• AP Magazine

    An alternative way to explore and explain the mysteries of our world. "Published since 1985, online since 2001."

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What do our senses really tell us?





by: Lee Sumpter




What do our senses really tell us? By Lee Sumpter Our sense organs are not quite what they seem. The five physical senses are not necessarily rooted in the physical body. Plenty has been said about the unreliability and the deceptions to which the physical senses can be subject, but nothing much has been noted about the more obvious functioning of the analogous versions of the physical senses independently of the body itself. The first examples that come to mind are those of reports of near death experiences. (For more on this, go to the website NDE.com) People who have been pronounced clinically dead in hospital settings for example have reported later that they saw their body lying on a bed or operating table; that they saw medical personnel struggling to revive them, etc. (ref.: 4/24/13 article in Wired.com) Sometimes these experiences occur at the scene of accidents as well. In any case, those who were injured or ill to the extent that they were apparently dead, later describe having seen their body in a state of distress in a dramatic environment. Sometimes they also report hearing conversations among rescuers or care-givers and experiencing other sensations.

Often the narrator of such an experience reports looking down on the scene in which their afflicted body is found so that their perspective, or literally the position of their eyes, is above the actual scene. It is understood that the part of the person that is seeing, observing, witnessing and mentally recording this experience has risen up out of the body. What is mostly never mentioned is some question as to how the narrator can see their invalid body when their eyes are in that body, are closed, or are attached to an unconscious mind. In other words, in these cases, the sensing organs, the eyes, are not functioning, yet the patient who relates their experiences after the fact—and there are many such stories—nevertheless sees and remembers what was happening.

Now, many mental processes are needed in order for this witness to such an experience to occur. First, of course, there must be eyes to see. Then, there must be memory in order to understand what is occurring and place it in the proper context. In other words, in the case of a patient who dies in a hospital room, the disembodied witness must have the same memory as the dead patient. They must understand that indeed this is their body on a bed in a hospital room with appropriately attired medical personnel in attendance; and that these personnel are trying to revive them instead of trying to harm them, bring about their birth, send them to their death or just anything else. So there must be a reasoning mind with a memory behind the functioning set of eyes. A narrator that reports hearing the comments and exhortations of people in such a scene would also have to know the language of the people and why they were saying what they were saying. Without a proper context, words and sentences have little or no meaning.

Lastly, the witness would have to have the rational capacity to evaluate the scene, to understand expressions of urgency or alarm and to be able to predict and evaluate the probable outcomes of the activity in the scene. Now these are all rational, sentient, processes that should be found in some part of the brain matter of the unconscious or deceased body being observed; yet they are functioning normally without the brain cells. Is it therefore possible that vision, memory and reasoning ability are not specific to brain cells? It appears from all of this that, in fact, the workings of the mind and the mind itself are extracorporeal. Curiously in the French language, for one, the word for mind is spirit, esprit. In other words reasoning, the reception and evaluation of sense data and memory are part of the soul. The body is only a participant in all of this.

Other examples can be given where there is the experience of sensation without any source in the physical world. Many people who have lost beloved pets can relate experiences of hearing a dog’s toenails on the floor, a collar shaking and a dog lapping water out of a dish that is no longer in the place where the sound used to come from. How does this occur? There is no sound in the physical world and nothing visible to make the sound, but still multiple people can report hearing it. Of course there is also the often reported sensation of smelling an odor or pleasant fragrance from a long time ago that seems to be prompted by some event in the present or a recollected memory of an event. Here, the source of the sensation is no longer present, but seems to be recalled from the memory. The same thing can happen in the case of a memory of how something felt such as someone’s touch, or the surface of an object. The sense of taste can also respond to memories, so that a distinct taste can recur on the tongue when the source of the sensation is long gone.

People who tell of the experience of sensing ghosts, and there are many such tales, often have multiple sensory experiences. They may report having seen something. Others present at the same incident may not report seeing anything but will report hearing or smelling something. Some may report a sensation of coolness or get a chill where others feel warmth. Once again, sensation is present, but there is nothing in the physical world to bring it about. To return to the near death experiences, those who can report such an experience often speak of somehow passing through a tunnel at the other end of which they recognize the forms and faces of other people who have died previously. Again this requires a visual recognition, a memory and rational understanding in order to put all of this information in a context.

All of these are examples of sensation absent either a sensing organ or a typical source for sensation in the physical world. These are also examples of cases where there is either memory, and reasoning without brain matter present or sensation brought about by memory instead of physical stimuli. In any case, sensation can occur without the presence of the sensing organ: eye, ear, nose, tongue, fingertip, skin, etc., or without the presence of the expected source of sensation: light, something to make a sound, some vapor to smell, something to touch. The mind is able to process any form of these sensations regardless of the presence of brain cells or the presence of physical stimuli.

One extreme form of the last conclusion is remote viewing. The sources of images in the mind are far from the physical body of the viewer. Clearly the eyes of the viewer do not leave the body, but the mind/brain can certainly evaluate the viewed scene. Street signs can be read, traffic patterns can be understood, and the nature of a scene can be interpreted usually: city, country, port, water, hall, etc. This is not always the case, so the sense of sight brings in information which the mind and memory are incapable of interpreting, and it requires the knowledge and memory of another person to interpret the information. An even more extreme version of such seeing, or visions, is that of hypnotic regression, where a person is led by hypnosis to report what they see in a past life. Here, there is recourse to experts and extensive research to interpret what is reported and even this is to no avail at times. In this case, the sensation of sight, absent the use of the eyes, is bringing in information that the mind of the seer is unable to process. The sensation of sight present only in the mind goes beyond the brain’s intellectual capacity for evaluation and interpretation. In these cases, it may take some time and the discovery of previously unknown information before what has been reported by the vision of a person subject to hypnotic regression can be understood. Hence, vision without the use of the physical eyes can provide information that the mind can report, but cannot understand.

It is impossible to discuss such experiences without bringing up dreams. In dreams, things are seen, heard, smelled, felt, tasted and experienced even though the organs usually assigned to these sensations are turned off. A dream sound may startle. A sound in the environment of the dreamer may be incorporated into a dream. It is accepted that the mind of the dreamer is not totally shut down because various brain wave probes have revealed different states of consciousness or unconsciousness during dreaming such as REM sleep and others. Where the sensation of sound, sight, etc., comes from during sleep has not been found however. Nor has it been explored how a dream may seem so real to the dreamer that arms and legs are moved, shouting occurs, sweating occurs and other bodily involvement occurs. Apparently the brain is unable to distinguish between sensations brought about by stimuli from extra-corporeal sources and sensations whose sources seem to be from within the brain itself. The brain’s inability to make this distinction naturally begs the question of just what a sensation is. Some sensations, as well as emotions, may be brought about by electrical probes in the brain. I used to be able to cause a certain smell in my nose by touching my elbow in a certain way. All of this adds up to the necessary conclusion that the experience of sensation may occur from various means, among which are the organs of sensation located on the body.

There are other more abstract factors that may also control our perceptions and what our senses “tell” us. These factors control not only what we experience, but our interpretation or evaluation of it. A good example is Santa Claus. If a child is older and has been properly indoctrinated with the idea of the beneficence of Santa Claus and how he sees all childhood conduct and registers approval or disapproval, then that child, when placed in the red lap of Santa Claus, may smile, coo and speak warmly to the Santa Claus impersonator. If, however, a child is younger and cannot really understand the indoctrination as to who or what Santa Claus is, then that child will burst out crying and shed tears and fearfully push away the Santa Claus impersonator. What is more interesting is that Santa Claus only exists in the minds of people who are part of Western culture or those who choose to imitate Western culture. Santa Claus has had many versions over the past five hundred years or so, and the one we most see now was created by a soft drink company!

But wait! There’s more! The actual word Santa Claus in the English language, which is the widely recognized term, is a fake word that has evolved from a Dutch mispronunciation of a French word. Saint Nicholas changed to Sint Niclaus, then to Santa Claus all the while moving from the forests of Alsace-Loraine in France to Holland, then to the USA. So Santa Claus is a belief shared by a specific culture for the purpose of pleasing children and livening up the darkest days of a northern winter. This is purely belief based upon some vague event in the distant past, and which carries a name vaguely reminiscent of the past event. Some see all of this favorably and embrace it wholeheartedly, others not. We have many such beliefs that are part of our national culture, our regional culture, our family culture and our personal outlook on life. There are some people who will step forward and say that the cells in our body harbor beliefs brought forward from genetic memories! All of these beliefs affect, even control, what we allow in our life as our reality. If we think Santa Claus is ridiculous or worse, repugnant, he will more than likely not appear in our world. If we think he is wonderful, he will appear abundantly.

Beliefs, of course, can have a totally different result. We often hear, “You can if you think you can,” or “I believe in miracles.” Tommy Lee Jones is credited with saying, “I believe in staying positive. It creates opportunities.” Norman Vincent Peale made a career out of encouraging people to be positive about their beliefs. He filled his wonderful books with examples of how beneficial results were obtained by people who switched from negative to positive beliefs. Many times when a group or an individual sets out goals for themselves, all sorts of opportunities and people will appear from seemingly nowhere to help them. What is important here is that these examples point to the possibility of creating helpful, beneficial situations in reality where none seemed to exist before. Quite literally we are often taught, as in the Tommy Lee Jones statement, that beliefs create new reality.

We all are literally composed of bundles of beliefs. They influence the very appearance of our bodies. They influence what our living space looks like. They create opportunities and encounters. They invite people into our lives. They structure our lives. Beliefs are extremely malleable. If you discover that you have a belief that is making you ill, hurt, miss promotions or live in poverty, you can change it. Very soon you will see new things in your life. You will have created them by altering your beliefs.

So what our senses tell us depends on our particular focus in any given moment, on our emotional state and on our beliefs. The reality in which we operate is not absolute. Regardless of the numerical temperature, some people may say that it is hot and some people may say that it is cool. We may each have a completely different reality. Some of us may have things in our reality that are completely absent in the reality of others. A good day for golf may not be the best day to fish. The information that our senses give us with which we experience our reality, our life at any given moment, depends on our individual needs in that moment and nothing else. Our senses corporal or not help us create our world.

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Saturday, November 27, 2021