Editor’s note: Guy Lyon Playfair, a long-time psychical researcher and the author of many books, including This House is Haunted, and The Flying Cow, republished in 2011 by White Crow Books, interviewed Michael Tymn about his book The Afterlife Revealed, also published by White Crow. Here is their dialogue:
G. P. I often wonder how the idea of an afterlife first came about. Surely, some ancient person must have had direct experience, such as a materialisation , trance message or a dream? Many cultures, notably the Egyptians, had quite elaborate models of life after death, but what gave them the idea in the first place?”
M.T. “If life does have any purpose beyond eating, drinking, and being merry, then it seems that we should have been created with or should have developed a survival instinct. I just happen to be reading Tolstoy’s A Confession, and I understand his despair at thinking that life is nothing more than a march toward nothingness. The Philistine can overcome this despair by repressing the whole idea of death and occupying himself with the mundane, but the defense mechanism of repression becomes more difficult as we approach the abyss. I know several aging non-believers who claim that the idea of extinction doesn’t bother them, but I sense that it is just so much bravado. At the same time, I recognize that it could be a mindset I don’t have the ability to appreciate.
“I suspect that there were numerous phenomena experienced by the ancients, but they might not have been as “paranormal” then as they are now, and we don’t know much about them because of the limited means of recording them. Many of the mysterious things reported in the Old and New Testament seem to have come to us through mediumship of one kind or another, but they didn’t call them mediums then. They were seers or prophets.
G. P. As you live in Hawaii, I wonder if you have been influenced by the kahuna tradition as described so well by Max Freedom Long?
M. T. “I must confess my ignorance when it comes to the kahuna tradition. The only thing I know about it is that whenever there is a construction project in which the excavators encounter ancient Hawaiian burial sites, the native Hawaiians get upset and demand that they abandon the project or reroute so as not to disturb their ancestors. The belief that I have arrived at is not very consistent with that belief. I have told my wife to wait 4-5 days, have my remains cremated, and then flush my ashes down the toilet. If the discarnate Hawaiians are still hanging around their long decayed remains, they must be ‘earthbound’ and in need of some help. I don’t see how preserving their remains is going to offer that help.
G. P. I wonder why there should be such differences of opinion re the afterlife in different cultures and religions. Spiritists, for example, believe in reincarnation, but Spiritualists as a rule don’t. To the Druze, it’s a cornerstone of their faith; to a Roman Catholic it’s anathema. Why such differences?
M. T. “Clearly, reincarnation is a difficult subject to deal with based on ‘modern revelation.’ That is why I tried to avoid it as much as possible in the main body of the book and discuss it in Appendix B. As I said there, I believe in reincarnation, but I don’t think it plays out the way most people who believe in it think it does. At least that’s what a number of supposedly advanced spirits have said. I think that reincarnation, like God, is beyond human comprehension and so I try not to concern myself with it. It is enough for me to know that consciousness survives physical death.
“I admit to letting my emotions get in the way of an orthodox belief in reincarnation as I don’t want to do this all over again, especially if the world continues to deteriorate as it has in recent years. I don’t want to take the chance of being born to parents covered in tattoos while wearing jewelry in their noses, lips, and tongues, worshipping Lady Gaga or whomever, and living on welfare money. It might be a good learning experience, but I would prefer not to have to do it.”
G. P. It seems to me that the evidence for survival is getting better all the time, especially in the areas of near-death experience, terminal lucidity and reincarnation. Would you agree?
M. T. “Yes and no. We are still getting good evidence, but the old evidence seems to be forgotten as quickly as the new evidence is developed. I believe that Myers, Hodgson, Lodge, Hyslop, et al developed the best evidence and that it is as solid today as it was 100 years ago. However, it has all been filed away in dust-covered cabinets. Even modern parapsychologists don’t seem to have a good handle on the old research. Some pretend to, but when you talk with them you realize they don’t. Many of them can’t even tell you the difference between the direct voice and the trance voice. We seem to want to reinvent the wheel and we keep coming up with a less sturdy wheel than the one we had. Then again, I think my old 1941 Chevrolet was the best car I have ever owned.”
G. P. There is a dark side to the afterlife. It’s not all sweetness and light. Joe Fisher’s alarming book Hungry Ghosts gives an idea of the trouble you can get into when you get involved with the wrong kind of spirit. How do you see this dark side?
M. T. “As mentioned in the book, I think there is a reason for various warnings in the Bible relating to ‘talking with the dead.’ But you can’t ‘test the spirits whether they are of God,’ as we are instructed in the New Testament, nor can we “discern” the messages, as is also discussed in the New Testament. There clearly are risks involved in it, but there are risks involved with any endeavor leading to progress. At least I can’t think of anything without some degree of risk. The ‘discerner’ must be a person who understands the risks and is prepared to deal with them. Some will fail, but there are failures in every endeavor.”
G. P. I’ve had quite a bit of experience of poltergeists both in Britain and Brazil. I’ve always had the definite impression of discarnate presences, and I’m not impressed by vague talk about “repressed energies” or (my favourite piece of nonsense) “co-consciousness confrontation syndrome”. That’s not a popular opinion, but I think that just as if something looks like a duck, it probably is one, if something behaves like a mischievous or occasionally evil spirit, that’s what it is most likely to be. Would you agree?
M. T. “Definitely. The works of Kardec, Wickland, Prince, Titus Bull, and more recently Edith Fiore, have prompted me to believe in possession, obsession, spirit attachment, or whatever name one wants to give it. I believe that the more spiritually-challenged people, those with weak auras or energy fields, are much more susceptible to them than those with brighter auras. As for ‘“repressed energies,’ or ‘co-consciousness confrontation syndrome,’ I am not a psychologist or psychiatrist and not really qualified to comment, but I can’t help but believe that those are just fancy names they have made up to deal with it because they are unwilling to admit to “spirits of the dead.”
G. P. You deal with reincarnation rather briefly in your Appendix B. I agree it’s a baffling subject, made more so by all the various religious dogmas regarding it. But evidence is evidence, whatever your belief system, and there is an awful lot of it - nearly 3,000 cases on record. Take the recent case of James Leininger, who at around age 3 knew what a drop tank was and which ship his Corsair took off from, and gave the name of one of his fellow World War II pilots. It seems undeniable to me that memories can travel from a supposedly dead body to another living one. Then we have all these cases of ‘memory transplant’ in which recipients of a heart get more than just a heart. This seems to have become a taboo area, totally ignored by the orthodox scientific community. Why do you think this is.
M. T. “As I mentioned earlier, I believe in reincarnation. I have read the Leininger case and was very much impressed with it. I believe it is good evidence for survival, even outstanding evidence. But it is not necessarily outstanding evidence for reincarnation—good, maybe, but not outstanding. It could involve some form of spirit influence, although it is difficult to understand why a benevolent Creator would allow a young boy to be subject to such influence or attachment. I lean more toward the Group Soul or Oversoul hypothesis, which seems to hold that the personality manifesting in this young boy now is just part of his overall self and that the deceased pilot is part of that Group Soul or Oversoul, and the boy is somehow tapping into the Oversoul memory. It is beyond my comprehension, but I like it better than the orthodox explanation for the reasons already mentioned earlier.
“As for the transplant cases, I do think that those can be better explained by spirit attachment. That is, the donor was not particularly advanced and is earthbound, having attached him- or herself to the recipient’s aura. But what do I know? I’m just a blind groper looking for some answers and choosing the ones that make the most sense to me.”
Michael Tymn’s new book The Afterlife Revealed: What Happens After we Die is published by White Crow Books and available from Amazon and all good online book stores.