The Koren Helmet uses
a snowmobile helmet to hold it's magnetic coils in place.
The God Helmet
is a popular name given to a laboratory apparatus originally called the "Koren
Helmet", after Stanley Koren of Laurentian University's
Neuroscience Department, who built it according to specifications provided by Dr. M.A. Persinger, it's director. Dr Persinger passed away in August of 2018. The Shiva God Helmet
is still available (Buy it HERE).
Used as a research tool to investigate the brain's role in religious and mystic experiences, the Koren Helmet has
been given the name God Helmet. A few Journalists gave it this name when they learned that some people had visions
of God while participating in Koren Helmet experiments. The name has stuck.
The Koren Helmet
applies complex (having an irregular shape) magnetic signals to the head of the person who is wearing it. The fields
don't work by inducing current in the brain. They have patterns that bear information, and magnetic fields that
appear around electrical activity in the brain pick it up.
It's a field-to-field interaction, and not current
induction. The fields pass into the brain,
unaffected by the scalp or skull, because there is no such thing as a magnetic insulator. Nothing can block a magnetic
field 1 2. Some psychologists, not understanding this, have mistakenly claimed
that the fields used in the God Helmet aren't strong enough to reach the brain. Magnetic fields pass "through
all head structures with no attenuation and can stimulate the brain without discomfort" reference. The mechanism where low-intensity magnetic fields influence the
brain has been known for years. reference (Further
An independent study found that God Helmet's effects are not from suggestibility or a placebo effect, and that they actually do have
an influence on the brain. The subjects (in this recent and independent study) who received the magnetic fields
spoke about their experiences in different ways than those who received no fields. The apparatus used in this new
study was not identical to the Koren Helmet, but it still produced measurable effects in spite of its limitations.
(Research Publication) Further replication is found in an experiment where researchers were able to artifically induce the sense of a
presence using robotic stimulation, and concluded that this sensation is the result of activity in specific brain
areas, and not actual ghosts, just as Persinger concluded from his experiments. There are a few points of agreement,
in spite of their very different research methods.
Helmet is connected to a PC computer through a 'black
box' that cycles the signals through four coils on each side of the head, above over the place where the temporal
lobes of the brain meet the parietal lobes. This is the area of the brain many researchers feel is the source of
spiritual and religious experiences link.
This illustration shows how the signal shifts from one coil to the next. This is a side view. There is also another
set of coils working on the other side. The two coils at the top are no longer used.
The sessions are done in an Acoustic Chamber - a completely silent room. A large part of the temporal lobes ongoing
activity is dedicated to monitoring ambient sound. The temporal lobes are the source of religious and mystic experiences,
so that silence helps a great deal in creating them in the lab. The same chamber also has a layer of electromagnetic
insulation, so that the ambient energy emitted from lab equipment, cell phone towers, and computer monitors is
screened out. Because magnetic fields can still pass through this screen (a Faraday
Cage), the God Helmet research has included some
interesting discoveries about the earth's magnetic field.
Stanley Koren shows us the most recent
version of the God Helmet, which no longer has a helmet shell. The unused coils have been removed.
I asked Dr. Persinger how many people had seen God using the Koren Helmet, and this is what he said in reply:
"The problem is producing an environment in which people will report what they experience without anticipating
ridicule on the one hand and not encouraging this type of report (demand characteristics) on the other.
Thus far, about 20 or so people have reported feeling the presence of Christ or even seeing him in the chamber
(The acoustic chamber where the experimental sessions took place). Most of these people used Christ and God interchangeably.
Most of these individuals were older (30 years or more) and religious (Roman Catholic). One male, age about 35
years old (alleged atheist but early childhood RC (Roman Catholic) training), saw a clear apparition (shoulders
and head) of Christ staring him in the face. He was quite "shaken" by the experience. I did not complete
a follow-up re: his change in behavior. Of course these are all reports. What we did find with one world-class
psychic who experiences Christ as a component of his abilities was we could experimentally increase or decrease
his numbers of his reported experiences by applying the LTP pattern (derived from the hippocampus) over the right
hemisphere (without his awareness).
The field on-response delay was about 10 to 20 sec. The
optimal pattern, at least for this person, looked very right hippocampal. By far most presences are attributed
to dead relatives, the Great Forces, a spirit, or something equivalent.
The attribution towards along a devil to angel continuum appears strongly related to the affect (pleasant-terror)
associated with the experience. I suspect most people would call the "vague, all-around-me" sensations
"God" but they are reluctant to employ the label in a laboratory. The implicit is obvious. If the equipment
and the experiment produced the presence that was God, then the extrapersonal, unreachable and independent characteristics
of the god definition might be challenged."
That's the important thing about the God Helmet. Even if only a few people saw God because of it, it creates a
host of new questions - questions theology has never had to face before.
The experiences of those who have come face-to-face with
God might just be an example of a very rare brain activity. If they actually met the true God, then why did they
do so in this experimental setting, but not at other times? Can one control God by controlling someone's brain?
The implications for theology are obvious. Perhaps God exists, but has been waiting until humanity developed enough
to find him in the brain before he would appear under any circumstances humans could control. Perhaps God exists
only in our brains. Perhaps he exists, and chose to bless 1% of Dr. Persinger's research subjects with visions
of him, because these people were beloved to him.
Perhaps he exists, but he appears to those with the right neural history in moments when the right pattern of brain
activity is present, and not according to what he sees in their hearts.
There is much more to the God Helmet than just the Koren
Helmet alone. There is also a computer program called complex, authored by Stanley Koren, which allows the computer to create the
signals. These signals are derived from EEG traces that appear in certain parts of the brain. Just as the brain
responds to chemicals with specific shapes, it also responds to magnetic signals with certain shapes. Because these
signals are complex, irregular things, it takes a special computer program to produce them.
A third component is the acoustic - completely silent - chamber where the sessions take place. The last component
is the 'black box' which converts output from the computer into input for the Koren Helmet. This box (not shown)
is a specialized DAC (digital-to-analog converter). It's the core of the technology. The rest of the components
of the God Helmet are quite common.
Another part of the experiment is that the subjects are told
they're going to participate in a relaxation experiment. This makes them expect to relax, but without telling them
what's going to happen. The God Helmet doesn't work as well when the subjects are tense.
The DAC produces the signals that are fed to the magnetic
coils (called "solenoids" in the scientific papers). First, one signal is fed to the right side of the
brain, and then another signal is fed to both sides. When the signals are changed halfway through the experimental
session, the corresponding shift in brain activity can create a religious experience.
The God Helmet is a misleading name. It gives the impression that it can produce the experience of God on demand.
In fact, only one percent of the subjects had the experience. In contrast to the one percent who saw God, 80% of
the subjects felt a presence of some kind, but did not call it God. Of course, there were probably some subjects
who experienced an appearance of God, but were shy about saying they had seen God in a laboratory. That kind of
thing is not only intensely personal, but can also get you ridiculed.
If you saw god, would you tell your story, just as it happened, if you thought you weren't going to be taken seriously?
A lot of people assume that, just because someone wears a lab coat, they won't believe such a vision can happen,
or that they'll think it's a sign of mental illness. Nothing could be further from the truth in this laboratory,
but how would these subjects know that? They had been told they would be participating in an experiment to study
relaxation response, and the experimenters were very careful not to encourage glamorous reports.
The Koren Helmet has also produced visions of
demonic beings, out-of-body experiences, visions of other realities, and a range of other paranormal experiences.
It could have been named after any of them, but journalists prefer more sensational names, and you can't get more
sensational than God.
One question that comes up often about the Koren Helmet is whether it's possible to obtain one. The Koren Helmet
is found only in the laboratory where it was made, and is not available to the public. However, a PC version of
the God Helmet,
Shiva Neural Stimulation System, does exist.
The Koren Helmet has more coils than are actually used in experiments. The two on the top are no longer in use,
and the one in the center - between the four over each temporal lobe - is also no longer used. They are still on
the helmet, but they no longer output anything.
A picture of the sign on the door to
the laboratory. The names are in alphabetical order by first name.
A Few Lab Reports:
Examples of dialog (from audiotape) from subjects participating
in these experiments. Source
A Middle-aged professional journalist. Chirp signal applied over the right side.
"I see shadows along my left side . . . there is someone touching my left side . . . there is a flash of light
. . . a tunnel experience. I feel as if I am shrinking and expanding. There is a tingling inside of my thigh .
. . sexual excitement. There's a cold rush (subject shivered; EEG showed paroxysmal activity). I see a visual...
it's an apparition."
A 21-year-old female with history of diabetes. Amygdala signal applied over both sides
"I felt a presence behind me and then along the left side. When I tried to focus on its 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 had not experienced before. I started to cry when I felt it slowly fade away"
(the field parameters had been changed).
A 30-year-old woman. Chirp signal applied over the right side
"I feel detached from my body. I am floating up . . . there is a kind of vibration moving through my sternum
. . . there are odd lights or faces along my left side. My body is becoming very hot. . . . tingling sensations
in my chest and stomach . . . now both arms. There is something feeling my ovaries. I can feel my left foot jerk.
I feel there is someone in the room behind me."
A 25-year-old man, childhood history of three "mild" head injuries. Chirp signal applied over both sides
"I feel as if there was a bright white light in front of me. I saw a black spot that became a kind of funnel
. . . no 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 colorless, gray-looking. I know I was
in the chamber but it was very real. I suddenly felt intense fear and felt ice cold."
Reporter from the British Independent.
"During the second
session, about 10 minutes later, things really began to move. This time a little background sound was played in
by Persinger and his team, some vaguely New Age, Eastern temple bell sounds. Appropriately suggestible, my mind
set off on a whole new tour, this time with a distinctly Eastern, Tibetan feel. This gradually increased in intensity
and conviction, until suddenly, with a kind of booster rocket of realism, I was actually in a temple, in a line
of solemn, Tibetan monks, grave-eyed, brown cowls around their heads, the bells tolling loudly now, echoing in
my head - in fact I, too, was a Tibetan monk... But then I always had been, I realised - what had happened was
that, for the first time, I'd understood this obvious truth. We were off to make our observances as we had, day
after day, since time immemorial: bells, high seriousness, magisterial pacing, solemn, monkish eyes... At which
stage Pauline's pert voice came bursting in over the intercom again, and that session was over too." Link
Author Frank Lone had an "eerie" experience
that included seeing a gollum-like creature. She also sat with some of Persinger’s graduate students while researching
a book on modern neuroscience , who told her things like:
“I heard someone say that she sensed her cat was
in there (the chamber where the sessions are done)”.
“Some people have terrifying experiences, while
others say it’s wonderful. White light and that sort of thing”.
“Once there was a Japanese lady who sat there with
tears running down her cheeks, jabbering away in Japanese. She said it had been sublime”. Frank, Lone, “The Neurotourist”, Oneworld
"I put on the God Helmet ...just over a week
ago, in Sudbury. Last spring I mentioned that it was planned and promised to report back ... after I did it. Turns
out it actually is not that easy to get to do this, I think Dr. Persinger only agreed because I'm a med student
who's into neurology. So: for the first sequence, I felt nothing except relaxation and a tingling, numb feeling
in my left leg.
But for the second sequence: I felt a whole-body "whooshing" sensation, like I was travelling very fast
straight upward, then a distinct emotional impulse, growing intensity of feeling, culminating in the following
- I felt myself questioning "how do I know it'll be ok?" (meaning: everything) and then the distinct
answer returned: "I got this" (implication: don't worry).
I wouldn't call it a sensed presence, but it was definitely a Maslovian peak experience. I've had them before (sometimes
even stronger) on my own, but very rarely, like a handful of times in my life.
It was lovely. I shed uncontrolled tears. I felt free and relieved and happy. I was on a bit of a high that whole
evening afterward." Source
New Book: The God Helmet Experiments: The Science that Found God in the Human Brain.
Papers by Dr. M.A. Persinger, re-written for easy reading. Theory, experiments, and some debate.
Persinger MA. "Experimental facilitation of the sensed presence is predicted by the specific patterns of the
applied magnetic fields, not by suggestibility: re-analyses of 19 experiments." International
Journal of Neuroscience. 2006 Sept;116(9):1079-96. Link