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    Fake 'God Helmet' Evokes Real-life 'Mystical Experiences' in New Study

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    Dutch and Danish researchers exploring the effects of alcohol on "expectancy-driven mystical and quasi-mystical" episodes have gotten people wearing a skateboarding helmet with inactive wires attached to report a wide range of "extraordinary experiences."

    The scientists' report, recently published in the Religion, Brain & Behavior academic journal, employed the use of a so-called 'God Helmet', a placebo brain simulation device which study participants were told could elicit mystical occurrences.

    Taking the helmet to Lowlands Festival, an annual music fest held in the Netherlands, and testing it among a group of nearly 200 volunteers, the researchers, led by David Maij of the University of Amsterdam, sought to discover the impact of alcohol consumption on people's mystical experiences. And while the scientists received no conclusive proof on that front, the found that whether or not participants described themselves as religious or spiritual did have an impact.

    Blindfolded, fitted with headphones playing white noise, and asked to sit with the God Helmet on for 15 minutes, participants were told to click a mouse button if they were feeling an "extraordinary" experience. According to the study, "participants reported a wide range of extraordinary experiences associated with mysticism, including out-of-body experiences, involuntary movements, and the felt presence of invisible beings."

    "I came loose from the chair, the chair fell and I was floating. The desk started to shake heavily and I felt the presence of a dark figure next to me. It whispered something in my ear that I could not understand," one participant reported.

    "I had the feeling that the helmet was taking control over me. My head started turning around and my eyes were spinning," another said.

    According to the study, a whopping 78.5% of study participants reported at least a weak bodily sensation, with 30.1% saying this was followed by stronger sensations.  Just 30.3% of participants reported feeling distracted or skeptical throughout the experiment. Others reported everything from hallucinations to time and space distortion.

    73.2% of the participants had consumed alcohol before of the test, 16.8% had had alcohol plus at least one drug, 2.6% consumed only drugs, and 7.4% were completely sober.

    Ultimately, Maij and his team reported no evidence of alcohol consumption increasing responsiveness to the God Helmet placebo effect, due in part to the music festive not being an ideal controlled environment. The researchers did postulate however that the levels of immersion, i.e. the tendency for some people to become immersed in the experiment, may have played a role in participants' experiences.

    The complete study can be found here.

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    Tags:
    experiences, alcohol, mysticism, study, experiment, God helmet, Netherlands
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