Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Spiritual Book Discussion - The Spiritual Child - Chapter 2, The Science of the Spiritual Brain


Chapter 2, The Science Of The Spiritual Brain

Is there a biological and genetic basis for spirituality? The answer appears to be “yes” based on twin studies and other studies of neuroscience. Miller outlines four major areas for findings. First there is an inborn and universal awareness of the transcendent.  Second, there is a cross cultural surge in transcendence peaking in adolescence as the person becomes individuated from their family of origin and goes on their vision quest in the external world to “find themselves.” Third, there is a growing awareness that spirituality is nurtured and enhanced in relationships. Fourth, there is a growing awareness that the search for truth and meaning takes one within to “heart knowing” rather than  without to the world of external projections and perceptions,

This awareness on the part of parents and other nurturing adults that spiritual development is as important to healthy functioning as physical, cognitive, emotional and social functioning contributes to an awareness and desire to facilitate the spiritual growth of children on the part of adults.

Working with a seventeen year old drug abusing, academically failing, rebellious high school senior in psychotherapy at the insistence of his parents, I was frustrated because we were getting nowhere after three visits until I asked him not knowing where to go in our conversation, “So Bret, what is your interior spiritual life like?”. The smirk disappeared and a pensive look appeared on his face and it seemed to be the first time he was willing to take our meeting seriously, and he said to me in a thoughtful tone, “That’s an interesting question.”

He didn’t ask me what I meant by “interior spiritual life.” He seemed to intuitively know what was being referred to and became reflective.

It is this kind of phenomenon that Dr. Miller is describing in this chapter. It is usually missed by adults in our culture, and our young people’s lives are at higher risk for unhappiness for it having been overlooked and not having been addressed during this important part of their development.

  1. What was your interior spiritual life like as a child and adolescent?
  2. Have you ever focused on and discussed this topic with a child or adolescent with whom you have a relationship?
  3. What are the factors that have contributed to our society overlooking this critical factor in child and adolescent development in our contemporary culture?


  1. I was taught that if I masturbated, ate meat on Fridays, missed Mass on Sundays, stepped foot in a Protestant church it was a mortal sin and if I died with the mortal sin on my soul, I would be condemned to hell for eternity by God. Needless to say, I was terrified most of the time, and this kind of Catholic upbringing is the orignal "scared straight" kind of child and adolescent pedagogy.

  2. The Spiritual Child is a wonderful book. Great ideas and insights based on psychological and human development studies which grounds spiritual education within a human development context.


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