Theology - Health, NeuroDevelopment and Neural Science
Neuro Theology - Neurotheology - - Neurotheology , also known as biotheology , is the study of the <>neural basis of spirituality. Neurotheology deals with the <>neurological and <>evolutionary basis for subjective experiences traditionally categorized as spiritual.
Terminology: Aldous Huxley used the term neurotheology for the first time in the utopian novel Island. the term is also sometimes used in a less scientific context or a philosophical context. Some of these uses, according to the mainstream scientific community, qualify as pseudoscience. Huxley used it mainly in a philosophical context.

The use of the term neurotheology in published scientific work is currently uncommon. A search on the citation indexing service provided by Institute for Scientific Information returns five articles. Three of these are published in the journal Zygon: Journal of Religion and Science, while two are published in American Behavioral Scientist. Work on the neural basis of spirituality has, however, occurred sporadically throughout the 20th century. Keywords for such work include 'deity', 'neurophysiological bases', 'spirituality' and 'mysticism'.

Defining and measuring spirituality

Neurotheology defines spiritual experiences to include subjective reports of phenomena such as:

The perception that time, fear or self-consciousness have dissolved
Spiritual awe
Oneness with the universe
Ecstatic trance
Sudden enlightenment
Altered states of consciousness

These subjective experiences are seen as the basis for many religious beliefs and behaviors.


Early studies in the 1950s and 1960s used EEGs to study brain - wave - patterns correlated with spiritual states. During the 1980s Dr. Michael Persinger stimulated the temporal lobes of human subjects with a weak magnetic field. His subjects claimed to have a sensation of "an ethereal presence in the room". This work gained a lot of publicity at the time.

Current studies use neuroimaging to localize brain - regions active, or differentially active, during spiritual experiences. David Wulf - , a psychologist at <>Wheaton College, Massachusetts, suggests that current brain - imaging studies, along with the consistency of spiritual experiences across cultures, history, and religions, "suggest a common core that is likely a reflection of structures and processes in the human brain - ".


An attempt to marry a materialistic approach like neuroscience to spirituality naturally attracts much criticism. Some of the criticism is philosophical, dealing with the (perceived) irreconcilability between science and spirituality, while some is more methodological, dealing with the issues of studying an experience as subjective as spirituality.

-Philosophical criticism

Critics of this approach, like philosopher Ken Wilber and religious scholar Huston Smith, see the more materialistic formulations of the approach as examples of reductionism and scientism that are only looking at the empirical aspects of the phenomena, and not including the possible yet improbable validity of spiritual experience with all of its subjectivity.

-Scientific criticism

In 2005 Pehr Granqvist, a psychologist at Uppsala University in Sweden - , questioned Dr. Michael Persinger's findings in a paper published in Neuroscience Letters. Granqvist claimed that Persinger's work was not "double blind." Those conducting Persinger's trials, who were often graduate students, knew what sort of results to expect, with the risk that the knowledge would be transmitted to experimental subjects by unconscious cues. They were also frequently given an idea of what was happening by being asked to fill in questionnaires designed to test their suggestibility to paranormal experiences before the trials were conducted. Granqvist set about conducting the experiment double blinded and found that the presence or absence of the field had no relationship with any religious or spiritual experience reported by the participants.

However, Persinger has stood by his findings, arguing that several of his previous experiments have explicitly used double- Blind protocols, and that Granqvist failed to fully replicate Persinger's experimental conditions 1.


Matthew Alper. The "God" Part of the Brain - : A Scientific Interpretation of Human Spirituality and God
Zen and the Brain - : Toward an Understanding of Meditation and Consciousness
James H. Austin. Zen- Brain - Reflections: Reviewing Recent Developments in Meditation and States of Consciousness
Andrew Newberg, Eugene G. D'Aquili and Vince Rause. Why God Won't Go Away: Brain - Science and the Biology of Belief 2. ISBN 0345440331

Further reading

Laurence O. McKinney, Neurotheology: Virtual Religion in the 21st Century, (1994) American Institute for Mindfulness - . ISBN 0945724012.
Andrew Neher, the Psychology of Transcendence, Dover, 2nd ed 1990, ISBN 0-486-26167-0
R. Joseph, Andrew Newberg, Matthew Alper, William James, Friedrich Nietzsche, Eugene G. d'Aquili, Michael Persinger, Carol Albright. NeuroTheology: Brain - , Science, Spirituality, Religious Experience by (2nd edition, 2003) University Press. ISBN 0971644586.
Your Brain - on Religion: Mystic visions or brain - circuits at work? (Newsweek Neurotheology Article, May 2001
Center for Cognitive Liberty and Ethics Neurotheology resource directory
This Is Your Brain - on God (Wired magazine, November 1999
Neurotheology: with God in Mind - Neurotheology Article
Laurentian University Dr. Michael Persinger's page
A symbolic perspective
Survey of spiritual experiences, by the University of Pennsylvania
Open Directory Project links on Neurotheology - Science, Social_Sciences, Psychology, Psychology and Religion, Neurotheology
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