Mystical Mind
Study Questions

1. Define ritual, what characteristics does it possess?
2. What are the different ways that the term ‘theology’ been understood?
3. What are the different types of relationships that science and religion have or can have?
4. Discuss the distinction between private and public religious ritual or practices. How critical is the distinction to authors?
5. What is neurotheology and why might it be important?

Chapter 2
1. Describe the functioning of the autonomic nervous system. What are the different ‘states’ associated with autonomic functioning and how do they relate to the ‘spillover’ effect?
2. What are the tertiary association areas of the brain?  What important functions do the authors ascribe to them?
3. What is the limbic system? Why might it contribute to religious experiences?
4. What is meant by deafferentiation? How might it be important in mystical states?
5. Describe the different ways of monitoring brain function.

Chapter 3
1. What is particle/wave duality and how might it be relevant to the mystical mind?
2. Briefly describe the seven cognitive operators proposed by the authors
3. What is the empiric modification cycle? What function does it serve and what brain structures are involved?
4. What are the primary and secondary circuits? How do they interact with each other?
5. What parts of the brain are important for consciousness?

Chapter 4
1. What are myths and why do humans generate them?
2. What are the characteristics of ritual and what parts of nervous system are involved.
3. What is existential anxiety and how do myth and ritual serve to relieve it?

Chapter 5
1. What is the unitary continuum and what brain structures are likely involved in it?
2. What is the difference between slow and rapid ritual? What aspects of the nervous system are likely involved in each?
3. What is mysterium tremendum and what physiological processes might be behind it?

Chapter 6
1. What is passive meditation? What brain areas do the authors think are involved?
2. What is Absolute Unitary Being (AUB)? What does it represent both physiologically (what’s happening in the brain) and religiously (how does the believer interpret it)?

Chapter 7
1. What is a near death experience? What characteristics does it have?
2. What is prepared learning and how might it be relevant to NDE?
3. What brain areas do the authors think might be implicated in NDEs?

Chapter 8
1. What is meant by ‘the sacred’ and how is this concept central to any definition of religion?
2. What brain structures and operations do the authors think may underlie our concept of God or deity?
3. What are the different ways that religions and religious believers interpret mystical states of consciousness?

Chapter 9
1. How do the authors believe their different cognitive operators relate to theological concepts (describe each one)

Chapter 10
1. Describe the different positions one can take on the ultimate nature of reality (for example, naïve realism vs. mental representationalism)
2. What is the ‘binding problem’ and how might it be solved?
3. Which is primary in determining reality: external reality or subjective awareness? Is it possible to integrate the two?

Chapter 11 &12
1. What does it mean for religion if it can be shown that our experience of God depends on brain function?