Finally, scientists are exploring the nature of religious experiences. Scientists will soon discover that the final frontiers of science and the origin of religion are one and the same.
In authentic Zen Buddhism, ultimate reality is that from which all things come and to which all things return. Astrophysicists are traveling in time to find the beginningless beginning of our universe. The irony is that what scientists have been searching for is being experienced by people who have no formal scientific training but know everything about the origin of the universe.
Ellen S. Best and Min Pai
Wellspring Zen Monastery
Pound Ridge, N.Y. There have been many studies of manic-depressive illness and its relationship to creativity. Many biblical figures with prophetic and religious vision have been studied as possibly bearing manic-depressive characteristics. People who have experiences of oneness with the universe often cannot escape profound feelings of connection to something greater than themselves. Since so many people have these peak experiences, it would be interesting to answer “Why?” in a scientific manner. Could there be an explanation that is purely spiritual? Ruth Housman
Newton Center, Mass. The important story “Into the mystic” should have all the facts right. “The most systematic scientific study of. . .mystical experience” was conducted by Walter Pahnke. But he was a Cambridge (not Berkeley) physician and also a student in the Ph.D. program at Harvard Divinity School. The year was about 1962 and not 1966. The 20 seminarians with whom he worked were students at Andover Newton Theological School in Newton, Mass. The drugs were administered when the students attended a Good Friday service in Marsh Chapel at Boston University, where Howard Thurman was preaching. The rest of the story is accurate. I was privileged to participate in a separate session in which Dr. Pahnke administered psilocybin to some faculty members to discover their experiences, as well. M.B. Handspicker
North Bennington, Vt. I have out-of-body experiences nearly every night–I dream. Carl R. Anderson
Bethesda, Md. In an out-of-body experience, people are aware that their “self” or center of awareness has left the physical body. Lucid dreaming, which is dreaming while knowing that one is dreaming, is closely related to out-of-body experiences.–B. Bower I rather often experienced mystical enlightenment, as Robert Austin described it, when I was jogging regularly. We may not be able to repeat the psilocybin study of Walter Pahnke, but couldn’t we study whether endorphin levels correlate with these types of mystical feelings and spiritual ideas? Harold Zeckel
Arlington, Mass. Some of the scientists of enlightenment contend that innate capacities for mystical experiences need to be explored. Others appear to be interested in exploring such capacities only as human delusions. Both groups make assumptions that circumscribe the phenomena they will examine and limit the tools available. These researchers will find what they set out to find, limited by their assumptions, and they will not take seriously the experiential claims of their subjects. Their research will not contribute anything of significance unless, perhaps, the scientists seek the experiences for themselves. But then would that still be “science”? Barry N. Bishop