Comments on a cultural reality between past and future.

This blog describes Metatime in the Posthuman experience, drawn from Sir Isaac Newton's secret work on the future end of times, a tract in which he described Histories of Things to Come. His hidden papers on the occult were auctioned to two private buyers in 1936 at Sotheby's, but were not available for public research until the 1990s.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Hallowe'en Countdown 2015: The Tunnel

The Pont de l'Alma tunnel in Paris, where Princess Diana died in 1997. Image Source (2009) © shirley77 at flickr.

Tunnels symbolize death, near death experiences, ascension to heaven, time travel, or a sealed fate. As Princess Diana lay dying in the Pont de l'Alma tunnel in Paris in 1997, police arrested seven photographers at the accident. A commenter under a video about the paparazzi who chased her car into the tunnel wrote:
"I can't imagine what it would be like breathing your last and all you can see is flash bulbs going off and knowing that people will make a mint out of your death. There's something eerily pornographic about the photographers standing there taking pictures and not helping."
Tunnels represent travel forward to a new or final destiny. In the French film Irréversible, Monica Bellucci's character Alex is raped in a pedestrian passage in Paris. The film's scenes run in reverse chronological order to connect her grim end to time travel:
In An Experiment with Time, which Alex is reading during the last (i.e. chronologically first) sequence in the film, J. W. Dunne postulates the existence of a "time-travelling observer", which in dreams can move backwards or forwards in time to actually observe events which may not have yet happened. These are the 'premonitory dreams' which Alex mentions to Marcus and Pierre. Alex earlier describes such a dream to Marcus, where she is in a 'red tunnel' which breaks in two.
You can read An Experiment with Time (1922), here. The theory of the book is that all points in time coexist simultaneously; due to human perception, we are only conscious of one forward stream of time. But the other events are there, including potentials. To indicate this, Alex discovers she is pregnant shortly before her rape in the tunnel. Those who claim to have had psychic or precognitive experiences would, in Dunne's terms, be people who tap the unconscious parts of their brains to see past, present and future. This is how Dunne would have explained precognitive experiences of fictional characters (or in Diana's case, of a real person), whose destinies end in a tunnel.

The subheading of the film title is 'Le Temps Detruit Tout' - 'Time Destroys Everything.' In the film, the tunnel Alex enters is analogous to the course of normal human perception, which rams forward to cut off all possibilities, except the one set of events we finally perceive as 'what happened.' The vicious creation of one path of consciously-seen outcomes, i.e. 'time,' is akin to a brutal rape and destruction of all other potential alternate futures.

Image Source: Telegraph.

Tunnels are associated with near death experiences. Scientists have discovered that during death, cognition goes into overdrive. The universally-reported light at the end of a tunnel is a symptom of this physical process. The Independent:
Stories of out of body experiences and seeing lights at the end of a tunnel have been told by people brought back from the brink since the days of Plato.

Now, for the first time, scientists say they have observed brain activity in dying rats that may shed light on the mystery of human near death experiences.

Researchers at the University of Michigan analysed the electrical signals in the brains of nine anaesthetised rats undergoing an induced cardiac arrest and saw activity patterns they said were associated with "a hyper-alerted state" shortly after clinical death.

Near death experiences (NDEs), which the study's authors said were reported by 20 per cent of cardiac arrest survivors, are commonly cited as evidence of an afterlife or the separation of the body and the soul - but scientists have increasingly been able to attribute people's experiences to physiological processes and now believe they result from unusual brain activity caused by reduced blood flow to the brain.

Patients commonly report seeing a tunnel and a light, or a sensation of being outside one's own body, often with a sense of calm and inner peace.

"This study, performed in animals, is the first dealing with what happens to the neurophysiological state of the dying brain," said the study's lead author Dr Jimo Borjigin. "We reasoned that if near-death experience stems from brain activity, neural correlates of consciousness should be identifiable in humans or animals even after the cessation of cerebral blood flow."

... [T]he scientists were surprised by the high level of gamma frequency brain activity they observed, noting that "at near death, many known electrical signatures of consciousness exceeded levels found in the waking state, suggesting the brain is capable of well-organised electrical activity during the early stage of clinical death."
This isn't as straightforward as it sounds because researchers are describing electrical activity in the brain when that electrical activity is technically impossible without heart functions or oxygen. The researchers found that the surge in cognitive activity comes from a reaction among neural chemicals, occurring at or just after death, a final blip so intense that the brain experiences it as being "hyper-real."

Another study, published by Dr. Sam Parnia and colleagues in the journal Resuscitation in October 2014 (here), examined over 2,000 patients in relation to out-of-body or near-death experiences. The study found that difficulties in understanding near-death experiences are more likely related to medical and scientific terminology. The physical processes in the period around death and immediately following are more grey than clear cut, and descriptors should reflect that. Parnia commented on his findings that two per cent of those interviewed for the study experienced conscious awareness in a small window of time during and after death:
“Contrary to perception, death is not a specific moment but a potentially reversible process that occurs after any severe illness or accident causes the heart, lungs and brain to cease functioning. If attempts are made to reverse this process, it is referred to as ‘cardiac arrest’; however, if these attempts do not succeed it is called ‘death’. In this study we wanted to go beyond the emotionally charged yet poorly defined term of N[ear] D[eath] E[xperience]s to explore objectively what happens when we die.”
The Passage (2011-2012) © Daniel Gerhartz. Image Source: Daniel Gerhartz.

Tunnels can also take the mind backward through time. Hypnotherapists describe tunnels to their subjects to explore the current fad of past life regression. Tunnel imagery supposedly propels the subject's mind to his or her soul's earlier incarnations. For those who do not believe in reincarnation, the exercise seems to enable the brain to make free associations, overcome emotional blocks, and heal psychological injuries. A 2009 paper presented to the Royal College of Physicians by Dr. James Paul Pandarakalam noted disagreements between cognitive researchers and psychological practitioners on this topic. The latter see definite therapeutic benefits through past life regression experiments, but they cannot confirm their patients' reported past lives against the evidence of real world history. The celebrated past life case of Bridey Murphy famously went unproven as a display of cryptomnesia: a forgotten memory returned to the patient under hypnosis and the patient mistakenly believed this to be a new memory. Psychiatrists appraise past life therapies as follows:
1. The ego-strengthening power of hypnosis may be inappropriately applied in PLR. 
2. Hypnosis may increase the confidence with which a memory is held, while reducing the veracity of the memory. 
3. Information obtained through PLR may be correlated to that emanating from a historical novel that constitutes a synthesis of fact and fiction: a few items of memory derived from a previous life arguably become dislodged and reattached to fantasies – rather as iron fillings become attached to a magnetic field. 
4. In false memories of previous lives the imagination may run wild. We have our limitations when it comes to exaggerating truth, but we have apparently inexhaustible powers of imagination as far as stretching a lie is concerned. Dingwall recognized that individuals can fabricate narratives of imagined experiences in greater detail than may be accounted for by the application of conscious knowledge.
For the most part, Dr. Pandarakalam concluded, the past life regression therapy works because it creates a safe context to contemplate difficult or overwhelming experiences while the patient reaffirms a sense of self-identity in the present:
[A]dult subjects who experience PLR are sufficiently robust psychologically to accommodate ... [past life regressions] as a learning experience, so that they are enabled to use their memories to adjust their current behaviour. For the more mature subjects the experience is analogous to re-sitting an examination after learning from the mistakes of a previous test. The beneficial psychological effects of PLR are perhaps connected to its enhancing effects on transcendental beliefs. PLR, by offering an insight into past existence, may assist people in reverting to a form of consciousness of enhanced awareness, one in which there is a deeper commitment to live out life’s purpose.
In other words, unless you believe in past lives, a spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down: the patient's brain finds painful facts easier to digest when the facts are surrounded by historical fiction. The reason why therapists use tunnel symbolism to initiate past life excursions may be due to the fact that tunnels are already associated with journeys, time travel and near death experiences, when people supposedly move with the time flow beyond death. In this case, the patient is asked to do the opposite and push against the flow of time, to remember his or her existence before birth. In both near-death and past-life cases, credulous patients assume that their soul lives on a much longer time scale, while their physical bodies and ego-minds are transient. As with Dunne's exploration of the unconscious awareness of broader time, these ideas reflect a persistent human urge to see time's big picture, beyond how we perceive the flow of time.

Fifth Street Tunnel, Philadelphia. Video Source: Youtube.

For obvious reasons, tunnels make people think of female anatomy. In August 2008, Philebrity listed the Philadelphia Fifth Street Tunnel was listed as one of the city's 'Places We Can't Understand':
I mean, yes, we understand it: The Fifth Street Tunnel is there so you can zoom from Old City straight through to Northern Liberties while the rest of the lemmings clog the foot of the Ben Franklin Bridge. That much we get. But do ever get the feeling that the Fifth Street Tunnel isn’t telling you something about itself? Better still, have you ever ridden your bike through the thing? Drunk or going in the wrong direction? We will contend that this is easily more horrifying than that slingshot ride down in Ocean City, and it’s free. Plus, it comes with the added extra of never really knowing whether or not a homeless ghoul is gonna pop out at you from one of those columns. We bring it up because the tunnel is closed today due to bridge inspections, which also seems weird. It’s not the bridge. It’s not even part of the bridge. AND, conspiracy buffs, don’t you think it’s just a little too close to the U.S. Mint for comfort? I mean, who’s to say that you couldn’t fall down a manhole down there and find yourself in Dick Cheney’s Secret Poker Game? Anything can happen down there, people, and it’s best you just get in and out of there as quickly as you can. The Fifth Street Tunnel: It’s Philly’s Scary Vagina. And we just can’t get enough of it.
In stalemated borderlands, under prisons and in war zones, men dig trenches and tunnels to achieve strategic objectives. This is evident in the Gaza Strip tunnels which connect the Gaza Strip to Egypt. Here, tunnels are built to work around an accepted reality enforced by harsh expressions of masculine politics or power.

The Tunnel of Love fair ride in the virtual reality environment, Second Life. Images Source: Second Life.

Tunnels of Love had frightening elements to encourage lovers to cling to one another. Image Source: imgfave.

Tunnels symbolize female sexuality in carnival rides. From the 1950s to the 1980s, the Tunnel of Love ride was a common feature at fairs in the USA, UK and Commonwealth. Wiki:
In its earliest incarnations, riders were taken by two-passenger boats through dark passages. There were two major themes: a relaxing romantic ride encouraging the couple to cuddle, or a spooky horror ride encouraging the couple to cling to one another. The darkness provided a degree of privacy and the frightening scenes offered a socially acceptable "excuse" for the physical contact at a time when public affection or even holding hands was considered inappropriate. With the development of other socially acceptable opportunities and less stigma for unmarried couples to engage in physical contact, these rides became less popular and were either re-themed into children's attractions or torn down completely.
The coming-of-age film, The Perks of Being a Wallflower (2012) has a scene (here) in which the characters kiss while driving through Pittsburgh's Fort Pitt Tunnel and declare, "We are infinite." Below, see more examples of the tunnel archetype, which connects masculine violence and death to feminine love and recreation, with the two bonded through time.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower (2012). Images Sources: hypable, Youtube, and Youtube.

The Klevan rail 'tunnel of love' formed by trees in Ukraine is a popular place for lovers to walk and make wishes. Images Sources: Inhabitat.

Jones chases Thorndike into the London Underground in Man Hunt (1941). Image Source: Cinema Nostalgia.

Carol Reed's The Third Man (1949) has a famous tunnel chase scene through the sewers of Vienna. Images Sources: Dayz, photobucket.

All the Alien films use bodily analogies and architecture, tunnels and air shafts through which the monsters move. Image Source: Will Huntley.

In the Dutch movie, The Vanishing (Spoorloos 1988), Rex abandons his girlfriend Saskia in a tunnel, shortly before she is abducted at a gas station. You can watch the film here while the link lasts. Image Source: Den of Geek.

In Less than Zero (1987), Clay and Blair hit a coyote at the end of a tunnel, but can't find its body, signifying they have just dodged death. Blair: "I think I've had enough fun for one night." The scene was shot in Kanan Dume Road Tunnel, Malibu, California. Image Source: Filming 90210 Locations.

Kurosawa's Dreams (1990) has a frightening segment called The Tunnel. As in Less than Zero, an injured dog confronts the character. At the end of the tunnel, a defeated army officer must face his company, all of whom died under his command, while he survived. See a clip here, and my earlier post with video clips here. Image Source: Film.com.

Gaspar Noé's Irréversible (2002) from France. Image Source: Elena de Sala.

Amateur video of the passage under the Paris street where the gut-wrenching Irréversible rape scene was filmed. The passage is now closed to the public. The tunnel was painted red for the film and Noé matted the floor for the actors. Video Source: Youtube. See my earlier post on this film here .

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  1. 'An experiment with time' is also related to 'Donnie Darko' (2001). And 'Irreversible' (2002) to 'Memento' (2000). An interesting trilogy here, gravitating around a certain impactful event.

    1. That's right Anon, thank you! I hadn't recalled the connection between the three. Is that book mentioned in 'Memento'?