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No. 117: May-June 1998

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Experimental induction of the "sensed presence"

Down the millennia, a few individuals in all cultures have claimed they have been visited by spirits, gods, angels, or extraterrestrial entities. C.M. Cook and M.A. Persinger associate these visitations with the phenomenon of "sensed presence" or the awareness of an extrapersonal, incorporeal entity. Cook and Persinger assert first that the so-called "sense of self" is a construct of the brain's left hemisphere -- the side usually associated with language. Second, they hypothesize that a "sensed presence" (spirit, god, etc.) is really only a fleeting right-brain homologue of the left-brain "sense of self," something like a transient shortcircuit between brain hemispheres that probably travels along that interconnecting conduit called the "corpus callosum."

Repairing to their laboratory at the Laurentian University, Cook and Persinger asked subjects to press a button when they felt a "mystical presence." Unbeknownst to the subjects, they were occasionally exposed to weak magnetic fields. More often than chance would allow, mystical presences (button pushes) correlated with applications of magnetic fields.

(Cook, C.M., and Persinger, M.A.; "Experimental Induction of the "Sensed Presence" in Normal Subjects and an Exceptional Subject," Perceptual and Motor Skills, 85:683, 1997.)

Comments. It is difficult to decide whether sensing an unseen presence is fundamentally different from the sense of being stared at by a real person!

The implication of the above experiments is that magnetic fields can induce "mystical presences." Magnetic fields are everywhere; certainly around UFOs, probably around Stonehenge and the Oracle at Delphi. The explanatory possibilities here are endless.

From Science Frontiers #117, MAY-JUN 1998. 1998-2000 William R. Corliss