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Forever Family Foundation: Practical Bereavement

Posted on 27 March 2017, 8:48

When Bob and Phran Ginsberg (below) joined a support group for bereaved parents following the death of their daughter, Bailey, in an auto accident on September 1, 2002, they were informed that the subject of life after death was not suitable for discussion as it did not relate to coping with grief.  “We found that odd,” says Bob, a 65-year-old semi-retired insurance agent residing in Huntington, N.Y., “as we believed that the only thing that could provide comfort to bereaved parents was the possibility that their child still survived.”


As the bereaved parents gathered in the parking lot after the meeting and shared what they had learned and experienced, Bob and Phran talked about the necessity for an outlet where people could discuss the survival issue “without being stopped in their tracks and without judgment.” And so Forever Family Foundation, an all-volunteer charitable organization, established in 2004, now with approximately 10,000 members and growing, was conceived. 

The organization’s mission statement explains that its purpose is to establish the existence of the continuity of the family, even though a member has left the physical world; to stimulate thought among the curious ...  to support the continued research into survival of consciousness and Afterlife Science; and to provide a forum where individuals and families who have suffered the loss of a loved one can turn for support information, and hope through state-of-the-art information and services provided by ongoing research…”

Bob vividly recalls that terrible day in 2002. “In the early morning hours, Phran sat up in bed, trembling, and clearly shaken.  She said that ‘something horrible is going to happen today.’ Ordinarily, I would not pay much attention to such things, as I was a left-brained individual firmly rooted in my materialistic thinking. However, there were several times in our lives when Phran had similar ‘dreams’ that played out exactly as she had described. 

So, even though I did not really believe in such things, the evidence told me that I should take this seriously.  Of course, the first thing parents think of is the safety of their children, and we checked on our three children throughout the day.  To make a long story short, I let my guard down at the end of the day, becoming reassured that Phran’s feelings were not based in fact.  After leaving a family dinner at a local restaurant, my son and daughter were involved in a horrible accident, and my 15-year-old daughter did not survive the crash.”

Jonathan, Bob and Phran’s son, was critically injured and for several weeks they did not know if he would survive.  “Eventually, when it became evident that he would recover, we moved from a state of shock to utter despair,”

Bob further recalls.  “I did not think it possible for me to survive the loss of my daughter, as I was trapped in a deep chasm of horror and utter hopelessness.  However, what kept me going was the fact that Phran continued to have personal experiences, after-death communication, that I could not explain.  Since the one thing in life I knew was that she would never lie to me, I had to take her at her word.  Outwardly, I kept dismissing these things, which resulted in quite a few arguments, but deep inside the possibility of survival was what kept me going.”

Bob admits that prior to Bailey’s departure from the earth plane, he hadn’t given much thought to survival, going about life “with all of the trappings of success – big house,
nice cars, and lots of toys.” 

Several months later, as Bob thought about Phran’s prediction, he began looking for answers, talking with several scientists and consciousness researchers. Phran, on the other hand, did not require any confirmation of her “inner-knowing.”  There were times, he remembers, when he contemplated meaning and purpose, but none of the answers he could come up with made much sense and often resulted in bouts of mild depression.  “I summarily dismissed the notion of survival of consciousness, as in my view we were our brains, and when our brains died, we died.”

One day, Bob and Phran had some time before a scheduled appointment with Jonathan’s rehabilitation doctors and visited a book store next to the medical offices.  There, Bob noticed Dr. Gary Schwartz’s book, The Afterlife Experiments.  “I bought the book, devoured its contents, and rest is history.  The immediate next step after reading the book was to seek the services of a medium featured in the book as I needed to determine for myself if this was simply a bunch of New Age BS.”

Arrangements were made to sit in a group of about 10 people with trance medium Suzane Northrop.  Initially, Bob thought about how ridiculous the whole thing was, but when the medium turned to him and gave him three pieces of extremely strong evidence, he began to realize that there might be something to it.  One of the three pieces of evidence had to do with the fact that about a week before the session, Phran was alarmed by the smell of smoke in the house, causing her to get out of bed and search the house.  “The medium said to me, ‘Your daughter is telling me that you will know she is around by the smell of smoke.’ Obviously, Phran’s experience was unknown to the medium.”

A second piece of evidence had to do with a little game Bailey (below) had played with her father when she would try to get him to say that she was his favorite child.  He would always reply that he loved them all equally, but Bailey would just wink.  “Dad,” the medium said, “your daughter is making me tell you that she knows she was your favorite.” 


The third piece involved the medium telling Bob that Bailey was glad that all of her writings had been found. The fact was that Phran and their other daughter, Kori, had discovered a storehouse of Bailey’s writing in her computer sometime after her transition and later had it published in a book entitled Hidden Treasures.

After forming the FFF in 2004, Bob and Phran hosted discussion groups, set up a website, began publishing a newsletter, developed a medium certification program, started a weekly radio show, and held various conferences, events, retreats, and demonstrations. Needless to say, unlike the support group they first attended, discussion of the survival issue was encouraged.  They even hosted a talk at a local university about the afterlife, which drew a standing-room only audience of over 500.  They have since discontinued the national conferences, as they have found that they can reach more people with weekly webinars.

“Some question how we are able to run such an organization with no traditional grants and free membership,” Bob remarks.  “Phran, who is the Director of FFF is a savvy MBA, but she will readily tell you that the universe has a hand in our success.  Whenever she has concerns that funds are running low, an unexpected donation or opportunity always presents itself.  The Foundation has a Scientific Advisory Board, an Academic Advisory Board, a Medium Advisory Board, and an Auxiliary Board.”  He adds that the Auxiliary Board is made up of discarnates with whom they seek guidance about running the foundation.  Parapsychologist Loyd Auerbach, one of the world’s leading experts on psychic experiences, is currently serving as president of the organization.

Bob is quick to point out that they do not act in the capacity of mental health practitioners or other such professionals, nor are they solely about mediumship.  Their primary objective is to support the bereaved through information, including mediumship, near-death experiences, deathbed visions, reincarnation, instrumental transcommunication, other psi phenomena that show that the mind can act independently of the brain.  “If our consciousness – mind or soul if you prefer – is not dependent upon the brain, surviving after the brain is no longer there becomes not only plausible, but logical,” he states. “Of course, nothing can be more convincing than direct personal experience.  However, many times the foundation of knowledge must come before one becomes open to recognizing personal communication.”

While stressing that the FFF does not provide professional services, Bob is not afraid to take issue with the mainstream bereavement advice that one should get over it and get on with life as soon as possible, with no mention of the survival issue.  “We believe that those who believe in survival do better in their bereavement than those who believe in the finality of death,” he says, mentioning a study by The Windbridge Institute for Applied Research in Human Potential, “and professionals in the field are becoming increasingly aware of this fact.”

For more information about Forever Family Foundation, check their website at or email .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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.


Next blog post: April 10


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Reincarnation:  Doing It All Over Again?

Posted on 13 March 2017, 10:06

There was a time when I enjoyed reading books about reincarnation.  I was fascinated by the story of Bridey Murphy from the 1950s and by the research carried out by Professor Ian Stevenson, as reported by in Twenty Cases Suggestive of Reincarnation, and by Brian L. Weiss, M.D. in Many Lives, Many Masters.  I was intrigued by Jenny Cockell’s Across Time and Death, by Dolores Cannon’s They Walked with Jesus, and Marge Rider’s Mission to Millboro.  My library contains about 40 books dealing with reincarnation, but at some point the idea of coming back and doing this all over again did not appeal to me and I stopped reading about reincarnation.

If I could start another life at age 20 or so in a fairly comfortable setting with everything I now know, I’d probably opt for another lifetime in this physical realm, but it doesn’t seem to work that way. I fear that I may elect to come back as a severely handicapped child to help his or her parents learn from the experience. It’s something of a Catch 22 situation – hoping to be advanced enough to be so heroic and yet hoping not to be so advanced. 

As much as I don’t want to do it again, the evidence set forth in the recently released book, I Saw a Light and Came Here, by Erlendur Haraldsson, Ph.D. and James G. Matlock, Ph.D. and published by White Crow Books, suggests that I will have to do it again, unless of course, I have reached the point at which we don’t have to come back and we continue the evolution of the soul in another realm of existence.  I feel I still have a lot to learn and so I am not optimistic in that regard. 

I decided it was about time to read another book on reincarnation and this book, subtitled Children’s Experiences of Reincarnation, seemed to be a good choice. The authors offer some very interesting and evidential cases from their extensive research in past-life studies.  The book is divided into two parts – the first authored by Haraldsson and the second by Matlock.  Haraldsson draws from nearly 50 years of field research, including approximately a hundred cases in Sri Lanka, Lebanon, India and Iceland, while Matlock is more of an “armchair” researcher, investigating accounts of reincarnation primarily by email, instant messaging, and Skype.  Both authors frequently link their findings to the research of Professor Ian Stevenson, considered “the father of reincarnation research.”
Haraldsson begins by summarizing several intriguing cases he researched in which children recalled episodes from an earlier life.  In one case, a Lebanese boy named Nazih was just a year-and-a-half old when he began telling his parents about his prior life.  He recalled carrying two pistols and four hand-grenades and being shot and killed.  When he was two-and-a-half, he drew a map of his previous house and said he wanted to go back there to see his children and retrieve his weapons and other belongings.  It was determined that his old home was about 17 kilometers from his present home, and when Nazih was five or six years old, his family finally took him there. He was questioned by his past-life wife and accurately answered a number of questions she put to him. He was even able to point to a cupboard in which he had kept his arms.  He further recalled giving his brother a somewhat rare kind of handgun before his death in the prior life and of building a wooden ladder, which still existed on his visit there.  He was shown a photo of three men from the prior life and identified each one by name. It was determined that he was killed in 1982 at age 57 when serving as a bodyguard for a spiritual leader.  In all, Nazih made 25 statements fitting the person he believed himself to be in the prior lifetime and only one statement that did not fit.

Haraldsson mentions that in a few cases, children spoke of memories from the period after they died and before they were reborn. Some claimed to have engaged in poltergeist activity after they died.  Many have phobias and fears related to their past-life memories.  A large percentage claim to have suffered a violent death.  Birthmarks are found in some cases to seemingly be related to wounds that led to the child’s death in the past life. Most children stop talking about the previous life by the age of six or seven.

Although most of the book is focused on reincarnation, Haraldsson devotes separate chapters to deathbed visions, near-death experiences and mediumship.

Matlock begins the second section with some history on the belief in reincarnation, dating back to Turkish tribal peoples and the Egyptians.  He goes on to note how early Christians, such as Origin and members of the Gnostic sects, believed in pre-existence of the soul and how it was condemned at the Second Council of Constantinople in 553 A.D. He provides details of cases from Canada, India, Brazil and the United States.  I found his chapter on xenoglossy (people speaking in foreign tongues though not consciously familiar with the language) especially interesting, as well as the chapter on suicide cases. 

While both Haraldsson and Matlock address the skeptical concerns relating to reincarnation, they do not discuss the “overshadowing” or spirit possession theories that some believe account for it all.  That is, the past-life memories are really the influence of spirit entities – possibly entities from a common group soul who actually lived those past lives – merging with or somehow influencing the child’s aura or energy field during the developmental stages, as the child’s soul occasionally vacates the body to be nurtured in his or her true home.  This school of thought holds that such influences are mistakenly taken to be the child’s past life.

Frederic W. H. Myers, one of the pioneers of psychical research, purportedly communicated through several credible mediums following his death in 1901. One of those mediums was Geraldine Cummins of Ireland, a trance automatist.  Much of what Myers had to say through the hand of Cummins is set forth in The Road to Immortality, first published in 1932.  Among other subjects, Myers discussed the group-soul and reincarnation. 

“While I was on earth, I belonged to a group-soul, but its branches and the spirit – which might be compared to the roots – were in the invisible,” Myers wrote.  “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 certain sense, true.  It is our life and yet not our life.”

Myers went on to explain 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 further explained 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.

I much prefer to believe Myers’s version, but it is difficult to discount the more orthodox reincarnation belief when considering the birthmark evidence uncovered by Stevenson, Haraldsson and Matlock. One way or the other, survival is indicated and I’m inclined to believe that the truth of it all is somewhere in between the two schools of thought and for the most part beyond human comprehension, at least beyond mine. 

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.


Next blog post:  March 27 

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The Defamation of Eusapia Palladino

Posted on 27 February 2017, 10:46

My good friend Michael Schmicker, the author of The Witch of Napoli, a somewhat fictionalized version of the story of Eusapia Palladino, an illiterate Italian medium (1854 – 1918), and I meet with other friends once a month or so over lunch in downtown Honolulu to discuss our projects.  While Mike and I are of like-mind on most everything, there is one thing we don’t agree on – whether Eusapia cheated in producing some phenomena. 

Mike accepts the historical accounts that say Eusapia was a genuine medium but that she cheated at times when her powers failed her, a theme which Mike advances in his book, now a best-seller at Amazon.  I argue, however, that there is no solid evidence that the acts taken by researchers to be cheating were consciously carried out by Eusapia. I point to the research of those scientists and scholars who observed her the most and claim that the so-called cheating was not conscious on her part, therefore not cheating, per se. That is, she was in a trance state and controlled by spirit entities, who at times used her arms and legs to produce some phenomenon. At other times, ectoplasmic arms and legs were formed and observers assumed they were Eusapia’s limbs.  Mike seems to agree that there were unconscious movements in the trance state, but he also believes that Eusapia consciously cheated at times when her powers failed her.  I do not deny that possibility, but I do not accept it as fact, as Mike does. 

Sir Oliver Lodge, a renowned British physicist and electricity pioneer, studied Eusapia with Dr. Charles Richet, the 1913 Nobel Prize winner in medicine, and two other researchers at Richet’s private retreat on Ribaud Island in the Mediterranean during 1894.  He wrote that she resented the charges of fraud and that he was willing to give her the benefit or the doubt, so far as morals of deception were concerned, referring to her as a kindly soul with many of the instincts of a peasant.  “She wanted us to understand that it was not conscious deception, but that her control (called John King) took whatever means available, and if he found an easy way of doing things, thus would it be done,” Lodge explained.

“Even if there were no other medium than Eusapia in the world, her manifestations would suffice to establish scientifically the reality of telekinesis and ectoplasmic forms,” wrote Richet, who had more than 200 sittings with Eusapia. He reported that ectoplasmic arms and hands emerged from the body of Eusapia and did what they wished, independent of Eusapia’s will, as she had vacated the body while in trance.  While Richet refused to believe in spirits, at least publicly, he referred to a “quasi-identity” between the medium and the ectoplasm that might give “the push that he (King?) hopes will start the phenomena.”

Professor Filippo Bottazzi, who held the chair of physiology at the University of Naples, studied Eusapia on a number of occasions and concluded that “during our sessions neither fraud nor cheating ever occurred.  I can affirm this with certainty, solemnly, also on behalf of other participants.  Although we all differ with regard to studies, temperament, and age, nevertheless we all agreed and were convinced that the phenomena we had observed were never the product of fraud. They were true phenomena, however mysterious and elusive in their nature.”  Bottazzi admitted that there were things happening outside the bounds of scientific observation and that some observers might have assumed that fraud was the only explanation, thereby giving rise to the claims that Eusapia sometimes cheated.

The subject came up again at our latest lunch and another friend joined in to support Mike, saying that he found it difficult to believe that the controlling spirits would be so devious as to make Eusapia appear to be a cheater.  I countered that there is evidence suggesting that such spirits don’t fully grasp what is happening on our side of the veil.  For example, the discarnate Frederic Myers communicated that he didn’t know how his thoughts were coming through the medium, whether by automatic writing or through her voice.  All he knew was that he was projecting thoughts that somehow were turned into words as they passed through the medium to the sitter. 

After my recent debate with Mike, I had a dream.  The year was 2028, the location being the lower regions of Purgatory, otherwise known as “Stuporland.”  Unlike souls below them who are completely earthbound and even unaware that they have “died,” souls in Stuporland drift in and out of consciousness, realizing at times they have died and at other times thinking they are still alive in the flesh.  The soul known as Michael Schmicker while incarnate had recently arrived and had been floundering somewhat in a confused state.  I had graduated some years before Mike and was there to greet him on his arrival. Here is the conversation that took place:

Mike S.  “Who are you?” 

Mike T.  “Don’t you remember me, Mike?  You knew me as Mike Tymn.”

Mike S.  “But I thought you died five or six years ago. And you look so much younger than the Mike Tymn I knew.”

Mike T.  “Yes, I ‘died,’ as you call it, and so have you.  The reason I look younger is that I have evolved back to my prime years.”

Mike S.  “Oh!  I know we talked about that, but I guess I never really absorbed it. Wow!  I’m really dead?”

Mike T.  “Yes, you are.  You died a few days ago and are still awakening.”

Mike S.  “Wow! Wow!”

Mike T.  “It’ll become clearer to you as you awaken.”

Mike S.  “How long does that usually take?”

Mike T.  “As we often discussed, Mike, time is different on this side, but in earth time it can be a few days or even years.  I can see from your energy field that you lived a good life and that means you should fully awaken shortly.  However, I do see a dark obstruction in your field that might delay things just a bit.”

Mike S.  What’s that?  You’re not talking about the library book I forgot to return, are you?”

Mike T.  “No, I’m referring to your having called Eusapia a cheater. You announced it to the world in one of your books.”

Mike S.  “Is that why I seem to be experiencing a nightmare here, continually hearing ‘Cheater! Cheater! Cheater!’ over and over again?”

Mike T.  “Yes, as you drift in and out of consciousness, you sometimes take on the identity of Eusapia and are now experiencing the woe that she experienced from your libellous and slanderous remarks.”

Mike S.  “But everything I read indicated that she did cheat.”

Mike T.  “Don’t you remember that we discussed this at Murphy’s over lunch?  I explained that the best observers questioned whether she was really cheating and believed that in the trance state the spirit controls were merely doing what was expected of them in carrying out certain phenomena.  These were primarily low-level spirits and didn’t really realize that they were making her appear to be cheating.”

Mike S.  “Are you telling me that is what actually happened?”

Mike T.  “Yes, that is what I have verified as fact since being here.”

Mike S.  “But how could you be so certain back then?”

Mike T.  “I wasn’t certain then, but when we don’t know things for sure, we need to be open-minded and not make hasty judgments that defame a person.  Like Lodge, Richet, Bottazzi, and even Professor James Hyslop, who probably understood the trance state better than anybody else, I gave her the benefit of the doubt.  You sort of laughed it off and pretended to know more than the distinguished men who studied her under strictly controlled conditions.” 

Mike S.  “What’s the big deal?  She was already dead when I called her a cheater.”

Mike T.  “Death does not exist.  She was very much alive and suffered greatly by your remarks and those of others.  Defaming what you call a ‘dead’ person is no different than defaming what you call a ‘live’ person.  The hurt is much the same.  More than that, though, you misled others and retarded them in their attempts to understand.”

Mike S.  “Oh, I didn’t realize that.”

Mike T.   “I tried to get that over to you when you were in the unreal life, but pride and ego got in the way.  They are now responsible for those bad dreams you are having in which you become Eusapia.”

Mike S.  “Is there any way to stop them?”

Mike T.  “I am going to try to persuade Eusapia to come down here so that you can apologize to her.  I’ll be back.”

Mike S.  “You mean she is still around?”

Mike T. “She’s at a much higher vibration than we are here, but she can drop down here for a short period.  It’s sort of like trying to hold your breath under water when you were in the earth life. I don’t think she can stay long.”

Mike S.  “At what level are you?”

Mike T.  “Between this vibration and the one Eusapia is at.  Because of that I can hold my breath down here somewhat longer than she can.  Of course, I’m speaking metaphorically.”

Mike S.  “You seemed to be a pretty righteous guy when I knew you.  What kept you from advancing to Eusapia’s level?”

Mike T.  “I rented a Blockbuster video one time and let a friend borrow it after I saw it.  I cheated the system – two for the price of one. That cost me.”

Somewhat later:

Mike T.  “Mike, I’m back.”

Mike S.  “Great, but Eusapia has already paid me a visit and said she was not offended by my cheating allegations.  We had a great talk.”

Mike T.  “Sorry to inform you, Mike, but that was not Eusapia.  That was an impostor spirit trying to mislead you into thinking what you did is OK.  You know the old saying, ‘what goes around, comes around’.”

Mike S.  “Really?  So is the real Eusapia going to visit me?”

Mike T. “Not right now.  The Chief says you still have some purging to do, but you can shorten your time in Stuporland by returning to the earth life and making it known to your readers that there was absolutely no good evidence that Eusapia was a cheater. That should get you up to Summerland by tomorrow.”

Mike S. “How can I possibly do that from here?”

Mike T. “As I said, Mike, time is different here, so it has been arranged for you to go back to 2017 and make it clear to your many fans that Eusapia was a good woman and not a cheater.”

At this point in my dream I woke up and so I don’t know what happened after that.

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.


Next blog post: March 13


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Guarding Against Premature Cremation

Posted on 14 February 2017, 9:48

After recently rereading the account of Dr. George Rodonaia’s 1976 near-death experience, I paused to remind my wife that she should wait one week before having my remains cremated.  I hope that my consciousness will have separated from my physical body well before one week, within a day or two, but I see no reason to take any chances. 

Apparently, the KGB decided to eliminate Rodonaia, a Russian neuropathologist who had dissident views, and ran him down as he crossed the street. His death was confirmed at the hospital and his corpse was placed in cold storage.  When the autopsy began three days later, Rodonaia regained consciousness.  He first went out of body and saw his physical body lying in the morgue.  On top of that, however, he was able to “see” the thoughts and emotions of his wife, Nino, and of those who killed him.  After being revived physically and when able to speak again, he told his wife how he saw her picking out a gravesite for him.  But he also read her mind and saw that she was thinking about three different men as her next husband.  She even made a list of their qualities, pro and con.  When Rodonaia told Nino, who later confirmed it as accurate, of “seeing” all this, even reciting the list to her, she was totally shocked and kept her distance from him for a year as she felt she no longer had the privacy of her own mind. 

Rodonaia also recalled being drawn to a nearby hospital, where the wife of a friend had just given birth. With x-ray like eyes, he was able to see that the baby’s hip was broken during delivery when the attending nurse dropped the infant. When he came to, he alerted the doctors to the fracture.  They had the baby x-rayed and confirmed his diagnosis. 

The evidential parts are mentioned only to give some credibility to the story that he was “dead” for some three days before being revived, or at least they thought he was “dead.”
Whether he was clinically dead or not is irrelevant; the fact is they thought he was dead.  Numerous accounts of other people having come back to life have been reported, although nearly all of them are within a few hours of the supposed death.

Coincidentally, within a day of rereading the Rodonaia NDE, I was watching a segment of the British Midsomer Murders detective series in which a man was within seconds of being cremated alive.  It was chilling enough that I again reminded my wife to wait seven days. And then that same day, I came upon a Fox News Science item on the Internet, headlined, “2 days after death, some life continues in body.”

In his 1998 book, Light & Death, Michael Sabom, an Atlanta cardiologist, cites an article by Dr. Linda Emanuel, who comments that life and death are viewed as non-overlapping, dichotomous states, whereas in reality there is no threshold event that defines death. “Several scientific observations support Emanuel’s argument that loss of biologic life, including death of the brain, is a process and does not occur at a single, definite moment,” Sabom writes.  He goes on to mention that 10 organ donors diagnosed as “brain dead” showed an average increase in blood pressure of 31 millimeters of mercury and in heart rate of 23 beats per minute in response to surgical removal of the organs. He also refers to a study at Loyola University Medical Center in which it was found that 20 percent of patients diagnosed as brain dead had persisting EEG activity up to seven days after the initial diagnosis.

More recently, cardiologist Pim van Lommel, in his 2010 book, Consciousness Beyond Life, notes that when brain death has been diagnosed, 96 percent of the body is still alive. He further comments that most people are unaware that when an organ is removed from “dead” patients, it usually requires general anesthesia of the individual because of the so-called Lazarus syndrome – “violent reflexes by the certified dead organ donor.”

Of course, the concern here is whether the consciousness has separated itself from the body in spite of the persisting activity within the body.  If it has achieved separation, there seemingly should be no concern.  However, no medical doctor is qualified to say that consciousness has separated.

“The moral state of the soul is the condition which determines the ease, or the difficulty, with which the spirit disengages himself from his terrestrial envelope,” Allan Kardec, a pioneering French psychical researcher, wrote.

“The strength of the affinity between the body and perispirit (spirit body) is in the exact ratio of the spirit’s attachment to materiality; it is, consequently, at the maximum in the case of those whose thoughts and interests are concentrated on the earthly life and the enjoyment of material pleasures; it is almost null in the case of those whose soul has identified itself before with the spirit life.”

Various metaphysical teachings refer to “magnetic currents,” which should not be confused with the so-called silver cord, the connecting link between the physical body and the spirit body.  As I understand it, the silver cord will have been severed at the time of physical death, liberating the spirit body, but the magnetic currents can still keep the spirit body close to the physical body. Moreover, cremation does not undo the gravitational pull of a materialistic life, but it at least mitigates the pull.

As physicist James Beichler sees it in his 2008 book To Die For, when consciousness is less evolved and the mind is more focused on the material/physical world of common four-dimensional space-time alone, those making the transition from this life to the afterlife in the non-material but still physical five-dimensional space-time may be faced with a very big gap, thus not recognizing that they are dead.  If the person had achieved a higher level of consciousness while occupying the material/physical body, “then the mind would already have memories of five-dimensional experience and would then merge with less difficulty into its new state of being,” he explains, adding that this mind can remain stuck in its four-dimensional material reality without any real material existence because it does not have any reference points in the higher-dimensional non-material world. 

I read somewhere that Buddhists monks ask to wait three days before cremation. But when Sir Oliver Lodge, the renowned British physicist, asked his discarnate son Raymond about it, Raymond suggested seven days.  Raymond told his father that the body doesn’t start mortifying until the spirit has left it.  He went on to say that he had witnessed a scene several days earlier in which a man was going to be cremated two days after the doctor pronounced him dead.  “When his relatives on this side heard about it, they brought a certain doctor on our side, and when they saw that the spirit hadn’t got really out of the body, they magnetized it, and helped it out,” Raymond explained through Feda, Leonard’s control.  “But there was still a cord, and it had to be severed rather quickly, and it gave a little shock to the spirit, like as if you had something amputated.  But it had to be done.”  Raymond then suggested that there should be a seven-day waiting period before cremation.  “People are so careless,” he added. “The idea seems to be ‘hurry up and get them out of the way now that they are dead.”
Silver Birch, the eloquent and apparently “high” spirit who spoke through the entranced British medium Maurice Barbanell for some 50 years, was asked if cremation is the preferred method of disposal.  “Yes, always, because essentially it has the effect of putting an end to the idea that the spirit is the physical body,” Silver Birch replied.

“Cremation always means that the spirit entity looses certain chains that might otherwise tie him to earth,” a spirit entity known as White Feather, guide to the medium Thomas Wyatt, replied in response to a similar question put to him during a séance.

“By the use of fire, all forms are dissolved; the quicker the human physical vehicle is destroyed, the quicker is its hold upon the withdrawing soul broken,” medium Alice Bailey recorded what she came to understand from communication received. She added that mummifying, as practiced in Egypt, and of embalming, as practiced in the West, have been responsible for the perpetuation of the spirit body, sometimes for centuries in earth time, especially for those who of an evil nature.

Hopefully, three days is enough, but there is really nothing to lose in waiting seven days, except perhaps for extra storage charges. 

Next blog post: Feb. 27

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.



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Death and the Afterlife: Let us Persevere

Posted on 30 January 2017, 15:53

As a follow-up to my last blog post dealing with philistinism – our tendency to avoid talking about death and to seek a life of pleasure without any search for meaning, thereby leading to existential despair – I am going to let the world-renowned French astronomer Camille Flammarion (below) (1842-1925) have his say on the subject.  His words below are extracted and abridged from his 1922 book, Death and Its Mystery: Before Death.  Not much seems to have changed in the near hundred years since Flammarion penned his thoughts.


“Whether we face it boldly, or whether we avoid the image of it, Death is the supreme event of Life.  To be unwilling to consider it is a bit of childish silliness, as the precipice is before us and as we shall inevitably fall into it some day.  To imagine that the problem is insoluble, that we can know nothing about it and shall only be wasting our time if, with daring curiosity, we try to see clearly – that is an excuse dictated by a careless laziness and an unjustified timidity.

“It is hard not to desire an answer to the formidable question that presents itself when we think of our destiny, or when a cruel death has taken from us some one we love.  How is it possible not to ask whether or not we shall find each other again, or if the separation is for eternity? Does a Deity or Goodness exist? Do injustice and evil rule over the progress of humanity, with no regard for the feelings that nature has placed in our hearts? And what is this nature itself? Has it a will, an end? Could there be more intelligence, more justice, more goodness, and more inspiration in our infinitesimally small minds that in the great universe?  How many questions are associated with the same enigma!

“No thinking man can avoid being troubled in the hours of personal reflection by this question: ‘What will become of me?  Shall I die wholly?’

“There is no valid reason for not studying everything, for not submitting everything to the test of positive analysis, and we shall never know anything that we have not learned. If Theology has been mistaken in pretending that [the study of immortality] is reserved for her, Science has been equally mistaken in disdaining them as unworthy or foreign to her mission.  The problem of the immortality of the soul has not yet been solved in the affirmative, but neither has it yet been solved in the negative, as has sometimes been pretended.

“It is the general tendency to believe that the solution of the sphinx’s riddle of what lies beyond the grave is out of our reach, and that the human mind has not the power to pierce the mystery.  Nevertheless, what subject concerns us more closely, and how can we fail to be interested in our own lot?

“The persistent study of this great problem leads us to believe, to-day, that the mystery of death is less obscure and impenetrable than has been admitted hitherto, and that it may become clear to the mind’s eye by the light of certain actual experiments that were unknown half a century ago.  It ought not to surprise us to find psychical research associated with astronomical research.  It is the same problem.  The physical and moral world are one.  Astronomy has always been associated with religion.  The errors of that ancient science, which was founded on deceptive appearances, had their inevitable consequences in the erroneous beliefs of former days; the theological heaven must accord with the astronomical heaven under pain of collapse.  The duty of all honest men is to seek loyally after truth.

“We once affirmed things of which we were ignorant; we imposed silence upon all seekers.  This is what has above all retarded the psychic sciences.  Undoubtedly this study is not indispensable to a practical life.  Men in general are stupid.  Not one out of a hundred of them thinks.  They live on the earth without knowing where they are and without having the curiosity even to wonder.  They are brutes that eat, drink, enjoy themselves, reproduce their kind, sleep, and are occupied above everything in acquiring money. 

“The deplorable conditions of life on our planet, the obligation to eat, the necessities of material existence, explain the indifference to philosophy on the part of the earth’s inhabitants, without entirely excusing them; for millions of men and women find the time to indulge in futile amusements, to read newspapers and novels, to play cards, to occupy themselves with the affairs of others, to pass along the old story of the mote and the beam, to criticize and spy upon those about them, to dabble in politics, to fill the churches and the theaters, to support luxurious shops, to overwork the dressmakers and hatmakers, etc.

“Universal ignorance is the result of that miserable human individualism that is so self-sufficient.  The need of living by the spirit is felt by no one, or almost no one.  Men who think are the exception.  If these [psychical] researches lead us to employ our minds better, to find out what we are here to do, on this earth, we may be satisfied with this work; for truly, our life as human beings seems very obscure.

“The inhabitant of the earth is still so unintelligent, and so bestial that everywhere, even up to the present day, it is still might that makes right and upholds it; the leading statesman of each nation is still the Minister of War, and nine tenths of the financial wealth of the people is consecrated to periodic international butcheries.

“And Death continues to reign over the destinies of humanity! She is indeed the sovereign.  Her scepter has never exercised its controlling power with such ferocious and savage violence as in these last years.  By mowing down millions of men on the battlefield she has raised millions of questions to be addressed to Destiny.  Let us study it, this final end.  It is a subject well worthy of our attention.”

In his book, Death and Its Mystery: At the Moment of Death, also published in 1922, Flammarion discusses the strong evidence in favor of survival, stating that much discernment is necessary when examining it, but the cumulative evidence is convincing.  He writes:

“There are men who cannot be candid!  They would even be afraid to commit themselves by declaring that castor-oil is a laxative. There are limits to skepticism and incredulity.  Quibbling and the sophistries of the subtlest dialectic do not affect the existence of fact.

“Unfortunately, as a general thing, people of the upper classes – savants, scholars, artists, writers, judges, priests, physicians, etc. – maintain a discreet reserve, as though afraid to speak out.  They are less free, have their own interests to protect, and are silent while others talk.  Such faintheartedness, such cowardice, is absolutely despicable.  What is there to fear?  It is excusable to deny facts through ignorance.  But not to dare admit things seen – a sad state of affairs!

“There are other criminals besides those in prisons, namely cultivated men who know truths they do not venture to reveal, for reasons of personal interest, or for fear of ridicule.  In the course of my career I have met more than one of these ‘men of science,’ extremely intelligent, very learned, who have been witnesses of metaphysical phenomena beyond cavil, or who have grown aware of them – men who have no doubt of the undeniable existence of these phenomena, yet dare say nothing, through meanness unpardonable in minds of real worth.  Or else, from fear of being heard, they whisper, mysteriously, testimony which would be of considerable weight in the triumph of truth. Such men are unworthy of the name of savants.  Several of them belong to what is called ‘high society,’ and believe that they would lose credit by seeming over-credulous, although, on the other hand, they subscribe to debatable beliefs.

“A part of the clergy is hostile to [psychical research] and considers that the Church should monopolize such questions.  This point of view has come down from biblical times. The summoning of the dead was formally forbidden the Hebrews, and Saul violated his own decrees when he went to consult the witch of Endor and invoked the shade of the prophet Samuel.  Perhaps this interdiction was justifiable in the case of incompetent men of the humbler orders, who can so easily fall into the worst stupidities.  But in our day to forbid men who are learned, given to reflection, well balanced, to study these problems; to teach that they are not to use the reason God has given them, that they must humble this reason before the affirmations of a debatable divine revelation; to maintain that the question of the nature of the soul and of its survival, which interests so personally each one of us, must be reserved to a caste of casuists who appropriate for themselves the right to judge and to decide between the true and the false, between God and the devil – such is, indeed, a strange way of thinking, and an anachronism carrying us back to the middle ages. 

“This error is all the more inexplicable from the fact that the phenomena with which we are concerned support the stories of the sacred Scriptures, among other the apparitions of Jesus, unknown or denied by nine tenths of mankind. 

“There are men of worth among the observers: the names of Immanuel Kant, of Goethe, of Schopenhauer, of William Crookes, of Russel Wallace, of Oliver Lodge, of Edison, of Victor Hugo, of Victorien Sardou, of Lombroso, of William James, and of some others, are not negligible; there are observers of all sorts. [However, there are too many] men incapable of being convinced, despite the most evident proofs; worthy men, moreover, from other points of view, learned, agreeable, philanthropic, but whose mental eyes are constructed in such a way that they do not see straight before them.  (Hunters tell us it is the same with hares.)  Their eyes have a prism before the retina in place of the normal lens, and this prism distorts the rays by a few degrees, with refractions, which differ according to type.  This is not their fault.  It is not only that they do not wish to perceive the sun at high noon, but they cannot … Eyes are useless to a blind brain, say an Arabian proverb. 

“To have too much intellect is sometimes a hindrance to the simple comprehension of things as they are.  [In effect], we have against us, in our investigation, three kinds of adversaries, virtually unconquerable:  1) Those who make sport of everything, who are interested in nothing; 2) materialists convinced, on principle, that matter produces everything; 3) human beings confined within a narrow dogma, whatever their religion, sure of their beliefs and satisfied with them.  Those with knowledge of truth have always formed a minority, despite the most persevering efforts of free seekers. Let us persevere, however. The good seed will, at length, germinate.”

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.


Next blog post:  Feb. 13      


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Will President Trump make us “One with our Toys”?

Posted on 16 January 2017, 9:21

As the United States prepares for a change of leadership, many people are still scratching their heads and wondering how Donald Trump, a man so seemingly unpresidential, at least in the more traditional or conventional ways, succeeded in the pursuit of the presidency.  The media claims that it is due to the anger of the voters – an anger said to be primarily the result of economic struggles by the working class.  However, I’m convinced that it goes much deeper than that, and it’s not something that presidents or politicians have much control over or understanding of.  It’s really existential despair that is manifesting itself.  To overcome this despair, people want change, but they really don’t grasp what that change should involve. In fact, the change they think they want conflicts with the change they really need.


I believe that Giambattista Vico, an 18th-century Italian philosopher, hit the nail squarely on the head when he wrote that men first feel necessity, then look for utility, followed by comfort, then pleasure, and finally luxury, after which they finally go mad – when “each man is thinking of his own private interests.”  In that pursuit of pleasure and luxury, there is, according to Vico, a certain social disconnection, which involves moral, intellectual, and spiritual decline. 


And that is where we now seem to be. At some point in the pursuit of pleasure and luxury, we became so consumed with our own immediate needs that we lost sight of the larger life.  Vico’s “madness” is really despair or hopelessness that results from a void in our spiritual lives.  In effect, in striving for greater pleasure and luxury, we became philistines – man striving to be “one with his toys,” while increasingly indifferent to matters of the spirit.  “Philistinism tranquilizes itself in the trivial, being equally in despair whether things go well or ill,” the existentialist philosopher Søren Kierkegaard explained it, going on to say that many philistines don’t actually realize they are in despair, or if they do realize it they don’t understand what they are in despair about.  Neither do their psychiatrists, the politicians, or the journalists.   

“Despair over the earthly or over something earthly is really despair about the eternal and over oneself, in so far as it is despair,” Kierkegaard offered.  This is consistent with what anthropologist Ernest Becker had to say in his 1973 Pulitzer Prize-winning book, The Denial of Death, in which he asserted that death is the mainspring of human activity. “The idea of death, the fear of it, haunts the human animal like nothing else,” Becker said. To free oneself of death anxiety, Becker explained, nearly everyone chooses the path of repression.  We bury the anxiety deep in the subconscious and busy ourselves with our jobs, partake of certain pleasures, strut in our new clothes, show off our polished cars, jabber on our phones, hit little white balls into round holes, escape into fictitious stories in books, at the movies, and on television, idolize movie actors and athletes (people pretending to be real people and pretending to be real combatants), experience vicarious thrills at sporting events,  pursue material wealth, and seek a mundane security that we expect to continue indefinitely, all the while oblivious to the fact that in the great scheme of things such activities are exceedingly short-term and for the most part meaningless. 

As I infer from it all, when we get too much comfort, too much pleasure, too much luxury, as we embrace Epicureanism and hedonism, we begin to wonder what we can strive for next.  We begin fiddling as Nero did when Rome burned.

It has been suggested that sowing brings greater happiness than reaping, and we have reaped so much that we have become bored and depressed. Renowned psychiatrist Viktor Frankl referred to it as “mass neurotic syndrome” – the result of an “existential vacuum,” a feeling of emptiness and meaninglessness. The more one seeks pleasure, Frankl observed, the more it eludes him. “Pleasure is, and must remain, a side-effect, or by-product, and is destroyed and spoiled to the degree in which it is made a goal in itself.”  A human being, he continued, is not one in pursuit of happiness, but one in search of a reason to become happy. Self-actualization, he further opined, is possible only as a side effect of self-transcendence.

Pioneering psychiatrist Carl Jung wrote that most of his patients were non-believers, those who had lost their faith.  They were neurotics.  “They seek position, marriage, reputation, outward success or money, and remain unhappy and neurotic even when they have attained what they were seeking,” Jung wrote. “Such people are usually confined within too narrow a spiritual horizon.  Their life has not sufficient content, sufficient meaning.  If they are enabled to develop into more spacious personalities, the neurosis generally disappears. For that reason the idea of [spiritual] development was always of the highest importance to me.” 

Even Sigmund Freud, who was not spiritually inclined, was concerned that one’s attitude toward death has a bearing on his or her psychological health.  “Is it not for us to confess that in our civilized attitude toward death, we are once more living psychologically beyond our means, and must reform and give truth its due?” he asked. “Would it not be better to give death the place in actuality and in our thoughts which properly belongs to it, and to yield a little more prominence to that unconscious attitude towards death which we have hitherto so carefully repressed?”

Concomitant with the pursuit of pleasure and luxury is the glorification of the ego and with it a trickle-down narcissism effect.  “It’s not necessary for everyone, or even most people, to be narcissistic for materialism to increase in a society,” offer psychologists Jean Twenge and W. Keith Campbell in their book, The Narcissism Epidemic.  “Similar to the trends in vanity, narcissistic people begin materialistic trends that raise the standards for everyone else. They show off their possessions and make materialism cool through their charm and outgoing personalities.”  Twenge and Campbell cite various studies indicating that young people today are much more focused on “becoming well off financially” than earlier generations.  In one study, 93 percent of teenage girls said that shopping is their favorite activity.  Can there be any doubt that television and Internet commercials have been the primary instigators in this regard? 

If I am interpreting it all correctly, the conscious self wants pleasure and luxury, but the subconscious (the soul) wants peace of mind, and that comes only with seeing this life as a part of a much larger one.  Therein is the conflict that goes unrecognized by presidents, politicians, and the press. It is much easier for our politicians and the media to say that people are angry than to say they are in existential despair.  If they suggest that people are in such despair, they have to explain what they are in despair over.  It would not be politically, journalistically, or scientifically correct to say that their materialistic lifestyles have detracted from their spiritual values and pursuits and that they have lost sight of the larger life.  At least it would not be proper for our more left-wing subscribers to suggest such a thing, since it would give recognition to totally unscientific ideas.  If the more right-wingers were to suggest it, it would be seen as nothing more than religious fundamentalism and folly. It is so much simpler to blame it on anger over economic deprivations and social injustices than to say it results from the pursuit of pleasure and luxury, the very things we think we want.

It seems very unlikely, therefore, that President Trump will get us back on the right track. 

Next blog post:  January 30
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.


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“Soul Mist” – the Most Popular Subject

Posted on 02 January 2017, 11:05

Of the 160 posts at this blog since it moved to White Crow in April 2010 after several years at another site, the one with the most views was posted on October 4, 2010 and is titled “Strange Deathbed Mist and Light Explained.”  The subject was also dealt with in my post of June 11, 2012 (click here and scroll down).  Based on the comments left at the two posts, I gather that people who have experienced something mysterious at deathbeds begin searching the Internet for some explanation and find their way to those posts, especially that of 2010.  A number of them have told of their experience in the comments section.

As discussed in those two previous blog posts, many people have observed a strange mist over a deathbed, often at the time the person departs the physical body.  “Some say that it looks like smoke, while others say it is as subtle as steam,” Dr. Raymond Moody (below) wrote in his 2010 book, Glimpses of Eternity. “Sometimes it seems to have a human shape.  Whatever the case, it usually drifts upward and always disappears quickly.”  Moody also wrote of people seeing unusual light in the room.


In their excellent 2008 book, The Art of Dying, Dr. Peter Fenwick, a renowned British neuropsychiatrist, and Elizabeth Fenwick also discuss the “smoke,” “grey mist,” or “white mist” which leaves the body at death.  “Sometimes it will hover above the body before rising to disappear through the ceiling, and it is often associated with love, light, compassion, purity, and occasionally with heavenly music,” they write, adding that not everyone who is in the room sees it.

In his 1970 book, Out of the Body Experiences, Dr. Robert Crookall quotes Dr. R. B. Hout, a physician, who was present at the death of his aunt.  “My attention was called…to something immediately above the physical body, suspended in the atmosphere about two feet above the bed.  At first I could distinguish nothing more than a vague outline of a hazy, fog-like substance.  There seemed to be only a mist held suspended, motionless.  But, as I looked, very gradually there grew into my sight a denser, more solid, condensation of this inexplicable vapor.  Then I was astonished to see definite outlines presenting themselves, and soon I saw this fog-like substance was a assuming a human form.”

Such misty vapors and “lights” around the deathbed have been reported by other researchers, including Dr. Bernard Laubscher, a South African psychiatrist.  “I was told by different ‘Tant Sannies’ (caregivers) how while watching at the bedside of the dying one with one or two candles burning they had seen the formation of a faint vaporous body, an elongated whitish purplish-like cloud; parallel with the dying person and about two feet above the body,” Laubscher wrote in a 1975 book, Beyond Life’s Curtain.  “Gradually this cloudlike appearance became denser and took on the form, first vaguely and then more definitely, of the person in the bed.  This process continued until the phantom suspended above the body was an absolute replica of the person, especially the face.”

As Laubscher came to understand it, the vaporous material has the same makeup as ectoplasm, the mysterious substance given off by physical mediums before materializations.  It acts as sort of a “glue” in bonding the physical body with the spirit body, and the more materialistic a person the denser the ectoplasm and the more difficulty the person has in “giving up the ghost.”  Ectoplasm has also been referred to as teleplasm, psychoplasm and psychic force. 

Soul mist and ectoplasm may very well be the same thing that German chemist Baron Karl von Reichenbach (1788-1869) called odic force, or just od, or odyle. As I discussed in the November/December issue of Atlantis Rising magazine, it may have been the most important discovery in the history of mankind – a “life principle” that permeates all living things.  It has been likened to the prana of the ancient Hindus, the vis medicatrix naturae of Hippocrates, the mana of Polynesian culture, the chi of the Chinese, the astral light of the Kabbalists, the telesma of Hermes Trismegistus, the magnetic fluid of Mesmer, and the orogone energy of Reich. 

While Reichenbach was well respected in the scientific world, having discovered paraffin and creosote, and was considered one of the world’s foremost authorities on the subject of meteorites, his findings on od were rejected, even ridiculed, by mainstream science when first published in 1845, and they are forgotten or ignored today.

Reichenbach’s research involved studying a number of “sensitives” – people who today might be called clairvoyants or clairsentients – it did not include any kind of “spirit” intervention.  It focused on “mind-over-matter” tasks, such as identifying objects in a dark room, dowsing for water in an open field, and moving the needle of a compass without touching it – activities outside the normal five senses and in defiance of known science, what modern-day parapsychologists refer to as extra-sensory perception or ESP.

If soul mist, ectoplasm, and odic force are, in fact, one and the same thing or are related, they take on, as Moody reported, various densities – from a misty vapor to a foamy or slimy substance looking like shaving soap – flowing from one of the orifices of a so-called “medium” in an entranced state – from the mouth, ears, nostrils, vagina and even the pores.  Some of the photos show what are claimed to be materialized human forms – occasionally just a face or an arm – forming within the ectoplasm.

If we are to believe the debunkers and skeptics, ectoplasm is nothing more than cheesecloth stuffed into one or more of the cavities of the body and then regurgitated at an opportune time, the sole purpose being to dupe those present.  However, it is difficult to imagine cheesecloth being stuffed into the pores of the skin or in the nostrils or ears and then extruded from those orifices, then flowing on the floor.  (See photo of ectoplasm flowing from medium Kathleen Goligher as photographed by Dr. William J. Crawford, below).


It was Professor Charles Richet, the Nobel Prize in medicine in 1913 for his research on anaphylaxis, the sensitivity of the body to alien protein substance, who gave the name “ectoplasm” (exteriorized plasma) to the substance. “The word ‘ectoplasm,’ which I invented for the experiments with Eusapia (Paladino), seems entirely justified,” he wrote, explaining that it is a kind of gelatinous protoplasm, formless at first, that exudes from the body of the medium, and takes form later.  “In the early stages there are always white veils and milky patches and the faces, fingers, and drawings are formed little by little in the midst of this kind of gelatinous paste that resembles moist and sticky muslin.”

Richet mentioned that there are stages in the materialization process.  “[First,] a whitish steam, perhaps luminous, taking the shape of gauze or muslin, in which there develops a hand or an arm that gradually gains consistency.  This ectoplasm makes personal movements.  It creeps, rises from the ground, and puts forth tentacles like an amoeba.  It is not always connected with the body of the medium but usually emanates from her, and is connected with her.”  The flat materializations, which skeptics pointed to as obvious evidence of fraud, came, Richet explained, in the rudimentary phase, a sort of rough draft in the phase of building up.

That ectoplasm is a scientific fact, Richet had no doubt, though he called it “absurd.”  “Spiritualists have blamed me for using this word ‘absurd’ and have not been able to understand that to admit the reality of these phenomena was to me an actual pain,” he explained his position. “But to ask a physiologist, a physicist, or a chemist to admit that a form that has a circulation of blood, warmth, and muscles, that exhales carbonic acid, has weight, speaks, and thinks, can issue from a human body is to ask of him an intellectual effort that is really painful.  Yes, it is absurd, but no matter – it is true.”

A century after Richet’s discoveries, mainstream science still laughs at it all.  How sad! 

Next blog post:  January 16

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.


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Was it really the spirit of President Lincoln?

Posted on 19 December 2016, 18:14

A recent Travel Channel program discussed the purported spirit photo taken by medium William Mumler sometime in 1871, showing what appears to be the spirit of Abraham Lincoln standing behind his widow Mary Lincoln, (below) his hands resting on her shoulders.

There is a very vague image of a second spirit believed to be that of Tad, the Lincolns’ deceased son, standing to the left of his father. The concluding remarks of the television commentator were to the effect that Mumler was likely a fraud, superimposing a negative of Lincoln onto the negative of Mary’s sitting. 


As might be expected, Wikipedia and several other web sites fully support the television commentator in making Mumler out to be a fraud or trickster.  Wikipedia calls upon Joe Nickell as an authority on the subject – a man not born until some 60 years after Mumler’s death.  Nickell and others offer some hearsay “evidence” in support of Mumler being a trickster, no doubt about it. 

I admit to being skeptical, but as I now see it, the evidence favoring Mumler is more credible and outweighs the testimony against him. “Of course, the many believed Mr. Mumler an impostor, but no evidence of this was ever adduced, and now, after a lapse of years, we cannot learn that any one who knows him personally can harbor a doubt of his honesty,” wrote Epes Sargent, one of the leading psychical researchers and authors of the nineteenth century.  He quotes William Guay, an experienced photographer from New York, who closely investigated Mumler, and observed the photographic process from beginning to end.  Guay had his own photo taken and was astonished when he saw two photos come out of the developing process, one of his wife and one of his father.  “It is impossible,” Guay is quoted, “for Mr. Mumler to have procured any pictures of my wife and father.  The likeness of my father is clear and perfect; that of my wife is not.”

According to Sargent, most of the spirits in Mumler’s photos were vague and not always recognized by the sitter.  Such imperfect photos led to the charges of fraud, but as anyone who has studied mediumship with an open mind knows, the quality of a phenomenon varies significantly and is usually due to the inability of the communicating spirit to effectively project his or her thought or image through the veil separating the earth vibration from the spirit world vibration, though at times it is due to the medium not being powerful enough support a spirit’s attempt to communicate or materialize.  In the materialization phenomenon, there were a few who could project near perfect likenesses of themselves into the ectoplasm produced by the medium and many others who failed badly, sometimes looking more like mannequins or carnival dolls than real people.  Many could not materialize at all. It follows that in spirit photography some would be of good quality and others of poor quality, probably most of poor quality. 

“I expressed a doubt of the genuineness of the spirit-photographs got through Mr. Mumler, of Boston,” Sargent wrote.  “My doubt was founded on words of his own, reported to me by hearers whose good faith I could not question.  When taunted with trickery he had replied without resentment in language that left the impression that he was not guiltless.  I am now convinced that the impression did him injustice.  He knew that serious denial would be of no avail, and so he parried the chaffing of skeptics with words that were misinterpreted.”  (Like, “Sure, it’s all a trick, if that is what you want to believe and if it makes you feel better.”) 

Sargent also reported that a photographer named Gurney followed Mumler step-by-step through the whole photographic and developing process and was likewise convinced that no trickery was involved. 

Dr. James Coates reported on a number of spirit photographers in his 1911 book, “Photographing the Invisible.”  He recorded that other reputable photographers were called in to observe Mumler and expose him, but none of them detected fraud. He also mentions that Mr. P.V. Hickey of the New York World attempted to expose Mumler as a fraud and succeeded in having him prosecuted, since the photo he received was “a dim, indistinct outline of a ghostly face staring out of one corner.”  Mumler identified it as the man’s father-in-law, but Hickey claimed it was neither his father-in-law nor anyone else he knew. 

One of many witnesses testifying on behalf of Mumler in the criminal action was John W. Edmonds, former chief justice of the New York State Supreme Court, who said he knew many people who had visited Mumler “with astonishing success in procuring spirit pictures of departed friends.”  Also testifying for Mumler was C. F. Livermore, a prominent lawyer, who said that he saw two spirit figures on a photograph taken of him, one of which he recognized and the other which he did not recognize.  Livermore had a number of other sittings with Mumler, some resulting in failures, some in shadowy backgrounds, but one which he clearly recognized.  Based on the testimony of Edmonds, Livermore and others, Mumler was exonerated.

Coates reports that Mrs. Lincoln went to Mumler anonymously and with a veil over her face, giving her name as Mrs. Tyndall (although it is otherwise reported she gave the name Lindall).  Mumler claims he did not know who she was and even when he showed the print to Mrs. Lincoln he did not recognize the spirit figure as President Lincoln.  But there are many unanswered questions regarding the Lincoln image, including: 

1. Did Mumler even know that Mary Lincoln was visiting Boston at the time?  Could someone have tipped him off to Mrs. Lincoln’s intended visit from her home in Springfield, Illinois, so that he could have somehow acquired a negative of President Lincoln? 

2. Can we assume that Mumler was truthful in saying he did not recognize Mary Lincoln?  Mumler apparently photographed her seven years earlier when she visited Boston while still living in the White House.  However, she understandably appears to have aged more than seven years and is more plump and homely in the 1971 photograph. It needs to be kept in mind that this was for the most part before photo journalism and we cannot assume that people were reminded daily of what a president’s wife looked like, as we are today by newspapers and television.  Portrait photography did not become popular until the 1850s and only a few portraits of Mary Lincoln existed at the time.   

3. Did Mumler have a negative of Abraham Lincoln available to superimpose on the negative with Mary Lincoln?  If so, where did he get it?  This was at a time when such negatives and photos were likely not readily available.  Should we assume that Mumler kept stock negatives and photos of many famous people in case relatives showed up for photographs?  It was reported that Mumler did not do his own developing at the time and Mary Lincoln returned three days later to pick up the photograph, certainly enough time for Mumler to have somehow come up with an image of the sixteenth president.  One must wonder why he did his own developing for William Guay and Gurney, but sent the plates out for developing to an independent contractor with Mrs. Lincoln. Perhaps his business had picked up so much by 1971 that it was more profitable to have others do the developing and printing for him, giving him time for more portraits.   

4.  Has a photo of Lincoln in that particular pose ever been identified?  As near as I can determine, none has.  An argument can be made that it is not clearly the former president and that Mumler had stock negatives of many people, including at least one of a person resembling Lincoln.  Then again, we know from the materialization phenomenon that spirits tend to project more idealized images of themselves and at times don’t recall exactly what they looked like when in the earth life and thus sometimes project images that are not recognized by living relatives.  Several spirit messages coming through credible mediums indicate that spirits had to return to their old homes to view photographs of themselves to remind themselves of what they looked like before being able to project their images into ectoplasm and thereby materialize.  Many people who lived before photography didn’t really have a fixed image of themselves to grab on to in projecting an image for materialization or for a photographic plate.  (Would you know what you looked like at age seven if you had never seen a photograph of yourself as a child?)

5. What about all the quality spirit photos produced by Mumler, as noted by Judge Edmonds and others?  How did Mumler acquire the photos of deceased relatives and friends?  Did he know the people were coming to his studio beforehand, then break into their homes and steal photos from the mantel?  Did he have a portable copying machine to reproduce the photo and return it to its frame so that the customer would not have been suspicious?  Again, this was during the 1860s and 1870s, long before copying machines existed?  (I first saw a copying machine in 1962, and that produced only wet copies that had to be hung up with clothes pins to dry.) 

The Wallace Spirit Photos

Should we also assume that Alfred Russel Wallace, the biologist who was co-originator with Charles Darwin of the natural selection theory of evolution, was easily duped?  On March 14, 1874, Wallace visited a professional photographer in England with Mrs. Guppy, a medium and personal friend, in hopes of obtaining a spirit photo.  In the first photo, a half-figure of a man holding a sword appeared.  Wallace could not identify the man.  In the second photo, a full-length figure appeared looking down at him while holding a bunch of flowers. The third plate showed a female figure right in front of him. “I saw all the plates developed, and in each case the additional figure started out the moment the developing fluid was poured on, while my portrait did not become visible till, perhaps twenty seconds later,” Wallace reported. “I recognized none of these figures in the negatives, but the moment I got the proofs, the first glance showed me that the third plate contained an unmistakable portrait of my mother – like her in both features and expression, not such a likeness as a portrait taken during life, but a somewhat pensive, idealized likeness – yet still, to me, an unmistakable likeness.”

Wallace and Mother

Wallace still was unable to identify the swordsman in the first photo, but the second photo, while somewhat indistinct, also appeared to be his mother.  He showed the two photos to his sister and she agreed. “How these two figures, with these special peculiarities of a person totally unknown to [the photographer] could appear on his plates, I should be glad to have explained,” Wallace wrote.  “Even if he had by some means obtained possession of all the photographs ever taken of my mother, they would not have been of the slightest use to him in the manufacture of these pictures.  I see no escape from the conclusion that some spiritual being acquainted with my mother’s various aspects during life, produced these recognizable impressions on the plate.  That she herself still lives and produced these figures may not be proved; but it is a more simple and natural explanation to think that she did so, than to suppose that we are surrounded by beings who carry out an elaborate series of impostures for no apparent purpose than to dupe us into a belief in a continued existence after death.”  Wallace stressed that he was in the dark room when the plates were developed and saw the images take form.
What can we believe?  Can we even believe in evolution as advanced by Darwin and Wallace?  Take a look at Keith Parson’s latest you-tube before answering that one.  It can be found here.

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.


Next blog post:  January 2

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Life After Death: If I could keep only 30 books

Posted on 05 December 2016, 9:34

After reading my last blog post about the mediumship and psychical research of yesteryear and why I value it so highly, a friend suggested that I recommend books from that era.  I started to make a list of my “Top 10” books before 1950 once before, but never quite finished it because I quickly realized that the books vary so much that I had to categorize them and come up with several lists.  There are those that offer evidence, those that offer afterlife experiences and some that provide a combination of both.  The most informative books are not always the most interesting books and the most interesting or entertaining book are not necessarily the most informative.  As I started making my lists, I realized that there was much overlap in the categories and wasn’t sure which list a particular book belonged on.  So I abandoned my attempt to come up with several lists.

Recently, however, my wife and I were thinking about downsizing from a house to a condominium.  It became obvious that storage in the condo would be a problem and that there would be no space for my thousand or more books.  That got me to thinking if I had to get rid of all my old books, maybe keeping just 30 of them from before 1950, enough to fill two shelves, which ones I would keep. For what it’s worth, here is my list in order of preference.  Many of these books are still available at such places as, and reproductions of several are available right here at White Crow, as indicated with an asterisk. 

1.  Glimpses of the Next State: The Education of an Agnostic, by William Usborne Moore (1911)*  – Moore a retired British Navy admiral, explores the world of mediumship in both Great Britain and the United States, witnessing some of the best mediums of his time.  He comes to understand why the non-believers don’t get it. 

2. Forty Years of Psychic Research by Hamlin Garland (1936) – It’s really a toss-up between this book and Moore’s book for number one. Garland, a Pulitzer Prize winner, witnessed mediums of all types, physical and mental, and a combination of both, and presents it all in a manner that is quite convincing.

3. The Voices by William Usborne Moore (1913)* – This is a sequel to number one above, focusing on the direct-voice mediumship of Etta Wriedt, possibly the best medium on record.  The person who can’t accept Moore’s accounts of Wriedt will never accept anything.

4.  The Mystery of the Buried Crosses by Hamlin Garland (1939)* – A mind-boggling search, as directed by spirits through a medium, for artifacts buried in California by Indians. 

5.  Psychic Adventures in New York by Neville Whymant (1931)* – The author, a skeptical professor of linguistics who speaks 30 languages, communicates with spirits in 14 different languages, including Chinese.  Short but powerful! 

6. The Case of Patience Worth by Walter Franklin Prince (1927) – This is a comprehensive report on the investigation of medium Pearl Curran and the entity calling herself Patience Worth, who dictated many books, poems, and aphorisms through Curran.

7.  On the Cosmic Relations by Henry Holt (1914)  – Two volumes with 988 pages covering the early research of the Society for Psychical Research, including the American branch, with much focus on the research involving Leonora Piper and the research of Richard Hodgson.

8. Raymond or Life and Death by Sir Oliver Lodge (1916) – A distinguished physicist tells of his many contacts with his son Raymond, who died on the WWI battlefield, through several mediums.  This was a best-seller in its day.

9. There is No Death by Florence Marryat (1891) – A renowned British author reports on her investigation of mediums, mostly physical mediums with many materializations of deceased loved ones. 

10.  Spiritualism by John Edmonds and George T. Dexter, M.D. (1853) – A New York Supreme Court judge and a physician investigate mediumship and become mediums themselves.  Much wisdom comes from the spirits of Emanuel Swedenborg and Francis Bacon in two volumes and more than a thousand pages.

11.  Life After Death: Problems of the Future Life and Its Nature, by James H. Hyslop, Ph.D., LL.D.  (1918) – Professor Hyslop was probably the most knowledgeable psychical researcher ever.  He discusses evidence and the obstacles to understanding and accepting the evidence.

12. The Spirits’ Book, by Allan Kardec (1857) – Much communication from the spirit world as to how things work on their side and how spirits interact with us.

13. Spirit Teachings, by William Stainton Moses (1883) and More Spirit Teachings (1892) – An Anglican priest reluctantly becomes a medium and gives us even more clues as to how things work on the Other Side.

14. The Widow’s Mite and Other Psychic Phenomena, by Isaac Funk (1904) – A famous publisher investigates mediumistic phenomena and turns up some startling evidence. 

15. Dawn of the Awakened Mind, by John S. King, M.D. (1920) – A Canadian physician witnesses some amazing phenomena. 

16. The Road to Immortality, by Geraldine Cummins (1932) – Frederic W. H. Myers, a pioneer of psychical research, communicates via automatic writing as to what he has experienced since his death in 1901.

17.  Experiments in Psychical Science, by W. J. Crawford, D.Sc. (1919) – This book and three others by Crawford explain what physical mediumship is all about. 

18. Science and a Future Life, by James H. Hyslop, Ph.D., LL.D. (1905) – Professor Hyslop’s first book tells of his earliest experiences in psychical research as well as those of Richard Hodgson.

19. Personality Survives Death, by Florence Barrett, M.D. (1937) – Sir William Barrett, one of the pioneers of psychical research communicates with his widow through the mediumship of Gladys Osborne Leonard, explaining the difficulties he has in communicating and what life on his side is like. 

20. The Betty Book, by Stewart Edward White (1937) – Betty White tells of her development as a medium between 1919 and 1936 and takes excursions into the world of other-consciousness. 

21.  The Unobstructed Universe, by Stewart Edward White (1940) – Betty White transitions and begins communicating from the Other Side. 

22.  Thirty Years of Psychical Research, by Charles Richet, Ph.D. (1923) – A Nobel Prize winner reports on his investigation of various mediums, including Eusapia Paladino.

23. Letters from a Living Dead Man, by Elsa Barker (1915)* – A deceased California judge reports on his new life on the Other Side.

24.  On the Edge of the Etheric, by Arthur Findlay (1931) – A British businessman investigates mediumship and discovers the key to what awaits all after physical death.

25.  From Matter to Spirit: The Result of Ten Years’ Experience in Spirit Manifestations by Sophia Elizabeth De Morgan (1863)  – The author and her husband, Augustus De Morgan, a world famous mathematician and logician, report on their investigation of mediumship and other psychic phenomena.

26.  The Book on Mediums, by Allan Kardec (1874) – Kardec provides much detail on how mediumship works.

27. Experimental Investigation of the Spirit Manifestations, by Robert Hare (1855) – A University of Pennsylvania chemistry professor sets out to debunk mediums, only to discover many genuine mediums and become a medium himself.

28.  Perspectives in Psychical Research, by Alfred Russel Wallace (1875) – Wallace, co-originator with Charles Darwin of the natural selection theory of evolution, investigates mediumship and discovers it is real.

29.  Towards the Stars, by H. Dennis Bradley (1924) – A popular British playwright investigates mediums and communicates with his deceased sister and many others.

30.  The Boy Who Saw True, by Cyril Scott (1953) – This one exceeds the 1950 cutoff date by three years, but it is close enough that I have to list it, since it is the most entertaining of them all. 

All that said, we decided against downsizing for now and so I get to keep all my books.

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.

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15 Reasons Why We Keep Reinventing the Wheel?

Posted on 21 November 2016, 10:23

Every now and then, someone asks why I write so much about the mediumship and psychical research of a hundred or more years ago and not more about the research going on today.  I explain that I believe the mediumship of old was much more dynamic than that of today and that the research carried out by a number of distinguished scientists and scholars of yesteryear offers evidence that is far superior to that being developed today.  As evidential as it was, it was pretty much ignored back then and it has been filed away in dust-covered cabinets so that very few people today are aware of it.  Even many modern day parapsychologists are unaware of much of it.

Many who are aware of the old research don’t understand it because of its complexities.  It is like a one-thousand word jigsaw puzzle; the picture doesn’t begin to take shape until about 80 percent the pieces are in place and it is not fully appreciated until the puzzle is completed.  Most people don’t go beyond the marginal pieces before concluding that it is too difficult and then giving up on it.     

That is not to suggest that the little research going on today with clairvoyants or the research in the area of the near-death experience hasn’t added to the evidence or is not of value, only that it is for the most part reinventing the wheel.  The old research produced a solid wheel, but the newer research has tightened the spokes. Further, today’s research is much more meaningful if one first digests and understands the old research. 

So why wasn’t the old research more widely accepted when it was developed and why is it ignored today?  The answer is not a simple one.  As I see it, there are 15 basic reasons for its rejection and the current ignorance of it:

1.  Religious Fundamentalism:  Most of orthodox religion saw mediumship as a demonic practice, based primarily on misinterpreted passages in the Old Testament, such as Deuteronomy 18:12 and Ecclesiastes 9:5.  Adding fuel to the fire was the fact that some messages coming through mediums conflicted with various Church dogma and doctrine.  The position of orthodoxy remains much the same today as it was in the days of the pioneers of psychical research, thereby discouraging people who accept survival on nothing more than blind faith from moving on to true faith or conviction. 

2. Scientism (Scientific Fundamentalism):  The evidence for survival was ignored or scoffed at by “mainstream” scientists and referred to as pseudo science because it challenged the materialistic worldview that had been accepted by so many “intelligent” men and women who had dedicated themselves to scientific inquiry and advancement, beginning with the Age of Reason and later strongly reinforced by Darwinism.  In effect, the acceptance of a “spiritualistic” worldview was seen as a return to the superstitions and follies of religion, and sanctioning it would have destroyed the foundation of the materialistic/mechanistic worldview and leave the majority of respected scientists and rational thinkers, especially professors who championed the materialistic worldview in academic institutions, embarrassed and humiliated.  Little has changed in this regard.  In effect, psychical research, what is left of it, was and still is caught between a rock and a hard place – between Religion and Science, leaving very few independent and open-minded people to examine, consider and appreciate the best evidence. 

3.  Media Bias & Ignorance: Journalists like to think of themselves as intelligent investigators and so naturally align themselves with Science.  At the same time, exposing shams and fraudulent schemes lends itself to sensationalism and makes for good copy.  Then, as now, the media frequently addressed any subject involving spirits as “woo-woo” stuff while putting a humorous or cynical twist of one kind or another on any story suggesting spirits of the dead.  In addition, today’s television producers don’t understand the “balance” issue.  When a researcher validates a medium, the producers seem to think they have to get a debunker involved in the program to counter the researcher, not taking into account the fact that the researcher has already dealt with and discounted the skeptical arguments. 

4. Fear:  Indications are that many scientists and scholars were invited by researchers to observe certain mediums, but some feared for their reputation if word were to get out that they were “dabbling in the occult” and therefore refused.  There were a number, however, who accepted the invitations and observed genuine phenomena, but, with the same fears, they remained silent, not offering support for the more courageous researchers.  Sir David Brewster, a famous nineteenth century physicist known especially for his contributions to the optics field, is said to have witnessed D. D. Home, one of the most famous physical mediums of his time, being levitated (lifted by spirits).  Although seemingly quite impressed at the time, he later concluded that the only explanation was a trick he did not understand, or a delusion.  “Spirit is the last thing I will give in to,” he was quoted.  Such a mindset continues to exist.

5.  Machismo:  Various history books suggest that men of a century ago looked upon spiritual beliefs as a “woman thing.”  Men smoked cigars, drank whiskey, fought in wars, governed countries and managed businesses.  Religion had been impeached and such dreamy foolishness as spirits and angels was best left to the ladies.  A man’s afterlife was his legacy of earthly accomplishments and he was expected to greet his extinction with a stiff upper lip.  While women have significantly closed the gender gap since the Victorian era, machismo still seems to play a part in spiritual beliefs, as various surveys indicate that women are more inclined, generally, to believe in God and an afterlife than men. 

6.  The Causality Dilemma:  The religionist, the scientist, the media and the general public all seem to assume that we must come up with proof of God before dealing with the survival issue.  No God, no afterlife, is the atheist’s illogical reasoning. It is a deductive approach.  The inductive approach of first looking at the evidence for survival might lead one to believe in a God, whether anthropomorphic (humanlike) or some abstract form of cosmic consciousness, but a belief in the survival of consciousness does not require that one begin with a belief in God. 

7.  Too Much Variety:  There were and are many different kinds of mediumship, basically falling in three categories – physical, mental and a combination of the two.  The physical mediumship of yesteryear included full materializations of spirit forms, partial materializations, e.g., a hand only, a face only, apports and levitations, while the mental type included tilting and turning tables, the Ouija board,  trance-voice, direct-voice, direct writing, automatic writing and slate writing.  There were mediums who were proficient at one kind and had no ability in other kinds. There were simply too many variables for the few researchers to deal with.  They focused more on the trance mental mediumship.  It was all just too bizarre and unworldly for most people.  Today’s debunkers claim that the very fact we don’t have or hear about so much variety today is because it was all bunk. 
There are, however, a number of reasons to explain why it is not as dynamic today as it was then, but that is the subject of a future blog. 

8.  Semantics Issues:  A recent Internet news source discussed modern television ghost hunters, people who go around haunted houses and graveyards looking for cold spots and energy fields, as being like the pioneering psychical researchers.  However, there is as much similarity between the two as there is between croquet players and professional baseball players.  Most people don’t know the difference between a psychic and a medium and they lump gypsy fortune tellers, tarot card readers, witch doctors, astrologers, psychics and mediums all together.  If they can’t predict the winner of the upcoming derby or come up with the winning lottery number, they must be frauds.  The only mediums they know about are the clairvoyants they have seen on television.

9.  Fraud: As the Spiritualism epidemic of the late nineteenth century grew, so did the number of charlatans – people pretending to have mediumistic ability by employing various tricks.  Even some legitimate mediums are said to have turned to tricks when their powers failed them in order to not disappoint those present.  Many magicians, including the great Houdini, came forward to explain how certain phenomena “could have” or “might have” been accomplished by clever sleight of hand or other deception. While Professor William James of Harvard said that Leonora Piper was his “one white crow,” the one who proved that all crows aren’t black, the more skeptical mind reasoned the other way: one black crow proved that all crows are black. 

10.  The Roving Subconscious:  A goodly number of the pioneers of psychical research came to believe in the reality of psychic phenomena but remained skeptical on the survival and spirit issues.  They hypothesized that a “secondary personality” buried in the medium’s subconscious telepathically picked up the thoughts of the sitters, somehow processed those thoughts, and intelligently communicated information as if it were coming from a deceased person.  When information came through unknown to the sitters, the researchers speculated that the medium could tap into the minds of anyone in the world, referring to this form of advanced telepathy as teloteropathy.  When that didn’t completely explain it, they further speculated that there is some kind of “cosmic reservoir” from which the medium’s subconscious can access information.  Later researchers bundled it all up and called it superpsi.  But the most experienced psychical researchers ruled it out as there was too much personality and too much volition to dismiss it as anything other than spirit communication. Moreover, the pioneering researchers could see no logical reason why these so-called secondary personalities of mediums from different continents would all pretend to be spirits of the dead.  How did all these secondary personalities collaborate in this worldwide deception? To what end?

11.  Harmony & Impatience: The early history of mediumship clearly indicates the need for harmony in mediumistic settings. Many are the reports in which those sitting with a medium would sing or pray in order to establish the necessary harmonious conditions.  In order to produce phenomena, the spirits are said to have required the medium to be in a passive state, one apparently best achieved with music and prayer.  Some mediums could achieve the required state within a few minutes, but there were times when it took an hour or longer for anything to happen and there were many times when a proven medium simply couldn’t produce at all on a particular night because the conditions weren’t right or she had too much nervous energy holding her back. Negativity by the observers defeated good results.  Some observers who got nothing on the medium’s bad night wrote off the person as a fraud and indications are that many true mediums were so disparaged. 

12.  Too Hokey:  So much of physical mediumship seemed weird and exceeded the boggle threshold of nearly everyone.  Some materializations looked like mannequins or dummies; some were flat; some didn’t look like the person he or she claimed to have been.  Often, there was only a face or a hand.  The fact that most mediums required darkness added to the belief that it was all fraudulent.  Even many of the researchers who accepted mental mediumship had a difficult time accepting physical mediumship.  But those who stuck with it long enough came to understand what the problems are.  So much of it is imperfect thought-projection from the spirit world, while much also depends on the strength of the medium to produce the necessary odic force, or ectoplasm. 

13.  Too Much Gibberish:  Even with the best of mediums, there was much vagueness and ambiguity, even gibberish, in the communication.  Skeptics saw all this as evidence that the so-called mediums were charlatans, as they assumed that if spirits really exist they should be able to communicate in a much more intelligent and effective manner. But, as the more experienced researchers came to understand, the subconscious of the medium is a factor and often distorts the message as it is filtered through her or his brain.  Also, sprits themselves are limited in their ability to effectively communicate.  It takes much practice on their side and development on our side.  Here again, much of the communication was by thought-projection and symbolic, thus resulting in different interpretations.  Often, low-level spirits got involved and completely muddled the communication.

14.  Trivialities:  Many of the early researchers, including William James, wondered why so much of what came through mediums was of such a trivial nature, like what happened to Uncle George’s watch or the location of a birthmark.  Why didn’t they talk about the nature of reality, what it is like on their side of the veil, etc.?  The fact is that much of the early communication did address more profound subjects.  The writings of Judge John Edmonds, Dr. George Dexter, Professor Robert Hare, Educator Allan Kardec, and Rev. William Stainton Moses offer very comprehensive reports on the greater reality,  but it was not evidential.  It was the trivial message that was evidential. 

15. False Assumptions: The assumption seems to be that spirits, if they exist, are all equal in the “heaven” of orthodox religion, and are “all-knowing” and therefore they should all agree with each other. The fact that they disagree on some things, especially on the subject of reincarnation, suggests fraud.  However, as the pioneering researchers came to understand, spirits are at different levels of advancement, some not knowing any more now than they did when alive in the flesh.  Moreover, low-level spirits find it easier to communicate with us because they are closer in vibration to humans than the advanced spirits.  At the lowest levels, the spirits don’t really know how little they know and therefore often give incorrect information.  It has been likened to an alien from another planet landing in the jungles of New Guinea and reporting back home that humans are all very primitive in their ways.

In conclusion, to borrow from Stewart Edward White, a renowned author from the early twentieth century, the spirits showed us much of the landscape they traverse and provided us with a “highway going on for eternity.”  And although we cannot discern the end of the Road, “we are able to make out, through the mists, at the least the lay of the land” through which we will continue our journey.  This life can be so much more fulfilling and enjoyable by recognizing that we are not all marching toward an abyss of nothingness, that life does have meaning and that much of that meaning can be found in overcoming adversity.  It was to that end that the pioneering psychical researchers dedicated themselves, and the primary purpose of this blog is to help in some little way to make their work better understood and appreciated.

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.

Next blog post:  Dec. 5

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Amazing Materializations Reported

Posted on 07 November 2016, 9:43

In her 1893 book, There is No Death, now available on Kindle, Florence Marryat, (below) a popular British author, journalist, editor, and playwright, tells of observing numerous séances with physical mediums, including Florence Cook, best remembered as being a test subject for Sir William Crookes, the renowned British chemist.  Various references suggest that Crookes was simply duped by the teenaged medium, but if Marryat is to be believed there is no doubt that Florence Cook was the real deal.  (Yes, both were named Florence.) 


Beginning in 1873, Marryat observed phenomena with Cook on a number of occasions and became a close friend.  During her first visit with Cook, she states that she was sitting at a dining table with approximately 30 people when the table was levitated, the bottom of the table, with everything upon it, rising to about knee level.

At one sitting, Katie King, the spirit who materialized from the ectoplasm given off by Cook, was asked why she could not appear in the light of more than one gas-burner.  Katie explained that she didn’t understand herself why she couldn’t but told the sitters to add more light and to see what happens.  Marryat recorded:

“She took up her station against the drawing-room wall, with her arms extended as if she were crucified. Then the gas-burners were turned on to their full extent ... The effect upon ‘Katie King’ was marvelous.  She looked like herself for the space of a second only, then she began gradually to melt away.  I can compare the dematerialization of her form to nothing but a wax doll melting before a hot fire.  First, the features became blurred and indistinct; they seemed to run into each other.  The eyes sank in the sockets, the nose disappeared, the frontal bone fell in.  Next the limbs appeared to give way under her, and she sank lower and lower on the carpet like a crumbling edifice.  At last there was nothing but her head left above the ground – then a heap of white drappery only, which disappeared with a whisk, as if a hand had pulled it after her – and we were left staring by the light of three gas-burners at the spot on which ‘Katie King’ had stood.” 

At one sitting, Katie King invited Marryat and the other sitters to cut off a piece of her dress, place it in an envelope, and take it home.  They complied, but all reported that when they got home the envelopes were empty. 

Florence Cook materialization 

Marryat’s introduction to mediumship and Spiritualism came in February 1873, when she and a friend, Annie Thomas, had a sitting with a Mrs. Holmes, an American medium visiting London.  They attended anonymously.  It took some time before anything happened, but as they were growing tired of waiting, they saw something white and indistinct, “like a cloud of tobacco smoke, or a bundle of gossamer,”  Marryat reported:

“The white mass advanced and retreated several times, and finally settled before the aperture and opened in the middle, when a female face was distinctly to be seen above the calico.  What was our amazement was to recognize the features of Mrs. Thomas, Annie’s mother ... I had known Mrs. Thomas well, and recognized her at once, as, of course, did her daughter ... Poor Annie was very much affected, and talked to her mother in the most incoherent manner.  The spirit did not appear able to answer in words, but she bowed her head or shook it, according as she wished to say ‘yes’ or ‘no.’ I could not help feeling awed at the appearance of the dear old lady….  It was some time before Annie could be persuaded to let her mother go, but the next face that presented itself astonished her quite as much, for she recognized it as that of Captain Gordon, a gentleman whom she had known intimately and for a length of time ...  All I saw was the head of a good-looking, fair, young man, and not feeling any personal interest in his appearance, I occupied the time during which my friend conversed with him about olden days, by minutely examining the working of the muscles of his throat, which undeniably stretched when his head moved….”

While visiting the United States in 1884, Marryat anonymously attended a séance with Mrs. M. A. Williams in New York City.  The medium said that a spirit was there who had come for a lady named “Florence,” who had just come across the sea.  Before Marryat could respond, her deceased daughter, also named Florence, who had died as an infant but was in spirit a young woman, came running across the room and fell into her arms, kissing her constantly. “Mother!” she exclaimed, “I said I would come with you and look after you didn’t I?”  Marryat wrote:

“I looked at her.  She was exactly the same in appearance as when she had come to me in England – the same luxuriant brown hair and features and figure, as I had seen under the different mediumships of Florence Cook, Arthur Colman, Charles Williams and William Eglinton; the same form which in England had been declared to be half a dozen different media dressed up to represent my daughter, stood before me there in New York, thousand of miles across the sea, and by the power of a person who did not even know who I was.  If I had not been convinced before, how could I have helped being convinced then?”

Marryat added that she witnessed 40 other materializations that night, all speaking distinctly and audibly, more so than she had ever witnessed in England. She concluded that the dry atmosphere of the United States was more favorable to the materialization phenomenon than that of England.

At a sitting with Eva Hatch in Boston, Marryat, also attending under a pseudonym, was astonished when the medium asked if anyone named “Bluebell” was present in the room.  That was the pet name given to her by her brother-in-law, Edward “Ted” Church, who had died some 10 years earlier.  However, Marryat was then greeted by her daughter, Florence. Marryat asked her why she referred to her as “Bluebell.” The story continued:

“She did not answer me, except by shaking her head, placing her finger on her lips, and pointing downward to the carpet.  I did not know what to make of it.  I had never known her unable to articulate before. ‘What is the matter, dear?’ I said; ‘can’t you speak to me to-night?’ Still she shook her head, and tapped my arm with her hand, to attract my attention to the fact she was pointing vigorously downwards.  I looked down, too, when to my astonishment I saw rise through the carpet what looked to me like the bald head of a baby or an old man, and a little figure, not more than three feet in height, with Edward Church’s features, but no hair on its head, came gradually into view, and looked up in my face with a pitiful, deprecating expression, as if he were afraid I would strike him.  The face, however, was so unmistakably Ted’s, though the figure was so ludicrously insignificant, that I could not fail to recognize him.  ‘Why, Ted!’ I exclaimed, ‘have you come back to see me at last?’ and held out my hand. The little figure seized it, tried to convey it to his lips, burst into tears, and sank down through the carpet much more rapidly than he had come up.” 

Daughter Florence explained that Uncle Ted was so overcome at seeing her that he couldn’t materialize better. Two nights later, Marryat returned for another sitting with Mrs. Hatch.  This time, Florence and Ted both came, Ted at full height and with a full head of hair, parted just as he used to wear it when alive in the flesh.  However, Ted was unable to speak, Florence explaining that he was too weak to do so.

There is only a small sampling of the mind-boggling phenomena set forth by Florence Marryat in this book.  While the skeptic may have no alternative but to claim that the book is a work of fiction, like most of Marryat’s other 60-plus books, such a theory seems extremely far-fetched.  There is too much earnestness and sincerity in her writing and too many other living people (when the book was published) mentioned in the book who could have refuted her words to believe that this was anything but a factual account of her experiences. “Every word I have written is the honest and unbiased truth,” she ends the book.  I find it difficult to believe that a woman of her reputation would have had a motive to make it all up or even embellish it to any great extent.  This book as well as a second book on the same subject – The Spirit World, released in 1894 – were published well after she had established herself as a renowned writer. 

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.

Next blog post:  November 21


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NDE on the Battlefield: Going Far Beyond John Wayne

Posted on 24 October 2016, 9:53

Sometime during or around April 1969, I was sitting in an open-air theater on the roof of a three- or four-story building occupied by the USO (United Services Organizations) in central Saigon.  Every few minutes, the skies about 20 miles or more away – to the southeast, I think – would light up and we’d hear bombs exploding, as the building we were sitting atop of rattled a little. It was somewhat surreal as the movie we were watching was “The Green Berets,” starring John Wayne. It was about the Vietnam War, the very war that was lighting the skies and shaking our building.  I recall thinking about how strange it was that I was watching a movie about a war that I could see taking place in the distance.  I wondered where reality began and left off. 

As I read If Morning Never Comes: A Soldier’s Near-Death Experience on the Battlefield, recently released by White Crow Books, I wondered if Bill Vandenbush, the author, was seeing and hearing the same thing that I did that very night, because it was during April 1969 that he suffered severe combat wounds and had a near-death experience somewhere south of Saigon, the victim of friendly bombs dropped in the wrong place. Perhaps he had already been air-evacuated to a military hospital in Japan by that time or maybe it was just before his body was torn apart and he had his NDE.  He may have been sloshing his way through some rice paddy on a patrol mission.  My military days were well over by that time and I was in Vietnam in a civilian capacity while visiting some military camps around the country.  The Viet Cong didn’t seem to concern themselves with Americans in civilian clothes and in non-military vehicles with local drivers. 

During his youth, Vandenbush idolized John Wayne, seeing him as the ultimate warrior, even though Wayne never spent a day in the military. “I had grown up in the John Wayne generation, learning about war from the Hollywood perspective where every man was a hero and every soldier was adored by his nation and its people,” he writes.  “I was greatly influenced by John Wayne’s macho image and the respect he commanded.  In the movies, John Wayne was always a hero.”

But after Vandenbush joined the Army in 1968 he began to realize that it was not nearly as glamorous as Hollywood made it out to be.  “The horror, the evil, the violence, the blood, guts, and death of war are so far removed from living and training in the U.S. that it was impossible to fully grasp the significance and long-term effect of that experience without being there,” he continues, adding that it never occurred to him how horrific it would be when he saw his friends die or how traumatic it would be to shoot at a real person.  Nevertheless, there was still a little Boy Scout in him and he expected, at age 18, that it was all part of becoming a man.

Bill having a beer at a Firebase in the mountains west of Quang Ngai

He recalls that on his first patrol his mouth became dry and he began to sweat profusely.  When he couldn’t sweat anymore, it felt like his body was on fire.  “I started to shake and felt like my head was coming apart.  We had only been walking about ten minutes but every step was pure torture ... I was hyperventilating and I had dry heaves; my heart was pounding loudly and I couldn’t control my fear.  I thought I was going to die of fright.  Never in my short life had I felt so much fear.” 

In a matter of time, however, his fear was replaced by a sense of pride, a sense of teamwork, as he worked together with a large group of men in a coordinated effort, utilizing high tech, modern warfare equipment that gave him a feeling of invincibility.
He began to feel just like John Wayne.  It was suddenly life imitating art.

It was while leading a squad on a patrol that things went wrong – that a bomb dropped by an American plane made him a victim of the war. He recalls lying in the dust and dirt of a dry rice paddy, seeing waves of heat rising from the ground, his men safe on the other side of the rice paddy, and the enemy still firing at them.  He took off his helmet and saw his right eye fall into it.  “Once I had accepted death and knew there was nothing I could do to avoid it, all the worry, fear, and pain faded away,” he recalls. “All that was left to do was relax and let it happen.  However, as he curled up on the ground he was “suddenly struck by an incredible feeling of peace and tranquility.”  He felt suspended from time and space, between the here-and-now and the here-ever-after.  He experienced a dark tunnel but felt bathed in a soft light as he continued to glide forward.  As the light washed over him, he felt an incredible sense of calm.  And then he was thrust into a bright white light and he no longer possessed a body.  Everything was beautiful and totally fulfilling.  He felt that he was in a different dimension, one in which he encountered his grandfather, who had died several years earlier. While talking with his grandfather, a “ball of energy” appeared and told him that he must return to his earthly place and fulfill his higher purpose before again coming to the Light.  There’s much more to it than that, but that’s the gist of it. 

Vandenbush’s recovery was slow and challenging, and there was much adversity to overcome in continuing on in the earthly life, including two divorces and many job frustrations. His injuries went well beyond his eye, especially affecting his throat and arm. The doctors treating him were not hopeful and even recommended amputation of the arm, but Vandenbush rejected such a procedure.  “The glow from the Light and the guidance from Spirit were so intense and so complete, that I responded to the constant negative prognosis with, ‘They just don’t know what they’re talking about. They’re wrong.  Everything is going to be okay.’”  He writes that the negativity he constantly experienced paled in comparison to the all-encompassing peace and sense of well-being and fulfillment he experienced with the Light.
It was his experience in the Light that kept him going.  I was slowly becoming aware that my wounds were part of my destiny and part of my higher purpose in life,” he muses.  Whenever he encountered hard times, he called upon “Spirit” to get him through them, and he always managed to succeed in overcoming the adversity.

Bill, Shannon, and Luci, at the beach

Vandenbush’s story was originally told in a 2003 book, but he has had another NDE since then, one in which Spirit again communicated with him during the week in which he was in a coma.  He states that this time he went beyond the White Light and was taken on an incredible journey through the universe, observing dimensions and layers that are far more vast than the simple material existence we experience on earth.  Here again, there is much more to his experience than can be covered in this review. 

It is a very inspiring book, especially for the person who doesn’t appreciate adversity and blames all his or her misfortunes on God.  My only concern is that the book begins a bit slowly, the first several chapters covering the 18 years before Vandenbush entered the Army.  It might better have started with his arrival in Vietnam and incorporated bits and pieces of his early childhood here and there as he went on. I mention this only because I tossed it aside after the first two chapters and almost didn’t return to it.  I’m sure glad I did.  It offers so much more than the story of John Wayne might have, although I must confess to never having read John Wayne’s story.

If Morning Never Comes: A Soldier’s Near-Death Experience on the Battlefield by Bill Vandenbush is published by White Crow Books and available from Amazon and other bookstores.

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.


Next blog post:  November 7

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The Amazing Bangs Sisters

Posted on 17 October 2016, 8:23

Although I had read about the Bangs Sisters here and there over the years, I really didn’t have a clear picture of what they were all about until I read N. Riley Heagerty’s recently released book, Portraits from Beyond. Heagerty draws from all the available references on the two sisters and offers overwhelming evidence that they were unusually gifted mediums in spite of the usual Internet debunkers who claim they were clever frauds.  They are most remembered for the phenomenon called “precipitated paintings” in which portraits of deceased loved ones and friends appeared on canvases with no humans holding a brush to the canvases.  The sisters would each hold one end of the canvas at a window in daylight, as the surviving friends and relative sat and observed the image of a deceased loved one take shape on the canvas, apparently by a spirit artist, the finished product sometimes taking as little as 8-10 minutes, although the average time seems to have been closer to 30-40 minutes.

Bangs in Black, late 1870’s, Elizabeth left, May, right

Consider this testimonial by Dr. and Mrs. E. H. Thurston of Hagerstown, Indiana, as penned on April 5, 1910:

“Desiring a spirit portrait of our daughter, who passed into the spirit life at the age of thirty years, and having viewed some of the results obtained for others through this remarkable phase of the Bangs Sisters’ mediumship, we decided to make a test of it ourselves.

“Visiting Chesterfield Camp, Indiana, we called upon the Bangs Sisters in their cottage and arranged for our sitting, the hour being the following afternoon. At the stated time we again called at their cottage.  Entering the séance room, and finding only three canvases, I selected two of them, took them out in the sunlight in company with one of the Miss Bangs, exposed them for 15 minutes to the strong rays of the noonday sun, examined the surface thoroughly to fully assure myself that they were not chemically prepared, at the same time to secretly mark them for identification. Returning to the séance room, I placed the canvas on the small table before a well-lighted north window, and by examination of the table and surroundings convinced myself that everything was void of any mechanical apparatus.

“The Bangs Sisters, seated on each side of the table, merely supported the canvas in an upright position with one hand, myself and my wife being seated directly in front of, and not more than two feet from them.  After sitting for a very short time, a dark shadow passed over the canvas, followed by the outline of the head and body; then, to our wonderful amazement, the perfect features of our daughter appeared, with the eyes closed; a few more seconds, and the eyes opened and before us was the beautiful spirit of our deceased daughter, perfectly lifelike in every feature, and which has been instantly recognized by all who knew her when in earth life.  When the picture was completed, the identification marks previously spoken of showed that the canvas had not been tampered with in any way….

Queen Victoria, full-length portrait in all her splendor, Camp Chesterfield, precipitated for Dr. Carson of Kansas City

“Being somewhat familiar with photography and photographic processes, especially solar print work, we are fully convinced that the picture is not the product of any photographic process, and we desire to say right here there was positively no evidence whatsoever of any trick, or slight-of-hand performance; everything was perfectly straightforward and honest, as far as the physical eye could discern, and we went away from the cottage at Camp Chesterfield more convinced than every before of the continuity of life after death, and the beautiful philosophy of Spiritualism.”

Lizzie Bangs was born in 1859 and May Bangs in 1862, both in Maine. Their father was a stove repairman and their mother a housewife.  At some point in their early years, the family moved to Chicago. They began to demonstrate mediumistic ability at ages 11 and 8.  Before the precipitated portraits began, both girls displayed the ability to do automatic writing, slate writing, full-form etherializations, the materialization of spirit hands, clairvoyance, clairaudience, direct-writing by typewriter (no human fingers touching the typewriter keys).  However, it was the spirit paintings that made them famous.

Spirit Ethel, Camp Chesterfield

Heagerty’s research turned up a demonstration before a large audience at Camp Chesterfield during August 1908. Each member of the audience was given a ticket with a numbered stub which was put into a vat for a drawing.  The ticket belonging to a Mr. and Mrs. Alford, a prominent family of Marion, Indiana, who then took their place on the stage.  Lizzie and May sat down near them, never touching the canvas.  After a few moments, a thin, vapor-like cloud or shadow swept across the blank canvas and then disappeared.  Another wave of mist seemed to float and pulsate across the canvas and also vanished.  The other-world artist, it seemed, was making preliminary sketches and trying out different color schemes.  Soon the outline bust form of a person began to appear in the center of the canvas, features becoming more distinct along with the hair and face, and slowly, the entire form of a young girl was clearly distinguishable for all to see.  The eyes on the portrait were close, but suddenly, in a flash, the eyes opened and the audience cheered.  The entire process took about 22 minutes.  Mr. Alford, clearly shaken, stood and announced that he and his wife were visiting Chesterfield for the first time and were not Spiritualists.  He said the portrait was the exact likeness of his daughter, Audrey.  Mrs. Alford then opened up a locket around her neck which contained a photo of their daughter and passed it around for others to compare with the portrait. (See black & white photo of color portrait of Audrey Alford below.)

Audrey Alford, black and white photo of color portrait precipitated in 22 minutes at a demonstration in front of a large audience at Camp Chesterfield in 1911, from Photographing the Invisible by James Coates

Some of the portraits were so life-like that they could have passed for photographs, but nearly all of them were produced in color before color photography came into existence. Moreover, there were no brush strokes to be seen. According to Heagerty, the portraits have been examined by experts over the years and they cannot explain them.

A Dr. Carpenter of Olin, Iowa took his own canvas nailed in a box.  The sitting took some three hours, and Carpenter was about to give up.  However, the spirit messenger then told him to open the box.  “We accordingly opened the box and to my great surprise and joy beheld a complete life-sized picture of my wife and child in the spirit world.  The picture is so natural and life-like hat many of my neighbors and friends fully recognize it although they have been in the spirit life for 33 years,” Carpenter stated, adding that he had asked only for a portrait of his deceased wife.  The addition of the daughter was totally unexpected. Carpenter pointed out that he observed the whole process and the box containing the canvas never left his sight.   

Journalist George Lieberknecht reported on the typewriter phenomenon, stating that there was a circle of six men, one woman, and one of the Bangs sisters.  With not one of them touching the typewriter, messages came “with an astonishing degree of swiftness and dexterity.”  The message addressed to him was from his deceased son and was 186 words long.

One of the best known researchers studying the Bangs Sisters was Vice-Admiral W. Usborne Moore, retired from the British navy where he commanded a fleet of surveying ships.  As such, he was a man accustomed to precision and detail.  He visited the Bangs Sisters anonymously, first receiving nine and a half pages of direct writing on slates untouched by the Bangs sisters from an old friend, referring to facts and happenings of 40 years earlier which only the spirit and Moore had any knowledge of. Moore’s brother accompanied him and received 13 pages of information from three different spirit friends. Moore observed that the Bangs never came in contact with the slates.

In one test, Moore put nine sheets of paper between slates, all clearly marked in order to rule out the skeptic’s theory that the Bangs Sisters had somehow prepared answers beforehand (even though they didn’t know what the questions were) and by sleight-of-hand substituted them.  Further, Moore, at the suggestion of his friend, Sir William Crookes, added lithium to the ink he brought for the test, a chemical not found in ordinary ink.  When Crookes later examined the papers, he found that lithium was present, thus ruling out some deception by the Bangs Sisters, who would have used their own ink.

Of course, the skeptics had their theories. One Rev. Stanley Krebs, theorized that the Bangs Sisters somehow got photos of deceased loved ones beforehand and brought the finished products, some 20 inches by 30 inches, into the room hidden in their long dresses and managed to distract the sitter long enough to substitute the finished product for the blank canvas.  However, this did not explain how they got the photographs in the first place or how they obtained all the evidential information that came through in the slate and automatic writing.  And there were times when nothing was produced, as when researcher Hereward Carrington sat with them, thus leading him to believe that they were charlatans.  Carrington was then just beginning his career as a psychical researcher and prided himself on exposing fraudulent mediums. However, as he gained experience he came to believe in mediumship, though he apparently never again sat with the Bangs.

There is so much more to the story and so many other testimonials discovered by Heagerty that it is difficult to believe these two sisters were anything but genuine mediums, even if modern references write them off as frauds.  Heagerty’s offers around 20 of the spirit portraits in the book, some of them so life-like that one almost senses that they are, in fact, still alive.

Portraits From Beyond: The Mediumship of the Bangs Sisters by N. Riley Heagerty is published by White Crow Books.

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.

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The Medjugorje Apparitions: Real or Not?

Posted on 03 October 2016, 8:16

As a Catholic school student during the 1940s, I read or heard about the apparitions of the Blessed Virgin Mary at Guadalupe, Fatima, and Lourdes.  I even prayed with my parents at the Guadalupe cathedral outside Mexico City.  However, upon parting ways with the Church some 50 years ago, I more or less forgot about all those alleged apparitions and other “miracles” involving various saints.  I say “more or less” because there were times now and then when I pondered on them and tried to reconcile them with the paranormal phenomena I had come to accept as genuine.  I wondered why I should believe that D. D. Home, one of the most famous mediums in the annals of psychical research, could be levitated (lifted by spirits) while various saints who are said to have been levitated could not.  Or to put it another way, I wondered if many saints were, in fact, mediums, even though the Church might not approve of such an “occult” label and reject the idea that non-Catholics might have the same “gifts” as elevated Catholics. 
As the debunkers view it, either the various children who claimed to see the Blessed Virgin Mary (Blessed Mother or Mother Mary, if you’re not Catholic) craved attention and were playing childish pranks, or they were underfed and suffered from hallucinations, perhaps a combination of both.  Where more than one child was involved, it was nothing more than a collaborative prank or a collective hallucination. The pranks and/or hallucinations continued over time, the debunkers reason, because the young “visionaries” cherished the celebrity status accorded them by those simple-minded people who believe they were/are actually in contact with the spirit world. 

As set forth in My Heart Will Triumph, a recently published book, such apparitions of the Blessed Mother are continuing today, in the village of Medjugorje in what was once the country of Yugoslavia.  Author Mirjana Soldo is one of the six visionaries experiencing the apparitions, which began on June 24, 1981, when she was just 16 and a sophomore in high school. The other five ranged from 10 to 16.  According to Mirjana, the apparitions were daily for the first 18 months, but 13 times a year and mostly individually for her after that, on her birthday on March 18 and on the second of every month.  That of September 2, 2016 can be seen on

The messages communicated by the Blessed Mother are primarily petitions to love, forgive, overcome, live in peace, and expect eternal life.  “Our Lady asks us to return the Word of God to our homes,” Mirjana, now 51, writes in this autobiography.  “Do not let it sit in a dusty corner like a decoration, but put it in a place of honor where it will be seen and touched.”  She then quotes a message given to her on August 2, 2015:  With a simple heart accept His word and live it.  If you live His word, you will pray.  If you live His word, you will love with a merciful love; you will love each other.

As recent as March 2, 2016, the message was:  Free yourselves from everything that binds you to only what is earthly and permit what is of God to form your life by your prayer and sacrifice… Seemingly more significant than the regular messages received over the past 35 years, however, are the 10 “secrets” entrusted to Mirjana and the other visionaries. These secrets are yet to be revealed and will not be revealed until the Blessed Mother tells the visionaries that it is time.  As I understand it, the secrets were given individually to the six visionaries over many years and they were instructed not to compare notes or discuss them with each other or with anyone else.  “I can say this much – after events contained in the first two secrets come to pass, Our Lady will leave a permanent sign on Apparition Hill where she first appeared,” Mirjana writes. “Everyone will be able to see that human hands could not have made it.  People will be able to photograph and film the sign, but in order to truly comprehend it – to experience it with the heart – they will need to come to Medjugorje.  Seeing it live, with the eyes, will be far more beautiful.”

Mirjana says that 10 days before each event, she is to tell a priest who is to be chosen for that purpose and he will then tell the world three days before the event takes place, after both she and he fast and pray for seven days.  Mirjana adds that she was very troubled by the seventh secret and asked the Blessed Mother for the event to be lessened.  She was instructed to pray and rallied friends and family members in Sarajevo to pray and fast.  Eight months later, during an apparition, she was told that it has “softened,” but not to again ask for such mitigation since “God’s will must be done.”

A parchment with elegant cursive handwriting setting forth the 10 secrets was given to her by the Blessed Mother at the last daily apparition, Mirjana claims.  In a moment of weakness, she showed the parchment to a cousin and friend, but what they read did not match what Mirjana read.  The cousin said she saw it as some kind a prayer or poem, while the friend saw it as a letter from someone asking for help.

Today, after 35 years, Mirjana often visits with the five other visionaries.  “...we might talk about our families or our missions, but we never discuss the secrets,” she writes.  “The six of us do not even know if all the secrets we’ve been given are the same.” 
What I found especially interesting about Mirjana’s story is the socio-political aspects of the communist regime and their attempts to stifle the visionaries.  Mirjana suddenly became an outcast.  She was frequently interrogated by the police, abandoned by her friends, expelled from her high school and forced to attend a school for delinquents, and her family was threatened.  Newspapers castigated the visionaries, one of them referring to them as “six yokels.” 

Frankly, I don’t know what to make of the Medjugorje apparitions.  I don’t believe they were or are pranks carried out by the six visionaries over some 35 years.  Supporting this belief are various studies by scientists – neurological and psychological, including hypnotic – ruling out deception by the visionaries.  Moreover, there is too much sincerity and earnestness in the writings of Mirjana to give any real weight to the possibility that she has carried on the deception for 35 years because she relishes the celebrity status.  Such deception would be in complete opposition to the truths she is attempting to relay in the book.  If deception, you’d think one of the six would have exposed it all by now. 

To the extent that hallucinations are defined to be perceptions outside of known reality, the apparitions may very well be hallucinations; however, that does not mean they are unreal in a greater reality.  It does mean that they are outside the boundaries of mainstream science.  In the book, Scientific & Medical Studies on the Apparitions at Medjugorje, authors René Laurentin and Henri Joyeux discuss the state of “ecstasy” observed with the six visionaries. “Suddenly their gaze, already fixed on the location of the apparition, becomes more intense,” they explain.  “There are hardly any movements of the eyelids.  Their faces become almost imperceptibly brighter and turn toward the invisible speaker.  They kneel down very naturally, all at the same moment…. Their lips can be seen moving, but no voices are heard, just as it was with Bernadette at Lourdes. They were not conscious of this and were surprised when we questioned them about this unusual phenomenon. They believe they are speaking normally.”

Close observation by the researchers yielded no indication of play-acting or any attempts to follow a leader in the group or otherwise coordinate their movements. The visionaries seemed to lose contact with the surroundings and remain insensitive to stimulation, even pinching and prodding.  At the beginning of the ecstasy, eye movements ceased almost simultaneously and the eyes remained immobile.
What I have difficulty with are some of the messages – those suggesting worship over works, rote prayer over creative entreaty, and mindless rituals over meaningful tributes.  I find it difficult to believe that an advanced soul, such as the Blessed Mother must be, would urge such mechanistic activities as a way to overcome materialism and return to a greater spiritual consciousness. It may be that I am more spiritually challenged than I had realized, but I am certain that I could never return to such a perfunctory spiritual consciousness as that offered by orthodox religions, Catholic or Protestant. 

Just as mediums are said to be limited by the capacity of their own brains in what can be filtered through those brains by more advanced spiritual beings, it could be that the visionaries are likewise limited in what they can understand and communicate, thus interpreting everything in words and ways that are within their vocabularies and knowledge.  But then one wonders why the Blessed Mother didn’t recognize that her messages would be distorted or oversimplified, unless her primary objective was to reach the masses – those with limited spiritual consciousness who had strayed from spiritual ways to materialistic ways and could only find their way back by returning to pagan-like worship, rote prayer and the rituals of religion.  Better a narrowed spiritual consciousness than embracing materialism and moving into hedonism, as the world seems to have done.

At the risk of being charged with blasphemy and spending eternity in hell if the Catholic Church really has it all figured out, I see another possibility – that of the “group soul.”  According to fairly recent revelation, many souls continue to identify with their earthly religions after transitioning to a certain realm on the other side, and thus there are Catholic communities, Baptist communities, Mormon communities, Jewish communities, etc. in what might be called the lower-middle realms of the afterlife. As the souls continue to evolve, they eventually free themselves from the restricted beliefs of their respective religions while moving to higher realms on their way to Oneness with God.

Combine the group soul idea with the findings of Allan Kardec, the pioneering French psychical researcher who purportedly received messages from John the Evangelist, St. Augustine, St. Vincent De Paul, St. Louis, “The Spirit of Truth,” Socrates, Plato, Fénélon, Franklin and Swedenborg.  As Kardec came to understand, superior spirits, while preserving their individuality, have no need to be identified with their teachings delivered while on earth, but because humans seem to need an identity in order to fix their ideas, spirits who identify with the teachings of the famous personage and belong to the same “family” or “collective whole” may take that famous name to appease us, as it is the teaching, not the signature, that is important. In effect, the Marian apparitions may be of well-intentioned spirits in a Catholic community at some mid-level afterlife realm.  As explained to Kardec, this is not really deception, as it is somehow sanctioned by the famous personage or authorized by him or her.  It’s another area in which we might error in assuming that we can apply terrestrial reasoning to celestial ways and means.

The group soul idea might seem far fetched, but it is the only way I can reconcile it all, unless, as I said, the Blessed Mother is really appearing and trying to reach the masses, not those who have attempted to move beyond the perfunctory ways of organized religions. 

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.

Next blog post: October 17 


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The Truth, the Whole Truth, and Nothing but the Truth

Posted on 20 September 2016, 10:48

As discussed in my August 22 post, the person in search of historical truth relative to mediums and paranormal phenomena may very well be confused if he or she relies on Internet references.  In that post, I offered the example of Leonora Piper, made out to be a “clever charlatan” by Wikipedia even though the four primary researchers who extensively studied her trance mediumship, all representing the Society for Psychical Research (SPR) or American Society for Psychical Research (ASPR), were convinced that she was a genuine medium, one relaying messages from the spirit world.

Fortunately, the SPR has now come up with its own encyclopedic entries on mediums and other paranormal phenomena, one offering objective and balanced reporting.  It’s called the PSI Encyclopedia and can be found at

It is a work in progress, edited by Robert McLuhan, a British freelance journalist and the author of the 2010 book, Randi’s Prize, but it’s off to a good start, including a factual and balanced treatment of Mrs. Piper. 

Another good example of the differences in treatment of a medium is the “bio” of Henry Slade.  Wikipedia begins by stating that “Henry Slade (1835-1905) was a famous fraudulent medium who lived and practiced in both Europe and North America.”  It then goes on to say that “according to Joe Nickell,” he produced his phenomena by a variety of magic tricks.  After Nickell, Karen Stollznow is quoted as to how Slade tricked people.  It should be noted that Nickell was born in 1944, 39 years after Slade’s death, and Stollznow in 1976, 71 years after his death.  One is left to wonder if they witnessed Slade (below) in a past life or perhaps from some celestial perch before being born this time around.


The Wikipedia biographer later calls upon Harry Houdini, the great magician, who said he knew someone to whom Slade confessed he was a fraud.  Wow!  Houdini knew somebody who had the inside scoop.  How evidential is that?  What is not said and is drawn from another reference is that Frederick Powell, a fellow magician, told Houdini that he observed a levitation, movement of furniture, dematerialization of an object, and a slate snatched from his grasp by unseen hands, with Slade, and though convinced it had to be trickery of some kind, he could not explain it. 

Striking Psychokinetic Phenomena
The SPR biography begins:  “Henry Slade was a controversial nineteenth century séance medium who was publicly accused of fraud, but who was also reported to have produced striking psychokinetic phenomena under well-controlled conditions.”  Much of the write-up is based on experiments with Slade carried out by astrophysicist Johann Zöllner at the University of Leipzig. 

Professor Stephen Braude, who wrote the SPR entry, notes that Zöllner had more than 30 sessions with Slade, occasionally with the aid of prominent colleagues, including Wilhelm Scheibner, professor of mathematics, Wilhelm Weber, professor of physics, and Gustav Fechner, professor of physics and pioneer of the new science of psychophysics.  Although Slade was most known for his slate-writing (spirit communication on small chalk boards), Zöllner was more interested in the psychokinetic aspects – moving objects with the mind (or spirits moving the objects?) – and reported various phenomena, including the penetration of matter by matter, apports, involving the disappearance and reappearance of objects, the movement of a filled bookcase at some distance, the tying of knots in untouched endless cords, materialized hands, and an accordion playing with Slade holding just one end of it.

But, according to Wikipedia, Zöllner (below) observed Slade on just “several” occasions, and “Slade failed some of the tests carried out under controlled conditions but still succeeded in fooling Zöllner in ‘several’ other attempts.”  My definition of “several” has it at much less than 30 and there is no explanation as to how it was established that Slade “fooled” him.  Clearly, the implication is that such phenomena are not real and therefore it had to be a trick, no other explanation possible.  So much for objective reporting.


The Wikipedia bio also mentions several other people who claimed that Slade was a trickster, but, as with other mediums, many of these “one-time only” sitters who claim fraud apparently jump to their conclusions by assuming that the phenomenon witnessed is not humanly possible and therefore what they saw had to have been a trick, even if like Powell, they didn’t understand it.  Other skeptics explain to them that the deception “might have been” or “could have been” done a certain way, and this reinforces the idea that it was a trick.  All these speculations on how the trick “could have been” or “might have been” carried out become part of the historical record associated with the individual medium and are then carried forward by other biased and ignorant historians.  Sadly, the testimonies of the fly-by-night observers are seemingly given equal or even more weight than those of the researchers who sat with the medium multiple times under strictly controlled conditions. 

Experienced Investigators

As mentioned in the prior post on Leonora Piper, Dr. Richard Hodgson studied her for 18 years, observing her on the average of three times a week for nearly all of those 18 years, while Sir Oliver Lodge, a world-renowned physicist, sat with her 83 times during her first trip to England.  Cambridge scholar and SPR co-founder Frederic Myers and Professor James Hyslop also had numerous sittings with her.  All four were convinced that she was a genuine medium through whom the spirit world was communicating. Yet, Wikipedia dismisses those four men in a few sentences and gives the preponderance of weight to debunkers who never observed her and just speculated on what took place, or those who just sat with her a time or two and had no clear understanding of the dynamics of mediumship. 

While the Wikipedia biographers of mediums clearly embrace the negative reports by the fly-by-nighters, appear to go out of their way to avoid the positive reports, those lending themselves to the reality of mediumship.  For example, Frank Podmore, one of the arch-skeptics of the time, claimed to be “profoundly impressed” by Slade.  He is not mentioned by Wikipedia relative to Slade, although Wikipedia is quick to quote him with other mediums who did not impress him. 

And then there are times when even the best of mediums fail to produce anything.  The one-time sitter sees only failure, which translates to fraud.  The researchers who studied Mrs. Piper for nearly two decades reported that there were many times when she could not achieve the trance state necessary for phenomena to be produced.  Likewise, Slade apparently had days on which nothing happened.  It may be that when nothing happened, he tried to make something happen so as to not disappoint the observers; that is, he cheated.  Once a cheater, always a cheater, is the emotional conclusion in such a case, not necessarily the rational conclusion. 

Then again, so many allegations of cheating seem to have come from observers who have mistaken an ectoplasmic arm or hand, as produced by spirit entities, for the medium’s arm or hand, or have not considered the possibility that the actions of spirits are being construed as cheating by the medium, i.e., whether it is “conscious” fraud or “unconscious” fraud, the latter not really being fraud, per se.

Avoiding Spirits

The whole issue of spirits being involved with the phenomena of the mediums presents something of a Catch 22 situation for the researchers and complicates the biographies, at least for those biographers who want to be “scientifically correct.”  In effect, they can’t hypothesize spirits because the strong evidence that spirits exist is not accepted by scientists, at least the fundamentalists of science.  So spirits, or discarnates, never really enter the discussion.  Even Braude, in his SPR bio of Slade, steers clear of the subject, mentioning the “spirit communicators” that wrote on Slade’s slates, but this phenomenon, Slade’s primary phenomenon, is quickly passed over by Braude without any real explanation as to what went on in the slate writing or whether anything of evidential value came from it.  Other references, not restrained by a need to be “scientifically correct,” do suggest that there was evidential value in the slate writing.

As for the psychokinetic phenomena – the movement of objects without the aid of human hands – the reader is seemingly left to assume that it is either fraud or mind over matter.  “Materialized hands” are mentioned by both Zöllner and Braude, but no attempt is made to link these hands to spirits or to suggest that the spirits are the ones moving things about.  That would be too “unscientific” and might invite scoffs, sneers and sanctions from those fundamentalists of science. While the very word “medium” suggests an intermediary between the material world and the spirit world, the man of science must tread lightly in this area and avoid it as much as possible.  Fortunately, the researchers of old, such as Hodgson, Lodge, Myers and Hyslop were not so restrained in this regard, though they were well aware of the alternative explanations for various phenomena. 

I could find nothing to indicate that Slade was a trance medium, only that he was in a “passive” state when phenomena came about, and therefore it is difficult to say whether unconscious cheating is a defense for him, assuming that cheating, per se, was really involved.  Reading beyond both the Wikipedia bio and the SPR bio though, there appears to be quite a bit more on record about Slade that is not said, probably because it all seems to be opinion or speculation by casual observers who really didn’t understand what was going on.  However, there were more informed people, like biologist Alfred Russel Wallace, co-originator with Charles Darwin of the natural selection theory of evolution, and Serjeant Cox, a well-respected London barrister, who were convinced that Slade was a genuine medium, and there were some, like Eleanor Sidgwick, a prominent member of the SPR, who believed he was a fraud.  Such is the complexity of separating fact from fiction in many types of mediumship. 

A small group of professors referred to as the Seybert Commission studied Slade in 1884, five years after Zöllner and his group of professors did.  Slade is said to have left them believing that he had given them ample evidence of his mediumistic ability; however, after receiving testimony from magicians and psychologists, the commission concluded that what they witnessed was nothing but trickery.

It seems only reasonable that the primary references in such cases should be the scientists and academicians who thoroughly studied the person – the Zöllner group in the case of Slade and Hodgson, Lodge, Myers and Hyslop in the case of Piper.  Such men and women are the primary references in the new SPR encyclopedia, not the casual observers or those who never even witnessed the biographical subject.  As I see it, the Wikipedia biographers of mediums are like the teenager who was told by his parents that smoking is bad for his health.  “But grandpa is 60, an old man, and he still smokes,” was his justification for continuing to smoke.   
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.

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No Ferrari for this Doctor

Posted on 05 September 2016, 7:29

One of the effects of the near-death experience (NDE) often reported by experiencers and researchers is a transformation from a materialistic way of life to a more spiritual one. I have read accounts of scores of such transformations over the past 40 or so years, but I can’t recall any that exceeds the transformation experienced by Dr. Rajiv Parti, (below) as related in his recently released book, Dying to Wake Up: A Doctor’s Voyage into the Afterlife and the Wisdom He Brought Back.


As the head of anesthesiology at the Bakersfield Heart Hospital in California, Parti enjoyed a very luxurious lifestyle.  “My goal was bigger everything – house, cars, art collection, bank accounts,” he tells his story, further mentioning that he looked forward to graduating from a Porsche and a Hummer to one day having a Ferrari in his garage, and that at one point during his 25 years at the hospital he took a nine-month sabbatical in order to trade on the stock market, sometimes making a million dollars in one day, but then losing it just as fast.  He lived in a neighborhood of “mini-castles,” each one designed to match the image the owner wanted to project. 

Driving through his neighborhood, Parti recalls, was like a spin through Disneyland. “The community was hermetically sealed, safe from the outside world, and I had come to believe that meant safe from physical illness as well.” Doctors don’t get sick, he had come to believe. But reality soon hit home, first with a diagnosis in 2008, at age 51, of prostate cancer, followed by surgery and various complications, including incontinence, impotence, and a dependency on antidepressants.  There were five more surgeries and then an infection around an artificial sphincter, filling his abdomen with pus. It was during the surgery, in 2010, to clean out the infection that Parti went out-of-body.  He recalls going up toward the ceiling, then looking down at the surgeons and nurses, and being mesmerized by the scene below him.

Then something happened which Parti did not understand.  “It was as though my field of vision became much wider and my consciousness expanded well beyond whatever it had been before, as though all of my senses had the ability to see, and what they saw could easily be different scenes,” he explains, going on to say that he dropped in on a conversation between his mother and sister in New Delhi.  He later verified the conversation with his mother and the clothes they were wearing.

But the NDE turned hellish and he heard a “voice” tell him that he had led a materialistic and selfish life, something he knew was true.  He recalls seeing his patients as “profit centers,” and having little empathy with them.  When they attempted to talk with him about personal concerns, he cut them off so he could rush home to his computer and play the stock market. “I lived inside my own carefully constructed bubble. I had forgotten about illness and death.  I had forgotten about fate and destiny.”

Ashamed of his self-centered life, Parti prayed for a second chance and was then greeted by his father, who appeared 30 years younger than when he died.  His father accompanied him to a family gathering, the ancestors welcoming his to a different realm.  Advice on becoming a more loving person was given before he was guided toward a “Being of Light,” by two beings he interpreted as “angels.”  One of the angels told Parti that he doesn’t own his possessions; they own him, and that breaking the bonds of materialism will bring him to a higher level.  The Being of Light informed him that he would return to his earthly life and become a “healer of souls.”  Parti was unable to identify the Being of Light as male or female as the brightness of the light kept him from seeing “it.” 

After a feeling of deceleration, Parti found himself in the recovery room, where the fellow anesthesiologist was there to welcome him back to consciousness.  When Parti attempted to tell him of his out-of-body experience, the anesthesiologist appeared disinterested.  As evidence of his experience, Parti told the anesthesiologist that he overheard his off-color joke during the surgery concerning the odor of the pus. The anesthesiologist responded that he must not have given him enough anesthesia.  Having monitored the anesthesia and knowing how much he had received, Parti informed him that he had given him enough and attempted to tell him about other aspects of his NDE; however, the anesthesiologist appeared uncomfortable and excused himself.  The surgeon reacted similarly when Parti tried to relate his experience to him. Other doctors, his colleagues, reacted with similar indifference, even antipathy.

Parti recalled that some of his patients had tried to tell him of their out-of-body experiences and meeting departed family members during surgery, but he was always too busy to hear them out.  Now the shoe was on the other foot and he didn’t like it.  As Parti interpreted it, he was a victim of karma – you reap what you sow.

As you might surmise at this point, Parti gave up his medical practice, downsized his house and cars and began learning to live with less.  His wife, a dentist, supported him in his new pursuit.  “In a matter of months, we had confronted our materialism and won,” Parti states.  “By talking rationally and separating our needs from our wants, we had changed the nature of our egos by 180 degrees.  Rather than needing more to feel good about ourselves, we discovered the wisdom of less….”  Parti is now practicing “consciousness-based healing,” which is grounded in meditation.

There is much more to Parti’s intriguing story, so much more.  Some of it will exceed the boggle threshold of even believers.  Of course, the debunkers will laugh it off as a dream, but it seems well established in NDE research that such transformations are often life-changing and go far beyond the influence of mere dreams, which are generally fleeting and vague.  If they are not fleeting and vague, then it may be a semantics issue, i.e., they are not “dreams.”  Whatever Dr. Parti experienced was very “real” to him and I don’t think any debunker is qualified to second-guess him. As Dr. Raymond Moody, the psychiatrist who did pioneering work in the field of near-death experiences, states in the Foreword of the book, Parti’s story is one of transcendence and transformation.  He calls it “one of the most astounding and complete near-death experiences I have heard in almost fifty years of investigating this phenomenon.”   

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.


Next blog post:  Sept. 19


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Why Many ‘Nones’ Believe in Life After Death

Posted on 08 August 2016, 13:16

An Internet release on July 15 by Religion News Service (RNS) asked why so many “nones” – people claiming no religious affiliation – believe in life after death.  The article by Simon Davis notes that the trend in recent decades is toward less religiosity while belief in an afterlife seems to be up slightly over the same period.  Davis notes a study by the Austin Institute for the Study of Family and Culture indicating that 72 percent of Americans believe that there is some existence after death.  Surprisingly, at least to Davis, 32 percent of the “nones” said they believed in life after death. He sees this as “bucking the trend.”

The 32 percent belief among “nones” does not seem that much of a mystery to me.  It can be explained by the fact that most people who claim no religion are not necessarily atheists or non-believers in an afterlife; they are simply religion “dropouts” who haven’t taken the time to figure out what they believe or don’t believe.  They are young and so busy pursuing their careers and raising families or just “having fun” in a materialistic and hedonistic world that there has been no time or desire to delve into existential and spiritual matters.  Then again, there are “nones,” myself included, who have taken the time to try to figure it out, but we make up a very small percentage of the “nones” who do believe. 

The proposed explanations offered by Davis for belief in an afterlife include selfishness, incredulity at the finality of death, a desire to believe in infinite possibility, and hope for those without material possessions.  I’m pretty sure that few among the 72 percent believers will consciously admit to one or more of those reasons, but I think Davis is right.  A fair percentage of them believe because of religious indoctrination, but I doubt that more than two or three percent of the “believers” have arrived at their beliefs by examining all the evidence strongly suggesting it.  Of course, I am referring to the things usually discussed in this blog, including credible after-death communication, near-death experience, past-life studies, and various deathbed phenomena all pointing to survival of consciousness at death.

There seems to be quite a wide variance in such studies.  I recall a fairly recent survey putting the percentage of American believers at around 82 percent.  So much depends on the definitions given by those participating in the survey to various words.  Some studies have used “heaven” to be synonymous with “afterlife” and “atheist” to mean someone who doesn’t believe in God or an afterlife.  However, heaven is meaningless to some believers in an afterlife and there are atheists who believe in an afterlife but not in God, at least an anthropomorphic (humanlike) God.   

Davis also cites a recent study in Australia in which sociologist Andrew Singleton, interviewed 52 Australians aged 18-85.  Rather than a “yes” or “no” answer, Singleton queried people on the content and character of their beliefs.  Of the 52 people interviewed, 20 said they believe that “life continues in heaven,” while five said they believe we “continue on” as part of some greater consciousness.  In effect, those five do not believe that individual consciousness survives.  Nine said they believe in reincarnation and consider themselves “spiritual.”  Exactly what they believe happens to the soul between death and reincarnation or if there is a final incarnation and something after that seemed to be very vague and uncertain with most of them.  Two preferred to give no response.  The remaining 16 interviewees saw death as total extinction.

If we lump the heaven and reincarnation believers together, we have 29 of the 50 Australians who voiced their opinion, (58%), believing in some kind of individual survival and 21 (42%) rejecting such survival. 

According to Singleton, all of the 16 who said they do not believe claimed to be “entirely comfortable” in such belief.  He asked one of the 16 if he “secretly hoped” that there is life after death and the person claimed he didn’t.  I doubt, however, that many non-believers would admit to not being comfortable.  As I have observed it, it’s an ego thing, much more bravado (false courage) than indifference or true courage in the face of extinction.  I see it all the time on the Internet, mostly in comments left at some site discussing the subject of life after death. Nearly all of them, I sense, are young and fully engrossed in materialistic, even hedonistic, lifestyles.  They are former religionists who never get much past the point of dismissing a cruel and capricious god who lets bad things happen to people.  No god, no afterlife, they immediately conclude, falling back on their religious indoctrination that one has to identify an anthropomorphic (humanlike) god before taking the next step to believe in life after death.  They fail to see the forest for the trees, or rather they think they see the forest, but they haven’t really examined the trees.

When it is explained to these cynical non-believers that such a god as taught by religions is not required for a belief in life after death they are a bit taken aback as this runs contrary to their Sunday school teachings. When some evidence is offered to them that consciousness does survive death, they know just enough to counter with a theory that the medium was “fishing” for information in a cold reading or the near-death experience was no more than an hallucination resulting from oxygen deprivation.

When the young hedonist watches a sporting contest and see some athlete give thanks to God, he (sometimes she) smirks at such stupidity.  When he attends a Christmas pageant and hears religious songs, he snickers at such foolishness.  When he watches a movie and hears a grieving person mention that a deceased loved one is in a “better place” or “with God,” he sneers at such idiocy.  When someone suggests to him that there is strong evidence that consciousness does survive bodily death, he scoffs in self-righteous indignation.  However, when that same young hedonist first experiences the death of a spouse, partner, or a child, then we may very well see his smirk turn to a look of despair, his snicker to tears, his sneer to anguish, his scoff to downright hopelessness.  When some years later, he is told by his doctor that he has a fatal disease and only so many weeks to live before he falls into the abyss, the bravado turns to the tortured scream of a child.

All that is not to suggest that there are not some more stoic non-believers out there – those who can take the plunge into the abyss of nothingness without shaking in their boots.  My guess is that this person is probably living a life of pain or emotional despair and is in the same state of mind as the person who commits suicide.  To them, nothingness is better than a life of pain and suffering. However, I doubt that most of the 16 Australians are in this category.  As the existentialist Søren Kierkegaard put it, they are likely in despair; they just don’t realize it yet. 

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.

Next blog post:  August 22


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Psychologist Matthew McKay Discusses Spirit Communication

Posted on 25 July 2016, 8:25

In his recently released book, Seeking Jordan, Matthew McKay, Ph.D., (below) details his efforts to connect with and communicate with his son Jordan, who had been murdered six years earlier, at age 23.  A clinical psychologist and professor at the Wright Institute in Berkeley, Calif., McKay began his journey of discovery with an introduction to induced after-death communication and moved on to channeled (automatic) writing and past-life and between-life regressions. 


McKay states that he had more than a hundred conversations with Jordan, (below) who told him of his initial awakening in his new realm of existence, reunions with deceased loved ones, and the life review, while also providing various other insights about life and life after death.


I recently put some questions to McKay by email for an interview featured in The Searchlight, a publication for the Academy for Spiritual and Consciousness Studies.

Dr. McKay, what were your views on life after death prior to beginning your search?

“My search to understand death and the afterlife began a half dozen years before Jordan’s death.  I read Journey of Souls by Michael Newton and learned about his hypnotic method for exploring the “life between lives.”  While I had been a dyed-in-the-wool agnostic, everything Newton described about the afterlife, and why we incarnate, resonated with me.  It felt like the truth I had waited all my life to hear.  I learned Newton’s past life and life between lives regression protocol, and used it with people I loved who wanted the experience.  After Jordan died, my search intensified because I was determined to find and make contact with my son on the other side.”

Were you familiar with various forms of post-death communication prior to Jordan’s death?  What was you attitude toward them?

“I knew – prior to Jordan’s death – about Alan Botkin’s “Induced After Death Communication” (IADC) because a friend had given me his book.  I do EMDR with my trauma patients (which Botkin’s IADC is based on) so his discovery that a small variation in the EMDR protocol could help us contact the dead fascinated me. In general, before Jordan died, I assumed psychics and mediums were charlatans.  And I thought most of the “after death communication industry” was bogus, feeding off people’s grief and need for reassurance.”

How long did it take you to master channeled writing?  Did it require much patience?  Were you familiar with it before?

“I had no knowledge of channeled writing before Ralph Metzner showed me how to do it.  He taught me the basic elements of channeled writing in a few minutes: Be in a place where you feel centered and connected to your core self. Have something to focus your attention (like a candle or a bright object). Have an object to connect you to the dead (something that belonged to the person or that they gave you). Use a meditative or hypnotic process to get into a receptive state (for me this is a simple breath focused meditation). Write down your first question (physically writing the question is a necessity for channeled writing). Make room for the answer.  Wait for a word or sentence fragment to show up.  Write it down and await the download of sentences to start.  Accept doubt, accept the thought that your brain can be making things up.  Keep listening for the answer to form in your mind; keep writing down what you ‘hear.’ When nothing more comes, write your next question.”

To what extent were the messages coming from Jordan new or in conflict with previous beliefs or ideas?  If not in conflict, how can you be sure you were not subconsciously providing the answers?  If new or in conflict, can you give an example or two?

“Many of Jordan’s messages have seemed new to me, ideas and concepts that had never before entered my mind.  While they didn’t seem in any way to dismantle the cosmology I’d gotten from Michael Newton and others, they seemed to greatly expand it.  They appeared to burst open these ideas of life purpose and what happens in the afterlife, and take them to a new level.  I knew, for example, that the purpose of life was learning.  But I had no idea that the wisdom each individual soul acquires contributes to the wisdom/ knowledge of collective consciousness (the divine/god).  I had no idea that each lesson in our lives allows – ultimately – collective consciousness (god) to make the next, more perfect universe.”

How do your peers in the psychology field react to your interest in psychic matters and your book?  How about students?

“I’ve shared Jordan’s lessons with very few of my colleagues in psychology.  These are people of science who revere randomized controlled trials and the measurement of human experience.  But many human experiences can only be described, not measured.  They can be given words, but never known in the form of metrics or quantitative analysis.  And for these experiences, we must rely on many, independent observations.  If Michael Newton hypnotized 7,000 naive subjects, and they all described a similar version of the afterlife, that means something.  If thousands of dying people report visits from dead loved ones to help them with the transition, that means something.  If Ian Stevenson, interviewing thousands of children who remembered past lives, discovered evidence of those past lives, that means something.  If Jordan tells me things about the purpose of life and the structure of the spirit world, and this single observation fits with others who report knowledge of the afterlife, this, too, means something.

“A few colleagues in the world of psychology, and particularly those who embrace mindfulness and Buddhist thought, have been very open to what I’ve learned from Jordan.  While committed to science, they can see beyond the limits of our material universe.”

Do you accept or reject the idea that spirits of the dead can influence us in a positive or negative way and even be the cause of extremely deviant or criminal behavior?  If you accept the idea, would you dare to suggest it to your peers, a patient, or to a student?

“I believe that spirits of the dead can only influence us in positive ways.  Once souls leave the physical plain and go through the re-entry process to the spirit world, they have access to knowledge gleaned from all their previous lives.  They know the purpose of life – to learn and gather wisdom – and they are bathed in love.  It is not possible for those souls to harm or damage the living.  These are myths perpetrated by people who do evil and wish to explain it via the supernatural.

“We can be influenced and affected by lessons we haven’t learned from past lives, but never by lost or evil spirits.  Some souls, after death linger because they are not yet aware that they have died.  And their presence may be experienced as a mood, a shadow, a hushed sense of distress.  But these souls have not direct power to hurt the living.”

How are we so influenced?

“Guides from the spirit world, as well as deceased loved ones, exert influence on our choices.  They whisper to us through random and strange thoughts, through sudden feelings or urges, to help us make wise choices.  Their messages are frequent visitors to our unconscious mind.  The ones we love on the other side, as well as masters and guides, are in constant communication.  And much of our work on this planet is to tune into our wise mind, or spiritual short wave radio, so we can hear them.

“Mainstream psychology is already studying the positive impact of meditation and prayer.  Now we need to examine how spiritual practices – and the connection to spirit – impacts human well-being:  When people receive messages from the other side? How does it impact them emotionally and behaviorally?  Do they make better choices?  Do they experience more love?  Do they experience loss differently, and with less pain?  We can actually measure these things, and it would advance scientific and human knowledge.”

Jordan mentioned that certainty is not a healthy state.  Is there a point between the blind faith of most religions and absolute certainty that you feel we should strive for relative to a belief that consciousness survives death?

“We live in a place where certainty is impossible.  Certainty about truth, about right and wrong, often results in holocausts – emotional and societal.  We need to hold every belief lightly – as a tentative truth that may later be modified or disproved.  The belief that there is an afterlife, that souls are immortal and come here between lives to learn, is not absolute truth.  It has been reported by many observers and there is much data to suggest that consciousness can exist outside the body.  None-the-less, nothing is certain about what the afterlife looks like or the eternal life of souls. Those of us who have sought to connect, and who have experienced the flooding sense of love from those on the other side have experiences to support the belief that the relationship between the living and the dead is never broken.

“It’s important to separate religious/moral beliefs that tell you how to act, from cosmologies –a picture of what the universe is and why we are in it.  Moral/religious beliefs dictate ‘right’ behavior – which often turns out to be damaging and hurtful.  Cosmologies (such as what Jordan tells me) describe our place and role in the cosmos.  We can evaluate the usefulness of cosmological beliefs by watching how they affect people – whether they become more loving, more at peace, more connected to all.”

So many people are turned off to the idea of a higher power and an afterlife when they suffer pain of one kind or another.  They claim it is not consistent with a just and loving Creator.  What do you say to them?

“Jordan has been very clear that pain is a necessary environment for souls to grow.  There are lessons we cannot learn without pain.  In fact, we come here to learn how to love in the face of pain.  This planet is a school that teaches us how to make wise choices when we hurt, and everything around us is threatening us with pain and loss.

“Pain is not a sign we are bad or have done wrong.  Our work here is not to seek pleasure and avoid suffering.  Our work here is to ask the question: ‘What can I learn from this pain?  What wisdom, what truth lies at the root of this pain?’  Every choice we make in the face of pain teaches us, and what we learn is uploaded to collective consciousness, to the all, to god.

“Pain is a sacred path through which we grow, and because of us, it is how god grows.”

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.

Next blog post: August 8

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Life after Death: Keith Parsons reaches the masses!

Posted on 11 July 2016, 11:25

Imagine, if you will, more than 130,000 people gathered in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican to hear the pope speak.  I don’t know if the pope has anything meaningful to say in that imaginary situation; I sort of doubt it.  However, I’m sure that nearly all of the 130,000 people who have viewed Keith Parson’s (below) Youtube documentary on life after death will agree that it is very meaningful.  Oh, there are the fundamentalists of both science and religion who don’t get it and probably never will, at least in this lifetime, but I know that those who do “get it” will agree with me that it is the best documentary on the subject ever produced.


“I was watching a TV documentary in 2008, here in England, that was being sceptical about psychic phenomena, as usual,” Parsons responded by email when I asked him what motivated him to produce the video.  “After it was over, I stormed into the kitchen and declared to my partner something like: ‘They’ve done it again – rubbishing this subject!’ And she said, ‘Well, what are you going to do about it?’ And that was a challenge that set me to thinking … Having read around this topic for quite some time, I’d wondered about writing a book. But frankly, it would just have been yet another journalistic pot-boiler. There are other authors, far more qualified than I, to write on this topic. And in any case, I think the general public is turning increasingly to the TV and computer screen in their leisure time. Books are for the seriously interested, videos appeal to a general audience, so I went out, bought a camera, and hey, presto – two documentaries!”

In addition to that first documentary, titled “This Life, Next Life,” Parsons has recently produced a second video, “This Life, Past Life,” which deals with the subject of reincarnation.  It should be of interest to many. 

Parsons is a retired radio current affairs producer who spent many years with BBC World Service, London, often traveling the world while making documentaries on international politics and economics.  I recently put some questions to him by email.

When and how did you become interested in the subject of life after death?

“As the years went by, my partner became more afraid of flying, so we discussed this and concluded it was not the ‘flying’ at issue, but the prospect of ‘dying’. So I googled ‘Scientific Proof of an Afterlife’, thinking if I could demonstrate that death is not final this might help her (not believing in this stuff myself, though). I found 29,000 websites popped up in a quarter second back in the 1990s. (I did this again today, and now there are 380,000 sites, which demonstrates the burgeoning interest in this topic). It turned out that this was my partner’s ‘gift’ to me since I became fascinated by the topic and did a lot of reading. Unfortunately, however, it has not helped her!

“One brilliant web site at the time, now archived, was called the International Survivalist Society. Subsequently, having done a lot of reading, I wrote a racy novel in 2004 – both humorous and serious – with evidence for the afterlife built into it as a way of introducing people to this amazing material. Entitled Lucky James? it languished in my desk drawer until this year, when finally, 12 years later, it was published and is available on Amazon both as a kindle and as a paperback for folks in U.K. It’s available in Kobo and iBook, too.”

Did you have any prior beliefs, religious or otherwise?

“I was brought up in the Swedenborgian New Church, but left by age 17. One day the minister said: ‘You know, you’ll never reason yourself into a belief in God, you’ll only reason yourself out it,’ and I thought: ‘Well that doesn’t say much for God!’  and that was it, goodbye Church.”

So, how would you summarize your current beliefs relative to survival and related topics?

“Based on my reading, like you, Mike, I’m 98 percent convinced of the survival of consciousness after death, but I allow 2 percent for continued doubt while I wait for the 100 percent proof that absolutely nobody could deny. If I lived in Brazil when the physical medium Carmine Mirabelli was alive, to witness his materialisations in front of large audiences in broad daylight, then maybe I’d be 100 percent convinced, but currently I am disappointed that materialisation mediums still require to work in the dark. A film of materialisations – where trick photography has been ruled out – is urgently needed, and would clinch the matter. For me ‘evidence’ is crucial, otherwise we can find ourselves accepting speculation as fact. So, although I find for example, the afterlife communications of Frederick Myers through Geraldine Cummins (The Road to Immortality) and the communications of Monsignor Hugh Benson through Anthony Borgia (Life in the World Unseen) to be really interesting (and there are many more such books), I’m not sure how much trust we can put in what they say, since they are not evidential. Is it possible to be authoritative without evidence? I’m trying to get away from belief based only on faith. As a result, I think we should be reserved about any statement beyond this: that there is most probably an afterlife dimension.”

What do you find to be the most convincing evidence?

“In my first documentary, I go very strongly in favour of the Scole Experiments and the mediumship of Leonora Piper. And in the second one, which was launched only on 30th June this year, I go strongly in favour of a couple of evidential hypnosis past life cases: that of Ray Bryant remembering the 19th century life of Reuben Stafford, a soldier in the Crimean War; and that of L.D., remembering the life of Antonia, an innkeeper in Spain in the 16th century (Under the Inquisition by Linda Tarazi, published by Hampton Roads). I also find Professor Ian Stevenson’s photographic birthmark evidence in the remembered lives of children to be as fascinating as it is mystifying.

“The one other case I wish I had included in my documentaries is that of the Kluski wax hand moulds that I understand can be seen at the Institut Metapsychique International, in Paris. These moulds were taken at a séance from a materialised spirit who dipped his/her hands into a bucket of wax, which then solidified. The only way for these fragile moulds to remain intact was for the hands to subsequently de-materialise. The interesting thing is that the wax was mixed with a dye that would have got onto the skin of any live human interloper trying to cheat in the dark. I confess, however, that I have yet to visit Paris to see these moulds for myself. Incidentally, I was also very interested in the mediumship of Daniel Dunglas Home.”

If you had to pick three most convincing cases from the annals of psychical research and parapsychology relative to survival, which ones would you pick?  Why?

“It crosses my mind that the English researcher Sir William Crookes (below) has been criticised far more than he deserves and that his scientific approach to his investigations made them most convincing. It is notable that he never retracted his view that his findings were legitimate, despite being denigrated by professional colleagues. As mentioned above, I also think that the Scole Experiments are also top-notch, and they are so well known there is no need to go into them here. I am also aware of the importance of EVP and ITC, but have some difficulty getting my head round why statements coming from the other side using these techniques should be so incredibly short instead of conversational. However, I wouldn’t be amazed if, in due course, the final proof we seek comes from this direction.”


If you could go back in time and meet three psychical researchers, spending a day with each one, who would you choose?

“Sir William Crookes, Richard Hodgson, and (he’s still alive) Professor Gary Schwartz.”

If you could go back in time and observe a medium at his or her best, who would it be?

“I’m spoilt for choice! Daniel Dunglas Home, Stainton Moses, Mirabelli, Chico Xavier……Just one? I can’t.”

Do you see today’s research as good as that of yesteryear?  If not, why do you think that is?

“In the old days folk used to hold séances as a way of spending a pleasant time with friends, as well as looking for afterlife evidence. So there were a lot of sitters, more mediums and a lot was achieved in terms of evidence. Today, there are far more distractions through the media, and popular interest in spiritual investigation is often ridiculed and has been overwhelmed by materialism. So fewer people are inclined to devote the time and attention needed to get results. Having said that, the work of Gary Schwartz with his double blind investigation of mediums was valuable since it adopted scientific protocols, and others such as Dr Beischel’s Veritas programme continue to do careful work. Another point made by some commentators, and I don’t know if it is true, is that the technological world of today is now more penetrated by electro-magnetic emanations, making contact with the other side more difficult.”

What are your thoughts as to why the research is not better known or better accepted?

“In my recent Youtube documentary This Life, Past Life, I refer to a BBC Wales TV programme examining the research of Professor Stevenson on children’s past life memories. It was made in 1992 – that is to say, 24 years ago. I can’t imagine such an open-minded programme being made today. It seems to me that now the media – both radio and TV – are dominated by materialist scientists with a disproportionate influence on programme making decisions, so psychical research never gets onto the agenda.”

What feedback have you received from your videos (both positive and negative)?

“The hundreds of comments on Youtube reflect the variety of opinions that exist in the world. To begin with – plenty of praise for an interesting job well done, amateur though it is. But I detect positive attitudes are now tailing off even though the number of viewings is not – 130,000 views in the first year with about 2,500 more each month. Perhaps more religious perspectives are being expressed that don’t appreciate my rational approach to the subject.

Thanks, Keith.  I believe you have done a great service.

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.

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An Interview with Judge John W. Edmonds

Posted on 27 June 2016, 9:18

John W. Edmonds, (below) who served as Chief Justice of the New York State Supreme Court, is believed to have been the first true psychical researcher.  Following the advent of the spirit communication epidemic that hit the world with the so-called “Rochester Knocking” in 1848, a number of educated and prominent men and women observed various mediumistic phenomena, but Edmonds carried his investigation beyond a few casual observations.  Beginning in early 1851, he sat with numerous mediums, closely testing them in every conceivable way in search of the truth.


Early in 1852, Edmonds met George T. Dexter, (below) a New York physician, who, like Edmonds, had begun as a doubter, then had become a believer, and then a medium himself.  Edmonds, Dexter, and several others formed a circle that met on a regular basis and received lengthy discourses purportedly coming from the spirits of Emanuel Swedenborg and Francis Bacon through the hand of Dexter. 

Before being elevated to the State Supreme Court, Edmonds (1816-74) served in both houses of the New York legislature, including as president of the Senate.  This “interview” with Edmonds is drawn from his two books, Spiritualism, Volumes I and II, co-authored with Dexter.  Except for words in brackets, inserted to provide a smooth transition, the words are verbatim from the books. The questions have been tailored to fit the answers. 

Judge Edmonds, it is my understanding that you began your investigation of mediums in January 1851, soon after the death of your wife.  Is that the case?

“[Yes,] I was at the time withdrawn from general society.  I was laboring under the great depression of spirits.  I was occupying at my leisure in reading on the subject of death and man’s existence afterwards. I was invited by a friend to witness the ‘Rochester Knockings.’  I complied, more to oblige her and to while away a tedious hour.”

I recall reading that you expected to uncover fraud.

“I was all this time an unbeliever, and tried the patience of believers sorely by my skepticism, my captiousness, and my obdurate refusal to yield my belief.  I saw around me some who yielded a ready faith on one or two sittings only; others again, under the same circumstances, avowing a determined unbelief; and some who refused to witness it at all, and yet were confirmed unbelievers. I could not imitate any of these parties, and refused to yield unless upon most irrefragable testimony.”

What were your religious beliefs at the time you commenced your investigation?

“I had in the course of my life read and heard from the pulpit so many contradictory and conflicting doctrines on the subject that I hardly knew what to believe.  I could not, if I would, believe what I could not understand, and was anxiously seeking to know if after death we should again meet with those whom we loved here, and under what circumstances.” 

What happened at your first sitting?

“My first interview (sitting) was with the rappings (one rap for each letter of the alphabet, so three raps for ‘yes,’ and one for ‘no’), and three things struck me as remarkable.  One was that under the circumstances it was beyond all cavil that the sounds were not produced by the instrumentality of any person present.  Another was that my mental questions were answered, when I knew no person present could know what they were, or even that I was asking any; and a third was, that I was directed to correct a mistake I had made in my written memorandum of what was occurring, when I knew that no one present was aware that I had made a mistake, or what it was.”

Do you recall the mistake?

“A communication was being spelled out by the alphabet, and I was writing it down.  I wrote, ‘No one.  Not wo.’  My mistake was not seen by any of the party, but it was corrected by [the raps] spelling out ‘Number one.  Number two.’”

What did you make of the rappings?

“Of course I was on the look out for deception, and at first relied upon my senses and the conclusions which my reason might draw from their evidence.  But I was at a loss to tell how the mediums could cause what I witnessed under these circumstances … I thought a good deal on what I witnessed, and determined to investigate the matter and find out what it was.  If it was a deception or a delusion, I thought that I could detect it.  For about four months, I devoted at least two evenings in a week, and sometimes more, to witnessing the phenomena in all its phases.  I kept careful records of all I witnessed, and from time to time compared them with each other, to detect inconsistencies and contradictions.  I read all I could lay my hands on, on the subject, and especially all the professed ‘exposures of the humbug.’ I went from place to place, seeing different mediums, meeting with different parties of persons, often with persons I had never seen before, and sometimes where I was myself entirely unknown.  In fine, I availed myself of every opportunity that was afforded, thoroughly to sift the matter to the bottom.”

Were you assisted by anyone in your investigation?

“After depending upon my senses, as to the various phases of the phenomenon, I invoked the aid of science, and with the assistance of an accomplished electrician and his machinery, and of eight or ten intelligent, educated, shrewd persons, examined the matter.  We pursued our inquiries many days, and established to our satisfaction two things:  first, that the sounds were not produced by the agency of any person present or near us; and, second, that they were not forthcoming at our will and pleasure.”     

Would you mind relating a little more about those early investigations?

“At my [second] interview, several things occurred to attract my attention.  None of my questions were asked orally, some were written, and some merely framed in my mind, yet all were answered correctly.  Once I began writing a question which I had thought, and it was answered when I had written only two words of it.  Again was I told to correct a mistake in my minutes – for I was a novice, and did not do the business as well as I might – and we were told of what was occurring in the adjoining parlor with a person who had entered the room since we had left it, and which, on throwing open the folding doors, we found to be correct.”

So, what was your initial reaction to all that?

“I was startled, for here was to me evidence from which I could not escape, that my most secret thoughts were known to the intelligence that was dealing with me.  There was no avoiding the conclusion.  Reason upon it as I would, imagine what solution I might, there was the fact plainly before me, and I knew it.”

I understand that the communication sometimes came through in other languages.

“I have known Latin, French, and Spanish words spelled out through the rappings, and I have heard mediums who knew no language but their own speak in those languages, and in Italian, German, and Greek, and in other languages unknown to me, but which were represented to be Arabic, Chinese, and Indian, and all done with the ease and rapidity of a native.”

In your book, you wrote that one medium told you about the death of your friend, Isaac T. Hopper.

“[Correct], about 10 o’clock in the evening, while attending the circle, I asked if I might put a mental question.  I did so, and I knew that no person present could know what it was, or to what subject even it referred.  My question related to Mr. Hopper [who had been ill], and I received for answer through the rappings, as from himself, that he was dead!  I hastened immediately to his house, and found it was so.  That could not have been [known] by anyone present, for they did not know of his death, they did not know my question, nor did they understand the answer I received.  It could not have been the reflex of my own mind, for I had left him alive, and thought he would live several days. And what it was but what it purported to be, I can not imagine.” 

How about physical phenomena?  

“To detail what I witnessed would far exceed the limits of this communication, for my records of it for those four months alone fill at least one hundred and thirty closely-written pages.  I will, however, mention a few things, which will give a general idea of that which characterized interviews, now numbering several hundred … I have known a pine table with four legs lifted bodily up from the floor, in the center of a circle of six or eight persons, turned upside down and laid upon its top at our feet, then lifted up over our heads, and put leaning against the back of the sofa on which we sat.  I have known that same table to be tilted up on two legs, its top at an angle with the floor of forty-five degrees, when it neither fell over of itself, nor could any person present put it back on its four legs.  I have seen a mahogany table, having only a center leg, and with a lamp burning on it, lifted from the floor at least a foot, in spite of the efforts of those present, and shaken backward and forward as one would shake a goblet in his hand, and the lamp retain its place though its glass pendants rang again.  I have seen the same table tipped up with the lamp upon it, so far that the lamp must have fallen off unless retained there by something else than its own gravity, yet if fell not, moved not … I have frequently known persons pulled about with a force which it was impossible for them to resist, and once, when all my strength was added in vain to that of the one thus affected.  This is not a tithe – nay! not a hundredth part of what I have witnessed of the same character, but it is enough to show the general nature of what was before me.”

I recall reading somewhere that all this tomfoolery was intended by the spirits to prove their existence.  Is that what you understood?

“[It was said at one sitting that] ‘these manifestations are given to mankind to prove their immortality, and teach them to look forward to the change from one sphere to another with pleasure.’… I was satisfied that something more was intended than the gratification of an idle curiosity; something more than pandering to a diseased appetite for the marvelous; something more than the promulgation of oracular platitudes; something more than upsetting material objects to the admiration of the wonder-lover; something more than telling the age of the living or the dead, etc.” 

What was that “something more”?

“[It] was the intelligence displayed by this unseen power.  That was almost always manifested at every interview, and the question that obviously presented itself on the very outset was, whether that was from the mind of any mortal present, or from some other source.  So that, even if it had been established that the sounds and physical manifestations of which I have been speaking were produced by mortal agency, still the question remained, whence came the intelligence that was displayed?  For instance:  What was the power that read the thoughts which I had buried for a quarter of a century in the depths of my heart?  What was the power that knew my interrogatory the instant it was formed in my mind?  What was the power that read the questions which I had written in the solitude of my study?  What the power that revealed my secret purposes to the bystanders, and the purposes to the bystanders, and the purposes of others to me?

But did you ask the communicating spirits what it was all about?

“[Certainly], one of the first of [my] questions was this: What is this which I am witnessing?  Is it a departure from nature’s laws or in conformity with them?  Is it a miracle, or is it the operation of some hitherto unknown but pre-existing cause, now for the first manifesting itself?  The answer I got was:  It is the result of human progress, it is an execution, not a suspension, of nature’s laws, and it is not now for the first time manifesting itself, but in all ages of the world has at times been displayed.”

As you and others have often asked, Cui Bono?

“To that inquiry I have directed my earnest attention, devoting to the task for over two years all the leisure I could command, and increasing that leisure as far as I could by withdrawing myself from all my former recreations … I found there were very many ways in which this unseen intelligence communed with us, besides the rappings and table tippings (automatic writing, direct writing, trance voice), and that through those other modes there came very many communications distinguished for their eloquence, their high order of intellect and their pure and lofty moral tone; at the same time I discovered many inconsistencies and contradictions that were calculated to mislead.”

Calculated to mislead?  I don’t understand.

“The difficulty in all this matter lies in our expecting too much perfection in the spirits, in looking upon them in knowing more than they do, and as being able to do more than they can; in other words in the erroneous conception of the true nature and character of the spirit world … [Moreover] I have good reason to believe that there is in the spirit world much opposition to this intercourse with us, and that a combination has been formed to interrupt and, if possible, to overthrow it, and one mode is by visiting circles and individuals, exciting their suspicions of spirits, and bad thoughts as to their good faith and purity of purpose.”

So there may very well be reasons why some passages in Scripture warn against it?

“Oh, how sad is the mistake of him, who from a superficial examination, ventures to pronounce it all evil!  He may as well enter the dens of iniquity in this great city, and hearing amid its festering wickedness the mingled shout of blasphemy and ribaldry that will ascend before him, thence infer that such is the character of this whole community.”

There was so much wisdom that came through.

“[The] general character has been such as to warrant me saying that I have been struck with their beauty – their sublimity at times – and the uniformly elevated tone of morals which they teach.  They are eminently practical in their character, and not in a sentiment is to be found that would be unacceptable to the most pure and humble Christian.  The lessons which they are those of love, kindness, and are addressed to the calm, deliberate reason of man, asking from him no blind faith, but a careful inquiry and a deliberate judgment … [At one sitting] it was said, ‘Imitate Christ in his humility, in his submission to the will of God, and in his love to man, and you will be acceptable to God.’” 

I understand that that the discourses from Swedenborg and Bacon were received through Dr. Dexter’s hand.  Would you mind explaining a little of that?

“The handwriting of each is unlike the other, and though both are written by Dr. Dexter’s hand, they are both unlike his; so that with ease, when he is under the influence (of spirits), he writes several different kinds of handwriting, and some of them more rapidly than he can write his own.  This he cannot do when he is not under the influence; and I have never seen any person that could, in his normal condition, write with such rapidity, at one sitting, four of five different kinds of handwriting, each distinctly marked, and having and always retaining its peculiar characteristic.”

Although Swedenborg (below) and Bacon appear to be in agreement with each other, one of the difficulties in accepting all of this spirit communication is the fact that there are occasionally various contradictions relative to what is supposedly truth. I take it that this is because the spirits are at different levels of advancement.


“[True], there are at times contradictions and inconsistencies in spiritual intercourse, as all must be aware, but there is one remarkable fact, viz., that amid all these incongruities – through all mediums, whether partially or highly developed – from all the spirits who commune, whether progressed or unprogressed, there is a universal accordance on one point, and that is that we pass into the next state of existence just what we are in this; and that we are not suddenly changed into a state of perfection or imperfection, but find ourselves in a state of progression, and that this life on earth is but a preparation for the next, and the next but a continuation of this.”
It’s often said that the messages are distorted by the mind of the medium.  Are you in agreement with that?

“I know of no mode of spiritual intercourse that is exempt from a mortal taint – no kind of mediumship where the communication may not be affected by the mind of the instrument.  Take my own mediumship as an illustration.  The visions which I have are impressed on my mind as vividly and distinctly as any material object possibly can be, yet in giving them to others, I must rely upon and use my own powers of observation, my own memory, my own command of language, and I not infrequently labor under the difficulty of feeling that there is no work known to me that is adequate to conveying the novel ideas communicated. I am often conscious that I fail, from poverty of language, in conveying the sentiment I receive with the same vigor and clearness with which it comes to me.  So it is also with what I may call the didactic teachings through me.  Sometimes the influence is so strong that I am given, not merely the ideas, but the very words in which they are clothed, and I am unconscious what I am going to say until I actually say it.  At other times, the thought is given me sentence by sentence, and I know not what idea or sentence is to follow, but the language used is my own and is selected by myself from my own memory’s storehouse.  And at other times the whole current of thought or process of reasoning is given me in advance, and I choose for myself the language and the illustrations used to convey it, and sometimes the order of giving it. But in all these modes there is more or less of myself in them, more or less of my individuality underlying it all.  It must indeed be so, or why should I speak or write in my own tongue rather than in a dead or a foreign language unknown to me?”

Before you released your reports to the public, what was the popular view of all this spirit intercourse?

“I was early aware that the world at large looked upon the subject as exceedingly trivial and inconsiderable.  I was not surprised at this, because I saw that what reached the general ear through the common newspapers of the day was almost always unimportant, and frequently absurd and ridiculous.  There were good reasons for this.  The conductors of those journals desired to insert only what would amuse their readers, and were unwilling, and often refused, to open their columns to the graver and more important matters that flowed from the same source.  And then they who received those more serious communications did not often feel themselves called upon to court the scoffs and sneers and persecution of the world, merely for the purpose of giving to that world that which aimed only at the general good.”

What made you decide to go public with your findings?

“I went into the investigation originally thinking it a deception, and intending to make public my exposure of it.  Having from my researches, come to a different conclusion, I feel that the obligation to make known the results is just as strong.  Therefore, it is mainly, that I give the result to the world.  I say mainly, because there is another consideration which influences me, and that is the desire to extend to others a knowledge which I am conscious can not but make them happier and better.”

I know you received much criticism from politicians and the press for making public your views.  Do you have any regrets?

“I knew full well what I should draw down upon myself by speaking out.  I could not mistake all I saw around me: one universal shout of ridicule and condemnation of all who professed to believe, nay!  Even of those who went into the investigation at all, unless they came out of it fiery red in their denunciation of it as an ‘atrocious imposture.’  I knew full well that truth was ever born with many a bitter pang, and most to him who gave it birth.  And I had no right to expect, nor did I expect, to escape this common and apparently inevitable fate.  But I confess that at first I shrank at the prospect before me.”

Why do you think so many people scoff and sneer at what should be welcome news?

“His wisdom is that of the driven sheep, which leaps over an unreal obstacle because another sheep has just done it before him; and of him, at least it can not be truly said, ‘Never does nature open her breast before a worthy mind only that it may behold, and then fall asleep.’”

Thank you, Judge Edmonds.  Any parting thoughts?

[“Let me leave you with the message given to me at one of the sittings]: ‘No one can begin to progress until he has correct ideas of the future existence; and it is only when not in error on that subject, only when knowing our spiritual nature and destiny that we begin to progress.’”

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.

Next blog post:  July 11

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Truth or Falsehood, Charisma or Buffoonery?

Posted on 13 June 2016, 9:08

It has become increasingly clear to me over the years that one cannot rely on history books, the media, or Internet references for historical “truth.”  So much of what passes as “history” is subject to the biases or prejudices of the historian or the reporter.  Much of it depends on rumor or hearsay and has been increasingly distorted as it is retold by newer historians and reporters who skew their write-ups to their own predilections.  Semantics plays a big part in the distortion as different meanings are given to different words by different people.


Perhaps the best example of all this is the Bible, which has been subject to various translations and interpretation over the centuries. According to Dr. Robert A. Morey, a professor of Apologetics and Hermeneutics, the word nephesh is used 754 times in the Hebrew Bible, but it takes on 30 different meanings today, ranging from “soul” and “the dead” to “fish” and “dogs,” while the Greek word aion is found in the New Testament 108 times and is given 10 different meanings, including “forever,” “ages,” “occasionally,” and “never.” What we read in the English Bible as “everlasting punishment” meant “age-long pruning” in the original Greek.  Does anyone doubt that the various scribes chose the verbiage that best suited the dogma and doctrine of the authorities they represented or their own personal beliefs? 

A more individual example was discussed in my blog of July 13, 2015 concerning Mary Todd Lincoln, the wife of our 16th president.  While many historians have focused more on what they see as Mary Lincoln’s objectionable characteristics – her excessive spending, her mood swings, her outspokenness – a thorough reading of recorded history suggests much exaggeration of the negative and understatement of the positive. Writing in 1887, John Nicolay, who served as secretary to President Lincoln, said that accounts of Mary Lincoln’s bizarre behavior were overstated.  To the objective reader of the many Lincoln biographies, Mary can be seen as intelligent, shrewd, eloquent, affectionate, witty, gregarious, debonair, cultured, frank, and very much devoted to her husband and children. 

Indications are that many of the negative portrayals of Mary Lincoln originated with William Herndon, Lincoln’s law partner and early biographer.  Apparently Mary disliked Herndon, said to be an alcoholic, from the beginning, and avoided contact with him as much as possible. Herndon got his revenge when he wrote and spoke about Lincoln and his wife after the president was assassinated.  It was Herndon who started the story that Ann Rutledge was Lincoln’s “true love,” not Mary, but indications are that Herndon greatly exaggerated Lincoln’s relationship with Rutledge in order to hurt Mary. 

As I see it, the grossest distortions of truth are found on the Internet in the Wikipedia biographies of various mediums.  If we are to believe Wikipedia contributors, all mediums are frauds.  At least, I have yet to find a genuine medium in any Wikipedia biography.  It is clear to anyone who knows anything about mediumship, that the Wikipedia contributors do not understand mediumship or are know-nothing debunkers. If the medium failed to produce phenomena on a particular occasion or if some skeptical observer didn’t grasp what was going on, it was reported that the person was a charlatan, and those reports have survived over the years because of various prejudices and a general lack of information.  It’s as if they were to call Babe Ruth a failure as a baseball player because he struck out twice as many times as he hit home runs.

I know I’ll take some flak for this example of what I’ll call “history run amok,” as so many people seem to believe that the late Muhammad Ali ranks up there with Gandhi, Mother Teresa, and Padre Pio when it comes to revered individuals. As an avid sports fan since the 1940s, I would rank Ali high on a list of the greatest athletes I have seen, maybe even in my top 10, but I fail to see his buffoonery as “charisma” or to see him as the “Second Coming,” as the media would have us believe.

To the best of my recollection, the bombastic celebrations of victory in nearly all sports began with Ali and the emergence of television during the 1960s.  Before then, there were very few ostentatious displays of ego.  I can recall no surly displays of emotion, no menacing gestures, no pumping of the arm and fist, no pounding of the chest, no cupping of the ears and beckoning to the crowd for more applause, no punching the sky with a snarl, no shaking of the fist at the crowd, no idiotic end zone dances, no diatribe, before Ali came along, except in professional wrestling, which was not really “sport.”  I remember when athletes celebrated victory with a smile and an appreciative nod or with a tip of the cap.  Joe Louis, Rocky Marciano, Sandy Koufax, and Floyd Patterson come to mind as athletes who knew how to win with grace and humility.  Maybe “class” is a better word.  More recently, I’d put Cal Ripken, Jr., Ichiro Suzuki, Derek Jeter, and Tim Tebow in that category of class acts.

After Ali’s recent death, I watched various television newscasters, commentators, and journalists, not to mention our current president and a past president, pay homage to him with a reverence usually reserved for heads of state or great philanthropists.  Some of them were not born or old enough to have witnessed Ali do his act in the prize-fighting ring, but obviously they have bought into the legend – a legend that seems to have been created by a need for sensationalism among journalists, especially television journalists, and one fueled by anti-war activism (since Ali rejected military service).  In effect, the world’s greatest play warrior refused to be a real warrior.  That paradox apparently   contributed to the legend and somehow resulted in buffoonery or tomfoolery being translated to charisma.

As I see it, it is all part of our celebrity-worshiping culture, resulting from our materialistic and hedonistic ways.  Those who no longer have an anthropomorphic God to look up to have a need for some icon, some hero to idolize, and in the search for such a human champion emotion and prejudice prevail over reason.  Those same emotions and prejudices influence the history we read or hear about. 

All that is not to suggest that the truths I accept are absolute rather than subjective and relative.  It may very well be that Ali deserves all that homage, that all mediums are fakes, that Mary Lincoln was really a “witch,” that the Bible is the literal and true word of God.  Or the “truth”  may be in some shade of gray that our senses have difficulty in discerning and which escapes historians and reporters in their efforts to offer a black and white picture we can fully grasp rather than a very fuzzy or abstract one.  If we all had the absolute truth, life probably wouldn’t offer the same challenges and we wouldn’t have the same opportunities to learn and evolve spiritually.  Moreover, I don’t think it would be as much fun and many of us wouldn’t have anything to write about. 

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.

Next blog post: June 27   

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An “Interview” with Hester Travers Smith

Posted on 31 May 2016, 8:26

A resident of Dublin, Ireland, Hester Travers Smith (1868-1949) was the daughter of Professor Edward Dowden, a distinguished Shakespearian scholar, and the wife of a prominent Dublin physician. She was primarily a ouija board medium, sitting regularly with a small group of friends, including Lennox Robinson, a world-renowned Irish playwright, and the Rev. Savell Hicks, M.A.  Sir William Barrett, the distinguished physicist and psychical researcher, was a close personal friend and also attended a number of sittings with the group. Geraldine Cummins, perhaps the most famous automatist in history, was introduced to mediumship by Travers Smith, who is referred to in books by Cummins by her maiden name, Hester Dowden. (Below). Travers Smith was also an automatic writing medium.

This “interview” with Travers Smith is based on her 1919 book, Voices From the Void, published by E. P. Dutton & Co.  Except for words in brackets, inserted to permit a flow and the occasional omission of transitional words, the responses are verbatim from the book.  The questions have been formed to fit the “responses.”

Miss Travers Smith, would you mind elaborating a little on your experiences in mediumship?

“[Certainly], I have never attended a séance for materialization; I have never seen a ghost.  Nearly all my experiences have come to me through automatism.  I must confess that for some time past I have been quite clear and decided on one point – in feeling that the subliminal self accounts for much and many things, but not for everything.  I am convinced, in fact, that external influences of some nature work through us, using our senses, eyes, ears, brains, etc., their messages, however, being highly colored by the personalities of their mediums.  I feel sure that hardly any of the communications I have had are entirely due to subconsciousness.”

By “automatism,” I take it you are referring to the ouija board and automatic writing.  Do you use a special ouija board?

“The best ouija board, the one I invariably use myself, is a card table covered with green baize, on which the letters of the alphabet, the numbers from 0 to 9, and the words ‘yes’ and ‘no’ are laid, cut separately on small pieces of cardboard; over this is placed a sheet of plate glass, the same size as the table.  The traveler consists of a small triangular piece of wood, about half an inch thick, shod with three small pieces of carpet felt and having on top a piece of soft rubber material on which the fingers rest.”

Do the words come slowly?
“I think the experimenters, who try the ouija board, will, if they have any psychic power, soon be amazed at the rapidity with which the traveler flies from letter to letter.  The cooperation of two automatists seems best; three seems to create confusion … I can answer for myself, and I believe for my fellow sitters, that never in the course of all the months we sat together did we see the board while communications were coming through, nor did any of us know at the time what these communications were, as they were recorded in silence by a friend, who was obliged to take them down in shorthand, such was the rapidity with which the traveler moved from letter to letter.

I understand that many of your messages came through while you and the other sitter were blindfolded, a third person recording the messages.  Is that common?

“The gift of ‘seeing without eyes’ is certainly comparatively rare.  I have sought diligently for mediums who possess the power of working blindfold, and find they are few in number.  In fact, I have only met four out of the many I have tried who have this gift.  I generally distinguish a blindfold worker by the fact that before he has had any suggestion that we should close our eyes he will close his of his own accord, and prefer to sit without looking at the letters.  Blindfold sitting is very exhausting as a rule.”
When there are two sitters, does one usually supply most of the power?

“The [spirit] control will generally say he requires ‘a negative and a positive.’  What this means exactly it is hard to understand, but from watching many combinations at the ouija board, I have gathered that a ‘positive’ medium receives the message through his or her brain and transmits it to the board, while a negative possesses the driving force.  I mean that, apparently, one sitter supplies mental, and the other muscular power.”

You have stated that results weren’t as good when Lennox Robinson was not sitting with you.

“It seemed that the really marvelous power of ‘seeing without eyes’ rested largely, or perhaps completely, with Mr. Robinson. (Below).  After he had left Dublin and the circle was broken, the Rev. Savell Hicks and I tried repeatedly to get messages blindfolded, but without success.  I have succeeded in getting blindfold work through with other mediums, but none of them have the rapidity and certainty possessed with Mr. Robinson.”


You also mention in the book that results are often slow, uncertain, and cannot be forced. Would you mind elaborating a little on that?

“Indeed, one asks oneself whether time is well spent seeking for the few grains of gold one finds in the huge dust heaps of disappointment and dullness.  The value of these golden grains seems immense when one has wandered about in a Hades of dim trivialities and even absurdities, spending evening after evening receiving messages from known, or unknown persons of a kind which would not do credit to a very mediocre letter writer.  Yet, these communications purport to be what the unknown control has an ardent desire to get through from the world of mystery to those still alive!  Many times I have felt inclined to give up this apparently hopeless pursuit, elusive and as it is.”

What about automatic writing?

“This mode of communication has produced most interesting results without doubt, but there are objections to it. A pencil is held generally between the first and third fingers of the hand of the medium; it touches the paper, and as a rule, after some preliminary flourishes and twirls, the pencil begins to write coherent words and messages.  These messages vary according to the communicator, and the handwriting changes as different personalities appear.  Sometimes the writing is that of a child, then of an old person, etc. One of my objections is that the script is generally difficult to decipher, as the pencil cannot be lifted as in ordinary handwriting, and the manuscript is full of scrawls and hard to read.  This is not my only objections on automatic writing, which, for some unknown reason, leads in certain cases to continual pain in the arm, an irresistible desire to write, nervous upset, and consequent physical prostration. However, without doubt, most interesting and evidential results have been obtained by automatic writing, and my objections to this method do not hold good in all cases.”

Can you generalize in describing a routine case of apparent communication?

“In almost all cases where a discarnate spirit professes to speak, I ask for an account of his passing over.  These accounts vary very little; they all retain the same features, though some are more detailed than others.  In all cases, a period of darkness is described as occurring almost immediately after death.  This darkness appears to be a penance or purgatory for the soul left thus in lonely and silent meditation, and it is evidently a period of considerable suffering.  Yet, during this time of darkness the spirit seems to be permitted to speak to those on earth if such opportunity be offered it.  This state does not seem to last long, not more than a week or ten days, so far as I can judge from communicators who come repeatedly and speak of their present condition.  They frequently say that when the light came, someone was near them, who led them away to the place where their ‘work’ was.  What the nature of this ‘work’ is, they seem unable to explain.”

In your book, you mention some communicators having had a vision of the body before the darkness enveloped them.

“[Yes,] frequently when soldiers killed in battle have spoken they became aware that they had died.  They tell how the battlefield lay below them, with all the horror of its details, and how they saw their own bodies lying on the field. Sometimes the vision extends, and they see the body being carried away and buried.  In the same way, some of those who die in their beds describe the body lying there as when the spirit rose from it.  They can see the nurses preparing it for burial, the coffin, etc.”

Do the same spirits come through again and again?

“From reviewing hundreds of messages from those who have passed away, I gather that the spirit retains its earth memory for a time.  The time seems to vary with the nature of the individual.  The more rarefied and exalted the soul during its earth life, the shorter its span of earth memory seems to be after it has passed through the barrier.  These more highly developed souls seem gradually to rise into a region from which it is perilous to touch the earth atmosphere, except for a few minutes at a time. After this, they disappear altogether.”

Would you mind relating a specific case?

“Quite lately I had an instance of this.  The communicator was a connection of my own, a very refined, gentle, intellectual personality in his earth life.  He came to the ouija board repeatedly for some time while I happened to be in touch with his family, and spoke in a way which was very evidential to them; he appeared to find it impossible to communicate for more than a few minutes at a time.  Then there would be a long pause, and he would come again.  He told us that after a time he would be unable to speak.  He had died very suddenly, and seemed to have passed quickly to a state of great peace and happiness, though he gave us no account of his surroundings or occupations; he said it was forbidden, and would, in any case, be incomprehensible to those still alive.”

Do you have a theory as to how a particular spirit is drawn to your séance room?

“This is a question I almost invariably put to controls and communicators, and their replies to the question are almost always the same.  They state that a bright light attracted them – and the stronger the medium, the brighter the light.  When I am sitting myself, and ask, ‘What attracted you to this room?’ the answer generally is, ‘I saw a woman wrapped in flame.’ Sometimes they describe a brilliant light on the head of the medium, but as psychic strength increases the light seems to envelop the whole body of the sensitive.” 

I understand that you have had several spirit controls.  Can you tell us a little about them?  

“At the second or third sitting of the circle, Peter Rooney made his appearance.  He stated that he was an American Irishman; that he had had a most undesirable career and spent much of his life in jail; that ten days before he communicated with us he had thrown himself under a tram-car in Boston and had been killed.  Sir William Barrett, having made careful inquires from the Governor of the State prison at Boston, Mass., and from the Chief of Police in that city, found Peter Rooney’s tale an entire fabrication.  A certain Peter Rooney had fallen from a tram-car in August 1910, had suffered from a scalp wound but was alive in 1914, as far as could be ascertained.”

So did you confront the alleged “Peter Rooney” about that?

“On being upbraided by us for assuming a name and identity not his own, Peter admitted that he had no desire that we should know who he was, and that he had adopted this name as ‘it was as good as any other.’  He stated that he had been interested in psychical research in his lifetime, and wished to assist investigation of supernormal phenomena now that he had ‘passed over.’ He refused absolutely to give us any further information about himself.  Peter has a burning desire to shine as a ‘test’ control; he prefers us to work blindfold, and he is rashly desirous to attempt experiments. He is most uncertain in results, but, given a quiet room and his own mediums, he can do remarkable things.  He is a rather primitive creature, has very strong likes and dislikes, and is very vain and fond of a display of his powers … He rather despises sittings with open eyes, and unless a medium is present who has the quality necessary for blindfold sitting he seldom comes.”

I understand that Astor is a frequent control.

“[True]. He professes to be the ‘guide’ of an intimate friend of mine, Miss Geraldine Cummins, who lives in my house.  We frequently sit together, and Astor appears invariably and opens the séance. He controls Miss Cummins’ hand most powerfully; all the force, mental and physical, seems to come through her, and I add probably a kind of balance only.  Astor is, of course, chiefly interest in Miss Cummins’ concerns, but in so far as hers are connected with mine, he is deeply interested in me also, and often devotes most of his attention to me at a sitting … Astor is an intelligent creature, not given much to flattery – indeed, often very plain-spoken.

Wasn’t one of them a Hindu spirit named Shamar?

“[Yes]. Shamar has undertaken to conduct most of my sittings lately; she devotes herself to cultivating my powers by sending me genuine communications.  She says she is very fond of sending me messages from living persons who are asleep or drowsy.  In these cases, absolute proof is, of course, possible sometimes.  Twice lately I had conversations with friends who stated they were in a drowsy state, and the information I received through them proved true in every respect.  So far as I know her, Shamar is sincere; she makes no magnificent promises, and she has been very faithful in bringing interesting communicators.”

Thank you, Ms. Travers Smith.  Any parting thoughts?

“I have had some evidence which, if not entirely convincing, points so strongly to the fact that we survive what is called death that it requires more credulity to doubt the fact than to believe it… [However], if I may venture to advise persons who long to speak once more with those they have loved, who have vanished into darkness, I should say it is wise and sane not to make the attempt.  The chances against genuine communication are ten to one; the disappointments and doubts connected with the experiment are great.”

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.

Next blog post: June 13

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The Hindu Spirit and the Anglican Priest (Part 2 of 2)

Posted on 16 May 2016, 16:35

This is a continuation of the last blog post, dated May 2.  The Rev. Arthur Chambers, the vicar of Brockenhurst and associate of King’s College, London, was introduced to a young trance medium and, after the young man went into a trance state, a voice began speaking in Hindustanee.  According to the friends of the young man, he did not know the language in his normal state.  At some point, the young man began speaking in English with the accent of a person from India.  The dialogue, as recorded by Chambers continued:

Chambers: In what way does a spirit’s control injure the person controlled when the spirit is actuated by nothing beyond the mere desire of physical contact?

Answer: In the same way that the stronger mind of a teacher of low moral tone will injure the boy placed under his guidance.  The spirits who control from no motive of love, but only to satisfy a longing for the physical, are low in the scale of moral being; as low, and often far lower, than those they control.  No good can come from such.

Chambers: But how comes it that this longing for the physical remains in anyone who has passed from this world into the Spiritual? Does not the change of the plane of existence obliterate it?

Answer: No.  There are numbers in the Spirit World, who, when living in your world, never lifted their thoughts and desires above the material. In tastes and inclinations they were “of the earth, earthy.”  They entered Spirit life in that state, and, untrained in the Spiritual, it is strange and distasteful to them.  They carried their instincts with them and longed to be back in the physical.  Sometimes they are permitted to gratify their longing, and then there happens that which is recorded in your New Testament – evil spirits control the bodies and minds of men.  Christ, when on earth, could see such spirits and they could see Him, and it was His mission to cast them out.

Chambers: This, if true, is a terrible fact.

Answer: Yes, and it explains a great deal of the awful crime that stains your earth.  If you could see, as we on this side do, you would behold your gin-palaces and drinking saloons thronged with troops of spirits, who in earth life had been drunkards, gamblers, and fornicators.  Earth-bound, and no longer able to satiate their still-existing desires, they seek a gratification in frequenting their old haunts, and inciting others to sin.  Every unrepentant spirit let loose by the hangman is a menace to society.  Have you never noticed that after an execution three or four murders follow in rapid succession?  Can you not see the cause of this?

Chambers: Will you tell me – is there not a great danger in regard to spirit-control?

Answer: Most certainly.  That is why, in olden times, all intercourse with “familiar spirits” was forbidden to the Israelites.  The spirits who were then controlling men were evil.  They were the spirits of men who in earth-life had lived in the grossest vice and impurity.  Nothing but evil could ensue from such control as that, and as the Israelites themselves, at that period of their history, were but little advanced in their knowledge of a Life Beyond, as seen in the earlier books of the Bible, they were forbidden an intercourse with spirits whose earthly surroundings had been of such a character as to make them spirits of low moral type.  Probably you will have noted that the age in which intercourse with familiar spirits is so discountenanced yields a very great deal of testimony in regard to intercourse with spiritual beings of an exalted class.  For instance, angel-visits were frequent, and a servant of God after death – the prophet Samuel – in spite of the existing prohibition, appeared to the women of Endor, and spoke to King Saul.

Later on, you find an apostle of Jesus Christ – who himself knew a great deal about the Spiritual World – showing that he was sensible of the danger underlying spirit-control, while acknowledging the possibilities of good in it.  He wrote, “Believe not every spirit; but test the spirits, if they are of God.”

Chambers:  Then persons who are under the control of low spirits may be deceived?

Answer: Yes.  When the prophets of old, to whom spiritual control was a common experience, threw themselves open to the control of ignorant and lying spirits, they became no longer prophets of God, but false prophets.  What do you imagine the words mean – “A lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets”?

Chambers: Do you assert that persons can be ignorant and untruthful in the Spiritual World?  Does not their entrance into that World at once enlighten them and make lying impossibility?

Answer: Persons enter the Spiritual World with precisely the same character, enlightenment and disposition as that which they leave your world, and go into a sphere for which they are fitted.  And there they remain until, mentally, morally, and spiritually advanced, they are fitted for a higher sphere.  You in your world have persons of all sorts and classes.  So have we in our World; persons depraved, ignorant, cruel; others, not so morally bad, but ignorant of God and truth; some, partially enlightened, but exhibiting good traits of character and desire; others, better, wiser, nobler and so on, until a class of spiritual beings is reached, so exalted in knowledge and excellence that many of us never, as yet see them.

Chambers: Then I gather from your teaching that a person who has but just entered the Spiritual World may not be much better off than in this world?

Answer: As regards his character, on entering our World he is exactly what he was on leaving yours; good or bad; godly or ungodly; ignorant or enlightened; or in any condition that lies between these extremes.  What you call the “act of dying” does not alter the character of a person; he that is unjust will be unjust still; he that is filthy will be filthy still; he that is righteous will be righteous still; and he that is holy will be holy still.  As regards, however, his surroundings, he is better off with us than with you.  Every sphere of spiritual life, even the lowest, is interpenetrated by influences and ministries of good flowing into it from higher spheres.  Consequently, from the lower spheres there is a constant emigration of spirits who are responsive to the good, and these pass to higher planes of life and thought.

Chambers: But this fact is not grasped by great numbers of Christians; how is that?

Answer: Because so many of your teachers are purblind; they read the Bible, and fail to see the truths it proclaims.  What, for example could more plainly assert the truth of spirits progressing than the statement of an apostle that Christ in our world preached to, and reclaimed, a great number of spirits who in earth-life had been godless and debased?  The fact is, the importation of Western ideas into Christianity has acted banefully upon the latter.  Old Roman conceptions have made your theology hard, cruel and loveless; God is viewed as an Almighty Magistrate, instead of a Father, and punishment is vindictive, instead of remedial.

Chambers: Are all in your World readily responsive to the leadings and impulses of good?

Answer: No, any more than persons in your world are.  Some have shaped such characters while in the earth-life that for long after they come to us they remain insensible to good, and only along the highway of bitter experience can they rise to the better.  Some, on the other hand, have developed such noble characters on earth as to start in Spirit-life in a high sphere, and these pass easily onward.

Chambers: Do you assert that all will ultimately yield to good?

Answer: We in this life do not possess foreknowledge any more than you do; but we know that God is supreme, and the ever-widening stream of tendency is towards Him.  But why ask me about this matter?  You, as a clergyman, believe the Bible, do you not? Consult the Book.  Does it not tell you that God will one day be “all in all”; that every will in His universe is ultimately to bow to Him; and that His Christ will not rest so long as one lost sheep has not been found?

Chambers: Yes, that is so; but hundreds of thousands believe in an everlasting Hell. Must there not be a basis for that idea?

Answer: Undoubtedly.  That terrible libel on the power and goodness of God is built up on two words in your Bible wrongly translated.

Chambers: Which words?

Answer: You know them; I have heard you speak about the mistranslation.  (The words referred to are found in Matt. xxv. 46 v.)  Every scholar knows that the Greek of this passage [translates to] an age-long pruning (not everlasting).  “Pruning’ is a discipline with a view to improvement. 

Chambers: Many of the things you have told me appear like familiar truths, and yet I cannot tell when, or where, I learned them.  Is this not strange?

Answer: No; you have been taught them.

Chambers: By whom?

Answer: By several in our world who are guiding you.

Chambers: But am I not controlled?

Answer: Not physically, but you are mentally.  They impress your mind with a thought, and you clothe it with language and ideas.

Chambers: Is this possible?

Answer: Read your Bible for the answer.  Inspiration (or as it should be more correctly termed) “spiritual suggestion” is a fact.

Chambers: Are men, then, still being guided in this way?

Answer: Yes, many are.  Have I not told you that a great wave of spiritual energy is now passing from our World to yours?

Chambers: May we hope, then, that men, as time goes on, will better understand the truth concerning the Spiritual than they have hitherto done?

Answer: Most assuredly.  Have you not, yourself, received the testimony of hundreds that they are craving for clearer light than the schoolmen give?  That craving is the forerunner of enlightenment.

Chambers: Will the Bible be superseded?

Answer: No, but it will be better understood.

According to Chambers, the “voice” coming through the uneducated young man then spoke for about 15 minutes about God and the fact that character finds its highest development when Self-hood is absorbed in love and concern for others.  Chambers said that he had listened to the sermons of many noted preachers “but no one of them has equalled, in sublimity of idea and charm of diction, this sermon.”  When it was finished, the young man fell gently backward in the chair and after about three minutes and several convulsive twitches he opened his eyes, seemed dazed, as if awakening from sleep, recovered himself and asked for water.

Later in the evening, Chambers talked with the young man, but the contrast was marked – only the mind of the ordinary young man expressed itself.  “I leave the reader to explain this incident by whatever hypothesis he may please,” Chambers ended the story. “That of control by some intelligence superior to the medium’s own seems to me to be the most reasonable one.”

Next blog post: May 30

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.

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What the Hindu Spirit Told an Anglican Priest

Posted on 02 May 2016, 13:06

As the Rev. Arthur Chambers, the vicar of Brockenhurst and associate of King’s College, London, saw it, Christian teachers and writers had failed to provide sufficient information about the afterlife. They had “so enshrouded it, as it were, in mental mistiness, that to many it has seemed a vague, inhuman and unreal existence, a veritable ‘world of shadows’.”  Thus, Chambers took it upon himself to further study the subject and report on it, which he did in an 1894 book, Our Life After Death, and again in a 1900 book, Man and the Spiritual World.

Chambers’s studies included sitting with a young trance medium, although he does not use the word “medium” to describe him.  He was simply a young man, the acquaintance of a friend, “who had recently manifested extraordinary powers that astonished himself and upset the ideas of the members of the religious community to which he belonged.”  He was told by those members that the cause of what he had exhibited was Satanic, but Chambers was more open-minded and decided to talk with the young man.  He discovered that “he was by no means a well-educated person.  He dropped his aspirates, made grammatical blunders, and badly constructed his sentences.”  After Chambers talked with him for some time, the young man appeared to faint and remained motionless for about five minutes. 

“My friends had previously seen him in this condition, and told me he was under control, and in a trance-state,” Chamber wrote, taking careful notes. 

The man raised himself in the chair, his eyes still closed, and commenced to speak in a language unknown to Chambers.  A lady in the group who had lived in India for several years said she recognized it as Hindustanee.  According to the friends of the young man, he did not know the language in his normal state.  At some point, the young man began speaking in English with the accent of a person from India. The following lengthy conversation was recorded and reported in the 1900 book.

Chambers:  You claim – do you not – to be a spiritual intelligence speaking through the physical organs of Mr. A?

Answer: Yes.

Chambers:  Who are you?

Answer: I am a man who lived in India, when in the earth-life, and spent a great portion of my time in studying the truths that relate to this World in which I now am.

Chambers:  Is Mr. A. conscious that you are speaking through him?

Answer: No.  The controlling power of his material body, which is his spirit-body, is in a state of unconsciousness, and I am exercising the control.

Chambers: If you, as you say, are taking the place of the spirit in Mr. A. in regard to his physical body, has his spirit left that body?

Answer: Yes.

Chambers: Where is it, or rather, where is he?

Answer: In this room, in a state of unconsciousness.

Chambers: But how can that be? Can a man’s spirit leave his body before death?

Answer: Most certainly it can, and does, at times.  But you as a teacher of the Bible should know that truth.

Chambers: Does the Bible then declare it?

Answer: Most assuredly.  Does not an apostle say that he was caught up into the third sphere of the Spiritual World; and yet his earthly body did not die until some years afterwards?

Chambers: Yes, I am familiar with that statement; but St. Paul himself did not seem to be quite sure whether he was in his outer body, or out of it.

Answer: This is quite possible.  Many persons, after passing through what you call “dying,” having left the earthly body behind, do not, for a while, realise that it has been cast off.  They are still, after the change, so really men and women.  The apostle when he had the experience mentioned was out of his earthly body, and the latter was in a state of trance.

Chambers: When the spirit of a person is outside his body, is the connection between the spirit and the body maintained?

Answer: Yes, were it not, the earthly body would die.

Chambers: Would it under such circumstances be possible to break the connection between an external spirit and its earthly body?

Answer: Yes.  A sudden shock might bring it about.  Hence to violently arouse a person in a state of trance – when very often the spirit is absent from the body – is very dangerous.  It may break the connection, and then the body would die.

Chambers:  I have taught and still teach that the separation of the spirit and spirit-body from its earthly encasement takes place shortly after the death.  Am I right in this?

Answer: No: you are wrong.  The separation takes place immediately before
the death of the body.

Chambers: That rather astonishes me.

Answer:  I will explain.  A little while before death, the spirit-body of a person releases itself from the physical form and floats at full length above the latter, with which it is still connected by something not unlike a fine cord.  The physical body, as yet, is still alive, but it no longer contains the man. He is in the spirit-body, but unconscious.  When that fine spiritual cord is snapped, the separation is effected, and the material life expires.  You have the physical counterpart of this cord in the connection that exists between mother and the babe at birth.  The severance of a cord is the preliminary entrance of both the man and the babe into a higher plane of being.

From this point on the dialogue is abridged.

Chambers: What is your object in controlling the body of Mr. A?

Answer: To establish a communication through him with the world I have left.

Chambers: For what end?

Answer: To try and convince men of the fact of a World of Spirit.

Chambers: But surely, that fact is acknowledged, is it not?  We Christians, for example, acknowledge it.

Answer: Yes; in a way.  Your Bible is full of testimony regarding it, and you profess to accept its teaching; but not one in every thousand who attend your churches grasps the truths concerning the Spiritual World that Scripture declares.

Chambers: Is that not too sweeping an assertion?

Answer: No; you well know that many who read their Bible school themselves to think that all the spiritual facts recorded therein actually did take place thousands of years ago; but ask them to believe that like things are happening now; what will they say? Will they not declare it to be incredible and absurd?

Chambers: Are they wrong?

Answer: Why ask such a question! Do you suppose that the Spiritual World is now different from what it was before, and at the time when Christ sojourned on your earth? Nearly all the phases of spiritual manifestation described in the Bible are present occurrences.

Chambers: If that be so, how comes it that the truth is not better realised?

Answer: Because the tendency of men’s minds is too materialistic.  When that is the case, a revelation of the Spiritual becomes more difficult.

Chambers: Why?

Answer: Because of the feebleness, through disuse, of internal faculties by which the Spiritual can be approached.  You have the correspondence of this in the physical world.  Were you never to use your eyes and your ears there would come a time when, although the organs might still remain, it would be exceedingly difficult to get those eyes and ears to perceive sights and sounds which exercised eyes and ears can perceive.

Chambers: Do you imply that many Christians who believe in a World to come fail to perceive the whole truth concerning the Spiritual?

Answer: Most certainly I do. If you doubt this, question them on the point.  Will you find more than one in every hundred, or thousand, who has any idea of a Spiritual World, except as a far off Heaven at a future time?

Chambers: I am afraid your assertion is true. ...Is it granted to all who leave the earth-life to set up – as you claim to be doing – this phase of communication with the physical?

Answer: No; many wish to do so, but are not permitted.

Chambers: Why so?

Answer: In the case of many spirits, the wish does not spring from a desire to benefit you on the earth plane, but from a mere longing for contact with the world they have left.

Chambers: Is this longing wrong?

Answer: It is harmful unless dictated and sanctified by the promptings of love and unselfishness.

Chambers: Explain, please; I do not fully understand you.

Answer: If a spirit, not prompted by love and unselfishness, control a person, he harms both himself and the person he controls.

Chambers: In what way does he harm himself?

Answer: By retarding his progress in the Spiritual World.  The desire to continue in close contact with the physical, for the sake of contact itself, checks his advance on a higher plane of life and thought.  In the case, however, of physical contact being desired only that love and unselfishness may find a field of exercise, the spirit is unharmed, nay more, he is often advanced by the experience.  Thus, the contact of Christ with the physical did not diminish aught from the moral and spiritual excellence of His being. His love and unselfishness grew grander thereby.

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.

To be continued on May 16

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Can Atheists See the ‘Forrest’ for the Trees?

Posted on 18 April 2016, 11:59

There seems to be no doubt that Forrest J Ackerman was a lifelong atheist. “He did not believe there is a God,” Dr. Gary E.  Schwartz, professor of psychology, medicine, neurology, psychiatry and surgery at the University of Arizona, offers in the Preface of An Atheist in Heaven, a 514-page book just recently released.  “He did not believe there is a heaven.  He did not believe there is an afterlife. He did not believe humans have spirits or souls.”  Yet, Paul J. Davids, (below) the lead author, and co-author Schwartz offer some very convincing evidence that Ackerman survived his physical death.


Whether Ackerman survived in the “heaven” of orthodox religion or was at a more earthbound level of the afterlife spectrum is another question, one on which the reader can only speculate. “We are using the word ‘heaven’ in its more abstract, generic and spiritual meaning – a ‘higher place’ of existence that is typically more loving, joyful and peaceful that what we experience on earth,” Schwartz clarifies.

Ackerman, who like President Harry S Truman had one letter for his middle name (no period after it) and was known to many as “Forry” or “Uncle Forry,” died at age 92 on December 4, 2008, after a long career in which he created and edited Famous Monsters of Filmland magazine and became known as “Mr. Sci-Fi.”  Davids, a sci-fi enthusiast during his youth and now an award-winning Hollywood film director, met him in 1963 and remained a friend through Ackerman’s lifetime.  “And I believe I have learned over the past eight years that friendship does not end with death,” Davids offers.

Strange as it may seem, a mere “ink obliteration” on a page printed from Davids’ computer triggers the whole story.  It was not a smudge or a blot, but some meaningful words mysteriously blocked out on the page that was first of many signs that suggested Ackerman was trying to let Davids and others know that he was still around.  And there is something of a paradox connected with this ink obliteration.  It has to do with replication – that part of the scientific method that the fundamentalists of science rely on to reject evidence strongly suggesting the survival of consciousness at death.  These fundamentalists claim that the abundance of psychical research favoring survival is not acceptable because it can’t be replicated under the strictest conditions. In the case of the ink obliteration, however, it is the fact that science has been unable to replicate it that gives it special meaning and lends itself to the survival hypothesis. In other words, the paradox here is that replication of the ink obliteration, something two chemists devoted much time to, would have run counter to the main message of the book, that we do survive death.


Davids, who grew up in a non-religious home, then encounters numerous anomalies, many of them synchronicities, taken by Davids as possible signs from Ackerman.  They include a wide range of weird things, including inoperable clocks chiming, phones crawling along a counter, a very unusual CAPTCHA code on a computer, bowls moving themselves across a room, many disappearing objects, meaningful spider bites, voices from a dead computer, blue jeans dissolving in front of many witnesses, meaningful computer glitches, manipulation of electromagnetic fields, alarms sounding unexpectedly, and “dozens” of other strange phenomena suggesting that an invisible intelligence is causing them. In fact, Davids chronologically lists 142 of them in the Addendum to the book. 

For the skeptic and debunker, including Michael Shermer, the arch-skeptic who was consulted by Davids, all of these little happenings are “mere” coincidences, but the Davids argues “that when you detect patterns in seemingly unconnected events, those patterns very possibly do have meaning, do reveal intention and are the result of some source of agenticity.” 

Jack Kelleher, who had interviewed Ackerman some years earlier, also experienced some strange anomalies related to Ackerman and contributes a chapter to the book.  He mentions telling a skeptical friend about his experiences and friend discounting them all.  “Like many other skeptics, this friend tends to examine each one of the coincidences as a separate entity and dismisses it, without taking into account their collective pattern,” he writes. “While he is a highly competent systems analyst with a scientifically trained mind, and I respect his right to this viewpoint, I am frankly bewildered by the narrowness of vision it betrays.  I felt he was limiting himself by majoring in minor details and should look at this case through a lens of wider focus.  I retorted with the humorous metaphoric pun:  “You can’t see the Forrest for the trees.’  I deliberately spelled it with two r’s, as in Forest J Ackerman.” 

At some point during his many odd experiences, Davids consulted Schwartz, author of The Afterlife Experiments, The G.O.D.  Experiment, The Energy Healing Experiments, and The Sacred Promise, who encouraged him to further document his experiences and write about them.  In addition, Schwartz recommended that Davids sit with two mediums, both of whom provided evidential information suggesting communication from Ackerman.  Schwartz contributes seven very interesting chapters to the book, discussing Davids’ experiences, skepticism, mediumship, and survival research.

Davids concludes “that the inkblot that appeared on my document, though very small physically, is a potent, loud and scientifically profound occurrence that signals the existence of invisible intelligence that can manipulate things in our world.”

I’m not sure that what Davids offers in this book amounts to the “ultimate” evidence for life after death, as the subtitle indicates, but I believe it leaves much to ponder on.  As Davids states:  “To me, the fact that these things happen, and happen repeatedly, demonstrates the extreme limitation of the human brain and human consciousness.  They demonstrate that much greater forces than we can fathom are at work in our lives – or at least in this case, in my life.”

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 forthcoming book Why the Afterlife is Beyond Science will be published later in 2016 by White Crow Books.

Next blog post:  May 2

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Another Look at the Margery “Third Hand” Mystery: Believe It or Not!

Posted on 04 April 2016, 9:28

A recent segment of the Travel Channel’s “Mysteries at the Museum” series dealt with the “Margery” mediumship, previously discussed in my January 11 blog.  The television presentation is an example of how history is distorted and mediums maligned by biased historians and journalists who know little of the subject.  The program involved cherry-picking, hearsay, distortion of facts, sensationalism, misinformation, and most of all incomplete information.

Above: The Walter Hand

The program host, Don Wildman, began by saying that Margery, the pseudonym given to Mina Crandon for privacy purposes: 1) claimed that she can communicate with the dead; 2) that Spiritualism was “on the rise” during the mid 1920s when she was demonstrating her mediumship; 3) that she “desperately sought fame” by attempting to win the $2,500 prize offered by Scientific American Magazine for anyone able to prove mediumistic ability; and 4) that she was a mystic.  All four statements are highly questionable, in that:  1) Margery never claimed she could communicate with the dead.  The claim was that the dead could communicate through her with others while she was in a trance condition; 2) Spiritualism had peaked during the late 1800s and had a resurgence during World War I, but indications were that it was in decline during the 1920s; 3) Margery was the wife of a respected Boston surgeon who also happened to teach medicine at Harvard University. Thus, she was living comfortably and had no special need for the $2,500 prize or great fame.  She was persuaded to enter the contest by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle to prove the genuineness of mediumship and apparently agreed to give the prize money to charity.  4) True mediums are rarely mystics, although this is a matter of definition.  Margery never claimed to be a mystic.

The focus of the program was an object called the “bell-box” now on display at the Salon De Magie in Loveland, Ohio.  The box had a bell in it and ringing the bell was supposedly one of the ways the spirits showed their presence.  The only person offering any commentary on the television program was a person identified as a “magic historian.”  He explained that Harry Houdini, the great escape artist, sat next to Margery at one séance and detected movement by her, a sure sign that she reached out with her leg and rang the bell in the box.  It was not explained why the box was so close to her feet that she could reach out with her foot and touch it, since the researcher protocol required that it be well out of her reach.  Houdini also detected that when the large dining room table in front of them shook it was due to Margery putting her head under the heavy dining room table and lifting it with the back of her head.  End of story: Trust Houdini.  Margery was clearly a “con artist.”

It was also mentioned, at least implied, that Houdini built the bell-box, which I do not believe is correct. Indications are that it was in use before Houdini even came on the scene.  He built a cabinet to restrain Margery, but I doubt that the bell-box was his idea. 

Missing Information

Here is what was not mentioned in any way, shape, or form on the program:

1) The bell-box was usually at least nine feet away from Margery when it rang, well out of reach of her stretched leg and toes.  In many cases, it was held on the lap of someone sitting at the table some distance from Margery or was on the table in front of the person, clearly out of Margery’s reach. 

2)  While the ectoplasm exuded by Margery was sensitive to light and required darkness,  a red light was frequently used and Margery’s hands were always held by the person sitting next to her for test control purposes.  It would have been extremely difficult, if not impossible, for her to bend over and get her head centered under the table to raise it without the persons holding her hands feeling the movement of her arms and entire body.

3) Various other phenomena were produced, including communicating raps, table-tilting, strange lights, telekinesis, trance-voice, direct-voice, trance-writing, automatic writing, and materializations of spirit forms.  Communication came through in nine languages, including ancient Italian and Chinese.  The most frequent communicator was Walter Stinson, Margery’s deceased brother. Walter would speak through his entranced sister and also independently of her through a trumpet, would carry on conversations with the sitters, joke with them, whistle tunes, and do automatic writing through Margery.  The voice was masculine and in character with the Walter that some sitters had known. Moreover, Walter would sometimes provide information which Margery could not have known.

4) Photographs were taken of various phenomena, including Walter’s hand ringing the bell on one occasion and a “third arm and hand” extending from Margery’s pelvic area reaching out to bring about some phenomenon. (Below)


5) Thumb prints of Walter were taken, one of them matched up with the only print left behind by him (although another thumb print mysteriously turned out to be that of Margery’s dentist, from whom the wax was obtained).

6) Margery was studied by a number of scientists and scholars, most of them testifying to the genuineness of her ability, although some sat on the fence and did not commit themselves, apparently for fear that their reputations would be damaged.  Several had one sitting only and concluded it had to be fraud as what they observed was not possible.  Like Houdini, Dr. Joseph Rhine, who lacked experience in physical mediumship, detected movement by Margery and concluded that she was a fraud, but others understood that slight movements by Margery was natural to such trance mediumship as earlier researchers with Eusapia Palladino and other mediums had observed “synchronies” between the medium and the movement of objects well away from her reach. That is, her fingers, hands, and feet seemed to be moving in harmony with activity producing a certain phenomenon out of her reach, something of a puppet effect, the ectoplasmic “strings” between the medium and the object not being visible. 

7) There were indications that Houdini tried to plant incriminating evidence against Margery.  On one occasion, an eraser was found in the bell-ringing mechanism and was believed to have been planted there by Houdini to prevent the bell from ringing, while on another occasion a fold-up six-inch ruler was found in a cabinet built by Houdini to restrain Margery, apparently a plant by Houdini to frame her by claiming she extended the ruler to reach out and effect certain phenomena.  Jim Collins, an assistant to Houdini, is said to have later confessed to putting the ruler inside the box. 

Favorable Research

T. Glen Hamilton, M.D., perhaps the most competent and experienced researcher to study Margery, sat with Margery on eleven occasions, twice in his own laboratory in Winnipeg, Canada, under strictly controlled conditions, and was certain that the phenomena he witnessed were genuine. Margery was thoroughly searched beforehand and restrained during the sittings and several other scientists observed with Hamilton.  “I have no hesitancy in again stating that I am quite convinced that the Margery phenomena are not only genuine but are also among the most brilliant yet recorded in the history of metapsychic science,” he reported.

Dr. Mark W. Richardson, a professor of medicine at Harvard, had dozens of sittings with Margery and even constructed a machine to verify that Walter’s voice was not Margery’s. He was equally certain that her mediumship was genuine.  Dr. Robin Tillyard, a fellow of the Royal Society, called her mediumship the “most marvelous” in the history of psychical research. 

The “Third Hand” Mystery

Clearly, the “third arm” or “third hand” is beyond science and one of the reasons mainstream science cannot accept such mediumship.  It is not acceptable as a starting hypothesis and unscientific as an ending conclusion.  However, there have been a number of respected scientists who have observed it with other mediums.  Dr. William J. Crawford, a mechanical engineer and university lecturer, had considerable experience with physical mediums.  “In the phenomenon of levitation of a table or other article a psychic arm extrudes from the medium – I do not mean an arm in the sense of the human arm, but a projection of some kind from her body,” he wrote of the medium Kathleen Goligher.  “Now this projection or extrusion is practically invisible and impalpable – it is impalpable except just at its free end, where it grips or presses on the body it is levitating – yet it transmits throughout its length great stresses, as is obviously the case when it sustains at its free end, as it has done, a body (heavy table) weighing thirty and forty pounds.  Again, this structure seems to contain within it quite a lot of matter temporarily borrowed from the body of the medium.”  Crawford photographed the ectoplasm emerging from Goligher, both in the flowing stage and as it took shape.


As stated in that January 11 post, many researchers, including Dr. Charles Richet, a professor of medicine at the University of Paris, and Sir Oliver Lodge, a world-renowned physicist and pioneer in electricity, observed “extra” arms with the medium Eusapia Palladino.  They called them pseudopods.

J. Hewat McKenzie, founder of the British College of Psychic Science, reported that such third arms are very common among physical mediums.  He explained that when the ectoplasm is insufficient to create a full form “the spirit operators may solidify only a hand and an arm, or even a hand alone.”  He described such limbs as “stick like” with anywhere from three to five fingers, and protruding from various parts of the body.  “This part-projection of soul is manipulated by the will of the operating spirit, and is not under the control of the medium,” he explained, adding that the limb can extend out several feet and grasp objects, as may be necessary to produce phenomena. 


But all this is above the boggle threshold of most people.  “All just tricks which magicians understand better than scientists,” is the debunker’s usual response.  And so it goes.  I find it much easier to accept the observations of scientists like Richet, Lodge, Hamilton, and Crawford than those of some magician out to add to his fame and ego. It would be one thing if those scientists had observed the mediums only a time or two, but those men had countless sittings with various mediums under controlled conditions. Richet reported over 200 sittings with Palladino and Crawford recorded 87 sittings with Goligher.  Keep in mind that Hamilton studied Margery in his own laboratory, where there was absolutely no opportunity for her to smuggle in objects to use as tricks, and Mrs. Hamilton strip-searched her beforehand. 

“Yes, it is absurd,” said Richet, who was awarded the Nobel Prize for his research on anaphylaxis, the sensitivity of the body to alien protein substance, “but no matter – it is true.”

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 forthcoming book Why the Afterlife is Beyond Science will be published later in 2016 by White Crow Books.

Next blog post:  April 18

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Retired Naval Architect Tells of His NDE

Posted on 21 March 2016, 9:03

When Dr. Alan Hugenot (below) had a near-death experience in 1970, it didn’t have a name and he was reluctant to talk about it.  But he now says “the best thing that ever happened to me was when I ‘died’ in a motorcycle wreck.” 


It wasn’t until 2006, as he approached retirement from his career as a naval architect and marine engineer, that he began seriously exploring consciousness, including mediumship.  Now, 10 years later, Hugenot is an evidential medium, serving as a test medium for the Consciousness Research Laboratory at the Institute of Noetic Sciences, where he works with Drs. Dean Radin and Arnaud Delorme. 

After growing up in North Hollywood, Calif., Hugenot served in the U.S. Navy during the Vietnam War.  He then studied mechanical engineering at Oregon Institute of Technology and began his career in the design department of Puget Sound Naval Shipyard in Washington.  He eventually worked at “nearly every shipyard” in the country, on all three coasts and the Great Lakes.  Along the way, he earned a Doctorate of Science in mechanical engineering.

Although “retired,” Hugenot, who is married to Gale and lives in San Francisco, serves on a number of engineering standards writing committees and as chairman of the Motor Yacht and Service Craft Panel of the Small Craft Committee for the Society of Naval Architects and Marine Engineers.  He is frequently asked to write and deliver papers on various aspects of naval engineering for other organizations.  He also works occasionally as an expert witness in maritime cases. 

I had the opportunity to interview Hugenot for the February issue of The Searchlight, a publication of The Academy for Spiritual and Consciousness Studies and i am pleased to offer that interview here. 

Alan, please summarize your NDE.

“It was during May 1970 when I was attending college after serving in the Navy.

Briefly, I was severely injured in a motor cycle accident, lapsed into a coma for 12 hours, traveled out-of-body where I communed on the other side with a Being of Light. After returning to the body, and regaining consciousness, I remained hospitalized for 33 days.

“This was five years before Dr. Raymond Moody published his book, Life After Life, in which he coined the term ‘near-death experience.’ Back in those dark ages, the standard medical procedure was to treat all NDEs as delusions. Consequently, the resident psychiatrist, after attempting to reason with me but finding he was unable to convince me of my error, decided that if I would not conform to his version of reality he would commit me to the insane asylum. This ‘punishment’ was for merely making such insane claims about, ‘having died and then come back to life.’”

I gather you didn’t keep the experience to yourself as so many people do.
“Yes, and one of the questions the psychiatrist put to me was, ‘Just where do you think such a place as the afterlife could exist?’  I didn’t help my case any by responding, ‘Doctor, I respect all your learning and degrees, but it is like I’ve been to Mexico and you haven’t, and I want to tell you about my experience. But, instead of listening to me, and discovering a new country, you are telling me that based on your superior knowledge and training that you’re sure that Mexico is impossible and so cannot exist, and that I must therefore be mistaken.  Isn’t that a little closed minded?’

“Luckily, my orthopedic surgeon, was not so backward in his medical technology, and so discharged me from the hospital a few days early, just ahead of the psychiatrist completing the papers to have me committed.”

Why did it take you some 40 years to start talking about your NDE and writing about it and related topics?

“Early on, after the NDE, burdened with visceral personal knowledge of an inconvenient truth, and being unable to reconcile it with society’s standard model of reality, I quickly learned to be quiet about what I knew. Instead, and unlike the other SET (Science, Engineering & Technology) students, I began to also study philosophy, history, logic, meta-physics in evening classes, beginning a research odyssey which has now spanned 46 years, investigating multiple scientific disciplines, collating data and verifying the science supporting what I knew.

“When an event or experience occurs, which has no explanation within the current scientific framework, it is considered an anomaly. By being killed and coming back I had myself become a scientific anomaly. But, it is such anomalies which stubbornly refuse to go away that eventually act as the catalyst for a new advance in science. Today, I am welcomed as a featured speaker.”

What were your early religious or spiritual views?

“I was raised in a fundamentalist Baptist home. My own views were discounted by my parents, and so when I left for the Navy I investigated all the various religions with Navy chaplains.  I later became a Lutheran (Missouri Synod) because they seemed to actually study their Bible rather than carry it around like an anchor without opening it. But, prior to the NDE, if you had asked me what I thought happened after death I would have said, ‘My church believes there is a heaven and a hell, but I’m not so sure what happens.’

“Today, my sister thinks that because I am an evidential medium I have gone the way of the devil. And so she refuses to talk to me. But, while receiving readings from mediums who do not know me, my mother has come through from the other side with excellent evidential information, to tell me that she is sorry for both her fundamentalism, and also for leading my sister astray.”

So how have your views changed?

“The primary lesson I learned while out-of-body was that we are not physical beings, but are instead eternal spirits temporarily occupying physical bodies.

“The NDE moved me toward eastern meditative traditions, the Unity School or Practical Christianity and finally, as I became a medium, into Spiritualism. But I do not believe in a hell or retribution, and I do believe in universal salvation (everyone has eternal life).

“I came to realize that the Newtonian box I had been trained to use in my work as an engineer is only a fragment of the story of the conscious universe.  In a larger sense, I also learned that our 350-year-old paradigm of classical Newtonian physics, limited to three dimensions plus time, did not include everything. In fact, it fell far short and only included a very small corner of a much larger universe. I realized materialist science was deeply flawed in its world view.

“I believe that the only scientific way to understand mediumship is to do it yourself, so I took a correspondence course in mediumship from the Morris Pratt Institute, and then later attended the course in evidential mediumship at Arthur Findlay College in England.  I now know unequivocally that we continue after death in alternative dimensions of existence, but I want to better understand the precise physics and biology behind it all.”

To what extent have you developed your mediumship?

“All I can do is point to the evidence. Once, while working on the platform before a Spiritualist church, I brought through five spirits in a row, related to three sitters.  I gave their accurate names and relationships without guessing. When you look at the statistics just on the names, the odds are 320 billion to one of getting all of them.  But, if you take into account the fact that I also gave their correct relationships to the sitters, with odds of say one in 12, (mother, father, sister, brother, uncle, aunt, cousin, grandma, grandpa, great grandma, great grandpa, friend), the odds become astronomical, roughly 79.6 quadrillion to one.  So, I have to ask…how did I get that information?  How can it not be spirit talking to me?”

Some parapsychologists would say you received it telepathically from the sitter or, if it is information the sitter didn’t have, that you accessed it from a relative or friend of the sitter on the other side of the country.

“I can’t prove that is not the case and there is no science to prove it one way or the other, but it makes much more sense to me that it is spirit talking to me rather than getting it through telepathy or remote viewing of some kind.  I think Occam’s Razor favors spirit communication over telepathy or remote viewing, especially when you are talking about tapping into the consciousness of someone not even present.  How did I find that person and how did I extract that bit of information from his consciousness?”“ 

Your background is in a scientific discipline and you certainly believe in the scientific method. When a scientist says that survival of consciousness at death is impossible, how do you answer him or her?

“I tell them to stop hiding from the data. I point out that materialism which assumes that the paranormal is impossible has itself been proven false by quantum electro-dynamics (QED), fully 90 years ago. I point out that all the “first principles” of materialism are proven false by QED and non-locality. And, that although the religious dogma of materialism is that the paranormal is ‘impossible,’ there has never been any proof whatsoever, so it is just a materialist superstition. I state that any true scientist would look at the data, and anything less is stupid and not science.”

What if the skeptical scientist asks you how consciousness can go on without a functioning brain?

“Same answer. I state that this can only be true for someone who believes the brain creates consciousness. How could a cold dead universe develop life? And how could that life develop consciousness? Isn’t that a miracle that even Jesus could not produce?

Therefore, the universe must have already been conscious. And, everything even those ‘dead’ stones are made of consciousness. This is what materialism can’t quite believe, but it is no problem for QED and biocentrism.”

I understand that you have authored a new book which will be published early this year.  How will it differ from your first book?

“Everyone wants me to talk about the science of the afterlife, which was scrunched into just one chapter of my 2012 book, The Death Experience, so my upcoming 2016 book, The New Science of Consciousness Survival, which has a Foreword by Dr. Gary Schwartz, discusses how the sciences of quantum electro-dynamics, near-death experiences, biocentrism and the sciences of consciousness survival have already replaced Newtonian materialism, at least for those scientists with the intellectual honesty and scientific rigor to examine the extensive and overwhelming data and to pay attention to what it means.

“When we can’t discern 96 percent of what exists in our universe, there is plenty of spare room for all kinds of unknowns – much more than just the afterlife’s ‘undiscovered country from whose bourn no traveler returns,’ but entire undiscovered galaxies, alternative dimensions, multi-verses, etc., etc.

“Hopefully, this book will make all this easily understandable in a simple way, showing how materialism has always been merely speculation based on several untrue presuppositions, and also how the evolving scientific world view based on quantum electro-dynamics allows the existence of psi, the para-normal and consciousness survival, to all be valid.”

Do you sometimes feel like you are preaching to the choir, that no real progress is being made in getting your message across?

“No, actually I see great progress.  Forty-six years ago they wanted to put me in the nut house, but now I am the featured speaker at numerous organizations. Materialism is on its last legs and the meta-paradigm is shifting.”

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 forthcoming book Why the Afterlife is Beyond Science will be published later in 2016 by White Crow Books.

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A President Who Was a Medium

Posted on 07 March 2016, 8:36

The following words were penned in 1910 by a man about to become president of his country.  However, they seemingly apply just as much, if not more so, to today’s world. 

“As for the less evolved spirits who comprise the great majority of the earth’s inhabitants, for the most part they live without thinking of eternal life, ignoring the objective for which they have come into this world.  For such people, evolution is more difficult than for those who know the destinies of the soul beyond death and the reason for incarnation.” 

He also wrote this in the Introduction of his book published in 1911, just before he assumed the presidency: 

“Thus we intend this work for those workers who also have pure hearts, and whose consciences have not yet been polluted by materialism.  Here they will find the foundations of a very lofty philosophy to satisfy their most noble aspirations, and explain the meaning of life, the reasons for their sad situation, and which will show them the law of retribution, open their minds to new and vast horizons, make them understand that our lives do not play out in the miserable patch of an earthly existence, but for time they have Eternity, for space, the Universe; and finally, it will put them in a better condition to sustain their struggle for life, a struggle ever more ferocious given the selfishness of the rich and the ignorance of the poor.”

He was Francisco I. Madero, (below) the leader of the 1910 Mexican Revolution and 33rd president of Mexico, serving from 1911 until his assassination in 1913, at age 39.  The fascinating story of Madero, called the “Apostle of Democracy” in Mexico, is told by C. M. Mayo in her 2014 book Metaphysical Odyssey into the Mexican Revolution, which includes her English translation of Madero’s book, Manual espirita (Spiritist Manual).


Born into a wealthy family – one involved in banking and ranching – Madero was educated by the Jesuits in Mexico and further studied in the United States and France.  It was while in France that he was introduced to the writings of French educator Alan Kardec and became a devout believer in Spiritism.  After returning to his home in Mexico in 1893, “his every move was motivated by his Spiritism and even precise messages he received from the dead,” Mayo writes, adding that modern history books gloss over or ignore Madero’s association with Spiritism, “as it simply does not chime that an educated man could be sane and at the same time believe in tables rising from the floor without human agency or hearing messages from invisible entities.”

While adding to his family’s business empire in Mexico and building a personal fortune, Madero found time to study homeopathy and become a healing medium.  He also developed the ability to do automatic writing, receiving messages from his brother, Raul, who had died as a child in 1887.  He dedicated himself to charitable work and, along with his wife Sara, operated a soup kitchen.  When, in 1907, a fellow Spiritist criticized Theosophy, Madero wrote:

“...I believe the only enemy we should take seriously is materialism.  The other religions with more or less zeal, try to encourage good works, and right there, that’s everything we the true Spiritists are about.  It’s the same with Theosophy… .  I have always believed that Theosophy and Spiritism must eventually arrive at the same thing, for they have the same foundations, that is, the soul’s unending progress by means of evolution and the conviction that each is responsible for his acts and only by his acts will he owe his progress.”

According to Mayo, “many of Madero’s followers never imagined that his beliefs were anything but a typical Mexican gentleman’s Catholicism.”  He wrote his Spiritist articles under pseudonyms and otherwise exercised discretion in discussing his beliefs, which he summarized in one message:

“We are not our physical body; we are spirits, and as such we are immortal and we are destined, lifetime by lifetime, not by any ritual intermediated by clerics, but by freely chosen good works, to evolve into ever higher levels of consciousness and so return to God.” 

Between 1904 and 1908, Madero became increasingly active in politics and began formulating a plan to become president and end the autocratic tyranny in Mexico, substituting a democratic rule for that of Porfirio Diaz, who had served as Mexico’s president since 1876.  Much of Madero’s inspiration, according to Mayo’s research, came from instructions from the spirit world, primarily from his deceased brother Raul and from a spirit giving the name Jose.  One message coming from Jose read:

“You bear an enormous responsibility. You have seen…the precipice your country is about to fall from.  A coward you will be if you do not prevent it… . You have been elected by your Heavenly Father to accomplish a great mission on earth… It is necessary that, for this divine cause, you sacrifice everything material, everything earthly, and dedicate all your efforts to its realization.”

Madero’s 1909 book, La sucesiὀn presidencial en 1910 (The Presidential Succession in 1910), the first step in his presidential campaign, was well received by the Mexican populace and paved the way for his election to the presidency. Before the book was published, however, Madero wrote to his father, seeking his approval to pursue the presidency.  Addressing it, “Dear Daddy,” he wrote:

“Although you may be a convinced Spiritist, you have never studied it in more depth in order to discover the mysterious laws it reveals to us, or that we can discover through it.  So: it is good that you know that among the spirits who populate space there is a group that is intensely concerned with the evolution of humanity, for its progress, and every time there is an important event in any part of the world, a large number of them incarnate in order to bring humanity forward, to save this or that people from the yoke of tyranny, or fanaticism, and to give them liberty, which is the most powerful means by which people can progress…”

After much struggle, Madero became president of Mexico on November 6, 1911, but his inability to meld democracy with old guard politics and the ambitions of various military leaders led to his assassination on February 22, 1913, believed to be at the direction of General Victoriano Huerta, who then assumed the presidency.  In spite of the fact that he served as president for only 15 month, Madero apparently was able to achieve certain reforms and is considered a hero to the Mexican people today.

After completing his first book, Madero was told by the spirit Jose, that he should write a second book, Manual espirita.  While the first 150 pages of Mayo’s book set forth the thoroughly researched history of Madero’s life, the last 120 or so pages provide the English translation of Spiritist Manual.  It was authored under the pseudonym Bhima, the name of a Hindu warrior in the Bhagavad-Gita.  No doubt some of his beliefs would have been frowned upon by the mostly Catholic populace, the Church hierarchy and the more educated.  “Mediums, scoffed most scientists, were ‘vulgar tricksters,’ maestros of inflatable bladders, wire dummies, trick mirrors, and muslin painted with phosphorous to create the shiny extrusions of what Charles Richet termed ‘ectoplasm’,” Mayo describes the era.  The Spiritist Manual, published just before his election, was intended, according to Mayo, “to be a beam of light, to heal Mexico and the world with its consoling concepts of nature and meaning of life.” 

Metaphysical Odyssey 

When I listen to the crude, bombastic, and maniacal remarks of the leading candidates for the U.S. presidency, I wonder if the spirits mentioned by Madero – those who are concerned with the evolution of humanity – have been defeated by the lower spirits or if they are just working in different and strange ways.  It would be great if some of those influencing Madero would come out of retirement and become active again.

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.


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Are Sports an Escape from Death Anxiety?

Posted on 22 February 2016, 10:18

Humankind cannot bear very much reality.
        – T. S. Eliot

A large photo on the front sports page of The Honolulu Star Advertiser before last month’s Pro Bowl in Honolulu showed two military men obtaining the autograph of a football player.  It is a scene I have witnessed a number of times over the years, one that always leaves me pondering on the seemingly insane paradox of it all.  In effect, the real-life combatants are paying homage to the pretend combatants.  The unreal has become the real.


To fully appreciate the situation, one has to keep in mind that sport, or athletics, developed in ancient Greece as practice for war.  Pioneering psychologist William James saw nineteenth century sports as a way to develop “the manliness to which the military mind so faithfully clings.”  The bottom line is that athletes are just playing war.  And Society has decided that those who play war are to be revered and rewarded much more than those who really engage in it. Isn’t it strange that a football player falling on a fumbled ball, leading to a touchdown, will be heroically celebrated much more than a soldier who throws himself on a hand grenade to save his fellow combatants? Of course, it’s like that in other aspects of life as well when we consider that a movie actor is paid millions of dollars to act like an ordinary person – a person who might not make as much money in a lifetime as the actor made for pretending to be him or her in that one movie. How absurd it all seems!  Our model for military heroism is John Wayne, an actor who pretended to be a soldier in a number of movies but never served a day in the military. Again, it is the unreal becoming the real.

Before the kickoff of the recent Super Bowl, military men and women – the real warriors – were on the field playing musical instruments, looking anything but warrior-like, while seemingly setting the stage for the pretend warriors to enter the arena and display valor, courage, daring, and perseverance, all those qualities so valued on the real battlefield.  All the while, the real warriors continued to pursue the pretend warriors for autographs and selfies whenever the opportunity presented itself. 

I admit to having been a sports fan for most of my life, since at least age 10, when I adopted the Brooklyn Dodgers as my team and Jackie Robinson, Peewee Reese, and Duke Snider as my heroes.  In football, it was Johnny Lujack, Emil Sitko, and Leon Hart of Notre Dame I looked up to most.  I was so avid a Dodgers fan that when they lost a game I would feel depressed the rest of the day.  When they won, my “spirits” soared. 

My fanaticism gradually waned with age, but I still enjoy watching a good game, even though I abhor showboating by athletes, especially end zone dances. I understand a person having a passion for sports, but there is a point at which passion turns to mindlessness and madness, when so many people are affected that our culture and way of life seem threatened with destruction. 

In his book, The Joy of Sports, Michael Novak states that “the underlying metaphysics of sports entails overcoming the fear of death.” He points out that defeat hurts like death.  On the other hand, “to win an athletic contest is to feel as though the gods are one’s side, as though one is Fate’s darling, as if the powers of being course through one’s veins and radiate from one’s action – powers stronger than nonbeing, powers over ill fortune, powers over death.” 

As George Leonard analyzes it in his classic book, The Ultimate Athlete, risk taking and dying are at the very core of sports.  The athlete pushes himself (or herself) to a boundary he cannot cross. “We need no roundabout theories to explain the fascination of death and the salutary effects of calculated risk,” he writes. “We simply must remember that, from the standpoint of embodied consciousness, death provides us our clearest connection with the eternal.”  Leonard adds that in approaching the ultimate boundary, death, we undergo preparation for a larger transformation.  Socrates called it “practicing death.”  Almost always at an unconscious level, it is learning as much about death now so as to facilitate the transition in the future. It is a paradox in itself – both embracing death and avoiding it. 

I “practiced death” for many years in the sport of middle- and long-distance running (see below), although I didn’t fully grasp at the time that the finish line represented death.  To borrow from Sir Roger Bannister, I recall the finish line looming ahead like “a haven of peace after the struggle.”  As Bannister saw it, the greatest part was yet to come – liberation!  “No words could be invented for such supreme happiness, eclipsing all other feelings,” he recalled breaking the four-minute mile barrier, adding that he felt bewildered and overpowered.

“To run, to fall, to merge, to die: such passionate language makes us uncomfortable,” Leonard states. “We are embarrassed by that which stands at the very heart of the Game of Games.  We seek comfort in forgetfulness. We shrink from the inevitability of death.”
If cultural anthropologist Ernest Becker were still alive, I suspect he would view the recent Super Bowl as one gigantic escape from death anxiety.  In his 1973 Pulitzer Prize-winning book, The Denial of Death, Becker asserted that death is the mainspring of human activity. “The idea of death, the fear of it, haunts the human animal like nothing else,” he offered, going on to explain that to free oneself of death anxiety almost everyone chooses the path of repression.  That is, we bury the anxiety deep in the subconscious and go about our everyday activities mostly oblivious to the fact that in the great scheme of things those activities are exceedingly short term and for the most part meaningless.  Borrowing from the existentialist Søren Kierkegaard, Becker said that man, in his flight from death, becomes a “Philistine.”  For Kierkegaard, Phistinism was man tranquilizing himself with the trivial.  It is man striving to be one with his toys and his games. Many people, Kierkegaard opined, are so tranquilized in the mundane or the trivial that they lack the awareness that they are in despair. 

“Sport is death-free play, and games shut out death,” writes humanist philosopher Alan Harrington in his book, The Immortalist. “We have the commonly recognized but still quite amazing circumstance that for masses of people around the world the outcome of football, baseball, soccer, basketball and boxing matches can sometimes be far more important than actual wars and revolutions.”  As Harrington saw it, the madness of the spectators and the dedication of the players can best be understood by viewing the games as man-made immortality rites.  “The stadium turns into a pit of the gods in which heroes fight to become divine,” he explains. “And trailing behind them come the legions – all of us fans and spectators – who derive our being, our excellence, and our own worthiness to be converted into gods from the performance of our heroic representatives.”

It is one thing for an athlete to unconsciously “practice death” in a particular arena, but quite something else for those not participating in the game to vicariously join in the death-embracing or death-avoiding activity, however it is interpreted. Based on the fanaticism, mindlessness, and madness we witness with such gala events as the Super Bowl, it does seem that the masses have been brainwashed by the media into thinking the game is really important.  We might call it a “flight from reality,” one apparently brought about by television, consumerism, the isolation of modern living, and the trend toward nihilism.  The Super Bowl might be seen as an excuse for people to congregate and share in the despair and insecurity they feel in their everyday lives, though many of them might not realize, as Kierkegaard suggested, that they are in despair.  It is an escape from death anxiety.  There is strength in numbers and the spectators feel something of a “oneness” as they worship the players, their new gods, and root for one of the teams to emerge victorious, thereby somehow cheating death.  If victory is achieved, they live on, but if defeat is the outcome, the mindset seems to be: let’s all get drunk, hold hands, and march into the abyss of nothingness, the pit of extinction, together.

“Celebrity culture is, at its core, the denial of death,” writes Chris Hedges, another Pulitzer Prize winner, in his book Empire of Illusion.  He goes on to say that religious beliefs and practices are commonly transferred to the adoration of celebrities and that a certain emptiness follows. Hedges devotes several pages to the appeal of professional wrestling, but the same might be said of professional football.  “These ritualized battles give those packed in the arenas a temporary, heady release from mundane lives.  The burden of real problems is transformed into fodder for a high-energy pantomime…. For most, it is only in the illusion of the ring that they are able to rise above their small stations in life and engage in a heroic battle to fight back.”

I like the way David Awbrey expresses it in his book, Finding Hope in the Age of Melancholy: “The culture no longer inspires society, and the bonds of shared experience that once held people together are reduced to TV, pro sports, and plotless but visually spectacular computer enhanced movies.  Unless Americans regain a broad purpose in life, they will remain secluded within their corporate cubicles, sending binary bytes into a cybernetic mist, or sequestered in their living rooms, watching moronic sitcoms in the dark.”  And, I might add, real combatants will continue to pay homage to pretend combatants.

Broad purpose in life?  Can there be any purpose other than seeing this life as preparation for a much larger life? 

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 7

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Ectoplasm & Advanced Spirit Communication Explained

Posted on 08 February 2016, 10:49

Soon after William Stainton Moses, (below) an Anglican priest and English Master at University College, London, discovered his mediumistic ability in 1872, he and Dr. Stanhope Speer, his good friend, experienced a cloud of luminous smoke, very phosphorus like, that very much alarmed them.  The next night, Moses asked the controlling spirit, an entity calling himself Mentor, one of the band of 49 spirits operating in the group headed by a spirit calling “itself” Imperator, what it was all about. The following dialogue took place, as recorded by Dr. Speer: 


Mentor: “We are scarcely able to write. The shock has destroyed your passivity. It was an accident. The envelope in which is contained the substance which we gather from the bodies of the sitters was accidentally destroyed, and hence the escape into outer air, and the smoke which terrified you. It was owing to a new operator (spirit operator) being engaged on the experiment. We regret the shock to you.”

Moses: “I was extremely alarmed. It was just like phosphorus.”
Mentor: “No, but similar. We told you when first we began to make the lights that they were attended with some risk; and that with unfavourable conditions they would be smoky and of a reddish yellow hue.”
Moses: “Yes, I know. But not that they would make a smoke and scene like that.”
Mentor: “Nor would they, save by accident. The envelope was destroyed by mischance, and the substance which we had gathered escaped.”
Moses: “What substance?”
Mentor:  “That which we draw from the bodily organisms of the sitters. We had a large supply, seeing that neither of you had sustained any drain of late.”
Moses: “You draw it from our bodies – from all?”
Mentor:  “From both of you. You are both helpful in this, both. But not from all people. From some the substance cannot be safely drawn, lest we diminish the life principle too much.”
Moses: “Robust men give it off?”
Mentor: “Yes, in greater proportion. It is the sudden loss of it and the shock that so startled you that caused the feeling of weakness and depression.”
Moses: “It seemed to come from the side of the table.”
Mentor: “From the darkened space between the sitters. We gathered it between you in the midst. Could you have seen with spirit eyes you would have discovered threads of light, joined to your bodies and leading to the space where the substance was being collected. These lines of light were ducts leading to our receptacle.”
Moses: “From what part of my body?”
Mentor: “From many; from the nerve centers and from the spine.”
Moses: “What is this substance?”
Mentor: “In simple words, it is that which give to your bodies vitality and energy. It is the life principle.”
Moses: “Very like sublimated phosphorus?”
Mentor: “No body that does not contain a large portion of what you call phosphorus is serviceable to us for objective manifestations. This is invariable. There are other qualities of which you do not know, and which not all spirits can tell, but this is invariable in mediums for physical manifestations.”

On another occasion, Imperator communicated: “We have a higher form of what is known to you as electricity, and it is by that means we are enabled to manifest, and that Mentor shows his globe of light. He brings with him the nucleus, as we told you.”

On August 10, 1873, Dr. Speer recorded that Mentor said he would show his hand. “A large, very bright light then came up as before, casting a great reflection on the oilcloth, came up as before in front of me; inside of it appeared the hand of Mentor, as distinct as it can well be conceived. ‘You see! You see!’ said he, ‘that is my hand; now I move my fingers,’ and he continued to move his fingers about freely, just in front of my face. I thanked him for his consideration.”

At a sitting on September 11, 1873, Mrs. Speer recorded: “....the next evening we sat again in perfect darkness, which Mentor took advantage of, as he showed lights almost as soon as we were seated. He then controlled the medium (Moses), talking to us about the lights as he showed them. At first they were very small. This, he said, was the nucleus of light he had brought with him, a small amount of what we should call electricity. This nucleus lasted all the time, and from the circle he gathered more light around it, and kept it alive by contact with the medium. At one time, the light was as bright as a torch. Mentor moved it about all over the table and above our heads with the greatest rapidity.”

Imperator claimed to be from the Seventh Sphere and said that his real name would mean nothing to Moses or the others, nor would the real names of Mentor, Rector, Prudens, Minister, and Doctor, all members of the “band of 49.”

At a later sitting, Prudens, Doctor, and Minister, in a group communication, explained: “The higher spirits who come to your earth are influences or emanations.  They are not what you describe as persons, but emanations from higher spheres.  Learn to recognize the impersonality of the higher messages.  When we first appeared to this medium he insisted of our identifying ourselves to him. But many influences come through our name.  Two or three stages after death, spirits lose much of what you regard as individuality and become more like influences.  I have now passed to the verge of the spheres from which it is impossible to return to you. I can influence without any regard to distance.  I am very distant from you now.” 

Another member of the band of 49, Elliotson, added:  “The exalted spirit, Imperator, who directs this medium (Moses), bathes me in his influence.  I do not see him, but he permeates the space in which I dwell.  I have received his commands and instructions, but I have never seen him.  The medium sees a manifestation of him, which is necessary in his case, not in mine.  The return to earth is a great trial for me. I might compare it to the descent from a pure and sunny atmosphere into a valley where the fog lingers. In the atmosphere of earth I seem completely changed.  The old habits of thought awaken, and I seem to breathe grosser air.”

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.

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Does Dismissing the Afterlife Make Life More Meaningful?

Posted on 25 January 2016, 11:01

Does dismissing belief in an afterlife make life more meaningful?  C. J. Blair, a columnist for The Oberlin Review, tells his or her fellow students that such is the case in the December 4 issue of the college newspaper.  “When I accepted death as the definite end, I was far more excited to embrace things that had previously scared me before, and much less eager to do things I knew I’d regret,” the philosophical student writes in explaining his/her rejection of religion. 

C. J. begins the column by admitting that he/she is afraid of death and saying that this fear was largely responsible for his/her having embraced Christianity as a child.  CJ goes on to say that he/she has now discovered humanism, a belief system that rejects all supernaturalism and says that human matters should be given primary importance.  The bottom line seems to be that CJ feels much happier now and is living life to the fullest.

I’m sure that C. J. is not alone among his/her peers in making a transition from religion to some form of humanism.  As stated in my blog of December 14, a recent survey by the Pew Research Center indicates that “nones” – people who have no religious affiliation – now make up 23 percent of the American adult population, up from 16 percent in 2007.  Some nones are atheists, some agnostic, and some so indifferent or so wrapped up in our materialistic world that they haven’t taken the time to figure out what they believe or don’t believe. The upward trend in nones is due to an increasing number of millennials – those people born since 1981 – turning away from religion.

Here is my response to C. J.:

Dear C. J.,
Like you, I don’t claim to have it all figured out, even though I have had some 60 years more than you to do so.  And, like you, I believe organized religions, including Christianity, haven’t done much to help us figure it out.  In fact, they have led us into very murky waters, even into some muck and mire.  I suspect, however, that you mistakenly assume, as so many people do, that the teachings of orthodox religions represent all there is to consider about the afterlife.

My understanding of humanism is that it is materialism, secularism, and rationalism bundled together with ethical and moral concerns and constraints. Without the ethical and moral added in, it might be called hedonism, possibly Epicureanism, the philosophy being pleasure-seeking self-indulgence or eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die.  A century ago, a humanist was called a moralist, someone able to live a life of dignity and morality without subscribing to religious beliefs.  That sounds like a very noble and honorable way of living, one governed by discipline, moderation and courage rather than fear of punishment in an afterlife.  But that should not be taken to imply that the religionist is controlled only by fear and is devoid of discipline, moderation and courage. 

All well and good if humanism gives you the necessary peace of mind and happiness at this time in your life.  It is clear, however, that the ethical and moral concerns and constraints are not observed by a large percentage of young people and that humanism, as idealistic it might be, so often gives way to hedonism, as we see in much of our country and the Western world today.  At least the fear of punishment can curb that tendency to some degree and thereby benefit society.

Beyond that, it has been my observation and that of many friends in my age group that the pillars of humanism erode and crumble as one ages – when a person’s loved ones gradually begin dying off and when the humanist himself begins approaching the abyss of nothingness.  “Living in the moment,” which is what humanism seems to advocate, is much more difficult as we see ourselves nearing “extinction.”  The escape mechanisms we use to repress the idea of death simply don’t work like they did when we were in our young adult years and so occupied with establishing ourselves in careers and raising a family – when there was little or no time to do any real deep thinking about what life is all about and what might or might not come after.   

I infer from your column that you think that a belief in an afterlife means that the focus should be on that afterlife and not on this life.  There may very well be a few religious people who believe that, but I’m sure it doesn’t apply to the vast majority.  I like the way Steward Edward White, a popular author of the early part of the last century, explained it in one of his books.  Believe the source or not, but at least consider the wisdom of it.  White’s wife, Betty, was a medium and a group of spirits dubbed the “Invisibles” by White were communicating with him through her.  They referred to the desired awareness of spiritual matters, including death, as “habitual spiritual consciousness.”  Concerned that White might misunderstand and assume that they were saying that the focus should be entirely on the spiritual world, they explained: “This does not imply any retirement into some state of permanent abstraction, nor any priggish watchfulness to determine that your every move is transcendental.  It means simply that each day, when you finish your practice, you do not close the experience like a book, but carry it around with you like a treasured possession.  Instead of being completely forgotten, it remains in the back of your mind, communicating its influence automatically to your actions and reactions, and ready at any moment, if specifically called upon, to lend a helping hand.”

The Invisibles called “balancing” the earthly life with the immortal life the “art of life.”  They stressed that one must be able to deal with life’s adversities by viewing them from the higher consciousness.

There is much to be said for “living in the moment,” “living in the now,” “living in the present,” “living for today,” “carpe diem,” however you want to put it.  But so many people your age seem to interpret that to mean “have fun at any cost.”  Moreover, they do not appear to make a distinction between fun and happiness.  They don’t know where to draw the line between humanism and hedonism, between self-discipline and self-gratification. They opt for short-term pleasure seeking over long-term peace of mind.   

You seem to assume that because organized religion has gone astray in its search for meaning that it necessarily follows that consciousness does not survive death.  However, there is strong evidence coming to us through various phenomena, including the near-death experiences, credible mediumship, deathbed visions, past-life studies, and out-of-body experiences, all suggesting that consciousness does survive death.  And, you don’t even have to believe in a god, at least an anthropomorphic God, to accept that evidence.

Yes, I know that you can find many “know-it-all” professors around your campus that scoff at such phenomena, finding it more convenient to accept the debunking theories of materialists who claim to have studied it.  But the scientists and scholars who have thoroughly studied the phenomena can easily discount the debunking theories.  Those professors who scoff at it are victims of scientific fundamentalism, just as you apparently were once a victim of religious fundamentalism.  Scientific fundamentalism is a religion in itself and is just as misleading as religious fundamentalism.

The evidence further suggests that the humdrum heaven and horrific hell of orthodox religions is just so much hogwash.  I can’t blame you for turning away from religions that teach we spend eternity floating around on clouds, strumming harps, and praising God 24/7.  How boring all that sounds!  Modern revelation indicates that we build up in this life a “moral specific gravity” that determines what level or dimension we initially find ourselves after death and from which we continue to evolve.  What religion calls hell is really a temporary fire of the mind on the lower levels, much like having a nightmare.  Those who have led a decent life apparently gravitate to a level that is much more pleasant and exciting.  We are told that it is pretty much beyond human comprehension and language, but it is clearly not the monotonous afterlife that various religions teach.   

“Let one realize the absolute continuity of existence and at once life becomes worth living,” was the advice of philosopher Lilian Whiting.  That advice is in complete opposition to what you have suggested.  I suspect that in all your youthful wisdom you will smirk at that advice, as it is so difficult to grasp at your age.  If nothing else, I hope that it will plant a seed and be retained in your subconscious when despair begins to set in during your second half of life, when those loved ones start dying and you, too, begin approaching the abyss. Between now and then, I hope that you are able to make the distinction between “having fun” and “being happy” – happy in spite of the challenges which will provide you the opportunity to learn and advance spiritually.  And I also hope you will keep in mind the sage words of pioneering psychologist William James that one cannot effectively live in the present without some regard for the future.


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:  Feb. 8

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The “Third Hand” Eludes Catch 22 Science

Posted on 11 January 2016, 14:57

In the annals of psychical research, Eusapia Palladino, an illiterate Neapolitan woman, and Mina Crandon, the wife of a respected Boston, Mass. physician who was given the pseudonym “Margery” to protect her privacy and that of her husband, were perhaps the two most controversial mediums subjected to extensive investigation.  Anyone relying on Wikipedia or other popular sources for information will likely conclude that both Eusapia and Margery were clever tricksters.  But anyone taking the time to really dig into the subject of physical mediumship and study the detailed reports relative to these two ladies of yesteryear will not be so hasty in writing them off as charlatans.

Eusapia Palladino:above

Mina Crandon:above

The phenomena produced by the two women were somewhat similar.  Most of them were physical, including levitations of a table, (as with Eusapia in photo)  apports (objects mysteriously transported into the room), unusual lights and breezes, paraffin gloves purportedly produced by spirits, the ringing of a bell not within reach of the medium, a scale in which the weighted side went up as the unweighted side went down, and other strange happenings seemingly contrary to natural law.  Especially common to both of them was a mysterious “third hand” and arm that materialized and assisted in the production of some phenomena.  Because of the darkness required in such séances – light being harmful to the ectoplasm emitted by the medium to produce phenomena – many of the investigators concluded that the medium had somehow freed one of her hands from the restraint and thereby carried out the trick before placing the hand back into the restraint.  (Margery’s “Walter hand” is shown on the table in the photo above as her two hands are controlled.)

In one study of Eusapia, 23 researchers participated.  In the end, 10 were convinced of the supernormal character of the phenomena, while seven were uncertain but accepted that they could not have been due to ordinary mechanical agency. Thus, 17 of the 23 did not believe what they had witnessed was trickery.  Two were inclined, with certain reservations, to deny the supernormal character of the manifestations, and three concluded it had to be fraud of some kind, even though they couldn’t prove it.  One refused to express any opinion. And so it was with nearly every study of Palladino – some convinced she was a genuine medium, some convinced she was a fraud, and some not knowing what to believe. 

While I could find no such statistics with Margery, the various reports and books about her suggest somewhat similar numbers.  And like Eusapia, some believed that Margery was a “mixed medium,” producing genuine phenomena at times and at other times, when her powers failed her, faking it so as not to disappoint those observing.  There was also a question of whether the fraud was conscious or unconscious, the latter taking place during the trance state and the medium not being aware of what was going on. It was just too bizarre for many of the researchers to process.  To put it another way, it exceeded the boggle threshold of many researchers. 

One researcher who was very quick to call Margery a charlatan was Dr. Joseph B. Rhine, who went on to found the parapsychology lab at Duke University.  Rhine sat with Margery on January 1, 1926 and claimed that he saw the shadow of Margery’s foot kick a megaphone.  That observation plus some speculation as to how Margery “could have” or “might have” deceived him and others led to Rhine branding her a charlatan.  A little over a year earlier, the Great Houdini, the master magician, claimed that he detected Margery’s foot moving when a bell box supposedly out of reach of her feet rang.  Houdini also said that Margery must certainly have had confederates sneaking into the dark room to assist her.  “All fraud – every bit of it,” Houdini is quoted in David Jaher’s recent book, The Witch of Lime Street: Séance, Seduction, and Houdini in the Spirit World, which reports on the fascinating story of Margery and the scientific investigation surrounding her. 

Jaher devotes quite a few pages to Houdini and his quest to debunk all mediums.  He mentions earlier in the book that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the famous British author of “Sherlock Holmes” and an enthusiastic promoter of Spiritualism, had attempted to convince Houdini of the reality of mental mediumship by having him sit with his wife, Jean, an automatic writing medium.  Lady Doyle is said to have channeled 15 pages of automatic writing purporting to come from Houdini’s mother.  Houdini was apparently stunned, validating every word of it. However, since it came through in English and his mother did not speak English, Houdini concluded it had to be a trick, though he couldn’t explain how Lady Doyle came upon much of the information.  When Sir Arthur tried to explain to Houdini that languages often come through in thought transmissions rather than in languages or by means of a “control” (a spirit guide on the other side), Houdini ignored him.  Apparently, nothing was going to deter him from proving that he was the greatest magician in the world, and no medium – obviously a magician of some kind, he believed – was going to put one over on him. 

On one occasion an eraser was found in the bell-ringing mechanism and was believed to have been planted there by Houdini to prevent the bell from ringing, while on another occasion a fold-up six-inch ruler was found in a cabinet built by Houdini to restrain Margery, apparently a plant by Houdini to frame her by claiming she extended the ruler to reach out and effect certain phenomena.  Jim Collins, an assistant to Houdini, is said to have later confessed to putting the ruler inside the box. 

The “master of ceremonies,” or “control” at the Eusapia séances was a “spirit” calling himself John King, while Margery’s control was said to be Walter Stinson, Margery’s older brother who had been killed in a train accident in 1911.  Walter would speak through his entranced sister and also independently of her through a trumpet, would carry on conversations with the sitters, joke with them, whistle tunes, and do automatic writing through Margery.  Whether by Walter or some other spirit, she even produced script in Greek and Chinese.  With both Eusapia and Margery, the voices were masculine and not totally in character with the medium.  Eusapia’s “third hand” was said to be John King’s hand, while Margery’s extra hand was referred to as her “Walter hand.”

The spiritistic explanation for both Eusapia and Margery was that medium vacated her body when she went into trance, while the spirit control took over management of the medium’s body.  This had been observed earlier by researchers studying the mediumship of Leonora Piper, also a Boston trance medium, although a mental medium rather than a physical medium.  Many of the characteristics of the purported communicating spirit were observed in Piper.  For example, on one occasion, Mrs. Piper appeared to be twirling an imaginary moustache, something the entity supposedly using her vocal cords frequently did when alive in the flesh. 

But the scientific explanation was that these so-called spirit controls were “secondary personalities” or “dream personalities” buried away in the subconscious of the medium and somehow manifesting in the trance state.  When evidential information came through the medium, the scientists theorized that it came by way of mind reading, or telepathically.  When information came through that even those present did not know but which was later confirmed as correct, the scientists theorized that telepathy was more cosmic in nature and the medium could therefore access information from minds not present in the séance room.  As far-fetched as that seemed, it was more “scientific” than spirits of the dead.  With mediums producing physical phenomena rather than mental phenomena, such as with Eusapia and Margery, the evidence was more in the defiance of natural law than in facts communicated. 

The most common debunking theory offered by the various investigators for both Eusapia and Margery was that they were able to somehow release themselves from the restraints and tippy-toe around the room in the dark, ringing bells, touching people and otherwise producing the strange phenomena while disguising their voices, or, in the case of Margery, having a servant or a friend assist her in the deception, somehow crawling into the room and under the table and stealthily exiting before the lights came back on. 
One skeptical theory advanced by Harvard investigators was that Margery’s husband, a gynecologist, surgically enlarged her “anatomical storehouse” so that she could smuggle her “bag of tricks” into the room.  This included the mysterious “third hand” hand that sometimes appeared. 

Dr. Charles Richet, a French physician, professor, and researcher who won the 1913 Nobel Prize in medicine, reported ectoplasmic arms and hands emerging from the body of Eusapia, adding that they appeared to act independently of Eusapia’s will.  At his private retreat on Ribaud Island in the Mediterranean, Richet, along with renowned physicist Sir Oliver Lodge, Frederic Myers, and Dr. Julian Ochorowicz, conducted experiments with Eusapia in 1894.  “I held one of Eusapia’s hands firmly in each of mine,” Richet recalled one experiment.  “I then felt a third hand touch my shoulder, my head, and my face.  This was not in darkness; there was a lighted candle in the room.”  The other three scientists could see what was going on and confirmed that Richet had control of Eusapia’s two hands at all times.

While convinced that Eusapia had supernatural abilities, Richet remained skeptical as to whether the evidence suggested spirits and survival.  “I oppose it (spirit hypothesis) half-heartedly, for I am quite unable to bring forward any wholly satisfactory counter-theory,” he wrote. 

Lodge, a pioneer in electricity and radio, reported on a test involving a spring dynamometer, which, when squeezed, measured hand grip strength.  Lodge recorded that in one test, Eusapia was giving a feeble clutch when she suddenly shouted, “Oh, John, you’re hurting me!” and the men observed the needle go far beyond what any of them could exert.  “She wrung her fingers afterwards, and said John (King) had put his great hand around hers, and squeezed the machine up to an abnormal figure,” Lodge explained, noting that “John King” occasionally showed his hand, “a big, five-fingered, ill-formed thing it looked in the dusk.”

Dr. Filippo Bottazzi, an Italian physiologist, observed a “synchrony” between Eusapia’s hands and feet and whatever displacement or movement was going on away from her.  That is, her fingers, hands, and feet seemed to be moving in harmony with activity producing a certain phenomenon out of her reach.  Like Richet, Bottazzi was convinced that Eusapia was not playing tricks, but he was reluctant to accept the spiritistic explanation, as it would not have been “scientific.”

If the scientists studying Margery some 20-30 years after the Eusapia research had given any consideration to the spiritistic explanation, they might have been able to explain Margery’s movements seen by Rhine and Houdini as evidence of fraud, as well as her “third hand,” without claiming trickery.  But it would not have been “scientific” to recognize the possibility of spirits being involved.  They would have had to hypothesize spirits to prove spirits.  It was a Catch 22 situation.  Is it any wonder that no progress had been made in the research involving physical mediums? 

Jaher recently announced that his book is being made into a movie.  While Jaher leaves the reader wondering if Margery was the real deal or not, I suspect that the movie will have a Hollywood ending with Houdini as the hero.

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.

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Indridi Indridason: The Amazing Icelandic Medium

Posted on 28 December 2015, 7:52

D. D. Home is often referred to as the greatest physical medium on record, at least the greatest one since Jesus of Nazareth.  But Home may have to relinquish his top spot to Indridi Indridason of Iceland now that we have a record of his phenomena set forth in English by Dr. Erlendur Haraldsson and Loftur R. Gissurarson in their book, Indridi Indridason: The Icelandic Physical Medium, released recently by White Crow Books.

Born in 1883, the son of a farmer, Indridi (below) was a printer’s apprentice who discovered his mediumistic ability in late 1904 or early 1905, after attending a mediumistic circle at the home of a relative.  When he took his seat, a table reacted violently and when he got home a table there moved violently around the room.  Initially, he was frightened by his ability, but he gradually came to accept it and develop it, his mediumship being at its height in 1909.  He died in 1912, at age 28, after a three-year battle with typhoid fever and tuberculosis.


During his four to five years of mediumship, Indridi was studied and observed by many members of the Experimental Society of Reykjavik, later called the Icelandic Society for Psychical Research. The phenomena reported by the Society included materialization of human forms, dematerializations (Indridi’s arm disappearing), levitations of both Indridi and furniture, direct writing (a pencil writing without a visible hand), automatic writing, direct voice (voices independent of the medium and others in the room), trance voice (voices coming through the entranced medium), musical instruments floating in the room and giving off music, apports, and poltergeist-type activity (shelves being torn from the wall, tables overturned, etc.).  Although Indridi spoke only Icelandic and knew only a few words of Danish, “spirit communicators” came through in various other languages, including Danish, Norwegian, French, Dutch, and English.  A deceased French woman often sang at the séances – sometimes using Indridi’s vocal cords and at other times using the independent voice – with just the right enunciation, while those in attendance who understood French spoke with her.  At times, the researchers could hear two voices singing simultaneously – the soprano voice of the French woman and the bass voice of a man. 

The researchers included a number of distinguished Icelandic scientists and scholars.  The detailed minutes left behind by these researchers make it clear that they were very much aware of the need for strictly controlled conditions in studying the phenomena. They strip-searched the medium, had “watchers” holding his hands and legs, had him surrounded by a large net, attached phosphorescent tape to him and various objects, and carried out their study behind locked doors. 

“Oh, see me and me. . .  You are there below with the body,” Indridi was quoted after going into trance early in his mediumship.  “The body is not me.  I am up here.  There are two Indridis.  Oh, is it not strange to see the nerve [cord], which lies between me and me!  The lips of the body move and they say what I say.  The nerve becomes thinner, the further away I am from my body.”

Indridi’s primary spirit control was identified as Konrad Gislason, the brother of his paternal grandfather, who had died in 1891 after a career as a professor of Icelandic and Nordic Studies in Copenhagen.  During an early sitting with Indridi, the researchers reported a sofa “carried around the séance room by invisible powers, while Indridi lay prostrate upon it,” apparently in a trance state. Speaking through Indridi’s lips, Gislason invited the sitters to stand and inspect the sofa, which was at the height of their chests and to confirm that nothing was holding it up, which they did before the sofa slowly moved down to the floor.  On another occasion, it was reported that Indridi floated over their heads while seated in a wicker chair.

On November 24, 1905, a “spirit” introducing himself as “Mr. Jensen,” unknown to anyone present, communicated and stated that a fire was raging in a factory in Copenhagen (more than 1,300 miles from Reykjavik).  It took a month before news of this fire reached Iceland, but the date and time were consistent with the communication from Jensen.

While the researchers observed some phenomena, including tables moving about during daylight and also observed some phenomena under red light, they discovered that light, even red light, resulted in diminished phenomena.  They would often strike a match to momentarily observe what was going on.  It was noted that light caused Indridi much pain while he was in the trance state.

Dr. Gudmundur Hannesson, a professor of medicine and twice president of the University of Iceland, was highly skeptical when he first sat with Indridi in 1908, but he gradually came to the conclusion that there was no magic or trickery involved. He reported that after Indridi fell into a trance, voices came from all over the room, and that they had their own unique characteristics, each one speaking in its own way.  “They reply unreservedly when spoken to; sometimes humorously, sometimes solemnly, just according to the individual inclination of each one,” Hannesson recorded.  “We may happen to converse with a humorist making fun of everything; or a deceased clergyman may raise his voice and say a pathetic prayer.  It is, however, quite common that the voices of those appearing for the first time are hardly intelligible but gradually become plainer as time goes on.”

While certain that fraud was not involved, Hannesson said he could not bring himself to believe in what he had witnessed. “It is not easy for unbelieving people to accept the theory that inanimate things move about without any natural causes,” he wrote.  He added that he didn’t see much point in discussing what the “spirits” had to say about their living conditions, since proof could not be offered, but he did say that the communicating spirits retained their personality and their happiness was according to their desserts, differing a great deal in each individual case.  While he felt that most of what they described would be acceptable to Christian people, there was also much that clashed with church teachings. 

Apparently, Indridi was not immune to low-level and mischievous spirits. On one occasion, as he was sleeping in an experimental house, he was dragged head first along the floor as two other men attempted to restrain the invisible force pulling him by holding on to his legs. The following night two chairs and a large book were thrown across the room by an entity identified as Jon Einarsson.  The next morning, as Indridi was dressing, he was flung down on his bed and a bowl thrown at him.  As reported by Brynjolfur Thorlaksson, Indridi was putting on his trousers when he screamed for help. “I ran into the bedroom to him,” Thorlaksson wrote.  “But then I saw a sight that I shall never forget.  Indridi was floating horizontal in the air, at about the height of my chest, and swaying there to and fro, with his feet pointing towards the window, and it seems to me that the invisible power that was holding him in the air was trying to swing him out of the window.”  Thorlaksson then grabbed Indridi’s legs and found himself being lifted with Indridi, until a third person ran in the room and helped hold them both down.  Soon thereafter, Indridi’s spirit controls found a way to control Jon, an angry spirit who had committed suicide.
In spite of the reports by the various researchers, scientists who had not been part of the research group, the press, and religious leaders scoffed, certain there had to be some trickery involved, even though they could not understand it, or it was the work of the devil.  More than a hundred years later, nothing has changed.  The scoffs and guffaws are much the same.  Although physical mediumship does not seem to be as prominent as it was 100 to 150 years ago – probably because of all the distractions and “noise” we now have in our lives – there are still some physical mediums producing somewhat similar phenomena, although perhaps not as dynamic as those given off by Home and Indridason. 

For the open-minded person, this story of Indridi Indridason should add to the reports by other credible researchers involving other physical mediums and perhaps convince him or her that there really is something to such mediumship, as mind-boggling as it might be.

Indridi Indridason: The Icelandic Physical Medium by Dr. Erlendur Haraldsson and Loftur R. Gissurarson is published by White Crow Books.

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:  January 11

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A Millennial Tackles the Afterlife

Posted on 14 December 2015, 10:44

According to a recent survey by the Pew Research Center, “nones” – people who have no religious affiliation – now make up 23 percent of the American adult population.  That’s up from 16 percent in 2007.  Some nones are atheists, some agnostic, and some so indifferent or so wrapped up in our materialistic world that they haven’t taken the time to figure out what they believe or don’t believe. The upward trend in nones is due to an increasing number of millennials – those people born since 1981 – turning away from religion.

Cyrus Kirkpatrick, (below) a 29-year-old freelance writer living in Los Angeles, qualifies as both a none and a millennial, but that doesn’t mean he is a non-believer or a nihilist.  His recently released book, Understanding Life After Death, clearly attests to that.  Subtitled “An Exploration of What Awaits You, Me and Everyone We’ve Ever Known,” the book offers a comprehensive review of the evidence for an afterlife, the arguments against it, the nature of the afterlife, and the obstacles we encounter in accepting and realizing that afterlife. 


“To say this is an important topic is an understatement,” he writes in the book’s Introduction with unusual insight for someone so young.  “It is arguably more important than making money, politics, careers and vacation.  Our lives are stunningly short, and very soon – you are going to die – whether from a disease like cancer, an auto accident, or hopefully a natural passing in your sleep.  Given this reality is fast approaching, it makes sense to begin committing time to understand it, so that the moments you have left can be enjoyed without having to worry so much about mortality – because what we understand, we do not fear.”

As Kirkpatrick sees it, some of his generation’s disdain for the topic results from a distrust of religion and its vague dogma.  “As a non-religious, secular person myself – I can perfectly understand this distrust,” he explains.  “but we must be careful not to allow our disillusionment with religion to poison all spiritual concepts, and we must also be cautious in adopting drastic, antithetical philosophies with no benefit to us.” 

After reading his excellent book, I contacted him and put some questions to him by email.

How did you become interested in the subject of life after death, especially at such a young age?

“Sometimes it’s hard to understand the things that appeal to us. It started with an inability to reconcile the concept of death based on what society as a whole (and family members) were trying to tell me. I remember being about 13-years-old and thinking to myself, ‘This is ridiculous. What’s going on here? It can’t be true that there are absolutely no answers to this really fundamental thing that everybody has to deal with.’ That, combined with a general interest in the so-called paranormal, is what started me on a path of exploring the afterlife, and it’s a path I never stopped traveling.”

What motivated you to write the book?

“I’d been involved in publishing for a few years, creating smaller books about mobile income and travel (the ‘Lifestyle Design’ series), but I had yet to release a feature length project. I then decided I needed to create something I could be really proud of before I turned 30. I’d never stepped forward into the spotlight with my life-long interest in the afterlife before, but decided I would do it by creating a comprehensive book in a surprising change of genre from what I normally write about.”

How do you view the growing increase in “nones” among millennials?  Does it necessarily suggest a more materialistic, more hedonistic lifestyle?  More fear of death?

“The good news is that I think my generation tends to be exceptionally thoughtful and concerned with social issues, so we’re not hedonists or even extremely materialistic. However, because there’s so much disdain for religion—perhaps understandably so—there’s a lot of confusion about important, existential topics. Most people are unaware of the secular case for life after death, and they do not realize that completely rejecting the topic is irrational, because data strongly supports the existence of an afterlife. I think the more young people realize that this has nothing to do with religion but is an area of science, they will begin to explore the topic more seriously. And this would be a good thing, because I believe (based on personal experience) that when millennials and the younger Generation-Y are faced with concepts like nihilism and eternal oblivion (that scientists like Stephen Hawking espouse) it causes what I feel is more depression and existential uncertainty than I’ve seen in other age groups, probably due to their thoughtful nature.”

If you were asked to pick three cases in annals of survival research, which ones would you choose?  Why?
“Firstly, the Anni Nanji tapes from the Leslie Flint physical mediumship séances. This incidence was never widely publicized, yet it remains hard evidence of survival that anybody can listen to online. In essence, an Indian doctor communicated via direct voice with his deceased wife, Anni, over the course of a decade. They were able to carry on their relationship, discussing tiny details of each other’s lives which makes the possibility of fraud almost non-existent.

“Next, I always suggest to research the fairly recent Scole experiments out of England. This incidence was really a game-changer because it demonstrated how physical mediumship can occur in modern times, allowing supernatural phenomena to happen under controlled conditions.

“Lastly, for something different, I would suggest the work of Luis Gasparetto from Sao Paulo, Brazil. There is video available where he can paint four masterpieces at one time, with each limb operating a different paintbrush (while blindfolded). His claims that he channels multiple famous artists at once become very believable.”

You wrote that you first started exploring the out-of-body state in 2013.  Did it come quickly?  Please summarize your most dynamic OBE. 

“The OBE state unlocked a lot of doors that were sometimes hard for me to even believe were real due to their fantastical nature. It took a few months of nightly practice, crawling out of my body and trying to get past my doorway before it became easier, at which point a couple of extremely surprising experiences happened, that involved apparent direct communication with astral residents. The OBEs reached their zenith of absurdity when, one morning, I found myself being gently tugged out of my body and visited by the ethereal presence of a snarky old British man who claimed to be the famous occultist Aleister Crowley.

“This was my most dynamic experience because we had a completely regular conversation for around twenty minutes. Although I cannot confirm if his identity was really that of Crowley (I personally believe it was), it gave me a chance to have a real conversation with a so-called ‘spirit,’ which involved a mixture of completely normal, audible conversation alongside the projection of telepathic imagery; often used to aesthetically enhance the communication. 

“Crowley’s visit, he claimed, was a result of the fact that I had been researching him and he ‘detected’ my interest in him; and further the entity claimed that he likes to keep friendly tabs on those on my side with interest in otherworldly affairs (like myself). The whole experience was unforgettable and very exciting.”

If a skeptic were to say that OBEs are nothing more than dreams or products of your imagination, how would you respond to him?

“I would respond sympathetically because I once believed this as well. It’s important to remember the OBE is often a real, ‘physical’ experience with vibratory changes, electrical sensations as you disconnect, and the ability to have full sensory input, and you can even collect verifiable information to further prove to yourself that it was real.”

Do you expect to see much better evidence for survival 50 years down the road than we have now?  If so, in what area of research do you think it will come?

“A lot can change in 50 years. I’d currently place the most interest on the resurgence of physical mediumship. The Scole experiments kicked off highly scrutinized séances that could be confirmed by teams of qualified researchers. If some type of research lab is created where teams of mediums could break down the barriers between worlds in a consistent fashion, with help from the other side in a kind of large-scale organized effort involving many people from both dimensions, then we may see major progress.’

Do you see much interest in the subject of life after death among other people your age?

“In person, yes. As a traveler who stays in a lot of hostels, I meet many people in my age group and younger, and very often these topics arise naturally. I will mention how I wrote a book about life after death, and suddenly people feel like they want to just gush out and tell me about all these experiences they’ve had but were unable to share them with anybody before they met me.

“By contrast to real life, internet communities of younger people skew more closed-mindedly. I think there’s enormous pressure on people to conform to popular opinions; especially on the anonymous internet where people sometimes become meaner and allow their worst behaviors to come to the surface.”

Do your friends and relatives think you are weird?  What do you say to them to justify your interest?

“The ones who think I’m weirdest seem to believe I’m radioactive, and so they steer far enough away from me that I don’t have to worry about justifying anything to them. The truth is, this topic just does not resonate with a lot of people. And that’s perfectly fine. At some point in most people’s lives though, a time comes when they become curious about big questions, and then this subject may be important to them. But there’s no rush.

“That being said, I also know plenty of people who fully support my work, even if they don’t fully understand the nature of what I write about.”

You state that you are a secular person.  Do you think we would have less chaos and turmoil in the world and enjoy greater peace of mind if all churches suddenly closed their doors and ceased to exist?

“Not at all. A religion can still represent a cultural experience that may be important within the range of human expression (from Islamic culture to Japanese Shintoism), while the dark behavior of humans would persist whether it was justified by religion or not. The big problem is when religious people fail to ground themselves in reality; as in cases of extremism; from Westboro Baptist Church to ISIS. What do we do about this? At least with a secular approach to spirituality, we can obtain answers that are grounded in facts and data versus the fallible nature of scripture. But this doesn’t mean we should abandon the positive aspects of religious culture entirely, so long as they are not beliefs that can hurt yourself or others.”

Please summarize your conclusion about this big, mysterious topic known as the afterlife?

“At some point there may come a time to stop calling the afterlife ‘the afterlife’ because that’s not really what it is. I prefer the term ‘multi-planar universe.’ We have to imagine our culture as being very primitive. A more advanced society may have a perfect comprehension of these topics, but for us we are still grasping to advance to that level, and so we misunderstand these concepts, interpreting them through a primitive, narrow lens. The impression I get is that the way life works is that we are constantly moving between different planes—different dimensions—having a myriad of experiences as we meet new people and have new adventures. For the vast majority of people in the universe who live in planes beyond this one, this concept is blatantly obvious and there’s no need to place unnecessary importance on the transition point (death). However, for us on Earth, it’s all this new, crazy, magical thing. At a certain point we need to finally grow up and recognize how the universe works.”

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.

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Getting to the Root Cause of World Madness with Lord Dowding

Posted on 30 November 2015, 16:54

As I watch our politicians and journalists discuss all the chaos, turmoil and madness in the world today, I rarely hear or read anything relating to the underlying existential causes, the root causes.  All the discussion has to do with more surface causes, such as economic or political differences. No one dares suggest that the insanity we see in the world these days is the result of an increasing number of humans finding no meaning in life.  Nor does anyone suggest that ultra-materialism or hedonism, as promoted by the entertainment and advertising industries, is a factor.

I like the way Air Chief Marshal Lord Dowding (Sir Hugh Dowding, 1882 – 1970), put it in his 1960 book, God’s Magic (recently republished, along with three other Dowding books, Lychgate, Many Mansions, and The Dark Star by White Crow Books).  “The problem of world chaos is linked very closely with the chaos in the mind of humanity,” offered Dowding,  (below) considered the man most responsible for Great Britain’s victory in the 1940 Battle of Britain during World War II.  “Man insists on looking outward for causes instead of looking inward.  As with the individual, so with a nation.  An individual who has an unquiet spirit will have an unquiet environment.”


But politicians and journalists do not want to get into such philosophical issues.  If they espouse the predominant materialistic view of science, they are simply endorsing nihilism and reaffirming that life has no purpose.  The only way that life has real purpose is if there is a “larger life” beyond this one, but that means the politicians and journalists have to tread somewhat in controversial religious territory.  Political correctness prevents the politicians from getting into such areas, while the journalists fear that they will appear unintelligent by discussing such unscientific matters.  Yes, some of our more right-wing politicians now take pride in mentioning God, but their fundamentalist beliefs are in shallow, murky waters and therefore not very persuasive.  They only add fuel to the fire. 

And so we continue to spiral downward, finding ourselves significantly lower than in Lord Dowding’s days in spite of significant technological and materialistic gains since his time. One recent Associated Press story discussed the decline in happiness among Americans, attributing it to growing financial pressures, also referred to as “economic insecurity.”  Another newspaper article stated that middle-aged white American males “are dying in droves,” much more than a few decades ago, as personal and financial stress gives rise to suicides and drug overdoses.  A fairly recent magazine article also mentioned studies indicating that Americans are not as happy as they were 30-40 years ago, apparently because they have reached the point of diminishing returns in realizing materialistic comforts.  It was suggested that the sowing brings greater happiness than the reaping and we have reaped so much that we have become bored and depressed.  We are perhaps nearing the point that Nero reached when Rome burned.

One reporter, Ben Boychuk of Tribune News Service, did dare to go deeper than the others in searching for reasons for the middle-aged mortality problem.  “When you have nothing to believe in but yourself, and you’re life is a misery, then it’s hardly surprising that many men – unemployed, childless, aimless – turn to booze, drugs, video games, porn, or whatever else dulls the pain,” he offered.  “Our problem isn’t just a lack of meaningful work.  It’s the lack of meaning, period.”  He further stated:  “Nihilism is in the very air we breathe.”

Lord Hugh Dowding Statue, St Clement Danes Church, Strand, London

As Dowding saw it, the belief in the survival of consciousness at death is at the core of all concerns and issues facing humankind and the remedy for the ills of the world are to be found in accepting the “overwhelming evidence” that conscious personal existence continues beyond the grave.  The wise man, he said, “will demand to know as much as possible about his future state.  If he believes that he will be snuffed out like a candle, he should believe it because he has carefully examined and deliberately rejected the alternatives, and not because it is the most comfortable thing for a selfish materialist to believe.”

Of course, there are many today who will blame much of the world turmoil on religion and belief in an afterlife, some religious zealots being in too much of a hurry to get there.  But just because various religions have gone astray in their search for meaning doesn’t mean the whole idea of afterlife should be condemned.  Dowding was critical of orthodox religion. “For several reasons the Church is not helpful to laymen in forming their opinions on the subject of individual survival,” he wrote, speaking primarily of Christian orthodoxy.  “The Church anchored its ship sixteen hundred years ago, and the capstan has rusted up. It shirks the issue, and will not openly examine and pronounce upon the mass of evidence which exists on the subject of the future life.”

As Dowding saw it, the “hereafter” offered by religion is much too vague and “deliberately wooly,” so much so that it makes absolutely no sense to the ordinary person.
“The result is that when the time does approach the man is frightened.  He fears death.  And when he wakes up on the other side he often won’t believe he is dead because he feels so much the same as he did before he died.”

As a result of his investigation of mediumship, Dowding became a Spiritualist.  He recognized that there were charlatans attempting to dupe the public, but he was equally certain that spirit communication took place through genuine mediums.  He also recognized that there were many inconsistencies and contradictions coming through these genuine mediums, but he came to understand that this was the result of many factors, including subconscious coloring by the medium’s mind, attempts to explain celestial matters in terrestrial terms, and by misinformation coming from low-level spirits.  However, there was enough consistency in certain areas, such as the many dimensions or levels on the other side, the awakening of the spirit body with the same consciousness with which it left the physical world, and an afterlife of activity and progression, that he believed that it was a subject every intelligent person should study.  “My assertion is that a man who will study what has been made available to us by ancient and modern revelation can build up for himself a picture of the Scheme of the Universe and of the Progress of Humanity, which is perfectly acceptable to a rational intelligence – making allowance, of course, for the fact that there are certain aspects of multidimensional life which are quite outside the scope of our three-dimensional brains,” he explained his view.

As for the oft-heard advice that we should “live in the moment” and not concern ourselves with what might come or not come after death, Dowding countered that the person who has the conviction that he will live on after death in a meaningful way will enrich his life.  “If and when he accepts the overwhelming evidence that conscious personal existence does continue beyond the grave, he will wish to treat his continuing life as a whole, and modify in thought, word and deed the natural and instinctive expression of his personality so as to accord with a long-term policy, instead of thinking only of the little period which he spends on earth,” he wrote.  “This is my definition of Religion, and indeed Religion in its widest sense is desperately needed today.”

Many Mansions, Lychgate, The Dark Star, and God’s Magic are now published by White Crow Books and available from Amazon and other online bookstores.

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:  December 14

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After-Death recovery is like recovery from a marathon

Posted on 16 November 2015, 11:24

As I see it, the biggest failure of organized religion is its teaching of a dichotomous afterlife.  Either you are judged righteous and go to a very humdrum heaven or you are judged wicked and go to a horrific hell.  There is no in-between state, though Catholics recognize purgatory, which is just as bad as hell, except that it is not eternal. Nor is there any period of adaptation or progression in the religious afterlife.  Modern revelation has attempted to correct this illogical and totally unjust thinking, but orthodoxy has ignored it and few have heard it.

As an analogy, relative to the adaptation period, let me suggest that you picture seven people on the starting line of a marathon.  These seven people represent humanity.  The first of our seven starters is an Olympic caliber runner, capable of covering the 26.2-mile distance at nearly 13 miles per hour and finishing in a little over two hours.  The second person is a fitness runner, more commonly called a “jogger.”  While physically fit, he or she will finish an hour or more behind the Olympic runner, covering about 7-8 mph per hour. So great is the distance between them that the Olympic runner will have had time to shower and have a full meal before the jogger crosses the finish line. 

The third person might be called a “plodder,” a somewhat less-dedicated jogger.  He or she is reasonably fit, but will take four to five hours to complete the marathon distance, moving along at 5-6 mph.  Then there is the “walker,” pumping along at a brisk 3-4 mph for the marathon distance and finishing between 6.5 and 8 hours. 

Our last three contestants are in the couch-potato (CP) category.  They do no exercise at all and are totally unprepared for the marathon challenge.  CP #1 is 20 pounds overweight, but he still has enough youthful vitality to endure some physical exertion. Although this person will have to stop and take some breaks along the way, walking most of it, he or she might be able to average close to 2-3 miles per hour and finish in 10-12 hours.

CP #2 is older, much more sluggish and overweight than CP #1, and will meander over the course while taking many more rest breaks along the way.  Sore muscles or joints combined with fatigue may very well result in this person abandoning the effort, but if he/she manages to finish, it will likely take 15-20 hours or more, not much faster than one mile per hour. 

And lastly we have CP #3, the grossly overweight and out-of-shape person who becomes exhausted after walking one city block.  This individual will struggle to cover one mile a day, if that, and may take a month to log in 26.2 miles, assuming his body holds up.    The Olympic runner will have finished when this person is only a mile or so into the 26.2 mile marathon distance.

Now, forget about athletic or physical fitness and attempt to put the range of running fitness to degrees of spiritual fitness.  Mother Teresa, Mahatma Gandhi, and the more virtuous and humble people take the place of the Olympic runner, while Adolph Hitler, Jack the Ripper, and other serial killers are the spiritual equivalent of couch potato #3.  In between we have various degrees of virtue and vice.  The average person today is probably somewhere between the brisk walker and couch potato #1 – in the 2-4 mph category, not especially virtuous but not full of vice, either.  Computer hackers, shoplifters, embezzlers, and scammers are the equivalent of couch potato #2, not quite down there with the serial killers.

Jump ahead to the finish line and picture the condition of each of the seven contestants, assuming that the couch potatoes were able to finish.  The Olympic runner recovers quickly, within a matter of minutes, breathing normally even in a matter of seconds.  Outside of a little muscle soreness, he or she will have little in the way of after effects. The jogger will take a little longer to feel normal and his/her body will be sore and stiff for up to a week.  The plodder might fall on the ground in complete exhaustion, taking an hour or more to feel halfway normal, and will also feel extremely sore or stiff for a week or more. The walker, assuming he/she held nothing in reserve, will be worn and weary and may struggle to get out of bed in the days following. 

But the couch potatoes may take days, weeks or months to recover, assuming that they gave it their all. Moreover, their unconditioned bodies may leave them with residual physical problems that may linger indefinitely after the race. 

Now, again, forget about the running experience and view this post-race condition as the adjustment required of the individual after death. Substitute spiritual consciousness for physical fitness.  The Mother Teresas and Gandhis of the world make a quick transition after death, quickly awakening and adjusting to the conditions of the spirit world, while, at the other extreme, the Hitlers and Jack the Rippers are so lacking in spiritual consciousness that they don’t even realize they are dead.  It is as if they are having a nightmare in which they are experiencing the pain and anguish which they inflicted on others during their lifetimes.  The nightmare could last years, decades, or even centuries in earth time.

The more average person – the one who developed limited spiritual consciousness while placing a higher value on materialistic possessions, though not doing significant harm to anyone – may flounder for several days or weeks in earth time after giving up the ghost, and may then remain in a stupor and require a period of convalescence before pursuing an active life on the Other Side, but this person’s “earthbound” ties will gradually be severed.. 

It is all a matter of degree, one’s “moral specific gravity” having as many variations as one’s fitness for a marathon.  If only religions would grasp this, they might stop losing members.  As Jesus said, there are “many mansions,” on that side, although “mansions” is a poor English translation for abodes.

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: November 30

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Liberating Jesus

Posted on 02 November 2015, 10:30

While attending a luncheon given by a Christian fellowship of lawyers not too many months ago, I found myself talking with the president of the organization and suddenly being indicted for my “demonic” interests. When the lawyer friend who had invited me to the lunch – which featured Don Piper, the author of the best-selling book 90 Minutes in Heaven, the subject of a recent movie, as the guest speaker – mentioned to the president and another member that I had authored a number of books on spiritual matters, the young female president asked me what they were about.  I hesitated before responding, as I doubted that my answer would be met favorably.  But I gave a truthful answer, telling her that the books are primarily about mediumship.  An expression of shock came upon the president’s face and she then asked me how I am able to sleep at night.  She did an abrupt about-face and stormed away.  The other member standing there reached out for my hand, clasped it between both of his and said he would pray for me, before he too departed, leaving me with my somewhat bewildered friend. 

A little later, while I was engaged in a conversation with two other members, one of them asked me where I worship.  Again, I hesitated, as a truthful answer would be “no particular place.”  In fact, I had to bite my lower lip to avoid telling the person that I don’t believe God wants to be worshipped like some pagan idol.  But the word “worship” can mean different things to different people, and so I responded by saying “I’m sort of an unorthodox Christian and do my own thing.”  That answer puzzled the person and he, too, found it necessary to excuse himself.  Clearly, I was a demon in this holier-than-thou group. 

I should have had Roberta Grimes (below) with me to represent me and offer a defense on my behalf, although I doubt she would have been given the opportunity.  Grimes is a lawyer whose recently released book, Liberating Jesus, would most likely be looked upon as a work of heresy by most members of the organization.  “Christianity is wrong, but Jesus is right,” she offers early in her book. “I felt alone when I first made that discovery, but I realize now as I continue to travel and speak about my death-related books that God is moving in many hearts.  Surveys in western countries find that more and more people are defining themselves as less religious but more spiritual.”


Grimes, whose previous books include The Fun of Dying and The Fun of Staying in Touch, examines the Bible, dissecting many of its passages, while showing how various verbiage can be interpreted in different ways and how orthodoxy, in its translations from the Aramaic, Hebrew, Greek and Latin, seems to have interpreted so much of it in a way that lends itself to fear-based governing, in effect, distorting much of the Bible.  Her focus is on the gospels of the New Testament.  “...Christians have diluted the message of Jesus by considering the Old Testament and the balance of the New Testament to be on a par with the divinely-inspired Gospels,” Grimes explains.  “The lack of focus on God’s truth as it is revealed to us in the Gospels has stunted Christianity in peculiar ways.”  Basically, she dismisses 1) a human-like God; 2) a devil figure; 3) eternal damnation in a fiery hell; 4) the atonement doctrine; and 5) that being a Christian matters when it comes to one’s initial station in the afterlife. 

“The whole medieval notion of a King on a glorious throne who is apparently meant to be Jesus, and having all the nations bowing before Him and separating the sheep from the goats, and the whole concept of God loving some a lot and others not so much:  all of that is so inconsistent with the rest of the Gospels, the afterlife evidence, and even the culture in which Jesus lived that it has to have been added later,” Grimes states. “Clinching this judgment is the fact that the whole ins-versus-outs storyline helps Church leaders to keep their flocks in line.”

Having done a thorough investigation of more modern revelation, such as credible mediumship, near-death experiences, out-of-body experiences, deathbed visions, and other paranormal phenomena, Grimes, who grew up as a devout Protestant and then Catholic, is able to reconcile the modern revelation with the teachings of the gospels, finding a Truth that offers a divine plan consistent with a loving creator, not the cruel, capricious, vindictive god of the Old Testament, nor a dichotomous afterlife – one area reserved for the righteous and another area for the wicked. 

I have always wondered how a criminal defense lawyer or a judge who accepts the Old Testament’s form of justice or the Atonement Doctrine as proper justice can possibly advocate or administer justice.  I once hypothesized fictional characters called Ned and Jed for another friend, who is a “born-again” Christian. After many years of murdering, raping, plundering, and pillaging with malice and forethought, these twin brothers were finally stopped by the police. Jed was shot and killed instantly, while Ned was apprehended and sent to prison for life.  During his confinement, Ned “found” God and repented.  The predominant Christian belief is that Ned will spend eternity in heaven, while Jed will burn forever in the fires of hell. Their fates were determined by chance or luck – Jed catching the bullet and Ned avoiding it.  Where is the reason, the compassion, the equity, the fairness, the logic in such “divine” justice?  My “born-again” friend could only answer that “God’s ways are not always apparent to us.”

Drawing from more modern and more sensible revelation, Grimes concludes that “the evidence is overwhelming that neither God nor Jesus nor any other religious figure ever is our post-death judge.”  Instead, we judge ourselves and we gravitate to a vibrational level in the afterlife environment that best suits our spiritual development.  There is no cheating and going to a level higher than that for which we are prepared. 

Others have said much the same thing as Grimes says in this book, but clearly few have heard it and it bears repeating over and over again in the hope that it will eventually penetrate closed minds.  Moreover, Grimes has “special” authority, which she explains in the Appendix, and offers the material in a more convincing manner than other authors have. 

As Grimes sees it, the self-righteous certainty that so many Christians have about their own salvation and the damnation of others may be Christianity’s worst fruit.  Had she been with me at that Christian fellowship lunch, I am sure she would have been shaking her head in disgust.  However, Roberta is hopeful that fundamentalist Christians will eventually see the light.  “God’s Kingdom on earth still is possible,” she says. “But it requires that we leave religious dogmas behind as the spiritual crutch that they are so we can work together to elevate humankind toward God’s level of awareness.”

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:  November 16

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Why Seeing The Dead Isn’t Always Believing

Posted on 19 October 2015, 12:05

In his recently released book, Vistas of Infinity, Jurgen Ziewe (below) gives details of his many out-of-body experiences (OBEs) and exploration of other realms of existence.  “I, personally, have spent many hundreds of hours in full walking awareness outside of my body on the flip-side of physical life and meticuloulsy recorded what I found in my diaries over a period of more than forty years,” Ziewe offers in the Introduction of the book, subtitled How to Enjoy Life When You Are Dead.


During one of his early OBEs, Ziewe visited his deceased mother.  “The only way I recognized my mother was by her aura and the feeling of her,” he writes. “Nothing of her outer appearance was anything that resembled the woman who had reared me and who I had known all my life.  It was as if she had undergone a total make-over, including cosmetic surgery, and redesigned every single detail of her appearance.  I was struggling to find any characteristic at all which reminded me of her externally.”  Accompanying his mother was his aunt, both women old, wrinkled and worn down when they departed this life but both appearing vivaciously young when Ziewe encountered them in another realm of existence. 

“I had met my mother not all that long ago and had grown accustomed to the fact that it was only too easy to change your looks in these post-Earth life dimensions and how difficult it must be to maintain the same appearance in a world which was so much determined by thoughts and the feelings of the people who lived there,” he says of a later visit with his mother.  Later in the book, he mentions that he did not have one meeting with his mother in which she looked the same as in the previous meeting. 

When I further discussed this with Ziewe by email, he added:  “I noticed people on the astral level manifest their states of minds and inner feelings in their appearance as well as their new assumed identity.”  He referred to a chapter in his book in which he describes meeting a horribly disfigured woman during an OBE.  As he was to find out, the woman was a prostitute who had died from a heroin overdoes.  She did not realize she had “died” until Ziewe informed her. In effect, the woman’s state of mind had manifested in her appearance.

“On the higher, positive levels, humans have an angelic beauty and are often mistaken for angels, but that doesn’t mean their appearance does not change with their intent or a shift of inner feelings,” Ziewe further explained.

In reading Ziewe’s explanation of this, I thought about the experience of Dr. C. J. Ducasse, a philosophy professor at Brown University for 32 years, as he reported it in his 1961 book, A Critical Examination Of The Belief in a Life After Death.  For some two hours, under very good red light, Ducasse observed 18 different materializations, all of them recognized by others in attendance.  In some cases, the materialized entities spoke with the sitters and caressed them.  Finally a materialized form came to Ducasse and spoke to him, but he did not recognize her.  When he asked her to identify herself, she replied that she was his mother. “She did not, however, speak, act, or in the least resemble my mother,” Ducasse wrote. “This was not a disappointment to me since I had gone there for purposes not of consolation but of observation.”  The friend who had taken Ducasse to the circle informed him that his mother had materialized on a number of occasions and that the form sometimes looked like her and sometimes it did not.

In his 1952 book, New Light on Survival, Roy Dixon-Smith, a British military officer, told of his deceased wife Betty materializing with two different mediums.  Because of the “ectoplasmic wrapping,” he could not confirm that it was Betty (below) on the first such materialization, although the voice, shape, and features all appeared to be hers. With the second medium, Minnie Harrison, he clearly recognized Betty and kissed her before he observed her form sink to the floor at his feet, where it dissolved with the last wisp of it drawn into the materialization cabinet.


Dr. John King, a Toronto physician who founded the Canadian Society for Psychical Research, reported on mind-boggling sittings with Joseph Jonson of Toledo, Ohio, during 1911, in his 1920 book, Dawn of the Awakened Mind. His deceased wife, May, (below) materialized on three different sittings with Jonson, but King noted that she appeared shorter than her normal height in the first sitting.  In the second and third sittings she appeared at her normal height, while her form, features, voice, and mannerisms were all that he had become familiar with over his 25-year marriage. She spoke of some very personal matters, things which King said were beyond any research by the medium.  Like Dixon-Smith, King observed his wife’s form dissolve and seemingly disappear into the floor in front of him.


In her 1892 book There is No Death, Florence Marryat, a popular writer of that era, tells of a sitting with a materialization medium in which an old family friend, John Powles, communicated but initially declined to materialize.  Peter, the medium’s spirit control, explained that “he doesn’t want to show himself because he’s not a bit like what he used to be.”  However, when Marryat persuaded him to show himself, she saw only a face that didn’t resemble her old friend in the slightest.  She wrote that it was “hard, stiff, and unlifelike.”  Powles then told her to sit with the medium again and he would try to do better the next time.  At the next sitting, Powles appeared as Marryat remembered him. “The face of John Powles appeared, very different from the time before, as he had his own features and complexion, but his hair and beard (which were auburn during life) appeared phosphoric, as though made of living fire,” Marryat wrote.

After dying in the Titanic disaster of 1912, William T. Stead, a renowned author and social activist, began communicating through several mediums. He explained that there were souls on his side who had the power of sensing people (mediums) who could be used for communication.  One such soul helped him find mediums and showed him how to make his presence known.  It was explained to him that he had to visualize himself among the people in the flesh and imagine that he was standing there in the flesh with a strong light thrown upon himself.  “Hold the visualization very deliberately and in detail, and keep it fixed upon my mind, that at that moment I was there and they were conscious of it,” Stead explained the process.

Stead added that the people at one sitting were able to see only his face because he had seen himself as only a face.  “I imagined the part they would recognize me by.”  It was in the same way he was able to get a message through.  He stood by the medium, concentrated his mind on a short sentence, and repeated it with much emphasis and deliberation until he could hear part of it spoken through the medium.

Communicating through the mediumship of Gladys Osborne Leonard, Claude Kelway-Bamber, a British pilot killed in the Great War, told his mother that he had to concentrate and will his spirit body to stiffen and consolidate before attempting to communicate with her, and it was not until he had absolute mental command over himself in every detail could he even begin. “I had to learn how to locate in my mind the exact place or distance from my mind to where my toes would be,” he explained, “for I must set the mental picture to get exactly five toes on each foot.  I must then switch off and yet retain the idea while I think of what the top of my head looks like.  I do all this because as soon as I get in touch with these atmospheric forces I have to hold myself together strongly to resist them.  Now, if I am not in a hurry to reach my destination, I do not trouble to do anything further than to keep a clear picture of myself in the proportions in which I appear in my own sphere, and I project my thoughts all the time to the place to which I am going, but the first consideration is always my body.  If I were in a great hurry, directly I started, I should get the picture of myself very clear, and then I should quickly but gradually contract my body from within; only an advanced spirit can do this, not a newcomer.  I begin by drawing my whole consciousness within myself, and in so doing I draw upward and onward each part of my body, making myself very self-centered and brining my extremities nearer to my consciousness.  I have told you my body is made of atoms, but because they are minutely fine I can actually consolidate them into very small space; there is so much God-force holding them together.  When I get near my destination, I gradually and consciously expand my body to normal dimensions.  I only contract my body in this way for emergency traveling, and I know spirits who lave been here many years and who cannot do it; it is only intended for those who have serious and special work to do, in which case it is expedient.”

In effect, we have two different situations here – the OBEs reported by Ziewe in which the spirit’s state of advancement appears to govern the spirit’s appearance, and the mediumship experience in which the materializing spirit has to project a picture of himself as he recalls himself looking when in the flesh into the ectoplasm.  The latter apparently isn’t always that easy and takes some practice by the materializing spirit.

The two situations are not in conflict with each other, since the mediumship experience seems to confirm what Ziewe says about appearance – that is, it is not the same as when in the material life.  It is a matter of recalling the image and projecting it so that those present at the sitting will recognize the spirit as a former loved one or friend.  Dr. Charles Richet, a Nobel Prize winner in medicine, reported speaking with a spirit and asking him to show himself, but the spirit replied that he could not show himself as he could not remember what he looked like when in the flesh.   

All that may be too much for the debunker or the person who assumes that celestial conditions must match the terrestrial to accept, but for the more open-minded person it helps turn nonsense into sense.

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:  November 8

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Psychology, the Near-Death Experience, and The Isolation Crisis

Posted on 05 October 2015, 9:43

As a boy growing up during the 1940s, I knew the names of everyone on my city block – at least eight houses in each direction from the house I lived in and on both sides of the street.  As I pedaled my bike up or down the street, the neighbors might be sitting on their porches or working in their gardens and I would greet them by name or they would greet me or wave to me. My mother could often be found on the sidewalk talking with a neighbor from across the street or down the street.  With a couple of exceptions, people on the block knew each other and talked with each other. 

In my present home, in which I have lived for nine years, I know the immediate neighbors on each side of my house, but that’s it.  I don’t even know what the neighbors two houses away from mine look like.  I recall a situation a few years ago when I was leaving my home in my car during a heavy rain.  A young girl from across the street was battling the wind and rain, her umbrella collapsing in wind as she headed for school two blocks away.  Fifty or 60 years ago, I would have felt comfortable in stopping and offering to drive the girl to school, but I dared not stop for her in this day and age as she most certainly had been taught by her parents not to accept rides from strangers, even those who live across the street.  It’s a sad state of affairs.

What changed?  Television, of course.  During the 1950s, when television became popular, people left their front porches and gardens, drew the blinds, and planted themselves in front of the TV set, seemingly never to go outside again unless leaving for work or to go shopping.  I thought about this a few days ago while reading Psychology and the Near-Death Experience, authored by Roy L. Hill, Psy.D.,  (below) and recently released by White Crow Books.  Part of the book discusses what Hill calls “The Isolation Crisis.”


According to Hill, a clinical psychologist, isolation has reached epidemic proportions in Western society, primarily the result of television but also due to other electronic communication.  “Living in the virtual world keeps people from feeling lonely while avoiding social risks,” he explains. “Thus, the over-use of electronic communication and entertainment may be viewed as a trouble-free defense against isolation.  Television has been designed for us to feel as though we are sharing in real friendships and exciting lives.  A laugh track, for instance, helps viewers feel like they are sharing humor with an audience.”

Dependence on television, Hill states, is the single most consistent predictor of civil disengagement – not poverty, morality, education, or intelligence.  With television, there is little time for anything else, except, of course, the Internet.  Hill notes that the typical American spends 2 1/2 hours a day surfing the Internet for personal use. 

This escape into electronic communication and entertainment results in a certain spiritual emptiness.  “From a spiritual perspective, many people in society are steadily abandoning their mission to love each other by doing for each other,” is the way Hill puts it, after citing various studies indicating a significant decline in clubs and organizations, church attendance, volunteer work, public meetings, and other social and civic activities.

While electronic communication involves more social interaction than television, Hill does not see the mundane communication usually associated with texting as a substitute for face-to-face interaction.  “Chatter only creates an illusion of interconnection,” he opines, adding that chronic text users usually feel emptiness as soon as they are done texting.  He sees texting as “a Band-Aid solution that temporarily staves off isolation in order to fill an unfillable void.”

Hill asks why so many people adopt movie stars and athletes as their heroes   As previously observed in this blog, movie actors are no more than “pretend” people and athletes are “pretend” warriors.  Yet, we treat these pretend people as if they are gods of some kind, while giving no special recognition to the people they pretend to be.  I still have a vivid recollection of seeing a number of military men lined up to get the autograph of a football player – in effect, the real warriors paying homage to the pretend warrior.  “From the existentialist position, people create fictional associations with celebrities as a defense against isolation and meaninglessness,” Hill explains it.

In reading Hill’s book, I was continually surprised by his boldness.  Rather than beat around the bush as so many professional men and women do in their efforts to straddle the fence and remain “scientific” when discussing the near-death experience (NDE), Hill keeps nothing secret about his beliefs – more convictions than beliefs – favoring God, an afterlife, and spiritual influences around us, based primarily on the lessons coming from the NDE.  He admits early on that scientifically minded readers will likely groan with discomfort at what he writes.  “To the science materialist, the near-death experience represents just another repackaged religion, although with a low bent,” he offers.  “The central problem is not spiritual superstition, as I see it, but the limited conceptual understanding of the human brain.  There appears to be a scientific hubris surrounding the human aptitude for discovery.  Not everything in the universe is observable or measurable by present day science.”

Hill examines the existential considerations surrounding the NDE, suggesting that NDE research has provided us with a purpose by informing us that this life is just part of a larger reality and not the meaningless march toward nothingness that materialists succumb to.  He examines the empirical support for the NDE, calling upon Dr. Jeffrey Long’s nine lines of evidence, including out-of-body experiences, meeting deceased relatives, life reviews, people blind since birth being able to see, profound life changes and other commonalities reported by NDErs.  While recognizing that the debunker will reject all nine lines of evidence, basing their arguments primarily on certain brain chemicals being released, Hill argues that no one has demonstrated a causal link between chemistry and the NDE.

Still, the “old guard” scientific community resists the evidence. “Adherents of the old paradigm cling to their professional work like a mother clings to her child,” is the way Hill sees the resistance, going on to say that “the field of psychology, pushing toward acceptance in the broader scientific community, has likewise remained silent on the concept of the soul.”  The field still adheres to the old nature and nurture determinants of human behavior, too often ignoring spirituality. 

There was, of course, one major exception, Hill notes, that being the renowned psychiatrist Carl Jung.  As Hill interprets Jung, the greater awareness of consciousness creates greater awareness of the soul.  “Increased awareness, in turn, connects a person with the Source,” Hill explains. “From the NDE experience, this oneness means integration with God’s divine nature.” 

Citing a number of NDE cases and often quoting the experiencers, including Howard Storm, Dr. Eben Alexander, Anita Moorjani, Dr. George Ritchie and others, Hill goes on to make a case for the existence of the soul, the interconnection between Spirit and God, oneness of being, unconditional love, communication with spiritual beings, spirit influence on humans and after-death communication. 

As a prison psychologist, Hill is very familiar with the mindset of the psychopath.  He explains that while the average person experiences feelings of guilt and ideas for self-correction after doing something wrong, the psychopath revels in every moment.  “The psychopath is incapable of correcting thinking or behavior because he or she lacks concern, compassion, or remorse,” he states, adding that therapy and counseling generally have no effect on changing the psychopath.  He notes that tattoos of ghoulish creatures are common among psychopaths, an attempt to express symbolically the evil that burns inside. 

As I read Hill’s book, I could visualize his materialistic peers, those belonging to the nature or nurture school of psychology, reading his words with raised eyebrows.  However, I was able to read the book with a smile and a nod.

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: October 19      

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Defying Death in Retirement Homes

Posted on 20 September 2015, 21:20

Based on a television commercial, a certain retirement home in Hawaii is the place to be in your old age.  People who live there are content, happy, and having a lot of fun, fully enjoying their senior years.  When they are not strolling around the beautiful gardens or playing deck shuffleboard, they are probably at the nearby shopping center or playing a round of golf down the road. They’ll likely end the night with some fine dining. Yet, when I visited my in-laws at that same retirement home on a number of occasions several years ago, I found it a somewhat depressing place.  The residents looked like zombies, seemingly not knowing each other, and outside of taking meals in the dining room they were all holed up in their individual apartments. There, they kept to themselves as much as possible. I saw none of the gaiety or merriment depicted in the television commercial. 

It was much the same thing at the Armed Forces Retirement Home in Washington, D.C. when I visited an old friend there two years ago.  I had expected to see a lot of camaraderie – many old soldiers gathered around in a circle, sharing old war stories, laughing, reminiscing, slapping each other on the back, and otherwise having a ball.  However, I found it much like the Hawaii retirement home.  The residents who were not in their rooms napping or watching TV were just sitting around staring off into space, eyelids at half mast, mouths half open, drool sometimes hanging from their chins.  In the dining room, they, for the most part, sat at individual tables, seemingly not knowing each other.  My friend, now 99 and a World War II veteran who has resided there for some 20 years, usually sat alone in the dining hall and didn’t appear to know most of the other old warriors.  He knew the person in the room adjoining his just enough to nod to him whenever he saw him in the hallway, but he didn’t know much about him.     

More recently, I have observed much the same depressing environment at another Hawaii retirement home as my wife and I visited her aunt.  The building is new, the furnishings fine, the lounge comfortable, the lattes served by the lounge machine especially tasty, but on more than 20 visits to the home I have seen very little of the residents, except at meal time.  They all seem to stay in their small rooms, watching television or sleeping.  A few of them sit in the hallway staring at the walls or sleeping in a sitting position.  They head for the dining room in a parade of walkers three times a day, though they don’t eat much and don’t talk to each other at the table.  They just sit there, looking at the food, seemingly wondering if it is worth the effort to take another mouthful.  After 30 minutes or so, they slowly position themselves in front of their walkers, and shuffle back to their rooms.  The administrators appear to do their best to keep them occupied, encouraging them to engage in such activities as balloon volleyball, in which they sit on opposing couches and attempt to hit a balloon over a coffee table, or an exercise session in which they don’t do much more than windmill their arms, but only a small percentage of them participate.  Most prefer to confine themselves to their rooms. 

The sense I got at those retirement homes as well as others I have visited over the years is one of despair and hopelessness – people just waiting around to die, although not wanting to think about death.  On a couple of occasions I tried to engage some of them – the few who leave their rooms – in a conversation, hoping to get some clue as to what they are thinking about and what their thoughts are on death.  However, the mere mention of death resulted in a look of shock or dismay and I was unable to get any real philosophical musing from them.  The conversations had to be limited to the weather, the tasteless food in the dining room, or the reason their children don’t visit more often. 

As I observed the hopelessness and despair among the retirement home residents on a more recent trip to the “Old Soldier’s Home” in Washington, D.C., I thought about the interview with Julien Musolino, professor of psychology and cognitive science at Rutgers University, I had read recently on the Internet.  Musolino contends that there is no such thing as a soul and the quicker people realize that the happier they will be.  They’ll feel liberated and that liberation will lead to both truth and happiness.  That seems to be the view of so many of the philistines promoting nihilism on the Internet.  They say we should live in the moment, enjoy each day as it comes, and forget about the future.  Nearly all of them come across as young people rebelling against the God of their parents.  They are able to escape into various activities each day – texting, tweeting and phoning each other about their mundane activities, not taking the time to realize how meaningless those activities are in the great scheme of things.  I wonder if they will feel the same way when they end up in a retirement home, when living in the moment means staring at the walls and napping all day, with drool dripping, when it means graying, grunting, grumbling, grimacing, groaning, growling, griping, grieving, groveling, and groping, when the only thing you have to look forward to is the next meal, and when you make it to table you don’t even want to eat. 

Now in my 79th year, I qualify for retirement homes, but I can’t see myself living out my final years in such a depressing environment.  Philistinism – whether it be no belief at all in the survival of consciousness at death, such as that espoused by Musolino, or merely a hope that comes from the blind faith of orthodoxy – doesn’t work for me, and from what I have witnessed it doesn’t work for most others in their declining years.  The non-believers, like Musolino, can pretend to rejoice in their “heroic” march into an abyss of nothingness, but they’ll never convince me that it is anything but bravado.  As Kierkegaard saw it, such people are in despair even though they think they are happy.  “The reason is that his sensuous nature and the psycho-sensuous completely dominate him,” the famous existentialist offered. “The reason is that he lives in the sensuous categories agreeable/disagreeable, and says goodbye to truth, etc.; the reason is that he is too sensuous to have the courage to venture to be spirit or to endure it.” 

To quote William James, the pioneering psychologist and renowned philosopher:  “Let sanguine healthy-mindedness do its best with its strange power of living in the moment and ignoring and forgetting, still the evil background is really there to be thought of, and the skull will grin in at the banquet. In the practical life of the individual, we know how his whole gloom or glee about any present fact depends on the remoter schemes and hopes of which it stands related.  Its significance and framing give it the chief part of its value.  Let it be known to lead nowhere, and however agreeable it may be in its immediacy, its glow and guilding vanish.  The old man, sick with an insidious internal disease, may laugh and quaff his wine at first as well as ever, but he knows his fate now, for the doctors have revealed it, and the knowledge knocks the satisfaction out of all these functions.  They are partners of death and the worm is their brother, and they turn to a mere flatness.” 

The believers who rely on blind faith and the teachings of orthodoxy are really not much better off than the non-believers, as strumming harps and singing psalms 24/7 for eternity is hardly more appealing than extinction.  The orthodox believers repress the idea of death by escaping into the same twaddle to which the non-believer clings. They are philistines nonetheless.

I am convinced that one must move from blind faith to true faith, or conviction, if he or she is to live the retirement years with some purpose.  “Too many indeed hold the solemn verities concerning the hereafter in a sort of half consciousness, believing in them, yet nevertheless not fully realizing them,” wrote Dr. Madison Peters, a Christian author of a century ago.  “They must flame within us, setting our whole moral and intellectual nature on fire, sending a life current of energy though every part of our being, arousing us to impetuous action and to sustained effort born of strong conviction.”

Such conviction comes from giving up the 10 G’s for the 10 S’s: seeking, searching, studying, striving, struggling, sacrificing, serving, surrendering, solving and then soaring.

To quote Carl Jung, the renowned psychologist:  “Death is psychologically as important as birth, and like it, is an integral part of life. ...As a doctor, I make every effort to strengthen the belief in immortality, especially with older patients when such questions come threateningly close. For, seen in correct psychological perspective, death is not an end but a goal, and life’s inclination towards death begins as soon as the meridian is passed.”

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:  October 5

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Remembering Raymond Lodge – 100 Years Later

Posted on 06 September 2015, 20:15

Since September 14th will mark the 100th anniversary of the death of Second Lieutenant Raymond Lodge (below) on the battlefield near Ypres, Belgium, it seems like an appropriate time to look back at parts of Raymond’s story, as told by his father, Sir Oliver Lodge, a world-renowned physicist and inventor, in his 1916 book, Raymond or Life and Death – a story, along with four others, abridged in my 2014 book, Dead Men Talking, the Kindle version of which is now being offered for a limited time at just $1.99 at


Soon after his death, Raymond began communicating with his parents through two different mediums, but primarily through the mediumship of Gladys Osborne Leonard.  While skeptics of his day and today claim that Sir Oliver Lodge (below) was easily duped by charlatans because of his grief over the death of Raymond, it is clear that Sir Oliver came to his conclusions about life after death and spirit communication well before Raymond’s death.  In the wake of Darwinism, Lodge had become a materialist, but his investigation of American medium Leonora Piper 25 years before Raymond’s death converted him to a belief in spirits.


Still, Lodge was aware that there were many charlatans and was careful in his sittings.  Although Mrs. Leonard would later become as tested and as famous as Mrs. Piper, she was for the most part unknown at the time. On September 28, 1915, just two weeks after Raymond’s death, Sir Oliver and Lady Lodge had a table-tilting sitting with Mrs. Leonard, who was primarily a trance voice medium.  As a test of identity, Sir Oliver asked Raymond for his nickname.  Raymond correctly responded by correctly spelling out “Pat” with the table.  Sir Oliver then asked him to name one of his five brothers.  The table spelled out N-O-R-M-A- before Sir Oliver interrupted and commented that Raymond was confused.  He told him to begin again.  The name N-O-E-L was then spelled out, which was one of Raymond’s brothers.  It was not until Sir Oliver later discussed this with his other sons that it began to make sense.  His sons explained to him that “Norman” was a kind of general nickname used by Raymond when they played hockey together.  He would shout: “Now then, Norman,” or other words of encouragement, to any of his five older brothers whom he wished to stimulate.  Sir Oliver saw this as evidence against telepathy, since neither he nor Lady Lodge knew of the name.  He also saw it as an indication that Raymond, who had discussed psychical research with him when he was alive, was attempting to provide veridical information by giving a name unknown to him and most certainly not known to Mrs. Leonard. 

Alec Lodge, one of Raymond’s older brothers, had an anonymous sitting with Mrs. Leonard and put his own test to Raymond, asking him about his favorite music. This was a trance voice sitting in which Feda, Mrs. Leonard’s spirit control, took over her body and spoke through her vocal cords.  Alec noted that after he asked the question, he heard Feda ask Raymond, “An orange lady?”  Still confused, Feda then told Alec that “he says something about an orange lady.”  Alec felt that this was very evidential as “My Orange Girl” was the last song Raymond bought when “alive.”  Raymond also mentioned “Irish Eyes,” another of his favorites. He further tried to get a third song through, but Feda could get only “M” and “A.”  Lionel thought it might be “Ma Honey,” but at a later sitting at Mariemont, the Lodge estate, Raymond was asked what was meant by the letters M and A, and he was then able to clearly give the name “Maggie Magee,” a song unknown to anyone in the family except Norah, his sister, who was not present when the name came through.  This was still another indication that mind reading, or telepathy, was not a factor in the communication. 

In still another test, Lionel Lodge, another brother, and Norah, his sister, drove from the Lodge home, near Birmingham, to London for a sitting with Mrs. Leonard. Knowing that his brother and sister were scheduled to meet with Mrs. Leonard at noon, Alec Lodge asked two other sisters, Honor and Rosalynde, to sit with him in the drawing room and focus on asking Raymond to get the word “Honolulu” through to Lionel and Norah during the sitting.  Lionel and Norah knew nothing of this request.

During the sitting, Raymond said something about Norah playing music. Norah replied that she could not.  Feda, using Mrs. Leonard’s body, then whispered to the invisible Raymond (attention directed away from Lionel and Norah), “She can’t do what?”  Upon getting a response from Raymond, Feda then said, “He wanted to know whether you could play Hulu – Honolulu.  Well, can’t you try to?  He is rolling with laughter.”

On another occasion, Sir Oliver asked Raymond if he knew about “Mr. Jackson.”  Feda struggled with understanding Raymond’s response, but she communicated: “Fine bird…put him on a pedestal.”  This was especially evidential as Sir Oliver was certain that Mrs. Leonard did not know that Mr. Jackson was the name of Lady Lodge’s pet peacock, nor that he had died a week earlier and was in the process of being stuffed and mounted on a wooden pedestal.

Still another evidential communication came when Raymond informed his mother that the memorial tablet which she had put up at St. George’s Church, Edgbaston, had his date of death as Wednesday, September 14, when in fact September 14 had been a Tuesday.  Raymond said it didn’t bother him, but that he thought he should call her attention to it anyway. 

Other evidential information came through convincing the Lodges that they were indeed communicating with their deceased son.  But there were also things communicated by Raymond that seemed absurd, such as when Raymond mentioned that cigars and whisky sodas could still be had on his side of the veil, although they weren’t enjoyed nearly as much and eventually not enjoyed at all.  That statement became the subject of much humor around smoking rooms in England and subjected Sir Oliver to much ridicule by his peers in the scientific community.  But Sir Oliver had already come to understand that so much of the afterlife is a thought world and that in the lower realms, spirits still live is something of a dream world, often not fully grasping that they have left the material world while still desiring earthly pleasures and partaking of them in their “dreams.”

Raymond, Bob, Claude, Thomas, and Rolf – the five WWI victims whose stories are told in Dead Men Talking, all reported that they had not found themselves in some humdrum heaven or in an abyss of nothingness but rather in a world that seemed very much like the material world they had just left.  There was initially some confusion as they awakened to their new reality, and there was a period of adjustment in which they were assisted by guides, sometimes relatives who had transitioned before them.  All were surprised at the nature of the afterlife condition, saying it was nothing like they had expected.  Probably the primary message from all was that the afterlife is made up of many realms, planes, or spheres, and that, upon physical death, we transition to the realm we have prepared ourselves for during the earth life.

“He says he thinks he was lucky when he passed on because he had so many to meet him,” Feda relayed Raymond’s words in the early sittings.  “That came, he knows now, through your (Sir Oliver) having been in with this thing for so long.  He wants to impress this on those that you will be writing for; that it makes it so much easier for them if they and their friends know about it beforehand.  It’s awful when they have passed over and won’t believe it for weeks – they just think they’re dreaming.  And they won’t realize things at all sometimes.  He doesn’t mind telling you now that, just at first, when he woke up, he felt a little depression. But it didn’t last long.  He cast his eyes round, and soon he didn’t mind.  But it was like finding yourself in a strange place, like a strange city, with people you hadn’t seen, or not seen for a long time.”

Sir Oliver Lodge concluded:  “I am as convinced of continued existence on the other side of death as I am of existence here.  It may be said, you cannot be as sure as you are of sensory experience.  I say I can. A physicist is never limited to direct sensory impressions; he has to deal with a multitude of conceptions and things for which he has no physical organ – the dynamical theory of heat, for instance, and of gases, the theories of electricity, of magnetism, of chemical affinity, of cohesion, aye, and his apprehension of the ether itself, lead him into regions where sight and hearing and touch are impotent as direct witnesses, where they are no longer efficient guides.

“I shall go further and say that I am reasonably convinced of the existence of grades of being, not only lower in the scale than man but higher also, grades of every order of magnitude from zero to infinity.  And I know by experience that among these beings are some who care for and help and guide humanity, not disdaining to enter even into what must seem petty details, if by so doing they can assist souls striving on their upward course.  And further it is my faith – however humbly it may be held – that among those lofty beings, highest of those who concern themselves directly with this earth of all the myriads of worlds in infinite space, is One on whom the right instinct of Christianity has always lavished heartfelt reverence and devotion.”

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:  September 21

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An Interview with Dr. Erlendur Haraldsson

Posted on 24 August 2015, 9:29

It seems safe to say that there are very few people living today with more experience and knowledge in psychical research and parapsychology than Dr. Erlendur Haraldsson, (below) an 83-year-old resident of Iceland, best remembered for coauthoring, with Dr. Karlis Osis, At the Hour of Death, a cross-cultural study, in India and the United States, of the experiences of dying patients, first published in 1977.  Among other books and papers, he is the author of Modern Miracles: The Story of Sathya Sai Baba  (1986), and The Departed Among the Living (2012).  His latest book, coauthored with Loftur Gissurarson, Indridi Indridason: The Icelandic Physical Medium is due for release during September by White Crow Books.


I recently had the opportunity to interview Dr. Haraldsson for The Searchlight, a publication of The Academy for Spiritual and Consciousness Studies (see for more information about the Academy and its upcoming conference, September 25-27, in Scottsdale, Arizona).  This is a slightly abridged copy of that interview.

After studying psychology at the University of Freiburg and the University of Munich, Haraldsson became a research fellow at the Rhine Institute in the University of Virginia, and then received his Ph.D. from the University of Freiburg.  I put questions to him by email. 

Dr. Haraldsson, how did you become interested in psychical research/parapsychology?

“My first and primarily love was philosophy with a thirst to know more about the world around me – and not less – and to know what I was and the nature of that mysterious evasive ‘I.’  I felt I did not understand either.

“When I was around 15, I became like reborn to myself, and became aware of some inner reality that was also mysteriously external, and so immensely greater than anything I had experienced or been aware of before. It started suddenly in heavy rain during the middle of the day, near some banks of pebbles on the seashore that lit up as the sun suddenly shone and reflected on them. Then I had the experience of being filled with light that was immensely delightful and beyond words. After a while this faded away but a vivid trace of it remained with me forever after and would sometimes – especially in my youth – sweep over me again. After that there was never a doubt that there existed a superior/supernatural reality that was sometimes closer and sometimes further away from my normal self. Somehow the two were connected, but how?

“When I was old enough to enter university there was no question as to what to study, namely philosophy, which I had anyway been reading about for a long time, not only the traditional academic philosophers but also the unorthodox: the Danish Martinus, Tibetan texts, Brunton, Ouspensky and theosophical writings, to name some.

“I spent four years on academic philosophy; in Copenhagen, in Edinburgh and two years in Freiburg. By the end of that period I felt I knew how matters stand with philosophy and that it was time to start something new. What philosophy taught me were the limitations to what we can know. Yes, we were homo sapiens, but primarily homo ignorance.”

Did your philosophy education include psychical research?

“Until this time I had not been particularly interested in psychic phenomena though I had experienced my share of them.  In Freiburg I became aware of them as an interesting research area. Professor Hans Bender gave a course on parapsychology that was popular with students. He aroused my scientific interest.

“I returned to Iceland to work and earn money, mostly as a journalist. I edited one book about an Icelandic psychic who was also an influential politician, and got into correspondence with J. B. Rhine at Duke University. After some three years in Iceland I was off again, first to Berlin where the iron wall had just been built. Then I traveled for a year and a half through the Middle East and Asia and wrote my first book – exclusively travel/political/historical – With Rebels in Kurdistan.  That was the beginning of a long association with the Kurds which was a whole world apart from philosophy and the paranormal.

“Late 1963 I returned overland from South India, through Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran and Turkey, and then took the train from Istanbul to Freiburg. Now the intention was to study psychology. After a few years I obtained a Dipl. Psych. degree in psychology and later a Ph.D. with Hans Bender, whom I came to know personally. In the meantime I had on and off continued some correspondence with J. B. Rhine who invited me over to his Institute of Parapsychology after I had completed my Dipl. Psych. degree. Rhine´s institute was the Mecca of parapsychology at this time. With Rhine I stayed for a year and conducted my first two experiments both of which got published in due time.

“From then on I became more and more involved with research into the paranormal. There followed a year of internship in clinical psychology at the University of Virginia with Robert van de Castle, the dream researcher, and Prof. Ian Stevenson. With Stevenson I conducted my first studies of mediumship. From him I learned a lot. The medium was Hafsteinn Björnsson (1915-1977). Stevenson and Van de Castle became life-long friends and I wrote a tribute to both when they passed away.

“And I was lucky. As my time at the University of Virginia was coming to the end, Karlis Osis, director of research of the American Society for Psychical Research, invited me to join him on a major study of deathbed visions which he was planning. I gladly accepted. For comparative purposes this project was conducted in India as well as in the United States. It involved interviews with over 800 doctors and nurses; it was a highly memorable and interesting experience that had a lasting effect on me.

“Karlis Osis had a deep-seated interest in the question of survival. And what better way to study what may follow when we die – he argued – than to investigate the experiences people have just before they die? That is, when they find themselves on the threshold between life and death.”

Is there any one case you have been involved with that stands out in your mind as especially convincing?

“The case of the fire in Copenhagen in 1905, described by the medium Indridi Indridason (1883-1912) and the Danish communicator Emil Jensen, immediately comes to mind. At this time there was no telephone or radio communication across the wide Atlantic Ocean between Iceland and the rest of Europe. News arrived only by ship. This remarkable case reminds me of Swedenborg´s remote description of the fire in Stockholm when he was in Gothenburg. However, the Indridason/Jensen case is much better documented. Not only that. Over a century after it occurred I was able to trace Emil Jensen (1848-1898) by searching census records and archives in Copenhagen. Everything that Emil Jensen had said about his life in 1905, seven years after he had passed away, was proved correct. Jensen had lived in the Great King Street most of his life and there the fire had broken out, namely close to his home, as in the case of Swedenborg.”

What has been the highlight of your career?

“The study of deathbed visions with Karlis Osis was the first such highlight. After lots of interviews, fieldwork and analyses we wrote At the Hour of Death, which has since appeared in some 20 editions/translations. It was last published in 2012 by White Crow Books. It is still the most extensive study conducted of deathbed visions.

“Deathbed visions are rather common among the dying. Deceased loved ones, friends and relatives appear to some of the dying in their last hours. They express the purpose that they have come to take the patient away into the realm of the dying. And when that happens the dying are happy to go. They experience being received by their loved ones.

“Was it all hallucinatory? We gathered as best we could information about each patient´s medication, temperature, the nature of his/her disease, etc., in short all that might possibly produce hallucinations. The analyses of this great body of data did not support the hypothesis that the bulk of the deathbed visions was caused by hallucinatory factors. That being rejected we were left with the survival side of our model of what happens in deathbed visions.

“My surveys of psychic experiences and apparitions of the dead in Iceland (The Departed Among the Living) is another of my favorite projects. The great European Values Study had revealed that 25 percent of the population of Western Europe had personally ‘felt that they had really been in touch with someone who had died.’  In the USA this figure was 30 percent.  What had these people experienced? We sought answers by interviewing 450 persons who reported that they had experienced an encounter with someone who had died.

“Another highlight was my study of Sathya Sai Baba, whom I first learned about during the study of deathbed visions in India. Equally – perhaps more important – is my research of children’s´ claims of past-life memories that Stevenson encouraged me to conduct. On that I have written numerous papers and book chapters.

“Then – of course – very prominent for me are my studies of the mediumship of Indridi Indridason, about whom I have now written a book. Also my studies and experiments with the mental medium Hafsteinn Björnsson.

“All these major projects are summed up in my autobiography that still exists only in Icelandic. Many of these studies offer challenging evidence for survival of death and the existence of a supernatural reality that have to be considered seriously.”

What did you find most interesting about the mediumship of Indridason?
“Most remarkable were the frequent phenomena of direct voices. And sometimes there were two voices – a female soprano and male bass voice – singing together.  The direct voice phenomena are rare with mediums but were more common with Indridi Indridason than any other kind of phenomena, and were also observed outside his séances and in full daylight. There were also massive movements and levitations of objects and the medium, and frequent appearance of lights in various forms and colors, sometimes with a human form appearing in a pillar of light. All the classical forms of physical mediumship were there in a country where they had never been observed before.
“The group round Indridi Indridason – the Experimental Society – consisted mostly of academics who took all thinkable precautions to prevent the possibility of fraud, which Indridi gladly accepted, and still the phenomena continued.”

We don’t seem to have the same quality of mediumship today that we had in Indridi’s day.  Do you have any ideas as to why this is?
“Some psychic/spiritual phenomena appear epidemic. They have their primary period and purpose and after a while we may only find traces of them. But they may turn up again.”

Are you fully retired now or are you still doing research?

“Formally retired but as busy as ever, writing papers and books, and lecturing frequently in many countries as can be seen on my homepage: Retirement can be a very fruitful and productive time as one is then relieved of all teaching and administrative duties.”

What is the general worldview in Iceland?

“National surveys reveal widespread belief and experiences of the paranormal to about the same degree as in Italy and the U.S., but considerably higher than in the rest of Europe.  About 70 percent of the population believe in an afterlife, which is about the same percentage as in the U.S. and Ireland and considerably higher than in the rest of Europe. Some people go to church but to a much lower extent than in the United States. Funerals are particularly well attended.”

Indridi Indridason: The Icelandic Physical Medium by Erlendur Haraldsson and Loftur Gissurarson is published by White Crow Books and will be available in September 2015

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 7th September

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Just Wondering (about death)!

Posted on 11 August 2015, 7:50

While recently accompanying a granddaughter around the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History, so much of which sets forth biological evolution as fact, I wondered if fundamentalist Christians – at least those fundamentalists rejecting Darwinism – were among the visitors and how they reacted to it all.  I wondered how there can be such absolute certainty when there is still that “missing link.”  I thought about the comment by Alfred Russel Wallace, (below) co-originator with Darwin of the natural selection theory of evolution, that the evidence for a spirit world is as good as the evidence for evolution and wondered if the evidence is still as good as it was back then, concluding that it was much greater in both areas. 


I further wondered about the quantum aspect; that is, if there is no such thing as “time,” then how do things “evolve”?  Of course, that question doesn’t help religion, either, since even Creationism involves time, if only seven days. As with reincarnation, I have come to the conclusion that biological evolution is much more complicated than we realize and for the most part beyond human comprehension, and so I don’t concern myself too much with our origins.

I concern myself more with where we are headed than from where we came and wonder why others are not so concerned.  I recalled that when Professor James Hyslop (below) was teaching philosophy and logic at Columbia University, a fellow professor sneered at his interest in psychical research.  When Hyslop published articles that strongly supported non-mechanistic theories, the fellow professor tried to have him fired.  In his defense, Hyslop, noting scientific efforts to find a species of useless fish to support Darwin’s theory, asked “why it is so noble and respectable to find whence man came, and so suspicious and dishonorable to ask and ascertain whither he goes?”  Pondering on that, I wondered why paleontologists are so much more respected than psychical researchers and parapsychologists.


As I further toured the Smithsonian and came upon the displays dealing with space exploration, I wondered why people are so interested in exploring “outer” space and so little interested in exploring “inner” space. I wondered about the benefits of space exploration if life is nothing but a march into an abyss of nothingness, as fundamentalist science would have us believe.  Who benefits and in what way?  Will our descendants find greater meaning in life if we find something out there?  What is the point of it all?  I wondered how Smithsonian officials would react if someone proposed they set aside a building devoted to discoveries in psychical research and parapsychology.  No doubt, they would scoff at the idea. 

The July 28 issue of the Washington Post carried an interview with Harvard geneticist Jack Szostak, who won a share of the 2009 Nobel Prize for physiology or medicine, about his attempts to create life in a test tube.  “What I hope this will show people is that there is a perfectly natural progression from chemistry to life and that the origin of life is not something magical,” Szostak was quoted, going on to say that a supernatural explanation is not needed.  I wondered about his definition of “supernatural” and further wondered how the world might be better off if he were to succeed in completely ruling out a supernatural explanation.  Would everyone be happier knowing that life is meaningless, nothing but a march into that abyss?  Is life just about making life better for future generations?  I wondered what happens when Utopia is achieved – when some future generation experiences only happiness.  Will it be all eat, drink, and be merry?  What will life be like without challenges and adversity?  To what end the progeny, to which generation full fruition?  Will that future generation go the way of Nero and Rome, and then will the pursuit of happiness start all over again?  Then again, I wondered if creating life in a test tube proves anything relative to the existence of the soul.  Might not a soul attach itself to that life in the same way it attaches itself to a fetus or a newborn? 

I visited a 99-year-old friend at the Old Soldier’s Home in Washington, D.C. and after seeing the pain and misery he seemed to be in I wondered why anyone would want to live to be that old.  As near as I could determine, when he wasn’t sleeping he was in pain, and so he preferred to spend most of his time sleeping.  I wondered if his fundamentalist religious beliefs helped him deal with it all.  He was not in condition to talk about it this visit, but when I visited him two years ago he talked about seeing his family in heaven at some far off date, though he did not seem anxious to join them, seemingly looking forward to making it to 100 and beyond.  Most of the other old soldiers I observed at the retirement home appeared depressed and despondent and I wondered what their beliefs are. 

Going south, we visited Universal Studios in Orlando.  As we toured the new Harry Potter theme parks, I wondered how so many people can get so excited about a fantasy world involving some elements of spirituality while taking no interest at all in a real spiritual world.  I wondered why fiction appeals to so many when there is enough non-fiction concerning a spiritual world to delve into.

On my 11-hour flight home to Hawaii on American Airlines, I sat in the coach section, the seats moved even closer to each other than on previous flights, and wondered why they don’t call it what it really is – “steerage,” and if that is what it feels like to be buried alive.

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 post:  August 24

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Was Mary Lincoln a Lunatic?

Posted on 13 July 2015, 8:28

“We the undersigned jurors in the case of Mary Lincoln (below) are satisfied that Mary Lincoln is insane and is a fit person to be in a state hospital for the insane – that her age is 56 – that the disease is of unknown duration – that the cause is unknown – that she is not subject to epilepsy – that she does not manifest homicidal or suicidal tendencies and that she is not a pauper.”


So declared the all-male jury in the 1875 trial of Mary Todd Lincoln, the widow of American President Abraham Lincoln.  The legal action had been brought by Robert Lincoln, the only surviving son of the Lincolns, believed to be in part motivated by the fact that his mother often sat with mediums and claimed to have communicated with dead people, including her son, Willie, and possibly out of concern that his mother would be duped into giving away his future inheritance to unscrupulous mediums.  Supporting the allegations of insanity against his mother, Robert Lincoln had five doctors, none of whom had examined his mother, testify as to her demented state. 

In my blog of April 7, 2015 (Was President Lincoln a Believer or an Infidel), I mentioned that there is strong evidence that Lincoln sat with mediums, including Nettie Colburn, at the urging of his wife, Mary, and was accompanied in one or more of them by various members of his cabinet.  One of the earlier mediums with whom Lincoln sat was J. B. Conklin, a trance medium from Ohio.  Shortly after Lincoln was elected president, an article appeared in the Cleveland Plain Dealer in which he was attacked as a “Spiritualist.”  The only thing false about the article, Lincoln was quoted, “is that the half of it has not been told.  This article does not begin to tell the wonderful things I have witnessed.”

One of the readers of this blog kindly sent me a 1987 biography of Mrs. Lincoln, Mary Todd Lincoln, by Jean H. Baker, a chapter of which details Mary Lincoln’s trial and confinement to the lunatic asylum.  Baker, a professor of history at Goucher College at the time she authored the book, while recognizing neurotic behavior in Mrs. Lincoln, for the most part defends her. “As a beneficiary of modern feminism and the developing field of women’s history, I came to believe that Mary Lincoln was a victim of bias,” she offers in the Preface of the 2008 edition of the book. 

According to Baker’s research, Mary Lincoln did not even know about the insanity charges until the morning of her trial.  She was escorted from her Chicago apartment by two of Robert’s friends to the Chicago courthouse, where she found that her own defense attorney was appointed by Robert.  During a three-hour trial, 17 witnesses, gathered by Robert Lincoln, testified as to her unsoundness of mind.  No defense was offered and she was then confined to the Bellevue Place sanatorium outside Chicago.  There, Dr. Robert Patterson, the head of the sanatorium, examined her and diagnosed a “hysterical bladder” and a nervous debility, both resulting from excessive grief on her brain force, dating back to the murder of her husband and more recently to the death of her son Tad. 

Baker noted that Patterson became aware of testimony that Mrs. Lincoln also suffered from the religious excitement of spiritualism, sometimes referred to as “theomania,” an affliction suffered by as many as 25 percent of the female patients.  As explained by the neurologist Dr. William Hammond, “the false sensuous impressions [conjured up by mediums] force too much blood to the brain and eventually predispose seance seekers to lunacy.”  Some years earlier, Patterson had written that “Spiritualists reject the inspired authority of scripture and regarding the human family as ignorant of their relations to God and their condition in eternity, teach that man by some mysterious unintelligible process may possibly strive at some definite truth.  This error so arouses the passions as to bring on the derangement.”   

As Baker saw it in 1987, a modern psychiatrist would have diagnosed Mary Lincoln with the personality disorder of narcissism. In order to counter the grief she had experienced from the deaths of three sons and her husband, Mary sought to find love and comfort by attracting new friends; however, her self-aggrandizement methods of embracing new friends backfired on her and turned people away, only adding to her grief and uncontrolled mourning.

As others abandoned or rejected her, Mary Lincoln turned more and more to spiritualism.  In addition, she went so far as to begin reading fiction, something a proper woman of the day did not do since it “distracted the female mind from its domestic tasks and encouraged its tendencies toward emotionality.”  So defiant of conventionality was she that she traveled to Europe without a male escort to protect her.  She even meddled in politics, something women weren’t supposed to do.

With the help of friends, especially one Myra Bradwell, who had a law degree but was not allowed to practice law because of her gender, and her husband, Judge James B. Bradwell, both spiritualists, Mary Lincoln was released from the asylum after just three months and three weeks of incarceration.  While Robert Lincoln fought the release, Dr. Patterson apparently wanted to avoid bad publicity and declared Mary Lincoln “competent” enough to be released.  She spent the next year living with her older sister in Springfield, Illinois.  After a year-long battle to recover her assets from Robert, she moved to southern France to live alone for several years, but health problems caused her to return to Springfield to live with her sister. She died of a stroke at age 64. 

Baker’s book makes one wonder how much of written history we can really trust.  Other historians have suggested that Mary Lincoln was the lunatic that her son made her out to be.  And while Baker portrays her as somewhat eccentric with many peculiarities – some of which would be seen as normal behavior today, especially for more liberated women – Baker’s Mary Lincoln emerges as a sane, intelligent, and strong-willed person, though one in constant despair with little to hope for after losing a husband and three sons – four sons, really, since Robert became “dead” to her.  Which historians can we believe?

It is easy to forget that those who lost loved ones in those days did not have all the coping methods that grieving people have today.  They couldn’t escape into a movie or television program, turn on soothing music, or communicate with sympathetic friends by phone or email.  They sat in dark rooms with little more than memories to placate the grieving mind.  While some men might have dealt with such grief by wandering down to the local saloon, women had no such option.  According to Baker, Mrs. Lincoln spent the first 40 days after her husband’s assassination in bed, and then after moving to Chicago, “spent her days contemplating the waves of Lake Michigan, tending to a correspondence made voluminous by sympathy notes, and walking in the park along the water’s edge.” 

It is also interesting to note how the many biographers of President Lincoln treat spiritualism.  Although I have read only a small percentage of them, I gather that most historians see it as a foolish cult involving nothing more than crystal-gazing charlatans, something a man of Lincoln’s stature would most certainly have nothing to do with.  In his popular 1995 book, Lincoln, David Herbert Donald, a two-time Pulitzer Prize winner, makes only one reference to the subject, stating that there may have been as many as eight seances in the White House following Willie Lincoln’s death and that the president attended only one and was not convinced.  Donald does not cite his source for this information. 
In a 1959 book, The Almost Chosen People:  A Study of the Religion of Abraham Lincoln, Dr. William J. Wolf, a professor of theology at New York City’s Union Theological Seminary, makes absolutely no mention of spiritualism.  The few references to Mary Lincoln do not go beyond mentioning that she was a member of the First Presbyterian Church in 1852.  If Wolf knew of the part spiritualism played in her life and the extent to which it may have influenced the president’s life, it would no doubt have tainted the book, the main theme of which was that President Lincoln was a God-fearing man.  Most Christians thought spiritualism was the work of the devil and that spiritualists didn’t fear God. 

Baker doesn’t seem to know what to make of spiritualism, seemingly understanding of Mrs. Lincoln’s beliefs at times but buying into the repulsive view of many at other times.  She definitely portrays William Mumler, a spirit photographer, as a fraud, claiming that he “superimposed” a photo of Lincoln on a photo of Mrs. Lincoln, (below) while referring to Mumler’s “sleazy studio.”  Of course, Wikipedia and other debunking sites will support her in such a view, but there was much testimony by credible people in Mumler’s favor – by people who closely observed the whole photographic developing process and were certain that Mumler could not have known about the spirit entities showing up in the photos or have obtained photos of them beforehand.


According to Mary Lincoln, she went to Mumler’s studio incognito, giving her name as Mrs. Tyndall.  Baker wonders how Mumler could not have known her true identity, but she may have overlooked the fact that this was during the late 1860s, before photojournalism, and it is likely that most people did not know what Mrs. Lincoln looked like, especially since the former belle of the ball in Lexington and Springfield hardly resembled her more trim, younger self, even if one could see through the bonnet and veil. 

So what can we believe?  Clearly, recorded history is subject to the preconceived notions or biases of the historian and we left to wonder what the truth of the matter really is.

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.

Note:  As I will be traveling in coming weeks, I will not be able to respond to any questions or comments.  My next blog post will be on August 10.

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What the Advanced Spirits Told a Lawyer!

Posted on 02 July 2015, 19:14

“In conducting my experiments, I have always insisted that they should be done in my own home under such conditions only as I should provide,” Edward V. Randall wrote of his more than 700 sittings with Emily S. French, a direct-voice medium (see my blog of two weeks ago for more about Randall and French).
Randall, a prominent Buffalo, New York lawyer, said he heard from hundreds, if not thousands, of discarnates during the 20 years he studied French.  “Each voice has individuality,” Randall explained. “When a new spirit comes for the first time and takes on the condition of vocalization, there is often a similarity in tone quality, but this soon passes away, as they grow accustomed to speak, never change, and are easily recognized.”  Randall added that the strength of the voices varied greatly, one of them loud enough to fill a great auditorium, others almost whispers.  The voices were in different tones, expressed different ideas, different personalities, and sometimes spoke in foreign languages.
On one occasion, again in Randall’s own house, when a window shade was accidentally raised, there was enough light in the room for him to see the spirit being talking.  “I saw his form perfectly,” Randall recorded.  “Without a break in his discourse, he stepped to one side toward the corner where it was darker, continuing the discussion, simply saying, as the place where he stood became partially lighted, ‘We have promised the time should come when you should see us, but we scarcely expected it would be this morning.’  He stood there in full materialized form, else how could I have seen him?  He was a spirit, for Mrs. French and I were in the room alone, and no other man could have come in without opening the door and letting in the full light of day.  I not only saw him, but I heard his spirit-voice, as I have heard it many times since.  This is a fact: I saw, I heard, I know.”

On another occasion, one of Randall’s friends in spirit told him that his spirit friends wanted to give him a test of their reality and power.  This was in a room in his house with only Mrs. French and himself present.  After the communicating spirit instructed Mrs. French to stand and for Randall to hold both her hands, Randall witnessed flowers coming from every direction.  “I immediately opened the door and hurriedly called for others of my household to see the display,” Randall recorded.  “We found upon the table, chairs, and carpet, upwards of one hundred pure white sweet peas, fresh, with dew sparkling in the petals.  The stems had been twisted off.”

When Randall asked the communicating spirit how that was accomplished, he was told that it involved a physical law that mankind had yet to discover and that it involved spirit people taking the flowers from a garden where they grew in abundance, changed their vibratory conditions, as water is changed into steam, conveyed them into the room, altering the vibration back to the primary stage, thereby restoring the flowers to their original condition and color.

“At other times when alone with Mrs. French,” Randall continued, “I have been told to take both her hands and to hold them firmly, during which time spirit people have come in full physical form, stood beside me, and put their hands on my head.  Their hands are warm and firm, but the touch is strange because they are in a state of intense vibration; they do not tremble or shake, but they seem to pulsate with a rapidity that I have no words to describe.”

Randall heard from many apparently advanced spirits, naming them as Channing, Beecher, Talmage, Ingersoll, Hough, Dr. Hossack, Segoewatha, and others.  While Mrs. French, a widow living with her daughter, was a frail, meek, uneducated, and somewhat deaf woman, the words that came through her mediumship were sharp, vibrant, and eloquent.  “Lectures from such men, speaking in their own independent voices, materialized for the time, leaves no doubt as to what follows death,” Randall wrote.  “I have never heard such matchless oratory, such sermons, such thoughts expressed by the living as I have from the so-called dead.”

Over those 20 years of sitting with Mrs. French, Randall asked many questions of the spirits.  Here is a little more of what they had to tell Randall, as set forth in The French Revelation, Riley Heagerty’s anthology of Randall’s five books about his experiences.

God:  “A God whom limited intellect could comprehend would not be a God; the intellect would be the greater.”

Subconscious Mind: “The sub-conscious, or super-sensitive, mind, which so many people know not, although they possess it, is a fourth dimensional mind, or the mind of the astral body, contained within your three-dimensional physical body. ...The subconscious mind is always right.  From the subconscious mind comes the ‘still small voice,’ that thing which people know as the conscience.  The conscience is a definite manifestation of the subconscious mind, trying to dictate to the conscious mind that it is in some way or other in error.” 

Grief: “I will give you a description of the place in which I found myself when I awoke after what you call ‘death.’ It took me some time to realize the beauty of my surroundings, as my eyes were blinded by the sorrow which my going had caused on earth.  The grief of my people kept me so sad at first that I was not able to see or think of anything but earthly sorrow.  That is why grief for departed friends and relatives is so wrong, and is so harmful, both to those on earth and to those who come over. The longer the grief continues and the more hopeless it is, the more those mourned for are kept to earth. ...Fortunately, the grief of my people on earth was not of this desperately hopeless variety, and I was enabled in time to rise above it and get on with my work of helping others.”

Spirit World: “The realities of the spirit world are beyond description.  I might spend hours telling you of it and not reach your minds with any conception of its glory, its greatness, its grandeur.  It is so vast in extent, so marvellous, that any attempt to give you more than a faint idea would be futile.  Not until you get here and see for yourself can you have any conception of the home of the soul.  We have our mission – to try to get knowledge through to the shore line of your earth.  We are working our best to enlighten the world and prepare its people for the death change.”

The Spheres: “In the lower sphere one sees much suffering among those still earth-bound.  They, too, are busy working out past faults and they are often heavy-hearted.  Generally speaking, the first sphere is the one where restitution must be made, and where the final wrenching away from earth conditions takes place. The second is one of instruction, a period of study, during which the spirit gains knowledge of self and natural law.  The third is one of teaching those in the lower spheres, as I have said.  The fourth sphere is one of trial and temptation.  The fifth is truth, where error and falsehood are unknown.  In the sixth, all is harmony.  In the seventh, the spirits reach the plane of exaltation and become one with the great spirit that rules the universe. ...We are told that the spirits in the sphere of exaltation do not even there lose individuality.  They are embodied in all the beauty and good of the universe. ...It is difficult to understand or appreciate what this last sphere is, the development is so beyond our comprehension.”

Religious Beliefs:  “In the lowest of the spheres, that is, in the earth-bound spheres sectarian strife and religious movement are just as strenuous among the people as they were before these persons left the physical body.  That state of transition is but little removed from the physical, for, while the majority there knows they have left the body, others have such an imperfect appreciation of the change, or have led such immoral lives that they are not conscious of the fact. Here the dogmas of orthodoxy are dominant, and the old religious teachings are promulgated, and the priesthood still holds power.  One would think that an individual having passed through the portal called death and finding nothing as he had been taught, or as he had believed, would give up old notions and try to comprehend the economy of the natural law under which he continued to live; but, strange as it may seem, many even then cling to the old beliefs as if in fear, as if to doubt it were sacrilege, and in many ways excuse their failure to find what they expected.  They go into your churches and mingle with other people, a great invisible host, hear the same old teachings, say the same creeds and continue in the same mental attitude until some condition is brought about them that guides them into the avenue of knowledge, and as time goes on, one by one they break the shackles about their mentalities…”

Other Planets:  “Some of the planets are much higher in vibratory action than in your earth, and if you were to go to them, and could still retain the earth conditions surrounding you, as usual you could not see any life because your vibration would be so much lower.  The need of this condition is so apparent when once one grasps the immensity of the universe and the harmony of its laws.  If you were able to see all the conditions and people beyond you, life would be chaos and confusion – each sphere mixing with another – with no regulation or harmony anywhere.  As it is, each has its own place in the scheme of progression, and this visible wall of vibratory force is the safety guard to continued rational living.”

Living for Today:  “It is well that mortals should live the earth-life in accordance with the laws of nature, and not spend too much time in speculative thought as to the why and wherefore of his being; but good being the desire of all, of the necessary condition of all for achievement, a true knowledge of the future state of the spirit is necessary that errors of life may not occur, through your own unguided actions.”

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: July 13

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The French Revelation:  Some Forgotten Treasures Resurrected

Posted on 15 June 2015, 11:17

N. Riley Heagerty, a 53-year-old resident of Buckeye, Arizona, (below) has sat with a number of physical mediums, both in Great Britain and in the U.S. and has witnessed an abundance of physical phenomena, including ectoplasm and materialized spirits.  However, he has not been impressed with what seemed like an almost “circus” atmosphere of physical phenomena with certain mediums.  He says that the physical phenomena were interesting in the beginning but eventually led to a deeper inquiry for communication from those he knew in the spirit world.


As Heagerty sees it, there is nothing even remotely close to the vast numbers of mediums and phenomena that were manifesting within what he refers to as the “century of wonders,” which he places as between 1848 and 1948. The mediumship of that era offered much more in the way of both evidence and wisdom coming from the spirits.  The reason for the decline in the quality of mediumship, Heagerty believes, has to do with the many distractions we have today.  Before radio, television, the Internet, cell phones, etc., people had much more quiet time in which to get in touch with their inner selves.  Just sitting in front of a fire place and staring into the flames, as so many people did before the distractions came along, could prompt an altered state of consciousness, one which could be developed over time and in which the person could experience other realities.  “All of this led to the required passive, calm state,” Heagerty explains.  “If the young mediums especially had sympathetic parents and were surrounded by understanding and love, then all the better.  The world seems to be in such a rush now that although there are certainly physical mediums, they are very rare.” 

A semi-retired professional musician, Heagerty became interested in mediumship in 1985, when a woman very close to him was struck down by leukemia. “Two weeks before her passing, her clairvoyance became evident in the highest regard and her messages involving spirits who were in the room with her, including her own son Bradley, who had passed some thirteen years before, were startling in the extreme and were the very reason I left the music business, to dedicate my life to research involving life after death and communication with spirits,” Heagerty explains his initial interest.  “I first decided to collect every available book I could on the subject, and this in turn naturally graduated into a more refined method of book hunting and collecting.  I have now more than 650 books in my library, many of them rare.”

One medium of yesteryear who especially impressed Heagerty was Emily S. French (1830-1912), (below) an independent voice medium who became the subject of five books authored by Edward C. Randall, a prominent Buffalo, New York trial lawyer and corporate executive. Heagerty has brought those books back to life in an anthology he calls The French Revelation, first published in 2000 and just recently republished by White Crow Books. 


Randall (below) had the first of more than 700 sittings over some 20 years with French in 1892.  After satisfying himself that Mrs. French was a genuine medium and that he was hearing from “spirit people,” including his mother and father, Randall began having Mrs. French sit in his (Randall’s) home in order to further rule out any kind of trickery.  Initially, the voices were just whispers, but gradually, as Mrs. French developed, they became loud voices, the loudest one being that of her primary control, an American Indian known as Red Jacket.  Randall pointed out that each voice had individuality and sometimes spoke in a foreign tongue.  “When new spirits come for the first time and take on the condition of vocalization, there is often a similarity in tone quality, but this soon passes away, as they grow accustomed to using their voices in this way,” he explained. “The voices of those accustomed to speak never change, and are easily recognized.  There is no similarity of thought or words.”  Randall further mentioned that the strength of the voices varied greatly, much as they do in earth life.


While many of the early messages were of the evidential type, Randall considered them a waste of time as he was more interested in the “new philosophy,” including information on the meaning of life, the nature of the afterlife, spiritual evolution, and other higher truths.  “We live,” Red Jacket communicated, “as real lives, more real – on this side than we did when on earth.  The laws that govern life are the same here as with you.  In fact, everything here is so real that many who come over here – die as you call it – do not know for a long time that they are dead.  A great part of the work to be done here is to instruct the dead in the true science of progress.  To the circles held by this medium we often bring dazed and earthbound spirits, so as to be able to reach their consciousness through earth surroundings.”

Randall went on to explain that much of the French circle’s activity involved missionary work, or “rescuing” earthbound spirits – those who did not realize they were dead and seemed to be bewildered.  “Some are in total darkness, some in half-light; all in all, it is at most a twilight zone between the spiritual and physical worlds,” he offered.  “Here old appetites, thoughts, and desires hold sway as before. In this zone a great mass of undeveloped people of the same general character, with a desire for spirituality no greater than when living in the physical body, remain. Their condition is much worse than in this world, for there is not the opportunity for reformation that there was before.”

Randall stated that other spirits would try to help these earthbound spirits, but were unsuccessful because of the difference in vibration rate.  Because the vibration rate of those living on earth is much closer to that of the earthbound souls, it was easier for the higher spirits to reach the lower ones by communicating through Mrs. French and having Randall talk with the earthbound souls and explain their condition to them.
During one sitting, Randall heard from an old business acquaintance who had died at the age of 70 some five years earlier.  While considered a good citizen, the man, referred to as Mr. W— by Randall, had the reputation of being a “pennypincher.”  Both Mrs. French and a visiting clairvoyant could see the man and describe his appearance, which fit Randall’s recollection of him. More evidential, however, was the man’s voice, which Randall clearly recognized.  Mr. W— told Randall that he was trapped in a wall of money and that it shuts out the light.

Randall asked a spirit known as Dr. Hossack about the nature of light.  “The light we have is obtained from the action of our minds on the atmosphere,” Dr. Hossack replied.  “We think light, and there is light.  That is why people who come over in evil conditions are in the dark; their minds are not competent to produce light enough for them to see. There is greater intensity of light as we go up through the spheres, which comes from the blending of the more spiritual minds. Our life is merely the condition of mind which each one has.  We create images in thought, and have the reality before us, just as tangible as your houses and buildings are to you.  You do not have any conception of the great power and force there is, or may be, in thought.  It dominates all conditions and makes us what we are.  One who realizes this may control his destiny.”

One evening, Randall and the others sitting with Mrs. French heard from a stranger who said he was a physician living in Philadelphia.  He was apparently brought in by other spirits who said that the doctor was having trouble separating from his physical body.  “When he finally became fully conscious, he told his name, the number of his residence, and much more about himself,” Randall recorded.  “The papers the next morning had a full account of his death early the evening before.”

Randall wrote that in addition to Red Jacket, he was lectured by Channing, Beecher, Tallmadge, Ingersoll, Hough, Segoyewatha, and hundreds of others.  “Lectures from such men, speaking in their own independent voices, materialized for the time, leave no doubt as to what follows death,” he stated.  “I have never heard such matchless oratory, such sermons, such thought expressed by the living as I have from the so-called dead.  They tell me that we are as much spirit to-day as we will ever be.  We are not all that we can become, but there will be no sudden acquisition. Death itself will add little to present knowledge, nor will it enlarge our opportunities to any marked degree.”

Dr. Isaac Funk, cofounder of the Funk & Wagnalls publishing firm, also studied Mrs. French, at first satisfying himself that there were no confederates, no ventriloquism, no hidden megaphones, or other forms of trickery.  He also noted that Mrs. French did not accept payment for her sittings and that she was deaf.
Funk arranged for Mrs. French to travel to New York City and be observed by him and some friends under strict test conditions. At one sitting, they heard a strange, loud laugh which seemed to emanate about six to eight feet from the medium.  Funk described it as a deep basso to almost a treble and noted that the location of the voice seemed to change to different parts of the room. Red Jacket explained that it was for their benefit in ruling out ventriloquism, the theory most advanced by skeptics.  Funk also had Mrs. French hold water in her mouth during some of the voices to further rule out that possibility.  He also asked her to laugh at the same time as they heard the strange laughs and noted there was no resemblance.

There is so much more to French’s mediumship as recorded by Randall and resurrected by Heagerty.  It will be further discussed in my next blog post in two weeks. 

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:  June 29   

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Debunking the Debunkers:  Living to Living Communication

Posted on 01 June 2015, 19:25

The annals of psychical research and books about mediumship contain a number of cases in which what was initially thought to be a “dead” person communicated through the medium, but it was later determined that the communicator was still alive.  “Fake!  Fraud!  Charlatan!” the pseudoskeptics were quick to charge in those cases.  Such cases are still cited by debunkers as proof of fraud.  However, these “know nothings” apparently do not consider the evidence suggesting that living humans are able to leave their bodies and telepathically communicate with other living humans.

In the mediumship of Poland’s Franek Kluski, as discussed in this blog of two weeks ago, Colonel Norbert Okolowicz reported the case of a phantom of a living person appearing to sitters at a Kluski séances.  One of them was the father of a sitter at the séance, who appeared to his daughter with a confused expression in his eyes.  The concerned daughter sent a telegram to the family in another town and determined that her father was alive, but was ill and unconscious with a high fever at the time she saw his phantom, ghost, double, spirit body, perispirit, or whatever name might be given to it.

Okolowicz also reported that Kluski received automatic writing messages from about 150 entities, using different handwriting and different styles of expression.  Six or seven of them were identified as being living persons not present but asleep at the time. According to Zofia Weaver, who translated Okolowicz’s book and added commentary to it, the communication usually took the form of a dialogues between a participant at the séance and the entity. Apparently, it was confirmed in some of the cases that the correspondent had “dreamt” the conversation.

Beatrice Gibbes, a researcher who dedicated much of her life to observing and assisting Geraldine Cummins, (below) a renowned Irish automatic writing medium, reported on a case involving Mrs. Napier Webb, an old friend of Cummins’ who was seriously injured in a hunting accident during March 1944.  Brain surgery was performed during May and it was considered doubtful that she would survive it.  On the evening of May 25, Gibbes and Cummins were supposed to go to tea and then a film in London, but Cummins had a sudden urge to write.  After Cummins was seated and went into a trance with pen in hand, Astor, her spirit control, communicated that a strange woman was close by but he didn’t know what she wanted.  Before Gibbes, who was seated at the table, could finish telling Astor to ask her who she was and what she wanted, the pen appeared to be seized and wrote “Tid Webb.”  Tid was the pet name of Mrs. Webb.


Tid Webb wrote:  “My dear Geraldine.  It is strange how my thoughts have gone out to you in this dreadful time.  I am in two worlds.  I am not dead but I may be soon.  I can’t talk to anyone.  I want to tell them things: how I was with B___ (her son killed in Hong Kong early in the war).  He took me into a world so brilliant I can’t describe it.  This is just a little visit to beg you, if you go over to Ireland, not to lose sight of my darling… (her young and only daughter).  The boys are all right but she is so young…The doctor has been here and I could see that he still thinks I have a little chance – that I may struggle back, and I want to so much, perhaps I shall.  If I don’t recover, promise me you will do as I ask.”

Gibbes replied to Webb, explaining that Cummins was in a trance but that she would inform of her of the request as soon as she was fully conscious.  Webb replied:  “Oh, Miss Gibbes.  Of course I see you now.  Thank you so much.  Now that queer cord is beginning to pull at me.” Gibbes asked her if she was in a coma at the time. “I saw my body lying there and I am still bound to it by a silvery cord – a bit frayed, you know,” Webb responded.
Astor took back control and told Gibbes that he did not think that the woman had passed over because he could see the cord of life still there. But he could tell that she was in and out of her body.  A mutual friend later wrote to Cummins and said that Mrs. Webb was still alive but that she appeared to be “half or more than half with the others, and only comes back with an effort when one comes in and speaks.”  She died about three months later.

Similarly, trance medium and clairvoyant Gladys Osborne Leonard reported seeing and communicating with her husband’s spirit body before he actually died.  With a nurse watching over her husband, who had been very ill for a number of days but seemed to be improving, Mrs. Leonard took a walk on the beach outside of their cottage.  She became aware of a vague, shadowy form walking next to her and talking to her.  “Don’t worry, little woman, don’t worry,” her husband told her. Thinking he might have died, Leonard raced home and found her husband in a deep sleep.  When he awoke he told her that he had been out on the seafront and was talking to people, although he did not remember talking to Gladys.  “This experience made me quite certain that my husband’s soul body was loosening its hold on the physical counterpart in spite of the recent improvement in his condition,” Leonard wrote, further mentioning that she had clairvoyantly witnessed the “double” of several other people before their actual deaths. 

Camille Flammarion, a renowned French astronomer and psychical researcher, cited the case of Dr. C. J. Romanes, an eminent English scientist.  Romanes reported that while he was awake in his bedroom, he saw a white form come into his room, grazing the head of his bed as it passed, and then come to a halt at the foot of the bed.  “Suddenly, lifting its hand, the form withdrew the veils which hid its face, and I was able to distinguish the features of my sister, who had been ill for some time in that very house,” Romanes reported. “I called to her, crying out her name, and I saw her vanish instantly.”

Although his sister was ill at the time, her doctor did not consider it serious.  Nevertheless, she died a few days later.  “We may suppose that the subconscious mind of the invalid had a perception of imminent death, as opposed to the conscious personality which did not suspect it,” Flammarion gave his theory. 

The great German polymath Johann Wolfgang von Goethe reported that while he was walking with a friend one day, he was halted by an apparition of another friend, Frederick, who was believed to be in another city at the time.  When Goethe started speaking to Frederick, the person then walking with Goethe thought he had gone mad, as he saw nothing.  When Frederick vanished, Goethe wondered if his friend had died.  Upon arriving home, Goethe discovered that Frederick was there, having a little earlier arrived in Weimar from his town, and then having gone to sleep in an arm chair while waiting for Goethe to arrive home.  Frederic then related a dream he had had while sleeping in the arm chair. He encountered Goethe and described the scene and words used by Goethe when Goethe saw him.   

William T. Stead, (below) a British journalist and author, developed the ability to do automatic writing and asked Julia Ames, the spirit communicating with him, to explain how automatic writing worked. She told him that his mind was not “trammeled by the limitations of matter” and thus he was a good “instrument.”  She further informed him that he could also receive messages from his friends still alive in the earth realm in much the same way.  “All minds are in contact with each other throughout the whole universe,” Julia explained, “and you can always speak and address any person’s mind wherever that person may be, if you more or less know that person.”  She added that “your real self, what you would call your Ego, sits behind both your physical senses and your mind, using either as it pleases.”


Stead decided to experiment by asking a lady in Gloucestershire to sit at 10:30 a.m. and try to make something known to him in London.  They were to immediately post a letter to each other, she telling him what she was trying to communicate and he telling her what he received.  Upon receiving the woman’s letter, Stead was disappointed, noting that he had captured only one of seven distinct statements.  But a few days later, he received another letter from the woman stating, “This is more wonderful than anything.  You know that you have scarcely written anything that I willed you to write, but you have written nearly everything that kept bobbing into my mind without my will at all.  When I was saying to myself, ‘I want to tell you so and so,’ it kept coming into my mind, ‘tell him so and so,’ and I thought, ‘No, that is of no interest to him,’ or ‘that will only trouble him,’ and you have got all the things written down in London that kept coming as it were spontaneously into my mind at Gloucestershire at the time that I was willing to write another set of things.”
The spirit “control” for another medium told Stead that he had a “very loose soul.”  When Stead asked what that meant, it was explained to him that his soul is very loosely connected to his body and thus he was “able to allow other minds to be hitched on” to his hand.  Persons whose souls are closely knit, he was further informed, are not able to be used in that way. 

There are many other cases of such out-of-body travel and telepathic communication that could be cited.  The bottom line is that they in no way nullify the spirit hypothesis. 

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: June 15

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Kluski, Philip, Kardec, and the Scientific Conundrum

Posted on 18 May 2015, 16:23

In the annals of psychical research, Daniel Dunglas Home (1833 – 1886) is sometimes referred to as the greatest medium ever, at least the greatest medium producing physical phenomena.  He is to mediumship what Babe Ruth is to baseball, a legend whose feats stand above all others.  However, after reading Other Realities? The Enigma of Franek Kluski’s Mediumship by Zofia Weaver, I’m not sure I would rank Home over Franek Kluski (below) of Poland.


Kluski’s mediumship included full and partial materializations of both dead and living humans, animal materializations, levitations, apports, communicating raps, paraffin molds of hands and feet of the materialized entities, mystical lights around the room, and automatic writing.  I had read about Kluski before, primarily in Dr. Gustave Geley’s book, Clairvoyance and Materialization, but Geley focused more on the hand molds supposedly produced by “phantoms” dipping their hands into paraffin wax in his laboratory than on anything else. (See my blog of July 25, 2011)  Dr. Weaver’s book goes well beyond the material offered by Geley.  She draws primarily from a 1926 book, Reminiscences of Séances with the Medium Franek Kluski, written in Polish by Colonel Norbert Okolowicz, who was present at most of Kluski’s séances in Poland. Weaver has translated Okolowicz’s 586-page book, offering the highlights along with commentary.

Kluski was not a paid medium.  In fact, he was a somewhat reluctant one, believing his Catholic faith was in conflict with it.  He wanted no publicity, thus used Kluski as a pseudonym, his real name being Teofil Modrzejewski.  However, he consented to be tested for whatever scientific value it might offer.  Most of the experiments with him were behind locked doors.  He was searched before entering the room, and on one occasion agreed to sit naked, his hands and feet being controlled by those sitting next to him. Even though they were certain that Kluski had no way to smuggle his own paraffin wax into the room, Geley and Charles Richet, a Nobel Prize winner in medicine, secretly added a bluish coloring agent to the paraffin to rule out the claim that Kluski was bringing his own molds into the room.  As it turned out, the molds were produced with the same bluish tint.

The strict controls applied by a number of distinguished scientists rule out fraud as much as reasonably possible, leaving three alternatives for the phenomena:  1) They were all produced by “spirits” of the dead, or discarnates; 2) They were all products of Kluski’s subconscious, while the sitters may have contributed to the manifestations with subconscious or conscious creations of their own in what is called a “group mind”;  3) They were a mixture or combination of the first two alternatives. 

Like many parapsychologists, Weaver seems reluctant to use words like “spirits,” “discarnates,” or anything else that might sound unscientific in her efforts to evaluate the Kluski phenomena in the final chapter of the book.  Thus, as she does her best to not impeach herself in the eyes of her peers by directly addressing the spirit hypothesis, she seems to opt for the second alternative before hinting at an “other worldly” explanation that exceeds the boggle threshold, thereby suggesting that she secretly accepts the third alternative. I suspect that many readers will scratch their heads in bewilderment as to how Weaver views the phenomena, but some will realize that such is the dilemma of the professional who dares wade into spiritual waters.   

Weaver mentions the case of “Philip the imaginary ghost,” which was supposedly created by a group of Canadian researchers during the 1970s.  Many parapsychologists have concluded from this and other similar experiments that spirits of the dead, discarnates, whatever name be given them, are not involved.  The phenomena, they believe, are all manifestations of the minds of the living humans present.  Allan Kardec’s explanation more than a hundred years before Philip was “created” is not even considered.

Kardec, a pioneering French psychical researcher, discussed the Philip-type situation in his 1874 book, The Book of Mediums.  He explained that mischievous (i.e., earthbound)  spirits are responsible.  “These light spirits multiply around us and seize every occasion to mingle in the communication,” he wrote. “Truth is the least of their care; this is why they take a roguish pleasure in mystifying those who are weak, and who sometimes presume to believe their word.  Persons who take pleasure in such communication naturally give access to light and deceiving spirits.” 

Kardec asked a seemingly advanced spirit if animals can communicate.  The spirit responded that they can’t.  Kardec pointed out that there had been some purported communication from animals.  The spirit replied:

“Invoke a stone and it will answer you.  There is always a crowd of spirits ready to speak for anything.” 

Kardec further explained his understanding of the matter: “Just the same if you invoke a myth, or an allegorical personage, it will answer; that is, it will be answered for, and the spirit who would present himself would take its character and appearance. One day, a person took a fancy to invoke Tartufe, and Tartufe came immediately; still more, he talked of Orgon, of Elmire, of Damis, and of Valire, of whom he gave news; as to himself, he counterfeited the hypocrite with as much art as if Tartufe had been a real personage. Afterward, he said he was the spirit of an actor who had played that character.”

Kardec continued:  “Trifling spirits always profit by the inexperience of interrogators, but they take good care never to address those who they know are enlightened enough to discover their imposturer, and who would give no credit to their stories. It is the same among men.”

Another interesting communication came through the hand of medium Elsa Barker from Judge David Patterson Hatch, as set forth in Letters from a Living Dead Man:  “The ‘deceitful spirits,’ of which the frequenters of séance rooms so often make complaint, are these astral actors, who may even come to take a certain pride in the cleverness of their art,” Hatch communicated after explaining that there are many “actors” in the lower realms. “Be not too sure that the spirit who claims to be your deceased grandfather is that estimable old man himself.  He may be merely an actor playing a part, for his own entertainment and yours.” 

But if a parapsychologist were to give any recognition to Kardec’s explanation and that of Judge Hatch, he or she would invite scoffs and sneers from peers, as it would be most unscientific.  To put it all on the “group mind” sounds so much more scientific, although the scientific fundamentalist would laugh at that as well.  Is it any wonder that psychical research and parapsychology have made no progress relative to the survival hypothesis during the last hundred years?  If spirit life is not even considered as an alternative, the parapsychologist is left with a never-ending conundrum.

All that is not to suggest that the subconscious does not play a part in the phenomena.  It seems clear that the subconscious of the medium can color or totally distort some spirit communication and that even the minds of the sitters can telepathically affect the phenomena.  The problem is that because the parapsychologist is unwilling to consider spirit life or afraid that doing so will damage his or her reputation, the third alternative above is rarely addressed.

In earlier chapters in the book, Weaver mentions phenomena which seem to clearly point to spirits of the dead materializing and communicating, including Okolowicz having reported that 84 persons confirmed recognition of 88 phantoms of deceased persons known to them.  Also, about 25 percent of the messages coming through Kluski’s automatic writing were recognized as the handwriting of deceased persons known to the sitter but not to Kluski.  Moreover, there were evidential messages that gave information apparently outside the knowledge of the sitter or Kluski.  But Weaver does not deal with these in the concluding chapter, focusing more on the “group mind” idea, the one that appeals more to the “intelligent” mind.   

The questions I have yet to see addressed by any parapsychologist have to do with the possible motivation of the subconscious “other personality” – that part of the subconscious pretending to be a deceased human being. 

How is it that so many alter egos want to play this game of leading people to believe they are deceased loved ones and friends?  And how do all these alter egos conspire in this worldwide and never-ending deception? 

Because the researcher is faced with such a stigma in discussing the spirit hypothesis, it does not seem likely that science will provide any definite answers to such phenomena as that produced through Kluski.  As Judge Hatch suggested through Elsa Barker, the individual must decide for him - or herself based on “an instinct in the human heart which will never deceive us, if we without fear or bias will yield ourselves to its decision.”

Other Realities? The Enigma of Franek Kluski’s Mediumship by Zofia Weaver is published by White Crow Books and is available from Amazon and all good online bookstores.

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:  June 1

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Remembering the Lusitania and the Hugh Lane Messages

Posted on 04 May 2015, 10:41

Since May 7 marks the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the RMS Lusitania off the coast of Ireland (below) by a German submarine during WWI, I thought it a good time to recall some spirit communication involving that tragic event, which involved 1,198 fatalities. 


On the evening of May 7, 1915, Hester (Dowden) Travers Smith, (1868-1949), a prominent Dublin, Ireland medium and wife of a respected physician, was sitting at the ouija board with Lennox Robinson, (below) a world-renowned Irish playwright.  Both were blindfolded as the Rev. Savell Hicks sat between them and copied the letters indicated by the board’s “traveler.”  “Pray for Hugh Lane,” was the first message received.  Following the prayer request, the traveler spelled out: “I am Hugh Lane, all is dark.”  At that point, however, Travers Smith and Robinson were still blindfolded and had no idea as to the message.  In fact, they were conversing on other matters as their hands moved rapidly.  After several minutes, Hicks told Travers Smith and Robinson that it was Sir Hugh Lane coming through and that he had communicated that he was aboard the Lusitania and had drowned.


On her way home that evening, Travers Smith (below) had heard about the sinking of the passenger ship by a German torpedo, but she had not yet read the details, nor did she or the others know that Sir Hugh Lane was a passenger on the ship sailing from New York to England.  She said that she knew Lane and had heard that he had gone to New York, but it never occurred to her when she heard of the sinking that he was on board or that he was returning from New York so soon. 


Although distressed by the message, they continued the sitting.  Lane told them that there was panic, the life boats were lowered, and the women went first. He went on to say that he was the last to get in an overcrowded life boat, fell over, and lost all memory until he “saw a light” at their sitting.  To establish his identity, Lane gave Travers Smith an evidential message about the last time they had met and talked, although when Travers Smith asked him for his cabin number on the ship as proof that it was Lane communicating, the number given to her was later discovered to be incorrect.  She reasoned, however, that he was in a confused state and that it is not unusual for people to forget their cabin numbers.

“I did not suffer.  I was drowned and felt nothing,” Lane (below) further communicated that night.  He also gave intimate messages for friends of his in Dublin.  Thirty-nine at the time of his death, Lane was an art connoisseur and director of the National Gallery of Ireland in Dublin.  He was transporting lead containers with paintings of Monet, Rembrandt, Rubens, and Titian, which were insured for $4 million and were to be displayed at the National Gallery. 


Lane continued to communicate at subsequent sittings, often intruding on other spirit communicators.  As plans were underway to erect a memorial gallery to him, he begged that Travers Smith let those behind the movement know that he did not want such a memorial.  However, he was more concerned that a codicil to his will be honored.  He had left his private collection of art to the National Gallery in London, but the codicil stated that they should go to the National Gallery in Dublin.  Because he had not signed the codicil, the London gallery was reluctant to give them up.  “Those pictures must be secured for Dublin,” Lane communicated on January 22, 1918, going on to say that he could not rest until they were. (It has been determined that the paintings have gone back and forth between London and Dublin every six years.)

Sir William Barrett, professor of physics at the Royal College in Dublin, had the opportunity to observe and test the ouija board sittings at the home of Travers Smith. In his 1917 book, On The Threshold of the Unseen, Barrett confirmed the procedure as indicated above, including the fact that the two sitters were blindfolded.  He reported that at times the traveler moved so rapidly that it was necessary to record the messages in shorthand.  Although Barrett had no doubt as to the honesty and integrity of Travers Smith and Robinson, he designed special eye patches for them to wear so that there could be no question as to them seeing where the traveler was pointing. On one occasion he turned the board around to see if the results would be the same.  They were.  On another occasion, to satisfy a skeptical observer, who theorized that the blindfolded operators had memorized the position of the letters on the board, the letters were rearranged and a screen was put between the two operators who remained blindfolded.  Still, coherent messages came.

When Barrett asked the controlling spirit if any friend of his could send a message, he heard from a deceased friend, who sent a message to the Dublin Grand Lodge of Freemasons, of which he (the friend) had been a high ranking member.  Barrett was reasonably certain that neither of the board operators was aware of the friend’s Masonic affiliation.

On another occasion, Barrett sat at the board, securely blindfolded.  He reported that he was startled by the “extraordinary vigor, decision, and swiftness with which the indicator moved.”  The only message that came through was one that said Barrett was not suited for receiving.  In other words, he did not have the mediumistic psychic power necessary to adequately receive messages.

Before one sitting, Travers Smith and Barrett discussed how evidential the messages from Lane were to them, although they could understand why the public doubted.  After the sitting started, a man who said he had died in Sheffield communicated first.  Then, Travers Smith recalled, Robinson’s arm was seized and driven about so forcibly that the traveler fell off the table more than once.  It was Lane, who was upset because of the doubts expressed relative to his communication. 

W. B. Yeats, the famous poet, also reported contact with Lane, his close friend, through a medium in London.  He said that the medium told him that a drowned man followed him into the room and then went on to describe a scene at the bottom of the sea.

In the Appendix of his 1916 classic, Raymond or Life and Death, Sir Oliver Lodge tells of a friend bringing one of the Lusitania survivors for a visit to his home. Lodge was fascinated with the woman’s account of the ordeal.  “I found her a charming person, and she entered into the matter with surprising fullness, considering that she was a complete stranger,” the distinguished British physicist and educator wrote.

The woman recalled being sucked down by the ship, then coming to the surface with the feeling of blank surprise at the disappearance of the huge vessel. Lodge found her account so interesting that he later wrote to her and asked her if she would write down in as much detail as possible her recollection of the event so that he could include it in the book. The woman complied, but asked that her name not be disclosed.

“I have always remembered the sympathy with which you listened to me that morning at Egdbaston, and sometimes wondered at the amount I said,” the survivor responded to Lodge, “as it is not easy to give expression to feelings and speculations which are only roused in critical moments in one’s life.  What you ask me to do is not easy, as I am only one of those who are puzzling and groping in the dark – while you have found so much light for yourself and have imparted it to others.”

The woman recalled having a premonition of the tragedy.  “It was not a very actual knowledge, but I was conscious of a distinct forewarning, and the very calmness and peace of the voyage seemed, in a way, a state of waiting for some great event.  Therefore, when the ship was rent by the explosion, I felt no particular shock, because of that curious inner expectancy.”

She put down her book and went to the other side of the ship where many passengers were gathering around the life boats with no panic whatsoever. The ship was listing heavily and it was already difficult to stand.  She returned to her cabin, where a steward helped her put on a life-jacket and advised her to discard her fur coat. “I felt no hurry or anxiety, and returned on deck, where I stood with some difficulty.” 

The woman remembered talking to an elderly man about their chances of survival. “It was then I think we realized what a strong instinct there was in some of us – not to struggle madly for life – but to wait for something to come to us, whether it be life or death; and not to lose our personality and become like one of the struggling shouting creatures who were by then swarming up from the lower decks and made one’s heart ache.”  She wondered if the “grim calmness” was part of some “desire to die” instinct.

“I never felt for a moment that my time to cross over had come – not until I found myself in the water – floating farther and farther away from the scene of wreckage and misery – in a sea as calm and vast as the sky overhead.”  Behind her, she heard the cries of others, the splashing of oars, and the calls of those doing rescue work from the lifeboats. “There seemed to be no possibility of rescue for me, so I reasoned with myself and said, ‘The time has come – you must believe it – the time to cross over’ – but inwardly and persistently something continued to say, ‘No, not now.’”

Continuing to drift away from the pandemonium, the woman observed gulls flying overhead and took note of the blue shadows the sea threw up from their white feathers. She began to feel lonely as her thoughts turned to her loved ones who were awaiting her arrival.  “The idea of their grief was unbearable, and I had to cry a little.”  She recalled the names of books rushing through her brain, especially one titled “Where no Fear is” as representing her feelings at the time.  “Loneliness, yes, and sorrow on account of the grief of others – but no fear.  It seemed very normal – very right – a natural development of some kind about to take place.  How can it be otherwise, when it is natural?  I rather wished I knew some one on the other side, and wondered if there are friendly strangers there who come to the rescue.”

The woman recalled feeling “near the borderline” when a lifeboat came up behind her and two men bent down to lift her in.  “It was extraordinary how quickly life came rushing back; everyone in the boat seemed very self-possessed, although there was one man dead and another losing his reason.  One woman expressed a hope for a cup to tea.”

A minesweeper from Queenstown soon picked them up.  “I am glad to have been near the border,” the woman concluded her remarks to Sir Oliver, “to have had the feeling of how very near it is always – only there are so many little things always going on to absorb one here.

“Others on that day were passing through a Gate which was not open for me – but I do not expect they were afraid when the time came – they too probably felt that whatever they were to find would be beautiful – only a fulfillment of some kind…I have reason to think that the passing from here is very painless – at least where there is no illness.  We seemed to be passing through a stage on the road to Life.”

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:  May 18

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Deathbed Phenomena in Hospice Care

Posted on 20 April 2015, 10:04

After reading Ineke Koedam’s recently-released book, In the Light of Death, I am rethinking my somewhat negative ideas about hospices.  As indicated by a couple of prior posts, the last one being on January 25, 2011 (Do hospices promote despair?), I had come to the conclusion, admittedly based on very limited sampling, that hospices discourage any discussion of spiritual matters, especially the whole idea of life after death.  While attending a weekend of hospice training, I was informed that spiritual matters were not to be discussed with residents unless they brought it up and then it was something that should be referred to the hospice chaplain.  Prior to that training, I had attended a lecture in another state by an experienced hospice worker in which she talked all about the need for hospice residents to “live in the present.”  The speaker had absolutely nothing to say about the possibility that consciousness will survive death and that the dying person’s doom and gloom might be better dealt with by discussing such survival.


Perhaps hospice policies vary from one country to another, or possibly from state to state or individually within that country or state.  Koedam (below) served on the staff and as a volunteer at hospice De Vier Vogels in Rotterdam, the Netherlands and at other hospices in that country.  In the book’s Introduction, she states that she attended a symposium dealing with near-death experiences in 2009, the key speakers being Doctors Pim van Lommel and Peter Fenwick, two world-renowned authorities in the field.  That prompted her to carry out a small-scale study into deathbed phenomena in the Netherlands between 2009 and 2011, one in which she interviewed a number of hospice caregivers. She forewarns the reader that her book does not offer scientific statistics, “but real experiences and observations of hospice staff who work on the boundary between life and death.”


It is not uncommon, Koedam states, for dying people, in the days or weeks before death, to talk about visits from deceased loved ones.  “They say that these individuals have come to collect them, or to help them to let go of life,” she explains, pointing out that many people are reluctant to talk about such experiences because they are afraid of being seen as confused and then required to take medication they don’t want.  Also, some of the hospice staff avoid talking about them as they do not want to appear unprofessional. Relatives often shy away from discussing such things for fear of ridicule.

“Those people who are nearing the end find it easy to transit to and from other realities and describe other worlds,” she continues.  “They talk about going on a journey, suddenly stare at a particular point in the room or turn toward the window and express feelings of surprise, joy, or wonder.”

Koedam says that the difference between a genuine “end-of-life experience” (ELE) and a drug-induced hallucination is fairly obvious.  The latter are irritating and annoying and often involve very weird visions, such as insects crawling on the wall or devils dancing, but the true ELE occur mostly when the person is fully aware. They are comforting experiences that seem to help them let go of the physical world. 

One caregiver explained that the dying are often somewhere else for a short while and then they come back.  “You can see it in their eyes.  Sort of looking, but not seeing.  They look through you.”  She further described it as a peaceful, serene, and beautiful atmosphere.  A music therapist named Hilly told Koedam that while playing the harp for people about to transition she could clearly see them going in and out of their bodies.

A hospice volunteer told Koedam about a dying woman who told her that her body wanted to die but it couldn’t because her spirit was not yet ready.  At other times, her spirit was ready but her body wasn’t.  The woman explained that when her body and spirit arrived at the threshold together, then she would depart. 

According to Koedam, many hospice caregivers continue to feel a presence in the room after the person has physically died.  The dying “process,” she says, can take a few moments or several days.  While the atmosphere is often one of love, peace, and calm, they are not always pleasant.  Some caregivers are more sensitive to these “energies” than others. “Some people leave very quickly, others linger,” one caregiver reported.  The usual policy at one hospice is to wait for one day before calling the funeral director to collect the body.

Some people really want to talk about death and ask the caregiver for her or his thoughts as to what to believe.  “Sharing your thoughts can be very comforting and can help them to get in touch with their own beliefs,” Koedam concludes. “Sharing your own faith is not the same as evangelism.  Evangelism is imposing one’s own beliefs on someone else, but sharing your own beliefs is being open about what you believe in, while at the same time being prepared to listen to the other’s point of view.”

The bottom line is that, properly understood, deathbed phenomena can offer comfort to the dying person and help him or her prepare for “transition” while also providing some peace of mind for the relatives and friends of the dying person.   

After reading the chapter dealing with the “lingering presence” after physical death,  I took time out to check my mail and found a new comment at an old blog I wrote about “soul mist” (see blog of June 11, 2012).  A reader found it strange that this mysterious vapor or mist sometimes witnessed by people at deathbeds as the person dies is not witnessed more often.  I wondered if the answer to that question might be that it is more obvious with people who leave their bodies immediately and less obvious with people who linger around their bodies, the “soul mist” just slowly oozing out and therefore less dense and less transparent. As Koedam puts it, that “something” dissipates or slowly lets go. 

Other metaphysical references on this subject suggest that few souls make an immediate departure, most lingering for a time.  The reader might take note of the many comments left at the June 11, 2012 blog and an earlier blog on October 4, 2010 by people who claim to have observed such soul mist.

In the light of death: Experiences on the Threshold Between Life and Death is published by White Crow Books and is available on Amazon and all good online bookstores.

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:  May 4



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Was President Lincoln a Believer or an Infidel?

Posted on 07 April 2015, 12:55

As April 15 will mark the 150th anniversary of the physical death of President Abraham Lincoln, (below) it seems like an appropriate time to examine the religious beliefs of our 16th president. Historians have not been able to agree as to those beliefs. He has been characterized as everything from a God-fearing Christian to an atheistic humanist.  It seems clear that he did not often attend church services and took issue with some of the dogma, doctrine, and methods of orthodox Christianity. Nevertheless, he somehow emerges as one of our most spiritual presidents.


Lincoln was seen by many who knew him as a somber man with a gloomy disposition.  In her book, The Psychic Life of Abraham Lincoln, Susan Martinez states that there was some speculation that Lincoln inherited his mother’s sadness and sensitivity, and his father’s moods, “strange spells,” and fits of solitude.  Martinez examines Lincoln’s “peculiar melancholy” and the events in his life that shaped it, including his mother’s death when he was just nine, a strict and distant father, the death of a sister at age 10, and the death of his beloved Ann Rutledge when he was 26.  Then, in 1850, his son Eddie, a month shy of his fourth birthday, died of diphtheria, and, 12 years later, son Willie succumbed to a typhoid-like diseases at age 11.  Lincoln struggled to reconcile all of his hardships with a just and loving God.

According to Martinez, John Todd Stuart, Lincoln’s first law partner, called Lincoln an “avowed and open infidel” who went “further against Christian beliefs” than any man he had ever known. William Herndon, his junior law partner and friend, also referred to him as an “infidel.”  It is said that the only book authored by Lincoln, referred to as “the little book,” apparently unpublished, questioned the infallibility of the Bible and rejected fire-and-brimstone Calvinism, while defending the idea of universal salvation.  He rejected a God of wrath and punishment in favor of one of justice and loving kindness.  Although his parents were Baptists, he said he preferred the Quaker beliefs of his paternal grandmother.  His “little book” was burnt upon the advice of his political advisors; however, Lincoln continued to scoff at Christian clerics who pretended to be God-fearing, while not caring whether slavery was banished.  Carl Sandburg quoted Lincoln as saying they “have not read their Bible aright.” 

Martinez points out that more than 6,000 books have been written about Lincoln and that it has been said that “there are no important new facts to disclose.”  She takes issue with that comment as the stories about Lincoln’s association with several credible mediums, especially one Nettie Colburn Maynard, (below) while not new, have been pretty much ignored, forgotten, or denied.  Most of Lincoln’s biographers have deemed it below the dignity of such a great man, concluding that it never happened or that it should be swept under the rug.  A number of web sites suggest that Colburn was a charlatan.


There is, however, evidence indicating that Lincoln sat with a number of mediums.  It has been suggested that his wife Mary insisted on his attending séances with her after the death of their son, Willie, but there is evidence that he sat with mediums even before Willie’s death, and that he was accompanied by various members of his cabinet, including, Edwin M. Stanton, Secretary of War, Gideon Welles, Secretary of the Navy, James J. Speed, Attorney General, and Isaac Newton, Commissioner of Agriculture.  Francis B. Carpenter, painter of the famous picture honoring the Emancipation Proclamation and also of Lincoln’s last portrait made from life, discussed Lincoln’s interest in spiritualism in his book, The Inner Life of Abraham Lincoln

One of those earlier mediums with whom Lincoln sat was J. B. Conklin, a trance medium from Ohio.  Shortly after Lincoln was elected president, an article appeared in the Cleveland Plain Dealer in which he was attacked as a “Spiritualist.”  The only thing false about the article, Lincoln was quoted, “is that the half of it has not been told.  This article does not begin to tell the wonderful things I have witnessed.”

Colonel Simon P. Kase of Philadelphia, a railroad tycoon serving on the staff of the Secretary of War and close friend of Lincoln’s, claimed to have been present at the president’s sitting with Nettie Colburn.  He said that it lasted a full hour and a half and that the spirit speaking through the entranced young woman dwelt strongly on the importance of the emancipation of the slaves, saying that the war could not end unless slavery was abolished.  “The President listened with the greatest attention throughout her discourse,” Kase recalled. “It was a scene that would never be erased from the memory bringing to mind the passage in Scriptures where the head of the nation was being taught by babes and sucklings.”  Kase added that he was fully convinced in his own mind that Lincoln was fully convinced at that point of the necessity of issuing the great Proclamation, which he had prepared well before that day but did not sign until just after the séance.

The same spirits may have been active a decade earlier when Harriet Beecher Stowe penned the popular 1852 novel, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, a book said to have been very influential in the abolitionist movement.  Stowe claimed that the book was written through her, “I only holding the pen.” 

Joshua F. Speed, said to be Lincoln’s best friend, quoted Lincoln as saying, “I have had so many evidences of God’s direction, so many instances when I have been controlled by some other power than my own will, that I cannot doubt that this power comes from above…I am satisfied that when the Almighty wants me to do or not do a particular thing, He finds a way of letting me know it.”

Clearly, Lincoln was not an orthodox Christian.  He may not have been a card-carrying Spiritualist even if his beliefs were spiritualistic in nature, but he certainly appears to have believed in a Creator and the survival of consciousness at death.  In his 1909 book, Why We Love Lincoln, James Creelman, a prominent journalist and editor, wrote:  “In the upward reachings of Lincoln’s life there was a singular mysticism that sometimes startles one who contemplates the imperishable grandeur of his place in history.  He saw omens in dreams and experimented with the ghostly world of Spiritualism.  He predicted a violent death for himself, dreamed of his own assassination, and discussed the matter seriously, and gave evidence many times of a strange emotional exaltation, alternating with brooding sadness…but behind these eccentricities were sanity, conscience, strength, and far-seeing penetrativeness.”

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:  April 20

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Automatic Writing Explained

Posted on 23 March 2015, 17:08

The so-called skeptics assume that the automatic writing form of mediumship is just so much bunk, baloney, and bosh, nothing more than the imagination playing tricks on the person.  Some parapsychologists believe it is all coming from the individual’s subconscious and unrelated to spirits.  But so much of what has come through automatic writing has been beyond the individual’s knowledge and experience that spirits are a much more reasonable explanation. 

“Automatic writing, I may explain for those unfamiliar with the term, is writing that is written by the hand of a person which is not under control of his conscious mind,” William T. Stead, (below) a British journalist who went down with the Titanic, explained.  “The hand apparently writes of itself, the person to whom the hand belongs having no knowledge of what it is about to write. It is a very familiar and simple form of mediumship.”


Considering the subconscious theory, Stead, an accomplished automatist, wrote that he could not believe that any part of his unconscious self would deliberately practice a hoax upon his conscious self about the most serious of all subjects, and keep it up year after year with the most sincerity and consistency.  “The simple explanation that my friend who has passed over can use my hand as her own seems much more natural and probable.”

William Stainton Moses, an Anglican priest, was also an automatic writing medium.  “During the whole time this communication was written, my spirit was separated from the body,” he explained.  “I could see, from a short distance, the hand as it wrote. In my own room I felt an impression to write, such as I have not felt for nearly two months. I sat at my desk, and the first part was written. I presume I then passed into a state of unconscious trance.  The next thing I remember was standing in spirit near to my body, which was seated holding the pen before the table on which this book was placed. I looked at it and the arrangements of the room with great interest. I saw that my body was there, and that I was joined to it by a thin line of light. Everything material in the room looked shadowy, and everything spiritual seemed solid and real.”

Moses added that the communicating spirit stood behind his body with his own hand over his, and he saw other spirits in the room at the same time. “Through the ceiling streamed down a mild, pleasing light, and now and again rays of bluish light were shot down on my body. When this was done, I saw the body jerk and quiver. It was being charged, as I may say. I noticed, moreover, that the daylight had faded; and the window seemed dark, and the light by which I saw was spirit-light. I could hear perfectly well the voices of the spirits who spoke to me. They sounded very much as human voices do, but were more delicately modulated, and sounded as though from a distance.”

It was explained to him that he was seeing an actual scene, which was intended to show him how the spirits operated. His hand was writing, but it was explained to him that it was not so much that the spirit was using his hand as it was the spirit was impressing his mind.  “[It] was done by directing on to the pen a ray which looked like blue light. The force so directed caused the pen to move in obedience to the will of the directing spirit. In order to show me that the hand was a mere instrument, not essential to the experiment the pen was removed from the hand, and kept in position by the ray of light which was directed upon it. To my great surprise, it moved over the paper, and wrote as before…I do not remember the return to my body. I am perfectly certain as to what occurred, and report it simply and without exaggeration.”

Sidney Dean, (below) a member of Congress representing Connecticut from 1855 to 1859 and later a journalist and author, wrote to Professor William James of Harvard describing the strange writing that seemed to be coming from his hand but not from his brain.  “Some of it is in hieroglyph, or strange compounded arbitrary characters, each series possessing a seeming unity in general design or character, followed by what purports to be a translation or rendering into mother English,” he explained to James.  “I never attempted the seemingly impossible feat of copying the characters. They were cut with the precision of a graver’s tool, and generally with a single rapid stroke of the pencil.  Many languages, some obsolete and passed from history, are professedly given.  To see them would satisfy you that no one could copy them except by tracing.”


But this was a very small part of the phenomenon.  “The ‘automatic’ has given place to the impressional, and when the work is in progress I am in the normal condition, and seemingly two minds, intelligences, persons, are practically engaged,” he continued.  “The writing is in my own hand but the dictation not of my own mind and will, but that of another, upon subjects which I can have no knowledge and hardly a theory; and I, myself, consciously criticize the thought, fact, mode of expressing it, etc., while the hand is recording the subject matter and even the words impressed to be written.  If I refuse to write the sentence, or even the word, the impression instantly ceases, and my willingness must be mentally expressed before the work is resumed, and it is resumed at the point of cessation, even if it should be in the middle of a sentence.  Sentences are commenced without knowledge of mine as to their subject or ending.  In fact, I have never known in advance the subject of disquisition.”
Dean said that the writing was coming in chapters dealing with life and life beyond death.  “Each chapter is signed by the name of some person who has lived on earth – some with whom I have been personally acquainted, others known in history…I know nothing of the alleged authorship of any chapter until it is completed and the name impressed and appended…I am interested not only in the reputed authorship – of which I have nothing corroborative – but in the philosophy taught, of which I was in ignorance until these chapters appeared.  From my standpoint of life – which has been that of biblical orthodoxy – the philosophy is new, seems to be reasonable, and is logically put.  I confess to an inability to successfully controvert it to my own satisfaction.”

Dean said that he was certain that it was not coming from his conscious self and had considered the theory that it was coming from his “unconscious self,” but that theory failed him since it was so in conflict with what he knew and believed.  “It is an intelligent ego who writes, or else the influence assumes individuality, which practically makes of the influence a personality,” he went on.  “...It would be far more reasonable and satisfactory for me to accept the silly hypothesis of re-incarnation – the old doctrine of metempsychosis – as taught by some spiritualists today, and to believe that I lived a former life here, and that once in a while it dominates my intellectual power, and writes chapters upon the philosophy of life, or opens a post-office for spirits to drop their effusions, and have them put into English script.  No, the easiest and most natural solution to me is to admit the claim made, i.e., that it is a decarnated intelligence who writes…[As] my pencil fairly flies over the paper to record the thoughts, I am conscious that, in many cases, the vehicle of the thought, i.e., the language, is very natural and familiar to me, as if somehow, my personality as a writer was getting mixed up with the message.  And, again, the style, language, everything is entirely foreign to my own style.”

The anonymous spirit communicating with John Scott of England, as documented in Scott’s 1948 book, As One Ghost to Another, explained it this way:  “I send out my thought to your mind and it fuses with yours, and then you and I produce words together, which you, or rather we, write with your hand. There is no way of describing to you with your present knowledge the intricate process of communication.”

At some point in the discourse, Scott asked his communicator why more spirits do not communicate in such a manner.  “There are a few who at first return and communicate through your mediums, but their experience does not encourage them; in fact they soon despair of effecting any notable good,”  the communicating spirit told him, going on to inform him that it is very difficult to find minds which have the ability to receive such communication.

“I think I may say that most of them become thus absorbed [with their new environment], to the exclusion of all thought of earth,” the communicating spirit further told Scott, also mentioning that absolutely no communication comes through without a portion of error, which further frustrates communication.
Scott concluded the preface of his book with the comment that the product of his hand has been laughed at by family and friends, while doctors have diagnosed him as suffering from a morbid state of schizophrenia. “I have broken into the shadowy abode of the suggested subconscious, seeking ‘compensation for frustration’ and ‘escape,’ thus letting loose an actor to simulate two dead persons, one not known to me at all and the other through hearsay,” Scott wryly summarized one medical opinion.  “Meanwhile, I remain the ordinary human animal of social routine, distinguished from the herd merely by the label.”

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:  April 6

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The Most Awesome Book on Spirit Communication

Posted on 09 March 2015, 11:33

“Just one book, the most mind-blowing, awesome one you know of,” was my old friend’s request.  His brother was dying of cancer and he wanted a book that might give his brother some hope in his final days.

My friend informed me that his brother was a hard-core atheist and had not been open to discussion of spiritual subjects in the past.  “When you’re dead, you’re dead,” was his philosophy.  However, my friend had noticed that on his most recent visits, his brother no longer seemed interested in watching or talking about football, something that had been their primary topic of conversation over the years.  His mood, as he moved toward the brink of the abyss, was now more one of anguish, anger, and despair.  My friend hoped that his brother might now be more open to talking about the possibility that he will survive physical death.  If his brother wasn’t ready to read the book he wanted me to recommend, he (my friend) said he was going to sit there and read the book to him, whether he liked it or not.
I pondered on the request and quickly narrowed it down to two books – The Buried Crosses by Hamlin Garland and The Voices by Vice-Admiral W. Usborne Moore.  I thought the first book, published in 1939, might be more entertaining for the dying brother, but also more mind-boggling and easier to dismiss than the second one.  We have only Garland’s testimony for the experiences set forth in his book, but Moore, a retired British naval commander, offers, in addition to his own first-hand observations, those of a number of other credible people, including scientists, professors, diplomats, engineers, and business executives. If a non-believer wants to call Garland a dupe, that is one thing, but he is going to have to call many more people than Moore (below) dupes after finishing The Voices, first published in 1913. 


The Voices has to do with the direct-voice mediumship of Henrietta “Etta” Wriedt, (below) a Detroit, Michigan resident.  In 431 pages, Moore sets forth details of numerous sittings with Wriedt in which deceased loved ones, as well as some not well recalled,  communicated with sitters, offering many evidential facts, and in some cases even materialized for sitters.  Most of the cases discussed in the book were in England during 1912 and 1913.  In some cases, the communication was in a foreign language unknown to Wriedt.  According to Moore, Wriedt was uneducated and spoke only “Yankee,” and yet voices came through in “pure English.”


Count Chedo Miyatovich, a diplomat from Serbia, reported a sitting with Wriedt in London in which he was accompanied by his friend, Dr. Hinkovitch.  Miyatovich heard from his mother in their Servian language, while Hinkovitch heard from an old deceased friend, also a doctor, in the Croatian language.  “They continued for some time the conversation in their native tongue, of which I heard and understood every word,” Miyatovich testified.  “Mrs. Wriedt, for the first time in her life, heard how the Croatian language sounds.  I and my Croatian friend were deeply impressed by what we witnessed that day, May 16th (1912).  I spoke of it to my friends as the most wonderful experience of my life.”

After his first visit with Wriedt, Miyatovich arranged for Professor Margarette Selenka, a distinguished German zoologist and anthropologist, to sit with her. Selenka heard from her deceased husband, Professor Lorentz Selenka, and her mother, who died a year earlier, both speaking in German.  A friend of Selenka’s came singing a German song, and asked her to join him, as they used to sing together in the old days, after which a number of spirits came for the other two sitters.

Both Miyatovich and Selenka heard from William T. Stead, a British journalist who was a victim of the Titanic sinking just a month earlier.  “Mr. Stead had a long conversation with Mme. Selenka and a short one with me, reminding me of an incident which two years ago, took place in his office at Mowbray House,” Miyatovich further reported.  After hearing from Stead, Miyatovich heard from Ada Mayell, a close friend who had died just three weeks earlier in his home country.  She made reference to letters sent to Miyatovich by her sister and niece. 

William Jeffrey a business executive, reported hearing from his wife, mentioning that when alive she would usually speak proper English but would sometimes lapse into her old Scotch ways of speaking when talking to intimates.  This she did when she communicated through Mrs. Wriedt’s mediumship.

James Robertson, another business executive, reported hearing from his mother.  “The voice of my mother was the voice I was familiar with, the same broad Doric speech, as if she had never gone from us,” he testified.  “The Scotch idioms were never departed from for a moment…She spoke to me as if we had but parted yesterday, called me ‘Jeems’ as she had always done while in the body…Mrs. Wriedt could not by any possibility have given a replica of the Scotch tones I heard, for while my mother was conversing with my daughters [she, Mrs. Wriedt] was talking [with me] in her usual Yankee tones.”

Peter Reid, an artist, reported that his “sweetheart” communicated and had the same old laugh he recalled from her earthly life.  She first claimed to be his sister, and when Reid asked her why she made such a claim she reminded him that he was like a big brother to her and her family when she was a child.  Moreover, she was concerned that she would not “get in” if she did not identify herself as a relative.

Moore further offers the testimony of one J. Maybank, who, along with his wife, sat with Wriedt on May 20, 1912. Mr. Maybank first heard from Tommy Mahone, a former shipmate on the Rambler whom he at first didn’t remember.  However, Mahone reminded him of several incidents that happened on the ship on the China Station, after which Maybank began to remember him.  The Maybanks then heard from their deceased son, Harold, and recognized his voice.  Mr. Maybank put a test question to his son, asking him if he remembered “poor old Cyril.”  The son replied, “Of course I do, dad; didn’t I tease him, when he went on, and didn’t he growl.”  Harold then let out a loud, angry growl, that of a cat, thereby convincing the Maybanks that it was indeed their son.

At a third sitting, a voice identified herself as “Flossie.”  Mrs. Maybank cried out, “What, my little sister?” when the voice replied, “Little sister indeed! I’m a woman now.”  Mr. Maybank asked Flossie if she remembered what he said to her the last time he saw her.  “Yes,” Flossie replied, “you said, ‘Good-bye, dear, I’m off to China, and when I return you will be quite well.’”

The Rev. Charles Tweedale, an Anglican priest, told of his sitting with Mrs. Wriedt on June 3, 1912 in which his wife heard from Frank Woodward, her former music master.  She had not heard from him in 17 years and was unaware of his death.  Later inquiry by Tweedale revealed the fact that Woodward had died a year previously.

Mrs. Tweedale also heard from her Grannie Burnett, who had died when she was a little girl.  The grandmother told her that “Mary” was with her.  However, Mrs. Tweedale did not immediately recall a Mary associated with her grandmother.  It was only later that she remembered that her grandmother had adopted a girl named Mary under peculiar circumstances and that this Mary had died about three years earlier.

Moore, who had investigated a number of mediums in England, noted that voices came through the trumpet in broad daylight or gaslight, but they were louder in the dark.  Moreover, Wriedt was open to sitting anywhere in the room so that the investigator could watch her and rule out fraud. There were times when several voices were coming through as Mrs. Wriedt, who did not require a trance condition, talked with the person sitting next to her. 

Sir William Barrett, professor of physics at the Royal College in Dublin, also set forth his testimonial in Moore’s book.  After hearing from a number of others, Barrett heard “Sidgwick.”  He then asked for the man’s Christian name and the voice responded with “Henry Sidgwick.”  Henry Sidgwick was a personal friend of Barrett’s and the first president of the Society for Psychical Research.  Barrett asked Sidgwick if he was all right now, not referring to a particular problem he had.  “You mean the impediment in my speech, but I do not stutter now,” Sidgwick, who had a stuttering problem when alive, replied.
“I went to Mrs. Wriedt’s séances in a somewhat skeptical spirit, but I came to the conclusion that she is a genuine and remarkable medium, and has given abundant proof to others beside myself that the voices and the contents of the messages given are wholly beyond the range of trickery or collusion,” Barrett offered.

And yet, if my friend’s brother happens to Google “Etta Wriedt,” the first thing that will pop up on her is the Wikipedia entry, obviously written by a “know nothing,” stating that she was “exposed as a fraud by physicist Kristian Bireland when he discovered the noises produced by the trumpet were caused by chemical explosions induced by potassium and water or by lycopodium powder.”  Exactly how such chemicals produce familiar voices and factual information is not explained, however.  My guess is that such chemicals, if they actually existed, were components of the ectoplasm produced by direct-voice mediums to permit the voices.  But if the dying brother has a will to disbelieve, he’ll probably accept the Wikipedia entry as truth and continue his sad march toward total extinction. 

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.

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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.

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From Pop Movie Star to Cloistered Nun

Posted on 09 February 2015, 10:18

While watching the Bill O’Reilly show on Fox News a few weeks before Christmas, I observed an interview with Mother Dolores Hart, now a cloistered Catholic nun but a popular movie actress during the early 1960s, playing the love interest of such stars as Elvis Presley, Montgomery Clift, George Hamilton and others.  Clips of some of those movies were shown by O’Reilly. (See link). I was fascinated by the story, wondering what could possibly motivate a beautiful young woman, called a Grace Kelly look-alike, to leave the glamorous and exciting Hollywood lifestyle at age 24 to become a cloistered nun.  It was puzzling enough that she would want to become a nun, but to become a cloistered nun – one confined to an abbey and shut off from the rest of the world, even unable to socialize with other nuns – made it exponentially more puzzling.

I put “Dolores Hart” (below) into a Google search and found that she was engaged to be married at the time she made the decision to enter the Benedictine order at Regina Laudis Abbey in Bethlehem, Connecticut during 1963 and that her former fiancé, Don Robinson, continued to visit her at the abbey in Connecticut every year until his death in 2011, never marrying himself.  That added further intrigue to the story and prompted me to buy the Kindle version of the book, The Ear of the Heart, subtitled An Actress’ Journey from Hollywood to Holy Vows, by Hart and Richard DeNeut, published in 2013. While most of the writing is done by DeNeut, Hart’s words are inserted in italics.


As I was to read in the introductory remarks, DeNeut was Hart’s boyfriend before Robinson, but they broke up because DeNeut was unable to completely appreciate her Catholic faith, a religion she was converted to at age 10, independent of any parental influence, while attending a Catholic school.  Her grandmother, a non-Catholic, as were her parents, enrolled her in the school simply because it was closer to their home than other schools and didn’t involve crossing too many busy streets.
“When the priest sprinkled me with holy water, it was the greatest moment of joy in my ten years of life,” Mother Dolores writes of her baptism. “I experienced a sensation of acceptance that any child, and especially a child in my circumstances, would find quite empowering…I had found something that was now my own place, above and beyond all that had been cruel and dishonorable in my parents home.”

Having grown up a Catholic and having attended a Catholic school, I couldn’t imagine what there was about that experience that so empowered her.  My own Catholic faith was more fear-based than anything else and I never could get into the ritual and adoration part of the Sunday mass as I couldn’t believe that God wanted to be worshipped like some pagan idol.  At the same time, however, I had two good friends who answered the “calling” to the priesthood, and left for the seminary after grammar school, so I recognized even back then that people respond to different influences. 

Dolores Hart had made the biggest leap from the materialist side to the spiritual side that I had ever heard of – one from the excesses of Epicureanism, as represented by hedonistic Hollywood, to the extreme Stoicism that might be forced upon a person in exile on a deserted island.  To me, it seemed almost like agreeing to go to prison for the rest of one’s life.  But nobody was forcing young Dolores to abandon her comfortable and apparently satisfying lifestyle.  In fact, most of her relatives and friends were opposed to it.  I wanted to understand the inner calling that motivated such a change in a seemingly sane person, and so I continued reading. 

“I left the world I knew in order to reenter it on a more profound level,” Mother Dolores offers early in the book.  “Many people don’t understand the difference between a vocation and your own idea about something.  A vocation is a call – one you don’t necessarily want.  The only thing I ever wanted to be was an actress.  But I was called by God.”  That statement didn’t help me understand; in fact, it further muddied the waters, since it would have been easier to understand the transformation if she had not liked being an actress.

DeNeut didn’t understand, either.  He said that he struggled to grasp the meaning of the term “call,” as used in the expression, “I had a call.”  He even badgered Lady Abbess, the founder of Regina Laudis, in the hope that he could come to grips with Dolores’s decision.  He was told that a “call” can’t be explained any more than one can explain falling in love.

Mother Dolores recollected that even in grammar school she was curious enough about life to record the words of Italian actress Eleanora Duse in her diary:  “When we grow old, there can only be one regret – not to have given enough of ourselves.”  Even then, she remembers thinking that her life was not for her, “that it somehow was something outside of me.”  She further remembers babysitting two cousins – the daughters of her aunt and uncle (her uncle being Mario Lanza, the famous singer), and making sure they understood that “life was about something more than thirty-foot, Saks-decorated Christmas trees and wagons full of toys.”

Sometime during her grammar school years, while living with her grandmother in Chicago, Dolores was injured at a swimming pool and then had an adverse reaction to penicillin.  She remembered feeling that she was going to die. “I couldn’t explain it, but I felt the presence of something that I accepted as the presence of authority – the presence of God,” she explains.  “I spoke – not prayed, but spoke – to God: ‘If you want me to go to You, I’ll go.  I’m not afraid.’”  It was then, she adds, that she found the gift of faith.

I wondered if that experience was something akin to a near-death experience – an out-of-body experience in which she met a “being of light,” as sometimes classified, which she took to be “God” – and if she had remembered only a small part of it.  Many people who have had NDEs report life-changing behavior.  The brain chemistry seems to be altered in the process, or maybe it is a physics thing, the vibration frequency switched to another wave length, one at which they are more closely tuned to celestial realms.  Could that have been the case with young Dolores?

One big draw of the religious life mentioned by Mother Dolores was “continuity.”  Because of discord between her parents and later divorce, she was going back and forth between Los Angeles and Chicago, living with her parents at times and with her grandparents at other times.  This was very unsettling and the cinema lifestyle added to it in that she would make friends with various people while making a movie, then break off those friendships when the movie was wrapped up.  She apparently had hoped to find a stable “family” in the Benedictine order.  “Bonds would form,” she says of making movies. “The film would end, and then suddenly that relationship I trusted would be gone.  It was to me, shattering.  I felt there had to be some centering in my life in which there was continuity.”

Although Dolores clearly recognized that she was joining a contemplative order – one shut up in a monastery with limited interaction among its members – and not an order engaged in teaching or charity work, she seems to have misjudged the extent of the “family” environment in the monastery.    She states that she initially felt a tremendous rapport with the Benedictine Rule’s basic premises – simplicity, discernment and praise of God, but she may have underestimated the amount of “detachment” from the world that was required.

As she described her small “cell,” i.e., her room, five feet by eight feet with a cot and three-inch mattress with no bed springs, a wash bowl with no running water, a small window that looked out at the top of a tree, I could understand why she said she cried herself to sleep every night for the first three years and why she felt a gnawing sense of abandonment, along with confusion, aloneness, and bewilderment in those early years.  “What have I done?” she continually asked herself, wondering why God wasn’t there waiting for her and offering comfort.  While other would-be nuns couldn’t take it and left the order, Dolores persisted. “I was stubborn,” she goes on.  “I believed that I was called to take on this place and to follow Christ in His Passion…I couldn’t leave because deep down I trusted God had to be there and that was what mattered.  I swore that I would wait as long as I had to.” 

I stopped at this point to ponder on what seemed like a paradoxical situation.  I wondered if remaining in the convent because of stubbornness was grounded in pride, one of the seven deadly sins, while also wondering if leaving the convent called for humbleness or humility, a virtue, since it would have no doubt involved many friends and relatives telling her, “We told you so…,” while also having to depend on those same friends and relatives for financial support in starting over again. 

One friend told Dolores that the cloistered life is “selfish and useless,” something several spirit communicators have also said, explaining that life is about learning from our experiences while interacting with, loving, and serving others.  Dolores reacted to that friend by saying that she was finding some real challenges in living in solitude with 40 other nuns and that as a monastic nun she would be a witness to the truth that love is real.  That explanation pretty much went over my head, but I was still hoping to better understand what motivates a young person to take such a drastic leap into a secluded world as I continued reading. 

The changes in the Catholic Church brought about by Vatican II seem to have made the cloistered life a little more tolerable, allowing for more interaction among the nuns and a little more contact with the outside world, but the daily life still consisted of basically three elements – prayer, manual labor, and scriptural reading aimed at bringing a deeper knowledge of oneself, others, and God.  Clearly, such a life has appealed to more than a young movie actress.  As mentioned in the book, the Benedictine order at Regina Laudis now includes two former lawyers, several teachers, three with Ph.D.s, an artist, a former advertising account executive, and a former investment banker.

I finished the book without getting an answer to my question of what motivates a young person to pursue the cloistered life, at least an answer I could understand. The recurring explanation seemed to boil down to “praising God,” but that opens up a discussion as to the meaning of “praise” and “God.”  Reverting to the definitions I had of them as a young Catholic, I still question an anthropomorphic God’s need for praise.  Perhaps it is better understood by more advanced souls. However, there was one other explanation offered by Mother Dolores – learning to surrender.  That lesson may be worth a lifetime of suffering.

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.

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Is There Marriage in the Afterlife?

Posted on 26 January 2015, 10:26

“Until death do us part” is a pledge in marriage liturgy, but there have been many messages from the spirit world suggesting that such is not always the case. That is, love bonds often continue after death.  “If [marriages in the physical realm] are based in selfishness, they necessarily terminate sooner or later; but if true and well fitted, the spiritual dominating when on Earth, they continue on in our world of spirits,” one spirit communicator is quoted by Miles Edward Allen in his latest book, Astral Intimacy.  “If a husband has had several wives, or a wife several husbands, the tie endures only between the most congenial pair,” another spirit communicator is quoted.


“Until death us do us part” is a pledge in marriage liturgy, but there have been many messages from the spirit world suggesting that such is not always the case. That is, love bonds often continue after death.

In effect, the book is a collection of messages from the spirit world, an encyclopedia of spirit communication about the afterlife as recorded by dozens of mediums, researchers,  and authors between 1852 and 2001.  Love bonds in the afterlife make up only a small portion of the hundreds of messages quoted, but the title of the book and the subtitle, “Fifty Spirits Speak About Life, Love, and Sex After Death” are teasers aimed at drawing attention to the book.  Nevertheless, there are several dozen quotes dealing with astral love and sex.  One message states that sex in the spirit realms is different than in the physical world. “It is more obviously like what sex really means,” the spirit communicator offered.  “Here you actually can enter the whole person.  It is like you are in fact merging.”

Allen has drawn from 50 different sources, many of them well-known researchers, such as Alan Kardec, William Stainton Moses, Sir Oliver Lodge, John Edmonds, and William T. Stead, among the older ones, and Neal Donald Walsch, Martha Barham, Ruth Taylor, and Michael Newton among the more recent. 

I am unaware of any other collection of quotes as comprehensive as this one.  Allen prefaces the encyclopedia part of this book with some discussion of the sources and the phenomena giving rise to them.  This should be a valuable travel guide for anyone expecting to take the ultimate journey. 

Here are some other quotes from the book:

Separation of Body & Spirit:  “When I left my body, I found that I could not free myself from the entanglements of Earth for a considerable period…It seems that every soul must pass through such a condition…With some souls this is only a matter of a few hours or days; with others it may occupy years…Only the enlightened soul can traverse rapidly the spheres of the denser astral.”

Many Mansions: “You ask them which heaven they inhabit, because you have the idea of several heavens, placed one above the other, like the stories of a house, and they therefore answer you according to your own ideas; but, for them, the words, ‘third,’ ‘fourth,’ or ‘fifth’ heaven, express different degrees of purification, and consequently of happiness.”

Earthbound Spirits: “A number of spirits do live and spend most of their time near the Earth, but they are the very unprogressed and find their pleasures in mingling with mortals.”

Heaven: “Some may inhabit [a conventional heaven] until they learn through their own experience that existence demands development and that such a heaven would be sterile, boring, and indeed ‘deadly’.”

Distorted Views: “It is a wondrous land of light, where the beauties of nature, as seen on Earth, are brought to perfection…The great pity is that it is so long before some spirits even begin to see it as it really is. Some of these spirits who have not progressed far enough to see and realize the beauty about them, when communicating with their friends on Earth, give them quite wrong and dissimilar impressions of conditions over here.”

Soul Vibration:  “While you are still on Earth, your thought, your intentions, everything you do, gives your soul a certain rate of vibration…When you die and manifest here, you would go straight to the part of our world that vibrates at [that rate].”

Spirit Body: “There is an inner, etheric body, composed of minute particles, of such substance that it can, and does, pass into spirit life…It is in the semblance of the material body, but whether beautiful or ugly, strong or weak, depends upon the inner life of the person.”

Gender Identity: “Those of us who have lived on Earth or elsewhere usually consider ourselves as male or female in our own thoughts.  We can project our image to another soul in that form. But we have no gender, not really.”

Rest: “The spirit’s need of rest depends on its particular degree of development, diminishing in proportion to its advancement from the material plane.”

Food & Drink: “We eat and drink, but it is not what you mean by eating and drinking.  To us it is a mental condition.  We enjoy it mentally, not bodily; as you do.”

Clothing: “One’s garments here are made from one’s quality of character.”

Aging: “Our aging is different from yours.  Young people here grow much faster than on Earth in body, mind, and spirit until they reach maturity in body that would correspond to healthy, robust Earth humans 30 to 35 years in age.  At that point they maintain that body and continue grow only in mind and spirit.  The reverse is true for people who arrive in their advanced years.”

Life Review:  “There is no compulsion, of course, to review one’s past life on Earth as soon as one arrives and the new life here begins. Some take a long while to tackle the problem.  They dread to see the effects of mistakes and failures.”

Night & Day: “The light we have is obtained from the action of our minds on the atmosphere.  We think light, and there is light.  That is why people who come over in evil conditions are in the dark; their minds are not competent to produce light enough for them to see. There is greater intensity of light as we go up through the spheres which comes from the blending of the more spiritual minds.”

Time: “There are three kinds of time: sidereal or clock time; psychological time; and orthic time…Orthic time is the reality.  Sidereal time, which is a reality to you, is only an attribute of matter.”

Inspiration:  “Spirit-guides…try literally to inspire those on Earth.  This does not mean in religious matters only; it applies to art, science, engineering, medicine, or any other subject.”

Government: “There is a succession of graduate planes or evolutionary steps over here, each governed or mastered by the most advanced soul on that plane.”

Communication: “Thoughts, being motions of the mind, assume specific and definite forms, and when distinct in the mind can be clearly perceived and understood by any spirit who is in sympathy with the mind in which they are generated.”

Language: “I was able to have a word or two with Pierre Curie, even though on Earth he was a Frenchman and my French was never fluent.  Language affords no difficulty over here; and I yet do not know if I spoke in French or he in English.  Or even if, in the Earthly sense we ‘spoke’ at all!”

Travel: “In a very short time, the soul learns that it can go anywhere – with the speed of thought.”

Occupations: “As there is choice of occupation on Earth, so there is even greater choice of occupation in what you may like to call ‘heaven.’ I find the latitude in our choices here to be quite incredible.”

Pets: “All the dogs that we’ve had in our family I can find here – all of them.  They are still individualized.  However, the dogs that I knew when I was a boy are no longer here…They have gone back to the group soul.”

Suicide: “Persons who commit suicide before the time they are meant to die find themselves in a state of heavier vibration and closer to the earth than those of us who died natural deaths.  They remain in this state of density until the time when they would have normally died.”

Religion:  “There are Methodists, Baptists, Presbyterians, and Quakers here, and all the different sects of religious beliefs, just as among you. There are those who bow to the supremacy of a spiritual pope…True, they encounter much to surprise them when they enter here.  Heaven is altogether different from what they pictured, but their beliefs and prejudices are stronger than the facts which come under their observation, and so they merely readjust themselves, still clinging as far as possible to their old tenets; but the time comes, sooner or later, when they grow out of those superstitions.”

Allen offers hundreds of other quotes, providing the reference for each one.  While most are in agreement with each other, some are to some extent conflicting,  possibly the result of the degree of advancement of the communicating spirit, others to faulty filtering through the medium.  As Sir Oliver Lodge, the esteemed British physicist and pioneering psychical researcher, once said, “...all the communications I receive, I receive with caution, and with a consequent need for interpretation; but received in that spirit, I find them interesting and instructive.”

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.

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Was Eusapia Palladino Fact or Fiction?

Posted on 12 January 2015, 9:26

As Michael Schmicker, the author of the recently-released The Witch of Napoli, states, his book is a work of fiction. However, its inspiration was the true-life story of Eusapia Palladino (1854 – 1918), an illiterate Italian peasant who awed many people with mediumistic phenomena, including levitations, materialized hands and arms, occasionally a full form materialization, mysterious lights, the playing of musical instruments by invisible hands, and apports (objects materialized in the room), as well as communicating raps and voices.


According to a number of Internet references, Palladino (also spelled “Paladino”) was nothing more than a charlatan, a fake, an impostor – someone pretending to have mediumistic abilities by using sleight of hand (and foot) trickery.  But most of the modern references are written by debunkers and other “know-nothings” whose minds are made up in opposition to any psychic phenomena.  They focus on the negative reports only while ignoring the positive reports and failing to consider explanations that have eluded mainstream science.   

As reported in the November 1909 Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research, a series of 40 sittings were conducted by Dr. Julian Ochorowicz, a psychologist, in Warsaw, Poland, during 1893-1894.  In all, 23 experimenters participated.  In the end, 10, including Ochorowicz, were convinced of the supernormal character of the phenomena, while seven were uncertain but accepted that they could not have been due to ordinary mechanical agency. Thus, 17 of the 23 did not believe what they had witnessed was trickery.  Two were inclined, with certain reservations, to deny the supernormal character of the manifestations, and three concluded it had to be fraud of some kind, even though they couldn’t prove it.  One refused to express any opinion. And so it was with nearly every study of Palladino – some convinced she was a genuine medium, some convinced she was a fraud, and some not knowing what to believe. 

Schmicker, the author of Best Evidence and co-author of The Gift, has studied the many books and research reports on Eusapia (most researchers referred to her by her first name) and has concluded that she was a genuine medium who probably, when her powers failed her, as they often did, resorted to some trickery so as not to disappoint people in attendance.  Since the scientific research reports about Eusapia make for some pretty dry and monotonous reading, not telling much about her personal life, Schmicker has tried to fill in the gaps by adding some speculative glamour and glitter.  He combines fact with fiction but holds fairly tightly to the investigative and phenomenal aspects of Eusapia’s story. 

“I write with full consciousness of being in the right,” offered Professor Enrico Morselli, an Italian neurologist and director of the Clinic of Nervous and Mental Disease at the University of Genoa, “that the phenomena of physical mediumship attributed to Eusapia are in the great majority of cases real, authentic, genuine; that in the now innumerable series of her ‘spiritistic’ manifestations there may be an admixture of some spurious phenomena, sometimes also naive and puerile attempts at deception on her part, and illusions or errors of appreciation on the part of the sitters; but on the whole the phenomena produced by Eusapia have for a calm scientist, an impartial observer, a competent student of psychology, an objective existence and positive consistency equal to those attained by categories of facts judged by ordinary reasoning, and verified and accepted in accordance with the rules of the experimental method.”

Dr. Charles Richet, a professor of medicine and physiology at the University of Paris and the 1913 Nobel Prize winner in medicine, agreed.  “Even if there were no other medium than Eusapia in the world, her manifestations would suffice to establish scientifically the reality of telekinesis and ectoplasmic forms,” he wrote, noting that he observed her on some 200 occasions. 

The debunkers claimed that Morselli, Richet, and the many other scientific men who attested to the reality of Eusapia’s phenomena were simply duped by a clever magician.

But two researchers schooled in both science and magic, Hereward Carrington and W.W. Baggally, along with Everard Fielding, closely studied Eusapia in Naples during 1908, attending 11 séances with her.  “I have to record my absolute conviction of the reality of at least some of the phenomena,” Carrington concluded, “and the conviction amounting in my own mind to complete certainty, that the results witnessed by us were not due to fraud or trickery on the part of Eusapia.”  Baggally agreed, pointing out that they observed 470 phenomena during the 11 sittings and that it was impossible for Eusapia to have practiced trickery constantly during the many hours they observed her.”  Fielding supported the conclusions of his fellow researchers.
Dr. Cesare Lombroso (called “Camillo Lombardi” by Schmicker), a pioneer in abnormal psychology and criminology, initially scoffed at the whole idea that there was anything to mediumship.  Like the vast majority of naturalists, he believed that Eusapia, or Alessandra, as Schmicker names her, was suffering from something called female hysteria and that the various phenomena were produced by trickery.  “Ladies and gentlemen, we have a choice,” Schmicker quotes Lombardi, “we can remain in the darkness of primitive superstition, or we can embrace the light of Science.  I choose Science.”  The supposedly “intelligent” world applauded Lombardi’s words. 

But after Lombroso began studying Eusapia, his attitude also changed.  On two occasions he observed her being levitated above the table. Eusapia, who was seated near one end of the table, was lifted up in her chair bodily, amid groans and lamentations on her part, and placed (still seated) on the table, then returned to the same position as before,” he documented.  In one of those levitations, Lombroso was holding one of her hands, as Professor Richet held the other. 

While in trance, Eusapia complained of (invisible) hands grasping her under the arms. Then, her voice changed, apparently to that of John King, her spirit control, and said, “Now I lift my medium up on the table.”  Lombroso and Richet continued to hold her hands as Eusapia and the chair rose to the top of the table without hitting anything.”  They then observed her deposited back on the floor with the same security and precision.

Levitating table: Palladino centre

Some of the séances observed by Lombroso were given during daylight conditions, but because of the sensitivity of ectoplasm to light, the best phenomena were produced under dark conditions with a red lantern permitting the sitters to observe.

By 1903, Lombroso had observed Eusapia many more times, but at a sitting with her in Genoa in 1903, he experienced something new.  Before Eusapia entered the trance state, Lombroso asked her for some special manifestation that day and he got it as his deceased mother appeared, spoke to him, and kissed him.  Lombroso wrote that his mother reappeared at least 20 times in subsequent sittings, although less distinct than on that first occasion. “Her deepest grief is when she is accused of trickery during the séances – accused unjustly, too, sometimes, it must be confessed,” Lombroso wrote of Eusapia, “because we are now sure that phantasmal limbs are superimposed (or added to) her own and act as their substitutes, while all the time they were believed to be her own limbs detected in the act of cozening for their owner’s behoof.”

Richet described Eusapia as a simple-minded woman, yet intelligent. At his private retreat on Ribaud Island in the Mediterranean, Richet, along with Sir Oliver Lodge, a distinguished physicist and pioneer in electricity, Frederic Myers, an esteemed pioneering psychical researcher, and Dr. Ochorowicz, conducted experiments with Eusapia during 1894 and observed various phenomena.

One of the tests they put her to involved a spring dynamometer, which, when squeezed, measured hand grip strength.  It was Richet’s idea that all the energy used at a sitting had to come from the medium or some of the sitters.  Thus, he recorded the grip strength of Eusapia and each sitter before and after the two-hour sitting.  In the before reading, Lodge, who stood 6-4 with a muscular build, scored the highest, followed by Richet, Myers, and Ochorowicz, with Eusapia’s being much weaker than the four men.  But after the sitting, Eusapia was giving a feeble clutch when she suddenly shouted, “Oh, John, you’re hurting me!” and the men observed the needle go far beyond what any of them could exert. 

“She wrung her fingers afterwards, and said John (King) had put his great hand around hers, and squeezed the machine up to an abnormal figure,” Lodge recorded the experience, noting that “John King” occasionally showed his otherwise invisible hand, “a big, five-fingered, ill-formed thing it looked in the dusk.”

Though Eusapia was searched before she came into the room and was not allowed in the room beforehand, there were times when the three men thought they saw her cheating by using her hands or feet.  “She wanted us to understand that it was not conscious deception, but that [John King] took whatever means available, and if he found an easy way of doing things, thus would it be done,” Lodge explained.  In other words, Eusapia’s consciousness had vacated her body and the invisible John King was controlling her arms and legs to accomplish certain tasks, thus making it appear that Eusapia was doing them consciously. At other times, a third arm – one made of ectoplasm, that mysterious substance exuded by some mediums – appeared and seemed to be extending from Eusapia’s body as if it were her own arm. 

“Disbelievers!” Schmicker has Eusapia/Alessandra yelling at the observers at Ribaud Island, as a chilling hiss filled the room. “You demand signs and wonders, even as the Devil prepares your place in Hell.”   
Lodge added that Eusapia resented the charges of fraud and that he was willing to give her the benefit of the doubt, so far as the morals of deception were concerned, referring to her as a kindly soul with many of the instincts of a peasant.  He recalled that on more than one occasion, she took a boat to a mainland village and came back without her coat.  When asked what happened to it, she explained that she gave it to a beggar who needed it more than she did. 

While Schmicker adds glamour, gleam, and glitter to an already colorful, sometimes gaudy, tale – one that likely will exceed the boggle threshold of those mired in the debunking camp – he creatively captures the crux of the story as documented by various researchers and historians, offering the reader not totally familiar with story of Eusapia Palladino much to ponder on.   

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.

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How “Unbroken” Hero Lou Zamperini Saw the Light

Posted on 29 December 2014, 9:05

Every now and then, while channel surfing, I’ll come upon some evangelical preacher seemingly captivating his audience, so much so that when he asks audience members to come up on the stage and profess their faith, many of them parade to the stage as if mesmerized, fall backward into someone’s arms, claim that they are healed of some long-standing affliction, and shed tears while praising God.  Such scenes perplex me and I wonder if it is all an act or if I am simply too ignorant to appreciate what is going on.

The Billy Graham crusades I occasionally watched were not quite as dramatic as most of the evangelical events, but I still wondered what he said in his sermons that motivated all those people to leave their seats and march up to the front as if they had suddenly come out of a life-long stupor and now saw the light.  I just didn’t get it.  I still don’t.

Apparently, Lou Zamperini, (below) the real-life hero of the just-released movie “Unbroken,” felt the same way when his wife asked him to attend a Billy Graham crusade one night in 1949.  “I knew I was a sinner and was living a rotten, drunken life, but I didn’t need someone to stand in front of me and tell me, so I fought it,” Zamperini told me when I interviewed him at his Hollywood, California office in 2001.  “I told Cynthia I would go, but that as soon as he said ‘every eye closed and every head bowed,’ I’m out of there.”


But something happened that night that turned Zamperini into a different person. “I experienced a 180-degree turnaround and ever since then my life has been successful,” he continued his story with a sincere nod.  I pressed Zamperini for an explanation as to what prompted the “turnaround,” but he just smiled and said something to the effect that it is something you have to experience yourself to understand.

Zamperini was the first person I had ever talked with about such an evangelical conversion and it made me rethink them.  He was a sincere, intelligent man who had held on to his faith for some 52 years and had no reason to fabricate such a story.  He was my “white crow,” the one who proved that all such evangelical converts are not victims of temporary brain washing.

Zamperini, who transitioned from this life last July 2, at age 97, was a mere 85 when I interviewed him.  I had read his story in his 1956 autobiography, Devil at My Heels, long before the current best-selling book about him was released a few years ago, and was anxious to hear his story first hand.  It was a story in which the limits of human endurance went far beyond what most of us living in an Epicurean world can even begin to imagine. As I wrote in the April 2002 issue of Running Times magazine, for Zamperini,  endurance meant surviving in the rigid domain of despair, beyond the reach of help, or rest, or pity.  It meant living from day to day with the heart tearing itself between hope and fear, merely subsisting under a cloud of doom with no finish line in sight.  It meant starving and thirsting while confined to a life raft in the Pacific Ocean for 47 days. It meant fighting off sharks while the enemy shot at him from above.  It meant being tossed around by waves that towered over him during an all-night storm on the 46th day.  Then, with the maddened fury calmed, and after being taken prisoner by the Japanese on a small island, endurance meant living with the tyranny, torture, and torment of his captors, including the threat of decapitation, while confined to a box-like cell measuring six by three feet, and being fed only fish heads and rice scraps. And then there were two cold winters with a minimum of food in a POW camp in Japan, his weight dropping to around 76 pounds. 

I was interviewing Zamperini for a running magazine because he had been a standout middle-distance runner during his high school and college years, making the 1936 Olympic team at age 19, between high school and college.  In fact, he shook hands with the Devil himself at those Berlin Olympics when German Chancellor Adolf Hitler had him escorted to his box.  “Ah! The boy with the fast finish,” Zamperini recalled Hitler’s reaction as he was introduced to him. 

After telling me that story, Zamperini opened a drawer on his desk and pulled out the German flag with the Nazi swastika that he took from in front of Hitler’s office at the Reich chancellery.  After seeing Hitler and his entourage pull up in a vehicle and go into the chancellery, he and a friend decided they wanted the flag as a souvenir.  “After they went in, there were just the guards there,” he recalled with some amusement.  “I timed them marching back and forth and planned it so I could get across the street and grab the flag before they saw me.”  But he couldn’t quite jump high enough to reach the flag and was caught by the guards after a shot was fired in the air.  There was some discussion before Hitler came out and told the guards to give him the flag and let him go.

But Zamperini’s real story began with the war and his service as an Army Air Corps navigator.  When his B-24 developed engine trouble during a search mission and crashed at sea, his 47-day endurance test on the life raft began.  He and two other survivors of the crash subsisted on a few raw fish, a half-dozen uncooked birds, a couple of shark’s livers and rain water.  “We ate everything, eyeballs included, and it tasted like a hot fudge sundae with nuts on top.  It was delicious,” he said of tearing into and eating the birds like a wild man.  He told of catching two sharks by the tail and swinging them into the raft, as one of the other two survivors of the crash put a signal flare down their mouths while Zamperini cut them open with a broken signal mirror.

After undergoing such adversity, many a man would say that there can’t be a God because a fair and just Creator would not permit such suffering.  In fact, Zamperini leaned in that direction until that Billy Graham crusade.  Although he had not been religious, he had called for God’s help many times during his two-and-a-half year survival struggle.  “Lord, save me through the war and I’ll seek you and serve you,” was, he said, his frequent petition, one that he would quickly forget after the war.  While his wounds slowly healed and his physical strength returned, there were bad scars and his hatred for the Japanese soldiers and guards who had brutalized him festered, at least until his conversion at the Billy Graham crusade. 

It was at that crusade that Zamperini began to understand what was happening.  His physical shell had been freed, but his soul had remained imprisoned.  The craving for revenge had shackled him even more than his captors had.  In 1950, he returned to Japan and confronted many of the guards who had beaten him, most of them now prisoners themselves, having been convicted of war crimes.  But rather than lash out at them, Zamperini befriended them.  The former prisoner was finally free.  He devoted much of the rest of his life to operating a boys’ camp designed to teach physical, mental, moral, and spiritual fitness to young people. 

And so whenever I channel surf now and encounter one of those evangelicals seemingly spewing nonsense, I stop to think about how one person’s venom might be another person’s elixir, how people are at different stages of spiritual development and with different needs.  If a person finds peace of mind while living a life of love and service to others, that is, I believe, what is most important.  Unfortunately, the chaos, madness, and turmoil in our materialistic and hedonistic world today suggest that few people have such peace of mind and motivation.

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.

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A Suicide Prevented?

Posted on 15 December 2014, 10:00

Suicide is one subject on which spirit messages coming through various mediums all seem to agree. While there are some conflicting messages relative to suicide by terminally-ill people, the messages overwhelmingly condemn conventional suicide. They strongly suggest that the individual who hopes to escape from his or her problems here in the material world does not do so.  That does not mean that the person finds himself in “hell,” as some religions teach, or even experiences a “fire of the mind.” Much seems to depend on the motivation, the degree of despair, and the overall mental state of the individual at the time he or she attempted the escape from this world.  The important point is that nothing is gained by the suicide and it may even set the person behind in his or her spiritual evolution.

One such message was communicated through the trance mediumship of Gladys Osborne Leonard by Claude Kelway-Bamber, (below) a British pilot killed during World War I.  Claude told his mother that nothing can kill the soul.  “You see, therefore, a suicide, far from escaping trouble, only goes from one form of misery to another; he cannot annihilate himself and pass to nothingness,” Claude said. He further stated: 


“I know now the whole mistake lies in looking upon death as the end of ‘activity,’ with a renewal at some indefinite date, whereas as a matter of fact it is an incident only, though a very important one, in a continuous life.  Your feelings, your memory, your love, your interests and ambitions remain; all you have left behind, and even that which one cannot at first realize, is the physical body, which proves to be merely the covering of the spiritual to enable it to function in a material world.  Man truly is a spirit and has a body, not vice versa.
“I have told you that I, in common with hundreds of other men here, go down to the battlefields to help to bring away the souls of those who are passing out of their bodies.  We are united for the work, having ourselves endured the horrors of war.  Spirits unused to it cannot bear the terrible sights and sounds. We bring them away so that they may return to consciousness far from their mutilated physical bodies, and oh, Mum, I feel quite tired sometimes of explaining to men that they are ‘dead’! They wake up feeling so much the same; some go about for days, and even months, believing they are dreaming.

“Death works no miracle, and you wake up here the same personality exactly that left the earth-plane.  Your individuality is intact, and your ‘spirit body’ a replica of the one you have left, down to small details – even deformities remain, though, I am told they lessen and disappear in time.

“People with narrow, set, and orthodox beliefs are puzzled by the reality, the ‘ordinaryliness,’ if I may coin a word, of the spirit world.  If it were described to them as ‘flashes of light,’ ‘mauve and sapphire clouds,’ ‘golden rivers,’ etc., it would more readily approximate with their preconceived ideas.  They require ‘mystery’ about the future life.  I often laugh when I hear them complain they can’t believe in ‘solid’ things like houses, and gardens in the spirit-world…

“The first time I was sent down to help our enemies I objected but was told to remember they were fighting for what they believed to be right and in defence of their country, too.  I saw rather an interesting meeting between an Englishman and a German who had killed each other.  They met face to face and looked at each other steadily.  The Englishman held out his hand.  His erstwhile enemy, taking it, said, ‘What d—- fools we have been!’”

At another sitting, Claude had this to say:

“I have often heard people ask why God permits wickedness.  If it were impossible for man to sin, he would no longer be a free agent but an automation.  As man is on earth to learn his lesson and develop his soul, he must have his mettle proved.  There would be no good without evil.  Contrasts exist and are necessary; just as day and night, wet and fine, heat and cold, pleasure and pain, are only realized and appreciated through their opposites.”
That communication was set forth in Chapter Three of my most recent book, Dead Men Talking.  In Chapter Two, another fallen World War I warrior, Bob Boylan, in communicating with his mother via the automatic writing form of mediumship, also mentioned suicide.  He said, in part:

“Warn all with whom you talk against suicide.  I do not gather from what I hear that curses afflict any poor soul that makes that mistake.  But the self-inflicted death disarranges and delays the plans that are being shaped for the individual.  Every detail of life is worked out with a thoroughness only possible in spiritual geometry.  A sudden break necessitates rebuilding the whole theory.  It may require skill for you to tell what you have to tell and yet restrain broken-hearted ones from throwing themselves across the invisible line.  Of course, they want to rejoin their darlings.  But that will be later.”

According to Jane Katra, Ph.D., (below) those messages, or at least one of them, may have prevented a suicide a hundred years after they were communicated.  Jane was one of several people who were to receive a review copy of Dead Men Talking.  Just before the book was released during July, I informed Jane that White Crow Books, the publisher, would be sending her an advance copy.  “While I was anxiously awaiting for my copy of the book to arrive in my Eugene, Oregon post office box, I received a message on my answering machine from my friend in Durham, North Carolina thanking me for sending her a book,” Jane picks up the story.  “I called her back to tell her that I hadn’t sent her any book, and she promptly responded, ‘Why, of course you did! Your name was on the label!’ She then told me that she’d opened the book and read on the first page (to which she had opened the book) about how ‘Suicide doesn’t help at all’ because ‘The character we form here, we take with us, we cannot get away from it.’  She knew at once that she was to make a phone call and read that passage to her friend who had told her that she was planning to kill herself.  The book’s messages from the dead prevented the woman’s suicide. All three of us believe that the book was mysteriously sent to North Carolina to save a life!”


Jane later determined that when she was attending a conference of the International Association for Near-Death Studies in North Carolina some years earlier, she had asked White Crow Books to send her a supply of a book she had co-authored with Russell Targ, The Heart of the Mind, to be sold at the conference.  To avoid shipping the books from her home in Oregon to the conference in North Carolina, she asked that White Crow mail them to her in care of her friend in Durham.  The Durham address went into the White Crow computer as Jane’s and that is how Dead Men Talking found its way to the friend’s house.

Coincidence?  Possibly.  Spirit-directed synchronicity? You be the judge. 

An interesting You-Tube talk on suicide by Dr. Carla Wills-Brandon can be found at

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.

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Do young atheists bond in a collective flight from death?

Posted on 01 December 2014, 11:15

A web site called The Friendly Atheist recently came to my attention. The first thing that struck me was that the editor and eight of the nine regular contributors all appeared to be in their 20s or early 30s, the ninth contributor perhaps in his 50s.  Their brief biographies suggested that most of them were raised in religious homes and are now rebelling against organized religion without any consideration for alternatives.  One wrote that she was raised by a Catholic mom and Jewish dad, and that “steered” her toward skepticism.  Another said she was a “recovering Catholic” who found it too difficult to reconcile Catholic dogma and doctrine with her growing feminism.  Still another young woman claimed she had escaped from a conservative Christian home school cult.  A very young-looking male said he was “turned off” by his Sunday School classes.  A young woman grew up in a non-religious home, but apparently read something along the way about Christianity’s “angry God” and decided then that she wanted nothing to do with religion.

I occasionally weaken and fall victim to saying what’s on my mind, as unfriendly as it may seem, and in this case it just seemed to me that they are all still wet behind the ears – too young and too lacking in experience and exposure to have well-formulated opinions on such an important subject, in effect, the most important subject there is, and certainly too young to be preaching or proselytizing on a subject that involves much more study and research than their tender years could have permitted. 

Like so many atheists I have met over the years, they seem to assume that all “believers” accept an anthropomorphic God, reject biological evolution, and subscribe to all the many superstitions associated with organized religions.  Moreover, they all come across as assuming that that a belief in the survival of consciousness at death requires a belief in the anthropomorphic God of Christianity. 

I couldn’t resist sending an e-mail to the editor of the site telling him of my impressions, although I felt certain he would read it with a self-righteous smirk, if he read it at all, and that it would be a waste of my time.  I prefaced my remarks by saying that I have no religious affiliation and that many of my Christian friends consider me an “atheist,” since I, for the most part, dismiss the idea of an anthropomorphic God.  I further pointed out that I accept the strong evidence for Survival with about 98.8% certainty, meaning I am still a “skeptic” of sorts, at least to the extent of my 1.2% uncertainty about the evidence.  But that 98.8% certainty meets the “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard of our criminal courts, for me at least, and provides me with a conviction that goes well beyond the blind faith of religions.  This conviction translates to great peace of mind in my 78th year of life as I struggle with possible terminal health problems.

The main point I wanted to get across in my e-mail is that one does not have to have proof of the existence of “God” or even believe in “God,” at least an anthropomorphic God, in order to believe in the survival of consciousness after death. Or to put it another way, one should not reject the overwhelming evidence for Survival because he or she is incapable of wrapping his or her mind around the idea of God, or is turned off by that unjust, capricious, vindictive, and angry God of orthodoxy.

I further stated that I was not going to address the evidence, as it would require volumes.  Moreover, these young non-believers usually go to Wikipedia or some other debunking site and cite the ignorant, distorted, and biased misinformation set forth by know-nothing debunkers. But, as an example of the evidence, I mentioned Leonora Piper, the subject of my book, Resurrecting Leonora Piper: How Science Discovered the Afterlife.  Although Piper’s mediumship convinced many distinguished scholars and scientists of the existence of a spirit world, a person can go to these debunking sites and find many reasons to believe that she was nothing but a charlatan.  In fact, I didn’t think much of Mrs. Piper when I first read about her 20-25 years ago, primarily because I didn’t really understand what was going on with her mediumship.  I devoted perhaps 50 hours to reading the research, including repeated readings of it, before I began to appreciate and understand it; yet these young atheists are able to write it off after spending a few minutes gullibly reading a debunking web site.  I know many of them are smarter than I am, but not that much smarter.   

It is easy for young people to live with the nihilistic philosophy of atheism.  They are too occupied with careers, raising families, and escaping into the unreal world of television and mass entertainment to concern themselves with death.  With much bravado, they say they will be ready when death comes knocking and that they will jump into the abyss of nothingness with little fear.  They give little or no consideration to the likelihood that such bravado almost always erodes and turns to despair and hopelessness with age, retirement, fewer family attachments, and deteriorating health.  In his 1969 book, The Immortalist, Alan Harrington, an atheist and humanist philosopher, states that “a very few individuals, most having a remarkable capacity for self-deception, manage not to fear the end.”  He goes on to say that the rest – those claiming they are not afraid of death – are either lying or are so escaping into trivialities that death rarely enters their minds. “But fear waits behind the door nevertheless,” he continues. “And the day they peer out and discover nothingness, the result can be catastrophic.”

If I am interpreting Harrington correctly, atheists tend to bond with each other as a “collective flight from death,” the underlying fear often being a subconscious one.  The feeling that they are all marching into the abyss of nothingness together offers some comfort and a bit of courage. 

Harrington goes on to say that “an unfortunate awareness has overtaken our species: masses of men and women everywhere no longer believe that they have the slightest chance of living beyond the grave.  The unbeliever pronounces a death sentence on himself.  For millions this can be not merely disconcerting but a disastrous perception.”

Harrington believed that when people are deprived of rebirth vision – the belief that we live on after death – they “suffer recurring spells of detachment, with either violence or apathy to follow.”  He saw mass-atheism as responsible for most, if not all, of society’s ills.  No doubt he would have included the recent turmoil in Ferguson, Missouri in this category.  “...behind the proud and gleeful faces of the rioters, the raging countenances, the expressions of abandon, greed, and hatred, the contempt, and derisive laughter, can be detected the face of people desperate to be reborn,” he wrote, referring to riots in Detroit and Johannesburg.

Erich Fromm, another humanistic philosopher, agreed with Harrington.  “The state of anxiety, the feeling of powerlessness and insignificance, and especially the doubt concerning one’s future after death, represent a state of mind which is practically unbearable for anybody,”  he offered.
To quote William James, one of the pioneers of modern psychology:  “Let sanguine healthy-mindedness do its best with its strange power of living in the moment and ignoring and forgetting, still the evil background is really there to be thought of, and the skull will grin in at the banquet. In the practical life of the individual, we know how his whole gloom or glee about any present fact depends on the remoter schemes and hopes of which it stands related.  Its significance and framing give it the chief part of its value.  Let it be known to lead nowhere, and however agreeable it may be in its immediacy, its glow and guilding vanish.  The old man, sick with an insidious internal disease, may laugh and quaff his wine at first as well as ever, but he knows his fate now, for the doctors have revealed it, and the knowledge knocks the satisfaction out of all these functions.  They are partners of death and the worm is their brother, and they turn to a mere flatness.”

Sadly, most people don’t really grasp all of this until they are nearing the abyss, if then.  In the meantime, they smugly act as if they have it all figured out.  If only these young atheists could understand it now, they might more effectively “live in the present” and have no need for that “collective flight.”

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.

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The Society for Psychical Research Tackles Internet Encyclopedia Project

Posted on 17 November 2014, 11:09

I recently interviewed Robert McLuhan (below) for the December issue of “The Searchlight,” a publication of The Academy for Spiritual and Consciousness Studies.  Below is a slightly abbreviated version of that interview.

In his popular 2010 book, Randi’s Prize, Robert McLuhan, a British freelance journalist, discusses, as the subtitle of the book states, “what sceptics say about the paranormal, why they are wrong and why it matters.”

McLuhan begins the book as a “skeptic,” or “sceptic” (we’ll use the King’s English here) – an open-minded one – wondering why the million-dollar prize offered by James “The Amazing” Randi, an American stage magician, to anyone who can demonstrate psychic powers to his satisfaction has not yet been claimed. McLuhan examines some of the best evidence offered by psychical researchers and parapsychologists favoring both psi and survival of the consciousness at death, then looks at the counter-arguments offered by the sceptics.  He carefully weighs the evidence for and against and in most cases concludes that the sceptics have ignored, twisted, distorted, misinterpreted, misrepresented, disregarded, ridiculed, or otherwise dismissed the best evidence.

A 1974 graduate of the University of Oxford, where he gained a First in English Literature, McLuhan has worked as foreign correspondent for The Guardian in Spain and Portugal, and now works as a writer for news and business magazines. He has been a member of the prestigious Society for Psychical Research (SPR) since 1993 and recently accepted the position of Commissioning Editor for a projected Internet Encyclopedia, which will provide objective biographies of researchers, psychics, mediums, and others who have made significant contributions to psychical research and parapsychology. 
I recently put some questions to McLuhan by e-mail.

Robert, what prompted the SPR to undertake this project?

“Hi Michael. I thought we needed a viable alternative to Wikipedia, where psi-related articles have become almost unreadable as a result of editing by sceptics. There’s always been quite a bit of sceptical material on Wikipedia, which is to be expected. But of late it seems to have got completely out of hand. It’s as though someone is looking over your shoulder while you’re reading, telling you, ‘Don’t believe this stuff! It’s not reliable! Pay no attention! Stop reading!’
“Typically, you get a paragraph of more or less objective information, the remnants of the original article, then an insertion tacked on telling you that it’s been debunked.  In some articles there’s hardly anything left of the original. If you look at the page on mediumship, for instance, it’s very long – around ten thousand words. But only the first two thousand provide anything like objective information. The rest is a jumble of disbelieving fragments: ‘this medium was caught in fraud by so-and-so, that one confessed, it’s obviously nonsense’. It’s not just that the articles are unbalanced. In the absence of almost any mention of the original research – the work that investigators did, and their reasoning – they’ve become meaningless.”

How has this situation arisen? What can be done about it?

“About 18 months ago someone sent me a link to the Guerrilla Skeptics site. I hadn’t come across it before, and I wrote about it on my blog, Paranormalia. We know that ideological sceptics are very committed to keeping science free of ‘woo’. What few of us grasped was how organised they are behind the scenes. It’s fortunate in a way that Susan Gerbic, who founded Guerrilla Skeptics, is keen to talk about the work she does to ‘improve’ Wikipedia pages on psi topics, training editors in how to work the system. I don’t think she’s the only one doing it, by any means, but she provides useful insights into their methods.

“It involves being very clued up about how Wikipedia works, its rules and regulations. Edits are supposed to be preceded by discussion on the talk pages, and ideally it ought to be possible to come to a consensus.  That’s clearly what Wikipedians believe. But it doesn’t work for controversial topics. Psychical research is treated as a marginal or fringe belief. The mere fact that mainstream science rejects it gives hostile editors the right to make whatever edits they like, and revert those they don’t, with the expectation of being supported by the site administrators. It’s enormously difficult to overcome that built-in disadvantage.

“There was a bit of discussion on my blog about what to do. Some people, myself included, thought we ought to try to fight back. Others were convinced that would be a waste of time, and it would make more sense to create our own resource. It turned out they were right. After I’d tried to carry out Wikipedia edits, and watched them being reverted instantly – and seeing other people having the same frustrating experience – I realised the second option is the only way forward, at least in the short term.”   

Wikipedia is always the first reference that pops up when a particular subject is researched.  Many people will not go beyond that first reference. I don’t know how far down the SPR reference will be, but is there any way to deal with that problem? 

“I’ve talked to a few search experts about this.  Google has different ways to evaluate websites, and they keep changing. That’s good, because it makes it harder for people to buy their way to the top of the rankings.  A site has to be genuinely popular, which I believe ours will be.

“If we go about it in an orderly way I’m pretty confident that the encyclopedia will soon be in the top four or five rankings for searches on paranormal topics, along with other new projects that are about to launch, such as Deepak Chopra’s ISHAR and Rupert Sheldrake’s Open Sciences.  There’ll still be a challenge in getting people to click on our link rather than Wikipedia’s. But we’ll be getting good advice in that regard. 
“One of the experts I spoke to thought that Wikipedia would drop down the page quite quickly, as it’s apparently not that interested in promoting itself with regard to niche subjects. I don’t know how true that is, but it was encouraging to hear!”

Approximately how many people and subjects will be covered?  Will they be primarily historical figures or current people and subjects as well?
“Yes, good questions. We’re doing this in two stages. In the first, we’re getting enough material together to launch early next year, hopefully round about May. That would mean getting around 200 items ready. But we shall go on adding to it for at least another two years, and probably there will be a trickle of new additions on a regular basis after that as well.

“The material is of different kinds: subject articles, biographies, case studies, book reviews, and so on. I plan also to include some of the original literature, reports of investigations of mediums, hauntings, poltergeists, that sort of thing, as well as some of the more recent experimental stuff and the work on past-life memories. I reckon that at the end of three or four years we should have about 200 entries in each type, so about 1000 items in all. In addition, there will be lists of various kinds: researchers and subjects, experiments, investigations, glossary definitions, bibliographies, that sort of thing.

“So it will be a pretty comprehensive. As regards subject articles, in the first instance there’ll be a general overview of each major category. Eventually there’ll be a whole bunch of shorter articles that explore particular aspects. Readers will also be able to link to individual case studies, and hopefully some of them will go on to read the original literature. So it will be pretty well covered.”

Historically, the SPR has remained perched firmly on the fence when it comes to psychic and “spiritual” phenomena, not really taking a stand one way or the other.  I understand that this balance is necessary for it to retain its standing as a scientific organization. Based on the conclusions in your book, you clearly lean in the direction of the reality of psi and survival, so I guess the question here is how much of the debunkers’ (I prefer that to “sceptic”)  gobbledygook do you have to offer to satisfy the SPR authorities?

“Mike, I think this is misconception of what the SPR is and how it works. It’s collegiate. There’s no authority that directs things and that one has to submit to. I think it’s always been that way: if you look in the old journals you find controversies raging on all sorts of things among SPR researchers themselves.

“It’s certainly true that in the early years especially, there was a tendency to be sceptical about séance mediums, and that although there was much more certainty about mental mediumship, there was no rush to conclude in favour of survival. But this is only to be expected in the context of scientific investigation. Séance mediumship has always been problematic in this regard. And while there’s very good evidence of survival in mental mediumship, there are also counter indications that have to be taken account of. So this is not so much about an organisation choosing to sit on the fence, it’s about a group of researchers, past and present, reflecting different currents of thought, in a way that makes it unrealistic collectively to back a single idea.

“There clearly has to be balance in how we present the material. Sceptics’ arguments need to be reflected fairly and fully. But that’s not about the debunkers, it is about the general scepticism in secular society, which they merely reflect. It shouldn’t be forgotten that a lot of their arguments derived from the findings of psychical researchers themselves.

“This is not about an individual or organisation presenting a particular position. It’s about presenting the research, in all its variety, as fairly as possible. I believe that if we can do this it will become evident that there’s far more depth and detail in the investigative literature than is generally understood, and that it points firmly to the existence of phenomena that science as yet does not recognize.”

How do you think sceptics will react to this?

“I think they’ll be challenged by it. For a long time now they haven’t had to do any real work. They can simply lift bits and bobs from the research literature that support their case, quote them out of context – job done. This will change the game entirely.

“In a certain sense it will give them new opportunities. Very few sceptics actually read the literature. They just read each other’s books. So they know that for instance that Eusapia Palladino was often caught cheating; that Leonora Piper fished for information; that anoxia is an explanation for the near death experience; that ESP experiments are flawed and unreliable, and so on, all that stereotypical stuff. This will greatly expand the possibilities, since they will start finding all kinds of new exposés and sceptical claims that they weren’t aware of, and be able go into more convincing depth.

“However, the problem for them is going to be that the people they need to reach – not their own circle of likeminded sceptics, but the agnostic masses – are going to have access to the same material. Many of these people will start to realise the reality about psychical research, that sceptical approaches do not always, or even often, lead to satisfying explanations.

“It’s inevitable that this will eventually impact on the media, which will make a big difference. Until now sceptics like Richard Wiseman have been able to say pretty much what they like on radio or TV, with the expectation of being taken seriously by programme producers and presenters. The opposition – psychic claimants, mediums, parapsychologists – are at a disadvantage because educated people don’t know about the scientific research that supports their position. But I can imagine situations where the sceptics start getting push-back from journalists who have taken the trouble to educate themselves.  This will be an interesting development, to say the least!”

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.

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Evidence of Psychic Phenomena vs. Enlightenment

Posted on 03 November 2014, 8:44

Many people complain that we get nothing but trivialities from mediums.  They ask why the purported spirits don’t tell us what life is like on their side of the veil, why we are here, what life is all about, something really meaningful. 

William James, one of the pioneers of psychology and psychical research, questioned the “extreme triviality” of most of the communication coming through Leonora Piper, the renowned Boston medium studied by the Society for Psychical Research for more than two decades.  “What real spirit, at last able to revisit his wife on this earth, but would find something better to say than that she had changed the place of his photograph?” James asked, stating that most communication was confined to such remarks. 

The fact is that there were considerable “teachings” coming through Mrs. Piper, the best example being that detailed in Chapter 8 of my book, Resurrecting Leonora Piper – communication coming from Augustus P. Martin, a former mayor of Boston, Mass., to Anne Manning Robbins.  James makes no mention of those messages in any of his writings. Nor does he even allude to the volumes of spirit teachings that were recorded and published by Judge John Edmonds and Dr. George Dexter in their 1853 book, Spiritualism, French educator Allan Kardec in his 1857 book, The Spirits’ Book, or by William Stainton Moses in his 1883 book, Spirit Teachings.  Those three books provide answers for just about any questions a person might have relative to the meaning of life and the nature of the afterlife.

Certainly, James realized that the teachings set forth in these books were not evidential in the same way that the “trivialities” coming through Mrs. Piper were.  So, what was his problem?  Is it possible he didn’t even know about the works of Edmonds, Dexter, Kardec, and Moses?  My guess is that they were too “unscientific” for him to mention in public writings?  His “know-nothing” peers would have scoffed at him.

Since James’s day, we have received the wisdom of Silver Birch, the Greber messages, the Seth material, A Course in Miracles, the Martha Barham books, Afterlife Teaching from Stephen the Martyr, and a number of other channeled books.  And now, just released, we have a book, Spiritual Light,  by Michael Flagg and John Finnemore possibly outdoing all the others in addressing questions and concerns we might have relative to this life and the afterlife.  It has more than 600 pages of wisdom, enlightenment, higher truths – whatever it might be called – purportedly coming from advanced spirits. 

Born in 1903, Michael Flagg was a composer, writer, and editor.  Soon after he started exploring spiritualism, mediumship, and spiritual philosophy taught by spirit guides, he began receiving much spiritual philosophy through various trance mediums.  “Michael would enter each sitting with dozens of questions, which the spirit visitors usually answered before he could ask them,” John Finnemore, who completed the book for Flagg, states. “They explained that their visiting from such high realms was extremely difficult due to the great difference in the levels of vibrations. This has made such high-level communication extremely rare. But once in a long while, as in this case, they set up the special conditions that enable them to directly communicate their teachings to someone on earth.”

The spirit visitors told Flagg that their mission together was to promote on earth a higher consciousness, which would lead to a better way of life, where people live united in love, peace, and harmony, in universal spiritual brother-and-sisterhood. “They were very concerned about present life on earth: its lagging spiritual development, the widespread chaos and suffering caused by greed and hunger for power, and the threats that occur from time to time to all or most life on earth,” Finnemore adds.  “As one distinguished guide told him, ‘You have been chosen to help humanity out of this darkened state.’”

Here are some random teachings from the book:

Justice: “The Law of Cause and Effect and The Law of Compensation together form the Law of Justice.  Because of this Law there is not, and cannot be, any injustice in the long run.”

Attraction: “The greater our spirituality, the nobler our character, ideals, aspirations and efforts, the higher is the caliber of those spirits people who come to us for one reason or another, often as guides and teachers.  Like attracts like.  That is the law of attraction.”

Affinity: “The Law of Affinity is a closer, more delicate, more soul-satisfying Law than the Law of Attraction.  For while we may attract or be attracted to many, we have only one affinity – our twin soul, whom few of us meet on earth.”

Consciousness: “Consciousness of an individual is the sum total of what one is, what one has become.  Each of us is in a continuous state of becoming.  The more evolved one is, the greater is our consciousness, and the higher the level of our consciousness.”

Thought: “Thought is vibration – that is, energy in motion – either within our own mentality, or directed from one mentality to another…Whether or not a thought reaches its destination in the precise form in which it is projected, or whether it reaches its destination at all, depends on several things: the intensity of the thought; the conscious or unconscious receptivity of the person to whom it is directed; the degree of attunement of the two mentalities; and whether the thought is relayed, in which case there is always the risk of distortion, however unintentional.”

Wisdom: “The wiser people are, the humbler they are; for the more they know, the more they realize the immensity of what is still a closed book to them.”

Contentment: “There are a number of reasons for the widespread discontent in the world today. One is the common confusion of desires and needs, as we have pointed out, and seeking to acquire more and more of material things, not heeding the truth that to have simple wants is the secret of contentment.”

Spirit Population: “There are several reasons for the immense growth in the world population; but to catch any glimpse of the picture, we must first realize that even the thousands of millions of souls on earth today are only a very small percentage of the souls that exist – for there are many, many times as many souls in the spirit world as there are on earth.”

Ectoplasm: “Ectoplasm plays a vital role in many.  It usually emanates from the physical body in waves.  At sittings or circles (séances) held in the dark or in subdued light, the semi-fluidic substance, which is then more visible, may be molded by skilled spirit chemists into rigid rods, often with finger-like endings With these rods, which they can easily manipulate, they can move objects about, or suspend objects, notably the ‘voice box’ – the artificial larynx they construct for spirit communicators to use in speaking instead of the medium’s vocal cords.”

Time: “Those who on earth are always conscious of the time, will remain conscious of it when they pass on (return) to spirit life – until they realize that time (as they have known it) is useless to them, and discard that conception, just as they will discard some other conceptions.  Some spirit people use a calendar or clock, or both, to help them adjust their activities to those of loved ones on earth, to remind them to be with them on special occasions…”

Travel: “A too common and surprising misteaching by many, on both sides of life, is that those living in the spirit world need only to think of being in another place to be instantly and automatically there.  This is just not so. Thought alone is not enough. One must know the mechanics of such incredibly speedy movement. Just as almost all infants on earth need help in their first attempts to walk, so do almost all new arrivals in spirit life need help in learning how to transport themselves in a trice from one place to another.”

Various Bodies: “In the long journey of progression, we occupy more than five bodies – physical, astral, psychic, spiritual, and celestial, and after these, still others. We possess all these bodies while on earth.  All of them are dwelling places for the real self, with the habitations becoming increasingly fine – that is of a more rapid rate of vibration.  At all times, our outermost body is the one in which we are most comfortable, most at home in, and which, as a rule, is the only one we are of aware of then.”

Aura: “Our auras record the sum total of what we have been and what we are – our character, our personality, our mental (which includes our spiritual) levels, our present state of consciousness, in fact everything about us.”

Transitioning: “When we pass on, we gravitate to the precise spot in the precise plane that we have prepared for ourselves by all we have done or not done while on earth – so perfect is Justice, as is every thing else that is of God, of course.”

Suicides: “Suicides may be completely earthbound.  They may be tied to earth to a certain degree only Or they may not be tied to earth at all.  Much depends on their motive, on their sanity, and on the sum total of their entire life – not on just the final act alone.”

Lost animals:  “Many theories have been advanced [for lost animals finding their way back to their owners], but we have yet to note the most common reason – that the animals were successfully impressed and directed by spirit people aware of the grief caused by the separation…”

Other subjects addressed include reincarnation, alien life, dowsing, capital punishment, fate of animals, acupuncture, prayer, birth control, healing, glossolalia, identical twins, karma, levitations, materializations, miracles, precognition, sleepwalking, possession, spirit guides, malevolent spirits, clothing in the afterlife, telepathy, you-name-it. 
Of course there is no way to scientifically test, measure, or validate such teachings, but to the extent that they appeal to reason and can be reconciled with a fair, just, and loving Creator, they are certainly worth considering.  Moreover, such teachings seem to be consistent in the various references mentioned above, the difference being minor and apparently due, as suggested, to distortion in the communication. 

It amazes me that that such books are not better known and appreciated by the public.  The only answer I can come up with to explain this indifference is that the light emanating from these books is so dazzling that most people are blinded by it or simply not ready for it.  The Harry Potter series seems like more than enough enlightenment for most.  How sad! 

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.

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Five Different Mind-Sets in the Search for Truth

Posted on 20 October 2014, 11:50

When William Stainton Moses, a Church of England priest, first read about the mediumship of D. D. Home he called it the “dreariest twaddle.”  His good friend, Dr. Stanhope Speer referred to it as all “stuff and nonsense.”  It wasn’t long after their cynical remarks were made that Moses discovered that he had mediumistic abilities, both mental and physical.  In fact, the phenomena produced through Moses’s mediumship approached those of D. D. Home.  It included levitations, floating objects, strange music, the direct voice, the trance voice, and automatic writing.  Suddenly Moses was in the position he once found himself relative to explaining things to others.  He classified the correspondents and inquirers into five groups.  With some abridgements,  I quote directly from Moses’s 1879 book, Spirit-Identity:

Pseudo-Scientific: “One class of correspondents, whom I may call the scientific or pseudo-scientific, take much trouble to explain to me, some with great courtesy, others with great pity, some with patience, and a few with asperity, that I am a fool – they don’t say so, but they mean it none the less – for believing in or troubling myself about these matters.  Mediums they regard as vulgar rogues, doubtless on the ex uno disce omens (From one thing you can tell all) principle; investigators as shallow fools, presumably because they do not employ the scientific method made notorious in a recent celebrated instance.  I get the full benefit of discourses on the laws of nature (all of which are apparently well known to my correspondents) on snapping tendons, cracking toe joints, expectant attention, unconscious Carpenterianism, et hoc genus omne (and all this sort of thing).

“This is, perhaps, the weariest and dreariest reading of all; but it serves to show that the dominant ideas fostered by this ‘science, falsely so called,’ are one great hindrance to the fair and free investigation of Spiritualism.”

Theorists: “A second class are those who have an idea, a plan, a theory – the Trochus of whom the War Office, and many other departments, could tell a tale.  I do not mean those who have mastered facts, and who earn the thanks of all by devoting themselves to the task of suggesting explanations to them.  These merit the enduring gratitude of all lovers of truth.  I refer to those who regard fact as a subsidiary matter altogether, and whose eyes are filled with the fair proportions of their own idea.  Suggest to them that they are not quite acquainted with facts which do not, indeed, accord with their theory and they wave them aside with much dignified complacence, explaining that if their ideas are properly estimated they must be found to be true, and so that, since Nature works according to the law, the facts will, in the end, be found to fit into their place.  One correspondent expounds to me this delightful piece of argument in connections with his idea that simultaneous hallucinations account for all.

“These correspondents lead me to believe that another cause why success does not attend the investigations of some persons, is because their minds are hopelessly darkened to the exclusion of all light by the blind of a false theory.”

The Ignorant:  “A third class is the purely ignorant.  They usually profess themselves to be so; they will even parade what is already sufficiently obvious, as though it were, like the beggar’s rags and professional shiver, an excuse for appealing to the public pity.  Starting from this platform, these persons will propound the most astonishing queries as to things heavenly and spiritual.  They will ask questions which, I presume, an archangel would be unable to answer, simply because that exalted being would find in the questioner no antecedent knowledge which would make a reply intelligible.  They will ask about God and creation, and the nature of the occupations of eternity, demanding with much naïveté, a biography of all the heavenly host, and topographical plan of the spheres.  They will propound simple questions about predestination, and the nature of evil, and the incarnation, and other theological problems, which they seem to suppose become all as clear as mud to the spirit that has been, if only for a few poor years, emancipated from the physical body.

“These impress me with a belief that another cause of failure in some inquirers is that they have not prepared themselves by gathering antecedent knowledge, and clearing away old fallacies, to receive new truth.  The ground has not been ploughed up, harrowed, and cleansed of weeds, so that new seed may have a chance to grow.”

The Captious Critics: “Closely allied in ignorance are those whom I may call the captious; those who ‘want to know’ why such and such conditions are necessary; why such and such things can’t be done in such and such a way; why phenomena can’t be got at the Royal Institution; why there should be any such thing as a medium or a circle; why not abolish them, and let every man be his own medium; in short, why everything is as it is, and why everything isn’t as it isn’t.  These persons, one would declare, know how everything ought to be, and could amend God’s universe to an improved pattern, and run it on entirely new principles.  They may be recommended to begin their improvements by making a clean sweep of Professor Tyndall’s ‘conditions’ in his laboratory at the Royal Institution; and when they have abolished the developing room of the photographer we will begin to talk with them.
“These lead to the belief that there are some, I fear I ought to say many, persons, who carry in their own minds a captious spirit – intolerant, arrogant, and dogmatic – which is a sure barrier to the reception of truth.  They have not merely swept and garnished the chamber, but they have barricaded all points of access with chevaux defrise of foolish objections, and strewed the floor with torpedoes into the bargain.

“It was Mr. Spurgeon who, in describing a captious questioner, declared of him that if the constellation Orion were pointed out to his view, he would immediately suggest that the shape of it was poor, and that the stars might be arranged on a new principle.  Such captious critics are not all outside of Spiritualism.”

The Spiritualist:  “Lastly, there is the large body of Spiritualists whose questions are extremely suggestive.  Some – most of them – are engaged in a search after their departed friends….[But] many, I fear, finding that all is not so plain as they had hoped, that there are laws beyond the grave, even as here; and that these preclude or delay the coveted intercourse – many go back, and impatiently say that Spiritualism is a mockery, an affair of sub-human spirits, a dealing with devils.  This is, after all, but a refined form of selfishness and suggests to us another antecedent difficulty in the inquirers’ way, viz., that a too eager desire for one thing, and a too positive state of the mind, are well-nigh sure to produce failure.  The mind must be at peace, in harmonious balance, and not biased or excited.  The best attitude is one of simple receptivity; an attitude, let me say, quite compatible with the keenest scrutiny, and the most accurate observation.

“The letters of enthusiastic Spiritualists betray a singular inability to understand the laws of evidence.  There are many grounds on which conviction comes to the mind, especially in the matter of intercourse with those who have been dearly loved, and who are lost to us.  It may be that to one has been vouchsafed the proof he craves for through some message, some private test, some little clue that speaks at once to his heart.  But, in recording this occurrence, frequently almost too sacred for publicity, he forgets that others have not the same means of judging that he has, and to them his language of enthusiasm and exaggerated job seem only as the over-wrought utterances of a crazy brain….

“I shall probably command the assent of all reasonable persons when I say that to the uninstructed mind – to the mind that is not familiar with the phenomena of Spiritualism – many of the records must read strangely lax, both in method of observation and in language.  We, who write too frequently, sometimes forget that some who read have no antecedent knowledge, and that what to us is familiar is very strange to them…Much harm has been done on many occasions by injudiciously forcing on unprepared minds what seems to them monstrous narrations of unexplained and inexplicable occurrences…The growth must be gradual, and should be made so.  Forcing is bad in all ways.  The fruit looks well, but it has no flavor.  The plant is luxuriant, but it will not stand the cold wind.  The inquirer so treated is very apt to turn sick…

“[The fact is] that many of the inquirer’s difficulties are of his own making.  They spring, as I have tried to show, from ignorance, from arrogance, from a biased mind, from willful or unconscious one-sidedness of view, form a fixed determination to seek for one (perhaps unattainable) end, from excitement and enthusiasm, and from a lack of calm and dispassionate and patient painstaking investigation.”

It has been 135 years since Stainton Moses wrote those words.  Has anything changed since then? 

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.

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Musical Prodigies:  Spirit Guides, Genetics, or Both?

Posted on 06 October 2014, 9:16

Have you ever wondered about your guides in the spirit world?  Are they assigned to you at birth?  Do different guides come and go during your lifetime?  Do you have only one at a time?  Do they choose you or are you assigned to them by some higher authority?  In recently rereading William Stainton Moses’s 1879 book, Spirit Identity, I came upon some interesting information as set forth by Dr. Stanhope T. Speer, a British physician who regularly sat in the circle with Moses,  (below) one of the foremost mediums of the 19th Century.  (See my blog of February 10, 2014 for more about Moses). Speer asked the communicating spirit about his son’s spirit guide or guides. The son, Charlton Templeman Speer, had displayed remarkable musical ability at an early age and the father wanted to know if his guides were musically inclined.


Speer was informed that Charlton’s primary guide went by the name of James Nares when he lived on the earth plane and that he was an organist to the king and master of the royal choristers.  Speer did not mention if the name of the king was given, but based on other information provided, it would appear to have been George I (1714 – 1727) and/or George II (1727-1760).  Speer was told that Nares was born at Stanwell and that he was trained at first by Gates, master of the royal choristers, and then by Pepusch.  An internet search reveals that Johann Christoph Pepusch, a German composer who spent most of his life in England, lived from 1667 to 1752. 

Speer asked how Nares was attracted to his son.  The response came:  “Spirit guides are not always attracted.  Sometimes they are selected by their own fitness.  They are naturally apt to teach.  Sometimes they are sent with a special commission.  Sometimes they are picked out because they are able to supply that which is wanting in the character which they are to train.  Sometimes they themselves select a character which they wish to mould.  This is a great pleasure to the higher spirits.  Sometimes they desire, for their own spiritual progress, to be attached to a soul the training of which is irksome and difficult.  They toil upward along with the soul.  Sometimes they are attracted by pure affinity, or by remains of earth-love.  The guide in this case was appointed because he too on earth was an accomplished musician at an early age.  When organist at York, not yet twenty years old, he won a great renown.”

Several decades earlier, communicating spirits told French researcher Allan Kardec that spirits are inclined to influence those with whom they have a certain “affection.”

The spirit communicating through Moses further told Speer that Nares succeeded Dr. Green as organist to the king, and also filled the place of his old master, Gates.  “To him friend, you owe the first introduction of expressive melody into church music.”

When Speer asked if Nares was his son’s only guide, the response came, “No, there are others.  The Brothers Lawes…They were pupils of old Caperario; sons of a Vicar-Choral of Canterbury they were in earth-life.  William, the elder brother, was a friend of young King Charles I.  He composed fantasias for the viol, songs, and masques.  Henry, the younger, was a friend of Milton and Waller.  Milton wrote the ‘Comus’ for him, but the music was lost.”

When Speer told the communicating spirit that he had never heard of the Lawes brothers, he was informed that Henry passed to the spirit land in 1662 and William in 1645, information which Speer later verified as fact and which he was reasonably certain that Moses had no knowledge of. 

Speer was further informed that Benjamin Cooke was, at that time, greatly concerned with Charlton and was attracted to him by similar taste.  “He in the earth of life was early developed as a musical genius.  It was, I think, before he reached the age of fourteen years that he performed upon the organ of Westminster Abbey.”

Charlton Templeman Speer, later to become a member of the Royal Academy of Music as well as Moses’s biographer, was especially intrigued by the music produced during the sittings he, his parents, and several others had with Moses at the Speers’ home. He noted that Moses had no musical ability at all and that the sitters were all in a circle with their hands joined when the music came. There was music which obviously came from an instrument and music involving no instrument of any kind.  “These latter were, of course, by far the most wonderful,” he explained, pointing out that there were essentially four types.  “First, there were what we called ‘The Fairy Bells.’ These resembled the tones produced by striking musical glasses with a small hammer.  The sounds given forth were clear, crisp, and melodious.  No definite tune was every played, but the sounds were always harmonious, and at the request of myself, or any other member of the circle, the ‘bells’ would always run up or down a scale in perfect tune.  It was difficult to judge where the sound of these ‘fairy bells’ came from, but I often applied my ear to the top of the table, and the music seemed to be somehow in the wood – not underneath it, as on listening under the table the music would appear to be above.  Next we had quite a different sound – that of a stringed instrument, more nearly akin to a violoncello than anything else I have ever heard.  It was, however, more powerful and sonorous, and might perhaps be produced by placing a cello on the top of a drum, or anything else likely to increase the vibration This instrument was only heard in single notes, and was used only by one spirit, who employed it usually for answering questions – in the same way others did by raps.”

The third sound, Charlton explained, was an exact imitation of an ordinary handbell, which would be rung sharply to indicate the presence of the particular spirit with whom it was associated.  “We naturally took care to ascertain that there was no bell of any kind in the room at the time,” he continued. “Even if there had been, it would have been a matter of some difficulty to ring it all round the walls and even up to the ceiling, and this particular sound proceeded indifferently from all parts of the room.”

Charlton found it difficult to describe the fourth sound.  He likened it to the soft tone of a clarinet gradually increasing in intensity until it rivaled the sound of a trumpet, and then, by degrees, diminishing to the original subdued note of the clarinet until it eventually died away in a long drawn-out melancholy wail.  “This is a very inefficient description of this really extraordinary sound, but as I have in the whole course of my experience never heard anything else at all like it, it is impossible to give to those who have not heard it a more accurate idea of what it was like.”  Charlton added that there was absolutely nothing in the room which could in any way produce the various musical tones, and that the clarinet and trumpet sound was beyond imitation whatever materials a skeptic might suggest Moses smuggled in and out of the Speers’ home when they weren’t looking. 

On July 13, 1874, Dr. Speer recorded that they had an admirable specimen of zither playing.  The spirit musician performed a short unbarred composition called a free prelude.  “The whole thing was most marvelous, for there is no zither in our house, and it is an instrument that cannot be mistaken,” Speer wrote. 

The spirits explained that because Moses had no real musical ability or appreciation, they could not produce “proper” music through him. Whether they drew “power” from Charlton and others in the room was not made clear.  Other spirit communication has suggested that in physical mediumship, the spirits draw their power mostly from the medium, but they also draw from others in the room. 

It may be that child prodigies are a result of such spirit influence. Dr. Charles Richet, the 1913 Nobel Prize winner in medicine, reported on the strange case of Pepito Arriola,  (below) when, at age 3 years, 3 months, he performed at the Psychological Congress in Paris during 1900.  Richet stated that the boy played brilliantly on the piano. “He composed military or funeral marches, waltzes, habaneras, minuets, and played some twenty difficult pieces from memory,” Richet wrote.  “A hundred members of the Congress heard and applauded him.”


It was further reported that little Pepito’s hands could not stretch more than five notes, yet he appeared to sound full octaves.  Some onlookers said that his hands seemed to increase in size during the playing, and Rosalie Thompson, a clairvoyant, claimed that she saw the child dissolve into the figure of a man while at the piano.

Pepito’s mother claimed that she did not teach her son to play the piano. Her first awareness of the boy’s talent was when he was just 2 ½.  She heard one of her own difficult pieces being correctly played, entered the room, and found her son at the piano.

As Pepito’s mother and other family members were accomplished musicians, the explanation by mainstream psychology was that Pepito’s ability was purely hereditary, but the real explanation likely goes well beyond mainstream psychology.

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.

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Departing Visions: An Interview with Dr. Carla Wills-Brandon

Posted on 23 September 2014, 10:30

I recently had the opportunity to interview Dr. Carla Wills-Brandon (below) for the September issue of The Searchlight, a publication of The Academy for Spiritual and Consciousness Studies (  Here is an abridged version of that interview.


A licensed marriage and family therapist, Carla Wills-Brandon is the author of twelve published books discussing topics ranging from relationships, healthy intimacy, sexual healing, self esteem, sexual trauma, addiction and recovery to grief, death, afterlife research and spirituality.  Her latest book, Heavenly Hugs: Comfort, Support, and Hope from the Afterlife, discusses heavenly visions the dying often encounter before physical death occurs.  These comforting encounters strongly suggest the personality, soul, or consciousness continues after death.

Wills-Brandon has worked with individuals impacted by the explosion of the Challenger space shuttle, the bombing of the World Trade Center, Holocaust survivors, and veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.  She has researched nearly 2,000 after-death encounters over the past 30 years.  I recently put some questions to her by e-mail.

How did you become interested in the subject of deathbed or departing visions?

“I’ve had contact with the Spirit World most of my life, and this began with a deathbed or departing vision when I was just 15. My mother, smart, funny and a Marilyn Monroe look alike, was diagnosed with terminal breast cancer at age 33. The illness then traveled to her liver and pancreas. I was at a ‘Sly and the Family Stone’ concert, when I suddenly felt really sick. I found an ambulance on the concert grounds, crawled in and promptly fell asleep. When I returned home I discovered my mother had been taken away by ambulance at the exact time I’d crawled into one. This empathetic experience was quickly shoved away because I had no one to talk about it with. Several weeks later, my mother made her transition. I woke up at the exact moment of her physical death and knew she had moved on. A phone call from the hospital minutes later validated this, but again, there was no one who would listen to me. Decades later I would learn four other family and friends also awoke at the exact moment of her crossing. As a practicing clinician in the field of psychology I tried to talk to several of my peers about this, but was brushed off again. There were numerous other Spirit World contacts after that, but I quickly learned not to talk. One year while in London presenting a paper, the IRA threatened to bomb the tube line I was on, so everyone was evacuated. Once above ground, I spotted a musty old used bookstore where I found an old book by Sir William Barrett on deathbed visions. Thrilled, I sat on the floor and read the whole work cover to cover. I wasn’t nuts!”

Of all the departing visions you have heard about, does any one or two really stand out above the others?

“I have witnessed and heard so many departing visions accounts. It really is hard to choose. That said, one of my very favorites comes from Robin Abrams. I have her full account in my first of three books on this topic, One Last Hug Before I Go: The Mystery and Meaning of Deathbed Visions. Briefly, Robin comes from a family of three siblings and is was close to her parents. Her father became ill and it was decided he needed more help than the family could offer. It’s important to know that he still had his intellect and sensibilities. While he was in a nursing home, Robin’s brother was murdered. This was a tragic event, but the family decided to not tell the father about this. They also instructed the staff at the facility to not let him watch television, listen to radio or look at a newspaper. One day Robin and her remaining sibling went to visit the ailing man. He said, ‘I think it’s so wonderful that all of my children are here. But wait, (the murdered brother) isn’t here. He’s over there!’ The father knew his son was in the Spirit World.

“Another great account comes from a Greek woman. Her mother was transitioning and close to making the move to the next life. Suddenly she started talking about all of the Greek relatives who had come to visit and demanded her daughter begin to put a party together. Though other living family members were in the room, the daughter realized her mother was talking in Greek to physically deceased family! Interestingly, I’ve found those preparing to move on, who do report visitors from the Spirit World will speak the language of their youth, be it English, Spanish, French, German, Polish or Hebrew or Swahili!”

Outside of yourself, Drs. Erlendur Haraldsson and Peter Fenwick, I can’t think of any other living researcher studying departing visions. Do you know of any?  Do you feel the area is neglected or is it too difficult to find people who have had these experiences?

“When I first started investigating departing visions 30 years ago, the only decent research I could find was that of Sir William Barrett in the early 1900s, followed by Drs. Karl Osis, Erlunder Haraldsson and Peter Fenwick. Thank goodness for their ground- breaking work! These were the shoulders I stood upon. Individuals looking at after-death communications or near-death experiences continue to try incorporating these visions into their own research by describing the experience as an extension of their area of interest, but the experience is different. After the publication of my first couple books on departing visions I was flooded with accounts from around the world, including China, Israel, Holland, Italy, South Africa, Germany, and Russia. To say I was amazed and a bit humbled is an understatement. In most cases I was the first person these experiencers had ever shared their accounts with. After this I tried to find investigators, hospitals or mental healthcare organization interested in partnering up with me on research. Sadly, I came up empty. So here I was, sitting with all of these amazing accounts with nowhere to go. Those years were incredibly frustrating. More than a decade later interest has exploded. In my most recent book, Heavenly Hugs: Comfort, Support and Hope from the Afterlife, I actually discuss the research of investigators in England, Ireland, Holland and Italy. Along with this I also include data being collected by a veterans administration in California.  Hospice now openly discusses such experiences with those transitioning and their families. Departing vision accounts have also been picked up by major newspapers. In spite of this, more work is needed to get the message out.”

A number of people have reported “soul mist” or some cloudy or vapory substance leaving the body at death.  Have you encountered many of these reports?  If so, can you give a general summary of these observations?

“I love this topic and feel it really needs more public attention. People from every walk of life, living around this magnificent globe of ours, have witnessed the pure essence of consciousness leaving the body as physical death draws near. Unfortunately, few experiencers will talk openly about this. It’s become more acceptable to be at a party with friends or family and openly share about afterlife contact or near-death experiences, but the departing vision still appears to be the stepchild left on the bench. When it comes to announcing, ‘I saw my father’s spirit leave his body and it looked like a glowing mist!’ the eyeballs continue to roll while concern for sanity is politely voiced. The Ancients described such accounts in historical literature, and even my one time, ‘You just die and become worm food,’ scientifically-minded clinical psychologist husband witnessed a pastel colored mist leaving his own father’s dying body. Since I was a child I’ve had spirit contact and in my second book on this topic, A Glimpse of Heaven: The Remarkable World of Transformative Experiences, I share my experience with spirit mist. For me, such encounters are chalked full of intense love. It’s an indescribable feeling. A surgery team out of Sweden composed of a number of hard core atheists witnessed a brilliant bluish white mist come out of their dying patient’s body and then float away. In a newspaper report several stated they’d had no belief in an afterlife or spiritual matters, but added this had turned their lives upside down. Witnessing this incredible Spirit mist forced them to re-evaluate everything they thought they knew about life, death and the dying process. History has shown us the Ancients knew our physical body housed a Soul and thankfully modern Spiritualism continues to validate this.

Are you continuing your research in this area?  Any other books planned?

I’m constantly researching because personally, spiritually and professionally I believe departing visions provide powerful validation for the continuation of the Spirit. Unlike afterlife communications or near-death experiences, departing visions come to both the one preparing to exit this dimension, and those who will remain. For the physically dying, visitations from deceased relatives, friends, and other world guides ‘check’ any fear of death. Research has also shown that difficult patients calm down while pain levels decrease. Believers and atheists can have similar experiences.  Reunions with those individuals who are already in an afterlife existence can also be emotionally healing. My mother-in-law was visited by her mother who physically perished in Auschwitz. With this, years of grief melted away just before she transitioned. Receiving a ‘glimpse’ of the afterlife validates the notion that we take ourselves to the next level and that spiritual growth or unfoldment continues. The personality is retained. For those who remain, but are visited during dream or awake time by the departing Spirit of a physical dying loved one, the experience can be life altering. Highly death-phobic individuals, materialistic in their thinking and emotionally distressed, often begin their own personal spiritual exploration after encountering a departing vision. Also, the same visitation can occur within a group. As I mentioned, I wasn’t the only one to awake from a deep sleep as my mother shed her earthly remains. There were five of us in different locations who felt her reassuring touch as she moved on to the Spirit World. Today, when departing friends or relatives stop by in Spirit form to say all is well, I’m once again reminded that the bonds of love are never severed. My mission is to help make discussion of departing visions as common as near-death experiences.”

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.

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Purgatory is for real

Posted on 08 September 2014, 10:04

It is difficult to generalize when it comes to traditional Jewish thought relative to the afterlife, as there are different schools of thought, one school not even believing in an afterlife, another school believing in it but not concerned with it, and still other schools with varying degrees of concern.  One school holds that after death only the very righteous go to Gan Eden (Garden of Eden).  The average person goes to an intermediate state, apparently Sheol, for punishment and/or purification, while the wicked go to Gehenna, a place of eternal punishment (although some Jews see Gehenna as the intermediate state).  This intermediate state is referred to by Catholics as Purgatory.  Catholics point to 2 Maccabees 12:39-46, 1 Corinthians 3:11-15, Matthew 5:25-26, and 12:31-32 to support their belief in the doctrine of Purgatory.  Although they do not clearly state it, these passages all suggest a realm where one purges his sins before being admitted to Heaven. 

The Protestant Reformation attempted to do away with the idea of Purgatory.  In fact, it was the primary issue giving rise to the break with the Catholic Church.  Martin Luther rebelled against the corruption involved with buying indulgences to shorten one’s sentence in Purgatory.  Rather than attempt to make sense of it, Protestantism found it easier to offer a black and white afterlife, Hell or Heaven, even though the “righteous” soul does not fully experience bliss of Heaven until after the Resurrection and the “wicked” soul does not fully realize his punishment until that time.  Perhaps the “staging area” is Purgatory for them, unless they happen to be in a deep sleep until that day of awakening.

If Albert Pauchard is correct, the Catholics got it more right than the Protestants, but the Catholics got it all wrong in thinking of Purgatory as something very akin to Hell except for the fact that it is not eternal.  “Purgatory is not a fancy, it is a reality,” Pauchard communicated to his sister Antoinette through a medium, shortly after his death, at age 56, on July 3, 1934.  He went on to explain that it was not a place of punishment for faults committed, but rather a place one has created for him- or herself based on his or her mindset and earthly deeds. 

Pauchard lived his entire life in Geneva, Switzerland. The Introduction to a 1952 book, The Other World (recently republished by White Crow Books), does not say much about him other than that he had served as librarian, vice-president, and president of the Geneva Society for Psychic Studies, that he had mediumistic abilities, and that he devoted his life to perfecting himself, serving God and his fellow man.  His “Purgatory” is nothing new in spiritualist literature, more a matter of giving a name to the “lower” planes, realms, spheres, or levels that a soul encounters after death in its spiritual evolution. But Pauchard’s explanation of his own experiences in the purgatorial realms is informative and intriguing. 

“I shall tell you exactly how things happened,” he communicated.  “I was conscious of retiring from my physical body.  It was a more or less unpleasant moment.  Just as if all my blood was being withdrawn first from my limbs, then from the rest of my body, in order to concentrate in my heart.  A slight pang, quite a physical one.  Then, the departure from my body and an immense relief.”

Initially, he experienced a state of serene bliss, one of complete relaxation.  “In the beginning I was more or less conscious of the presence of dear ones around me.  Of loved and familiar faces.  I felt as though after a very long journey I was received with joy by my family.  But all that as from ‘afar’ and through a mist.”  He walked about and met many old friends and some new ones. “So that I had the impression of having lived here already a long time.” However, when he again turned his attention toward his sister, he realized that only three or four terrestrial days had elapsed since his departure from the earth realm.

Purgatory is not a “place,” Pauchard explained, but a “state of consciousness.”  “Perhaps you already understand that here it is a matter of another dimension, and in the beginning, the hardest work consists in adapting oneself to it.” 

Subjective conditions there, he further explained, give the impression of being objective and take tangible, symbolic forms. “Something rather difficult to explain in order to make you grasp it, is the fact that a whole sphere of life which you call ‘subjective’ is not purely subjective to us.  The reason for this is that we live in a four-dimensional world which is constituted of more living realities than on earth.  The intensity of joy and moral suffering is multiplied more than a hundredfold, and impressions which on earth are more or less vague take an objective and symbolic form here…So it happens that here we sometimes come fact to face with a great desire or fear of the past, which has taken an objective form…Cruelty, for instance, creates horrible forms, which threaten and pursue those who have brought them forth.  On the other hand, higher feelings bring us into the presence of delicate and luminous forms which they take on by themselves.  Besides, feelings and emotions of a certain kind attract their likes and bring together those who have cultivated them, for their mutual joy or mutual discomfort, according to each case.  So that there forms around us a world created according to our own nature.” 

Pauchard said that he had met all kinds of people there. “One sees everybody as they really are, and each individual spends a more or less long period in his or her own particular purgatory.  You will be the first to understand how intensely one desires to warn those on earth when seeing this.  Because a little goodwill, the slightest effort, even without success, makes such an enormous difference in the results over here.”

Pauchard said he met a man who had been rich all his life but then lost the greatest part of his wealth due to misfortune.  Still, he had enough left to lead a comfortable life.  But he was overwhelmed by a feeling of poverty, so much so that his health suffered and he passed over due to influenza.  “At present, out here, he walks about in rags! He hides for shame when he sees somebody approach him.  I wish I could, and how I wish I could tell him that he is poor only in imagination.  But his hour of understanding has not come yet…”  The moral of it, Pauchard explained, is that if one yields to a feeling of misery on earth, he creates it there and must support it until it becomes absolutely unbearable.

He added that he observed many people there who understand nothing of their condition, unaware that they have passed from the earth life.  One such man, he noted, had prided himself on being an intellectual and had rejected the idea that humans live on after physical death.  “He was a theoretician,” Pauchard said. “He continues theorizing here.  He is not even aware that physical wants and conditions have vanished…He sees around him his study and bedroom and simply goes on in the old way as he did on earth.  As to his Purgatory, he has not yet gone through it.  There is still no room for it in his being.  His incessant and rather superficial intellectual activity must first wear out a little.”  Pauchard thought he should try to awaken the man and inform him of his condition, but his guide informed him that there was no point in it as the man would ignore him, just as he would have ignored him in the earth life.  In earth time, some don’t “awaken” to their true reality for many years. The more enlightened awaken within hours or days. 
It is a matter of “spiritual purification,” Pauchard told his sister, again stressing that it is not punishment.  He further told her that the purification can take place while she is still on the earth plane, thereby avoiding much or all of the purgatorial state. “There is nothing arbitrary in it, and no punishment,” he counseled her.  “They are only the natural consequences of causes which, long ago, you yourself set in motion, and which therefore must be liquidated by you…It must also be said, that the more willing and desirous a soul is of understanding, the sooner its trial is over, and much can be done in this respect already on earth by an attitude of true aspiration to see clearly.”

Beyond the purgatorial realms, Pauchard ended, there is a world entirely independent of man.  “Those whose souls are serene can see it – and the beauty of that world is wonderful to behold.  To venture a description is out of the question, because your mind would bring it all down to some beautiful terrestrial scenery.  Do not forget the mysterious Fourth Dimension!...One must have lived here for some time and reached a certain degree of development to become conscious of it.”

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.

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Rolf Explains How Trance Mediumship Works

Posted on 25 August 2014, 12:00

The best explanation that I have read as to how trance mediumship works came from Rolf Little (below) as communicated through the trance mediumship of Gladys Osborne Leonard to his mother, Nelly Little, after his death during World War I. 


As psychical researchers came to understand, very few spirits have the ability to communicate directly through a trance medium.  Thus, a medium, called a “control,” is required on their side as well in order to facilitate the communication.  Mrs. Leonard’s control was called “Feda” for short, said to be Leonard’s great-great grandmother, who had died around 1800.  She would take over Leonard’s entranced body and relay the message from the spirit communicator to the sitter, in this case, Nelly.  In effect, there were four parties to the communication – Rolf and Feda in the spirit world and Gladys Osborne Leonard (below) and Nelly Little on this side.  Rolf would telepathically communicate a message to Feda, who would interpret what he had to say, then relay it through Leonard’s vocal cords to Nelly Little.  Rolf likened the control to a typist and the brain of the medium to a keyboard.


“Now, you’ll ask, ‘In what way is the brain like a keyboard for the control?’ Rolf continued.  “It’s different in this way.  Instead of representing separate letters, it represents words – whole words – ideas – different emotions – in fact, you can run the whole gamut of human experience and sensation upon it…Here we have the medium’s brain and we have the control hovering over the medium, the communicating spirit adjacent. Now, the control knows that there is a spirit there, wishing to send messages through her.  She thereupon brings her power to take control over the medium’s consciousness – the medium having prepared herself by becoming as passive as possible.”

When Nelly asked for further clarification, Rolf told her that it might take five minutes or 20 minutes for the medium to achieve trance and for the control’s spirit to be drawn into the physical organism of the medium.  When it is drawn in, the medium’s spirit is temporarily ejected, although still connected by the vital cord.  “Her spirit may travel and have some wonderful experiences of its own on the spirit planes, or it may hover two or three yards away from her body,” Rolf explained. “This medium’s spirit, I have noticed, is usually close, about two or three yards roughly…It looks very much like her own body, only not so solid, because it is still connected by the vital cord, and a certain amount of the power is running away from the spirit through the cord into the body. If the spirit were disconnected by death, it would become more solid, that is, more tangible, because it would not need to put the life force into the body but would keep it with itself.”

Leonard was able to achieve the trance state within a matter of minutes on most occasions, but there were times when she failed completely and no phenomena resulted. Her failures were apparently the result of her not feeling well, having too much stress, or antagonistic forces being present.  Complete harmony and passivity were required for good results.   

“[As] the spirit oozes out of the medium’s body, the control’s spirit is drawn in,” Rolf continued. “By being drawn in, I do not mean that all the spirit body of the control is drawn in contained within the stomach and chest of the medium, because that is where it would have to be, but it may be partly outside her form, looking like an outer covering or husk.  But as spirit can penetrate though matter, part of the spirit may penetrate the actual flesh, and by this contact, the mind of the controlling spirit may become aware of any physical disturbance in the body of the medium – and it is a very good thing that it is so sometimes, because it helps the control to receive impressions from the communicating spirit, and it helps the communicating spirit to register such useful evidence as the manner of his passing over, or anything that might have happened to him in the physical life which would be a good test of identity.”

Rolf gave an example of a spirit trying to communicate that he once broke his arm when in the physical life. “...the communicating spirit would think of it strongly enough to give the impression of the broken arm in the arm of the medium…We find it much easier to give the feeling of it first to the medium’s body, because directly the control feels that; she understands that it is something sent by the communicating spirit, and that can be done in one second.  The nerve thrill is sent at once to give the pain.  This is felt at once by the control, whereas you know the difficulty there often is in getting through some specified word. This is very important. I should think of arm, broken arm. Now the control would hear me say, ‘broken arm,’ but the difficulty is that the control, by being in the body of the medium, is to a certain extent limited, because she is in a condition which is not her own natural one.  She certainly does not hear what the communicating spirit says as clearly as if she were outside the medium’s organism. But we’ll say, for the sake of argument, that she has heard me say, ‘I once broke my arm.’  Her task is now to say that through the [medium’s] body.

“Now, it may be that the medium’s vocabulary does not contain certain words and expressions that the spirit would use, or it may be that the medium would be in the habit of expressing herself quite differently – do you see?  So that if the medium would not use those words – ‘I once broke my arm,’ for example, the control would have to find the nearest expression to it. and at the same time, would find some word suggesting ‘broken,’ and would perhaps not get the idea of ‘arm’ at all at first, but merely ‘limb,’ possibly getting ‘arm’ a little later.

“It is a strange thing that the nearer the first word found on the keyboard to the desired one, the more quickly will the desired one be found. For instance, the control might get ‘shoulder’ or ‘hand’ – that would quickly suggest ‘arm,’ because the control is, so to speak, feeling her way step by step…Now, the more used a control becomes to a particular medium’s organism, the more proficient will she become in quickly and correctly finding the desire word on the keyboard – just as an expert typist quickly finds the signs and letters on the typewriter, whilst an inexperienced operator is floundering about.”

Rolf went on to tell his mother that it isn’t so much that they look for it, as that they feel for it.  Can you imagine typewriting in the dark?  An expert typist could type even in the dark. He further explained that a control can work well with one medium, but may experience much difficulty working with another medium.  Feda agreed and said she couldn’t get through Mary Harris, another medium visited by Nelly, at all, after which Rolf said that Mrs. Harris’s guides were unable to use Mrs. Leonard’s power.

“Now, Feda very often hears the word or name from the communicating spirit, but only when she is not striving unnaturally for it.  The difficulty is so much less apparent when I come prepared with certain things to say, which I can pour through in a quiet and steady stream, than if you suddenly held me up and said, ‘Do you remember your mother’s name?’  Of course, I remember it, but directly you ask for the special word, which, mind, must be one word, and no other out of the thousands it might be, you make the control anxious, and a kind of strained effect occurs in the medium’s brain.”

Rolf explained that it is much like the earth life in that when a person is striving and anxious to find a name, it won’t pop into his or her mind.  But later, when not under pressure to remember it, the name will suddenly come to mind. “The control then would possibly get a name, or perhaps an initial, which would be the same, or very like the one required. Do you remember, Feda apparently, was not sure if my brother’s name was Alan or Alec, but she kept getting Ala, Ala in the first sitting you had with her?

“You see what I mean – the control would be lucky if she found the right name, if you were pushing her and straining her. It seems to me that the power produces better results when it’s all poured through from our side, not being continually stopped and dammed…I think I said before that we might speak to the control in two ways – one, by thought or telepathy; two, by actual words; but in many cases, communication is given much more quickly by thought. For instance, if I were describing a house with a certain room in it, how much more quickly and thoroughly could I give it to the control in a series of quick pictures than by saying word for word what the house looked like, and the details of the rooms, because, as I told you the other day, the control may not be able to hear my spirit voice clearly, whilst she is in the physical body…

“You notice that sometimes Feda is very successful in spelling specified words or names, by drawing them letter by letter in the air – that is, tracing them with the medium’s finger.  That is a third method, but Feda told me that she had been controlling her medium three or four years before she was able to attempt this third method.

“You might ask me, how I show the control these pictures, as I call them, and what is the difficulty of showing them.  Why does she get them wrong as so often happens?  Now, you know that if you in the physical body have some particular object presented to your sight, the impression of that thing has to be photographed on your brain before you will be conscious what it is you are looking at.  Your eyes may be looking at a thing, but unless your brain takes up the consciousness of it, you don’t see it, proving that one must become conscious of everything in one’s brain before one perceives it, through sight, or touch, or any other sense…The control’s difficulty is the same. She has to use the brain of the medium to perceive the pictures that I show, and if the brain of the mediums does not become conscious of them, the control herself does not know, do you see, because the control is not looking at me through the medium’s eyes, or through her own eyes, but with consciousness first.  So you see the reason why it is easier to give an impression or mental picture of a certain place is because one can suggest it, if you understand, to the mind of the medium, and then the control becomes conscious of it.”

Rolf had much more to tell his mother about how things work on his side of the veil.  Rolf’s story is abridged in Chapter 5 of my recently-released book, Dead Men Talking.

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.

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The Story of Australia’s Greatest Medium

Posted on 11 August 2014, 15:42

Having read numerous books about mediums over the past 25 years,  and having written about many of the best mediums, I thought I knew all their names.  However, clearly I missed one.  In recently reading a book entitled The Certainty of Eternity, authored by L.C. Danby, I discovered an Australian medium named Stan Walsh, who, if the author has accurately reported the story – and I have no reason to believe he did not – must be considered one of the greatest of mediums.

Walsh is said to have discovered his mediumistic ability in 1919, at age 20, when he reluctantly accompanied a friend to several séances with a Port Melbourne medium.  Impressed by the information that came through at his first sitting, Walsh returned the next week and was told by the medium that he also had mediumistic ability.  She told him to hold a pad and pencil on this lap.  “The séance was almost half over when suddenly his right hand began to write on the paper; writing furiously as if controlled by some invisible hand,” Danby explained.  “Later when the lights were turned up he found himself possessor of a sheaf of written messages for every member of the circle.”

Left to Right. Bert Jones, Stan Walsh,
woman unknown, Leslie Danby

At the third meeting, Walsh experienced a complete blackout.  When he regained consciousness, he was told by those present that he was controlled by a Red Indian named Malocca and that he began speaking in Malocca’s native tongue, until Mrs. Beames asked Malocca to attempt to speak in English, after which he spoke in broken English. He said he had been sent by God to be the chief guide and doorkeeper to Walsh. Then Malocca allowed other spirit entities to speak through Walsh and many evidential messages were given to others in the room.

Bert Jones, one of Walsh’s best friends, was a “doubting Thomas” until his father communicated.  As further evidence that it was his father, Jones asked him to speak in Welsh, as he used to do.  The father obliged.  Jones then asked him to sing his favorite song in Welsh.  The father complied and further revealed a number of intimate family secrets, fully satisfying the son that he was hearing from his father.

A number of seemingly advanced spiritual personalities began communicating through Walsh, the first being Angus Du Font, a former Frenchman who said that he had died 47 years earlier.  He attempted to give those present a brief description of the world of spirit, saying it was comprised of many spheres of light and nothing of a material nature existed there.  He added that the beauty and scenery were indescribable and that there was nothing on earth to compare with it.

At a later sitting, Du Font lectured the Inner Circle that had developed around Walsh on low-level spirits, informing them that they should not call them “evil spirits,” but rather “unprogressed spirits.”  He pointed out that many of them are drawn towards séances as they long for the company of human beings and need help. He added that they dwell in darkness created by themselves.  When asked why angels or more progressed spirits do not help them out of the darkness, he explained that it takes time – as it is measured there – for them to understand higher beings.  Initially, they understand only human beings in the flesh.

Danby met Walsh in 1927, a year or so after his wife Winnie died during childbirth, when friends persuaded him to attend a séance with Walsh.  He recalled that it began with a hymn, followed by a prayer, and then a lecture by a spirit guide called Vashti.  Several other spirit visitors spoke to other people in attendance, either through the direct voice trumpet or through the medium directly.  “This went on for about an hour, and then a woman’s voice was heard coming from the lips of the medium under deep-trance,” Danby wrote. “She called me by name, and when I answered she said it was ‘Win’!  She spoke to me, and I to her.  It was an eager, emotionally-charged conversation in which she talked to me of many intimate incidents in our past life, of her care and guidance for Ron, her son by her first marriage, and many other personal matters known only to ourselves.  I was convinced beyond all doubt.  I left this house of strangers with my head in a whirl.  Life, it seemed, did have some meaning.  The dull, grey cloud of loneliness and desolation that had enveloped me for more than a year, since Win died, seemed to have lifted…”

Danby befriended Walsh and became a regular member of the circle. Over the years, he observed various forms of mediumship with Walsh, including direct voice, trance voice, automatic writing, clairvoyance, clairaudience, transfiguration, apports, and “materialized painting.” He heard spirits speak to their friends and relatives in various languages, including French, Italian, Greek, German, Hindustani, and Yiddish.  “One of the strange aspects of deep trance is that when a spirit comes back for the first time, he or she reverts to the physical condition which they were in immediately prior to death,” Danby noted. “If they died in agony, they came back in agony; if they died short of breath they came back with the same condition; if a person left the body suffering from a throat disease, he or she would come back choking and gasping for breath.  All the symptoms of pain and distress were given to the medium.”  The guides explained that this is natural for a spirit when it contacts flesh and blood again, to recall exactly how he or she felt just before death. 

Both advanced and low-level spirits visited the circle.  “Weak or unprogressed spirits who were lost or in great darkness, were continually brought to our meetings by the guides to be encouraged and helped on the road to progression and peace,” Danby further wrote.  “Whenever an unhappy spirit, or lost soul, controlled the instrument, his or her name was ascertained and each member of the circle would promise to pray for them also in the silence of their own homes.”

During one especially intriguing sitting, in 1930, a “visitor” from Belgium began speaking through the entranced Walsh in his own language.  When asked if he could speak English, there was a pause, after which the speech then came in broken English, saying, “I come from Dietrich in Belgium.  I am – what you say – a deep trance medium. I come from a circle of eight people.  Your medium – he is now in MY body bringing greetings to them, my countrymen.  And I bring greetings from my people in Dietrich.” As Danby explained it, the two deep-trance mediums had exchanged bodies.  When Walsh returned to consciousness, he said he remembered sitting in a small dimly lit room and when he began to speak, those present did not understand him.  He was shown by a spirit guide, hovering just above and in front of him, how to translate the message, so that the Belgian sitters could understand him. 

Although Walsh apparently had no artistic ability of any kind in his conscious state, he displayed considerable talent in the deep trance state, said to be controlled by a spirit called Professor Jenkinson, whose hobby when alive was painting.  “I witnessed, together with many others, the transfer of colours on to paper,” Danby wrote. “Professor Jenkinson, or sometimes the spirit of the medium’s brother, Cecil Walsh, when controlling the medium, would take an ordinary pencil or a pen and using the medium’s hands, sketch the outline of the face or figure he was working upon.  After the pen or pencil outline was completed, he would cause the medium to start to massage the fingers of each hand, with a rapid washing motion, one hand over the other.  This was done in order to release, or set in motion, the flow of magnetism through the fingers which was needed to materialize the colours.  Then he would hold the two hands of the medium over the sketch and shake the fingers deftly and swiftly over every portion of the outline.  As he did this, one could see the colours forming on the portrait.  Finally, it would be finished, in vivid colours – life-like and clear.”

On one occasion, a member of the circle, Mrs. McIntosh, brought a black and white photograph of herself encased in a frame under glass.  “As the colour stained fingers shook just above the framed photograph, we saw, appearing through the glass, the pink coming on to the cheeks, the red on the lips, golden yellow tint her hair, and blue slowly appear in the eyes,” Danby reported. “When he had finished, there before our astonished eyes, was this perfectly coloured photograph of Mrs. McIntosh, painted through the glass.”

Danby relates many more mind boggling observations in his very intriguing book, originally published in Australia in 1974 and recently republished by White Crow Books.  For more about the book see

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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.

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Life after Death, Guilt & Remorse

Posted on 28 July 2014, 14:22

Dr. Minot Savage, a Unitarian minister and psychical researcher, (below) reported on a December 28, 1888 sitting which his brother, the Rev. William H. Savage, had with trance medium Leonora Piper, of Boston, Mass.  Speaking through Mrs. Piper, Phinuit, her spirit control, told William that somebody named Robert West was there and wanted to send a message to Minot.  William Savage had known West, also a minister, but did not understand the message.


The message was in the form of an apology for something West had written about Minot “in advance.”  William Savage passed it on to his brother, who understood it and explained that West was editor of a publication called The Advance and had criticized his work in an editorial.  During the sitting, William Savage asked for a description of West, who had died in 1886. An accurate description was given along with the information that West had died of hemorrhage of the kidneys, a fact unknown to either William or Minot Savage but which was later verified by Minot.

“There was no reason for the [apology] unless it be found in simply human feeling on [West’s] part that he had discovered that he had been guilty of an injustice, and wished, as far as possible, to make reparation, and this for peace of his own mind,” Minot Savage offered.

When William Savage sat with Mrs. Piper two weeks later, West again communicated, stating that his body was buried at Alton, Illinois.  He gave the wording on his tombstone, “Fervent in spirit, serving the Lord.”  William and Minot Savage were unaware of either of these facts, but Minot later confirmed them as true. “Now the striking thing about this lies in the fact that my brother was not thinking of this matter and cared nothing about it,” Minot Savage ended the story, feeling that this ruled out mental telepathy, a popular theory of psychical researchers, on the part of Mrs. Piper.


Curious as to whether the tombstone of Robert West could be located, Amos Oliver Doyle, (see his website at drove to Alton Illinois on July 9, 2014.  “I can’t say that the cemetery was difficult to find although I did drive around a little bit until I found an access road,” he told me by e-mail.  “I finally got to Broadway Street which is a river road in the flood plain of the Mississippi River and found Pearl Street, an access road to the cemetery.  The cemetery is the old Alton City Cemetery situated on a high point overlooking the Mississippi river, although the river has changed course somewhat over time and trees and houses have sprung up obstructing the view from Robert West’s grave.  It is one of the oldest cemeteries in Illinois and appears somewhat unvisited in the older parts but I did see a new grave being dug in a newer section at the time I was there.  The neighborhood is somewhat run down and the city has moved away from this older core area.”

Doyle discovered that some of the graves date to the 1700s.  “I must say that I was somewhat disappointed when I saw the tombstone,” he continued.  “I think that after spending so much time locating the grave and considering the import of the grave relative to the Piper materials, I fantasized that I would find some granite monument with a statue of an angel with a trumpet on top, but alas, Robert West’s tombstone is a non-photogenic, modest stone located in the fourth plot from the cemetery iron entrance gate in what is probably the oldest part of the cemetery.” 

The stone, Doyle observed, is of limestone and was badly weathered with lichens over it.  “I could barely make out the names on the stone although ‘WEST” is clearly visible in raised letters at the base of the stone,” he said.  “Now I don’t know that this Robert West is the one referenced by Phinuit in the Piper materials but a few things do fit.  The burial is in an Alton Cemetery of the appropriate time period.  The death date on the stone of October 25th, 1886 agrees with the date ascertained from The Advance.  Although his birth date is badly weathered, I believe it is September 14, 1848 (or 1842?) which would make him between 38 and 44 when he died.  Apparently he was not married.  He is buried next to Margaret (?) West who was born in 1806 and died in 1887 making her 81 years old when she died.  The other person buried there is probably Cornelius (?) West with birth and death dates of 1806 and 1877 respectively making him 71 years old when he died.  It might be reasonable to assume that these two people were his parents.” 

Based on the appearance of the stone and some research, Doyle concluded that the West family was not well-to-do or prominent in Alton society as there are far more impressive monuments there.  As for the epitaph, possibly the most evidential part of the reading William Savage had with Mrs. Piper, Doyle could not make out the wording.  However, the length of the wording seemed to be appropriate for what little that he could discern.  “If I use my imagination I think I can see an ‘ing’ at the end of the first line and an ‘F’ at the beginning of the first line.  On the second line I imagine I see an ‘L’ and sometimes a ‘T’ at the beginning of the second line but, then again, I know it is supposed to say ‘Fervent in spirit, serving the Lord.’  Nevertheless, there was an epitaph there and I do believe that it was as reported.”

Changing hats and playing the “devil’s advocate,” Doyle can come up with a number of debunking theories, all based on speculation.  Even though William Savage had an anonymous sitting with Mrs. Piper, it was apparently arranged by Minot Savage, and she could have seen the brotherly resemblance between the two and concluded that it was his brother.  As Robert West lived in Boston, Mrs. Piper’s city, from 1881 to 1882, before moving to Chicago and becoming editor of The Advance, she could have known him or known of him.  Mrs. Piper could have read that West had died in Illinois and someone could have told her what he died from and about the epitaph.  Doyle can add several more “could have” possibilities to the story along with some ad hominem arguments. 

It’s like the man accused of a crime after his DNA was found at the crime scene, a place he claimed to have never visited.  It’s possible that someone had it in for the accused man, obtained hair or other body material from the man, and planted it at the crime scene.  If such a “could have” argument is accepted, nobody would ever be convicted of a crime.  It is the same with evidence for psychic matters; there is always a “could have” connected with it?
But if we look at the testimony of distinguished researchers, including William James, Richard Hodgson, Frederic Myers, Sir Oliver Lodge, and James Hyslop, Mrs. Piper’s integrity and honesty were beyond rebuke.  Hodgson, a skilled debunker when he first met Mrs. Piper, studied her for some 18 years and there was no doubt in his mind that fraud was not a factor.  Moreover, there was much evidence that came through her mediumship that stretches any “could have” speculation beyond reason.  If we accept all the spirit communication gathered by Hodgson and the others as genuine, why not the Robert West communication? 

Consider an earlier sitting, in 1886, with Mrs. Piper by Minot Savage, apparently arranged by Professor William James of Harvard, a friend of Savage’s.  In that sitting, Dr. Phinuit, speaking through Mrs. Piper, told Savage that an older man was there and was referring to Minot as “Judson.”  Phinuit also said that the man had a peculiar bare spot on his head.  Savage understood this, explaining that Judson was his middle name and the name by which his father called him, even though everyone else called him Minot.  Also, his father had suffered a bad burn at an early age, which left a large bare spot on his head, something he tried to disguise by brushing his hair over it.  (It should be noted that spirits generally show themselves in a manner that they will be remembered, not as they are in spirit life.)

During the same sitting, Phinuit also said, “Here is somebody who says his name is John.  He was your brother.  No, not your own brother, your half-brother.”  This brother also related personal facts from his life, including how he died, all of which Minot confirmed as true. “Many other things occurred during the sitting,” Savage related.  “But I mention only these, because, though simple, they are clear-cut and striking, and because I see no way by which Mrs. Piper could ever have known them.”

And we must also ask what Minot Savage and William Savage had to gain by distorting or inaccurately reporting the facts, especially considering that most clergy of the day were very much opposed to mediumship of any kind and were anxious to find ways to discredit it.  But like the weathering of the epitaph, good evidence seems to deteriorate with time and there seems always to be a need for new evidence.

As for Robert West’s guilt and remorse, I wonder if the debunkers who scoff and sneer at all psychic phenomena while attempting to defame certain gifted and credible mediums, psychics, and near-death experiencers will feel similar regret after their deaths. My guess is that they will, but that it will take them a hundred or more years in earth time for them to even realize they are dead before they can begin to apologize.     

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.

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“Soul Sickness” in Disneyland?

Posted on 14 July 2014, 9:32

This is a slight rewrite of my editorial appearing in the July issue of the Journal for Spiritual and Consciousness Studies.  For more information about the Journal and the Academy for Spiritual and Consciousness Studies, Inc., go to

“Was all this real at one time, or is it all Hollywood fantasy?”  That was the question I pondered on while sitting on a bench waiting for my wife and granddaughter in Disneyland’s Main Street USA theme park not long ago.  Were the late 1800s and early 1900s really as happy as Disney has made them out to be?

Disney aside, when I think of that era, I get fleeting images of happy times.  The “Gay Nineties” immediately comes to mind.  I picture scenes from Hollywood movies showing couples walking arm in arm in an Easter parade on Main Street, one just like Disney has depicted, people enjoying themselves at a family picnic at the lake or at the state fair.  I visualize church socials, families sitting together at a dinner table, kids swimming in the river, neat Victorian houses with manicured gardens, trolley cars with smiling conductors. prancing horses, bells ringing, little specialty shops, soda fountains, happy faces everywhere. Is it all an illusion created by Hollywood?

Actually, some of that was still around when I grew up during the late 1930s and the 40s.  People sat on their porches and waved to each other as kids skated on the sidewalk and played ball in the middle of the street.  We knew the names of everyone on the block.  We had family picnics several times a year.  People went to church on Sunday mornings and most stores were closed on Sundays.  The ice cream man pushed his cart down the street and kids ran after him with their nickels to buy an Eskimo Pie, returning to a game of hide & seek, with no fear of perverts lurking in the hiding places. 

Television changed all that.  Adults moved from the porch into the house, and the kids followed.  Streets were suddenly vacant.  Gradually, we came to not know the neighbors or if we knew them, it was only a nod, as everyone was in a rush to get home, turn on the television, and escape into a fantasy world.  TV commercials created a “need” for material things and Sunday was very soon a good day for shopping.

Based on my own childhood observations and experiences, I am inclined to think that Main St. USA is not completely fantasy and maybe such a world as Disney has tried to simulate actually existed at one time. But then when I read some of the philosophers of that period, I wonder.  For example, William James, the pioneering psychologist, is said to have suffered from what he called “soul sickness,” and even contemplated suicide around 1870, while he was attending medical school at Harvard. 

This soul sickness seems to have affected many people, apparently coming in the wake of Darwinism.  “We were all in the first flush of triumphant Darwinism, when terrene evolution had explained so much that men hardly cared to look beyond,” wrote Cambridge scholar and pioneering psychical researcher Frederic W. H. Myers,  in explaining why he began searching for evidence of the soul.  As Myers saw it, the old-world sustenance was too unsubstantial for the modern cravings, the result being that advances in science and technology were leading to unprecedented prosperity, but, at the same time, this prosperity brought about a decline in the dignity of life.  It was suddenly life without meaning. In effect, the advances in science and technology outpaced man’s ability to mentally and morally adjust to them, thereby creating an emotional void.  The “death of God,” as decreed by Friedrich Nietzsche (below) in 1882, the same year that Myers helped co-found the Society for Psychical Research, resulted in despair and hopelessness for many, especially the educated classes of the civilized world.  There were many who repressed the idea of Nietzsche’s “nothingness” by escaping into mundane earthly activities, but there were others who could not completely repress it or relieve their minds of this soul sickness.


Well before Darwinism impacted the world, mainstream religion was in decline, as science and its concomitant, rationalism, took hold.  Thomas Paine’s book, The Age of Reason, published in three parts (1794, 1795, and 1807) influenced many educated people to repudiate their religious beliefs, including both God and the idea of an afterlife. For those who sat on the fence, unsure as to what to believe, Darwinism was the knock-out blow, since it was perceived as totally refuting the biblical account of creation as set forth in the Book of Genesis, which said that God created the world in seven days.  Falsus in uno, falso in omnibus – false in one, then false in all – seems to have been the logical conclusion.  After all, if the Bible had been inspired by God, as religious leaders claimed, how could an all-knowing God be so wrong?  Therefore, god must not exist, and if there is no god, then there must not be an afterlife, either, was the logical deduction.

“Critical rationalism has apparently eliminated along with so many other mythic conceptions the idea of life after death,” observed pioneering psychiatrist Carl Jung.

In his study of the late nineteenth century, historian Donald J. Mrozek confirms Myers’s (below) assessment.  “The liveliness and energy of late nineteenth-century American culture all but necessitated that its ‘search for order’ would be accompanied by a search for meaning,” he wrote, going on to say that “although the yearning for spiritual fulfillment remained, supernatural forces faced impeachment in a century of rapidly accumulating scientific discoveries, many of which ran counter to the traditional sources of spiritual guidance.”


As materialism, scientism, Darwinism, and nihilism had become the new philosophies, “the late nineteenth century also ached for the comfort and assurance of the religious sensibility, even as specific creeds fell and denominations dissembled,” Mrozek continued.  “The need for renewal – on an emotional and spiritual level perhaps even more than a physical one – may have been even stronger beneath the surface than its public expressions, in the face of challenges from science and skepticism, suggested.”

Philosopher Eugene Rose observed that much of the literature of the nineteenth century had non-serviam as a constant theme.  The objective was to overthrow God and crush all His institutions, permitting “triumphant Man to ascend His throne to rule in his own right.”  This mindset, Rose concluded, was a result of “righteous” indignation against the injustices and tyranny of God and His earthly representatives and was based much more on passion than on the truth. 

If the spirits who communicated in the years immediately following the advent of Spiritualism in 1848 are to be believed, there was a plan behind it all – a plan that resulted from a growing loss of faith and spiritual values in an increasingly materialistic world. “It is to draw mankind together in harmony, and to convince skeptics of the immortality of the soul,” was the reply given to Territory of Wisconsin Governor Nathaniel P. Tallmadge when he asked a communicating spirit claiming to be John C. Calhoun, former vice-president of the United States, about the purpose of the strange phenomena. 

Apparently, some progress was made in restoring belief in a hereafter by 1914. In reviewing a book about life after death for the April 1914 issue of the Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research, Professor James Hyslop wrote: “The primary importance of the book is the simple fact that the subject can be discussed, when twenty-five years ago a book either affirming or denying immortality would not have received publication, most probably. Skepticism and agnosticism have been so confident of their positions ever since Immanuel Kant and Herbert Spencer, that no man has dared venture to show himself on the affirmative side for fear of being accused of being religious or of being a fool.”

But Spiritualism was not strong enough to resist the negative forces of materialism and rationalism, and it, for the most part, began to weaken around 1900.  After experiencing a resurgence during World War I, it quickly faded during the “Roaring Twenties,” when materialism renewed itself after the Great War.  An economic depression and then another world war stemmed the tide of materialism for a decade or so, but by the 1960s materialism and its close companions, hedonism and Epicureanism, had clearly declared victory.

“An unfortunate awareness has overtaken our species,” opined humanistic philosopher Alan Harrington in his 1969 book, The Immortalist. “Masses of men and women everywhere no longer believe that they have even the slightest chance of living beyond the grave.  The unbeliever pronounces a death sentence on himself.  For millions this can be not merely disconcerting but a disastrous perception.”

As Harrington saw it, when people are deprived of rebirth vision, they “suffer recurring spells of detachment, with either violence or apathy to follow.”  Harrington saw mass-atheism as responsible for most, if not all, of society’s ills, including misplaced sexual energy.  “Orgies, husband and wife swaps, and the like, more popular than ever among groups of quite ordinary people, represent a mass assault on the mortal barrier,” he opined. 
The “detachment” observed by Harrington 45 years ago seems to be much the same thing as the “soul sickness” of William James of 145 years ago.  It is likely the same thing as what was once called “shell shock” in the military and now called “Post Traumatic Stress Disorder” (PTSD).  Some call it “death anxiety.”  Whatever name be given to it, it is the result of a failure to find any meaning in life, a failure to see a greater reality.  “At the heart of this distress, the illness may be identified, simply and without sham, as the fear of aging and death,” Harrington offered. 

“The state of anxiety, the feeling of powerlessness and insignificance, and especially the doubt concerning one’s future after death, represent a state of mind which is practically unbearable for anybody,” wrote Erich Fromm, another humanistic philosopher. 

The big difference is that in those earlier years, people did not have all the escape methods they have today.  Those of William James’s time didn’t have radio, television, phones, movies, or the Internet.  There were relatively few books and limited travel.  There just was not much to do to help a person flee from the idea that life has no meaning, if that was what the person had come to believe. He or she might spend many hours sitting in front of a fire place while contemplating extinction, obliteration, and nothingness and concluding that one’s deceased loved ones are gone forever.  Nietzsche is said to have gone mad during his final years on earth.
The non-believer now just flips a switch or pushes a button to tune into some fake reality so that he or she doesn’t have to think about death and what might follow or not follow. To some extent, escapism works for many, but it manifests itself in other ways, essentially in developing a soulless society – a society governed by the so-called “Seven Deadly Sins.”  Consider how Anger is manifest in everything from world terrorism to simple road rage.  Lust is openly celebrated on television and in the movies, and various forms of sex are reportedly now common in middle school.  Greed and envy drive our advertising industry and the economy.  Pride, more appropriately translated to arrogance, is rampant among our revered athletes as well as our politicians and other leaders.  Following the belief that pleasure is the highest good, gluttony and sloth can be observed all around us, the latter especially in a growing entitlement mentality. 

Walt Disney apparently didn’t see the soul sickness of the Gay Nineties and our leaders and mental health experts don’t recognize it today.  They’ll never recognize it as long as they refuse to accept the existence of a soul, and they will never do that as long as mainstream science rejects it.  Who or what will save us?

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 will be published by White Crow Books in July, 2014

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Stafford Betty:  No Pretender, No Player, No Wimp

Posted on 30 June 2014, 17:54

A roving reporter for a TV talk show program recently stopped people on the street and asked them to name the person they admired most.  The first person named Johnny Depp, a movie actor best known for portraying a pirate.  I was puzzled that a person whose main contribution to humanity is pretending to be a pirate could be so admired.  Bad enough that a person would admire a pirate, but a pirate pretender, a fake pirate?  Another person named Tiger Woods, an athlete who doesn’t seem to do much more than hit little white balls into holes in the ground, as the person he most admired.

Other people also named actors and athletes. Since acting and sports are all about pretending and playing, what does that say about our modern world, about reality?  In effect, we have replaced the real world with a fantasy world. And we reward the pretenders and players with ridiculous contracts so that we can escape into their fantasy world.

I got to wondering whom I would name if stopped on the street by that roving reporter.  It definitely would not be a pretender or a player, which meant that the person’s name would mean little to the reporter or the audience.  I decided I would name Stafford Betty (Below).


The reporter would no doubt ask me to identify Stafford Betty and I would respond by telling him that he is a professor of religious studies and philosophy at California State University in Bakersfield, California.  But I would have to go on to explain that Dr. Betty is not your garden variety academician, certainly not your run-of-the-mill professor of religion or of philosophy.  He is very much a maverick when it comes to philosophy and the teaching of religion.  Unlike so many other educators, he doesn’t beat around the bush on topics that others find too risky, too unconventional, or too “unscientific” to discuss or even consider.  He has done extensive research in such subjects as mediumship, past-life studies, near-death experiences, and death-bed visions, separating the wheat from the chaff in his efforts to reconcile these phenomena with religious dogma and doctrine and with accepted scientific truths.  He has arrived at a reality that makes so much more sense than that offered to us by either orthodox religion or mainstream science, and, in spite of peer pressure to back away from his unorthodox and “unscientific” beliefs and teachings he has refused to “wimp out,” as others have.

According to one survey, roughly 70 percent of academic philosophers are atheists or lean in that direction, while only 16 percent believe in God, the remainder falling in an “other” category, apparently agnostic.  Such numbers certainly suggest that the younger and future generations are having their minds plowed with a materialistic philosophy, one called “humanism,” which essentially says, “eat, drink, and be merry” now, because tomorrow you’ll be extinct.  While this humanistic “living in the moment” philosophy works for some in their younger years, when they are busy raising a family and pursuing careers, it fails most people in the second half of life, as they approach the abyss into what they see as “nothingness,” because it offers no hope.  No hope results in despair.  The best way to counter despair is to jump into that fantasy world, admiring pretend pirates and people who hit little white balls into holes. 

“Most of us are addicted to earth’s immediate pleasures and unaware of our hidden depths and destiny,” Betty begins his latest book, Heaven and Hell Unveiled. “We get a little help from our religious leaders, but we need much more.” 
Betty’s focus is on the real life, not the pretend life.  He is concerned with the two most important questions that face humans: What is this life all about?  What happens after death? He has devoted much of his life to finding answers to these questions and has come up with some reasonable and credible answers.  He shared some of these answers in an earlier book, The Afterlife Unveiled, a 2011 publication, but has added to that in his latest release, published by White Crow Books.  “The first book mainly deals with the nature of the afterlife in general – a subject recently treated by quite a few other writers,” he explains the difference.  “[My latest] book emphasizes what we are expected to do there if we are to advance and not return to earth for another try. As I did the research and then the writing, I had the feeling I had stumbled on something new.” 

As Betty further explains, he lost his faith during his mid-twenties and despaired at the thought of a world without meaning followed by extinction.  However, he overcame his despair when he discovered the riches of spirit literature.  He found “a joyous, compassionate, loving, powerful, boundless, light-filled Reality at the hub of the universe with an outreach that extended to the epicenter of my soul, a Being that would resonate with a Buddhist as well as a Christian.  A God roomy enough even for an atheist.” But he is quick to admit that he is not a mystic, medium, or saint, and that he doesn’t have everything figured out.  “I’m an aspiring seeker and a pretty good researcher,” he states. “And I can tell you this with some assurance:  We are all about to enter a fascinating world.  And the more we know about it, the less scary death will be – at least if we are basically decent people.”

Although most of orthodox religion believes that the book of revelation is long closed, Betty’s research suggests that revelation is still coming to us in many ways, including communication from the spirit world.  A number of distinguished scholars and scientists, including Alfred Russel Wallace, co-originator with Charles Darwin of the natural selection theory of evolution, Sir Oliver Lodge, a pioneer in electricity and radio, Sir William Crookes, a pioneering chemist, and Sir William Barrett, a respected physicist, all discovered the same thing that Betty is now writing about long before he was even born. But materialistic science so feared a return to religious superstition and folly that it refused to seriously consider the research of those distinguished men.  Much of their research remained in dust-covered cabinets until recently when Betty and others began dusting off those old cabinets and unlocking the drawers. 

“The best of spirit communicators are driven by love for our sorrowing world,” Betty writes. “Often they see the root of the problem in materialist philosophy that denies the reality of spirit.” 

He goes on to quote one apparently advanced spirit communicator of the last century:  “At the root of all your evils is…ignorance of spiritual law.  Do you not realize that, once the gospel of materialism and all the self-interest it teaches is exploded forever, you have rid the world of its greatest curse?...Men have built their lives upon false foundations.  Nations have tried to organize their policies on the principle of national self-interest.  Dictators have risen and have become tyrannical, only because they have been subservient to the gospel that might is right.  Do you not see how necessary this knowledge is, not only to the individual, not only to the nation, but to the whole world?”

A big part of the problem, as Betty sees it, is that Christianity is too hung up on “seeing God face to face” and believing that “heaven” is a 24/7 worship service.  He points out that our spirit friends don’t claim to see God, and their lives are filled with all kinds of activity other than worship.  In a chapter entitled “The Divine Source,” Betty offers a comment by the discarnate John Thomas to his son Drayton Thomas, a Methodist minister, through the mediumship of Gladys Osborne Leonard, one of the most credible mediums in the annals of psychical research.  When the father told the son that he had never seen God, the son asked his father if we will ever be able to see God.  “I do not think that, as you develop and progress, you will wish to see Him,” the father responded.  “You will not wish to limit Him in that way…you would have brought Him down, made Him into a Being only one-millionth part of that which He is.”

Another very thought-provoking comment came from the discarnate Frederic Myers, when he communicated that “God does not love.  For love is a human virtue that is like a flame that leaps up and down.”  Myers went on to say that “if God possessed love, as man understands it, the history of the world would have been changed rather for evil than for good.  God is greater than love.  That is the phrase you should utter.” 

While the world’s major religions all tell us that we will be judged after death, the testimony collected by Betty indicates they are wrong in the details.  “Nowhere is there mention of a God sitting on a throne with scepter in hand,” he writes.  “Nowhere does it seem that some external being of any kind does the judging.”  Rather, Betty’s research indicates, we are judged by our own spirit selves.  And rather than ending up in the blissful heaven or horrendous hell taught by orthodox religion, there are many stages, spheres, or planes, the soul gravitating to the place he or she has earned by his or her works in the material life and then progressing from there.  Betty quotes another spirit source:  “[The afterlife] is no sensuous ease in a heaven of eternal rest; no fabled psalm-singing around the great white throne, whereon sits the God; no listless, dreamy idleness, cheaply gained by cries for pity or by fancied faith; none of these…”

The unthinking non-believer might jump to the conclusion that Betty is promoting the afterlife to the detriment of this one. However, such is clearly not the case.  He is concerned with making this life a more meaningful one by understanding what comes after death and being better prepared for it.  He admits to hitting little white balls into holes now and then and maybe even occasionally taking in a pirate movie to escape the turmoil of modern living. 

As Thomas Carlyle, the renowned nineteenth-century philosopher saw it, the real heroes of our world – those who should be most admired – are the men and women who concern themselves with figuring out the mysteries of life, including the unseen world.

Heaven and Hell Unveiled: Updates from the World of Spirit by Stafford Betty is published by White Crow Books and is available from Amazon and all good online bookstores.

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 will be published by White Crow Books in July, 2014


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The Death Process as Described by Andrew Jackson Davis

Posted on 16 June 2014, 9:08

Andrew Jackson Davis (August 11, 1826 – January 13, 1910) is remembered as a “seer” – in effect, a clairvoyant able to enter into a higher state of consciousness and access information otherwise unavailable to humans. In a trance state, he could diagnose illnesses and recommend cures and give lengthy lectures on esoteric subjects, in spite of the fact that he had a very limited education.  He is said to have been able to read closed books and to see the body as if it were transparent.  He discussed the existence of Neptune and Pluto before their actual discoveries, predicted air travel, and discoursed on the theory of evolution a decade before Darwin published On the Origin of Species.  His primary teachings, however, were on death and man’s state after death.


Known as “The Poughkeepsie Seer,” Davis (above) authored many books.  In his book, The Temple, he described the death process as he observed it:

Death is the word used to signify ‘the end of life,’ spoken by persons who see not that seeming death is really ‘the beginning of life,’ and the opening of the sacred volume of eternity.  But let us peer through the seeming, into that which is within the veil.

“The person is now dying; and it is to be a rapid death.  Observe something about temperature.  The feet are cold; the hands hot and white; a coldness pervades the entire cuticle.  See?  What is that accumulating in the atmosphere just over the pillowed head?  It is an ethereal emanation – a golden magnetic halo – a throbbing, almost self-conscious atmosphere.

“The bodily temperature is now lowering rapidly.  The coldness has extended upward from the toes to the knees, and from the fingertips to the elbows; while, in exactly the same ratio, the emanation has ascended higher over the head.  The arms are now cold to the shoulders, and legs to the hips; and the emanation, although not higher in the air, is more expanded, with a compact white center, resembling the bright nucleus of a miniature sun. This brilliant central spot, is, in very truth, the brain of the new spiritual organism now forthcoming.

“The death-cold steals over the heaving breast, and around on either side the temperature is greatly diminished.  Look now! The psychic emanation contains some proportion of every principle composing the soul – motion, life sensation, ethers; essences, vital magnetism, vital electricity, instincts – and, much enlarged by accessions, it has floated up in a compact mass, and now occupies a higher altitude near the ceiling.

“Now the lungs have ceased to breathe, the pulse is still, the physical heart is motionless; while the brain cells, the corpus callosum, the medulla, and the spinal cord and ganglia, are ablaze with contractive and expansive energies, which gently pulsate and seem to direct and govern themselves by a kind of automatic self-consciousness.  See!  The negative (gray) substance of the brain is interiorly throbbing – a slow, measured, profoundly deep throb – not painful, but massive and harmonious like the deep heart-beat of the sea.

“Look up! The exalted emanation, obedient to its own changeless laws, is now elongated, and has attained a position at right angles with the horizontal body below.  Behold!  See how the outline of a beautiful human form is being fashioned within that emanation.  Beneath it is still tied by a white life-cord to the medulla and the corpus callosum within the brain.

“You observe that a very fine vitalic thread still connects the vortices and central fibers of the dying brain with the lower extremities of the exalted outlined human being in the atmosphere. Notwithstanding the existence of this life thread, which acts like a telegraphic conductor – conveying messages in opposite directions at the same moment – you observe that the shadowy image enveloped in a golden emanation, continues almost imperceptibly to ascend skyward.

“There! What do I now see?  A symmetrically shaped human head rising above the mass – slowly, beautifully rising out of the golden cloud of substantial principles.  And now appear the outlines of a spiritual countenance – a quiet face and full of beauty, surpassing the power of words to delineate.  Look again!  behold emerging the fair neck and beautiful shoulders; and see! as we gaze, out come one after the other, in a rapid succession, as if influenced and directed by the wand of a magician, all the parts of a new body – a bright, natural looking, yet spiritual image – only a little less than the deserted physical body, a perfect re-appearance of the person in the immediate heavens, prepared to accompany the celestial group of superintending intelligences to the Summerland.

“What was that?  In the twinkling of an eye the vitalic electrical telegraphic thread was snapped – the yet lingering particles and principles were suddenly attracted upward and absorbed into the spiritual body – and lo! the new organization is free of terrestrial gravitations, is instantly and absolutely independent of the weights and cares that chained it firmly imprisoned to earth.  (Those only are free at death who have lived righteously.  Any enthralling passion, the least feeling of duty undischarged, of injustice committed, holds the spirit to earth, as a ship is fastened by a heavy anchor.  Only the pure are free.)

“Here now behold a true, substantial, immortal, spiritual body.  It was sown in darkness and dishonor; it is raised in beauty and brightness. Behold the contrast – the vastly wide difference – between the interior and outward.  Cast your eyes around the room.  There are many friends, aged relatives, and little children, in the death chamber; they mourn, without the comfort even of blind faith; they grieve, with only the whisperings of hope to the doubting ear; they gather around the prostrate, cold body; they press together the lids of the sightless eyes; in silence and in sorrow they withdraw from the scene; and now other hands commence those final preparations with which the living consecrate the dead.

“But let us open our brighter eyes – the eyes that we shall all have when clothed with the deathless garment of immortality.  See! The newly organized spiritual body – surrounded by a group of guardian angels – moves gracefully off in the direction of celestial shores.  The arisen personality follows a vibrating thread of magnetic attraction, which while the dying mutations were in process we noticed penetrating the apartment and fastening itself to the earthly brain of the resurrected.  It comes floating down from the sensorium of superior intelligences – a golden fibrillous stream of telegraphic light – sent from on high, to greet with love and guide with wisdom the newly arisen.  The thought-laden love-thread tranquilly draws the new born higher up and farther away.

“Over the velvet lands and flower fields of the celestial country the bending bow of eternal promise is visible, filling with indescribable beauty the boundless ocean of world-laden skies, which cover the infinite loveliness the immeasurable zone-lands of the Hereafter.”

A Body Blown to Bits

At the Civil War battle of Fort Donelson in 1862, Davis witnessed a soldier blown into many parts by a cannon ball.  “I saw that all the particles streamed up and met together in the air,” he wrote.  “The atmosphere was filled with those golden particles – emanations from the dead – over the whole battlefield.  About three-quarters of a mile above the smoke of the battlefield – above all the ‘clouds that lowered’ upon the hills and forests of black discord, there was visible the beautiful accumulation from the fingers and toes and heart and brain of that suddenly killed soldier.  There stood the new spiritual body three-quarters of a mile above all the discord and din and havoc of the furious battle! And the bodies of many others were coming up from other directions at the same time.”

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 will be published by White Crow Books in July, 2014

Next blog post: June 30

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Why “Higher Truths” Have Been Rejected By Humans

Posted on 02 June 2014, 9:51

Why don’t they say something meaningful?  Why not tell us about how they live in the spirit world?  Why not give us a cure for cancer?  Why so much trivial stuff, like what happened to Uncle Jerry’s gold watch?  Such were the questions often asked by skeptics about messages purportedly coming from spirits in the early days of psychical research.  The same questions are still asked today. It is something of a Catch 22 situation; that is the “trivial stuff” is evidential and designed to convince people of the reality of spirit communication and a spirit world, while communication setting forth “higher truths” are not subject to validation or verification. 

Such skeptics only show their ignorance, as there were volumes of messages coming through mediums in those early years about the nature of the afterlife and its relationship to the material world.  As pointed out in my last blog post here, Adin Ballou,  possibly the first serious psychical researcher, explained some of it in his 1852 book, but much more was set forth by Judge John Edmonds and Dr. George T. Dexter in their 1853 book, Spiritualism, most of it purportedly communicated by the spirits of Emanuel Swedenborg, (below) a renowned 18th Century scientist, and Francis Bacon, a distinguished 17th Century scientist and philosopher. Not long after that, still in the 1850s, French researcher Allan Kardec provided a wealth of information supposedly coming from a number of advanced spirits, including Swedenborg.  Still in the 1850s, Robert Hare, a professor of chemistry at the University of Pennsylvania and a world-renowned inventor, recorded many messages relating to the nature of the afterlife and the laws governing it. 


Ballou noted that a number of mediums had been discredited and branded charlatans because the words supposedly coming from great minds in the spirit world were not consistent with their styles or modes of expression when in the earth life.  He concluded that these great minds in the spirit world, realizing how difficult it is to find a medium with the necessary intellectual capacity to convey their message, concerned themselves more with communicating fundamental principles and ideas than with the verbiage.  “I read communications purporting to come from these illustrious sources with a good deal of distrust,” he offered. “Yet, I cannot doubt that some of them are substantially authentic and reliable. 
These, however, are not all invulnerable to the objection.  A part of them exhibit the defects complained of.  How is this to be accounted for?  By making due allowances for the imperfection of the mediums. Perhaps not one in fifty of those yet developed is susceptible of sufficient spiricity to be a clear intellectual medium and at the same time passive enough not to perplex the impressions and expressions of a communicating spirit.  Yet, without this strength, clearness, and complete passivity of the medium, no spirit can be expected to give his own peculiar language.  The medium is a sort of amanuensis, translator, or interpreter of the spirit’s leading ideas.  In this character, mediums will exhibit, in various degrees, the defects of their own respective rhetoric.  Unless their perspicuity, force, and command of language be equal to that of the mind communicating through them, the same result will follow, as when an accomplished mind in the flesh is obliged to write or speak through a clumsy amanuensis, translator, or interpreter.” 

Ballou wondered why messages coming through mediums sometimes reflected their own ideas.  “In such cases the mediums are of recent development and very imperfect, or else, for the time being, are in an impassive, feverish state, greatly influenced by positive minds near them,” he opined. “These exercise a strong physical influence, and either suspend, or warp and deflect the action of the spirit attempting to respond.”

Edmonds, (below) who served as Chief Justice of the New York Supreme Court, also took note of   conflicting messages.  As he understood it, spirits do not become all-knowing once they enter the spirit world and thus they sometimes disagree with each other.  Much depends on their degree of advancement.  One of the problems was that spirits in the lower realms – the less advanced ones – could more easily communicate with people on earth than those spirits in a much higher vibration.  “There are at times contradictions and inconsistencies in spiritual intercourse, as all must be aware, but there is one remarkable fact, viz., that amid all these incongruities – through all mediums, whether partially or highly developed – from all the spirits who commune, whether progressed or unprogressed, there is a universal accordance on one point, and that is that we pass into the next state of existence just what we are in this; and that we are not suddenly changed into a state of perfection or imperfection, but find ourselves in a state of progression, and that this life on earth is but a preparation for the next, and the next but a continuation of this.”


In fact, Edmonds, who set out to debunk mediums, developed mediumistic abilities of his own and soon recognized that most messages were subject to “moral taint” – that is, influenced by the mind of the medium.  “Take my own mediumship as an illustration.  The visions which I have are impressed on my mind as vividly and distinctly as any material object possibly can be, yet in giving them to others, I must rely upon and use my own powers of observation, my own memory, my own command of language, and I not infrequently labor under the difficulty of feeling that there is no work known to me that is adequate to conveying the novel ideas communicated. I am often conscious that I fail, from poverty of language, in conveying the sentiment I receive with the same vigor and clearness with which it comes to me.  So it is also with what I may call the didactic teachings through me. Sometimes the influence is so strong that I am given, not merely the ideas, but the very words in which they are clothed, and I am unconscious of what I am going to say until I actually say it.  At other times, the thought is given me sentence by sentence, and I know not what idea or sentence is to follow, but the language used is my own and is selected by myself from my own memory’s storehouse.  And at other times the whole current of thought or process of reasoning is given me in advance, and I choose for myself the language and the illustrations used to convey it, and sometimes the order of giving it. But in all these modes there is more or less of myself in them, more or less of my individuality underlying it all.  It must indeed be so, or why should I speak or write in my own tongue rather than in a dead or a foreign language unknown to me?”

Nevertheless, Edmonds’s daughter, Laura, seems to have been a much more advanced or developed medium, as she spoke only English and a smattering of French in her conscious state, but spoke Spanish, French, Greek, Italian, Portuguese, Latin, Hungarian, and Indian dialects fluently when entranced (or rather the spirits spoke the languages using her voice mechanism).  Still, the spirits were limited in what they could communicate through Laura and other more developed mediums.

As an example of the problem, let’s say that Albert Einstein, now in the spirit world, wants to communicate an important scientific fact to a scientist still in the flesh here on earth.  Unless he can find a medium with a very high IQ who is conversant in the particular science and in mathematical ways of expressing ideas, he will fail.  If he succeeds in finding a very smart medium but one still lacking in the necessary intelligence, it is probable that whatever Einstein has to say will come out distorted and convoluted, so much so that it is meaningless or worthless.

If some medium were to approach a famous scientist and tell the scientist that Einstein has some important information to communicate to him or her, the scientist would no doubt sneer at the very suggestion and tell the medium to get lost.  Thus, it is not likely that Einstein will even make the attempt, nor is it likely that some scientist on the other side who possibly knows the cure for cancer will be able to communicate it.  However, he might attempt to impress some ideas directly on the brain of a scientist whom he deems capable of understanding them, but such impressions are also subject to misinterpretations and distortions as they are filtered through the brain of the earthly scientist.  Still, such inspirational impressions are considered by many familiar with mediumship to be a big part of advances in knowledge, even if the person receiving the inspiration doesn’t realize where the ideas are coming from and takes all the credit for him- or herself.

The bottom line to all this is that there are different kinds of mediums and they vary significantly in ability, depending on a number of factors, including passivity and development.  The messages coming through them can be “colored” or tainted by their own minds as the ideas are filtered through their brains, but when those messages are contrary to what the medium believes and consistently come through other mediums, we should consider the possibility that there is some truth in them.

It was Swedenborg, a Swedish scientist, mathematician, inventor, statesman, author, and mystic,  credited with making significant discoveries in astronomy, anatomy, chemistry, and geology, who, according to spirit messages, worked with Benjamin Franklin in the spirit world, and figured out how to communicate through people who came to be called mediums by means of “raps,” “taps,” and “table tilting – so many raps, taps, or tilts of the table for each letter of the alphabet.  Considering the many messages he sent through several mediums, including the famous Andrew Jackson Davis, in those early years of mediumship, he seems to have had a mission – one of enlightening the world to the true nature of both this world and the spirit world.  In fact, the two volumes published by Edmonds and Dexter contain over 1,000 pages with hundreds of ideas or “truths” for the most part foreign to religious, philosophical, and scientific beliefs of the day.  But because what Swedenborg and Bacon communicated was not totally consistent with what they believed in the flesh – either in thought or in manner of expression – the skeptics attacked it as fraudulent and the religionists called it demonic.

Swedenborg, Bacon, and other “great minds” in the spirit world provided us with answers to nearly all the questions people had and still have about the nature of reality, but 160 years later it is still ignored.  Clearly, there is no point in other great minds from the spirit world attempting to educate and enlighten us, as few, if any, would believe it to be true.  “Yeah, yeah, and what does Cleopatra have to say?” would be the smug, self-righteous reaction.  How sad!!!

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 will be published by White Crow Books in July, 2014

ext blog post:  June 16

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Was Adin Ballou the First Psychical Researcher?

Posted on 19 May 2014, 12:34

Although the formation of the Society for Psychical Research (SPR) in London during 1882 is considered by many to be the beginning of scientific research into psychic phenomena, it is clear to anyone delving into the subject that there was considerable research going on well before then, beginning shortly after the “Rochester Knockings,” which triggered the mediumship epidemic in 1848.  My book, The Afterlife Explorers: Volume 1 discusses the research that took place between 1848 and 1882, suggesting that Judge John Edmonds was the first dedicated psychical researcher. 

Edmonds, who served in both branches of the New York legislature, for some time as president of the Senate, before being elevated to the New York State Supreme Court, of which he would become Chief Justice, began his 23-month investigation of mediums in January 1851. “I was at the time a disbeliever,” he wrote. “I had all my wits about me, and was on the sharp look out for deception.”  After witnessing several hundred manifestations in various forms and keeping detailed records of them, he co-authored, along with Dr. George T. Dexter, a book entitled Spiritualism, published in 1853. The book attested to the genuineness of much of the phenomena he had witnessed. 

But it appears I may have been mistaken in naming Edmonds as the first dedicated psychical researcher.  That distinction may very well belong to Adin Ballou, (below) remembered primarily as an influential pacifist, abolitionist, and Unitarian minister.  I recently discovered his 1852 book with the lengthy title, An Exposition of Views Respecting the Principal Facts, Causes and Peculiarities Involved in Spirit Manifestations Together with Interesting Phenomenal Statements and Communications. It is not clear from the contents of the book when Ballou began his investigation of mediums, but the publication of his book definitely preceded Edmonds’s book.


Ballou was clearly an objective and discerning investigator.  He discussed nearly all of the concerns that SPR researchers had relative to mediums many years later, including the coloring of messages by the medium’s subconscious.  He expressed his skepticism toward some phenomena. “I believe that spirits in the flesh, i.e., the mind of the medium, or the minds of persons surrounding the medium sometimes thwart, warp, peculiarize, or modify the manifestations and communications made,” he wrote in the first chapter.  “I also believe that low and very imperfect departed spirits sometimes manifest themselves.  This is the ground I take.  It enables me to account for the multifarious reliable and unreliable developments of this mysterious agency more satisfactorily than any other.”
After summarizing phenomena reported by credible witnesses, Ballou tells of his own observations beginning with a wide range of communicating “raps” and “taps”—from some like the ticking of a watch to that like someone pounding on the door, while also including a sound like scratching of a hard finger nail on a board.  “I have heard the time and metre of tunes beaten out with utmost accuracy, and by several rappers in unison – not only while the tune was being played or sung, but afterwards, without accompaniment,” he recorded.  “And I am as certain that these sounds were not made by any conscious mortal agency, as I am of the best authenticated facts in the common transactions of life.

“I have seen tables and nightstands of various sizes moved about in the most astonishing manner, by what purported to be some invisible agency, with only the gentle and passive resting of the hands or fingerends of the medium on one of their edges.  Also, many distinct movings of such objects, by request, without the touch of the medium at all.  I have sat and conversed by the hour together with the authors of these sounds and motions, by means of signals first agreed on; asking questions and obtaining answers – receiving communications spelled out by the alphabet – discussing propositions sometimes made by them to me, and vice versa – all by a slow process, indeed, but with every possible demonstration of intelligence, though not without incidental misapprehensions and mistakes.  I have witnessed the asking of mental questions by inquirers, who received prompt and correct answers as when the questions were asked audibly to the cognition of the medium.

“I have know these invisibles by request, to write their names with a common plumbago pencil on a clean sheet of paper – half a dozen of them, each in a different hand.  To make sure of this, as an absolute fact, the medium was required to lay her left hand, back downwards, in the hollow of a veracious person’s hand, both open; when a piece of pasteboard paper was laid on her hand, a well examined bland sheet of writing paper placed thereon, and a lead pencil on top of that; in which position (the medium’s right hand being held up to view) both the hands, with these fixtures resting on them, were placed under the leaf of the table, as insisted on by the writers.  After a minute or two, at a given signal by the spirits that they had done, the paper was exhibited with various names written thereon, as above affirmed.  This was repeatedly tested with the same results, under circumstances putting all suspicion of fraud and jugglery entirely at rest.

“I have requested what purported to be the spirit of a friend many years deceased, to go to a particular place, several miles distant from that of the sitting, and to bring me back intelligence respecting the then health and doings of a certain relative well-known to the parties.  In three minutes of time the intelligence was obtained, numerous particulars given, some of them rather improbable, but every one exactly confirmed the next day, by personal inquiries made for that purpose.”

In one sitting, a spirit communicator asked if Ballou had selected his subjects of discourse for the next Sunday service.  He replied that he had selected only one subject and asked the spirit if he would like to suggest another topic.  The spirit replied that he would and spelled out the word “The,” after which the message ceased. Another spirit then communicated and informed Ballou that the spirit giving the message had been called away for a few moments but would continue upon his return.  Within 15 minutes, the spirit returned and completed the suggested topic, being “The second chapter of first Corinthians; the twelfth and thirteenth verses.”  Neither Ballou nor anyone else in the room could recall what that Bible passage covered, but upon checking a Bible, Ballou saw that it had to do with spirit communication, stating in part, “Which things we also speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth….”
Ballou went on to say that he had seen a medium “gently magnetized and thrown into a trance in one minute, by the imperceptible influence of the spirits.”  The spirits then used her organs of speech and answered numerous questions, instead of responding with the usual raps.  “That these trances were not superinduced by mortal agency, and were not feigned but real, I am as certain as I can be of anything not absolutely beyond the possibility of mistake,” he wrote.
Nevertheless, there were discrepancies and contradictions in the information coming from the spirits.  “Sometimes it has been found that if the medium was strongly prejudiced, or was overawed by associates of that character, the teachings of the first few weeks were biased considerably by those influences,” he explained,  “whereas afterwards, when the communications seemed to be made more freely and independently of the medium’s mind, these peculiarities ceased, and the doctrines attested became accordant with the general current.”
Among the consistent “teachings” of the spirits recorded by Ballou were:

* There are seven spirit spheres, or circles, inferior to the heavenly or celestial spheres, and each sphere or circle has several degrees. Man progresses through these spheres, drawing nearer and nearer to God, or nearer to the divine standard of perfection.

    * Death does not change man’s real character, nor his proper spirit sphere, nor his capability to make progress, nor the laws of progress. 

* Many spirits remain very long in the lower spheres, but while they are “spirits in prison” there is no such place or state as a hell, of unmitigated, hopeless mercy. 

* God, angels, and all the higher spirits are forever seeking the elevation of the inferior spirits, by all just, wise, and appropriate means. 

* Spirits in the higher spheres are employed in three general exercises: 1) in striving after a more perfect knowledge of and communication with God, whom they cannot see there any more than here, as a personal being, but only in spirit by faith and intuition; 2) in study, self-examination, contemplations of truth, and acquainting themselves with all useful knowledge attainable to them; 3) in ministering to struggling spirits on earth and in the lower spheres – endeavoring to elevate and bless them. 

* Spirits in any circle can descend into all the circles below their own, but cannot, except by special permission, ascend into a higher sphere, until qualified by spiritual progress. 

More about Adin Ballou in my next blog on June 2

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 will be published by White Crow Books in July, 2014





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Is Heaven for Real?

Posted on 05 May 2014, 20:14

The principal difficulty confronting the survival hypothesis is an intelligible Hereafter.  – H. H.  Price, Wykeham professor of logic, Oxford Univ.

Most journalists seem to feel that they have to treat anything relating to the afterlife or the spirit world with tongue in cheek, lest they be judged fools.  It’s as if they are trying to say,  “Dear Reader, you know I’m too intelligent to really believe any of this spook stuff, but I’ll give my two-cents worth anyway. Hee! Hee!  Ha! Ha!” Then they proceed to show their ignorance by revealing that the only afterlife they have heard of is that of orthodox Christianity, one which they find totally unjust. After all, what kind of all-loving God would permit such a system – one in which one mistake, whether it be a serious transgression or not accepting the right savior, can result in unspeakable and unimaginable torment and anguish for eternity? No person in his or her right mind can accept such a God. 

The recently-released movie, Heaven is for Real, has generated a number of columns and blogs by journalists and bloggers. As they all seem to see it, the afterlife is either the humdrum heaven or the horrific hell, as taught by most Christian religions.  Of course, Catholicism teaches a middle ground, of sorts, in purgatory, but ask any Catholic what purgatory is all about and the odds are that the person has no clue. The Church once taught that it is just as bad as hell but not eternal, a place where sins are purged before one is allowed to enter heaven. 

Today, however, as near as I can determine, purgatory isn’t really discussed. 

None of these journalists or bloggers stops to define “heaven.”  Kirsten Powers, a columnist for USA Today, points out that 74 percent of Americans believe heaven is real, while only 59 percent believe the same of hell.  The poll she refers to apparently didn’t look at anything in between the two extremes, nor did Powers.

She finds it curious that some people cling to the idea of heaven while ignoring hell, wondering if it is all part of the “omnipresent self-esteem movement,” playing itself out as “I’m OK, you’re OK and I’ll see you in heaven.”  Such an approach does seem to let that cruel and vindictate God of the Old Testament off the hook.

Why is it that so few seem to grasp the frequent teaching coming to us through credible mediumship that the afterlife is not just a boring heaven and a terrifyting hell? We have been frequently told that there are many spheres or planes, whatever name be given to them, and we begin at the level we have prepeared ourselves for. Hell is like a bad dream at the lowest level, but it is not eternal. If we define heaven as the very highest level, nearly everyone has a long way to go before reaching that Oneness – a Oneness, we are frequently told, in which we retain our individuality.

The predominant religious thinking seems to be that we end our earthly lives being labeled either “righteous” or “wicked” – no in-between – and our afterlife environment is either blissful or horrendous. In the blissful state, we should find, according to some religions, souls who led selfish and hateful lives but who repented on their deathbeds or “found” their Savior just before dying and suddenly became “righteous.”  Among the tormented, we should expect to find souls who led righteous lives for most of their years but who possibly transgressed just before dying or never recognized their Savior.  How can any thinking person reconcile such “justice” with an all-loving and forgiving God?  Is it any wonder that so many “thinking” people turn to atheism and humanism?

In John 14:2, Jesus says, “In my Father’s house are many mansions.  If it were not so I would have told you.”  Greek scholars tell us the Greek word translated to “mansions” originally meant a stopping place or a temporary abode.  However, the usual self-serving orthodox Christian interpretation of it is that Jesus was referring only to that part of the afterlife that is not hell. 

Modern revelation coming to us since the 18th Century, beginning with Emanuel Swedenborg and continuing through various seers and mediums, clearly points to many spheres, planes, realms, dimensions, levels, or degrees of vibration in the afterlife and strongly suggests that when we leave this earthly realm, we go to the one we have prepared ourselves for.  To put it another way, there are many degrees of righteousness and wickedness.  It is not all black and white; there are many and various shades of gray in the afterlife.

Swedenborg, the brilliant scientist who learned to travel out of body into other realms,  wrote that he discovered “infinite diversity” and “countless communities” during his clairvoyant explorations.  Like Swedenborg, Edgar Cayce, the famous American “sleeping prophet” of the last century, also told of taking a tour of many realms during one of his travels out of body.  He described how he encountered a stream of light he knew he must follow.  In the lower or darker realms he saw “forms” that were floundering or lost and seeking the light.  As the light grew stronger and stronger, he arrived at a place where individuals appeared much as they do today. Some seemed content, while others were striving for greater knowledge and light.

After his death in 1772, Swedenborg continued to teach, communicating through various mediums, including George T. Dexter, a New York physician (Below). On May 22, 1853,  Swedenborg communicated that the moral condition of the spirits of the lower spheres does not appear to differ materially from the moral condition of the unprogressive man in our world.  “They may, it is true, have moments when their spirits yearn for the brighter spheres beyond their dark plane, when conscious of its birthright, the soul awakens to a sense of its own degradation, and realizes its true situation,” he wrote through Dexter’s hand, “but they live and act as unprogressive man does, daily performing their accustomed round of malicious action, and carrying out the designs of their blunted perceptions; and it is not till some event, out of the ordinary occurrences of life, arouses them completely and opens their understanding to the reception of truth, that they begin to progress. 

There is so little difference in the whole action of spirit-life from your life, except that one step forward has been made.”


Swedenborg went on to say that spirits in the lower spheres live as if they do not realize there is anything beyond their own misty dwelling places, and as if they are incapable of being impressed with good and true. (See prior blog entry on spirits who don’t realize they are dead.)

Francis Bacon, the late 16th and early 17th Century English scientist and philosopher, partnered with Swedenborg in communicating through Dr. Dexter.  On September 25, 1853, one of the circle sitters, a Mr. Warren, asked Bacon what impelled spirits in the lower and darker spheres to choose to go there and remain there indefinitely.  “The reason is obvious,” Bacon replied. “The great law of like attracting like obtains throughout the whole of the spheres.  When a departed spirit enters into the spheres, he is at once attracted where he finds congeniality of place and persons.  They could not be happy in the bright spheres.  They could find no enjoyment where there is either virtue or goodness.  Thus their first efforts are to locate themselves where the acquired attributes of mind in all its workings may be gratified.  Their bodies are gross and their minds still grosser.”

Bacon added that there is in this condition of both body and mind a state which rejects magnetically all above and that they are compelled to take a place appropriate for their moral advancement or lack thereof. He said that the law of affinity is manifest as much in the higher spheres as in the lower, and that no spirit can become bad all at once or good instantly, going on to say that the law of progression and retrogression is in full force in all spheres. 

Within two or three years of the communications coming through Dr. Dexter, Robert Hare, (below) a renowned inventor and professor emeritus of chemistry in the University of Pennsylvania, received similar messages.  As he came to understand the afterlife environment, there are many gradations between the lowest degrees of vice, ignorance, and folly and the highest degrees of virtue, learning, and wisdom.  When we cross over to the other side after physical death, we take our place based on what Hare called a “moral specific gravity.”


Although Hare set out to debunk mediums, he soon came to realize that, while there were frauds, that there were genuine mediums between the living and the “dead.” He began asking communicating spirits about their abodes, their modes of existence, their theological doctrines, and diversities of their situations.  He was told that there are seven spheres, the terrestrial sphere occupied by humans being the first, while the second sphere is where depraved spirits find themselves until they can begin the process of purification that allows them to ascend to higher spheres.  When spirits reach the seventh sphere, they are entitled to enter the supernal heaven.  He was also informed that there are no visible boundaries between spheres, but spirits have a peculiar sense which makes them understand when they are passing from one sphere to another. 

Hare was informed that the spheres revolve with the earth on a common axis around the sun, but they are not dependent on the sun for either light or heat.  Rather, the spirit receives light and heat from his internal or spiritual correspondence.  Moreover, there is no division of time. “Although we, like you are constantly progressing toward perfection, our ideas of time and the seasons differ widely from yours; with you it is time – with us, eternity,” his deceased father informed him.  “In the terrestrial sphere, a man’s thoughts, being bounded by time and space, are limited; but with us they are extended in proportion as we get rid of those restrictions and our perceptions of truth become more accurate.”
Like the skeptics of today, Hare initially couldn’t conceive of living in an eternity even under the most favorable conditions we encounter on earth.  It would no doubt get pretty boring after a time, he reasoned. “The most favorable idea of heaven given in Scripture seems to be that which identifies it with Paradise,” Hare wrote. “In other words, a most beautiful garden. But who would conceive an eternal residence in one garden, however superlative its attractions, as desirable?

As Hare came to understand, however, it is human arrogance – the belief that we in the flesh can understand everything – that limits us, and we make a serious mistake in applying our limited terrestrial mentality and conditions to the celestial realms, i.e., that is, they are beyond human comprehension. 

Hare accepted that, but now, 160 years later, we still get that tongue-in-cheek arrogant reaction from journalists and other skeptics, as if to say, “If I, as brilliant as I am, can’t see it or understand it, it can’t possibly be true.”

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 will be published by White Crow Books in July, 2014

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Knowing if you are dead or not

Posted on 21 April 2014, 9:59

There have been numerous messages and signs from the spirit world indicating that many spirits are slow in recognizing that they are “dead,” some floundering in an “earthbound” stupor for a long time, however time is measured in that realm. This phenomenon was popularized in the hit movie, The Sixth Sense, a decade or so ago, when the Bruce Willis character apparently didn’t know he had died. 

Emanuel Swedenborg, (below) the brilliant 18th Century scientist who learned to leave his body and explore the afterlife realms, may have been the first to mention this phenomenon.  He said that he had met newly departed souls in something of a stupor, unaware they were “dead.”  This seemed especially true of people who had “denied the Divine” when alive in the flesh.  When they finally came to realize that they had left the physical body behind and were existing in a different state, they were, he said, “acutely embarrassed.”


Now and then I have discussed this phenomenon with people who do not believe in an afterlife.  They usually scoff at the idea that one cannot know he or she is “dead.”  I then ask them if they know that they are “alive” when they are dreaming during a deep sleep.  A puzzled look usually results. 

According to a number of esoteric teachings arising out of spirit communication, the magnetic currents hold the spirit body close to the physical body during earthly life and continue to some degree after death depending on the degree of spiritual consciousness achieved by the individual while alive in the flesh. That is, the more spiritual consciousness the person develops, the quicker the magnetic currents are destroyed.  Conversely, the soul who has not developed much spiritual consciousness will be slow in breaking the magnetic bonds, thus lingering around his or her physical remains in the “earthbound” condition, indefinitely, not completely comprehending the fact that he/she is “dead.” 

Allan Kardec, a distinguished 19th Century French educator and psychical researcher, likened the “earthbound” condition to somnambulism, as in sleepwalking, when the somnambulist who is thrown into a magnetic sleep cannot believe that he is not awake. “Sleep, according to their idea of it, is synonymous with suspension of the perceptive faculties, and as they think freely, and see, they appear to themselves not to be asleep,” he further explained.

“The moral state of the soul is the condition which determines the ease, or the difficulty, with which the spirit disengages himself from his terrestrial envelope,” Kardec continued.  “The strength of the affinity between the body and perispirit (spirit body) is in the exact ratio of the spirit’s attachment to materiality; it is, consequently, at the maximum in the case of those whose thoughts and interests are concentrated on the earthly life and the enjoyment of material pleasures; it is almost null in the case of those whose soul has identified itself before with the spirit life.”

If I am interpreting various metaphysical teachings correctly, the “magnetic currents” should not be confused with the so-called silver cord, the connecting link between the physical body and the spirit body.  The silver cord will have been severed at the time of physical death, liberating the spirit body, but the magnetic currents can still keep the spirit body close to the physical body. Moreover, cremation does not undo the gravitational pull of a materialistic life, but it at least mitigates the pull.

“Mind interprets our sensed world and environment using reason, the cumulative result of real experiences of the material four-dimensional world placed within a specific mental framework or worldview,” offers James E. Beichler, Ph.D., (below) a retired physics professor, in his book, To Die For.


As Beichler sees it, when consciousness is less evolved and the mind is more focused on the material/physical world of common four-dimensional space-time alone, those making the transition from this life to the afterlife in the non-material but still physical five-dimensional space-time may be faced with a very big gap, thus not recognizing that they are dead.  If the person had achieved a higher level of consciousness while occupying the material/physical body, “then the mind would already have memories of five-dimensional experience and would then merge with less difficulty into its new state of being,” he explains, adding that this mind can remain stuck in its four-dimensional material reality without any real material existence because it does not have any reference points in the higher-dimensional non-material world. 

In other words, the mind separates itself from the material/physical organ (the brain) and then attempts to orientate itself based upon the consciousness (both spiritual and knowledgeable about the world) that it has achieved during the time it occupied a material/physical shell. If the consciousness is more highly developed, through both spiritual awakening and through learning more about the true reality of existence, the mind quickly awakens to its new and true reality. But if that consciousness is not well developed – if it is still grounded in the material world – this “handicapped” mind does not quickly “awaken” and may not realize that the physical body has been shed. 

“The mind/consciousness complex [that survives bodily or material death] retains its identity (the personality still remains) after a manner in the fifth dimension, in so far as self-identity is not a material but still a physical quantity or quality,” Beichler further explains.  “However, the extent to which the complex is ‘conscious’ or mindful of its own existence, its being, would depend upon the extent to which it was ‘conscious’ or aware of its five-dimensional connections before the death of the four-dimensional [material] body and what is perceived by the mind as ‘self’ while the body still lived and functioned.”

Indications are that there are many degrees of awakening and consciousness in the spirit world and that many souls go back and forth over the threshold of awareness, just as most of us do in watching a good movie.  We get so wrapped up in the emotion being experienced by the actors that we forget temporarily that it’s not real.  We might even leave the movie theatre still feeling the emotion, though for the most part back in the real world.  In effect, our consciousness in partly in this world and partly in the unreal one we watched on the movie screen.  I recall being so wrapped up in the “24” weekly television series a few years ago that, while on a trip, I made sure I got back to my hotel in time to see what happened to Jack Bauer, the star of the series.  I kept telling myself that it’s not real and I shouldn’t care or go out of my way to see that segment, but the unreal was still somewhat real to me in spite of my reasoning mind.

We live in a paradoxical world, the biggest paradox being that the unreal has become the real and the real the unreal.  Consider, for example, that movie actors – people merely pretending to be real people – are celebrated as gods of some kind simply because they are good at pretending, an otherwise negative characteristic, while the real people they pretend to be go unrecognized.  Consider also that athletes – play warriors – are much more admired and celebrated than real warriors.  A gold medal in the Olympics is valued much more highly than a Medal of Honor earned on the battlefield.  A player falling on a fumbled football in the Super Bowl will be remembered much longer than a combat soldier who throws himself on a grenade to protect others.  Ironically, even the real warriors seem unaware of the paradox, as men in uniform are often seen lined up at athletic events waiting for the autographs of play warriors.  The real warriors are paying homage to the play warriors. How crazy is all that?

Just as this conflict between mind and consciousness can take place in the physical world, it can continue in the spiritual world as we struggle with the material universe’s magnetism.  I suspect that the majority of spirits in this in-between state, are fluctuating back and forth over that threshold of awareness, “earthbound” at times and free from the “earthbound” condition at other times.  However, those who were totally self-centered and materialistic in the earth life might be in a bad dream or nightmare for a time, with little or no fluctuation. 
Beichler’s model explains many of the characteristics and properties of the near-death experience. For example, noting that not all experiencers undergo a past-life review, he concludes that those who have a highly-developed consciousness – one that has kept pace with the development of the mind – may not need a life review as they probably reviewed their lives when alive in the flesh.  At the other extreme, there are those not advanced enough in their conscious evolution to appreciate a life review, and still others who may not accept a life review because they deny their death and sense nothing at all.  “In other words, people’s minds seize upon the most familiar surroundings when they enter the new environment of the five-dimensional universe,” Beichler writes,  “but can still reject the experience completely depending upon their mind set and mental priorities at the time of death.”

The bottom line here seems to be that the more you come to understand about the spirit world and spiritual matters in this life, the better off you will be when you first enter that life.  If nothing else, you will understand that you are no longer in the physical world.       

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 will be published by White Crow Books in July, 2014

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An Easter Message That Makes Sense

Posted on 07 April 2014, 12:19

With Easter approaching, I think of how much more sense it would make if Christianity would totally dismiss the idea of a physical body being resurrected and accept the evidence that has come to us through psychical research.  I am reminded of the 2001 movie, The Body, in which the bones of Jesus were supposedly discovered by an archeologist in a tomb in Jerusalem.  A Vatican priest was dispatched to investigate and concluded that the body was indeed that of Jesus of Nazareth, son of Joseph. He was so shattered by the finding that he lost all faith and committed suicide.

In a 2007 Discovery channel documentary, The Jesus Family Tomb,  filmmaker James Cameron of Titanic fame,  offered evidence that the tomb of Jesus had been found, and included the bones of his mother, Mary, as well as Mary Magdalene,  his wife, and his son, Judah.  Needless to say, there was a real outcry from the Christian community.

If scientists were to link up the DNA in the bones found in the tomb with blood residue found on the Shroud of Turin, it wouldn’t affect my belief in the resurrection of Jesus or the resurrection of anyone else, in the least.  In fact, I would rejoice at the news.  That’s because my brand of Christianity rejects any literal interpretation given to a physical body rising from the dead, either by Jesus, or by the masses on some far-off day of resurrection.

In the 15th chapter of First Corinthians, Paul said that the body that has to be “raised” is not the body that was buried.  He used the analogy of a grain of wheat, pointing out that the grain of wheat that is planted is not the grain of wheat that is raised.  But for some reason most of orthodox Christianity still clings to the resurrection of a physical body. Of course, like so many other things in the Bible, there can be many self-serving interpretations.

My faith today is based on psychical research.  Such research in the area of the near-death experience (NDE) strongly suggests that we all have an energy body that separates from the physical body at the time of death and vibrates so far beyond the physical shell that it is not seen by ordinary eyes.  This energy body has also been referred to as a spirit body, astral body, subtle body, radiant body, etheric body, celestial body, odic body, perispirit, phantom, double, soul, and higher self, although these terms are sometimes given different meanings.  In Theosophy, the etheric body, or double, is a subtle interpenetrating extension of the physical body.  It is this body that is held to the physical body by the silver cord.  At some point, the astral body separates from the etheric body.

Ecclesiastes seems to suggest that the loosening of the “silver cord” is one of several ways by which the physical body and spirit body separate at the time of death, perhaps referring to old age.  Clairvoyants, out-of-body travelers, and spirit communicators, however, see the severance of the silver cord involved in every kind of death. This cord is said to be the counterpart of the umbilical cord of birth. While the umbilical cord must be severed when we come into the material world, the silver cord must be severed when we return to the real world.  This severance is sometimes referred to as “giving up the ghost” or, as Shakespeare called it, “shuffling off this mortal coil.”

Frederic W. H. Myers, the Cambridge scholar who became a pioneering psychical researcher, communicated extensively through the mediumship of Geraldine Cummins of Ireland, perhaps the most famous and credible automatic writing medium ever, after his death in 1901.  Myers referred to the energy body as the “double,” explaining that it is an exact counterpart of the physical shape.  “The two are bound together by many little threads, by two silver cords,” Myers communicated.  “One of these makes contact with the solar plexus, the other with the brain.  They all may lengthen or extend during sleep or during half-sleep, for they have considerable elasticity.  When a man slowly dies these threads and two cords are gradually broken.  Death occurs when these two principal communicating lines with brain and solar plexus are severed.” 

Myers went on to explain that life occasionally lingers in certain cells of the body after the soul has departed and that during this time the double is still attached to the physical shell by some threads which have not been broken.  However, he pointed out that the soul does not suffer during this time. As a rule, Myers stated, the soul achieves complete freedom within an hour or two or three of physical death.  He added that there is usually no pain connected with the separation.

According to Myers, death results from a change in vibration, the physical body vibrating at a much slower rate than the “double.”  There is a temporary dislocation as the soul passes from the confines of the physical body to the spirit body.  Myers explained that the double hovers above the physical shell for a brief time, during which a “little white cloud” or “pale essence” can be discerned by some.  Since my blog post of October 4, 2010, a number of people have left comments about their own observations in this respect.  See my blog, Deathbed mist explained.

Estelle Roberts, one of England’s most famous mediums, recalled being at the bedside of her husband, Hugh, as he died.  Her clairvoyance allowed her to see his spirit leave his body from his head and mold itself into an exact replica of his physical body.  She observed a cord connecting the two bodies.  When the cord broke, the spirit body floated away and passed through the wall.  She also reported hearing strange, terrifying noises as if someone was “rending linen” and occasionally sounding like the cracking of a whip.  This apparently was the spirit body breaking loose from the physical body.

There have been reports of difficulties in “giving up the ghost.”  In Zeitschrift fuer Parapsychologie, a clairvoyant man who preferred to remain anonymous reported sitting at his dying wife’s bedside and seeing an “odic body” take form over his wife’s physical body.  It was connected to the physical body by a “cord of od.”  The arms and legs of this odic body were flailing and kicking as if struggling to get free and escape.  Finally, after about five hours, the fatal moment came at last.  “There was a sound of gasping,” the man reported.  “The odic body writhed to and fro, and my wife’s breathing ceased.  To all appearances she was dead, but a few moments later she began to breathe again.  After she had drawn her breath twice, everything became quiet.  At the instant of her last breath, the connecting cord broke and the odic body vanished.”

One of the earliest accounts of a person’s dying moments, as reported by the deceased person himself, was set forth in an 1863 book by Sophia Elizabeth De Morgan, the wife of Augustus De Morgan, a famous mathematician.  She reported on the experience of Horace Abraham Ackley, M.D., of Cleveland, Ohio, as communicated through a medium: “I experienced but very little suffering during the last few days of my life, though at first there were struggles, and my features were distorted; but I learned, after my spirit had burst its barriers and was freed from its connection with the external body, that these were produced by it in an attempt to sever this connection, which in all cases is more or less difficult; the vital points of contact being suddenly broken by disease, the union in other portions of the system is necessarily severed with violence, but, as far as I have learned, without consciousness of pain.  Like many others, I found that I was unable to leave the form at once.  I could feel myself gradually raised from my body, and in a dreamy, half-conscious state.  It seemed as though I was not a united being – that I was separated into parts, and yet despite this there seemed to be an indissoluble connecting link.  My spirit was freed a short time after the organs of my physical body had entirely ceased to perform their functions.  My spiritual form was then united into one, and I was raised a short distance above the body, standing over it by what power I was unable to tell.  I could see those who were in the room around me, and knew by what was going on that a considerable time must have elapsed since dissolution had taken place, and I presume I must have been for a time unconscious; and this I find is a common experience, not however, universal.”

Much more recently, in their 2008 book, The Art of Dying, Dr. Peter Fenwick of England and his wife, Elizabeth Fenwick, quote one NDEr as feeling “like a kite on an endless string.”  This “cord” seemed to be attached to the back and the person could feel it pulling her back into her body.  Another NDEr told the Fenwicks that although he could not see his body, he could see that he was attached by a “light grey rope.”

Communicating through the direct-voice mediumship of Lilian Bailey, Bill Wootton, a World War I victim, described the life cord as silver and thick, glowing and glistening.  He said that it emerges from the pineal gland in the head and extends to the solar plexus.  Wooten added that spirits are able to tell the health of a person by the cord.  When they see the cord getting down to a hair’s breadth, they know that the cord is about to snap.  When it does snap, it is as if a rope were breaking, and death then takes place.

So why should Christianity fear the discovery of the bones of Jesus?  Credible scientific research has revealed that it has absolutely no bearing on the great message of soul immortality that Jesus came to give.

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 will be published by White Crow Books in July, 2014


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One Life at a Time:  The Way of the Philistine?

Posted on 24 March 2014, 10:23

Many friends and relatives who know of my interest in death and afterlife studies express concern that it is an unhealthy or taboo subject matter.  “One life at a time for me” is a typical reaction, a subtle and supposedly “intelligent” way of saying that the person is not interested in discussing anything related to death and the afterlife.

I always agree that the focus should be on this life, not the next one, but I usually go on to explain that an interest in a future life does not mean that the primary focus is not on this life.  If the person is at all receptive to it, I point out that my interest in a future life helps me better understand, appreciate, and fully live this life.  “We can live with the consciousness of immortality, and it will give an added coloring and beauty to life,” is the way philosopher Alice Bailey put it.  “We can foster the awareness of our future transition, and live with the expectation of its wonder.  Death thus faced, and regarded as a prelude to further living experience, takes on a different meaning.”

Addressing concerns that being too focused on the afterlife will make a person unfit for the “practical” life, philosopher Lilian Whiting pointed out that the truth is just the opposite. “Let one realize the absolute continuity of existence and at once life becomes worth living,” she offered.

A group of entities, dubbed the “Invisibles” by popular author Stewart Edward White, communicated through the mediumship of White’s wife, Betty.  (Below). They referred to the desired awareness of spiritual matters, including death, as “habitual spiritual consciousness.”  Concerned that White might misunderstand and assume that they were saying that the focus should be entirely on the spiritual world, they explained: “This does not imply any retirement into some state of permanent abstraction, nor any priggish watchfulness to determine that your every move is transcendental.  It means simply that each day, when you finish your practice, you do not close the experience like a book, but carry it around with you like a treasured possession.  Instead of being completely forgotten, it remains in the back of your mind, communicating its influence automatically to your actions and reactions, and ready at any moment, if specifically called upon, to lend a helping hand.”


The Invisibles called “balancing” the earthly life with the eternal life the “art of life.”  They stressed that the best way to deal with life’s adversities is by viewing them from the higher consciousness.

Frederic W. H. Myers, (below) a Cambridge scholar and one of the founders of the Society for Psychical Research in London, is a good example of someone who was able to develop his spiritual consciousness to the point where, in embracing death, he found joy and fulfillment in life.  At Myers’s memorial service in 1901, Sir Oliver Lodge recalled that Myers, when visiting the United States a few years earlier, swam the Niagara River below the treacherous falls.  Myers told Lodge that the thought suddenly flashed upon him that he might die, but there was no fear connected with this thought.  Rather, he saw the whole experience as a joyous adventure, for, as Lodge put it, “his clear and happy faith was the outcome entirely of his scientific researches” which strongly suggested survival.


Present at Myers’s deathbed, Professor William James of Harvard wrote that “his serenity, in fact, his eagerness to go, and his extraordinary intellectual vitality up to the very time the death agony began, and even in the midst of it, were a superb spectacle and deeply impressed the doctors, as well as ourselves.”

Professor James, one of the pioneers of psychology, took issue with the non-believers of his day who said we should be living for the moment, when he wrote:  “Let sanguine healthy-mindedness do its best with its strange power of living in the moment and ignoring and forgetting, still the evil background is really there to be thought of, and the skull will grin in at the banquet. In the practical life of the individual, we know how his whole gloom or glee about any present fact depends on the remoter schemes and hopes of which it stands related.  Its significance and framing give it the chief part of its value.  Let it be known to lead nowhere, and however agreeable it may be in its immediacy, its glow and guilding vanish.  The old man, sick with an insidious internal disease, may laugh and quaff his wine at first as well as ever, but he knows his fate now, for the doctors have revealed it, and the knowledge knocks the satisfaction out of all these functions.  They are partners of death and the worm is their brother, and they turn to a mere flatness.” 

James added that “the luster of the present hour is always borrowed from the background of possibilities it goes with.”  In other words, you can’t effectively live in the moment or in the present without considering the future.  James went on to say that a nameless Unheimlichkeit, i.e., eeriness, comes over us at the thought of there being nothing eternal in our final purpose, in the objects of those loves and aspirations which are our deepest energies.   

Of course, age is a big factor in one’s desire or ability to embrace death.  The person still establishing him- or herself in a career and raising a family may not find time to pause and see the need for such an interest. While I gave it passing thoughts in my younger years, I didn’t really get interested in it until after the age of 50.  Now, at 77, with family raising and work life well behind me, and with a growing number of health-related issues, I can’t help think about it.  What puzzles me is that people in my own age group with similar or greater health issues are often among those who give me the “one life at a time” pitch.  They act like they are content in continuing to be “one with their toys,”  even the few toys they have left, but I suspect that most of them are just repressing their anxieties and burying their heads in the sand. 

“When a man is seventy-five he cannot help sometimes thinking about death,” wrote the great philosopher and poet Goethe.  “The thought of it leaves me perfectly calm, for I am convinced that our spirit is absolutely indestructible…it is like the sun which only seems to sink and in reality never sinks at all.”

Existentialist philosopher Søren Kierkegaard wrote:  “If there were no eternal consciousness in a man, if at the foundation of all there lay only a wildly seething power which writhing with obscure passions produced everything that is great and everything that is insignificant, if a bottomless void never satiated lay hidden beneath all – what then would life be but despair?”  Kierkegaard called “Philistinism” the worst kind of despair.  The Philistine, as Kierkegaard saw him, is someone so tranquilized in the mundane or the trivial that he lacks the awareness that he is even in despair. “For Philistinism thinks it is in control of possibility; it thinks that when it has decoyed this prodigious elasticity into the field of probability or into the mad-house, it holds it a prisoner; it carries possibility around like a prisoner in the cage of the probable, shows it off, imagines itself to be the master, does not take note that precisely thereby it has taken itself captive to be the slave of spiritlessness and to be the most pitiful of all things…but Philistinism spiritlessly celebrates its triumph.”

As I see it, those people in their declining years who want to live “one life at a time” are victims of Philistinism.  They are not even aware that they are in despair.  The problem is that they are either locked into the orthodox religious view of the afterlife, seemingly a very boring and monotonous existence, or they have rejected all religious views and see death as nothing more than the obliteration or extinction of the personality.  If they were to become receptive to learning about death and the afterlife, they might discover what I and others have found – a much more vibrant and dynamic existence, increasingly more vibrant and dynamic than the earth life as one evolves in it, assuming that one is prepared for it and does not require a lengthy adjustment and adaptation period.  But if the person will not open his/her mind to the evidence for survival and the information coming down the vibration scale about the nature of the afterlife, he or she is destined to remain in the Philistine mindset.

But if the person doesn’t realize he/she is in despair, what’s the problem?  Isn’t ignorance bliss for them?  Why should I care what they think or don’t think?  I care because ignorance fosters more ignorance and leads to a more materialistic world, one in which the Epicurean motto of “eat, drink, and be merry,” prevails, as it seemingly does in today’s world – a world in chaos and full of turmoil, an increasingly hedonistic world, one perhaps not unlike that of ancient Rome when Nero played his fiddle as the city burned.  But I also care because indications are that the Philistine likely faces a difficult adjustment and adaptation period after death.  It’s like going on a trip to a foreign country without a passport, without any money, without any luggage, without knowing anything about the place, with no maps, and knowing nothing of the language there. The person will likely struggle and flounder, when with a little advance preparation for the journey he/she might quickly adjust and adapt after arriving there.
The eminent Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung said that it is psychologically beneficial to have death as a goal toward which to strive. Mozart called death the key to unlocking the door to true happiness.  Shakespeare wrote that when we are prepared for death, life is sweeter.  The French philosopher Michel de Montaigne said that “to practice death is to practice freedom.”

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. 

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Gladys Osborne Leonard & Her Curious Term of Endearment

Posted on 10 March 2014, 10:49

Gladys Osborne Leonard (1882 – 1968) is considered one of the greatest trance mediums in the annals of psychical research.  She was referred to as “England’s white crow” and the “British Mrs. Piper.”  Some of the very best evidence for the survival of consciousness after death came through her mediumship.  Yet, I recently came across something that made me both curious and a little suspicious.

In reading the transcripts of communication from Rolf Little, a soldier who died during World War I, to his mother through Mrs. Leonard, (below) I was puzzled by the fact that Rolf occasionally addressed his mother as “darling.”  While I had recognized the use of this term of endearment between spouses and also directed from parent to child, I had never before heard a son call his mother by such an affectionate term. 


What made me especially suspicious was another transcript in which Claude Kelway-Bamber, also communicating through Mrs. Leonard, called his mother “darling.”  That might be enough for a debunker to cry “fraud” and for a parapsychologist to say it was all coming from Mrs. Leonard’s subconscious, not from spirits of the dead.

I wondered if such a term of endearment might be common in England or have been more common in the early 1900s, when the communication took place.  I discussed it with Dr. Howard Jones, a British educator and scientist, who said he had never heard it applied to a parent by a child. 

After pondering on it for awhile, the explanation dawned on me.  As psychical researchers came to understand, the spirit communicator impresses an “idea” on the mind of the medium, while the medium’s subconscious mind puts words to the idea.  Thus, both Rolf and Claude may have communicated special affection toward their mothers, that when filtered through Mrs. Leonard’s brain, came out “darling.”  With another medium, it might have come out “mother dear.” 

Communicating through the renowned automatic writing medium Geraldine Cummins, Frederic W. H. Myers, a pioneering psychical researcher who died in 1901, stated: “We communicate an impression through the inner mind of the medium.  It receives the impression in a curious way.  It has to contribute to the body of the message; we furnish the spirit of it. In other words, we send the thoughts and the words usually in which they must be framed, but the actual letters or spelling of the words are drawn from the medium’s memory. Sometimes we only send the thoughts and the medium’s unconscious mind clothes them in words.” 

Professor James Hyslop, another pioneering researcher, explained it this way:  “We do not know in detail all that goes on, but we can conceive that a mental picture in the mind of a communicator is transmitted, perhaps telepathically, to the psychic (medium) or to the control.  Even though we do not know how this occurs, we can understand why the message takes the form that it does in the mind of the psychic and why the whole process assumes the form of a description of visual, or a report of auditory images…It is apparent that the pictographic process introduces into the communication various sources of mistake and confusion, and thus explains much that the ordinary man with his view of the messages cannot understand.  Mental pictures have to be interpreted, either by the control or by the subconscious of the psychic, probably by both.”

The “control” referred to by Hyslop, is the “medium” on the Other side.  As it has been explained, very few spirits have the ability to communicate directly through a trance medium.  Thus, a medium is needed on that side as well.  Mrs. Leonard “control” was called Feda, said to be an ancestor and her guide.  Feda would get the message from Rolf, Claude, or whoever was communicating, and then impress the idea on Mrs. Leonard’s brain.  In effect, there were four parties – the spirit communicator (Rolf, Claude, etc.) , the spirit control (Feda),  the medium (Mrs. Leonard), and the “sitter”  (Rolf and Claude’s mothers). 

Indications were that Feda got the message telepathically from the spirit communicators on their side of the veil, and that she sometimes misinterpreted what they were saying.  Thus, there was distortion even before it was impressed upon Mrs. Leonard’s brain.  But then the message could be further distorted as it was filtered through her brain.  Nevertheless, the gist or essence of the messages usually got through, even if the words came from Mrs. Leonard’s vocabulary.

In 1917, the Rev Charles Drayton Thomas, a respected psychical researcher and Methodist minister, began studying Mrs. Leonard’s mediumship. He quickly made contact with his deceased father, John D. Thomas, and his deceased sister, Etta, receiving much veridical information proving their identities.  However, he wondered why they had such difficulty in giving their names and the names of others.  The discarnate Thomas explained to his son the difficulties involved in communicating names: “One cannot sometimes get the names right. If I wish to speak about a man named “Meadow,” I may try that name and find that “Meadow” is not spoken rightly by Feda.  So I then wait and try to insert the idea of a green field, connecting it with the idea of the man described.  We always try for a definite thing which will tell you exactly what we mean; but if we are unable to do that, we have to get as near to it as we can. Sometimes we have to depend upon slender links in giving you the clue.”

As another example, the discarnate Thomas mentioned that when he tried to get the name “Jerusalem” through Feda, she gave the word “Zion” instead.  Etta explained to her brother that it was much easier to send ideas to Feda than it was to send words. She said that she could not get her husband’s name, “Whitfield,” through Feda.  “Is it not strange that I cannot say my husband’s name?” she asked . “I can feel it, but cannot say it; that is, I cannot get it spoken.  I get it on the surface, so to speak, but cannot get it into the medium’s mind.” 

At a sitting four months later, Etta again attempted to get her husband’s name through, but only succeeded in getting the medium to say, “Wh, Whi-, Whit-”.  Etta further explained to her brother that the more she tried to think on the name, the more difficult it was to get it through the medium’s brain, adding that she could not control the medium’s power of expression.  “One may get a word into her mind and yet be unable to make her express it,” she explained.  “Because it is in the mind, it does not follow that her brain will take it. Unless the ideas in the mind are tapped on to the actual brain, one cannot express them.” 

Thomas noticed that Feda could more easily catch a first syllable than a whole name, but sometimes she would catch only the first letter, which he understood was pictured for her by the communicator. When one communicating entity tried to get the word ‘Greek’ through, Feda struggled with “G-, Gre-, Grek, Greg, Greeg.”

Thomas further observed that when Feda had latitude in the selection of words, e.g. “Zion” for “Jerusalem,” communication was easier. However, when it came to proper names, this alternative was not always possible.  The discarnate Thomas also told his son that when he entered the conditions of a sitting his memory would divide into its former earthly conditions of conscious and subconscious. Thus, the same forgetfulness he might have had when in the flesh with regard to names and other things still existed on his side of the veil.

Soon after his death in 1925, Sir William Barrett, (below) a physicist and also a pioneering psychical researcher, began communicating with his wife, Dr. Florence Barrett, through Mrs. Leonard.  Lady Barrett wondered why her deceased husband got the name William through, and not “Will,” as she had called him and as he had called himself.  Also, he addressed her as “Florence,’ although he had called her “Flo” when alive. The formality of it made her question whether it was in fact her deceased husband communicating, even though he provided some very evidential information which she concluded no one else could have known. 


On November 5, 1929, Sir William explained:  “When I come into the conditions of a sitting I then know that I can only carry with me – contain in me – a small portion of my consciousness.  The easiest things to lay hold of are what we may call ideas. [However], a detached word, a proper name, has no link with a train of thought except in the detached sense; that is far more difficult than any other feat of memory or association of ideas.  If you go to a medium that is new to us, I can make myself known by giving you through that medium an impression of my character and personality, my work on earth, and so forth.  Those can all be suggested by thought, impressions, ideas.” 

Sir William went on to explain that it is extremely difficult to get his nickname through because it is a detached word “If I wanted to express an idea of my scientific interests I could do it in twenty different ways.  I should probably begin by showing books, then giving impressions of the nature of the book and so on, till I had built up a character impression of myself.”  But single, detached words, he reiterated, were a real problem.

With all that in mind, it is not difficult to understand why Rolf and Claude called their mothers “darling.”  But I suspect that the “skeptics” might find it difficult to comprehend.

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. 

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An Intriguing 1911 Near-Death Experience

Posted on 24 February 2014, 10:04

While Dr. Raymond Moody is credited with naming the near-death experience (NDE) and popularizing it in his 1975 book, Life After Life, there were numerous accounts of NDEs long before Moody began doing research on them.  Several of the pre-Moody NDEs have been discussed in earlier blog posts here.  I find these old NDEs more intriguing than the modern ones, because the experiencers had very little, if any, knowledge of such a phenomenon.  Today, the debunkers argue that a person reporting an NDE is simply making it all up because he or she read about such experiences and is fantasizing a similar experience.

I recently came across a 1911 NDE in a 1943 book entitled Transition, by Charles Hampton.  It drew on an account published in the May 26, 1935 edition of The Sunday Express of London.  It was related by a Mr. W. Martin of Liverpool, England.  (I don’t know why so many of those old timers liked to go by their initials only.)  Here is what Mr. Martin reported:

“In 1911, at the age of sixteen, I was staying about twelve miles away from my own house when a high wall was blown down by a sudden gust of wind as I was passing.  A huge coping stone hit me on top of my head.  It then seemed as if I could see myself lying on the ground, huddled up, with one corner of the stone resting on my head and quite a number of people rushing toward me.  I watched them move the stone and someone took off his coat and put it under my head, and I heard all their comments.  ‘Fetch a doctor.’ ‘His neck is broken.’ ‘Skull smashed!’

“[One man] then wanted to know if anyone knew where I lived, and on being told I was lodging just around the corner, he instructed them to carry me there.  Now all this time it appeared as though I were disembodied from the form lying on the ground and suspended in midair in the center of the group, and I could hear everything that was being said.

“As they started to carry me it was remarked that it would come as a blow to my people, and I was immediately conscious of a desire to be with my mother.  Instantly I was at home, and father and mother were just sitting down to their midday meal.  On my entrance mother sat bolt upright in her chair and said, ‘Bert, something has happened to our boy.’

“There followed an argument, but my mother refused to be pacified, and said that if she caught the 2 p.m. train she could be with me before three.  She had hardly left the room when there came a knock at the front door.  It was a porter from the railway station with a telegram saying I was badly hurt.

“Then suddenly I was again transported – this time it seemed to be against my will – to a bedroom where a woman whom I recognized was in bed, and two other women were quietly bustling around, and a doctor was leaning over the bed.  Then the doctor had a baby in his hands.  At once I became aware of an almost irresistible impulse to press my face through the back of the baby’s head so that my face would come out at the same place as the child’s.

“The doctor said, ‘It looks as though we have lost them both,’ and again, I felt the urge to take the baby’s place to show him he was wrong, but the thoughts of my mother crying turned my thoughts in her direction, when straightaway I was in a railway carriage with her and my father.

“I was still with them when they arrived at my lodging and were shown into my room where I had been put to bed.  Mother was beside the bed and I longed to comfort her, and the realization came that I ought to do the same thing I had felt impelled to do in the case of the baby and climb into the body on the bed.

“At last I succeeded, and the effort caused the real me to sit up in bed fully conscious.  Mother made me lie down again, but I said that I was all right, and remarked that it was odd that she knew something was wrong before the porter had brought the telegram.

“Both she and Dad were amazed at my knowledge.  Their astonishment was further increased when I repeated almost word for word some of the conversation they had had at home and in the train.  I said that I had been close to birth as well as death, and told them that Mrs. Wilson, who lived close to us at home, had had a baby that day, but it was dead because I would not get into its body We subsequently learned that Mrs. Wilson died on the same day at 2:05 p.m. after delivering a stillborn girl.” 

There seems to be more here than just a near-death experience, but I’ll let the reader ponder on that.

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. 

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W. Stainton Moses:  Awesome Medium or Impostor?

Posted on 10 February 2014, 12:50

According to those who knew him, William Stainton Moses (below) was as morally righteous and honest a person as can be found. He was a priest of the Church of England and English Master at University College, London.  “With the even tenor of this straightforward and reputable life was interwoven a chain of mysteries which, in whatever way they may be explained, make that life one of the most extraordinary which our century has seen,” wrote Frederic W. H. Myers, a Cambridge scholar and one of the founders of the Society for Psychical Research (SPR), of Moses.


And yet, if you put Moses’s name into a Google search, one of the first entries to come up will be a brief encyclopedic biography from which one might conclude that Moses was a dupe and a “deliberate impostor.” 

The search for Truth in a doubting world where pseudo-skeptics do their best to disparage mediums, psychics, and researchers finding in favor of psychical phenomena is indeed a challenging one. . It has been my observations that nearly all of the popular Internet biographies of these mediums, psychics, and researchers are based on “might-have,” or “could have” speculations, rumors, hearsay, twisted historical facts, and distorted stories without any attempt to present the true facts – those coming from credible witnesses.

Like most clergyman of his day – as well as today – Moses initially frowned upon mediums, probably seeing them as “demonic.”  When he heard of Lord Adare’s 1870 book about the amazing phenomena produced by the spirits through Daniel Dunglas Home, he called it the “dreariest twaddle.”  Little did he realize at the time that within two years, he would develop into a medium with abilities similar to those of Mr. Home.  In fact, Home and Moses have gone down in history as the most influential mediums of the first 80 years of the nineteenth century. Both are discussed in my book, The Afterlife Explorers, which includes biographies of 10 other pioneers of survival research – Emanuel Swedenborg, Andrew Jackson Davis, Judge John Edmonds, Dr. George Dexter, Governor Nathaniel Tallmadge, Victor Hugo, Allan Kardec, Professor Robert Hare, Alfred Russel Wallace, and Sir William Crookes. 

After receiving his master’s degree from Oxford in 1863, Moses served as a curate on the Isle of Man for some five years, before returning to London because of health issues.  While convalescing, Moses tutored Charlton Templeman Speer, the son of Dr. and Mrs. Stanhope Speer. Upon recovering, Moses assumed the teaching position at University College, a position he held until 1889.

In Moses’s biography, written by Charlton Speer,  Charlton stated that his mother had taken an interest in Spiritualism after reading Dale Owen’s book, The Debatable Land, and persuaded her husband and Moses to attend a séance with Miss Lottie Fowler.  During that sitting, on April 2, 1872, Moses received some very evidential information about a friend who had died.  His curiosity aroused, Moses attended other séances, including one or more with D. D. Home.  Dr. Speer, a prominent physician who had previously considered Spiritualism as all “stuff and nonsense,” joined Moses in his investigation and also changed his views. 

During his investigation of mediums, Moses discovered that he was a medium himself. A small circle of friends gathered regularly to observe and record the phenomena coming through Moses.  The circle included Dr. and Mrs. Speer, Charlton Speer, a Dr. Thompson, Serjeant Cox, and several others.  Occasionally, William Crookes (later Sir William), a world-renowned chemist, would attend the circle. Most of the gatherings were at the home of Dr. and Mrs. Speer.

Phenomena reported by Charlton, a professional musician, included a great variety of communicating raps, numerous lights, luminous spirit hands, music, direct writing (no hand holding the pencil), automatic writing, apports, the passage of matter through matter, the direct voice, and trance voice, the latter including inspirational messages given by various spirits through Moses while in trance.  Of the latter, Charlton wrote:  “Touching the manner of these addresses, I can only say that they were delivered in a dignified, temperate, clear, and convincing tone, and that though the voice proceeded from the medium, it was always immediately apparent that the personality addressing us was not that of the medium.  The voice was different, and the ideas were often not in accordance with those held at the time by the medium.  An important fact, too, was that although many spirits exercised this power of control, the voice which spoke was always different; and in the case of those spirits which controlled regularly we came to know perfectly well which intelligence was communicating, by the tone of the voice and method of enunciation.” 

At a sitting on January 15, 1873, Dr. Speer reported: “Great movement of the table. It was repeatedly lifted up to the level of our faces, even without touching it. Subdued light, quite sufficient to see the table and our hands.  The table was moved and floated several times; we could watch in light its very movement.”

Of the same sitting, Mrs. Speer recorded:  “We commenced this evening sitting in subdued light. quite sufficient to see the table and our hands.  After sitting a few minutes, the table was moved and floated several times; we could watch in the light its every movement.  After seeing it tilted from side to side, and lifted two feet from the ground…”

Cox, a London lawyer, reported that on June 2, 1873, Moses was visiting him at his house at six o’clock in broad daylight.  As he (Cox) was opening some letters, Moses was reading the Times, when suddenly loud rappings came from the table, it began to quiver, then sway to and fro so violently that Cox thought the big pillar-like legs, of which there were eight, might dislocate. Then the table, which was nine feet long and six feet wide, moved forward about three inches. “I then suggested that it would be an invaluable opportunity, with so great a power in action, to make trial of motion without contact, the presence of two persons only, the daylight, the place, the size and weight of the table making the experiment a crucial one,”  Cox recorded.  “Accordingly, we stood upright, he on one side of the table and I on the other side of it.  We stood two feet from it and held our hands eight inches above it. In one minute it rocked violently.  Then it moved over the carpet, a distance of seven inches, Then it rose three inches from the floor on the side on which my friend (Moses) was standing.  Then it rose equally on my side. 

Finally, my friend held his hands four inches from the end of the table, and asked that it would rise and touch his hands three times.  It did so; and then in accordance with the like request, it rose to my hand held at the other end to the same height above it and in the same manner.” 

Cox also reported that on another occasion the spirits levitated Moses at least three times,  raising him on the table and then lifting him from the table to an adjacent sofa, i.e., he “floated” on to the table and then to the sofa.

While different spirits came through, the chief communicator called himself Imperator.  Mrs. Speer did the recording of the trance messages, but she said it was impossible for her to capture the beauty and refinement of the manifestations or the power and dignity of Imperator’s influence.  “I, myself, Imperator Servus Dei, am the chief of a band of forty-nine spirits, the presiding and controlling spirit, under whose guidance and direction the others work,” Mrs. Speer recorded the words coming through Moses’ voice at one of the early sittings.  “I come from the seventh sphere to work out the will of the Almighty; and, when my work is complete, I shall return to those spheres of bliss from which none returns again to earth. 

“But this will not be till the medium’s work on earth is finished, and his mission on earth exchanged for a wider one in the spheres.”
Imperator said he had come to explain the spirit world, how it is controlled, and the way in which information is conveyed to humans.  “Man must judge according to the light of reason that is in him.” Imperator voiced through Moses. “That is the ultimate standard, and the progressive soul will receive what the ignorant or prejudiced will reject.  God’s truth is forced on none.”

On March 30, 1873, the spirit messages started coming through Moses’ hand by means of automatic writing rather than by trance-speaking. This method was adopted, Moses was informed, for convenience purposes and so that he could preserve a connected body of teaching.  Those teachings were compiled in two books, Spirit Teachings, published by Moses in 1883, and More Spirit Teachings, collected and published after his death in 1892 by Mrs. Speer.   

Moses explained that the written messages varied quite a bit.  “As a rule, it was necessary that I should be isolated, and the more passive my mind the more easy was the communication. 

But I have received these messages under all sorts of conditions.  At first they came with difficulty, but soon the mechanical method appeared to be masters, and page after page was covered with matter of which the specimens contained in this book will enable the public to judge.”  He further noted that some members of Imperator’s band of 49 could not use his hand and had to call upon Rector, Imperator’s chief assistant, to act as scribe for them.

Many of the messages conflicted with Moses’s beliefs.  “It is certain that the mass of ideas conveyed to me were alien to my own opinions, were in the main opposed to my settled convictions, and, moreover, that in several cases information, of which I was assuredly ignorant, clear, precise, and definite in form, susceptible of verification and always exact, was thus conveyed to me,” he explained.

On one occasion, Imperator communicated: “We have a higher form of what is known to you as electricity, and it is by that means we are enabled to manifest, and that Mentor (one of the band of 49)  shows his globe of light. He brings with him the nucleus, as we told you.”

On August 10, 1873, Dr. Speer recorded that Mentor said he would show his hand. “A large, very bright light then came up as before, casting a great reflection on the oilcloth, came up as before in front of me; inside of it appeared the hand of Mentor, as distinct as it can well be conceived. ‘You see! You see!’ said he, ‘That is my hand; now I move my fingers,’ and he continued to move his fingers about freely, just in front of my face. I thanked him for his consideration.”
At a sitting on September 11, 1873, Mrs. Speer recorded: “....the next evening we sat again in perfect darkness, which Mentor took advantage of, as he showed lights almost as soon as we were seated. He then controlled the medium (Moses), talking to us about the lights as he showed them. At first they were very small. This, he said, was the nucleus of light he had brought with him, a small amount of what we should call electricity. This nucleus lasted all the time, and from the circle he gathered more light around it, and kept it alive by contact with the medium. At one time, the light was as bright as a torch. Mentor moved it about all over the table and above our heads with the greatest rapidity.”

Frederic Myers wrote that he and fellow Cambridge scholar Edmund Gurney were introduced to Moses on May 9, 1874 by Lady Mount-Temple, who had become aware of their interest in psychical matters.  She told them that she knew a man of honor who had been experiencing some phenomena.  “That evening was epoch-making in Gurney’s life and mine,” Myers wrote. 

“Standing as we were in the attitude natural at the commencement of such inquiries, under such conditions as were then attainable, an attitude of curiosity tempered by a vivid perception of difficulty and drawback, we now met a man of university education of manifest sanity and probity, who vouched to us for a series of phenomena – occurring to himself, and with no doubtful or venal aid – which seemed at least to prove, in confusedly intermingled form, three main theses known to science.  These were (1) the existence in the human spirit of hidden powers of insight and of communication; (2) the personal survival and near presence of the departed; (3) interference, due to unknown agencies, with the ponderable world.”

In 1875, Moses, Cox, and Myers formed a “Psychological Society” to seriously discuss the various phenomena, but upon the death of Cox in 1879, the society was dissolved.  “When, however, in 1882, Professor [William] Barrett consulted [Moses] as to the possibility of founding a new society, under better auspices, he warmly welcomed the plan,” Myers explained in his 1903 seminal book, Human Personality and Its Survival of Bodily Death.  With Professor Henry Sidgwick of Cambridge as its first president and Moses as vie-president, the SPR was born. 

However, in 1886, Moses resigned because he concluded that the SPR investigators were too harsh in declaring medium William Elginton a fraud.  Moses knew that some things which appeared to the naked eye to be fraudulent were not really fraudulent and objected to the SPR’s hasty judgment.

While recognizing that even intelligent people can be duped by a skilled magician, I find it much easier to believe that such was not the case with the Rev. Moses and his well-educated friends.  In addition to being a shrewd magician, Moses would have needed access to their homes in advance to install pulleys, props, etc. and then be able to remove them all before departing their homes.  He also would have required the ability to speak in many different voices and perhaps also be a ventriloquist.  Or perhaps he hypnotized everybody in the room to think they were seeing what they reported.  It is too much of a stretch for me to believe that Moses had a motive for such a “game” with his friends, a game that he played for some 20 years, right up to his death in 1892, a game that involved teachings that were in total opposition to fraudulent activity. It simply doesn’t make sense to me, although the debunkers who write those Internet encyclopedia entries, while totally ignoring the direct testimony of credible observers, seem to buy into it as a big laughable “game.”  What to believe?

Michael Tymn is the author of