The journey of spirituality can sometimes be humorous and even comical. History is replete with all sorts of attempts by human beings to search for the ultimate and seek what might be beyond science.
For centuries, people used to go into some cave in the Himalayas, hoping to find God or the higher power there. Many used to freeze to death and others hung themselves upside down from trees, hoping to find something.
These days, the attitude towards finding God and spirituality remains the same but has likely gotten more sophisticated.
The God Helmet, laughable as it sounds, is one such experiment.
The God Helmet — Playing God
There’s the so-called “God Helmet,” developed by neuroscientist Michael Persinger and inventor Stanley Koren to study the effects of subtle temporal lobe stimulation on spiritual experience (Persinger, 1983; Ruttan, Persinger & Koren, 1990). The headgear apparatus, which uses electrical currents to generate weak magnetic fields that disrupt normal brain waves, is worn on the heads of experimental subjects.
Persinger and colleagues conducted a series of studies in which some wearers were allegedly connected to a higher power, mystical experiences or altered states of consciousness (Persinger, 1991, 2001, 2010). Participants’ experiences included sensing “presences” of “another consciousness or sentient being,” which they interpreted to be angels, a deceased person they knew, or a group of beings of some kind. Persinger reported that “at least 80%” of his participants experienced a presence beside them in the room, while only around 1% reported an “experience of God” (Booth & Persinger, 2009).
Richard Dawkins, acclaimed evolutionary biologist and renowned atheist, famously donned the God Helmet for the 2005 Horizon BBC documentary, “God on the Brain.” Dawkins reported that he felt sensations in his limbs and breathing rhythm, but contrary to finding evidence of a divine power and feeling a “sensed presence,” he reported feeling at times “slightly dizzy” and “quite strange.” “It pretty much felt as though I was in total darkness, with a helmet on my head and pleasantly relaxed,” he said. Persinger’s explanation for Dawkins’ lack of spiritual experience was that Dawkins’ “temporal lobe sensitivity was“well below average” (BBC, 2014). He echoed this theory to explain why others failed to experience mystical experiences or altered consciousness through the God Helmet.
Persinger’s studies have been widely criticized by other researchers. Several have attempted to replicate Persinger’s results, but thus far, none have been able to reproduce the effects reported by Persinger (Granqvist et al, 2005; Khamsi, 2004). Pehr Granqvist, a psychologist at Uppsala University in Sweden who attempted to replicate Persinger’s results, concluded that “the presence or absence of the magnetic field had no relationship with any religious or spiritual experience reported by the participants, but was predicted entirely by their suggestibility and personality traits.” Granqvist, in fact, argued that the magnetic fields generated by the God Helmet are far too weak to even penetrate the cranium and influence neurons within.
Of course, we know that don’t we? How could finding God be so silly and easy as merely wearing a helmet? Wouldn’t it be fun if we manufactured such helmets in large quantities and put a price tag so everyone in the world could find God?
Interestingly, the God Helmet experiments were originally intended, though not specifically designed, to validate the idea that religious and mystic experiences are actually just artifacts of temporal lobe function (Persinger, 1983) and from there, somehow became a “neurotheology” investigation of spirituality. Artifacts are often “technical glitches,” typically considered to be meaningless, or at least, not definitive. They might include a result that is not naturally present but occurs as a result of the preparative or investigative procedure — for example, blemishes or specks in a photograph or neuroimaging scan.
But you have to ask: Does the fact that one has a high sensitivity to temporal lobe stimulation necessarily equate to embracing spirituality or being a spiritual person? Persinger’s experiments do not fully identify specific temporal lobe idiosyncrasies that may influence a particular individual’s ability to experience spirituality.
And was that God Helmet experience truly a divine connection to the universal cosmic energy, or was it simply a form of altered consciousness? Altered consciousness can be induced by any number of methods — certain drugs, for example. Past research has established that a drug such as psilocybin, the active ingredient in “magic mushrooms,” produces mystical experiences when administered to religious individuals (Griffiths et al, 2006, 2008).
But do any of these experiments put us closer to achieving a true spiritual connection, one that is meaningful in our everyday lives?
We know the answer and we’re sure you do as well – of course not. The answer we’ve found through personal experimentation and research is clear. These external objects and experiments have nothing to do with spirituality.
The real instrument we have within us to reach God
There’s a very ancient instrument that every human being is born with. As early as 14000 years ago, a few great saints discovered it. The Greeks knew about it and labeled the bone that contained the Kundalini energy as “sacrum” bone. Over thousands of years, a few select highly evolved individuals got more and more proof of this instrument – some were even able to do successful experiments with activating it to find the ultimate experience.
The instrument, of course, is the subtle energy system and the successful experiment was Self-Realization.
Today, thanks to the creation of Sahaja, anyone seeking the higher power can get their Self-Realization and have their subtle energy instrument awakened. This Sahaja meditation 101.
Yet, as easy as it sounds, finding the ultimate is a very subtle and deep journey within our inner being. It needs work, experimentation with an open mind and becoming equally subtle. It cannot be confused with mental concepts, theories, and analyses. It requires dedication, determination, and patience.
It needs us to undergo many tests of our personality and character to stay the course. Most people think they’re choosing something like Sahaja. It’s quite the opposite – the higher power chooses those who seek strongly enough to see whether they’re good enough and ready for activating their own subtle instrument. And many times, it’s so clever that it can get people to opt out or lose their way on this journey.
Then there are many who don’t see the bigger picture even when they’re on this journey – to them, it appears like a nice way to enjoy some benefits in life by using some techniques. The almost fail to see that millions of people just a few centuries ago would quite willingly give their life for an opportunity at Self-Realization and many did, but still didn’t get it.
But we have our entire lifetimes to get it and ensure it sticks. That is, to ensure we become those evolved and better personalities that our enlightened subtle energy system will confirm.