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?

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