A Physical Basis for Spirituality

What is ‘Spirituality?’ I think it could be an integrating, conflict resolving function, localized in the Parietal Region of our brains. This is alluded to indirectly in Humbling and Humility…of the poverty of an intellect that has but one perspective, and of the higher value of “peace-making.”

With a multitude of perspectives, broader mental vision, comes natural discord. Here, simplistic win-lose competition cannot be the way to achieve an optimum, for as professor John Nash of Princeton points out, from his insight into game theory, the optimum is not when each individual entity works toward maximal self-benefit, but when they work toward individual and collective self-benefit. I’d bet that nature encoded this into our brains eons before someone (Nash, and perhaps very many others in the past who did not put it mathematically) came to see it. Between many perspectives, and instincts/impulses, therefore, and to include them all in some equitable algorithm, an arbitration function could have developed in the parietal region (I have no way of knowing this at present) that is associated with “spiritual” experiences.

Such holistic arbitration, seemingly set apart from ideas and drives that may not be in accord, and taking into consideration many or all such mental forces, could therefore appear (psychologically) to be above these other mental activities. Making peace between divergent directions, including emotional reactions and compulsions, it would seem to be a higher function, above instincts and rational thought, and therefore may be perceived to be above physical, material, and mental considerations. Hence a sense of something not-quite-oneself integrating and resolving demands of many other acknowledged aspects of oneself. Yet it is but a part of oneself playing a most necessary, steadying, peace-making role.

When developed to the highest form, discordant considerations become less troubling, and one perhaps attains a high measure of equanimity. One is more detached, less engaged in life and living, the balance of good and evil, and – flippantly – on one’s way out of a fully lived life. 🙂

As to the association of spiritual experiences with emotions, I can see some ways in which this could come about: tears of joy (relief at elimination of fear of pain, perhaps, or an inverse reaction to balance out an excess of one emotion), a sense of bliss (equanimity permitting a clear focus upon simple joys), and peace (emotional indifference to pain and pleasure)… But I think emotions, and thoughts leading to emotions, are more closely tied to physical and material aspects. Spirituality is more of harmony amongst emotions and physical impulses.

Consider the evidence. It is most often through extremes of physical, mental, and emotional conditions that humans are seen to develop spirituality. These stresses compel the brain (and collections of brains, a family, a clan, community) to adapt to such conditions with new cognitive and contemplative capabilities, or to reach for spirituality…

A Peaceful, Spiritual Environment


About Rian Nejar

Rian Nejar is a mid-60's child from India. He trained and worked as an engineer in India, lived briefly in the Middle East, and arrived in America in the early 90's. After a Master’s degree in electrical engineering in America, he worked as an academic instructor, engineer, entrepreneur, and technical writer over the two decades since. Humbling and Humility is the first heartfelt written expression of his varied life experiences. He lives and writes in the Southwest United States.
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4 Responses to A Physical Basis for Spirituality

  1. Pingback: On Consciousness, and Artificial Intelligence | Humbling and Humility

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