Archive for September, 2006

The God Spot becomes God Spots

Several years ago, researchers in neurophysiology found a localised cluster of cells in the brain which was involved in spiritual and religious experience. Many referred to this as the God-Spot.

A new study carried out in Canada shows that several areas of the brain are involved. The areas are investigated for increased electrical activity and blood oxygen levels.

Scans were taken as nuns relived intense religious experiences. They showed a surge in neural activity in regions of the brain that govern feelings of peace, happiness and self-awareness.

Some regions, such as the medial orbitofrontal cortex, are strongly associated with emotions, while activity in the right middle temporal cortex is believed to be responsible for the impression of contacting a spiritual entity. The scans showed different brain activity from those taken when the nuns were asked to remember intense emotional experiences that involved another person.

This has brought the issue of the “Science of God” back into debate. Some people jump on this as proof that “God is in the mind,” others that “God works through the mind.” Some religious people will claim it as their exclusive proof, and some atheists saviour it as their Messiah (switch intended). Funny how everything can be looked at in so many different ways. In the heat of debate, small-minded humans like you and I can jump to radical or closed conclusions, whilst learning itself is relative and on a continuum.

Perhaps a wiser approach based on current understanding is to consider that all experience, thought and emotion has a parallel or simultaneous neurophysiological pattern of activity. In study of the neurophysiology and psychology of spontaneous creativity, such as writing or painting, it is hard to dissociate cause and effect, chicken and egg. So quite feasibly, spiritual experience, in the same way, just is. It takes place in the mind of the person experiencing it, and it can only mean something to them. You could argue till the cows come home on whether it caused the brain activity or the brain activity caused it - would it be that hard to consider the possibility that they exist, one and the same? That real science and real spirituality are the same thing, categorised that way so that we can study them, try to learn more about them? This is of course, a very necessary practice. A saying of Abdu’l-Baha comes to mind, that the soul is the rational mind. He also stated: “Religion must be reasonable. If it does not square with reason, it is superstition and without foundation. It is like a mirage, which deceives man by leading him to think it is a body of water. God has endowed man with reason that he may perceive what is true.”

Great advice. It would follow that to develop any aspect of our “rational mind,” volition, discovery, practice and training is required?

Aussie values

This posting is dedicated to Tash who told me “your blog sux!” She previously told me it rocked, so I assume she is referring to the fact that I don’t post enough. Please don’t leave, I promise I’ll change!

With the untimely and sad passing of two Australian icons, Steve Irwin and Peter Brock, are we also seeing the death of the Australian Way? We’re fixated on “Aussie values,” “mateship,” and “Our way of life” but what do these things mean?

New research shows that many Aussies are becoming disillusioned with the word “mateship” because they see it starved of its real meaning, having become a word used for political sway in whatever context is useful. This is sad, because mateship is what Australia is all about. Giving a lending hand to someone, no matter where they’re from and what circumstances they live in, having a respectful but irreverent sense of humour and not taking ourselves too seriously.
Studying mateship in Australian literature is how I came to realise what it was about to be Aussie, back in High School.

Last night’s Insight program on SBS TV was a fascinating view into what these values mean to different Aussies. Transcripts are available on the site.

This brilliant but controversial ad featuring Sam Kekovich encompasses it all - what it means to be both Australian and “Un-Australian!” One thing’s for sure, what we like to boast as Aussie values are just good common sense values that most people, of whatever religion, creed or class, hold true. They are human values. So let’s not get lost in the debate and lose sight of what Aussie values are all about: humanity.

“Glory not in love for your country, but in love for all mankind,” state the Baha’i Writings.


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