Retro-vision: A new aspectof vision?

Under certain circumstances, events may assume great mental or psychological activity or intensity, or by their nature can be fuzzy, unidentifiable, or they happen very fast, so that they leave a sense to the subject who perceives them as if they had come from the future or had involved a memory of the past, so that despite the fact that these events happen at present, the perceiver thinks he already knew that they would happen, and talks about a premonition or some sort of mantic power. In a few words, these contemporary events spread forward and backwards in the future and in the past within the mind of the perceiver, so that they leave the impression of supernatural events involving extraordinary powers. This interpretation is more valid than accepting these phenomena as supernatural, because all these events which involve a premonition or some supposed knowledge of the future first take place and then comes the supernatural feeling or explanation. In this manner, instead of talking about a „predetermined future‟ or an „everlasting past,‟ we would rather regard and define an extended present¸ where an event takes place not at a „point‟ in space and time but it covers some area, the limits of which expand into the future and the past.

Extra-mission vs. intromission theories of vision

A typical textbook diagram showing how reflection in a plane mirror produces a virtual image (I) of the object (O). The dotted lines indicate virtual rays.

Since the ancient times the mystery of vision was divided into two main categories: Emission or extra-mission, and intromission theories. Extra-mission theories regarded vision as an active process, where rays were emitted from the eyes and made the world visible. Intromission theories, on the other hand, treated vision as a passive process that was accomplished through light rays from bright objects. Both schools of thought relied upon the principle that „like is known by like‟ and thus the notion that the eye was composed of some „internal fire‟ which interacted with the „external fire‟ of visible light and made vision possible.

Plato adopted the idea of an outward-moving current, but proposed that it was combined with light to form a „single homogeneous body‟ stretching from the eye to the visible object. This extended medium was the instrument of visual power reaching out from the eye. Through it, influences from the visible object passed to the soul. Aristotle followed Plato in emphasizing the importance of an intermediate medium between the eye and the seen object, which he called „the transparent.‟ He thought of light not as a material substance, but as a „state of the transparent,‟ resulting from the presence of a luminous body. The visible object was the source or cause of

change in the transparent, through which influences were transmitted instantaneously to the soul of the observer.

On the other hand, there was an early version of intromission theories. Democritus, propounding the doctrine that ultimate reality consists of particles of matter in motion, proposed that material particles streamed off the surface of things in all directions; vision depended on these particles entering the eye. In order to account for coherent images, he supposed that the particles were joined together in thin films that travelled into the eye. Some atomists admitted that influences could move both ways, not just into the eyes, but also outwards from the looker. It is interesting to notice that one of the reasons for accepting outward-moving influences was the belief in the evil eye, whereby some people could allegedly harm others by looking at them with envy or other negative emotions. Democritus explained the evil eye as mediated by images moving outward from the eyes, charged with hostile mental contents, that “remain persistently attached to the person victimized, and thus disturb and injure both body and mind.”

Nevertheless, the final major contribution of classical antiquity was that of Euclid. His approach was strictly mathematical and excluded practically all aspects of vision that could not be reduced to geometry. Euclid recognized that light played a part in vision and adopted an extra-mission theory emphasizing that vision was an active process. He assumed that light rays travelled in straight lines and he worked out geometrically how eyes projected the images we see outside ourselves. He also clearly stated the principles of mirror reflection, recognizing the equality of what we now call the angles of incidence and reflection, and he explained virtual images in terms of the movement of visual rays outwards from the eyes.

In the Renaissance, technological advances in four areas made major new contributions: First, the development of linear perspective in painting; second, an improved understanding of the anatomy of the eye, with a recognition that the lens is lens-shaped, when it was previously regarded as a sphere; third, the study of the camera obscura, in which inverted images formed on the wall of a darkened room with a small hole in the wall; fourth, the study of spectacle lenses, which led to the recognition that double convex lenses cause rays of light to converge. All these advances provided essential ingredients for Kepler‟s theory of retinal images published in 1604.

Newton in his „Opticks,‟ first published in 1704, used the same kind of theory. His very reasonable explanation was that the reflected rays incident on the spectator‟s eyes “make the same picture in the bottom of the eyes as if they had come from the real object without the interposition of the looking-glass; and all vision is made according to the place and shape of that picture.” The theory of virtual images in Newton‟s „Opticks‟ is at least 2,300 years old. Euclid first codified the principles of mirror reflections in his „Catoptrics,‟ and his diagrams showing the location of virtual images behind plane mirrors are essentially identical to those in modern textbooks. Euclid‟s virtual images were formed by visual rays moving outwards in straight lines from the eye to the place where the object appeared to be. This theory of virtual images has survived continuously because it works so well in explaining the facts of reflection and refraction. The virtual images are not explicitly ascribed to visual rays, but rather to rays „produced backwards‟ from the eye.

Unconscious inference
What we see from the previous discussion is that both theories, either extra-mission or intromission ones, accept the existence of some form of „visual rays‟ that travel between an object and the eyes of the spectator and make vision possible no matter if these rays are produced by the eyes, a medium, or the sun. The geometry of the whole phenomenon seems to be of secondary importance, since what matters is the final result, which is a „virtual image’ of the real object imprinted on the retina and reconstructed by the brain.

Since the 1980s, the predominant academic approach has been to suppose that vision depends on computational processing and on the formation of representations inside the brain. David Marr summarized this position as follows: „„Vision is the process of discovering from images what is present in the world, and where it is. Vision is therefore, first and foremost, an informationprocessing task, but we cannot think of it as just a process. For if we are capable of knowing

what is where in the world, our brains must somehow be capable of representing this information in all its profusion of color and form, beauty, motion and detail.‟‟

This theory of an internal representation of the world inside our heads is more or less selfevident, because this is the reason why we have eyes and brains: to see images, analyze them, and memorize them. Is this model, however, sufficient to include all aspects of vision? How come, for example, on the basis of the fragmented and discontinuous information we receive from the outside world, that we are able to enjoy the impression of seamless consciousness of an environment detailed and continuous?

Hermann von Helmholtz, who is often credited with the first study of visual perception in modern times, examined the human eye and concluded that it was optically rather poor. The poor-quality information gathered via the eye seemed to him to make vision impossible. He therefore concluded that vision could only be the result of some form of unconscious inferences: a matter of making assumptions and conclusions from incomplete data, based on previous experiences.

Inference requires prior experience of the world. This means that our brain is filled with preassumptions concerning the properties of events we have either experienced or learned about by others. Of course this means that we are always „prejudiced‟ against other things and living beings, since we impose them our pre-assumptions concerning what they are or what they „should‟ be. Most often this process takes place instantaneously and unconsciously. Even if we are confronted with a new event or we are missing parts of an object so that is partially understood, our unconscious tends to reassemble the object or compare it with other similar objects in an automated way.

The „Hermann grid illusion:‟ an optical illusion characterized by virtual grey blobs perceived to appear at the intersections of the white lines with the black squares. The blobs disappear when looking directly at an intersection.

The previous image depicts a graphical way to show this phenomenon of unconscious sensory reconstruction. The underlying theory stems from gelstat psychology. The word „gelstat‟ in German means: “essence or shape of an entity‟s complete form.” This implies the operational principle of gestalt psychology- that the brain is holistic, parallel and analog, with selforganizing tendencies. The principle maintains that the human brain perceives objects in their entirety before analyzing their individual parts. The so-called gestalt effect is the formgenerating capability of our senses, particularly with respect to the visual recognition of figures and whole forms instead of just a collection of simple lines and curves. The phrase “the whole is greater than the sum of the parts” is often used when summarizing gestalt theory.

Gestalt theory allows for the breakup of things from their totality into what they really consist of. In the same way our consciousness analyzes forms and shapes into their parts in order to analyze the details and correct any possible mistakes made in the previous stage of unconscious inference. Our brain imprints a „virtual reality‟ within our memory using in-built „logical channels‟ consisting of previous memories, as well as depending on the structures of our sensory system. So how can we be sure that the object we „see‟ inside our brain is really out there in the real world? Even if this is not always the case there are a lot of „experimental‟ ways to make sure that our senses are „right:‟ We know that the child we see is our son; that the distant mountain is the

one we visited last year; that the faint star we see in the night sky is the same one that we found on a map of astronomy; that the image we see in the mirror is not a ghost but us; and so on. Sometimes our estimations may be wrong, but generally speaking we have a consistent idea about reality. It is the light reflected by objects that makes them visible, the eyes are our natural receptors and the brain is our logical processor. We don‟t know everything about the whole process, but if we had different senses and mind to perceive and understand the world, we wouldn‟t be irrational; we would just have another common reality to talk about.

Holographic function of the brain
We have seen that our unconscious seems to make up for our fragmentary view of the world. According to Rupert Sheldrake, the theory of a detailed representation of the external world within the brain is by no means universally believed within academic circles. It is under attack by skeptical neuroscientists and philosophers. The more that is known about the eyes and the brain, the less likely the internal representation theory seems. The resolving power of the eyes is limited; each eye has a blind spot of which we remain unaware; the eyes are in frequent motion, saccading from point to point in the visual field three to four times a second. As Alva Noe has summarized the problem, “how, on the basis of the fragmented and discontinuous information, are we able to enjoy the impression of seamless consciousness of an environment that is detailed, continuous, complex and high resolution?”

The most radical solution to this problem is to suppose that the visual world is not an illusion, and is not inside the brain at all. It is where it seems to be, in the external world. The leading proponent of this view was J.J. Gibson (1979) in his „ecological‟ approach to perception. Rather than the brain building up an internal model of the environment, vision involves the whole animal and is concerned with the guidance of action. For Gibson, perception is active and direct. The animal moves its eyes, head and body, and it moves through the environment. Visual perception is not a series of static snapshots, but a dynamic visual flow. As Gibson put it, “Information is conceived as available in the ambient energy flux, not as signals in a bundle of nerve fibers. It is information about both the persisting and the changing features of the

environment together. Moreover, information about the observer and his movements is available, so that self-awareness accompanies perceptual awareness.”

Max Velmans currently argues in favor of a theory of this kind. He discusses the example of a subject S looking at a cat as follows: “According to reductionists there seems to be a phenomenal cat „in S's mind,‟ but this is really nothing more than a state of her brain. According to the reflexive model, while S is gazing at the cat, her only visual experience of the cat is the cat she sees out in the world. If she is asked to point to this phenomenal cat (her „cat experience‟), she should point not to her brain but to the cat as perceived, out in space beyond the body surface… I assume that the brain constructs a „representation‟ or „mental model‟ of what is happening, based on the input from the initiating stimulus... Visual representations of a cat, for example, include encoding for shape, location and extension, movement, surface texture, color, and so on.... Let us suppose that the information encoded in the subject‟s brain is formed into a kind of neural „projection hologram.‟ A projection hologram has the interesting quality that the threedimensional image it encodes is perceived to be out in space, in front of its two-dimensional surface.”

Velmans makes it clear that the idea of holographic projection is only an analogy, and stresses that he thinks perceptual projection is subjective and non-physical, occurring only in phenomenal as opposed to physical space. Nevertheless, these projections extend beyond the skull and generally coincide with physical space.

Recording a hologram

If our brain tries to understand the world in a holistic manner, then a hologram is a good example of how our brain may work. Holography is a technique that enables a light field, which is generally the product of a light source scattered off objects, to be recorded and later reconstructed when the original light field is no longer present, due to the absence of the original object. Holograms are recorded using a flash of light that illuminates a scene and then imprints on a recording medium, much in the way a photograph is recorded. In addition, however, part of the light beam must be shone directly onto the recording medium- this second light beam is known as the reference beam. A hologram requires a laser as the sole light source.

When the two laser beams reach the recording medium, their light waves intersect and interfere with each other. It is this interference pattern that is imprinted on the recording medium. The pattern itself is seemingly random, as it represents the way in which the scene‟s light interfered with the original light source. The interference pattern can be said to be an encoded version of the scene, requiring a particular key- that is, the original light source- in order to view its contents. This missing key is provided later by shining a laser, identical to the one used to record the hologram, onto the developed film. When this beam illuminates the hologram, it is diffracted by the hologram's surface pattern. This produces a light field that is identical to the one originally produced by the scene and scattered onto the hologram. This image effect produced in a person‟s retina is known as a virtual image.

A basic characteristic of holograms is that in a holographic reconstruction, each region of the photographic plate contains the whole image. However, if we cut the plate in smaller pieces the original image becomes obscure and less detailed. Furthermore, holography not only requires special techniques, such as lasers with fixed wavelength, in order to work, but also needs particular conditions to provide a clear holographic image. For example, to prevent external light from interfering, holograms are usually taken in darkness, or in low level light of a different color from the laser light used in making the hologram.

These certain conditions necessary to make a hologram may be rare in nature but could be a common feature of the brain, because its functions are complicated enough all the way

arrangements from the moment it receives an image from the eyes till the time this image is completely processed. We could say that our eyes „see,‟ but our brain „watches.‟ The fact that our brain is multi-functional, instead of processing and storing images in a linear, inflexible way, is shown by modern experiments in many scientific fields.

The holonomic brain theory, for example, was originated by Karl Pribram, who noticed that rats didn‟t forget to perform tasks even if large parts of their brain were removed. In this model, each sense functions as a lens, refocusing wave patterns either by perceiving a specific pattern or context as swirls, or by discerning discrete grains or quantum units. According to Pribram, the tuning of wave frequency in cells of the primary visual cortex plays a role in visual imaging, while such tuning in the auditory system has been well established for decades. This holographic idea led to the coining of the term „holonomic‟ to describe the notion in wider contexts than just holograms. Pribram has written, “What the data suggest is that there exists in the cortex, a multidimensional holographic-like process serving as an attractor or set point toward which muscular contractions operate to achieve a specified environmental result. The specification has to be based on prior experience (of the species or the individual) and stored in holographic-like form. Activation of the store involves patterns of muscular contractions (guided by basal ganglia, cerebellar, brain stem and spinal cord) whose sequential operations need only to satisfy the 'target' encoded in the image of achievement much as the patterns of sequential operations of heating and cooling must meet the setpoint of the thermostat.” David Bohm employed the hologram as a means of a characteristic „implicate order,‟ that is order hidden within a deeper level of reality and which is manifested, or becomes „explicate,‟ in our world under certain conditions, such as the observable results of instruments. In Bohm‟s words, “There is the germ of a new notion of order here. This order is not to be understood solely in terms of a regular arrangement of objects or as a regular arrangement of events. Rather, a total order is contained, in some implicit sense, in each region of space and time.”

With respect to implicate order, Bohm asked us to consider the possibility “that physical law should refer primarily to an order of undivided wholeness in a content of description similar to that indicated by the hologram rather than to an order of analysis of such content into separate parts …” What this means can be depicted in the previous figure, taken from Bohm‟s book „Wholeness and the implicate order:‟ Let‟s suppose that we a have a tank filled with water and that two cameras take shots of a single fish swimming in this tank. Each camera shows a different angle of the fish. If these two different views of the fish are projected on two screens placed in another room, a spectator in that room will imagine that there are two different fishes swimming in the tank. Only when he sees the original tank and the cameras he will realize the illusion.

Since the ancient times there has been a fundamental question whether a visible object exists both in the real world and in our minds. Our brain makes continuously, instinctively and instantaneously all the necessary arrangements and comparisons to distinguish between what is real and what is illusory. Even when it fails, this can be due to some kind of „trick‟ (for example, light intensity, weather conditions, degree of concreteness of the object, etc.). But in any case we can recognize that things separated in space and time form parts of a single „objective‟ reality. We see an object and immediately our brain harries to confirm or discard any relevant information. This looks like the ancient view of a medium between the eyes and the soul of the observer so that vision could be established. The medium in our case is light and the „soul‟ is all the sensory, emotional and mental responses of our brain. And the process of what we call „thinking‟ may not happen exclusively in one part of the brain but it may include many different areas working together in order to give us a complete and precise form and shape of the object corresponding to the visual stimuli as much as possible.

Our minds may be filled with „pre-fabricated‟ forms of objects and notions that we put to the test each time we look at or think about the world, and as we try to adapt our mind to any kind of changes. We may look at different angles or see things differently but the basic structure of our brain and eyes doesn‟t change. What changes is the re- arrangement of our views about the shapes and forms of a reality that is not static. If modern science in the future finds a way to identify the areas in the brain corresponding to such changes, then we will have a better understanding of how we understand. Because the strangeness of the world is more likely due to our strange minds, rather than some imperceptible or incomprehensible reality we are faced with.

Wheeler- Feynman absorber theory
Even if our minds are „weird‟ enough to conquer the paradoxes that reality poses on as, there must be some form of correspondence between our brains and the world; otherwise we have no chance winning the game of knowledge. This sort of correspondence was expressed in ancient times through the belief that “each time we look at something, something looks back at us.” If light is regarded as the mediator of vision from an object to our eyes, then, in order to achieve this reciprocality, we can assume that there is some „substance‟ flowing from our eyes or minds towards the object, even if this „substance‟ is „our pure thinking of where the object may be.‟

Minkowski diagram of type I emitter-absorber transaction. The emitter produces a retarded half-amplitude wave Re and an advanced half-amplitude wave Ae. The absorber produces a half-amplitude retarded wave Ra which cancels Re in region 3. It also produces a half-amplitude advanced wave Aa which reinforces Re in region 2 and cancels Ae in region 1. An observer sees only a full-amplitude retarded wave (Re + Aa) in region 2 passing from emitter to absorber. (Dashed lines indicate a 180° phase shift.)

In a 1945 paper Wheeler and Feynman described what has come to be known as WheelerFeynman absorber theory. It is an approach to electrodynamics that proposes a time-symmetric boundary condition, asserting this way that a proper electromagnetic wave is composed of a halfamplitude retarded wave and a half-amplitude advanced wave, and that such waves are characteristic of both emission and absorption processes.

The time-symmetric boundary conditions postulated by Wheeler and Feynman may be restated as follows: (1) The process of emission produces an electromagnetic wave consisting of a halfamplitude retarded wave and a half-amplitude advanced wave with opposite time directions. (2) The process of absorption is identical to that of emission and occurs in such a way that the wave produced by the absorber is 180° out of phase with the wave incident on it from the emitter. (3) An advanced wave may be reinterpreted as a retarded wave by reversing the signs of the energy and momentum (and therefore the time direction) of the wave, and likewise a retarded wave may be reinterpreted as an advanced wave. Thus in the Wheeler-Feynman scheme, emission and absorption will correspond to time-symmetric combinations.

So, let us now refer to the previous figure, in which an emitter- absorber event is illustrated. The absorber, according to rule (2) above, can be considered to perform the absorption by producing a canceling retarded wave which is exactly 180° out of phase with an incident radiation, so that the incident wave „stops‟ at the absorber. But the Wheeler-Feynman time-symmetric boundary condition tells us that the production of this canceling wave will be accompanied by the production of an advanced wave, which will carry negative energy in the reverse time direction and travel back, both in space and in time, to the point and the instant of emission. This advanced wave, according to rule (3) above, may be reinterpreted as a retarded wave traveling in the opposite direction and will reinforce the initial retarded wave, raising it from half to full amplitude. When the new advanced wave „passes‟ the point (and instant) of emission, it will be

superimposed on the initial half-amplitude advanced wave and, because of the 180° phase difference imposed by the absorber, it will cancel this wave completely. Thus, an observer viewing this process will perceive no advanced radiation, but will describe the event as the emission of a full-amplitude retarded wave by the emitter, followed by the absorption of this retarded wave by the absorber at some later time.

Wheeler-Feynman absorber theory was proposed in order to explain the energy loss (damping factor) of an oscillating (i.e. accelerating) particle radiating some form of energy. The advanced waves coming from another interacting particle were used instead of a self-interaction of the radiating particle with itself, in order to explain the damping. However, this interpretation raised the problem of causality, since the advanced wave from the absorber seemed to travel back in time to the emitter. Could we say that each time we look at an object we act like „emitters,‟ sending away retarded „probe‟ waves to objects, which in turn act like „absorbers,‟ sending back to us advanced „confirmation‟ waves (or vice-versa)? Again, this symmetric aspect of vision takes us back to mystical beliefs- a supposed „wave‟ leaving our eyes towards an object, while reflected light leaves the object towards our eyes.

Should we accept this kind of interpretation or we just make the problem of vision two times worse? I personally believe that there must be some form of interaction between the observer and the observed, but we shouldn‟t necessarily consider it as an emitter- absorber pair of interaction. In fact we don‟t interact with an object when we look at it. Instead, both we and the object interact with the medium, which is light in this case. It seems once again that the medium, as Aristotle had pointed out, makes all the work for us. And this is what our senses are all about: receiving specific information that otherwise would be lost. Even if we take into account the analogy of a self- interacting particle, it‟s like us creating a self- projection of the „external world,‟ only to impose our views on external images. The whole phenomenon looks like a game of an „advanced‟ response of the senses (or the unconscious) and a „retarded‟ confirmation of thought. But in reality we never see the „original‟ object; we see an object dressed in ourselves.

Vision and Extrasensory perception

If we regard vision as an act of correspondence between objects or other beings and ourselves, then we may suppose that the advanced waves in the pre- mentioned absorber theory are not fictitious but they really exist and may be used to explain premonitions we sometimes have about things even before we perceive them with our ordinary senses. We could also make a step further to suggest that when we look at things or other people there is some sort of substance leaving our eyes and interacts with those things or people.

Sheldrake is a proponent of such a view, and he also uses the notion of a hologram to put forward his own theory concerning the nature of vision: “My own hypothesis is that projection takes place through perceptual fields, extending out beyond the brain, connecting the seeing animal with that which is seen. Vision is rooted in the activity of the brain, but is not confined to the inside of the head. Like Velmans, I suggest that the formation of these fields depends on the changes occurring in various regions of the brain as vision takes place, influenced by expectations, intentions and memories. Velmans suggests that this projection takes place in a way that is analogous to a field phenomenon, as in a hologram. I suggest that the perceptual projection is not just analogous to but actually is a field phenomenon… I suggest that minds likewise extend beyond brains through fields.

Perceptual fields are related to a broader class of biological fields involved in the organization of developing organisms and in the activity of the nervous system. The idea of biological fields has been an important aspect of developmental biology since the 1920s, when the hypothesis of morphogenetic fields was first proposed (Gurwitsch, 1922). These fields underlie processes of biological morphogenesis. Morphogenetic fields are part of a larger class of fields called

morphic fields, which includes behavioral, social and perceptual fields.

According to this hypothesis, it is in the nature of morphic fields to bind together and coordinate patterns of activity into a larger whole. Morphic fields guide systems under their influence towards attractors, and they stabilize systems through time by means of self-resonance. They are also influenced by a resonance across time and space from previous similar systems, by a process called morphic resonance. Thus they contain an inherent memory, both of system‟s own past,

and a kind of collective or pooled memory from previous similar systems elsewhere. Through repetition a morphic field becomes increasingly habitual. To understand the sense of being stared at, we need a further postulate, namely that these perceptual fields interact with the fields of the person or animal on which attention is focussed. Ex hypothesi, all people and animals have their own morphic fields, so this interaction would require an action of like upon like, a fieldfield interaction.”

Sheldrake uses the notion of perceptual fields to explain the supposed sense of being stared at. According to his view, these fields are produced by the brain but they extend far beyond, reaching other people‟s minds and their perceptual fields. This could happen through a procedure of resonance, in this case morphic resonance. Sheldrake uses a more general term, that of morphogenetic fields, of which perceptual fields are a subdivision. In any case, what makes impression about Sheldrake‟s theory is that he uses a notion of modern physics, that of a field, in order to describe human thought, which of course hasn‟t got any kind of field characteristics. Even if a human being or a living organism emits some form of fields, there isn‟t any special reason why these fields are of a new, unknown nature instead of already known fields or related phenomena, such as electromagnetic fields, acoustic waves, visual pulses, vibrations, etc.

Besides, the notion of a field is itself a hypothesis that explains interactions through information exchange. If morphogenetic fields were indeed fields under this strict definition, then they could not act instantaneously, as supernatural phenomena usually imply. What is more important than a field produced by the brain is the medium through which the interaction takes place, even if our physical presence or „mental activity‟ may cause changes to this medium. The simplest medium that we can identify in most of such „extra-ordinary‟ cases is light itself. Furthermore the notion of an instantaneous action between the observer and the observed suggests a kind of connection where there is not any transfer of information. So the notion of a field is here irrelevant. On the contrary it refers to another problem of modern physics, namely the phenomenon of quantum entanglement.

We will talk about quantum entanglement later on. As far as supernatural phenomena, such as the sense of being stared at, are concerned, the theory of perceptual fields, or morphogenetic

fields in general, is an effort to interpret a situation in a way that in essence has nothing to do either with „vision‟ or with „fields‟ between human brains. It involves an abstract and, more or less, unconscious idea of an event which has nothing to do with information transmission, so it hasn‟t got any field characteristics. Most probably it has to do with a spontaneous perception which is interpreted by the brain with a specific way. How does the phenomenon take place and how much authentic is it, instead of an ex post, „retrograde confirmation‟ of our momentarily consciousness? Well, this is a subject for further discussion.

Vision and self- observation

Do things have any properties before we look at them? Are these properties the result of our observation? It may sound crazy but our version of the world may have never been anything more than this interaction between the „inside‟ and the „outside.‟ It is true that we designate ourselves rather automatically through „facts that speak for themselves‟ and under the veil of common beliefs and ideas. Our whole objective reality may not exist at a fundamental level of consciousness. What there existed before the beginning of time? Does the universe have any ending? Is there any preferred reference frame from which we could study the world in a privileged way?

Our mind gets troubled by such questions and it doesn‟t seem getting anywhere. If we divide our rational thinking into successive steps of going deeper into these fundamental questions, we could talk about what Douglas Hofstadter refers to as a strange loop: “And yet when I say „strange loop,‟ I have something else in mind- a less concrete, more elusive notion. What I mean anyway is not a physical circuit but an abstract loop in which, in the series of stages that constitute the cycling-around, there is a shift from one level of abstraction (or structure) to another, which feels like an upwards movement in a hierarchy, and yet somehow the successive „upward‟ shifts turn out to give rise to a closed cycle. That is, despite one‟s sense of departing ever further from one‟s origin, one winds up, to one‟s shock, exactly where one had started out. In short, a strange loop is a paradoxical level-crossing feedback loop.”

Strange as it may seem this kind of loop that we perform each time we think about the world has a basic self- referential structure: While we look at the world, the world looks back at us, as the previous figure implies. The figure is an inspiration of John Archibald Wheeler, whose caption is: “Symbolic representation of the Universe as a self-excited system brought into being by „selfreference.‟ The universe gives birth to communicating participators. Communicating participators give meaning to the universe … With such a concept goes the endless series of receding reflections one sees in a pair of facing mirrors.” Is there any authentic paranormal phenomenon or is this „para-normality‟ the product of paradoxical feedbacks that our mind creates? Are external objects exactly the same with their internal representations in our brain or are they already different by the act of our observation? The answer is not easy or simple at all and its implications can be summarized in what is called the anthropic principle. B. J. Carr και M. J. Rees point out the fact that the basic characteristics of macroscopic structures, such as planets, stars and galaxies are determined by few observables and constants of nature. This leads to the conclusion that life as we know it was an inevitable aspect of the universe from the time it was born. This view is of course strongly deterministic as it imposes on the cosmos a destiny that may be only ours.

The danger of such an anthropic bias may be great because it upgrades a supposed coincidence to a cosmic fate of mankind. But even if we give such a deterministic interpretation to the world we

are subject to the restrictions our observation imposes. Nick Bostrom has noted the conditions that the observer imposes on his experiments: The net one uses determines the kind of fish one catches. This is the observation selection effect. In other words, the means of observation determine the kinds of the observed. This sort of observation bias reminds me of the double- slit experiment where light behaves either as a wave or as a particle depending on the conditions of the experiment. In the same manner, the way we look at or observe things may determine their form and content, depending on our mental and emotional state, which in turn is influenced by the observed object. The subject of a cosmic ‘fine- tuning’ necessary for the appearance of life has wider applications in the theory of the multi-verse. This theory was adopted to explain why life evolved in our universe while all the rest universes didn‟t have the right physical constants. However this theory contains several parameters of observation bias. If observers can evolve only in the fine-tuned universes, then this is assumption that proves itself by the simple fact that we can observe them. On the other hand, if our universe wasn‟t fine- tuned we wouldn‟t know the difference. In general, we tend to ideally recreate things in our mind while what we see around us are incomplete objects. Our senses too are not perfect at all, so we always suppose what a perfect view or theory of the world could be like.

Do we see ourselves by observing other people and things, as part of a transformation that goes on through this interaction? Are our assumptions about the world at the same time its properties, since they evolve naturally and continuously from pre-existing states? Is there a representation of the world in our mind as much as we are representations of intelligent life in the universe? It looks as if reality consists of worlds within worlds, but it‟s more like a „superposition of states‟ of different things, beings and their representations, rather than different „universes.‟ But the point is that whatever an object or another person might look like before, our act of observation will change it irreversibly and permanently. And there may be no point asking if the change happens in our minds or in reality because the world might not have existed at all before we noticed.

Vision and quantum entanglement
We have talked about the phenomenon of self- projection before. But under the implications of the following discussion it assumes a rather physical and realistic character. Generally the way we see and understand the world is our own way. In other words the world is what we think about the world. This fact is more or less self- evident (or „cyclic‟) and it has to do with the socalled observer- observed effect in quantum mechanics. Since the whole universe is an internal representation within ourselves, it is as if „looking‟ back at us with our own eyes.

The observer- observed effect implies more than just an interaction which, under certain circumstances, could be measured. It suggests that there is a kind of connection in the world which binds things together in a very special way, regardless of any space-time separation. This connectedness has to do with quantum entanglement, where a system is prepared in such a way that changes in one part of the system reappear instantaneously at the other part. I use the term „reappear‟ in order to avoid the word „transfer,‟ which would imply a faster than the speed of light interaction. The way the whole phenomenon takes place is not clearly understood, but Bohr had already talked about the indivisibility of all natural processes, even if this remark is a philosophical avoidance of the real physical problem. Nevertheless, the quantum- entangled system forms a „unity‟ in space any time, so that any change, including observation, makes its „wave-function‟ collapse instantaneously everywhere.

Quantum entanglement is a fact of the microcosm, concerning particles, even molecules but not macroscopic objects or beings, like humans. Nevertheless, its implications could play a fundamental role in many sections of modern science, like computer processing and neurobiology. It could even affect the way we think about ourselves and our relationship with other people and the world. Christopher Clarke argues that entanglement may not only play an important part in vision but also that it is an essential aspect of conscious perception. Consciousness itself may somehow arise from entangled systems: “If the qualitative aspect of perception is produced by quantum entanglement between the states of the brain and the states of perceived objects, then the supports of conscious loci are not just the brain, but the whole of perceived space.” Clarke further suggests that in living organisms quantum entanglement may

help to account for their holistic properties: “If we consider a living, and hence coherent, entity, then the entanglement will take over the individual states of the parts, which will no longer be definable, and replace them with the quantum state of the entangled whole.” Of course in quantum-mechanics the „spread‟ of the wave-function of the system „everywhere,‟ has to do with a probabilistic distribution of all the possible configurations of the system, while these configurations are in a state of „super-position,‟ and the system „materializes‟ at a single place at the moment of observation, which makes the wave-function of the system „collapse.‟ It is exactly this moment when the object, or system of objects, comes into real existence, while all other possible configurations „disappear.‟ Could our conscience, through observation or, let‟s say, „focused attention,‟ or „meditation‟ determine one configuration of the system against all others in such a fundamental way as to change its natural evolution from that point onwards?

A team of physicists has recently proposed a form of preferential perception of quantum states that becomes habitual. This is called quantum Darwinism: “Certain special states of a system are promoted above others by a quantum form of natural selection... Information about these states proliferates and gets imprinted on the environment. So observers coming along and looking at the environment in order to get a picture of the world tend to see the same „preferred‟ states.” As Zurek put it, “Decoherence selects out of the quantum „mush‟ those states that are stable. Through a Darwin-like selection process these states proliferate as many observers see the same thing.”

So in this case conscience makes the wave- function collapse. Moreover the collapse happens at a certain preferred state. I don‟t know if evolution has anything to do with „quanta‟ of natural selection, but the opposite may hold: Quanta of information form the world in all scales and levels of existence. Quantum entanglement implies an almost magical connection between parts of the natural processes no matter what their distance in space and time may be. But these parts must already be prepared in a certain way in order to be entangled. Furthermore the notion of instantaneous action at a distance is certainly subject to different interpretations. Some theories are eager to adopt the possibility of a faster than light transmission, while others say that we should redefine or even abort the notion of space- time. Nevertheless a research on how the brain

perceives distance and time in a fundamental neurophysiological level could be very clarifying. Because it is more likely that instantaneity is a motor- sensory illusion, even if natural separation of things is much different than what we consider as „distance in space-time.‟

The issue of synchronization in nature is rather fundamental, in the sense that things being not in some form of unison may pass undetected with respect to each other. Is this kind of preparation or „conscious receptibility‟ the basic precondition for the appearance of „super-natural‟ phenomena, such as the sense of being stared at? Could the „retarded‟ and „advanced‟ responses in absorber theory be reinterpreted as the synchronization of an advanced and a retarded wave at the moment that the wave-function collapses? Either way the point is that the whole phenomenon has neither to do with vision nor with conscious thought. Because in all such cases the procedure remains undetermined or „unconscious,‟ only to be determined and interpreted afterwards. Even if there exists some form of telepathy between living beings, that is a kind of „psychic connection,‟ it has nothing to do with field propagation or energy transfer, otherwise locality and causality would be violated. It is more likely that a natural, „unbiased‟ correspondence between things takes place, which can be manifested under certain conditions such as quantum entanglement. Vision does not create the entanglement and, more or less, consciousness comes in play retrospectively. So it‟s more like a „state of being‟ together with all other objects and creatures being around at the same state, and this state is somehow communicated through space and time.

What should be kept in mind is the totality of the entangled state, as well as the fact that consciousness destroys the entanglement at the instant of observation. It‟s like a dream that fades away at the moment we wake up, and the more we try to figure it out, the more it „decoheres.‟ This hypothesized quantum nature of our mind is still debated among scientists and philosophers, and there are enough different theories that have been suggested. A quantum theory of consciousness has been developed lately and research has been done on the field of neurology. Quantum theory is a new approach to nature that accepts non-locality and „logical inconsistency‟ as possible aspects of it. But till these problems are clarified and grasped, we had better consider the whole subject nothing more than an illusory game of our „quantum minds.‟

Backward causality
The term „backward causation,‟ sometimes also called retro-causation, stands for the idea that the temporal order of cause and effect is a mere contingent feature and that there may be cases where the cause is causally prior to its effect but where the temporal order of the cause and effect is reversed with respect to normal causation, i.e. there may be cases where the effect temporally, but not causally, precedes its cause. In simpler words, backward causation is used to find from the event its cause with some sort of logical steps of reduction. The idea of backward causation should not be confused with that of time travel. These two notions are related to the extent that both agree that it is possible to causally affect the past.

Backward causation gives rise to paradoxes that if they are valid they exclude backward causation from being both metaphysically and logically possible. The paradoxes can be divided into bootstrap paradoxes, which involve a causal or information loop, and consistency paradoxes, which involve generating a possible inconsistency. Why, for example, do we not see any advanced waves of the sort that we discussed before, in nature? Wheeler and Feynman said that radiation from an isolated accelerated charged particle is equally retarded and advanced, so we can explain why it appears to be fully retarded in terms of the influence distant absorbers make on the source. Feynman had also come up with the idea that the electron could go backwards in time as a possible interpretation of the positron. Furthermore, when the discussion of tachyons began to appear in physics, it was soon noticed that such particles according to some frames of reference were associated with negative energies going backwards in time. The difference, however, is that time travel involves a causal loop whereas backward causation does not. But in the framework of the extended present, which can be regarded as a „causal loop‟ itself, both events, cause and effect, advanced and retarded waves, electrons and positrons, are included and take place in the present.

This sort of definition is in well accordance with the findings of modern science. In quantummechanics for example the wave-function expands symmetrically to infinity even if its intensity decreases, so that although the probability of the real position of the system is greater at the

„peak,‟ this probability never gets to zero, even at the edges of the universe. Regardless of the existence of advanced waves that come from the future of „what is going to be observed,‟ the observed object as well the eyes of the observer and his conscience are „wave-functions‟ with overlapping parts in an area of space and time which altogether make up a single wave-function of the entire observer-observed system, which in turn spreads throughout the universe and interacts with the wave-function of everything else. Of course we should not literally regard the wave-function as a real object instead of a mathematical instrument, but this is a certain, quantum-mechanical way to express and „measure‟ the presence of our existence and its limits relative to other „existences‟ throughout time and space.

Under this interpretation, phenomena of extra-sensory perception find a physical explanation without depending on mantic or supernatural powers others than our ability to realize that such phenomena with their increased intensity spread in space and time more than „usual,‟ leaving thus the sense that their „distant‟ parts belong to the future or the past. Since in reality there aren‟t any physical objects that can be reduced into „point-masses,‟ real objects are extended entities and this „extended presence‟ of them unfolds in space as well as in time. Whenever we think of „Atlantis,‟ for example, we assume a situation about some kind of „advanced‟ civilization that existed in the past or may return in the future, while the whole situation happens „here and now.‟ In the same way we sometimes have the feeling about an event that „we knew it would happen‟ or „we know that it will happen,‟ while there is no meaning to say this before or after it really takes place. The notion of an „extended present‟ in fact solves many mysteries concerning an illusory projection of our minds backwards and forward in time. It is just a state of our mind at present time which is not point-like but has dimensionality both in space and time. At its edges events are „de-synchronized‟ so they leave as the impression of „future-like‟ or „past-like‟ events that in reality never happened. As far as extra-sensory phenomena are concerned, this desynchronization between our senses and our mind makes us feel that we have knowledge of events before we see them happen. But if there really is any authentic „super-natural‟ phenomenon, it should be conceived within this extended space-time framework in which both the perceiver and the perceived are included.

Towards the conquest of the ‘6th sense’
A holistic view of the process of vision would point to the fact that when humans perceive the world all the senses participate so that perception is produced in two steps: Firstly, there is a general, unconscious collection of what is perceived; secondly, consciousness takes over to establish the perceived reality. This means that there already exists an instinctive, pre-registered knowledge of what is going to happen, and then comes the affirmation from our conscience.

This process is not unrealistic or paradoxical and it covers all the pre-mentioned phenomena concerning vision. In fact, this is what is going on when we have a feeling that something is going to happen and then this event happens. The perception of the event at the first level is more or less unconscious. It bypasses any rational processes of the brain and this is why it seems to happen instantaneously. Perception at the second level includes the known physical senses as well as the logical processing of the brain, so the rationalization of the event takes time at this level. We could identify this instantaneous and unconscious perception of events with a 6th sense even if it has nothing to do with a „real,‟ physical sense. The whole phenomenon may not correspond to a special place in the sensory system (ex. what has been called the „third eye‟) or the body, or an area in the brain. It is more or less a phenomenon that involves the totality of the brain and thought. We could say that it is a „sense‟ of our total existence within the world of events. The problem of instantaneity may be dealt as follows: The „observer‟ and the „observed‟ form an entangled system through which all senses and other means of communication work. Since at the first stage the connection is implicate and unconscious, there is no transmission of information of any kind. So the principle of locality is not violated, meaning that no information can travel faster than the speed of light. At the second level, where all the functions of logical reasoning and physical channels of sensory communication are activated, information exchange and processing takes time under the restrictions of locality and the succession of cause and effect.

Under this kind of interpretation, what we feel is that we are „somewhere‟ and „sometime,‟ and that events take place within the space-time that we live in together with all other things and living beings, which in turn can „sense‟ our presence in the same way. It is an unconscious, spontaneous and instinctive procedure or feeling, which matures and takes form and content through the rational processing of the brain, and eventually it gets dressed in the definition and interpretation that we are physically and mentally inclined to give.

This is really strange a phenomenon. On the one hand our logic says that it cannot be true, because what is left after our awakened reasoning is nothing but a dream that quickly fades away. On the other hand we don‟t want to dismiss it, because we know that something happened even if we don‟t know how to explain it. But with the help of some kind of mental awareness and meditation or even through some new form of indirect attention and discrete analytic reasoning, we may be able to grasp it and begin to materialize and practice it within the real world. In such an ambitious and advanced perspective modern technology could help experimentally and practically, together with all our accumulated experience and knowledge, so that the „6th sense,‟ or more generally this „symmetric feeling of the world,‟ may become a common feature and everyday practice in the future.

This does not necessarily mean the physical activation of a new sense, like the senses of vision and hearing, with a corresponding organ or center somewhere in the body or the brain. It has more to do with a holistic understanding of reality, where what we see and realize are phenomena that include ourselves, together with an acute and trained perception of things and events that we usually pass by and leave them unobserved. Neither should we take for granted the existence of some sort of real fields that are produced by the brain and travel from mind to mind; nor that there exists any kind of information that travels backwards from the future to the present, from objects to our eyes, which we allegedly perceive unconsciously with some sort of mantic power. Instead we could realize our co-existence or „resonance‟ with the rest of the world, the symmetry of our nature with space, time, things and living beings, including other people, and concentrate our efforts and attention in order to understand and experience the kaleidoscope of frequencies and motions that fill the universe and ourselves.

Sources
The Sense of Being Stared At, Part 2: Its Implications for Theories of Vision, Rupert Sheldrake Visual perception, Wikipedia Holography, Wikipedia Generalized absorber theory and the Einstein-Podolsky-Rosen paradox, John G. Cramer Strange loop, Wikipedia Quantum entanglement, Wikipedia Backward causation, Stanford encyclopedia of philosophy

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