Bible Scholar Explores Modern Psychic Phenomena
Posted on 02 January 2023, 9:58
Although I consider myself a Christian, even if an unorthodox one, some of my orthodox Christian friends think I’ve been hoodwinked by Satan because of my interest in paranormal phenomena, especially mediumship. My most memorable encounter in this regard took place seven or eight years ago when a lawyer friend invited me to accompany him to a monthly luncheon of an organization of Christian lawyers. When my friend introduced me to the president, a young female lawyer, he mentioned that I had authored a few books on spiritual matters. The young woman asked me what they were about. I hesitated in answering, but when the word “mediumship” was mentioned, she curled her nose and furiously responded with, “How can you live with yourself?” She did an immediate, near military, about-face and stormed away. Another attorney, who was in on the conversation, then attempted to explain her reaction, telling me how Scripture forbids such a demonic interest. I didn’t feel it appropriate or timely then to engage him in a debate and point out various conflicts in the Bible, including likely misinterpretations or mistranslations from the Hebrew and Greek to English, concerning communication with the spirit world. I just shook my head in bewilderment.
It has long been mystifying to me that so many orthodox Christians fail to see the support that psychical research can give to their beliefs, enough support to help them move from blind faith to conviction, or to help the many losing their faith to rediscover it. It was therefore something of a relief to recently read Encountering Mystery, subtitled “Religious Experience in a Secular Age,” by Dr. Dale C. Allison Jr., (below) a professor of New Testament Studies at Princeton Theological Seminary. “Christian leaders have, unfortunately, often sought to suppress, marginalize, demonize, and erase otherworldly experiences,” Allison writes. “From a historical point of view, the reasons for this have been manifold.” Among the reasons he lists is “practices that allowed for contact with the dead.” Interestingly, he states that Catholic theology had supplied a “congenial framework” for reception of stories about seeing the dead, but Protestantism censured it. He notes that evangelical Protestants are the group least likely to say they have been in touch with a dead person.
Allison explores dreams, prayer, angels, near-death experiences (NDEs), terminal lucidity, death-bed visions, and other subjects that both orthodox religions and materialistic science have done their best to avoid or discourage. He offers many little anecdotal stories in connection with the various phenomena. “Dismissing them one and all as anecdotal,” he opines, “requires that large swaths of our fellow citizens are absolutely wretched observers or wholly untethered from the truth. I prefer to think that at least some of them are halfway decent witnesses, and that all the testimony, taken together, pushes against reduction to the ordinary.” He further cites the research carried out by a number of enlightened scientists and scholars to support the anecdotal evidence. At the same time he recognizes the garden-variety debunking theories, such as oxygen deprivation, hallucinations, fraud, etc.
Early in the book, he tells of his own mystical experiences. “Words can’t begin to describe what this was like,” he writes of one of three experiences. “It will stay with me for the rest of my life. It confirms me in my belief that underneath all this mess is absolute joy.”
In discussing NDEs, Allison makes a point that provided some timely self-examination as I read it. I woke up that morning with a fairly vivid recollection of a dream. This happens every now and then, maybe once a month at most. Recollection of most dreams disappears within seconds of waking up. I recalled this dream in some detail and related it to my wife about 30 minutes after awakening. About 10 hours later, while reading the chapter of Allison’s book on NDEs, I noted his concern about why so many people who have had similar near-death experiences do not have recollections of mystical happenings. Allison wonders if those who don’t report them, simply don’t remember them, and if it might be like recalling dreams. “This is not to imply that the NDE is a dream,” he states. “My point is instead this. To narrate an NDE is to remember it, and perhaps, just as the ability to recall dreams may differ (for whatever reason) from person to person, so the ability to recall NDEs may differ (for whatever reason) from situation to situation.”
After reading Allison’s words, I thought back to the dream of that morning and couldn’t remember what it was about. I remembered having enough detail to tell my wife about it a half-hour later, but then, 10 hours later, I couldn’t remember anything about it. I can recall having only two somewhat meaningful dreams during my lifetime, but I can remember only the gist of those dreams, not the details.
On the subject of angels, guides, or whatever name be given to them, Allison observes that theologians and biblical scholars generally ignore the popular books about intervening angels, assuming that the storytellers are victims of some kind of deception, whether by others or by self. ”One wonders why, if there are no emissaries to be seen, natural selection has programmed so many of us to see them,” he muses, going on to point out that given today’s cultural assumptions, church leaders are not as brazen or transparent in dismissing the stories. “…they are more apt to render out-of-the-ordinary experiences inert either by ignoring them altogether or by politely listening and then, as soon as possible, changing the subject.” The outcome, he continues, is the same – the functional irrelevance of someone’s experience and maintenance of the status quo.
In the chapter on deathbed phenomena, Allison discusses the mysterious “luminous emanations” occasionally reported around a dying person. He offers a dozen or so testimonials with references and then opines that the phenomenon “raises the odds that expiration of the body is not expiration of the self.”
Allison does not really get into mediumship or other strictly “taboo” subjects, including materializations and trance mediumship, but he admits in ending the book that there is much he hasn’t discussed. He does mention the materials collected over some five decades by the Religious Experience Research Center (RERC), founded by Sir Alister Hardy, a renowned zoologist, in 1969. Hardy’s research covered many things which Allison classifies as mystical raptures, apparitions, hearing guiding voices, feeling the presence of the dead, and perceiving the unity of all things. The informed reader is left to wonder if Allison is aware of the volumes of research on the same subject matters carried out by the Society for Psychical Research (SPR) beginning in 1882, long before Sir Alister began his explorations. “My preemptive defense,” he explains, “is to plead a limited purpose.” He goes on to say that it is an “inadequate introduction to a vast subject, a deliberately truncated, elementary primer that covers but a handful of representative topics.”
According to Allison, the RREC research, which includes over 6,000 firsthand accounts from around the world, is housed at the University of Wales, but “most theologians and scholars of religion pay this trove no heed as they go about their business.” And so it is with the SPR material, not to mention the even-more convincing research carried out by the earliest pioneers of psychical research for 30 years before the SPR was formed. Even the SPR gave little heed to the research between 1850 and 1882.
Allison mentions some research done in Sweden during the 1990s. The researchers interviewed 50 people in their early 70s who had lost a spouse within the previous year. Asked about encounters with the dead husband or wife, only one individual, a spiritualist, admitted to an encounter. However, after the subjects were informed that apparent contact with the dead is not a symptom of mental illness, half of the 50 subjects admitted to an encounter of one kind or another.
Readers familiar with all the books and articles on near-death experiences will likely not find much new in that subject matter, but I found it a good refresher and read about several interesting NDEs that I could not recall hearing about before. For the Christian who accepts only NDEs consistent with Church dogma and doctrines, Allison’s coverage of the subject matter might very well serve as an eye-opener if they dare examine it and thereby risk demonic influence.
The book is not for the closed-minded skeptic, Allison states. “It rather addresses those who are, because of their worldview, open-minded about its topics, or at least half open-minded.” He laments the fact that more theologians and pastors aren’t interested in the subject matter. Overall, it is a very interesting and informative read and hopefully will awaken some of the choir.
As a further sidebar to Allison’s book, I try to explain to my orthodox Christian friends that most of the mediumistic messages are benevolent in one way or another, urging love, compassion, kindness, and empathy, and that psychical research supports the basic tenet of their faith, that consciousness survives death in a larger life. Moreover, many of them pay homage to Jesus, but the usual reaction is that the “spirits” are simply “wolves in sheep’s clothing” trying to lure people into Satan’s camp before pulling the rug out from under them. I agree that one has to be on guard for low-level spirits; that’s why we are told in Scripture “to test the spirits, whether they are of God,” and to discern the messages. However, the Old Testament passages saying that we should not speak with the “dead” and that the “dead know nothing” always seem to prevail in such discussions. When I ask how we can test the spirits if we don’t communicate with them or why we should discern the messages if they know nothing, they come up with a different interpretation of the New Testament or state that God’s ways are not always known to us – end of discussion.
I find the resistance and indifference by orthodox Christians more mystifying than the mystical aspects of the phenomena themselves. I reason, however, that too much conviction relative to God and Survival is not necessarily a good thing. As Victor Hugo was told by a spirit claiming to have been Martin Luther in the material life, “doubt is the instrument which forges the human spirit.” It may very well be that the orthodox Christian opposition to the mystical phenomena is part of the Divine plan, permitting that necessary doubt and thereby giving our free-will choices – choices without long-term assurances – more impact in helping us to spiritually evolve.
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: January 16
The kind of support you are receiving is from the dark side but I always believe proof of the dark can give weight to proof of the light. There is always an opposite.
Gavin Doyle, Tue 31 Jan, 14:53
In other words “In all your ways acknowledge Him and he will direct your paths” - but don’t expect Him to tell you what He is doing.
Eric Franklin, Sat 14 Jan, 19:17
Bruce says “the Urim and Thummim method is a direct link to God. This avoids the requirement of testing but relies on the integrity of the High Priest.” I doubt this is any link to God. Is it not obvious that this method is simply a way of casting lots, ie what we call ‘chance’, the question allowing only one of two opposites as answer, as with a tossed coin? I don’t recall that any detailed account of any instance of the High Priest consulting via this chance production of the ‘Yes’ stone or the ‘No’ stone is given in the OT as we have it. (Perhaps someone knows of a case recorded somewhere in the OT.) In other words, the ancient scribes probably could not produce reliable evidence that they could pass on to posterity that the priestly divination had ever worked, with reliable result, any more than anyone today can cast lots reliably.
I think we are in a place of great doubt, and, as Paul said, a few years after the Earth-life of Yahshua, we are in such great doubt that only personal TRUST in some kind of God (not in any system of prediction) was the only attitude to adopt. We have no alternative to trusting whoever, whatever, we conceive as our God.
Nevertheless, that unknown God occasionally gives a message that can be trusted. I have ONE experience, in a life of 80+ years, of hearing a voice giving me definite instructions, which when obeyed, resulted in the absolute fulfilment of what was expected, and seemed to have been specifically promised some days before, and the fulfilment came within an hour of the voice.
As a general rule, however, I suggest that we humans have to trust, and test the spirits by what little wisdom we have. And then trust that all manner thing shall be well even though we acknowledge having been insufficiently wise to apply the test in the first place. Yes, it’s a bit puzzling and worrying - but then we should still TRUST, even for the nullification of our sincere misjudgements of spirits, and carry on.
Eric Franklin, Sat 14 Jan, 19:08
It seems the video link didn’t work. Let’s try this audio link:
Newton Finn, Sat 14 Jan, 17:37
I am not sure if your question can be restated as is there only one way communication permitted by prayer or is two way communication allowed?
There is reference in the Jewish faith (Old Testament) of two way communication by using Urim and Thummim (lights of perfection) where one of two stones possibly black and white was selected from the breastplate of the High Priest. The answer was either yes(white) or no(black). Lights of perfection were God’s way of lighting up these stones. The priest felt this power and pulled out the right stone from a pocket below the breatplate.
This was early two way communication with the obvious link to the yes/no part of the ouija board form of communication. Urim and Thummin first appear in Exodus 28:30 and Edgar Cayce was always making reference to it. That is where I first came across it. My question was why would a good medium be referencing these stones? Cayce read the bible every year. Did he see his mediumship as lights of perfection?
I like Michael’s point about the Old Testament -
I agree that one has to be on guard for low-level spirits; that’s why we are told in Scripture “to test the spirits, whether they are of God,” and to discern the messages. However, the Old Testament passages saying that we should not speak with the “dead” and that the “dead know nothing” always seem to prevail in such discussions. When I ask how we can test the spirits if we don’t communicate with them or why we should discern the messages if they know nothing, they come up with a different interpretation of the New Testament or state that God’s ways are not always known to us – end of discussion.
So, to conclude, the Urim and Thummim method is a direct link to God. This avoids the requirement of testing but relies on the integrity of the High Priest.
Bruce Williams, Sat 14 Jan, 06:17
My point is that two way after life communication has arrived but it still has to be always tested. The SPR were very good at testing. Harry asked for proof and an incident known only to a few and the proof was given.
As I understand your question, you are suggesting that prayer is a better way of talking to those in the spirit world than is mediumship. That may very well be the case. Personally, I have never communicated with any deceased loved ones through a medium. As I have said many times I am not interested in mediumship as a means of talking to deceased loved ones. Nor am I really interested in today’s clairvoyance, except to the extent that it does help some people in dealing with grief. I am interested in psychical research, especially that between 1850 and 1935, as evidence that consciousness survives death, something that too many people in today’s world don’t accept. I’m convinced that today’s nihilism is why the world is seeing so much turmoil and chaos and I believe Bob hit the nail on the head with his earlier comment at this post, although I don’t think it applies to all of today’s clairvoyance. Discernment is clearly required. Prayer offers no such evidence, unless to the individual him- or herself. You are on a different page than I am.
Michael Tymn, Sat 14 Jan, 02:31
Newton Finn, Sat 14 Jan, 01:19
Can I also give a mention to Canon Ken Quine a Church of England vicar who kept the flag flying for mediums and psychic matters in general. He recounted a lifetime of psychic experiences in a slim volume called living proof which is well worth a read if copies are still available.
Pete Marley, Fri 13 Jan, 19:12
As an aside he recounts an incident at a one off guest appearance at a Leslie Flint seance. I was sceptical about Leslie but Ken received an incredible piece of evidence when he had a conversation with a former member of his congregation that he ministered to on his deathbed !
I don’t get it. Is praying to God or the Saints not a manner of communication with the higher spiritual world or may they only listen and not speak to us?
Chris, Fri 13 Jan, 11:59
Thanks! I know the name Michael Cocks, but never met him; and I’d forgotten the Church of our own day has its Churches’ Fellowship for Psychical and Spiritual Studies, which I ought to have remembered, as I organised a public lecture for the Alister Hardy Society and given by one of the Fellowship’s representatives at the University in Lampeter, some years ago, when I was more active than I am now. I did the same service for Gregory Shushan, in more recent years published by White Crow, whom Dale Allison mentions in his latest book. In some ways it seems a small world, but one’s personal recall of even one’s own small contributions is not perfect. And (back to the substance of your blogs) the Church in the 21st century may indeed be waking up now, and realising that what it has preached but not believed for the past century and a half is true after all even if (my own sly point to end with) it is now SCIENTIFIC evidence, not humanly-devised tribal religion, that is going to inform the new era.
Eric Franklin, Fri 13 Jan, 11:59
Good point, and let’s not forget the late Rev. Michael Cocks, an Oxford-educated Anglican clergyman, and his contact with St. Stephen. See my blog of Oct. 19, 2011 for more about him.
Also, I recall interviewing Canon (Dr.) Michael Perry many years ago. He was president of The Churches’ Fellowship for Psychical and Spiritual Studies. I think he also edited “The Christian Parapsychologist,” which I contributed to once or twice about 20 years ago.
Michael Tymn, Thu 12 Jan, 22:18
Re: Cosmo Lang—you may recall that when he finally received the Church’s report on Spiritualism in 1939, after three years or so in development, when he saw that the result came down cautiously IN FAVOR of the reality of spirit communication, he chose to suppress the report, as that was not the result he was hoping for.
As you know, in a post-mortem communication of his own through Leslie Flint, he explicitly expressed remorse for that decision…
Don Porteous, Thu 12 Jan, 13:21
Bruce mentions that ‘the son of the Head of the Church of England’ shows an involved interest in the matter we discuss here on Mike’s blog. A century ago, Cosmo Lang, effectively the Head of the Church of England himself, and quite a number of other clergy with him, were interested and even actively involved, in these matters. It is more mainstream than many think, though rather too secretively. Indeed, it has been the more intelligent officials of the Church, those who think more than most others, not the masses who think less, who are or have been interested. The Church had been preaching for over a century and a half, since the time of David Hume, what it did not any longer believe, namely that life continues after death, and some Church prelates found that belief true after all, via 19th and early 20th century mediumship, just as Mike has said many times, and, as he has also said, little has changed since. Perhaps the next revival of widespread interest will come from that courageous minority of scientists who know more than their colleagues, and are prepared to say so publicly. We should all be encouraging THEM to speak out without fear of being despised. When was a pioneer not despised by the multitude - until they slowly turned and eventually began to claim that they had known all along what s/he had been trying to persuade them to hear?
Eric Franklin, Thu 12 Jan, 09:01
I saw the son of the Head of the Church of England mention mediumship in his recent book Spare. The section which is of interest is from https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2023/jan/05/prince-harry-diana-new-book-autobiography-spare?CMP=oth_b-aplnews_d-3
Harry writes about his mother and his grief throughout his book, at one point describing repeated drives through the tunnel in Paris in which she died, in an attempt to understand what happened.
His account of what he says was a conversation with his dead mother is short. Harry, who now lives in Los Angeles, does not say where the meeting happened, or when. He does not name the woman involved.
The prince says he “recognised the high-percentage chance of humbuggery” but went to meet the woman because trusted friends recommended her.
“The minute we sat down together,” he writes, “I felt an energy around her.”
The prince says the woman told him she felt an energy around him too, and said: “Your mother is with you.”
Harry replied: “I know. I’ve felt that of late.”
The woman, he writes, told him his mother was with him “right now”. Harry says his neck grew warm and his eyes watered.
The woman told Harry his mother knew he was “looking for clarity” and “feels your confusion”, and knew he had “so many questions”, and said answers would come in time.
The prince also says the woman told him Diana said: “You’re living the life she couldn’t. You’re living the life she wanted for you.”
Harry, who in his book also describes endless clashes with the press amid trips to London clubs and visits to Africa, Europe and Hollywood, and admits to regular drinking and drug-taking, says he wanted to believe the woman but needed “proof. A sign. Anything.”
One such sign offered by the woman involved a story about an ornament, and a claim that his mother knew about it because “she was there”.
Earlier in the book, Harry recounts how a Christmas tree ornament in the shape of his grandmother, Queen Elizabeth II, was accidentally smashed by his son, Archie.
The woman, he writes, repeated that his mother was there when the incident happened, saying: “Your mother says … something about a Christmas ornament? Of a mother? Or a grandmother? It fell? Broke?”
Harry said: “Archie tried to fix it.”
The woman said: “Your mother says she had a bit of a giggle about that.”
I know that Dianna was in good contact with a medium when she was around. I like Harry.
Bruce Williams, Tue 10 Jan, 10:15
I wasn’t blaming you or thinking in any context of whether or not you had read Maureen’s book! Why should you read it? You have such compendious understanding already, based on reading books most of us have never seen.
The point was merely that (I quote) ‘I think a fact that almost all Christian believers fail to perceive is that Old Testament prophecy was mediumship under a different name. There is usually a failure to analyse the meanings of the words we apply to phenomena, and a consequent failure to see the identical nature of things that have been given different verbal tags.’ Nothing more.
I am currently half way through Dale Allison’s latest book, published last June, I think. That will please Newton, and I agree Allison is well worth reading. I still feel that he is not the most effective advocate for the things he undoubtedly believes, mainly because he is so fair and balanced, which allows ground for most sceptics to trespass into, sceptics who fall into all the logical errors Allison himself points out. But I find that around pages 157 to 161 he deals (in very different words) with the very same matters, the very same logical reasoning, as I used in writing chapter 15 of Maureen’s book.
Concerning the book’s availability, normal hard copies sold out some time ago (5000 copies throughout the English-speaking world) but the whole thing is (without my permission, and without a dime or penny payment to Dr Lockhart’s estate, ie to me) now available FREE online - though I have no reason to mind that. Its being made available is rather pleasing for a self-taught writer whose ideas have usually been despised.)
Eric Franklin, Mon 9 Jan, 15:59
I’ll take the blame for not discussing Dr. Lockhart’s book at this blog. As I think I mentioned to you in the past, I was pretty sure I had read the book, as the title sounded familiar, but after bringing the book up at Amazon, I don’t think I did as the cover doesn’t look familiar and energy healing is not high on my list of interests. It probably should be. As the book is not available on Kindle, I’ve added it to my list of books to purchase this year, as my book-buying budget permits, assuming I live out the rest of the year. Thanks for your patience.
Michael Tymn, Mon 9 Jan, 07:13
Amos Oliver Doyle, Sun 8 Jan, 13:09
The May 19, 2014 and the June 2, 2014 posts are superb! I wish there was a way for all of your posts to be published in one book. I guess I am going to have to take two or three reams of paper and print them all off. Such a contribution displaying the knowledge you have must not be lost. Good job Michael! You are fulfilling your purpose in life. - AOD
Amos Oliver Doyle, Sun 8 Jan, 12:41
I know nothing about Ballou. I will have to check him out. Thanks again for your astute guidance. I would know very little about the topics discussed here without your direction. It has been a ten-year education for me. - AOD
In response to Mike’s latest comment on his own excellent blog, I have to admit that I have never yet read Ballou, but another comment is worthwhile: I think a fact that almost all Christian believers fail to perceive is that Old Testament prophecy was mediumship under a different name. There is usually a failure to analyse the meanings of the words we apply to phenomena, and a consequent failure to see the identical nature of things that have been given different verbal tags. I deal with this human foible at some length in my largest contribution to Maureen Lockhart’s book of 2010, ‘The Subtle Energy Body’, chapter 15, Science, Philosophy, and the Subtle Body. Curiously, no-one, in the dozen years since that book was published, has raised with her or me a single criticism of that chapter, though many professionals from psychiatrists to cosmologists have had the opportunity, and one well-known American philosopher praised it highly. Perhaps the others all thought it so bad as to be unworthy of their attention, and felt it below their dignity to make adverse comment. Is there any wonder that I despair of the prejudiced mind?
Eric Franklin, Sun 8 Jan, 11:34
Thanks to Amos for the link to another intriguing NDE on You-Tube. Also, thanks for the notice to the movie on Amazon Prime. I haven’t watched that yet, but I plan to do so within the next day or two.
I was just rereading parts of Adin Ballou’s 1852 book, as discussed in my blog of May 19, 2014 in the archives at left. Ballou, a Unitarian minister, offers some interesting thoughts relative to the rejection of mediumistic phenomena by various Christian denominations. He also discusses subconscious coloring of messages and other distortions coming through mediums at a time when Frederic Myers and William James were still in grade school. I cannot recall Ballou’s research ever being mentioned by SPR researchers.
Michael Tymn, Sun 8 Jan, 05:52
Amos Oliver Doyle, Sat 7 Jan, 23:38
Thanks for the feedback! I am glad that you enjoyed the link. - AOD
I know it might be out of line to say this, but you all have to watch the East Indian morality play titled “Thank God”, an Indian movie I watched last night on “Amazon Prime”. You have got to have a sense of humor to understand and enjoy this movie but it is based on many of the near death reports currently available on the internet. It is a very well done movie in the Indian entertainment style but if you just relax a while and take it all in and go with the subtitles I think you will enjoy it too as I did. Not everything has to be serious about death and the afterlife and I am sure that if there is an afterlife, nothing is serious there. - AOD
Amos Oliver Doyle, Sat 7 Jan, 07:03
Thanks Amos for the link to that amazing NDE.
Chris, Fri 6 Jan, 13:10
Another outstanding “JeffMara” podcast . David Williamson tells of his NDE after a heart arrest. It seems that each of Jeff’s podcasts is more informative that the last one. (This recent podcast might relate in general terms somewhat to low level spirits currently being discussed here.) - AOD
Amos Oliver Doyle, Thu 5 Jan, 20:02
Thanks to all for the comments so far.
In some ways I agree with Bob. My interest is in the psychical research that produced the compelling evidence that consciousness survives death. I am not a spiritualist to the extent that I need to continually hear from the deceased. As far as I am concerned, it could have all stopped around 1930. The evidence was sufficient at that time, including the evidence that low-level spirits were often involved and that much discernment and testing were necessary. Moreover, it was a different kind of mediumship than today and the “teachings” of the advanced spirits as set forth by Judge Edmonds and Stainton Moses were enough to provide a better picture of the afterlife. Little of significance has been added since 1930, although we might draw the line at 1935 with Dr. T. G. Hamilton.
Michael Tymn, Thu 5 Jan, 00:29
I owe Mark Ireland an apology. As always I was a bit rushed, this morning, and I forgot to say that I agree totally with all he tells us in his comment. My own father told me I deserved to be stoned to death. No-one needs (or deserves) a father with such views and such devastating effect on one’s self-esteem. And the clergy’s inconsistencies are exactly as Mark describes. I shall look out for Mark’s own book, and also for Moody’s brilliantly-titled new book.
Eric Franklin, Wed 4 Jan, 18:37
In response to your post following my comment, I acknowledge that some decisions are complex, but often the manner of arriving at the decision, the favoured line of reasoning, is of such high principle that it overrides all those equally logical reasonings that suggest different decisions. Kohlberg’s level six reasoning is of this kind. Yahshua’s reasoning as reported in the NT is of this kind. The example I gave is of this kind. It sees the need and concludes that one must give the necessary aid because one does have the ability to give it. Your own correct observations do not alter that. Is the need there? Yes. Should the need be met? Yes. Do one’s own circumstances allow one to offer the help needed? Yes, if those with whom one has to cooperate can function flexibly and with empathy and imagination. (It is true one’s final action-on-principle may depend on the character of others with whom one has to cooperate. As one professor at Lampeter said, years ago, when I spoke to her of Kohlberg’s level six, one sometimes cannot act as well as one would like because those around don’t think the same as oneself, and will not cooperate. Sadly, she was right, of course.)
There is much, much more to be said, but I will add only that I agree with much that Bob Gebelein expresses.
By the way, I do not own a farm, but a small area that has rewilded itself over half a century, and now supports very rare butterflies and mice - but it can also support hard-working refugees who would use just a small part of it, away from the butterflies and mice, to grow an unlimited series of meals for themselves and the local village. Their hard work would be rewarded, and my own heirs would benefit in the long term.
Eric Franklin, Wed 4 Jan, 11:31
Michael, The following comes from a book I’m working on now for a future release that seems relevant to this topic:
The other obsolete dogma (aside from scientific materialism) is religious fundamentalism which often employs fear as a tool for control while fostering an unhealthy psychological state of cognitive dissonance. This dogmatic approach instructs you to value, embrace, and believe solely in second-hand accounts from others recorded eons ago, as well as the interpretations of scripture provided by clergy.
You are told to discount your own spiritual encounters and to view them as delusion or misguidance from malevolent sources. This approach has proven most effective in fostering fear and distrust in anything outside of scripture, or that which is verbalized by clergy, even a person’s own sublime experiences.
When one examines unsettling passages written thousands of years ago by tribal people, claims of Biblical inerrancy seem irreconcilable with the concept of a loving God. Some such passages suggest a Creator who demands blood sacrifice, sees slavery as an acceptable practice, and advocates the stoning to death of disobedient sons, as well as adulterers.
Some denominations also suggest a hellish afterlife, or annihilation, for those outside their tribe, or those who fail to accept beliefs purportedly required for the absolution of sin. Certain members of Christian clergy may advise parishioners to focus on the New Testament, which offers a salvific escape hatch and a more compassionate God. Meanwhile, they still contend that the angry and jealous God of the Old Testament is the same deity as the loving one in the New Testament.
Such teachings and contradictions create anxiety, and confusion, and amplify ministerial control. Further, in the case of a Fundamentalist Christian perspective on such matters, the implication is that 5.6 billion people, roughly 70% of the world’s population are destined for a hellish fate simply because they were raised in another culture and belong to a different faith. This brings to mind the title of a new book by Dr. Raymond Moody, “God is Bigger than the Bible.”
Mark Ireland, Wed 4 Jan, 06:38
There are many Christians with a variety of views. In the 1970’s this was a topic of interest. Some recommended books: The Sacred and the Psychic by John J. Heaney. Andrew Greeley also did sociological work on these phenomena (he was a Catholic priest, sociologist and novelist). And there is a long thread through time think The Supernatural Occurrences of John Wesley, by Daniel Jennings. And there is Theresa Caputo, the Long Island Medium, who wrote “you can’t make this stuff up” “i like to attend mass when I’m on tour, and while I’m there I ask God to guide me to guests at my live show who will benefit the most from Spirit’s healing and validation.” p 15. So these beliefs in reality coexist with Christianity quite nicely, at least in the people I’ve met and spoken with and with me.
Sharon, Wed 4 Jan, 00:16
Thank you, dear Michael, for introducing us to Allison’s book, which I am already looking forward to reading.
The reluctance of the religious, of all people, to accept the supernatural permeating—or at least intersecting with—our earthly lives is indeed puzzling. Or… not, if we look at the religious enterprise as one, like most, of the largely ego-based pursuit of power and domination over others.
Most, if not all, religious movements must have started with an individual numinous experience, only to be co-opted with time by less mystically-inclined leaders and factions who have no inner experience of the mystical and for whom religiosity is a rather external pursuit.
But it can be disappointing—as well as eye-opening—as was my mother’s Catholic priest’s lukewarm, at best, reaction when she told him about my father calling her on the phone a month after his death. The priest, bless his heart, did not know how to react to this news and managed to exhort my mother to pray more, perhaps afraid that the stunning and life-changing phone call was the work of the devil.
I happen to know from personal experience that one encounter with the supernatural / divine has the power to change our perceptions, understanding, and the entire way of life; yet I also know it is impossible to convey this insight and its implications to those for whom such experiences are alien—other than through an example of a changed existence exhibited over time. “By their deeds you will know them.”
Happy and healthy 2023 to all.
Elizabeth, Tue 3 Jan, 22:37
There are so many variable factors involved in both the immigration and homeless situations that it was probably not a good idea to even mention it here. It is almost impossible to generalize. For example, a person owning a farm has more options than the one in a cramped urban house. Providing a meal or two is one thing, providing unending meals is something else if one’s monthly income is limited. There was an article in today’s paper about a health-care facility closing down because it can no longer handle the patient load, which is mostly people who are unable to pay. Drawing the line is a very subjective thing.
Michael Tymn, Tue 3 Jan, 21:38
I have been influenced by the writings of Richard Kieninger in Observations I-IV and also as Eklal Kueshana in The Ultimate Frontier. He warns us that there are entities so evil, with such bad karma, that they could never incarnate, or if they did, they would die a horrible death immediately. They are out there in the spirit world and motivated to make life horrible for the rest of us. Kieninger calls them Black Mentalists. They reach us by telepathic suggestion.
They are not fallen angels. They are fallen humans. They are not as powerful as the most spiritually-developed human beings, but they are more powerful than most of us. They are like the bullies in the schoolyard. We need to pray to Christ for protection from them.
Their influence is seen in the black robes of the clergy and the black suits worn by the highest government officials. Even football teams now have taken to wearing black. Do they know why?
When you are messing with mediumship, do you know what entities you are messing with? Somebody in the Psychic Experiences Group was saying that an archangel was talking to him. But how did he know that it was an archangel and not a Black Mentalist posing as an archangel.
The Hippies were incredibly naive regarding evil entities. A large portion of what they called “spirituality” is evil, like calling the police officer “Pig.”
Academic people will call me insane for believing in evil forces, but this is not based on a psychological examination, but on their psychological defenses, which may be created with help from evil forces. Academic people are ignorant, but they display their academic credentials to make us think they are knowledgeable.
Even innocent experiments with psychic abilities may be affected by evil entities. That would explain “The Rhine Effect.” A person does wonderfully at psychic experiments and then their ability fades. The easiest explanation of this is that they get bored after 1700 trials or so. But another explanation would be that evil entities are playing with their heads and giving them the answer, and then the evil entities get tired of playing with them.
So I am entirely with the religious people when they say that mediumship is playing with Satan. It may be totally on the level, and it may be influenced by evil entities, and how would you know the difference?
If you disagree with me, I suspect that Black Mentalists are putting that idea in your head.
Bob Gebelein, Tue 3 Jan, 20:20
I’m happy you took this on, Michael, and pleased that this Christian scholar wrote such a book. A humble beginning for Ivy League Christian scholarship.
The Brits are way ahead of this guy. Fifty-four years ago the Anglican canon J. D. Pearce-Higgins wrote a highly appreciative preface to Helen Greaves’ Testimony of Light, a first-rate mediumistic communication from Frances Banks, an Anglican nun for 25 years.
Stafford, Tue 3 Jan, 18:32
I believe, myself, that whether an immigrant enters a country illegally or not is wholly irrelevant to the ethics of the situation. We should decide on another basis entirely. Surely, what matters is whether s/he has a need of succour; whether starving, cold, unclothed, or suffering in some (any) other way? If there is genuine need (of the things Yahshua Himself lists - clothes, food, shelter) entry should be permitted and protection should be given. The Earth is the Lord’s and no government REALLY has the right to deny its hospitality to anyone.
The problem you rightly recognise is to be able to give what is needed within the man-made restrictiveness of legal procedures, which may indeed be impossible because human law is always framed selfishly.
On the matter of the wrong standards having replaced Yahshua’s original ones, I have a modern example. I have just succeeded (after many months) in getting through to the Welsh government (undoubtedly in some ways one of the BEST on Earth, but despite that, very slow to take up ideas with empathy and imagination) with an offer to Ukrainian refugees to use my land for a few years to grow their own food and sell any surplus for their own profit. We await the Welsh government’s response. I say ‘we’ because the original idea is Gillian Rivett’s, not my own, she being wife of an unconventional Church of England clergyman (and published novelist) whom I am honoured to have as friend.
Eric Franklin, Tue 3 Jan, 16:15
Dear Newton and dear Mike,
You both make very valuable points. The gospel is one of actions, not of faith alone, as Luther claimed by misinterpreting Paul. James the Just was right. We show our faith BY our works. Yahshua had said so clearly, right from the start, just as you claim, Newton.
And it was possible to arrive at that verdict a century ago - and still in 2023 the learned refuse to enter, but dillydally in dead doctrinal discussion while their lives and the lives of those they should actively help pass by.
And that verdict on the basis of the NT text (however faulty it may be) and of spiritualism and spirituality was clearly indicated well over a century ago.
Eric Franklin, Tue 3 Jan, 10:20
I sent the link to this blog to the lawyer friend mentioned in the first paragraph, while recommending Professor Allison’s book to him. He reminded me of his email to me recommending a 2015 book, “Imagine Heaven,” which appears to have been a “best seller.” Coincidentally, Don Piper, who wrote the foreword to Burke’s book, was the speaker at the meeting mentioned in that first paragraph. So indications are that orthodox Christianity is slowly accepting the lessons of the NDE.
However, as I have said a number or times, NDEs are icing on the cake. The cake itself was baked between 1850 and 1930 by psychical research into mediumship. As I claimed in my Bigelow essay, the legal doctrine of “Res Judicata,” meaning “it has already been decided,” could have been asserted 90 to 120 years ago.
Michael Tymn, Tue 3 Jan, 06:05
Thanks for the comment. I agree with you, but I am stymied as to how we are to show hospitality, feed the hungry, etc. to any degree. Do we show hospitality to immigrants by letting them continue to enter illegally? If so, should I invite the homeless people living under a bridge a half-mile from my home to move into my home? Even though I know they are very disorderly and unsanitary, do I still invite them? Where does one draw the line? Shouldn’t we be taking care of the homeless before extending an open hand to immigrants? It is a perplexing issue.
Michael Tymn, Tue 3 Jan, 00:38
I’ve recently been reading a fascinating book by W.T. Stead entitled “If Christ Came to Chicago!” (1894). It was Michael’s “Transcending the Titanic” which introduced me to this extraordinary public figure, sometimes called the father of investigative journalism. Stead’s book contains the following observations on the essential nature of Christianity if one focuses, like Dr. Allison and other NT scholars, more on the religion OF Jesus than on the religion ABOUT him.
“Christ at the last day will not ask what we have said or thought about Him, neither will He ask us whether or not we belong to His Church. His test, and so far as can be ascertained from His teaching, the only test He will apply, is whether or not we have ministered to the physical, social and moral necessities of our fellow men. His words are so distinct and so precise that there is no getting away from them.
“Yet they have been ignored so much that salvation, which according to Christ was to be found in feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, clothing the naked, showing hospitality to the stranger and visiting those who were sick or in prison, is now almost universally held to consist in the acceptance of a more or less abstract series of religio-philosophical propositions.”
Newton Finn, Mon 2 Jan, 19:00
Many thanks - I found it, and ordered a copy, in seconds. You are not only a great writer of great blogs, but a bookfinder too!
Eric Franklin, Mon 2 Jan, 11:54
Many thanks for your latest blog. I am very glad to reassess Allison favourably, as I have said earlier that I find him not a good advocate of spiritual truths, because rather vague, and have thereby probably offended Newton at least somewhat. My eldest son condemns me in precisely the way you describe, as one deluded by Satan, using arguments which, in my own view, violate the very core of the Christianity he advocates, by their doctrinaire and dogmatic character, despite their unreliable basis in Biblical texts that are open to interpretation and doubt as to their reliability. I shall try to find the book by Allison that you mention.
Eric Franklin, Mon 2 Jan, 11:46
Avid Christians seem very keen on Demons, but people such as Michael Perry, Tom Willis and others are very open minded regarding psychical research and its findings.
Tricia, Mon 2 Jan, 11:27
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