Friday, July 29, 2016

Friday atheist challenge: God Argument Laws of Nature and phsyics

 photo European-lab-Close-to-finding-God-particle-NAN19NH-x-large.jpg

I put this up on the blog a couple of months ago. Never got around to doing it for a fun filled Friday atheist challenge, which this is. It's an update of my old Doxa argument "fire in the equations."

If you recall last time I posted a prolegomena to an argument from laws of nature. In other words, an argument for existence of God based upon laws of physics and nature. That article was just thinking getting ready to make such an argument, Here I am making it. I encourage the reader to go back and read the article fist if you haven't already. The point is two fold:  the folks on Secular Outpost were so dubious of any such argument  and the presentation that set them off so deserved their ire (designed by Campus Crusade for Christ[1], that I felt like I had to try to (a) prove to the atheists there is a potential argument there and show my fellow Christians how to find it, at to offer  direction in which to move.

The bad argument on the website was purely a "god of the gaps" argument:

How is it that we can identify laws of nature that never change? Why is the universe so orderly, so reliable?"The greatest scientists have been struck by how strange this is. There is no logical necessity for a universe that obeys rules, let alone one that abides by the rules of mathematics. This astonishment springs from the recognition that the universe doesn't have to behave this way. It is easy to imagine a universe in which conditions change unpredictably from instant to instant, or even a universe in which things pop in and out of existence."[2]
The only rational upon which the argument turns is the mystery concerning how laws work. That is a god of the gaps argument by definition, textbook. My arguments begins by stating a rational that, while it may hard to prove, is at least not a gap in knowledge, at least not only a gap. The problem with gaps is that they close up. Yet if we can demonstrate that mind is a more solid basis for the seeming law-like regularity of the universe that night make for a better explanation.[3] The argument:

1) mind is the most efficient and dependable source of ordering we know,

(2) Random ordering is usually inefficient and the odds are against it's dependability. 

(3) The Universe Displays a Law-like efficiency and dependability in the workings of it's natural machinations. 

(4) Such efficiency and dependability is indicative of mind as ordering principle (from 1,3), therefore, it is logical to assume mind as the best explanation for the dependability of the universe..

(5) A mind that orders the universe fits the major job description for God, Thus mind is the best explanation, assuming the choices are mind vs random chance.

Notice I said nothing about law implying a law giver. The rational for mind is not based upon analogies to law. This does raise the one real sticking point, premises 1-2. Can we prove that mind is the best explanation for law-like regularity? I'm going to assume that it's pretty obvious that (P3) universe displays like-like efficiency. Also I don't think it will be such a struggle to prove 4-5 linking a mind that orders the universe with God. Therefore I wont bother to argue those here. Thus I will concern myself primarily with P's 1-2.

Certain schools of philosophy hold that an inference to the best explanation is a valid argument. That is if one amid a variety of explanations has a more significant likelihood of coming true, and is more in line with prevailing theory and serves to explain more of the data then that hypothesis can be warranted as "the best explanation,"[4Ratzsch goes on to quote Peter Lipton: "According to Inference to the Best Explanation … [g]iven our data and our background beliefs, we infer what would if true, provide the best of the competing explanations we can generate of those data (so long as the best is good enough for us to make any inference at all)."[5]

That complexity and efficacy are indicative of mind as an organizing principle might be hard or impossible to pull off but it makes sense on one level. Through complexity and fitedness one might deduce purpose or telos, and mind might be indicted in that sense.
All the richness and diversity of matter and energy we observe today has emerged since the beginning in a long and complicated sequence of self- organizing physical processes. The laws of physics not only permit a universe to originate spontaneously, but they encourage it to organize and complexify itself to the point where conscious beings emerge who can look back on the great cosmic drama and reflect on what it all means."

...The laws that characterize our actual universe, as opposed to an infinite number of alternative possible universes, seem almost contrived-fine-tuned, some commentators have claimed-so that life and consciousness may emerge. To quote Dyson again: it is almost as if "the universe knew we were coming." I cannot prove to you that this is design, but whatever it is it is certainly very clever][6]
Now the secularist skeptic might argue evolution demonstrates an organizing principle producing great complexity and in mindless fashion, While that might be the case the problem is evolution is surely the product of the law-like regularity and not it's cause. Presumably then we need laws to make evolutionary processes work and so we have not explained anything. even so the skeptic can always fall back on the fact that we don't have a world that we know is or is not designed by a mind to which we compare our own world. Even though P1 might make sense there is no way to prove it. Not having an undesigned universe to compare may mean that we can't prove the existence of God by the argument here advanced, It does not necessarily mean the argument is not a good one. If we forget about proof and talk about warrant: it may not be proof but it is probably the best explanation and that may warrant belief.
 In arguments of this type, superior explanatory virtues of a theory are taken as constituting decisive epistemic support for theory acceptability, warranted belief of the theory, and likely truth of the theory. There are, of course, multitudes of purported explanatory, epistemic virtues, including the incomplete list a couple paragraphs back (and lists of such have evolved over time). Assessing hypotheses in terms of such virtues is frequently contentious, depending, as it does, on perceptions of ill-defined characteristics, differences in background conceptual stances, and the like. Still, in general we frequently manage rough and ready resolutions...[7]

The argument does turn on the premise of a design argument but it could be considered more than that. Hawking ascribes the origin of the universe to the laws of physics, particularly gravity He certainly seems to indicate that they are more than just descriptions of what happens. Yet he makes no attempt to explain where these laws come from. In the sense mind offers a more complete explanation it could be the "best."

Stephen Hawking wrote a book, The Grand Design. in which he argued that gravity accounts for the existence of everything else:

If the total energy of the universe must always remain zero, and it costs energy to create a body, how can a whole universe be created from nothing? That is why there must be a law like gravity. Because gravity is attractive, gravitational energy is negative….Bodies such as stars or black holes cannot just appear out of nothing. But a whole universe can….Because there is a law like gravity, the universe can and will create itself from nothing in the manner described in Chapter 6. Spontaneous creation is the reason there is something rather than nothing, why the universe exists, why we exist. It is not necessary to invoke God to light the blue touch paper and set the universe going.[8]

Edger Anders discusses the problem with this approach:
So gravity is God. Unfortunately the authors have no time to tell us who created gravity (earlier they rule out God because no one could explain who created him). Nor can they tell us why matter and gravity should pop out of nothing, except to argue that ‘nothing’ undergoes quantum fluctuations. However, this requires that (like gravity) the laws of quantum mechanics pre-existed the universe and that ‘nothing’ possesses the properties of normal space, which is part of the created order and cannot be its antecedent.[9]

Were I involved in a debate ageist a seasoned great thinker or some professional philosopher this is not the argument I  would use. I think it is a valid warrant for belief, the best explanation for law-like regularity.


[1] Bradly Bowen, Adamson's Cru [de] Arguments for God part 1, Secular Outpost, (April 25, 2016) blog URL:
accessed April 28, 2016

[2] Marlyn Adamson, "Is There a God," Every Student, Published by Campus Crusade for Christ
On line resource, URL:
She sites fn 11:Dinesh D'Souza, What's So Great about Christianity; (Regnery Publishing, Inc, 2007, chapter 

[3] I recently posted on criteria by which to judge best explanation.

[4] Ratzsch, Del and Koperski, Jeffrey, "Teleological Arguments for God's Existence", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Spring 2016 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), URL = .<>. 

[5] Peter Lipton, Inference to the Best Explanation. 1st Edition. London: Routledge (1991, 58): quoted in Ratzsch, Ibid. 

[6] ."Paul Davies, "Physics and the Mind o God; Templeton Award Address, First Things ON LINE URL accessed 1/1/16

Paul Davies is Professor of Mathematical Physics at the University of Adelaide in Australia and the twenty-fifth recipient of the Templeton Prize for Progress in Religion, which he received on May 3, 1995 at Westminster Abbey. His books include The Mind of God, God and New Physics, The Cosmic Blueprint, Superforce, and Other Worlds.

[7] Ratzsch, Ibid.

[8] Stephen Hawking and Leonard Mlodinow, The Grand Design, New York: Bantum Books, 2010. 180

[9] Edgar Andres, “Review: the Grand Design,” Challies'.com, Tim Challies, on line reouce, URL: acessed 10/4/15
Andres is Emeritus professor University of London. Physicist and an expert on large molecules. Born 1932

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Who created God?

God's Love

Last time I introduced a tie breaker that busts up the log Jam between God who needs no cause and atheist notion of a universe that needs no cause. Atheists always turn to the question "who created God?" when theists ask the origin of the universe, the theist says "God doesn't need a cause he's eternal." The atheist then says "so is the universe so there's no difference." There is a vast difference.
But how to prove that? Failing proof we can at least understand why God and the universe are on a different par, that is what the tie breaker does. The issue was couched in terms of brute fact. The universe is a brute fact, if it is not created by  by God, but God cannot be a brute fact. The tie breaker is the basic difference. The essential difference is summed up in the old existentialist distinction of Jean-Paul Sartre between being-in-itself vs. being-for-itself. Within that framework we are looking at God as the origin of both being and love.

God is not the result of any  purpose higher than himself, but that doesn't mean he is bereft of purpose. Just as God is the final cause of all causes so God is the ground of  all purpose,will, and volition, There is a link between  love and being such that God's nature as the ground of being also makes him the ground of love. This means God has purpose thus is not a brute fact. Everything begins with God and thus God is the source of Love. Modern secular thinkers try to truncate reality and argue that love is just a nice little emotional feeling that is caused by brain chemistry. Love is much more, Love is an ontological reality that transcends any emotional feeling. Paul Tillich writes about the ontological basis of love and he finds that it is neither limited to nor can leave out the emotional aspect. He finds that there is a clear relationship between Being itself and love.[1] 

Tillich's version of ontology is very Heideggerian. Ontology is not  a description of things in the world but a reflection upon the nature of what it means to be. Primordial being is one thing that becomes diversified and forms qualities such as power and justice which are offshoots or aspects of love. Love is a reunification. Travis Pickell explains:

This means that he grounds his understanding of the relation between love and justice (and power) in an analysis of how each concept relates to “Being itself.” Love is basically a drive toward reunion of what has been separated from an original unity of being (25). Power is being “realizing itself with increasing intensity and extensity” (35). Justice is the “form” adequate to being in reunion, i.e. love (62). Given this method, which presupposes an original unity of everything in “Being itself,” it is not surprising that the basic relation between love and justice (and power) is a “unity.”[2]
Ontology seeks to reveal the texture of being,what it means to be, not detailed analysis of all beings. [3] In the reunion of being and love we can sense a passion of creativity that seeks to bestow being as an act of love. Thus God's creativeness is not a lack in God but an act of love itself. The question of what it means to be raises the question of human finitude in the face of the infinite, Hans Urs Von Balthasar asks these questions. The common human tendency is to think God created because he needed something. Balthasar is hinting, I think, that God creates because its his nature as being to foment more being.In other words, its creative and God is Creative. It is not for God’s need that he creates but for what will become our need once we are created. In other words, God created us so that we can enjoy being, not because he needed us because once a part of being we would need and would be fulfilled in the need by love.

No Philosophy could give a satisfactory response to that question [why did infinte create finite?] St Paul would say to philosophers that God created man so that he would seek the Divine, try to obtain the Divine. That is why all pre Christian philosophy is theological at its summit. But, in fact, the true response to philosophy could only be given by Being himself, revealing himself from himself. Will man be capable of understanding this revelation? The affirmative response will be given only by the God of the Bible. On the one hand this God, creator of the world and of man, knows his creature. “I who have created the eye do not see? I who have created the ear do not hear?” And we add who who have created language, could not speak and make myself heard?” This posits a counterpart: to be able to hear and understand the auto-revelation of God man must in himself be a search for God, a question posed to him. Thus there is Biblical theology without a religious philosophy. Human reason must be open to the infinite.[4]

Notice how he capitalizes “B” in being and refers to being as “himself.” He personifies being and clearly speaks of it as the creator.

Balthasar sees the understanding of the revelation of “being himself” (my phrase based upon his) to humanity as rooted in the most fundamental human relationship. He says, “the infant is brought to consciousness of himself only by love, by the smile of his mother. In that encounter the horizon of all unlimited opens unto him.”[5] What he means by that is it is only through being por soir, for itself, in other words, consciousness, that we are able to comprehend the infinite and that only in contrast to the finite. Before we can do that, however, we have to become aware of ourselves so we can know we are finite. I think he’s making an implication that love is a link to being itself, and that through our encounter with love, the mother, we encounter the father, so to speak—by way of encountering love. We can see this in four truths that Balthasar finds rooted in this encounter:
(1) realizing that he Is other to the mother, the only way the child realizes he loves the mother; (2) love is good, therefore, being is good; (3) love is true, therefore, being is true; (4) love evokes joy therefore being is beautiful.[6] Notice the link between being and love. He is one of the rare theologians to point out this crucial link.

The one, the true, the good, the Beautiful, these are what we call the transcendental attributes of being, because they surpass all the limits of essence, and are coextensive with Being. If there is an insurmountable distance between God and his creature, but if there is also an analogy between them which cannot be resolved in any form of identity, there must also exist an analogy between the transcendentals—between those of the creature and those in God.[7]

In this quotation he as much as equates being and God, since he speaks of the attributes of being then connects the understanding of these to the link between God and the creature. There is more to be said about Balthasar based upon this observation and it will figure importantly in two more chapters, including the last one, and the over all conclusion.

John Macquarrie, another major Theologian who asserts that God is Being itself, calls God "primordial being.' He speaks of Being as "letting be." God's creative nature and his creative acts are summed up in this phrase. God's act of creation is an expressionism of his loving nature.[8] Macquarrie understands the Trinity, not as a modality, but as diversified functionality within primordial being (creator=father = primordial, Son = revelatory, Spirit= Unifying).[9]

Tillich discusses a historical tradition in philosophy in which an ontological aspect to love has played a role. "...from Empedocles and Plato, to Augustine and pico, to Hegel and Schelling to existentialism and depth psychology Love has placed a central ontological role."[10] That brings us to Sartre's concept of being por soir (being -for-itself).  That's not about love but it's a framework in which God's purpose might be be understood (to the extent that we can understand anything about
God). God as being itself means God is the basis of all that is, God is the ground or the foundation of all being. We might understand it this way: to be is either to be God or to be a creature of God; all being is bound up with God. Being has two aspects, in itself which  is inanimate, and or itself which is conscious. Human beings are part of being-for-itself,

About these two aspects Flynn says:

Being-in-itself and being-for-itself have mutually exclusive characteristics and yet we (human reality) are entities that combine both, which is the ontological root of our ambiguity. The in-itself is solid, self-identical, passive and inert. It simply “is.” The for-itself is fluid, nonself-identical, and dynamic. It is the internal negation or “nihilation” of the in-itself, on which it depends. Viewed more concretely, this duality is cast as “facticity” and “transcendence.” The “givens” of our situation such as our language, our environment, our previous choices and our very selves in their function as in-itself constitute our facticity. As conscious individuals, we transcend (surpass) this facticity in what constitutes our “situation.” In other words, we are always beings “in situation,” but the precise mixture of transcendence and facticity that forms any situation remains indeterminable, at least while we are engaged in it. Hence Sartre concludes that we are always “more” than our situation and that this is the ontological foundation of our freedom. We are “condemned” to be free, in his hyperbolic phrase.[11]

That in itself is the tie breaker, the universe by itself apart from God is merely being-in-itself, God is being-for-itself. That entails purpose which is creative love. The eternal necessary foundation of all being has a volition and a purpose which to create beings to love. Thus God and a hypothetical accidental universe are on different ontological levels.

That is the Answer to The Question  Who created God? Being-for-itself did. There has to be av stopping point to causes. With God as that stopping point there is purpose and with the universe there is not.


[1] Paul Tillich, Love, Power. and Justice: Ontological Analysis and Ethical Applications. London. Oxford, NewYork: Oxford university Press, 1954, 18-21.

[2] Travis Pickell, "Love and Justice 4: Tillich's Love, Power and Justice," What is More, blog published 09/28/2012, URL:
accessed 7/26/16

[3] Tillich, Op Cit, 20

[4] Hans Urs Von Balthasar, “A Resume of my Thought,” in David L. Schindler, Hans Urs Von Balthasar: His Life and Work. San Francisco:Ignatious Press, 1991, on like version p1-2 URL:

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Macquarrie, John. Principles of Christian Theology. New York: SCM Press, (1987)

[9] Ibid.

[10] Tillich, op cit, 4

[11] Flynn, Thomas, "Jean-Paul Sartre", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Fall 2013 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), URL = .  access 7/27/16

Monday, July 25, 2016

Tie breaker: God cannot be a brute fact


This is called Tie-breaker because it moves us past the log jam that results in saying God is uncased and timeless always has been always will be with cause, vs. the atheist argument that this is no better than  just saying the universe happens to be here for no reason. My friend Eric Sotnak, who has a great gift for sarcasm that is not lost on me, set's it up as a matter of brute facts. There is a huge literature on brute facts but I wont go into it because I don't have time and I'm no expert. A brute fact is a thing that exists for no higher purpose, it has no reason for being it just is. [1] Now some will argue that brute facts can have physical causes or not. Since we have no examples of anything in nature that has no cause that just leaves and the universe as a whole. So the comparison between atheism and theism is between  God who has no cause vs a universe that has no reason for being weather it has a physical cause o not Having no reason means it could as easily not be. Sotnak turns this into an argument agaisnt the existence of God, but couches it in terms of God as a brute fact:

Traditionally, theists have felt extremely uncomfortable with the idea of a “brute fact” – that something could have just happened without explanation. Instead, they have committed to variations on the Principle of Sufficient Reason (PSR).I think the main reason for this is that they know quite well that without PSR, they will have no way to rule out the hypothesis that maybe the universe is just a brute fact (no God required).But I think theists could comfort themselves a bit by shedding their anxiety about this. Imagine a conversation like this between a theist (T) and an atheist (A):

A: I think the universe is a brute fact.T: Not I. I think it was made by God.A: But then where did God come from?T: God is an eternal brute fact.A: How does that make you better off than me, then?T: Well, while no logical proof of God’s existence is possible, I have subjective or existential reasons for being a theist. It seems to me that I can feel the presence of God in the laughter of my children, for instance. For me, theism helps me to make sense of the world and comforts me with the hope that death isn’t final.A: But if God is a brute fact, that means he could, logically speaking, have failed to exist.T: Yup. So I feel extra lucky that he does.
Since God cannot fail to exist (definition of  necessary),that is an intrinsic part of the definition of God; then to say God is a BF in this sense is to say there is no God. One might believe in a demoted god who is not the God but a sort of very power strange being we don't know about. Zeus or something. This is why we need a tie breaker because there is a supposed tie between God as BF and the Universe as BF. God cam't be abrute fact and still be God in the Christian sense. Yet there is this seeming tie between un-caused God and uncaused universe. We have to do this in such a way that the universe can't be withouut a cause and God who has no cause cannot be a brute fact.

To break the tie we just need to distinguish between the two kinds of un-caused nature. The argument is going to turn-on the concept of a BF. The nature of God's un-caused state is not the same as the nature of BF. To be a BF a thing must have no connection to a higher purpose. God can't have a purpose higher than himself but he can have a purpose higher than mere brute facticity. Semantically the two are different, Brute facts have higher purpose, God has asaiety not brute facticity. That it is part of the definition of what God is that he eternal and necessary. It's not part of the definition of the universe that it exists. That's existence as a predicate. On that basis Bertrand Russell ruled out the ontological argument. Existence is not a quality to be defined as part of the object, "I have one of those brick houses it;s the kind that exists." That goes beyond the semantic aspect and it can be understood in terms of the nature of being.

God is being itself of the ground of being.[2] The universe is not the ground of being. Even if it has no cause and has always existed the universe cannot be called the ground of being without attaching to it some higher sense of special nature such that we can think of it ass "holy being." But before we do deifying the universe there is no reason to assume that the universe is eternal or uncased. If it was, if we could call it God there would be a God and atheists would be wrong , even if Christians were wrong too. We can eliminate that possibility.  We know the universe is not eternal [3] and It did not pop out of nothing.[4] The rea contest is between a meaningless accident that somehow came to be for no reason with no higher purpose ,which we call "the universe" vs.  the ground of being or holy being which eternal, necessary (could not have failed to exist) and eternal cohere's within the infinite folds of a core purpose upon which the all existence coheres. That is not  purpose higher than itself but is it;'s own purpose (that the universe doesn't have). 

Now I hear the question "so what is God's big purpose?" God is not just being itself but as such is being por soir. Jean-Paul Sartre's term meaning being for itself. The alternative is being in itself. (en soir). In itself is inanimate (universe) and for itself is conscious and purpose; the purpose is set by God's nature which is love. Love is the will to the good of the other. Being for itself means it has will, volition and purpose. That purpose is to love to create more being and to provide for the good of such being. That is going to open a lot questions about the nature of life and theodicy, that has to wait for another time, This breaks the tie because it gives God a  purpose, self authorized, which the BF doesn't have.

a couple of notes on Eric's dialogue:

A: I think the universe is a brute fact.T: Not I. I think it was made by God.A: But then where did God come from?T: God is an eternal brute fact.

No that is the wrong answer. He misidentifies aseity as brute fact which it is not. God has a purpose and is self perpetuated, the universe has no purpose and is not perpetuating itself. It has nothing to do with its own existence. Now we come to Eric's real gift of sarcasm:

T: Well, while no logical proof of God’s existence is possible, I have subjective or existential reasons for being a theist. It seems to me that I can feel the presence of God in the laughter of my children, for instance. For me, theism helps me to make sense of the world and comforts me with the hope that death isn’t final.
That's mockery of mystical experience, Yes God ks beyond our understanding, All the things we say about god are either very limited or metaphorical. The fact is the life transformation chances are proven fact established by 200 or more empirical scientific studies in peer reviewed journals. For more on this see my book The Trace of God by Joseph Hinman, on amazon.[5]

A: But if God is a brute fact, that means he could, logically speaking, have failed to exist.T: Yup. So I feel extra lucky that he does.

That would be a conceptual contradiction at the heart of the God concept, thus no God. Such is not the case.

[1] There's a problem with the definition of a brute fact. Different philosophers have different definitions. Atheist from is at work. the definition is changed from the way I learned it (no reason for being) to a definition that has to include god (something we can't explain)I disagree, I don't that as a BF. God being beyond understanding and explainable for that reason is totally different than saying "X just just happens to be for no reason." The chief difference is for the one the could be a reason we just don't understand it,for the other there is none, The fact of a purpose involved with God as being i think breaks the tie

[2] Ground of being is a concept made famous by Paul Tillich and other theologians, I've written about it vociferously. It basically amounts to saying God is the basis of reality. My A"Introduction to Paul Tillich's Existential Ontology" Metacrock's Blog

[3] Quentin Smith, “The Uncased Beginning of the Universe.” The British Journal of the Philosophy of Science, (1988, Vol., 55, no. 1), 39-57.

[4] Joseph Hinman, "Quantum Particles Do not prove universe from Nothing," The religious a priori, website URL:
accessed 7/23/16

[5] Joseph Hinman, The Trace of God:Rational Warrant for Belief. Colorado Springs:Grand Vidaduct, 2014.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Debate Challenge for atheists (God Argument Friday)


(1) All contingencies require necessities to ground them.
(2) All natural things are contingent
(3) the universe is natural, therefore, the universe is contingent
(4) the universe requires a necessity upon which its existence is grounded, Therefore, the origin of the universe must be necessary. 
(5)Since the origin of the universe must be necessary (from 2,4 and 5) and not contingent the origin cannot have a cause.
(6)The origin of universe is necessary and must be eternal and first cause, since this is the definition of God (see Rational Warrant page) then the origin of the universe must be God.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Mystical experience:Empirical Evidence of Supernatural part 2


Argument from God Correlate:

We can't demonstrate empirical knowledge of God to others, even if we feel we have it ourselves. But if we can correlate something that is empirical with God, the effects of God in the world then we could know by association between sign and signified that there is divine reality. Just as the fingerprint betrays the presence of the owner of the fingers that made them, or the track in the snow proves the presence of the creature that made it, so RE as the God correlate points to the presence of God in reality zs the effect of the divine upon our lives. As a theological example of this principle we can draw upon the works of Schleiermacher. God is the correlate of RE as God is the correlate of the feeling of utter dependence. In Speeches on Religion to it's Cultured Dispersers he seemed to be making the simplistic argument: “I feel emotional when I pray to God so there must be a God to feel emotional about...” [1] By the time He wrote his magnum opus Glaubenslehre (the Christian faith) he had developed a much more sophisticated version. He now understood these religious affections in a particular way, as a feeling of utter dependence[2] Though critics often interpret the concept of “feeling” as an emotional response the real crux of his argument turns the utter dependence aspect. Rather than merely emotion he's identifying the feeling as indicative of a religious capacity.[3] We could think of it as a “religious instinct,” or more properly a religious consciousness. It is from this sense of consciousness that doctrines derive their meaning, as verbalization of the sense.
This sense of consciousness as part of the basis of religion offers a theoretical framework for connecting the sense of the numinous to the notion of real experience of the divine. Of course it's not a direct unmediated revelatory face to face encounter, but like the track in the snow points to a presence not directly seen.

It is the original pre-theoretical consciousness...Schleiermacher believes that theoretical cognition is founded upon pre-theoretical inter subjective cognition and its life world. The latter cannot be dismissed as non-cognative for if the life world praxis is non-cognitive and invalid so is theoretical cognition..He...contends that belief in God is pre-theoretical, it is not the result of proofs and demonstration, but is conditioned solely by the modification of feeling of utter dependence. Belief in God is not acquired through intellectual acts of which the traditional proofs are examples, but rather from the thing itself, the object of religious experience..If as Shchleiermacher...says God is given to feeling in an original way this means that the feeling of utter dependence is in some sense an apparition of divine being and reality. This is not meant as an appeal to revelation but rather as a naturalistic eidetic or a priori. The feeling of utter dependence is structured by a correlation with its whence.[4]
This conclusion might be somewhat deflating for apologists, but there are two caveats that might make it more palatable: (1) We don't have to reduce religion to just feeling or to consciousness, we don't have to totally agree with Schleiermacher, we can understand doctrines and feelings as bound up with the same reaction to reality and the consciousness that obtains from sensing it. (2) we can construe the feeling as a phenomenological approach rather than a definitive commentary upon all of reality. If affections or consciousness based upon affections are primary in belief, this does not mean that arguments are of no value since people rationalize their feelings, and arguments help to clear away the clutter and clarify feelings.
Critics such as John Webster et. al. Attack this notion as a continuation of his mistake from On Religion, that Schleiermacher got the process backwards.[5] It is not feeling that produces doctrine biut doctrines that produce feeling. The deep connection to affections is dismissed as his Moravian upbringing, the mark of the romanic era. “...The feeling of utter dependence, which Schleiermacher thought universal is an expression of the salient Christian virtue of humility with a particularly Protestant emphasis on the utter helplessness of man to save himself.” The argument is that Schleiermacher is just generalizing, the feeling is merely a feeling about the world from which he generalizes based upon his Christian upbringing. “All religions do not simply promote awe and connectedness to it.” [6] To the contrary, thanks to the M scale, we now know that these experiences are universal. The feeling of utter dependence is really about a sense of contingency, the radical contingency of all things, and it's great underlying unity, this equates to the sense of the meniscus and undifferentiated unity one finds in mystical experience. While Schleiermacher's feeling is not exactly mystical experience itself it is very closely related. Thus the universality found in RE supplies an answer to the criticism.
Thus the presence of the sign (the experience) informs us of the presence of the signified (God); like finger prints match the finger and thus reveal the person who made the print. The association between the divine and mystical experience is at least theoretically valid in terms of an anthropological perspective; religious experience forms the foundation upon which organized religions are built.[7] The sense of the numinous is a deep all pervasive since of love. The basic assumption made by those who have the experience is overwhelmingly that they have experience God. How can we know this to be the case without already knowing that God exists and what it is like to sense God's presence? We could set up criteria based upon the nature of religious belief. What conditions would one expectorate to prevail or what aspects would one expect to find in sensing God's presence?


(1). Life Transforming and vital in a positive life-affirming sense

(2) It would give us a sense of the transcendent and the divine.

(3) No alternate or naturalistic causality could be proven

These criteria are based upon the nature of religious belief and experience taken from all major world religions. More to the point they are derived from the works of W.T. Stace who argues that in all world religions there are certain claims about certain types of experiences that answer our most basic existential questions.[8] These claims about answering the basic questions and positively affecting our lives constitute some of the most basic truth claims of world religions. If these claims are justified we should see these conditions in the criteria met. Religion in general seems to attempt to make sense of the nature of being human, to construct and then explain the Human problematic, or the human condition.. This knowledge is said to tranform the the lives of those who have such experiences. The content of the experiences themselves include a sense of the Holy, a sense of the sacred, the imparting of noetic content, these are all communicated in the texture of the experience itself. This realization accounts for criteria 1 and 2. It is only reasonable to think that the experience might be an experience of a reality involving the divine, since it indicates the validity truth claims of religion. It is equally reasonable and scientific to assume that if no counter causality found the God based conclusion is warranted. Thus, we have Criterion 3. These criteria are fulfilled by the data, and that allows us to derive the following argument from the criteria.


(1) Real effects come from real causes

(2) If effects are real chances are the cause is real

(3) the effects of mystical experience are real

(4) Therefore, the cause of mystical experience is real.

(5) the content of mystical experience is about the divine

(6) Since the content of ME is about the divine the cause must be the divine

(7) Since the cause is real and it is divine then the divine must be real.

(8) Naturalistic alternate casualties can be answered

(9) Therefore belief in the divine is warranted by ME

Justification for P1 “measurably transformative in a positive sense” is reflected in the findings throughout the 50 year period during which the body of researched has been collected. A huge number of studies corroborate these findings, not all of them use the M scale but they all use various measurements. Many of them use standardized measurements already in place for happiness and self actualization and other such affects. I have selected a range of studies that spans the time period. Two of the first scientifically rigorous scientific studies on the topic were Robert Wuthnow (1978) [9] and Kathleen Noble (1987) [10]Summary of their finds are as follows:

*Say their lives are more meaningful,
*think about meaning and purpose
*Know what purpose of life is
Meditate more
*Score higher on self-rated personal talents and capabilities
*Less likely to value material possessions, high pay, job security, fame, and having lots of friends
*Greater value on work for social change, solving social problems, helping needy
*Reflective, self aware


*integration, allocentrism,
*psychological maturity,
*self-acceptance, self-worth,
*autonomy, authenticity, need for solitude,
*increased love and compassion
*Experience productive of psychological health
*Less authoritarian and dogmatic
*More assertive, imaginative, self-sufficient
*intelligent, relaxed
*High ego strength,
*relationships, symbolization, values,

Lukoff and Lu (1988) conducted a literature search reflects many studies demonstrating the transforming effects of religious experience, some of them using the early version of the M scale.[11] For example Finney and Maloneyh (1985) found contemplative prayer was instrumental in improvement in psychotherapy.[12]Hood (1977) found high correlation between mystical experiences and self actualization, persons of relatively high self actualization were more likely to have had mystical experiences. [13] Other studies (not in Lukoff and Lu) include Greeley who, “found no evidence to support the orthodox belief that frequent mystic experiences or psychic experiences stem from deprivation or psychopathology. His 'mystics' were generally better educated, more successful economically, and less racist, and they were rated substantially happier on measures of psychological well-being.” [14] Sullivan, using a large quantitative base of former mental patients found that 48% identified spiritual practices as crucial to their healing and this was corroborated by those ho cared for them. [15]  This is just a small sample of the studies that demonstrate the transformative aspects.
Justification for P2 cannot be reduced to naturalistic cause and effect will be dealt with mainly below in answering the argument on brain chemistry. P3 affects of Mystical consciousness are independent of other explanations and the effects are real we should assume that they are genuine experiences of something transcendent of our own minds. That they are independent of counter causality derived from 2. That they are real is derived from the measurable effects in 1. P4, experience of something: The content of the experience is about the divine, or ultimate reality. Even when the experience is interpreted by the receiver not to be about God the receiver has been known to act in ways that are consistent with belief in God. Moreover, the experiences described tend to match those described as experiences of the divine. Ergo it’s just a matter of interpretation. Secondly, the vast majority of those who have these experiences do believe they are about God. [16]
This final point about the universal nature is of particular interest, When doctrinal explanations and differences of tradition are controlled for, the experiences themselves are the same the world over. Even among atheists, those who have religious experiences respond to them in the same way that religious believers do. This might indicate that these people are all experiencing an objective reality which is external to the human brain. There is a voluminous and ancient tradition of writing about experiences by people from all over the world, who claim to have experienced the divine. Mystics and philosophers have catelogued such writings. Two of the most noteworthy examples are Mysticism by Evelyn Underhill,[17] and Teachings of the Mystics by Philosopher W.T. Stace.[18] Many other such writers have included these experiences. Thirdly, grounded in empirical evidence, the universal nature of such experiences implies a source external to the human mind. When I say “external” I mean it originates externally but is experienced internally. This includes human brain structure and brain chemistry as a conduit not that it circumvents natural processes. W.T. Stace shows that, as Ralph Hood Jr. put it, “within and eventually outside of the great faith traditions mysticism has flourished.” [19]
Stace offers five characteristics that demonstrate the commonalities to mystical experience; these are characteristics that are found universally in all cultures and in all forms of mystical experience:

The contemporary interest in the empirical research of mysticism can be traced to Stace’s (Stace, 1960) demarcation of the phenomenological characteristics of mystical experiences (Hood, 1975). In Stace’s conceptualization, mystical experiences had five characteristics (Hood, 1985, p.176):

1. The mystical experience is noetic. The person having the eerience perceives it as a valid source of knowledge and not just a subjective experience.

2. The mystical experience is ineffable, it cannot simply be described in words.

3. The mystical experience is holy. While this is the religious aspect of the experience it is not necessarily expressed in any particular theological terms.

4. The mystical experience is profound yet enjoyable and characterized by positive affect.

5. The mystical experience is paradoxical. It defies logic. Further analysis of reported mystical experiences suggests that the one essential feature of mysticism is an experience of unity (Hood, 1985). The experience of unity involves a process of ego loss and is generally expressed in one of three ways (Hood, 1 976a). The ego is absorbed into that which transcends it, or an inward process by which the ego gains pure awareness of self, or a combination of the two. [20]

Argument II: from Universal nature of mystical experience

(1) mystical experiences themselves, apart from their explanations, are universal to all faiths and cultures (but not all individuals).

(2) Religious concepts and symbols are culturally bound not genetic (proof: they all differ in content).

(3) since the experiences are the same but the explanations differ we must assume the explanations are not the true causes.

(4) Religions concepts and symbols are culturally bound and it is prematurity to say they are genetic (evidence to follow).

(5) therefore, since the experiences themselves are not cultural but universal (from1) and we can't say they are genetic (from 2 and 4) therefore these are experiences of an external reality; ie a reality external to our own mimnds.

The other aspect of importance to this work is the universality argument. The universality argument could be taken as a warrant for belief, but I use it here to show that there’s a reason to equate these experiences with Supernature. When Hood took out the name specific to a religious tradition (from the M scale) and just asked general questions about experience, the experiences described were the same. This indicates that what is being experienced is the same for all the people having religious experiences. This is actually the same as saying Stace’s theory was validated. If it wasn’t validated they would not describe the same experiences. The indication is that there is an objective reality all of the mystics experience. The reason is because religion is a cultural construct. If they were just describing a constructed set of expectations resulting form culture, the experiences would be conditioned by culture not transcending it. So that means Iranian Muslims experience what they think of as “Allah” and Baptists in Cleveland experience what they think of as “Jesus” in the same way. This is should not be the case if they are merely experiencing culturally conditioned constructs. The implication is that they may be experiencing an objective reality that both understand through culturally constructed filters. Thus, there is a good indication that some external reality is experienced. One would then be warranted in thinking that this external reality is God, since the content of experience and its result on people's lives correlate with the objections of God belief in general.

Common Core Vs. Perennial Philosophy

Hood takes these kinds of statements as phenomenological and descriptive of a personal experience. The true nature of that experience as unmediated is not important. The issue is that its universality, since it should be culturally constructed, is indicative of more than just a trick of brain chemistry or cultural constructs. Hood argues for what is called “the common core hypothesis.” This is not the perennial philosophy one often finds discussed as part of mystical experience. The distinction is that perennial almost constructs a separate religion out of mystical experience and puts it over against faith traditions. The common core hypothesis merely recognizes that there is a common core experience that is universal to “mystics,” and thus it can be argued that it’s an apprehinsion of some reality external to just human brain structure. Yet it doesn’t try to collapse faith traditions into a particular theological formulation. Moreover, the common core hypothesis just takes the common core as a phenomenological reality not a theological or ontological demand about reality. Yet mystical experience “promotes a special type of human experience that is at once unitive and non-discursive, at once self fulfilling and self-effacing.” [21]

Counter argument: brain structure

The major objection to the universality argument stems from a vast movement that has arisen just since the turn of the century, the rapidly expanding field of Neuro-theology (or Cognative Science of Religion):

In recent years a number of books have been published in the United States which argue that religious experiences and activities can be measured as neural activity in the brain...these theories purport to explain why there are common patterns of religious behavior and experience across culture which are observable in the field of comparative religion..Most such theories assert that as our understanding the brains activities develop through exploration of its underlying structures and mechanisms so the origin of religious experiences and ritual behavior will be revealed...These theorioes purport to explain why there are common paterns of religious behaviors and experience across cultures.[22]
R. Joseph states, “that The brain underlies all experience of living human beings is an absolute statement It subsumes all religious phenomena and all mystical experiences including hyper lucid visionary experiences, trance states, contemplating God and the experience of unitary absorption.” [23] Since religious experience is linked to brain chemistry it must be the result of brain chemistry, thus there’s no reason to assume it’s indicative of any sort of supernatural causation. This view has become standard in the scientific community. Tiger and McGuire state:

Religion as a process generates remarkable action, countless events, numberless provocative artifacts. Yet what factual phenomenon except perhaps slips of ancient holy paper underlies and animates one of the most influential and durable of human endeavors? We've an answer. Shivers in the moist tissue of the brain confect cathedrals our proposal is that all religions differ but all share two destinies: they are the product of the human brain. They endure because of the strong influence of the product of the human brain. The brain is a sturdy organ ith common characteristics everywhere. A neurosurgeon can work confidently on a vatican patient and another in mecca. Same tissue, same mechinisms. One such mechinnism is a readiness to generate religions.[24]

Skeptics argue that the experiences have a commonality because they are all produced by human brain structure. In other words the names from the various religions are the constructs but the experiences that unite the subjects and that transcend the individual cultural filters are the same because they are products of a shared structure that of the human brain. Ilkka Pyysiäinen and Marc Hauser state the argument:

Considerable debate has surrounded the question of the origins and evolution of religion. One proposal views religion as an adaptation for cooperation, whereas an alternative proposal views religion as a by-product of evolved, non-religious, cognitive functions. We critically evaluate each approach, explore the link between religion and morality in particular, and argue that recent empirical work in moral psychology provides stronger support for the by-product approach. Specifically, despite differences in religious background, individuals show no difference in the pattern of their moral judgments for unfamiliar moral scenarios. These findings suggest that religion evolved from pre-existing cognitive functions, but that it may then have been subject to selection, creating an adaptively designed system for solving the problem of cooperation. [25]
In other words, the discussion about origins of religion there are two genetic choices, a specific gene, or spandrels. The weight of the evidence, according to Pyysiäinen and Marc Hauser, leans toward the latter (spandrels: pre-existing cognitive functions based upon combined genetic functions from other areas). The deeper level of complexity comes with the finding that religion evolved from spandrels and yet it is still subject to adaptation manifesting in a system for cooperation (religion). What their findings really suggest is that moral motions are more basic than religious doctrine and that moral decision making transcends social structure or organization. Religion is perpetuated because its conducive to cooperation but there is an underlying sense or moral motion that's tied to the specific religious affiliation. Moral reasoning is not the same as mystical experience. Religious experience is a passive apprehension and moral decision making is an active use of deductive reasoning. Moreover, in finding religion is not original adaptation they are really negating the brain structure argument for uniformity of religious experiences. Their findings show that moral decisions transcended the religious background, thus the religious symbols, ideas, and presumably experiences are not reducible to moral motions since the latter transcends the former.[26] If religious experiences are of the same nature because of the state of human brain structure we should expect to find a conformation between moral motions religious experience. Frederick Schleiermacher argued that religious religion is more than just enhanced ethical thinking. [27] This has led to the widely accepted theory of the religious a priori. Religion is understood as it's on discipline separate from ethics. The a priori is seen as a “special for of awareness which exists alongside the cognitive, moral and aesthetic forms of awareness and is not explicable by reference to them.”[28]
As an argument about the origin of religion, the genetic aspects would only be the proximate cause. It doesn't rule out a distal cause in the divine. As an argument about the origin of religion, the genetic aspects would only be the proximate cause. It doesn't rule out a distal cause in the divine. Andrew Newberg, one of the pioneers in researching neural activity of religious experience and God talk tells us that none of the research disproves God, nor could it:
Tracing spiritual experience to neurological behavior does not disprove its realness. If God does exist, for example, and if He appeared to you in some incarnation, you would have no way of experiencing His presence, except as part of a neurologically generated rendition of reality. You would need auditory processing to hear his voice, visual processing to see His face, and cognitive processing to make sense of his message. Even if he spoke to you mystically, without words, you would need cognitive functions to comprehend his meaning, and input form the brain’s emotional centers to fill you with rapture and awe. Neurology makes it clear: there is no other way for God to get into your head except through the brain’s neural pathways. Correspondingly, God cannot exist as a concept or as reality anyplace else but in your mind. In this sense, both spiritual experiences and experiences of a more ordinary material nature are made real to the mind in the very same way—through the processing powers of the brain and the cognitive functions of the mind. Whatever the ultimate nature of spiritual experience might be—weather it is in fact an actual perception of spiritual reality—or merely an interpretation of sheer neurological function—all that is meaningful in human spirituality happens in the mind. In other words, the mind is mystical by default. [29]
Just being connected to brain chemistry is not enough to disprove the universal experience argument.
The problem with the brain structure argument is that even though we all have human brain structure we don’t all have the same kinds of experiences. We can’t assume that universal experiences come from brain structure alone. First, not everyone has mystical experience. Even though the incidence rates are high they are not 100%. We all have human brain structure but not all have these experiences. Secondly, even among those who do there are varying degrees of the experience. William James saw it as a continuum and Robert Wuthnow, one of the early researchers who did a modern scientific study on the phenomenon also theorized that there is a continuum upon which degree of experience varies.[30] If the brain structure argument was true then we should expect to always have the same experience; we should have the same culture. We have differing experiences and even our perceptions of the same phenomena vary. Yet the experience of mystical phenomena is not identical since it is filtered through cultural constructs and translated into the doctrinal understanding of traditions that the experiencers identify as their own.
The brain Structure argument is based upon the same premises reductionists take to the topic of consciousness and brain/mind. They assume that any subjective experience is ultimately the result of brain chemistry. There really is no reason to assume this other than the fact that brain chemistry plays a role in our perceptions. There’s no basis for the assumption that any mental phenomena must originate in brain chemistry alone. In those arguments a sense usually emerges that any involvement with the natural cancels the supernatural. I suggest that this is the ersatz version of supernature. The alien realm, juxtaposed to the natural realm and brought in as a counter to naturalism, this is the false concept of Supernatural that Eugene R, Fairweather spoke about.[31] The original concept of supernature is that of the ground and end of the natural. Thus it would be involved with nature. The ground/end of nature is the ontology of supernature and pragmatic working out of the phenomenon would be the power of God to lift human nature to a higher level, as discussed by Fairweather and aslo Mathias Joseph Scheeben.[32]How can human nature be elevated without supernature being involved with the realm of nature? Thus, if it is true that bonafide experiences of God are mediated by brain chemistry, then the fact that supernature works through evolutionary processes and physiological realities such as brain chemistry is hardly surprising.
Some studies have explored questions about brain function and the texture or mechanics of mystical experience. Van Elk et al explore the hypothesis that the sensation of supernatural presence is an adaptation from the need to over-detect presences of predictors in the jungle. There findings did not coroborate that hypothesis. He does makes the statement that it otherwise lacks empirical proof.[33] In other words if one sets out on a jungle trail, and there is darkness, sensing a predictor and turning back from the trek would be helpful. If the sensation was wrong and there was no predictor the mistake of being wrong would be less graven that of being right but ignoring the sense. Thus, the sensation of presence is selected for. This might be used by a skeptic to answer the argument from mystical experience. Elk has five experiments that that seek to explore weather processing concepts about supernatural agents enhances detection in the environment.
Participants were presented with point light stimuli representing kinds of biological motion, or with pictures of faces embedded in a noise mask. Participants were asked to indicate if the stimuli represented a human agent or not. In each case they used three “primes,” one for supernatural, one ofr human, one for animal. They found that supernatural primes facilitated better agent detection.xxxiv So the argument is that the perceived presence of agents in threatening situations and tendencies to anthropomorphizing leads stronger belief in ghosts, demons, angels, gods and other “supernatural” agency. [35] They point to a body of work consisting of several studies showing that particular paranormal beliefs are a reliable predictor of illusory perceptions of faces and agency detection. These studies include Willard and Norenzayan (2013), Reikki et. al. (2013), and Petrican and Burris (2012).[36] “although these studies provide tentative support for the relation between agency detection and supernatural beliefs, the notion that reigious beliefs are a byproduct of perceptual biases to detect patterns and agency has been challenge by several authors...” (Bulbulia, 2004, Lisdorf 2007, and McKay and Efferson, 2010). [37]
While it may be true that some aspects of mystical experience are genetically related, and may be related to agent detection, that is no proof that mystical experience originates wholly within a naturalistic and genetic framework. First, because these studies only demonstrate a correlation between supernatural beliefs and agency detection. There is no attempt to establish the direction of a causal relationship. If there is a connection between supernatural and agent detection it could as easily be that awareness of supernatural concepts makes one more sensitive to agent detection. Secondly, of course just being genetically related doesn't reduce the phenomenon wholly to genetic endowments. Thirdly, there is a lot more to mystical experience than agent detection. Both involve sensing a presence beyond that point the differences are immense. I am not even sure that facial recognition and sensing a predator are similar enough to count for anything. In sensing being observed one is not usually aware of visual ques as one would be in facial recognition. There's no guarantee that the quality of the sensing is the same. Feeling the divine presence is much more august and involves levels and textures. Such an experience is, overall, positive, life changing, transformational (even noetic) but merely feeling one is being observed could be creepy, negative, or even trivial. The vast differences can be spelled out in the tiebreakers I discuss in The Trace of God.


If supernature manifests itself in the natural realm through brain chemistry then the conclusion that this is somehow indicative of the divine could go either way. We can’t rule out the divine or supernatural just because it involves the natural realm. What then is the real distinguishing feature that tells us this is inductive of something other than nature? That’s where I introduce the “tie breakers.” There are aspects of the situation that indicate the effects of having the experience could not be produced by nature unaided:

(1)  The transformative effects

The experience is good for us. It changes the experiencer across the board. These effects are well documented by that huge body of empirical research. They include self actualization, therapeutic effects that actually enhance healing form mental problems, less depression better mental outlook and so on. Summarizing the results of two of the major studies:

This is not merely a list of warm fuzzies. The results represent actual life transformation and change of world view. The results are dramatic and positive; well grounded psychological health, a deep sense of meaning and purpose in life, overcoming fear of death and overcoming physical addictions. Examples, Patricia Ryan's study finds that abuse victims often come to view God in more cosmic and impersonal terms. Or they become embittered and turn away from God, victims of childhood trauma and abuse often report that they felt the abuser was trying to destroy their soul and that this was the one inviolable core that could not be destroyed. This sense was related to mystical experience. [38]Loretta Do Rozario studied patients who were either dying or in chronic pain. She found that mystical experience elevated the sense of illness and pain to a level of the “universal search for meaning and self transcendence.” The subjects reported that the experience ot only enabled them to cope with pain and fear of death but also enabled them to experience joy within the hardship. [39]

Skeptics often advance the placebo argument, but it is neutralized because Placebos require expectation and a large portion of mystical experience is not expected. It’s not something people usually set out to have. Without being able to argue for placebo effect there is really no way to account for the transformational effects. [40]Moreover, while placebo get's used against any claim about the mind there's actually a much more narrow range to which it rightly applies.

...People frequently expand the concept of the placebo effect very broady to include just about every conceivable sort of beneficial, biological, social or human interaction that doesn't involve some drug well known to the pharmacopeia. The concept of placebo has been expanded much more broadly than this. Some attribute the effects of various alternative medical systems such as homeopathy or chiropractic to placebo effect. Others have described studies that show the positive effects of enhanced communication, such as Egbert's as the ploaebo response without the placebo.[41]
Thus the burden of proof is upon the skeptic to prove that placebo even applies to religious experience.
(2) Noetic aspects to the experiences
These are not informational but there is a sense in which the mystic feels that he has learned soemthing about the universe as a result of the experience. This usually is on the order of “God loves me” or “all is one.”
(3) The experience contains the sense of the numinous or sense of the holy.
This is closely related to the Noetic sense and they clearly overlap but there is a distinction. The snse of the Holy could be more general and gives the sense that some unique and special aspect of reality exists. Some noetic qualities might be considered doctrinal in nature. “all is one” is a doctrinal statement. While I don't advocate using mystical experience to shape doctrine, because the shaping of doctrine in the Christian tradition revolves around pre given principles in revelatory texts, the nature of these qualities indicates more is going on than just misfire of some neuron.
(4) why positive?
These experiences are never negative. The only negativity associated with mystical experience is the sense of the mysterium tremendum, the highly serious nature of the Holy. That is not a lasting negative effect. If this is nothing more than brain chemistry and it’s just some sort of misfire where the brain just forgets to connect the sense of self to the part that says “I am not the world,” why is it so positive, transformative, vital? It’s not often that such a positive experience results form a biological accident.
(5) bad evolutionary theory
Mystical experience has not been tied to gene frequency. So the argument about adaptation has to rest upon the intermediaries that it provides, such as surviving long winters so one can have gene frequency. Yet all of those kinds of experiences flaunt the explanatory gap of consciousness. Why should we develop a mystically based sense of the world to get through hard long winter when we could more easily develop a brain circuiting that ignores boredom? Then this adaptation that is only there because it enabled us to get through being snowed in has such an amazing array of other effects such as life transformation and better mental health, and leads to the development of such complex fantasisms of errors as religious belief and organized religion. It’s so inefficient. Surely survival of the fittest should take the course of least resistance?
(6) Navigation in life
Mystical experiences enable navigation in life, these experiences and their effects enable us to get through and to set our sights on higher idealistic concepts and ways of life. They provide a sense of self actualization, authentication, and enable the subjects to bear up in the face of adversity. Rozario writes about those in her study who suffered chronic pain or were dying: “The inner awareness of wholeness despite the odds points to an explicit experience of life which can transcend form and matter. This experience of wholeness or consciousness extends and challenges the view of disability and illness as only a myth making and revaluing opportunity in the lives of people.” [42] Gackenback, writes:

These states of being also result in behavioral and health changes. Ludwig (1985) found that 14% of people claiming spontaneous remission from alcoholism was due to mystical experiences while Richards (1978) found with cancer patients treated in a hallucinogenic drug-assisted therapy who reported mystical experiences improved significantly more on a measure of self-actualization than those who also had the drug but did not have a mystical experience. In terms of the Vedic Psychology group they report a wide range of positive behavioral results from the practice of meditation and as outlined above go to great pains to show that it is the transcendence aspect of that practice that is primarily responsible for the changes. Thus improved performance in many areas of society have been reported including education and business as well as personal health states (reviewed and summarized in Alexander et al., 1990). Specifically, the Vedic Psychology group have found that mystical experiences were associated with "refined sensory threshold and enhanced mind-body coordination (p. 115; Alexander et al., 1987). [43]

[1] Frederick Schleiermacher, Speeches on Religion to it's Cultured Dispersers. New York: Cambridge University Press, Trans. Riichard Crouter,1996, 24-5
[2] Frederich Achleiermacher, On The Christian Faith. Edinburgh: T. and T. Clark, Trans. H. R. MacKintosh and J.R.Stewart, 1986, 76-8
[3] Ibid., 124.
[4] Robert R. Williams, Schleiermacher the Theologian: Construction of the Doctrine of God. Minneapolis MN: Fortress Press, 1978, 4.
[5] John Webster, Kathryn Tanner, and Ian Torrance, ed., Oxford Handbook of Systematic Theology, Oxfor:Oxford University Press, 2007, 421.
[6] bid.
[7] David Steindl-Rast, “The Mystical Core of Organized Religion,” Copyright © 1989 by David Steindl-Rast. Used by the Council on Spiritual Practices with permission.First appeared in ReVision, Summer 1989 12(1):11-14. Online resource, URL: (accessed 1/2/16)
[8] Stace, Mysticism and Philosophy,, op.cit., 42-44.
[9]  Robert, Wuthnow,"Peak Experiences: Some Empirical Tests." Journal of Humanistic Psychology,     18 (3), (1978), 59-75.
[10] Kathleen D. Noble, ``Psychological Health and the Experience of Transcendence.'' The Counseling Psychologist, 15 (4),(1987). 601-614.
[11] Lukoff, David & Francis G. Lu (1988). ``Transpersonal psychology research review: Topic: Mystical experiences.'' Journal of Transpersonal Psychology, 20 (2), 161-184.
[12] Finney and Maloneyh, “An Empirical Study of Contemplative Prayer as an Adjunct to Psychotherapy,” Journal of Psychology and Theology 13 (4) 284-90.
[13] Ralph Hood Jr., “Differential Triggering of Mysticalo Experiences As A Function O Self Actualization,” Review of Religious Research, 18, 1977, 264-70.
[14]  Charles T. Tart, Psi: Scientific Studies of the Psychic Realm, New York: Dutton, 1977, back in print ed. 2001, 19.
[15] W. Sullivan, “It Helps Mev Be A Wholoe Person: The Role of Spirituality Among The mentally Challeneged.” Psychological Rehabilitation Journal, 16 (1993) 125-134.
[16] Ralph Hood Jr. “The Common Core Thesis in the Study of Mysticism.” In Where God and Science Meet: How Brain and Evolutionary Studies Alter Our Understanding of Religion.  Patrick Mcnamara ed. West Port CT: Prager Publications, 2006, 119-235.
[17] Evelyn Underhill, Mysticism: A study on the Nature and Development of Man’s Spiritual consciousness. New York: Dutton, 1911
[18] W.T. Stace, Teachings of the Mystics: Selections from the Greatest Mystics and Mystical Writers of the World. New American Library 1960. A good General overview of Stace’s understanding of mysticism is  Mystical Experience Registry: Mysticism Defined by W.T. Stace. found onine at URL:
[19] Ralph Hood Jr. “The Common Core Thesis in the Study of Mysticism.”op. cit., 119-235
[20] Robert J. Voyle, “The Impact of Mystical Experiences Upon Christian Maturity.” originally published in pdf format:
Google html version here:  Voyle is quoting Hood in 1985, Hood in return is speakingStace.
[21] Matilal (1992)  in Ralph Hood Jr. “The Common Core Thesis in the Study of Mysticism,,,.” op. Cit., 127.
[22] George D. Chryssides and Ron Geives, The Study of Religion an Introduction to key ideas and methods. London, New Deli, New york: Bloomsbury, 2nd ed. 2007, 59-60.
Chryssides is a research fellow with the University of Birmingham. He has an MA in Philosophy and D Phil in systematic theology from University of Glasgow. Among the books he mentions as examples of the trend are Why God Wont Go Away, by E. Aquili andAndrew Newberg (1999) , and Nuero-Theology by R. Joseph (2003)
[23] R. Joseph, Nuero-Theology:Brain, Science, Spirituality, Religious Experience. University Pr; 2nd edition (May 15, 2003) 22.
[24]  Lionel Tiger and Michael McGuire, God's Brain, Amherst, New York: Prometheus Books, 2010. 11.
[25] Ilkka Pyysiäinen and Marc Hauser, "The Origins of Religion: Evolved Adaption or by Product." Science Direct: Trends in Cognitive Science, Volume 14, Issue 3, (March 2010), 104-109.
[26]Ibid,. 105=106.
[27]Adrian Hastings, Alistair Mason, Hugh S. Pyper. The Oxford Companion to Christian Thought:Intellectual, Spiritual and Moral Horizons of Christianity, New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2000, 483
In the Trace of God I do two chapters defending Schleiermacher's notion and the religious a priori against reductionist based attacks by philosopher yne Proudfoot. (Hinman, Trace...op. Cit., 179-241).
[28] David Pailin, “The Religious a priori,” Westminster Dictionary of Christian Theology, Louisville Kentucky: Westminster John Knox Press, Alan Richardson and John Bowden, ed.,1983, 498.
[29]Andrew Newberg, Why God Won’t God Away: Brain Science and the Biology of Belief. (New York, Ballentine Books), 2001, 37.
xxx Robert Wuthnow, “Peak Experieces, Some Empirical Tests,” Journal of Humanistic Psychology 183 (1978) 61-62.
[30] Eugene R. Fairweather, “Christianity and the Supernatural,” in New Theology no.1. New York: Macmillian, Martin E. Marty and Dean G. Peerman ed. 1964. 235-256
[31] Mathias Joseph Scheeben in Fairweather, Ibid.
[32]Michiel Elk, Bastiaan T. Rutjens, Joop van der Pligt,& Frenk van Harrveled (2016) Priming of Supernatural agent concepts and agency detection, Religion, Brain and Behavior, 6:1, 4-33, DOL: 10.1080/2153599X.2014.93344
[33]Ibid., 4
[34]Ibid., 5.
[35]Ibid., 5. A.K. Willard and A. Norenzayan, “Cognative Biases Explain Religious Belief and belief in life's purpose,” Cognition 129 (2013), 379-391. T. Reikki, M.Litterman, et. al. “Paranormal and religious believers are more prone to illusary face perception than skeptics and none believers.” applied cognitive psychology 27 (2013) 150-155, and R. Petrican and C.T. Burris, “Am I a Stone? Over attribution of agency and Religious Orientation,” Religion and Spirituality 4 (2012), 312-323.
[36]Ibid., 6. J. Bulbulia, “The Cognitive and Evolutionary Psychology of Religion,” Biology and Philosophy 19, (2004) 655-686, A. Lisdorf, “What's HIDD'n in the HADD,” Journal of Cognition and Culture 7, (2007), 341-353, and R. McKay and C. Efferson, “Subtitles of Error Management,” Evolution and Human Behavior, 31 (5)(2010) 309-319.
[37]Patricia L. Ryan, “Spirituality Among Adult Survivors of Childhood Violence: a Literary Review.” The Journal of Transpersonal Psychology, Vol. 30, no. 1, (1998) 43.
[38]Loretta Do Rozario, “Spirituality in the Lives of People With Disability and Chronic Illness: A Creative Paradigm of Wholness and Reconstitution.” Disability and Rehabilitation: An International and Multidisciplinary Journal, Vol. 19, no. 10, (1997) 427.
[39]Hinman, Trace...Op cit., 291.
[40]Daiel E. Morman, ayne B. Jonas, “Deconstructing the Placebo Effect and Finding the Meaning Response.” Annuals of Internal Medicine, Vol. 136, issue 6, (19 March 2002), 471-476. Dr. Moreman is an anthropologist at University of Michigan.
[41]Rozario, op.cit. 102.

[42] Jayne Gackenback,Transpersonal Childhood Experiences of Higher States of Consciousness: Literature Review and Theoretical Integration. Unpublished paper (1992) Online resouirce
accessed 1/19/16.