Ghostly presences – the feeling of someone near you when there’s no one there – could be down to your brain trying to make sense of conflicting information. For the first time, the brain regions involved in such hallucinations have been identified – and a ghost presence induced in healthy people.
The work sheds light on why some people with conditions such as schizophrenia and epilepsy feel an alien presence nearby, and may also explain why mountain climbers often report being accompanied by the presence of what’s called “the third man”.
In 1933, when British explorer Frank Smythe came close to conquering Mount Everest all by himself, he couldn’t shake off the feeling that someone else was climbing with him. But he was alone, having left his team far behind. Smythe was hallucinating. He even broke off a piece of cake and offered it to his invisible climbing partner.
This condition, called feeling of presence (FoP), is different from other bodily hallucinations, such as out-of-body experiences, in which you feel you are outside your body looking at it, or the doppelgänger effect, in which you see and interact with your double. Such hallucinations have a visual component. (1)
Researches tried to replicate the ghostly presence with the use of a master-slave robot construction. But their experiment was a trick. A staged act to create a specific set of conditions under which the brain logically deducted the presence of something touching their back when nothing did.
But what does that mean, even if it is correct from a scientifically point of view and representative of all cases of ghostly presence feelings? If the brain creates false sensory input, which is the criterion we use to distinguish them? What tells us that all other sensory input we experience every day is not “false”?
We are afraid of our world having no meaning that we give meaning our selves.
We are afraid of our world being void of life.
We are afraid of our world being full of ghosts.
We need to summon all the courage we can to accept the fact that the meaning we give is the meaning of life.
That the world is composed of life and life alone.
That the ghosts in the cosmos are us.
Living in the dark.
We create light.