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Let It In with Guy Lawrence

Oct 4, 2020

#139 This week, my amazing guest is Dr. Andrew Newberg. Andrew 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, so he can better understand the nature of religious and spiritual practices and attitudes. 

This episode is incredibly interesting because we discuss a rather new, but highly crucial, field. It’s amazing to see how religion and science can come together and even explain each other. How do we as humans have all these contradictory perspectives that can make us even go to war against each other?  Are the brains of people who have undergone mystical and or spiritual experiences different than those who have not?  How do we even know if we’ve gone through a spiritual experience?

Are you really sure of what you believe in? Why is that? These are only some of the deep and important questions we try to answer in this episode as we try to figure out ways to bring us all together as humans.

About Andrew: Dr. Andrew Newberg is the director of research at the Marcus Institute of Integrative Health and a physician at Jefferson University Hospital. He is board certified in internal medicine and nuclear medicine.

Andrew has been asking questions about reality, truth, and God since he was very young, and he has long been fascinated by the human mind and its complex workings. While a medical student, he met Dr. Eugene d’Aquili, who was studying religious experiences. Combining their interests with Andrew’s background in neuroscience and brain imaging, they were able to break new theoretical and empirical ground on the relationship between the brain and religion.

Andrew’s research now largely focuses on how brain function is associated with various mental states—in particular, religious and mystical experiences. His research has included brain scans of people in prayer, meditation, rituals, and trance states, as well as surveys of people's spiritual experiences and attitudes. He has also evaluated the relationship between religious or spiritual phenomena and health, and the effect of meditation on memory. He believes that it is important to keep science rigorous and religion religious.

Andrew has also used neuroimaging research projects to study aging and dementia, Parkinson's disease, epilepsy, depression, and other neurological and psychiatric disorders.

Key points with time stamp:

  • Andrew’s work in his own words (4:39)
  • What is Neuro-theology? (6:18)
  • How does neuro-theology deal with our biases? (9:10)
  • Are religion and science coming together? (11:27)
  • How did Andrew start in the field of neuro-theology? (15:15)
  • Is there significant change in the brain of those who meditate and or pray? (21:52)
  • Can mystical experiences really change us for the better? (25:27)
  • 5 key elements to enlightening experiences (30:54)
  • How long can it take to make long-lasting change within ourselves? (34:00)
  • How has Andrew’s work changed his life? (40:03)
  • What does Andrew’s morning routine look like? (43:39)
  • Andrew’s meditation practice (44:27)
  • Andrew’s choice of a dinner guest, from any timeframe (45:31)
  • What Andrew leaves us with (46:40)

Mentioned in this episode:

  • Thomas Jefferson University
  • Principles of Neurotheology, Book by Andrew B. Newberg
  • Donald Trump
  • Descartes
  • Cartesianism
  • How Enlightenment Changes Your Brain: The New Brain Science of Transformation, Book by Andrew B. Newberg and Mark Robert Waldman
  • University of Pennsylvania
  • Abas Alavi
  • Eugene D'aquili
  • Kundalini Yoga
  • Why We Believe What We Believe: Uncovering Our Biological Need for Meaning, Spirituality, and Truth. Book by Andrew B. Newberg and Mark Robert Waldman
  • Leonardo Da Vinci
  • Aristotle

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