In the beginning – only a couple of generations ago, there was neuroanatomy; then came neurology and neurophysiology, and neurochemistry.
And now… Neurotheology or Neurospirituality. The emerging new field that not only studies the brains and brain functioning of men and women committed to a wide range of spiritual practices, but may actually lead to greater spiritual experiences – even for non-believers.
“We’ve known for years that Buddhist monks and Catholic nuns can boost their ‘brain power’ through prayer and meditation, but the newest research appears to indicate that everyone, including atheists and agnostics, can experience many of the mental benefits derived from religious practices,” reported Francis J. Flynn, Psy.D., CAP, president of Brain Training Centers of Florida.
Flynn points to How God Changes Your Brain, a “critical new work” by Andrew Newberg, as a “must read” for men and women interested in personal/spiritual growth or simply experiencing the profound benefits of spiritual practices.
Newberg, director of the Center for Spirituality and the Mind at the University of Pennsylvania, and co-author Mark Robert Waldman, a therapist at the Center, point out that “neurotheology” – the study of the brain’s role in religious belief – is starting to allow scientists and understand what happens in believer’s brains when they contemplate God.
Newberg and Waldman draw attention to “god circuits” – neural systems in several different parts of the brain – that become active in the practice of mediation. These same circuits, including the parietal-frontal circuit and parts of the frontal lobe, play a role in creating and integrating ideas about God.
“This new work is especially exciting for men and women who are already actively involved in meditation – for spiritual growth or as a part of a 12-Step program of recovery,” notes Flynn. He reports that in the past year the Brain Training Centers of Florida has served several clients with histories of “from five to more than thirty years of daily meditation. In every case, they reported that their Brain Training experiences intensified and deepened their meditation practices – adding new, albeit anecdotal evidence to the effectiveness of combining the newest in computer sciences and neurological studies to ancient forms of spirituality.”
“It’s possible that even the most religiously committed men, and individuals who are simply seeking a greater connectedness to the Universe or their individual Higher Power can now experience significant personal breakthroughs using the gift of technology,” noted Flynn.