The first three postings in this series remind us how complex the individual topics of cognitive science, Buddhism, and religious experience can be. Certainly there are many interpretations of each—many more than an entire monograph could account for, let alone a column in the New York Times—and reminders of the density of such topics are valuable and need to be repeated. But the cultural phenomenon that David Brooks’s column describes is its own topic altogether. Just what this phenomenon is will probably take a while for historians to describe and for critical scholars to assess. My preliminary suggestion is that we are witnessing an aesthetic urge, in which scientists and Buddhists find common cause in their pursuit of a beautiful—albeit potentially dangerous— “theory of everything.” [...]Read the rest of The aesthetics of neural Buddhism.
Francisca Cho is assistant professor of theology at Georgetown University and works in the area of East Asian Buddhism and culture, particularly fiction, poetry, and film. She is the author of Everything Yearned For: Manhae’s Poems of Love and Longing and Embracing Illusion: Truth and Fiction in The Dream of the Nine Clouds.