Sunday, March 7, 2010

Held Incognito Inside Bodies

While we are inside bodies, we cannot see anything except by means of our sensory machinery—and the interpretation of sensory data by our brains. We can’t hear, feel, or smell anything either. By contrast, we seem to be able to see and hear just fine if we are outside of our bodies. Let’s take a look at these two cases.
Inside and Outside
The first assertion is obvious and amply documented. Special cases merely underline known facts. One such is the case of Helen Keller, which I’ve discussed here on this blog. Another are the experiences of Jill Bolte Taylor mentioned in a recent post here. The second assertion is less obvious. It depends on what I call experiential evidence—based on what people experience. The first can be established by scientific means, thus by physical measurements of physical phenomena. Subjective experiences cannot be replicated or checked independently nor yet measured. They cannot be reached by physical means. It is for this reason that scientists shy away from the paranormal; the blind also refrain from visiting picture galleries: what’s the point if you can’t see things?

Experiential evidence, however, does exist for seeing and hearing ordinary reality without the help of the sensory apparatus and the brain. The clearest cases come from near-death experiences (NDEs)—especially in those situations where a patient is declared clinically dead but, nonetheless, reports his or her observations of accident scenes or hospital surroundings—not least the actions and words of doctors or of the police—during that span of time. The patient is unconscious and comatose. The heart may have stopped beating. The eyes are closed. The EEG reading is flat.

For my own purposes I classify NDEs as this-worldly and other-worldly. In the first case people report about what they see in this world—the accident, the operating room. In the other they talk of seeing other-worldly environments, people, luminous beings, and so on. I’ve written multiple posts on this subject on Borderzone. A striking case, reported by C.G. Jung, is here. A discussion of the worldly phases is presented here. Now my presumption is that people who report seeing real events in this word, while cut off from their senses, also see real events in some other world. Why do we assume that the first instance is real and the is second illusory?

Let me restate the issue again to sharpen it. Why it is that in ordinary life—and also when medical conditions prevail, as during a stroke—our view of reality is restricted to matters that come to us only through the biological machinery we call our body? And yet, under the extraordinary circumstance of being on the brink of death, we’re suddenly enabled to examine, usually from a certain height, the scenes of accidents, operating theaters, hospital beds—and our own body, lying there. If we have the power to see and hear outside of the body, doesn’t that strongly suggest that inside the body something inhibits a power we have as souls? Does this inhibition arise because we are fused to matter in some way while we are what we call alive?

This isn’t merely idle musing or philosophical speculation. We do have evidence for both cases—if, that is, we’re willing to accept experiential evidence. And such evidence often comes from highly credible sources—including pilots reporting on dangerous mishaps, mountain climbers who’ve experienced falls, educated people, young people, mothers, technicians—not merely the feeble and the addled old.
Additional Aspects
The cases of greatest interest—especially for documenting body-soul duality—come from accidents and near accidents. In some of these the person involved may not even be hurt. These are sometimes out-of-body experiences (OBEs) rather then near-death experiences. Death was threatened by the circumstances, but nothing harmful actually took place—seen from the future. In these cases the soul literally jumps out of the body almost as if trying to escape the calamity—but the calamity does not develop. The pilot is suddenly outside the airplane, about to crash, and views himself from outside the cockpit inside of which he sees his body still fighting the controls. Or the subject is a mountain climber who loses his hold and is falling—but is, moments later, saved by a rope snagging on a rock. Yet other such cases involve motor cycle accidents in which the rider, about to be crushed, is thrown free and lands safely without harm—beyond having been knocked out. What we get here is an odd feeling that the soul—but surely not the person’s conscious self—takes an action it is able to take under extraordinary stimulus. I say, not the conscious self, because there is neither time to think in such circumstances, nor a knowledge of what to do, and invariably the conscious person is very surprised by that which suddenly happens, namely the body’s release. And once we contemplate that the soul may be able to release the body—yes, conditions have to be extraordinary—it occurs to me, anyway, that the soul may also be able to attach to a body in the same way.
In these ranges of experience, we’ve barely begun to explore what we have learned in the twentieth century. Most of those who study NDEs are motivated to establish that indeed the soul does journey on. And once that fact is satisfactorily established, the job is done. These studies are costly and difficult and don’t have much practical value. They are and remain in the category of experiential evidence, hence won’t ever lead to a Nobel Prize in any category of science. Nevertheless, it seems to me, study of this phenomenon is potentially very valuable in orienting ourselves. Hence I’ll indulge in speculation.

Perhaps a start might be made by looking at some assumptions. It seems that disembodied souls are capable to seeing the physical world but unable to interact with it except in unusual or narrowly defined circumstances. If so, it appears that when they do—do interact in some way—they may link up to a living organism. They may be the very cause of life. To put this in other words, it may be that all living things represent a suitable organic structure which is enlivened by fusion with a soul from a vast disembodied pool of souls. Does all this make you feel, reading this, that you’ve wandered into the mind of a madman? Sorry about that. Discovery sometimes produces that kind of rearing back at the seemingly preposterous. But the idea is not at all weird, actually. What we do know, certainly in the case of humans, is that when the soul departs, life departs as well. It’s not that big a leap to imagine that life may be a spiritual fact—and that some spirits may be conscious while vastly many are not.

Let me make one more wild assumption. For the soul to leave the body—even when the body is still a working machine—requires extraordinary circumstances, namely a life-threatening set of events. It would seem to me logical, therefore, to assume that an equally unusual event, certainly an event of enormous emotional intensity, would also be required to cause a soul to fuse with matter. This would require that the soul could do so—therefore that, at some level of matter—a bridge between two kinds of reality should exist. I can’t help but remember the Tibetan Book of the Dead in this context. There we encounter the suggestion that a soul, unwilling to follow the light into the higher regions, finds itself attracted to men and women as they copulate. The soul then, as it were, plunges in. Don’t laugh. A huge intensity of emotion—some ranges of which may draw the soul almost irresistibly—are often involved when bodies meet in love.

But then, once the fusion has been accomplished—willingly or unwillingly—it may take something equally extraordinary, after that fusion, once more to loosen the soul from its newly minted prison in the lower dimension.

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