STUDIES IN THE FIELD OF PSYCHIATRY AND RELIGION
STUDIES IN THE FIELD OF PSYCHIATRY AND RELIGION
The branch of science that examines what happens in the brains of the people who experience mystical awakening during prayer and meditation is called “neurotheology”. It is seen that the experts who search the basis of the use of feelings, mind or language in the brain give importance to searching the neural basis in the religious experiences, too.
The research by Curlin and colleagues done on 2 thousand American psychiatrists and published in December 2007 issue of the American Journal of Psychiatry is one of the examples related to it. According to the article that had a high percentage of participation, that dealt with psychiatry and that evaluated the results of the research, it is stated that there is a distinct moderation in the relationship between psychiatry and religion in which adverseness was prevalent for a long time. In fact, this change of attitude means a convergence between religion and spirituality in psychiatric treatment. All of the psychiatrists that took part in the research confirm that they approve the effects of religion and spirituality on health.
A great percentage of psychiatry experts, 90%, confirm that religion and spirituality should be dealt with free-heartedly. The number of the psychiatrists that approved of the patient sharing his religious beliefs and experiences with his doctor though doctors do not take part in worship activities together with their patients was in majority.
This research, which was published in the American Journal of Psychiatry, brought about two important results in the relationship between religion and psychiatry: The first one is the fact that the element of belief is used and encouraged more in the psychiatric treatment than it is known. The second one is that religion and spirituality, which have remedial effects, are not used sufficiently in the treatment. The researches that were done show that the use of religious elements that are included in the treatment bring about positive results on patients even if they are used by therapists who are not religious. Therapists agreed on the following view: “I made use of religious elements in cognitive therapy by keeping the patient away from the thoughts of guiltiness and punishment, and by getting support from them in order to lead patients to nice thoughts like grace and forgiveness.”
In this research done in the USA, the importance of using religious and spiritual awareness in terms of results is emphasized. It is even suggested that those who receive psychotherapy education should know the concepts like prayer, sin, mercy, forgiveness, atonement, jihad and meditation well. The issue that is discussed now is whether knowing the notions of religion and spirituality well will make any difference in treatment. Another question related to the issue is if it is necessary in terms of medicine to demand a therapist that has similar beliefs. The effect of religious awareness on the patient beginning from the emergence of the symptoms of the illness to his/her social adaptation during the treatment process has become a scientific field of interest.
The research of Curlin and colleagues has attributed a positive value to religion and spirituality. This research is like another way of expressing the following word of Freud’s friend, Fenichel, “The magical power of belief should not be despised.”
The form of psychomotor epilepsy was first defined by Norman Geschwind, a neuroscientist at Boston Veterans Administration hospital in 1975. In this form, the seizures originated from the disorder of electrical ignition in the temporal side. Those who were exposed to such an epileptic seizure generally had intense religious experiences. Later, Geschwind and David Bear assumed that the obsessive attitudes related to religious and ethical issues were connected with the electrical storms in the temporal lobe of the brain. These talks were the first studies that based the relationship between religious experience and the brain on concrete foundations.
Vilayanur Ramachandran, a neuroscientist at San Diego University, California, tried to see the emotional reactions by measuring the resistance of the skin through the method of “biofeedback” in temporal lobe epileptic patients. In his book called Phantoms in the Brain in 1998, he found that the brains of temporal lobe epileptic patients had an extraordinary reaction to religious words.
Michael Persinger of Laurentian University, Canada stimulated the temporal region by using an electromagnetic helmet. After the brain was stimulated by weak currents using an electromagnetic helmet, the feeling of the existence of another spirit in the room triggered the deep cosmic happiness experience. After a stimulation of three minutes, test subjects narrated their godly perceptions through their own cultural and religious languages. Thus, the discussion whether the phenomenon of God originates from a part of the brain that establishes connections with God or can it be a mystical experience of the brain started.
After this research, Andrew Newberg and Eugene d’Aquili of Pennsylvania University did a new research. In this research published in 2001, various data of 256 electrode brain QEEG records and SPECT radioisotope records were evaluated related to the issue of “observing the neural mechanism during religious practices”. According to the result of the research, when the person felt that he became integrated with the universe during the meditative act, that the boundaries of personality disappeared and that he did not regard himself as a separate individual, the activities in the parietal lobe which is the orientation region related to place, decreased. Davidson, a neuroscientist at Wisconsin Madison University, did the same research with Functional MR in 2002.
Meanwhile, studies related to neurological foundations of different religious practices continued. Beaurepard conducted the experiment of “recalling and animating a living experience with God” on fifteen nuns and recorded it through MR screening. As a result, he saw that similar regions became active during the mystical experience.
It is known that the caudate nucleus in the brain plays a role on learning, falling in love and memory. The insula region in the outer folds of the brain is related to social emotions. Neural sparks activate the inner feeling of pleasure that appear with divine connection in both regions.
Although the neural connections and circles of the brain discovered scientifically do not prove whether God exists or not, they give man more reasons to believe in the Creator thanks to science. The feeling of peace and serenity that is felt originates from the emotion of being aware of the fact that God is together with them in this world rather than the idea of God. The current aim of science is to make not only mystic people but also normal people to feel their spiritual and religious experiences thanks to a device that causes electromagnetic stimulation by using light and sounds. Neuroscientist Sara Lazar of Harvard University and colleagues stated as a result of a research they did in 2005 that the right front brain and right front insula of the old people who meditated thickened.
In recent periods, studies showing that religious belief contains worldly rewards along with otherworldly rewards, that it makes people experience the feeling of satisfaction, that it makes people give others happiness by leading them to charity have increased. These researches indicate that the human brain mediates for many experiences of man from breathing in and out to “thinking of the existence of the Creator”.
In the universe, everything is interconnected and interlocked. Man is not alone because he is a part of a whole.
Although all of the cells in human body divide, the neuron cell, which has a special structure, does not divide. However, with the reproduction of new neurons, it becomes possible for neurons to join strong neuron networks. When neuron networks are ignited, new connections are established. Wherever a neuron is triggered, the strong neuron networks related to that region start to establish connections. The duty of forming the relationship of intersection among neuron networks belongs to chemicals.
Neuropeptics like serotonin, dopamine and noradrenaline trigger neuron networks that carry our various feelings like rage, lust, love or hatred with sparks.
We can liken the network structure of human brain and strong neural network to the traffic of a city. If investments are made in a part of the city, people’s demand for that region will increase and the roads in that region will develop. The thoughts produced in human brain are formed based on our area of interest. Based on his knowledge richness, it is thought that a person produces about 50 thousand to 100 thousand thoughts a day. Thus, the neuron networks and knowledge network of that person develops and neural circuits form. In an obsessive person, the same way is always used; alternative neural circuits are not produced. When the neurons cells are exposed to the bombardment of the same chemical continuously, more receptors are produced. This state is necessary to meet the need. Drug addiction is a good example of it. When a substance is not taken, there is always an expectation of the substance that is desired. Similarly, attitudes and emotional habits cause addictions. In order to catch the same excitement in his brain, a person acts differently. The use of narcotic drugs means to deceive the neuron cells through false satisfactions.
Psychon Brain is the name given by quantum physicists to the governing parallel brain that sits in the driver’s seat and that works chemically and electrophysiologically. I can also say that it would not be wrong to use the name psychon for the supraphoton particle here. Psychon is related to the attraction of mass beyond electromagnetic attraction. It is a name suggested for the intermediate substance called “ether” that enables masses to establish connections with one another. The statements that it is the particle that provides frequency and oscillation are still in the state of hypothesis.
Psychon brain expresses a mind that is not matter. Non-matter mental units consist of three dimensional frequency codes and can be defined holographically. In laser, photons act empathically and follow the same rhythm. Thus, individuality is lost but strength increases. Labeling is also used as a hologram vision recording. In fact, what is recorded is not vision but the frequency codes of the emblem. The advancement of scientific works makes people think that it will be possible to watch man’s three dimensional vision in the medium instead of the screen.
Professor Martin Rees of Cambridge University puts forward that our universe can be a computer simulation created by a more intelligent civilization than us. Prof. Rees attributes the closeness of this assumption to the reality of the universe to our formation of tiny virtual worlds by using computer technology.
Mathematics professor John Barrow, who supports the views of English physicist Rees, says that biochemical laws can form conscious beings that can communicate with one another through simulations and that they can establish a world similar to ours. Barrow also says, “We, human beings, can watch the development of an apple maggot in the laboratory; similarly, the civilization that programmed the world can be watching our development in the universe. Maybe, this external power is God.” Thus, he tries to find the Creator in the light of physics.
It is still not known what caused the big explosion called Big Bang by physicists. When it is thought logically, the power that caused this explosion should be beyond time and space. The most reasonable explanation is what the religion of Islam explains as the order “Be”, and what came into being as a result of the wish of the Creator was the power that gave the energy necessary for the big explosion and time came into being like that.
Many books about intuitional learning, intuitional healing, and even intuitional trade that were published in the USA in recent years enabled us to question the place of intuitions in our life. These studies brought to mind the question whether we will be subject to our inner voice or to reason when we make decisions. Thus, the operation in the human brain put forward by Freud as out of consciousness started to be understood better. John Bargh, a psychologist at Yale University, stated that automatic out of consciousness processes encompassed our life from each direction, that there were secret programs in the mind and that our life actually proceeded on automatic pilot while the consciousness acted on its own intentions and preferences.
Similarly, Daniel Kahneman, the psychologist, mentioned “the mind with two systems” in his speech at 2002 Nobel Prize ceremony. According to him, the first system has a fast, automatic, effortless, associative, and out of consciousness structure with heavy emotional loads; it does not allow inner observation. The second system is a purposeful, sequential and rational mind. The operation of the second system necessitates a special effort while the first system operates automatically and has an associative characteristic. According to Kahneman, people manage to make instant and correct decisions by developing mental shortcuts.
Intuitions are the products of the first system that use learned relationships (associations). What we learn makes our background a storeroom of experience. For instance, when we resemble a stranger we meet for the first time to a person that has harmed us before, our previous experience steps in out of consciousnessly and make us act cautiously. Besides, six seconds is enough in order to have an opinion about the energy and warmth of a person. To make an evaluation as good or bad in a very short time is the product of the first mental system.
Intuitional powers harbor below threshold perception and out of consciousness memory functions along with automatic operations. For instance, it is known that women are superior to men in terms of noticing a person telling lies and understanding the feeling of a person faster. To make a decision through intuitions is a result of the automatic thoughts and stored knowledge.
Automatic Prejudices in man are related to automatic fears. Intuitional fears activate intuitional prejudices According to the national security reports of the USA, when the rates of death in commercial flights are compared to the rates of death in means of public transportation, it is seen that the rate was 37 times higher in means of public transportation during the period 2001-2003. It is seen in this report, which seems to be disproportionate with reality, fear of flying and prejudice decreases the rates of people travelling by plane.
The fears feeding automatic prejudices may have been transferred to us from our ancestors. However, there are other facts, too: people are afraid of things that they cannot control, unexpected events, and the most important of all, the threats that they can remember easily. For instance, the reason why plane crashes seem to be happening often is the fact they are remembered fast. Terrorist incidents are like that. Intuitional fears move ahead of the rational mind. In terrorist incidents, propagandists continue to keep prejudices alive by keeping fears alive.