I was watching Through The Wormhole
on the Science Channel tonight. The episode was called Is There a Creator?
. In it they talked of Michael Persinger and "the God helmet
The text below was cut and pasted from http://clinicallypsyched.com/neurotheol ... godinmind/
Dr. Persinger, professor of neuroscience as Laurentic University, Canada, claims that people can experience a sense of timelessness, paranormal visions and even come â€˜face to faceâ€™ with God by wearing his unique â€˜God Machineâ€™ (Ford 2002). The â€˜God Machineâ€™ is a specially designed helmet which gently stimulates and causes a temporary influx of neuronal firing in the limbic system, much like as occurs during natural temporal lobe epilepsy. During Persingerâ€™s experiment, subjectâ€™s sensory input is restricted, eyes are covered and ears are blocked, as means of detracting from the influence of environmental stimuli. When the helmet is in pace, electrodes pulsate currents to the brain, causing a â€˜magnetic field patternâ€™ in the right hemisphere (Martin 2002). This can enable â€˜micro-seizuresâ€™ to be generated. Manipulation of the limbic system has caused subjects to report feelings of â€˜forced motionâ€™, physical distortion and hyper emotionality (Ford 2002). Stimulation direct to the temporal lobe has been noted to inspire a sense of spiritual well-being, paranormal experience and feelings of hyper-religiousity. 80% of subjects recorded experiencing a feeling that they were â€˜not aloneâ€™ and sensed a â€˜spiritual presenceâ€™ when their temporal lobe was stimulate (BBC 2003).
Persingerâ€™s work leads to the question of why such reactions occur when these specific areas of the brain are stimulate. Persinger argues that over stimulation and unsyncopated reaction in one area of the temporal cortex can cause a misinterpretation of â€˜the selfâ€™. During moments of neuronal imbalance in the left hemisphere of the temporal cortex (an area concerned with the sense of self), the brain interprets the presence of the right hemisphere as a personified â€™other entityâ€™, or God (Ford 2002).
In conjunction with the physical reaction in the temporal cortex, the closely inter-linked limbic system, specifically the amygdala (seat of higher emotion) and hippocampus (seat of stored memory/experience) becomes hyper-stimulated. This can generate feelings of arousal and induce hallucinogenic visions. Vast concentrations of opiate receptors located in the amygdala coupled with the release of large quantities of enkephalins during hyper stimulation can give rise to feelings of euphoria and rapture (Joseph 1996).
In the same way that we might be fooled into believing that our current surroundings are real and not virtual, can our brains fool us into believing that we are perceiving other beings, God, NPMR, and the like?
I have often considered the notion that the brain functions in part as some sort of awareness limiter; preventing us from remembering our true origin or our true purpose so that our current experiences appear to be fresh and new (thus promoting growth). I have also pondered the notion that in the same way that the brain might act as a limiter, it can also act as the doorway to discovering our true nature and purpose (ie: binaural beats and meditation).
It is interesting to note some of the spiritual encounters and epiphanies associated with injury to the head or electrocution. A quick search found these examples. They are not ideal, but will do for now. I'm certain that I have heard of other similar examples:
That same year, Martin Luther had a terrifying experience. While traveling from Mansfield to Erfurt, Luther was struck by lightning, echoing Paulâ€™s experience with the Holy Spirit on the road to Damascus. As he was lying on the road, Luther prayed to St. Anna, promising to become a monk if she would help him survive the experience.
Seventh-day Adventists believe that Ellen G. White (born 1827, died 1915) possessed what they â€œhave accepted as the prophetic gift described in the Bible.â€1 When she was nine years old, an angry schoolmate threw a stone, which struck her on the nose and caused significant injury. Some have alleged that this blow so severely damaged the temporal lobe of her brain as to cause her to have a type of epilepsy known as partial complex seizures (also called complex partial seizures). Thus, it is argued, her visions were not divine revelations from God, but due to temporal lobe epilepsy.
In Saved by the Light, Brinkley said he was struck by lightning on September 17, 1975, while using a telephone at home. He said he was clinically dead for 28 minutes, had a sheet over his head and was in the hospital morgue when he re-entered his body, blew on the sheet to be seen and was revived.:64-65 However, a local newspaper article published right after the incident quoted Brinkley saying he was "out for a few minutes" until his wife revived him by pounding on his chest. And Brinkley's doctor told a British documentary crew that Brinkley's story about being dead in the hospital morgue was "not true."
So does the brain function as both a block and gateway to our true nature, or has it evolved is such a way that it provides us with the illusion of something greater than ourselves to ease our anxiety and prosper as an evolving biological species?
Perhaps the bigger question is how can we tell? In MBT Tom talks of the shared NPMR experience being the moment when was able to acknowledge the realness of his experiences. Is the brain so powerful that it could accomplish this as well? It seems unlikely, but perhaps it must be considered by the open-minded skeptic.
I tend to lean toward the idea that these experiences are a result of our
control of our brain; keeping it quiet while we venture into our true nature. I have no solid proof as of yet with my own experiences in terms of deciphering with any certainty what is real and what is not. I always seem forced to return to the the idea that uncertainty is the only certainty (at least in this current experience).
Curious what you all think of this topic.
By the way, Tom and MBT would have been perfect
for the show. I kept expecting him to pop on the screen at any moment. There was much talk of AI and TOE's, but no Big TOEs.