“We can’t tell you the Origin of the Experience. But we can tell you the Brain does appear to be built to have these [Mystical] Experiences. There are examples of people reaching similar states, spontaneously. But for the most part, it takes work. Meditation and these powerful Prayer Experiences require Dedication and Practice. But people have figured out how to do this, and the question is, ‘What is the Source of that Experience?’ The answer is, ‘We don’t know.’ Science doesn’t really have an answer for you.” Andrew B. Newberg
Consciousness is at once the most familiar and the most Mysterious aspect of our Existence.
Conscious Experiences define our Lives, but the Subjective, Private, and Qualitative Nature of these Experiences seems to resist the Scientific Inquiry. In the last years Neuroscience has investigated the “Contents of Consciousness” and It has arrived at the Conclusion that Consciousness is generated by and within Non-Conscious Brain Systems in the form of a Continuous self-referential personal narrative that is not directed or influenced in any way by the “Experience of Consciousness.”
According to this assertion of Consciousness, Spiritual/Mystical Human Dimension would be the consequence of an Illusions generated by a “God/Spirit Idea” module entered in the Brain as Concept (and not as Experience) and totally alienated from the Reality. For official Science, the Existence of God and the Idea that there are invisible dimensions of Reality that interact with our Consciousness, is mainly considered an Infantile Image of the World: a Primitive Magical Thinking (Grof 2010).
Neurotheological (or Spiritual Neuroscience) approach has started to provide an important Bridge between Scientific and Spiritual perspectives and It could be a significative Support for the Modern Philosophical approach from a transversal direction.
The Neurotheology has been developed starting from the Shamanic Philosophy and Practices which involves basic Brain processes, Neuro-Gnostic Structures and innate Brain Modules, proving that Spiritual Experiences, like any other aspect of Reality, can be subjected to careful, open-minded Researces and studied scientifically (Grof 2010).
Neurotheological approach considers Shamanism such as a Holistic and Animistic Vision of the World able to operate significative Transformations in the structure of the Brain and consequently, according with modern Neuroscientific Theories, on the Structures of Consciousness.
Neurotheology studies has observed that Shamanism Increases Biological Potentials provided by integrative Altered States of Consciousness (generated by deep Meditations and specific Breathing Practices) to facilitate Extrasensory Perception, Personal Development, and Physical and Mental Wellness. In fact, deep Listening, strong sense of Relationship with the Nature and Meditative Methods intensify connections between the Limbic System and Lower Brain structures, and an effective Synchronization between the two Brain Hemispheres.
The Shamanic Paradigm could contribute to a reconciliation of a Spiritual into the Scientific perspectives by providing a Universalistic Biopsychosocial framework that explicates the biological underpinnings of Spiritual Experiences and practices and provides a basis for neurotheology and evolutionary theology and Philosophical approaches (Winkelman 2002).
According to a Shamanic Vision all the Living Being (included Nature as part of the Whole where the Creative/Divine Consciousness is manifest) co-exists within certain environmental conditions and is dependent on all other Beings with which she/he is in Relationship. In this Sense of Oneness is possible to speak about ‘Inter-Subjectivity’ where the involved Subjects share not only their Presence but also their Consciousness.
Author: Cristina Capucci
Biography and Suggested Readings:
Neurotheology: How Science CanEnlighten Us About Spirituality by Andrew Newberg
Holotropic Breathwork. A New Approach to Self-Exploration and Therapy by S. Grof and C. Grof.
The Integral Vision | a very short Introduction to the Revolutionary Integral Approach to Life, God, the Universe and Everything by Ken Wilber
Chasing the Rainbow: The Non-Conscious Nature of Being by David A. Oakley and Peter W. Halligan (November 2017) https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2017.01924/full
Shamanism as Neurotheology and Evolutionary Psychology By Michael Winkelman American Behavioral Scientist, Vol. 45 No. 12, August 2002 (1873-1885)