The Light Body

The Astral_Sleep by Jeroen van Valkenburg from Wikipedia

The Astral_Sleep by Jeroen van Valkenburg from Wikipedia

In my last post, I declared myself a materialist and posed the question: What kind of material is mind? Any one who read to the end of the post would realize that my declaration as a materialist was something of a trick and in the end I write that “the materialist argument has buried within it a deep secret. There is really no matter. What we think is material is structure – from the atom to the mind. If consciousness is material then the material would be in some sense conscious. Consciousness is one of the optimal solutions for matter to organize itself in space and time.”

Here I would like to continue my exploration about the material of mind.

Fundamentally I believe mind and matter are simply different ways of describing a unitary phenomenon. From common experience, mind seems very different from matter Matter seems hard and out there in the world. Mind seems intangible. Perception seems to be reaction to matter and to have qualities we cannot be sure we share with others. Is your “red” the same as my “red”? Thoughts, fantasy, and ideas seem even more disconnected from matter. Yet we know from modern physics that matter – even the solid objects of our experience – is mostly empty space occupied by particles that in many cases might be better described as waves. We also know that the role of the observer is critical to the measurement of many quantum phenomenon. Yet the notion of “observer” seems to imply mind. Matter, in fact, seems to be not the hard thing out there but instead layers of structure built over more layers of structure – structure all the way down. Particles are built from quanta, atoms built from particles, molecules built from atoms, the material of life built from molecules, and the brain and nervous system built from life. Mind probably didn’t suddenly appear in the brain and nervous system at the last stage. Whatever material mind consists of it operates at all of the stages. Mind is not something that exists apart from the universe but something that pervades it. It may be more the communication infrastructure of the universe that allows the layers of structure to be built than the illusion or epiphenomenon that conventional materialism regards it to be. In that case, it would be as real and material as what we normally think of as matter.

Many religions and traditions reference “light” in their beliefs and practices. The Jewish and Christian religions begin their scripture with the invocation from God: “Let there be light”. Many Eastern religions and Western esoteric traditions reference a subtle body or body of light. One of the goals of Chinese alchemy was the creation of a body of light. A goal of some Buddhist and Taoist practice is transformation into a diamond body or rainbow body before physical death. The subtle body or astral body in out-of-body experiences is sometimes referred to as a body of light. Aleister Crowley’s system of magick has practices and rituals for developing a body of light. Many near death experience have an experience of light associated with them. Metaphorically we use the word “light” and various words derived from it, such as “enlightenment”, to express the attainment of knowledge.

For much of my life I regarded most of these references as metaphor mixed with fantasy, wishful thinking, tricks of perception, and perhaps in case some abnormal firing of neurons.

In the case of the second body, this may still be a correct understanding. For example, scientists put virtual reality goggles on subjects and projected a visual image of their bodies with a superimposed outline pulsing in sync with the heartbeat and triggered an out-of-body sensations. Scientists have also tricked people into thinking a fake arm was their real arm by placing the fake arm next to the real arm and stroking the real arms. The brain looks for pattern and order and a key part of the pattern it maintains is the sense of the body. We are constantly receiving feedback from our senses and nerves about the state of our body and how it is positioned in space. Just as a magician can trick an audience into thinking a coin leaps from one hand to another when he is just concealing the coin in one hand while revealing a different one in the other, the brain provided the right set of queues can perceive an intangible second body with existence outside the physical body.

In the broader case of light and whether a key component of mind and consciousness might be light or related to light, the situation may be more complicated. In 1923 Alexander Gurwitsch in the former Soviet Union first discovered that biological materials emit light. This light is ultra-weak and not normally visible to the naked eye. It is not the same as bioluminescence, such as the light that might be emitted by a firefly. Gurwitsch called his discovery mitogenetic radiation and he believed it was related to cell division and morphological development of the organism. Today we call it biophotons. The discovery was generally neglected until the 1970’s when Fritz-Albert Popp picked up the study again.

Popp started on this path from observations he made while investigating how various chemicals reacted when exposed to ultraviolet light. Universally carcinogens when exposed to ultraviolet light will re-emit light at a scrambled frequency whereas similar chemicals that are not carcinogens will not scramble the frequency. Popp reasoned that light must have some key role in cell repair or cell communication. Using sensitive photo-multipliers that could enhance the detection of biophotons, Popp went on to discover that biological organisms routinely emit organized, coherent light and that the degree of organization seems to reflect the degree of health of the organism.

We can understand coherence by thinking of the waves in a pond. If we toss a pebble into the pond, the waves ripple out. If we toss another pebble into the pond, its waves will also ripple out and interact with the waves from the first pebble. The waves from the second pebble may add to the waves of the first pebble or they might subtract from the waves or cancel them out. The more organized and in phase the two waves are the more coherence there is. Lasers emit coherent light. At the quantum level, particles can be regarded as waves. When particles act in phase with each other we have a phenomenon called quantum coherence. Part of Penrose-Hameroff theory of consciousness is that some form of quantum coherence takes place in the brain to create consciousness.

The work of both Popp and Hameroff have come under quite a bit of criticism and if you check out the Wikipedia entries surrounding their theories you can see a good bit of it.

Key criticisms of the quantum theory of consciousness are that the proposed forms of quantum coherence cannot take place at the temperatures at which the brain operates and they cannot persist long enough to account for consciousness. Just recently, however, a team from the University of Madrid have announced results for a new quasi-particle, called PEP, that is a hybrid of light and matter particles which might enable the formation of a Bose-Einstein condensate at room temperature. This is the form of quantum coherence proposed by Hameroff. PEPs are composed of photons and when they break down they emit photons. A study earlier this year also found that quantum effects may play a role in photosynthesis. In that study the researchers compared the role of proteins to that of a parent pushing a child on a swing with the protein amplifying and magnifying the quantum coherence by transferring energy in and out of itself in an organized manner. This allows coherence to persist longer than previously believed to be possible in living matter.

Whether Popp’s or Hameroff’s theories are vindicated in all of their details or not, I suspect we will eventually find that underlying life are quantum processes. These processes probably will have peculiarities arising directly from attributes of carbon-based molecules and water. Photons and other weak electromagnetic forces interacting with that substrate form a sort networking infrastructure that coordinates growth, metabolism, division, and repair. Mind and consciousness would be a another layer of structure built upon the signaling mechanisms that were already present in life from the first one-celled organisms. Mind in this case would be material and it would be constructed from organized particle-waves and light. The light body would in a sense be literally true, not metaphor or illusion, but it would not be a second body. It would be our actual body, which is not the mass of flesh we think it to be but is, in fact, an organized, crystalline structure of matter and light.

This entry was posted in Consciousness, Electromagnetism, Human Evolution, Origin of Life, Waves. Bookmark the permalink.

11 Responses to The Light Body

  1. Erik Andrulis says:

    Good post.

    You asked: What kind of material is Mind?

    Well, I theoretically modeled the Mind as dark matter, i.e. 22% of the Universe. Not sure if I shared that theoretical modeling or placement, but, should it be of interest, it’s here:

    Basically, that theory demonstrates what James Cross calls, “My Mind,” and anyone else calls, “My Mind” is the same Mind. A little odd at first, but it is correct. That dark matter (i.e., Mind) is within all visible energy (photons/nucleons), which is within all visible matter (leptons).

  2. Steve Garcia says:

    “We also know that the role of the observer is critical to the measurement of many quantum phenomenon.”

    This is not, as I’ve always understood it, what Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle really says.

    The more precisely the position is determined, the less precisely the momentum is known in this instant, and vice versa.
    –Heisenberg, uncertainty paper, 1927

    It says nothing more than that. People like Deepak Chopra and other New Age phony gurus have turned that on its head. The Uncertainty Principle does not say the things they say it does.

    In his own words,

    [Huffington Post Aug 3, 2005] One of the most confusing aspects of quantum physics is the uncertainty principle and the observer effect.

    When Heisenberg first presented it to Einstein, he made the famous remark “I don’t believe God would play dice with the Universe.” More recently Stephen Hawking made the statement, “not only does God play dice with the Universe, sometimes throws the dice where you cannot find them.”

    In essence, every act of observation transforms the Universe.

    No no no no no no no.

    There IS no observer effect.

    These folks completely and utterly distort Heisenberg. H was just talking about MEASURING at the subatomic level.

    In general terms/lay terms:

    Every measurement we do has some “wow” in it – some inexactness to it – because of two things: Our measuring mechanisms have + and – to them. And at decreasing size at some point that + and – gets bigger than what we are trying to measure.

    And the other things is that, to measure, you have to TOUCH – even if it is with light waves. As soon as you touch something, it’s momentum has changed, or you have moved it. At the quantum level, that means PHYSICISTS affect their observations, and H was just laying that out.

    It does not in ANY way say that MIND is part of what was being discussed. It is not MIND but our measuring methods and possibilities that Heisenberg was talking about.

    There IS no observer effect. Deepak Chopra MADE IT UP.

    I can’t tell you how many people I’ve known who have gotten into “QP” via Chopra or other New Age gurus and who then thought that they now know what quantum physics is all about. OY VEY!

    • James Cross says:

      Let me break what I said into two parts. This what you quoted:

      “We also know that the role of the observer is critical to the measurement of many quantum phenomenon.”

      Let me quote Heisenberg:

      “”The observer has, rather, only the function of registering decisions, i.e., processes in space and time, and it does not matter whether the observer is an apparatus or a human being; but the registration, i.e., the transition from the “possible” to the “actual,” is absolutely necessary here and cannot be omitted from the interpretation of quantum theory.”

      The registration or observation is absolutely necessary and cannot be omitted from the interpretation of quantum theory. Just about the same as what I wrote.

      Of course, how or why an apparatus would register anything unless a conscious entity created it for the purpose of registration is not really explained.

      However, my next sentence was:

      “Yet the notion of “observer” seems to imply mind.”

      Notice the “seems to imply” which indicates a weak association.

      Here is the first part of Heisenberg quote:

      “Of course the introduction of the observer must not be misunderstood to imply that some kind of subjective features are to be brought into the description of nature.”

      Is the registration or observation by mind “subjective”? I am not so sure. My main materialist point is that mind is objective, physically real, perhaps much like an apparatus.

      In another post, I write about intelligence but it could just as easily apply to consciousness::

      “We may not be the originators of our own intelligence as much as we are agents of an algorithmic principle working at the quantum level. Our intelligence would be a reflection of some deep physical principle that guides the evolution of the universe and life. In the end, our intelligence and that of the slime mold may be more closely linked than we might think.”

      Where I feel I am heading with this is quite different from a sort of mushy New Age nonsense. It is actually in many ways quite horrifying. I will write more about this later but it may be about a year before I get into it. I have a few more areas to explore first.

      Thanks for commenting.

  3. Pingback: Snakes On a Brain | Broad Speculations

  4. Juan says:

    The light body would in a sense be literally true, not metaphor or illusion, but it would not be a second body. It would be our actual body, which is not the mass of flesh we think it to be but is, in fact, an organized, crystalline structure of matter and light.

    However, you’re letting go of the empirical evidence on the existence of a second body, as the apparitions of the living and deceased, reciprocal apparitions, Karlis Osis experiments with psychic Tanous, among others.

    • James Cross says:

      Thanks for commenting.

      I am not sold so far on the empirical evidence on ghosts or apparitions. Can you cite something? I am open minded about it.

    • James Cross says:

      Those links look like they go to some pretty old stuff.

      I have read quite a bit on OBEs. I have the Robert Monroe books. Even went as far as to buy some tapes (literally were tapes in those days). It didn’t do much for me.

      Have you looked at this:

      I think some of Persinger’s ideas might explain some of this. It might not be so much that we have an existence outside of our body but that our body exists in a larger network than is encompassed by our body and brain.

      • Juan says:

        The fact that these links report pretty old studies does not invalidate them.

        Persinger’s ideas may be correct, but they have nothing to say about the reciprocal apparitions and veridical experiences out of the body for example. Dennett, Hofstadter and other materialists have no just idea of ​​the psychic research, so I do not agree with them. Research on OBEs NDEs, aparitions, mediumship and children that seem to remember past lives indicate that there is something like a second body that continues after biological death and is the vehicle of the mind. Maybe the second body is of electromagnetic nature and our positions are not so different.

  5. James Cross says:


    What you are citing is from the nineteenth century and the 1970’s.

    It is mostly anecdotal stuff. There is nothing from contemporary scientists. If you just go to Wikipedia you can find some references to scientists investigating OBEs.

    • Juan says:

      I already wrote that the research is old does not invalidate it. The study by Osis with Tanous is not anecdotal and anecdotes are not always invalid for research.

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