Sunday, January 23, 2011


There is a book out that I am dying to read: Principles of Neurotheology. In it, a scientist (Dr. Andrew Newberg) starts out by doing brain scans of meditating Buddhists, chanting Sikhs, and praying nuns. New berg found that brains are different while doing any of these practices, and the brains of people who do them often are significantly different than those who do not. What he found was interesting enough to try out religious practices to help people with memory loss.

Neurotheology is attempting to understand spiritual experience — and what happens in the brains and bodies of people who believe they connect with the divine.

From an NPR feature on the book:
Newberg's scans have also shown the ways in which religious practices, like meditation, can help shape a brain. Newberg describes one study in which he worked with older individuals who were experiencing memory problems. Newberg took scans of their brains, then taught them a mantra-based type of meditation and asked them to practice that meditation 12 minutes a day for eight weeks. At the end of the eight weeks, they came back for another scan, and Newberg found some dramatic differences. "We found some very significant and profound changes in their brain just at rest, particularly in the areas of the brain that help us to focus our mind and to focus our attention," he says. More than half of adult Americans report that a spiritual experience has changed their lives. According to Newberg, many of the participants related that they were thinking more clearly and were better able to remember things after eight weeks of meditation. Remarkably, the new scans and memory tests confirmed their claims. "They had improvements of about 10 or 15 percent," Newberg says. "This is only after eight weeks at 12 minutes a day, so you can imagine what happens in people who are deeply religious and spiritual and are doing these practices for hours a day for years and years."
As a Witch, I know that what happens in my brain affects other things, can indeed affect all the worlds. Religious practices hone the brain into a sharp instrument- and science is just beginning to catch up with centuries of religious practices in almost every tradition.

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