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Information about TransSpirit

Published on February 4, 2008

Author: Dante


Trans-Spirit:  Religion, Spirituality & Transhumanism Trans-Spirit Michael LaTorra New Mexico State University, USA What is Trans-Spirit?:  What is Trans-Spirit? Trans-Spirit is a transhumanist approach to religion & spirituality Trans-Spirit is not a new religion or spiritual practice but a new approach to these subjects Trans-Spirit:  Trans-Spirit Trans-Spirit engages in free enquiry and a scientific approach Trans-Spirit rejects authoritarian, self-aggrandizing and self-serving spiritual claims and claimants Trans-Spirit & Science:  Retrospective studies of individuals who have reported significant religious & spiritual experiences Prospective studies of induced religious & spiritual experiences Trans-Spirit & Science Trans-Spirit & Science:  Need for a: General Theory of Religion Special Theory of Spirituality Trans-Spirit & Science Trans-Spirit & Science:  Best current candidate for a General Theory of Religion: Pascal Boyer’s “Religion Explained” Trans-Spirit & Science Pascal Boyer:  Pascal Boyer “We can explain human sensitivity to particular kinds of supernatural concepts as a by-product of the way human minds operate in ordinary, non-religious contexts.” 1 Prof. Boyer Washington University Departments of Psychology and Anthropology Pascal Boyer:  Pascal Boyer “Game theory is for aliens.” – Boyer 2 Although people have a constant experience of social life, they do not understand it (or at least, not very well) Our social interaction systems evolved for life in small bands The invisible hand of cultural selection leads people to select and transmit religious ideas that seem most plausible in given circumstances Pascal Boyer:  Pascal Boyer Pascal Boyer:  Pascal Boyer Pascal Boyer:  Pascal Boyer Pascal Boyer:  Pascal Boyer Pascal Boyer:  Pascal Boyer Pascal Boyer:  Pascal Boyer Pascal Boyer:  Pascal Boyer Pascal Boyer:  Pascal Boyer Pascal Boyer:  Pascal Boyer Pascal Boyer:  Pascal Boyer From Religion…:  …to Spirituality From Religion… Trans-Spirit & Science:  Trans-Spirit & Science Some current ideas for a Special Theory of Spirituality from: Michael Persinger Todd Murphy Michael Persinger:  Michael Persinger “As a human being, I am concerned about the illusionary explanations for human consciousness and the future of human existence. … I began the systematic application of complex electromagnetic fields to discern the patterns that will induce experiences (sensed presence) that are attributed to the myriad of ego-alien intrusions which range from gods to aliens. 4 Prof. Persinger, Laurentian University Department of Behavioural Neuroscience Michael Persinger:  Michael Persinger “The research is not to demean anyone's religious/mystical experience but instead to determine which portions of the brain or its electromagnetic patterns generate the experience. Two thousand years of philosophy have taught us that attempting to prove or disprove realities may never have discrete verbal (linguistic) solutions because of the limitation of this measurement. 4 Michael Persinger:  Michael Persinger “The research has been encouraged by the historical fact that most wars and group degradations are coupled implicitly to god beliefs and to the presumption that those who do not believe the same as the experient are somehow less human and hence expendable. 4 Michael Persinger:  Michael Persinger “Although these egocentric propensities may have had adaptive significance, their utility for the species' future may be questionable.” 4 Todd Murphy:  Todd Murphy Behavioral Neuroscientist, research associate of Persinger Primary Interests: “The use of complex magnetic fields applied through the brain to induce spiritual experiences and develop the individual's potential.” 5 Todd Murphy, PhD candidate Laurentian University Department of Behavioural Neuroscience Todd Murphy:  Todd Murphy “My main interest is in understanding how the brain contributes to mystic, religious, and spiritual experiences. I want to use this understanding to find ways to induce them for those who need them. And to understand the transformations that follow when people have them unexpectedly.” 6 Todd Murphy:  Todd Murphy “Unlike many of my colleagues, I am not closed to psychic phenomena, tales of miracles, visitations by angels, and other experiences. I accept that these are real experiences, even though I may not be able to accept many of the traditional explanations for them.” 6 Todd Murphy:  Todd Murphy “Doing spiritual practice (or having a spiritual awakening), has an impact on the brain, the mind, and personality. These changes are pretty easy to predict, and very similar processes have been found in people with a certain type of epilepsy, which Hippocrates called ‘The sacred disease.’” 7 The Spiritual Personality Todd Murphy:  Todd Murphy “The personalities of people who are involved with spiritual practices like prayer, meditation and ceremony are shaped by the altered-state experiences their spirituality creates.” 7 The Spiritual Personality Todd Murphy:  Todd Murphy “The part of the brain that manages our states of consciousness, the temporal lobes, is a little busier in these people than most, producing personality traits that appear over and over among spiritually oriented people.” 7 The Spiritual Personality Todd Murphy:  Todd Murphy Temporal lobes are involved with: The Spiritual Personality language long-term memory storage emotional reactions perceiving spatial relationships music interpret smells interpret patterns in space/time maintain sense of self, including self-worth & independence 7 Todd Murphy:  Todd Murphy Temporal lobe epilepsy (TLE), or 'complex partial seizures' cause altered states of consciousness TLE begins in the amygdala and spreads into other areas Repeated TLE’s lower the threshold for more TLE’s to occur 7 The Spiritual Personality Todd Murphy:  Todd Murphy This self-reinforcing TLE process can result in a person having the experience associated with that brain part almost all the time (e.g., a person whose seizures include an hallucinated smell might find that he has a sharper-than-usual sense of smell at all other times). 7 The Spiritual Personality Todd Murphy:  Todd Murphy Results of an ongoing study show that people who do spiritual practice of any kind have more of the subtler signs of TLE than people who don't. Their personalities also show many of the traits that TL epileptics show. 7 The Spiritual Personality Todd Murphy:  Todd Murphy They may talk at length and they won't want to change the subject until they are through with it They may write almost compulsively at times, a trait called hypergraphia The Spiritual Personality Todd Murphy:  Todd Murphy The Spiritual Personality TL epileptics become more emotionally sensitive, commonly with extra irritability Spiritual aspirants (e.g. monks & nuns; meditators) withdraw from the world, avoiding socially intense situations to defend themselves from verbal assaults, and avoid those who aren't like-minded One study of TL epileptics found they were more likely than others to undergo multiple religious conversions 7 Todd Murphy:  Todd Murphy Humans seem to have 2 senses of self: left hemispheric & right hemispheric Pathways of self-sense on each side include the 2 amygdalae When amygdalae fall out of phase, 'self' on the left can become aware of activities on the right Right-sided self-sense is experienced as outer (ego-alien) 'presence' 7 The Spiritual Personality Todd Murphy:  Todd Murphy Loss of mastery by the left ‘self’ tends to reduce the person’s self-esteem in normal states of consciousness The person can suffer a ‘dark night of the soul’ doubting self-worth 7 The Spiritual Personality Todd Murphy:  Todd Murphy Typical compensation strategy for this doubt is to become ‘holier than thou’ and they: have a ‘spiritual’ answer and explanation for every event give a ‘spiritual’ interpretation to the failings of others dismiss comments they don’t want to hear 7 The Spiritual Personality Todd Murphy:  Todd Murphy Spiritual leaders (gurus, priests, ministers) have power, prestige and high self-esteem TL epileptics with low self-esteem make perfect disciples Perfect disciples always see the guru as being higher 7 The Spiritual Personality Todd Murphy:  Todd Murphy Guru devotion allows low-self esteem to be acted out in a constructive way Being subordinate is rewarded in communities gathered around a spiritual master Outside their community, they can discount what others say (“They don't know the truth.”) Such a believer need not pay any heed to slights or challenging remarks from others 7 The Spiritual Personality Todd Murphy:  Todd Murphy Cults, religions, and spiritual traditions embrace those in a state of sadness or despair by claiming to have The Answer. What these groups offer actually works: It’s an effective, millennia-old coping strategy that has stood the test of time far longer than any kind of psychotherapy 7 The Spiritual Personality The Dark Side:  The Dark Side Religion may comfort by distorting one’s view of reality Spiritual ecstasy is often followed by a profound let-down in mood and energy Religious & spiritual dogmas (official interpretations) stop free enquiry & investigation of alternative explanations Development of deep meditative states tends to inhibit the ability to sustain logical & scientific thinking Retrospective Studies:  Retrospective Studies Ignore the person’s interpretations of his/her spiritual experiences Focus on the circumstances in which spiritual experiences occurred Look for information about patterns & frequencies of light, sound, motion in each case Retrospective Studies:  Retrospective Studies Investigate possible influences from geomagnetic fields Consider possible effects of diets, diseases & drugs Note reports of side-effects on balance, perception, mood-swings Look for admissions of negative after-effects Retrospective Studies:  Retrospective Studies Consider self-reports of feelings that occur during some spiritual episodes: extreme self-confidence (arrogance of authority) absolute certainty (unquestioned intuition) Retrospective Studies:  Retrospective Studies sensation of floating disconnection from external reality (“It’s all a dream”) sense of mission (“It’s vital to spread the word”) Retrospective Studies:  Retrospective Studies sensation of internal energy flows (“current”) apparent capacity to “induce” similar experiences in others who are receptive to it Prospective Studies:  Prospective Studies “The religion of the future should transcend a personal God and avoid dogma and theology. … Prospective Studies:  Prospective Studies “Covering both natural and spiritual, it should be based on a religious sense arising from the experience of all things natural and spiritual as a meaningful unity.… Prospective Studies:  Prospective Studies “Buddhism answers this description… If ever there is any religion that would cope with modern scientific needs it would be Buddhism.” - Albert Einstein 8 Prospective Studies:  Prospective Studies Dalai Lama at MIT for conference: "Investigating the Mind: Exchanges Between Buddhism and the Biobehavioral Sciences on How the Mind Works." Prospective Studies:  Prospective Studies "I'm seeking scientific backing or findings in order to help everybody have a happy mind," - Dalai Lama.9 Prospective Studies:  Prospective Studies “…few studies have focused on those singular instances when ordinary levels of meditation suddenly drop off into the state of genuine deep internal absorption. These absorptions are rare. They need to be carefully studied, at the very moment they occur, using modern techniques.” 10 Conclusion:  Conclusion Trans-Spirit as a transhumanist approach to religion & spirituality Encourage free enquiry and a scientific approach: neurotheology Examine past reports of spiritual experiences in light of modern neuroscience Conduct controlled experiments to learn how and why spiritual experiences occur

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