Archive for April, 2007|Monthly archive page

Introducing – the spiritual area of the brain

Humans have an area in the brain which is common to religious experiences, see Are humans hard-wired for faith?. This isn’t new, I’ve encountered it several years now. At first, it was an astonishing discovery, but thinking about it in retrospect, it’s kind of obvious for any person whose not an extreme spiritualist.

We know any thinking process has some neurological basis to it. We can’t see, hear, do math, read, recognize our grandma or feel pain without the neuronal activity. We can’t be totally sure as to what causes what, but its quite commonly agreed that it is the neuronal activity that somehow causes our perception of the sensations (specific stimulation of neurons in the brain by electrodes or chemicals can cause perceptions). Hence, it is quite obvious that something as common as religion, which affects over 90% of the world population, would also have some neuronal basis. The interesting part is that the activity is common to all religions – A Buddhist meditating has the same neuronal activity as a Christian praying. This somehow brings us all closer a notch, its a shame this also causes humans to become zealots. I think this notion makes this zealotry ludicrous – “My favorite stimuli for creating neuronal activity in the right frontal lobe is correct and your is false, therefore you must die!”. Now doesn’t that make sense? Why didn’t you just say so?

Another thing that’s interesting is that the activity (and thus spiritual revelations) can be reproduced by simple measures: Meditation, Prayer, Trance music and LSD. Apart from LSD which causes chemical reactions which could take some work to figure out, this demystifies spirituality to a point of absurd. There is nothing special about the AHUM syllable used in meditation, nor the rocking of Jewish prayer. Any repetitive motion will eventually induce spiritual activity in the brain, be it embedded in trance music created a year ago, or a religious ceremony created 2000 years ago. The importance of “ceremonies”* in the definition of religion become trivial, and a “create your own cult” handbook is already half written.

* ceremonies in the larger definition, meaning any action or thought required to be repeated in any time interval, usually daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly or yearly.

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Brain Map

The BBC has a nice applet for exploring the Brain Map.

Enjoy 🙂