The Subjectivity of Experience & the Futility of Hardcore Psi Skepticism
© Brendan D. Murphy 2012
To explain the visual input we receive and the resultant images we construct and perceive, we have to acknowledge that the brain is hardwired to decode energy waves and their frequencies/vibrations. Where the major differences in belief, perception, and, consequently, awareness come in is that the brain is not passive in decoding the wave input. It edits and rewrites information constantly*.
* In fact, when it comes to visual input, our retinas—extensions of our brain matter—perform a significant amount of preprocessing inside the eye, and then send a series of twelve partial representations of a scene simultaneously to the brain for interpretation. Source: F. Werblin and B. Roska, The Movie in Our Eyes. Scientific American 296(4).
One major force compelling the brain to edit this way or that is belief. The subconscious mind constantly intervenes and colors incoming data according to what we believe. Out of a vast sea of energy signals, “our brains notice the signals that fit what we expect to see, and we organize these signals into a model, or reality-tunnel, that marvelously matches our ideas about what ‘is really’ out there.”1
We tend to agree on sense data that falls comfortably within the range of “normal,” everyday 5-sense perception, but, for data pushing the boundaries of 5-sense perception, people can reach gravely different conclusions, based on what their subconscious mind is filtering out or leaving in. Modern neuroscience, as late author and futurist R.A. Wilson pointed out, reveals that “I see” actually means “I have made a bet.”
Constant reminding of ourselves that we do not see with our eyes but with our synergetic eye-brain system working as a whole will produce constant astonishment as we notice, more and more often, how much of our perceptions emerge from our preconceptions.2
For instance, in the case of the human energy field(s), or “auric field,” our beliefs and perception vary so greatly from one person to the next that we have people who staunchly believe there is no such thing, while at the other end of the spectrum we have people who need not rely on any kind of belief because they can perceive it directly. Their subconscious programmed beliefs have not edited the incoming information to conform to their limiting preconceptions. (This is to say nothing of the objective scientific verification of the reality of the auric field.3)
Hypnosis, in particular stage show hypnosis, where people are instructed to believe that an onion is in fact a delicious apple, illustrates my point. The hypnotized person has had their fundamental beliefs so drastically changed regarding the frequency data they are receiving, that the onion is mentally reconstructed as an apple and then tastes like an apple. If the people eating the onion while thinking it’s an apple don’t shed a tear (“onion eyes”), then you have proof enough that fundamental and drastic changes have occurred in the person’s psyche and therefore in their physiological response mechanisms.
Under normal conditions, ripping into an onion would make almost anybody’s eyes run, no matter what effort they go to in trying to fight it.
Such a phenomenon would be similar to the way that someone with Multiple Personality Disorder (MPD), which is a real condition, can be allergic to bee stings in one personality and non-allergic in another. The body doesn’t lie—it merely does what different brain states and beliefs tell it to do. Hypnosis accesses the seemingly infinite power of the subconscious mind to effect its often spectacular psychological and physiological changes.
At present, there are some 7 billion (human) universes being contrived and perceived on this very planet. In some of those universes, for some people participating in hypnosis stage shows for example, objects (holographic interference patterns) that most people would consider to be “onions” are actually being internally constructed and experienced as “apples.”
The idea that there is a universe that exists outside of us, a universe that is separate from us and our perceptions, that is not being altered by our implanted beliefs, looks increasingly tenuous in this light. It matters little for the purposes of this brief discussion whether those beliefs are culturally conditioned in the long term, or implanted rapidly, as by hypnosis.
Apple or onion? By Aristotelian logic, things can only be one or the other, but not somehow both at the same time. With “quantum psychology,” the way we “cohere” or “collapse” our reality into view determines what we see—or don’t see. Our own individual neurology (and neuroses!) determines, perhaps not so much the state the universe is in, but our subjective experience of whatever state the universe is in. Thus, the somewhat shallow-sounding catch phrase that “your thoughts create your reality” is actually true in quite a fundamental way: your thoughts and accepted beliefs create your subjective experience and interpretation of so-called reality. This means that, ultimately, you create your own emotions. If you have created “depression” you can un-create it.4 Tibetan Buddhists consider that we simply see what our karma allows us to see. Each perceives “truth” according to the “karmic patterns” that inform and condition his perceptions.5
R.A. Wilson was a proponent of E-Prime: English without “isness”; in other words, English without the words “is,” “was” and any other definite existential labels. This trains one out of the Aristotelian mode of thinking that there is an “objective” experience of reality to be had, and also experiences that “are” what you might label as “terrifying,” “boring,” “amusing,” and so on. In E-Prime, “I am skilful,” becomes “within the framework of how I construct my reality, I appear to be what I would regard as skilful.” You acknowledge the implicit experiential subjectivity in all scenarios with E-Prime by avoiding absolute labels that designate “isness,” thus infesting the world with “spooks”; things that perhaps you see but are not necessarily an experience shared by everyone else. You acknowledge the grey area of the maybe; maybe I’m not completely “right”; maybe I am coloring my own perceptions, maybe the model I have created is less than perfect, perhaps my mental model of reality is only a partly accurate approximation, etc., etc.
Snakes, for example, see heat waves (infrared), and seemingly do not see so-called objects, at least not as we do. “The world seen by a snake looks fundamentally like a spiritualist séance—fields of ‘life energy’ floating about in murk,” explains Wilson. “The belief that the human umwelt [world field] reveals ‘reality’ or ‘deep reality’ seems, in this perspective, as naive as the notion that a yardstick reveals more ‘reality’ than a volt-meter, or that my religion ‘is’ better than your religion.”6
The unsuspecting snake lives in what we might consider to be a rather bizarre-sounding reality-tunnel or universe. It is not a “right” or “wrong” perspective, it is merely one of the trillions upon trillions of subjective experiences unfolding on this tiny planet at this moment. Charlatan? Fraud? Delusional? Crackpot? If we could describe our reality to a snake, it would likely think we were the lunatics. The world would look very different to most humans if they too could easily perceive infrared frequencies (one of Bearden’s “magic windows” into hyperspace). In fact, some people (and imaging systems) do so, as well as seeing higher than “normal” frequencies (such as ultraviolet, the other magic window), as we shall see. Human perceptual abilities lie on a broad continuum.
In the early 1900s, in the first chapter of Clairvoyance, Charles Leadbeater explained that not everyone’s physical perceptual faculties possess the exact same ability to apprehend information and that the few people who can see farther than ordinary at both ends of the visible light spectrum would most likely be regarded as intuitives.7
Subjectivity at its best is synaesthesia, “multiple sensing.” Psychiatrist Stan Grof found during his clinical practice that LSD sessions could cause clients to experience synaesthesia: the blending or switching of sensory responses to stimuli. They could see music, hear pain, or taste colors. To me, what synaesthesia is really demonstrating is the way that frequency information can be decoded in different ways. Instead of hearing music, the frequencies are deciphered, perhaps, by faculties of the brain that are more typically associated with vision, or maybe the ears still sense the air vibrating as the music reaches them, but the brain and mind interpret this experience in terms of taste rather than audition. It gives a new meaning to listening to some “tasty tunes.”
Clinical experiments identify synaesthesia as a product of the limbic (emotional) system in the brain, which, incidentally, is the part of the brain largely affected by LSD, along with the reticular system. Thus, LSD is working on parts of the brain processing sensory information and feelings about it.8 Neurologist Richard E. Cytowic states that the phenomenon has always existed, and moreover can be developed at will.9 As the seat of our survival urges and our “emotional centre,” it (the limbic system) also seems, according to P.M.H. Atwater, to be central to the near-death experience.10 Near-death researcher Richard J. Bonenfant did a study on the after effects of the NDE in which he found that a whopping two-thirds of participants developed synaesthesia after an NDE.11 This signals that this phenomenon is tied to neurological “aberrations,” some of which are actually induced by the NDE, heightening sense perception abilities, as we will explore further in Volume 2 of The Grand Illusion.
Researching for his excellent book Supernatural, the indefatigable Graham Hancock took a heroic dose of 13 dried grams of P. semilanceata (psilocybin mushrooms, which contain tryptamine, as does LSD and DMT), nearly three times the dose that landed Bill Hicks in a UFO.12 In his altered state, Hancock listened to his daughter Shanti playing music on their old piano. He found that the notes took shape in the air, “sometimes as huge curtains of light rippling across my visual field like the aurora borealis, sometimes as fireworks and starbursts, sometimes almost as winged beings.”13 His brain-mind had been altered to convert information that would normally have been decoded as auditory data into visual data. “The arbitrary divisions which ordinarily frame our perceptions and experience are not immutable,” independent scientist and patent-holder David Yurth tells us. We have internal, biologically-based discriminator functions that allow us to distinguish between color, taste, sound, etc. When these discriminating biases are suspended—whether through drugs or hypnosis—we can “hallucinate” that we hear color or smell sounds, and so on.14
Charles Richet, who received the Nobel Prize for his discovery of anaphylaxis, told in his work Thirty Years of Psychical Research of the case of a person who, in a state of hypnosis, had the faculty of sight temporarily localized in the fingertips (dermo-optic vision), so that she could read a page of print with the hands instead of with the eyes.15 Examples can be traced back to 1787 when the mesmerist Jacque Henri Petetin from Lyon reported that an entranced cataleptic woman could see, hear, and smell through her…stomach. More recent cases include that of Molly Fancher of Brooklyn. After two accidents, her lower limbs atrophied, she became blind and lost the ability to swallow, thereby apparently subsisting without food. In the course of her decline she developed various clairvoyant abilities. She could see what was happening in distant towns, read the contents of sealed letters, and read written text through her fingers. In double-blind experiments she was able to see the colors of objects correctly. She could see from the top of her head and from her forehead, and of that, one witness—a judge—could not “permit of a reasonable doubt.”16
In Russia, Rosa Kuleshova was similarly talented in reading through her fingertips (and elbow), and succeeded in doing so under a variety of test conditions that proved beyond doubt that her ability was real. Nina Kulagina, a fellow Russian and PK medium, also consciously developed this ability after finding out about Kuleshova, and her abilities were subsequently verified by “scores” of scientists. Classes were even started up in Russia to teach the art of eyeless sight successfully. Many, many people were tested and instructed, with many people able to demonstrate some level of dermo-optic ability after as little as half an hour of practice.17
Carol Liaros of Buffalo trained the blind in the art successfully and even ended up with cases of travelling clairvoyance/remote viewing. One man even gave up using his white cane, somehow becoming aware of curbs, telephone poles, and jutting storefronts.18 In Beijing professors have trained 10-year-olds and found that 60% of them could read with their ears. Shanghai investigators likewise trained juveniles in this art.19 It is evident that dermo-optic vision is possible at virtually any point on the body, as French novelist Jules Romains found for himself in the early 20th century. However, it is noteworthy that Ostrander and Schroeder reported in Psychic Discoveries in 1970 that those with damage to the optic centres in the brain cannot demonstrate dermo-optic vision.
Now, if the subjectivity of the inner experience of consciousness of the individual can be correlated with objective information (i.e., the subject can demonstrate the ability to read accurately with their fingertips for example) as described, then clearly the internal subjective conscious experience has an innate validity. In the same way, the internal conscious experience of a clairvoyant or medium who attains accurate but hitherto obscure and unknown personal information about someone through extrasensory means clearly has its own innate validity and objectivity. We are not dealing here with the kind of subjectivity in which a schizoid personality fantasizes that their therapist is actually Satan himself or a government agent working undercover to spy on them.
Rick Strassman’s DMT research provides clues that the pineal gland and the DMT it (apparently) produces play an active role in mediating our perception of energy frequencies, and thus the reality we experience. Strassman actually proposes that DMT in the brain can allow our brains to perceive “dark matter” and parallel universes/hyperspace.20 Hence the unusual DMT accounts involving UFOs, aliens, and other hyperspace entities (though there may be symbolic biological elements to some DMT encounters).
We know that the human brain is itself a frequency decoder. Research by Fritz Popp and Peter Gariaev and their colleagues is showing us that all cells in the entire body are wave transmitters (and receivers), this information being transmitted to the brain but not always making it to our waking consciousness. In fact, DNA itself is an ideal frequency transmitter and receiver, making every cell in the human body a mini beacon for sending, receiving, and storing wave information, including light.21 We might infer that the light and torsion waves radiated by text can be received by the cells and DNA anywhere on the body and transmitted to and decoded (“read”) by the brain. Hence eyeless sight, for instance. It is interesting that the Russians found the ability to work best in bright light and that it faded, exactly like normal sight, as darkness fell.22 It may be at least partly dependent on photon absorption.
Strassman suggests that increased levels of DMT in the brain increase the perceptual range of available frequencies. This effectively yields the experience of a different universe/reality. Biochemist and author Don DeGracia proposes that hallucinogens like LSD can actually allow conscious perception of such nonphysical imagery (non-sensory perception) and even allow for perception of internal structures and workings within the brain itself (“dark noise pathways”); this may account for some of the fractal-like patterns perceived on a “trip,” for example.23
So we see that our biology and chemistry largely mediates the type of information we receive, how we reconstruct it in our minds, and the general range of frequencies which we can perceive. You may live on the same planet as a snake, but you experience a completely different universe or “reality tunnel.” The biological link with heightened perception, or what might be called psychic perception, is something that will be elaborated on as we go. We need to dispense with any notions that “paranormal” phenomena are a “psychiatric” phenomenon; this is merely a transient culturally indoctrinated belief that is well and truly outdated and revealed as fallacy by vast swathes of evidence.
More constructive by far is to look at such things as a matter of genuine perception, stemming from our own particular perceptual faculties, which are not identical in functioning from one person to the next. In essence, we find that our perception of reality is basically an elaborate illusion—the perspective of mysticism from well before modern science ever realized that “solid objects” are actually 99.9% empty space (i.e., illusions), and that over 95% of the matter and energy in the cosmos is undetectable/invisible by direct technological means—it is “dark,” because it radiates no light within the known and measurable spectrum. J.J. van der Leeuw explains that it is when we take the virtual image in our minds as being the actual thing in itself, existing independently of conscious perception, that we become ensnared by illusion or maya.24 Fred Alan Wolf shares his perspective as a physicist in similar terms:
Right now, you have some sense of being present in your body looking out at the world. But according to what we know from physics, this is an illusion of perception: There is no place inside your body where “you” actually exist. You don’t have a particular volume of space or spot that is “you.” It is an illusion to think that everything outside that volume of space is “not you”…The best description we can give for this sense of presence is that you “are everywhere”…although we experience ourselves as being these solid human bodies, it’s more like “who we are” is an awareness or consciousness that lives in space.25
Physically, we are all spatial extensions of the aether/vacuum/zero point field. Schrödinger said that “what we observe as material bodies and forces are nothing but shapes and variations in the structure of space.” In terms of consciousness, we are that “space,” which is really a conscious field of potential. What Wolf, other contemporary physicists, mystics, and occultists are (and for the latter two, always have been) saying is that we inhabit a subjective personal universe that masquerades as an objective one. But the only way we can come to realize the universe as one rather than the other is through our subjective experience of it, via differing states of consciousness. We cannot intimately know anything except through our experience of it.
“The only ‘realities’ (plural) that we actually experience and can talk meaningfully about are perceived realities, experienced realities, existential realities—realities involving ourselves as editors—and they are all relative to the observer,”26 Wilson exhorts us. The only litmus test we have of determining whether something is real is to find out if other people can see it as well ,and if only some people can see it—all things being equal—then, in pioneering scientist Lt. Col. Tom Bearden’s model, that defines it as paranormal.
But, as the late physicist Michael Talbot pointed out, the admission that two or more people can create a shared reality (as has been documented) means we no longer have a way to prove that everything else is not also created by the mind27 (or perhaps consciousness in a broader sense), thus rendering dogmatic skepticism a position of utter impotence and futility. As self-confessed ex-skeptic Steve Pavlina comments, “If our beliefs are just a self-fulfilling prophecy, then the prophecy of skepticism is a lame one to fulfill.”28 We explore the “paranormal” effects of belief (as well as intention) in great detail in my critically acclaimed epic The Grand Illusion Vol. 1. Strap in!
About the author
Brendan D. Murphy is the rising Australian author of the critically acclaimed epic THE GRAND ILLUSION: A SYNTHESIS OF SCIENCE & SPIRITUALITY (Vol’s 1 & 2), and a contributing writer for several popular magazines and websites. If you like this article then “like” “The Grand Illusion (TGI)” fan page on Facebook (www.facebook.com/GrandIllusionBooksScienceSpiritualityConsciousness) for updates on the release date of TGI Vol. 1, more articles, information, free book excerpts, or to subscribe to the BDM BULLETIN: NEWS FOR CONSCIOUS HUMAN BEINGS.
Hailed as a “masterpiece” by Sol Luckman (author of POTENTIATE YOUR DNA), Volume 1 of TGI is currently due out some time before Christmas. This essay has been extracted from a passage in Chapter 7 of TGI 1.
- R.A. Wilson, Quantum Psychology, 114.
- Ibid., 114–15.
- See B.D. Murphy, The Grand Illusion Vol. 1.
- S. Wolinsky, Quantum Consciousness, 17. See my article Who Thinks Your Thoughts? (featured in the May 2012 edition of Veritas magazine) at www.brendandmurphy.com for more along these lines.
- Sogyal Rinpoche, The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying, 116.
- Wilson, Quantum Psychology, 91–2.
- C.W. Leadbeater, Clairvoyance, Ch. 1.
- See L. Watson, Supernature, 240–1.
- P.M.H. Atwater, The Big Book of Near-Death Experiences,108.
- Ibid., 109, 337–8.
- Ibid., 334.
- G. Hancock, Supernatural, 396.
- Ibid., 397–8.
- Email to author, February 24th, 2012.
- J.J. Van der Leeuw, The Conquest of Illusion, 47.
- M. Grosso, Experiencing the Next World Now, 48–9.
- See S. Ostrander & L. Schroeder, Psychic Discoveries Behind the Iron Curtain.
- S. Ostrander & L. Schroeder, Psychic Discoveries: The Iron Curtain Lifted, 371–3.
- C. Humphrey, UFOs, Psi & Spiritual Evolution, 38.
- See R. Strassman, DMT: The Spirit Molecule.
- For more on this see J. Wicherink, Souls of Distortion; B. Lipton, The Biology of Belief; L. McTaggart, The Field.
- Watson, Supernature, 169.
- D. DeGracia, Beyond the Physical, Ch. 13.
- Van der Leeuw, 301.
- F.A. Wolf, The Soul and Quantum Physics.
- R.A. Wilson, Cosmic Trigger, Preface.
- M. Talbot, The Holographic Universe, 159.
- S. Pavlina, The Death of Skepticism. <www.stevepavlina.com/blog/2006/08/the-death-of-skepticism>.
PS Our Universe as a Computer Simulation
Physicists say they may have evidence that the universe is a computer simulation.
How? They made a computer simulation of the universe. And it looks sort of like us.
A long-proposed thought experiment, put forward by both philosophers and popular culture, points out that any civilisation of sufficient size and intelligence would eventually create a simulation universe if such a thing were possible.
And since there would therefore be many more simulations (within simulations, within simulations) than real universes, it is therefore more likely than not that our world is artificial.
Now a team of researchers at the University of Bonn in Germany led by Silas Beane say they have evidence this may be true.
In a paper named ‘Constraints on the Universe as a Numerical Simulation’, they point out that current simulations of the universe – which do exist, but which are extremely weak and small – naturally put limits on physical laws.
Technology Review explains * that “the problem with all simulations is that the laws of physics, which appear continuous, have to be superimposed onto a discrete three dimensional lattice which advances in steps of time.”
What that basically means is that by just being a simulation, the computer would put limits on, for instance, the energy that particles can have within the program.
These limits would be experienced by those living within the sim – and as it turns out, something which looks just like these limits do in fact exist.
For instance, something known as the Greisen-Zatsepin-Kuzmin, or GZK cut off, is an apparent boundary of the energy that cosmic ray particles can have. This is caused by interaction with cosmic background radiation. But Beane and co’s paper argues that the pattern of this rule mirrors what you might expect from a computer simulation.
Naturally, at this point the science becomes pretty tricky to wade through – and we would advise you read the paper itself to try and get the full detail of the idea.
But the basic impression is an intriguing one.
Like a prisoner in a pitch-black cell, we may never be able to see the ‘walls’ of our prison — but through physics we may be able to reach out and touch them.
*The Measurement That Would Reveal The Universe As A Computer Simulation
If the cosmos is a numerical simulation, there ought to be clues in the spectrum of high energy cosmic rays, say theorists
One of modern physics’ most cherished ideas is quantum chromodynamics, the theory that describes the strong nuclear force, how it binds quarks and gluons into protons and neutrons, how these form nuclei that themselves interact. This is the universe at its most fundamental.
So an interesting pursuit is to simulate quantum chromodynamics on a computer to see what kind of complexity arises. The promise is that simulating physics on such a fundamental level is more or less equivalent to simulating the universe itself.
There are one or two challenges of course. The physics is mind-bogglingly complex and operates on a vanishingly small scale. So even using the world’s most powerful supercomputers, physicists have only managed to simulate tiny corners of the cosmos just a few femtometers across. (A femtometer is 10^-15 metres.)
That may not sound like much but the significant point is that the simulation is essentially indistinguishable from the real thing (at least as far as we understand it).
It’s not hard to imagine that Moore’s Law-type progress will allow physicists to simulate significantly larger regions of space. A region just a few micrometres across could encapsulate the entire workings of a human cell.
Again, the behaviour of this human cell would be indistinguishable from the real thing.
It’s this kind of thinking that forces physicists to consider the possibility that our entire cosmos could be running on a vastly powerful computer. If so, is there any way we could ever know?
Today, we get an answer of sorts from Silas Beane, at the University of Bonn in Germany, and a few pals. They say there is a way to see evidence that we are being simulated, at least in certain scenarios.
First, some background. The problem with all simulations is that the laws of physics, which appear continuous, have to be superimposed onto a discrete three dimensional lattice which advances in steps of time.
The question that Beane and co ask is whether the lattice spacing imposes any kind of limitation on the physical processes we see in the universe. They examine, in particular, high energy processes, which probe smaller regions of space as they get more energetic
What they find is interesting. They say that the lattice spacing imposes a fundamental limit on the energy that particles can have. That’s because nothing can exist that is smaller than the lattice itself.
So if our cosmos is merely a simulation, there ought to be a cut off in the spectrum of high energy particles.
It turns out there is exactly this kind of cut off in the energy of cosmic ray particles, a limit known as the Greisen–Zatsepin–Kuzmin or GZK cut off.
This cut-off has been well studied and comes about because high energy particles interact with the cosmic microwave background and so lose energy as they travel long distances.
But Beane and co calculate that the lattice spacing imposes some additional features on the spectrum. “The most striking feature…is that the angular distribution of the highest energy components would exhibit cubic symmetry in the rest frame of the lattice, deviating signi?cantly from isotropy,” they say.
In other words, the cosmic rays would travel preferentially along the axes of the lattice, so we wouldn’t see them equally in all directions.
That’s a measurement we could do now with current technology. Finding the effect would be equivalent to being able to to ‘see’ the orientation of lattice on which our universe is simulated.
That’s cool, mind-blowing even. But the calculations by Beane and co are not without some important caveats. One problem is that the computer lattice may be constructed in an entirely different way to the one envisaged by these guys.
Another is that this effect is only measurable if the lattice cut off is the same as the GZK cut off. This occurs when the lattice spacing is about 10^-12 femtometers. If the spacing is significantly smaller than that, we’ll see nothing.
Nevertheless, it’s surely worth looking for, if only to rule out the possibility that we’re part of a simulation of this particular kind but secretly in the hope that we’ll find good evidence of our robotic overlords once and for all.
Ref: arxiv.org/abs/1210.1847: Constraints on the Universe as a Numerical Simulation
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