fbpx

Your Brain on God

In our final episode in this series on the brain, we delve into the neuroscience of our understanding of particular areas of the brain and how they function to help us in different areas of life. In this episode, we discuss:

  • Why the brain needs spirituality;
  • What happens when someone prays or meditates?
  • How levels of consciousness are measured in brain waves; 
  • Do we imagine God or are our spiritual experiences real? 

Watch the next Soul Session in this series on our YouTube Channel.

Your Brain on God

Transcript

Debra Maldonado  00:01

Hello, welcome to another fascinating episode of Soul Sessions.

Robert Maldonado  00:06

One of our favorite series, we’ve been talking about the brain. In this episode, we’re going to talk about the brain on God, or your brain on God.

Debra Maldonado  00:25

We’re going to talk about the biology of what happens when we have spiritual experiences. A lot of people have had experiences in their life where they see things that are metaphysical. Maybe they have visions and dreams that seem beyond just the normal functioning of rational thought. How do we experience God? Through the brain and through the Jungian psychology. We’re ending this series, I just want to review. We talked about the brain on success. We talked about the brain on love. We talked about the brain on health and wellness. This is the last of the series to talk about. We saved the best for last, the brain on God.

Robert Maldonado  01:18

Let’s talk a little bit about our perspective, so that people know where we’re coming from. There’s three areas that we study as students of the mind. One is Jungian psychology, of course, we delve and use his model of the psyche for our understanding of personal transformation, what’s going on in our individual mind when we talk about pretty much anything. The other one is the current neuroscience, we look at that to see if it supports what we’re doing and see if there’s actual scientific evidence from neuroscience that backs up what we’re doing.

Debra Maldonado  02:10

We’re not just saying “This sounds kind of cool. Let’s teach this.” We look at the research.

Robert Maldonado  02:18

Jung himself said it’s important to live in your time, which means what is the biggest paradigm of our time, it’s definitely science, scientific data and information.

Debra Maldonado  02:29

What’s really interesting is this idea that we think neuroscience and science make it boring and take all the mystical parts of our life out. But actually, all the new research on quantum physics and perception and what they’re really learning about the brain is actually very mystical. We want to just invite you to not poo-poo on the brain when it comes to God, because it’s very fascinating, what we can do.

Robert Maldonado  02:59

Thirdly, we really base a lot of our philosophy and our worldview, the paradigm that we use for the overall work that we do, on the Upanishads. They seem to be the source of all spiritual and religious philosophical teachings around the world. Somehow, they were born in that specific area of northern India, Pakistan, around there, and then just spread throughout the world through in different ways. Maybe telepathically.

Debra Maldonado  03:40

Jung would say through the collective unconscious.

Robert Maldonado  03:44

The Upanishads say, the truth is always one but the wise call it by many names. This idea of God, of course, you’re going to experience and find it expressed in many ways around the world, as the Dao, as God, Jahweh, Huitzilopochtli of the Aztecs who had this idea of one God who invents himself and is at the center of creation. Many different ways of expressing that same truth. That’s the beauty of human nature. Let’s begin with the biology because we are talking about the brain. What is going on in the brain when people have these transcendent experiences, visions, prophecies, dreams that speak to them about God or appear to them to be God speaking to them through their dreams. It appears the brain is really designed for this. If you ask, do we need such a large brain just to survive, it’s obvious that we don’t. A little hummingbird can survive in the world and do just fine. They don’t have much of a brain system, they have a basic nervous system that just gives them information about where to find food, shelter, how to reproduce, that’s survival essentially. But human beings have this very complex, infinite, just incredibly intricate system in our brains that allows us to self reflect, think about what’s possible beyond what we see, what we experience through our senses.

Debra Maldonado  06:16

We’re not only reacting in just a bunch of neurons, we actually have a consciousness that can see and be aware of itself, which is very powerful. Why would we be conscious of ourselves? Why would we need it for? That’s really the idea that these higher concepts of living, these deeper questions we ask ourselves, like “What’s the purpose of life? Who am I? What is God? What is spirituality? What is the meaning of all this?” That part of our brain opens up those questions.

Robert Maldonado  06:55

We love the Upanishads because they’re not really metaphysical. If you read the Upanishads, they’re very practical. They’re simply stating and beginning with what we know, what everyone knows and experiences in everyday life. The three states of mind, which is waking, dreaming, and deep sleep. So nothing metaphysical. It’s not asking us to believe in some other transcendent reality. It’s simply “Can you observe these three states of awareness and start to think about what they mean, what is happening in these three states?” When we’re awake, we’re seeing what we call reality. When we’re dreaming, it’s another another game. The mind is creating a virtual reality that we move in. And then when we’re in deep sleep—

Debra Maldonado  08:03

We are aware that we don’t remember that state. We’re aware that there was a period of time where we were not aware. You don’t say “I remember every eight hours of my sleep”, you say “I think I remember a couple of dreams. But the rest is, I am aware that I wasn’t aware at that point.”

Robert Maldonado  08:24

It’s the awareness of the absence of content. There’s a period where we experience nothingness for a while, or what appears to us as nothingness.

Debra Maldonado  08:39

We sip the nectar of immortality.

Robert Maldonado  08:43

With those three states in mind, we begin by asking “If those three states of mind are the foundation of our human experience, where does the experience of God, of transcendence, of the Divine come in?” It really comes in our waking state, there are certain nervous system mechanisms, brain systems, neuro transmitters that are operating, that help us dampen the activity of the brain so that we stay focused on what we are perceiving.

Debra Maldonado  09:33

For example, in people that aren’t very focused or ADHD, that part isn’t as strong because people are distracted a lot? Would you say that?

Robert Maldonado  09:46

That’s one of the theories of the executive functioning of the brain, the neocortex, which is a new part of the brain, the outer covering. A lot of its work is about controlling the impulses that come up from the lower parts of the brain. When that control mechanism isn’t working properly, the impulses come through, and the person doesn’t have impulse control, or isn’t able to focus their attention where it needs to go, they experience what we call ADHD, hyperactivity, OCD, however it manifests.

Debra Maldonado  10:28

It could be extreme, like addiction and things like that as well. Not being able to control your functioning in a way.

Robert Maldonado  10:39

Control is one of the the main mechanisms that are operating when we’re awake. It has to do with this monoamine system and neurotransmitter that help the brain control and dampen the billions of impulses that are coming through continuously to keep us awake and keep us in reality.

Debra Maldonado  11:05

That’s because our brain evolved from animals and the natural world. We have raw, wild, instinctual patterns that we’ve inherited through our genetics, through millions of years of evolution. That’s why we have to have this because otherwise we’d be out of control and wild.

Robert Maldonado  11:31

When we’re awake, and we’re happy and enjoying life, the dopamine system is kicking in, we’re experiencing a good time. The dopamine system is very active when we dream. It’s almost as active or sometimes even more active than when we’re awake. Most of the time we’re feeling good in dreams, we’re experiencing incredible things. But the difference between the waking and the dreaming state is that the monoamine system is shut off. The brain essentially becomes disinhibited during dreaming.

Debra Maldonado  12:23

That’s why the dreams are so wild? We’re actually sometimes even out of control. I remember one time I had a dream I was screaming at my boss, and I would never do that. It’s like those impulse controls are not dampened. Your true anger, frustrations or joys, even if you feel sad, it’s an ability to feel happy and floaty. A lot of people claim to have these numinous streams where they just feel this beautiful state of joy. That’s what you’re saying? That part of your brain isn’t saying “This isn’t real, be realistic.” It’s just riding the wave. That’s why some people have a nightmare. Some people have epiphanies in their dreams. That spectrum of emotion and experience that we sometimes don’t have in our wake life because we’re so dampened, and even socially, we have to stay in this mediocre “Don’t be too happy because then you’ll look crazy. Don’t be too out of control because then you’ll need help. Just stay with the crowd”, and numbing life in a way.

Robert Maldonado  13:39

That’s one way to see it. But if you think about what nature was doing there — you have to survive. You cannot be in a rapturous state if a tiger is out to get you. You’re going to have to be very alert and very concrete into “How am I going to survive? How am I going to hide from this tiger?”

Debra Maldonado  14:01

Let me ask you this. We talked about love in the brain. This is the mechanism that when we fall in love, the rationality gets suppressed. We fall for people that don’t really fit into our social structure. They don’t fit in what we really want consciously, it’s an illogical love. Is that because of the same mechanism?

Robert Maldonado  14:23

It’s similar. But in dreams, if you think about it, what we’re experiencing is like a psychotic state because that state of mind of dreaming, the neurochemistry and the way it looks, the way it shows up on brain imaging studies, is very similar to somebody with schizophrenia, or somebody having a psychotic episode. The only difference would be that the person with a psychotic disorder doesn’t have that filter to dampen the impulses of what is reality. They’re experiencing a dreamlike state in their waking life. You can imagine how disruptive it can be if things appear and disappear, animals or people appear and disappear, just like in dreams, but you’re awake. The reality is very chaotic, driven by self referencing. But there’s also this element. This is where Jung started because he was working in a mental hospital in his early work. He observed that people with schizophrenia were often hyper religious, hyper spiritual, they were thinking of themselves as gods, or God, or Jesus, or Buddha, or somebody like that.

Debra Maldonado  16:08

They always like “I know the truth about everything that’s going on.” Kind of an arrogance in a way that they know things that the normal people don’t know. “You don’t see that person standing there while I see them.”

Robert Maldonado  16:26

That started him thinking about the collective unconscious that you mentioned, which is this idea that maybe we’re tapping into a larger mind structure that we all share, and it contains the history of mythology, religious ideas, spiritual practices collectively. And through dreams, visions, spiritual practices, we’re tapping into that collective unconscious and drawing inspiration from them.

Debra Maldonado  17:07

So we don’t want to be out of control where we have no impulses at all. But we also want to be not so dampening it, so we don’t have any creativity or access to these other states of being.

Robert Maldonado  17:20

If you think about spiritual practices, they’re ritualizing those psychotic experiences into something useful that we can then use in our everyday human culture, bringing those things into culture as practices, as ritual.

Debra Maldonado  17:48

If someone came from another culture and watched this religious ceremony, they may think— if that’s not your culture, you may think it’s just wacky and strange. But the person in the culture is like “This is just how we ritualize this experience.”

Robert Maldonado  18:07

Like we said in the beginning, it’s always a brain environment interaction. For human beings, because our environment is culture, not so much just nature anymore. We evolve in that state of nature, but we created our own nature in a sense. We create a culture and we use language to define what is real and what do we agree on what is reality. At this psychosocial level, the way those brain mechanisms of our thinking about God, our thinking about visions, religious spiritual ecstasy then become what we call religion. They become our way of expressing some of these ideas that come from dreams and from vision in an everyday cultural setting.

Debra Maldonado  19:10

Is it because the ritual acts as more of a container for these experiences, so it symbolizes the experience in the physical world, so that you have an image in your mind. Then you have a ritual in the physical world to bridge the two. Rationalizing what you see in this wild, instinctual, spiritual world. Then you are like “I’m going to light a candle and do these things, wave the feather, dance, all those things to ritualize the undefined in the spiritual mind.”

Robert Maldonado  19:58

Everyone knows the practice of baptism. It’s a universal. It’s not only in Catholicism or Christianity. It’s a universal practice. There’s always a ritual that says “Welcome to the human race. Welcome to the culture. Welcome to the tribe. Now you’re part of us.” What it’s saying is that you’re entering now this human life. But you’re coming from spiritual life, you are spirit. But often people forget what the original intention of the ritual meant. Often people practice these rituals without really understanding. Why do we want to baptize our kids? Because everybody does.

Debra Maldonado  20:49

Why do you want to pour water on a baby’s head? I was raised Catholic, I remember, my mother told me that I’m eating the body of Christ, and I was like “I’m eating the body?” I’m drinking the blood of Christ. It just seemed to a kid, when you don’t understand— but then it becomes so ritualized. But those ideas come from even more ancient rituals.

Robert Maldonado  21:19

Jung said these myths and rituals that all humanity shares, we didn’t invent them, they simply arose, because that’s the way we feel ourselves to be, we’re coming from this deeper reality into this human life. Then the rituals and myths help us make sense of those things. They were already part of that coming to being.  

Debra Maldonado  21:57

The rituals are the merging of spirit and matter basically. I remember when I was in Denver, back in the early days before I met you, I went to this seminar. They had an indigenous healers day. They brought in all these chiefs from different cultures, different tribes, all over the world, Native Americans, and the Zulu tribe, and they all started sharing what they do for clearing and calling in the higher power and God. They were all looking at each other like “We have that same thing in our culture.” Basically a lot of the rituals were completely different spiritual disciplines from their culture, but they had the same rhythm. That’s what Jung discovered too, that collectively, we do have this experience of God in ourselves that we can tap into, so it’s natural. Then the brain gives us that opportunity that unhooks during night or through visualization, that allows us to have a more of a spiritual experience.

Robert Maldonado  23:13

Rumi says, in their seeking, wisdom and madness are one and the same. We see this idea that if we don’t actively practice this understanding of our spiritual needs, our spiritual nature and the spiritual nature of the mind as well, then it turns into madness. Then there’s that chance that it’s going to be expressed as madness in some way. Because it won’t fit into what we define as culture and reality, which is what’s going on with the modern ethos of “We can explain everything scientifically and rationally. Let’s get rid of the mythologies because they are childlike, or that’s so ridiculous.” It’s missing the whole point of what we know from literature, from mythology, from religious studies. That’s not what’s going on, or that’s not a good way to deal with these things. We have to develop a psychology, philosophy, a way of understanding that human very human need.

Debra Maldonado  24:43

For God or higher power, and spiritual experiences.

Robert Maldonado  24:47

For transcendence. Because if we don’t do it, we do it at our peril. Basically, Nietzsche, Jung, all point to this idea that the destructive power that you saw in World War II, where people pretty much on a worldwide basis just went crazy and started destroying everything was a result of that loss of that base, the death of god.

Debra Maldonado  25:19

There’s also people that use God to create terror, they use the name of God. They’re missing the point basically. The human mind can do that. When we saw what happens in the brain, let’s say we do have the reality of our senses. Then there’s these other things like intuition or experiences that we can’t explain, seeing the future, intuition, prophecy, or having a dream about something and then having it show up in your life. What part of the brain is it because that piece that’s not suppressed, that tells us this is reality, and this is the way things are is basically turned off at that time. We’re more tuned into this other place or more expanded reality.

Robert Maldonado  26:19

Psychologically, we can think of it as a temporary dissolving of the barrier between the conscious mind and the unconscious mind. And not only the unconscious mind in the sense of our conditioning, or programming, but Jung’s idea of the collective unconscious. When that state of mind happens, where we’re able to connect both conscious and unconscious, these numinous symbols arise. What he meant by numinous, they have this spiritual religious quality, this power that is able to transform the individual, but also transform the culture. If you think of history, symbols have played a big role in the big shifts that happened in history. Somebody has a vision of a cross, and it changes history. Somebody has a vision of the Buddha meditating and having a transcendent experience, and it changes culture, history. These symbols are really operating continuously whether we acknowledge them or not. So Jung’s idea was simply that we have to acknowledge them, we have to understand the mechanism of these symbols arising from the unconscious and having this powerful effect on humans. If we ignore them, we ignore them at our own peril.

Debra Maldonado  27:56

That’s a really good point. I was thinking about people that want to have spiritual experiences. They’re looking for some kind of “I’m going to leave my body and float on a cloud, I’m going to see the future.” This grandiose way of working with your life. We do have those experiences. But then we discount the whole symbolic life. We can basically live every day in a symbolic way. In every day, something shows up, it’s a reflection of something in our mind. The symbols are there in our life to show us and guide us from the unconscious that are raised in every just normal living. I think the way we can bridge the spiritual life and really live a true spiritual life — we don’t have to go to the Himalayas, we don’t have to go on a spiritual retreat. It’s nice to do that, you can do that, but you don’t have to and wait for that to be in your life today. When Jung wrote his book “The Man and His Symbols”, that’s what he was saying. The symbolic life is really the spiritual life. And because we can’t really define God, if we think of the idea of God, some people think of the old man, but if you think of the universe, a lot of people think of their spiritual life as the universe. But what’s the symbol of the universe? Is it galaxies and stars? We need a symbol to relate to it, not just a word. The word is a symbol, but we need symbols to relate to what we’re really talking about because it’s an invisible idea until we put a symbol to it.

Robert Maldonado  29:36

William Blake says, the imagination is not a state, it is the human experience itself. What he’s pointing at is this understanding that we imagine the world. What we call reality, where is it happening? It’s happening in our imagination. The world does not exist the way we perceive it. There is a world of course, there’s a reality but our experience of it is very much our own mind, our construction of it, our understanding of it, our interaction with it that we’re seeing. When we ask “Where do the gods reside? Where does the God come from? What is that relationship that I can have with a divine?”, it is through our mind, through our inner experience. It puts things in perspective for us that if we want to change the world, we have to go inward.

Debra Maldonado  30:57

But not just our thinking, we have to go deeper than just the thoughts and feelings.

Robert Maldonado  31:03

But it begins there. Because if you’re misreading what you’re perceiving, and you’re thinking “The world is out there the way I’m experiencing it”, you’re in a delusion. The opposite now, who is the one that is having a psychotic experience? It’s the normal person essentially, the one that sees everything as external, and the external is some kind of absolute reality. That’s madness.

Debra Maldonado  31:34

Someone asked Shankara “You’re talking about enlightenment, but if we’re already enlightened, then who’s the one being enlightened?” He said “Who’s the one asking the question?” and just laughed. It’s so ridiculous because we are thinking that we’re not aware, but we really are on some level. It’s just that understanding, it’s a mind bender in a way for us, because we are so certain of our reality, because our senses, the survival part of our brain shows us “This is real, I could touch this, I believe in this.” Then there’s people that have that openness to see that there’s something beyond the physical, the metaphysical. But how do we really work with it without becoming superstitious, without using fear and separation? And even feeling arrogant that you can do things that other people can’t do? How do you really balance that out for a person? What would be the best way to work and approach this?

Robert Maldonado  32:46

Jung says it’s a gradual de-conditioning of your mind. Because if you start off with this idea that we’re conditioned, we’re misperceiving the world, there’s nothing wrong with it, because it’s based on survival, we need to survive. But we’re misperceiving the absolute reality. What we’re seeing is an apparent reality that helps us survive and make sense of the world and feel like I can manage this. But he says there’s a stage you get to when you’re ready to mature to that real human experience of transcendence. He called it individuation, where you’re ready to let go of that initial stage of existence.

Debra Maldonado  33:43

Is this because Jung said life begins at 40, until then it’s just practice? For me, I find there’s different levels of personal development. There’s the ego building personal development and understanding that your thoughts create your life. I think that’s a critical part. You have to start at the beginning. Okay, my thoughts create my life. I do have some power. That’s step one, I can change my thoughts and change my reality. I can be more motivated, I can talk to myself and motivate myself and actually effectuate change, that locus of control starts building. Then I think the real breakthrough for me was when I did Shadow Work and realized that I’m seeing myself in other people, that projection and understanding projection. I think that’s the next level. But I think first we need to feel that we have agency in the world and we can change something in ourselves, we can change our life. Then you can go to Shadow Work, which is now you’re seeing yourself in other people, you’re seeing these conflicts that show up. They’re showing me my mind. We’re getting that individual experience of things aren’t always as they seem. Through that, I think, it’s like a practicing ground to go to stage three where we’re actually now seeing ourselves in this state beyond the ego. But we need those other states, you can’t go from stage one “I can create my life. I’m just going to manifest things.” You need to do the Shadow Work in between. I think that’s what a lot of people are missing, they don’t do the Shadow Work. They’re trying to go to the spiritual experiences without going through that personal resolution within themselves of “What am I really dealing with in the world?” Spirituality a lot of times becomes a place where people want to escape the world versus as Jung would say, you want to integrate the conscious and the unconscious, you don’t want to just go off and escape, like an escape mechanism. How do we integrate? I think Shadow Work is a great first step to do that. Jung’s whole individuation process is all about that.

Robert Maldonado  35:53

We go back to the starting point, three states of awareness that the Upanishads are talking about: the waking, the dreaming, and the deep sleep. It says there’s a fourth state, thank God — no pun intended — that resolves all three states. It is the ground of those three states of mind. It is the source, the true absolute reality that never changes. Because if you notice, our waking state is always shifting. Like we said, it’s not really giving us a true sense of what’s real, it’s more like a survival mechanism that helps us understand the world, make sense of it. The dreamy state, of course, is continuously changing. It’s this psychotic state of mind where everything is possible.

Debra Maldonado  37:00

There’s no barriers, no walls, no rules and regulations.

Robert Maldonado  37:05

The dream, the deep sleep state is giving us a sense of that peacefulness, its restorative and keeps us sane. But it says, all those three states are not the absolute reality because they’re continuously changing. The absolute reality is that ground of being that people have called God, the Dao, the absolute, the self.

Debra Maldonado  37:37

What happens to the brain in that state?

Robert Maldonado  37:41

When the aim is the realization of that fourth state, of the true self, of what is the true essence, the true ground of our being, what happens when human beings experience that is that they become that themselves. You’re no longer identifying yourself as the temporary state of mind and being tossed around by all the shifts and changes it’s going through. You are standing on the real ground of being which is the self, pure awareness beyond changing. In the Old Testament it says, you get a glimpse of that reality that they were pointing to. Some of the mystics, of course, always talk about this ground of being that is the absolute reality, it is the true essence of what the universe is. The over identification with a persona, with the ego throws us into this chaotic state of ever shifting, ever changing.

Debra Maldonado  39:02

And you’re attached, or ego’s attached to getting things, and achieving, and moving. Like a roller coaster, when we get the things we want, we’re happy, when we don’t get the things we want, we’re disappointed. We are constantly rearranging everything in our life to get to a state, and then it goes away. You can’t like really hold on to it in the ego perspective.

Robert Maldonado  39:28

But the Upanishads are saying that ultimately, those two things are one, the ever shifting appearance of things, the Maya, the magical movement of the universe and the absolute reality cannot be separated.

Debra Maldonado  39:51

Because if there’s something moving, there needs to be something solid to see the movement.

Robert Maldonado  39:55

Very much like when you have a dream, if we can ask, does that dream exist anywhere else apart from the dreamer’s mind? No, it can’t exist anywhere else except in the dreamer’s mind, or in relationship to the dreamer. If two things cannot be separated, if you can’t experience them separately, that means they’re one. So this apparent reality and the absolute reality, because they cannot be separated, you cannot really experience them apart, then that means they’re one.

Debra Maldonado  40:50

The way I experienced it in a very practical way is the practice of non attachment. When I’m in that place of non attachment, I get a glimpse of that solid ground because that part of me is not quite up in the Maya. I can watch the Maya but I can be non attached. Buddhism Vedanta, they all talk about non attachment. That’s why it’s so important, it’s not only if you’re not attached you’ll get the things you want. I think people think “Just don’t be attached, it’ll come to you.” You’re still attached to being non attached. But the truth of non attachment is to really have an experience of that unchanging nature, which is really hard to have an experience of, because it’s unchanging. We can only have experience of things that are changing, so it’s a puzzle in a way, to experience that.

Robert Maldonado  41:45

My favorite philosopher is Lao-Tze, because he says “Sometimes we experience the multiplicity of things because we want to enjoy the world. It’s beautiful in its separateness and its uniqueness and the way it moves. That experience is pleasant to us. It’s beautiful. But sometimes we want to experience that wholeness, that oneness, and we go inward and meditate, and it’s no big deal.” We move between these two realities, and if you understand what they are, you’re not caught up in either one or the other.

Debra Maldonado  42:30

I like the idea that the part that’s unchanging is really where the freedom lies. We’re always free. But we don’t want to just be in that freedom. We want to have the excitement of life and the drama of life, that’s why we’re here, there’s a reason for having an experience of this. Why would we put ourselves through it if it wasn’t supposed to be fun and enjoyable? Like watching a movie, is the hero going to make it? It’s part of the adventure of life. The Upanishads say that there are two birds sitting in the tree of life. One bird eats the sweet and sour fruits, while the other one watches in non attachment. That’s what you’re talking about. There’s two parts of us, the person, the individual soul that experiences the world and Maya, and there’s the one that is the pure awareness, the pure being, pure consciousness, that’s who we are as well. They’re both the same. But the Maya covers over the pure consciousness.

Robert Maldonado  43:35

I think the emphasis is that a lot of people get caught up in rejecting the physical reality because they think that’s not spiritual. But it’s a temporary practice most of the time, to take us away from that over attachment and over identification that we have with the body in the physical reality. But when you get to the deeper states of spiritual practices, all the mystical traditions are pointing to the same thing. That everything is awareness, everything is consciousness. There is no separation. There is no division. There’s nothing outside of that pure awareness.

Debra Maldonado  44:25

You have a quote from Einstein, I love that. “The mystic emotion is the finest emotion of which we are capable, the germ of all art, and all science, true science, and the core of the true religious experience.” Einstein. The mystic emotion, I love that idea because we think of emotion as more human. But what’s the mystic emotion? Is it the bridge between human and spirit, part human part spirit?

Robert Maldonado  45:16

It is the union of those things because Einstein was looking at the way this divine intelligence that we call the Universe thinks. How does it create these incredible things of light and matter and its interaction? He says it’s that wonder that allows us to look at it and to think like it does. The old mythology of we’re created in God’s image, that’s what it means. We’re able to perceive the way the creation is created. Because we have that ability ourselves at our source, that self reflective consciousness. He simply boils it down to the sense of awe, we’re in awe of the creation and that connects us to that. 

Debra Maldonado  46:27

I just got goosebumps from that, awe is good. When we look at nature we have that feeling, that numinous quality. Jung would say the numinosity, where you hear the birds and nature and everything just seems so balanced and beautiful. Even when we’re looking at beautiful art or at a loved one we are in awe of something more sacred in us. That’s, I guess, what people are looking for but what happens is they replace all this spiritual experience with “Let me get a brand new car, let me get a big house in the burbs and brag about how many bedrooms I have. Let me go travel and have a million followers on Instagram.” These human things that everyone’s really searching for. It’s a cheap replacement for this.

Robert Maldonado  47:30

What I see is that people either trivialize mythologies, spirituality and say “We don’t need that anymore because we have science and we can do without all that stuff.” That’s not the right approach. But the other extreme isn’t correct to me either, that we hold up the spirituality so high and mighty, it’s superior, we will never reach it, or it’s too powerful to know. It’s essentially who we are. It’s right here with us. It’s simply that it’s hiding in plain sight. I like what Vivekananda said. The way people talk about spirituality, you’ll think that God never laughs. That sense of humor that we have, that’s the divine in us laughing at itself. It’s a joy of just being and existing. I invite you guys to think in terms of our everyday experience, the divine is not somewhere else to be found. It is to be found in our everyday experience.

Debra Maldonado  48:50

Just the fact that we’re here, and we’re conscious of ourselves, and we’re able to have a conversation over metal and electricity talking about God, how wonderful is this? We’re riding on a rock that’s hurling through space. And we’re conscious of ourselves, it is just a miracle. There’s some questions here, a lot of them. I’m just going to sum it down to one: where does religion fall into this versus spirituality?

Robert Maldonado  49:24

There’s a funny saying that God gave humans spirituality, and the devil said “Let me help you organize it into a religion.” That’s a bit extreme, but essentially, you can think of religion as the ritualization of that. Because if you think what function does religion have, it is to ritualize the spiritual teachings.

Debra Maldonado  49:58

For some people that’s the foundation they can operate on. They don’t want that unstructured spiritual experiences, they need it written in the book, I follow the rules, more structured experience of God versus an unstructured and more open.

Robert Maldonado  50:16

I think it can be split. People can be religious without really having spiritual understanding. And vice versa, people can be very spiritual without necessarily being religious. But ideally, religion should be the place where you practice your spiritual essence, or your spiritual being.

Debra Maldonado  50:46

Depending on your spiritual evolution, sometimes religion is a good place to start, it’s better than nothing. I love the fact that I was raised Catholic because I was exposed to all the angels and the saints and this mystical understanding of the power bigger than me. Sometimes I’ll work with clients who have had no religion growing up. It takes them longer to get to their spiritual life, they are conditioned to think more practically. I won’t poo-poo religion because it does get us to open up to the possibility of magic or spirituality. For me, there’s aspects of Jesus’s words in Christianity that I think are very beautiful and wonderful. It doesn’t mean that I have to do it by the book — sorry, mom — but still there’s a benefit from learning. There’s a book called “Living Buddha, Living Christ”, they talk about the messages being very much the same. Again, these indigenous healers I told you about, the religions of the world, the fundamental truth is really one, there’s only one truth and these things are leading you to that truth. Krishna says to Arjuna, “How do I tell people that are doing a different path?”, he said “Encourage them to be on their path because everything leads to the self.” Everything is leading there. And you reminded me of that too, it’s like this self is the center. If you look at a mandala, there’s all the many paths to that center. Some paths are a little more expedited than others, because the ego can get you caught up in the duality of religion. What I love about Vedanta is it’s non dual. You’re getting into more oneness, more of the powers within you versus projection.

Robert Maldonado  52:48

We’ll leave you with another quote by Rumi. He says “Do not feel lonely. The entire universe is within you.”

Debra Maldonado  53:04

Thank you so much for joining us today. Thank you for your questions. We do have a new series starting next week, and it’s on personality. We’re gonna talk about personality tests, we’re going to talk about trauma, we’re going to talk about what happens in our life, how does that really affect us? I can’t remember the other ones, but we’re gonna talk all about personality and the ego, really diving into what does it mean to have a personality and who we really are on a deep level.

Robert Maldonado  53:47

Thanks for tuning in. We’ll see you next time.

Debra Maldonado  53:52

Remember, you are one with God already. Take care. Bye bye.

Read More