Brainwaves and the Power of Prayer

Both the eye and brain generate magnetic fields when stimulated with a variety of visual cues. These magnetic fields can be measured with a magnetometer; a device which uses superconducting technology.[1] Magnetic field variation from the human brain produced by visual stimulation have been observed in a normal laboratory setting with a superconducting quantum interference device and no magnetic shielding of the subject. Previously unknown temporal and spatial features of the field near the scalp are reported [(1975)].[2]

With the development of multichannel magnetoencephalographs biomagnetic signals can be recorded over large areas at the same time. It allows determination of the magnetic field outside the head.[3] The technology works by measuring the extremely faint magnetic fields producted when nerve cells in the brain fire electrical signals to communicate one another.[4] Biomagnetometers, which look like…beauty-parlor hair dryers, measure brain-generated magnetic fields that are one ten-millionth the strength of Earth's magnetic field.[5] The biomagnetic signals originating from a[]…discharge is, however, mixed with biomagnetic signals generated by the background activity in the brain.[6]

A long auditory stimulus [also] elicits a magnetic evoked response in the human brain, consisting of transient deflections followed by a sustained response. The distributions of the magnetic fields indicate that the auditory evoked transient response at a latency of 100 ms as well as the auditory sustained response are generated at and around the primary auditory cortex.[7] These fields exhibit features with a clear spatial symmetry which can be accounted for by assuming that their source consists of two vertically oriented neuronal complexes symmetrically located deep in the temporal lobes. This assignment, which is also consistent with the available electrical data, places the sources within the auditory cortex near the sylvian fissure.[8]

In…right-handed male adults,[9]…[when] stimulating the right ear the averaged magnetic field from the left hemisphere is approx. twice as great as that from the right hemisphere, whereas stimulating the left ear no difference in magnitude is found.[10] The responses from contralateral stimulation are approx. 9 ms earlier than those from ipsilateral stimulation with no interhemispheric differences.[11] [When] the component of the magnetic field normal to the skull was measured; in some cases this component was oriented in the outward direction (group 1 and some group 2 subjects), in the other cases in the inward direction (group 2).[12]

By recording the magnetic field of the human brain while simultaneously presenting light to the eye and sound to the ear we have identified a brain region where auditory and visual signals converge. The location of this region is close to primary auditory cortex and far from primary visual cortex.[13]

Exposure to static magnetic fields as used in NMR-equipment generates a new encephalomagnetic field in human brain.[14] [It has also been]…found…that by measuring sleep parameters, the REM latency is shortened in the E-W position of sleepers compared with the N-S position.[15] There are statistically significant differences in the EEG of normal subjects, depending on whether the subjects sit facing the N-S or E-W direction. The difference is especially pronounced in the alpha-power.[16]

["God doesn't play dice" is what Einstein said to rationalize what were thought to be "hidden variables" involved in the "spooky action at a distance" effect of what is known as the Einstein-Podolsky-Rosen (or EPR) paradox.

What they had discovered was that electrons that have been in close proximity (or entangled) will instantaneously (faster than light speed) affect each other even if separated by vast distances.]

Science has shown, again and again, that "There are more things in heaven and earth" than there were once thought to be.[17] At laboratories like [director of Consciousness Research Laboratory at the University of Nevada, Ph.D. Dean] Radin's, along with the pioneering Princeton Engineering Anomalies Research lab (PEAR), founded by rocket engineer Robert Jahn, Ph.D., in 1979, psychic ability is studied in carefully designed and repeatable studies. These scientists have staked out a narrow and mesmerizing band of reality where science and the "mystical" begin to merge.

"When the history of consciousness in the twentieth century is written," contends Dr. [Larry] Dossey, "it will be the studies at these laboratories that mark the turning point." It is in these labs, at this moment, that science may actually be demonstrating that consciousness is nonlocal; that is, it's not limited to specific points in space…or even to the brain itself.

And so it was, paradoxically, the scientists who rescued me from my withering faith.[18] Two of the most robust areas of scientific research are telepathy and telekinesis (mind over matter). In the first, a "sender" tries to connect with a "receiver," though they are isolated from each other.[19] A sender may try to alternately calm and excite a receiver at random intervals, simply via his thoughts and own state of being; the receiver's skin conductance and galvanic skin response (indications of arousal) are measured. Studies repeatedly demonstrate significant results.[20]

Mind over matter emerges as the most electrifying area of research. It seems that human intention can influence machines – even at a distance, when no influence seems possible. Researchers are both enthralled and puzzled by the data, which makes no sense. Studies thus far have examined machines that randomly produce positive or negative electrical pulses, or measure random radioactive decay, or randomly generate numbers. By concentrating, subjects try to influence the machines in one direction or another. After more than 14 million trials, Jahn has found a constant, significant influence of humans on the performance of machines, and the odds of this happening are 1 in 5,000. Other studies have shown that people can influence not only the random generator they are concentrating on, but hidden generators they don't even know about.

The actual shift is small, but to understand it requires a stunning leap of perspective. Something is at work here that indicates our world may be far more fluid and interconnected than we ever imagined. Inspired by Jahn's research, Radin tested five different random generators on October 4, 1995, the day the O. J. Simpson verdict was delivered. At 10 a.m. Pacific time, when 44 million Americans were tuned in to television and radio, the random generators all became significantly less random. The shift lasted for 50 seconds. Radin believes that "the movement of mind does affect matter. It influences everything you can imagine, including mind itself. If 44 million minds are focuses on one thing, that coherence spreads out, and influences even machines."

What the bleep do we know?
Down the rabbit hole (Part 6)

Other researchers have tried to find flaws in the studies. "We've wondered if influence varies with distance, or with data rate, or with the voltage of the machine," says physicist Michael Ibison, Ph.D., a visiting scholar at PEAR. "It doesn't." So, says Ibison, you start musing on the mysteries of quantum physics, where mind and matter don't seem so separate and divided. "When cooled to zero degrees Kelvin," he says, "matter exhibits very weird behavior at great distances, as if the whole system is a single, unified, unbroken, organic thing, and instantaneous changes are visible everywhere. But that's still just a metaphor. All we really know is that what you are thinking now can actually be correlated with what is happening over there in a machine."[21]

In January 1994, the Psychological Bulletin published a review of mental telepathy research spanning 20 years. The research not only shows significant proof that telepathy exists, but also reveals surprising connections between artists and psychic abilities. Daryl J. Bem, professor of psychology at Cornell University, co-authored the article with the late University of Edinburgh parapsychologist Charles Honorton. Honorton, who died in November 1992, conducted most of the experiments. "Taken with earlier studies, the probability that the results could have occurred by chance is less than one in a billion," says Bem, who was deeply impressed with Honorton's safeguards against flaws and cheating.[22] [They] argue that they have indeed found "replicable evidence" for "anomalous information transfer."[23]

The studies used the ganzfeld (German for total field) technique that works to block noise and other distractions from the senses.[24] The ganzfeld studies, conducted at Honorton's Psychophysical Research Lab in Princeton, New Jersey, consisted of 11 experiments, with 240 receivers tested in 354 sessions.[25] Six out of eight music students judged targets successfully, although their reported imagery was not as detailed as the drama students'. Four out of ten drama students correctly identifed their target, describing the imagery so vividly anyone could choose the correct target.[26]

Even the CIA came out of the closet…[in 1995] with its abashed confession that the government agency had spent $20 million on psychic research in the last two decades.[27] It was in 1973 that the Central Intelligence Agency began looking into the business of psychic phenomena.[28] The studies the CIA sponsored were conducted first at the Stanford Research Institute (SRI) in Menlo Park, California, and later at the nearby, privately owned Science Applications International Corporation.[29]

"The CIA studies were conducted in a number of ways," says Jessica Utts, a statistician at the University of California at Davis who participated in some of the experiments, "but all the research had the same objective: to determine how well volunteers could perform in a sensory experiment in which something besides their usual senses was being studied." [30] "Over the first 15 years of the 20-year study," she says, "154 separate experiments were conducted consisting of 26,000 trials. During those experiments,…the statistical significance figure was a mere .00000000000000000001 [(p << 0.05)] – meaning that you would expect to see those results only once in 1020 tries if the outcome was due solely to chance."[31] "The studies lead to the conclusion that psychic abilities exist."[32]

The studies she analyzed…were conducted according to the most rigid of scientific methods: the trials were usually double-blind, with neither the experimenter nor the subject knowing what image had been selected; the subjects were unknown to the experimenters before the studies began; and when the experimenters chose volunteers, they sometimes went out of their way to select the least psychically inclined ones as possible.

"During one set of trials early in the study," Utts says, "we were looking for Stanford employees who might want to serve as subjects, and we learned that one particularly skeptical man had been telling his colleagues what nonsense our work was. After testing, we decided he'd be perfect for our needs, and as it turned out he was. On one trial, he described seeing a target image that resembled a tree, but one that was almost entirely gray and mushroom-shaped at the top. The image we had selected for him was a videotape of a nuclear explosion."[33]

After being tapped for the CIA's psychic espionage program – now known as Star Gate – [David Morehouse] spent eight months, eight hours a day, being trained in the practice known as "remote viewing," by which individuals are taught to…access people…remote from them.[34] A typical assignment, says Morehouse, was to access the mind of an enemy test pilot in order to get detailed information about fighter planes.[35] The information was correlated with other surveillance programs.[36] If the same extrasensory sleuthing could be used to locate…missile bases near Moscow or troop movements in China, the United States could gain a[n]…advantage in the global intelligence game.[37]

Though the CIA claims it has abandoned the program because of lack of success, Morehouse and his remote viewing colleagues believe Star Gate is as active as ever but has gone further undercover. They also believe the government is taking this technique into the realm of weaponry, training individuals in "remote influence" – accessing another human mind to inflict harm on it.[38]

"Give yourself to the Dark Side, Luke," sneers Darth Vader. "Your friends have fallen into a trap. Their situation is hopeless."

"Never!" Luke Skywalker vows. "I will never turn." But the rage simmers in his soul as he watches the good guys being slaughtered in their battle with the storm troopers.

"Your thoughts betray you," says Vader.[39]

Morehouse says remote influence was used against Saddam Hussein in the Gulf War. "Later, on CNN, I saw him accuse the U.S. of using psychics to attack him." [40]

It's possible, then, that the world we live in truly is a web without a weaver, that each strand in that web vibrates alone, and yet in consonance with the whole. As science inches along that web with its newly designed studies, we seem to illuminate a strand here, a strand there, just as real rainwater and light bring a spider's silk into sudden brilliant relief.[41]

There's no question that our fascination with the paranormal is here to stay. "It's one of the most ancient human attractions," notes Dr. Dossey, "part of the legacy of the human species, part of our original nature."[42]

Although most research studying the impact of psychological factors on immune function is fairly recent, the mind body connection between some physical disorders has been extensively studied. In many instances, a relationship has been found between psychological or social factors and the origin and exacerbation of these conditions.[43]

The possibility of influencing health with our minds and spiritual beliefs resonates well with the individualism of American culture. Prayer, spirituality, and mind body efforts are popular and are moving from the realm of the unconventional into mainstream medicine.[44]

Ninety-nine percent of doctors believe there is an important relationship between the spirit and the flesh, according to [a 1996 American Academy of Family Physicans] survey....

In a California study of prayer's effects on recovery from heart problems, half the nearly 400 subjects were the subjects of prayers by Christians, while the others received no known prayers from anyone affiliated with the study. Neither group was told about the prayers.

The patients who received prayers had half as many complications as those who didn't and had a lower rate of congestive heart failure, [professor at Georgetown Medical School Dale] Matthews said.

A second study, by Dartmouth Medical School, tracked how patients' own prayers helped them recover from bypass surgery. The death rate after six months was 9 percent, Matthews said. For churchgoers, however, the rate dropped to 5 percent. None of the deeply religious patients died during that period....

Amen, say proponents of faith healing.[45]

At California Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco, Elizabeth Targ, M.D., is overseeing a national study to determine the effect of remote prayer on healing AIDS patients. A previous study showed results that were promising enough to warrant further research.[46]

[Others have found no effect.]

A review of 17 past studies of "distant healing," published in 2003 by a British researcher, found no significant effect for prayer or other healing methods.[47]

In the largest study of its kind, researchers found that having people pray for heart bypass surgery patients had no effect on their recovery. In fact, patients who knew they were being prayed for had a slightly higher rate of complications.…

Dr. Harold G. Koenig, director of the Center for Spirituality, Theology and Health at the Duke University Medical Center, who didn't take part in the study, said the results didn't surprise him.

"There are no scientific grounds to expect a result and there are no real theological grounds to expect a result either," he said. "There is no god in either the Christian, Jewish or Moslem scriptures that can be constrained to the point that they can be predicted."

Within the Christian tradition, God would be expected to be concerned with a person's eternal salvation, he said, and "why would God change his plans for a particular person just because they're in a research study?"

Science, he said, "is not designed to study the supernatural."[48]

We should note that the impetus for this recent research has come almost entirely from scientists, not from religious leaders. It seems that no credible theologian has been involved in planning, directing or even consulting on such studies. But scientists who conduct research on religious practice should at least consult reputable theologians. Had they done so to begin with a considerable amount of money could have been saved. Scientists who undertake the work of theologians are as reckless as theologians who pretend to be scientists.[49]

[1] R. A. Armstrong & B. Janday (Department of Vision Sciences, Aston University, Birmingham, UK), A brief review of magnetic fields from the human visual system, Ophthalmic Physiol Opt, July 1989, 9(3).

[2] D. Brenner, S. J. Williamson & L. Kaufman, Visually evoked magnetic fields of the human brain, Science, 31 Oct 1975, 190(4213).

[3] E. Knutsson & L. Gransberg (Department of Clinical Neurophysiology, Karolinska Hospital, Stockhom, Sweden), Localization of epileptic foci with multichannel magnetoencephalography, MEG, Acta Neurochir Suppl (Wein), 1995, 64.

[4] magnetoencephalography, Richard P. Brennan, Dictionary of Scientific Literacy, (NY: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 1992).

[5] Op. cit.

[6] E. Knutsson & L. Gransberg (Department of Clinical Neurophysiology, Karolinska Hospital, Stockhom, Sweden), Localization of epileptic foci with multichannel magnetoencephalography, MEG, Acta Neurochir Suppl (Wein), 1995, 64.

[7] R. Hari, K. Aittoniemi, M. L. Jarvinen, T. Katila & T. Varpula, Auditory evoked transient and sustained magnetic fields of the human brain. Localization of neural generators, Experimental Brain Research, 1980, 40(2).

[8] D. E. Farrell, J. H. Tripp, R. Norgren & R. J. Teyler, A study of the auditory evoked magnetic field of the human brain, Electroencephalogr Clin Neurophysiol, July 1980, 49(1-2).

[9] C. Elberling, C. Bak, B. Kofoed, J. Lebech & K. Saermark, Auditory magnetic fields from the human cortex. Influence of stimulus intensity, Scan Audiology, 1981, 10(3).

[10] Op. cit.

[11] Op. cit.

[12] CF. K. Bak, J. Lebech & K. Saermark, Dependence of the auditory evoked magnetic field (100 msec signal) of the human brain on the intensity of the stimulus, Electroencephalogr Clin Neurophysiol, Aug 1985, 61(2).

[13] M. P. Regan, P. He, & D. Regan (Department of Psychology, York University, North York, Ontario, Canada. Martin/, An audio-visual convergence area in the human brain, Experimental Brain Research, 1995, 106(3).

[14] L. von Klitzing (Department of Clinical Research, Medical University Luebeck, Germany), A new encephalomagnetic effect in human brain generated by static magnetic fields, Brain Research, 1 Feb 1991, 540(1-2).

[15] G. Ruhenstroth-Bauer, W. Gunther, I. Hantschk, U. Klages, J. Kugler & J. Peters (Max-Planck-Institut fur Biochemie, Martinsried), Influence of the earth's magnetic field on resting and activated EEG mapping in normal subjects, International Journal of Neuroscience, 1993, 73(3-4).

[16] Op. cit.

[17] Spencer A. Rathus, Psychology, 3rd ed. (NY: Holt, Rinehart & Wilson, 1987), p. 156.

[18] Jill Neimark, Do the spirits move you?, Psychology Today, Sep/Oct 1996, 29(5), pp. 54, 78.

[19] Ibidem, p. 78.

[20] Op. cit.

[21] Op. cit.

[22] Lorrin Harvey, Mental telepathy in the lab; tests show psychic abilities among actors and musicians, Omni, Nov 1994, 17(2), p. 20.

[23] Steve Nadis, At long last, proof?, Omni, Sep 1994, 16(11), p. 78.

[24] Lorrin Harvey, Mental telepathy in the lab; tests show psychic abilities among actors and musicians, Omni, Nov 1994, 17(2), p. 20.

[25] Op. cit.

[26] Op. cit.

[27] Jill Neimark, Do the spirits move you?, Psychology Today, Sep/Oct 1996, 29(5), p. 51.

[28] Jeffrey Kluger, CIA ESP, Discover, April 1996, 17(4), p. 36.

[29] Op. cit.

[30] Op. cit.

[31] Ibidem, p. 37.

[32] Op. cit.

[33] Op. cit.

[34] Jill Neimark, I was a psychic spy, Psychology Today, Sep/Oct 1996, 29(5), p. 52.

[35] Op. cit.

[36] Op. cit.

[37] Jeffrey Kluger, CIA ESP, Discover, April 1996, 17(4), pp. 34, 36.

[38] Jill Neimark, I was a psychic spy, Psychology Today, Sep/Oct 1996, 29(5), p. 52.

[39] Return of the Jedi, In Ross Anderson, A matter of opinion, 22 June 1997, The Seattle Times Pacific Magazine, p. 17.

[40] Jill Neimark, I was a psychic spy, Psychology Today, Sep/Oct 1996, 29(5), p. 52.

[41] Ibidem, Do the spirits move you?, p. 80.

[42] Op. cit.

[43] David Sue, Derald Sue, & Stanley Sue, Understanding Abnormal Behavior, 4th ed. (Mass.: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1994), p. 239.

[44] Barrie R. Cassileth (University of North Carolina School of Medicine and Duke University School of Medicine), Reaching out: complementary therapy, Science and Medicine, Nov/Dec 1996, 3(6), p. 8.

[45] Brian Melley (The Associated Press), Medicine explores link between faith, healing; most doctors believe spirit and flesh related, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 16 Dec 1996, 133(301), p. A14.

[46] Jill Neimark, Do the spirits move you?, Psychology Today, Sep/Oct 1996, 29(5), p. 54.

[47] Alice Dembner, "A prayer for health; Scientists attempt to measure what religions accept on faith," The Boston Globe, 25 July 2005, at

[48] Malcolm Ritter (Associated Press), "Prayer Does Not Help Heart Bypass Patients," Live Science, 30 March 2006, at

[49] Raymond J. Lawrence, "Faith-Based Medicine," The New York Times, 11 April 2006, at