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What the Nuns Forgot to Teach about the Spirit World

Posted on 29 August 2022, 12:26

While attending Catholic school during the 1940s, I became familiar with several of the stories about apparitions of the Blessed Virgin Mary, as she was referred to by good Catholics, the most notable at that time being those at Lourdes in France, Fatima in Portugal, and Guadalupe in Mexico, (below) A few years later, while in high school, I visited the Guadalupe church and observed the cloak revered by millions of Catholics – one in which an image of Mary is said to have mysteriously materialized from roses carried within the cloak.  In spite of the fact that I parted ways with the Catholic Church more than 50 years ago, I suspect that those stories subconsciously triggered my interest in psychic phenomena some decades later. It was one thing to leave the church, quite another to completely erase those psychic stories with varying degrees of credibility from my memory bank at times when I was pondering on existential matters. 


Until I read Don Porteous’s recently released book, Spiritual Reality and the Afterlife, I had no idea that there were hundreds of reported apparitions of Mary over the centuries, not to mention countless other unexplained religious phenomena not directly related to Mary. I recall reading about and even seeing photos of the apparition that took place in Zeitun, Egypt in 1968 and not too many years ago reading extensively about the Medjugorje apparitions, which began in 1981 and apparently continue to this day.  I even wrote an article about the Medjugorje apparitions for a national magazine and reported on them at an earlier blog, which can be found in the archives for October 3, 2016.  I also recall reading about tears or blood flowing from statues of the Blessed Virgin in various places, but they were mostly tabloid-type stories with no follow-up reports and seemingly little credibility. 

The first section of the book explores the empirical evidence for the actual existence of a spiritual part of our human nature, distinct and separate from the physical body and brain, and what Porteous classifies as “Extraordinary Knowing,” “Extraordinary Knowers,” and “Extraordinary Events.” A key part of the evidence relates to people “knowing things that by all known laws of science they shouldn’t know.” He discusses psychic healing, spiritual healing, remote viewing, clairvoyance, psychokinesis, telepathy, ganzfeld tests, xenoglossy, and even spoon bending and psychic ping pong.

The second section deals with the voluminous evidence for the actual survival of that spiritual part of us after the death and dissolution of the physical body and brain.  It includes near-death experiences, out-of-body experiences, deathbed apparitions, mediumship, and instrumental transcommunication.

“Is it purely by coincidence that the deepest form of ‘trance mediumship’ – the source of such profound evidence for the continuity of life after ‘death’ – should have emerged in force at precisely that period when militant materialism was most active in the its denial of all things spiritual?” Porteous asks of the mediumship from 100-160 years ago.  “The emergence of this particular form of mediumship was relatively brief, and appears to have been largely limited to the period of greatest need. Mediumship today, by and large, is just a pale reflection of such giants as Mrs. Leonard and Mrs. Piper.”

In discussing the case of “Patience Worth,” said to be the spirit of a seventeenth century English woman who communicated through the mediumship of Pearl Curran, an American housewife who had never traveled more than a few hundred miles from her St. Louis, Missouri home and had no formal schooling beyond the eighth grade, Porteous summarizes a very interesting language study.  He notes that since the 1300s, other than the Bible, no English author of note has gone beyond 64 percent usage of Anglo-Saxon in his or her writings.  From 1600 to 1878, 28 percent was the average found in English literature over that time period.  Yet, in one of the books, Telka, dictated by Patience Worth through Mrs. Curran, the percentage of Anglo-Saxon words approaches 90 percent.  And it should be kept in mind that much of what came through Curran was spontaneous and in response to requests or questions.

“No matter how one chooses to approach it,” Porteous analyzes it, “it’s difficult to fathom how an absolutely undistinguished American housewife, who had never been outside the American Midwest, had absolutely no literary or historical interests and only an eighth grade education – could generate a linguistic production, a purity of Anglo-Saxon usage, that had not occurred in the English language in over 700 years.”  Porteous wonders how anyone can possibly reconcile this with the known laws of science.

Much of the second half of Porteous’s book deals with what he calls “The Great Convergence,” the sudden appearance in the mid-1800s of two separate streams of communication – one by spirits through mediums, and one by the Virgin Mary in her many apparitions – both at the same time that materialism swept over the world, as predicted by Mary some 300 years earlier.  “The primary thrust of the ‘spiritualistic’ line of communication was the survival message – the demonstration of our continuing existence,” he explains. “The primary thrust of the ‘Marian’ line of communication, was to put our present ‘physical existence,’ as well as our continuing ‘spiritual’ existence, into their larger perspective, with the successful beginnings and further development of our afterlife being very much dependent upon the nature of our approach to our present life.” 

It is the second “thrust” that makes Porteous’s book more comprehensive and more compelling than any other book I have read dealing with the overall subject of God and immortality.  He makes a strong case for the convergence.  He further suggests that the spirit world was “intentionally mobilized for this intensive communication effort at this point in time.” (Emphasis his)  Paradoxically, the biggest skeptics on the Church phenomena have been the Catholic clergy, while secular scientists have provided much of the best evidence validating some of that phenomena.

Porteous notes that a number of medical teams, some of them hostile to any form of organized religion, have failed to discredit the six young Medjugorje visionaries. The studies have involved neurological and psychological testing, including polygraph and hypnosis, and some have taken place during their visions while in a state of ecstasy.  One of the most intriguing observations at Medjugorje to me is that of the visionaries ascending a thorn-bush and stone covered hillside (Mt. Podbrdo) in about two minutes (to observe an apparition), whereas even an athletic adult would take about 10 minutes.  One of the witnesses was Jozo Ostovic, the regional sprint champion.  “I am running as fast as I can, but falling further and further behind, and so are the grown men running with me,” he is quoted. “We are gasping for breath, almost in tears, unable to believe what is happening.” A priest, Father Viktor Kozir, also an athlete, confirmed Ostovic’s report, saying the children seemed to be flying.

Porteous states that the same thing was reported at Garabandal in Spain with a series of apparitions of St. Michael and the Virgin Mary between 1961 and 1965. It was said that four young girls, ages 11 and 12, covered ground at three time their normal rate and that they often ran backward on their knees at an incredible speed.

One of the intriguing stories related by Porteous but not by the nuns at my Catholic school, at least to my recollection, is ”The Wonderful Crucifix of Limpias.” It involves a wooden cross with a carving of Jesus in his final agony, located in a church in Limpias, (below) a village in northern Spain.  In 1919, many people reported seeing the upturned eyes of Jesus and his mouth open and close, and the gaze moving from side to side or at times even staring directly at the viewer. Some reported seeing tears and blood dripping and even perspiration, which was felt as well as seen.  The witnesses numbered in the hundreds, including some medical and scientific men.  Dr. Armando Penamaria Alvarez described his experience: “His glassy, pain-filled eyes…His lead-coloured lips..the muscles of the neck and breast were contracted and made breathing forced and laboured…then a frightful spasm, as with one who is suffocating and struggling for air, at which the mouth and nose were opened wide.”  An outpouring of blood followed, Alvarez continued, after which his head sunk limply to his breast.


“Attitudes towards these events were divided,” Porteous observes, “with firmly entrenched camps of both believers and disbelievers. The sceptics quite naturally attributed the entire affair to anything from fraudulently implanted mechanical devices to optical effects caused by an electric light bulb, to the usual litany of delusions, hallucinations or mass hysteria.”  He adds that not everyone saw what others saw and that those who came to the church with the specific intent of the seeing the phenomenon, saw nothing at all. Porteous further notes that in a book about the events, the Rev. Baron Paul von Kleist provided the personal testimonies of several dozen witnesses, including a number of pure sceptics, some of whom attended with the intention of debunking the events. 
In the final chapters (Part 4) of his book, Porteous categorizes and summarizes the “teachings” of 145 different spirits, including Mary, quoting their actual words as coming through mediums or as passed on by the visionaries from Mary, noting their many similarities and occasional differences.  Summarizing the main message, Survival, Porteous states: “In combatting the negative forces rampant in our world at this time, the spirits’ primary weapon is a very special piece of information: Our bodies may die – but life goes on.

But I liked Porteous’s comment on the importance of humor as much as those of the spirits:  “The impression prevalent in some quarters (mainly churchly) of a heavenly afterworld marked by an unending state of pious solemnity, is enthusiastically laid to rest…”

Where have you gone, Sister Anastasia Marie? I hope you know all this by now.

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: September 5




Give me your email, I shall send you data from JPL and NASA when they studied the Tilda of our Lady of Guadalupe .  Also the data base for 163 Eucharist Miracles which 130+ have been subjected to scientific scrutiny.  You cannot deny GOD’s word via HIS Church the Roman Catholic Church.  What you have rejected has been proven true

Snake, Sun 2 Oct, 20:16

You may be interested to know that my mom (then aged 10) and her brother (then aged 13) simultaneously witnessed the apparition of the Virgin Mary in Lithuania, not too many years after the end of WW2 after the Russians communists occupied and devastated the country . They were at home alone one evening when they witnessed, from a few feet away, very clearly, a woman with veil on and hands in prayer, float across the wall and disappear once she reached the end of the wall. She was glowing bright, white light in the completey darkened room which is how they were able to see her. My mom is 80 and recalls the event as if it happened yesterday.

My mom and her brother were so excited by what they saw they could not wait to tell their mom when she returned from work that evening. Their mother did not believe them and told them to stop with the childish games. My mom says had she been alone she would have thought she had hallucinated or dreamed the event. She has no idea why the Virgin Mary appeared to them or whether her appearance even had anything to do with them.

Lee, Mon 12 Sep, 00:44

I wonder if there are coercive sanctions for “believing” in China and if in other places many gave a negative response because it is the “intelligent” one to give.  It is not really a black and white question for most people and requires more than a “yes” and “no” box.  So many of the surveys I’ve seen are misleading.  I’ve seen a couple in which more people believe in God than believe in an afterlife. Not sure what to make of that.

Michael Tymn, Mon 5 Sep, 06:44

I also find it strange that China, despite it’s official communist/anti organised religion policy, has a long history of ancestor and Buddhist traditions, so 11.5% looks low.  I guess it depends who and what they asked.

Jon, Sun 4 Sep, 15:58


While it’s interesting that (Catholic) Spain is so low, as you observe…it’s also interesting that two of the “warm-to-belief” (in yellow) countries, both surrounded by lesser-believing countries, are both home to some of the most important of the more recent Marian apparitions. In the Balkans, Bosnia and Herzegovina is home of course to Medjugorje—and a bit to the north, heavily-Catholic Poland is in the same orbit as Hruschiv (see 1914 and 1987) which although technically in Ukraine, is not far from the Polish border.

Don Porteous, Sun 4 Sep, 15:28

Interesting, Mike. 68.2% in the US and 41.7% in the UK. Spain surprises me at 38.1% given that it’s traditionally a Catholic country (or was).

Jon, Sat 3 Sep, 13:37

Some interesting stats on life after death belief at

Michael Tymn, Sat 3 Sep, 08:08


If Newton’s comments about the slow or non-decomposing monks haven’t already spurred you to do so, make sure you take a look specifically at the case of a Tibetan Buddhist monk named Dashi-Dorzho Itigilov—head lama of a monastery in Siberia who “died” in 1927. It almost defies analysis…

Don Porteous, Thu 1 Sep, 12:16

Newton, it was something of a surprise to me about the Buddhist and Hindu priests whose bodies had not decomposed or were decomposing at a much slower rate than normal.  Until I read Don’s book, I thought Bernadette of Lourdes was in a class by herself in this respect, but, as you know. Don cites many other such cases among Christians.

Michael Tymn, Wed 31 Aug, 21:04

What a wonderful introduction to a fascinating book!  And a bit of a synchronicity for me as this week I have been exploring, online, Marian apparitions in the past century.

Raised Catholic, I suspect that my own jagged approach to faith and Church would likely have been different if my religious educators stressed the mystical and supernatural aspect of religion manifesting here and now.

After all, we crave it, the contact with the divine, with the living God and His transforming presence in our lives. As Michael Pollan writes in his book “How to Change Your Mind,” all human cultures have methods of entering and exploring “the other side” with a purpose of aiding our inner transformation. This desire is built in us.

And from what I see, the call to repent—i.e., to change our minds—is also present in all reported communications from Mary and Jesus. That change of mind involves opening to the unifying spiritual reality within and among us, and starting to live accordingly.

Admittedly, and in defense of my and any religious educators, this is difficult to teach if one did not experience it directly.

I look forward to reading Don’s book.

Thank you again.

Elizabeth, Wed 31 Aug, 19:35


The education one can get at this site is little short of phenomenal. Your reference to Giambattista Vico introduced me to someone I had never heard of before—but who was directly relevant to the 1634 Marian prophecy with which my book begins. I doubt that Vico ever heard of that prophecy (it did, after all, occur half a world away) but it seems that the whole process of his Counter-Enlightenment learning and teaching could have been in response to Mary’s warnings!

My thanks…

Don Porteous, Wed 31 Aug, 12:09

Eric, yes, the “waters” are very muddy in this area and while I get the gist of it I am unable to completely “let go of the consensus reality of the physical world” and therefore am content to accept that most of it, if not all, is beyond my comprehension and for that reason I make little effort at this blog to explore the nature of the spirit world, even though the “teachings” coming through some mediums offer symbols from which we can get a vague notion of its nature.

Like Stafford, I am satisfied with the overwhelming evidence in support of a spirit world, but indications are that very few people today are aware of it or have given it much thought. I am convinced that most of the craziness in the world today has its roots in existential angst, even if more surface reasons are given by those who supposedly understand the larger dynamics of it all. If Don’s book helps even a few people better grasp the evidence for consciousness continuing after death, it will, hopefully, have accomplished something.

As for that existential angst, I believe that Giambattista Vico, an 18th century Italian philosopher, said it better than anybody when he wrote that men first feel necessity, then look for utility, followed by comfort, then pleasure, and finally luxury, after which they finally go mad—when “each man is thinking of his own private interests.”  In that pursuit of pleasure and luxury, there is, according to Vico, a certain social disconnection, which involves moral, intellectual, and spiritual decline.

Michael Tymn, Wed 31 Aug, 04:17

Hi Michael and all,
I think the difficulty understanding exactly what is going on “over there” is that we are largely kind of stuck trying to conceive of “it” in a way similar to how we conceive of the material world - and that is not appropriate for several reasons, most of which are discussed from time to time (inadequacy of every language to describe, etc). My addition to those reasons is that the “other side” is not a static objective reality because we are co-creating it. It is a realm of energies, energies that range from ecstatic and glorious beyond description on one end of the spectrum to viciously hideous on the other end. These energies are all elements of the totality of the universe. The energies are perceived by us in a lock/key manner; what is “out there” connects to what is “inside” of our souls. This is similar to the radio receiver model, except that the radio is our soul; not mechanical hardware.

So we choose which energies we align with and how much so. Then we, with our minds, create tangible realities, images, etc out of the raw material of the energies with which we have aligned. Groups of souls - and larger soul populations - evolve consensus alignments and subsequent creations. The bigger and stronger the consensus, the more powerful the created reality (just the way it works).

So for some people on the same “wave length” the Virgin Mary is real and can appear and communicate. For others, on a totally different wave length (energy alignment), there is no such thing as the Virgin Mary. For yet other groups, there is no Virgin Mary, but some other figure that represents the same meaning; the same energy.

If your mind has sufficiently let go of the consensus reality of the physical world and aligned more completely with the consensus reality of the energy represented by the Virgin Mary, then you are literally in a different world where miracles can happen, people can fly up hills, heal illnesses, know secret knowledge, etc.

Probably clear as mud.

Eric Newhill, Tue 30 Aug, 17:21

Stafford Betty…

While it’s apparent that you haven’t read the book, your doubt is still well-placed. Mary in fact does NOT have much to say about the day-to-day details of the afterlife experience—and I expressly state as much at the beginning of the first of the chapters (Chapter 17, page 356) dealing with Mary’s input.
    She does however, have much to say about the larger questions, those concepts that shape the environment within which the details occur. To put this into context for you, I’ll quote from one of the introductory pages (page 342) to this whole “spirit-input” section…

“While a good portion of what’s been communicated by spirits other than Mary may be difficult to swallow for those firmly wedded to Church orthodoxy in all its detail, it’s not my aim here to go looking for a theological street-fight; I will however suggest that for a person of intellectual integrity, regardless of beliefs or affiliations, a point of key interest might be how the views on “spiritual reality” expressed by one of the most central and revered voices in the Western religious tradition, compare to the views on spiritual reality as related by other well-qualified voices who’ve “already made their trip to see it”—particularly in those “grey-area” questions (and there are a few) where Mary’s statements tend to run at least somewhat afoul of orthodoxy…”

Pertinent to that last sentence, is a quote from Mary, made at Medjugorje, and appearing on my page 341—“It is intentional that all apparitions are under the auspices of the Catholic Church.” That being the case, it’s hardly surprising that “most” of Mary’s statements tend to be largely in tune with Church norms. When she feels the need to depart a bit from that orthodoxy, her statements tend to be a bit more nuanced, and sometimes require a bit of interpretation. Regardless of their nature, I present them (with or without comment) as they were made.

Don Porteous, Tue 30 Aug, 16:29

Stafford, your question about what Mary has to say about the afterlife environment brings up the conundrum I mentioned in my October 3, 2016 blog about Medjugorje, which I’ll copy here:

“A difficult conundrum presents itself from all of this, especially for those who believe they have achieved a reasonable degree of spiritual consciousness.  If they accept that the visionaries are actually communicating with Mary, the mother of Jesus, and further accept that all the messages involving love, peace, forgiveness and charity have value, and that the world does need to become more spiritual and less materialistic, must they also accept a return to more primitive ideas, such as devils with horns and tails in a fire and brimstone environment and a heaven with angels doing nothing but singing praise to God for eternity?  Can they be selective, choosing to believe what appeals to reason while discounting the twaddle?  Or is it possible that such twaddle is really truth? 

“Based on revelation coming to us through various mystics, visionaries, mediums, near-death experiencers, and others able to penetrate the veil into a greater reality since the time of Swedenborg, many ‘believers’ have discovered a more intelligent afterlife, one in which hell is really a ‘fire of the mind,’ like a bad dream, and a state from which there is an escape.  Above that lowest level are a number of realms through which souls advance and progress toward Oneness with the Creator while retaining their individuality.  Those realms, the believers come to understand, involve much more activity than strumming harps for eternity.  Have such believers been misled?”

I can’t believe we have been misled, but, at the same time, I can’t reconcile the “hellfire” afterlife supposedly relayed from Mary by the visionaries, unless we assume that the visionaries have the same difficulties in interpreting communication as we see in secular mediumship, i.e., subconscious distortion of thought images, misinterpretations of symbolic language, etc. Porteous recognizes the issue in his book, but leaves it to the reader to come to his or her own conclusions.

If there are such distortions in communication from Mary, as there are in more secular mediumship, then one has to wonder why Mary didn’t recognize that her words would be misinterpreted and make an attempt to correct them. Could it be that “Mary” is a well-meaning (but not especially advanced) group soul of Catholics who are representing themselves as Mary, just as the Confucius entity communicating through George Valiantine was suspected of being a group soul of those subscribing to the wisdom of Confucius? (A number of “teachings” coming through mediums suggests that many souls hold on to their earthly religions until they further advance.)  That seems like a real stretch, but it is the only one I can come up with. The problem is well above my pay grade.

Michael Tymn, Tue 30 Aug, 11:35

Michael This article gives me hope. Thank the author for me for gathering all this info. Quite a feat.
Blessings to all Karen

Karen Herrick, Tue 30 Aug, 10:58

My interest is not so much anymore in the evidence supporting the reality of spiritual beings and places, which I regard as proven and the Catholic apparitions support, but in the actual nature of the afterlife, about which they say very little if anything. Or do they? Does Porteus report on Mary describing a heaven where she lives? I strongly doubt it.

Stafford Betty, Tue 30 Aug, 02:07

Yes, Michael, it was brilliant and bold for Don to wade into supernormal phenomena directly associated with the Christian tradition, which of course had its origin in such phenomena. I strongly suspect that there is much more supernormal ore to be mined in each of the world’s great religions.

For example, there are those bodies of Buddhist or Hindu priests I read about that decompose much slower than normal while emitting a pleasantly sweet aroma. And then there’s that video still, I helieve, on YouTube where an Eastern monk puts an entire herd of farm animals to sleep merely by peaceful vibes.

Maybe others will chime in with more supernormal manifestations from the Christian and/or other faith traditions, manifestations of which Sister Anastasia Marie is now undoubtedly aware. Thanks, Don, for the foretaste of knowledge that will someday come in its fullness to all of us.

P.S. That bit about the present pope being the last one scares me, especially right now.

Newton Finn, Mon 29 Aug, 19:40

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Fallen Soldier Convinces His Famous Father of Life After Death – On September 14, 1915, Second Lieutenant Raymond Lodge, the youngest of six sons of Sir Oliver Lodge, a distinguished British physicist and pioneer in electricity and radio, as well as the former president of the British Association for the Advancement of Science, was killed in WWI action in Flanders. Read here
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