A serious consideration of ultimate reality may at some point address the phenomenon of “Absolute Unitary Being.” This is the term coined by Andrew Newberg and the late Eugene D’Aquili in their neuropsychological research at the University of Pennsylvania. Newberg continues to explore the scientific study of religious experience.
Their term for physical reality as we perceive it is “baseline reality,” which is the brain’s perception of material objects (a chair, a table) and sensations (warm, cold). These perceptions are well researched and documented.
In contrast, their research of Absolute Unitary Being (AUB) attempts to scientifically verify the brain’s perception of spiritual reality.
Aside from religious people getting mad, the problem with this argument is that the brain experiences physical reality in exactly the same way—through neurological blips and chemistry changes. So even the most hardened atheist or scientist must either take the possibility of spiritual reality seriously or discount all perceptions of reality and conclude that we all live in a dream state.
Isn’t this fun?
Persons who engaged in their research (Buddhist monks and Catholic nuns) consistently testified that the experience of AUB, in this case through deep meditation, was more “fundamentally real” than experiences of baseline reality. Even the memories of AUB felt more real than those of baseline reality.
Newberg acknowledges that it’s impossible to scientifically determine which of the two types of reality are more real or which “represents the ultimate objective reality.” But he theorizes that AUB and baseline reality are two versions of reality that may be complimentary. That makes biblical sense.
He says that for a human to enter the state of AUB is extreme and rare, but everyone experiences lesser transcendent moments, like the beauty of nature or of music, which are merely at a lower scale on what they call the “unitary continuum” of perception. Thus we all have perceptions of non-material reality, such as God. Some just experience more than others.
I’m not concerned that Newberg doesn’t take a Christian point of view or that Buddhist monks have AUB experiences. A person can perceive God’s existence, just as we perceive his physical creation, without knowing or submitting to him. Acknowledging and believing divine revelation is a different matter from a meditation experience.
The significant point is that Newberg is doing breakthrough scientific research on the ways in which God created the human mind to perceive him, as well as his creation. He is giving us a solid scientific basis to say that faith and perceptions of God are as real as the physical world around us. That’s worth getting excited about!
See Andrew Newberg and Eugene D’Aquili, The Mystical Mind: Probing the Biology of Religious Experiences. Fortress Press, 1999; and Why God Won’t Go Away, Brain Science and the Biology of Belief. Ballantine Publishing Group, 2001.
Top photo credit: h.koppdelaney www.flickr.com
Lower photo credit: Martin Fisch www.flickr.com