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Near-Death Experiences in Thailand:
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Spirituality & The Brain (Home Page)
Inventing Shakti – A New Technology for Spiritual process.
Todd Murphy, 2005 Laurentian University Behavioral Neurosciences Program, associate researcher.
NOTE: Shakti does not diagnose or treat medical disorders.
Shakti is a neural stimulation technology that uses magnetic signals to activate specific brain structures. These signals closely mimic ‘signatures’ seen in EEG these structures show when they’re active. Shakti applies these signals using magnetic coils. The brain responds to these signals as they were it’s own – Shakti relies on the simple fact of physics that magnetic phenomena can create electrical activity and vice-versa. More Info
Shakti has signals that target the septum (the brain’s ‘pleasure center’), the hippocampus (a cognitive or ‘thinking’ structure), the amygdala (an emotional structure), and the caudate nucleus (a somatic structure).
Shakti also has software for producing any frequency you choose, as well as a signal for the ‘binding factor’ for human consciousness.
The word Shakti comes from Sanskrit, and it has many meanings. Shakti alone means “energy” or the “creative principle”. Shiva-Shakti refers to the union of male and female divine energies. Shakti can refer to any one of several Hindu goddesses, most often the consort of Shiva. There is even a sacred design called a Shiva Shakti Mandala. Shakti neural stimulation is named for Shakti Pat (or Shaktipat) – sometimes called The Guru’s Shakti. Shakti Pat can also be recieved from the earth, or through ‘grace’.
When I was a child, I had temporal lobe epilepsy (TLE). It’s a form of epilepsy that does not cause convulsions. What it does cause is altered states of consciousness. In most cases, TLE causes events that we’re really not very interested in here. It’s symptomology is dominated by things like lip-smacking, staring off into space, repeated movements, and repeated recurring memories.
In some cases, TLE can cause distinctly Spiritual Experiences, and this is what it did in my case. I had strange sensations in my body, incredibly intense moments of fear, and a very, very compelling visual experience.
It had two Manifestations. One of them was when my eyes were open. Then, I would see things as though they were larger than they actually were, and farther away. An object that was 1 foot from me, and 1 foot tall would seem as if it were 10 feet away and 10 feet tall. The room I was in seemed huge. This illusion is called macropsia. Lewis Carroll, author of “Alice in Wonderland” may have experienced something similar. The magic mushroom of his story made Alice grow larger and smaller, and that’s almost the same as feeling the world grow smaller and larger.
When I closed my eyes during this experience, my sense of the room being larger expanded so that what I saw behind my eyelids was infinite space, broken only by a single point of light. It seemed to be both infinitely bright and infinitely far away.
Like most childhood TLE, mine ended as puberty began. I stopped being concerned with experiences in consciousness, and became very interested in women. For years, I gave no thought to these experiences at all.
Later, I became interested in spirituality, like most people who have childhood altered state experiences. I did meditation, some Yoga practices, and began reading spiritual teachings, mostly Eastern philosophy and a little bit of Western mysticism.
I also started remembering my childhood night time TLE Seizures (also called Complex partial seizures). it was obvious to me that although the spiritual path was very pleasant, at least usually, and my seizures were unpleasant, even terrifying, they were far more powerful events than anything I was getting through spiritual practice.
As a child, I thought that I was the only one having these experiences, should and I had a feeling that something terrible would happen if I ever told the adults, so I didn’t.
As an adult, I was pretty sure that I was not the only one, but as I kept reading spiritual books and scriptures, I felt sure that I had seen things that were quite beyond any guru or mystic tradition.
Now let me backtrack a bit. Earlier, I’d spend some time doing more disciplined studies in a completely different area. The history of science. I was deeply influenced by T. S. Kuhn, author of ” The Structure of Scientific Revolutions ” and ” The Copernican Revolution”.
One of Kuhn’s points was that scientific theories guide researchers as they choose which experiments to perform. The popular misconception is that researchers perform experiments and then build their theories out of the results. Instead, new theories come first, and the experimentalists are concerned with either validating them or falsifying them.
It’s impossible to do an experiment without having a theory. Perhaps the experiment is designed to confirm the theory or perhaps to falsify it. In either case, Experiment and observation, even facts, are described in the vocabulary used in a scientific theory.
And so I had some experience with spirituality, TLE Seizures, and the history, methodology and philosophy of science.
Some years later, while reading about near-death experiences (NDEs), I read an account of an NDE that included a story of being in an infinite, black the void with a tiny, brilliant point of light in the center. At last, I had some point of reference for the experience that had so shattered me as a child. Whatever it was, it could appear during the human death process. I was very excited, and of course I wanted to know more. I found a couple of fragmentary reports that were similar in the works of Wilder Penfield, the Canadian neurosurgeon who first mapped the brain’s surface by stimulating it with an electrode, and then observing the patient’s response. I wasn’t really looking to understand my own experiences so much as to understand what science had to say about death and dying in the human species. NDEs seemed to offer the best evidence about that.
And so it seemed a simple enough thing to do to watch television documentaries on the subject. One of them was to completely change my life.
I was staying at a friend’s house for the week end, watching a program that featured near-death experiencers telling their stories.
It featured a segment filmed in a Canadian Neuroscience Laboratory. A man was shown wearing a motorcycle helmet – the “God Helmet” and a blindfold. He described his experience by saying that he felt himself to be in infinite black space with a tiny point of light, very very bright, at the center. Now, I was really excited.
I knew that I was being shown an experiment, and that all experiments are guided by theories. Beside myself with excitement, I stood up and kept watching the documentary.
Then, someone entered the room and told me to turn off the television because it was going to keep them awake. I ask to be allowed to keep watching it long enough to find out the name of the Researcher, but I was told that I was being “too attached”. To my vast disappointment, they shut off the television. I walked away from the TV thinking: “THAT’S what I want to do with the rest of my life. Whatever that man is using to create such experiences reflects a whole science, not just the specific experiment I saw.”
A couple of months later, I read a book that mentioned this line of research, and gave me the name of the Researcher. Dr. Michael A. Persinger, and told me that what I had seen was called the God Helmet.
30 minutes later, I was in a medical library reading a list of Persinger’s Publications.
I was amazed by two things. The first of them was the subjects mentioned in the titles. Out-of-body experiences. Paranormal phenomena. Precognition and precognitive dreams. Meditation.
The other amazing thing was that his methodology was completely conservative. He wasn’t explaining anything in terms of orgone energy, kundalini, Chi, Prana, or parts of the brain labeled ‘God-module’ or “The circuit Boards of Mysticism.”
Some of these concepts are totally valid, but they’re still controversial.
Ordinarily, that can be a good thing. But nothing seems to inspire skepticism and ridicule from scientists like efforts towards the integration of science with spirituality.
But Persinger had found a way out. He published quite a lot of papers correlating religious and mystic experiences with patterns of neural activity. Now, by itself, this might have created a certain amount of hostile criticism. Except for one thing.
He didn’t study religious and psychic experiences. He studied the “propensity to report” them. And that’s sound methodology. Talking about religious and spiritual experiences is one of the most common human behaviors known. Everybody does it at some point in their lives, if only to express disbelief, and all human cultures (excepting a few communist regimes) support it.
A statistical study of the people who make such reports is totally sound science. On reflection, it seems strange that nobody thought of it before.
What he concluded was that religious experiences were more likely to happen for people whose brains put them on the high end of a spectrum; one that includes TLE at one of it’s extreme ends. Now, it was beginning to make sense.
Mystic experiences share a lot in common with seizures and NDEs because the human death process requires the human brain to be pre-wired for certain experiences. When a seizure recruits one of these areas, it includes whatever phenomena that area supports. In one place, it might be an OBE. In another, it might be a being made of light.
This explains why only some TLE seizures elicit mystic and religious experiences. Only a few of the “matrices of neurons” that TLE can recruit support altered-state experiences. Others, more available, support the more common seizural experiences, like lip-smacking and simple ‘spacing out’.
But we should remember that seizures activate the brain in non-functional ways. There are patterns of electrical activity that ‘belong’ to specific brain parts and specific neural jobs. These patterns ARE functional, and seizures create all sorts of patterns, including a lot of meaningless noise. The ‘spiking’ pattern of epilepsy is a useful diagnostic marker because it usually only appears during seizures.
And that brings us to Persinger’s other line of research. The one that led me to develop Shakti.
He had begun to apply magnetic signals to the brain using patterns derived from EEG signatures. And these were creating spiritual experiences for some people. Some of them were quite phenomenal, too. He tried quite a few basic frequencies, but the clear winner was the ‘burst-firing’ pattern.
The reason it was so successful was that it approximated the amygdala’s own firing pattern. The principle is simple. The brain produces electrical activity. Electric activity produces magnetic fields. If a magnetic signal has the same patterns as a neural electrical signal, it can elicit the same phenomena that normal activation would, within the person’s own habituated patterns.
I read a few of his papers, and then I called him on the phone. I had some small credentials to offer as a Buddhist theologian, working on death and dying issues. I had tried to learn the vocabulary he used, and I succeeded enough to manage conversation with him.
We discussed a couple of applications for his principles, including applying his questionnaires to groups of Thai Buddhist meditators.
It was at that point that Dr. Persinger provided me with a prototype digital-to-analog (DAC) converter. The one that produces the electrical signals that are converted into magnetic signals.
My early sessions with it were interesting and highly visual at times, but they weren’t the correct signals, due to a computer problem that was eventually solved by Stan Koren, who developed the Koren Helmet as well as the DAC. He also developed the computer files for the signals themselves. Later, these were to become the templates for the Shakti signals, too.
After I had my computer (a 386 laptop) setup correctly, I was able to duplicate the signals used in the documentary I had seen two years earlier.
In the meantime, I’d been studying. Of course.
Almost immediately, I began making mistakes. The first of these was doing too many sessions, too close together. After about 8 days, doing about 45 minutes a day, I had a very unpleasant episode. In retrospect, it was most likely a recurrence of the interictal (between seizures) syndrome of temporal lobe epilepsy I had also gone through in my childhood.
It only lasted a few days. And it had a trigger. A romantic disappointment. Ouch. So sad.
But my response to it was EXTREME, to say the least. I knew, at the time, that it was not like other such moments in my life, and I knew that it had to do with the DAC.
Now the studying paid off. I looked at my own neural history, and I knew that my right amygdala, specialized for fear, was involved and a bit of introspecting let me see that this disappointment had a strong component of anxiety. Other such times in the past, anxiety hadn’t been there.
The excess ‘connectivity of my right amygdala, created during my TLE seizures, had gotten it active even when
I was not having a seizure. Like most TLE in children, Mine stopped with the onset of puberty. But until that happened, I had an ‘interictal’ (between seizure) epileptic psychosis. These same amygdalar pathways were awakened when I used the amygdala’s signal. I’d used it over both side at once (Not a standard Shakti presentation). But, my own neural history had made the one on the right more sensitive. At some point in the long-week-of-my-dumb-sessions, I had crossed a crucial threshold, and the same pathways that had once made me a “disturbed child” now made me crazy one again, after all those years.
So, to move away from insanity, I did the first intelligently designed session of my career. A corrective one. Based on a person’s unique neural history. My own.
I applied the amygdal signal to my LEFT temporal lobe.
And what I got was not simply an end to the episode. It ended, yes. Very definitely. But what came next was not a return to normal consciousness. Rather, it was a demonstration of the ‘interhemispheric intrusion’ hypothesis.
Interhemispheric means, in this case, crossing between the two hemispheres of the brain. An Intrusion refers to a higher-than-normal load/level of activity.
What the hypothesis says is that when activity in a given brain part on one side of the brain (or an entire hemisphere more generally) becomes active enough, crossing a threshold, the activity can spill over into the same structure on the opposite side of the brain.
Given that most brain parts have symmetrically opposite functions (‘functional homologues on the two sides of the brain, the phenomena that accompanies this is a dramatic shift in the person’s experience.
My fear and anxiety didn’t just stop. It turned into the opposite.
Bliss. Joy. So wonderful to be alive. Just to see the sky is ecstasy. Each person is beautiful. Shaktipat.
My right amygdala had been active. Now it was quiet, after applying the amygdala’s signal only over the left side. I had been in anxiety and pessimism, living in a storm of awful thoughts for a few days. Now, I was in bliss.
Other things had happened. My week with an active right amygdala seems to have recruited my right hippocampus, too. And many of it’s associated phenomena only emerged when my right amygdala was told to shut up.
I could heal by laying on hands. I tested it many times. That’s tapered off a bit in four years since all this happened, but not without many ups and downs as my own Shakti session designs change.
I could also do remote viewing, but like many who’ve had the experience, I chose not to practice it, because I found myself uncomfortable at some of the things I saw. I did confirm some of these perceptions, though.
I saw auras, too, but not in the brilliant colors some psychics describe. Just faint glows around people when I looked for them.
I experienced quite a lot of hypnogogic phenomena, too. Brief perceptions, clearly from within, that happened while I was falling asleep.
I continued doing sessions, but I didn’t really experience anything new using the DAC, with it’s single signal, until I got a new wave form from Dr. Persinger.
It belonged to the hippocampus, a cognitive structure. One that deals in words on the left and in non-verbal cognition on the right.
Soon, I knew what it would do on both sides of the brain.
On the right, it quieted mental chatter and enhanced visualization skills. It also enhances what’s called ‘positive thinking’; the expectation of positive outcomes for ongoing events. On the left, it encouraged mental chatter, and negative expectations for the outcomes of ongoing events.
Over both sides, it reduced the intensity of emotions overall.
Shakti results continue to support these generalizations, although they have yet to be published.
So, now I could apply the amygdala signal over the left – OR – the hippocampal signal over the right.
The trouble was that left amygdala activation tended to spill over to the right amygdala (via the anterior commisure), and right hippocampal activation tended to spill into the right amygdala, too (via their extensive connections).
I wanted to do both at once. And for that I need two signals at once. I wanted a stereo DAC.
But none existed. I’d have to go without it or invent it myself. So that’s what I did.
THE SHAKTI HELMET (No longer the latest technology)
The only audio equipment I had to work with was a computer sound card, so that’s what I worked with.
I recorded the sounds the DAC made, as though the signals were common sounds. I saw instantly that it wasn’t the same. Not even close. I set out to find a software that would let me create sound files for a PC, using the wave forms provided by Dr. Persinger as templates. Seven drafts (eighteen at the final count), and scores of audio softwares later, I had files that worked. A bit further along, I had a CD that played the sound files. Designing the Shakti helmet was another matter. Unlike the Koren helmet, it had to have safety as it first concern. That meant, of course, that it had to have separate output to the two sides of the brain. It also had to omit all signals not specifically derived from neural structures.
Knowing that a given effect emerges from a structure on one side allows one to stop the effect by applying the same signal to the other side. Anything Shakti can do, it can undo, if the person uses their tech support and follows the procedures.
Also, the helmet had to have coils outside the temporal lobes, so that repeated use would not quieten the parietal and especially the frontal lobes.
Once I had the invention, it needed to be tested on more people than just myself if it was ever going to be more than only my own plaything. And, in spite of the many studies done at Laurentian University, it could be argued that the safety of the sessions found there did not apply to self-administration of two signals at once. When I ran the first successful Shakti session, using a sound card and an impromptu headset improvised from two sets of DAC coils, I was satisfied.
I won’t go into the details, because, as it’s inventor I have a stake in what’s said about it. Once others began using it, those with more dispassion than I, began to speak. They also have more typical brains than I have. Mine has TLE in it’s past. Others don’t.
I offered prototypes of Shakti from my website at www.spiritualbrain.com and right away I began to get applications to participate in a safety study. I had to start with a safety study, of course; to begin saying that we didn’t know how safe it was for individuals to use it themselves. But that didn’t stop a lot of people, mostly men, from applying to participate.
After about a year, it became apparent that Shakti was safe, although monitoring it’s safety remains a secondary goal.
There were a couple of incidents. One man, using the standard helmet and CD, found himself having too many moments when he had a word on the tip of his tongue that he couldn’t get out, and a growing sense of detachment that interfered with his work in sales. I knew that these were moments when the right hippocampus was more active than the left. He had been using Shakti for weeks, experiencing this, but not availing himself of tech support.
In the end, he corrected things using the left side signal only, applied over the left side.
In spite of his experience, he later wrote that he’d give up his Shakti when it was pried from his “cold, dead fingers.”
A few people have had passing headaches. These are also associated with the hippocampal signal, and they seem to stop using the left channel alone, or using common headache pills. They really aren’t headaches, actually. They’re better described as feelings of pressure. They tend to happen for a few sessions (when they happen at all), and then to stop. Less than 15% of Shakti users get them at all.
Those are the two most unpleasant and common side effects of Shakti, now with over a hundred users.
On the other hand, things get a bit more interesting when we look at Shakti’s positive effects.
First of all, there are two primary ways to use Shakti.
In one, the person is looking for lasting after-effects.
In the other, the person is looking for more dramatic experiences. Like what they may have seen in documentaries featuring Persinger’s work. There’s a safety precaution, though. These sessions should last an hour, and should be done more than once in three weeks, following a successful session.
In looking for lasting positive effects, the person needs to repeat the sessions once a week, in normal states of consciousness. These sessions last 30 minutes.
Even though most people became interested in this technology because of the more dramatic things possible with longer sessions, most Shakti users are opting for the shorter session, done more often.
Here’s some of the effects produced during or after repeated sessions.
– enhanced introspective skills
– lucid dreaming
– out-of-body experiences
– a greater sense of self
– a reduction in anger
– enhanced visual acuity
– pleasant detachment
– floating sensations
– “a sense good spiritual balance and general sense of being centered and optimistic”
– “During my session it was as if I were seeing through the mask”
– “wonderful vivid dreams”
– “I had the strong feeling of sitting just reversed in my room and facing the opposite wall (eyes closed). This was a strong visual impression.”
– “I saw a black board with several words written on it. It seemed like I understood these words but when tried to look closer I noticed that they were written in a language unknown to me”
– “relief from something that always seems to be there. ”
These vary from one person to the next. Each brain is different. Some fight back, trying to re-establish the old neural settings in a process called metabolic snapback. Visit the website for more information.
Longer sessions have produced visions of many kinds, mostly brief, fleeting ones. So far, it seems that being totally relaxed, still, and in a silent place help a great deal, and not everyone is able to manage the complete silence. One user tried white noise as a background, but that only interferes. A lot of the temporal lobes are involved in monitoring ambient noise, and white noise only adds to this activity, which must be quieted to allow Shakti to recruit the same area fully.
Most people who are interested in this technology will prefer to read the testimonials taken from reports by participants. HERE
Now that Shakti has gone past the safety phase (although monitoring it’s safety remains a secondary goal), the next goal emerges. Shakti still isn’t covered by any insurance, so the same disclaimers, etc. are still in place. Read them.
But the goal is now to find whatever procedures are necessary to guarantee each person a spiritual process, even dramatic visions. So far, most Shakti users (over 90 %) have had something to report, and the remaining few are working through a variety of procedures and new wave forms.
One of them, “Shakti 5” is available to all participants on request, and it has elicited experiences when the standard one didn’t.
Persinger’s most dramatic effects came from the first version of this technology, which used signals that were fed to a set of four coils over each side of the brain; one coil at a time. The 8 Coil Shakti does the same thing, except that it alternates the signals between two sets of coils (with opposite polarities).
The 8 Coil Shakti is driven by a software – “Shakti For Windows”. Although the Audio CD – based Shakti Helmet performed as it should, moving Shakti over to a software allowed many improvements and enhancements to be introduced. The Shakti software has many more signals than the Shakti helme.
The 8 Coil Shakti uses slightly improved coils. The Helmet used coils taken from electrical relays, while the 8 Coil Shakti uses coils designed for magnetic signal transmission. The Helmet’s coils had a slight offset in the positive.
Besides having better coils, the 8 Coil Shakti’s coils can be moved, so that one can target the frontal, temporal, parietal, or temporal lobes. A set of Velcro strips allows the coils to be placed anywhere, though the software is addressed to these (and a few other) locations.
Having Shakti based on a windows software made it possible to add a number of worthwhile tools – mostly for audio setup. If the sound card supports it (and not all do), you can set up your system to display the signals while they’re being played. Other tools let you set the system’s volume to specified levels, so if one has or gets one of the tested sound cards, they don’t need a gauss meter – and a sound card costs less. If not, there are other ways of setting the volume (or should we say field strength).
Of course, the 8 Coil Shakti has a set of mono and stereo signals as well as the ones that alternate the signals between the left and right stereo channels.
Persinger had done some in-house work looking at the intervals between sessions, and found that sessions done every 72 hours did not elicit ‘metabolic snapback’ the way weekly sessions did, but also that weekly sessions were more likely to have lasting effects. The every-72-hours sessions allowed one to explore a signals effects before moving on to weekly sessions, so that made for an important improvement in users control over the effects.
The development of the 8 Coil Shakti spanned two years, and saw a simpler stereo software-based Shakti which was an effective device, but not as powerful as the 8 Coil version which followed it.
Shakti continues to develop in several ways. New signals are added regularly, illustrations that help explain the concepts, and I am constantly searching for audio tools that help the whole process easier. I’ve even had some softwares created by freelance programmers to help control features like bass/treble, volume, control panel multimedia, and even added a screensaver (so that screensavers that play music don’t start during Shakti sessions).
I’ll keep working on it. All of it.
2014 – Note: A Brazilian Researcher has published a report that confirms some of Dr. Persinger’s God Helmet results. This lays some of the arguments advanced by his critics to rest. Some have speculated that Persinger’s results were due to suggestibility. They’re not. It has also been claimed that these technologies can’t affect the brain. They can.
NOTE: The first draft of this article was written at the request of the editors of “Audio Visual Stimulation” Click HERE to visit their site.