Updated: Aug 6, 2020
Andrzej K. Jastrzbeski did an amazing job at analyzing the efforts to conceptualize the relationship between the human brain and spirituality. Jastrzbeski’s ‘The Neuroscience of Spirituality; An Attempt at Critical Analysis’ (2018) helped capture the work of many notable psychologists and theologians who trail-blazed the study of neuroscience and it’s application to spirituality.
Jastrzbeski introduced new terms within the psychology field to me that are worth relaying here. Neurotheology, it was tokened by James Ashbrook (1984) when studying neuroscience as it applies to theology. Jastrzbski then translated this term into a more universal one... Neuroscience of Spirituality. This was an important term to me because it helped compartmentalize the study of theology from the study of spirituality.
This interdisciplinary study is in the process of considering the measurements examined through neuroscience to find some common traits, sensations and phenomenons in the brain while on a spiritual journey. It’s challenging task of such a vast concept is what made this introduction to this study of psychology extremely intriguing for me.
When exposed to this work, I quickly realized how important it is to consider that both the terms religion and spirituality were at a recent time commonly interchangeable. However, I am now aware, like many others, that we should consider that both can coincide and divide. There can always be one with or without the other. In knowing this, the neuroscience of spirituality as opposed to neurotheology, helps to hone in on a more specific study of phenomenon within the human brain and the human experience.
Jastrzbesk explained that this evolving form of psychological study is of the assistance of the neuro-imaging technology and neuroscientists. The observation of brain activity during the highs and lows of spiritual existence and practice helps in measuring the consistencies of spiritual phenomenon and concepts.
On the theological side, it appears that a lot of surveys and interviews would be the most accurate way of analyzing the consistencies between religions. This however, would require a macro overview of a great inclusion of religions and those that subscribe to each. Another aspect that would be considered during the surveys and interview would be the general consistencies of interpretations and introspections of key words like spirit, soul, God, and so on.
While the study of spirituality through the neuroscience lens is still in the process of developing, it seems that there would be a large inclusion of fields of professions to bring this into a full interdisciplinary effort. It is also very clear that decades after the initial introduction to the concept of Ashbrook’s ‘neurotheology’, that the mass perception of what it means to be spiritual is branching just outside of the categories of strictly pronounced religions. It therefor may require an inclusion of undeclared or nondenominational groups of spiritual representations or a separate study of both spiritual existence of those within each specific religion and spiritual existence of those without a declared one.
I imagine it requiring a study of one’s entire lifetime to examine the time frames of a specific high and a specific low of spiritual enlightenment. I also expect that each term used within these studies are very clearly defined with all who participate. These terms are very subjective and relative to every personal experience.
I think this study is an important concept to bring into the classrooms of secondary education. This is something that I think all of us question some part throughout our lives. What is spiritual enlightenment? What does it feel like? When should I expect it? What do I need to do to get there or to avoid it? The more that we hold the conversations, bring the awareness, and contemplate the meanings, the better we are able to equip ourselves to drive our life in the way that fits our desires depending on what we hold as a priority.
Knowing the things that keeps us similar like the processes within our mind and the idea that we all may or may not identify as a form of consciousness is in itself a form a personal and societal development. I plan to follow the progress of the study of neuroscience of spirituality in hopes that I can too assist in its’ effort to bring awareness to all that begins and ends within the mind.
Jastrzebski, A.K. Pastoral Psychology (2018) 67:515. https://doi/10/1007/s11089-01840-2