Unfolding the Enfolded

Cosmos, Mind & Soul

The Brain and Belief


Physician and Researcher Andrew  Newberg, director of the Center for Spirituality and the Mind, explores how brain function is associated with various mental states, including mystical/religious experiences.

a brain & a person praying

"...one of the fundamental problems that we all have as human beings: that we are, in some senses, forced to conceive of very concrete belief systems. And part of that goes back to how the brain works. Because if you think about how the neurons in the brain work, the more connections that are used, the stronger those connections become, the stronger your beliefs become. So that’s why if your belief  system is in, say, Christianity - then you read the bible, you pray to Jesus Christ, you think about Christianity, and that becomes your reality because the neurons that are firing that underlay all those ideas and experiences become stronger and stronger the more you focus on it. And that becomes your reality."
"One of the things we have realized in our research is that emotions are very important for belief. The stronger the emotional response, the more powerful the memory and the more powerful the belief that will come from it.... So when you have a mystical experience, the incredible power of the emotional responses that you get from it drives those experiences very deeply into your memory so that you perceive that experience as being one of the most vivid, one of the most clearly remembered experiences that you've ever had.

             -- Interview with Andrew Newberg