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The ominous numinous. sensed presence and 'other' hallucinations

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A 'sensed presence' often accompanies hypnagogic and hypnopompic hallucinations associated with sleep paralysis. Qualitative descriptions of the sensed presence during sleep paralysis are consistent with the experience of a monitoring, stalking predator. It is argued that the sensed presence during sleep paralysis arises because of REM-related endogenous activation of a hypervigilant and biased attentive state, the normal function of which is to resolve ambiguities inherent in biologically relevant threat cues. Given the lack of disambiguating environmental cues, however, the feeling of presence persists as a protracted experience that is both numinous and ominous. This experience, in turn, shapes the elaboration and integration of the concurrent hallucinations that often take on supernatural and daemonic qualities. The sense of presence considered here is an 'other' that is radically different from, and hence more than a mere projection of, the self. Such a numinous sense of otherness may constitute a primordial core consciousness of the animate and sentient in the world around us.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of Psychology, University of Waterloo, 200 University Avenue, Waterloo, Ontario N2L 3G1, Canada.

Publication date: May 1, 2001

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