NDES and OBES: dreams are the key

Discussion in 'Critical Discussions Among Proponents and Skeptics' started by Kai, Nov 9, 2013.

  1. Kai

    Kai New

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    We cannot hope to understand NDEs or OBEs until we have understood correctly the more familiar elephant in the lounge of consciousness, which is nocturnal dreams.

    Unfortunately, dreams are not so easily understood. Occult explanations of them are hopelessly far fetched, while mechanistic explanations (filing away the day’s experiences) seem trite and unequal to both their sheer strangeness and complexity.

    There is a great deal of similarity between dreams, OBEs, and NDEs. They share a significant number of similar dynamics, such that the suspicion has to be that they are a spectrum of the same phenomenon.

    The first similarity is that NDEs and dreams are, above all else, a private experiential space. There are similarities between NDEs to be sure, but the differences are telling. They are very akin to the differences between dreamers who nonetheless dream of similar things. There seems little justification for claiming that in NDEs, a “common” experiential space or world is entered, as in the physical world. The same is true of the dreamworld. There are common themes, but then, we are exposed to common themes in life, we have similar brains, and we react to dramatic experiences in (broadly ) similar ways.

    To say that NDEs are a form of dreaming is not to reduce them to nocturnal dreams, especially since we don’t rightly know what nocturnal dreams are anyway. But it *does* highlight that they share the same modus operandi. Both have no traction upon real world, physical events, both exhibit forms and shapes that are clearly derived from the physical world in terms of content, both share the same fluid laws of the imagination.

    Both have no clear relation at all to physical space, but are some kind of private, experiential space. It is said that on rare occasion NDEs can be shared. But “on rare occasion” dreams can also be shared, as has been reported in the lucid dream literature. It is said that people “know” NDEs to be real, unlike dreams, but in fact this is an issue of degree. When dreams are ongoing it is *rare* for the person to appreciate that it is not real. The disjunction between real and not real can only come when there is a sufficient reality test with the physical world that clearly shows up the discrepancy. Consider the following OBE reported by Keith Harary.

    One night I awoke in an out-of-body state floating just
    above my physical body which lay below me on the bed. A
    candle had been left burning on the other end of the
    room during the evening. I dove for the candle head first
    from a sitting position and gently floated down toward it
    with the intention of blowing out the flame to conserve wax.
    I put my "face" up close to the candle and had some
    difficulty in putting out the flame. I had to blow on it
    several times before it finally seemed to extinguish. I
    turned around, saw my body lying on the bed and gently
    floated back and back into it. Once in the physical (body) I
    immediately turned over and went back to sleep. The next
    morning I awoke and found that the candle had completely
    burned down. It seemed as if my out-of-the-body efforts had
    affected only a non-physical candle."

    But clearly, this is a lucid dream. He thought he was “out of body,” he thought he blew out an actual candle…but he was dreaming, based on his knowledge and awareness of the room he was in.

    It is said that OBEs or NDEs can contain “veridical” information. However, dreams can also do this, and it seems redundant to suggest that these must be happening by two different processes.

    I propose that NDEs are a kind of “deep dreaming.” That they take of the same essential quality and character as dreams. Out of body experiences such as the above show that the essence of the experience appears to be a dream construction. The only debate of importance should revolve around whether that construction ever makes use of nonsensory information. However, even if it does, this does not establish that it is sensible or correct to speak of something “leaving the body.”

    Looked at closely, an out of body experience is a dream (of varying lucidity) in which the dream imagery takes on the aspect of the person’s familiar environment, and in which the position of the body is included as (usually) the place where last authentic sensory information concerning its location was obtained before onset of REM and thus the shutdown of proprioception form the limbs.

    However, this still leaves the question of what dreams actually are, of whether they could in principle be a consensus reality with a consensus of one….very rarely increasing to two or three. Sheldrake has argued that if there is a semi-stable experience of “afterlife” that extends beyond the time frame of an NDE, then it could be akin to a kind of dreamstate from which it is not possible to awaken. I think there is something to that. The trouble is that nocturnal dreams and OBEs are causally tied to the physiology of the body and brain, so it would seem that even this semi-stable afterlife “dream” if it is really there, would also need to be causally tied to the world in some sense, possibly a deeper sort of nonlocality at work between physical brains. “Awaking” from that deep dream, if it is possible, might involve once more manifesting in the physical world as a newborn human. Of course when we normally reawaken from a dream, we retain the memory of who we were before the dream, but this may not be so for a “deep dream” from which we emerge again as a new birth, if this is the way it works. If you imagine for a moment that we did NOT retain memory of who we were before each sleep cycle, when we next awoke, the situation would now have very strong similarities with the scenario I am suggesting, except of course on a much shorter cycle.
     
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  2. JCearley

    JCearley New

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    Okay, but you are just congregating the mysteries (I forget the actual term for this) here. Actually answering the implications of this requires accepting that the veridical details occur and explaining why. Moving the labels does not produce a mechanism for dream telepathy.
     
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  3. chuck.drake

    chuck.drake Guest

    Interesting start to a thread. Is anyone familiar with the Maimonides dream studies? I keep meaning to request something through inter-library loan, but keep forgetting.
     
  4. Kai

    Kai New

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    Well, but the similarities in the phenomena strongly suggest that they are of one continuity. It has been extremely difficult to get satisfactory evidence of dream telepathy, but I am willing to accept that something of it may actually exist. For the most part, one can discuss NDEs, OBEs and dreams without ever bringing that into it, because it is extremely rare in anything approaching demonstration, throughout all three categories. It is therefore, more instructive, I think, to contemplate the numerous other similairities between these states, where we have material that we can genuinely investigate, ponder, and work with.
     
  5. JCearley

    JCearley New

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    If you want to collapse NDEs and OBEs together, then you have to bring the phenomena attached to them too. You can't really stuff them all in the same box and then discard the individual anomalies for ease of storage. Why is a damaged brain more "desperate" to generate a false experience (even a non-veridical one) which the person remembers the entire duration of their life if its "only" a dream? Very few regular dreams ever reach that status for someone, I believe.

    I don't think dreams are a heavy subject of neuroscience; they seem pretty convinced that they don't need to explain them even though there isn't a strict evolutionary need for dreaming. I did a quick Google search, and it seems to still be purely the domain of psychologist's speculating. In that note, what information are you considering "material that we can genuinely investigate"? And that wording feels like it implies the anomaous aspects aren't worth genuine investigation.

    What is it you think this line of questioning will answer?
     
  6. Kai

    Kai New

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    People seeing a "review" of their lives is interesting, and of course it is intriguing to speculate whether they have access to some brain-transcending information source in doing so. However, my point is more that perceived phenomena and persons in NDEs act more like the perceived phenomena and persons in dreams than they do physical people. However in our nightly dreams it can be said that we have mini "reviews" of things that have happened during our recent experience. It can still be seen as a larger version of the same thing.


    We can observe how dreams and borderline sleep states function. We can observe (for example from Harary's experience) that there is no practical difference between "OBEs" and "lucid dreaming" especially if lucid dreaming can at times be said to dream "true"...which adept lucid dreamers affirm is the case. We can observe that NDEs seem to be a deeper cousin of dreaming, especially lucid dreaming, and asking these questions opens fresh territory that (imo) is bogged down in doctrinal historical matter associated with "astral planes" and other things which have been an entire empirical dead end.
     
  7. Reece

    Reece Member

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    I don't know where to factor this in, or if anyone else relates, but going on gut impressions, when I awake from a dream I always class it as being less real than waking reality. After a hallucinogen trip, though, even after fully sobering up, I class at least some aspect of it as having parts (or glimpsing parts) that were more real than waking reality. And that's kinda how I relate to NDErs who say it was "more real than real," which if you think about it is a very, very strange statement.
     
  8. JCearley

    JCearley New

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    Let me guess, reduction of brainwave activity and more input from the left lobe than the right coupled with some minor interference with the temporal lobe; as all psi-related "hits" appear to be connected with.
     
  9. Kai

    Kai New

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    Well, the interesting questions about dreams to me revolve around what kind of "reality" they can be said to frame and how it relates to our communal physical reality. Are dream states simply the inaccessible side of physical brain states? If so, are NDEs the inaccessible side of a kind of "species brain" that is distributed across the race? Or are dreams a kind of "orphaned" consensus reality, with a population of one? Does the Australian Aborigine have a race memory in their "Dreamtime" mythology of a state of the universe where the communal consensus was not as entrenched as it is now? And finally, if all forms of "reality" are a form of "construct," including the world we inhabit, what does this make of the concept of objectivity?
     
  10. Max_B

    Max_B Member

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    I think perhaps that there is a 'dreamlike' quality to the later parts of the NDE's, in so far as the imagery is best understood in terms of the underlying feelings which it evokes (or is evoked by) rather than interpreting the imagery literally. However the typical 'Dream Experience' seems to be of a much weaker intensity than the 'Near Death Experience'.

    The reason for the different recalled intensity of experience might be due to the differential between group broadcast-strength vs brain receptivity, mediated by the novelness of the information. However, all that said, these are 2 year old ideas for me and I don't know if they really fit very well with my ideas today.

    I go as far as the OBE portion of the NDE, after which, the later portion of the NDE generally are a mystery to me. Although, there are two things which I note about the later portion: The message which people sometimes take away from their NDE, often seems related to the difference between their experiences/beliefs, when subtracted from their cultural group's experiences/beliefs. I also note that presence of the 'come to us', 'you have to go back' back-n-forth parts of the NDE are more prevalent when loved-ones, or professionals are aware of the experiencers condition, and/or fighting for their life.
     
  11. Kai

    Kai New

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    Personally Max, I believe it has to be a nonlocal effect, rather than any electromagnetic, local field, or energetic effect. I can't see how that could possibly be strong enough to be a carrier, even across the skull boundary from one head to another, let alone across a room or across a city. Perhaps it is in the fashion of Orch OR, or perhaps it is something else.

    I don't put much stock in the realized *content* of NDEs myself. The interesting questions for me concern whether the sense of acquired knowledge spanning the race is real, whether it is really timeless, whether it is really a non-individualized source underlying individualized persons and phenomena.

    Given the amazing ease at which the mind symbolizes an "incubus" sitting on the chest of someone in a state of sleep paralysis, as a result of voluntary breathing being interrupted, it's not difficult to see, frankly, how everything else supposedly concrete within the experience could also be a symbol that fits a purpose...including "deceased loved ones." That doesn't mean that they are necessarily, but imo, there would have to be an awfully convincing reason why we shouldn't suppose that the imagination behind the phenomenon couldn't achieve this just as readily as it achieves old hags or photoreal representations of a person's bedroom drawn from memory in "OOBEs."

    I can focus the point clearer about dreams if I ask "what is the difference between a tree in a dream and a tree in the real world?" I think some differences are quick in suggesting themselves. But if I ask "what is the difference between a tree beside a river in a lucid dream and a tree beside a river in an NDE?" the question (and the alleged difference, if there even is one) becomes a lot more problematic.
     
  12. Max_B

    Max_B Member

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    I believe there are both local and non-local mechanisms, as I wrote on the original forum yesterday (rather than repeat myself).

    As regards the last part of your post, I'm relatively convinced that there is no 'qualitative' difference (as opposed to 'quantitative') between waking perception, or perception in dreams, or hallucinations.

    However I do draw some distinction between those experiences and the verifiable OBE/NDE during cardiac arrest, not because there is any qualitative difference in perception, but because I believe this latter experience might be mainly the result of external field patterns affecting the patients brain due to very unique circumstances, rather than the brains own endogenous fields.
     
  13. Kai

    Kai New

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    I'm not sure what you mean by external fields. If it is nonlocal, I would suspect that it can be considered contiguous in the way that distantly separated particles can be considered contiguous in terms of their communicated properties. What begets this "contiguity" in human terms could be more complicated, such as an emotional connection or shared relation. The problem with any local or energetic notion is that it is extremely unlikely that it could even escape the skull as a source, because it would be far too weak and subsumed by surrounding noise.

    It is true that if people are picking things up from other living minds, it somewhat bypasses the problem of how they are constructing it, unless pure clairvoyance is possible, in which case the problem remains of how "pure data" of that sort can be constructed into human-like experience.
     
  14. Max_B

    Max_B Member

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    That fields leave the skull is obvious, otherwise we couldn't pick them up with our very crude metal electrodes mounted on the surface of the scalp. We currently have nowhere near the level of spacial or temporal resolution to pick up individual neuron action potentials which last for 1-2 millionths of a sec. The brain is an incredibly sensitive stochastic feedback system, it's already incredibly noisy, like other stochastic systems, they improve the noisier it gets. The brain is affected by weak magnetic fields, each time I review the literature I seem to find that the measured levels of magnetic sensitivity keeps falling. These tests have only ever been conducted in the functional brain, how sensitive the brain is in an energy compromised state, or in the absence of it's own endogenous fields is totally unknown.

    You may argue that these local fields become too smeared after a small distance, losing all useful structure, however all the research I have seen completely fails to take into the account the three dimensional structure of the brain, it's complexity, it's sensitivity, it's spatio temporal resolution, it's stochastic and feedback nature, not to mention the unknown abilities of MT's. You only need to look at Andrew Thompsons 1996 'Silicon Evolution' paper to start seeing the possibilities.

    There is so much we don't know. I'm not willing to rule out temporary local field effects on an energy compromised brain.
     
  15. Kai

    Kai New

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    Yes, I'd have to be honest and say that unless these fluctuations in fields could be picked up at several metres distance by sensitive instruments, then it is probably unreasonable to suppose that they exist as information bearing entities. The issue is not that they make it out of the skull, if they do so only at a level at or below general electromagnetic noise. Their information content would be irreducibly lost. Also, if we are talking about local energetic reception you would need an aerial or its biological equivalent in the brain. But biology in general is very poor material for electromagnetic pickup. It will do it, but hardly at the kinds of thresholds that would be required here. And as I said above, it matters not if by the time an ultraweak signal arrives at the aerial, it is inseparable from, and indistinguishable from, cosmic noise, which I think is highly probable. Even the crude, blunt instrument of what the EEG picks up from the brain (orders of magnitude lacking in subtlety for what would be needed here) could not possibly register sensibly at the distance of several meters.

    For these reasons I think it has to be nonlocality, if there is extrasensory information at all.
     
  16. Max_B

    Max_B Member

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    We're not yet at the level of technology that would enable us to do that... in time we'll get there.
     
  17. Kai

    Kai New

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    Max - it's not just an issue of the technology. You can't just stamp information on weaker and weaker carriers. The point is reached where the inherent perturbation of the carrier (and other environmental noise) exceeds anything of the signal, thus rendering it incoherent. Even super powerful radio signals sent out into the depths of space could not sustain their signal bearing qualities beyond a given point.
     
  18. Max_B

    Max_B Member

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    It's premature to rule it out at present. We'll get there :)
     
  19. Kai

    Kai New

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    Well, okay Max. You'd have to convince me though, because the electromagnetic noise of the machines in the OR and the mains loop in the hospital are going to be 1000s of times stronger than any effect that could have its source in someone's brain. And if our brains were that sensitive, we would not be able to function near such equipment.
     
  20. Max_B

    Max_B Member

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    As I stated earlier, the functional brain is affected by weak magnetic fields. How sensitive the brain is in an energy compromised state, more particularly in the absence of it's own endogenous fields is unknown.
     

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