More In-Depth Research Is Needed
|Horizons of the New World|
The first issue of "Medical Newspaper" for the current year contains an article featuring a truly revolutionary discovery made by Valery Borisovich Slezin, Doctor of Biological Sciences and Candidate of Medical Sciences, Head of the Laboratory of Neuro- and Psychophysiology, V. M. Bekhterev's Research Institute of Psychoneurology, St. Petersburg. At issue is discovery of the fourth state of consciousness emerging as a result of prayer. So far science knew only three states: alert state, slow wave sleep, and rapid eye movement (REM) sleep.
In an interview with him, Dr. Slezin said: "It is well known that in the alert state rapid rhythms of biocurrents prevail, which is also observed during the so-called 'rapid sleep.' However, besides REM sleep there is 'slow sleep,' during which prevailing are slow rhythms of biocurrents. The law of symmetry requires that, since there is 'slow sleep,' there should also be 'slow alert state.' And indeed, such state does exist: it is prayer."
Question: You are working on the problem of the effect of prayer on consciousness. What conclusions have you arrived at?
Answer: The effect of prayer on physical health is known for a long time, and I wanted to reveal neurophysiological mechanisms of that process. I was led to this area of research by all of my previous scientific activities and by numerous facts of the positive influence of prayer on medical patients. I even wrote a brochure titled "Why Prayer Heals," which is a rather large work.
The effect of prayer may be understood based on the theory of multiple levels of consciousness. Consciousness is real consciousness only when one may communicate one's knowledge to another person. If one is not able to do it, it means we are dealing with lack of consciousness rather than with consciousness.
What do we know today about the levels of consciousness? We know that it is not uniform. If we consider a newly born baby, his encephalogram already has delta rhythm. And he will already transmit some information to his mother. By the way, the same rhythm appears during prayer. As the child grows and is somewhere around four years old, he develops theta rhythm, which, according to Freud, means an ideal Self, i.e., having links with his father, mother, and family at large.
I. S. Dobronravova, Doctor of Medical Sciences, examined patients with cranial traumas, who had the cerebral cortex completely damaged and had no detectible alpha rhythm, only a 7 Hz theta rhythm. They hear nothing and respond to no sounds, signals and talks at all; but if relatives approach them (in one case it was a sister, in another, a wife with whom the patient lived thirty years), the coherency of their brain currents changes. They show response and even make attempts to raise their eyes. In other words, they respond only when their nearest and dearest talk to them. This is the second level of consciousness related to forming a close circle of people - it is, properly speaking, humanistic consciousness.
Q: Does it mean that it is possible today to build a model of the interaction between man and the environment based on the study of brain's electric potential?
A: The problem is that the second level of consciousness in modern civilization is reduced. Man becomes grown up somewhere by 20 or 21 years old, and he fully develops alpha rhythm. This is social consciousness, socialization.
A child having consciousness only on the level of the ideal Self, seeing his father and mother and those close to him as ideal figures, so to speak, cannot orient himself in space, as he is being led by the hand and he cannot go anywhere on his own. He pays no attention to society. While he grows, the man is entering the world of social consciousness as he studies at a school, at a college, and assimilates achievements of humanity. This is the third level of consciousness.
The other day I came across a newspaper article, it said that a French TV cameraman was on assignment in Somali. At that time there were a lot of hungry people there, and the United Nations operated a food distribution center. Hungry, famished people were coming to the food center, including many children, and that French guy was shooting a girl who plodded wearily along towards the food center. She had only a little way to go, but she was pursued by a hopping griffon vulture which waited when she fells down in order to peck her. And the guy shot all along as the girl fell down and the vulture pecked her -- he put all that on videotape. When he was asked why he didn't lift the girl and carry her the remaining 200 or 300 yards, for she weighed almost nothing, he said:
"Well, what's the difference? There are thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands of people like that girl, so it was a statistically negligible and a near zero percentage. What significance can it have for humanity?"
In other words, he could not see individual human beings for humanity. It turned out that he was brought up in an incomplete family where his parents took no interest in him. As a practical matter, he does not have even the second level of consciousness, as he could not feel compassion toward a concrete human being, not statistically, but humanely. This is what all western civilization primarily loses, because, on the one hand, it becomes kind, and, on the other hand, extremely cruel.
Q: How did you do research on the effect of prayer?
A: We invited Orthodox priests, there was a Father Superior from the Trinity-Sergius Lavra, there were students of the Theological Academy, and we recorded their encephalograms. At first we recorded the background signal, then they read poems, and after that they were saying a prayer silently. It was an amazing phenomenon, it was a discovery. We saw that during the prayer a kind of consciousness appears that is as if independent of the brain. A brain rhythm appears similar to that in newly born babies, i.e., the man withdraws from the earthly plane.
Neurons of the cerebral cortex -- and everybody has ten billions of such neurons -- store a huge, phantastic amount of information. A baby is born with a small head, but he has more neurons that an adult, because during the life neurons die out. Our small heads grow and we adapt to the earthly life. Earth attracts us. Everything is stored there, but nobody knows whether we really ever forget anything.
In his book "A Man Against Insanity" Paul de Kruif described mental patients who were in the state of catatonia for many years, but suddenly began to speak and retell events that happened around them.
Sometimes amazing things happen that pose many questions for science. I would like to mention a case of dying Professor S., coworker of N.Bekhtereva. He could no longer speak and walked naked, i.e., he was in complete marasmus, and it was a scary sight. A female coworker visited him. She began to read to him a scientific paper without realizing why she was doing it. Suddenly he mooed; she modified the phrase, he mooed again; she modified it again, and he began to nod. In such a way he, several days before his death, with depleted neurons, was able to correct perfectly well a rather complicated paper.
It implies that we still know very little about what is going on inside us. As people living in a technocratic world, we, e.g., watch TV, but 99% of us have no idea of how the TV set is designed. We are accustomed to the omnipotence of technology and take many things uncritically, as we, as a matter of fact, cannot verify them, and also do not have enough time, capability, and knowledge to do so.
In some directions we have in fact transgressed the boundaries of the known and found that science is powerless there. Many scientists hold this view. But it can lead people to God, to Truth.
Q: We in our clinic see practical results of the effect of prayer on human health. Can you confirm it?
A: There is no doubt that prayer is a method of healing. It has been so from time immemorial, and I did not invent it.
Why does it have healing effect from the point of view of physiology? Just because the tiers -- "self in the context of a narrow circle," "social self" - become ineffective. All collisions occuring on those levels of consciousness blur, may go to another plane, or may even become obliterated, when we retreat to the world where those levels are less important.
We are about to make a contract relating to a possibility to heal by prayer. We believe that a man should learn to pray.
A priest in the chapel that will be at our Institute will teach. And we will investigate whether he can really be absorbed in prayer.
Perhaps we need to reconsider our position toward psychic diseases. They may be divided into two categories: first, truly organic disorders, growth of tumors, etc.; and second, sicknesses "due to our sins" -- we suffer because of them. In the second case prayer undoubtedly can bring healing.
Q: Violation of harmonious relations with people surrounding us may also lead to somatic diseases. Is it correct?
A: Let's see. In primitive societies there are no infarcts, while there are numerous infarcts in the civilized society. So what does happen to the brain? A man was offended, he did not respond to it adequately, a negative zone of the brain became activated (I studied those zones, but that is a different topic), and a persistent nidus emerged that results in the destruction of organism.
Why has it been said, "Those who have faith will be saved"? Let us take oncology. It is known that if an inoperable cancer patient is a believer he lives approximately five to six years longer than non-believer. Why? Just because when a man learns that he has cancer he becomes paralyzed by fear, that is, a very intense activation of negative zones occurs. This quickly leads to the destruction of organism, the breakdown of immune system, and rapid death. I proved all that experimentally. What is that what faith and prayer remove? Fear. A man free from fear can even heal himself on his own.
Why is despondency considered one of greatest sins for an Orthodox Chistian? Because despondency and depression also lead to the destruction of immune system. It can be confirmed by blood parameters, etc., it is generally known.
Some Americans visited us, who told about a woman having lung cancer. She hated her husband who planted drugs in her belongings when she was on flight to Miami, and the police found them. She spent seven years in prison for nothing. Her hate toward her husband was her prevailing feeling during that time. Of course, she should have somehow responded to her hate or she needed to forgive him. Otherwise hate kills a man. Her physicians forced her (using methods I cannot agree with) to forgive and forget, and the patient has completely recovered.
This case also can be analyzed in terms of levels of consciousness. For prayer may help to see that everything is transitory, including hate, and that it is not so significant in the face of the Higher.
Q: Whom else did you study, besides Orthodox priests?
A: We also worked with Catholics and investigated various kinds of meditation. I had a guru who graduated from the Hindu University.
Q: Is it weaker?
A: It is simply totally different. I always observed activation of super-Ego.
Q: And how about Orthodox prayer?
A: In the case of Orthodox prayer I observed departure from super-Ego. In other cases I saw activation of the social level of consciousness, i.e., of the cerebral cortex on the level of alpha rhythm.
I understand that more in-depth research is needed, but priests are very busy people.
Interview conducted by E. E. Semenikhin
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