10. Tours of Heaven in Light of the Neuroscientific Study of Religious Experience
Studying the Religious Mind - Methodology in the Cognitive Science of Religion - Armin W. Geertz
István Czachesz [+]
University of Tromsø
This chapter addresses the neuroscientific background of ancient tours of heaven. McNamara’s work on religious experience is used in the context of other philosophical, cognitive, and neuroscientific research. After discussing the definition and phenomenology of subjective experience, the chapter outlines three possible understandings of religious experience in the cognitive research tradition. The chapter then situates ancient tours of heaven in the context of flights and ascents in religious traditions and discusses how neuroscientific evidence sheds light on various aspects of such experiences. In particular, McNamara’s work is combined with Michael Marsh’s study of extracorporeal experiences to account for the two-phase narrative sequence of the tours. The model is applied to the tour of heaven in the Ascension of Isaiah, followed by a brief discussion of other early Jewish and Christian apocalypses.