Spiritual Evolution: A Scientific Defense of Faith Vaillant

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Title: Spiritual Evolution: A Scientific Defense of Faith

Author: George E. Vaillant, MD

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In our current era of holy terror, passionate faith has come to seem like a present danger. Writers such as Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, and Christopher Hitchens have been happy to throw the baby out with the bathwater and declare that the danger is in religion itself. God, Hitchens writes, is not great.

But man, according to George E. Vaillant, M.D., is great. In Spiritual Evolution, Dr. Vaillant lays out a brilliant defense not of organized religion but of man’s inherent spirituality. Our spirituality, he shows, resides in our uniquely human brain design and in our innate capacity for emotions like love, hope, joy, forgiveness, and compassion, which are selected for by evolution and located in a different part of the brain than dogmatic religious belief. Evolution has made us spiritual creatures over time, he argues, and we are destined to become even more so. Spiritual Evolution makes the scientific case for spirituality as a positive force in human evolution, and he predicts for our species an even more loving future.

Vaillant traces this positive force in three different kinds of “evolution”: the natural selection of genes over millennia, of course, but also the cultural evolution within recorded history of ideas about the value of human life, and the development of spirituality within the lifetime of each individual. For thirty-five years, Dr. Vaillant directed Harvard’s famous longitudinal study of adult development, which has followed hundreds of men over seven decades of life. The study has yielded important insights into human spirituality, and Dr. Vaillant has drawn on these and on a range of psychological research, behavioral studies, and neuroscience, and on history, anecdote, and quotation to produce a book that is at once a work of scientific argument and a lyrical meditation on what it means to be human.

Spiritual Evolution is a life’s work, and it will restore our belief in faith as an essential human striving.


1. Positive emotions

  • " Positive emotions - not only compassion, forgiveness, love, and hope but also joy, faith/trust, awe, and gratitude - arise from our inborn mammalian capacity for unselfish parental love. They emanate from our feeling, limbic mammalian brain and thus are grounded in our evolutionary heritage".
  • "All humans are a hardwired for positive emotions, and these positive emotions are a common denominator of all major faiths and of all human beings"
  • positive emotions are not just nice to have; they are essential to the survival of Homo sapiens as a species.
  • ""This book defines spirituality as the amalgam of the positive emotions that bind us to other human beings - and to our experience of "God" as we may understand Her/Him. Love, hope, joy, forgiveness, compassion, faith, awe, and gratitude are the spiritually important positive emotions"
  • "... all of the positive emotions that I have selected all involve human connections. None of the eight are "all about me".
  • "Positive emotion induces in out parasympathetic nervous system reduces basil metabolism, blood pressure,, heart rate, respiratory rate, and muscle tension.
  • "Spirituality is not about following your bliss. Spirituality has a deep psychobiological basis 0 a reality rooted in the positive human emotions..."
  • "Spiritual Evolution builds on the relatively new scientific disciplines of ethology (animal behavior) and neuroscience - both of which have enabled scientific study of positive emotions. Each of these emotions has a neurobiological basis and an evolutionary architecture..."
  • There are three forms of evolution relevant here: genetic, cultural, and individual. "For selfish reptiles to evolve into loving mammals took genetic evolution that led to the development of the limbic system, the brain region underlying our positive emotions. For loving, playful, passionate mammals to become creative scientists and intellectual theologians took genetic evolution that led to the development of our huge human neocortex, the brain region underlying both science and our religious dogma.
  • "For humans to have evolved into Samaritans who often place compassion, forgiveness, and unselfish love above a mentality of might-makes-right has required cultural evolution, for cultural evolution is more rapid and flexible than genetic evolution.
  • The third kind of evolution is the evolution of the individual over the human life span. Evolution toward spirituality takes place not only in the genetic and cultural arenas but also in the lives of every one of us as we mature our focus from the caterpillar "me" to the community butterfly.
  • "However, while [the negative emotions of] pain, rage, and grief provide short-term benefits, positive emotions provide benefits over the long term."
  • For the survival of humanity, genetic evolution and cultural evolution are both important.
  • "Just as the genetically derived limbic system with its positive emotions facilitated the survival of mammals over dinosaurs, so has evolving cultural focus on positive emotions contributed to use communal and success of Homo sapiens.
  • Regarding a successful but disproven treatment of schizophrenia called insulin coma "While no medical journal would call the treatment spiritual, such caring behavior, involving as it did the three "theological virtues" of faith, hope and love, would be regarded as spiritual by most religious denominations."
  • With maturity, religious belief does not increase, yet we develop a more nuanced emotional life and deepening spiritual appreciation.
  • In contrast to popular science, which places spirituality in our huge, reasoning Homo sapiens neocortex, I concede that religious dogma might live there, but I place spiritual impulse in our mammalian, emotional brain - the limbic system.
  • "Love is the shortest definition of spirituality that I know. Both spirituality and love result in conscious feelings of respect, appreciation, acceptance, sympathy, empathy, compassion, involvement, tenderness, and gratitude. "
  • Jesus Christ and Karl Marx are not usually paired, but both men were revolutionaries who mistrusted organized religion because religion talked about, without actually creating loving communities.
  • "Third, I hold that we do not have to be taught positive emotions, Our brain is hardwired to generate them. Humanities task is to pay attention to them, for they are a source of ur spiritual being and the key to our cultural evolutionary progress.

2. The prose and the passion

  • "The newer sciences - neuroscience, cultural anthropology that is not ethnocentric, and the scientific study of animal behavior, ethology ... has tempered our highly evolved neocortical human preference for culture, for language, and for creating dogmatic, intolerant "religious" memes. The new sciences have accomplished this by teaching us about our inarticulate, subcortical, limbic, mammalian capacity for positive emotion and for altruistic action.
  • "These new sciences offer hope that our brains are constructed for loving cultural evolution and not just dor heartless scientific progress ..."
  • "... the left brain hemisphere specializes in details and articulates and understands ideas, words, and component parts. The right brain specializes in inarticulate music, visual images, and wholes (gestalts). The limbic brain specializes in emotion".
  • "Cognitive ideas can be expressed in words and controlled voluntarily, and for ther expression ideas a powerfully dependent on the Homo sapiens' cerebral hemispheres - the neocortex. Emotional feelings are equally dependent on our more mammalian subcortical brain - the limbic system and the hypothalamus.
  • This chapter discusses "the differences between the right and left hemispheres, first, and then the "mammalian" subcortical limbic system and finally the "reptilian" hypothalamus.
  • The right brain ays attention to integration of space and time, to context, empathy, and the minds of others, and to the gestalt of facial recognition. The verbal left brain is all about detail and the certainty if cause and effect, exegesis, and verbal communications.
  • Neither the seemingly spiritual right brain or the seemingly religious left brain is a trustworthy arbiter of truth..."
  • The differences between out "human" cerebral hemispheres (our neocortex) and our mammalian limbic system is just as great as the differences between our two neocortical hemispheres.
  • " emotions are almost always good or bad and almost always elicit approach or avoidance"
  • " For centuries, the Catholic Church, ... resisted translation of the Bible from Latin into vernacular languages for fear that increased cognitive understanding would weaken the "spiritual" awe produced by incomprehensible, sonorous Latin scripture".
  • Three brains
    1. hypothalamus or reptilian brain. "coordinates most autonomic functions such as heart rate, breathing, muscle reflexes. When stimulated these structures , particularly the hypothalamus, result in primitive responses, sometimes called instincts, that are selfish and that unlike the social emotions, are relevant only to the self.
    2. paleomammalian (limbic system) - "Poetically referred to by most of us as the "heart", selects and provides coloration for the experiences that we treat as important."
    3. neomammalian neocortex - "generates our science, our culture, our ideas our beliefs, and our religions. Equally important, our neocortex creatively elaborates our limbic positive emotions into awareness."
  • ... the whole brain cannot work properly together if it is divided against itself - wether by Luther of Skinner. The brain will not be "aligned" unless science and passion walk hand in hand". "Only connect the prose and the passion and both will be exalted, and human love will be seen at its height."
  • Reason without affect would be impotent; affect without reason would be blind"
  • Within the Limbic system:
    • "The hypocampus serves visual as well as verbal memory
    • The amygdala gives passion and importance to emotional experiences.

3. Three evolutions

  • Attachment [between early stage mammals] depends on mammalian body language, scents, vocal timbre, and lullabies, not the language or the human left neocortex.
  • “Indeed, language, like too articulate religions, often separates human beings. We try to put the experience of God into words and then squabble with each other over our competing definitions. In contrast, emotions, body language, facial recognition, touch, pheromones, and the spirituality of a limbic smell brain often bind us together. ”
  • “Thus, from the limbic system and the temporal (behind the temple) neocortex that it serves comes the sort of information provided in hymns, psalms, and love letters--emotional, musical, mystically important information. Such information is very different from that contained in almanacs, science journals, and theological treatises.”
  • “As mammals evolved into primates, another transformative change took place. The ratio of brain size to body weight--relatively constant throughout the mammalian kingdom--began to increase further. ”
  • “To pass through the birth canal, primates with relatively large brains needed to be born prematurely. This necessitated a nurturing community. The brain complexity necessary for the continuing evolution of unselfish love required a still larger brain that prolonged childhood still further. And the longer the childhood, the larger and more unselfish was the brain required not only by the child's parents but also by the child's surrounding clan.”
  • “The most likely explanation for the creative explosion in modern humans was the development of better language as a product of both genetic and cultural evolution. ”
  • “Cultural evolution, mediated by language, has been as important for human survival as brain complexity mediated by genetic evolution has been for mammalian survival. Cultural evolution, after all, is faster and more flexible than genetic evolution. ”
  • “As a result of their physical vulnerability to predators, Homo sapiens became the most social of fauna on the African savanna. For protection, modern humans survived not just through "selfish" genes and survival of the fittest, but also by transcending self-interest in the service of others”
  • “evolution of modern language may also have facilitated cultural evolution by allowing mastery of past and future tenses. 18 As long as you live from day to day, life is pretty mundane. If you have a past, however, you begin to ask, where did I come from? If you have a future, you begin to wonder, what will happen after I die? Reality becomes replaced by awe. Reflective spiritual life begins. ”
  • “Over the millennia, through cultural evolution, religions too have evolved. Evidence of organized religion accompanied evidence of stable settlements seven to twelve millennia ago. ”
  • “Not until a transformative millennium, a millennium extending from 600 BCE to 700 CE , did Buddhism, Confucianism, Christianity, and Islam become established. Although it may sound incongruous to some modern ears, these newer organized religions emphasized love and compassion rather than fear and dominance. It was this transformative millennium that may have permitted great cities to endure. Unlike early cities of history that self-destructed, the more modern communities that have survived successfully transformed the city from a concatenation of competing tribes into a more egalitarian hive.”
  • “Swiss-French developmentalist Jean Piaget was later to call "formal operations." Without formal operations (defined as the capacity to abstract general principles from concrete observations), neither science nor mature morality would be possible.”
  • “the culturally evolved fifth-century BCE humans conceived of models like Socrates, the Buddha, and later Christ, who epitomized unselfish love and inspired us to emulate them. During that transformative millennium, the range of people whom a given person felt compelled to regard as equally human greatly expanded. "Tribes" became integrated into empires--a process culminating in both Roman Europe and Chinese Asia. ”
  • “Admittedly, the cultural invention of writing and then the invention of printing five hundred years ago were truly giant steps for mankind.”
  • “The downside, of course, was that writing created dogma as well as technological advance. Over the last two thousand years literate humans "forgot" how to think with the brain with which they were born”
  • “Since the Enlightenment, this divorce between emotion and reason has become complete for many in the West. As I have already noted, until the penetration of neuroscience, cultural anthropology, and ethology into the culture over the past fifty years, the positive emotions were virtually abandoned as a focus for respectable scientific research.”
  • “Arguably, the publication of Charles Darwin's On the Origin of Species in 1859 rivaled the invention of printing as a catalyst to human cultural evolution. Charles Darwin and Alfred Wallace recognized that, just as the earth was not the center of the universe, Homo sapiens was not the center either. Humans are just another mammal that is a work in progress. Like Christ, Darwin reflected a step forward in modeling spiritual wisdom and humility.”
  • “A century after Darwin, but before the scientific elucidation of positive emotions, two evolutionary biologists set forth a bold outline for the possible future collective evolution of humankind. The first biologist was Pierre Teilhard de Chardin. He was a French Jesuit priest and a distinguished paleontologist who helped discover Peking Man.”
  • “Both atheist Huxley and theist Teilhard believed that human awareness of evolution would make possible further evolution and that future evolution, if it took place, would be organized into the increasingly cooperative organization of social units. ”
  • “For millennia, theologians, largely male, have suggested that spirituality was about basic intellectual questions like "Who am I? Why am I here? What happens to me when I die? How can I please my God?" These dry, cognitive questions are about patriarchal gods and "me." In the last century, however, cultural anthropologists (such as Margaret Mead), ethologists (such as Jane Goodall), and neuroscientists (such as Andrew Newberg) have been more likely to suggest that spirituality reflects limbic questions about love, community, positive emotions, and the feeling of "being one with the universe.”
  • “Is this miracle of human evolution, as Teilhard de Chardin hinted, due to a lonely, loving God patiently waiting until an evolving universe can achieve the "divinization of humanity"?”
  • “Besides genetic and cultural evolution, there is yet a third “form of evolution at work in the maturation of human spirituality--adult development. Our mastery of the positive emotions grows as we mature.”
  • “Only the human brain--and thus our capacity for integrating the prose and passion--continues to develop biologically until at least age sixty. ”
  • “Literacy exerts the same effect on children's faith development as the invention of the alphabet and printing exerted on the development of mankind. By kindergarten, children are already being schooled to abandon animism as well as tears and noisy joy. No longer is the child's mind filled with the "right-brain," elemental, supernatural, uncanny, and sacred imagery that fills the minds of both illiterate hunter-gatherers and postmodern three- to four-year-olds with omen, portent, and awestruck wonder.”
  • “ there is also an upside to adult development. With maturity, our positive emotions become increasingly linked to community welfare rather than to looking after number one. ”
  • “Erikson titled the midlife transition of youth into middle age "generativity," and he saw the virtue of midlife as a shift toward care of the next generation. ”
  • “With maturity comes an increasing ability not only to modulate but also to differentiate our negative emotions.”
  • “Jean Piaget, the great Swiss child developmentalist, pointed out that children's morality--quite independently of religious instruction--matured from primitive selfish belief into, first, rule-bound piety, and then, into adult altruism.”
  • “In adolescence both limbic passion and neocortical intellectual intolerance become tamed by the facet of cognitive development that Jean Piaget termed "formal operations." ”
  • “As we mature, our frontal lobes become ever more securely wired to the rest of our limbic system. ”
  • “Thus, with adult [biological] maturation, planning becomes ever more smoothly linked with passion; ”
  • “Jane Loevinger, a developmental psychologist at Washington University in St. Louis, and James Fowler, a developmental psychologist and theologian at Emory University, both devoted their lives to carrying Piaget's ideas further into adult development. 46 In Loevinger's model, belief evolves into trust, and piety evolves into tolerance. Loevinger asks us to focus on three sequential adult stages: the conformist, the conscientious, and the autonomous.”
  • “In late adulthood, cognitive development may continue beyond Piaget's formal operations into what Harvard psychologist Michael Commons has termed "post-formal operations." 47 Post-formal operations involve appreciation of irony and of paradox.”
  • “I suggest that a faith emphasizing trust and positive emotion is more mature than a faith made up of words, prohibitions, and rigid beliefs. Am I not asserting that one is better than the other? In so doing, I risk inventing a circle that draws me in and excludes others. ”
  • “Over time, just as evolving humanity is better shielded by science from capricious famine and infant deaths, just so its faith traditions--once dependent on the protective but negative emotions of abject fear and righteous anger--can give way to the positive emotions of faith, love, hope, joy, forgiveness, compassion, and awe”

4. Faith

  • “to define faith, I refer to the emotion trust, not the cognition belief.”
  • “ two different types of faith: belief in religious dogma that led to the Spanish Inquisition, and faith in a man who spoke of what was in his heart and lived his message,”
  • “When we speak of people's faith, we usually refer to their faith tradition--an amalgam of their religious beliefs, their cultural traditions, and their emotional trust in the universe. ”
  • “faith tradition is the personalized version of the religion that we have been taught, superimposed upon our own neurobiology.”
  • “Faith, as I shall use the term, involves basic trust that the world has meaning and that loving-kindness exists. ”
  • “A nihilist loves no one and is loved by no one, does not care for truth or appreciate beauty, has lost hope and knows no joy. Worst of all, nihilists find no meaning in life.”
  • “Christ wanted us to feel, not think, that we were loved.”
  • “In Hebrew and in Latin, faith is not a singular state but an active verb. We do faith; we do not have faith. ”
  • “Faith can become manifest in three rather different ways.
    1. faith can be expressed through the culturally determined symbols, beliefs, rituals, and common prayers that undergird a specific faith tradition. ”
    2. “faith can be expressed through a trusting commitment to compassionate behavior and community building. ”
    3. “faith can be experienced through positive emotion, through a personal sense of inner illumination, awe, and a longing for the sacred; this was Saint Paul's experience on the road to Damascus.”
  • “Our faith tradition usually combines the beliefs given us by our religion with the emotional depth and faith in the universe given us by our spirituality and by those who have loved ”
  • “Faith also underscores our trust in the power of positive emotions over negative emotions. ”
  • “All forms of spiritual healing have in common empathy, healing within a circle of caring persons, permission to feel and express emotion, shared responsibility for pain, and reverence for life rather than for self. Such "blessings" lower blood pressure, ease pain, relax muscles, and postpone death. ”
  • “Faith is literally inspiration. Spiro: I breathe in. I depend upon that which I cannot see. Faith always involves taking in. But faith is more visceral than cognitive. Trust is rooted in the emotional experience of love, attachment, and gratitude. Neurobiologically, faith begins with our trust in the mammalian separation cry. I have faith that if I fall and cry out, someone will pick me up--"that I once was lost but now am found, was blind but now I see.”
  • “Cognitive science, another new discipline of the late twentieth century, has suggested that much of the order that physics perceives in the world is no more than dogmatic belief "imposed by the prisms of our nervous system, a mere artifact of the way evolution has wired the brain.”
  • “During adult maturation, cognitive religious belief tends to evolve toward emotional spiritual trust. But the issue is not simply cognitive versus emotional, but immature versus mature.”
  • “Faith, like humor (a positive but not a spiritual emotion), allows us to contemplate suffering without despair.”
  • “Our faith arises from three sources-”
    1. “comes from the conscious human wish to provide plausible, if often confabulated or dogmatic, certainty in the face of ambiguous and mysterious reality. Ambiguity makes us anxious; certainty calms us; and usually, at least initially, we do not care if such anxiety-relieving certainty is true. This first source we call belief. ” “In short, deep spiritual faith rests in the heart as well as the intellect and is free of projection and delusion.”
    2. “A second, less conscious source of faith and trust is our need for loving community. Admittedly, love originally arose from the mammalian intimate connection we needed to care for often annoying children and from our need to temper our own valuable, but often disruptive, negative emotions. However, much of the social power of love comes from culturally mediated institutions based on trust, like marriage, child care, and hospitals. ”
    3. “third source of faith is sometimes called inner illumination, and it involves involuntary emotion, ecstasy, and mystical experiences. Inner illumination can be produced both by neurological stimulus from within (for example, a near-death experience) and by neurological stimulus from without (for example, through consciously willed meditation). “ Like the delusions of a madman, faith fueled by limbic illumination can become the very antithesis of reason. “Mystical limbic experiences of faith--whether from within or without, whether from epilepsy and/or divine visitation or from disciplined meditation, breathing, fasting, and prayer--are unique. ” “But how do we know if the mystical limbic message is from God or the Devil? How do we know if the divine message that may shape our faith and belief for decades is in the service of good or in the service of evil, in the service of loving trust or reptilian greed? In more scientific terms, how do we reliably distinguish between empathy and projection, between a loving mystical experience and psychosis? Too often we do not have a clue. “The fact that faith is occasionally based solely upon inner illumination can make it extremely dangerous, for in such cases there are no checks and balances against autism and delusion. “The language of mystical experience is easily communicated and is socially empathic. The language of schizophrenia is bizarre, eccentric, difficult to understand, and often socially inappropriate. Paul's Second Letter to the Corinthians is pretty straightforward, benign, and easy to understand. The Revelation to John is bizarre, terrifying, and to many incomprehensible.”
  • “Mental health and maturity share two important characteristics. They take both reality and the other person into account. ”
  • “I believe that the same limbic wiring that prepares us to receive and retain love also provides us trust and comfort when no visible loved one is present. ”

5. Love

  • “Mammalian love involves attachment that is selective, enduring, and often remarkably unselfish.”
  • “Their agape (universal unselfish love) is not selective, and the Greeks' eros (instinctual desire and lust) is not enduring. ”
  • “Love is about attachment, music, odors, and the spiritual ecstasy that, depending on the speaker's choice of words, we can call many things, including God. "God is love and those who abide in love, abide in God and God abides in them" (1 John 4:16).”
  • “ "Love is the point at which the opposing elements of the biological and the spiritual, the personal and the social, and the intimate and the universal intersect. (Great Soviet Encyclopedia)”
  • “Eros, the instinctual and lustful love, springing from the instincts of our hypothalamus, is all about self and all about preservation of "selfish" genes. Eros often evokes the negative emotions of jealousy and envy. In contrast, deep attachment evokes the positive emotions of gratitude and forgiveness. Unselfish mammalian limbic love is all about the other. "Love is the amazing realization that another person actually means as much or more to me than myself.”
  • “Human unconditional love is a further evolution of mammalian love. As the human cortex learns to connect the prose and the passion, mature cognition allows us to generalize from unselfish mammalian maternal love to people more and more different from us.”
  • “Love is different from compassion in that compassion is neither specific nor enduring. compassion is the desire to separate others from their suffering. ”
  • “The mammalian separation cry, one of the hallmarks of the mammalian limbic system, is tightly bound to empathy, compassion, and companionship. And the tragedy of individuals with Asperger's syndrome (a form of autism) is that they are capable of every human mental activity except empathy and attachment. In contrast, children with Down's syndrome, who seem to us so crippled by intellectual challenge, can radiate deep and meaningful attachment. ”
  • “So why did natural selection create unselfish love? The nature of human unselfish love becomes clearer if we reflect upon life in the African savannas one or two million years ago. On those sparsely wooded plains evolved our hairless ancestors who took several years to reach maturity. Although they lived in a land richly endowed with carnivores, our ancestors could not run like the gazelle, burrow like the rabbit, climb trees like the gibbon, fly away like the flamingo, or fight back like the elephant. If humans did not band together, they perished. Humans do not even have fur like the ape for the young to cling to; instead, the human mother must cling to her young. In order to survive, humans had sometimes to subordinate both hunger and sex per se to the development of an inborn “altruistic social organization. From such social bonding came lasting attachment and the survival of their young.”
  • “In short, humans have survived by sophisticated social bonding--characterized by unconditional attachment, forgiveness, gratitude, and affectionate eye contact. True, the negative, but self-consuming, emotions of disgust, anger, fear, and envy have often allowed individual humans to push other humans away or to selfishly exploit them. The positive emotions, however, of love, joy, hope, forgiveness, compassion, and trust have allowed humans to draw close to one another and to survive more successfully.”
  • “Love at first sight is often lust, illusion, transference, or narcissism. It is about breasts and lips and seeing one's self in the other person.”
  • “So how do we learn love? How do we become agents of love? Not through Sunday school, not through the Internet, not ever by words alone. We learn to love through neurochemistry, genes, and identification. ”
  • “Thus, the behavioral self-regulation that we associate with love does not come from a solitary brain, but from one brain's evolving and becoming shaped through attachment to a beloved other. ”

( “Moreover, oxytocin, the "cuddle hormone," in some ways is itself as remarkably healing as the love that it undergirds. Over the long term, oxytocin exerts effects opposite to the negative fight-or-flight emotions. During prolonged periods of fear, anxiety, and depression, pain thresholds are lowered and cortisol levels and blood pressure can be chronically and deleteriously elevated. In contrast, during periods of sustained oxytocin release, cortisol levels and blood pressure are reduced, pain thresholds are increased, and a calm, non-anxious state results.”

  • “Successful human development involves, first, absorbing love, next, reciprocally sharing love, and finally, giving love unselfishly away. All the great religions, our friends, our families, our genes, and our brain chemistry conspire to guide us along this path. ”

6. Hope

  • “Hope reflects the capacity for one's loving, lyrical, limbic memory of the past to become attached to the "memory of the future." This capacity occurs within our most recently evolved frontal lobes. The relative expansion of our frontal lobes is the anatomic trait that most unambiguously separates Homo sapiens from other primates. Our capacity to anticipate, to mourn in advance, to plant seeds, and to plan for the future are all capacities based in our frontal lobes. Only an integrated brain can hope that agriculture can really work, that “seeds planted in bleak spring will bear fruit next autumn. ”
  • “what hope is not. Hope must be distinguished from wish. Wishes are words and left-brain. In contrast, hope is made up of images and is rooted in the right brain”
  • “As we watch two people make their marriage vows, their faith encompasses only what is past; their love allows them to take a sacramental step in the present; but it is through hope and only through hope that, together, they may imagine their future. Hope is emotional, energizing, and strengthening; wishing is passive, cognitive, and potentially weakening.”
  • “Nor is hope the same as trust and faith. The opposite of trust is mistrust, but the opposite of hope is despair. It is faith that enables a child to establish secure attachment to a needed and vital other. But it is hope that enables a child without loving parents to believe in the future. Without trust, we become vigilant and paranoid. Without hope, we become desperately depressed. The opposite of trust becomes "people may hurt me." The opposite of hope becomes "I am a doomed person, and no good will ever come to me." Paranoia and depression are two very different maladies. Those without faith have no past. Those without hope have no future.”
  • “Hope arises from the involuntary mammalian need to function effectively in the face of fear and setback. We call this source of comforting emotion--which also encompasses heartfelt prayer-- hope. Hope reminds us that tomorrow may be a better day. Our verb "to despair" comes from the Latin disperare, to be without hope. ”
  • “Hope is not cognitive; hope is not reasonable; hope is not corny. Hope is part of our emotional mammalian heritage. ”
  • “Erik Erikson put the virtue of hope at the beginning of life as "the earliest and most indispensable virtue." 12 Hope became for Erikson the very foundation block of all human development. Hope was the sustaining impetus behind what Erikson named "basic trust," or what I call faith. Moreover, with time hope seems essential to almost all the eight stages of Eriksonian development. Hope is the cornerstone to the mastery of initiative; hope sustains adolescent fidelity; and hope catalyzes adult intimacy.”
  • “Hope is the deep visceral conviction that this too shall pass, that tomorrow, or at least the day after tomorrow, will be a better day, that if you are patient, winter is inevitably followed by spring. Thus, hope is not a mere cognitive defense mechanism; hope is a positive emotion. ”
  • “Nor is hope the same as fantasy. Fantasy allows us to imagine what never was, and never can be. ”
  • “I believe hope comes through our earliest experience with care. ”
  • “Hope comes from viscerally feeling, not cognitively knowing, that we matter, that we shall overcome someday.”
  • “Paul McCartney felt much as I do. Waking from the dream, he wrote the immortal lines: And when the night is cloudy, there is still a light that shines on me, Shine until tomorrow, let it be. ”

7. Joy

  • “Pierre Teilhard de Chardin considered joy the most infallible sign of the presence of God. Antonio Damasio concludes, "The current scientific knowledge regarding joy supports the notion that it should be actively sought because it does contribute to flourishing." 1”
  • “Consider the definition of the word "Hallelujah." Hallelujah is Hebrew for the Christian exclamation "Praise ye the Lord." Hallelujah is Hebrew for the Muslim exclamation "Allah is Great." For joy is ecumenical. Joy is looking up. Hallelujah in any language means joy, and joy in any language means reconnection with a power greater than ourselves.”
  • “Joy is God's--well, somebody's--infinite generosity. ”
  • “In terms of the specific goals of parenting, one of the parent's tasks is to facilitate the infant's experience of joy.”
  • “Neuroscientists dissect the brain with care. They can--sort of--locate centers for grief, pleasure, anger, and fear. But neuroscientists have not located joy, for joy is more complex than a mere pleasure center. Joy, like love, is the comfort of attachment and of real relationships. ”
  • “it is far easier to talk about happiness than joy. Joy is all about connection with others; happiness is all about drive reduction for the self. Happiness allows us to run from pain, while joy, as William Blake alerts us, allows us to acknowledge suffering.”
  • “Happiness is tame. In contrast, joy is a primary emotion. Joy is perceived subjectively in our viscera. Joy is connection to the universe. Happiness is giggling at a Tom and Jerry cartoon. Joy is laughing from the gut, and we often weep with joy. Happiness displaces pain. Joy encompasses pain.”
  • “Comte-Sponville puts it, "Love exists only as joy, and there is no joy other than love.”
  • “In short, joy is the motivational system that reinforces return. ”
  • “But there is another reason besides reunion that natural selection supported the emotion of joy, and that is to reinforce play. In human play, happiness and joy are both involved. Limbic, rough-and-tumble play, characteristic of children in every culture, elicits both joy and happiness.”
  • “Play depends upon a climate of positive emotion. Fear, sadness, hunger, and anger all inhibit play; so do drugs like epinephrine (adrenaline) and amphetamines that stimulate the sympathetic nervous system. Opiates and, under certain conditions, acetylcholine, the major transmitter of the parasympathetic nervous system, enhance play.”

“Joy is also found in communal meditation. ”

  • “Joy is not only different from happiness. Joy is different from pleasure. The affect of joy is very different from the pleasure of sex.”
  • “Finally, a sense of mastery, another positive emotion, is also different from joy. Mastery, like orgasm, pleasure, or happiness, is a profoundly satisfying experience.”
  • “Tomkins suggests that joy often binds us to people who have first produced and then reduced pain. Certainly, without the pain of farewell there can be no joy in reunion. Without the pain of disapproval, there can be no joy in forgiveness. Without the pain of captivity, there is no joy in exodus.”
  • “Freud and Marx both failed to understand that joy, the soothing process inherent in spiritual communion, is a major source of the very community building that both of them held dear. ”
  • “joy and pleasure differ because joy is never within our own power to induce, and addictive pleasure always is. ”
  • “Because joy is grief inside out. Consider funerals. There is no happiness at a funeral. Death takes all happiness away. But at funerals there are wakes, and at wakes there is humor, there is remembrance, and there is joy. Why? The joy at wakes comes both from the reunion with living relatives whom one has not seen for years and from remembering and celebrating the life of the departed. ”

8. Forgiveness

9. Compassion

10. Awe and mystical illumination

11. The difference between religion and spirituality.

Other facts

Bibliographic info