In the Loop

In the Loop: May 4, 2007 Archive

What if enlightenment had a light switch?

Posted at 3:00 PM on May 4, 2007 by Sanden Totten

What would you think if you were going about your business and then suddenly you saw flashes of white light in the sky? You hear a voice from beyond and instantly notice strange white figures floating towards you. You awake sometime later with no idea what happened but you have a strange new awareness of the world. What's your first explanation?

Angels?

Aliens?

How about a seizure?

Temporal Lobe Epilepsy is a brain phenomenon that some scientists say may be the explanation for all sorts of religious and paranormal phenomenon . . . from religious epiphanies to alien abductions. Read a good summary of it here.

Basically what happens is that during a seizure, certain parts of the brain get over stimulated. Seizures that happen in the temporal lobe seem to stimulate a part of the brain responsible for mystical visions and profound hallucinations.

The strange thing is, many famous artists and prophets describe symptoms of Temporal Lobe seizures when talking about visions they have had. What if Joan of Arc suffered from Temporal Lobe Epilepsy . . . or Moses?

Of course, having temporal lobe seizures isn't what makes a person religious, but what if you could indiscriminately trigger that area of the brain in anybody? Would it make them feel like a prophet? One scientist has been testing a device that would do just that. The Wired science blog has a good post on the implications of such a tool here.

I'm curious to know what others think about the idea of turning on enlightenment like a light switch. If you could trigger transcendence with a machine would it be a good thing or a bad thing?

May 2007
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