Reply to “Neuroscience for the Soul”.

Shiva_God_HelmetPersinger 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.

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

Persinger’s God Helmet results are not due to suggestion, and they do use placebo controls and double-blind conditions.

Richard Dawkins, the flagship author and semi-official spokesman for the skeptical movement, 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, and this link will take you to a page where you can see that lots of other researchers have seen measurable effects using low-powered magnetic fields on 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.

In spite of claims to the contrary, there has been a replication of a God Helmet experiment, (easy reading description) as well as replication of other work by M.A. Persinger.

The “Haunted Room” experiment (intended to try to create a synthetic haunted environment) was not a test of any of Persinger’s concepts, 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.

There are many other points discussed in Persinger’s published reply, making it worth reading for anyone interested in neurotheology and the many debates that have appeared over the years.  You can read it here.

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Shiva Neural Stimulation and “Electronic Enlightenment”

Swiss Researcher using Shiva Neural Stimulation 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 (one |two) (I prefer the phrase brain-to-brain communication) perception.  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 still 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 Shiva Neural Stimulation) 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 review can be seen HERE.