Beyond the Brain: The Experiential Implications of Neurotheology

Panel Discussion September 11, 2008

As explorations into the neuropsychology of religious and spiritual experience provide new insights into the neural mechanisms underlying the interplay of consciousness, volition, and emotion, the central question remains: to what extent does the mind transcend its neural basis? Conventional wisdom holds that assemblies of neurons must account for consciousness, and, by extension, for all subjective facets of lived experience. Yet, current research in the neural correlates of deep meditative states, out-of-body and near-death experiences, and the way in which spiritual beliefs influence health outcomes allow us to frame the problem afresh by side-stepping the philosophical traps of the mind-body problem.

Is the sense of a transcendent reality merely an illusion caused by brainstorms, or is it indeed the very notion of transcendence that is capable of affecting brain activity? While the debate continues, recent scientific investigations into mystical experience have compelled us to modify in important respects our view of the nature of the self, and, more generally, of consciousness and lived experience. One striking conclusion derived from research into the neuronal underpinning of such experiences is that their correlation with brain activity is remarkably consistent across various cultures and faiths, thereby suggesting universal patterns of spiritual and moral experience, a “common core” belonging to humanity as such.

What, then, are the pragmatics of this emerging field of neurotheology? How are we to interpret and understand forms of awareness that reach beyond ordinary sensory or object-oriented consciousness? How does the notion of conscious states independent of brain or bodily activity play out in concrete terms for the people involved? How do near-death experiences, as well as less dramatic but nonetheless spiritually transformative episodes witnessed by health professionals, affect the way people perceive reality and ascribe meaning to their lives? The panelists will draw upon their expertise to address these challenging lines of inquiry raised by contemporary explorations into the fringes of brain and consciousness.

Panel

  • Elie During
  • Mario Beauregard
  • Andrew B. Newberg
  • Christina M. Puchalski

Details

  • Thursday, September 11, 2008

Sponsors

Highlights

  • Framing the Debate on Consciousness and the Mind-Body Problem - Dr. Elie During Sep 11, 2008 13:57 4939
  • The Barriers to the Scientific Study of Consciousness and Spirituality - Dr. Mario Beauregard Sep 11, 2008 04:03 1569
  • The Barriers to the Scientific Study of Consciousness and Spirituality - Dr. Mario Beauregard Sep 11, 2008 04:03 1569
  • The Mind's Influence on the Immune System - Dr. Esther Sternberg Sep 11, 2008 08:08 5636
  • The Mind's Influence on the Immune System - Dr. Esther Sternberg Sep 11, 2008 08:08 5636
  • Mind-Brain Interaction and the Breakdown of the Materialist Paradigm - Dr. Jeffrey Schwartz Sep 11, 2008 11:00 12235
  • Mind-Brain Interaction and the Breakdown of the Materialist Paradigm - Dr. Jeffrey Schwartz Sep 11, 2008 11:00 12235
  • Henry Stapp on Quantum Mechanics and Human Consciousness Sep 11, 2008 09:23 37765
  • Henry Stapp on Quantum Mechanics and Human Consciousness Sep 11, 2008 09:23 37765
  • The Importance of Gathering Data in Studying Mind-Body Interaction - Dr. Esther Sternberg Sep 11, 2008 06:07 1893
  • The Importance of Gathering Data in Studying Mind-Body Interaction - Dr. Esther Sternberg Sep 11, 2008 06:07 1893
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