Although the subject matter of religious studies is essentially phenomenal (e.g., conscious acts, attitudes, intentions, worldviews), the analysis of the basic datum, consciousness itself, remains of necessity incomplete because of the discipline’s restriction to the phenomenal envelope. Philosophical and psychological analysis contributed to our understanding of consciousness, but, lacking access to the neurological engine-room of consciousness, their explanatory power is compromised as well. Neuroscience, on the other hand, has moved beyond the behaviorist denial of consciousnessand recent research indicates that the evolutionary developmentof the brain’s representational capacity may well account for its ability to generate consciousness. These advances provide an opportunity to marry objectiveexplanation with phenomenological descriptions of the view from the inside, creating a powerful new analytic tool: Neuro-phenomenology. Comprised of an exaggerated differentiation between conscious state and informational content, and constituting an important phenomenological category within many Hindu and Buddhist programs, lucid consciousness makes an ideal subject with which to assess the analytic power of Neurophenomenology.
Peters F. H. (2004) Neurophenomenology of the supernatural sense in religion. Method and Theory in the Study of Religion 16: 122–148. https://cepa.info/5826
The great majority of scholarly definitions of “religion” center around some notion involving experience or awareness of a supernatural dimension ( forces, entities). This sense of the supernatural has been found in virtually all human societies extending back into paleolithic times. Advances in neuroscientific research technology have made it possible to assert that phenomenal experience is in fact a form of brain activity; the two are identical. This naturally leads us to inquire as to why and how a brain evolving to serve the needs of survival and replication in a harsh natural environment should have developed the capacity and evident propensity to generate a sense of the supernatural. Psychology has recently identified a set of three primitive interpretive modules dedicated to generating a sense of causative essence. These modules are located in areas of the brain whose representational output can be experienced as non-material, like the stream of thought, rather than as external physical landscape. These non-physical neurophenomenal essences are identical to the three forms of otherworldly spirit essence found throughout human religious history, and they form the basis of the multi-layered neurophenomenal complex comprising the sense of the supernatural.