Building a viable (21st C) theory of OOBEs.

#1
I am not an “all my eggs in one basket” type of person, so it is a bit embarrassing to be leaning for the moment somewhat heavily on one case I have been discussing in a recent thread (the Jeff S) case. While I will continue to have these thoughts whether or not the Jeff S case existed, I do think it a kind of exemplar or “smoking gun” for something that is wrong with our whole way of looking at the out of body experience problem.

I want to develop some ideas here that would amount to the initial steps in a new, or broadly new, theory of what the “out of body experience" is. If you are interested in these thoughts, I would strongly recommend that you read first the “Berenstein Bears” thread on the “Other Stuff” subforum, and then proceed to read the “Jeff S” thread on the “Critical” subforum before coming back here. It’s just that what you read may make more sense to you if you do that. Not complete sense perhaps…just more sense ;)

However, for the purposes of this (present) post I want to highlight what I think is the problem, and how the Jeff S case poses this problem in the strongest terms. You see, it quickly becomes kind of arbitrary and ad hoc to claim that the Jeff S case does not have the qualities of an out of body experience. It in fact has almost ALL the qualities of such an experience but with an additional and very problematic "gotcha." And that aspect is that bleeding and demonstrably physical action is involved. Were it not for that one aspect, no one would bat an eyelid, who usually calls such things “out of body experiences” at calling this such an experience. The subject has an altered state of consciousness. He ventures forth from the position of his body. He turns back and sees his inert body there in experiential space. He ‘returns’ or ‘loses consciousness’ and finds himself back in his body. Again, this narrative has all the features of a typical out of body experience except for the fact that his “out of body self” left a trail of blood soiled tissues in a collectively empirical landscape. Thus we are forced to a panicked card-deck-shuffle of labels and suppose that this must have been something else…a “bilocation” or some yet more exotic possibility perhaps.

But I don’t think those labels are instructive or particularly illuminating. I think they are more in the way of placeholders for a problem. In experiential terms, an OOBE* IS a “bilocation”…your perceived body is THERE and your sense of presence is HERE. So that doesn’t really tell us anything useful. It doesn’t tell us why most ‘out of body experiences’ don’t seem to be capable of acting causally in the perceived world (which makes them at least partially distinct from dreams) and it does not tell us why a Jeff S style experience can happen, which has most of the same characteristics plus an added one. Nor do I think it stupendously useful to float additional different categories such as OOBE and "remote viewing," which appears to be yet another subvariant of a deeper and more pervasive "bilocated experience" problem.

I usually have the suspicion that when there are too many categories acting in a field of interest, this is a symptom that a range or spectrum of related phenomena are being interpreted as entirely different phenomena, where a concept of greater explanatory force might be capable of uniting these phenomena…with a price of course, that we might have to look at them a little differently.

I want to reprise quickly the concept I have floated in the two threads named above before proceeding any further. This concept is that “consciousness” is a variable in nature that has a particular nameable function. Not that I am at all saying that this function exhausts what consciousness is. Only that its nature is in part to be understood in terms of this function. And that function is to “hover over” and to “step between” different actualizable strands in what might be termed a cosmic possibility space.

It is this concept I am going to be using, moving forward, to explain why I think that our present notions of what an out of body experience is, are (broadly speaking) misconceived. Just as I said in another thread, an experience like Jeff’s in a sense becomes a lot more believable and understandable if we contemplate that it is not a “freakosaurus” event that has never happened before in the history of human action, but is simply a more dramatic or in our face version of a principle that is acting in our lives all the time.

Thus, too, I am inclined to believe that “out of body” experiences become a lot more plausible if we can understand them in terms of what “embodied experience” or as I might choose to word it “experience of a body flavor” has really been for us (and for all organic life) all along.

* I will be using the original Tart-spawned acronym "OOBE" rather than the somewhat uncouth Blackmore-ism of "OBE."
 
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#2
I'd like to throw something into the pool of ideas here which has nothing at all to do with OOBEs.

Rather awkwardly, I'm struggling to recall the full details or specifics here. But the context is roughly this. I'm the sort of person who likes to repair things rather than throw them away - a typical example might be a computer mouse, where it stops working because of an internal fracture in the lead, so I might strip it down, repair the lead and re-assemble. Anyway, in the incident I'm thinking of, I was trying to repair some mechanical device. It was small, two or three inches across, but for the life of me I can't recall the rest of the detail of what it was. One doesn't always make notes of every little detail of one's life and this one would have faded completely but for one thing which keeps niggling me. It won't go away.

As I was studying the internal workings of this device, there was some sort of metal bracket held in place by a couple of screws, and some sort of levers and springs. The problem was relatively trivial, one of the parts had dislocated from its correct position and just needed moving back into place. However, as I tinkered with it something snapped, either a component or maybe a spring, snapped clean in two. Now at this point it was beyond repair, ready to be thrown away with the rubbish. Disappointed, I set it aside and went to bed - it was getting late.

I put it to one side, physically, but I wished the part hadn't snapped like that, it bothered me, it was on my mind. I could still picture it in my mind as it had been just a short time earlier, when all the parts were intact. A few days later, maybe a week or so, I returned to this device, ready to throw it away. I removed the cover, looked inside - and to my astonishment the part which had previously snapped clean in two was now whole and complete again. I was certainly pleased, there was a sense of relief and pleasure, but even more, a sense of puzzlement.

The thing though which I think makes this relevant, is that there were no other witnesses. I was the only person who had ever seen the problem, and now that it was restored, even that was gone. It was an event which I can describe, but for which there can never be any evidence. It was as if the incident where the part snapped in two had been replaced with an alternate version where that never happened.

But it also feels to me as though this sort of thing happens all the time, and once the event is over, there is usually no evidence, except for the memory of going through the anomaly, before emerging into what we usually regard as our everyday predictable reality.
 
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#3
But I don’t think those labels are instructive or particularly illuminating. I think they are more in the way of placeholders for a problem. In experiential terms, an OOBE* IS a “bilocation”…your perceived body is THERE and your sense of presence is HERE. So that doesn’t really tell us anything useful. It doesn’t tell us why most ‘out of body experiences’ don’t seem to be capable of acting causally in the perceived world (which makes them at least partially distinct from dreams) and it does not tell us why a Jeff S style experience can happen, which has most of the same characteristics plus an added one.
Look to yogic masters of bilocation who were very capable of acting causally in both "worlds". It is likely the same phenomena as the ordinary "OOBE" (or at least very closely related). It is just that people who train themselves to have a basic "OOBE", or those who have them as part of a trauma or NDE don't have the mastery or depth of control that a yogic master does.

Chuck
 
#4
Typoz, oddly enough I have an incident akin to that from my childhood. I was naughty and stabbed some holes in a very fine mesh tea strainer my mum had. When I was done I could clearly see the holes and the ragged tears flapping round each one. I'd wrecked the thing; there was no way to conceal the mischief, so I hid the whole object away. Some weeks went by and eventually my mum asked if I'd seen this object. I pretended no, but eventually broke down because I was just a kid, and anyway, they knew it was me, kind of thing. So I dug out this strainer and the holes were healed! Weirdly, you could still see a faint outline of them at the point where they would have been in the mesh. I distinctly remember holes and ragged ends. That's why I hid it in the first place. Berenstein Bears!
 
#5
A “quantum style” understanding of the world hasn’t really taken root in the popular imagination. There are reasons for this, the most likely being that it is counter-intuitive to our everyday experience. I don’t experience myself…or, more accurately, I don’t appear to experience myself…opening and not opening a door at the same time, walking through it and not walking through it, or both standing behind it and finding myself through it. Such stuff, we tell ourselves, is safely in the “quantum realm” in the land of such things like double slit experiments, electrons and photons, and quantum tunnelling where particules end up on the other side of barriers without having passed through them.

Then there’s the story (which I’ve never found particularly convincing in any of the versions I’ve heard) where, according to some poorly specified “level of complexity” the quantum style of elementary nature is supposed to decohere by “interference with the environment” such that objects have the classical behavior we observe. My mug of coffee is either on the table, or not on the table. It isn’t both. That screwdriver is there in front of me. I can pick it up. But this has always been problematic. Why should there be this arbitrary division which conveniently separates what we think we see from what is experimentally demonstrable at lower levels?

There are many interpretations of quantum mechanics, and my own feeling is that none of them are yet correct. In one hundred years time I suspect a much more complete theory will exist than exists at the moment, and almost certainly, imo, it will make deeper and riches uses of the concepts of “consciousness” and “observation.”

I’m not going to go on about that at length, for if people want to criticize what I am going to say here in terms of present day, formal quantum mechanics, you will certainly have scope to do so. But I do have particular reasons for dissenting, along with my general impressions that quantum mechanics is a provisional sketch with large holes in it awaiting a future theory or approach where those holes, or at least the more glaring ones, will no longer exist.

First of all, “interference from the environment.” Being a neutral monist or panpsychist kind of bloke, I don’t think I accept the notion of “environment” that these people are using, and, imo, it is a carryover from 19th century materialism. To my mind the “environment” is a tissue of subjects where everything in it…and I do mean everything…is a kind of “observer” at a particular level of aptitude or capability. We cannot know what the world is….for instance, what a particular clearing deep in a forest is, when there are no human observers there to look at it. This factor feeds in to some of the discussion I have already undertaken on this and related threads. Sure, it exists in some sense, but there is no security to our concept that it exists after the same fashion, or just as “concretely” when there are no human observers there, or even when there are observers there which are other mammals or simpler life forms.

Secondly, “the classical behavior that we see.” And that’s a second problem for me. This supposed classical behavior that is evident from the world is in fact simply defined by eyeballing it, but again, that seems ultimately arbitrary, and I don’t see any real reason to suppose that it is reliable. Just because we think we perceive objects of our common sense experience "behaving in a classical way" doesn't mean they are. The brain is a thing constructed to make life livable for us...not necessarily to tell us the "truth" or to be more truthful even than is biologically necessary for the kind of creatures that we are. The brain, in my opinion, creates for us what I like to call the "neural corridor," a constructed fiction of the way the world is that is appropriate to our creaturely activities but little more. So just to be clear about this, so far as I am concerned, when you look at your coffee mug or you pick up that screwdriver you are working with a cloud of quantum states in a quantum description no less than anything that ever happened in a double slit experiment.

All of this is something in the way of a preamble. I’ll be using my own language, and for the most part will leave the formal quantum theory terminology at the doorstep here. We can’t enter new(ish) territory unless we’re willing to consider it. So…
 
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#6
As glimpsed in the mirrors down the neural corridor, the world is a comfortingly simple place, overall. I am “here” not “there” and my experience is “now” not “then” or “yet to be”. We take these things for granted and in fact get so upset when we appear to glimpse outliers to the case, that we invent a whole other pariah category for those outliers…the “paranormal”…and profess that they can’t possibly exist.

Our traditional notions of ourselves are likewise comfortingly straightforward…even the liberal versions of such notions. The body is a steel “container” like a cage, and consciousness is the canary in that cage. The canary was either born in the cage (materialism) or it was trapped in the cage (some form of spiritism) but one way or the other these notions rarely venture far from this simplicity. Even discussing the likes of OOBEs, it tends to be in the terms of these models. Some kind of “spirit goo” oozes out of the body goes on journeys, is infinitely stretchable, and has its own nonphysical “sense organs.” But what is this “spirit goo” and what are those “organs.” It creates more questions than it answers.

Moreover, our default sense of ourselves, so much more difficult to overcome precisely because it IS our “common sense, everyday” experience of our situation (in other words, the story told by the mirrors in the neural corridor) the body is a “thing”…a rude lump of “stuffhood” and nothing more that is definitely HERE right NOW and nowhere else. We get a hundred, a thousand verifications of this every day…when we spill hot coffee on ourselves, cut ourselves shaving, snag a fingernail, kiss a partner. And again, all of that is necessary to lead a coherent, livable life. Nevertheless, I think I am going to encourage you to believe that it is not literally true. Consciousness was never “in” a body and a body is not a “container” or a “lump of stuff” in the first place. In more accurate terms, you never were in a body in order to have a special instance where you were “out” of one. If you like, your ordinary everyday experiences are “out of body” experiences. Or conversely, what are presently called out of body experiences are part of your experience of your body…they are just deeper outliers of your probability swarm. in fact, there is a part of you that is on the ceiling even “now.” I’m being provocative on purpose of course…let’s take this slowly.

I’ve stated in earlier posts my view that consciousness is a function in nature that straddles over possibilities. There are two ways of looking at that in a “traditional” quantum interpretation…either the consciousness somehow relativizes each of those possibilities and creates a kind of existential blur out of them until chosen by a specific event…in other words, what is called a “quantum superposition”. Or else consciousness itself is smeared over a number of “world lines” which can be taken either realistically or nonrealistically. But at this point I would encourage us not to get hung up on exactly what these alternatives in possibility space literally “are.” There is no guarantee that question even makes sense, let alone that we are going to be in a position anytime soon…if ever…to answer it. The important thing for our purpose here is that it is not necessary…or even particularly productive…to get tied up in that debate. It’s an interesting debate to be sure. But the fact of the matter is that we don’t need to know what the entities in possibility space “literally” are (again, if that statement has meaning) in order to be able to discuss that possibility space, or the phenomena of its consequence. And that situation is not unfamiliar. We don’t know what gravity “literally” is (though I have a suspicion that I will share later), but it would have been awfully unuseful if this had stopped us contemplating or experimenting with it for the last couple of hundred years.

What I am going to say to you then is that this is a core function of consciousness, and especially as expressed in this world. It is a function that “smears over” a region of the possibility space. So our humanly experience of what we call the “world,” right now, is not a single point observation instance but a kind of experiential swarm of such instances near to each other in possibility space. Again, let’s take this slowly, as it is unfamiliar. Our normal view of ourselves is that we occupy one “hard instance” in time and space, probably “located” in this thing we call the head. But you never were such a hard instance, and in fact you never were, and are not now, unequivocally defined by one observation instance that nails you to a definable point in time or space. You can’t be nailed in that way, because it is of the nature of consciousness, and of possibility space, that you are an experiential swarm. This swarm is “spread out” across possibility.

In other language, your human consciousness, right now as you are sitting in what you interpret to be a “body” reading this passage, is a kind of hawk that is hovering over a number of world lines or similar possibilities. A very great number of them actually…but you don’t notice this readily because the vast majority of them are very VERY similar. An atom in your fingernail is one nanometer to the left, or the alkali level in your blood is 0.00000000001% changed. If it is there as a possible difference, then it exists in the possibility swarm.

One of the functions of your brain (notice I say your brain here, not your consciousness as such) is to blend or “smooth over” this cloud of worldlines straddled by your consciousness. This cloud of worldlines which you straddle also defines your “organism” in the broadest terms. That smoothing does not “really” exist outside of the neural corridor. If we were to bypass the brain’s photomerge or blurring tool, and turn discriminating acuity up to cosmic resolution, every single strand in possibility space would jump out at you with its own forceful identity and life.

…and you would go insane. Because that version of the world…this world at any rate…is not “livable.” Thus your brain, as it does in many other ways, nannies you carefully away from the wonder (or the terror) of raw cosmology towards a warm-blooded experience that is somewhat homely. Not that I think consciousness itself isn’t at home in its own nature, but that’s another story for later, perhaps.

I am using these images here, which are actually sculptures by Antony Gormley, in an attempt to illustrate what I mean. Of course, I have no relationship to the sculptor, he certainly didn’t make these with an endorsement to my ideas, and they don’t *exactly* illustrate what I am trying to say…but they capture a certain visual aspect of it. The larger one is called “quantum cloud” and is installed on the Thames.



What I am saying is that your physical experience is a “straddled” experience. Your consciousness is smeared over a large number of near-similar world lines. The number is probably VERY large…perhaps even unfathomably so in mathematical terms…but still, not the entire possibility space. Thus what your body is, your very experience of a body, is a dense experiential swarm of nearby “observation instances” or experiential “takes” on the world. These are summed and averaged over by your brain to make life accommodating to you.



It is this huge number of similar but not-quite-identical versions of yourself, and your presence in a “reality” that creates this very feeling of a “massful” object you drag around from place to place, and which you call a “physical body.” Taken literally, in this model, there is no such thing. It’s a dense experiential swarm, located *probabilistically* around a certain loosely describable center in the cosmic possibility space. As you perceive and act in the world, this swarm must be piloted around according to constraints brought into existence by the nature and limits of the swarm itself (where for example it thinks it “is” in time and space) and this creates a kind of space-time drag in the possibility space that we experience as a body. Now that isn’t ALL there is to the body, imo, but for our purposes here it is probably enough, and strange enough, to be getting on with. Thus even what we call our “sensory organs” and our “organs or principles of motor action” are, from one standpoint, simply dense swarms of observation instances (whether perception or action) operating in a reality coerced to a limited zone of the possibility space.

Now your experiential swarm in possibility space has a statistical center, which you experience to be your head, for the most part, and the structure you call your body to a lesser, though still pretty forceful, extent. This is what gives the impression, using another Antony Gormley sculpture, that our lives are like this:



And that is ultimately an illusion.

Understand though. I am saying much more here than the idea that the statistical center of your possibility swarm is located in your head or in your brain. No: the nucleus of your experiential swarm **IS** your head and brain, the very thing and experience itself. Those boundaries you believe to have absolute existence…inside or outside of the head, the surface of the skin perhaps…are ultimately a kind of illusion created by the brain’s smoothing algorithm. Possibility space has no “simple surfaces” where you can say in absolute terms that something ends or begins.

Now we come to a key point in this. We need to understand an experiential possibility swarm. Consider it like a swarm of flies, if you like, or look again at one of these Gormley pictures. There is no absolute outside boundary…the representation within or contribution to the swarm just gets progressively less as you move “further out” (in possibility) from the statistical center. That statistical center is like a gravitational mass. Your “probable existence” is deeply focused there, and so that is how you experience yourself. You experience yourself standing in the middle of a room. This means that the “gravitational mass” of your possibility swarm can, with a certain accuracy, be described as “mostly meaning that you occupy this probable space at this probable time.” Watch that phrase, mostly meaning.

Consider a bucket full of water sitting on your doorstep. In “common sense” neural corridor terms this is just a simple object definitely located “on your doorstep.” And just as well, otherwise you wouldn’t be able to wash your windows with it. But what I am saying is that even this bucket, like you, is a dense possibility swarm for which your brain simply disregards the outliers or the contribution too far from the statistical average, so that a sensible, singular world can form and be experienced. But from another (non-neural-corridor) perspective, that bucket in front of you would appear as it is considered as an entity in possibility space…which is to say…a dense star-like center consisting of a vast number of very similar worldlines or possibility instances, which you interpret as “the bucket” surrounded by a (progressively) thinning cloud of instances leading away from the statistical center…and eventually as far from it as one wants to go.

And here’s the kicker. If you travel far enough out in that possibility swarm, you will sooner or later encounter instances where the bucket isn’t even on your doorstep anymore…it’s on your neighbors doorstep, or it’s crushed under a car that ran over it in the street, or it’s just not there because it was never manufactured in the first place.

And as with this bucket so with you. The brain, along with its smoothing algorithm, disregards outliers (under all normal circumstances) in the possibility swarm, meaning that they are not experienced super-liminally for your waking consciousness. But they are always there (the possibility swarm doesn’t cease to exist just because we can only perceive a tiny portion of it). Along with smoothing, the brain “turns up the contrast” between the statistical average and the outliers, because this is the biologically sensible thing for it to do. But the above is what I mean when I say “there is a part of you on the ceiling even now.” There is an observation standpoint capable of reporting from that apparent vantage in space and time, because your location in space time is really a continuous function in possibility space and not a fixed set of coordinates.

Thus, normally, and again most of the time, you will experience yourself as being “in” your body…that is to say, having the flavor of experience that describes being associated with the statistical center of your possibility swarm and with its accompanying sensation of “space-time drag.” This space-time drag is not just limited to a physical sensation either. It’s actually a dulling of consciousness, because your human mind is a “churn” like milk swirling in a jug, of a summed mass of near-similar states. Only far away from the center of that swarm does consciousness become simplified and ‘clarified’ to the point where it can readily sense itself as the source of existence.

Thus, too, “most of the time” you cannot go down a remote country lane and suddenly witness a village that seems to belong to an earlier century; you cannot walk through an abbey and glimpse an “instance” of a lady dressed in period costume, where common sense tells you she must have died at least a century before; you cannot “see” things that are located elsewhere in space…and so on, and so forth. And yet all of these are reported.

And so they should be. Because “most of the time” is not “all of the time” in terms of the behavior of possibility swarms. Even the phenomena of the “19th century” have no *absolute* outer surface in possibility space. Nor does your own experiencing mind have an absolute outer surface that is determined either by your skin or by the apparent attachment points of your birth and death. Stated in another way, there are rarefied contributions from your OWN possibility swarm that are anywhere that you could mention across time and space.

And in fact this is what memory is. When you “remember” something you are in fact coming into contact with that event itself, its swarm center, in possibility space. Your brain has another “algorithm” that facilitates or aids with this action…in other words, a function that enables you to retain a degree of contact with events directly relevant to your own existence as an organism, even though they are now remote in space and time (at least so far as your subjective self, residing near the center of your own experience swarm, interprets that situation…in reality, terms like “past” and “future” have no absolute, independent meaning).

Thus when you “remember” something, there is a part of you that is “then” even “now,” just as in an out of body experience (so called) there is a part of you that is “there” even “here” (if you follow my meaning).

But this remembering is not just passive. You cannot interact in any way in a possibility swarm without changing that swarm…at least to a minimal degree. Thus every time you are remembering something, you are to a certain extent altering the past. It can’t be otherwise. The past has no “fixed” existence…that’s just a tag your brain (the gravitational center of your experience swarm) applies to it as it processes it relative to its current (subjective) location in possibility space.

Likewise, even in an out of body experience, you change the whole swarm by such an “observation instance.” You may not change it much, but for example, if you start to develop a strong “secondary center” away from your body’s locus, a point will come where the continued survival of the body will be called into question.

In general terms though, the influence of an outlier observation instance is too subliminal to be detectable by empirical consciousness. Hence “oobe consciousness” cannot lift a glass off the table, but it *might* be able to make itself known in the mind of a bystander (“go check on my body…I’ve fallen face down in the bath!”). Likewise, it’s moot as to whether you could become aware of the changes to your past in the first case, but even if we can, the vast majority of them are going to be trivially small. Each possible observation instance is a different worldline in our language. The overall influence of an outlier is in the swarm is always going to be very slight, unless something that happens in that possibility becomes pivotal in some sense, then it has the potential to proliferate and multiply through possibilities until it “occupies” the center of the swarm. I do not at present have a coherent picture of how that would happen, but I strongly suspect that diseases take root in this way.

It is the ongoing presence of a “participating consciousness” close to the center of an experiential swarm in possibility space that keeps a living body in existence, because that is what a living body is. When you start to create strong “observation instances” that are profoundly remote from this space-time center, as happens in a near death experience, the survival of the biological center is put at risk. And the stronger and deeper the focus forming, away from the body, the larger the risk.

Normally, access to these “outlier” regions of your own being is difficult. The statistical center is “heavy” and “stable”…and it is meant to be, so that your life in the world is not unstable. There are however skinny bridges that can start to form that give access to these outlier regions, especially if something knocks the stability of the normal center, or weakens it. Probably the simplest instance of this is the journey we undertake every night, between wakefulness and sleeping (or vice versa). Here you are moving between two large “stable zones” in the human experiential swarm. But that little bridge that joins them is a weak place. It is less stable, is passed through quickly, and is less well defined. It is one example of a weak place in the castle wall, so to speak, where the outlier regions can be accessed.
 
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#7
This view seems to address the assumption that consciousness requires a contained body in time and place. Which opens up the idea that our consciousness can be at multiple places (including dimensions) and multiple times (present / past / future). So we may have a simple explanation for what appears to come from the Jeff S experience and Bernstein/stain bears multiple dimensions idea etc.

But I wonder whether it just introduces another assumption that consciousness doesn't require a contained body in time and place. And from that assumption more theories can be proposed but the base assumption isn't really addressed adequately first, such as what is the nature of that containment?

When I say "body" btw I don't mean a physical body, or a spiritual body. A lot of the 19th century spiritual concepts proposed that aether was the material of the spiritual world for example. So if something like that is verifiable (i dont know if it is or isnt), for all intents and purposes these bodies (spiritual / physical) are still made out of some form of material substance. Also if time is subject to physcial laws and properties, then time is also a part of the same material fabric.

So what I'm getting at is we still might be seeing things from a materialist point of view by considering that containment of consciousness requires some kind of material to hold it. But maybe thats an assumption like I said. What if consciousness doesn't require material to contain it? What if its still contained in a way which isn't defined by any material?

One thing that interests me is how we define people's consciousness especially in regard to conscious autonomy or freewill. What happens if we define our specific type of consciousness by its ability to choose in a tangibly autonomous ways? Is that a non-material type of containment? I'm considering that it is.

So lets say having conscious autonomy is another feasible line of inquiry regarding whether or not our consciousness remains contained. Then we could question if our freewill is more subject to materiality or if materiality is more subject to our freewill? A strict materialist point of view would stand by the former (also to the extent that freewill is an illusion).

If the whole material universe / multiverse / time etc. is more subject to our will than we are subject to it then this says something completely different I feel about the nature of consciousness and its relationship to the materiality. So the question is whether or not any phenomena (like Jeff S) supports this point of view to make it a feasible line of inquiry?
 
#8
I think the key thing here is to ask, what does it mean to say that I “have a body.” The very language itself gears us towards the belief that we somehow “possess” an “object” like a bicycle or a car, which is imagined to remain unaltered in essential ways if we are not “using” it. Likewise with the notion of being “in” a body. But in what sense is my hearing, for example, “inside” anything, in a literal sense? Functionally constrained, yes, but hearing or seeing involves a relational contract with the rest of the experienceable world; it is not just like a box or a bag where one can define a simple kind of inside and outside.

Stripped to its basics, it seems to me that “having a body” means that systematic instances of your perception and action are expressed with a definable focus or habitual range in possibility space. If you try to imagine a completely “bodiless” experience, you will find that hard to do, because it would mean that your consciousness is involved in no particular, specifiable action and no particular, specifiable perception.

On the other hand, looser or more multiply capable styles of action and perception than our experience of a body may be possible, in principle, but they are still going to be defined by types of interaction in possibility space.

Another way to think of it is like this. Over a long period of evolutionary development, animal consciousness has built up this topology of deeply habituated tracks or “grooves” in possibility space. These tracks or grooves are what you call your sensory and motor organs. They occupy (probabilistically) a region close to the dense center of your probability swarm, because that is where they are most useful. But they are not absolutely necessary for your consciousness to make observation instances. It can do so outside of these habit tracks or grooves as well. However, there will be a kind of price to pay for doing so…perception or action will soon have a tendency to become much more generalized or global, and hence not so easy to engage in highly specific action or perception.
 
#9
I think I get what you mean, that as an analogy, we might imagine the ocean as consciousness and ripples on this ocean as unique but rudimentary expressions of it. Ripples tend to merge together to form a wave and those waves have a period of "life" before hitting the shore and dissolving back into the ocean. But the wave never left the ocean really, was never separate from it, in appearance it had a body, a uniqueness and an identity as well but it posessed none in these things in substance.

That is one way to look at it but I feel there could be a way to extend that analogy. What if we asked why ripples tend to form together to make waves and why would certain waves form and come to "life" in the specific way they do? What if these forms weren't just randomly and chaotically coming together by sheer chance? What if there's a purpose? What if the ocean was subject to that purpose and not the other way around? In other words what if the purpose defines how, where and what is observable? That would potentially mean we are embodied so-to-speak by purpose and not by material.

Seems to me that when we don't know how things get formed we make up ideas to explain them away, things like chaos, chance or of course even a purpose. However, I'm not saying what the purpose is, but that there is one, well at the very least there's as much reasoning to say there is as there isn't.
 
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