Praying may have more to do with a “higher power” than you think — but it’s probably not a god.
Neuroscientist Andrew Newberg, M.D., just completed a study of the brain scans of a group of Catholic nuns before and after they performed a deep type of prayer called “centering.” The nuns say centering brings them closer to their god.
It turns out those brain scans are very much like ones of people who take psychedelic drugs like magic mushrooms or LSD, long known to induce experiences described as “religious.” Many cultures even describe marijuana and other natural mind-altering substances as sacred.
In both nuns and drug users, brain scans showed decreased activity in the parietal lobe, which establishes one’s sense of self. That may be the reason for the mystical feelings.
And honestly, who’s to say one experience is more valid than the other? They both have a profound and long-lasting effect on the way the brain works, says Dr. Newberg.
“It’s possible these kinds of experiences [with drugs] are not artificial or false, but really enable a person and a person’s brain to experience the world in a much more fundamental way,” he said.
Dr. Newberg has led other studies on brain activity and religiosity, examining the brain scans of Pentecostals as they spoke in tongues and Buddhist monks as they meditated. Similar studies have been performed on the altered-state feelings that come from sensory deprivation and overload.
If we look at all of these practices as ways to help your brain reach a higher state – one that helps you feel more peaceful and connected to the universe – it makes sense of the mystical, and takes the stigma off of some drugs.
So does this mean the war on drugs is like a war on prayer?