When Did We have Sufficient Evidence of Consciousness Surviving Death?
Posted on 16 January 2023, 10:25
In my essay for the Bigelow Essay competition of 2021, I attempted to make a legal case for life after death having been proved with overwhelming evidence by 1900. I argued that the legal doctrine of Res Judicata, meaning “it has already been decided,” should be applied to the cumulative evidence gathered between 1850 and 1900, and therefore should not require another legal action. Case closed! The issue for this blog is whether 1900 was a realistic year. Was the case for survival made before that or perhaps later, or not at all.
In my simulated court trial, I offered the testimony of 11 witnesses, including Judge John Edmonds, Dr. George Dexter, Governor Nathaniel Tallmadge, Professor Robert Hare, Professor James Mapes, Professor Alfred Russel Wallace, (below) Sir William Crookes, Sir William Barrett, Rev. William Stainton Moses, Dr. Richard Hodgson, and Sir Oliver Lodge, quoting from their reports and books on their psychical research as if they were testifying at a trial. I wanted to include Professor James Hyslop, perhaps the most knowledgeable of them all, but the 25,000 word limit for the essay prevented that. Hyslop’s research took place mostly between 1905 and 1920, nearly all after the research by those 11 witnesses, and so he was the one omitted and the line was drawn at 1900 rather than 1920. I concluded that the case for survival was well established by 1900 and that evidence developed after that year was “icing on the cake.”
Needless to say, the more evidence the better, and had I gone to 1920 and beyond to the present, it would have made for an even stronger case, but I was forced by the “court” to make my case within those 25,000 words. In my closing argument, I mentioned that I could have called many more witnesses to the stand, but if the testimony of those 11 esteemed men wasn’t convincing to the jury members, then it was likely that 22 witnesses wouldn’t convince them.
My simulated court trial involved a civil action, not a criminal one, and therefore the standard involved was a “preponderance of evidence,” meaning that the evidence for outweighed the evidence against, a significantly easier standard than that of “beyond a reasonable doubt,” required by criminal courts and by the contest rules. It didn’t seem appropriate to apply the criminal standard to the case for survival, as it came across as a defensive measure, so I substituted “overwhelming evidence” to mean the same thing as the desired standard of beyond a reasonable doubt. In exchange for the extra burden of the higher standard and the fact that the attorney for the survivalists was not introducing evidence beyond 1900, except for one reported by Barrett involving a levitation, the attorney arguing for the nihilists agreed to give the survivalists a bit more latitude in their testimony.
The year 1930 seems like a more reasonable cut-off, as that’s when parapsychology began to replace psychical research. The change appears to have been prompted by the disagreements of a number of researchers over investigations of three mediums – Mina Crandon, aka “Margery,” George Valiantine, and Rudi Schneider – during the mid and late 1920s. It became increasingly clear from those investigations that “spirit” activity through mediums was not an acceptable explanation for hard-core scientists. It was a Catch 22 situation. If no other explanation than spirits, it had to be fraud. Even those who supported the spirit explanation for the phenomena had to beat around the bush in stating their conclusions, avoiding as much as possible any reference to spirits. Thus, parapsychology limited its scope to extra-sensory perception (ESP) and psychokinesis (PK) while avoiding any discussion of spirits and survival.
But drawing the line at 1930 would exclude some very impressive and meaningful research with mediums carried out by Dr. T. Glen Hamilton, of Canada, until his death in April 1935. So an argument can be made that 1935 is a more appropriate year at which to say that the case for survival was fully made.
Here are conclusions, their exact words, offered in the “trial” by seven of the witnesses named above. It should be kept in mind that these witnesses were not casual observers of the phenomena they reported on; they carried out countless experiments with various mediums over a number of years. Hodgson, for example, studied Leonora Piper for some 18 years and on the average of three times a week. Moreover, all the researchers were fully aware of the various debunking theories.
By Hare, professor of chemistry at the University of Pennsylvania and world-renowned inventor:
“I sincerely believe that I have communicated with the spirits of my parents, sister, brother, and dearest friends, and likewise with the spirits of the illustrious Washington and other worthies of the spirit world; that I am by them commissioned, under their auspices, to teach truth and to expose error.”
By Mapes, a professor of chemistry at The American Institute and renowned inventor:
“The manifestations which are pertinent to the ends required are so conclusive in their character as to establish in my mind certain cardinal points. These are: First, there is a future state of existence, which is but a continuation of our present state of being…Second, that the great aim of nature, as shown through a great variety of spiritual existences is progression, extending beyond the limits of this mundane sphere…Third, that spirits can and do communicate with mortals, and in all cases evince a desire to elevate and advance those they commune with.”
By Wallace, biologist and co-originator with Charles Darwin of the natural selection theory of evolution:
“The spiritual theory is the logical outcome of the whole of the facts. Those who deny it, in every instance with which I am acquainted, either from ignorance or disbelief, leave half the facts out of view.”
By Barrett, professor of physics at the Royal College of Science and renowned inventor:
“I am personally convinced that the evidence we have published decidedly demonstrates (1) the existence of a spiritual world, (2) survival after death, and (3) of occasional communication from those who have passed over.”
By Crookes, a physicist and chemist who discovered the element thallium and was a pioneer in radioactivity:
“[The phenomena] point to the existence of another order of human life continuous with this, and demonstrate the possibility in certain circumstances of communication between this world and the next.”
By Lodge, professor of physics, a pioneer in electricity and radio, and president of the British Association for the Advancement of Science:
“I tell you with all my strength of the conviction which I can muster that we do persist, that people still continue to take an interest in what is going on, that they know far more about things on this earth than we do, and are able from time to time to communicate with us…I do not say it is easy, but it is possible, and I have conversed with my friends just as I can converse with anyone in this audience now.”
By Hodgson, lecturer in philosophy at Cambridge and later the first full-time psychical researcher:
“I had but one object, to discover fraud and trickery. Frankly, I went to Mrs. Piper with Professor James of Harvard University about twelve years ago with the object of unmasking her…I entered the house profoundly materialistic, not believing in the continuance of life after death; today I say I believe. The truth has been given to me in such a way as to remove from me the possibility of a doubt.”
Although Hyslop, who taught philosophy, ethics and logic at Columbia University before becoming a full-time psychologist and psychical researcher, did not testify because of the court limits on time, his deposition was taken before the trial and he stated:
“Personally, I regard the fact of survival after death as scientifically proved. I agree that this opinion is not upheld in scientific quarters. But this is neither our fault nor the fault of the facts. Evolution was not believed until long after it was proved. The fault lay with those who were too ignorant or too stubborn to accept the facts. History shows that every intelligent man who has gone into this investigation, if he gave it adequate examination at all, has come out believing in spirits; this circumstance places the burden of proof on the shoulders of the skeptic.”
If we consider the research by Hare, Mapes, Edmonds, Dexter, and Tallmadge, not to mention French educator Allan Kardec and American clergyman Adin Ballou, we can conclude that the case for consciousness surviving death was made before 1860. Add in Wallace and we can draw the line at 1865.
Then again, we might put the year at 1892. That was the year that a “spirit” claiming to have been George Pellew (below) began communicating through the mediumship of Mrs. Piper. Until then, many researchers, including Hodgson and Professor William James of Harvard, who recruited Hodgson to head up the American branch of the Society for Psychical Research in 1887, accepted the genuineness of much of the phenomena but leaned toward a belief that the so-called “spirits” were secondary personalities buried in the medium’s subconscious, and that these secondary personalities could somehow access information telepathically, even at a great distance, or from some kind of “cosmic reservoir” not yet known to science (which later came to be called Super Psi or Living Agent Psi). As far-fetched as it seemed, it was more “scientific” than communication from spirits of the dead. The idea of spirits was seen as a return to the follies and superstitions of religion, which had been impeached by science during the 1860s.
However, Pellew, who died in an accident in New York City at age 32 during February 1892 and began communicating through Piper some six weeks later, demonstrated all the characteristics of the man he claimed to have been in the material world and otherwise displayed too much personality to have been some second-self pretender buried away in Piper’s subconscious. “To the person unfamiliar with a series of [sittings with Mrs. Piper], it may seem a plausible hypothesis that perhaps one secondary personality might do the whole work, might use the voice and write contemporaneously with the hand,” Hodgson wrote. “I do not, however, think it at all likely that he would continue to think it plausible after witnessing and studying the numerous coherent groups of memories connected with different persons, the characteristic emotions, tendencies distinguishing such different persons, the excessive complication of acting required, and the absence of any apparent bond of union for the associated thoughts and feelings indicative of each individuality, save some persistent basis of that individuality itself.” Other researchers agreed with Hodgson, although James, perhaps out of concern for sanctioning something too much like religion, which science had already impeached, sat on the fence.”
The basic problem was that there was too much “bosh,” too much “humbug” too much “twaddle,” too many conflicting ideas, coming through many mediums, probably the majority of mediums, even some of the better mediums, such as Mrs. Piper. Over time, the dedicated researchers were able to filter all this conflicting material out of the communication and still find veridical information outside the scope of fraud, coincidence, chance guessing, whatever theory opposed spirit communication. While religions had led people to believe that those in the spirit world, one they called “heaven,” are all-powerful and all-knowing, the research suggested that this is definitely not the case. The researchers discovered that most “spirits” on the other side know little, if anything, more than they did in the physical world. Moreover, the lower and less-advanced spirits, being at a lower vibration and closer to the earth vibration, were better able to communicate than the advanced spirits. Among those lower spirits were some with malevolent intentions. That’s a subject for the next blog.
Whether the spirits communicating were advanced and benevolent or lowly and malevolent, the early research definitely provided overwhelming evidence that consciousness survives death. I’ll stick with the case for survival having been made by 1900. Res Judicata.
Michael Tymn is the author of The Afterlife Revealed: What Happens After We Die, Resurrecting Leonora Piper: How Science Discovered the Afterlife, and Dead Men Talking: Afterlife Communication from World War I.
His latest book, No One Really Dies: 25 Reasons to Believe in an Afterlife is published by White Crow books.
Next blog post: January 30.
I think we are in total agreement. However, “psychic absorption” doesn’t too much more of a stretch than does “hyperthymelia” which has to do with remembering what you did every day of your life. Actress Marilu Henner was once featured on “60 Minutes” as having this condition. I don’t recall the extent of her memory, but I do recall that if you gave her a date, such a January 21, 1970, she could tell you what day of the week it was, what she was doing that day, and provide some detail, although I don’t know how her activity could have been confirmed. I’m pretty sure the day of the week part was confirmed.
Michael Tymn, Sun 22 Jan, 05:10
How does one express total agreement with your argument? Well, first one thanks you for expressing it. Then, like you, one expresses amazed disappointment at the immature and self-limiting view of most people. It is like the idea that a space ship could be driven by a steam engine. People should stop and think for just a microsecond, and the answer would become obvious.
This same narrowness is seen also in the so-called space exploration movies and comics of half a century ago, in which the characters come straight out of the ‘cowboy and Indians’ films of a quarter of a century before that, with no new thought, and simply in changed clothes, their minds just as parochial as before. We need imaginative and creative vision, and then questions such as how beings in the spirit worlds know more than we do would not even be asked. To ask them simply reinforces the very same point: our ignorance and faithless lack of imagination even of the very next rung of the infinitely high spiritual ladder.
Eric Franklin, Sat 21 Jan, 22:35
The anomalies involving Patience lend themselves to the debunkers for an anti-survival explanation, i.e., it all had to with the unexplored subconscious of Pearl Curran. I guess it is a continuation of the interview with Amos Doyle from my June 17, 2013 blog. It seems to be an unending mystery. It is a little off the primary subject of the blog, but it is still related. Thanks for your patience.
Michael Tymn, Sat 21 Jan, 20:52
I have before me 12 lectures by Cora L.V. Richmond. Several of them are credited to other people, all spirits in the afterlife, including William Ellery Channing, John Wesley, Benjamin Franklin, Robert Dale Owen, Theodore Parker and other un-named communicators. I don’t know if these men were part of a group that regularly communicated through Mrs. Richmond or just provided a one-time lecture.
It is as if there is an interlocutor on the other side, on stage before a large audience of learned spirits. And like the John Edward radio readings or Matt Fraser Zoom meetings the spirit interlocutor takes questions from the audience on earth and relays them to the spirit audience in front of him and then transmits the response back to earth to the interlocutor (medium) on earth who passes them on.
“Folks, I have a question coming in from a young lady on earth. (He reads the question.) Who wants to answer it?” From the back row, Ben Franklin adjusts his glasses and raises his hand and the microphone is passed to him so that he can be heard by the medium on stage on earth—-Cora Richmond,
‘As above, so below!’
Amos Oliver Doyle, Sat 21 Jan, 20:18
In Richmond’s book “Is Materialization True?”, published in 1878, I particularly liked the lecture by Benjamin Franklin who describes his experiences in the afterlife and speaks of the “occupation, capabilities and possibilities of disembodied spirits.” Cora’s “lectures” are indeed outstanding but I think that it was not Cora who was composing them. Often, audience members asked esoteric and deep philosophical questions which Cora appeared to answer extemporaneously. But like Pearl Curran perhaps, I think that Cora was transmitting what she heard relayed to her from one or more spirits in the ‘afterlife’. It is unlikely that she got the information by passing through a well-stocked library. - AOD
Amos Oliver Doyle, Sat 21 Jan, 18:01
I think that Pearl/Patience knew what she knew because she had lived it! For me, that is the least convoluted far-out explanation. Sometimes the best answer to a question is the most simple direct one. - AOD
Assuming that Patience Worth had been in the spirit world from her alleged time of death in the late 1600s until she began speaking to us in 1912, and further assuming that educational and experiential opportunities in the spirit world are as manifold and inexhaustible as many communicators have told us they are, why the need to come up with complicated, convoluted explanations of how Patience came to know what she knew when she began to express herself through Pearl Curran? THAT, not Patience’s otherworldly knowledge and wisdom, leaves ME utterly stumped.
Newton Finn, Sat 21 Jan, 17:06
Dear Mike (Tymn),
I think it very likely that you are right in everything you say in your latest addendum to your latest blog, which is excellent as always.
Eric Franklin, Sat 21 Jan, 10:41
I just remembered where the absorption theory came from. It was an explanation suggested for Cora Scott aka Cora Scott Richmond, who gave very scholarly lectures on many different subjects beginning at age 12 during the early 1850s. She befuddled many learned men with her knowledge. One of the theories was “psychological absorption,” which held that by merely putting her hand on a book or passing through a well-stocked library, she could absorb all the knowledge stored in the book or library. It was estimated that by age 18, Cora had given over 600 lectures on social, political, scientific, religious and reform matters, including the emancipation of slaves. One of her lectures, when she was 16, was in Philadelphia was attended by more than 5,000 people. She would be given a topic to speak on minutes before she spoke. At age 14, she was given the topic, “The influence of the Aryan Philosphy upon the Philosophy of Modern Times” to discourse on. The New York Herald reported that she gave “a most eloquent lecture upon the subject, replete with logic and erudition, and showed a knowledge of the subject far transcending that possessed by mortal man..”
It was announced from the very beginning through Cora that a band of spirit controls of mutual attraction and sympathy had come together to control and guide Cora. I’m not sure, but I recall there being 12 members of the band or group who spoke as one through Cora.
The phenomena seems much like that of Patience. My next blog with again discuss the Imperator Group of 49 spirits. It was said that members of this group were at varying degrees of advancement and that Rector served as the chief spokesperson because he was at a lower level of advancement and therefore closer to the earth vibration. However, he was supposedly delivering the thoughts of Imperator or of the entire 49 when he spoke. It all came through the voice of Stainton Moses, which changed at time. Apparently, four or five others in the group of 49 communicated directly, but most of them did not have the ability to control Moses. Those who spoke through Moses delivered the group’s “united” thought. The same was said of D. D. Home, i.e., that what came through his voice was often the melded voice of several spirits.
And so, I wonder if Patience was in a member of a group of poets and authors, some at high levels, some lower, but that she was the only one with the ability to communicate through humans. She was like Rector in the band of 49. That’s my best shot at a theory. It has been said that finding a good control on the Other Side is as difficult as finding a good medium on this side. Intelligence has nothing to do with it.
Michael Tymn, Fri 20 Jan, 20:48
Amos Oliver Doyle, Fri 20 Jan, 15:10
Yes, I agree that at some point we need to come to some conclusion based upon the information we have at the time. But we also need to acknowledge that that information may need to be modified as other information comes to the fore. And we should be amenable to thankfully changing our conclusion after consideration of the new information. - AOD
I don’t recall hearing about the subconscious absorption theory before.
Didn’t Edgar Cayce get some of his education by sleeping on books? I have read about some people who could read through their fingertips. (Not braille.) I think it is unlikely in the Pearl Curran case since she would have to gain an awful lot of information that way and her family would have had to wonder where she was and what she was doing all of that time in the library or where ever she was, unless of course the mechanism was telepathic somehow and she absorbed the copious information while she slept or did her housework. but then, that’s getting closer to just plain ol’ telepathy!
(Maybe Pearl was a time traveler and traveled back to the time periods she wrote about?)
I recall that the author of “Ben Hur, A Tale of the Christ”, Lew Wallace, spent years gaining the information to write his book and had the references and maps of Palestine strewn on his desk before him while he was writing. Pearl Curran had none of that before her when she wrote. And of course there was no hesitation or re-writing with Pearl. The story just flowed out of her.
I think that whoever came up with the “subconscious absorption theory” was grabbing for straws in order to deny spiritualism. Was that ‘what’s his name’? Funny, how their names just fade away in time. - AOD
Amos Oliver Doyle, Fri 20 Jan, 14:43
Thanks for the Ansel Keys story. I am not saying that we shouldn’t look at all the “could be” theories, only that at some point you have to come to some kind of conclusion.
There is another name for the"subconscious absorption” explanation that I mentioned as a “could be” with the Patience Worth story, but I don’t recall what the name is, although it is some kind of absorption. It holds that Pearl Curran absorbed all her knowledge by just putting her hands on books at the library and thereby everything that Patience communicated came from those books. I don’t know if there are people with that ability, but it does seem pretty far-fetched, especially considering the fact that many of the words she used wouldn’t be found in library books.
Nevertheless, it is a “could be.”
As for the “secondary personalities,” your point seems to support mine. That is, why would so many secondary personalities, acting independent of the medium’s primary personality, pretend to be spirits of the dead? As Wallace asked it, why were they all liars?
Michael Tymn, Thu 19 Jan, 22:23
I would have to knock off the last three probabilities giving them each a zero probability. That would free up 12,2% which I would allocate to “Group Soul with fragment of past life”, with a 42.6 probability. (You see, you have convinced me to start looking at ‘group soul’ as a source of the information in the “Patience Worth’ writings.)
That being agreed upon, I think that the ‘Table Talk’ personality known as Patience Worth with her rural somewhat barnyard common language of the byways and crossroads of Southern England in the seventeen hundreds would be the most difficult to explain as a product of a ‘Group Soul” unless one was willing to allow one personality of a group soul to take the floor and speak for 25 or so years. I can allow that the variety of language used in the poems and novels might be explained as coming from several entities making up a group soul but the ‘Table Talk’ is so consistent for so long that it appears to have been coming from one spirit entity or personality.
Amos Oliver Doyle, Thu 19 Jan, 21:10
The Patience Worth case is, in my opinion, the most enigmatic case of spirit communication with the living and calls for some serious discussion and investigation of the actual source of all of the transmitted information making up the ‘Table Talk’, many poems, several novels and plays and many witty aphorisms. If I were younger I might try to get a local university to let me conduct a class in the Patience Worth literature. Alas, I think my time has come and ‘went’. - AOD
Amos Oliver Doyle, Thu 19 Jan, 13:27
I like your breakdown of probabilities. - AOD
I (for what little that’s worth) totally approve of your comment about Ancel Keys, and thank you for it. Not all scientists are honest. We have to test the scientists, whether they be of the “God who hates lying”, according to one of the OT prophets (I forget which). One of my nephews worked for Hoechst over two decades ago, and told me then that unsaturated fats are only about 1 per cent different in their metabolic effects from the saturated fats wrongly proclaimed by Keys to be harmful.
Eric Franklin, Thu 19 Jan, 11:42
Thank you. I did recall the statement from Bertrand Russell, but too vaguely to quote or cite it in a quickly written comment. I’ve read your very valuable book more than four times, as you know, but did not remember that it was my source for this vague memory.
I do wonder whether, in his new dasein, his new way of being-there, Russell now realises that his Neutral Monism is clever but mistaken, and, properly understood, is strong dualism after all. Some of us are granted to realise that we are strongly dual beings by experience of our duality in this incarnation, in OBEs or NDEs, but Russell evidently had to wait until he came-to-be in another universe.
Eric Franklin, Thu 19 Jan, 09:23
Corrections on prior send: It was “Three Faces of Eve,” not “Three Cases….” and the year of the riots was 1969, not 1968.
Concerning Patience Worth, I put it all into my probability program and was given the following as the probable cause of the PW phenomena:
Group Soul unrelated to past lives…....33.2%
Group Soul with fragment of past life….30.4%
Single past-life communication…........24.2%
Subconscious absorption from this life… 6.1%
Automatic writing from single spirit
unrelated to past lives….............5.9%
Other, including fraud….................0.2%
Michael Tymn, Thu 19 Jan, 02:43
Amos Oliver Doyle, Thu 19 Jan, 00:09
In reference to a secondary personality or “second self” you say that, “According to Hodgson and other researchers, the medium, when in trance, had no recollection of [what] went on.” And that is exactly the situation in the Sally Beauchamp case. The primary personality had no conscious recollection of what happened when the secondary personalit(ies) were in control of the body. Note that she had no CONSCIOUS knowledge but according to Dr. Prince, some secondary personalities were aware of what the other personalities said or did and some of it may have been stored in the subconscious of the primary personality. - AOD
One of the biggest frauds perpetrated upon the whole world based on “evidence” was the so-called scientific study done by Ancel Keys a physiologist with an education in oceanography and fish physiology. He published “evidence” from his study of diets of people in Europe that saturated fats and cholesterol were the cause of atherosclerotic heart disease. And at the time, no one questioned what he was theorizing. Afterall he was a highly educated man in an exaulted position.
These “facts” of Ancel Keys were taken up without question by other highly educated people including physicians, medical schools, hospitals and other health-care people as well as the American Heart Association and accepted and promoted as the way to prevent heart attacks. Almost everybody believed Ancel Keys and the government developed a ‘food pyramid’ which was recommended to everyone as good nutrition based on Keys’ study.
Those who did not follow Ancel Keys’ theory that saturated fat and cholesterol caused heart attacks were ostracized from the medical community and might have in some cases lost their license to practice medicine if they did not follow the evidence accepted by ‘those in the know”. Never mind that the people of France and Italy had diets containing a lot of saturated fat and cholesterol and a low incidence of heart disease, and that controlled studies showed that fat and cholesterol did not cause heart attacks. The “facts” of Keys’ study became dogma and the food producers loved it. Now new products could be manufactured to meet the needs of people who didn’t want to die of heart disease. Products like margarine made with hydrogenated vegetable oils (full of dangerous trans fats.), artificial oils—-vegetable oils extracted from grains with dangerous chemicals, a multitude of new low-fat and no cholesterol foods, quarts of artificial eggs of egg whites only, and manufactured foods with an excess of added sugar and high fructose corn sugar to replace saturated fat (causing diabetes and insulin resistance) but now, based on the “facts” Keys discovered. Educated people of high standing actually promoted this money-making scheme without question.
It turned out that scientist Ancel Keys manipulated his “evidence” to give the results that he wanted to support his preconceived biases. Now we know that Ancel Keys cherry-picked his “evidence” to support his belief that saturated fat and cholesterol caused heart disease. And he bamboozled the rest of the world to believe him because he was a “scientist” and had a respectable position at the University level. Now, “science” knows that Ancel Keys was wrong. In fact, now it is believed that natural foods containing saturated fat and cholesterol may actually promote a healthy heart and circulatory system.
My point is that it is reasonable to question authority, position or status. It just might turn out that authority is wrong. There were those who questioned established dogma and asked “What if it could be that. . . ?” “Maybe it might be?” Most of the great inventions or discoveries were made by men who asked “What if?” Maybe it could be that man could fly? Contrary to current belief maybe stomach ulcers are caused by a bacterium and not stress? Maybe doctors should wash their hands between maternity patients to prevent infections and death of new mothers? Maybe the earth revolves around the sun? Maybe saturated fat and cholesterol don’t cause heart disease? Maybe sucking on a lemon or lime prevents the disease scurvy?
It is never wrong to ask what could be or might be as a way to get to the truth or to move forward with discovery. - AOD
Amos Oliver Doyle, Wed 18 Jan, 23:37
Not to steal Michael’s thunder, but you asked about any comments from the post-mortem Bertrand Russell (d. Feb. 1970). As quoted in my book (pg. 368. quoting from Sylvia Brown’s “Immortals by my Side”)...
...And from an outspoken atheist in life, “Do I believe in God now? Many people will want to know my answer. Yes, I now believe without equivocation, and with a positive intellectual comprehension which was and is the sole acceptable proposition as far as I am concerned.”
Don Porteous, Wed 18 Jan, 22:28
Thank you for sharing your interesting experiences and thanks to all others who have commented.
Yes, paranormal phenomena does not lend itself to strict scientific observation, but so many other things don’t either. Consider the Covid vaccine. I have heard some seemingly highly qualified doctors and other scientists speak out against it. The majority seem to support it, but it goes to show that the science underlying it is hardly “exact” science. I have often used the example of cigarette smoking. Clearly, the science indicates a positive correlation between smoking and lung and heart issues, but there are many people who smoke for a lifetime into their 80s or 90s without any such problems. What applies to many doesn’t necessary apply to all.
Michael Tymn, Wed 18 Jan, 21:49
Thank you for your comments. The case of “Philip, the imaginary ghost,” took place during the early 1970 and involved a Canadian group being able to levitate a table on their own. They saw this as proof that spirits were not involved. But the question then became whether there were spirits involved; they just didn’t know it, or their higher selves were the “spirits.” Alan Kardec, the renowned French researcher, dealt with this issue a hundred years earlier and concluded that playful low-level spirits were involved even though the sitters were not aware of it. So, what to believe?
Michael Tymn, Wed 18 Jan, 21:40
Thank you for your several comments. I am familiar with the Sally Beauchamp case, but the ASPR report on it is about 700 pages and I have not completely digested it. I especially recall the “Three Cases of Eve,” as I was viewing the movie in a theater in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia with my first wife and two daughters, ages 7 and 5, during 1968. Fortunately, we were in the “first class” section upstairs, as the ground floor was for “peons.” Mid-way through the movie, the front exit doors came crashing down and rioters broke in wielding machetes and bolo knives while hacking away at people on the ground floor. I got my daughters under the seats and picked up a Coke bottle to throw in self-defense. However, they chased the ground-floor people through the front entrance and never came upstairs. We spent most of the night sweating in that upstairs section (No AC, no lights). As I recall, around 300 people were killed in downtown KL that night. I didn’t see the end of the movie until about 25 years later. It was an ethnic war between the Malays and Chinese, the latter supposedly having all the money and political power.
But back to basic issue, the question is whether the medium chose to represent the “second-self” as a deceased person or the “second self” chose to do it. According to Hodgson and other researchers, the medium, when in trance, had no recollection of went on. If that is the case, then the “second-self” chose to represent herself as a deceased person rather than a second-self and that is what I was concerned with. Of course, there were varying degrees of trance and indications were that some mediums did know what was going on. As you point out, representing oneself as a deceased person could have been an objective, but as Alfred Russel Wallace said, it was strange that they all represented themselves as spirits of the dead, not just some of them.
In the case of Eusapia Paladino, her voice changed when John King was speaking through her, and she sounded like a man. But, of course, she may have had Robin Williams-like talents in that respect.
As for Mrs. Piper, the researchers said she had no recollection of what took place. The issue with Dr. Phinuit was that he claimed to be from France but couldn’t speak French with several investigators, although he spoke with a French accent. But he did speak apparently fluent French with other people. Thus, there seems to have been an unknown reason why Piper’s brain could filter French with some people and not with others. I vaguely recall the theories on this, but I’ll leave it for a future blog as it is too long.
Michael Tymn, Wed 18 Jan, 21:33
You asked the question, “If Patience [Worth] wasn’t a spirit (including a group soul or number of spirits) or a secondary personality, what might she have been?”
I think you know my answer to that question.
It is possible and it could be that the Patience Worth entity, may have been past lives of Pearl Curran. I think I am leaning more and more in that direction. “Patience Worth” was always available to Pearl Curran even when she gave presentations of Patience before women’s groups in individual homes or from the stage. It was as if Pearl Curran could call up Patience Worth on demand, as if Patience Worth was just floating around somewhere waiting to be summoned. And perhaps not relevant, most of the main and/or dominant characters in the published novels and short stories of Pearl Curran were women: Telka, Theia, Hope Trueblood, Samuel Wheaten, and others.
I have read and listened to a large number of past lives reported by children and adults and as they recall their past life, in some cases it would make for a good novel or short story. It could be that that is what Pearl Curran did. She just recalled incidents in her past lives. It was easy for her. It just flowed out as one would remember what they did yesterday.
Now the question to be asked is “Does the personality of a past life persist somewhere, perhaps a part of a group soul, and can be summoned to be played from time to time like an old phonograph record. - AOD
Amos Oliver Doyle, Wed 18 Jan, 21:09
There is surely one more possibility that Amos does not mention. That is Morton Prince’s own prejudices and preferences in style of interpretation of the observations. Science history is full of the experimenter’s, or theoriser’s, own pre-existing ideas. Every hypothesis starts with an interpretation of observations of reality that are coloured by the experimenter’s prejudices or initial stances and ways of seeing. Popper expounded the method of testing all observations so that such effects could be eliminated before ideas are granted the status of theory. This, too, is treated at some length for the intelligent lay reader in chapter 15 of Maureen Lockhart’s book ‘The Subtle Energy Body’.
A great deal more could, and ideally should, be said on this thorny problem.
Eric Franklin, Wed 18 Jan, 20:18
I think it might be a good idea for those interested in spirit obsession or possession or spirit communication to be aware of, or preferably read the case of “Sally Beauchamp” as reported by Dr. Morton Prince. This is a case of “Dissociated Identity Disorder then, (in the early 1900s) known as “Multiple Personality Disorder”. This case is not presented as having anything to do with spirits but as a case of medical or psychiatric interest. Dr. Prince studied this patient for many years and wrote what is now the classic case of “Dissociated Identity Disorder”. This case provides some background information or reference when considering other causes of what some people regard as spirit interaction with people or mediums contacting the dead.
Amos Oliver Doyle, Wed 18 Jan, 18:50
Two approaches can be taken with this case. One view is that this is a case purely of psychiatric interest of diagnosing and treating someone with mental health problems. But, and I take this view, that the Sally Beauchamp case might demonstrate something other than mental illness and that it may have been—-or could have been—-or there was a possibility that—-Ms. “Beauchamp” was possessed by at least one spirit, although Dr. Prince was able to concoct 5 identities including a couple of sleeping entities. This case gives good insight that there may be other explanations of so-called spirit intervention into the lives of normal people and how so-called “scientific” people can publish evidence or data which are thereupon called facts to support their either known or unrecognized biases.
We all have to be careful that we don’t fall into the trap of letting our long-standing belief systems prevent us from at least considering, as a possibility that there may be other explanations of what we are seeing, hearing or reading about. - AOD
I can think of at least one reason why mediums might invent “spirits”. (You mentioned the “Phillip Group” so you are aware of at least one example of an invented spirit and the reason they invented him, although I agree that some lower-level spirits may have accommodated the sitters in that case by taking on the identity of the spirit they had invented. It has been suspected that some spirits assume the identity of people who they were not. I believe that Phinuit, in the Lenora Piper case, was suspected of not being who he claimed to be.)
Amos Oliver Doyle, Wed 18 Jan, 18:07
I think that most people want to think they are ‘special’ in some way and what better way to be thought of as special than to be able to communicate with the dead. It takes a person out of the doldrums of daily life and propels them into a life of notoriety and of course, mediums may invent spirits for financial reasons. - AOD
You make a good argument when you say “If spirits aren’t involved, why would they [mediums] invent them? Of all the [claimed by sceptics] “secondary personalities” involved with various mediums, why did they all claim spirit origin? I can’t recall one who admitted to being a “secondary personality.”
An example of proper logical reasoning, and very hard to refute. Thank you. I don’t like the lawyer’s profession much, but you would have made a good lawyer, if you had not been able to run so fast, or to write such good blogs, and an honest one too. Bravo!
Eric Franklin, Wed 18 Jan, 11:18
Michael, I tell you a personal story. More than 40 years ago I graduated in ancient history at the University of Leuven. There was a professor in the end of his career specialised in the minoic civilization and more specific in the written languages called linear A and linear B. Those languages were a long time not understood (linearA still is not known although there may be a recent breakthrough). My professor wrote some books about those languages based on the findings of that time and devoted his life to it.In the 1950’s linear B was decoded by Michael Ventris , a cryptologic. My professor,more a linguist, could not accept the deciphering of linear B because all he did and wrote would ve considered as worthless. Even in 1979 he still denied it in his courses. I remember clearly that when we were examinated we had to answer his wrong conclusions in stead of the scientific reality of the deciphering. I think it was a sad case and had a feeling of compassion with the man.
Chris, Wed 18 Jan, 09:22
I suppose science uses mostly empirical prove as hard prove. In that case you don’t make any theoretical assumptions at the base, but you follow only the results of the experiment itself. But nobody says anything about the observations itself. Our senses are so limited. The more advanced technology becomes, the more hard proves of the old science becomes loose ground. The discovery of the atomic structures and quantum physics will revolutionize our picture of our physical world and what is left of the hard prove in many domains? In history every new finding can bring a turnaround in what people thought and considered proved during centuries. But not only there, how many times was proven that eggs were bad for cholesterol and red wine good for the heart.Nowadays there are scientific studies that prove the opposite,so it is a difficult task to find out the correct scientific result.
We also speak about Darwin and Einstein as scientists (me also) but is a big part of their scientific theories not based on theory and not empirical prove?
We consider evolution theory and big bang as scientific proved results…but more and more we see cracks in those supposed solid theories as people say they are not telling the whole story and that their must be more to it.
Maybe we consider in science too much that : it is right until proven wrong and in spiritual matters : it is wrong until it is proven right. That can change quickly if the masses accept spiritualism.
At the end I tell you another personal story about the relativity of science: for my graduation thesis I made a study of Arsinoe II ,a ptolemaic queen of Egypt , so a sort of prototype of the famous Cleopatra. My study was about the question if she was considered a godess or just a queen (along the pharaonic tradition). I worked a few years on it to collect evidence and it became one of the important issues of my life at that time. The day I graduated I went home with my diploma and on the way ,I suddenly stopped and thought by myself: who in the world cares about Arsinoe, nobody even heared of her? Thoes it makes the world or humanity in any way better? My answer was a solid NO.I felt the uselessness of that what was keeping me busy those few years.You see, many things are very relative. Are the performances of any sportsman make the world better, although some are considered almost as gods?
It is all relative. So, in the worst case scenario that we are not able to convince the masses of spiritualism, in any case we tried the improve the moral standards of people by showing compassion and love to our fellow humans. That is already a better result than a study about Arsinoe II, although it may not be called scientific.
Dear Mike (Tymn),
You are right to disapprove of “could be” statements deliberately aimed to wave away or cast doubt on valid logic, and those who use the ‘could be this or could be that’ line of blather should be challenged every time to give at least some rational FACT in support their invalid case. Those who make such statements (they are not valid argument) should be ashamed to be caught doing so, and should be “called out” for their silliness and dishonesty every time, as you have rightly done on this occasion.
But to say that some other case could have been due to the higher selves of the participants is to make a statement (a non-argument) of the same kind, because no evidence is presented that what is suggested could be the fact.
Bertrand Russell gave good advice when he advised humans “concern yourself only with facts”. I just wish he had realised that his theory of ‘Neutral Monism’ sounds very much like dualism to many readers, just as Heidegger’s thought on ‘being-there’ sounds very like the traditional church dualistic immortal soul. Do you know of any utterances attributed to Russell since 1970, or Heidegger since 1976, when they moved a nanometre aside from this universe into another one?
Eric Franklin, Wed 18 Jan, 08:11
I need to correct myself. I said that I drew the line at 1900 in my Bigelow paper. I actually drew it at 1920, although 98% of all the phenomena mentioned in the paper took place before 1900. On my first draft of the essay, I put it at 1900 and then decided to change it to 1920.
As I also said in that Bigelow essay, I believe that the case for survival was made with the research involving Leonora Piper alone and that it was not really necessary to mention all the other research. The key Piper research, including George Pellew, took place before 1900, although researchers continued to study her after 1900. I discuss all that in more detail in my book, “Resurrecting Leonora Piper.” I know Mike Schmicker wrote extensively about Mrs. Piper in his book, “Best Evidence,” so I am curious as to his response to my question about his being on a jury and considering only the evidence before 1935.
Michael Tymn, Wed 18 Jan, 01:05
One more comment about Eusapia. What would be the motivation for claiming that John King, her spirit guide, was responsible for lifting her? Or for that matter, D. D. Home and all the others? If they had such abilities, why not take credit for superhuman powers? Why not act like Superman or Wonder Woman? If spirits aren’t involved, why would they invent them? Of all the “secondary personalities” involved with various mediums, why did they all claim spirit origin? I can’t recall one who admitted to being a “secondary personality.” Why didn’t Patience Worth admit that she was just a secondary self of Pearl Curran? As I recall, she was asked that question and said something to the effect that “I am me and she is she.” If Patience wasn’t a spirit (including a group soul or number of spirits) or a secondary personality, what might she have been?
Michael Tymn, Tue 17 Jan, 23:40
I know that sometimes I might come off as negative about survival but I don’t regard this blog as a place to present a legal case for or against it but rather as a good place to share thoughts, ideas, and yes, feelings about whether or not survival of consciousness is a reality, a fact! Having been educated in medicine, biology, anatomy, chemistry and geology and being a visual artist, a musician and photographer, I am mired in materialism and it is difficult for me to give it up entirely.
There is always the “possibility”, or it could be that some or all of what is discussed here was originally given for entertainment purposes, that it may have been faked for various and sundry reasons. But whether it is evident in my comments or not, my inclination is to believe that consciousness is prime and all the rest is fabrication. I don’t know for sure and other explanations are always a possibility.
Using the words of the poet William Wordsworth, there are “intimations of immortality” all around us, everywhere. It is my hope that my consciousness (not personality) will survive the death of my body and perhaps return to physicality again to grow and experience more, and more and more until my consciousness is worthy of returning to its source.
Absolute certainty of survival will only be known if and when we survive death of the body. If we don’t survive, then it is certain that the dead know nothing! - AOD
Amos Oliver Doyle, Tue 17 Jan, 22:36
I think, like a lot of NDE-ers, that guy struggled to find the words to adequately explain his experience. The term “ineffable” is often applied to NDEs. I did grow weary listening to him fumble around for words to describe his experience and he often wandered away from making his point. But I try to keep an open mind and listen to these so-called NDEs with acceptance, that they are telling what they believe they experienced while their body was dying and are honest in presenting their experience. I also acknowledge that some or many of them have a book to sell or a website to visit.
I agree with you that Jeff Reynolds (JeffMara) is one of the best interviewers of people with fringe views or experiences. He is so accepting and non-confrontational and just lets people tell whatever story they have to tell without displaying a negative response or telling body language. Jeff seems like a very kind, gentle loving man. - AOD
Amos Oliver Doyle, Tue 17 Jan, 21:48
There is always that “could be” you have inserted into the case. When Eusapia Paladino floated, chair and all, from the floor to the top of the table while Richet and Lombroso, two world-renowned scientists, held her hand and she complained about John King, her spirit control hurting her while lifting her, it “could be” or “might have been” that she simply had special powers and was faking it. There is no point in ever having a court of law if we revert to “could be” defenses. Even in the case of Philip, the imaginary ghost, who is to say that some playful spirits were not involved? Or that the spirits were not the “higher selves” of the living humans participating.
Every legal case has a “could be” or “might be.” I think that is why “absolute certainty” is not a legal standard.
Michael Tymn, Tue 17 Jan, 21:14
Please name some of the researchers who thought they had “hard proof” but then found out they were wrong.
Michael Tymn, Tue 17 Jan, 21:00
I agree with the sentiment of Paul’s comments
Pete Marley, Tue 17 Jan, 20:44
One could live a hundred years
And never see the region of the deathless
It is better to live a single day
And see the region of the deathless
Grosso suggests better one powerful personal experience that gives conviction of the deathless than bare hope or shaky speculation!
ps just read your essay Michael good stuff
Amos, I saw that too. He has a fascinating story but is a bit confusing in his explanation. He opened a you tube channel of his own named old scrolls. He had a live for over 3 hours but sometimes also confusing seems to me, but we ’ll see what he has to bring us in the future.
Chris, Tue 17 Jan, 20:27
I must say that the Jeff Mara podcast is a good one. Jeff is an interviewer who has respect for his guests and often poses the right questions.
Thanks for your lengthy explanation as to your position. As I said, the more the cumulative evidence, the better. If, however, you were on a jury in 1900 —or let’s move it to 1935—and had to make a decision then based on the testimony of all those researchers who had dedicated themselves to studying the subject, would you have voted that they had not met the burden of proof and thereby go with the nihilists?
Michael Tymn, Tue 17 Jan, 19:15
Another interesting ‘JeffMara’ podcast. Somewhat convoluted and somewhat tedious and too long report of a near death experience and other psychic things leading up to it and one man’s take on all of it. But definitely it is thought provoking and in parts synonymous with other NDEs and ideas about multi-universes, all being connected and love being the key to existence. - AOD
Amos Oliver Doyle, Tue 17 Jan, 16:24
We need to have hard prove before we believe in spirits and afterlife, some say.What about the hundreds of scientists who thought they had hard prove, but later got to know they were wrong. A whole lifework ruined in a minute.Does that mean that their life was worthless? Indeed, the answer is no…it was just their path and lesson. To try to find out the truth, even if you miss the clue is always better than doing nothing. You had at least a good intention.
Chris, Tue 17 Jan, 15:39
To Michael Schmicker - thank you for a fascinating and beautiful post.
Paul, Tue 17 Jan, 15:32
Bruce Williams, Tue 17 Jan, 11:41
I am about to go to sort out a family death so I am not able to search for quote that I wanted. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle used the 12 good men fair and true to act as a jury for the evidence.
He presented the evidence before the jury and won the argument. I looked up his works at http://gutenberg.net.au/plusfifty-a-m.html#doyle
It was impressive analysis.
And Dear Paul,
THANK YOU TOO - but I HAVE TO go out NOW. Will read you later . . .
Eric Franklin, Tue 17 Jan, 11:13
Dear Michael Schmicker,
I have insulted your piece by skimming through it in a few minutes (I have an appointment some miles away very soon this morning).
We, you and I, are entirely agreed about this. We now need a scientific “religion” or (better) a new spiritual understanding of reality with a spiritual awareness to inform it. Much of the same message is, as I have said before, contained in chapter 15 of Dr Maureen Lockhart’s book ‘The Subtle Energy Body’, IT International, Rochester Vermont, 2010. And, as you say, other writers are saying similar things. I would add to what you rightly say in your present piece that it is Relativity that shows HOW there can be dwelling “”“places”“” where the Consciousness dwells after leaving THIS universe, leaving the physical body behind. See you (and many, many, others) there? When the “”“time”“” comes?
Eric Franklin, Tue 17 Jan, 11:10
Thanks for your thoughts which I appreciated. I personally don’t think it’s a blessing to believe without sufficient evidence (I don’t think you’re saying that lol). Also, belief in something that isn’t true may indeed provide peace of mind so in that respect it’s a blessing perhaps, until it’s shown to be false. One can waste a lot of life on false beliefs I think.
Michael: I agree with your comments. I don’t complain that I haven’t reached firm conviction as I feel the journey is important. Certainly the question is fundamental to our understanding of ourselves and life in general.
Uncertainty actually means I keep re-examining what I think and am open to challenges and changing my view. I’m pretty comfortable with uncertainty. The difficulty for me is that I’d like to give comfort to others but often can’t, other than to point to the evidence and invite them to discussion and to form their own view. The Martin Luther quote from Jon is very relevant, for me at least.
I’d say I’m about 85% convinced based on my research of the same material as you Michael. There is no substitute for personal experience.Seeing is believing.
Where I perhaps part company from Jon is in the contemporary quality of survival evidence, compared to the earlier body of evidence and research.
Eventually we will all get incontrovertible proof I guess. Or not lol. In the meantime I intend to continue to learn and refine my understanding and experience with an open mind and heart..
Paul, Tue 17 Jan, 10:46
Michael Schmicker, Tue 17 Jan, 08:45
I turn 80 in two months.
Close to the finish, I find myself unquestionably old, but surprisingly cheerful.
Looking back over my eight decades, I’m still entranced by the sheer beauty and delightful complexity of this earthly life in all its forms, from maple trees and stars to the infinite variety of humanity’s creativity, thoughts, dreams, beliefs, and rich emotions. In my humble opinion, we humans are really something astonishing. Sometimes I catch myself laughing out loud.
When you turn 80, people start asking you your opinion about the meaning of life. “Where did we come from? Where are we going? Most of all, they want to know what I think happens when we die. They figure I’ve lived longer, and seen more than them, and—given how close I am to checking out—I’ve given it some thought.
In my case they’re right.
I’ve been exploring those questions since my childhood. I realize that I’m an oddity in that sense — neither better nor worse that people who don’t ask those questions. But I love exploring mysteries, and both philosophy and frontier science teem with baffling headscratchers seeking answers. Some people are born to score baskets, or fish, or cook tasty meals, run governments or command armies. In my deepest heart, I know I was born to try and figure out the meaning of life.
I’m happy to report that, late in life, I’ve found—at least for myself – a hypothesis that, to my surprise and delight, is both hard-grounded in science and astonishingly optimistic. In a nutshell, it suggests that our consciousness (our minds) creates the physical world; our consciousness survives death; and the physical universe is filled with purpose and meaning.
Please understand, I didn’t come up with this hypothesis; nor is it some New Age woo-woo. Multiple Nobel Prize-winning scientists working in quantum physics did. I simply stumbled across it late in life. I realize most people are too busy or too disinterested to follow scientific research aimed at understanding the nature of reality. I don’t blame them. We’ve all got a million things to do. But when you’re ready, the scientific evidence is there waiting for you.
This scientific hypothesis has made a huge difference in how I see my value and place in the universe.
It’s been a long journey.
For most of my lifetime, I had to choose between two hypotheses:
1. God created us and the physical world. There is an afterlife. (The Religious Hypothesis).
2. Blind chance created us and the physical world. There is no afterlife. (The Newtonian Science Hypothesis)
I grew up with the Religious Hypothesis, given to me at birth, and based on faith. I accepted it with minimal questioning, right up to adulthood. My parents’ Roman Catholic religion was filled with rules, but it wasn’t some frightening, sour, fundamentalist version of Christianity. It provided me with multiple benefits - a meaning to life (death is not the end); a chance to make mistakes and easily recover (via confession); and an optimistic outlook on daily life (a loving God Is in control).
But the longer you live, the more exposure you get to other people’s beliefs and ideas. In college, I took a comparative religion course. I quickly realized there were a hundred different, competing religions out there to choose from. How do you choose between them – or for any of them? At that point, I made the first important adult decision of my life – I would decide what was true and real based only on the evidence available for it. “Show me the evidence” became my guiding rule for judging any claim, made by anybody, about anything.
I looked hard but couldn’t find any good evidence for Christianity’s belief in the existence of Adam and Eve; Original sin (the reason Christianity gives for us needing salvation); a virgin birth; heaven and hell; eternal damnation; a creature called Satan; an infallible Pope or infallible Bible; an earth only 5,000 years old. Nor did I find any scientific evidence for the Islamic belief that Mohammad was God’s only prophet; or Judaism’s belief that they were God’s Chosen People; or Hinduism’s belief in 33 million gods.
So I moved on to the second hypothesis—The Newtonian Science hypothesis, based on 19th century classical physics discoveries (grounded on an unproven philosophy of materialism.) The only thing that exists is the physical world of measurable, tangible physical objects, knowable through our five senses. It’s a universe created by blind chance, following impersonal, mechanical laws. There’s no grand purpose to our universe. There’s nothing special about us. We’re simply a temporary collection of chemicals, a meat machine. Cut humans open, or put them under a microscope, and you won’t find such a thing as a soul. Consciousness is created by the firing of neurons; when the brain dies, and the firing stops, our consciousness — our self-awareness, thoughts, memories, hopes, dreams, feelings— are permanently annihilated. It’s as if we never existed in the first place.
It was depressing. The Newtonian Science view of reality had none of the comforts of my childhood religion. But it offered some evidence for its claims. Besides, focusing only on what could be physically measured, touched, manipulated, worked magnificently in daily life. We created amazing technologies that made material life less dangerous and more pleasant in so many ways, for so many people—a safer, healthier, better fed, more educated world. I don’t know about you, but I appreciate those improvements. If there was no afterlife, at least we lived better in the one life we had.
Not that I gave up looking for contrary scientific evidence. I’m a voracious reader, with an open mind. I studied philosophy in college, which taught me to question everything we think we know about reality.
I loved it. Here’s a fun one for you—the Chinese poet and philosopher Chuang-Tzu fell asleep in a boat on a lake one summer day. He dreamed he was a butterfly. When he awoke, he asked himself the question: “Am I a man who dreamed he was a butterfly? Or am I a butterfly dreaming I am a man?” Think about it. How do you scientifically prove you’re not a butterfly?
After college, I became an investigative journalist, which reinforced my tendency to question everybody and everything.
When I was 25 years old, the life after death question suddenly became urgent and personal. I got a notice I was being drafted into the army to fight in Vietnam. College friends of mine were already dying there. So, was this the meaning and purpose of my life? – by pure chance (because I was born male, and turned 18 at just the wrong time), to be sent to Asia in my 20s, to possibly be killed in an unnecessary, senseless, war? Per the Newtonian Science hypothesis, yes.
At the last minute, I received a surprise two-year deferment to teach English in Thailand for the Peace Corps. Thai people believe in the paranormal. It’s a land of ghosts and spirits; gold amulets worn around your neck to protect you from enemies; fortune tellers and astrologers to predict your future. All my fellow teachers at the Buddhist monastery school where I taught English accepted the reality of a spirit world. I tried to argue with them. “Show me the evidence and I’ll consider it,” I said. My Thai friends just smiled and shrugged. They had experienced it. Maybe someday I would too. Meanwhile, it was a beautiful, sunny day, the khao pad (Thai fried rice) was delicious, and we only had 20 minutes for lunch.
A year after I returned to the States, I discovered to my surprise that one of my Swiss relatives, a Catholic priest named Father Eugene Weibel, had had multiple ESP experiences. He had no motive to lie, nor was poor memory involved – he logged the experiences in his daily diary.
The Newtonian Science hypothesis said he was deluded, crazy or lying; telepathy was impossible. Until then, I had never bothered to examine the scientific evidence for and against. Now I had a reason to.
I had a master’s degree; I knew where to find scientific papers. I was also a journalist; I knew how to track down information, to interview people. In my spare time, I did an intensive search for the best scientific evidence available for ESP. I was surprised by what I uncovered. It included a decade of pioneering telepathy experiments at Duke University and, even more fascinating, some CIA-funded clairvoyance experiments at Stanford Research Institute (which led the U.S. Dept of Defense to fund a $20 million “psychic spy” program called “remote viewing.”) Intrigued and curious, I expanded my research effort to find the best scientific evidence for other so-called “paranormal” phenomena reported by humans for centuries – psychokinesis (then being researched at Princeton University/s School of Engineering); mental healing (Harvard University); near death experiences and reincarnation reports (University of Virginia School of Medicine); communications from the dead (Arizona University College of Medicine), etc. In 2000, I published my findings in a book called Best Evidence.
How good was the scientific evidence? Pretty damn good.
Best Evidence earned a cover blurb from Dr. Fred Alan Wolf, resident physicist on the Discovery Channel’s The Know Zone, and National Book Award for Science winner and author of Mind into Matter and Taking the Quantum Leap. Wolf earned his PhD in theoretical physics from UCLA, and has taught at the University of London, the University of Paris, and the Hahn-Meitner Institute for Nuclear Physics in Berlin. Per Dr. Wolf, “Best Evidence is indeed one – if not the best itself – of the major books explaining and offering proof that psi phenomena are here to stay, whether we like it or not.” Physicist and Apollo 14 astronaut Ed Mitchell, a colleague of mine in the Society for Scientific Exploration (where I had started writing book reviews), emailed me to congratulate me on my “important book.” Professors at two different State universities used Best Evidence as the textbook for a psychology course exploring paranormal phenomena. It has sold over 30,000 copies, and 22 years later I still get a royalty check every quarter.
During my book research, I kept coming across skeptics who refused to even look at the evidence. Their primary argument seemed to be “These phenomena can’t exist; therefore, they don’t.” They reminded me of the Pope refusing to look through Galileo’s telescope, afraid he’d see evidence that would contradict his beliefs. Dogmatic scientists are no different from dogmatic clerics.
What most upset many of them was the scientific evidence suggesting the possibility of life after death. A biology professor emailed me to praise Best Evidence for its “impressive scholarship,” but wouldn’t recommend it to his students. “It lets religion slip in the back door of science.”
Ironically, I was getting hammered on the internet by religious fundamentalists. Why? Because the evidence from reincarnation cases and near-death experiences doesn’t support their afterlife belief in a wrathful, judging God, or eternal damnation. Even more upsetting, though some NDE experiencers did report meeting Jesus, others didn’t. They met the Indian god Lord Yama; a nameless Being of Light that enveloped them in love; or no god at all, just deceased relatives.
Conversely, nihilists hated the evidence. You expect nothingness. Instead, you’re still here. One of the funniest NDE reports I read involved a woman who didn’t believe in an afterlife. She suffered a terrible car accident, and found herself floating above her lifeless body. Looking down at the dress she was wearing, she was upset at the thought she might have to spend eternity in a dress she hated.
The Near Death Experience (NDE) research intrigued me the most. Everyone wants to know what happens when we die, me included. According to the Newtonian science hypothesis, when the brain and heart stop working, our consciousness is extinguished. Yet physicians in the U.S. and Europe were reporting cases of people continuing to be conscious even in the state of verified, clinical death.
I included one of the strongest (and most famous) cases in Best Evidence.
American singer-songwriter Pam Reynolds Lowrey underwent a risky brain operation at Barrow Neurological Institute in Phoenix, Arizona in 1991. Neurosurgeon Robert Spetzler put her in full, hypothermic cardiac arrest. They dropped her core body temperature to 60 degrees , completely drained all the blood from her brain, and left her with no measurable heartbeat or brain waves. Flatlined EKG and EEG monitors verified her state of clinical death. During this state of death, the woman found herself fully conscious, out of her body, floating above the operating table where she reported looking down and seeing the surgeon cutting her skull with an odd-looking Rex bone saw. She also heard nurses talking about how small her veins and arteries were. After watching this for a while, she continued on through a now-classic NDE experience – moving through a tunnel, seeing a light, meeting and communicating with deceased relatives, and finally returning to her body on the operating table. Back in her room after the operation, she told her nurse what she saw and heard while clinically dead. Dr. Spetzler started an investigation. It confirmed she had no brain activity (or heartbeat) during the time she said she was floating above the operating table. Likewise, at that time, she had no sight or hearing (her eyes were taped shut, and her ears were plugged). Yet her description of what happened during the operation was both accurate and extremely detailed (it couldn’t be explained by lucky guessing).
If you’ve never heard of this case, join the crowd. It requires interest, time and effort to follow the field of near death studies research. Meanwhile, you’ve got to go to work, fix the car, find a Starbucks. But please know the scientific evidence is there, waiting for you, when you’re ready to look.
By my 50s, based on my research, I knew that the Newtonian science hypothesis couldn’t explain all the evidence out there. But I wasn’t aware of an alternative scientific hypothesis that could.
Intellectually, I was stuck in no man’s land.
I was in my early 60s before I started noticing the growing number of magazine articles popping up on my Google science news feed, discussing the weird but scientifically proven world of quantum physics. They linked to serious, credible publications—Scientific American; New Scientist; Science Daily; Live Science; Sci News; Phys.org; Discovery Magazine; the New York Times; Wired; Atlantic. I started reading.
What I stumbled across was a new scientific view of reality, a third hypothesis, based on quantum physics.
How about this for a radical hypothesis – Our consciousness (mind) creates the physical universe that we experience; and every “thing” existing in our universe. Consciousness is fundamental, not matter.
Warning: a brief science lesson ahead!
The 19th century Newtonian science hypothesis, based on an unproven philosophy of materialism, pictured a universe made up only of physical things you could weigh and measure (where this original physical universe came from, it couldn’t say). The basic building block of this universe is a physical thing called an atom. Like Lego blocks, Nature combined these tiny bits of matter together to build bigger, more complex “things” – molecules, cells, eyes, bodies, humans, elephants, stars, galaxies.
Because it believed only matter was real, this 19th century hypothesis viewed our consciousness—our self-awareness, thoughts, memories, hopes, dreams, which can’t be measured or weighed—as mere byproducts of the firing of neurons in our physical brain. We’re simply a meat robot. But why is a physical process like the firing of a neuron accompanied by such subjective experiences as a feeling of self-awareness (“I exist”); a feeling of awe at a beautiful sunset; a feeling of falling in love; or a feeling of delight in the taste of great wine. Science can’t explain how or why a physical brain can produce these subjective experiences. It’s famously called “the hard problem” in neuroscience.
Quantum physics completely upends this 19th century materialist view of reality. Quantum physics has shown that those basic building blocks of the “physical” universe – atoms – are ultimately not physical things. As Werner Heisenberg, the Nobel Prize winning scientist credited with creating quantum mechanics, explains: “The atoms or elementary particles themselves are not real; they form a world of potentialities or possibilities rather than one of things or facts.”
So, what collapses the atoms’ state of potentialities/possibilities into a physical thing? According to Nobel Prize-winning quantum physicist Eugene Wigner, consciousness (our minds) does. We do.
The 19th century Newtonian science hypothesis of reality also viewed humans as accidental products of a clockwork universe of impersonal, mechanistic forces. But quantum physics allows the possibility of human consciousness taking center stage. Nobel Prize-winning Princeton University theoretical physicist John Wheeler calls it the “participatory universe.” To Wheeler, we are not simply accidental bystanders on a cosmic stage; we are shapers and co-creators of the physical universe we experience. “The universe does not exist “out there,” independent of us. We are inescapably involved in bringing about that which appears to be happening. We are not only observers. We are participators…” According to Wigner, “It was not possible to formulate the laws of quantum mechanics in a fully consistent way without reference to the consciousness.”
According to Prize-winning physicist Max Planck (1858-1947), the father of quantum theory: ‘I regard consciousness as fundamental. I regard matter as derivative from consciousness. We cannot get behind consciousness. Everything that we talk about, everything that we regard as existing, postulates consciousness.” Nobel Prize-winning quantum physics giant Erwin Schrodinger agrees with Planck. “Consciousness cannot be accounted for in physical terms. For consciousness is absolutely fundamental.”
In short. our consciousness creates the physical universe; then we experience it.
Whew! Enough science. Let’s get to what it means to each of us.
If this “consciousness is fundamental, not matter” hypothesis is right, the implications for you and me are rather astounding:
• Consciousness survives physical death because it’s not made of physical matter. Yes, the physical brain and physical body do eventually fall apart (die), but the mind itself continues to exist. But we need to be careful here. It doesn’t say that God exists (or doesn’t exist); it doesn’t say that Christianity is better than any other religion (or worse); it doesn’t support a specific afterlife condition– a Christian heaven/hell, a Buddhist nirvana, an American Indian great hunting ground in the sky, or a continued existence in a parallel, physical universe (the “multiverse” hypothesis currently popular with many theoretical physicists). The evidence simply says that our self-awareness is not extinguished at death. What will life be like in this non-physical state we are all headed for when we die? We have to look elsewhere for answers to that question. (My suggestion? Start with the NDE reports).
• There’s purpose in the physical universe because we put it there. We participate in creating the physical universe moment by moment with our consciousness. This hypothesis doesn’t answer all life’s questions (e.g., why is there suffering?). It just suggests that whatever exists in the universe—good or bad, beautiful or ugly—we created It. We are responsible for it, not blind chance or god’s will.
• Quantum physics makes normal a whole range of “paranormal” phenomena. It radically rewrites classical Newtonian Science. An object can exist in two places at the same time (superposition); effects can precede causes (rewriting the Newtonian causality); the present can change the past (retrocausality). A pair of particles can remain instantly connected even when separated by a million miles of space (entanglement). Quantum physics suggests that the paranormal phenomena I researched for my book Best Evidence are possible. Time is an illusion, so precognition and déjà vu are scientifically possible. Consciousness can continue to exist without a physical body, so out-of-body experiences during near death experiences are scientifically possible, as are disembodied intelligences, aka “ghosts”.
• The “consciousness is fundamental” hypothesis offers a way to recognize the truth of Darwinian evolution while also leaving room for humans to be more than just monkeys. Both can be right. Yes, our bodies and brains are evolved from apes; but our consciousness is not.
Quantum physics is weird and strange. But it’s also currently Science’s most precise, powerful theory of reality. It has successfully predicted countless experiments, and spawned countless real-world applications in computing, cryptography, and electronics. I don’t claim to understand quantum physics. There are at least six different interpretations of what quantum physics implies about the nature of reality and human consciousness. But, to a layman like me, betting on giants like Heisenberg, Wigner, Planck, and Schrodinger seems like a smart bet.
Bottom line: What does it all mean to me and you?
If consciousness is fundamental, It means we can be an intelligent, modern human beings and – based solely on science – can also believe in life after death, that man is more than just a monkey, and the universe is filled with purpose and meaning.
If the religious hypothesis, or the 19th century Newtonian science hypothesis, makes you happy, that’s great. But if either makes you sad or afraid, you’ve now got an alternative.
One additional thought. Some people are ready for it and some aren’t. That is not to suggest that those who aren’t are less intelligent or less worthy, only that they have a need to doubt, or perhaps a need to keep searching. Indications are that the majority of people are in this category. Pardon my use of percentages of certainty again, but as I have often said, I am at 98.8% certainty and probably will never go higher. I’m comfortable with that degree of certainty. Another person might be at 40% If this blog helps that person to go to 41%, it may have accomplished something. It might take another 10 years for that person to reach 50%.
Michael Tymn, Tue 17 Jan, 07:34
The case was largely decided by 1900, but a MOUNTAIN of supporting evidence was added between 1900 and our present time in the form of quantum physics. Only a person of very limited intellect and curiosity could possibly deny it anymore.
Larry Caplin, Tue 17 Jan, 00:57
Aloha Michael. Great article. I must confess that I breath a sigh of relief when I get far enough into one of your article that I can be sure I haven’t swallowed the bait of one of your spoofs. Unfortunately, it’s getting harder to tell and sometimes I don’t feel completely safe until I get to the last paragraph. It’s an interesting tension. But it’s a pleasure either way. BW
Bart Walton, Tue 17 Jan, 00:37
I just want to comment that I think that many of the ‘special effects’ of the 19th and 20th century mediums or psychics really may not be evidence of spirit survival. For example knocks, levitations, self-playing instruments, tilting tables, automatic writing among other things are all debatable phenomena that could have been produced (and have been produced) without spirit involvement. These ae all physical things, not spiritual and are subject to interpretation by the person who receives the ‘evidence’. I even think that there could be valid physical explanations of some if not many reported apparitions and other visual phenomena. (I have experienced some of these with my “old eyes”.)
On the other hand, near death experiences are reports of people who believe that they have actually entered other realities and sometimes they can tell of happenings around their dead body while their consciousness was floating around the room. Some children today report past life experiences that can be verified as lives lived by somone else in the past. A telephone call from the dead or an email or iphone text from someone who has passed on are difficult to explain although there are some possible this-world explanations. And although the antics of young modern psychics may not meet the expectations of the older generation that have their chosen physical evidence, I think these young mediums are entirely appropriate for today’s young people who are looking for evidence of survival. I don’t understand why Matt Fraser is ignored by some people who otherwise believe in spirit communication. I have listened to most of his YouTube readings and some of them are remarkable, beyond belief that he could be faking them in any way. The communication of information he provides is so specific and known to no one except the sitter and sometimes even the sitter doesn’t know the information relayed from the “other side” until they can verify it. Fraser hears, sees, smells and feels communication from spirits in what he calls “heaven”. I think that on the spectrum of mediumship, Fraser of the best of the best but I am waiting for someone to prove that he is a fraud. Most assuredly that will come in time. But, maybe not! Gary Schwartz and Bulie Bieschel should look him up for their expermental tests.
For me, the jury is still out on direct voice phenomena ala Leslsie Flint and electronic voice phenomena by Bacci, Cardosa and others. - AOD
Amos Oliver Doyle, Tue 17 Jan, 00:24
Dear Michael Schmicker,
I entirely agree, but even Einsteinian Relativity is relevant. As you say, Quantum Physics makes it possible for monads of livingness (ie all life including us) to inhabit our otherwise merely-material universe, and Relativity provides the possibility (and from other evidence we would say the high probability) of other contiguous universes for lives gone from this universe to continue living in.
All of science supports the intuitive but inaccurate fantasies that humans have invented in the past and imposed on their fellows as the dogmatic but worthless religions we see around us, the oppression of which we have suffered for some millennia, but can now escape into a spirituality grounded in science and experience through mediumship and other uncommon phenomena.
True science and true ‘religion’ must be one entity of total truth.
And to Paul I say “Blessed are those who have NOT seen, yet have believed.”
Eric Franklin, Mon 16 Jan, 23:43
“As Martin Luther once said: “A man has to do two things alone, his own believing and his own dying,” or something to that effect”.
That’s a great quote thank you. I think it’s absolutely correct and very succinct.
I’m glad you have enough evidence to satisfy you (genuinely), but I don’t find it as easy to secure as you appear to have (fortunately for you).
Without knowing you, or what you consider good evidence I don’t think I can make a comment of any value. A good friend of mine had the most amazing evidence of survival, which had I had the same experience, I cannot conceive of having any doubt about it. Sadly, so far, I haven’t seen anything remotely approaching the evidence Michael refers to. So it boils down to faith in the testimony of strangers (however famous) or my friend whose experiences were so far beyond my own, that they are hard for me to consider conclusive - with no disrespect to my friend.
Having said all that, I do agree with Michael that the entire body of evidence considered, there is more than sufficient for a person to consider it proved at least on the balance or probabilities or maybe even beyond doubt depending on what weight they give to it. I don’t think that following a fair assessment, a reasonable person could say that there is no evidence as some assert.
Anyway that’s my two penny worth
Paul, Mon 16 Jan, 23:28
Personally, I’ve had more than enough evidence from mental mediumship and other phenomena, some which Amos has cited. The other phenomena such as OBEs and remote viewing might not be evidence for survival but it is evidence that we are more that our physical bodies, which I would think is a requirement for not dying, given that our physical bodies will be dust. None of my personal evidence relies on physical mediumship although I have witnessed some.
Michael specializes in late 19th/early 20th century mediumship because he likes the quality of the witnesses and evidence from that era, but there were 29 winning essays in the Bigelow contest out of more than 200 that were accepted for consideration. I’ve only read four or five but I imagine there’s plenty of contemporary evidence there.
As Martin Luther once said: “A man has to do two things alone, his own believing and his own dying,” or something to that effect. I concur with Martin.
Good luck with the search.
Jon, Mon 16 Jan, 22:39
The spirit world pretty much gave up on mediumship as it was clear that devious low-level spirits were interfering with their efforts, but we find it today in many books and reports about near-death experiences. My next blog will deal somewhat with this topic.
Michael Tymn, Mon 16 Jan, 22:21
Not quite related to this blog, but I just happened upon an article about movie actress Jane Fonda, who is my age.
She told Entertainment Tonight, “I think about death a lot. I have done so for the last 30 years. I think that’s a healthy thing to do. It’s hard to live right if you don’t think about death. It’s a part of life. Other cultures aren’t so afraid of thinking about death as we are.
“I spend a lot of time thinking about it and it’s made my life a lot better. And when you get a cancer diagnosis, you think about it even more and you want to be sure you get the things done that you want to get done, so that when the time comes you won’t have a lot of regrets.”
Prior to her remission announcement, Fonda explained that death is a part of life and hoped to be an “example” to younger generations who may be afraid of getting older as she urged others to look after themselves.
She said, “Dying is part of life. I hope that I can be an example to young people so they won’t be afraid of getting older. But you just have to take care of yourself, which I do even now. Even the days that I get chemo, I still do a workout. It’s slow and not what it used to be, but still, I’m moving and keeping strong.”
Michael Tymn, Mon 16 Jan, 22:13
I agree Jon. There is an abundance of evidence today. It is just that it may be in a less dramatic different form, e.g., electronic voice communication, NDEs, good evidence of reincarnation provided by children and less dramatic more direct mediumship generally, probably more in keeping with the changing values and education of the people today and the new inventions since 1900, 1920 or 30 which facilitate spirit communication and its dissemination, e.g. radio, television, computers, fax and telephone. - AOD
Amos Oliver Doyle, Mon 16 Jan, 22:02
Good blog. I would personally vote for the year 2000. By then, two major lines of evidence had been developed and socialized widely enough among open minded scientists and educated people to seriously challenge in a standard, scientific way both classical Newtonian science and its underlying philosophy of Materialism. These two lines of evidence are 1) multiple, medically verified NDEs (e.g., the Pam Reynolds case); and 2) Quantum Physics’ destruction of Newtonian determinism and the belief that mind is a product of the brain.
Once you crack these two pillars of the modern skeptic’s world view, you open up a clear, logical, scientific path to the possibility of consciousness surviving death. In the last decade I have seen a remarkable number of physics articles in scientific magazines seriously discussing the failure of Materialism to explain quantum physics experimental results.
Michael Schmicker, Mon 16 Jan, 21:49
You’ll have to accept I’ve spent many many years looking and haven’t found any that’s anywhere even close to the evidence cited by Michael. Though I’ve spoken to a few who have (or say they have ). I think it is very difficult to find, if it exists at all.
What isn’t difficult to find are people who are impressed by claptrap, cold reading and purported physical mediumship (saving your presence of course).
Paul, Mon 16 Jan, 21:36
I don’t think it’s difficult to find, there’s more evidence than ever, but you do have to look for it and decide what you will accept as evidence.
Jon, Mon 16 Jan, 21:32
A very interesting article however if it was provable over 100 years ago, and apparently at scale, one may wonder where is the contemporary evidence and why is it seemingly so difficult to find?
Paul, Mon 16 Jan, 20:46
Perhaps you’d like to elucidate the relevance of the article for which you give the web address. I can’t myself see any microscopic point of contact, let alone relevance. Planck’s observation is entirely concerned with this world, after all, and the article is, too. When the Great Cat, leader of current scientific fashion, dies the mice feel safe to play around in their laboratories and at their computers. But that’s irrelevant to the question of whether the Great Cat is still alive in another contiguous universe, and unable to oppress them any longer. Perhaps you see what I am so prejudiced I fail and/or refuse to see???? The Church was once arbiter of the fashions of science, and burnt quite a few people it considered rebels against its own dogmatism. Now, most scientists do that job themselves - but mostly in favour of their latest dogma, not against all wilful closed mindedness - which is one of the points of Mike’s blog.
Eric Franklin, Mon 16 Jan, 17:41
For what it’s worth the linked article may be apropos. - AOD
Amos Oliver Doyle, Mon 16 Jan, 16:26
Perhaps it’s time for us all to refuse, henceforth, to engage with sceptics, and begin to reply to their nonsense that we are no longer willing to reconsider a matter that was proven beyond reasonable doubt 120 years ago. Perhaps so hard a line will shock a few of them into opening their minds and investigating for themselves. They might even realise that belief that we continue to live as Beings, Consciousnesses, not as mere mobile bodies, is a SCIENTIFIC fact, on a par with many other scientific facts, or better corroborated that many such, which is preferable to a religious fantasy the Church cannot any longer believe unless it also accepts what we feel has been demonstrated already. A Res Judicata indeed.
Eric Franklin, Mon 16 Jan, 11:57
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