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This article has been peer reviewed. It is the author’s final published version in International Journal of Transpersonal Studies, Volume 37, Issue 2, September 2018, Pages 119-130.

The published version is available at Copyright © Newberg & Waldman


A neurotheological approach suggests an analysis of spiritual awakening experiences by combining phenomenological data with neuroscience. This paper presents a synthesis combining information on the thoughts, feelings, and experiences associated with spiritual awakening experiences and neurophysiological data, primarily from neuroimaging studies, to help assess which brain structures might be associated with these experiences. Brain structures involved with emotions correlate with emotional responses while areas of the brain associated with the sense of self appear to correlate with the key feature of these experiences in which an individual loses the sense of self and feels intimately connected with God, universal consciousness, or the universe. This paper also seeks to address the assumption whether awakened states as described in popular spirituality are similar or different compared to spiritual enlightenment as described in Eastern spiritual traditions. Thus, the implications of such a neurotheological analysis are also considered.

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Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.