Confessions of NDE'r - Dr Sue Blackmore

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Confessions of NDE'r - Dr Sue Blackmore

Postby ashley72 » Wed Oct 10, 2012 10:43 am

Why I had to change my mind: Dr Sue Blackmore

In Psychology: The Science of Mind and Behaviour, Sixth Edition, 2010, by Richard Gross, London, Hodder Education, pp 86-7


It was 1970, the tail end of the hippy era, when I arrived in Oxford as an enthusiastic young fresher. I was thrilled by the intellectual atmosphere, and threw myself into late nights, early lectures, New Age theories, crazy clothes, and mind-opening cannabis.
I joined the Oxford University Society for Psychical Research and blundered into occultism, mediumship and the paranormal – ideas that clashed tantalisingly with everything I was learning for my degree in physiology and psychology. Then late one evening something very strange happened. I was sitting around with friends, smoking, listening to music, and enjoying the vivid imagery of rushing down a dark tunnel of leaves towards a bright light, when my friend spoke, and I couldn’t reply.
“Where are you Sue?” he asked, and suddenly I seemed to be on the ceiling looking down.
“Astral projection!” I thought and I (or some imagined flying “I”) set off across Oxford, over the country, and way beyond. For more than two hours I explored strange scenes, entered mystical states beyond space and time, and ultimately lost my self.
It was an extraordinary and life-changing experience. Everything seemed brighter and more real than ordinary life; something seemed to tell me that this mattered more than anything else. I couldn’t understand; yet I longed to.
Perhaps understandably I jumped to obvious but wrong conclusions - that my spirit had left my body and that this must prove phenomena that most scientists reject, like telepathy, clairvoyance, and life after death. I decided, with youthful over-confidence, that I was going to become a parapsychologist and prove all those “closed-minded” scientists wrong.
My tutors said I’d never have a future in research if I did parapsychology, but I didn’t care. Somehow I got a PhD place to test what I thought was my brilliant and original “memory theory of ESP”, and funded myself by part-time teaching. I believed that all minds were connected through a psychic field and that memory was a special case of telepathy. So I set to work on a long series of experiments comparing ESP and memory.
The results were a shock. Whether I looked for telepathy or precognition or clairvoyance, I got only chance results. I trained fellow students in imagery; chance results. I tested twins in pairs; chance results. I worked in play groups with very young children; chance results. I trained as a Tarot reader; chance results.
Occasionally I got a significant result. Oh the excitement! Then as a scientist must I repeated the experiment, checked for errors, redid the statistics, and varied the conditions, and every time either I found the error or got chance results again. Sometimes my enthusiasm waned, and I began to doubt. But there was always another beckoning claim, always another “X” to try. By the end of my PhD I had run out of “X”s.
At some point something snapped. Instead of struggling to fit my chance results into yet another doomed theory of the paranormal, I faced up to the awful possibility that I might have been wrong from the start – that perhaps there were no paranormal phenomena at all. I had to change my mind.
At first this was terribly hard because my whole persona was based on my beliefs – from my New Age clothes to training as a witch, visiting Spiritualist churches, using the Tarot, I-Ching and crystal balls, and hunting ghosts. My friends couldn’t understand how I could join the “sceptics”. But deep down I was a scientist and always have been. These results were telling me something very loud and clear. I was wrong! I had to reassess the way I saw the world and that’s what I did.
On the one hand I became what I called “rent-a-sceptic”, appearing on TV programmes to counter psychic claims with rational explanations (a task that brought much hate mail as well as enjoyment). On the other I began research trying to understand why people have near-death and out-of-body experiences (OBEs) if nothing actually leaves the body.
There is no question that they do. In surveys between 10 and 20 percent of people claim to have had an OBE, and the experiences are similar across ages and cultures. But why? The answer is not that we all have a spirit or soul but that our brains are similar. In certain states induced by drugs, shock, deep relaxation or special techniques, random excitation of neurons causes odd consequences. Activation in visual cortex produces tunnels and spirals, activation in temporal lobe arouses memories as though one’s whole life is flashing past and – most interestingly – a certain spot near the right temporo-parietal junction produces body image distortions and OBEs. So the experiences are real enough but do not prove life after death or the existence of souls.
I also wondered why so many people believe in paranormal phenomena if they don’t exist. I did experiments showing that people who are worst at judging the likelihood of chance events are more likely to be believers, along with husband, Tom Troscianko. I studied lucid dreams (in which you know you are dreaming), and sleep paralysis (in which you wake up paralysed, hearing strange noises and convinced there is someone else in the room). This was especially helpful when I came to investigate alien abductions because many turn out to be unrecognised sleep paralysis. Once again people try truthfully to report what happened to them, but their explanations are wrong – just as I had done they jump to obvious but false conclusions.
After many years of working on my own, with little money and no job, I became a senior lecturer, and then reader, at the University of the West of England in Bristol. So my tutors were finally proved wrong – though it took a long time. I got tired of being the hated sceptic, battling against people’s hopes of worlds beyond and paranormal phenomena, and having mediums, psychics and believers tell me that I didn’t have an open mind. “Do you know what it means to have an open mind?” I wanted to shout sometimes “It means being able to change your mind when the evidence shows you are wrong”. That is what science is all about. That is how we learn the truth about human nature rather than clinging to what we want to be true – like telepathy and life after death.
Perhaps I’ll always get involved in controversial topics. I became fascinated by the concept of memes – the cultural analogue of genes. I took up Zen meditation in my twenties and eventually wrote a book about Zen questioning. I got involved in debates about free will, drugs, and the harmful effects of religion. Eventually I realised that the common thread in all of this, beginning with that original experience, is the mystery of consciousness. As we learn more and more about the brain it seems ever more peculiar that a vast number of neurons all connected together in complex patterns can bring about an experience of a world with me in it. How can this be? I don’t think I will ever get bored of exploring the mystery of consciousness.
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Re: Confessions of NDE'r - Dr Sue Blackmore

Postby Donna » Wed Oct 10, 2012 2:38 pm

Ashley,
I read a sentence (but I can't quote it exactly) from an author recently that made a lot of sense:

Instead of questioning if something is real, question whether or not it is useful.
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Re: Confessions of NDE'r - Dr Sue Blackmore

Postby ashley72 » Wed Oct 10, 2012 11:30 pm

Donna wrote:Ashley,
I read a sentence (but I can't quote it exactly) from an author recently that made a lot of sense:

Instead of questioning if something is real, question whether or not it is useful.


Thanks Donna. I totally agree.

What's useful is balancing the mere possibilities with the actual observable probabilities. :wink:

What's refreshing about Dr Sue Blackmore is she kept an "open mind". She started with the mere possibility and was determine to observe the actual evidence and assign probabilities . What she discovered was the possibilities don't always turn out to be probabilities. Just like the bird man who didn't understand the importance to power/weight ratios when trying to make human flight a probability not merely a possibility.

Dr Blackmore also learnt what it really means to have an open mind. Which is one that can change when there is strong scientific evidence abound that's it a fact on the ground.
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Re: Confessions of NDE'r - Dr Sue Blackmore

Postby karmarider » Thu Oct 11, 2012 1:15 am

This is interesting. I only glanced at the first paragraph at first and figured this was another scientist coming to the defense of believers of para-normal stuff. But it's a scientist who says that an open mind is to be able to say and admit, despite what you want believe, which probabilities can be actually be truth.
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Re: Confessions of NDE'r - Dr Sue Blackmore

Postby ashley72 » Thu Oct 11, 2012 3:26 am

karmarider wrote:This is interesting. I only glanced at the first paragraph at first and figured this was another scientist coming to the defense of believers of para-normal stuff. But it's a scientist who says that an open mind is to be able to say and admit, despite what you want believe, which probabilities can be actually be truth.


I'm glad you found it of interest. In light of the recent discussions centred around the paranormal & the concept of an afterlife...it certainly adds another perspective to the broader discussion.
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Re: Confessions of NDE'r - Dr Sue Blackmore

Postby ashley72 » Tue Aug 13, 2013 1:00 am

http://www.npr.org/blogs/health/2013/08/12/211324316/brains-of-dying-rats-yield-clues-about-near-death-experiences

THERE may be a scientific explanation for the vivid near-death experiences, such as seeing a shining light, that some people report after surviving a heart attack.

Apparently, the brain keeps on working for up to 30 seconds after blood flow stops, according to a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

University of Michigan scientists did their research on nine lab rats that were anesthetised and then subjected to induced cardiac arrest as part of the experiment.

In the first 30 seconds after their hearts were stopped, they all showed a surge of brain activity, observed in electroencephalograms (EEGs) that indicated highly aroused mental states.

"We were surprised by the high levels of activity," said senior author George Mashour, professor of anesthesiology and neurosurgery at the University of Michigan.

"In fact, at near-death, many known electrical signatures of consciousness exceeded levels found in the waking state, suggesting that the brain is capable of well-organised electrical activity during the early stage of clinical death.''

Similar results in terms of brain activity were seen in rats that were asphyxiated, the researchers said.

"This study tells us that reduction of oxygen or both oxygen and glucose during cardiac arrest can stimulate brain activity that is characteristic of conscious processing," said lead author Jimo Borjigin.

"It also provides the first scientific framework for the near-death experiences reported by many cardiac arrest survivors."

About 20 per cent of people who survive cardiac arrest report having had visions during a period known to doctors as clinical death.

Mainstream science has long considered the brain to be inactive during this period.

Ms Borjigin said she hopes her team's latest study "will form the foundation for future human studies investigating mental experiences occurring in the dying brain, including seeing light during cardiac arrest."
~ News.com.au
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Re: Confessions of NDE'r - Dr Sue Blackmore

Postby Webwanderer » Tue Aug 13, 2013 1:38 am

All this about a little light in a tunnel of consciousness? Many, many, near death experiences are a thousand times more complex than such simple curiosities as this. Correlation is not necessarily causation. My sense is that materialist scientists need all the physical possibilities they can hang on to. When you start with an assumption of a physical origin, and a need to support that assumption, anything to hang one's hat on will do.

Consider some quantum science for deeper scientific insight into the consciousness/physical relationship. Physical 'reality', including the brain, only exist as a perception in conciousness. Everything we know as solid is just energy vibrating at various unique rates. Solidity is just a perception. It's all consciousness. This according to the science of quantum physics - and a goodly number of spiritual traditions.

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Re: Confessions of NDE'r - Dr Sue Blackmore

Postby ashley72 » Tue Aug 13, 2013 4:29 am

Webwanderer wrote:All this about a little light in a tunnel of consciousness? Many, many, near death experiences are a thousand times more complex than such simple curiosities as this. Correlation is not necessarily causation. My sense is that materialist scientists need all the physical possibilities they can hang on to. When you start with an assumption of a physical origin, and a need to support that assumption, anything to hang one's hat on will do.


This research is challenging conventional wisdom that i.e "Mainstream science has long considered the brain to be inactive during this period." When in fact it may be heightened.

Webwanderer wrote:Consider some quantum science for deeper scientific insight into the consciousness/physical relationship. Physical 'reality', including the brain, only exist as a perception in conciousness. Everything we know as solid is just energy vibrating at various unique rates. Solidity is just a perception. It's all consciousness. This according to the science of quantum physics - and a goodly number of spiritual traditions.

WW


Let's keep it simple!

NDE's visions or hallucinations of out of body experiences, bright lights, dark tunnels etc.... have been claimed by NDE'rs to be proof of an afterlife. This research is simply challenging that view. It has nothing to do with sub atomic physics.
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Re: Confessions of NDE'r - Dr Sue Blackmore

Postby Webwanderer » Tue Aug 13, 2013 6:03 am

ashley72 wrote:NDE's visions or hallucinations of out of body experiences, bright lights, dark tunnels etc.... have been claimed by NDE'rs to be proof of an afterlife. This research is simply challenging that view. It has nothing to do with sub atomic physics.

Bright lights and dark tunnels are but one type of near death experience, and relatively minor ones at that. And out of body experiences are indeed 'proof' to many of those who actually experience them. Dr. Eben Alexander, a respected neurosurgeon and scientist himself, is a prime example. For the rest of researchers and reviewers without direct experience, it's all simply evidence to consider.

Quantum physics is a field of research that is revealing that consciousness is the origin of what appears to be matter and not the other way around as is assumed by so much of material brain science. So it seems to me that it is quite relevant. Here's a good talk on how it works.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fqdcdky9wR4

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Re: Confessions of NDE'r - Dr Sue Blackmore

Postby SandyJoy » Tue Aug 13, 2013 6:01 pm

Yes, from what I understand about Quantum Physics,; Everything is Light--- There is a Zero Point Light that is Unseen, as it exists 'above the human ability to see it's vibration---- All we do see is different speeds of vibrations of light, and this light is not 'just light' it is information---we are seeing the information ( in-form-ation) of light---or Consciousness---Consciousness is light vibrating into forms. Seeing is being---because when we see we are seeing nothing other than Light--which is our self, which is made of the Eternal Still Light.

Our DNA cells are made of light, photons are light---this Infinite Unseen Light is both a movement of Itself and the Stillness of It, the Absolute Totality of Itself is at rest while It vibrates into 'everything' we call experience of matter and form. It is one Light---

I think this is why when we change our thoughts to positive, good, whole, kind, gracious ones, we change our own cellular light vibrations to 'lifted up' vibes that literally lift us up and we feel better, we feel stronger and vital and rich. Because we are getting closer to the pure Light of Godhead the All. Darkness is not the lack of light, it is a lower vibration of light---ask any scientist and they will tell you this. You wanna shine and be happy; your thoughts are made of light, so you brighten your light with brighter thoughts.

One of the first teachers of the Subjective View of Reality was a man named Jesus---of course the rulers, the law makers, the controlling authorities did not want people to know what Jesus was teaching---because, if they knew the Truth, the Pharisee would no longer be able to rule or be 'superior'. So they intentionally ruined what Jesus came to tell the people of their own Identity and Reality. Once you know who are, no one can keep you down.

(39) Jesus said : "The Pharisees and the scribes have taken the keys of knowledge and hidden them. They have not entered (Lived the Truth), nor have they allowed those who wish so to enter (know it for your self). You, however, be as shrewd as serpents and as innocent as doves."

And here is a perfect statement of quantum physics as being discovered these 2000 years later:

(50) Jesus said : "If they say to You, 'Where did You come from ?', say to them : 'We came from the light, the place where the light came into being of itself, established itself and revealed itself in their image. If they say to You : 'Who are You ?', say : 'We are its sons. We are the elect of the Living Father.' If they ask You : 'What is the sign of Your Father in You ?', say to them : 'It is movement and rest.'

So, those days were the 'first coming of Christ' as a man telling the people who they really are "I (you) and My Father (Light) are One, but My Father is greater (The Still Light that we cannot see or know) than I "

Those who are in control of the world do not want any one to find the Truth; the whole slippery, authoritarian, fear based, oppressive system will fall apart --- and because you are finding the Truth and You are Living It, we are seeing the system break down as those in control will try to clamp down this 'second coming of Christ" this time when you find it Within YOU and not in a man called Jesus (who never said to worship him) and You are finding the Messiah is and was always the Light within You, as the Light that You are, and Always were--- You cannot be anything less, unless you accept, believe and live the lesser vibrations of your Light.

Okay, that's my rambling, wild Heart of Love for you for now.
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Re: Confessions of NDE'r - Dr Sue Blackmore

Postby Webwanderer » Tue Aug 13, 2013 6:31 pm

Gospel of Thomas. Nice reference SandyJoy. It seems the information on the essence of being is not new, only the science.

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Re: Confessions of NDE'r - Dr Sue Blackmore

Postby DavidB » Wed Aug 14, 2013 2:54 am

From what I know about the NDE, many of the ND experiences are very complex. Another striking factoid is that many NDE'ers report having an experience that is well beyond human comprehension, "more real than real" is a common claim.
“Wisdom is knowing I am nothing, Love is knowing I am everything, and between the two my life moves.” ― Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj
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Re: Confessions of NDE'r - Dr Sue Blackmore

Postby tod » Wed Aug 14, 2013 3:06 am

Thanks for that interpretation of quantum physics SandyJoy - most enlightening.
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Re: Confessions of NDE'r - Dr Sue Blackmore

Postby runstrails » Thu Aug 15, 2013 11:32 pm

Ok so I read the paper that Ashley is referring to:
Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2013 Aug 12. Surge of neurophysiological coherence and connectivity in the dying brain. Borjigin J, Lee U, Liu T, Pal D, Huff S, Klarr D, Sloboda J, Hernandez J, Wang MM, Mashour GA.

Here is my analysis: It's a good study. The design is clever and the analysis is well done. The results appear compelling. The main result was that low gamma activity (25-55Hz) was significantly enhanced about 17 seconds after the heart stopped. 17 seconds is a very short time--very short indeed. Of course, these are rats and it may be longer for humans. Anyway, scientifically, the study seemed ok for the most part.

So what does it mean: That's the question, of course!

Here's my wild, wacky, totally non-neuroscience based speculation :lol::

I've often wondered what the signature of Consciousness (true self, reality) is . What if its low gamma oscillations! New research shows that our brains are oscillating at rest and the frequency of those oscillations changes when we cognize in some way (i.e., individuated expression). What if, at death, it all sort of seems to returns to the main signature of consciousness (thus explaining the increase in low gamma). And this study provides a brief glimpse of that return.

Of course, I'm also fine with the explanation that death is end, full stop.

Anyway, feel free to speculate away on your own ideas. That is the true fun of science. The results are hard and fast--but the interpretations almost never are :)
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Re: Confessions of NDE'r - Dr Sue Blackmore

Postby ashley72 » Wed May 14, 2014 4:08 pm

Experimental work in neuroscience.... which is providing strong objective evidence that our sense of self is strongly correlated with brain function. In other words, there is no such thing as a soul or a self which is independent of the brain.

The fact the brain can be easily fooled/manipulated to perceive an altered sense of self outside the body... using a video camera, goggles and some optical illusions, provides strong evidence that our self model is a product of brain function.

http://www.nature.com/polopoly_fs/1.9569!/menu/main/topColumns/topLeftColumn/pdf/480168a.pdf

The next step is to split the "sense of self" into multiple bodies simultaneously using optical/body sensory illusions. To see whether neural plasticity can adapt to this higher level perceptual processing complexity - of a self model being the agent of at least two independent bodies.
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