How many of you have at one time or another woken up unable to speak or move? If you have, you are not alone.
The classic definition for this phenomenon is called sleep paralysis. It may last a few seconds, several moments, or occasionally longer and usually occurs right before you are about to fall asleep or wake up. Many people report feeling a “presence” that is often described as malevolent, threatening or, evil, and usually experience a tremendous amount of terror.
The presence is usually seen, felt and even heard. People also report unique experiences like the sensation of floating or being outside the body. They believe the phenomenon to be an extremely spiritual one.
In the modern medical world, these experiences are defined as hypnagogic and hypnopompic hallucinations (0), which is often the explanation when conventional modern views of spiritual experience is combined with medical ideas that label direct spiritual experiences as psycho-pathological. It is well understood that sleep paralysis coincides with physiological mechanisms in the brain. What is not well understood are the strange experiences individuals have when experiencing sleep paralysis. The discussion of spiritual experience as an explanation for a bizarre and complex phenomenon that little is known about has been suppressed thus discouraging discussion of it in modern society.(1)
Beginning in college and graduate school I was particularly interested in the beliefs of ordinary people, especially the ones that were treated as nonsense in the academic world. The academic world treats spiritual belief in general that way. I was interested in alternative medicine at the same time for the same reason. Right from the beginning I was convinced that ordinary people are smarter, are more sensible than they’re given credit for by scholars, and that traditions that are wide spread and deeply held probably have more rational basis, and more observation built into them than the theories that I was taught in graduate school. I couldn’t believe that all the beliefs of ordinary people that are not part of the academic worldview were nonsense. I have the impression that the academic world might be a little to narrow, and that regular people might have something to offer about it (sleep paralysis) through their experience and what they believed about things. There are beliefs that are based on experience that have been dismissed as superstitious beliefs that bear much more investigation, these are experiences that are built into the spiritual traditions all over the world. In the modern western world, for at least the past one hundred years these phenomena have been explained on the basis of psychopathology. So the discovery that those experiences are common and that they occur among ‘normal’ people, that they are not in fact indicative of any type of disease has tremendous importance for medicine. This isn’t a new phenomenon, we erased the knowledge of these experiences from the cultural repertoire – Dr David J Hufford, Ph.D, Professor Emeritus, Penn State Medical School (1)
Right from the get go, almost all scientific approaches to the phenomenon of sleep paralysis assume that the experiences that stem from it are hallucinations. Rather than coming from the standpoint of complete neutrality, most studies completely shut out the idea of any reality behind ‘hallucinations.’ Just because there are measured biological and chemical activities during the sleep paralysis phenomenon does not mean there is a causal relationship between the two. There are other things we must take into consideration and as quantum science is showing us, there are definitely worlds within our world that we are not able to perceive easily yet. There is definitely a non-physical aspect to science in general that we are just beginning to wake up to.
The day science begins to study non-physical phenomenon, it will make more progress than it made in all the previous centuries of its existence – Nikola Tesla
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