1. the imaginative projection of a subjective state into an object so that the object appears to be infused with it
2. the action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another of either the past or present without having the feelings, thoughts, and experience fully communicated in an objectively explicit manner; also : the capacity for this
Several days ago, I came across an online article discussing experiments into empathy. One done in Italy found what are now called “mirror neurons” which exist in both monkeys and humans. The research using monkeys found these neurons fire both when a monkey took a banana and when a monkey observed a human taking a banana.
Imaging studies showed that humans also fire neurons in those parts of the brain when either perceiving or taking action. The temporal lobe is an area where activity in human brains was unexpectedly observed. “The discovery suggests that memory is embedded in our mirror system, says Marco Iacoboni (University of California, Los Angeles)”
The one criticism I have of the following RSA presentation by Jeremy Rifkin is his assertion that “…there is no empathy in heaven.” His reasoning is there is no mortality or suffering and that “…empathy is grounded in the acknowledgement of death and the celebration of life.”
Empathy is about connection. Whatever qualities it may have in the afterlife, empathy remains. As evidence, consider the stories we have across cultures and throughout history where people have received help from that other realm.
Here Dr. Brene Brown, in an RSA short animation, gives an introduction to empathy: what it is and what it isn’t.
The first definition of empathy, “the imaginative projection of a subjective state into an object so that the object appears to be infused with it,” is always of concern to me. I’ve seen imagination distort or even supersede any real feelings of empathy and the outcomes of such errors can lead to serious embarrassment and disappointments. To be sure, many of the stories that come to us are tainted by personal and cultural biases.
I continually look for the mechanisms that underlie paranormal abilities to improve the accuracy of what we recall and the descriptions which we can use in order that other people may learn.
Perhaps this will be the century in which science will be able to accurately describe how empathy functions. Maybe even a reason why it works at a distance for some, but not others.
At the time I was actively transcribing paranormal experiences into the first novels of The Unfolding Series, my friend Vern and I talked about our experiences and the connection I have with people who serve as the models for some characters in the series. He interrupted my conjectures about how, when we observe, we can feel another’s emotion. He said, “Yes, but with you and them it works across state lines.”
– Jeffrey A. Limpert
References and additional reading:
By h.koppdelaney (Hartwig HKD)