Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Two recent scientific examinations of the OOBE

I thought these might be of interest to the metaphysical community. The first examines the common experience of sleep paralysis and how it might relate to the perception of "alien abductions."

The author does not seem to recognize the OOBE as a valid non-physical experience; "sleep paralysis" is as far as science will go in describing that liminal state between sleep and wakefulness where the experiencer is fully conscious, yet unable to activate his physical body:

In the phenomenon of sleep paralysis, a delay occurs between the return of awareness and the activation of muscle control. Sleep paralysis renders a person awake and aware of her surroundings, but completely paralyzed for seconds to several minutes, though episodes lasting over an hour have been reported. Visual and auditory hallucinations often accompany the paralysis. People hear strange sounds, see ghastly figures, and can feel the presence of foreign beings in their midst.

There's lots (there are lots?) that I'd like to say about this, particularly in the parallels between "alien abductions" and "forced" OOBEs, which I've experienced, but I'll have to do it when I've wrapped my mind (brain?) around it better. The OOBEs that I've had and recorded are sufficient to prove that the experience is "real" on an objective, non-physical level, for me... And I've had some UFO experiences in my past. But I don't think that I've experienced enough to argue that "abductions" are just OOBEs.  Still, I believe that they probably are, just not your vanilla OOBE--but rather OOBEs involving multiple entities.

The second article explores the possible neurological basis for the OOBE itself.

I thought that the BBC article was fascinating on several levels, primarily because it accepts the OOBE at face value; it doesn't try to devalue or disqualify the experience or dismiss it as a hallucination. (It does insist, however, that there's a neurological basis for the experience.) I think that science is having to do this due to the sheer onslaught of NDE accounts where the core feature involves the experiencer looking down on his/her body.  The researchers have identified what I think is the central question of the whole experience: what, or who, is one's self-conscious identity?  Is our consciousness merely a product of our neurological activity, focussed exclusively in, and identified totally with, the physical body?  Or can it, and does it, stand apart?

Science argues the former, for good scientific reasons. For me to argue, "Consciousness does not depend on the brain; it is centered elsewhere," then I must be able to prove where, and what, that elsewhere is. ("God" and "spirit world" won't wash with the science crowd.) I can't.  The available scientific evidence certainly suggests that consciousness (and self-awareness) originates in the brain.

And yet...

If consciousness were strictly a byproduct of biological activity, then the classic near-death experience would not exist--at least not to the extent that it apparently does.  They can't *all* involve injuries to the "left posterior insula and adjacent cortical areas."

NDEs were largely unknown until the significant advances in emergency resuscitative medical care in recent decades.  The phenomenon has now entered the collective consciousness; it essentially did not exist prior to the 1970s.  As first-person NDE accounts continue to accumulate, I predict that the materialistic model of consciousness will become increasingly untenable.