Friday, February 04, 2011

Book Review: The Spiritual Doorway in the Brain - Kevin Nelson

While I expected something more, I'm glad I took the time to press through the more difficult parts. Up front, when author Kevin Nelson approaches the subject he does so with the assumption that our brains developed over years of evolution. Still, he goes into great detail - much of the book actually - about how amazingly our brains work.

One example: "You are not actually “seeing” Mona Lisa when you look at the painting. The light reflecting off the canvas gets only as far as the retina on the back of your eyeball. The retinal image is upside down. The eye and brain convert the image to nerve impulses that are transmitted to the occipital lobe, where they are fabricated into a mental image; turning the Dora Maar of brain activity into the Mona Lisa of experience."

The other significant part of the book is spent discussing Near Death Experiences, comparing them to dreams, and raising the questions about whether NDE's are actually dreams during a super-REM state or whether they are "spiritual experiences", citing lots of studies, some conducted near-by at UVA in Charlottesville.

He makes this statement: "whether we think the brain creates an illusion of God or believe it is a receptacle for something untouchable and absolute, we should be able to agree the brain is the seat of spiritual experience." I was hoping for more "proof" from the book that we are born with a "God-shaped hole" that is part of the make-up of our brain but again much time was spent on NDE's and whether they are "proof" of a spiritual element in our brain. The Bible tells me that "eternity is written on the heart" of every man. That's where the God-shaped hole really is. One very interesting fact through testimony of those who "almost" died is that at that point, the body/mind relaxes and one does not feel pain but becomes calm and at peace. This must be a gift from God for each of us when the time comes to make that journey from this world to the next, His grace upon us as we leave.

Overall, I recommend this book, even if it is just out of curiosity that a neurosurgeon would be seeking evidence for "God" in our brains. Nelson concludes: "Whether to induce the experience of the divine is a decision too important for medicine to make alone. I can see these possibilities and so much more, glimmering ahead, still out of reach but getting closer. We are all of this world, and my experience optimistically compels me to believe that understanding the brain as a spiritual organ strengthens our quest for meaning and complements a mature spirituality. My deepest hope is that this quest will ultimately bring us to a new birth of wisdom."

Wisdom, we knew, comes from God, who gives it to all men who ask Him.