As an Englishman (well okay; boy) learning Aikido a few years ago (cue suddenly feeling old), I was exposed to a very eastern philosophy; that of ‘ki’ (or ‘qi’ or ‘chi’ depending on country and region. I recommend reading up on it as it is fascinating). Immediately I rejected it and trained on the purely physical aspect.
I noticed that I wasn’t as graceful, natural or immovable* as some of the other students. Some were old practitioners and could be easily dismissed as having more experience. Some though were my age or younger and less practiced.
(*the ‘immovable arm’ is a perfect example of the mental discipline applied to martial arts)
As I progressed I also studied the bodily mechanics of the disipline. As I watched and read and employed techniques and spoke with fellow students I learnt to relax my body instead of tensing in readiness and finally began to understand.
They weren’t relaxed and ‘fluid’ through conscious effort of will. It was a byproduct of their focus on this ‘energy flow’. Whilst the thing they were focusing on was an abstract, it wasn’t real, their muscles responded by going into their dormant state. Their minds responded quicker because there was no conscious effort involved in their posture and relaxation.
What they were doing was accepting something and believing so readily they could go so far as to describe the feeling of the energy flowing from their core out of their extremities.
Utter bullshit of course but a valueble mental trick for the situation. A useful tool.
By reasoning it out I found I could perform equally to them through utilisation of mental techniques such as meditation.
The reason I mention it here is: Is this why the religious are so convinced they are feeling the hand/voice/influence of their god(s)? Have they enduced a state of mind that makes them feel an ecstatic sensation when they pray (for example)?
Could the religious belief and the act of praying even be going as far as to stimulate dopamine release or in some way act upon the reward system?
If the result of this belief impedes logic and reason and defines the individuals decision making process in the negative ways that it does, should it not be treated as a disorder and given attention by the medical community in much the same way as ADHD or OCD?