in consciousness once they reached the mystical state, a situation that was substantiated by the abundance of theta activity in their brain profiles.

d) The nuns’ initial state of emotional recall was markedly different from the transcendent state they ultimately experienced.

Beauregard claims that science cannot prove or disprove the existence of God; however, it can disprove the materialist claims that God is the result of genetic inheritance or neural disorder. Moreover, the burden of proof or evidence becomes irrelevant when man understands that this universe itself is a product of consciousness and that consciousness is an “irreducible quality” (270). The story of consciousness in the 21st century should focus less on reducing this innate power to neural chemical reactions and more on the human evolution towards a “planetary type of consciousness”(295) that can help man successfully confront the global crises of economy, nuclear arms and climate change.

Read more at Suite101: What are Mystical Experiences?: The Neurobiology of the Spiritual Brain http://alternativespirituality.suite101.com/article.cfm/what_are_mystical_experiences#ixzz0lboP0kO4
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