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God Helmet (wikipedia.org)
93 points by elierotenberg 8 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 49 comments

Or as I call it, the Placebo Effect Helmet.

> The foundations of his theory have been criticized in the scientific press.

> One attempt at replication published in the scientific literature reported a failure to reproduce Persinger's effects and the authors proposed that the suggestibility of participants, improper blinding of participants or idiosyncratic methodology could explain Persinger's results.

> Other groups have reported no effects at all or have generated similar experiences by using sham helmets, or helmets that are not turned on, and have concluded that personality differences in the participants explain these unusual experiences.

As a semi-related aside, I have epilepsy and one of the signs I am about to have a seizure is a sense of presence. It's really hard to describe but I get an intense feeling like someone is watching me close by. It's a very familiar feeling, last time I had a seizure, just before I fell to the floor I began to run away from what I perceived as a presence. Not fun.

My “aura” feels like encountering a bad memory. Like an overpowering bad memory tied to a place. I can see how it could be interpreted as a mystical experience

>Jack Hitt, a journalist from Wired magazine, visited Persinger's lab in 1999 and expressed confusion over Persinger's post-stimulation debriefing ("One question: Did the red bulb on the wall grow larger or smaller? There was a red bulb on the wall? I hadn't noticed.") and reported: "Many other questions suggest that there were other experiences I should have had, but to be honest, I didn't. "

What a joke. Why is this in HN? There are better examples of suggestibility out there.

I’ve had good results with a DIY version of a hypnogogic light.

I used one of these at a psychedelic science conference in SF but they wanted $25k to buy it. So I set out to build an open-source version for under $100.

The LSD (Light Stimulation Device) can be built for under $50 and is being used for therapy, relaxation and inducing psychedelic like experiences.

Current version is made with ski googles, lith ion USB rechargable battery, Arduino with Bluetooth and can pair with a terminal program on IPhone.

The whole project is on GitHub and can be found here:


Thanks for the link. Always been curious to try one of these devices, I can actually afford to now.

You can build a basic one really cheap!

The software could use some help as it’s just a few basic sequences now.

Next phase would be a nice iPhone app that you can program sequences with.

I’d also like to sync with an EEG headband so you can adjust based on current brain wave state.

Please send me a photo of your build!


Will do! I would like to add, it would be kind of nice if you added a picture of yours to either your site or the github repo. I can see the premade ones and get an idea of what's going on but it would be nice to see a fully built one.

Someone was going to do a mini-doc about the project and we were going to do a full how to video as part of it but then... COVID killed the video star.

Yeah I need to push some updates and the newest code and parts list.

There doesn't seem to be much to the god helmet, besides the placebo effect, but at least it inspired this great short story by Peter Watts: https://rifters.com/real/shorts/PeterWatts_Heathens.pdf

This story is amazing. Thank you so much

This made me recall some wild online catalog website from the early 2000s that was primarily known (and advertised) for hoverboard sales, where the hoverboard was basically a small noisy gas-powered rectangular hovercraft you could stand on. I think I first saw their ad in Wired, or maybe a gaming magazine. Anyway if you dug into their catalog there was all sorts of wild stuff, from sleep masks that used LEDs to induce lucid dreaming to things more like this. Anyone know the website I'm talking about?

I don't know the website and I can't speak to lucid dreaming, but the most incredible "sacred geometry" effects can come from "brain machine" or "audio visual entrainment" devices. Mitch Altman had a classic Make Magazine build -- the things are essentially LEDs flickering around 10hz alpha. We built one recently with Arduino to support open eye meditation -- and you see some pretty crazy things generated by your visual cortex.

Interestingly, the effect was discovered by the neuroscientist purkinje while at the beach as a boy. He noticed that waving his open fingers over his eyes produced geometric hallucinations and later published his drawings -- back in the mid 1800s.

I can't find anything for Purkinje at the beach, do you know where you heard it?

A web article with an illustration. I can't find it. But from "Purkinje's Vision: Dawn of Neuroscience"

"The first phenomenon described by Purkinje was novel: He produced flicker, while looking at the bright sky, by waving his fingers in front of one eye and reported seeing checkerboards, zigzags, spirals, and ray patterns (see Fig. 3.2, Figs. 1–4). They were called shadow figures by Helmholtz (1867, 2000b) and are now referred to as stroboscopic patterns (Smythies, 1957), although they were described before the stroboscope was invented."

Got any links to resources around making one of these things? Sounds like an interesting project.

Adafruit used to sell the kit (not anymore), but you have the instructions, parts list, pcb files and firmware (on the download section) and everything here:


This site maybe? It's from that time and still exists https://www.amazing1.com

I could believe this is it! Looks somewhat familiar in the internet archive, although things get hazy since this was nearly 20 years ago: https://web.archive.org/web/20040624143153/http://www.amazin...

A video of the “anti-gravity” hover board, using pulsed DC, similar to what’s used in spacecraft: https://youtu.be/006d36WWyaQ

I love how one of their categories is "Exotic Devices"

Just below ... "Anti-Gravity" :-)

Do the LEDs “induce” lucid dreaming or are they just a cue for you to look for? Because the cue thing might be slightly less absurd. If you get in the habit of performing “reality checks” (is checking for things that would be present in reality but not in a dream or vice versa), you would notice when you were dreaming and would hence have lucid dreams.

Of course, it’s still a dumb product since you can just check whether written text changes when you’re not looking at it, but it’s not necessarily as dumb as it sounds.

My dreams are often pretty chaotic. It would be very uncharacteristically solemn for me to write something and check if it's there when I look again.

I haven't tried, but I can imagine blinking lights always present would be a much bigger clue to me.

Same, it's pretty difficult to take notes while attempting to rescue someone from a possessed building that looks a bit like a brutalist interpretation of the Globe Theatre, what with having to fight your way through its zombie-like denizens and arguing with a disembodied voice that seems to be controlling the lighting.

I'm not really sure what I'd do differently in a lucid dream anyways, my subconscious seems to have a better imagination than I do. Remembering more details from dreams would be more important for me I guess.

> since you can just check whether written text changes when you’re not looking at it

To throw an anecdote into the bucket, I've had a dream where I read a word, and it didn't seem to change on closer inspection, and I remembered it when I woke up. But it didn't cue any lucid dreaming.

But I'm also out of the habit of checking.

Clocks are a good one, except if you're office happens to have a broken clock hanging up in a meeting room.

It’s light switches for me. They never work in dreams.

There are a lot of wearables promising to do everything, it wouldn’t surprise me if you were talking about this site. Although it wasn’t around in the early 2000s.

The hapbee wearable comes to mind. "Choose how you feel"


Endorsed by founder of bulletproof coffee, which says something.

amazing1.com comes to mind.

Yes! I remember browsing this site as a child. They had all sorts of whacky stuff for sale, like “anti-gravity” devices. I think I found it through the ads in the back of Popular Science.

I think this might be it! And yes, I think it was also Popular Science in which I saw the ad. What a blast from the past!

If I put this thing on my head, would the aluminum foil I'm already sporting cause amplification or attenuation of the effect?

It seems to be based on the manipulation of weak magnetic fields, so aluminum should not have a noticeable effect.

Makes me think of Dr. Weisleder who healed his patients with moonlight, and eventually drew massive crowds of people to be healed.

On a side note, I remember the first time I tried an isolation tank; how I fell into a deep sleep that was different from all previous ones. Felt like my consciousness was halved but not quite gone (the way it usually is when you fall asleep).

It was very pleasant. Like an idle dream. An hour went by in a few minutes. I’ve tried replicating it a few times but never had the same success as the first time I went.

I’d be curious to know what other states of consciousness exist (and how to consistently trigger them).

I’d pay good money for some experiences I can do in the comfort of my home.

With persistence, you can do it for free at home. Here's a guide:


This is one of the things I've always wanted to try. Even if it is hockey pseudoscience as long as it's not actively dangerous it could be interesting.

Alas this and the overview effect are two things I'll probably never experience.

The placebo effect is marvellous...


Atheism is not the topic here, it is not even mentioned in article. Although it is not a scientific fact, I wouldn't call it a faith because there is nothing really to be gained by wishing it was true. Most faiths promise a decent return of interest for true believers.

If a human-made device could produce sensation of God presence, it would diminish all the holy visions reported by saints. Dawkins denied feeling any such sensation, so it doesn't seem like he is lying to defend his beliefs?

> Dawkins denied feeling any such sensation, so it doesn't seem like he is lying to defend his beliefs?

Maybe cleanroom believes that the helmet induces accurate visions of religious phenomena, so they think Dawkins did see something, but denied seeing it to support his worldview?

Wouldn't it beneficial for a prominent atheist like Dawkins to believe that feelings of divinity are merely side effects from some electric fields near the head? If he were to lie wouldn't he do so in favor of the God Helmet having an effect?

> I wouldn't call it a faith because there is nothing really to be gained by wishing it was true.

Of course there's something to be gained; you don't have to follow any rules and can live however you want without expecting punishment after death.

> If a human-made device could produce sensation of God presence, it would diminish all the holy visions reported by saints.

Maybe, but not obviously; if a human-made device can produce a sensation of (touch|vision|sound), does that diminish reports of (touch|sight|hearing)?

Ah yes, I didn't consider the threat of eternal damnation. My argument would be valid only if we consider atheism on its own, without context of Christianity being alternative.

I would say that widespread occurrence of sensation that was previously considered rare and sacred would significantly diminish foundations of most religions.

As we enter the age where it is easy to fabricate visual and audio recordings, people will become increasingly wary of believing it. I would think same would apply to sense of supernatural presence?

Belief in punishment after death is not logically connected to belief or non-belief in deities. Where such connections exist, they too are matters of faith. There are for example atheists that believe in reincarnation and karma/vipaka.

If worrying about punishment after death is the only thing that keeps you from acting immorally, please stick with the religion.

:) An Atheist (hopefully) doesn't need to be forced to not murder people, but they can eat bacon, sleep with a prostitute (where legal), and tell a "white lie" without fear of punishment.

I thought for most my life that the domain of the objective and the domain of the real were equivalent. But I missed the subtle gradation toward uncertainty, maybe seen as concentric concepts starting from center: commonality of perception (objective) -> body’s reaction to reality (subjective) -> reality itself (unknowable totality).

The God Helmet is an objective thing you wear (with magnetic property on/off), with a linguistic component (the story of what it will do), and a subjective component (the unique experiences the person brings to it and from it). If the resulting experience has no measurable/repeatable effects across all people, then it is by definition not admissible as an objective phenomenon (i.e. it does not fit the lowest common denominator of experience).

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