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Out of body illusions? Who really cares?

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In “Out-of-body experience: Master of illusion” (Nature, 07 December 2011), Ed Yong advises

Henrik Ehrsson uses mannequins, rubber arms and virtual reality to create body illusions, all in the name of neuroscience.

Ehrsson’s interests in the self and body ownership bleed into the rest of his life. He is drawn towards experimental theatre and surrealist art. He comes across as thoughtful and remote, easily forgetting the names of colleagues and often lapsing into silence. He prefers working in his lab to going to conferences, he says.

Some people behave similarly and use pharmaceuticals.

He also occasionally gets angry letters from people who have had out-of-body experiences themselves. “They believe that their souls have left their bodies, and they feel threatened that a similar experience can be induced in a lab,” says Ehrsson. He offers a diplomatic response, saying that he has “no way of disproving their ideas”. Metzinger is more forthright. “Henrik’s work speaks to the idea that there is no such thing as a soul or a self that’s independent of the brain,” he says.

A friend asked us to respond to this. All we can say is, we have little idea re out-of-body experiences, natural or manipulated. Or associated weirdness.

We’ve a little bit more info on near-death experiences. Near-death experiences tend to cause a person to change their orientation to life. People who thought that everything depended on money, status, and power suddenly decide that personal relationships matter most. Whatever is happening is not merely another example of weirdness.

And we leave the materialists to squabble over their out-of-bodies ….

See also The Spiritual Brain.

Agreed KRock. Trivia - When he died he performed the first true circumcision. At death the serpent power (serpent being the ultimate phallic symbol)was finally severed from him. Mytheos
Mytheos: "And what was Jesus up to in the 72 hours he spent without a body?" Executing his plan of poaching the keys from Hades and of Death, once and for all... lol.. KRock
It's just another example of how a person's unconsciously held paradigms influence their interpretation of their experience. To a materialist, a person is his or her body. Therefore the "self" is identical to the body. End of discussion. Bruce David
What is Solomon referring to in Ecc 12:6 when he speaks of the "Silver Cord"? Astral travelers also speak of a silver cord tethering them to their body. And what was Jesus up to in the 72 hours he spent without a body? Mytheos
I wondered if somebody would say that. You did. That was about a prophet who was dead. A very special case as indicated by the witch screaming. Not about this stuff. Robert Byers
Tell that to King Saul, the witch and Samuel. Mytheos
I agree too. Indeed, the experiments described are interesting. They say nothing against NDEs, or NDE frelated OOB experiences. They say much, instead, about the strange and sometimes weak connection between conscious representations and the inert physical body. The quoted news article is a very good example of reductionist rhetoric and misrepresentation. I quote: “A lot of people thought the sense of self was hard-wired, but it's not at all. It can be changed very quickly, and that's very intriguing,” It is intriguing, but what it tells us is only that the self (the perceiving subject) and its representations of itself are two very different things. The self remains the same. The representations it does of itself can quickly change. Ehrsson's work also intrigues neuroscientists and philosophers because it turns a slippery, metaphysical construct — the self — into something that scientists can dissect. Rhetoric and lies. Scientists can certainly analyze (dissect is such an ugly word in this context) the self's representations. That tells nothing about what the self is. “We can say if we wobble the signals this way, our conscious experience wobbles in this way,” says David Eagleman, a neuroscientist who studies perception at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas. “That's a lever we didn't have before.” Strange news indeed. I have always thought that, whan I eat an apple, my conscious experience wobbles towards, the representations of the apple's taste. Pehaps I should have informed neiroscientists of such an important thing, of which they seem to be unaware. It seems so easy to make a neuroscientist happy! “There are things like selfhood that people think cannot be touched by the hard sciences,” says Thomas Metzinger, director of the Theoretical Philosophy Group at Johannes Gutenberg University of Mainz, Germany. “They are now demonstrably tractable. That's what I think is valuable about Henrik's contribution.” ????? Where did he demonstrate that the percieving I, the self, was changing? I must have missed that part. Well, maybe we now know that a good illusionist can realize part of what happens everyday in dreams. Very interesting. Has James Randi been informed? gpuccio
I am a evangelical Christian and deny there is or can be out of body experiences. Its unreasonable to see our soul as so unglued to our existence on earth as to yoyo back and forth as if God was uninvolved or involved with such yoyo ism. Probably in these experiences it is the great power of memory that is at play. One is aware of a special problem with ones body and then one imagines the body and the power of the imaginiation fills in the blanks. Not dreaming but a more more controlled vision. Speculation but out of body is not possible. Robert Byers
I agree as well, and I think also that there is no essential difference between a genuine OOB experience and a near death experience, with the sole exception that you don't have to be clinically dead to have an OOB. See Robert Monroe's two books, Journeys Out of the Body and Far Journeys for a very good description of one man's extensive OOB travel both in this world and in other realities. Bruce David
MR: Yep...! I don't think these experiments come remotely close to duplicating or mimicking an actual NDE... KRock
The underworld is supposed to be a formless world that rises up to conform with your mind's eye in dream, trance, drug influence and near death. It could be an objective reality that can only be reached subjectively. Just like the Soul. Mytheos
M: exactly. These types of "experiments" have gone on since the dawn of time. Even with full awareness of how they accomplished such perception changes it was never thought to undermine the reality of the Soul. Just the opposite. MedsRex
The way of the shaman. Mytheos

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