The synaptic cleft is the space between a synaptic bulb, or axon, and a dendrite. This cleft is the space across which a nerve impulse is transmitted between axon and dendrite.
Mainstream media is aflutter over brain maps and images by gee-whiz instruments used to digitize, visualize, document and store the brains electrical operations. Author Oliver, The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat, Sacks, writes in The Atlantic magazine on how the brain “creates” out-of-body experiences and religious epiphanies. The headline proclaims, Seeing God in the Third Millennium. It’s fascinating reading, sensitively composed, and about demonstrable material events. Dr. Sacks concludes,
“Hallucinations, whether revelatory or banal, are not of supernatural origin; they are part of the normal range of human consciousness and experience. This is not to say that they cannot play a part in the spiritual life, or has great meaning for an individual. Yet while it is understandable that one might attribute value, ground beliefs, or construct a narrative from them, hallucinations cannot provide evidence for the existence of any metaphysical beings or places. They provide evidence only of the brain’s power to create them.”
Another example is a current NPR (National Public Radio) shout-out for “Brains of Dying Rats Yielding Clues About Near-Death Experiences”. The specific scientific report was published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. The abstract can be found here. The author, Jimo Borjigin / Associate Professor of Physiology and Neurology, University of Michigan, Ph.D., Johns Hopkins, 1994, can be found here. All I gotta say is, I f--kin’ love science.
My sense is science’s motivation is to test the material “truth” of religion experience or expression. Scientists are very good at concocting rigorous experiments and testing them. Borjigin discovers clarity and precision within a natural material process. Clues to near death experience reveal universal human phenomena within our human material form. Clues to metaphysical religious experiences and physical near death experiences deliver reader’s eyeballs to media advertisers.
Borjigin’s revelation and analysis insinuates “religion” is obsolete. If not obsolete then our common vocabulary is insufficient. Science shifts the study of human flourishing from metaphors of theology and philosophy to empirically based metaphors about corporal analysis. Her metaphor is science. I think it’s fine for only the most narrow, literal minded, materially based human sensibility and revelation. I find their metaphors cold. Human life is not cold. Human suffering is not cold. Human dying is not cold. When I suffer or when I die I do not think Sacks or Borjigin metaphors will offer care and comfort.
I practice particular religious traditions and rites. I endeavor to cultivate them; practice is not a given; preparation is a choice. I do not practice magical thinking for a material quid pro quo for fantastic salvation from my earthly form. I do not expect miraculous revelation to accompany simple joy and happiness or complex suffering and pain. I do not cultivate despair. I cultivate hope.
I do not seek divine power or confirmation of the One metaphysical being or place. I seek companionship, care, comfort, and humanity’s wisdom by cultivating my faith in religious community. I cultivate conscientious truth seeking via traditional western and eastern religions. I seek meaning and values to inform and shape my ego and behavior. I cultivate well-being and fulfillment.
My nephew’s beloved birthed a newborn. During gestation the probability of unknown genetic and human outcomes were legion; based upon my direct experience I kept some to myself so to not introduce my meddlesome little ego’s uncertainty. The joy in the advent of new life and our human hope sustains; uncertainty reveals itself without my little doubting ego introducing it; growth through time unfolds and reveals. My genetic heritage is recombined and extended. To express and reflect my joy I modified an Episcopal celebratory prayer:
Watch over thy children, my family, O Lord, as our days increase; bless and guide us wherever we may be. Strengthen our newborn when she stands; comfort her caregivers when discouraged or sorrowful; raise us up if we fall; and in our hearts may thy peace, which passeth understanding, abide all the days of our lives; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
This is about all the hope and doubt my little ego’s synaptic cleft manages. It’s good enough.