The question of life after death has occupied man’s mind since first he became consciously aware of his existence. Every civilisation has evolved its own beliefs and ideas about the kind of post-mortal existence man would enjoy or suffer, once his physical activity on earth had come to an end. In many cases such an after-life was believed to be identical with the life man had lived on earth, with the same physical needs and desires. Other civilisations created a new dimension for their dead, an Underworld, a Paradise or a Kingdom of Heaven. Man’s desire to communicate with the spirits of the dead goes back as far as his belief in an afterlife.
There are three reasons why he wishes to speak to the dead or be spoken to by them:
—1) a personal and emotional reason, caused by the loss of a close friend or relation;
—2) a sense of insecurity which moves him ‘to seek guidance and oracles of ghosts and familiar spirits’ (Isaiah), or in other words, to look upon death as the beginning of a more advanced and knowledgeable existence, in which the soul or spirit of the departed person gains advantages over man on earth, which he can share with the spirits through mediums, seers or other means of communication;
—3) man’s insatiable thirst for the truth.
He reasons that death cannot be the end of his total existence and he therefore wants to gain material proof of survival. In this quest for the truth he tries to be objective and examines any evidence in the light of scientific probability.
However, it is impossible for man to be completely unbiased and unprejudiced. He has a vested interest in the outcome of his investigation and research. Right from the start, he either seeks evidence of spiritual survival or proof that life after death is logically and scientifically impossible and only wishful thinking on the part of those who look for it. At the extreme ends of the scale we have, inevitably, those people to whom material evidence is a means to an end. To the vast majority of people material evidence either substantiates their religious beliefs or is in conflict with their philosophy of life. By the time we start thinking about life after death we are already pre-conditioned; our education, upbringing, religious or otherwise, political or economic environments, even the mood we are in when contemplating survival after death—all these factors determine not just our readiness to be objective in our evaluation of evidence, but our capacity to detach ourselves from human qualities which makes us a personality in contrast to a living computer. It may appear desirable to use a computer in evaluating such evidence; but we must recognise that a computer has to be fed its information by a person. It is therefore reasonable to assume that man’s most advanced invention, the computer, will only yield the result we desire. The ultimate decision to accept or reject evidence of life after death can only rest with man. Of course, he can abdicate his right of decision making; a church, an organisation or even a political party may be entrusted by its members to make decisions by proxy. The physical power at the disposal of such a body corporate determines the degree of conformity within its ranks.
Most of us owe a degree of allegiance to a body corporate; all of us were, at one time or other, pre-conditioned to a philosophy of life. Whatever evidence is put before us, our initial reaction will be in line with pre-conceived ideas. Our second reaction will be to weigh information against other evidence or doctrines and to seek a basis on which to justify our reaction and subsequent standpoint in a logical manner; if we are still uncertain, we ask for more evidence and finally for the approval or disapproval of those whom we believe to be more qualified.
This is exactly what has happened since strange, unaccountable voices were recorded on a tape recorder by Friedrich Jiirgenson in 1959. The ‘electronic voices’, as they came to be known, first of all presented a puzzle to electronics experts: as the number of recordings increased, so the puzzle became more difficult because not only were the voices impossible to explain from a scientific point of view, but the contents of speech, the communication of intelligible thought forms, presented additional problems. The first reaction, in accordance with our pre-conditioned reasoning, was to explain the voices as freak pick-ups or random radio waves. For about five years, scientists attempted to break this electronic mystery; it was then that a theory was put forward which is still under discussion today, that these voices must be of paranormal origin. The word paranormal simply means that something cannot be explained in normal physical terms. Normally there is no room for anything paranormal in applied science: if the voices do not originate from random but accountable radio waves, then the only possibility of determining their origin lies in excluding all radio waves from manifesting themselves on an electro-magnetic tape by a process of elimination. This science can do and has done, but the voices continue to manifest themselves. The only logical action left therefore, was to consider where such voices could originate. Three possible sources are:
—1) electronic impulses sent out by our subconscious mind and registered as human speech on the tape.
—2) voices transmitted by an unknown method from perhaps another planet or an intelligent source somewhere in the universe.
—3) people who have died on this earth and try to retain communication with those who are still here: in fact, that the voices originate from where they say they do.
Another explanation of the phenomenon, might be that these voices are not there at all and are just imagined. This explanation can now be discarded as wrong, since voice recordings have been printed on a visible speech printer, and can also be seen on oscillographs where they register as visible impulses, we can only accept the fact that they really are there.
This leaves 1) to 3) to choose from. The only evidence we can take into consideration and examine is the speech content. This then must be seen in relation to our understanding, logic, relevance and even the personal wishful thinking of the listener. On this basis of elimination, it soon becomes obvious that point 2) as a possible source of the voices cannot apply. No indication or even suggestion is contained in the many thousands of voices recorded which could justify the theory that another planet or intelligent being from somewhere in the universe is attempting to get in touch with us.
The insignificance, even banality of much of the speech content points to a not entirely unfamiliar pattern of human thought-forms, namely what we experience in dreams. Professor Dr. Hans Bender of the University of Freiburg, Germany retains, however, such an explanation as a possible alternative. He asks the question whether it is not possible for the subconscious to send out impulses which register on the tape as a human voice. Bender’s theory would, of course, be strengthened if the languages recorded by an experimenter were always those understood or spoken by himself or any one of the persons present during the experiment. For some time a number of case histories have been known where voices were recorded in a language which was neither spoken nor understood by the experimenter or his immediate circle of collaborators. Another factor to observe is that while the subconscious may well send out impulses, they would be unlikely to register as something so artificial as human speech. There is a substantial difference between a thought-form and its conversion into the spoken word. The latter is a conscious action which is often none too easy and can require a conscious effort.
The case histories of Dr. Raudive are not typical and cannot really be taken as evidence for disproving Bender’s theory because different languages are spoken in one sentence. Even the misuse of language and grammar in many of Raudive’s recordings does not prove Bender wrong. On the contrary, the polyglot nature of Raudive’s experiments is no handicap to his ability to understand them. His interpretation of speech content often differs greatly from that of other listeners, and recent examinations by David Ellis, who is studying the Voice Phenomenon under the auspices of Trinity College, Cambridge, have shown that Dr. Raudive has been known to interpret radio pick-ups as genuine Voice Phenomena. But as most of his case histories are examined independently, and many of his recordings are conducted by a group of scientists, such cases of misinterpretation are far and few between. But I have noticed myself that on occasions, perhaps because he is pressed too hard by observers, Konstantin Raudive is capable of making mistakes which could be used as evidence against him.
As I mentioned before, a number of experimenters have received voice recordings which could not be translated or interpreted by them or anybody connected with the experiment. These were later found to be in a foreign language but quite coherent in content. As the conditions under which the recordings were made exclude the possibility of freak pick-up from outside transmitters, Professor Bender’s theory or alternative explanation cannot apply in such cases. Therefore the theory does not provide a scientifically valid solution, but this is not the only reason for refusing to accept the ‘animistic’ theory: the chances against a series of electronic impulses from the subconscious manifesting themselves in sounds which correspond—even remotely—to common speech in any language are mathematically so great and improbable that they must be ruled out. The proverbial chimpanzee at the piano has a far better mathematical chance of playing all of Beethoven’s sonatas than a single thought form has of manifesting itself through electronic impulses and recording itself as human speech.
It is the third explanation that Breakthough and this book are concerned with. Having been unable to explain the Phenomenon with our pre-conceived ideas about its possible origin, and after tentative dismissal of points i) and a), we asked for more evidence to substantiate the case that these voices originated from those we knew had died. Throughout the process of examining the additional evidence we have sought approval from those whom we believed to be more qualified than we were, in order to come to a decision. The struggle for the truth, the disappointments and successes along the path of discovery are as important as the truth itself. All I endeavour to do here is to ‘take stock’ of what is there and what is missing. The German, Swedish and some other European scientists, philosophers and theologians have often been primarily concerned with discovering an absolute truth and with the presentation of final, unchangeable dogmas. In Britain and Ireland, those who have studied the Voice Phenomenon have been concerned with a relative truth and placed the human being with all his faults, shortcomings and emotions top of the list of priorities. In Germany, especially, scientists, psychologists and theologians have been digging their entrenched positions from which they fight each other’s theories: once a position is taken up, that is the end of it. The guarding of personal reputation and position becomes ultimately far more important than the object of the exercise. ‘Those who are not for me, are against me’ is still very much the slogan of the intellectual leadership.
The arrival, development and public demonstration of the electronic Voice Phenomenon in the British press is worth while studying, quite apart from its validity as a paranormal or psychic phenomenon. This record will also help in establishing which questions have been asked and answered satisfactorily and which problems remain still to be solved; it may even help in preventing the time-consuming repetition of arguments, and give to those who are interested in the Voice Phenomenon a chance to carry on the discussion from where others have left off. Any criticism I make in the course of this narrative is my own personal opinion which I do not expect to be shared by every reader. I have been far too involved in the whole matter to remain completely objective and unbiased, and the reader must bear this in mind when judging my personal evidence. Wherever I have quoted somebody else’s opinion, I have done so verbatim and from authentic records.
“A Question of Belief” is an extract from Carry On Talking: How Dead Are the Voices? by Peter Bander published by White Crow Books.