Why The Afterlife Is Beyond Science
Posted on 23 February 2015, 17:10
Co-founder in 1882 of the Society for Psychical Research (SPR), Frederic W. H. Myers, a Cambridge scholar, is sometimes referred to as the “Father of Psychical Research.” As Myers came to realize during his lifetime, mediumship is very complex and does not easily lend itself to human understanding or to scientific research. After his death on January 17, 1901, he apparently found it even more difficult to communicate than he had realized. “Lodge, it is not as easy as I thought in my impatience,” Myers communicated to Sir Oliver Lodge, a renowned British physicist and fellow psychical researcher, through the mediumship of Rosalie Thompson, a trance medium, on February 19, 1901, a little over a month after his death.
“Gurney says I am getting on first rate,” Myers (below) continued, referring to Edmund Gurney, his close friend and co-founder of the SPR who had died in 1888. “But I am short of breath.” Lodge interpreted this to be a metaphorical shortness of breath. (The ability of a discarnate to lower its vibration to the more dense earth vibration and communicate has been likened to a human trying to hold his/her breath under water. Some are able to hold the breath for just a few seconds, some for several minutes, and so it seems there is a variance with spirits, apparently dependent upon the degree of spiritual consciousness achieved during the earth life and carried over to the real life).
Myers went on to say that he felt like he was looking at a misty picture and that he could hear himself using Thompson’s voice but that he didn’t feel as if he were actually speaking. “It is funny to hear myself talking when it is not myself talking. It is not my whole self talking. When I am awake I know where I am. Do you remember the day I was with you here? When I went home that day I was ill. I had such a bad night. It is in my diary. It was in May, I think.” Lodge recalled it all. (As explained below, Myers had to enter a dream state in order to communicate and therefore was not “awake” at the time he communicated with Lodge).
Myers mentioned that he had been with Professor Henry Sidgwick, a fellow researcher who had died several months before Myers, and that Sidgwick was still very much the skeptic he had been in the earth life and was hoping Myers could convince him. (As often reported elsewhere, we take our beliefs with us and thus the non-believer, lacking full spiritual awareness, may not immediately realize he has died. Those who achieved some spiritual consciousness may be in a stupor of sorts, not completely grasping the fact that they have died, living in a dream world of sorts, as if being absorbed in a movie and forgetting it is just a movie. This may have been the case with Sidgwick).
“Tell them I am more stupid than some of those I had to deal with,” Myers continued, mentioning that he could not even remember his mother’s name. “I thought I had lost my way in a strange town, and I groped my way along the passage. And even when I saw people that I knew were dead, I thought they were only visions. I have not yet seen Tennyson yet by the way.” (The famous poet, who died in 1892, had also been a member of the SPR and was idolized by Myers.)
Lodge sat with Thompson a second time, on May 8, 1901, and again heard from Myers. However, the conditions were apparently not ideal and much of the communication was muddled. Moreover, it was apparently easier for Nelly, Thompson’s spirit control, to pass on messages from Myers than for Myers to communicate directly. Among other things, Nelly referred to an incident with a medium, Miss Rawson, which researchers had deemed fraudulent. Myers said that “cheating” was not involved, although he couldn’t explain how phenomena which appear to be dishonest are actually genuine. He said he was still trying to understand it himself.
Many years later, beginning in 1924, the purported Myers communicated through the Irish medium Geraldine Cummins (below) and explained that for a spirit entity to communicate through a sensitive, the spirit must enter a dream or subjective state. “When we discarnate beings desire to communicate through some sensitive we enter a dream or subjective state,” Myers stated by means of automatic writing, further saying that this dream state often affects the memory in such a way that they forget facts, even names. However, if the medium or the sitters have certain memories in mind, this can open the door to their own memories. He likened it to someone still in the flesh trying to remember a casual acquaintance at a tea party 10 years earlier. He might not remember the person until someone else begins describing the person and discussing the conversation they had had. “Sometimes, when we are really thoroughly submerged in this dream atmosphere, we can get into touch not alone with one subconscious mind but with the subconscious mind of many thousands,” he explained. “It is like a wide sea stretching out before us. Much of it is scarcely apprehended. We can only tap it here and there, but with the assistance of the guide we may draw out of this sea of mind the particular association of ideas that corresponds with a happening, a name, or a place in our earth life. We recognize it and use it as evidence of identity when we are communicating.” (Such telepathic mind tapping is seen by some parapsychologists as being evidence against the spirit hypothesis; that is, they believe the medium is accessing the information directly from other minds, even minds not present at the sitting.)
Myers added that they communicate by pictures and images, and by signs which the deeper mind of the medium apprehends, and occasionally distorts. “It is harder to put through a half sentence than an idea or an image,” he explained. “...Now these ideas are a little coloured by [the medium’s] deeper mind, but only in so far as she possesses very strong prejudices which might inhibit the thought conveyed by me.” (Many other communicators have said that they provide the ideas, while the medium’s mind puts words to the idea. This might also explain why a spirit communicator who did not know English during his earth life can communicate through an English speaking medium who is not familiar with the communicator’s language.)
After Lodge’s son, Raymond, was killed in World War I, he communicated extensively with his parents through the mediumship of Gladys Osborne Leonard. As set forth in my book, Dead Men Talking, Raymond offered much in the way of evidence that he had survived death and was, in fact, communicating from the Other Side. However, Raymond also made some comments that seemed ridiculous, such as cigars and whisky sodas being available in the afterlife condition. That particular communication brought much scorn from Lodge’s peers in the scientific community. Myers touched upon this when he communicated that if a person longed for a superior brand of cigar, he can have it in the afterlife. “He wanted to play golf, so he plays golf,” Myers continued. “But he is merely dreaming all the time, or rather, living with the fantasy created by his strongest desires on earth.” Over time, whatever form time takes in that condition, the “dream” fades and the person or soul awakens to his true condition, Myers said.
Myers also discussed reincarnation, stating, in effect, that reincarnation is a fact, but not in the way most people who believe in it think. “When I was on earth I belonged to a group-soul,” he communicated, “but its branches and the spirit – which might be compared to the roots – were in the invisible. Now if you would understand psychic evolution, this group-soul must be studied and understood. For instance, it explains many of the difficulties that people will assure you can be removed only by the doctrine of reincarnation. You may think my statement frivolous, but the fact that we do appear on earth to be paying for the sins of another life is, in a sense, true. It was our life, and yet not our life.”
He elaborated on this, saying that a soul belonging to the group of which he was part lived a previous life and built for him a framework for his own earthly life. The spirit – the bond of the group soul – manifests, he said, many times on earth. “We are all of us distinct,” he continued, “though we are influenced by others of our community on the various planes of being.” He added that a group soul might contain twenty souls, a hundred souls, or a thousand souls.
“When your Buddhist speaks of the cycle of birth, of man’s continual return to earth, he utters but a half-truth,” Myers went on. “And often a half-truth is more inaccurate than an entire misstatement. I shall not live again on earth, but a new soul, one who will join our group, will shortly enter into the pattern of karma I have woven for him on earth.”
Myers likened the soul to a spectator caught within the spell of some drama outside of its actual life, perceiving all the consequences of acts, moods, and thoughts of a kindred soul. He further pointed out that there are an infinite variety of conditions in the invisible world and that he made no claim to being infallible. He called it a “general rule” based on what he had learned and experienced on the Other Side. (Other spirit communicators have said much the same thing as Myers. Silver Birch, who communicated through the mediumship of Maurice Barbanell for many years, also stated that reincarnation is a fact but not in the way people think of it. He said that explaining reincarnation is like trying to explain the color of the sky to someone blind from birth. It is beyond human comprehension.)
Is it any wonder that science has been unable to get a handle on spirit communication and the way things work on the other side of the veil?
Michael Tymn is the author of The Afterlife Revealed: What Happens After We Die is published by White Crow Books. His latest book, Resurrecting Leonora Piper: How Science Discovered the Afterlife is now available on Amazon and other online book stores.
His latest book Dead Men Talking: Afterlife Communication from World War I is published by White Crow Books.
Next blog post: March 16
Good and revealing article, and the book seems very interesting!
InfoScav, Wed 11 Mar, 08:20
And Leslie Harris, i liked your comments very much! Good rebuttal from you there to the perennial cynics (i esp. liked the ‘lab demo’ analogy)!
CLAUDIO, Mon 2 Mar, 14:12
Claudio..this is an excellent comparison. I like that.
Tricia, Mon 2 Mar, 12:25
During my frequent speeches with non-believers, I usually equate Reincarnation to human hand. Our 5 fingers can act all together, so they become one fist, or one by one to play piano, for example. Our spirit is the same: many souls but the root (hand) is the same.
Claudio, Sat 28 Feb, 10:03
Waller, you are completely correct.
In the ‘publish or perish’ world that many scientists inhabit, they are as mindful of what other people think of them as all else combined. (I once knew a woman who was excellent in her field but who never smiled for fear of being seen as frivolous!!)
In a world where research money (and thus tenure) has to be fought for and frequently judged by non-scientists, particular attention must be given to avoid any suggestion of being ‘kooky’. This creates a wall beyond which many will not venture, no matter what. Moreover, it enhances their reputation to loudly deny anything that appears ‘kooky’.
Until recently, the scientific community at large smugly dismissed any discussion in the matter of the survival of the consciousness after physical death as ‘rubbish’, ‘impossible’ and similar. Their voices were so powerful that no-one was brave enough to say ‘OK, show me the proof that such claims are wrong.’
The standard fall-back position was that, if it couldn’t be demonstrated in a laboratory (for which no standards were ever nominated), then it didn’t exist. Such glibness was a bit ill-considered because the same reasoning immediately eliminated key events like supernovas, on which astronomy builds fundamental calculations.
As more people started saying ‘Fine, show me the finite, step-by-step proof of where these things are wrong’, the mindless deniers began to realize that they were shooting themselves in the foot – repeatedly. I have stopped a few in their tracks by demanding detailed explanation of how the Scole Experiments were incorrect.
As the noose began to tighten, the sceptics sought an omnibus explanation for everything and came up with ‘mass telepathy’. This was a brilliant response except for one small detail – it has never been demonstrated in a ‘laboratory’. Oops!! Another great big hole in the foot!!!
I used to fret about this but no longer. It is not my mission to convince mindless deniers. I am more interested in understanding the nuts and bolts of what we already know. This is no doubt down to the fact that I am an engineer and I am never at ease until I understand the fundamentals of anything that interests me. I have been this was since I was a child.
In a world beset by barbarity perpetrated by ideologues in the name of an imaginary deity, there are more pressing things to fret about!!
BTW, I am a Harris, not a Price.
Leslie Harris, Wed 25 Feb, 23:15
One afterthought on the comment about Myers’s “shortness of breath” being a metaphorical shortness of breath: It may very well also have been the medium’s interpretation of what Myers was trying to give her. That is, Myers had no symbol or picture to put through the medium and so it was filtered through her brain and came out as “shortness of breath.”
Michael Tymn, Wed 25 Feb, 03:52
@ Leslie Price who related “No intelligent and open minded person will deny that our consciousness survives physical death and continues into a next life.”
LP, may I live in your multiverse since there are more open-minded, intelligent people in mine that deny survival evidence than do not.
Waller Joel, Wed 25 Feb, 00:42
I don’t think we completely disagree. To say it is “beyond science” at this time, does not necessarily mean it will be beyond science 100 years from now. Then again, “science” is not a single entity or body. Some very esteemed scientists accepted telepathy before 1900, and there has been considerable evidence added over the past 115 years to “prove” telepathy, but “mainstream” science, however that might be defined, still wants nothing to do with it. My guess is that in another 115 years, the situation will not be much different.
Joel, I agree. No matter how reincarnation plays out, and even if Barbanell was right, that it is all spirit possession, a spirit world is involved one way or the other.
Tricia, thank you for your comment. Yes, Myers did seem to get around and his most important contributions seem to have been the cross-correspondences.
Michael Tymn, Tue 24 Feb, 23:47
Leslie Harris, Tue 24 Feb, 00:54
I didn’t think that I would see the day when I disagreed with you but I disagree with elements of your view on this.
This can be split into two parts – the known facts and the speculation that accompanies those facts.
No intelligent and open minded person will deny that our consciousness survives physical death and continues into a next life. This is based on abundant reliable evidence and the absence of plausible evidence to the contrary.
What we so far do not understand is the mechanics of the communication between this life and the next life.
I am an engineer and I think about this quite a lot. My speculation centres largely on the known energy spectrum. Until relatively recently, we were fairly confident that we knew all about the energy spectrum. Latterly, observations have been made that suggest there are energies that we had not known about.
That in itself is not all that surprising but very serious physicists are now suggesting that our universe, which is built on the energy spectrum that we so far know about, could interface with other universes composed of different energy spectrums.
The matter of EVP also falls squarely into this area of contemplation. It exits, it is reliably reported by people of high credibility and we haven’t the faintest idea of how communicating entities can impress signals on to tape recorders, both analogue and digital.
So the evidence is unequivocal but the means by which we gather it in this life is simply not understood yet. It is reasonable to assume that we will eventually unravel this. (It was only recently, in terms of human history, that it was widely believed that storms and lightning were caused by vengeful gods!)
This in turn says to me that we will eventually establish a scientific footing for understanding it. It is by no means beyond science; it is only beyond our understanding so far. You and I might not live long enough to see this understanding achieved; instead, we might find ourselves observing it from the next life!
If you study Maurice Barbanell’s mediumship, he regularly witnessed his spirit guide Silver Birch affirming the concept of reincarnation as true if impossible to explain to the mind of the mid-1900s Spiritualist. Barbanell, a skeptic, when out of trance, would proffer in the newspaper’s columns that every case of reincarnation could be categorized as spirit possession rather than rebirth.
However you choose to interpret such opinions, imo, at the very least, they demonstrate the survival of the personality after death. At the least, reincarnation as an explanation best fits the facts.
Waller Joel, Mon 23 Feb, 20:37
This is excellent material, very interesting. Myers certainly seemed to get around. ( post mortem ) Certainly doing his best to inform everyone of the survival of his personality.
Tricia, Mon 23 Feb, 19:29
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