HAVE A "SPIRITUAL BRAIN"? NEW STUDY SAYS YES
By Dr. Mohamed Elmasry
Do humans possess something more than body and mind? Or
are we what
computer scientists call WYSIWYG - What You See Is What
You Get - beings?
These questions all point to a fundamental issue that
has always been in
search of more and better answers: Do humans have a
entity, a soul or spirit, linking our corporeal and
Virtually every religious belief system formally answers
question in the affirmative; in mainstream faiths it is
part of their core
doctrine and all believers learn it. But even among
there are many skeptics when it comes to understanding a
part of us that we
can neither see nor quantify.
And Spirituality, the modern term for these matters of
the "third entity,"
is a very difficult subject to write about.
I know this from personal experience. It's been more
than half a decade
since I published Spiritual Fitness for Life; I even
have a copyright on
the phrase "spiritual fitness." Using the title's
implied parallel with
physical fitness; I tried to answer four basic
questions: What is spiritual
fitness? What are its benefits? How do we achieve it?
and, How is it
As much as I enjoyed writing my book, I knew even at the
outset that no
single individual can provide definitive and final
answers to any of these
leading questions. Since then, I have continued to
explore this fascinating
subject as others see it and recently read The Spiritual
Brain -- A
Neuroscientist's Case for the Existence of the Soul, by
Mario Beauregard, Ph.D. and Denyse O'Leary.
Denyse O'Leary is a Toronto-based freelance journalist.
And Dr. Mario
Beauregard's groundbreaking research on the neurobiology
experience at the University of Montreal has received
Their book attempts to answer a key question often posed
by skeptics: Do
religious experiences come from God, or are they merely
from our brain? And
the bottom-line answer of O'Leary and Beauregard's
thesis is: God creates
our spiritual experiences, not the brain.
Drawing on his research with Carmelite nuns, Dr.
Beauregard shows that
spiritual events can be documented and he offers
evidence that religious
experiences do have nonmaterial origins.
"The discipline of neuroscience today is materialist.
That is, it assumes
that the mind is quite simply the physical workings of
Beauregard writes. "Many scientists ignore hard evidence
their materialistic prejudice, clinging to the limited
view that our
experiences are explainable only by material causes, in
conviction that the physical world is the only reality.
materialism is at a loss to explain irrefutable accounts
of mind over
matter, of intuition, willpower, and leaps of faith, of
effect' in medicine, of near-death experiences on the
operating table, and
of psychic premonitions of a loved one in crisis, to say
nothing of the
occasional sense of oneness with nature and mystical
meditation or prayer."
Beauregard observes, however, that "recently,
materialistic explanations of
religion and spirituality have gotten out of hand.
Influenced by this
materialistic prejudice, popular media jump at stories
about the violence
gene, the fat gene, the monogamy gene, the infidelity
gene, and now, even a
He admits that "spiritual experiences are complex ...
like our experiences
of human relationships. They leave signatures in many
parts of the brain."
He also warns that "Materialism is apparently unable to
questions about the nature of being human and has little
prospect of ever
answering them intelligibly. It has also convinced
millions of people that
they should not seek to develop their spiritual nature
because they have
Yet, he argues, "when spiritual experiences transform
lives, the most
reasonable explanation and the one that best accounts
for all the evidence
is that the people who have such experiences have
actually contacted a
reality outside themselves, a reality that has brought
them closer to the
real nature of the universe."
O'Leary and Beauregard have presented a very good read
on a very difficult
and elusive subject. Yet even hardened skeptics would
agree with them that
"Spirituality today is more varied, but it is growing
all over the world."
(Dr. Mohamed Elmasry, professor emeritus of computer
engineering at the
University of Waterloo, is national president of the