Emotional Synaesthesia: The Science of Auras
By: Kephri Ra
The Aura, which is a halo of coloured light surrounding a person, whose colours and patterns change according to that persons health, mood, intentions, spiritual condition, and so on, is a staple of ‘New Age’ theories and spiritual paths. It is phenomena which people have claimed to have seen for as long as such observations have been recorded (and probably a hell of a lot longer). There are even special photographic techniques which can be used to get a picture of a person’s aura. And as part of the multi-billion dollar new age industry that has sprung up over recent decades there are now a multitude of professional aura readers, along with many, many books in the stores which supposedly teach interested candidates how to read auras for themselves.
The attitude of the scientific establishment to such things is, of course, that it must be a load of rubbish, and that people who claim to be able to see these auras are either con artist out to make a quick buck from gullible and naive ‘seekers’, or they are poor self-delude fools. It has always been my own opinion, however, that the scientific establishment discounts such phenomena far too readily, without putting any real effort into providing a scientific explanation for what large numbers of people seem to experience as real.
The problem is that scientists base their judgments solely on the explanation given for particular phenomena by its practitioners and proponents, rather than on the phenomena itself. They see that this explanation runs contrary to science, and so they discount the possibility that the phenomenon exists. But this fails to take into account the fact that scientists and mystics use radically different kinds of language.
When mystics or occult practitioners talk about some kind of spiritual energy, or the light of the soul, or uses whatever language their particular tradition has adopted, then the automatic reaction of the scientist is to dismiss it as religion or superstition, and then not pay the matter a second thought. But just because the Vikings thought thunder and lightning where caused by one of their gods striking a hammer in the heavens does not mean that thunder and lightning don’t exist, just that they were wrong about the reasons. I believe the same could be true for many new age phenomena, including auras. Likewise if a mystic talks about the motions of the heavens being regulated by universal love, he may well be talking at least in part about gravity and the motions of the planets. And that is why I was fascinated to read of research conducted by Jamie Ward of University College London and reported in the journal Cognitive Neuropsychology which suggests that a rare form of synaesthesia could explain the phenomena of auras.
Many of you will be familiar with a condition called synaesthesia. It is not a common condition, and has only been thoroughly documented and explained quite recently, but because it is such an interested condition it has received relatively large amount of publicity, including many television programs and magazine articles. To summarise the condition briefly: synaesthesia, in its most common form, is when the area of the brain dealing with two separate senses somehow becomes linked. When this happens the subject experiences a mingling of usually distinct faculties, and finds they are able to smell colours, taste sounds, and so on. Synaesthesia may also involve the subject associating colours, or tastes, or whatever it may be, to certain words or numbers; so that whenever they come across a particular word, the corresponding taste comes into their mouth.
The idea which is now being put forward is that the phenomena of auras can be explained by an unusually strong connection between the areas of the brain handling emotions and colours, reinforced by the innate pairings of certain emotions with particular colours, which all cultures seem to share. In this case when a person sees and aura what they are actually seeing is a mixture of their own emotional response to a person combined with their intuitive understanding of that person’s own emotional state.
I would also add, before finishing this article, that to explain such a phenomenon scientifically in no way invalidates its explorations and practical use. It is a peculiarity of the modern world that when a proper scientific explanation for such things comes along people say that they have been ‘debunked’, and that their falsity has been proven. This seems perverse to me; to explain something scientifically does not disprove something – it proves it. In the case of Auras one can easily imagine how having this kind of emotional synaesthesia could lead to an intuitive sense far more advanced than that of the ordinary person. Huge amounts of information are continually being exchanged between our subconscious minds, and for ordinary people the main obstacle to our accessing and using this information in our day to day lives is that we only really experience it consciously as very vague ill-defined feelings. A form of synaesthesia which displayed such vague feelings as concrete sensory symbols, colours, and even images could greatly increase the ability of the conscious mind to access and utilise subconscious information, and to draw out specific details. It is also entirely possible that meditation and training could induce a mild form of this kind of synaesthesia.
If science could put aside its enmity towards such ‘new age’ subjects, really think that a great deal could be accomplished