An elderly friend of mine likes to loan me “spiritual” reading material. Some of it is quite interesting but I don’t find it as fascinating as he does. I respect him and enjoy speaking with him but his curiosity about spiritual matters tends toward the dramatic and new age.
He gave me a copy of a woman’s story. In her twenties she had a “collision with the infinite” catching a bus in Paris. As I read her story I immediately thought: I hope she gets a brain scan. Seriously. I’ve lost several friends to brain tumors and this woman’s story sounded right away like a tumor. Sure enough, I turned the page and learned she had died 12 years later of a brain tumor.
This story brought out some anger. Anger that this was presented as an “amazing spiritual experience of the infinite.” I was troubled that these stories are passed around to vulnerable people (like my elderly friend) to draw them into the drama and wish for the “bliss” associated with these incredible (unbelievable) tales of “another consciousness.” One friend of my wife “battled” her cancer by traveling the world, spending thousands of dollars on “spiritual healing” and died, leaving her husband alone. He lost their house.
I’ve just been reading the National Geographic magazine on human brain research. Now THAT’s fascinating! I see that there are 100,000 miles of fibers (white matter) connecting the regions of the brain. 100,000 miles. . .of fibers. . .in the brain. . .in my brain. . .in yours. Powerful; delicate; sensitive; relatively unknown; undiscovered wilderness; a place of pilgrimage; right inside each of us.
I’m not saying every so-called “spiritual” experience is a matter for brain science, but I have a strong suspicion that most of what passes for “spiritual events” or “encounters with the divine” has more to do with what wonderous things are happening close by. . .VERY close indeed.