Minds Beyond Brains: New Experimental Evidence
Minds Beyond Brains: New Experimental Evidence
June 15, 2013 By davidjones
By RUPERT SHELDRAKE—
Where are our minds located? We have been brought up to believe that they are inside our heads, that mental activity is nothing but brain activity. Instead, I suggest that our minds extend far beyond our brains; they stretch out through fields that link us to our environment and to each other.
Mental fields are rooted in brains, just as magnetic fields around magnets are rooted in the magnets themselves, or just as the fields of transmission around mobile phones are rooted in the phones and their internal electrical activities. As magnetic fields extend around magnets, and electromagnetic fields around mobile phones, so mental fields extend around brains.
Mental fields help to explain telepathy, the sense of being stared at and other widespread but unexplained abilities. Above all, mental fields underlie normal perception. They are an essential part of vision.
Look around you now. Are the images of what you see inside your brain? Or are they outside you – just where they seem to be?
According to the conventional theory, there is a one-way process: light moves in, but nothing is projected out. The inward movement of light is familiar enough. As you look at this page, reflected light moves from the page through the electromagnetic field into your eyes. The lenses of your eyes focus the light to form upside-down images on your retinas. This light falling on your retinal rod and cone cells causes electrical changes within them, which trigger off patterned changes in the nerves of the retina. Nerve impulses move up your optic nerves and into the brain, where they give rise to complex patterns of electrical and chemical activity. So far, so good. All these processes can be, and have been, studied in great detail by neurophysiologists and other experts on vision and brain activity.
But then something very mysterious happens. You consciously experience what you are seeing, the page in front of you. You also become conscious of the printed words and their meanings. From the point of view of the standard theory, there is no reason why you should be conscious at all. Brain mechanisms ought to go on just as well without consciousness.
Then comes a further problem. When you see this page, you do not experience your image of it as being inside your brain, where it is supposed to be. Instead, you experience its image as being located about two feet in front of you. The image is outside your body.
For all its physiological sophistication, the standard theory has no explanation for your most immediate and direct experience. All your experience is supposed to be inside your brain, a kind of virtual reality show inside your head. That means your skull must lie beyond everything you are seeing: if you look at the sky, your skull must be beyond the sky! This seems an absurd idea, but it seems to be a necessary implication of the mind-in-brain theory.
The idea I am proposing is so simple that it is hard to grasp. Your image of this page is just where it seems to be, in front of your eyes, not behind your eyes. It is not inside your brain, but outside your brain.
Thus vision involves both an inward movement of light, and an outward projection of images. Through mental fields our minds reach out to touch what we are looking at. If we look at a mountain ten miles away, our minds stretch out ten miles. If we gaze at distant stars our minds reach out into the heavens, over literally astronomical distances.
Sometimes when I look at someone from behind, he or she turns and looks straight at me. And sometimes I suddenly turn around and find someone staring at me. Surveys show that more than 90% of people have had experiences such as these. The sense of being stared at should not occur if attention is all inside the head. But if it stretches out and links us to what we are looking at, then our looking could affect what we look at. Is this just an illusion, or does the sense of being stared at really exist?
This question can be explored through simple, inexpensive experiments. People work in pairs. One person, the subject, sits with his or her back to the other, wearing a blind-fold. The other person, the looker, sits behind the subject, and in a random series of trials either looks at the subject’s neck, or looks away and thinks of something else. The beginning of each trial is signalled by a mechanical clicker or bleeper. Each trial lasts about ten seconds and the subject guesses out loud ‘looking’ or ‘not looking’. Detailed instructions are given on my website, http://www.sheldrake.org/Onlineexp/o...xperiment.html.
More than 100,000 trials have now been carried out, and the results are overwhelmingly positive and hugely significant statistically, with odds against chance of quadrillions to one. The sense of being stared at even works when people are looked at through closed-circuit TV.
Animals are also sensitive to being looked at by people, and people by animals. This sensitivity to looks seems widespread in the animal kingdom and may well have evolved in the context of predator-prey relationships: an animal that sensed when an unseen predator was staring would stand a better chance of surviving than an animal without this sense.
Educated people have been brought up to believe that telepathy does not exist. Like other so-called psychic phenomena, it is dismissed as an illusion. Most people who espouse these opinions, which I used to myself, do not do so on the basis of a close examination of the evidence. They do so because there is a taboo against taking telepathy seriously. This taboo is related to the prevailing paradigm or model of reality within institutional science, namely the mind-inside-the-brain theory, according to which telepathy and other psychic phenomena, which seem to imply mysterious kinds of ‘action at a distance’, cannot possibly exist.
This taboo dates back at least as far as the Enlightenment at the end of the eighteenth century. But this is not the place to examine its history (which I discuss in my book The Sense of Being Stared At). Rather I want to summarise some recent experiments, which suggest that telepathy not only exists, but that it is a normal part of animal communication.
I first became interested in the subject of telepathy some fifteen years ago, and started looking at evidence for telepathy in the animals we know best, namely pets. I soon came across numerous stories from owners of dogs, cats, parrots, horses and other animals that suggested that these animals seemed able to read their minds and intentions.
Through public appeals I have built up a large database of such stories, currently containing more than 3,500 case histories. These stories fall into several categories. For example, many cat owners say that their animal seems to sense when they are planning to take them to the vet, even before they have taken out the carrying basket or given any apparent clue as to their intention.
Some people say their dogs know when they are going to be taken for a walk, even when they are in a different room, out of sight or hearing, and when the person is merely thinking about taking them for a walk. Of course, no one finds this behaviour surprising if it happens at a routine time, or if the dogs see the person getting ready to go out, or hear the word ‘walk’. They think it is telepathic because it seems to happen in the absence of such clues.
One of the commonest and most testable claims about dogs and cats is that they know when their owners are coming home, in some cases anticipating their arrival by ten minutes or more.
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