To me one of the most interesting aspects of the spiritual experiences that we’ve studied is that if people get deep enough into the practice they feel as if they have kind of gotten outside of their brain.
They feel as if their consciousness or their mind or their soul, depending on how you define it, is somewhere beyond simply the mechanistic functions of the human brain. Now the brain scan can show the areas of the brain that seem to be active when they have the experience, but that seems to be a limit as to what science can tell us about human consciousness.
That’s why to me the idea of neurotheology is a way of not just looking at the science, but also trying to understand the subjective nature of the mind, of consciousness. Those experiences are extremely important for us to look at and to look at systematically in terms of how they’re perceived and also what and how they may be related to biology.
It certainly may be the case that our brain doesn’t create consciousness, but somehow receives it. From the Buddhist and Hindu perspective that falls very much in line with the belief system that there is really a universal consciousness that we’re a part of, that we tap into. On the other hand the more western tradition is that there isn’t this ethereal area out there, that there isn’t consciousness around. It’s all just what’s inside of our brain and I hope that this research may lead us to a better conclusion to better understand that.
In Their Own Words is recorded in Big Think’s studio.
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