Monday, 12 June 2017

How could we see, hear, taste, touch and smell during an "out of body experience" (OBE)?

Someone in a Facebook group who has had a near-death experience was stumped when a nurse asked him how he could see, hear, taste, touch and smell without their five sense organs during their OBE.

Clearly the nurse, and indeed many others, think that from the fact that damage to one's eyes or visual part of the brain leads to a reduction in vision or even blindness, that both one's eyes and one's brain are crucial to being able to see. The same argument applies to the other four senses.

It seems to me though that this argument is without merit. Here is an analogy. If one is in a house, the transparency of the glass within the windows is an essential condition for being able to see the sky. However, this only applies whilst we are in the house. If we were to venture outside, the windows are an irrelevance. We would have an unrestricted view of the sky.

I suggest exactly the same could be the case during an OBE. Let's suppose the ability to see and hear and smell are intrinsic aspects of a non-physical self or soul. In that case, during an OBE we should have unrestricted vision; maybe even vastly enhanced vision and the ability to see in all directions at once. But, whilst the non-physical self or soul is "housed" within one's body, we can only see, hear and smell by virtue of a functioning brain and unimpaired senses. Here, though, the brain and senses are only playing a similar role as the windows do within our house in the analogy outlined above.

For many of those who believe in an afterlife, the hypothesis is that the brain suppresses or filters conscious experiences rather than creates them. A properly functioning brain will allow us to see, hear, taste, touch and smell. And indeed, come to that, a properly functioning brain can allow us to be able to perceive, think, feel, and deliberate too. Contrariwise, a dysfunctional brain might reduce or completely suppress our senses and mental capacities just as dirty windows or drawing the curtains can impede or completely obscure our view of the sky.

None of this of course entails that the brain does play such a role. But the fact our five senses and mental capacities can be impaired, if not eliminated, due to a dysfunctional brain does not in itself entail that all these abilities could not be had by non-physical selves or souls. And indeed, should the above reasoning be correct, one might expect that a disembodied self or soul might well have enhanced senses and an enhanced mental capacity. This can be compared to having a greater view of the sky once we have exited from a house.


  1. Got to say the analogy of the window being like a brain makes sense and is a cogent argument. When one is indoors, it's necessary for the window to be very transparent in order to see the sky outside--just like it's necessary for the brain to be intact when in the physical body in order for us to see, etc. But the window is irrelevant when one is outside; similarly, the brain becomes irrelevant when one is no longer in the physical body. I see.

  2. I was recently backwoods backpacking with my bro, and I had set up some travel speakers on the other side of the campfire. I noticed the music sounded strange, warped, out of tune, but he couldn't hear anything wrong, sitting across from me, next to the speaker. After a moment of reflection, I realized the heat from the fire was interfering with the sound, by expanding the air between me and the speaker, erratically. The sound waves require a physical medium to travel on, in a vacuum, there would be no sound. If there was an OBE spirit between me and the sound, and it had any capability of 'hearing' in the way we commonly mean, it would warp the sounds waves as well, in a measurable way.

    As in the cookies baking example I posted on secular outpost, or these sound waves, are you proposing an entirely separate non-physical, parallel system, for every sense, that is in principle undetectable? That seems preposterously ad-hoc. Explain the non-physical smell of cookies.

    How about this:

    Do the OBE patients claim to see the same spectrum of light as they do when they're conscious? Some insects can see way further up the ultraviolet spectrum than we can, because of their eyes and brains. Snakes see infrared invisible to us. We're all clearly adapted by evolution to see different spectrums, useful to our survival.
    I would expect 'Having the curtains removed' to free them from the constraints of biology, to see the entire EM spectrum. But I bet 10000-1 that they claim to see what they normally see, because OBE's are all imagined, and we're very poor at imagining things we have no experience of.

    1. What's up Jimmy,

      Ian asked me to weigh in. I have OBEs and wrote about a lot of them in a 2015 book. While my book is pretty good, if you really want to hear more detailed accounts, check out Jurgen Ziewe's work, but I digress.

      You're totally conflating inter-dimensional physics. Firstly, I like to do away with the words "non physical" because that's not accurate. A more accurate term is "higher density." Honestly, not many of us know how it all works and I don't have all the answers, but my hyptohesis would be that something like a sound wave or the molecules creating a small are happening on the "higher density" spectrum where, according to some theorists like physicist Ron Pearson, the electrons are spinning around those atoms faster than the speed of light (compared to our own speed of light) making them completely outside of the realm of what we are able to detect.

      So to sum it up: You can be in the astral world and bake cookies and it will produce a smell that people on the astral side can smell, but we can't, and vice versa.

      As for your 10000-1 bet, I'm not sure your bet matters because i HIGHLY doubt if people who have OBEs told you otherwise--you'd take their anecdotal stories seriously--afterall, to the disdain of Skeptics, we can't take our experiences and place them in convenient little bottles to undergo quadruple blind testing while James Randi and Michael Shermer sit in the background with a notepad.

      However, OBErs who are more "advanced" experience greatly enhanced sensory abilities. This relates to how "high" someone has gone up the spectrum of the "other side." Jurgen reports every piece of matter pulsating with energy, you don't just smell the cookies, you experience a complete sensory experience of the cookies on every level, including the emotions created by the cookies, the cookies' effects on the environment, etc. And for people who live on these particular planes, this extremely heightened state is "normal" for them and if they were to reduce themselves back down to "our" level it would be like one of us purposefully entering a state of sensory deprivation. It's also why "spirits" often say it sucks hard trying to come down to our level.

      As for me, most of my OBEs are in my bedroom and then I wander into a hallway and it's over. But occasionally I am "warped" into another environment. Sometimes my awareness is split between my body and the new realm so my sensory abilities come and go. However, I remember some distinct experiences when I've had full sensory experiences. Not as dramatic as what Jurgen recounts, but I'd say sensory abilities are heightened substantially. You're less physically bound. So in other words, if you're looking across a desert vista and you see a fire burning--you may be able to feel the heat from that fire at any distance by focusing on it. Just a small example of expanded consciousness in such an instance.

    2. Is any of this, in principle, testable? Low-density, faster than light; it certainly sounds testable.

      We could write something in UV paint and ask you or Jurgen to read it during an OBE, for example.

      You can poo-poo skepticism all you like. (although I'm not particularly impressed by Shermer at the moment lol) But I do agree with the maxim that the time to believe something is once it's been demonstrated and there's good evidence for it.

    3. I've identified things in the OOB state before with a roommate. Of course Charles Tart did this in the 70s with Miss Z and the numbers. Of course, immediately Skeptics did not waste time rationalize those experiments away ("maybe Miss Z caught a glimpse of the numbers in her subconscious mind") so it becomes clear that even positive hits mean nothing because materialism is tied to a philosophy that discounts the experiences on ideological lines.

      That said, these experiments are also hard because of how sporadic it can be. I haven't gone out of body in 1 1/2 months now. Then suddenly I'll have a wave of experiences. To complicate things more, while I'll be out of body attached to my body (pulling my astral limbs out of my normal limbs, waving them around, experimenting with them) - as soon as I pull myself completely out and land on the floor below--suddenly POOF, I'm no longer in the corresponding dimension and I'm in a whole new environment. And when that happens, I obviously wouldn't be able to identify numbers or an object.

      As for when I did successfully experiment, I was able to spy on a roommate in an OOB state and recount his actions and what he was doing. he was also a writer and out of body teacher, and so we took note of the experiments as great successful hits--but reproducing it would not be easy unless I was a lot more talented. And again, it's highly unstable to do so and inconsistent.

  3. I meant to add- would a "detached self", on the other side of the fire from the speaker, "hear" the sound cleanly, or would it be warped and adulterated by the physical process of the fire, as I heard it. Why or why not?

    1. I will refer to your "detached self" as a "projector." It would depend on the focus of the projector's mind. If their focus is on what is materially present, I would expect them to hear the distortion. If, however, they actively listened for an expected song, they may not note the distortion, or it would be perceived as secondary to the unaltered song.

      In either case, the moment the song is perceived, the projector's attention is likely to prefer experiencing the song itself rather than a distortion of the song, biased as the mind is against ambiguity. And then, many projectors may either willingly or spontaneously experience increasing degrees of sensory, emotional and cognitive immersion into the song and every aspect of the song, because what a song is to a mind is not limited to its physical sound, and in this context, how that mind experiences that song is not limited to the physical senses.

      None of this denies the phenomenon of materiality. It only reports that phenomena other than materiality are apparent do people who have projected, whatever projection is. For example, what is experienced by the projector who hears the unaltered song is not material as we understand material things - or it would have been distorted accordingly - but is actually an abstract object, like a name or fiveness - being directly apprehended by the projector's mind.


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