The Spiritual Brain

(Preamble, bu Alex Anderson, to the ARF Kgotla Meeting’s presentation on Neuro-theology. This presentation as recorded and will soon be uploaded as a podcast on this site.)


“Wisdom is the principal thing: therefore, get wisdom: and with all thy getting get understanding.” Proverbs chap 4 v7

We need to affirm our Basis or Means for understanding. We have a consequent need for enquiry. Why or how are we here? Philosophers, theologians, metaphysicians, palaeontologists, archaeologists, biologists, astronomers and more, all contend with vast and even infinite areas of question and scientific study.

The search being to explore, so as establish in some way or other a   reason for our being, the origin and purpose of human existence and consciousness? From the infinite depths of space to the interstices of the molecular matter we have reason to enquire? Equally, if not more unknown, for the most part, is the integrative human brain. It’s processes, synapses, neurons regions and connectivity to the autonomic and parasympathetic remain in need of considerable research and understanding. This is the task of the neuroscientist.

Religion is, as held by some, is often seen as being the basis of human culture and tradition. For many past and existing human societies, it is the foundational means of achieving cohesion and order, even law.   It is also, as we well know, even today, the reason for much war and strife.

The brain is integrally part of our religious experience.  Some would hold that we are “hardwired” to venerate, recognise and even worship God or Gods. Neuro theology is concerned with understanding the cortex from the point of view of how its various regions and interconnectivity work together in the experience and practice of religion. Regular adherence to the concept of worship and the traditions attached give rise to the statement “neurons that fire together are wired together.” Does that mean that being religious and having a belief system involves a form of conditioning? The human brain is part of a holistic process the extent and meaning of which is awesome in its infinity. Equal it could be said to the questions that remain unanswered in the broader galactic universe. Questions arise, you have been given some that require answers.

*Is the reason for a concept of a “spiritual brain” based on evolution, neuroscience or religion?

*What is the relationship between religion and physical health?

*How does the brain make beliefs about religion, politics, morals and every aspect of the world?

*What are the flaws the brain has in making beliefs and can we become better believers?

*Do specific brain processes influence our perception of God?

*What limitations does the brain place on our ability to conceive of and relate to God?

*Is it measurably possible to identify neurological characteristics of a person undergoing “a spiritual experience end of quote?

* Are the phenomena of ” mystical experience/s” unique and normal and consistent with what we understand to be good mental health? Et cetera et cetera

Thus, this the brain, using the insights of the science of neuro theology, seeks to provide a frontier for investigation, with humility, a means of possibly understanding of God?

We are told that we are made in Gods image. If we can understand our brain more ably, have we not an avenue to a better appreciation of the “power of the infinite mind”