For those of you who’ve forgotten or perhaps even repressed your memories of high school English class, the line in the title is the cry of the power-hungry and all-around homicidal maniac Lady Macbeth, the female lead in Shakespeare’s great tragedy, Macbeth. After having committed regicide so that her husband may become king, she becomes convinced that she cannot wash King Duncan’s blood from her hands. Thoughts are soliloquized, guilt is manifested in madness, and archetypes are born.
Through humanity’s existence there has been a backbone of culture, tradition and out of that has come religion. Since ancient times, humans as a species have devoted their time and mental capacity to a higher being that we cannot physically perceive nor interact with. There are varying viewpoints from different disciplines that try to explain the nature of this God and where he or she resides, if anywhere. While many have displaced intelligent design as a plausible theory, mathematics offers that there may be divine math behind our existence, theoretical physics has routinely said that particle dynamics can answer our questions, while biochemistry presents the primordial soup theory and DNA replication. However, there are people among us who claim to have had “mystical experiences” that put them in touch with this ever elusive God on a level experienced by few.
Now, neuroscience has something to say about this “God experience.” Michael Persinger, a cognitive scientist at Laurentian University in Canada believes that God lives within our own brains, implying that these mystical experiences may be contrived. He has developed a neuroethological apparatus deemed the “God Helmet” that seems to induce the feeling of another being’s presence to it’s wearer. The device is modeled off of a snowboarding helmet and contains metal coils that cover the whole brain with a magnetic field when fully powered up. The subject puts on the helmet and then sits in a dark, comfortable room with eye coverings as the coils are activated. In the experiments, magnetic activity above the right temporal lobe elicits the most intense feeling of presence of other beings to the wearer. Persinger reports that 80% of the helmet’s wearers experience presence of another being, or the so-called “God sense.” The idea here is that the brain itself is creating the feeling of divine presence without the presence of the divine. Given Persinger’s results, neuroscience says that we may have created our creator, and that the divine is nothing but a function of our own brain activity. Maybe those that claim to have danced with the divine simply have above normal temporal lobe activity. This research also sheds light on the more familiar feeling that someone is “watching you,” which is essentially the same feeling of presence.
It is safe to say that we may never know if our creator resides inside our own minds, in another inaccessible dimension or walks among us. Until then, we can only investigate our own existence as a function of what we can observe or from what we can infer about information we have already obtained. For a more in depth exploration of the creator question, check out Discovery Channel’s “Through The Wormole” narrated by Morgan Freeman (just follow the consecutive parts!).