Perspectives On The Religious ExperiencePresentation Transcript
Perspectives on the Religious Experience Nicolina Cahouette 07/21/2009
The Religious Experience
Is defined as an experience where the subject asserts they have had an encounter with a divine, or supernatural being, or energy source.
The Phenomenon of the religious experience pervades all human cultures.
Although types of experiences differ throughout the world, key commonalities occur in vastly different cultures. This allows for scientific observation.
Science cannot confirm the source of the religious experience, but has measured activity in the brain areas the experience activates.
Voice of the Gods?
Religious experience induced by intense meditation.
Would enter trance, and speak in strange riddle.
Messages would be interpreted as prophecy.
Haitian Trance Dance
Possession of the Subject by the “Loa” or God. In this case Papa Gede.
Symptoms of the Transcendental Experience
Sense of body, and self seems to dissolve.
Subjects report feeling of “transcendental love”.
Ecstatic sensory experience accompanied by trembling, or intense emotional outpouring.
A sense of freedom, a feeling of bliss.
Euphoric feeling after a hard workout.
Ascetic practices, such as tattoo, piercing, and suspension.
Intense focus, or meditation.
The human orgasm .
Fathers of Modern Thought
Plato , 3 rd century A.D.
Rene Descartes (1596-1650)
Human secretions are “Animal Spirits”.
Influenced by ancient Greek scholars, such as Aristotle, and Plato.
William James (1842-1910) Varieties of the Religious Experience
Key Components of the Religious Experience
The experience is short in duration.
The experience is hard to describe in words, and very emotional.
The experience leaves the subject feeling as though they have learned something very significant.
Lastly, the religious experience happens to the subject usually without conscious manipulation.
Transpersonal Psychology is a school of thought inspired by the pioneering work of American Psychologist, William James. It is the exploration of the highest potential of man , as defined by the Journal of Transpersonal Psychology .
Carl Gustav Jung (1875-1961)
asserted that our driving force is to uncover our innate purpose, and highest potential.
The divine, as Jung described it, is an integral part of the human condition.
Carl Gustav Jung Cont.
Jung asserted that matters of the soul could be examined subjectively even though it is perceived outside of scientific boundaries.
Proposed the concept of the collective unconscious, the “hive mind”.
Jung felt that the exact sciences were limited in what they could describe.
What Science has Found
In The Neurology of Religious Experience, edited by Patrick McNamara, (1984), the neurotransmitter dopamine, when produced excessively, has been correlated with increases in religious inclination, hallucinations, and dramatic shifts in the subject’s perception.
Religion and the Brain
Patrick McNamara, Raymon Durso, Ariel Brown, and Erica Harris (1984),
Positive correlations with religion and health have also been noted in research on dopaminergic neurons, and their managerial properties in relation to the autonomic nervous system.
Religiosity & The Frontal Lobe
A subject in the throes of a religious experience shows high activity in the frontal and pre-frontal cortex of the brain, suggesting that higher order functions are at work, rather than the evolutionary biological reaction that would reside mostly in the limbic system. ( Patrick McNamara, Raymon Durso, Ariel Brown, and Erica Harris 1984)
Positive Effects of the Religious Experience
Some of the noted positive heath effects on the subject include reduced anxiety, blood pressure, and pain symptoms.
Subjects reported a more positive mental well-being, and confidence. The lasting effects of regular spiritual practice are positively correlated to an increase in mental and physical health.
Pioneers of Psychology. Fancher, Raymond. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 1996.
The Varieties of Religious Experience: A Study in Human Nature.James,William. New York: Penguin. 1985, orig. pub. 1902.
Emotional Intelligence. Goleman, Daniel. New York: Bantam. 1995.
Textual References Cont.
Where God and Science Meet, How Brain and Evolutionary Studies Alter Our Understanding of Religion.VOL 2,The Neurology of Religious Experience. Ed.by McNamara, Patrick. Connecticut: Praeger. 2006.
Textual References Cont.
Where God and Science Meet, How Brain and Evolutionary Studies Alter Our Understanding of Religion.VOL 3,The Psychology of Religious Experience. Ed. by McNamara, Patrick,
The Science of Spirituality, The God Chemical: Brain Chemistry and Mysticism , www.npr.org . Hagarty, Barbara Bradley. 16 July, 2009.
www.flickr.com .Haitian Trance, Tibetan Oracle, and Wiccan Priestess. (7/2009)
www.encarta.msn.com . William James, Rene Descartes. (7/2009)