Dec. 21, 2012 Countdown - Day 23: Michael Persinger & the GOD Experiments

Michael Persinger (1993, 2010a & 2010b) and his Research Group are known for the "God Helmet". He is a pioneer in the field of experimental studies of mystical experiences.

In 1999, Wired Magazine published an article entitled "This Is Your Brain on God" in which the author, Jack Hitt stated that "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."

Persinger states at his website that "[a]s a human being, I am concerned about the illusionary explanations for human consciousness and the future of human existence. Consequently after writing the Neuropsychological Base of God Beliefs (1987), I began the systematic application of complex electromagnetic fields to discern the patterns that will induce experiences (sensed presence) that are attributed to the myriad of ego-alien intrusions which range from gods to aliens. The research is not to demean anyone's religious/mystical experience but instead to determine which portions of the brain or its electromagnetic patterns generate the experience. Two thousand years of philosophy have taught us that attempting to prove or disprove realities may never have discrete verbal (linguistic) solutions because of the limitation of this measurement. The research has been encouraged by the historical fact that most wars and group degradations are coupled implicitly to god beliefs and to the presumption that those who do not believe the same as the experient are somehow less human and hence expendable. Although these egocentric propensities may have had adaptive significance, their utility for the species' future may be questionable."

Our own theoretical and experimental studies (see references at the end) have shown that: (1) Consciousness is prespacetime (non-spatial and non-temporal) and not in the brain; (2) brain is an interface between Consciousness and the external world; (3) quantum spin is the mind-pixel; (4) magnetic field is manifested by the internal world based on the Principle of Existence. Therefore, altered states of consciousness such as sensed presence and out-of-body experience whether they are produced by magnetic, electric or other stimulations or circumstances can be most effectively explained as the changes of the relative contents and/or intensities of the test subjects’ neural quantum entanglement with their surroundings etc. (including possibly spiritual environments or information!).

Thus, interpreted from the perspectives of our own findings, Persinger's "GOD experiments" might not have proven that GOD and/or mystical experiences are a mere phenomenon localized in the material brain but can be explained as the non-spatial and non-temporal Consciousness through the brain quantum-entangles with his/her environments possibly including the spiritual environment, thus, experiencing sensed presence, out-of-body etc!

For readers interested in more details, please read the below and the articles listed in the Reference.

In a recent article Persinger and his colleague(s) summarize their results as follows (Michael, 2010a):

Quantitative EEG data indicate that a sequence of stimulation by between 1 and 5 uT fields at the scalp’s surface with as little as 10% greater intensity over the right hemisphere compared to the left is associated with greater convergence of theta activity between the left temporal and right prefrontal region. Subsequent bilateral stimulation is associated with greater right-to-left temporal coherence. These two experimental conditions and quantitative EEG patterns are associated with reports of out-of-body experiences and the sensed presence, respectively.

The results and approaches of our research and those of Olaf Blanke both show that out-of-body-experiences and the sensed presence can be generated experimentally by stimulating either one or the other of the hemispheres within specific regions. The quality of the experiences, although direct comparisons have not been made, appears to be similar and the quantitative or meaningful intensity reveal similar values for individual salience.

[We] reviewed and re-analyzed the approximately 20 experiments involving 407 subjects that have demonstrated the experimental elicitation of either the sensed presence or out of body experience. [Our] re-analyses clearly showed the specific magnetic configurations and not the subjects’ exotic beliefs or suggestibility was responsible for the increased incidence of sensed presences. The subjects’ histories of spontaneous sensed presences before the experiment (and exposure to the magnetic fields) were moderately correlated with exotic beliefs and temporal lobe sensitivity. The side attributed to the presence at the time of the experience was affected by the parameters of the fields, the hemisphere to which they were maximized, and the person’s a priori beliefs.

In vivid terms one test subject in Persinger’s experiment reported “I felt a presence behind me and then along the left side. When I tried to focus on the position, the presence moved. Every time I tried to sense where it was, it moved around. When it moved to the right side, I experienced a deep sense of security like I have not experienced before. I started to cry when I felt it slowly fade away ([Persinger] had changed the field patterns)”.

Also in vivid terms, another test subject reported an out-of-body experience stating “I feel as if there was a bright white light in front of me. I saw a black spot that became a tunnel that I felt drawn into. I felt moving, like spinning forward through it. I began to feel the presence of people, but I could not see them. They were along my sides. They were colourless and grey looking. I know I was in the chamber but it was very real. I suddenly felt intense fear and felt ice cold.”

Persinger and colleague (2010a) reasoned that: "Our primary assumption is that consciousness and its variants of mystical states can be expressed as quantum phenomena. If consciousness and thought are coupled to electron movements, then a macroscopic manifestation should be congruent with the magnetic field strengths associated with neurocognitive activities. Access to the information within the movements of an electron, its fundamental charge, and the photon emissions associated with changes in electron movements, would allow mystical states and the information with which they are associated to have alternative interpretations that recruit the fundamental properties of space-time and matter."

Persinger et. al.’s above experimental results can be best explained by the spin-mediated consciousness theory for the reasons stated below:

First, the primary targets of interactions for the weak pulsed magnetic field used by Persinger’s Group are the nuclear and/or electron spins associated with the neural membranes, protein and water etc. Indeed, neural membranes and proteins contain vast numbers of nuclear spins such as 1H, 13C, 31P and 15N.

Second, as we have experimentally demonstrated (Hu & Wu, 2006a-c), pulsed electromagnetic fields (photons) carries information through quantum entanglement from external substance (and environment) which they interacted with.

Third, nuclear spins in the brain form complex intra- and inter-molecular networks through various intra-molecular J- and dipolar couplings and both short- and long-range intermolecular dipolar couplings. Further, nuclear spins have relatively long relaxation times after excitations (Gershenfeld & Chuang, 1997).

Fourth, quantum spin is a fundamental quantum process with intrinsic connection to the structure of space-time (Dirac, 1928) and was shown to be responsible for the quantum effects in both Hestenes and Bohmian quantum mechanics (Hestenes, 1983; Salesi & Recami, 1998).


Persinger, M. A., Vectorial cerebral hemisphericity as differential sources for the sensed presence, mystical experiences and religious conversions. Psychological Reports, 1993; 76: 915-930.

Persinger, M. A. The Electromagnetic Induction of Mystical and Altered States within the Laboratory, JCER, 2010a; 1(7): 808-830.

Persinger, M. A. & Lavallee , C. F., The Electromagnetic Induction of Mystical and Altered States within the Laboratory, JCER, 2010b; 1(7): 785-807.

Hu, H. & Wu, M. Spin-mediated consciousness theory. arXiv 2002; quant-ph/0208068. Also see Med. Hypotheses 2004a: 63: 633-646.

Hu, H. & Wu, M. Spin as primordial self-referential process driving quantum mechanics, spacetime dynamics and consciousness. NeuroQuantology 2004b; 2:41-49. Also see Cogprints: ID2827 2003.

Hu, H. & Wu, M. Action potential modulation of neural spin networks suggests possible role of spin in memory and consciousness. NeuroQuantology 2004c; 2:309-316. Also see Cogprints: ID3458 2004d.

Hu, H. & Wu, M. Thinking outside the box: the essence and implications of quantum entanglement. NeuroQuantology 2006a; 4: 5-16.

Hu, H. & Wu, M. Photon induced non-local effect of general anesthetics on the brain. NeuroQuantology 2006b 4: 17-31. Also see Progress in Physics 2006c; v3: 20-26.

Hu, H. & Wu, M. Evidence of non-local physical, chemical and biological effects supports quantum brain. NeuroQuantology 2006d; 4: 291-306. Also see Progress in Physics 2007a; v2: 17-24.

Written by Huping Hu & Maoxin Wu in October 2011