On out-of-body experiences
2012-11-06 0:00

By Andrew Brown | Guardian.co.uk

The idea of an untethered consciousness is something we can understand, even when we donít suppose it is found in nature.


I was standing at the urinal in the brightly lit downstairs cloakroom at Lambeth Palace when I realised that to talk about the spiritual dimension of life is perfectly ridiculous Ė because the spiritual, disembodied dimension is where we live all the time. We can only get out of it with a deliberate effort. The physical dimension comes to us at second hand. Consciousness is the form in which experience comes to us.

This is hardly original Ė perhaps itís one of those insights which recurs in different forms throughout your life. But it goes some way to explaining why out-of-body experiences seem so natural to us. Almost all our daily life is an out-of-body experience. When I write this, I am conscious only of the words on the screen, and, faintly, of my fingers somewhere underneath. Least of all am I conscious of my brain, where all this stuff is supposed to be happening.

But what about other peopleís out-of-body lives? Again, these make intuitive sense, because disembodied spirits are something we deal with all the time. When you read this, your mind is reacting (I hope) to my mind. Youíre certainly not reacting to my brain. If you destroy the brain, the mind is also destroyed, but the link between them is still entirely mysterious. The idea, then, of a consciousness that comes completely untethered from its body and survive the bodyís destruction is something that we can understand even when we donít suppose it is to be found in nature. Itís not logically impossible: just contingently so.

An interesting sidelight here is that consciousness seems to be something we associate with purpose and desire: an angry ghost is believable in a way that a computerís ghost is not. Even people who believe that computers can be conscious canít believe in one whose consciousness persisted even after the electricity was turned off. I donít think this is just a matter of materialism. Itís also because computers donít have desires.

Of course, the fact that it is easy and natural to imagine ghosts, or disembodied consciousnesses, does not mean they exist. Science proceeds on the assumption that they donít and that our imaginings are simply illusions produced by the evolved compulsion of our minds to jump to conclusions. When we see Pac-Man pursuing the dots in a crude video game we see a pursuit, which is a purposive activity, and we see it without any conscious reflection at all.

But suppose there were evidence of disembodied consciousness in scientifically monitored situations? The most interesting experiments I know of take place in intensive care units. Since one classic version of the near death experience involves looking down from a great height at your own body Ė come to think of it, I may have had one of those myself when bicycling to my heart attack Ė the obvious scientific test is to place things in an intensive care unit that could only be seen from above, and then to ask whether the experiencer noticed them.

[...]

Read the full article at: guardian.co.uk







Related Articles


Latest News from our Front Page

Pressure from the United Patriots Front Stops Mosque Plan
2016-04-28 20:10
Pressure from the United Patriots Front appears to have killed off a mosque development in Narre Warren North. The City of Casey council now looks likely to withhold planning approval for the development in a special meeting set for Tuesday night. A council report, to be considered by councillors on Tuesday, recommends that the approval be blocked. The mosque opponents’ cause has been helped by councillor ...
Police face questions over the influence of the Freemasons
2016-04-28 20:48
South Yorkshire Police today face questions over whether powerful 'secret society' the Freemasons held sway over the force at the time of Hillsborough. Families of victims say that officers who were Masons were promoted into powerful positions despite being ill-equipped, including match commander David Duckenfield. Duckenfield told the fresh inquests he had been a Freemason since 1975 and became head of his ...
England Bans its Own Flag to Avoid Offending Muslims
2016-04-27 2:23
St. George's Cross "racist" towards immigrants Government officials said their city was Ďtoo multiculturalí to celebrate St Georgeís Day, Englandís version of the 4th of July. The council said that displaying the English flag may have been seen as ďracistĒ towards immigrants.
Half of Western European men descended from one Bronze Age Ďkingí
2016-04-27 2:09
Half of Western European men are descended from one Bronze Age ‘king’ who sired a dynasty of elite nobles which spread throughout Europe, a new study has shown. The monarch, who lived around 4,000 years ago, is likely to have been one of the earliest chieftains to take power in the continent. He was part of a new order which emerged in ...
"Local Residents" Are Filmed Stealing Dozens of Bottles of Water at London Marathon Stop
2016-04-25 23:10
Editor's Comment: "Local" residents? Why bother blurring their faces? We know who they are. ... London marathon runners were robbed of dozens of bottled waters when thieves raided a refreshment area armed with trolleys during today's race. Nearby residents - including parents with children - were captured on camera piling up crates of free water handed out by volunteers during the 26-mile event. Marathon ...
More News »