Experiments by Michael Persinger, and team:
Michael Persinger, is a professor of neuroscience at the Department of Psychology of Laurentian University in Sudbury, Ontario, Canada. He wondered whether religious, spiritual, and mystical experiences had a natural rather than a supernatural source. He speculates that we are somehow programmed so that they can generate religious experiences via our brain’s internal processes. He had noted that there were many points of similarity between seizures experienced by some individuals who suffered from epilepsy, and the types of mental and spiritual experiences that St. Paul, Moses, and many religious mystics had reported. 3 Persinger wondered if visions, a sense of the immediate presence of God, and other mystical experiences could be artificially created in the laboratory by magnetically inducing changes in the temporal lobes of a person’s brain. He notes that “The deep structures of the temporal lobe are electrically unstable and sensitive to all sorts of things, including the biochemistry of stress, psychological distress, insufficient oxygen, and fasting. That could explain why, when mystics go through self-induced stressful rituals and yogis go to high mountaintops and fast, they report transcendental events.” 5 The use of fasting to induce mystical experiences is found in many spiritual disciplines throughout the world, in Native American religion, Shamanism, Christianity, etc.
Author Jack Hitte describes Persinger’s theory as follows: ” ‘having a religious experience’ is merely a side effect of our bicameral brain’s feverish activities. Simplified considerably, the idea goes like so: When the right hemisphere of the brain, the seat of emotion, is stimulated in the cerebral region presumed to control notions of self, and then the left hemisphere, the seat of language, is called upon to make sense of this nonexistent entity, the mind generates a ‘sensed presence.’ ” 1
Persinger developed the hypothesis that people who have experienced above average numbers of complex partial epileptic-like experiences might experience a “proximal presence” during an experiment in which a weak magnetic field was applied either to their right hemisphere, or to both hemispheres.
He built a Transcranial Magnetic Stimulator, starting with a yellow motorcycle helmet, and outfitted it with build-in electrical coils that can create electromagnetic fields in the wearer’s temporal lobes. These are the part of the brain which are linked to religious belief, “time distortions, dream states and assorted odd physic phenomena.” 5 During an experiment, the subject sits in a quiet, dimly lit, room. Soothing music is played in the background. A “gently flickering strobe light” is provided. The subject’s brain wave patterns are monitored by an EEG instrument.
By 2002, he had performed the experiment on over 1,000 volunteers. 80% had some sort of supernatural experience. 2 Many say that their experiences were “so profound they would be life-changing had they not understood the mechanistic underpinnings of what they had experienced.” 4 About one in every 15 subjects reports an intensely meaningful experience. One saw a figure of Christ in the strobe light. Others, depending upon their cultural background, reported Elijah, the Virgin Mary, Mohammed, or the Sky Spirit. Some have reported out-of-body experiences, a sensation of floating, and a sensation of “great meaningfulness.”
His team conducted a study involving sixteen subjects. Six of the eight subjects who had previously experienced above average numbers of complex partial epileptic-like experiences sensed the presence of a sentient being during stimulation of their brain’s right-hemisphere. A very weak, 1 Î¼T (microTesla) frequency-modulated magnetic field was used. A microTesla is equal to about 2% of the Earth’s magnetic field. Five of the eight noted a presence during bilateral stimulation. None of the eight subjects who had below average scores had this type of experience. 6
The helmet was given the ultimate test. The producers of the British Broadcasting Corporation’s (BBC) Horizon science television series arranged to have Richard Dawkins try out the helmet. Dawkins is the well known author of “A Devil’s Chaplain” and “The Blind Watchmaker.” He is also a well known Atheist and skeptic. He was considered “the ideal candidate for a test of whether science can explain away religion, given his views of religion as a ‘virus of the mind’ and an ‘infantile regression.’ ” Although Dawkins reported some strange experiences and tinglings during the experiment, no visions were forthcoming. It seems that Dawkins was not a likely subject for this experiment. He had previously scored low on a psychological test which measures proneness to temporal lobe sensitivity. Dawkins said: “It was a great disappointment. Though I joked about the possibility, I of course never expected to end up believing in anything supernatural. But I did hop
if we put a magnetic to a theists brain and reversed the polarity. would they stop believing in god?
Experiments by Michael Persinger, and team: