The God Helmet

I recently read an article about what’s called a ‘God Helmet’ or Koren Helmet. It’s a device designed to explore religious experiences and creativity by subtly stimulating the temporal lobes of the brain. It was developed by Stanley Koren and Michael Persinger.

Dr. Persinger believed that all experiences are determined by brain activity. While he was sure about a direct link, he believed there was a strong correlation between brain activity and various experiences. He set out to explore the right hemisphere, associated with intuition and emotion, and its role in creativity.

The helmet applies magnetic fields to the temporal lobes, specifically targeting areas associated with hearing, speech, and sensory processing. These regions include the amygdala and hippocampus, which are linked to how we understand concepts like God and spirituality. By subtly stimulating these brain areas, the God Helmet can be used to induce experiences related to religious or mystical feelings.

Most reports from Persinger’s lab consist of people sensing “presences”; people often interpreted these to be that of angels, a deceased being known to the subject, or a group of beings of some kind. There have also been reports in which the participant has experienced what they perceive as God.

The scientist and science writer Richard Dawkins (British evolutionary biologist, zoologist, and author), appearing in the BBC science documentary series ‘Horizon’, did not have a sensed presence experience, but instead felt ‘slightly dizzy’, ‘quite strange’ and had sensations in his limbs and changes in his breathing.

In contrast, Susan Blackmore (British writer, sceptic, broadcaster, and a visiting professor at the University of Plymouth.) said: “When I went to Persinger’s lab and underwent his procedures I had the most extraordinary experiences I’ve ever had… I’ll be surprised if it turns out to be a placebo effect”.

The God Helmet remains a subject of debate, with both detractors and fans. Whether it truly connects us to a higher power or simply enhances creativity, its impact on human consciousness continues to intrigue researchers and curious minds alike. For me, it’s like the part of the brain it stimulates is a telephone, but the question is does the helmet just make the telephone ring or does it place a call to a higher being. For now, it’s not clear.

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