Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘science and consciousness’

What does science say about 'paranormal' sleep experiences ...

Every now and then, I like to dust off my critical mind and find an article that–yet again!–seeks to describe all paranormal phenomena as a by product of brain functions, ‘stress’, or some other physical or psychological glitch in the system. The latest assault on the paranormal comes from this source, which you are welcome to read in its entirety should you feel inspired: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/out-the-ooze/201507/why-some-people-see-ghosts-and-other-apparitions

Here is a quote that I find interesting yet dismaying: “A recent study by Kirsten Barnes and Nicholas Gibson (2013) explored the differences between individuals who have never had a paranormal experience and those who have. They confirmed that experiences of supernatural phenomena are most likely to occur in threatening or ambiguous environments, and they also found that those who had paranormal experiences scored higher on scales measuring empathy and a tendency to become deeply absorbed in one’s own subjective experience.”

One of the most common assumptions of scientists and psychologists when dealing with anomalous experiences is that the environment or the brain itself PRODUCES the paranormal experience. There are so many variations on this assumption: blind spots create the effect of seeing something out of the corner of your eye; variations in the electromagnetic field produce the feeling of a presence or being watched; variations in infrasound create feelings of doom or dread; sleep paralysis and the hypnagogic state bring our dreams into reality; or environmental contaminants make us hallucinate. The article under discussion here states that both stressful and boring environments create the necessary conditions for the brain to hallucinate ghosts. If you are a sensitive person, an empath, or simply prone to self analysis, your brain will supply you with visions. The problem with this hypothesis should be fairly clear, but allow me to break down my objections:

  1. Instead of assuming that conditions and brain states CREATE the paranormal experience, it is more likely that the proper CONDITIONS lead to the ability to perceive non-ordinary realities and presences. You can study the brains of meditators and mystics and exclaim that the changes you see in their brains have created their visions, or you can conclude that the changes in their brains are the result of sustained and focused connection with “God” or the world of spirit. The brain changes are the result of their spiritual practices, not the cause.
  2. The same can be said for people who enter trance states, ingest psychedelic substances, engage in intense religious rituals, or in any other way alter their consciousness with the express intent to contact the world of spirit. Yes, the brain changes in response to the substance, activity or intention of the participant in any kind of ritual, because the brain is accommodating and facilitating the connection, not creating it.
  3. This does not mean that you can’t genuinely hallucinate while under the influence of drugs, carbon monoxide, or some other physical agent. What’s the difference? In genuine cases of spiritual contact, there is logic, emotional impact, a sense of the divine, a coherent story, or the fulfillment of one’s deepest intentions. There is, in other words, a sense of the holy or sacred that accompanies one’s vision, a transcendence that serves to elevate the experience to another level of reality and often ends up changing the life of the person who has witnessed or sensed the presence. I have, unfortunately, endured an episode of carbon monoxide poisoning when I was a teenager in Spain–I woke up disoriented, confused, and seeing strange things. I knew immediately that this was not ‘paranormal’, but something that was sickening me in body and mind. I have also had multiple surgeries where I struggled through the effects of anesthesia and other drugs, and it was always clear that those effects were not at all supernatural due to their chaotic and irrational nature. There is simply no way to compare the effects of drugs and poison to a true, spiritual experience that leaves you in awe.
  4. And, finally, to reduce spiritual experiences to brain effects or environmental stresses completely ignores centuries of human experiences of the holy and the uncanny. If you reduce the power of religion to, for example, the stress Jesus felt while wandering through the desert, you have denied the most powerful aspect of humanity: our ability to connect to higher realities and transmit those messages to others.

Our brains serve as a sort of ‘reducing valve’ for an overwhelming amount of information that we cannot possibly process in its entirety. This quote from Aldous Huxley is quite famous in certain spiritual circles:

“Each one of us is potentially Mind at Large. Each person is at each moment capable of remembering all that has ever happened to him and of perceiving everything that is happening everywhere in the universe. […]

But in so far as we are animals, our business is at all costs to survive. To make biological survival possible, Mind at Large has to be funneled through the reducing valve of the brain and nervous system. What comes out at the other end is a measly trickle of the kind of consciousness which will help us to stay alive on the surface of this particular planet.” https://www.ianmack.com/aldous-huxley-dont-mistake-the-trickle-for-ultimate-reality/

And yes, Huxley wrote this after his experiments with mescaline; and yet, think about it: there is infinitely more information ‘out there’ than we are able to process. If some event, circumstance, drug, or stressor hampers the brain’s ability to filter out the greater reality, extra information can sneak past the gates and flood us with ‘paranormal’ experiences: messages from the gods or from God, spirit contact, or the ability to perceive what is normally blocked from view. How do we know what is ‘real’ and what is the result of a brain on overload? “By their fruits you shall know them”: this refers to false prophets, but it could easily refer to false messages or hallucinations. A good tree cannot produce bad fruit; likewise, true spiritual contact, ‘real’ paranormal experiences, are life changing and profound.

I have not mentioned the fact that documented and verifiable paranormal experiences are abundant and well researched. The Society for Psychical Research, for example, has published volumes of excellent evidence for the existence of ‘ghosts’, telepathy, near death experiences, mediumship, out of body experiences, and so much more. The SPR has been around since 1882 and included some of the most prominent and respected scientists of their time. Their work continues today. Gary Schwartz in the Department of Psychology at the University of Arizona has carried out fascinating experiments in afterlife communication. I could go on and on, but the point is: before one decides what is ‘science’ and what is not, you must do your research. There are centuries of evidence that spiritual energy is real and communicates with us on a regular basis. You don’t need to be an empath to receive these communications, but you do need to allow that such experiences are possible; if you block the full range of human consciousness with your materialism in the name of science, you lose the most profound aspect of our humanity: our connection to spirit.

The end of the article offers advice for the psychologist faced with the patient reporting paranormal contact:

“There are really only three possibilities:

  1. The event really happened, just as the person has reported.
  2. The person believes that the event has really happened, but it has not.
  3. The person is fabricating a story for some reason.”

I am not entirely sure how the psychologist would know that the event has not really happened, in the case of the second scenario. I would recommend option number 1, assuming that there is no serious mental illness present (although, some argue that schizophrenia, for example, is simply a case of a reducing valve that does not work well and allows too much information in without context or intention).

In the end, we simply cannot assume that we have access to the full display of reality that the Universe contains. Some of our brains are more plastic, more open, than others, for a multitude of reasons. Why not treat those people for whom the larger realities intrude as wise instead of crazy? Why not see what doors open for psychology and science when this extra information flows through freely, without judgment or skepticism? And, of course, why not educate yourselves in the rich history of the ‘paranormal’ and realize that the science is, actually, already settled?

—Kirsten A. Thorne, PhD

Read Full Post »

Dr. Alan Hugenot is a medium who is also an engineer and a classically trained physicist. I don’t like long quotes, but if I’m going to reference someone as an authority on something as important as life after death, make sure that your readers know who this person is. Here is his own bio on LinkedIn, but you should read more on your own:

alainhugenot

Dr. Hugenot is a semi-retired, Naval Architect & Marine Engineer, who often works as an expert witness in maritime cases. After surviving a Near-Death experience in 1970 which occurred during a 12 hour coma, he has made a 45 year, scientific study of Consciousness Survival and Evidential Mediumship. The NDE “opened” his consciousness to intuitive communications, and after completing studies with the Morris Pratt Institute (NSAC), and Arthur Findlay College of Psychic Science (SNU), He currently serves as research medium with the Consciousness Research Lab at IONS (Noetic.org) with Dr. Dean Radin, Ph.D and Dr. Arnaud Delorme, Ph.D, and also with Dr. Gary Swartz (University of Arizona). He currently serves on the Board of Directors for both the International Association for Near Death Studies (IANDS.org) and the Academy for Spiritual and Consciousness Studies (ASCSi.org). He is fascinated with parapsychological science and the physics of consciousness, consciousness survival in an afterlife, mediumship, remote viewing, and out of body experiences. Trained in classical Newtonian physics, but having also experienced the phenomena of consciousness survival and out-of-body consciousness, he realizes that our materialist paradigm is an extremely restricted aperture for viewing the larger reality of the Conscious Universe, yet he also comprehends the skeptic’s perceptive difficulty that, “Consciousness survival can never be observed unless the observer first infers that it could be possible”. He speaks several times each month at various conferences on Death, Consciousness Survival and Mediumship Science in North America at local IONS and IANDS groups and at various Unity and Spiritualist churches. He also holds workshops on Evidential Mediumship. He is available, by prior arrangement, to speak and hold workshops throughout Europe and the British Commonwealth.

What I like about Dr. Hugenot: He made a decision to become medium via intense study and preparation, discarding the notion that the scientist or the observer must keep herself at a skeptical distance in order to draw conclusions or gather evidence about survival of consciousness. The preponderance of the evidence is in favor of the existence of ‘discarnate entities’ who communicate with us via signs, direct voice, writing, channeling and other means. It is NOT that we don’t have enough evidence to support our beliefs in the afterlife; the issue is that we can’t convince the majority of the scientific community to examine the evidence because they refuse to consider the question. If you refuse, a priori, to study the evidence because it concerns an issue that requires you to abandon materialism, then you cannot convince a skeptic. Oddly enough, this has led to an anti-scientific attitude among the materialists, since they will not consider the results of studies carried out at universities and government agencies that followed scientific protocol. Dr. Hugenot joins the ranks of Dr. Morse, Dr. Stevens, Dr. Mona Schultz, Dr. Parnia and so many others who have found reasonable grounds for accepting the continuation of consciousness. We need to be reminded: science has not proven that consciousness arises from brain function, an assumption upon which materialists rely.

Another fascinating theory that Dr. Hugenot proposes: the ‘near death’ experience is an actual ‘death experience.’ Therefore, the question of reincarnation has been solved: if you return to your body after you died (Dr. Sam Parnia discusses this in depth–he has resuscitated patients who he considered dead–no less dead than those who don’t return to their bodies), you HAVE REINCARNATED. Not, clearly, into another body, but back into the one you had before. That fact alone is enough to upend any thinking person’s world view. Several of us wandering around right now have returned to our bodies after death. We have reincarnated. If we could do it once, why could we not do it again in a different body?

There is much more that you need to hear. Go to his page and listen to the videos. They might just change your life.

–Kirsten A. Thorne, PhD

 

 

 

Read Full Post »