Victoria NeuroNotes

Into the Gray

Neuroscience Explanations For ‘Spiritual’ Experiences – Part 1

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Note:  People who’ve had what they considered a religious experience may find this information disquieting.  From a personal perspective, I found it not only liberating but empowering. The Dalia Lama, who’s been working with neuroscientists at MIT, has given a thumbs up regarding the research I’m going to present here. He states that what has been discovered about the brain’s role in mystic, and religious experiences is illuminating.

I hope readers will find this illuminating as well.  I recommend reading the full paper (with graphs) linked at the end.

“The medieval discussions of consciousness were always goal-oriented; in the West, it (is) was to prevent ‘sinful’ thoughts and feelings and to unite as closely to God as possible. In the East, their purpose is to help conquer anger, greed, sadness, ‘ignorance’ and to ‘seek enlightenment’. Of course, I’m speaking of the mystic traditions, not the popular religions.

Because the contexts for these ideas were always sacred, questioning them can seem a bit profane; even crude. But, now that the understanding of consciousness is coming out of the dark ages, we need to have a fresh look at the phenomena and experiences they address. In the same way, the new view of spirituality will replace the old one in the minds of many. But the spiritual practices and techniques will only become more effective.” ~Todd Murphy, Neuroscientist

My ‘Spiritual’ Experience

I had an unexpected, unimaginable, life-changing experience in 2005.  It penetrated my minds eye with laser-like precision as though a seasoned surgeon was removing life-long cataracts.  From then on I saw the world through different eyes; a clarity I’d never been privy to before then. What followed would counter most everything I’d been taught, via religion and my culture, about the nature of reality   It catapulted me into diligent research regarding the brain, human behavior,  and spiritual type phenomena.   I found answers to life-long questions that no religion, holy book, cleric, rabbi, or guru came close to answering with any satisfaction.

Since then I’ve engaged in discourse with people who had a spiritual type experience and it played a major role in their conversion to their particular religion/god of choice, and/or cementing their faith.  Usually with the religion/god(s) of their culture.  I’m grateful that I didn’t allow my own background in Christianity to influence my research, but I feel confidant that had I been a devout Christian at the time of this transformation, I would have attributed it to the Christian god — being “born again” with physical manifestations, not just claiming it by faith and submission to Jesus.

The last nine plus years of research helped me see human behavior in a whole new light, but it has also helped me understand and find forgiveness for the wrongs I’ve suffered at the hands of what Christians and others call ‘sinners’.  This new knowledge played a major role in keeping me from drowning in despair primarily caused by Christians’ fear, distrust of and/or disdain for unbelievers.  Not to mention — conservative Christian legislators attempting to, and/or passing laws based on their interpretation of the bible, thus profoundly affecting my life and others, today.

Before I move forward with this post, I want to stress that this subject is very complex, and I won’t be able to address everything regarding the nature of belief and spiritual/religious/mystical type phenomena in one post.  I also want to stress that I’m not claiming to have all the answers, or that science and neuroscientists do as well.  But there are so many variables in our environment that affect gene expression and our unique brain signatures which renders us susceptible to experiences we have historically attributed to God, gods, demons, spirits, ghosts, enlightenment, etc.  I should also mention that when Dr. Murphy said that understanding the brain can help us understand “Life after Death” he was referring to near-death experiences.

 

Some Background

iStock_000012435888XSmallBefore the onset of this experience, I spent at least two decades studying my religion — Christianity, in particular, the bible.  I believed I had a personal relationship with God.  I prayed for guidance and I also prayed for revelation.  I gained revelation alright, but it was not what I expected.  I took a month off, spending nearly every waking hour reading.

Barnes and Noble, Amazon.com and I became well acquainted.  As odd as it may sound, I was so used to studying bibles with several translations, lexicons, concordances, etc., that I continued to read books not seek information on the Internet.  Not yet, anyway.  I also wasn’t aware at that time that there were support groups on the Internet — people who had similar questions and/or were going through a deconversion.

By this time, I had left Christianity after nearly four committed decades, and over two decades of biblical study, leaving me no closer to the answers I had been seeking throughout my life.  I was still a believer in a creator, at the time, but not the god of my religion or any other religion.

 

Murphy writes:

“When we look for interhemispheric intrusions in other people’s tales of spiritual transformation, we’re looking for epiphanies of any sort that follow VERY negative episodes.

In many cases, we find them. The Buddha was tortured by the demons of Mara the night before his enlightenment. Jesus emerged from the desert after a meeting with Satan. Ramakrishna’s moment happened following an episode of extreme dysphoria that left him convinced he was about to die.

For the limbic system, there are extensive connections available for shunting the activity to the opposite side if the brain. The most important of these is the anterior commissure, which connects the amygdalas on each side of the brain.

When the phenomena of the dysphoria are cognitive, then the dropout seems most likely to be cognitive, as the specific signals embedded in the blast of activity may well be ‘coded’, so to speak, to cognitive functions. If the dark night of the soul is made of emotions, then the enlightenment that follows should find itself with an emotional quality.

This seems to predict something we see in the Hindu and Buddhist traditions.  Some teachers (like H.H., the Dalai Lama and the Teacher Ammachi ) emphasize compassion and a state called “loving kindness”.  An emotional orientation.  Others, (like the Zen masters and the Vedanta teachers) emphasize awareness of the present moment.  A ‘cognitive’ orientation.”

bulbline

 

It would take hundreds of hours of research (after my experience) before I found this research and understood it.  About three and a half weeks into my self-imposed seclusion, I was in the middle of reading when I had an “epiphany”.  Endorphins felt like they had infused every molecule of my being. Then my mind went completely silent.  I had never experience a silent mind in my entire life.  Neither had I ever practiced meditation, much less mindfulness meditation.

Murphy:

“Now, when the non-verbal hippocampus is activated, it is far more likely to activate the amygdala on the opposite side of the brain. … As the left amygdala bursts into activity, the pressure is taken off of the one on the right, and the right hippocampus no longer needs to vent its activity. It remains busy. That enhances non-verbal cognitive processes at the expense of verbal cognitive ones.”

I had always been plagued with mind chatter since I was a small child, and it affected my ability to fall asleep.  I got up from my chair and walked over to a credenza that had an ornately carved wooden framed mirror above it.  I’m not sure why I did that.  I stood there for an unknown amount of time, then

Victoria's AviI leaned the palms of my hands on the credenza, looking into the mirror.  Dead silence, still.

It was the oddest feeling (having a silent mind), and I’m at a loss for words when it comes to describing it; even metaphors and similes would do little justice.  Following this euphoric episode, massive amounts of information from my environment came streaming into my brain; my senses were heightened as though I had very low latent inhibition.  I had a keen awareness yet thoughts did not define it.

Some days later I thought to myself how ironic it was that when I let go of religion — I found answers to my questions, and unimaginable peace.

 

Interhemispheric Intrusion

“When this recondite process involves the amygdala, with its affective functions, the experient would first find themselves in a state of intense fear, anxiety, or hopelessness. When their experience (and with it, right amygdaloid metabolic levels) builds past a certain point, they can experience a dramatic, sudden cessation of their dysphoria, and a state of euphoria, even the point of an epiphany, as right amygdaloid activity suddenly spills into the left.

During the preceding dysphoria, the excess activity in the right amygdala will very probably have recruited pathways/microstructures in the adjacent hippocampus. When the balance of activity shifts to the left for the amygdala, but the hippocampus on the right remains more active than the one on the left, the person will experience extreme positive affect, and shift into a positive cognitive style in a sudden, dramatic episode that they might label as a ‘miraculous’ ‘healing’ or an ‘awakening’, or even, if it contains the elements of a ‘sensed presence’ experience, ‘meetings’ with ‘angels’.”

The idea behind the “interhemispheric intrusion” is that when the activity in one brain structure becomes so elevated that it goes past a certain threshold, it needs to escape or vent into another. It gets it name from the notion that right-hemispheric phenomena temporarily crowds out phenomena from the left. The right-sided phenomena intrudes on it, so to speak. An interhemispheric intrusion can precipitate an event called ‘synaptic dropout’. This is when synapses (connections between nerve cells) actually drop out of service after excess input. “Burn out” might be a better term, except that the event, and the following dropout do not happen at random.”

Murphy states that interhemispheric intrusion can occur with a combination of factors including intense focus and fasting.  After grave disappointments, I had been intensely focused on finding answers and I’d also been fasting off and on during that month-long sabbatical.   Not so much deliberate, but I would lose track of time and forget to eat.  Previously, I’d experienced a couple of traumas (the suicide of my husband and cyber fraud/identity theft which caused me to lose my business and left me sorely betrayed and penniless).  To add insult to injury, I had also discovered that the bible had serious credibility issues and no pastor or elder was willing to answer my questions except with pat answers.  When I left Christianity, I lost my social network as I was pretty much shunned by my fellow Christians.  I was intensely disappointed in human behavior, and the fact that I’d been so trusting and deceived.  This put my right amygdala (negative emotions) on high alert.

My right amygdala become so elevated that it went past a certain threshold, and vented into the left amygdala (positive emotion). I experienced ‘synaptic dropout’ or burnout. After excess input, connections between nerve cells (synapses) drop out of service.  In my case, my right amygdala (negative emotions) dropped out of service and my left amygdala (positive emotions) became predominately active.

This is why I lost all fear for a while, several months, in fact. I was in la la land. I had an ‘unnatural’ trust. I was in awe. I wept in wonderment, often. I saw things in acute detail. Gratitude flooded my being. Everything was beautiful. The sky seemed bluer, the grass, greener.

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Murphy: (I’m repeating the 3rd paragraph again for emphasis)

“The human sense of self is maintained in the limbic system, and the limbic system exists on both sides of the brain. Each structure on one side that feels good to us (when it’s busy) is complimented by another on the opposite side that feels bad.

So, for most people, an emotional structure called the amygdala feels good on the left, and bad on the right. And, for most people, a cognitive, thinking structure called the hippocampus feels better on the right and worse on the left.

When the left amygdala bursts into activity, the pressure is taken off of the one on the right, and the right hippocampus no longer needs to vent its activity. It remains busy. That enhances non-verbal cognitive processes at the expense of verbal cognitive ones.

The mind is ‘silent’.   “Suffering” is ‘ended’ as the left amygdala’s positive emotions now predominate. Bliss, ecstasy, unconditional love, etc.”

iStock_000006935624XSmallI became aware that I was obsessively multitasking and started hearing my own internal dialogs which were negative in nature. From all those years of religious and cultural indoctrination, I had been reinforcing misinformation and distorted perceptions about ‘human nature’, unconsciously, i.e., Original Sin, etc.  Soon I found ways (brainwave training) to curtail those thoughts.  I also had to rewire my brain so that I would come back to Earth — find balance within the limbic structures.  For a demonstration (under the microscope) showing neurogenesis, neural pathways/networks being created and synaptic pruning, breaking a habit or thought pattern, Watch.

Murphy:

“We mentioned before how gradual enlightenment might be seen as a slow suppression of negative thoughts and emotions that can change the sense of self through rather ordinary neural mechanisms.  Sudden enlightenment is quite another story. There, only one neural mechanism is really implicated: the interhemispheric intrusion.

Very few models of brain activity can encompass really sudden shifts in states of consciousness. While a seizure (abnormal electrical activity) might be invoked to explain the suddenness of the event, the moment of enlightenment is not a recurring event the way seizures are. In the classical descriptions, enlightenment forever alters the sense of self.  In a good way.  And only once.

But before I understood what happened, I got all ‘spiritual’ and was reading spiritual type books from people like Eckhart Tolle –“The Power of Now”, and Neale Donald Walsch –“Conversations With God”, etc.  These were great reads at the time, and to be honest — a reprieve from all the years of negative feedback during my Christian years — sinners; judgement; hell; demons; Satan; God’s wrath; the unforgivable sin; the great commission; bible study; avoiding “the appearance of evil”; being told that non-believers were untrustworthy and depraved — fearing them too; women should submit to their husbands because “the woman was deceived and became a sinner“, which was why Jesus had to suffer and die on the cross; and on and on.

Major mindfuck stuff.

But a funny thing happened on my way to understanding these experiences. I learned that Eckhart Tolle and Neale Donald Walsch had very similar experiences. In fact, based on what I read from their own personal testimonies, what I experienced was nearly identical to what Eckhart Tolle experienced, and the aftereffects.  Both Walsch and Tolle had negative episodes and very negative mindsets before they became ‘enlightened’.  I use that term loosely.  Both had experienced trauma. Walsch suffered a series of crushing blows — a fire that destroyed all of his belongings, the break-up of his marriage, and a car accident that left him with a broken neck and an empty bank account.

Tolle had a very close relationship with his professor who committed suicide, so he was extremely distraught and confused.  He suffered with what he said was “unbearable depression”.  Tolle said waking up one morning “everything was miraculous, deeply peaceful. Even the traffic.”   He stopped studying for his doctorate, and for a period of about two years after this he spent much of his time sitting, “in a state of deep bliss,” on park benches in Russel Square (London).

hippie009Although I didn’t sit on a park bench for two years, my blissful episode lasted at least that long, then gradually tapered off (self-imposed through rewiring).  The only difference between me and those guys was that they took their experience to the bank, wrote books; gave lectures; seminars; TV interviews with Oprah, etc., and are living quite comfortable now ($$$).

I took my experience and invested it in countless hours of research.  It was my earnest desire to understand what happened from a neurological/biological perspective.  My diligent pursuit did not disappoint and came with unexpected bonuses.

 

I can have a good laugh at myself now, and at those who promote woo woo to the “unenlightened”.

smilielaugh

But damn — think about all the money I could have raked in.

Do I consider myself enlightened?  No.  Is there really such a thing as enlightenment?  Who’s to say?

 


Source:  Forgetting About Enlightenment: Enlightenment as a neural process.

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Author: NeuroNotes

Victoria predominately blogs about religion, and the brain's role in religious type experiences.

89 thoughts on “Neuroscience Explanations For ‘Spiritual’ Experiences – Part 1

  1. You have been busy my dear friend!
    Just a quick note to say that I’m a bit (waaaaaay) behind on my reading and that I need to dig deeper into yours. Just wanted you to know that I admire your endurance and resilience. I’ll write something more relevant and coherent once these passages have received the proper time they deserve.
    In the meantime,
    *dropping nectar off at the door*

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  2. Reblogged this on Cerebral Fitness and commented:
    Thanks for sharing!! Your experience resonates with me on a cellular level…It’s a beautiful thing!

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  3. That’s so interesting! I think you can still rake in a whole of money off this – get started on your book and post us tempting snippets. 🙂

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  4. Well, in taking time to research, you have been a source of inspiration for countless others. You can still make the dollars. You have a combination of the experiences and research. You can explain what happened and this would sell. Maybe you would help run some woowoo out of business

    Liked by 1 person

  5. OT here, my apologies.

    I came over from a link recommended by Arkenaten to watch as you fed Brandon his hat for his belief in the magic of christianity. Your work in the thread was superb and now I have a whole blog to peruse. *happy wiggle*

    Thank you.

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    • Arbourist, so glad you dropped by, and my thanks to Ark. Wasn’t aware he recommended a link. Btw, OT is always welcomed here. I’m following your blog now and look forward to reading. I already like what I see — and thank you!

      **happy wiggle*”

      …and happy Ishtar, too. 😉

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  6. I’m going to have to re-read this (perhaps many times) to fully grasp it all, but this stood out: “I started hearing my own internal dialogs.” That does indeed seem to mirror the religious experience. It explains the religious having a greater bias toward believing in an external locus of control.

    Great stuff. i’m in awe of your research, and your passion.

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  7. Wow, V. This is truly fascinating stuff. I agree with the others. Make your beaucoups. Here’s a sample of what’s on the market: https://www.goodreads.com/shelf/show/neuroscience

    Most of the stuff that looks at what it means on a spiritual level usually has a rather heavy-handed agenda – the Eckhart types and apologists. I would totally buy a book that looked and the research and then put it in layman’s terms, whether you wrote it or not. So get on it! 😉

    This field needs people to translate and you have a true talent for it.

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    • Madalyn, I am so honored that you would write this, and feel a sense of relief that you find that I was able to translate it fairly well. It’s really taken me nearly 10 years to do that and this is my debut, so to speak. I also needed to fully understand what I was reading, and I didn’t just rely on this particular neuroscientist researcher. Although I am not an expert, I think I have a fairly good grasp on this and I also have a background in neurofeedback/brainwave training.

      I was contacted by an editor at HarperCollins, who was alerted by someone (a published author) who had read my work/research on a forum (not on my own personal experience), and was informed that I needed credentials, i.e. a masters or PhD to prove that I knew what I was talking about. LOL It was suggested by the editor that I write a fiction. I guess first hand experience and 60+ hours a week in research over the course of 9+ years doesn’t count. 😉

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      • They say an hour of reading a day for seven years on a single subject makes you an international expert. That’s 2,555 hours. Assuming you took a few weeks off, you’ve gotten 25,000 hours in. I’d say that counts. Though a memoir of sorts could totally work too! 🙂

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        • Sadly, it doesn’t seem to matter to publishers with any clout that would give the book the exposure it needs. But I really didn’t want it to be a fiction or about myself. I wanted to show how religion creates and promotes the very conditions and dysfunctions that they condemn and call sins. I mean, what a racket, right? If societies functioned well, and most humans were living in environments that promoted well being, religion would be out of business.

          I had the book title picked out, and had secured a domain name after that author contacted me and told me that I needed to write a book. This was after 2 guys with PhDs also sent me emails suggesting I do the same. I sorta brushed them off as them trying to come on to me. As it turned out, one of them was. Not sure about the other. I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt. 😀

          But I digress. Religion is a taboo subject to talk about — when it’s not addressed in a ‘sacred’ sort of way.

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      • I do understand the editor’s position that to write non-fiction you need “credentials”. That’s paper that someone else gave you as opposed to the more immediate reality of the experience plus the research. Oh well, that’s the state of the planet at the moment. Don’t knock the idea, however, of writing fiction. Most of us “seekers” are also heavy fiction readers, particularly genre fiction such as SF&F.
        Some years back I saw a definition of myth that made a lot of sense: A myth is a story that is truer on the inside than on the outside. The best fiction fits that well.
        As for being a seeker, think about it this way, most of the folks I’ve met here are seekers. In this case, they are not seeking “God” but rather seeking why this God thing doesn’t seem to be there and what that means to their lives.
        Of course, there are many ways to acquire credentials… I got my doctorate on sale on a website. Gotta love it.
        Good luck and I can’t wait to get to the next installment!

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  8. Victoria, your story is moving, thanks for sharing it and especially the depth of your retrospection.

    I’m just going to say a few things as your Christian friend, things that I say often. It pains me that the church abused you and your husband, and it pains me more that their doctrine became a psychological torment to you. I am happy that you have found solace and even forgiven your ex-church. What a wonderful thing!

    Now with a more critical tone, as someone who you’ve psychoanalyzed to the nth degree and imparted your diagnosis which veers radically from my own description of the events, do you really think Murphy’s model* explains all conversions? And, what is Murphy’s method? fMRI? Can these artificial environments inside a claustrophobic noisy fMRI magnet with your head strapped down be extrapolated to real life and to extrapolated to every conversion? If the answer is ‘yes’ which I’m certain it won’t be, then all we need to do is ablate everyone’s anterior commissure and hope the corpus callosum doesn’t compensate. Why not ablate both? There are people walking around with agenesis of corpus callosum with normal intelligence. (And it might cure gay people according to a study from the 90s, /sarcasm).

    I diverge significantly from Murphy* because I think a genuine conversion starts with reason which becomes a conduit to belief. Then and only then does the dopamine occur. It does not precede the reason and the belief, nor does it require any higher than baseline angst. Reconverting is like having a new significant other. Emotions gush for a while then real life settles back in at some point. Then, you either risk it or part ways. The point is, 1) dopamine was not a cause but rather an effect and 2) sobriety waits around the corner.

    *Murphy may not care about conversion per se. He may only be interested in describing the neurobiological events within a “spiritual experience” which is a sort of loose thing that can happen with any sort of religion or life change.
    -B

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    • Hey Brandon,

      Well, as I mentioned, I’m not just relying on Murphy’s theories (which have been peer-reviewed and published). I found his work which already confirmed my own work in my neurotechnology business — but before that I practiced a lot on myself. It was awesome to be able to see these same results in my clients. One client of mine would see Jesus when I gave her specific frequencies. She’d weep after every session and swore up and down that it was really Jesus. On her file I dubbed her specific frequency (hz) the “Jesus frequencies”. Didn’t work on my other clients — only her unique brain signature and that specific combination of frequencies. I never patronized her. She needed to believe. It helped her get through some really tough times. Had we been in Saudi Arabia, she would have most likely seen Mohammad or Allah. I also had subjects (no fMRI) who volunteered to allow me to experiment on them. I got some very cool results.

      But as far as my own personal experience in Christianity influencing my decision to leave — nope, and I’ve already iterated this with you before. I was willing to suffer for Christ’s sake. Also, I had some very good times as a Christian, and there are many good people who practice Christianity. But it’s not the religion that makes them compassionate or caring or prosocial. But back to why I left — it was my studying of the bible and realizing that Christianity created the very dysfunctions and antisocial behavior that they called sin and judged. In other words, it’s an archaic belief system and as Murphy stated, it’s time to come out of the dark ages. We don’t need to go to church over and over and over and be told about the 10 commandments over and over and over to ‘get it’.

      As I progress in this series of posts, I will present other conditions that create the religious phenomena, including the belief that god is in the room with you. It’s even been captured on an EEG (spontaneously).

      “Ye though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, thou art with me.” 😉

      I can show you a few tricks on how to created a sensed presence via quick meditation practices. And you don’t need any magnetic stimulation or a Faraday cage or years of focusing on your breath. Just a few minutes. But if you want an adventure, go hungry for long periods of time — even fast, get seriously injured, experience oxygen deprivation, sleep deprivation, get hit on the head in a specific area, go mountain climbing at high elevations, have a seizure, spend long hours in isolation, etc.

      And btw, I’m not just talking about dopamine (was not mentioned in this post at all), though it seems to have played a big role in the evolution of religion — the reward centers of our brain. In other words, to delude ourselves can get us through some tough times. That’s cool with me so long as it doesn’t bring harm to other people, and people are not going around as self-imposed men of god or gurus, raking in the bucks from unsuspecting people who want to feel close to god. They are, for the most part, snake-oil salesmen and charlatans, or someone who had an experience (caused by an number of variables) or simply majorly indoctrinated (neuroplasticity).

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      • Victoria, let’s get scientific here, would you admit that fMRI studies which are artificial situations in which your head strapped to a table in a noisy magnet probably can’t be extrapolated to real life?

        Peer reviewed or not, it’s the extrapolation that is problematic.

        You said: “It was awesome to be able to see these same results in my clients.”
        I am really curious about your work! Do you mind sharing some of it? Are you just telling me an anecdote or have you published in peer-reviewed journals with appropriately designed and controlled experiments?

        You said: “. . . it was my studying of the bible and realizing that Christianity created the very dysfunctions and antisocial behavior that they called sin and judged.”
        I agree with that you don’t need religion to tell you to be moral in order for you to be moral. I don’t understand your contention here though. . . are you saying that believing in God and sin creates dysfunction? Is this causation or association? Are you looking at your own life and the anecdotes out there saying that it does? What about all the stories that contradict this notion? Do you have a solid argument that connects theism and belief in sin to “dysfunction” however this is defined?

        You said: “I can show you a few tricks on how to [create] a sensed presence. . .”
        This is interesting, but it does not address the most relevant question: is this phenomenon reality-directed in certain situations? If you’re just “pulling a lever” like meditation, it is probably not reality-directed in the same way as the psalmist refers to this phenomenon (if it is indeed the same phenomenon).

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        • Brandon, by all indications you NEED to believe. You’ve made that clear in your previous posts – comments. Therefore, I have come to the conclusion that nothing I say or what any others say (many have been there themselves) who have gone over this with you at length for weeks, sharing data by experts in their fields, personal testimonies, etc., will make any difference. And you chose to lower your standards to evangelical data. That’s very telling.

          You have also made it clear that you think your belief (including an epiphany you had about the resurrection of Jesus, causing you to be convinced that he was divine), which led to your reconversion back to Christianity is ‘truth’; and this ‘truth’ is somehow responsible for you being able to break what you considered bad habits and love people. But you know what else Brandon? You fit the profile based on everything you shared with so many of us on WP.

          Now — if you want to be open-minded, if you really want to learn how you can be so profoundly affected by your environment —- and see how conversions can easily takes place — then watch the video below. I’ve already shared with you, at length, on your blog about the placebo effect, the power of suggestion, and so much more.

          As far as your other questions go — I will be addressing them in following posts because the data I will be including is extensive, and I don’t want to post it all here. Besides — I’ve spent hours of my spare time posting data on your blog and others for you (to no avail), and I’m not going to repeat myself in this comment section. If you say you don’t have time to watch this — I’m not buying it. I’m sorry to be curt, but you have clearly established a pattern of behavior. You have time to write extremely lengthy comments and replies on several different WP blogs, so, you can certainly make time for this. I like you Brandon, which is why I have spent so much time having dialog with you, but a person can only take so much and then the pressure cooker valve must do its thing.

          My thanks to Howie for posting this incredible video which compliments nearly everything I’ve already shared with Brandon.

          How To Convert An Atheist

          Liked by 1 person

          • Victoria and Howie, this video was finger licking good. Hopefully, I’ll get back to it a little later. I can relate a great deal to the evangelical tactics of the show host with the atheist in the Church.

            My husband and I both watched it all in amazement.

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            • Yep, and Charity, doesn’t if just fry your goat knowing that these were deliberate tactics — that they played on our emotions, and especially regarding love — our most intimate emotion? I have a post coming up soon about many more conversion tactics “godly men” have used as early as 1735 during Christian revivals.

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              • I know it was a lengthy video, but it honestly didn’t seem that long. I’ve never seen anything like that on American television.

                Victoria, I would love to see what you find out about tactics used by revivalists such as Evan Roberts (Welsh Revival), William Seymour (Azusa Street), as well as Billy Sunday and Smith Wigglesworth. It would also be interesting to know more about manipulative tactics from the female preachers as well, such as Amy Semple Mcpherson and Kathryn Kuhlman. Kuhlman’s strategies were more obvious. She often alternated between firm, strong speech and hushed tones, not to mention the long, flowy dresses she wore that made her appear angelic. It’s obvious as to why Benny Hinn had great admiration for her, huh?

                I do like it that the host of this program took more of a seeker friendly pastor approach to a sermon/alter call. the way he talked reminded me of my old preacher Ralph Moore in Hawai’i, very chillaxed. Ministers have caught on that the whole hell, fire and brimstone sermon isn’t as effective today as it was a couple of decades ago. They normally sit in front of a congregation in khakis and a pull over sweater, understated seems to make them more approachable. However, as you can see, understated is a deception of a very intentional, specific plan to lure congregants into their religious world. That’s why I believe seeker friendly Churches to be the worst kind. As I mentioned, I went to a couple, but I was really involved in one in particular. I noticed that my husband was allowed to blab his opinion all day long, but the one time I mentioned the callousness of the pastor’s attitude towards children (And included one BIG regular example of this.), we got called into the pastor assistant’s office for at least a couple of hours. The main question was directed to my husband repeatedly right in front of me, “WHY would YOU let HER do THAT?!”

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                • Charity, I sent you an email with some info on conversion tactics. Hope that will answer some of your questions. Didn’t post it here because the info will be included in an upcoming post along with info from other experts — but most likely it won’t be the next post.

                  Oh, and speaking about your husband being able to express his opinion, but you couldn’t (I can very much relate), I thought about this short BBC comedy clip. The title is “Women: Know Your Limits”, but it should actually read “Women: Dumb Yourselves Down”. 😈 Tell me if this doesn’t remind you of church fellowship dinners. I can laugh now, but it wasn’t so funny back then.

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                  • I remember when you shared it with me a few months ago. Every now and then I pull it up on Youtube when I need a good laugh. Glad you posted it again because I was thinking about it last night. I will gladly research your email a little more later on.

                    Like you, I can laugh at this now, but there was a time when it was very much my reality. In all honesty, it still can be at times. Marriage/serious relationships with children are often this way to a certain degree. I no longer deem marriage and raising children as a necessity in modern times. I am glad I stopped at two kids, even though I still long to have a baby in the house. I have enough sense to know that with all the female issues I’ve had that I’m just now getting over and my weight and age, I’m just not a good candidate to have another child. I can’t any way because I had a tubal ligation years ago.

                    The role of women is important to our society, just as important as men. The Bible DOES NOT recognize this, it actually goes out of its way to condemn and belittle women. Christians can say shit like “well that was the culture then”. Whenever I hear that I think “Hmmm, so culture is bigger than God? That’s not saying much about him.” Not only that, but he actually commands certain things against women himself and tends to look away when his chosen do horrible things to women. He rarely punishes men for wrongs against women and continues to bless his prized males who have hurt them.

                    Then there’s the argument of how Jesus changed such horrid misogyny and sexism. Really? I can see some instances of this, but not fully across the board. It also disproves that God’s the same yesterday, today and forever. If God never changes than why such an enormous contrast? Like Mak mentioned on his blog, most Christians are not Christians, they’re Paulians (followers of Paul). Whether they admit it or not, they don’t want to follow the teachings and rituals that Jesus followed, those of his Jewish forefathers in the Old Testament. Jesus even says that he did not come to condemn the Law, but fulfill it. He also makes it painfully clear that when you see him you see his father in heaven and everything he does is to give glory to his father.

                    This is all a HUGE reason as to why I’m an atheist. I honestly HOPE that there is no Christian God because if there is he is one sick bastard and is MUCH MORE evil than the supposed Devil. (BTW, it was interesting to see the host of that show struggle a bit to get atheist audience members to participate in a Satanic rite. Even as non believers we can still have a fear of a non existent, supposedly evil, supernatural being.)

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                    • Charity, I had not see that link. People like that slip through the system all the time because they are under the guise of religion. That video was spot on and it puts a stench in my nostrils when apologists try to sugarcoat or say they are being misinterpreted, or that it was about then. BS — the two largest Christian denomination in the U.S. believe this as do most. You’ve read this a while back as I posted it on my other blog, but thought it was worth repeating. I was reminded of something Adam Lee, a contributing writer to Big Think, wrote in his article “Religion Harms Women“:

                      “It is tragic, but understandable, why so many men throughout history have supported these sexist and patriarchal belief systems. More incredible is how many women have willingly taken part in their own subjugation by joining and participating in religions that have done their utmost to deny them the full equality and equal rights which they deserve.”

                      “The reality is that sincere religious beliefs and legitimate interpretations of scripture can, and very often do, cause immense evil and harm. And when a more enlightened future age arrives to tote up the harms done by religion, I am certain that the systematic oppression and denial of basic rights to one-half of the human race will rank near the top.”

                      Margaret Daphne Hampson, a British theologian and former Christian, who earned a doctorate in modern history at Oxford, and a doctorate in theology at Harvard, stated:

                      “I began to see that the very raison d’etre of the Christian myth was to support men as superior over women, that it served to legitimize how men see themselves in the world. It is a brilliant, subtle, elaborate, male cultural projection, calculated to legitimize a patriarchal world and to enable men to find their way within it. We need to see it for what it is. The circumstances of that past age are propelled into the present, influencing people, not least, at a subconscious level.”

                      It is my opinion that women who stay in such oppressive religions are dealing with a form of Stockholm Syndrome.

                      “Stockholm syndrome, or capture-bonding, is a psychological phenomenon in which hostages express empathy and sympathy and have positive feelings toward their captors, sometimes to the point of defending and identifying with them. These feelings are generally considered irrational in light of the danger or risk endured by the victims, who essentially mistake a lack of abuse from their captors for an act of kindness.

                      Stockholm syndrome can be seen as a form of traumatic bonding, which does not necessarily require a hostage scenario, but which describes “strong emotional ties that develop between two persons where one person intermittently harasses, beats, threatens, abuses, or intimidates the other.” Source

                      The epiphany I had just before I had that incredible experience? it was about realizing that “the woman” was NOT the reason Jesus had to die on the cross — because Jesus was NOT divine.

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                    • Victoria, I’m replying here because I didn’t know where else to respond. I will try not to be too long because I know you’re busy and I’ve got a lot to do these next few weeks myself. Your comment was so good it deserved to be acknowledged.

                      Religion as a whole is extremely dangerous to women, even in the “small” things. For instance, when have you ever heard a man called “bitter”, “rebellious”, “unloving”, “unChristian”, “unsubmissive”, “frigid” or “disobedient”? No one calls grown men these names nor do they use such words to describe them, even if the men in question are like us, all out heathens. Still, these same exact words are used to describe toddlers, preschoolers, kids, preteens, teenagers and women, including those who are dedicated Christians. What does that say about the Bible, Christians and Church? And people can talk shit to me all day long about how I was just exposed to “legalistic” denominations or Churches all my life. Victoria, I personally saw this in different denominations throughout the US to at least some degree. (Assemblies of God, Full Gospel, Foursquare, Hope Chapel -a modern movement within Foursquare, Missionary Alliance, Southern Baptist, Word of Faith, Non Denominational, Inter Denominational, Calvary Chapel, United Pentecostal and Morning Star-now Every Nation). Sexism and misogyny are also ALL OVER the Bible.

                      I appreciate Dusty’s passion. (He’s originally from Mississippi BTW.) I wish more men got this pissed about this issue. When you and I do it we’re brushed off because we’re atheists or women or both.

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                    • Charity, thank you so much for taking time out of your busy schedule to followup with my comment. I don’t know how you do it all with two small children, too, and when you do take the time for me and others, I feel honored.

                      Your post reminded me of a paper that William Brennan, PhD wrote about semantic dehumanization. I posted excerpts from his extensive, historical research on my other blog. It’s quite eye opening and few people know about this. Here’s the abstract:

                      “Now and throughout history, pejorative language has played a major role in the longstanding victimization of women. This study employs a comprehensive classification of degrading categories — deficient human, subhuman, animal, parasite, disease, inanimate object, and waste product — as a framework for analyzing the demeaning words invoked to justify man’s inhumanity to women. It concludes with observations about how this pernicious anti-female lexicon of derogation is part and parcel of a pervasive seamless shroud of anti-life rhetoric called upon to rationalize violence against other victims in contemporary society and in times past.”

                      And the point in posting this is because you are right — this attitude isn’t just limited to a few denominations. Nono — it’s universal. My question is this: Why is there a need to dehumanize and devalue at least half our species? And why don’t the majority of the other half stand with us and say “enough is enough guys — get your shit together; get off the morphine drip you bunch of insecure, dopamine junkies.”

                      Like

                  • Wasn’t sure if I should comment here, but I watched this video and just about died laughing. I just had to show it to my wife and she almost peed in her pants as well!! Loved the filling of the brain part – crazy stuff!

                    My wife and I both “wear pants” in our home and we both wouldn’t have it any other way. Sure we clash sometimes but fact is it works out great – probably because our personalities kinda fit together like 2 puzzle pieces.


                    And Charity,

                    When I read this: “WHY would YOU let HER do THAT?!” I think I tasted a bit of my dinner – nauseating! I’m sorry you’ve had to go through sh-t like that.

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                    • Howie, that’s exactly what our dear friend, the pastor’s assistant, asked Jim repeatedly. I had told Jim that I was going to direct some attention to a situation. Being that we were newlyweds and were on our way up in leadership at the mega Church, I wanted to make sure that we were always in agreement with everything that we did regarding that Church. I didn’t want someone telling him “Did you hear what your wife did?!’

                      Still, it wasn’t enough to keep us away. Within a week we began to regularly attend another Church and even tried to go back to that one a week after I had our first child. They demanded a letter of apology if we were to stay. Jim wrote them one but it was like “I’m sorry that you got offended”. We decided to go on to another Church. That last incident was in 2005. We still stuck around all things Christian until 2012 when we both became atheists.

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                    • All of the Christianities are just a mish-mash of such confusion, I’m so glad I don’t let that worry me anymore. It’s so difficult trying to merge together thoughts from ancient superstitious cultures with our modern cultures which are happily now more accepting of everyone and closer to true humanism. A lot of Christians see such beauty in the bible and in belief in a god but I see beauty in the simple goals of humanism.

                      Like

  9. Agreed, thank you for your story I too have a similar one…life happens to us… A lot of people are too afraid to accept this. For me its a beautiful thing and Iam thankful for the information so I can accept the unexpected and enjoy the happy times….life happens. Wow!

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    • Thank you Natalie. That’s awesome that you had a similar one (not meaning the negative experiences) — no doubt there are many out there who have too — and throughout history. Life is freaking tough, so it is cool that when things get rough our brain will give us temporary bliss. I like your attitude

      “I can accept the unexpected and enjoy the happy times”

      Hear, hear. 🙂

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      • Just an fyi…someone called me Victoria today, sometime who knows me quite well and I had my name tag on to boot! I think its pretty awesome my daughter sent me a link to your article who by the way is Madalyn who commented earlier 🙂 .I have felt very introspective the last 24 hours, your story like mine is life changing it continues to amaze me daily. Feeling content, finally.

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        • Oh my gosh, Natalie, for real? Madalyn’s mother?….wow.! I’m thrilled that you took the time to drop back in and let me know this. I have the utmost respect for your daughter, and I must say — I’ve grown to love her, too. She’s become a dear friend. Madalyn has a humanitarian heart, a no-nonsense approach, and a gift with words. She’s one talented writer. But then again, I’m sure you already knew that. 😉

          Madalyn has my email addy, so if you ever feel an urge to write, I would welcome it very much. Also, if you would like to share your experience here for others to read, please feel free to do so — what you feel comfortable sharing. And if you do, and then later have regrets, I will delete it at your request. I’ve just found that opening up about this has been most beneficial — for me, that is. But it took me a long time to open up about this, so I’m not trying to put you on the spot. Just letting you know the door is open. That’s rather bazaar that someone addressed you by Victoria. LOL Isn’t life strange? The geomagnetic field must have been quiet then. — Just checked — yep it was. *grins*

          I’m happy to read that you are feeling content, and as you say “finally”. Do I ever know that feeling.

          *hug*

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  10. Some really good stuff here as usual Victoria. I really like it that there has been a lot more scientific study recently regarding religious experience. It was so hard to find this stuff 20, 15 or even 10 years ago. Not sure if you are familiar with Daniel Dennett’s “Breaking the Spell”, but he talks in there about the fact that “the conviction that religion is off limits to scientific inquiry” is a spell that needs to be broken. I am very happy to say that I think this spell has gone a long way in being broken. Perhaps we’re not fully there but I see huge differences and I am very glad for that. And this field of study perhaps has only begun to scratch the surface of what can be found.

    I’m going to go out on a limb here because I’m only a little bit familiar with eastern religions (even though my wife grew up Buddhist – but she is totally secular so hardly has much to talk about regarding Buddhism) and say that I’ve always gotten the impression that eastern religions seem to have much less of a problem with the findings of science than western religions. The tensions between the 3 main monotheisms and the findings of science seem to be much more in the forefront and for obvious reasons. But with the Dalai Lama as you mentioned it seems like to him the findings of science could only enhance his worldview. Not saying that there aren’t beliefs within eastern religions that seem to clash with findings in science but just making a bit of a general statement here.

    That stuff you mentioned about having a silent mind is fascinating. I can’t say I’ve had anything near to the experience that you have had and I’ve tried meditation some. It remains an interest of mine. By the way, have you seen this link which relates very much to your post?

    Now on a lighter note, I have to confess that when I read what you wrote about having a silent mind, my brain couldn’t help but jump to memories of our famous Silence of Mind!! And I’ll also confess that I cringed a little. ;-D

    Oh and the animated gif of the little yellow smiley ball with the sign saying “It’s a beautiful thing” is really cool!

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    • Howie, I have a more lengthy comment coming hopefully later today as I want to followup on some of the things you mentioned. That video rocked. Thank you much. BBL 🙂

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    • Btw, Howie, I’m watching the lecture by Daniel Dennet “Breaking the Spell”, you mentioned. So far it is superb. I’ve watched several lectures by him, but this one I had not seen. I’m going to post it here in case others might want to watch it. These videos are gold. Thank you. Be back later.

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      • Cool beans!! I’m really glad you found some of my links/references useful. And turns out it actually was your very first comment response to Brandon that had reminded me of that video I linked to, which looks like you caught on to.

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    • Howie, you wrote:

      ” with Daniel Dennett’s “Breaking the Spell”, but he talks in there about the fact that “the conviction that religion is off limits to scientific inquiry” is a spell that needs to be broken. “

      First, I want to mention that the lecture was excellent, and I want to read his book. I watched an excellent BBC documentary several years back, “God on the Brain” and neuroscientist, Michael Persinger said he was asked by his colleagues:

      “Why do you study this because you’ll never get grant money — why do you study this because your reputation will be put on the line, because you’re looking at things that should not be studied; religious experiences, paranormal experiences, they should never be studied because they’re outside of science.”

      Persinger responded: “My question is why not, why shouldn’t we study them? The experimental method is the most powerful tool that we have. That’s how we find truth from non-truth.”

      Like Dennett, Persinger is cutting edge and has been doing such studies since the 80’s, if not before. When he couldn’t get grant money, he used his own. How many scientists do you know would do that? I really admire him as a scientist and human being. Here are 520 of his publications demonstrating how the environment, from geoeffective (earth directed) coronal mass ejections and geomagnetic storms, to man-made EMFs can affect the brain and our health even without our conscious awareness.

      I produced a short video with excerpts from Persinger’s research as well as from other scientists. His earlier studies are being confirmed in other areas of medical science. (Note: I’m aware that I misspelled electromagnetic — dag nabbit – just never bothered to redo the vid) 😉

      Here are more studies I posted on my other blog — which not only show how space weather can affect our health but that it also significantly increases the likelihood of seizure activity.
      http://neuroresearchproject.com/2013/03/18/the-sun-giveth-the-sun-taketh-away/

      Now, the reason I’m pointing this out is because people who have abnormal electrical activity in the brain, i.e., seizures, may have ‘religious’ experiences, including the belief that they’ve been touched by ‘God’. You will see a case in point in the BBC doc In one segment it highlights a ‘prophet’ and co-founder (now deceased) of the fastest growing protestant church, the 7th Day Adventist (a Christian denomination). They have been endorsed by two former presidents, GW Bush, and Bill Clinton, and former Secretary of State, Hilary Clinton, now has a church attendance of approximately 25 million weekly. A review of membership revealed an average of about 2,900 people were joining the Seventh-day Adventist Church every day.

      As of 9/30/13, the denomination now has over 18 million adult baptized members according to church statistics — has a huge infrastructure, which includes mega food companies like Little Debbie snake cakes. The church runs a wide network of hospitals, clinics, lifestyle centers — University hospitals like Loma Linda. In the United States it operates the largest Protestant educational system, and is second only to that of the Roman Catholic Church. The church operates in 202 out of 230 countries and areas recognized by the United Nations, making it “probably the most widespread Protestant denomination in the world”. They operates 8 international channels broadcasting 24 hours a day on cable, satellite and the internet in 40 languages. Source. All due to one person having what expert neurologists say were temporal lobe seizures which caused this so-called prophet to have “revelations from God”.

      Howie, that’s just one person who has affected millions. So we can see how someone like the apostle Paul and his ‘revelations’ (hallucinations and delusions) could easily get a huge following. Dennett was spot on when he mentioned how the leaders of religion (throughout history) have used specific methodologies to keep religion alive and thriving.

      Thanks so much for you kind words about my post, and I really appreciate your contribution and for sharing those videos.

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      • You’re very welcome Victoria! I watched that BBC doc about a year ago and found it very intriguing. Your comments here remind me of when apologists try to claim that the growth of Christianity is somehow proof of it’s truth, but just like you I’ve never really understood how that could be a very useful argument – and your example is one of many examples of tons of different religions which grew even though many of us agree they are not true. As far as I see it, a charismatic or several charismatic personalities mixed in with a little bit of luck and you’ve got the makings of a religion.

        I wasn’t aware of that research in the video you made – very interesting and maybe a little disconcerting too. The music was an awesome pick by the way.

        I liked this quote from Persinger quite a bit:

        “why shouldn’t we study them? The experimental method is the most powerful tool that we have. That’s how we find truth from non-truth.”

        BINGO!!

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      • i also watched the dennett’s “breaking the spell” video, and it was quite interesting too. so thanks for the heads up howie and victoria

        re: the impact of electromagnetic fields on humans

        i briefly perused your “The Sun Giveth – The Sun Taketh Away” article, but didn’t follow all the links. seems most of the research was on a single event basis rather than over time basis. (eg, based on a single electromagnetic disturbance event, rather than over an entire sunspot cycle or similar.)

        made me think of those that make the argument that the stock market follows social mood, rather than the other way around. robert prechter is a stock market trader who also sells newletters using a particular technique called elliott wave. more recently, he founded the socionomics foundation (not socioECOnomics, just socionomics) to study this social mood phenomenon. there’s a (free) hour long video they made called “history’s hidden engine” about their perspective. i don’t subscribe to any of his newsletters, but i do read some of his free stuff. i can say that he did see a financial storm brewing years before 2008 hit (as did many others, but the mainstream ignored them, and still does).

        2 excerpts from the hour long video, which make briefly make the case for how societal trends and bull/bear markets occur together. first except is about women’s hemlines, which tend to get shorter during bull markets and longer during bear markets. the second makes a similar case using popular music, and is kinda fun to listen to if you like a variety of music.

        Short Skirts and Stocks – From History’s Hidden Engine (~3min)

        What Makes Pop Music Popular? – From History’s Hidden Engine
        (~3min)

        the foundation he started, if you want more info: http://www.socionomics.net/

        so far as i can tell, they haven’t specified what they think the source of this social mood is, only that they think it precedes the direction of the stock market. nor does it seem to correspond to the average 11 year sunspot cycle. however, in terms of showing that society as a whole can be affected in ways we don’t fully understand, i think it might be useful to know what other people are thinking when they come at problems from a different perspective, but still find similar sorts of things.

        one other point, unrelated to the stock market stuff above, but related to the human body and electromagnetic frequencies… most of the geomagnetic stuff was based on lower frequencies than this, and impacted behavior, which this doesn’t. still, i thought this video was interesting because it seems really crazy at first, but it works, (and might actually be useful in your personal life), but i think it does show that there is an interaction between the body and electromagnetic waves:
        —–
        Unlocking a car with your Brain (~5min)

        a physics professor demonstrates how the range of your car remote can be extended significantly by holding it next to your head (or a gallon jug of water) due to the water molecules acting as an antenna.

        —–
        for those that prefer text, essentially the same stuff from a different source, but text rather than video:
        http://www.apartmenttherapy.com/tech-myth-holding-the-care-rem-83663

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        • “i briefly perused your “The Sun Giveth – The Sun Taketh Away” article, but didn’t follow all the links. seems most of the research was on a single event basis rather than over time basis. (eg, based on a single electromagnetic disturbance event, rather than over an entire sunspot cycle or similar.)”

          First, I’d like to thank you for taking time to briefly peruse my post and comment. This is the kind of information that one can’t just briefly perused, and not follow all the links, and then come to a quick conclusion. Behavior and solar sun cycles have been studies as far as back 500 BC. As early as 1915, some scientists were beginning to recognize connections between solar activity and human behavior. This work began with Russian scientist Alexander Chizhevsky. I did a post on it.

          Our brains, after all, are what? Electrical. If earth directed CMEs from solar flares can profoundly affect and interrupt power grids and technology on earth, it’s not a far stretch to see that it can affect are delicate brains and hormones. There’s been enormous research on this subject. NOAA sends out space weather forecasts everyday regarding geoeffective coronal mass ejections and geomagnetic storms , and for a good reason.

          As far as solar cycles and the stock market goes? You might want to read this study.

          Abstract:
          “Explaining movements in daily stock prices is one of the most difficult tasks in modern finance. This paper contributes to the existing literature by documenting the impact of geomagnetic storms on daily stock market returns. A large body of psychological research has shown that geomagnetic storms have a profound effect on people’s moods, and, in turn, people’s moods have been found to be related to human behavior, judgments and decisions about risk. An important finding of this literature is that people often attribute their feelings and emotions to the wrong source, leading to incorrect judgments. Specifically, people affected by geomagnetic storms may be more inclined to sell stocks on stormy days because they incorrectly attribute their bad mood to negative economic prospects rather than bad environmental conditions. Misattribution of mood and pessimistic choices can translate into a relatively higher demand for riskless assets, causing the price of risky assets to fall or to rise less quickly than otherwise. The authors find strong empirical support in favor of a geomagnetic-storm effect in stock returns after controlling for market seasonals and other environmental and behavioral factors. Unusually high levels of geomagnetic activity have a negative, statistically and economically significant effect on the following week’s stock returns for all U.S. stock market indices. Finally, this paper provides evidence of substantially higher returns around the world during periods of quiet geomagnetic activity.”

          Anna Krivelyova, Boston College
          Cesare Robotti, Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta
          https://www.frbatlanta.org/filelegacydocs/wp0305b.pdf

          Anyway, we can take this convo other there, if you want to discuss it further. Thanks for the videos and links. I’ll check them out. Btw, I watched the “Unlocking your car with your brain” video. Very cool. And speaking of antenna — we now know that our neurons, our cells are antenna putting out frequencies. I put this informational video together back in early 2013.

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    • “Now on a lighter note, I have to confess that when I read what you wrote about having a silent mind, my brain couldn’t help but jump to memories of our famous Silence of Mind!! And I’ll also confess that I cringed a little. ;-D

      LOL — his mind is definitely not silent. Talk about abnormal electrical activity, eh? 😈

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      • “Talk about abnormal electrical activity, eh?”

        You got it – abnormal doesn’t even describe it. I don’t think the English language has a word for Silence. 😉 Personally I think he enjoys messing with people.

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  11. Very interresting post!

    I once had an out-of-body experience. I was taking part in blood letting. It is a traditional method of healing here in Finland. I was not sick, nor did I expect anything special to happen. My great grandmother was a bloodletter and my interrest in the practice was purely derived from trying to understand my roots. However, I had spent several hours in a sauna to wait for my turn. There was a little massage and then I went “under the axe” as it is called. The bloodletter – a woman I know personally – cut me on several places on my upper body and some of my “bad” bood was sucked from me by horns (as I said it is traditional and archaic). Right when it was all over I was sitting on a bathouse bench and suddenly felt I was floating abowe my head. I could see myself from abowe.

    Now, I understand that to a lot of people this would have been confirming their traditional beliefs (from what ever religious tradition those happen to be) about the spirits, or a soul. But I am an atheist in third generation, so to me it was just a weird phenomenon of the mind and brain. It revealed nothing about the actual reality. I could not see anything from my outerbody view, I could not have seen from within my body. Infact, to see is to interprete the photon signals. For that we need our physical eyes, since photons and objects they reveal are all physical. Hence, even whithout actually reading into it, my intuition was not to expect any preconception of supernatural to explain my experience. Rather to go whith Occam’s razor for the simplier explanation, that it was my brain and physical state that caused it.

    Such experiences really tell us nothing about the spirit world or anything that could be ascribed as supernatural, rather they tell us about how our minds work. Yet, supernatural seems to be the easy explanation because of our cultural heritage baggage from times when people had no knowledge about the neural synapses, or even electricity. Your work here as a blogist and perhaps as an author might help people in general to become more aware of the actual observable material universe. A bit like lightning is today understood as a natural phenomenon and not as an act of the supernatural.

    On the other hand, maybe I am somehow blunt, that I am unable to see the supernatural where other peope whith different more superstitious and supernaturally inclined heritages can.

    Like

    • Rautakyy, as I just shared with Howie, I have a more lengthy reply coming sometime today, hopefully. I watched the video he posted “How To Convert An Atheist”, and now I’m watching Daniel Dennett’s lecture “Breaking the Spell”, based on his book, whichHowie also mentioned in his comment. I thought your experience with an OBE was fascinating and I want to share a little about mine, as well. Thanks so much for your comment — be back soon. 🙂

      Like

    • re: OBEs

      here’s an account of an out-of-body experience that’s really fascinating to me. the lady experienced what she thought of at the time as an astral projection, floating up into the sky, around the earth, then into space, and was talking with 2 friends the entire time it happened. she went on to earn a phd in parapsychology, and do a lot of research on consciousness. reading the entire account is interesting, but one point caught my attention, as she had the presence of mind to check on a telling detail, despite the fact that at the time she was a “believer” in psychic phenomenon. telling detail excerpted below:

      —–
      http://www.issc-taste.org/arc/dbo.cgi?set=expom&id=00075&ss=1

      “The next day I tried to check up on things I had seen and immediately discovered that some were wrong. For example, I had ‘seen’ old metal gutters on the roofs of the college when in the morning I realised that they were modern white plastic ones. I had seemed to travel through rooms above Vicki’s room which were not in fact there, and had seen chimneys which did not exist. This led me to all sorts of sceptical questioning, but more to elaborate my astral theories than to abandon them. For many years I continued to think of my experience as an astral excursion.”

      —–

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    • “Hence, even whithout actually reading into it, my intuition was not to expect any preconception of supernatural to explain my experience. Rather to go whith Occam’s razor for the simplier explanation, that it was my brain and physical state that caused it.

      Such experiences really tell us nothing about the spirit world or anything that could be ascribed as supernatural, rather they tell us about how our minds work. Yet, supernatural seems to be the easy explanation because of our cultural heritage baggage from times when people had no knowledge about the neural synapses, or even electricity.”

      Well said, Rautakyy. My apologies for taking so long to get back to you. Your experience was quite interesting to read. I had OBE’s several times when I was a kid. Try to explain that to your parents when you don’t even know what is happening. I was terribly frightened at the time. It always happened when I was on the border of alpha-theta brainwave state., just before falling asleep, and usually during naps. Then, when I started experimenting with neurotechnology in 2006, I could induce them using isochronic tones in the mid-theta range, around 5+ HZ. Pretty freaky and cool experiences. It happened unexpectedly at first — not something I was intending to induce.

      It excites me that science is studying this now. You might find this recent study interesting. Scientist were able to capture a woman having an OBE during an fMRI scan.

      http://journal.frontiersin.org/Journal/10.3389/fnhum.2014.00070/full

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  12. Aaagh, I can’t cope with all this right now, gotta dash. (I’m not asleep yet).

    Plus I wanted to tell you I lied. Not intentionally, but middle age dementia kicked in. I am 55 in June. I think. I still think I am 25 actually but that’s a minor point.

    Laters, I’m off line for a few days.

    Like

  13. hi victoria,

    just discovered your blog via a comment by howie on another blog (aspire to find truth) where he linked to your site. haven’t read much of your blog yet, and haven’t researched the lower-level biochemical brain science much either.

    i also had a period where my mind went very silent. (precipitated by douglas harding’s pointing experiment. only lasted a week or so, not months like yours). i also realized then that i’d had other periods where my mind was silent for briefer periods too: once during an auto accident (i wasn’t injured); once while looking at art which literally took my breath away. (altho i didn’t really recognize that my internal chatter had stopped those other times.)

    from my reading (more about “enlightenment” experiences rather than brain science), i suspect these mind-chatter-stopping moments are the essence of much religious and mystical experience, and all the attached dogma is a mix of difficulty describing these events, but power politics by all the people that didn’t have these experiences, plus human ethnocentrism.

    have you read “the master and his emissary” by Iain McGilchrist, about how the2 different hemispheres of the brain operate? he further argues that over times, societies overall tend to move toward one hemisphere and become rather rigid and authoritian (and we’re headed there now), and that time periods when both hemispheres were active in society are great flowing periods (renaissance was one of the both hemispheres periods). i haven’t read the book, but i watched several of his youtube videos, and it’s quite fascinating.

    also, i heard of him via maggie ross, who’s been a professed anglican solitary for 30 years, and also an author, and for many years spent half the year in alaska, and the other half teaching theology at oxford. she’s actually quite critical of organized religion, and her research is on how/why the church lost the way. she’d been looking for harder evidence of what/why she’d experience both from theological changes in the church, and what she experienced in meditation/prayer as a solitary, and says that McGilchrist’s work is what she’d been looking for for several decades to support her observations.

    she notes that the original greek and hebrew manuscripts use variants of the word “behold” 1300 times, yet modern translations have all but eliminated them. my understanding/best guess (albeit limited) of her work is that this beholding is the quieting of that internal mental chatter.

    she also argues that the “deep mind” can’t be accessed directly, so has to be directed via poetry, paradox, intention, and silent meditation. she further argues that this predominant understanding of a silent mind was lost by theologians in the 1300’s, and hence all the theology has been quite screwed up since.

    and re: silence and it’s effect on the mind, you might find the following 3 hr documentary interesting, where a priest who takes 5 ordinary people on an intense silent retreat:
    http://topdocumentaryfilms.com/big-silence/
    (or you can search for it on youtube also)

    and maggie ross also liked the documentary, altho this should give you a taste of how she can be very critical of organized religion:
    http://ravenwilderness.blogspot.com/2010/11/no-place-for-silence.html

    overall, i’ve been more focused on understanding the various tools to approach/induce these experiences, and understand them from a non-dogmatic perspective, rather than from a lower-level biochemistry perspective. not sure if anything above is something you’re aware of or interested in, but thought i’d stop by and say hi.

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    • Hi Sgl. I’m so glad you stopped by, and your comments are right up my alley. I want to address your thought provoking comments at length later and I plan on watching the doc you posted. I wanted to also mention that my background and training is in neurotechnology with emphasis in brainwave training (neurofeedback and audio/visual entrainment — http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/10/121024124741.htm ) One of the programs I offered was assisting people with achieving hemispheric integration which included reducing mind-chatter (from the left hemisphere). Neuropsychologist, Neurobiologist and Nobel laureate, Roger Sperry, who was famous for his split-brain experiments, stated:

      “What it comes down to is that modern society discriminates against the right hemisphere.”

      What you mentioned about us living in a left-hemisphere culture was spot on — and I must also mention that there are more dopamine receptors (reward) in the left hemisphere — if that tells you anything. Dan Pink, who received a law degree from Yale Law School, where he served as editor-in-chief of The Yale Law & Policy Review, wrote a book titled “A Whole New Mind”. He stated that the right hemisphere must become the 1st among equals if we are to adapt to the changing economy and thrive as a species.

      Here’s a short video I put together a couple of years ago showing what happens and is happening when we live in a predominately left hemisphere society/world. By the way, you no doubt already know this but the left hemisphere interprets ‘experiences’ and the result, throughout history, has been religion, in particular, organized, authoritarian religions.

      I’ll be back later. Thanks for the links and to Howie for sending you this way. I need to catch up on other comments and well — it’s Easter — my Christian family goes crazy this time of year. 😀

      Like

  14. re: video and institutions perpetuating themselves

    you might be interested in the following long but really good essay:

    The Disadvantages of an Elite Education, By William Deresiewicz
    Our best universities have forgotten that the reason they exist is to make minds, not careers
    http://theamericanscholar.org/the-disadvantages-of-an-elite-education/

    and, another good essay by the same author about the importance of solitude:
    Solitude and Leadership, By William Deresiewicz
    If you want others to follow, learn to be alone with your thoughts
    The lecture below was delivered to the plebe class at the United States Military Academy at West Point in October 2009.
    http://theamericanscholar.org/solitude-and-leadership/

    re: “… the left hemisphere interprets ‘experiences’ and the result, throughout history, has been religion, in particular, organized, authoritarian religions.”

    i’d suggest that while true, it’s incomplete, as many/most other areas of human endeavour also are controlled by that same process.

    eg, architecture
    for me, i started reading via christopher alexander and his pattern language of architecture, and also the every acerbic james howard kunstler’s critism of suburbia (see his eyesore of the month: http://kunstler.com/writings/eyesore-of-the-month/ or look for excerpts of his books about suburbia, “The Geography of Nowhere”, and “Home from Nowhere”) while i agreed with them, i didn’t understand the underlying source of the problem.

    all that culminated in this article, which i discovered shortly after hearing of the book “the master and his emissary”, and noted a correspondence, which another commenter on the article noted as well. this is when i realized that lousy architecture was in fact likely due to this left-right brain split:
    —–
    http://permaculturenews.org/2011/10/20/architectural-myopia-designing-for-industry-not-people/

    Architectural Myopia: Designing for Industry, Not People, by Nikos A. Salingaros

    “Or have you simply felt frustrated by a building that made you uncomfortable, or felt anger when a beautiful old building was razed and replaced with a contemporary eyesore? You might be forgiven for thinking “these architects must be blind!” New research shows that in a real sense, you might actually be right.

    Environmental psychologists have long known about this widespread and puzzling phenomenon. Laboratory results show conclusively that architects literally see the world differently from non-architects. Not only do architects notice and look for different aspects of the environment than other people; their brains seem to synthesize an understanding of the world that has notable differences from natural reality. Instead of a contextual world of harmonious geometric relationships and connectedness, architects tend to see a world of objects set apart from their contexts, with distinctive, attention-getting qualities.”

    [….]

    The situation becomes much more complicated, however, whenever the architect experiences a structure in person, immediately, physically, at full scale. Here, cognitive dissonance comes into play any time he/she physically confronts a structure. For example, in front or inside a building sporting a contemporary “look” with minimalist industrial characteristics and perhaps deliberate structural imbalances, the architect’s body gives definite signals of alarm, whereas his/her mind recalls the positive prejudgment imprinted during training. In the opposite instance, in front or inside a traditional building with all the human-scale complexity contributing to compositional harmony, the architect’s body receives positive signals of wellbeing and informational nourishment, while at the same time his/her mind is retrieving the acquired negative prejudgment.

    In both these situations the architect is receiving mixed signals — in fact mutually contradictory ones — from the built environment. Whenever ordinary intuition is short-circuited, our organism can no longer trust its visceral interpretation of the world. Our self experiences an alarming sensation of disembodiment. The brain thus turns to stored reference images in order to interpret reality — it is forced to adopt whatever lies at hand, in this case, the images of an abstract industrial modernity assimilated during training. From that point on, many architects do not “see” the connective, coherent complexity of the world, but instead substitute their eyes’ visual image with an alternative artificial reality constructed in their minds.

    —–

    re: agriculture
    this joke got me started thinking about how insane suburbia is, and also agriculture, and also much of our western way of life.
    you can read the full joke at the link, but the gist of it is in one line:
    God: Now let me get this straight. They fertilize grass so when it does grow, they cut it off and pay to throw it away?
    (more at: http://www.richsoil.com/lawn/god.jsp )

    this was further reinforced when i read about masanobu fukuoka, who had an epiphany/enlightenment experience, and realized that the western reductionism didn’t make sense, and became a farmer trying to do the bare minimum to mimic natural processes, ie, uses no fertilizer or pesticides, doesn’t plow, intermixes trees and other plants, etc, yet achieves yields similar to other farmers in japan.

    —–
    Masanobu Fukuoka’s ‘The One-Straw Revolution’
    An excerpt from “The One-Straw Revolution” by Masanobu Fukuoka, master and inventor of the natural farming technique.

    http://www.motherearthnews.com/homesteading-and-livestock/masanobu-fukuoka-one-straw-revolution-zmaz78jazbur.aspx

    The usual way to go about developing a method is to ask “flow about trying this?” or “How about trying that?” . . . bringing in a variety of techniques, one upon the other. This is modern agriculture and it only results in making the farmer busier.

    My way was opposite. I was aiming at a pleasant, natural way of farming . . . which results in making the work easier instead of harder. “How about not doing this? How about not doing that?” — that was my way of thinking.

    By taking this approach, I ultimately reached the conclusion that there was no need to plow, no need to apply fertilizer, no need to make compost, no need to use insecticide! When you get right down to it, there are few agricultural practices that are really necessary.

    The reason that man’s “improved” techniques seem to be necessary is that the natural balance has been so badly upset beforehand by those same techniques that the land has become dependent on them.

    [….]
    And now look over at the neighbor’s field for a moment. The weeds have all been wiped out by herbicides and cultivation. The soil animals and insects have been exterminated by poison. The earth has been burned clean of organic matter and micro-organisms by chemical fertilizers. In the summer, you see farmers at work in the fields . . . wearing gas masks and long rubber gloves. These rice fields — which have been farmed continuously for over 1,500 years — have now been laid waste by the exploitive farming practices of a single generation.

    —–

    (you can also google austrian farmer Sepp Holzer and his very successful permaculture techniques, which are similarly unconventional and don’t follow the “rules”)

    john michael greer, author of the archdruid report blog, writes mostly about peak oil, and what it’s likely to do to american society. he’s well read and an engaging writer, so i highly encourage you to read his blog. among his other themes, he talks about how the real religion of america is the civil religion of progress, and shows the number of embedded assumptions about how we view the world thru that lens, and how it’s not the only way to view the world. he’s quite good at showing how many non-rational impact our decision making, and showing many commonalities in faulty thinking because of it.

    one example from his blog about the non-rational meaning we give to things, in this case the automobile, which is central to the american way of life and will be significantly impacted by peak oil:
    —–
    http://thearchdruidreport.blogspot.com/2012/01/myth-of-machine.html

    For most Americans, television has come to represent the experience of collective participation, and yet the flickering lights in the suburban windows serve as a reminder that few activities are more solitary or more isolating. In precisely the same way, the freedom represented by the car moving down the open road is a pathetic illusion; from the immense government programs that build and maintain those open roads, through the gargantuan corporate systems that produce the cars, to the sprawling global network of oilfields, pipelines, refineries, and the rest of the colossal system that transforms fossil hydrocarbons into the gas that keeps the car going, there are few human activities on Earth that depend more completely on the vast and faceless bureaucracies that most Americans think they despise. Isolation packaged as participation, dependence packaged as freedom: there’s much to be learned here about the power of thaumaturgy to twist the meanings of things

    —–

    religiously, he’s a druid (and an archdruid, head of an order of druids), and also practices magic, which doesn’t have the meaning of “harry potter” like many people believe. here’s a really interesting essay which critiques the progressive and environmental activist movement using his magic perspective. while the terminology is quite different than you’re likely used to, it’s quite interesting to see how many embedded assumptions we have in our thinking about the world, not just in our “religion”:
    ———-
    http://redroom.com/member/john-michael-greer/writing/getting-beyond-the-narratives-an-open-letter-to-the-activist-commu—–

    Getting Beyond The Narratives: An Open Letter to the Activist Community, by John Michael Greer

    The relevance of all this to social change and society in general was pointed out powerfully by the late Ioan Culianu, one of the few significant modern scholars of magic who was also a competent mage. In his groundbreaking “Eros and Magic in the Renaissance” (1984) Culianu argued that modern advertising is a form of magic, and proposed that modern consumer societies can be seen as “magician states” in which social control is primarily maintained not by violence but by manipulation through magically charged images. It’s a crucial insight; when people treat, say, fizzy brown sugar water as a source of their identity and human value, their resemblance to fairy-tale characters under an enchantment isn’t accidental. They’re quite literally caught up in a spell.

    Those who aren’t used to magic may find it easier to think of spells as stories. Quite a lot of magic, in fact, can be understood as storytelling. The mage uses symbol and ritual to tell a story, and makes it so spellbinding that the listeners come to believe that it’s real — and then make it real by their actions. Magical combat is a struggle between storytellers, in which each mage tries to define a common reality in terms of the story that best serves his or her purposes. The struggle between the global corporate system and the activist community, to build on Culianu’s insights, can be seen as a conflict of magicians telling opposing stories.
    —–
    [….] Jones was astonished to find that the vast corporate structures against which he and many other progressives had been campaigning so hard — the WTO, the World Bank, and so on — were treated, by the people who run them, as mere tools to be used or tossed aside at will. The elite see themselves personally as the holders of power, and institutions as their means and modes of power. The activists outside the police barricades, by contrast, see the institutions themselves as the problem.
    —–
    [….] Consider George Lakey’s fascinating account of the Otpor movement against Serbian dictator Slobodan Milosevic in his article “Strategizing for a Living Revolution” (pp. 135-160). One of the tactics Otpor members used to halt police violence against them was to take photos of their wounded and make sure the family members, neighbors, and children of the police got to see them. This was a brilliant bit of magic. The individual human beings who made up that reified abstraction, “the police,” were stripped of that identity by a spell of unnaming, and turned back into neighbors, husbands, children, parents: people who were part of civil society, and subject to its standards and social pressures. That couldn’t have been achieved if Otpor had reified and protested “police brutality,” since that act would have strengthened the reification of police as something other than ordinary members of society.

    ———-

    also, science itself is not immune to all the human status-seeking and overlooking unpopular or unconventional issues:

    http://neurotheory.columbia.edu/~ken/cargo_cult.html
    Cargo Cult Science, by Richard Feynman

    lastly,the monetary system and economics, where printing trillions out of thin air for the bankers while simultaneously imposing austerity on greece, spain, ireland, and various other parts of the world. if printing money makes us wealthier, why do we need austerity? if we can print money without consequence, why do we have to pay taxes? why do we prosecute counterfeiters? and a proposal for the us treasury to make a platinum coin, claim it’s value is a trillion dollars, and give it to the fed reserve, is considered seriously as a “solution” to the federal budget impasse by mainstream newspapers for several weeks. this is all based on models of the world and the economy that in the view of many people are deeply flawed, and yet they persist.

    so i think that religion is but one of the many mental models and many sources of propaganda attempting to influence our sense of identity. and i think much of the problem with all these flawed models is the left brain believes in them without understanding the context, and ignores all info that doesn’t fit with the mental model of the world. and with most people’s lives being rushed, sometimes by the structure of society, but often of their own choosing, there is not sufficient time to get any sort of mental quietude, to discard any of the propaganda and failed mental models of the world.

    and the solution, as best i can tell, is that people have to do a certain amount of quiet meditatian, and taming of the ego. (or, what is essentially at the core of the mystical aspects of religions, except they always seem to get coopted by control freaks.) or, as a famous guy said:
    “All men’s miseries derive from not being able to sit in a quiet room alone.” — Blaise Pascal

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    • Sgl, I appreciate the time you took posting all this. It will take me a while to get through it all, including reading the links you shared. I will note this at the moment.

      Victoria wrote: “re: “… the left hemisphere interprets ‘experiences’ and the result, throughout history, has been religion, in particular, organized, authoritarian religions.”

      Sgl wrote: “i’d suggest that while true, it’s incomplete, as many/most other areas of human endeavour also are controlled by that same process.”

      I agree. As noted in my post, I encouraged people to read the full paper. Murphy also mentioned that many of these endeavors and/or behaviors are also controlled by the same processor or include other processes within the brain. Hopefully you got my point. If not, I will clarify.

      Like

  15. Very interesting! You really share some very inspiring thoughts. Thank you for that 🙂

    Like

    • Thank you, AC. I really appreciate you taking the time to read my lengthy post and for taking the time to comment. 🙂 Thought I would mention that I am having holiday left-overs for lunch (right now) which includes some of that delicious bread I made from your recipe. Mmmmm

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      • I always enjoy reading your posts – they make me think! And reading that you are enjoying my bread makes me smile 🙂

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  16. I concur with John Z about having to reread this. It is out there. Truly, a great read.
    I admire your patience with Brandon. I think its almost time for a ”Brandon Doll….pins included.” ‘Or simply send him to sit on the naughty step. 😉

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  17. hi victoria,
    i posted a rather long comment with lots of links late sun night/early mon am, which hasn’t made it thru moderation yet. did it get re-routed to spam and overlooked? or do you wait until you have time to respond to release it from moderation? (not trying to pesky, just don’t know the rules, and lost in spam folders is somewhat common.) thanks.

    Like

    • Hi Sgl — thanks for letting me know. I’ve gotten so many notifications this past week, have multiple irons in the fire, and I’m still trying to catch up on replying to comments here and else where. Sometimes I miss a few notifications. I’ll go check my spam queue.

      Like

  18. Pingback: Oh, God. Yes, kiddies…it’s natural. | A Tale Unfolds

  19. Note: This page was taking too long to load — due to multiple videos being imbedded. I have left one embedded, and the rest have been added as links. I appreciate everyone’s contribution.

    Like

  20. Reblogged this on Nan's Notebook and commented:
    For those who favor the verity of religious experience over the credibility of science.

    Like

  21. Well, I appreciate you not putting a price on the knowledge you share. I know that doesn’t pay the bills, but it might be worth something to the brain, eh. And maybe you should write a book. From what I now know, I’d buy it.

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  22. Pingback: Religion Isn’t A Mental Illness | Amusing Nonsense

  23. Great article!! That same thing also happened to Byron Katie, who also took it to the bank and is considered by many to be a cult leader. It is great to have a biological explanation. You should send this research to these people!!

    “Major mindfuck stuff” is the best description of Judeo-based religion I’ve seen yet!!

    Liked by 1 person

  24. I, too, share your experience, and in an effort to find answers, I also discovered Todd Murphy. I believe he offers the most plausible hypothesis as to the neurological process of Enlightenment. I think that in our experience there was not a complete collapse of the two-way Anterior commissure as there would be in absolute Enlightenment as experienced by Eckhart Tolle and others. Recently, someone spoke a specific word to me that triggered a memory of an extreme trauma that I had experienced two years ago. All of a sudden I couldn’t speak and I had an acute need to get outside because I needed more space. Because I had read Todd Murphy, I understood that what was happening was interhemispheric intrusion. I think that it’s possible that if I had stayed where I was instead of running outside and that if the trigger word was repeated often enough, I would have experienced some degree of Enlightenment. Maybe. I’m not sure I’m ready for this state of being.

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