Yes, I do have the book you mention and am glad to hear you know of J.J. Poortman. Although the two long comments I have given on a) the nature of posthumous ‘sorting’ [Sat 20 Jun, 05:01] and b) ‘awakening’ or ‘realization of Self’ from a discarnate perspective [Sat 20 Jun, 20:19] represent the fruit of many years reading and reflection on my part, what I have said there is at best an outline and there is a great deal yet to be known, much of which is likely unknowable on this side of the veil.
Paul, Mon 22 Jun, 14:11
Thanks for the further comment. I have only read it once, quickly, so far.
I am the author of about half of the book ‘The Subtle Energy Body’, Inner Traditions, 2010. I made some comment in all the chapters, edited the whole text, wrote chapter 15, and drew some illustrations. Some errors were introduced AFTER we sent in our perfect text by the arrogance of an editor employed by Inner Traditions International. (Maureen and I do know what we are doing, having aggregate experience in printing, publishing, editing etc etc amounting to about five decades.) The book is written for people very much less well-read than yourself. Only Dr Maureen Lockhart’s name is on the cover. I just helped. We mention Poortman, whom you cite, indeed we have his four volumes on our shelves. Perhaps you have our book on yours.
Your erudition exceeds mine, but for both of us the key way of being is simple, as you said yourself. I do not think we have to worry so long as our hearts genuinely wish to grow and learn and ‘be’ more perfectly. The Great Being is great enough to acknowledge our own smallness and need of help in attaining our spiritual objective, which is the realisation of something already there, but not yet fully there in our own consciousness - Tat twam asi - the non-duality between ourselves and deity - exactly what you mention. It is good that we agree so completely. I would like to send you the paper I have written on the relevance of Relativity Theory to survival of our spiritual part, but I had better not do so at the moment because I have written it for possible inclusion in an anthology to be published this Autumn. I do not know yet whether the commissioning editors for that book will choose my chapter/paper and as I am not well known as an expert, unlike most of the already chosen contributors, and advocate a view I do not think many have thought of, I had better lie humbly low until those commissioning editors have made their choices.
Best wishes meanwhile
Erc Franklin, Sun 21 Jun, 22:06
Thank you for the further comment. I am glad to see that you agree with me so completely.
These days, the Watcher on my shoulder and I are one. I remember the very day (half a century ago) when I realised that the Christadelphians were trying to reach the goal by tighter and tighter willed self-control, study, etc. (ie by religious, Zadokian, legalism) and the very same terrified paranoias as the Inquisitors, that the TRUE way was diametrically opposite, namely greater and greater spiritual freedom WITH TOTAL SELF AWARENESS AND HONESTY.
Once even the Watcher on the shoulder also comes inside and watches from there one becomes single-eyed, and so long as the Watcher never sleeps I think all is probably well - at last. Perhaps the last enemy to be destroyed is arrogance. God, at last, is granted the trust s/he deserves.
Good-humoured Postscript: I do my own building construction, as well as that paper on Relativity and Immortality (which I hope I have got right, that I am being shown something by the Above that most others have missed), my own electrical wiring, my own plumbing, including a whole central heating system that has been working now for a few months - but, of course, I see your point, Paul. Of course I do. Some would indeed electrocute themselves, but even if they did, they would find themselves still “there”, would they not, and the Great Being is very merciful and genial. I think if we all trust the Great Being to be our spiritual guide (the Watcher on the shoulder?) he/SHE will come in and sup with us and tell us comforting true tales. Only in moments of human frailty will we think our foot slippeth, and at those moments the Great Being will uphold us. We need to trust, not strive, do we not? Sorry to utter so many words. Words are no good, but they try to describe inner realities.
Eric Franklin, Sun 21 Jun, 09:46
Just a (hopefully) brief reply in reply to your reply to me. With regard to your ‘whisp of caution’, I, of course, take your point with regard to a concern for the possibility of rigidity and legalism. Such a general concern applies to any human institution, doctrine or system in likely any sphere you could name, which of course hardly delegitimizes the need for institutions, doctrines or systems.
When you say “there is no such thing as spiritual practice which is the result of following any kind of rule or authority” I don’t really know what to say, other than to hold up example after example, stretching across civilizations and centuries, that belie your claim. Yet, that aside, I see what you are pointing to, that spiritual practice must be ‘made one’s own’ and must be entered into with sincerity rather than in external submission. I completely agree when you say “the fruits of the very best ‘spiritual practice’ become one’s inner nature and sole motive in all aspects of life.” Yet your blanket dismissal of ‘spiritual directors’ is far too unbalanced. In every other field of endeavor, from wiring one’s house to advanced medical treatment, one does not hesitate to seek out those with expertise and competence. Why should the spiritual life, which is of far greater import, be the sole exception to this general rule? Why wouldn’t the eschewing of spiritual direction tend to lead to the same kind of outcome as the eschewing of electricians and doctors in analogous contexts? Further, no one is truly ‘tabula rasa’ with regard to the spiritual life, or anything else for that matter. We are taking knowledge and direction from somewhere, and the question of what one labels ‘spiritual direction’ or not begins to be a matter of semantics.
You ask whether “spiritual practice is essential for all who would like to be…allowed into a high spiritual dwelling place post mortem”. It is a very legitimate question, one which I think it likely impossible to give an unqualified answer to. Just this afternoon, I came across the following statement attributed to the Technician, the ever-discarnate ‘angelic’ being who gave technical assistance to the Luxembourg ITC group, and who had a great many very interesting things to say:
It is not religion which leads man to the Light but what man can learn with the help of religion. Many during their lifetime followed the instructions of their churches but could not ‘find God’ after death. Others have crossed the threshold to the planes of Light without help from religion. Everything depends on what man does with the help that is offered him. Religions should serve man as guideposts. Higher beings who incarnate on Earth—Jesus, Buddha, Mohammed and others—are teachers of mankind, Light bearers on the paths of darkness. Any religion is good if it helps man to progress spiritually.
This strikes me as perfectly sensible and uncontroversial. If I might modify the statement above slightly to address your question, I would say, echoing the Technician, that there are those for whom spiritual practice, ‘taken generally’, is not necessary for them to win a ‘high place in heaven’. Think of the individual who possesses a natural nobility of character or whose heart is naturally full of love for God and fellow creatures. There is every reason to think that such will do very well regardless. Conversely, there are those who enter into the religious or even spiritual life, but who do not benefit from it due to something within them turning awry, such as the rise of spiritual pride, or the failure to address some dominating passion. There are, no doubt, a mass of individuals who enter into religious or spiritual life and are bettered for it, but with much maturation yet to be done. All this is to say that there are a variety of possibilities, yet spiritual practice remains a vital help, one that perhaps not everyone requires, that everyone has a beneficial engagement with or that everyone feels called to, but which remains a vital help nonetheless. As to why those who might benefit from such a help do not engage it, which is certainly the case, who can say? But there are many other examples one might name of things people do that it would be better that they did not do or don’t do that it would be better that they did. Such is life.
When you question, “Who defines filth, lewdness? Here is the danger of rule-making.” Of course, the immediate problem here is that, in rejecting authority, you are inescapably claiming the mantle of authority for yourself, something you implicitly recognize in your penultimate statement “But not under any spiritual master but oneself.” Given the too-common character of human egoity, one might well question the general soundness of this approach. There is a stage when one might say as Virgil did to Dante at the peak of Purgatory, “I crown and mitre thee over thyself”, but to do so before that stage is folly. It is, in practice, the difference between St. Augustine’s “Love and do what you will” and Aleister Crowley’s “Do what thy Will shall be the whole of the Law.” Nevertheless, it is one’s self that makes the judgment as to whether to follow a given path, a given teaching or a given guide, so in a sense, your statement above carries a necessary twist that renders it necessarily true. I have said far more than I intended to say in reply and will leave it there.
Paul, Sun 21 Jun, 03:54
I was inspired – or perhaps ‘nudged’ – this morning to given an addendum of sorts to my most recent considerations.
Frederic Myers, who is one of our surest and best guides in the matter of discarnate reality and a man whom I dearly love, is nevertheless not without his occasional limitations of perspective – a point, of course, that applies to us all. Of particular relevance, in “The Road to Immortality”, Myers observes:
The spirit, or deeper mind, which nourishes a number of journeying souls with its light is a thought of God. This thought is individualized, but not in the human sense. It is individual in that it has a certain apartness from its Creator, the apartness of the created thing from the One who gave it life.
Now, the mystic speaks of the god within him. This is an entirely erroneous statement. The term God means the Supreme Mind, the Idea behind all life, the Whole in terms of pure thought, a Whole within which is cradled the Alpha and Omega of existence as a mental concept. Every act, every thought, every fact in the history of the Universes, every part of them, is contained within that Whole. Therein is the original concept of all. So it is preposterous presumption on the part of the mystic to call his own spirit God.
What Myers is giving here – fine as it is – is but a half-truth. It is a statement of Divine transcendence without a balancing statement of Divine immanence. As such, it does not truly and sufficiently represent the nature of the Real. To quote, in correction, from the entry for “Perennial Philosophy” in the “Encyclopedia of Global Religion”:
One necessarily and axiomatically begins with the metaphysical Absolute, that Ultimate Reality or Supreme Principle indicated by such terms as the Gottheit or Godhead of Meister Eckhart, Hyperousios or Super-Essence of Gregory Palamas, Ein Sof or unmanifested Deity of the Zohar, the Good of Plato, the One of Plotinus, Ibn al-‘Arabī’s al-Dhāt or Divine Essence, Śaṅkarācārya’s Nirguṇa Brahman or attributeless supreme Reality, the eternal Tao or Principle of Lao Tzu, and, with certain clarifications, Nāgārjuna’s Śūnyatā or Voidness.
The Absolute, as such, is necessarily without limitation, restriction or determination and further is unique, all-encompassing and an absolute totality. It is necessarily partless, as the finite and relative could have no common measure with Its absoluteness and infinitude. Manifestation arises in consequence of Its infinitude or universal possibility, yet manifestation is neither separate from nor identical to the Absolute. Ultimately, there are not two realities, the Absolute and manifestation; rather, the Absolute alone is real and yet manifestation is ultimately not other than the Absolute.
This last sentence in the quoted passage is key: “Ultimately, there are not two realities, the Absolute and manifestation; rather, the Absolute alone is real and yet manifestation is ultimately not other than the Absolute.” This has direct implications with regard to the human state, implications of the most essential and crucial character. To quote further from the same source:
Man, as part of manifestation, participates in the inherently paradoxical relation between manifestation and the Absolute. Just as manifestation is not other than the Absolute, so man shares this indivision: although man is not the Absolute, the Absolute is present in man. “There are two [selves] in man,” as Aquinas witnesses – higher and lower, principial and contingent, real and relatively unreal. The Spirit, the trace of the Absolute within, is the Hebrew ruaḥ, Arabic ruḥ and Greek pneuma, as well as the daimon or immanent genius of Socrates, Plato’s hegemon or leader within, the funkelein or divine spark of Meister Eckhart, St. Paul’s inner man, neo-Confucianism’s liang-chih or inner sage, ka or spiritual essence of the Egyptians, and Ātman or Self of the Vedanta.
The Spirit is the essence and highest aspect of man; through it, man derives his entire existence, and through it also, man is not other than the Absolute. Man’s realization of his identity with the Spirit is at once his perfection, his liberation and his return to the Absolute, from which he has never been apart. This realization [is] the theosis of Hesychasm, fanā’ and baqā’ of Sufism, mokṣa of Vedanta and nirvāṇa of Buddhism.
What is discussed above has been treated in many sources, but to highlight one of them here, one may look to what the metaphysician René Guénon has termed the ‘Supreme Identity’. Guénon gives a pithy definition of this term in the beginning of Ch.3 of “Man and His Becoming According to the Vedanta”:
The ‘Self ’…must not be regarded as distinct from Atma, and, moreover, Atma is identical with Brahma [the Absolute] itself. This is what may be called the ‘Supreme Identity’, according to an expression borrowed from Islamic esoterism, where the doctrine on this and on many other points is fundamentally the same as in the Hindu tradition, in spite of great differences of form. The realization of this identity is brought about through Yoga, that is to say, through the intimate and essential union of the being with the Divine Principle, or, if it is preferred, with the UniversaI. The exact meaning of this word Yoga is in fact ‘union’, neither more nor less…
Treatments of this central topic are found scattered throughout Guénon’s many works, but a particularly significant example may be found in Ch. 24 of the same work cited above:
To give as exact an idea as possible of the actual state of the yogi who, through Knowledge, is ‘delivered in this life’ (jivan-mukta) and has realized the ‘Supreme Identity’, we will once again quote Shankaracharya: his remarks on the subject, describing the highest possibilities to which the being can attain, may serve at the same time as a conclusion to the present study. [NB: bracketed statements below are Guénon’s own]
“The yogi, whose intellect is perfect, contemplates all things as abiding in himself [in his own Self, without any distinction of outer and inner] and thus, by the eye of Knowledge [jñana-chakshus, a term which can be rendered fairly exactly by ‘intellectual intuition’], he perceives [or rather conceives, not rationally and discursively, but by a direct awareness and immediate ‘sensing’] that everything is Atma.
He knows that all contingent things [the forms and other modalities of manifestation] are not different from Atma [in their principle], and that apart from Atma there is nothing, ‘things differing simply [in the words of the Veda] in attribution, in accident, and in name, just as earthen vessels receive different names, although they are but different forms of earth’; and thus he perceives [or conceives, in the same sense as above] that he himself is all things [since there can no longer be anything which is ‘other’ than himself or than his own ‘Self ’].”
Now, there are very few source materials in the discarnate-related literature that address this deeper perspective. The best I know of from my own comprehensive – if not exhaustive – survey of that literature is that I brought forward in my reconstruction of “The Green Book” by George Wright, as linked to from Michael Prescott’s blog [https://michaelprescott.typepad.com/michael_prescotts_blog/2020/04/reconstructing-the-green-book.html] and further commented upon on in this blog [http://whitecrowbooks.com/michaeltymn/entry/before_huxley_seth_the_master]. This reconstruction, gathers the teachings of a ‘discarnate realized sage’ (in my estimation) in communication early in the last century, as presented in Theon Wright’s “The Open Door”. To selectively excerpt from the first communicated script that the Wright family received:
Back of and beyond the Universe you know, permeating and transcending it, there exists an Underlying Reality, the nature of which you cannot conceive or express in terms of your ordinary everyday experiences or language.
It is a Cosmic Consciousness that is aware of its own Being. It is intelligent, universal, integral in its essence and in its manifestation. It is coherent, indivisible, and a complete Whole that expresses its potentialities in a diversity of individual manifestations.
The realization of your One-ness with this Cosmic Consciousness constitutes a Higher Selfhood, an extension of your individualized ego beyond the physical limitations of the universe in which you live, and a contact with and awareness of the Underlying Reality.…
The various stages and degrees of Self-realization marking the progress of the Underlying Reality toward the goal of ultimate fulfillment are represented by different planes of development, from the crudest, densest physical expression through graduated and overlapping levels of consciousness to the highest spiritual individualizations.
On these higher levels consciousness has so expanded and merged as a result of accumulated experience that it becomes less individualized or differentiated and approaches unification with the Universal Self, the Cosmic Consciousness, or the Underlying Reality.
The physical universe in which you live, and of which you are aware through your senses, comprises the lower, denser levels of manifestation. This is the universe, or “world”, of primary self-consciousness. It is the plane of farthest divergence or differentiation among entities. Here you are aware of Self as distinct and separate—the Ego Sense. You contact your environment by means of the physical senses which interpret to the inner consciousness the modes of manifestation which surround you and in which you function.
And in your functioning on this plane and these levels of manifestations, you gain wider and wider experience, express more and more the potentialities inherent in your particular individualizations of the Underlying Reality, and thus by your specialized activity, you enrich the Whole and participate in its unfoldment.
Now, this ‘end-game’ of merging with the Universal Consciousness, the Real Itself, in the course of the discarnate progression of the soul will be familiar from careful readers of Myers, as when he discusses the soul’s progression ‘Out Yonder’. To take one salient passage from his “The Road to Immortality”:
These myriad thoughts, or spirits, begotten by the Mighty Idea, differ from one another; many of them, nearly all, before they control and manifest themselves in matter, are crude, innocent and incomplete embryos. They must gather to themselves numberless experiences, manifest and express themselves in uncountable forms before they attain to completion, before they may know perfect wisdom, true reality. Once these are acquired, they may take on divine attributes and pass out Yonder, entering within the Supreme Idea and becoming part of the Whole.
However, while this long progression is certainly not invalidated in any way, it is also the case that we participate right now, at this very moment, in the Divine consciousness and being, which in fact underlies and supports our very existence, in absence of which we quite literally could not ‘be’. One of the most simultaneously impressive and obscurely known books in the discarnate-related literature is J.J. Poortman’s four-volume opus “Vehicles of Consciousness: The Concept of Hylic Pluralism (Ochema)”. Poortman’s work sits very well with Robert Crookall’s, particularly his “The Supreme Adventure”, for the latter author is a particular master at exploring the testimony for the multiple bodies ‘nested’ within man, of which the physical body is but the ‘outermost’. Death, as Crookall makes abundantly clear, is the ‘dropping’ of the ‘outermost’ physical body – no more, no less. Poortman’s very title carries the key point to explore here, which is that man’s multiple bodies – from the physical to the increasingly subtle – are so many ‘vehicles of consciousness’. It is this consciousness – the consciousness that is the present root of our own subjectivity, our own “I-ness” – that is primary, in relation to which the body may be said simply be a ‘vehicle’. When we ‘die’, the vehicle is altered, but the consciousness remains unchanged. This is what lies behind the broadly noted continuance of discarnate identity following physical death.
Now, this consciousness, which our various bodies serve as progressively finer vehicles of, is not other than the Self, and thus is at root not other than the Divine Consciousness. If we gain a clear ‘intellectual intuition’ – an immediate apperception – into the true nature of this consciousness while in this life, we carry that apperception into the next life. It is possible to gain such an ‘intellectual intuition’ even here, although the ‘when’ of such is outside our control and ken. To quote from the discarnate “Master” of The Green Book once more:
I have promised to give you more knowledge and other lessons, as you are prepared for them, and be assured that I will keep my word; but you must not be impatient. You are on the Path toward Higher Life, which is a realization of Self in All. This leads to complete realization and enables you to attain your ultimate, so that you will be in a position similar to mine.
I do not know have long it will take you to finish. No one knows but yourselves, and that only potentially. But from this point there is no turning back, no wavering, no escaping. You are driven onward by inherent destiny which some call Karma, and you need not be afraid of failure; failure is impossible.
Another, if less profound teaching on the Self from the discarnate-related literature occurs in August Goforth’s much more recent work “The Risen” (2nd Ed), under the label of “Authentic Self”. While this term is insufficiently defined in the author’s two books and, further, seems at times to be muddled with understandings of a purely psychological character, nevertheless, in the author’s blog, there are two statements that are more cogent and of greater relevance:
Authentic Self has been called the Hidden Observer, Higher Self, Higher Power, the Oversoul – there are as many ways to label it as there are individuals to say it. Stilling the incessant criticism of ego-mind will eventually result in an awakening to Authentic Self – yet not an awakening of it, for it is already awake and just seems hidden because it is much quieter than ego-mind. Sometimes this hiddenness is interpreted as being asleep, but Authentic Self can’t really be said to be asleep or awake in the way we on Earth can be, because that state which we want to call “awake” as contrasted with “not awake” does not exist on a pendulum of is or is-not – there are no pendulums in the full awareness of Self.
After one has transitioned, one does not necessarily “rise” – which is another way of saying, “become fully and consciously aware and awake.” …If we awaken now, while on the earth – by correcting the imbalance brought about by a dominating ego-mind – we will continue on in this awakened state – which we call “transmutation.” If we are in this state when the body dies, this awakened transition is Rising.
This latter statement is of particular interest, distinguishing clearly – in a manner almost entirely absent from the discarnate-related literature for all that it is crucial – between ‘awakening’ or ‘realization of the Self’, on the one hand, and the ‘change’ undertaken in consequence of bodily death on the other. They are two different things.
To bring this long comment full circle, let me end with the oblique reference with which I began. Over breakfast, I was listening to a dialogue with Rupert Spira, a particularly skillful pedagogue in the spiritual legacy of Atmananda Krisha Menon, recognized as one of the three ‘giants’ of 20th century Advaita Vedanta – along with Ramana Maharshi and Nisargadatta Maharaj – who had a particular focus on the immediate, epistemic aspect of one’s experience as a means of grasping the teaching. Spira’s spoken words – “the best possible preparation for death” – compelled my attention in light of my most recent comment to this thread and sparked my reflections above. To quote more fully from this dialogue:
What we do primarily is to take the opportunity to just remain established in and as consciousness, the consciousness which is never diminished or hurt or stained or broken or harmed in any way by any appearance. That’s all that’s important and that is the best possible preparation for death. …What you essentially are is the open, empty, loving space of awareness, in which all your experience appears and with which it is known. And whatever takes place in your experience doesn’t essentially change or hurt or stain this open, empty, loving space. This open, empty, loving space is God’s presence, it is what we essentially are. The most important thing in life is to know that and to be that – and to live that to the best of our abilities in the way we think, feel, act, perceive and relate.
As a final word of closing, let me provide an addendum to my earlier reply to Ian’s cri de coeur in the thread below. What the reflections above confirm – which is supported in a multitude of sources – are two leading truths under which the entirety of our lives may be ordered:
We are immortal.
We are partakers in God.
Is this not the best of all possible news? Should we require anything else to establish our happiness and contentment?
Paul, Sat 20 Jun, 20:19
Some quick thoughts - much to do.
Thank you for your further contribution to the discussion on Michael Tymn’s blog. I agree with everything you say, but see a whisp of caution arising from one or two of your statements. There is always a risk of making set rules or procedures, even for oneself, and making them for others is a further danger which has resulted throughout christian and other history in some horrifying wrongs. I was brought up by Christadelphian inheritors of the Inquisitors they detested and condemned. The wearers of dog-collars (and sectarians who don’t) seem often guilty of making rules for those whose motives are “purer” (whatever that means) than their own. I speak from experience. “First cast out the log from your own eye, and then see clearly to take out the splinter from the other’s eye.” I am not saying this in any personal way, just voicing a general principle of the heart in the poor medium of words.
“And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and
with all thy soul, and with all thy might.” I nearly quoted this in my own response to your two earlier posts. And the second command is like unto it: Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is nothing to add to these regarding how we should relate to other people.
I begin to think a bit of legalism, or the danger of it, remains in your thinking when it makes you say:
In light of this fullness of understanding, we may perceive the crucial importance of spiritual practice. The soul must be properly shaped.
I want to add that there is no such thing as spiritual practice which is the result of following any kind of rule or authority. BUT BUT BUT one must be so conscientiously self-aware and honest that one realises, perhaps over time, that the fruits of the very best ‘spiritual practice’ become one’s inner nature and sole motive in all aspects of life, if one is honest, without ‘spiritual directors’ of any persuasion. This is living out from the heart. Heart and head have become one. This process, if done honestly, tests all one’s motives and dishonest tricks of casuistry and self-deception, and the result is what I remarked on, that eventually one does not even think of doing what is not loving towards the recipient of any action. This needs no spiritual director other than one’s honest self.
Beyond this, there is spiritual practice,
which some – though certainly not all – are called to as a further state in
the soul’s maturation.
Here, I must ask a question: If spiritual practice is essential for all who would like to be, or who are going to be, allowed into a high spiritual dwelling place post mortem, (in my father’s house are many dwelling places) why is it not essential for all? Is the deity willing for some to neglect their spiritual growth and go to a low and murky dwelling place? Perhaps. They have to learn somehow. Perhaps the lower dwellings are where Consciousnesses reincarnate from. As you say yorself, and I agree,
We carry ourselves – only ourselves – into the next life, and ‘what’ we are
determines ‘where’ we will be. It is really that simple.
I agree. It has the simplicity (total lack of guile) of the honest heart in full control of a possibly would-be-scheming head.
“By the heaven and That which built it and by the earth and That which extended it! By the soul, and That which shaped it and inspired it to lewdness and godfearing! Prosperous is he who purifies it, and failed has he who seduces it.”
[Rev. 22:11] “He that is filthy let him be filthy still.”
“Threefold are the gates to hell where man perishes: lust, anger, and greed. Therefore, one has to renounce these three. The one who has freed himself from these three gates of the darkness makes his own good…and attains the Supreme Goal.”
All these assume what one already thinks on account of past conditionings, but in fact the heart knows that it is not what one does that colours an action but how one does it and with whom. An it hurt none, do what you will. Who defines filth, lewdness? Here is the danger of rule-making. It is often grounded only in personal taste and selfishness. What harms another is probably obvious enough even to very vicious people, but sexual morality is usually grounded only in taste and the relics of the ancient male problem of proving parentage, which is itself an expression of the (self-obviously wrong) lust for power over progeny. We probably each have an inner definition (taste, not morals) of what one finds distasteful. An it harm none, do what you will. All things are permitted to me, but not all are expedient, etc. Paul to the Romans, I think.
In light of this fullness of understanding, we may perceive the crucial importance of spiritual practice.
But not under any spiritual master but oneself. If one honestly heeds the observer whom one allows always to sit on one’s shoulder, whispering to the conscience, one is one’s own spiritual guide. That guide often finds out the peccata of others who, perhaps wearing their priestly robes, perhaps at Stonehenge at the solstice, presume to adopt that role.
I hope some, at least, of my meanings are clear. Words are such clumsy things, and I have a lot of other tasks, to which I must now return.
Eric Franklin, Sat 20 Jun, 14:30
In reply to your reply below, and as a continuation of my two comments to you earlier in the thread, let me give my best current reply to the question that I posed in my earlier comments. Let me emphasize once more for readers that this question should be understood to be the most crucial, decisive and urgent question that one existentially faces and should, in consequence, be treated with utmost seriousness.
The question that is severely underaddressed in the spiritualist or psychical literature is that of the proper ordering of the soul for the sake of its own felicity or salvation. This is a glaring deficiency, since it is the principal thing that must be known. Frederic Myers, with his typically uncommon thoroughness, addresses this in “The Road to Immortality”, Ch.8 and again in “Beyond Human Personality”, Ch.14 and, to summarize, recommends that the progression of the soul is best attained through love conjoined with wisdom; the right kind of loving oriented to the right object and end, that object and end being the absolute beauty of the Divine, and the most perfect example of that love conjoined with wisdom being Christ. One finds the same concern for rightly ordered loving in Plato’s “Symposium” with the prophetess Diotima’s instruction to Socrates to love the Good [Myers, ever the astute Classicist, makes reference to this in the second source given]. The same essential teaching may be found shot through Dante’s “Commedia”, as articulated by Marc Cogan, in his “The Design in the Wax”. As one of the central cantos in the “Purgatorio” makes clear, embodying the metaphor of a seal or design placed in wax, the entire range of human possibilities, for good or ill, turns on the nature and orientation of the love borne by the soul: [“Purgatorio” 18:34-9; tr. Mandelbaum] “Now you can plainly see how deeply hidden truth is from scrutinists, who would insist that every love is, in itself, praiseworthy; and they are led to error by the matter of love, because it may seem – always – good; but not each seal is fine, although the wax is.” The souls in “Inferno” are cursed by misdirected love, those in “Paradiso” blessed by love properly directed. Swedenborg, in the central section of “Heaven and Hell”, introduces the notion of the dominant or ruling love of an individual [para.477], which one bears within oneself and which is the determinant of one’s posthumous destiny: “We are our love or intention after death” [para.479] In this realm, as in so many others, Heraclitus’ maxim holds true: “Character is destiny.” The Quran similarly: [91:5-10, tr. Arberry] “By the heaven and That which built it and by the earth and That which extended it! By the soul, and That which shaped it and inspired it to lewdness and godfearing! Prosperous is he who purifies it, and failed has he who seduces it.” Similarly, the Bhagavad Gita [7:23] “Verily, ephemeral is the gain of the ignorant; they who worship deities go to these deities, and they who love Me go to Me.” To summarize the matter: How should one love? One should love both wisely and deeply. What should one love? One should love the Divine and others in light of the Divine. This is all very well understood, even to the youngest catechumen: [Deuteronomy 6:5; Mark 12:30] “And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.”
Herein we find also the mystery of judgment upon the soul. The soul, by the nature or character in which it has been formed, bears its own evidential record and its own deciding judgment. The law of affinity, which is discussed or alluded to in practically every relevant discarnate source, governs this. The soul, out of its formed nature, is compelled by affinity to seek out those posthumous circumstances – those environs and companions – that conform to its nature. As Myers, quoting St. John, expresses in his discussion [“The Road to Immortality”, Ch.3] of the posthumous destiny of disordered souls: [Rev. 22:11] “He that is filthy let him be filthy still.” Similarly, as the Quran expresses: [17:14-6, tr. Arberry] “We shall bring forth for him, on the Day of Resurrection, a book he shall find spread wide open. ‘Read thy book! Thy soul suffices thee this day as a reckoner against thee.’ Whosoever is guided, is only guided to his own gain, and whosoever goes astray, it is only to his own loss.” Similarly, the Bhagavad Gita [16:21-2] “Threefold are the gates to hell where man perishes: lust, anger, and greed. Therefore, one has to renounce these three. The one who has freed himself from these three gates of the darkness makes his own good…and attains the Supreme Goal.” The etheric or imaginal realm within which the soul finds itself after death is, in the soul’s experience, the externalization of the soul’s own qualities. What is experienced as felicity or wretchedness is simply the externalized experience of one’s own nature.
As all this makes clear, the primary task and goal of embodied human existence is the purification and maturation of the soul, the shaping of it toward its proper end, consummation and felicity. This has been the universal aim of religious traditions and the particular aim of the spiritual paths that they variously incorporate. Here also we touch upon traditional teachings regarding virtue and vice, which must be understood as so many traces, marks or habits imposed upon the soul. The soul and its formed nature are its own inheritance upon death; everything of its physical existence is stripped from it – its body of flesh, its possessions, its worldly power and prestige. It is left with itself, whether expansive or contracted, whether purified or corrupted. It must, in the fullest sense, live with itself, for good or ill. In light of this fullness of understanding, we may perceive the crucial importance of spiritual practice. The soul must be properly shaped. This shaping encompasses the moral and civic education necessary for the individual to function within society and for society to function as a whole, such as found, for instance, in the cardinal virtues first adumbrated by Plato and later adopted by the Christian Fathers. It further encompasses the spiritual virtues necessary for the proper return to God. If this kind of education is neglected, the result is the “men without chests” that C.S. Lewis portrays in the first chapter of his “The Abolition of Man”. The lived consequences are disastrous; the posthumous consequences are worse, precisely because it is the soul that shapes its own experience in this domain. The moral and civic virtues are fundamentally necessary; this is, however, a beginning of the soul’s formation, not an end. Beyond this, there is spiritual practice, which some – though certainly not all – are called to as a further state in the soul’s maturation.
We carry ourselves – only ourselves – into the next life, and ‘what’ we are determines ‘where’ we will be. It is really that simple. A particularly pithy statement by the “Technician”, the ‘angelic’ figure assisting the Luxembourg ITC group, drives this essential understanding home: “Heaven is in man and those who have heaven within themselves go to heaven. Heaven is in all those who recognize what is of God and let themselves be guided by the Divine. The priority and basic concern of every religion has always been the acknowledgement of God! [“Breakthroughs in Technical Spirit Communication”, Ch.3][cf. Luke 17:21 “The kingdom of God [heaven] is within you.”]
The discarnate literature speaks of affinity where Dante would speak of love, but really, these are two ways of expressing the same thing. St. Augustine, in his “Confessions” [13:9.10], famously wrote “My love is my weight.” This may be taken as a precise formulation of fact in relation to posthumous reality, for affinity acts, both in principle and in practice, as an attractive force, essentially analogous to gravitation, one’s ‘weight’. Affinity is love. One bears an affinity for what one loves. This is why discarnate reunions are so easy and why it is one’s nearest and dearest who come to greet one, whether in near death experiences, deathbed visions or the final passing. Dante, whose graphic depictions of the afterlife would seem to accord so poorly with the discarnate literature, nevertheless, in the essence of his message, has it exactly right: If you would do well – would gain felicity – then love well and direct your loving aright. That is all you need to know in essence.
Paul, Sat 20 Jun, 05:01
First an apology for taking a few days to respond to your comment. I am busy finishing a paper on Relativity and Immortality (its title may be eventually changed). Then I have all the humdrum daily tasks that humans have, and some beyond that, unusual at my age. I have to do them, and am nearly eighty, so I have limited physical energy and time. And many etceteras.
But you warrant a very conscientious and concerned response, so I intend to give that, as quickly, but also as correctly, as I can. The result may be a rambling essay, as things come into mind, but is VERY conscientious and caring. I have read what you have said in two comments on Michael Tymn’s blog addressed to me (Thank you) about the utter rottenness of the USA. Following that, I have skimmed over all the four christian gospels during the past day or two, to remind myself of what useful ideas they contain that I could remind you, too, of. I am aware of the huge responsibility anyone who presumes to offer opinions has, “”””religiously””””” speaking. I am aware of the universal duty of humans to help each other and NEVER place barriers in their way. I am aware that I, along with all others, are amenable to some sort of judgement, whether self-applied or uttered by other Beings, and whether now or in some future, perhaps post-terrestrial-mortem.
Now (collecting my thoughts after an interruption on the phone from one of the known scams about renewing something or other on Amazon for 39 days - an utter lie, of course) I will share a few thoughts.
I think the right course for humans is fundamentally simple (though that does not make it simple to apply in life). I half remember some passage in the New Testament about “the answer of an honest and true heart” - that’s not accurate, I am sure.
Now, an interpolation before coming to a conclusion: as I said, I read over the gospels again, after many years, hoping for a neat statement of my view, and was horrified to see how much they reflect the mores of the age in which they were written. They may not be accurate portrayals of Yahshua’s own teachings. The gospels themselves record that his own disciples did not understand his teachings, and perhaps the accounts (written some time after the events) record only the very imperfect impressions the teachings had succeeded in impressing upon the gospel writers, the intended spiritual rather than legalistically religious ideas being entirely lost. I dare to set the gospels aside as passé, and introspect on my own motivations in life. Simple TRUE action from the heart is my own recipe.
Our actions, words, thoughts, stem from ‘the heart’, often influenced by the head, of course, but the heart makes a judgement as to whether to act on the head’s promptings. So the final filter is the heart, showing one’s own inner reaction to what the head prompts. Eventually, the heart attains total control of the head, and then ALL one’s thoughts, words and actions come straight from the heart. The head does not any longer even WANT to do things that do not ring true in the heart. It has become natural to do what one sees to be good FOR OTHER PEOPLE BEFORE ONESELF. (The benefits for oneself of doing this accrue without any striving after them, which striving might be at others’ expense, so should be avoided.)
There is much to express agreement and rapport with in what you have written, Paul, but I need not say more, I think. This does not set out to be a polished essay (unlike that paper on Relativity and Immortality), so I think you will forgive its rough-and-ready-ness. To sum up, I believe that to receive a good judgement at the end of an Earth life, NEVER try to act to receive that good judgement - let good deeds happen without that “carrot”, NEVER descend into religion, ALWAYS follow spiritually motivated thought, word, deed, ALWAYS act altruistically - one knows this way intuitively - and trust the Great Being. Sorry this is so clumsily expressed. (There have been FOUR interruptions during the half hour I have been writing it - what an Earth-life. Ah, well. And I have NOT proof-read or edited it - please accept it rough.)
Eric Franklin <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Eric Franklin, Fri 19 Jun, 10:51
My heartfelt thanks for the kind comments! Will give a bit fuller response via email…
Don Porteous, Tue 16 Jun, 21:04
I have just completed reading the manuscript of your yet-to-be published book, “Spiritual Reality and the Afterlife: Materialism Meets Immortality,” which you were kind enough to send me, and just wanted to pass on a few remarks. First of all, the book is very well researched and very well written. Further, it is a very engaging read, written with both clarity and urgency. I consider myself well-read in the discarnate-related and parapsychological literature (if a novice in the Marian apparition literature), yet you taught me things I did not know and deepened my knowledge on some topics I know well.
Your decision to combine the testimony of ‘teaching spirits’ such as Imperator and Myers with that of Marian apparitions is a novel choice, one I have not encountered elsewhere. It will not be to every reader’s initial taste, but as you point out, the onset of spiritualist communication and Marian apparitions both began to increase significantly around the mid-1800’s. Although separate ‘channels’ of communication, both were, by their own admission, motivated by the same issue: the rise, in the same period, of materialism as a predominating worldview and the consequent eclipse of religion and spirituality.
As I have observed previously, the discarnate-related literature is almost entirely a product of an Anglophone – and to a lesser extent European – cultural matrix, one historically Christian. Mary, the mother of Christ, is of course a preeminent Christian figure addressing (largely, but not completely) this same Christian cultural matrix. Finally, secular modernity is itself very evidently a historical creation of Anglophone and European society, since ‘exported’ around the world. Modernity can in fact be seen as a particular outgrowth of Christian – specifically Protestant – civilization, as analyzed by such scholars as Max Weber, Peter Berger and Craig M. Gay. Here, Berger’s “gravedigger hypothesis” – that Protestantism effectively, if unwittingly, created its own secular gravediggers in contributing so substantially to the rise of modern culture – is of particular relevance.
All this points to the rise of modernity, spiritualist communication and Marian apparitions as being a kind of ‘impetus’ and (double) ‘response’ – or, better, ‘error’ and (double) ‘correction’ – within historic Christendom. This understanding may help to frame for the reader the ‘Christian-centric’ orientation of your work. I encourage you to seek publication – it deserves a wide audience. In closing, let me share, if I may, two ‘bookends’ from your work with the readers here, which I thought particularly memorable. The first, from Canadian Prime Minister, Mackenzie King, to the esteemed automatist Geraldine Cummins:
There certainly can be no truer explanation of the terrible condition through which the world has recently been passing and is still suffering from, than the conflict between materialism and the spiritual interpretation of life. Like you, but in a different way, I have sought to wage war on the former, and shall continue to do so until the end.
The second, from your own final statement:
At the end of the day, the ultimate goal, as taught by spirit-teachers like Imperator and discovered by searchers like Myers, is maximum spiritual development. The growth of the individual soul, however humble its beginnings, into a fully matured, fully educated, fully aware, fully functioning—and to the extent possible for any mere mortal, a fully worthy member of the spiritual community. In other words, precisely the same goal urged by Mary in her various apparitions.
[In summary paraphrase of your many sources] Get your heads out of the greed-based, self-aggrandizement-based, spirituality-denying mire of materialism. Raise your minds and your consciousness towards the spiritual, but very palpable, and much larger reality that awaits you all.
To which I can only reply: Amen, and Amen.
Let me share, in closing, two sources that I feel to be in harmony with your work and the above observations. The first, from the great British poetess and scholar, Kathleen Raine, who spoke of what she called ‘The Great Battle”:
By this time, I had learned enough of the ‘excluded knowledge’ to understand that this was indeed ‘the Great Battle’. The greatest issue in the world was at stake; and Western ideology at that time – and indeed to this day – has adopted the materialist view that the sum and substance of reality is matter and mind passive before a mechanized ‘nature’. ‘Behaviourist’ psychology was prevalent, the animate world too was being mechanized. So no one wanted to know about a tradition which holds mind to be the prime agent. [http://ignca.nic.in/nl_00902.htm]
I have said these things many times in my writings on Blake and Yeats, in which works are (amongst other things) the record of my own necessary adventure in search of a greater truth than our own complacent yet despicably second-rate materialist ideologies offer. I hope that they are also more than that – that my own labours have played their part in the Great Battle for the overthrow of these ideologies… [“Yeats the Initiate,” pp.437-8]
The second, and a particularly fitting one given the Marian focus of your own work, from G.K. Chesterton’s “The Ballad of the White Horse”, a poetic paean to the crucial medieval English king Alfred the Great. I can hardly emphasize the sheer poetic power of the poem and narration (linked below), of a kind I have only rarely encountered, so much so that I rarely even get through the dedication without tears. As a taste, I offer two visions of Our Lady, the first granted to the defeated King Alfred hiding from the Danes on the river island of Athelney, the second granted to him in the height of the fray in the Battle of Ethandune:
In the island in the river
He was broken to his knee:
And he read, writ with an iron pen,
That God had wearied of Wessex men
And given their country, field and fen,
To the devils of the sea.
And he saw in a little picture,
Tiny and far away,
His mother sitting in Egbert’s hall,
And a book she showed him, very small,
Where a sapphire Mary sat in stall
With a golden Christ at play.
It was wrought in the monk’s slow manner,
From silver and sanguine shell,
Where the scenes are little and terrible,
Keyholes of heaven and hell.
In the river island of Athelney,
With the river running past,
In colours of such simple creed
All things sprang at him, sun and weed,
Till the grass grew to be grass indeed
And the tree was a tree at last.
Fearfully plain the flowers grew,
Like the child’s book to read,
Or like a friend’s face seen in a glass;
He looked; and there Our Lady was,
She stood and stroked the tall live grass
As a man strokes his steed.
Her face was like an open word
When brave men speak and choose,
The very colours of her coat
Were better than good news.
She spoke not, nor turned not,
Nor any sign she cast,
Only she stood up straight and free,
Between the flowers in Athelney,
And the river running past.
And when the last arrow
Was fitted and was flown,
When the broken shield hung on the breast,
And the hopeless lance was laid in rest,
And the hopeless horn blown,
The King looked up, and what he saw
Was a great light like death,
For Our Lady stood on the standards rent,
As lonely and as innocent
As when between white walls she went
And the lilies of Nazareth.
One instant in a still light
He saw Our Lady then,
Her dress was soft as western sky,
And she was a queen most womanly—
But she was a queen of men.
Over the iron forest
He saw Our Lady stand,
Her eyes were sad withouten art,
And seven swords were in her heart—
But one was in her hand.
Paul, Tue 16 Jun, 17:22
I wanted to comment further with regard to reincarnation and your statement “There is a close analogy with the idea of escape velocity. A rocket escapes Earth’s gravity only when moving fast enough. The non-material essence of a human only escapes having to reincarnate when it reaches a sufficient development. Otherwise it falls to Earth-life again.” This reminds me very much of the two paths denoted in the classical Hindu scriptures, the Pitṛyāna, the path of the ancestors, and the Devayāna, the path of the gods. The former is the reincarnatory path; the latter is the path of release and liberation from the round of reincarnation. Thus, sloka VIII.26 of the Bhagavad Gita (tr. Winthrop Sargeant) states:
These are the two paths, light and dark,
thought to be eternal for the universe.
By one he does not return;
by the other he returns again.
What distinguishes those who take the path of the gods and who escape the cycle of rebirth? According to the testimony of the Chāndogya, Brhadāranyaka, Mundaka and Praśna Upaniṣads, they are those who are self-controlled, full of knowledge and wisdom, and devoted to faith, austerity and truth. Words to bear in mind.
Paul, Sun 14 Jun, 17:36
“In Times of War,” the book begins with a story about Harry Patch, the second to last WW1 soldier to die in the UK. When Harry reached 100 he was asked how he dealt with the trials and horrors of that war. He recalled an incident on the battlefield:
“We came across this lad from ‘A’ Company. He was ripped open from his shoulder to his waist by shrapnel, and lying in a pool of blood. When we got to him he looked at us and said: ’shoot me.’ He was beyond all human help, and before we could draw a revolver he was dead. And the final word he uttered was ‘Mother.’
“I was with him in the last seconds of his life. It wasn’t a cry of despair; it was a cry of surprise and joy. I think—although I wasn’t allowed to see her, I am sure his mother was in the next world to welcome him and he knew it” (van Emden, Patch 2007).”
Like many people I felt sick when I watched the video of George Floyd. As he was dying, like the dying soldier Harry met, he called out for his mama, who was affectionally known as Cissy. Apparently, Cissy died two years ago. Like Harry, I hope George did see his mother and that she was there to welcome him.
Jon, Sun 14 Jun, 14:54
You touch upon a point of immense importance when you say, “This begs the question of what constitutes sufficient development. My own suggestion is that it is a measure of ethical stature, or at least contains this measure as a prime element.” If one is prepared to take the discarnate literature seriously on its own terms, then it resolves a fundamental concern that those enmeshed within a secular or materialist framework necessarily carry – the fear of death. It does nothing, however, to address the concern behind this concern – that of posthumous sorting’, ‘placement’ or ‘assignment’ (this last taken from Robert Crookall’s “The Supreme Adventure”), expressed in traditional religious language as separating the wheat from the tares or the sheep from the goats. Michael has, in the past, echoed the ‘false binary’ of too much conventional religious thinking as that of a ‘humdrum heaven or horrific hell’, and that is fine as far as it goes. It does not escape, however, the broadly consistent testimony from the discarnate literature that there is in fact a posthumous ‘sorting’, if into a far more nuanced multitude of ‘levels’. If there is a thing to fear, it is this and not death.
The urgent question then becomes, “how may I conduct myself in this life so as to be ‘sorted well’ in the next?” If this differs in its basic thrust from that of traditional religion – really, any traditional religion (some variant interpretations of Judaism excepting) – I can’t see how. The language in which such sorting is typically described in the literature is in terms of ‘affinity’, ‘vibration’ and ‘externalization of the imagination’. As a particular, well-regarded example from the literature, I might point to Helen Greaves’ “Testimony of Light”, which includes extensive testimony from her deceased friend Frances Banks regarding her ‘missionary journeys’ to ‘lower levels’ in order to ‘redeem lost souls’. If I am using an excessively religious language here, it is perhaps because of the essential parallelism to more familiar terrestrial categories (that, and also that Banks was an Anglican nun). There are numerous similar types of accounts in the literature that could be mentioned as well. One more I will mention, from a very different angle of approach, are the two books by the highly seasoned OBE traveler Jürgen Ziewe, author of “Multi-Dimensional Man” and “Vistas of Infinity”, who describes encounters with various discarnate individuals who are ‘stuck’ in unfortunate circumstances, some of them very grim indeed, that stem from the inherent nature of who they are.
So, one would urgently like to know, if I might express it thus: how might one shape one’s soul in order to save one’s soul? Is that not the key question that follows the gaining of sufficient familiarity with the discarnate-related literature? What is disconcerting is how little that same literature offers by way of answer. I mean this both in the sense of offering an orientation as well as offering a ‘way’ by which that orientation might be pursued. In a ‘terrestrial context’, there are a multitude of spiritual practices available that one might pursue. Meditation and prayer, taken here broadly, are but two that might be mentioned. What spiritual practices are offered or recommended by the discarnate-related literature? I can think of very few – an occasional good word put in on behalf of prayer and that’s about it. This represents a massive lacuna and offers nothing better, more insightful or more practicable than what one may find in any conventionally religious teaching. It is considerably below what one may find in the various spiritual paths embedded within the various religious traditions.
What should be deeply disturbing in all of this is that the discarnate-related literature offers a vision of posthumous reality that is far more detailed, nuanced and (for many) convincing than is available from any other source, and yet seems to offer very little practical guidance on what is really the most essential, crucial and immediate question to arise from it.
Paul, Sun 14 Jun, 12:24
Thank you very much for your kind offer with regard to what sounds like a remarkable undertaking. I have reached out to you as per your invitation.
Paul, Sun 14 Jun, 11:16
If I have offended, I can only apologize. As I hope was clear from my earlier post, I would not claim that I myself am not also affected by the same ‘déformation professionnelle’, if in different ways than yourself. However, the problem with blind spots is that one tends to be blind to them. As for Wikipedia, I know, I know… I try to go to more authoritative sources when I can and have a real distain for how its unknown, self-appointed editors hard skew to a secular materialist bias when it comes to topics of the sort that are of interest to this blog (as well as more broadly). However, for that particular term, Wikipedia is actually the best reference source in English – it’s simply not well known, for all its utility.
Paul, Sun 14 Jun, 11:13
Dear Michael Tymn and all correspondents,
I am too busy to have read all the rich comment on the current blog, but it is evident that some VERY wise and thoughtful people are contributing. Thank you to all.
There are therefore a number of reasons to keep my own remarks brief (if possible). Brief will also mean ‘bitty’. Not every comment need be a dissertation.
Don Porteous makes a commentable comment.
There was general agreement that reincarnation was more likely for “less developed” souls.
I agree with this. There is a close analogy with the idea of escape velocity. A rocket escapes Earth’s gravity only when moving fast enough. The non-material essence of a human only escapes having to reincarnate when it reaches a sufficient development. Otherwise it falls to Earth-life again. This begs the question of what constitutes sufficient development. My own suggestion is that it is a measure of ethical stature, or at least contains this measure as a prime element.
I also agree that we are all conditioned by our own skills etc, which are relatively speaking, a measure of our lack in other areas than our skills. (Someone mentions this.) My comment would be that we are wrong, in our culture, to scorn the Jack-of-all-trades, or the unqualified autodidact. S/he is the product of her/his own efforts - surely a good thing. Some people have abilities in many spheres. I am one such. I am a published author, a professional-standard painter in oils, a bit of a composer, a builder, AND MANY CAN CLAIM SIMILAR RANGES OF ACHIEVEMENTS - I am not boasting. That is not my point. My point is that to avoid the conditioning of our thought into too narrow a channel (was it Paul who mentioned this? There is so much comment on this blog!) it may even be a good thing to be the open-minded Jack, who is perhaps the one most able to see what is difficult for the conditioned mind to see. Topically, to illustrate this, I find that even philosophically and scientifically aware people do not seem able to see how Relativity Theory relates to questions of survival of physical death and the question of where the survivors now live. Yet it’s all so easy for the UNTRAINED but seeing mind. In my old age I am becoming glad that I did not develop any one of my abilities at the expense of the others, despite the advice of teachers in my youth. Instead, and very naturally, ethico-spiritual development has become the only mountain to climb - at least in this incarnation.
Eric Franklin, Sun 14 Jun, 09:16
Paul—-Something I forgot to mention. The “spirits’ attitudes” section of my book encompasses Chapters 16 and 17 (of 18), running to about 70 or so pages total. The material presented there is only a mere sampling of the full data-set, which encompasses 42 large-size analysis sheets.
The underlying source material comes from a hundred or so books by or about mediums, mostly from the early 1900’s, and reports the opinions of 145 of them, on roughly 150 questions of some spiritual import,m generated from about 50 different mediums. As, obviously, opinions are going to vary depending on the background, interests, etc. of the respondent, I separated the responses into a number of different categories—-those from “teachers” (like Imperator, etc.), those from “researchers” (Myers, Wm. James, etc.), “religious professionals”, and so on, I think it’s seven categories in all. All of which are then compared to the input from Mary. As you can imagine, it gets a bit complex!
After you’ve read the book, if your interest is still piqued and you’d like to see the underlying data, perhaps we can find a way to do it…
Don Porteous, Sat 13 Jun, 23:13
My sincere thanks for your very kind words. As noted previously, my work has not found a publisher, primarily due to a combination of its length (over 150,000 words), my lack of “professional credentials” in the field (a mere BA in Journalism), and perhaps fatally, my lack of a “platform” for marketing(as an old codger approaching his 80th year, I’ve never been able to feel a great sense of kinship with the whole new world of social media).
My thanks again for your interest, Paul—-your comments made my day!
Don Porteous, Sat 13 Jun, 22:49
My religious friends think I am an agent of Satan. My atheistic friends think I am a religious zealot, and you think I am a white supremist. The truth of the matter is that I am a prejudiced pragmatic. My only real prejudice is against young people who think they understand it all and have all the solutions.
I grew up seeing much prejudice among family and friends. It had nothing to do with color of skin. I heard much disparagement of Italians, Polish, Portuguese, and Jews during the 1940s, and it bothered me.When in 1947, I adopted Jackie Robinson as my sports hero and had framed pictures of him on my bedroom wall, I was ribbed by family and friends for idolizing a black man. That’s the way it was back then and I have witnessed great strides in overcoming such a mindset. When I married an Asian woman in 1961, there was considerable unrest within the family. It was not nearly as accepted then as it is now. My present wife of 47 years is Eurasian and I am in a minority here in Hawaii, as many “locals” look down upon those of us referred to as “haoles.” Some locals would like to see all haoles leave the state.
I gather that the mindset of many militant young people is much like that of the militant atheists. Their minds have been warped by watching too much television. They have become idealists with little understanding of the real world. Having served in the military and having taught hand-to-hand combat, I know that one of the most important things taught is letting the other guy know who is boss. You are taught to assert yourself and even scare the other guy into submission by yelling at him if that is necessary. If you don’t, and he takes you for a cream-puff, there is a good chance he will gain the upper hand. Please don’t interpret that to mean that I think the Minneapolis police officer was justified in keeping his knee on Floyd’s neck for 8 ½ minutes. I don’t and I fully agree that he should be prosecuted.
Much has been written lately about doing away with the choke-hold. I’m not talking about keeping one’s knee on a person’s neck, but restraining him until handcuffs can be put on him. Anyone with any combative experience will tell you that a choke-hold is the only effective way to hold the person. Unless you are a 7-foot tall basketball player with an eight-foot arm span, you are not going to be able to wrap your arms around his arms and chest. The person can easily break loose from that. It is not necessary to actually choke the person to death in restraining him. Young people without any experience don’t seem to understand this, and if the choke-hold is made illegal, you can look for police officers to not even make an attempt to arrest those committing crimes. It’s not nearly as easy as TV makes it out to be.
As I said earlier, I will not get into politics. I will just say that I don’t particularly like President Trump’s methods, but I agree with nearly all of his policies. I will leave it at that and not discuss politics here.
Thank you for your understanding.
Michael Tymn, Sat 13 Jun, 20:33
Hey, Sergio at 13 June. You say you “have no energy to talk politics, Michael, and this is the wrong place to do it” ... after writing a comment full of anti-white, Bolshevik nonsense.
Rick Darby, Sat 13 Jun, 18:44
Paul, you are being condescending to all of us. yet, you use Wikipedia!
Tom Butler, Sat 13 Jun, 18:14
I find your comments on reincarnation immensely interesting and would be very interested to learn more of your survey of spirits’ attitudes. Is this available? What I take you to be pointing to is something I have long felt to be missing with regard to the discarnate-related literature: a wide-ranging, critical survey and summary of the available source material. It would be a massive project, really PhD dissertation-worthy work, or possibly greater in scale. Robert Crookall’s work is really the closest model for this kind of endeavor we have, but while it is excellent, it needs to be extended. If I had the time, I would take on the project myself, but I simply don’t.
It is work requiring a particular capacity of judgement upon source materials of an imperfect and varied nature. One must also always bear in mind that the discarnates most likely to communicate are those most likely to lack mature views on the nature of their new existence. Further, people remain people, there is fundamental continuity upon transition, and as most people while embodied don’t know much about much, we should not expect anything different from those who communicate back. Thus, the extreme value of Myers’ discarnate communications, given his twenty-five-year delay following his death before offering them and his established reputation as a thorough and careful researcher. Such individuals are thin on the ground, here and no doubt there as well.
The percentages on discarnate views regarding reincarnation that you cite make sense to me. To again analogously cite a ‘terrestrial’ example: we expect most students to graduate from one ‘grade’ to the next, but there will be a few who, for whatever reason, need to repeat a given grade. An example might be found in Ian Stevenson’s very thorough and wide-ranging fieldwork on the topic, which anyone seriously looking into it has come to terms with. Many of the reincarnation cases he documented were from ‘interrupted’ or ‘disrupted’ lives – individuals who had not lived their full term and appeared to have made a ‘second pass’ at ‘terrestrial life’ – which fits with notion of something like ‘repeating a grade’.
Your comments regarding the Virgin Mary cause me to reflect on the curious lack of mention of encounter of her in the discarnate literature with which I am familiar. Given that this discarnate literature is largely out of an Anglosphere and European cultural context, it is perhaps unsurprising that exalted spiritual figures from other cultures and traditions rarely if ever figure in the literature, but given the occasional reference to direct or mediated encounters with Christ, one would also expect to find the same with regard to the Virgin Mary, particularly given her traditional cosmic role as mediatrix. I have no issue accepting that she possesses a continuing exalted spiritual reality, but find it curious as to her absence from the discarnate-related literature. Although I am aware of the various Marian apparitions, I have not made a particular study of them as you have. Perhaps I shall be inspired to do so at some point.
As to your parting quote from Imperator, I can only agree. As a basic issue, for instance, in order to properly understand reincarnation, we would have to understand the nature of time, of sequentiality and simultaneity, and there are good reasons, based on the available literature, to think that our understanding of such from our present position is severely limited. Further, as Myers brings out, in order to understand reincarnation, we have to understand the ‘group-soul’ and how reincarnation might ‘function’ within this larger conception. As hardly anyone on our side who speaks about reincarnation has even heard of the group-soul, this suggests that our basic conceptions are badly off. Michael wrote a nice overview some years back that tallies closely with your own thoughts: [http://whitecrowbooks.com/michaeltymn/month/2011/04/]. A website that does a good job of extending the conversation is ‘The Mystery of Reincarnation: An Inscrutable Enigma?’ [https://olli-reincarnation.weebly.com/; click on the three horizontal bars in the upper left for site content].
There is yet one last ‘inscrutable mystery’ that attends to reincarnation that is rarely considered. If reality is ultimately singular and whole, then to speak glibly of individuals reincarnating is, at a foundational metaphysical level, quite obviously absurd. Ananda Coomaraswamy, one of the greatest scholars of the 20th century, authored a dense article, fittingly titled “On the One and Only Transmigrant”, that brings this point out with great force and clarity: [http://turiya.vidya.hu/konyvtar/pdf/On the One and Only Transmigrant.pdf]
Let me, in conclusion, quote here the verse, cited in the article, from the Sufi poet Attar, which nicely summarizes everything Coomaraswamy has to say:
Pilgrim, Pilgrimage and Road
Paul, Sat 13 Jun, 17:21
Was but Myself toward Myself, and Your arrival,
But Myself at my own door.
Michael, I’ve read most of your books on the afterlife, which I’ve found lucid, well-researched and highly educational, and also most of your blog entries, which I find as interesting as your books. Having said this, let me tell you that this latest entry has shattered me.
Once upon a time, the Spiritualist movement in America was a highly progressive one, much more than the society it arose from, as you surely know. I’m thinking of William Lloyd Garrison, Amy and Isaac Post, and so many others who passionately advocated women’s rights and campaigned against slavery. I wonder what they would have thought of the piece you’ve just posted.
In a moment when George Floyd’s body is still warm, you open your article speaking of guns and bad guys, and rationalizing the happy trigger, and yet you managed to not mention him, because black people are always so excluded from the picture, so absent, that they get erased even when their very bodies are at the center of the funeral room. More things you do not mention, the appalling inequality and institutionalized racism who black Americans daily endure. This widespread racism is one of the roots of “America’s madness”, Michael, and certainly the cause of the turmoil we see today. As long as the majority of white privileged Americans do not address their own contribution to this supremacist madness, and the very concept of “white privilege” as well, the situation will just keep worsening.
For God’s sake, is it possible that your “comforts, luxuries, and hedonistic pleasures with entitlement programs” narrative is meant to explain the current turmoil in the US? Is it possible to be that blind, Michael, that self-absorbed in white privilege and detached from reality on the ground?
To make matters worse, and leaving aside your implicit defense of someone like Trump —a creature I cannot describe in terms which preclude the ban of my comment; associating him with ‘work ethic’ really is an achievement, by the way—, you link to a far-rightist Archbishop’s letter in support of the creature published on an overtly racist, Antisemitic (more than 500 entries on Soros, which is a dog-whistle for fascists all over the world), tinfoil hat conspiracist website.
I have no energy to talk politics, Michael, and this is the wrong place to do it. I just wanted to tell you how sad it was to discover something I wasn’t aware you were.
We have enough racism in this broke world, enough injustice and privilege, enough problems of many a kind to be suddenly hit by the moral bankruptcy of those who one day you highly regarded and esteemed. It simply is too much, and I felt like raising my voice when nobody, absolutely nobody have raised theirs on this blog. I know is pretty useless as well.
Sergio, Sat 13 Jun, 15:18
I appreciate your good grace in response to my earlier comments. In your opening statement, I think you have put your thumb on the basic issue at hand. There is a French phrase I first learned from the mathematician and scholar David Berlinski that we lack an effective English equivalent to, but which is very useful in understanding the contrasting viewpoints exhibited by various individuals: ‘déformation professionnelle’. [The Wiki page sums it up decently: ]https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/DÃ©formation_professionnelle] This may, of course, be applied pejoratively, and most often is, but it can also be taken as merely descriptive. We are all professionally formed, and the higher the degree of professional expertise, the greater the extent of this (de)formation. It quite literally shapes the way we think, even the way we cognize the world.
A pertinent example may be in order. Although the percentage of professing atheists among ‘ordinary’ scientists is no higher than that among the population at large, the same percentage in leading scientific academies such as the American National Academy of Sciences or British Royal Society is vastly higher than among the general population (a statement no doubt truer in the US than in the UK, where atheism is generally more prevalent). Two answers for why this should be suggest themselves: a) such leading scientists are so much smarter than the rest of us sheep that they simply hold more correct views on basic philosophical questions; b) such leading scientists have so immersed themselves to such a degree in a completely materialist and naturalist framework that to think in any other way seems absurd to them. Given that when scientists such as Hawking or Dawkins try to wax philosophically, they invariably tend to show up their ignorance and embarrass themselves, my money is on b). This is not to say that scientists can’t do philosophy, but an earlier generation – Bohr or Schrödinger, for instance – tended to do it so much better.
Your formation has been as an engineer. Mine has been vocationally as a scientist, and avocationally as a student of world religion, spirituality and philosophy. It is no wonder we are talking past each other a bit. What I would say is that I don’t think any of my prior observations are necessary false or inapplicable, but they may well be ‘narrowly irrelevant’ to the specific task you are upon. Your particular professional formation is no doubt necessary for your particular work, without which it couldn’t effectively be accomplished. That does not mean that it does not impose certain limits to understanding. Let me leave it at that, along with all best wishes for the furtherance of your ITC work.
Paul Smit, Sat 13 Jun, 15:17
In reminding that life is all about learning, you of course make a good point, one that should be borne in mind. Still, if we take the model that we are here to learn, to be matured, then perhaps also we can look analogously at types of situations of greater familiarity in which learning or maturation is intended to take place – say, a classroom. To your point, if everything is easy, if no or few demands are placed upon us, then too many of us will loaf and coast. To take a scenario on the other end, if we are given little feedback in learning or guidance with regard to the nature of what is to be learned, if seemingly arbitrary ‘bad things’ happen with some frequency – a slap to the back to the head, an assignment goes missing, lunch money is stolen, detention is assigned – if teachers appear to be absent, if many of the most intelligent students argue that there is no point to be learned, we would hardly consider this a model environment for learning and maturation. Rather more ‘Lord of the Flies’, I would think. It is quite possible that from a higher viewpoint – sub specie aeternitatis or perhaps sub specie etherias – all is resolved. That is one reason to read broadly in the discarnate-related literature. Such a happy resolution is not, however, readily apparent from our present perspective. With that said, I do yet trust in hope and anticipation that, in the words of the medieval anchoress Julian of Norwich, “All shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.” In the meantime, however, we have to slog it out here as best we may and according to the best lights we can muster.
My mention of Julian of Norwich in the context of the present musings reminds me of a vision of C.S. Lewis shortly after Lewis’s death by his friend, biblical scholar J.B. Phillips:
Many of us who believe in what is technically known as the Communion of Saints must have experienced the sense of nearness, for a fairly short time, of those whom we love soon after they have died. This has certainly happened to me several times. But the late C.S. Lewis, whom I did not know very well and had only seen in the flesh once, but with whom I had corresponded a fair amount, gave me an unusual experience. A few days after his death, while I was watching television, he ‘appeared’ sitting in a chair within a few feet of me, and spoke a few words which were particularly relevant to the difficult circumstances through which I was passing. He was ruddier in complexion than ever, grinning all over his face and, as the old-fashioned saying has it, positively glowing with health. The interesting thing to me was that I had not been thinking about him at all. I was neither alarmed nor surprised nor, to satisfy the Bishop of Woolwich, did I look up to see the hole in the ceiling that he might have made on arrival! He was just there— ‘large as life and twice as natural.’ A week later, this time when I was in bed, reading before going to sleep, he appeared again, even more rosily radiant than before, and repeated to me the same message, which was very important to me at the time. I was a little puzzled by this, and I mentioned it to a certain saintly bishop who was then living in retirement here in Dorset. His reply was, ‘My dear J—, this sort of thing is happening all the time.’ [J.B. Phillips, Ring of Truth, 118–19.]
Further commentary, offering further detail of a classic ‘crisis apparition’ involving Lewis, of the kind recorded so abundantly by the early SPR in “Phantasms of the Living”:
At the time, J.B. Phillips was in a deep depression that threatened his life. He refused to leave his chambers, refused proper food or exercise, and seriously questioned the love and election of God [in his life]. It was in this state of detachment and depression, leading to his early death…that suddenly, a ruddy and glowing Lewis stood before him, entering his room through closed doors—a “healthy Lewis, hearty and glowing” as Phillips was later to record.
In this vision, Lewis only spoke only one sentence to Phillips: ‘J.B., it’s not as hard as you think.’ One solitary sentence, the meaning of which is debated! But what is not debated is the effect of that sentence. It snapped Phillips out of his depression, and set him again following God. After Lewis spoke that cryptic sentence, he disappeared.
Phillips came out of his chambers only to find that Lewis had died moments before the appearance, miles away. He pondered this in his heart, with wonder, and never returned to his depression. Now, was this a case of God giving a detour of a soul on the way to heaven to a special friend, to save him? Who knows? But again, it is recorded evidence of the highest order, by persons of the highest order: Lewis and Phillips. It is a ghost story, a benevolent one, to all appearances – actually, not only benevolent, but redemptive.
“It’s not as hard as you think.” “All shall be well.” Perhaps this is really what I and Ian need to hear at this present juncture to set us out of the track of our respective dark musings.
Paul, Sat 13 Jun, 14:40
Further to your thoughts on reincarnation…it may be of interest that of the 145 separate spirits included in my review of spirits’ attitudes, a total of 52 had comments on some aspect of the reincarnation question. Of those, only 4% of them (2 of the 52)fell into the “reincarnation is the norm” camp.
Don Porteous, Sat 13 Jun, 08:30
At the other end of the spectrum, only 6% (3 of the 52) were of the opinion that “reincarnation occurs only rarely, if at all.”
By far the most predominant view, (79% of the responding spirits, 41 of the 52)was that reincarnation occurred at least “some of the time” for at least “some souls.” There was general agreement that reincarnation was more likely for “less developed” souls.
Frederic Myers, who you mentioned, felt that while it indeed did happen, at least occasionally, reincarnation was really “not necessary,” as whatever further experience a given soul needed for its development could be acquired via it’s exposure to the experiences of those other souls comprising its “group soul.”
The Virgin Mary, in her many apparitions, to the best of my knowledge only mentions reincarnation on one occasion, at Medjugorje (July 24, 1982) where she said “It is false to teach people that we are born many times and that we pass on to different bodies. The body, drawn from earth, decomposes after death. It never comes back to life again. Man receives a transfigured body…”
Considering this widespread variance in opinion, perhaps the most cogent viewpoint is that expressed by Imperator…“There are still mysteries, we are fain to confess, into which it is not well that man should yet penetrate. Whether in the eternal counsels of the Supreme it may be deemed well that a particular spirit should or should not be again incarnated in a material form is a question that none can answer, for none can know, not even the spirit’s own guides. What is wise and well will be done.”
We’ll all find the answer, whatever our own answer may be, in due time.
Paul, interesting comments. Thanks.
Perhaps some of the confusion is that I am trained as an engineer and not as a philosopher. It is reasonable to expect that I misuse traditional terms.
My objective is to understand the nature of ITC. To do so, I find it necessary to embrace many parapsychological concepts; however, not being an academically trained parapsychologists, I have not been privy to very much of their theorizing. It is also a problem that the majority of them are not inclined to accept the existence of ITC, and therefore, there seems to be virtually no academic modeling that considers ITC. The consequence is that I find it useful to strike out on my own.
This kind of exchange is useful for me, so if you don’t mind, I will take your points in order.
Of course, Dualism is fundamentally the stipulation that reality has a mental and a physical aspect. This is especially important for the question of whether mind emerges from biological brain or if mind is external to brain. If mind emerges from brain, the question becomes one of physical science. If mind is independent of brain, the question becomes about the nature of the aspect of reality it inhabits. My view is that metaphysical theorizing drives cosmological modeling. Cosmologies must predict testable hypotheses. That is where I get the idea that the study of metaphysical Dualism is actionable protoscience. To an engineer, anything else is useless.
Using your example of photons on retina becoming perception, taking a hint from the Cochlear Implant, we know the mind learns to assign specific meaning to such information. The information of our five senses need not be translated into pictures and words. It only needs to be consistent. The actual transformation from bioelectric signal to psi signal is a mystery but seems to look a little like a phased-array antenna. At least that is where I would begin.
There is evidence from ITC that the etheric communicators (incarnate or discarnate) cannot directly experience our physical environment. Instead, they appear to rely on someone still in the flesh to function like a video camera. We think the same is true for etheric-to-physical influence. The model that seems to best explain trans-etheric influence is that a mind must be entangled with a biological organism to interact with physical space.
But if the arrow of creation flies from Source to present, the physical would look more like a collective imagining in which we interact by agreement and from habit. That is where Sheldrake comes in. In that scenario, it is not necessary to have a substantive trans-etheric influence. We need only agree that there is one specific to the event. That would explain much of what we see as paranormal.
While it appears that psychokinetic intention directly influences physical processes (Random Event Generators and noise for EVP, for instance), the evidence is stronger that mind is influencing the concept of those physical processes, and thereby changing the witness’ perception of them. (I wonder if quantum particle entanglement is just another experimenter effect.)
The inverse is a little less obvious. The witness is experiencing the mental “image” of what is expected by the entangled mind. That “image” appears to be maintained in the nonphysical perception-forming processes. That is why I speculate that such psychic abilities as remote sensing are a mind-to-mind exchange of “images” held in a nonphysical memory. That would help to explain several reported experiences such as the evidence that discarnate and incarnate personalities seem to communicate in the same way.
The above does well to explain what we are finding with ITC. It is a Dualistic model. The literal understanding of panpsychism does nothing to address the question.
I am unable to find relevance any anything like “One might say, in light of the hand-in-glove character of the scientific enterprise and philosophic materialism that the Baconian methodological enterprise begets an epistemology, which in turn begets a metaphysics and that, in essence, we are faced with a methodological constraint elevated to the status of a metaphysical claim.”
Until scientific speculation addresses parapsychological and ITC findings, it must be considered irrelevant. At the least, time is too short to try to keep up with the hundreds of theoreticians working in their special vacuum. I have found that information older than about ten years tends to be out of date, and therefore just a distraction. Historical philosophers look that way to me when I am trying to understand ITC.
I am a little bewildered by your comment “Further to say that “The question of Source becomes identical to the question of the origin of the Big Bang singularity,” can only strike me a gross reduction.” To a physicalist, the Big Bang begins reality. The source of that beginning remains as big a question for a physicalist as Source does for a Spiritualist.
The reason I hold models in such high regard is that it is necessary to understand the question before it is possible to develop a useful model. That is the Engineer’s way. As I have worked to understand these questions, it has become evident that a physical person-centric perspective does not work. It is more useful to develop a Source-centric perspective. We need to look both ways, but the usual physicalist explanations fall short.
I sometimes think of myself as a metaphysical reductionist because reality needs to be considered as the play of very basic organizing principles in the same way physical space is organized. But rather than thinking in terms of force, momentum, and such, it is necessary to think in terms of concepts, intention, visualization, and such.
Thanks for the reference. I have looked at Kastrup before, but I will take a second look.
Tom Butler, Fri 12 Jun, 22:43
Dear Paul and Ian,
Perhaps this is to be inferred from your comments, but if life is all about learning, primarily by overcoming adversity, as so much of the more recent revelation suggests, shouldn’t we expect life to “suck”? If we were to live in a Utopian world, what opportunities would there be to learn anything? Wouldn’t life then be pointless? To some extent that may be implied in what you have written.
Concerning reincarnation, I was once told by a psychic that I lived my last life as a black man and was killed at age 18 or 19 during World War I. Prior to that lifetime, I was a vineyard owner in France who was an alcoholic and also bigoted. One reason I chose to come back as a black man in the subsequent life to experience the discrimination that I was guilty of in my life as a vineyard owner.
I don’t know if this particular psychic knew what she was talking about, but what she told me seems to be a recurring theme in reincarnation literature, i.e., we come back in subsequent lifetimes to overcome karmic debt. I have read about Nazi leaders coming back as Jews and as cruel slave owners coming back as African-Americans, etc., etc.
If that is really how it plays out, it prompts one to wonder if an egalitarian world, one in which there is no discrimination with regard to race, ethnicity, whatever, will limit opportunities to learn and advance. To go beyond that, what would be the point of a Utopian world, one with no suffering, no unfairness, no discrimination, no adversity?
It also prompts one to wonder about reparations for certain groups. Here in Hawaii, certain native Hawaiian groups feel that they should be compensated by the current generations for our ancestors having taking ownership of their islands, just as Native Americans have been in some ways compensated. Reparations for African-Americans has been suggested by some politicians on the far left. To the extent that those being compensated may have been the wrong-doers in a prior lifetime or may not have been involved at all, such reparations make absolutely no sense.
Michael Tymn, Fri 12 Jun, 22:39
I have much sympathy for your cri de coeur, which in certain respects must be that of any reflective individual. For anyone with an orientation toward the spiritual – taken here as broadly conceived, encompassing religious traditions, spiritual paths or afterlife research – there is a disjunction, often extreme, between the demands placed upon us by the ‘survival requirements’ of embodiment and the demands placed upon us in attempting to live a spiritual life. They are the demands, in classical Western parlance, between “Christ and Caesar”, which one might rephrase as “between compassion and competition”. It is not easy for the former orientation to bear up in this world. Dostoevsky was a particularly astute witness to the tension, as he explored in the characters of the saintly Alyosha in “The Brothers Karamazov” and the Christlike Prince Myshkin in “The Idiot”.
I had, in an earlier comment to this post, referenced Neal Grossman’s “Who’s Afraid of Life After Death?” In the final section of that paper (p.19 and following), Grossman explores this tension between “Christ and Caesar” in the context of the scientific evidence offered by afterlife – particularly NDE – research:
Despite avowals to the contrary, we live in a completely atheistic and irreligious culture. To be sure, most people profess a belief in a Higher Power of some sort, and many people attend religious services regularly, but religion, by which I mean religious values, plays no role in shaping the economic and political forces that structure and control our culture. Let me explain: the primary religious value, common to almost all of the world’s religions, is love. The religions of the world largely agree that Divine Love is the force that creates and sustains our world, and that our primary purpose while embodied is to grow in our ability to understand and express this love. The world’s religions generally advocate that we practice compassion and forgiveness towards others, that we treat people as ends in themselves, and that we not value material possessions. The “good life,” according to most religions, consists not in the pursuit of wealth, reputation, or power, but rather in the pursuit of right relationship with the Divine. However, the values of our culture are diametrically opposed to the values of religion. Success in our culture is measured by wealth, reputation, and power; and the desires requisite for obtaining this success are greed and ambition. Religious values have been safely shunted off to one hour a week on Sunday morning, where they are completely ineffective in mitigating the forces of greed and ambition that drive our culture economically. The primary religious values of love and compassion play no role in shaping the economic and political life of our culture. Politicians and corporations seek only to win fame and fortune for themselves; they do not value kindness, they do not seek to share their wealth, and most importantly, they, like everyone else in our culture, measure their self-worth according to their wealth, status, and reputation. No one gets rich by being kind to competitors; no one gains political office by being loving towards opponents. Religious values may be paid lip service, but they are inoperative in our culture. Indeed, they are fundamentally in compatible with the values that do, in fact, drive our culture. And by “culture” I mean not only the corporate and political culture, but popular culture as well.
Grossman then observes, “…acceptance of the findings of near-death researchers would mark the beginning of the end of a culture whose driving forces have been greed and ambition, and which measures success in terms of material possessions, wealth, reputation, and social status.” This is just an excerpt and I encourage you to read the article in its entirety.
Such an orientation of competition is not simply culturally imposed, although it may certainly be culturally encouraged, but rather arises out of the nature of our situation. As you say with such prosaic force, “Live on Earth sucks.” I am reminded here of a similar statement by the psychologist Jordan Peterson, that “life is a catastrophe,” itself reminiscent of Zorba the Greek’s immortal lines about “life is trouble” and “the full catastrophe.” We are put down here in a situation where we have to scrabble and claw for our basic existence. No society dictated this upon us, although many make it worse. It is just the way things are here. Yet, we are nonetheless responsible for ourselves, as well as for others, and must somehow take up the imposed challenge to somehow live in accord with spiritual values while attempting to navigate a competitive landscape as we make our way in the world. What alternative do we have? The abandonment of such values leads predictably to embitterment, a coarsening of one’s soul, or the flattening of one’s horizons. The tension can leave one both numb and heartbroken. I have found as much practical solace in Stoic writings as I have in spiritual sources, but the former is not to everyone’s taste. Perhaps a quote, from the introduction to Peterson’s recent “12 Rules for Life”, may be apropos to your mood:
How could the world be freed from the terrible dilemma of conflict, on the one hand, and psychological and social dissolution, on the other? The answer was this: through the elevation and development of the individual, and through the willingness of everyone to shoulder the burden of Being and to take the heroic path. We must each adopt as much responsibility as possible for individual life, society and the world. We must each tell the truth and repair what is in disrepair and break down and recreate what is old and outdated. It is in this manner that we can and must reduce the suffering that poisons the world. It’s asking a lot. It’s asking for everything. But the alternative—the horror of authoritarian belief, the chaos of the collapsed state, the tragic catastrophe of the unbridled natural world, the existential angst and weakness of the purposeless individual—is clearly worse.
Let me close by shifting topic slightly in reply to your statement “Yet, even that’s no release: you have to live again and do it again, over and over, for lifetime after wretched lifetime.” I had commented similarly in recent correspondence – where I observed that the doctrine of reincarnation is a “nightmare scenario” – the larger reflections of which may be apropos here:
Curiously, having recently encountered the heavily reincarnation-focused channeled ‘Michael’ teachings, I very shortly thereafter came across August Goforth’s “The Risen”, a book I had not previously been aware of, ostensibly penned with input from a ‘collective’ of some 1500 discarnate souls (which trumps, in raw numbers at least – for whatever that is worth – the Michael group-entity’s 1050 souls), which has an entire chapter devoted to asserting in detail that reincarnation doesn’t happen. So, which is it? ‘Michael’s “yes, reincarnation happens and lots of it,” the ‘Risen Collective’s “no, reincarnation doesn’t happen” or Myers’ – in “Beyond Human Personality – “yes, reincarnation happens, but only a handful of times and only for lesser matured souls who require this.”
Paul, Fri 12 Jun, 15:59
I consider reincarnation, on the basis of my broad reading of the discarnate-related literature, to be a vexed question, indeed perhaps the vexed question. I was re-dipping recently into David Fontana’s “Life Beyond Death”, who addresses reincarnation and basically comes to the same broad conclusion I have. It’s interesting that there are plenty of detailed questions you could ask regarding the nature of the afterlife that are not vexed, but rather have consistent testimony in the literature. Want to know about the nature of light, the nature of time or the role of ‘vibration’ in distinguishing between different discarnate domains? There is non-vexed collective testimony to be found on all of that. Reincarnation is different, possibly uniquely so.
As for myself, I don’t reject the doctrine, I consider it a possible view, but I also consider it problematic and open to question. In a word, vexed. Partly, and I must admit this, I don’t wish reincarnation to be true and I can’t quite understand the mindset of those who accept it so readily. Reincarnation is a nightmare scenario, particularly under some Asian ‘models’ where it happens hundreds, thousands or even more times. Embodied living is not for the faint of heart – to the contrary, it is an incredibly difficult and risky undertaking that can, and frequently does, skew badly. If one lives a comfortable, secure lifestyle in an affluent modern society, such hard truths – the “Gods of the Copybook Headings” as Kipling expressed it – can be held at a distance in the mind, but they remain in force nonetheless.
You will no doubt recall that the most typical reaction related by near death experiencers is an extreme reluctance to reenter into the embodied state – such individuals are usually only led there by the sense of some responsibility as yet uncompleted, such as the raising of children. Further, I have read accounts of shortly-to-be-embodied souls gripped by trepidation, even fear, for what lies ahead of them. Similarly, I have read accounts of souls, newly discarnate, who are so ‘beaten up’ by their time in the flesh that they need to be gently nursed back to ‘astral health’ over a long ‘period’. We are while here, it would seem, something like soldiers engaged ‘for the duration’, living under the shadow of constant peril. We try to avoid hazards as best we may, but some must be voluntarily taken on and others just happen to us despite our best preparations against them. To paraphrase the poet Rumi, the soul weeps upon being born and laughs when released by death.
Why embrace a model that suggests that we undergo this peril over and over again, particularly when the evidence for it is so indecisive and uncompelling? The fact that broad agreement is so evidently lacking both among both discarnate, but also ‘terrestrial’ sources – given both the different understanding of reincarnation found between Hindu and Buddhist traditions and the absence of reincarnatory doctrine in the Abrahamic traditions – is further evidence as to the vexed character of reincarnatory doctrine.
Thank you for your reply. First of all, let me say that I am sympathetic to your approach and admire the work you have done on EVP/ITC. Further, I really don’t want to get into a disagreement with you, but I find a number of your statements confusing, or – if I am understanding them correctly – problematic.
When you say, “Panpsychism is turning out to mean consciousness emerging from substance. It is a handy way of avoiding Dualism,” is that not precisely dualism, as commonly philosophically understood? Further, the foundational problem with dualism, which nothing you have said suggests an answer to, is the apparent impossibility, in principle, of bridging the incommensurability of the material and the mental. How does, for instance, the impact of photons upon the retina ‘miraculously convert’ to the entirely mental experience of vision? No one has a clue.
When you say, “It is now necessary to depart from philosophical debate in favor of practical application,” this is, of course, simply echoing the dominant orientation of the last four centuries, since Francis Bacon and the beginning of the scientific revolution. The problem is that philosophy – more precisely metaphysics – is not turned away from or got rid of so easily, but simply gets smuggled back in, often in an unrecognized way. That is precisely how we ended up with the hegemonic materialism we have today. I am reminded of the words of the physicist Wolfgang Smith:
Directed as it is to the objective of control, the Baconian enterprise is inherently designed to count, measure, and quantify….This methodological reductionism, however, does not presuppose, nor entail, an ontology; it is metaphysically neutral, one can say…as a rule [however] the tendency to deny what science cannot grasp proves irresistible.
One might say, in light of the hand-in-glove character of the scientific enterprise and philosophic materialism that the Baconian methodological enterprise begets an epistemology, which in turn begets a metaphysics and that, in essence, we are faced with a methodological constraint elevated to the status of a metaphysical claim.
When you say, “Metaphysics is an actionable protoscience when modeled as a cosmology,” I can only reply, “No. And again, no.” Metaphysics is neither a ‘actionable protoscience’ nor a ‘cosmology’. This is simply a confusion of terms. Further to say that “The question of Source becomes identical to the question of the origin of the Big Bang singularity,” can only strike me a gross reduction.
Finally, when you assert in your closing statement that “The model is everything,” I can only again reply “No.” To the contrary, Reality is everything, in comparison to which any model is a poor and paltry thing.
As a last note, of many references I might cite, you may find benefit in the writings of the physicist Bernardo Kastrup [www.bernardokastrup.com], such as his provocatively titled “Why Materialism Is Baloney”. He has an empirical bent that you may find congenial.
Paul, Fri 12 Jun, 14:30
Unfortunately, your sane presentation of things, sane no matter how much faith your reader has or lacks, will win you mainly ridicule and even hate on the general internet today. Such is the state of people that they search for things to destroy in order to lift themselves from despair.
ududy22 ., Fri 12 Jun, 12:36
While the current madness in the United States has many causes, I have my doubts about existentialist despair being the secret source of our ills; I have yet to find any spiritual source come up with an excuse on why the happiest countries in the world are secular democracies. In my opinion, the major cause of our current madness isn’t existential, the manufactured reality Hollywood presents, or the media, but something much simpler:
Life on Earth sucks.
A glance at the morning paper is sufficient to show that our world is overflowing with misery that saturates our daily life: the tedium of a soul-sucking job that you need to pay the bills, the stress of not being able to find affordable housing, realizing that your life-long dreams are never going to come true, and struggling with a mother who has Alzheimer’s and needs round-the-clock attention when you can’t afford caretakers.
While the current madness in the United States has many causes, I personally think one of the biggest factors is our meritocracy, dog-eat-dog system. Instead of a culture based around cooperation, helping our neighbors, and a government investing in the well-being of its citizens, we have a culture where it’s everyone for themselves. The stress of living paycheck to paycheck, struggling to find a place to live without going bankrupt, and knowing that you’re one catastrophe away from homelessness would drive any rational person insane, and decades of that piling up has finally reached a boiling point where people are losing their minds.
Is it any wonder, in a world such as ours, that we crave all the pleasure, fun, and distractions we can get?
I do agree that having a higher purpose in life does wonders for one’s mental health; believing that you’re working towards a goal that will help others or humanity at large can give the strength and determination to keep going when times are tough, but I’ve learned from personal experience that channeled teachings about how life is about suffering, struggling, and enduring can actually hurt more than help. Such teachings subconsciously tells people that life is nothing but hardship with temporary joys until you die. Yet, even that’s no release: you have to live again and do it again, over and over, for lifetime after wretched lifetime. Having that mindset for too long can lead to depression, hopelessness, and even hatred towards God for creating such a system and ‘higher spirits’ for perpetuating it and telling us to suck it up, so to speak. That anger, despair, and rage can, ironically, make it even more likely that a person will seek an overdose of pleasure and hedonism in an attempt to numb the emotional pain at our hamster-wheel existence, starting a downward spiral that’s hard to break out of.
With all that said, in my opinion, one of the best ways of trying to heal our misery would be to re-focus ourselves on trying to help each other instead of corporations and billionaires. Invest in the public good through mental health services, universal income, and any other system to free people from devoting all their time to fighting for survival. If our most basic needs are met, people can look towards a higher calling and devote themselves to what they really want to do in life. We can’t force people to believe in God, but we can help create the conditions towards finding their own meaning in life.
Ian, Fri 12 Jun, 08:51
Paul, thanks for the comments. You provide much food for thought.
A few points I wish to make:
Panpsychism is turning out to mean consciousness emerging from substance. It is a handy way of avoiding Dualism. From my experience application of the concept usually ignores much evidence.
It is now necessary to depart from philosophical debate in favor of practical application. We are at the model-building stage of metaphysics. Concepts acquire a degree of credibility from the credibility of related concepts. By itself, Morphic Resonance is simply updated Lamarckism. When considered with psi research (First Sight Theory and psi influence of REGs), noncontact influence of objects and biological systems, and accumulating information about ITC, something like Dualism becomes a more probable solution.
Metaphysics is an actionable protoscience when modeled as a cosmology. The question of Source becomes identical to the question of the origin of the Big Bang singularity. As an actionable question, the source is irrelevant.
The applicability of theories resulting from the Big Bang are supremely useful for navigating the resulting system of physical principles and their consequences. In the same way, a Dualistic model holding that the arrow of creation flies from the “Source” singularity” toward the physical is potentially useful for understanding why some people are selfish and some are altruistic.
The model is everything.
Tom Butler, Wed 10 Jun, 21:08
Thank you for your additional thoughts. I wanted to comment on your specific observation “Parapsychology appears to be converging on acceptance of the Psi Field Hypothesis which holds that the physical is permeated by a subtle field acting to propagate the influence of thought (psi).” This, along with Rupert Sheldrake’s Morphic Resonance theory, are important, and likely necessary, positions in the contemporary scientific debate. The terms of this debate are the (still) ‘hegemonic discourse’ of philosophic materialism, challenged from the wings by people like Sheldrake (who in turn get their TED talks banned). My view, however, is that this is only a halfway stage, leading at best to a kind of dualist, ‘panpsychism’ model of reality. This is to admit too much ground, however. Materialism can be, and is, successfully challenged as an incomplete model – Exhibit A for the prosecution might be the Kellys’ magisterial “Irreducible Mind”, but there are many other similar ‘exhibits’ as well – but this challenge can be pushed even further.
One of the strange curiosities of physics is that under classical and relativistic physics, the ‘stuff’ called matter is measured by an ascribed property ‘mass’, which is only measured indirectly according to either inertial behavior or behavior under a gravitational field. In other words, matter, far from being this concrete ‘stuff’ is an abstraction known only indirectly. Under quantum physics, matter fares even more poorly, dissolving – like the Cheshire Cat – into waves, fields and probability distributions. The problem is worse than this, however, for philosophically, all we know of ‘matter’ or of ‘stuff’ – as Kant saw clearly – are perceptions and sensations, apprehensible to our awareness. We never get, and in principle can never get, at whatever might be ‘behind’ these perceptions and sensations. Thus matter – that bedrock ‘stuff’ on which philosophical materialism is mounted – far from being the most concrete, is in fact doubly abstracted in our scientific and philosophic experience.
Dualism has its points of philosophic attraction, but it is not consistent ultimately with our own immediate experience, which is entirely mental, or with the best testimony of discarnate-related literature. Given the focus of this forum, let me take the latter point first. What is, according to the best accounts we have, the nature of the vibrational ‘levels’ or ‘domains” forming the extended reality of the afterlife? Frederic Myers, in his posthumous work “The Road to Immortality”, repeatedly refers to the “ladder of consciousness” and this is consistent with numerous other accounts. The posthumous ‘levels’ or ‘domains’ are in consciousness and of consciousness. The are certainly not ‘material’, whether subtle or no, and if not, there is neither place nor need for either materialism or dualism. However, while we – both embodied and next-embodied – participate in this consciousness, it by no means can be said to be ours. It is here where the question of the afterlife and the question of ‘God’, which are to some degree separable for tactical purposes of debate and persuasion, come necessarily together, for this consciousness belongs to that which might be called, as Myers does (although all descriptions fail), “Supreme Mind, the Imagination of God, wherein resides the conception of the Whole, of universe after universe, of all states of existence, of past, present and future, of all that has been and all that shall be. Herein is continuous and complete consciousness, the true reality.”
In brief, then, the ‘most’ correct view of the nature of reality, insofar as language may allow us to get at such, is something like philosophic idealism. This was the dominant Western philosophic view up to roughly a century ago, as one finds with Berkeley, Kant, Fichte, Hegel, Schopenhauer and others. Views such as ‘psi-fields’, panpsychism, pantheism or any similar dualism are at best halfway descriptions, as ‘tactically useful’ as they might presently be in the face of a still-hegemonic materialism.
Paul, Wed 10 Jun, 14:45
In reply to Michael’s originating post and most recent comment, I wanted to (hopefully) finish off my recent comments regarding naturalism vis-à-vis nihilism by clarifying the immediate relevance of the issue to the present political moment. As the philosopher R.C. Sproul observed in his “Argument from Meaning”:
Naturalistic humanism maintains that man came from nothing and is going to nothing but meanwhile is full of significance. Virtues such as honesty and industry are exalted; human values such as liberation, civil rights, and health care are extolled. But from a theoretical perspective we must ask, “Why bother with human rights if man is ultimately insignificant. Who cares if black cosmic accidents have less rights than white cosmic accidents?” Such philosophy is rooted in sentiment and sentiment alone.
In the midst of the present political turmoil, this crucial question goes unasked and unanswered.
In pondering this matter further, I might evoke an image of old electrical fan in my mind. It is humming along quite nicely, but then at some point the cord is pulled from the socket and the motive power cut off. Nevertheless, the fan blades may continue to rotate for considerable time before finally coming still, coasting on the inertia of previously sustained movement. The philosopher Bill Vallicella, in terms similar to those of James Sire quoted in a previous post, clarifies this similarly in terms of the metaphor of ‘running on fumes’:
The truth may be this. People who hold a naturalistic view and deny any purpose beyond the purposes that we individually and collectively project, and yet experience their lives as meaningful and purposeful, may simply not appreciate the practical consequences of their own theory. It may be that they have not existentially appropriated or properly internalized their theory. They don’t appreciate that their doctrine implies that their lives are objectively meaningless, that their moral seriousness is misguided, that their values are without backing. They are running on the fumes of a moral tradition whose theoretical underpinning they have rejected. If that is right, then their theory contradicts their practice, but since they either do not fully understand their theory, or do not try to live it, the contradiction remains hidden from them.
One of the key lessons driven home by Nietzsche’s previously mentioned “Parable of the Madman” is that humanity had yet to come to grips with the consequences of its rejection of God: “‘I have come too early,’ he said then; ‘my time is not yet.’” Nietzsche saw into the consequences of the death of God and the ensuing nihilism that this necessarily entailed in a way that, even today, few moderns truly have. Yet Nietzsche, in an attempt to salvage and erect personal values, was himself blind to even further consequences of nihilism. There are, it appears, four broad misapprehensive layers of nihilist conception that may be identified, nihilism’s ground – or “zero point” – being encountered only at the bottommost layer. At each level, it might be said, God and all His consequences for the human spirit are put to death again, and more thoroughly, until at the last both He and we in consequence are entirely undone. There is nothing more to be said, and indeed nothing more can be said, for at this level, all has been drained of its last coherence in a state of conception as uninhabitable to man as the furthest depths of space.
a) Naïve Naturalism/Secularism: God is Dead (Nietzsche’s Madman), but the sense of meaning is unaffected.
b) First Level Existential Nihilism: Recognition of the loss of objective meaning and values, but the perception that these may be legitimately constructed and asserted anew by the individual.
c) Second Level Existential Nihilism: Recognition of the loss of objective meaning and values and that any attempt to assert such individually is philosophically impossible.
d) Zero Point Existential Nihilism: Recognition that the very structures of one’s immediate conception – reason, truth, meaning, value, intention and so forth – are incoherent.
The problem is, most secular moderns are stuck at a), rather than seeing clear to d). An analogy is a chess player who has just placed himself into inexorable and irretrievable checkmate in a handful of moves but who lacks the insight to see the consequences beyond the next move and considers his situation at the board open and even hopeful, not realizing the game has already been lost. The difference between chess and life in this context is that for the secular modern, there is a clear escape from his predicament – intellectual repentance.
Paul, Wed 10 Jun, 13:54
Thanks to all for the comments so far. Keep them coming. I do want to stress that I do my best to avoid getting into politics, as some people might mistakenly assume that my political views are the views of White Crow Books, which they are not. Thus, I admit that I just beat around the bush on the political aspects.
But back to the spiritual, there is an interesting letter from Archbishop Vigano to President Trump at https://www.lifesitenews.com/opinion/archbishop-viganos-powerful-letter-to-president-trump-eternal-struggle-between-good-and-evil-playing-out-right-now
Michael Tymn, Tue 9 Jun, 22:54
The perspective I expressed are mine in the sense that I am acting as a commentator trying to explain current findings as I see them. I am more like a reporter who is reasonably well trained in historical contemporary views of our nature. For instance:
>There are many researchers arguing that mind is in two parts as conscious awareness and unconscious processing of incoming information that is eventually delivered to conscious mind. They argue that it is delivered in a modified form as modified by our worldview.
>There is no doubt that our behavior is influenced by human instincts. There is less academic support for the idea that we have a spiritual aspect which also influences our behavior. However, the way a person decides—conservative-liberal, scientist-artist,—is a strong indicator that people have an instinctive altruistic potential and an instinctive selfish potential.
>As a spiritualist, and considering the abundance of “guidance” from past teachers (Hermetica, Katha Upanishad, Bible, Seth) that converge on the same perspective coming from modern psychology, it seems evident that current mainstream models of behavior are incomplete. If so, while spiritualist theories are possibly conceptually correct, they are described in out of date terms.
>Parapsychology appears to be converging on acceptance of the Psi Field Hypothesis which holds that the physical is permeated by a subtle field acting to propagate the influence of thought (psi). Duality requires such a field to be valid.
>Rupert Sheldrake’s Hypothesis of Formative Causation (Morphic Resonance) is a well-considered theory arguing that biological organism are organized according to “Nature’s habit.” Nature’s habit necessarily resides in nonphysical space. In duality, a person would be a body mind (“Nature’s habit” database) and a symbiotic etheric personality.
>Personal and instrumental transcommunication (mediumship and visual and audible ITC) is showing that the Psi Field Hypothesis is probably correct and that worldview does dominate the way we manifest awareness.
I have references for all of the above.
The implication of these considerations is that we, as a spiritual self experiencing the physical as a human, are sharing worldview with our human. That would seem to imply that part of our human experience is to learn to manage our human, else we are just a passenger and not in an avatar relationship.
I have found that the model I describes is useful to help us understand many social situations and most paranormal phenomena. It can be complex. But I think that a little contemplation on the above points will point people toward more clarity about their nature.
The important point, I think, is that we have contemporary pioneers who are shaping anew our understanding of our spiritual anatomy.
Tom Butler, Tue 9 Jun, 18:22
Speaking of Pinker’s “will to disbelieve”, I am reminded of a well-circulated passage by the philosopher Thomas Nagel addressing the related situation of the “will to disbelieve” in the context of theism:
I speak from experience, being strongly subject to this fear myself: I want atheism to be true and am made uneasy by the fact that some of the most intelligent and well-informed people I know are religious believers. It isn’t just that I don’t believe in God and, naturally, hope that I’m right in my belief. It’s that I hope there is no God! I don’t want there to be a God; I don’t want the universe to be like that. My guess is that this cosmic authority problem is not a rare condition and that it is responsible for much of the scientism and reductionism of our time. One of the tendencies it supports is the ludicrous overuse of evolutionary biology to explain everything about human life, including everything about the human mind… This is a somewhat ridiculous situation… [I]t is just as irrational to be influenced in one’s beliefs by the hope that God does not exist as by the hope that God does exist.
Once again, as easy as it is to single out Pinker, he is in fact a complete conformist, merely representative, for all of his visibility, of his particular secular academic tribe. In the context of posthumous survival, I’m sure you are aware of the philosopher Neal Grossman’s very valuable paper “Who’s Afraid of Life After Death?” [https://digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc799144/], which lays out this same resistance to examination of the question of survival in copious detail, most notably among supposedly sober, serious-minded academic colleagues, who are revealed to be nothing of the sort.
It is not a new resistance – indeed, Frederic Myers, William James and James Hyslop all complained of encountering the same thing in spades in their own day – but it has certainly not weakened with the passage of a century either. David Fontana, in the introduction to his magisterial “Is There An Afterlife?”, comments on exactly the same encounter of resistance to the question. Michael Grosso, quoted in Grossman’s article, comments to similar end. Back when I was first delving into the topic and getting a handle on its broad outlines, I would attempt to engage with friends and family on it only to encounter the same resistance. I eventually learned to shut up about it.
Paul, Tue 9 Jun, 13:41
With regard to your statement that “one can be an atheist without being a nihilist,” this is clearly true if by this you mean that one can self-identify as the former without doing so as the latter. My point is somewhat differently placed however: namely that nihilism is a necessary entailment upon the closely related ‘isms’ of atheism, naturalism, physicalism and (philosophic) materialism. In a sense, my point is exactly the same as that made poetically by Nietzsche in his Parable of the Madman [www.historyguide.org/europe/madman.html]. As moderns, we are blind to the implications of the stance we have taken. More than a century on from his prophetic words, we still have little conception of what the implications of the death of God really are. The philosopher James Sire has a short, to the point, treatment of the essential issue:
The strands of epistemological, metaphysical and ethical nihilism weave together to make a rope long enough and strong enough to hang a whole culture. The name of the rope is Loss of Meaning. We end in a total despair of ever seeing ourselves, the world and others as in any way significant. Nothing has meaning. … We have been thrown up by an impersonal universe. The moment a self-conscious, self-determining being appears on the scene, that person asks the big question: What is the meaning of all this? What is the purpose of the cosmos? But the person’s creator—the impersonal forces of bedrock matter—cannot respond. If the cosmos is to have meaning, we must manufacture it for ourselves. … Thus does naturalism lead to nihilism. If we take seriously the implications of the death of God, the disappearance of the transcendent, the closedness of the universe, we end right there. Why, then, aren’t most naturalists nihilists? The obvious answer is the best one: Most naturalists do not take their naturalism seriously. They are inconsistent. They affirm a set of values. They have friends who affirm a similar set. They appear to know and don’t ask how they know they know. They seem to be able to choose and don’t ask themselves whether their apparent freedom is really caprice or determinism. Socrates said that the unexamined life is not worth living, but for a naturalist he is wrong. For a naturalist it is the examined life that is not worth living.
This reminds me also of the words of a scholar and friend, just recently departed:
It seems instead there are minds, otherwise fairly supple and clever, which can nevertheless not sustain a thought long enough to ponder its implications. I do not know why, but some apparently intelligent people simply cannot look at their looking so as to see what conclusions must be drawn from their seeing. Try as one might by the grip of sound logic to pin their gaze and to keep their heads from twisting and turning, they are still going to blink.
Paul, Tue 9 Jun, 13:15
Your description of the nature of humanly embodied life reminds me of the poet Rumi’s metaphor for the human being: a donkey’s tail tied to an angel’s wing, pulled between the physical and the spiritual. Your description of ‘our human’ and its instincts is tweaking some distant memory, but this manner of description is not one I recall in the discarnate-related literature. Are you deriving this from a particular source or does this represent your own reflections?
What I would add to your thoughts is that the study of OBEs, NDEs and posthumous accounts on the experience of ‘subtler’ or ‘finer’ embodiment in the ‘etheric’ or ‘astral’ (or ‘higher’) bodies gives a certain perspective on our own physical embodiment. Robert Crookall, all of whose writings are extremely valuable, but perhaps none more so than his “The Supreme Adventure”, is a particularly clear source on the existence and nature of these finer bodies. Our physical bodies stand vulnerable to just a few conditions(!): hunger, thirst, cold, heat, fatigue, pain, illness, injury, infirmity, aging and death. Our finer bodies, according to the accounts we have, are subject to none of these limiting conditions.
There is much discussion both in traditional religious and spiritual sources as well as more contemporary ones regarding the, shall we say, ‘bad’ (sinful, fallen, astray,…) nature of the ego, and no doubt much of this is true. How much of this, however, is quite simply, naturally and inevitably a consequence of living under the vulnerability and duress of physical embodiment? So far as we personally know, physical embodiment is just the situation we’re in, having quite literally been born into it. Is it any surprise that our egoic selves develop as they do in the course of a few decades of this kind of existence? One can well imagine how much of our reflexive entrenchment, grasping, defensiveness and aggression might simply and naturally fall away upon finding ourselves in a quite different manner of embodiment, removed from the conditions of physicality, following physical death.
Paul, Tue 9 Jun, 11:46
Many thanks for your contributions to the discussion and for the link to the Dowding article. If I could go back in time and meet 10 people from history, Dowding would be among them, maybe in my top five. As I have said before, Sir Oliver Lodge would be my first or second choice.
As for Pinker, I’d put him in my Hall of Shame. He once claimed to be familiar with the psychical research of yesteryear and claimed it was all just so much bunk. I fail to see how anyone who makes such a statement can really be familiar with it. Clearly, he has a will to disbelieve.
As I have tried to get across in several blogs, one can be an atheist without being a nihilist, although that requires a definition of atheist as one who does not believe in an anthropomorphic god. Most atheists I’ve met don’t seem to grasp the distinction.
Michael Tymn, Tue 9 Jun, 01:25
I think that in addition to Madison Ave and Hollywood there are many New Age “Abundance” gurus who promise “unbridled riches” through the Law of Attraction. The focus of having all our desires fulfilled is a another distraction from finding purpose and meaning in one’s life.
Hans Wilhelm, Tue 9 Jun, 01:12
Hi Mike. Timely essay.
Your combined assessment of what those thinkers intended is closer than any one of them. Consider the fundamentals implied by Spiritualism. While our immortal personality is not our human body, the two are entangled life forms for this lifetime. Our human is more like an avatar for us and its natural characteristics have an influence on our behavior while so entangled.
Our human’s long-evolved instincts compel it to behave in a way that best assures dominance of its genes pool above all others. At the same time, our spiritual nature appears to compel us to gain understanding about the nature of reality by way of lifetime experiences. If you peel away all of the pabulum and nice way of describing our spiritual nature, those are the two dominant urges influencing our behavior as entangled beings.
From birth, our human urges dominate our perception and expression. Without sufficient understanding inherited from prior existence the average person does not have the understanding necessary to realize the difference between his or her humanness and spiritualness. The human instincts will dominate decision making.
Contemporary behavioral teaching is based on Physicalism rather than Dualism. Sending a person to church does not give the person a way to deal with the influence of survival instincts. Even the ancients understood the need to teach people the difference between their spiritual and their human selves.
Today, the only approach I know of for managing the influence of our human’s instincts is to teach the person that there is a difference and the need to habitually question the Implications of every thought, choice and action.
Libertarianism, gun advocacy, anti-face-mask, selfish capitalism, anti-humanitarianism ... all seem evidence of the unmoderated human instinct to assure gene dominance. Perhaps the most important lesson we etheric selves have from bring in the human condition is to learn to moderate that influence.
Tom Butler, Mon 8 Jun, 23:58
I am not sure what you are including in “America’s madness.” If you limit the definition to anomie, materialism (both philosophical and economic), hedonism, and spiritual starvation, then the media and politicians are a major influence.
There’s nothing new about those phenomena. But madness has reached a category unseen before in the U.S. It echoes the great mass psychopathologies that history tells us about, like the witch hunting craze or the Great Cultural Revolution in Maoist China, led by the Red Guards.
Two prime examples we can see today:
The Covid-19 hysteria. Placing the entire population under house arrest because of a disease that almost exclusively victimizes people who have already outlived the average lifespan, or who have pre-existing conditions that would kill them anyway. Requiring everyone to wear masks when there is no unambiguous evidence they provide any benefit. Politicians love their new power to set the rules for daily life: it fuels their egos and conditions the population to accept being regimented.
The BLM/Antifa insurrection (which has swallowed up any of the original, legitimate protest). Looting, arson, and trashing cities. Politicians and corporations in a bidding war to see who can debase themselves the most by fawning over BLM and denouncing “racism” they claim to see everywhere.
When someone is coming at you with a Molotov cocktail, you don’t talk to him about spiritual emptiness.
Rick Darby, Mon 8 Jun, 18:52
Michael’s evocation of the sense of despair inherent in contemporary life reminded me of the ‘two-story’ metaphor forwarded by the Protestant theologian and scholar Francis Schaeffer, as described by Gregory Koukl, which dovetails closely with points just previously made:
Schaeffer explains that modern man lives in an oddly fractured world. His life is lived on two different planes. Picture a two-story house with no staircase connecting the upper story with the lower story. The lower story consists of one kind of reality – facts, science, the laws of nature, rationality, logic, the world as it really is. The upper story is where values, meaning, religion, faith, morality, and God reside.
Paul, Mon 8 Jun, 16:46
The tragedy of modern thinking is that there is no way to bring the two together. Schaeffer calls this the “line of despair.” There is no way to extract transcendent meaning from the mere facts of life. There is no way to infer religion or morality from the details of the world as it really is. The line that separates the lower story from the upper story is absolute and impermeable.
Modern man is split in two. In the lower story – the “real” world – he is imprisoned in a machine-like universe of cause and effect, matter in motion. His life is determined by natural forces which cannot be violated and which he cannot control. Mankind is dust in the wind, leading to despair.
Modern man’s only hope is what Schaeffer calls the “upper-story leap.” Meaning and significance cannot be found in the facts of the real world. Therefore, [in the modern conception] they must be fabricated by our imagination and believed against all fact and reason. Man invents significance, value, and morality for himself by making an irrational, blind leap of faith into the upper story. This alone gives hope, but it’s only a placebo. It gives nothing substantial to answer our despair. It only makes us feel better.
Your mention of Steve Pinker reminds me of a minor episode in my life from a few years back. Pinker was coming to give a lecture at a nearby university and good friend asked if I was interested in attending. I was broadly familiar with Pinker and his work, but my immediate reply, and perhaps one of my more memorable quips, was: “Brilliant man, wrong ontology.” Of course, Pinker is simply representative of a multitude of others cut from similar ideological cloth that comprise the present intelligentsia of modernity. It is very easy to be intimidated in the face of such an unbroken wall of intellectual brilliance – at least, until one begins to examine it more closely. Then the entire edifice begins to crumble until one is left with nothing but shards and dust.
Let us take the quoted statement by Pinker: “belief in an afterlife is a malignant delusion, since it devalues actual lives and discourages action that would make them longer, safer, and happier.” So apparently devastating, so much actual fluff. This is the kind of intellectually lazy statement that is made by a man who thinks there is nothing to prove and no need to mount an actual case for his claim. Firstly, the pragmatic outcome he claims is quite self-evidently irrelevant to the truth or falsity of ‘belief in an afterlife’, which must be settled on quite different grounds. Secondly, is his claimed pragmatic outcome even true? Consider that the vast majority of charitable works and institutions – including, for instance, the founding of hospitals – have been engaged upon under the presiding vision of belief in an afterlife, most typically embedded in the context of a religious tradition. Further, why would “belief in an afterlife” serve to “devalue our actual lives”? To the contrary, is it not far more likely that “our actual lives”, in the absence of “belief in an afterlife” (which I would expand to encompass belief in the transcendent more generally), are reduced to an unbearable flatness, a kind of ‘animal round’ of getting up, going to work, watching the telly, going to bed, repeat ad nauseum? Thirdly, on what basis can he affirm that the highest values to be pursued are “longer, safer, and happier” lives? This seems reasonable, of course, but I’m asking a more basic question. What is the basis of the value claim he is making? In what does it inhere? What is its foundation or ground?
This third probing of Pinker’s statement segues quite naturally to the real problem, the one that no one talks about: the inherent incoherence of a worldview such as the materialism that Pinker represents that stands in direct rejection of the transcendent and its accompanying categories. For even the most truculent of reductive materialists are, in practice, inescapably incoherent in their materialism: indeed, any attempt to argue for materialism invokes categories – consciousness, reason, value, truth – which stand in evidence of the transcendent and have no place in a strictly materialist conception. The absence or rejection of these categories has a quite recognizable name: nihilism; in light of this observation, reductive materialists quite inescapably appear – to my mind, at least – as confused, incoherent or self-deceiving nihilists. A quote from Roger Scruton’s valuable work, “An Intelligent Person’s Guide to Modern Culture,” brings this point home with great force:
“To understand the depth of the. . . ‘as if’ is to understand the condition of the modern soul. We know that we are animals, parts of the natural order, bound by laws which tie us to the material forces which govern everything. We believe that the gods are our invention, and that death is exactly what it seems. Our world has been disenchanted and our illusions destroyed. At the same time, we cannot live as though that were the whole truth of our condition. Even modern people are compelled to praise and blame, love and hate, reward and punish. Even modern people. . . are aware of self, as the centre of their being; and even modern people try to connect to other selves around them. We therefore see others as if they were free beings, animated by a self. . . and with more than a worldly destiny. If we abandon that perception, then human relations dwindle into a machine-like parody. . . the world is voided of love, [moral] duty and [aesthetic] desire, and only the body remains. . .” (p.68)
Contra Daniel Dennett’s claim, there is indeed a “universal acid”, but its name is nihilism and it burns through and renders incoherent any purely naturalistic, material or physical world description. Either reason, intentionality, truth, meaning and value must inhere in being, or world description – any world description – is impossible.
Paul, Mon 8 Jun, 16:33
A question that keeps gnawing at me is, “why don’t people committed to modernity and secularism realize that they have thereby inescapably committed themselves to nihilism?” It seems that hardly anyone realizes the inherent and necessary entailment of secularism, which is the collapse of the domains of meaning and value. On the contrary, the utterly typical condition is that of the individual convinced there is no God and persuaded of philosophic materialism – whether articulated or not – who nevertheless possesses moral convictions, often passionately adhered to. Why the utter failure to see the glaring contradiction? Is it a kind of societally induced selective stupidity?
In this light, one can’t help but feel a certain grudging, at-arm’s-length respect for Nietzsche. For all that it is necessary to reject his ultimate positions, he had the very great virtue of seeing with complete clarity – a clarity that should be both commonplace and self-evident but somehow is not – the philosophic entailments of modernity and secularism: the “death of God” and the “last man”. Yet what modern individual sees this? What modern individual could live with his situation if he were able to perceive it clearly? To misquote the immortal line from “When Harry Met Sally,” “He’s the worst kind of nihilist. He’s the kind of nihilist who thinks he isn’t one.”
This is the thing about nihilism. Very few people have made a detailed study of nihilism, say by reading Nietzsche or the Existentialists, and then, following careful consideration, determined to accept nihilism as their worldview. (Of course, the same could be said regarding many religious believers.) Rather, they become nihilists through a process of semiconscious cultural osmosis – if you put the question to them, they might readily admit to being atheists, but would more often than not avoid or even be surprised at the admission that they were nihilists, even when this is clearly contingent upon the worldview they hold. For myself, there is nothing more astonishing, tragic or ridiculous than a nihilist (who would deny the title, if not the worldview) who nevertheless assumes a capacity and indeed superiority of moral judgment. Such a creature sounds like an impossibility, like a hippogryph or the son of a barren woman, yet the type is so common that it is difficult to avoid tripping over exemplary cases in the course of daily life.
I was very recently reading a contemporary work of Sufi spirituality by Michael Sugich and came across just the other evening a well-known Prophetic saying that is, in many ways, the very antithesis of the attitude of acquisitive materialism highlighted in this post:
“God the Almighty and Majestic has said: ‘Verily, for Me, the happiest of My saints is the believer who lives modestly, who finds satisfaction in prayer, worships his Lord in the best manner, and is not pointed out. He is content with a meager living and bears this with patience.’ Then [the Prophet] snapped his fingers and continued: ‘His death is hastened, few people weep for him, and he leaves very few possessions as inheritance.’”
As the author notes, following the quotation of this passage, “That was not quite what I was ready to come to terms with.” Indeed(!), as all but few of us would be compelled to agree.
Paul, Mon 8 Jun, 15:37
Your mention of Dowding warms my heart, as he is one of the greatest semi-forgotten heroes of WWII. Something I wrote to a friend a few years back may be apropos here:
Air Chief Marshal Sir Hugh Dowding (later Lord), the head of RAF Fighter Command before and during the Battle of Britain, was, more than perhaps any single individual, responsible for the preservation of Britain from invasion by the narrowest of margins. The recent book, David E. Fisher, “A Summer Bright and Terrible: Winston Churchill, Lord Dowding, Radar, and the Impossible Triumph of the Battle of Britain,” is a fine treatment of his decisive role both before and during the war.
Lord Dowding is quite fittingly buried in the very beautiful RAF Memorial Chapel in Westminster Abbey. A statue of Dowding stands outside St. Clement Danes church in London, the inscription of which reads:
Air Chief Marshal Lord Dowding was commander-in-chief of Fighter Command, Royal Air Force, from its formation in 1936 until November 1940. He was thus responsible for the preparation for and the conduct of the Battle of Britain.
With remarkable foresight, he ensured the equipment of his command with monoplane fighters, the Hurricane and the Spitfire. He was among the first to appreciate the vital importance of R.D.F. (RADAR) and an effective command and control system for his squadrons. They were ready when war came.
In the preliminary stages of that war, he thoroughly trained his minimal forces and conserved them against strong political pressure to disperse and misuse them. His wise and prudent judgement and leadership helped to ensure victory against overwhelming odds and thus prevented the loss of the Battle of Britain and probably the whole war.
To him, the people of Britain and of the Free World owe largely the way of life and the liberties they enjoy today.
As a double point of unique interest for this readership, Dowding, after experiencing a visitation from his deceased wife and subsequently investigating the topic, became sympathetic to and convinced of the possibility of posthumous survival, writing four small classics on the subject in his retirement, once rare as hens’ teeth, but now all since republished by White Crow Press.
Another aspect of Dowding’s involvement in the topic of posthumous survival was his work, following his retirement from active service, in ‘rescue circles’, discussed in his books “Dark Star” and “God’s Magic”, in which he leveraged his recognizability and authority as prior head of RAF Fighter Command to assist deceased RAF pilots and crews in understanding their present situation and receiving help from the other side. An article (http://www.progressivespiritualistchurch.co.uk/Articles.htm) on rescue work by Richard Rowley gives a small taste of this kind of work that Dowding pursued for many years.
Paul, Mon 8 Jun, 15:25
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