Unconsciousness

48


Discussion by: jsnmf

Recently I underwent surgery and was deeply sedated for more than an hour. Before going under, I resolved to try to experience the black void that the superstitious are always worrying about in the afterlife and/or the "warmth and light" claimed by some who say they have had near death experiences,  giving  them a preview of “heaven”. As expected, none of that happened; I experienced no lapse between going under and waking up. I concluded that unconsciousness can’t be experienced (duh?). What implications, if any, does that have for the after death “experience” for someone like me who rejects all the ancient but still widespread superstitions of gods, souls, heaven and hell. Might there be any difficulties in permanently escaping consciousness?

After doing some research to find out who else on the internet might be thinking about unconsciousness, I found lots of people thinking about consciousness but very few pondering unconsciousness. I did find a thought-provoking article at  http://www.naturalism.org/death.htm which seems secular enough. In the synopsis it says “By degrees, the reader is supposed to see that the notion of a blank or emptiness following death is incoherent, and that therefore we should not anticipate the end of experience when we die.”  Alright, but if we do not “experience” eternal sedation after death, then is there any hope of identifying a range of possibilities of what does happen? For example, a commentary on the above paper suggests that “The last experience of a man who will die in the year 2050 will be followed by the first experience of an arbitrary individual of an arbitrary species in an arbitrary location at an arbitrary future time.” Random re-incarnation is problematic but incarnation is not. We have all experienced it. Can we say that this life is not an example of an afterlife? After all it has come after 13.8 billion years – we have clearly come in in the middle of this movie rather the beginning or the end. Superstition can’t answer these questions and science probably can’t either, but they are worthy of serious thought.

48 COMMENTS

  1. I have done similar things. When I come to, it is as if no time has passed. However, one time I was having an impacted wisdom tooth out. I had an experience of being in extreme pain falling endlessly. I thought to myself “This is what the Christians must mean by hell” I faded out of consciousness. I found out later I struggled and they had to get several people to hold me down and re-sedate me.

    It seems to me that dying is like being sedated. It is as boring as it was before I was born. We want death to be a big thing, but it is no more grandiose than a wheat plant withering. Look at what the ego could do to a pharaoh in terms of grandiose delusion.

  2. I have experienced general anesthesia when I was about 14 years old and I had to get a pilonidal cyst removed. Although I never believed in those religious bullshit of a soul and afterlife, I still thought that maybe there could be more than just a body, and there may have been some sort of spirit (I don’t believe this anymore). I didn’t try to experience anything, but I perfectly remember how it went. The doctor said something like “okay, it’s time for a big sleep now”, so I closed my eyes and just let it happen. There was indeed no light, no void, nothing. I was simply shut down. Next thing I remember was waking up after the operation, my head swirling like never before, and no memory whatsoever of what happened between the moment I lost consciousness and waking up. I simply felt shut down like a machine, I was switched off and then on again.

    I guess the unconscioussness of death is similar to this state of being shut down, only permanently. Of course I can’t say for sure, but this seems plausible to me.

    • In reply to jsnmf:

      Random re-incarnation is problematic but incarnation is not. We have all experienced it. Can we say that this life is not an example of an afterlife? After all it has come after 13.8 billion years – we have clearly come in in the middle of this movie rather the beginning or the end.

      Sure. I’m convinced that I have been a very good person in a former life, and I am now in Paradise. This world is the ultimate perfect place to use drugs, break laws and have wild sex. Dying in “this world” would merely mean going back to the “other world” which is said to be rather dull. :-)

      No way, Jose. Lose half of your brain and you’ll forget how to think. What would you guess will happen if all of it gets destroyed ?

    • In reply to #3 by Sedanar:

      Let’s say you have a vet “put you down”. Your experience would be almost identical to being prepared for surgery. Your actual death would occur while you were out. The difference is nobody wakes you up again; they overdose you to keep you out. You have already experienced all you have to experience vis a vis death.

      If you want to experience some of the bliss stuff, sniff some nitrous oxide. There is nothing supernatural.

      So many people have tried to make death into a great mystery. It is no more mysterious than a dead goldfish. Not long ago, most people died young. They did not want to die. Today they die after a long period of infirmity and are glad to get it over with. Originally people fell for outlandish cons promising eternal life or eternal torment.

      • In reply to #15 by Roedy:

        In reply to #3 by Sedanar:

        Let’s say you have a vet “put you down”. Your experience would be almost identical to being prepared for surgery. Your actual death would occur while you were out. The difference is nobody wakes you up again; they overdose you to keep you out. You have already experien…

        You may have misread me. I didn’t say I wanted to experience some of the bliss stuff or that there was anything supernatural about it. I used to think there may have been when I was 14 (more than 10 years ago), but I looked up a few things and don’t believe this anymore. I actually agree with what you said in your reply.

  3. That beyond-physical consciousness you might be looking for is called the astral plane, yes, that astral plane so mentioned by “superstitious” people. And no, most people don’t really remember being there when they “return” to the physical body because that is something that needs to be developed like a muscle, it’s not given to you because you want it. BTW near death experiences are NOT the same as being sedated. Why would you expect to have similar experiences if you were not really dying?

  4. I don’t know why anyone tries to claim that any kind of experience, whether it be anesthetic, sedation, sleeping, etc. could be comparable to death and non-experience. By it’s very definition it cannot be experienced.

    The only thing it can be comparable to is your experience before you were born, that is to say you had none. I understand that a temporary, finite life and experience can be a difficult thing to come to terms with, but there isn’t much to philosophize about, unless you believe there IS some form of afterlife.

    Try asking this; where does an ant go when it dies? Where does a calculator go when it dies? What happens to the ‘life’ of a flower when it dies? We are not unique in the universe.

    Consciousness is a fleeting, temporary phenomenon that ends when it is no longer present, like darkness when the light had stopped shining. Unconsciousness, like darkness or atheism, is not a ‘thing’, the word is simply a recognition of a lack of consciousness. ‘Unconsciousness’ is nothing more than a fluke of language, it has no other representation in the universe.

    As for re-incarnation, I don’t quite understand your position or implications. Are you stipulating it could be a possibility, or that it’s not possible but you can draw some metaphorical or abstract parallels from it?

    I wouldn’t say the occurrence of one consciousness beginning the instant another one ends has any implications at all, it is simply the consequence of a vast population of consciousnesses. (and we’ll forego the arduous task of defining what an ‘instant’ is) Each consciousness is individual and is only connected to others via our communication.
    First you would have to propose a process of converting one consciousness into another in another location and why this was different to a consciousness arising on it’s own. Then show why this takes place over the latter in the present day but clearly didn’t in earlier times, i.e. consciousnesses had to arise on their own to begin with and still do as is apparent by a growing population, but why is it that some consciousnesses are re-incarnations of previous ones?

    • In reply to #6 by Seraphor:

      I don’t know why anyone tries to claim that any kind of experience, whether it be anesthetic, sedation, sleeping, etc. could be comparable to death and non-experience. By it’s very definition it cannot be experienced.

      Well, because being under anesthesia was a non-experience. The last time was three weeks ago, for five hours, and during that time as far as I was concerned, there was nothing. Not even a black void (because black is a thing), just nothing at all, so that in the first few seconds after I came to I thought it was still before the surgery until I realised I was in a different room. That coming to and thinking it was still before surgery happened the same way the other few times I was put under as well.

      Was it Mark Twain who said something like the time after you die will be just like the time before you were born? I looked, but I couldn’t find it; probably have it all wrong…

      • In reply to #9 by dandelionfluff:

        In reply to #6 by Seraphor:

        I don’t know why anyone tries to claim that any kind of experience, whether it be anesthetic, sedation, sleeping, etc. could be comparable to death and non-experience. By it’s very definition it cannot be experienced.

        Well, because being under anesthesia was a non-exper…

        To a degree, perhaps, but you weren’t dead and so it cannot be the same experience or even ‘non-experience’.
        Two things make it different.

        1. You may not have been consciously aware of it, but your brain was still working. Your subconscious was still processing information. Many people who have been put under anesthesia and have initially described no conscious awareness have subsequently recalled information about events that happened during their anesthesia, so we’re still ‘recording’ as it were. It’s like dreaming, sometimes you can remember your dreams, other times it’s as if you were never dreaming at all.

        2. You regained consciousness afterwards and were then consciously aware of your apparent ‘lack’ of consciousness. It may not seem like much, but it makes a big difference in defining consciousness. This ‘lapse’ of consciousness can be defined and described.

        Death does not include either of these things, you will not regain consciousness after death in order to become aware of your lack of consciousness, so you cannot even define it as a lack of consciousness, it’s a definitive END of consciousness.

        Think of it like a movie. When the movie’s finished, how would you described the part of the movie that isn’t playing anymore? It’s not the same as the intermission where you’re waiting for the rest of the movie to play, that can be described, it’s a lapse, a period where it isn’t currently playing, but will conclude after the break. When the movie is finished, there just is no more movie, this cannot be described as a ‘part of the movie’ like the intermission can.

        • In reply to #10 by Seraphor:

          You may not have been consciously aware of it, but your brain was still working. Your subconscious was still processing information. Many people who have been put under anesthesia and have initially described no conscious awareness have subsequently recalled information about events that happened during their anesthesia, so we’re still ‘recording’ as it were. It’s like dreaming, sometimes you can remember your dreams, other times it’s as if you were never dreaming at all.

          I suppose that’s true – although my first experience of general anesthesia was forty years ago, and I’ve never recalled any of the events that happened when I was under. So I am still aware of nothing during those times.

          You regained consciousness afterwards and were then consciously aware of your apparent ‘lack’ of consciousness. It may not seem like much, but it makes a big difference in defining consciousness. This ‘lapse’ of consciousness can be defined and described.

          I’m not at all sure where this leads. For one thing, I can’t describe my lack of consciousness at all, only the bits of consciousness on either side of it. And as I said before, until my surroundings told me otherwise, i.e. that I had been moved, at first I didn’t even detect the lack of consciousness at all.

          I guess what I’m saying is that my experiences already seem like nothing. I can’t imagine how death can be even more like nothing than nothing. Being unconscious does seem like the same kind of thing as before I was born. I can’t tell the difference.

          • In reply to #13 by dandelionfluff:

            In reply to #10 by Seraphor:

            You may not have been consciously aware of it, but your brain was still working. Your subconscious was still processing information. Many people who have been put under anesthesia and have initially described no conscious awareness have subsequently recalled information…

            Death won’t be any more of a ‘nothing’, you just won’t be able to recognize it as ‘nothing’ in retrospect.

            As I said, to a degree, yes they are the same, but that is not the totality of the situation.

            Before you were born and during your anesthesia have something in common that being dead doesn’t, that is your recognition of their statuses as being ‘before I was born’ and ‘during my anesthesia’, you are consciously aware of a lack or lapse of consciousness. You will never wake up from death, and so you cannot even describe it as ‘nothing’ because there will be nothing left to recognize it as such, it’s just ‘The End’.

    • In reply to #6 by Seraphor:

      I don’t know why anyone tries to claim that any kind of experience, whether it be anesthetic, sedation, sleeping, etc. could be comparable to death and non-experience. By it’s very definition it cannot be experienced.

      I have heard many reports of people clinically dead coming back to life: no heart beat, no brain activity. They could not very well experience being dead, since there is no brain activity to experience with. Presumably, they experience nothing at all, not even the passage of time which would apply just like anaesthesia.

      • You have? That would be quite revolutionary. You know that clinically dead simply means your heart doesn’t beat. You are not really dead when you are clinically dead. But, I have never heard a reliable source that claims people with no brain activity whatsoever has come back to life. I’m not even sure we have good enough equipment or knowledge about the brain to determine that for sure. But, please give us some sources. In reply to #16 by Roedy:

        In reply to #6 by Seraphor:

        I don’t know why anyone tries to claim that any kind of experience, whether it be anesthetic, sedation, sleeping, etc. could be comparable to death and non-experience. By it’s very definition it cannot be experienced.

        I have heard many reports of people clinically dead…

  5. I’m probably wrong but I think that theists tend to think of death like sleeping, where they dream and can half remember those dreams. It’ll be more like having a G.A. (which I’ve had more than once) where there is no dreaming, no sensation of anything, no time passing between going under and waking up.

    As Roedy says, it’ll be no different to what happened before you were born, you have no recollection of that because you didn’t exist. When you’re dead, you won’t exist and so will have no experience of being dead.

  6. I had an operation for the first time in my life about four years ago. When unconsience I experience nothing accept a black void. It was like watching a movie …one moment you are talking to the nurse about the operation, the next moment the nurse has said”your operation is over”. I am told that when the brain is dying a person experience brain chemicals which brings on dreams of some sort…..not the after life.

    • In reply to #8 by ikinmoore:

      I had an operation for the first time in my life about four years ago. When unconsience I experience nothing accept a black void. It was like watching a movie …one moment you are talking to the nurse about the operation, the next moment the nurse has said”your operation is over”. I am told that…

      I agree. I had the same utter dark, ” void” experience when I was 15. Mine was a little different. . . . But close enough.

  7. My life is not someone else’s after life.I know this because my brain is my brain, not someone else’s brain There is no way for anyone who has died to influence my brain enough to consider my brain in anyway, shape, or form, to be part of their afterlife.

    When you brain stops functioning you cease to exist – that is it. No brain, no experience, no afterlife.

    “the reader is supposed to see that the notion of a blank or emptiness following death is incoherent” is magical, wishful thinking that is not supported by evidence. Even if there cannot be “nothingness” my own brain can certainly stop existing, and when it does, I stop existing. The whole essay is full of wild jumps, irrational deductions, and willful ignorance of the real world.

    • In response to #11 by canadian_right

      When you brain stops functioning you cease to exist – that is it. No brain, no experience, no afterlife.

      Precisely. Now here is the point – by definition “you” nor anyone else will ever experience unconsciousness. Think about it.

  8. I passed out at a movie theater. Out of nowhere, I suddenly had to vomit, so I bolted out of the theater and made a break for the trash can. I didn’t vomit but instead sat down on the floor to get my bearings. Or so I thought. Apparently, just as I reached the trash can, I blacked out and fell down. I woke up on the floor. People were telling me I had passed out. I said, “What are you talking about? I just sat down to get my bearings.” Well, I obviously didn’t “experience” blacking out, but perhaps my brain was “filling in the gaps” from the few seconds I was unconscious? Either way, it’s bizarre.

  9. The experience of being dead is one of the few things that is literally ‘unthinkable.’ You can’t experience not being able to experience, and you can’t visualize it, either. When folks relate their so called NDE stories, they are at best relating the memories that they have, not what they are concurrently experiencing (being near dead, and all) and cannot know when those memories were formed in their brains. People often go through a period of confusion while trying to reestablish consciousness after some traumatic event that stopped normal brain activity. Random impressions and dreams during such confusion can be later mistaken for having occurred during periods of no noted brain activity. Plenty of normal situations in life can be shown to involve tricks one part of your brain is playing on another part; you can’t trust anything when it is trying to restart from being broken.

  10. I’ve had general anaesthesia and thought that death must be like that, in the sense of being ‘forced’ to fall asleep and then a blank. But in many cases the last moments might be more like falling asleep. After all, people often drift in and out of consciousness. There are dreams in such states – which are very common in normal life, and it seems quite plausible that one could fall asleep, have such a dream and then die. Or, nearly die and revive to tell the tale.

  11. Anesthesia has played a big part (but not solely responsible) in both my deconversions to atheism. I first had anesthesia when I was 18 – my first atheist conversion from Catholicism. Eventually, I slipped back and became agnostic, then deist/new agey stuff. The second time I had anesthesia was at the same time of my second deconversion. Clearly, the experience got me thinking.

  12. What is death? It is when you body does not exist. Your consciousness does not exist. This happens to you twice: before you are born and after you die. If you insist you experience some life after death, why not insist you must have some life before birth? Buddhist style.

    The experience before birth (before conception, since I have “memories” of birth) is just nothing, not even a void, a great gap.
    The experience when anaesthesia shuts down my brain is a similar great gap.
    After I die, a have no brain to experience with, so it seems it is most likely it will be the same gap anaesthesia without waking up.

    Look at road kill. Look at a cancer ward. Look at people killed in car crashes. There is no dignity to death. Imagining the universe is going to put on some great show for you strikes me as the height of delusions of grandeur. There is no evidence for it. It is just wishful thinking.

  13. Consciousness is software that runs on a brain — no brain activity, no consciousness. When the brain dies there is no backup of your individual consciousness in the cloud to be transposed onto another brain. But general anesthesia is not complete unconsciousness. It’s a reduction in brain activity intended to suppress experience or at least memory of pain. Much of the brain is still humming right along.

    I experienced general anesthesia once, when I was 6 years old. I was having a tonsillectomy, which was a standard thing for healthy kids in the US in the 1950s. I was told to count aloud backward from one hundred, which I did, and don’t recall how far I got. I then went into a dream state where it seemed that I was being pulled along on cogs in a giant machine, and sometimes it hurt. I don’t remember losing the thread of the dream but do remember eventually hearing voices and the sense that the machine had stopped and I was being pulled out. I was under for several hours and the doctor was concerned with how hard it was to wake me. I don’t know if that was due to ineptitude on the part of the rag & bottle man or something about me that’s sensitive to sedation, but I’ve avoided general anesthesia since.

  14. Ok so death is the absence of experience because all experience is calculated in the brain and therefore when you die you undergo a process and in the final stage of death, your brain function ceases and within a period of time depending upon the conditions of death, your lack of brain activity reaches a point where it is non reversible and you are by all means dead. By reasoning it cannot be anything like unconsciousness because that in itself is an experience that your still living brain can calculate so logically speaking there is no association of being ‘put under‘ and dying – right, make sense.

    The method used to anesthetize induces unconsciousness via a chemical process using a combination of drugs – the brain still has a strong narrow band of coherent activity across anterior forebrain mediated by thalamocortical loops and slow wave cortical oscillation. The process is intended to induce:

    • analgesia – loss of response to pain

    • amnesia – loss of memory

    • immobility – loss of motor reflexes

    • unconsciousness

    • relaxation of skeletal muscles

    Note that amnesia is a state brought on by the drugs being introduced into your system, the blank or emptiness that is experienced is expected.
    The biochemical mechanism of the action of anesthetics is not very well understood, it is thought that they are able to induce unconsciousness by affecting various sites of the central nervous system it is not known if general anesthesia affects or interrupts the function of the cerebral cortex, thalamus, reticular activating system and/or spinal cord.

    It is similar to a comatose state and basically means the brain is still active so no death has occurred, in fact the brain is capable of producing these conditions when certain traumatic events occur, it’s has a way of shutting off all other sensory perceptions in an effort to conserve energy. In some cases uninjured parts of the brain are able to take over or compensate for injured parts, the brain learns to re-route information giving itself a chance to try to repair any damage done by the trauma, damaged brain tissue does not repair itself so it is looking for a way to override the repairable damage. It is remarkable that it knows to do this even if you don’t and suggests your brain, even when unconscious may know more than you do doesn’t it?

    I agree that it is likely NDE’s occur as part of a “shutting down” process of the brain and body in the initial stages of death or the recovery, “rebooting” from this state. While clinical death may have occurred true death has not as living cells and tissue appear to be intact. Some research has shown a natural chemical reaction in the brain such as the release of hallucinogens like dimethyltryptamine, could be the cause of NDE’s. Relying on an NDE or lack of one to prove or disprove an afterlife may therefor be considered a warped way of looking at things.

    Two things are certain in life when it comes to death:

    1. You will die.

    2. You and no one else priest/rabbi/sheikh/guru/monk/insert religious leader here or scientist/doctor/philosopher/insert new age spiritualist here, knows what happens to the “self” after you die.

    I use self with the intended meaning: that which is the source of an individual’s consciousness; the agent responsible for the individual’s conception of self-awareness, that which is unique to each individual.

    As soon as someone begins to tell another that they know what happens to your self after you die it puts that person into the same category as any other religion. Religion has ruled over our lives and our deaths for thousands of years, it has hijacked the right that people have to formulate their own ideas about death. The automatic response most people have when the afterlife (or rather afterdeath which is what we are really talking about), is mentioned it is riddled with preconceptions based on religious dogmas, the mere mention of it seems to suggest to the idea of a ‘god’.

    What we fail to recognize is that like morals, intuition and values, the self exists above any notion of religious context. That is to say that morals, intuition, values and the self, exist outside of religious belief, religion is simply a bad product. As we know religions would like us to think the opposite is true, that it is religion that constitutes our moral compass, is at the pinnacle of human values and governs our journey through life and death – I choose not to throw out the baby with bath water.

    Much of science relies on observation and while there is allot we have observed about our brain function none of these observations account for why we all have our own subjective consciousness. Perhaps it is not a physical object or particle or field or anything that we can observe and quantify. Maybe the scientific paradigm has to change before we can reach an understanding of the dynamics of human consciousness and the self, or maybe we will find logic and reason to account for why and how consciousness emerges from brain activity or vise versa.

    Fact remains – we haven’t so far.

    • In reply to #23 by Tash:

      Much of science relies on observation and while there is allot we have observed about our brain function none of these observations account for why we all have our own subjective consciousness. Perhaps it is not a physical object or particle or field or anything that we can observe and quantify. Maybe the scientific paradigm has to change before we can reach an understanding of the dynamics of human consciousness and the self, or maybe we will find logic and reason to account for why and how consciousness emerges from brain activity or vise versa.

      But this question is not about how it works, but what happens when it doesn’t work. It turns out we know quite a bit about that subject because of all the studies of brain injury. We have observed the impact of missing pieces in almost every part of the human brain. Sometimes that impacts senses, sometimes movement, sometimes judgement, sometimes language, sometimes memory and sometimes the feeling of having a “self” at all. It is not a very big logical step to suspect that death brings on all the losses at once that we have each observed in isolation.

      • In reply to #24 by Quine:

        But this question is not about how it works, but what happens when it doesn’t work. It turns out we know quite a bit about that subject because of all the studies of brain injury. We have observed the impact of missing pieces in almost every part of the human brain. Sometimes that impacts senses, sometimes movement, sometimes judgement, sometimes language, sometimes memory and sometimes the feeling of having a “self” at all. It is not a very big logical step to suspect that death brings on all the losses at once that we have each observed in isolation.

        I’m not disputing the importance of the brain and its overall function, its obvious there are components of the brain that are “in charge” of certain processes and functions and as you mentioned they become impaired when damaged. I’m not sure if I would agree that there is a loss of the sense of self even when a person is in a deep coma, the sense of self may be suspended but the self remains or recovery would not be possible. Once brain dead, I accept that the ability for the physical aspects of that person can no longer recover and life support should cease.

        There is allot to still learn and personally I find the brain a fascinating subject, my eldest brother was born mentally challenged so I guess it comes from trying to understand how it all works. Studies like:

        “Those who are locked into paralyzed bodies yet still aware, say later that it is like being buried alive. They have thoughts yet are completely incapable of relaying those thoughts to the outside world.”

        http://www.smartplanet.com/blog/thinking-tech/q-a-on-communicating-with-vegetative-patients/12606

        Using brain scans to show awareness in patients that are in a vegetative state is research well worth continuing. Hemispherectomy, living and functioning fairly well with only half a brain really does show us how impressive, resilient and resourceful our brains are. I have been under general anesthetic 3 times, so I do understand the feeling of the void, it was quite an experience, I just never really thought of it as anything like death (except for momentarily).

        • In reply to #27 by Tash:

          The part of our brains that generate the “self” can be damaged, even when that does not result in coma. Also, there are many kinds of “locked in” disorder, and you might enjoy reading the books written by Dr. Oliver Sacks, who made he reputation in that area. I often recommend people start with his books Awakenings and The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat so as to get an understanding of how much we learn from what goes wrong with our brains. My comment was directed to loss of function, in coma or not. Death results in loss of all physical activity and structure, so one would expect it to be the greatest cumulative loss, of all.

          • In reply to #32 by Quine: It’s a good idea to read Oliver Sachs, anything he wrote. The first time I was offered “The Man That Mistook His Wife for a Hat, I read 15 or so pages then gave it back because what Mr. Sachs wrote seemed absurd. A few years later, it wasn’t. I enjoyed and learned much from his experience on a mountain, in his Without a Leg to Stand on,

            In reply to #27 by Tash:

            The part of our brains that generate the “self” can be damaged, even when that does not result in coma. Also, there are many kinds of “locked in” disorder, and you might enjoy reading the books written by Dr. Oliver Sacks, who made he reputation in that area. I often recomm…

          • In reply to #32 by Quine:

            In reply to #27 by Tash:

            “The part of our brains that generate the “self” can be damaged”
            The brain does not generate a “self.” Our human awareness (which is supported by our biology, but not confined to it) creates and maintains the illusion of a “self” as a reference point only, so that we may function properly in this world.

          • In reply to #32 by Quine:

            In reply to #27 by Tash:

            The part of our brains that generate the “self” can be damaged, even when that does not result in coma. Also, there are many kinds of “locked in” disorder, and you might enjoy reading the books written by Dr. Oliver Sacks, who made he reputation in that area. I often recomm…

            Thanks Quine, I will check out some of his work, I do feel a bit of an aversion to someone who has chosen to be celibate (among other things about him) but thats just me. Also I think there is some confusion over what is “self” and “I” or personal identity which I personally see and two different subjects.

            Cheers

          • In reply to #36 by Tash:

            Thanks Quine, I will check out some of his work, …

            You are welcome, Tash. The subject of our sense of self has been very interesting to me for some time, as it impacts all our ideas and how we see the world we consider to be “outside.” In complex systems you often learn the most at the boundaries, or from studying cases where things go wrong. Not only are there many forms of psychopathology to lean from, but also brain studies have been going on for many years re the neural changes that happen as practices like meditation rework the sense of self (see the work of Dr. James Austin for some of that).

            We can infer that if we go far enough back in the line of our ancestors, we will get to a species before which none have any kind of sense of self, just as you did not in your own development at a time before you had formed any neurons. There may be a time that you remember (I do) becoming aware of your “self” as an intentional entity, separate from the rest of the world (though, in Zen this is considered the loss of greater awareness) but neurological evidence indicates that this typically comes to people in bits and pieces with progressive brain development. (Of course however informative, it can be heartbreaking to study this when it does go wrong in children.)

            I contrast that kind of development, that can come about by successive tiny changes (ontogenetically or phylogenetically) with the supernatural idea of a constant, all-or-nothing, “soul” which does not fit into what we know by examination of the evidence, the same way I asked about an “afterlife” on another thread. If you want to support any kind of “self” or sense of self that is not a function of brain operation, you will have to come up with evidence for that position that also explains its origin in both contexts.

  15. Two things are certain in life when it comes to death:

    You will die.

    You and no one else priest/rabbi/sheikh/guru/monk/insert religious leader here or scientist/doctor/philosopher/insert new age spiritualist here, knows what happens to the “self” after you die.

    I use self with the intended meaning: that which is the source of an individual’s consciousness; the agent responsible for the individual’s conception of self-awareness, that which is unique to each individual.

    Define this “agent.”

    As soon as someone begins to tell another that they know what happens to your self after you die it puts that person into the same category as any other religion. Religion has ruled over our lives and our deaths for thousands of years, it has hijacked the right that people have to formulate their own ideas about death.

    Are you stating that opinions are valid? Is an opinion valid when factual findings show otherwise? Shouldn’t opinions be limited to personal experience based in reality rather than assumptions of what reality is?

    The automatic response most people have when the afterlife (or rather afterdeath which is what we are really talking about), is mentioned it is riddled with preconceptions based on religious dogmas, the mere mention of it seems to suggest to the idea of a ‘god’.

    What we fail to recognize is that like morals, intuition and values, the self exists above any notion of religious context. That is to say that morals, intuition, values and the self, exist outside of religious belief, religion is simply a bad product. As we know religions would like us to think the opposite is true, that it is religion that constitutes our moral compass, is at the pinnacle of human values and governs our journey through life and death – I choose not to throw out the baby with bath water.

    I’m confused by your position. Perhaps you are a deist??? I feel that the self is something we can treasure in and of itself. My experiences of life in this world have brought me much awe and gratitude. Yet, I realize that I live in a physical world that has its limitations, some of which have been studied and shown to be factual in nature. If something is shown to be true, I must change my way of thinking to accomodate a fact.

    Much of science relies on observation and while there is allot we have observed about our brain function none of these observations account for why we all have our own subjective consciousness. Perhaps it is not a physical object or particle or field or anything that we can observe and quantify. Maybe the scientific paradigm has to change before we can reach an understanding of the dynamics of human consciousness and the self, or maybe we will find logic and reason to account for why and how consciousness emerges from brain activity or vise versa.

    Fact remains – we haven’t so far.

    Maybe you need just need to be patient and realize that scientific advancement is sometimes a slow process which builds upon previous knowledge and technology. Personally, I have no trouble realizing that my computer is an incredible multi-tasking device – complex in its abilities. My brain is perhaps similar but different in that it can think about different aspects of my brain and life in a manner of checks and balances. I am content that my self will end upon death. Just because all the information is not in regarding the nature of our consciousness does not mean that I should assume a concept which has its roots in “spiritual” thinking. There is no evidence whatsoever that consciousness comes for an outside “agent” while most evidence points to self being limited to our physical brain. This life is it and I need to get stuff done in the time that I have. …and that’s OK.

    • In reply to #25 by QuestioningKat:

      Define this “agent.”:

      Wow wouldn’t that be something… Currently we don’t have a full understanding of how consciousness (including pre, sub and un) works let alone the agent responsible. Opinions are valid, ignorant ones not so much and yes, factual findings should affect our opinions.

      I’m confused by your position. Perhaps you are a deist??? I feel that the self is something we can treasure in and of itself. My experiences of life in this world have brought me much awe and gratitude. Yet, I realize that I live in a physical world that has its limitations, some of which have been studied and shown to be factual in nature. If something is shown to be true, I must change my way of thinking to accomodate a fact.

      Please don’t point that ugly stick at me, no I am NOT a deist, creationist or follower of any religion. I am an Atheist but if I haven’t been clear enough then I shall try again. I deny the existence of a god, creator, prime mover, higher power or whatever anyone wants to call it, albeit based on my own presumption. I don’t understand why there seems to be so much interest in converting someone else into Atheism but can understand the need to provide support for those who come or are coming to that understanding themselves. I think it’s a shame, the energy is better spent on ridding it out of our government policies, schools, hospitals and giving voice to blatant injustices done in the name of a god and the church.
      I support the idea of possibilities and being open to explore them without dogmatic restrictions, when there is a lack of definitive evidence, and I tend to reject claims based on assumption but agree your opinion can differ to mine based on your own presumption’s and is just as valid.
      I also agree with you that life can be awe-inspiring and I am grateful for every moment of it.

      This is all very off topic but I wanted to respond to what you asked and if presented with evidence I too would change my way of thinking ☺

  16. In reply to jsnmf:
    “Random re-incarnation is problematic but incarnation is not. We have all experienced it. Can we say that this life is not an example of an afterlife? After all it has come after 13.8 billion years – we have clearly come in in the middle of this movie rather the beginning or the end”.”

    It seems obvious that some kind of systematic incarnation occurs because ideas (such as ‘memes’/ ‘archetypal patterns’ ) would not originate then evolve, and devolve, perhaps to re-emerge in different times. There’s got to be some kind of transmission between generations. Like the original word ‘ clew’ is detached completely from the modern word ‘clue’ in minds that are not into myths or rhebus type information.

  17. I stated:

    I’m confused by your position. Perhaps you are a deist???

    You responded:

    Please don’t point that ugly stick at me, no I am NOT a deist, creationist or follower of any religion. I am an Atheist but if I haven’t been clear enough then I shall try again. I deny the existence of a god, creator, prime mover, higher power or whatever anyone wants to call it, albeit based on my own presumption. I don’t understand why there seems to be so much interest in converting someone else into Atheism but can understand the need to provide support for those who come or are coming to that understanding themselves. I think it’s a shame, the energy is better spent on ridding it out of our government policies, schools, hospitals and giving voice to blatant injustices done in the name of a god and the church.

    Lots of assumptions here. Please provide evidence that I was trying to convert you to atheism and that I could better spend my energy on ridding out injustices. I simply asked for clarification. We’ve been getting plenty of theists posing as atheist here lately.

    • In reply to #29 by QuestioningKat:

      I stated:
      I’m confused by your position. Perhaps you are a deist???

      Lots of assumptions here. Please provide evidence that I was trying to convert you to atheism and that I could better spend my energy on ridding out injustices. I simply asked for clarification. We’ve been getting plenty of theists posing as atheist here lately.

      You didn’t just state your question you wrote a whole paragraph expressing your thoughts and feelings and I replied with the same. I wasn’t accusing you of trying to convert anyone it was a statement.

      What is up with all the hostility on this board? So hung up on labels, who cares if a “theist” comes in posing around – you people are smart enough to handle it and its a public forum. My intensions were sincere, to have meaningful conversations…please provide evidence that someone here is capable of being open to ideas other than their own.

      ~A

  18. I’ve had very odd, “religious” or “supernatural” experiences – with some assistance – before (I’ve even “seen” UFOs while with another person who also saw them!), but my one experiment in entering the void (and I find the entire idea of that pretty darn funny!) via sedation was exactly zero: I was being given the sedative in my hospital bed and woke up later in the same place, several hours later, with my gall bladder removed.

    Joe Frank made an unoriginal but excellent parody of the same thing, when he talked about trying to experience the moment of falling asleep. As a thought experiment, it’s a wonderful waste of time.

  19. Consciousness is the faculty of awareness – the faculty of perceiving or experiencing that which exists. To be conscious is to be conscious of something; to be unconscious is to be conscious of nothing – to perceive or experience nothing. Consciousness with nothing to be conscious of is a contradiction, since consciousness requires an object. To be in a state of deep non-REM sleep, whether induced naturally or by anaesthetic agents, is to be unconscious – to have no consciousness while retaining the potential to regain it. To be dead is to be non-conscious – to have neither consciousness nor the potential to regain it.

    Consciousness is an adaptation of biological evolution conferring a survival advantage upon those organisms that possess it. It has two requirements: objects of awareness (existents), and some means by which to perceive or experience those objects (for example, sensory and neural apparatus). Consciousness with neither objects nor the means to perceive them is a contradiction and cannot exist.

  20. I have come into this discussion somewhat late; however, I would like to add a different “angle,” shall we say, to the conversation and call your attention to the following site:
    http://www.near-death.com/experiences/research11.html. I was wondering if anyone has heard of a positive confirmation of a person detecting such a strategically placed message while unconscious in a surgery room. I was also wondering if this were proven to be factual how it would affect your thinking.

    • In reply to #40 by Kolby:

      I have come into this discussion somewhat late; however, I would like to add a different “angle,” shall we say, to the conversation and call your attention to the following site:
      http://www.near-death.com/experiences/research11.html. I was wondering if anyone has heard of a positive confirmation of…

      I’ve never heard of a confirmed out of body experience, and I would expect if one ever was ‘confirmed’ that everyone would find out about it, it would be headline news.

      In all, asking how someone would react if it were “proven” and reliably replicated that people can have out of body experiences is a bit of a silly question. Of course if it were “proven” I would have to concede that there was something to it and that much of what we know about neurology and physics is false. but this is a bit like asking what I would think if it were proven that Santa Claus delivered kids presents at Christmas, it won’t happen.

  21. A common source of discussion for the indoctrinated, as religion is fuelled by (mostly past) unknowns. It is to be expected that no rational nor serious study of pre-death mental awareness exists, as no rational nor serious person would attempt nearly killing themselves for the purpose of study.

    less than a month ago I was the faultless recipient of a head-on collision when a man mistook my lane for his own for a second or two. It did leave me weeks to ponder in hospital, the benefits of the mammalian death-throes, in that I could recall very little of the trauma. 5 seconds of an emergency worker cutting me from the wreck, then maybe an hour or two of the next 5 days. Different could be offered from my two siblings also brutally injured. My sister after a heart attack in hospital recalls travelling in a world of white lego and chasing rabbits made of pink party balloons.
    No words I can type will demonstrate my disdain for, nor sense of unhappy superiority over, those who seek to categorise or generalise what individuals brains give them as they lay dying. Morbid curiosity or genuine scientific interest, I hope none of you experience an unpleasant unique answer.

    I’d also like to greet everyone on the forum again, as I shall submit this post. I’ve been a little worried of posting due to some vocabulary strife courtesy of mild brain injury from the crash. Approaching the standards of my old dodgy posts, just taking me twice as long to type them for several reasons. Keep enjoying reading, talking and learning everyone!

  22. The so-called out-of-body experience would entail a consciousness with no physical means of consciousness – no means of perception or cognition, etc.. How could such a consciousness exist? No how.

  23. In reply to #41 by Sephora:

    Of course if it were “proven” I would have to concede that there was something to it and that much of what we know about neurology and physics is false. but this is a bit like asking what I would think if it were proven that Santa Claus delivered kids presents at Christmas, it won’t happen.

    Perhaps it would be good to explain exactly what type of evidence it would take to be “proven.”

    • In reply to #44 by Kolby:

      In reply to #41 by Sephora:

      Of course if it were “proven” I would have to concede that there was something to it and that much of what we know about neurology and physics is false. but this is a bit like asking what I would think if it were proven that Santa Claus delivered kids presents at Christm…

      A rigorous experiment that shows people can view things that they could only view via an out of body episode. A double-blind trial in which the person or people tending to and dealing with the patient have no idea what the image is, from the moment the patient enters the hospital to the moment the patient concludes the interview in which they’re asked about the image, and they accurately describe the image, which could not otherwise have been guessed.

      This has to be repeatable, by anyone, and produce consistent results. For example findings such as over 30% of patients deemed clinically dead in theater accurately describing the image. This figure would depend on the complexity of the image and how much detail the patient recalls.

      People have attempted this, but have either failed to produce any results or have failed to adequately prove that an out of body episode was the only way they could have seen what they did (e.g. not double-blind or have influenced the patient)

  24. My answer to people who find the end of the self difficult to understand is to say, “Well, it will be as it was before you were born.” That’s a bit imprecise, since I believe that the mind does come to exist sometime after conception but before birth.

    But I believe that nowadays we understand so well that the mind is the product of electochemical activity in the brain that the idea of the mind somehow surviving death is quite unreasonable. I am surprised that anyone would worry about it, actually.

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