Sunday, April 02, 2017

Mystical experience:Empirical Evidence of Supernatural part 2


Argument from God Correlate:

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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?







Criteria:

(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.

Argument:

(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:


Wuthnow:
*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


Noble:

*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.

Tibreakers

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: http://csp.org/Steindl-Mystical.html (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: http://www.bodysoulandspirit.net/mystical_experiences/learn/experts_define/stace.shtml
[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: http://www.voyle.com/impact.pdf.
Google html version here: http://64.233.161.104/search?q=cache:avred7zleAEJ  Voyle is quoting Hood in 1985, Hood in return is speakingStace.
:www.voyle.com/impact.pdf+Hood+scale+and+religious+experience&hl=en&gl
=us&ct=clnk&cd=2&ie=UTF-8
[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.
http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1364661309002897
[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
http://www.sawka.com/spiritwatch/cehsc/ipure.htm accessed 1/19/16.

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