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The Spiritual Doorway in the Brain: A Neurologist's Search for the God Experience

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The world's leading neurologist on out-of-body and near-death experiences shows that spirituality is as much a part of our basic biological makeup as our sex drive or survival instinct. Booklist (11/15/2010): Nelson is a neurologist who has devoted decades to the study of near-death experiences. An offshoot of NDE is...

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The world's leading neurologist on out-of-body and near-death experiences shows that spirituality is as much a part of our basic biological makeup as our sex drive or survival instinct.
Booklist (11/15/2010):
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 dreamingthe lions 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 authors 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.(Reprinted with permission of Booklist, copyright 2010, American Library Association.)

Kirkus Reviews (11/01/2010):
Examination of the neurological foundations of out-of-body and near-death experiences, from an expert on the subject.
Nelson (Neurology/Univ. of Kentucky) has spent decades exploring what underlies spiritual experiences, so there is more to this book than physiological probing. In particular, the author is sensitive to the intensity of a transcendent moment, how it "deeply moves us or transports us and connects us in one way or another with something larger than ourselves." As a neurologist, however, he seeks an explanation based on well-established brain mechanisms. Nelson builds the explanation slowly, presenting current thinking behind consciousness and self ("mysterious and elusive, hotly debated and now awesomely arcane"); introducing appropriate anecdotal material to illustrate a variety of spiritual encounters and milieus; and taking lay readers into the brain's architecture. The author is especially interested in the borderland created when "[p]art of the dreaming brain erupts in a brain already awake," blending REM dream states with waking consciousness and provoking hallmarks of the near-death or spiritual experiences, such as the tunnel, the blinding light, life review and bliss. Each of these experiences is known to have a physiological basis, and they conspicuously overlap in that fuzzy space where the REM features of visual activation, paralysis and the dream narrative, among others, intrude into the waking state. Of course, this does not touch upon other varieties of spiritual experience?especially, Nelson notes, mystical oneness?but it draws attention to the correspondences between common features of spiritual experiences and the mind. And not just the mind?"through its nerves the heart can cause REM consciousness in waking times." Blood supply is the major player in near-death experiences, writes the author, but also, "spiritual experiences should be judged by the profundity of their effect on us?not by what causes them."
Nelson is humble and balanced, wary of our perception of consciousness and infectiously fascinated by how the brain shapes it.
(COPYRIGHT (2010) KIRKUS REVIEWS/NIELSEN BUSINESS MEDIA, INC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.)

Publishers Weekly (12/13/2010):
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 spiritual organ full of wisdom. The borderlands of spiritual experience affect a very special expression of consciousness, the sense of our individual selfthe 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.) Copyright 2010 Reed Business Information.

Marc Notes:
Includes bibliographical references and index.

Biographical Note:
Kevin Nelson is the author of fifteen books, including The Golden Game, The Greatest Stories Ever Told (About Baseball), and Baseball's Greatest Quotes. He has also written articles for a variety of local and national publications such as Men's Fitness, Ski, Sport, Women's Sports and Fitness, San Francisco Chronicle, and the San Jose Mercury News.

Review Quotes:
"Nelson (Neurology/Univ. of Kentucky) has spent decades exploring what underlies spiritual experiences, so there is more to this book than physiological probing. In particular, the author is sensitive to the intensity of a transcendent moment, how it 'deeply moves us or transports us and connects us in one way or another with something larger than ourselves.' As a neurologist, however, he seeks an explanation based on well-established brain mechanisms. Nelson is humble and balanced, wary of our perception of consciousness and infectiously fascinated by how the brain shapes it."
-"Kirkus"

"This book is a bold, provocative and highly readable account of the author's journey into the world of religious experience and its possible biological basis."
-V.S. Ramachandran, author of "Phantoms in the Brain" and "A Brief History of Human Consciousness"
The world's leading neurologist on out-of-body and near-death experiences shows that spirituality is as much a part of our basic biological makeup as our sex drive or survival instinct.
If Buddha had been in an MRI machine and not under the Bodhi tree when he attained enlightenment, what would we have seen on the monitor?
Dr. Kevin Nelson offers an answer to that question that is beyond what any scientist has previously encountered on the borderlands of consciousness. In his cutting-edge research, Nelson has discovered that spiritual experiences take place in one of the most primitive areas of the brain. In this eloquent, inspired, and reverent book, he relates the moving stories of patients and research subjects, brain scan analysis, evolutionary biology, and beautiful examples of transcendence from literature to reveal the machinery in our heads that enables us to perceive miracles-whether you are an atheist, Buddhist, or the most devout Catholic. The patients and people Nelson discuss have had an extremely diverse set of spiritual experiences, from arguing with the devil sitting at the foot of their hospital bed to seeing the universe synchronize around the bouncing of the ball in a pinball machine. However, the bizarre experiences don't make the people seem like freaks; they seem strangely very much like us, in surprising ways. Ultimately Nelson makes clear that spiritual experiences are not the exception in human life, but rather an inescapable and precious part of every one of us.

Review Citations:
Kirkus Reviews 11/01/2010 (EAN 9780525951889, Hardcover)
Booklist 11/15/2010 pg. 17 (EAN 9780525951889, Hardcover)
Publishers Weekly 12/13/2010 (EAN 9780525951889, Hardcover)
Contributor Bio: Nelson, Kevin
Kevin Nelson is the author of more than a dozen books, including "The Angler's Book of Daily Inspiration" and "The Golfer's Book of Daily Inspiration".

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