Phantom Limbs and Shadow Figures – A Religious Model

Viewing yourself outside of yourself is merely a projection in the brain trying to make sense of conflicting information.

As a medic I responded to a call a few years back for phantom limb pain. It’s a common phenomenon where an amputee is feeling pain in a leg or arm they no longer have. In this case the patient still had all his limbs—he had done a quick-read on WebMD and his self diagnosis was off…just a bit. Most phantom limb experiences are negative, like an itch you can’t scratch or a malposition limb [sic] they can’t adjust. Phantom limb recognition is rarely pleasant.

Until recently medical explanations hypothesized the severed nerve ending were becoming irritated or agitated and the pain was transmitted to the brain, or possibly memories of old pain were being relived pschcosymatically.

The latest research has shown this is most likely not the case. Phantom limb has made its way into Astral Glide/Outer Body Experience research, linking the brain with spacial recognition of self, even if that self is not there. “The research shows that the self can perceive to be detached from the body and can live a phantom existence on its own, as in an out-of-body experience, or it can be felt outside of personal space, as in a sense of a presence”(1) During deep meditation, dreaming, anesthesia, or hallucinogenic drug use, quite possibly the left brain is observing the right brain as a separate entity, or “god”, As the brain is recognizing a limb that no longer is part of the host, it is real in every way but physical to the patient. One woman had her deformed, 3-fingered hand amputated, only to recall the phantom limb as a normal 5-fingered hand. Some coding in the brain only recognizes the whole self. Gender reassignment surgery also reportedly produces phantom genital sensations and itches. Imagine that frustration.

Religion has mastered the art of the phantom phenomena, constantly describing in great detail what is not really there. While much has to be learned about the brain, there are those that say we will never know, and there are those that keep digging and finding answers. And those answers may come in the form of a missing hand, or even an extra one.

While it may be tempting to invoke the supernatural when this body sense goes awry, the true explanation is a very natural one—the brain’s attempt to make sense of conflicting information. Shadow figures are also linked to the phantom limb research. Shadow figures, the supernatural-extra-dimensional-time-travel-energies conspiracists love to talk about, passing through the corner of your room is merely a projection of self, from a mind trying to make sense of conflicting signals when something is awry. Merely a fear of basements, stress, nutritional imbalance, or environmental factors can manipulate cognitive interpretations. It’s all in your head. Religion would like to take the easy road and explain it as god or supernatural, when in fact the god they seek is an amazing, but anti-climactic us.

When you are afraid of something that is not there, the mind is busy trying to figure out why. Religion creates the fear, assigns a solution and all the while we’re trying to figure out “what the hell”? With so much faith around, it’s a wonder we can even see straight (or can we?) While many of us have amputated the religion we once believed, the pain from believing an illusion is still lurking in the shadows.

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Author: jim-

One minute info blogs escaping the faith trap.

46 thoughts on “Phantom Limbs and Shadow Figures – A Religious Model”

  1. Neurological and cognitive research and their recent discoveries have been fascinating to me, of late.

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    1. And the field is in infancy. Answers are coming. No supernatural explanation has ever supplanted a natural one..or scientific one. God is getting smaller and smaller.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Hello. Without defined, tangible experiences, ‘believe’ in nothing. Absolutely. But I’m happy to say there’s still plenty to investigate out or in there. I have multiple weird experiences that I am trying to get to the bottom of without the use of religion or gods and its not easy. I was raised with no religion and I’m not looking for God, but something is certainly interested in me. The holographic principle sounds horrendous to me but it could be the reality.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Well I don’t quite know what to think sometimes myself, but, by and by as we keep learning about these things answers come. I’d be interested to hear your experiences. I have a lot of practical insights I have come across in my studies and perhaps I could point you in a direction or two. Thanks for stopping and commenting. We have a great group here and I’m sure one of them could address your concerns in a way that makes sense, if you care to share.

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      1. Hi Jim, I’ve written my experiences down in the form of an e-book which I’ve only just published. Obviously I am quite excited about it. There is a taster on my pages If you’d like to pop over. Just about to read your ‘Why by Force’ which is a great question.

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  3. I’m not sure I relate to the dumped religion as a severed limb. More like having a painful cancer removed from my face. I feel better, I see better, and I look better.

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  4. Just think about it, if our reality is generated by our brain and it is comparable to a computer how do we know the body exist at all? I mean inside a computer it would be easy enough to have an out of body experience. However, how do we decipher what is more real the body or the out of body experience?

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    1. It’s not that difficult. Consensus. If it requires faith to believe, it does not exist. If you can show me what you are talking about without me having to employ faith, hope, wishing, etc, we can all agree that thing is real. That goes for ghosts, goblins, shadow people, witchcraft, religious faith and all supernatural. Anything real can be duplicated without having to be privy to some religious tape, potion, holy oil, water, etc. that is our starting point. The rest is called imaginations.

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    2. hi Isabella, in an out of body experience I had 30 years ago there was absolutely zero difference between my body and this ‘other’ body of mine, all was perfectly normal, natural and solid, including the room (my lounge) that I stood in. I don’t presume to know what it all means, but the subject is fascinating.

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      1. If I may, I found a research subject a few months back that I have misplaced, but it relates very well to your bio in your book and what you mention here. The man came home late, and fell asleep and proceeded to have an OBE. it was very detailed and he mentions the color of the bedspread and the dog in the room, all the things that were normal to him and his routine. After telling his wife about it she corrected him that the bedspread had been changed and the dog had slept in the kennel in the garage that night. His experience was projected from his mind, and the details were wrong, but based on what he remembered from the morning prior. He is a case study in OBE, and it appears it was only a projection of himself from memory. Although very convincing and very real, it never happened. Shadow figures and other phenomena we are finding it is all coming from an anticlimactic us as well. Fascinating topic. There are other examples as well, and the science is pointing to zero paranormal. Here’s an interesting Ted Talk

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        1. Yes I’ve read that one and I’m open to all possibilities but even if it is a mental projection, even that is phenomenal and something I didn’t know I was capable of. We can all dream, misty and magical, but the ability to stand, a solid person in a solid room in total control and thoroughly conscious is worth investigation.

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          1. I guess as a lead This opened a lot of thoughts to so many possibilities. Nightly neuro cleansing with exposures to elements, temperatures, changes in brain cell size and so forth during sleep, I guess the explanations may be incredible.

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  5. What if we could transfer our whole self into a computer and get rid of the body altogether, why would we feel any of our limbs? Would everything be a lie and a phantom perspective? What makes a person a person?

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  6. The human body is complex and strange in many ways we don’t yet fully understand. There’s a video on Wikipedia of a cat trying to use its missing leg to scoop litter up, it affects other animals too it seems. Also apparently phantom eye syndrome is a thing? Like people start to hallucinate after having one of their eyes removed. Strange indeed.

    Your final sentence is so on point for me. I am gradually weaning myself off religion having not gone to church for a while now though.

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    1. The human body is complex and strange in many ways we don’t yet fully understand.

      Ooooo, TCA… you couldn’t be more right. While the pious are a LOT more concerned with external images and factors (sin, superstitions, supernatural phenomena, etc.), they certainly get a much more touchy and hyper-defensive once we begin understanding the INTERNAL, don’t they? There is certainly a no fly zone for hardcore Christians when it comes to debunking and rationally explaining how the/their human brains manifest God-neurons and dopamine and then it is reinforced by orthodoxy or peer-assimilation/pressure via “performance.” It seems to be just too scary for them to evolve out of and progress from a Bronze Age ideology doesn’t it? 🤔🙄

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      1. Great points, but I see it even more global than just christians. I know a gal that does witchcraft and is heavy into paranormal. I asked if I could show her some evidence it was all related to brain function, testable, and probable that these manifestations were all neurological, and she didn’t want to hear a word of it. People want to think what they believe is reality, when in fact very little of what requires a belief is real at all.

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        1. It may be all in their heads, but how long is it going to be allowed to stay there? I know this isn’t exactly what you meant, but how long does the phantom limb stay in a person’s mind? I presume all people are different, but I expect there comes a time when they give up the idea of the phantom limb, or the phantom hair. (I hate to have to say I never did feel a phantom colon, but I sure wish I had the old one back, even for a day!)
          Meanwhile, by the time I truly stopped believing in a religion, or an omniscient super-being, I was able to let the belief go without the need to replace it with a phantom anything. Am I just lucky, or did I do something the right way? Maybe because I had a transitional waystation to help me over the hump? After christianity I spent a few years or less studying Tibetan buddhism with a high-ranking buddhist monk. And by the time that ended, I needed nothing else. I had me. I was all I needed in the end…

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          1. Maybe a true religion is one that empowers for the benefit of you, instead of the benefit of the religion. You no longer needed them. Maybe that’s what it should be about.

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            1. It would certainly be nice if that was what religions were about, but the way I see religions, right from the very earliest of times, men who were looking to avoid danger and work pretended they could summon spirits, and talk to gods. Everything just progressed from there. Those who run religions live off the donations of those who do the actual work. They are the laziest people in society, yet they live better than most. Maybe not all, but definitely the greater number of them. I mean, except for talking, exactly WHAT does the pope have to do to earn his earthly lifestyle?

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          2. When I said ‘it’s all in their head’, I meant that a bunch of chemicals and neurons in their brain is making them convinced that they are experiencing some kind of religious experience/epiphany. As to how long it would stay there? Well, I don’t know. I’m not sure if their brain chemistry would be altered after leaving religion and seeing it for what it is, but maybe it is?
            When I stopped believing in religion, I didn’t feel the need to replace it either, so you aren’t alone. It did take me quite a while to leave though. Plenty of people leave one religion and hop to another though, really depends on their reasons for leaving. For me, my reasons were part intellectual and part moral. Many of the other major religions, while having significantly different beliefs, still cling to old wives tales and superstition, as as someone with a scientific background we don’t gel.
            Anyways that’s awesome, happy for you.

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            1. And I for you.
              Yeah, I should have realized you were talking about neurons and connections and chemicals, etc., but my question still applies. How long do the chemicals necessary to feel a phantom limb last, and how are they maintained?
              Fortunately, while religion is “like” a phantom limb, it has much more in common with a love relationship, or a long time BFF. The end of such a relationship may be devastating, I know all about that, but it does go away. Eventually..

              Liked by 2 people

            2. If you are meaning literal phantom limbs, well I’m not a doctor or surgeon so wouldn’t know haha. If you are talking figuratively about leaving religion? Well the time it takes is obviously going to be different from person to person. Many people in religion aren’t impacted too much by it, they believe in Jebus and go to church but more or less live the same life as non-Christians, in that case I don’t think there’s going to be much phantom limb syndrome. As for someone grown in a fundamentalist cult? it would take them several years (if not decades) I assume.

              You mentioned that it is like a love relationship, and I couldn’t agree more. If a person leaves religion ‘cold turkey’ then ‘deprogramming’ is going to be faster than if someone keeps going back. if they keep flirting with their former religious life then it will bring back all the emotions and everything that goes with it, making leaving harder.

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            3. Is it better to try to undo the Gordian Knot, or like Alexander use the slash of a sword to make a clean cut? The second is obviously the better choice, but where emotions are involved it is seldom the one chosen.

              Liked by 2 people

  7. This is great scientific information Jim! Thank you Sir! 🙂

    As you know, I am an active supporter of (and former worker in) psych-rehab/therapy. There is also a human phenomenon, or cognition/pathology that makes-up the polar opposite of phantom/shadow perceptions. It’s called devotion, or allegiance, or loyalty, or simply prohibitive blind faith, or what clinical psychology calls denial. Their denial is essentially cloaked in a quasi-intellectual (or anti-intellectualism) rationale of misanthropy, anxiety, abandonment, and/or spirited manic episodes, to name just four symptoms or manifestations. Unfortunately, much of these unhealthy disorders are transgenerational thru parents and family influences and difficult to address. :/

    Liked by 3 people

    1. It is just a tidbit of a much broader scope here. I have to talk to these guys about limiting me to one minute infoblogs. The physiology at work here would take at least two minutes to understand the billions of different neuro-connections. Most people don’t realize the vastness of experience and wonders of the human mind. Seems to find God we just need an occasional glitch in the circuitry. What are the odds of that?

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Totally agree! The neuroscience is undeniable and just keeps making breakthroughs while being more and more understood every year or 5-years. Like the two women in your NY Times article-link:

        …being evaluated for epilepsy surgery at University Hospital at Geneva, where doctors implanted dozens of electrodes into their brains to pinpoint the abnormal tissue causing the seizures…

        And if you remember my comment(s) before about the clinical psych diagnosis of Hyper-religiosity, sometimes it encompasses TLE (temperal lobe epilepsy) and other aspects of the brain such as dopamine neurons and pathways (Dopaminergic projections). Though much of this information and their studies are pretty well known in the medical, psych, and health communities, the American general public as a whole does NOT think in scientific terms. Their educations in science have simply been bare basics at best. Sad really. 😦

        Liked by 2 people

  8. While many of us have amputated the religion we once believed, the pain from believing an illusion is still lurking in the shadows.

    Couldn’t have said it better
    Great article Jim

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’d like to add something Jonathan. The idea that humans automatically jump to credit a god or supernatural for every unexplained phenomena is ridiculous considering the billions of neurons, beliefs, preconceptions, metabolic variances and even room temperature can sway the perceptions we have barely began to understand.

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  9. This was a interesting read Jim. Definitely some things to think about that I hadn’t thought of before.

    I can relate to the “phantom limb” thing. I have phantom hair. Where my hair used to be, at times it feels as if it’s still blowing in the breeze. I reach up to grab it, but alas, I’m at least a decade late.

    Liked by 6 people

    1. I saw some hair for you at the wigwam. They even have dreadlocks. You could run your fingers through that mop and reminisce about the good ol days.

      Liked by 4 people

  10. Nicely put, Jim. When I first (finally!) realized I didn’t believe in a god, it took a while to let go of that ‘entity’ in my own head. I’d always had this notion or belief or sense (or whatever you want to call it) that ‘god’ was ‘in me.’ When I let go of that, it still took a while to also let go of that notion or of that ‘phantom.’ It had been there for so long. When I talk about it now, I call it the ‘little guy in my head.’ But, that ‘little guy’ is gone now. Woot!
    I hope this makes sense (it’s sort of hard to make sense of the nonsensical!).

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Exactly the point. When we can’t wrap our heads around crazy, imagination takes over and anything can happen. Great comment. Thanks Z.

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