Neuro State: The God Experience
#1
I am using the term God Experience for lack of a better term, and also because it seems to be standard terminology.

Some people in history e.g. Ramana Maharishi have reported experiencing a state that is associated with universal love, dissolution of self, peace and bliss. It appears that people who have experienced this state are transformed for the rest of their lives, and not merely transiently when in that state i.e. it appears that the brain circuitry undergoes a persistent change that alters their world view even after they come out of that state. Also they seem to remember the state and seem to think that state is the only real and significant thing in the world.

Whether such a neurological state is possible and what leads to it appear to be legitimate scientific inquiries. This neurological state is distinct from the dictionary and common sense notion of god as an ominipotent, all-knowing creator. The only thing it shares with the notion of god is universal love.

It appears to me that some monks and others try to attain this neurological state via techniques of meditation and possibly deprivation. Near death experiences may also facilitate this attainment. It is the successful travelers along this path that seem to attain fame - we do not know how many fell by the wayside, and ended up in states worse than when they began the journey. It is also possible that the articulate and charismatic ones who experienced this state went on to command a following and founded religions.

I am intrigued by the neurological state described above and invite members to chime in with their thoughts.
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#2
The feelings of universal love, dissolution of self, peace and bliss may be attained by wilful suspension of all processes of thought but it is meaningless since this kind of state can only be described as hallucination and cannot be termed as 'God experience'.
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#3
The so-called 'God experience' may be attained by wilful suspension of all processes of thought but this kind of state can only be described as hallucination.
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#4
(19-Jan-2013, 11:08 AM)Cityboy Wrote: I am intrigued by the neurological state described above and invite members to chime in with their thoughts.

While no single neurological state may account for the entire diversity of what are called 'religious experiences', conditions like temporal lobe seizures have been related to religious visions. It goes without saying though that not all ecstatic states need to be dreaded as pathological, and Christopher Hitchens makes here a case for how freethinkers may well savour ecstatic states without surrendering their faculties.

Often, the soaring ecstasy or even the more routine 'feel-good' reported by the religious, is attributed all-too-often in the scientifically semi-literate media to 'divine intervention' of sorts, hastily ignoring much simpler earthier explanations. A recent case in point is the Indian media's response to this recently reported study of purported health benefits of attending the Maha Kumbh Mela, one of whose authors is interviewed here. What is galling is how enthusiastically the anchor exults in this seeming vindication of spirituality by Science, in the section beginning at around 10m20s in this NDTV feature.

Mediapersons, and to be fair, their audiences at large appear eager not only to accommodate God not just in explanatory gaps but also give in to magical thinking and resort to a pop-science that would hastily attribute phenomena like the Roseto Effect to church attendance and the God supposedly worshipped therein rather than taking a well-considered look at the links between socialization and longevity. It also doesn't help that pop-science coinages feature 'god' annoyingly frequently in names of phenomena which are admittedly not understood fully, but not so dismally either that they warrant throwing up our hands and resorting to 'divine explanations'.
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#5
Arvind,

The recognition that religious participation helps meet some social and psychological needs is important for at least two reasons:

(a) Realizing that religion as an institution would not have survived this long without also helping to fulfil some human needs.

(b) That freethinkers have an incentive to look for non-religious sources that meet these needs.

The reported ecstasy of the so called God experience seems real. Yet am not sure it is one that I would want to experience because it seems to involve a mutation of preferences. It is just that am intrigued by it and am eager for neurological explanations.
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#6
(20-Jan-2013, 07:32 AM)Cityboy Wrote: The recognition that religious participation helps meet some social and psychological needs is important for at least two reasons:

(a) Realizing that religion as an institution would not have survived this long without also helping to fulfil some human needs.

(b) That freethinkers have an incentive to look for non-religious sources that meet these needs.

What has been said about religious participation above can have tenable analogues in national or workplace or organizational participation in general, and noting these can serve the purpose of countering religious exceptionalism and also to identify pervasive needs. Often, contributions beyond the call of duty or for no personal gain are seen as the preserve of religion, but there are recent studies such as those reported by Dank Pink, investigating what makes people function as purpose-maximizers who are not beholden to pecuniary gains, in non-religious workplace as well as voluntary settings.

The motivations of autonomy, mastery and purpose that Pink identifies, and the sense of satisfaction they produce, can in a manner of speaking be considered best attainable in a setting where people experience true belonging and one where they feel least coerced to try too hard. Religion has a congregational aspect that is most on display during festivals, which complements a confessional aspect or a personally conciliatory aspect, which in its somewhat literal manifestation in Roman Catholicism is a more private and essentially voluntary exercise keeping the role of intercessors and co-religionists as unobtrusive as possible. One arena where freethinkers' efforts are called for is an essentially community-based one of evolving festivals indulging in our congregational impulse in a manner that encourages belonging without the exceptionalism that plagues religious mobilization. Another arena which is out of the public eye mostly, and where as much imagination and sensitivity maybe called for, is to study what takeaways there are from the largely subjective testimonials that are available about the conciliatory, salutary, cathartic and in a word, 'healing', effects of certain practices needing demystifying rather than dismissal.

A challenge for freethinkers while developing reason-based alternatives for both congregational and conciliatory functions of religion is that both rely heavily on the comfort of familiarity and readily recognized symbolism, which are considerably demanding in terms of imagination to replace or even repurpose.

The sheer variety of experiences which people deem mystical and revelatory and yearn to relive, is of course staggering, ranging from the rather mellow relaxation of the ASMR to the more psychedelic onslaught of temporal-lobe seizures.

An instance of a reductionist treatment that challenges mystical accounts of perhaps the most commonly reported kind of religious vision, the tunnel of light during a Near Death Experience, can be heard from neuroscientist Christof Koch who deconstructs some of the recurring motifs and 'vivid hallucinations' in NDE reports. For one, Koch often wryly remarks that more near-death experiences are reported these days largely because medical technology is able to rescue from the brink many of the people to whom these would have been a total death experience in an earlier time! The hallucinations, which of course seem compelling vivid to the patients, show striking similarities to those viewed in other experimental settings where loss of consciousness is induced, such as US Naval volunteers in a task requiring to them to report experiences immediately on waking up from fainting induced by collar-tightening, as described in this interview.

Adopting the attitude of careful demystification without inveterate dismissal can pay to freethinkers dual dividends of breaking religion's monopoly on a range of potentially valuable experience, besides offering opportunities for the sort of myth-busting that skeptics revel in.
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#7
(19-Jan-2013, 12:50 PM)natarajasharma Wrote: The so-called 'God experience' may be attained by wilful suspension of all processes of thought but this kind of state can only be described as hallucination.

Would it be described as hallucination if a person had his/her experience, then 8 years later somebody else had the same experience?
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#8
(20-Jan-2013, 07:32 AM)Cityboy Wrote: Arvind,

The recognition that religious participation helps meet some social and psychological needs is important for at least two reasons:

(a) Realizing that religion as an institution would not have survived this long without also helping to fulfil some human needs.

(b) That freethinkers have an incentive to look for non-religious sources that meet these needs.

The reported ecstasy of the so called God experience seems real. Yet am not sure it is one that I would want to experience because it seems to involve a mutation of preferences. It is just that am intrigued by it and am eager for neurological explanations.

Can I ask you, why you are so interested? "eager for explanations"?

What more could you want than what Dr. H(?) said: You channel energy into specific areas of the brain and the outcome, is such and such.
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#9
(21-Jan-2013, 08:14 AM)arvindiyer Wrote:
(20-Jan-2013, 07:32 AM)Cityboy Wrote: The recognition that religious participation helps meet some social and psychological needs is important for at least two reasons:

(a) Realizing that religion as an institution would not have survived this long without also helping to fulfil some human needs.

(b) That freethinkers have an incentive to look for non-religious sources that meet these needs.

What has been said about religious participation above can have tenable analogues in national or workplace or organizational participation in general, and noting these can serve the purpose of countering religious exceptionalism and also to identify pervasive needs. Often, contributions beyond the call of duty or for no personal gain are seen as the preserve of religion, but there are recent studies such as those reported by Dank Pink, investigating what makes people function as purpose-maximizers who are not beholden to pecuniary gains, in non-religious workplace as well as voluntary settings.

The motivations of autonomy, mastery and purpose that Pink identifies, and the sense of satisfaction they produce, can in a manner of speaking be considered best attainable in a setting where people experience true belonging and one where they feel least coerced to try too hard. Religion has a congregational aspect that is most on display during festivals, which complements a confessional aspect or a personally conciliatory aspect, which in its somewhat literal manifestation in Roman Catholicism is a more private and essentially voluntary exercise keeping the role of intercessors and co-religionists as unobtrusive as possible. One arena where freethinkers' efforts are called for is an essentially community-based one of evolving festivals indulging in our congregational impulse in a manner that encourages belonging without the exceptionalism that plagues religious mobilization. Another arena which is out of the public eye mostly, and where as much imagination and sensitivity maybe called for, is to study what takeaways there are from the largely subjective testimonials that are available about the conciliatory, salutary, cathartic and in a word, 'healing', effects of certain practices needing demystifying rather than dismissal.

A challenge for freethinkers while developing reason-based alternatives for both congregational and conciliatory functions of religion is that both rely heavily on the comfort of familiarity and readily recognized symbolism, which are considerably demanding in terms of imagination to replace or even repurpose.

The sheer variety of experiences which people deem mystical and revelatory and yearn to relive, is of course staggering, ranging from the rather mellow relaxation of the ASMR to the more psychedelic onslaught of temporal-lobe seizures.

An instance of a reductionist treatment that challenges mystical accounts of perhaps the most commonly reported kind of religious vision, the tunnel of light during a Near Death Experience, can be heard from neuroscientist Christof Koch who deconstructs some of the recurring motifs and 'vivid hallucinations' in NDE reports. For one, Koch often wryly remarks that more near-death experiences are reported these days largely because medical technology is able to rescue from the brink many of the people to whom these would have been a total death experience in an earlier time! The hallucinations, which of course seem compelling vivid to the patients, show striking similarities to those viewed in other experimental settings where loss of consciousness is induced, such as US Naval volunteers in a task requiring to them to report experiences immediately on waking up from fainting induced by collar-tightening, as described in this interview.

Adopting the attitude of careful demystification without inveterate dismissal can pay to freethinkers dual dividends of breaking religion's monopoly on a range of potentially valuable experience, besides offering opportunities for the sort of myth-busting that skeptics revel in.



You seem to be putting fear into the whole thing... ?
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#10
(18-Feb-2013, 07:26 PM)MeltedFlame Wrote: Would it be described as hallucination if a person had his/her experience, then 8 years later somebody else had the same experience?
[

It is possible, for instance, for two persons to see similar-looking phosphenes when subjected to similar conditions. It is also possible that the images hallucinated draw upon culturally references and conditioning, for why else would a disproportionate number of alien abductions be reported in the US where these are a staple in TV shows? Two UFO-sightings or alien abductions maybe eight years apart, but what if those eight years were spent reading books like this one?

(18-Feb-2013, 07:26 PM)MeltedFlame Wrote: What more could you want than what that Dr. H(?) said: You channel energy into specific areas of the brain and the outcome is such and such.
[

What does 'channel energy into specific areas of the brain' mean? Is it the extraordinary and unsubstantiated claim that human beings can voluntary traffic glucose preferentially to different brain regions in a manner that can be visualized via a BOLD signal? Also, unless one is buying into some Cartesian Dualism,who's the 'you' apart from the brain that 'channels' this 'energy' voluntarily?

(18-Feb-2013, 07:26 PM)MeltedFlame Wrote: You seem to be putting fear into the whole thing... ?
[

Rather than fear, it is justified caution and wariness over the corruption of language and resultant obscurantism which has the all-too-real pernicious consequences of science-denial and proliferation of quack therapies especially of the self-help variety.
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#11
(18-Feb-2013, 07:16 PM)MeltedFlame Wrote:
(19-Jan-2013, 12:50 PM)natarajasharma Wrote: The so-called 'God experience' may be attained by wilful suspension of all processes of thought but this kind of state can only be described as hallucination.

Would it be described as hallucination if a person had his/her experience, then 8 years later somebody else had the same experience?

Yes, if hallucination is a good description of the first experience then it is also a good description of the second experience.

Now what is the purpose of your question?
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#12
(19-Feb-2013, 12:41 AM)Captain Mandrake Wrote:
(18-Feb-2013, 07:16 PM)MeltedFlame Wrote:
(19-Jan-2013, 12:50 PM)natarajasharma Wrote: The so-called 'God experience' may be attained by wilful suspension of all processes of thought but this kind of state can only be described as hallucination.

Would it be described as hallucination if a person had his/her experience, then 8 years later somebody else had the same experience?

Yes, if hallucination is a good description of the first experience then it is also a good description of the second experience.

Now what is the purpose of your question?

If subject A and subject B are both given a hallucinogenic, my conclusion would be that both subjects will have unique hallucinations. Do you agree?

If you were to take two paranoid schizophrenics and have those two describe the voices they heard not one voice would be the same, only the persona of the voices would be quite similar; ie: the devil.

Yet, from my knowledge The God Experience and the God Helmet device both create the same experience in all receivers. In my opinion that is not an hallucination, that is an experience.
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