The interconnected universe

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The non-dualist view of mind-body opens up a new way of conceiving our being as part of a network of interconnections with other beings and the entire cosmos. Watsuji (1889-1960) called this network of interconnections a state of 'between-ness' (or aidagara), which for him was the most important aspect of a human being. But what does it mean to exist in a 'state of between-ness'? From an etymological point of view, the term 'between' (aida) signifies a spatial distance separating thing and thing. So our 'between-ness' implies that we always exist within a given 'life-space', which is characterized by a large set of interrelationships (or 'personal context'). In Climates, Watsuji defines between-ness as 'the extension of [embodied] subjective' to underline that to exist in space is the primordial fact, the primordial significance of human beings.6 According to Yuasa, the state of 'between-ness' has to be understood in physical terms. A very well-known example that Watsuji gave is that of the intimate relation between a mother and her baby, or that between friends. He wrote, 'That one wishes to visit a friend implies she intends to draw near to the friend's body. If she goes to visit a friend who is at some distance by streetcar, then her body moves in the friend's direction, attracted by the power between them that draws them together' (Watsuji 1996: 62). In other words, for Watsuji, the relationship between two people is not only psychological (or 'mind based'), but also somatic (or grounded in the 'physical body'). Space for him was the most crucial fact in the life of a person, rather than the conscious subject as it emerged from Cartesianism.

The idea that we are all interconnected is also increasingly supported by science. For instance, recent evidence has emerged from brain imaging studies, carried out by a team of researchers in Hawaii, where they asked a group of 11 healers who claimed to be able to heal at a distance to choose a person with whom they felt a special connection and whom they thought they could heal. This subject was placed in an fMRI scanner and isolated from all forms of sensory contact from the healers. Random episodes of healing energy and no energy were given so there was no way that the subjects in the scanner could know when they were receiving healing energy. Significant differences were found between the experimental (send) and control (no send) conditions. There was less than approximately one chance in 10,000 that the results could be explained by chance happenings (p = 0.00127) (Achterberg et al. 2005). Even stronger evidence has emerged from the accounts of people who have a particular kind of transcendental experience that Paul Marshall classified as 'universal mystical experience because it is 'suggestive of contact with the universe as a whole' (1992: 63). Before analysing this phenomenon in greater detail in terms of the near-death experience (NDE), I would like to take a fresh look at the epistemology of consciousness.

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