by Michael E. Tymn via e-mail|
Distinguished as a fellow in the American Psychotherapy Association,
Dr. Eldon Taylor is the author of New York Times bestsellers Choices
and Illusions and Mind Programming. His latest book is titled What Does
That Mean? Exploring Mind, Meaning, and Mysteries.
Taylor was a practicing criminalist specializing in forensic hypnosis and detection
of deception when he conducted the first-ever double-blind study within a prison
system using subliminal technology for rehabilitation. Since then his career has
been focused on helping others to help themselves. He is the director of Progressive
Awareness Research, Inc., directing the research and development of InnerTalk and
other technologies designed to assist and facilitate all in the personal empowerment
quest. His research and that of others in his programs have repeatedly demonstrated
the power of the mind to influence the whole person. The cornerstones of his work
are forgiveness, gratitude, self-responsibility and service. His website is
Dr. Taylor, In your book, Mind Programming, you state that neuroscientists have
demonstrated the existence of religious centers in the human brain and that we are built
to believe. You further say that atheism is a product of brainwashing. Would you mind
elaborating on that?
“There are certain areas of the brain and certain conditions under which a deep
religious event is experienced. In 1997 an area in the frontal lobe was tagged the god-spot
or the god-module by many scientists since stimulating it led to religious experiences
including visions. This module was discovered as the result of investigations dealing with
a condition known as temporal lobe epilepsy. A recent article in Science and Nature put
it this way, ‘Rudi Affolter and Gwen Tighe have both experienced strong religious visions.
He is an atheist; she a Christian. He thought he had died; she thought she had given birth
to Jesus. Both have temporal lobe epilepsy.’ (Staff 2005) The article continues,
‘Like other forms of epilepsy, the condition causes fitting but it is also associated
with religious hallucinations. Research into why people like Rudi and Gwen saw what they
did has opened up a whole field of brain science: neurotheology.’
““Now some might have concluded from this association that the abnormality, that is
the temporal lobe epilepsy (TLE), was an explanation for so-called religious experience
and thereby dismissed the entire matter as simply a hallucination. In fact, that is what
some have done, especially where linking evidence is present such as with Ellen White,
the founder of the Seventh Day Adventist movement, who suffered brain damage at the age
of nine and began experiencing religious visions thereafter.
“On the other hand, some investigators seized on the fact that the brain is wired in such
a way as to be able to produce religious visions, and have sought to replicate this
phenomenon by stimulating normal brains to elicit the response. The most prominent
and well known of these experimenters is probably Dr. Michael A. Persinger.”
I’ve heard the name but am not really that familiar with his work.
“Persinger is a cognitive neuroscience researcher and university professor at
Laurentian University in Canada. He is credited with inventing what is now called the
‘god helmet.’ In my book, Mind Programming, I discuss this helmet in some detail, but for
now what is relevant is that Persinger has stimulated more than 900 people using an
electromagnetic field (impulses) generated by solenoids placed strategically on the head,
predominantly over the temple area. Many of the volunteers to Persinger’s experiments
have reported spiritual experiences but with one well-known atheist, Richard Dawkins,
this failed and that led Persinger to theorize about a threshold of sensitivity one might
have with respect to religious experience.
“Volumes have been written describing Persinger’s work and the claims and
counter-claims regarding the so-called god helmet. Today that helmet is available as a
ball cap with wires going every which way and a computer interface that allows user
experimentation. In simple terms, the best theoretical explanation for how this all
works that I have seen goes like this: Persinger’s ‘theory is that the sensation described
as “having a religious experience” is merely a side effect of our bicameral brain's
feverish activities. Simplified considerably, the idea goes like so: When the right
hemisphere of the brain, the seat of emotion, is stimulated in the cerebral region
presumed to control notions of self, and then the left hemisphere, the seat of language,
is called upon to make sense of this nonexistent entity, the mind generates a ‘sensed
presence.’” (Hitt 1999)
Is that a materialist/reductionist explanation or are there spiritual implications in that explanation?
“The big question, of course, is whether or not this built in wiring says anything
about what it presumably is wired to. Studies have differed regarding the interpretation
of this matter. That said, other research seems to collaborate the notion that the brain
is hardwired for religious experience. Dr. Andrew Newberg, a radiologist at the University
of Pennsylvania, has reported measurable brain wave activity connected to meditation and
speaking in tongues. His work quite convincingly demonstrates that the brain uses the
same mechanism (neurons that fire together wire together) and resources (amygdala,
hippocampus, etc.) thereby establishing recognizable patterns that are substantially
the same for all. In other words, Newberg’s scans (SPECT Images) provide a picture of
the inner working of the brain during such things as glossolalia (speaking in tongues),
mantra meditation and so forth. (Newberg 2008)
“In the February 2010 issue of the journal Neuron, Dr. Cosimo Urgesi, from the
University of Udine in Italy, reported that selective damage to ‘posterior parietal areas
induced unusually fast changes of a stable personality dimension related to transcendental
self-referential awareness. Thus, dysfunctional parietal neural activity may underpin
altered spiritual and religious attitudes and behaviors.’” (Staff 2010)
Now evolutionary biologists believe that having a god center in the brain only makes sense
since religious beliefs aid the species in building society and thereby increasing the
odds of survival. However, when one considers the atrocities that have been perpetrated
by humans against humans in the name of religion, I find it hard to believe that the
god-center is a pure artifact of Darwinian evolution.
There are a number of other interesting studies and the work continues, but for me,
it appears that good old Homo sapiens, modern human beings, are simply wired for spiritual
experiences. Given that understanding, it seems likely to me that atheists are either
brainwashed into denying this faculty at all levels of cognitive awareness and/or perhaps
their brain circuitry differs from the masses.”
Do you think it is possible to “profile” the average hard-core atheist or non-believer in a spirit world?
“I really do not. I do not believe there is a personality type per se. I would go
further with this answer and point out that there was a time in my own personal past that
I considered myself to be strongly agnostic, if not atheist, and the only reservation I
had between the two was dependent upon my inability to absolutely disprove the existence
of a god. Now that said, my personal experiences intervened and today I am anything but
an atheist! Sometimes our disbelievers become the most faithful, as is the case with so
many in the past, such as St. Paul or St. Augustine of Hippo.”
At the other extreme, do you see religious fundamentalism being a result of brainwashing?
Does it require a certain mindset or upbringing to accept fundamentalist teaching?
Is there a profile for this person?
“You’re not trying to help me win friends with this question. It is however my
opinion that the tools of brainwashing are absolutely employed in organized religion.
Whether it is the ‘exclusive path to salvation’ approach or the fear selling that you
will burn in hell fires, most religions use every trick of the trade to convert and hold
members. There are also many additional subtle nuances that are the tools of mindbender.
For example, have you ever noticed that the pews are at an angle below the speaking
platform so that the head and eyes must tip up and back to see the speaker? This is a
technique often employed in hypnotic inductions. Then there is the music, either it is
deeply emotive or slow classical adagio/largo (60 beat a minute) music which entrains the
brain and has been shown to produce an alpha brain wave state (alpha is the predominate
brain wave pattern often seen when a person is in hypnosis). I could go on but I’m sure
you get the point.”
Humanists say that we should “live in the now” and not concern ourselves with what comes
after death. You also talk about the need to “live in the now.” How does your approach to
“living in the now” differ from that of the humanist?
“That’s a great question. The usual ‘living in now’ approach that is so prevalent
today follows the thinking of Eckhart Tolle. This is the idea that everything is as it’s
supposed to be and if we remain in now we will always have everything we need. It is a
sophisticated form of Buddhist nihilism in my opinion.
“I believe that we are all unique and we have an obligation to manifest our highest
best according to the gifts we have been given (the story of the talents from the Bible,
if you will). I go into great detail in my book, What Does That Mean? about this subject,
but the bottom line is this: living in now for me means attending to the urgency of the
moment. Emerson’s essay on self-reliance taught me at a very early age that I was
responsible for me, my actions and reactions, as well as my ability to truly be
self-reliant. The philosophy of Tolle is one of diminishing my individuality, my
self-reliance, by replacing those notions (ego in his words) with an egoless negation
of this life in favor of a merging with the greater consciousness. Again, for me, the
merging with a creative consciousness implies utilizing my talents or creativity to their
highest. We live in a political world where people are suffering, where genocide takes
place somewhere nearly every year now, where it is our duty in my view, to become involved
and tend to the real urgency of the moment. As such, I encourage activism in place of
passivism, selflessness in place of selfishness, self responsibility and self-reliance
instead of an entitlement philosophy that expects more and more for less and less.
“I think we all have the ability to choose to use our lives for the betterment of
all including ourselves of course. When I make that choice, I begin to realize that I
am also hardwired to do so, for my system actually rewards me by bathing me with the body’s
own natural opiates. This reward loop teaches me that it simply feels good to help.
Once life begins to operate in this mode, death becomes less worrisome. Something happens,
perhaps it is a something we can say is ineffable, for everyone that I have ever spoken
with and who has turned his or her life over this way, discovers that somehow they know
that death is only a transition and that they will survive.
“Consider this, Michael, how many varieties of what one could say is evidence for
life after death informs us that death is a merging and further that it should be? Every
variety I am familiar with, from NDEs to EVPs, inform us if by no other means than
inference, that the other side is just as individual as this side—no nihilism over there
that I know of.
You talk about a Spiritual Quotient (SQ). Would you explain what that is all about and
how it would be applied?
“I actually provide a test in my book and the answers and scoring method on my
website for the SQ. I explain this in my book but for me, most insights, intuitions, and
so-called serendipity in science could be called “anomalous memory”— that is, something
remembered without a context for its recall. We know the information is correct, but we
lack the knowledge typically expected to accompany knowledge: where we learned this, who
told us, and so forth. The remembering process seems to intensify as the awakening process
increases. I have referred to this remembering as Spiritual Quotient (SQ) for years.
Thank you, Dr. Taylor. One last question. Do you see the world overcoming its materialistic ways and becoming more spiritual?
“I see a great divide here. More and more people are waking up and more and more
are falling deeper and deeper asleep. It’s a race right now. I wrote Mind Programming to
bring more attention to the way we are losing our own thoughts to those vendors of ideas
and products that wish to own our every intention. This one will get answered one person
at a time.
“Thanks for the opportunity to share with you and your readers, Michael!”