A look at whatever is left of the brain of those who cannot love

As a Cognitive Behavioral psychotherapist I really appreciates the research on the impact of positive and negative thoughts on human brain. Also, I am grateful for the wealth of knowledge and wisdom on how religion can be and must be the main instrument for happiness and unity for all humanity. Much to my delight science is doing its work and in harmony with true religion it is helping us to know and to love also.

Recently I was delighted to come across an article called “A Searcher With Faith in Mind” by Michael Gerson in Washington Post dated
Wednesday, April 15, 2009; Page A19

The article is an interviews with one of my favorite scientists Andrew Newberg,whom he says; “is perhaps America’s leading expert on the neurological basis of religion,… His new book, “How God Changes Your Brain,” co-authored with Mark Robert Waldman, summarizes several years of groundbreaking research on the biological basis of religious experience.

Using brain imaging studies of Franciscan nuns and Buddhist practitioners, and Sikhs and Sufis — along with everyday people new to meditation — Newberg asserts that traditional spiritual practices such as prayer and breath control can alter the neural connections of the brain, leading to “long-lasting states of unity, peacefulness and love.” He assures the mystically challenged (such as myself) that these neural networks begin to develop quickly — a matter of weeks in meditation, not decades on a Tibetan mountaintop. And though Meditation does not require a belief in God, strong religious belief amplifies its effect on the brain and enhances “social awareness and empathy while subduing destructive feelings and emotions.”

. “Neuroscience cannot tell you if God does or doesn’t exist,” Newberg states with. Neurobiology helps explain religion; it does not explain it away.

But Newberg’s research offers warnings for the religious as well. Contemplating a loving God strengthens portions of our brain — particularly the frontal lobes and the anterior cingulate — where empathy and reason reside. Contemplating a wrathful God empowers the limbic system, which is “filled with aggression and fear.” It is a sobering concept: The God we choose to love changes us into his image, whether he exists or not.

For Newberg, this is not a simple critique of religious fundamentalism — a phenomenon varied in its beliefs and motivations. It is a criticism of any institution that allies ideology or faith with anger and selfishness. “The enemy is not religion,” writes Newberg, “the enemy is anger, hostility, intolerance, separatism, extreme idealism, and prejudicial fear — be it secular, religious, or political.”
Newberg employs a vivid image: two packs of neurological wolves, he says, are found in every brain. One pack is old and powerful, oriented toward survival and anger. The other is composed of pups — the newer parts of the brain, more creative and compassionate — “but they are also neurologically vulnerable and slow when compared to the activity in the emotional parts of the brain.” So all human beings are left with a question: Which pack do we feed?
“How God Changes Your Brain” has many revelations — and a few limitations. In a practical, how-to tone, it predicts “an epiphany that can improve the inner quality of your life. For most Americans, that is what spirituality is about.” But if this is what spirituality is all about, it isn’t about very much. Mature faith sometimes involves self-sacrifice, not self-actualization; anguish, not comfort. If the primary goal of religion is escape or contentment, there are other, even more practical methods to consider. “I didn’t go to religion to make me happy,” said C.S. Lewis, “I always knew a bottle of port would do that.” The same could be said of psychedelic drugs, which can mimic spiritual ecstasy.”

You can read the full article by referring to www.washigtonpost.come

The Bahaí Teaching agrees with Dr. Newberg that religion is only a means and not an end. The Bahaí teachings, however, distinguishes true religion from a man made one by its fruits of love, unity, concord, peace, compassion and the whole host of divine attributes. Abdu’l-Baha explains “The faith of God and religion of God hath been revealed and manifested from the heaven of the Will of the King of Preexistence only for the union and concord of the dwellers upon earth: make it not a cause of discord and dissension.”

I would like to invite the Bahaí children in Iran and their loving and beleaguered Bahaí community to form a circle of love and unity around this inspired scientist while we share with him and others the following talk by Abdu’l-Baha on meditation and its effect on human mind and spirit.

ADDRESS BY ABDU’L-BAH?
AT THE FRIENDS’ MEETING HOUSE, ST MARTIN’S
LANE, LONDON, W.C.
Sunday, January 12th, 1913

About one thousand years ago a society was formed in Persia called the Society of the Friends, who gathered together for silent communion with the Almighty.

They divided Divine philosophy into two parts: one kind is that of which the knowledge can be acquired through lectures and study in schools and colleges. The second kind of philosophy was that of the Illuminati, or followers of the inner light. The schools of this philosophy were held in silence. Meditating, and turning their faces to the Source of Light, from that central Light the mysteries of the Kingdom were reflected in the hearts of these people. All the Divine problems were solved by this power of illumination.

This Society of Friends increased greatly in Persia, and up to the present time their societies exist. Many books and epistles were written by their leaders. When they assemble in their meeting-house they sit silently and contemplate; their leader opens with a certain proposition, and says to the assembly ‘You must meditate on this problem’. Then, freeing their minds from everything else, they sit and reflect, and before long the answer is revealed to them. Many abstruse divine questions are solved by this illumination. 174

Some of the great questions unfolding from the rays of the Sun of Reality upon the mind of man are: the problem of the reality of the spirit of man; of the birth of the spirit; of its birth from this world into the world of God; the question of the inner life of the spirit and of its fate after its ascension from the body.

They also meditate upon the scientific questions of the day, and these are likewise solved.

These people, who are called ‘Followers of the inner light’, attain to a superlative degree of power, and are entirely freed from blind dogmas and imitations. Men rely on the statements of these people: by themselves — within themselves — they solve all mysteries.

If they find a solution with the assistance of the inner light, they accept it, and afterwards they declare it: otherwise they would consider it a matter of blind imitation. They go so far as to reflect upon the essential nature of the Divinity, of the Divine revelation, of the manifestation of the Deity in this world. All the divine and scientific questions are solved by them through the power of the spirit.

Baha’u’llah says there is a sign (from God) in every phenomenon: the sign of the intellect is contemplation and the sign of contemplation is silence, because it is impossible for a man to do two things at one time — he cannot both speak and meditate.

It is an axiomatic fact that while you meditate you are speaking with your own spirit. In that state of mind you put certain questions to your spirit and the spirit answers: the light breaks forth and the reality is revealed.

You cannot apply the name ‘man’ to any being void of this faculty of meditation; without it he would be a mere animal, lower than the beasts.

Through the faculty of meditation man attains to eternal life; through it he receives the breath of the Holy Spirit — the bestowal of the Spirit is given in reflection and meditation.

The spirit of man is itself informed and strengthened during meditation; through it affairs of which man knew nothing are unfolded before his view. Through it he receives Divine inspiration, through it he receives heavenly food.

Meditation is the key for opening the doors of mysteries. In that state man abstracts himself: in that state man withdraws himself from all outside objects; in that subjective mood he is immersed in the ocean of spiritual life and can unfold the secrets of things-in-themselves. To illustrate this, think of man as endowed with two kinds of sight; when the power of insight is being used the outward power of vision does not see.

This faculty of meditation frees man from the animal nature, discerns the reality of things, puts man in touch with God.

This faculty brings forth from the invisible plane the sciences and arts. Through the meditative faculty inventions are made possible, colossal undertakings are carried out; through it governments can run smoothly. Through this faculty man enters into the very Kingdom of God.

Nevertheless some thoughts are useless to man; they are like waves moving in the sea without result. But if the faculty of meditation is bathed in the inner light and characterized with divine attributes, the results will be confirmed.

The meditative faculty is akin to the mirror; if you put it before earthly objects it will reflect them. Therefore if the spirit of man is contemplating earthly subjects he will be informed of these.

But if you turn the mirror of your spirits heavenwards, the heavenly constellations and the rays of the Sun of Reality will be reflected in your hearts, and the virtues of the Kingdom will be obtained.

Therefore let us keep this faculty rightly directed — turning it to the heavenly Sun and not to earthly objects — so that we may discover the secrets of the Kingdom, and comprehend the allegories of the Bible and the mysteries of the spirit.

May we indeed become mirrors reflecting the heavenly realities, and may we become so pure as to reflect the stars of heaven.
(Abdu’l-Baha, Paris Talks, p. 172)

May the light of true religion envelop the whole earth for our children’s sake
Keyvan

divine attributes, eternal life,

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