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Can science explain Heaven in NDEs? They're working on it.

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posted on Mar, 28 2010 @ 08:40 PM
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There are those who believe that science will eventually explain everything—including our enduring belief in heaven. The thesis here is very simple: heaven is not a real place, or even a process or a supernatural event. It's something that happens in your brain as you die.

I first encountered this idea as I was researching my new book, Heaven: Our Enduring Fascination With the Afterlife. I was having lunch with my friend and colleague Christopher Dickey, who told me that his father, the writer James Dickey, had a fantasy of heaven in which all of his closest friends were sitting around a swimming pool, chatting. "There was nothing special about the pool itself," wrote Chris in Summer of Deliverance: A Memoir of Father and Son. "Nobody walked on the water. And he never told me who the friends were ... But what he took away from the dream was a sense of contentment, of being at ease with himself and the world, as if he had gotten a preview of heaven. He called that place 'The Happy Swimming Pool.' " Chris believes that everything we think we know about heaven happens in the moments before death. After that, there's nothing.

Science cannot definitively proof or disprove Chris's theory, but some scientists are willing to take guesses. And these guesses are based, in part, on a growing body of research around near-death experience (NDE). According to a 2000 article in The Lancet, between 9 and 18 percent of people who have been demonstrably near death report having had such an experience. And surveys of NDE accounts show great similarities in the details. People who have had NDEs describe—like some religious visionaries—a tunnel, a light, a gate, or a door, a sense of being out of the body, meeting people they know or have heard about, finding themselves in the presence of God, and then returning, changed.

Andrew Newberg is an associate professor in the radiology department at the University of Pennsylvania who has made his reputation studying the brain scans of religious people (nuns and monks) who have ecstatic experiences as they meditate. He believes the "tunnel" and "light" phenomena can be explained easily. As your eyesight fades, you lose the peripheral areas first, he hypothesizes. "That's why you'd have a tunnel sensation." If you see a bright light, that could be the central part of the visual system shutting down last.

Newberg puts forward the following scenario, which, he emphasizes, is guesswork. When people die, two parts of the brain, which usually work in opposition to each other, act cooperatively. The sympathetic nervous system—a web of nerves and neurons running through the spinal cord and spread to virtually every organ in the body—is responsible for arousal and excitement. It gets you ready for action. The parasympathetic system—with which the sympathetic system is entwined—calms you down and rejuvenates you. In life, the turning on of one system prompts the shutting down of the other. The sympathetic nervous system kicks in when a car cuts you off on the highway; the parasympathetic system is in charge as you're falling asleep. But in the brains of people reporting mystical experiences—and, perhaps, in death—both systems are fully "on," giving a person the sensation both of slowing down, being "out of body," and of seeing things vividly, including memories of important people and past events. Does Newberg believe, then, that visions of heaven are merely chemical-neurological events? He laughs nervously. "I don't know." He laughs again. "It's, um … I don't think we have enough evidence to say."

Since at least the 1980s, scientists have theorized that NDEs occur as a kind of physiological self-defense mechanism. In order to guard against damage during trauma, the brain releases protective chemicals that also happen to trigger intense hallucinations. This theory gained traction after scientists realized that virtually all the features of an NDE—a sense of moving through a tunnel, and "out of body" feeling, spiritual awe, visual hallucinations, and intense memories—can be reproduced with a stiff dose of ketamine, a horse tranquilizer frequently used as a party drug. In 2000, a psychiatrist named Karl Jansen wrote a book, Ketamine: Dreams and Realities, in which he interviewed a number of recreational users. One of them, who called himself K.U., describes one of his drug trips this way: "I came out into a golden Light. I rose into the Light and found myself having an unspoken interchange with the Light, which I believed to be God." Dante said it better, but the vision is astonishingly the same.

Source

I've been extremely skeptical of paranormal explanations for NDEs since I first hear them. I consider the religious/spiritual/mystical explanations to all be paranormal. This article is related to that belief. I think it's an interesting read and this topic is one that I am happy to discuss.




posted on Mar, 28 2010 @ 08:52 PM
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I 100% agree that science will one day be able to explain NDE's completely. I remember being a little girl and I used to watch Unsolved Mysteries (best show ever?) and they did a segment on NDEs where the person who experienced it gave their story and some other people would come on and describe the scientific explanations they had. Such as the classic tunnel of light being your brain freaking out due to lack of oxygen.

Things firing off right and left showing you images of your loved ones, familiar smells, etc. They even talked about how in death the last thing your brain tries to do is comfort you by taking away your pain and showing you all these comforting images as it's dying.

That was pretty much it for me, it all made so much sense and every year more and more evidence comes of where they have been able to recreate the effects of NDE in labs.



posted on Mar, 28 2010 @ 08:53 PM
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Neuroscience advances on a daily basis, and the bottom line is that your brain is responsible for all of your experiences. The main objection which believers will make regarding NDEs is that they think there was some time of zero brain activity during the NDE, and afterwards people report specific memories from this time. Thus proving that their soul maintained awareness throughout the death of the body. That position is wrong on several counts though.

First of all, it's proof of nothing because a non-paranormal explanation exists for the same evidence, and it goes like this: The person's memories are false. There's no way to know after the fact whether the memories were laid down at the time of the event or when the person's brain was revived. If I remember eating an egg this morning there is no way to prove that I am remembering that actual event or if I just formed this false memory five minutes ago( although if I am healthy person under normal circumstances I can count on the former case being true). Same thing goes here. The person's brain was off for a minute, then when it turned back on somewhere in the scramble some false memories were formed. The person then reports having continuous memories of the event, not knowing the difference.

Second of all, it's almost impossible to confirm zero brain activity. This believer argument would be more compelling( although still susceptible to the first argument I made above) if they could prove that the brain was actually totally inactive. This isn't the case though. In every NDE I'm aware of, and in virtually all real situations where brain activity is continuously monitored the device used is an EEG placed on the surface of the scalp. This is not an accurate way to measure deep brain activity, and there as existing body of evidence to suggest that EEG results alone are not a valid basis for the claim that brain activity has truely ceased.

Finally, memories have a biological basis. This is well established. Start here:
mitworld.mit.edu...
www.questia.com...
www.elsevier.com...
This means that the memories got into the brain somehow. If you're talking to me about them now, your mouth is moving because your brain is telling it to, and you're recounting a memory that your brain has stored. If the memory is in the brain, it's not based on the soul, and it's not from some experience that the soul had of going to heaven. It has the same neurobiological basis as all other memories, and nothing mystical can be involved.

Here are some other good skeptical discussions:
www.skepdic.com...
www.skeptics.org.uk...
science.howstuffworks.com...



posted on Mar, 28 2010 @ 09:35 PM
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I am both a scientific and a spiritual person.

I have studied NDE's for perhaps 20 years.

Though there is a wealth of information which supports a biological process in the sensations experienced during NDE's, there are also occurences which cannot be explained using the "dying brain" idea.

For example, there are numerous occasions where an individual has perceived events in real time outside his/her body which they should not be capable of-- for example, seeing objects in a location removed from their body; hearing conversations of friends/family in places outside the hospital; being aware of the actions of doctors/nurses despite not being able to see.


Science has not yet been able to reconcile these "abilities" with the phenomenon as of yet.

One theory is that the brain is simply a medium (albeit a highly advanced and infinitely complex one) which we use as means of connecting real-world input to a spiritual realm...for example, a TV itself does not "create" the programs we watch, it merely acts as a vessel for conveying the picture to us. (well, I'm using this analogy in terms of watching a live TV broadcast)

Using this model, we can see that as an NDE occurs, POSSIBLY the brain is no longer "tuned to reality" due to the biological process of death, and instead becomes tuned to the spiritual realm.

I'm just throwing out an alternate theory which may offer an explanation of some of the more difficult to understand NDE experiences.

In the end, it's up to everyone to decide if they think there may exist a soul/spirit. I think there is. Though I love life, I can hardly wait for the experience myself.



posted on Mar, 28 2010 @ 10:09 PM
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I too have studied near death experiences and agree with sparkofdivine who has articulated my thoughts on the matter. There are some very intriguing cases out there. Do your research and come to your own conclusions people. It is my belief that we are far more than just a physical body and that life does continue after death.



posted on Mar, 28 2010 @ 10:11 PM
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in my opinion, NDEs are caused by the brain dumping insane amounts of dopamine in to your body.



posted on Mar, 28 2010 @ 10:23 PM
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There has been several accounts of near death experiences where the experiencer was clinically brain dead. They were hooked up to an EEG machine and while dead, the machine registered no activity.

This should indicate that the mind/consciousness is not necessarily limited to the brain, and this should also indicate the survival of the mind/consciousness after death.



posted on Mar, 28 2010 @ 10:34 PM
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i saw a medical show about this once i cant remember it too much but i definetley remember that part

i agree its probably just hallucination as i have tried to explain on a thread about evolution the whole if we came from monkeys why are they still here or something like that people just don't listen and that includes people on both sides of the coin of spiritual/nonspirituality

it is indeed an interesting subject however and as for the whole no brain activity, have you ever read a story fiction or none fiction where someone gets knocked out and goes back in time or to heaven or something and they do alot of stuff that would take days or years even
only to find that they have been in a hospital bed for an hour or two

it is my theory that even though people can have a NDE or just a dying expeiriance that they believe was a long time the chemichals in there body can extremely effect their perception of time and eternity can be 5 seconds then zero brain activity and you die the end

very interesting OP s&f

[edit on 28-3-2010 by ashanu90]



posted on Mar, 28 2010 @ 10:39 PM
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There's been too many nde stories that involve a person who suffers death for an extended period of time - longer, much longer, than scientists. or doctors, can explain. Scientists have said that the brain cannot survive inactivity/death over a certain period of time without some kind of damage - is it 6 minutes?

Anyhow, take the case of the man who was in the car accident - the paramedics were there at the scene the entire time, had already pronounced him dead for at least an hour and a half, and were waiting on the coroner to arrive.

A man driving on the same road saw the accident, and said he had an overbearing burden to stop and pray for someone in the accident. He stopped, and had to basically argue, he said, with the paramedics to let him pray for the "dead" man. He said he was told to specifically pray that the man would not suffer any internal head injury.

He crawled in the car with the "dead" man - and lifted the tarp that the paramedics had previously had over him, and started praying. Then he began singing - and he said that all of a sudden the "dead" man started singing with him. He said that he knows he broke a record that day for getting out of a wrecked compact car.


He said he went over to the paramedics and told them they needed to help the "dead" man because he was still alive -and again, he said the paramedics argued with him, telling him that the "dead" man had been dead for over an hour and he was just as dead now as he was before. The man told them to 'humor him' and go check anyhow. They did, and wah lah - they found the man alive - barely, but alive.

The "dead" man, today, is fully recovered, after a long and excruciating recovery that took a few years - and tells his story all over the globe. What he says he experienced, while "dead", is nothing less than mind boggling.

You can judge for yourself - his name is Don Piper - and he wrote a book called "90 Minutes In Heaven".

Can "scientists" ever explain this? Probably not. People should understand that while science sometimes plays a part in the physical events surrounding an experience, sometimes these things cannot be explained away using science.


p.s. the above is but ONE account of an experience - there are thousands, if not more, of these that have happened.



[edit on 28-3-2010 by nomorecruelty]



posted on Mar, 28 2010 @ 10:48 PM
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reply to post by sparkofdivine
 




For example, there are numerous occasions where an individual has perceived events in real time outside his/her body which they should not be capable of-- for example, seeing objects in a location removed from their body; hearing conversations of friends/family in places outside the hospital; being aware of the actions of doctors/nurses despite not being able to see.


As far as hearing and seeing things in the room: we know that we hear with our ears and see with our eyes, not with our souls. Close your eyes and cover your ears. It's not like your soul continues to hear and see what is around you. If these people had these experience that "they should not be capable of" having, that just means that our understanding of the biological process is flawed. The mechanisms of vision and hearing are too well understood for us to accept that something entire different is actually at work; namely that we hear and see with our soul independently of our body. We just don't understand the biology well enough under these extreme conditions to explain how sense perception persists.

As far as becoming aware of conversations outside of the hospital: I'm very skeptical of such claims and if you have any links or documents I'd be interested in seeing them.

reply to BellaMente
 




There has been several accounts of near death experiences where the experiencer was clinically brain dead. They were hooked up to an EEG machine and while dead, the machine registered no activity.


EEGs aren't an effective measure of deep brain activity, and support no such claim.



Within Near Death Experience research, a number of investigators have argued that a flat electroencephalogram (EEG) reading can be taken as evidence of total brain inactivity (and van Lommel et al. recruit this argument into their interpretation; Fenwick & Fenwick, 1995; Parnia & Fenwick, 2001; Parnia et al., 2001; Sabom, 1998). This claim is totally incorrect. It is certainly the case that a flat cortical EEG would be indicative of a brain that is in some trouble. Assuming no technical error or problems with electrode contact, a flat EEG is far from desirable. However, the assumption that a flat EEG can be taken as strong evidence of global and total brain inactivity is unfounded. (It is also noteworthy that the studies making large claims about flat EEGs provide no information regarding the level of gain employed on the EEG device, assuming they were digital-QEEG devices. This would seem important as any EEG can become almost flat with the gain turned to a minimum. A flat EEG at maximum gain would be more indicative of neocortical inactivity, though again, not full-brain inactivity).

Unless surgically implanted into the brain directly, the EEG principally measures surface cortical activity. The waveforms seen in cortical EEG are largely regarded to come from the synchronistic firing of cortical pyramidal neurons. As such, it is entirely conceivable that deep sub-cortical brain structures could be firing, and even in seizure, in the absence of any cortical signs of this activity (for evidence based on electrical stimulation and seizure propagation, see Gloor, 1986; Gloor, Olivier, Quesney, Andermann, & Horowitz, 1982). Indeed, evidence reviewed by Gloor (1986) argued that inter-ictal discharges in the hippocampus or amygdala alone were more than sufficient to produce complex meaningful hallucinations – no involvement from the cortex was necessary!

Source

I recommend that you review the entire article linked above as it addresses all of the claims in your post directly.



posted on Mar, 28 2010 @ 11:00 PM
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Star and Flag

This is an interesting subject. One that is really open to interpretation besed on your beliefs.

Science can try to prove and disprove things all they want but in the end the one thing that drives science is the curiosity of us humans.

One can not rule out that maybe just maybe there is a spiritual being and a spiritual world. There have just been too many ecperiences albeit of this kind as well as all other paranormal kind.

Even Albert Einstein said once that he always felt like he was never alone and that all this was imposible without a God. Don't quote me I don't know the exact words used but it was something along those lines.

I have had many conversations with people that have had NDE and it's just too impossible to say that is the brain self soothing you to die.
The brain is hardwired to protect itself and maintain yourself alive at all costs.

Good thread and a very ineresting subject that really Science can never prove with certainty. That is something that we will all find out once we go out the door and I can't think of anyone that has died permantly and has come back to tell the tale of the afterlife or the lack thereof



posted on Mar, 28 2010 @ 11:04 PM
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reply to post by nomorecruelty
 


No one "suffers death" for an extended period of time. If you wake up again, you weren't dead. Death is a permanent event. It's the result of the dying process. Contrary to popular belief, the body is not like a light switch that is either on or off. There is a large continuum between a healthy person and a dead one.

If the paramedics( who aren't doctors) declared the guy dead and he came back, they made a mistake. All they have to go by are the best indicators, which are typically heart beat and breathing. The human body( especially the brain) is arguably the most complex system on earth( among well defined, self contained, coherent localized systems - obviously a rain forest ecosystem is more complex). The fact that it's not easy to tell whether or not someone is dead is to be expected. A hundred years ago they would have declared many people dead that today we would be able to save. When doctors declare death they are making a very, very well informed assessment. But, their word is not law; they can be wrong.

Anytime someone regains consciousness from some unresponsive state, by definition that state of unresponsiveness was not death. How long exactly someone can go without a heart beat is something that has proven difficult to say exactly because there are often exceptions. When you hear the 6 minutes until brain damage number, that is a general approximation, not a definite rule for every person under every circumstance. We know that the dying brain can generate awesome, totally immersive halucinations, similar to dreams but with a common theme and often a sense of euphoria. There is no reason to think that the experiences one has while their brain is dying are of something paranormal.



posted on Mar, 28 2010 @ 11:12 PM
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Originally posted by OnceReturned
reply to post by nomorecruelty
 


No one "suffers death" for an extended period of time. If you wake up again, you weren't dead. Death is a permanent event. It's the result of the dying process. Contrary to popular belief, the body is not like a light switch that is either on or off. There is a large continuum between a healthy person and a dead one.

If the paramedics( who aren't doctors) declared the guy dead and he came back, they made a mistake. All they have to go by are the best indicators, which are typically heart beat and breathing. The human body( especially the brain) is arguably the most complex system on earth( among well defined, self contained, coherent localized systems - obviously a rain forest ecosystem is more complex). The fact that it's not easy to tell whether or not someone is dead is to be expected. A hundred years ago they would have declared many people dead that today we would be able to save. When doctors declare death they are making a very, very well informed assessment. But, their word is not law; they can be wrong.

Anytime someone regains consciousness from some unresponsive state, by definition that state of unresponsiveness was not death. How long exactly someone can go without a heart beat is something that has proven difficult to say exactly because there are often exceptions. When you hear the 6 minutes until brain damage number, that is a general approximation, not a definite rule for every person under every circumstance. We know that the dying brain can generate awesome, totally immersive halucinations, similar to dreams but with a common theme and often a sense of euphoria. There is no reason to think that the experiences one has while their brain is dying are of something paranormal.


"Suffered death" as in "he died" - in fact, the non doctor
paramedics, who are trained to determine a person's death "status", declared him dead for an hour and a half.

You can fill in the blanks, as you have, on other "theories" as to how he was dead for 90 minutes - but it still doesn't change the facts. And Don Piper isn't a Lone Ranger in this area - he is but one.

Doctors, who hold MD degrees, state that the human brain cannot survive non activity (death) without oxygen more than 4-6 minutes.

If you want to debate the MD's, feel free - you can't dispute the facts - these were paramedics, and later on MD's at the hospital, that weighed in on what they observed, and witnessed, during Piper's experience.

Your argument is sort of like the OJ defense - in order for OJ to be innocent, about 200 people would have to be wrong.



posted on Mar, 28 2010 @ 11:19 PM
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I don't believe science can prove or disprove NDE;s via the scientific method, they are looking in all the wrong places and it certainly isn't a lab.
They also have no idea what consciousness is, I don't think it's in the brain. If you read Raymond Moody's work it can explain a lot.



posted on Mar, 28 2010 @ 11:25 PM
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reply to post by Aquarius1
 


There's been so many studies, and ongoing, about nde's - and science can certainly shed some light on the "scientific" part of what takes place - as can medical doctors.

But scientists, whether creation or evolution, cannot begin to explain nde's in the person's accounts of what they have experienced or observed while "dead".

Science can "compliment" the experiences with scientific explanations but only as far as "Science" will allow them. The spiritual part, they don't have a clue.

There's just too much that doctors and/or scientists can't explain.



posted on Mar, 28 2010 @ 11:29 PM
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reply to post by nomorecruelty
 


I am aware of the many studies which in my opinion say nothing, will say it again they are looking in all the wrong places, sure there are some scientists doing studies by meditating and looking into the spiritual but not disclosing it.



posted on Mar, 28 2010 @ 11:29 PM
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reply to post by nomorecruelty
 


Haha, touché. But, in order for the mystical/spiritual/religious interpretation to be right, all of modern medicine would have to be wrong. How many people do you think that is?


It would mean that consciousness wasn't based on the brain. There's too much evidence that it is. There's a direct corrolation between brain activity and reported conscious experience. You can hit your head and see stars, or suffer brain damage and have amnesia, or take psychoactive substances and hallucinate. Things like vision and memory and all the rest are very clearly mapped to types of brain activity and areas of the brain. If those areas get messed up then so does the memory or vision. How could Don have had a dead brain and still have a memory of a visual experience?

It just doesn't add up. All of our science and evidence and experiments tell us one thing and we're asked it to throw it all away because sometimes people wake up and tell these fascinating stories about what it was like to be "dead." We can explain those stories within our scientific paradigm: the dying brain sometimes produces profound, strange experiences. Shouldn't that be easier to believe than the story about an immortal soul going to heaven and then getting pulled back to the body when some dude that was driving past stopped to sing?

Doctors do say the 4 to 6 minute without oxygen thing, but none of them will say that it's an absolute. They give the general rule, but they are aware that there are exceptions. There are - like you said - many cases of people being revived after much longer than 6 minutes with no vital signs. No one is saying that those cases don't exist, it's just that they are unusual.



posted on Mar, 28 2010 @ 11:32 PM
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Very interesting thoughts here...

Can science explain how someone can smell and taste things in a NDE. Taste something they have never had before...experience a taste that is so unknown to them that they have no words in their language to describe the taste?

What if someone had a awesome NDE but never saw the tunnel of light? What if they saw the matrix of energy running throughout everything, connecting everything on this world? What if they see things and experience things that goes against their known belief?

What if they saw things that later become proven knowledge that was once unknown as a fact?

I would like to uncover things below the sphinx...so I could know personally, how 'real' these NDE are. My mother claims to of spent hours there. And also...if the Ark of the Covenant is ever found in Petra....well...lets just say...mother saw this also.

I can sit on the fence...because I do believe we are creators and can create parts of our after life, our place of rest. I think there is a science to it all...for even the spiritual world has law and order of its nature.

But I dont think NDE are just the mind going crazy. I saw my mother climb trees, actually making the hand and leg motions of climbing. I saw her pick a fruit from the tree, I saw her lift her hands to her mouth and take a bite of something, I saw her smile of the wonder of the taste in her mouth, I saw her smell different things as she described what she was seeing. All of her senses were in tune to the world beyond this world. She was often shocked at what would come next in her experience. Completely baffled many times. As she would learn of things, there were times she would tell me that she could not tell me what she was seeing because the angels told her she could not tell me, they even spoke my name to her in their references to me.

I dont believe these experiences are do to over dose of chemicals in the brain. For she was clear as a bell...even though she was dying.



posted on Mar, 28 2010 @ 11:40 PM
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reply to post by LeoVirgo
 


Speaking of dying, I was a hospice nurse and I saw three of my patients leave their bodies at the moment of death, doctors and nurses have also witnessed this numerous times, more and more families witness the same these days as they are encouraged to stay in the room with their loved ones when death is eminent, now can science explain that?



posted on Mar, 28 2010 @ 11:57 PM
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@ OnceReturned

Thanks for the interesting link, but for me, whether a flat EEG means total inactivity or not, it doesn't matter - I think that if NDE's are really due to symptoms of a dying brain/hallucinations, then they would register on an EEG the same way as a dream would register on an EEG during REM. However since this is not the case, and there is no activity at all on the EEG - I prefer to think there is something else going on.

By the way, we do see with our eyes and hear with our ears of course, but the sense organs work as converters of frequencies, and they only work within a very short range of frequency. An interesting theory I like is Karl Pribram's holonomic brain model. He, with the help of Physicist David Bohm, shows how the brain functions as a hologram. I definitely recommend it to anyone who is interested. Now, when we close our eyes or cover up our ears, we are still "hooked" up to these converters so the frequencies are blocked and that is why we do not perceive anything. However, I personally think if we took the brain and all the sense organs away, and were just pure consciousness- we would be able to perceive.



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