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Ghosts And Paranormal Entities


Ancey
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Well, first I shall say I don't believe in ghosts and haven't since reaching the realist perspective I have now, although I did believe in them before for a while. And found them really scary.

 

Although, of course, plenty of people believe in their existence. For fun, I tend to read up on the pseudo-science and also find interesting factoids or explanations that make more legit sense. Here's a couple, and I'll source some of them, too.

 

1. Creaky Houses might be caused by loose plumbing lines that rattle when active or from people walking over them, making them vibrate. Houses also settle and creak from stuff like... oh, gravity. Also drafts from open windows, etc. Tend to be simple explanations for a lot of things.

 

2. Photographs/Videos of ghosts: Orbs or Floaters are easy: Orbs are large air-suspended particles that catch the light of camera flashes. Info here. There also was a thing about these little ghost or paranormal phenomena that would zip across the screen in video: found out later to be insects that would fly by and the video capture quality was just not good. If anyone remembers what these were called, do tell me.

 

3. Spiritualism was actually very propelled by the Fox Sisters: Who later confessed to faking seances by tapping on the walls and parlor tricks. On a similar note, Psychics or Mediums tend to use techniques called Cold or Warm Readings to give the illusion of paranormal knowledge. Info Here.

 

4. And my favorite: Hauntings can sometimes be explained as hallucinations caused by things as simple as, oddly enough, leaky furnaces.

Others have, however. In 1921, the American Journal of Ophthalmology published a case study involving a couple who moved into a house and promptly began to suffer headaches, listlessness and strange auditory and visual hallucinations (footsteps, mysterious figures, strange sensations, etc.). Their symptoms were finally traced to a faulty furnace.

 

A more recent case in 2005 involved a woman who was found delirious and hyperventilating after seeing a "ghost" while taking a shower; respondents discovered a new gas water heater had been improperly installed, flooding her house with carbon monoxide. Link to Article

 

I also noticed a decent shift between modern time interpretations of ghosts and old interpretations. Anyone notice that most representations of ghosts today are less of "Here's a full person I know is dead, and they are talking to me, what the--?" and "I saw something weird in the corner of my eye. Turn around! Gasp, nothing there!" which feels more representative of both a shift in technology and popularity of how to "contact" ghosts. Spiritualism was a 19th century idea, if I remember correctly. Prior to that, representations of ghosts seemed rather different. Correct me if I'm wrong, this is actually the one part I didn't research so well.

 

So, I guess open discussion about ghosts: You're experiences, etc.

 

I do have a friend who once woke up from a dream about a vampire, to see a vampire in her room rushing towards her. She then ran screaming into the bathroom and waited for her mom to come fetch her after all the noise she made. Of course, at the time, she was maybe 10-11. And obviously it was a leftover hallucination from her interrupted dream. I get the same feeling: I'll imagine in my sleep I'm at home, then wake and still think that for a bit before I realize I'm in my dorm room 10 hours away from home.

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You said it, the mind sees what it wants to see. If you go to a church that constantly focusses on demons and evil spirits then your mind will tell you you're seeing them all around you. Doesn't make them real, but you already said that.

 

 

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There also was a thing about these little ghost or paranormal phenomena that would zip across the screen in video: found out later to be insects that would fly by and the video capture quality was just not good. If anyone remembers what these were called, do tell me.

 

Those are called "rods".

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So, I guess open discussion about ghosts: Your experiences, etc.

I've mentioned in this space that my atheist stepson is unaccountably entertained by the TV program Ghost Adventures. His sole request for a gift this summer before going off to college was the chance to participate in a ghost hunt. So his mother and I are taking him this Friday on a ghost hunt sponsored by a paranormal organization downstate from us. We will be in an all-night "lockdown" in a couple of old buildings with all the purported "ghost hunting" equipment -- temperature and electrical meters and digital voice recorders and all that. His mother and I are treating it as a lark and an entertainment. My biggest struggle will probably be to stay awake all night.

 

After being obliged to watch way more hours of this crap on TV than I care to admit to or remember, I think it all boils down to people seeing what they want to, for whatever reason. My stepson believes in the possibility of psychological residue or after-echoes or something like that, not in gods or demons or afterlives, or so he says. My guess is that is his intellectualization / rationalization. Probably some intuitive part of him that he has disowned rejects the conclusions of his intellect and this is how it expresses itself. In other words he's more undecided than he cares to admit.

 

As for explanations for some of the phenomena, I think what people most under-estimate is the mind's ability to manufacture realistic-seeming experiences right out of the subconscious. If you can stick an electrode in a waking person's brain in the right spot, apply some voltage, and cause them to experience religious visions or feelings of transcendence, then other things can stimulate that, too, with varying degrees of vividness depending on the stimulus and the person involved. Places conducive to these experiences probably have the right combination of archetypal creepiness, hidden sources of strong electromagnetic fields that mess with people's perceptions, and the like. Also, once someone has a remarkable "paranormal" experience in a place, it primes the expectations of everyone who follows, even in spite of themselves. I'm sure that despite my skepticism I will find rooting around in a dark cellar after being told campfire stories about the building's history, will give me a goosebump or two, put me on a certain degree of alert, etc. It will, in short, make me more receptive.

 

I'll have to come back here sometime next week after I get back and report on what happens :-)

 

--Bob

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There also was a thing about these little ghost or paranormal phenomena that would zip across the screen in video: found out later to be insects that would fly by and the video capture quality was just not good. If anyone remembers what these were called, do tell me.

 

Those are called "rods".

D'oh!

 

Of course.

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I think what's really important are not the weird sounds a house makes so much as our reaction to those sounds and other similar phenomenon. It's that creepy feeling we get, that sense that we need to run and escape and sometimes the feeling that something is there and even watching us. The feelings are real and have been programmed in us, so to speak. And they are there for a good, evolutionary reason.

 

Imagine yourself living 10,000 years ago as a hunter gatherer in a forest somewhere in Europe. There are large predators who will kill and eat you if they get half a chance. One night you venture, all alone, away from your small village to go into the woods for whatever reason. While you are there, you hear the hoots of owls, a wind is whistling through the trees, the moon is bright and casts its shadows on the forrest floor, you hear twigs snap near you. Without even thinking about these things, you begin to have this feeling inside you that something is nearby and is watching you. You stop and look around but see nothing. You try to ignore the feeling and go on about your business, but the feeling of being watched by something that you can't explain persists. It causes fear inside of you and you finally run for all you are worth back to the village and the fire that is kept burning all night.

 

What happened? It was your subconscious mind taking in all that was happening around you and it saw the perfect setting for you to be vulnerable to nighttime predators. It did not matter that you did not actually see any predators, what mattered was that the conditions for it were right. So a built-in mechanism kicked in to invoke fear and the feeling of being watched to encourage you to leave that potentially dangerous situation. What I described is perfectly normal and helped the human species survive.

 

The problem is that we still have the same thing within us today only we don't always understand it. When our subconscious mind detects a situation that seems potentially dangerous (creaky homes could be a burglar prowling in the house who could cause us harm), then it turns on the defense mechanism of fear and a feeling that someone (or something) is present. The purpose is to put us on guard and even to encourage us, like our ancestors of 10,000 years ago, to flee what could be a dangerous situation. But sometimes people misinterpret these feelings for the actual presence of something and for some, that something is a "ghost."

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The fact that a house is large and old might be the reason it has an "eerie" feel.

 

Wind that passes through the house can create low frequencies, though we can't hear these low frequencies, our bodies can detect them. And it makes us feel strange and/or different. Call it a "vibe" call it "spookiness" but it isn't supernatural.

 

When people ask me if I think there are ghosts n' stuff (teehee) I usually just tell them that I have confidence that there is most likely a reasonable explanation for the appearance of something being supernatural.

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I don't believe in ghosts, it seems like everyone's ghost story happened when they were young. You never hear a mature adult say, "Hey a ghost visited me at the foot of my bed last night".

 

I believe anything supernatural can be explained by science, but that doesn't mean I reject the unexplained as all being imagined.

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I went to Walt Disney World this past July when I went to Florida to see the last shuttle launch. While in-line for the Haunted Mansion (what else?) a guy points to my video camera and strikes up an innocent enough conversation...or so I think. It's bad enough this guy has the breath of the damned but before I know it he turns the conversation from cameras and whatnot, to the "fake" ghosts on the ride (first clue is right there), to real (or "real") ghosts and how he is a real-live ghost-hunter. And quicker than you can say "How the fuck did I get in this stupid conversation with this moron?" he whips out his handy business card. Which, at this point, I eagerly take because I'm thrilled to have met one of these sorts of guys "in the wild." My wife snatches it away from me before I get a good look at it and we're whisked inside before he can tell me his tales but I hear him corner some other person and he does the same rap with them. The intro, the innocent common thing to talk about, the redirect to the "fake" ghosts and the quick left-turn to him being a real life ghost chaser man. Great stuff. If he wasn't a ghost lover he would have been an evangelist for sure.

 

mwc

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So, I guess open discussion about ghosts: Your experiences, etc.

I've mentioned in this space that my atheist stepson is unaccountably entertained by the TV program Ghost Adventures. His sole request for a gift this summer before going off to college was the chance to participate in a ghost hunt. So his mother and I are taking him this Friday on a ghost hunt sponsored by a paranormal organization downstate from us. We will be in an all-night "lockdown" in a couple of old buildings with all the purported "ghost hunting" equipment -- temperature and electrical meters and digital voice recorders and all that. His mother and I are treating it as a lark and an entertainment. My biggest struggle will probably be to stay awake all night.

 

After being obliged to watch way more hours of this crap on TV than I care to admit to or remember, I think it all boils down to people seeing what they want to, for whatever reason. My stepson believes in the possibility of psychological residue or after-echoes or something like that, not in gods or demons or afterlives, or so he says. My guess is that is his intellectualization / rationalization. Probably some intuitive part of him that he has disowned rejects the conclusions of his intellect and this is how it expresses itself. In other words he's more undecided than he cares to admit.

 

As for explanations for some of the phenomena, I think what people most under-estimate is the mind's ability to manufacture realistic-seeming experiences right out of the subconscious. If you can stick an electrode in a waking person's brain in the right spot, apply some voltage, and cause them to experience religious visions or feelings of transcendence, then other things can stimulate that, too, with varying degrees of vividness depending on the stimulus and the person involved. Places conducive to these experiences probably have the right combination of archetypal creepiness, hidden sources of strong electromagnetic fields that mess with people's perceptions, and the like. Also, once someone has a remarkable "paranormal" experience in a place, it primes the expectations of everyone who follows, even in spite of themselves. I'm sure that despite my skepticism I will find rooting around in a dark cellar after being told campfire stories about the building's history, will give me a goosebump or two, put me on a certain degree of alert, etc. It will, in short, make me more receptive.

 

I'll have to come back here sometime next week after I get back and report on what happens :-)

 

--Bob

"Beware the Ware Rabbit, beware!" I agree with what you say here, and it is amazing how the mind can be primed like that. Fear is a powerful force in our minds and makes us hyper sensitive and anxious, which of course leads to less than clear interpretations. I'm very rational, but remember after going to see the 1st Paranormal Activity in the theater, that night at home I was actually afraid to turn off the lights in my room! Can you believe that? It's amazing what that sort of 'unseen' threat that you can't control in that sort of form does to put the mind on edge! It's like once that got set in motion, it ran itself and took a fair amount of controlling it to bring it back down.

 

Good luck with your adventure. If you come back with white streaks in your hair we'll have to do a study on you. :) "Carol Ann.... Carol Ann....."

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I went to Walt Disney World this past July when I went to Florida to see the last shuttle launch. While in-line for the Haunted Mansion (what else?) a guy points to my video camera and strikes up an innocent enough conversation...or so I think. It's bad enough this guy has the breath of the damned but before I know it he turns the conversation from cameras and whatnot, to the "fake" ghosts on the ride (first clue is right there), to real (or "real") ghosts and how he is a real-live ghost-hunter. And quicker than you can say "How the fuck did I get in this stupid conversation with this moron?" he whips out his handy business card. Which, at this point, I eagerly take because I'm thrilled to have met one of these sorts of guys "in the wild." My wife snatches it away from me before I get a good look at it and we're whisked inside before he can tell me his tales but I hear him corner some other person and he does the same rap with them. The intro, the innocent common thing to talk about, the redirect to the "fake" ghosts and the quick left-turn to him being a real life ghost chaser man. Great stuff. If he wasn't a ghost lover he would have been an evangelist for sure.

 

mwc

 

The ride is supposedly haunted by various people, one of which is a child whose mother surreptitiously spread his ashes in the ride.

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Good luck with your adventure. If you come back with white streaks in your hair we'll have to do a study on you. :) "Carol Ann.... Carol Ann....."

Well, alright ... following up on our "ghost hunt", this is not what I expected.

 

Drawing the bare minimum conclusions -- that is, inferring nothing more than I know for sure -- we had an experience for which by far the simplest explanation is that at least some people's consciousness continues after death and can have some rather limited but significant contact with the living. In all honesty we are so stunned that I am still processing this. I've grown to draw some comfort from the idea that it's unlikely there's an afterlife -- not the least of which is that I'm a rather tired soul for whom oblivion is quite attractive. So I resist the above conclusion but find it inescapable based on our experience.

 

I am kind of swamped with work and other stuff right now but I will give you the short version. Our host offered my fiancee -- who, like me, is an unbeliever and skeptic -- a set of divining rods. These are copper wires with an L-shaped bend inserted into wooden handles such that if you hold them by the handles in a way that they swing freely within the handles and hold them out perpendicular to your body -- well, they were used in the old days to find well water but in this case she was instructed to just ask any spirit present in the building to respond to yes / no questions. She's a skeptic but a great sport and this was an experience she wanted her son to enjoy and find pleasant and memorable. So she asked a series of such questions in which a "yes" answer was to be indicated by the rods moving to cross each other, and a "no" answer is indicated by the rods not moving. To her amazement the rods moved quite reliably and the responses were logical and consistent. Using bracketing questions she obtained the name of the entity (it answers to Jed) and its year of death (1921), manner of death, number of wives and children, and a host of other very specific questions and tests. This continued all night in a variety of settings in two different buildings about a block apart. There was no coaching, no plausible opportunity for external / rigged manipulation.

 

We got an email yesterday telling us that they had consulted a local historian and asked if she knew anything of a local named Jed. She said yes, he was a guy who died roughly 80 years ago she thought, sold his hogs, went to town, got drunk, and was followed out of the bar and mugged and his money stolen -- precisely the story my fiancee got via the rods. They're attempting to verify other details. Of course that could all be made up and they're all in cahoots but that is starting to seem a little paranoid position to take. Regardless, I don't have to believe that evidence to be suitably impressed with what I witnessed.

 

I examined the rods and I couldn't figure out a reliable way to deliberately manipulate them without them swinging wildly and unpredictably. With these particular types of rods, if you could do it with practice, even subtle hand movements would be obvious, rather like a bad ventriloquist or something. And it would take considerable practice, which my fiancee clearly had neither the time nor motivation to pursue. So at least in the case of my fiancee, she had to just hold them perfectly still and in balance and allow them to be moved by the apparent external force. They were very simple devices with no hidden components or parts. An electromagnet powerful enough to move them with any precision would have to be very close and in a controlled environment, and operated by very elaborate contrivance, plus the characteristics of how the rods would move are inconsistent with such gross manipulation -- each rod could and did move independently rather than in lockstep, and in enough variety of ways that it suggested direct fine controlled action on them individually. We all had free run of the buildings and the experience was very self-directed and loosely structured and happened in about a half dozen random locations. Given all that, I rule out any kind of rigging or other deception.

 

During the night, not only did we get yes/no responses but they would move to point to people in the room when asked, etc. It was all very precise. No credit was given for anything but exactly the response requested, in other words, the rods had to clearly cross to signify yes and they had to point exactly at someone when the "spirit" was requested to do so.

 

My fiancee's son tried them out and got similar results. Predictably I tried them and nothing happened, but in all honesty I was very resistant and conflicted. One did get the impression that the person holding the rods acted as some sort of channel or in some kind of symbiosis with the "spirit". We were told that the rods don't work for everyone but when they work they are very effective. I dont know about that, but I know my fiancee well enough to accept her experience just as well as I would accept my own. If anything she is more credible than me because she never was a religious believer.

 

Now none of this compels me to draw any conclusions about deities, nor does it at all require any. None of this confirms or denies a particular cosmology or worldview. The binary nature of the communication is necessarily slow and cumbersome and we did not get very far in discussing the nature of the reality that "Jed" claims to inhabit or what he's supposed to have done with himself for the better part of a century. The most we got out of Jed was that people's consciousness continues on and some are happy and others not happy about being non-corporeal -- some are productively engaged and some are not -- pretty much like the land of the living. Jed's purpose appeared to be connected in some way with mentoring and caring for people who died as children. We got a sense that time is a very fluid concept to these beings, that they don't necessarily perceive the passage of a lot of time in their realm and aren't even necessarily anchored to a particular time.

 

It is possible that Jed is misrepresenting itself or just making stuff up, or that he's a manifestation of the collective unconscious of the dozen or so people who were present. Anything is possible, but the simplest explanation is that Jed either actually is, or sincerely believes himself to be, someone who was mugged to death for his money in 1920s rural Indiana, and he has the ability to manipulate a couple of metal rods -- with some effort apparently -- and was motivated enough to do so for about eight hours.

 

I don't know much about this stuff, such as for example why it seems to work much better at night, or why "spirits" cannot communicate in more straightforward and verifiable ways, and a bunch of other things, but we are determined to return soon and explore this some more. I think we are probably fairly unique in that we are not desperate for any kind of reassurance or validation for any belief system or ideology and aren't afraid of our own mortality or have any great desire for an afterlife. We're not even sure what we'll do with what we learn beyond saying, "huh, that's sure interesting", but it's certainly fascinating at this point. We just want to study it and see what we can figure out from it.

 

Incidentally the fee structure for this was very nominal, clearly not enough to do more than defray expenses a bit. This is just a couple with an expensive hobby that they pursue with passion but not, thankfully, evangelistic fervor. They do paranormal investigations all the time, but for no charge, just to collect data. If they are trying to draw people into a scam I can't see where the payola is. They're not even charging us for sending us a DVD of their static night vision cameras and audio captures (which we'll discount as any real evidence of anything because they could be doctored six ways to Sunday). If they're scam artists, they're uncommonly patient and clever ones.

 

As I said, I'm not sure what this changes in practice for me. Whatever "spirit world" exists (or not) does so independently of any belief system so it's certainly not even remotely tempting me back into the arms of Christianity. I would suspect that people who dabble in this stuff tend to superimpose beliefs like Christianity, reincarnation, and/or spiritism upon it and see it as validation of said beliefs. I have no doubt that many such experiences are generated from people's over-fired imaginations, too. But none of that means there isn't some element of actual truth to it.

 

Looked at from an objective point of view, and refusing to jump to specific conclusions, all it really does is suggest that consciousness is a phenomenon that does not depend on specific physical bodies for it to be housed. I've always thought it possible in theory that sentience is a more general phenomenon that we know as individuals and that it simply finds expression in us for a time. My theory was that the brain could simply be a transceiver for consciousness. My fiancee's son is into physics and so sees the "spirit realm" as just another multiverse. Who the hell knows. At the end of the day it's just another bit of annoying ambiguity in an existence we struggle to make sense of without adequate data or sensory or intellectual equipment.

 

I have probably managed to disappoint, annoy, and upset some folks with this post but it is what it is. I would not call myself a True Believer because I just don't know enough about this to articulate a firm belief in anything -- but at a bare minimum I feel it necessary to revise my provisional interpretation of reality to include the possibility, nay, likelihood of some form of consciousness beyond death. What the hell one would do with it or why one would want it is still beyond me, but I cannot ignore what I personally experienced, either.

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Just a question, why hasn't this been repeated and verified in lab experiments?

 

I'm still skeptical. Even subtle suggestions from a master manipulator can point you toward conclusions they wish you to make. Darrin Brown does a good job showing how many of these phenomena work.

 

http://blogs.smithsonianmag.com/science/2009/02/debunking-dowsing/

 

One more thought. Why do the rods need to be held in a person's hand to work? You say that you would notice even a subtle movement on your part, but I'm not so sure. The only way to prove this would be to put the rods on a stable device of some sort that cannot manipulate them an any way. If they move then, it would be important to check for magnetism and other types of physical phenomena that might explain what is moving the rods. Finally, you would then need to have an outside observer who could assess whether you were in any way manipulated by the questions you asked as well as blind test groups to see if they can repeat the conclusions. This would be only a minimum way to test. I'm sure a real scientist would require much more stringent tests than I've suggested. What you've described, however, can in no way be considered a valid test. I don't doubt your sincerity, but I think you might wish to doubt your own conclusions because the human mind is easily fooled, which is why we have such strictly formatted studies to help us slice out the tricks the human mind can play on us and give us only facts.

 

But I suspect you already know all this. :D

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I've always thought it possible in theory that sentience is a more general phenomenon that we know as individuals and that it simply finds expression in us for a time. My theory was that the brain could simply be a transceiver for consciousness.

This is my leaning as well, so if I were to take your experiences as valid which they well could be, I would fit them into that way of understanding them. As you said, people will interpret them in the context of their belief systems, viewing them as some sort of afterlife. If anything I lean to it maybe being some imprint of our minds on the conscious landscape.

 

I'm open to further data, but am hardly willing to accept just any claims, as there are a lot of hucksters out there, but behind exploitations of mystery, like all good myths, there may lay kernels of truth. "Debunkers" like Randi are good at exposing hoaxes, but I'm not so keen on drawing conclusions and throwing out possibilities based on frauds being exposed. Same thing with religious experience, there is the genuine out there, less flamboyant and public as the hucksters, and less likely to climb into the seat to be 'studied in a lab', if that were even the appropriate set of tools to use! :) Ask me if I would care to expose myself to being probed? A few may, and have and supporting data is in fact gathered on certain levels.

 

What I found particularly interesting is how it worked for others but not you. Ironically, that almost lends more credibility to the whole thing. :) If it were some rig being controlled by others, how would they know enough of your inner workings to shut the thing off cold when it came to you?

 

So what was the specific town name where Jed lived?

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This makes no sense to me. I kind of agree with your criticisms of Randi as I too tend to be less rigid in my reasoning, but we have a pretty good base of scientific evidence that supports the idea that sentience is a product of the brain. It is a huge leap of logic to say that sentience somehow lives outside a mechanical structure. Can you name one example of something akin to human sentience that doesn't require a mechanical mechanism to exist?

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One more thought. Why do the rods need to be held in a person's hand to work?

It is not unreasonable to imagine that without someone holding them they are just a bent piece of metal like any other. Asking that is like asking why a pair of binoculars require someone looking through them to be of any use. They are tools, that's all. Tools require that someone wield them.

 

Some tools also require energy or energy potentials -- for example my iPad responds to my touch but not to the touch of, say, a random stick or a pencil.

 

I'm not saying I disagree with you. At this point I don't know what I think. But if a tool requires contact with a human body to work, that has to be part of the observation and an experimental hurdle to overcome. You can't disprove anything about the rods by setting up an experiment that removes what observation shows is an essential element of the environment for using them -- even if you don't understand how or why that could be.

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This makes no sense to me. I kind of agree with your criticisms of Randi as I too tend to be less rigid in my reasoning, but we have a pretty good base of scientific evidence that supports the idea that sentience is a product of the brain. It is a huge leap of logic to say that sentience somehow lives outside a mechanical structure. Can you name one example of something akin to human sentience that doesn't require a mechanical mechanism to exist?

Jed?

 

Just kidding. Seriously, though, we don't understand a lot of things about the universe, so it seems likely there are forces and interactions -- including between this universe and others that science posits -- that we don't know about and/or don't understand. The difficulty is that most people superimpose assumptions and beliefs on it in an attempt to make sense of it. It's impossible, I suppose, not to do that, but with this experience we are all striving to not do so and I rather think that as atheists who have squarely faced the fact of our own mortality, we are rather uniquely suited to be more objective observers.

 

I have thought about this since Friday night and I don't have an answer for what the implications are of this for me, practically speaking. I have figured all along that death is the end of the path and that if I'm wrong about that, it is what it is and I will just have to deal with it. The most that has happened so far, I guess, is that I'm inclined to think there's a 30 percent possibility, rather than a 1 percent possibility, that I will be obliged to deal with "same shit, different dimension" some day, but what the heck -- it was going to be that way regardless of whether I'd stumbled onto this. Assuming my possibility-meter jumps to, say, 90 percent, will it really materially impact how I live in the here and now? In my particular case, I think I will enter into a depression that may take some time to get myself out of, because the very idea of living on exhausts me. It makes me feel trapped in an environment not of my choosing with no way out. Given that, if nothing else, no one can claim that I'm being drawn to my own wishful thinking. Quite the opposite.

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It is not unreasonable to imagine that without someone holding them they are just a bent piece of metal like any other. Asking that is like asking why a pair of binoculars require someone looking through them to be of any use. They are tools, that's all. Tools require that someone wield them.

 

If that's the case, then you move them, not some spiritual force. If you watch the vid I linked, you can see the guy lifted his arms, which moved the rods. Humans are not precise machines and given the sensitivity of the rods, they can easily move even without the conscious awareness of the person handling them.

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we don't understand a lot of things about the universe, so it seems likely there are forces and interactions

 

I buy that, but this is often abused by those arguing magic. In the long history of science, not once instance has proven any odd phenomena is caused by something that fits outside of well known and understood physical law. We may not know everything about physical law yet, but the track record is currently 100 perfectly natural explanations, 0 magical explanations.

 

Moreover, we do understand much of how the human mind works and this (the idea that the mind lives outside a physical structure) contradicts what we already know. Strong evidence supports sentience as a product of the human mind. Arguing that it might not be because we don't understand everything yet is almost like arguing that a car's wheels don't turn in response to torque created by firing pistons, but perhaps some as yet unknown force. This is just clearly not the case and contradicts what we know about how cars work. And while the human mind is more complex than a car, we do know enough about it and have done enough testing to know that sentience can be disrupted and distorted when we mess with the brain even if we don't yet fully understand sentience itself.

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If you watch the vid I linked, you can see the guy lifted his arms, which moved the rods. Humans are not precise machines and given the sensitivity of the rods, they can easily move even without the conscious awareness of the person handling them.

The main difference I see between the examples in the videos vs what Becky was doing was that she was always sitting, with her elbows firmly planted against her chest or (if as was available most of the time) on a table, and her arms perfectly still. Being aware of the possibility of unconscious movement, I watched her like a hawk. There was no moving of her forearms or wrists or fingers. She was clearly going out of her way not to. Neither of us would have credited the result in any other way.

 

During some down time, I held the rods in various ways and the only way these as they were rigged could remain still at the "neutral" position was if you were a stable platform for them. If you moved, they would swing wildly and erratically, each in different directions, etc. In contrast to the slow, purposeful movement we saw during "communication". I was unable to reproduce that deliberately, try as I might. I cannot imagine how someone who had not extensively practiced and who had no motivation to fake anything anyway, could have made them work the way they did -- much less do so reproducibly AND unconsciously.

 

We were joined briefly by another person who had her own set of brass rods. These did not have handles to swivel in but where held directly. I completely discounted that. To me the wooden handles for the rods to pass through were essential, as they would much better insulate the rods from subtle hand movements.

 

Other aspects of this experience were typical "ghost hunt / lockdown" style trappings -- static and roving infrared video cameras tied to an automated recording rig, portable digital recorders, various derivatives of Gauss meters ("K-2" meters, etc). I did not see anything non-debunkable going on there. The 21st century environment is far too saturated with EMF to get any subtle readings that mean anything from such devices, in my opinion. I had a chance once years ago to play with such equipment in my home in Arizona (not in a paranormal context, just an environmental context) and there was a powerful blat of EMF from the east every minute or so. Turned out to be an outpost of the Sky Harbor approach radar mounted atop a mountain a couple of miles away, making its sweep. There was a hidden cell phone antenna we didn't know about just behind our house. There was an EMF field leaking from every strand of Romex in our walls. There was a subtle current passing through our bed caused by contact with a light cord. In such environments I fail to see how such equipment can be trusted.

 

Even Friday night the K-2 meters went crazy and people were excited until someone said, no, I just turned on my cell phone, that's all it was. We spent a bit of our time in a basement with conduits full of cables snaking all over the ceilings. The meters would go off anytime you raised them above chest level. Why the hell even bother with such things in that environment? I would only use them in buildings with no electricity or outdoors in rural areas, and even then I'd get baseline readings for any ambient "noise". To their credit, the organization behind this event seemed to take these readings only as bits of evidence to be considered along with other things, but still.

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This makes no sense to me. I kind of agree with your criticisms of Randi as I too tend to be less rigid in my reasoning, but we have a pretty good base of scientific evidence that supports the idea that sentience is a product of the brain.

It gets a bit murky when we create definitions like sentience. If we take it to mean a cognitive self awareness, then yes I believe it requires a brain as it creates all the pathways necessary to store the all the collective data that goes into creating a framework of "self" that we identify with. At the same time, I reject that consciousness is a product of brain. I believe there are levels of consciousness from the simplest impulses all the way up to superconsciousness in ecstatic experience. It's a degree of form and depths. I very much see the ant on the ground as conscious, but not to the degree we experience it. Our brains are necessary for that sort of exposure of consciousness, to plumb its depths. And it goes beyond us even, to the point it truly transcends reason and all things.

 

It is a huge leap of logic to say that sentience somehow lives outside a mechanical structure.

What about the tape worm? It has no brain. Is it conscious? I'd say yes. It responds to and interacts with the world. It is aware of it, on a very rudimentary level. How about a plant? Is it aware of its world and responds to it? Sure it does, it just doesn't "think" about it. "Thinking" is a higher form of consciousness. I believe it was Whitehead who spoke prehension preceding apprehension.

 

Can you name one example of something akin to human sentience that doesn't require a mechanical mechanism to exist?

A plant?

 

As this is supposed to pertain to a disembodied consciousness, it gets a bit stranger. One can talk about non-localized consciousness, which I'm not all that prepared to speak to, but my 'gut', which includes my mind, tells me that in fact there is such a reality. I'm not prepared to go off into all the paranormal hype, 'woo woo' stuff with this, which I know some might happily latch onto in the hopes to go that way, but I do see certain 'mystical' level connections that exist as can sometimes, rightly fit into that synchronicity of Jungian theory. I'm careful to qualify that as to not sound like some narcissistic, New Agey sort of the world loves me and is working for me kind of way. I just see that the parts are not so disparate and work together in movements and waves, in ways we don't quite grasp yet.

 

I believe humans are in fact able to tap into that at times, and how its expressed will largely depend on some available framework of language, often mythological, other times as 'just coincidence'. Some is in fact 'just coincidence' other times there is something else going on, and discerning that is hardly an exact science. It's experiential, and tests in the lab are in fact not always the right tools for 'testing' it, just as they aren't for huge swaths of human reality. So where does "Jed" fit in there? If a valid phenomena, the answer is I don't know. I have some issue with it being a disembodied brain with memories, still acting as it did in a physical body. But that memories and the experience of a conscious human might continue beyond death in some reality is an interesting proposition.

 

In reality, the conscious that I experience and develop in me exists and existed outside and before me, and thus will be after "me". If consciousness is the interior of all that is, and all our forms of consciousness, including what emerges through the human brain are manifestations of that, then like the matter in my body that comprises my cells continues beyond me, was before me, and exists as the components of the Universe, I think the mind is more than just the brain. Does that experience of the individual in his life as a consciously aware mind affect the whole? I think that's where the question leads, and I would say yes. We are all parts of the whole, affecting and being affected by it. So in what form does that take beyond my life? What influence did my participation in it have? I create. We all do. It's what the Universe does. It becomes.

 

P.S. To add an additional thought that might help, I think of consciousness as a static space that just Is. There is technically no 'time' involved, but rather movements of rising and falling within it. I never move. Only my body does. I was a child, I became a man, I will die, and it all moves up and down on an unchanging line of Being itself. Ponder that with your mind next time you go for a long walk, how you haven't and you're not actually moving anywhere.... ;)

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The main difference I see between the examples in the videos vs what Becky was doing was that she was always sitting, with her elbows firmly planted against her chest or (if as was available most of the time) on a table, and her arms perfectly still. Being aware of the possibility of unconscious movement,

 

I just did an experiment using coat hangers. You only need to slightly move your thumb and forefinger to cause it to move significantly. The movement of the wire moves your hand/your hand moves the wire. It's inescapable. Moreover, the movement is so slight, you can barely see it. If you are super careful, the wires move without any visual evidence of the finger muscles moving them. I'm not that familiar with the muscles in our fingers, but I imagine they can move independent of one another to a degree, allowing us the ability to do very intricate work, such as art and surgery.

 

But again, this would be a better test if it were tested using an immobile device. You can argue it needs human energy, but isn't that just special pleading? If it needs energy, couldn't it still be tested with an energy source, such as a battery that releases the same energy a human does? Or are you suggesting that the spirit talks to our spirit and our spirit adjusts our own energy supply in some inexplicable way? Doesn't Occam's razor then come into play?

 

I cannot imagine how someone who had not extensively practiced and who had no motivation to fake anything anyway, could have made them work the way they did -

 

Just as an alternative hypothesis, could it be possible that our subconscious mind is able to cause more subtle muscular movement than our conscious mind? Again, the tests you describe fail on so many levels when held up against valid scientific experiments. Much more stringent testing needs to be done before you alter your life views don't you think?

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