Hello, Jackson. I hope you won’t mind if I gently suggest that the words you’ve written here about emotion and illusions caused by the brain do point to a particular issue that causes a lot of unnecessary suffering in the world. The issue I’m thinking of is a rather widespread desire to separate not only science from faith, but to separate logic from emotion.
In Mark 12:28-31, the core of all Jesus’ teachings is presented in this way: " . . . ‘Which commandment is the first of all?’ Jesus answered, ‘The first is, “Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.” The second is this, “You shall love your neighbour as yourself.” There is no other commandment greater than these.’"
Yes, I’ve quoted from the Bible because these words happen to express in a timeless and uplifting way what Jesus knew and what Jesus taught us about having a relationship with God. The key is not to choose mind over heart, or strength over soul, but to respect and balance within ourselves these four foundational traits or pillars of our humanity: our heart, our mind, our soul, and our strength.
Each is equally important and valid to the path of faith. If you try to raise any one of these pillars above the other three, you’ll have an imbalanced foundation, and the experience of faith will elude you. When you get the balance right, though, faith kind of pops out inside you like one of those 3D illustrations where you have to right the right balance between focus and non-focus in order to see the 3D picture that’s hiding inside all those simple 2D bits and swirls and simple patterns.
Is Jesus’ idea about balancing these four pillars just a bunch of emotional baloney? Well, no. There’s been an recent avalanche of research in neuroscientific fields that tells us Jesus was absolutely correct to insist that if we want to be happy and healthy (in so far as human beings are able to be happy and healthy) we must learn how to use our hearts wisely and how to use our minds lovingly. Reason alone won’t cut it.
Is it easy to balance these four major pillars? I’m going to have to be honest and say no. If it were easy, we wouldn’t have to struggle so hard to find our way back to our loving God. If it were easy, we wouldn’t have to try so hard each day to be a good neighbour, not only to our friends and families, but to God. But this is the good part! It’s in trying so hard each day to follow Jesus’ two great commandments that we gradually come to love and know ourselves, our neighbours, and our God.
The explanation I’ve given may not sound to you like a logical or practical explanation, but I can assure you that the neuroscience behind living a “two commandment” life is pure science at its very best. To feel love, to feel joy, to feel forgiveness, to feel faith, and to feel the safety of God’s love is not – and cannot be – a simple illusion of the brain. It’s science. It’s neuroscience. It’s quantum physics, chemistry, biology combined with classical physics, chemistry, biology all contained within an exquisite 3-pound universe which is so complex its beauty is almost (though not quite!) indescribable.
You can’t get more practical than this.