Materialization of mystical companions during experiences of extreme stress is evidence of the brain's ability to turn on its survival mechanism or Angel Switch.
Reports of the appearance of mystical companions during times of extreme duress proliferate the journals of explorers and adventurers who have attempted daring and almost impossible exploits.
John Geiger in The Third Man Factor: The Secret to Survival in Extreme Environments (Toronto: Penguin Canada, 2009), examines the psychological and physical basis of this phenomenon.
What neurobiological event created the angel who showed Ron DiFrancesco a way out of the burning New York City Twin Towers on September 11, 2001? Trapped on the 80th floor, overcome by smoke, he and others were blocked by a fallen wall.
This presence, which Geiger calls “the third man,” has been responsible for the miraculous survival of many facing isolation, fatigue and imminent death. Geiger offers a “neuro-spiritual” explanation of this presence — the bicameral hallucination and the angel switch.While others collapsed around him, DiFrancesco was guided by an unseen presence who led him down the stairs, through drywall and debris, onto the 76th floor, below the fire. He was one of the few survivors of Ground Zero.
What is the Bicameral Hallucination?
Using Julian Jaynes’ concept of the bicameral mind, Geiger suggests that the third man could be viewed as a product of unusual brain processes. According to Jaynes, early pre-conscious man had a much more active right brain which translated thoughts and emotions into visual and auditory hallucinations.
The development of a stronger left brain during the last 3,000 years of human history has suppressed the right hemisphere, contributing to the breakdown of the bicameral mind and the emergence of a subjective conscious mode of thought which in effect weakened the power of hallucination.
A United States study confirms as well that 65% of combat victims with post-traumatic stress disorder have reported hearing voices. Even more recent is the “evocation” of a sensed presence in a 22-year-old epileptic woman by the electric stimulation of a part of her brain involved in organizing sensory information.Jaynes claims that there is a stress threshold in humans beyond which a bicameral hallucination can be triggered. Recent studies actually show that 30% to 40 % of the general population report having experienced auditory hallucinations in times of stress.
What is the Angel Switch?
Peter Suedfeld, a psychologist at the University of British Columbia, insists that bicameral hallucinations are not psychiatric or psychotic symptoms. The reason is that the sensed presence is often an adaptive response, providing the victim under extreme duress not only with companionship, but information directly linked to survival.
What this means is that the third man is a psychological “other” that has access to “inner resources” within all humans. The power of these resources lies hidden and dormant until a traumatic event turns the switch on.
Geiger calls this the “angel switch,” that releases a wiser self, a self that can stimulate the mechanism for endurance and survival. A benevolent being exists within man, a secret power of the mind, accessible when it's most needed.
Man stands at the intersection between the visible and invisible, and the third man is testimony of his power of transcendence. Imagine the impact on human lives, muses Geiger, if man can access this power at will.