There’s an absolutely fascinating article in the latest Scientific American about some scientists who were able to produce a sense of spiritual awe and wonder in a group of test subjects purely by artificial means. The summary posted on Slashdot gives us the lowdown:
Scientific American is reporting on scientific work done to map the euphoric religious feelings within the brain. As a result, it’s now quite possible to experience ‘proximity to God’ via a special helmet: “In a series of studies conducted over the past several decades, Persinger and his team have trained their device on the temporal lobes of hundreds of people. In doing so, the researchers induced in most of them the experience of a sensed presence—a feeling that someone (or a spirit) is in the room when no one, in fact, is—or of a profound state of cosmic bliss that reveals a universal truth. During the three-minute bursts of stimulation, the affected subjects translated this perception of the divine into their own cultural and religious language—terming it God, Buddha, a benevolent presence or the wonder of the universe.”
I’m speechless! This astounds me, but it’s also not entirely surprising as many people tend to have profound spiritual experiences (religious or otherwise) while ingesting substances like psilocybin mushrooms, LSD, DMT, or even good ol’ pot. If this stuff can be produced by taking a drug or wearing one of these helmets, does this mean that people who have spiritual and mind-expanding experiences are simply being deluded by their brain’s chemical doings? One would be tempted to say yes, but if people are having these reactions without the presence of drugs or external stimuli (intense worhip, etc.), then what causes the brain to produce these feelings seemingly at random? If emotions can be reduced to a bunch of chemical reactions, then maybe this can, too. Or maybe not…I prefer to remain agnostic on certain things.
OK, this is too much to think about on a Monday. 🙂