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The Spiritual Brain: A Neuroscientist's Case for the Existence of the Soul

3.64  ·  Rating details ·  510 ratings  ·  61 reviews
Do religious experiences come from God, or are they merely the random firing of neurons in the brain? Drawing on his own research with Carmelite nuns, neuroscientist Mario Beauregard shows that genuine, life-changing spiritual events can be documented. He offers compelling evidence that religious experiences have a nonmaterial origin, making a convincing case for what many ...more
Hardcover, 1st edition, 368 pages
Published August 1st 2007 by HarperOne
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May 14, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I got this book a couple of years ago but was put off reading it by a couple of reviews that trashed it, saying it was rubbish pseudo-science and poorly researched and with an axe to grind. So I ignored it and read other recommended neuroscience books. Recently I decided to read it anyway and learn from its mistakes. I was astonished to find a very well researched book that was rigorously scientific in its approach. I found it a thought-provoking and enlightening read. Wish I'd read it earlier. ...more
Jeffrey  Sylvester
May 17, 2014 rated it liked it
I found the structure of “The Spiritual Brain” frustrating. As others have commented, Beauregard and O’Leary make an overt and excessive case against orthodox materialism but the text is interspersed with quotations of what the authors attempt to refute, which I found somewhat disruptive in terms of being able to pull coherent themes from their case.

The central thesis is that a separation exists between our physical brain and consciousness and that phenomena associated with psi, the placebo eff
Pierre A Renaud
"Non-materialist neuroscience is a rallying cry for dualism. Like creationism and intelligent design this "new" neuroscience is a reactionary movement against science. Rather than a hypothesis that leads to predictions and experiments, it is simply a catalog of things modern neuroscience supposedly cannot yet explain. Unsurprisingly, the movement is spear-headed by intelligent design lackeys from the Discovery Institute and related affiliates. The primary proponents of the movement are Michael E ...more
Sep 26, 2010 rated it liked it
In this book, the author, a practicing neuroscientist at a Canadian university, argues that human beings have non-material souls that interact with the physical body by acting upon our neural networks to influence behavior. It's an interesting view, and one you don't hear often from scientists.

I'm not sure of the author's religious beliefs, but he seems to hold to something like the perennial philosophy of Aldous Huxley, William James, and Evelyn Underhill. It's a view that there's a common, ete
Robert Fischer
This book blows hot and cold, but pulled itself up from a 3 star range to a 4 star range in the very last chapter. For the best reading experience, skip the introduction. The book is really defensive (especially in the introduction and first couple of chapters), so go in expecting that. Don't let that put you off too much, though.

This book does not do a very good job making a case for the existence of the soul per se. What it is very good at is challenging scientific materialism and complicating
Matthew Green
Oct 08, 2012 rated it it was ok
The part actually dealing with Beauregard's research is worthwhile. Unfortunately, you must wade through a significant amount of other material that's worth far less before you get there. To some extent written in an anti-new-atheist perspective - if they hate us and show how their research disproves God and call us fools, we'll show research that makes them the fools! I've heard that O'Leary, the coauthor not listed here, is the main problem. Given the medical papers of Beauregard's I've read, ...more
Gabrielle Ruban
Oct 01, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: neuroscience
For several years now, I've known that the discipline of neuroscience is one that I want to dedicate my life to exploring - whether it be through academia, the entertainment I partake in, or the conversations I choose to have. Although I'm interested in STEM and learning about the biological basis to behavior, cognition, abstract thought, consciousness, and many other facets of what makes us (animals) exist as we do, I know that my love for the social sciences & humanities prevents me from limit ...more
Mary Zimnik
Mar 27, 2012 rated it really liked it
Beauregard is tireless in trying to bring his findings into recognition in his field. I found the book both easy to manage yet very strong in defining this debate among neuroscientists. Especially compelling is the full chapter devoted to his study on the Carmelite nuns. For anyone interested in the discussion between the materialists scientists and what is becoming more and more a groundswell of those who are opening their study to consider reaching farther (as all change agents will do), then ...more
Feb 07, 2008 rated it it was amazing
I am actually working on a radio program discussing many of the concepts in this book. It's premise is that many aspects of neuroscience cannot be explained by materialistic phenomenon. In other words there is a mind that is in charge of the firing neurons in the brain. Examples include the placebo effect, overcoming obsessive compulsive disorder, depression, and the effects of spiritual experiences (or prayer).
This book is not coming from a distinctly Christian perspective (although one of the
Marius Marsh
Sep 13, 2008 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Those interested in spirituality and brain theory
Recommended to Marius by: Terri Bulman
Although materialist thinking neurological researchers often condemn the idea of spirituality and soul as being unscientific and non-existent, they do so only by ignoring considerable amounts of evidence that are at least as scientific as the evidence they present to discount such concepts. We are not simply bags of chemicals that can walk, but we are spiritual beings with motivations and connections to plains of existence exploration of which is still outside the realms of science, but certainl ...more
Jane Harris
Feb 10, 2011 rated it really liked it
This is a highly controversial book. Reviews I've seen are either highly positive or deeply personal and negative. I would say read it for yourself and see what you think. It does contain a lot of technical information, so it's not a book for the beach.

I should note that Denyse O'Leary encouraged me to forge ahead with Eugenics and the Firewall: Canada's Nasty Little Secret, a book many of her audience (if they are part of the Canadian right of right of centre populist set) probably wish I'd ne
Gregg Sapp
Aug 16, 2018 rated it liked it
Biblical literalists and champions of creationism have often been criticized for relying upon arguments supporting their beliefs based upon gaps in current scientific knowledge. The “God of the gaps” thrives in those niches where the fossil record is incomplete or in our sketchy understanding of how life originated on Earth, as well as other places where discovery lags behind theory. The problem, of course, is that science has a way of filling those gaps over time, leaving religious dogma with f ...more
Juan Rivera
Apr 29, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: lecturas-2018
One of the characteristics of materialism is to think that there is nothing beyond what can be seen and touched, that science can not understand other things than material and that this is all that exists.

And what happens for those who have had the experience of having a mystical state, an experience of being close to death, an astral journey or some other spiritual experience?

Many of these scientists say that they are altered states of mind, fully explicable. I do not believe it.

If you want to
Aug 18, 2017 rated it liked it
This book was written by a Christian neuroscientist. To say that there were parts of it that were "over my head" is an understatement. I learned to skip the "A View From Neuroscience" boxes embedded in the copy. In essence, this book was written to repudiate the viewpoint of materialist scientists who do not believe in the soul and believe religion is an evolutionary coping mechanism. I found many parts of this book most interesting:his insights on the narrow view of materialist science; his dis ...more
Esta Doutrich
Sep 12, 2017 rated it liked it
3.5 I read this for some research on the neuroscience of prayer. The authors own research that he details in the last part of the book was interesting, but it was almost lost in the broader, ranting on/refuting of materialism in the first half.
Apr 04, 2018 rated it liked it
Very interesting and well written. Great insights and fascinating research. Read a bit more like a text book so wasn’t the most fun book to read but definitely worth a read. Wish there were Cliff Notes.
Kimberley Berlin,
Dec 19, 2018 rated it really liked it
Very well written, heady, scientific tome that debunks the “materialist” view of long standing science that claims spiritual experience is an illusion.
Aug 19, 2019 rated it liked it
Very biased toward spiritual vs material. If you can get around that, there are a lot of interesting facts.
Aug 25, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Interesting. I appreciate all the debunking of materialist views of RSMEs and the research the author did.
Mihail Nedkov
Nov 04, 2019 rated it did not like it
Jan 18, 2011 added it
Shelves: mente-coscienza
According to the nonmaterialist view, the death of the brain does not mean the annihilation of the person, that is, the eradication of mind, consciousness, and self. Individual minds and selves arise from and are linked together by a divine Ground of Being (or primordial matrix). That is the spaceless, timeless, and infinite Spirit, which is the ever-present source of the cosmic order, the matrix of the whole universe, including both physis (material nature) and psyche (spiritual nature). Mind a ...more
Jul 11, 2012 rated it liked it
A very informative and enjoyable book, though perhaps mistitled. The primary argument did not seem to be for the existence of the soul. This thought does grow out from his rejection of a materialist brain and would explain much of the evidence presented. However, the focus is that we should let science guide how we view the brain and mind rather than dogma. This might seem counter intuitive, as religious thought is typically seen as dogmatic, but Beauregard makes a strong case that it is the mat ...more
Jan 05, 2009 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
May 13, 2012 rated it liked it
Beauregard’s thesis is that mystical/spiritual experiences have effects on the brain that are too complex to be generalized down to a “God Gene,” a “God Switch,” or a section of the brain dedicated to religiosity. His evidence for this thesis is pretty strong—specifically, he summarizes his own neuroscience research with Carmelite nuns. This thesis does not take an entire book to prove, however, so he spends the rest of the book discussing other aspects of spirituality and neuroscience. Problem ...more
Jun 19, 2012 rated it really liked it
The premise is clear from the first page: Beauregard is a non-materialist neuroscientist, 99% of the science establishment holds materialism as a de facto philsophy, Beauregard is going to prove that materialism cannot account for the "mind" as we know it.

Will the skeptics be convinced? No, but they will be challenged. Beauregard is writing a pop-science book, not an iron-clad thesis. The strengths and weaknesses come down to this, as Beauregard moves fairly quickly through a variety of cases, f
Nov 18, 2011 rated it really liked it
Much of The Spiritual Brain is an argument against materialist and evolutionary psychology, and the supposition that there is a gene or "God Spot" in the brain responsible for mystical experiences; not all of that argument is particularly convincing, but the background is important in understanding the whole. I suspect that Professor Beauregard has been beaten up over the course of his career, and the tone of early sections of the book perhaps attests to that. Plow ahead anyway. The chapters on ...more
Nov 02, 2014 rated it really liked it
I wish that I had more time to spend on this book, but sadly it was due at the library. If I'd had more time I would have read a little slower and pondered more. Overall, I think there are great points made about science in this book. There are some great examples of critical thinking, though of course, the author at times makes the same mistakes that he is pointing out in others (putting forth opinion as fact, for example). I need to read something from the other side to compare viewpoints, but ...more
Pranada Comtois
Dec 22, 2016 rated it liked it
I got the book excited to see the research conducted with Carmelite nuns. It is indeed interesting, though this comprises just one chapter of the book.

These neuroscientists aren't materialists. They call themselves nonmaterialists. In other words, they do not blindly support the premises of materialism which propose that there is no meaning to life and that we do not exist.

The first chapters examine several materialist thoughts about consciousness: the God gene, the God helmet experiment, and
Rand Lee
Feb 26, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Thoughtful analysis of materialist assumptions that all phenomena must be reduced to a single cause, an unproveable philosophical stance taken as a given by those averse to the notion that consciousness is framed by and expresses itself through the brain but is not limited to or created by the brain. Beauregard's analysis of experimental data, the history of explorations in this field, and his neural testing of women in a religious order known for its mystical experiences, all present a fascinat ...more
Nov 08, 2008 rated it really liked it
Although I’m not a scientist or a theologist but a member of the general public who would like to know more in the unknown, spiritual, mystic and/or paranormal subjects, I found the "spiritual brain" to be quite interesting.

As much as I understand the necessity to include a scientist’s "materialistic" views on this subject, I totally disagree with their way of thinking. For that reason, I enjoyed the last half of the book more.

Don’t confuse the title to be of a totally religious nature, there
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Mario Beauregard's groundbreaking work on the neurobiology of mystical experience at the University of Montreal has received international media coverage. Before becoming a faculty member there, he conducted postdoctoral research at the University of Texas and the Montreal Neurological Institute (McGill University). Because of his research into the neuro-science of consciousness, he was selected b ...more

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