Was there a 1983 experiment in which a man was denied access to any of his senses in hopes of perceiving God?
It’s not real. It’s merely a short story.
The short story entitled “Gateway of the Mind” can be found published on CreepyPasta.com, a website described as “a collection of various paranormal/scary short stories.” The work was posted on November 23, 2009.
The story tells of an unscrupulous group of scientists who deprived a man of all of his senses in order to determine if this void would allow him to sense the presence of God. The man began reporting that he could hear voices and possessed knowledge of dead relatives of the scientists. He screamed, clawed at his eyes, and chewed chunks of flesh from his arms. After begging to be killed, his last words were, “I have spoken with God and he has abandoned us,” upon which his vital signs stopped for no apparent reason.
Although it was clearly presented on the website as a work of fiction, over time the tale has made its rounds throughout the internet, sometimes presented as a factual event. We spotted the ending quote, “I have spoken with God and he has abandoned us” on several websites without attribution to the fictional story.
Even though the “Gateway of the Mind” experiments are the work of fiction, there have been notable sensory deprivation experiments throughout history. A 2008 BBC special featured 6 subjects who were isolated in darkness for 48 hours. Those subjects reported hallucinations and decreased memory capacity.
A 2009 study on sensory deprivation also found that “People experiencing sensory deprivation often report perceptual disturbances such as hallucinations, especially over extended periods of time.”
“White Torture” is a form of sensory deprivation typically used on political prisoners which is said to lead to a loss of identity for the subject. It was reportedly a favorite technique used by the CIA for coercive interrogations. Individuals are immobilized, placed in small soundproof rooms and fitted with earmuffs and goggles. “Extreme hallucinations” are followed by a complete “breakdown” after about two days.
Sensory Deprivation has also been touted as a form of therapy with positive benefits. Those who engage in such sensory deprivation lie in chambers or float in tanks. A typical session lasts about an hour and is said to induce relaxation and even aid in smoking or alcohol abstinence.
The search history chart below shows popularity of interest in this topic over the past several years. As you can see, it peaked in mid-2013, with several smaller surges occurring since then.
“Gateway of the Mind” was not a real experiment which occurred in 1983, but a work of fiction posted on CreepyPasta in 2009.
Sensory Deprivation has been used from everything from therapy to torture, and it has been found that extended periods of sensory deprivation leads to increased hallucinations. You may also be interested at our look at whether those who have lost hearing or vision can actually develop their other senses as a means to compensate.
Source: Gateway of the Mind (CreepyPasta.com: November 23, 2009)
Updated May 12, 2016
Originally published September 2013