When I first formulated these ideas back in 1980, the title "Phantom Eye" came from the close analogy between the phantom effect that invariably occurs after losing a limb and the ‘experiential trace’ that similarly follows from the loss of an organ of sense. Recently I have been examining evidence from "Phantom Vision" cases, where strong and persistent images occur after total loss of eyesight. Blind patients facing an empty field have described a house (which is not there) in incredible detail. In the case of phantom legs, no amount of treatment to the stump can dispel the feelings of pain whose location is reported as being in the-leg that is absent. In both these examples there is no physical ‘stimuli’, although sensation is as strong as if there were. The notion of a gap in the organisational structure of the brain by means of which we can ‘view’ perhaps solves some inane ‘physical Vs non-physical’ arguments and distinctions in previous philosophical debate. It seems to me that in many ways a lump of lead or stone is more ‘physical’ than a cloud of gas. Its mass and density are greater and its spatial location is more precise.
When trying to place various sub-atomic particles on a postulated "scale of physicality" we meet with greater difficulty since some of these ‘particles’ can only be inferred and cannot be precisely located or quantified. Obviously in the non-physical region of the scale are fictional characters, probably including the medieval legions of gods and devils. Placing Napoleon Bonaparte on our scale presents yet another problem. If it was the nineteenth century and he was still alive then he would fall safely into the ‘physical camp.' Although he is no longer alive bits of his atomic structure are still whizzing around the material universe. Furthermore it does seem fair that he counts as being ‘more physical’ than a character such as "the Wizard of Oz," who as far as we know has never lived or existed. The ‘trace’ or ‘imprint’ of Napoleon on the world is well established ... we have portraits of him, documentation, and possess items known to have been his. It also seems reasonable to claim that a sense-organ that once existed, and with which we still have a ‘trace memory’ or physiological imprint, is more ‘physical’ than a sense-organ that is purely fictional. However is clearly lower down the ‘physicality scale’ than our lateral eyes.
If you should take a piece of paper and tear a piece out the middle, you have created a ‘hole’. This hole has a definite location and spatial boundaries, but is not composed of any physical stuff or form of energy and cannot be detected except by reference to the paper that borders it. A materialist philosopher would presumably deny the existence of the ‘hole’, although this is clearly absurd since we can all recognise the ‘hole’ to be present. I consider the ‘mind’ to be the ‘hole’ left by the disappearance of the median eye.
We cannot see a ‘hole’ itself but may see through it. I would argue that ‘reflective or ‘abstract’ thought, imagination and visualization are only possible because there is a ‘hole’ in our physical structure through which to peer. We may mistake this hole for the ‘background’ and procession of events and percepts seen through it.
We are free to populate this abstracted sense-organ with anything that we care to imagine. The less the physical restraint (and the further we are away from the loss of a physical mind) the greater become our powers of abstract thought. I contend that our capacity to close our eyelids yet still ‘see’ dream-pictures or mental visualizations that clearly have no optic path to the outside environment or any ontological correlate, is only possible by virtue of this sense-organ that forms part of our ‘matrix’, yet is itself just a phantom. Like can only interact with like .... hence the problems with Descartes’ notion that the physical pineal gland and was the ‘seat of consciousness’.
The pineal gland bears much the same relationship to ‘soul’ as the leg-stump bears to the phantom limb. If the leg was severed higher up the stump, the phantom sensation would still be present (perhaps even greater). When a pineal gland is calcified or surgically removed, a disruption such as the condition of precocious puberty might occur, but mental life is substantially unaffected. Our brains still expect or assume the ancient organ of ‘unitary sense’ to be present. You might even say that the brain imagines it still there ... but not an imagination or memory that requires effort ....for it arises naturally out of the deep structure and organization of the brain. The phantom eye forms a part of the genetic whole-body matrix or gestalten that also gives rise to the ontogeny of the neuronal brain along with the rest of the foetus.