Sunday, January 22, 2006

“And in the dark unscientific, I feel the drum-winds of his wings”

So said, D. H. Lawrence in on of his Pansies, “Give Us Gods.” I think Lawrence is speaking to an experience of the nonconceptual, the sense that can arise when we move out of thought and into the expanse of our experience. Such states can arise during meditation and these states may, in part, be explained by changes in specific regions of the brain – activating of some and inhibition of others. This line of poetry seems to speak to the sense of depersonalization that can occur in meditation. This is not a pathological form of depersonalization, but rather a momentary deactivation of the storytelling mind and the incessant self-talk we usually engage in. We become less self-preoccupied and when that happens, spacious feelings arise, and we become closer to the sense of the divine as we move away from the sense of our own storyline. Such considerations raise the question of whether the experience of god is anything more than a brain state. I have an abiding interest in this question. There is much scientific research being conducted on this question. One set of findings suggests that spirituality and religiosity may be genetically endowed (The God Gene). Other findings suggest that stimulation of particular brain regions can evoke spiritual feelings. The fact that spirituality may have a genetic and brain basis does not, however, rule out there is more to the spiritual than one or another brain state. Meditation can provide a taste of this experience in a reliable fashion.

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