God And Religion: Is It All In Our Heads?




Neuroscience and Neurology CategoryScience will never be able to prove or disprove the existence of God or any higher power. Isn’t this the cornerstone of faith, after all: a belief that needs no proof? Or perhaps, maybe the proof has been in our brains the whole time.

Our perceptions, emotions, and reactions to the world around us begin at birth, and shape our attitudes and interactions throughout our life. Through these beliefs, we learn who to trust, what to expect, and how to cope. The formation of beliefs involves the complex interplay of various areas of the brain. Though the exact mechanisms cannot be clearly defined, scientists know that the formation of beliefs involves physiologic changes in the brain. Studies have shown changes in activity in primitive areas of the brain at varying levels of belief and disbelief, and religious beliefs are no exception.

GodlyHow else do we experience God, if not through our brain? Our brain processes every experience we encounter — sensory, somatic, emotional, and metaphysical. The brain must process and interpret our experiences through our beliefs, emotions, and previous encounters, and through the brain’s physical and chemical structure and function. Increased activity in the front portion of the brain has been seen in Tibetan Buddhist monks performing meditation and nuns participating in prayer. However, this portion of the brain also shows increased activity during tasks that require intense focus or attention. While this finding may seem a less than substantial argument for the scientific basis of religion, it is interesting to note that changes in brain activity at baseline were seen in these subjects, even when not involved in focused religious activities. Have their brains been changed from the spiritual practice and beliefs or were their brains more susceptible to having powerful religious experiences from the beginning?

The temporal lobes are known to be involved in religious and spiritual experiences; the amygdala and hippocampus are involved in religious visions and emotions. This calls to mind the connection between brain disorders and supernatural experiences that has been observed for more than a century. For example, patients who experience epileptic seizures, particularly in temporal lobe epilepsy, report experiencing religious premonitions, auras, or encounters in the period surrounding a seizure. Do these findings prove a neuronal mechanism for religious experiences?

The brain seems predisposed to a belief in all things spiritual. Scientists have been able to induce religious experiences and sensations in people by applying a weak magnetic field over the temporal lobes and by injecting subjects with hallucinogens. Further, religion is a heritable trait. Twin studies show that religious intensity is, at least in part, linked to genetics. Can we achieve the same effects from religious practices as we can from drugs? Is the brain just hardwired for religion no matter what our experiences or background?

Religious beliefs, experiences, and practices and the role they play in our lives are not simply defined. They exist from a complex interaction of culture, upbringing, and emotional experiences. And science. Throughout human history, we have been seeking definitions, structure, clarity, and peace. We find all this in religion. Is religion just a byproduct of evolution that enables us to cope with life’s struggles or was the brain intelligently designed by a creator to appreciate the world in all its spiritual wonder?

References

DEVINSKY, O., LAI, G. (2008). Spirituality and Religion in Epilepsy. Epilepsy & Behavior, 12(4), 636-643. DOI: 10.1016/j.yebeh.2007.11.011

Harris, S., Sheth, S.A., Cohen, M.S. (2008). Functional neuroimaging of belief, disbelief, and uncertainty. Annals of Neurology, 63(2), 141-147. DOI: 10.1002/ana.21301

Hill, D.R., Persinger, M.A. (2003). Application of transcerebral, weak (1 micro T) complex magnetic fields and mystical experiences: are they generated by field-induced dimethyltryptamine release from the pineal organ? Percept Motor Skills, 97(3 Pt 2), 1049-1050.

Koenig, L.B., McGue, M., Iacono, W.G. (2008). Stability and change in religiousness during emerging adulthood. Dev Psychol, 44(2), 532-543.

  • Alfredo Louro

    Buddhism is not a theistic religion, and meditation does not involve faith in anything. So that’s a bad example.

  • Vamsi

    Hi,

    Thanks for visiting my site.

    Based on my readings of Bhagawad Gita and elsewhere, essentially all living beings are souls in a living body.

    Humans have their souls in spinal cord, and the degree of their realization of the supreme soul, lord Krishna, aided by their brains through analysis, logic, understanding eternal truth, determines how intelligent they are.

    I guess the more intelligent a person is, more developed his brain will be!

  • http://nyampa.blogspot.com Ted Lemon

    If the cornerstone of Christianity is faith, why did Jesus do all that talking? Why not just say “look, see my miracles? Have faith in me!” The idea that it is the fact that the existence of God can’t be proven that is what is important about Christianity is nonsense. The idea that if you could prove the existence of God, religion would no longer have any point, is nonsense.

    The point of faith is to get you to do what the religion tells you to do to get to whatever result it promises. So in the case of Christianity, it’s to get you to follow the teachings of Jesus, and in the case of Judaism, to keep the mitzvot. If you find proof that God exists, would that stop you from following the teachings, or from keeping the mitzvot? No, just the opposite. So the unprovability of the existence of God is not essential to the practice of these theistic religions.

    I mention this because I see various athiest web sites repeating this error with great regularity, perhaps stemming from Douglas Adam’s famous proof of the nonexistence of God. It was funny, but it wasn’t correct. We would hope to see better from the reality-based community.

    (Disclosure: I’m a Buddhist, and we don’t consider the idea of an all-powerful creator God useful, so we neither assert nor deny the existence of such a being.)

  • http://dangoldfinch.wordpress.com Jerry Hillyer

    You stopped by my blog and left your link asking me to comment on your post.

    I have nothing to say about what you have written. It is dismissive and, it seems to me, not in complete understanding of, at minimum, historical Christian faith.

    jerry

  • http://ksoojinl10.edublogs.org Soojin

    Hello, thanks for visiting my site as well.

    This article seems to be a great add-up to what I wrote, that all religions are based on instinctive faith.

    However I do believe praying nuns and meditating monks have similarity; they both cling on something abstract desperately that wouldn’t necessarily feed them. To me, both seem to have same motives – the brain told them to.

    To me, religion is just a remnant of a method that was used since ancient times used to justify rights and unify people. It’s sad because today many people who developed different ways of expecting, coping, and trust are not prone to getting along with each other.

    soojin

  • http://wellbeingandhealth.net/ Evan

    We experience our clothes through our brain – does this mean they don’t exist or are just a belief?

    Many diseases have a genetic component – does this mean they aren’t real.

    The untangling of ‘perception’ and ‘reality’ is tricky. I think one way forward is to realise that perception is structured.

  • Lycosid

    Science will never be able to prove or disprove the existence of God or any higher power. Isn’t this the cornerstone of faith, after all: a belief that needs no proof? Or perhaps, maybe the proof has been in our brains the whole time.

    Science doesn’t prove or disprove anything. It is a probability game. Instead of proves, say “Evidence supports” or “suggests.”

    The article you refer to shows only that the transcendental feeling many associate with religion is caused by a malfunction in the brain. Nothing more, nothing less.

  • Mojud

    The Door To Reality Is No-Mind
    The kingdom of God has been preached as if it is always somewhere
    else: in time, in space, but always somewhere else — not here and now.
    Why has this happened? Why is the kingdom of God not here and now? Why
    in the future, or why somewhere else?
    It is because of…

    Continue reading this entry

  • abb3w

    The author’s prime mistake is in the first sentence: a misunderstanding of “proof”. Logic begins with certain unproven and unprovable premises; mathematics takes them, and adds others. Such statements may be considered formally “proven” in an absolute sense. However, the relation of any of these absolute propositions to reality is not itself “provable” from these abstractions.

    Science begins by assuming that evidence is related to Reality, and proceeds using the tools of logic and math to determine the nature of reality. Scientific theories are thus not “proven” as absolute truths akin to “2+2=4″; however, the Latin root “probare” also means “to test”, and scientific theories are most certainly “proven” in the sense of “tested”. Hypotheses in science are tested by competing against each other for their conciseness in comprehensively describing the data; those which do best are then referred to as “Theories”. This criterion is valid because it may be proven (in the exact mathematical use) that the champion is most likely to give the correct description of reality. (For details, see the paper “Minimum Description Length Induction, Bayesianism and Kolmogorov Complexity” by Paul Vitanyi and Ming Li.) Thus, the proof of science is not an absolute indication of Truth, but an absolute indication of What Is Most Likely Truth.

    The question is, is the evidence in our brains evidence of anything outside it?

  • http://mmbh.wordpress.com/ Lady Elizabeth

    I honestly really enjoyed reading your post. I felt a little saddened however by the thought that perhaps this could even be a possibility… yet I see your perspective.

    Now, that’s not to say that I would ever dismiss my own believes in God, ever. Fact is fact, and the truth of the matter is that the brain is a powerful thing. And if people in religious faiths tend to be smarter, and stronger, then perhaps it shouldn’t be that difficult to except the fact that maybe the rest of us are being left behind a connection that could really be true in the first place. Hence the “religious experiences.”

    You first deemed them to be intelligent, so wouldn’t it almost be a little oxymoronic to turn around and call their beliefs unreal, or even crazy? Now, I know you didn’t say that… but I was thinking that based on the fact that person(s) of religious preferences who actually believe with their whole hearts are possibly allowing themselves to ‘make up’ any religious activity, or be “hallucinating” would simply allow me to assume that they were so (crazy that is).

    Thus, I go back to the fact that even if God was not real, I would choose rather to live in ignorance, and believe in Him because He is what actually makes life meaningful, whole, and peaceful… like you said. But somehow, even around my hard-headed nature, I know that He does truly exist.

    Not simply based on the teachings, the things that I want, or anything, and everything else… but based on the fact of what I see around me everyday. I’m a pretty open minded person… but look around. And think real hard. “In God We Trust,” on our very own currency. God, or some supreme being is mentioned in almost every religion… why in the world would we choose to trust our “history” books but not stories that we’ve all been passed down from generation to generation? Or genealogy lines? How do you know that someone didn’t play around with all of that? What if all of the teachings we have learned in school were all just some brainwashing tactics? This is why we can’t rely on “proof.” Sometimes it is the heart that we must follow and trust… and when you’ve actually reached the part where it trusts, and follows, then it becomes a part of the mind.

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  • http://www.usapatriotsamerica.com/forum/index.php USAPatriot

    In the absence of proof, the best one can do is state, “I don’t know”. Whether or not one decides to look for that proof is an individual decision. Ultimately if the end result of the quest is to hopefully find oneself in the presence of God, then that quest must be a lifelong one…be it 2 weeks or 50 years.

    “The wages of sin is death” – whether one chooses to believe the reality of the statement or believes it’s merely a metaphor, it still tastes of a truism.

    God is good but the path to him is not an easy one. Satan is evil and the path to him is deliciously marked and easy to walk. Sadly, humans seem to prefer the path of least resistance. That is why there is a reward for taking the tougher road.

  • http://intentions.wordpress.com Jane

    This is actually quite a good article.

    I liked the part about religiosity being heritable.

    My Father and and brother are both atheists and they grew up in Catholic households

    My mother, my sister and I are or were heavily involved with religion.

    My mother was a Third Order Franciscan

    My sister joined a convent briefly as an adult.

    I under went several religious conversions from Catholicism to Wicca and spent years practicing Buddhist and Taoist meditation.

    It should be pointed out that the potions of the Prefrontal Cortex that light up are somewhat different for those practicing meditation and those people praying. Prayer and meditaiton use different circuits in the same region of the brain.

    People who meditate grow a meditation circuit in the brain over time.

    Another thing that was not touched upon is the number of people with mental disorders and religious beliefs. Religiosity is in our brains and so are our mental health issues.

    How many stories can one dig up by googling incidences of religious filicide? The sheer number of men and women who killed their children because God told them to or because they believed their children to be possessed is appalling.

    In studies of parents that kill or torture their children for religious reasons more than half the men and nearly all the women had psychotic or mood disorders.

    Along with increased religiosity all the females in my family suffer or suffered from serious mood disorders especially depression.

    My mother and sister continue to remain depressed and highly religious

    I became more secular and my depression has been gone for years.

    The connection in the brain between mental disorders and religious beliefs, religious experiences should be investigated further.

    I tend to agree, it really is a brain thing.

  • Dr. Naseem Qureshi MD, PhD, Consultant Psychiatrist

    All what “words” we have today or would have tomorrow are coined by human beings. Ask the person (??) why he/she coined the word “GOD”, “RELIGION”, “BELIEFS”. If persons linking themselves to major five religious denominations stop believing in ‘Beliefs’ and ‘Faith’, all religions will collapse permanently. This time will never come! Because the religious beliefs are most powerful, more powerful than the scientific proofs of an event.

  • Sujit Kumar

    I am a new comer in this world of quest of spirituality and faith.

    I have one question for everyone. Can spirituality remove hunger and poverty from this world ? Can science and scientific quest remove hunger and poverty from this world.

    Meditation and prayer comes only after our stomach is full.

    Is there destiny for everyone.Fate !

    When a child is born-say a healthy one-does he/she knows where he/she is born? USA or Somalia ? With a silver spoon or iron spoon ? No.

    Time has come when spiritualists of the world should come together and make a world opinion to atleast feed every one and provide a healthy childhood to all.

    Impossible as spiritualists and aethists both cannot unite .

    Sujit

  • http://wellbeingandhealth.net/ Evan

    Hi Sujit,

    Excellent point.

    For most people their faith is ethical. The major faiths encourage charity – and most of the founders of them spoke for justice (though this is less encouraged by their modern adherents).

    Atheists and spiritualists unite every day to fight these problems. In the NGO’s those who are believers and those who aren’t usually respect each other, however much they disagree.

    Meditation and prayer do not only come after our stomach is full. This is directly contrary to the experience of many poor people. It also adopts a materialist mindset, which makes the fighting of poverty pointless (if people are only material what does it matter that they suffer misery?).

    I think the problem is the dominance of an economic dogma. That money is the measure of value of all things including exchanges (relationships) and the environment. This degrades people and our relationship to others and our planet. When this faith is dethroned (and money relegated once more to a means to achieve our values, not a value in itself) I think we will be well on the way to ending poverty. This is not utopian – we live in this non-economic way with our family and others we love. We just need eyes to see (a conversion is required: which would be a genuinely religious experience – one which many an atheist has undergone and that some religious people haven’t).

  • http://nyampa.blogspot.com Ted Lemon

    Sujit, actually it’s easier to meditate when your stomach is empty, although I think you were referring more to the debilitating effects of hunger than really to an empty stomach.

    But the main point you raise is a good one. When we allow ourselves to be polarized, that is when we are least effective at bringing about good in the world. So when we think “I am an athiest” or “I am religious” and “that other person is not,” we automatically create a barrier that works to sap our ability to cooperate.

    I think it’s better to look for what we have in common than to find ways to see each other as different.

  • avoiceinurhead

    religion is a troubling parodox that waist time trying to figure out.

    and the only people that can understand this statement understand the theory of the duck :)

    ((((like pointillism we look at the painting from afar and it a beautiful masterpiece but if we want to know what makes up this artwork we get closer and all we see is a bunch of random dots in different shads that have to order

    or a childhood story, bears don’t talk but yet if you just “let it be” theirs nothing questionable about it.
    as children we question allot of thing but we never seem to question the questionable (example: such as why animals in story’s talk)
    so if you really think about it anything can be torn apart with one word “why”))))

  • alljackpots

    Our perceptions, emotions, and reactions to the world around us begin at birth, and shape our attitudes and interactions throughout our life.

  • http://brainblogger.com JJ

    As a newcomer I would like to say while the futility of trying to evade the idea of an existant Creator is very evident, we will do better to reason, firstly: as human beings why do we exist, why is there an inherent inner ‘craving’ that no amount of material accumulation seems to satisfy, and we constantly seek love and acceptance from those we are in close contact with, and the idea of making a good impression in everything we do and hope to achieve.
    my point being, there is no one answer to satisfy the myriads of questions we need answers to, hence the necessity of a personal experience with the Creator of the Universe. He has all the answers. However, this is not at our initiation but at His (this interruption is sometimes called conviction, or a spiritual experience)
    From our youth we can attest to there being natural laws written in our mind. we inherently take a bath when we’re dirty or we eat when we’re hungry etc. Also from the inception of man there is this innate negative attributes we become conscious of over a period of time,which when exercised create a negative impact to ourselves and sometimes directly/indirectly to others.
    Our perceptions, emotions and responses all depend on an intricate balance or equilibrium clearly apart from man’s production. Man has supernatural interference whether he believes or not, that’s the reality of it. The matter of right and wrong is not a by product of Evolution but a confirmation of the existence of one infinitely greater than any thing or any one we’ve ever known. Listen to Him a bit more He definitely knows what He’s doing.

  • anon

    Of course it’s all in the brain. There isn’t proof or evidence of anything else. Why wouldn’t the brain evolve to have a protective mechanism? Religion provides a sense of security in so many ways: do good and you live on, safety in numbers, control the group, listen to authority, keep the tribal numbers high, keep the peace, believe and you will be saved. Things will change as we develop more sophisticated techniques in areas of quantum mechanics and such. W e won’t need a god of the gaps (of knowledge) forever.

  • sailor50

    In light of the Muslim attacks in India, I find my brain telling me that religion…any religion…is a cancer of the brain and soul (whatever that is). When people become fanatical about their religion, they are a danger to all others. Am I thinking of the people in the Middle East? No…the people in the American South. We should have let them go in the 1860′s when we had a chance.

  • Mariam Khmaladze

    Not A Contest!

    Belief can help us cope in so many ways! Like Lycosid said, few things are actually ‘proved’. An that’s not a bad thing, like some scientists may think!

    Science has over time altered what many religions have postulated(eg.- geocentricity), but this isn’t a fight agaist religion, as such; people can still believe in divine things as much as they want, and realistically-minded people have no more (moral) right to criticize that than Muslims have when criticizing Christianity, or vice versa! Of course there is much scientific evidence, etc.- but though personally I’m an atheist, I don’t see that as a reason to try to strip good people of any faith they might have!

  • Mariam Khmaladze

    I agree with anon before sailor50 too.

  • Nancy

    Jennifer – You argue that proof of God’s existence/predilection to believe in God is individual to a particular type of brain wiring. This type of statement would indicate that there should be an approach (fMRI/PET/endocrine release) to explore your thesis. Then you introduce a chicken and egg question as to the origin of the plasticity- is it genetic or environmental- and state that “Science will never be able to prove or disprove the existence of God or any higher power.” Presumably one could easily run a study using same technologies and one could deal with your chicken-egg question by simply comparing functional changes to that of non-meditators and observe them after months of prayer or meditation. Essentially your arguments and presentation of references contradict. Science can address the presence of religious/altered brain states, it is subsequently up to each individual to interpret the experience to their personal preference.
    Ditto with Alfredo – Buddhists do not refer to a God in their meditations or chants, they are non-theists.

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  • Anonymous

    An Oceanic Experience…“It is strange – so strange that it is almost unbelievable – that there are three hundred religions in the world and there is no peace, no joy, no celebration, no holiness, no divineness anywhere – this is such an absurdity! If truth is one, how can there be three hundred religions?

    If science, which is concerned with the objective truth is one, then religion is also one, because it is concerned with the subjective truth, the other side of the truth…”
    Osho
    to continue reading this…
    Gatelessgate Magazine

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  • http://www.eternityofspirit.com/ eternityofspirit

    What I find strange, when comparing science and religion, is the approach. We always adopt the point of view of science and then try to fit the spirituality into this scientific picture of the world. This approach often would not work. We fail to recognize that the brain is only one of the instruments of the spirit, and that the basis of all existence is the spiritual, not the material, tangible side.

  • Ted

    Perhaps our belief in God is as valid as the theory of the big bang The laws of nature and physics were different then thats why we can’t explain it. So we must take the big bang on faith. Its much more plausible to believe in God. just look around you and see the beauty and order in everything. Faith , apposed to unproven theory. Reminds me of the bets that were taken when the first nuclear explosion took place. Will the atmosphere catch fire or not? Many bets on both sides.

  • Anonymous

    When I look at, communicate with possibly get to know he or she in question whether that moment is brief or extended. If I look hard enough I just might see a fragment however large or small of myself in them.

    The energy, God…whatever label you’ve chosen to put on what i so fondly call “The Everlasting Effervescence of Nothingness”. Anyways my point is we are all “1″ yet divided, religion and the need for it divides us yet further and keeps us that way….There is another point id like make though, do not be joined together as a world if it means destroying the different cultures. I believe for the most part Cultures derive there spiritual powers from they’re surroundings, so it is my opinion that governments just get in the way and take from us our ability to be self sufficient.

    I don’t mean to stray away from topic but i wanted to point out two factors that deprive us of Spiritual growth which religion tries to teach but doesn’t and Government debilitates self support.

    I digress, Faith is a song that we all know but most of us have all forgotten. This song lies with in our hearts and is indefinable. We are connected to this planet and each other; example some of us have experienced ultimate sadness, some felt it so much that the sky pours down tears in the wake of it.
    I hate to use this example but its one that most can relate too, you remember just a year~ish or more ago when China was struck by the Tsunami and before that we had 911 that caused many in the US to swoon in agony, could it be all our anger and sadness traveled around the world and slapped China in its wake. Think about it a bit. Alone we can but stir the wind, together we can move mountains.

    I tried different Status of Religions and Meditations on for size, kinda like looking for a pair of shoes.
    To Glitzy and judgmental the religions where, i did not fit in they’re scriptures as I am Lesbian. I had to ask myself where is the joy of living if these books do nothing but condemn me, i chose not to depressed by this and through off the texts of religion. Although i did keep an open mind because even though i felt like i was being burned at the stake, there were some things i felt to be true.

    As for Meditations i mostly found that in Marijuana and LSD, cos as young person I am not good at sitting still. I wanted to know the unknowable, try to find stability in my less then accepted life, I even tossed myself out on to the streets where i lived without TV and all the amenities for about 10 years.
    During that period of time i found connections with so many things for myself. I found the best and the worst of who i was. I found there in the dirt everything i needed to know. At the age 28 i had enough of the filth and transcended in this life time to something greater then i was. I left the dirt and filth hardened of heart and less blind to the nature of man.

    You won’t know what it is your looking for till you have tasted the earth and been spit on by many.

    By and By, if you cried or shed a tear for the Tsunami victims in China and you didn’t know why. I can tell you its because you felt responsible.

    The most profound statement i found is Gods sees everything and is everywhere, could it just be simply we are that what we are told to worship? I think we are miss directed to keep us from our true potentials as a whole people, we should take care of one another love one another as best we can. A time will come when the song is to be sung that will save us and we can’t do it if we aren’t at peace with who we are. Don’t worry about the song when our hearts are in the right place it will sing it for us.

    I’m very sorry for the book~ish statements, its very hard to get across what is on my mind as i think it would take a book to do so. With everything we have its so hard not to sound religious when it is often decided a person is not religious anymore because of religion. The good and evil is what teaches us to be one way or another along with other elements around us. Makes it very hard to write in a way that doesn’t seem contrary.

    I encourage exploration, teaching one another, keeping an open mind when learning from another, don’t be afraid to try things, let your heart be your guide, don’t let fear govern you, keep a level and cautious head.

  • stan hatkoff

    My book “The brain, the mind and the spirit: How God communicates with you” not only discusses how God communicates with us, but how the mind emerges from the brain and the conscience (which I equate to the spirit) emerges from the mind…and how each is dependent on the other but each is also a separate entity with its own properties and not reducible to the other. You can take a look and see at my website: http://www.stanhatkoff.com.

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  • Himangsu Sekhar Pal

    IF GOD IS IN THE BRAIN ONLY, THEN RELATIVITY THEORY DOES NOT
    MAKE ANY SENSE

    Today’s scientists are like religious gurus of earlier times. Whatever they say are accepted as divine truths by lay public as well as the philosophers. When mystics have said that time is unreal, nobody has paid any heed to them. Rather there were some violent reactions against it from eminent philosophers. Richard M. Gale has said that if time is unreal, then 1) there are no temporal facts, 2) nothing is past, present or future and 3) nothing is earlier or later than anything else (Book: The philosophy of time, 1962). Bertrand Russell has also said something similar to that. But he went so far as to say that science, prudence, hope effort, morality-everything becomes meaningless if we accept the view that time is unreal (Mysticism, Book: religion and science, 1961).
    But when scientists have shown that at the speed of light time becomes unreal, these same philosophers have simply kept mum. Here also they could have raised their voice of protest. They could have said something like this: “What is your purpose here? Are you trying to popularize mystical world-view amongst us? If not, then why are you wasting your valuable time, money, and energy by explaining to us as to how time can become unreal? Are you mad?” Had they reacted like this, then that would have been consistent with their earlier outbursts. But they had not. This clearly indicates that a blind faith in science is working here. If mystics were mistaken in saying that time is unreal, then why is the same mistake being repeated by the scientists? Why are they now saying that there is no real division of time as past, present and future in the actual world? If there is no such division of time, then is time real, or, unreal? When his lifelong friend Michele Besso died, Einstein wrote in a letter to his widow that “the distinction between past, present and future is only a stubbornly persistent illusion.” Another scientist Paul Davies has also written in one of his books that time does not pass and that there is no such thing as past, present and future (Other Worlds, 1980). Is this very recent statement made by a scientist that “time does not pass” anything different from the much earlier statement made by the mystics that “time is unreal”?
    Now some scientists are trying to establish that mystics did not get their sense of spacelessness, timelessness through their meeting with a real divine being. Rather they got this sense from their own brain. But these scientists have forgotten one thing. They have forgotten that scientists are only concerned with the actual world, not with what some fools and idiots might have uttered while they were in deep trance. So if they at all explain as to how something can be timeless, then they will do so not because the parietal lobe of these mystics’ brain was almost completely shut down when they received their sense of timelessness, but because, and only because, there was, or, there was and still is, a timeless state in this universe.
    God is said to be spaceless, timeless. If someone now says that God does not exist, then the sentence “God is said to be spaceless, timeless” (S) can have three different meanings. S can mean:
    a) Nothing was/is spaceless, timeless in this universe (A),
    b) Not God, but someone else has been said to be spaceless, timeless here (B),
    c) Not God, but something else has been said to be spaceless, timeless here (C).
    It can be shown that if it is true that God does not exist, and if S is also true, then S can only mean C, but neither A nor B. If S means A, then the two words “spaceless” and “timeless” become two meaningless words, because by these two words we cannot indicate anyone or anything, simply because in this universe never there was, is, and will be, anyone or anything that could be properly called spaceless, timeless. Now the very big question is: how can some scientists find meaning and significance in a word like “timeless” that has got no meaning and significance in the real world? If nothing was timeless in the past, then time was not unreal in the past. If nothing is timeless at present, then time is not unreal at present. If nothing will be timeless in future, then time will not be unreal in future. If in this universe time was never unreal, if it is not now, and if it will never be, then why was it necessary for them to show as to how time could be unreal? If nothing was/is/will be timeless, then it can in no way be the business, concern, or headache of the scientists to show how anything can be timeless. If no one in this universe is immortal, then it can in no way be the business, concern, or headache of the scientists to show how anyone can be immortal. Simply, these are none of their business. So, what compelling reason was there behind their action here? If we cannot find any such compelling reason here, then we will be forced to conclude that scientists are involved in some useless activities here that have got no correspondence whatsoever with the actual world, and thus we lose complete faith in science. Therefore we cannot accept A as the proper meaning of S, as this will reduce some activities of the scientists to simply useless activities.
    Now can we accept B as the proper meaning of S? No, we cannot. Because there is no real difference in meaning between this sentence and S. Here one supernatural being has been merely replaced by another supernatural being. So, if S is true, then it can only mean that not God, but something else has been said to be spaceless, timeless. Now, what is this “something else” (SE)? Is it still in the universe? Or, was it in the past? Here there are two possibilities:
    a) In the past there was something in this universe that was spaceless, timeless,
    b) That spaceless, timeless thing (STT) is still there.
    We know that the second possibility will not be acceptable to atheists and scientists. So we will proceed with the first one. If STT was in the past, then was it in the very recent past? Or, was it in the universe billions and billions of years ago? Was only a tiny portion of the universe in spaceless, timeless condition? Or, was the whole universe in that condition? Modern science tells us that before the big bang that took place 13.7 billion years ago there was neither space, nor time. Space and time came into being along with the big bang only. So we can say that before the big bang this universe was in a spaceless, timeless state. So it may be that this is the STT. Is this STT then that SE of which mystics spoke when they said that God is spaceless, timeless? But this STT cannot be SE for several reasons. Because it was there 13.7 billion years ago. And man has appeared on earth only 2 to 3 million years ago. And mystical literatures are at the most 2500 years old, if not even less than that. So, if we now say that STT is SE, then we will have to admit that mystics have somehow come to know that almost 13.7 billion years ago this universe was in a spaceless, timeless condition, which is unbelievable. Therefore we cannot accept that STT is SE. The only other alternative is that this SE was not in the external world at all. As scientist Victor J. Stenger has said, so we can also say that this SE was in mystics’ head only. But if SE was in mystics’ head only, then why was it not kept buried there? Why was it necessary for the scientists to drag it in the outside world, and then to show as to how a state of timelessness could be reached? If mystics’ sense of timelessness was in no way connected with the external world, then how will one justify scientists’ action here? Did these scientists think that the inside portion of the mystics’ head is the real world? And so, when these mystics got their sense of timelessness from their head only and not from any other external source, then that should only be construed as a state of timelessness in the real world? And therefore, as scientists they were obliged to show as to how that state could be reached?
    We can conclude this essay with the following observations: If mystical experience is a hallucination, then SE cannot be in the external world. Because in that case mystics’ sense of spacelessness, timelessness will have a correspondence with some external fact, and therefore it will no longer remain a hallucination. But if SE is in mystics’ head only, then that will also create a severe problem. Because in that case we are admitting that the inside portion of mystics’ head is the real world for the scientists. That is why when mystics get their sense of timelessness from their brain, that sense is treated by these scientists as a state of timelessness in the real world, and accordingly they proceed to explain as to how that state can be reached. And we end up this essay with this absurd statement: If mystical experience is a hallucination, then the inside portion of mystics’ head is the real world for the scientists.

Jennifer Gibson, PharmD

Jennifer Gibson, PharmD, is a practicing clinical pharmacist and medical writer/editor with experience in researching and preparing scientific publications, developing public relations materials, creating educational resources and presentations, and editing technical manuscripts. She is the owner of Excalibur Scientific, LLC.
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