God and the Brain

Today’s blog is about this TED Talk video by Jill Bolte Taylor. I recommend watching it, but you don’t actually have to watch it to read this blog.

Dr. Taylor’s video talks about her experience with the right hemisphere of her brain when the left half of her brain was shut down by a stroke. It has affected the rest of her life.

The best summation I can give you of the video as an introduction to this blog post comes from the very end of the video.

I can step into the consciousness of my right hemisphere, where … I am the life force of the universe. I am the life force of the fifty trillion beautiful molecular geniuses that make my form; at one with all that is. Or, I can choose to step into the consciousness of my left hemisphere, where I become a single individual, a solid, separate from the flow, separate from you. I am Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor, intellectual, neuroanatomist. These are the we inside of me. Which would you choose?

The right hemisphere of the brain is like that. It is the part of the brain where we touch God.

I use the word “touch” purposely. In Acts 17:26-27, the apostle Paul says:

He made from one blood every nation of men … that they should seek the Lord, if perhaps they might reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us.

How do we “reach out” for the Lord?

The Greek word used there is pselaphao. According to Strong’s (and to most Bible translations) it means, “to handle, touch, and feel.”

Paul talks about our seeking the Lord by handling, touching, or feeling for him.

How do we do that?

I want to suggest that we do that with something God has equipped us with just for doing that. I want to suggest that at least one way we seek for him is with the right side of our brain.

Our experience of the world comes through body parts. We touch things around us with our hands. We feel the ground with our feet. We see with our eyes, and we hear with our ears.

Even what we call our “soul” uses body parts. Our emotions raise and lower our blood pressure, cause us to wrinkle our faces, and even cause uncontrollable, subconscious adjustments in the lens and pupils of our eyes as well as in many muscles of our face. Concentration and worry can easily be read by others in our face and in the way we stand or sit.

It should not surprise us that our spirit either works through or touches parts of our brain and body as well.

Training Our Right Hemisphere

The right hemisphere of our brain is not honored in American society.

Admittedly, I’m speaking generally. Artists and poets use the right side of our brains. We are all aware of that, and we think it’s great.

However, in confronting the great truths of life, we prefer what can be analyzed and deduced in an orderly, step-by-step manner by the left side of our brains. If an argument or conclusion is too complicated to be examined in this way, we refuse to trust it.

The right brain is not just the artistic and spiritual side of the brain, allowing us to be creative and to have transcendent, spiritual experiences. It is also the intuitive part of our brain, allowing us to examine and consider topics too complex for our logical, analytical left brain to handle.

Probably because of the incredible success of the scientific method, we westerners trust the logical side of our brain. In fact, I heard another TED Talk once in which a professional educator said we westerners live “in our heads and a little to the left.”

The intuitive part of our brain is incredible, however. We should not be so quick to dismiss it.

The intuitive part of our brain thinks in pictures and feelings, which are must faster than words. It’s processes unlimited amounts of facts, fitting them together into a model that becomes more reliable the longer the right side of our brain is given to work.

Eventually, the right hemisphere feeds its conclusions back to us in “gut feelings,” “hunches,” pictures, and dreams.

It all seems mystical to us logical, clear-thinking, half-brained westerners.

Because we’re not balanced, because we don’t trust intuition, but only the deduction that our limited left brain can handle, we are not skilled at accessing the intuitive part of our brain. Some of us almost literally have, on a practical basis, half a brain.

Because we are not skilled at accessing the intuitive part of our brain, we are not skilled at accessing the spiritual part of our brain.

I sometimes wonder if that’s why our old men dream so few dreams and our young men see so few visions (cf. Acts 2:17).

Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor and Spirituality

Dr. Taylor and many others have experienced a feeling of oneness with the universe when they were given full exposure to the right hemisphere of their brain.

Dr. Taylor described it as nirvana, and she found it so pleasant that it’s clear from the video that she wants everyone else to experience nirvana.

Nirvana is not a Christian concept. It is a Hindu concept. I agree that nirvana is not something Christians are pursuing.

However, just as we should not cut off our nose just because it has been put somewhere that it shouldn’t be, so we should not cut ourselves off from our right brain because we don’t like the wording that someone applied to their experience with a very useful part of their body.


This is the most interesting, captivating book I’ve read on the power of intuition.

None of us, I think, have given up on using the left side of our brain just because many Americans have used the logical left side of their brain to conclude that God does not or may not exist.

Paul suggested, as part of the Gospel, that the Athenians “handle, touch, and feel” after God.

You cannot do that with your fingers.

You cannot do that with your feet, or even with the left side of your brain.

If you are going to feel after God, you are going to have to use your spirit, and I want to suggest that if you have an atrophied right brain, barely used, then you are going to have trouble using your spirit.

That may seem sacrilegious to some of you, but how many of you would think it is sacrilegious for me to suggest that if you’re a lazy thinker, very poor at organizing your thoughts and considering conclusions, then you’ll not be very good at understanding the Bible? If your left brain is atrophied from disuse, you are going to have problems understanding the Gospel and the will of God, and it’s going to be easy for false teachers to lead you astray.

It’s no different for those whose right brains are atrophied. Your intuition and your “feeling” for God are going to be damaged, and you are going to be more easily led astray.

A lot of what the Scriptures have to say have to do with “feelings.” Those feelings are spiritual feelings, not emotions.

For example, Paul tells us in Romans 8:14 that it is those who are “led” by the Spirit of God who are the sons of God. That word “led” implies feelings, and I’d like to suggest that those feelings are communicated through the right hemisphere of the brain, just as anger or love are communicated through a specific part of our brain.

As another example, David says in Psalm 16:11 that “fullness of joy” is in God’s presence and “pleasures forevermore” are at his right hand.

Those are real feelings, not logically deduced conclusions that are to be talked about.

Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor is calling for people to live more in their right brain, to access their connection with the oneness of the cosmos and with the consciousness of the universe.

I say, try the spirits. Don’t believe every spirit. However, if you are not aware of spirits at all because your right hemisphere, and thus your spirit as well, are shut down or atrophied, then you are going to be subconsciously moved by those spirits. Your right hemisphere is not really shut down. We westerners have simply ignored it so much that we are egregiously unaware of what it’s doing and saying most of the time.

As Christians we can’t let that happen because we are supposed to be a spiritual people.

This post, I’m guessing, raises as many questions and arguments as it answers, though I guess whether it answers any questions or arguments is arguable in itself. I’m going to quit here anyway and go off and think about all this a bit more.

About Paul Pavao

I am married, the father of six, and currently the grandfather of two. I run a business, live in a Christian community, teach, and I am learning to disciple others better than I have ever been able to before. I believe God has gifted me to restore proper foundations to the Christian faith. In order to ensure that I do not become a heretic, I read the early church fathers from the second and third centuries. They were around when all the churches founded by the apostles were in unity. I also try to stay honest and open. I argue and discuss these foundational doctrines with others to make sure my teaching really lines up with Scripture. I am encouraged by the fact that the several missionaries and pastors that I know well and admire as holy men love the things I teach. I hope you will be encouraged too. I am indeed tearing up old foundations created by tradition in order to re-establish the foundations found in Scripture and lived on by the churches during their 300 years of unity.
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6 Responses to God and the Brain

  1. Buckstop77 says:

    Jesus said in one place that He couldn’t do miracles there because of their unbelief. At least I think I’m remembering that correctly. Perhaps we in this western culture don’t experience as much of the miraculous power of God because of our left brain thinking. We truly are trained in unbelief.

  2. Dave C. says:

    So, if I am understanding this right, it looks like our brains are undergoing the same battle as the rest of our flesh. The battle between the spirit and the flesh. The left side of the brain tends to make us aware of, and helps us interact with fleshly, material things in this world, where the right side of our brain interacts with the unseen spiritual universe in and around us. So then, if that is true, then we need to be more right brained to become more spiritual.

    Your blog makes so much sense. And it’s probably why logical types like me have such a hard time relating to and being a part of the spiritual realm.

    I agree with Dossie. I need to learn to be more right brained! But, how does one go about doing that? Are there any practical exercises I can do to undo the right brain atrophy I am experiencing and suppress the overexercised left brain a bit?

    • Shammah says:

      I think you should talk to Dossie’s husband. He’s a left-brained genius, and I’m pretty sure he’s the only guy in the village that could do better in school than me. But he’s a right-brained artist, too. Shoot, he may be one of those people that is too right-brained, not left-brained, despite how “logic smart” he is.

      Yeah, he’s the one to ask how to use your right brain better.

  3. Buckstop77 says:

    Interesting. I like that you aren’t afraid to throw ideas out there without having all the answers & conclusions lined up. I’d be interested in reading more on this topic.

    • Shammah says:

      Thanks, Buckstop. I’ve been interested in this idea every since I first read about a part of the brain that lights up when we have spiritual experiences. I’ve read books on intuition. There is a whole segment of psychology that is devoted to learning how to trust intuition. I am first and foremost a Christian, and I want my life to glorify God, but I believe Americans are plagued by unbelief, that it hinders the power of even true and faithful Christians, and that one part of the reason is our overconfidence in the left brain and logical thinking.

  4. Dossie says:

    I’ve always wished I could be more right brained.

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