The neuroscience behind the experience of God has been a fascination of mine the last few years. When I was a young Christian I believed experience was always reality. If I experienced something and that experience felt so real to me, then it must have been real. When I felt an angelic presence in my room at night I really believed an angel must be there. There was no other way to explain my experience. I didn’t have any real education on how complex the brain and it’s consciousness is.
My supernatural experiences were never too crazy. I never saw an angel, but would sometimes feel them around me. But I had friends that would swear that they have seen angels or that during worship they entered God’s thrown room and sat on Jesus’ lap.
As I matured as a Christian and started thinking and questioning why it is that God lets some have mystical experiences and not others. I’d wonder if it was because some were called to have more supernatural happenings because their experiences and stories could reach people and bring them into the Kingdom of God. And those who don’t have supernatural encounters were called to have a more Earthly and relatable influence on those who are more skeptical of the supernatural. I’d wonder if those who are more prone to have supernatural experiences needed those experiences for themselves to help keep their faith, while believers who never had an experience were strong enough in their faith to not need one. I wondered if the mystically-inclined Christians had a more child-like faith believing anything is possible had these experiences cause a skeptical mind didn’t hinder them from seeing the supernatural.
I saw a pattern in personality traits between the more hyper-spiritual Christians and those who were more thoughtful in their faith. It always seemed the more extroverted in the church were inclined to have these crazy encounters with angels or demons and go into trances and ecstasies, while the more introverted in the church were more likely to only have a feeling of a presence around them or none at all. I got into reading websites on psychology about different personality theories which then led me to look into more secular explanations of supernatural encounters while still trying to hold on to the idea that all truth is God’s truth.
I was shaken to find that the brain is a lot more complex than I thought. I read about the controversial Koren helmet (God Helmet). The helmet was developed by neuroscientist, Michael Pensinger. Putting the helmet on supposedly stimulates the temporal lobes with a weak fluctuating magnetic field which then gives a feeling of a presence around the person wearing the helmet. Some of those who have worn the helmet during an experiment have experienced visions, hallucinations, angelic presence, demons, dead relatives and even the feeling of oneness with the universe. Others have felt nothing. This brings to question if the helmet is actually causing these feelings and experiences, or if it’s the power of suggestion or the placebo effect. Either way, it still shows that there seems to be an on and off switch in the brain that doesn’t need prayer or worship to have a supernatural experience.
Below are a few links and a video about this spiritual phenomenon:
Are Spiritual Encounters All In Your Head?
Finding God In A Seizure: the link between temporal lobe epilepsy and mysticism