The Immortalist was a Nihilist
Posted on 19 June 2023, 7:38
The front and back covers of “The Immortalist,” a 1969 book, offer several rave endorsements of the book and its author, Alan Harrington (below). The New York Times refers to the book as “brilliant, biting – filled with trenchant insights and challenges to great truths.” The Christian Science Monitor calls it “an extraordinary book.” Gore Vidal states that Harrington “may have written the most important book of our time.” Dr. Alex Comfort refers to it as “a masterful job of relating man’s unrelenting quest for immortality to the problems plaguing the advanced technological societies of today.” Publisher’s Weekly wonders if Harrington is a visionary, prophet, madman, or pole-vaulter of the impossible.
Based on the title and the endorsements, one might infer that Harrington accepted the strong evidence often discussed at this blog that consciousness survives death in a greater reality. Not so. Other than briefly mentioning out-of-body experiences reported by Dr. Elisabeth Kűbler-Ross and the earliest research by Dr. Raymond Moody, Harrington gives no indication of being aware of the evidence and is clearly a nihilist suffering an acute case of death anxiety. What makes him different than other nihilists is that he admits his fear, to shaking in his boots at the thought of death, with no real attempts at displaying the usual facade of rationalized bravado, e.g., “So what, I’ll never know it.”
I quoted Harrington in my last blog, about the loneliness epidemic, but I’ll quote him again as a preface to further discussion: “A very few individuals, most having a remarkable capacity for self-deception, manage not to fear the end. The rest who claim that they are not afraid are either lying or keeping so busy that, blocked by bustling trivialities, thoughts of death rarely penetrate their reveries. But fear waits behind the door nevertheless. And the day they peer out and discover nothingness, the result can be catastrophic.”
Based on the endorsements, I assumed that Harrington was a well-known psychologist, psychiatrist, anthropologist, or philosopher of some kind, but I could find little about him other than that he graduated from Harvard in 1919, wrote a few novels, took LSD with Timothy Leary, read poetry with Allen Ginsberg, and taught at the University of Arizona He died in 1997, at age 79, of leukemia. How he qualifies as an authority on the subject matter I could not determine and I’m sure that some nihilists will strongly disagree with his comments about lying or repressing the idea of death, but Harrington has dug as deep or deeper than any other nihilists I have read and most of his views seem to represent the probable true mindset of the nihilist.
Harrington’s idea of immortality is to somehow live in the moment with no regard for the past or future, a condition he refers to as ‘reversion to the state of the baby animal” and “cosmic narcissism.” Education makes the anxiety worse, he claims. “Intellect has failed to deliver us from death,” he explains. “Worse, by stripping away illusions, the inductive pursuit of knowledge has made our forthcoming oblivion more disturbing than ever and the meaninglessness of existence more vividly clear.” He concludes that the myths of religion have been stripped away and that a terrible dark void is waiting for everyone. “The more advanced and aware of our unaccountably brief time on earth, the more vulnerable we become to feelings of isolating and midnight attacks of despair,” he offers. He quotes Gandhi in seeing life without an afterlife as “cruel mockery.” As for Dr. Kűbler-Ross’s statement that she knows “beyond the shadow of a doubt that there is life after death,” he counters that anyone familiar with LSD or having had nitrous oxide administered by a dentist can report the same “tripping out” experience, and therefore Kűbler-Ross’s studies are “no release from oblivion.” He doesn’t explain why he thinks out-of-body experiences supporting survival should be limited to traumatic events nor does he otherwise consider that they suggest mind-body duality no matter the trigger. There is no mention of the detailed consciousness research carried out by world-renowned scientists like Hare, Mapes, Wallace, Barrett, Crookes, Flammarion, Lodge, Geley, Stevenson, and others strongly supporting the survival hypothesis.
“As we grow more sophisticated, which is to say more ‘unnatural,’ ever more ingenious rationalizations are needed to explain death away,” he writes. “Faith survives among intelligent people, but not so easily now. The devout must somehow manage to embrace absurdity or ignore it. The second comes much more naturally.” It increases with age. “After the exuberance of being young, as young men and women grow only a little older, there begins to intrude on all our scenes a faint disquiet. At first it visits intermittently. The occasional feeling of a shadow seem not too important, perhaps an illusion. Then it reappears. In the beginning the shadow may be mistaken for doubt, about certain values such as justice; about the prosperity of brutes, a child with leukemia, death to the volunteer, safety for the malingerer. But then the uneasiness grows into something more important than doubt.”
Harrington goes on to say that when we are deprived of the rebirth vision, we suffer recurring spells of detachment, with either violence or apathy to follow. “And so the twin detachments of violence and apathy, side by side, are growing stronger and advancing within us.” He mentions riots in Detroit, Johannesburg, and other cities and says that “behind the proud and gleeful faces of the rioters, the raging countenances, the expressions of abandon, greed, and hatred, the contempt, and derisive laughter, can be detected the face of people desperate to be reborn.”
As with so many others, Harrington found television to be a great escape from boredom, the human condition, and thoughts of death. “It carries me instantly to other worlds and zones of being where death is not real,” he explains. “In my side-by-side worlds of my living room and the passing television scene (with TV Guide to help) we look out passively on eternal games. The family sits with gods and goddesses on late-night shows listening to them talk, watching them grow angry and argue and laugh together.”
He sees sports as possibly the best simulators of eternal life that humanity has available to it. “Sport is death-free play, and games shut out death,” he explains. “We have the commonly recognized but still quite amazing circumstance that for masses of people around the world, the outcome of football, baseball, soccer, basketball, and boxing matches can sometimes be far more important than actual wars and revolutions.” He claims that the madness of spectators and the dedication of the players can best be understood if such games are viewed as man-made immortality rites. “The stadium turns into a pit of the gods in which heroes fight to become divine. And trailing behind them come the legions – all of us, fans and spectators – who derive our being, our excellence, and our own worthiness to be converted into gods from the performance of our heroic representatives.”
Harrington’s book was published four years before the Pulitzer Prize-winning book, The Denial of Death, by anthropologist Ernest Becker, and I recall no reference to Becker’s earlier book in Harrington’s book; however, they both seem to be of the same mindset. It has been some years since I read Becker’s classic, but I’m fairly certain that he, too, completely ignores the psychical research carried out by the aforementioned scientists. Both Becker and Harrington seem to assume that science has killed off God and that the idea of consciousness surviving death went with it. My guess is that both authors had heard of the research, but knew little of it and heedlessly dismissed it as being in the same venue as the “superstitious” religious afterlife. Whatever references they had were no more than precursors of today’s Wikipedia and they were not about to waste time on such “ridiculous” research.
In searching for information on Harrington I came upon the Ernest Becker Foundation website and a 2009 article by Jason Silva discussing the “immortalism” of both Becker and Harrington. “The mindset of the Immortalist is pretty simple and straightforward,” Silva offers. “Death is an abhorrent imposition on a species able to reflect and care about meaning. Creatures that love and dream and create and yearn for something meaningful, eternal and transcendent should not have to suffer despair, decay, and death. We are the arbiters of value in an otherwise meaningless universe…”
Silva mentions that Becker identified three main devices for man to sustain his sanity in dealing with death anxiety: the Religious, the Creative and the Romantic. The God solution was focused on having faith in God, but, Silva says, “God never came.” The Creative solution had to do with leaving works of art behind for future generations to use and admire, while the Romantic solution called for turning our lovers into gods and goddesses. The evidence for a larger world, or spirit world, as developed by the early psychical researchers, as well as modern-day researchers, doesn’t fit into any of them. It is ignored, rejected, belittled. It is assumed that it was all bunk, but anyone who has really studied the research knows that it offers a sure cure for death anxiety. When will they ever see it?
Michael Tymn is the author of The Afterlife Revealed: What Happens After We Die, Resurrecting Leonora Piper: How Science Discovered the Afterlife, and Dead Men Talking: Afterlife Communication from World War I.
His latest book, No One Really Dies: 25 Reasons to Believe in an Afterlife is published by White Crow books.
Next blog post: July 3
Thanks for the Smith quote. I like it. My favorite, however, is that by Ernest Becker:
“To free oneself of death anxiety, nearly everyone chooses the path or repression. We bury the idea of death deep in the subconscious and then busy ourselves with our jobs, partake of pleasures, strut in our new clothes, show off our polished cars, hit little white balls into round holes, escape into fictitious stories in books, at the movies, and on television, experience vicarious thrills at sporting events, pursue material wealth and seek a mundane security that we expect to continue indefinitely—all the while oblivious to the fact that in the great scheme of things such activities are exceedingly short-term and for the most part meaningless.”
From Becker’s Pulitizer Prize winning book. “The Denial of Death, 1973
Michael Tymn, Thu 13 Jul, 00:42
“I have pointed out earlier that most men do not believe in immortality merely on the basis of philosophical and religious affirmation of it, that they do not live actively as though it were a fact. This is true, but they do not live in disbelief of it either. If they do not believe it any longer because philosophers and theologians tell them it is so, neither have they given it up altogether as a vestigial remnant of an outmoded Age of Faith. What they (we) are doing is living in a sort of a state of suspended judgment about it, afraid to disbelieve and yet lacking the scientific knowledge (the only kind we have any faith in) to affirm. Thus we live at half-speed, failing to realize our spiritual potentialities, but keeping just ahead of bleak Nihilism.”
Paul, Wed 12 Jul, 01:56
- Alson J. Smith, Immortality: The Scientific Evidence (1954), p.172.
Amos, just watched the NDE you recommended. Excellent. Probably the most eloquent speaker I have heard. Thanks for the link. I have forwarded to some friends and relatives.
Michael Tymn, Fri 30 Jun, 07:59
Amos, thanks for passing on the link to that very meaningful NDE. I have forwarded it on to a few friends.
Michael Tymn, Fri 30 Jun, 06:53
Thanks for sharing your intriguing story. I hope you are right in saying that the collective balance between intellect and intuition is changing. The problems is that it is a very slow change and not subject to measurement. I believe that our overall “moral specific gravity” has sunk to an all-time low and that is why we are seeing so much chaos and craziness in the world. I recall that D. D. Home couldn’t produce any phenomena on Derby Day in England and the spirits explained that the drunkenness and gambling that day created such a negative atmosphere that the spirits couldn’t penetrate it.
Michael Tymn, Fri 30 Jun, 02:00
Bruce Williams, Thu 29 Jun, 14:26
Your story (which had a happy ending) made me feel that a friend had felt the touch of mortality on their shoulder. They carried this burden alone. When that happens I feel useless with inadequate words of comfort. People ask me all sorts of questions with many of these questions I have no answers.
Your experience is the reality. Thanks for such a powerful comment. It was a privilege to read your journey.
A fascinating and inspiring narrative. While I share your thoughts about the “apparent” short-sightedness of so many among us when it comes to matters requiring a more intuitive awareness—I may be just a bit more optimistic for the future, for the simple reason that when working on my first book, nearly EVERYBODY that I wound up in conversation with about it had some sort of story to tell about their own experience with the anomalous. Hardly surprisingly, most were normally reticent to bring the topic up, but were grateful (relieved, almost) when the unexpected contact with someone like yourself or myself gave them the opportunity to open up a bit.
Don Porteous, Wed 28 Jun, 12:08
I was treated for a rare form of lung cancer in 2019. The large tumor couldn’t be surgically removed owing to its location. It had wrapped itself around a rib, and the cancer spread to the rib. Bone cancer is painful; owing to the pain, I went to an ER where, after X-rays, I was told the cause was “muscular.”
Months later, I began to spit up small bloody pieces. “Guidance” advised me to see a doctor, and told me not to “freak out.”
Initially I received another misdiagnosis (“the worst case of pneumonia I’ve ever seen”) but a CT-Scan revealed the truth of the matter.
“Aggressive” treatment (radiation and chemo-therapy) would be required. I was told the odds of my survival were about 24%.
Needless to say, I survived, and I survived the post-treatment treatment (more chemo-therapy to reverse some of the effects of the actual treatment).
My veins became beat up and I had an IV port installed.
Eventually it was time to have the port removed and unlike the installation, local anesthesia was used.
During the removal in 2021, I encountered the unmistakable presence of my mom, who died in 2020 at age 101. I hadn’t told her of my cancer or treatment, not believing it would have been helpful for her to know of it. She expressed herself clearly: “What are you doing on an operating table ??!!???”
I did my best to explain, via my thoughts, that she need not worry; having the port removed was a minor procedure.
I can’t prove to anyone that I experienced this (and this has not been my only experience of communication with someone no longer physically embodied) but I don’t feel any need to.
I’m sure there are many people who will never have such an experience. It may be the case for some of them that they are simply not open to such an experience as they strongly believe there is nothing beyond death—they will repress any experience to the contrary.
People are free to believe whatever they wish; it’s not my job to change their beliefs.
Their beliefs are likely informed by all they have read but, to an extent, their reading will have been selective and/or influenced by prevailing mass beliefs. Certainly any number of my own beliefs are of this nature.
My encounter with my dead mom (and other encounters with the dead) involved a kind of direct perception, one I believe any human is capable of, and this is of a different nature than acquiring information, including opinions and beliefs, through reading.
The intellect (and analysis) is extremely useful—I am not denigrating it in the slightest, but what is lacking in modern societies is a more intuitive awareness. For many (definitely not all) this seems to have atrophied.
I believe the collective balance between intellect and intuition is changing, but these are still early days. A society in which a new blending of the two predominates suggests quite a changed world.
In the meantime, there is nothing to prevent anyone interested from learning to create a better balance for themselves. Basic practices, like meditation, aren’t secret and are quite accessible.
Bill Ingle, Wed 28 Jun, 02:58
Here is another interesting NDE worth watching.
Amos Oliver Doyle, Wed 28 Jun, 01:10
Thanks for the suggestion, Chris. I haven’t found a quiet 45 minutes to watch the video, but I will and will then see if it is possible to interview Erin. My next blog, on July 3, will be an interview with Stafford Betty.
I heard Erin’s comment relative to reincarnation. It seems to be the same thing Dr. Steven Greer said in his interviews, i.e., he believe in reincarnation but not in a linear kind. If there is no such thing as time in the larger reality, then we are living all lives at the same time. I may have given the link before, but if not it is at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zDY7t6HihCw As I recall, the reincarnation issue came up on the last interview, possibly the next-to-last.
Michael Tymn, Mon 26 Jun, 03:26
I would recommend an interview with Erin Lyons, interviewed by Alex Ferrari. Erin is a young adult channeling Source. The channeling starts at 15.23 minutes.
Chris, Sat 24 Jun, 17:46
Dors, you are right. We sometimes use the wrong words to make a point. To say that religion was “fully” impeached is an exaggeration and something of a semantical matter. It can be taken to mean that it was a black and white matter, not one of many shades of gray. When U.S. President Donald Trump was impeached, it was by a 23-17 vote of the committee. One can argue whether he was “fully” impeached because it was not 40-0. It was a bad choice of words. Thanks for pointing it out.
Michael Tymn, Fri 23 Jun, 20:50
To me, it looks that the comment by Newton Finn on June 19. was very apposite, though maybe understated.
In the article for the Becker Foundation we read: (quote) religion was fully impeached by science during the nineteenth century (end quote)
That makes it hard to avoid the thought that we must be inhabiting… parallel worlds! For, in my world, there are many, many people who practice science while retaining religious faith. In my world, in a 2009 Pew Research Center poll, slightly over half the scientists say they have religious beliefs (https://www.pewresearch.org/religion/2009/11/05/scientists-and-belief/).
Even though many _claims_ of faith can hardly be taken at face value, demonstrations of religious faith by scientifically informed people, post-XIX century, have been recorded.
Albert Schweitzer used critical historical methods to reach a conclusion that nothing can be known about the historical Jesus. At the same, his faith made him follow His example with remarkable dedication. And, in Schweitzer’s collected writings, there is little to suggest that he was suffering from an existential crisis.
Religion was fully impeached by science during the nineteenth century?
It makes you wonder.
The article offers ‘a restoration of hope.’ Hope itself is closely connected to fear, anxiety and their agonies. Seneca in Letter V: ‘‘Cease to hope,’ he says, ‘and you will cease to fear.’ ‘But how,’ you will ask, ‘can things as diverse as these be linked ?’ Well, the fact is, Lucilius, that they are bound up with one another, unconnected as they may seem. Widely different though they are, the two of them march in unison like a prisoner and the escort he is handcuffed to. Fear keeps pace with hope. Nor does their so moving together surprise me ; both belong to a mind in suspense, to a mind in a state
of anxiety through looking into the future.’
The article’s finale speaks of ‘a fourth solution, one separate from the religious, romantic, and creative solutions’...
To my mind, these separations, including those proposed by Becker, carry little weight.
We who post here tend to share a sceptical outlook toward modernity and its gifts. If so, it may behoove us to avoid following the modernity’s spirit of singling out historically recent achievements as is these are an eschatological tour de force that stands separately from everything else.
Dors, Eastern Europe, Fri 23 Jun, 11:52
Amos Oliver Doyle, Wed 21 Jun, 17:51
I thought that your article in the “ernest becker foundation “ website was very well written and succinct. I also liked Stafford’s comment to your article. I will save them for future reference and link when I need a well thought-out rebuttal to comments from young atheists commenting on various news web sites. - AOD
Amos Oliver Doyle, Wed 21 Jun, 15:55
I believe I have viewed each and every one of your videos, some of them several times and I continue to do so and recommend them. It may be that I was the first one to share a link to your site on this blog several years ago. Perhaps those videos will be out there on the web somewhere for many years to come—-I hope so. I find your comment about your last video interesting and comforting. if you had your ‘knickers in a twist” when you wrote it, that explains some of the comments in it with which I disagreed. Good luck, Keith with future endeavors. —AOD
The evidence is overwhelming.
There is no such thing as “Death” for us.
Only the bodies we use during each term at earth school “Die”.
But brainwashing and spiritual ignorance reigns supreme resulting in the false fear of the beautiful process of transition.
I feel sorry for those that refuse to look at the truth,but thats their path I guess.
Bret Robinson, Wed 21 Jun, 11:29
I would say I am very hopeful of the spirits (humans) on this planet because of reincarnation; based on spirit communications (some of a personal nature) and other spirit teachings as well as other information (ex. xenoglossy, children’s past life memories, prodigies, etc.). The book Signs of Reincarnation by James Matlock is very good.
Belief in soul evolution provides that in time more complete comprehension will come, but all in good time.
Each spirit is on its own trajectory, their own spiritual path. Some progress swiftly and some do not. That is why we are all at different levels of intellectual, moral and spiritual development.
At this time in history with the majority of the souls on this earth, there is only an AWARENESS of true spiritual realities.
We have barely reach the tip of the iceberg.
Yvonne Limoges, Wed 21 Jun, 00:42
Stafford, thanks for your kind comment on my videos being helpful to folk. When I made my final one, ‘The Greater Reality’, our dear friend Mr Putin was making serious nuclear threats against the United Kingdom where I live. Maybe I should have been more sophisticated by recognising his threats were empty, unrealistic bluffing; but I wasn’t. I’ve been around long enough to remember the daily crisis of Krushchev’s nuclear missiles sailing on their journey to Cuba which threatened a real world war. And it’s as though in the intervening years nothing significant or positive has changed in terms of humanity’s wisdom. This nuclear situation clearly coloured what I produced in this final documentary. It does not impress me that ‘the loving Source’ you mention didn’t think more carefully before designing and allowing to exist the likes of Putin and all the other murdering & maiming despots we’ve experienced in my lifetime. They’ve slaughtered millions of innocent people. The world could have been a better place without them, but still with sufficient challenges suited to individuals finding personal spiritual development. Maybe the loving Source will see this comment and have another think about it!
Keith P in England, Tue 20 Jun, 22:35
Michael, I read the essay you sent to the Ernest Becker Foundation with great interest. It is masterly, so much so that they couldn’t in good conscience resist publishing it. Wow. What a breakthrough! I wrote a comment and will be checking back to see if they publish it as well. I think it unlikely. Here it is:
A brilliant introduction to the evidence for survival of bodily death. Like Tymn, I have studied this evidence in detail and in depth. I regard survival as very close to a proven fact, with far more to support it than, for example, dark energy and matter. This evidence is completely independent of religious testimony. A good summary of it, which falls under nine distinct headings, all pointing to the same conclusion, can be found in Victor and Wendy Zammit’s A Lawyer Presents the Evidence for the Afterlife and my own When Did You Ever Become Less by Dying? Afterlife: The Evidence. There is no need to live a day longer under the dark cloud of personal extinction at death. A truly scientific approach is to look at all the evidence, something that most so-called scientists refuse to do.
stafford betty, Tue 20 Jun, 20:28
Thanks to all for the comments so far. I believe the proper word for the “nihilist” today is “humanist.” The humanists argue that a high state of morality does not require a God or an afterlife; moreover, it should not be a product of fear that comes with a belief in hell. The humanists further argue that they are more heroic than the “believers” because their morality is not motivated by the fear of punishment. It is difficult to argue with that position, but much more difficult to measure the morality factor with the humanist vs. the believer.
I mentioned the Ernest Becker Foundation above and from the various comments there it appears to be a humanist organization. I decided to submit an essay at their blog. It suggested the survival of consciousness independent of religious teachings—one based on psychical research. I didn’t really expect them to post it, but they did. There is a typo in the final paragraph, which I tried to get corrected, without success. I noted the correction in the comments below it. If anyone is interested in this, it can be found at
Michael Tymn, Tue 20 Jun, 03:09
Keith, your pessimism surprised me. You yourself through your documentaries have done important work toward releasing the world from the grip of materialism. Jon Beecher has done great work through his publishing enterprise. You and he are beacons of light in a dark world.
Would you have preferred a world in which everyone from childhood on knew for a fact that death was succeeded by a happy and meaningful afterlife? I think that the loving Source mentioned above by Newton intentionally designed a world like ours.
One of earth’s great assets—perhaps its very greatest—is that it requires unusual dedication and industry to discover the truth and live out of it. From what I’ve learned, the struggle for advancement continues beyond death, though in a pleasanter and more just environment. Meanwhile the Harringtons of the world are growing their souls down here on earth through their anguish. It’s very far from the ideal—it leads to much unnecessary suffering they could have avoided—but it’s better than a comfortable, torpid certainty that all will be well.
Am I saying anything you don’t already know?
Stafford Betty, Tue 20 Jun, 00:27
I’m 87 and plan to have DNR tattooed on my forehead. I can hardly wait to get to the other side.
larry baum, Mon 19 Jun, 23:52
The doctrine of the immortality of the soul among the philosophers
Edwar Gibbon, Mon 19 Jun, 22:42
The writings of Cicero (51) represent in the most lively colours the ignorance, the errors, and the uncertainty of the ancient philosophers with regard to the immortality of the soul. When they are desirous of arming their disciples against the fear of death, they inculcate, as an obvious though melancholy position, that the fatal stroke of our dissolution releases us from the calamities of life; and that those can no longer suffer who no longer exist. Yet there were a few sages of Greece and Rome who had conceived a more exalted, and, in some respects, a juster idea of human nature, though it must be confessed that, in the sublime inquiry, their reason had been often guided by their imagination, and that their imagination had been prompted by their vanity. When they viewed with complacency the extent of their own mental powers, when they exercised the various faculties of memory, of fancy, and of judgment, in the most profound speculations or the most important labours, and when they reflected on the desire of fame, which transported them into future ages, far beyond the bounds of death and of the grave, they were unwilling to confound themselves with the beasts of the field, or to suppose that a being, for whose dignity they entertained the most sincere admiration, could be limited to a spot of earth, and to a few years of duration. With this favourable prepossession they summoned to their aid the science, or rather the language, of Metaphysics. They soon discovered that, as none of the properties of matter will apply to the operations of the mind, the human soul must consequently be a substance distinct from the body, pure, simple, and spiritual, incapable of dissolution, and susceptible of a much higher degree of virtue and happiness after the release from its corporeal prison. From these specious and noble principles the philosophers who trod in the footsteps of Plato deduced a very unjustifiable conclusion, since they asserted, not only the future immortality, but the past eternity of the human soul, which they were too apt to consider as a portion of the infinite and self-existing spirit which pervades and sustains the universe. (52) A doctrine thus removed beyond the senses and the experience of mankind might serve to amuse the leisure of a philosophic mind; or, in the silence of solitude, it might sometimes impart a ray of comfort to desponding virtue; but the faint impression which had been received in the schools was soon obliterated by the commerce and business of active life. We are sufficiently acquainted with the eminent persons who flourished in the age of Cicero and of the first Caesars, with their actions, their characters, and their motives, to be assured that their conduct in this life was never regulated by any serious conviction of the rewards or punishments of a future state. At the bar and in the senate of Rome the ablest orators were not apprehensive of giving offence to their hearers by exposing that doctrine as an idle and extravagant opinion, which was rejected with contempt by every man of a liberal education and understandin
No negative reviews are going to be placed on the back cover of any book, especially a book about beliefs or the lack of them. And friends and acquaintances who are thought to provide a positive review of a book would be asked to provide one and of course the publisher, who wants to sell as many copies of the book as possible would pick and choose the most positive reviews. (See 5-star reviews of books reviewed on Amazon about the same day that a book was published.)
For those reasons, I tend to disregard all comments published on the back cover of any book. And, unfortunately when I have been swayed by them, I usually am disappointed when I purchase and read the book. Sometimes I feel that those who comment about a book actually did not read the entire book since many comments seem to relate to the opening paragraphs or chapters. If anything is ‘meaningless’, comments on the back of book covers might be at the head of that list.
So, the topic here is about “nihilists”, usually defined as “people who reject all religious and moral principles as meaningless”. That is, of course a broad generalization as while one might apply it to some parts of some religions and some requirements of some moral codes when looked at from a wider view. Probably most religions have some positive meaningful effect on the lives of people who believe in them and some moral principles are necessary and meaningful for a civilized society or culture to function so that people are able to live together, e.g. ‘Thou shalt not kill’. They are not meaningless to the people who are in agreement with them and they contribute to an organized, peaceful and functional society. As in any undertaking, directions, rules, codes and other parameters are necessary to accomplish any goal whether it is building a skyscraper, sailing across the pond, driving an automobile on a busy highway, publishing a book or entering into a marriage. Now, I know that nihilists are thinking specifically about religions, especially Christianity and its dogmas, and would not apply their philosophy of meaninglessness to rules and codes in the material world.
Cultures or societies—-that is, people—-without rules are like boats without rudders or sails or engines. They are tossed by the sea of changing public opinion like flotsam and jetsam, going nowhere and eventually becomming stranded upon a rocky shore to rot and bleach in the noonday sun, without purpose, accomplishment or meaning. No wonder nihilists seem to be unhappy and frightened of that inevitable end of their life. And perhaps one can see this happening today in the United States of America and several so-called “Western” countries.
Maybe to believe in nothing is to be nothing!
I agree with Harrington however when he states that, “Education makes the [death] anxiety worse.” I have often thought that highly educated people, mostly men are more likely to believe in life after death than ‘uneducated’ men because they value their intellect and find it unconscionable that all of their hard work to develop their intellect will just dissolve to become fertilizer for next year’s corn crop. I think that is why there is no lack of highly educated men over the years who, because of their death anxiety have come to believe in survival of (their) consciousness. And, they may go to extremes to reassure themselves that seeming evidence of survival does in fact prove that they will survive; even to the extent that they may find ‘evidence’—-seeing spirits or hearing voices (when no one else can see or hear them) or assigning sources of spiritual information to sources in another reality rather than to the person supposedly transmitting that information from some deceased person(s) in the afterlife.
I may sound like a nihilist and I think at times I am. It has taken me many years reviewing the materials presented as “evidence” of survival of consciousness to begin to believe that there may in fact be another reality into which consciousness enters after death of its physical form. I have to grant that possibility to all living things from the smallest undeveloped physical form to more developed forms, to the extent that they have a consciousness which, I believe, they all do have.
I think I have found some evidence overwhelming, especially in reports of reincarnation of children aged birth to five years old and in the multitude of near-death experiencers reporting similar states of consciousness after they had ‘died’.
Information from some mediums is difficult to explain away unless one considers the source of information to be from someone other than the medium but in selective cases I believe that information through mediumship supports a belief that it is evidence of life after death.
I like to participate in the comments sections of a couple of internet news sites. That experience becomes very depressing for me when I read comment after comment from almost everyone, including the Bible thumpers, probably teenagers and perhaps others who seem to have a very child-like understanding of God and the afterlife. And of course, except for the few people who quote the Bible, they state that basically religions should be abolished as they know there is no God or an afterlife. Most of the time, I don’t comment in response to their comments as it would require that I reference over and over again the large compendium of supporting information that most of us on this blog have read or otherwise know about. It is an extremely depressing and demoralizing experience for me to read those comments and like Michael, I don’t think those young nihilists will ever be aware that they might find a cure for their death anxiety but it is not a simple one as there is a large abundance of materials that they would have consider before they found the prescription that worked in their case. - AOD
Amos Oliver Doyle, Mon 19 Jun, 22:20
Harrington wrote it at the very pinnacle of the old scientific world view of Newtonian materialism. So much has happened since then, from the rediscovery of Eastern philosophy and thought, the decline of the absolute dominance of the Western cultural view, the emergence of quantum physics and consciousness studies.
The average person still suffers from he old Newtonian materialist world view, but that view is increasingly being challenged in scientific circles. At some point it will reach the masses. I’m an optimist. Lots of progress since the 1950s. If we don’t blow up or destroy the world before the shift, iI think humanity will make it. But the old dogmatic religions may not.
Michael Schmicker, Mon 19 Jun, 20:32
Excellent article as usual!
What came to my mind was this section in The Gospel according to Spiritism:
Chapter 7 - WHAT SHOULD BE UNDERSTOOD BY THE WORDS ‘POOR IN SPIRIT’
“Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven’”(Matthew, 5:3)
“Sceptics have mocked this maxim, as they have mocked many other things they do not understand. By ‘the poor in spirit’ Jesus did not mean those devoid of intelligence, but the humble, in as much as He said that the Kingdom of Heaven would be for them and not for the prideful.
“Men of knowledge and imagination, so called by public conviction, generally hold such high opinions of themselves and their superiority that they consider everything divine as being undeserving of their consideration. By concentrating all their attention upon themselves, they are then unable to lift up their eyes to God. This tendency to believe they are superior to everything else very frequently leads them to deny anything which might be above them, even Divinity itself, for fear it might belittle them.
“Or if they condescend to admit its existence, they then contest one of its most beautiful attributes, that of providential action over things of this world, because they think they alone are sufficient to govern. Taking the intelligence they possess as a measure for universal intelligence, and judging themselves able to understand everything, they are unable to believe in the viability of that which they do not know.
“They consider their judgement to be law. If they do not admit the existence of the invisible world and of a superhuman power, it is not because it is beyond their capability, but because their pride makes them revolt against the idea of something above which they are unable to place themselves and which would bring them down from the pedestal upon which they like to contemplate. Hence they only have scorn for everything that does not belong to the visible and tangible world.
“They attribute to themselves such imagination and learning that they cannot believe in things which, according to their way of thinking, are only good for simple people, taking for poor in spirit all who take such matters seriously.
“However, say what they like, they will inevitably be drawn into this invisible world they scoff at, together with everyone else. It is there that their eyes will be opened, so making them realize their errors.
“Nevertheless, God being just, He cannot receive [according the the Divine Laws, we reap what we sow] the those who have denied His majesty in the same manner as those who submitted to His laws with humility, nor can He give them equal share. By saying that the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to the poor in spirit, Jesus teaches that no one will be admitted without simplicity of heart and humility of spirit; that the ignorant person who possesses these qualities will be preferred to the wise person who believes more in himself than in God. In all circumstances Jesus put humility into the category of virtues that bring Man near to God and pride into the category of vices that keep Man away from God. The reason for this is clear, for to be humble is an act of submission to God, whereas pride is a revolt against Him. For Man then, there is far greater value for his future happiness by being poor in spirit, as the world would understand it, and rich in moral qualities.”
COMMENT: These type of spirits are received quite differently in the spirit world compared to the humble.
Yvonne Limoges, Mon 19 Jun, 20:30
Why, given the obvious fact that perhaps THE most influential work of spiritualism, “Spirit Teachings,” focuses almost exclusively upon reforming and refining Christian theology, does psychic research not fit, like hand in glove, into the larger and deeper “God solution,” once one moves, as Imperator urges, beyond narrow, divisive dogma and sectarianism? Are not the word god, all in caps, and the sign of the cross, all over the pages of this spiritualist masterpiece?
Schweitzer said that the key difference between a reflective person and an unreflective one was whether this life were viewed as a miracle, a gift, or merely as a given fact. I would say the same applies with equal force to the next life, whether it also is viewed as a gift or merely as a given. Does at least some of the seemingly unquenchable thirst for knowledge of the afterlife, not merely its existence but its particulars, stem from the failure to anchor it, as this life should be anchored, in a loving deity that may be trusted absolutely to make all well in the end?
Newton Finn, Mon 19 Jun, 15:40
riley heagerty, Mon 19 Jun, 14:50
Great report, as usual. This nihilist, and any others like him needed to, or need to that is, find a legitimate shaman and have an Ayahuasca experience. It is here, depending on the conditions, and the potency of this most revered and powerful of all shamanic admixtures that all things will come into focus. See Chapter II of my book, The Hereafter. We as a species should be progressing far beyond this nonsense.
‘When they will ever see it?’, Michael concludes, and my response is: I don’t think they will, which offers a pretty depressing outcome for humanity’s long term future. It is as though you, Michael, and all the scientists you mention above, have wasted your time. There is precious little progress, and true insight may never come. And once I decided to stop making my own relatively optimistic Youtube afterlife evidence videos upon reaching number 50, I made my final doc entitled ‘The Greater Reality and where we are headed”. In this I also wondered if I had wasted my time and ended with a pretty negative conclusion suggesting the long-term victory of materialism and human greed had already happened. I should add that Jon Beecher of White Crow Books disagreed with this and I gave space to his view.
Only months after I had completed and launched this doc online did I reconsider whether there might be a glimmer of hope, for if there is one, in my opinion the weekly Victor Zammit newsletter offers what optimism there is, with its regular positive evidence from contributors all around the world. Backed up by Silver Birch, Zammit seems forever the optimist, and there does seem to be moderate growth in the amount of optimistic news that Zammit manages to publish. So while I’m still content to leave my final documentary as the pessimistic statement that it is, maybe upon reflection, a little agnosticism is more appropriate than my own doc’s conclusion.
Keith P in England, Mon 19 Jun, 11:18
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