The Human Truth Foundation

Souls do not Exist
Evidence from Science & Philosophy Against Mind-Body Dualism

By Vexen Crabtree 2007

#materialism #philosophy #religion #souls #spiritualism

Our 'minds', 'souls', 'spirit' and consciousness are all physical in nature1. Thousands of years of investigation has shown us that our brains comprise and produce our true selves, although because that for most of human history we have had no understanding of how our brains work most Humans have falsely believed inferred that we have souls2 and this idea has infused our folklore, cultures, myths, religions and has instructed our interpretation of dreams3. Souls and spirits do not exist. Our bodies run themselves. We know from cases of brain damage and the effects of psychoactive drugs, that our experiences are caused by physical chemistry acting on our physical neurones in our brains. Our innermost self is our biochemical self.

Human and animal mental processes look just as they can be expected to look if there is no soul or other immaterial component.

Prof. Victor J. Stenger (2007)4

1. The Physical Brain is the Source of Emotions, Personality and Memory

#consciousness #emotions #life #neurology #perception #psychology #souls #subjectivism #thinking_errors

If you take a couple of drinks, or smoke some pot, YOU become intoxicated. It is easy to understand how the chemicals in alcohol and cannabis can affect the ticking of your nerve cells. But how can physical reactions in your brain cause the psychological or spiritual YOU to get high? If your mind controls your body how does it do so? When you drive a car, you sit in the driver's seat, you push on the pedals with your feet, and you turn the wheel with your hands. If you consider your body to be a biological machine "driven" by your mind, where does the driver "sit"? And how does your purely spiritual or psychological "mind" pull the biological strings that make your neurones fire and your muscles move?

"Understanding Human Behavior" by James V. McConnel (1986)5

It is not just human animals that suffer from behaviour-altering drugs, but other animals too. It is a problem associated universally with the operation of the nervous system, including the brain. The effects can be strong enough as to negate any power of deliberation that our brains otherwise possess: "[R]ats, mice, and primates will, given the chance, take drugs like cocaine, heroin, and amphetamines until they drop from exhaustion or die from it", states scientist Michio Kaku6,7. After a long analysis my page "Emotions Are Biological: How Biochemistry and Neurology Account for Feelings" by Vexen Crabtree (1999) concludes:

Our emotions are physical in nature. Biological effects can have deep and profound effects on our true selves. Degenerative diseases of the brain can erode personality, brain damage can cause sudden changes in character, tumours can alter our feelings and biochemical imbalances radically swing our moods. Neurologists have delved deep into the brain and discovered that depression, love, niceness, politeness, aggression, abstract thinking, judgement, patience, instincts and memories have turned out to have biochemical causes8, not spiritual ones, and can all be radically affected by brain damage and brain surgery. This is all only possible if consciousness and emotions are all physical, with no need for soul theory.

If there was a soul, brain damage could not also damage our emotional feelings: but it does. Electrical stimulation of the brain causes actual desire to arise instantly. If memory, behaviour and emotions are all controlled by the physical brain, what is a soul for? Any free will it exerts is promptly overridden by biological chemistry hence why so many diseases have an uncontrollable effect on personality. Modern science proves that the idea of souls is misguided. Everything is biological.

"Emotions Are Biological: How Biochemistry and Neurology Account for Feelings"
Vexen Crabtree

This page is about many other beliefs concerning the soul except for the wrong idea that it was our emotional centre.

Virtually all contemporary scientists and philosophers expert on the subject agree that the mind, which comprises consciousness and rational process, is the brain at work. They have rejected the mind-brain dualism of René Descartes, who in Meditationes (1642) concluded that 'by the divine power the mind can exist without the body and the body without the mind.

"Consilience: The Unity of Knowledge"
E. O. Wilson (1998)9

Our brainstem controls the impulses that are sent to our body. Our muscles, glands, hormone secretions, skin sensitivity, organ action, heart rate and thousands of other actions are all controlled by our nervous system, which is managed by our brains. So, if we damage a part of our brain we can impair our ability to control our bodies. If we damage our medulla, our physical co-ordination can be lost, if we damage our frontal lobes, our personality can be changed. This is because the brain controls the body and emotions. The cause and effect is clear: physical damage to the brain damages our soul.

Book CoverConversely, even if things happen to our bodies that we do not choose (such as the progression of Alzheimer's disease, which causes senility and dementia)10, we are forced to change our behaviour and feelings as a result of changes to the structure of our brain during medical procedures. Psychosurgery, including lobotomies or leucotomies, became used regularly from the 1930s for severely disrupted patients. Since then highly accurate and specific stereotactic tractotomies, stereotactic limbic leucotomies and the like have been developed, allowing the destruction of very small parts of the brain, normally locating particular pathways between one part and another in order to change specific aspects of behaviour and symptoms. For example, a cingulotomy is occasionally used against obsessive and compulsive patients by destroying 2-3cm of particular white matter. An amygdalotomy destroys the brain's neural connection between the amygdala and the hypothalamus and is normally used on patients who suffer from episodes of unstoppable violence and terror.11. What all this shows is that the physical structures and chemistry of the brain can control large portions of our chosen behaviours, experiences and feelings.

If our medulla is damaged, or our brainstem, why can't the soul control our body? If we have a serotonin imbalance as the result of disease, why does our soul suffer depression and mood disorders? It seems that the soul is completely physical.

A small amount of damage [...] might even cause rather dramatic changes in your personality. Why? Because your brain is the seat of your self-awareness, the locus of your intelligence, your compassion, and your creativity. All of your mental activities - your thoughts, emotions and feelings - and all your bodily processes are affected by the functioning of your brain.

"Understanding Human Behavior" by James V. McConnel (1986)12

If we suffer brain damage, take drugs, or if we are injected unknowingly with hormones by an experimenter, our feelings can be altered. This must mean that a soul is a reader of our experiences, but not a cause of them.

If you take a couple of drinks, or smoke some pot, YOU become intoxicated. It is easy to understand how the chemicals in alcohol and cannabis can affect the ticking of your nerve cells. But how can physical reactions in your brain cause the psychological or spiritual YOU to get high? If your mind controls your body how does it do so? When you drive a car, you sit in the driver's seat, you push on the pedals with your feet, and you turn the wheel with your hands. If you consider your body to be a biological machine "driven" by your mind, where does the driver "sit"? And how does your purely spiritual or psychological "mind" pull the biological strings that make your neurones fire and your muscles move?

"Understanding Human Behavior" by James V. McConnel (1986)5

Memories: All of the same problems with emotions and brain damage apply to memories, too. Our memories are frequently wrong, and they are filled with subconscious inventions. Here's a summary:

Our memories change over time and frequently they are simply wrong13,14. But most of us tend to think of memories as accurate accounts14. Extensive studies have shown that our memories of events are active interpretations of the past rather than picture-perfect records of it15,16. The best way to avoid errors is to write things down as early as possible14. Our recall of the past is affected by our present expectations and by our current knowledge and state of mind17. We tend to suppress and alter memories that damage our self-esteem14,18. Psychologists such as Elizabeth Loftus have shown through repeated experiments that simply by asking people questions about what they think they saw or heard previously, you make their subconscious whir into a creative drive in order to answer the question, even if it means making up details, and allowing assumptions and feelings to silently trick our minds into inventing elements of memories. Memories that are full of details give us a great sense of confidence, but, such memories are just as likely to contain accidental fabrications, many errors, and a great number of "filled-in" details which we simply subconsciously invented.

"Why are Our Memories Unreliable?" by Vexen Crabtree (2016)

It seems that whatever role our 'soul' has, it is not directly linked to the control of our physical bodies, and it is not directly a cause of our experiences.

My fundamental premise about the brain is that its workings–what we sometimes call “mind”–are a consequence of its anatomy and physiology, and nothing more. –CARL SAGAN


2. The Emergence of Consciousness Out of Complexity

#chaos_theory #consciousness #life #the_brain

Emergent properties are those that appear beyond a certain scale of organisation even though they are not present in the underlying structure20,21. If you microscopically examine a painted picture of a flower, you can catalogue the physical properties of the molecules of paint without ever finding a trace of the outline of a flower: only through their pattern as a whole does form, shape and beauty emerge. In biology and physics there are many complicated features that emerge from simple rules, simple interactions, merely repeated on a large scale22. Our consciousness arises from complex neuronal activity in our brain23,24,25. Some imagine that on larger scales, entire planets might be conscious (the Gaia hypothesis), or even the entire Universe (scientific pantheism).

For more, see:

EEG scans have told us much - including the point during gestation where consciousness first looks like it could have arisen:

But when does the magical journey of consciousness begin? Consciousness requires a sophisticated network of highly interconnected components, nerve cells. Its physical substrate, the thalamo-cortical complex that provides consciousness with its highly elaborate content, begins to be in place between the 24th and 28th week of gestation. Roughly two months later synchrony of the electroencephalographic (EEG) rhythm across both cortical hemispheres signals the onset of global neuronal integration. Thus, many of the circuit elements necessary for consciousness are in place by the third trimester.

Prof. Christof Koch (2009)

As researchers looked deeper into sentience using modern brain scanners, they found a system so complex that it defied centralisation. E. O. Wilson summarizes brilliantly:

Book CoverConsciousness consists of the parallel processing of vast numbers of such coding networks. Many are linked by the synchronized firing of the nerve cells at forty cycles per second, allowing the simultaneous internal mapping of multiple sensory impressions. [...] Who or what within the brain monitors all this activity? No one. [...] There is not even a Cartesian theater, to use Daniel Dennett's dismissive phrase, no single locus of the brain where the scenarios are played out in coherent form. Instead, there are interlacing patterns of neural activity within and among particular sites throughout the forebrain, from cerebral cortex to other specialized centers of cognition such as the thalamus, amygdala, and hippocampus. There is no single stream of consciousness in which all information is brought together by an executive ego. There are instead multiple streams of activity, some of which contribute momentarily to conscious thought and then phase out. Consciousness is the massive coupled aggregates of such participating circuits.

"Consilience: The Unity of Knowledge" by E. O. Wilson (1998)25

E. O. Wilson also repeats the little expression of the biologist S. J. Singer to sum it all up26:

I link, therefore I am.

3. Voltaire Verses Descartes27

#christianity #france

Voltaire in 1764 argued that as seemingly immaterial features can be found in material objects, the same can be true for thought existing as part of the physical body, and not requiring an additional supernatural element to explain its existence:

''Thought is something distinct from matter," say you. But what proof of it have you? Is it because matter is divisible and figurable, and thought is not? [...] Weak, reckless reasoners! Gravitation is neither wood, nor sand, nor metal, nor stone; movement, vegetation, life are not these things either, and yet life, vegetation, movement, gravitation, are given to matter.

"Voltaire's Philosophical Dictionary" by Voltaire (1764)28

Before Voltaire, France had also given us René Descartes (1596-1650), ever popular amongst Christians, who is famous for his separation of "soul" from body. He thought this was necessary because the increasing knowledge of physiology and chemistry by early scientists had meant that many were coming (correctly) to see the physical world as a clockwork world, where everything obeys the unconscious laws of physics. He could not bear to face the reality that our very thoughts are subject to the same rules of cause and effect, and devised a new scheme to avoid this conclusion:

Book CoverDescartes [provoked hostility with] his separation of the human soul from its body, his conclusion that there was some mental Descartes - mind, soul, consciousness - that existed independently of his body. Descartes presented organic beings as living machines in which functions such as digestion, respiration, and sexual arousal arise 'simply from the disposition of the organs as wholly naturally as the movements of a clock or other automaton follow from the disposition of its counterweights and wheels.'12 Even more controversially, he insisted that the nervous system also operates mechanically, so that memory and deliberate actions were also covered by his clockwork model. [...] Descartes declared that animals are machines with no soul, a claim that horrified his critics. [...] In his view of life, people are different from machines and also from animals because they can talk, reason and make moral decisions.

[Descartes ...] had some formidable objections to overcome. Most urgently, he needed to explain how an immaterial mind can interact with a body made of matter. [...] This problem was, Descartes feebly admitted, 'very difficult', and he never came up with a satisfactory answer. He eventually decided that the pineal gland, tucked away inside the brain, is the place where the soul processes physical data, almost as though it were a miniature person detachedly watching the body's sensations play out on a screen in front of it.

"Science: A Four Thousand Year History" by Patricia Fara (2009)29

4. Particular Phenomenon

4.1. Ghosts30

#experiences #ghosts #hallucinations

Everything about ghosts - from their mystical and unclear communications, their appearance to individuals alone, their frequenting of dark, odd, scary, lonely or old places, their half-seen and half-heard nature, all require large amounts of personal and subjective interpretation in order to create the experience. Ghosts seem to appear in all the circumstances in which our minds are at their least logical, least clear, and least sensible. This is not the hallmark of a murky spiritual world 'just beyond reach' - it is the hallmark of a phenomenon that comes from the quirky psychological of the living rather than the strange attempts of the recently dead to somehow appear - complete with clothes - and to try most ineffectually to tell us things. Every scientific investigation has found the idea of ghosts to be impossible, and every solved case has turned out to have utterly mundane origins, mostly in Human confusion, hallucination and other thinking errors, but unfortunately many so-called ghost photos and stories have turned out to be simple exaggerations, pranks and frauds. All it takes is suggestion, and a ghost story can become real: to prove this, multiple times sceptics have invented ghost stories and spread them: it is only a matter of time before the invented ghosts get reported to them by people who think they've seen them31. The occurrence of ghosts in hallucinations can give believers the most convincing experiences, and, other coincidences (such as dreaming of someone and finding out that they're dead) are only akin with the laws of chance. Try to think of how many more times we dream of those we know and they turn out not to have recently died! The problem is, these more mundane experiences are easily forgotten, where the occasional coincidence is so dramatic we remember it, and build false theories upon them. There is no afterlife, there is no soul, there are no spirits wandering around occasionally making themselves visible: there are no ghosts.

For more, see:

A series of wonderful investigations documented in "The Supernatural?" by Lionel A. Weatherley (1891)32 provide some timeless notes on hallucinations and ghosts:

Mrs. A., so graphically described by Sir David Brewster in his letters to Sir Walter Scott on Natural Magic. Mrs A. was suffering repeated hallucinations, and was advised to carry out a simple test to determine if she was really seeing an exterior ghost: to squash one of her eyes with her hand, so as to cause the ghost to appear double. A mental apparition would not be effected by this test. (However she was too stressed during the episodes to carry out this test.)

"The Supernatural?" by Lionel A. Weatherley (1891)32

Another case dated 26th Dec 1830 was about a wife who repeatedly hears her husband calling for her (later on, impatiently so) but she can't find him in the house. When they meet later, she is surprised to know that he was quite well, but nowhere near the house, and not calling for her. Weatherly describes this as a simple aural hallucination. She had many hallucinations during a period of general ill health, but, being seen by doctors and a sound person, didn't suspect any supernatural cause. No doubt such things are the sources of many so-called supernatural experiences. Surely, she could have been easily pushed by friends or relatives into thinking her illusions were true, or, that they were meaningful. Imagine just for a moment if after telling someone about one of these hallucinations, she soon discovered that her husband had died in an accident. Such an amazing story would spread like wildfire, and 'believers' would be aghast how anyone, after hearing the story, could continue to not believe in souls and ghosts. But luckily in this case, as supernatural beliefs were not promoted to her, the illness passed into history much more rapidly whereas a superstitious or gullible person could have ended up spending decades telling stories about ghosts.

4.2. The Appearance of the Recently Dead

In many folk tales, Westerners tell of seeing the ghosts of the recently departed. Scientific investigation has always found that such cases are either explainable in terms of the subject actually knowing more than they knew they knew (or let on), or are mistaken. Experiments where people write down such predictions before finding out confirming evidence (such as receiving a phone call informing them a relative is dead), results in a very poor record of accuracy, with the only slight success rate attributable to the fact that people tend to predict the deaths of the elderly or unwell. The investigative psychologist Stan Gooch, who does believe that the human brain is capable of supernatural intelligence, argues that all such encounters with the dead are actually subjective methods of interpreting information, but which do not actually have a basis in physical reality:

In all these cases we do not require the discarnate spirit hypothesis at all. It is totally irrelevant. [...] (As emphasized, the person is not always dead when the vision occurs). Is it not enough to say that in all cases of death that having received kind of telepathic impulse if events, the unconscious mind then generates some kind of symbolic fantasy - a vision, a dream, a premonition - by which means it presents the received information to consciousness? That view gains enormously also from the fact that Australian aborigines are very good at sensing the death of a distant companion. But they do not see a ghostly vision of that person, as westerners often do. Instead they see a vision of that person's totem animal running about the camp. Once again, 'we see what we expect to see' in terms of our cultural (and in this case religious) upbringing. The totem animal is the best choice, and the obvious choice, for the Aborigine unconscious mind to make in presenting its information to consciousness.

"The Origins of Psychic Phenomena: Poltergeists, Incubi, Succubi, and the Unconscious Mind"
Stan Gooch (2007) [Book Review]33

And the following story by Lionel Weatherley leads us to realize that the way we think and construct ideas from coincidences is so natural that it is hard to imagine ghostly stories ever being eradicated by healthy skeptical thinking:

I well remember, some few years ago, when on the Thames (some hundreds of miles from my home) with a party of friends, that [...] I saw seated [...] a fellow whom I at once thought I distinguished beyond a shadow of a doubt as one of my brothers [...]. His face was so identical, his cap, his light-grey coat, his peculiar collar [...etc]. I called him by name. No response. Again I hailed him. [...] Yet what was my surprise, on reaching home, to find that he had never been absent for a single hour! Here, then, was a striking example of mistaken identity.

"The Supernatural?" by Lionel A. Weatherley (1891)34

I am sure most of us recognize that this type of event is not unusual. In this case, the man was with friends but it is easy to imagine that many times such awkward moments occur when we are on our own. The next insight of Weatherley, I think, explains a lot about how some of us come to believe that we have seen a ghost:

Now, supposing something had happened to my brother at that time, and on that day, what more likely than that I should have rushed off into print to record the most wonderful instance of [a ghost]? The Psychical Research Society would have welcomed it, and with solemn faces would have at once said: 'Yes, here is another instance...'

"The Supernatural?" by Lionel A. Weatherley (1891)34

All it takes is their collecting of several of these coincidences, mistakes and illusions and they will confidently make the case that this constitutes evidence of ghosts. The problem is, their error, is that they are not recording failed occurrences where mundane explanations were found. To count as evidence, the occurrence rate of ghostly appearances must be correlated against the rate of soon-forgotten mistakes that turned out not to be ghostly at all. Such an impossible endeavour would find, I am sure, that the rate of ghost-appearances is a result of chance and that the appearance of meaning comes from selection bias and other cognitive errors, whereby we ignore all the mundane explanations and concentrate solely on the much more exciting supernatural ones.

The problem is, once stories and beliefs like this take hold, they are all but impossible to dislodge. Imagine that Lionel's brother had died at home during his day-long excursion to the Thames. He may well have been utterly convinced that his dead brother appeared to him after his death, as a farewell. Skeptics are left with the almost impossible situation where they have to tell him it was coincidence or mistake, and perhaps just mistaken identity. It is easy to see how we would come to ridicule the skeptics, as he has a real life experience to back up his belief. Only through sustained teaching that our experiences are not always what they seem, can we hope to curb irrationalism.

For more, see:

4.3. Out of Body Experiences (OBEs)

#beliefs #consensus #conspiracy_theorists #delusion #epistemology #expectations #experiences #god #illusion #new_age #psychosis #religion #subjectivism #supernatural #switzerland #USA

Out-of-body experiences (OBEs) describe a feeling that, while unconscious or semi-conscious, a person's spirit floats above their own body and perhaps even explores distance places. It then returns to its owner's body whereupon they awake. There is a particular trend to report this after near-death experiences or during drug use35. In Europe, 5.8% answered a poll to say that they'd had an out-of-body experience (OBE) and a similar rate was found amongst those in the USA36. Those who state they have a magical ability to do this wilfully often call it "astral projection", "soul travelling"37 or "spirit walking", and such claims are common in some New Age communities. But what causes OBEs? There are many neurological and physiological causes of odd experiences in our lives. These range from ordinary tricks of the eye38 through to repeated minor epileptic fits that cause nothing more than visual (or aural) hallucinations combined with emotional cues. Many supernatural experiences can be artificially induced through neural electro-stimulation, proving their mundane basis39. Strange and unusual experiences often give rise to strange and unusual beliefs40,41 especially for those people are not inclined towards finding natural explanations for events.42

Historically OBEs were poorly studied because of their purely psychological nature; but recent technological developments have allowed neurologists to examine our states of mind much more closely, although neurological and physiological causes of OBEs have been suggested for a long time43. Dr Olaf and colleagues in Switzerland have identified the physical places in the brain where such experiences are generated36. We have found that a temporary reduction in blood or oxygen (including excess carbon dioxide in the blood) can induce out-of-body experiences "which may explain the prevalence of these sensations during accidents, emergencies, heart attacks, etc"44. Not only that, but we have been able to artificially create situations in which OBEs occur in wide-awake individuals46. Biological explanations aside, investigators have done things like placed symbols high-up in rooms (on cabinets, etc) where the patient cannot see them. Those experiencing OBEs have never seen those symbols, and sceptics who have comprehensively reviewed such experiments report that the patients only ever see what they already knew was there. In other words, it is the brain tricking the patient into thinking they are having an OBE, when in reality it is only a subjective, internal event. This, combined with our neurological understanding of OBEs is definitive proof that there is nothing supernatural occurring. As physicist Prof Stenger says, there is "no evidence for anything happening outside of the physical processes of the brain"47, a conclusion also reached by neurologist Dr Bruger46.

For more, see:

4.4. Near-Death Experiences (NDEs)

The Natural Death Centre, who do not have vested interests one way or another in this topic but whom have conducted research into Near-Death Experiences (NDEs) as part of their professional work on the experience of death at home, report that:

While many people who have had NDEs are totally convinced about what has happened [...] Dr Robert Buckman [explains that the medical reasons are known - NDEs are] caused by substances produced in the brain called endorphins. [...] Dr Susan Blackmore, a Bristol University psychologist, explains the common NDE vision of a long tunnel with a bright light at the end, as the retina as the back of the eye becoming starved of oxygen, with nerve cells beginning to fire at random. There are more nerve cells in the most sensitive part, the fovea, so a bright spot that looks like the end of a tunnel is seen.

Albery & Wienrich
The Natural Death Centre (2010)

It appears to be quite consistent that a small percentage of us experience the "tunnel of light" as we approach final unconsciousness. As Dr Blackmore as alluded to, this particular aspect of Near-Death Experiences has been investigated.

Dr. Thomas Lempert, a neurologist at the Castle Park Clinic in Berlin, conducted a series of experiments on forty-two healthy individuals, causing them to faint under controlled laboratory conditions. Sixty percent of them had visual hallucinations (e.g., bright lights and colored patches). Forty-seven percent of them felt that they were entering another world. Twenty percent claimed to have encountered a supernatural being. Seventeen percent saw a bright light. Eight percent saw a tunnel. So fainting can mimic all the sensations people have in near-death experiences. [...]

Dr. Lampert placed pilots in an ultracentrifuge at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, which spun them around in a circle until they experienced high g forces. As blood drained from their brain, they would become unconscious [and by] carefully adjust the velocity of the centrifuge by turning a dial, he found he could keep the pilots in this state indefinitely, allowing him to prove that this tunnel vision is caused by loss of blood flow.

"The Future of the Mind" by Michio Kaku (2014)48

4.5. Night Terrors: Demonic Attacks

My full page on Night Terrors:

The following phenomenon has its basis in the biochemistry of the brain, involving the limbic system, cerebellum and duodenum and the way that they are suppressed during sleep. An incorrect balance of neurone-controlling chemicals during sleep makes some people more susceptible to night terrors than others. They occur in the early night and "experiences of entrapment, of being choked or attacked, often with shrieking, sitting-up, or sleep-walking, and tremendous acceleration of the heart. [They become] more frequent when there is greater daytime anxiety; they are frequent among wartime battle evacuees and night terrors are commonly experienced by children aged 10-14"49. The human biologist McConnel describes a likely Night Terror:

You begin to sense - deep down inside you - that something has gone very wrong. Slowly, almost dimly, you regain enough consciousness to realize that you are suffocating, that some heavy weight is lying on your chest and crushing your lungs. Suddenly you realize your breathing has almost stopped, and you are dying for air. Terrified, you scream! At once, you seem to awaken. There is this thing hovering over you, crushing the very life out of your lungs. You shout at the thing, but it won't leave you alone.

Despite a strange feeling of paralysis, you start to resist. Your pulse begins to race, your breathing becomes rapid, and you push futilely at the thing that is choking you to death. Your legs tremble, then begin to thrash about under the covers. You sweep the bedclothes aside, stumble to your feet, and flee into the darkness. You run clumsily through the house, trying to get from the thing.

And then, all at once, you find yourself in your living room. The lights come on, the thing instantly retreats to the shadows of your mind, and you are awake. You are safe now, but you are intensely wrought up and disturbed. You shake your head, wondering what has happened to you. You can remember that you were fleeing from the thing that was crushing you. But you have forgotten your scream and talking in your sleep. The thing dream is a classic example of a night terror.

"Understanding Human Behavior" by James V. McConnel (1986)50

It is clear to see how such physiological events can be interpreted supernaturally by its victims!

"Some psychologists believe that sleep paralysis could explain the origin of the alien abduction syndrome"51 and it is easy to see how, also, before the physiological causes of these experiences were known, night terrors were interpreted as being the attacks of evil spirits too. Others have experienced it as attempted possession or as the evil magic of medieval witches along with all manner of other supernatural and paranormal wonders. These interpretations have all been shown to be false by modern science, as all the factors that cause sleep terrors have been found to be solely biochemical in nature. The chemistry precedes the attack.

"Nightmares and Night Terrors: 2.2. Religion and Superstition" by Vexen Crabtree (2005)

5. Religion

#buddhism #christianity #judaism #materialism #philosophy #religion #souls #spiritualism

The idea of souls, a mystical and spiritual life-force that animates biological matter, has been almost ubiquitous in human cultures since prehistorical times, and talk of souls became part of popular belief in nearly all world religions. Despite this, actual souls are not found in the scriptures of Judaism nor in formal Buddhist doctrine (anatta specifically means "no souls")52,53 - there are, at best, only indirect references to what we now call souls. Some argue that it wasn't until the Greek pagan idea of soul came to influence Christianity that world religion really embraced the topic54. Catholic doctrine still teaches only of a physical resurrection of the body, come judgement day55. Biblical versus supporting this include John 5:28-29, John 6:40, Romans 2:5-7, Romans 6:23, 1 Corinthians 15:51-55 and 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18.

For Christians, Genesis 2:7 tells a clear story that a soul is given to a person when they draw their first breath. Roman Catholics and Conservatives have instead concluded that a soul is given at the moment a male sperm fertilizes an egg56. Knowledgeable and dedicated Christians have variously declared every major stage in the development of a foetus as the point at which a soul is created: "when the zygote first divides; when cell differentiation begins; when the embryo contains blood; when the heart first beats; when a brain stem develops; or when the fetus would be viable outside the womb. Biblical passages cited in support of each of these beginnings are clear only to the believers"56.

Some strange points in history have indicated all kinds of conflicts as to what is meant by "soul" in popular conception - a 6th Century church council met to vote on whether or not women had souls at all. It was agreed by a margin of just one vote that they do57. After all the philosophical-religious debates, it has turned out that the idea of souls merely embodied a lack of knowledge of neurology and cognitive psychology58. Since the 19th century the tide turned, and science has trumped religion on the matter of souls59,60,61. Lengthy and detailed neurological and biochemical investigations have shown comprehensively that the soul, the self, our emotions and consciousness, are all biological and Earthly in nature62, and just as manipulatable (and damageable) as any other physical system.

For more, see:

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