Jet lag woke me up at 4AM today and I've been sitting in my cabin in the high altitude mountains of Utah reading blogs and chatting with people. I just finished chatting with reverend AKMA about my last post, trying to see if there was something similar to good theologians and open source leaders. We talked about the importance of humility and the risks of greed. (AKMA pointed out that he was by far the most humble person on the planet.) I noticed that my thoughts seem to be somewhat more spiritual than usual.

Then I remembered reading somewhere that there was a scientific study that showed that people were more likely to have spiritual experiences in high altitudes due to the lack of oxygen. They theorized that maybe a lot of enlightenment in the past occurred on mountains because of this. (A bit disconcerting to think that a lot of our theological thought comes from the asphyxiation of hermits.) But then I remembered another article I read somewhere that said that 20% of all scientific studies are wrong. Then AKMA reminded me that according to David Weinberger, 78% of all statistics are made up on the spot.

I know it's very un-bloggy of me not to have the links to the articles I cite, but I'm late for breakfast. I'll try to dig them up later, but if anyone has the links, I'd really appreciate it if you could put them in the comments.

UPDATE from Cameo: Why revelations have occurred on mountains? Linking mystical experiences and cognitive neuroscience.

11 Comments

Cameo posted a link to an abstract of the article to which you are reffering about a week ago, truly fascinating stuff. Enjoy the high altitude, its good for your body!

I don't know about religious experiences, but pilots are trained to treat a feeling of incredible well being as an early warning sign of hypoxia. If you start feeling too good at high elevations, try doing simple logic or number problems -- you'll be surprised at how poorly you do. If you're hypoxic, you'll probably also notice a loss of night vision.

It is worth noting, however, that all three of the world's major monotheistic religions were founded near (or below) sea level, though Moses did reportedly go up a mountain to get the commandments ...

Thanks David! Maybe we should create a new category called sea-level theology.

I think this is what you are thinking of:
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/entrez/query.fcgi?cmd=Retrieve&db=pubmed&dopt=Abstract&list_uids=16054773&itool=iconabstr

Med Hypotheses. 2005 Jul 27; [Epub ahead of print] Related Articles, Links
Click here to read
Why revelations have occurred on mountains? Linking mystical experiences and cognitive neuroscience.

Arzy S, Idel M, Landis T, Blanke O.

Laboratory of Cognitive Neuroscience, Brain-Mind Institute, Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne (EPFL), Lausanne, Switzerland; Department of Neurology, University Hospital, Geneva, Switzerland; Department of Neurology, Hadassah Hebrew University Hospital, Jerusalem, Israel.

The fundamental revelations to the founders of the three monotheistic religions, among many other revelation experiences, had occurred on a mountain. These three revelation experiences share many phenomenological components like feeling and hearing a presence, seeing a figure, seeing lights, and feeling of fear. In addition, similar experiences have been reported by non-mystic contemporary mountaineers. The similarities between these revelations on mountains and their appearance in contemporary mountaineers suggest that exposure to altitude might affect functional and neural mechanisms, thus facilitating the experience of a revelation. Different functions relying on brain areas such as the temporo-parietal junction and the prefrontal cortex have been suggested to be altered in altitude. Moreover, acute and chronic hypoxia significantly affect the temporo-parietal junction and the prefrontal cortex and both areas have also been linked to altered own body perceptions and mystical experiences. Prolonged stay at high altitudes, especially in social deprivation, may also lead to prefrontal lobe dysfunctions such as low resistance to stress and loss of inhibition. Based on these phenomenological, functional, and neural findings we suggest that exposure to altitudes might contribute to the induction of revelation experiences and might further our understanding of the mountain metaphor in religion. Mystical and religious experiences are important not only to the mystic himself, but also to many followers, as it was indeed with respect to the leaders of the three monotheistic religions. Yet, concerning its subjective character, mystical experiences are almost never accessible to the scholars interested in examining them. The tools of cognitive neuroscience make it possible to approach religious and mystical experiences not only by the semantical analysis of texts, but also by approaching similar experiences in healthy subjects during prolonged stays at high altitude and/or in cognitive paradigms. Cognitive neurosciences, in turn, might profit from the research of mysticism in their endeavor to further our understanding of mechanisms of corporeal awareness and self consciousness.

Thanks Cameo!

Hmm. This might be bordering on parapsychology, but aren't there actually solid studies which show that low frequency electomagnetism can produce mystical brain states?

And, aren't there usually significant magnetic anomalies and spikes in sea floor rock and in the mountains?

Finally, I could be interpreting this wrong, but I think this map shows that nanotesla (nT) intensity increases along the Sierra Nevada mountains.

I don't know about religious experiences, but pilots are trained to treat a feeling of incredible well being as an early warning sign of hypoxia. If you start feeling too good at high elevations, try doing simple logic or number problems -- you'll be surprised at how poorly you do. If you're hypoxic, you'll probably also notice a loss of night vision.

It is worth noting, however, that all three of the world's major monotheistic religions were founded near (or below) sea level, though Moses did reportedly go up a mountain to get the commandments ...

Where (approximately) is the cabin you're staying in? There are many "cabin communities" in Utah within easy reach of Salt Lake, but once you get up there, they can either be quite modern and comfy (indoor plumbing) or rather more rustic (the other kind).

A family member owns a cabin up Lamb's Canyon: the cabins there are middling-modern, with electricity and running water. We were one of the ones lucky enough to have more or less "inside" washroom facilities. However, the cabin itself was an original "pioneer" log cabin, with a big old coal range that still sees use.

As for connectivity, nada as far as I know - not even cell service, but it's been some years since I visited the family cabin. It would probably be decent in nearby Park City, though.

Enjoy your stay, and the clarity of the air (and your thoughts).

I'm at the Sundance Resort. Broadband in the room works well. GSM is spotty.

Thank you for the info Joi... I am from Bolivia which borders Peru where the Incas roamed - maybe this partially explains the spiritual presence of the Incas still in Machu Picchu...

In a search for Theology of the Sea I came across the words "sea level theology". What is that all about? And
have you any leads on Theology of the Sea? This is written in the Olympic Mountains of Washington State.

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