Ruth suggested that I make a separate discussion about this subject. Strange feelings, "voices," and other things that our brain chemistry sometimes does to us, and how people interpret them.
I started with this post:
1. When I was a teen at Sunday evening candlelight services; lots of quiet music, low lights, silent prayers. I did feel something, thought it was god, but I never "heard" any words.
2. Age 19 - took a course in hypnotism as part of a PR deal when I was on the road with HOI. The teacher gave the class a post-hypnotic suggestion that we would do the best show we ever had that night, and feel wonderful. I did (I don't know about the others), and I also realized that I was having the same "uplifting" feelings that I used to have at those Sunday evening services.
3. 2 years ago - having an MRI of my neck...same "floating" feeling after a while. (Much better than a drink or two!)
We still don't know a great deal about how the brain works, but I have read that meditation/prayer and experiments with magnetic fields can create the same bio-chemical effect...or electro-chemical. I don't know which. (I'm not the brightest bulb on the tree.)
And when I'm in that twilight place between sleeping and waking, I sometimes hear my mother quietly say my name. Mom died in 1993.
I know my own mind created those "experiences." Except maybe the MRI.
I forgot to add that the MRI "experience" was very, very close to feeling as though I was somewhere else...outside of my body. I must also say that the equipment was a state-of-the-art "open" MRI...not claustrophobic or noisy like the "torpedo tube" type that clanks and bumps and grinds. (I was in one of those once, and I started laughing so hard that they had to stop the machine to ask me WTF was happening. I had just seen a re-run of "Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy," and the noise sounded just like the sound FX for the trashy Vogon spaceship.)
From large doses of psychedelic drugs, to non-drug induces delusions/hallucinations, the things my mind has come up with has amazed me. Reading stuff by brain scientists, like Sam Harris, I've realized that our thoughts are nothing more than electrochemical products of our biological evolution.
Or, to put it into the short form, what we think is supernatural, is merely a natural electrochemical zap in our brain.
I'm very interested in things like brain chemistry and the studies that have been done with magnetic fields (what I read about them in Sam Harris' first book). I have NO bio-medical education, but the older I get the more fascinated I am with how bodies and brains work...and sometimes don't work.
And how UN-intelligent some of the "design" is. Our skeletons haven't completely evolved for us to walk, dance, or do most sports on two legs for 60+ years without developing some kind of orthopaedic problems.
But...back to the brain, and strangenesses...
Many years ago I was rushed to the ER, hemorrhaging, and I suppose by the time I got there, I was in shock. (It was years before paramedics became a profession. Ambulance attendants couldn't do much of anything except monitor.)
I was not drugged, just lying on a gurney in a room while a couple of doctors and some techs were discussing what to do, and I had the distinct sensation of being disconnected from my body. I felt that "I" (my consciousness, I guess) was somewhere up near the ceiling watching everything from a distance. And I just didn't give a damn about anything. Oxygen deprivation?
I think I've spent too much time in hospitals.
I did self-hypnosis. Was part of a medical experiment about those in a high stress situations. I was among a group of 1st year law students (see the movie Paper Chase). One group did meditation, one self-hypnosis (mine), and the other was a control group that did nothing. The group I was in had the lowest stress levels of anyone. Don't know why we were the lowest (I'm a lawyer, and not a doctor or scientist). But, to this day, I still use it. And, it still works. I found that if I use it in a high stress situation (closing argument to a jury), the other attorneys will be flipping through their notes and notebooks while trying to convince 12 people of their position. I do the self-hypnosis prior to closing argument. And, when I stand in front of the jury, I move the podium out of the way, with no notes or safety net, and do much better extemporaneously than they do. Don't ask me why. I don't have a damn clue. But, it works.
I don't know, either, but it does work. Maybe it brings what you need to the "front" of your mind, and shoves everything else aside for the time being. Helps you focus.
I decided a long time ago that the screwy dreams I sometimes have are a form of "data dump." Getting stuff that isn't necessary anymore out of the mind.
But we still really know so little about the brain/mind. I remember how excited I was when I read about Candace Pert's "receptor" discoveries back in the 1980s. The first clues about how opiates relieve pain, and how or why some people become addicted, and others don't. Amazing!
I often wonder what the next breakthrough will be. (Repairing spinal cord injuries, I hope!)
I forgot to add in the intro to this discussion that another phenomenon that fascinates me is pareidolia...the brain making a familiar image out of complete visual nonsense. Like the "Face on Mars," Man (or rabbit) in the Moon, or the infamous "Virgin Mary Grilled Cheese Sandwich" that sold for $20,ooo (I think) on eBay a couple of years ago.
I thought it looked more like Mary Pickford, and a friend said, "No, a very young Joan Crawford."
Or this one:
Now somebody is selling a sandwich press that cooks a real "Jesus" image onto the bread. Fun. Feed it to the dog!
Slightly off topic, but I just remembered that April is National Grilled Chese Sandwich Month! Seriously. It's on my calendar. And in the L.A. Times:
So, everybody get out the bread, cheese, and butter, and see if you can come up with an image. At the very least, you'll have some yummy comfort food.
PS: I'm going to be off the Net from tomorrow afternoon till Thursday (Thirst-day)...cat-sitting for a friend who doesn't want anything more complicated than a Kindle. Just wanted y'all to know that I'm not ignoring you, or anything like that.
My friend and her baby daughter saw angels in the snow in London.
I'm fascinated by Paul MacLean's Triune brain anatomy. The idea is we have three brains that are parallel processors. Only the Neoortex (higher brain) is capable of language. The primitive brains, the Reptile brain and the Limbic system, are not. I've learned to recognize some primitive brain mentation (as he calls it), thoughts which are images of food for example when I'm hungry, or tactile and taste memories of eating.
Years ago I'd had a series of nightmares over several nights. I woke from the last with the fear of death still palpable, and a warm glow of assurance I'd felt at the end. Turning my mind inward, I recalled and started analyzing these nonverbal thoughts before they dissipated from short term memory. I realized that remembering the original experiences was very difficult without words, without interpretation. I struggled to put them into long term memory.
Suddenly it became clear that my inclination in the first seconds had been to draw upon childhood experiences and interpret what I'd experienced as God touching me with love. With a terrifying novel nonverbal stimulus, I think, we reach for the closest match first, the first association that seems to fit. Only my training in self-examination and the workings of the mind allowed me to examine this secondary interpretive process as it was happening, while still remembering the original experience. Wow! I thought, shaken. So this is how people have religious experiences! My adult interpretation was that I was prepared to face death, that I had faced life, felt loved, and when the time would come I would be ready to face oblivion. That was the warm internal reassurance from my Limbic System, not a spook.
Our minds can play tricks on us but sometime TRULY strange thing actually happen.
Decades ago, I and two friends were watching the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson and his guest was a comedian (I forget which one). They were discussing what makes comedy funny and started discussing funny-sounding words like twerp and nerd. This reminded me of a guy who swapped the chrome letters F and D in "Ford" on his car (a Ford, of course) resulting in the word Dorf instead of Ford on the front of his car.
Meanwhile, Johnny Carson and his guest were still tossing out funny sounding words. As if prompted by my comment about the Ford/Dorf swap, Johnny Carson tossed out the word, Dorf! He stopped and said, "Dorf? Dorf? That's not even a word . . . I have no idea where that came from."
My friends and I looked at each other in disbelief. It was a very weird experience for us.