The Neurophysiology of Belief

Andrew Newberg in The Global Spiral:

For years, Eugene [D’Aquili] and I have been studying the relationship between religious experience and brain function, and we hope that by monitoring Robert’s brain activity at the most intense and mystical moments of his meditation, we might shed some light on the mysterious connection between human consciousness and the persistent and peculiarly human longing to connect with something larger than ourselves…..

As my first installment on Metanexus regarding our recent book entitled, Why God Won’t Go Away: Brain Science and the Biology of Belief, there are several primary points that require mention. Why God Won’t Go Away is the culmination of almost 25 years of research into the relationship between the brain and religious experience. It strikes at the heart of questions such as: What makes something spiritual? Why are religious experiences so powerful? and What can religious and mystical experiences tell us about the mind and even about reality? Dr. Eugene d’Aquili initiated this groundbreaking research almost 25 years ago with an analysis of religious experience in ancient cultures. As human beings and human culture developed, so did religions and associated religious experiences. Today, there is a tremendous amount of information about the myriad varieties of religious experience. We also have a much greater understanding about how the brain and mind work. Why God Won’t Go Away utilizes this knowledge to forge an integrated approach to understanding religious and mystical experiences. It describes this research in terms that are understandable to the scientist and non-scientist. The overall goal of this book is to help to facilitate a dialogue regarding this nexus of science and spirituality and to allow everyone to feel comfortable addressing these issues regardless of their perspective. We also realize that science is limited in what it can tell us about these experiences. Thus, we will explore not only how science can inform us about religious experience, but can also examine the implications that such experiences have with regard to science.