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TRTZ 54 17th April 2012 – Metaphysics : Soul, Spirit, Being



So today is the 54th TRTZ and I’m 54 today – synchronicity or what!

I know, I know – 54 – when I only look like I’m in my 40’s (yeah right!) – but as they say ‘it’s not the age, it’s the mileage’ – and no, that doesn’t make me feel any better.

Tonight we’re taking a slightly different tack and dipping our metaphorical toes into the metaphysical in an attempt to see what we all mean by the words we easily use.

Words like ‘spirit’, ‘ghost’, ‘soul’ can imply a belief system, or at least some ideas about the nature of the cosmos – but what exactly?

This is the question for tonights debate and like all TRTZ shows the notes below reflect only part of the discussion that we will be having  on air so treat them as supporting information and provocations….


Some news…

Villagers get fed-up.

The villagers of the Australian of the town of F*****G are fed up with people stealing their road-signs that they are looking to change it to Fugging or Fuking..

The final straw has been a growing number of calls by pranksters from abroad who ring up locals and ask in English “Is That F*****G” – before bursting into laughter and hanging up.

“The phone calls are really the final straw”, said local Mayor Franz Meindl, who confirmed that the villages street signs were regularly stolen even though they had been welded on steel posts set in concrete in the ground.

Drivers heading into the village often disturbed naked couples romping in front of the signs, and local entrepreneurs made the situation worse by flogging off Fucking postcards – Fucking Christmas cards and even more recently a Fucking beer.

Residents last voted on the subject in 1996 when it decided to keep the name despite problems caused by American servicemen from across the border in Germany that drove to the region just to be photographed in front of signs. They then sent the snaps back home to their girlfriends and wives.

If the name change goes ahead, they will be following in the footsteps of stadium bosses in Switzerland who were forced to change their name from Wankdorf because red-faced stars were too embarrassed to play there.

 Retirement Plan …

It may look like a tropical paradise, but Sotobanari Island is no holiday destination: there’s no natural water, dangerous currents swirl around and it’s lashed by typhoons.

However, the Japanese island has one resident who has made it his home for the last two decades: a pensioner who walks around in the buff despite the insects that come out to bite at night.

Masafumi Nagasaki, 76, has made this 1km-wide Japanese island his retirement home, living off rice cakes, which he boils in water, four or five times a day.

He throws on clothes once a week for a trip to a settlement an hour away by boat, where he collects 10,000 yen (£78) sent to him by his family to buy food and drinking water.

Teaching a young dog an old trick…

This is quite cute ….





Having your cake and eating it….



Like something straight out of a Roald Dahl book or Heston Blumenthal TV show, a London communications firm had its office lift lined with over 1,000 Jaffa Cakes in a bid to make their workplace just a little bit nicer.

Engine, a marketing firm based in London’s Great Portland Street, had the “edible elevator artwork” installed as part of an advertising campaign for McVitie’s Jaffa Cakes.

A team of artists and food technicians took a month to come with and install the 1,325 Jaffa Cake project, which lined the walls of the lift, last week.




A hamster who swallowed a toy magnet and became stuck to the metal bars of his cage is now recovering following the bizarre incident.

Pet hamster ‘Smurf’ had to be prised off the bars by owner Kate Meech, who came home to find the hanging helplessly off the cage.

 On a more serious note …..

An Argentinian mother has spoken of her shock after her stillborn baby was found alive in a morgue.

Analia Bouter’s fifth child was born at 26 weeks – around three months premature – in Argentina’s northern Chaco province.

Doctors told her the baby had died, but when she and her husband visited the morgue 12 hours later, they realised their daughter was breathing.

Some local stuff from my Breakfast Show this morning (see www.alanjonesradio.com)

17th April 1986 Netherlands signs Peace Treaty with The Isle of Scillies ending the 335 Year War!

The Three Hundred and Thirty Five Years’ War  was a war between the Netherlands and the  and the Isles of Scilly is said to have been extended by the lack of a peace treaty for 335 years without a single shot being fired, which would make it one of the world’s longest wars and the war with the fewest casualties.

Despite the uncertain validity of the declaration of war, peace was finally declared in 1986.

The origins of the war can be found in the Civil War , fought between the Royalists and the Parlaimentarians   from 1642 to 1652.

Oliver Cromwall had fought the Royalists to the edges of the Kingdom of England and this meant that the Dutchy of Cornwall  was the last Royalist stronghold.

In 1648, Cromwell pushed on until mainland Cornwall was in the hands of the Parliamentarians.

The Royalist Navy was forced to retreat to the Scillies which were under the ownership of Royalist John Grenville.

The Dutch Navy was suffering heavy losses from the Royalist fleet based in Scilly.

On 30 March 1651,  Admiral Maarteen Harpertszoon Tromp arrived in Scilly to demand reparation from the Royalist fleet for the Dutch ships and goods taken by them.

According to Whitelocke’s Memorials (cited in Bowley, 2001), a letter of 17 April 1651 explains: “Tromp came to Pendennis and related that he had been to Scilly to demand reparation for the Dutch ships and goods taken by them; and receiving no satisfactory answer, he had, according to his Commission, declared war on them”.

As most of England was now in Parliamentarian hands, war was declared specifically upon the Isles of Scilly.

In June 1651, soon after the declaration of war, the Parliamentarian forces under Admiral Robert Blake forced the Royalist fleet to surrender. The Netherlands fleet, no longer under threat, left without firing a shot. Due to the obscurity of one nation’s declaration of war against a small part of another, the Dutch did not officially declare peace.

In 1985, Roy Duncan, historian and Chairman of the Isles of Scilly Council, wrote to the Dutch Embassy in London to dispose of the myth that the islands were still at war. Embassy staff found the myth to be accurate and Duncan invited the Dutch ambassador Rein Huydecoper to visit the islands and sign a peace treat.

Peace was declared on 17 April 1986, 335 years after the “war” began. The Ambassador joked that it must have been harrowing to the Scillonians “to know we could have attacked at any moment.”


And finally… builders bum outlawed!

A US man has been sentenced to three days in prison after turning up to court wearing low-slung baggy jeans.

It has long been acknowledged that trousers which only reach the mid-thigh are guilty of a range of style crimes, however Alabama Judge John Bush ruled that the 20-year-old’s jeans were so low that they were actually in contempt of court.


Metaphysical Meanderings..


In his book, The Science of Mind (1926), Earnest Holmes gave  the following definitions:-

SPIRIT –That part of man which enables him to be self-conscious. That which he really is. We do not see the spirit of man any more than we see the Spirit of God. We see what man does; but we do not see the doer.

LOGOS (Christ) –The Word of God manifest in and through man. In a liberal sense the Christ means the Entire Manifestation of God and is, therefore, the Second Person of the Trinity. Christ is a Universal Idea, and each one “Puts on The Christ” to the degree that he surrenders a limited sense of Life to the Divine Realization.

SONSHIP.–We are all Sons of God and all partake of the Divine Nature.

MICROCOSM.–The individual world as distinguished from the Universal.

EMMANUEL.-GOD-WITH-US.–Means that Christ is in every one.

PERSONALITY.–The external evidence of individualized being.

INDIVIDUALITY.–Each one is a separate identity in Mind and no two are alike. Each is an Individualized Center of God-Consciousness. Our personality is the use that we make of our Divine Individuality.

CONSCIOUS-STATE.–The conscious-state is the self-knowing mind of man. It is the only thing that distinguishes him from brute creation. Without a conscious-state of mind man would not be at all; or, at least, he would not know that he is. The conscious mind should be carefully guarded, as it is the real man.

MENTAL.–Means that man is mentally conscious.

SPIRITUAL.–Means that man is a Spiritual Being.

Now I could have chosen almost any spiritual metaphysical text to start this debate, but Holmes’ thoughts provide us with adequate food for thought.

The issue, for me, with any form of philosophical argument is that whilst it may seek to explain experience it can seem detached from what we want to accept as reality.

Take any one of Xeno’s Paradoxes about movement for example. In an attempt to argue from an ‘absurd’ point of view the impossibility of movement Xeno presented a series of philosophical thoughts or propositions.

Oversimplifying some of the arguments Xeno simply claimed that since the distance between two points can be made up of an infinite number of steps it was never possible to actually arrive at a desired destination.

OK, breaking it down a bit..

If I’m travelling from A to B then the first step I take must be equal to a fraction of the distance between the two points. It is possible then to imagine that each step can be made up of two smaller fractions – ie we can travel half a step. If we can travel half a step, then we must be travelling a quarter of a step, and an eight of  a step, and then a hundredth of a step – ad infinitum.

So since there are infinite number of smaller steps that can be taken it we will never fully arrive at point B – we will only always be moving towards it.

Of course the moment someone stands up and walks between point A and point B they show the reality of the possibility of travel between the two points and make a nonsense of the argument. However BOTH realities are possible – one is the reality of the empirical, practical and observable, the other is the reality of the logical, possible and philosophical.

Such mental gymnastics are great for the oiling of the minds cogs in order to enter into meaningful debate. The fact that one reality is practical and the intellectual can, to some, produce an emotional reaction which causes the impractical to be dismissed. Such individuals hence remove themselves from the arena of debate.

During last weeks TRTZ I was noticing some interesting conversations on the two different chat rooms we were on. Some people were engaged in considering the discussion and the points being made in the show but most were not.

This is OK since in both cases the peripheral debates had  been sparked by comments made in the show.

On the one chat room we had people asking very important questions about the nature of evidence and the fact that having ‘evidence’ results in the need for interpretation and that this where things can get ‘messy’.

The other chat room was involving itself in a debate about God, Spirit and Science and the reality (or absurdity) of each.

In many ways these discussions mirror the different ways we can respond to Xeno’s paradoxes or any discussion which attempts to set practical, objective reality against subjective, personal realities.

Consider the following :-

Religions are systems of beliefs that attempt to explain the human spiritual experience.

All religions arise from the illusion of separation, because that is the nature of human experience in the physical form.

We experience ourselves as separate beings, separate from each other, separate from “God”, and from the physical Universe.

It is impossible from this viewpoint of separation to perceive the true nature of who we really are, of matter and energy, and of the life force in everything that we have labeled “God”.

So to unpick this and try to get a little deeper into what has been written let’s take a step at a time …

Religions are systems of beliefs

I think there would be little disagreement with this statement since we can readily recognise the existence of differing religions each with their own system of beliefs, canons of faith and approaches to worship.

that attempt to explain the human spiritual experience

OK, here we could have some interesting debates. It presupposes there is something called a ‘spiritual experience’ which is distinct from personal experience. Some would argue that that which we call spiritual experience is simply part and parcel of the way our brains can and do work.

I am personally in no-doubt of there being a qualitative difference between some of my personal experiences. Some have the quality of being shared by others (we could call this objective experience or rationality); some have the quality of being internal and the result of me conversing with me; some are dream like and some are, for want of a better term, transcendent – they appear to be experiences of things outside of self and outside of rationality.

We experience ourselves as separate beings, separate from each other, separate from “God”, and from the physical Universe

Whilst many would agree that there is a sense of being separate, an individual, and indeed as spectators of the physical universe, it does not mean that there has to be a “God” from which we are detached.

The concept of “God” is not easy to tie down…

From the simplistic notion of a human-like being who is all powerful, all knowing and ever present yet still acting as some kind of supernatural parent to the idea that there is an ‘intelligence’ behind the Universe we find definitions of God as being all at once personal, cultural and historical.

An awareness of  being a distinct part of the Universe of Cosmos does not need to automatically presuppose the existence of a divine being let alone a divine creator. Arguments from personal incredulity about the implausibility of natural processes ‘creating’ the universe to statements which suppose that because we can’t go beyond the scientists current idea of what happened BEFORE the moment of creation of the universe do little to prove the existence of a God.

Science has a pretty good set of ideas about what happened at the moment of creation of the Universe and, indeed, argue that the process of a universes destruction underpin the processes required to drive creation. A kind of end in the beginning and beginning in the end – which, I know, sounds very mystical.

Whilst arguments from personal incredulity are not valid philosophically, there nevertheless is the personal experience many have of the existence of personal truth of God. Should it be stated here that quite simply personal experience and personal beliefs are not necessarily universal absolutes or truths?

In my culture it was common for children to be told of a bearded, red coated fatman who delivered presents to good children every year. My experience at that time was that this was a personal truth. So entrenched was my belief in this character that I adapted my behaviour according to expectations.

When asked to prove his existence I could readily point to his effects on my word. First there were no presents under the tree, then there were.

Other people confirmed his existence and told me the same story.

At times I was sure I heard him, or his reindeer or the jingle of the sleigh-bells – my faith gave me some degree of enhanced perception.

Now I am older and I can enjoy the myth and the magic of those childhood day. In many respects seeing behind the curtain as it were gave me more questions and, indeed, a greater sense of awe…


Yes… about how my parents were able to execute some of their well meaning deceits; about how I could be fooled; about the power of belief ..

BUT there was more…

A real fascination for how the legend that became Father Christmas has a resonance above and behind the commercialisation of the holiday period. How pagan tradition sits with Christian tradition without there being so much as a dismissive thought when Christmas and Fertility are mentioned in the same breath …. a I could go on…

So whilst there was no Father Christmas there was a set of ideas, thoughts and intentions behind the myth that were and are important.

Back to the quote in question…

 It is impossible from this viewpoint of separation to perceive the true nature of who we really are, of matter and energy, and of the life force in everything that we have labeled “God”.

So, using my Father Christmas anaology – when I was a member of the Religion of Santa Claus I may have had been told the connections to other mystical teachings (the birth of Christ) but I could not really see from the ‘inside out’ as it were and think of a world that could have ‘presents’ and no Santa.

More importantly once I had recovered from my Santa Delusion (to misappropriate a certain well know book title) I was able to see and acknowledge the interconnected nature of thoughts and ideas which had created him in the first place.

“Santa” was much more than a marketing ploy by a famous drinks company (who, despite urban myth were not the first to describe a jolly-old red-suited Father Christmas) but was a symbol of so much more that I came to value (and of some things I did not).

Having ‘been Santa’ (that is an actor playing the role of Santa professionally) I am aware of the impact the image has and the way people  of all ages react emotionally to ‘him’. For the most part the reaction is one of joy and positivity; of connecting to memories or some idealistic zietgiest …. there is nothing wrong with this as far as I am concerned. Where it would become a concern is where the esteem and regard the character is held in becomes a vehicle for manipulation and control – a kind of extension of the idea that ‘you need to be good or else no presents’.


So let’s see where we can find some ‘common ground’.

Most of us have the ability to sense ourselves as individuals – distinct and independent from each other

Most of us would accept that our awareness of the outside world changes from time to time and place to place

Further, then, I would argue that most of us would recognise that our sense of the world outside (what we see, hear, feel, taste and smell) is limited by the sensory apparatus we possess.

Most of us would be willing to accept that some of the sensory information we process is processed without conscious thought – we would be willing to conceive of a sub-conscious or unconscious set of processes.

Most of us would be willing to accept that the way we behave is the result of what we feel; what we think; what we value; what we need – on other words what motivates us to do something.

Many would further accept that there are conscious motivations and as well as unconscious ones.

Some of us would be willing to accept that our inner sense of the world is constructed from our sensory experience of the world ‘out there’ and moreover have had the experience of being fooled into seeing something that was not there (for example)

Some of us would be willing to accept that our emotions have an effect on how we make sense and react to what we perceive.

I think that apart from a pedants need to change some of the specific wording above that most people would take the above as ‘given’ and not really want to argue too much about the claims. Of course there are some with psychological or neurological conditions for which some of the above may not apply, but on the whole we have a general agreement that there are levels of experience which we can call …

  • External Sensory
  • Internal Sensory
  • Consciousness
  • Unconsciousness  or Sub-Conscious
  • Behavioural

This is the MIND and BODY bit which forms part of objective reality which can be studied by scientist, philosophers and rationalists.

Ideas in this real can be tested against scientific (objective) criteria and, for the most part, we can set-up hypotheses which we can attempt to falsify (part of the scientific method).

So far so good..

Now ..

Most of us will have had experiences which we might describe as being ‘different’ and not necessarily related to external experiences – they are personal.

Emotional experiences, which can be felt as unique and personal, are of course related to aspects of brain chemistry but have an impact above and beyond the simple behavioural framework in which they occur.

These experiences can have a sense of being “beyond self” and indeed some of us will have had a sense of what could be called, mystical, spiritual or even transpersonal experiences.

Again brain chemistry is involved but what triggers the bio-chemical responses can be questioned and, in the absence of an acceptance that the mind can ‘create’ these experiences it is likely that we will call these spiritual experiences as being a connection to some universal source of essence.

So now we have the oft quoted trinity of Body, Mind and Spirit.

The issue of course is that whilst many of the body-mind experiences can be subjected to the questions of the rationalist, those we could call a spiritual experience may not be and, more importantly, get ‘caught’ by the web of an individual, group or cultural belief systems.

At this point discussion can ‘break down’ since any attempt to explore a personally powerful experience with rational techniques may seem like an attack on belief even when it is not.

Once emotions run high conversations get defensive and prone to logical fallacy after logical fallacy – and finally the ad homenim attacks which get us nowhere. The truth is, of course, that spiritual beliefs are not necessarily subject to the same rational explorations as are the components we see as being part of objective reality. The existence God, as well as well perhaps spirits or ghosts are not falsifiable in the scientific sense.

The best we can do is explore and seek to understand what individuals mean by the spiritual words and frameworks they use.

I found the chart below very interesting in that is seems to be an attempt to link the  “Great Chain of Being” is usually given as something like: matterbodymindsoul, and spirit to the more ‘popular’ religious belief systems.


Source: Integral Life

All of the major belief systems seem to echo the following ‘truths’..

1) The individual has become disconnected from a (or the) spiritual source

2) The personality (outer representation of the individual) and the behaviours (the interaction of the individual between self, others and the outside world) of human beings need to brought in line with the destiny, desires or plan of the divine.

3) Reconnection with the spiritual source requires sacrifice, learning, and personal commitment.

4) That there is, by definition, a spiritual source to reconnect with in the first place – a matter of personal belief and/or self-referred revelation generally following some kind of personal epiphany.

 A note for the atheists who are of a scientific persuasion ….

If you, as an atheist, are willing to accept the concept of an infinite universe – in mathematical and scientific terms – then, by definition, there are an infinite number of possibilities for the mechanisms of nature (or not) which define ‘reality’.

So, therefore, there is high possibility of a universe existing in which a God exists – as well as a universe in which the laws of nature we know or think we ‘understand’ do not apply.

A note for the Christians and others who seem to engage in circular arguments…


Counter argument to the Christ myth

Counter argument to the Christ myth (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Here are some interesting thoughts …

Some of the best evidence for the afterlife is:

  • People on their death beds see spirits who come to help them make the transition. These experiences have been confirmed in various ways and shown to be objective phenomena and not hallucinations. Sometimes other people attending the dying also see the same spirits at the same time. In one case a spirit communicating through a medium told of how she assisted a dying man. A relative of the man was sought out and the information the man related to the relative confirmed what came through the medium. (see below: Death Bed Visions)OK So how can we prove that these experiences are not hallucinations, the result of expectation, confabulation, retro-fitting reports to expectations or confirmation bias?To be presented as evidence the burden of proof lies with the claimant.
  • Near the time of their death the spirits of the dead have appeared to friends or relatives at distant locations where more than one person present at the location sees the spirit. (see below: Crisis Apparitions)So how do we confirm this? These are non-falsifiable surely and, of course, such accounts as anecdotes are subject to some of the same concerns mentioned above.
  • Mediums sometimes receive communications from spirits who are unrelated to and unknown by the sitters and the medium. These spirits come through to communicate for purposes important only to themselves. They give verifiable information about their identity and cause of death. (see below: Drop-in Communicators)The Medium particularly and some of those attending already have  a belief system which is based upon the reality of spirits and spirit communication. If the information is given cannot be verified at the time, i.e. no one in the session knows the person coming through, how can we rule out expectation and cherry picking when it comes to researching only information that fits that which is revealed? The specificity of the information needs to be questioned.
  • Mediums can receive communications from spirits even when the person getting the reading is not present in the room with the medium. In these cases, the medium may not know who the sitter is and cannot get any type of feedback from the sitter yet the medium can bring through specialized knowledge known by the spirit. (see below: Proxy Sittings)The same questions as posed above need to be asked. In experiments I have conducted the mediums were unable to identify in  a reading someone who had ‘passed’ from six photos (hence five of whom were alive)
  • When people are unconscious and near death, they sometimes experience leaving their body and when revived, bring back information that they could not have obtained with their normal senses even if they had been conscious and that information is later verified as correct. “Scientific” explanations cannot explain this and other aspects of the phenomena. (see below: Near Death Experiences)This again is subject to questions about the nature of the information – its specificity. The scientific explanation of NDE’s relies upon some well established neuro-science.
  • Children have been studied who remember past lives. They can speak languages they have never heard. They remember geography, faces, and names of people in locations they have never been to. They have birthmarks on their body where they had sustained injuries in the previous life. An investigator interviews everyone involved, the children, the current families, surviving members of the families from the previous life and everything checks out. (see below: Reincarnation)This is interesting and there could be many explanations, which include cultural expectation (hence unconscious coaching) and confirmation bias. Some examples of rigorous investigation of cases has shown a bias in the nature of the questions asked by the original researchers – leading questions asked of children and relatives to get the answers required.
  • Spirits have communicated parts of messages through different mediums. When combined, these partial messages produce a complete message. The messages contained very specialized knowledge known to the spirit and were communicated spontaneously, not at the request of any living person. These messages show that the spirit lives on after the death of the body, retains knowledge from its earth life, and continues to have the ability to initiate, organize, and carry out complex activities. (see below: Cross Correspondences)An interesting observation but it does not rule out mind-to-mind communication between the mediums. The specific nature of the knowledge, the information and its clearly defined ‘spontaneous’ origin beg some questions.
  • Experiments attended by scientists and a stage magician have been conducted under controlled conditions where voices of spirits were heard, objects were materialized, and images imprinted on photographic film. (see below: The Scole Experiments)As noted by other commentators on the Scole Experiments were not controlled effectively..Brian Dunning notes” ….the investigators imposed little or no controls or restrictions upon the mediums, and at the same time, agreed to all of the restrictions imposed by the mediums. The mediums were in control of the seances, not the investigators. What the Scole Report authors describe as a scientific investigation of the phenomena, was in fact (by any reasonable interpretation of the scientific method) hampered by a set of rules which explicitly prevented any scientific investigation of the phenomena.”After reading about some of the controls imposed I feel that any competent magician could’ve reproduced some of  the physical phenomena.

    Often Quoted Individual Cases

    • The spirit of a grand master chess player plays through a medium at the grand master level in a style characteristic of the time of his life on earth.
      Source: The Survival Files by Miles Edward Allen
    • Is the validation of a style possible since we know moves of Masters are studied in detail by students of chess?
    • Could the medium play chess and was he or she any good?
    • There is a magicians ‘trick’ in which a magician with no (or little knowledge) of chess can play 10 Grand Masters simultaneously and win/draw most of them
    • The challenge of confirmation bias 
    • A scholar of Asian languages speaks in Chinese with a spirit who successfully explains an ancient Chinese poem that modern scholars did not understand.
      Source: Psychic Adventures In New York by Neville Whymant
    • So if scholars could not interpret who was available to falsify the claim?
    • Spirits of crew members of a crashed dirigible, R-101, “provided technical details about its design and construction, recollections of test flights, discussions of political pressures and unrealistic deadlines that plagued the project, and a description of the crash itself and its causes” and “the personalities of the dead airmen also came through in recognizable detail”.
      Source: “R-101″ by Michael Prescott
      † http://michaelprescott.freeservers.com/R-101.htm 
    • Interesting and I would like to see the details of the evidence, the availability of the technical information and how specific it was.
      Also see:
      The Survival Files by Miles Edward Allen
    • Relatives of a deceased child receive convincing evidence of identity from the spirit of the child.
      Source: “An Amazing Experiment” by Charles Drayton Thomas
    • Specificity of information and the ratio of ‘hits’ to ‘misses’ would be an interesting question here.
    • What were the pre-existing beliefs of the parents?
    • “Police in Nelson, B.C., have found the body of a young woman who disappeared last March, and they credit a local psychic for pointing them in the right direction.”
      Source: CBC News Thursday, January 27, 2005
    • What does ‘pointing in the right direction mean’?
    • The use of newspaper stories does not, in my opinion, constitute reliable, unbiased evidence.
    • The Sylvia Browne experience?
Now the point is not about questioning a belief, but in questioning the evidence which is presented as scientific.
As I have said several times, the experiences which stem from our beliefs are important to the individual and they bring meaning and inspiration.
A scientist’s view of a universe following physical laws is not necessarily poorer for the absence of God and of course a mystics view of the cosmos is not necessarily richer because of the absence of science.
When I share an experience with someone, I share their perception of the world and their beliefs about it. I am honored that they have chosen to share that part of their personal  universe.
I hope that when I share my experiences they are met with similar respect…
IF I present a personal experience as evidence for something I would like others to accept as being part of universal truth, then I would hope that they would be willing to question my perceptions and my conclusions.
IF I then try to convince people that my metaphysical construct is the ‘best’ or ‘only way’ I should expect questions and honest debate and not shy away from the rationalists desire to ascertain the quality of my evidence or the mystics recognition that there are differences in the way the universe can be expressed and understood by the individual.
My model of the way ‘the world is’ and my relationship with the universe is based upon my learning, my reflections and my experience and anyone who immediately assumes a superior experience because they are either ‘knowledgeable’ or ‘enlightened’ would capture my interest; my questions and if necessary the re-evaluation of my beliefs.

Evidence for the Afterlife : Source

Brian Dunning : Source


Music on Tonights Show:

Courtesy of Aardvark Records

Triptych – The Truths

Sound You – The Truths

Speed of Life – The Truths

Courtesy of Al  Jones Music






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TRTZ no 44 The Brain The Mind The Self


Before I get started on tonight’s show let me first make a couple of apologies..

First for the unexpected cancellation of last weeks show. Domestic issues meant that I could not get to the studio to do what needed to be done…

Secondly, advance apologies for next week as I’m off giving a talk so won’t be in the studio either. (I dunno, these part time presenters…)

That being said, tonight’s show will be about the brain, the idea of mind and the notion of self…


Brain scanning technology is quickly approachi...

Image via Wikipedia

But first some news…

January 4th:  Tuscon, Arizona has played host to another chupacapra (Spanish for ‘Goatsucker’) sighting after a resident meterologist spied a creature ‘about the size of a coyote, but with no fur and with dark skin and big ears.’  Though the legend of the chupacabra has only come about in the last fifty years or so (And appears to have gained public awareness after a sighting from a woman having just seen a film with a similar creature in it), sightings are fairly regular in North America and Mexico and incidents of peculiar livestock death are often attributed to them.  Many sightings, though not all of them, are coyotes or other canine species with a seriously nasty case of sarcoptic mange.  From the snaps of this particular beast it’s possible to come to the same conclusion, though whatever has been photographed certainly looks like an extra from Silent Hill.

January 9th:  A Madison, US resident was arrested on Thursday afternoon on charges of: carrying a concealed weapon, possession of drug paraphernalia, possession of marijuana and violation of probation.  The unusual thing about this particular case was the name of the criminal.  Born Jeffrey Drew Wilschke, he had his name officially changed to Beezow Doo-Doo Zoopittybop-Bop-Bop in October 2011.  His facebook page has come under scrutiny fromthe public subsequent to this story and when he isn’t being arrested he apparently enjoys ‘eating’, ‘standing’, ‘walking’, ‘thinking’, and ‘diamond’, whatever diamond means.  As he was arrested he allegedly told the police that he would ‘get even with them’.

January 13th: The first 13th of the year and it just so happens to be a Friday! America in particular suffered the most as superstition results in many workers taking the day off to avoid ill fortune, resulting in a loss of around $800 to $900 million.  Fear of Friday the 13th even has a name – friggatriskaidekaphobia, and the origin of the anxiety has it’s roots in the history of the Knight’s Templar, as this was the day they were sentenced to death by the church.

A foot locker store in New York discovered a nightmarish pest dwelling in it’s basement.  Though the picture was taken months ago, it has only recently started circulating in the public eye.  The 2.5 foot rat far exceeds the size of most conventionally large rats, and experts in the field believe it to be a Gambian pouched rat.  Fortunately, musophobes can sleep soundly in the knowledge that this breed is harmless, quite docile and that the specimen caught in the foot locker store could easily have been an escaped pet.  Witty commenters jokingly remarked that perhaps this sighting would be followed by ninja turtles in pursuit of pizza trucks.

A prize equivalent to £6.5m and sponsored by Qualcomm is being offered to anybody who can come up with a device that ‘weighs less than 2.2kg but can measure “key health metrics and diagnose a set of 15 diseases”’.  Trekkies everywhere are dithering with excitement at the possibility of such a device, the capability of which could be likened to a tricorder.


The Brain and Perception – some notes from Catherine

The Brain – Perception  (Or lack thereof!)

The brain is still something of a mystery to us, regardless of medical awareness and development.  Psychology and biology still come to blows even now over perception, sensation, processing and many other things, particularly abnormality.

There are many varying thoughts on how everything works, and some established certainties.

The passive process of sensation involves bringing information from the outside to the brain, while the active process of perception involves organising or translating said information into something meaningful to us.

The result is more subjective than you might expect, affected by cultural influence, past experience and basic nature known as perceptual expectancy.  For example, a person from the UK expects to see cars on a road, but somebody from another country with a different history might be surprised to see such a thing.

What is perceived is also affected by what you choose to pay attention to, known as selective attention.  An example of this might be your ability to completely drown out loud music at a party when you hear the mention of your name.  Others will be paying attention to the music.

The name for the study of this is psychophysics and it acts as a quantitative means by which relations between stimulus and response can be observed and questioned.

The processes specifically are of interest to psychophysics as the structure of sensory systems is a job for physiology.

The methods of psychophysics have assisted in the development of many other branches of psychology such as learning and memory as well as social psychology.

The cognitive branch of psychology also places much significance on the processes involved in perception, most specifically visually and aurally.

Many of the optical illusions that float around on the internet and such used as part of the cognitive approach to perception.

Many optical/ visual illusions use parallel lines, afterimages on the retina, lack of context resulting in an inability to interpret the spatial structure of something, and colour arrangement to demonstrate how what we perceive is not always correct, and thusly, that seeing is not always believing.

There are three main types of illusion.  ‘Optical illusion’ is perhaps an overused and incorrect term for many illusions we know of as this implies that it is an illusion on a purely physiological basis, which is not always the case.  Cognitive illusions differ significantly from optical and physiological ones.

Literal optical illusions ‘create images that are different from the objects that make them.’  Seeing the outline of a man in the gaps between the branches of a tree might be an example of this.

Physiological illusion follows the theory that ‘a stimulus follows its individual dedicated neural path in the early stages of visual processing, and that intense or repetitive activity in that or interaction with active adjoining channels cause a physiological imbalance that alters perception.’

Physiological illusions are still rooted the literal and biological, being the excessive stimulation of something such as colour or movement and its effects on the eyes and brain.  Thusly, it is particular to the reactions of neurons, rods, cones and other such biological functions and can be physically observed.

An example of a physiological illusion usually involves something such as colour combinations that appear to move despite being static or an image that creates a different afterimage on the retina.

The effect of colour arrangement has on our perception is perhaps the most difficult to unravel.  Many illusions can be perceived correctly (To some degree) when explained to us, but the checkerboard illusion shown here is an excellent demonstration of still perceiving what we know to be totally incorrect.  Squares A and B are in fact exactly the same colour, but regardless of the fact that you now know this, it is still extremely difficult to see!



Cognitive illusions are more of a psychological study as opposed to a physiological one (though physiology is still involved) being the result of unconscious conjecture and presumption.  There are further sub categories of cognitive illusion, including depth and motion perception, colour and brightness constancy, object constancy and perceptual organization.


Perceptual Organisation is most commonly quoted, involving images that can be different depending on how the subject views the image. Some people see one thing and others see something else depending on individual factors or influences.

That isn’t to say that utilisation of these illusions is by any means recent.  The ancient Greeks used to incorporate a small amount of convexity in the columns of the Parthenon because without this the parallel lines created an illusion of concavity.  This is known as entasis.  It is also suggested that this made a building appear more substantial.

Moving on from illusion, other examples of perception usually begin with an environmental stimulus that is not always visual.  The sound of something, the smell of something, the touch of something.

After the perception of the stimulus comes the recognition of the stimulus.  We have to categorise things to understand the world around us.

Perception without a stimulus is possible: a hallucination.  This can manifest on every sensory level.

Visually:  Seeing something that is not there.

Auditory:  Hearing sounds that are not being made.

Olfactory:  Picking up on a non-existent smell. (Phantosmia)

Gustatory:  A taste without any flavour creating factor being present in the mouth.

Tactile:  Feeling touch when there is no physical contact, or perhaps a change in temperature or altered position.

Equilibrioception:  Feeling as if one is out of balance when they are not.

Nociception:  Feeling pain when there is none.

Chronoceptive:  Perhaps most intriguing, this is a misperception of the passage of time.

While most examples of hallucination are linked to psychological malfunction there are examples of commonly occurring hallucinations that are not an illness.

Hypnagognic hallucinations occur when one is falling asleep.  It could be described as a waking dream, whereby the subject experiences visual, auditory or tactile hallucinations just before they go into REM sleep where dreaming takes place.  It most often a sensation of falling just as you nod off, often waking you up as you kick out in a hypnic jerk (A kind of myoclonic twitch).

Hynapompic hallucinations take place as one is waking up.

Visual hallucinations are often exploited to form an illusion.

Auditory hallucinations fall in to two categories:

Elementary, whereby we perceive hearing something such as a rushing, hissing or a whistling, some constant noise.

Complex, whereby the subject hears voices or music or perhaps something they can’t understand.  This type of hallucination is most commonly associated with mental illness.

It is possible to hear things without being otherwise ill, thus further complicating the intricacies of perception.

Tactile hallucinations are often associated with prolonged drug use, such as the feeling of crawling skin or of insects or creatures being on the skin.  Sufferers of delusional parasitosis (The belief that one is infested with something ranging from worms to mites and lice, despite the lack thereof) also often feel this, known as formication.

Other illnesses commonly associated with hallucination include Parkinsons, delirium tremens, some forms of epilepsy, schizophrenia and intriguingly, Charles Bonnet syndrome, whereby visual hallucinations are experienced by those who are blind.

While many of these are commonly attributed to biological deficit, followers of Freud relate hallucinations to the manifestation of subconscious desires, much like they do for dreams.

In relation to psychoanalysis, the Rorschach inkblot test relies on the subject’s perception.  A Rorschach inkblot is the image of a shape, resembling a splotch of ink, which is often used in therapy to determine an individual’s basic thought processes and emotional functioning.  The individual describes what they perceive in or from the shape and associations can be drawn henceforth as to why they saw what they saw, and what it means to the individual.

The notion and meaning behind Rorschach blots were used heavily in psychological horror game, Silent Hill: Shattered Memories, whereby the protagonist is regularly pursued by ‘Raw Shocks’, a monster that changes in physical appearance according to the actions of the player.  For example, they appear ‘atrophied and disfigured’ if the player directs the protagonist to focus on trivial things in the game and speaks to other NPCs rudely.  Or they appear overtly feminine and sexualised if the player directs the protagonist to focus on the sexual imagery in the game.  Very Freudian!

Derren Brown employs many demonstrations of selective attention in his shows, perhaps the best example being during ‘The Evening of Wonders’, whereby he paced across the stage carrying a writing board, paused momentarily, then appeared to walk back onstage followed by a man in a gorilla costume.  The gorilla removes his headpiece, revealing himself to be Derren Brown, who artfully managed to convince his audience he was still carrying the writing board and that the man in the costume was somebody else.

It was suggested that this was his sort of ‘tribute’ to similar selective attention test performed in 1999 known as the ‘Invisible Gorilla’ test.

In this test, subjects were asked to watch a video of people passing a basketball between one another and count the number of times players in white passed the ball.  Halfway through the video, a man in a gorilla costume strolls into the game, beats his chest and strolls out again.  The video was meant to outline how few people would take any notice of the presence of the gorilla, despite its obvious and odd appearance, because their selective attention was focused on a different task.  Unfortunately the video became so famous people now know to look for the gorilla.

Derren Brown’s test is also an example of change blindness, which in turn is an example of the brain’s perception of the world comprising of fragmented details, the gaps of which are filled in by the brain itself.

This theory suggests that the brain more or less estimates the significance of what needs to be paid attention to or the usefulness of the information received.

Derren Brown has also made an example of change blindness in an act that involved approaching a stranger on the street, asking for directions, and while he is talking have somebody walk past carrying a large object.  While this object is disrupting the view for hardly any time at all, he swapped out with another who doesn’t resemble him remotely, yet the stranger will continue the conversation with the second individual as if there had been no change.

Change blindness is also thought to be easy to achieve during saccadic eye movement, the period in which your eyes move from one thing to another.  This movement is not smooth, though we perceive it to be.

By tracking saccadic eye movement, George Mcconkie conducted an experiment that meant he was able to change details of a piece of text right in front of the subject’s eyes without them noticing.



Alan here – the above video is from Richard Wiseman’s excellent Quirkology – were you fooled?

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TRTZ no 9 8th February

Near Death Experiences

This is perhaps going to be one of the most controversial of topics I’ve covered so far in as much at the core of the discussion will be the beliefs of the individual and the sense that what is being said will be a direct challenge to their personal experience.

There will be those who will be quick to stop reading, to discount either the rational or the mystical argument as it runs counter to what they want to believe.

From my perspective we are firmly in the grasp of Rational Mysticism when we start talking about the nature of consciousness.

From the rational point of view we have the information which science brings to the fore. The workings of the brain, the functions of the senses and the way neural processes create experience. From this ‘functional’ perspective consciousness is the product of neural activity. The ‘self’ a reflection of cognitive, emotional, social and biological correlates which form the backdrop to personal awareness.

From the mystical point of view we have the reported experiences of others and our subjective understanding of the world. We sense that there are varied modes of awareness and multiple ways of knowing. From this perspective we see the need to ask questions about ‘who’ is having the experience; the possible sense of ‘other selves’ which may or may not fit within some personal religious or spiritual paradigm.

This dichotomy gives rise to opposing world views in which rationalists defend the proposition of non-duality and mystics maintain the view that there is a spirit, a ‘ghost in the machine’.

Standing back from the bitter, often vitriolic exchanges between those holding opposing views, it is easy to see how both may have been caught up in their own rhetoric and, dare I say, the boxes they have created for themselves. Those who have self-professed and self-proclaimed experience of ‘other realities’ have, perhaps, bought into their own neural constructs – their personal realities. Those who take a functional, pragmatic approach to the study of human experience do so within the framework of scientific method wherein assertions or hypotheses which cannot be falsified cannot be tested.

Conscious experience, and by extension spiritual, trans-personal, mystical experience, is subjective and whilst there may well be identifiable neural and behavioural markers for and in that experience, it is the apparent sense that the ‘whole’ is more than the sum of the ‘parts’. It is in this space that dualists make reference to ‘spirit’ or ‘soul’, non-dualists refer to ‘emergent properties of neural processes’. Adherents to the differing perspectives defend their positions, fall out and then refuse to consider any point from the other side.

There are perhaps four key players in this debate…

Those versed in New Thought, post modern spiritual movements who either refuse to read the ideas and thinking of others as they have a notion that all they need is ‘that which comes from within or from some spiritual source. Which in and of itself all well and good, but actually negates the possibility of any meaningful debate as their ‘trump card’

Those versed in New Thought, post modern spiritual movements whose reading and research is self-referential and restricted to those sources which support their point of view. They are able to quote a whole host of references, some academic (often from non-peer reviewed sources), which add credence to their argument.

Those versed in Scientific Method and the search for objectivity who find discussions of mystical experience interesting, but which can be ultimately reduced to psychological and neurological processes.They are able to quote from academic (more generally from peer-reviewed sources) which continue to redefine and reshape questions for further exploration

Those versed in Scientific Method and the search for objectivity who find discussions of mystical experience irrelevant to their search for a set of principles, models or patterns which underlie human experience. They are able to quote from peer reviewed academic sources which emphasise the difficulty, if not folly, in pursuing what are considered to be questions of metaphysics.

The nature of death

Clinical death is occurs when the blood stops circulating and we stop breathing. At this point resuscitation is possible at this point.

On the onset of ‘clinical death’ consciousness is lost within several seconds with ‘measurable’ brain activity stopping within 30 to 40 seconds. During clinical death all organs undergo steady and gradual ‘injury’. Called ischemic injury it is due totally the restriction or loss of blood flow.

Most organs can survive this kind of injury for a considerable amount of time, but the brain is very sensitive to blood loss. In about 3 minutes, under normal temperatures, the brain in all but the most rare of cases will not escape permanent and lasting damage.

Although this loss of function is rapid it is not as easy to define the specific duration of clinical death at which the injured areas of the brain dies.

The problem then is ‘death’, which used to be defined as the point at which ‘clinical death’ occurred, is a series of bio-physical events. It is these events that will eventually lead to ‘brain death’ – the cessation of electrical activity in the brain. It is the death of the brain or brain stem is the ‘marker’ for actual ‘death’.

Now herein lies the issue. Many of NDE reports are from those individuals who have ‘just’ entered into the realms of ‘clinical death’ and of course these may not, especially with medical resuscitation technologies, be life-threatening. Of course, on the flip side, this does mean that many more are coming back from the ‘edge of death’ and reporting experiences that have a degree of commonality.

Near Death Experience reports contain some or most of the following:-

  • Receiving messages from some ‘extra-personal’ source
  • A sense or awareness of ‘being dead’
  • A feeling of being ‘removed’, being ‘out of the body’
  • A sense of peace, tranquility and euphoria
  • A tunnel-like vision – or the sense of moving up or through ‘the light’
  • A feeling of ‘unconditional love’
  • A sense of being pulled toward and communicating with ‘the light’
  • A sense of ‘light beings’ or of meetings with ‘loved’ ones
  • A ‘life review’
  • Being given an insight into the way the universe works, divine knowledge
  • A decision to ‘return’ to the body – frequently with sadness or at least hesitancy

Whilst many NDE researchers suggest that there are cross cultural similarities in these experiences, save for the specific religious iconography which may become incorporated within the visionary stages of this continuum (as defined by Kenneth Ring 1980 and his five-stage continuum for NDE’s), one study specifically identifies experiences that do not match the above (Yoshi Hata).

So if the experiences are largely common isn’t it easier to suggest that the NDE’s are a function of progressive brain death?

The similarity of aspects of the near death experience to other ‘altered states’, lucid dreaming, REM sleep and meditation seems to support the idea that we are really looking at states of mind that are the result of changes in respiration, heartbeat, physical relaxation and so on.

Drug induced experiences, which are the result of chemical reactions in the brain, and certain medical conditions (such as epilepsy) also include the sense of ‘being outside’ of self, hearing an omnipotent voice and a sense of euphoria.

Ockhams Razor surely comes into play here. Is there any need to postulate anything more save for the fact that suggesting NDE’s are ‘spiritual in origin’ lend support to one particular metaphysical view – that there is ‘life beyond death’?

Rick Strassman noted in the 1990’s that the psychedelic drug dimethytriptamine (DMT) produced kinesthetic and auditory hallucinations. He postulated that upon the onset of death, the pineal gland released DMT and this was responsible for NDE’s.

Richard Kinseher in 2006 proposed that as ‘death’ was such a “strange paradox” for a living organism that in the unconscious processing of what was happening a NDE would be ‘triggered’ in order to make sense of what was happening. The mind would, in a sense, scan itself and pull information from the memory and perceptual processes generating a ‘meaningful experience’. Remember that it can be said that the key function of the human brain is to make associations and ‘pattern match’ its current ‘experience’ with what it has previously experienced or understood.

If, however, NDE’s are part and parcel of the onset of ‘clinical death’ why are they not reported by everyone who has ‘been there’, in that ‘moment’ prior to revival?

Also how is it that during an out of the body experience that can be part of the whole NDE there is an awareness of what is happening in the room the subjects body is in? The reports of those who can describe with ‘accuracy’ what was being done, what was being said and who left and entered the room.

Keeping solely with the ‘natural’ origin of NDE’s then perhaps both of these questions can be answered by the brains own ability to confabulate.

Confabulation is, in its simplest sense, results from the brain some creating experiences (which we could call ‘false memories’) and deleting others (confirmation bias as it were).

Now, and this is key.

Perhaps the nature of the experience itself is not the point. If we accept that it cannot be used to ‘prove’ the existence of ‘the afterlife’ we can certainly make the case that many of those who have a near death experience find it to be life changing in some many ways. Surely this is the nature of real mysticism. Having an answer to why an experience is what it is rationally need not detract from the personal meaning we can derive from it. The ‘truth’ maybe is the reality of progressive brain degeneration but the ‘experience’, like any motivational ‘dream’ can inspire self reflection and personal growth?

Many researchers have reported the profound after-effects of NDE’s in terms of an individual’s outlook to life, changes in personality and reported increased activity within the brains ‘temporal lobe’. Of course it makes sense that any experience that is explained by, or seems to prove spiritual beliefs, will have an influence upon attitude and behaviour, but the temporal lobe changes, if wide-spread and consistent across cases, is very interesting.

Research into near death experiences is engaging neurologists and psychologists who see this as being one of the areas in which the mind-brain debate as well as the physical-metaphysical debate can take place.

In September 2008 a research project involving 25 UK and USA hospitals set out to examine the near death experiences of 1,500 heart attach survivors. This a three year project and is being coordinated by Southampton University and Dr Sam Parnia. The study is a follow-up to a previous eighteen month pilot project and hopes to discover if people without heartbeat or brain activity can have an out of the body experience with detailed visual recall.

Whilst I have some questions about what is exactly meant by ‘no brain activity’ (where on the brain death continuum are we in this study, as obviously the subjects ‘survived?), the results and conclusions will be interesting.

In 2010 at a summer lecture in Goldsmiths College, Dr Parnia said:

“evidence is now suggesting that mental and cognitive processes may continue for a period of time after a death has started”

He continued by saying that death was “essentially a global stroke of the brain. Therefore like any stroke process one would not expect the entity of mind / consciousness to be lost immediately”.

Tracks on tonight’s show

Adrenaliser :  Two Hearts

Callel : Earthling Hearts

Benny Tetteh-Lartey : You Can

The Truths : Miracle Drug

All tracks courtesy of Aardvark Music please support them by visiting their website and getting your music from their artists.

References for NDE


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