On out-of-body experiences
2012 11 06

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

Chess-playing computers may cause the robot apocalypse
2014 04 23
Sore-loser chess programs might be the end of us all... In the movie The Terminator, we heard the human side of the story of Judgment Day, with the machines getting smart and seeing us as a threat. It wasnít until the sequel that we heard the tale from the machineís point of view, as it chose to start World War III ...
Archeologistsí findings may prove Rome a century older than thought
2014 04 23
It is already known as the eternal city, and if new archeological findings prove correct Rome may turn out to be even more so than believed until now. Next week, the city will celebrate its official, 2,767th birthday. According to a tradition going back to classic times, the brothers Romulus and Remus founded the city on 21 April in the year ...
Swedish MP ordered chemtrail probe
2014 04 23
A Swedish MP who launched an official government investigation into the existence of chemtrails tells The Local why he thinks Swedes deserve the truth, even if it may leave some conspiracy theorists unsatisfied. "I canít speak for other MPs, but Iíve had many, many calls over the past eight years about chemtrails. And these questions are not so easy to answer," ...
Mystery of Bizarre Duck-Like Ocean Sound
2014 04 23
If it quacks like a duck... itís not always a duck. Scientists have reportedly gotten to the bottom of the mysterious íBio-Duckí sound in the Antarctic. Hereís a recording of the strange sound (itís kind of a stretch to say it sounds like a duck, but who are we to second guess the biologists?). --- Mystery of Bizarre Duck-Like Ocean Sound Solved By Tanya Lewis ...
íExtremeí Carbon Dioxide Reduction will be a Death Sentence for Humanity & Planet Earth
2014 04 23
If we allow a fraudulent pseudo-environmentalist cult to control every aspect of our lives then our children are doomed to a totalitarian existence which Stalin could only have dreamed of. ďThe common enemy of humanity is man. In searching for a new enemy to unite us, we came up with the idea that pollution, the threat of global warming, water shortages, famine ...
More News Ľ