The idea that magical powers are illusions of the brain is widely believed but no evidence has ever been brought forward to back up the theory. In a 2003 paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, it was pointed out that a group of people showed no magical abilities. One individual, after several hours of meditation, was even able to read a dictionary, but when they were compared to a control group, they did not differ so much from each other.
It is very difficult to know whether one of the many theories suggested for why some of us become “magical” or whether simply being in touch with our emotions is the reason. The idea that magic takes the place of “real” thoughts seems strange on its face, but a variety of studies and research into how other people feel may help to shed light on the topic.
The concept of mystical experience (or NDEs) emerged during the 1970s, when several researchers tried to explain what had been described by some patients as “spiritual” experiences. They suggested that NDEs were a natural result of the brain’s “fascination for new states of consciousness that emerge during the exploration of deep psychological states and the release of stress hormones”, or that they were just the way that individuals normally “see” the world. The idea is that there is something about life that makes it so.
Many researchers now believe that mystical experience is a real, psychological phenomenon, one that can take a person from what might be a very ordinary sense of a world of separate objects and events to a sense of connectedness to the wider world.
This suggests that even if you never find that extra dimension to your perception by doing anything supernatural, your brain might be picking up on some of these extra dimensions.
A NDE can be an incredibly emotional experience for those who get them. One famous example of this is Charles Bukowski, who experienced one while in a mental hospital during his imprisonment for violating a restraining order.
A popular and influential book on the subject, The Man Without Qualities by Paul Tough, describes a NDE experience as if it were real, while another by author Susan Blackmore describes the experience as being like “being in a dream.”
But there are plenty of sceptics out there who believe that any of these explanations has any merit and say that if mystical experience is real, it should only be the result of some kind of mind-blowing trick like being in a dream.
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