Paranormal Experience and the Physical Brain

I have been meaning to write about this article from Mysterious Universe for some time and am finally getting around to it. As usual, I will trust my readers to peruse the original article. The author, Martin J Clemens, brings forth some very interesting information about the the brain and the effects that electrical stimulation of the brain can have on perception. I have an issue with Mr. Clemens, though, when, while talking about a paper entitled “Induction of self awareness in dreams through frontal low current stimulation”, he states:

They used a variation of the TES procedure, called transcranial alternating current stimulation or tACS, to target areas of the frontal lobes, which are considered integral to the neuromechanics behind dreams. This, in and of itself, is extremely interesting, and it seems, at first glance, that it answers some long asked questions about dreams and how they work. It also seems to provide even more evidence for the deterministic view of biology, which says that all features of mind are the result of nothing more than the mechanical processes of the brain (the opposing view is dualism, which asserts that the self or the soul are separate from biology). It also raises a few questions about our current knowledge in these areas.

This statement is, honestly, the worst sort of debunkoskpetic hogwash since it completely fails to take into consideration arguments which could be made for the position that the brain is, in fact, a sort of receiver for consciousness and that changes to the brain will, of course, effect what the brain receives. So, far from ‘providing even more evidence’ of the deterministic view, this interesting experiment simply indicates that electrical stimulation of the brain can effect perception, specifically in dreams.

Granted, this is interesting to those involved in more scientific approaches to the paranormal since it suggests that all those EMF fluctuations detected at haunting sites and other sites of paranormal activity may be effecting the perception of the witnesses and the investigators. While I think that EMF levels are a valid route of investigation, I would point out that experiments like those mentioned in this article involve direct application of electrical stimulus to the brain i.e. there are electrodes attached to the skull or implanted in the brain, in more extreme cases. This direct application of current to the brain is a far cry from the sort of weak EMF fields detected in most paranormal sites.

I don’t think that we should completely discount the effect that EMF has in a paranormal investigation but I do think that we need to stretch our minds a bit before jumping on the EMF bandwagon. Remember, for example, that some paranormal events are accompanied by physical evidence that something untoward took place in that location. Tracking sign, photos, video, audio etc., while not proof positive, point to the idea that, at least in some cases, the witness statements and their perceptions are not the only evidence of an event.

In addition, if we want to lump all witnesses into the “perception effected by EMF” category, we have to overcome a significant problem. If I were to create a pin map of paranormal sightings, I suspect that the map would have pins stuck in places all over the country. Are the proponents of this theory of electromagnetic influence on perception seriously advocating the idea that each and every one of these witnesses happened to wander into an area of EMF activity during the course of their sighting? Honestly, I think this is a bit much for even the debunkers to swallow. As with all ‘explanations’ of things paranormal, I believe that the EMF theory certainly helps to explain some events but it is not going to be the unified theory that the the debunkoskeptics are looking for.

I’ve lived with perceptions of the world that stray outside the norm all my life and my magical training has only increased that faculty. I’ve been told that it was “just my imagination” or “just a dream” or that I am full of crap so many times that I do not share my experiences with people unless I know that they are open minded enough to cope. In my experience, people often try to put a scientific gloss on paranormal phenomenon so that they can maintain their world view that tells them that there are no things that exist outside of the senses and instruments of human kind.

In some ways, I do not blame those who want a ‘scientific’ explanation of the paranormal; my own perceptions and deep spiritual experiences are constantly setting me on my ear and I would love, sometimes, to just settle into a particular set of beliefs and say “this is it, I need nothing further”. But, referring back to my point about, if I were simply having my experiences as the result of contact with EMF fields, then someone invisible is following me around with an EMF generator and monitoring me closely enough to know when I am going into meditation or otherwise opening my other senses – at home, in the forest or even at my local grocery store.

The Powers I work with are very unlikely to allow me to settle down into set belief so I will continue on my merry way, becoming increasingly aware that this world that we see around us is really not so solid as we think it is.

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About stormeye60

A place for discussing the interface between magic and things that go bump in the night. View all posts by stormeye60

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