Zen and the science of Awe

The awe-inspiring distance normally perceived between humans and their gods through ritual, according to Joseph Campbell, is “the one great story of myth: that in the beginning we were united with the source, but that we were separated from it and now we must find a way to return.”

Restoring this original state between man and his spiritual sources is the promise of all the great systems of belief from from early hunting cultures to Christian theology where Jesus provides the path to God to Buddism, where oneness can be reached by following the tecahings of Buddha, to Islam, where reconciliation is achieved through submission to the will of al-Lah.

The ability of ritual to produce transcendent spiritual states is the result of of the effect of rhythmic ritualized behaviors such as prayer, music, meditation and physical exercise upon the hypothalamus and autonomic nervous systems, and eventually, the rest of the brain. These spiritual activities can lower blood pressure, decrease heart rate, lower rates of respiration, reduce levels of of the horomne cortisol, and create positive changes in the immune system according to Andrew Newberg et al in Why God Won’t Go Away -Brain Science and the Biology of Belief.

Posted by Casey Kazan.

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