23 Oct 2019

Outside Looking In

Susan Blackmore. Seeing Myself: The New Science of Out-of-body Experiences. Robinson (3 Oct. 2019)
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As an impressionable young student, Susan Blackmore had an intense, dramatic and life-changing experience, seeming to leave her body and travel the world. With no rational explanation for her out-of-body experience (OBE) she turned to astral projection and the paranormal, but soon despaired of finding answers. Decades later, a Swiss neurosurgeon accidentally discovered the spot in the brain that can induce OBEs and everything changed; this crucial spot is part of the brain's self-system and when disturbed so is our experience of self.

Blackmore leaped back into OBE research and at last began to unravel what had happened to her. Seeing Myself describes her long quest for answers through spirituality, religion, drugs, meditation, philosophy and neuroscience. Anyone can have an OBE, indeed 15 per cent of us have. Even more have experienced sleep paralysis, lucid dreaming and the creepy sense of an invisible presence. At last, with the advent of brain stimulation, fMRI scanning and virtual reality, all these phenomena are beginning to make sense. Long relegated to the very fringes of research, the new science of out-of-body experiences is now contributing to our understanding of consciousness and our very selves.