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Michael Persinger

November 2, 2011

sacrilegious and presumptuous – “…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…” (This Is Your Brain on God)

UFOs in North America – “…Over subsequent years, Persinger and the US geologist John Derr, together and individually, examined specific “windows” of recurring reported light phenomena, and amassed an impressive body of data to support this “tectonic strain” theory (though not without some criticism). One such study was of the Yakima Indian reservation in Washington State, where, in the 1970s, fire wardens in lookout posts observed and photographed a range of unusual light phenomena. They saw large, orange-coloured lightballs, smaller “ping-pong” balls of light, luminous columns and flares, and white lights with smaller, multi-coloured lights apparently connected to them. Glowing clouds and flashes in the sky were also noted. Derr and Persinger showed that three-quarters of the reported phenomena were seen most often in the vicinity of faulted ridges and they correlated lights with seismic activity…” (Seeing the light)

sensations of déjà vu or its opposite, jamais vu – “…Delgado’s relatively coarse stunts were a long way from Persinger’s quest for the God spot, but Persinger is not the first to theorize that the Creator exists only in the complex landscape of the human noggin. In his controversial 1976 book, The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind, Julian Jaynes, a Princeton psychologist, argued that the brain activity of ancient people – those living roughly 3,500 years ago, prior to early evidence of consciousness such as logic, reason, and ethics – would have resembled that of modern schizophrenics. Jaynes maintained that, like schizophrenics, the ancients heard voices, summoned up visions, and lacked the sense of metaphor and individual identity that characterizes a more advanced mind. He said that some of these ancestral synaptic leftovers are buried deep in the modern brain, which would explain many of our present-day sensations of God or spirituality…Among practicing neuroscientists, there is no overarching consensus on whether such notions are correct. Persinger is certainly out on a frontier where theory meets the boldest sort of speculation, but there’s nothing inherently bizarre about his methods or the questions he’s asking. William Calvin, a professor of behavioral sciences at the University of Washington in Seattle, says that Persinger’s line of inquiry is no more mysterious than another pursuit that intrigues neuroscientists: trying to understand the sensations of déjà vu or its opposite, jamais vu – the feeling, during a familiar routine, that we’re doing it for the first time. Maybe these feelings, like God, are just more fritzing in the electricity arcing about our brains…” (This Is Your Brain on God)


M.A. Persinger, B.A. (Wisconsin), M.A. (Tennessee), Ph.D. (Manitoba) Psychology – Neuromorphology and general histology; Experimental analyses of behaviour; Psychoimmunology; Environmental toxicology and pharmacology; Magnetic field effects; Temporal lobe functions; Mast cell functions; Behavioral-geophysical-meteorological interactions; Neuropsychology; Parapsycholog

Michael A. Persinger (born June 26, 1945) is a cognitive neuroscience researcher and university professor with over 200 peer-reviewed publications. He has worked at Laurentian University, located in Sudbury, Ontario, since 1971. Persinger’s claims regarding the effects of environmental geomagnetic activity on paranormal experiences have not been independently replicated and, like his findings regarding the God helmet, may simply be explained by the suggestibility of participants (Wikepedia).

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