Theories about the spirit (or the Subliminal Self)
Human destiny and the role of Ego
We have repeatedly highlighted in these pages how the essence of individual identity is to be sought in our consciousness, through which we record over time a more or less broad range of psychic tunings that, together, determine what we can define «our human destiny». We have also seen that the range of psychic tunings which a person directly experiences represents nothing but a minimal fraction of the human psyche, considered as the complex of psychic experiences experienced by all human individuals. As a consequence of this fact, most of the psychic tunings remain precluded to each of us. The reasons why we attune certain experiences, and not others, depends on our hardware (that is, to put it in simple terms, on the development and functioning of our brain), on the programs we receive (in particular through socio-cultural conditioning), on various stimuli coming from the environment with which we are interacting, on the impact that certain rapid environmental changes can have on our body and on the way in which our cerebral computer processes all the material already acquired and the new environmental stimuli. All this means that the psychophysical instrument (the whole body-brain-mental activity) with which we live in this world becomes the essential reference of our identity.
As time goes by, the psychic tunings acquired by our consciousness lose intensity and turn into memories, which over the years become more and more blurred or go completely out of the field of consciousness: in this case they can be completely forgotten, or be recalled to consciousness with some voluntary effort, or they can suddenly reappear to consciousness through association with other events. All these processes largely escape the control of that representative system of our identity which we call the Ego, since they are determined by the functioning of our psychophysical system as a whole. The function – which we define as the will – used by the Ego to control the functioning of the psychophysical system, both in relation to the external environment (behavior, acquisition of information and communication) as well as in relation to psychic events recorded by consciousness (thoughts, reasoning, feelings, emotions, memories, desires, etc.), depends on the resources of the psychophysical system to which the Ego presides. The complexity of all these factors determines the billions of individual destinies of human beings, but above all it means that the Ego is nothing more than a sort of executive at the service of forces and needs that greatly transcend his limited management abilities.
As we have seen, the amount of freedom available to the Ego is really limited, if only for the fact of being inserted or imprisoned, so to speak, in a body whose design and operation largely escape its knowledge and its control capacity: the body is in fact subject to deterioration and malfunction due to the environment with which it must necessarily interact and the passing of time. For most human beings it is the psychophysical system of reference to give the Ego the main command: survive, prolong as much as you can the duration of your life! This and other commands, such as «mate» or «try to win», come to our consciousness not only in the form of psychic instances determined by instinctual needs related to our animal nature, but also as programs elaborated and transmitted by the socio-cultural system we live in. It is precisely the need to obey the primary commands that leads us to daily fulfill the many tasks that determine our functioning, both in the context of a social system (for all human beings who can survive only within a social system, that is – in our days – over 99% of humanity), and in a natural environment (the remaining part, less than 1%).
It should be kept in mind that everyone obeys these commands, for the sole fact of living: both the functioning of an exemplary citizen and that of a member of a criminal gang, even if determined by different commands, may be conditioned by the same basic primary needs. However, since we have a consciousness, we must also consider the different psychic tunings determined by the fulfillment of the various tasks that the received commands impose upon us. From the emotional point of view, the psychic contents that reach our conscousness can be more or less neutral, or positive (satisfaction, sense of triumph, joy, happiness, etc.) or negative (dissatisfaction, sadness, boredom, stress, suffering, pain, etc.). These different moods may be the consequence of carefully planned and foreseen actions and behaviors, as well as of sudden events completely independent of our will (such as the loss of a loved one or the occurrence of an accident or a natural event that damages us), or events resulting from our body's behavior that escapes our capacity for self-control (like the wounding or killing of a person in a moment of rage, with the consequent sentence to be served). What is clear is that the emotional dynamics to which we are subjected should tend to make us orientate towards positive psychic contents, avoiding the negative ones, but the results show that our calculations are often wrong, or that we do not have sufficient resources to avoid negative tunings.
Dissatisfaction about the role of executive
By and large, it is precisely this cultural scheme in which our existence is limited to the role of executive in the context of a project that transcends us – which, in its best aspect, can be defined as «progress of humanity» – that gives us a sense of dissatisfaction, due to the fact that in every human life the balance between positive and negative psychic experiences is very variable, and even if I were very satisfied with my life's balance, I should always observe how the life balance of many other people is definitely negative. It must also be considered that the passing of time makes so that the positive events of the past, even if recalled as memories, do not have the same impact as possible negative psychic contents that involve us in the present, and as time goes by in one direction only, in the expectation of the often problematic psychophysical condition associated with old age, the possibility that the «present» relative to the last period of life is marked by predominantly negative psychic tunings should be taken seriously. This dissatisfaction concerning the role of an executive – so that a human being becomes a «disposable» product, given that he is born, works and dies, and with death his consciouness is annihilated – is the main reason why many people are induced to believe in some form of survival, despite the difficulty of understanding how the conscious Ego can continue to exist without the support of the brain, as will be better seen in the section over the life.
First of all, we are induced to ask ourselves where this kind of dissatisfaction originates: in fact, a well-designed automaton should play its functional role, executing the commands it receives and fulfilling the tasks assigned to it, without questioning about them. It can be said that a non-indifferent part of humanity acts and behaves precisely in this way, and one could suspect that the illusion of survival, accepted by faith, is nothing but an expedient planned to reassure that part of humanity which, for one reason or another, is nwilling to accept this human role quietly. In any case, we must confront a non-indifferent programmatic contradiction, given that: 1) or we accept the fact that all the dynamics relating to human life have neither been planned nor foreseen, so they do not have a predictable orientation and purpose, and therefore the existence of each of us is a random accident that, however improbable, occurs over time as a spark that lights up and then burns out; 2) or we must recognize that some programmer entities exist or have existed, in one form or another, even if they escape our possibilities of perception.
It is evident that the acceptance of the first option implies the acknowledgment of the uselessness and lack of meaning of anything we think, plan or do, and of the absolute equality, within the events' possibilities, between what we consider «good» and «evil», and the indifference towards the occurrence of any psychic event, whether positive or negative. It should be noted that the cultural framework in which we live, in some cases tends to consider this option as possible, thus confirming the possibility that humanity will end up in a state of total chaos due to the lack of recognition of a programmed function. If, on the other hand, the programming is recognized, the question concerning the relationship between us and our programmers opens up (perhaps even in terms of contractual obligations!).
What is meant by the term «spirit»
This not short introduction was needed to better understand that the term spirit has been used in our culture and literature to express two different concepts: on the one hand it indicates those components of the human personality that are believed to continue to exist after the death of our physical body, while on the other hand it refers to those entities – endowed with their own personality, intelligence and will – which are not normally perceivable by our human senses, but whose manifestations may become evident under certain circumstances, and in particular through mediums. Some spiritualist theory strives to make these two meanings coincide, claiming that all spirits that can connect with us have already lived on this Earth, as human beings or other living organisms. In most cases, however, a distinction is made between the spirits of «disembodied souls» and other kinds of spirits that are not of human origin: a trivial example of the latter is constituted, in the religious sphere, by angels or demons, while the «saints» of the Christian religion would be disembodied souls.
The spirit's origin and its relationship with the human person
Any theory on the spirit, being based on non-verifiable psychic representations, involves complexities and questions to which the most diverse answers have been given. For example, Bozzano claimed that in the course of human life our thoughts and actions contribute to forming the perisprit, which, at the bodily death, finally begins to live an autonomous life in a spiritual environment, integrating in its etheric mind our individual consciousness and the memories of all our life's events (even those of which we were no longer conscious), so becoming a spirit. Something similar is found in the role that the Catholic religion assigns to the soul, which would originate in the mother's womb, shortly after the body's conception, and would continue to live in another dimension at the body's death.
Other theories, however, maintain that the spirit is emanated directly from the divinity and has an eternal existence. The incarnations would be nothing but episodic experiences to which the spirit is subjected to acquire information on dimensions different from the one which it usually belongs to. Not being able to move directly into dimensions like the earthly one, due to incompatibilities related to its own nature, in each incarnation the spirit would be equipped with a perispirit (also called soul), which in turn would be associated with the biological body. Even according to theories of this kind (such as the one enunciated by entity Andrea through the medium Corrado Piancastelli), the association would take place during the gestation of the fetus, while at the death of the body the perispirit would associate again with the spirit, bringing with it all the experiences lived. Since life experiences in the earthly environment, or in any other possible world, can be multiple, a theory of this kind fits well with the hypothesis of reincarnation, associated with a possible evolutionary path of the spirit according to a program planned by higher entities.
The spirit as a personification of the unconscious
In dealing with the origin and cultural definition of the term unconscious – considered as a noun – we have emphasized the impossibility of talking about something that, in one form or another, does not enter into the consciousness of a human being. Once it has been established that it is not an entirely appropriate term, we can certainly recognize the existence of psychic effects that escape the Ego's control and break into consciousness unexpectedly and with unpredictable consequences, influencing a person's life and directing his/her destiny also through abrupt changes. In any case, it is a matter of different psychic tunings, sometimes antagonistic with respect to those that characterized the person's conscious orientation. Defining «unconscious» all the effects of mental activity (determined by the brain's functioning) of which we are not conscious is trivial, and in fact the unconscious has become part of our culture only when we have become conscious of it, and only for those aspects that can perceived by our consciousness. With more precision it can be said that the psyche, as a whole, remains unconscious until it is experienced, in some of its many aspects, by the consciousness of a human being.
The observation of the psychic processes and their influence on human destinies has led some scholars, among whom Frederic W. H. Myers and in part also Carl Gustav Jung, to hypothesize the existence of a spirit of psychic nature, endowed with its own autonomy and its own intent, capable of influencing the psychophysical system of every human being. It would be the activity of this spirit, associated with our conscious Ego, to determine certain particular faculties of which some human beings are gifted (such as creative inspiration), or some events of a paranormal nature, or even the irruption into the Ego's consciousness of abnormal or conflicting psychic contents compared to those generally adopted. Myers called this entity the Subliminal Self, while Jung – while remaining always quite cautious about the personifications of the unconscious activities – recognized as aim of the development of human personality das Selbst (the Self), resulting by the integration in the consciousness of the unconscious (?) contents coming from a not better specified source.
In any case, the psyche's potential field of action, uncontrolled and uncontrollable by the conscious Ego, became the foundation of all theories on the psychic origin of paranormal phenomena, regardless of whether the existence of an individual psychic entity was recognized (the spirit) or that the psyche should be considered as a single timeless field from which all human psychic tunings originate and in which they are recorded forever. For instance, George Nugent Tyrrell (1879-1952), an English engineer who after 1923 devoted himself completely to the study of metapsychics (he was president of the SPR in the biennium 1945-46), elaborated a theory based on the existence of a ultra-sensory field, beyond space and time, with which our subliminal self could come into contact, then transferring what it learns to our consciousness, through vehicles such as dreams, hallucinations, automatic writing, mediumistic trance, etc. Since the ultra-sensory field is beyond space and time, the subliminal self can become aware of events of the past and of the future. As is obvious, both the ultra-sensory field and the functioning of the subliminal self remain inexplicable in the light of our ordinary intellectual and rational faculties. Ultimately these theories are based on the observation that, once the existence of the paranormal phenomena have been ascertained, they must have a cause: not being able to find it in the field of known physical phenomena, the task to elaborate something more or less convincing is left to creative imagination.
It is easy to see how the acceptance of one or the other of these theories as true depends on the individual psychic tunings of each human being, not unlike what happens for the transcendent truths proclaimed by the various religions. In fact, it is a matter of truths of a psychic nature, devoid of objective confirmation in the dimension of this world. However, our cultural tendency to consider psychic truths as totally groundless may not be free of criticism, even if a hygienic and protective function should be recognized to it, against certain particularly dangerous and destructive effects on people's mental health. The study of paranormal phenomena, and in particular of the mediumistic ones, leads us to hypothesize that in dimensions different from the earthly one, a psychological truth can become to all intents and purposes a «real» truth, given that under particular conditions this can happen also in our dimension, giving rise to a whole series of phenomena that for many centuries have been relegated to the insecure and obscure sphere of magic.
The role of human brain
Once again, we have to recognize that the lack of sufficient information on the way in which the human brain activates consciousness and allows the processing of those psychic contents that are consciously experienced and memorized, forces us to resort to uncertain and not verifiable explanatory hypotheses and theories. There are, however, some factual data that we can consider as ascertained: if psychic experiences were indeed an exclusive product of the brain's physiological activities, mediums and other subjects that produce physical effects (as it happens, for example, in case of poltergeist infestations), should have a brain with areas or regions not present in «normal» brains, and the functioning of these organic systems (constituted, as far as it is known, by groups of neurons connected together in complex networks) should be such as to activate those energies capable of acting remotely to produce the physical effects that occur. Nothing, in our current knowledge, confirms this hypothesis. Indeed, there have been several cases of infestations not attributable to the presence in the environment of a well-defined person (the triggering subject), but related to the environment itself, in which different people perceived similar phenomena. All this not only leads us to believe, but shows that our brain can not «produce» the psychic tunings which we experience consciously, more than it can produce the external and objective reality of the world we live in. The brain is instead an organ that tunes and elaborates the psychic contents coming from the regions of the human psyche, as well as the signals, information and programs coming from the external environment.
Physical world and psychic world
We can therefore think that, as around us there is a physical world (of which our body is also a part), in the same way there is also a psychic world, endowed with its own autonomous reality. And just as we usually live in a restricted and confined region of the physical world, likewise our experience of the psychic world is limited to a narrow range. All the mental experiences tuned by our consciousness in the course of our life remain stored in the psychic world (a bit like the objects we keep in our house), and can be recalled to consciousness, within certain limits, through memory. Both the physical and the psychic world are essentially subjective, and become objective only to the extent that the consciousness of different people focus on the same physical objects or the same psychic tunings. In fact, if I compare my experience of the physical world with that of a person living, for example, in the Australian desert, to me it may be day while to her/him it is night, to me it can be winter while there is a summer heat , and all the elements of the landscape are completely different, also involving totally different psychic experiences. With these premises, how could we ever agree on the objectivity of the physical world? Of course, we take it for granted that if I move to the Australian desert or if that person travels to the environment in which I live, our experiences may coincide giving objectivity to the perceived world. But, to travel, we need to invest time and energy to get the physical movement of our body.
The same can be said about the psychic world, only that in this case we are much less prepared for the movements, explorations and risks that undoubtedly occur. The description of the dangers that one faces when one decides to travel in the psychic world is not simple, because the language adopted depends on the cultural conventions of reference, while the experience of the psychic tunings that reach the consciousness is essentially subjective, due to the lack of a shared culture of psychic exploration: so it happens that there may be heavenly, but sometimes also infernal, experiences (see the section on the NDE), which are labeled with technical terms such as hallucinations or altered states of consciousness, so that those who are not subjectively involved can continue to sleep peacefully. It is a bit like reading, while comfortably sitting in an armchair, a book describing the adventures and risks of an explorer of unknown African territories in the early nineteenth century: the gap between those who actually lived that experience and those who read the story remains very wide.
Psychic world, Ego, consciousness and spirits
Recognizing the existence of the psychic world leads to reconsidering the dependence of individual consciousness, and therefore of Ego, from the instrument of the brain: indeed – as we have already observed – the main obstacle to the expansion of our consciousness towards psychic tunings different from those we are accustomed to in this life is given by the fact that, as a rule, the termination of the cerebral activity cancels every form of consciousness. For this reason, even if we admit that the brain is a tuner of psychic experiences, and that the psychic world is endowed with its own autonomy, we can not make any progress on the possibility that our individual consciousness can continue to exist once our body, and with it our brain, have gone into dissolution, unless we can understand how consciousness can be made independent of the functioning of the brain. Although on this site have been pointed out those aspects of NDEs and mediumistic experiences that seem to offer some clues about this possibility, in the normal life of the vast majority of people everything seems to prove otherwise.
The only clue we can count on is that both mediumistic phenomena and NDEs do not occur under Ego control and do not seem to be determined by normal brain functioning. In fact, it is found that various people can meet to perform all kinds of mental and will efforts in order to obtain mediumistic phenomena, without having the least success. Likewise, one may intensely desire to have an OBE or NDE without anything happening, while intense NDEs have been experienced by people completely unaware of this phenomenon. Moreover, as we have seen, there is no shortage of doctors who said that, in the critical conditions of near-death in which the brain may be, conscious experiences like NDEs should not occur.
If the presence of a medium is necessary for the occurrence of mediumistic phenomena, paranormal phenomena of other kinds (such as infestations or collective apparitions) occasionally involve people who have no mediumistic faculties. In all cases there is always the impression of having to do with entities (let us call them spirits) endowed with their own autonomy with respect to human consciousness, and not infrequently with autonomous intelligence and will. Normally spirits do not interfere with the normal psychic tunings that affect our consciousness, but under certain conditions this isolation can fail, and it is as the opening of a passage that makes the interaction between the spirits and our dimension possible. Once reaffirmed that spirits, considered from this point of view, are alien entities, whose existence does not necessarily imply the survival of our human consciousness, it must be recognized that their capacity for action can be exerted – as well as in the psychic sphere – even in the physical world, provided they have an adequate source of energy, normally given by human beings.
All the hypotheses concerning the psychic origin of paranormal phenomena in their complex (including the super-ESP theory) can not ignore the fact that the extraordinary faculties attributed to human psyche escape the voluntary control of the Ego, and manifest themselves to consciousness only through their effects. As we have repeatedly emphasized, mediums in trance are in a state of complete unconsciousness: therefore, given that the effects produced by mediumship are often objective, because they can be photographed or recorded, the action necessary to produce these effects must have an unconscious and autonomous origin. If then someone wants to propose an association and a link between a spirit and a conscious human personality (with respect to which the spirit is almost always unconscious and autonomous), free to do so, in the footsteps of Bozzano and other scholars: it must however be explained how the consciousness of the human personality can be transferred to the spirit at the time of death, to remain there. One could also believe – quite rightly – that spirits exist as autonomous entities endowed with singular powers, including that of being able to draw from the archives of all the psychic experiences recorded by the consciousness of living beings.
If we agree that the individual human personality (the one constituted by our conscious Ego) must be referred to the psychic experiences in which it has been involved in the course of life (a part of which remains accessible to the memory while most are filed out and forgotten), then many paranormal phenomena imply the existence of alien entities, which we can very well define spirits (or with any other term of our choice). Normally we are not aware of the existence of spirits, nor of their activities, but under some circumstances, due to mediumistic sensitivity or particular energetic fields that interfere with the physical world, the effects of the spirits' activity become perceptible by our consciousness.
As for the possible association between a spirit and a human personality, all theories about the unconscious, in their attempt to refute the classical spiritualist hypothesis by attributing all paranormal phenomena to unconscious psychic activities, uncontrollable by the Ego of the sensitive (or other people), must implicitly accept this association – even if the terminology with which they refer to the spirit changes – calling it from time to time «Unconscious Ego», «Subliminal Ego», «Self», etc. Only if we succeeded in demonstrating (which until now has not happened) that all unconscious activities, including paranormal phenomena, are produced by the physiology of the cerebral organ, would it be possible to rule out the existence of the spirits, leading all phenomena to the existence in life of the plurality of human bodies. In this case we should recognize that our human presonality (the one we are aware of) is subordinated to the existence of the body.
Even if the existence of spirits is recognized, the survival of our conscious Ego does not automatically derive from it: an agent must be identified, able to transfer our consciousness from the cerebral organ (which decomposes in the process of death) to another instrument. This agent could be a spirit, and if the association between a spirit and a human personality is recognized, it would be right for everyone to call it «my spirit». However, at present we do not have rational certainties confirming this hypothesis, but only circumstantial and intuitive elements. Even more insecure are theories concerning the «physical» consistency of an etheric body, or a perispirit, an entity whose perception may very well be real on the subjective psychic plane (as those who directly experience it know well), but which escapes objective instrumental recording. However, as we have already noted, terms such as objective and subjective could become more nuanced in a dimension other than that of the physical world, in which the psychic element had a greater impact on the creation of reality.