Extra-Solar Religion and Science

 

Interpretation

My first thought was that Barbara was telling me about the existence of the spirit after death. Reassuring me not to worried about it now that I was  getting very close to experiencing it myself. Then I realized she could be saying “It’s all right” referring to the thoughts on the existence of eternity in general, or to the idea that spacetime being interlaced with it. I had heard that spirit messages, like those of soothsayers and mystics, were somewhat cryptic. So, I accepted all the interpretations. I will try to explain how I thought this experience was generated from what little I know about sources of visions. I found this experience quite distinct from the various types of dreaming.

To describe the origin of the vision we need a theory of mind. There are several approaches. Three are most familiar. One is in science, describing mind as arising from groups of nerve cells in the brain that provide functions such as emotion, speech, vision, and memory. The second is psychiatric. Freud, for example used concepts like the ego, the id, and the super ego as being essential parts of the mind in the development of behavior. The third is religious. An early example in the Gospel of Mary Magdalene, spoke of the soul communicating with the spirit through the mind, with the mind being the source of visions. Since I am speculating on changes in religion occasioned by advances in science, I will focus on the scientific and the religious approaches.

In the scientific account, the human brain is distinguished by a large surface area of layered nerve cells known as the neocortex. Areas within it specialize in functions such as vision, speech, and control of muscular actions. Connecting these is an area flexibly associating specific actions with specific perceptions as the need arises. The need is expressed by neural information from an older region, below the neocortex, known as the limbic system and including the upper brain stem. It sets up modes of connection in the associative regions by means of information coordinating overall behavior towards specific goals.

Examples of such goals are acquiring food and eating, a mate and mating, a safe resting place and sleeping, or seeking acts of compassion that can comfort a fellow human showing signs of distress. To these streams of behavior, the limbic region provides an appropriate emotional aura that instigates, modulates, and spurs on the activity involved. So, we have three main regions of the brain involved in specifically human behavior: the limbic system, the associative areas of the neocortex, and the specialized areas of the neocortex.

In religious accounts, the term “soul” refers to a permanent feature of a person that gives behavioral streams an individual character and direction. For example, a generous soul would be characterized by reacting strongly to distress in another person and offering willing and appropriate support, whereas a mean soul would do just the opposite. The soul corresponds approximately to the limbic system. The term “spirit” derives from the act of breathing and refers to the general level of activity and skill that is a permanent feature of an individual. A person’s spirit is characterized by the individual's degree of alertness and perceptual sensitivity to the environment and fellow humans and to the precision and effort that is carried forward in emotions and actions. It corresponds to the specialized areas of the neocortex. In Mary's account, from a reliable source, “mind” connects the soul to the spirit and approximates the associative areas of the brain in the way they are modified in their function by the limbic system and motor regions. Again, we have three main areas: the soul, the mind, and the spirit.

With these basics, I can suggest how the vision appeared from both viewpoints. As a vision rather than the appearance of a real individual, what I saw had some of the characteristics of a dream. I am familiar with the different levels of dreaming, from micro sleeps to deep, slow-wave sleep. It was like none of those. In particular it had a precision I do not encounter in dreams or in imagination in general and I had control of the direction of visual attention, which is often missing in dreams.

In dreams or in conscious recall I am not able to perceive the level of facial detail I saw in this vision. I rarely see specific individuals in dreams.

I think the experience may have been formed by an unconscious process putting together small memory fragments from various levels in the perceptual hierarchy of memory, somewhat in the way I can unconsciously assemble a coherent idea verbally from a stored vocabulary of word fragments and syntax. Memory seems to be very much a matter of creative reconstruction. Somehow, from stored visual fragments gained in past experiences, my brain created an image of Barbara talking after my attention was caught by a puzzling beam of light from the location where she appeared. And somehow information arousing the internal emotional aspect of the message was present.

I believe emotional feelings of this type that prompt action from the brain may have high significance but only need a small amount of information for their specification. But that is enough for the neocortex to link them to a great variety specific memory fragments rich in spatial and temporal information. A conative component accompanying the feeling governs the specific memory fragments and their coherent integration.

In the vision I saw, I think the emotional and conative component releasing the specific features of the visual and aural experience must have come from an external source. The ambiguity of the message is typical of what happens when a small amount of information is elaborated from whatever is stored in memory.

To switch to the alternative form of description, a message received from hyperspace stimulated the soul to released conative and emotive components to the mind that by unconscious thought provided specific connections to the spirit causing it to elaborate a vision of Barbara conveying the emotional kernel of the message, "It's alright".

The coupling of the emotional stimulation via the brain stem and the limbic system to specialized visual and auditory areas forming the overall experience was provided by non-specialized associative circuits in the neocortex. This is how soul, through the mind, excites the spirit to specific actions, in this case unconscious processes that generate perceptions. In turn, the details of the vision, specifically the verbal message, reinforced the feelings of comfort and reassurance emerging from the soul. The detection of the reinforcement by the spirit created a positive feedback loop that made the experience persist after the vision faded.

Comparison with a well-documented experience of another's vision, experienced under different circumstances, shows certain features shared by each. 7/12/2020 10:41

Back    Contents    Next

. . . opening it and looking through to what is seen during. . .