The Shimmering Dead End
Thoughts on the packaging and sale of nonduality

The end of spirituality

There is only one thing that holds all the world’s spiritual ideas in common, the fact that they are known by human beings. All the billions of relationships with God, a higher power, or a higher self of any conception, all find their point of rendering in the mind as ideation. In essence, cognitive neuroscience heralds the end of spirituality. It seems a foregone conclusion that we will soon know exactly which parts of the brain regulate religious feelings and how they operate, leaving the entire cultural artifact of religion across history as nothing more than a set of patterns we follow. The content of religion stands to lose almost all of its import from the coming biological view of the function of religion.

Of course, for most people, this won’t change a thing. There will be no death of spirituality. Indeed, there may arise ever more potent spiritual practices, only, they might not be called “spiritual” anymore.

Hopefully, we can look forward to a very large ding in the phenomenon of sectarianism. If the same parts of the brain light up for most folks’ religious life, the whole rationale for sects vanishes. It truly becomes a case of how you believe rather than what you believe. That sounds like a really good outcome, one that may become possible if neuroscience actually does show us that our deepest experiences of what each of us finds holy share the same pathways in our brains, finally proving what a certain mad brahmin of Dakshineswar once said: “As many faiths, so many paths.”


6 Responses to “The end of spirituality”

  1. jody,
    i’v been thinking about this post for the last two days… so despondent. i can’t really understand how you came to this conclusion, but maybe i don’t understand.

    do you think that once they figure out where Bliss is stimulated, there’ll be orgasmatrons set up in boutiques all over the world? could be worse… they could make it unaffordable!

    maybe they’ll be able to see where it’s mapped to (Bliss and/or religion), but that’s it… maybe then there’d be a better alternative to people in comas (bliss until we can fix you!). but unless you’re considering a future where they cultivate religion like monsanto does grain, i don’t understand.

    what you suggest is like extracting a novel from a novelist’s brain. seeing how it lights up a graph does not equal knowing what can be seen using that light…

    everything written in the folds of our brains is just a record that anchors us to time– there is no minority report; no one can ever be known except by the Knower.

    Once you cut loose the anchor, then you can know spirituality… but you already know that.


    • It’s not really the end of spirituality, Ken. However, I really believe the idea of spirituality is going to face a kind of reckoning in light of a more detailed biological understanding of human consciousness. It doesn’t negate any of the infinite variety of practices and approaches, but it does put them all on the same footing, while also opening the door to a more creative spirituality to come.

  2. Perhaps science will determine what part of the brain is stimulated by spiritual thinking. That has zero impact on our life force, our soul, our spirit. It is a known fact that upon death a person weighs less than they did just before death. That has not been explained. Where did it go?

  3. Right on, man, and I’ll up the ante: it’s already done, metaphysics is dead, so is theology and all that weird vedantic logic predicated on a central fallacy – all of it in ashes. It feels so good to stand up and be free!

  4. I can hardly believe that I am hearing (or technically, seeing) a supernaturalist say such things. One cannot believe that there is a non-corporeal component to man and then simultaneously suppose that the whole of human experience is limited to brainwave activity. We understand that there are phenomena such as somatic memory (a.k.a. muscle/organ memory), astral vision, premonition, and dreamsense; how then can we view the brain as the apex of human consciousness? Indeed, the brain itself can be viewed as a instrument of an extended being, whether a controlling, independent spirit, or a race-consciousness – it need not be viewed as the quintessential abode of either experience or consciousness, even in light of the discoveries of forensic medicine and psychology.
    Put another way; I hold that the brain is to the mind as the piano is to the pianist: The piano produces music, but does not do so autonomously or automatically. Likewise, the brain may be induced to produce stimuli or actions, but no one except a strict materialist is bound to think that it does so in a self-contained, autonomous fashion. Understanding how a piano works tells one nothing about a particular pianist, nor where his music comes from.

    • When you’ve constructed your identity from notions of astral vision, “dream sense,” and the like, it’s quite a precipice to jump from when you abandon them.

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