Ramachandran, Dr V S - John
Type of Spiritual Experience
The important points in this quote are the following:
- John can 'see' the cup and his 'phantom arm' – the arm to John is real in his world he has not lost that arm
- John can operate that arm and operate it not only as though it was a 'normal' arm, but as though it was a new sort of arm, one with new functions – telescopic
- John actually experiences pain when that arm is compromised by an action he is 'seeing'
To all intents and purposes what John is seeing and feeling is a virtual world. He has constructed an image of himself - the actual template - with its associated software and it is that image that he experiences and operates.
This virtual world – the actual template - is not reality. It has been constructed by a combination of the type of template and input from the 5 senses. We construct our own perception and model of reality.
What appears to happen when a body part is amputated is that the software that constructs the actual template, freezes that part of the actual body image which was in existence before the surgery or accident......................
A description of the experience
Phantoms in the Brain – Dr V. S. Ramachandran [Professor and Director of the Centre for Brain and Cognition, University of California and visiting fellow All Souls College, Oxford]
John had what is known as a telescoped phantom hand. It felt as if it were attached directly to his stump with no arm in between. However, if an object such as a teacup were placed a foot or two away from the stump, he could try to reach for it. When he did this, his phantom no longer remained attached to the stump but felt as if it were zooming out to grab the cup.
On a whim, I started thinking, what if I asked John to reach out and grab this cup but pull away from him before he touches it with his phantom? Will the phantom stretch out like a cartoon character's rubbery arm, or will it stop at a natural arm's length? …
I placed a coffee cup in front of John and asked him to grab it. Just as he said he was reaching out, I yanked the cup away.
'Ow' he yelled 'Don't do that!'
'What's the matter?'
'Don't do that' he repeated. 'I had just got my fingers around the cup handle when you pulled it. That really hurts!'
Hold on a minute. I wrench a real cup from phantom fingers and the person yells ouch! The fingers were illusory, of course, but the pain was real – indeed, so intense that I dared not repeat the experiment..................
For some weird reason, the amputation disturbs the equilibrium and resurrects the original body image, which has always been competing for attention