Rare moment epileptic patient ‘sees God’ studied by scientists
Israeli researchers monitoring a patient suffering temporal lobe epilepsies at Hadassah University Hospital in Jerusalem’s Mount Scopus recorded the moment he experienced a religious delusion.
While the 46-year-old patient (who was Jewish, but reportedly not particularly religious) was hooked up to brain-monitoring equipment to undergo tests to help treat the neurological disease, he claims to have communicated with God.
“[W]e had the rare opportunity to record a delusional religious conversion in real time in a patient with right temporal lobe epilepsy,” doctors Shahar Arzy and Roey Schurr wrote in a study published in the neurological journal Epilepsy and Behavior.
“In this patient, a messianic revelation experience occurred several hours after a complex partial seizure of temporal origin,” the researchers explain.
Arzy and Schurr believe the surge in activity in the patient’s frontal lobe, while he felt he was communicating with a deity, could indicate a form of “psychotic episode that can occur after epileptic seizures”, Discovery Magazine notes.
“The brain generator underlying this activity was localized to the left prefrontal cortex. This suggests that religious conversion in PIP [postictal psychosis] is related to control mechanisms in the prefrontal lobe-related processes rather than medial temporal lobe-related processes,” the study says.
During the epileptic episode, the authors say the patient suddenly froze in bed, later claiming he felt God approaching him, and began chanting prayers and saying that God had sent him.
The patient has since claimed he doesn’t know what the future holds for him in terms of his faith, but believes God will show him the way.
A correlation between epilepsy and visionary experiences has long been suspected, however this marks the first time the phenomenon was captured in the moment by brain monitoring equipment.
The Israeli scientists may have found an alternative explanation to St. Paul’s spiritual ‘revelation’ which supposedly spurred his allegiance to Jesus.
According to the Bible’s New Testament, Saul - the man who would become St. Paul - didn’t know or follow Jesus before the latter’s crucifixion. Instead, it says, he persecuted the followers of Jesus.
Then, as Saul was making his way from Jerusalem to Damascus (to seek out and arrest followers of Jesus, no less) he was struck blind by a light from above and was addressed by a divine voice, resulting in his conversion to one of Jesus’ followers and missionaries.