The goggles I wore displayed the view from a camera pointing at my back. Ehrsson tapped my chest with one plastic rod while using a second one to synchronously prod at the camera. I saw and felt my chest being prodded at the same time as I saw a picture of myself from behind. Within ten seconds, I felt as if I was being pulled out of my real body and was floating several feet behind it.A year after removing his subjects from their own bodies, Ehrsson learned how to trick them into acquiring new ones. This time, the volunteers’ goggles showed them the view from a camera on the head of a mannequin looking at its own plastic torso. Simultaneously poking the arm or stomach of the mannequin and the volunteer a few times was enough to convince the subjects that they were the dummy. They could even stare at their old bodies from their new ones and shake hands with their old self, all without breaking the spell. “It really is very intense and incredibly fast,” says Mark Hallett, a neurologist from the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland, who experienced it first hand.In his latest trick, published in May, Ehrsson convinced people that they had jumped into a tiny Barbie doll. When he prodded the doll’s legs, the volunteers thought they were being prodded by giant objects. And when Ehrsson tested the illusion on himself and a colleague touched his cheek, he says, he looked up and “felt as if I was back in my childhood and looking at my mother”.…He also occasionally gets angry letters from people who have had out-of-body experiences themselves. “They believe that their souls have left their bodies, and they feel threatened that a similar experience can be induced in a lab,” says Ehrsson. He offers a diplomatic response, saying that he has “no way of disproving their ideas”. Metzinger is more forthright. “Henrik’s work speaks to the idea that there is no such thing as a soul or a self that’s independent of the brain,” he says.
Hee hee. It’s like Schopenhauer said — if forced to choose between a personal deity and personal immortality, people would turn atheist in a heartbeat. Who cares about arguing over God’s nonexistence? It’s far easier to disprove the idea of an immaterial soul, and far more devastating to traditional religious conceptual frameworks. Even most theodicy has to rely on some invocation of God’s mysterious ways, which aren’t readily apparent to the untrained eye. Few believers would be willing to allow an average life on Earth, bounded by the physical events of birth and death, to stand as proud affirmation of the inherent worth of existence.