A Longing After Immortality
Posted on 06 June 2022, 6:09
Many thanks to guest blogist Howard N. Brown, D. D. for writing this blog. It first appeared in the March 1914 issue of the Journal of the The American Society for Psychical Research (Volume VIII, No. 3. Since it was written entirely by Dr. Brown, (below) no quotes are used.
Much has been said of the moral value of the idea of immortality both as a warning to prospective evil-doers, and as a support to those who must endure present wrong. It is, distinctly, in these ways a moral power. But of far greater consequences it is that, in the end, our feeling and persuasion of the rationality of existence are at stake upon it. Moral considerations have slight force when life becomes to a man what it was to the man Macbeth – “A tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury.” Moral impulses may survive, for a long time, in the agnostic mind, which is not sure whether or not it lives in a rational universe, since that mind leaves open the possibility that reason rules, after all. But morality cannot make much headway except as it finds under its feet a strong conviction that life is a reasonable thing, and is going a road whose ultimate goal is worth what it costs to get there.
The ordinary mind may not think things out very far, but it is quick to feel when the central entrenchments of its life are being undermined; and to nothing is it more sensitive than to attacks on its belief in the immortal life. It feels, and has a right to feel, that when this is destroyed there is nothing left, at last, but a mad and ruthless scramble for the material enjoyments of this present life.
Critics of the belief have vastly overworked the suggestion that it springs out of the desire for continued existence. If man could keep his life here indefinitely, in bodily health and vigor, no doubt that is what he would prefer. But it is no wise probable that many people do feel so much “longing after immortality.” They are generally in no haste to take that boon when it appears to be close within their reach. While we know so little about that other life it cannot be so very attractive to us. The instinctive belief in it springs from a deeper root. We are bound to believe if we can in a rational universe, and we know in our hearts that it cannot be made to seem rational without the idea of immortality.
But while all unsophisticated life is in the habit of taking freely what it wants and not bothering much about the logical justification of such proceedings, we have come to a time when a rapidly increasing number of people will not and can not jump these intellectual chasms. It is not enough for them to know that they much prefer to live in a rational universe, nor even that it is essential to common morality to have it appear a rational universe. The question still recurs: “Is it, in fact, a rational universe?”
And here is the true bearing of the work which psychic research has undertaken. If it can find proof of the persistence of personal memory and personal intelligence after death, then there is an answer to the doubts of the cultivated man when he queries whether, after all, life is worth living. That shows him a way by which to uphold, intelligently, the rationality of existence. Lacking this, he is thrown back into more or less uncertainty whether the great drama of the world’s life has any meaning or an end. The academic world ought, at this moment, to be hanging with breathless interest upon the result of experiments and examinations that are being conducted with this purpose in view. That it is not, we must ascribe to the fact that, save in the use of certain technical tools, the academic world is not so very much wiser than some other folks. No doubt in a matter of such vast interest more than ordinary precaution is likely to be preserved among thinking people. But it might be more generally recognized that even a small amount of good evidence tending to uphold belief in a future life, and so to strengthen the conviction that existence is a reasonable reality, would possess untold moral value.
To champions of extreme democratic ideas this may not mean so much. It may be said that the great mass of men always have, and always will believe in immortality, with or without evidence; and that it is only the life of this mass which really counts. But all who think that the general life is much swayed by and largely takes its tone from the character of the more intellectual classes, will realize the moral significance of the question whether or not the intellectual man is to continue to keep the idea of an immortal life. It may be frankly granted that, apart from some kind of evidence, it is practically an unbelievable idea; I think, notwithstanding all our fine-spun theories to account for its origin and rise to power, common sense will say it never could have obtained its hold upon the general mind without evidence which that mind regarded as satisfactory. The attempt now to supply the trained intellect with evidence of the continuance of life beyond death, evidence which it can and must respect, is one that every lover of his kind should wish might be finally crowned with success.
I very much doubt whether any human thought can fathom the infinite mind. But what I want is enough of drama or plan in existence, as it is known to me, to give assurance that I can ultimately arrive at some more perfect understanding of the mysteries of being. With the future life in view I can be satisfied that the world, so far as I am able to know it, is a reasonable creation, and has a reasonable movement toward a reasonable end. This does not answer all the questions about the universe that I am disposed to ask. But for some of these answers I can wait till more light is afforded me.
Michael Tymn is the author of The Afterlife Revealed: What Happens After We Die, Resurrecting Leonora Piper: How Science Discovered the Afterlife, and Dead Men Talking: Afterlife Communication from World War I.
His latest book, No One Really Dies: 25 Reasons to Believe in an Afterlife is published by White Crow books.
Next blog post: June 20
Well, well, well! An interesting article—-in “Psychology Today” no less. Not really surprising since in my experience more and more psychologists and psychiatrists are beginning to acknowledge a possible spiritual aspect of human mental illness, some even going so far as to use reincarnation, spirit possession and overshadowing by spirit entities as causes. It is interesting that the author, Steve Taylor Ph.D. kept away from anything that might suggest something spiritual. I had to laugh when he said that ” [E]xperiences are more likely to be reported in Brazil, perhaps due to a cultural climate of greater openness.” A cultural climate of greater openness, eh? Even Taylor, with all due credit for chancing to submit his article to Psychology Today, was afraid to write the words “A cultural belief in Spiritism in Brasil.” Nor did he mention Brazil’s hero Chico Xavier who was so revered for his healing powers through contact with the spirit world that his likeness was placed on a postage stamp of Brasil. He could only get by the editor by focusing on “Psi” with the hope of finding a scientific explanation for it and referring to “greater openness.” of the Brasilians. What a cop-out! Brasil is the one country with perhaps the most people who believe in spirits and reincarnation. If that is “openness” then so be it. Their belief system is “Spiritism!” not “Openness!”
I know I am making a mountain out of a molehill but really now let’s call a spade a spade! Scientism is opposed to Spiritism not Psi. There might be the remote possibility that Psi is caused by the brain, even though the explanation is lacking, so that is safer for scientists to contemplate, safer than survival of human consciousness and definitely safer than thinking that there might be a supreme entity or Source called by some—-God! - AOD
Amos Oliver Doyle, Sat 18 Jun, 13:54
The statement Don quotes from the post-transition William James sounds to me exactly the kind of description one might make to share with the hearer an awareness of “God” that is a stage nearer to Her/Him than we are, but still strains to look upwards as if into the dazzling sun, as we do ourselves. In other words, I am sure the post-incarnate William James is right, and is continuing to grow in spiritual stature in his new universe, probably a five-dimensional one like the one William Barrett struggles to describe in his widow’s book ‘Personality Survives Death’.
Eric Franklin, Sat 18 Jun, 12:12
The current issue of “Psychology Today” has an interesting article on resistance to PSI by Science, by Steven Taylor. It can be seen at
Michael Tymn, Sat 18 Jun, 06:02
On the nature of “God”...
Perhaps the best attempt at the totally impossible task of describing the ineffable came from the (afterlife) pen of William James…
“Nowhere have I encountered the furnishings of a conventional heaven or glimpsed the face of God. On the other hand, certainly I dwell in a psychological heaven by earth’s standards, for everywhere I sense a presence, or atmosphere, or atmospheric presence that is well-intentioned, gentle yet powerful, and all-knowing. This seems to be a psychological presence of such stunning parts, however, that I can point to no one place and identify it as being there in contrast to being someplace else. At the risk of understating, this presence seems more like a loving condition that permeates existence, and from which all existence springs.”
(Above is from Jane Roberts’ “Afterdeath Journal of an American Philosopher,” page 162)
Don Porteous, Thu 16 Jun, 14:15
Thanks, Chris and Eric, for your comments. The picture of God that emerges for me is much too abstract. As I have often stated, I cling to my Christian roots in that regard and prefer to think of Jesus as the “Chairman.” I doubt that I will know any more than that even after I transition.
Michael Tymn, Thu 16 Jun, 06:58
Chris De Cat, Wed 15 Jun, 08:47
Ik personal believe in a’All That Is’ divine version, so it concludes everything that exists, a polyunity as Eric describes, but is it important how it looks or is it important that it ‘IS’.
I once made the comparison with the human and a cell…maybe we are not in a position to have a complete and correct viewpoint to understand what ‘God’ is.
I think that the picture will become more clearly as we evolve, not only on earth but alsof in heaven. The after death communicators do not live on the same level, but not one is denying the existence of a divine creator.
Dear Michael (Tymn) and all,
It is very useful to think that the being that we want to say rules everything, who created everything, controls everything, IS the WHOLE of everything, so that that being has no rival force to contend with. All the “things” our conceptualising thinks it “sees” around about us are then WITHIN that Great Being. I think this may moderately well describe the Daoist notion, and the Heideggerian.
Once we find this conceptualisation appealing to our intellect and our aesthetic sense THEN all facts about the “us” who are included somehow within that Great ALL-Being ARE EVIDENCE of “its” continuous existence, a timeless, changeless, ie eternal Being-there-ness, that CONTAINS all “things”, all smaller “beings”, all distinguishable “presences” (such as each one of us), and all change within “It"self, but without itself being subject to those changes. We then realise our own (very subsidiary) on-goingness as eternally alive within that ALL. (In clumsy low language and clumsy low concept, God can ALWAYS re-imagine us into being there, being alive before “Him”, so we are immortal, not by any virtue whatsoever of our own, but by being part of “God” from the beginning of the eternal (forgive the oxymoron). One cannot describe this in rational words, so must contemplate it and so “see” it, discarding the words.
The great personages of those religions which promote a hero, such as Christianity, do indeed promote good beings who can and should be emulated, but are a long way below the concept of an ALL Who contains every little being, which is a worthy attempt at a top-down conception such as “God” Him/Herself must have, being Lord of all “He” surveys. In Maureen Lockhart’s book I have described this better concept of the Wholeness that is reality as a PART-TO-WHOLE DUALITY, ie us within God, something most philosophers are very slow to understand.
This is straight off the top of my busy-day post-breakfast head, and doubtless full of verbal clumsinesses. Only poor thinkers take any final notice of the words that try to point out the rocky path to true realisation, which is why Moses (not Stainton) thought he knew the word when what was needed was an unverbalisable but graspable and liveable WORDLESS concept of seeing and being.
Eric Franklin, Wed 15 Jun, 08:45
If I am interpreting your question correctly, you are asking if evidence suggesting that consciousness survives death is also evidence of a God or gods. I believe it is, but the problem then becomes defining “God.” Is God an anthropomorphic being or some form of cosmic consciousness that is beyond human understanding?
Michael Tymn, Tue 14 Jun, 22:21
Many people—-not all—-who report an NDE mention that they encountered one or more spiritual or light-beings of a sort. Sometime they recognize these beings as deceased family members, others see them as old wise beings. They often appear in groups of three with one being dominant and often reported as the largest of the three. Often they seem to be advisors who guide the NDE-er through the life review. Elizabeth Krohn in the video I linked below reported that she thought the being was her grandfather because he sounded like her grandfather but upon reflection after her NDE she thought that the being was God. Most of the time the face of the being is not clearly discernible.
I think the consensus regarding these beings is that they are not human although they sometimes appear as deceased humans, and as I recall and as reported by Haraldsson and Osis in their book “At The Hour of Death”, non-Christians living in India reported meeting bureaucratic “Yamdoots” or servants of the gods of death who come to take them away during their near death experience. Christians and Jews may regard these entities as angels. I don’t recall that in the NDEs I have read that anyone flat-out denied the existence of God or a Supreme being during an NDE but they are more likely, if they are from a Christian background to say that they met Jesus.
It may be that the light-beings assume the form of anyone with whom the NDE-er has had some relationship whether a family member, friend or religious figure. In the movie “What Dreams May Come” staring Robin Williams, this fluidity of appearance of spiritual beings is dramatically portrayed. I recommend this movie highly, but unfortunately it is a pay per view film. Still, it is well worth the money if you are inclined to pay for it. - AOD
Amos Oliver Doyle, Tue 14 Jun, 15:07
Let’s take my last question one step further. If not one after death communication openly denies the existence of a divine creator (not speaking of is not the same as openly denying)and most of them openly speak of that divine being and if you believe in a afterlife with those after death communications as proof, wouldn’t it be logical to also believe in the existance of a sort of god?
Chris, Tue 14 Jun, 08:18
Thanks to Amos for the link. Elizabeth Krohn’s book was well worth the read and I look forward to viewing the video as soon as I can find 90 uninterrupted minutes.
I just came upon a comment by Sir Oliver Lodge about Frederic Myers that I do not recall having read before. Said Lodge: “I never knew a man so hopeful concerning his ultimate destiny. He once asked me if I would barter—if it were possible—my unknown destiny, whatever it might be, for as many aeons of unmitigated and wise terrestrial happiness as might last till the secular fading of the sun, and then an end. He would not?” (Proc. SPR, Vol. 44, PP53-97) 1936
Michael Tymn, Mon 13 Jun, 23:34
Here is a recent video of Elizabeth Krohn about her NDE and how it has effected her life. Mrs. Krohn is one of the Bigelow contest winners. This is a long video (about an hour and a half) but it is well worth it if you can spare the time. - AOD
Amos Oliver Doyle, Mon 13 Jun, 02:26
Congratulations to Don on his book and thanks to all for the comments here. I’ve had sundry time and energy conflicts and challenges the past month or more and therefore unable to respond to a few comments, but I think I am gradually overcoming them. I’m presently rereading the works of physicist Raynor C. Johnson, someone I’ve badly neglected in these blogs and hope to do a future blog or two on his research and studies. Here’s an interesting 1957 quote from “The Decisive Testimony,” in which Johnson offers much wisdom from the his communication with Ambrose Pratt through medium Geraldine Cummins:
“I do not blame the scientist for not recognizing the implications of the assertion that the universe is a continuum of energy. They deal only in ponderables, the weighable, the physical, the analysable. They deal with only a fraction of the real world. But as I perceive the modern world below its surface there appears a related phenomenon which is the collapse of moral values. Mankind seems to be reverting to the Dark Ages equipped with all the resources of a perverted science. On earth, scientists appear to be regarded as authorities on almost everything. They are not to blame because their discoveries have helped so much to produce the fading out of moral values….”
Michael Tymn, Sun 12 Jun, 22:40
Amos & Eric…
Sincere thanks for “priming the pump”...much appreciated.
Don Porteous, Sun 12 Jun, 13:55
Amos Oliver Doyle, Thu 9 Jun, 17:11
Congratulations. I ordered a copy. -AOD
Dear Don and dear Chris,
I do warmly thank you both for voicing your agreement with a notion or two that have crossed my mind. It is so pleasant to feel valued, and so pleasant to see you, Don, on the Amazon website, a scholarly, dignified, serious man, author of a book I have been privileged to read previously, and have now ordered online. It should be here by 11 June, and I shall then read it again, and re-experience the huge (what word is adequate? - there ain’t one) the huge satisfaction and assurance it afforded me when Don extended the privilege of studying it throughly several times about a year ago, when Dr Maureen Lockhart, another author of a good book, was still enduring a painful Earth-life, and neede my 24/7 care. I needed your book, Don, and now I shall have it in solid form. Thank you, Don, and - as always - thanks to Michael (Tymn) for his blogs. He deserved the pause to rest from his labours that a good article by Howard Brown has afforded him this time. . .
Eric Franklin, Thu 9 Jun, 16:22
You’re on a roll with your new word and phrase coinages. I’ve already given you my opinion (glowing) of your totally-on-target “reverent science”....I’ll have to add the same sentiment with regard to “polyunity” (no “definition” appears anywhere online, just a handful of companies with that name). Good thinking!
A QUICK PERSONAL UPDATE…
For any who might be interested…my long-worked-on book “Spiritual Reality and the Afterlife” is
finally available on Amazon (under my name with “initials”—D.C. Porteous, Jr.—as author.
If any of you feel moved to pick up a copy, and if you find it to have any value or helpfulness, I would be immensely appreciative if you could find the time to leave a “review” of it on my book-page at Amazon. As any other authors here are well aware, “reviews” are the life-blood for any book. My profound thanks in advance!
Don Porteous, Thu 9 Jun, 14:43
That is also my viewpoint on All That Is, Eric.
Chris, Thu 9 Jun, 14:19
I think the concept of ‘many in one’ which Newton may allude to and Chris queries in his question about denial of God by spirit teachers or other spirit entities is addressed by many of the near death experiencers who report encountering an entity of sorts, an all encompassing presence or a warm loving light, not in an identifiable human form but nevertheless, an entity that seems to be all knowing and able to communicate through thought transference. Some people identify that presence as God while others think it might be a higher spirit of some sorts, perhaps Jesus. The ‘many in one’ concept is evident in the ‘Trinity’, the ‘group soul’ and the ‘interconnectedness of all things’ and the ‘oneness of creation’ as well as thoughts that spirits, as they advance through higher levels of existence, return to their Source in which their individual identity is not lost. These are all ideas about the oneness of creation and that ‘oneness’ being the ‘Supreme Entity’. - AOD
Amos Oliver Doyle, Thu 9 Jun, 13:12
Dear Newton, and all,
I was brought up by people who denied that God is a trinity. Those disreputable heathen had ideas like that, obviously therefore rebels against God, and His truth, revealed perfectly in words(!) in the Bible, the known adulterations thereof over the centuries notwithstanding - GOD’S WORD!
It was therefore natural for me to realise, decades later, free at last of their wrong ideas, that the ‘final’ result of God’s plan, after producing within Him/Herself the cosmos as a whole, would be not a trinity, but a polyunity, each of us a tiny spirit that is a tiny part of the Whole. Expressed verbally, this idea is full of anomalies, of course, but contemplated meditatively it is surely right. After all, the Hindus had espoused the concept long before with the realisation that ‘Tat twam asi’, a polyunity.
Eric Franklin, Thu 9 Jun, 05:23
Perhaps the phrase ‘Reverent Science’ describes the true and real spirituality we all need, and in our age can now achieve. Reverent science should now replace and displace all man-made ‘religions’, the dogmas of which are mostly erroneous and have misled and oppressed us far too long. An honest science that acknowledges that it must be a part of the all-containing Being that is the real God of all the universes lives and moves and has its very being in that which it studies - the Great Being Him/Herself, and August Goforth’s worthy aim to assist the grieving would be achieved by Reverent Science. The phrase is a suitable pithy label for spirituality itself, and has found some approval as a summing up of what should fill our lives while we remain down here in the physical universe.
Eric Franklin, Wed 8 Jun, 06:40
Thank you, Michael, for bringing back this beautiful essay. Had a thought just now while pondering the hidden but pervasive angel/spirit ministry described in Spirit Teachings. Would it be more accurate, I wonder,to pluralize the last member of the trinity—namely, Holy Spirits rather than Holy Spirit?
This third “person” of the trinity has always seemed to me somewhat amorphous or superfluous, hard to get a handle on. But it would make perfect sense in reference to the angel/spirit ministry which Imperator insists envelopes and aids us all.
Newton E. Finn, Wed 8 Jun, 01:47
Hello Augustus, I also like your blog ‘the risen’. It is a pitty, I seem not be able to send any reaction on that blog.
Chris De Cat, Tue 7 Jun, 20:17
Amos, I ask myself, is there any spirit teacher or passed one that communicated with the living that openly denied that there was a sort of God?
I don’t know anyone.
It is the longing that is the cause of our intellectual suffering. I would like to offer these three suggestions as given in our book,
The Risen: A Companion to Grief
THE UNPRETENTIOUS WAYS:
August Goforth, Tue 7 Jun, 14:08
1. Feel your grief, but not forever. Then use your love to leave it. Do this not just for your Risen Loved Ones but also for yourself. Make every effort to consciously and continuously use your love and life to prepare for your own eventual transition and relocation.
2. Strive to comprehend and then really feel the truth of your actual immortality as it is now. Feeling your own personal and present immortality will deprive grief of its energy and release the joy of living to rise again.
3. Fear not, for you have always been and always will be free. Release all fearful beliefs about death to feel the adventurous anticipation of your immortal freedom.
Sorry! Maybe this link will work.
Amos Oliver Doyle, Tue 7 Jun, 13:33
The first thing that comes to mind when I see this article is the book “Immortal Longings: F.W.H. Myers the Victorian Search” by Trevor Hamilton:
I highly recommend this book about the life of Frederic Myers. It provides a comprehensive telling of Myers’ life. Perhaps the quintessential book about Myers so far. It would make a good BBC television series, I think.
And I like the line by Dr. Brown that, “[W]e must ascribe to the fact that, save in the use of certain technical tools, the academic world is not so very much wiser than some other folks.”
Perhaps that sentiment is much more true today than it was in Dr. Brown’s time.
Brown quotes ‘Macbeth when he says that life is “A tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury” but he left out the relevant ending—-“signifying nothing.”
Well, morals /morality is a cultural construct. It has nothing to do with the Universe. However, it does seem that the Universe operates according to some rational, reasonable, (sensible to us) plan. It, and all life and non-life on earth do seem to have some organized structure. As it is perceived, the universe and life on earth are not chaotic. But without some currently unknown ‘glue’ everything would tend toward chaos. And that is the real question. Who or what is that ‘glue that holds the universe and all life together? Life and the forms it inhabits are fantastical in creation but perhaps we are too close to it to recognize the phantasmagoria and impossibility of its design and function, unable to see the intelligence behind that design and function. That could be ‘GOD’ but that term has connotations which cause some people to close their mind. It is time to think of God as something much larger than Michelangelo’s depiction on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. And God may be closer to the human being that his very breath. It is difficult for humans to think that perhaps they are part of God, that God is intelligence, vibration, a force for creation and love. But it is time to move forward from the Sistine Chapel and seriously consider the newer evidence for survival of not only human spirits but all consciousness that dwells in living forms.
Things seem to move slowly on earth but more evidence is accumulating that there is meaning and purpose to human existence. NDEs. Electronic Voice Phenomena, better Mediumistic Communication and automatic writing with spirits all provide evidence that was not available in Dr. Brown’s time.
Is the universe rational? is not the question. Morality is not the issue. The question of meaning in life probably can’t be answered from this side of the veil. And, most likely the answer, provided on the other side of life will only be an individual answer for a given life from which learning and growth of the spirit can be achieved.
One last comment. I have often thought that intelligent people, e.g. academics, are more likely to silently believe in an afterlife. Maybe I should say that they desire survival of their consciousness mainly because they highly value their own intellect and can’t fathom that it would blink into nothingness. What a waste! - AOD
“All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances;
And one man in his time plays many parts”
Amos Oliver Doyle, Mon 6 Jun, 18:15
Please notify comments
Eric Franklin, Mon 6 Jun, 09:23
This blog by Howard Brown is an impressive piece of logical reasoning. His thought takes several unexpected, but totally rational, turns, and must be one of the clearest texts of the writer’s period I have ever read, each turn not a subsidiary complexity, but a clear new direction of valid reason. Bravo Howard Brown! I had never heard of you until now, but your voice is clear above the crowd of most of your contemporaries and above many voices from other eras too.
Eric Franklin, Mon 6 Jun, 07:42
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