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The Spiritual Doorway in the Brain: A Neurologist's Search for the God Experience [Kindle Edition]

Kevin Nelson
3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $16.00
Kindle Price: $10.99
You Save: $5.01 (31%)
Sold by: Penguin Group (USA) LLC


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Book Description

"Bold, provocative, and highly readable."
-V. S. Ramachandran, M.D., author of Phantoms in the Brain

What are near-death experiences, out-of-body sensations, and spiritual ecstasy? And what do they have in common? Perhaps no one is more qualified to answer these questions than renowned neurobiologist Dr. Kevin Nelson. Drawing on his more than three decades of groundbreaking research into the "borderlands of consciousness," Dr. Nelson offers an unprecedented journey into the site of spiritual experience: the brain. Filled with amazing firsthand accounts as varied as a patient seeing the devil battling with his guardian angel to a man watching the universe synchronize around a pinball machine, The Spiritual Doorway in the Brain is an eloquent examination of our brains' spiritual "hardwiring" that will enthrall believers and skeptics alike.

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Inspired by his 30 years as a doctor collecting stories of near-death experiences as well as his personal experience, the author examines the stories of people who have reported out-of-body experiences. Those experiences are described in a variety of ways: as a sense of flying a jet aircraft, or walking on the beach, or watching the universe synchronize with a ball bouncing in a pinball machine. Nelson spends a great deal of the book examining dynamics of the brain and how memory functions; he includes chapters on sleep and taking drugs. He presents the brain as a œspiritual organ full of wisdom. œThe borderlands of spiritual experience affect a very special expression of consciousness, the sense of our individual self—the first person perspective of the ˜me™ which is, except in rare cases, where most of us live, he writes. This book presents a number of diverse occurrences but will not touch the nerve of the spiritual reader. (Jan.)
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Nelson is a neurologist who has devoted decades to the study of near-death experiences. An offshoot of NDE is what this book calls the God experience. Nelson begins his work by letting nineteenth-century psychologist-philosopher William James define the all-important categories of spiritual and religious experiences. From there, the tone of the book gets considerably more scientific. Chapters are devoted to various states of consciousness, near-death experiences, and dreaming—the lion’s share of attention going to NDE. The target audience is clearly nonspecialists, and technical jargon is virtually nonexistent. In fact, one possible reason the book exceeds 300 pages is because it simply takes more time to explain difficult neurological concepts to the layperson. Adding to the appeal are the many anecdotes from the author’s life and practice as a physician. Nelson admits that his work will be viewed as controversial, which means it may become a topic of conversation in medical circles as well as the larger community. --Wade Osburn

Product Details

  • File Size: 1825 KB
  • Print Length: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Plume; Reprint edition (December 30, 2010)
  • Sold by: Penguin Group (USA) LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B004CR6ALK
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #518,184 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
45 of 49 people found the following review helpful
With major advancements in neurological science and our ability to understand the functioning of the human brain to minutest of details, have we reached a point where science can completely explain what for centuries have been deemed our most meaningful, spiritual experiences?

In The Spiritual Doorway In The Brain, Kevin Nelson, M.D. tackles this difficult question in an exploration that will suit medical professionals, mystics, and laypersons alike. Scientific understanding of the chemical exchanges and electrical impulses in the brain have provided a clear explanation of exactly what happens to us biologically when experiencing what could be deemed spiritual, religious, or mystical events. Basing his theories on extensive studies of patients who have described having both near-death and mystical experiences, Nelson explains the various brain functions that result in common symptoms like tunnel vision, bright or intensive light, out-of-body experiences, feelings of paralysis or being dead, one's life flashing before his eyes, blissfulness, and the meeting of religious figures or deceased friends and relatives. These symptoms can all be explained through chemical reaction or blood flow and oxygenation of the brain and heart.

Many of these same symptoms can be traced to the REM state of consciousness, the same state of consciousness that brings on dreams. In fact, Nelson points out the startling similarities between near-death or religious experiences and lucid dreams. He also scientifically explains that the brain chemistries of certain individuals are more susceptible to near-death or other spiritual experiences.
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21 of 21 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Detailed Neuroscience of Mystical Experiences February 20, 2011
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
As someone who has great interest in NDEs and mystical experiences, I was not disappointed by this book. Doctor Nelson gives us a thorough account of neurological correlates of mystical experiences. This may be daunting for some people who have no background in neuroanatomy, but it is not technically overwhelming. Some of his ideas are quite speculative. The good thing about Dr. Nelson's ideas is that they are mostly testable. I agree with him that soon our understanding of the brain will expand and multiple new "paradigms" will come along that fundamentally shift our understanding of what is going on. Ultimately, the relationship between neuronal action potentials with their accompanying chemical fluctuations to conscious experience is incomprehensible. Dr. Nelson doesn't really touch on this mystery of "the hard problem of consciousness", which seems to me to be fundamental to any discussion of consciousness and mystical experience. It's a bugaboo of neuroscience because nothing at all is understood about how neurons can create conscious awareness, and it opens up the possibility that nobody wants to address, that consciousness may be some fundamental template of nature that evolution designed itself around instead of generated through complexity. If spiritual experience is associated with more primitive elements of the brain which are shared with other mammals, the question arises about when this sort of consciousness arose in the evolutionary tree, and of course, for what evolutionary benefit? Read more ›
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19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Mystics, Zen Masters & Neurologists January 23, 2011
In his classic study, Mystics & Zen Masters, Thomas Merton wrote that he was driven by one central concern: "to understand various ways in which men of different traditions have conceived the meaning and method of the 'way' which leads to the highest levels of religious or of metaphysical awareness." Kevin Nelson, a practicing neurologist and scientist whose recent studies of Near Death Experience (NDE) have attracted worldwide attention, shares Merton's passion for understanding what has traditionally been seen as irrelevant or outside the scientist's territory. Yet, as Nelson shows, the contemporary tools of neuroscience now make it possible to pick up the work of pioneers like early twentieth century psychologist William James, who understood that religious and spiritual experiences were important to empirically investigate. James's work was limited by the skull's invulnerability against the brass instruments of his day, but as Nelson lucidly demonstrates in this book, it is now possible to visually explore the questions raised by philosophers and theologians about the human need and capacity for religious experience. Unlike many contemporaries who use neuroscience to reduce spiritual experiences as the epiphenomena of basic brain processes, Nelson avoids this category error and proceeds to explore the "how" of these experiences, rather than the "why". He demonstrates his fundamental premise is irrefutable: The brain is the primary organ for all spiritual experiences such as NDE and contemplative rapture--experiences which can be ultimately mapped through the brain's complex circuitry. Indeed, Nelson provides the lay reader with a compelling and lucid account of those brain processes crucial to such experiences. Read more ›
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Very good
I really enjoyed this book. I understood what was being presented and plan to read it again. Ihabe bought a copy for a friend as well.
Published 2 months ago by M. Dargie
3.0 out of 5 stars spiritual doorway
Thus far, the book is more clinical than I thought it would be. It may be a book that works well for a student studying the biologý and/or the physiology of the brain.
Published 8 months ago by Rox
5.0 out of 5 stars Reads as Good the Second Time
This is the second time that I read The Spiritual Doorway in the Brain by Kevin Nelson. As much as I enjoyed it the first time, I believe that I enjoyed it even more the second... Read more
Published 9 months ago by Richard Hildreth
5.0 out of 5 stars Very good book for those interested in the brain.
Great book. Very clear, thorough and detailed [to my knowledge] about the location of parts of the brain that result in many thoughts and emotions. Read more
Published 14 months ago by Peter A. Twight
2.0 out of 5 stars Explains very little
Before completing this review, I have to admit that I did not read the entire book. I read about 2/3 of the book and decided to stop, because it didn't appear to be answering any... Read more
Published 16 months ago by Thomas in CC
5.0 out of 5 stars Neurology buff.
I approve of any non-Goddy explanation for subjective mental experiences. I have also been reading Paul Zak's "The Moral Molecule" (oxytocin), which is on a similar... Read more
Published 17 months ago by Reginald
5.0 out of 5 stars substantial and credible
A rare book within the genre, since it is based upon scientific methods and common sense. read this one first.
Published 18 months ago by grant bingeman
4.0 out of 5 stars Instinctive consciousness from "before" our very beginning
A sleep paralysis experience when I was 21 and just married terrified me. There I lay trapped in my body unable to get help from my sleeping husband. I thought I was dying. Read more
Published on April 29, 2012 by Laurie McRobert
1.0 out of 5 stars Closed door
The problem with this book is that the author is not clear. He is not clear as to his theory which I would like to see if his peers will endorse (I doubt it). Read more
Published on April 13, 2012 by Hande Z
5.0 out of 5 stars A stimulating scientific investigation of spiritual experiences
I find Nelson's research and conclusions to be an important, even necessary, addition to the normal explanations of spiritual experiences. The work is well documented.
Published on June 10, 2011 by Larry E. Bailey
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