Tuesday, December 23, 2014

NDE Dual Consciousness and Disassociation (cont'd)

Further explorations of the candid NDEs compiled in the "Near Death Experiences" book from NDERF.org.

*Universally, the "self" consciousness separates from the physical body with minimal disruption. In the case of trauma, consciousness vacates the body immediately before the trauma (or immediately into the trauma); in case of illness, separation takes a bit longer.

There is minimal disruption of identity or perception during this process--no lengthy period of disorientation, which is what one would expect.  In most cases, the shift on awareness is rapid and is akin to a camera lens acquiring a new focus.

One NDEr vividly describes the transition:

Sometime shortly after this event, I passed out/went to sleep. I have no chronology of events at this point in time, but I slowly began to very clearly see my hospital room from above. It's like I was high enough in the air to see all four corners of this small room clearly, along with it's contents, of course. This picture didn't just pop into view, it slowly became bright and clear, much like a movie will sometime do, very slowly fade from black to a bright and clear picture. ("Don S")

And then, when blood is pumped into his body:

It was at that moment, my clear view of the event began to sparkle. The sparkling became more intense and finally the entire picture was blank white.  A few seconds later, the white began to darken and I was looking up at the ceiling and light fixture in my room from my bed. I could see both doctors standing at the foot of my bed still working with that bag.  ("Don S")

In case of surgery or medical emergency, conscious separation almost always coincides with cardiac arrest (if not immediately before).  Experiencers almost always describe "waking up" above the body, viewing the operating theater below, hearing alarms go off, seeing the medical personnel reacting to the alarms, and realizing that the heart has stopped. So, separation seems to be occurring at the moment of cardiac arrest--if not just before.

The experience of "Jasun E":

I could feel the serum like a warm track going right to my heart and I knew I was having a reaction., I felt a pain in my heart. and I no longer could move anything or say anything. I heard the nurse scream and push a button on the wall,.  Code red or blue? I felt the nurses and doctors trying to revive me. They had put the paddles on me twice but my heart did not start.  then the doctor climbed onto my body and tock a large needle and thrust into my check and pushed the plug down I then felt my heart start up.  The Amazing thing I was outside of my body looking at myself.  * * * The color went out of everything and turned to Black and white then I was outside of my body looking at myself.

Cardiac arrest might trigger the separation of consciousness.  Or, possibly, when the "greater" personality vacates the body, the heart stops.

The main point is that the primary consciousness--the self, the "I"--remains intact whether in the body, or outside of it.  You are still "you," and you immediately recognize this, despite the confusion caused by seeing your body (which you had always assumed to be the real "you").  You are not suddenly transformed into another personality, an "angel," or a higher being. Although you may be aware of a greater reality, you are still "you."

There is a school of thought in the New Age circles (particularly Michael Newton) that argues that the human personality is a merging of a "higher consciousness" with a body consciousness. 

Musings on this subject are beyond the scope of this humble blog, since my ponderous and limited consciousness hesitates to pretend to comprehend something "greater."

At the very least, however, the predominant theme of "Seth Speaks" (which I've read a bazillion times) is that consciousness is not a product of the physical body, but is, in fact, a co-creator of the physical form. Despite separation from the body, essential self-consciousness continues, with minimal interruption. The NDE accounts in the "Near Death Experiences" compilation affirm this over and over. This principle not only contradicts official science, but also strongly held Western beliefs. We are conditioned to believe that our essential consciousness is a product of biological activity--and we can empirically "prove" this to ourselves by altering our consciousness with different drugs and medications.  Although there's plenty of evidence that consciousness trumps physicality (the placebo effect is the best known), it's simply easier to believe what is most useful to function in our world. "Near Death Experiences" however, points to a different and potentially more transformative reality. It's a reality that I'm comfortable believing in.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Teaching robots to see

Intersting article at a site I read daily about an activity that most us assume is natural: seeing.  We assume that "seeing" is an in-born and natural ability, but it isn't: We have to learn to see, a process that dominates our infancy.

We look out into the world and see forms, movement, boundaries, color, light and darkness. We define the boundaries of a form by judging the gradations of light. We interpret motion by mentally sampling the perceived form against the background (which we completely understand to be a background), and we can identify that form specifically ("Bill") or generally (a man, but not Bill).

All this we do automatically, billions of mental transactions daily, and (usually) what we think we see is most likely what we think it is.

Robots, however, see our world as a two-dimensional canvas with a jumble of colors and shapes that bleed into a formless, amorphic blob.

I mention this because almost all near-death experiencers find themselves out-of-body, and to their astonishment, discover that they are able to see the same physical environment in roughly the same way as when they were in-bodied, despite not having eyes or even a brain.

Mainstream science rejects NDEs because scientists know perfectly well that this is impossible: our eyes see, and our brain perceives.

I think that this is a good point and worth wrapping our minds around it for a moment. Even if you believe that we "create our own reality" and that what we assume to be a physical is some sort of mental projection, why is the out-of-body reality perceived and recognized (at least in the initial stages) as being esstentially the "same" as it appeared moments earlier? Generally speaking, if the NDEr is in a car crash, that's what he sees
--the same objective car crash the his body was in moments earlier, in the same environment, with the same participants.

If, in fact, what we perceive as our physical reality is a objective representation, the same for all who see, regardless of how they perceive it, why don't robots see this automatically?

Saturday, December 6, 2014

NDE Dual Consciousness and Disassociation (Part 1)

Near Death Experiences: NDE Stories From The NDERF Website

NDE Stories is a wealth of raw data of personal NDE accounts. I notice a general consistency of accounts, and I really wish that I had the time and resources to devote delving into the accounts in more detail. The best part of the compilation: it's free and completely devoid of any interpretation, spin, or filtering.

Lacking the time to do real analysis, I think that the next best approach that I can take may be to highlight some of the more unusual accounts and highlight features that seem significant to me (and are perhaps ignored by "mainstream" NDE researchers).

My particular interest has been a study of the nature of consciousness and how it shapes our experience of what (for lack of a better term) is called the "paranormal"--or, experiences that fall outside the norm.  So often we conflate "human consciousness" with "reality"; but there are hints that this is an illusion.  We cannot truly understand the nature of reality unless we are able to step outside the framework of human consciousness; and we do this most dramatically when our self-awareness / consciousness leaves the physical body, either permanently or temporarily.

So, to begin, I'd like to look at a very common (but under-analyzed) feature of NDEs, body awareness, as well as a lesser-known phenomenon: the perception of a dual consciousness (physical and spiritual) that seems to split during the NDE.

*In a nutshell, during the initial moments of the NDE, most NDErs are surprised by the singular awareness that what is being experienced is indistinguishable from normal physical consciousness: They see, hear, observe, ponder, and interact with their new environment as if they are still "alive"--while vividly seeing their inert and "dead" physical body.

*At some point in the initial experience, the experiencers become aware that the body that is being observed is theirs, and are puzzled at not being "in" it.

*They become acutely conscious of the disconnect: they see physicians, observers, emergency personnel, and family members declare them "dead," while, from their perspective, no change has occurred... They are thinking, observing, and experiencing their environment as if they are still "alive."

*They acknowledge the body as "theirs" yet feel no identification with it. It becomes another object, regarded as dispassionately as the rest of the physical environment.

*Upon return to their bodies, they are immediately flooded with emotions of fear, experience intense pain--which, for a brief moment, are regarded as alien--and are often unable to manipulate the physical body. Some experiencers even sense the boundaries of their body consciousness as they reenter. They note that their bodies were experiencing the fear, pain, and anger while their "real" consciousness was observing the scene dispassionately.

Example: "Lavette H" (drowning NDE)

I was very aware of the body I saw drowning was mine.  Yet I had no sympathy for it as I watched it drown and struggle for life, I was completely unattached to it. I questioned immediately how can I be there and here at the same time?
***
[After reentering body] I could now feel the experience the body had while I was separate from it. It had been terrified and angry, scared and afraid. I had not experienced any of that yet now I was being forced to feel the state the flesh felt even though I wasn't there with it when it happened.

It is only when their consciousness is pulled back into their bodies that many notice a significant difference:  The body has its own consciousness. While "they" have been observing their "death" dispassionately from a distance, their body has been struggling to survive, with all the fear, pain, and foreboding associated. Their consciousness is pulled back into the body (often violently), and immediately, they remember the experience of being human.

This feature--recognition and acknowledgement of one's physical body, accompanied by a marked ambivalence or lack of concern toward it--is a hallmark of the bulk of the included NDEs.

The mirror test
We take self-recognition for granted--that when we look in the mirror, we know that what we see reflected back is ourselves--but there is actually a complex psychological mechanism involved.  The contemporary test of self-awareness--the "mirror test"--is a protocol used by psychologists to gauge self-awareness. Presumably, the personality (human or non-human) is judged to be "self-aware" if it recognizes the image in the mirror as being itself.   Some animals "pass" the mirror test; humans generally respond to their mirror images at around age two.

The ability to recognize one's body in the mirror as one's "self" is a crucial stage of human development.  Arguably, any inability to cross this developmental threshold prevents the personality from fully functioning in the physical world. Unless you know what your "self" physically is, you cannot recognize the integrity of other "selves," and begin the process of distinguishing between "self" and those who are "not-self."

So, I wonder... Is the visual recognition of, and detachment from, the physical body an example of the mirror stage in reverse? Does the prevalence of this experience in NDEs suggest that it is a necessary stage of personality development to the now non-physical personality?

We take it for granted that the "I" of us is synonymous with the physical body. We point to a body and say, "That's Bill," or "That's my mother."

But what if our true "I" is not, necessarily, the body we inhabit?  Would it not become necessary for some form of desensitizing to take place during the immediate stages of the death process?

This certainly seems to what is happening when the disembodied consciousness is caused to observe its former physical body, while realizing, "That's not me anymore."

Self-awareness (and body awareness) is, arguably, the core feature that makes human.

If this stage is interrupted, could this be cause of spirits not realizing that they're "dead"?  If this dissociation is prevented, it may be analogous to a developmental disorder whereby the infant or child never fully develops self-awareness and identification with the physical self and environment.  The personality is not properly oriented in the new environment and is unable to fully function there.

Other accounts of NDE perspectives of the body:

I looked down and saw my body lying on the bed and knew it was dead.  I experienced a moment of regret, because it was a good body and I had been fond of it, but it was no more than the regret a person would feel at seeing a beautiful purebred dog lying dead beside the highway. ("Nellie L")

Then I was suddenly near the roof of my room gazing down on my body with total disregard. ("Jerry W")
I was hovering over my family.  I knew I was dead and felt guilty that my wife and children were crying over me while I was feeling so good.   I wanted them to be dead with me and tried to let them know I was fine.   As far as my body was concerned, it was like an old shoe to be discarded.  ("Clark B")
I went under water. I remember my mouth and lungs filling with water and then I remember seeing my lifeless body settling on the floor of the pool, I didn't feel anything when I watched it. I knew that I was out of my body and that I was very happy that it happened. ("Polina")

Next: The dual consciousness-aspect of the NDE

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Physics of the afterlife, continued

NDERF.org is now offering a free ebook; it's basically a compendium of past NDE accounts submitted to the site over the past decade. I've just started it and I'm already fascinated. As I've argued, there's really no need to worry about whether this or that public / high-profile NDEr is sincere or just trying to sell a booI--simply seek out the free and freely available NDE accounts. Usually, they're better than the published accounts.

Case in point: "Wilfred B.'s" NDE account. Short story: he took a spill on his motorbike, trying to avoid a collision. As he approaches collision, he begins to experience a peculiar dual consciousness as he begins to leave his physical body. He then observes his arm "with texture, yet transparent" (something that I've witnessed personally), and then:

...when realizing that I was higher in the air, these sparks began to form.  Not exactly like a typical spark of electricity, but similar along with a thicker dimension to each spark.  As a type of plasma with just enough of a thickness to notice black on one edge or side and silver on another side. A spark, then three, then they began to "stream" together into a vertical line and travel down, then to my left, then upwards and then back to the right...

I find this particular description--of the non-physical "body" leaving the physical--to be remarkable, because this phenomenon has actually been photographed. I'm not sure how well-known these images are, but they deserve to be. The photographs were given to Echo Bodine by a police officer who was documenting a fatal auto accident in the early 1980s. The resultant photos displayed anomalies that the officer could not explain. The photo that has fascinated me the most is this one. Echo believes that this photo shows "the boy’s spirit body as it leaves the physical body prior to re-coalescing outside of the body."  I think she's right.

If both Wilfred's NDE and the iisis.net photos are what they seem to be--observations of the "spirit" body as it initially separates from the physical--is it possible to determine what, exactly, the "spirit" body is?  Is there a physical or quasi-physical element (or state) that causes matter (or energy, or plasma) to form into lines that can be photographed--but not "seen"?  Because as abundant photographic evidence demonstrates--"spirit" can be easily photographed, but only rarely visually observed.  So we are left with the paradox: what can be photographed, but not "seen"?

Saturday, October 11, 2014

A skeptical NDE-scene article that actually isn't half-bad

I was surprised the other day by an article that popped up on Digg linking "To Heaven And Back!" from the estimable New York Review Of Books (of all places).  Robert Gottlieb tackles the subject of NDE books, and the cottage industry that has sprung up therefrom. I've scanned the article several times, and unfortunately, I can't find anything that I seriously disagree with.

First reviewed was "Heaven Is for Real" by Todd Burpo, which I haven't read--for lots of reasons, but particularly because I think it's exploitative and veers uncomfortably too close to religious stereotypical dogma. (See the negative Amazon.com review of the book by L. D. Richardson for a good summary of problems with the story.)  Gootlieb spends way too much time fretting over whether this story is real or fabricated. I think that Colin Burpo had an NDE, but the book that resulted--it was most likely torn, whole cloth, from his father's religious dogma.  (Note: I said "religious," not "Christian."). That's just my gut reaction.

Gottlieb then segues into a not-bad summation of the touchstones of the NDE experience, referencing Raymond Moody and Elisabeth Kübler-Ross.

Next up, the much-maligned Dr. Eben Alexander, whose story is probably true (in my opinion) but who is singled out probably for his over-the-top descriptions of "Heaven" (and, if truth be told, could have dodged most of the flak if he had simply called it "the astral plane").  Gottlieb wastes a lot of time attacking Dr. Alexander, when, if he had spent more studying the rest of NDE literature, he would have been underwhelmed by the account.

Gottlieb reviews several more cogent NDE accounts and ultimately concludes that there is a "there" there, but what it is, is of course, unknown.

If all we had to go on were NDE accounts written by bad doctors and three-year-olds, it would be easy to pretend to believe that it's all nothing more than New Age fluff.  But there's much more--extensive and detailed accounts by experiencers who are not parlaying any five-minute fame into Oprah guest spots or healing cruises to Greece, thank you.  If *one* person can provide a verifiable and credible account of an NDE that suggests that the experience is "real," that would be significant.  How, then, should we confront the NDE accounts of many thousands?

Monday, September 15, 2014

"It Will All Make Sense When You're Dead: Messages From Our Loved Ones in the Spirit World"

by Priscilla Keresey (Kindle Edition)

I have tended to be very skeptical of spirit mediums, at least, the contemporary, famous ones.  Actually, I still am, but Priscilla Keresey's book came highly recommended on Amazon.com.  Based on this, I made several attempts to read it--I checked it out twice from Amazon Prime--but I finally finished it.  I haven't had a personal reading with Ms. Keresey, so I can't vouch for her abilities, but she has written the only mediumship book that makes any sense to me.

How is her book different?  Well, she finally *explains* the process of mediumship in a way that intelligible.  Keresey argues that everyone has mediumship ability, and how this ability manifests depends on each person's particular sensory inclination.  Those who are visually inclined tend to "see" spirit manifestations... those who are sensitive to sound will tend to "hear" spirit communications.  Tactile people "feel" spirit interactions.  As simplistic as this might sound, it makes sense.  I never understood how certain mediums were able to weave these complex verbal dialogs with various spirits, and to be honest, practically every medium that I've witness spent more time checking with the sitter rather than the spirit--cold reading.  But true mediumship works only when two conditions are met: you must have a practiced, experienced medium who has developed a refined a particular sensitivity, and you must have spirits willing and able to step forward and communicate.  It is a joint effort on the part of both worlds, and it works only when both sides makes a serious effort to communicate.

I personally believe in spirit communication.  I've had some significant experiences with it... I've seen it and I've felt it.  For me, it is real.  So it's not too big of a leap for me to accept the possiblity that trained mediums can cultivate communication along this line.  To me, this is the most fascinating part of the process--that people on the "other side" are able to travel a path back to our physical world, appear at a specific time, and communicate with us. This suggests an extraordinary level of planning, communication, and cooperation, particularly since "time" on the other side does not correspond to our physical time.  The spirit world seems to be quite adept at manipulating within our time structure... although it may suggest that what we perceive as "time" is actually (like the rest of our world) manufactured and quite relative.

There are a number of areas where I don't agree with Ms. Keresey.  She argues that, according to the information that she's received, there are no "levels" in the spirit world--no high or low... also, there is no punishment or accountability for misdeads while in the body.  I personally don't know if that's the case, since most of the literature argues otherwise; but Ms. Keresey--to her great credit--admits that, ultimately, she doesn't know.  We won't know, she says, until we're on the other side.

(In the meantime, I plan to err on the side of caution by trying to behave to the best of my ability.)

If you visit Ms. Keresey's website, you'll see a number of options for obtaining your own reading.  While her prices aren't cheap, they're not out-of-line for what she's offering.  She offers options for obtaining readings by email.  This option is personally tempting.  But I'm afraid to partake.  I've never met with a psychic, gone for regressive hypnosis, or had a reading.  Something (in addition to fear) seems to be stopping me from doing this; there's a barrier.  Until I'm prepared for an answer, I won't ask the question.  And life has taught me that it's generally best to not be warned about my future.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Physics of the afterlife (of water and plums)

Well, like the proverbial bad penny, I'm back (for a moment, anyway). I've been reading, as usual... Nothing earth-shattering, I don't think. Though I did download a Kindle Prime book. It's turning out to be pretty good. (The mediocre books that I read go unmentioned.)  It's "The Other Side: Wisdom about the Other Side From Those ON the Other Side," by Tony Stubbs. What Stubbs has done is something I've advocated: compile data from the old, channeled, forgotten books, most of which are in the public domain--sift through them, and see where the information falls.  I can't totally suspend my disbelief with all of Stubbs' accounts--particularly at the Lawrence Of Arabia channelings--but I stumbled upon something that I can't really explain. Stubbs quotes liberally from a source named "Monsignor Benson."  As I'm reading, I realize that I've read an almost identical description of the same phenomena in another book. I don't think that the authors copied each other (and although we can't rule it out, plagiarism was a bit more difficult to accomplish in the '60s and '70s).

The first phenomenon is water. Is there water in the afterlife?  Apparently so, but it's not water as we think of it, but something else. And it has very specific physical properties.

Ever since reading "The Children That Time Forgot," I've been mulling over "Desmond's" detailed description of what he encountered in the afterworld... Specifically, water.  Although Desmond is only three years old, he's quite descriptive about water in the afterlife, and how it differs from physical water:

Desmond’s explanation of the water was, ‘We didn’t have to swim because we didn’t sink and we never got wet.’ He went on to tell his mother that when he went into the water with his friends they used to float on top of the water which seemed to support them and the drops of water just fell off them when they got out of the pool. ‘Sometimes we went underneath the water,’ said Desmond, ‘but it didn’t go in my mouth or my eyes.’ ‘The most incredible thing of all,’ says Dorothy, ‘is that Desmond told me that the water made some sort of sound like music.’ Her son had said, ‘The water played songs for us, Mummy, but not with words in them. When we picked up some water it went tinkle tinkle.’ Desmond said that as well as sounds, the water had colours in it ‘like little’ rainbows, but sometimes just one colour at a time.’ The water was described as being soft to the touch and did not penetrate clothes or objects. It just seemed to bounce off in drops and made its own way back to the pool. ‘When we got out of the water we were all dry straightaway without towels,’ said Desmond, as if it was the most natural thing in the world.
--account by Desmond Sanderson in The Children That Time Forgot, Peter and Mary Harrison

"Monsignor Benson's" description of water is identical to Desmond's:

We followed a path that led for part of the way beside a brook, whose clear water sparkled in the light of the heavenly sun. As the water pursued its course it gave forth many musical notes that constantly changed and weaved themselves into a medley of the most dulcet sounds. We drew to the edge that I might look at it closer. It seemed to be almost like liquid crystal, and as the light caught it, it scintillated with all the colours of the rainbow. . .  When I withdrew my hand from the brook, I found that the water flowed off in flashing drops, leaving it quite dry!

And now another word about the water. It was as clear as crystal, and the light was reflected back in every ripple and tiny wave in almost dazzlingly bright colours. It was unbelievably soft to the touch, and its buoyancy was of the same nature as the atmosphere, that is to say, it supported whatever was on it, or in it.  As it is impossible to fall here by accident, as one does on earth, so it is impossible to sink in the water.
--"Monsignor Robert Hugh Benson," in Life In The World Unseen, Anthony Borgia

Both accounts of "water" in the afterlife are identical: a buoyant, inert, liquid-appearing substance that's a bit like mercury at room temperature, with a sufficiently high mass that it supports what's on it, without being "heavy"; it not only refracts light but also generates tones. Is there an analogous earthly substance that does this?  Not that I'm aware of. But is it possible to hypothesize a physics that would explain such a substance?  Maybe.

My second "ah ha" moment is another similarity that I can't explain at all, except to say that Monsignor Benson and Desmond are describing the same species of afterworld "tree," which is similar to the earthly plum, but which is used as a sort of medicine to treat those who have recently passed over from a long illness:

Our host led us into the orchard where I beheld many trees in a high state of cultivation, and in full fruit. He looked at me for a moment, and then he took us to a splendid tree that looked strongly like a plum tree. The fruit was perfect in shape, with a deep rich coloring, and it hung in great clusters. Our host picked some of it, and handed it to us, telling us that it would do us both good. The fruit was quite cool to the touch, and it was remarkably heavy for its size. . . Our host informed me that the particular type of plum which I had just eaten was one that he always recommends to people who have but newly arrived in spirit. It helps to restore the spirit, especially if the passing has been caused by illness.
--Life In The World Unseen

Desmond said that he never got any sweets in his other home but he remembered eating fruit. ‘It was juicy and nice’ he said, and went on to describe what his mother thought must have been some kind of plum but bigger, and with no stone in the centre. He made an odd remark about the fruit when he told his mother, ‘Some of the sick people got fruit to make them better after they died.’
--The Children That Time Forgot

Perhaps some enterprising researcher can find more to plumb in these dusty old accounts, which--unlike the modern ones--seem to be legitimate. In any case, I've found at least six Anthony Borgia books, and I plan to explore them.

Monday, July 7, 2014

The peril of the New Age Revival

Would it be an over-generalization to observe that we seem to be in the middle of a rebirth of the New Age movement?  Revivals of these sorts have roiled America ever since the Puritans first hit the beach. Suddenly, I'm discovering a new metaphysical book daily; some good, some otherwise. People are actually bothering to read this blog.  This recent wave started, I guess, with all the paranormal shows which (I hear) are on television now. But it seems to be gaining traction. A cottage industry of "mediums," seers, channels, and whatnot are springing up--even in my own neighborhood (which is quite remote).  I've debated joining one. I signed up online. The seer in question lives down the road from me. But I don't get out much anymore... And a few things about this seer threw up a flag or two. I'm sure she's legit; that's not the problem. I just have a personal ethical problem monetizing an ability that we all have.

Does it not strike you as strange that someone might want to charge you money to chat about spiritual matters, contact your spirit guide, maybe speak to a dead relative or two? It does me, but I can't put my finger on exactly why. After all, if I fix your computer, the service might be worth a buck or two. I happily pay Valvoline quite a bit of pocket change to change my oil. And, as these New Agey folks are wont to argue, they need to earn a living too. They are sacrificing their time and energy to provide a service. Isn't this worth something?

Still. Without going into a lot of detail about the person involved, there's a line that's crossed. It's one thing to charge a nominal fee for providing a valuable service by exercising a God-given gift; but, to actively market your abilities as a way of gaining lots of money, fame, and notoriety, is quite another. Maybe it's the motive that's the line. If I want to provide you with a needed service--to serve and help--receiving money for this service is not, in my opinion, unethical...  But if my motive is to make money, gain attention, credit, and inflate my ego, by using a God-given gift that isn't entirely "mine," is this somewhat morally suspect?

I'm just asking the question. My opinion is apparent, but I'm not the judge.

But--in my opinion--I just have a problem with this New Age revival in general because it strikes me as phony. It's about the money. A full three-quarters of the books that I purchase on this subject are just recycled ideas plundered from earlier books on the same topic. And the writers almost always have websites that hawk an assortment of CDs, books, and "personal readings" that charge lawyer's fees for services of dubious merit.

Look. I've been researching this field for forty years. I've learned my lessons on my own; I've gained insight through considerable personal experience, most of it unpleasant. While I won't deny consulting personal spirit guides, I won't blog about it, either. I won't pretend to tell you what my guides think people should do, for an essential reason:  We all have access to the same instruction. We are all guided and helped. We all can communicate with our deceased relatives. We all can receive warnings, insights, and advice about our paths. It is up to the individual to "find the signal," as it were... To learn to listen, and then, to learn.

The New Age revivalists seek to monetize an innate and natural spiritual ability by duping people into believing that they possess special abilities, and you don't. They're wrong. Don't believe them.  Find your own path. It's there, for everyone, free for the taking.

Monday, June 23, 2014

The role of consciousness in anesthesia

Often, when materialists confidently dismiss information that seems to originate outside the measurable physical world (ghosts, visions, NDEs), they forget that the *observer* of these phenomena--consciousness--has yet to be scientifically explained. Scientists do not even know how anesthesia works. It's easy to forget--yet useful to remember--especially when the debunker lectures consciousness about what it cannot possibly observe.

The above-linked article is an interesting read. We barely know how sleep works--just barely--but anesthesia?  Sobering thought (though we're fairly sure how intoxication works).  The article seeks to reassure us, but I'm not so reassured.

Doctors attempted to put me under only once, without success. Prior to the procedure, practically everyone said, "Oh, you won't remember a thing. You'll wake up in the recovery room and think you've been out for a few seconds."

Only I didn't. When it became apparent that the first round of drugs didn't knock me out, in went another needle. "You've had some high-powered anesthesia..." muttered the physician, letting the thought dangle.  But I was still conscious; just slightly disassociated.  I saw and felt everything. "You're fighting the anesthesia," the physician finally warned--with the implicit assumption that, somehow, becoming unconscious was something that consciousness should just voluntarily do.

I hadn't really thought of this experience much until I read the io9 article.  And I wonder, now, why did anesthesia not work on me when it works on everyone else?  Is there something different about my consciousness?  Was it a matter (no pun) of the anesthesia failing to work on my physical mechanism, or was it my conscious refusal to allow it to?  Did my consciousness trump matter?

Or, carrying this mind experiment further, is it possible that our concept of consciousness is an artificial construct?  Is what we assume to be consciousness merely our illusion of what it should be?  If consciousness is an artificial creation, who is the creator?  And have we hypnotized ourselves into accepting a certain limited brand of consciousness when in fact we are capable of more?  (My personal answer to the last question is "yes," for many reasons.)

Monday, May 12, 2014

Science and Metaphysics

While traipsing through the literature on extra-physical perception of (for lack of a better term) the "greater reality," I decided to briefly touch on the question of science, and metaphysics...

This blog has ultimately focused on the question of what is perceivable, what is knowable, and what we can confidently conclude, of all that we perceive of phenomena "outside" our official one, is "real"--the essence of metaphysics.

If you are a dabbler researching UFOs, or a physician pondering NDEs, you will reach this crossroad, sooner or later... Because you eventually realize that what you are trying to understand has no analog in our official reality.

Science argues (not unpersuasively) that *everything* that we regard as supernatural can be *ultimately* explained as anomalies of perception. Science has a lot of support on its side. Historically, much of what we thought was supernatural has turned out to be "natural," once we understood the physical laws behind it. So, it's not unrealistic to expect that even our present mysteries will be "explained" in like fashion.

I somewhat agree with this position. What I personally believe, however--and I'm even willing to bet money on this--is that science will eventually validate supernatural phenomena--by expanding our view of what is "natural."  One hundred years from now, we probably won't be arguing whether consciousness survives physical death (assuming our species survives). We will assume that it does. We'll be focused on other dilemmas.

In the meantime, science has a lot to contribute to this debate. Informed scientific speculation can identify known perceptive anomalies, faulty logic, shoddy research, and other biases and distortions. Those who claim allegiance to science can do better than tearing down thoughtful examinations of the phenomena on Wikipedia in guerrilla fashion.  This is not science, but is what such attackers accuse people who study the phenomena of: unquestioned belief.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Observations on "Dreaming Of The Dead"

"Dreaming Of The Dead: Personal Stories Of Comfort & Hope" by Marilou Trask-Curtin is, in my opinion, is the most solid discussion of the subject that I've read, and I've read quite a few. I won't try to deconstruct or summarize the book--my advice is to just read it, even if you're only remotely interested in the subject.

Amazon.com doesn't seem to be promoting the book--it never appeared in the crawl of "recommended books" by James Van Praagh and others of that ilk that Amazon thinks I ought to read--so most readers will have to find it serendipitously, like I did.

I can vouch for this book because I've personally experienced much of what Ms. Trask-Curtin has (but not as dramatically), and so have most of you. In fact, dream (and other) contact with the "dead" is probably the most common human experience involving the supernatural. It is a universal human experience that is rarely discussed or studied.  While doctrinaire materialists argue that there's "no scientific proof" for conscious survival of physical death, practically *everyone* can truthfully say, "Well, that may be true, but let me tell you about this vivid dream that I had after my parent / friend / partner passed..."

One of the hidden strengths of Ms. Trask-Curtin's book is that she never falls into the trap of trying to "explain" or rationalize her experiences; she doesn't speculate on what they might "mean"; nor does she digress into lengthy ponderings on what the afterlife is or isn't (all of which I would have done, had I written it).  She simply tells her story.

This, of course, does not prevent *me* from making some observations, because I had quite a few "ah ha!" moments throughout the book.

For example:  Ms. Trask-Curtin coins the term "youthening"--the opposite of "aging"--to describe the phenomenon where spirits progressively grow younger and younger during the encounter. While many researchers argue that "spirits" (I dislike the term, but can't think of a better one) can choose to display themselves of any chronological age (usually the prime age of the mid-thirties), I don't think that anyone else has quite made this specific observation. But I had such a dream, and for years, I never understood what it meant. In the dream, my grandfather appeared and discussed the afterlife with me (because, he said, I was "interested in the subject"). At the end of the discussion, I watched as my grandfather quickly morphed from an elderly man, all the way back to a young boy of about age seven. Why this happens--and why spirits appear this way--is unknown, but this observational tidbit is impressive.

Practically all dream encounters with spirit beings that Ms. Trask-Curtin describes take place in what seem to be quasi-physical environments that look very much like our physical world. These environments are described as actual locations "somewhere" (though not on our physical plane)... And it's understood that both the spirit and the physical experiencer can return to these locations, at will, later. I think that this is quite interesting. It seems that what is being described is a mid-plane that operates as a transit point and meeting place between the "dead" and those still physically incarnated... This location is apparently a well-known landmark. Is this the so-called "astral plane" (another term I dislike)?  Or is it, simply, another "world," like our physical one, operating at a different frequency, making it invisible to the physical?  And if this is the case, "where" are the dead?  In a realm so far removed from the physical that it would be impossible for us to interact with them?  Of course, none of this is neither here nor there--but it's the sort of thing I enjoy speculating about.

More completely irrelevant speculations to follow...

Saturday, May 3, 2014

The slow death of Wikipedia, among other things...

I have noticed (and observed) that in recent months, practically all Wikipedia articles involving metaphysical or "edge" topics now feature a prominent "criticism" section. Sometimes, this criticism is justified; at other times, it's merely a hatchet debunking job. Casual readers may not know the difference between justified and bogus criticism, and this is why this so pernicious. There is now evidence that what I've noticed is, in fact, deliberate and disciplined disinformation by materialist belief zealots.

I won't wade into the debate of whether this is justified, valid, useful, nor speculate on whether some darker force might be attacking metaphysical speculation under the rubric of rigorous scientific examination. I will just say, simply, that when I go to Wikipedia to read about a topic of interest, I go first to the criticism section and carefully weigh out the arguments against. Do debunkers extend the same courtesy to the theories that they seek to annihilate?

Sunday, April 20, 2014

All the Jane Roberts "Early Sessions" are now out on Kindle

...though I have to confess that I'm just beginning Book 4. (I read the soft-back versions a while back.)  One of the notable features of the Seth material is that you can read it over and over, yet come away thinking you've read it, again, for the first time--new facets jump out each time. Is a bit of Seth witchery? Or is just my early-onset Oldtimers?  (Probably both.)

My Seth re-journey has been slightly interrupted, however, by a very good book that I can happily endorse, even though I'm only half-way through it:  "Dreaming Of a The Dead: Personal Stories Of Comfort & Hope," by Marilou Trask-Curtain. It is, in a way, a very "quiet" book, but well-told. I found this book, surprisingly, while doing a search for infrared photos of cemeteries. I'm not entirely sure how this happened. Amazon.com has a (probably patented) method of serving up recommendations on what customers should read based on prior searches and purchases. Yet this book never appeared. If I had the energy, time, or inclination to wonder about this, I would.  For now, I'm just glad that I found it.

So how *do* I decide which books I recommend, or don't?  Really, it comes down to gut intuition, and personal experience. I know what Marilou Trask-Curtain writes is "true," because I've personally experienced the same thing.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Against my better judgement (Really!)

So I'm feeling better, and I decided to listen to a few paranormal podcasts.  We've all gone there and done that.  My findings thereon, to wit:

I listened to an interview (on an unnamed podcast) with Rosemary Ellen Guiley regarding her latest book, "Dream Messages From The Afterlife."  I bought the book, and Ms. Guiley's interview was good.  She is always good, though the attentive reader will remember that she did have a problem with guilt-by-association with Phil Imbrogno on their Djinn book.  I did not buy that book, because I'm not sure that I believe in the Djinn, and I'm not interested in the subject anyway.  Nonetheless, I respect Ms. Guiley, and while her podcast did not tell me anything I didn't already know (she quoted liberally from "Messages: Signs, Visits, and Premonitions from Loved Ones Lost on 9/11" by Bonnie McEnearey, which I think is one of the best books on the subject), I enjoyed it.

So Rosemary Ellen Guiley was the gateway drug back to the paranormal.

Next podcast was someone I had never heard of, an apparently well-known abductee named Derrel Sims. Mr. Sims struck me immediately as bogus.  Readers of this blog will note that while I was once a believer in "abductions," I'm now an ardent skeptic (or, more correctly, disbeliever), and I automatically reject any traditional abduction narrative--particularly contemporary ones.  (And I speak as an experiencer.)  After about thirty minutes, I terminated the podcast.  To the credit of this particular show, the consensus of this show's forum posters is that Sims is (quote) "full of it," "a clown," and "self-aggrandizing."   Which causes me to wonder why this particular show features this individual and has interviewed him several times.

Whilst browsing this same forum, I saw a mud-slinging between the show's primary host and "a former pay-per-listen podcast host and present-day blogger" who had accused the host of lying about a conversation several years ago involving employment at a radio station.  Well, intrigued at all this, and suspecting this offending blogger's identity, I went Googling to find it.  Which I did.  And while I do not agree with Jeremy Vaeni on a few things, he is capable of writing a splendid insult, so his take-down of Stan Romanek (who I'm not very familiar with anymore) as well as the podcast host was well worth the search--as well as being a timely reminder (as if we needed one) of the perils of too-close an association with the paranormal.  (I was one of those who, a while back, donated money to this podcast host.  I remember doing a Google Streetview of what he said his residential address was, in one of his then incessant pleas, and it was clearly a shot of one of those strip mall store areas.)

So, I'm not sure where I'm going to go from here.  I am at a point in life, however, where I'm happy to view the paranormal  largely as entertainment, viewed from a distance.  A safe distance.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Currently reading...

"Miraculous Journey," by Anne and Whitley Strieber. It's actually quite good, and the best I can muster right now, after enduring a polar vortex that sent snow and ice this way. Three days without electricity or heat due to trees falling on power lines. The 'net is still down but AT&T promises to repair the downed lines by Saturday ("we apologize for the delay").  My ancient iPhone (plus a grandfathered-in unlimited date plan) has been my tether to civilization. I'm re-thinking my desire to become Amish.

"Miraculous Journey" is a different kind of NDE book, and Anne Strieber has already made an observation that I consider to be quite fascinating. After her NDE, she went through an intense "psychic" phase where she became aware of all the "synchronicities" that she observed governing the world around her. I think that I have an understanding of what she's describing and what it means. Lately I've focussed on Seth's argument that we perceive only a "slice" of reality. We form our cause-and-effect formulations based on a selective interpretation of what little we perceive--with the brain as the reducer. However, per Seth, this is a "distorted" and limited interpretation of reality.  A brain injury would, theoretically, expand our perception of reality--it would remove the filters. How a brain-injured person perceives "reality" can give us important clues about its true nature.  I already know, experientially, that the current scientific model is inadequate to explain what we define as reality--but I don't know--yet--a better model to use. NDE accounts like Anne Strieber's are very important in informing our view of the "greater" reality, because they have glimpsed another model, and have come back to tell us what it might be.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

"Proof Of Heaven"--revisited

It's been over a year since reading Eben Alexander's "Proof," so I decided to check back on the controversy. Unsurprisingly, there's now a Wikipedia entry on Alexander, and as customary with any Wikipedia examination of "edge" topics, there's the obligatory criticism analysis.  Often, Wikipedia "criticism" is a good thing, but usually, it's a mixed bag.  Sometimes the criticism exposes serious flaws in the subject's methodology or credibility; other times, it's criticism simply for the sake of criticism, and often, it's so wildly off-the-mark that the editors truncate it to death.  Nevertheless, wherever there's a Wikipedia article on metaphysics or the paranormal, there's a mandated rebuttal.

So how does the Eben Alexander story hold up to "criticism"?

To recap, as I noted in my first blog entries on Alexander, I found his "Proof" relatively unremarkable, at least in terms of NDE accounts.  It made no new claims, nor did it say anything that hasn't been said before, in dozens of volumes on the subject.  Indeed, Anita Moorjani's "Dying To Be Me" tells a very similar story to Alexander's, but it rates merely a footnote in Wikipedia.  What was remarkable about Alexander's book was the speed and vehemence of the attacks upon it.  Most were quite caustic.  It was obvious that Alexander was being attacked because, as a representative of the scientific establishment and mainstream, he had broken the Prime Directive:  He suggested that there might be more to our physical reality than meets the physical eye.... that consciousness can exist independent of the physical body, and that there exist realms that are outside our physical control.

So, to me, the question became less of, "Is Dr. Alexander telling the truth?", and more of, "Why is he being attacked for saying what many others have said, for centuries?"

The Wikipedia denunciation carries all the grace and nuance of a terrorist bombing.  "Neuroscientist Sam Harris" declares "Proof Of Heaven" as “alarmingly unscientific" and that Alexanders knows nothing about "relevant brain science."  Celebrated neurologist Oliver Sacks agrees:  Not only is Alexander "unscientific," he is "antiscientific."  Referenced is an Esquire article entitled "The Prophet" that states, variously, that

[Alexander is, in his view], a prophet, because after all, what else do you call a man who comes bearing fresh revelations from God? This point of view has been massively profitable for Dr. Eben Alexander, has spawned not just a book sold in thirty-five countries around the globe but a whole cascade of ancillary products, including a forthcoming major motion picture from Universal.

Juxtaposed with quotations from "Proof Of Heaven," we learn that Dr. Alexander was a very poor surgeon indeed; he is sued at least once for malpractice; he is publicly chastised by none other than the Dalai Lama himself (a religious figure that even humanists love); he's fired from at least one hospital for presumed incompetence; he botches two surgeries and alters the medical records to hide the fact.

The Esquire article is subsequently cited by Forbes ("Esquire Unearths 'Proof Of Heaven' Author's Credibility Problems") and other mainstream sites, as the charges bounce and echo through the 'Net.

My perspective on all of this is, again, less a matter of who's right and who's wrong, and more of a wonderment at the heavy establishment guns brought out to shoot down an NDE account that is, overall, unremarkable.  When important and powerful people strain to convince me not to peek at the man behind the curtain, I'm inclined to think that there's some sleight-of-hand involved.  Alexander's message, apparently, is quite dangerous to some important people, who will stop at nothing to shut him up.

So, then, what about Dr. Alexander, and his "Proof," in light of his critics?

My first observation is that Alexander's attackers seek, primarily, to discredit his story by attacking his position as a scientist.  "He's not a scientist," they're saying.  "Look--he's a fraud.  He's irrational.  He's looney."  This attack is not entirely convincing.  Granted, Dr. Alexander is a bad surgeon--I wouldn't want him operating on me.  But he's still a medical doctor.  He earned an advanced degree and must, to some extent, be versed in the magic words of science, and somewhat adept in the ritual of the scientific method.  Nowhere do the critics argue that Dr. Alexander lied about his credentials, because they can't.  As my grandmother once told me, "Get all the education that you can, because no one can take it away from you."  She was right.  So, to me, the critics are attempting to remove his credentials by proxy, which causes me to suspect their motives.

Which raises an interesting paradox.  We don't attack a near-death account of an auto mechanic by documenting his botched auto repairs.  We don't say that Anita Moorjani is lying about her NDE because she's a bad mother.  And the fact that scientists--who are, largely, devout materialists who disbelieve in the supernatural--are attacking him does not cause me to automatically doubt him.

Second, we have the material event of Dr. Alexander's NDE.  Did he, in fact, have an NDE? And is his account credible?

Here, his critics might have an opening, but if so, they have not bothered to exploit it.  Aside from the claim of an attending physician that Alexander's coma was medically induced and that he was not brain dead, we have no further documentation.  Dr. Alexander can easily answer this charge by releasing his medical records.  I think that he should.  He has claimed that he had no neurological activity for about a week.  This can be easily proved--or disproved.  Since the charge has been made, it should be addressed.

Is his account credible?  To a scientist, in a word, no.  Nor could it ever be.  But to anyone who has spent any time examining metaphysical writings, it is not only credible, it's unremarkable.  To NDE students, he had, by all accounts, an "ordinary" NDE.  There are thousands of others like Dr. Alexander's, easily findable, imminently readable, and, taken as a whole, quite credible.

As a side note, it's quite common for the best spokesmen for (lacking a better term) "the supernatural" to be the least qualified for the job.  A profound supernatural experience can happen to anyone, but more often than not, those whose accounts rise to public consciousness are often demonstrated to be, well, less-than-upright.  They are often the bad scientists.  They are the antisocial scoundrels, the criminally inclined, the professional failures.  While they may make some money selling a few books, often, their establishment careers are ruined.  Is this a function of the corrosive effect of the "supernatural'?  Are the spokesmen bad to begin with, or do they start out as upright, good establishment people who are cut down the moment they violate some unspoken law of our reality?  To me, this is most remarkable and fascinating aspect of Dr. Alexander's NDE account.

Monday, February 17, 2014

The Early Sessions: Book 7 out on the Kindle

I'm still on Book 3. Book 3 is a tough read. Anyone who thinks that Jane Roberts "free-associated" this material ought to take a gander at this book. I can imagine Robert Butts patiently and somewhat bemusedly transcribing Seth's intricate discussions of atoms, inner and outer realities, idea construction, the existence of the physical body within multiple realities. You cannot make this stuff up. This will be a book that I will have to re-read (again) much later. However, Book 3 does introduce a seminal and (in my opinion) important idea: that an electrical counterpart to our physical universe exists "nearby."  This electrical plane is the described as the closest non-physical reality to ours and in fact intermingles with the physical. Per Seth, our physical manifestation of electricity is a weak echo of the actual power of this reality; the electricity that we've managed to harness in our world is merely a shadow of the electrical realm. It is this realm that is the most immediate after-death state.  Dreams are electrical in origin, and their electrical signature is "translated" into images that we recall as a dream.

I regard this as a significant idea because it is theoretically testable; unlike vague ideas of an "astral realm," the idea of an "electrical realm" is one that we can (somewhat) wrap our minds around; and it may explain a very some puzzling paranormal phenomena, one that I've experienced all my life: street lights (and other lights) turning off when I approach... As well as the frustrating problem that I had as a child of not being able to wear a mechanical watch without it dying. It also explains the apparent ease with which the newly dead and the earth-bound are able to record voices on our electrical equipment, turn on and off lights, radios, doorbells, fire alarms, and even, occasional, power televisions even when unplugged. A simple idea, to be sure, but one that I've never seen discussed anywhere else.

A temporarily suspension of my self-imposed exile from"Coast"

I visited the "Coast" website, but it was for a good cause: Joe McMoneagle, who was interviewed by the estimable George Knapp. I discovered this by accident on McMoneagle's blog. I'd Googled "The Ultimate Time Machine" to see if I could figure out why my blog entry on the book keeps getting hits. Basically, 90% of my readership is due to my mentions of Joe McMoneagle or David Paulides. I suspect that this is because both gentlemen are infinitely more interesting than I am.

Well, what have I missed on "Coast"?  Let's see.... Rosemary Ellen Guiley discussed dream visits from the dead. She's good. Who else? Carla Wills-Brandon discussed deathbed visions. I might give her my first listen.  And there's also Richard Bach.  A few good shows, scattered here and there.  The rest is dreck.

The universe as a mathematical simulation

An interesting scientific article. It's my personal belief that our perceived universe is actually created / crafted / designed, rather than simply a product of a random number generator. Leaving out all the baggage that's associated with creationism--for any scientist, now, to posit such a possibility is quite a shift. Is it just me, or is this huge?  I grew up in a world with an unbridgeable gulf between the religionists, on one side, and the objective scientists on the other.  One of the touchstones of traditional science is that while it's okay to admire a creation, speculation about who created the creation was streng verboten (arguably, for good reason, what with religionists blowing up their enemies at the slightest provocation).

My personal opinion, based on experience and research, is that, yes, our world is created, but it would be more accurate to say that it's co-created. To paraphrase Robert Monroe, "someone, somewhere," laid down the template, but there is something within us that throws up the drywall, the nails, installs the carpet and roof.

The fact that I'm seeing an increasing number of mainstream scientific articles that happen to agree with my mystical viewpoint suggests a pendulum swing. It makes me glad to have stuck around long enough to be vindicated somewhat.