Thursday, March 4, 2010

Temporal Lobe Epilepsy

After watching the video on the five different case studies in class this week, I was most interested in the case study involving temporal lobe epilepsy. So I decided to look up some more information about the strange effects of this disease. I found an article on entitled “Are Spiritual Encounters All in Your Head?” This article not only talks about recent case studies concerning temporal lobe epilepsy and its association with religious experience, but also questions the history of religion on the basis of epilepsy, which I thought was the most interesting part of this article. I found it interesting that this disease was referred to as “the sacred disease” by Hippocrates. The disease was considered sacred because the ancients thought that sufferers were possessed by demons, or blessed with divine messages and visions. In fact, the article suggests that some of the religious giants might have been epileptics themselves. It references Moses and the burning bush and suggests that, perhaps, Moses was having a visual hallucination, which caused him to hear God’s voice. While we can not say whether Moses’ experience was really a religious experience or whether it was an epileptic seizure, according to Devinsky, "whatever happened back there in Sinai, Moses' experience was mediated by his temporal lobe." 

I think this idea is extremely interesting. I mean, what if the religious prophets who started it all were merely having epileptic attacks? Could this suggest that religion is just a hoax, that it is merely the subconscious hallucinations of a person from long before us. Or does this support religion and prove that there really is a God, if everyone’s temporal lobes are somehow linked to religious, holy experiences? I think the whole study of the idea is extremely interesting. Check out the article for yourself. 

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