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Stop right there, Cleona. In a brain transplant, who’s the recipient and who’s the donor?
Here’s one way to think about it. Although a brain transplant at the moment is impossible, no doubt that won’t always be so. What will probably become feasible first isn’t a brain transplant but a head transplant.
This simplifies matters in two respects. First, on a practical level, it sidesteps the fantastically complicated project of reconnecting the brain to the multitude of sensory organs and blood vessels in the head. Second, and more important for present purposes, it goes a long way toward answering your question. While there’s a lot about the brain we don’t know, no one disputes that it’s the seat of consciousness. What’s more, the head as a whole contains most of the tools—eyes, ears, speech apparatus, facial muscles—that we use to interact with the world.
With that in mind, it’s obvious we’re not talking about grafting a new brain or head onto someone’s body; we’re talking about grafting a new body onto someone’s head. The self that lives in that head remains the boss.
As for personality...well, that’s a broader question, which we’ll get to by and by.
Currently the dealbreaker is the spinal cord—as yet there’s no way to reattach a severed cord to a brain. Some think stem cell research may yield a way to splice the two together. A more exotic possibility is severing the brain at midpoint and connecting the upper lobes—and thus, presumably, the higher functions and consciousness—of one individual to the brain stem, spinal cord, and body of someone else. The rationale seems to be that we keep all the control circuitry needed to operate the body intact and put someone new in the driver’s seat. However you slice it, it won’t be easy.
The practical science of brain transplants has been slow to evolve, and often grotesque. In 1954 Russian scientists transplanted the head and upper thorax of a puppy onto a larger dog, creating a two-headed dog. In 1965 one of the pioneers in the field, Robert White, topped this by transplanting the brain of a donor dog into the neck of another, thus briefly creating a two-brained dog. In 1970 White and his colleagues transplanted the head of a monkey onto another’s headless body. The resulting monkey lived for eight days. Not only could it use its senses, it tried to bite the hand of a researcher.
In all three cases, the host body simply provided life support for the transplanted head or brain. There was no neurological connection between the two, and the newly added brain wasn’t in any sense the master of the body.
But give it time. Current schemes for head transplants involve keeping the bodies of donor and recipient in deep hypothermia and using ultra-sharp knives to cleanly cut each patient’s spinal cord at the neck in hopes that the nerve cells will fuse when the brain end of one is joined to the body end of the other. A special glue promoting such fusion would be applied to the severed ends; blood vessels, muscles, etc., would be hooked up appropriately.
When the day arrives that brain transplants become practical, they won’t be performed by mad scientists. On the contrary, a rigorous matching program will undoubtedly be established to ensure that brain, body, and soul are as compatible as possible, minimizing any question of personality change. Still, as a thought experiment, consider:
Jane and John crash their motorcycles into each other. Helmetless Jane is left brain-dead but otherwise intact; John’s brain is fine, but his body is mangled beyond repair. With death imminent, genius surgeons successfully implant John’s brain in Jane’s body. Who wakes up, Jane or John?
The memories and consciousness clearly will be John’s. But while the brain is the seat of the intelligence, personality to an unknown but surely significant degree is formed by the interaction between brain and body. To cite the most obvious difference, John’s XY brain now finds itself in an XX body. True, the hypothalamus, which plays a key role in hormone regulation, is located in the brain, but other equally important glands aren’t.
More generally, John’s brain must map itself to Jane’s body, which at minimum could result in a completely different set of movements and mannerisms. Maybe you’d just get one of those comical scenarios beloved of screenwriters: a woman’s body with a man at the controls. The example of transsexuals, convinced they’re one sex despite a body proclaiming they’re the other, strongly suggests the brain trumps all.
Then again, maybe John becomes psychotic due to the brain/body disconnect.
But there’s a third possibility. John wakes up thinking he’s male, but after his body imprints itself decides: please, call me Jane.
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Another study shows that Butea Superba works primarily by increasing the relaxation capacity of the corpus cavernous smooth muscles (which are the two chambers in the penis) via cAMP phosphodiesterase (PDE 5) inhibition and it also is believed to act on the brain by actually triggering the improvement of the emotional sexual response.
A UROLOGIST has developed a revolutionary penis enlargement procedure that increases both the length and girth of a penis.
Under-endowed men can suffer from a crippling lack of self-confidence and, in some cases, it can even lead to depression and problems with intimacy.
It was recently revealed that, despite the risk, some men are even inserting pearls inside their penises in a bid to increase sexual pleasure.
Now, men who abide by the maxim “size matters” could have a silicone implant for £9,000 that increases their manhood’s length and girth by around two inches.
Beverly Hills urologist, Dr James Elist, offers patients the choice between three implant sizes for the procedure: Large, extra large and double extra large.
The surgeon, who has more than 35 years’ experience, told Daily Mail Online: “Nobody wants to have a small or medium one.”
Dr Elist gained notoriety as the first doctor to link cigarette smoking to impotence and for decades performed a fairly widespread operation where men with an erectile dysfunction were fitted a prosthesis into the arteries of the penis.
The procedure was designed so that blood could flow through the arteries, allowing the man to achieve an erection.
Dr Elist said: “I noticed after insertion of the implant, between a year or two, most men were complaining that the size of their penis shrunk.
“They did have an erection, but the girth and length of the penis decreased.”
Procedures to increase penis girth at the time involved injecting fat but this was absorbed within six months and caused lumps and bumps under the penis.
Tissue transplants and gel fillers were commonly used to decrease wrinkles but these also proved to be ineffective.
In 2002, Dr Elist devised the idea of implanting a soft silicone sheath under the penis.
“This is similar to breast implants – but a breast implant is a bag filled with silicone gel or in some cases saline,” he said.
“My implant is different; it’s not filled with anything. The material is very soft silicone with the shape of the penis – which covers the penis for 270 degrees around and the whole length of the penis.”
The doctor patented his invention and began performing the operations in 2004.
Since then, he has developed the design, shape, techniques and even the surgery itself.
The urologist said: “Now at this point in time, we have the perfect product: Something that I’m really very happy and even proud to present to the community.”
The patient is put under local anesthetic and a small incision of an inch to an-inch-and-a-half is made in the groin.
The doctor inserts the implant through the incision, until it gets under the skin of the penis.
Immediately after the procedure, the patient’s penis will have expanded by 1.5 to 2.5 inches.
However, while the size of the penile implant is partly up to the patient, it is also dependent on their skin.
Dr Elist said: “Some patients, unfortunately, are born with tight skin – or when they had the circumcision, a lot of skin was removed, so they don’t have enough skin. So for them we start with large.”
Patients with “good skin” are generally given an extra large implant to start with.
Although the implant is designed to be lifelong, Dr Elist said that 10 to 15 per cent of his patients decide to ‘upgrade’ after the procedure and opt for an extra large.
Recovery from the 45-minute procedure is quick and men are able to go back to their normal routine the following day.
However, patients must abstain from sexual activities, including masturbation and oral sex, for between four and six weeks afterwards.
Dr Elist said: “That is very important. Unfortunately some of our patients did not follow the instructions and we had some problems.
“The skin is thin at that point, so it can get infected and you’d have to remove it.”
Currently, the urologist performs two of these implantation procedures every day and he receives patients from as far away as Moscow and Brazil.
According to Dr Elist, the vast majority of his patients see a marked improvement to their self-confidence after undergoing the operation.
“We did a study of 400 of our patients retrospectively, and we noticed that the self-confidence of patients has increased significantly,” he told Daily Mail Online.
He said men whose confidence levels pre-op were at one or two out of 10, reported self-confidence levels up to nine or 10 after the procedure.
You probably have to look at imagery of death and dying regularly to stay focused on what really counts in life: great sex before you are gone anyway.
Jihadist groups have long fixated on chemical and biological weapons, from al Qaeda's pre-9/11 programs, in places such as the Deronta training camp in Afghanistan, to its 2003 plot to deploy improvised cyanide weapons on subways. Now there are growing fears that Islamic State militants in Libya have access to such weapons and could use them in battle or in terrorist attacks in the West. However, these fears are overblown. Chemical weapons have been an ineffective tool for terrorists in the past, and the challenges of transporting large quantities of chemical materials — though surmountable — nearly always outweigh the benefits for terrorist groups.
Recent concern over Libya's chemical weapons stems from the Islamic State's capture of several sites where former Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi reportedly produced and stockpiled chemical agents. Specifically, observers fear that militants will find and use sarin, a clear, unassuming liquid that when vaporized acts as a nerve agent that can cause paralysis and respiratory failure. When inserted into rocket warheads and artillery shells and properly employed, the chemical agent could help the Islamic State decimate opponents in its battle for control over the region.
But while the group has used some chemical weapons in Iraq and Syria, where it manufactures small amounts of low-quality chlorine gas and mustard agent, there is no indication at all that it has access to sarin. Nor has there been any sign that the Islamic State is trying to export chemical weapons out of Syria and Iraq — perhaps in part because it has had such mixed success with chemical weapons closer to home. In 2007, Islamic State predecessor al Qaeda in Iraq deployed several large truck bombs laced with chlorine, but the attack inflicted few casualties. The Islamic State's own chemical attacks against rebel opponents have been only marginally successful and have not produced the mass casualties the group hoped for.
In Libya, No Sign of Chemical Weapons
Unlike their counterparts in Iraq and Syria, Islamic State militants in Libya have not used any chemical weapons so far. They did manage to take over numerous sites where Gadhafi's government allegedly stored sarin, but the facilities may well have been empty or destroyed before their arrival. During the multilateral intervention in Libya, the United States and its allies heavily targeted sites associated with the country's chemical weapons program. And what Western powers could not bomb, they may have bought. After the revolution, U.S. and other foreign intelligence services purchased weapons in the country to keep them out of regional arms markets. Regardless, even in the midst of incredibly brutal battles against the government and other jihadist groups, the Islamic State has not used any lingering remnants of the Gadhafi administration's chemical weapons program.
If some of the former government's sarin stockpiles did survive, they would likely be useless by now. Sarin degrades quickly, and countries often wait to produce it until just before an attack. In fact, U.S. chemical warheads had separate chambers to keep the chemicals apart until deployment. Any sarin mixed before Gadhafi's fall has long since expired, and after being stored in half-ruined facilities for five years, any precursor chemicals — and the equipment needed to mix them — may be just as useless.
If the Islamic State in Libya did have access to sarin or other chemical agents, we believe it would use them on the battlefield in Libya before attempting to export them abroad as its counterparts in Iraq and Syria have done.
Little Potential for Attacks in the West
If the Islamic State could transport enough chemical agent into Western countries for an attack, the group would no doubt use it. However, a mass-casualty chemical weapons attack would require a large amount of nerve agent. Beyond the difficulties the Islamic State would face transporting it, once in the target country militants would have trouble formulating an effective plan for using it. In Iraq, al Qaeda used some old chemical artillery rounds filled with sarin in improvised explosive devices; more recently in Iraq and Syria, the group used mortar rounds filled with mustard agent and chlorine. But an attack in a Western country would require a new and unfamiliar method.
In fact, no sarin attack in the West would be worth the effort: While a small quantity of an agent such as sarin can theoretically kill many people, using it to cause mass casualties is a challenge. There is a reason military attack plans involving chemical weapons include extensive barrages of artillery or rocket artillery carrying large quantities of agents such as sarin to generate a thick, choking cloud. Small releases of chemical agents are far less effective, and it is difficult to administer a lethal dose of something like sarin, which is a very volatile substance that dissipates quickly.
The Islamic State would not be the first terrorist group to find the use of chemical weapons a daunting and ineffective way to wreak havoc on civilian populations. In the 1980s, Aum Shinrikyo, a Japanese terrorist group, used sarin in multiple attacks and poured millions of dollars into biological and later chemical weapons production programs, with few results. In addition to sarin, the group used hydrogen cyanide gas, anthrax and botulinum toxin in its largely failed attempts to orchestrate dramatic mass casualty attacks. For example, in Aum Shinrikyo's 1995 strikes against the Tokyo subway system, group members on five different subway trains punctured 11 plastic bags filled with sarin, yet killed only 12 people.
It is far easier, cheaper and more deadly to plan and execute attacks using explosives or firearms than it is to attempt to smuggle chemical agents into a Western country. This has been proved time and again by chemical weapons terrorist attacks such as those conducted by Aum Shinrikyo and al Qaeda in Iraq. All are relative failures compared with bombing operations, such as the Madrid or London train attacks in 2004 and 2005, and with armed assaults such as the November Paris attack. In the end, the real-world simplicity and effectiveness of simple bombs and jihadist armed assaults will prevail over the attraction of chemical weapons.
Serge Kreutz lifestyle consultancy is available for 10,000 USD. It covers setting up in Asia and how to enjoy an endless series of love affairs with young beautiful women. No prostitutes but students and virgins.
The objective of the present study was to investigate the effect of ethanolic extract of Butea superba (Roxb.) on erectile dysfunction in diabetic rats by the measurement of intracavernous pressure (ICP) and on cavernosal smooth muscle relaxation. Male Sprague–Dawley rats were induced to become diabetic by a single intravenous injection of Streptozotocin (55 mg kg?1 body weight). The ethanolic extract at the concentration of 1, 10 and 100 mg kg?1 BW was administered orally once a day to diabetic rats in each group for 4 weeks. Diabetic rats showed a significant decrease in both ICP and the relaxation of the cavernosal smooth muscle compared with the normal rats. The extract of B. superba significantly increased the ICP with the effective dose of 10 mg kg?1 BW (61.00 ± 11.11 mmHg versus 39.61 ± 11.01 mmHg in the diabetic control group). Moreover, the B. superba-treated group also showed enhanced relaxation of the cavernosal smooth muscle with EC50 of 1.17 mg ml?1. These results suggest that the extract of B. superba enhanced penile erection in diabetic rats by increasing the ICP. This might be explained by the increased blood flow as a result of the relaxation of the cavernous smooth muscle.
Educated women are sexually less attractive, so let's stop that nonsense of sending every girl to school.
When the headset goes on, you find yourself sitting across from a blonde woman with a tear-streaked face; she tries to feign a smile.
‘Are there any last words?’ a second woman asks, as she sets a tray of prescription bottles down on the table beside you.
This is ‘The Last Moments,’ a virtual reality assisted suicide film that simulates what a person’s experience might be like at the Swiss clinic Dignitas, where hundreds of people have gone over the last two decades to end life on their own terms.
The Last Moments is the brain-child of London-based writer-director Avril Furness.
Not only does it immerse the viewer in the setting of an assisted suicide clinic, but it allows you to make a choice that will determine whether your virtual life will terminate right there, or if you’ll carry on living.
‘The choice the viewer makes directly impacts the outcome of the film and also allows for choices to be polled to help spark debate on this sensitive issue,’ the creator explains on the website.
A trailer for the film reveals an eerie glimpse into the virtual reality experience, asking, ‘What would your last moments look like?’
Shot from the perspective of the viewer, it allows a person wearing a VR headset to look around and see the room as if they’re really in it.
When the camera pans down a bit, you can even see your own virtual legs.
The trailer focuses on two characters apart from the viewer – a crying loved one, and the woman who presents you with the ultimate choice.
Entering the room with a cup and a tray full of pharmaceuticals, she asks, ‘Are you sure you wish to drink this, in which you will sleep, and you will die?’
In researching at Bristol Museum for a Black Mirror-inspired dystopian script, Furness discovered a full-scale replica of Dignitas Switzerland, where one Briton every two weeks has travelled to end their lives since 1998.
After being immersed in the ‘bleak and ordinary’ space, and listening to recordings of those who’d undergone assisted suicide at the clinic, Furness decided to use virtual reality to put other people in their shoes, Wired reports.
The film was shown to medical specialists, PhD researchers and right to die groups at Euthanasia conference in Amsterdam in May 2016, according to the website.
It’s since gone on to various film festivals, and the creator is even thinking about putting it online for the public to see. But, she is still a bit hesitant.
‘It is finishing on the festival circuit but I’m a little dubious about making the film available online without the necessary context and framework,’ Furness told Wired.
‘It’s important to introduce context upfront, allow the viewer to experience the film, and then provide an “after-care” environment for people to decompress and potentially hold debates around what they’ve just witnessed.’
95 percent of the victims of violence are men. Because women feel flattered when men fight each other and kill each other to prove that they are real men.
As long as guys are cool with having a needle stuck in their junk.
Most people think of Botox as a cosmetic drug that does just one thing—it temporarily reduces the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles on the face by paralyzing the underlying muscles. As it turns out, Botox can do so much more: In recent years, doctors have found that it can be useful for treating a wide range of medical conditions, including chronic migraine headaches, an overactive bladder, excessive sweating, and even crossed eyes.
But that's not all. Botox, it turns out, also has the potential to help men who have concerns about the appearance and function of their penises. Here are three surprising things Botox can do down there.
It can increase flaccid penis size.
A recent survey of more than 4,000 US men found that guys' biggest complaint about their genitals was the length of their flaccid (non-erect) penises. More than one-quarter of respondents wanted theirs to be longer.
For a man who wishes he was more of a "shower," there aren't a whole lot of options on the market, short of expensive and risky surgical procedures and stretching devices that need to be worn several hours per day for months on end. Botox, however, could change that.
In a 2009 study, researchers used Botox to try and help guys who had a "hyperactive retraction reflex." In other words, these were men who experienced a lot more "shrinkage" (in the words of George Costanza) than others. Doctors made four injections around the base of the penis, with the goal of paralyzing the muscles responsible for the shrinkage reflex, known as the tunica dartos. And it worked.
Average flaccid size was about half an inch larger after the injections, and the guys didn't shrink as much in response to cold temperature. Most participants were happy with the outcome. However, it's important to note that erect size didn't change, and the effects were temporary—they lasted up to six months. So this isn't a one-shot deal—it's something you'd need to do at least a couple of times per year, just like if you were treating forehead wrinkles.
It might help guys last longer in bed.
Premature ejaculation is the most common sexual problem reported by men. There are tons of treatments out there for it already, including "delay sprays," Kegel exercises, and behavioral methods like the stop-start technique, but Botox might be another viable option in the near future.
In a 2014 study, researchers injected Botox into the bulbospongious muscle of male rats. This muscle sits at the base of the penis (see here) and is involved in ejaculation. Using Botox to paralyze this muscle can make sex last longer: For rats that received a placebo shot, their average time to ejaculation was six and a half minutes, compared to ten minutes for those that got a full dose of the drug.
There's a clinical trial underway right now to see if it works just as well in humans. We should know the results later this year, which will also tell us whether or not repeat doses are required, or if a single treatment might be enough for guys to learn more ejaculatory control.
It could help treat erectile dysfunction, too.
A new paper published in The Journal of Sexual Medicine argues that Botox could be a "game changer" when it comes to treating erectile dysfunction (ED). The thought here is that Botox could be used to paralyze the smooth muscles inside the erectile chambers of the penis. By relaxing these muscles, blood should be able to flow into the penis more easily.
A small study conducted in Egypt that was reported last year provided some initial support for this idea: Men with ED who received a Botox injection demonstrated improvements in penile blood flow. One patient, however, experienced priapism afterward—a prolonged erection that wouldn't go away on its own. This tells us that dosage is going to be very important: Too much muscle relaxation isn't a good thing.
Larger clinical trials should be underway soon, but in the meantime, it's important to highlight that any effects are going to be temporary and that once the Botox wears off, erectile difficulties will return because those muscles will start contracting and impeding blood flow again. Although it's not a permanent fix, Botox could be more appealing to some guys than Pfizer blue due to convenience: Rather than popping a pill every time they want to have sex, they could just get a couple of shots per year.
While scientists will undoubtedly continue to explore these and other effects of Botox on the penis, this doesn't necessarily mean patient demand will follow. Indeed, we don't know yet how many men are actually going to take advantage of these discoveries in the future. After all, if you want to experience any of the benefits of "bonetox," you have to be cool with someone sticking a needle in your junk.
The world in 200 years will be populated by a few thousand male humans who live indefinitely, and a huge number of female looking robots. Women aren't needed, really, and anyway, women are troublemakers, more than anything else.
Imagine you have a rare disorder, not unlike epilepsy, that causes your heart to slow to a near standstill. Imagine you black out one day and wake up in darkness in a small box, the smell of pine and cement heavy in your nostrils. You scream, but no one can hear you . You push at the top of the box, but it's not budging. Your breathing quickens. It slowly dawns on you — you've been buried alive.
And you're far from the first person who this has ever happened to.
The Mummies of Mexico
Like all of the 119 mummies in El Museo de las Mumias, Ignacia Aguilar fell victim to a cholera epidemic that swept Guanajuato, Mexico in 1833. The deceased were buried quickly to prevent the spread of disease in above ground mausoleums. Twenty years later, the local government disinterred some of the bodies and discovered they'd been naturally mummified. Today, the mummies are on display in the dimly lit museum's glass cases, where they stand upright against a wall.
But the story of one mummy, named Ignacia, is terrifying. Her hands are balled together above her heart. Her left elbow points downward. At first glance, her head appears to be resting on her elevated right arm. Upon closer inspection, Ignacia's teeth are dug into the forearm. Fingernail scratches run jagged in all directions across her forehead, and what little of her mouth is visible beneath the right arm is caked with dried blood. Her body was discovered face down in its coffin. No doubt about it. Ignacia Aguilar was buried alive.
Records indicate that Ignacia was epileptic and suffered from a rare concurrent disorder that lowered her heart rate so much it seemed not to beat at all. Imagine the young girl waking up, caught between a limited air supply and eternity amidst the scent of pine and cement. Scientists speculate the average person can survive between one and 18 hours in a modern coffin, depending on body size. It's impossible to guess how long tiny Ignacia in a 19th century mausoleum held out. However long it took, it's difficult to fathom a worse way to go. Perhaps being flayed by Soviet infantry.
Live Burial as Punishment
Since antiquity, premature burial has been employed as a means of capital punishment in various nations. In ancient Rome, Vestal Virgins who broke their vows of celibacy were immured in small caves. Ditto for rapists of virgins. In Middle Age Germany, live burial was reserved for women who committed infanticide. In medieval Italy, remorseless murderers were buried alive, headfirst, with their feet sticking above ground. Under 13th century Danish law, live burial was the execution of choice for female thieves. Male thieves were beheaded, which is, of course, preferable.
Women who killed their husbands in feudal Russia were buried alive in a sacred killing site known as The Pit. It's said that the Druid St. Oran offered to be buried alive as a sacrifice in order to banish the devil from meddling with the construction of a new abbey. Sometime later, his still-living body was dug up, but when Oran spoke of visiting an afterlife without heaven or hell, he was reburied for good.
There are numerous modern examples of mass live burials during wartime. Japanese soldiers buried Chinese POWs at Nanking. Nazis interred shtetl elders in Belarus and Ukraine. In the Killing Fields. During the Great Leap Forward. Last year, ISIS militants buried groups of Yazidi women and children alive in Iraq.
Horrible deaths all. But something about the accidental premature burial strikes even greater terror, perhaps because it's an equal opportunity killer. It renders one utterly powerless, and features the element of surprise. The occasional incident of a breathing body tumbling from a coffin dropped by some hapless pallbearer, or a screaming corpse on the embalming table, put some degree of fear concerning premature burial into the ether since at least the 1st century A.D. The only notable recorded case prior to the 19th century was philosopher John Duns Scotus, whose body was found outside his coffin upon the reopening of his tomb. However, beginning in the late 18th century, the fear became more widespread and peaked in the 1890's, when Italian psychiatrist Enrico Morselli gave it a name: Taphephobia.
George Washington willed that his body was not to be buried for two days following his death, just in case. A group of Victorians organized The Society for the Prevention of People Being Buried Alive in 1896. A number of “safety coffins” were invented in the l880's. One, patented in 1882 by U.S. inventor J.G. Krichbaum, featured a periscope that could be opened from within the coffin in order to supply air and signal that an error had been made. In 1885, The New York Times reported that one “Jenkins” of Buncombe County was discovered turned on his side in his coffin, and all of his hair was ripped from his scalp.
A year later the paper of record reported on a Canadian girl named “Collins” who was found in her coffin with her knees tucked against her chin. South Carolinian Julia Legare was placed in the family crypt in 1852. When her brother died 15 years later, the crypt was reopened, and the remains of Julia were found in a pile at the foot of the entrance. As late as 1895 there are reports of people being discovered alive in the morgue. One of the happier cases concerns Eleanor Markham, a 22-year-old upstate New York woman who was heard banging on the roof of her coffin as it was pulled from the hearse in 1894. Her Doctor rushed to her aid and said, “Hush child. You are all right. It is a missive easily rectified.”
Estimates of how commonly people were prematurely buried in the last century prior vary widely. In 1905, reformer William Tebb compiled 219 accounts of near-live burial, 149 of actual live burials, and 10 cases of accidental live dissection on the autopsy table.
The Live-Burial Epidemic
Why, though, do the reports of premature burial, aside from Scotus, not begin to appear regularly until the late 18thand early 19th centuries, and why do they seem to accelerate toward the end of the latter century? The answer is as phantasmagoric as the 19th century itself, that confluence of scientific discovery, the rise of mass journalism and the prophetic tendencies of Gothic literature. The ground of that century featured a strange soil sprouting new anxieties from the moribund world historical.
The disease that killed Ignacia Aguilar simultaneously increased and exposed the prevalence of premature burial. Cholera first spread from India to Russia in 1817, and shortly thereafter followed trade routes to Europe and the United States. Germ theory was neither credited nor widely known, but by this time there was a general understanding that disease was communicable through contact with the dead. During the cholera epidemics of the 19th century, from England to Guanajuato, the general order was for rapid burial, often in mass graves. On occasion, between pronouncement and the sod, a body was found displaying greater or lesser signs of sentience.
In 1854, physician John Snow mapped cholera cases in central London, observing high concentrations of infection near a water pump that was polluted with fecal matter. Government officials found his suggestion that the disease was caused by fecal-oral contact “too depressing” and the theory was dismissed. After the experiments of Louise Pasteur, German physician Robert Koch finally formulated a system for identifying the microorganisms that cause certain diseases, including cholera and tuberculosis in 1884. Koch's postulates triggered a fervent autopsy craze in the Western academies. Whether sanctioned or extralegal, disinterment by men of noble reason abounded in the last two decades of the century, which explains some of those horrific tomb discoveries mentioned previously.
The Persistence of Taphephobia
In part, taphephobia is a symbolic internalization of a dying God. The publication of Darwin's “The Origin of Species” in 1859 dismantled the Vatican and Church of England's cosmology – the static hierarchy of all His creations - and with it the certainty of a peaceful afterlife.
Rising literacy rates and the patenting of Koenig and Bauer's double-sided steam printing press in 1810 revolutionized the newspaper and book industries, popularizing macabre stories of premature burial. Edgar Allan Poe, above all, capitalized on the phobia and institutionalized it as a trope of Gothic lit. Three of his greatest short stories, “The Premature Burial,” “The Fall of the House of Usher” and “The Cask of Amontillado” center on premature burials, and are responsible for fueling the phobia with visceral expressiveness. In “The Premature Burial,” the protagonist describes his unrelenting anxiety over the title subject, then inevitably wills it to being. In the latter two stories, premature burial becomes a kind of trespass against what's supposed to be impossible, against the world of the living and the world of the dead. Here is a taste of the horror when what was supposed to be buried – whether bodies or information - becomes known.
What's fascinating about these three Poe tales is how prescient they are of the theories on taphephobia later introduced by Sigmund Freud. In his 1919 essay on the uncanny, Freud describes the prevalence of taphephobia among his patients as a “transformation of another phantasy which had originally nothing terrifying about it at all, but was qualified by a certain lasciviousness – the phantasy, I mean, of intra-uterine existence.”
In other words, the departed are like recollections of the womb. They should remain in the dirt, the subconscious. When we imagine our own premature burial, our womb memories wreak havoc on our consciousness. Like cognitive dissonance forged by a phallus thrust into the anterior cingular cortex, premature burial violates the division between life and death that allows Western minds to move their impermanent bodies through daily routines...as opposed to screaming their way to the sanitarium. Extrapolating Freudian, premature burial is a perfect symbol for the exposure of the subterranean, the terror of fresh knowledge, whether it be repressed desire, doubt and anxiety over religious or scientific faith, or profound shifts in the political paradigm. In short, the zeitgeist of the taphephobia era.
Medical advances and changes in funerary custom have nearly eradicated incidents of accidental premature burial in the 21st century. The phobia remains for many, of course, but not on the level a cultural epidemic. But if ever you'd like to experience the gravity of deprivation and existential terror that plagued the Victorian psyche, it can be easily done atop a dusty hill in Guanajuato, where the bodies of the dead stand half-clothed in tattered rags before the beyond.
Butea superba conditions the mind for superb sex. And don't underestimate the power of the mind. If your mind is in tune for optimal sex, you will reach 100 years and still enjoy doing it.
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