'Profound Understanding of Reality': What Jesus' Teachings & Neuroscience Have in Common
"Can the reality and truth of the teachings of Jesus be validated by history, neuroscience, and personal experience? The surprising answer to this question is that they can indeed be verified without resorting to myths or mysticism which are beyond human comprehension." — John Nadas, MD, author of The Book of Reality: the Neuroscience of the Teaching of Jesus
Psychotherapy—the treatment of mental or emotional illness by talking about problems rather than by using medication.*
Neuroscience—a branch of science that deals with the anatomy, physiology, biochemistry, or molecular biology of nerves and nervous tissue and especially their relation to behavior and learning.*
Modern psychotherapy doesn't incorporate religious ideas and methods because it's an applied science and avoids elements that have not been scientifically derived or validated. Nevertheless, religious ideas and practices have flourished for thousands of years, maintaining great popularity because of the positive effects they have had on the lives of people.
According to John Nadas, MD, a Canton, Ohio-based psychiatrist, although not all the elements of world religions can be incorporated into scientific psychology, we can benefit from calling upon their teachings when we are faced with some of the shortcomings of psychotherapy. The following is an excerpt from his new book, The Book of Reality: the Neuroscience of the Teaching in Jesus, which is available for purchase on Amazon.com.
A Jesus Everyone Can Believe In
Jesus was a brilliant innovator who unraveled the secrets of life. He healed the sick, relieved misery, and taught people how to attain joy and become free. Jesus was an extraordinary person who performed spectacular works which left his followers awestruck. He attracted disciples who devoted their lives to him, yet they did not fully understand his accomplishments.
Jesus’ mission was to help people become free from suffering. He did this by gaining a profound understanding of reality. His own perspective was that he did not use magic or miracles in his work. He was a master of healing. He was able to contend with the spirit that he called Satan and vanquish him. He had a special relationship with the spirit he called his Father. He had a special relationship with his disciples from whom he demanded everything.
How did he do this? How did he motivate his disciples to give up everything and follow his teachings? This was an extraordinary accomplishment I hoped I could learn from. As a psychiatrist I constantly ask my patients to become more fully invested into changing their minds and changing their lives. They are certainly motivated and willing to work for results, but they also have other goals and priorities in their lives which limit their time and energy. I turned back to the gospels to learn how Jesus carried out his profound motivational accomplishments.
The Problem of Motivation to Change
Modern psychotherapy is based on humanistic principles with an emphasis on self-exploration and personality change. Traditionally, religious ideas and methods are not used in psychotherapy, which is an applied science and avoids elements that have not been scientifically derived or validated. Nevertheless, religious ideas and practices have flourished for thousands of years, maintaining great popularity because of the positive effects they have had on the lives of people. Not all the elements of world religions can be incorporated into scientific psychology, however we can benefit from calling upon their teachings when we are faced with some of the shortcomings of psychotherapy.
An essential dimension of personality change is the induction of the motivation to change. Modern psychiatry has many effective and far-reaching techniques for resolving problems with living, but what if a person does not have much motivation to use them? Unfortunately, the prevailing trend in psychotherapy is the quick fix through the use of emotional insight or behavioral techniques which do not adequately address motivational issues. One of the hallmarks of the teachings of Jesus was his emphasis on complete commitment to the process of personality change. This is an aspect of his teachings which can provide a significant advantage to the practice of psychotherapy.
Psychology Intersects with Fast-growing Field of Neuroscience
In recent years, the intuitive insights derived from traditional schools of psychology have been coordinated with the fast growing field of neuroscience. For all practical purposes, this thriving area of research is helping to move psychotherapy from the uncertainty of a soft science to one that can be validated with hard scientific research.
Many psychotherapists rely heavily on their patients’ own motivation to get well. Psychiatric disorders are inherently motivating because of the distress they cause. The energy and dedication that many patients bring to therapy is of great value. However, despite their ever-increasing confidence in modern treatment strategies, there is often a need to invoke even greater motivation in patients. Personality changing techniques have become more sophisticated and complex over time, and applying them skillfully has become more of a challenge for patients.
Jesus' Profound Understanding of Reality
When I took a close look at the teachings of Jesus, I was astonished to find that he taught many of the same principles that I had been sharing with my patients. These were not the beliefs of conventional Christianity. They were the insights of an individual who was very much at odds with his own contemporaries. His teachings are also in conflict with many of the tenets of contemporary Christianity. The path of Jesus is not suitable for all individuals; it is only for the select few who have the incentive and determination to master it.
As I mentioned earlier, Jesus’ mission was to help people become free from suffering through a profound understanding of reality. I'm not attempting to define all aspects of reality. That would be too extensive an enterprise. Rather, I'm presenting a reality according to the teachings of Jesus and the findings of contemporary psychology and neuroscience.
Can the reality and truth of the teachings of Jesus be validated by history, neuroscience, and personal experience? The surprising answer to this question is that they can indeed be verified without resorting to myths or mysticism which are beyond human comprehension. Jesus presents truth and reality accurately and profoundly. A true understanding of his teachings can only come from interpretations that do not resort to magical supernatural explanations.
Watch for future blogs from Dr. Nadas, who will provide additional insights into the teachings of Jesus and how they relate to neuroscience.
*Definitions from Merriam-Webster Dictionary