Olaf Blanke’s Robot Ghost & “Artificial Spirit” – God Helmet findings corroborated.

Some of Dr. Michael Persinger’s God Helmet results were corroborated when Dr. Olaf Blanke did an experiment in which he elicited the sensation of an apparition in his lab.  He did this by using a machine designed to reproduce a subjects own movements, placed behind their backs.  It worked by pressing the subjects from the back as they pressed forward with a finger-controlled joystick. His experiment is called:

Neurological and Robot-Controlled Induction of an Apparition

Dr. M.A. Persinger has been studying this phenomenon for decades, under  the name of the “Sensed Presence”  (Dr Blanke calls it the FoP, or “Feeling of Presence”), and his research lends weight to Blanke’s recent work – and vice-versa.

Some journalists are under the impression that Blanke (et al.) are the first to create an artificial ghostly experience.  In fact, in an oft-cited case history, Dr. Michael A. Persinger induced a synthetic ghost in the year 2000.


Before Blanke’s experiment, Dr. M. A. Persinger had done many studies on laboratory-elicited sensed presences, and published a couple of articles laying out his ideas about why it happens. A search at pubmed.com showed 25 results for the search string Persinger sensed presence -and that’s only the ones that mention it in the summary or abstract.  There are others (about 15 more) that discuss it in the body of the papers.

Persinger’s God Helmet has recently had some new and independent corroboration from researchers in Brazil (showing that its effects are not due to suggestibility.)  Blanke’s paper confirms other aspects of Persinger’s findings, this time that the sense of a presence has its origins in the human brain, and can be explained as an alteration in the sense of self.  Persinger and Blanke agree that when people are feeling the sense of a presence (or feeling of presence) they’re actually perceiving a part of themselves.   Both Persinger and Blanke agree that the temporo-parietal region plays a role, though they may not agree on whether or not it plays the central role.  They emphasize different places in the brain, but this may only reflect their different research methods.

Persinger used neural stimulation with magnetic fields to create the sensed presence feeling, while Blanke (et al.) used a robot.  Persinger was the first to elicit this sensation using magnetic brain stimulation, while Blanke is the first to create it using a robot.  However, one of the 14 authors of the Blanke (et al.) paper seems to have made a mistake, erroneously saying “the FoP (feeling of presence – author) has never before been induced experimentally”.  Dr. M.A. Persinger has done just that, but he used a different name (“sensed presence” instead of “feeling of presence”).  Blanke spoke about this in a filmed interview with the Washington Post, where he said he was to first to elicit this sensation using a robot.  Typos and copy-editing errors happen in scientific papers, just like any other kind of writing.


Here are the three brain regions Blanke and his colleagues found associated with feeling a presence, and Persinger’s papers corroborate all of them:
1) The temporoparietal cortex (in five of Blanke’s patients)
2) The frontoparietal cortex (in five of Blanke’s patients)
3) The insula (in five of Blanke’s patients).

The Temporoparietal Cortex

The temporoparietal cortex, the first area, is the location for the magnetic coils (“solenoids”). This is the area on the surface of the brain most clearly involved in the feeling of a presence in Persinger’s “God Helmet” experiments, where one way of applying his magnetic signals elicited the sense of a presence in 80% of his subjects. Persinger’s research also implicates some areas in the limbic system, deep in the brain.

Some commentators have claimed that Persinger’s published effects are due to suggestibility, but this has been ruled out by a recent study that replicated some of his work.

The Frontoparietal Area

Blanke wrote that his research especially associated the frontoparietal area with the feeling of a presence.

Persinger noted the frontoparietal cortex’s involvement in the Sensed Presence experience in a paper published in 2008.

The sensed presence (the feeling of another entity other than the self) … has been associated with altered perfusion within the frontoparietal regions”

The frontoparietal regions have also been observed to participate in “speaking in tongues”, and the feeling of a presence, as  Persinger noted in a 2009 paper.

Blanke (et al.) noted that  patients who had Feeling of Presence experiences most also “had significantly larger lesions in Brodmann’s area 7.”


It could be argued that Brodmann’s area 7 is not in the frontoparietal area, but rather in the parietal lobes, (toward the back of the brain), but naming conventions in brain science aren’t always consistent.


The insula has been known to contribute to sensed presence experiences, as one published case shows.  Persinger recorded “enhanced activity extending into the insula” when he took EEG recordings from Sean Harribance, the remote viewer, while the subject was “calling an angel”.  This feeling of an angelic presence was part of his psychic practices.  Of course, Angels and Ghosts are both taken as correlating with brain activity, and there is evidence that the insula is involved, as both Blanke’s and Persinger’s work demonstrate.

Deciding which brain regions ’cause’ a feeling or sensation is always difficult.  Here’s a metaphor:  A television is controlled by the on/off button.  At first glance, the remote control might seem to cause the images to appear.  However, the power button could also be said to be the cause, especially when you press it, right?  In fact, they’re both part of a single circuit that controls the whole television, including the images, the volume, the contrast and the brightness, and so forth.  So it may be with feeling the sense of a presence.  Persinger and Blanke’s two very different methods might provide two different points of entry to the same circuit.

I wrote to Dr. Persinger about Blanke’s experiment, and this was part of his reply (Nov. 10th, 2014):

“… the only difference between what Blanke is doing and what we have done is that he stimulates at the periphery to initiate the pathways that produce the experience while we are more likely directly stimulating the areas of the brain that receive that stimuli.”

In simpler terms, Blanke’s experiment elicited the sense of a presence from the outside in, and Persinger created it stimulating it from the inside out.


When Blanke and his colleagues had their robot touch their subject’s back at the same time they moved their fingertip-joystick, so they felt they were touching their own back.  When Blanke introduced a 500 msec delay (so the robot waited half a second before passing on the motion to the subject), the subjects began to feel that they were being touched by a ghost, or another person.  The illusion was so powerful that some subjects felt there were several people (up to four) standing behind them.  Two of the subjects felt uncomfortable enough to ask to stop the experiment.

It may seem that there’s no connection between the FoP Blanke’s group created (by poking their subjects in the back with a robot arm, directed by a time-delayed control stick) and the sense of a presence in other contexts, but Blanke included a simple test that strongly implies they are made of the same “stuff”.  While his subjects were being gently prodded by the robot and feeling it was a ghost, he asked them how many people they ‘felt’ were in the room next door.  The ones who were asked this question while they were feeling a presence also ‘felt’ there were more people in the next room.  The difference was about 20%.

Persinger has also elicited multiple presences, as you can see in this YouTube video.

Persinger’s God Helmet uses four magnetic coils over each side of their heads, but only one is activated at a time.  They take turns producing the magnetic field, changing (you guessed it!) every 500 msec.  The time lag that made the subjects feel they were being touched by a non-existent person (or ghost) is also the same time lag that Persinger found made the sensed presence most likely when it was used to ‘time’  The God Helmet’s signal rotation

Persinger & Blanke had differing results, but certainly not conflicting ones.  Instead, Persinger and Blanke’s findings confirm and partly replicate each other.  The differences in their experimental techniques can account for the differences in their findings.

Persinger & Blanke both report vestibular effects from their experiments.  This refers to sensations where people feel they are moving when they’re not.  Vertigo is one example of a vestibular sensation.  Persinger has elicited vestibular effects from his God Helmet, and in one case, found that women were more likely to report them than men.  Blanke found that when subjects felt a presence, they also felt like they were drifting backwards.  Persinger found that these sensations precede the sensed presence in some circumstances.

What Causes the Feeling of a Presence?

Blanke wrote:  “… the FoP is caused by focal brain lesions.”  My opinion is different.  I certainly agree that some feelings of a presence are caused by lesions, but I’m also convinced that there is an evolutionary basis for this sensation.  It’s more likely in times of stress, especially during or just after potentially lethal situations.  In our early evolutionary history, stressful times were also times when we had a problem – and we needed a solution.  We could say the sensed presence can help us ‘think outside the box’ when we really need to – when we’re faced with a threat.   It offers us a way to achieve new insights – one that works outside our usual cognitive habits.

To understand this, we need to look at Persinger’s theory about what’s happening in moments when we sense people who aren’t there.  In Persinger’s view, we have two senses of self – one on each side of the brain.  Ordinarily, they work together seamlessly, giving us a unified feeling; a single but subtle feeling, that we exist – as one being.   Most of the time, we exist in the self on the left side of the brain, with its greater access to the language centers.  That’s why we’re such a verbal species.  Our minds keep coming up with words even when we’re alone (“mind chatter”).  Many people even talk to themselves  -out loud – if they’re alone too long.  We talk to others; its our main way of relating with them, and we often feel uncomfortable being with someone in silence.  Language is a part of our “selves”.

The “self” on the right side of the brain is subordinate most of the time.  It works in the shadow cast by the “linguistic self” on the left side, to use a metaphor.  It contributes ‘felt’ aspects of our thoughts, speech, body language and so forth.  Because is knows things without words, it knows in non-linear ways (has an “associative cognitive style”).  It takes a lot from the memory retrieval and creation pathways at work in the right side of the brain (in the hippocampus and surrounding cortex), letting us see connections between things that affect us in more ways than our talkative ways of thinking could ever cope with.

When the two senses of self aren’t communicating they way they usually do, the self on the left can perceive its counterpart directly, but not through any of our usual senses.  Only one of us can occupy our body, or identified as the “first-person singular” (the ego), so the other, the right-hemispheric self is evicted.  It’s bothering its neighbor on the left.  Its encroaching on its property, and so it has to go.  Where does it go, and how is it perceived once its gotten its notice to clear the premises?  Its felt as a being or presence outside our body’s space.  The feeling of presence.

Blanke wrote “the present data reveal the fine balance between the distributed cortical brain mechanisms in humans that generate the experience of ‘‘self’’ and ‘‘other,’’ which, if distorted, give rise to the FoP.”  I agree completely.  It may be that Blanke’s access to this circuit was through the body (sensorimotor), while Persinger’s is through the mind (affective and cognitive), as both run through the brain.

The sense that another person is there when we’re alone is a “social” hallucination, just like smelling smoke when the air is clear is an olfactory hallucination.  A smell that isn’t there implies a mis-firing in the olfactory bulbs.  Deja vu implies a mis-matching between our perception of the present and the past.  The sensed presence is an alteration in our sense of self-and-other, but its one of the functions of that sense, and is not – not at all –  intrinsically pathological.

That sense, that there is another person, being, entity, or spirit standing behind you is the source for ghosts, “spirit familiars”, doppelgangers, angels, “The Muse”, both Gods & demons, and a host of other seemingly non-physical beings.  All of them are variations on the same theme.  Thus, God, including the God of our prayers, is a manifestation of our sense of self from the right side of the brain – the ‘self’ that thinks outside the box created by the left-brain’s sense of self.

Prayer is a deliberate attempt to create the sensed presence (or Feeling of Presence). Its practiced in all known cultures, and has been through all known history.   We are a species that prays.  Huge numbers of people (I don’t know of any study that ever counted them) feel the presence of the god they pray to when they’re in prayer.  When people pray about their troubles and difficulties, they’re appealing to God, but they’re (only? also?) accessing the creativity that only the right hemisphere can manage (suggested reading on this subject).   To put it a bit differently, it’s the left hemisphere’s way of trying to quieten itself down, so the  right hemisphere’s normally-subordinate, intuitive way of thinking (“cognitive style”) can come through.  My book has a chapter on prayer that takes this view.

Accessing non-verbal thought isn’t the only thing that feeling an illusory presence might do for us.   It might also be a mechanism that tells us to be vigilant, even when the warnings around us are so subtle that we “just have a feeling” or a “hunch” that something is amiss.  There are lots of soldiers who’re sure they owe their lives to having known they were in danger, but without knowing how they knew.  Carl Sagan mentioned  that it might operate in the:

… fear of “monsters” that almost all babies manifest around the time they become toddlers. Many predators who are circumspect when a human adult is around would happily attack a toddler. Hyenas, wolves, and large cats are only a few of the predators that stalked early humans and their immediate ancestors. When the child begins to amble off on it’s own, it helps for it to know – in it’s marrow – that there are monsters out there. With such knowledge, it’s much more likely to come running home to the grown-ups at the slightest sign of danger. Any mild predisposition in this direction will be resoundingly amplified by selection.”

Many, probably most, of the people who feel the presence of a (putative) non-physical being don’t have brain lesions or brain disorders of any kind.  While its true that epilepsy can elicit the sense of a presence, the phenomena that epilepsy creates appear when a seizure recruits pathways that support it naturally.  There are pathways used to remember music, and when these pathways are caught in a seizure, the person will probably hear music while its happening.

The feeling of a presence is a natural function that can be triggered through epilepsy, but that doesn’t make it an epileptic phenomena, and can’t be explained only in terms of the lesions that provoke epileptic events.  Its the foundation for spiritual sentiments that widen our cognitive strategies and refine our behaviors.  Its part of our evolutionary heritage.  However, not all people are equally prone to either the sense of a presence, or the urge to pray.  According to Persinger’s normative data (based on questionnaires that asked about the sense of a presence, among other things), about 1/3 of the population won’t feel such presences (and probably not feel drawn to prayer), 1/3 will feel them once in a while, and 1/3 will feel them often.  Epileptics and mystics are both at the extreme end of this spectrum, but for very different reasons.

We also expect to find schizophrenics at the same high end of this spectrum.  The disturbances in their brains will also include some of the pathways that support our ability to invoke presences, a skill that makes our thinking even more skilled, helping us to survive.  The intense prayer experiences of our early shamans contributed to the survival of our early communities, and thus, our species.

As a final note, here are references for 27 papers on the Sensed Presence that Persinger published Prior to Blanke’s (et al.) fascinating experiment.  Each has a link to it’s abstract.


Michael A. Persinger, Kevin S. Saroka “Comparable proportions of classes of experiences and intracerebral consequences for surgical stimulation and external application of weak magnetic field patterns: Implications for converging effects in complex partial seizures” Epilepsy & Behavior Volume 27, Issue 1, Pages 220–224, April 2013

Kevin S. Saroka, Michael A. Persinger Potential production of Hughlings Jackson’s “parasitic consciousness” by physiologically-patterned weak transcerebral magnetic fields: QEEG and source localization Epilepsy & Behavior 27 (2013) 220–224

Roll WG, Saroka KS, Mulligan BP, Hunter MD, Dotta BT, Gang N, Scott MA, St-Pierre LS, Persinger MA.  Case report: a prototypical experience of ‘poltergeist’ activity, conspicuous quantitative electroencephalographic patterns, and sLORETA profiles – suggestions for intervention.   Neurocase. 2012;18(6):527-36

Booth JN, Persinger MA. Discrete shifts within the theta band between the frontal and parietal regions of the right hemisphere and the experiences of a sensed presence. Journal of Neuropsychiatry & Clinical Neuroscience. 2009 Summer;21(3):279-83.

Meli SC, Persinger MA.  Red light facilitates the sensed presence elicited by application of weak, burst-firing magnetic fields over the temporal lobes.  International Journal of Neuroscience. 2009;119(1):68-75.

Persinger MA, Tiller SG.  Case report: A prototypical spontaneous ‘sensed presence’ of a sentient being and concomitant electroencephalographic activity in the clinical laboratory.   Neurocase. 2008;14(5):425-30.

St-Pierre LS, Persinger MA.  Experimental facilitation of the sensed presence is predicted by the specific patterns of the applied magnetic fields, not by suggestibility: re-analyses of 19 experiments.   International Journal of Neuroscience. 2006 Sep;116(9):1079-96.

Booth JN, Koren SA, Persinger MA.   Increased feelings of the sensed presence and increased geomagnetic activity at the time of the experience during exposures to transcerebral weak complex magnetic fields.   International Journal of Neuroscience. 2005 Jul;115(7):1053-79.

Persinger MA, Koren SA.   A response to Granqvist et al. “Sensed presence and mystical experiences are predicted by suggestibility, not by the application of transcranial weak magnetic fields”.    Neuroscience Letters. 2005 Jun 3;380(3):346-7; author reply 348-50. Epub 2005 Apr 21.

Persinger MA.  The sensed presence within experimental settings: implications for the male and female concept of self.   Journal of Psychology. 2003 Jan;137(1):5-16.

Persinger MA, Healey F.  Experimental facilitation of the sensed presence: possible intercalation between the hemispheres induced by complex magnetic fields.   Journal of Nervous and Mental Disorders. 2002 Aug;190(8):533-41.

Tiller SG, Persinger MA.   Geophysical variables and behavior: XCVII. Increased proportions of the left-sided sense of presence induced experimentally by right hemispheric application of specific (frequency-modulated) complex magnetic fields.   Perceptual & Motor Skills. 2002 Feb;94(1):26-8.

Suess LA, Persinger MA.   Geophysical variables and behavior: XCVI. “Experiences” attributed to Christ and Mary at Marmora, Ontario, Canada may have been consequences of environmental electromagnetic stimulation: implications for religious movements.   Perceptual & Motor Skills. 2001 Oct;93(2):435-50.

Persinger MA, Koren SA, O’Connor RP.   Geophysical variables and behavior: CIV. Power-frequency magnetic field transients (5 microtesla) and reports of haunt experiences within an electronically dense house.   Perceptual & Motor Skills. 2001 Jun;92(3 Pt 1):673-4.

Persinger MA.   Subjective improvement following treatment with carbamazepine (Tegretol) for a subpopulation of patients with traumatic brain injuries.   Perceptual & Motor Skills. 2000 Feb;90(1):37-40.

Cook CM, Persinger MA.   Experimental induction of the “sensed presence” in normal subjects and an exceptional subject.
Perceptual & Motor Skills. 1997 Oct;85(2):683-93.

Persinger MA.   Sense of a presence and suicidal ideation following traumatic brain injury: indications of right-hemispheric intrusions from neuropsychological profiles.   Psychological Reports 1994 Dec;75(3 Pt 1):1059-70.

Tiller SG, Persinger MA.   Elevated incidence of a sensed presence and sexual arousal during partial sensory deprivation and sensitivity to hypnosis: implications for hemisphericity and gender differences.   Perceptual & Motor Skills. 1994 Dec;79(3 Pt 2):1527-31.

Johnson CP, Persinger MA.   The sensed presence may be facilitated by interhemispheric intercalation: relative efficacy of the Mind’s Eye, Hemi-Sync Tape, and bilateral temporal magnetic field stimulation.  Perceptual & Motor Skills. 1994 Aug;79(1 Pt 1):351-4.

Persinger MA, Bureau YR, Peredery OP, Richards PM.   The sensed presence as right hemispheric intrusions into the left hemispheric awareness of self: an illustrative case study.   Perceptual & Motor Skills. 1994 Jun;78(3 Pt 1):999-1009.

Dittburner TL, Persinger MA.   Intensity of amnesia during hypnosis is positively correlated with estimated prevalence of sexual abuse and alien abductions: implications for the false memory syndrome.   Perceptual & Motor Skills. 1993 Dec;77(3 Pt 1):895-8.

Persinger MA.   Vectorial cerebral hemisphericity as differential sources for the sensed presence, mystical experiences and religious conversions.
Perceptual & Motor Skills. 1993 Jun;76(3 Pt 1):915-30. Review.

Persinger MA.   Transcendental Meditation and general meditation are associated with enhanced complex partial epileptic-like signs: evidence for “cognitive” kindling?
Perceptual & Motor Skills. 1993 Feb;76(1):80-2.

Persinger MA.   Paranormal and religious beliefs may be mediated differentially by subcortical and cortical phenomenological processes of the temporal (limbic) lobes.   Perceptual & Motor Skills. 1993 Feb;76(1):247-51.

Persinger MA.   Enhanced incidence of “the sensed presence” in people who have learned to meditate: support for the right hemispheric intrusion hypothesis.   Perceptual & Motor Skills. 1992 Dec;75(3 Pt 2):1308-10.

Munro C, Persinger MA.   Relative right temporal-lobe theta activity correlates with Vingiano’s hemispheric quotient and the “sensed presence”.   Perceptual & Motor Skills. 1992 Dec;75(3 Pt 1):899-903.

Lavallée MR, Persinger MA.   Left ear (right temporal lobe) suppressions during dichotic listening, ego-alien intrusion experiences and spiritualistic beliefs in normal women.   Perceptual & Motor Skills. 1992 Oct;75(2):547-51.

Lectures in Hindi – हिन्दी में व्याख्यान

I now have four lectures in Hindi on YouTube – on their own channel.  They are about psychic skills, reincarnation and enlightenment.

अपने खुद के चैनल पर – मैं अब यूट्यूब पर हिंदी में तीन व्याख्यान है.  वे मानसिक कौशल, पुनर्जन्म और ज्ञान के बारे में हैं.   जय हिंद!

God Helmet – a (partial) replication and corroboration.


The page here has been replaced by the one at the link above.

This page is left in place for archival purposes.

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.

8 Coil Shakti feelgood session.

There is an interesting and quite descriptive review of the 8 Coil Shakti feelgood session online here .   Its much longer than most, and the level of detail is impressive.   Worth reading if you’re interested.

“I have, more than once, leaned back and simply enjoyed being alive within the last couple of weeks. It seems silly, but tears have welled up in my eyes while I am writing this. A flash of joy happened again and it’s hard to understand, but it’s beautiful. My vision blurs and I feel my chest rising and falling with each blessing of a breath. My mouth hangs slightly open and my body releases all the tension that was being saved in my muscles. The smiling feeling in my heart migrates down into my hips and up my throat and into my head. I feel slightly dizzy and warm. Light of weight and light in the darkness. The peace finds my toes and forearms. Strangely, the place where I was able to feel it readily at first – my hands – is not as pronounced in this state. I find myself wanting to tell the universe thank you when this joy comes to me. What I have found through meditation is the park (sic) that can be provoked. I don’t understand it, and I don’t understand the implications, but when I am in this peaceful state I can somehow flex this peaceful muscle and joy turns to a more pronounced bliss.”

The feelgood session page for the 8 Coil Shakti System.

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.

New Book Sacred Pathways: The Brain’s Role In Religious and Mystic Experiences. Foreword by the Dalai Lama.

My book has been released.  Sacred Pathways: The Brain’s Role In Religious and Mystic Experiences.  It has a foreword by the 14th Dalai Lama, and one by Dr. M.A. Persinger, and a third by an Orthodox Bishop.

“ … interested readers will no doubt find (this) illuminating.” – From the foreword by His Holiness, the Dalai Lama.

This work in neurotheology integrates science and spirituality, starting with evolution. It offers new ways of thinking about reincarnation, God, enlightenment, psychic skills, and the human brain. It’s written from an atheist perspective, but it openly encourages prayer, meditation and spiritual living. It tells us that the pathways in the brain that function at death are also the basis of mystic experiences while we’re still alive. “ … this book, … balances … subjective experience with the general principles of neuroscience. … Sacred Pathways is the Principia (‘book of basic principles’ or ‘first work’) of the scientific investigation of spiritual experiences.”  – Dr. M.A. Persinger.

Todd Murphy is a member of a university neurosciences group, and has published in several scientific journals. His 9-hour lecture series can be seen on YouTube.


  • Forward by His Holiness, the Dalai Lama of Tibet
  • Forward By Dr M.A. Persinger
  • Forward by His Grace, Bishop +Nazarin
  • 1 Introduction
  • 2 Reincarnation in Human Evolution
  • 3 Some Brain Parts
  • 4 Some Principles from Neuroscience
  • 5 The God Helmet
  • 6 The Stages in Near-Death Experiences
  • 7 Neural Bases for Phases of NDEs
  • 8 Sensed Presence & Visitor Experiences
  • 9 Out Of Body Experiences
  • 10 God and the Brain
  • 11 Romantic Love
  • 12 Enlightenment And the Self
  • 13 Neural Avalanches (Interhemispheric Intrusions) (case histories of mystic experiences)
  • 14 Psychic Skills
  • 15 Prayer
  • 16 The Earth beneath Our Feet (Geomagnetic Influences)

There is a 506-page paperback edition, and a kindle e-book.

The price is below the Publisher’s suggested retail price for a “book of this length and genre”  You can see it online here: (Kindle and Paperback).

Articles on the same subject (sometimes called neurotheology).

Badly Flawed God Helmet Study

Some years ago, a Swedish researcher (a grad student at the time), P. Granqvist, did an experiment  with the God Helmet.  Incorrectly set up, it yielded no results.  They scrambled the magnetic signals, so that they couldn’t do their job, and then claimed that results that Persinger (the leading researcher in this area) obtained were due to suggestibility.  In fact, suggestibility had been ruled out much earlier, when it was learned that different signals had different effects.  Suggestibility alone would mean they would all have been the same.  The God Helmet had one group of effects when it was used over the left side of the brain, and very different effects when it was used over the right.  The same experimental protocols were used throughout.  Persinger also reported success with depression in a preliminary study that included six-week follow-up; a result that also rules out suggestion.    He even repeated the experiment. The second time, he and his colleague Laura Baker-Price also used EEG monitoring.

In addition, Persinger’s studies used a minimum of 20 minute applications of the magnetic signals.  Granqvist used exposures half as long.  It wouldn’t have mattered in any case, because the signals were being run too fast to hold their shape.

Critics remain silent about that.  Granqvist also claimed that Persinger’s low-power magnetic fields could not penetrate the skull, a foolish claim that ignores the laws of physics (there is no such thing as a magnetic insulation).  Many researchers, unconnected to Persinger have independently proven that faint magnetic fields have measurable effects on the brain.   Recently, some over-zealous skeptics have been touting the study by the Swedish group as the final word on the subject, ignoring Dr. Persinger’s published responses to the flawed study.  The Swedish researcher is a psychologist who believes that religion is a projection of our attachment to our parents, while Persinger believes that religion is an intrinsic feature of our species, though not everyone is equally prone to it.  Granqvist’s specialty is the psychology of religious behavior, not neurology, which made him less than qualified to set up the God Helmet correctly, especially without asking Persinger to help.  Granqvist came to Persinger asking for equipment to see its effects through PET scanning, and Persinger instructed him accordingly.  As it happens, Granqvist never even attempted to do PET scans, but instead jumped ahead of his experience to try to create the ‘sensed presence’ experience, which called for longer sessions than verification with PET would need.  He failed, and blamed his results on Persinger.  He even falsely claimed that Persinger never used double-blind protocols.  Here’s a page that summarizes Persinger’s response.

The God Helmet: Weak Magnetic Fields are strong enough.

The God Helmet uses low-intensity magnetic fields.  Some academics (psychologists, not neuroscientists) have claimed that the fields aren’t strong enough to influence the brain.  In fact, there have been many experiments that found significant effects in the brain using weak magnetic fields.  Here’s a link to a page that reviews some of these studies.  The magnetic fields Dr. M.A. Persinger uses with the God Helmet are strong enough to do the job.  In fact, some researchers use fields that are even weaker, but their work, unrelated to religion, isn’t controversial, so it gets less attention.  Sometimes, “less is more”.  It seems the critics who mistakenly claimed that only very strong magnetic fields can influence the brain (like those used in TMS) simply hadn’t done their homework.  In fact, the mechanism showing how low-intensity magnetic fields influence brain activity has been known for over twenty years.

Darwinian Reincarnation

My paper on the evolution of reincarnation (published in the Journal for Near-Death Studies in the year 2000) is online.  If I had it to write it again now, I would do it differently.  Many things have changed in the 12 years since it was published.

The title is: “The Structure and Function of Near-Death Experiences: an Algorithmic Reincarnation Hypothesis”.

Role of Religious and Mystic Experiences In Human Evolution

“The Role of Religious and Mystic Experiences In Human Evolution: A Corollary Hypothesis for Neurotheology” is online.  Here is the abstract:

“The adaptive value of maintaining a portion of our population subject to religious, mystic or spiritual experiences is discussed. An evolutionary mechanism, which may be unique to humans, is posited in which all humans have the neural pathways supporting mystic experiences, but only a small  portion of our population experiences them. Those that do will display signs and personality traits that are associated with temporal lobe electrical lability or sensitivity. These traits motivate behavior that benefits their social group. The cognitive and affective styles displayed by mystics ensure that multiple perspectives are expressed during collective decision‐making processes. The perspectives mystics offer their societies increase the variation within the human “ideational pool”. These perspectives improve their chances for advantageous choices in times of threats or opportunities. Such an adaptation, producing variety in problem‐solving skills, might be the source for the exceptionally wide range of personality types found within our species.”

Spiritually-inclined people think differently than others, and their unique ways of seeing things ensures that there were always a few people in each of our early social groups that expressed a spiritual perspective.  The article also says that there are two primary drivers for spiritual experiences – the left amygdala and the right hippocampus.  The left amygdala is more social, confident and ‘outward’ in its functions, and when it’s exceptionally excitable in a person, they are more likely to see things that way.  When the right hippocampus is more excitable, the person will be more introspective, cautious, and given to solitude.  The personality types that arise from these two structures may not fit into the ‘personality types’ modern psychology recognizes, but the behaviors they facilitate will certainly have played a role in our evolution.

This article seeks to take take neurotheology beyond beyond the brain itself, and extend it into its evolution.  The experiences neurotheology explains are not enough – the evolution of the brain, along with its capacity for spiritual experiences, has a place, too.  Neurotheology is a new field, and this article is an attempt to bring a touch of evolutionary thinking into it.