Scientists at the University of Essex released a study in the journal of Social Psychological & Personality Science that studied the sociocultural habits of 135 college students–in conjunction with neuroimaging studies in the laboratory–in order to examine the relationship between biological cleanliness, health, analogical thought-process, neurosis, and religion.
As the old adage goes, “Cleanliness is next to godliness,” and many will resolutely attest to this principle. But how can these two things possibly equate? Is this just a poor metaphor meant only to be familial advice to a child, or is there a case for this principle that can be represented in human psychology, sociology, and or neurology? The results as well as the implications are likely more interesting than some would assume.
The college students met with researchers for a two-week period, and along with the neuroimaging scans, had their daily lives analyzed within the context of the study. The study examined the levels of altruism, or lack-thereof, that the subject enacted in their lives on a daily basis, and how this related to their overall sense of anxiety or calmness, as well as their sense of physical cleanliness. In simpler terms, the study documented the deeds done by a person in a given day, and how this could help project their sense of well-being, both mentally and physically. Additional to altruism, the general level of a person’s reported physical cleanliness in their daily habits was also compared to their reports of overall well-being; and lastly, as another marker of the study, each student was asked at the beginning of the study about their religious preferences and beliefs.
In short, the highlight of the results demonstrate a deeply rooted analogical thought-process that is required in human interaction with the Self and peers in the surrounding culture and society–and that a lack of this analogical thought process can cause dissonance in communication.
Overall, every student measured felt a greater sense of well-being in proportion to how cleanly they went about their daily habits, as well as how altruistic they were in their daily interactions. The other interesting finding was that the more deeply religious someone considered themselves, the stronger this reward process was in relationship to their daily physical habits and their overall sense of well-being.
The dichotomy that can be seen here between a sense of poised personal management and neurosis, in conjunction to a person’s relationship to their own spiritual beliefs, is striking. From the positive perspective, this further demonstrates why religion as analogical spirituality can be scientifically demonstrated to be incredibly beneficial to a person’s biology through the emotion’s crucial role in epigenetics, the regulation of the immune system, et cetera. In contrast to this is the clear level of neurosis that can occur when a person loses the analogy behind these teachings and juxtaposes cleanliness for a comprehensive sense of spirituality (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder?) on a level of their consciousness, known or unknown to them, that inherently lacks any reference point or inclination of moderation.
Along with this idea is the necessary understanding that this analogy is a two-way street, and that this study in no way shows that “God” helps people maintain their physical and mental cleanliness, but put poetically, that perhaps a sense of physical and mental cleanliness is a piece of the grand allegory to the universe that is known as God; the Tao; the Darhamakaya; et cetera. After all, would it be inaccurate to describe spirituality as a discipline towards mental and physical cleanliness? Mental and physical cleanliness seem to inherently and easily describe the principles of moderation.
The only real question left here is: What about the dark aspects of religion–the black magick of the occult? Surely, these people do not get a sense of their own well-being from their psycho-dramatic esoteric rituals that can involve unspeakable levels of depravity? Or, do they? Is this what a psychopath can be considered–a person who has adopted a convoluted, sick mimicry of the sociocultural analogical learning process of the human being?
All of these are great questions, the likes of which we have to thank the researchers of this study for instigating, even if their words did not touch anything close to this level of esoteric analysis in their proposal.