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Out-of-Body Experiences – Within or Beyond the Light Cone Spacetime Continuum?

Updated: Jul 24, 2023

The concept of the light cone is important in the theory of relativity and is considered a fundamental aspect of physics that describes the relationship between space and time [1]. In this theory, space and time are not separate and independent concepts but are unified into a single entity called spacetime. The light cone is a geometrical construct representing the limits of how information can travel through spacetime.


Imagine an event that happens at a particular location in space and time. Light emitted from this event will travel outward in all directions, forming a cone-shaped region in spacetime. This region is called the future light cone, and it represents the set of all events that the original event can influence since any signal or influence from the original event can only travel at or below the speed of light. Similarly, a past light cone represents the set of all events that could have influenced the original event since any signal or influence from these events would have had to travel at or below the speed of light to reach the original event. The past and future light cones define the causal structure of spacetime.


The model of the light cone in which events/particles (at the centre or present time) have straight worldlines running into the future (top cone) and from the past (bottom cone) was introduced as a metaphor to visualize the paths of light rays travelling in spacetime, indicating the boundaries of causality where signals can propagate at or below the speed of light [2].


Light Cone
Light Cone

Considering space and time are no longer treated as separate and independent entities, wherein space loses its isolated character and time ceases to be independent of the frame of reference – forming a four-dimensional spacetime framework – spacetime reality incorporates the following key features:


1. Loss of isolated character of space: Space loses its absolute and independent character in spacetime. Instead, distance and direction in space become relative and dependent on the observer's motion.

2. Time ceases to be independent of the frame of reference: Time is no longer considered separate from space. It becomes an integral part of the spacetime framework, and the measurement of time intervals depends on the observer's motion.

3. Events occur in a four-dimensional entity: In spacetime, events are described by four coordinates (three for space and one for time), forming a four-dimensional entity. This allows us to describe the location and time of an event simultaneously [3].

4. Causal relationships: Spacetime also introduces the concept of causality, represented by the light cone, which defines the boundaries of events that can influence or be influenced by a given event [4].


In fact, these features could hypothetically reflect the space/time sphere of Out-of-Body experiences (OBEs) perception in normal projections with the metaphysical body (e.g., astral body) – an important consideration here (see why below) –, whereas:


1. Loss of isolated character of space in OBEs: There is a loss of isolated character of space during OBEs as the experience can be multidimensional (e.g., perceiving multiple dimensions simultaneously; x-ray vision, etc.).

2. Time ceases to be independent of the frame of reference in OBEs: Time during OBEs could no longer be considered separate from space because different dimensional realities seem to affect time differently. For example, in description of higher-dimensional realities, time is described to appear to be non-linear or experienced differently than the linear flow of time we are accustomed to in our everyday lives. The perception of time in these dimensions could be affected by the nature of the dimension itself. It becomes relative to the observer's frame of reference within that particular dimension.

3. Events occur in a four-dimensional entity in OBEs: Similarly, during OBEs, the reality is perceived as combined into a four-dimensional entity or spacetime, where the concept of "simultaneity" and "dimensionality", as indicated, becomes relative. For example, one event may appear simultaneous to two observers. Still, paradoxically it may not be perceived entirely as such to both experiencers observing the same event with the same degree of awareness (e.g., lucidity). This is perceived during the case of OBE communications, where a communication is suggested to be perceived before it is communicated.

4. Causal relationships in OBEs: Perception/events can be influenced by past/future events in OBEs [5].


If such OBE conditions suggest similarities with the light cone where events are part of a larger spacetime structure within the speed of light, and where events in the Universe are interconnected, even if vast distances in space and time separate them and influence one another (as per the light cone theory), can we say that they may explain the sense of non-duality perceptions during OBEs? Could this causal relationship explain boundless OBEs where experiencers report oceanic feelings and being one with the Universe? Probably not. Although such an explanation suggests all events are interconnected and influence one another, this interconnectedness of events is limited by connections of events within the speed of light [6]. If they could theoretically give rise to the experience of a certain level of non-duality experienced in OBEs, they could not relate to the experience of cosmo-consciousness (e.g., an experience beyond space and time of being one united with the Universe and all things).


Nevertheless, the theoretical concept of the light cone also includes the region outside of the double cone where the so-called "Elsewhere" (beyond spacetime) exists in a condition in which time could be space-like (extended), and space could be time-like (a line), which could equally describe some OBEs. As such, inside the light cone all events in the Universe are interconnected in terms of causality, and events within each other's light cones can influence one another and are causally connected, whilst events outside each other's light cones, in the "Elsewhere" region, are beyond the reach of causality (e.g., they are not causally connected). In that sense, the more probable explanation is that the experience of cosmo-consciousness or extended on-dual awareness – in this case often experienced without the perception of the metaphysical body (e.g., astral body) in a bodyless condition (without known forms or matter) – could, hypothetically, be related to the concept of spacetime beyond the light cone itself. A condition, considering the hypothetical non-causal characteristic of the Elsewhere, one might relate to Samadhi [7].


If attempting to relate the two concepts directly would certainly require bridging the gap between the empirical and objective nature of physics and the subjective and the metaphysics of spirituality (i.e., experienced in OBEs), further bridging neuroscience, physics and consciousness, such connections are rather matters of philosophical speculation rather than scientifically established relationships. In itself, if true, such a notion would fundamentally change the geometry of space and how we understand its properties, specifically within the light cone theory, as an accepted physics theory. Indeed, in the context of general relativity, Riemannian's geometry – which was essential to spacetime theories – measures the curvature of spacetime and the presence of matter and energy and plays a crucial role in determining the geometry of spacetime, which, in turn, governs the motion of objects and the behaviour of light in the presence of gravitational fields. If distances and angles [8] – which are perceived to be non-existent in the referred OBEs experienced beyond space and time – are non-existent in such a state, it would have a direct influence on the spacetime described by general relativity and profound implications for our understanding of the Universe. Without the ability to measure distances and angles, we would lose our standard notions of geometry and how objects move in spacetime [9]. Nonetheless, that is the reality universally described and perceived in evolved OBEs.


MSc. Neuroscience,

Sleep Consciousness Researcher,

PhD Candidate.


REFERENCES


Montenegro, R. (2015). The Out-of-Body Experiences – An Experiential Anthology, Imagens & Letras.

Vieira, W. (1986). Projeciologia: Panorama das Experiências da Consciência Fora do Corpo Humano, Edição do Autor.


FOOTNOTES

[1] The theory of special relativity was developed by Albert Einstein in 1905. In this theory, Einstein proposed that the laws of physics are the same for all observers, regardless of their relative motion. The concept of the light cone was further refined and developed in the context of general relativity, which was also formulated by Einstein in 1915. [2] The concept of the light cone was indeed introduced by Hermann Minkowski in 1908, using Einstein’s four-dimensional spacetime geometry in special relativity. Hermann Minkowski was a mathematician and a former teacher of Albert Einstein. In a famous lecture in 1908, Minkowski presented a new way of looking at special relativity by combining space and time into a four-dimensional spacetime continuum. [3] It is important to note that in classical Newtonian physics, events are described using three coordinates for space (x, y, z) and one coordinate for time (t). This allows us to specify the location of an event in three-dimensional space and its time separately. For example, we can say an event occurred at position (x, y, z) at time t. However, although in the theory of special relativity, events are also described by four coordinates: three for space (x, y, z) and one for time (t), space and time are no longer considered separate and independent entities. [4] In Einstein's theory of general relativity, the concept is further extended by incorporating gravity as the curvature of spacetime due to the presence of mass and energy. In this theory, massive objects not only curve the spatial dimensions but also the time dimension, affecting the motion of other objects in their vicinity. [5] Refer to the account: “Present, past and Future” of the “Out-of-body Experience – an Experiential Anthology”. [6] Events within each other's light cones can have a direct influence on each other and are interconnected in terms of causality within the speed of light. [7] In the context of Samadhi, the concept of karma (action) is often explored. Karma, in spiritual and philosophical terms, refers to the law of cause and effect, where actions have consequences that shape one's future experiences and circumstances. In a state of Samadhi, it is believed that the individual transcends the cycle of karma, becoming free from the bondage of actions and their consequences. [8] Riemannian geometry is concerned with the properties of curved spaces where the metric (measurements of distance and angles) can vary from point to point. [9] It should be emphasized that this blog post presents a speculative and philosophical exploration of the potential connections between the concept of the light cone in the theory of relativity, OBEs with and without the experience of Cosmo-consciousness raising questions about the nature of consciousness, spacetime, and the possible interplay between subjective experiences and fundamental physics. It is written by a Neuroscientist without formal training in physics. As with any speculative ideas that bridge the domains of physics, neuroscience, and consciousness, it is essential to approach these concepts with an open mind while also maintaining a critical and cautious perspective. The proposed connections between the light cone theory, the "Elsewhere" region, OBEs, and cosmo-consciousness is certainly a matter of philosophical speculation completely lacking, to my knowledge, any empirical evidence to support or refute them definitively. Even, the concept of the "Elsewhere" region is more of a theoretical construct rather than a well-defined mathematical model with specific equations or predictions.

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