Wednesday, April 22, 2009

(1) Neurotheology


It took awhile settling in Canterbury. I bought a place not too
far from the town center and the cathedral. But the old house
really needed a makeover. Consequently, I took advantage
making the interior the way I wanted it. After taking all my book
collection out of storage, I finally had a study to shelve them
quite nicely--even had a rolling ladder to reach the higher
shelving. I also had the carpenters build me a nice snug
office off to the side of my study. All I needed was a pipe to go
along sitting by the fireplace. But, fortunately, I didn't smoke.
So my stereotypical ideas about the contented scholar met their

In the midst of all this makeover, I somehow managed to
complete a draft of the "Majestic Meme"--sending it off to my
publisher. At last, I actually had some spare time in which to
sit and enjoy my study. But sitting in front of the fireplace had
its limits as well. After about a week I was bored silly doing
nothing. So I started prowling around amongst my books,
trying to figure whether there was a future project at hand.

But Fate stepped in, and once again I had a challenge. How
anyone could have found my new telephone number, I don't
know, since it had only been recently installed. The caller was
hopeful that I might deliver a lecture at the University of Kent
at Canterbury. It's a fairly large campus not too far from my
house. I decided to lecture on my interest in the Transpersonal,
especially about the peak experience.

As it turned out, that was a fortuitous choice on my part. After my
presentation and questions, I was approached by a very intelligent
looking woman. She was the head of a cognitive studies research
team at the university--and she was wondering whether I had done
any work in the fairly new field of Neurotheology?

Of course I was aware of Neurotheology, but I felt it more in the
bailiwick of the Neurosciences. It seemed to me this field was
more about the brain than about the mind. And, frankly, when
it came to the intricacies of the brain I stood clear. I had no
training in cognitive studies.

But the lady was persistent and invited me to her office to discuss
this subject. I was reluctant to get into Neurotheology, into what I
considered an academic bog. Yet I accepted this good lady's
invitation. Plain and simple, I liked her!

As it turned out, Ellen was a very interesting person. She did
her undergraduate work at Cambridge, and took her advanced
degree in Neuroscience--up at the Royal Infirmary that was
connected to the University of Edinburgh. So we had at least
a place in common when it came to small talk. Personally, she
was divorced but moved down to Canterbury so as to be near
her daughter who was attending the King's School.

And before I left her office that day, I had brokered a bargain
with her. She would spend some hopefully useful time with me,
trying to intelligently inform a layman (like me) about the studies
of the brain as they might apply to this whole idea of Neurotheology.

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