Re: Neuroscientists and the "God module"

From: Samantha Atkins (
Date: Wed Jan 24 2001 - 22:27:44 MST

Damien Broderick wrote:
> At 07:03 PM 24/01/01 -0700, Michael LaTorra wrote:
> >Some months back, Samantha wrote about her experiences with the "God module"
> >in her brain. (Hey, I've got one of those, too!) Now some neuroscientists at
> >the U of Penn. believe they have discovered the areas of the brain in which
> >this module operates.
> >
> I love the way this stuff is unfolding. I used to have these experiences
> too, as a pious Catholic kid, but my god module's gone on the blink.
> (Actually I crawled under and rewired it right.)
> I do think we should be cautious about calling these neurological
> short-circuits `god modules'. `God' is a local historically contingent
> construct. The article makes it clear that what is experienced is a
> delightful loss of self boundaries, so that the usual background sense of
> integral identity merges with one's ceaselessly updated construct of the
> rest of the world. In monotheistic cultures, people tend to experience this
> as a revelation of The One True God; in polytheistic cultures, I'm pretty
> sure you'd feel contact with one or another local god or demon; in god-free
> sub-cultures, what one would experience might resemble Buddhist satori, or
> the awe and wonderment we transhuman types tend to get when we gaze into a
> vast clear brilliantly starred sky, or listen to Bach, or hold a new-born
> baby (I'm told) for the first time, or read one of my novels. :)

True enough. Although the facts of these neural connections also
explain the basic similarities of the fundamental "mystical" experiences
across cultures and religions. That fundamental loss of self, sense of
merging, ecstasy, and so on has been judged by many to be all the more
special, compelling and "mystical" simply because it was seemingly
universal regardless of what words and images are wrapped around it
afterwards. A common set of neural underpinnings explains the
commonality quite nicely.

I will have to dig it up but I also came across a book a while back that
diagrammed what meditation does to different brain centers and what the
likely subjective resulting experiences would be. It included mention
of the centers of the brain used in creating running dialog, more
generally verbalization and conceptualization, being turned off by
common meditation practices. It is no wonder the experience is
"ineffable" - literally beyond words. It also showed how turning off
certain brain regions (relatively) could cause a feedback that
overloaded other centers leading to emotional flooding and ecstasy.

- samantha

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