The experience of the presence of God: On-Demand
The God Helmet
How do you know the World? All experience is mediated and interpreted by the brain. Did you ever have a “ringing in your ears”. As you know, there is no real sound, out there, in the “Real” World. The brain self-generates this experience and its as real (to you) as any sound you ever heard. But you know there is no external source for the sound.
When you have an experience, how do you know if its “out there” or “in your head”?
What if you could generate “experiences” on-demand? What if you could experience the presence of God, on-demand?
What if you could build an electronic device that stimulate a certain part of the brain, and just as you hear “ringing in your ears (Tinnitus)” you could experience the presence of God. In this case, where is God?
This is just what Michael Persinger says he can do…
His theory is that the sensation described as “having a religious experience” is merely a side effect of our bicameral brain’s feverish activities. Simplified considerably, the idea goes like so: When the right hemisphere of the brain, the seat of emotion, is stimulated in the cerebral region presumed to control notions of self, and then the left hemisphere, the seat of language, is called upon to make sense of this nonexistent entity, the mind generates a “sensed presence.”
Persinger has tickled the temporal lobes of more than 900 people before me and has concluded, among other things, that different subjects label this ghostly perception with the names that their cultures have trained them to use – Elijah, Jesus, the Virgin Mary, Mohammed, the Sky Spirit. Some subjects have emerged with Freudian interpretations – describing the presence as one’s grandfather, for instance – while others, agnostics with more than a passing faith in UFOs, tell something that sounds more like a standard alien-abduction story.
It may seem sacrilegious and presumptuous to reduce God to a few ornery synapses, but modern neuroscience isn’t shy about defining our most sacred notions – love, joy, altruism, pity – as nothing more than static from our impressively large cerebrums. Persinger goes one step further. His work practically constitutes a Grand Unified Theory of the Otherworldly: He believes cerebral fritzing is responsible for almost anything one might describe as paranormal – aliens, heavenly apparitions, past-life sensations, near-death experiences, awareness of the soul, you name it.
Michael Persinger has a vision – the Almighty isn’t dead, he’s an energy field. And your mind is an electromagnetic map to your soul.
Read the full story in Wired –
Watch this multi-part video from the BBC. First part below. You can find all the parts on YouTube
More on “cerebral fritzing” – The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat: And Other Clinical Tales