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Thinking Out Loud

Encountering right-brain transformation

by Michael Jinkins | Jun 21, 2011

by Arch B. Taylor Jr.

Brain scientist Jill Bolte Taylor has recounted her personal journey through a serious stroke and eight-year process of recovery.

A massive hemorrhage affected the left hemisphere of her brain, disabling her language centers and her ability to analyze and order information. She could not think of herself as an individual ego, a “solid” distinct from other people and the environment.

In her unaffected right hemisphere she thought of herself as a “fluid” flowing in the life force energy of the universe. She rejoiced in pleasure of the present moment, spontaneous, carefree, and imaginative. “I perceived myself as perfect, whole, and beautiful, just the way I was.” Freed from left hemisphere dominance, her right hemisphere was “completely committed to the expression of peace, love, joy, and compassion in the world.”[1]

This account reminds me of many near-death experiences (NDE) documented by modern authors. Individuals may have an out-of-body experience, pass through a tunnel, or meet departed loved ones in a heavenly realm. Many speak of an instantaneous life-review and a sense of total acceptance and well-being. Details differ, depending on personality and culture, but one is constant: they all encounter a light, and they emerge with an abiding sense of confidence, optimism, altruistic concern for others, and interest in spiritual and ethical matters.

Researchers have shown that all the elements of NDE reside in the brain’s right temporal lobe, which Melvin Morse calls “the circuit board of mysticism."[2] Experts can artificially induce the phenomena of NDE—except the light, which many people call “a divine being” or a “being of light.”[3] Some people have undergone transformation by encountering the light without an NDE.

As I contemplate the Apostle Paul’s Damascus Road experience and assemble several autobiographical references in his letters, I believe he underwent something like a near-death experience. Certainly, Paul saw the light: “For we do not proclaim ourselves; we proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord and ourselves as your slaves for Jesus’ sake. For it is the God who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Cor. 4:5-6).

The light transformed Saul, the zealous Pharisee who persecuted the church, into Paul the propagator of the gospel and apostle to the Gentiles. Himself forgiven and accepted, Paul now knew that God, who shows no partiality, accepted the Gentiles along with the Jews. Paul declared: “For God has imprisoned all in disobedience so that he may be merciful to all” (Rom. 11:32).

Dr. Jill Taylor, with her left hemisphere fully restored, learned to keep it from running away with the instantaneous emotions of anger or fear. She gave rein to joy, peace, and compassion of her right hemisphere, her “circuit board of mysticism.” As for us, Paul says, “We have the mind of Christ” (1 Cor. 2:16b).

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