Not only did God create us in His image (Genesis 1:26), He designed us to know Him!
God is a three-part Being: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and we reflect that Trinity in our mind (soul), body, and spirit (1 Thessalonians 5:23). As amazing as it seems, the all-powerful, all-knowing, self-sufficient Creator designed us for His pleasure (Revelation 4:11), so that His children could have fellowship with Him (Acts 17: 24-28).
About a decade ago, evidence from the field of neuroscience began to reflect these Biblical truths, showing that brain function changes and intensifies during spiritual experiences. It is as if God hard-wired us to communicate with Him! The research used a specialized type of brain scan known as SPECT (single photon emission computerized tomography), in which injection of a radioactive tracer into a vein allows it to travel to brain cells, showing areas of increased and decreased neuronal activity and blood flow within the brain during a specific experience. The photo above shows a “slice” from front to back through the brain using a similar technology, with red indicating areas of most intense activity and blue indicating areas of reduced activity.
Dr. Andrew Newberg and colleagues (1) analyzed SPECT images of Franciscan nuns at the peak moment of their spiritual experience as they entered into deep meditation and prayer, which they later described as “a tangible sense of the closeness of God and a mingling with Him.” Dr. Newberg, who is considered a pioneer in this field of neurotheology, noted the similarities of their description to that of 13th-century Franciscan nun Angela of Folino: “How great is the mercy of the One Who realized this union…I possessed God so fully that I was no longer in my previous customary state but was led to find a peace in which I was united with God and was content with everything.”
To me, these descriptions echo Isaiah 26:3: Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee.
So what did the SPECT scans show at this moment of perfect peace through communion with God?
Stayed tuned next week for Part II of this post! God endowed His favorite creation with the neural circuitry, or hard-wiring, needed to fully appreciate and fellowship with Him!
1. Newberg A, D’Aquili E, Rause. V, Brain Science and the Biology of Belief: Why God Won’t Go Away. New York: Ballantine Books, 2001.