Sacred Pathways:

The Brain's Role in Religious and Mystic Experiences

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Blogs by Dr. Michael A. Persinger.

The God Helmet’s Weak Fields are Sufficient to Influence Brain Activity.
We Do Not Allow Suggestion or Suggestibility to Influence our Lab Results.
Our results can’t be attributed to suggestion.
God Helmet and many other of our results have been replicated.
God Helmet Experiments use Blind Protocols and Placebo Controls.
Replications of our work on Geomagnetism and Paranormal Phenomena.
The Tectonic Strain Theory and French’s “Haunted Room” Experiment.
Richard Dawkins – Alcohol and the God Helmet don’t mix.
My theories are not based on religiousness in epileptics.
Religious belief is not an epileptic phenomena.

The God Helmet - A Replication Study.

God Helmet Effects Are Not Due To Placebo or Suggestibility.

In 2004, a study was published reporting an experiment that attempted to replicate Dr. M.A. Persinger's results (stimulating the brain with signals in a magnetic medium), but it didn't succeed. The researchers, doing their very first brain stimulation study (without benefit of EEG), decided that his results were due to the suggestibility of the subjects. They were wrong. In fact, they had distorted the signals the Koren Helmet uses to stimulate the brain, so it couldn't work for them. Persinger himself knew this right away when he read their research report, and soon published a reply. The problem was simple: They had used Windows 95 with a lab software designed for DOS.

The same research group that claimed Persinger's results were in error also claimed that Persinger hadn't used blind conditions or proper controls. This is not so. Here is a link to one study that used blind conditions. Here is another, and here is a third. There are several others.

Ten years later, an experiment carried out by a research group in Brazil was published that used a simple test. They stimulated the temporal lobes of their subjects with moving magnetic fields (a feature of the Koren Helmet), and measured differences in the way subjects and controls talked about their experiences using this tool. They found significant differences. This means that the effects of magnetic fields on the brain are due to the magnetic fields, and not suggestibility or placebo effects. Their research report is HERE. A news story about it can be seen HERE.

There are many pages on the Internet that either claim or imply that none of Persinger's results have never been independently replicated. This is not true. Here is the study that the Brazilian researchers replicated or confirmed. It's not as flashy or interesting to the media as the ones sometimes called "The God Helmet Experiments", but it does debunk Persinger's critics.

Some have claimed that the God Helmet's effects are due to placebo effects, but one of Persinger's avenues of research proves this wrong. It was used in two experiments with depression (1 | 2), and one of them followed up on the patients several weeks after the sessions were completed. They found a "significant improvement of depression and reduction of phobias," and you can't treat depression with a placebo or suggestion.

Others have tried to claim that using a placebo helmet had the same effects, but if an inert helmet isn't compared to a real one, then there's no way to see the actual effects.

It's even been claimed that magnetic fields can't influence the brain unless they're stronger than a million refrigerator magnets. In fact, there are many studies that debunk this absurd claim. Here is a sample study.

There is a school of thought that maintains that religious beliefs and experiences are nothing more than delusions or hallucinations, and that religion is a virus of the human mind. I disagree completely. Religion and spirituality are part of our evolutionary strategy. They help us think "outside the box" when we are confronted with threats or opportunities, and this was a crucial skill in our early evolutionary history.

Some of today's skeptics are offended by the idea that spirituality or religion is wired into the human brain, and that at least some of us are supposed to be attracted to it. Why? Because it helped us survive during our species' early days.

Critics of religion don't like the idea that religious belief offers a context for adaptive ways of thinking. Religion, we are told, is little more then delusion, and we should get rid if it. If religion is only a virus of the mind, it can be treated or cured. I believe it's in the brain, and the mind, and that means it cannot be supplanted by scientific truth. Its part of who we are. To reject spirituality is to reject our humanity (denying the existence of specific attributes of homo sapiens). But seeing spirituality in the brain also means that to understand it, we have to use scientific reasoning.

Like depression or happiness, godliness is in the brain, though not in equal measure to everyone.

I would encourage my readers to look at this page to learn more about this idea in neurotheology. Religion includes a host of ideas that aren't true, but our evolutionary strategy doesn't reward "truth". It rewards thoughts and actions that help us survive.