Spiritual Neuroscience

The below resources offer different perspectives on the correlation between spirituality and neuroscience from different faith backgrounds. They are a means for us to dialogue and learn even amid our differences. Maybe if we can accept that which is best from those who are different from us, they will be more drawn to us.  They are not anathema.  They are our partners in the Way of Love.

 Featured Author

Dr. Andrew Newberg is a neuroscientist who studies the relationship between brain function and various mental states. He is a pioneer in the neurological study of religious and spiritual experiences, a field known as “neurotheology.” His research includes taking brain scans of people in prayer, meditation, rituals, and trance states, in an attempt to better understand the nature of religious and spiritual practices and attitudes. 

Newberg, A., & Waldman, M. (2009). How God changes your brain.New York: Ballantine.

The Spiritual Brain: Science and Religious Experience

Featured Interfaith Resources

The Book of Joy: Lasting Happiness in a Changing World

His Holiness the Dalia Lama, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, and Douglas Abrams (2016).  The book of joy.  New York: Avery.

Barrett, J. (2012). Born believers: The science of children’s religious belief. New York: Free Press.

De Mello, A. (1978). Sadhana: a way to God: Christian exercises in eastern form. New York: Image.

Judaism

Newberg A. & Halpern, D. (2018). The rabbi’s brain. New York: Turner.

Heschel, A. (1951). The sabbath. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

Frankl, V. (1959). Man’s search for meaning. New York: Touchstone.

Sinai and Synapses is an organization that bridges the scientific and religious worlds, and is being incubated at Clal – The National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership.

Buddhism

www.MindandLife.org – Bridging science and contemplative wisdom to illuminate our shared humanity and inspire action.  

Begley, S. (2007). Train your mind, change your brain.  New York: Ballantine.

Hanson, R. (2009). Buddha’s brain. Oakland, CA: New Harbinger Publications.

Hanson, R. (2013). Hardwiring happiness. New York: Harmony.

Hanson, R. (2020). Neurodharma. New York: Harmony.

Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche. (2007).  The joy of living: unlocking the secret and science of happiness.  New York: Harmony.

Meditation in Action by Chogyam Trungpa details the six paramitas (perfections) of the enlightened ones, including generosity, wisdom, and perseverance.  These perfections have many parallels with the fruits of the Spirit.

Islam

Stanford University School of Medicine Muslims and Mental Health Lab is dedicated to creating an academic home for the study of mental health as it relates to the Islamic faith and Muslim populations.

John L. Esposito is University Professor of Religion and International Affairs at Georgetown University and Founding Director of the Prince Alwaleed Bin-Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding. He is the editor of The Oxford Encyclopedia of Modern Islam and The Oxford History of Islam, and author of Unholy War, What Everyone Needs to Know about Islam, and many other acclaimed works. Click here for books by John Esposito

Within Islam, the God Most-High, Allah is known to have 99 names.  The 99 names of God shed light into God’s many attributes.  Prayer and reflection on the 99 names of God, give Muslims the opportunity to be representatives of these attributes in the world.  The 99 names of God include loving, peaceful, compassionate, generous, and patient.  These attributes show strong similarities with the fruits of the Spirit.

Muslim theologian Bediuzzaman Said Nursi wrote that The Most Beautiful Names of God, help show that: “the true meaning of your life is this: it’s acting as a mirror to the manifestation of Divine oneness and the manifestation of the Eternally Besought One” (Nursi, The Words, 141). Nursi believed that Christians and Muslims must unite against aggressive atheism and secular materialism by mirroring the divine attributes of love, kindness, and peace. For more on Nursi:

Michel, T. (2013). Insights from the Risale-i Nur: Said Nursi’s Advice for Modern Believers. New Jersey: Tughra Books.

World Religions

Traditions in Brief – Short video introductions of Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, and Judaism from the Harvard Divinity School Religious Literacy Project.

The World’s Religions – by Huston Smith is an excellent primer for understanding different faith traditions.

Global Religious Landscape – The Pew Research Center provides extensive demographic studies on faith throughout the world.

Science and Christianity

The organization BioLogos invites the church and the world
to see the harmony between science and biblical faith. Despite our differences about faith and science, this organization invites dialogue.

Mindfulness

Jon Kabat Zinn on Mindfulness

Body Scan Meditation

This article from the Journal of American Medicine Association sites that mindfulness training “effects are comparable with what would be expected from the use of an antidepressant in a primary care population but without the associated toxicities.” 

For many more resources on the neuroscience of emotions, habit formation, and relating topics click here.