by Padman Govindarajan

       Neuroscientists have identified the region of the human brain connected with religious feelings and this discovery has established beyond any doubt the fact that religious instinct is an inborn natural characteristic peculiar in human beings only.  Furthermore, the dramatic developments in the erstwhile U.S.S.R. also provide conclusive proof that however much atheists and agnostics, scientists and rationalists may strive to drive God away from human mind, the brain seems to be specially designed by the Creator with the built-in mechanism of “God Module” that cannot be done away with.  Belief in a superior power that guides the destiny of the world and its living beings is prevalent in varying degrees in different individuals.  Though religious instinct may be an inalienable part of human brain, the God Module in atheists and rationalists may perhaps be non-functional or dormant while in mystics and religionists this region may be active and vigorous.
       In the numerous folds and neural networks of the brain, the neuroscientists search for the areas connected with various perceptions, cognitions, thoughts, emotions etc.  In 1997, a team from University of California discovered in the abnormal temporal lobe of epileptics the God Spot where experiences of deeply religious nature are found to be experienced.  The human brain seems to be architecturally designed to serve as the neurological basis for religious feelings that are absent in animals.  Only man can turn his mind inwards to reach higher states of consciousness.  The God Module in man gives him a special and dignified status among all species.  However, man is a psychic being with instincts of the animal past of his evolution almost intact in his memory.
       Following the identification of the God Module, a neuropsychologist from Laurentian university in Ontario devised a headgear to artificially stimulate the temporal lobe with electric current to generate mystic feelings in people.  The God Spot in memory contains the thoughts and concepts about God, spirit, soul etc formed from childhood and tapping the temporal lobe can revive in conscious mind only one’s own memories about God, spirit, etc.  None has seen soul, spirit or God and the God Module in temporal lobe contains one’s own memories about the metaphysical and the ethereal phenomena and these concepts may not be the very same in atheists, agnostics, theists and theologians.  With fresh learning experiences, beliefs and concepts change over time and the same individual may have different religious beliefs at different points of time of his life.
Bringing to the surface of the memory what is hidden in the sub-conscious cannot be the whole of religious consciousness.  The paranormal psychic phenomena artificially generated in laboratory experiments by tapping that part of the memory in which these are stored can be only mental projections of each individual’s own ideas about soul or spirit.  Creator, soul or spirit cannot be reduced to neural circuits in brain modules.  All extra sensory perceptions cannot be uniformly branded as the fall-out of abnormal cerebral activities.  Perceptions of individuals depend on the eye of the beholder.  Those who lack religious faith may interpret religious experiences as the fanciful product of neural activity while others with faith may attribute the very same phenomena to communion of human mind with some superior power.  How to distinguish the sacred vision from profane phantoms is the basic problem of neuroscientists.  Who is competent to judge whether the experiences of mystics are spontaneous divine revelation or self-induced mental projection?
       As long as the conscious mind is active, the sub-conscious mind remains dormant and passive.  Many people resort to alcohol, drugs, artificial stimulants, autosuggestion, self-hypnosis etc, to suppress the restlessness of the conscious mind to escape from the hard realities of mundane life.  These palliatives provide only temporary relief and not permanent solutions to the numerous problems and difficulties of worldly life.  The basic objective of religion is to suggest ways by which evil dispositions and sinful propensities of the animal past of evolution can be wiped out from memory to evolve psychically in purity and perfection.  The Creator seems to have designed the human brain in a specific way to feel His Divine inner presence in order to seek His guidance and support for enlightenment of truth about human existence.  An assistant professor in the University of Pennsylvania has attempted to trace the activities of brain in deep meditation and intense prayer to gauge the spatial orientation of these persons in the transcendental state when the borderless spiritual communion is stated to blur the self-world relationship.  In the heightened state of consciousness, the sense of individuality and body consciousness seem to end when unity consciousness is felt.  The brain wave activities during meditation or prayer are reported to inhibit the other activities of the brain.  In this state, the sub-conscious mind that gets connected to higher and more powerful states of consciousness as yet poorly understood by psychologists, becomes active and conscious mind remains dormant.
Researchers hope to identify a common biological core in brain during meditation that cause phenomenal changes in physical body and conscious mind such as reduction in pulse rate, lowering of B.P., reduced intake of oxygen, decreased anxiety, fear, depression etc.
      The study of brain activities cannot reveal whether the vision seen in mystic state is a providential dispensation or an illusory projection of diseased brain.  Furthermore, the interpretations of subjective feelings can also be diverse and varied.  The use of sophisticated technology in the study of brain activities should not result in incorrect inference or drawing of wrong conclusions.  Unless the sacrosanct and sacred are distinguished from the profane and sacrilegious, the host of questions that arise from neural basis of religious experience cannot be satisfactorily answered.  There should be   proper criteria or standards to differentiate genuine visitations of Almighty from the artificially induced phantom projections of deranged mind.  The time-tested religious practices are considered the most effective means for improving human thoughts, feelings and behaviour.  Worship of Creator should not and cannot lead to diseased brain or abnormal mind.  The altered state of euphoric consciousness induced by alcohol, psychedelic drugs, electric current, autosuggestion, self-hypnosis etc, besides being harmful and unsafe, provide only fleeting or momentary joy and does not leave any enduring or lasting impressions on the mind.  On the other hand, the yoking of impure mind with the perfect spirit should positively result in impoverishment of lower animal instincts and enrichment of diviner truths of life.  The inner transformation should cause the suffocation and even death of the bodily animal self to cause everlasting and permanent change in human nature and behaviour.
       Human being is a mentally imperfect and psychically unfinished product of biological evolution.  The basic purpose of human life is to divest oneself of the biological animal self to evolve psychically in moral purity and spiritual perfection.  The goal of human evolution can be achieved only by weeding out the animal instincts from human sub-conscious by cultivation of highest virtues and profoundest wisdom.  Prayer and worship are time-tested and well-tried means of purification of mind to foster faith and intuit higher truths of life that are beyond the perception of senses and inference of intellect.  Religion is inalienably related to higher realities of life and none can compel, force or induce God by artificial means to reveal Himself.  This will make a mockery of religion and various religious practices.  Even neuroscientists find it hard to decide whether it is the thought or feeling that generates biochemical changes in the brain or whether it is the brain activity that cause the thought or feeling.  The study of brain activities cannot real the cause of such activities and this has to be traced to consciousness.  The study of modem or PC will not by itself reveal the working of Internet or cyberspace.  Similarly, the study of biochemical changes in the brain caused by consciousness, cannot disclose the working of consciousness.  The God Module and neural circuits only revive the long forgotten past ideas about soul, spirit, God etc, stored in the memory.  The biological basis of spirituality reveals only those regions that are active in the religious state of consciousness and nothing more than what is already known.
       There is a basic difference between God voluntarily revealing Himself to chosen few and the self-deluded many with diseased brain who THINK that they have witnessed a vision of God.  Brain activity that induces thinking, is a conscious intellectual effort, whereas intuition is a sudden and spontaneous flash of enlightenment of higher truths, without any conscious effort or deliberation.  Control of mind for inner transformation is a basic prerequisite for intuition of higher truths of spiritual life.
Such inner transformation effects permanent changes in the neural networks of brain that can pave the way for intuition.  All religious experiences should not be uniformly branded as hallucinations of deranged minds and deeper probe should be made to segregate genuine visitations of Almighty from fake phantoms.  Neuroscientists with their subjective pronouncements should not disturb the faith of the religiously conscious, as prayer and worship in moments of calamities and catastrophes of life will lose all their meaning, sanctity and value.
       Misconceptions about the nature, method and goal of meditation coupled with the haste and over enthusiasm of practioners for achievement of quick results have brought the time-tested technique of self-improvement into disrepute.  Practice of meditation based on study of books and reliance on self-efforts to attain altered state of consciousness, besides being dangerous and unsafe, can cause serious damage to brain and mind.
Meditation should not be conceived as a self-motivated endeavour to attain the utterly selfish end of oneness of being.  Consciousness and life spirit are closely related to mind and brain.  The unilateral action of the individual centre of consciousness without the cooperation of life spirit can lead to harmful consequences.  Meditation is not an end in itself but should serve as the means to attain the end of divine life of love of God.
Mystic realisation of truth is not an intellectual activity based on self-efforts but an intuitive experience, as a result of Divine Grace.  It is totally wrong to think that a whole life of strenuous spiritual endeavour is meant to experience a few fleeting moments of ecstasy and bliss in the highest state of unity consciousness.  Life of prayer and worship is to attain god-like purity and perfection.  Religion as love of God can exercise tremendous influence on human thought and behaviour and can serve as the ideal means for moral upliftment and spiritual perfection through fuller understanding of God’s essential nature.
       The spirit and truth behind visions and voices are far more important than the voices and visions themselves.  No true mystic will, with regard to his spiritual experience, be bold enough to say that he knows God or has seen Him.  No saintly soul will ever claim that he has reached the highest ideal of perfection and purity to know the whole of the infinite reality.  His thoughts, words and deeds will speak for themselves the degree of purity and perfection reached by him and his ennobling influence is also felt by those who come in contact with him.  The mystery of religious consciousness cannot be unravelled wholly by the use of modern scientific techniques.  The neuroscientists have so far been successful only in tracing the source of religious instinct but have not solved the mystery of religious consciousness.

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