Many of you are aware that one of my on-going pet research projects concerns the issue of whether or not the soul exists. I keep track of and review the work of others who’ve come before me; the philosophies, the studies and experiments, related technology, the players, and the hoaxes. Call it a hobby, if you will, to stay abreast of the leading edge on this topic.
That last category there is one that troubles me. There is a lot of misinformation flooding the internet, and people’s belief systems, which has come directly from or has been the result of some deliberate hoaxes. I’m not talking about fake ghost pictures, though there are certainly enough of them around. I’m not even talking about the hype and greed of network TV paranormal investigators. What I’m talking about is the hyperbolic, and often completely fabricated “scientific evidence” for the existence of the soul that you’ll see repeated, copied, and shared endlessly on social media. Bearing in mind my little habit, as outlined above, I can tell you with confidence that there is no such scientific evidence, no matter how convincing The Mind Unleashed’s Facebook page is on the subject.
This problem isn’t a new one either, but our reliance on the rigorous level of fact-checking abilities (or actually, the lack thereof) of our Friend’s list is, to say the least, not helping.
Some time ago I briefly discussed the hoax that rests at the center of most internet stories involving the weight of the soul. In that post I described the incredible results of secret German experiments in 1988 – on disadvantaged medical patients – which sought to determine how much a human soul weighs. As the story goes, after weighing the bodies of some 400 patients before death and then immediately following death, they found that the soul weighs roughly 1/3000th of an ounce, or 0.01 grams. Impressive, no?
It turns out though, the researchers in that case, Becker Mertens and Elkie Ficher, don’t exist and have never existed, and the experiments they supposedly conducted never happened.
That’s not the only hoax in circulation though.
A particularly frustrating one is again making the rounds through the more woo-ish websites and social media accounts. That’s the case of Konstantin Korotkov, a Russian physicist (who actually does exist), and his supposed photograph of a person’s soul leaving their body.
You may have heard about this, you may even have heard Korotkov’s name mentioned in scientific circles, but there’s a big problem with this story. That photo doesn’t exist.
Korotkov is the founder of a branch of optics called Electrophotonics. You won’t find that term on Wikipedia though, because it’s not exactly real. And this takes some explaining.
In 1939 a man named Semyon Kirlian accidentally discovered that high voltage electrical charges could be used to create images on photographic plates without exposure to light. Today this is called Kirlian photography (which is now actually a collection of different techniques). This kind of imaging is what’s used to take pictures of and to study electrical coronal discharges. You’ve all seen the famous pictures of Nikola Tesla sitting enigmatically in a chair while bolts of lightning burst from one of his nearby coils; those bolts of lightning are coronal discharges.
Korotkov has been studying Kirlian photography and its varying techniques for many years, and has in fact contributed quite a bit to our understanding of ECD. Where this goes off the rails is directly related to Korotkov’s obsession with mysticism and the hereafter. Outside of his academic pursuits Korotkov uses Kirlian photography techniques, which he calls Electrophotonics, to study human auras, and light phenomena related to human energy patterns and frequencies. That might sound reasonable, but it’s actually what I like to call sciencey-sounding-garbage.
OK, here we go.
Human auras do exist; in fact all mammals have auras. This isn’t in dispute. Auras are a subtle field of radiation (read: an electromagnetic field or a light field in different terms) that surround our bodies at all times like an envelope of energy. Our bodies run on electricity, I’m sure you knew that, but like many people, you may never have thought of it that way. As you’re also probably aware, all electronic appliances produce an electromagnetic field (EMF). Our bodies are no different, though the field we generate is very weak comparably. EMF can be detected and measured several different ways; an EMF meter for instance. EMF can also be photographed using special cameras and film (high-infrared film etc), and doing so can provide a unique, albeit questionably useful image of your aura.
Whole fields of pseudoscience and flim-flammery have sprung up, using this basic science to provide people with analyses of their auras, or biofields, or electrophotonics (or whatever term you want to use). The trouble is, there’s no clear connection between what fluctuations in that EMF or energy field might mean in terms of how your body is working, and it’s anyone’s guess how a visual representation of that energy could be used to diagnose problems.
Psst…I have a little hint for you, no one on the planet knows the answer to this question. That doesn’t mean though, that there is any shortage of people claiming they know, but falling far short on the scale of evidence. Of course, even few of those people can agree on exactly what a human aura is, how it manifests, how it can be measured, and what those measurements mean. Add in the traditional notion that psychics can somehow see human auras (which may or may not be the same energies explained above) and interpret them through some mystical power, and we’ve got a real mess on our hands here. (But before everyone gets upset, let me state, plainly, that auras, whether EMF or some psychic-ly detected energy could exist.)
Korotkov is one of those people. It seems that he may have written something in 2009 to the effect that he believes one could use Kirlian photography techniques to photograph (or even video record) someone at the moment of death, and monitor the changes in their aura. Whether he actually tried to do this is still very much in question. What’s also in question is precisely what any of those fluctuations might mean. If he has such a photo, how could anyone possibly claim that any feature of it is positively identified as the energy of one’s soul?
Dr. Korotkov, or someone claiming to be him, has stated that the picture referenced in the now circulating story about his “photo of a human soul” is available on his Facebook page, which is titled “IUMAB – International Union of Medical and Applied Bioelectrography”. And again, that sounds very official and sciencey, but rest assured, that union consists only of Korotkov and his naïve followers. Incidentally, that photo that he claims can be found on that page (and nowhere else), doesn’t exist. Go look for yourself.
What you’ll see when you wander over to the story about this photo on Before It’s News, or Above Top Secret or one of their clones around the web, is a stock photo of a very artfully done scene representing one’s soul leaving their body, which was created by Argentinian Photographer Oscar Burriel. In one of Korotkov’s many YouTube videos, there is reference to another photo of what appears to be one or more people represented on a chart of some kind that shows their auras (See above). That photo is actually an infrared heat-map measuring the body temperature of several people inside a sauna.
I don’t know about you, but I’m not exactly impressed by this incredible photo, or its unbelievable story.