Philosopher Rene Descartes famously thought that the seat of the soul was located in the pineal gland in the human brain. While modern neuroscience may not have revealed where the soul resides, Unversity of Missouri researchers have figured out that spiritual feelings of selflessness and transcendence arise when the activity in the right parietal lobe is reduced.
According to the press release reporting the research:
"The brain functions in a certain way during spiritual experiences," said Brick Johnstone, professor of health psychology in the MU School of Health Professions. "We studied people with brain injury and found that people with injuries to the right parietal lobe of the brain reported higher levels of spiritual experiences, such as transcendence."…
"The ability to connect with things beyond the self, such as transcendent experiences, seems to occur for people who minimize right parietal functioning. This can be attained through cultural practices, such as intense meditation or prayer or because of a brain injury that impairs the functioning of the right parietal lobe. Either way, our study suggests that 'selflessness' is a neuropsychological foundation of spiritual experiences."
So there you have it -- spirituality and selflessness is the result of brain injury. OK, OK. A person can also mimic brain injury through meditation and prayer.
Study press release available at ScienceDaily here.
Disclosure: Some of my best friends suffer from brain injury, ah, I mean, regularly experience spiritual transcendence and selflessness. Especially the latter with regard to putting up with me.