Temporal Lobe Epilepsy In Mark Salzman's Lying Awake

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“Lying Awake” by Mark Salzman does a fascinating job at representing the lives of cloistered nuns through a work of fiction. His story follows Sister John of the Cross, a nun who is shown to have these awe-inspiring visions of God that are accompanied by unparalleled feelings of spiritual peace and harmony. Throughout the novel, Salzman makes a point to humanize life in a Carmelite monastery by giving the reader a look into the subtleties and nuances that make cloistered life more relatable to the average person. In doing this, he also taps into the doubts that inevitably come with being a person of faith, and that they do not escape even people who devote their entire ways of life to their religion. As the novel progresses, Sister John begins…show more content…
Temporal lobe epilepsy is one condition that allows us to see that a religious experience, regardless of how real it may seem at the time, has a definite likelihood of having a neurological explanation. This condition is excitingly unique in that it shows that visions, voices of God, or any other similar deeply personal occurrence may not actually be what it is perceived to be due to the fact that after each patient is successfully operated on, these experiences immediately cease. This ability to explain religious experience neurologically can also be shown through several other methods, to name a few: Drugs alter the state of the brain and are often found to bring profound, and sometimes religious, experiences; the “God Helmet” which is a device that alters the magnetic field around a person’s temporal region of the brain, inducing religious experiences; and bodily deprivation from essential things like sleep or food have frequently been known to facilitate vivid hallucinations that are interpreted as a religious experience. Through all of this, it is apparent that there is, at the very least, a major correlation between the physical brain and the perceived religious experiences that a person may…show more content…
For instance, it appears that the religious concept of a “soul” is nothing more than a mental process. In Christianity, it would be assumed that a person who believes in God would go to heaven after they die. Just as well, it could also be assumed from the empirical evidence (temporal lobe epilepsy, autism, split brain surgery) that there are ways of manipulating the brain in a way that affects the ability to perceive religion. Given enough knowledge about the brain then, it should be possible to “turn off” a person’s belief in God. It is likely that this concept holds some merit if one takes a look at how autism impairs a person’s ability to conceptualize God; and that by inducing the same sort of mental phenomena that occurs within the brain of an autistic person, it should theoretically be possible to stop a person from believing. If, in fact, if it is possible to alter a person’s brain in a way that causes them to no longer believe in God, it would then also be possible to prevent a person from going to heaven as a result of an operation received in the material realm. This poses a difficult scenario to explain for a person of faith. First of all, the argument for an ethereal, amorphous soul that is separate from the brain can be effectively thrown out due to the fact that physically tampering with a

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