If anybody id interested, the latest issue of the Skeptical Inquirer (Volume 31, No. 6 November/December 2007) has an article on this very topic. It would seem that researchers have been able to induce aspects of the out of body sensation in the lab.
Seems such sensations are all in the mind (mind you), and related to how the mind perceives ourselves and our physical bodies. It has long been know that we perceive our “mind” as somehow separate from our physical selves (perhaps suggesting how the idea of disembodied “souls” came about), and it would seem that researchers have been able to stimulate this discordance by getting subjects to associate tactile sensations with a virtual body (in this case a video display of them selves from another perspective).
One time, I was taking a nap when I became slightly conscious because I thought my arm had fallen off the bed, as the back of my hand was resting on the carpet. Something prompted me to feel around a little & I was able to feel my shoe just under there, too, with laces, etc. Then when I became a little more conscious, I was surprised to find that my arm had fallen completely asleep because I was on top of it. As I became more confused & aware that the 2 were incompatible, the ability to feel the shoe & carpet rapidly subsided.
I’m not saying I think the whole body can leave, but mine might be a case of the “morphogenic field” effect at work.
And since the first post asked; I’m hard Atheist, but also open to the idea of a “spiritual” realm, where ESP, quantum entanglement, and things like that operate. I think those things might be as much a “given feature” of the universe as the fact that light always travels at c.
As a rational person, I do understand your position, but that same rationality demands that I trust the evidence my mind perceives particularly when combined with objective confirmations. I would suggest you read Pinker’s the Blank Slate. Not that you are incorrect, but the absolute atheist rationalist is in a very small group in the human commnunity. You should at least make an effort to understand why rational humans do believe in a spiritual component to life. Dogma is Dogma whether its spouted by an fundamentalist atheist or a fundamentalist christian.
It’s actually the acceptance of human nature that leads to the conclusion we may be deceiving ourselves about these things, and that the “evidence” many think is conclusive isn’t even really evidence. Objective, genuine confirmations would be evidence of whatever they’re evidence of rather than confirmations. That perception would bias the observer to steer the evidence into the area of confirmation, and actually requires a bit of denial about human nature. We should have pretty much zero confidence in our “internal perceptions” (as opposed to that of our “traditional” [I’d say real] five senses).
There is question that nobody ever seems to ask (let alone answer) about the whole subject of OBEs and NDEs, and yet it has always, to me, been one of the most powerful reasons to doubt that they represent anything more than the brain simply doing things that aren’t completely understood.
My question has a prologue:
Those who accept a non-brain generated explanation for OBEs and NDEs posit a a disembodied, non-physical or spirit consciousness able to exist and lay down memories without the use of the brain. That spirit or disembodied consciousness is not “real” in any physical sense that we know of, because it is undetectable by any means that we know of.
The question is then:
Why is it that the “proofs” we deem most acceptable about OBEs and NDEs always involve this disembodied consciousness observing, using very human sense-data (visual, olfactory, auditory, etc.)? The fact that someone can claim to “see” the room around them, in the same colour schemes and surface textures etc., should make us highly suspicious that any non-corporeal, non-physical entity is doing the observing. The only way to receive and interpret such sense-data in characteristically human fashion is through human sensory apparatus, and a human brain.
My out-of-body experiences that had to do with the physical world, such as the experience with the bicycle I mention were done in a light trance, and very much used the physical senses in conjunction with that other ‘thing’, and was a little disconcerting, almost like double vision. The more esoteric, spiritual experiences, on what I view as other planes of existance, can barely be put into words, much less described in terms of the physical senses. Sound is not sound, it is more like ‘gravity’. Light had no source. I understood why so many religions art work has similar images, such as halos, or wings, which sort of ‘look’ like the energy patterns surrounding higher energy beings. The physical mind doesn’t know how to reference what it perceives and replaces the ‘vision’ with things it has familiarity with.
I have also had experiences where I did ‘lightning calculation’. I can’t make it happen at will, and have no idea of the process involved in writing down a correct answer for 234.99936/1.4306 in less than two seconds without a calculator, but I’ve done similar things many times, including calculus statements above my conscious ability. But that is still a physical world attribute, and I can relate the process to the physical brain and skill set.
Things I’ve perceived as higher “Truths” such as the nature of time, and balance of ‘positive and negative’ forces that interplay in the laws of thermonuclear mechanics as well as karma and spiritual growth, have no correlation to experiences from this universe, and the language doesn’t even exist to explain the perception, much less the knowledge imparted by actual participation in the process.
It’s like saying I know because I saw or I know because I did.
I would agree with Hume, if I were trying to convince anyone else of the validity of my own personal experience. I’m not. I could not give a rat’s ass whether anyone believes my experienes were hallucination or Samadhi/God Realization. I’m only relating this because the history of the world shows there are more humans who believe in a spiritual world beyond the physical than there are atheist. If they believe because a priest convinced them of biblical doom for nonbelief, then thats their problem.
I think that in most humans and human societies humans begin as children to have contact with the spiritual world, though they may only be able to preceive and explain it in terms they are culturally familiar with. Never the less, whether it is the zen moment of enlightenment, or communion with god in nature of the shamanistic spirit quest, many humans, especially children, have spiritual(tricks of the mind if you want to believe that) experiences that change their entire lives from that moment forward. Unless those experience become mired in dogma, they usually change a human for the best as the experiences are almost always ones of all encompassing love, empathy and compassion.
Judging from Sam’s long practise of meditation, and some of his writings, you may want to make the same suggestion to him. As for me, you can shove Hume’s….never mind. Like I said, I would never expect anyone to believe any of this that hasn’t had a like experience. Judging from the spiritual “deadness” I have seen in the humans I meet, I would be very suprised if more than 1-2% of the human population at any time has experienced self realization, much less Samadhi, or the Buddha mind. Its like trying to explain color to the congenitally blind. I wish I could help, but have learned that those attempts are always bad for both parties, and you’ll get it, when you are ready.
Meanwhile, if the human brain is capable of producing extended periods of extreme bliss that reduce stress and increase mental acuity, without the use of harmful practices, substances or beliefs, why would you be so diametrically opposed?
You can believe my experiences, or Sam’s, or those of thousands of practisioners are all hallucination, but what difference does that make if the effects are all positive? Are you a nihilist? Do end of the world scenarios make you hot? Do you think happiness is an aberation?
I just don’t have any delusions about the nature of the experience, as powerful and rewarding as it can be. My strong impression is that Sam Harris would more or less say the same thing, in so many words.
Perhaps that is a matter of ‘success’. What is the longest period you have acheived in a continuous alpha or deaper trance state? I have reached states where I did not move and had no awareness of discomfort, desire, anticipation or cessation that exceeded 12 hours. Following those sessions, almost every perception was hightened for several days. I’m just curious, because my experience with zen has been that most of the Roshis have a pretty high opinion of themselves, and their instruction is limited to ritual. As in just shut up and sit there for the next three years and then I might let you ask a question. Zasen - to sit. Sitting and waiting for enlightenment to happen never got me anywhere. Eventually, I had to imagine enlightenment, and go to it.
I'm talking about induced OOB, not near death experiences, although it would be nice to hear a take on that from someone that had it and is STILL an atheist/agnosthic. I don't discard the possibility of another dimension, spirits or what-not (although I think they are very unlikelly); I think another dimension and a possible conection with this one could PHYSICALLY exist, and yet have no connection to god or religion or the paranormal whatsoever. We just aren't advanced enough to scientifically see it yet (if it were the case, which I think is unlikelly despite this paragraph seemingly pointing otherwise)
So what I really want to get to is this:
Are you an atheist/agnostic, skeptic, non-supersticious, and had a OOBE? If so, was it actually an OOB or just a dream-like stuff just confined to your mind?
Sorry for this monumental thread bump, but I really don’t know why Harris—who talks about “transformative” or “spiritual” experiences ad nauseam—fails to reference the recent scientific findings regarding out-of-body experiences.