How, in this age of scientific rationalism, can we begin to understand religious visions and mystical experiences--now being reported by a growing number of people on the nightly news, across the internet, and by word-of-mouth?
Dr. Lisa Bitel and Dr. Michael A. Arbib discuss visions from the Middle Ages to today, especially the tensions between cultural, spiritual, and neurological explanations for extraordinary sights, and consider new ways to understand these mysterious phenomena- Los Angeles Public Library
Michael A. Arbib
Michael Arbib is the Fletcher Jones Professor of Computer Science, as well as a Professor of Biological Sciences, Biomedical Engineering, Electrical Engineering, Neuroscience and Psychology at the University of Southern California (USC).
As both a theoretical neuroscientist and a computer scientist, Arbib argues that by deducing the brain's operating principles from a computational standpoint we can both learn more about how brains function and also gain tools for building learning machines.
Arbib is a prolific author and has written or edited over 30 books and many scientific research articles.
Dr. Lisa Bitel
Lisa Bitel is the Professor of History and Gender Studies and Chair, Gender Studies Program at USC College of Letters, Arts and Sciences.
Professor Bitel studies the social, cultural, and religious history of medieval Europe. She has written four books about religion and/or gender in early medieval Europe, and published articles about sex, dreams, architecture, and Christianity, among other topics.
She is currently researching two books about religious vision: a book on the material history of medieval visions and a collaborative book about a modern-day vision event in the Mojave desert.
The theory and practice of religious ecstasies. Traditionally conceived as the spiritual quest for union with the Absolute, the Infinite, or God and the perception of its essential oneness, mysticism is now understood to encompass many other varieties of ecstatic experience and perception, including that of nothingness or of the disappearance of the soul. Forms of mysticism are found in all major religions. Ancient and medieval Christian mystics included St. Augustine, St. Bernard of Clairvaux, St. Teresa of Àvila, and Meister Eckhart and his 14th-century successors. Whereas Hinduism and, in Islam, Sufism generally aim at unity with or absorption by the divine, Buddhism and the esoteric Jewish mysticism known as Kabbala are directed toward nothingness; Buddhism in addition emphasizes meditation as a means of moving toward enlightenment. Other mystical traditions are found within Daoism and shamanism.