Originally Posted by Thao
Bluegoat, don't you think it is sort of a double-edged sword to say that the spiritual experiences described in the book are biological in nature? Because it opens up the door to the possibility that other spiritual experiences are nothing more than biological as well, right?
In short, yes.
To be more loquacious, I think some things people think are spiritual experiences are nothing more than biological incidents. How to tell the difference? Well, the only way I can really think of is to see if the content of the experience is in line with truths you know in some other way. If I have an angelic vision of an angel telling me to murder my next-door neighbours, I am not likely to attribute it to God. This still raises questions as a Christian - what about Abraham, who was asked to do something so clearly not godly to most of us? Or Paul, whose vision was almost the opposite of everything he believed, and caused a real conversion?
In the history of the Christian Church, private revelation has always been treated pretty carefully for this reason. It is simply not seen as something that can change or modify Christian doctrine. Even when it is seen to be in line with Christian teachings, no one is obligated to accept it is a real religious experience.
On another note, I tend to think even authentic spiritual experiences have a biological component. To some extent this is obvious - if we see or hear an angel speaking to us, for example, there are at least chemical processes going on in the brain, and the physical components of our ears or eyes might be involved too. There is some evidence that there are parts of the brain that are related to feelings and perceptions we have during spiritual experiences. I don't think this makes spiritual experiences untrue, but it does suggest we could have such feelings or intuitions apart from actual spiritual content if those parts of the brain were accessed. This has even been done manually in experiments by stimulating those parts of the brain.
Which I suppose is is why I think that we need to let our reason be the chariot driver, with our intuition, emotion, and will being the horses kept well in hand.
For anyone that is interested, I heard about an interesting book that has come out recently called, I think, The Third Man Factor
. It is about the phenomena of people in stressful situations perceiving the presence of an invisible other who is kind of a helpful companion. Apparently it is quite common. It sounded like an interesting book.