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Anomalistic Psychology Research Unit Invited Speaker Series, 2013/14
Profound spiritual experiences have been reported as a rare but disproportionately frequent occurrence in some types of epilepsy, as described eloquently in the personal account of writer Fyodor Dostoyevsky. Indeed, religiosity is a prominent feature of the Geschwind syndrome, a behavioural pattern found in some cases of temporal lobe epilepsy. Can such phenomena be explained as neurological processes, or does the aura of epileptic seizure open a door to metaphysical forces, or to God? Since the 1950s, when Wilder Penfield induced spiritual feelings by experimental manipulation of the temporal lobes, development of brain imaging technology has revealed neural correlates of intense emotional states, spurring the growth of neurotheology. In their secular empiricism, psychiatry, neurology and psychology are inclined to pathologise deviant religious expression, thereby reinforcing the dualism of objective and phenomenal worlds. Reductionism is rife. Considering theological perspectives and the idea of cosmic consciousness, Niall McCrae urges a more holistic approach to spiritual phenomena in epilepsy, leading to a deeper understanding of the mind and its transcendent potential.
Niall McCrae is a lecturer in mental health nursing at King’s College London. His research interests are diverse and some might say eccentric. Intrigued by the legend of lunacy, he wrote The Moon and Madness, recommending a more creative approach to studying the putative influence of the lunar cycle on human behaviour. His work on spiritual experiences in temporal lobe epilepsy, inspired by his reading of William James, has been published in peer-reviewed journals. More conventionally, Niall leads research projects on depression and dementia, while in his spare time he is writing a history of mental hospitals.
Dates & times
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|3 Dec 2013||6:00pm - 7:30pm|
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