The God Experiments- By John Horgan - DISCOVER Vol. 27 No. 12 | December 2006
My Comment: Horgan presents an unbiased description of the theories and research of five scientists taking different approaches to explain mystical religious experiences in reductionist terms.
Many researchers, like neurobiologist Michael Persinger- who has devised a wired helmet that he says induces religious experiences in those who wear it- view the brain as the key to understanding religion. Others focus on psychological, genetic, and biochemical origins. Still others see religion as an embarrassing relic of our past, and want to explain it away.
It is evident that none of the researcher's hypotheses account for the transition of consciousness from duality as in NDEs and the vast majority of accounts of mystical visions and the non-duality that occurs in the rarer state of Nirvikalpa Samadhi. Persinger suggests a cerebrial disruption between brain hemispheres could account for a "sensed presence" which only applies to NDE-type episodes experienced in a state of conscious duality.
Newberg on the other hand- proposes that the commonalities reported in "religious" episodes indicate that the visions stem from the same neural processes that patients with damaged lobes experience in being unable to separate themselves from their environment. This diminishing of a person's sense of subject-object duality only applies to those episodes of "oneness" climaxing in Samadhi's state of utter non-duality.
Each of these hypotheses propose causative effects which when amplified move consciousness towards opposite poles of the duality - non-duality spectrum and so neither can explain how the mystical consciousness collapses from a dual to a non-dual state as occurs in Nirvikalpa Samadhi.
Guthrie's systematic anthropomorphism hypothesis completly fails to address the inchoate nature of the transcendent experience. Strassman's DMT research- while suggesting a trigger for a wide range of mystical episodes- like all the hypotheses, fails to account for how the classical samadhic scenario is orchestrated as consciousness is transformed from duality to non-duality and back to duality.
For Persinger to warn that a truly precise, powerful God machine might be capable of implanting false beliefs or signals that seem to come straight from the Almighty and could be the ultimate mind-control device- indicates that whatever effects his device produces has nothing whatsoever to do with classicaly orchestrated mystical experiences. -ef
This Is Your Brain on God - 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.
Your Brain on Religion: Mystic visions or brain circuits at work? By Sharon Begley, Newsweek, 2001; In the new field of "neurotheology," scientists seek the biological basis of spirituality. Is God all in our heads? What all the new research shares is a passion for uncovering the neurological underpinnings of spiritual and mystical experiences-for discovering, in short, what happens in our brains when we sense that we "have encountered a reality different from-and, in some crucial sense, higher than-the reality of everyday experience," as psychologist David Wulff of Wheaton College in Massachusetts puts it. Although the field is brand new and the answers only tentative, one thing is clear. Spiritual experiences are so consistent across cultures, across time and across faiths, says Wulff, that it "suggest[s] a common core that is likely a reflection of structures and processes in the human brain."
(Surprisingly Wuff does not consider that the synchronicity in mystical experiences could be evidence that they are realizations of the common transcendent reality.- ef)
Sensed Presence and Mystical Experiences are predicted by suggestibility, not by the application of transcranial weak complex magnetic fields Neuroscience Letters, 2005 by Pehr Granqvist et al. We found no evidence for any effects of the magnetic fields, neither in the entire group, nor in individuals high in suggestibility. Because the personality characteristics significantly predicted outcomes, suggestibility may account for previously reported effects. Our results strongly question the earlier claims of experiential effects of weak magnetic fields.
Dawkins Trial of the God
Machine 2006. Three years ago, the British evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins became a guinea pig in an experiment to try out Persinger's "God Machine". Afterward, he admitted on BBC that he was "very disappointed" that he did not experience "communion with the universe" or some other spiritual sensation. Since positive responses are offered as evidence that the machine is inducing spiritual experiences - Dawkins' negative response might be interpreted as evidence of a neurological closed-mindedness.
Neurotheology Critique - a Rather Skeptical Perspective by Massimo Pigliucci
Spiritual Implications of Brain Research - 2011 (Revised and Expanded) by Peter Holleran. "There is no machine that can measure a person's realization." - Tsoknyi Rinpoche. Paul Brunton once said that by the twenty-first century scientists would 'prove' the doctrine of mentalism (that all of our sensations and perceptions are mental and arise in consciousness, and that the existence of matter is just a 'guess'). This will be a summary of the results of brain-wave studies conducted on meditators over the past thirty years, as well as psi (ESP) studies, and conclusions that may be drawn from them: specifically, whether consciousness itself or insentient matter is the primary ground of our existence, and whether or not 'enlightenment' can be determined in a laboratory. This article is significantly expanded from its earlier release several years ago.
The God Experiments - Links to resources relating to issues raised by Persinger's God Machine in website of Institute for Biblical & Scientific Studies.
Neurotheology - also known as biotheology or spiritual neuroscience, is the study of correlations of neural phenomena with subjective experiences of spirituality and hypotheses to explain these phenomena. Proponents of neurotheology claim that there is a neurological and evolutionary basis for subjective experiences traditionally categorized as spiritual.
Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation: An Introduction by Grant Balfour 2002; One of the newest avenues of research into the mind-body relationship has nothing to do with religious ritual, ethnobotany, or tinkering with brain chemistry. It's about altering the way the brain behaves on the most basic level -- the electrical impulses that constantly stream from neuron to neuron. Psychological researchers call it "transcranial magnetic stimulation" or "TMS". The basic premise of TMS is that the brain operates using electric signals, and it's possible to alter the way the brain works by altering the electrical environment.