The subject of Near Death Experiences was on my mind today. I’ve never had one myself, but I enjoy reading the testimony of people who have. They’re all over the Internet these days, on a variety of blogs and in videos. Researchers try to gather the similar ones for study, while other scientists think of ways to discredit them.
Even people who are not necessarily near death have reported having an Out-of-Body Experience, especially in the Emergency Room or while undergoing a procedure in the hospital. They claim being able to see details of the activity taking place during a period of time when their brain was unlikely to be capable of conscious thought. One suggestion has been to place a card in a patient’s room or in the surgical operating room, hidden from direct sight. Then researchers could ask these people what they saw from their vantage point above the scene. In theory, if their point of view was hovering at the ceiling, then they should be able to read the text on a card placed on top of a cabinet.
I think this is never going to work, because reading text or seeing a symbol on a piece of paper requires light rays to enter an eye and strike a retina. The hovering spirit of a person having an OBE is not seeing in the physical sense. I believe they are experiencing their surroundings using something like the mind’s eye, which is really a construct formed by consciousness. The mind (but not the brain) may be sensing everything going on in the room, and the memory of that upon waking feels like they “saw” it.
I’ve rambled on about “mindseeing” here before, in searching for a verb specific to visualization of the model of the world we keep in our heads. I want to believe that it is an activity which we take for granted because we don’t have an accurate language to describe it. When I see myself in a memory, I am not replaying a recording of what I saw at that time, but rather my current mind takes the vantage point of an observer, similar to playing a video game in third-person camera mode. When I play in a virtual world game, I try to use first-person mode as much as possible, because it feels more like I am really immersed and seeing the world in real time from my own eyes. I wonder why people choose third-person at all, and whether they experience their own memories differently because of it.
So, getting back to the experiment to test for an OBE in a hospital. My suggestion is that the researchers should skip the clever signs and random words on a hidden card. Instead, they should put real objects up there on top of a cupboard. Choose distinctive but obscure things, to make it unlikely for someone to generate a false positive by guessing. Make the objects have strange colors and unusual shapes, something a person would do a double-take if encountered in real life. Let them be as memorable as possible, so the patient cannot help but report about it upon waking.
I’ve only had surgery or been knocked out for a minor procedure a few times, and it’s always seemed like no time passed at all. I don’t remember any disembodiment or disorientation, neither going under or coming back up. There is something fundamentally different about anesthesia compared to the unconcience dreaming. For example, last night I dreamt about a turtle. I can remember holding it, the feel of it in my hand, the dark color of its shell, the sound of it trying to talk to me. If I should ever have an OBE, I would hope the memory is equally vivid, and not simply the word TURTLE on a piece of paper.