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God – Allah – Jehovah – Brahman – all these mere man-made verbal expressions become bleak and dismal upon the attainment of the actual experience. Once the lotus of your inner divinity gets full-blown and you reach the mental state where all the religious giants of human history experienced the all-encompassing sense of godliness, the exuberance of the human mind turns infinite. Awakening into that state makes all the perceptual limitations of the mind disappear, just like a bucket of muddy water turns crystal-clear once poured into the ocean.
To put it simply, the transcendental state sets the human mind free. In this extraordinary state of mind, the usual finite domain of consciousness transforms into a subjective, infinite, universal, all-pervading consciousness. This mental state is what we can quite literally call the Kingdom of God. Clinically I have termed this state of mind in my book What is Mind? as Absolute Unitary Qualia.
The experience itself is encoded in the neurological circuits of the human brain. However, this specific functional expression of the neurons does not occur in the usual state of mind. It requires specific internal and external stimuli to trigger the manifestation of the God state in the human mind.
Various neural activities collectively construct the vividly divine internal environment of the Kingdom of God. It involves various internal biological factors. However, the most important question of this century that rises from the study of the psychology of religion, is that whether the God state is a delusional state of the mind.
Despite the fact that a few radical atheist psychologists have put forward the suggestion that religious faith or simply any kind of faith upon God may turn out to be mere delusion, we neuroscientists who actually investigate the molecular underpinnings of all things religious and spiritual, have empirically proven otherwise.
The argument against faith is all based upon the rigorous analysis of the scriptures, and not upon the objective observation of the actual individual sensation of faith. Historical experiences of the Kingdom of God gave rise to all the scriptures in the world, but the scriptures themselves don’t account for the actual globally prevalent psychological element of faith or divinity in the human mind.
Faith is a natural evolutionary trait of the human mind, selected by Mother Nature as an internal coping-mechanism.
Now let’s first distinguish what is the difference between faith and the mental state of God. Faith is simply a natural sensation of the mind, quite like love, which is seen in most of the human population. On the other hand, the God state is the actual subjective experience of encountering God, quite literally. Hence, this subjective experience occurs only in the fraction of the human population, due to various stimuli.
Moreover, the manifestation of the God Dimension in the human mind requires specific internal and external environment. In short, there are a few kinds of stimuli that evoke such transcendental state where a person simply has an inexplicable encounter with God, unlike the everyday personal sense of faith. This encounter manifests at different intensities based on the kind of the stimulus, and more importantly, majority of the modern day God state experiences tend to be lethal, due to their pathological origin.
This means, pathology can indeed cause experiences of the Kingdom of God, but not all God state experiences are caused by pathology. They can also occur due to disturbance in the geomagnetic field of our planet, consumption of psychedelics, excruciatingly extreme level of stress during a near-death situation, or ultimately through a natural and healthy procedure of meditation.
Now let’s shed some light on the shady domain of the Kingdom of God or to speak clinically, the Absolute Unitary Qualia. So, the very first question that may rise in the mind of a rational human being, is – what is this God state? Is it some kind of extraterrestrial dimension?
To answer these questions, we need to resort to two different perspectives. From a subjective point of view, i.e. from the point of view of a person who’s actually experiencing the God state, it is indeed an extraterrestrial dimension which the ancient cultures termed as the Kingdom of God. Now from an objective point of view, i.e. from the point of view of a scientist who analyzes subject’s experience of the God state, it is an exceptional state of the human mind, attained in specific internal and external conditions.
Basically, it is an earthly experience, which manifests in an unearthly manner. It appears to be devoid of the mortal limitations of the human life. And especially due to its unearthly and quite heavenly characteristics, it is deemed in many early human civilizations as the Abode of the Lord Almighty.
Unlike the usual sensation of divinity in the general population, the God state is an actual experiential encounter with the pre-dominant mental picture of an Almighty Being. I termed it as Absolute Unitary Qualia because of its unifying nature, that puts forward a sensation of oneness between human and the God or the Universe.
Here is a common expression of experiencing the Absolute Unitary Qualia or the God state:
“The experience took hold of me with such power that it seemed to go through my whole soul, so it seemed as if God was praying in, with, and for me.”
Now in order to understand the underlying biology of the Kingdom of God, let’s start with a basic understanding of the anatomy of the soul.
Until the advancement in the field of Neuroscience, there have been a lot of mystical confusions surrounding the ancient notions of mind, body, and soul, in both the philosophical and scientific societies. Unfortunately, the confusion still prevails to a great extent in the general population. And to clear this air of mystery, a lot of scientific literatures have been published. So, I’ll not go into the detail analysis of these ideas.
All these confusions are based on ignorance. However, far from the confusions, let’s have a basic scientific perception on the idea of mind, body and soul. For ages, due to lack of insight into the biological basis of life, the ancient notion of soul being the driving force behind mind and body, has remained dominant in the general human psyche.
There has always been an irresistible desire in humans to see ourselves somehow above nature and our biological body. And this primordially innate desire has given rise to varied doctrines and philosophies of dualism, which inadvertently implied a mystical distinction between our biological body and the supernatural realm. Thus, the mystical idea of a soul has survived through ages.
The primitive human notion about the soul has been that, the soul bestows a person with his or her unique personality. This is more or less the universal perception of the soul. And if that so, then soul and mind are basically one and the same thing, because the modern understanding of the human psychology reveals that the mind is the collective expression of various mental elements such as emotions, ambitions, ideologies, sentiments etc. All these mental elements define a person’s personality traits. Therefore, soul is only the primordial equivalent of the mind.
Having diminished the confusing primeval separation between mind and soul, let’s move on and get acquainted with the fundamental building blocks of the mind/soul.
It all begins in the tiny cells of the brain which we call neurons. Neurons are the fundamental building blocks of the mind/soul. Bring a bunch of live neurons together and from them would rise a rudimentary mental feature. Bring enough of such different features together, by interconnecting their individual networks of neurons and collectively they’ll form the mind/soul.
Now imagine a hundred billion of such neurons creating a magnificent network, which gives rise to your lavishly colored mental life. Neuron is to mind, what DNA is to life. Now, let’s look at the connection between mind and life. While being an essential part of life, mind is what enables life to maneuver in this world. And consciousness is a quintessential part of mind which makes life aware of its environment. Now, given the context of the article, one might wonder, where does God fit into all this?
There is nothing mystical about it actually. It is pretty simple – mind is a part of life – consciousness is a part of mind – God is a part of consciousness. And as mentioned earlier, the God part of the consciousness is attainable only through certain stimuli. It may seem demeaning to the vanity of some individuals, but like all elements of the mind, God and all its correlated sensations of divinity are the majestic creations of the brain.
(This Article was originally published on Goodreads, under the title “Neural Kingdom of God.”)
Abhijit Naskar, 2016, Autobiography of God: Biopsy of A Cognitive Reality
Abhijit Naskar, 2016, What is Mind?
Abhijit Naskar, 2016, In Search of Divinity: Journey to The Kingdom of Conscience
Have you ever wondered, why do we believe what we believe? Why some humans are religious, some spiritual, some extremists, some agnostics and some others atheists? What is it that makes various human beings perceive different things at different moral, logical and spiritual level? What makes us so different in terms of beliefs and dis-beliefs? And why is it so hard for humans to embrace each other’s beliefs? And the ultimate question is, does our belief actually allow us to connect with the reality? Does it have any significance in the human biology?
In this article we are about to embark on an enlightening journey of belief, biology and philosophy. And in the end we shall discover how imperative it is to sometimes acknowledge each other’s beliefs and accept people the way they are, because one’s beliefs are not merely a matter of ideology or intuitions, rather it is a rudimentary need of the human mind. And for a truly cheerful and productive human life one’s belief should be in perfect harmony with Science & Philosophy.
So, let’s begin with a simple yet quintessential question of human life – what is belief?
To quote from my book Autobiography of God: Biopsy of A Cognitive Reality
“Belief is the brain’s natural self-maintenance mechanism.” It enables a person function properly in daily life, without worrying about the true nature of reality. Belief is exclusively a matter of personal domain. It has nothing to do with reality. And conflict occurs when a person tries to impose his or her beliefs onto others.
The human brain is quite selfish. Its first concern is the satisfaction of its owner. The common human brain of the masses doesn’t care about the truth of the universe. It doesn’t care about scientific enlightenment. It doesn’t care about reasoning. The only thing it cares about is survival. And in order to survive it does everything in its capacity to keep a person bound inside a tiny circle of beliefs and fantasies. And every time another person tries to break that circle by refuting the beliefs and talking about Science, the brain kicks into self defense mode. Now it shall do everything to sustain the beliefs and fight every incoming argument with a blind eye. This is because one’s beliefs no matter how magical or mystical or unscientific they sound, help the person get through the daily struggles of life.
In short, belief is a common element of human life the purpose of which is self-preservation. Even we scientists often pursue a hunch based on our beliefs. The only difference is that we cannot call that hunch Science, until we actually prove it through rigorous experimentation. There was a time, when Evolution was a hunch or rather a hypothesis in the minds of a few naturalists. Hence we received the famous book of biology “On the Origin of Species by means of natural selection” by Charles Darwin. Then we started to look for more evidence to back up the theory. And over time we gathered a pile of anthropological and genetic evidence, enough to include the Theory of Evolution as an incontrovertible fact of science.
Now let’s talk about supernatural beliefs. The whole world is filled with various unearthly and supernatural beliefs, such as demons, advanced ancient civilization, extraterrestrial intervention in ancient human society etc. All these fantasies are the products of the brain’s myth-making mechanism. And in fact, it is very easy for the brain to fall prey to these fantastic illusory ideas and conspiracy theories. This is because your brain has an innate attraction towards everything that by definition belongs to a domain, that is apparently “beyond human understanding”. Your brain has an affinity towards all those conspiracy theories and paranormal fantasies. And there is an evolutionary reason behind it. It is because we the humans have remained in the fear of the unknown throughout the most of our 200,000 years long existence. And that innate bond between the human mind and the unknown still exists in the limbic system of the brain.
Now let’s look at some modern life scenarios where this ingrained affinity towards mysticism and the unknown becomes a curse for the society. The innate primordial attraction towards the unknown often makes people fall prey to fraudsters like psychics. However, if we talk about psychic abilities, even you have such abilities. How many times has it happened that you think of a word and suddenly the person in front spits out the very word. These are random incidents that occur in everybody daily life. It cannot be controlled or simulated. It is something that happens when you least expect it.
All these bizarre phenomena fall into the category of Extra Sensory Perception or ESP. Parapsychologists have been studying these phenomena for a long time. And the evidence is too significant to call these phenomena as coincidence. ESP does indeed occur. So far we have developed several possible scientific hypothesis for ESP. The most plausible one is that human brains are capable of sharing information through Earth’s geomagnetic field.
But you must remember, despite the fact that we have highly plausible scientific explanations for ESP, it is still all hypothesis. We haven’t yet been able to prove it as a fact of Science. Because to prove a phenomenon as Science we must replicate it inside the lab.
And there’s the biggest problem with understanding the Science behind ESP. Until now we have no way to replicate an ESP phenomenon. Because they happen naturally in the human mind, and mostly in incidents of crisis. And we cannot take the unscientific risk of triggering an ESP phenomenon in the human mind by putting another human person into a crisis. Such phenomena are unpredictable. And in most cases they occur out of the blue. So it is close to impossible to trigger such phenomena in a controlled environment.
So don’t fall prey to all the fraudsters around you claiming to be psychics. In most cases they use what we call in psychology “Barnum statements”. Astrology, tarot card reading, and all those hocus focus stuff around you, use these statements. The special feature of these statements is that they happen to be true for almost any human being. And especially when a person goes to a psychic expecting answers to various confusing questions, his or brain automatically embraces the common statements from the psychic as exclusive remarks about the person. Your brain always keeps anticipating a pattern even in the chaos. So unless you have a truly rational mind filled with scientific curiosity it is very likely for you to become a prey to those predators who are always looking to feed on the sufferings of good and gullible people.
However, if a grieving person visits a psychic with the hope of getting in touch with the departed soul of his or her loved one, in order to have solace, then I really don’t have any idea how to convince the person that the so called psychics are frauds. Because to the grieving person, the psychic acts as a ray of hope – the last resort to say good bye to a person whom he or she cared about deeply. But for this very purpose we have the field of psychiatry. We have developed highly advanced anti depressants, mood stabilizers various other medications that can help in easing the grief. Now it is up to a person’s own conscience, which one to choose.
As far as the human mind is concerned, when it is in distress, all it cares about is finding hope. And it doesn’t matter to the mind where that hope comes from. It is all about self preservation. That’s why your brain is always trying to make sense out of nonsense in order to give you a sense of calmness. It is always looking for pattern in the unknown. In fact, it quite successfully makes you see things even in the nothingness. This psychological phenomenon is known as Pareidolia. It is why your mind often perceives a figure in the cloud, or a face on a random rock formation. It is your mind that always plays tricks on you. And in every situation of your daily life you see what you really want to see, rather than what really is.
Believe it or not, none of us is able to see the reality as it is. Your brain has a very limited field of vision, when it comes to conscious perception. Everything outside that field is cut out as background noise, so that you can focus on the task at hand. No matter how much we pride ourselves to be the smartest species on earth, the reality is we are partially blind, and shall remain that way forever. And this partial cognitive blindness often leads to superstitions, especially in times of weakness. When the mind is weak, it is easy to succumb to all kinds of fantasies and superstitions. But when such fantasies and superstitions become barriers in the path of humanity’s progress, then it is imperative that we the modern human beings do our best to shake them off.
Every human being is neurologically predisposed to be superstitious. However, to counteract such superstitions the brain has also developed the feature of reasoning in the neural network of the frontal lobes. But in times of distress, that feature gets highly suppressed by the overwhelming feeling of sadness and anxiety. Hence, lack of reasoning leads the mind to seek absolution in the supernatural domain of the society.
However, those who practice reasoning and rational thinking in daily circumstances, are much more likely to avoid the hocus focus stuff in times of distress, than those who don’t. It is all about realization of the self.
The point is, human mind cannot function properly without some kind of belief system. So, for the sake a truly cheerful future we must work together to align our beliefs in the line of Science and Philosophy, as much as possible if we truly want to advance as a species, keeping in mind, that it is not possible for a human to be completely free from beliefs, because beliefs are crucial cognitive mechanism of the brain. However, one’s personal beliefs should not stop him or her from embracing the practicality of Science and the fragrance of Philosophy. There should be a healthy balance between the personal domain of beliefs and the rational realm of scientific & philosophical thinking.
(This Article was originally published on Goodreads, under the title “Belief and Reality”)
Mankind (not womankind) has slaughtered more humans in the name of God and Religion than for any other reason. Every time, their beliefs are offended, they lash out as pathological psychopaths. And that’s exactly what the so-called holy warriors are. But does this so-called holy war really occur due to some kind of divine intervention? Is it the will of what humanity so glorious reveres as God? If so, then what does such ruthless instruction tell us about the nature of that God? What if those instructions are not actually from God?
All religions, one way or another talk about Lord Almighty being merciful and compassionate. But before you jump into any conclusion about whether my argument is leading towards a religious climax or an atheistic one, I must clarify that I am neither a believer nor an atheist. In all my works till now, I have made evidence based efforts to build a bridge between the ever separated banks of Science and Religion. So, if you must, you can call me an Agnostic. I am not an atheist. But the religion that I do advocate is not of the Bible, Vedas, Quran or any other scripture. The religion I speak of, is what Christ talked about, it is what Buddha talked about, it is the religion of plain everyday kindness. A Muslim who prays five times a day and yet beats his wife at home, is no religious person. A Christian who goes to Church every Sunday, and yet never talks to his or her neighbor with a smile on the face, is no religious person. On the other hand, an outspoken atheist who most lovingly talks and listens to people of all religions without any bigotry or prejudice is a hundred times more religious than all the theoretical preachers of all religions combined.
Now let’s get back to the matter in hand. All scriptures, have elements that advocate compassion, generosity and peace. However, they also possess elements of violence and monstrosity. That’s an unfortunate and unavoidable fact of most of the religious scriptures, especially Judaism, Islam and Hinduism. Now the question is, if God is merciful then how can it be so ruthless at times?
Despite the complexity of the question, the answer is quite simple. Here we must take not one but two Gods into consideration. One of them is the God of Humanity, which all humans proudly venerate, experience and often perceive as an Omnipresent, either abstract or humanlike Entity. Human mind in general perceives this God as the driving force behind everything in the universe. This God is perceived as the controller of causality in the universe.
The other God is the actual controller of causality, if there is any such Entity. Humanity only thinks that it knows, feels and experiences this Actual Supreme Entity, while in reality, the God of humanity is a fascinating part of the human consciousness. This God is what I have clinically termed as Absolute Unitary Qualia in my book What is Mind?. In most cases, without even knowing, humanity actually worships not an Entity, rather a mental state. This is the state what all the religious founders experienced. And those who actually experience this mental state of Absolute Unitary Qualia, become radically transformed as humans. Their brain circuits get rewired as if some Supreme Divinity Entity has touched their soul. And that’s exactly what they feel. That feeling has nothing to do with Reality, rather it is all about the exclusively private subjective experience of the individual.
I am not going to talk about the other God, that is the actual driver of causality, for we know nothing of it. The only Science that can answer whether there is an Entity controlling causality is Modern Physics. We Biologists are not the right people to investigate that domain. Our purpose is to investigate Life. And as Neuroscientists, our purpose is to investigate the God of Human Life, i.e. Absolute Unitary Qualia. The God that is venerated in different cultures in different ways, is actually an inexplicable state of the human mind. In fact, it is the Event horizon of Human Consciousness. It is not entity, but the person experiencing it may experience it as an entity, because AUQ manifests in different individuals in different ways. The storyline of that manifestation is constructed by the mind, based on one’s urges, intuitions and conjectures. And the end product of such complicated mental process is a true personal transcendental meeting with God or the Universe, within one’s inner cosmos. Such an experience transforms a person radically. It makes him or her, in most cases, the best version of himself or herself. In AUQ a person’s true personality gets amplified to an unimaginable extent. So, a compassionate person becomes even more compassionate, while a narcissistic misogynist becomes the specimen of extreme primeval human urges.
However, you must remember that there is no such thing as a God Spot or God Module in the brain. Just like Consciousness is the product of collective activity of various regions of the brain, the God part of the Consciousness, which is the most blissful and inexplicable of all conscious states of the human mind, is also a product of complex electrical activity in various neural regions. It also involves inactivation of a few parts of the brain. In various cases, during Absolute Unitary Qualia or simply during God experience, the frontal lobes, parts of the limbic system and to some extent the temporal lobes become highly active. This complex neural functioning of the brain leads to an amazing sensation of supreme divinity and euphoria. Along comes the loss of sense of the self, which occurs due to the inactivation of the parietal lobes, which are principle brain region for navigation of the self in three dimensional space.
This whole collective mental process leads to the glorious experience of Absolute Divinity. It is the ultimate form of bliss. Once you attain that bliss through prayer or meditation, the ordinary everyday happiness and sorrow seem pointless. And that’s the beauty of such God experience. And this magnificent experience of transcendental bliss is the God of the Human Species. All religious founders attained this very God. And due to their unique neural circuitries each of them experienced it in vividly different ways. Their human minds constructed the experience of their desired divinity that heralded the advent of modern religions. Thus at the fountain-head of all religions there were the complicated neural processes of Absolute Divinity. And today, that Absolute Divinity is venerated throughout the world as the God/Yahweh/Allah/Brahman and so on.
Now the biggest question of all is, how can this experience of Absolute Divinity lead to violence? And is it actually true that religion causes violence?
Religion doesn’t cause violence, but the negative elements of the religious books do. While experiencing Absolute Unitary Qualia, a person’s own urges, beliefs, intuitions and imaginations bubble to the surface of Consciousness and manifest themselves as the storyline of the intense spiritual experience. Thus, all the messages recorded in the scriptures were constructed by the human mind in the transcendental state. The thing which we call “revelations” of the religious books, were merely an amplification of the human mind’s inner desires, instincts and fantasies.
Hence, almost all the scriptures in the world contain teachings that are philosophically beneficial to the humanity, alongside some primitive instructions that are downright harmful to the entire species. A healthy human mind is neurologically incapable of carrying out the ruthless instructions of the negative elements of the scriptures. The only way the negative elements of the scriptures can harm the society, is through blind followers of the books. These are whom we, not at all proudly, call fundamentalists. These fundamentalists are the real cause of all the violence in the name of religion. They drive angry young men in the path of vengeance and presents the ideology of Jihad to them in such a way that it appears to them as the last resort for absolution. Their rage against the society, for whatever reason, turns into the tool of religious terrorism in the hands of the fundamentalists.
Religious faith as a whole induces various health benefits in the general population through complex biological processes, while on the other hand, Fundamentalism not only acts the biggest threat to humanity, but also, it consistently tends to drag the entire planet back to the Stone Age.
We the Neuroscientists have already proven through rigorous experiments and studies that Religion is Healthy for the Human society, both physiologically and psychologically. But we must act now to get rid of fundamentalism from the society once and forever. Because, if we don’t, the monstrosity of the fundamentalists will soon turn this beautiful planet which we call home, into a barren wasteland.
(This Article was originally published on Goodreads, under the title “What is God?”)
Abhijit Naskar, 2016, Autobiography of God: Biopsy of A Cognitive Reality
Abhijit Naskar, 2016, What is Mind?
Abhijit Naskar, 2016, In Search of Divinity: Journey to The Kingdom of Conscience
What is Religion? This question torments a lot of young minds of modern society, especially those who are keen to study science. It is something that makes every single person on earth ponder in amazement.
Religion is simply a natural phenomenon of the human mind. It is something that is deep rooted into the neural network of the human brain. Or in short, it is a neurological phenomenon. And that natural feature of neurobiology manifests in vividly different ways in different people. For example, to me exploring and investigating the fascinating realm of the human mind, is my religion. To an evolutionary biologist, the theory of evolution itself can be his or her religion. However, to the majority of the human population the term religion refers to a specific book. And there lies the most devastating perceptual error of the modern human society.
Religion is not a book. The Bible is not religion, nor are the Vedas. The Torah is not religion, nor is the Quran, or any other scripture on earth. Scriptures are born out of a basic human urge to sustain the sensation of spirituality in an organized structure.
All the religious conflicts in the human society rise from the perception that when we talk about religion, we are actually referring to a specific book. And there’s the biggest perceptual mistake of the human civilization.
All human creations including the scriptures are the product of billions of neurons firing together in proper harmony. And anything that a human creates can never be free from flaws. So cannot be the religious books of this planet. And chaos starts to invade the society when people perceive every single word from the scriptures to be literally true. Thus the mistakes of our Bronze Age ancestors become the cause of devastation in our modern society.
Biologically, the true essence of religion, lies within the human mind, not in any book, no matter how old they are. Religion is not a book. It is a natural feature of the human mind that created all the scriptures in the world, not the other way around.
Religion is the mind’s urge to become better in the spiritual domain. All those books only depict that urge. They only show what a handful of individuals in the history of mankind experienced when their brain made them transcend from an ordinary wakeful state of consciousness into an ultimate state of divinity and bliss. It is what we call an altered state of consciousness. And you don’t have to be a prophet or a messiah to experience this. The most natural way to experience a transcendental state of consciousness is through meditation. It has nothing to do with God. But it has a lot to do with exploring one’s inner self and getting familiar with one’s deepest desires, the inner divinity.
Thus all divinity, spirituality and religiosity exist within your very brain. I take immense pleasure in realizing that our perception of the whole universe emerges from the activity of the little specks of jelly inside our skull. From the complex and fascinating neural activity emerges our very human consciousness, which happens to be the most advanced among all species on planet earth. So, bring that 3 pounds lump of jelly into use. Human brain holds all the answers to you questions. You just need to ask the right question at the right moment. It is not about what the books permit you to do, or not to do. It is about what you as a precious member of mankind permit yourself to do. It is about finding the kingdom of conscience. In that kingdom of conscience you shall discover that all religions are biologically true and equal. They evolved in the human mind to ease the sufferings of daily survival.
And the ancient sensation that binds all religions together is spirituality. It is the basis of all religions on this planet, yet it is not tied to any specific religion. In fact, this neurological element of spirituality led to the birth of modern religions.
At the core of all religions, the rudimentary element of spirituality functions as a cognitive mechanism within the brain to inspire a human being in all walks of life. And all the vivid and varied religious rituals and regulations are manmade paths that lead towards that spiritual awakening. Mother Nature embedded the seeds of spirituality within our genetic blueprint because this fascinating mental quality proved its mettle in easing human anxiety and sufferings throughout our existence as a species.
Humans are the most interesting as well as confusing creature on this planet. We can be tough as iron, and quite amazingly in times of distress we can become real weak and vulnerable. So, Mother Nature thought, “Hey, I cannot let my children suffer like that. I need to do something about it.”
Naturally, she put selective pressure on the human brain and through millions of years in the pursuit of building various mechanisms in our complex neural network. These mechanisms are the pinnacle of biological revolution. They are the reason we can act as an advanced species. They provide us amazing human qualities of love, passion, compassion, kindness, empathy, curiosity, and spirituality.
And this element of spirituality in our neural network constructs our rich and vivid religious sentiments. As I have said in my book Autobiography of God: Biopsy of A Cognitive Reality,
“your spiritual goals can be as numerous as there are stars in the sky, and so can be your religions. But in all your vivid and diverse paths of practicing religion, here is one common element that knows no bounds. That element is the eternal bliss that enables you to attain unimaginable feats of excellence.”
That divine element constructed all the philosophical teachings of the scriptures. However, some of the verses of those books which inadvertently advocate and promote hatred or violence, are simply the product of the dark side of the human mind. All those scriptures are like philosophical literature. Some parts of them are beneficial to the society and some others are quite harmful. Thus, taking every single word of those books to be literally true, only leads to chaos. This is what we call fundamentalism, and it is dangerous. It not only harms the society, but leads the entire human civilization back to the Stone Age.
Hence, to avoid such catastrophic scenario, every scripture, no matter how ancient, must go through rigorous human scrutiny. A rational mind should not accept a single word from the scriptures without properly examining it. A modern human being must be brave and upright, and embrace the goodness from all the scriptures and throw away the poisonous particles.
Religion itself is not harmful for the society. In fact it is quite the opposite. It is what gives a person hope to keep walking even in the darkest times. And we have proven this with countless neuroscientific studies. We the neuroscientists have proven that religion is healthy for the human species as a whole. It is an incontrovertible fact of science, just like evolution or gravity. In fact, religion is a crucial part of evolution.
But, on the other hand, the greatest threat to mankind is fundamentalism. It is the fuel for terrorism. And the moment, fundamentalism disappears from the face of earth, society would finally get rid of religious terrorism.
The point is, every person on this planet has been endowed with an inexplicable human conscience. Through various neurochemical processes, that conscience can solve quintessential problems of life. That conscience can tell you, whether something is right or wrong. And that very conscience can show you, that all religions serve a single purpose in human life. It serves as an infinite domain of hope. And we live in a society, where hope has become scarce. So, we need more of it. And if a person takes comfort in his or her faith upon divinity in times of utter distress, who the hell am I to say, “that person is delusional”. Only a blind idiot would call the faith upon divinity, a delusion.
My conscience doesn’t allow me to be such ruthless. I am a human, who happens to be a scientist. And my scientific exploration of the biological roots of divinity has taught me Universal Tolerance.
Whatever may be the position of science, whatever may be the position of philosophy, as long as there is such a thing as death in the world, as long as there is such a thing as weakness in the human heart, as long as the human heart sheds a drop of tear in weakness, there shall be a faith in God and divinity. And the beauty of Mother Nature is that, every time a person tries to inflict harm to that graceful element of faith, it reinforces itself in the human mind.
My goal is simple. It is to take the human civilization with me on the path of sweet general harmony. The beauty is in assimilating the appealing elements from all religions. The world has ample place for everybody. And once all the humans of this planet learn to embrace the goodness of each other, this tiny blue world of ours, shall become the happiest planet in the universe.
The point is, based upon one’s needs, his or her brain develops various fascinating beliefs – religious, non- religious or purely spiritual. When a seed is put in the ground, and soil, air and water are placed around it, does the seed become the soil, or the air or the water? No, it becomes a plant. It develops according to its own law of growth, assimilates the air, the water and the soil, converts them into plant substance and grows into a plant. Similar is a human mind. And similar is a belief system. The Christian is not to become a Muslim or a Hindu, nor a Muslim or a Jew is to become a Christian or a Hindu. In the name of general harmony, each must assimilate the spirit of the others, yet preserve his or her individuality and grow according to his or her own law of growth.
Any idea of separation is a bondage. True liberation of the mind is in non-differentiation. And that liberation can only be attained though love and compassion. So, in the name of general harmony, let’s break the barriers down and embrace each other. Let’s build a world beyond chaos and religious conflicts. Let’s construct a world better than this one, where ones individuality finds new meaning in accepting the goodness of others. Where love and compassion shall run in the veins of every single human being.
(This Article was originally published on Goodreads, under the title “Biology of Religion”)
Abhijit Naskar, 2016, Autobiography of God: Biopsy of A Cognitive Reality
Abhijit Naskar, 2016, Biopsy of Religions: Neuroanalysis towards Universal Tolerance
Abhijit Naskar, 2016, What is Mind?
What is Soul? Is it magic? Or is it something pretty much physical but seems to be magical? Is it something Science can explain? Or is it beyond human comprehension? In this article you are going to have your confusions surrounding the term Soul, thrown away, once and forever.
But before you learn about Soul, I must tell you a thing or two about the human brain’s affinity towards mysticism. Our species, that is the Homo sapiens evolved around 200,000 years ago, and even before that our previous ancestral species existed, millions of years back. During the most of existential period we lived in the wild alongside wild animals. On the contrary Modern Science has only evolved a few centuries ago. So, compared to the civilized scientific mind of modern human, the instinctual primitive mind is way older and more deep rooted into the brain. That primitive mind has been surviving in the wild environment for a long time in the midst of fear and ignorance. By nature, that mind is easily fooled by supernatural mysticism. It is very gullible. And no matter how much we the civilized human beings advance in the fields of Modern Sciences, there is always a part of us, that tries to allure us with magical nonsense. Because that nonsense has been with us since the birth of humanity. Scientific understanding of things arrived much later, and in fact, if we compare it with our millions of years long acquaintance with ignorance and fear, Science would look in its infancy. So it is not easy for your brain to embrace the newly discovered scientific explanations of various phenomena which you previously knew as correlated to the domain of the Supernatural or Paranormal.
For example, due to lack of comprehension, primitive humans believed thunderstorms were caused by gods or spirits in the sky, earthquakes were caused by earth spirits and so on. But, now it is common knowledge for you, how various geophysical processes give rise to various weathers, and various natural disasters. Now you know that plate tectonics is responsible for earthquakes. All these things are common sense to the general public. In fact, now you know that the planets including our earth revolve around the sun, but a few thousand years ago, this simple idea was perceived by the ignorant population as blasphemy. Because it was against the mysticism of those days.
Science has advanced quite a lot since then. Especially with advancement in the field of Brain Science, we finally have started explore the existential questions of human life. We are finally investigating questions revolving around our own entity and identity. We Neuroscientists are constantly exploring the fantastic domain of the human mind to understand what makes each human being tick the way they do. And one of the most fascinating terms correlated with the term Mind, is Soul.
The concept of Soul goes way back during our tribal days in the jungle. The only way the tribal primitives could make sense of death, is to incorporate the concept of Soul. They perceived Soul as the breath of Life, without which the body would not function. From this, emerged the ancient mind-body problem. Due to lack of any understanding of human biology whatsoever, the primitive humans perceived Soul and Body to be separate because that’s the only way they could make sense of their fellow human one moment walking around and the next moment lying on the ground lifeless. And in order to diminish the uncertainty that goes along with the notion of death they further developed the primeval idea that Soul is immortal which upon leaving the body reaches a peaceful place, which many cultures termed as Heaven. This idea has been celebrated throughout the world for a long time, because of the comfort that it brings. It erases all the devastating anxiety, uncertainty and ignorance surrounding death. Hence till this modern day of fascinating scientific achievements the common human mind deems death as a blissful departure of the soul to another realm – far more beautiful that our planet earth.
And this idea of heaven is so strong in general human mind, that even today, every now and then we scientists come across various individuals who claim to have visited Heaven and come back to planet earth. These people are not lying. They are indeed telling what they experienced during a life and death situation. And here the ancient idea came into action. A person who has heard a lot about the Afterlife during his or her lifetime, once faced with a near death event, that idea would become a reality through his or her neural circuits. During a traumatic event the extremely high level of stress hormones triggers the release of a special neurochemical called DMT, or Dimethyltryptamine. DMT is one of the most profound hallucinogenic compounds on this planet. And upon the influence of DMT the human mind experiences a reality so soothing and surreal that makes the person forget about the trauma almost completely. It enables the person to deal with the situation. And what the person hallucinates about during that times, depends on the predominant ideas, fantasies and wishes rooted into the neural network of the person’s brain. So, here the person may not actually go to heaven, but to him or her, the hallucianatory reality of heaven or afterlife seems more real and the actual reality. It’s the brain’s way of self preservation. These near death experiences further strengthen the general idea of an Afterlife and the immortality of Soul in the masses.
Now let’s answer the billion dollar question. What is Soul?
It is not really a billion dollar question any more, at least for those who have a basic understanding of human biology. As I have said in my book What is Mind?, Soul is the functional expression of neurons. When billions of neurons start firing, the result is a mesmerizing thing called Soul, or which we more simply refer to as the Mind. Mind and Soul are one and the same thing. Although various cultures till this date perceive Soul to be the driving force behind the Human Mind. Cultural ideas have their own mysticism attached to them, so those ancient concepts cannot be accepted literally. Rather a rational civilization must investigate those beliefs beyond the limitations of primitive superstitions, in the pursuit of understanding the human mind in a better way.
Human Mind, or from an ancient perspective – the Soul, is born from protoplasmic activity within the brain. All regions of the brain’s neural network play their distinctive roles to construct distinct features of the Mind, such as Emotions, Memory, Individuality etc. If you turn even a small portion of the neural network off, the correlated mental feature of that region would completely disappear from the person’s mental life. And this way, if you keep turning off various regions of the brain one after another, in the end, there would be no sign of mental activity whatsoever. Soul would cease to exist. Because the brain that creates this fascinating phenomenon has been turned off. This is exactly what happens when a person is announced brain- dead.
Hence, we can quite naturally deduce that Soul does not come from any Supernatural Domain outside the body, rather it is born inside the biological domain of the body. And along comes the deduction that soul is born in the brain and dies with it. So, there is no Afterlife, or Heaven or Hell, or Reincarnation. With death you simply cease to exist as your self. However your bodily elements which created your individuality, or from a deeper perspective your Soul, gets dispersed into the nature. So, rhetorically speaking you do live on forever, but not as yourself like depicted in many of the religious cultures, rather as an eternal part of the Cosmos.
(This Article was originally published on Goodreads)
Human mind is without any doubt the most advanced and complex organized biological structure on this planet. It is the house of all your ambitions, emotions, feelings, thoughts, curiosity, and everything that makes you who you are. In fact, you are your brain.
And in this brief article you are about to go back in time with me, to encounter something that your ancestors came up with, a few thousand years ago. They constructed a method to tap into their brain, and make it more productive than ever. This method is what you know as the Awakening of the Kundalini Chakras. In time, through interpretations, translations, and reinterpretations, this method got more mystical than it was in the first place. People with their personal ideas and beliefs made this simple system of self-development an ultimate tool in the hands of fanatics to exploit the vulnerable masses.
This system was born in the ancient India, as a method of mental exercise. There was no religion involved in it. It was just like any other ancient scientific discovery. Except here, the land where the method was born, itself made it look like an exclusive possession of the domain of religion.
When you google, Kundalini Chakras, you find millions of picture with a person sitting in a lotus position, with seven bright mysterious chakras or spindles spreading through the spine. The first thing here a rational human being must know is that, all these pictures are mere exaggerated imaginary artworks. They have nothing to do with reality. They look attractive, Yes. And that gives the fraudsters in the profession of ancient mysticism means to exploit vulnerable people. But in reality, kundalini awakening is anything but that.
The seven spindles of Kundalini Awakening, represent various mental states during the practice of plain meditation. And that’s it. There is no mumbo jumbo involved. When you practice meditation, your brain goes through various neurochemical changes, and these changes put an amazing and quite beneficial impact upon your mind as well as your body. That is, practice of meditation on a regular basis makes you more healthy, both physically and psychologically. I have discussed this whole matter in minute detail in my book Autobiography of God: Biopsy of A Cognitive Reality.
So, in short, the spindles that you see in any picture of Kundalini Awakening, are simple symbolic representation of various mental states. Those pictures are not to be taken literally. So, what exactly happens, during this so called awakening process?
Through this process, mind simply transcends from your usual state of consciousness into an extraordinary one. I am calling it extraordinary, because, it is by all means an extraordinary domain of pure bliss. It is the state what all of the religious founders of human history experienced. And you can do the same, without any Gurus and Preachers. It is right within you.
In various cultures throughout the world, this transcendental state of consciousness has been worshipped, with utmost reverence, because of its fascinating features. And the ultimate state of the Kundalini awakening is this. This transcendental state of consciousness is represented as the highest of the Chakras. The Sages of India, whom I prefer to call Scientists, termed it as the Sahasrara Chakra, which means the Thousand Petaled Lotus. We modern age Scientists simply call it the Crown Chakra.
Passing through all the mental states of the six other chakras, which are respectively called, Muladhara, Svadhisthana, Manipura, Anahata, Vissudha and Ajna, when you finally enter the Crown Chakra state, you start to lose all touch with reality. First comes the loss of physical awareness, then you cease to identify yourself with the mind. All these happen due to the inactivation of various regions of the brain. Then finally, your entire sense of self, or which you call ‘I’ disappears. And a whole new world opens up in your mind. You literally get immersed into the universe.
This is what different cultures have termed in different ways, such as, Nirvana, Samadhi, Advaita, or the Non- Duality state. Notice that all of these happen inside your own mind. And you are actually not going anywhere. Rather your brain has gone into a state where everything seems surreal and One with you. And this is achieved simply by the practice of meditation. Long-term practitioners of meditation eventually learn to attain the Crown Chakra state on a regular basis. And as a novice, even if you don’t reach that Crown chakra state, you still come out of the meditation as a healthier version of you both physically and mentally. Many of our neuroscientific studies have shown that practicing meditation on a regular basis makes the brain healthier. And a healthier brain gives rise to a healthier mind with more emotional control in all walks of life.
(This Article was originally published on Goodreads)
The mystics of modern world who thrive on humanity’s primitive knack for mysticism often proclaim with utter glory that spirituality is what distinguishes us humans from the animals. But the biological reality of life is, the element of spirituality does not distinguish us from the animal kingdom. Rather it is the extraordinarily unique blend of emotions, creativity and intellect, that sets us apart from the rest of the animal society. This fusion of vivid and varied elements of mental features makes us humans. It makes us a species unlike any other.
There is nothing objectively extraordinary or magical about the mental trait of spirituality. The very term “magic” simply reflects one’s lack of knowledge and understanding of a certain phenomenon. The socially hailed magical element called “spirituality” evolved as a counter-mechanism for the fear of the unknown while we were living in the wild. If we look closely, we can discover the existence of this apparently supernatural, paranormal element in various species other than humans, such as dogs. Dogs are spiritual in their own instinctive knack for sensing life in even inanimate objects. And in this aspect, the humans are not much different.
However, due to the extraordinary advancement of our brain circuits, unlike any other species, the humans quite unconsciously learnt to incorporate spirituality in their daily lives beyond the wildest instincts of all the lifeforms in the world.
Now let’s go back in time. Think about the distant past, when our primitive ancestors were surrounded by the permeating darkness of absolute ignorance. In every walk of life, they encountered something incomprehensible. But irony of Mother Nature was that they had no modern means to satisfy their curious yet childishly immature mind in the face of those enigmatic natural phenomena. Thunderstorm, Earthquake, Volcanoes – all these events sparked nothing but fear in their instinctively driven mind. They were the slaves of Mother Nature, and as such they were tormented in every walk of life by the surrounding harsh environment.
Unlike now, instinct used to get the best of them, back in those days of incessant hardship for survival. Instincts drove their scared mind to forge explanations of paranormal nature our of their fear, anxiety and ignorance. Their mind was immersed in the sea of ignorance, where there was neither a single shred of data available to them, nor they had the brain capacity to comprehend such data. All they could sense with their instinctive mind was the overwhelming abundance of power-play by some sort of force, stronger than them.
Hence, they felt the growing urge to appease that supposed supernatural force with rituals of worship. And they began worshiping all the natural elements of nature, such as stones, hills, trees, lakes, animals and many more, driven by their craving for a sense of security. As such practice grew more prevalent, the brain circuits for such mental trait, began evolving. And slowly their worship of natural elements acquired stronger roots of spirit origin in their mind. Thus they learnt to impose the primordially concocted idea of spirits on various elements of nature. Thus in the mind of early humans, a whole new world of nature spirits was born. In this world, the lakes were home for lake spirits, the trees were home for tree spirits, the rivers were home for river spirits and so on.
Thus evolved the early neurological ground for spirituality, which would later pave the way for the arrival of the modern structure of religion in the human mind. Since then the human brain has evolved a lot, especially in the intellectual domain. However, despite the intellectual development, the early instinctively spiritual sense of a Supernatural Force driving the universe, still prevails in the psyche of the general population. This primitive idea got even more reinforced when a few individuals in the history of humanity publicized their mental union with their preconceived notion of that Almighty Force or Entity. Thus, through misinterpretation of individual experiences of the simple yet subjectively extraordinary mental state of transcendence, the primitive sense of spirituality got psychologically molded into the modern humanized conception of God and Gods.
(This Article was originally published on Goodreads, under the title “Man’s Invention of God)