Bodily Futures

FutureOfTheBodyJust about everyone I know has their own method of curing the hiccups (or, in their more evocative spelling, hiccoughs). Most of these involve holding one’s breath or elaborate ways of drinking a glass of water. Since hiccups are involuntary spasms that can be quite annoying, they can’t be predicted or easily foreseen. Some years ago I realized that the methods I’d been using to rid myself of this unpleasantness were really just ways of getting my attention off of the hiccups—in other words, it was a matter of concentration. I started to respond by thinking the hiccups away whenever they struk me. Cut out the middleman, as it were. And it works. All of this is preamble to the remarkable material to be found in Michael Murphy’s The Future of the Body: Explorations Into the Further Evolution of Human Nature. Murphy is one of the co-founders of the Esalen Institute, about which I’ve posted before. Promoting exploration of human transformative potential, Esalen was a landmark in 1960s culture that I was a little too young to appreciate. Besides, I lived far from California and in a strictly religious mindset. Those who founded Esalen knew, however, that people are capable of more than we appear to be.

Human transformative potential involves matters with which materialistic science is often uncomfortable. Religious practices such as meditation, sports, and martial arts training, all, however, can produce results that shouldn’t be on the books. Whether it is the basketball player who can stay in the air a little too long, or a religious adept who can survive being buried alive for protracted periods of time only to be revived later, or even the remote viewer hired as a spy by the government, people are capable of more than we’re told we are. Murphy suggests that perhaps it is because we are socialized to think this way. Our young minds are open to a realm of possibilities that adult minds have been conditioned to discount. If it’s impossible, it’s impossible. Or is it?

The Future of the Body will take some readers where they do not wish to go. The fact is, however, that faith healers and stigmatics exist without fraud. Just because some frauds imitate reality, it doesn’t follow that the genuine article can’t exist. The usual reductionistic answer is that such things can’t possibly be real—let’s teach our children this fact—we are only robots made of meat. But this view still hasn’t accounted for consciousness, and consciousness is, at least for most of us, inescapably real. We know that because these bodies with whom we are associated do all kinds of things that bring it to mind. We get sick, we experience pain and emotion. We get up and go to work when we don’t feel like it. Most of the time we’re conscious of where we are, and what he have to do. Or do we? It very well may be that matters much larger than the hiccups might just be negotiable.

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