Out-of-body experiences as the origin of the concept of a 'soul '

Mind and Matter 3 (1):57-84 (2005)
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Contemporary philosophical and scienti .c discussions of mind developed from a 'proto-concept of mind ',a mythical,tradition- alistic,animistic and quasi-sensory theory about what it means to have a mind. It can be found in many di .erent cultures and has a semantic core corresponding to the folk-phenomenological notion of a 'soul '.It will be argued that this notion originates in accurate and truthful .rst-person reports about the experiential content of a special neurophenomenological state-class called 'out-of-body experiences '.They can be undergone by every human being and seem to possess a culturally invariant cluster of functional and phenomenal core properties similar to the proto-concept of mind. The common causal factor in the emergence and development of the notion of the soul and the proto-concept of mind may consist in a yet to be determined set of properties realized by the human brain, underlying the cluster of phenomenal properties described in the relevant first-person reports. This hypothesis suggests that such a neurofunctional substrate ed human beings at different times, and in widely varying cultural contexts, to postulate the existence of a soul and to begin developing a theory of mind.
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The Perception of Phantom Limbs: The D. O. Hebb Lecture.Ramachandran, Vilayanur S. & Hirstein, William

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