Wednesday, August 22, 2012

The God Helmet?

by Rayka Rush, Ph.D. Metropolitan Community College, Omaha, NE, Humanities Department, UNO adjunct lecturer, Philosophy Department

On this occasion I would like to expand the blog dialogue with some mind “itchy” stuff, as I always do. Being a teacher devoted to Comparative Religion studies I engage students in various discussions.  One of them is Religion and Science. This usually surprises students as many have been taught that these two spheres of human knowledge are firmly separated. 

Faith related encounters are very personal. Religious experiences are especially powerful. These experiences are interpreted as “mystical,” sometimes even irrational, but are divergent to rational reasoning. The mind altering experiences are known as the direct contact with the spirits or sacred source—God. They include experiences such as hearing voices, apparitions, speaking in tongues, trance, out of body sensations, or presence of external/spiritual beings.

Modern neurological science is able to prove that these types of religious experiences are measurable and one of the most complex aspects of the brain’s active functioning! Aside from brain scans that map the mind during the faith altering experience (meditations, apparitions) scientists are also plunging into experiments with ELF (extremely low frequency electromagnetic) waves on the brain proving by experimentation that one could induce faith experiences. God on demand?

The ELF application on the brain is studied by Dr. Michael Persinger who developed the field of studies in neurotheology and tectonic strain theory. The best known technological invention by M. Persingers and his predecessor, S. Koren, is popularly named the “God Helmet.” This helmet tool with electrodes is used to stimulate the temporal lobes of the brain and limbic fields by shooting 0--10 Hz ELF and surrounding the head with a low magnetic field.

All subjects who underwent the experiments reported various sensations such as apparitions, near death experiences, hearing voices, pleasant presence of ethereal beings, and the like. In a popular BBC production God on the Brian even biologist Richard Dawkins, the atheist advocate, agreed to participate in the experiment. Dawkins has denied any induced experience that would imply religious connotations, although during the experiment Persinger’s machine, which records the brain waves, has shown that Dawkins’ brain reacted to the ELF stimulation in the same way as other subjects who reported the mind altering experiences. It seems that Dawkins’ atheistic frame of reference is aligned with his interpretation of “nothing significant really happened.” The majority of persons who reported the mind altering experiences have been religious. This implies that the study really acquires a deeper analysis of how subjects’ religious background/worldview affects the aftermath experiment interpretations. 

Pressinger’s final claim heads in a direction that people who in the past communicated their experiences as original encounters with God, spirits, or communicated extraordinary perceptive abilities might have been subjected to some natural sources of ELF waves (tectonic plates, underground water, lightening) or have known techniques of how to transmit human energy power to the frontal lobes of the brain (Eastern meditation techniques).

Whether one accepts or rejects the validity and accuracy of these experiments, there is an even more relevant question: Does it really matter to scientifically prove or disprove religious/spiritual experiences? 

I think it is important. In 1952 W. O. Schumman identifies 7.83 Hz as the Earth’s frequency/pulse. The modern electromagnetic frequency brain research is an ongoing trend at top universities and this topic is highly popularized in Dr. Nick Begich’s work. There are four identifiable brain frequencies spreading in range from 0.5 – 30 Hz, out of which the state of alertness and relaxation (the most content state) corresponds around the Earth pulse. In research almost all measurements of the persons who are in a high state of meditation, spiritual activity, or creativity achieve exactly the frequency which hits the Earth pulse. How odd!

To spark discussion I am offering some of the available research sources, so judge for yourself, dig in, and give some of your comments; greatly appreciated.


Robert Vianney said...

There have been claims that the God Helmet's effects are only due to placebo effect, but this has been debunked.

Rayka Rush said...

Thanks for sharing this excellent link
I would agree that transcranial magnetic stimulation, TMS ( technology definitely affects the human brain and neural connections. After all, this technology is used to help patients with seizures or schizophrenia. The biggest problem with Persinger’s methodology is an attempt to induce stimulations with TMS so he is inducing something that could be rather call the ESP effects onto his subjects, and to call those stimulated ESP effects religious experiences is a big leap. Todd Murphy, the Persinger’s assistant really cleans up this problem with his research focusing on actual religious specialists or practitioners and he gives a valid context to his experimental results in explaining recordings from various neuroscience technology in terms of science, but he also points to the problems relevant to neuroscience research, where the technology cannot match a valid explanations or cannot prove or disapprove the level of religious experience that is achieved by the practitioners . So, yes, this neuroscience experimentation is helping us better understand how do our brain structure and cognitive mechanisms work whilst achieving the peak of the spiritual or religious experiences. Here are two links of Murphy’s lectures, excellent materials to study:

Rayka Rush said...

Hope this time web-links work:

Todd Murphy's lectures, check this out:
Spirituality and Brain:
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God Helmet, more details:
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Neuroscience and Miracles
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