Robert C. Priddy

Writings on diverse themes from philosophy, psychology to literature and criticism

  • Robert Priddy

    In this blog I post information and critical views concerning ideologies, belief systems and related scientific materials etc. I am a retired philosophy lecturer and researcher, born 1936.

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Neurology throws light on ‘hearing God’s word’, ‘channelling’

Posted by robertpriddy on April 20, 2012

Modern neurological science is gradually unravelling phenomena which provide likely fresh explanations for schizophrenic symptoms, and also not least the claims of divine inspiration in allegedly hearing God’s voice, or those of other non-incarnate entities. This breakthrough could, when thoroughly explored, undermine all religious texts claimed as expressing the word of God, as well as countless claims of having received messages and entire doctrines or philosophies from supposed ‘disincarnate’ personalities – whether saintly figures, well-known geniuses of literature and art etc. or also just ordinary persons who are thought to have ‘passed over into a realm beyond’.

Of course, many believers in this or that religion, in saints, holy men or women and gurus of all kinds who claim to be mediums or ‘channels’ for divine beings will react against this because it would rob them of any remaining rationale for the unquestionability of holy scriptures and more besides. There are those who believe that schizophrenia and other diagnoses of serious mental dysfunctions are merely labels put on persons who do not conform to the accepted pattern because they have insight into ‘other dimensions’ which are closed to ordinary persons. This kind of theory – made popular from the 1960s onwards by psychiatrists like R.D. Laing, Michel Foucault and Thomas Szasz, has been increasingly discredited with advances in science, especially in genetics, psychopathology and neurology. Thomas Szasz, who was famous for his book ‘The Myth of Mental Illness’ has in recent years honourably refuted his own theory as untenable. That schizophrenia has a genetic basis has been proven in research since the 1970s, even though it is still possible that many persons were wrongly diagnosed as psychotic, schizophrenic and so on due to incompetence, intense pressure from families or others for confinement of very difficult relatives etc.

Breakthrough research using magnetic imaging of the brain:  Many scientists have noticed that when patients hallucinate voices, neurons in brain regions associated with processing sounds spontaneously fire despite there being no sound waves to trigger this activity. That’s an indication of brain overload.

But when presented with real-world voices, other studies showed, hallucinating patients’ brains often failed to respond at all, in contrast with healthy brains. These studies pointed to a stifling of brain signals.

By analyzing all of these studies together, biological psychologist Kenneth Hugdahl of the University of Bergen in Norway found the simultaneous over-stimulation and dampening of brain signals to be two sides of the same coin. The findings help explain why schizophrenia patients retreat into a hallucinatory world. Now, Hugdahl wants to use this knowledge to help patients reverse that tendency. Hugdahl remarks that schizophrenia is marked by delusions, hallucinations, breakdowns in thought processes — as many as 35 separate symptoms, presenting differently in every patient.

Bjarte Stubhaug, Medical Director, Division of Psychiatry at Bergen’s Haukeland University Hospital in Norway, has endorsed the discovery of evidence that the brain interprets certain inner impulses as sounds and voices, a spontaneous hearing activity without external stimuli. Such experiences are therefore not based on ‘objective’ fact (i.e. real external sources). Further, he holds, the brain can develop functions that are quite new, such as through meditation.

Stubhaug writes concerning pathoplasticity: “Through history this process of changing labels, attributing old symptoms to new labels and discovering new symptoms once they have been presented and described, has been characteristic for several illnesses, mostly within this pool of medical unexplained complaints and functional somatic illnesses. The symptoms and subjective complaints can be varied, often unspecific, and the causes or “attributions” seem to move from inner demons to external toxins and invisible waves. (

The following is another analysis of the same kind of symptoms:-


One Response to “Neurology throws light on ‘hearing God’s word’, ‘channelling’”

  1. How would this explain NDE patients who speak to deceased when they are clearly not hallucinating (much scientific research has shown that NDE patients are indeed not hallucinating when having their experiences)?

    Comment from Robert Priddy:
    Neurology is beginning to get empirical knowledge about the brain’s functioning in respect of auditory and visual hallucinations which is as yet not fully developed or interpreted, of course. Need one say that the brain is a fantastically complex organism. I am not aware of much very reliable and controllable research into near death experiences that can support the thesis of another realm of consciousness. I know well Professor Erlendur Haraldsson of Rekjavik University, who has worked and published in this area (NDE) and he will not risk such a definitive conclusion so far as to their objectivity. The subject is central to the hopes and beliefs of those who are religiously oriented, and this is as ever a great influence on the kind of researches that set out to find that NDE experiences are real and cannot be explained in any other way. Little attention so far has been paid to the fact that the symptoms of NDE as most often described are also experienced with the use of high doses of ketamine. (See ‘The Blissful Brain’ Neuroscience and Proof of the Power of Meditation (Gaia Thinking) [Paperback] Dr. Shanida Nataraja.) New researches like this indicate phenomenologically the great similarities of a wide spectrum of experiences with certain mind-expanding substances (LSD-25, psylocybin, mescaline and DMT) with accounts of ‘mystical’ experiences in meditation that underpin most religion.

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