A Reply to the “Placebo” or “Fake” God Helmet Experiment.

The Actual God Helmet

Todd Murphy, 2019.

A Dutch experiment using a fake God Helmet was published last year (D. Maij, et al.).  It claimed to have elicited a large number of extraordinary experiences using suggestion and a placebo helmet.  On closer examination, it turns out that the percentages of “sensed presences” and out of body experiences they reported from their “fake” God Helmet were very close to what Dr. Michael Persinger reported from his placebo control subjects.

Dr. Persinger found that about 10% of his control subjects reported feeling the sensed presence, in contrast to the 80% who felt it under actual stimulation conditions.  The “fake” God Helmet experiment found that 5.6% of their subjects (placebo subjects, all) felt a presence.  Persinger saw more “sensed presences” in his placebo control group because he used an acoustically silent chamber, which has a noticeable, but small, effect on it’s own. 

The Dutch researchers didn’t apply any actual stimulation, so they didn’t see the high rates (80%) of sensed presence sensations that Persinger saw in his experiments, which also used placebo controls and blind protocols.

The Dutch researchers found that 8.6% of their subjects reported “floating” sensations or out of body experiences (different, but similar experiences) without any stimulation.  In contrast, depending on their neural profiles and other factors, Persinger’s subjects in one study saw 28 to 37% reporting OBEs (“leaving” or being detached from the body) If the results were due to placebo effect or suggestion,  the numbers should have been approximately the same.

The Dutch study was carried out during a music festival, a high-energy, loud, and celebratory environment.  The subjects went from that environment into partial sensory deprivation, and the strong contrast between the mood in the crowd, and the mood that appears with sensory deprivation could have contributed to the results from the “fake” helmet.

The God Helmet isn’t a placebo device, and it doesn’t work through suggestion or suggestibility.  It’s a real neural stimulation technology.  The best way to see the effects a brain technology has is to use EEG or another brain imaging method to observe it’s effects directly, which was not done in the Dutch experiment.

Maij’s results  with his ‘fake‘ or ‘pretend‘ helmet were similar to Persinger’s control groups, but not even close to Persinger’s results with  his actual subjects.

In addition, Maij used “white noise a known mild hallucinatory stimulus, so although his helmet was a “dummy”, his procedure wasn’t a full placebo.

Read a more complete response to the “Fake” God Helmet Experiment.

Here’s a video answer to the placebo God Helmet on YouTube.

Reply to “Neuroscience for the Soul”.


Persinger has published a reply to a critical article in a British “pop” psychology magazine (The Psychologist) entitled “Neuroscience for the Soul”.  This article perpetuates a few mistaken notions about the God Helmet, as well as some of Persinger’s theories.  Dr. Persinger presents detailed technical clarifications and rebuttals to refute misconceptions about his work.

For example, Persinger does not believe that spiritual and religious experiences are epileptic events in the temporal lobes, and he also rejects the idea that religious belief is an epileptic phenomenon.

Persinger’s God Helmet results are not due to suggestion, and they did employ double-blind conditions.

, The flagship author and semi-official spokesman for the skeptical movement, Richard Dawkins had been drinking before his God Helmet Session, and that’s why he felt so few effects.

The low-intensity magnetic fields used with the God Helmet are strong enough to create striking effects.  Lots of other researchers have seen measurable effects applying faint magnetic fields to the brain.

Skeptics insist that Persinger’s work with paranormal phenomena (correlating it with geomagnetic measures) has not been replicated.  However, it simply isn’t true.  Several researchers have seen the effects of geomagnetic variables on paranormal phenomena.

In spite of claims to the contrary, there has been a replication of a God Helmet experiment, and there have also been several other replications of work by M.A. Persinger.

(News Report): A team of neurotheology researchers have replicated and confirmed the results of the iconic “God Helmet experiment.

Although  it intended to try to create a synthetic haunted environment, the “Haunted Room” experiment  was not a test of any of Persinger’s concepts about the effects of magnetism on paranormal and other unusual experiences, in spite of claims to the contrary.  The “haunted room” experiment used whole-body stimulation (to try to create an artificial “Haunted Room”), while Persinger’s experiments stimulated only the head, and sometimes just one side of it.  You can’t stimulate only the right side of the head using an entire room as the stimulator.

Most of the criticisms of Persinger’s theories and ideas resolve into “straw man” arguments.  These are arguments that give the impression of criticizing a person’s argument, while actually challenging a position that they never advanced.  It creates the illusion of having falsified an opponent’s proposition by covertly replacing it with a different proposition (i.e. “stand up a straw man”) and then to dispute the false argument (“knock down a straw man”) instead of the original proposition.  Other straw man arguments are based on substituting a critic’s interpretation of a belief for the belief itself.


God Helmet – a (partial) replication and corroboration.


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A research report by two Brazilian researchers  says: “Analysis of the (God Helmet) subjects’ verbal reports … revealed significant differences between subjects and controls, as well as less robust effects for suggestion and expectation.”

Their study replicated Persinger’s procedures and results in this study.  It agrees with Persinger that his results “are attributable to the fields and their configurations, not to suggestibility”.  Suggestibility played a small role, but not enough to account for their results.   The God Helmet has not been debunked.

You can read the paper online.

You can also download it to your computer.

And here is a news story about it.

Shiva Neural Stimulation and “Electronic Enlightenment”

A Swiss Researcher using the Shiva Neural System found that his subjects were having “enlightenment” experiences.  The website talks about psychic perception and spiritual growth, not enlightenment and a few people have asked why this difference.

The Shiva Neural Stimulation System is based on Persinger’s “Octopus” device, which he developed several years after his more famous “God Helmet“.  They use the same hardware, but arranged differently.

The Swiss group consisted of meditators, “energy workers”, and other people with careers in non-traditional spirituality.  The emphasis on psychic perceptions on the website (telepathy and remote viewing) reflects the fact that the most rigorous tests, done with laboratory precision (including EEG monitoring) had results that confirmed two forms of telepathic perception (I prefer the phrase brain-to-brain communication).  One of them demonstrated “cognitive influence at a distance“.  Another showed it in action as two subjects had “Correlated cerebral events between physically and sensory isolated pairs of subjects exposed to yoked circumcerebral magnetic fields“, meaning that one of the pairs of subject’s EEGs showed a response when the others (in another, darkened, room) saw a flashing light.  This was telepathy, but in a laboratory.

These have received more attention, especially after Dr. Persinger’s interview with skeptico.com.  The Swiss group’s results, which referred to Electronic Enlightenment, is limited to a preliminary and somewhat informal report, and hasn’t been published in full.

One difference between the Swiss group’s work and Dr. Persinger’s is that the Swiss averaged 4 sessions per subject, while Persinger’s experiments in telepathy were done with only one session per subject.  Effects that appear after several sessions could not have appeared in Persinger’s scientific papers.

It may be that circumcerebral neural stimulation (which includes the Shiva Neural System) will one day go well beyond its well-known effects and yield a way for at least some people to become “enlightened”, “illuminated’, “realized” – or something like that.  In fact, very few people even know the difference between these experiences.  They may all be the same in the end.

The Swiss group broke new ground in their efforts.  They found that the mental fatigue that can come from too much spiritual work can be addressed running the system “backwards” – using clockwise rotation around the head instead of the usual counterclockwise configuration.  Of course, this is a breakthrough because it offers a new kind of evidence, and it does so in an independent replication.  What did the Swiss (led by Dr. Rolf Bosch) discover?  First, that much more can come from this kind of stimulation than psychic perception, and that running it “backwards” can elicit a range of yet undiscovered effects.  Second, that effects appear over time that don’t come up with just one session.

One Shiva neural System user found that the light he experienced from his yoga (Kriya Yoga) was stronger when he ran his sessions clockwise than when he used its usual counterclockwise setup, which created a deep sense of space and darkness.  This is only one case, but it does make the point clearly.

I suspect that running “Shiva” “backwards” may enhance left-hemispheric spiritual practices (like those that rely on prayer and work towards joy and light) while running it “forwards” may enhance right-hemispheric spiritual practices (like those that rely on meditation and work towards tranquility and insight).  Dr. Persinger has already seen the latter effect.  For the rest, time will tell.  Thanks are due to Dr. Bosch, and the Swiss Deep Focus Institute.

Interestingly, others have found that higher field strengths (up to 92% of the total) with the standard (counterclockwise) setup have helped with eliciting dream effects.

Some users have had very good responses from the “Consciousness Signal” in the “Simple Signals” section (actually it’s a phase-modulated 40Hz signal, so it’s not a very “simple” signal).  These reports have emphasized bliss and joy, not psychic skills.

One online review can be seen here.