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Hypothetical biochemical mechanisms in spiritual emergence

26 July 1996


Researchers and clinicians who are interested in human
functioning and eliciting behavior change come from diverse
backgrounds. Neuroscientists, immunologists,
endocrinologists and psychologists have all developed
methods of analysis of behavior and specific languages to
speak about their areas of expertise. This has resulted in
divisions between specialties. Recent advances in
scientific technologies have lent credence to the theories
of biological determinism, resulting in the popularization
of mechanistic and reductionistic views of human functioning
and change. Meanwhile, a more holistic view of behavior and
change has lost favor. However the same advances that made
the popularization of the mechanistic theories possible seem
now to be adding credibility to the holistic stance. Within.
the holistic camp, there has long been interest in people
who seem to experience altered states of consciousness that
result in persistent improved adaptation and behavior
change. These people have been labeled in various ways.
For the purposes of this paper, the altered state they have
experienced will be called "spiritual emergence"(SE). Until
recently, those in the reductionistic camp have doubted that
such things as "consciousness" or, "mind" have explanatory
value. Such altered states as SE were considered
pathological and certainly not conducive to achieving a
better adaptation to life. But the same research that
resulted in the rise of the mechanistic view may now be
making it possible to clarify how such phenomena as SE
occur. The purpose of this paper is to discuss the recent
advances in knowledge about biochemical and neurochemical
interactions within the body and the possible relevance
those advances may have in treating and understanding
phenomena like SE. The implications of these interactions
in clinical practice will also be addressed.


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