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Friday, September 01, 2006

The Carmelites Show 'Em

My eye was caught about this story about a study assessing the results of brain scans done on Carmelite nuns who had been instructed to recall mystical experiences:
The idea that there a "God spot" in the brain, a circuit of nerves which could explain mankind's almost universal belief in a deity, is questioned today by a study of Carmelite nuns.
...
Rather than reveal a spiritual centre in the brain, a module of neural circuits specifically designed for religious experience, the study demonstrated that a dozen different regions of the brain are activated during a mystical experience.

In other words, mystical experiences are mediated by several brain regions and systems normally implicated in functions such as self-consciousness, emotion and body representation.
It's amazing the lengths to which humans will go to avoid praying while attempting to examine the experience. Unfortunately such experiences can only be assessed by two measuring instruments. The first is the human being who has the experience. The second is by watching the fruits of the experience in the life of the one who experienced it, and the radiative effects on the rest of society. I don't think anyone is going to do such a study; if they were they would have to start with groups like AA, and the results of such a study would surely not get published.

I think I will write more about this topic, but first I am going to have to stop laughing about this article, which strikes me as basically hilarious. It's as if someone decided to study ice formation in the middle of a Michigan winter by doing brain scans on people who had seen and experienced ice, thus leaving the question of whether ice were indeed a real, objective phenomenon comfortably remote.

In the meantime, perhaps the Anchoress' post on non-Catholics and the Mass is apropos, and it certainly demonstrates the way not to commune. Certainly SC&A's post on Order and Chaos is appropos:
Any teacher will tell you that a child learns by finding order in the chaos of new ideas, to make sense of the world around him or her.
...
The organized study of science has been broken down into various disciplines, so that we might better understand our universe, is also about finding order and understanding scientific phenomena.
...
The primary goals of psychologists and psychiatrists, are to help their patients find order in the chaos that has overtaken their lives and in some cases, to recognize the ‘triggers’ that might upend their lives, by teaching the patient that they can manage (t)heir own lives- again, order out of chaos.
And this also, my friends, is the goal of priests and ministers, and the goal of the One who bestows help upon us.


Comments:
Fascinating story, Moma...and I'm all agog at the weird architectural headdresses of the nuns. Haven't seen anything that complicated in a while.
 
They are fancy, aren't they?
 
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