by Iona Miller
Last update: April-27-2003
“The most beautiful emotion
we can experience is the mystical. It is the sower of
all true art and science. He to whom this emotion is a
stranger... is as good as dead.”
The Great Unknown
Imagine one of our ancient ancestors, suddenly stricken by illness
or a near-fatal accident.
Hovering near the brink of death, an
ordinary person suddenly finds him or herself locked in an immersive
visionary experience of shadowy figures, muted voices and blinding
The cosmos opens its enfolding arms and infinity spreads out in a
timeless panoply that dissolves all fear, all separation from the
Divine. Fear of death vanishes in a comforting flood of bliss, peace
and dazzling light – the ultimate ‘holy’ connection. Overwhelming
conviction arises that this is the more fundamental Reality. The
welcoming gates of a personal heaven open…
Suddenly back in the body, returned to ordinary reality, one is left
to interpret that transcendent experience to oneself and others.
This near-death experience may not have resulted in physical demise,
but it has led to the death of the old self – the personal self -
and the rebirth, rapture, or resurrection of the soul or spirit. It
brings a surge of emotions, conviction and even transformation in
The soul has taken a journey from which one cannot return
A descent into psychobiological hell can lead to a transcendent
journey toward Heaven… or perhaps the yawning abyss of the Void.
Shamans, priests, prophets, mystics, and gurus arose to show the Way
of navigating these nether regions, of finding healing, the eternal
moment, a peaceful heart, and unity.
Our human progenitors had to directly confront existential issues of
survival, adaptation, stress, mating, birth, loss, and death. They
gradually developed stories about the basics of life – social,
physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual existence. They created
myths, beliefs about creation and our creation to give meaning to
They developed rituals, ceremonies, and
practices to heal body and mind, mark life passages, and placate
forces beyond their control. These accounted for their origins as
well as voices, visions and experiences that seemed to come from the
The brain is hard-wired for mystical experiences to modify the
threat of our hostile existential reality (Alper). Metaphysical
explanations developed for the essentially unknowable, for sudden
and irresistible seizures of ecstasy. Some of these accounts were
more sophisticated than others depending on their cultural
background, but all shared a common core by defining the mystery of
the relationship between mankind and the Unknown. It might be called
a peak experience, spirit possession, epiphany, religious rapture,
nirvana, satori, shaktiput, clear light, or illumination.
The difference is only one of degrees of
absorption, of fulfillment.
The god-experience is a process, a subjective perception, rather
than an objectively provable reality. Distractions cease, replaced
by the direct impact of oceanic expansion, sudden insight, childlike
wonder, ecstatic exaltation above bodily and personal existence,
dissolution in a timeless moment, fusion, gnosis.
It is direct perception coupled with high emotion and deep
realization of what appears to be ultimate truth. It rips away the
veil of illusion, revealing the pure ground state of our existence
without any emotional, mental, or belief filters. Left with only
pure awareness, the natural mind is finally free of earthly
Bathed in emotions of joy, assurance and salvation,
Cosmos becomes a living presence. Immortality is sensed, so fear of
Many called that numinous mystery God. In some sense, religion is a
reaction to what actually is. But to many, when it comes to their
religion, those are fighting words – for theirs is the true way, the
only way. Heaven on Earth cannot be achieved so long as those two
realms are separated.
God comes down to earth in our
own psychophysiology, dwelling within us.
Neurotheology is the marriage of brain science and theology, which
systematically studies the relationship of God and the universe.
Religion is the expression of theological attitudes and actions.
Tradition says God created the heavens and earth, and God created
man in his own image.
But did God create man and the brain, or does the brain create God?
Revelation is the act of God manifesting, disclosing himself, or
communicating truth to the mind. These subjective experiences are
the basis of mysticism. Perhaps God hid mankind’s spirituality where
we would least expect it and be least likely to look – within
The religious element of our nature is just as universal as the
rational or social one.
Could altering brain chemistry
by playing some visual and pleasure circuits, while quieting
those governing self-image, cognition, orientation, and time
sequencing give rise to a transcendental bliss, a
Can they give rise to the
electrochemical supercharge described as kundalini, the
serpent power that rises up the spine in illumination?
How can we journey along the
continuum from pleasure to enthusiasm, to joy, ecstasy and
This is the question posed by both
theistic and non-believing scientists alike, in an attempt to
comprehend our spiritual urge.
Religious division is still the
global root of conflict in the modern world. Even within ourselves
we can experience crises of personal faith, as our worldly outlook
vies with our spiritual beliefs. Most religions or spiritual
practices have a ‘salvivic” value – they “save” us from the banality
of human limitation and limitless or meaningless suffering, lifting
us up and often conferring a glimpse of the infinite, the Absolute.
In his 1962 utopian novel, Island, Aldous Huxley coined the term
neurotheology to describe the territory where human “wetware”
interfaces with the divine. Since then it has come to mean the
emergent field that describes the neurological phenomena that
underlie classical mystical experiences from all spiritual
practices. It seems our nervous systems are “pre-programmed” to
experience a variety of religious or spiritual experiences.
We can journey within and explore our
inner world, just as we can the outer world.
However, this human study of the phenomenology of the God-experience
doesn’t reductively negate the possibly of a divine creative force.
Rather, this transdisciplinarian science simply seeks to describe
the mechanisms involved in that process. It explores how the divine
is translated into the human realm, from the archetypal to the
material world. It combines aspects of religion, psychology, and
This new paradigm synthesizes the truths
of both science and religion – giving birth to “neuroshamanism.”
Our “God-program” is the means through which humans have
traditionally interpreted the meaning of major life passages such as
stress, birth, identity, aging, death, and opening to a sense of
infinity. It bears heavily on our image of our Self, our
relationship with others, and our place in the cosmos and world. It
is the source of our faith and the ground of our beliefs. Religious
dogma has been created over eons to interpret or account for these
dramatic personal encounters with spirit.
Taxonomies of religious experience have been created in
anthropology, sociology, psychology, and religious studies. They
form maps of the territory of spiritual experience from shamanism,
to artistic expression and all forms of creativity including
transcendent states of consciousness (Gowan; Tart; Grof; Wilber).
But as mystics and scholars both admonish, “The map is not the
A spectrum or continuum of divine interplay is available as flow
states induced through trance, creativity, and meditation. But
knowing about them is not the same as direct experience of those
states, purposefully induced or spontaneous. The former is a
conceptualization, while the later is a grace, an epiphany.
These states range from spirit
possession to simple communion and nature-awe, to loss of self in
awesome unitive cosmic consciousness.
Belief and biology are entwined like mind and matter, like the twin
serpents of the Caduceus, which represents enlightenment.
ritual and religion all join in what psychologist Carl Jung
(pioneer of the collective unconscious) called a Mysterium
Coniunctionis, or Royal Marriage with the divine. The
soul becomes lost in the Self; all duality is erased.
We have a natural human capacity for spiritual experience, just as
we have one for comprehension of language or mathematics.
Transpersonal experience, myth, ritual, morals and ethics are
undergird by a comprehensive religious ecology. The cognized
environment is the stage of experience. Networks of
neurophysiological structures orchestrate the play on the stage.
Intricate electromagnetic and biochemical mechanisms underlie human
ritual, myth, mysticism, and religious phenomena.
Whether God exists as an overarching cosmic entity or not, there are
certain mechanisms in the brain which mankind has harnessed over
thousands of years to facilitate the process of non-ordinary
experience. They all manipulate the body’s nervous system either by
over- or under-stimulation of the sympathetic and parasympathetic
systems of arousal. They lead us toward seeing, hearing, touching
and feeling the Lord in an experiential, rather than conceptual way
that culminates in fusion.
Biologically, heavenly states are dependent on the limbic system or
emotional part of the brain, and hormonal secretions. Mystical
states are not fantasies, delusions or intangible events – they are
the end result of complex chemical and neurological processes. They
begin with instinctive awe and indefinable thrills, floating
sensations, and perhaps spiritual hunger.
Ego-death can occur when the hyperactive “I” submits or gives in to
sensory overload, which overwhelms it.
Hypoarousal leads to a
characteristic silencing of the mind or emptying when the ego
voluntarily submits to unification of subject and object, of “I” and
Self. Cortical and subcortical activity become indistinguishably
merged. There is no separate “I” left to perceive objective reality.
Thus, dualism is paradoxically
obliterated in the maximal excitation of both the hyper- and
Because they produce personal euphoria and creative inspiration,
these initial states are common to poets, artists, and mystics. But
mystics tell us these ecstasies may be nothing more than overloading
of the emotional channels. Ecstasy is a desire for contact, a
striving after union. Entering these regions in full consciousness
indicates greater spiritual maturity.
Stabilizing them at the
personality level means the phase of emergence is over and
enlightenment becomes a steady state. The neurological changes have
become integrated and permanent.
shamanic techniques include:
techniques for transcendence include:
All of them work on the physiology to change
the chemistry of the mind/body and induce oceanic ecstasies that are
either all-consuming or ultimately serene.
Any constant, rhythmic stimulus to the central nervous system will
induce a trance-state and accompanying “high.” Driving the system
toward either polarity of arousal or quiescence leads to a
paradoxical reversal into its opposite, much like sexual arousal
leads to post-orgasmic afterglow. Similarly, at some point,
meditation can release an intense rush of energy and emotion, partly
through the limbic system.
One methodology produces sensory overload, while the other empties
the sensory field by withdrawing attention from sensory signals.
There may be sensory melding – a phenomenon called
where one can “see” music, or “taste “colors.”
When the mind/body is either exhausted or emptied of external input,
the mind is free to process the endless loops of its own
manifestation, its own internal processes. Fear and shame give way
to grace, a sense of Presence, perception of sanctity, response to
realization of the divine. Time, space and the separate ego seem
suspended or transcended in the experience of cosmic consciousness.
All is One.
Beyond the unity experience is the nondual experience of
If perceptual intake is restricted or expanded beyond certain
limits, the normal state of consciousness gives way to altered
states, each of which has certain characteristics.
experience has nine typical qualities:
transformation of space and
deeply felt positive mood
objectivity and reality
persisting positive changes
in subsequent behavior
A direct and unmediated encounter with
the source level of reality is felt as Holy, Awful, Ultimate and
Ineffable. (Gowan, 1976).
The alchemists sought eternal life by consuming the panacea (cure
all), universal medicine, the elixir vitae.
Paracelsus, the medieval
alchemist and physician, said,
“He who enters the kingdom of God
must first enter his mother and die.”
If God is the father, Nature
is our mother. Death always sits on our shoulder, patiently awaiting
each of us in turn. And we are acutely aware of that fact, more so
as we age or experience loss and infirmity. We are self-consciously
aware that we exist, and that one day we will not.
We can react to our knowledge of our own mortality with denial,
pragmatism, or unshakeable faith in an afterlife, or reincarnated
life. Death will come inexorably in any event at our journey’s end.
We cannot directly know the nature of that experience until we have
gone through it. But even before physical death, the soul can die
gradually to outward things; the self is release and transcended.
When the senses and mind stop actively functioning, the body becomes
like a corpse. Ego-death mirrors the process of the
NDE phases include:
subjective feeling of being
peace and well-being
visions of material objects
The transcendental phase includes:
tunnel or dark zone
evaluation of one’s past
access to a transcendental
world, entering in light
encounter with other beings
return to life
Those who have been close to death, or
experienced an initiatory death of the ego come back to show and
tell what that indescribable experience might be like.
pain and panic subsides in detachment from the body, bliss and
contentment. Then comes entering the darkness, seeing the light, and
entering that light. The same is true for mystics when they become
dead to the outside world. The body is profoundly affected as
breathing, heart rate, and skin conductance change.
When it is not sudden, death is a process where oxygen levels drop,
carbon dioxide builds up, and neural firing rate decreases.
sequence recounts the stages of brain death - the shutting down of
sensory systems, mental dissociation, large dumps of pain-killing
and euphoria-inducing endorphins and dopamine into the brain, the
shut down of the visual cortex as nerve cells continue to die, and
coma. Darkness descends.
Though it is a universal journey, near-death reports incorporate
scenery and characters that coincide with cultural programming. For
example, Tibetan Buddhists never report seeing Jesus in the
“tunnel” during a near-death experience. In fact, according to the
Dalai Lama, they don’t even tend to have near-death experiences, or
they perceive them in completely different terms.
Still, there are certain cross-cultural
correlations to the process of loosening the bonds of space, time,
and the ego whether death is initiatory or literal in nature.
These stages include:
A return to the womb or unborn
primal state, which happens in the death process as the
sensory and visual centers shut down and we are left in the
dull red glow of our fetal stage
dismemberment, or fragmentation loosens our ties to the
sense of self, as we move beyond our sorrow, helplessness,
rigidities, fear, and pain back toward the primeval
unification before our ego emerged
Containment of a lesser thing
(personality) by a greater (pleroma)
Rebirth, rejuvenation, immersion
in the creative energy flow, as experiential contact with
the psychedelic groundstate of being floods us with
nourishing sensations of well-being
Purification ordeal, as we
struggle with any mental resistance, conflicts and remnants
of earthly attachments; karmic purging
Solution of problems as any
conflicts resolve in the bliss of absorption; healing
Melting or softening process, of
final letting go and unification of subject and object; a
spiritually healing immersion in the vast ocean of deep
Resurrection of the “dead” in the
mystical sense thus takes on new meaning.
Paradoxically, it describes both the
transformation to heightened awareness, the soul becoming more and
more absorbed in the contemplation of God, and also the return to
Rapture, the “ascent to heaven”, also
has the connotation of rising to spiritual heights in the mystic
experience, which lifts or elevates one from normal states of
But what happens when the death process doesn’t follow through to
its mortal conclusion or is merely simulated spontaneously or
intentionally with meditation?
The relationship between brain
physiology and human behavior is notoriously difficult to understand
and easy to misapply.
Obviously consciousness, subjectivity and human religious experience
are not reducible merely to an explanation of neural pathways. We
are accustomed to associating it with grace, mind-expansion,
intuition, transcendence, ecstasy, metamorphosis and salvation.
It remains a mystery whether our hard-wiring creates the powerful
God Experience, or our whether God creates our psychophysical
wiring. Only soul-searching can provide any personally satisfying
answer. It might seem sacrilege to some to conduct experiments in
“measuring meat” to gauge spirituality. Still, this does not negate
the beauty of the scientific search for truth through creativity and
passion as genuine as any other art-form.
Knowledge of which body parts are mobilized in this communion
doesn’t detract from the experience, for the whole is so much more
than the sum of its parts. Neurotheology respects both science and
spirit. It is a move toward holism, not merely a reductive analysis.
Natural expansive experiences occur in a
wide numbers of situations, but involve common elements:
the attention is gripped, and
perception narrowed or focused through a single event or
which appears to be an
experience of surpassing beauty or worth,
in which unrealized values or
relationships are suddenly or instantly emphasized,
resulting in the emergence of
great joy and an orgiastic experience of ecstasy,
in which individual barriers
separating the self from others or nature are broken down,
resulting in a release of love,
confidence, or power,
some kind of change in the
subsequent personality, behavior or artistic product after
the rapture is over
Can we pinpoint what regions of the
brain turn off and on during religious, visionary or extraordinary
states of consciousness?
Yes; scientists are using dynamic brain
imaging techniques such as SPECT and functional MRI to directly view
the activation of brain circuitry. We can watch both blood flow and
electrical activity in real time.
The roles of the amygdala, hippocampus, temporal lobes, parietal
lobe, and pineal gland are fundamental to our sense of well-being,
meaningfulness, expansion from personal identity and perception of
inner Light. We can now directly see how the brain correlates both
external and internal stimuli and our reactions to them.
Rather than ancient rituals to placate
the gods, our rituals are now scientific experimental protocols.
Brain scans of a large sampling of people lost in prayer or deep
meditation reveal certain common neurological readings. These
correlate with religious states ranging from transcendence, to
visions, to enlightenment and feelings of awe. Attention or
concentration in the frontal lobes is indicated by activation in
this area of the brain during meditation.
In meditative states, there is an
attitudinal shift and detachment from thoughts other than perhaps
love of God.
Our response to religious words is mediated at the juncture of three
lobes (parietal, frontal, and temporal) and governs reaction to
The "voice of God" probably emanates from electrical
activity in the temporal lobes, which are important to speech
perception. Inner speech is interpreted as originating outside the
self, when Broca’s area switches on.
Stress can influence our ability to determine origin of a voice. It
is part of our fight-flight response, which can mobilize even when
we try to relax. Unstressing phenomena can range from panic
reactions, heaving sighs, excessive heat to shivers and bristling of
the skin, throat constriction, watery eyes, light flashes or waves
before the eyes, sudden muscular contractions, tingling sensations,
and electric shocks.
The right anterior cingulate turns on whether a stimulus originates
in the environment or is an auditory hallucination. A wide variety
of mystical sounds have been described ranging from the buzzing of
bees, to the sounds of bells, stringed instruments, thunder, distant
echoes, ocean waves, wind, and muffled talk in unknown languages.
The ability to construct internal representations of sensory stimuli
underlies perception and cognition. Viewed objectively, these
mindscapes are perfectly concrete manifestations but also have a
subjective aspect when we become aware of them. Our consciousness is
experienced through our perceptions. Any individual perception of
the universe can occur as an internal or external experience.
We may experience varying forms of an I-Thou dialogue along the
continuum of extremely hyper- or hypo-arousal states. Sacred images
are generated in the lower temporal lobe, which also responds to
ritualistic use of imagery and iconography. Empathy needs a face.
Fear and awesomeness originate in the amygdala.
Religious emotions originate in the
middle temporal lobe, generating bliss, awe, joy and other feelings
of well-being, as well as a sense of Presence.
Einstein had a virtually mystical understanding of the nature of
space and time, which he expressed in The N.Y. Times, March
“A human being is a part of a whole,
called by us ‘Universe.’ A part limited in time and space. He
experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something
separated from the rest – a kind of optical delusion of his
consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us,
restricting us to our personal desires, and to affection for a
few persons nearest us.
Our task must be to free ourselves
from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace
all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.
Nobody is able to achieve this completely, but the striving for
such achievement is, in itself, a part of the liberation and a
foundation for inner security.”
A triple “prison” for the mystic, space,
time, and personality define and specify the normal state of
Mystic ecstasy offers a glimpse of spiritual freedom,
and escape from the prison of selfhood. Remaining as motionless as
possible facilitates this effect. When the parietal lobes quiet
down, a person first feels detachment from the tyranny of the
perceptions, then an expansive oneness with the universe of cosmic
Time distortion starts the personal escape from time, sign of an
attempt to escape from the cocoon. Then the inner marriage between
the personal and non-personal aspects of the psyche is consummated.
Psychic conflicts are transcended, leaving a whole, complete being.
When the orientation area is deprived of neuronal input by gating
from the hippocampus, sense of self expands. With no preferred
position or direction in space, the local self dissolves in
omnidirectional expansion. If one remains motionless, there is no
external reference signal to orient in 3-space and no reason for
this portion of the brain to activate.
Continued meditation can
over-drive certain other brain areas and seemingly transport us to
For a mystical experience to occur, perceptions narrow and brain
regions that orient us in space and mark the distinction between
self and world must go quiet. We give up the past and give up the
future – we give up our defenses. All feelings cease as the self
merges with the numinous element. The mind becomes tranquil,
withdraws itself from all sides, becoming firmly established in the
In order to feel that time, fear, and self-consciousness have
dissolved, certain brain circuits must be interrupted. This includes
damping activity in the fear-registering
amygdala, which monitors
the environment for threats.
Parietal-lobe circuits that give us a
sense of physical orientation and a distinction between self and
world must quiet down.
The orientation area requires sensory input to do its calculations.
Intense meditation blocks the brain from forming a distinction
between self and world. Frontal and temporal-lobe circuits, which
mark time and generate self-awareness, must disengage. When this
happens, self-awareness briefly drops out and we feel like our
The most immediate experience is that of always having been and
being forever. The three illusions – space, time and personality –
are obliterated in cosmic consciousness, as the soul completes its
journey to its spiritual home. Human consciousness is eliminated,
having been reabsorbed into the primordial essence.
All becomes. All without
A Canadian neuropsychologist, Michael Persinger (1987) has spent
years exploring the relationship of spiritual phenomena and
electromagnetics with many subjects. Low intensity magnetic fields
orchestrate communication between lobes of the brain, faster than
biolelectrical or biochemical processes of neurons.
He has developed a device, called the
Octopus to test his theories.
“Underlying Persinger’s work is the
conviction that anomalous electromagnetic fluctuations –
produced by solar flares, seismic activity, radio and microwave
transmissions, electrical devices, and other external sources or
originating in the brain itself – can trigger disturbances
resembling epileptic seizures.
These ‘microseizures,’ he
generate a wide range of altered states, including religious and
mystical visions, out-of-body experiences, and even
“Persinger conjectures that our sense of self is ordinarily
mediated by the brain’s left hemisphere – more specifically by
the left temporal lobe. When the brain is disrupted – by a head
injury, epileptic seizure, stroke, drugs, psychological trauma,
or external electromagnetic pulses – our left-brain may detect
activity in the right hemisphere as another self, or what
Persinger calls a ‘sensed presence.’
Depending on our
circumstances and background, we may perceive the sensed
presence as extraterrestrials, ghosts, angels, fairies, muses,
demons, or God Almighty.”
This technoshaman with his electronic
art uses solenoids in a helmet for input; a computer controls the
He sends vast depolarizing waves across
millions of cells, releasing all types of memories and fantasies
mixed and mashed together. Long-term memory is seated in the surface
of the bottom of the temporal lobes in the para-hippocampal cortex,
closely connected to the hippocampus. Though an atheist, he stops
just short of saying the god-experience is just an electrical
However, his research goal is to use his
devise to trigger transcendental experiences in nonreligious people
face with the fear of death. He admits there is scientific evidence
that those with spiritual beliefs are better adapted and
Persinger can artificially produce a wide range of anomalous
experiences by driving the brain with his EM helmet and technology.
He identifies the temporal lobes as the biological basis of the
god-experience. Bombarding the brain with certain frequencies in
certain regions produces different results. As impulses move through
the temporal lobe and deep into the brain, they interfere and
interact with the complex electrical patterns and neural fields.
Aimed at the amygdala, Persinger’s device produces sexual arousal.
Focused on the hippocampus it produces an opiate effect without
adverse side effects, other than irritation upon withdrawal.
Targeting the right hemisphere temporal lobe creates a sense of a
negative presence, while stimulating the left hemisphere creates a
Sensed presence becomes more common until the day arrives when God’s
presence is something a person feels at all times. In mystical
experience language fails. Since we can’t experiences two senses of
self, one is projected as other, the Beloved, either romantic or
spiritual. Thus there is truth in saying that the beloved is God,
and that when we love God we are loving ourselves. I and Thou are
One. The other becomes the Self.
Electrical activity in the amygdala, hippocampus and temporal can
‘spill over’ into nearby structures. If it ignites the visual area,
intense visions emerge. Kindling the olfactory regions leads to
Somatosensory stimulation leads to
buzzing, energetic, or tingling sensations or perceptions of being
lifted or floating. Language center activation produces voices,
music, or noise.
Long-term memory in the lower part of the temporal
lobes yields interactive virtual realities, waking dreams. The
thalamus is implicated in aura vision; the reticular activating
system in life reviews.
New patterns spread through the limbic system, producing sensation
ranging from subtle to profound. Usually there is seamless
integration of past, present and future. But in déjà vu, there is
too much communication between short-term and long-term memories.
Then the present can feel like the past. Present perceptions are
shunted through areas that process memories, and we feel we are
re-living a moment stored in long-term memory.
The opposite happens
in jamais vu, when nothing we experience seems to have anything to
do with the past. Time distortion is another experiential phenomenon
stimulated with the electromagnetic gear.
The impulses can induce anything from sleep to “alien abductions”,
including a profound sense of presence or the uncanny, auditory and
visionary experiences, or a sense of deep meaning. He notes these
experiences are tempered by the person’s learning history. God
concepts are determined by verbal conditioning; perceptions are
constructions. Imagery ranges from vivid landscapes to forms of
Sounds, smells, scenes or intense
feelings all reflect areas of electrical instability.
The Biology of
the Inner Light
Illumination has been described as being blinded by the
manifestation of God’s presence.
This brightness has no relation to any
visible light. Visionary experience, which has symbolic or religious
content, may give way to this dazzling light, which is reported in
eastern and western religions. No wonder it is called illumination,
and it can confer a palpable glow to the person that is perceptible
after the return to ordinary awareness.
Imagine suggesting the body makes it own psychedelic drug! This is
just what psychiatrist Rick Strassman contends in
Spirit Molecule (2001). He asserts it is an active agent in a
variety of altered states, including mystical experience. This
chemical messenger links body and spirit. Pineal activation may
awaken normally latent synthetic pathways.
Meditation may modulate pineal activity, eliciting a standing wave
through resonance effects that affects other brain centers with both
chemical and electromagnetic coordination. Resonance can be induced
in the pineal using electric, magnetic, or sound energy. Such
harmonization resynchronizes both hemispheres of the brain. This may
result in a chain of synergetic activity resulting in the production
and release of hallucinogenic compounds
If this is true, it is easy to see how much this mind-altering
chemical could amplify all of the tendencies toward mystical
apprehension originating in other parts of the brain, as we have
To explore his theory, Strassman conducted
extensive testing, injecting volunteers with the powerful
DMT. DMT is so powerful it is physically
immobilizing, and produces a flood of unexpected and overwhelming
visual and emotional imagery. Taking it is like an instantaneous LSD
He suggests the mysterious
pineal gland is implicated in the natural
production of this mystic molecule, as metaphysical teachers have
long claimed. The pineal has been called the spirit gland and may be
the biological basis of spiritual experience.
The only solitary, or
unpaired gland in the brain may initiate and support a variety of
altered states of consciousness.
The pineal is known to contain high levels of the enzymes and
building-blocks for making DMT, and it may be secreted when
inhibitory processes cease blocking its production. It may even
produce other chemicals, such as beta-carbolines that magnify and
prolong its effects.
The pineal sits, well-protected in the deep recesses of the brain,
bathed in cerebrospinal fluid by the ventricles, the fluid-filled
cavities of the brain that feed it and remove waste. It emits its
secretions to the strategically surrounding emotional, visual and
auditory brain centers. It helps regulate body temperature and skin
coloration. It secretes the hormone
Generally, after the
more imaginative period of childhood, the pineal calcifies and
Endogenous DMT is described as the source of visionary Light in
transpersonal experiences. Its primary source, the pineal, has
traditionally been referred to as the Third Eye. Curiously, this
gland is light sensitive and actually has a lens, cornea, and
DMT production is particularly stimulated, according to Strassman in
the extraordinary conditions of birth, sexual ecstasy, childbirth,
extreme physical stress, near-death, psychosis, and physical death,
as well as meditation.
Pineal DMT may also play a significant
role in dream consciousness.
“All spiritual disciplines describe
quite psychedelic accounts of the transformative experiences,
whose attainment motivate their practice. Blinding white light,
encounters with demonic and angelic entities, ecstatic emotions,
timelessness, heavenly sounds, feelings of having died and being
reborn, contacting a powerful and loving presence underlying all
of reality - these experiences cut across all denominations.
also are characteristic of fully psychedelic DMT experience. How
might meditation evoke the pineal DMT experience?”
“Meditative techniques using sound, sight, or the mind may
generate particular wave patterns whose fields induce resonance
in the brain. Millennia of human trial and error have determined
that certain ‘sacred’ worlds, visual images, and mental
exercises exert uniquely desired effects. Such effects may occur
because of the specific fields they generate within the brain.
These fields cause multiple systems to vibrate and pulse at
certain frequencies. We can feel or minds and bodies resonate
with these spiritual exercises. Of course, the pineal gland also
is buzzing at these same frequencies...
The pineal begins to
‘vibrate’ at frequencies that weaken its multiple barriers to DMT formation.”
Become Your Own
Want to take an active role in
your own spiritual life, a safe and easy mind trip?
Would you like to glimpse some
of the experiences outlined here?
Or even just get the mental
health benefits of deep relaxation and increased inner
Intimidated by the prospect of spending 15 to 20
years learning to meditate to attain life-enhancing
Haven’t had a near-death
experience and don’t want one?
Too busy to devote your life to
alchemy, or spend endless years in transpersonal therapies,
or too afraid to allow a “mad scientist” to zap your brain
with EM frequencies, hook your brain up to a high-tech
scanning machine, or inject you with psychedelic substances?
Modern technology offers an easy,
Anyone can employ a safe and easy
technique that automatically puts you in the “zone.” A form of
“yogatronics” is available using a simple CD and headphones with
input from subsonic frequencies. This audio technology creates a
harmonization of the left and right hemispheres of the brain, and
automatically drives the brain harmlessly into the
Alpha or Theta
This resonance phenomenon, a form of entrainment, is called the
frequency-following response, or binaural beat technology.
Entrainment is the process of synchronization, where vibrations of
one object will cause another to oscillate at the same rate. It
works by embedding two different tones in a stereo background.
Continuous tones of subtlety different frequencies (such as 100 and
108 cycles per second) are delivered to each ear independently via
stereo headphones. The tones combine in a pulsing “wah wah” tone.
External rhythms can have a direct effect on the psychology and
physiology of the listener. The brain effortlessly begins resonating
at the same rate as the difference between the two tones, ideally in
the 4-13 Hz. (Theta and Alpha) range for meditation. All you have to
do is sit quietly and put on the headphones. The brain automatically
responds to certain frequencies, behaving like a resonator.
You may not become immediately enlightened, but hemispheric
synchronization helps with a whole host of problems stemming from
abnormal hemispheric asymmetries.
Problems, often resulting from
stress or abuse in early life, include REM sleep problems,
narcissism, addictive and self-defeating behaviors. Communication
between hemispheres correlates with flashes of insight, wisdom and
Split brain experiments have shown we are of “two minds”
rational, linear, time-bound, and cognitive
the other is
emotional, holistic, intuitive, artistic
Even when we know what we
should do we do what we want.
The main distinction is between
thinking and feeling, objective analysis and subjective insight.
Each half has its own way of knowing about our being and perceiving
external reality. Either mode can lead or follow, or conflict,
keeping knowledge such as traumatic memories, from the other.
The hemispheres are meant to work in concert with one another.
Interactive hemispheric feedback is used to treat disorders such as
post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression,
ADD, addiction, obsessive-compulsive disorder, anxiety, and a host
of other dysfunctions.
Disorders of under-arousal include
depression, attention-deficit disorder (ADD), chronic
pain and insomnia. Over-arousal includes anxiety disorders, problems
getting to sleep, nightmares, ADHD, hypervigilance, impulsive
behavior, anger/aggression, agitated depression, chronic nerve pain,
Because the brain is functionally “plastic” in nature, creating and
exercising new neural pathways can retrain neural circuitry. In
meditation, the halves of the brain become synchronized and exhibit
nearly identical patterns of large, slow brainwaves. Rhythmic pulses
can modulate collective neuronal synchrony. Then, both lobes
automatically play in concert.
Rhythm regulates the entire spectrum of activation and arousal by
kindling, or pulling more and more parts of the brain into the
Disorders related to under- and over- arousal, including attentional and emotional problems, can be stabilized by
self-organizing restructuring. Depressions, anxiety, worry, fear,
and panic can be moderated. Stimulating neglected neural circuitry
creates new pathways, improving equilibrium and long-term change,
essentially “tuning” the nervous system.
There are many companies promoting this self-regulation technology,
both in “active” clinical neurofeedback programs, and as “passive”
home programs. Perhaps the oldest is the
Monroe Institute, which calls its
trademarked method Hemi-Synch. Another program offered by
Centerpointe Research Institute is
Another variation uses light pulses from
goggles to drive the process, and is marketed as
Are there things we should not know?
We are innately geared to crave ecstasy,
“escape reality,” and seek extraordinary or novel experiences on our
way to wisdom. The history of mankind recounts the stages of that
journey. Religions and mysticism arose from the accounts of
spontaneous spiritual experiences. In shamanism, our ancestors
sought them in an instinctual or animalistic way. In art, myth and
ritual we sought them in a human, if narcissistic and
self-expressive reactionary way.
In creativity and meditation we seek in a fully conscious way,
willfully cooperating and facilitating the process not only of
connecting with God, but experiencing oneself in the process of
The ego no longer perceives itself as a separate
expression of consciousness, but as the same essence as All.
Of course, we can never fully complete that process. No one can
fully embody God, but we can move toward it. The succession of
conscious states is toward higher integration, not toward lower
dissociation. The process of integration in growth toward positive
values has the complementary virtues of being obvious in fact and
transcendental in implications. It means we evolve from reactive
creatures into an integrated part of the spiritual dimension.
As sociologist Eliade described,
“The ideal of yoga... is to live in
an eternal present, outside of time. The man, liberated in his
life, no longer possesses a personal consciousness... but a
witnessing consciousness, which is pure lucidity and
Meditation is essentially emulation of
creation and practice for a lucid passing at death into the Eternal
We are all capable of transcendent awareness. What we believe in
becomes real in an existential sense. Paradoxically, pure
consciousness both generates and is generated by the processes of
the brain. Becoming soul journeyers, we can explore self and
multiple worlds, transformation, and social flow.
We can all become technoshamans, using the process of altering our
consciousness through spiritual technologies. Even “lesser” mystical
experiences have significant implications for religion and theology.
It is the nature of the mystical mind to have such experiences and
they have altered religion. So, a thorough understanding of how the
mind/body functions to generate them is extremely useful.
Paradoxical physiological mechanisms operate in the body under most
conditions to chemically prevent the attainment of higher states of
arousal on either end of the spectrum. But it is possible, with
repeated exposure to the paradoxical situation to function
effectively at higher levels of conjoined sympathetic and
parasympathetic arousal. The brain can be “re-wired” to connect more
and more areas together as links in the spiritual chain, which leads
to so-called enlightenment.
The brain seems to hunger for ecstasies
to enhance characteristics of our normal way of being, creativity,
problem-solving, spirituality, and so on.
The task of meditation is essentially letting the body fall as
deeply asleep as possible while the mind remains focused. In fact,
if it were not for the opposite function’s presence, even in the
mystical state, we would fall asleep. The REM or dream state is
similar: there is extreme cerebral excitation, even though muscular
activity is inhibited.
Hemispheric synchronization producing long,
slow alpha and theta brainwaves with high amplitude is another
factor. The deeper the meditation, the slower and stronger the
The energy “rush” of meditation comes when either the arousal or
quiescent state “spills over” into stimulating its complementary
system. When both parts of the autonomic nervous system go online
simultaneously, the limbic system goes wild with emotion, absorption
and oceanic bliss. This is reflected in the gender based,
male-female imagery of the kundalini serpent power and the yin and
yang of the Tao.
When both systems go into maximal discharge, this neurochemical flux
is subjectively perceived as Absolute Unity of Being, boundlessness,
timelessness, and sacredness. Our relationship to humans, earth, and
cosmos is one of a relationship to the Other. Our first formative
influence is the experience of empathy. And empathy needs a face.
we find that face in our personal experience of God, who shall say
Beyond that lies only the yawning
infinity of the Void.
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