Our consciousness is not always in the same state: waking state, meditation, sleep, dream, sleep paralysis, moments of superconsciousness, NDE, after life, are each a state of consciousness. Let us see in this chapter the states of consciousness which are related to the brain, and in the next chapter V-9 the ones which occur when the brain is stopped or destroyed.
(Permalink) As we saw in chapter V-2 and the following, consciousness is a logical self-generation process chaining elements of the experience of consciousness: images, sounds, ideas, sensations, feelings... It is this chaining which gives us the feeling of time passing, with events occurring as this succession is unfolding.
However, in the ordinary consciousness (non-parapsychological), this process of self-generation is not autonomous: it copies the physical events which take place in the brain. Thus, the contents of the ordinary consciousness is created by the brain, resulting of the information processing which takes place here, when consciousness itself exists independently of it. The imputations made by the consciousness over the activity of the neurons then allows it to match the elements of the experience of consciousness to signals which are present in selected areas of the brain, where they are the most relevant. For example we see a perfect image instead of the distorted and inverted image sent by the retina, to which we have no access.
And, as seen in chapter V-4, this activity of neurons happens by pulses. The brain is «relativistic», in the meaning used in the theory of information: its signals, limited by the speed of nerve impulses (and not by the speed of light!) do not allow for the different parts to synchronize their clocks, which are anyway «fuzzy» (in the logical meaning, chapter I-2). So, each part of the brain produces its own series of pulses, at its own pace.
It is then tempting to think that each of these impulses, with its meaning, produces a «nib» in the logical self-generation process of consciousness.
So here we go: consciousness is also «quantum» (Note 91), this meaning formed of elementary instants.
The question is then, why aren't we aware of this succession? The naïve answer would be: as in the cinema. In a film, a fast enough succession of still images gives the illusion of a perfectly smooth, continuous motion. Neurologists say it is because of the retinal persistence, which does not differentiate between two images in a fast succession. But this also happens in all the other consciousness phenomena: for example we feel that we read a text continuously, while our eye moves by jumps. The explanation I give is then more subtle: simply from the point of view of the logical self-generation process, there is no defined reality between two successive nibs of the experience of consciousness. It is therefore strictly impossible to be aware of any empty interval between the two.
However, we can perceive the individual nibs, for example when a scene is illuminated with very short flashes separated by darkness: there is then no time to insert a thought between the flashes, thus demonstrating that they are adjacent individual nibs. We can also be aware of the succession of the nibs when we try to maintain a mental image constantly in our mind: everyone knows that it flickers, vanishes, reappears, etc.
Still stronger, our consciousness is able to perceive the movement itself: a short movement, such as a greeting, a word, a bark, etc. then forms a whole nib with only itself. A succession of such nibs is particularly suited for producing a feeling of continuous movement.
In the case of the mental image we quickly realize that it is not continuous. This is because other thoughts are inserted between two of its appearances. So our thought can change of topic, but it never stops. It is a property of the brain in waking state.
Also, our consciousness does not necessarily stick to any sensory input: we also think, visualize memories, daydream, meditate, etc. In this case, the consciousness sticks to the autonomous and spontaneous activity of the neurones. This introspective ability is fundamental, based on the fact that nothing allows for distinguishing the activity of a sensory neuron from any other neuron in the brain. It has therefore appeared very early in evolution, even if beings did not necessarily used it. (The evolutionary appearance and strengthening of an unused faculty tells that it may be the result of an ongoing logical feedback, chapter IV-6, with a yet to come purpose, chapter VI-16.)
However what happens if the neurons stop?
(Permalink) At first sight, if the neurons stop, the self-generation process should be able to detach itself from it: we would then have a NDE every night. However this is definitively not the case. The explanation is probably that, precisely, the neurons do not stop during sleep. The electroencephalogram indeed shows different waves, but it never stops. The question is then why are we unconscious at this time. There are several explanations, including that we do not record memories, which, after the fact, gives a feeling of unconsciousness. Neurology also says that the motor or sensory pathways are closed, but this is not enough to ensure unconsciousness: we could still think, and, in facts, we dream.
With a bit of theory of logical self generation, we can assume that the neurons which remain active during sleep, would simply send no information to our consciousness, or very little. Some neurons would be active, but not the ones which produce experiences of consciousness. Or else they do not produce the necessary signals. (Maybe the sleep waves have for function of blocking the activity of the neurones which produce consciousness)
Thus the nibs of the consciousness would be widely spaced, which gives this feeling of a missing time that we have when we wake up. And really, for the self-generation process of consciousness, no time (as defined in chapter IV-3) elapsed, and awakening comes just after falling asleep. This explains that we do not have a memory of a long dark time.
(Added October 3, 2017) This effect is much like the one of distraction: if we are distracted from a boring activity, then when we get back in touch, we have the same feeling of «having missed something». In fact we really were not aware of the tedious situation, as our consciousness had switched to something else.
However when awakening we still have a clear feeling of elapsed time, more or less, even if there is no mark of time in the physical world. Therefore, we need to think that we have a biological clock, which gives us a gross indication of the hour.
A fact that I have observed supports these theories: when I was a kid, there still were U.S. military convoys in France, and we heard them passing near our home, with a very recognizable sound. One night I was awakened by a violent detonation (I realized after that one of these convoys was stopped behind us at this time). However a detail which long intrigued me is that I was not startled: after the detonation, I had a clear memory of a few seconds before. This kind of observation tends to show that consciousness is not fully abolished during sleep, but that a mechanism blocks it (there are no nibs of consciousness).
(Added January 2021) More surprisingly, I observed this feeling of elapsed time, after... an anaesthesia! I could even tell that the surgery took longer than announced!
However, there is something absolutely extraordinary with sleep: the faculty we have to wake up on time, often just a few minutes before, when something important requires it. In the version 1, I recounted the first time my daughter had to get up early to go to high school: I woke up a few minutes before, just to hear her getting up, and then... her alarm clock rang!
When you think about it, there is no physical explanation for this precision: our biological clock does not have the necessary precision. And anyway we are unconscious at this time... This is not either the alarm clock next to the bed: once I woke up right at the necessary time... but the alarm clock was 20 minutes late!
If it is a parapsychological phenomenon, then it is one of the most common, and the easiest to produce.
(Permalink) Much has been said on dream, with countless disparaging and fanciful Freudian interpretations. Well, I do not pretend to say why we dream, but I can at least say how.
Neuroscientists believe that the sensory pathways are closed during the dream. I think that this is correct, although there are exceptions, since we sometimes perceive noises, and we can sometimes discuss with dreamers (I saw this). The motor pathways are also normally closed, although there also are exceptions.
On the other hand, I affirm that this closure does not define the dream. Indeed, lucid dreaming can start when we are still awake, without closing of the sensory or motor paths. We then observe that it stops abruptly as soon as we focus our ordinary attention on it, and this is probably why so few people enjoy this state. As discussed in chapter V-10, our «ordinary attention» is the activity of the frontal cortex, which handles our intentions and activities of consciousness, everything that we think. It is somehow the inference engine of the brain, and its activity completely determines the content of our consciousness (opinions, intentions, etc.) to the point that I shall call it the «neuronal ego».
That the dream can start only when the frontal cortex is inactivated (sleep, deep meditation, lucid dreaming) clearly indicates that it is caused by another engine. In the version one I called it the «dream engine», and I was describing its operation, explaining the properties of the dream. The dream is thus due to the operation of this «dream engine», when the frontal cortex is inhibited, but not directly related to the closure of the sensory pathways or with sleep (the later only disconnecting the frontal cortex, which is a way to allow dream).
And how this dream engine works?
First of all, we need to know how a scene is encoded in the brain. An image, for example, is never encoded in pixels (only the retina can do this) but in «vector», by ready made elements. Imagine a simple example: try to visualise «trees and cows in a meadow». Such a succinct description however evokes a very complex mental image, which would require millions of pixels if we wanted to paint it in details. How such a fantastic data compression is possible? Simply the brain associates each concept (meadow, cow, tree) to ready made images, themselves formed of simpler elements (forms, textures). Thus these six words are enough to create a complex scene... but which, if you paint it, would be different for everybody, location and forms of trees, size and breed of cows, flat or hilly, etc. The frontal cortex (and other parts of the brain) can add issues (the next picnic, the rural exodus...) or feelings (childhood memory, love of nature...). All of these elements are of course present in the corresponding parts of the brain: images in the visual cortex, sounds in the auditory area, issues in the frontal cortex, etc.
Of course the frontal cortex will use these elements to make its plans, develop its strategies, think at stakes, remember other scenes, etc.
But the dream engine also has access to all these elements, and it can use them in its own different way. Like any logical self-generation system, the dream will be a succession of such scenes. But unlike the neuronal ego, it seems that the elements are modified one by one, without definite plan or purpose. This explains many of the properties of dreams, mainly of being composed of scenes which change over time, or repeated with variations, interchanged elements. We understand that, as in the case of the mental image above, these elements form a visual scene, but which can also be combined with stakes, feelings, etc.
Thus this schema explains well the dreams, and why they usually have no meaning. They are even not intended at helping memorizing, or any other pseudo-explanation that we often read.
But this also explains well the apparent absurdity of many dreams.
For example we are pursued by an enemy. We crush him with a car, then blow him up with a bazooka, nail him up to a wall, and finally we climb in a plane, and take off leaving him on the tarmac. Then we realize that he is in the plane with us... This illogical scene explains itself perfectly if the visual scene is changed, but not the «pursuit» stake. Another example: we must undergo surgery. We are injected with the anaesthetic... but nothing happens: we remain aware! There again, there is no bizarre Freudian symbol to decode: simply we cannot lose consciousness in a dream! Thus, if any scene such as anaesthesia, sleep or death occurs in a dream, we remain aware. These scenarios are in contradiction with the ordinary logic, but in perfect agreement with the running of the dream engine.
As discussed in chapter V-10, disabling the neuronal ego promotes the action of the immaterial consciousness on the neurons, which explains that we can have premonitory dreams, or dreams which provide important guidance for the conduct of our lives (spiritual guidance, denouncing manipulators). However these things remain parapsychological phenomena, subject to the technical conditions described in chapter V-4. This explains that ordinary dreams are very far from equalling NDE about this.
A premonitory dream is thus an apparently ordinary dream, but which we afterwards realize that it described events which actually occurred after. Of course, given the abundance of both dreams and events in the world, we statistically get a lot of coincidences. This makes that, to be classified as a prescience, a dream must have a large enough set of linked elements, in a way to exclude such statistical coincidences. For example seeing in a dream someone we never seen, and then recognizing him when we encounter him the next day, can be described as prescient. It is even better if we also recognize psychological traits, instead of only the face. I have had several dreams of this kind. I also often dream of my car... but these dreams began a year before that I only had the project to buy one! With the colour and everything.
Such dreams are one of the most common parapsychological phenomena, which happen to the most people. But unfortunately we cannot cause them, hence the lack of studies about them.
We can also have significant dreams, bearing psychological or spiritual messages. This is the case of these repetitive dreams which sometimes pursue us for our lives long. But to interpret them is difficult, and sometimes misleading. I had a few dreams of this kind, quite distressing, which disappeared when I understood a manipulation of which I was a victim. But others continue to occur without I understand what they represent.
The difficulty of interpreting dreams comes from that they use non-obvious symbols, but also that they often reverse affirmation and negation, which can make us confuse a warning for an advice. I did this mistake once and I paid a high cost...
Many books claim to interpret our dreams. They are often based on a symbolic specific to a given culture, or even on «Freudaines» (false psychology, often despising or fond of disgusting sexual symbols) or on ideologically biased interpretations (to say that a dream of flying is a disease of the liver, is as silly as arbitrary). My advice would be to read none of them, otherwise we may just add the psychological problems of the author to ours.
I still allow myself to give some examples which could be very useful, with the previous restrictions.
-The floor of a house gives way under your feet, you fall back from a paradise to a gray city, stairs lead down to a dark cave with a feeling of danger or fear, beautiful painting on rotten materials: people manipulate you with a nice ideal, but they are not sincere, they can even be dangerous. These dreams are probably caused by perceptible signs (whispers, unspoken words, implications, etc.) but that we refuse to consider, because of their devastating implications.
-You are on the water side, when a wave rises suddenly and threatens to overwhelm you: people play with your feelings, alternating kindness and hatred. Beware, this is a serious warning: in the actual case I have seen, several people committed suicide.
-A dangerous or threatening factory (explosion, gas, radioactivity): you fear someone without realizing. But the person is not necessarily bad.
-You have a sexual relationship with an inappropriate person: do not worry, these dreams have in fact no sexual meaning, they only tell your feelings toward somebody of importance to you. But this dream is obviously NOT an invitation to do it for real!
-Dark clouds, or even black, see scaly: a person makes you suffer from misunderstanding or despair (see the case of the wave)
-Violent tornadoes: (to check) hostile people push you to anger, to the fault. Attention to what you say or write, take some distance.
-(Added January 2017) Dreaming of being naked in public is probably the most widespread of incomprehensible repetitive dreams. And of course there are as many explanations as sites of psycho-astrology, with very expectedly psychoanalysis which accuses us of repressed unhealthy desires (no imagination, these blokes, ha ha ha!). However, I recently observed a small «advance», which could finally crack this dream and explain scientifically what it represents for us.
First, it must be remembered that, as in any dream, the characters we observe are only images, incapable of thinking or reacting autonomously. (For them to do so, the dream engine needs to add a supplementary stake). Thus, that these characters do not react shows that, for the dream engine, the only stake of this dream is our own feeling: embarrassment, shame, incongruity. Secondly, it must be remembered that for the brain, the shame of being naked is not natural: it is the aftermath of a trauma, following a sexual assault. The person who assaulted you may very well think that she/he «educated» you, for our neurons it is not less a full-blown sexual assault. Thirdly, that we want to grope on our class neighbour, understand quantum mechanics or go to the monastery to become a saint, the brain does not make the difference: in any case it is our search for happiness. Thus, as any victim of sexual abuse can confirm, a sexual trauma also weakens our whole personality: our goals in life, our search for happiness, all become shameful, and we no more dare to show them in public. So if nudity represents something in this dream, it is indeed our deep aspirations, our authentic being, by opposition to the social conventions which deny them. And indeed, this dream always occurs in places where society forces us to go and to play an artificial role, independently of our aspirations: school, workplace, street, ceremony, etc.
The personal experience which led me to this understanding? Simple: in the dream, the «society» was composed of positive people (ecologists, spiritualists, etc.). Some were still dressed in submissive black, while others were already partially undressed: coloured bikinis, shorts, wispy veils, etc. Finding myself naked, I then declared gently but clearly that the place allowed for naturism. To which the most undressed replied with an approving smile. Thus, this dream can finally be explained very logically and simply, if our nakedness represents our personality and our aspirations: shame then represents our feeling of being rejected by society, of being forced to play a character who is not us, or the lack of opportunities to realise our aspirations.
Of course the project of General Epistemology is a society where everybody can go «naked», this meaning to be what we really want to be, without being imposed an image or a role which is not us.
-(Added in August 2017) You descend into a dark cavern, a very deep abyss, at the bottom of which lies a black water, smooth, unsettling and mysterious. (Subject to confirmation): someone is plotting against you. Dreams are not usually extrasensory perceptions. But often, they translate clues which are visible, that we failed to perceive consciously. So what looks like errors, seemingly separate acts, incidental actions, «necessary sacrifices», may in fact be parts of a plan to harm you. Well, still do some objective checks, in order not to veer into paranoia or unfounded accusations.
-(Added in August 2017) You dream several times that you meet deceased loved ones: prepare to leave this world.
-(Added January 2020) In scatological dreams (the truly repulsive ones, neither erotic nor even pornographic), dirt would represent... our ego (in the neurological sense, as described in chapter V-10). Or this dirt would represent our dualistic attraction/repulsion to the world, which binds us to it (hate binds even more effectively than attachment). Then our body would represent our consciousness, seeking to avoid contact with that dirt.
-(Added in February 2021) Dreaming that we fly is another very common repetitive dream I did not really cracked. Yet I «fly» since the age of 10! Of course the materialistic explanations are lame (liver disease, lol, go digest your wine yourself, dudes, me I never drank) However correlations between this dream and successful meditation sessions allow me to suggest an explanation: dreaming of flying would represent the capacity, or attempts, at thinking by ourselves, escaping the influence of our group of of society. A stronger explanation would be our spiritual free will, chapter V-3, a parapsychological phenomenon where our brain receives information from our consciousness.
In these dreams, we nearby always meet one of these obstacles:
☻Being limited by clouds: I suggest materialism, or too much reliance on intellectual reasoning alone.
☻Being limited by frightening electric wires: I suggest anti-society dualism, ideologies, all creating an hyper-polarisation of brains circuits, making free will difficult (see chapter V-3, on how free will operates).
☻Having to do efforts to climb, or natation gestures: I suggest attachment to the results in meditation, tense expectation, lack of non-action.
Thus, the true message of these dreams is the type of problem we have to work on.
-(Added in February 2021) Dreaming of decaying corpses. Stop eating meat! Your own body refuses it! I am pretty sure, because I had these dreams, and they stopped right when I stopped meat.
Lucid dreaming is a series of experiences of consciousness, similar to a dream, but which occurs while we are not asleep. (Not to be confused with the usual reverie, which is produced by the neuronal ego, from our desire or willingness). It is said that some people are able to do this spontaneously, but generally this happens only with a long experience of meditation. We must indeed be able to disconnect the neuronal ego... But, just as with the dream of anaesthesia, it is impossible: the neuronal ego will wait for the result of the disconnection, and this expectation precisely keeps it connected! So we understand why lucid dreaming is so difficult to obtain, and that we can venture here only with advanced meditation on the emptiness of our experiences of consciousness. Real meditation is indeed not a beautiful reverie as in the New Age groups, it is in fact a mastery of the functioning of our mind, which can go as far as the disconnection of our neuronal ego, the higher functions of the frontal cortex. Once this done, lucid dreaming opens the parapsychological possibilities of the dream, but under control. Hence the interest of mastering it.
An instinctive dream, or a biological dream, is a dream which is somehow genetically encoded into the brain. Much like these images we find in a new computer. How is this possible, and what is the purpose of such dreams? Answering this question is like answering the question: How can an animal perform precisely all the actions necessary to take care of her new-born, while she has no language to be learned or having received directions? I one day saw a bitch delivering, and I was amazed of the precision of her actions, in a situation where many humans would just freak out. It is clear that she knew what she was doing, she was not guided only by feelings. One then speaks of «instinct», a vague term loaded with magical connotations. But there is nothing inexplicable or magical... just the fantastic magic of life.
Yet, the explanation is very «classical science»: taking care of the new-born is too much a crucial stake for evolution having left it at random, and all the necessary knowledge is encoded directly in the neurons, «hardwired». Thus the animal knows everything without having learned it, and she may even have already experienced these situations in a dream...
How to be sure? Just because humans are exactly like animals from this point of view. And women giving birth without knowing what it is, are still able to do what is needed! Cases of abandonment of children at birth are very rare in humans, except of course pathological cases (rape, social pressures, psychiatric disorders)
It is obviously the same for sex: one must easily find how to do, even without learning. Personally, my first teenagers sexual dreams were very romantic (Evidence that physical sex is not enough, love counts equally, even for biology and for the genes). On the other hand when I was a child, sexual dreams used incomprehensible and very scary symbols, it the style of big worms hidden behind the bathroom pipes. Perhaps they are a warning against possible untimely attempts.
Another biological dream occurs when a man has ejaculated: he feels sad, and dream that he goes with the woman with whom he had contacts (or who expressed her tenderness)... The biological significance is obvious: incentive to stay with the carrier of his children, and love her. And by the way it strongly suggests a matrilineal society.
We can assume that other biological dreams relate to food. For example, I regularly had abominable dreams of decayed corpses... until I stopped eating meat! This is an excellent example of apparently absurd repetitive dream, which however had a precise meaning, and which stopped immediately as soon as its cause was removed.
(Permalink) In a world which boasts so much about freedom of opinion, we can find more definitions of meditation than people who practice it seriously. And be very careful, as there are definitions which are fanciful, and even very dangerous. An example is the idea of viewing the world as it should be, pure and heavenly. Such a visualization is inherently good, but it is not in itself a meditation. Indeed, if it is no accompanied with a mastery of our neurosis, then the difference between the visualisation and «reality» quickly becomes a source of intense frustration, which can lead to dependence on a sect, depression, and even suicide. Other methods of «personal development» can make people become arrogant, which can lead to conflicts or divorces. These methods act by strengthening the ego, which goes right against any goal of liberation. Therefore, in front of such serious dangers, we clearly not have the right to let say anything, and true meditation should be learned in school, according to a curriculum prepared by people who got checked results.
One of the simple activities used to introduce meditation (there are many) is for instance the Hatha Yoga (the «yoga postures»), where we must obtain the non-duality between the effort required to maintain the posture, and the absence of action or intent. As seen in chapter I-3 on non-Aristotelian logic, this result appears very naturally when we stop using the frontal cortex, the seat of the intents and actions (which I call the «neuronal ego», or the brain inference engine), and let the neurons operate in their natural way, which is non-Aristotelian. This allows then to naturally and easily handle the many non-dualities needed to understand the spiritual world.
We can therefore define meditation as a state of consciousness, different from the usual waking state, where the frontal cortex is inactivated: we no longer have ego, intents, or concepts. (It is not the matter however to give up any management of our lives, but a state of consciousness where it is no longer the neuronal ego which organizes the chaining of thoughts). Instead, non-Aristotelian facts appear spontaneously in our consciousness.
However it would be dangerous to use this state for random things. So, all the spiritual paths introduce simultaneously objectives such as compassion for human beings, harmonious social life, or the obtaining of a paradise through purification techniques or accumulation of ethical merit («good marks» when we perform good deeds).
In fact, meditation allows to handle the many non-dualities which govern social or political life (This is why training in meditation is of course mandatory for all the politicians, in addition to other hiring tests in IQ and general culture). But it also allows it to cleanse up all our many neurosis. For instance it is quite easy to eradicate a neurosis of racism, by visualising the corresponding pure feelings. This is one of the first things I succeeded to do, against a certain racism which was inculcated to me during three childhood years in Algeria. At the time, it took me years, by lack of real methods, but it is eradicated without traces today. Such neurosis would not survive more than a few weeks to advanced Tantric meditations. We then understand the fundamental usefulness of meditation and other methods of purification of the mind that it allows, and why it should be taught at school, in the same way as writing or ecology, in the name of the fundamental freedom of controlling our lives.
However, these meditations for beginners are not parapsychological phenomena, and we remain in a classic material functioning of the brain. It is already fantastic that a brain which was never designed for this, can still work in this way, according to a completely different organization of the animal brain, and in more give important results that no evolution has never anticipated or suggested.
But we can go further, as discussed in chapter V-10. In facts, meditation allows for the free-will (chapter V-3), which is a direct power taking from immaterial consciousness over the physical brain. For a beginner, this free-will can occur by a rare chance, and it then gives a feeling of a wonderful awareness opening. (Which causes some frustration if we cannot reproduce it, hence the need to develop other qualities such as patience or non-action.).
But an advanced practitioner will enter into much more powerful meditations, in the domain of the Tantras or Yoga, the main one being meditation on emptiness, which neutralizes the neuronal ego and its lieutenant the attachment to appearances. Other practices, the Yidam, control of dreams, etc. allow to strengthen the power of consciousness over the brain, which, at a moment, will lead to the realization of parapsychological powers.
(Permalink) A very interesting feature of the orgasm is to neutralize the frontal cortex, what I call the neuronal ego. We shall see in chapter V-10 that this is one of the main obstacles to deep meditation and the control of consciousness over our brain.
We therefore understand why yoga techniques have been developed for multiplying the number of orgasms, especially by the retention of ejaculation. These renewed orgasms allow to practice very specific and intense meditations, more easily than with a long training.
However attachment to appearances, especially attachment to the pleasure or the material body, also constitutes a serious obstacle to deep meditation. This is the reason why many more people prefer chastity! We should therefore involve in sexual yoga only into the frame of a serious spiritual practice, which will include especially the Emptiness meditation (or equivalent). Only to the above conditions we can speak of sexual yoga, which are one of the techniques of the Tantras (while reminding to Muggles that the Tantra are not defined as sexual practices, that they use only into some specific cases).
The serious risks of these practices (hardening of the ego, attachment to the material body, false conceptions on sexual freedom) made that they were traditionally kept secret. Their publication out of context for the sole purpose of pleasure is a terrible trap, which could ruin the lives of many people, and bring more pain than pleasure. Anyway a good meditation reduces the attachment to the body, and this basically differentiates the simple amateur of sex from a real yogi. Useless then to use spiritual pretexts to just empty our organs. Let the Tantras to the professionals. As to going to Dharamsala for seeking partners, not worth trying: the reputation of Westerners is already made.
Anyway, the practice of advanced sexual yogas produces a curious result: the consciousness involves into the spiritual world (it is the purpose) and the physical sex then appears as coarse, while its physical sensations disturb the meditation.
(Permalink) Sleep paralysis is a normal and natural phenomenon, which happens in a significant percentage of the population (usually in two periods of life, between 8-12 or between 20-40 years old). The most common experience is to feel paralysed for a short time when awakening, hence the name. Scientists speak of Hypnopompic or hypnagogic experiences, respectively when awaking and when falling asleep.
Experiences vary widely, both in type, depth or duration:
-simple feelings of shock (electric shock, fall, toppling over) sometimes accompanied with sounds or flashes
(scientists consider these «hypnagogic jerks» as benign epilepsy-like neural discharges. I believe this, as I also observe them at the occasion of startling noises. But they however happen in a certain state of half-sleep conductive of the other interesting experiences)
-Buzz, voices, screams
-vibrations, chills, quakes, icy winds, etc.
-feeling of pressure as if someone was sitting on us, sexual arousal, etc.
-appearance of characters of various kinds, ranging from the demon to the Angel, sexually undertaking us, or sending us painful or voluptuous «rays». These sensations are similar to those of the Kundalini yoga.
-Parapsychological experiences, ESP (especially of OBE type), telekinesis, etc.
Personally I got all the range, except for the telekinesis. But I randomly met people in this case.
An author of horror books, complacently supported by the media, spread as early as 1985 the craze of seeing in sleep paralysis some real experiences of abduction by malicious extraterrestrials, the «greys». As millions of people naturally have such experiences, it ensued a wave of terror and anti-extraterrestrials racism. We shall see with more details in chapter VII-2 the havoc which ensued on the study of UFOs, or the perception of this phenomenon by the public (or even on the version 1 of this book).
However this is not the first time that this phenomenon is used to terrorise people: already in the Middle Age, inquisition was seeing visions of real demonic entities into sleep paralysis, the incubus and the succubus. As a percentage of the population automatically has such visions, this allowed all what the clergy counted of perverts and sadists to have fun blaming innocent people.
This phenomenon however has a very familiar name, which clearly shows that it is very well known, and since long ago. It is simply the nightmare, from the old English «nigh ghost». In French, «cauchemar» literally means «crusher ghost», in reference to the common feeling of the weight of someone lying on us. In German we have «alpentraum» («dream of Elves», which indicates the pre-Christian antiquity of the concept). The basic meaning of the word «nightmare» has however been forgotten, and the word is today used for any painful or terrifying experience. Ah if people remembered what their parents told them, we would not have these anti-extraterrestrials extravagances...
Modern science is not late in these silly games, as some scientistists (note 92) do «connexions» with personality disorders they have invented for the occasion, or speak of «hallucinations» as if the phenomenon was a psychiatric disorder. As what science can be perverted as well as religion, for these little sadistic games. Of course these pseudo-scientific assertions do not stand in front of real statistical studies. Instead, these studies show a correlation between sleep paralysis, NDE and several positive personality traits (altruism, curiosity to life, etc.)
If some sleep specialists study this phenomenon, there are however only few results. One of the most common explanations is that the paralysis would be a normal consequence of sleep (where the neural motor pathways are cut, to avoid gesticulating when we dream). However this does not explain much, especially how we can still have the sensation of moving... through the sheets. I had even met in Second Life a specialists of the University of Montreal, to whom I asked a pesky question, to which he was unable to reply: How do we see our room, if we have our eyes closed? I am categorical that there are actual perceptions, as I often noticed that forms in the vision corresponded to incidental arrangements of objects in the physical world, for example the folds of the sheets, which cannot be known in advance. But there are also pure fabrications, such as the time where I went through the ceiling, seeing my upper floor neighbour... while I had moved several months ago on the top floor!
One of the most interesting scientific results is that sleep paralysis are conducive to parapsychological phenomena, without being themselves. (Relationship between the hypnagogic/hypnopompic states and reports of anomalous experiences, by Simon J Sherwood. The author is not associated with the ads attached to this page). Personally, I had at least one ESP during sleep paralysis. And, remember, when we dream, we usually have our eyes closed. If we see the bedroom at this time, and especially unpredictable items, then this is an ESP.
If the motor neuronal pathways are closed during sleep, we can validly assume that other functions are also, for example the sensory pathways. But this is not enough to ensure unconsciousness during sleep: many other centres must also be stopped, sensory areas which create mental images (the dream), the frontal cortex where though resides, etc. We can therefore pose that falling asleep or awakening are in fact complex sequences involving the activation of several neural switches simultaneously or in a well defined order. When all goes well, we have a fast sleeping and awakening without special manifestations. But departures in the sequence can then manifest by a variety of strong sensory experiences, although very limited in time (the sequence continues whatever we feel). Electroencephalograms taken at this time actually show many types of unusual waves, intense and difficult to decipher. Some may correspond to the most basic experiences: jerks, screams, etc.
At a pinch, ordinary dream would be just a bug of the sequence, where sensory areas would be left active, leading to a series of randomly linked scenes. And we have no control on them, as the frontal cortex would be mostly inactive. So we have a nice relationship between a state of consciousness and the position of a set of switches in the brain.
But the presence of dreamlike visions in sleep paralysis requires an alternative explanation. We saw above that dreams are created by a «dream engine» which creates the content (pictures, scenes, sounds, stakes) into the sensory areas. However the contents of the scenes of sleep paralysis is different from the one of the dreams, and much more stereotypical. This tends to indicate that we deal with a different dream engine. I try my hypothesis:
The discontinuation of certain brain functions, without stopping the consciousness, leads to a situation where the brain can no longer provide content to the consciousness. A paradox, since by definition the consciousness has a content. Therefore, it would create its own content, regardless of the neurons. I called this phenomenon the «psychical take-off» in version 1, which means that consciousness is no more connected to the neurons as in the normal neuronal consciousness. We have a situation very similar to that of the NDE, and indeed the first scenes of sleep paralysis are very similar to first ones of a NDE (feeling of seeing our environment, possibly from a different point of the eyes). However the comparison stops there, because after this initial instant, the typical scenarios diverge: tunnel and light for NDE, and presence of a creature in our room for sleep paralysis.
It is understandable that, in a NDE, the discontinuation of brain functions is complete and without discrimination, while in a sleep paralysis, some brain functions remain active. Sleep paralysis scenarios could be induced by the activity of primitive nervous centres (presence of a scary creature, sexual arousal). However we have similar scenarios in RR4, and this also contributed to the confusion between the two phenomena, as discussed in chapter VII-2 on the RR4. And the purely neuronal explanation is probably not right for the RR4, which are a totally different phenomenon, with external physical elements. So we cannot conclude, except that the two (three, with NDE) phenomena must be studied simultaneously in the same laboratories.
People often find these sexual experiences very embarrassing, and even physically painful. This discrepancy between our conscious tastes and the sleep paralysis probably happens because different parts of the brain produce them. And this is not necessarily an «advice» to follow the second, quite on the contrary:
An interesting aspect of sleep paralysis, that I lengthily developed in version 1, is that we can control the content. It is even much easier than with dreams. The method is quite simple: visualize yourself in this state, and that unpleasant, distasteful, demonic visions, turn into wonderful, angelic, romantic visions. It works very well, and I could quite easily change the content of my experiences. Unfortunately I could not continue, as I reached the «age limit». It seems however that we cannot change the fact that the visions have such a sexual charge, just to make it more romantic.
The interest of such a practice goes further than to simply stop scary or disgusting nightmares. Indeed, this state is quite similar to the «Bardo of becoming», which, according to the Tibetan Book of the Deads, comes immediately after death. We thus obtain a direct control of these conditions, which will be very useful at this time, and in a general way in all our spiritual practice. This is indeed not at random if all the religions are unanimous to reject all the ugly, vulgar or demonic aspects, to promote peaceful, beautiful, angelic aspects. All the religions and spiritual practices are in agreement that this is crucial for the conditions we have to experience after our death.
This also makes us note that the scientific study of these phenomena cannot be separated of a serious spiritual commitment (which is therefore part of the «experimental conditions»).
(Permalink) The OBE, also known as astral travel, caused a lot of ink to flow. The principle is that we would have a «subtle body», able of travelling «into the astral world» and see what is happening there. (this vocabulary dates from the end of the 19th century, and it reflects the spiritualist theories fashioned in this time). Many people claimed to be able of this, and wrote a lot of books, without however never telling us «how they do it». Despite this abundance of stories, checked results are scarce. For example, no one could go on Mars or Neptune, to describe scenes which were confirmed since by space probes. Even with staying on Earth, there are little verifiable results, in contradiction of the immense potential that we can expect of such a fantastic ability.
In facts the phenomenon actually exists, but I am unable to tell the name of a person able of producing it at will. It is scientifically observed in the NDE, where experiencers sometimes go into the next room to see their family weeping. (Of course, we speak here only of verified experiences, where the testimony of the said family confirms the one of the experiencer). It also occurs in sleep paralysis, of which it seems a simple extension. The only experience I recorded myself was one where I had a checked ESP during a sleep paralysis. (OBE necessarily includes an ESP of the visited place, otherwise it is not an OBE). But this is something that happened to me once, not something that I would be able to reproduce. In USA and USSR took place failed attempts of espionage by OBE. Seems that military intelligence is not really part of altruistic motivations for a world of beauty and harmony.
In theory, advanced meditations followers should be able to produce OBE at will. I think that there are some, but that they are subject to the limits exposed in chapter II-9, and they do not tell their experiences outside of very limited circles.
In contrast, many New Age courses claim to learn us astral travel, memories of past lives, etc. In fact these methods only awake the imagination, which, for people who do not know it, appears as a fantastic revelation. The victims then place a huge emotional charge on these visions, and it is very difficult to make them understand that they were fooled. But any rational person very quickly realizes that these visions are matching no realities, or that they are indistinguishable from imagination.
(These visions do not give any detail allowing to recognize an epoch or a place, or we always have reincarnations of kings, never of peasants...)
(Permalink) Instants of superconsciousness are also a fairly common parapsychological phenomenon, that many people experienced. Recently (2012), many soldiers of the coalition serving in Iraq or Afghanistan reported it.
It is a brief experience, which occurs just before, during or just after a dangerous situation, but without bodily injury.
Typically, an experience occurring just before contains the sudden and non-provoked awareness of a hidden danger (of which we cannot be notified by normal sensory channels, so that it is clearly an ESP). In my case, I once was warned of the presence of a viper just under a stone that I was going to lift (I could therefore not see it). The soldiers above were similarly aware of the presence of an IDE (improvised explosive device) hidden on their path.
An experience occurring during the dangerous situation may contain ESP information for escape of it (a case is listed as a NDE by Raymond Moody, in his first book «Life after life», where a worker is guided out of a tank filling with acid), or more spiritual information, such as the acceptance of death toward a new life (The typical case is of the climber Albert Heim, while performing a 100 metres fall while mountaineering, that he tells in an essay «Notizen über den tod durch absturz»). Sometimes the victim will be simply reassured, as this happened to me when I was a child, victim of a spectacular but benign injury.
At last, an experience happening just after surviving a danger will often include a sudden realization of the beauty and preciousness of life, compared with our usual insignificant socio-economic concerns.
I have not detailed hypothesis to explain this kind of thing. I would say that, in all likelihood, the presence of death, or at least injuries, is a strong enough stake to take the consciousness out its usual neuronal condition, and allow it to take control of the brain. In addition, this can happen even to quite ordinary people, without spiritual preparation. (It would however be interesting to check if this also happens to bad people).
We saw in chapter V-3 and chapter V-4 on free will how this interaction can occur. However we invoked for this a paradox, a situation where the neurons cannot determine their behaviour, so that the consciousness can influence this behaviour. We can cause this paradox by the meditation on non-duality, or the mental emptiness. However in the case of a soldier in action, this is clearly not what is happening. In addition the phenomenon is not provoked by a state of the neurons, but by a stake. And a stake is not anything material, it is an element of the consciousness. It is therefore clearly not a «phenomenon» which «happens», but an intentional action. And in more an intention informed before the material brain is.
I therefore propose two types of explanations:
-A third person, a «guardian angel» in the spiritual world, starts and controls the phenomenon.
-Our own spiritual consciousness gets out of its usual vegetative condition, to take the control.
None of the two explanations fully satisfies me. Indeed, in one case as in the other, the question arises: If this happens so easily, then why it does not happen more often, whenever we need it? The answer is probably in the style «our usual issues are too insignificant for it.»
And this tells us a lot, and gives a lesson in humility: we need to have more spiritual concerns.
And indeed, people with deeply rooted spiritual concerns can observe that these things happen much more often, even if it is in a less spectacular way, more integrated in daily life. It is said that bungee jumping can cause the phenomenon, but working on our altruistic motivation allows it to occur whenever it serves this motivation. It could even be much more effective than deep yogic practices.
If there are guardian angels, clearly they do not care at all with our worldly motives, just responding to emergency calls, and still not always. If it is our spiritual consciousness which produces the phenomenon, it is even more serious: why is our own consciousness asleep most of the time, if it is able of such extraordinary things as knowing in advance what is to happen to us? The answer is probably: it is our own fault, we are too absorbed by our daily or worldly concerns.
When his buddies asked to Jesus why they could not do miracles themselves, He got angry, and replied them that it was because they lacked faith (several passages in the Gospels). Only when He died they were able to do it also (Acts of the Apostles).
(Permalink) We saw above about dream, how the mental images are encoded in the brain. Sounds and concepts necessarily have encodings based on the same principle. The presence of this information in the cortex explains very well the short-term memory, such as reading a name and copy it. It appears obvious that long-term memory also uses these encodings, or similar ones.
Scientists generally explain memory by changes in the synapses of neurons. But we saw in the first chapters of this part that this is rather the explanation or neurological learning, which is the modification of neuronal circuits in order to make them capable of providing a response to a certain situation. This is a process which needs to be repeated, and which provides an unconscious response (for example knowing to ride a bike), while long-term memory is perfectly implemented with a single event, and its recalling provides an element of the experience of consciousness (sound, image...). In addition, the fantastic amount of information which comes from a whole lifetime would probably require tons of brain matter to be recorded entirely!
This is why I allows myself to express my doubt towards the current scientific theory, and assume instead that the memory of past events might actually be within the spiritual consciousness (the logical self-generation process of consciousness). This hypothesis is supported, and even made necessary, by the memories of NDE, which are created while the brain is stopped, and no neural process can register a memory (as this is scientifically demonstrated by the Dutch study). This would however make the recall of memories a parapsychological phenomenon, which arises other problems. In particular why everyone could easily produce this very phenomenon, but not the others. This not either explains why injuries of parts of the brain would disrupt memory, in writing or in reading. Clearly memory is a complex process, which involves both the neuronal level and the spiritual level. We shall see this with more details in the following chapter V-9.
Dreams and Memory
Another theory, commonly accepted in science, that I question, would be that dreams would be used to organize and strengthen the memories of the events of the day. I've simply never observed such dreams in relation with the events of the day. We can just admit that traumatic events produce dreams the next night, or repetitive dreams. But this is, precisely, traumatic processes, not normal memory.
A false memory is an element of the experience of consciousness which appears in our consciousness in the same way than a real memory does, but which does not correspond to a real fact we may have experienced in the past. The most quoted example is «remembering» seeing Bugs Bunny at Disneyland, which is impossible since they belong to two competing companies (and I don't go to places like Disneyland). We can easily observe the phenomenon when we watch a film that we have not seen since decades. For instance in «Ben Hur», that I saw only once at this epoch, I was sure that Jesus went into the lepers pit. There is no such thing, as you can check by looking at the film.
We understand on these examples that false memories appear by the accidental exchange of an item between two similar scenes, coded in elements according to the above principles. So there is nothing extraordinary here, and it is even not the biggest imperfection of the human memory. In any case this is not at all a psychiatric disorder, it is a benign phenomenon which can happen to everybody.
A similar phenomenon is the feeling of déjà vu. It is clear that it is an illusion, because it can occur even at the occasion of an unique historical event. I know this for decades, since I felt this while attending the Apollo 11 moon landing... clearly, that was a first. However some still make of this a parapsychological phenomenon demonstrating who knows what. Clearly this is not true.
False memories and real pseudo-science
The concept of false memories was used by some scientistists (note 92) to denigrate phenomena they dislike, for example sleep paralysis, renamed alien abduction for the circumstance, to say that they were false memories. Of course their conclusion was that people who have sleep paralysis would be psychological patients... It is a bit Stalin and GPU, as a way of reasoning, I think.
False memories ant real manipulations
Another tragic example was instead the induction of false memories in children victims of a divorce. The guilty parent, with as an accomplice a shady psychologists using Orwellian methods, was able to make the child say that he had been victim of paedophilia, but that he did not remembered (according to the ad-hoc pseudo-scientific theory as what traumatic memories are «suppressed»). Dozens of innocent men were heavily sentenced in the United States, before this insanity was discovered. I do not even know if they were released.
A similar case was the use of hypnosis in UFO cases, as we shall see in chapter VII-2.
While I was writing this chapter (may 2013), was published an experiment in the University of Utrecht in the Netherlands, on the induction of false memories in soldiers returning from Afghanistan (Source: Lommen, M., Engelhard, I., & van den Hout, M. (European Journal of Psychotraumatology,2013) Susceptibility to long-term misinformation effect outside of the laboratory ). The soldiers were asked about an imaginary attack. Then, six months later, they were interrogated again: some then «remembered» the attack! This has important consequences for how to interrogate the protagonists of court cases, or witnesses of bizarre phenomena (UFOs, astronomical objects, etc.) We can actually, by repeated interrogations, suggest, and then obtain, a scenario complying with the ideological interests of the interrogator. Useless to look for examples, there are just too many in the news.
(Permalink) The 1960 and 1970 years saw a craze for drugs, which were supposed to liberate our consciousness of the «bad» society conditioning, and allow access to higher states of consciousness. In fact this idea was not new, the Impressionists and the roaring twenties went this way before. The only new facts were the scientific varnish brought by people like John Lilly, in conjunction with several movements challenging the materialistic society, unseen since the Evangelical times: the Hippies, the non-violent refusal of racism (Luther King) and of the Vietnam war.
The least that can be said is that the results are still expected... Nobody developed compassion or spiritual awakening with drugs, and the hippie communities were masterly failures, often as a direct result of the social disorders induced by drugs. Today, there is no community living in harmony without law or power, which success would be based on drugs. On the contrary, people who show actual achievements (non-violence, spiritual awakening, compassion...) carefully avoid drugs of all kinds, «soft» or hard, legal or illegal, traditional or synthetic.
In facts, drugs only produce disturbances of consciousness, which can easily be presented as an «opening» to the eyes of an uninformed person. Indeed, a person who never had such an openings of consciousness cannot have even the slightest idea of what it means. One can therefore sell anything to him, and present him the vision of the wriggling wall as an «advanced state of consciousness»... and it is all the more easy if one makes him believe that the society represses drugs because it is against freedom! Or that «the West» represses the drugs from other countries, as the gangsters are now saying. Or wikipedia, where the drugs hobby is very active, presenting without opposition the drugs as «recreational», see «medicinal», and the interdiction as... religious!
Objectively, most drugs may produce pleasant feelings (pleasure, euphoria, stamina, pleasant hallucinations, etc.) But these feelings come at a cost: we must pay each time we want them. In more of bearing the danger and far-right vibes of the traffickers. And we bear a high frustration if we miss our dose, even far before being hooked! This is precisely this feeling that the traffickers want us to feel, and NOT the pleasure, so that they keep their customers! A totally useless bargain, as all the pleasant experiences of drug can be obtained with no money, no dependency and no danger with meditation, each time we want it. But there is no lobby of meditation, since there is nobody to exploit here...
(Added January 2021) This is what constitutes the intellectual fallacy of drugs: why to pay a lot, take risks and renounce our freedom, when we have imagination and meditation, free, without any danger, under our exclusive control, and renewable at will?
It is interesting to note that some hysterical anti-drug people show as much hystery at defending «our» drugs: tobacco and alcohol. However tobacco promotes dualistic thought (or even sociopathic thought), whereas alcohol promotes prosaicism and materialism. Both strongly affect our perception of beautiful things, our spiritual connection and our free-will. Here is the real motivation of those who say they are against drugs, while smoking and drinking! I clearly dissociate myself from this hypocritical attitude, by condemning all the drugs in the same way, legal or illegal, hard or soft, natural or synthetic, new or traditional.
Some advertisements for drugs call them «entheogenic» (literally «which shows God»), which in the eyes of the traffickers would justify a full liberalisation. Yet two generations of drug users, the Belle Epoque and the Hippies, produced no saint, nor even nobody remarkable. Assuming nevertheless that some drugs may actually produce mystical experiences, their consumption should still remain an exception, and a tolerance only, in a guided spiritual context. Otherwise everyone would consume these drugs at random, and the experiences would rather be rhodoproboscidogenic. The methods proposed by the known spiritual paths, or in this book, are safe, free, and they require no torsion of ethics neither of the law.
(Added January 2021) It also is worth noting that there also are «drugs without traffickers», such as noise, futile discussions, the religion of soccer, etc. This gives a crucial hint for the fight against drugs: the ultimate target is the need of some people to dumb themselves down. As long as this need exists, it allows for traffickers to exploit it. But if nobody tries to become dumb, then the traffic bevcomes pointless.
Today as the use of drug use is spreading with more and more impunity, encouraged by a populist and materialist «left» wing, we can legitimately wonder about the long-term consequences of this new slavery, which produces a new social class of people with reduced intelligence, unable to grasp the beauty or the meaning of life. Oh, who said that this was precisely the purpose?
As we must not make ourselves blind: for long ago, the beautiful ideal of the Hippies is no longer driving drug addicts or gangsters, but the masochistic/fascist ideologies of the grotty-punk movements, city gangs, rap, dark video games, or even the far left-right totalitarian ideologies. They no longer use drugs to enhance sensations, but instead to escape a beauty of life that they are unable to grasp. Drug has become a dangerous admission rite in a violent and hierarchical group. And a person can love these dark vibrations only if his brain is affected by the drug, exactly as the petty people of ancient times needed wine and the smell of manure pile in the middle of the village.
If the drugs are still spreading, we may arrive at a society where only a minority will be aware, the others providing a vast «majority» manipulable at mercy, to vote for the system. A dystopian nightmare where people flee their spiritual misery into mind-numbing drugs offered in mass by the government...
(Permalink) Hypnosis is something I never saw. There are indications that this state of consciousness does not exist as such, and that all the supposed effects of hypnosis can be explained by ordinary psychological influence, especially with easily influenced or submissive people.
The belief in hypnosis as an infallible «magical power» sometimes led to terribles abuses, such as jailing innocent fathers with false testimonies of pedophilia; «revealed» under hypnosis. We shall also see the delusive role played by «hypnotic regressions» into the study of UFOs, chapter VII-2.
(Permalink) Coma is a state of complete absence of consciousness. This can range from a simple syncope (emotion, orthostatic fainting depriving the brain of blood) to a prolonged state. This sub-chapter is about comas which are not caused by the destruction of parts of the brain.
A question which arises however is why people in a coma do not have NDE, while people in full cerebral anoxia have. There is indeed a simple difference in degree between total anoxia (cardiac arrest) and a simple orthostatic fainting (decrease of blood in the brain, for example when we get up abruptly). Probably the NDE require a total stop of all the neurons, which does not happen in a coma. Coma and syncope are probably «safe modes» used to prevent neurons from consuming their energy reserves and preserve them longer when oxygen supply is problematic.
(This was written in February 2013. In April 2013, Doctor Sam Parnia confirms this theory of the «safe mode» when the oxygen supply is restrained)
However this does not tell us why we do not have a NDE in this state. The most likely explanation is that there remains a brain activity at the level of biological control centres. This activity would never produce elements of the experience of consciousness, but the process of consciousness would remain informed of the presence of the brain by the activity of these centres. The same mechanism would play during the coma, but also during sleep, since both are natural phenomena. Thus, the state of consciousness during coma would be close of sleep! And our consciousness would jump the periods where this mechanism works (the nibs are widely spaced), giving afterwards the feeling of a period of unconsciousness, sleep or fainting. So that there is no real unconsciousness (consciousness can never stop), but we perceive things as if we skipped a part of a movie. This feeling is especially visible when we have a microsleep while driving, as the elapsed time also translates in an elapsed distance that we did not noticed, as if we had jumped forward, or as if a portion of a movie had been cut.
And it is only when the brain is completely stopped, including the organic regulations, that the consciousness loses any way to know its status. Then the process of skipping a period of time is stopped, and the NDE process can begin.
Still more accurate: during the shut-down of the brain by hypoxia, the most primitive, less power greedy centres, would stop later than the higher brain responsible for the content of consciousness. These sequence lapses would produce the beginning of NDE (visions of our close environment), which is an experience very similar to that of sleep paralysis. It is only when these primitive centres stop in their turn that we diverge from the sleep paralysis, and that we would start the «core experience» (tunnel, light, etc.). Thus the fine analysis of the elements of the NDE and sleep paralysis, etc... could lead to a detailed understanding of the complex links between consciousness and the brain. We saw in chapter V-2 that the higher brain's activity produces the content of consciousness. But more primitive centres could be responsible for the attachment of an unique consciousness to a single brain, and also contain neural switches putting consciousness at rest during sleep or coma, preventing NDE experiences to occur whenever we sleep. It is only when these switches are all stopped that consciousness could become autonomous and experience an NDE.
(Permalink) There was for long a confusion between a true coma and what is called today the «locked-in syndrome», where a person is fully conscious but paralysed. In the Middle Age, it was excusable, when consciousness and movement were confused. But today this confusion is a gross professional misconduct. Yet, we had scandals of people tortured for years in this way, with no way to defend themselves, and all the more in modern hospitals. If you have any doubts about a family member, the test is simple: the person still maintains the ability to move the eyes from top to bottom. You can ask him questions and ask him to answer yes or no in this way (ask simple questions and complicated questions, then questions involving personal memories). This test is well known from doctors and nurses, and any «omission» or obstruction must lead to a complaint for torture and acts of barbary. As to the victim, often his only wish is to die, and this can be regarded legally as a consciousness case. Still ask him before you try something, he is perfectly able to give his opinion. If you find yourself in this case, the only solution is to practice the Tibetan powa (that of course everyone has learned in school, after years we talk about it). And I strongly recommend not to do this to a yogi, as this may be very unpleasant for his torturers.
Next to these extreme cases (fortunately rare), there are all sorts of situations where parts of the brain are destroyed (Shocks, poisoning, blood disorders, cancers and their treatment, repressive surgery, etc.) and therefore the corresponding faculties of consciousness can no longer happen. We saw in chapter V-2 that there is no «centre of consciousness» in the brain, but a large number of areas of the brain which are each contributing to a particular consciousness faculties: areas of vision, area of hearing, area of reasoning, etc. For example a precisely localized injury causes the inability to distinguish a circle from a square! This strange example demonstrates several concepts: -consciousness does not disappears suddenly, but faculty by faculty -that the victim might be unable to explain his state, or even be unable to express himself -given the contempt of modern science toward consciousness, in hospitals where people are often considered as mere bodies, it can be extremely difficult to assert their rights, or even to inquire about their state.
The difficulty, however, is real, and it is often difficult to understand what a person feels. Ideologies are just locking an already complex problem, where the very vocabulary is vague: «vegetative state» patient reduced to a «vegetable», etc. Hard to know, even for a loved one, that these words mean: total unconsciousness, or just destruction of the will in an however aware person? Even the specific concepts of psychiatry have evolved considerably these last few decades, and the wikipedia pages on this topic give a feeling of a fuzzy and changing world.
The rage of the lobotomy is a blatant case of disregard of consciousness, especially in the way it was deified and imposed everywhere, despite its devastating effects. It is interesting to note that, in some countries, the lobotomy was especially targeting women! Difficult after that, to escape the accusations of repressive surgery. Same goes to the «libido disorders»! It is remarkable that the first country to clearly ban it on the ground of inhumanity was... the Soviet Union! It was in 1950, with Stalin still in power. So we can frankly ask the question of the motives of the lobotomies which were performed since in the said democracies, maybe still today.
Modern techniques of observation of the brain should soon allow for a much more accurate surgery, able for instance of eliminating a single neuron responsible of a psychosis. However I would keep very careful, because it would be usually difficult to associate an overall functioning of the mind with a single centre in the brain, and this would make totally vain any hope of a psychiatric surgery. The extremely varied effects of lobotomy should inform us: some of the victims became idiot, while others continued an apparently normal active life. Things would therefore depend much more on how consciousness uses the resources of the brain, rather than on the brain itself. In conclusion, we should use «forceful» methods (drugs, surgery) only with psychotics, who are unable to understand their state, and use psychological or spiritual methods for others, who are capable of introspection.
All what follows is added October 30, 2017: with recent affairs, new information calls for some moderation to the above: the eye test does not always work. Worse, we still find insults in the press, like saying that «this person is a vegetable», eluding to tell if that person is locked-in or unconscious.
From this we can get some guidelines:
-Whatever communication means remain, the person must be allowed to use them for his daily activities. This was done for Stephen Hawking (the most well known locked-in person), so it can be done for everybody.
-Even if we do not know if a person is conscious, and all the more if we know it, this person must be treated well, in a calm and pleasant environment (as our bedroom) and not harassed or stalked with hospital noises, televisions, chatter, «tests», etc. Especially «pain tests» are a clear and intentional torture (Dannion Brinkley reports such «tests» while he was paralysed)
If the person can communicate, then his will must be heeded, for whatever activity he requests (like seeing films, surfing on the Internet, meeting people, etc.) (To be noted that being locked-in is a clear case for the victim to request a life termination, but ONLY if the person explicitly asks, and EVEN if the family refuses)
Happily there is a simple and common sense solution: when a person is conscious, his conscious thinking appears as electroencephalogram activity. He can then decide when he thinks at something. As a consequence, this person can intently provoke electroencephalogram signals. The idea is then simple: for instance ask a person to wait 10 seconds, to think at something. If after 10 seconds, the electroencephalogram is modified, this is a clear proof that the person is conscious and able of will. We can even go further: on a computer screen a light moves on a kind of ouija board. The person confirms when the light passes on the desired letter, and then he can type a text. Of course this may not be as simple as it sounds, but persons in this state have all the time needed to train, and become proficient in EEG-typing. So this provides, not only with the cheapest and most reliable test of consciousness for locked-in persons, even after partial destruction of the brain, but in more with an easy communication mean, not depending on heavy time involvement by nurses or family. So no excuse for not generalising this method to all the known locked-in, and try it at once on all the comatose.
(Added September 2019)The French Vincent Lambert case perfectly illustrates the difficulties of this question, especially with the demoniac obstinacy of his mother to continue his torture at all costs, up to seizing the United Nations!! Always speaking on his behalf, without any regard for what he may want or feel, but (according to some sources) rarely visiting him, while she was the only allowed person in his locked room! Vincent's case is more complex than the usual locked-in. His brain was not completely destroyed: high level biological control centres and many reflexes were still functioning. But the failure of the contact attempts shows that the high centres which organize thought were probably inactive, preventing deliberate reactions to contact attempts, even if he perceived them. This raises the question of whether other centres producing consciousness experiences were still functioning. But we shall never know: no X-images or PET scan are mentioned, not even searches for reactions in the EEG, and the famous «autopsy» seems motivated only by trying to take the doctors at fault. Thus Vincent could have had experiences of consciousness until the end, which he was unable to control. And this nightmare for eleven years! Delay aggravated by the scandalous slowness of the innumerable judicial proceedings, months each, while waiting without being informed, without seeing anybody, tied to his bed of suffering. Not to mention the awful cost for the Social Security. It is clear that the worst enemy in these situations are the inhuman ideologies, whatever they are.
(Added April 2021) In most recent cases, like Terri Schiavo (cardiac arrest due to drinking too much water), post-mortem autopsies showed extensive loss of tissue throughout the brain. In the case of Karen Ann Quinlan (fasted two days and then took alcohol and valium) the damage was mostly on the thalamus. The wikipedia articles state of post-mortem examination, but a x-ray computer tomography is perfectly able to see such injuries on a living person. And to offer a clear prognosis: persons with such injuries will never recover any level of normal consciousness.
(Added April 2021) The problem however is in which consciousness state they are. Most likely the sleep control centers can better resist to hypoxia, so that the persons would simply be asleep. But we cannot rule out lower consciousness experiences coming from other more resilient centres, like emotions. And feeling emotions without cause and without introspection may be a very disturbing experience, possibly a torture. Worse, in the case of Terri Schiavo, they implemented her a thalamic stimulator, perhaps with the purpose of elliciting «consciousness correlates»… without knowing which, possibly very painful ones.
(Added April 2021)
(Permalink) What to do with irreversibly brain destroyed persons? The pervasive ethical command «avoiding death» (either by suicide, killing or lack of care) has a single justification: not to deprive the person from the happiness of being conscious (chapter VI-2 and Chapter VI-3). But when retarding an unavoidable death comes only at the cost of unconsciousness or torture, this command loses this justification, and it becomes counter-productive.
We then enter a totally different situation, where happiness is now in the afterllife, so that the new command becomes «favouring access to a good afterlife». This tells an unique right solution for irrecoverable (brain destroyed) comatose persons: spiritually accompanied euthanasia. In short, when the person effectively passes away and enters the afterlife (Chapter V-9 on NDE), then family, priests, yogis, psychopomps, etc. meditate that the deceased sees them, and they show him the right path: le light of the NDE. This is quite simple, and even not a novelty. But to work, this supposes that the moment of cardiac arrest is known. And there is only one way: that it is provoked, by remothing life support, or by lethal injection, just before the meditators enter the room.
So, nor therapeutic relentlessness neither getting rid of the dying, this is a simple and universal solution to this problem, probably the most «debated» in the Western world today. I know this idea will be opposed by a flack barrage of hateful ideologies, but it arises from a scientific examination of consciousness, leading to an humane and positive ethics based on the real purposes of life (Chapter V-5).
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