This Post was written on Thu, 5 Aug 2004.
This part is inspired by a program I saw on BBC. A lot of material has come from the book “Phantoms of the Brain” by V.S Ramachandran which Harindranath Parameswaran gave me to read and also from the website www.epilepsy.com.Epilepsy is an electrical storm in the brain. It may involve the whole brain or just a part of it. Epilepsy of the temporal lobe in the brain causes some very mysterious effects. Lets look at some people in history who had epilepsy of the temporal lobe : Vincent Van Gogh, Dostoevsky( the great writer), Ellen White( of the seventh day adventist church) , Joan of Arc, Moses, Paul( New testament) , Blake, Jesus, Mohammed and Buddha. Of course all these people have not been clinically tested for temporal lobe epilepsy but events in their lives show strong signs of this condition.
Now the list above is a list of some great artistic geniuses, great writers or religious founders. How are such exalted faculties of the mind related to temporal lobe epilepsy?Lets look at some characteristics of people with temporal lobe epilepsy. One characteristic is that they have a greater love for color than normal people. For them colors appear more vivid and colors form a more important part in their lives than normal people. This characteristic is obvious in Vincent Van Gogh’s paintings. Vincent Van Gogh was obsessed with colors in his life. See how much yellow he used in his paintings. The sun, the sunflower and the yellow fields figured so much in his paintings.
Painting of Van Gogh
Another characteristic of people with temporal lobe epilepsy is hypergraphia: an intense desire to write or express through some medium.
One person who suffered from temporal lobe epilepsy wrote more than a thousand pages in a few weeks. Dostoevsky suffered from siezures caused by temporal lobe epilepsy from the age of 9 years. He was a prolific writer and gave epilepsy to more than 30 characters he created. Van Gogh can also be attributed with hypergraphia: he painted hundreds of paintings and wrote thousands of letters to his brother Theo. Lewis Carrol also suffered from temporal lobe epilepsy. The sensation of falling down a hole which he gave Alice is something that several epileptics have experienced during seizures.
Joan of Arc :
laboratory electrical simulations of the temporal lobes have produced similar God visions in otherwise normal people.Ramachandran did an experiment. He took two types of people: the normal people and the people with known temporal lobe epilepsy.
He showed them both three sets of visual symbols : simple symbols( car, wheel), sexually explicit symbols and pictures , and religious symbols
and pictures. He measured the responses to these visual stimulus using electrodes. Normal people did not show any electrical excitement on
seeing the simple symbols or religious symbols. But when they saw the sexual symbols a strong response was seen. The people with temporal
lobe epilepsy showed no response on seeing simple symbols and on seeing the sexually explicit symbols! But on seeing religious symbols the
electrodes fired like hell. SO these people experience some sort of religious ectacy! So we have discovered the “God spot” in the human brain. Several people who suffer from temporal lobe epilepsy become obsessed with themselves. Now imagine this : an intelligent person gets an epileptic fit of the temporal lobe lasting 15-20 minutes in which he “experiences God”. This fit changes his temporal lobe permamently and after the fit he becomes obsessed with religion and God. He also gets an intense desire to write and to preach. He preaches all sorts of things which “God” has told him ( or tells him whenever he has a fit). He also becomes obsessed with his own self and preaches the superiority of himself over all previous prophets. Dont you see how a new religion may arise???? Is this the beginning of all known religions? Friends, I do not believe in God so the way I interpret these medical facts is that religion and God are only illusions created by the temporal lobe. And religious leaders were probably just people having an epilepsy of this part of the brain. But if you believe in God you may interpret this evidence in a different way: How can one imagine or get an “illusion” of God if it does not exist. Maybe God actually visits these individuals by creating a storm in their brains. So what we know is the process which gives rise to religious feelings. We still do not know God. And we still dont know much about the mysterious brain: what would an animal experiencing a temporal lobe epilepsy see? Can a person who has never been told about religion or God invent God after a seizure? What evolutionary process created this religious feeling and a place for this feeling in the brain????? For who would loose, though full of pain
This intellectual being
THose thoughts that wander through eternity
to be swallowed up and lost
In the wide womb of uncreated night
Go, wondrous creature! mount where Science guides:
Go, measure earth, weigh air, and state the tides:
Instruct the planets in what orbs to run,
Correct old time and regulate the Sun;