Asleep or the edge of consciousness?

Photo Credit: UWG Department of Psychology
Photo Credit: UWG Department of Psychology

There are things that go bump in the night, and then there are things that bump in the day. Dr. Christine Simmonds-Moore, assistant professor of Psychology at the University of West Georgia, has dedicated her work to investigating whether or not this phenomenon is only a figment of the imagination.

In a presentation, sponsored by Ingram Library’s Penelope Melson Society, Simmonds-Moore attempts to explain the complex research behind what she refers to as “Exceptional Experiences.”

She defines these anomalies as “a range of unusual experiences, which, if real, present a challenge for mainstream scientific models of the mind and the capacity of consciousness. And these experiences exists in every culture and across history.”

These experiences can be separated into three separate categories: extrasensory perception experiences, mind and matter interaction and the survival hypothesis.

Extrasensory perception experiences are experiences where the subject has seemingly acquired knowledge or information without use of the normal five senses: touch, smell, taste, hear and sight. These experiences include precognition, clairvoyance and telaesthesia.

Telaesthesia is one of the most common of the three experiences mentioned above. Frederic W. H. Myers coined the term in the late 1800s. He spoke about telaesthesia as being a more embodied version of telepathic experience.

Telepathic experiences are situations where the subject feels as though they have information from another mind. This is often the case when people feel a close relationship either emotionally or biologically.

“A classic example of telaesthesia is with twins, often in cases we hear that one twin is in another country, or another location and the other twin experiences trauma of some sort,” said Simmonds-Moore. “This pain also seems to be experienced by the twin who is not experiencing the trauma first-hand.”

Precognition is the idea that a subject can receive information of the future, also known as a premonition. This is usually the case in relation to catastrophic events—for example, earthquakes, wildfires and floods.

Experiences dubbed as clairvoyance are most commonly associated with sleep. Clairvoyance is translated into English using two separate terms—clair, a French word meaning “clear” and voyance meaning “vision”—to fully encapsulate the word. A clairvoyant person is also translated to mean “one who sees clearly.”

Mind and matter interaction experiences or telekinetic phenomena are encountered in a physical manifestation.

“It seems as though an aspect of consciousness, or conscious experience, has an impact on an aspect of the physical world,” Simmonds-Moore said. “This could be from the living or deceased mind, because we see anomalous activity in poltergeist phenomena.”

Poltergeists are thought to be activities involving the deceased mind and usually surrounding a living mind.

The last category of experiences involves the Survival Hypothesis. This category seems to suggest that the mind and body are indeed separate and that consciousness plays a role in this somehow.

“The Survival Hypothesis includes a range of experiences; it includes and suggests something metaphysical about human consciousness that appears to exist separately from the body,” she said. “This includes things like ghosts, or when mediums suggest that a spirit possesses them or visit dreams and lastly, past life accounts.”

Past life accounts may be the single most fascinating subject of human consciousness. These accounts are comprised of not only adults but also children as young as 2 years old.

On the other hand, Simonds-Moore explains that the actually culprit could be justified within the realm of science.

“When people have exceptional experiences, they may well be in a state of consciousness that is related to sleep,” she said.

However, it is still unclear as to what is truly the reason for these numerous accounts spanning across time and cultures.

“If these experiences are proven real, they would potentially change our understanding of consciousness because, if they are real, the mind maybe able to pick up information from other minds, from the future, from distant locations; the mind may be able to interact with physical matter,” Simmonds-Moore said. “And there may well be something in human consciousness that may be separable from the physical body, even if just for a few moments.”



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