Soul & Brain 8 October 2015
The inspiration for my “Soul & Brain” series of articles originated when I came across the research of Dr. Andrew Newberg, a neuroscientist exploring the relationship between brain function and religious and spiritual experiences.
I coupled Dr. Newberg’s findings with my own life experiences and arrived at similar conclusions. Our biological brain is wired to seek out the sacred, something that is beyond our physical limits. To me and others that Something off course is GOD.
My attempt was to explain how the brain works and link it to the existence to the Soul. I presented some of the experimental results of Dr. Newberg, but came up short in my explanation on how the brain actually functions in those of us that developed a spiritual self-awareness and faith in God as oppose to those who do not. It’s going to require a lot more studying and time for me to be knowledgeable on this subject before I pen a good presentation.
In the last two “Soul & Brain” articles, I shared personal experiences of two close friends physically dying, yet continued to exist to those they touched with their goodness and grace.
My plan is to continue studying the research work of Dr. Newberg and other neuroscientists and present it in future articles of Soul & Brain”. In the meantime, I am changing directions and will continue the “Soul & Brain” series from first a historical perspective showing how in the Western civilization the belief in God and the Soul originated and then evolved to our current religious institutions and beliefs.
Our journey begins with Moses and the “Jewish Bible”, then with Plato and the “Dialogues of Plato”, and then Jesus and the New Testament. From there we will travel through the Middle Ages, the Renaissance, the Modern Era, and up to the present time. Along the way we will briefly review the works of some the leading Western philosophers that had an influence on our understanding of the Soul and God.
Our starting point is about 3315 years ago (1300 BC), with the writings of the first books of the Bible. The first 5 books also known as the Torah, Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy were ascribed to be written by Moses. The other books of the Hebrew Bible were written a little later and together with the Torah are referred to as the “Sacred Scriptures”.
A brief synopsis of the early books of the Bible is as follows. In Genesis, God creates a perfect world for humanity, but things go awry. People continuously disappoint God by disobedience and choosing evil over good. God decides to destroy creation with the exception of Noah and his family along with many animals by flooding the Earth. After the flood, God has a change of heart about destroying humanity and decides to focus attention on one specific person and his descendants to restore good moral behavior to humanity. God picks Abraham and his descendants as God’s chosen people (the Jews) to accomplish this task. In turn Abraham’s descendants with God’s help will themselves obey God’s Laws and then reform the other nations to be good moral people. This plan does not work very well either but God keeps the promise not to destroy Humanity and the world.
I am not going to continue with the other stories of the “Sacred Scriptures” (named as Old Testament by Christians). The point I would like to make is God in the Sacred Scriptures is anthropomorphic. This means God has Human attributes. At times God gets angry, other times feels compassion. For misdeeds God punishes, for good moral behavior rewards. God communicates verbally with Adam & Eve, Moses and then the Prophets.
For the Hebrews, God’s presence is represented first in the Ark of the Covenant (a mobile tent-shrine) in Exodus as the Jews travel through the desert on the way to the Promise Land, then in the Holy of Holies inside the Tabernacle in the Temple of Jerusalem. Today God’s presence is represented in the Torah Scrolls in a repository wall of a Synagogue.
For Christians God’s presence is in the Humanity of Jesus.
Our next stop is 448 years before the birth of Jesus. The place is Athens, Greece; the main Character is Plato, a student of Socrates and teacher of Aristotle. Plato’s major writings are a collection of work known as the “Dialogues of Plato”. Examples are: Republic (Heaven - Allegory of the Cave) , Phaedo (Immortal Soul), Symposium (phenomenon of love) , and Timaeus (God as Creator).
In the “Dialogues of Plato”, God is Spiritual, Eternal, and the Supreme Good. Plato also introduces us to the concepts of the Immortal Soul and Heaven. Later both Jewish and Christian scholars will incorporate Plato’s ideas about God, the Soul, and Heaven into their religious traditions.
“Soul & Brain 9” will present how the three religious cultures, Judaism, Greek Spirituality, and Christianity interacted and started the evolution to our present day belief traditions.