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Old 02-05-05, 01:13 PM
abre los ojos abre los ojos is offline
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Spirituality and the Brain

Here's a good article that appeared in the Washington Post about the brain and spirituality.



Tracing the Synapses of Spirituality

By Shankar Vedantam, Washington Post Staff Writer




June 17th, 2001 — In Philadelphia, a researcher discovers areas of the brain that are activated during meditation. At two other universities in San Diego and North Carolina, doctors study how epilepsy and certain hallucinogenic drugs can produce religious epiphanies. And in Canada, a neuroscientist fits people with magnetized helmets that produce "spiritual" experiences for the secular.

The work is part of a broad new effort by scientists around the world to better understand religious experiences, measure them, and even reproduce them. Using powerful brain imaging technology, researchers are exploring what mystics call nirvana, and what Christians describe as a state of grace. Scientists are asking whether spirituality can be explained in terms of neural networks, neurotransmitters and brain chemistry.

What creates that transcendental feeling of being one with the universe? It could be the decreased activity in the brain's parietal lobe, which helps regulate the sense of self and physical orientation, research suggests. How does religion prompt divine feelings of love and compassion? Possibly because of changes in the frontal lobe, caused by heightened concentration during meditation. Why do many people have a profound sense that religion has changed their lives? Perhaps because spiritual practices activate the temporal lobe, which weights experiences with personal significance.

"The brain is set up in such a way as to have spiritual experiences and religious experiences," said Andrew Newberg, a Philadelphia scientist who authored the book "Why God Won't Go Away." "Unless there is a fundamental change in the brain, religion and spirituality will be here for a very long time. The brain is predisposed to having those experiences and that is why so many people believe in God."

The research may represent the bravest frontier of brain research. But depending on your religious beliefs, it may also be the last straw. For while Newberg and other scientists say they are trying to bridge the gap between science and religion, many believers are offended by the notion that God is a creation of the human brain, rather than the other way around.

"It reinforces atheistic assumptions and makes religion appear useless," said Nancey Murphy, a professor of Christian philosophy at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California. "If you can explain religious experience purely as a brain phenomenon, you don't need the assumption of the existence of God."

Some scientists readily say the research proves there is no such thing as God. But many others argue that they are religious themselves, and that they are simply trying to understand how our minds produce a sense of spirituality.

Newberg, who was catapulted to center stage of the neuroscience-religion debate by his book and some recent experiments he conducted at the University of Pennsylvania with co-researcher Eugene D'Aquili, says he has a sense of his own spirituality, though he declined to say whether he believed in God because any answer would prompt people to question his agenda. "I'm really not trying to use science to prove that God exists or disprove God exists," he said.

Newberg's experiment consisted of taking brain scans of Tibetan Buddhist meditators as they sat immersed in contemplation. After giving them time to sink into a deep meditative trance, he injected them with a radioactive dye. Patterns of the dye's residues in the brain were later converted into images.

Newberg found that certain areas of the brain were altered during deep meditation. Predictably, these included areas in the front of the brain that are involved in concentration. But Newberg also found decreased activity in the parietal lobe, one of the parts of the brain that helps orient a person in three-dimensional space.

"When people have spiritual experiences they feel they become one with the universe and lose their sense of self," he said. "We think that may be because of what is happening in that area – if you block that area you lose that boundary between the self and the rest of the world. In doing so you ultimately wind up in a universal state."

Across the country, at the University of California in San Diego, other neuroscientists are studying why religious experiences seem to accompany epileptic seizures in some patients. At Duke University, psychiatrist Roy Mathew is studying hallucinogenic drugs that can produce mystical experiences and have long been used in certain religious traditions.

Could the flash of wisdom that came over Siddhartha Gautama – the Buddha – have been nothing more than his parietal lobe quieting down? Could the voices that Moses and Mohammed heard on remote mountain tops have been just a bunch of firing neurons – an illusion? Could Jesus's conversations with God have been a mental delusion?

Newberg won't go so far, but other proponents of the new brain science do. Michael Persinger, a professor of neuroscience at Laurentian University in Sudbury, Ontario, has been conducting experiments that fit a set of magnets to a helmet-like device. Persinger runs what amounts to a weak electromagnetic signal around the skulls of volunteers.

Four in five people, he said, report a "mystical experience, the feeling that there is a sentient being or entity standing behind or near" them. Some weep, some feel God has touched them, others become frightened and talk of demons and evil spirits.

"That's in the laboratory," said Persinger. "They know they are in the laboratory. Can you imagine what would happen if that happened late at night in a pew or mosque or synagogue?"

His research, said Persinger, showed that "religion is a property of the brain, only the brain and has little to do with what's out there."

Those who believe the new science disproves the existence of God say they are holding up a mirror to society about the destructive power of religion. They say that religious wars, fanaticism and intolerance spring from dogmatic beliefs that particular gods and faiths are unique, rather than facets of universal brain chemistry.

"It's irrational and dangerous when you see how religiosity affects us," said Matthew Alper, author of "The God Part of the Brain," a book about the neuroscience of belief. "During times of prosperity, we are contented. During times of depression, we go to war. When there isn't enough food to go around, we break into our spiritual tribes and use our gods as justification to kill one another."

While Persinger and Alper count themselves as atheists, many scientists studying the neurology of belief consider themselves deeply spiritual.

James Austin, a neurologist, began practicing Zen meditation during a visit to Japan. After years of practice, he found himself having to re-evaluate what his professional background had taught him.

"It was decided for me by the experiences I had while meditating," said Austin, author of the book "Zen and the Brain" and now a philosophy scholar at the University of Idaho. "Some of them were quickenings, one was a major internal absorption – an intense hyper-awareness, empty endless space that was blacker than black and soundless and vacant of any sense of my physical bodily self. I felt deep bliss. I realized that nothing in my training or experience had prepared me to help me understand what was going on in my brain. It was a wake-up call for a neurologist."

Austin's spirituality doesn't involve a belief in God – it is more in line with practices associated with some streams of Hinduism and Buddhism. Both emphasize the importance of meditation and its power to make an individual loving and compassionate – most Buddhists are disinterested in whether God exists.

But theologians say such practices don't describe most people's religiousness in either eastern or western traditions.

"When these people talk of religious experience, they are talking of a meditative experience," said John Haught, a professor of theology at Georgetown University. "But religion is more than that. It involves commitments and suffering and struggle – it's not all meditative bliss. It also involves moments when you feel abandoned by God."

"Religion is visiting widows and orphans," he said. "It is symbolism and myth and story and much richer things. They have isolated one small aspect of religious experience and they are identifying that with the whole of religion."

Belief and faith, argue believers, are larger than the sum of their brain parts: "The brain is the hardware through which religion is experienced," said Daniel Batson, a University of Kansas psychologist who studies the effect of religion on people. "To say the brain produces religion is like saying a piano produces music."

At the Fuller Theological Seminary's school of psychology, Warren Brown, a cognitive neuropsychologist, said, "Sitting where I'm sitting and dealing with experts in theology and Christian religious practice, I just look at what these people know about religiousness and think they are not very sophisticated. They are sophisticated neuroscientists, but they are not scholars in the area of what is involved in various forms of religiousness."

At the heart of the critique of the new brain research is what one theologian at St. Louis University called the "nothing-butism" of some scientists – the notion that all phenomena could be understood by reducing them to basic units that could be measured.

"A kiss," said Michael McClymond, "is more than a mutually agreed-upon exchange of saliva, breath and germs."

And finally, say believers, if God existed and created the universe, wouldn't it make sense that he would install machinery in our brains that would make it possible to have mystical experiences?

"Neuroscientists are taking the viewpoints of physicists of the last century that everything is matter," said Mathew, the Duke psychiatrist. "I am open to the possibility that there is more to this than what meets the eye. I don't believe in the omnipotence of science or that we have a foolproof explanation."




Finding One's 'Self'

Damage to Brain Lobe Changes Personality, Study Finds By Willow Lawson, ABC News
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Old 02-05-05, 01:29 PM
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Interesting. I need to read through it more carefully, but thanks for sharing.
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Old 02-06-05, 12:35 AM
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Old 03-30-05, 09:39 AM
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I really enjoyed this article. I have been questioning some of my more extreme religious experiences for some time, and especially being diagnosed with ADD and bipolar. I can't help but wonder if some of it was not as simple as being over-emotional. Again, it doesn't disprove a higher being or spirit, but it's interesting.
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Old 03-31-05, 07:58 AM
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Take a highlighter and a hardcopy of this article.
Find a comfy chair.
Highlight every instance of 'jumping the gun' quotes, self-evident mis-reporting, half telling the story. You will have a very highlighted page er two.

Don't get me wrong, it is a great starting place for researches. It has easily handed me more than 6 researchable areas with search terms. For that I am happy. But this, like almost all other articles on the subject, is par.... just par.

I have an old friend who was an engineer for NASA and a few other fun (yet more scary) institutions that hurl things through the air and space. We used to have the most wonderful conversations about the spirit and religions and self and Gawd-knows-what-all. It was very good stuff, and very rich with fact (because he and I are much the same).

When he read 'The God Part of the Brain' the discussions wound down. He has a bit more gloom in his outlook it seems. But look, the author is an atheist. Why would one be swayed by another who stands from the beginning in a state of profound disbelief unless one wanted to disbelieve as well? A scientist forms only theories, not belief systems, about what he cannot lay his meter on. But how many scientists do? Only a few. Well there is a rudimentary meter for one sign of the hidden activities of the "spirit", and where is the theory? he BELIEVES, that is the least of things in this situation.

I have had all-consuming spiritual experiences that changed my life. I asked for the greatest one outright, and received it. "Reveal Thyself Unto Me", that is all I asked. And I care not one way or the other what the overall shape of Godly reality is. I knew and know in my daily life that "Something" is working very closely and inexplicably with and for me. I am astonished almost every day at how this life works, even when in the pits.

Call me results oriented. "If it works... who cares if it is real or not".

I'll take my placebo now, nurse.
(and gain it's full benefit.)

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Old 03-31-05, 09:31 PM
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I questioned my over-emotional experiences before my diagnosis. So once diagnosed I couldn't help but wonder if my bipolar went with it; my low moods and a feeling of being "tested", a "trial", etc, and the high moods that feeling of being "on fire". Like you said, if it works then fine (and you're honest that you'll take a placebo), it's a comfort to you and that's what matters. This article said it didn't disprove a deity. As a matter of fact it told both sides of the issue. Is it our "higher power" that is effecting our brain or is what's happening in our brain effecting how we see and experience that "higher power"? We won't know scientifically, it's a subjective experience.

But I've said too much and I don't want a religious debate of any kind. I'm just saying my viewpoint changed. I wanted my intellectual questions answered and the feel-good responses didn't help anymore. I still believe in a "higher power" but it helps me mentally and emotionally to have that relationship be more calm and less extreme. I want my spirituality to be a source of support and comfort while I live with bipolar and ADD, because what I had over two years ago was not a good match for it.

I hope I haven't overstepped my bounds, I'm just sharing what works for me, I don't expect it to be the same for everyone.

p.s. your signature: life might begin at 30, for me life began with taking meds
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Old 03-31-05, 11:20 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by abre los ojos
"The brain is set up in such a way as to have spiritual experiences and religious experiences," said Andrew Newberg, a Philadelphia scientist who authored the book "Why God Won't Go Away." "Unless there is a fundamental change in the brain, religion and spirituality will be here for a very long time. The brain is predisposed to having those experiences and that is why so many people believe in God."
There has also been interesting speculation that our approach to religion is genetic -- generally relying upon twin studies. This would tend to support the conclusion that belief is more in the brain than the heart.

Quote:

The research may represent the bravest frontier of brain research. But depending on your religious beliefs, it may also be the last straw. For while Newberg and other scientists say they are trying to bridge the gap between science and religion, many believers are offended by the notion that God is a creation of the human brain, rather than the other way around.




As far as I am concerned the entire last two weeks of media and religious hysteria have demonstrated that someone is always going to get offended by something. That is no reason that good sense should not prevail.




Quote:





"It reinforces atheistic assumptions and makes religion appear useless," said Nancey Murphy, a professor of Christian philosophy at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California. "If you can explain religious experience purely as a brain phenomenon, you don't need the assumption of the existence of God."




That is an interesting use of the word assumption in that quote. It implies that faith can be shaken awfully easily.


Quote:
Some scientists readily say the research proves there is no such thing as God. But many others argue that they are religious themselves, and that they are simply trying to understand how our minds produce a sense of spirituality.


I simply do not believe that it will prove any such thing one way or another. God has always existed in people's brains/minds. Whether or not he/she exists elsewhere is an entirely separate issue.

Quote:
Newberg, who was catapulted to center stage of the neuroscience-religion debate by his book and some recent experiments he conducted at the University of Pennsylvania with co-researcher Eugene D'Aquili, says he has a sense of his own spirituality, though he declined to say whether he believed in God because any answer would prompt people to question his agenda. "I'm really not trying to use science to prove that God exists or disprove God exists," he said.


He is right to not involve his own sense of spirituality in the issue because it should have nothing to do with the conclusions of such study.

Quote:
"When people have spiritual experiences they feel they become one with the universe and lose their sense of self," he said. "We think that may be because of what is happening in that area – if you block that area you lose that boundary between the self and the rest of the world. In doing so you ultimately wind up in a universal state."

His research, said Persinger, showed that "religion is a property of the brain, only the brain and has little to do with what's out there."
That is certainly too broad a conclusion.

Quote:
At the heart of the critique of the new brain research is what one theologian at St. Louis University called the "nothing-butism" of some scientists – the notion that all phenomena could be understood by reducing them to basic units that could be measured.


Awe gee! We went to the moon and it still charms us.
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Old 04-01-05, 04:06 AM
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In my darkest moments it became necessary to submit, in order to survive. I began but identifying events that were a supreme irritation to me and letting them go. Not letting them go to something in particular, but instead, "just not me".

So if I had things that were consuming my wellbeing, I could relinquish responsibility for it as if I was turning it over to a higher power, but I couldn't live with that so it was always, "just not me" and that was enough to allow some different things to begin happening around me as I got out of the way of some of the destructive repeating patterns.

Now I don't have so much trouble submitting to the process.
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Old 04-01-05, 09:41 AM
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Ian- any particular walk of faith or philosophy contribute to this? If I may ask? Just curious.
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Old 04-01-05, 07:52 PM
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EYEFORGOT, I totally see where you are coming from with what you said about questioning pre-diagnosis over-E experiences. I am already a (way too) intense person (didja' guess?) and I spent about 5-7 years listening to Art Bell's radio show (and the repeat that comes right after... every night) and preparing for the world to end 10 or more ways. I had many rather unpleasant experiences during that time and luckily got a pinch of what you might call 'grace' right before Y2K. While my current buddies were polishing their guns I was sitting on a cloud and saying "whatever comes...." with a acceptant smile. I'm not where I wanna' be, but it beats those years of fear and reaction. (But I did learn alot about building submarines and making food and explosives out of... anything) [thankfully I have forgotten most of what could get me in trouble]

Boy-oh-boy, I hope my zinged-up ranting didn't sound like the spark of a religious debate (sorry-sorry-sorry). I guess that besides running a profound sleep deficit I am suffering the effects of being exposed to FOX News. It has it's good points (few... like all other news stations these days), but I reel every day from issues not being thoroughly and roundly communicated before the fur is let to fly. (FOX isn't alone in this I have found. CNN has caught the bug just like everyone else.) This is what I get for not having a TV but taking care of my dear ol' Granny (who watches FOX News at all hours of wakefulness and at full volume....). So, as you can imagine, I am on edge. I'll try to wear my marshmallow suit before I start typing next.

I also see what you mean by keeping the spiritual relationship "calm and less extreme". I had had many very profound drug induced experiences of peace and rightness as the article describes, but always touched with the substance in question. After the first positive non-drug induced (and way-way-way more powerful) experience, I realized that I didn't need a strained relationship full of tests going in either direction. They come, but it is just natural, and not at all negative, even if hard at times. The "feel-good responses" you talked about have been described to me in a few different ways (and I share your assessment that they are not sufficient unto themselves). My uncle calls them "The Fireworks" and being "Blissed-Out" or being "A Bliss Bunny". (He's always good for this kinda' jargon) When I came out of the warm and wonderful cloud of 'grace', I was at first very sore about losing it and then I just got to work. Life has a lot of work to do without worrying about whether we are on top of the world or not.

You haven't overstepped your bounds I don't think. I feel I may have. (heck, I may still be with this long and ungainly entry) What I should have said in my first reply was that [First] I am absolutely fascinated my this kinda' stuff (mostly the machinery, since I can usually build it at home if given enough info) and [Second, lastly, and briefly] that I hate it when these articles are short and rangy when I want solid data without any commentary in either direction (but hey, it IS fairly balanced like you say, and it WAS written not for scientific journal, but for the general public, so I have my own butt to blame for my reaction.)

p.s.--------- Dang-Me! Chel, I am still afraid of the meds. All of them. I hate it that I am still kinda' floating around and not settling into a healthy pattern of life. I don't like getting depressed, or all wound up. I wanted to be a husband and Daddy by now. I wanted to be happily following my artistic tendencies and building stability and a "Life". But I had some very bad experiences at the end of my last meds trying. I need to take it seriously that there seems to be a majority of people on here who are in my shoes but are doing consistently better with the meds, and I need to set a date past which (if my own med-less ideas don't pan out) I get on the meds and try to start doing what I have not been all my days. I'm just frightened. Even for a big guy like me that looms large. Gawd! I hope 30 isn't as old as it feels!

Coral Rhedd, That was a lovely little barrage of supplementary quotes and commentary! I loved it! Makes me feel like I am roaming in the right circles.

"I simply do not believe that it will prove any such thing one way or another. God has always existed in people's brains/minds. Whether or not he/she exists elsewhere is an entirely separate issue."

You got it, that is the crux right there. It bugs the phutz out of me that people in positions created to hold a scientific mind start blathering about "proof", when it is just an end-run around all the research needed to even come close to merely a more-well-formed thesis. (erg...) It always sounds like "Can't you all see? The sky IS falling! Now get with the picture!" I am a Hack-Science-Bum and even I can see that they are acting like boobs.

Ian, that's a beautiful expression of a personal pathway out of the pits. Sounds very reminiscent of what I have been exposed to of AA by my close friends. One friend wasn't (and still isn't) comfortable with a "God" concept, so he used "Spirit of Creativity" (him being a master sculptor and ceramicist) in place of a higher power. That contrasted to my uncle who already had an eastern Guru and weaved in the 12 steps with his existing religion and spiritual path.

To ascend from the depths it can be very powerful (and in my case necessary) to have something to take the position of 'higher power'. In my case it is an all encompassing "Mystery-retaining God-a-mo-thingy-bob", and it also does the trick and allows for freedom and growth I couldn't even have conceived of before.

I have many friends who profess no need for a "God", and can't understand why anyone would. They look at my super-general conception just as strangely as my fundamentalist friends. But it works like nothing else for me. It takes a long conversation with an atheist friend to get to the point about 'bending the knee' to what is not ourselves and just what that affords us. I believe firmly that there will be a science of religion in due time. Because in so many lives these things have worked like clockwork once instituted.


Religion may or may not be an 'opiate' of the masses, but in my opinion, Politics is like a 'peyote enema while scuba diving in the dark' to the masses.

Oh heavens, I have almost run out of my 2160 calories of Vanilla Haagen-Dazs, I must away to the store.
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Old 04-01-05, 08:18 PM
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Are you my long lost twin brother?

You didn't overstep your bounds, I'm glad it's clear now. That is the fastest conversation I have had with a more religious person ever where we came to accept each other as is and stay at peace with who we are. I cannot tell you all the annoying, frustrating, infuriating conversations I have had with people about my changes, what my therapist calls "enlightenment".

I was afraid to take medication, too. I was very afraid that 1) it was ultimately unhealthy to have those kinds of chemicals in your body and 2) that my preferred deity wanted to heal me in His own way, teach me something out of it, etc. I delayed and delayed trying to find the perfect will and that wasn't the healthy way to go. No one knew I was ADD and bipolar when I was younger, or even thought my problems might be something beyond my control, and my husband's patience was tried while he learned to live with my garbage. I waited until I had 3 children to get help. My oldest would have been better off with mommy on meds a whole lot sooner. He got the brunt of my instability with my post-partum depression, massive mood swings and extreme parenting methods.

Yes, my spirituality helped even while I made this transition, and I have tremendous peace that meds was the wise choice for me. "The wisdom of G-d is ....peaceable." That helped me a lot with decision making, along with accepting that I was made with a mind, intellect, reason, logic and imagination for a reason. I don't have to wait for some spaced-out spiritual experience to know HaShem's "plans".

I'm sorry you had a bad experience on meds. Was it only with one particular med or did you try others? Reading just a few posts here there are plenty of people who've had to try more than one. Keep us posted on your progress.

That's $3.99 worth of my oppinion which should cover the cost of some Haagen-Dazs for me. So while you're out........
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Old 04-01-05, 10:51 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by EYEFORGOT
Ian- any particular walk of faith or philosophy contribute to this? If I may ask? Just curious.
It's a really austere, plain Zen practise. I suck, but I'm willing. I got hooked when I watched an old tradition take place where the Sanga (congregation) set to work, unrehearsed, to challenge the head honcho publicly with their most difficult moral and practical dilemmas. It was a "take no prisoners" type deal. If this fellow had not had the wisdom to carry the day, his position would have crumbled in real time for all to see. It was brutally honest. Poetry without revisions. It learnt an integrity to the process that I had not thought possible before then.

Quote:
Originally Posted by FocusPokus
Ian, that's a beautiful expression of a personal pathway out of the pits. Sounds very reminiscent of what I have been exposed to of AA by my close friends. One friend wasn't (and still isn't) comfortable with a "God" concept, so he used "Spirit of Creativity" (him being a master sculptor and ceramicist) in place of a higher power. That contrasted to my uncle who already had an eastern Guru and weaved in the 12 steps with his existing religion and spiritual path.

To ascend from the depths it can be very powerful (and in my case necessary) to have something to take the position of 'higher power'. In my case it is an all encompassing "Mystery-retaining God-a-mo-thingy-bob", and it also does the trick and allows for freedom and growth I couldn't even have conceived of before.
It's right out of my 14 years attending meetings. The fundamentals of spirituality that I found in AA remain a big part of my life. I would not have made it out alive had I not learnt that bit about "just not me". It was enough to get me out of the way long enough for something else to happen, and then I quickly become convinced I was in the way often. I struggle to maintain my practise but sitting in meditation twice daily soon has me as light and useful. Without that practise of letting go on a regular basis I slip back into a much more agitated state.

I like the statement that says that "If something is bothering me, there is something wrong with me."

It's tough to swallow most days but it leads to wonderful places.

Quote:
Originally Posted by FocusPokus
< snip >
I believe firmly that there will be a science of religion in due time. Because in so many lives these things have worked like clockwork once instituted.
< /snip >
You haven't read Steven Hawking's "A Brief History of Time" yet? eheh
Cheers! Thanks everyone for ending my isolation.
Ian of the cup brimmeth over.
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Old 04-02-05, 02:41 AM
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I'm just jumping in because I want in on this thread!!!

i don't have anything relevant to add to the conversation. fortunately, that has never stopped me from saying nothing.

my mind is zinging all over the place though -- in a good way

g'night all.

wheezie
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Old 04-02-05, 04:33 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by FocusPokus
Boy-oh-boy, I hope my zinged-up ranting didn't sound like the spark of a religious debate (sorry-sorry-sorry).
Don't be sorry. I believe that the Meditation and Spirituality Forum is the only place we are allowed to discuss this sort of thing. In my opinion, there is nothing wrong with substantive debate. As long as no one predicts that another poster is going to hell, I think we are okay.

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guess that besides running a profound sleep deficit I am suffering the effects of being exposed to FOX News.
Tsk, tsk.

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So, as you can imagine, I am on edge. I'll try to wear my marshmallow suit before I start typing next.
No marshmallows! I have given up sweets. I like a little mental nutrition.

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Coral Rhedd, That was a lovely little barrage of supplementary quotes and commentary! I loved it! Makes me feel like I am roaming in the right circles.
Glad you liked it. What I hoped to make clear is that whether or not we invented God/the All, a higher power, Qi, whatever in response to some synaptic firing/misfiring, the proving existence or not of a supreme being is thus so far beyond the reach of science. However, I do believe it is unfair to expect someone to prove a negative and I do believe that, in the realm of debate, the burden of proof lies with the believer.

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You got it, that is the crux right there. It bugs the phutz out of me that people in positions created to hold a scientific mind start blathering about "proof", when it is just an end-run around all the research needed to even come close to merely a more-well-formed thesis. (erg...) It always sounds like "Can't you all see? The sky IS falling! Now get with the picture!" I am a Hack-Science-Bum and even I can see that they are acting like boobs.
Well, I believe the article posted is written to provoke an emotional response. Only one scientist mentioned says he thinks that he can raise doubts about God's existence. Not a very scientific approach, IMO.

Quote:
I have many friends who profess no need for a "God", and can't understand why anyone would. They look at my super-general conception just as strangely as my fundamentalist friends.
Many religious traditions do not require belief in a supreme being. That is where people get confused when they try do discuss God and religion together. They make a lot assumptions based upon their own personal belief. It's a big ole world out there.

Quote:
But it works like nothing else for me. It takes a long conversation with an atheist friend to get to the point about 'bending the knee' to what is not ourselves and just what that affords us.
Personally I find Ian's attitude of "not myself" quite appealing. It can be exhausting to feel we are responsible for all outcomes, even including those that involve our own efforts. At another (science) forum, the question was posed: What do you believe in that you cannot prove?

I responded, "Qi!" but even I recognize that for the cop-out that it really is.

In the meantime, I try to remain open.
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Old 04-03-05, 07:55 AM
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abre los ojos,
(who started the thread)
Thanks!
(I hope I didn’t step on your feet.)
This has been 'fun' even!

Chel,
Yes, I am, and have always been, your long lost twin brother. Oh those times we had in the incubators, before we were rent from each other so untimely. The part I still haven't figured out yet is how I ended up on the coast of Oregon and you ended up on Fantasy Island (as per your bio), when we both know perfectly well that the hospital was near Jersey Park in Wales. (Hmmmmm.... )

I have met, talked, and cared for people of many faiths, and a few that were walking the lonely netherworld of unguided, drug-induced searching. I've been bitten a few times too. And at least once had to run like heck. But generally I spend about an hour at first interacting in generalities firmly potted in my own experience. Then when agreements have been reached I spring that I'm actually NOT their religion (surprise!). Usually they begin to get an idea that my point is that I see they are walking and I am walking, and I honor that they must believe in their way in order to walk true. I have tried to be religiously this or that, politically this or that, socially this or that. I find that I am attracted to extremes and they are attracted to me. But the longer I live, the more I see that we are all walking a path, and it is the right path we are walking. Mr. Bush is saying that Pope John Paul II's main deal was respect for the dignity of life. I only hope that this is a little what he is talking about, but I still do not know his mind (either of them, but I get a warm-fuzzy from PJP2, living or bond-slipped. And GWB {as he knows} has a troubled tongue at times). For all that is wrong in this place we find ourselves, much is right. The more we see this (from any angle) the better off is the world and those in it. Or maybe this just works for me (yeeee-haw!)

As far as the meds, I find myself in the same spot as you did pretty much. One, I want to know for a surety that my diet wildness isn't the real root of the extremes. (exhibit A : "Dinner" {aka: 2 pints of Haagen Dazs... 'Creme Brulee' + 'Cherry Vanilla'}) and the more I read here the more I think that is me just holding my feet to a fire I'll never warm up to. Perfection in action is not the hallmark of 'me', I usually roll around and flop like a fish and then after a very ugly time I somehow create something that approximates perfection (to the recipient of the job), but I still hate that it isn't perfect. Carries over into my self-concept BIG-TIME. And, "Yup", I still am worried about the bodily effects of the meds as foreign chemz. But really, look at what I ate today... I will surely die from that before any mere amphetamine off's me. Cow's don't ex-squeez-iate a perfect substance that was made for human consumption ...... it just tastes that way. And sugar is a beastie that we hardly understand the horrors of.

The fact is though, that I don't dare let myself be as unreliable as I am when I have babies in tow. I am sure that I am getting ADD/ADHD from my Great Grandpa on my mother/granny's side (from all accounts), and my Pop isn't exactly bereft of symptoms. But the pains and hardships that were started from their chaotic interface with life are just the things I don't want to hand down to the line. (I am becoming the 'Family Historian', and am caring for my Granny, so I am seeing what nobody was willing to face and/or address.) If meds are the only answer (head-shrinkin' too) then so-be-it. I want to pass a measure of peace onto my children, like I never got. I also want to pass on the hope of overcoming intrinsic, personal predispositions. Because no parent will be perfect in action, even if in intention.

I actually took a bunch of meds at different times. The worst reactions (coincidentally) came when I was in County 'care'. (Well, partially coincidental.) I have been on Ritalin, Dexedrine, Cylert, Serzone, Zoloft, Prozac, and perhaps others (I fergit). I was on Dexedrine and was depressed out of my gourd when I was told to take a Serzone before I went to bed. The sign that I was depressed was that even on 30mg of Dexedrine I still was flat on my back almost the whole day (heart jumpin') and no ADD/ADHD help from it. I took 1/2 or 1/4 (fergit) of the Serzone and I thought the stars were a UFO invasion for about 2-4 hours, woke up and felt like an untamed wolf trying to figure out how to pour milk over cereal (failed), and I couldn't speak at all, just staggered past my hosts and back to my trailer-of-doom. It was horrific. When I told the people at the County MH clinic, they wanted me to stay on it and ride out the effects. I was already worried about what the Dex was doing to my heart because it was hurting and hardly staying in my chest. (always before that time I was fine on Dex, never had a problem) There are a few horror stories about the practices of that facility that had me running thereafter.

The biggest deal I think was that I NEEDED a head-shrinker WAY more than I needed the meds and they just didn't do head shrinking there, they just prescribed and watched the action. I have been walking around with anger and resentment that have often had me replacing my various car parts when I bodily destroyed them. Someday I will post pics of my old truck with it's twice-replaced rear window, and once replaced windshield, and axe, pick-axe, sledge, spud-bar, and other assorted "Love Marks" it received when in my 'care'. I am sooooo glad not to be in that head now, and it took real work on my past and how I think about my present.

I'm sorry Soul-Sista'-Chel, I ate your Haagen Dazs too........ I am deeply sorry.


Ian,
Ah-ha! I thought so! Sounded like the good stuff from the Big Blue.

I keep AA and the other 12-step programs (since I qualify for so many!) close-in as possibilities for me. I haven't drank anything for maybe 2 years, and the interval before that is about 1-2 every year (for the 3 years of the 5 I have been back in my home town). It is my sorry excuse to not go in and attend a meeting. I know I would get gobs out of it though. I meet people all over who have been saved from the worst by realizing and healing in AA. The religious freedom in almost all meetings in almost all areas is a necessary hallmark, I think, of that most-successful-route to sobriety and peace. And amazing how it can come before OR after picking up of a personal faith. What else is like that?

Haven't read Hawking's "A Brief History of Time" yet, but the excerpts I read are tickling my brain in a most overpowering way!


Wheezie knows where the action is!


Rhedd,
I love the way you type. You better tell me that you are 65 years old and married or I am going to fall hopelessly in love with you. [... sounds of slapping own wrist ...]

I have always been a little defensive and reactive in my life, even now (after freeing myself of the worst of it) I still needs to watch it. Thanks for the pat on the head though. Feedback is gooooood.

I don't wanna' watch news at all! It's like wading out in a freezing rapids in shorts just to get a better look at the same rocks I have on my side of the river. And I always get cold or hot and fall in. "Schloooomp!" away I gooooo...

You smacked it on the head again when you said "people get confused when they try do discuss God and religion together". I think that is the major failing of all the media I get itchy around. And I make the same mistake regularly since I was raised up in this crazy world.

"Da' Big Guy", whether real or imagined, I have seen 'miracles' almost daily that test my belief in the odds. I have a million stories that are perfectly true of plain-ol' co-incidence linking with other co-incidences and creating the right conditions for happy-outcomes. Even the bad stuffs in my life seem to just spin around and make my life better. It's the oddest thing. I don't know if there is a God or not, and like I say, I don't much care.

It is the conception (when it is comfortable for the 'believer') that at the very least directs the attention of the person who carries it, and allows for a connecting thread between observations in life. Whether Entity or mental-tool, the conception can be very powerful in life for those who wannit. I think of it in terms of benevolent 'mystery', and talk to it as an ever-present "Uber-Whatsit-Who". I thank it like a friend. I expect good to be around most any corner.

'Good' is certainly subjective and contextual, but it has at least as often as not served individuals well (if inter-personally and socially sometimes missed the mark). And we can imagine from talking to, say... each of 20 persons who go to the same church and say they believe the same things exactly, that there is at least a separate conception of the deity in each of them (or why would they each have a different relationship with deity and responses in similar situations?).

So here we have a professed belief emanating from an individual and the belief is at least semi-measurable as a 1 or 0 (Professed-belief-in-X, or Professed-non-belief-in-X) and when we observe many-many persons who have been improved by (at the very least) their (comfortable) concept of X, then we know that it has a 'better-than-background' effect on the persons on the '1' side of the equation. (true, there are plenty of peoples in the '0' that have improved by other methods) That isn't proof of X as I see it. It is however proof that a belief system is useful and therefore valid... in context.

In the end what I stand by (from loads of personal and related experiences) is that when a person seeks to be in a spiritual belief system (no matter how 'out-there') and is systematically honest with themselves about it at every stage (and is comfortable with it as their own), there will be benefit that is contagious. So I encourage anyone who feels a sway in this direction or that (spiritually) to 'go for it' (with due caution and watchfulness), unless I know for sure that the path in question is dangerous either from inherent problems in the institutional thought process or from the society that forms around some groups, and even then, I pretty much believe that it is in their hands and it is their business where they walk as long as we others out here don't get damaged in the process (and I should have stepped away more than once).

Look! I'm a "Proviso Monkey" !
Did I mention that I think that life is too complex for simple language to currently tackle?
Woo-Hoo!
FP
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