Get lucky. That’s the first requirement. I believe the primary reason that the major religions have mostly failed to bring forth people of equivalent development as their founders – more Christs from Christianity or more Buddhists from Buddhism, for example – is because the brain is the most complex, kluged-together creation in the universe. The human brain appears to have emerged as one evolving structure was added on top of another (The Triune Brain). Consider this for complexity: piece of brain tissue the size of a grain of Nutrasweet contains roughly 100,000 neurons making connections with over a billion permutations. Putting all that wiring together in a way that produces a saint probably generates odds approaching infinity. Might we be able improve those odds by doing things to optimize connectivity?
Self as Saint
Be close to sainthood yourself. UCLA neuropsychiatrist, Dan Siegel, writing in The Mindful Brain, asserts that it takes a more organized brain to help organize a less organized brain. For the first years of our children’s lives, we as parents, act as their external brains, or more frequently as their prefrontal cortex, serving as external gamma-Aminobutyric acid (GABA) dispensers. GABA works to soothe and calm painful or frightening experiences. If our own brain is organized and operating close to the ways in which a saint’s brain might, it stands to reason that we will generally have an easier time producing children who surpass us on the Saintliness Scale.
The Power of Intention
Intend to raise a saint. Intention is often the difference that makes a difference. Recent research on mindfulness and mirror neurons is beginning to bring the power of intention under greater scientific scrutiny. Neuroscientist Marco Iacoboni, in his book, Mirroring People, presents compelling empirical evidence over and over that … intention matters to neurons. The brain pays more attention and brings greater resources to bear on things connected to human intention. By deliberately intending to raise a saint, might we then begin paying ever-increasing attention to people, places and information that might move us and our children in that direction? Intention might work similar to the way the reticular activating system in the brain suddenly begins to notice all the children with large foreheads as our child begins to develop a large forehead herself.
The Smart Heart
Wire up the smart heart. As current appearances around the world readily confirm, human evolution still has a ways to go. As a species, we haven’t reached humanity’s highest pinnacles quite yet. If we’re taking up space in a human body, it’s very likely that we still have integrative work to do. The present-day wars and current world financial challenges are but a few obvious indicators. Joseph Chilton Pearce, writing in two books: The Biology of Transcendence and The Death of Religion and the Rebirth of Spirit, argues persuasively about the route that evolutionary development will take going forward. First, human beings are going to build out the central integrating networks connected to the orbital prefrontal cortex. He offers photos similar to this of children already evidencing this prefrontal build out. Massive prefrontal connectivity accomplishes lots of things, primary among them is the relatively easy regulation of fear. Walking fearlessly through the world seems to be one thing that saints have a reputation for being easily able to do.
After the prefrontals get built out, perhaps the next requirement is wiring up the human heart – running neuro-cable directly from the brain to the heart. Think of it as a neuro-cardio broadband infrastructure build-out. It’s just the opposite of the Killer Angry Heart. At the same time our nation is going back to work on long-neglected national infrastructure construction projects, we can simultaneously begin bringing our own personal “strength of heart” online. Here’s but one inspiring example: Leonard Abess. Here’s another: Bob Walker.
One way we might accomplish this build-out is to repeatedly do things that work to activate and strengthen the existing connections all of us came with. I suspect that similar to the way neural pruning (apoptosis) works to retain neurons in the brain that are activated and used the most, activating and using the ones connected to the heart’s magnetic field (which is 5000 times stronger than any other organ), might be just what spirit ordered in the realm of saint-raising.