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Epilepsia. 2011 Mar;52(3):640-4. doi: 10.1111/j.1528-1167.2010.02957.x. Epub 2011 Feb 5.

Numinous-like auras and spirituality in persons with partial seizures.

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Psychology, Sierra Tucson, Tucson, Arizona, USA.


This study investigated hyperreligiosity in persons with partial epilepsy by exploring a relationship between aura symptoms and spirituality. It was reasoned that patients with high frequencies of auras that are suggestive of metaphysical phenomena, termed numinous-like auras, would report increased spirituality of an unconventional form, both during their seizures and generally. Numinous-like auras included: dreaminess/feeling of detachment, autoscopy, derealization, depersonalization, time speed alterations, bodily distortions, and pleasure. A high-frequency aura group, low-frequency aura group, and nonseizure reference group were compared on the Expressions of Spirituality-Revised. The High group had significantly greater Experiential/Phenomenological Dimension and Paranormal Beliefs factor scores than the Low group, and significantly greater Experiential/Phenomenological Dimension factor scores than the reference group. There were no differences between the Low group and the reference group. In addition, there were no differences among the three groups on traditional measures of religiosity. The results provide preliminary evidence that epilepsy patients with frequent numinous-like auras have greater ictal and interictal spirituality of an experiential, personalized, and atypical form, which may be distinct from traditional, culturally based religiosity. This form of spirituality may be better described by the term cosmic spirituality than hyperreligiosity. It is speculated that this spirituality is due to an overactivation and subsequent potentiation of the limbic system, with frequent numinous-like auras indicating sufficient activation for this process to occur. It is likely that numinous-like experiences foster cosmic spirituality in a number of circumstances, including seizures, psychosis, near-death experiences, psychedelic drug use, high-elevation exposure, and also normal conditions.

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