the official site of Michael Shermer

top navigation:

Tag Results

Mr. Skeptic Goes to Esalen

Science and spirituality on the California coast
magazine cover

The Esalen Institute is a cluster of meeting rooms, lodging facilities and hot tubs all nestled into a stunning craggy coastal outcrop of the Pacific Ocean in Big Sur, Calif. In his 1985 book, “Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman”, the Nobel laureate physicist Richard Feynman recounts his experience in the natural hot spring baths there, in which a woman is being massaged by a man she just met. “He starts to rub her big toe. ‘I think I feel it,’ he says. ‘I feel a kind of dent — is that the pituitary?’ I blurt out, ‘You’re a helluva long way from the pituitary, man!’ They looked at me, horrified … and said, ‘It’s reflexology!’ I quickly closed my eyes and appeared to be meditating.”

With that as my introduction to the Mecca of the New Age movement, I accepted an invitation to host a weekend workshop there on science and spirituality. Given my propensity for skepticism when it comes to most of the paranormal piffle proffered by the prajna peddlers meditating and soaking their way to nirvana here, I was surprised the hall was full. Perhaps skeptical consciousness is rising! (continue reading…)

Comments Off

Mesmerized!

book cover

A review of Robin Waterfield’s Hidden Depths: The Story of Hypnosis.

In the early 1980s I began a personal odyssey into altered states of consciousness. Because I thought I might like to use my brain again, I eschewed mind-altering substances and instead opted for (continue reading…)

read or write comments (15)

Demon-Haunted Brain

If the brain mediates all experience, then paranormal phenomena are nothing more than neuronal events
magazine cover

Five centuries ago demons haunted our world, with incubi and succubi tormenting victims as they lay asleep. Two centuries ago spirits haunted our world, with ghosts and ghouls harassing sufferers during all hours of the night. This past century aliens haunted our world, with grays and greens abducting captives and whisking them away for probing and prodding. Nowadays people are reporting out-of-body experiences, floating above their beds. What is going on here? Are these elusive creatures and mysterious phenomena in our world or in our minds? New evidence adds weight to the notion that they are, in fact, products of the brain. Neuroscientist Michael Persinger, in his laboratory at Laurentian University in Sudbury, Ontario, for example, can induce all these perceptions in subjects by subjecting their temporal lobes to patterns of magnetic fields. (I tried it myself and had a mild out-of-body experience.) (continue reading…)

read or write comments (5)

Out of Body Experiment

Michael Shermer travels to Laurentian University in Sudbury, Canada, to strap on the “God Helmet” in neuroscientist Michael Persinger’s lab that duplicates out-of-body experiences, near-death experiences, alien abductions, and other paranormal phenomena.

read or write comments (7)