Examining the Best Evidence
“Show me the proof!” is the frequent cry of the skeptic, atheist, humanist, materialist, debunker, whatever label the person chooses. I believe the word nihilist best describes all of them, as it implies that the person believes in nothing beyond our physical world. I have encountered many nihilists over my 83 years and usually respond to such a demand by telling them that I can cite evidence, not proof. The latter is subjective and is arrived at by weighing the evidence. I explain that I can’t provide evidence that will give the person “absolute certainty,” but that to any open mind it will at the very least meet the “preponderance of evidence” standard of our civil court system, meaning, in effect, that the evidence for it outweighs the evidence against it. A preponderance can mean only 51 percent of the evidence is in favor of it and 49 percent opposed to it. That 51 percent, however, will result in a judgment for the plaintiff in the case – success even if very marginal. I usually add that I believe the evidence goes far beyond the preponderance standard and meets the “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard of our criminal courts. I don’t know if a percentage can be applied to that standard, but I put my acceptance of the evidence at 98.8 percent, leaving me as a 1.2-percent skeptic.
As we continue to discuss the subject, it soon becomes clear that the nihilist and I are talking about different things. The nihilist is demanding proof of God, while I’m talking about evidence that consciousness survives death, evidence for an afterlife. The nihilist seems to assume that God and an afterlife are concomitants, that they go hand-in-hand, and that we must have proof of God before we can even discuss survival. I explain that I very much doubt the existence of an anthropomorphic (humanlike) god, the God of most religions, and in that respect I might be considered an atheist. At the same time, I believe there is some creative force or intelligence behind it all, but I have concluded that it is beyond human comprehension and so I see no point in discussing it. I might mention that I still cling somewhat to my Christian roots and look at Jesus as akin to “Chairman of the Board” on the Other Side. Like most people, I need something to visualize, and seeing Jesus in that role helps me overcome the abstractness of it all. I suspect that is the very reason the Council of Nicaea, headed by Constantine in AD 325, decided to make Jesus part of the Godhead. It was much easier to visualize and pray to a human figure than to an abstract creative force.
At this point in the discussion, the nihilist has backed off a little, perhaps now realizing that I am not going to call on the Bible for evidence. “So what evidence are you talking about?” he or she snorts. I know that most nihilists are stuck in their views and that nothing I have to say will move them toward belief, but I consider the possibility that a little of the evidence I have to offer will stick in the person’s subconscious and perhaps take on some meaning in the future. I know that many young people are so involved in raising families, pursuing careers, playing with their electronic gadgets, and what not, that they feel no need to even think about survival, but I have also observed that when the nest is empty, when careers are over, when playing with toys is not nearly as fulfilling as it once was, and when loved ones start dying or suffering from terminal disorders, that fears about death begin to surface. At some point, those fears can result in great despair, hopelessness and grief.
“They come and they go and they trot and they dance, and never a word about death. All well and good,” wrote French philosopher Michel de Montaigne. “Yet, when death does come – to them, their wives, their children, their friends – catching them unawares and unprepared, then what storms of passion overwhelm them, what cries, what fury, what despair!” (Montaigne)
I point out to the nihilist that I am referring to the evidence that has come to us through psychical research, primarily that documented between 1850 and 1935, but I add that more recent research in near-death experiences, clairvoyance, past-life studies, instrumental trans-communication, deathbed phenomena and induced after death communication has all added to the evidence developed by the pioneering psychical researchers. If the person shows any interest at all in continuing the discussion, I mention some of the pioneers of psychical research, including Robert Hare, professor of chemistry at the University of Pennsylvania and a world-renowned inventor; Alfred Russel Wallace, co-originator with Charles Darwin of the natural selection theory of evolution; Sir William Crookes, the discoverer of the element thallium and a pioneer in x-ray technology; Professor William James, one of the founders of modern psychology; Sir Oliver Lodge, professor of physics at the University of Liverpool and a pioneer in radiology, electricity and radio; Sir William Barrett, a professor of physics at the Royal College of Dublin who developed a silicon-iron alloy important to the development of the telephone; Camille Flammarion, founder of the French Astronomical Society; Professor Charles Richet, a Nobel Prize winner in medicine, and many others.
Those great men did not come to their conclusions after one or two observations of mediums; they studied them dozens, sometimes hundreds, of times. Richet reported more than 200 sittings with medium Eusapia Palladino, while Lodge carried out 83 experiments with Piper on her first visit to England and more on later visits. Dr. Richard Hodgson, who set out to debunk medium Leonora Piper, studied her on the average three times a week for 18 years. Baron Albert von Schrenck-Notzing, a German neurologist, studied mediums for some 40 years.
Yes, I inform the nihilist, a few of those scientists, like Richet, would not go far as to say that the phenomena they had witnessed suggested life after death, but they at least recognized the phenomena as genuine and resulting from something other than deception or delusional states of mind. The evidence for them was overwhelming, beyond a reasonable doubt. Nevertheless, their peers spewed animosity, cynicism, antagonism, bitterness, rancor, enmity, and contempt at them, their attacks usually launched from deep foxholes. It was enough to discourage others from entering the field, and that’s why the best evidence came before 1935.
Generally, the nihilist knows nothing about the old research, but has read that all the research on the near-death experience has been debunked as nothing more than the hallucinations of an oxygen-deprived brain. Later, he will check Wikipedia and call my attention to the “fact” that all the researchers I mentioned to him were victims of clever tricksters. The Wikipedia writers must know, they assume.
The nihilist has no clue as to the phenomena themselves, nor does he or she realize how debunkers viciously twist words, distort facts, take things out of context, use hearsay, make irrelevant statements, spread unfounded rumors, and apply terrestrial standards to celestial matters: whatever they believe it will take to defame the person who has seen the light and thereby discredit his or her message. They wave the banner of science, fancying themselves as defenders of science. Had they lived a hundred years ago, they would have had a good laugh at the idea of the internet and other modern technology that was not yet conceived by science.
Psychical Research Not Parapsychology
The nihilist will likely confuse psychical research with parapsychology. I explain that psychical research was replaced by parapsychology during the 1930s, the reason being that the phenomena studied by psychical researchers were clearly beyond mainstream science and that although nearly all scientists and scholars who devoted any time to it were convinced that much of it was genuine, not fraud, as the debunkers proclaimed, they went well past the point of diminishing returns in their research. They were satisfied, and they realized that the debunkers could never be satisfied. As the pioneers of psychical research died off, the parapsychologists replacing them focused on extrasensory perception and telekinetic phenomena, avoiding any discussion of spirits and survival. To even mention those subjects was to discourage funding and commit professional suicide.
Since total extinction or obliteration of the personality is not a particularly inviting thought for most people, one would assume that such news as that offered by the pioneers of psychical research would be welcomed and celebrated. “The decisive question for man is: Is he related to something infinite or not? That is the telling question of his life,” wrote Dr. Carl Jung, one of the giants of psychology. “Only if we know that the thing which truly matters is the infinite can we avoid fixing our interest upon futilities, and upon all kinds of goals which are not of real importance.” (Jung, 1989)
The nihilist responds to that by saying that he lives for today, not for some far-off future and further says that he is not bothered by the idea of extinction, since, lacking consciousness, he will not be aware of it. It will be an eternal sleep and something to look forward to. But such “courage” easily erodes when a loved one dies or the nihilist himself is diagnosed with a terminal disease and told that his days are numbered. To quote Professor James, who saw such an attitude as one of bravado rather than courage: “The moralist must hold his breath and keep his muscles tense; and so long as this athletic attitude is possible all goes well – morality suffices. But the athletic attitude tends ever to break down and it inevitably does break down even in the most stalwart when the organism begins to decay, or when morbid fears invade the mind.” (James)
Believers Also Reject
Meanwhile, those subscribing to religions also reject the evidence. Some of it does not support established dogma and doctrine of their churches and therefore they conclude that it must be demonic, no matter that it makes much more sense than what their church leaders have preached to them. If it can’t be found in the Bible or whatever good book the person accepts, it must be false teaching. It comes from devils in sheep’s clothing. They cite passages from scripture saying that “we should not consult the dead” and that the “dead know nothing,” not realizing that the original reference was to the “spiritually dead,” or what might be called earthbound spirits. They say faith is enough for them and that the good book is all the evidence they need. However, when things get tough, they seemingly quiver in fear as much as the nihilists.
In effect, it is one perplexing paradox in that evidence lending itself to man’s greatest need – to defeat death – is met with the greatest hostility possible. Why is the most positive news possible met with the most negative reaction? The reader is invited to turn to the appendix at the end of this book for the answers to this question.
Again, to quote Dr. Jung: “A man should be able to say he has done his best to form a conception of life after death, or to create some image of it – even if he must confess his failure. Not to have done so is a vital loss.” (Jung, 1989) It is to that end that this book is offered.
Publisher: White Crow Books
Published January 26, 2021
Size: 6 x 9 inches / 229 x 152 mm