What a great book for those of us interested in determining the manner by which humans have spiritual experiences! Unfortunately, the majority of writings/research on this topic to date has focused on the neuroanatomical basis of spirituality (i.e., what part of the brain is responsible for being spiritual). Although neuroradiological measures (e.g., fMRI, PET, SPECT scans) are sexy and individuals assume they hold tremendous meaning for determining the neurological basis of spirituality, they are in fact simplistic and add little to our understanding of what "spirituality" is, and how it is shaped by our cultural experiences.
As Dr. Hogan concisely decribes in his book, The Culture of our Thinking in Relation to Spirituality, one's culture has a significant impact on the manner by which we all experience spiritual dimensions. Specifically, he convincingly argues that all those interested in this field (e.g., psychologists, neuroscientists, sociologists, cultural anthropologists, philosophers, religious studies scholars, etc.) must consider cultural interpretations of spiritual experiences, and most importantly, how cultural experiences influence the manner in which our spiritual experiences are interpreted.
Citing contemporary research on spirituality, cultural concepts of the self (and selflessness), and the manner in which culture influences all we do, feel, interpret, etc., Dr. Hogan provides a wonderful starting point for consideration of an absolutely essential foundation for understanding what is meant by "spirituality," and how our neurologically based spiritual experiences are shaped and formed by our cultures.
Researchers, clinicians, lay persons, clergy and all other interested individuals in the study of spirituality are beginning to understand that spirituality is more than a unitary construct (i.e., we all possess a degree of one general spirituality trait) that is related to distinct neurological structures/systems. Instead, Dr. Hogan helps us understand that spirituality is likely related to multiple experiences (just as cognition emcompasses multiple abilities), different neuroanatomical structures and neurochemicals, and neuropsychological abilities, all of which are dramatically shaped by culture. Although culture has been relatively ignored in the neuroscientific study of spirituality to date, it will be regularly incorporated into future research and Dr. Hogan's book will be one of the first to educate us regarding the importance of culture in this area, including several different theories for how culture influences our spiritual experiences.
The book is a great read for dedicated researchers and thought provoking for those who have more basic interests in the area. Although parts of the book are quite deep, as expected for the topic and reflective of the thinking of a very intelligent individual, it's an important and interesting book that will likely be appreciated by multiple audiences.