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◷ 29 min read - Mar 16, 2018
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An Analysis of Truth and Belief in Spirituality

A thorough understanding of the concept of truth protects against beliefs that directly or indirectly cause suffering to yourself and others. In this article I explain how beliefs form, adapt, and mature in the mind, and how we can learn to distinguish helpful from unhelpful beliefs. Despite the overall focus on spirituality, the concepts discussed below apply to truth and belief in every area of our lives.

Table of Contents

Absolute Truth vs Relative Truth

Absolute truth is the self-evident truth of direct experience, the awareness of “thisness”, the information contained in the present moment, the sense of what it is like to be. It doesn’t have to be believed in order to be true, and it cannot be doubted either. There is the experience and that’s the end of it. Being beyond belief and doubt in this way is the hallmark of absolute truth. It is called absolute because there is no point of reference to compare it to; there is only ever one present moment experience.

The mind abstracts experience into stories (concepts, ideas, views, statements). A story the mind believes to be true is called a belief. The truth of a story exists only in relation to a set of beliefs, and is hence called relative truth. Unlike the absolute truth of direct experience, the relative truth of stories is subject to doubt, which arises whenever a new story contradicts a presently held belief.

Here is an example to clarify the difference between absolute and relative truth. When experiencing an optical illusion, the actual experience is what it is; its truth is self-evident and absolute. But your beliefs about what you are experiencing are in conflict with your beliefs about what your experience should be like, causing some work for your brain to integrate these beliefs.

Relative truth has some advantages over absolute truth. Absolute truth exists solely in the present moment, whereas the relative truth of our memories allows us to make predictions about the future and plan accordingly. Absolute truth can only be experienced, not communicated, whereas stories can readily be transmitted, whether in natural language, mathematical equations or other encodings. But relative truth has its downsides, too, most notably that it causes suffering. Confirming a currently held belief causes pleasure which, in the presence of a self, leads to desire. Contradicting a currently held belief causes pain which, in the presence of a self, leads to aversion. As I have elaborated on in the DhammaTime Book, desire and aversion lead to suffering.

Desire for Confirmation

Whenever our minds produce a new belief that confirms our currently held beliefs, we experience pleasure. This effect is the same whether we are gossiping or performing a scientific experiment. We like the sensation of obtaining new information that verifies our current view of the world. The increased certainty makes us feel safer and calmer, regardless of whether we like or dislike our current world-view. Even in a terrible situation it still feels satisfying to be able to say “I knew it” or “I told you so”.

Not surprisingly, the pleasure of confirming one’s beliefs leads to desire for more, resulting in what is known as confirmation bias, a flawed interpretation of present moment experience, where the mind goes out of its way to make new beliefs fit already existing ones to quell the desire for confirmation. Confirmation bias is a well-known factor to account for in scientific research, because it can change the outcome of experiments and literature research in favor of what the scientists already believe.

There is no place like the Internet to fulfill the desire for confirmation of beliefs. When you search the Web for new information, if your search query contains a bias, so may the results. For example, say you are having a headache, and you are afraid you might have a serious disease, so naturally you search the Web for “headache” and the name of the disease you are afraid of. This search query contains a major bias that influences your search results. To make matters worse, you will likely click the most dreadful sounding headlines, and 5 minutes later you might be convinced your diagnosis is correct, when really it was just tension headache from worrying so much.

The algorithms of major websites and social media aggravate the issue of confirmation bias by showing you more of the information that fits your current world-view, because they know you like it and they want you to come back for more. The result is that you create your own little world where everything conforms to an initial set of beliefs until you are certain this is the way things are. In the context of obtaining new information on the Internet, this has been called a “filter bubble”, and in the context of inter-personal communication, an “echo chamber”. The issue has always existed, but it wasn’t as visible before fast electronic information exchange. Where previously you needed to live with like-minded people and cut off contact to people outside the group, today you just need to go online on a mobile device and ignore your surroundings. It’s a kind of self-administered brainwashing. It seems ironic that the more information is available to us, the more narrow-minded our respective world-views appear to become.

If you have a friend who is really stuck in a particular topic/story/belief, you will have noticed how anything they experience reminds them of this one topic and they never fail to bring it up, rendering you flabbergasted by how their brain even made the connection. Thanks to the Internet, more of us are becoming that friend every day. This effect is most problematic if the belief in question is an unpleasant one. If you know someone who is suffering from major depression, you know how their mind can take the happiest of circumstances and connect it to a belief that causes pain. They don’t even need the Internet for that because the characteristic behavior of rumination is essentially an internal echo chamber.

Aversion Against Contradiction

Whenever our minds produce a new belief that contradicts our currently held beliefs, we experience pain. This is known as cognitive dissonance.

The intensity of the pain (and the suffering resulting from aversion) depends on the amount of certainty we have in each of the opposing views. The more strongly we cling to our current beliefs, i.e. the more we identify with them (“these are my beliefs, they are true, and they make me who I am”), the stronger this side of the conflict will be. The more we trust our mind’s interpretation of direct experience, the stronger the other side of the conflict will be. If the conflicting story is not our own, but told by someone else, the strength of that side depends on other factors. Maybe we trust them because we are related to them, maybe they are well-known and have had a big impact on other people, maybe they are well educated, highly qualified, and respected by their peers, or maybe we just happened to agree with most of what they had to say in the past (that’s why flattery exists). All of that increases the power of their words.

Whenever there is a conflict of belief in the mind, several outcomes are possible. If both sides are rather uncertain, nothing much happens, maybe we shrug and barely know why. If the current belief is certain and the new one is not, we doubt the new belief, eventually dismiss it, and move on. If we are uncertain about our current belief, but certain about the new one, we doubt our current belief, and eventually change our minds. If both sides are certain, that’s when we get into trouble. This is what happens when prominent/influential people speak against our core beliefs/values, when we discover something horrible about something or someone we love, and when a faithful religious devotee has their world-view threatened by irrefutable scientific evidence. This is the reason we don’t usually speak about sex, politics or religion with our colleagues at work. It’s a recipe for conflict.

It’s not easy to properly deal with cognitive dissonance. We might try to avoid situations that cause it, we might try to shut down one side of the conflict, we might close our ears and start singing, but whatever we end up doing, it’s often not very helpful. The wise solution would be to leave some wiggle room to be wrong about everything we believe, and if it’s too late for that, we can always observe the unpleasantness of cognitive dissonance as it happens. It will quickly resolve if calmly attended to.

Please reflect on cognitive dissonance before you read on, because I might just challenge some of your views, and since this is a book about spirituality, those views might just be some of your core beliefs. At the time of writing, my teachings are comparatively unknown, so your mind can easily dismiss them, but if my work should ever become popular, you might take offense at my views. If that happens, I hope your knowledge of cognitive dissonance prevents you from getting too upset, as you realize that your being offended is just a conflict within the mind.

How Beliefs Evolve Towards Certainty

The mind generates stories because it has proven useful evolutionarily. From an evolutionary point of view, being able to predict the future (at least to some extent), exchange stories with our peers, and teach our most helpful beliefs to our offspring, is extremely useful to the survival of our genes. The suffering that ensues is irrelevant to evolution until it interferes with gene survival. Consequently, our minds are wired to generate stories and have these stories fight over certainty, the currency of belief.

When stories are repeated in the mind, we become more certain they are true. If I let go of an apple and it falls down, the story of that experience is committed to memory. I drop the apple a second time, and a pattern emerges. A few more times and I can say with some certainty, “if I let go of the apple, it will fall down”. That is, until I eventually place an apple on a table, let go of it, and it does not fall down. Then I have to adapt my beliefs accordingly. The mind is pretty good at matching patterns, and quickly learns that most objects fall down when let go of, and many objects stay in place when let go off while resting on a level surface. As we learn more about the world over the course of a lifetime, our collection of beliefs grows and our core beliefs will have been repeated often enough that we are convinced of their truth.1 We often refer to such certain beliefs as knowledge.

By the time we are old enough to have grand-children, some of our beliefs we have been confirmed so many times, they have become certain knowledge. Did you ever try to challenge your grandparent’s world-views? It doesn’t work, does it? You are not in a position to teach them anything. They don’t even shrug, they just tell you you’ll see they are right when you get to be their age some day. This can be quite frustrating if your grandparents are unhappy with their lives.

It is quite normal for old people to be rigid in their views. Their particular set of beliefs has adapted to their environment and found an optimum that allowed them to survive. It is less normal for young people, but it does happen and it seems to happen more often today than just a few decades ago. To reduce the suffering of desire for confirmation and aversion against contradiction, we tend to surround ourselves with like-minded individuals and shield this group against contradicting world-views. Before the Internet, we had nationalism and religious fundamentalism. Today we still have all of that, but thanks to filter bubbles and social echo chambers, we now also have more diverse groups of people with more strongly held beliefs, who get mad over what used to be a minor misunderstanding.

Certainty can lead to delusion. I have read books by PhDs who ignored tons of evidence to make their theories work. They might say something like, “after years of research I was able to see the whole picture and this is the only possible conclusion”, despite clear evidence that their conclusion is wrong. They thought long and hard about the issue and arrived at “the truth” about the matter; not a shred of doubt in their minds. If you know someone like that, you know you couldn’t convince them if you hit them over the head with the evidence. Their world-view is set in stone.

If you have been around spiritual people, it is highly likely you have met some delusional individuals. They believe the strangest things and if you question those beliefs they either ignore you on grounds that you can’t see the truth, or they get mad at you for reasons you now understand. But whatever the case, you can’t reason with them. Same as with the elderly, it can be quite frustrating if you care about someone delusional and you know they are unhappy with their live.

Subjective Truth vs Objective Truth

Relative truth can be further differentiated into subjective truth and objective truth. Subjective truth is what an individual believes to be true; it is measured in certainty. Objective truth is established via the scientific method; it is measured in probability. Whether a subjective belief also bears objective truth depends on whether it is falsifiable, i.e. whether it is, in principle, possible to discover evidence that would falsify the belief. Unfalsifiable beliefs are purely subjective, bearing no objective truth.

The absolute truth of present moment experience is beyond subjectivity and objectivity. Any statement about absolute truth carries only relative truth.

As social animals, we place a lot of value on the stories we are taught from an early age on. For example, if we are told that eating particular berries makes us sick or may even kill us, we don’t eat them. The stories we learn tend to be useful for staying alive. What makes them useful is their capacity to make predictions. “If I eat these berries I will get sick” is a prediction, and, if objectively true, it’s a useful one. However, if your parents didn’t know which berries were edible and which were not they may have told you something like, “all berries are poisonous”, which is a less useful story because the prediction is needlessly restrictive and you likely missed out on nutritious and delicious berries.

This is where objective truth shines. If you see your siblings secretly eat the forbidden berries and not get sick, you have evidence that perhaps your current story about these berries is not as true as you believed it to be. If everybody enjoys these berries except your parents, then there’s a good chance your parents’ story is subjectively true (i.e. they are certain), but objectively false (i.e. the probability is very low).

If your subjective certainty is at odds with a probability established via the scientific method, it is likely that predictions made based on your certainty will turn out to be false and that decisions made relying on it are not very smart.

Do you believe the sun will rise tomorrow? If you have been told the world were going to end tonight, and you believe it, your answer might be “no”. Based on past experience, however, the sun has never failed to rise, so your answer will likely be “yes”. Do either of these subjective beliefs bear objective truth? Yes, both of them, actually, because tomorrow we will have evidence that will conclusively refute one of these answers, making both claims equally falsifiable. We can also calculate the probability that either claim will turn out to be true or false, based on the number of times the sun has already risen in the past. If we do that, we will get a probability rather close to 1 (100%) that the sun will rise and a probability rather close to 0 (0%) that it won’t.

That being said, please note that scientific results are often very different from what the media make them out to be. Scientists typically phrase their conclusions very carefully, e.g. “there is evidence that this is true, but further studies are needed”. The media, however, are not interested in objectivity, but in getting more viewers, and, therefore, have a tendency to turn such careful words into e.g. “scientific studies have shown that…”. Whenever you read or hear that phrase anywhere, the smart thing to do would be to doubt their words, and, if the topic is important enough, look up the actual science. If someone doesn’t bother properly citing their scientific sources, it might be best to not believe a word they’re saying.

Don’t Believe Everything You Think

You know that stories other people tell can be false, sometimes because they don’t know any better, sometimes because they try to deceive you. But what about the stories your own mind tells all day long, do you believe those? We tend to trust our own stories, but as it turns out, we probably shouldn’t.

There is evidence that rather than admitting to its ignorance, the mind creatively fills in gaps in understanding. This evidence comes from studies done with split-brain patients. These individuals have the corpus callosum transected (i.e. the connection between the two hemispheres of the brain is severed), as a drastic means to treat epilepsy. The result is essentially two minds in one body, each perceiving with and controlling one half of the body (left side for right hemisphere, right side for left hemisphere), but only the left hemisphere can speak. The following quote demonstrates the consequences.

In one well-known experiment, a split-brain patient’s left hemisphere was shown a picture of a chicken claw and his right hemisphere was shown a picture of a snow scene. The patient was asked to point to a card that was associated with the picture he just saw. With his left hand (controlled by his right hemisphere) he selected a shovel, which matched the snow scene. With his right hand (controlled by his left hemisphere) he selected a chicken, which matched the chicken claw. Next, the experimenter asked the patient why he selected each item. One would expect the speaking left hemisphere to explain why it chose the chicken but not why it chose the shovel, since the left hemisphere did not have access to information about the snow scene. Instead, the patient’s speaking left hemisphere replied, “Oh, that’s simple. The chicken claw goes with the chicken and you need a shovel to clean out the chicken shed” (Gazzaniga, 2000). The left hemisphere quickly and confidently created an explanation for the behavior — an explanation that was incorrect but nonetheless plausible, given the left hemisphere’s limited information. In another experiment, researchers instructed the right hemisphere of a split-brain patient to stand. After the patient stood, experimenters asked the patient why he did so. Again, instead of admitting that he did not know why he stood, the speaking left hemisphere created an explanation, insisting he was thirsty and wanted a drink (Gazzaniga and Miller, 2009). [3]

Given this evidence, how much should you rely on the stories of your own mind? We might consider an evolutionary argument. Creatures who deceived themselves to their evolutionary disadvantage are unlikely to be our ancestors. So believing the stories of our minds is unlikely to our evolutionary disadvantage either. But evolution cares solely about how well we pass on our genes, not so much about whether or not we suffer in the process. Therefore, if our goal is to reduce suffering, we have reason to be skeptical as to the truth of our minds’ stories.

Unusual Experiences and Their Cultural Legacy

As explained in the previous section, when the mind doesn’t have an answer, it may simply create one and believe it. Desire for confirmation and aversion against contradiction will then act to increase the certainty of the belief. If this mind belongs to an influential person, they may cause others to adopt the belief. For example, a long time ago, someone may have wondered how the sun rises every morning. Their mind had learned that their body can move stuff around, so it was plausible that there was someone moving the sun, too. This may be how the many stories of gods and other mythical creatures entered our cultural heritage.

A story that enjoys particular popularity in spiritual circles is that of energy in the body. It is known by many names, including subtle energy, vital energy, life force, qì, kuṇḍalinī and prana. The origin of this story is an experience that is rare in general but not uncommon for people who meditate. It is a pleasant, energizing tingling sensation that appears to reside in and flow through the body, and with some practice one can gain control over this sensation. The word “energy” befits the experience and it is not at all surprising there exist so many stories about it. One of these stories is that this energy-sensation can be utilized for healing purposes (e.g. reiki). Scientific results vary (which is not surprising, given the strong confirmation bias and cognitive dissonance surrounding spiritual topics), but there appear to be clear limitations as to what can and what cannot be healed this way. These match the limitations faced by other faith-based and pseudoscientific approaches to healing (e.g. faith healing, acupuncture, homeopathy or applied kinesiology). I suspect this is because all of these approaches to healing rely heavily, if not exclusively, on the placebo effect. The placebo effect works really well in some areas, e.g. pain relief, and not at all in others, e.g. regrowing a lost limb (answering the proverbial question of why God won’t heal the amputees).

In Buddhist meditation, the “energy” experience is called pīti in Pali (Sanskrit: prīti), translated as joy or rapture. In the early Buddhist discourses, a meditator is said to “permeate, pervade, suffuse and fill their body” with this sensation [1]. In later texts, this story has received a dramaturgical update. According to the Visuddhimagga, a seminal text of Theravada Buddhism, there are five kinds of pīti (here translated as “happiness”): “minor happiness, momentary happiness, showering happiness, uplifting happiness, and pervading (rapturous) happiness”. Of minor pīti, it is said that it is “only able to raise the hairs on the body”, momentary pīti is said to be “like flashes of lightning at different moments” and showering pīti is said to “break over the body again and again like waves on the sea shore”. Uplifting pīti is said to cause levitation and make the body spring into the air. The Visuddhimagga tells two stories regarding uplifting pīti. The first is about someone who meditated and “rose into the air like a painted ball bounced off a plastered floor and alighted on the terrace of the Great Shrine”. The second story is kind of funny. It’s about a pregnant daughter who should stay home and rest, rather than go listen to a Dhamma lecture with her parents. After her parents left, she flew through the air and landed at the shrine before her parents arrived. At least that’s what she told her parents when they asked how she got there so quickly. The final and strongest kind of pīti is said to pervade the whole body, “like a filled bladder”, “like a rock cavern invaded by a huge inundation” [2] (chapter 4, paragraphs 94-98).

This example illustrates the evolution of a story through many minds. In the beginning, there was an experience. Then someone described that experience to others. The story got passed on from mind to mind, often changing in this game of Chinese whispers, until, eventually, someone’s imagination took off (pun intended).

A bit closer to home for the Western world would be the story of the one God of the Abrahamic religions (e.g. Judaism, Christianity, Islam). I suspect that the common origin of these religions lies in the experience of enlightenment. I imagine someone talking about the many gods they believe in, and a liberated/enlightened person responding, “you know, they’re really all one and the same, and so are you and me”. Give it a few thousand years of Chinese whispers and it’s easy to see how we could end up with the belief that there isn’t many gods, but only one God (which, by the way, is an example of an unfalsifiable belief).

A big question our minds seem to be needing an answer to is, “What happens when we die?”. Some believe we will be reincarnated in another body, others believe we will forever be with God. I believe these stories share the same origin. During the experience of liberation/enlightenment, the sense of being a separate self vanishes, i.e. the person one used to be is no more and all is one. From this oneness, a person becomes reborn whenever there is identification, whether in one’s own mind/brain or in another. It’s all the same oneness, and all the same identification, just different protagonists and their life stories, in different minds/brains. To be with God, i.e. the experience of union with God, is another way one could describe liberation/enlightenment. This experience, like any other, occurs in the present moment, not in the future, because the future is a story of the mind (hence the saying “tomorrow never comes”). So we have all of these subjective, unfalsifiable stories about what will happen after death, but as explained above, we have little reason to believe them. From an objective perspective, when brain activity ceases, mind activity probably also ceases. There is still mind activity elsewhere, just not in this particular brain. A unique perspective and a bunch of stories are lost, but the “big mind”, i.e. the universal process, continues. In the enlightened state of mind, a person cannot die, because there has never been a person to begin with, just a story with a protagonist. This story may eventually come to an end, but the show goes on.

There are many unusual things that can be experienced during intense spiritual practice, e.g. sensations of warmth or cold, time dilation or contraction, seeing colors, having visions, an intense sense of clarity, more vivid sense-impressions, out-of-body experiences etc. Which of those are experienced, if any at all, depends on the practice and the dispositions of the practitioner. The best objective explanation I am currently aware of, is a self-induced stimulation of neurons within the insular cortex. Neuroscientific evidence has been gathered from epilepsy patients who experience so-called ecstatic seizures. Amazingly, these patients describe the exact same unusual experiences that are also described by spiritual practitioners from various traditions [4, 5]. Since we are only just now beginning to understand the neural correlates of spiritual and mystical experiences, it is not surprising that the strangest beliefs about such phenomena still flourish among spiritual practitioners.

Morality

Morality is a set of stories that tell us how to behave. It follows from the above analysis that moral stories bear only relative truth, and falsifiable moral stories bear objective truth in addition to subjective truth. Some people believe morality were absolute, but if this were true, then how come it can be doubted? The story of absolute morality is in itself only true relative to a given set of beliefs.

Moral beliefs categorize stories and actions into helpful/good and unhelpful/bad/evil. As I see it, the only thing wrong with this world is suffering, because in a world without suffering, by definition, nothing anyone could possibly do would create a problem for anyone. As stated previously, evolution cares little about whether or not we suffer, so we need to take matters into our own hands. Helpful beliefs and actions bring us closer to the goal of freeing the world from suffering, unhelpful ones maintain the status quo, and really unhelpful ones even lead away from the goal.

Human suffering is eliminated in the liberated/enlightened state of mind. Consequently, working to achieve this state for ourselves and others is helpful. We should research and teach any path that efficiently leads to liberation/enlightenment, until this state of mind is the new normal. If a technology can be developed to instantly liberate/enlighten a mind, reliably and without side-effects, that would be preferable to many hours of spiritual practice. So we should look into that.

There are beliefs that distract us from the goal. For example the belief that we must become rich, famous and powerful. You can be all of those things or none of them. It doesn’t matter. Entertaining such beliefs keeps the mind busy and distracted running the hedonic treadmill because one can always be more rich, famous and powerful. As described in more detail in the DhammaTime Book, desire is endless and causes suffering. Abandoning such unhelpful beliefs will get you to the goal faster.

Then there are beliefs that actively block a mind from reaching the goal. For instance, some followers of Abrahamic religions believe that God must be separate from man and frown upon seeking the experience of union with God. Such beliefs are unhelpful and must be abandoned in order to reach the goal.

Finally, some particularly unhelpful beliefs actively work against anyone achieving freedom from suffering ever, and create even more suffering. A prominent example would be the belief that people of religious beliefs different from one’s own must be killed, or that killing them can be condoned. For the world to awaken, such beliefs must be abandoned. An unenlightened mind might believe killing everyone who suffers would get rid of suffering, but who would be the judge of that? It certainly wouldn’t be a liberated/enlightened mind, because to that mind, suffering/unenlightened beings are all equally part of the One/All, even if they are unaware of it. Their uniqueness enriches the experience of being. In the liberated/enlightened mind, their presence creates friendliness, their joy creates altruistic joy, and their suffering creates compassion. While I can think of examples where killing would be an act of compassion, it is certainly a last resort.

Efficient Spirituality

A spiritual path is a bundle of stories that motivate you to engage in a spiritual practice and guide you all the way to the goal (assuming the path acknowledges the existence of a goal). According the above discussion of morality, a spiritual path is more helpful the more efficiently it guides you to the experience of liberation/enlightenment. Since liberation/enlightenment is an experience, rather than a story, it follows that a helpful spiritual path focuses on absolute truth over relative truth, i.e. practice over theory. However, only simple and trusting minds can muster enough faith to just do the practice a teacher tells them to do. More intellectual and skeptical minds can’t just practice, but need to understand why and how this practice is supposed to work. The more intellectual a student, the more elaborate a teacher’s stories need to be, and the more rational a student, the more they also need to bear objective truth.

Once you are convinced enough to start practicing, you are on the spiritual path to liberation/enlightenment. If you picture the path as a straight line from where you are now all the way to liberation/enlightenment, every unusual experience marks a crossroads. You can acknowledge the experience (absolute truth) and move on, or you can ask, “what is this?”, “why is this?”, or, “what can/should I do with this?”, which will lead you on a detour through storyland (relative truth). Tradition may offer answers, science may offer answers, your own mind may offer answers. Of these, science will offer the most objectively true answers, but the more unusual your experience, the more likely scientific answers will turn out to be “we don’t know”. If you don’t learn to be okay with not knowing, you might get distracted by purely subjective stories. Whereas irrational people tend to get distracted by stories about gods and mystical energies, rational people tend to get distracted by philosophical debate and scientific speculation. With respect to attaining liberation/enlightenment, both sides are equally off path.

Progress on a spiritual path does not depend on intellectual understanding. If you can be okay with not knowing, you are effectively guarding the mind against getting thrown off course by stories. Objective truth is too limited to fully explain spirituality, and non-objective truth serves only to temporarily pacify the intellect (until desire for confirmation or aversion against contradiction arise). If you stick to the absolute truth of direct experience, your spiritual journey will be more swift and enjoyable.

Notes

  1. It has long been known that repetition of stories strengthens beliefs. This is actively exploited to advertise products, and spread propaganda and misinformation.

References

  1. Thanissaro Bhikkhu (Translator). (2013). Samaññaphala Sutta: The Fruits of the Contemplative Life (DN 2). Access to Insight (BCBS Edition). Retrieved from https://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/dn/dn.02.0.than.html
  2. Bhadantācariya Buddhaghosa, Bhikkhu Ñāṇamoli (Translator). (2011). Visuddhimagga (Vism.) “The Path of Purification”.
  3. Marinsek, N., Turner, B.O., Gazzaniga, M., and Miller, M.B. (2014). Divergent hemispheric reasoning strategies: reducing uncertainty versus resolving inconsistency. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience. 8:839. [PubMed][Free full text on PMC]
  4. Picard, F. and Kurth, F. (2014). Ictal alterations of consciousness during ecstatic seizures. Epilepsy Behav. 30:58-61. [PubMed]
  5. Gschwind, M. and Picard, F. (2016). Ecstatic Epileptic Seizures: A Glimpse into the Multiple Roles of the Insula. Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience. 10:21. [PubMed][Free full text on PMC]
  6. Picard, F., Scavarda, D. and Bartolomei F. (2013). Induction of a sense of bliss by electrical stimulation of the anterior insula. Cortex. 49(10):2935-7. [PubMed]