Speaking in Tongues – the Science and the Spirit
While many Christian denominations deny the experience, scientists have already accepted it, and are doing brain scans, showing results. But is what they find a mental change, spiritual change, or both? Can the spirit produce a physical change?
The Bible says that we must renew our mind. The minimum requirements are to reject sin, repent, and accept the salvation offered by Christ. This level of interpretation has to do with changing our thoughts and behavior, in line with God’s standards of righteousness.
But can thought changes produce physical changes? Will a renewing of the mind renew the body?
Previous posts have asked what is different about our physical bodies from heavenly bodies, or those of fallen angels.
Now I ask what is different about the spiritual (with God) man’s body, from the natural (against God) man’s body?
It starts in the mind, but does it end there? The brain affects the rest of the body.
I also ask, if true, that the spiritual man actually has different brain chemistry, which would then produce a different physiology, then is he closer to the physical, more glorified condition that Adam was in, in the Garden of Eden?
Scientists have done brain scans on those speaking in tongues, and find chemical changes. They find this is believable, even when some Christians do not. This is a strange twist of circumstances, since usually science will try to oppose religion, and here, there are some scientists that believe more than some Christians do.
Brain scans of those speaking in tongues
Glossolalia and Temperature Change in the Right and Left Cerebral Hemispheres
Authors: Ron Philipchalk; Dieter Mueller
November 09, 2006
The neuroscience of speaking in tongues:
The New York Times has covered a recently published brain-scanning study of five individuals who ‘speak in tongues’ – an experience also known as glossolalia – where someone appears to be speaking in an incomprehensible language over which they seem to have no control.
This is usually linked to religious and spiritual worship, particularly for Christians in the charismatic tradition. A team of researchers, led by Dr Andrew Newberg, used a type of brain-imaging called SPECT to compare blood flow differences in the brain between when participants were singing hymns and when they were speaking in tongues.
The main findings were that when participants were speaking in tongues compared to when they were singing, there was a decrease in activity in the prefrontal cortex, the tip of the left temporal lobe and a deep brain structure called the caudate nucleus.
Although brain areas are known to have multiple functions, the prefrontal cortex is known to be involved in cognitive control, while the left temporal pole is associated with naming and the caudate nucleus has been associated with the ability to switch between multiple languages.
The authors suggest that these findings may indicate a loosening of control over language functions in the brain, potentially leading to the production of apparently unstructured language that the participants experience as outside their control.
*** note: Is it possible that Adam, in the Garden of Eden, could speak unstructured, multiple languages?
And maybe his brain, more in tune with God, actually allowed for a flow of unlimited languages directed by God, rather than a disconnected brain, limited speech, based on his own earthly abilities?
Notably, there were also relative increases in activity in the left parietal lobe (linked to our sense of body and spatial awareness) and the amygdala – an area known to be heavily involved in emotion.
However, this is not the first time that neuroscientists have studied speaking in tongues.
Dr Michael Persinger reported a case in 1984 where he used EEG recordings to look at the electrical activity in the brain of a 20 year-old female who experienced the same phenomenon.
The graph on the left shows EEG recordings taken from the temporal lobes during a period of speaking in tongues that show increased ‘spike events’.
This indicates that, like the more recent Newberg study, changes in temporal lobe function may be an important part of the experience.
Glossolalia vs meditation
Delta spikes occurred within the temporal lobe during protracted intermittent episodes of glossolalia (speaking in tongues) by a member of a Pentecostal sect. There are other reports of delta activity during TM practices (Stigsby et al. 1981, Pagano et al, 1976), but these delta waves were mostly reported to be associated with stages of deep sleep.
*** interesting note: speaking in tongues produced the same results as those in deep relaxation, or deep sleep.
So tongue speaking is not due to increased mental effort. It is due to relaxing the mind.
Science begins to make room for spirituality
Over the last some number of years, this hardcore materialism (in science) has eroded. It’s getting more open to spirituality. There are ideas that come out of the field, which leave room for spirituality, and also explain it.
One is the plasticity of the brain, the incredible adaptiveness, the fire-together, wire-together idea that we’re not hardcore driven by material things, that we’re wired to adapt to environment and that the nature-nurture distinction is a bogus one, and that therefore, this plasticity makes it a less material, less predetermined organ.
Second, again, is the power of the unconscious, the power of things that happen below reason and rational awareness
Summary of scientific findings
1. Tongues does produce measurable changes in brain activity and blood flow in the brain.
2. Certain part of the brain experience decreased activity- those that reflect conscious (cognitive) control, structured language, and learning and memory.
What this means is that the mind is
a. not controlling the tongues,
b. language become unstructured and something the person is NOT familiar with
c. real tongues is NOT a learned, or remembered, manifestation.
3. Speaking in tongues is not due to increased mental effort. It is equated with deep sleep or deep relaxation.
4. There are spike events with Tongues, showing momentary decreased blood flow. Spikes are also found in epilepsy, but at a more intense level.
Before one becomes concerned that tongues is harmful, one needs to understand what epilepsy is, and how the EEG (brain electrical activity) is different from tongues.
Epilepsy reflects abnormal, excessive or synchronous neuronal activity in the brain. This means that during the disease state, excess neurons are firing in unison, causing a seizure. In this case, the spikes are continuous, and excessive.
However, during tongues, the neurons are firing in spikes at much lower frequency intervals. There is a certain advantage to neurons firing in unison, to achieve a successful effect. But in tongues, they are “working together” but the participation is NOT excessive.
What can also cause brain malfunction, is if the neurons never work together, in unison.
Tongues seems to be a condition between the two extremes of excess spikes, and none at all.
Spiritual application of scientific findings
Perhaps man, in his fallen condition, is in a state where his 1) conscious (cognitive) control, 2) structured language, and 3) learning and memory, as changed above, is alienated from God through sin, and a negative worldly environment, that is so very opposite of what Adam experienced in the Garden.
Another way of saying this is that with God, all things work together well, and man’s mind is open to God’s direction and control.
But without God, there are limitations in these 3 areas mentioned above.
Does tongues bring man’s mind back into balance, closer to his original mental state?
Fake and real tongues
Fake tongues reflects:
1) conscious (cognitive) control,
2) structured language, and
3) learning and memory,
The excess stress created by the excess conscious control could produce excess EEG spikes, and cause a seizure, or partial seizure condition.
Real tongues is the absence of all 3 characteristics. There will be no excess stress, since it is effortless, and God has taken over the brain. The result will be more compared to deep relaxation or sleep. Rest restores the body, and helps it repair from harm.
“Fake and Real Charismatics” Click here for more
“Baptism of the Holy Spirit and Speaking in tongues” Click here for more
“The Church is Having a Power Failure” (signs and wonders gone in the church?) Click here for more
“The Wheat and the Tares” Click here for more
“God’s Glory- a Practical Application” Click here for more