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The Spiritual Doorway in the Brain: A Neurologist's Search for the God Experience Hardcover – Unabridged, December 30, 2010

3.7 out of 5 stars 26 customer reviews

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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.)
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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
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Dutton; 1st edition (December 30, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0525951881
  • ISBN-13: 978-0525951889
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 6.2 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.5 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,030,749 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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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Format: Hardcover
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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Format: Hardcover
I have had epilepsy for 35 years, which is controlled by medication. I have had just about every kind of out of body, sleep paralysis, hearing voices, seeing tunnels, seeing faces, sitting up and lying down at the same time, sensing presence of others, being pulled out of my body, buzzing, etc. that are described in just about every NDE book there is, including this one. I have not, however, had a Near Death Experience, have not experienced the joy, have not seen dead relatives or experienced a life review. I was curious to see what would be a neurologist's explanation. I have to say, I did realize that I am one of those REM inbetweeners, and that could explain some of my experiences. Maybe my damaged brain is more easily able to find the inbetween state. But, I can't believe it explains it all. I have read so many accounts of people who saw things that they could not have seen, blind people who saw things in their NDE, who have never seen in their lives before and could not even know what they are seeing. So, here I am, wondering. Is my brain really malfunctioning that much? My experiences have felt so real. I have based so much of what I believe on my experiences, and that of my grandmother - who did have a classic NDE - told to me many years before I had ever heard of other accounts from other people. I understand his discussions of why we might have evolved that way, but don't understand why we all have similar experiences when push comes to shove. Why not some people fantasizing about the most incredible meal they've ever had? Why not some people fantasizing about making out with their favorite movie star? Why not floating in space or swimmign in crystal blue seas? But, instead, we all meet our dead relatives and experience love and joy. So, now I don't know any more.Read more ›
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