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Metaphysics, Science, Religion, and Spirituality: Bringing them
Closer via Extended Dual-Aspect Monism (Dvi-Pakṣa Advaita)
Rām Lakhan Pāndey Vimal1 and Shilpi Bhārdwāj
Vision Research Institute, 25 Rita Street, Lowell, MA 01854 USA
rlpvimal@yahoo.co.in and shilpibh2003@gmail.com

We need both science and religion in our daily lives, but they have opposite
foundations. The dominant metaphysics (foundation) of science is materialism:
non-mental matter is fundamental and mind2 somehow arises from it, which is
close to eastern Cārvāka/Lokāyata view. However, religion is based on: (a)
idealism, where non-material mind is fundamental and matter-in-itself
somehow congeals from it, which is close to Advaita, and/or (b) interactive
substance dualism, where both matter and mind are fundamental but they can
interact, which is close to Sāṃkhya. These three metaphysics have serious
problems: the explanatory gap problem in materialism and idealism, and the
association problem in interactive substance dualism. Any person (theist,
atheist, agnostic, humanists, hedonists, and so on) can be spiritual. Thus, the
metaphysics of science and science-based spirituality and that of religion and
religion-based spirituality contradict each other.
We propose the least problematic five-component extended Dual-Aspect
Monism (eDAM, Dvi-Pakṣa Advaita) framework. This addresses the
contradiction, the problems of other metaphysics, and brings science, religion,


Corresponding author.

The western/scientific term ‘mind’ is different from eastern term ‘manas’ or ‘mana’, which is a
subtle matter, the central processor, and is liaison between Puruṣa and Prakṛti. As per Rao
(1998), “The manas is the central processor which selectively reflects on the material provided
by the senses and determines its character by assimilation and discrimination” (p.319).


and both kinds of spirituality closer. In the eDAM framework, spirituality is
defined as an experiential sub-aspect of consciousness, which is the mentalaspect of a (transcendental for spirituality) state of a mind-brain system (or that
of a brain-process) interacting with its environment, from the first-person
perspective (1pp). The environment includes other living and non-living
systems. The spirituality or self-transcendence has three components: selfforgetfulness, transpersonal identification, and mysticism. Spirituality can be
measured subjectively using a self-transcendence scale. Its inseparable
physical aspect from third person perspective (3pp) is related neural-network
and its activities, which can be measured objectively such as using functional

Keywords: Mind, matter, spirituality, consciousness, science, religion,
metaphysics, materialism, Cārvāka/Lokāyata, idealism, Advaita, interactive
substance dualism, Prakṛti, Puruṣa, Sāṃkhya, extended dual-aspect monism,
Dvi-Pakṣa Advaita

1. Introduction
Metaphysics: There are four major groups of metaphysics (Vimal, 2012b,
(i) Materialism/Cārvāka/Lokāyata, where matter is fundamental and
mind is somehow derived from it.
(ii) Idealism/Advaita, where mind is fundamental and matter-in-itself is
somehow congealed from mind).
(iii) Interactive substance dualism/Sāṃkhya, where mind and matter
both are fundamental and independent but they can interact as needed.
(iv) Dual-Aspect Monism, where mind and matter are the inseparable
aspects of the same entity state. This is close to Kashmir Shaivism and
Viśiṣṭādvaita. These views are extended to the five-component extended DualAspect Monism (eDAM: Dvi-Pakṣa Advaita) framework (Vimal, 2008, 2010a,
2013, 2015b, 2015e), which is summarized in (Vimal, 2015a).
Religion: As per (Koenig, McCullough, & Larson, 2001), “Religion is an
organized system of beliefs, practices, rituals, and symbols designed (a) to
facilitate closeness to the sacred or transcendent (God, higher power, or
ultimate truth/reality) and (b) to foster an understanding of one's relationship
and responsibility to others in living together in a community” (p.18).
Spirituality: As elaborated in (Vimal, 2015d), there are many meanings
attributed to the term ‘spirituality’, which were categorized in two groups:


religion-based and science (secular/non-religion)-based spirituality, which are
also based on metaphysics. For example:
1. As per (McCarroll et al., 2005), “The eight themes that emerged [from the
twenty-seven definitions of spirituality] were meaning and purpose; connection
and relationship; God/god(s)/Transcendent Other; transcendent Self; vital
principle; unifying force or integrative energy; personal and private; and hope.
Most the definitions included at least two of the concepts listed in the eight
themes” (p.45).
2. As per (Koenig et al., 2001), “Spirituality … may (or may not) lead to or
arise from the development of religious rituals and the formation of
community” (p.18).
3. (Hamer, 2005)’s definition of spirituality includes self-transcendence that
has three components, namely, self-forgetfulness, transpersonal identification,
and mysticism.
4. We define spirituality as an experiential sub-aspect of consciousness,
which is the 1pp-mental-aspect of a (transcendental for spirituality) state of a
mind-brain system (or that of a brain-process) interacting with its environment.
Our goal is to bring science, religion, and spirituality closer, which is
accomplished in Section 2 through extended dual-aspect monism (Dvi-Pakṣa
Advaita) framework.

2. Metaphysics, Science, Religion, and Spirituality
2.1. Concepts of matter and definition of consciousness
To appreciate problems of metaphysics and their solutions, we need to first
understand concepts of matter and define consciousness:
Concepts of matter: There are two concepts of matter (Vimal, 2015a): (a)
First is the Yājñavalkya-Bādarāyaņa-Aristotle’s concept, where matter has a
rūpa/form and the potentiality for experiences (Pereira Jr., 2013;
Radhakrishnan, 1960; Swami Krishnananda, 1983); and this concept is used
in the eDAM frame work (Pereira Jr., 2013; Pereira Jr., Vimal, & Pregnolato,
2015; Vimal, 2013). (b) Second the Kaṇāda-Democritus’ concept, where matter
is made up of atoms or a particle that implies matter is non-experiential
(Vimal, 2015b). This latter concept has been used in all sciences such as
physics, chemistry, and biology. However, it has hard problem of
consciousness (Chalmers, 1995) because it does not explain how experiences
arise from non-experiential matter. The frameworks, such as the eDAM
metaphysics, that follow first concept of matter do not face hard problem
(Vimal, 2015a).


Definition of consciousness: There are about forty meanings attributed to
the term ‘consciousness’, which were categorized in two groups: function and
experience (Vimal, 2009b). Here, we use the optimal definition (that has the
least number of problems) of consciousness, using Yājñavalkya-BādarāyaņaAristotle’s concept of matter: consciousness (a) is the mental aspect of a state of
the brain-mind system or that of a brain-process in the first person perspective
(1pp), and (b) has two sub-aspects: conscious experience and conscious function
(Vimal, 2010b)” (Vimal, 2015a).

2.2. An extended version of Dual-Aspect Monism (eDAM)
The extended dual-aspect monism framework (eDAM) is a monist framework
(Vimal, 2008, 2010a, 2013, 2015b, 2015e), which has five components that are
concisely summarized below:
(I) Dual-Aspect Monism: This is detailed in (Vimal, 2008) and summarized
in (Vimal, 2015a). Briefly, the qualitative/mental and the physical aspects of a
state of any entity are inseparable in dual-aspect monism; this can be called
the doctrine of inseparability. An entity could be anything, such as God-particle
to elementary particle to God-gene to cell/neuron to God-spot/Godmodule/neural-network to brain to family to society to city to country to whole
universe. The qualitative or mental aspect of a state of an entity consists of: (a)
the qualitative aspect that has superposed potential basis-states related to
patterns of distribution of matter/energy in space and time, forms, and/or
patterns of vibrations for both living and non-living systems. And (b) the mental
aspect that has superposed potential basis-states related to the potential
primary irreducible subjective experiences (SEs) (Vimal, 2015b). The latter
represents the pre-existence of the potentiality of experiences for living-system
and/or conscious artifacts. The degree of manifestation of 1pp-mental aspect
and that of the physical aspect (from third person perspective: 3pp) of an
entity-state from the dual-aspect primal entity-state (such as unmanifestedstate of Brahman) dependently co-arise (Vimal, 2009a). This implies the
inseparability between both aspects (Vimal, 2015a).
(II) Dual-mode and matching and selection mechanisms: This is
elaborated in (Vimal, 2010a) and summarized in (Vimal, 2015a). Concisely, the
dual modes are the stimulus-dependent-feed-forward-signals-related-mode and
cognitive-feedback-signals-related-mode. These two types of signals interact for
conjugate matching and then a specific SE is selected and experienced by the
self, where self is the subjective experience of subject (Bruzzo & Vimal, 2007).
There are three major interacting signals for experiencing a specific SE: (i)
stimulus-dependent feed forward (FF) signals, (ii) stimuli-related-memorydependent cognitive feedback (FB) signals, and (iii) self-related signal that is a
part of reentrant FB signals. The self (a) consists of proto-self, core-self, and


autobiographical-self (Damasio, 2010) and (b) is the 1pp-mental aspect of a
state of ‘self-related neural network (such as cortical midline structures:
(Northoff & Bermpohl, 2004)) and its activities’. The matching or interaction is
between FF and FB signals. Then the self-related signals interact with the
resultant signal, which represents the matching between stimulus-related FF
signal and cognitive FB signals. Thus, there are interactions between the three
major types of signals: FF, FB, and self related signals. A specific SE is selected
and experienced by the self through this interactive process (Vimal, 2015a).
(III) Variation of the degree of manifestation of aspects: This is
discussed in (Vimal, 2013) and summarized in (Vimal, 2015b). Briefly, ‘the
concept of the varying degrees of the manifestation (appearance/strength) of
aspects’ means that the degree of ‘the appearance and/or strength of aspects’
varies depending on the levels of entities. At each level, the manifestation of
aspects is through dependent co-origination (Vimal, 2009), i.e., through coevolution, adaptation, natural selection, co-development and sensorimotor
tuning. For example, the degree of manifestation of mental aspect in an inert
non-conscious entity is zero and is high in an awake-conscious entity.
(IV) Necessary conditions of consciousness: The criterion for the selection
of necessary conditions of consciousness is that if any of these conditions is
missing, we will not have consciousness. This is elaborated in (Vimal, 2015e)
and summarized in (Vimal, 2015a). Briefly, the necessary conditions of access
(reportable) consciousness are as follows:
1. The formation of neural-networks,
2. Wakefulness,
3. Working memory,
4. Reentrant interactions among neural populations,
5. Fronto-parietal and thalamic-reticular-nucleus attentional signals that
modulate consciousness,
6. Integrated information in ‘complex’ of neural-network such as
thalamocortical complexes with critical spatiotemporal ‘grain-size’,
7. Stimulus contrast at or above threshold level, and
8. Neural-network proto-experiences that are potential subjective
All these conditions, except attention and the ability to report, are necessary
for phenomenal consciousness.
(V) Segregation, differentiation, and integration of information: This is
detailed in (Vimal, 2015b) and summarized in (Vimal, 2015a). Briefly, there are
two steps:
1. The segregation of information for the analysis of specific stimulus
attribute and then


2. The integration of information for the synthesis of all attributes (related to
dimension such as redness, sub-mode such as color, and mode such as
vision), which results unified consciousness.
The term ‘differentiation’ signifies that there are a large number of possible
functions and potential experiences. This leads to higher effective information
(Tononi, 2004).
The integrated information theory (IIT) of consciousness (Tononi, 2004,
2008, 2012) is based on the materialistic identity theory (consciousness is
integrated information) or to some extent panpsychism (Tononi & Koch, 2014).
However, both materialism and panpsychism have serious problems as
elaborated in (Vimal, 2010b, 2013). Therefore, IIT is interpreted in terms of
more efficient metaphysics, such as the eDAM framework in (Vimal, 2015b),
where, information is a dual-aspect entity. The criticisms of the eDAM
framework is addressed in (Vimal, 2015c).

2.3. The 1pp-mental aspect of a spiritual state: selftranscendence
The term ‘self-transcendence’ (or spirituality) describes spiritual feelings
that can be independent of traditional religiousness, and is the 1pp-mental
aspect of a transcendental/spiritual state of a mind-brain system or that of a
brain-process. In this state of mind, subjects feel that they themselves and
others (people, places, and objects) are unified and are parts of one whole
(universe) ((Hamer, 2005).p18-20). There are three subscale of selftranscendence in Temperament and Character Inventory (TCI) (Cloninger,
Svrakic, & Przybeck, 1993), namely, self-forgetfulness, transpersonal
identification, and mysticism.
Self-forgetfulness ((Hamer, 2005).p23-25): This trait includes, for example,
1. Deeply immersing in work to the extent forgetting place and time, i.e., the
ability to get entirely lost in an experience;
2. Falling in love deeply to the extent forgetting the boundary between the
two lovers, and
3. Feeling of not doing wrong in work, sports, or music. Spiritual people
have such type of feelings more frequently.
Transpersonal identification ((Hamer, 2005).p26-28): This trait includes:
1. Risking life to make the world better place to live,
2. Feeling of a sense of unity with all surrounding things,
3. A concern for protecting animals and plants from extinction,
4. A feeling of connectedness to a larger universe and everything in it, such
as human and nonhuman, animate and inanimate, anything and
everything that can be heard, smelled, or seen,


5. A feeling of deep and emotional attachment for other people, animals,
trees, flowers, streams, or mountains,
6. A feeling that everything is part of one living organism, and
7. Making personal sacrifices to help others, such as fighting against war,
poverty, or racism.
As per Einstein, “Try and penetrate with our limited means the secrets of
nature and you will find that, behind all the discernible concatenations, there
remains something subtle, intangible and inexplicable. Veneration for this force
beyond anything that we can comprehend is my religion. To that extent I am,
in point of fact, religious” (Kessler, 1988).
Mysticism ((Hamer, 2005).p.28-34): This trait includes:
1. An openness to things not literally provable,
2. Finding oneself moved by a fine speech or piece of poetry,
3. Feeling of a spiritual link with other people that is ineffable, and
4. Getting fascinated by data that are unexplained by science.
Einstein was profoundly spiritual but not conventionally religious (he rejected
the Orthodox Judaism at age 12). As per Einstein, “There is a central order to
the universe, an order that can be directly apprehended by the soul in mystical
union.” He connected mysticism, creativity, and spirituality as, “The most
beautiful and most profound religious emotion that we can experience is the
sensation of the mystical. In addition, this mysticality is the power of all true
If we combine all above, we come as close as science can measure ‘what it feels
like to be spiritual’. In this way, we can experience spiritual ecstasy.

2.4. The 3pp-physical aspect of a spiritual state: neural
2.4.1. God modules hypothesis/religion regions
(Vimal, 2012b) summarizes them as follows:
1. If some neural structures (such as temporal lobe, especially left side) are
stimulated, subjects have intense religious experiences (Persinger, 1983, 1987;
Ramachandran & Blakeslee, 1998). Such neural structures are called God
modules (or religion regions).
2. In general, one could argue that there seems to be no simple 1-1 mapping
between a specific function/behavior/experience and specific anatomical brain
area(s)/module(s), although the brain/mind is highly modularized. Therefore, a


‘God module’ for a specific religious experience does not seem tenable; further
researches are not needed.
3. God Spot ((Hamer, 2005). p.135-137): Nonbeliever Persinger stimulated
his own temporal and parietal lobes (God spot) using TMS (Transcranial
Magnetic Stimulation) and had mystical experiences such as feeling of rising,
floating away into space (Persinger, 1987). Temporal lobe response is specific
for religion (Persinger, 1983, 1987; Ramachandran & Blakeslee, 1998).
4. The God module is a subsystem of the brain that is shaped by evolution
and causes us to have a religious belief and affect religious intensity.
5. Neuroscience and genetic researches suggests ‘God modules’ in our brain
and ‘God genes’ (Hamer, 2005) in our DNA.
6. The Homo religiosus notion is that religion or its some specific aspect(s) is
an adaptation. In other words, a universal trait or feature of species (such as
spirituality/religiosity) is favored over a long time by natural selection. This is
because it solved one or more adaptive problems in human ancestral
7. The controversial religion-as-adaptation hypothesis is that religion is (a)
somehow inherent in human nature or (b) part of the evolved design of the
human being.

2.4.2. Neural correlates of religiosity and/or spirituality
The neural correlates of religiosity proposed by (Paloutzian, Swenson, &
McNamara, 2006) and summarized in (Vimal, 2012b) are as follows:
1. The frontal lobes and posterior cortical sites (including the temporal
lobes, the hippocampus, amygdala, and the limbic system) are in mutual
inhibitory balance (Goldberg, 1987; Lhermitte, 1986). For example, if the
temporal cortical areas were activated then a compensatory inhibitory response
would be generated in the frontal lobes. This implies that the neural correlates
of religiosity might be frontal-temporal areas, not just neuroanatomical
supposition temporal areas, or just orbitofrontal cortex (OFC).
2. The OFC directly modulates (mutually inhibits) temporal and limbic
cortical areas. For example, the damage of OFC leads to social and emotional
dis-inhibition, which indicates that OFC inhibits limbic and temporal lobes
(Chow & Cummings, 1999; Schnider & Gutbrod, 1999).
3. The superior temporal lobes send projections to the OFC. The medial
OFC both sends and receives projections to limbic and the temporal limbic
regions (Chow & Cummings, 1999; Zald & Kim, 1996). The OFC directly
inhibits the amygdala, including the caudal OFC inhibiting central nucleus of
the amygdala, which sends efferents to the brainstem and hypothalamus.
Thus, medial OFC indirectly controls a range of endocrine and autonomic
behavioral responses. For example, the reactive aggression is due to the OFC
inhibitory control of a limbic system behavior via medial OFC to medial


amygdala through the stria terminalis and the medial hypothalamus to the
peri-aqueductal gray.
4. The functional neuroanatomy and clinical temporal lobe epilepsy
supports the argument that behaviors linked to the limbic temporal lobes
require densely interconnected and functional neural networks. This is because
the behaviors, such as spiritual transformation and religious conversion, may
be related to a series of neural networks contained in limbic and OFC areas.
The limbic system normally mediates emotional states, medial temporal lobe
mediates language comprehension, hippocampus mediates memory, and OFC
mediates personality.
5. In addition, as per (McNamara, 2006), the PFC has a supervisory or
regulative role. This is because it receives input signals from mediodorsal
nucleus of thalamus and sends output signals to the dorsal and orbital
prefrontal areas. These prefrontal areas send inhibitory efferent signals to other
areas of brain and spinal cord, primary motor cortex, premotor, and
supplementary motor areas. (Newberg et al., 2001) reported greater prefrontal
activations during meditative states using SPECT imaging techniques.
Moreover, (Azari et al., 2001) found activations in frontal–parietal circuit (such
as dorsomedial frontal, dorsolateral frontal, and medial parietal cortex) during
religious recitation using neuroimaging techniques.
Furthermore, (Murakami et al., 2012) stated that the meditators with
mindfulness practice had positive correlations between the score of the
describing facet and the gray matter volume in the right anterior insular cortex
and in the right parahippocampal gyrus and amygdala.

2.4.3. Neurochemistry of religiosity and spirituality
(McNamara, 2006) discussed the serotonin and dopamine involvement in
religiosity and spirituality. This is summarized in (Vimal, 2012b), which is as
1. Serotonin is a ‘feeling bad’ and dopamine is a ‘feeling good’
neurotransmitters. Serotonin inhibits tonically dopaminergic system especially
in the limbic system. Hallucinatory drugs enhance dopamine transmission,
which heightens religious and mystical experiences. The removal of the
inhibitory serotonin-influence enhances dopamine activity. This results
religious and hallucinatory experiences (Borg et al., 2003; Robert, AubinBrunet, & Darcourt, 1999).
2. As per (Kjaer et al., 2002), dopamine is released during meditation.
Therefore, dopamine may enhance ‘feeling good’ in spiritual and religious
experiences. There is a loss of striatal and prefrontal dopamine in patients with
moderate to severe Parkinson’s disease. This may be the reason for their low
levels of religious experiences (McNamara, Durso, & Harris, 2006).


2.5. Bringing Science, Religion, and Spirituality Closer via
Extended Dual-Aspect Monism (Dvi-Pakṣa Advaita)
Science is based on materialism/Cārvāka/Lokāyata, whereas religions are
based on idealism/Advaita, and/or interactive substance dualism/Sāṃkhya. In
other words, religions (Vimal, 2012a, 2012b) start from the 1pp-mental aspect
mind/Brahman/God/consciousness is the fundamental reality. Conversely,
science starts from the 3pp-physical aspect of the unmanifested primal entity
as in materialism, where matter is the fundamental reality. However, as
elaborated in (Vimal, 2010b, 2013), all these three metaphysics have serious
problems. For example, there is an explanatory gap problem in materialism
(how experiences can arise from non-experiential matter) and idealism (how
matter-in-itself can congeal from non-material experiences). There is the
association problem in interactive substance dualism (how specific subjective
experiences can be associated to specific neurons).
We need both science and religions in our daily lives. However, they are
riding on different boats of foundational metaphysics. We somehow need to put
them on the same boat of metaphysics so that they can ride smoothly and we
do not have daily conflict. For example, a compromised middle-way
metaphysics is the five-component extended dual-aspect monism (eDAM, DviPakṣa Advaita) framework (Vimal, 2008, 2010a, 2013, 2015b, 2015e). Here, the
mental and physical aspects are inseparable. In other words, one can start
from either aspect, but it is translated automatically, appropriately, rigorously,
and faithfully to other aspect because of the doctrine of inseparability (1-1
Thus, the Dvi-Pakṣa Advaita (the eDAM framework) brings (i) religions and
religion-based spirituality and (ii) science and science-based spirituality closer.
The eDAM framework maintains individual’s faith and belief by re-interpreting
them without problematic premises. Faith and belief may have evolution and
natural selection based adaptive benefits along with genetic traits.
Furthermore, one can argue that all humans including theists, atheists,
agnostics, humanists, and hedonists can acquire spirituality. Therefore,
spirituality can be practiced in all four major groups of metaphysics in their
own ways.

2.6. Benefits of religiosity/spirituality
1. The functions of religiosity/spirituality ranged from the reduction of
anxiety (such as fear of death) to providing various meaningful worldviews to
the promotion of group solidarity.
2. Mindfulness-based cancer recovery involves training the subjects in
mindfulness meditation and gentle Hatha yoga; and the supportive-expressive
group therapy involves emotional expression and group support to them. These


two techniques seem to maintain the length of chromosomal telomeres in
distressed breast cancer survivors (Carlson et al., 2015).
Other benefits are detailed in (Vimal, 2015d).

3. Conclusions
1. The dominant metaphysics of science is materialism and that of religion
are idealism and/or interactive substance dualism; these metaphysics have
serious problems as elaborated in (Vimal, 2012a, 2012b). The five-component
extended dual-aspect monism (eDAM, Dvi-Pakṣa Advaita) framework (Vimal,
2008, 2010a, 2013, 2015b, 2015e) is the least problematic metaphysics.
2. The eDAM metaphysics brings science and religions closer as elaborated
in (Vimal, 2012a, 2012b). Any person (atheist, theist, agnostic, humanists,
hedonists, and so on) can be spiritual and the eDAM framework brings
religion-based and science-based spirituality closer as well.
3. The 1pp-mental and 3pp-physical aspect of a state related to spirituality
and/or religiosity are elaborated in Sections 2.3 and 2.4 respectively.

Competing Interests
The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.

The work was partly supported by VP-Research Foundation Trust and
Vision Research Institute research Fund. The authors would like to thank
anonymous reviewers and colleagues for review, critical comments, discussion,
and suggestions. RLPV is also affiliated with Dristi Anusandhana Sansthana,
A-60 Umed Park, Sola Road, Ahmedabad-61, Gujrat, India; Dristi
Anusandhana Sansthana, c/o NiceTech Computer Education Institute, Pendra,
Bilaspur, C.G. 495119, India; and Dristi Anusandhana Sansthana, Sai Niwas,
East of Hanuman Mandir, Betiahata, Gorakhpur, U.P. 273001 India. URL:

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