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