Mysticism/Belief and brain research
Belief is the psychological state in which an individual holds a conjecture or premise to be true.
Belief and brain researchEdit
(Quotes http://www.zeit.de/2010/29/Gott-imHirn) Persinger, brainresearcher at the Laurentian University in Sudbury, Canada, did not think that he could call forth religious experiences in his lab. Apparently, an altered motorcycle helmet with solenoids were enough to cause the brain to produce “godly” waves. Many of the test people that Persinger took into his soundproof chamber, equipped with helmet and blackened glasses reported astounding effects: they felt a presence, as if someone stood next to them. Some people felt there was a guardian angel or even God there with them.
Dawkins saw his chance to test his own lack of faith. He travelled to Sudbury, put on Persingers helmet and waited for what was to come. Secretly, he wished for an enlightenment experience. But nothing came of that. He was “very disappointed” said Dawkins after the attempt. He felt nothing at all. Meanwhile it’s clear why the mystical experience eluded him. What made the experiment successful for those who had more intense experiences wasn’t the magnet stimulation, rather the power of their own belief. Where that was lacking, the mystic helmet couldn’t help.
We can thank the psychologist Pehr Granqvist who also tested the experiments, but with a difference. The researcher from Uppsala was strict about conducting the experiment as a double blind test. That means: only half of the people had the magnetic field on under the helmet. Even those who were not exposed to the magnetic field felt something holy while they were waiting in the dark. The results turned out to be the same for both groups. The Swedish psychologist came to the conclusion that results depend on personal characteristics, as to whether they had a consciousness-expanding experience or not.
The brain researcher and theologist Nina Azari wanted to know what effect texts that are religiously significant have on the brain. What happens to the brain when you read a well known psalm from the bible, “the Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want”? In order to answer this question, Azari invited two groups into her lab: one consisting of members of a protestant church that is especially strict in terms of interpreting the Bible exactly as it stands. This group also considers the psalm as a way of coming into personal contact with God. The control group consisted of six strict atheists, who wanted nothing to do with the psalm. The result was that the Christians had entirely different results when reading the Psalm in comparison to the atheists. Azari decided the results were due to what people believe.
In an oncological clinic in Bad Kreuznach in Germany, Murken examined how faith influences healing among breast cancer patients. The result was that religious orientation can truly help healing along, however, only under certain circumstances. In patients who were highly religious and had a positive image of God, and connected God with values such as love, empathy and forgiveness this was deemed the case. According to the moto “what God does is done well” can help breast cancer patients to deal with their situation more easily.
In contrast, those of the patients who saw God as a strict and punishing deity suffered anxiety and depression. They felt they were being punished through their illness for past sins and put themselves under pressure. Also, cancer patients who only possessed a passing faith ( of the going to church on Christmas and Easter crowd) didn’t profit from their (lack of) faith. They also felt uncertain and full of doubt.
One could go as far as to say that faith is a type of medicine with strong active ingredients that can mobilize positive energies, but in the wrong amount can cause bad side effects. That is especially applicable when such convictions are accompanied by a community of those who feel the same. Science leads us to the conclusion that religion is of a mental nature. It means that spirituality cannot be explored without considering the religious background, the faith of those who are being studied in the context of the research. If terms like God, Buddha or Allah have relevance for us depends on us as individuals. The question of whether they exist or allow themselves to be proven is only secondarily important.
Nils: The text deals with recognizing what science knows at the moment.
1. Faith is helpful when it is positive. It can lead to healing and inner happiness. The sins are not important, rather love must be the main point of the belief system.
2. There are enlightenment experiences. There are experiences of God. Many witnesses taking part in studies can confirm that. Even Dawkins tried to have an enlightenment experience, otherwise he wouldn’t have taken the time to take part in the experiment. But it didn’t work for him. It doesn’t work for everyone. Enlightenment is a blessing that God gives at the right time. God cannot be fathomed, but one can experience God.
3. The experience of God is related to consciousness. It is of a mental, spiritual nature. They can be called forth through images and imagining. That doesn’t mean that God exists only in imagination. It is more the case, that from deep relaxation a deeper consciousness can be reached that allows one to experience higher levels, God. One must be without attachments, to be in the state of consciousness that Moses called “I am”, in order to experience God.
4. Brain research examines the experience of God in the brain. It doesn’t examine whether God exists outside of the brain. If you see an apple in your head, this apple can be just a product of the imagination. But it can also exist in the outer world. Therefore, it’s more difficult to find reasons to back this up than it is to find reasons to back up enlightenment, or the experience of God. The result is that current brain research confirms the psychological evidence of God’s existence, and this is a big step toward proving God in general.
Sanduhr (non-dogmatic Christian, Jesus.de): You yourself have pointed to a study that shows that the “God helmet” doesn’t function at all.
Nils: The God helmet functioned, just differently from what Pershinger first thought. Many people had an experience of God, but not much came from the helmet. From that perspective, we can see that one’s own thinking plays a large role in one’s experience of God. What I mean is, the people who were ready had an experience of God. The Bible says “blessed are the pure of heart, for they will see God.” Furthermore, it was likely also possible that God’s own blessings were a factor, and this element was clearly not with Dawkins.
Sanduhr: Proof also needs a more precise definition of ”God”. Because there are such varied impressions of God, we also have to decide which one we want to prove. From a Christian perspective, there is only one God, so we should just concentrate on that image of God.
Nils: I agree. In my perspective, there is a three-fold God (Holy Trinity) consisting of father, son, and holy spirit.
Sanduhr: One could attempt to prove the person ”God”. That Jesus lived, is relatively widely recognized, even if some people doubt it. The more hotly debated question is what Jesus did and if he really worked miracles.
Nils: The special abilities are in my opinion an important point for proving God. If one could really prove them, it would convince many atheists. The problem is how difficult it is to prove and refer to that proof. But I think that it is generally possible to prove. Of course, a perfect set of evidence that would convince every single atheist doesn’t exist. I assume Jesus lived. I also would go so far as to say that he could perform miracles. Special spiritual abilities such as the ability to heal or clairvoyance appear along the way to enlightenment. I can feel those abilities partially in me. I observe them, test them, and I am convinced by them. That’s enough for me, and the people who are thus healed are also convinced.
Sanduhr: On the other hand, to want to prove that a particular being invented the world is not a task that one is likely to succeed at.
Nils:. The physicists are definitely challenged there. As long as they haven’t found out anything knew, we can only speculate.
Sanduhr: What does the Holy Trinity mean in terms of looking for proof?
Nils: To understand the Holy Trinity, I refer to my experiences of enlightenment. A son or a daughter of God is an enlightened being. This person has a body and can do things on earth. He or she bears witness to God. God works through the saints and through the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the spiritual energy that the various religions know by various names such as Prana, light or Chi.
What the spiritual energy is exactly, hasn’t been researched very well up to now. According to my experience, it is a type of consciousness energy. It can be directed by the consciousness and created through spiritual exercises. It can also be developed through physical exercises. It works on a spiritual and physical level. It is a mystery, just like God. One can describe it only roughly, but after a certain level of development one can feel it in oneself and transfer it to other people (as healing). It feels like a type of water that flows through the body. It is often depicted as an aura in pictures and paintings of the saints. If you visit a holy person, you often feel a special radiation around them. With this energy, one can see into the future and the past. One can overcome the time and space dimension of the cosmos. One is omni-present. One can also see things from a distance.
I take God to be a higher field of consciousness that is behind the material cosmos. God pervades everything , and can control everything. God is everywhere and in every person. But only a few people can feel him. God is a part of everyone, as Jesus is a part of God, and the few who can feel God feel a part of God. They have a consciousness of unity, of peace and of happiness. They live in the consciousness of enlightenment in which they are connected directly to God. Through God they also can take part in other abilities God has, the powers of omni-presence, all-knowingness, all-powerfulness, and all-goodness. The more developed, the more enlightened a person is, the more abilities they have.
Sanduhr: Are these special abilities really a point to cite when proving God?
Nils: Enlightenment can be characterized by happiness, bliss in a person, and through that person’s special abilities. The inner state of the person can be researched through brain research, happiness research and psychology. The special abilities can only be observed and measured. And that has occurred several times.
Sanduhr:? Is it not the goal of proving God to convince everyone?
Nils: God is a mystery. Enlightenment is a mystery. Spiritual energy is a mystery. A mystery cannot be described easily, or proven easily, then it wouldn’t be a mystery anymore. Also, proof of God cannot be fully clear. Otherwise there wouldn’t be a free choice in whether we go the spiritual way or not. Those who are ready, will be open to God.
Sanduhr: OK, so now in fact NO proof of God?
Nils: If something is difficult, it doesn’t mean that it is impossible. Be careful with the words “not simple”. If proving God were simple, then it would have already been done. Philosophers have been thinking about the subject for thousands of years. And despite that, the majority of the people in the world believe in God. They obviously don’t need perfect proof, just good reasons. And there are good reasons.
Sanduhr: It doesn’t mean God exists just because someone has special spiritual abilities.
Nils: We should consider the reasons as a whole. The center of religion is the experience of God. This experience is well attested to. But first of all, this experience is of an inner nature. God exists in the head. That is sufficient proof of God, but for many people, it is important that God exists in the outside world, too. Can God help us? Is praying helpful? Can God or enlightened masters such as Jesus help us from the other side? For most people in the various religions it is important that one gets help from God. God must be able to act in the world. One has to be able to get in contact with him, to connect with him. Here is where it begins to vary between the religions. In Christianity one believes that prayer works, in original Buddhism not (but this is different again in Tibetan Buddhism) and in Hinduism this is partly believed and partly not believed to be the case.
Sanduhr: I have reason to consider such experiences of God as an experiment. Something is proven when it everyone can conceive of it in the context of an experiment, that the results can be repeated and verified. The challenge would be to describe why some people don’t experience God induring that experiment.
Nils: The experience of God comes as a blessing, and for that reason we cannot produce those effects in an experiment. We can only talk to people who have had an experience of God. That’s the problem with atheists. They demand an experimentally derived form of evidence that can be repeated with the same results in every experiment. It is just that which is not possible. So atheists then conclude that it is impossible to experience God. A Christian will explain that the experience is achieved as a result of a blessing from God. Even enlightenment can’t be forced through spiritual practice. One can prepare the self through spiritual exercises and increase the chances of having such an experience. One can also sometimes achieve an experience of God through the use of drugs (which some tribal cultures use) or suggestion (Pershinger’s God helmet), but that can’t be forced, it can only be set up so that all of the elements are there and the chances are increased.
Sanduhr: So again, it can’t be consistently reproduced. In itself, that is enough for proof, the question persists what one can actually prove with such experiences. The way I understand it here with the thread with the active atheists, they don’t doubt the experience has been had, rather, what it has to do with God.
Nils: Many atheists also doubt the experience itself. And if they don’t doubt the experience, they take it to be a type of insanity such as temporal lobe epilepsy. In that case, the experience itself isn’t accepted. Enlightenment occurs through a cleansed consciousness. “Blessed are the pure of heart, for they will see God.” It is more the case that one is insane as atheist because one doesn’t believe in God. The enlightened have a healed consciousness, not the unenlightened. The ability to reproduce an experience of God just doesn’t exist. But for proof, it is enough that a lot of people have seen God, have experienced God. In that situation, the question is what exactly did those people see/feel/experience? In that regard, science still is in the dark. An experience of God is directly related to a change in consciousness. Science is not able to identify exactly what consciousness is. The near-death research shows that consciousness can exist outside the body. Some quantum physicists also state that an expansive field of consciousness or a field of information exists. Furthermore, the special abilities of enlightened people have not yet been properly researched.
Sanduhr: So it comes down to wanting to take the consciousness to be something in its own right?
Nils: Exactly. That is a good starting point for proving God. If the consciousness is independent from the body, then there is likely a life after death. Then the reports of those who travel to the other side and meet God are true. Along the way to enlightenment, special abilities appear. One can transfer consciousness energy, as John the Baptist did for Jesus. One can help other people have an experience of God, as Philip asked Jesus to do. One can heal other people with consciousness (Holy Ghost) energy. The pre-requisite for that is that the consciousness energy is independent from the body. The examples lead up to that conclusion.
In enlightenment, one expands the consciousness and experiences the fact that there is an all-encompassing consciousness behind the cosmos, responsible for the existence of the cosmos. This consciousness is omnipresent, all-knowing, all-powerful and entirely good. Through the connection with this consciousness one takes on strengths and abilities of this consciousness. I’ve heard that from many people, and that can be verified.
Sanduhr: Then the question would be, where did our concrete consciousness come from?
Nils: That’s a good question. A Christian would of course say “from God”. An atheist would say “from the brain.” During a spiritual cleansing process, I saw some 1000 earlier lives play before my eyes like a film. Through those “films” I can follow the development of my consciousness. I first had many lives as plankton in the sea. Then I developed into a fish, into a mammal, into a person. In every stage of development I learnt something and developed my consciousness. I can personally confirm that people have a soul and a consciousness independent from the body. The interesting question for me is where I began. Either I developed my consciousness alone, from the time I was a water flea, or it arose out of my nerve cells and wandered from body to body. Or, it came from God, the light, or a consciousness dimension behind the material cosmos. I don’t know, but I tend toward the last theory, as my consciousness was already highly developed in my first existence.
Sebastian (Facebook): Nils, how do you define consciousness?
Nils: God is a mystery. Enlightenment is a mystery. The universe is a mystery, if we look at the deep roots of it. Consciousness is also a mystery. Today’s science hasn’t researched consciousness fully enough to know exactly what it is. If I consider God to be a higher consciousness, that created the whole cosmos, then that is something different from the limited human consciousness. But both are probably related. Soul and God. Physically there is no material, rather everything is energy. Energy cannot be conceived of materialistically. I would go so far as to say that this energy has a consciousness of its own that can create and think in a way. God is a higher consciousness that is the root of the cosmos. From this consciousness, the entire universe was created and in this consciousness every dissolves again, to allow something new to arise. An enlightened master connects with this higher consciousness and transcends time and space and thus receives special spiritual abilities.
Klaus: To step out of time. That state is reached in death and in sexual orgasm.
Nils: That’s how it is with enlightenment consciousness, one steps beyond time and space. One is pure consciousness that thoughts and actions can manifest from. A pure consciousness has no identity, it can only say “I am”, that is how God identified himself to Moses. An “I am” consciousness rests in unity, in peace and in bliss.