March 12th was brain awareness week. So much has happened in neuroscience within the past few years. My first master’s thesis was on the effect of the designed environment on perception and behavior. You can see in this illustration from Jared Schneidman (in my book) how different visual phenomena light up different areas of the brain. I then studied theology and spirituality for my second masters-interested in the effect of belief on behavior and life. Had hoped to do some huge national research studies-perhaps for a doctorate.
Dr. Andrew Newberg, a neuroscientist has done a similar thing with brain scans on the effect of meditation on the brain. He has a new book out, ‘Principles of Neurotheology’. Different theological constructs ‘tickle’ different portions of the brain, and areas where higher thought . . . or emotions, or reasoning are processed depending on one’s understanding of ‘God’. For instance the harsh judge man in the sky might generate a different response than benevolent force-field and source/end of all that is. What is God and what does God do? What is prayer, how does it work and does it matter? Check out this article on Newberg by fellow examiner Carol Everhart Roper at: http://www.examiner.com/freethought-in-philadelphia/dr-andrew-newberg-god-and-the-brain-lecture.
For that matter what are YOU and what do YOU do? Is there, in fact, even a ‘you’? A recent You Tube video on TEDx titled, ‘Is there a real you?” with Julian Baggini, a philosopher, made the point that ‘you’ is not a thing, but a process. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GFIyhseYTWg:// I’ve given that a lot of thought. You’re not a thing or a ‘being’, but a ‘becoming’ as you’re always ‘doing’- even at rest; even dead! Sure you’re genetic material that came into personhood somewhere along the line as the energetic spark that set off chain reactions in your mother’s womb. Before that you were emergent intent, a combination of conditions, desires, needs, environment and timing of the universe birthing itself another possibility. For Baggini, a chief mistake in the materialistic Western worldview is viewing people and nature as 'things' rather than interconnected processes.
Your life is an integrated movement through time of the combined substance of your physical and personality traits coupled with memories, hopes, dreams, associations, connections, family, work, intelligence, creativity, consumption and choices. Physicists tell us we’re a coalescence of energetic particles moving through time where past, present and future coexist. When you breathe your last and that collection of energetic history merges into the field of other energies, memories, and dreams, your body continues to evolve into its raw chemical elements.
We might say you came from ‘the Source’ and have returned to ‘the Source’. I would suspect over time, the purpose for a distinctive personality would cease to exist. [Think of it like how different color taffy is blended and pulled.] Does that intelligent energy/learning ultimately merge into the collective unconscious? Is the energetic substance also remixed and re-birthed into another right genetic emerging? It is all a process, whether we choose to think of it that way or not regardless of the individual religious traditions or mindsets we inherited.
These are interesting questions of thirsty curiosity, tackled by the frameworks we call ‘religion’ throughout time, also informed by the sciences from cellular biology to the far reaches of the cosmos, inspired by poetic metaphor , music and the arts, our only form of expression- which caused both the ancients and now us to gasp and say, ‘Wow!’with each new discovery. It would be a shame to shut down this emergent spirituality with a first century premodern framework, and banish 14 billion years of unfolding. Embrace your becoming!
Events in Columbus:
http://www.dispatch.com/content/topic/news/religion/gatherings.html (great source for churches, synagogues and religions events locally)
http://www.cincymuseum.org/pompeii (a cool exhibit- now you’re here, now you’re not. I saw this live in Pompeii, Italy. What’s striking is how contemporary these people are. They are us!)
http://www.iaco.org/ (March 24th interfaith spiritual sharing group; March 31st Central Ohio Youth Peace March)
http://www.spiritualitynetwork.org/events.html (workshops, talks and spiritual direction)
Meditations for this post:
‘Everything has already been decided. It was known long ago what each person would be. So there’s no use arguing with God about your destiny.” Ecclesiastes 6:10 Christian Bible-New Living Translation by Tyndale
‘If God is for us, who can ever be against us?’ Romans 8:31b Christian Bible- New Living Translation by Tyndale
‘God chooses His messengers from the angels and from men. God hears all and observes all. He knows what is before them and behind them. To God shall all things return.” 22:75 ‘Pilgrimage’ page 240 from The Koran translated by N. J. Dawood, Penguin Classics
‘When, because of old age or illness or accident, the heart has stopped beating, when the physiological and psychological life has halted, we speak of death. What we call life and death are in fact the opposite but complementary aspects of a single, identical process. For this reason, the ancient Greek philosopher Thales proclaimed: ‘Death is not different from life.’ When we examine carefully the basic structure of matter, we discover a process of lives and deaths carried out billions and billions of times per second (exchanges of ions, exchanges of neutrons and protons in the nucleus of the atom). The study of biology shows us the cells of the human body being destroyed while others replace them. Buddhism, Ch’an and Zen teach us that similar processes control the phenomena of conscience. They consider that what we call life and death are only manifestations of a more profound Reality.’ P 124 Zen, The Art of Life by Robert Linssen