Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Some back-of-a-napkin speculations about the non-physical

While listening to some interviews with Natalie Sudman (whose "Application of Impossible Things - My Near Death Experience in Iraq" I have not yet read) recently, I decided to compile a restaurant-napkin list of some general observations of common themes linking NDEs, OOBEs, as well as some "channeled" accounts. Basically, I'm groping toward some ideas of the physics of the non-physical state. Since I'm not a physicist, I doubt that I will come up with much, but I still enjoy the mental exercise of trying.

The Seth books have been helpful here... Some of his more esoteric ruminations (especially "his" descriptions of the "inner senses") seem relevant. According to Seth, our physical world is "camouflage," which we experience with physical senses specially adapted to perceiving within the narrow physical range. These physical senses (in a greatly diminished way) mirror our "inner senses." Thus, when we are not focussed in the physical form, we can "see" and "hear" just as we can when physically focussed... But the "inner senses" are arguably more powerful than our physical ones.

Seth argues that any attempt to understand the "greater" reality by observing it physically will result in "distortion"; we use "camouflage" instruments to measure our camouflage environment, which we process through a brain that is also "camouflage." And while these measurements *usually* result in very consistent picture of reality, it really isn't reflective of the "true" reality. To observe and measure this, we must use our "inner senses."

Is this practical or even provable? As my camouflage brain scribbles this onto a camouflage computer, the camouflage part of me says "no." Yet, even the most materially-focussed part of me wonders, "Can the concept of 'inner senses' elucidate NDE accounts?"

After all, these accounts, while appearing to violate physical laws, are remarkably consistent, internally. This consistency suggests that they are "real," on some level. Can we gain some insight into the "greater" reality by observing the consistencies? It's worth a try.

So here is my back-of-a-napkin list of commonalities that I've noticed, which run through the majority of accounts:

*Synesthesia, with accelerated sensory perception and hyper-reality ("realer than real"). Music is felt; thoughts are seen; colors are understood.

*Lack of sense of separation between self and the perceived external environment; or, a sense of meaningful "connection" between the self and the external environment, or with beings that are perceived.

*Malleability and flexibility of time perception; instead of consciousness being confined to a fixed and linear procession of time, it can rapidly and easily be focussed in multiple directions--events can be accelerated, reversed, or examined in granular detail.

*"Cause-and-effect" is perceived as being only one slice of an event; effects can reach "back" in time and create a cause, and probable timelines resulting from choices not materialized can be followed.

*A sort of "thought transference" can occur that results in complex symbolic gestalts being instantly and non verbally "received," and intuitively understood, without needing to be "thought about."

*Experiencers are conscious of having a body that seems to be physical, but they are often unable to describe the nature of it.

*Experiencers or communicants usually cannot explain "where" they are, suggesting that "physical" concepts of space and location do not apply to the non-physical environment.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

The metaphysical equivalent of Nixon going to China

In today's online grazing I stumbled upon an account of a classic near-death experience that hit all of the salient points: a patient is suddenly stricken by a potentially fatal bout of meningitis; he is quickly rushed to the ER but rapidly loses consciousness. Within hours, his frontal cortex shuts down and he is placed on a ventilator. After several days, with no hope of recovery in sight, the physicians prepare to remove the patient from life support when he makes a miraculous recovery. Over the subsequent weeks of rehabilitation he assembles the narrative of his experience while comatose... writes a book about it and publishes it on Amazon.com.

So what's so unusual about it all (as if we could be blasé to NDEs in the first place)? The account was written by a neurosurgeon, Dr. Eben Alexander, and the account was published in "Newsweek" under the very NDEish title "Heaven Is Real: A Doctor’s Experience With the Afterlife."

What makes Dr. Alexander's account significant is that, if true, his NDE memories were generated during a period when there is clear medical documentation of zero brain activity lasting several days. One of the main critical arguments against the late Pam Reynolds' NDE (experienced when the blood was drained from her body and she was placed in an artificial coma to repair an aneurysm) was that it didn't really occur when he had flatlined, but moments before; and that she confabulated the bulk of her account. It will be more difficult to make this charge in Dr. Alexander's case. And the doctrinaire materialists will have to argue with a credentialed neuroscientist who, presumably, knows what he's talking about when he says that he had "no brain activity."

But what interests me most about Dr. Alexander's account is that it will likely be a critical scientific observation of the out-of-body state. Dr. Alexander was a committed materialist prior to his NDE. So what he has to say about the near-death realm--and what he thinks it means--could be significant. If consciousness can function outside the body, it has to function "somewhere." This "somewhere," I believe, a "real" place, with its own physical laws. Who better to describe this realm than someone immersed in classical materialist beliefs and trained in the scientific method? Much like Nixon going to China, Dr. Alexander went to "heaven," and I predict that what he brings back will more than a few ping-pong players.