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 two preliminary studies (one two), which included six-week follow-up; a result that also rules out suggestion.

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 link that summarizes Persinger’s response.

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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 where low-intensity magnetic fields affect the brain has been known for over twenty years.  Link.

Darwinian Reincarnation

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

Reply to Gendle & McGrath

A paper about the 8 Coil Shakti was published this year. It was an undergraduate project, flawed from the start. I’ve posted a reply here.

I wish they had used the tech support.