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Experiencing a Pre-Death Life Review

Posted on 15 July 2024, 8:34

A number of people have reported a “life review” during a near-death experience (NDE) – seeing every second of their lives flash before them in what might be called a timeless moment.  A man named Tom Sawyer had an NDE in 1978, one in which he recalled living every thought and attitude connected with decisive moments in his life and seeing them through the eyes of those affected by his actions. Popular NDE author PMH Atwater reported that she saw every thought she had ever had, every word she had ever spoken, and every deed she had ever done.


Physicist and author Dr. James Beichler speculates that a person who has a highly developed spiritual consciousness – one that has kept pace with the development of his mind – may not need a life review as the person has reviewed his or her life while in the flesh. Although I don’t know how developed my spiritual consciousness is, I attempted such a life review one night recently when I had a difficult time sleeping, hoping that it is a time-saver after I transition to the larger world. My focus was on the negative experiences rather than the positive. Those I left for another sleepless night.

Fortunately, I couldn’t recall any murders, thefts, or whatever else that might be classified as a felonious act. The word “bully” wasn’t really in my vocabulary when I was a kid during the 1940s, but one of the first things I recalled was acting like a bully with another kid my age. It was over a ridiculously trivial matter. If my after-death life review is like Tom Sawyer’s, I will feel myself being punched in the nose by my own fist. But hopefully the remorse I now feel for my one “bully” act is enough to avoid seeing it in a life review.

I recall rationing during World War II, in particular Super Suds, a laundry soap. My mother said that the amount allowed by the government was not enough for our laundry, and so I somehow cheated the system and managed to get two boxes of Super Suds at the store. I don’t recall how I did it, but I can still picture my mother’s joyous expression when I brought two boxes home. I need to feel more remorse for that one. What if some other person didn’t get his or her one box because I got two?

Being a practicing Catholic during my youth, I abstained from eating meat every Friday. However, there was one Friday when I attended a baseball game and couldn’t resist having a hot dog. As I munched into it, I wondered how many days I’d have to spend in the fires of purgatory because of my lack of discipline. Now that meat is permitted on Friday, I’m hopeful that all prior sins in this regard are pardoned.

In the fifth grade at Catholic school, each class contributed to a stage program. Ours was a tribute to singer Al Jolson and involved singing “Way down upon the Swannee River.” We all had to darken our faces with burnt cork, just like Jolson. There was nothing racist about it that I could see then or now, but today it would be considered by some to be a terribly racist thing. As I see it, applying current standards to past activities stages of spiritual evolution is part of the insanity we are now experiencing, and I’m confident that it will not come up in my life review.

“Culturism” was more common than racism where I grew up and various relatives and friends had derogatory names for people from three or four European countries. I do remember choosing not to use any of those names and fully respecting natives of those countries. Perhaps I can get points for that in my review.

Fewer Temptations

Without television, we had fewer temptations in those days.  We weren’t exposed to carnal scenes or foul language at home, or even in the movies that we attended once a week.  I wonder if those responsible for popularizing such influences today will see the effects of it all in their life reviews. Then again, perhaps it has just provided challenges and learning experiences.   

Jumping ahead to my adult years, I recall climbing a coconut tree on private property and pulling off a coconut for personal consumption. I don’t think I considered it as thievery at the time, but, in retrospect, it might be called that. I still have that theft memorialized in a photograph and hope the statute of limitations has run on it. 

I further remember visiting my parents and using their car to go to the grocery store. Not being able to find an open parking stall in the parking lot, I decided to take advantage of my father’s handicap placard and pulled into a stall reserved for the truly handicapped.  I justified my act by reasoning that I had Achilles tendonitis at the time, a result of too much competitive running. Also, there was another handicap stall available.  That violation remained with me for a day or two, but I don’t know if that was enough remorse. It may be that during a real-life review I will see a handicapped person unable to find a parking stall, then driving out of the parking lot and having a serious accident, all because I had used the parking stall he would have had were it not for my selfishness. 

I remembered the time that I copied something protected by copyright law and passed it on to several friends. Shame on me.  Also,  I recall renting a movie at a Blockbuster store and then lending it to a friend to see the movie, thereby cheating the store out of a possible rental to my friend.  When I heard that our Blockbuster franchise was closing, I wondered if I had contributed to it.


Perhaps the most difficult dilemma for me and many others is where to draw the line on exterminating low-life creatures, i.e., house pests.  I’ve swatted hundreds of flies over my lifetime and ended the lives of thousands of ants and termites.  Add in some cockroaches, mice, rats and geckos, the latter especially rampant on the walls here in Hawaii.  If, as Tom Sawyer experienced it, I have to feel the effects of eliminating those creatures, I’m really in trouble. I’ll be eaten alive during my review.  I consider it every time I hear my wife scream and then arm myself with a flyswatter, all the while weighing the unsanitary effects of allowing the creatures to run about or fly free about the house against eliminating them.  A friend told me that his wife, apparently a mystic of some kind, talks to the creatures and becomes friends with them, but I am not gifted in that respect.

I often look back on my competitive running days with much fondness, but Gina, my wife, does not share in my memories.  She reminds me that after we both came home from our jobs in those earlier years, she was laboring away with household chores, especially cooking, while I was out running around the streets for my daily workout. I should have been home helping with the cooking, cleaning, child care, whatever. Because I couldn’t run on a full stomach, it was necessary for me to do the workout before the evening meal, not after, so it more or less boiled down to giving up the activity completely or continuing in my selfish ways.  There was really little room for compromise, but since Gina apparently recognized how important that activity was to my mental and physical health,  she never pushed it and I remained ignorant of my selfishness until later years. I was a victim of my ancestors’ mindset that women did all the cooking. I don’t think my father even cooked toast.  If, in my self-judgment, I am faced with justifying my pursuit of sport for an hour a day, I hope my higher self agrees with the way I did it.  Otherwise, I could find myself on a treadmill to hell.

There are things I have not mentioned or have forgotten, so I may face a life review in spite of attempting to do it before death.  But what’s the point of saving time if there is no time in that realm?

Michael Tymn is the author of The Afterlife Revealed: What Happens After We Die, Resurrecting Leonora Piper: How Science Discovered the Afterlife, and Dead Men Talking: Afterlife Communication from World War I.
His latest book, No One Really Dies: 25 Reasons to Believe in an Afterlife is published by White Crow books.

Next blog post:  July 29

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Deathbed Soul Mist: More Witnesses

Posted on 01 July 2024, 8:13

If I Could rewrite Chapter III of my 2011 book, The Afterlife Revealed, I would include comments made by Charles L. Tweedale, an Anglican minister, in his 1909 book, Man’s Survival After Death.  The title of Chapter III in my book was “Giving up the Ghost” and dealt with deathbed phenomena including a discussion of the so-called Silver Cord, along with a “misty body” forming over the dying person, and the separation of the spirit body from the physical body. I offered a number of observations, including those by such pioneering researchers as British physicist Sir William Barrett, South African psychiatrist Dr. Bernard Laubscher, on up to more current observations by American Dr. Raymond Moody, the psychiatrist who named the “near-death experience” and brought it to public attention, and Dr. Peter Fenwick, whose book, The Art of Dying, co-authored with his wife, Elizabeth Fenwick, provides an in-depth account of deathbed phenomena.


Beginning on page 88 of his 1909 book, later updated through 1947, Tweedale, Vicar of Weston (top photo), tells of the passing of his wife’s mother, Mary Burnett, which occurred on July 29, 1921. His wife, Margaret, daughter Marjorie, and a Mrs. Proud were all sitting at the dying woman’s bedside. The Tweedale report adds a factor not evident from most other accounts – that the building up of the spirit body and separation from the physical body do not necessarily take place during the final minutes of the person’s life. In the case he reports, there are some 16 hours between observation of the phenomenon and actual death of the physical body.

“The time was past midnight, and the room was brightly illuminated by a lamp,” Tweedale wrote. “Suddenly my daughter Marjorie saw a small cloud of grey smoke, which she describes as something like the smoke from a cigarette, hovering over the form of Mrs. Burnett as she lay in bed. At first it appeared to be about three or four inches in diameter, and it floated in the air a few inches above the bed-clothes and directly over the abdomen of the unconscious woman. Amazed at the sight, my daughter hastily directed the attention of my wife and Mrs. Proud to this strange phenomenon, and all three standing around the bed and close to it distinctly saw the cloud of smoke and observed it carefully. It gradually grew in size until it became as large as a dinner plate (I use their exact words). Then to their increasing amazement the upper part of the smoke cloud turned to a rich purple light – they describe it as King’s purple – and this cloudy disc of purple light hovered steadily in the air a few inches above the recumbent form.

“Soon to their further astonishment, a beautiful halo began to form around the head of Mrs. Burnett. It was at first pale in color, but gradually deepened to a rich purple, which stood out in conspicuous contrast to the white pillow. It stood off from the head about three inches, and was about four inches broad, the color becoming deeper on the outside edge, while the inside of the halo was fainter and more transparent. The outer edge was irregular, or serrated, as if divided into a number of lights or flames. As soon as this wonderful thing had well established itself the deep purple light began to surround each eye of the unconscious person and outlined the nose and finally surrounded the mouth. During all this time the big disc of purple cloud hovered in the air over the dying woman, and this disc or cloud of purple light, together with the halo and lights on the face, continued to be visible to the three witnesses for nearly twenty minutes, during which time they continued to observe the phenomena with the closest attention.

“My wife several times passed her hand through the hovering cloud of purple light without displacing it or meeting any resistance, but on closing her eyes the cloud and halo ceased to be visible, showing that they were objective and external to her eyes.”

Tweedale goes on to say that the death of Mrs. Burnett did not take place until some 16 hours after the cloud was observed by the three women, all of which time Mrs. Burnett lay unconscious. He concluded that “the cloud which hovered above the body was undoubtedly a manifestation of the Spiritual Body in process of being released from the Mortal Body” and that while hovering over the body a “psychic cord” connected the two bodies, and that the spirit body was released when the cord was severed.

My 2011 book provides a number of similar deathbed observations, but Tweedale’s is more detailed and more specific on the time factor. Several prior blogs have discussed the phenomenon and based on the number of comments, the subject matter has been the most popular. The prior blogs can be found in the archives for October 4, 2010 and June 11, 2012. Many of those commenting have provided their own observations of what has been referred to as “soul mist.”

Another Bedside Report

One very similar case set forth in my book is translated from the German journal,  Zeitschrift fuer Parapsychologie.  It also has a time factor. 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.”

The clairvoyant man also told of being able to see “layers of cloud” drifting into the room as his wife was dying.  At first, he assumed it was cigar smoke from an adjoining room and jumped up to express his indignation.  “Overcome with wonder, I looked back at the clouds,” he reported, commenting that he was completely aware and definitely not imagining what was taking place.  “These floated silently toward the bed and enshrouded it completely.”  He then saw a vaporous body form above his wife’s physical body, attached to her body by a vaporous cord.  Soon after his wife took her last breath, he observed the cord break and the vaporous body disappear. “I must leave it to the reader to judge whether I was the victim of a hallucination brought on by grief and exhaustion, or whether perhaps my mortal eyes had been privileged to catch a glimpse of the spirit-world in all its happiness, repose, and peace,” he ended the report.

Dr. Bernard Laubscher, a psychiatrist, (bottom photo) was told by different caregivers that they had observed misty vapors and lights around deathbeds. Some of them reported a ribbon-like cord stretching from the back of the “phantom’s” head to the body below. 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 (left photo as photographed by Dr. William Crawford with Irish medium Kathleen Goligher, although not a deathbed photo). 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.”

What was called ectoplasm, or teleplasm, by some of the pioneering researchers was called od, or odic force, by many German researchers, including Johannes Greber, a Catholic priest (middle photo) who became a psychical researcher and then parted ways with the Church because of the conflicts between what came to him through two young trance mediums and the teachings of the Church.  The former made much more sense to him than the latter.  In his 1932 book, Communication with The Spirit World of God, Greber quotes many of the supposedly advanced spirits who communicated with him through the two trance mediums.

Condensed Od. 

It was explained to Greber that the physical body is nothing but od condensed into substance, and that such is also the case with animals, plants, and minerals.  The growth of those bodies and their taking material shape, Greber was told, are subject to the laws of odic condensation.”  The communication continued:  “The od representing the vital force of the body always remains associated with the od of the spirit and hence with the spirit itself. It is the motive power for the body at the disposal of the spirit, just as your terrestrial motive powers are at the engineer’s command.  If then the supply of motive power for the body is diminished below the point required to maintain life in the body, the spirit departs from the same and corporeal death ensues, just as the engineer abandons his engine when he cannot keep it running for lack of power.”

Greber was further informed that od flows through all parts of terrestrial bodies and radiates beyond them to a certain distance. It has been called the odic body, astral body, fluid body, and spiritual body. This radiation has been referred to as the aura and can be seen, Greber was told, by so-called clairvoyants endowed with the gift of seeing spirits. It was further stated that it has color, which varies for each creature, running from the deepest black through billions of shades to the most resplendent white.  “You mortals cannot even conceive of the variety of these colors,” Greber quoted one spirit communicator.

The explanation continued:  “...every created thing leaves behind it an odic trace of its existence uniting the day of its coming into being with the last day of its life. . . Such a band is formed by the od of every creature on its way through life.  It is by a trail like this that migratory birds return to their old haunts and that the swallow comes back to the same eaves under which it built last year’s nest.  The odic sensitiveness of these creatures is extremely delicate, but is active only so long as they are in good health, for because of the weakening of their odic powers, sick animals lose the odic sensitiveness necessary to enable them to follow their own or another creature’s trail.”

It was further explained that there are many degrees of odic condensation or materialization, from that visible only to a clairvoyant to the complete materialization of spirits.  It all depends on the amount of od available to the spirit world. A complete materialization requires so much od than no one medium is capable of supplying it, and the spirits must draw od from others in the room.  This is why partial materializations, such as a hand only, are more common.

The spirit is the source of life but the shaping and the scope of our lives are determined by the odic force associated with the spirit, referred to as “vital force,” the messenger continued to explain to Greber.  This force manifests itself by vibrations of the od.  Every manifestation of the intellectual life, every thought, and all volition are expressed in corresponding odic vibrations, set in motion by the spirit, as the bearer of the od.

The skeptic says, “Well, I was present at my mother’s deathbed and I saw no such thing.”  It may be that it oozed out of the mother’s body hours before the skeptic arrived, or the skeptic was not gifted with eyes that can see soul mist. Some people can hold their breath under water for five minutes or more, while others can’t hold it for a minute.  Our physical abilities vary considerably.  There are enough witnesses to soul mist to strongly suggest that the phenomenon exists.  Shouldn’t science be more interested in it?   

Michael Tymn is the author of The Afterlife Revealed: What Happens After We Die, Resurrecting Leonora Piper: How Science Discovered the Afterlife, and Dead Men Talking: Afterlife Communication from World War I.
His latest book, No One Really Dies: 25 Reasons to Believe in an Afterlife is published by White Crow books.

Next blog post:  July 15



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Messages from a ‘Dead’ Soldier to His Mother

Posted on 17 June 2024, 7:28

A heartwarming movie titled A Rumor of Angels was released in 2002 and is occasionally seen on television reruns.  The film stars Vanessa Redgrave as an elderly recluse in a small ocean-front town.  She befriends a 12-year-old neighbor boy who is grieving the loss of his mother in an auto accident.  She tells the boy about how her son had communicated with her following his death in the Vietnam War during 1974 and gives the boy her diary of spirit communication from her son.  The boy reads various entries in the diary and finds comfort in them until his stepmother and father discover the diary and conclude that the boy’s mind is being poisoned by the elderly woman and prohibit him from further visiting her.  When the elderly woman dies, she communicates with the boy from the Other Side.


Probably few people who have viewed the movie realize that it was purportedly based on a true story, although it took place in World War I, not the Vietnam War. The story, with many Hollywood modifications, came from the 1918 non-fiction book, Thy Son Liveth: Messages from a Soldier to his Mother, by Grace Duffie Boylan, a popular journalist and author of that era.  The book was initially released anonymously, but later issues carried Boylan’s name.  It was not stated that Boylan was the mother of Bob, the young soldier about whom the story revolves, but that seems to have been the implication. When the publisher, Little, Brown and Company, questioned Boylan as to the authenticity of the story, she replied, “I ask you to regard this book as truth, unaccompanied by proofs of any sort, making its own explanation and appeal.”

A more complete summary of the story is told in my book, Dead Men Talking, along with the stories of four other victims of the Great War – Raymond Lodge, Claude Kelway-Bamber, Thomas Dowding, and Rolf Little, all of whom communicated after-death messages.  Bob is given the surname “Bennett” in the book.

Bob is said to have grown up with his widowed mother in an old home on the Hudson, below Tarrytown, New York.  He went to Columbia University, where he studied electrical engineering, and soon after joining the United States Army was commissioned as a second lieutenant and sent off to fight in World War I. Well before he went to college, Bob developed an interest in telegraphy and set up a wireless in his home with a large mast on the roof.  “Bob took to telegraphy as a spark takes to the air wave,” the story is told by his mother. “He was one of the first to raise a wireless mast from the top of his home, and of course, I had to study and experiment with him.  He bullied me into learning the code and being the party of the second part to take his messages.  Looking back upon this now, I am impressed with the methods that are used by the Destiny that shapes our ends.  Had it not been for that inkling of the science of telegraphy which I gained in our play, I should not have heard [from Bob].” 

After Bob’s deployment, she received several messages from him by Morse Code. The news of his death also came by wireless. “Mother, be game.  I am alive and loving you.  But my body is with thousands of other mothers’ boys near Lens.  Get this fact to others if you can.  It’s awful for us when you grieve, and we can’t get in touch with you to tell you we are all right.  This is a clumsy way.  I’ll figure out something easier.  I’m confused yet.  Bob.”

Grace realized that such communication would be difficult for most people to believe. “I have no knowledge of established psychic laws or limitations,” she wrote. “But I know what I know.” A month later, official notice of Bob’s death on the battlefield was received by Grace. She concluded that Bob’s first wireless message to her came not long after he fell.

No Horror in Death

A second wireless message read: “Attention: Get this across – there is no horror in death.  I was one minute in the thick of things, with my company, and the next minute Lieutenant Wells touched my arm and said:  ‘Our command has crossed: Let’s go.’  I thought he meant the river, and followed him under the crossfire barrage the Tommies made, up to a hillside that I had not noticed before: a clean spot and not blackened by the guns.  Lots of fellows I knew were there, and strange troops.  But they looked queer… I overtook Wells. ‘What in the deuce is the matter with me, with us all?’ I asked.  He said, ‘Bob, we’re dead.’  I didn’t believe it at first.  I felt all right.  But the men were moving, and I fell in line.

“When we marched through the German barbed-wire barricades and in front of the howitzers,” Bob continued, “I realized that the body that could be hurt had been shed on the red field.  Then I thought of you.  Sent the wireless from an enemy station in the field.  The officer in charge couldn’t have seen me.  But he heard, I guess, by the way his eyes popped.  He sent a few shots in my direction, anyway.  I am using an abandoned apparatus in a trench today, depending on relays.

“We are assigned to duty here for the present according to Wells. I don’t know how he knows.  It seems while we have no supernatural power to divert or stop bullets, we can comfort and reassure those who are about to join us. There has been much talk about the presence of one supposed to be the Savior among the dying.  I should not wonder if that were true.  The capacity for believing is enlarged by experience. But as yet I have no more real knowledge than any of the other fellows.  I will let you know as I gain information.”

Grace faithfully recorded her son’s messages, inserting the proper punctuation and apparently adding some missing words to provide the necessary flow in otherwise truncated verbiage.  In the fourth wireless message, Bob encouraged his mother to attempt automatic writing, as it was too difficult trying to get through on a wireless.  She confessed ignorance of such “occult” practices, admitting that she had always turned away from books of alleged spiritual sources because the “author souls” seemed so unadvanced intellectually, whereas she expected an all-wise, all-seeing, all-knowing angelhood. However, she slowly developed the ability to do automatic writing.

Grace had heard the skeptical theory, that the messages were all coming from her subconscious. “Well maybe they are,” she wrote.  “I cannot say that they are not.  For I do not know what subconsciousness is. What stuff it is made of.  Whence it comes or whither it goes.  Maybe it is the bridge, the link between the mortal and immortal part of man.  Maybe it is the inherent life which all scientists from first to last, have sought without finding; that invisible stumbling block over which every well-built theory of atoms and electrons takes its headlong fall.  If subconsciousness is one of these, it is more than probable that my boy is using its avenue of communication.  For they must be clear enough from his end of the road…”

Bob repeatedly stressed the need to get all of this information to other parents in order to comfort them and urged his mother to write a book. He warned his mother about mischievous spirits interfering with the messages, referring to them as “scalawags.”  He further informed his mother that those on his side knew nothing about the outcome of the war or if there was some cosmic purpose to such war, though in the great scheme of things it might not be as terrible as people in the earth life view it.

As Bob came to understand it, the earth is a preparatory planet.  “The human race is marked for an advanced existence and is brought to as high a degree of perfection as may be necessary to bring up the average,” he communicated.  “That is: The high degree of intelligence of the greater number lifts the lesser in the scale.  We begin the new existence where we left off in the old.  The more we have gained, the greater our advancement among far more favorable conditions.  That is not clear.  I’ll get a better hold on the idea.”

Near-Death Experience

In one communication, Bob told of another soldier named Cooper, who at first appeared to be “a sniveling ‘willy’ boy” who was afraid of the dark.  However, when a grenade fell in the trench, he grabbed it and jumped out of the trench, saving many others.  Cooper temporarily joined the “dead” and was very much concerned about his mother’s grief.  “Coop says he was a rotter to his mother, and he has lately heard her crying that she had been too harsh with him when he was a little boy.” Cooper returned to his physical body.  “I have permission to tell you that Cooper has, because of his understanding and compassion, been sent back home as an instructor,” Bob told his mother.  “His body, sustained by some life principle which I cannot explain, has been all this time in a reconstruction hospital back of the French lines…[He] will take up his old life on earth, and his mother will have her son. But he will not be the same. None of those who go back will be the same…”

Bob had much more to tell his mother, some of which is related in my book, but he stressed that there were many things he did not yet know about or was incapable of understanding.  “…I am not yet far enough advanced to make any definite or authoritative statement,’ he informed her.  “ I only want to start this whole propaganda of comfort, on the one sure thing:  There is no death.”

Michael Tymn is the author of The Afterlife Revealed: What Happens After We Die, Resurrecting Leonora Piper: How Science Discovered the Afterlife, and Dead Men Talking: Afterlife Communication from World War I.
His latest book, No One Really Dies: 25 Reasons to Believe in an Afterlife is published by White Crow books.

Next blog:  July 1




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Taking Your Toys With You At Death!

Posted on 03 June 2024, 7:16

An aging friend who appears to be nearing the end of his life has become a very angry man recently.  There was a time not long ago when he was very jovial as we talked over coffee or tea about such trivial matters as baseball and football, as if they are the most important things in the world.  When I occasionally attempted to change the subject to spiritual concerns, he was quick to reject the topic and return to the real weighty stuff.  I learned over time not to make any attempt at discussing spiritual matters and we recycled the sports topics over and over again.  I don’t know how many times he told me how great Mickey Mantle was or the distance of his longest homerun, but I know I don’t have enough fingers on which to count them.


I offered my friend a copy of my book, The Afterlife Revealed, but he reacted with a sneer.  The nature of his anger is difficult to identify, but I sense that he is mad at the world because he knows he is dying.  As he has no real spiritual foundation, he apparently sees himself marching into an abyss of nothingness, i.e., total extinction, or perhaps into the humdrum or horrific afterworld offered by orthodoxy, and I suspect all that goes to the root cause of his anxiety and anger. Although most psychiatrists are apparently grounded in materialistic behaviorism and don’t really seem to be familiar with it, my friend appears to be suffering from a disorder known as “existential angst.”  While his consciousness continues to strive to be one with his toys, his subconscious is nagging his conscious self to find some meaning in all of it, while driving across the point that he can’t take his toys with him when he dies.  It’s that nagging that is bringing on the subtle and undiagnosed anxiety and anger.

No, I am not a psychiatrist or psychologist, but I’ve had enough experience with aging relatives, friends and acquaintances over my 87 years, along with extensive studies in psychical research, to have some clues as to what is happening.  They are clues, nothing more. I may very well be wrong. I’ve come to the conclusion that absolute (100%) certainty on anything, including consciousness surviving death, is contraindicated for optimum mental health and that some doubt is necessary for us to deal with our challenges and progress in this lifetime.

All that is not to suggest that we should be lifetime skeptics and sit on the fence our entire lives, as so many insist on doing. I believe that seeking, searching, studying, striving, struggling, sacrificing, surrendering, and serving come before solving and soaring.  Such a pursuit often leads from skepticism to conviction.  Conviction does not mean absolute certainty, but it provides a confidence that borders on certainty and permits some peace of mind relative to life’s meaning while avoiding much or all of the existential angst that seems to be affecting my friend.   

I doubt that most of the clues are even discussed in psychology classes. Such discussions would border on religion, a no-no subject in a scientific approach to mental health and well-being.  Modern medicine wants none of that, nor does academia or the media.  They don’t grasp the difference between the dogma and doctrines of organized religions and the indications from psychical research. Moreover, the media, clearly not understanding the difference, does not want to upset readers with “unscientific” subjects or even conflicting religious views.  Better not to discuss the subject at all than risk censure by angry readers who are unable to reconcile such views with either their nihilistic or religious worldviews.

Being Philistines

As existentialist philosopher Sǿren Kierkegaard saw it: “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 referred to those who took no interest in the subject as “philistines,” and opined that they are in despair even if they don’t realize it.

Or to again quote the famous French philosopher, Michel De Montaigne: “They come and they go and they trot and they dance, and never a word about death.  All well and good. Yet, when death does come – to them, their wives, their children, their friends – catching them unawares and unprepared, then what storms of passion overwhelm them, what cries, what fury, what despair!”

Actually, there is considerable anecdotal evidence suggesting that you can take your toys with you when you die. It’s likely, however, that you won’t know you are “dead” when you play with those toys. It’s said to be as if you are stuck in a monotonous never-ending dream world. Those who scoff at such an idea might ask themselves if they know they are “alive” when they are dreaming at night. Such consciousness is clearly little understood by mainstream science, but many maverick scientists and scholars have studied the evidence for survival and to some extent what happens immediately after death.  They include Alfred Russel Wallace, co-originator with Charles Darwin of the natural selection theory of evolution, Sir William Crookes, a world-renowned chemist of yesteryear, Sir Oliver Lodge, a physicist and pioneer in electricity and radio, on up to current near-death experience researchers such as Drs. Raymond Moody and Bruce Greyson, to name only a few.  Unfortunately, their views are suppressed by the mainstream. When they dare publish their unconventional or non-conformist findings, they become outlaws in their professions.

Believe it or not, there is even a little anecdotal evidence suggesting that there are “beings” in the afterlife environment who don’t believe that humans or “earthlings” exist. Such weirdness boggles the mind and invites even scoffs from those who assume that other dimensions of reality must resemble ours or believe that reductionistic science has it all figured out. 

Many have abandoned beliefs about an afterlife because they assume that an old man with whiskers is calling the shots and allowing all kinds of bad things to happen to good people. They conclude that no loving “God” would permit such atrocities. They haven’t stopped to consider that this life seems to be a small part of the larger life – one which is all about exercising free will in learning lessons by overcoming adversity.  Nor do they consider that it is not necessary to have proof of God before accepting the evidence for survival.  If there is a God overseeing it all, great, but if there are ballistic missiles headed our way, the president doesn’t need to know their origin before ordering them shot down.  Identifying the country of origin is secondary to accepting that they are headed our way. The same goes for the survival and God issues. 

Even though psychical research, the subject of seven of my eight published books, as well as about a dozen other books to which I have contributed, has nothing to do with religion, or even a belief in God, some of my non-religious friends think I am a “religious nut.”  I tell them that the books are essentially about consciousness and research strongly suggesting that consciousness survives death in a greater reality than the one we are now experiencing. However, the distinction between consciousness research and religious dogma is slow to sink in for most of them.

Agent of Satan

At the other extreme, some of my religious friends consider me an agent of Satan.  Even though psychical research supports about 97 percent of their religious beliefs, especially the most critical one, life after death, it conflicts with some seemingly insignificant beliefs adopted by church authorities over the centuries, and these conflicts, they have been told, mean that it’s all the work of the devil.  Those researchers are all wolves in sheep’s clothing, they claim. 

I’ll never make it on any best-seller list, but I’m satisfied with about 12,000 or so sales of the books.  My best seller is The Afterlife Revealed, which is approaching 6,000 sales and now has 165 reviews at I’ve had a number of people tell me that the book has made their terminal years much more endurable than it might have otherwise been had they been looking ahead to an abyss of nothingness.  Some of my non-religious friends react with “one life at a time for me.”  I agree with them, but as the renowned psychiatrist Dr. Carl Gustav Jung put it, “A man should be able to say he has done his best to form a conception of life after death, or to create some image of it – even if he must confess his failure. Not to have done so is a vital loss.”  The problem is that most people don’t recognize the loss until they are within shouting distance of what they think of as the abyss, at which point they scream in despair. 
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, while also reportedly telling a friend that if he had his life to live over again, he would pursue psychical research rather than psychiatry.
If I am interpreting those and other great thinkers 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 media.  It is much easier for them 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. 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. 

But back to the important stuff.  I agree that Mickey Mantle was a great player, but Willie Mays was a bit greater.  Just my opinion. 

Michael Tymn is the author of The Afterlife Revealed: What Happens After We Die, Resurrecting Leonora Piper: How Science Discovered the Afterlife, and Dead Men Talking: Afterlife Communication from World War I.
His latest book, No One Really Dies: 25 Reasons to Believe in an Afterlife is published by White Crow books.

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Next blog post: June 17

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Family Feuds in the Afterlife – Part II

Posted on 20 May 2024, 5:55

This is a continuation of the prior blog.  It involves the renowned Irish medium Geraldine Cummins (GC) and four sisters.  Molly Ross, the youngest and only living sister, had nine sittings with GC from 1925 thru 1929 and heard from her three sisters, Audrey, Margaret, and Alice, vis GC’s automatic writing.  Astor is the spirit control of GC.  Beatrice Gibbes was GC’s assistant, who would change the pages which the semi-entranced GC wrote on.  Mater is their mother and Pater their father.


On November 12, 1928, Molly returned for another sitting with GC. Astor announced that both Margaret and Alice were there. “You mustn’t mind too much what Alice says to you,” Margaret opened the dialogue. “She is still very much in the cloud of her memories. She feels, however, that things are not so bad here now. At first she found fault with so many different aspects of life in this place between the worlds. There is a kind of intermediate state, you know. If only human beings would talk to their people when they are in that state it would give such comfort…I had a difficult time, but it is over now. You did help me.”

In a later sitting, Molly asked Alice what she had been doing with her time. “I was taken to a land like the earth in some ways but very different in others,” Alice responded. “For instance, you see rocks, trees, houses, about you, but if you choose to close your outward eyes and use another part of you that can perceive, you see right through these rocks, trees, houses, and solid earth. They tell me here that even while you are on earth, if you practiced them from childhood closing the outer eyes and willing hard to see with the eyes of your inner body, everything also would become transparent to you. And you would see other strange things.”

Molly asked about Margaret. “Oh! I’ve no patience with her,” Alice communicated…. dear, she is so stupid, still.” Molly noted that Alice always complained of Margaret’s stupidity.  “She is just planted there in her wretched house, trying to pretend she is living just as she did on earth, which is such nonsense,” Alice continued.  “It is just as if I had pretended all my life I was a baby in a nursery and kept on sucking a bottle.  Margaret is still sucking her baby bottle and she whines for her baby comforter.  Why, I am already far ahead of her, though I have been here such a short time.”

Alice said that had she known what it was like on that side when she was on earth, she would not have bothered so much about dinners and overdrafts.  Molly recalled that Alice was frequently worried about overdrafts.

The sisters began to discuss Alice’s dog.  As Alice tried to write the name of her dog, Patricia, she wrote “Patsey, Pitri-e-“ and then “STUPID,” after which the pencil was flung violently down.  After things quieted down, Alice apologized and said she could not get the hand to write properly.

During a March 26, 1929 sitting, Astor asked Molly to wait while he found her sister.  After fumbling with the pencil, Alice began writing in her broken and uneven calligraphy. She informed Mollie that Margaret was giving her a hard time and requested that she mediate. “She is just as mulish as ever,” Alice wrote.  Molly recalled Alice using that word many times in describing Margaret.
“You know what she’s like,” Alice continued.  “She’s just the same.  Wants everything to be run in her way, by rules and regulations.  I told her she was the real trouble.  That her nagging about this and that was bad for the Mater.”  Molly also recalled Alice’s frequent use of the word “nagging.”

More Complaints

After a pause, Margaret communicated and complained about Alice.  “She is just the same.  She hasn’t changed a bit.  You remember how she used to carry all before her, sweep everything aside to suit herself; behave as though she were the only person in the house to be attended to.  Of course, you were so young when we were together in the house you can’t remember how spoilt and impossible she was.  Well, she has simply taken possession of the Mater.  She behaves as if she were mistress of everything. She tries to prevent my seeing her.  She won’t let me tell the Mater about my own little difficulties…And when she is coming out in the old colors again I think it is high time she was put in her place. Molly recalled Margaret frequently saying “coming out in old colors again” with regard to Alice.

Molly suggested that Margaret try to get on better with Alice and she might then gravitate to happier conditions.  Margaret said that she would think it over, then wrote that she would say a few nice words to Alice, after which Alice would speak.  “She is so silly, you know,” Margaret ended.  “She boasted to the mater that she had managed to get married and that I hadn’t, and had done nothing with my life.”  Molly noted that Alice used to taunt Margaret about not being married and doing nothing with her life.
After a pause of about a half-minute, the pencil tapped and Alice’s peculiar writing began.  “I thought you would do it, Molly,” Alice wrote. “She has apologized to me…she saw how much she was in the wrong.  I shall get real peace and happiness now if Margaret really does leave the Mater to me…”

Alice went on to tell Molly that her new body has been growing and changing.  “You would be surprised if you saw it.  I have grown so much younger.  It gives me pleasure to look and feel as if I were in the twenties again….Perhaps Charles and I will have to live together. HOW HEAVENLY!”  Molly noted that Alice often used this expression in jest. It was written in extra-large letters.

On March 28, Molly again sat with GC.  She asked Astor if she could speak to her two weird sisters.  “They have, during their life on earth, impregnated their ever-growing etheric doubles with the spirit of antagonism for each other,” Astor communicated.  “My friend, you sow the seeds of another potential existence here.  You need not be too troubled about them.  Slowly this warp in their being will be straightened out.  But at the moment, when they meet, they respond to old, deep antagonisms.  I will summons them.”

Margaret communicated first and said that she had told Mater she would not be seeing much of her in the future because Alice was jealous of her. “The Mater said the people one lives with can be the creation of our own minds; that I could make Alice a really lovable person by thinking her so all the time.  Such nonsense, really.”  Molly noted that this was a phrase frequently used by Margaret.
Molly asked how Pater was coping with the situation. “He seems only to be amused at what’s happened,” Margaret responded. “He isn’t interested in either of us.  His whole mind is fixed on some work he has here. He always was that way.  Didn’t bother about people.”  Molly confirmed this as correct.

After some other comments by Margaret, there was a pause and Alice returned and wrote that everything has been going well since Margaret left and that she has been visiting many old friends with Mater.  She added that Margaret needed a “husband of the firm kind” to make her understand how to live.  Molly noted that Alice often remarked that women needed “firm husbands.”
The handwriting changed to that of Mater, who affectionately greeted Molly.  Molly asked her what was going on with Alice and Margaret. “Oh yes, I was very upset about it,” Mater replied.  “It reminded me of the old days when they quarreled and I could do nothing with them…You know I didn’t see much of Margaret till Alice came.  Then she used to visit us a great deal.  At first, I was very pleased.  Then I saw it was partly not to let Alice be the one and only.  So silly, really.”  Mollie noted that Margaret was not particularly fond of her mother when alive, and it was very like her to try and upset arrangements under the circumstances as described.
Mater explained to Molly that Alice, being newly arrived, needed her attention more than Margaret did.  “I am happy because I know I am able, in this way, to help her to happiness.  I don’t mind her taking control of everything. I won’t restrain her now.  I will let her give her own nature full play.  Later she will begin to learn, and will change.  At present what is essential is that she should be content after her long discontent, as it would be fatal if she became warped or embittered.” Mater added that Margaret is much harder to help because she hates change, and she is naturally indolent.

Because of pressures of other work and also because GC had been in Ireland for several months, Molly did not sit with GC again until September 29, 1929.  Molly told Astor that she would like to talk to her two strange sisters.  After a pause, Margaret began writing.  She mentioned that she had been around Molly several times during the summer and was glad that she was able to spend some time with John (Alice’s husband). “You can be very sympathetic,” Margaret wrote.  “He never met with that in his married life anyway.”  Molly noted that she had visited John several times and what Margaret said was for the most part true.

Progress Made

Molly asked Margaret how she was doing.  “Things are getting brighter for me,” Margaret replied.  “Alice taunted me about not having friends here, so I thought I would show her that I had my own circle.  So, though I didn’t like doing it at all, I looked up strangers.  I tried to make the acquaintance of quite unprepossessing people. The result is, I have made my circle now, but it wouldn’t have been made if it hadn’t been for Stephen.  You don’t know him.  He is the man I loathed so much, who had to live with me here. Well, he isn’t so bad after all, though he does upset me still; he is so unmethodical and untidy.” 

Margaret asked Molly if she would come to live with her when it was her time to cross over to the other side, but Molly said she would have to see what conditions are when she gets there.  Molly then said that she would like to talk to Alice.

“May I say that I think you are very foolish to talk to Alice?” Margaret replied.  She will only weary you with her temper, but of course, if you want to have a row with her, you can…I could tell you a great deal about travel here if you talk to me.  Most interesting.  The worlds you can visit, the states you can enter…..”  But Molly rejected the offer and asked that Alice be allowed to take over the hand.

After a pause, the untidy broken handwriting of Alice began.  “Stupid.  This hand is idiotic,” Alice wrote as she struggled to take control of GC’s hand.  “Molly dear, I can’t tell you how wonderful it is not to have to be cook, housekeeper, charwoman and nurse to John, all combined,” Alice wrote. “Don’t tell him I said that. I know he did his best.”

Alice went on to say that when John comes over she will leaver Mater and make a home with John since he would never be able to look after himself there.  “He seems to be able to look after himself now at any rate,” Molly told Alice.  “I don’t think you need bother.”
But Alice insisted that she wanted to be with John again.  When Molly said she didn’t seem to appreciate him when she was on earth, Alice agreed.  “I know I didn’t.  I have grown to want John again.  It was the reverse on earth.”

Gibbes summarized the case by writing: “It would be difficult to attribute the production of the Ross scripts to the ‘subconscious activity’ of Miss Cummins. Her mind contained no reminiscences or associations upon which it could draw in order to successfully dramatize these very original ladies.  That language employed is purely colloquial and there is no attempt to emulate the style of a particular author known to us.  But there is the precise building up of curious and mundane personalities which were characteristic of certain deceased persons unknown to the automatist, but definitely claimed to be recognized by their surviving relatives.”

Gibbes added that the writing did not bear any resemblance to GC’s normal script and the phraseology was much different than that used by GC in her conscious state.  Moreover, she concluded that the individuality of the spirit communicators made such theories as telepathy and Universal Memory highly unlikely.

Michael Tymn is the author of The Afterlife Revealed: What Happens After We Die, Resurrecting Leonora Piper: How Science Discovered the Afterlife, and Dead Men Talking: Afterlife Communication from World War I.
His latest book, No One Really Dies: 25 Reasons to Believe in an Afterlife is published by White Crow books.

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Feuds & Regrets in the Afterlife

Posted on 06 May 2024, 10:47

The story of the Ross sisters, as communicated through the mediumship of Geraldine Cummins, (below) perhaps the most accomplished automatist of the 20th Century, suggests that family grudges and feuds carry over into the afterlife if not resolved before death. The story also suggests that we can have concerns and regrets relative to how things, such as wills, were left at the time of transition from the physical world.


Beatrice Gibbes, Cummins’s friend and assistant, described the method employed by Cummins. She would sit at a table, cover her eyes with her left hand and concentrate on “stillness.” She would then fall into a light trance or dream state. Her hand would then begin to write. Usually, her “control,” most often a spirit named Astor, said to be a pagan Greek when alive on earth, would make some introductory remarks and announce that another entity was waiting to speak. Because of Cummins’s semi-trance condition and also because of the speed at which the writing would come, Gibbes would sit beside her and remove each sheet of paper as it was filled. Cummins’s hand was quickly lifted by Gibbes to the top of the new page, and the writing would continue without break. The handwriting most often changed to that identified with the communicating spirit when alive.

From 1925 thru 1929, Molly Ross, the youngest of four sisters and Gibbes observed and recorded the story in a book titled They Survive. After the sittings, Gibbes would go over the scripts with Molly and have her comment on evidential points.

Molly had three sisters who had passed over. They were Audrey, who died in 1894 at age 21; Margaret, who died in 1925 at age 57, and Alice, the oldest of the four sisters, who died in 1928 at the age of 62. Molly had had several evidential sittings with GC after Margaret’s death in 1925. When Alice appeared on the brink of death while in a nursing home in York, Molly, who was living in London, was summoned to her sister’s bedside. After Alice died on October 11, 1928, Molly wired GC in Dublin, Ireland, requesting that Astor find her oldest sister, Audrey, and to let her know that Alice had passed over.

Four days later, on October 15, Molly received a letter from GC, postmarked October 12, saying that Margaret had communicated and said that “Alice was not alone when she was slipping out of her body… that Audrey and Mater (their mother) came to her.”

Margaret explained that Audrey presented herself to Alice as Alice remembered her in 1894, not as she was in 1925. She further explained that because Alice and Mater had quarreled before Mater’s death three years earlier, and because Audrey had much more experience on that side, Audrey was the first to appear to Alice while Mater remained in the background. Because Alice was so restless, Audrey put on a dream of old days about her soul. When Alice saw these old memories, her fear left her.

Margaret said that she had not yet approached Alice because she was not yet fit to draw near the newly dead. Besides, Margaret added, she would not have been received kindly by Alice as they constantly quarreled when they were alive. (This point was particularly evidential to Molly, since it was true and she was certain that GC had no way of knowing of the friction between the two sisters.)

On November 10, 1928, Mollie sat with GC in London. A request was made to Astor to find Margaret. After a pause, Margaret took hold of GC’s hand and told Molly that she had talked with Alice. “I had quite a shock when I found out that we didn’t disagree with each other,” Margaret wrote. “She is so much gentler than she was.” Margaret then said that Alice would attempt to communicate directly, although it might be too soon and her words might be muddled. Mollie observed the writing change to a big scrawl and become very labored.

“Mo, Mo, Molly. I am here. I see you,” Alice wrote. “It’s all true. I am alive. The pain went at once. I felt suffocating. Then, just after I got that awful choking, I felt things were breaking up all about me. I heard crackling like fire and then dimness. I saw you bending down with such a white face and you were looking at me, and I wasn’t there.” Alice added that she regretted that her husband, John, and her son, Ronald, were not there when she left the body. (Molly confirmed the deathbed scene as accurate and pointed out that John and Ronald arrived several hours after the death. Here again, Molly saw this as very evidential since GC had no way of knowing what took place in Alice’s final hours.)

Alice said that she regretted not having treated her second son, who was living in East Africa, as an equal to Ronald. (Molly confirmed that Ronald was the favorite son and noted that Ronald was favored in Alice’s will, another fact which GC could not have known.) As the writing became fainter, Margaret took back the pencil and explained that Alice found it hard to write at the end as she didn’t understand how to manage the words. However, she got through most of what she wanted to say. Margaret added that Alice also regretted treating her husband badly. (Molly noted that this was also very evidential as Alice “bullied her husband dreadfully.”)

Margaret then mentioned that Alice still resented the fact that Margaret cut her out of her will and left her share to Charles, their brother, who had no need of the money. (This was another very evidential fact to Molly.) “She hasn’t forgotten yet the way I left my money,” Margaret wrote. “She feels it would have made a difference in her last days.”

Molly told Margaret that Alice’s family was managing financially. “Good,” Margaret replied. “I will tell her that, then she won’t bother about things. The fact of the matter is, she came out of the world with a dark cloud of years of troubled thought about money. It all accumulated and clung about her. But I think now it will be slowly dissipated… All that worrying before her death left her in a very scattered state of mind.”

When Margaret told Molly that Alice had it easier than she (Margaret) did, Molly requested an explanation. “I never cared much for anyone,” Margaret responded. “One pays for that over here.”

Margaret went on to say that she was now “quite clear” of her worldly longings and had built herself a house with her thoughts. Moreover, she was sharing the house with someone. “Oh! I don’t think that sounds quite nice,” Molly reacted. “Who are you sharing it with? A MAN?” Margaret said she was not prepared to tell Molly of her companion, but, apparently in jest, wrote that she should tell Charles (their brother) that she had dragged the Ross name into the mud. (Mollie noted that it was a family joke that Charles took life too seriously and was always afraid of a family scandal.)

On November 11, 1928, Molly again sat with GC. After GC went into a trance, Molly asked Astor if he could bring Margaret. “Yes, I will call her,” Astor responded, apparently thinking of Alice. “She is quite near. Her new body is now almost formed. When it is complete she can face the new world and this life. Wait (pause).“Funny old man called me,” Alice wrote, “Who is your grey-bearded admirer, Molly?”

Molly explained that the man was Astor, GC’s guide. Alice replied that her mind was still in tatters and that she was confused. Alice then wrote that her men were no good. Molly replied that there were many men she liked in her younger days. “They were nice to flirt with but not any use otherwise,” Alice wrote. (Molly noted that Alice, when alive, frequently referred to herself as a “flirt.”)
Alice then said that Mater sends her love to Molly and talks about her (horseback) riding. Alice then recalled a quarrel that she had had with Mater over Molly’s ability to ride a particular horse. (Another evidential fact.)

Alice mentioned that Margaret had been around. “You know I never could stand her,” Alice said, “but you would have laughed to see us together. We were so polite. She was trying so hard to avoid giving offence… I put Margaret in her place all right. She told me how sorry she was about her will and the money she didn’t leave to me. I told her that being sorry didn’t make up for the thoughtlessness, that there was more thought in your little finger than in her whole body. Do you know, she took it quite quietly, and would you believe it, kissed me! My word, I was never so taken back in my life. I couldn’t say anything more to her then.”

At one point, Alice said, “And in those last months I used to keep saying to myself, ‘if only this or that had happened.’” (Molly recalled her saying those exact words.) Alice also mentioned having talked with their father (Pater) and his making reference to some “numbskull” relatives. (This was a word that Alice sometimes used when alive, Molly noted, while Beatrice Gibbes could not recall GC ever having used the word before.)
Alice asked Molly if she had seen John (Alice’s husband) recently. Molly said she had. “Tell him I see more and more how patient and good he was to me,” Alice wrote. “I feel so sorry now because I know I spoke harshly to him sometimes.” (Molly noted that “harshly” was a very mild way of putting it.)

After a few more comments the writing changed to Margaret’s quick style. Molly asked Margaret if she was aware that Alice was just communicating. “Yes, she has quite blossomed out,” Margaret replied. Molly noted that Margaret frequently spoke of people “blossoming out” when she was alive in the flesh.

Margaret mentioned that she and Alice had had a “fusillade” (i.e., shoot-out, outburst) when they last met. Molly recalled that the word “fusillade” was often used by Margaret before she passed.

Michael Tymn is the author of The Afterlife Revealed: What Happens After We Die, Resurrecting Leonora Piper: How Science Discovered the Afterlife, and Dead Men Talking: Afterlife Communication from World War I.
His latest book, No One Really Dies: 25 Reasons to Believe in an Afterlife is published by White Crow books.

NOTE: If your browser will not accept a comment at this blog, send it by email to Mike at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) or Jon at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) and one of us will post it.

(To be continued in the next blog, May 20)

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Remembering Professor William Newbold and His Research with Leonora Piper

Posted on 22 April 2024, 8:06

As a member of the American Society for Psychical Research (ASPR), William Romaine Newbold (1865 – 1926, lower left photo), a University of Pennsylvania professor of philosophy and psychology, carried out considerable research with trance medium Leonora Piper of Boston, Mass.  Between 1891 and 1895, he had 26 sittings with her and studied the details of seven others held on his behalf by Dr. Richard Hodgson (upper right photo).


The predominant theory among researchers in 1891, before the emergence of George Pellew (G.P.) as a spirit “control” of Mr. Piper’s, was that Dr. Phinuit, her primary control at the time, was a secondary personality buried in her subconscious and this secondary personality had the ability to tap into the minds of the sitters, even into minds elsewhere, for the information coming out of Mrs. Piper’s mouth, then to somehow dramatize it and personalize it. In Newbold’s first sitting with Mrs. Piper after the G.P. control manifested in early 1892, his Aunt Sally communicated, but G.P. struggled to understand whether she was his aunt or his grandmother. Newbold understood G.P.’s dilemma perfectly, explaining that his paternal grandfather’s second wife had a sister whom his (Newbold’s) father married many years after his father’s death, that woman being his mother. Thus, Aunt Sally was both his aunt and his step-grandmother.

“The demand made by ‘Aunt Sally’ that I should identify myself by expounding the significance of ‘two marriages in this case, mother and aunt grandma’…admits of no satisfactory telepathic explanation,” Newbold offered in his report, wondering why the dim memories of his spinster aunt, who died when he was just 10 years old, were so clearly reflected when so many vivid memories of others might have been more easily picked up.

“Evidence of this sort does not suggest telepathy,” he reasoned. “It suggests the actual presence of the alleged communicators, and if it stood alone I should have no hesitation in accepting that theory. Unfortunately, it does not stand alone. It is interwoven with obscurity, confusion, irrelevancy, and error in a most bewildering fashion. I agree with Dr. Hodgson that the description give by the (spirit) writers themselves of the conditions under which they are laboring would, if accepted, account for a very large part of this matter. But, even after the most generous allowances on this score, there remains much which the writers cannot explain.”

Born in Wilmington, Delaware, Newbold received his Ph.D. in 1891 at the University of Pennsylvania and did further graduate study at the University of Berlin. He was on the faculty of the University of Pennsylvania for 37 years, serving as dean of the university’s graduate school from 1896 to 1904.

In one sitting with Piper, who was in a trance state, Newbold observed G.P. writing while using Mrs. Piper’s hand, as Phinuit, who was sharing control duties with G.P. at the time, was talking through her. Newbold heard Phinuit say that he shouldn’t be in such a hurry and thought Phinuit was talking to him, thus telling Phinuit that he was in no hurry. Phinuit said he wasn’t talking to Newbold but rather to a young man in spirit who was in a great hurry to begin communicating. Hodgson was also there, recording the session. When the young man referred to by Phinuit communicated, he seemed confused, as Mrs. Piper’s hand felt Hodgson’s head. The young man then said that he did not know Hodgson. Since Mrs. Piper/Dr. Phinuit certainly knew Hodgson, this was deemed not consistent with the secondary personality hypothesis, unless it is claimed that Piper was play-acting.

Writing vs. Talking

At a June 17, 1895 sitting, Newbold asked G.P. the difference between the writing and talking.  G.P. responded that the difference was not apparent to him. “I only know I am writing by having been told so by Hodgson,” G.P. wrote through Piper’s hand. When Newbold asked G.P. what Phinuit was doing while he was controlling Mrs. Piper, G.P. said that Phinuit was “talking to John H. and a little million others at the same time helping me hold them back and keep them from interrupting me.”
Two days later, Newbold asked G.P. if it was possible to have W. Stainton Moses, an Anglican priest and medium who had died several years earlier, communicate.  A short time later, Phinuit began talking to Newbold (through Piper’s vocal cords), calling him by his nickname, “Billie,” although recorded as “Billy.”  Phinuit said that G.P. sent him to find Moses.  “I found him in another part of our world,” Phinuit stated.  Newbold asked Phinuit if it was far away.  “It would be a long way to you, Billie, but not so far to me.” Phinuit said he identified Moses by his bright light, “more than anybody.”  When Newbold asked for clarification, Phinuit responded by saying that spirits are “all light” and that they vary in light.

Newbold concluded his first report by saying he had no theory to offer relative to the origin of the information given. “I can frame none to which I cannot myself allege unanswerable objections.”  He noted that the alleged spirits of those who had died a violent death or had been bound to the sitter by emotional ties, would nearly always display great excitement and confusion. He went on to say that the scientific world, which had so tacitly rejected the idea of a supersensible world and the possibility of occasional communication between that world and this, should reconsider its position based on Mrs. Piper’s and kindred cases.

Not long after Hodgson died unexpectedly on December 20, 1905, he began communicating with Newbold and others through Mrs. Piper. Newbold, who had become a good friend of Hodgson’s, sat with Mrs. Piper on June 27, 1906 along with George Dorr, another ASPR member and also a good friend of Hodgson’s. After Mrs. Piper went into trance, Rector, who had replaced Phinuit and G.P. as Mrs. Piper’s control,  communicated briefly and turned it over to Hodgson, who told Newbold that it was much more difficult to communicate than he had anticipated when in the earth life.

Who’s Speaking?

Dorr asked whether Hodgson was communicating directly or Rector was relaying messages from him. “It is wholly done by Rector and it will continue to be,” Hodgson responded. “I shall take no part in that.”  When Dorr asked for clarification, Hodgson replied, “It is Rector who is speaking and he speaks for me.  I have no desire to take Rector’s place.  I trust him implicitly and absolutely.” Dorr asked if Rector speaks for all other spirits.  ‘Everyone,” Hodgson answered. “There is no question about that.  In the first place he is more competent to do it, he understands the conditions better than any individual spirit; he is fully capable and is under the constant direction of Imperator…” (Imperator was the name of the leader of the “group soul” communicating through Piper.)

The dialogue between Hodgson and Dorr and Hodgson and Newbold went on for some time, part of which is recorded in my book, Resurrecting Leonora Piper:  How Science Discovered the Afterlife.  On July 3, 1906, Newbold and Hodgson again dialogued.  After some initial greeting, the transcript reads: 

Hodgson:  “I am trying my level best to give you facts.”
Newbold:  “Very good.”
Hodgson:  “I said my pipe and my work would not be given up even for a wife.  Oh how you have helped me, Billy.  Yes, in clearing my mind wonderfully.  (Newbold noted that Hodgson made a very veridical remark at this point, but he had to omit it, as it was apparently too personal). You said you could not understand why so many mistakes were made, and I talked you blind trying to explain my idea of it.”
Newbold:  “Dick, this sounds like your own self.  Just the way you used to talk to me.”
Hodgson:  “Well if I am not Hodgson, he never lived.”

Michael Tymn is the author of The Afterlife Revealed: What Happens After We Die, Resurrecting Leonora Piper: How Science Discovered the Afterlife, and Dead Men Talking: Afterlife Communication from World War I.
His latest book, No One Really Dies: 25 Reasons to Believe in an Afterlife is published by White Crow books.

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Next blog post: May 6

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What Easter is (or was) all about

Posted on 08 April 2024, 15:17

Easter 2024 is behind us. I hope all readers of this blog had a good Easter. However, it seems clear to me that the meaning of Easter has been completely lost in our hedonistic world.  USA Today kicked off its Easter coverage on “Holy Thursday” with a front-page article on the cost of eggs. There was not a single mention of what was being celebrated. There was nothing on Friday and the paper does not publish on weekends. My local paper had an article on page 4 about the pope being well enough to celebrate Easter by discussing peace in Israel and Ukraine.  I admit that I saw only a small fraction of the various media during the week, but I would bet that what I saw was representative of all of it.

Maybe if I were a church-going person, I would have sensed it on Easter Sunday, but my best guess is that the message would have been as imprecise, elusive, ambiguous, distorted and otherwise as vague as it was during my church-going years. It would have dealt with the resurrection of Christ’s physical body rather than his spirit body and not even mention spirit bodies we all have in common with him. And it would be a very humdrum heaven for which we are striving. Many say that they prefer total extinction to such an afterlife.   

If I were a roving television reporter and stopped a number of people on the street, asking them what Easter is all about, I suspect that not one in 50 would agree with my understanding of what is celebrated on Easter. I imagined myself as a pastor of some church and made an attempt to write a sermon for Easter Sunday. This is what I came up with, minus the salutations and gestures that go with a speech. Pardon me for using some of the same quotes as in recent blogs, but I feel that they need to be heard and stressed over and over again. 


The Easter Message

“If man believes in nothing but the material world, he becomes a victim of the narrowness of his own consciousness.  He is trapped in triviality.”  So said Emanuel Swedenborg, the renowned Swedish scientist and polymath. As Fyodor Dostoyevsky, the famous Russian author (Crime & Punishment, etc.) put it: “Neither a person nor a nation can exist without some higher idea. And there is only one higher idea on earth, and it is the idea of the immortality of the human soul, for all other ‘higher’ ideas of life by which humans might live derive from that idea alone.” 

If I am properly remembering what I was taught in my Catholic school religious studies, Jesus came at a time when the world had lost sight of that “higher idea.” I’ve wondered who did a survey to determine the worldview at the time, but, if such was the case, Jesus’s primary mission was to reestablish a conviction that consciousness survives death in a larger life. As I still understand it, that’s what Easter is supposed to be about.  It’s not about eggs and bunnies, nor is it about God, original sin, atonement, peace or worship. They all follow the acceptance of consciousness surviving death.
During the mid-1800s, Science began impeaching Religion, reaching its peak around 1870, a decade after “Darwinism” was introduced to the world by scientists Charles Darwin and Alfred Russel Wallace. ”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 Frederic W.H. Myers, one of the pioneers of psychical research, 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 the unprecedented prosperity, but at the same time, this prosperity brought 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, one referred to as “soul sickness.”

The ”death of God,” as decreed by Friedrich Nietzsche in 1882, the same year that Myers helped co-found the Society for Psychical Research, resulted in despair and hopelessness for many, especially the intelligentsia of the civilized world.  There were some 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.  A melancholy mood prevailed among them, one that often turned to anxious trembling and fear as life’s end approached. 


In addition to Myers, a number of other scholars and scientists searched for the “larger life” in order to restore the meaning that had been lost. They included psychologist William James, astronomer Camille Flammarion, chemist William Crookes, and physicists William Barrett and Oliver Lodge.  They attempted to reconcile the teachings of science with those of religion by studying various psychic phenomena which suggested a spirit world. As Professor James put it: “Humbug is humbug, even though it bear the scientific name, and the total expression of human experience, as I view it objectively, invincibly urges me beyond the narrow ‘scientific’ bounds.”

Wallace, who it is said persuaded Darwin to accept the “survival of the fittest” concept, was among those more open-minded scientists who became convinced that a spirit world exists and that consciousness survives in that larger world.  As he saw it, the evidence for survival from the phenomena studied and validated as genuine was as good, if not better, than the evidence for evolution. Moreover, the two did not conflict with each other, as many believed.  Others, such as famous Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung, joined in.  “A man should be able to say he has done his best to form a conception of life after death, or to create some image of it, even if he must confess his failure,” Jung offered. “Not to have done so is a vital loss.” As Jung put it, “critical rationalism” had eliminated the idea of life after death.

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.”

For those with an open-mind the evidence for survival was overwhelming and was embraced by many during the Great War. But the conviction melted away during the “Roaring Twenties,’ when materialism renewed itself in times of prosperity.  An economic depression and then another world war stemmed the tide of materialism and its close companions, hedonism and epicureanism.  But with the aid of the new technology called television, the entertainment and advertising industries regained the upper hand for the materialists. “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 viewed 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, to which he subscribed, as responsible to most, if not all, society’s ills, including misplaced sexual energy.  Erich Fromm, another humanistic philosopher, agreed. “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,” Fromm stated. 

As science progressed, its leaders became concerned as to how to replace the soul it had succeeded in eradicating.  Their solution was humanism – materialism, secularism, and rationalism bundled together with ethical and moral concerns and constraints. Also referred to as a moralist, the humanist was someone able to live a life of dignity and morality without subscribing to religious beliefs.  In effect, it was seen as a very noble and honorable way of living, one governed by discipline, moderation and courage rather than fear of punishment in an afterlife.  It was a more heroic approach than that of the religionist. Yet, the humanists struggled in their idealism.  While sound in principle, it was not so easy to put into practice, especially for those past their prime years and approaching what they saw as the abyss of nothingness.

One with our Toys

Research in the areas of past-life memories and near-death experiences supplemented earlier psychical research in countering the materialistic mindset, but the researchers in those fields, especially that of the NDE, were overly cautious in linking their findings to consciousness surviving death. It was all about enjoying this life, even if it meant self-deception, i.e., tricking oneself into enjoying it with a possible false assumption. Not until very recently have some leading NDE researchers dared make the link between the experience and a larger life. Meanwhile, religion has continued to stress the need to worship God while avoiding the evidence for survival, since some of it seemingly conflicts with established dogma and doctrine. This has made it quite easy for the fundamentalists of science to continue repudiating survival.  That is, the evidence for a Higher Power is much more subjective and elusive than the evidence for survival. No God, no afterlife is the mistaken inference.       

In spite of the overwhelming evidence for survival developed by scientists and scholars to this day, as well as the support provided by quantum physics, those subscribing to scientism, the other extreme from religious fundamentalism, have not yielded in their resistance. Moreover, the mainstream media has fully supported the fundamentalists of science.  The distinction between the findings of psychical researchers and the superstitions and follies associated with religion is too much and too inconvenient for science and the media to grasp.  And they ask why, if your God is so powerful, “he” can’t provide evidence that goes to absolute certainty. Victor Hugo, the famous French author and poet, asked this very question of a spirit claiming to have been Martin Luther in the physical body. The reply was that “doubt is the instrument which forges the human spirit.”  To put it another way, some doubt is vital to learning lessons that give life a purpose. 

Further bolstered by the entertainment and advertising industries, materialism, the core of nihilism, is simply too attractive to the vast majority of people. In recent years, the entertainment industry has bombarded the public with uncensored lewdness and vulgarity. 
Nevertheless, there is no indication that the Easter message of some 2,000 years ago is going away. The need for meaning in life beyond being “one with our toys” will always be there, even if mostly a subconscious need. “The decisive question for man is whether he is related to something infinite or not,” Jung asserted.  “That is the telling question of his life. Only if we know that the thing which truly matters is the infinite can we avoid fixing our interest upon futilities, and upon all kinds of goals which are not of real importance.”

Although Sigmund Freud is remembered as an atheist, he is said to have sent a 1921 letter to researcher Hereward Carrington, saying: “If I had my life to live over again, I should devote myself to psychical research rather than psychoanalysis.”

Michael Tymn is the author of The Afterlife Revealed: What Happens After We Die, Resurrecting Leonora Piper: How Science Discovered the Afterlife, and Dead Men Talking: Afterlife Communication from World War I.
His latest book, No One Really Dies: 25 Reasons to Believe in an Afterlife is published by White Crow books.

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Irrefutable Evidence of Life After Death?

Posted on 25 March 2024, 9:37

I don’t know how anyone can read the reports by some very renowned researchers about the mediumship of Etta Wriedt and conclude that she was a charlatan or that the phenomena described by various witnesses suggest anything other than spirit communication and, concomitantly, survival in a spirit world.


Wriedt, an American living in Detroit, was studied and validated by such esteemed researchers as Sir William Barrett, a physics professor who co-founded the Society for Psychical Research (SPR), Sir Oliver Lodge, a physicist remembered for his pioneering work in electricity and radio, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the physician who created Sherlock Holmes, Dr. John S. King, a physician who founded the Canadian branch of the SPR, and Vice-Admiral William Usborne Moore, a retired British naval commander turned researcher. Lady (Dr.) Florence Barrett, Sir William’s wife, who was dean of the London School of Medicine for Women, is said to have been skeptical of all mediums until she sat with Mrs. Wriedt and heard from deceased relatives in their own voices.

A collection of some of the most interesting reports has been put together in a book edited Etta Wriedt: One of the Greatest American Direct Voice Mediums of the 20th Century by N. Riley Heagerty and published by White Crow Books. Another book, to be published by White Crow Books later this year, titled The Spiritualist Prime Minister, is about William Lyon Mackenzie King, former prime minister of Canada, and his many communications with the spirit world, quite a few of them through Wriedt.  The author is historian Dr. Anton Wagner. That book will be the subject of a later blog.  For this one, I’m just going to provide bits and pieces from Heagerty’s book. As discussed in his book, as well as in my blog of October 31, 2011 and in Chapter 14 of my book, No One Really Dies, Wriedt (1862-1942) was a direct-voice medium, meaning the voices did not come through her larynx and mouth but from nearby her, often amplified by a so-called trumpet which would float around the room and stop in front of one of the sitters to whom spirits would then speak. She did not go into a trance state as so many mediums did then and could often be seen talking to the person next to her at the same time one or more spirit voices were being heard by others.

It was reported that as many as four spirit voices would be talking simultaneously to different sitters and that, although Wriedt knew only English, the “Yankee” form of it, not “pure” English, according to Admiral Moore, spirits communicated in French, German, Italian, Spanish, Norwegian, Dutch, Arabic, Serbian, Croatian and other languages. Phenomena could be produced in lighted conditions, but darkness provided stronger voices and otherwise better phenomena.

Count Chedo Myatovitch, a diplomat from Serbia, provided an account of a sitting with Wriedt on May 16, 1912 in Wimbledon, England. He heard from a   recently deceased friend, Adela Mayell, communicating in Serbian and speaking “in her affectionate and generous voice, trying to reassure me on certain questions which had sadly preoccupied my mind since her death.”  She was followed by a deceased physician speaking in the Croatian language to Dr. Hinkovitch, who had accompanied Myatovitch. “They continued for some time the conversation in their native tongue, of which I heard and understood every word,” Myatovitch reported, adding that he accompanied Frau Professor Margareet Selenka, a renowned German zoologist,  to a later sitting with Wriedt.  She had a conversation with her late husband and her mother before a friend came singing a German song while asking Selenka to join in.  “I spoke of it to my friends as the most wonderful experience of my life,” Myatovich offered.

Whistling from the Dead

Rose Champion de’Crespigny, a noted British artist, historian, and author (upper photo), was highly skeptical before she was persuaded by a friend, Colonel E. R. Johnson, to sit with Wriedt.  She was amazed when her late husband, Philip, greeted her by whistling their favorite waltz, “Daheim,” through the trumpet.  She was certain that Wriedt, Johnson, and others in the room knew nothing of their interest in this music.  She remained skeptical, however, because her husband’s voice didn’t sound like she remembered it, although he spoke with the same mannerisms.  Apparently sensing her skepticism, Philip turned it over to his brother, who reminded her of a dance they had both been to when young and of some incident about the flower she had worn. As that was very evidential, Crespigny didn’t know what to think.

At a later sitting, Crespigny heard from her father, who had died some 25 years earlier.  He asked about his two sisters, mentioning one of them by a pet name, while also referring to their old Scottish nurse and giving her name, an unusual one, Euphemia, as well as the pet names of her children. He further talked about his duty stations in the military.  When Rose asked her father if he remembered the Russian ‘scare’ in 1879, he replied that he certainly did and corrected her by saying it was in 1878, not ’79, which proved factual. 

Crespigny estimated that she had more than one-hundred sittings with Wriedt while Wriedt was visiting England and said that she could count the blank sittings on the fingers of one hand. She recalled an attempt by a scientist to expose Wriedt as a fraud by detecting drops of water adhering to the inner sides of the trumpet, which suggested the condensation of human breath and Wriedt’s having spoken through the trumpet.  However, she said it was the custom to hold the trumpet under the cold water tap after each sitting – something she had assisted with on many occasions. Moreover, drops of water did not explain the evidential information.

First & Second Wife Communicate Together

Dr. John King (middle photo) reported that both his first wife, Martha, who had died at an early age, and his recently deceased second wife, May, communicated with him together in harmony. May spoke loud enough that a trumpet was not required and referred to him as “Johnnie,” a nickname which only she called him by. King also heard from a former patient who expressed concern about an illegitimate son, asking King to divulge his identity to the boy along with the fact that his mother had withheld funds he had left for the boy’s education and advancement.

The Reverend Charles Tweedale, Vicar of Weston, Church of England, and his wife sat with Wriedt in 1912.  He reported that a voice came to his wife, giving the name “Frank Woodward.” His wife was astonished as Woodward was her schoolmaster 17 years earlier and she was not aware that he had died, a fact which she verified upon returning home and writing to her mother.

Admiral Moore (bottom photo) reported that in Scotland, Mrs. Wriedt’s séances were even more successful than those in England.  “The Scotch voices of the spirits were most remarkable,” he wrote, “especially to an English listener.  Very occasionally, Gaelic was spoken.  No Scotch spirit ever spoke in English unless he had lost his accent before he passed out, and no English spirit ever spoke in Scotch.”   
Moore further stated:  “For my part I can only say that, in her presence, I obtained evidence of the next state of consciousness so clear and so pronounced that the slightest doubt was no longer possible. I left her house in February 1911, in the condition of mind of a man who no longer fosters ‘belief,’ but who knows what is his destiny when the tomb closes over him and his spirit leaves the earth plane.”

Said Sir William Barrett, the physicist: “I went to Mrs. Wriedt’s sittings in a somewhat sceptical spirit, but I came to the conclusion that she is a genuine and remarkable psychic and has given abundant proof to others beside myself that the voices and the contents of the messages are wholly beyond the range of trickery or collusion.  I am convinced of the genuineness of the phenomena.”

There is so much more set forth in Heagerty’s book as well as in the other references.  With such evidence, I find it extremely difficult to understand how anyone with an open mind can claim fraud, telepathy, super psi or living-agent psi, or some other explanation than spirits of the dead communicating from another dimension of reality.  Yet, more than a century later, both religion and science turn up their noses at such evidence. Is it any wonder that the spirit world has pulled back?

Michael Tymn is the author of The Afterlife Revealed: What Happens After We Die, Resurrecting Leonora Piper: How Science Discovered the Afterlife, and Dead Men Talking: Afterlife Communication from World War I.
His latest book, No One Really Dies: 25 Reasons to Believe in an Afterlife is published by White Crow books.

NOTE: If your browser will not accept a comment at this blog, send it by email to Mike at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  or Jon at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) and one of us will post it.

Next blog post:  April 8


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The Irish are Still Quite Fey

Posted on 11 March 2024, 9:16

I try to pay special homage to my Irish ancestors on St. Patrick’s Day, which is coming up on Sunday.  They include my maternal grandmother, Mary Ellen Donovan (right photo), her father, Jeremiah Donovan (top left), his two sisters Bridget and Catherine Donovan (bottom left), who cared for Mary Ellen after her mother, Margaret (Lynch) Donovan, died at childbirth.  Bridget and Catherine accompanied Mary Ellen to the United States from County Cork in 1903. Bridget was my Godmother, and although she died in an accident in 1938, when I was just a year old, I never had a chance to know her. I think she might be one of my spirit guides.  Also, Anna (Toaz) Bowles, my maternal grandfather’s mother (middle left) was three-quarters Irish, although she was born with a surname having roots in the Iberian Peninsula.


I am especially indebted to the Donovan/Lynch/Sullivan side for my Catholic heritage. It provided me with a spiritual foundation, one I could build upon and chisel away at in in later years, thereby developing into a more meaningful existential approach to this life and the “larger life.” Without that foundation, I’m not sure what path I would have taken. I might have otherwise chosen to be a nihilist, thereby being “one with my toys.”

A few days ago, it seemed like a good time to call my long-time friend, David Stang, as to the state of spirituality in Ireland. Although Dave is an 85-year-old retired American lawyer living in Washington D.C., he has a summer home in Ireland and has spent time there nearly every year for the past five decades.

In a chapter titled “Religion on the Rocks,” in his 2003 book, Emerald Spirit, Dave observed that many Irish people had left the church or remained only nominal parishioners.  The reason, he wrote, is much the same as in other countries – various clerical scandals and disagreement with certain Church teachings, but perhaps more than those it was materialism.  “Through watching American and British movies on TV portraying the glories of a materialistic culture, and by being bombarded with advertising, a growing number of Irish are beginning to believe that they are what they buy,” he explained. “They are learning to measure their self-worth by the clothes they wear, the houses they live in, and the cars they drive. The more they have, the better they tend to feel about themselves.”

Reduced Rosary Chanting

I asked Dave if there has been any noticeable change since he wrote the book 20 years ago. He said he didn’t have any statistics available, but opined that “Materialism is replacing Christianity. The small towns are slower to catch on,” he said.  “The old ways of seeking divine intervention through saying the rosary have been largely abandoned by the big city folk in Dublin and Cork.  The people there want to be ‘European,’ not ‘rosary-chanting Irish.’ In the country towns, you still find some people going to church.  They may not accept all the doctrines of the church, but they are superstitious so they still see reciting the rosary as a good way of avoiding a future in hell.”

According to a 2022 census, 14 percent of the Irish population are “irreligious,” while 69 percent identify as Catholic, down from 94.9 percent in a 1961 census. In that ’61 survey, fewer than one-percent were in the “irreligious” category. In a separate survey, church attendance was down from 80 percent during the 1990s to 28 percent in 2020.

As Dave sees it, the materialistic mindset is more prevalent among those under 35, the consciousness of hard times tempering somewhat the spending habits of those over 50.  An increasing number of Irish, he further notes, believe that they are losing their Irishness and no different now than Yanks or Brits.  “Their mistake is in assuming that their belongings are the principal means of demonstrating their collective identity,” he added.  “Many appear to forget that social and cultural identity are shaped by more than material possessions alone.”

With some 50 years of observing Irish consciousness, including their spirituality Dave sees a number of major factors contributing to the development of the subtlety of the Irish stereotype, which, “generally” includes fair skin, freckles, blue eyes, sandy hair, musical and poetic abilities, a penchant for extensive conversation, a remarkably quick-witted sense of humor and of course being quite fey.”

The most important factor is that their collective gene pool is rich in inducing what can best be called “fey” or possessing clairvoyance. Dave said what he means by this is that the Irish gene pool empowers the populace with a special way of sensing which ranges in intensity from strong intuition to possessing with the Irish call the second sight or the sixth sense. Viewed from the academic perspective of parapsychology this means possessing extra-sensory perception. He told me a story that one of his Irish friends with a very strong capacity for the second sight or sixth sense reported that in his small village in County Kerry when someone dies everyone knows it intuitively. He said, “For example when you wake up in the morning you know right away that someone in the village has died. Radio Kerry which we will listen to has a programmer morning listing on the deaths within the past 24 hours. It is no surprise to us when we hear that one of the names on that list is from our village.” Another Irish friend told me that when he was a boy there was someone in his town that had the sixth sense of being able to hear banshees cry. He said, “The cry of the banshee informs us that someone has died.” Dave suggested that very prevalent Irish superstition may well relate to an intuition which detects that something isn’t right. He also told me that when he raises the matter of the sixth sense or second sight with Irish friends and acquaintances they deny that they have any such skills. It took him a while to discern that they say that because nearly everyone in Ireland is fey. “So in Ireland” he said, “it’s no big deal to be able to intuit something before it happens.”

Other examples of being fey include among a good number of the Irish that they possess a vibrant awareness of the Other World; belief in magic and the power of disincarnate spirits to reap vengeance through haunting. Additionally many still believe in the magical healing power of the holy wells or what is known elsewhere as natural as springs; their remarkable awareness of nature including the oppressive continuity of stratus clouds to spray down depression-inducing rain; and their remarkable memories of what they hear spoken because the Celtic-rooted Irish language from the beginning of the Iron Age until the seventh century was entirely verbal, thus completely unwritten.

Dave goes on to point out that the many dark days instill in the Irish a certain melancholy, while the bright days induce an almost manic state of bliss, As a result, the fey dimension of Irish” is constantly being reinforced by its kaleidoscope skies.  “When you cast your eyes towards the horizon and see, streaming through the cloud cover, majestic rays of light, you can only begin to suspect that the Deity, or at least a mighty host of angels, is close at hand,” he explains the phenomenon.  “The majestic rays of light are as plentiful as rainbows in Ireland. And everyone knows about the spiritual magic of rainbows.”

And then there’s the landscape.  “There is something magic about the landscape, the way it changes from minute to minute,” he continues.  “The visible suddenly becomes invisible, then returns again as if under the control of spirit beings.  If you relax and let the panorama phantasmagoria speak to you, your consciousness may click into a realm of fantasy where charms, magic, and mystery all dwell contentedly together.  This allows your rational mind to let itself lapse into a semi-stupor so your child’s mind can awaken and listen. The child’s mind is fueled with curiosity and a belief that all things are possible.”


Dave then got into some mini-insights, involving the Irish character beginning with suspicion and trust, which he says follow closely on the heels of guilt within the penumbra of Irish consciousness. “Due to the last 13 centuries of Irish history, xenophobia, perhaps more than anything else has given rise to suspicion and distrust. If you are a foreigner in Ireland or a blow-in, meaning that you come from any other town in Ireland than the one in which you are presently located, you are usually instinctively distrusted and treated with deep suspicion. My favorite example of this phenomenon is a personal one. One day when I was walking through Killarney I noticed that the battery on my watch had stopped and I feared that I might be late for an appointment. So to the first person I met approaching me I asked if I could trouble him for the correct time.  My God, did that attract suspicious response. The man stopped dead in his tracks, backed up a couple of steps and stared at me as if I were on the threshold of committing a felony. This is what he said: “Time, you say? Highly unlikely. Straightaway you can completely forget about trying to trick me out of anything. Now, get on your way and leave me alone.”

The next insight had to do with secrecy. “A friend of mine whose brother was dying in a nearby hospital was asked by a sympathetic neighbor, who knew that my friend had just returned from seeing him in the hospital, how his brother was faring. My friend responded, ‘When I last saw him he was still alive.’ “Not very revealing, was it?  Later my friend’s sister who just arrived from England asked her brother what his mobile telephone number was. My friend told her, ‘You have no need to know.’ She responded, ‘But I am your sister, your only sister and our brother is dying.’  My friend’s response: ‘That makes no difference a’tall’.”

Finally, Dave mentioned what the Irish call “Falling Out,” meaning the abrupt and potent complete revocation of a long and otherwise quite agreeable friendship. “I’d heard this phrase used for many years in Ireland but only had a most superficial understanding of what it meant,” Dave said. “So I asked an Irish friend to explain the meaning of that phrase. He said, ‘You just stop talking to the person involved and act as if he never existed.’ I asked him what happens if you run into him walking down the street. ‘You look the other way or you cross the street to avoid him. You pay him no mind at all.’

“I inquired whether in politeness one might nod his head or smile or make some other friendly gesture, including possibly waiving. His answer: ‘Total disengagement. You don’t look at him. You don’t say a word to him. You don’t waive or make any other gesture toward him. For all practical purposes he ceases to exist.’

“I asked him, ‘Do you ever make up with such a person who was once a good friend of yours with whom you have fallen apart?’  ‘Never. Not a chance. And your family supports your decision and they pay the man no mind as well.’  This goes on between families here and lasts for several generations.”  Falling out, Dave ended the discussion of mini-insights, is “a very heavy-duty kind of thing.”
Death, Dave says, is a very big thing in Ireland.  “Rural and small-town Irish often curse their neighbors behind their backs, but the moment the neighbor is dead, they say, ‘God rest his soul; I’ve never had any unkind word to say about him.’  Life-long enemy or not, they go to his funeral – sometimes it seems, as a form of penance to avoid retribution for unkind words and deeds previously inflicted on the now dead man.”

As Dave sums it up, the Irish have heart-centered souls.  It is a soul filled with empathy and compassion and one that feels with intensity. “When they live out of their heart, and soul, it shows,” he concludes.  “They exude a reverence for being alive, humility, kindness, compassion, graciousness, sociability, cheerfulness, and humor. But most of all a good proportion of the population appears to be quite fey.”

Michael Tymn is the author of The Afterlife Revealed: What Happens After We Die, Resurrecting Leonora Piper: How Science Discovered the Afterlife, and Dead Men Talking: Afterlife Communication from World War I.
His latest book, No One Really Dies: 25 Reasons to Believe in an Afterlife is published by White Crow books.

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30 Witnesses Say: “No One Really Dies”

Posted on 26 February 2024, 8:50

When an aging friend appeared to be suffering from “existential angst” as he recovered from serious health challenges, I gave him one of my books, No One Really Dies, in the hope that he might see a larger and brighter picture of what’s ahead if he didn’t survive much longer in this realm.  As my friend was a borderline “militant nihilist,” I doubted that he would read the book, and so I highlighted 30 quotes in the book and asked him to simply read the highlighted quotes before any attempt to read from cover to cover.  I suggested we then meet again and discuss what the various people quoted had to say. I suspected that he would have the usual debunker’s response for each one – an explanation based on fraud, religious bias, wishful thinking, wild imagination, unconscious coloring, whatever – but I figured it was worth a try.  Unfortunately, my friend didn’t make it to the point we could further discuss the matter and I don’t know if he read the quotes or the book.  If he had and had we met, we would have discussed the following:

Importance: “Only if we know that the thing which truly matters is the infinite can we avoid fixing our interest upon futilities, and upon all kinds of goals which are not of real importance…A man should be able to say he has done his best to form a conception of life after death, or to create some image of it – even if he must confess his failure. Not to have done so is a vital loss.”
– Carl Gustav Jung, M.D., pioneer in psychology and psychiatry.


Resistance: “My atheistic friends resist even the slightest whiff of an argument for an afterlife. I have not seen more closed minds. Why is this? Why would anyone resist such good news – the kind of news strongly supported by serious, in-depth research on the [near-death experience], for example? I think I know. It is not so much that my hard-bitten friends hate the thought of living beyond death: what they hate is religion. And they associate religion with the afterlife. It doesn’t matter how hard you try to convince them that the contemporary case for an afterlife is not based on sacred texts, but on empirical studies conducted by well-credentialed social scientists or doctors. It doesn’t matter. Their minds are set.”
– Stafford Betty, Ph.D., retired professor of religious studies and author of Heaven & Hell Unveiled

Humanism: “The moralist must hold his breath and keep his muscles tense; and so long as this athletic attitude is possible all goes well – morality suffices. But the athletic attitude tends ever to break down and it inevitably does break down even in the most stalwart when the organism begins to decay, or when morbid fears invade the mind.”
– William James, M.D., pioneer in psychology and psychiatry

Scientific Foundation: “The scientific evidence for the survival of consciousness (excluding any sectarian, theological interpretation of that evidence) continues to pile up…Meanwhile, quantum physics has opened up new lines of evidence supporting the theory that consciousness is fundamental, not matter.  Established science is facing its own Galileo Galilei moment of reckoning.”
Michael Schmicker, from the book’s Foreword, author of Best Evidence

Beyond Science: “I was allowed to go up to the [floating] table and saw clearly no one was touching it, a clear space separating the sitters from the table. I tried to press the table down, and though I exerted all my strength could not do so; then I climbed up on the table and sat on it, my feet off the floor, when I was swayed to and fro and finally tipped off. The table of its own accord now turned upside down, no one touching it, and I tried to lift it off the ground, but it could not be stirred, it appeared screwed down to the floor…I could see that no one was touching the table [and] it righted itself on its own accord, no one helping it. Numerous sounds displaying an amused intelligence then came.”
– Sir William Barrett, British physicist and early psychical researcher, while investigating Irish medium Kathleen Goligher with Dr. William J. Crawford

Complex Communication: “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 is drawn from the medium’s memory. Sometimes we only send the thoughts and the medium’s unconscious mind clothes them in words.”
– Frederic W. H. Myers, after-death communication to physicist Sir Oliver Lodge via medium Geraldine Cummins

Beyond Human Comprehension: “Lodge, it’s a puzzle. It’s a puzzle to us here in a way, though we understand it better than you. I work at it hard, I do. I’d give anything I possess to find out. I don’t care for material things now, our interest is much greater. I am studying hard how to communicate. It’s not easy.”
– Edmund Gurney, after-death communication to physicist Sir Oliver Lodge

Obstacles to Reception: “[Well-meaning spirits] are often frustrated in their attempts to communicate because they are choked on all sides by gross skepticism, boorish tests, Sadducean sneers, superstitious panic, sanctimonious anathemas, and all kinds of unreasonable opposition.”
– Adin Ballou, Unitarian minister and early psychical researcher

Multi-Faceted Afterlife: “[The communicating spirits] emphatically declare that the fact of death does not in the least degree alter a man’s character.  He is exactly the same five minutes after the passing as five minutes before it. So that the next state of existence contains all kinds and conditions of humanity, just as the earth does. They say that malevolence, envy, hate, and all the lower attributes inherent in earth humanity exist also in their world. There are not two classes only – good and bad – as theology would have us believe.”
—William J. Crawford, D.Sc., mechanical engineer who carried out 87 separate experiments with Irish medium Kathleen Goligher

Awakening After Death:  “I live, think, see, hear, know, and feel just as clearly as when I was in the material life, but it is not easy to explain it to you as you would naturally suppose, especially when the thoughts have to be expressed through substance materially…Nevertheless, I am bound to do just all I can for you to prove to you that I do absolutely exist independent of the material body which I inhabited.”                                                                                                          – George Pellew (lower left photo), after-death communication through the mediumship of Leonora Piper as recorded by Dr. Richard Hodgson, who studied Piper for 18 years.

Voices in Many Languages: “Altogether, fourteen foreign languages were used in the course of twelve sittings I attended. They included Chinese, Hindi, Persian, Basque, Sanskrit, Arabic, Portuguese, Italian, Yiddish, German and modern Greek.”
– Neville Whymant, Ph.D., Litt.D. (upper right photo), professor of linguistics at Oxford, London, Peking, and Tokyo Universities, on his sittings with American direct-voice medium George Valiantine.

Most Wonderful Experience: “Then, to my own and my Croatian friend’s astonishment, a loud voice began to talk to him in the Croatian language.  It was an old friend, a physician by profession, who died suddenly from heart disease. They continued for some time the conversation in their native tongue, of which I heard and understood every word.  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. I spoke of it to my friends as the most wonderful experience of my life.”
– Count Chedo Miyatovich, Serbian diplomat on his sitting with American direct-voice medium Etta Wriedt, who spoke only “Yankee,” but through whom spirits spoke French, German, Italian, Spanish, Norwegian, Dutch, Arabic, Serbian, and other languages.

Speaking Greek: “Even supposing that our minds could have transmitted to him the idea that his son was dead, how could our thoughts have made Laura understand and speak Greek, a language which she had never heard?”
– Judge John Edmonds, Chief Justice of the New York State Supreme Court, on observing his teenaged daughter, Laura, a medium, speak Greek and tell a Greek-speaking man that his son in Greece had recently died, something he was unaware of but which was later confirmed at fact

English Unknown:  “For myself, I do not speak [English] and I never have. I activate these words that are in Thomas’s memory and are known to him. Occasionally there is a little ‘magic,’ when I join together sounds and symbols that are in Thomas’s mind so that words may be spoken that are not known to Thomas.”
– Stephen, a spirit entity speaking through New Zealand medium Thomas Ashman, as explained to Michael Cocks, an Anglican minister who questioned him on how he learned English

Veridical Evidence: “During the course of this wonderful experience a voice announced itself as Frank Woodward and enquired for my wife, and spoke to her. This astounded her, for Frank Woodward was her former music master, of whom she had not heard for seventeen years, and who lived in the extreme north of England. Enquiry afterwards revealed the fact that he had died a year previously.”
– Charles Tweedale, Vicar of Weston for the Church of England, about his sitting with American direct-voice medium Etta Wriedt

Spiritual Network: “She renders the most abstruse points perfectly understandable to the most common auditor. In close analysis of words she is not surpassed, and her knowledge of natural law seems to be an intuition amounting to almost certainty. Her high-toned moral character has at all times defied the tongue of calumny. In metaphysics she shows a degree of erudition hitherto among the greatest scholars of the world.”
– James Mapes, Ph.D., analytical chemist and renowned inventor, after testing 14-year-old Cora Scott (lower right photo), who was said to be a medium for a group soul of 12 advanced spirits. With one man, she relayed a message in Indian sign language

Conviction: “I tell you with all my strength of the conviction which I can muster that we do persist….I say it because I know that certain friends of mine still exist, because I have talked with them.”
– Sir Oliver Lodge, physicist and president of the British Association for the Advancement of Science

Marvelous: “As you know, I have been a Laodicean toward her heretofore. But that she is no fraud, and that she is the greatest marvel I have ever met, I am now convinced.”
– Herbert Nichols, Ph.D., Harvard psychology professor in a letter to Professor William James of Harvard about his testing of medium Leonora Piper.

Overwhelming Evidence: “In this case, the evidence for extended survival after bodily death is cogent and extraordinarily overwhelming, to the extent that I regard extended survival as proven.”
– Vernon Neppe, M.D., Ph.D., director of the Pacific Neuropsychiatric Institute in Seattle, referring to a chess game between a living chess champion and a deceased chess champion communicating his moves through a medium

Materialism Defeated: “The evidence for an afterlife is sufficiently strong and compelling that an unbiased person ought to conclude that materialism is a false theory.”
– Neal Grossman, Ph.D., professor of philosophy University of Chicago

Dumbfounded: “For two mortal hours this invisible kept us wondering at his power and laughing at his ‘wise-cracking.’ He was philosophic as well as humorous. At intervals, he played jokes upon us. At my request he touched my face on the side away from the psychic and six feet from her. As a still stronger test I asked that the small end of the cone touch me on my right nostril. This was done with such gentle precision that it seemed a caress.’
– Hamlin Garland, a Pulitzer Prize winning author on his sitting with direct-voice medium Mary Curryer Smith, along with Professor Amos Dolbear, renowned physicist, who Garland observed sitting “dumbfounded and bewildered” as a spirit named Wilbur conversed with them

Ectoplasm is Real: “It is a whitish substance that creeps as if alive, with damp, cold, protoplasmic extensions that are transformed under the eyes of the experimenters into a hand, fingers, a head, or even into entire figures.”
– Charles Richet, M.D., Ph.D., 1912 Nobel laureate in medicine, on observing materializations

Materializations:  “The most remarkable materializations which I have observed are those produced by Eva in my laboratory during three consecutive months of the winter of 1917-18…I do not say merely, ‘There was no trickery.’ I say, ‘there was no possibility of trickery.’ Nearly all the materializations took place under my own eyes, and I have observed the whole of their genesis and development.”
– Gustave Geley, M.D., French physician and psychical researcher, who carried out hundreds of experiment with mediums in his laboratory, many with Professor Charles Richet

Creation of Consciousness: “The more we learn about the structure and biology of the brain, the clearer it becomes that the brain does not create consciousness, nor serve as the repository for memory.  The brain doesn’t produce consciousness any more than it produces sound waves when you hear music. In fact, the situation is just the opposite: We are conscious in spite of our brain.’
– Eben Alexander, M.D., academic neurosurgeon, author of Proof of Heaven; A Neurosurgeon’s Journey in the Afterlife

Scientism Overcome:  “Before [my near-death experience] on Everest, I was a rationalist, reductive materialist and skeptic. I believed matter was the basis of life and by reducing matter to its smallest components we could understand the universe according to predetermined laws of physics.”
–Roger Hart, Oregon State University research professor before his NDE convinced him that there is life after death, author of The Phaselock Code

Major Transformation: “Before the accident I was an atheist and a materialist. I had no belief or interest in anything to do with life after death, the paranormal, or religion. During the next couple of years I felt very different about life. I can’t say prior to the accident I had a fear of death; like most people at that age I never really thought about it in depth. But now I had no fear of death. I’ll go further; I embraced it, not in any morbid way but because I now understood, or at least came to believe that death is nothing more than a transition from one state to another.”
– Jon Beecher, publisher, owner of White Crow Books

Expanding Consciousness  “Besides the obvious purpose of informing us that life does not finish with physical death, one of the main goals of the most comprehensive ITC communication appears to be an attempt to contribute to the expansion of human consciousness by conveying to us information of high ethical content which breaks with conventional human values.”
– Anabela Cardoso, Ph.D., retired diplomat on her research in Instrumental Transcommunication, author of Electronic Voices: Contact with Another Dimension?

Threats to Materialism: “When new ideas do not fit the generally accepted (materialist) paradigm, many scientists perceive them as a threat. It is hardly surprising, therefore, that when empirical studies reveal new phenomena or facts that are inconsistent with the prevailing scientific paradigm, they are usually denied, suppressed, or even ridiculed.”
– Pim van Lommel, M.D.,, Dutch cardiologist and author of Consciousness Beyond life

Decline of Materialism:  “Despite all the achievement of science and technology, materialism is now facing a credibility crunch that was unimaginable in the twentieth century.”
– Rupert Sheldrake, Ph.D., British biochemist and author of Science Set Free

Wake Up, Skeptic! “To suggest that these trained observers were all deceived by fraudulent operations, those stupid and very tiresome performances which mislead no one but the uninformed and gullible, is to offer an explanation which offends reason and shows willful indifference to truth.”
– T. Glen Hamilton, M.D., Canadian physician and researcher, referring to Lodge, Hodgson, Barrett, Richet, Geley, Crawford, and others

Michael Tymn is the author of The Afterlife Revealed: What Happens After We Die, Resurrecting Leonora Piper: How Science Discovered the Afterlife, and Dead Men Talking: Afterlife Communication from World War I.
His latest book, No One Really Dies: 25 Reasons to Believe in an Afterlife is published by White Crow books.

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An Interview with Professor William James

Posted on 12 February 2024, 8:42

During his final years at Harvard and immediately thereafter, William James, is said to have suffered from fits of depression, what he called “soul sickness,” and even considered suicide.  Apparently, the “death of God” and the increasingly materialistic world view of the times brought on by the Ages of Reason and Enlightenment and then Darwinism, seriously impacted him. However, he overcame his depression to some extent in 1872 when he accepted a position to teach physiology and anatomy at Harvard.


In 1876, James founded the first laboratory for experimental psychology in the United States, and along with Sigmund Freud, Wilhelm Wundt, and John Dewey, is considered one of the pioneers of modern psychology. However, he gradually moved from psychology to philosophy as he felt that psychology was too limited. He is also one of the pioneers of psychical research, and one of the founders of the American Society for Psychical Research (ASPR), an offshoot of the Society for Psychical Research (SPR) in England. His interest in the field was prompted by a dozen sittings in 1885 with trance medium Leonora Piper, whom he came to refer to as his “White Crow,” the one that upset the law that all crows are black.

Recently published by White Crow Books, Mind Dust and White Crows, edited by Gregory Shushan and with an introduction by Andreas Sommer, provides many interesting lectures and writings by Professor James and an explanation as to his views and reservations about the survival hypothesis, especially in the chapter on “Human Immortality.”  I “interviewed” Professor James on the 100th anniversary of his transition to the spirit world in 2010 for a magazine and a journal. The “interview” was conducted by extracting James’s words from various reference, all now in the public domain, and putting questions to them. I had many of the references in Shushan’s book available to me, so I’ll stick with my original interview rather than attempt a new one.  But a future blog will discuss more that Shushan’s book brings to light. Words in brackets are inferred to create a smooth transition from question to answer.

Professor James, in spite of having called Mrs. Piper your “white crow” and having received some very evidential messages, you continue to sit on the fence relative to the survival hypothesis.  Is it really that difficult to accept?

“Tactically, it is far better to believe much too little than a little too much; and the exceptional credit attaching to the row of volumes of the SPR’s Proceedings is due to the fixed intention of the editors to proceed very slowly. Better a little belief tied fast, better a small investment salted down, than a mass of comparative insecurity.”

I know you have been reluctant to accept Dr. Phinuit (Mrs. Piper’s early “control”) as a spirit and concluded that he might be some kind of secondary personality.  Would you mind telling the readers of this interview a little about Dr. Phinuit?

“The most remarkable thing about the Phinuit personality seems to me the extraordinary tenacity and minuteness of his memory. The medium has been visited by many hundreds of sitters, half of them, perhaps, being strangers who have come but once.  To each Phinuit gives an hour full of disconnected fragments of talk about persons living, dead, or imaginary, and events past, future, or unreal.  What normal waking memory could keep this chaotic mass of stuff together? Yet Phinuit does so…So far as I can discover, Mrs. Piper’s waking memory is not remarkable, and the whole constitution of her trance-memory is something which I am at a loss to understand.” 

It often seems that you are playing the devil’s advocate.

“[True], I have myself been wilfully taking the point of view of the so-called ‘rigorously scientific’ disbeliever, and making an ad hominem plea.” 

And yet you seemingly change hats very easily by rebuking the scientific point of view relative to God and immortality.

“I can, of course, put myself into the sectarian scientist’s attitude, and imagine vividly that the world of sensations and scientific laws and objects may be all.  But whenever I do this, I hear that inward monitor which W. K. Clifford once wrote, whispering the word ‘bosh!’ Humbug is humbug, even though it bears the scientific name, and the total expression of human experience, as I view it objectively, invincibly urges me beyond the narrow ‘scientific’ bounds.”

Herbert Spenser’s philosophy seems to have been pretty popular with scientific men and scholars of your era.

“Agnostic substantialism like that of Mr. Spenser, whose ‘Unknowable’ is not merely the unfathomable but the absolute–irrational, on which, if consistently represented in thought, it is of course impossible to count, performs the same function of rebuking a certain stagnancy and smugness in the manner in which the ordinary philistine feels his security.  But considered as anything else than as reactions against an opposite excess, these philosophies of uncertainty cannot be acceptable; the general mind will fail to come to rest in their presence, and will seek for solutions of a more reassuring kind.”

There are those who claim that such reassurance is not necessary, that we can live moral and happy lives in the present without any regard for God or life after death.

“A philosophy whose principle is so incommensurate with our most intimate powers as to deny them all relevancy in universal affairs, as to annihilate their motives at one blow, will be even more unpopular than pessimism.  Better face the enemy than the eternal Void!  This is why materialism will always fail of universal adoption, however well it may fuse things into an atomistic unity, however clearly it may prophesy the future eternity. For materialism denies reality to the objects of almost all the impulses which we most cherish.  The real meaning of the impulses, it says, is something which has no emotional interest for us whatever…Any philosophy which annihilates the validity of the reference by explaining away its objects or translating them into terms of no emotional pertinency, leaves the mind with little to care or act for…A nameless Unheimlichkeit 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.” 

Living in the moment or in the present as the materialists advocate is not as simple as they make it out to be.

“[Exactly.] The luster of the present hour is always borrowed from the background of possibilities it goes with.  Let our common experiences be enveloped in an eternal moral order; let our suffering have an immortal significance; let Heaven smile upon the earth, and deities pay their visits; let faith and hope be the atmosphere which man breathes in; and his days pass by with zest; they stir with prospects, they thrill with remoter values.  Place around them on the contrary the curdling cold and gloom and absence of all permanent meaning which for pure naturalism and the popular-science evolutionism of our time are all that is visible ultimately, and the thrill stops short, or turns rather to an anxious trembling.”

Yet, I have friends who claim they have no fears of extinction and have no problem enjoying themselves in the present.

“It all depends on how sensitive the soul may become to discords….A little cooling down of animal excitability and instinct, a little loss of animal toughness, a little irritable weakness and descent of the pain threshold, will bring the worm at the core of all our usual springs of delight into full view, and turn us into melancholy metaphysicians.  The pride of life and glory of the world will shrivel.  It is after all but the standing quarrel of hot youth and hoary eld.  Old age has the last word: the purely naturalistic look at life, however enthusiastically it may begin, is sure to end in sadness.  This sadness lies at the heart of every merely positivistic, agnostic, or naturalistic scheme of philosophy.  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…The old man, sick with 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 this knowledge knocks the satisfaction out of all these functions.  They are partners of death and the worm is their brother, and then they turn to a mere flatness.” 

So, you must certainly take issue with the humanistic philosophy?

“[Most certainly.]  I propose this as the first practical requisite which a philosophic conception must satisfy: It must, in a general way at least, banish uncertainty from the future. The permanent presence of the sense of futurity in the mind has been strangely ignored by most writers, but the fact is that our consciousness at a given moment is never free from the ingredient of expectancy.  Everyone knows how when a painful thing has to be undergone in the near future, the vague feeling that it is impending penetrates all our thought with uneasiness and subtly vitiates our mood even when it does not control our attention; it keeps us from being at rest, at home in the given present.  The same is true when a great happiness awaits us.  But when the future is neutral and perfectly certain, ‘we do not mind it,’ as we say, but give an undisturbed attention to the actual.  Let now this haunting sense of futurity be thrown off its bearings or left without an object, and immediately uneasiness takes possession of the mind.”

It is obviously easier to adopt the moralist or humanistic philosophy when one is young and does not have death on his mind.  Do you agree?

“[Of course.] The moralist must hold his breath and keep his muscles tense; and so long as this athletic attitude is possible all goes well – morality suffices.  But the athletic attitude tends ever to break down and it inevitably does break down even in the most stalwart when the organism begins to decay, or when morbid fears invade the mind.” 

Would you mind summarizing your primary belief?

“The whole drift of my education goes to persuade me that the world of our present consciousness is only one out of many worlds of consciousness that exist, and that those other worlds must contain experiences which have a meaning for our life also; and that although in the main their experiences and those of this world keep discrete, yet the two become continuous as certain points, and higher energies filter in.  By being faithful in my poor measure of this over-belief, I seem to myself to keep more sane and true.” 

So, you see faith as a necessity in your belief system?

“Faith means belief in something concerning which doubt is still theoretically possible; and as the test of belief is willingness to act, one may say that faith is the readiness to act in a cause the prosperous issue of which is not certified to us in advance…The only escape from faith is mental nullity…We cannot live or think at all without some degree of faith.  Faith is synonymous with working hypothesis. The only difference is that while some hypotheses can be refuted in five minutes, others may defy ages.” 

Where does religion fit into all of this?

“It does not follow, because our ancestors made so many errors of fact and mixed them with their religion, that we should therefore leave off being religious at all. By being religious we establish ourselves in possession of ultimate reality at the only points at which reality is given us to guard.  Our responsible concern is with our private destiny, after all.”

Mainstream science has been reluctant to accept the findings of credible scientists who have risked sanctions in exploring the psychic world. What is the problem here?

“I think that the sort of loathing – no milder word will do – which the very words ‘psychical research’ and ‘psychical researcher’ awaken in so many honest scientific breasts is not only natural, but in a sense praiseworthy.  A man who is unable himself to conceive of any orbit for these mental meteors can only suppose that [the founders of the SPR] mood in dealing with them must be that of silly marvelling at so many detached prodigies.  And such prodigies!  So, science simply falls back on her general non-possumus; and most of the would-be critics of the Proceedings (SPR reports) have been contended to oppose to the phenomena recorded the simple presumption that in some way or other the reports must be fallacious – for so far as the order of nature has been subjected to really scientific scrutiny, it always has been proved to run the other way.” 

In spite of your outward reluctance to fully accept the spirit hypothesis, it often seems that you want to but are held back by academic and professional considerations. Am I misinterpreting your position?

“[Let me just say this:] One who takes part in a good sitting has usually a far livelier sense, both of the reality and of the importance of the communication, than one who merely reads the records. I am able, while still holding to all the lower principles of interpretation, to imagine the process as more complex, and to share the feelings with which [Richard] Hodgson came at last to regard it after his many years of familiarity, the feeling which Professor [James] Hyslop shares, and which most of those who have good sittings are promptly inspired with [i.e., the spirit hypothesis].”

Thank you, Professor James, any parting comments?

“[The work of the SPR has], it seems to me, conclusively proved one thing to the candid reader; and that is that the verdict of pure insanity, or gratuitous preference for error, of superstition without an excuse, which the scientists of our day are led by their intellectual training to pronounce upon the entire thought of the past, is a most shallow verdict….The tide seems steadily to be rising, in spite of all the expedients of scientific orthodoxy.  It is hard not to suspect that here may be something different from a mere chapter in human gullibility.  It may be a genuine realm of natural phenomena…My deeper belief is that we psychical researchers have been too precipitate with our hopes, and that we must expect to progress not by quarter-centuries, but by half centuries or whole centuries.” 

Michael Tymn is the author of The Afterlife Revealed: What Happens After We Die, Resurrecting Leonora Piper: How Science Discovered the Afterlife, and Dead Men Talking: Afterlife Communication from World War I.
His latest book, No One Really Dies: 25 Reasons to Believe in an Afterlife is published by White Crow books.

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Next blog post:  Feb. 26




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How Much Do We Remember After Death?

Posted on 29 January 2024, 10:19

While sorting through boxes of old papers and photos not long ago, I came upon a stack of letters I wrote to my parents between 1958 and 1961, while I was in the Marine Corps. My mother saved everything. In one of the letters written from Quantico, Virginia in 1958, I informed my parents that I had attended a football game with two friends and that I had car problems after the game, requiring me to call Triple A for service.  I was puzzled by the comment as I have no memory of attending any football game during my nine months in Quantico or of the mechanical problems.  I have a clear recollection of attending the horse races at Pimlico race track in Baltimore that same year, as well as the fact that I lost $12 that day, but the football game does not register. Why the horse races and not the football game? I had been to many horse races before that one, so it had no special significance.  On the other hand, I had been to a number of football games before 1958 and could picture the stadiums and name the home teams in all of them. Why not this particular 1958 game?


All that prompted me to wonder about the memories of spirits of the dead as they communicate with people through mediums. In the 1937 book, Personality Survives Death, by Dr. Florence Elizabeth Barrett (republished by White Crow Books), there is a record of much communication between Dr. Barrett and her late husband, Sir William Barrett (top left photo), most of it through the medium Gladys Osborne Leonard (top right photo).  Sir William, a renowned physicist when in the physical body and a pioneer in psychical research, attempted to explain the difficulties he had in communicating through the medium. “Sometimes I lose some memory of things from coming here,” he told Lady Barrett. “I know it in my own state but not here….In the Earth body we have the separation of subconscious and conscious. Consciousness only holds a certain number of memories at a time. When we pass over they join – make a complete mind that knows and remembers everything, but when one comes here to a sitting the limitation of the physical sphere affects one’s mind, and only a portion of one’s mind can function for the time being.”

If there is truth in Sir William’s statement, I should know the details of that football game I attended in 1958 after my subconscious merges with my consciousness following my departure from this realm of existence, but if I attempt to communicate the details of the game to someone through a medium, I’ll probably fail. Perhaps the question should be: How much of this earth life do we remember when still alive? Were it not for photographs, I would have very few mental pictures preserved from earlier years.  I have some flashbacks that might go to age four, possibly three, the most painful being having ether gas administered before a tonsillectomy. I can still smell and taste the gas and feel the struggle when the anesthesiologist placed the nose piece on my face. 

I can recall moments from my first day of kindergarten at 4 years, 9 months, but that is earliest event I can put an actual date on. I call them little mental snapshots.  I can picture my mother leaving me there at the door of my classroom and telling me that she would return and pick me up, then walking away.  It was a traumatic experience.

Baseball Memories

In further pondering on the football game, I began thinking about all the baseball games I had attended during my youth and realized that there was not a single play – not one home run, not one game winning hit – or moment in time that I could remember or call a mental snapshot, except for two, only one of them on the field. The off-field memory involves getting the autograph of Jackie Robinson, my boyhood idol, outside the ballpark in 1951, while the only on-field memory has to do with a game at the Polo Grounds in New York between the Brooklyn Dodgers and New York Giants during 1949.  I was 12 at the time and sitting in deep centerfield right next to the exit players used to go to the clubhouse.  Don Newcombe (lower left photo) was pitching in his second game with the Dodgers and was relieved in about the seventh inning. As he left the field, he walked through the exit just below me with a very disgruntled expression. For some reason I took a mental snapshot of that moment and can still picture it today. I can also recall thinking that he was really a big mean-looking guy. That mental picture of Newcombe walking below me often popped into my conscious mind whenever I heard his name in the years following.

Then, about 1992, I met Newcombe and talked with him in my Honolulu office for an hour or longer (lower right photo). He visited with me a year or two later on another trip to Honolulu and we again had a long talk about baseball and the old Brooklyn Dodgers. I wondered if that vivid picture of Newcombe walking just below me at the Polo Grounds was some kind of cosmic consciousness in a timeless universe. My autograph book from my younger days includes some famous ballplayers, including Bob Feller and Larry Doby, but I have no recollection or mental pictures of them signing my autograph book. That mental picture of Newcombe is the only snapshot in my conscious mind from the dozens of baseball games I attended before 1960. Everything else is a very abstract picture, nothing specific, except perhaps for watching Ernie Lombardi, said to be the slowest man on the planet, lumbering to first base as my friend and I laughed at his laborious trot.  That memory is not as distinct as the Newcombe one. 

Malaysia’s Darkest Day 

In 1969, I experienced what has been called “the darkest day in the history of Malaysia,” a day in which around 200 people were slaughtered on the streets of Kuala Lumpur, the country’s capital.  I was in a movie theater with my two daughters and then-wife when rioters broke in the theater and started swinging machetes and bolo knives at people on the ground floor.  Fortunately, we were in the upstairs section and the attackers never made their way up the stairs.  They chased the ground-floor movie viewers out the front door to the streets.  Until a few days ago, I was certain that the title of the movie was “Three Faces of Eve.”  I would have bet my house on that title, and would have sworn so on a stack of Bibles, but I recently came across a link on the internet in which a journalist, Johan Fernandez, was in the same theater that night and reported that movie title was “Rachel, Rachel.”
As Joanne Woodward was the “star” in both movies, I can understand that I may have been mistaken, but, then again, there was a time when movie theaters would show two movies for the same admission price. I don’t recall if those days extended to 1969.  The fact that the “Rachel” movie was produced in 1968 and the “Eve” movie in 1957, makes it more likely that my memory failed me if there was only one movie shown that night.  I would have lost my house in the bet. So much for my conscious memory! 
I do have a snapshot in my memory bank of Omar, my driver in Malaysia, coming into my office with a large tank of propane on his shoulder.  I had given my office boy, called the office peon, some money and asked him to take it downstairs and give it to Omar to get “gas.”  I should have instructed him to get “petrol” for the car.  Gas to him meant propane. 

Sir William further explained that it was much easier for him to communicate an idea than a detached word, such as a proper name.  “When I am in my own sphere I am told a name and think I shall remember it,” he communicated. “[But] when I come into the conditions of a sitting I then know 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; a detached word, a proper name, has no link with a train of thought except in a detached sense; that is far more difficult than any other feat of memory or association of ideas.”

Remembering Your Self-Image

One of the most intriguing aspects I’ve encountered in my study of mediumship has to do with one’s memory of what the spirit trying to materialize looked like when in the earth life. Researchers reported that some of the materializations didn’t look like the person it was supposed to be and therefore it was considered fraudulent. In one study a communicating spirit told Professor Charles Richet that he was unable to materialize because he did not remember what he looked like when alive.  However, he later materialized without a face.  In another case, the communicating spirit told the researcher he had to quickly visit his old home to view a portrait of himself there as he could not recall his face.  As I understand it, the materializing spirit had to focus on an image of his old self and project that thought into the ectoplasm if the materialization was to be successful.

Think about it.  Would you know what you looked like as a child if you never had photos or portraits of yourself to visualize?  It makes sense that materialization of people who lived before photography became popular in the late nineteenth century didn’t always look exactly like living people remembered them, as they didn’t have a clear picture of themselves while living.  I doubt that I’ll ever have a need to materialize for anyone once I transition to the larger world, but if I do, I hope I can recall the image of my 30-year-old self and not the one I saw in the mirror when I shaved this morning.

Michael Tymn is the author of The Afterlife Revealed: What Happens After We Die, Resurrecting Leonora Piper: How Science Discovered the Afterlife, and Dead Men Talking: Afterlife Communication from World War I.
His latest book, No One Really Dies: 25 Reasons to Believe in an Afterlife is published by White Crow books.

Next blog post: February 12
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Spirits, Science, Extraterrestrials & Uri Geller

Posted on 15 January 2024, 9:00

I don’t know what to make of Uri Geller and the somewhat bizarre reports concerning interdimensional beings surrounding him. Although I had heard and read a little about him over the years, primarily about his psychic spoon-bending and watch-stopping abilities, I saw him as not much more than a gifted psychic with psychokinetic powers that sometimes worked and other times didn’t. I never realized he might have been a potential ambassador for the interdimensional beings (which I’ll call ETs) until I recently read the book, Uri, subtitled Journal of the Mystery of Uri Geller, by Andrija Puharich (top right), first published in 1973 but recently republished by White Crow Books. 


Wikipedia refers to Geller as an illusionist and another website calls him a great prankster. He’s also referred to as a magician, psychic, showman, and television personality.  I recall that Geller failed to produce phenomena on a national television show during the 1970s, but I am well aware that psychic abilities are finicky and that lack of harmonious conditions or the failure of the psychic to achieve the necessary passive mindset can prevent them from manifesting. Even the great Japanese ballplayer Shohei Ohtani succeeds in getting a hit only once in every three times at bat, on the average.    Why do the skeptics and debunkers assume Geller should get hits 100-percent of the time? There are enough credible witnesses to Geller’s abilities that his failures do nothing to make me suspect he was or is still a charlatan.

There is so much more to Geller’s (top left) story than I had realized, and the evidence of his paranormal abilities as documented by Puharich, seemingly a very credible scientist, is difficult to refute, at least by an open-minded person. Among those observing Geller’s phenomena were Captain Edgar Mitchell, the famous astronaut, Dr. Wernher von Braun, the rocket designer for the U. S. space program, and distinguished members of the Stanford Research Institute, to name only a few. 

Puharich’s book and two related subsequent books, The Nine: Briefing from Deep Space by Stuart Holroyd and The Only Planet of Choice by Phyllis Schlemmer, are really more about Puharich than Geller.  “Everyone expected [Puharich’s book] to be another cautious and well-documented account of laboratory investigations into Geller’s powers,” Colin Wilson (bottom left) wrote in the introduction to Holroyd’s book, which picks up where Puharich left off in his book about Geller.  “[However] what actually appeared left everyone staggered and bewildered. According to Puharich, strange voices spoke out of Geller’s mouth – or from above his head – declaring themselves to be ‘space intelligences’ who had selected Geller to be their messenger in Chief to the human race.” 

Puharich’s connection with ETs actually began in December 1951, some 20 years before he encountered Geller, when he met Dr. D. G. Vinod, a Hindu scholar from India. When they met again a year later, on December 31, 1952, Vinod entered a trance state and began speaking in a sonorous voice unlike his own high-pitched, soft voice, and without his normal accent. The voice stated: M calling.  We are Nine Principles and Forces, personalities if you will, working in a complete mutual implication.  We are forces, and the nature of our work is to accentuate the positive, the evolutional, and the teleological aspects of existence. By teleology I do not mean the teleology human derivation in a multidimensional concept of existence. Teleology will be understood in terms of a different ontology. To be simple, we accentuate certain directions as will fulfil the destiny of creation. We propose to work with you in some essential respects with the relation of contradiction and contrariety. We shall negate and revise part of your work, by which I mean the work as presented by you. The point is that we want to begin altogether at a different dimension, though it is true that your work has itself led up to this…..

Impeccable Credentials

A native of Chicago and a 1947 graduate of Northwestern University Medical School, Puharich served as an officer in the United States Army during the Korean War. He completed his residency in internal medicine in California and is said to have made significant contributions to medicine, neurophysiology, mind sciences, and medical electronics. Among his colleagues and research associates were Aldous Huxley and Dr. Samuel Rosen, a renowned ear surgeon.  Of interest to those of us living in Hawaii, Puharich reportedly awakened his powers of consciousness while living in Hawaii in 1961.  He also studied the Brazilian healer Arigò during the 1960s and first became aware of UFOs in Brazil, where he witnessed and photographed a number of them.

“His academic and career credentials as a scientist are impeccable,” offers Holroyd in The Nine. “He has been prolific of invention and innovation in the fields of medical electronics, neurophysiology, biocybernetics, ESP research, and holds fifty-six U.S. and foreign patents for his inventions.” But Holroyd realized that most people might begin to question Puharich’s sanity when they read the preface of Uri, where Puharich states: “I had suspected for a long time from my researches that man has been in communication with beings not of this earth for thousands of years. This personal opinion comes from a close reading of the record of ancient religions and from my own observations and data. What is not clear is why such communication has been kept secret for so long.” 

Puharich goes on to say that for reasons unknown to him, Geller was selected to be the ambassador for an advanced civilization and that the “collegium of voices reaching man on earth,” (the words of the Nine ETs), are directly related to man’s concept of God.  He adds that the controllers of the universe operate under the direction of the Nine. 
While the phenomena produced by Geller are much more than I had imagined, they do not exceed my boggle threshold.  However, the involvement of extraterrestrials, as detailed by Dr. Puharich, does exceed that threshold and had my head spinning early in Puharich’s book.  At times, I wondered if mischievous earthbound sprits were representing themselves as ETs while playing games with Puharich and Geller. As I read the words of the ETs as recorded by Puharich, I was constantly struggling to incorporate their messages into the expanded reality I had already come to accept while also wondering if they were some early form of artificial intelligence. It was definitely mindboggling. 

Geller emerges as something of a philistine – often indifferent to his psychic abilities and more interested in having fun in the material world than in helping Puharich and other scientists understand the nature of reality and what was being communicated through him and other mediums. Puharich comments that in biblical times, Geller would have been honored as a prophet, but that today he was more “a show freak and a guinea pig for science.” He adds that Geller did not like being a “guinea pig” and therefore often resisted scientific testing. 

When Puharich asked one ET communicator about the nature of the soul, the response came: It inhabits different worlds at different times in its existence. When the physical body dies, it goes with all of its being to its own world. There it carries on with the next phase of its existence. It may go on to other spaces, or it may even return to an earth physical body for another round of existence – what humans call reincarnation may occur. There are higher powers that divide these people (souls), and that decide where they shall go. The purpose of all existence is to move toward God. However, no one can know God. We ourselves can only know God by reaching him as an idea – not physically.

During October 1972, one of the ET communicators, seemingly disappointed with their efforts, said that they had come to the conclusion “that only panic and disaster may appear when we land on your earth in a few years.” The ET further stated that “there shall be landings on earth. But the landings might be invisible, and only visible to you.”

Sir John Whitmore (bottom right), a British author who joined Puharich in 1974 for some research with trance mediums who also relayed messages on from the ETs, wrote the foreword to Holroyd’s book and quoted one of the ET communicators: “Until the nation of Israel has the ability to exist without destruction, your planet Earth is in turmoil, for the nation of Israel is a representation of your entire planet Earth.  It is difficult for many to understand that, but it is the micro of the macro and it is important that there is peace and harmony…”

Possible Explanations

Colin Wilson saw three possible explanations by Puharich’s critics: 1) Puharich had been hoodwinked by Geller; 2) Puharich was telling a tall tale that even ardent ufologists weren’t swallowing; 3) Puharich had gone mad. “Beyond all doubt, something very strange has been happening, and is continuing to happen, even as I write these words,” Wilson ended. “It would be absurd not to acknowledge that it could be a matter of genuine extraterrestrial communication. Yet on the present showing, there is simply not enough evidence to give real support to that possibility….Strange entities, claiming to be super-beings from ‘another dimension,’ warn us that the planet Earth is close to serious crisis, and that is why they have been forced to intervene so directly. Much of what they say strikes me as convincing, and all of it is interesting, far more so than the majority of ‘spirit communication’ of the past.” 

Wilson wrote those words some 50 years ago and nothing in the way of ET intervention seems to have happened since then.  It is not clear whether the ETs gave up on Uri Geller being their ambassador. One is left to ask:

• Is 50 years just a snap of the fingers in the greater reality?  Are the ETs still attempting to help us?  Have they already helped us avoid a third world war even though we don’t realize it? Have they already “landed” but we simply don’t perceive it with our human senses? 
• Are the ETs significantly limited in the ways they can help us?  Has human bias, greed, and materialism blocked them from assisting us? Are they now helping us in ways that we don’t grasp?  Have they given up in their attempts to help us?
• Were the alleged ETs actually very intelligent earthbound spirits playing games with Puharich and others. As mentioned, that was one of my initial reactions and then I later came upon Colin Wilson’s comment saying much the same thing.  He refers to them as possibly being among the “crooks and con men of the spirit world.”  If they are, they seem very benevolent. Is being benevolent part of their game?  To further quote Wilson: “Then what the hell is going on?” 

I’ve just started the Holyrod book and will then read the Schlemmer book before attempting to further analyze it, but Puharich’s book offers much to think 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.
His latest book, No One Really Dies: 25 Reasons to Believe in an Afterlife is published by White Crow books.

Next blog post: January 29 (note: comments section is working for some browsers and not for others)

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Existentialism 101 – Pondering on Life & an Afterlife, Part 2

Posted on 01 January 2024, 9:24

In my blog of May 23, 2023, I offered 37 quotes drawn from a hypothetical university class in Existentialism 101.  Here are an additional 25 quotes from that class to ponder on in 2024.  (Some references are listed for recent publications.)  Happy New Year!

Practicing Death: “Ordinary people seem not to realize that those who really apply themselves in the right way to philosophy are directly and of their own accord preparing themselves for dying and death.” 
– Socrates  (“Phaedo” of Plato)


Nihilism Exposed: “As you fear that life in this dimension may not count, may not have any real meaning, you relieve your anxiety by being especially scornful of the very thing that you wish for most, while underneath your writing desk you have your fingers crossed.”
– Ernest Becker, Ph.D. (1973 Pulitzer Prize winner, “The Denial of Death”)

Knowing Death: “In real psychological ways one must ‘know death’ in order to live with free imagination.”
– Robert Jay Lifton, M.D.  (American psychiatrist, “The Broken Connection”)

Smart Wager: “If I am mistaken in my opinion that the human soul is immortal, I willingly err; nor would I have this pleasant error extorted from me; and if, as some minute philosophers suppose, death should deprive me of my being I need not fear the raillery of those pretend philosophers when they are no more.” 
– Marcus Tullius Cicero (Roman philosopher, 106 – 43 B.C.)

Eternal Consciousness: ‘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 significant, if a bottomless void never satiated lay beneath all – what then would life be but despair?”
– Soren Kirkegaard (Danish philosopher, “Father of Existentialism”)

Suppression of Death: “Is it not for us to confess that in our civilized attitude towards death we are once more living psychologically beyond our means, and must reform and give truth its due? Would it not be better to give death the place in actuality and in our thoughts which properly belong to it, and to yield a little more prominence to that unconscious attitude towards death which we have hitherto so carefully suppressed?’
– Sigmund Freud, M.D. (Austrian pioneer in psychiatry)

Overcoming Death Anxiety: “A man should be able to say he has done his best to form a conception of life after death, or to create some image of it – even if he must confess his failure. Not to have done so is a vital loss.”
  – Carl Gustav Jung, M.D.  (Swiss pioneer in psychiatry)

Lack of Thinking People: “The need of living by the spirit is felt by no one, or almost no one.  Men who think are the exception.  If these researches [of psychical matters] lead us to employ our minds better, to find 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.”
– Camille Flammarion (French astronomer) 

Wider Outlook: “The belief in immortality is the keystone to the arch of history, or the pivotal point about which move the intellectual, the ethical, and the political forces of all time.  If science cannot protect our ethical ideals it will have to succumb to the same corrosion that has worn away the church. Something must put an end to doubt.  There are many situations in life that call for heroic measures, and skepticism on the outcome of life offers no inducement to the heroic virtues…We need to be in a position to see beyond the horizon, if the conflicts of the present life are to be met with patience and endurance.  The wider outlook will soothe many a pain or give it spiritual significance.”
– James H. Hyslop, Ph.D., LL.D. (Professor of Logic and Ethics)

Living in Eternity: “The luster of the present hour is always borrowed from the background of possibilities it goes with.  Let our common experiences be enveloped in an eternal moral order; let our suffering have an immortal significance; let Heaven smile upon the earth, and deities pay their visits; let faith and hope be the atmosphere which man breathes in; and his days pass by with zest; they stir with prospects, they thrill with remoter values.  Place around them on the contrary the curdling cold and gloom and absence of all permanent meaning which for pure naturalism and the popular-science evolutionism of our time are all that is visible ultimately, and the thrill stops short, or turns rather to an anxious trembling.”  (upper right photo)
– William James, M.D. (American pioneer in psychiatry)

Rediscovering the Soul: “When medical science has finally failed, my patients can only lie and wait. But now, for the first time in all of human experience, they wait without hope, without heart, tragically unaware of the reality of their undying souls. This ‘immaterial’ ingredient was sacrificed when we embarked on our perilous modern journey of materialism and scientific mechanism, of contingency and separateness. There can be only one solution. At all costs, our hearts must be retrieved, and our hope must be restored. There is only one way to do this: our very souls must be rediscovered.”
– Stephen J. Iacoboni, M.D. (Oncologist, “The Undying Soul”)

Uncertainty: There will always remain obstructions, which by their very definition lie outside actuality.” 
– Max Planck (German physicist & originator of Quantum Theory)

Eternal Love: “This truly is a fearful idea that man must live and die, then cease. How can men live such high-abnegating lives if they believe they have no hope of loving in eternity the love that they see here in their lives? It is the tragedy of Communism that it denies the eternity of love. This is the real denial of God.” (upper left photo)
– Air Chief Marshal Lord Dowding (British War hero, “The Dark Star”)

Flawed Science: “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.      
– Alan Hugenot, D.Sc. (‘New Science of Consciousness Survival”)

Believing:  “It is impossible to be exposed to death-bed and near-death experiences and not be affected by them, but what I can say with certainty is after being privileged to have heard so many accounts of near-death experiences, I’m not afraid to die. What comes next, though, I really don’t know, but I believe something does.
– Laura Bellg, M.D. (“Near Death in the ICU)

Meeting Deceased Loved Ones: “I don’t know whether some kind of continued consciousness after death is the best explanation for NDEs (near-death experiences) in which experiencers see deceased loved ones no one knew had died.  But I don’t have any alternative explanation for the evidence. We may eventually come up with another explanation, but until then, some form of continued consciousness after death seems to be the most plausible working model.”
– Bruce Greyson, M.D. (Consciousness researcher, “After”)

Consciousness Persists:  “After sixty years of investigating the question like a detective, accumulating facts, circumstances, and raw exposure to those who have had very dramatic death experiences, I am unable to think of any plausible alternatives other than to say, ‘Our consciousness persists in another framework of reality after our physical bodies die.’ Yes, I am forced to say that even though I still stammer in incomprehension when I say it. I have not yet fully internalized the idea that there is an afterlife, even though circumstances compel me to say that yes, I definitely think there is a life after life.” (lower left photo)
– Raymond A. Moody, M.D. (psychiatrist, “Proof of Life after Life”)

Strong Evidence: “Indeed the wide variety of such cases are so evidentially strong that they support a challenge I made in print twelve years ago to any sceptic that if s/he believes no proof of a paranormal event has ever been produced they should submit in detail normal explanations for the long list of cases I gave. The silence from the sceptics has been deafening, a silence that reminds me of Sherlock Holmes’ chiding of Dr. Watson because of his non-appreciation of the significance of the dog that did not bark in the night. Or the trick of young children who, displeased with the real world, close their eyes and believe that by so doing, they have cancelled that displeasing world. Or the late Sam Goldwyn who allegedly shouted, “Don’t confuse me with facts! My mind is made up!”
– Archie Roy, Ph.D. (British astronomer, “The Eager Dead”)

Scientific Fundamentalism: “Back in my traditional science days, no one would ever refer to me as a ‘believer’ in the effect of a drug or a virus on the body, but if I were to announce that mediums can report accurate information about the deceased under blinded conditions (which I regularly do), I run the risk of being labeled a proponent or believer and viewed as some kind of zealot even though I am simply drawing the appropriate conclusion from the statistics performed on data collected using a properly designed protocol.  It is a strange position in which scientists in other fields do not find themselves.” (lower right photo)
– Julie Beischel, Ph.D.  (Researcher, The Windbridge Institute)

True Faith: “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.”
– Sir Oliver Lodge, D.Sc.  (British physicist and pioneer in electricity)

Carpe Diem Fallacy: “The rapidity of the cancer science, and the nature of the statistics, meant I might live another twelve months, or another 120.  Grand illnesses are supposed to be life-clarifying.  Instead, I knew I was going to die – but I’d known that before.  My state of knowledge was the same, but my ability to make lunch plans had been shot to hell.  The way forward would seem obvious, if only I knew how many months or years I had left.  Tell me three months, I’d spend time with family.  Tell me one year, I’d write a book. Give me ten years, I’d get back to treating diseases.  The truth that you live one day at a time didn’t help.  What was I supposed to do with that day?”
– Paul Kalanithi, M.D.  (“When Breath Becomes Air”)

Solid Evidence: “In general I find much more support for survival than for God.  For me, there is ample empirical evidence for survival, so much from so many quarters that I regard it as proven.  But God’s reality is not so clear.  By that I mean I’m not very clear about what God is.  In particular, is God the kind of being that hears my heartfelt prayers?  And where do I meet God?  During deep meditation when I silence the inner chatter?  Is God in some sense the silence?  God to me remains something of a mystery, one I wish I could understand.  Mystical literature is a special help to me, and I share William James’ veneration of the mystic.  It does seem that the mystic makes contact with something utterly awesome.  I hope that’s God.”
– Stafford Betty, Ph.D. (“Heaven & Hell Unveiled))

Awakening Varies: “[My research] has proven conclusively that death is only a sleep and an awakening, the process of awakening depending largely upon the individual’s mental attitude, such as religious bias, unreasoning skepticism, or the willful ignorance of and indifference to life’s meaning, so prevalent among the multitude.”
– Carl Wickland, M.D.  (“Thirty Years Among the Dead”)

Skepticism & Debunking: “It is, of course, easy for the vociferous Sadducees of today to shrug their shoulders and assert that, as no evidence can establish such an impossible belief (survival of consciousness after death), they decline to waste their time in listening to nonsense.  They waive the whole matter aside with a superior gesture, confidently asserting that what cannot be explained by fraud, delusion, or subconscious memory is simply due to the ‘will to believe.’ But surely such agnostics might remember the ancient proverb: ‘He that answereth a matter before he heareth it, it is folly and shame unto him’.”
– Sir William Barrett (British physicist and inventor)

Exile and Return: “To sum up: we have enough trustworthy evidence to anticipate our survival of the change called death.  If our conception of the Self as a hierarchy is true in broad outline – as I believe it is – we have enough to anticipate a great deal more. For myself, birth and death seem to be respectively the great Exile and the great Returning Home.”
– Raynor C. Johnson, Ph.D. D.Sc. (“The Imprisoned Splendor”)

Michael Tymn is the author of The Afterlife Revealed: What Happens After We Die, Resurrecting Leonora Piper: How Science Discovered the Afterlife, and Dead Men Talking: Afterlife Communication from World War I.
His latest book, No One Really Dies: 25 Reasons to Believe in an Afterlife is published by White Crow books.


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Portraits of the Dead

Posted on 18 December 2023, 10:47

May Wright Sewall, a leader in the women’s suffrage movement (upper left photo), had vehemently opposed mediumship until she experienced some very evidential phenomena at the Lily Dale Assembly Grounds in New York during August 1897.  (See prior blog for a summary of her experiences.)  Some two years later, during September 1899, she visited a Chicago resident that she referred to, for privacy purposes, only as “Miss B,” a slate-writing medium and mediumistic artist.  It seems almost certain that Miss B. was one of the Bangs sisters (lower right photo), Elizabeth or Mary, as they lived in Chicago at the time and are remembered for both slate writing and “precipitated paintings.” Reference is made by Sewall that Miss B.’s sister came into the room at one point in order to add psychic power. (Although a popular internet reference states that the Bangs sisters were frauds, the reference is known for its attempt to debunk all mediums.  The interested reader might consider N. Riley Heagerty’s book,  Portraits from Beyond, published by White Crow Books.)


At the Chicago home of Miss B., Sewall again heard from her husband, Theodore (upper right photo), who had died on December 23, 1895 and had communicated with her at Lily Dale and later in London. She explained that while sitting with Miss B., she wrote a letter containing numerous questions, folded it with several sheets of blank paper and sealed it in an envelope addressed to her husband. “Having washed off two slates, I placed the sealed letter between them, tied them fast with my own handkerchief, and held them firmly in my hands. Miss B. then dropped some ordinary black ink on a small bit or ordinary blotting paper, and placed it on the upper surface of the top slate, I holding the slates firmly all the time, and I alone touching them. In a few minutes, Miss B. said my letters were answered.  I thereupon untied the slates and on opening the envelope found that the paper I had put in blank was covered with clear script in black ink in a writing resembling that but not duplicating that of my husband. There were six pages, which when read proved to be an orderly, coherent, categorical reply to my letter. The answers were numbered to correspond with numbered questions. I was too astonished to reread this novel communication.”

Miss B. then told Sewall that her husband wished to know if she had some other desire.  Sewall replied that she had long wished that in some way Theodore could contrive to give her the long-ago promised portrait of himself for their anniversary or the next Christmas. Theodore responded that he would give it to her at once.

Miss B. suggested that Sewall return the following day and they would then try for the portrait.  However, Miss B. then said, apparently somewhat disturbed, that Theordore insisted on giving her the portrait immediately.  Miss B. complained that she was tired and that the conditions were not right. The portraits that had previously come through her were during daylight and it was already dark. As Sewall was to leave for home the following morning, Miss B. said she would try later that night after a rest break. “From my hand-bag I removed a photograph case containing two photographs of my husband, and placed it closed and clasped between the two slates already mentioned; tied them fast with my handkerchief and wrapped them in heavy paper supplied me from another room by Miss B. Then I returned to my hotel, placed the parcel tied as it was in my trunk and left it there until after dinner; when I unfastened the slates, removed the enclosure and left it (that is, the photograph case with the photographs) in my trunk. Wrapping the slates in the paper, I tied them fast and with them returned to the residence of Miss B., where I had been promised that if all the conditions were obeyed, the portrait should be painted that very evening.”

Magnetizing the Canvas

Upon returning to the home of Miss B. at 8:30 p.m., Sewall was asked to choose one of a dozen or more stretched blank canvases ready for the easel.  Miss B. expressed doubts about her ability to produce a spirit portrait in artificial light, but said that her guides gave her the impression that she would succeed. Following Miss B.’s directions, Sewall placed the canvas she had chosen on top of the two slates which had been in her possession the entire day.  Miss B. then instructed her to place her hands on the upper surface of one end of the canvas, while Miss. B. placed her hands on the other end, explaining that it would assist in magnetizing the canvas. “In a few moments she said, ‘I think it is ready now,’ and in reply to my query, ‘What’s next?’ she said, ‘I’ve always held canvases when I was working for a picture in front of a window. I suppose this must be held in front of a gas-light.’ We pushed the table toward the light and, holding the canvas before the gas-light with both hands, I waited.”

Shortly, Sewall began to see an outline of her husband’s face appear on the canvas “and form shaping itself on the canvas on which my eyes had been fixed from the first moment of my taking it my hands. I could hardly credit my vision, but the outline grew more distinct; color was added to form; it assumed an aspect of warm life and seemed to smile. The psychic called her sister to come to help us. The lady came, but saying, ‘There is power enough here without me,’ withdrew in an instant. I continued to hold the canvas by one side, Miss B. by the other, while the portrait continued to perfect itself before my eyes.”

Checking her watch, Sewall found that less than a half-hour had passed since she selected the blank canvas.  “It was a beautiful portrait, a perfect replica of my husband’s features and coloring, delicate and refined, but vigorous and wearing the aspect of perfect health. Miss B. told her that it was the most rapid work she had ever witnessed and said the conditions were “extraordinarily harmonious.” Sewall asked who painted it.  Miss B. said she did not know.  Sewall commented that it had the tone and coloring associated with the work of Raphael, the great Italian artist.  Miss B. then received a message that it was done by a pupil of Raphael. 

Sewall reported that the persons, places, and events discussed with her husband at the home of Miss. B. “must have been utterly unknown” to the medium and there was not instant hesitation nor an irrelevant word coming from him. 

The above portrait of Theodore Sewall was found on the internet with no indication as to whether it is the precipitated painting received at the home of Miss. B.  That was said to be in color, but the change to black and white can be effected in editing.  May Sewall had the portrait in her bedroom for some time and said that it was later moved to the school that she and her husband founded.  Where it went from there is unknown.

The Bangs Sisters

In Heagerty’s book mentioned in the first paragraph, the process of the “precipitated paintings” is explained much as reported by Sewall, although in most cases the two sisters sat on each side of the canvas while the person sitting with them sat and observed the painting take shape on the canvas, sometimes taking as little as 8-10 minutes, although the average time was 30-40 minutes. As Sewall’s book reports that she later developed mediumistic abilities, becoming an accomplished automatic writer, she apparently had the “power” to add to that of Miss B.

Heagerty offers the testimony of 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….

“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 ever before of the continuity of life after death, and the beautiful philosophy of Spiritualism.”

Heagerty’s research also 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 closed, 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 (lower left photo).  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.

Michael Tymn is the author of The Afterlife Revealed: What Happens After We Die, Resurrecting Leonora Piper: How Science Discovered the Afterlife, and Dead Men Talking: Afterlife Communication from World War I.
His latest book, No One Really Dies: 25 Reasons to Believe in an Afterlife is published by White Crow books.
Next blog post:  January 2

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From Skepticism to Conviction of a Spirit World

Posted on 04 December 2023, 9:30

At the time her husband, Theodore, died on December 23, 1895, May Wright Sewall, a leader in the suffrage movement, considered herself, as well as her husband, “Radical” Unitarians. “We desire immortality as most happy people do; we believed in it much as we believed in the indestructibility of matter; but we felt no certainty of the survival of the separate individual entity,” she explained in the first chapter of her 1920 book, Neither Dead Nor Sleeping, the introduction of which was written by the famous American author Booth Tarkington (see prior blog).


When, following Theodore’s death, two friends suggested that May visit a medium, she was shocked. “It seemed to me grossly to violate both reason and delicacy,” she wrote, adding that “nothing could induce me to seek to reestablish communication with [Theodore] by such means.”  In fact, the idea repelled her. When one of the friends said she had seen her deceased husband walking by her side, Sewall concluded that the woman was either self-duped or the victim of clever impostors. 

Sewall’s attitude would begin to change on August 10, 1897 when she was a speaker on women’s suffrage at the Lily Dale Assembly Grounds outside the village of Cassadaga, New York. An 1872 graduate of Northwestern University with a master’s degree, Sewall and her husband, both educators, had founded the Classical School for Girls in Indianapolis, and in 1888 she became chairman of the Executive Committee of the National American Woman’s Suffrage Association (NAWSA). She also served as president of the International Council of Women and was appointed by President William McKinley to represent the women of the United States at a series of congresses in Paris, France. 

It wasn’t until she arrived at Lily Dale that she realized that it was a “spiritualist camp.” When “Mrs. B.” another officer of the NAWSA, offered to introduce her to some “famous mediums,” she was further shocked. “I told her that I did not wish to meet any ‘medium’  however ‘famous’; that to me the word was offensive, being synonymous in my opinion with the words, deceiver, pretender, charlatan and ignoramus.” Until then she considered Mrs. B. a very intelligent and competent suffrage worker, but she now had doubts about her.

At some point in her four-day stay at Lily Dale, Sewall was persuaded to sit with a slate-writing medium and was astounded when she received “perfectly coherent, intelligent and characteristic replies” to questions she put to communicating spirits. That led to sittings with a trance medium, a trumpet medium, and variously developed psychics. She heard from her husband, father, mother, half-sister, aunt, two sisters-in-law, a great-grandfather, and a niece, all of whom “had identified themselves unmistakably and indisputably.”  Speaking through the trumpet, her husband told her that he worked hard to bring her to the camp and to impress her to sit with the mediums.  Sewall noted that she kept copious notes of her Lily Dale sittings, filling 70 folios.

“I knew as clearly as I know after twenty-two years of constant study and experimentation that I had, so to speak, acquired actual knowledge, if not of immortality, at least of survival of death,” she wrote of those initial sittings. “I had learned that the last enemy is destroyed, in that he can destroy neither being nor identity, nor continuity of relationship.” 

Sewall invited the trumpet (direct or independent voice, not trance voice) medium to her home on October 31, 1897 and she again heard from different relatives who called her by the various “pet” names which they had been accustomed to use in life.  The voices coming through the trumpet were characteristic of their voices in life, as was their laughter.

Among her visitors was an aunt who had died many years before her birth, but whose name was given to her.  “For convenience I had dropped my second name and when a sweet voice said, ‘I am your Aunt Eliza, and your name is really May Eliza Wright Sewall,’ I was startled,” Sewall further recorded. “My aunt did not chide me for having dropped her name, but seemed amused at my embarrassment over her knowledge of it. She proved a very intelligent, entertaining visitor, as did a strange clerical gentleman whom my husband presented as his paternal grandfather.”

Sitting with another direct-voice medium in Buffalo, New York the following May, Sewall heard from a different aunt, her Aunt Lyddy, Mrs. Joseph Warren Brackett.  “The ‘forces’ seemed uncommonly strong,” Sewall recorded the experience. “I not only had visits with my own dearest friends, on that plane, but with several others who explained their coming on the ground that ‘they were passing by, and seeing opportunity, used it.’ Among these was an aunt who had passed on when I was a young lady, who possessed a striking and quite original personality, and a clergyman who had been my tutor in Latin. I welcomed these most unexpected visitors, recognizing their voices and personalities as distinctly as I ever could have done in life; but was surprised by their entrance into my circle.” 

Much to Unlearn

Sewall identified the former Latin tutor as Dr. Alexander, whom she had not heard from since her nineteenth year. He went on to became president of Beloit College and then died a few years later. “He seemed eager to talk with me, and pressed much into a few sentences,” Sewall wrote. “He expressed great joy in being able to tell of the indescribable interest of life on his plane – where he said that he had found much to unlearn, had awakened to known that on earth he had taught many errors; that his former conception fell far below his present realization of God’s goodness – and on retiring he said he would add a test of his identity, that his wife was with him but that their son (an infant in my girlhood and of whom I had since never heard) was still in earth life, facts subsequently verified.” 

Theodore frequently communicated and told May that he often reads with her when she is reading something that interests him. When she asked him if he could read her thoughts, he responded that he is not yet strong enough to do so, but he could usually understand her articulate speech.

Sewall’s mother communicated that one of the greatest griefs there is in trying to awaken friends here to their presence and find them quite inaccessible.  Such was the case with Dr. P. B. Wright, her son (May’s brother), whom she said is not yet ready to accept such communication. “Your temperaments are so very different,” the mother said. “You must both work out conditions you were born under. The planetary influences make it impossible for him to accept what you can until he has worked out certain conditions.” 

On June 17, 1898, Sewall visited a Chicago medium recommended by a Chicago physician. “I had a long audible conversation with my husband by independent voice, and shorter similar ones with my sister and the little niece who had sent me the flowers, Annie Brackett.”  Sewall asked her husband if such conversations with him were preventing him from advancing in the spirit world. “That is a mistake,” Theodore responded. “Taking your earth burdens is so far as I can turns them into joys for me. You do not thus retard my progression, you help it.”  He added that he continues to grow spiritually while helping her.

When May asked about Christ, Theordore replied: “Oh! We are all taught that Christ is the transcendent human being above any other spirit ever humanly incarnated in goodness and purity. The laws of nature are perfect and sure.  They are never broken. Do you understand – never broken.  And all things are under law.” 

While attending a convention advancing women’s rights in London during July, Sewall met with William T. Stead, the renowned English author and editor who was also an automatic-writing medium.  “Mentally I proposed a series of questions,” Sewall wrote. “At the end of each, Mr. Stead’s hand began to move rapidly and as if without his guidance over the paper, and to each was given an intelligent reply… There [were] references to incidents in the past that could have been known only to Mr. Sewall and myself, and there are statements made, my husband said, as ‘tests’ by which I could judge of their validity as time should pass. All this occurred while we were sitting on the balcony, in the open air and in broad daylight.”  Stead referred her to ‘Mrs. B.” (clearly not the same Mrs. B. from Lily Dale)

When Sewall arrived at the home of Mrs. B., the air was charged with electricity from a thunderstorm. Mrs. B. informed her that such electrical conditions interfere with reception from the spirit world Mrs. B. was able to enter the trance state but due to the weather conditions was unable to maintain it.  Arrangements were made for the following Friday.  Mrs. B. told her that she would try to have “Vigo,” her spirit “control” get in touch with her (Sewall’s) spirit friends before then. 

Taking Possession

When Sewall and Mrs. B. met again at Mrs. B.’s apartment, they sat under soft twilight. Sewall observed a slight shudder by Mrs. B. before she passed into the trance state. “Instantly through Mrs. B.’s lips, not her voice, but that of her chief ‘control,’ with whose tone and accents I had become familiar on my first visit, addressed me,” she reported. “She told me that during the week she had met my husband, and it had been arranged that today he should try to take possession of the medium’s organism and talk with me independently of any aid. She added that as he had never before done this, the effort would probably be made with some difficulty, and it might be some minutes before he would be able to ‘use this organism comfortably.’ Vigo added: ‘Our medium may experience convulsions as this personality, your husband, takes possession of her organism for the first time; if this should happen, do not be alarmed; it is all in accordance with law.’” 

Sewall observed a slight shudder passing through Mrs. B.’s body as Vigo departed and heard her leave. “For an instant, Mrs. B.’s frame became convulsed – a moment of rigidity being followed by contortions; presently relative serenity returned, and as a rapturous smile overspread the features of the medium, my husband’s own voice – low, gentle, but eager and firm, entirely natural and unmistakable, addressed me.  His voice – not Mrs. B.’s voice, not Vigo’s, but his, filled with emotion; his whole manner betrayed excitement. He spoke eagerly, telling me what pleasure he had in this manifestation. He said that as it was his first experience of using another person’s physical organism, he found it difficult, but thought it a ‘satisfactory way to effect a return.’ I was so surprised and awed that I found it difficult at first to act on my husband’s invitation to ask questions. Naturally, however, when I had adjusted myself to the situation, I asked him to explain this manner of manifestation. I quote his exact reply, written down at the time:

Why all there is about it is this: The medium has retired from her body and has loaned her organism to me that I may talk with you all alone without the intervention of a third person; I never have had such an opportunity before, but I am getting used to it and shall get on very well. I am told that I shall not be able to remain long the first time, and I feel this is true, so we must talk as fast as possible and about the things that most immediately concern you.

Theodore told May that he is almost always with her “except when you are with me.” May asked for clarification and Theodore explained that when she is asleep her soul is brought to his plane and has many experiences. May lamented the fact that she could not remember her out-of-body experience while sleeping. “You now are conscious of your soul’s experiences while these are in progress and you now retain them; but you are not yet able to impart them to your mind and your body, i.e., to become mentally and physically conscious of them, so to speak. As body and mind both have many experiences which are unshared by either your real self or by your soul, although through them your real self gets more effective instruments – so the soul has many experiences that in their nature can not be shared by the mind and body, although the value or net produce of such experiences may be and often is communicated to the body and to the mind; to each in just the degree that each is able to appropriate such product.”

Listed as one of 100 women “trailblazers” by Encyclopedia Britannica, Sewall apparently caused quite a stir throughout the country and in Europe with the publication of her 1920 book. (More about her experiences in the next blog)

Michael Tymn is the author of The Afterlife Revealed: What Happens After We Die, Resurrecting Leonora Piper: How Science Discovered the Afterlife, and Dead Men Talking: Afterlife Communication from World War I.
His latest book, No One Really Dies: 25 Reasons to Believe in an Afterlife is published by White Crow books.

Next blog:  December 4  


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Pulitzer Prize winning Author Offers Views on Life After Death

Posted on 20 November 2023, 8:01

If famous American author Booth Tarkington (1889-1946) can still tune in to the earth vibration, my thanks go to him for providing this blog, as extracted, edited and abridged from his introduction to the 1920 book, “Neither Dead Nor Sleeping” by May Wright Sewall. Tarkington, a Pulitzer Prize winner, was referred to as “the most important and lasting writer of his generation.” Clearly, progress has been made since he wrote this, but the “dustheap” he referred to is apparently much more dense than he had realized. 

Striving for Saneness in the Daylight

by Booth Tarkington


Man, after a million years of struggle to think, is still refusing to recognize as a fit subject for study that subject which most concerns him – death. Here he remains barbaric; he looks upon death as an ultimate horror which is “unwholesome to dwell upon.” Man is still tribal in his attitude toward war because he is still tribal in his attitude toward death.

Man regards death as so horrible that when he reaches the utmost pitch of his rage he inflicts death upon his enemies. When he feels that life is unendurable he says the worst thing about it that he can think of; he says he prefers death. It is true that individuals, here and there, unbearably anguished by their lives, do long for death; and they think of death as peace, just as in the torrid days of summer we think of January as pleasant; and, seeking peace, they seek it blindly through suicide. But they do not know what they will find.  In their utter ignorance they guess; and usually their guess is that they will find nothing.

We do not know that death is nothing. If death is nothing, then we still know nothing about nothing. We know no more about death than prehistoric man knew. We know more than he did about how to postpone it under certain conditions, and about how to alleviate the physical pain of it; and, using words interchangeably, we can make more definition of it than he could; but our ignorance of death itself is precisely equal to his.  This may be because we have preferred to cling through the ages to the superstition that we could know nothing about it.

There are minds which wrap themselves with satisfaction about a confusion of words, just as tangled thread loves to knot itself always the more inextricably. “Death is negation,” they urge. “Death is merely not life. How can you state positives of a negative? You can know only nothing about nothing, so how can you know something about nothing?” But if they knew that death is nothing, and if they knew that death is not life, they would know more than Moses or Newton or Voltaire knew, and surely that would be knowing something. Enamored of their wanderings with words, they do not even rise to the scientific height of a guess.

In man there is a profound physical distaste for death which extends itself to become a distaste for the investigation of death; he lets his mystics and priests chant of it vaguely on ceremonial days, but he really does not wish to think about it at all. Therefore, he is naturally inclined to throw discredit upon investigations and investigators; in a sense it is his instinct to do so. Moreover, certain thinkers (in their own distaste of the subject) have claimed that this very distaste is the only basis of man’s hope of personal survival after death. They wish to dispose of the matter thus briefly, defining the theory of “immortality of the soul” as merely a by-product of man’s instinct of self-preservation. And there are others who say that man got the notion that he had a soul through his savage ancestor’s dreams; the savage woke from slumber and said: “I have been in strange places, obviously far away from my sleeping body. Therefore there must be two of me – the me of my body, and the me that leaves my body and goes away.  Hence, when my body dies, the me that dreamed may still be alive.”  The civilized man’s dream of survival is only a savage’s dream, after all, the rationalists say.

Thus they claim to have demolished the theory of survival.  But plainly, they may be (for all they know) exactly like the rational argufiers who may have said, in the year 1491 Anno Domini: “The earth is flat. Columbus believes it is round because his grandfather had a passion for round fruit, such as oranges and apples; the love of rotundity is inherent in his blood.”  To imagine the origin of a desire or a conception is not to prove that the thing desired or conceived has no existence, as any hungry child will demonstrate to a doubter’s satisfaction.  But the strangest theorist is he who takes the ground that man is actually indifferent to death (because, as death approaches, some men and most dogs appear to be indifferent to life) and that therefore, since death amounts to so little, it really amounts to nothing and coincides with nothingness.


Many of the [deniers] are cock-sure, and there is no superstition so superstitious as cock-sureness…Often they speak with a fierceness that betrays them: “Idiot!” they shout. “Don’t you know it’s been proved that you can’t know anything, because there is nothing to know?” They love to make free with the word “proved.” This is the “attitude of civilization” toward death and what may lie beyond death.

[And there are people who] say they “don’t believe in spirits,” but obviously they do – even to the extent of having determined that spirits can never for instance be trivial or humorous; and with primitive naiveté they have so credulously pictured a heaven, or hell, of their own, that evidence of anything different seems to them nonsense. “Why don’t the spirits ever tell us something worthwhile?” they say.  “Why aren’t the spirits more dignified?”  The spirits they believe in, you see, are already constructed out of fancies, imaginary spirits finished in contour, gesture and temperament – and anything purporting to be a spirit, but not fulfilling the ready-made portrait, is dismissed as either fraud or delusion.

[There are] many people who say “We aren’t meant to know” [and] will deny their love of darkness. “We live by faith,” they add. “We believe in the many mansions in His Father’s house, and “If it were not so I would have told you.’” Yet they hold that there is a kind of impiety in seeking to follow this great hint of Christ’s to further understanding of what He meant. He did not forbid it; it is they who forbid. They say, “We are judged by the extent of our faith,” which may easily mean that the harder a thing is to believe, the more credit to him who believes it.

The seeker for the truth about survival (whether the truth be consolation or not) must know that his way lies through a maze, which one enters trying to find a path that will take him out on the opposite side. There are a thousand fraudulent bypaths and he must learn to recognize at their entrances the little marks which show that the way out does not lie there – and yet the true path may be disguised by these same little marks. The seeker’s heart must be steady and his head cool; he will see queer things at which he must remember to laugh, and his elbow will be plucked by hands reaching from many a curious cul-de-sac. If he becomes bewildered he will see things that do not exist, and he may begin to babble nonsense. And though he might never find the true path, he must not deny (if he would claim to have remained reasonable) that a true path may exist.

The child fears the dark, yet there is nothing in the dark that is not in the light – except the light itself – and so there may be nothing in death that is not in life, if we had the light to see. If death is life, with “progress and problems” like those in what we call life, then we should not fear it.  We fear it because we imagine it is darkness – yet that is one thing which it cannot be. Nothing is not darkness.

Strong Evidence for Survival

Now, certain men have said that they have evidence of survival, and some of these men are scientists – even scientists by profession. It they have the evidence which they say they have, then it is going to be possible to establish, before very long, the most important fact that can affect mankind.  There is no doubt that these men believe the evidence; and their critics, unable to assail their sincerity, attack them upon the point of gullibility.

But this leads a person of open mind to suspect the critics of a gullibility of their own; that is, they may be gulled by their prejudices.  They are indeed thus gulled if they declare Sir Oliver Lodge to be gullible because Sir Oliver claims to receive messages from a dead person. To show Sir Oliver gullible, the critics must prove the messages to be fraud or delusion.  They prove only their own superstition which says, by implication: “But spirits do not do thus and so; and they do not speak thus and so.”  No doubt serious investigators have been gulled; that means nothing of importance; secret service men have had lead quarters passed “on” them. The question is, whether or not the investigators have ever found true metal – if it were even a centime! Most of them believe they have; and therein is a circumstance of such significance as may give us strangely to think, if we will take leisure to note it: of all the men professionally of science who have seriously and persistently investigated and studied the alleged phenomena of “spiritualism,” the overwhelming majority have drawn the conclusion, as a result of their patient researches, that there is personal survival of death. 

Only levity sneers at them now – at these patient men who have sought truth in the dust-heap.  They have not yet failed; neither have they shown the truth – if they have found it – so that all men may see it and know that it is indeed truth. Their task is heavy, but it is the greatest one, for it is the task that must be done before civilization can begin. To lift the burden of the unknown from the human soul – to destroy the great darkness; that is the work which engages them.  Men cannot be sane in the daylight until the night becomes knowable.

Michael Tymn is the author of The Afterlife Revealed: What Happens After We Die, Resurrecting Leonora Piper: How Science Discovered the Afterlife, and Dead Men Talking: Afterlife Communication from World War I.
His latest book, No One Really Dies: 25 Reasons to Believe in an Afterlife is published by White Crow books.

Next blog post: Dec. 4

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William James, the Minister, and the Medium

Posted on 06 November 2023, 9:37

After Professor William James carried out a dozen experiments with Leonora Piper and became convinced that she had supernormal powers, he arranged for 27 of his friends, relatives, and associates to sit with her and report back to him on their experiences.  Twelve of them got nothing, except unknown names or trivial talk, but 15 of them received meaningful information. 

One of them was Dr. Minot J. Savage, a Unitarian minister (top left photo). In his 1902 book, Can Telepathy Explain?, Savage told of his investigations as a member of the American branch of the Society for Psychical Research (ASPR).  “I doubted neither his intelligence nor his honesty, but I did not believe a word of the things he told me,” Savage wrote of his introduction to psychic phenomena. Early in his investigations with other mediums, Savage encountered some physical phenomena, including levitations. “I have seen tables and chairs lifted in a way not to be explained by any ordinary methods, and this a good many times,” he wrote. “On one occasion, when seated in a heavy arm chair, I was myself gently and quietly lifted into the air while a skeptical friend looked on and carefully studied what was taking place.”


Savage felt it was his duty to accept the invitation by Professor James to observe and study Mrs. Piper.  “If there is a great truth here which abolishes death, which wipes away all tears, which heals the broken-hearted, which puts meaning into life, which makes all the long and toilsome process through which we are passing worthwhile, then surely that is something which ought to be known,” he explained.

In his first sitting with Mrs. Piper, Savage’s father was the first to communicate. He had died in Maine at age 90.  “He had never lived in Boston, nor, indeed, had he visited there for a great many years, so that there was no possibility that Mrs. Piper should ever have seen him and no likelihood of her having known anything about him,” Savage related.  “She (or Phinuit, her spirit control, speaking through her vocal cords, artist conception bottom left) described him at once with accuracy, pointing out certain peculiarities which the ordinary observer, ever if he had seen him, would not have been likely to notice.”

Mrs. Piper then said that “He calls you Judson.”  Savage considered this quite evidential as his father had called him Judson, his middle name, when he was a boy. “In all my boyhood all the members of the family except my father and my half-brother had always called me Minot,” he explained, going on to point out that after he had become an adult his father began calling him Minot.
“Here is somebody else besides your father,” Savage further recalled Mrs. Piper (or Phinuit) saying.  “It is your brother, no your half-brother, and he says his name is John.”  Mrs. Piper (or Phinuit) then went on to accurately describe John and tell the method of his death. Savage pointed out that this brother was not consciously on his mind and he was not expecting to hear from him.  Moreover, he was certain that Mrs.  Piper knew nothing about him.

On one occasion, Savage’s daughter, Gertrude, visited Mrs. Piper anonymously.  A friend made the appointment for her under an assumed name.  As a test, the friend gave her three locks of hair.  “[My daughter] knew nothing about them, not even as to whether they had been cut from heads of people living or dead,” Savage related. After Mrs. Piper had gone into the trance state, the locks of hair were placed in her hand one at a time.  Mrs. Piper (or Phinuit) gave the name of the friend, the names of the three people whose hair she held, and told whether they were living or dead.  The daughter took notes and then after the sitting verified that Mrs. Piper (or Phinuit) had been correct in every case.

On a much later visit to Mrs. Piper, Savage was told that his son, who had died at age 31 three years earlier, was present.  “Papa, I want you go at once to my room,” Savage recalled his son communicating with a great deal of earnestness.  “Look in my drawer and you will find a lot of loose papers.  Among them are some which I would like you to take and destroy at once.”  The son had lived with a personal friend in Boston and his personal effects remained there.  Savage went to his son’s room and searched the drawer, gathering up all the loose papers.  “There were things there which he had jotted down and trusted to the privacy of his drawer which he would not have made public for the world,” Savage ended the story.

Savage told Admiral W. Usborne Moore, a retired British naval officer turned psychical researcher (bottom right photo), of the sitting with Mrs. Piper and pointed to a picture of his son hanging in his office.  He also gave Moore a letter of introduction to Mrs. Piper. Before visiting Piper, however, Moore sat with Maggie Gaule Reidinger, a New York medium.  She mentioned Moore’s visit with Savage and said that Savage’s son was there at the time.  “He is beside me now,” Reidinger continued, “and he wishes me to tell his father that he was with him in his study this morning when you called upon him.  He says: ‘My father pointed to a picture, and said, “That is my son.” He afterwards showed you another portrait of him.  He gave you a letter, or authorized you to use his name, to assist you to obtain an interview with Mrs. Piper.”  Moore was very much impressed and certain that Mrs. Reidinger did not know his name.  He recontacted Savage to confirm that he had not spoken to Mrs. Reidinger to inform her of his visit that night.

As reported by Savage and further recorded in the records of the ASPR, the Rev. W. H. Savage, Minot’s brother, and a friend of Professor William James’, sat with Mrs. Piper on December 28, 1888.  Phinuit told him that somebody named Robert West was there and wanted to send a message to Minot.  The message was in the form of an apology for something West had written about Minot “in advance.”  W. H. Savage did not understand the message but passed it on to Minot, 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, W. H. Savage asked for a description of West.  An accurate description was given along with the information that West had died of hemorrhage of the kidneys, a fact unknown to Savage but later verified.

In a sitting by W. H. Savage 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.”  Savage was unaware of either of these facts, but later confirmed them.
“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 on the part of the medium.  “There was no reason for the [apology] unless it be found in simply human feeling on his [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 recorded.

Dr. Savage had sittings with a number of other mediums, although for privacy reasons he was reluctant to name them.  One day he was visited at his Boston church by a clerk in a business house some 20 miles from Boston.  The man explained to Savage that he had found himself under the influence of some power that wished to write through his hand.  He was confused and wanted Savage’s advice. “We sat down at the table, and immediately his hand was seized and began to write with a good deal of power,” Savage reported.  The communicating spirit identified himself as George Canning, a name unknown to Savage.  “He stated quite a number of facts concerning himself, some of which I was able to look up and [later] verify.” 

Savage then decided to give George Canning a little test.  He asked him to go to his house and find out what Mrs. Savage was doing at the time.  In fact, Mrs. Savage was not supposed to be home that morning. “We sat in perfect quiet and silence for four or five minutes.  At the end of that time, the hand began to write.  To my surprise, and of course I believed he was all wrong, he said: ‘Mrs. Savage was at home, and when I was there, she was standing in the front hall saying good-bye to a caller.’”  When Savage went home later, he was told by his wife that she had been paid an unexpected call by a friend and that she was bidding her good-bye at the very time the spirit reported.
“The number and kind of facts which have been discovered and verified beyond any reasonable doubt are such as to leave fraud and self-delusion and mere coincidence out of the questions,” Savage concluded.  “There are facts, and great numbers of them, which must be treated seriously.”  He added that the question of survival after death may be considered without any regard to the question of theism or atheism.  “Whatever a man may believe concerning God, it is still true that we are here and are what we are.  Some power has produced us, and a power which is adequate to this may, for all we know, be adequate to continuing our personal existence beyond the experience of death.” 

Michael Tymn is the author of The Afterlife Revealed: What Happens After We Die, Resurrecting Leonora Piper: How Science Discovered the Afterlife, and Dead Men Talking: Afterlife Communication from World War I.
His latest book, No One Really Dies: 25 Reasons to Believe in an Afterlife is published by White Crow books.

Next blog post:  November 20



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Do Spirits Influence Great Artists?

Posted on 23 October 2023, 9:51

“It is not every medium who is able to get into the headlines of the British press without being ridiculed, but this feat has been achieved by Herr Heinrich Nusslein,” psychical researcher Harry Price wrote in the November 1928 issue of Psychic Research, published by The American Society for Psychical Research.  Price mentioned that more than 200 of Nusslein’s paintings were on view in London galleries at the time.


Price went on to explain that Nusslein (1879-1947, upper left photo), of Nuremberg, Germany, was advised by a business friend to develop the psychic powers he believed him to possess.  Nusslein was described as “scornfully sceptical” but soon discovered he had a gift for automatic writing – mostly scraps of verse, odds and ends of forgotten knowledge, and, later, grandiose descriptions of his own psychic powers and productions.  He then began producing some crude automatic drawings, the quality of which improved after some experimenting.  This all took place during or around 1923, when Nusslein was in his mid-40s.  Today, Nusslein is considered one of the most famous mediumistic or visionary artists.  He claimed that deceased artists such as Albrecht Durer guided his hand, but many references stop short of saying that his visions were inspired by artists in the spirit world. 

“In approximately two years, Nusslein, who had only one-ninth of normal vision, painted some two-thousand pictures,” Price further explained. “He always paints from imagination and memory, never from models, no matter what the subject. Except that ‘a spirit message’ on one occasion warned him to abstain from painting for six weeks, his powers are constant.”  He added that Nusslein produces his pictures under varying degrees of consciousness and that many of them are painted from “visions” which appear to him and these were painted in complete darkness.

“The technique employed by Nusslein is very curious,” Price continued. “Some of the painting look as if his hands only had been used in producing them. The finger strokes are distinctly visible in many of his subjects and he has an almost uncanny gift for producing the impression of crowds of people or spirits, and processions with a very few strokes.” He completed a painting in anywhere from five minutes to forty minutes, his actions said to be “with lightning rapidity.” His ‘Lemure Scene from Faust’ (upper right, top) was completed in 18 minutes, while ‘Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony’ (upper right, bottom), required 23 minutes.

“Another method of obtaining a portrait is for [Nusslein] to get en rapport with a distant sitter,” Price wrote. “The resultant ‘psychic portrait’ (not necessarily a likeness) takes about three or four minutes.  He can also ‘project himself’ into distant lands or epochs of the past and he then paints what he ‘sees’ there. In the same way, Nusslein is clairaudient and states that he ‘receives messages’ from historical characters of past ages. On one occasion he stated that he had received a message from ‘Peter Libidinsky,’ a magician at the Persian Court in the Middle Ages. The resultant painting, ‘The Magician,’ was a highly imaginative portrait.”

Spirit Sculptor’s Influence

It was also during the 1920s that Bessie Clarke Drouet, an American sculptor (1879 -1946, lower right photo) living in New York City began developing as an automatic writing medium while sitting with other mediums to observe various phenomena.  In her 1932 book, Station Astral, Drouet tells of various influences on her work from the spirit world. At one sitting with direct-voice medium Maina Tafe, she asked her deceased father if anyone was helping her with her sculpture of Diana (lower left photo). Her father replied that many sculptors were there helping her, one of them being Bourdelle, a notable French sculptor, a contemporary of Rodin’s who finished many of his works after he died.

At a later sitting, a voice broke in, saying, “This is Ordway Partridge speaking. I heard you remark about the arm of Diana. I want you to know I helped you with it.  I impressed you to walk over and change the position of it. Now I like it. I had been trying for a long time to find you in a receptive mood, so I could get a message through to you, and that day I did.” Partridge further commented that there were many sculptors in her studio, including Bourdelle, working with her. 

At another sitting with Tafe, Drouet again asked if someone in the spirit world was helping her. “Peter Bruer, Peter Bruer, Peter Bruer, Berlin,” the response came, followed by a comment in the German language which nobody understood. The name was not recognized, but she was then told by another communicator, in English, that Bruer was a German sculptor who lived in Berlin and had died about three years earlier. At still a later sitting, Jean-Antoinie Houdon, a famous French neo-classical sculptor, communicated, stating that he and others were trying to assist her.

Seized with an Impulse to Paint

During January 1907, Dr. James Hyslop, the founder and director of the American Institute for Scientific Research, which was devoted to the study of abnormal psychology and psychical research, was consulted by Frederic L. Thompson, a New York City goldsmith. Thompson informed Hyslop, a former Columbia University professor of logic and ethics, that around the middle of 1905 he was “suddenly and inexplicably seized with an impulse to sketch and paint pictures.”  Prior to that, he had no real interest or experience in art beyond the engraving required in his occupation. The impulses were accompanied by “hallucinations or visions” of trees and landscapes.  He explained that he sometimes felt like a man named Robert Swain Gifford   At times he would remark to his wife that “Gifford wants to sketch.” 

Thompson had met Gifford some years earlier in the marshes of New Bedford, Massachusetts, as he was hunting and Gifford was sketching. Thompson recalled talking to Gifford for a few minutes on one occasion and just seeing him on a couple of other occasions.  Also, he once called on Gifford to show him some jewelry, but that was the extent of their contact. 

During the latter part of January, 1906, Thompson saw a notice of an exhibition of Gifford’s paintings at an art gallery and went to see them.  While looking at one of the paintings on exhibition, Thompson heard a voice in his ear saying, “You see what I have done.  Can you not take up and finish my work?”  It was then that he learned that Gifford had died on January 15, 1905, some six months before he developed the interest in painting. “Whether genuine or not it had sufficient influence on the mind of Mr. Thompson to induce him to go on with his sketching and painting,” Hyslop said of the voice.  “From this time on the impulse to paint was stronger, and between this date and the next year he produced a number of paintings of artistic merit sufficient to demand a fair price on their artistic qualities alone, his story being concealed from all but his wife.”

Hyslop arranged for Thompson to sit with three mediums, all resulting in evidence of influence from Gifford. “Superficially, at least, all the facts point to the spiritistic hypothesis, whatever perplexities exist in regard to the modus operandi of the agencies effecting the result,” Hyslop ended the report. (The Thompson-Gifford case was discussed in more detail in my blog of August 22, 2011.)

Michael Tymn is the author of The Afterlife Revealed: What Happens After We Die, Resurrecting Leonora Piper: How Science Discovered the Afterlife, and Dead Men Talking: Afterlife Communication from World War I.
His latest book, No One Really Dies: 25 Reasons to Believe in an Afterlife is published by White Crow books.

Next blog post: November 6

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Will Secular Students Eventually Turn to ‘Anxious Trembling’?

Posted on 09 October 2023, 7:55

When I see polls or surveys stating that more and more people in Generation Z are counted as secularists, atheists, humanists, or whatever label is applied to them, I react with ambivalence and mixed emotion. On the one hand, I see it as a positive sign that so many have recognized the apparent myths and distortions of various religious teachings, but, on the other hand, I fear that they have become nihilists, not understanding the difference between secular humanism and Cartesian mind-body dualism, the latter expanded to include the survival of consciousness at death.

To put it another way, in rejecting religion and its God, the secular humanist has seemingly assumed a concomitant relationship between God and an afterlife, and therefore has also repudiated the idea that consciousness survives death in a greater reality. The person has taken the common deductive approach of “no-god, no afterlife,” rather than an inductive one in which the evidence for consciousness continuing after death is overwhelming, thereby suggesting a Creator or Creative Force of some kind, even though it is probably beyond human comprehension. (Some of the best evidence is summarized in my book, No One Really Dies, even though it exceeds the boggle threshold of many skeptics.)


A recent release by the Secular Student Alliance introduces readers to 22 student activists scholarship recipients. Of the 22, at least 16 mention having been raised in a strict or devout religious environment, one in which the prejudices and bigotry they perceived conflicted with reason, compassion, and progressiveness. Fourteen of the 22 listed LGBTQ equality as a primary goal. One student states that her Catholic teachings “were weaponized to promote traditions of silence, shame, sexism, sexual abuse, and homophobia.” Another student was motivated by the need for “women’s reproductive justice,” A graduate student who received her bachelor’s degree in religious studies explained that “witnessing racism within her white Christian community during the Black Lives Matter protests further fueled her journey away from religion.” A number of them point to the need for science to prevail over religion.

Whatever motivates or inspires those 22 people or others in their generation, I have seen nothing to suggest that their secular humanism is not synonymous with nihilism. While there are some atheists who are not nihilists, the distinction is rarely recognized. An atheist rejects a higher power but not necessarily the idea that consciousness continues after death, while a nihilist rejects both and sees life as meaningless, beyond “having fun” and making it more comfortable and pleasurable for future generations. Such a worldview provides some meaning for young people who are not prepared to dig too deeply into the matter and ask, “to which generation full fruition?” or “to what end the progeny?”

Although seemingly having a purpose in life, one rooted in equality, the students do not see the bigger picture. For the most part, Carpe Diem (Seize the day!) is their philosophy and epicureanism their life style. At least that’s the way I see it from my distant porch (or perch).

Plodding, Pondering & Persisting

In his 2016 New York Times best seller, When Breath Becomes Air, Paul Kalanithi, a California neurosurgeon diagnosed with terminal lung cancer at age 36, addressed the “one day at a time” philosophy adopted by many nihilists by saying that such an approach didn’t help him. “What was I supposed to do with that day?” he asked, pointing out that time had become static for him as he approached the end. He considered more traveling, dining, and achieving a host of neglected ambitions, but he simply didn’t have the energy. “It is a tired hare who now races,” he explained. “And even if I had the energy, I prefer a more tortoise-like approach. I plod, I ponder. Some days, I simply persist.”

Kalanithi added that his medical training had been “relentlessly future-oriented” and all about delayed gratification, what one might be doing five years down the line. However, in his terminal condition, he wasn’t prepared to give much thought to what he would be doing beyond lunch.

In his 2010 book, The Undying Soul, Stephen J. Iacoboni, an oncologist who had witnessed thousands of deaths over some three decades of medical practice, stated that the real enemy facing terminal patients is not death, but the fear of death. He observed that many of his cancer patients had unrealistic expectations and didn’t want their hopes dashed. They pleaded for or demanded a cure. While trying not to extinguish what little hope there might have been, Iacoboni tried to be more honest with them than other doctors. Most of the terminal patients were, however, unable to accept the truth of their condition and lived their remaining days in a state of despair.

Iacoboni devotes separate chapters to different patients, using pseudonyms, and beginning with those who most feared death and died in anguish, before discussing several patients who quietly accepted their fate and departed with a puzzling serenity, seemingly even with eagerness and wonder.

Phillip, one of the patients in the first category, was 60 years old and had just retired from a career in computer technology when he was diagnosed with an aggressive case of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. “Like me, Phillip had long before abandoned religious faith in favor of modern science,” Iacoboni writes. “Unlike faith, however, science provides no refuge when hope is gone.” As Phillip’s condition deteriorated and he marched toward the abyss in “utter isolation,” Iacoboni felt helpless, unable to offer him any comforting words. It was Phillip’s spiritually deprived death – so like many others he had attended – that prompted Iacoboni to search for answers outside of mainstream medicine. But he was so locked into the dogma of science that he didn’t know where to look. “It wasn’t so much the fact of their deaths that bothered me,” Iacoboni explains. “Rather it was the fact that they died without the comfort of finding peace within their hearts and souls before they passed on.”

Iacoboni observed that many people, so wrapped up in the “materialists’ narrow, spiritually crippling world view” had dismissed spiritual considerations in all the hustle and bustle of their everyday lives, then when facing imminent death, were desperate but didn’t know where to turn.

Tunnel Vision

As I further see it, tunnel vision has always been a characteristic of youth. Members of Generation Z are simply too young and inexperienced to fully grasp the worldview they’ve bought into. They are too focused on surviving in this world while being indoctrinated in hedonistic ways by the entertainment and advertising industries. They’re coached by professors not much older than they are and are further influenced by older professors stuck in the muck and mire of scientism. In embracing secular humanism, they celebrate a certain freedom from the moral fetters that were imposed upon them by their parents or religious communities. It’s not until a loved one is afflicted with a terminal condition or actually dies that so many permit death and all of its ramifications to rise to the threshold of consciousness.

As Michel de Montaigne, a 16th Century French statesman and philosopher wrote: “They come and they go and they trot and they dance, and never a word about death. All well and good. Yet when death does come – to them, their wives, their children, their friends – catching them unawares and unprepared, then what storms of passion overwhelm them, what cries, what fury, what despair.”

These secular humanists see science and religion as polarized positions, not realizing that some very renowned scientists have devoted countless years to studying psychical matters supporting survival under scientifically controlled conditions and independent of religion. The science may not be exact or pure, but it is as much science as we have with meteorology or with most of medicine. Professor Raynor Johnson, a British-Australian physicist, was one of them. “To sum it up,” he wrote in concluding one of his many books, The Imprisoned Splendor, “we have enough trustworthy evidence to anticipate our survival of the change called death.”

But the students will go to their computers and find a couple of primary encyclopedic reference that claims Johnson was clearly duped in all of his research, as were Sir Oliver Lodge, Sir William Barrett, Sir William Crookes, Dr. Richard Hodgson, Professor William James, Professor James Hyslop, and other esteemed scientists and scholars right up to the present day. They will dismiss the research and conclusions as bunk, not realizing and indifferent to the fact that many of these encyclopedic references are editorially biased in a materialistic and academic direction. Psychic phenomena are opposed to natural law and therefore none of them can be true is the position that some popular references offer gullible readers.

And so the secular humanist students continue with a nihilistic worldview, perhaps questioning it 50 years later after awakening to the twisting, distorting, misleading, incomplete, and uninformed explanations they have accepted over the years. The former students then rationalize that oblivion or total extinction of the personality will not bother them, as it will be just like sleep. They continue to repress the idea of death and extinction, all the while shaking in their boots when no one is looking.

As Professor William James, one of the pioneers of modern psychology, put it: “The luster of the present hour is always borrowed from the background of possibilities it goes with. Let our common experiences be enveloped in an eternal moral order; let our suffering have an immortal significance; let Heaven smile upon the earth, and deities pay their visits; let faith and hope be the atmosphere which man breathes in; and his days pass by with zest; they stir with prospects, they thrill with remoter values. Place around them on the contrary the curdling cold and gloom and absence of all permanent meaning which for pure naturalism and the popular-science evolutionism of our time are all that is visible ultimately, and the thrill stops short, or turns rather to an anxious trembling.”

Michael Tymn is the author of The Afterlife Revealed: What Happens After We Die, Resurrecting Leonora Piper: How Science Discovered the Afterlife, and Dead Men Talking: Afterlife Communication from World War I.
His latest book, No One Really Dies: 25 Reasons to Believe in an Afterlife is published by White Crow books.

Next blog post; Oct. 23



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Biorhythms: A Missing Component in the Study of After-Death Communication

Posted on 25 September 2023, 7:51

In an article published in the December 1925 issue of the Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research, Dr. Hans Thirring, professor of physics at the University of Vienna, reported on his research with several mediums, primarily the brothers Willy and Rudi Schneider. “I had not believed in the existence of metapsychic phenomena at the commencement of our research, but when I saw how easily a mere suspicion could be turned into an exposure, I became sceptical of the sceptics, and resolved to study these matters a little more closely,” Thirring (below) explains his introduction to the subject matter, adding that a committee involving eight other professors was formed to study different mediums. Much of his research was with committee members, but he also carried out research on his own in his laboratory.


Thirring goes on to report on many sittings with strong phenomena, many with weak phenomena, and some with no phenomenon at all. “These sittings confirmed an observation which we had already made a year ago: periods of poor phenomena by the medium were alternating with periods of strong phenomena, while the control conditions remained constant,” he wrote of sittings with Willy Schneider (below) during 1924 and 1925.


While Thirring concluded that many of the phenomena he observed were genuine and beyond trickery, the lack of consistency was a major detriment to the research.  A number of other committee members lacked the patience and understanding to deal with the negative sittings and they gradually withdrew.  At the same time, the inconsistency prevented Thirring and the few who remained on the committee from reaching any definite conclusion.  Moreover, some actual fraud by one of the alleged mediums studied by the committee influenced certain committee members to believe that Willy Schneider was simply more cautious and skilled than other tricksters. It was all beyond natural law and so it had to be a trick of some kind, even if it was not obvious to the committee members. 

The inconsistency in phenomena was much the same with other well-known mediums, including D. D. Home, Eusapia Palladino and Leonora Piper.  All seem to have had their bad days or their bad periods, which frustrated the researchers.  If any consideration was given to the biorhythm theory of human behavior by the early researchers, I have not come across it. Basically, that theory holds that we all have our good periods, our bad periods, and those in a gray area between good and bad.  Biorhythms is the “science” that studies our built-in natural cycles that influence our physical, intellectual, and emotional behavior.  The primary tenet of the theory seems to be that we all have a 23-day physical cycle, a 28-day emotional cycle, and a 33-day intellectual cycle.

One of the pioneers in this area of biorhythms was, like Thirring, a professor at the University of Vienna.  Dr. Hermann Swoboda, a professor of psychology there, teamed with Dr. Wilhelm Fleiss, a German medical researcher, both focusing mostly on the physical and emotional rhythms affecting patients. Their works were published in the first decade of the 1900s.  During the 1920s, Alfred Teltscher, an Austrian doctor of engineering, developed the intellectual cycle.

The 28-day emotional cycle governs sensibility, nerves, feelings, intuition, cheerfulness, moodiness, and creative ability, while the 33-day intellectual cycle affects memory, alertness, logic, reasoning power, reaction and ambition. The 23-day physical cycle encompasses physical strength, endurance, energy, resistance to disease, and confidence.

Sometime around 1985, I read a book entitled Biorhythm Sports Forecasting by Bernard Gittelson. The book included complete biorhythm charts for the years 1977, 1978, and 1979, three years during which I kept a somewhat detailed log books concerning my daily efforts in long-distance training and racing, including notes as to when I was feeling energetic or lacking in energy. In matching up my notes with Gittelson’s charts, I found a positive correlation between my efforts and my supposed biorhythms.

In one of my most memorable races, I noted in my log that I was in “cruise control” all the way and that I had a strong kick at the finish.  According to the biorhythm charts, I was at both a physical and emotional peak that day, but pretty close to an intellectual low. However, according to Gittelson, distance running “does not significantly involve thinking.” He says that too much thinking about the pain and strain of the run has been the undoing of many an athlete.

All Systems Charged

According to Gittelson, the 11 ½ days in which the physical cycle is in a positive phase, all systems are charged and giving off energy.  During the 11 ½ days of the down cycle, the negative days, there is reduced vitality. The critical days, he explains, are when there is a change in rhythm from positive to negative or vice versa. This is when extra caution is called for. In one of my 1978 log entries, I noted that a knee began bothering me.  The charts showed that I was in the negative zone in all three categories that day.  Likewise, when I developed an ankle problem several months later, I was in three negative zones. 

There were too many variables and too much subjective data for my little personal study to be meaningful. Baseball lends itself to a more scientific study of biorhythms as it is a numbers game. Anyone who really follows the game knows that most every player, if not all of them, has his “hot” streaks and his slumps over the course of a 162-game season. He might be “on fire” for a week or 10 days and “cold as a cucumber” for an equal period of time. If any statistician has done a detailed study on this, I am not aware of it.

According to Wikipedia, “the biorhythm theory as a pseudoscientific idea that suggest that people’s daily lives are significantly influenced by rhythmic cycles with periods of exactly 23, 28, and 33 days.”  They say that the theory was developed by Wilhelm Fliess in the late 19th century and popularized in the United States in the late 1970s. “It is important to note,” Wikipedia says, “that there is no scientific evidence supporting the validity of biorhythms. Therefore, it is not recommended to make important decisions based on this theory.”  As most readers of this blog know. Wikipedia is heavily biased against all paranormal phenomena, including mediumship. It seems that their writers regard anything not lending itself to exact measurement and replication is pseudoscience. 

I admit to having a problem with that part of the theory holding that the individual’s date and time of birth triggers the rhythms and that they continue from the moment of birth,  without change, for the person’s lifetime, but it is clear to me that we have our hot streaks and our slumps in our everyday lives.  Therefore, I see no reason why scientists who researched mediums should have expected them to produce strong phenomena on every experiment or not to have anticipated them having off days, or off periods, when they produced little or nothing.  Assuming that a medium should produce strong phenomena on every occasion seems very unscientific to me. 

Harmony Required

In addition to periods of strong and weak phenomena, Thirring concluded “that the production of the phenomena must necessarily depend on the mutual feeling of goodwill between medium and sitters if they are to be really genuine; that is to say, of psychic origin.”  Many other researcher before Thirring had recognized the need for a passive mental state for the medium and overall harmony during the experiment. It was often reported that soothing music was played to achieve the harmony and that negativity on the part of a sitter or sitters could defeat the medium (or the spirits working through the medium) in the production of phenomena. It has been likened to a comedian on a stage reacting to laughs and cheers or to boos and taunts. 

In many failed studies, it appeared that the medium succumbed to the pressure.  Back to the baseball analogy, many players have said that when they try to hit homeruns they fail. When they just try to make contact with the ball, no harder swing attempted, they succeed.  Thirring explained; “It is obvious that good many average men would not even be able to fall asleep in their own beds at 10 p.m. if half-a-dozen university professors were sitting around them waiting in deadly silence for the occurrence of the phenomenon.  The far more delicate metapsychical phenomena cannot be produced by the mere will of the medium. Some psychic emotion seem to be necessary – in the same way as certain sexual functions are started by emotions and imaginations. In the case of our medium, the necessary emotions seem to be furnished by rhythmical music; by the touch of a woman; or by the buoyant spirit of a cheerful circle. Whenever the atmosphere of the circle resembles a law court with the medium as the poor delinquent; or even still worse, when the sitting takes the form of a college examination, no phenomenon will occur.”

“Thirring summarized the results of his investigation: “As a teacher of exact sciences I had never dreamt of believing in metapsychical phenomena until the beginning of 1924. My investigation with Willy Schneider taught me, however, that the hypothesis of genuine telekinetic phenomena is much better founded than the average scientist realizes.  My conviction of their genuineness would be still greater except that the experience with [a charlatan] had taught me to be very cautious. I learned further that the information concerning psychical research given by the daily press as well as by scientific journals is generally one-sided and unreliable. There seems to be a great gap between the group of convinced occultists or spiritists and the very badly informed average intellectual man.”

Another factor, one which Thirring does not go into, was reported by other researchers – that some of the psychic energy of the sitters added to the psychic power of the medium and thereby raised the overall psychic power available for the alleged spirits to carry out the particular phenomenon.

It should be noted that Babe Ruth hit 714 homeruns during his 22-year baseball career, but he also struck out 1,330 times and had his share of streaks and slumps. 

Michael Tymn is the author of The Afterlife Revealed: What Happens After We Die, Resurrecting Leonora Piper: How Science Discovered the Afterlife, and Dead Men Talking: Afterlife Communication from World War I.
His latest book, No One Really Dies: 25 Reasons to Believe in an Afterlife is published by White Crow books.

Next blog post: October 9





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The 13th Witness for Life After Death:  Dr. Gustave Geley

Posted on 11 September 2023, 7:10

A French physician and Laureate of the French Medical Faculty at the University of Lyons, Dr. Gustave Geley (1868 – 1924, upper right photo) gave up his medical practice in 1918 to become the first director of the Institut Métapsychique International in Paris. He is most remembered for his research in the area of physical mediumship, especially with the mediums Marthe Béraud (“Eva C.”), Stephan Ossowiecki, Jean Guzik, and Franek Kluski (lower right photo). Many of Geley’s experiments were carried out in hi Paris laboratory with the help of Professor Charles Richet, who was awarded the Nobel Prize in medicine in 1913.


In my award-winning paper for the Bigelow Essay contest of 2021, I offered the testimony of 11 researchers – a judge, a physician, a lawyer, three chemists, a biologist, two physicist, a theologian, and a philosopher, all with impeccable qualifications – in support of the survival hypothesis. All of them began as non-believers or skeptics to some high degree, but, after extensive research declared themselves as supporting communication with spirits of the dead and survival of consciousness at death.  Because of the 25,000 word limit for the essay, I had to stop at 11 – all of them having accomplished most of their research before 1900.  Had I been able to go on, Professor James Hyslop would have been my 12th witness. He was the subject of my blog of December 6, 2021.  With even more space permitted, Dr. Geley would have been my 13th witness. 

As with the previous 12 witnesses, my “interview” with Geley involves his exact words as set forth in various books, journals, and reports.  My questions are tailored to fit his answers. Words in brackets are inferred to provide a proper flow of verbiage. References are provided at the end.

Dr. Geley, your reports are filled with experiments resulting in materializations of hands, faces, and other body parts developing from a substance called ectoplasm given off by the medium. Would you mind summarizing the process?

“[Certainly.] The primary substance may be solid, liquid, or vaporous.  With Eva, the solid type predominates, with most other mediums, the vaporous.  The is the case with Franek [Kluski]; the ectoplasm appears as gaseous, and only exceptionally as solid. The usual course of the phenomena is as follows: First a strong odour of ozone is perceptible. This odour, analogous to that perceived in radioscopic practice, is very characteristic, and is perceptible at the beginning of the phenomena and sometimes in advance of any, often on entering the laboratory, and sometimes even before that. This premonitory symptom has never been absent in our experiments. The smell of ozone comes and goes suddenly. Then, in weak light, slightly phosphorescent vapour floats around the medium, especially above his head, like light smoke, and in it there are gleams like foci of condensation. These lights were usually many, tenuous, and ephemeral, but sometimes they were larger and more lasting, and then gave the impression of being luminous parts of organs otherwise invisible, especially finger-ends or parts of faces. When materialization was complete, fully formed hands and faces could be seen…These sometimes disappear at once, sometimes they proceed to characteristic human forms. They were predominant facts in Franek’s sittings; never entirely absent…[The] faces were alive; they looked keenly and fixedly at the experimenters.  Their looks were grave, calm, and dignified. They seemed conscious of the importance of the matter.” (2-pgs .213, 252)

Has the ectoplasm been chemically analyzed?

“Analyses of the exteriorized substance are, of course, not to be had. The moral impossibility of amputating from the medium’s ectoplasm a portion which might grievously injury or kill her will always prevent this. We therefore are ignorant of the exact chemical composition of this substance…What we do know is that it shows biologic unity.” (1-pgs. 64-65)

I gather that complete forms are very rare. 

“Different observers – Crookes and Richet among others – have, as is well known, described complete materializations, not of phantoms in the proper sense of the word, but of beings having for the moment all vital particulars of living beings; whose hearts beat, whose lungs breathe, and whose bodily appearance is perfect. I have not, alas, observed phenomena so complete, but, on the other hand, I have very frequently seen complete representations of an organ, such as a face, a hand, or a finger.  In the more complete cases, the materialized organ has all the appearance and biological functions of a living organ. I have seen admirably modeled fingers, with their nails; I have seen complete hands with bones and joints; I have seen a living head, whose bones I could feel under a thick mass of hair.  I have seen well-formed living and human faces!” (1-pgs. 56-57)

Do you know why some materializations are so complete and others so partial and imperfect?

“To build up in a few seconds an organ or an organism biologically complete – to create life – is a metapsychic feat which can but rarely produce a perfect result. That is why a great majority of materializations are incomplete, fragmentary, defective, and show lacunae in their structure. The forms are seldom other than more or less successful attempts at hands, faces, and organisms. (2- p. 240)

The skeptics constantly bring up those materializations that are not three dimensional as pointing to fraud.

“Well-constituted organic forms having all the appearance of life are often replaced by incomplete formations. The relief is often wanting and the forms are flat. There are some that are purely flat and partly in relief. I have seen in certain cases, a hand or a face appear flat, and then, under my eyes assume the three dimensions, entirely or partially. The incomplete forms are sometimes smaller than natural size, being occasionally miniatures….There are all kinds of intermediate stages between complete and incomplete organisms, and these changes often take place under the eyes of the spectator. Besides these complete and incomplete forms there are those of another kind – very strange ones.
These are imitations or simulacra of organs.  There are simulacra of fingers having only the general shape of fingers, without warmth, without suppleness, and without joints. There are simulacra of faces like masks, or as if cut out of paper, tufts of hair sticking to them, and undefinable forms…These simulacra can easily be explained. They are the products of weak power using still weaker means of execution; it does what it can, and rarely succeeds, because its activity, diverted from its usual course, no longer has the certainty of action which normal biologic impulse gives to a physiological act.” (1-p. 60-61 & 2-pgs. 188-189)

Others have reported that these materializations just sort of melt into the floor in disappearing.  It that your experience?

“The disappearance of materialized forms is at least as curious as their appearance. This disappearance is sometimes instantaneous, or nearly so. In less than a second the form whose presence was evident to sight and touch, has disappeared. In other cases the disappearance is gradual; the return to the original substance and its reabsorption into the body of the medium can be observed by the same stages as its production. In other cases again the disappearance takes place, not by a return to the original substance, but by progressive diminution of its particular characteristics, the visibility slowly lessens, the contours are blurred, effaced, and vanish.” (1-pgs. 62-63)

You are most remembered today for “The Paraffin Hands Case,” which is one of the most convincing cases of spirit life. As I recall, you and Professor Richet succeeded in having “entities” dip their hands into some paraffin wax so that molds could me made of their body parts. Would you mind explaining this?

“[My pleasure.] The procedure [with Franek Kluski] is to set a bowl containing paraffin wax, kept at melting-point by being floated on warm water near the medium. The materialized ‘entity’ is asked to plunge a hand, a foot, or even part of a face into the paraffin several times. A closely fitting envelop is thus formed, which sets at once in air or by being dipped into another of cold water. This envelope or ‘glove’ is then freed by dematerialization of the member. Plaster can be poured at leisure into the glove, thus giving a perfect cast of the hand.” (1- p. 221)

Was there an intelligence associated with the materializations and moulds?

“The lights, the touches, the apparitions of faces –all showed a directing intelligence which seemed conscious and autonomous. The mouldings showed obvious collaboration between the operating entities (whatever they may be) and ourselves. For instance, the mould of a foot was given at our request. Similarly it was on my demand that I afterwards received at Warsaw the moulds of a hand and forearm up to the elbow…The ‘entities’ did not seem to me to be of a high order of intelligence; they seem to me to have the mentality and capacity of artisans, no more.” (2-pgs. 258-259)

If the so-called “entities” were spirits of the dead, you’d think there would have been more mental phenomena.

“We made several attempts at automatic writing. Kluski is an excellent writer, but we gave up because we soon saw that the other phenomena suffered by it. When the medium failed to give all his strength to the phenomena, they were weakened or even did not appear at all….Toward the end of [one experiment] some manifestations showing mental intelligence took place [as] some very distinct communications were made by raps.  One of these asked to sing. We sang the ‘Marseillaise’ softly, and this was applauded by hand-clapping in the dark cabinet, behind the medium.”  (3-p. 685, 2- p.219-220)

But you experienced voices with Jean Guzik, right?

“[Yes.] The mouth of the ‘entity,’ visible by the lights on the lips, is seen to open, and words are heard, pronounced with difficulty. The voice differs greatly from a normal voice; it seems associated with a vibratory movement of the air on the lips, and produced by inhalation rather than exhalation.  It is not like a laryngeal utterance.  It is often not clear enough to be understood, but is sometimes quite distinct.” (2- p. 284) 

I read that most of the experiments with Kluski were carried out in your laboratory behind locked doors after strip-searching the medium. Professor Richet has said that there was no possibility of fraud.  Do you agree?

“All of us who participated in the experiments know full well that there has been no fraud, and that our confidence in the obvious honesty of Mr. Franek Kluski has never been abused.  We know, too, that our close control did not permit of trickery, but we must act so that the reader may, if possible, be brought to some certitude…I do not merely say, ‘There was no trickery.’, I say, ‘There was no possibility of trickery.’” (2-p. 216, 1-pgs. 60-61)

Professor Richet leans toward some kind of subconscious explanation not yet known to science for all this phenomena.  How do you see it?

“It should be beyond doubt that the Self both pre-exists, and that it survives the grouping which it directs during one earth-life; that it more particularly survives its lower objectification during this life. This may at least be admitted, if not as a mathematical certainty, at least as a high probability. If so, the manifestation of a ‘discarnate spirit’ on the material plane by the aid of dynamic and organic elements borrowed from the medium then appears an undeniable possibility. In face of a fact apparently of a spiritistic nature, one attitude only befits the instructed investigator – to take good sense as his guide. It is for good sense and sane judgment to appraise the statements of the communicator. [And] it is in the name of good sense that English and American investigators, weary of strife, and well aware of the disconcerting subtleties which have been advanced to explain the mental side of mediumship, have ended by accepting, with striking unanimity, the categorical and repeated affirmations of the communicators.” (1-p. 267)

So you are in agreement with those English and American investigators – Hodgson   Hyslop, Myers, Lodge, Barrett and others —all of whom have favored the survival hypothesis?

“[Yes.] For my own part, if I may give a personal impression of what I have observed in the domain of mediumship, I should say that even if in a given case spiritist intervention could not be affirmed as a scientific certainty, one is obliged, willingly or unwillingly and on the aggregate of cases, to admit the possibility of such intervention.  I think it probably that there is, in mediumship, an action of intelligent entities distinct from the medium. I base this opinion not only on the alleged proofs of identity given by the communicators, which may be matters of controversy, but on the high and complex phenomena of mediumship. These frequently show direction and intention which cannot, unless very arbitrarily, be referred to the medium or the experimenters. We do not find this direction and intelligence either in the normal consciousness of the medium, nor in his somnambulistic consciousness, nor in his impressions, his desires, or his fears, whether direct, indirect, suggested, or voluntary. We can neither produce the phenomena nor modify them. All happens as though the directing intelligence were independent and autonomous.”  (1-pgs. 267-268)

References: #1 – From the Unconscious to the Conscious, by Gustave Geley, Harper & Brothers, 1920; #2 – Clairvoyance and Materialization: A Record of Experiments, by Gustave Geley, T. Fisher Unwin Ltd., 1927; #3 – Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research, December 1923.

Michael Tymn is the author of The Afterlife Revealed: What Happens After We Die, Resurrecting Leonora Piper: How Science Discovered the Afterlife, and Dead Men Talking: Afterlife Communication from World War I.
His latest book, No One Really Dies: 25 Reasons to Believe in an Afterlife is published by White Crow books.

Next blog post: Sept. 25

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Do Earthbound Spirits Really Influence Humans?

Posted on 28 August 2023, 6:58

Do the dead influence the living? That’s the subtitle of The Case for Possession, authored by Cynthia Pettiward in 1975 and recently republished by White Crow Books. There is no indication that Pettiward is a psychologist, psychiatrist, researcher, or professional of any kind, although she apparently observed many mediums. She examines the works of a number of researchers from the past, including Dr. Carl Wickland, whose 1924 book, Thirty Years Among the Dead, also has been republished by White Crow Books.

Wickland, Carl & Anna

“What I have to say about Possession depends upon acceptance of the belief that the human spirit survives bodily death,” Pettiward explains. “For, in every case that I have considered, the entity parasite on the living human being – the possessing entity – is the spirit of another human being who has died. I have not come across any convincing evidence that human beings are possessed by non-human entities, and this is why I jib at the expression: ‘possessed by the Devil’.” She goes on to point out that exorcism, as practiced by the Roman Catholic Church, specifically excludes the belief in discarnate human possessors. Whatever the priest is exorcising is a diabolical entity of some kind, but it is not recognized as a deceased human.

Pettiward does not discount the possibility of “devil-possession,” but she believes the evidence strongly suggests possession by “earthbound discarnate humans” in most cases – spirits that are imprisoned by bonds of self-interest, greed, cruelty, emotional obsessions, lust, hardness of heart, or even simple stupidity and obstinacy. She frequently quotes Wickland, a psychiatrist who specialized in cases of schizophrenia, paranoia, depression, addiction, manic-depression, criminal behavior and phobias of all kind while writing two books on the subject. “Our experience, on the contrary, has proven that the majority of these intelligences are oblivious of their transition and hence it does not enter their minds that they are spirits and they are loath to recognize the fact,” Wickland wrote in his 1924 book.

Wickland’s wife, Anna, was a trance medium. Their method of combating the vagabond spirits attached to Wickland’s patients was to administer an electrical charge to the patient and drive the obsessing spirits from the patient to Mrs. Wickland.  These obsessing spirits would then talk to Dr. Wickland using Anna Wickland’s body. Nearly all of them didn’t know they were “dead” and so Wickland explained their plight to them. Mrs. Wickland was said to be protected from the vagabond spirits remaining with her by a group of strong intelligences known as “The Mercy Band.” As a representative of this Mercy band explained to Wickland, these earthbound entities become attracted to certain humans and attach themselves to the human aura, unwittingly conveying their thoughts to these individuals. It was further explained that the earthbound spirits could not be helped by spirits on their side until they recognized they were “dead.”

With one patient, Wickland related, he conversed with 21 different spirits through his wife. In all, they spoke six different languages even though Anna Wickland spoke only Swedish and English. In Thirty Years, Wickland sets forth numerous cases of spirit release dislodgement, including the dialogue that went on between him and the vagabond spirits attached to his patients.  As an example, with a patient identified only as “Miss R.F.” a spirit calling himself Edward Sterling began speaking through Mrs. Wickland’s vocal cords. At first, he didn’t remember his last name and couldn’t remember what town he was from although he knew he was born in Iowa. When asked what year it was, Edward said it was 1901 (the year he had died). Wickland informed him that it was now 1920.  Edward struggled to understand why his hair was now long and he had on women’s clothes. Wickland explained to him that he was now “dead” and occupying his wife’s body. “If I was dead I would go to the grave and stay there until the last day,” Edward responded. “You stay there until Gabriel blows the horn.”

Beliefs go with us

At the end of a long conversation, Wickland seems to have convinced Sterling that his physical body had died, but that his spirit body was very much alive and that he should detach himself from Miss R.F. and let her get on with her own life. Wickland noted people take their beliefs with them when they die and that the false teachings of religion often keep them earthbound.

With a patient referred to as “Mrs. R.,” a spirit named Ralph Stevenson took over Mrs. Wickland’s body and began speaking to Dr. Wickland.  Stevenson said he was “straggling along” when he saw a “light,” so he came in. However, he couldn’t figure out who he was or where he was. He thought it was 1902, when, in fact, it was 1919. When Wickland asked him how long he had been dead, Stevenson replied: “Dead, you say? Why I’m not dead; I wish I were.” Wickland asked him why he preferred to be dead and Stevenson said things had been very unpleasant for him. “If I am dead, then it is very hard to be dead,” he said. “I have tried and tried to die, but it seems every single time I come to life again. Why is it that I cannot die?”

Stevenson went on to say that he often thinks he is dead, but then he is alive again. “Sometimes I get in places (auras) but I am always pushed out in the dark again, and I go from place to place. I cannot find my home and I cannot die.”  Wickland noted that Mrs. R., his patient, had often talked about killing herself. Further conversation with Stevenson revealed that he and a young woman named Alice were engaged to be married. However, when her parents objected to the marriage, he decided to kill Alice and himself. After killing Alice, he said he could not kill himself.  In fact, he did succeed in killing himself after shooting Alice, but he assumed that he had failed and had been on the run ever since.

After Wickland convinced him that he, in fact, had succeeded in killing himself, Stevenson recognized his mother (in spirit). The mother then took over Mrs. Wickland’s body and explained that she had been trying to get through to her son for a long time, but he had built up a barrier that she could not penetrate until now. “He ran away from me whenever he saw me, and neither Alice nor I could come near him,” the mother communicated. “He thought he was alive and that he had not killed himself. Some time ago he came in contact with a sensitive person, a woman (Mrs. R), and has been obsessing her, but he thought he was in prison.”

Another of Wickland’s patients was a pharmacist with a drug addiction problem, especially addicted to morphine. After the patient was administered an electrical shock, the obsessing spirit jumped into Mrs. Wickland’s entranced body. Mrs. Wickland’s body then began violently coughing. Dr. Wickland asked what the problem was and the spirit replied that she was dying and needed some morphine. Wickland explained to her that she was already dead, but the spirit ignored his comments and continued to beg for morphine. Wickland managed to calm her down enough to further explain the situation to her and ask her for a name. At first she couldn’t remember, but after several moments of searching gave her name as Elizabeth Noble. She said that she was 42 years old and was living in El Paso, Texas. After again begging for morphine, she noticed her husband, Frankie, standing there (in spirit).  Frank Noble then took over Mrs. Wickland’s body and explained to Wickland that he had died before his wife and had been trying to get her to realize she had “passed out,” but had been unsuccessful. He thanked Wickland for explaining the situation to her and said that she would now understand and be better.

Wickland’s second book, The Gateway of Understanding, was published in 1934. It offers additional cases of spirit possession and considerable philosophy. “The unscientific attitude and aloofness of the medical fraternity toward any research that suggests discarnated spirits, due to fear of ostracism, of jeopardizing professional standing, or owing to the fallacious notion that it is unethical and beneath the dignity of science to follow such research, is today a serious obstacle to advancement of knowledge pertaining to contributing causes underlying mental aberrations and insanity,” he wrote in the 1934 book, “and is a hindrance to neurological and psychiatric research.” Little seems to have changed since then.

Pettiward considers explanations other than earthbound spirits, such as past-life personalities and multiple personalities, but she concludes that the evidence overwhelmingly supports lowly spirits who don’t realize they have “died.”  “It is these spirits who become parasitic upon the living, chiefly because they simply to not know any better,” she offers.

Crowds of Spirits around us

Coincidentally, before reading Pettiward’s book, I had just finished reading a 1931 book, Let Us In, by Jane Revere Burke, a seemingly credible automatic-writing medium who sets forth a record of communications believed to have come from William James, the famous pioneer of modern psychology. “Immense crowds of spirits of all grades of development from the vicious to the most exalted surround every one of you,” James communicated on April 28, 1931. “For the great mass of men this is a fact which they never think about even once in a lifetime, yet not any single one of you is exempt from the constant influence of your unseen friends and foes.”

As for the “foes,” James said that most of them are not what would be called evil. “That is, they have not chosen to identify themselves with the dark forces, they are beings who have not yet come forward here to that degree of progression where they have to make that choice. They constitute, however, one of the greatest menaces to men on earth because their lack of positiveness makes them open to being herded and driven and used by the dark forces.”

On June 18, 1931, James communicated that there is an enormous increase in insanity among those still in the body because they don’t know how to protect themselves from possession by lowly spirits. “In ninety-nine cases out of every hundred it is direct suggestion from some discarnate being,” he explained. “The people must be taught to recognize it and deal with it. It is as simple as shutting off your radio. Learn that it is not a suggestion of the Devil but a direct voice of another human being – albeit dead, as you call it. Shut them off! Deny them! Order them off the premises at once! Even in cases when the suggestion made is not evil, you must be strong, clear and definite to hold control of the citadel of your own mind.”

If the increase in insanity was “enormous” in 1931, it must be gargantuan today.

Michael Tymn is the author of The Afterlife Revealed: What Happens After We Die, Resurrecting Leonora Piper: How Science Discovered the Afterlife, and Dead Men Talking: Afterlife Communication from World War I.
His latest book, No One Really Dies: 25 Reasons to Believe in an Afterlife is published by White Crow books.

Next blog post: September 11



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Remembering Three Men of God

Posted on 14 August 2023, 8:23

If I begin with 1953, when I served as sports editor of my high school newspaper, this year marks 70 years of contributing to newspapers, magazines, journals, and other media.  While recently sorting through about 2,000 old articles I had filed away in drawers and boxes, I began to wonder which one of all the people I had interviewed had the most interesting and intriguing story. Who was the most inspirational?  Who overcame the most adversity?  Out of about 400 interviews, I narrowed it down to three people – Lou Zamperini, (top right) Fay Steele, and Payton Jordan.  It didn’t really dawn on me until after I had selected those three that they were all deeply religious men.


It would be almost impossible for anyone to top Zamperini’s story when it comes to intrigue and overcoming adversity. It is a story of endurance, stamina, fortitude, perseverance, heart, strength and guts.  It included running in the Berlin Olympics of 1936, being summoned by the personification of evil itself, having what was likely a near-death experience when his plane crashed in the ocean, spending 47 days on a life raft, fighting off sharks, being shot at by enemy planes, starving for food, living in a small cage with only fish heads and rice to eat, being threatened with decapitation, and then being imprisoned and brutalized for more than two years by his captors, all the while his loved ones back home presuming he was dead, then, upon liberation at the end of the war, having to deal with mental issues and alcoholism.  In fact, Zamperini’s story was told in the 2015 movie, Unbroken.

I met with Zamperini, then 85, at the Hollywood, California YMCA in 2001 to interview him for a national running magazine.  He didn’t finish among the top three in the 5000-meter event in the ’36 Olympic Games, but his strong finish, passing many other runners on the final lap, so impressed German Chancellor Adolf Hitler that the Fuhrer had him come to his box. “Ah! The boy with the fast finish,” Zamperini recalled Hitler’s reaction when he shook his hand.

Zamperini blamed his eighth-place finish on eating too much and gaining 10-12 pounds on the 10-day voyage to Europe from America. It was his first time on a ship and the food, especially the sweet rolls, were too good to pass up. However, he said he was not disappointed with his performance, as winning wasn’t that big of a deal back then.  It was about participating and doing one’s best.  “That’s the way it should be,” he said. “When I went to the Olympics, making the team was the most important thing. It was an opportunity to travel and meet athletes from other countries. It was the camaraderie that was important. If you happened to win a gold medal, that was great, but it was a secondary goal and you didn’t lose sleep over it if you didn’t win. Now, it’s all about money, and athletes are driven by greed, not by soul. I think the television is mostly to blame. It’s sad in a way.”

After telling of his Olympic race experience, Zamperini opened a desk drawer in his YMCA office and pulled out a red flag with a Nazi swastika on it.  He explained that he and two other athletes were walking around town when they saw Hitler and his entourage pull up in a vehicle in front of the Reich chancellery. Zamperini saw the flag hanging from a pole in front of the chancellery and decided he wanted it as a souvenir. He took note of the guards goosestepping back and forth in front of the building and figured he had about 30 seconds when they had their backs to each other to run over and rip the flag from the pole. However, the flag was higher than he had anticipated and it took three jumps before he got hold of it.  “I fell on my butt, got up, and ran,” he recalled, “But then I heard a crack, like a gunshot.” With the guard’s rifle leveled at him and the guard yelling “Halten Sie,” Zamperini put on the brakes.  “I did the smartest thing I ever did in my life.  I halted.”

Some high-ranking officers came out and questioned Zamperini, who diplomatically explained that he simply wanted the flag to remind him of the “wonderful time” he had had in their country.  One officer went back inside, apparently talked with Hitler, and was told to give the flag to him and let him go. 

Before the Olympic Games, Zamperini had made a name for himself as a miler at Torrance High School in Los Angles, breaking the national high school record of 4:23.6, which had stood for 18 years, with a 4:21.2 in 1934.  That record would last until 1953.
Zamperini’s real story of endurance did not begin until May 27, 1943, when the Army Air Corps plane he occupied as a bombardier officer, crashed at sea, south of the Hawaiian Islands, while on a rescue mission.  He then spent 47 days on a life raft and more than two years as a prisoner of war.  His weight would drop about 100 pounds, down to 66 pounds, not much more than a skeleton.

Eating eyeballs

During his 47 days on the raft with two crewmates, Zamperini survived on a few raw fish, several uncooked birds, a couple of shark’s livers and rain water.  He recalled catching his first bird, an albatross that landed on his head as he was slumped over. “I got him by the neck and killed him, but we couldn’t eat it,” he said.  But a week or so later, he caught another bird and tore into it “like a wild man,” eating everything, including the eyeballs.

When their raft was fired upon by Japanese planes, the three men were forced to jump in the water and “play dead.”  There they came under attack by sharks.  “I’d straight arm them and hit them on the snoot and they’d take off,” Zamperini recalled, adding that one of the three men, the tail gunner, died shortly thereafter, on the 33rd day.

On the 47th day, they were picked up by a Japanese patrol boat and taken to the island of Maloelop and then to Kwajalein, where they were placed in small cages and given leftover fish heads and rice.  Back in the United States, it was reported that Zamperini was missing and presumed dead. Zamperini and the other survivor were put on a ship and taken to Japan, where they spent two winters in a prison, being liberated at the end of the war.
At that point, Zamperini had given up on God.  During all that time on the life raft and as a prisoner of war, he called upon God many times and didn’t seem to get a response. He wondered what kind of God would permit such hardships. After being freed and reunited with his loved ones, he turned to alcohol to relieve the post-traumatic stress.  He eventually attended a Billy Graham crusade and became a born-again Christian. More than that, he became an evangelist and devoted the rest of his life to operating a boy’s camp designed to teach physical, mental, moral and spiritual fitness to young people.

Man of Steele

No movie was made about Fay Steele, but one could have. He grew up an uncoddled youth in Tennessee, walking several miles to and from school, something today’s seemingly spoiled youth might see as “uncomfortable,” maybe even inhumane.  One night in February 1924, when he was just seven, Steele was awakened in the middle of the night by his older brother, Olaf, telling him that their two-story farmhouse was on fire. Olaf held the window open for young Fay and then directed him to the edge of the roof, instructing him to jump. “I jumped and as I did I glanced back into the room behind my brother,” Steele recalled with emotion in his voice. “It was now engulfed in flame. In the room, I thought I saw, a man standing just behind my brother watching our progress. My first thought was that it was my father, but this man seemed to have a beard. I wondered if it could be Jesus. Later I decided it could have been an angel and still later decided it must have been a guardian angel sent by the Lord to protect me.” Olaf, their father, and a relative all perished in the fire, something that haunted Steele until his dying day, though mitigated by the vision of the figure behind Olaf and his faith in God. 

Steele joined the Army Air Corps (later the Air Force) out of high school and was initially stationed in Panama, where he decided to test his mettle by running the 52 miles across the isthmus, from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific. “I just enjoy challenges; it’s my nature,” he told me on one of my visits with him in Washington, D.C. “I was brought up with a strong work ethic, and it’s always been my belief that you should make the most of whatever God-given talents you have.”  He completed the trek across the isthmus and a race covering the distance was later dedicated to him.  Steele returned to participate in the race several times during his 70s, and in 1986 set an American 70-74 age-class record of 8 hours, 47 minutes, 28 seconds for a measured 50 miles.

After his assignment in Panama, Steele flew 78 combat missions during World War II, many on the “Classy Lassie.” He was awarded the bronze star for his dash across the field under heavy gunfire. His citation reads: “Serving as a combat cameraman in the great airborne operation near Wessel, Germany, Sergeant Steele landed by glider with the airborne troops.  Met by heavy enemy fire, both airborne troops and glider pilots were pinned down, several casualties having been sustained among them.  Sergeant Steele, volunteering to obtain whole blood from a medical glider a hundred-and-fifty yards away, ran through a hail of enemy fire and delivered the life-giving substance….”

After the war, Steele remained in the Air Force and saw duty at embassies around the world. While posted in Sumatra, he was ordered to track down and kill a Bengal tiger, and later to take on a killer elephant that was terrorizing a village. 

I visited Steele twice at the Armed Forces Retirement Home in Washington, D.C., where he kept busy by running four miles a day, assisting the Protestant chaplain with various church duties, and reading the Bible. He died at age 100 in 2016.

True Sportsmanship

Payton Jordan appeared on the June 19, 1939 cover of LIFE magazine as America’s track team captain in preparation for the 1940 Olympic Games, which, of course, never happened due to World War II. He ended up serving as an officer in the U.S. Navy. I was just a toddler then, but I saw Jordan compete in masters track (40 and over) a number of times.  He continually set sprint records in age classes into his 80s. He had a successful coaching career at Occidental and Stanford Universities and was coach of the U.S. track and field team at the 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico City. 

I was impressed by the way Jordan handled victory.  There was no need to punch the sky or do some kind of dance to celebrate.  He represented character rarely found in sports these days, taking victory in stride with nothing more than a smile and a nod.  “Live each stage of our lives to the fullest with grace, humility, and thankfulness for God’s gifts, strength, and comfort!” he expressed his philosophy to me in a 2006 letter as both he and his wife, Marge, were battling health problems. 

After Marge made her transition a month or so later, he wrote to me and others, describing Marge as his “rock” for 67 years. “Now the love we shared surrounds me with comfort and cherished memories wrap me in their warmth,” he continued.  “With faith in God, I am at peace.”  Interestingly, that seems to have been the motto of all three men mentioned 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.
His latest book, No One Really Dies: 25 Reasons to Believe in an Afterlife is published by White Crow books.

Next blog post:  August 28



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Conversations with the Dead: Real or Imagination?

Posted on 31 July 2023, 19:18

Of the 350 or so blogs I have written over the past 14 years, only two or three have involved Electronic Voice Phenomena (EVP), or as it is more broadly categorized today Instrumental Trans Communication (ITC).  I wasn’t especially impressed with the communication as nearly all I had come across offered little more than a few words or some fragmentary sentences that I likened to finding faces or figures in the clouds. The exceptions have been several books by Anabela Cardoso which have offered more complete and understandable messages.  (See my interview with Dr. Cardoso in the archives for December 4, 2017)

My latest read in this field is Friedel’s Conversations with the Dead, co-authored by Cardoso and Anders Leopold and recently published by White Crow Books.  As the sub-title states, it is “the fascinating story of Friedrich Jűrgenson, (below) pioneer of EVP.”  The original book was authored by Leopold and published in Sweden in 2014. Cardoso has translated and edited it into English.


Leopold was a friend of Jűrgenson’s.  “We remained close friends until October 15, 1987, when he went over to the other side, to what he called ‘life in the fourth dimension’,” Leopold writes in the introduction, describing Jűrgenson as a man of immense charisma and joy of life and the discoverer of EVP – electronically mediated contacts with another dimension of life via tape recorder and radio. He goes on to explain that ITC go beyond EVP by including contacts via computers, TV and telephone.

“A man of great culture and artistic value, an atheist cherished by two popes, Friedel, as he was affectionally known, unwittingly discovered the electronic voices of the dead in a remote forest in Sweden…,” Cardoso states in the preface of the book. Jűrgenson, who was born in Odessa, Russia in 1903, gained a reputation as an opera singer. artist, and film producer. He is said to have spoken eight languages, five fluently. He was commissioned by the Vatican to do art work and filming in Pompeii and portraits of two popes. 

Jűrgenson’s interest in EVP began in 1959 while attempting to record birdsongs in the forest.  Instead of birdsong, he recorded voices, one of them being that of his deceased mother.  He then began experimenting and recording other voices, but he didn’t go public with it until calling a press conference on June 15, 1963.  The book includes the reports of several of the journalists attending that press conference. The tapes were not played for the journalists; they reported only what Jűrgenson told them.  Quoting parts of their reports might best summarize the phenomenon as Jűrgenson explained it to them.

Anne-Marie Ehrenkrona, said to be one of Sweden’s most famous writers, wrote an objective report based on what Jűrgenson reported, including:

“The [tapes] have nothing whatsoever to do with the occult.”

“The voices intervene in the regular programs – in opera arias, popular songs, speeches of messages – by changing the text, simply flushing over the real program.”

“To break away from the ordinary speech more easily, the voices use a mixed language and ungrammatical forms – German articles, for example, do not matter.”

“The contact is made possible by the radio waves, which they, the communicators, thanks to a higher frequency, amplify or throw away. Or more transcendently put: the radio waves pave the way for vibrations from a higher plane.”

“Jűrgenson’s ‘space’ theory is that the voices want to make our lives more pleasant by eliminating the fear of death, our great anxiety, and to teach us to live harmoniously in the present.”

Ivan Bratt, a Swedish newspaper reporter, was more skeptical and a little cynical in his report but still respectful of Jűrgenson.  He wrote, in part:

“Jűrgenson reported with passionate insight about his contacts with friends from the other side of the grave. His eagerness to convince his audience could not be mistaken, nor his absolute conviction that he is right.”

“The language the dead use in their messages is a kind of polyglot speech in which most European languages are represented.”

“The dead have ‘radar’ and can use it to see us walking around on the Earth. They can also see and hear what we think and feel. With this radar, they send their messages carried through radio waves to Jűrgenson’s radio…”

“No sorrow and no pain, no worries but only joy and mirth, this is life in the fourth dimension.” (seemingly cynically stated)

“Thus, the information provided at the famous press conference was rather hard to digest and as previously mentioned, it was received with obvious skepticism. The impression remains that there must be something there, but the big question is what is it? Maybe we will eventually get the answer, maybe not.”

Rune Moberg, said to be one of the most distinguished members of the Swedish media, reported:

“The dead, explained Jűrgenson, have not the same kind of consciousness as we do, and not the same conceptual realm. What we think is pointless can have a deep meaning for them.”

“God help me.  I began to believe.  And it felt good. Imagine that you do not die when you die. And the spirits seem to be well wherever they are staying. They sing and joke.”

“I do not know what to believe. However, I know what I should not believe. I do not think Friedrich Jűrgenson is a deliberate hoax.”

Jűrgenson’s research was not without considerable scientific observation and validation.  Professor Hans Bender, a German psychologist of the University of Freiburg, Dr. Friedbert Karger of the Max Planck Institute in Munich, Dr. John Bjoerkhem, a pioneer in Swedish parapsychology, and other scientists and scholars studied his work.

A second press conference took place on June 12, 1964, shortly after the release of Jűrgenson’s book, The Voices from Space. Tapes were played for the 40 or so journalists and photographers in attendance. “During the evening they listened to various recordings and became immediately convinced that Friedel had undoubtedly discovered a revolutionary opportunity for communicating with, as Claude (Thorlin, another EVP experimenter) put it, an ‘extraterrestrial’ living area,” Leopold wrote, further commenting that Jűrgenson accomplished what he had hoped for: interest, curiosity, commitment and utter shock.”

Leopold further noted that Jűrgenson received ‘huge” publicity, although many of the journalists reported it with a certain skepticism. “But at the same time, they could not hide from the inexplicable experience at Friedel’s house along with a group of colleagues and witnesses who claimed to hear voices from close relatives, dead for several years.”

It is difficult for the reader to fully appreciate the communication as Leopold continually mentions or quotes the indistinct, soft, garbled and fragmentary nature of the voices, often left to the interpretation of the listener. Nearly all the messages come across as gobbledygook, few of them making any sense, although Jűrgenson seems to have been able to interpret many of them, due in part to his ability to speak many languages and to his finely tuned musical ears in addition to what seems to have been clairvoyant abilities. Leopold states that there are about two-thousand recordings in Jűrgenson’s collection, about a third of the total “characterized by clear text and unmistakable communications that can be understood without any doubt by all who possess normal hearing.”  Nevertheless, the examples provided in the book will not likely help the non-believer move from a skeptical perch or even the deeply religious person give up his or her idea of heaven and hell.  One of the communicators was said to be Hitler and the only thing he had to say that made sense to me was that “we lived in the deepest confusion.”

A very interesting chapter has to do with Jűrgenson’s art work and film-making in Pompeii and his talks with Pope Paul VI about the EVP voices and other matters. In his conversations with Jurgenson, the pope is quoted: “We are following your research with great interest. We have also our own research on this topic. This is not contrary to the Church. We know that between death and resurrection there is another sphere of existence, a post-Earthly existence…We have an open mind on all issues that are not contrary to the teachings of Christ.”

Although he had no doubt about the honesty and integrity of Jűrgenson, author Leopold struggled to reconcile the gibberish he could hear with the profound interpretations by Jűrgenson.  Before writing the book in 2014, he began his own experimentations with EVP. “On Friday, September 7, 2012, I received a greeting from my wife Mona who passed away on July 15, 2010,” he explains. “I identified the voice immediately but took several safety precautions straightaway to avoid the worst trap: self-suggestion and wishful thinking. For me, there is no doubt that the voice belongs to Mona. It is unbelievable and it hit me very hard when I heard her.”

Leopold quotes Dr. Nils-Olof Jacobson (1937-2017), a psychiatrist who wrote extensively on the subject matter: “We can speculate about many explanations. In some cases, we can imagine psychokinesis, as how we unconsciously produce this phenomenon. But that is no explanation, rather only a label we put on something we do not understand. Perhaps we, by an unknown form of psychokinesis, can create a kind of ‘phantoms,’ which then live their own lives. Some of these stories are in the esoteric literature. Everyone must decide whether these explanations seem reasonable and adequate. Maybe ‘aliens’ are involved. Maybe there are parallel worlds. Maybe there is life after death. Maybe everything is connected in the universe, beyond space and time limits. We easily believe that the part of the reality we see is the only reality.”  According to Cardoso, Jacobson supported the life after death explanation over the others. 

Michael Tymn is the author of The Afterlife Revealed: What Happens After We Die, Resurrecting Leonora Piper: How Science Discovered the Afterlife, and Dead Men Talking: Afterlife Communication from World War I.
His latest book, No One Really Dies: 25 Reasons to Believe in an Afterlife is published by White Crow books.

Next blog post:  August 14

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Long before the White Crow, there was Catherine Crowe

Posted on 17 July 2023, 7:44

The so-called “Rochester Knockings,” referring to the “rappings” phenomenon experienced by the Fox sisters in the hamlet of Hydesville, just outside Rochester, New York, on March 31, 1848, is often cited as the advent of what came to be called Spiritualism, a belief based on communication with spirits of the dead. One might get the impression that before the Fox sisters there was no evidence of any kind that we live on in a larger world.  However, that is clearly not the case.

That very year, 1848, The Night Side of Nature: Or, Ghosts and Ghost Seers by Catherine Crowe, (below) a renowned English author, was published by George Routledge and Sons of London and New York. All indications are that the book was authored before Crowe had heard of the Fox sisters. There is no mention of them in the book and most of the phenomena mentioned in the book clearly took place before 1848. Crowe discussed apparitions, doppelgangers, deathbed phenomena, dreams, clairvoyance, and other psychic phenomena suggesting a spirit world.


One reference gives Crowe’s years on the earth plane as 1803 to 1876, another as 1790 to 1872.  She is referred to as an English novelist, playwright, writer of social and supernatural stories, and “the original ghosthunter.”  She is also remembered for translating and publishing, in 1845, the first English version of Dr. Justinus Kerner’s 1829 book, The Seeress of Prevorst, the name given to Frederika Hauffe (1801-1829), a German mystic and clairvoyant.

‘They are afraid of the bugbear, Superstition….”

“We are all educated in the belief of a future state, but how vague and ineffective this belief is with the majority of persons, we too well know,” Crowe stated in the introduction of her 1848 book, “for although the number of those who are called believers in ghosts, and similar phenomena, is very large, it is a belief that they allow to sit very lightly on their minds. They feel that evidence from within and from without is too strong to be altogether set aside, but they have never permitted themselves to weigh the significance of the facts.  They are afraid of that bugbear, Superstition – a title of opprobrium which it is convenient to attach to whatever we do not believe ourselves.” 

Discounting stories of the ferryman and the three-headed dog, Crowe concluded that some stories relating to “what awaits us when we have shaken off the mortal coil,” may have some foundation in truth. She pointed out that in the seventeenth century credulity outran reason and discretion, but the eighteenth century “flung itself into an opposite extreme.”  She speculated that interest in the subject at the time of her writing the book was at its lowest point ever. “The great proportion of us live for this world alone, and think very little of the next; we are in too great a hurry of pleasure or business to bestow any time on a subject which we have such vague notions – notions so vague, that, in short, we can scarcely by any effort of the imagination bring the idea home to ourselves; and when we are about to die we are seldom in a situation to do more than resign ourselves to what is inevitable, blindly meet our fate; whilst, on the other hand, what is generally called the religious world, is so engrossed by its struggles for power and money, or by its sectarian disputes and enmities; and so narrowed and circumscribed by dogmatic orthodoxies, that it has neither inclination nor liberty to turn back or look around, and endeavour to gather up from past records and present observations, such hints as are now and again dropped in our path to give us an intimation of what the truth may be.”

As she saw it, another change in worldview was approaching, as it apparently did with the Fox sisters. “The contemptuous scepticism of the last age is yielding to a more humble spirit of inquiry; and there is a large class of persons amongst the most enlightened of the present, who are beginning to believe that much which they had been taught to reject as fable, has been, in reality, ill-understood truth.”

Andrew Jackson Davis, known as the “Poughkeepsie Seer,” is not mentioned by Crowe, probably because he lived in far-away America and did not begin to make a name for himself as a clairvoyant until 1846, when he was just 20 years old. In his 1847 book, Principles of Nature, Davis recorded, allegedly by means of automatic writing from the spirit world: “It is a truth that spirits commune with one another while one is in the body and the other in the higher spheres – and this, too, when the person in the body is unconscious of the influx, and hence cannot be convinced of the fact; and this truth will ere long present itself in the form of a living demonstration.  Then, in his diary, on March 31, 1848, he recorded: “About daylight this morning a warm breathing passed over my face and I heard a voice, tender and strong, saying, ‘Brother, the good work has begun – behold, a living demonstration is born.’ I was left wondering what could be meant by such a message.”  As stated, on that very same day, the Fox sisters had their first experience with the rappings.

Crowe’s book preceded Darwinism by a dozen years, but it is now clear that the tide did change somewhat with Spiritualism and more so with the formation of the Society for Psychical Research in 1882, before again receding during the hedonism of the “Roaring 20s,” advancing again during the 1970s with NDEs, past-life studies, and other research, then again receding over the past 20 years. We seem to be at a very low tide at this time.   

“It makes me sorrowful when I hear men laughing, scorning, and denying this their birthright….”

Crowe recognized that the phenomena she discussed in her book had no scientific or philosophical value.  “We must confine ourselves wholly within the region of opinion,” she wrote, stating that to go beyond opinion “we shall assuredly founder.” She further recognized that many enlightened people would scoff and sneer at the phenomena.  “I confess it makes me sorrowful when I hear men laughing, scorning, and denying this their birthright; and I cannot but grieve to think how closely and heavily their clay must be wrapt around them, and how the external and sensuous life must have prevailed over the internal, when no gleam from within breaks through to show them these things are true.”

Generally, many of the phenomena of Crowe’s era were referred to as “spectral illusions,” but it was becoming increasingly clear that some went beyond illusion. “It is true that some of the phenomena resulting from [human] faculties are simulated by disease, as in the case of spectral illusions,” she wrote, “and it is true that imposture and folly intrude their unhallowed footsteps into this domain of science, as into that of all others, but there is a deep and holy well of truth to be discovered in this neglected by-path of nature, by those who seek it, from which they may draw the purest consolations for the present, the most ennobling hopes for the future, and the most valuable aid in penetrating through the letter into the spirit of Scriptures.”

Crowe claimed that Germany was well ahead of England and the rest of the Western world in its search for the soul of man. In addition to the research carried out by Kerner with Hauffe and others with psychic abilities, Crowe cited that of Dr. Karl von Reichenbach, a German chemist remembered for his study of what he called the Odic Force, apparently an earlier name for ectoplasm, and Dr. Johann Heinrich Jung-Stilling, who also studied psychic matters.  “It is a distinctive characteristic of that country, that, in the first place, they do think independently and courageously,” she wrote.

“[A]nd, in the second place, that they never shrink from promulgating the opinions they have been led to form, however new, strange, heterodox, or even absurd, they may appear to others.  They do not succumb, as people do in this country, to the fear of ridicule, nor are they in danger of the odium that here pursues those who deviate from established notions; and the consequence is that, though many fallacious theories and untenable propositions may be advanced, a great deal of new truths is struck out from the collision, and in the result, as must always be the case, what is true lives and is established, and what is false dies and is forgotten. 

“But here in Britain our critics and colleges are in such haste to strangle and put down every new discovery that does not emanate from themselves, or which is not a fulfilling of the ideas of the day, but which, being somewhat opposed to them, promises to be troublesome from requiring new thought to render it intelligible, that one might be induced to suppose them divested of all confidence in this inviolable law; whilst the more important, and the higher the results involved may be, the more angry they are with those who advocate them. They do not quarrel with a new metal or a new plant, and even a new comet or a new island stands a fair chance of being well received; the introduction of a new planet appears, from late events, to be more difficult, whilst phrenology and mesmerism testify that any discovery tending to throw light on what most deeply concerns us, namely our own being, must be prepared to encounter a storm of angry persecution.

“And one of the evils of this hasty and precipitate opposition is that the passions and interests of the opposers become involved in the dispute; instead of investigators, they become partisans; having declared against it in the outset, it is important to their petty interests that the thing shall not be true, and they determine it shall not, if they can help it.” 

Some 175 years have passed since Crowe wrote those words and little seems to have changed in our search for the soul.

Michael Tymn is the author of The Afterlife Revealed: What Happens After We Die, Resurrecting Leonora Piper: How Science Discovered the Afterlife, and Dead Men Talking: Afterlife Communication from World War I.
His latest book, No One Really Dies: 25 Reasons to Believe in an Afterlife is published by White Crow books.

Next blog post:  July 31

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Professor discusses “The new Catholicism” in his latest novel “The Womanpriest”

Posted on 02 July 2023, 10:45

In his latest book, a novel titled The Womanpriest, Dr. Stafford Betty, (below) a retired professor of religious studies, deals with many issues facing society, religion, and the Catholic Church, now and in the future.  The protagonist is an indomitable woman priest whose life revolutionizes the Catholic Church.  In addition to the issue of a woman serving in the priesthood and in higher offices within the Church, Betty discusses a number of other controversial subjects, including the nature of God, the nature of the afterlife, the atonement doctrine, abortion, homosexuality, the infallibility of the pope, suicide, and a “heap of outdated doctrine and arrogant old men.”

Most of the readers of this blog are likely familiar with Professor Betty.  He is the author of Heaven and Hell Unveiled and When Did You Ever Become Less by Dying?, both published by White Crow Books.  My prior interviews with him can be found in the archives for May 30, 2011, June 30, 2014, and January 14, 2019.  With the issues discussed in his current book, I concluded it was time to again put some more questions to him. 

Stafford, almost all your recent writing, including three nonfiction books and two novels, has been focused on the afterlife. But your latest novel, The Womanpriest, is about Catholicism. Why the change?

Well, as a former Catholic raised since boyhood in the faith, I’ve retained an interest in it and a certain nostalgia for it. But I am also critical of it, so much so that I’ve gravitated away from it toward its far more rational and progressive cousin, Anglicanism, or what we call in America the Episcopal Church. The Womanpriest is not about the Catholic Church as it exists today but a future Church that doesn’t exist but should. I wrote the novel as a blueprint for this future church, culminating in the election of a woman to the papacy in 2080. Besides an entertaining story, as every novel must be, it shows how this extraordinary woman, Macrina McGrath, with plenty of help along the way, transforms the Church into something worthy of the name Catholic. I’m a teacher from first to last and am always looking to make things better. Thus this novel. 

Can you say a little more about what led you to leave the Church?

It began when I was 25 and just back from Vietnam. My faith had served me well during the war: I was so certain of heaven that I lived without the fear that most of the other officers had. As the public information officer, I helicoptered to hot spots to get stories from the front lines and lived in what William James called “the strenuous mood.” It all came apart when I read Bertrand Russell’s Why I Am Not a Christian when I got back stateside. What happened? I realized I had no evidence for God’s existence, Christ’s divinity, and, most importantly, an afterlife. Even worse, Russell made the doctrines I treasured seem ridiculous. I came away a troubled, unhappy agnostic and enrolled in a theology program at Fordham University to see if the Jesuits could reassemble the wreck. They couldn’t, but I discovered something I thought better: the religions of India.

Clearly, your book makes a strong case for women being admitted to the priesthood and for marriage to be permitted for the clergy.  If you were the pope, beyond those two concerns, what major changes would you make?

What changes would I make—and in fact had Macrina make in the novel? As a boy I must have recited the Apostles’ Creed a thousand times.  Many of you know it well.  Here is the way I would say it today.  “I believe in God the Father and Mother, creator of the universe.  I believe in the ethical teachings of Jesus Christ, whose life was tragically cut short by corrupt men he outspokenly condemned.  He was crucified like a criminal under Pontius Pilate, but his spirit did not die. Shortly after his death his closest friends saw him in spirit and took heart that he was, while in heaven, still with them; and they could not contain their joy; and out of that joy grew a young movement that would soon be labeled Christianity.  I believe that the same divine spirit in Jesus is in all of us and that the Christian Church exists to help us grow into saints modeled after him.  I believe that we are called to forgive and love each other and that we will be forgiven and loved in turn.  I believe that life is everlasting and heaven is the ultimate destination for which all men and women were created.  Amen.”

As pope, I would substitute this, or something like it, for the Nicene Creed. Missing would be the mythology that grew up like weeds around Jesus’ teachings. Gone would be Jesus’ physical resurrection from the dead and descent into hell, the virginity of Mary and her immaculate conception, Jesus’ Second Coming to bring the world to a close, and other pre-scientific beliefs that became dogmas but that we can now label superstition. 

You say you attend an Episcopal church.  In what ways does it differ from the Catholic Church?

As I say, they are cousins. Their liturgies are almost identical. Both are unfortunately waterlogged by the recitation of the Nicene Creed. But Episcopalians began ordaining women to the priesthood fifty years ago. A woman has even served as the primate, the head, of the Episcopal Church. An openly gay man has been ordained a bishop. Divorced men and women who have remarried outside the Church are not refused Communion. Women who have had an abortion can serve on the various church committees and even become deacons. In many Episcopal churches the priest asks all in attendance, whether baptized or not, to approach “Christ’s table” and receive communion. Sexual scandals arising from an enforced celibacy and all the damage done to children are rare—marriage is the norm. Anglican Catholics have moved on with the times. Roman Catholics have not. Or rather, the Vatican hasn’t. I say this because many Catholics think like Episcopalians. They are just not supposed to. Thus their spiritual lives are marred by what psychologists label cognitive dissonance.  I’ve written this novel to help remove the dissonance. 

All is not perfect, of course, in the Episcopal or any other Church.  There is nothing in the doctrine to suggest that the God Episcopalians worship is the master architect of a trillion galaxies or that Jesus is a little less than the co-creator of this astonishingly big universe. In other words, present doctrine is not likely to attract well-educated, scientifically literate, relatively affluent parishioners.  And that is too bad for everybody. The Church needs them if it is to grow, and they need the Church if they are to remain relatively sane in this maddening, soulless world.

Why put up with something so imperfect? Why go to church at all? Why wince your way through a creed you don’t believe in?

Sociologists have shown over and over that people who attend church on a regular basis are happier, healthier, and live longer. They even have better sex lives. You can see why at the “coffee hour” following Sunday church services. Lonely people, many of them widows, make friends. And the service itself—the music, the beflowered altar, the very shape of the building, and the priests and deacons that make it all run—is often quite impressive, even lovely. And, of course, the call to support the wretched of the earth and resist injustice brings out our better angels.

Like you, I parted ways with the Church many years ago.  The adoration and worship aspects, all that bowing and kneeling before the altar, which took up 85 percent of the Mass, never made any sense to me, as it suggested a power-hungry anthropomorphic God – a Roman emperor or Egyptian king of sorts.  Do you see that as a concern? If so, is there any hope for a change in the format of the Mass?

Yes, all this kneeling and bowing does feel awkward. And the liturgy is full of begging for God’s forgiveness for our sins, as if the more unworthy we make ourselves the more impressed God is. I would deemphasize sin in the liturgy. In my own way I do this by standing when many others kneel. But just as often kneeling and bowing are expressions of awestruck humility, or even wonder, which doesn’t strike me as improper at all. The greatest saints, the mystics, are often depicted in this posture. The attitude I cultivate in myself toward the Creator is gratitude. A prayer of thanksgiving for the great adventure of life on a physical planet, with all its joys and sorrows, its successes and failures, is the way I begin most of my days. I say it while sitting, not kneeling. 

You deal with the afterlife in this book, at least to the extent of providing some clarification as to what purgatory and hell are all about, but we are still left with a very humdrum heaven, one that doesn’t attract most people.  I’ve personally concluded that it is beyond human comprehension; however, such a conclusion doesn’t invite belief. Do you see a solution to this?

In her sermon on the afterlife, Macrina says, “For the newly dead, God’s Heaven is like the glare when our eyes aren’t ready. If we were lifted straight into Heaven the instant we died, we’d be uncomfortable. We’d feel out of place.”

In my previous novel, The Afterlife Therapist, I left my hero at the edge of a more evolved world that stretched beyond the astral plane into eternity: “Later, alone, seated on a terrace looking out over his luminous new world, with its strange horizons and landscapes—a beauty that almost frightened him, as if he were a person blind from birth suddenly gifted by some miracle with vision—Aiden wondered what lay ahead. His heart swelled as he anticipated what it might be. He imagined himself taking up a new post ‘in the infinite imagination of God’—those were his thoughts. He remembered a mantra Ravinder had taught him, ‘Arise, Master, and fill me wholly with thyself,’ and he seemed to tumble into the mouth of those words as he contemplated them. He became aware of a gradual loosening, a surrendering of his old personality, a sheering off of all that was old in him. He felt submerged in an immense Other that at the same time he felt one with. He felt known and loved by this Other, but the eye that looked into him and loved him was the same as his own eye. He remembered the phrase ‘from glory to glory.’ He was on his way. He felt that he had just awakened from a happy death.”

(I owe the language of this description, incidentally, to Meister Eckhart.)  But that novel was set in the afterworld, while The Womanpriest is chained to more earthly concerns. Still, I might have worked in something like the above. Perhaps I should have. 

And final thoughts?

My ultimate purpose in writing the novel was to reformulate Catholicism along the lines of the research you and I have devoted our lives to. As I wrote in my book The Afterlife Unveiled, “There are no rigid creeds or magical beliefs that souls have to accept. Whether you are a Baptist or a Catholic or a Mormon or a Hindu or a Buddhist or a Muslim or an Anglican is of no importance.  Many of earth’s favorite religious dogmas are off the mark anyway, and the sooner they are recognized as such, the better.  Experience in the Afterworld will generate, as a matter of course, a more enlightened set of beliefs that will better reflect better the way things really are than any of earth’s theologies.” I stand by those words. The new Catholicism that Macrina represents reflects these perspectives without identifying their origin.

Catholicism has given the world much that is great: its soaring Gothic cathedrals, its magnificent music from Palestrina to Duruflé, its millions of paintings that turn our attention heavenward, its contemporary orientation away from converting heathens to serving the poor, its increasingly ecumenical theology, and the throng of mystics it has nurtured in every age. Rather than turn my back on all this, I’ve chosen to embrace it and, in my own small way, attempt to reform it. Macrina’s history shows how this might happen. Once the Church opens the door to female ordination, this new Catholicism, marinated in teachings from the world of spirit, will quickly blossom. A real Macrina will someday ascend to the Seat of Peter. It might even happen before 2080, the date chosen for the novel.

Michael Tymn is the author of The Afterlife Revealed: What Happens After We Die, Resurrecting Leonora Piper: How Science Discovered the Afterlife, and Dead Men Talking: Afterlife Communication from World War I.
His latest book, No One Really Dies: 25 Reasons to Believe in an Afterlife is published by White Crow books.
Next blog post;  July 17



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The Immortalist was a Nihilist

Posted on 19 June 2023, 7:38

The front and back covers of “The Immortalist,” a 1969 book, offer several rave endorsements of the book and its author, Alan Harrington (below). The New York Times refers to the book as “brilliant, biting – filled with trenchant insights and challenges to great truths.”  The Christian Science Monitor calls it “an extraordinary book.” Gore Vidal states that Harrington “may have written the most important book of our time.”  Dr. Alex Comfort refers to it as “a masterful job of relating man’s unrelenting quest for immortality to the problems plaguing the advanced technological societies of today.”  Publisher’s Weekly wonders if Harrington is a visionary, prophet, madman, or pole-vaulter of the impossible.


Based on the title and the endorsements, one might infer that Harrington accepted the strong evidence often discussed at this blog that consciousness survives death in a greater reality.  Not so. Other than briefly mentioning out-of-body experiences reported by Dr. Elisabeth Kűbler-Ross and the earliest research by Dr. Raymond Moody, Harrington gives no indication of being aware of the evidence and is clearly a nihilist suffering an acute case of death anxiety. What makes him different than other nihilists is that he admits his fear, to shaking in his boots at the thought of death, with no real attempts at displaying the usual facade of rationalized bravado, e.g., “So what, I’ll never know it.” 

I quoted Harrington in my last blog, about the loneliness epidemic, but I’ll quote him again as a preface to further discussion: “A very few individuals, most having a remarkable capacity for self-deception, manage not to fear the end.  The rest who claim that they are not afraid are either lying or keeping so busy that, blocked by bustling trivialities, thoughts of death rarely penetrate their reveries.  But fear waits behind the door nevertheless.  And the day they peer out and discover nothingness, the result can be catastrophic.”

Based on the endorsements, I assumed that Harrington was a well-known psychologist, psychiatrist, anthropologist, or philosopher of some kind, but I could find little about him other than that he graduated from Harvard in 1919, wrote a few novels, took LSD with Timothy Leary, read poetry with Allen Ginsberg, and taught at the University of Arizona He died in 1997, at age 79, of leukemia. How he qualifies as an authority on the subject matter I could not determine and I’m sure that some nihilists will strongly disagree with his comments about lying or repressing the idea of death, but Harrington has dug as deep or deeper than any other nihilists I have read and most of his views seem to represent the probable true mindset of the nihilist.

Harrington’s idea of immortality is to somehow live in the moment with no regard for the past or future, a condition he refers to as ‘reversion to the state of the baby animal” and “cosmic narcissism.” Education makes the anxiety worse, he claims. “Intellect has failed to deliver us from death,” he explains. “Worse, by stripping away illusions, the inductive pursuit of knowledge has made our forthcoming oblivion more disturbing than ever and the meaninglessness of existence more vividly clear.” He concludes that the myths of religion have been stripped away and that a terrible dark void is waiting for everyone. “The more advanced and aware of our unaccountably brief time on earth, the more vulnerable we become to feelings of isolating and midnight attacks of despair,” he offers.  He quotes Gandhi in seeing life without an afterlife as “cruel mockery.” As for Dr. Kűbler-Ross’s statement that she knows “beyond the shadow of a doubt that there is life after death,” he counters that anyone familiar with LSD or having had nitrous oxide administered by a dentist can report the same “tripping out” experience, and therefore Kűbler-Ross’s studies are “no release from oblivion.” He doesn’t explain why he thinks out-of-body experiences supporting survival should be limited to traumatic events nor does he otherwise consider that they suggest mind-body duality no matter the trigger. There is no mention of the detailed consciousness research carried out by world-renowned scientists like Hare, Mapes, Wallace, Barrett, Crookes, Flammarion, Lodge, Geley, Stevenson, and others strongly supporting the survival hypothesis.

“As we grow more sophisticated, which is to say more ‘unnatural,’ ever more ingenious rationalizations are needed to explain death away,” he writes.  “Faith survives among intelligent people, but not so easily now. The devout must somehow manage to embrace absurdity or ignore it. The second comes much more naturally.” It increases with age.  “After the exuberance of being young, as young men and women grow only a little older, there begins to intrude on all our scenes a faint disquiet. At first it visits intermittently. The occasional feeling of a shadow seem not too important, perhaps an illusion. Then it reappears. In the beginning the shadow may be mistaken for doubt, about certain values such as justice; about the prosperity of brutes, a child with leukemia, death to the volunteer, safety for the malingerer. But then the uneasiness grows into something more important than doubt.” 

Harrington goes on to say that when we are deprived of the rebirth vision, we suffer recurring spells of detachment, with either violence or apathy to follow. “And so the twin detachments of violence and apathy, side by side, are growing stronger and advancing within us.”  He mentions riots in Detroit, Johannesburg, and other cities and says that “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.”

As with so many others, Harrington found television to be a great escape from boredom, the human condition, and thoughts of death.  “It carries me instantly to other worlds and zones of being where death is not real,” he explains.  “In my side-by-side worlds of my living room and the passing television scene (with TV Guide to help) we look out passively on eternal games. The family sits with gods and goddesses on late-night shows listening to them talk, watching them grow angry and argue and laugh together.”

He sees sports as possibly the best simulators of eternal life that humanity has available to it. “Sport is death-free play, and games shut out death,” he explains. “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.”  He claims that the madness of spectators and the dedication of the players can best be understood if such games are viewed as man-made immortality rites. “The stadium turns into a pit of the gods in which heroes fight to become divine. 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.”

Harrington’s book was published four years before the Pulitzer Prize-winning book, The Denial of Death, by anthropologist Ernest Becker, and I recall no reference to Becker’s earlier book in Harrington’s book; however, they both seem to be of the same mindset.  It has been some years since I read Becker’s classic, but I’m fairly certain that he, too, completely ignores the psychical research carried out by the aforementioned scientists.  Both Becker and Harrington seem to assume that science has killed off God and that the idea of consciousness surviving death went with it. My guess is that both authors had heard of the research, but knew little of it and heedlessly dismissed it as being in the same venue as the “superstitious” religious afterlife.  Whatever references they had were no more than precursors of today’s Wikipedia and they were not about to waste time on such “ridiculous” research.

In searching for information on Harrington I came upon the Ernest Becker Foundation website and a 2009 article by Jason Silva discussing the “immortalism” of both Becker and Harrington.  “The mindset of the Immortalist is pretty simple and straightforward,” Silva offers. “Death is an abhorrent imposition on a species able to reflect and care about meaning. Creatures that love and dream and create and yearn for something meaningful, eternal and transcendent should not have to suffer despair, decay, and death. We are the arbiters of value in an otherwise meaningless universe…”

Silva mentions that Becker identified three main devices for man to sustain his sanity in dealing with death anxiety: the Religious, the Creative and the Romantic. The God solution was focused on having faith in God, but, Silva says, “God never came.”  The Creative solution had to do with leaving works of art behind for future generations to use and admire, while the Romantic solution called for turning our lovers into gods and goddesses.  The evidence for a larger world, or spirit world, as developed by the early psychical researchers, as well as modern-day researchers, doesn’t fit into any of them.  It is ignored, rejected, belittled.  It is assumed that it was all bunk, but anyone who has really studied the research knows that it offers a sure cure for death anxiety.  When will they ever see it?

Michael Tymn is the author of The Afterlife Revealed: What Happens After We Die, Resurrecting Leonora Piper: How Science Discovered the Afterlife, and Dead Men Talking: Afterlife Communication from World War I.
His latest book, No One Really Dies: 25 Reasons to Believe in an Afterlife is published by White Crow books.

Next blog post: July 3








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Is the Loneliness Epidemic Rooted in Nihilism?

Posted on 05 June 2023, 8:13

“Loneliness now a public epidemic, top doctor says.”  So reads the headline of an Associated Press article by Amanda Seitz appearing in the Honolulu Star-Advertiser on May 3, 2023. According to Dr. Vivek Murthy, the United States surgeon general, this widespread loneliness is said to be as deadly as smoking 15 cigarettes daily, while costing the health industry billions of dollars annually.


Murthy claims that about half the adults in the United States say they’ve experienced loneliness.  However, there is no explanation as to how loneliness is defined or measured.  I would have guessed that nearly everyone has experienced it to some degree, at one time or another, even if just homesickness or a spouse being away on a business trip. The point at which it becomes “deadly” is not given.



“Research shows that Americans, who have become less engaged with worship houses, community organizations, and even their own family members in recent decades, have steadily reported an increase in feelings of loneliness,” Seitz reports, adding that the crisis deeply worsened with COVID-19 and that it is hitting young people, ages 15-24, especially hard.

As I see it, it is all part of what psychiatrist Viktor Frankl referred to in his 1959 classic,  Man’s Search for Meaning, as an “existential vacuum” – a widespread phenomenon of the twentieth century which, Frankl stated, manifests itself mainly in a state of boredom, which has its roots in emptiness and meaninglessness.  “In actual fact, boredom is now causing, and certainly bringing to psychiatrists, more problems to solve than distress,” Frankl, who survived Nazi death camps, continues.  “And these problems are growing increasingly crucial, for progressive automation will probably lead to an enormous increase in the leisure hours available to the average worker. The pity of it is that many of these will not know what to do with all their newly acquired free time.”

Those words were written more than 60 years before the COVID epidemic hit, but I’m old enough to look back and see the existential vacuum in its early stages with the dawn of television during the 1950s.  Before television, people sat on their porches, talked with their neighbors, attended various social functions, met with friends and relatives in their homes, and otherwise mingled.  Church activities were a significant part of that mingling. (That was before they were degraded by a cynical journalists to “worship houses,” perhaps the intent being to put them in the same category as whorehouses.)

While Murthy blames technology and social media for the loneliness, Frankl went much deeper, calling the existential vacuum a mass neurosis which might otherwise be described as a private and personal form of nihilism, a condition in which the person can find no meaning in life. Being a scientist and recognizing that science had more or less impeached religion by that time, and that most people can’t separate religious teachings from existential conclusions, Frankl was cautious in suggesting a “larger life,” one in which the lessons of suffering in this life open our eyes to the bigger picture, but he gave the larger life as an example of finding meaning in this life and concluded that the search for meaning in life, in itself, is the key to overcoming the neurosis.

Growing up during the 1940s, I knew the names of every neighbor on the block, which included about 20 homes. It was not unusual for my mother to be gardening in the front yard and talking with one of them. We had frequent visitors from family members and family picnics several times a year.  All that changed with television as people shuttered themselves in their homes and children no longer went out to play with neighboring kids, preferring Howdy Doody and Captain Crunch.  Gradually, over the next few decades, people got to unknow their neighbors, opting to stay behind shut doors while glued to their TV sets rather than chat face-to-face with neighbors or attend social functions.  Sunday football replaced church services for many men.  Madison Avenue and Hollywood continually educated the masses with the religion of materialism, which quickly extended to hedonism. The vacuum was clearly sucking in millions of people well before COVID, but the epidemic brought it all to a head.

In his 1969 book, The Immortalist, humanist philosopher Alan Harrington expressed it this way:  “An unfortunate awareness has overtaken our species.  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, himself an atheist and nihilist, viewed 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. 

“Atheism without hope has fathered this viciously creative effort – to try divine privilege on for size by reducing or destroying another for no particular reason,” Harrington continued. “The mild twin, apathy, grows from a deliberate reduction of consciousness which doesn’t care to deal with the unknown any more.  One finds solace and safety in repetition, hours of torpor in front of a television set, and the like.  The much-despised reflexes of conformity still prevalent in middle-class American life are part of this American withdrawal.”

With television, the pursuit of happiness was replaced with the pursuit of fun, which called for a loosening of moral values.  Seemingly innocent television programs subtly promoted the new morality, one focused on sex. Fake wrestling represented the public’s indifference to separating reality from unreality, and it led to egomaniac clown acts in the boxing rings, and that quickly spread to other sports.  Appreciative tips of the cap on the athletic field turned to shaking the fist, punching the sky, beckoning to the crowd for applause, idiotic end-zone dances, “take-that” slam dunks, and other haughty displays of individuality and hubris.  The media couldn’t get enough of it, celebrating the most pompous athletes as the greatest.  Television seemed to bottom out with the Jerry Springer Show during the 1990s – people screaming vulgarities and attacking each other as the audience laughed, unsure and uncaring as to how real the negative emotions were.  If they were real, all the better the entertainment.

The loneliness problem is apparent to me whenever I see homeless people, which is daily, or visit someone at a retirement home, or whatever name is given to them. I had a somewhat rude awakening to the problem about 25 years ago when I visited an old friend at the Armed Forces Retirement Home in Washington, D.C.  I expected to see many old veterans huddled around another one. laughing as they shared war stories or other experiences from an adventuresome past, but such was not the case.  As with all other retirement homes where I have visited elderly relatives or friends, they sat around a TV set in the lobby, their heads drooping in wearisome silence or they remained in their rooms and watched television there. My friend, a very outgoing person, didn’t even know the name of the veteran occupying the room next to his.  At lunch in the cafeteria, nearly all sat at separate tables, as if they didn’t know each other. To some extent, the isolation in retirement homes suggests that distance is not the primary cause of the loneliness problem.

“There’s really no substitute for in-person interaction,” Murthy is quoted.  Given the reluctance of public officials to discuss religious matters while not fully grasping the difference between religious and existential issues, I doubt that Murthy has gone into the subject matter as deeply as Frankl and Harrington did.  I suspect Murthy sees the decline of organized religion and the closing of churches as a factor, but I also doubt that he has really concerned himself with the existential aspects – the loss of meaning and the all-absorbing materialistic mentality that is accompanying the exodus from organized religion. Even if he has made the connection, it seems beyond government control. 

Even though I am often critical of mainstream religion at this blog, I lament the fact that churches are losing members everywhere as the younger generation abandons them, those same younger people cited by Murthy suffering the most from loneliness, i.e., the 15-24 age group. Some belief, some faith has to be better than a nihilistic outlook. 

As Harrington analyzed it, men and women of the past were able to hold on to their peace of mind by repetitive prayer, chants, rhythms and psalms set to music. “But repetition, beauty and music no longer possess the force to distract us from meaninglessness,” he concluded.  I wonder how Harrington would have analyzed what is called music today. 

He goes on to say that failure to move with the death-rebirth rhythm makes us feel out of sorts, despondent, and vicious.  “A very few individuals, most having a remarkable capacity for self-deception, manage not to fear the end,” Harrington continued,  no doubt including those of us who have accepted the evidence for an afterlife without input from organized religions as among the deceived.  “The rest who claim that they are not afraid are either lying or keeping so busy that, blocked by bustling trivialities, thoughts of death rarely penetrate their reveries.  But fear waits behind the door nevertheless.  And the day they peer out and discover nothingness, the result can be catastrophic.”

The bottom line here is that the loneliness problem goes much deeper than government officials care to dig and that there does not appear to be an immediate fix for the problem. It’s going to take decades for the upward swing to take place, unless some catastrophic event provides a more hasty return to the search for meaning in 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 latest book, No One Really Dies: 25 Reasons to Believe in an Afterlife is published by White Crow books.

Next blog post:  June 19








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Existentialism 101: Pondering on Life and an Afterlife

Posted on 22 May 2023, 8:32

Unfortunately, this course is not taught in our universities.  They offer only Materialism 101, Philistinism 101, & Nihilism 101.  If Existentialism 101 were taught, the teachings would center around the ideas below.


Cui Bono?  “Well, even my information is only based on hearsay; but I don’t mind at all telling you what I have heard.  I supposed that for one who is soon to leave this world there is no more suitable occupation than inquiring into our views about the future life, and trying to imagine what it is like.  What else can one do in the time before sunset?”
– Socrates (Phaedo of Plato)  Tredennick, p.104

Nihilism: “If man believes in nothing but the material world, he becomes a victim of the narrowness of his own consciousness.  He is trapped in triviality.”
– Emanuel Swedenborg  (Swedish Scientist and Polymath)

Despair: “Despair over the earthly or over something earthly is really despair also about the eternal and over oneself, in so far as it is despair, for this is the formula for all despair.”
– Soren Kirkegaard (Danish Philosopher, “Father of Existentialism”)

Death: “When one is seventy-five years old, he cannot avoid thoughts about death from time to time. These thoughts leave me quite undisturbed, for I am firmly convinced that our spirit is an essence of completely indestructible nature; it is something that works on from eternity to eternity. It is like the sun, which seems to set only to our earthly eyes, but which really never sets, but shines on perpetually.”
—Goethe (German polymath)

Life’s Meaning:  “The decisive question for man is: Is he related to something infinite or not? That is the telling question of life.  Only if we know that the thing which truly matters is the infinite can we avoid fixing our interest upon futilities, and upon all kinds of goals which are not of real importance.”
– C. G. Jung  (Swiss pioneer in psychiatry)

Fear of Death: “The idea of death, the fear of it, haunts the human animal like nothing else.  It is a mainspring of human activity – activity designed largely to avoid the fatality of death, to overcome it by denying in some way that it is the final destiny of man.”
– Ernest Becker (American anthropologist, 1973 Pulitzer Prize winner)

Aging: “With the rapidly diminishing circle of my relatives and friends, I find myself increasingly lonely, reflective.  Already the larger part of my generation have become intangible, and many of those who remain on the earth are seeking, like myself, some evidence, some assurance of a life beyond the black deep whose waters they must soon cross.  That I would welcome a hail from that dim other shore, but the voice must be real and not imaginary.”
–Hamlin Garland (American author, Pulitzer Prize winner in literature)

Scientific Mechanism: “We are infected with the chaos and decay of spiritual emptiness, even as we are vaccinated and take our antibiotics. [My patients] wait without hope, without heart, tragically unaware of the reality of their undying souls.”
– Stephen J. Iacoboni (American Oncologist and author, “The Undying Soul”)

Death Anxiety: “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.”
– Erich Fromm (American psychoanalyst & humanistic philosopher)

Existential Vacuum: “Every age has its own collective neurosis, and every age needs its own psychotherapy to cope with it. This existential vacuum which is the mass neurosis of the present time can be described as a private and personal form of nihilism; for nihilism can be defined as the contention that being has no meaning.”
– Viktor Frankl (American psychiatrist, author “Man’s Search for Meaning”)

Avoidance: “They come and they go and they trot and they dance, and never a word about death.  All well and good.  Yet, when death does come – to them, their wives, their children, their friends – catching them unawares and unprepared, then what storms of passion overwhelm them, what cries, what fury, what despair!”
– Michel de Montaigne (French philosopher)

Beyond Materialism: “Human life, as we know it, is a tragic and pathetic affair which can only be redeemed by some belief or at least some hope in a larger significance than is compatible with the creed of materialism, no matter how nobly stoic a form it may be held.”
– William McDougall (British & American psychology professor)

Highest Ideal: “Neither a person nor a nation can exist without some higher idea. And there is only one higher idea on earth, and it is the idea of the immortality of the human soul, for all other ‘higher’ ideas of life by which humans might live derive from that idea alone.”
–  Fyodor Dostoyevsky (Russian author, “Crime & Punishment”)

Humanism: “The moralist (i.e., humanist) must hold his breath and keep his muscles tense; and so long as this athletic attitude is possible all goes well – morality suffices.  But the athletic attitude tends ever to break down and it inevitably does break down even in the most stalwart when the organism begins to decay, or when morbid fears invade the mind.”
—William James (American pioneer in psychiatry)
Hopelessness: “If the question should be finally decided in the negative, if all men without exception ever come to believe that there is no life beyond this life, if children were all brought up to believe that the only happiness they can ever enjoy will be upon earth, then it seems to me that the condition of man would be altogether hopeless, because there would cease to be any adequate motive for justice, for truth, for unselfishness, and no sufficient reason could be given to the poor man, to the bad man, or to the selfish man, why he should not seek his own personal welfare at the cost of others.”
– Alfred Russel Wallace (British biologist & co-originator with Darwin of the , Natural Selection Theory of Evolution)

No Doubt: “I had but one object, to discover fraud and trickery. Frankly, I went to Mrs. Piper with Professor James of Harvard University about twelve years ago with the object of unmasking her…I entered the house profoundly materialistic, not believing in the continuance of life after death; today I say I believe.  The truth has been given to me in such a way as to remove from me the possibility of a doubt.”
– Richard Hodgson (Australian philosopher, poet, researcher) 

Convinced: “I am personally convinced that the evidence we have published decidedly demonstrates (1) the existence of a spiritual world, (2) survival after death, and (3) of occasional communication from those who have passed over.”
– Sir William Barrett (British physicist and author)

Humdrum Heaven: The Church is deliberately wooly on the subject and the ordinary man is not attracted by their anemic heaven, nor frightened by their eternal hell.  Such a system just doesn’t make sense to the man in the street, so he is inclined to concentrate on this life which he thinks he know all about and leave the next life until the time comes to face it.”
– Air Chief Marshal Lord Dowding (British War Hero, author, “God’s Magic”)

Symbolisms: “All the scriptural imagery (harps, crowns, gold, etc.) is, of course, a merely symbolical attempt to express the inexpressible.”
– C. S. Lewis (British theologian and author)

Full Realization: “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. They must flame within us, setting our whole moral and intellectual nature on fire, sending a life current of energy through every part of our being, arousing us to impetuous action and to sustained effort born of strong conviction.”
– Madison Peters (American clergyman and author)

Conviction: “I should be willing to face the stake rather than be unfaithful to so vital and pregnant a truth – a conclusion so illuminating in our understanding of the meaning of existence, so instructive in relation to the scheme of the universe, and so vitally affecting the hopes and aspirations of man.  I do not even feel tempted to succumb to either ecclesiastical or philosophical censure concerning the initial stages of what may be described as the scientific discovery of the soul, as a verified and persistent entity.”
– Sir Oliver Lodge  (British physicist and electricity pioneer)

Ignorance: “I regard the existence of discarnate spirits as scientifically proved and I no longer refer to the skeptic as having any right to speak on the subject.  Any man who does not accept the existence of discarnate spirits and the proof of it is either ignorant or a moral coward. I give him short rift, and do not propose any longer to argue with him on the supposition that he knows anything about the subject.”
– James H. Hyslop (American professor of logic and ethics)

Certainty: “It cannot be doubted that the personal life is condemned to destruction, and that a life conformable to the will of God alone gives the possibility of salvation.  It is not much in comparison with the sublime belief in the future life! It is not much, but it is sure.”
– Leo Tolstoy (Russian author, “War & Peace”)

New Beginning: “For half a century I have been writing my thoughts in prose, verse, history, philosophy, drama, romance, satire, ode, song. I have tried all; but I feel I have not said the thousandth part of what is in me. When I go down to the grave, I can say, like so many others, ‘I have finished my day’s work’; but I cannot say I have finished my life. My day’s work will begin again the next morning. The tomb is not a blind alley; it is a thoroughfare. It closes in the twilight to open with the day.”
– Victor Hugo (French author)

Knowing:  “The dying experience is almost identical to the experience in birth. It is a birth into a different existence which can be proven quite simply.  For thousands of years you were made to ‘believe’ in the things concerning the beyond. But for me, it is no longer a matter of belief, but rather a matter of knowing.”
– Elisabeth Kűbler-Ross (American physician and author)

Spiritual Beings: “I maintain that the human mystery is incredibly demeaned by scientific reductionism, with its claim in promissory materialism to account eventually for all of the spiritual world in terms of patterns of neuronal activity.  This belief must be classed as superstition…We have to recognize that we are spiritual beings with souls existing in a spiritual world as well as material beings with bodies and brains existing in a material world.” 
– Sir John Eccles (Australian Nobel Prize-winning neuroscientist)  Alexander, p. 140

Another World:  “Although there is always something that will stand in the way of scientifically proving life after death, the truth about this subject may just lie with those who have experienced it.  I have listened to thousands of people tell their stories of ‘going to the other side,’ and I can tell you that I believe what they say, and can tell you that for most of them, nothing stands in the way of their faith that another world awaits them.”
– Raymond Moody (American psychiatrist, NDE researcher, author)

Dualism Confirmed: “The evidence points to the fact that we are more than brain function, more than just a speck in creation, and that something, whether we regard it as soul or consciousness, will continue in some form or another, making its journey to ‘Elsewhere.’”
– Peter Fenwick (British neuropsychiatrist, NDE researcher, author) 

Transformation: “That death is the end used to be my own belief.  But after many years of critical research into the stories of the NDErs, and after a careful exploration of current knowledge about brain functions, consciousness, and some basic principles of quantum physics, my views have undergone a complete transformation.  As a doctor and researcher, I found the most significant finding to be the conclusion of one NDEr: ‘Dead turned out to be not dead.’ I now see the continuity of our consciousness after death of our physical body as a very real possibility.” 
– Pim van Lommel (Dutch cardiologist, NDE researcher, author)

“…now that I have been privileged to understand that our life does not end with the death of the body or the brain, I see it as my duty, my calling, to tell people about what I saw beyond the body and beyond this earth.”
– Eben Alexander (American academic neurosurgeon, author, “Proof of Heaven”) (Alexander, p. 12)

Overcoming Rationalism: “Leaving rational thought behind, even momentarily, isn’t a loss we easily invite.  But if we want access to the state in which anomalous knowing might be possible, a deliberate invitation might be precisely what’s required.” – Elizabeth Lloyd Mayer (American professor of psychology, author “Extraordinary Knowing”)

Resisting Change: “It’s hard to change how people think. People have vested interests, and their projects and reputations would be threatened if certain things were shown to be true.” 
– B. D. Josephson (Welsh theoretical physicist and 1973 Nobel Laureate)

Rejection by Science: “They think that if they once admit this evidence [for consciousness survival] it will plunge them headlong back into superstition and wreck the structure of law on which science has been built. They think, as one psychologist put it, that it is a case of psychical research alive and science dead, or vice versa.”
– G. N. M. Tyrrell (British Mathematician & author)

Uncertainty: “We need have no hope that any one will utter on this earth the word that shall put an end to our uncertainties…The unknown and the unknowable are necessary and will perhaps always be necessary to our happiness.  In any case, I would not wish my worst enemy, were his understanding a thousandfold loftier and thousandfold mightier than mine, to be condemned eternally to inhabit a world of which had surprised an essential secret and of which, as a man, he had begun to grasp the least tittle.” – Maurice Maeterlinck (Belgian author and researcher, 1911 Nobel Prize winner)

Acceptance:  “[Considering the evidence] it makes sense to me to live our lives as if this is really the way things are – that we are more than our physical bodies, that some part of us may continue after our bodies stop working, and that we may be intimately connected to something greater than ourselves.  And that has tremendous implications for how we live our lives, and for what makes our lives meaningful and worthwhile.” 
– Bruce Greyson (American psychiatry professor, NDE researcher, author “After”

What’s Important: “If I had my life to live over again, I should devote myself to psychical research rather than psychoanalysis.”
– Sigmund Freud (Austrian pioneer in psychiatry)
No Boundaries:  “The soul of man is so vast that you will never find its boundaries by traveling in any direction.” 
– Heracleitus (pre-Socrates Greek philosopher, 576-480 B.C.)

Michael Tymn is the author of The Afterlife Revealed: What Happens After We Die, Resurrecting Leonora Piper: How Science Discovered the Afterlife, and Dead Men Talking: Afterlife Communication from World War I.
His latest book, No One Really Dies: 25 Reasons to Believe in an Afterlife is published by White Crow books.

Next blog post:  June 5

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Is Fake Mediumship Really Fake News?

Posted on 08 May 2023, 22:24

It is almost routine for researchers and writers to preface their remarks leading to the endorsement of a medium or of mediumship in general by commenting that there were no doubt many tricksters pretending to be mediums in the early years of mediumship and psychical research. I’m guilty of having made such unsubstantiated comments in my books and articles, and I apologize.  It’s a defensive measure, as if the author is attempting to block the skeptic’s first counter-punch by admitting that there was fraud in the field. Such an admission was repeated so often and carried down by other authors over the years that at some point that defensive remark – that there were many frauds – seems to have become historical fact. Moreover, many genuine mediums were written off as frauds because the observers didn’t grasp the spiritual aspect of the various phenomena. Indications are that there were a few frauds, not many.


“While recognizing that both varieties of fraud exist, I am confident that they have been much overrated,” Dr. William J. Crawford, an Irish engineer and researcher (top left photo), wrote in his 1919 book, Experiments in Psychical Science, referring to both conscious and unconscious fraud, the latter involving movements by the medium while in a trance state. “Even at séances, such as the Golighers’, where everything is above suspicion, where all phenomena can be demonstrated with the greatest ease to be genuine to the last detail, things happen which to a superficial observer might appear fraudulent.  For instance, sometimes the medium’s body, or portions of her body, make spasmodic kinds of movements when heavy raps or impacts are being experienced far out in the circle.” 

The “spasmodic” movements mentioned by Crawford were frequently observed by many researchers with Eusapia Paladino and were discussed in my blog here of April 10 having to do with kissing motions by Paladino. It was referred to as “synchrony,” and would usually involve Paladino’s arms or legs moving at the same time as activity taking place across the room from her.  “In hundreds of seances at which persons worthy of credence have been present, [Eusapia] has produced phenomena which made it impossible to doubt the reality of the phenomena or her honesty,” wrote Professor Philippe Bottazzi, director of the Physiological Institute at the University of Naples.  He went on to say that in some seances, the phenomena had been both scarce and weak and led some “to suppose that what others had seen were similar in character and force, and that they were subsequently exaggerated by human folly and credulity.”

Bottazzi observed that Paladino was both insulted and amused by the claims of fraud.  She would sometimes react by deliberately playing a little trick with one of her hairs, seemingly to make fun of someone who was not sympathetic toward her.  It was not, he believed, with an intent to deceive or with the hope of making the trick pass for a genuine phenomenon. It was her way of amusing herself, as if to say, “You want to see a trick, then I’ll show you a trick.”  He added that in seven seances, neither he nor his fellow researchers carrying out experiments with Paladino, ever observed any such tricks. “Eusapia never used any kind of expedients to deceive us; on the contrary, she always warned us every time she moved the table or the curtain with her visible hands.”  (Or John King, her spirit control speaking through her, warned them.)

Scientifically Established

Professor Charles Richet, the 1913 Nobel Prize winner in medicine (top right photo), had more than 200 sittings with Paladino, and said that her manifestations established scientifically the reality of telekinesis and ectoplasmic forms (emphasis added).  “I am very well aware that they are extraordinary, even so monstrously extraordinary that at first sight the hypothesis of immeasurable, repeated, and continual fraud seem the more probably explanation,” he wrote.  “But is such fraud possible?  I cannot think so. When I recall the precautions that all of have taken, not once, but twenty, a hundred, or even a thousand times, it is inconceivable that we should have been deceived on all these occasions.”

Dr. Gustave Geley, a French physician who collaborated with Richet in many experiments, fully agreed.  “The experimenters should be very cautious in alleging or suspecting conscious fraud,” he wrote, “but the levity with which accusations of this kind are made passes all reasonable bounds… Ill-will and ineptitude have free course, and an honest medium is disgraced without scruple on the slightest suspicion. Mere suspicion stands in place of proof.” Geley added that nine-tenths of the accusations against mediums fall in this category and this was a major reason why genuine mediums of his day refused to be tested by researchers.

The famous French astronomer Camille Flammarion, who also collaborated with Richet and Geley at times, admitted that the phenomena produced by Paladino were rather vulgar, altogether banal, and gave no clues as to the nature of the spirit world. “On the other hand, however, it is impossible not to recognize the existence of unknown forces,” he added. “The simple fact, for example, of the levitation of a table to a height of six and one-half, eight, sixteen inches from the floor is not banal at all. It seems to me, speaking for myself, so extraordinary that my opinion is very well expressed when I say that I do not dare to admit it without having seen it myself, with my own eyes: I meant that which is called seeing, in full light and under such conditions that it would be impossible to suspect…I am absolutely certain that the medium did not lift that weight of fifteen pounds either by her hands or by her legs, or by her feet, and furthermore, no one of the company was able to do it. The table was lifted by the upper surface. We are, therefore, certainly in the presence of an unknown force here which emanates from the persons present, and above all from the medium”

Flammarion said that a man could wager ninety-nine to one hundred that the phenomena he had observed were true. “I was absolutely sure of them during the séance.  But the vividness of the impressions grows weak, and we have a tendency to listen only to the voice of plain common sense,—the most reasonable and the most deceptive of our faculties.”

Sir Oliver Lodge, a renowned British physicist (bottom left photo), wrote that Paladino 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. 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. “She wanted us to understand that it was not conscious deception, but that her control (John King) took whatever means available, and if he found an easy way of doing things, thus would it be done,” Lodge explained. 

Although Sir William Barrett, another renowned British physicist, never observed Paladino, he studied a number of other mediums and commented on the conflicting reports about Paladino.  “We may even conceive that when this psychic force is restricted or not externalized, it may create movements of the limbs of the psychic which will cause her to perform by normal actions (in perhaps a semiconscious state) what under good psychical conditions would be done supernormally,” he offered. “This would produce the impression of intentional fraud. Everyone who has had much experience in these perplexing investigations knows that what seems purposeless and stupid fraud often intrudes itself, after the most conclusive evidence of genuine phenomena has been obtained. It is this which renders the whole enquiry wholly unfitted for the hasty and unskilled investigator.”

Horace Greely, founder, publisher, and editor of the New York Tribune (bottom right photo), was one of the earliest investigators of mediumship. “The jugglery hypothesis utterly fails to account for occurrences which I have personally witnessed, to say nothing of others,” he wrote in his autobiography.  “Nor can I unreservedly accept the hypothesis which ascribes the so-called ‘spiritual’ to a demonic origin.” He added that some of the phenomena he had witnessed would require highly skilled magicians such as Houdini, Blitz, or the Fakir of Ava, and yet they were often produced by children of tender years, who were otherwise awkward and clumsy.

Blank Sitting Common

Greely further mentioned that he had many sterile sittings.  “I have known this to occur when they were particularly anxious – and for obviously good reasons – to astound and convince those who were present and expectant; yet not even the faintest ‘rap’ could they scare up.  Had they been jugglers, they could not have failed so utterly, ignominiously.”  In fact, Greely had so many sterile sittings that he gave up further investigation.  “To sit for two dreary, mortal hours in a darkened room, in a mixed company, waiting for some one’s disembodied grandfather or aunt to tip a table or rap on a door, is dull music at best, but so to sit in vain is disgusting.”

Back to Professor Bottazzi: “Those who have observed badly, a few times and under unfavourable conditions, or, worse still, who have entered upon their investigations with the idea that they are going to witness charlatanism, that is to say with a preconceived opinion, or if (worse still) they have entered the séance room with the arrogant intention of afterwards claim to consider as fools all who do not think they have been deceived, hoping thus to show their superior powers of observation and criticism; these and others who are impelled to deny by even less noble motives cannot nullify the force of the opposite affirmations, which are now numerous, affirmations by such men as Crookes, Ramsay, Lodge, Lombroso, Richet, Flammarion, Luciani, Morselli, that is to say honest savants, whose fame cannot be upset by the denunciations of a few men who seem to think that the act of denial proves their mental superiority.  Therefore, to those who deny without having seen, affirming a priori the impossibility of these phenomena, one must reply: First see, then you may argue.”

One is left to wonder how much of recorded history we can actually accept as factual, how much of it has been distorted by historians, biographers and other authors based on their acceptance of hearsay and rumor, their biases, their faulty research, their misinterpretations of what others have said or written, their choices of verbiage, their needs for sensationalism that will appeal to publishers and readers, and their need to appear informed and intelligent.

Michael Tymn is the author of The Afterlife Revealed: What Happens After We Die, Resurrecting Leonora Piper: How Science Discovered the Afterlife, and Dead Men Talking: Afterlife Communication from World War I.
His latest book, No One Really Dies: 25 Reasons to Believe in an Afterlife is published by White Crow books.

Next blog post:  May 22

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Was Patience Worth Really Artificial Intelligence?

Posted on 24 April 2023, 8:22

There has been considerable controversy recently over the subject of artificial intelligence (AI), especially having to do with a website (ChatGPT) offering such intelligence on a myriad of subjects.  I’ve been experimenting with the website the past three weeks and have found it very fascinating, even if threatening in some respects.  I began by asking AI the origin of my original surname, Tymczyszyn, the one my grandfather brought to the country from Ukraine in 1905. Not more than two seconds after I entered my question, AI began providing an answer, one that confirmed what I had previously heard from a distant family member while adding a little to it. I was impressed and tried again. Knowing that there are two main routes from Newport, Oregon to San Francisco, I asked for the “best” route.  The response was immediate, telling me that the coastal was the more scenic, but the interior route was the faster of the two.


After playing around with some other more worldly subjects, I decided to experiment with subjects from the paranormal arena.  I suspected that I was going to get answers much like those provided by Wikipedia – claiming that it’s all just so much bunk and unscientific baloney.  I began with Mina Crandon, one of the most controversial mediums in the field (upper left photo), asking who she was.  Within two seconds, the response flowed, as if coming from a teletype: “Mina Crandon, also known as ‘Margery,’ was a controversial figure in the history of spiritualism and psychical research.  While some critics have accused her of being a fraud or a charlatan, others have defended her as a genuine medium with extraordinary abilities.” 

The response went on to say that Harry Houdini accused Crandon of using various tricks, but that some members of the American Society for Psychical Research testified that she was a genuine medium with exceptional powers. “In the end, the question of whether Crandon was a charlatan or a genuine medium remains a matter of debate and controversy among scholars and researchers in the field of psychical research,” AI ended. It was pretty much the same ending for every medium I asked about. Clearly, AI was much more open-minded and balanced than Wikipedia

When I asked about Alfred Russel Wallace (upper right photo), I was informed that he was a British naturalist and co-discoverer of the theory of evolution, and further that he was a strong believer in the “possibility” of life after death and in the existence of spirits.  “Wallace’s belief and research in spiritualism and psychical research were controversial and have been debated by scholars and researchers for over a century,” AI explained. “However, his contributions to the development of the field and his efforts to reconcile spiritualism with scientific inquiry have had a lasting impact on the study of paranormal phenomena.” 

I asked AI for the difference between psychical research and parapsychology and assumed that it would not provide an intelligent answer.  I was wrong.  It offered the best answer I have seen.  On the other hand, it did make mistakes. When asked about medium Emily French (lower left photo), who died in 1912, AI said she was charged with the murder of a wealthy Buffalo businessman named Frank Lyman in 1922 and that she was defended by Edward C. Randall (the lawyer who studied French and wrote about her), who argued that she was not guilty by reason of insanity, as she genuinely believed she was receiving messages from the spirit world.  According to AI, she was found not guilty.  When AI was asked for the source of the information, it responded that a book by Michael Tymn titled “The Murder of Emily French: An Unsolved Mystery from the Guilded Age,” was the source.  That was news to me, as I have authored no such book and knew of no such murder, of or by Emily French. When AI was further questioned about this, it apologized and gave Harold Schechter as the author of the book, still not addressing the fact that Emily French the medium, had died in 1912.  My guess is that there was another person named Emily French, perhaps a fictitious one created by Schechter, that was confused with the medium named Emily French. How I was mistaken for the author remains a mystery, as does Edward Randall’s involvement with both women named Emily French.  My guess is that AI jumbled all the references on French, including mine from several publications, and created a multiple personality of sorts. 

Overall, I was impressed with the speed and the “personality” of AI when correcting “itself” and apologizing for an error, or elaborating on certain subjects. I was especially impressed by its ability to add information when asked for more detail about the person or subject matter. What was most impressive, however, was the fact that AI could do more than recite facts; it could create.  I could give it a half-dozen characteristics of a certain person and ask it to give me a poem about the person with those words in it, and it would provide a creative poem within seconds.

The poems brought to mind the Patience Worth phenomenon, often discussed at this blog (See blog for June 17, 2013 in archives). For those not familiar with the story, Patience Worth claimed to be a 17th century English woman communicating through the mediumship of Pearl Curran, a St. Louis, Missouri housewife with no more than an elementary-school education (bottom right photo).  Over a period of nearly 25 years, As stated in my entry for the PSI Encyclopedia, Patience Worth dictated some four-million words, including seven books, some short stories, several plays, thousands of poems, and countless epigrams and aphorisms, through Curran. Her works were compared with Shakespeare, Chaucer, Shelley, and Spenser.  Researchers would give her a subject matter and ask for her opinion or for a poem. She would often respond without hesitation.  A few examples:

On death: “Cheap pence paid for eternity and yet man whines”

On laughter: “Me thinks that of all the gifts from Thy prolific hand, laughter, next to love, is dearest.” 

On life: “Life is a gaysome trickster.  Yea, life poureth about the atoms o’ man wines of cunning, and equally is he filled up of Him.  Thereby is man given freely and his lighting unto life leaveth him for his choosing. Aye, and the giving be wry-fallen atimes, for flesh to tarry long and dance with life, fearing the greater thing athin it.”

On philosophy:  “Philosophy is a bony nag and her gait is woeful.  He who rides must spur her well with his ain imagination.” 

On learning: “Wisdom scratcheth the itch of the lout, while learning searchest for the flea.”

On fear: “The undergarment of every armor.  Man moutheth over words, and hangeth his wisdom with garments of words.  Man knoweth certainties which even God doubteth.”

On the press:  “The gab wench of the day!”

Considering the fact that AI can turn out poems and other creative ideas much like Pearl Curran could, I began to wonder if Patience Worth could have been some form of artificial intelligence coming through Curran rather than a 17th century English woman communicating from another realm of existence. I continued my questioning of AI by asking if Patience Worth was a form of artificial intelligence.  “It is highly unlikely that Patience Worth was an artificial intelligence, as the channeling of Patience Worth occurred in the early 20th century, long before the developments of modern computing and artificial intelligence technologies,” was AI’s reply. It added that “the technology required to create an artificial intelligence sophisticated enough to create the complex and varied works attributed to Patience Worth did not exist during Curran’s lifetime.  In short, while the idea of Patience Worth being an early form of artificial intelligence is an interesting concept, it is highly unlikely and not supported by any evidence.”

AI added that some skeptics have suggested that “the Patience Worth case may have been an example of dissociative identify disorder (DID, previously called Multiple Personality Disorder), in which Curran may have produced the works under a subconscious alter ego.”  How that alter ego educated itself and retained so much knowledge is the big question and offers the best argument against such a theory. AI also stated that it is now possible to create an artificial intelligence capable of producing literary works with the sophistication and complexity of Patience Worth, but it is highly unlikely that this was the case when the Patience Worth phenomena occurred.

I saw no point in asking AI if some advanced alien civilization could have developed AI technology that led to such names as the Akashic Records, the Cosmic Reservoir, or perhaps the Superpsi or Living-Agent Psi of parapsychology, maybe all of them wrapped into one, before modern AI became aware of itself.  I asked AI if it knew of the Akashic Records.  “The Akashic Records are (sic) a term used in theosophy and spiritual belief systems to refer to a universal library of information and knowledge that is said to exist on a non-physical plane of existence,” AI informed me, going on to say that “there is no established relationship between the concept of Akashic Records and Artificial Intelligence.”

I was under the impression that Living-Agent Psi is just a new name for what earlier researchers called Superpsi and which William James, even before that, called the Cosmic Reservoir, but AI said such is not the case and provided me with detailed explanations, all of which would be too long for this blog. However, as I continued my questioning of AI, it became clear that AI will not incorporate any “spiritual concept” into its own makeup. It considers the Cosmic Reservoir, Superpsi, and Living Agent Psi as spiritual concepts and therefore dismisses any association with them.  That would be unscientific. 

I know nothing about computer programming, but I assume all the information coming from AI has been input by humans based on what science has accepted and therefore the only scientific explanations for Patience Worth are those of fraud and DID. The non-scientific explanations are that she was in fact the spirit of a 17th century English woman or that God is the great computer behind it all…… or that advanced aliens applied their computer technology to earth centuries ago, which modern computer technology rejects because it is considered “spiritual.” .

If God or advanced aliens are responsible, then we have to ask why are they permitting their more ancient AI to represent themselves as deceased humans.  Why are they lying to us?.  Why did Patience Worth, not to mention Phinuit, George Pellew, Feda, John King, Walter Stinson, and so many other “spirits,” claim to have been a deceased human?  How did they all collaborate in the deception?  Why not just admit to being artificial intelligence? Applying Occam’s Razor, I conclude that Patience Worth was who she says she was – the spirit of a 17th Century woman from England.

Michael Tymn is the author of The Afterlife Revealed: What Happens After We Die, Resurrecting Leonora Piper: How Science Discovered the Afterlife, and Dead Men Talking: Afterlife Communication from World War I.
His latest book, No One Really Dies: 25 Reasons to Believe in an Afterlife is published by White Crow books.

Next blog post: May 1

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When Professors Were Kissed by Spirits

Posted on 10 April 2023, 11:06

Most remembered as the man who founded the science of criminology, first called criminal anthropology, Dr. Cesare Lombroso (1835 – 1909) was an Italian psychiatrist and a hard-core materialist before he began investigating the mediumship of Eusapia Paladino (also spelled Palladino and almost always referred to by her first name).  “If ever there was an individual in the world opposed to spiritism by virtue of scientific education, and, I may say, by instinct, I was that person,” he wrote in his 1909 book, After Death-What?

Lombroso (below) explained that he had made it an indefatigable pursuit of a lifetime to defend the thesis that every force is a property of matter and the soul an emanation of the brain.  For years he laughed at the reports he had heard about tables being levitated and spirits communicating through them. However, his attitude began to change in 1891 when he somewhat reluctantly accepted an invitation to attend a séance in a Naples hotel with Eusapia. He was warned that he would ruin his reputation, but he felt it was his duty to investigate, as he had heard so much about Eusapia from his colleagues. He had earlier witnessed some supposed psychic phenomena but dismissed it as hysterics or hypnotic phenomena. “And when I then and there saw extremely heavy objects transferred through the air without contact,” he wrote of his first sitting with Eusapia in full daylight, “from that time on I consented to make the phenomena the subject of investigation.”


By 1903, Lombroso had observed Eusapia countless times, but at a sitting with her in Genoa that year, he experienced something new.  Before Eusapia entered the trance state, Lombroso asked her for some special manifestation that day.  Eusapia (or John King, her spirit control) consented.  “…after half an hour of the séance had passed, I was seized with a very lively desire to see her promise kept,” Lombroso wrote. “The table at once assented to my thought by means of its usual sign-movements up and down; and soon after (we were then in the semi-obscurity of a red light) I saw detach itself from the curtain a rather short figure like that of my mother, veiled, and which made the complete circuit of the table until it came to me, and whispered to me words heard by many, but not by me, who am somewhat hard of hearing.  I was almost beside myself with emotion and begged her to repeat her words.  She did so, saying, ‘Cesar, fio mio!’ (I admit at once that this was not her habitual expression, which was, when she met me, ‘mio fiol’; but the mistake in expression made by the apparitions of the deceased are well known, and how they borrow from the language of the psychic and of the experimenters), and removing the veil from her face for a moment, she gave me a kiss.”  Lombroso added that his mother reappeared at least 20 times during Eusapia’s séances, although less distinct than on that first occasion.

Kisses were followed by caresses …

Lombroso reported another kiss, one taking place on November 26, 1906 in Milan. It involved a man named Massaro, of Palermo. Lombroso reported: “Madame Paladino remarked quite suddenly that she perceived a young man who came from a distance, and, after being questioned, specified ‘from Palermo’; and afterwards said, ‘Portrait made in the sun.’ Whereupon Massaro remembered that he had in his letter-case a photograph of his son taken out of doors (in the country). At the same time he was aware of being sharply tapped on the breast at the very spot where he had that picture of his son, and felt himself kissed twice on the right cheek through the curtain that hung near him; and the kisses were followed by very arch caresses, though most delicate withal. Then all of a sudden the significant touches were repeated, but this time by a hand that insinuated itself with eager movements into the inside middle pocket of the coat just where the letter-case was. This it opened just at the compartment that held the portrait.

“During this second appearance caresses and kisses were held back at first; then he felt himself seized around the body, drawn near the curtain, and repeatedly kissed. Finally, there was projected on the curtain the apparition of a head bound with a white bandage – a head which he recognized as that of his son.”

Lombroso recorded that they could often see fluidic limbs emerging in full light from the shoulder of Eusapia (below) or from her skirt and that these fluidic limbs would perform the function of an arm. Also, “John King” would sometimes respond in English, a language unknown to Eusapia.


Concluding that many of the phenomena were beyond telepathy of any kind, Lombroso came to accept the spirit hypothesis.  “I am ashamed and grieved at having opposed with so much tenacity the possibility of psychic facts – the facts exist and I boast of being a slave to facts.” he wrote.  “There can be no doubt that genuine psychical phenomena are produced by intelligences totally independent of the psychic and the parties present at the sittings.”

Professor Enrico Morselli, an Italian neurologist and director of the Clinic of Nervous and Mental Disease at the University of Genoa, was also among the observers in Milan.  “There can no longer be any doubt as to the reality of Eusapia’s phenomena,” he wrote in the May 1907 issue of The Annals of Psychical Science. “They have now been seen by too many persons under excellent conditions of verification, with the full certainty that the medium had not her hands and feet free, and that many of the phenomena occurred at a distance which excluded all possibility of deception…..” 

In the October 1907 issue of The Annals of Psychical Science (“The Unexplored Regions of Human Biology”), Professor Phillipe Bottazzi, director of the Physiological Institute at the University of Naples, reported on seven sittings he and four other professors had with Paladino during April 1907.  Bottazzi rejected the spirit hypothesis, both before and after his experiments with Paladino, as unscientific, but he concluded that it was a possibility and would at times address his remarks to “John King” rather than to Eusapia, apparently in order to appease Eusapia (or John King), i.e., to go along with Eusapia’s little pretend “game,” whatever it was. 

At a sitting on April 24, Professor Tommaso De Amicis “was not only touched on the arm, but was forcibly pulled as if by an invisible hand, issuing from the interior of the cabinet, and this more than once.”  Then, De Amicus asked to be kissed by a dead person who was dear to him. “The curtain on the left shook, enveloped his body as if to embrace him, and he felt the contact of another face against his and a mouth kissing him. At the same time, Eusapia’s lips moved as if to kiss, and she made the sound of a kiss, which we all distinctly heard.

“A suspicious mind would call this fraud; but this would be a mistake,” Bottazzi wrote. “ For in the first place, kisses given by the invisible are also heard when the medium only makes the movement of kissing, without any sound. He went on to explain that other phenomena taking place beyond Paladino’s reach were accompanied by movement of her body. “When [Professor Oscar] Scarpa held Paladino’s feet in his hands, he always felt her legs moving in synchrony with ongoing displacements of the table or chair,” he explained. He further noted that when others were holding Eusapia’s hands, the person could feel her fingers moving in rhythm with the activity away from her.  (This “synchrony” aspect was discussed in my blog of March 14, 2022 and seems to be the key to understanding much of what was called “fraud” by researchers.)

In his 1909 book, Mysterious Psychic Phenomena, Camille Flammarion, a renowned French astronomer, observed that while he was holding one of Paladino’s hands and M. Fontenay the other, the hand held by Fontenay came toward his (Flammarion’s) cheek “and imitates upon the cheek, with the fingers of M. Fontenay, the movement of a little revolving crank,  or handle. The music box, which has one of these handles, plays at the same time behind the curtain in a perfect synchronism. The instant that Eusapia’s hand stops, the music stops: all the movements correspond, just as in the Morse telegraphic system.”  (Flammarion and other researchers realized that the so-called “cabinet” with its curtain invited much suspicion, but reported that it was supposedly required by spirits for materialization purposes and that it was thoroughly checked before and during each sitting.)

Amore mio! Amore mio!

Flammarion was so impressed by his observations of Paladino in Montfort-l’Amaury that he arranged for her to give eight séances at his home in Paris during November 1898. He invited different scientists and scholars to sit in on them and asked them to provide a written account of their observations.  M. and Mme. Pallotti were present at the November 14 sitting (Flammarion does not provide their first names).  In a detailed report to Flammarion, M. Pallotti reported that he witnessed a vague materialization of what appeared to be his deceased daughter, Rosalie.  M. Boutigny, who had been his daughter’s fiancée, “announced to us aloud that he was being very affectionately caressed. The medium, who was at this moment in an extraordinary state of agitation, kept saying, ‘Amore mio, amore mio! (My love, my love!), and, addressing herself to me, called to me several times in the following words, ‘Adesso vieni tu! Vieni tu!’ (Come at once, come!). Pallotti approached and felt himself kissed several times.

“I ought to say that, while these events were taking place, my eyes were carefully observing the medium, as well as the persons who were by my side,” Pallotti added. “I can therefore boldly certify that I was not the victim of any illusion or subterfuge…” Mme. Pallotti was also embraced by the figure and was certain that it was her daughter.

“It amazes me, every time I think of it, that the majority of men are so densely ignorant of the psychic phenomena in question, considering the fact that they have been known, studied, valued, and recorded for a long time now by all who have impartially followed the movement of thought during the last few lustrums,” wrote Flammarion. 

Sadly, Flammarion’s words still apply.

Michael Tymn is the author of The Afterlife Revealed: What Happens After We Die, Resurrecting Leonora Piper: How Science Discovered the Afterlife, and Dead Men Talking: Afterlife Communication from World War I.
His latest book, No One Really Dies: 25 Reasons to Believe in an Afterlife is published by White Crow books.

Next blog post: April 24

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Why Mediums are Like Distance Runners

Posted on 27 March 2023, 10:34

There are two subjects I’ve studied and written about extensively over the years – distance running and mediumship. They don’t appear to have much in common, but I have observed many parallels, similarities or correspondences.

My interest in mediumship and its relationship to the larger life has been discussed at this blog over the past 13 years, as well as in seven books and various newspapers, magazines, and journals. My interest in distance running and in the larger area of sport began during the early 1950s and continued for more than 60 years, during which time I contributed hundreds of articles to several national magazines and a daily newspaper. I had the opportunity to interview dozens of Olympians and legends of the athletic world.  I even had my own laboratory of one, winning some races and achieving a little success in the sport.  I look back upon my personal participation as one of self-actualization, not fun and games.

On May 6, 1954, Roger Bannister of Great Britain became the first human to officially run a mile in under four minutes while recording 3:59.4 on the Oxford University track.  Six weeks later, John Landy (below) of Australia (depicted in a Vancouver, Canada statue with Bannister and also with the writer in a 1986 photo) bettered his time with a 3:57.9.  The world record is now down to 3:43.13 by Hicham El Guerrouj of Morocco.  Here are some of the similarities, parallels, or correspondences I’ve noted:


Beyond Science: Before 1954, science, as represented by physical educators and physiologists, said running a mile under four minutes was not humanly possible.  Science also said, and still says, with exceptions, that it is not possible to contact the dead.

Development Necessary: It takes up to seven years for a runner to fully adapt to the demands of the sport and requires much more training and development than previously realized to run a mile under four minutes. In mediumship, the best mediums seem to have developed over a period of time. Sophia Williams, one of the most-tested mediums of yesteryear, wrote that it took her four years of daily practice in learning the art of relaxation and complete detachment before the spirits were able to get messages through her. Gladys Osborne Leonard, another renowned medium of the past, wrote that she had 26 failures before receiving a spirit message. She gradually developed from that point.  How many people have that kind of patience, persistence, and perseverance?

Physical Limitations: Only a very small percentage of humans have the physical foundation, i.e., slender frame, exceptional heart, proper mix of fast- and slow-twitch muscle fibers, etc., to build on and develop into running a sub-4 mile.  No doubt, many of those who have the physical makeup never get the opportunity to recognize it.  And so it seems with mediums, that only a very small percentage have the “gift” to be good mediums, and there are likely many with the gift who have never recognized it or developed it.
Wide Range of Ability:  There is a wide range of ability in running among humans. Elite distance runners can cover the 26.2-mile marathon in close to two hours, but the average marathon finisher these days is much closer to four hours. Those who haven’t trained for the distance would likely struggle to finish in two days, if at all.  Such a wide spread of ability or talent seems to exist among humans in the area of mediumship. There are a few “world-class” mediums and there are some with just a modicum of talent, while most people have no real mediumistic talent. Nevertheless, many skeptics assume that if one medium can produce a certain phenomenon, then all mediums should be able to replicate it. It’s a black and white world for most skeptics.

Abilities Differ:  Generally, a world-class miler lacks the speed for sprints and may even lack the ability to be a good marathoner.  Moreover, world-class sprinters do not make good milers or marathoners. The sprinter has mostly fast-twitch muscle fibers, the marathoner mostly slow-twitch fibers and the miler has about half fast-twitch and half slow-twitch. The nature of the fibers seems to be mostly genetic, not something one can easily convert from one to the other. Likewise, a good trance-voice medium does not necessarily have the ability to be a direct-voice medium or even a good automatic-writing medium. Mediums can be as different as sprinters, milers, and marathoners in their abilities.  Leonora Piper (see photo/book cover) was considered one of the best “mental” mediums of her time, but there is no indication that she had any ability as a “physical” medium, one who could be levitated by spirits or produce the ectoplasm required for materializations.  On the other hand, some of the best physical mediums had little of no ability as mental mediums. I once encountered a clairvoyant medium who thought the famous mediums of the past were mostly charlatans because she couldn’t do the things they reportedly did. . 

Overdoing It: It is well established that a runner can do too much and overtrain, causing him or her to become slower rather than faster.  Researchers studying mediums have recognized that too many or too long sittings by a medium can result in them producing weaker phenomena or in losing their ability completely. Moreover, like runners and other athletes, mediums have their “good” days and their “bad” days.  On their real bad days, nothing is produced and the skeptics then assume they are frauds.

Cheating: Some world-class runners have been known to “cheat” by using steroids or “blood packing” to enhance performance.  Some people with no real running ability have been known to sneak into a marathon from the sidelines during the final mile or two and pretend to have run the full distance while finishing first.  Likewise, some people with no mediumistic ability have pretended to produce phenomena, while some with a little mediumistic ability have used tricks to exaggerate their abilities. 

Declining Years:  Competitive runners have their peak years before a decline sets in, primarily the result of aging, but also because of mental fatigue or loss of motivation. Mediums also appear to have limits in this regard.  Leonora Piper’s ability peaked during her early 30s and was in serious decline during her 40s.  “Burnout” seems to be a problem with mediums as well as runners. 

Performance Anxiety: It goes without saying that nearly all athletes warm up physically before performing and do their best to control their emotions and settle in mentally before the start of competition,  They rest and get mentally focused on the event, hoping that nervous energy is properly channeled and does not detract from their performance.  They especially want to avoid “trying too hard,” which can result in a poor performance. And so it seems to be with mediums.  Many have failed to produce phenomena at all on days they could not achieve the necessary passivity or when otherwise they had too many unrelated things on their minds. They simply couldn’t get tuned in to the spirit world. Hamlin Garland, one of the early researchers, reported that he waited as long as four hours in the dark for phenomena to begin. In a sitting with medium Mary Curyer Smith at the home of the famous physicist Professor Amos Dolbear, nothing happened for over an hour and Dolbear was ready to give up. Garland persuaded him to wait a little longer and soon books began flying from nearby shelves in Dolbear’s library over their heads.  There was enough light for them to see shadowy hands piling them on the table in front of them, after which a spirit named “Wilbur” began conversing with them. (See blog of December 30, 2013 in the archives at left for the role of harmony in sittings.)

Amateurism:  Professionalism was frowned upon in both athletics and mediumship in the early years. Aileen Riggin, winner of a gold medal in the 1920 Olympic Games and silver and bronze in the ’24 Games (in bottom right photo, giving swimming exhibition with Johnny “Tarzan” Weissmuller in 1926.), told me during an interview how she was ostracized for turning professional (giving swimming and diving exhibitions) after the Paris Olympics.  She could not enter the front door of athletic clubs, as professionals were allowed to enter only through the back door. Based on various biographies and autobiographies from that era, charging for mediumship seems to have been considered just as wicked and shameful as it was in sports.

Validation:  Controls in competitive running are strict.  A world-record cannot be recognized unless the officials are all certified, having met certain educational and experience standards, and electronic timing devices must all be calibrated. In psychical research, strict controls are also expected, but the problem is that the strictest controls, such as tying mediums up, seem to constrain or restrain abilities by making them uncomfortable and disrupting the harmony.

History: The mediumship “epidemic” is said to have started in 1848 with the Fox Sisters of New York, while the running “craze” is seen as beginning with Dr. Kenneth Cooper’s 1968 book, Aerobics. It took 20 to 30 years for each to reach a peak in popularity, before a decline in interest set in. The general public never really grasped the difference between jogging (for health) and running (for sport), the latter involving much risk-taking that can result in anti-health, anti-fitness, e.g., dysfunctional knees, ankles, feet, as well as a loss of upper-body strength. The newspapers would report that 25,000 “runners” participated in a race, when only about one percent actually ran, the other 99 percent jogging, strolling, or walking the distance. In the area of mediumship, neither the general public nor science fully grasped that the afterlife being explored by psychical research with mediums was not the pursuit of religious beliefs. 

I don’t know if there is any meaning to all those parallels, similarities, or correspondences, beyond sport being a microcosm of the more serious aspects of life, but, as stated, I found the sport of long-distance running to be a self-actualizing pursuit, not simply fun and games.  It offered numerous lessons in overcoming adversity and prompted much existential thinking, or soul-searching,  along the way.  As the late Sir Roger Bannister put it: “Only in something like running can finality be achieved, the sort of finality that is almost perfection. But it is not the kind of perfection that leaves you with nothing to live for. You are not your own executioner, because sport is not the main aim of life. Yet to achieve perfection in something, however small, makes it possible to face uncertainty in the more difficult problems of life.”

Bannister recalled that first sub-4 effort: “The faint line of the finishing tape stood ahead as a haven of peace after the struggle.”  Leaping at the tape he was “like a man taking his spring to save himself from the chasm that threatens to engulf him.”  It was not the end, though. The greatest part was yet to come – liberation! “No words can be invented for such supreme happiness, eclipsing all other feelings,” he related, adding that he felt bewildered and overpowered.”

Is there a better simile for life’s end than the finishing tape of an all-out mile run?

Michael Tymn is the author of The Afterlife Revealed: What Happens After We Die, Resurrecting Leonora Piper: How Science Discovered the Afterlife, and Dead Men Talking: Afterlife Communication from World War I.
His latest book, No One Really Dies: 25 Reasons to Believe in an Afterlife is published by White Crow books.

Next blog post:  April 10

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Too Much ‘Beating Around The Bush’ on the “Afterlife”

Posted on 14 March 2023, 10:27

As a 13-year-old high-school freshman in 1951, I competed in my first running event at a track meet, the 180-yard low hurdles. I was in first place going over the final hurdle, but nobody told me that you were supposed to keep going another 20 or so yards to the finish line after clearing the final hurdle.  Thus, I triumphantly slowed to a walk after clearing that last hurdle. By the time I realized that I had another 20 yards to go to the finish line, a competitor from the other school had passed me and I ended up in second place. Thus began my life-long search to identify and better understand the true finish line. In life’s race, I have already cleared the final hurdle and have only yards to go, if not just feet or inches.  I want to get it right this time and I want others who haven’t been properly coached to know more about the finish line. What they do get from the “coaches” is in academic language, but most don’t understand it unless they get it in layperson’s language.


As I see it, all the chaos and turmoil, i.e., the craziness, in today’s world, has its roots in materialism as promoted by the entertainment and advertising industries, as well as the mainstream media. That materialism has extended to hedonism, of which nihilism is the core.  With the decline of religion, life no longer has meaning for most people.  The results are a serious decline in the work ethic, increasing cultural conflicts, the pursuit of “fun” instead of happiness, and the loss of hope that comes with recognizing that this world is part of a larger world, a conviction that can be independent of religion. Contributing to the problem is the fact that the younger generation doesn’t see the progress that was made during the last century and is trying to expedite progress by forcing acceptance of values that otherwise take time to establish themselves.  In so doing, they are going in reverse.  They fail to recognize that overcoming adversity is our greatest teacher and the lessons learned from overcoming adversity can’t be imposed on people.  They must be nurtured over time.  They are “jerking the trigger” rather than “squeezing the trigger.” 

One of the major problems I see, somewhat paradoxically, is “beating around the bush” on the concern for the survival of consciousness at death.  Even my terminology is tippy-toeing around the common words, afterlife and life after death. In a recent internet post, Suzanne Taylor, who is identified as a writer, networker, and transformational strategist, asked,  “What is the one thing we need most to save humanity?” She answered her question by saying that “the most important thing that could happen would be to adopt a new story of who we are and what we are doing here. If we think we are sinners we create a different world than if we think we are glorious. And how we can come by that understanding is to tune into what is called the Universe Story.”  She goes on to say that this involves understanding ourselves as the magnificent creation of a 3.8-billion year process of evolution, from cosmic dust to us, and the best way to arrive at that understanding is to tune into its most charismatic brilliant storyteller, Brian Swimme, whose newest book, Cosmogenesis: An Unveiling of the Expanding Universe, explains it all in detail.

I went to Professor Swimme’s book synopsis at Amazon and read that “in terms of the universe’s development, we humans are not only economic, religious, or political beings. At the most fundamental level, we are cosmological beings.”  That sounds good, though I think I knew that, or at least suspected it, even if I didn’t use the same adjective before “beings.”  Swimme’s latest book, it is stated, tells the story of the universe while simultaneously telling the story of the storyteller. Swimme describes how the impact of the new story deconstructed his mind then reassembled it, offering a glimpse into how cosmogenesis has transformed our understanding of both the universe and the evolution of human consciousness itself. 

The Amazon synopsis further states that “Cosmogenesis is one of the greatest discoveries in human history, and it continues to have a profound impact on humanity. And yet most science books do not explore the effects it has had on our individual minds.” I also noted that two of Swimme’s primary influences are Pierre Teilhard de Chardin and Alfred North Whitehead.  Having read the works of both philosophers in the past and recalling that I struggled to understand what they were saying, I doubted that I would understand Swimme.  While I sometimes get the gist of what they are writing for their more intellectual readers, I am puzzled at their reluctance to use such words as “afterlife” “life after death,” or even the seemingly more academic “survival of consciousness at death.”  They all seem to imply that consciousness continues after death, or they leave it to the reader to infer that’s what they are talking about. Chardin mentions souls uniting with Jesus in distant future, or something to that effect, while Whitehead’s discusses “objective immortality,” a term which apparently has no clear-cut interpretation among those subscribing to Whitehead’s “process theology.”

Religion, in fact, for the great majority of our own race means immortality, and nothing else.

Going further back, to William James, one of the pioneers of psychology and cosmology, his 1902 classic, The Varieties of Religious Experience, never really addressed the survival issue, the very crux of religion. He mentioned the “eternal,” and “salvation” several times, and ,” and said there is some evidence that there is consciousness outside of the primary consciousness, but that’s as far as he went in that direction. Not once did he mention Leonora Piper, the trance medium he called the “White Crow,” the one who proved all crows are not black – the one who offered overwhelming evidence to other researchers that consciousness does survive death.  According to Professor James Hyslop, one of those researchers, Professor James asked Richard Hodgson, another of the researchers and James’s good friend, to review the proofs of his book – which was actually a collection of lectures he had given – before they were printed. Hodgson was somewhat perplexed at the fact that in the 400-plus pages of the book, James never directly addressed the survival issue. He let James know of his disappointment in that respect.  Whether to appease Hodgson or to correct his oversight, James then added a postscript to the book.  In it, he wrote: “Religion, in fact, for the great majority of our own race means immortality, and nothing else. God is the producer of immortality, and whoever has doubts of immortality is written down as an atheist without further trial. I have said nothing in my lectures about immortality or the belief therein, for me it seems a secondary point. If our ideals are only cared for in ‘eternity,’ I do not see why we might not be willing to resign their care to other hands than ours.” 

I have no idea what James was suggesting in that last sentence.  He went on to say that he believed facts are yet lacking for “spirit return,” even though he fully respected the research carried out by Hodgson and Hyslop with Mrs. Piper and others strongly suggesting such return.  “I consequently leave the matter open, with this brief word to save the reader from possible perplexity as to why immortality got no mention in the body of the book.

Humbug is humbug….

While writing that survival was a “secondary” concern, James also wrote that “the luster of the present hour is always borrowed from the background of possibilities it goes with. Let our common experiences be enveloped in an eternal moral order. (emphasis mine) In concluding the book, before the postscript, James stated, “I can, of course, put myself into the sectarian scientist’s attitude, and imagine vividly that the world of sensations and of scientific laws and objects may be all. But whenever I do this, I hear that inward monitor of which W. K. Clifford once wrote, whispering the word ‘bosh!’ Humbug is humbug, even though it bear the scientific name, and the total expression of human experience, as I view it objectively, invincibly urges me beyond the narrow ‘scientific’ bounds.” 

I wonder if James, Chardin, Whitehead and many others are simply “beating around the bush” in order to not offend their more ‘intellectually astute” readers – those locked into scientific fundamentalism who might scoff or sneer if they, God forbid, actually used more descriptive, unworldly words, such as immortality, afterlife, life after death, survival of consciousness, whatever.  Then again, it may have been a matter of getting it past the editors or publishers who might anticipate academic and scientific rejection of the ideas. 

Since Taylor invited readers to comment on her ideas, I did so and stated that, as I see it, the basic problem today is that with increasing materialism there is an increasing loss of meaning in life,  resulting in a nihilistic mindset and fear of eternal extinction. While such fears are for the most part subconscious, they significantly affect our behavior and mental state. I went on to say that those who have succeeded in open-mindedly examining the evidence for survival are able to develop a conviction that consciousness does survive death in a greater reality, one that is for the most part beyond human comprehension, although all indications are that it is not the humdrum heaven and horrific hell of orthodoxy.  I avoided using those simple-minded words of “afterlife” and “life after death” as I did not want to come across as a religious nut. 

Taylor’s response to me was a little ambiguous, but I inferred that she had interpreted my comment as suggesting that one should be focused on the afterlife as if some cloistered monk. As I interpreted her words, the focus should be on “smelling the roses” here, not “seeing into the afterlife.” And so the language struggle usually goes, trying to get the other person to understand that examining the evidence and having a conviction that consciousness does survive death does not mean that one has forsaken this life and is anxious to make the transition to the next.

Discussing the “survival” aspect of death involves walking a language tightrope so as not to offend those stuck in the muck and mire of scientific fundamentalism or religious fundamentalism. A major obstruction in the discussion is the idea of God.  Both the scientific fundamentalists and the religious fundamentalists seem to assume that an anthropomorphic God has to be identified and proven before the survival evidence can be examined.  Professor James even said so. I always argue that the evidence for survival can be intelligently examined without an a priori God. The scientific fundamentalist reacts to that with a look of surprise, while the religious fundamentalist reacts with an expression of shock.

“What are you talking about?”
And therein, as I view it from my lowly porch, we have the major problem. The finger is not even on the trigger.

Michael Tymn is the author of The Afterlife Revealed: What Happens After We Die, Resurrecting Leonora Piper: How Science Discovered the Afterlife, and Dead Men Talking: Afterlife Communication from World War I.
His latest book, No One Really Dies: 25 Reasons to Believe in an Afterlife is published by White Crow books.

Next blog post:  March 27



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More Spirit Teachings from Imperator

Posted on 27 February 2023, 9:27

The Imperator group of 49 apparently advanced spirits had much more to communicate through the mediumship of William Stainton Moses, an Anglican priest, than what is summarized in the last two blogs here.  Some of it came through the trance-voice, while it later came primarily by means of automatic writing.  Members of the small circle, including Dr. Stanhope Speer (seated in photo with Moses standing behind him), often put questions to the Imperator group, but when Moses developed as an automatist, he put his own questions to them.  Some of the messages were from individual spirits, but many were messages of collective thought from the group or from a number within the group.  It is not always clear from the reports as to whether a certain message is coming from Imperator himself, from one of the group, or from all of the group.


Imperator explained to Moses that he was slowly prepared for his mediumship. “We began with you on the material plane. We showed you the powers of spirit over matter, and enabled you to observe the phenomenal results of unseen agencies at work through you. At first, material phenomena sufficed you. By degrees we taught you of ourselves, and instilled into your mind new views of revealed truth. Your mind was enabled to see that not to any one race, or person, or place, or age, has the whole of Divine Truth been given. We showed you the germ of truth that underlies every religion that man has framed for himself.”  They added that they dread apathy more than opposition to their work. “Dead, cold, lifeless indifference which care not to question, and has not sufficient interest to doubt.” They lamented the fact that men are cumbered with dogmas and creeds of human invention, as well as rituals and ceremonies, which detract from the actual spiritual truths. 

The spirits stressed that the physical phenomena that came through Moses’s mediumship was intended as outward evidence of a hidden power, and that it was only a subsidiary of their real work. “We judged it wise to withdraw you, in time, from the public position of a teacher in a Church which no longer represented your intellectual and religious plane of thought…You have come to see that anthropomorphic views of God are born of man’s ignorance; that the revelation of God is frequently but the imagination of man; that the incarnation of the Supreme in a body of flesh is a human figment; a superstition which advanced knowledge puts aside, with its erroneous doctrines,  its degrading views of God. You have learned that man needs no external Saviour, and that duty honestly performed to self, brother, and to God is the only passport to happiness.”

They further explained they were not permitted to interfere in the chain of cause and effect, to save man from the consequences of his sin, to pander to idle curiosity, or to change the world from a state of probation. Moreover, they told him that their purpose was not to offer communication with his personal friends or the deceased loved ones of his friends and that such mediumship runs the risk of possession by undeveloped spirits, those closest to the earth plane. “We can but offer, and protect and guide and train, and prepare the willing mind for future progress.”

On the subject of planes or spheres in the afterlife, the group communicated that the spheres are states, not places, and that they are not governed by conditions of time and place as we are. “The difference between the spheres is caused by the moral, intellectual, and spiritual state of the inhabitants,” they communicated. “Affinities congregate, and rejoice in congenial society. Not from neighbourhood or locality, but from similarity of tastes or pursuits. Into the spheres of the higher spirits none that are unholy enter. Into the lower are congregated those who yet require teaching and guidance, which they receive from higher spirits who leave their own bright homes in order to add a ray of light to groping, earth-bound spirits.”

Such are they who have made little progress in the earth sphere; not the wholly bad, but the vacillating, aimless souls who have frittered away their opportunities and made no use of them.

It was further stated that the spheres are pictured to human minds as places like our world as it is impossible for us to understand them otherwise. Things that are real to them are imperceptible and impalpable to our rude senses.  They are not limited by space as we are but their surroundings are, to their refined senses, as real as ours.  They further explained that the first three spheres are near the earth plane. “The first with those who, from many causes, are attracted to earth. Such are they who have made little progress in the earth sphere; not the wholly bad, but the vacillating, aimless souls who have frittered away their opportunities and made no use of them. Those, again, whom the affections and affinity for pursuits of their friends restrain them from soaring, and who prefer to remain near the earth sphere, though they might progress. In addition, there are the imperfectly trained souls whose education is still young, and who are in course of elementary teaching; those who have been incarnated in imperfect bodies, and have to learn still what they should have learned on earth. Those, too, who have been prematurely withdrawn from earth, and, from no fault of their own, have still to learn before they can progress.”

Reincarnation was one subject in which they couldn’t give a direct answer, but they did say that reincarnation, in the sense which it is popularly understood, is not true. “We have said, too, that certain great spirits, for certain high purposes and interests, have returned to earth and lived again amongst men.  There are other aspects of the question which, in the exercise of our discretion, we withhold; the time is not yet come for them.  Spirits cannot be expected to know all abstruse mysteries, and those who profess to do give the best proof of their falsity.”

It was explained that the words used by Moses are those in his vocabulary, but the thoughts are theirs. The handwriting differed as evidence of their individuality.  They again pointed out that the physical manifestations were solely to offer evidence of their existence. “They are necessary in the present stage of our work, and for some minds will always be necessary. Therefore, we have produced for you from time-to-time marvels. We have warned you not to fix too strong an interest in them, and have told you that in many cases they are harmful. In all they are but secondary.” They added that the physical mediumship can be dangerous to its possessor, and that it is serviceable only to those who are learning the alphabet of spirit communication.

They further pointed out that the physical phenomena are produced by spirits who can produce them best. “Those spirits are the lowest and most earthly; either those who have passed through incarnation without progress, or those who have reached but not attained to it. These last are most powerful agents, but they know no distinctions of morality. It would be absurd and foolish to you if the progressed spirits of humanity were to be put forward as the agents in what you contemptuously describe as the moving of furniture.” The more advanced spirits, they said, no longer have any power over gross matter and therefore are unable to produce such physical phenomena.

We warn you again against deceptive agencies, which abound and will be increasingly active.

Spirit photographs, they said, are pictures of spirit substance, not of spirits themselves. They are moulded models framed to invite recognition.  “They would be made either by the spirit himself or by some spirits who are acting under his direction, save in cases where deceptive agencies are at work. We warn you again against deceptive agencies, which abound and will be increasingly active. You must expect many such assaults. Our mission is too important not to challenge envy and attack. We warn you.”

Imperator added: “You must remember that those of us who operate on the plane of spirit rather than of matter, do so on your earth under conditions that are very delicate and precarious.  Matter has faded from our gaze, and when we return to the material plane, we see nothing of it.  All we see is the spirit. We could not present ourselves for a photograph, but we might commission other spirits to present an image of us.”

Imperator further explained that when spirits appear to humans, they do so in forms recognizable to them. “We array ourselves in such sort as you would expect us to appear. If the spirit is showing itself to its own friends, it would appear in the semblance of the dress it was in the habit of wearing in earth-life; and would specially exaggerate, or draw attention to, any peculiarity of gesture, dress or demeanour which would identify it.”  When they are rejected by loved ones on the earth plane, they suffer bitter pain, corresponding to the intensity of job with which a spirit finds itself still loved and recognized.”

Asked whether they require food, Imperator replied that it is not food as we understand it. “We are supported by the spirit ether which interpenetrates space, and by which your spirit bodies are even now supported. It is the universal food and support of the spirit, whether incarnated or not. Will-power suffices for our movements. We are attracted by sympathy, repelled by antipathy, drawn by desire on our part, or on that of those who wish for our presence.”

Michael Tymn is the author of The Afterlife Revealed: What Happens After We Die, Resurrecting Leonora Piper: How Science Discovered the Afterlife, and Dead Men Talking: Afterlife Communication from World War I.
His latest book, No One Really Dies: 25 Reasons to Believe in an Afterlife is published by White Crow books.

Next blog post: March 13

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“Higher level spirits” On Truth, God, Jesus, & The Resurrection

Posted on 13 February 2023, 7:25

“Our work is an organized missionary effort to disseminate Truth, without which the spiritual life of your world would die.  Of religion there is but little amongst you, and what little there is has, in most cases, lost its power to influence life and action. The vitality has gone, and the appearance alone remains. As it was in the time of Christ, so now. Men are anxiously looking for something that is to come.”


So communicated the spirit known as Imperator through the mediumship of William Stainton Moses, an Anglican priest who developed mediumistic abilities in 1872. It was explained that messages seemingly coming from one spirit in the Imperator group of 49 spirits were usually collective messages from many spirits in the group, even if only one spirit seemed to be communicating. It was further explained that the lack of interest by humans makes it difficult for them to get through to our world. “Men care little for being taught; they seek rather to be amused. We do what we can, hampered by many disadvantages, attacked on the one side by the ceaseless machinations of spiritual foes, and hindered from advance on the other by the dead, cold faith of men, or his undeveloped and unreceptive spirit.” (See prior blog for more background on Moses and the Imperator group of 49. References to Imperator as “he” or “they” should not be construed as an attempt at “woke” journalism.). 

It was explained that higher spirits can exist for only a short time in our atmosphere, and that it is often difficult for them to communicate with those on the earth plane, while spirits more recently departed are more able to get through. “Many spirits, with the best of intentions, communicate the most erroneous doctrines as they have not lost the theological fog gathered during earth lives,” Imperator continued. “Those of whom you speak may be unknowingly the agents of adversaries, who seek to perpetuate doctrines which we might fight against with determined energy. We have descended to your world for nothing else than to reveal Truth to man.”                                                                                                                                     

Moses or one of the sitters in his small circle asked what was meant by Truth.  “If by Truth you mean accurate and precise statements about matters which, from their nature, transcend human knowledge, then no doubt neither we nor any can reveal to you exact Truth, seeing that you are not capable of understanding it,” Imperator responded. “But if you mean, as you should, a higher revelation of facts which concern man to know, which will develop his intelligence, and raise him to an advanced plane of knowledge, then we have come for no other purpose than to reveal to you such Truth. It is the very object of our mission. We come neither to amuse nor to astonish, but only to instruct and develop. All that we do has its end the revealing of higher and more extended views of truth.”

At a different sitting, Imperator said, “We can no more tell you of our life than you can convey to a deaf and dumb and blind man the true notions of your world.”

Earlier, Dr. Stanhope Speer, a member of the circle who sat with Moses, who was in a trance state, asked about the teachings of the Church. “The doctrines taught by the Church are faulty,” one of the 49 called Elliotson responded. “The life of the Man Christ Jesus on earth was a pattern life, intended for the example of man. But, in so far as it was deemed to be an atonement by way of a sacrifice for sin, this was a falsehood, degrading to God, degrading to that pure and stainless Spirit, to whom such things were falsely attributed, and misleading to souls who rest on blind faith, and falsely imagine their credulity would be accounted a virtue.”

Elliotson went on to state that God reveals to man that which he is able to bear, so that it is progressive. Dr. Speer asked for clarification of the text that says “the blood of Jesus Christ cleanest all from sin.”  Elliotson replied: “Set aside a doctrine so cold, so hard, so bitter, and take the spiritual meaning that underlies Christ’s life and teaching. The pattern life is to you the model of what many may become, pure and holy, ennobled by suffering, and elevated by charity.  To that life you may look; following it will rescue you from sin, and lead you to that which is noble. You err in following too closely the words of fallible men or building on them an edifice the foundation of which is error, and the superstructure fallacy.”

After explaining that God, to his understanding, is not of a limited personality and had never been enshrined in a human body, Elliotson cautioned that it is a fatal error to reduce God to a Force or some anthropomorphic delusion.  “In early days, man framed a god for himself, a human tyrant, yea, worse than man can be. God is really an informing, energizing Spirit. He supplies the light and love that give beauty to all around you. The Divine Life is brought home to you in the life of Christ. God is not a force, nor the impersonal entity you call Nature.”

Theophilus, another of the 49, added: “Ritual and ceremonial and creed have so filled the thoughts of your churchmen that they have set aside the idea of spirit that underlies them. The first mark of a fading faith is that lack of spirituality which leads men to give up the unseen world, and to busy themselves with the useless husks that surround it. When men are cumbered with dogmas and creeds of human invention, and leave out of view the spiritual truths that underlie them, it is clear that faith is on the wane.”

Imperator said that he was “inclined to believe” that the claims of Jesus were overstated and that the disciples who recorded them did so in a far stronger sense than He Himself would have. “Doubtless, He did claim for Himself a divine mission, as, indeed, it was.  He claimed in hyperbolical Eastern metaphor honour and respect as the Messenger of the Most High.  And His followers, ignorant and uneducated, magnified His claims in the light of the Crucifixion and Resurrection and their attendant wonders. And so the story grew until it has reached the marvelous dimensions which now astonish reflecting men.”

Nevertheless, Imperator explained that Jesus was controlled and animated by spirits who had never been incarnated and that all spiritual light comes from him, reaching the world through innumerable links connected in one vast chain of influence. “It is rare for any high spirit to control directly as we are controlling now,” he continued. “In such cases the medium’s spirit must be considerably developed, and such mediums are rare. The control can be conveyed through a number of links; but when the medium is mentally undeveloped the higher spirits will not endeavour to influence him.  It is not possible for a spirit, as far progressed as the Christ, to directly control mediums on this earth. He was the immediate expression of a separate spiritual phase of the Divine Will. He has left no successor, nor will any ever spring from Him. His influence is entirely devoted to the enlightenment of your globe, for to each globe is assigned its own source of spiritual light.” 

Imperator added that, as in the case of the Buddha, the idea of Christ’s divinity did not arise until many years after His death. “The prophet was exalted at the expense of the message which He delivered,” Imperator continued. “He never claimed any such position as His followers have assigned to Him. He was the mediator between God and man in the truest sense, for He was able to make manifest God’s Truth to the age in which He lived, and, through it, to succeeding ages.  Throughout His whole life He was in direct antagonism to the prevailing spirit of the age, and He met the fate all such must meet with; first maligned, then falsely accused, falsely condemned, and finally executed.”

Imperator said that it was often difficult for him to get through to Moses. “I myself am far away from the medium, and unable to draw nearer to him, on account of his mental and corporeal conditions.  When out of health, I cannot approach him. Spirits recently passed from earth can more readily draw near to him, but we are able to influence from a distance – time and space not existing with us.”

Doctor, one of the 49 in the Imperator group, stressed that the spirit-body is the real man, the earth-body only its temporary clothing. When the earth body is thrown off, the real man is left with all his individuality untouched. He told of different stages in the development of the spirit body, a more-refined body eventually replacing the one that leaves the earth-body. “At each successive stage the spirit accretes to itself a similar body, and throws aside one which has become unsuited to it. Hence, each change of state is accompanied by one somewhat analogous to death.”

Asked about the resurrection of Jesus, Doctor replied, in part: “In fabricating such a theory they have missed the truth, though they have partially enshrined it in their dogma. The body of earth, friend, cannot be restored when once it has been resolved into its elemental state. It is dissipated once and for ever, and in future combinations becomes the perpetual constituent of other forms of matter. The fabled resurrection cannot be. But men have taken no account of another body…the Spirit Body. The real man rises from earth and is transported to his real home….The appearance of Jesus was of the Spirit Body, which He was enabled to manifest in tangible form. The earth body never rose.”  Doctor added that the three archangels who were concerned in governing the life of Jesus – Gabriel, Michael, and Raphael – aided by spiritual power, removed the body.

Imperator communicated that earth-bound spirits had somehow gained the upper-hand and commented that Spiritualism was on its last trial and would probably pass into another phase. “There is in Spiritualism a growing and most fatal influence,” Imperator lamented, “a spiritual form of materialism which results from the study of phenomena only.  Men care only for the force and refuse to recognize the various forms of intelligence that underlie it. Matter is an accident; spirit is reality. All the religious systems of the world rest on a belief in the future life. Owing to the materialistic atmosphere round the world, there is too great a tendency to smother Divine Truth under a whole host of phenomena. If people rest content with these only, it would have been better for them to leave the subject alone. We hope, however, that many will rise above the phenomenal aspects of the subject and seek for those higher spiritual truths to which the former have only served as an introduction.”

Michael Tymn is the author of The Afterlife Revealed: What Happens After We Die, Resurrecting Leonora Piper: How Science Discovered the Afterlife, and Dead Men Talking: Afterlife Communication from World War I.
His latest book, No One Really Dies: 25 Reasons to Believe in an Afterlife is published by White Crow books.

Next blog post:  Feb. 27 (More from Imperator)

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Why Spirit Communication Has Waned

Posted on 30 January 2023, 9:29

People often ask why the communication coming from the spirit world during the first 30 or so years of the so-called spiritualism epidemic, from 1850 until around 1880, was so different, seemingly so much better, more dynamic, and offering more “teachings” than what we now have . They see this decline in quality and quantity as suggesting that the early mediumship was just a lot of bunk.  A progressive mindset expects improvement, not regression.  If, however, we can accept messages coming through a credible medium, William Stainton Moses, (below) the reason for the decline is that the spirit world pulled back because of frequent intrusions by devious, low-level spirits which they did not anticipate and which were confusing people and disparaging many good mediums. Moreover, indications are that they had provided all they had intended to impart in the way of “teachings,” all that humans could understand relative to their world.


By 1880, the same teachings were being repeated over and over again through different mediums. The primary teachings were that, yes, consciousness continues after death in a larger life, something very much in question at the time due to the impeachment of religion by science, especially after Darwinism took hold during the 1860s, and that the larger life is much more complex, dynamic, and progressive than the humdrum heaven (and horrific hell) taught by religions. Another important teaching was that souls do not become all-knowing or omnipotent upon reaching “heaven.”  They know little, if anything, more than what they departed the material world with, and they continue to learn and advance from their initial state in the afterlife. Unfortunately, many don’t learn much in the physical world and are “earthbound,” continuing in what might be likened to a bad dream, not even aware they are dead. 

When, in 1852, Nathaniel P. Tallmadge, former United States Senator from New York and former Governor of Wisconsin, asked the communicating spirit claiming to be his old friend, John C. Calhoun, former vice-president of the United States, about the purpose of the communication, which began in 1848, the reply came, “My friend, the question is often put to you, ‘What good can come from these manifestations?’ I will answer it.  It is to draw mankind together in harmony, and convince skeptics of the immortality of the soul.”

Not long after, during the early 1850s, Robert Hare, professor of chemistry at the University of Pennsylvania, put much the same question to his deceased father through a medium. He was informed that it was all “a deliberate effort on the part of the inhabitants of the higher spheres to break through the partition which has interfered with the attainment, by mortals, of a correct idea of their destiny after death.”  To carry out this intention, Hare was further told, a delegation of advanced spirits had been appointed.  It was further explained that lower spirits were allowed to take part in the undertaking because they were better able to make mechanical movements and loud rappings than those on the higher realms as they were closer in vibration to the physical plane.  It was usually necessary for the lower spirits to relay messages from more advanced spirits through the human mediums to those on the physical plane. 

The early communication, including the works of Judge John Edmonds, French educator Allan Kardec, Professor Hare, and others, all during the 1850s, seems to have been aimed at providing a better understanding of the larger life, not simply providing evidence of it. But except for the fact that it usually went well beyond the beliefs and knowledge of the medium, it wasn’t evidential to many.  The physical mediumship was, the spirits explained, an attempt to get our attention and open us up to the mental mediumship and the teachings. These teachings came through numerous mediums When the Society for Psychical Research (SPR) was formed in 1882, it focused on evidential communication, not the teachings or more profound subject matter.     

The mediumship of Stainton Moses, an Anglican priest with a master’s degree from Oxford who served as English Master at University College London from 1868 until 1889, seems to have been the last-ditch effort by the spirit world to explain this life and the larger life.  Until 1872, Moses considered all mediumship as nothing more than “twaddle,” but his investigation suggested otherwise and he soon began to realize that he had mediumistic gifts. Spirits began communicating through both his voice and his hand while he sat with a small group of educated friends, including Dr. Stanhope Speer, his wife, Maria Speer, their musician son Charlton Speer, and other professional people.

Charlton Speer, Moses’s biographer, referred to the spirit messages as “inspirational addresses given by various spirits” while Moses was in an entranced condition.  “Touching the manner of these addresses (one or more of which we had at almost every séance) 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,” Charlton Speer wrote. “The voice was different, and the ideas were often not in accordance with those held at the time by [Moses].  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 the method of enunciation.”

The teachings, as set forth in Spirit Teachings and More Spirit Teachings (available from White Crow Books), included numerous subjects—God, Jesus, spirit guides, eternal life, reincarnation, prayer, atheism, obsessing spirits, earthbound spirits, missionary spirits, and judgment, to name only a few.  They came from a band of 49 spirits, what might now be called a “group soul,” under the direction of one called Imperator.  It was explained that Imperator was at too high a vibration to effectively communicate and that others in the group, at a lower vibration, would relay his messages through the medium.  Among the most frequent communicators were Rector, Prudens, Doctor, and Magnus.  “These names are but convenient symbols for influences brought to bear upon you,” was the explanation given for the odd names. “In some cases, the influence is not centralized; it is impersonal, as you would say. In many cases the messages given you are not the product any one mind, but are the collective influence of a number. Many who have been concerned with you are but the vehicles to you of a yet higher influence which is obliged to reach you in that way. We deliberate, we consult, and in many instances you receive the impression of our united thought.”  Near the end, it was revealed that Imperator was the name given to Malachias, a prophet mentioned in the Old Testament.

The primary purpose of the group of 49 was explained by Prudens: “The busy world is ever averse from the things of spirit, life. Men become so absorbed in the material, that which they see and grasp, and hoard up, and they forget that there is a future and spirit life. They become so earthly that they are impervious to our influence; so material that we cannot come near them; so full of earthly interests that there is no room for that which shall endure when they have passed away. More than this, the constant preoccupation leaves no time for contemplation, and the spirit is wasted for lack of sustenance.”

Rector explained that in earlier times spirits communicated with humans in ways less material and that no such means of telegraphy, as raps, was known. “It was not necessary to act through matter, save in rare cases,” he continued. “Spirit spoke to spirit. But, as men grew more corporeal, this could less be done, and to few only. So that a material system of telegraphy was invented.”  That invention, it was said, was by the spirit of Benjamin Franklin, who had joined the spirit world in 1790.  It was at the urging of Emanuel Swedenborg, the renowned Swedish scientist and philosopher, who had transitioned in 1772. 
The messages coming through Moses’s voice were recorded by Mrs. Speer, who said it was impossible for her to capture the beauty and refinement of the manifestations or the power and dignity of Imperator’s influence.  When it was asked how those present could know that what they were hearing was truth and not from some devil in sheep’s clothing, the reply came:  “Man must judge according to the light of reason that is in him.” Imperator further explained that the progressive soul will receive what the ignorant or prejudiced will reject and that God’s truth is forced on none.

When the messages later came through Moses by means of automatic writing, Moses said he had no command or control of the writing. He felt an impulse to write and the words flowed, sometimes in conflict with what he believed and at other times on subjects with which he had not given serious consideration. On May 9, 1874, Cambridge scholars Frederic W. H. Myers and Edmund Gurney visited Moses and observed his mediumship. “That evening was epoch-making in Gurney’s life and mine,” Myers wrote, some eight years before he and Gurney helped organize the SPR.  “With the even tenor of this straightforward and reputable life was inwoven 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,” Myers wrote, adding that he was certain that the messages coming through Moses were not fabricated by him. (As might be expected, Wikipedia makes Moses out to be a complete fraud.)

Imperator explained that most spirits who have the ability to communicate with the earth realm are from the lower three spheres and that it becomes increasingly difficult to communicate as one goes to higher vibrations.  However, those from the higher spheres are able to communicate if they can find the right medium, and Moses was such a medium.  Imperator warned that there were many antagonistic spirits who interfere. 

“It is true that Benjamin Franklin did discover communication by raps, and that he was greatly aided by Swedenborg in awakening interest among spirits in the subject,” Rector stated. “At the time of the discovery it was believed that all denizens of both worlds would be brought into ready communion. But, both on account of the obstinate ignorance of man, and of the extent to which the privilege was abused by spirits who assumed well-known names and personated them and so deceived men, that privilege has been greatly narrowed.”

Moses asked for clarification, and Imperator responded: “These are spirits who have chosen the evil, have put aside promptings and influences of good, and have banded themselves under the leadership of intelligence still more evil, to malign us and to hamper our work.  Such are powerful for mischief, and their activity shows itself in evil passion, in imitating our work, and so gaining influence over the deluded, and most of all, in presenting to inquiring souls that which is mean and base, where we would tenderly lead to the noble and refined.  They are the foes of God and man; enemies of goodness; ministers of evil.  Against them we wage perpetual war.”

As I interpret all that and piece it together, this is what I see: 1) In the wake of scientism, the world was becoming too materialistic, so the Spirit World decided it had to do something to reverse the trend; 2) Advanced spirits figured out how to communicate with the material plane by means of raps; 3) Further experiments by the Spirit World resulted in them figuring out how to levitate people and objects, strum guitars, etc., in order to attract attention; 4) Lower-level spirits, not necessarily evil spirits, were more capable of effecting the various phenomena because they were closer to the earth vibration than more advanced spirits; 5) Advanced spirits used lower-level spirits (well-meaning ones) to assist them in carrying out the phenomena; (6) Advanced spirits provided “teachings” to help people better understand the larger life, but there was much resistance by mainstream science and orthodox religion; 7) Devious earthbound spirits (lower than the low), even closer to the material world in vibration than the decent low-level spirits, began interfering and obstructing the efforts of the advanced spirits, thereby causing even more mayhem and animosity.  8) Sometime around 1880, the Spirit World, began to withdraw, although not completely; 9) With the formation of the SPR and ASPR in 1882, the focus changed to evidential mediumship, but the influence of earthbound spirits continued. 10) There was a resurgence during WWI as many people grieved the loss of loved ones, but as radio, movies, phones, television, computers, etc. developed, they deterred and distracted people from the “quiet contemplation” and passive state required for trance mediumship and so those who might have had mediumistic abilities never recognized them. Psychical research then gave way to parapsychology during the 1930s, the search for spirits and consciousness surviving at death pretty much ending.

Meanwhile, the earthbound spirits continue to prevail on the inner planes while influencing and promoting materialism and hedonism in the physical world.  The advanced spirits have been limited to providing a little aid here and there.
Michael Tymn is the author of The Afterlife Revealed: What Happens After We Die, Resurrecting Leonora Piper: How Science Discovered the Afterlife, and Dead Men Talking: Afterlife Communication from World War I.
His latest book, No One Really Dies: 25 Reasons to Believe in an Afterlife is published by White Crow books.

Next blog post:  February 13 (More on the Imperator group)



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When Did We have Sufficient Evidence of Consciousness Surviving Death?

Posted on 16 January 2023, 10:25

In my essay for the Bigelow Essay competition of 2021, I attempted to make a legal case for life after death having been proved with overwhelming evidence by 1900. I argued that the legal doctrine of Res Judicata, meaning “it has already been decided,” should be applied to the cumulative evidence gathered between 1850 and 1900, and therefore should not require another legal action. Case closed! The issue for this blog is whether 1900 was a realistic year.  Was the case for survival made before that or perhaps later, or not at all.

In my simulated court trial, I offered the testimony of 11 witnesses, including Judge John Edmonds, Dr. George Dexter, Governor Nathaniel Tallmadge, Professor Robert Hare, Professor James Mapes, Professor Alfred Russel Wallace, (below) Sir William Crookes, Sir William Barrett, Rev. William Stainton Moses, Dr. Richard Hodgson, and Sir Oliver Lodge, quoting from their reports and books on their psychical research as if they were testifying at a trial.  I wanted to include Professor James Hyslop, perhaps the most knowledgeable of them all, but the 25,000 word limit for the essay prevented that. Hyslop’s research took place mostly between 1905 and 1920, nearly all after the research by those 11 witnesses, and so he was the one omitted and the line was drawn at 1900 rather than 1920.  I concluded that the case for survival was well established by 1900 and that evidence developed after that year was “icing on the cake.”


Needless to say, the more evidence the better, and had I gone to 1920 and beyond to the present, it would have made for an even stronger case, but I was forced by the “court” to make my case within those 25,000 words. In my closing argument, I mentioned that I could have called many more witnesses to the stand, but if the testimony of those 11 esteemed men wasn’t convincing to the jury members, then it was likely that 22 witnesses wouldn’t convince them.

My simulated court trial involved a civil action, not a criminal one, and therefore the standard involved was a “preponderance of evidence,” meaning that the evidence for outweighed the evidence against, a significantly easier standard than that of “beyond a reasonable doubt,” required by criminal courts and by the contest rules.  It didn’t seem appropriate to apply the criminal standard to the case for survival, as it came across as a defensive measure, so I substituted “overwhelming evidence” to mean the same thing as the desired standard of beyond a reasonable doubt.  In exchange for the extra burden of the higher standard and the fact that the attorney for the survivalists was not introducing evidence beyond 1900, except for one reported by Barrett involving a levitation, the attorney arguing for the nihilists agreed to give the survivalists a bit more latitude in their testimony.

The year 1930 seems like a more reasonable cut-off, as that’s when parapsychology began to replace psychical research.  The change appears to have been prompted by the disagreements of a number of researchers over investigations of three mediums – Mina Crandon, aka “Margery,” George Valiantine, and Rudi Schneider – during the mid and late 1920s. It became increasingly clear from those investigations that “spirit” activity through mediums was not an acceptable explanation for hard-core scientists.  It was a Catch 22 situation. If no other explanation than spirits, it had to be fraud. Even those who supported the spirit explanation for the phenomena had to beat around the bush in stating their conclusions, avoiding as much as possible any reference to spirits. Thus, parapsychology limited its scope to extra-sensory perception (ESP) and psychokinesis (PK) while avoiding any discussion of spirits and survival.

But drawing the line at 1930 would exclude some very impressive and meaningful research with mediums carried out by Dr. T. Glen Hamilton, of Canada, until his death in April 1935.  So an argument can be made that 1935 is a more appropriate year at which to say that the case for survival was fully made. 

Here are conclusions, their exact words, offered in the “trial” by seven of the witnesses named above. It should be kept in mind that these witnesses were not casual observers of the phenomena they reported on; they carried out countless experiments with various mediums over a number of years.  Hodgson, for example, studied Leonora Piper for some 18 years and on the average of three times a week.  Moreover, all the researchers were fully aware of the various debunking theories. 

By Hare, professor of chemistry at the University of Pennsylvania and world-renowned inventor: 

“I sincerely believe that I have communicated with the spirits of my parents, sister, brother, and dearest friends, and likewise with the spirits of the illustrious Washington and other worthies of the spirit world; that I am by them commissioned, under their auspices, to teach truth and to expose error.”

By Mapes, a professor of chemistry at The American Institute and renowned inventor:

“The manifestations which are pertinent to the ends required are so conclusive in their character as to establish in my mind certain cardinal points.  These are:  First, there is a future state of existence, which is but a continuation of our present state of being…Second, that the great aim of nature, as shown through a great variety of spiritual existences is progression, extending beyond the limits of this mundane sphere…Third, that spirits can and do communicate with mortals, and in all cases evince a desire to elevate and advance those they commune with.”

By Wallace, biologist and co-originator with Charles Darwin of the natural selection theory of evolution:

“The spiritual theory is the logical outcome of the whole of the facts. Those who deny it, in every instance with which I am acquainted, either from ignorance or disbelief, leave half the facts out of view.”

By Barrett, professor of physics at the Royal College of Science and renowned inventor:

“I am personally convinced that the evidence we have published decidedly demonstrates (1) the existence of a spiritual world, (2) survival after death, and (3) of occasional communication from those who have passed over.”

By Crookes, a physicist and chemist who discovered the element thallium and was a pioneer in radioactivity: 

“[The phenomena] point to the existence of another order of human life continuous with this, and demonstrate the possibility in certain circumstances of communication between this world and the next.”

By Lodge, professor of physics, a pioneer in electricity and radio, and president of the British Association for the Advancement of Science:

“I tell you with all my strength of the conviction which I can muster that we do persist, that people still continue to take an interest in what is going on, that they know far more about things on this earth than we do, and are able from time to time to communicate with us…I do not say it is easy, but it is possible, and I have conversed with my friends just as I can converse with anyone in this audience now.”

By Hodgson, lecturer in philosophy at Cambridge and later the first full-time psychical researcher: 

“I had but one object, to discover fraud and trickery. Frankly, I went to Mrs. Piper with Professor James of Harvard University about twelve years ago with the object of unmasking her…I entered the house profoundly materialistic, not believing in the continuance of life after death; today I say I believe.  The truth has been given to me in such a way as to remove from me the possibility of a doubt.”

Although Hyslop, who taught philosophy, ethics and logic at Columbia University before becoming a full-time psychologist and psychical researcher, did not testify because of the court limits on time, his deposition was taken before the trial and he stated:
“Personally, I regard the fact of survival after death as scientifically proved.  I agree that this opinion is not upheld in scientific quarters.  But this is neither our fault nor the fault of the facts.  Evolution was not believed until long after it was proved.  The fault lay with those who were too ignorant or too stubborn to accept the facts.  History shows that every intelligent man who has gone into this investigation, if he gave it adequate examination at all, has come out believing in spirits; this circumstance places the burden of proof on the shoulders of the skeptic.”

If we consider the research by Hare, Mapes, Edmonds, Dexter, and Tallmadge, not to mention French educator Allan Kardec and American clergyman Adin Ballou, we can conclude that the case for consciousness surviving death was made before 1860.  Add in Wallace and we can draw the line at 1865. 

Then again, we might put the year at 1892. That was the year that a “spirit” claiming to have been George Pellew (below) began communicating through the mediumship of Mrs. Piper.  Until then, many researchers, including Hodgson and Professor William James of Harvard, who recruited Hodgson to head up the American branch of the Society for Psychical Research in 1887, accepted the genuineness of much of the phenomena but leaned toward a belief that the so-called “spirits” were secondary personalities buried in the medium’s subconscious, and that these secondary personalities could somehow access information telepathically, even at a great distance, or from some kind of “cosmic reservoir” not yet known to science (which later came to be called Super Psi or Living Agent Psi).  As far-fetched as it seemed, it was more “scientific” than communication from spirits of the dead.  The idea of spirits was seen as a return to the follies and superstitions of religion, which had been impeached by science during the 1860s. 


However, Pellew, who died in an accident in New York City at age 32 during February 1892 and began communicating through Piper some six weeks later, demonstrated all the characteristics of the man he claimed to have been in the material world and otherwise displayed too much personality to have been some second-self pretender buried away in Piper’s subconscious.  “To the person unfamiliar with a series of [sittings with Mrs. Piper], it may seem a plausible hypothesis that perhaps one secondary personality might do the whole work, might use the voice and write contemporaneously with the hand,” Hodgson wrote. “I do not, however, think it at all likely that he would continue to think it plausible after witnessing and studying the numerous coherent groups of memories connected with different persons, the characteristic emotions, tendencies distinguishing such different persons, the excessive complication of acting required, and the absence of any apparent bond of union for the associated thoughts and feelings indicative of each individuality, save some persistent basis of that individuality itself.”  Other researchers agreed with Hodgson, although James, perhaps out of concern for sanctioning something too much like religion, which science had already impeached, sat on the fence.”

The basic problem was that there was too much “bosh,” too much “humbug” too much “twaddle,” too many conflicting ideas, coming through many mediums, probably the majority of mediums, even some of the better mediums, such as Mrs. Piper.  Over time, the dedicated researchers were able to filter all this conflicting material out of the communication and still find veridical information outside the scope of fraud, coincidence, chance guessing, whatever theory opposed spirit communication. While religions had led people to believe that those in the spirit world, one they called “heaven,” are all-powerful and all-knowing, the research suggested that this is definitely not the case. The researchers discovered that most “spirits” on the other side know little, if anything, more than they did in the physical world. Moreover, the lower and less-advanced spirits, being at a lower vibration and closer to the earth vibration, were better able to communicate than the advanced spirits.  Among those lower spirits were some with malevolent intentions.  That’s a subject for the next blog.

Whether the spirits communicating were advanced and benevolent or lowly and malevolent, the early research definitely provided overwhelming evidence that consciousness survives death.  I’ll stick with the case for survival having been made by 1900. Res Judicata.

Michael Tymn is the author of The Afterlife Revealed: What Happens After We Die, Resurrecting Leonora Piper: How Science Discovered the Afterlife, and Dead Men Talking: Afterlife Communication from World War I.
His latest book, No One Really Dies: 25 Reasons to Believe in an Afterlife is published by White Crow books.

Next blog post: January 30.

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Bible Scholar Explores Modern Psychic Phenomena

Posted on 02 January 2023, 9:58

Although I consider myself a Christian, even if an unorthodox one, some of my orthodox Christian friends think I’ve been hoodwinked by Satan because of my interest in paranormal phenomena, especially mediumship. My most memorable encounter in this regard took place seven or eight years ago when a lawyer friend invited me to accompany him to a monthly luncheon of an organization of Christian lawyers.  When my friend introduced me to the president, a young female lawyer, he mentioned that I had authored a few books on spiritual matters.  The young woman asked me what they were about.  I hesitated in answering, but when the word “mediumship” was mentioned, she curled her nose and furiously responded with, “How can you live with yourself?” She did an immediate, near military, about-face and stormed away. Another attorney, who was in on the conversation, then attempted to explain her reaction, telling me how Scripture forbids such a demonic interest. I didn’t feel it appropriate or timely then to engage him in a debate and point out various conflicts in the Bible, including likely misinterpretations or mistranslations from the Hebrew and Greek to English, concerning communication with the spirit world. I just shook my head in bewilderment.

It has long been mystifying to me that so many orthodox Christians fail to see the support that psychical research can give to their beliefs, enough support to help them move from blind faith to conviction, or to help the many losing their faith to rediscover it.  It was therefore something of a relief to recently read Encountering Mystery, subtitled “Religious Experience in a Secular Age,” by Dr. Dale C. Allison Jr., (below) a professor of New Testament Studies at Princeton Theological Seminary. “Christian leaders have, unfortunately, often sought to suppress, marginalize, demonize, and erase otherworldly experiences,” Allison writes. “From a historical point of view, the reasons for this have been manifold.”  Among the reasons he lists is “practices that allowed for contact with the dead.”  Interestingly, he states that Catholic theology had supplied a “congenial framework” for reception of stories about seeing the dead, but Protestantism censured it.  He notes that evangelical Protestants are the group least likely to say they have been in touch with a dead person.


Allison explores dreams, prayer, angels, near-death experiences (NDEs), terminal lucidity, death-bed visions, and other subjects that both orthodox religions and materialistic science have done their best to avoid or discourage.  He offers many little anecdotal stories in connection with the various phenomena. “Dismissing them one and all as anecdotal,” he opines, “requires that large swaths of our fellow citizens are absolutely wretched observers or wholly untethered from the truth. I prefer to think that at least some of them are halfway decent witnesses, and that all the testimony, taken together, pushes against reduction to the ordinary.” He further cites the research carried out by a number of enlightened scientists and scholars to support the anecdotal evidence. At the same time he recognizes the garden-variety debunking theories, such as oxygen deprivation, hallucinations, fraud, etc. 

Early in the book, he tells of his own mystical experiences. “Words can’t begin to describe what this was like,” he writes of one of three experiences. “It will stay with me for the rest of my life. It confirms me in my belief that underneath all this mess is absolute joy.”   

In discussing NDEs, Allison makes a point that provided some timely self-examination as I read it.  I woke up that morning with a fairly vivid recollection of a dream. This happens every now and then, maybe once a month at most. Recollection of most dreams disappears within seconds of waking up.  I recalled this dream in some detail and related it to my wife about 30 minutes after awakening.  About 10 hours later, while reading the chapter of Allison’s book on NDEs, I noted his concern about why so many people who have had similar near-death experiences do not have recollections of mystical happenings.  Allison wonders if those who don’t report them, simply don’t remember them, and if it might be like recalling dreams. “This is not to imply that the NDE is a dream,” he states. “My point is instead this. To narrate an NDE is to remember it, and perhaps, just as the ability to recall dreams may differ (for whatever reason) from person to person, so the ability to recall NDEs may differ (for whatever reason) from situation to situation.”

After reading Allison’s words, I thought back to the dream of that morning and couldn’t remember what it was about.  I remembered having enough detail to tell my wife about it a half-hour later, but then, 10 hours later, I couldn’t remember anything about it. I can recall having only two somewhat meaningful dreams during my lifetime, but I can remember only the gist of those dreams, not the details.

On the subject of angels, guides, or whatever name be given to them, Allison observes that theologians and biblical scholars generally ignore the popular books about intervening angels, assuming that the storytellers are victims of some kind of deception, whether by others or by self.  ”One wonders why, if there are no emissaries to be seen, natural selection has programmed so many of us to see them,” he muses, going on to point out that given today’s cultural assumptions, church leaders are not as brazen or transparent in dismissing the stories. “…they are more apt to render out-of-the-ordinary experiences inert either by ignoring them altogether or by politely listening and then, as soon as possible, changing the subject.”  The outcome, he continues, is the same – the functional irrelevance of someone’s experience and maintenance of the status quo. 

In the chapter on deathbed phenomena, Allison discusses the mysterious “luminous emanations” occasionally reported around a dying person. He offers a dozen or so testimonials with references and then opines that the phenomenon “raises the odds that expiration of the body is not expiration of the self.” 

Allison does not really get into mediumship or other strictly “taboo” subjects, including materializations and trance mediumship, but he admits in ending the book that there is much he hasn’t discussed. He does mention the materials collected over some five decades by the Religious Experience Research Center (RERC), founded by Sir Alister Hardy, a renowned zoologist, in 1969.  Hardy’s research covered many things which Allison classifies as mystical raptures, apparitions, hearing guiding voices, feeling the presence of the dead, and perceiving the unity of all things. The informed reader is left to wonder if Allison is aware of the volumes of research on the same subject matters carried out by the Society for Psychical Research (SPR) beginning in 1882, long before Sir Alister began his explorations.  “My preemptive defense,” he explains, “is to plead a limited purpose.”  He goes on to say that it is an “inadequate introduction to a vast subject, a deliberately truncated, elementary primer that covers but a handful of representative topics.”

According to Allison, the RREC research, which includes over 6,000 firsthand accounts from around the world, is housed at the University of Wales, but “most theologians and scholars of religion pay this trove no heed as they go about their business.”  And so it is with the SPR material, not to mention the even-more convincing research carried out by the earliest pioneers of psychical research for 30 years before the SPR was formed.  Even the SPR gave little heed to the research between 1850 and 1882. 

Allison mentions some research done in Sweden during the 1990s.  The researchers interviewed 50 people in their early 70s who had lost a spouse within the previous year.  Asked about encounters with the dead husband or wife, only one individual, a spiritualist, admitted to an encounter.  However, after the subjects were informed that apparent contact with the dead is not a symptom of mental illness, half of the 50 subjects admitted to an encounter of one kind or another. 

Readers familiar with all the books and articles on near-death experiences will likely not find much new in that subject matter, but I found it a good refresher and read about several interesting NDEs that I could not recall hearing about before.  For the Christian who accepts only NDEs consistent with Church dogma and doctrines, Allison’s coverage of the subject matter might very well serve as an eye-opener if they dare examine it and thereby risk demonic influence.   

The book is not for the closed-minded skeptic, Allison states. “It rather addresses those who are, because of their worldview, open-minded about its topics, or at least half open-minded.”  He laments the fact that more theologians and pastors aren’t interested in the subject matter. Overall, it is a very interesting and informative read and hopefully will awaken some of the choir. 

As a further sidebar to Allison’s book, I try to explain to my orthodox Christian friends that most of the mediumistic messages are benevolent in one way or another, urging love, compassion, kindness, and empathy, and that psychical research supports the basic tenet of their faith, that consciousness survives death in a larger life. Moreover, many of them pay homage to Jesus, but the usual reaction is that the “spirits” are simply “wolves in sheep’s clothing” trying to lure people into Satan’s camp before pulling the rug out from under them. I agree that one has to be on guard for low-level spirits; that’s why we are told in Scripture “to test the spirits, whether they are of God,” and to discern the messages.  However, the Old Testament passages saying that we should not speak with the “dead” and that the “dead know nothing” always seem to prevail in such discussions. When I ask how we can test the spirits if we don’t communicate with them or why we should discern the messages if they know nothing, they come up with a different interpretation of the New Testament or state that God’s ways are not always known to us – end of discussion.

I find the resistance and indifference by orthodox Christians more mystifying than the mystical aspects of the phenomena themselves.  I reason, however, that too much conviction relative to God and Survival is not necessarily a good thing.  As Victor Hugo was told by a spirit claiming to have been Martin Luther in the material life, “doubt is the instrument which forges the human spirit.”  It may very well be that the orthodox Christian opposition to the mystical phenomena is part of the Divine plan, permitting that necessary doubt and thereby giving our free-will choices – choices without long-term assurances – more impact in helping us to spiritually evolve.       

Michael Tymn is the author of The Afterlife Revealed: What Happens After We Die, Resurrecting Leonora Piper: How Science Discovered the Afterlife, and Dead Men Talking: Afterlife Communication from World War I.
His latest book, No One Really Dies: 25 Reasons to Believe in an Afterlife is published by White Crow books.

Next blog post:  January 16


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Quotes on Life After Death to Ponder on at the End of 2022

Posted on 19 December 2022, 9:00

In this final blog of 2022, I decided to draw one meaningful quote from a blog appearing in each month of the year.  Hopefully, the reader will find at least one that is meaningful to him or her. Thanks to all for the comments and feedback.  Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, and Happy New Year!


A Nihilistic World: “The old order of things has collapsed. In some parts of the world, as in Europe, that collapse has been so complete that it seems everything of the old has been destroyed or lost. Elsewhere, as in our country, much of the staunchness of the old order is still intact; but it is becoming increasingly obvious that even here readjustments are inevitable.” – Betty White (This was a message from the discarnate Betty White to her husband, renowned explorer and author Stewart Edward White, who had asked, through a medium known as Joan, about problems in the world at the time, 1939.  When Stewart asked what had brought about the collapse, Betty responded, “Loss of faith in the present fact of immortality.”)

Humanity Intensified:  “When you come here and your eyes are unsealed, those who meet you will seem quite natural and quite human, as, indeed, we are. In fact, we are more human than you, as you now know yourself, ever dreamed of being. We are humanity intensified many times.”  – Stephen (Stephen was the name of a spirit communicator as reported in the 1920 best-seller “Our Unseen Guest,” by Darby and Joan.)

Individuality of Spirits:  “The voices are of a great variety. I counted in a single evening as many as twenty – some apparently the voices of children, and others of middle-aged persons and old men and women; a few of these are the voices of Indians, and one of a jolly, typical Virginian Negro. Each voice maintains its individuality during the evening and from one evening to another.”  – Isaac Funk  (Dr. Funk was one of the founders of the Funk and Wagnalls publishing firm, which produced the standard American dictionary. He was referring to his visit to a 68-year-old widowed Brooklyn, New York direct-voice medium in 1903.)

Unreasonable Skepticism: “There comes a time at which this hypothesis of universal confederacy must stop; or if not this, that the entire present report may be dismissed off-hand as a deliberate fabrication in the interests of false mediumship. I respectfully submit that no critic who hesitates at this logical climax may by any means escape the hypotheses of validity.  If the present paper is worthy of and if it received the slightest degree of respectful attention, the facts which it chronicles must constitute proof of the existence of Margery’s supernormal faculties, and the strongest sort of evidence that these work through the agency of her deceased brother, Walter.” – Mark Richardson (Dr. Richardson was a physician and Harvard professor of medicine who had countless sittings with medium Mina Crandon, aka “Margery,” and performed a number of experiments with her to rule out trickery.)

Spirit Memory: “As in the case of very old people still in the physical body, those who have experienced the full span of life on earth when they come here recall most easily fragmentary memories of the distant past and fail to recollect near events.  As [Winifred Coombe Tennant] says quite correctly, we seem to swim in the sea of the automatist’s subliminal mind, and any strong current may sweep us away from the memory objectives we have in view, before we attempt to communicate.” –  Gerald Balfour  (Communicating through the automatic writing of medium Geraldine Cummins, Lord Balfour, a British politician when in the flesh, was said to be the leader of a soul group on the Other Side.)

Pseudo Skepticism: “To suggest that these trained observers were all deceived by fraudulent operations, those stupid and very tiresome performances which mislead no one but the uninformed and gullible, is to offer an explanation which offends our reason and shows willful indifference to truth. –  T. Glen Hamilton (Dr. Hamilton, a Canadian physician, surgeon and psychical researcher, was referring to the likes of Sir William Crookes, Sir Oliver Lodge, Professor William James, Professor Charles Richet, and Alfred Russel Wallace, all of whom had investigated various mediums and had deemed them genuine.)

Philistinism: “The ordinary mind may not think things out very far, but it is quick to feel when the central entrenchments of its life are being undermined; and to nothing is it more sensitive than to attacks on its belief in the immortal life.  It feels, and has a right to feel, that when this is destroyed there is nothing left, at last, but a mad and ruthless scramble for the material enjoyments of this present life.” – Howard N. Brown (Dr. Brown wrote for the Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research.)

Consciousness After Death: “I find now difficulties such as a blind man would experience in trying to find his hat.  And I am not wholly conscious of my own utterances because they come out automatically, impressed upon the machine (Leonora Piper’s body)…I impress my thoughts on the machine which registers them at random, and which are at times doubtless difficult to understand.  I understand so much better the modus operandi than I did when I was in your world.”   – Richard Hodgson (the surviving consciousness of Dr. Hodgson as told to Professor William Newbold in a July 23, 1906 sitting with Leonora Piper).

Music from the Spheres: “We had last night an admirable specimen of zither playing, for a length of time. The performer (we don’t know his name yet) actually performed what is called a free prelude; that is to say, a short unbarred composition. The whole thing was most marvelous, for there is no zither in our house, and it is an instrument that cannot be mistaken.” – Stanhope Speer (Dr. Speer reported on a sitting with his friend Rev. William Stainton Moses, a medium, on July 13, 1874.)

Beyond Human Understanding: “I am perfectly convinced that I have both seen, and heard in a manner which should make unbelief impossible, things called spiritual which cannot be taken by a rational being to be capable of explanation by imposture, coincidence, or mistake, But when it comes to what is the cause of these phenomena, I find I cannot adopt any explanation which has yet been suggested. If I were bound to choose among things which I can conceive, I should say that there is some sort of action or some combination of will, intellect, and physical power, which is not that of any of the human beings present.”   – Augustus De Morgan (Professor De Morgan was a renowned British mathematician and pioneering psychical researcher.)

Limited Human Awareness: “The possibilities of the Universe are still largely a sealed book.  We must be unaware of a multitude of things going on all around us, just as we are unaware of the wireless waves passing through the hall at the present moment – waves which would bring us speech or music if we had suitable instruments…If only our eyes were open to see the whole of existence we should be dazzled, blinded – we could not stand it. They are mercifully screened from complete revelation, but we have inklings and suggestions and indications that we are thus screened, that the body isolates us, so as to enable us to act as individuals and to do our work here in the field of matter which we are occupied with for a few years”   – Oliver Lodge (Sir Oliver was a world-renowned physicist and pioneering psychical researcher.)

Drab Earth Life: “How very dim life on earth seems to me now!  I look upon it as a troubled dream, wherein were indeed some bright spots, some kind feelings shed around my path to make it brighter.  I was but the germ placed in a casket of clay, whose inner unfoldings, whose heaven-sent aspirations, should have begun to develop themselves sooner while placed there.” – John C. Calhoun (A former vice-president of the United States, Calhoun communicated with former U.S. Senator Nathaniel Tallmadge on a number of occasions from the spirit world.)

Michael Tymn is the author of The Afterlife Revealed: What Happens After We Die, Resurrecting Leonora Piper: How Science Discovered the Afterlife, and Dead Men Talking: Afterlife Communication from World War I.
His latest book, No One Really Dies: 25 Reasons to Believe in an Afterlife is published by White Crow books.

Next blog: January 3

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When the U. S. Senate Jested Over Spirits

Posted on 05 December 2022, 8:53

In April 1854, a petition by some 15,000 people calling themselves “memorialists”  requested the United States Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives to appoint a scientific commission to conduct an investigation into the strange “occult force” that had been witnessed by so many of them and others in recent years. The petition was spearheaded by Nathaniel P. Tallmadge, who had served the State of New York in the U.S. Senate for 10 years and then the Territory of Wisconsin as its governor before his retirement from public office.


As Tallmadge saw it, the petition involved the most serious subject facing humans – whether or not consciousness survives death in a larger reality. What can me more serious a subject than that? Not even the question of God’s existence can be more serious, as a God without that “larger reality” adds little to life’s meaning.  And, yet, the United States Senate rejected the petition with vainglorious jest.

The occult force was, according to the petition, “exhibited in sliding, raising, arresting, holding, suspending, and otherwise disturbing numerous ponderable bodies, apparently in direct opposition to the acknowledged laws of matter, and altogether transcending the accredited powers of the human mind.”  It had been “manifested to thousands of intelligent and discriminating persons, while the human senses have hitherto failed to detect, to the satisfaction of the public, either the primary or proximate causes of these phenomena.”

The petition further mentioned a variety of sounds, including mysterious rappings which appear to indicate the presence of an invisible intelligence, along with harmonic sounds, as of human voices, but more frequently resembling the tones of various musical instruments, and other strange phenomena.

The petitioners admitted that there were two schools of thought among them relative to the phenomena. “The one ascribes them to the power and intelligence of departed spirits, operating on and through the subtle and imponderable elements which pervade and permeate all material forms; and this, it should be observed, accords with the ostensible claims and pretensions of the manifestations themselves.” Other petitioners rejected this hypothesis and “entertain the opinion that the acknowledged principles of physics and metaphysics will enable scientific inquirers to account for all the facts in a rational and satisfactory manner.” 

In spite of the disagreement relative to cause, both sides concurred in the opinion that “the alleged phenomena do really occur, and that their mysterious origin, peculiar nature and important bearing on the interests of mankind, demand from them a patient, thorough, and scientific investigation.”

Tallmadge was clearly among those subscribing to the spirit hypothesis. He had become interested in the subject after hearing Judge John Edmonds’s report of his investigations of various phenomena. Soon thereafter, his 13-year-old daughter began displaying mediumistic abilities, including playing the piano like an experienced pianist. “She knows nothing of notes or music, and never played the piano before in her life,” he wrote in a letter to Edmonds, whom he had known during his political career. “The first time she played was Beethoven’s Grand Waltz, and then several others with which we were familiar.  After that, she played many we had never heard before, and improvised words suited to the airs, beautiful, and of the highest tone of religious and moral sentiment.”

Beginning sometime in 1852, Tallmadge sat with a number of mediums.  “I have seen rapping mediums, writing mediums, and speaking mediums, and have received communications through all of them,” he wrote.  “I have witnessed physical manifestations, such as the movement of tables, without any visible agency.  These physical manifestations are more satisfactory to the mass of mankind, because they appeal directly to the senses.  I am better pleased myself with the moral, if I may so call them, than the physical manifestations.”

Tallmadge concluded that the “intelligence” behind the phenomena did not come from the objects involved but from a spiritual source.  “I have frequently received such communications of an elevated character, and far above the capacity of the medium,” he further reported. “I conclude, therefore, they do not come from the medium, nor from the mind of the interrogator.”

Tallmadge claimed hearing from several distinguished friends in the spirit world, including John C. Calhoun, (below) former Vice-President of the United States, Daniel Webster, a former U.S. Senator from Massachusetts, and Henry Clay, a former U. S. Senator from Kentucky, all of whom he had known while serving in the Senate. “These communications, too, are perfectly characteristic of the individuals from whom they purport to come,” he stated, mentioning that the style and language of the communication purportedly coming from Webster was “perfectly ‘Websterian,’ from the pure Saxon English which runs throughout the whole of it.”


In a letter dated September 12, 1852, Tallmadge informed Edmonds of communication coming from Calhoun, who had died March 31, 1850, through a medium referred to as “Mrs. S.”  Calhoun informed the circle that because of his inexperience on that side of the veil, he was limited in his ability to communicate.  “I deeply feel the barrenness of my soul, the lack of wisdom, the dread of ridicule, the loss of friends, the thought of enemies which debarred me from participating, from being experienced, from a want of knowledge of this holy privilege,” Calhoun communicated, going on to say, “How very dim life on earth seems to me now!  I look upon it as a troubled dream, wherein were indeed some bright spots, some kind feelings shed around my path to make it brighter.  I was but the germ placed in a casket of clay, whose inner unfoldings, whose heaven-sent aspirations, should have begun to develop themselves sooner while placed there.”

Calhoun continued to communicate with Tallmadge in succeeding months, and then in April of 1853 he asked Calhoun the purpose of the communications.  The question was put to Calhoun mentally so that the medium would not know the question (unless, of course, she could read his mind).  “My friend,” Calhoun replied, “the question is often put to you, ‘What good can result from these manifestations?’  I will answer it:  It is to draw mankind together in harmony, and convince skeptics of the immortality of the soul.”

Tallmadge explained that these communications from Calhoun came through a large, heavy, round table, one at which 10-12 people could sit, by the tilting method (the alphabet recited by the sitters and the table would tilt at the correct letter). He observed the table move as much as three to four feet with nobody near it. During all these movements no person touched it, nor was any one near it,” Tallmadge explained.

In one sitting, Calhoun is said to have taken control of a pencil and wrote, “I’m with you still.”  Tallmadge later showed the paper to a number of Calhoun’s friends, as well as Calhoun’s son, and all found it to be a perfect facsimile of the Calhoun’s writing.  Moreover, they took special note of the contraction “I’m,” which apparently was very unusual at that time, nearly everyone else writing “I am.”  It was pointed out by several of the friends that Calhoun was in the habit of writing “I’m” for “I am.”  (More detail on the communication from Calhoun, Webster, and Clay is offered in my 2011 book, The Afterlife Explorers)

While preferring to avoid public observation, Tallmadge said that he found it necessary to speak out in his defense and in the defense of others who had the moral courage to make their investigations known.  “It seems that when this monomania seizes any of these anti-spiritual denouncers, it is accompanied by a sort of proclivity for slander from which their sanity on other subjects is exempt,” he wrote. “I do not, therefore, incline to hold the gentleman responsible for this retailed slander on Judge Edmonds, or his libelous charge of ‘rank blasphemy’ on me…I can make great allowances for these monomaniacs, and would advise them, in their lucid intervals, to argue this question without denouncing those who investigate it.”

Tallmadge asked Senator James Shields of Illinois to present the petition to the Senate. Shields agreed and began his April 1854 presentation on a serious note; however, he ended it by criticizing it, clearly in self-defense. “I make it a rule to present any petition to the Senate which is respectful in its terms, but, having discharged this duty, I may be permitted to say, that the prevalence of this delusion at this age of the world, among any considerable portion of our citizens, must originate, in my opinion, in a defective system of education, or in a partial derangement of mental faculties, produced by a diseased condition of the physical organization.,” he began his defense. “I cannot, therefore, believe that it prevails to the extent indicated in this petition. Different ages of the world have had their peculiar delusions…” The speech continued with examples from earlier ages and was frequently interrupted by laughter. 

Other senators then asked questions.  Senator Weller asked what Shields proposes to do with the petition. Senator Pettit opined that it should be referred to three-thousand clergymen, to which there was much laughter. Senator Weller then suggested it be referred to the committee on foreign relations, to which there was more laughter. Senator Weller added that it would have to be determined whether the spirits were Americans when they left this world. Senator Mason jested that it would be better handled by the committee on military affairs, of which he was chairman. Clearly, the reception was a waggish one and it was finally moved by Senator Mason that it be tabled, which was agreed to.

Tallmadge was furious and responded with a letter in the National Intelligencer on the 18th of April, writing, in part:  “General Shields has given a very good synopsis of this memorial; and had he stopped there, I should not have felt myself called upon for any remarks. But, contrary to my expectations, the general has attempted to ridicule a subject which appealed to his better judgment, and which, according to my understanding, was to receive a very different treatment at his hands.”  Tallmadge further stated that Shields treated it with great courtesy and initially explained to him and agreed that it was worthy of investigation. Shields responded the following day by saying he was never a believer and that Tallmadge misunderstood him. 

In a lengthy letter of April 20, Tallmadge stressed that the understanding was that Shields would refer it to a select committee as there was no standing committee prepared to consider it. “The honorable gentleman, therefore, must be laboring under some strange hallucination on this subject; more strange, indeed, than the ‘delusion’ under which he, with so much delicacy and self-complacency, supposed these memorialists were laboring, because they had come to a conclusion different from his own on a subject which, from thorough investigation, they were presumed to understand, and which, for want of investigation, he was presumed to know nothing about!”

Now, some 168 years later, nothing has really changed.  How sad!

Michael Tymn is the author of The Afterlife Revealed: What Happens After We Die, Resurrecting Leonora Piper: How Science Discovered the Afterlife, and Dead Men Talking: Afterlife Communication from World War I.
His latest book, No One Really Dies: 25 Reasons to Believe in an Afterlife is published by White Crow books.

Next blog post: December 19      

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Spirit Communication issues as explained by Sir Oliver Lodge

Posted on 21 November 2022, 8:46

On October 18, 1929, Sir Oliver Lodge, (below) a distinguished British physicist and pioneering psychical researcher, delivered the first Frederic W. H. Myers Memorial Lecture to the Society for Psychical Research (SPR) in London.  Myers, one of the founders of the SPR, had died in January 1901. He and Lodge had become good friends.  The following is significantly abridged from that talk, as set forth in the November 1929 issue of “Psychic Research,” published by The American Society for Psychical Research. Some of the comments by Mary Lodge seem to lend themselves to the Group Soul concept.


…In the December of the same year – 1889 – I persuaded my wife rather against her will, to invite Mrs. [Leonora] Piper to stay a week at our house, in Liverpool. There I conducted a series of test sittings, introducing strangers, and made a report to the Society, which was published in its proceedings….The dawning certainty of survival, and the power of survivors to communicate under certain conditions began in my mind, and has never seriously receded since….

…The possibilities of the Universe are still largely a sealed book.  We must be unaware of a multitude of things going on all around us, just as we are unaware of the wireless waves passing through the hall at the present moment – waves which would bring us speech or music if we had suitable instruments…If only our eyes were open to see the whole of existence we should be dazzled, blinded – we could not stand it. They are mercifully screened from complete revelation, but we have inklings and suggestions and indications that we are thus screened, that the body isolates us, so as to enable us to act as individuals and to do our work here in the field of matter which we are occupied with for a few years…

I am sometimes asked whether I have had any communication with Myers since his death, or whether he has gone on to some higher grade of existence out of touch with earth.  My answer is that as far as I can judge, a man devoted as he was to the enlightenment of his generation in spiritual matter, is not likely to shirk his task merely because he has an opportunity of progressing.  He may progress, but it is possible for people from high to return on missionary enterprise.  The lower may have to bide their time before they can ascend to the higher, but I judge that the higher can always descend to help the lower.  I should have thought that that was the essence of the Christian faith, that the Higher did come to the help of the lower.  However that may be, I know for a fact that Myers’ influence and help are still with me, and that when I have questions to ask he is willing and ready to answer.  He does this often through his lieutenant, my son Raymond, sometimes coming himself, to give information of a more difficult character than Raymond could manage.  Most of this has to be done unfortunately through a more or less uneducated medium, and therefore is apt to be sophisticated and is never infallible.

I propose to limit myself to a few extracts [from my writing in the SPR Journal] bearing on the nature of [the spirit] control and the kind of dislocation or confusion that personality sometimes manifests when one and the same ostensible control tries to manifest through more than one medium. Feda, for example, talks mostly from Mrs. [Gladys Osborne] Leonard, but I have had a talk with Feda through another medium. It seems to be possible for a control habitually accustomed to work through one channel to attempt an occasional excursion through another. Feda is said to have spoken through other mediums. As for Raymond, he has no special habitual channel; he used to prefer members of his own family.

[On one occasion, involving an amateur medium, Feda] spoke about Mrs. Leonard and someone who was giving her trouble, and seeing that, she (Feda) was rather worried about it. She was worried about someone who wanted to take possession of the medium…Well, in May, a month later, we had a sitting with Mrs. Leonard.  After Myers and Raymond had finished speaking, Feda, now the normal control, said, “May I talk about something to do with myself? You know I have been down to your house, don’t you?” (Lodge replied in the affirmative and was then addressed as Solomon, the name Feda used for him.)  “Solomon, I do not think I have told you about this before, but there are times when Feda is not really communicating, but her shadow is.  (Feda often referred to herself in the third person.) Mr. Fred (that is Myers) can explain. Did you know what a thought form is, something that you might send a long way off and the thoughtform might even speak? When you go that way you get things you want to say mixed up with other things.” She then explained more clearly about Mrs. Leonard’s worry which she referred to through that other medium. It had to do with Mrs. Maconnell and her express desire that David Maconnell (her son) should take control (rather than having Feda relay messages from David.) Mrs. Leonard did not wish that, and Feda resented the attempt to displace herself.

Lodge: “Feda, I gather that when you came down to us in the country it was your etheric form that came and that it is not quite dependable in what it says.”

[Feda replied]: ‘No, it is like going in a dream. You get mixed up not with the mind, but with the subconscious mind of the medium.  When you dream, you dream about things that have been worrying you.”  She reported then that Mr. Fred (Myers) wanted to speak, and then Myers took up the thread – note the change of style – “You talk about secondary personalities when you are in the body. On our plane, in our condition, we have no secondary personality, or even a third. It is something that can be called to life by expectation. Supposing I make a strong mental impression on the mind of a psychically sensitive person while yet I am talking with someone else many miles away, that impression of myself which is Number Two, as I heard Feda remark just now, would not be in full consciousness with Number One. The normal image of myself would be left with Number One. The record once produced can be fixed on the medium’s mind again. It requires only a touch to get it going. I myself have often come into touch with a sensitive whom it has not been my intention to influence, but my proximity seemed to touch a spring in the medium.”

Then Feda takes up the thread again: “Mr. Fred is very interested in this?” I said. “Yes, what has been said is quite useful.” Then Myers broke in again, “Lodge, you know in dreams we are not at our best. I remember dreams in which I seemed to be all the time dodging responsibility, running away from responsibility. The elements of doubt and fear very often enter into the dream. That is apt to be the same in what Feda terms the shadow self.”

…My wife has gone over lately and joined the group. She had overcome her initial repugnance to the subject which she felt last century; she had become quite interested, and although she did not claim or admit that she knew very much about it, she was very sympathetic with bereaved people, often helping them, and was anxious to do something to help me when she got over to the other side. Recently I asked her one or two questions about the personality of the control. I instanced the well-known controls of one or two famous mediums with whom she had been acquainted by sittings held while she was here. One of them, John King (control for Eusapia Palladino and others), was more especially attracted by my wife. It has always been a puzzle to us in the SPR to know what personalities of this sort are. They are sometimes thought to be secondary personalities of the medium; by others they are thought to have an independent existence. I therefore wanted to ask what her experience of those was now on the other side. Her answers in May of this year, at a sitting with Mrs. Leonard, were given through Feda, who expressed amused interest as to what was thought about herself, among other controls. At this sitting, Raymond broke in and said, “Mother is awfully enthusiastic about all this, Father, I have had to hold her back.” I asked whether she could talk to Phinuit (Leonora Piper’s early control), whether this was a person one could talk to. The reply was, “Not very much.” At this point Feda chips in and says, “What a funny answer.” My wife continued: “Phinuit is not altogether through with me, Oliver. There is a condition that makes it more difficult to talk to one kind of entity than another. I could talk to Raymond very fully. I could talk to so many people, certain people who exist, well, they exist, but I do not understand everything about it yet. I understand that later on I shall be able to talk to Phinuit more easily.”  Then, I asked [if she had met John King]. “I have spoken to the person who calls himself John King. He presents different masks and calls them John King. Oliver, it is not always the soul that is the personality that communicates. I am beginning to understand it, and it does interest me”

…My wife went on: “There is one thing I wanted to explain to you. When people belong to each other through long association through love, through freshly relationship, there is no difficulty in contact between those people, either from one plane to the other, or between them when they have both reached the same plane. The links exist. But in the case of controls it is different. If we trace it back we shall find there has been a person, say, John King, and that it was necessary for him to do some good work with and through a certain instrument. That brings him in touch with other kids of controls, for one control cannot work in an isolated way. Demands are made of him and he may not wish to accede to those demands, and there you get what I call, Oliver, a mask.” (Sir Oliver asked if a mask was the same as a “personation” and Mary Lodge replied “yes.”)

….My wife continued: “As a rule, Oliver, when a conscientious guide knows that there is a mask being made of him he does his best to follow the mask to see that as much good and as little harm comes it as possible. It is like ensuring a good understudy, or a good locum tenens. Any conscientious guide who had the work at heart would do his best to be present and supervise the proceedings in which his name is being used, but he may never be personally so deeply in them as he was with the medium he himself chose.”

These masks occur mainly in physical phenomena. Raymond tells me how many people called to him and made a mask. He checked his first impression, but you cannot go on guaranteeing impressions and by the time it came to the sixth or seventh he said, “Oh, let them get on with it.  I cannot keep up with it all.” 

…Our sacred books have been subject to [many glosses and different interpretations], and scholars have had to decipher them as best as they can. If the higher powers have not thought it worth while to take precautions against garbling in respect of matters of the utmost importance and if humanity has had to use its judgment as the authenticity and validity of the Scriptures, it is quite unlikely that any of our trivial affairs shall be safeguarded against similar possibilities of mistake.  Therefore, 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. I only hope that when my time comes I shall be able to do as well. I am sure that communication is difficult, and I expect one will find oneself forgetting much that one had intended to say before entering the dim condition of faculties necessitated by even partial and occasional control.

Michael Tymn is the author of The Afterlife Revealed: What Happens After We Die, Resurrecting Leonora Piper: How Science Discovered the Afterlife, and Dead Men Talking: Afterlife Communication from World War I.
His latest book, No One Really Dies: 25 Reasons to Believe in an Afterlife is published by White Crow books.

Next blog post:  December 5







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When Tables Attacked People: A Life After Death Situation

Posted on 07 November 2022, 9:17

Some of the mediumistic phenomena of yesteryear were “absurd,” as Professor Charles Richet, the 1912 Nobel Prize winner in medicine, put it.  Nevertheless, he added, some were true, even if they were absurd.  Perhaps even more absurd than the many languages that came through the direct-voice mediumship of George Valiantine, as discussed in the prior blog here, is the phenomenon of tables attacking people, or, in some cases, just floating around the room.  One such phenomenon is reported by Sharon DeBartolo Carmack in her 2020 book, In Search of Maria B. Hayden, which is subtitled “The American Medium Who brought Spiritualism to the U.K.”

It was in October 1852 that Mrs. (later Dr.) Hayden first visited the Knebworth Park estate and house of the renowned British writer Sir Edward Bulwer Lytton, (below) the author who told the world that “the pen is mightier than the sword.”  Lytton accepted many of the dictates of Spiritualism and was very much interested in Hayden’s mediumship. Lytton’s son, Robert, apparently corresponded regularly with the famous American poet, Robert Browning, and in a letter of July 19, 1854, quoted in the book, Robert told Browning, “[My father] made some querulous & impatient observations derogatory to the character of the spirits (questioning, too, I believe, their existence as spirits) just as he was leaving the room, when suddenly the Table (near which no person was standing) of its own accord, as one says, sprang at him like a dog. The Medium was no less astonished than himself – & suggested that ‘the spirits’ were angry with his language about them. ‘Then’ said he laughing, ‘they’d better spring at me again, I think!’ And immediately the Table flew at him, knocked him against the wall, and pinned him there so close, that as it was a large table, he was in danger of being crusht [sic], after three or four minutes, the table moved slowly back (with a sort of revolving orbit-like movement) to the original position!”  Robert Lytton added that in addition to himself, Mrs. Hayden, and a lawyer friend were present, all at some distance from the table. 


On another visit. Sir Edward was speaking reproachfully to Mrs. Hayden, commenting that he was wasting his time and money in attending her séances “when a large table in the room gave a sudden leap toward him. Presently it leaped back again, and ended by moving round and round, first slowly and solemnly and then swiftly.” It was further explained that Sir Edward and Mrs. Hayden were standing at the fireplace, some distance from the table when it went into action. On another occasion, Sir Edward begged the spirits to make a large lamp on the table rock to and fro, and the spirits apparently complied. 

Even more “absurd,” extending to the point of being “ridiculous,” a phenomenon took place with the mediumship of Mina Crandon, aka “Margery,” during June 1923 at the Crandon home in Boston, Mass.  It was reported that the discarnate mother of Dr. Frederick Caldwell, one of the sitters, took possession of the table and caused it to lurch toward Caldwell, then pushed him out of the den, through the dark corridor, and into the Crandons’s bedroom, and then chased him down the stairs, all the while smashing walls and causing other damage. According to Dr. Mark Richardson, a Harvard University professor of medicine who was also present, he and others stopped the table from doing further damage.

Margery and Dr. Mark Richardson

In his 1917 book, On the Threshold of the Unseen, physicist Sir William Barrett recalled the sitting with Irish medium Kathleen Goligher, who was being studied then by Dr. William Crawford of Queen’s University.  The sitting involved a small family circle gathered in a room illuminated with a bright gas flame burning in a lantern.  “They sat round a small table with hands joined together, but no one touching the table,” Barrett explained.  “Very soon knocks came and messages were spelt out as one of us repeated the alphabet aloud.  Suddenly the knocks increased in violence, and being encouraged, a tremendous bang came which shook the room and resembled the blow of a sledge hammer on an anvil.  A tin trumpet which had been placed below the table now poked out its smaller end close under the top of the table near where I was sitting.  I was allowed to try and catch it, but it dodged all my attempts in the most amusing way, the medium on the opposite side sat perfectly still, while at my request all held up their joined hands so that I could see no one was touching the trumpet, as it played peep-boo with me.  Sounds like the sawing of wood, the bouncing of a ball, and other noises occurred, which were inexplicable.” 

The table then began to rise from the floor some 18 inches and remained suspended in the air.  “I was allowed to go up to the table and saw clearly no one was touching it, a clear space separating the sitters from the table,” Barrett continued the explanation.  “I tried to press the table down, and though I exerted all my strength could not do so; then I climbed up on the table and sat on it, my feet off the floor, when I was swayed to and fro and finally tipped off. The table of its own accord now turned upside down, no one touching it, and I tried to lift it off the ground, but it could not be stirred, it appeared screwed down to the floor.  At my request all the sitters’ clasped hands had been kept raised above their heads, and I could see that no one was touching the table.  When I desisted from trying to lift the inverted table from the floor, it righted itself again on its own accord, no one helping it.  Numerous sounds displaying an amused intelligence then came, and after each individual present had been greeted with some farewell raps the sitting ended.”
Barrett said that he could not imagine how the cleverest conjurer could have performed what he experienced, especially since it was clear to him that there was no elaborate apparatus in the room.  Moreover, Dr. Crawford had been observing the Goligher circle for six months or more before his observations.  “That there is an unseen intelligence behind these manifestations is all we can say, but that is a tremendous assertion, and if admitted destroys the whole basis of materialism,” Barrett added.

Back to 1852, Adin Ballou, a Unitarian minister who began investigating the strange phenomena a year or so earlier, wrote: “I have seen tables and lightstands of various sizes moved about in the most astonishing manner, by what purported to be the same 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 misapprehension and mistakes.”

Judge John Edmonds, then chief justice of the New York Supreme Court, began his investigation of mediums about the same time as Ballou,  He wrote: “I have seen a chair run across the room, backward and forward, with no mortal hand touching it. I have seen tables rise from the floor and suspended in the air. I have seen them move when not touched.  I have known a small bell fly around the room over hour heads. I have known a table, at which I was sitting, turned upside down, then carried over my head, and put against the back of the sofa, and then replaced. I have seen a table lifted from the floor, when four able-bodied men were exerting their strength to hold it down….This is a very meager account of what only I have witnessed, aside from the countless incidents witnessed by others in different parts of the world. But here is enough to show that these manifestations were not made by mortals, but by a power which had all the attributes of the human mind and heart.”

Also during the early 1850s, Nathaniel P. Tallmadge, a lawyer who served as governor of the Territory of Wisconsin and as a U.S. senator for New York, upon hearing of Judge Edmonds’s experiences, undertook his own investigation. He reported a number of communication from his old friend John C. Calhoun, former vice-president of the United States who had died in 1850. When Tallmadge asked Calhoun the purpose of the communication, “My friend,” Calhoun replied, “the question is often put to you, ‘What good can result from these manifestations?’  I will answer it:  It is to draw mankind together in harmony, and convince skeptics of the immortality of the soul.”

Tallmadge explained “that these communications from Calhoun came through a large, heavy, round table, one at which 10-12 people could sit, by the tilting method (the alphabet recited by the sitters and the table would tilt at the correct letter). He observed the table move as much as three to four feet with nobody near it. During all these movements no person touched it, nor was any one near it,” Tallmadge explained.  After one sitting, he decided to see if he could move the table from a sitting position.  Applying as much force as possible, he was unable to budge it.  He then asked three women to assist him in moving the table.  “We lifted upon it until the leaf and top began to crack, and did not raise it a particle,” he continued. “We then desisted, fearing we should break it. I then said, ‘Will the spirits permit me to raise the table?’ I took hold alone, and raised it without difficulty!”

Tallmadge then asked the spirits if they could lift the table if he and the three ladies were sitting on it.  The spirits assented, but directed them to a square table in another room.  The four people climbed on to the table with Tallmadge in the middle.  “Two legs of it were then raised about six inches from the floor,” Tallmadge went on, “and then the other two legs were raised to a level of the first, so that the whole table was suspended in the air about six inches above the floor.  While thus seated on it, I could feel a gentle, vibratory motion, as if floating in the atmosphere.  After being thus suspended in the air for a few moments, the table was gently let down again to the floor.”

On May 9, 1874, Cambridge scholars Frederic W. H. Myers and Edmund Gurney     visited Anglican clergyman William Stainton Moses to observe his mediumship.  Myers reported that a table, untouched by human hands, rose from the floor and touched his throat and chest three times.  Then, he was raised to the table three times and twice levitated in the corner of the room.
Initially, Moses thought that his newfound “gift” was the work of the devil and wanted nothing to do with it, but communicating spirits informed him that the levitations and other physical phenomena were simply a way of making themselves known so that they could impart some higher teachings through him.  Moses developed into an automatic writing medium and over the next 20 years penned several books of profound wisdom from his spirit guides, much of it in conflict with his beliefs.

Charlton Templeman Speer, Moses’s biographer and friend, wrote that at least 10 different kinds of manifestations took place through Moses, including movements of heavy bodies, such as tables and chairs.  “Sometimes the table would be tilted up at a considerable angle; at other times the chairs of one or more of the sitters would be pushed more or less forcibly away from the table, until they touched the wall behind,” Speer wrote.  “Or the table would move away from the sitters on one side, and be propelled irresistibly against those on the other, compelling them to shift their chairs in order to avoid the advance of so heavy a piece of furniture.  The table in question, at which we usually sat, was an extremely weighty dining-table made of solid Honduras mahogany, but at times it was moved with much greater ease than the combined efforts of all the sitters could accomplish; and these combined efforts were powerless to prevent it moving in a certain direction, if the unseen force willed it to do so.  We frequently tested the strength of this force by trying to check the onward movement of the table, but without success.”

Were a famous British author, a respected Harvard professor of medicine, a renowned British physicist, a Unitarian minister, a chief justice of the New York Supreme Court, a
notable statesman, two illustrious Cambridge scholars, and an eminent Anglican priest all victims of hoaxes or were they hallucinating it all?  If we can’t believe them, who can we believe?

Michael Tymn is the author of The Afterlife Revealed: What Happens After We Die, Resurrecting Leonora Piper: How Science Discovered the Afterlife, and Dead Men Talking: Afterlife Communication from World War I.
His latest book, No One Really Dies: 25 Reasons to Believe in an Afterlife is published by White Crow books.

Next blog post: November 21


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Is “Speaking in Tongues” Evidence of a Spirit World?

Posted on 24 October 2022, 7:03

There are some stories so mindboggling, so weird, so utterly out of the norm, that people just shrug them off and give them no heed, seemingly assuming that they are pranks of some kind. The rational mind wants nothing to do with them. Parapsychologists apparently fear that even mentioning them will ruin their reputations. Such is the case with medium George Valiantine, (below) a direct-voice medium during the 1920s and early ‘30s. He may have produced the greatest mediumship ever, but he has gone down in history as nothing more than a fraud. One of the three books written by H. Dennis Bradley about Valiantine, Wisdom of the Gods, was recently reproduced by White Crow Books. As I was asked to write a Foreword and Afterword to the reproduction, I reread it after many years and am still scratching my head.


Valiantine has been discussed in prior blogs here, in those of April 22, 2013, May 24, 2021 and June 7, 2021, all in archives at the left of this post. The most memorable and mindboggling phenomenon was produced during October 1926 when a “voice” came through in a Chinese dialect giving the name K’ung-fu-tzu, while saying that men called him Fu-Tzu, the names now given to Confucius, the renowned Chinese philosopher. The “voice” went on to dialogue with Professor Neville Whymant, a Chinese scholar who is said to have spoken 30 languages and was fluent in that Chinese dialect. The story rates no more than a scoff or a smirk with most people, but those willing to hear the complete story and fully consider the credentials and background of Whymant must certainly have some reservations about completely dismissing it as fraud. Consider also that Whymant attended 11 additional sittings, dialoguing with “voices” in 13 other languages, including Hindi, Persian, Basque, Sanskrit, Arabic, Portuguese, Italian, Yiddish, German and modern Greek.” They all took place at the New York City home of Judge William Cannon, one of the officers of the American Society for Psychical Research.

Whymant also recorded that he observed Valiantine, who was not a trance medium, carrying on a conversation in “American English” with the person next to him while foreign languages were coming through the trumpet. “I am assured, too, that it is impossible for anyone to ‘throw his voice,’ this being merely an illusion of the ventriloquist,” he wrote.

It is even more difficult to believe that Valiantine was a charlatan after reading Wisdom of the Gods and Bradley’s earlier book, Toward the Stars, as well as his last one, And After.

The “Confucius voice” was not the first time a Chinese dialect had come through the trumpets in Valiantine’s direct-voice mediumship. As Bradley, a British businessman and playwright, told in Wisdom of the Gods, on February 25, 1925, Madame Wellington Koo, the first lady of China, was one of seven sitters with Valiantine. He identified her as “Countess Oeitiongham” (sic) apparently her name before her marriage to the president of China and her prior marriage to a British consular agent. Her father, Oei Tiong Ham, was a Chinese-Indonesian business tycoon, and she had become an international socialite, a very interesting one for many years according to my internet search. “When we had sat at least one hour, one of the trumpets was lifted close to the face [of the countess], and a ‘voice’ addressed her in a foreign language,” Bradley wrote, adding that the voice was initially very indistinct and the trumpet fell to the floor. Although the countess recognized the initial voice as a Chinese dialect, it took three more tries before it was loud enough for her to fully understand and carry on a conversation with the “voice.”

The countess later explained to Bradley that the “voice” spoke to her with two dialects mixed, in a way in which no European – even if he were able to speak Chinese – could do. As the countess further explained, one of the dialects was that which her father, who had died the prior year, spoke to her when she was a child, while the other dialect was one he used after she had grown up. The message was said to be one for the countess’s mother and too personal for her to reveal to Bradley.

Two of the guests on March 10, 1925 were Countess Ingegard Ahlefeldt-Laurvig, daughter of the Danish minster to England, and Gonnoske Komai, a famous Japanese poet and artist. Bradley states that Valiantine had never met them before and was not given their names. According to Bradley, a voice said to be the countess’s deceased brother came through in Russian, but she replied in Danish. However, the brother requested that she speak in Russian, and they continued to converse in that language. Another voice came through in Japanese and spoke with Komai, who later told Bradley that the identification of the communicator was uncertain, but he gave certain names and places that were meaningful to Komai and also said that he died by committing hari-kari. Based on that information, Komai had some idea as to who it was.

On March 18, Komai returned for another sitting. After a failed attempt at rising, the “spirits” were able to materialize the voice of Komai’s elder brother, who carried on a conversation with him in Japanese. Komai was told that his mother was also there, but she was unable to communicate. Apparently, the conversation with the brother had mostly to do with his children. Dr. Barnett, one of Valiantine’s guides, broke in and said Japan was preparing for a great war in the air. Komai replied that American is a far greater country than Japan, but Barnett then said that such was true but Japan’s preparation was far greater and more advanced than that of America.

Countess Ahlefeldt-Laurvig returned on April 18 for an individual sitting with Valiantine. “The Countess and Valiantine sat in my study in the daylight, and almost immediately the voice of Oscar (brother of the Countess) came through and spoke to her. The first part of the conversation was carried on in Russian, and then the Countess suggested that it should be continued in French,” Bradley wrote, adding that they spoke for about a quarter of an hour. The countess referred to it as a “marvellous” sitting.

On April 8, 1925, with the very skeptical researcher Harry Price present, Bradley reported that the gramophone which was used to play music and establish harmonious conditions would not work and therefore Miss Lilian Walbrook, one of the sitters, was asked to sing. She sang a number of songs, including “Il Bacio.” Price was taking notes and recorded that at the conclusion of the song, one of the two trumpets rose into the air, approached Miss Walbrook and thanked her in Italian. The “voice” identified himself as Luidi Arditi, an Italian composer who had died in 1903. There was a further exchange of words in Italian between Arditi and Walbrook.

In Bradley’s 1924 book, Toward the Stars, he provided a detailed report on his first sittings with Valiantine at the New Jersey country home of Joseph De Wyckoff, an American lawyer. As a guest of De Wyckoff, Bradley was invited to attend a séance with Valiantine. While very skeptical, he saw it as a means of entertainment and accepted the invitation. Nothing happened for the first 20 minutes and Bradley considered it a very dull show. However, he soon heard a soft and gentle woman’s voice call his name, addressing him as Herbert, his given name, rather than Dennis, the name most people knew him by. It was his deceased sister, Annie. They talked for 15 minutes about family matters and there was no doubt in Bradley’s mind that he was talking with his sister.

On the following night, they again sat for a séance. De Wyckoff’s cook and butler were invited to join the small group. After Dr. Barnett spoke to the group in a loud Scottish accent, Bradley’s sister again spoke. “Her tones were clear and bell-like, her notes were sympathetic and understanding, and were radiant,” Bradley recorded. “How can I describe the indescribable?” Bradley pointed out that his sister mentioned things that nobody else knew about or could have known about. After his sister left, the trumpet floated in front of De Wyckoff’s cook. “Anita! Anita!” the ‘voice’ said. “Si! Si!” Anita Ripoll excitedly responded. “It is Jose! Jose!” the “voice” said. It was the cook’s deceased husband. They carried on a conversation in Spanish which Bradley could not understand.

“I could not follow it, but nobody could fail to understand the feeling. Words tumbled over one another. Sentences joined and overlapped in Latin excitement Neither husband nor wife, apparently, marvelled at their supernatural meeting. These two souls, who had loved each other and probably had never questioned the certainty of an after-life, accepted it as entirely normal.” As De Wyckoff understood the language, he told Bradley that Jose drifted into a dialect that was a mixture of Basque and corrupt Spanish, the dialect of their native home in southern Spain. When Jose was alive in the flesh, he spoke no English and communicated with De Wyckoff in proper Spanish.

Bradley called it the “most staggering event of my life,” causing him to change his whole philosophy of life. “Doubt took flight when faced by an unchallengeable fact and the mind understood in a flash that what had hitherto appeared to be impossible was possible.”

Back in England, Bradley attended a séance at the British College of Psychic Science on February 19, 1924, with Valiantine being the medium. Among other things, he observed a voice address itself to an Australian lady, saying that it was her grandmother. The conversation opened in English and “drifted into German.” Later, the Australian lady’s mother came and also conversed with her in German. The following week, Bradley sat in again and this time heard a conversation between a deceased father and his son in a strange Welsh tongue. 

Valiantine was described by Whymant as “a typical example of the simpler kind of country American citizen” and claimed to know none of the languages spoken. Can anyone believe that he secretly learned all those languages, even different dialects and was able to carry on conversations about family matters with different sitters, at the same time being seen speaking in English to someone next to him? In the Confucius case, he would have had to anticipate that Whymant was going to quiz the “voice” about two poems of Confucius and then memorize 15 verses of one of the poems in a Chinese dialect, as well as explain a misinterpretation of another poem – a misinterpretation that had escaped scholars for centuries. And he would have had to be able to speak with an ancient dialect of Chinese to begin with, before switching to a more modern dialect, one Whymant could better understand.

Is it possible that Bradley, Professor Whymant, Judge Cannon, renowned physicist Sir Oliver Lodge, popular journalist Hannen Swaffer, and dozens of other famous people mentioned in Bradley’s books just imagined it all or were hypnotized? Or that they all conspired in a giant hoax? Is there some subconscious factor involved, or a “computer in the cosmos,” that science does not yet understand, one that records voices on earth and somehow feeds them back in a dialogue form at the proper time? Although the original copy of Wisdom of the Gods was written before the fraud charges against Valiantine, none of which involved the voices, the reproduction by White Crow Books has additions that explore those charges. In the end, however, it all leads one to believe that absolute proof is beyond our reach and probably not in our best interest. We need some doubt if we are to effectively carry out the divine plan.

Michael Tymn is the author of The Afterlife Revealed: What Happens After We Die, Resurrecting Leonora Piper: How Science Discovered the Afterlife, and Dead Men Talking: Afterlife Communication from World War I.
His latest book, No One Really Dies: 25 Reasons to Believe in an Afterlife is published by White Crow books.

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Seeing Karma and the Big Picture

Posted on 10 October 2022, 9:56

“There is so much to be studied in the bible of humanity!  By it, we know that everything has to be paid.”  So wrote Amalia Domingo Soler (1835-1909), a Spanish poet, philosopher, writer, editor, social reformer, Spiritist, and the author of Acts that Prove, recently translated into English by Yvonne Crespo Limoges and republished.  The book is about the karmic aspects of life, how suffering in one lifetime is often linked to actions in a previous lifetime.  According to Limoges, Ms. Soler, (below) is known by Spiritists as the “Grand Dame of Spiritism” and the “Chronicler of the Poor.”


“It is a collection of human incidents (usually tragic) that Ms. Soler wrote down, then asked the spirits about them,” Limoges explains.  “The language is forthright and direct. The stories were originally printed in her magazine then placed in book form known in Spanish as Hechos Que Prueban, which in English could be translated as either, “Facts that Prove” or as “Acts that Prove.” I chose the latter as more appropriate, because the chapters report actions that occurred or that people took, and then the spirits tell of the effects (consequences) of those acts, whether for good or bad.”

One of the frequent spirit communicators in the book is Father Germain, who dictated his life story (when on earth as a priest) through a medium, the result being a book which is now a Spiritist classic, in novel form – Memoirs of Father Germain.  (That very intriguing book was translated into English by Limoges’s father, Edgar Crespo.)  It is not always clear which spirit is communicating, whether Germain or another, but they offer much to ponder on, including this:  “In this period, is when man needs to know something of his life, because he now has sufficient knowledge to comprehend the advantages of goodness and the harmfulness of evil.  Therefore, since everything reaches its time, that is why we have come to awaken your attention; that is why the tables dance and why the furniture changes places, and the voices of the spirits resounded in different parts of the Earth, because it is necessary that it be understood that you are not alone in this world.”

Another communication put it this way:  “We come to give advice, to strengthen you, to teach you to know about universal harmony; to tell you that the story of your mistakes of yesterday are the causes of your misfortune today. This is the mission of the spirits near you; spurring you on to work, to cultivate your reason, and that is what will lead you to the perfect understanding of God.”

The story of Carlos and Luisa, as discussed in Chapter 11 is an especially emotional one.  The two were romantically attracted to each other in their youth, but Carlos’s mother was adamantly opposed to their relationship because she wanted her son to marry into wealth, which Luisa’s family did not have.  To please his mother, Carlos distanced himself from Luisa, but they corresponded frequently, expressing their love for each other.  Some 30 years later, when Carlos received a telegram that Luisa was dying, he rushed to her deathbed and sat by her as she took her last breath. 

As explained to Mrs. Soler by a spirit communicator, Carlos and Luisa had been linked together for many centuries by a powerful love. In their past incarnation, they were married and had a daughter who fell in love with a humble peasant.  They objected to her relationship and insisted that she marry into nobility.  The humble worker was deported and died in exile.  The daughter rejected a noble suitor and died prematurely, forgiving her parents for their blindness.  In effect, Carlos and Luisa purified themselves in the present lifetime for the suffering they caused their daughter in a past lifetime.

A lady Spiritist wrote to Amelia, informing her that a newborn child had been left at the door of her house and wondering if there was some spiritual significance to it.  Amelia asked a spirit about it and was told that in her past life the inquiring woman had belonged to nobility and was deceived and seduced by a baron.  The child was taken from her at birth to hide her dishonor and placed in an asylum.  In her remaining years, she wept for her lost son and undertook many charitable acts of helpless men in her son’s memory.  The abandoned child left on her doorstep in the present life was the child of the past life returning to her. 

In another chapter, we meet a man named Francisco Crea who was erroneously convicted of murdering a person and then spent 35 years in prison.  “Is it not true that the preceding story is horrific?” Soler asks, wondering where we can find eternal justice.  She received an answer from the spirit of Father Germain, who explained that some centuries ago, in another lifetime, the man killed his brother and was not held accountable. Thus, he served his time in a subsequent lifetime.

In still another story, Teodora Cruz wonders why her husband’s grandmother hates her so much.  Consulting with the spirits, Soler is informed that the grandmother is a rejected suitor from a prior lifetime who was dominated by violent passions. 

There are 41 other stories in which past-life activities are linked to the current life. The author offers much profound wisdom and philosophy in explaining the issues linking the lives.  Ms. Soler offers much profound wisdom and philosophy.  In the chapter on suicide, she writes: “Living without hope!...It is not living! To live without desiring is to die without agony. Living, dominated by indifference, is to anticipate the crisis of death, it is to open oneself the pit to bury our body in it; it is to become a gravedigger.”

Soler cautions against judging others based on outward appearances.  She tells the story of a homeless person who died of hunger, in spite of the fact that 31,000 pesetas were found in his bed of rags.  Having been very greedy and very much a miser in past lives, he learned the lesson of poverty in the current life, but his past hoarding remained partially with him, the result being that he needed yet another lifetime to learn the lesson of charity.

Soler refers to atheism as the most profound desperation.  “What is life without a tomorrow; the sketch of a painting, the prologue of a story, a voice without echo, a flower without aroma? On the other hand, when hope encourages us, what unlimited horizons present themselves before our eyes! The death of the one who waits, is the death of the just, as the Catholics say, sweet and tranquil.”

Michael Tymn is the author of The Afterlife Revealed: What Happens After We Die, Resurrecting Leonora Piper: How Science Discovered the Afterlife, and Dead Men Talking: Afterlife Communication from World War I.
His latest book, No One Really Dies: 25 Reasons to Believe in an Afterlife is published by White Crow books.

Next blog post: October 24  


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Dealing with Existential Angst at Queen Elizabeth’s Funeral

Posted on 26 September 2022, 10:51

According to a recent survey (World Values Survey 2017-2022), only 41.7 percent of the population in the United Kingdom believes in life after death.  Thus, while watching the funeral service of Queen Elizabeth II on television on September 19, I wondered what the other 58.3 percent of those in attendance were thinking when various Church of England clergy and officials continually said or suggested that the queen is now “in Heaven,” or words to that effect. At the same time, I could visualize a number of militant nihilists around the world scoffing, sneering, and snorting in self-righteous disdain. 


Yes, there were many foreign dignitaries at the funeral and the percentages are a little higher for some of them, e.g., 56.9 percent for Canada, 53.8 percent for Australia, and 68.2 percent for the United States, but overall, assuming the survey is valid, it seems fair to accept that at least half of those in attendance considered themselves nihilists.  While listening to the Church authorities, I tried to subrogate myself to the minds of the nihilist and analyze my reaction to the words delivered as well as to the entire spiritual atmosphere surrounding me.  Rather than see myself as an absolute nihilist, closedmindedly 100 percent locked into that belief system, I chose to be a 90 percent nihilist, meaning that 10 percent of my view was still clinging to the religious “fairy tale” my mother and others brainwashed me with during those formative years.  I considered myself too smart and scientifically minded to hold on to those fairy tales, but that 10 percent helped me avoid complete existential angst when the usual escape mechanisms failed me.

Emotionally moved by the pomp, solemnity, and grandeur of the spectacular service, I found myself drifting from that 90 percent nihilistic worldview to close to 50 percent, while asking myself if it is possible that I have made a too hasty conclusion in dismissing it all as unscientific nonsense. Emotions were doing battle with my intellect.  I breathed a sigh of relief with the thought that a number of like-minded secularists – a more acceptable name than nihilists – sitting around me could not read my mind and know of my absurd thoughts. It was about then that the younger generation of royalty came within my view and, considering that the other surveys reveal that people from their generation are even more nihilistic than older ones, I wondered if they really believed the Church propaganda or if they were simply “playing the game,” so to speak, out of respect for their elders and for the sake of tradition.

As Church authorities spoke, mentioning the seemingly monotonous orthodox Heaven, the far-off Judgment Day, the so-called “sleep” until that day, the atonement doctrine, and other dreary ideas adopted by the Church of England, my belief meter worked its way back to 90 percent disbelief, maybe even touching 100 percent, and I struggled to resist the existential angst that was beginning to grip me.  “No, the queen is extinct, and so are my deceased loved ones,” I admonished myself.  “Their personalities are completely obliterated just as mine will be some day. But I won’t know it, so why concern myself with it.”

My intellect would not allow the heart-rending magnificence of all that surrounded me to triumph over reason. I was steadfast in my nihilistic worldview by the time the service ended. I would not succumb to religious propaganda, but I reasoned that it was best to hold on to that 10 percent belief factor to protect myself from future attacks of existential angst. Outwardly, however, I would pretend to be at 100 percent so as not to shame myself, even though 100 percent is a very unscientific approach and should shame me. 

The media reports after the funeral lent themselves to the nihilistic view, never distinguishing between the queen’s mortal remains and her persona.  One commentator said something to the effect that “the body of Queen Elizabeth will be laid with her husband Philip in the Windsor chapel where they will be together for eternity.”  What a dismal and depressing picture that offers. 

Back to not imagining, I thought about the comment made by Professor Augustus De Morgan, the renowned British mathematician and logician, in his letter to his mother, when he said, in effect, that if he were to return to an organized religion, he would choose the “Church of Rome” over the Church of England. (See blog of September 13, 2022).  He didn’t give a specific reason beyond saying the Church of Rome provided much more knowledge than the Church of England, but I suspect that idea of Purgatory was one of the major reasons for that comment. 

The Protestant Reformation attempted to do away with Purgatory – sort of a middle ground between heaven and hell, one in which souls would purge themselves of their sins before being allowed entrance to Heaven. The Protestant afterlife supposed souls were all good or all evil.  There were no shades of gray between the ultimate good and the ultimate evil.  It held that a person was “saved” as long as he made the right choice in selecting and worshipping his savior during his or her lifetime.  Luck was often a very big factor in finding that savior.  The unlucky one was condemned to eternity in everlasting fire. Is it any wonder that rational people abandoned organized religions?

And while Catholics offered a middle ground, it was as bad as hell except that it did not last for eternity.  Indications are that the Catholic Church now avoids any discussion of purgatory as even the person who departs the earth life with a soul a very light shade of gray has reason to fear death and what is ahead. 

Neither the Protestants nor the Catholics seem to have given any consideration to the revelations that began with Emanual Swedenborg during the middle of the eighteenth century suggesting that there are many realms or levels of consciousness in the afterlife environment, or as it is translated in the New Testament, “many mansions in my Father’s house.” 

While words of the discarnate Albert Pauchard (1878-1934) are not subject to scientific confirmation, they are consistent with many other messages coming from the Other Side relative to life on that side of the veil.  “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. 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 the person’s mindset and earthly deeds. (Reference: The Other World, available at White Crow Books)

“One meets all kinds of people here,” Pauchard continued. “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 desire to warn those on earth when seeing all this.  Because a little goodwill, the slightest effort, even without success, makes such an enormous difference in the results over here.”  He added that he lives in a four-dimensional world which is constituted of more living realities than on the material plane.  “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…”

Pauchard communicated that many people there do not understand their condition.  A typical case, he explained, was that of a man who prided himself on being an intellectual.  “A materialist of course,” he continued. “You know their theories. As a consequence of their belief that after death there is no consciousness, many of these people go to sleep for a more or less long period.”  Pauchard referred to him as an “honourable” type and a theoretician.  “He continues theorizing here.  He is not even aware that physical wants and conditions have vanished.  They had never meant much to him.  He sees around him his study and bedroom and simply goes on in the old way as he did not earth. As to his Purgatory, he has not yet gone through it.  There is still room for it in his being. His incessant and rather superficial intellectual activity must first wear out a little.  Only people who have a heart and imagination pass through their Purgatory at an early stage. While those who deny life after death and are endowed with a great imagination go to sleep.  That is part of their Purgatory, for they are conscious of the only thing they had always dreamt of: their unconsciousness.”

Pauchard added that neither he nor any other soul there could make the man understand his condition. His current activity must “wear out” on its own. “In the end, he will grow tired of it, and in that way begin his Purgatory.  In a case like this, Purgatory does not take an objective, symbolic form, for the individual has no imagination.” 

Another difficult case, Pauchard told his sister, was that of a clergyman who, not having found the conditions he expected, does not believe in his own death. “He is troubled by things he cannot explain and believes himself to have grown weak in mind. I wanted to help him, but he is afraid of me.  He thinks that owing to his mental defect he may become less firmly anchored in the true doctrine and thus be misled by me.”

When asked if one gets bored there, Pauchard replied, “Oh no! One does not feel bored here, you may be sure of that.  Unless one brings along that particular sort of spirit, which is not interested in anything or finds fault with everything.  But this kind of mentality has no access to the plane where I live.”

Overall, Pauchard and other spirit communicators report on an active lifestyle on the Other Side once the soul has fully awakened to his or her condition.  “Seen from a mortal point of view, life here may seem empty and monotonous,” Pauchard stated. “But it is far from being so. It is really so intense and radiant, that in comparison, life on earth appears to us like a bad dream, a bad dream on a dark night.” Until religion awakens to this, it seems likely that it will continue to lose members.  Instead of wishing that the person “rest in peace,” in the grave until some far-off day of judgment, it might begin by wishing for a very active lifestyle for the recently departed soul.

Michael Tymn is the author of The Afterlife Revealed: What Happens After We Die, Resurrecting Leonora Piper: How Science Discovered the Afterlife, and Dead Men Talking: Afterlife Communication from World War I.
His latest book, No One Really Dies: 25 Reasons to Believe in an Afterlife is published by White Crow books.

Next blog post: October 10



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Professor De Morgan Gave Meaning to “Spiritual But Not Religious”

Posted on 13 September 2022, 9:58

The biography of famed British mathematician and logician Augustus De Morgan (1806-1871) at Wikipedia is very informative and well presented, except for the section near the end when it cites psychologist John Beloff as declaring that De Morgan was barred from positions at Oxford and Cambridge because he was an atheist.  The Wikipedia biographer seems to take some relief in noting De Morgan’s (below) atheism after having explained his interest in psychic phenomena.


Having just read Memoir of Augustus De Morgan by his wife, (below) Sophia Elizabeth De Morgan (1809-1892), published in 1882, as well as rereading Mrs. De Morgan’s 1863 book, From Matter to Spirit: The Result of Ten Years’ Experience in Spirit Manifestations, I don’t see De Morgan as ever having been an atheist, unless one concludes that any person not accepting the teachings of the Church of England at the time was automatically an atheist.  As I understand it, De Morgan earned his bachelor’s degree at Trinity College, Cambridge, but he elected not to pursue an advanced degree there, or at Oxford, because he would have had to declare himself in complete accord with the teachings of the Church.  He could not accept the strict interpretations given to the Old Testament suggesting a wrathful God and had doubts about the nature of the Trinity, but he remained open-minded and his beliefs were in line with many Unitarians of his era.


“He believed that Jesus Christ, the Son of God by the gift of the Holy Spirit without measure, was, as to his nature, a man like ourselves, except in His power of receiving the Spirit of God,” Sophia De Morgan explained in her 1882 book. “That His divinity was not, like that of the Father, the Source of all things, underived and self-existent.  That the Father spoke through Him by the same Spirit, sending the message and the means of redemption or bringing back erring man to God.  That the mission was attested by His words and miraculous works, and that He rose from the dead, and was seen to rise to Heaven, from whence He sends the Spirit to whose who are able to receive it.”  She also recorded that he spent much time during his final years studying the New Testament.

De Morgan’s mother was a fundamentalist Christian who grieved over her son’s rejection of Church doctrine and dogma. In a lengthy 1836 letter to her, he wrote, in part: “Your expressions amount to the following: – If you do not take it for granted that King James’s translators chose the right Greek, and turned it into the right English, and more than that, drew all their inferences correctly, God Almighty will punish you to all eternity.”  Later in the letter, he added: “Before God I declare that I have examined closely the history of the early Church, together with abundance of controversy on both sides, not forgetting the books of the New Testament on which they are written, and can find nothing like the creed of the Churches of Rome or England. The former does not pretend to find what you call the essential doctrines of Christianity in the New Testament, but appeals to tradition. It is easy to rail at them, but to the best of my knowledge and belief, derived from historical reading and actual observation, the Church of Rome contains as much honesty as that of England, and a vast deal more knowledge. It would take one quarter as much evidence to make me a Catholic as to make me a Church of England man.”

De Morgan’s brilliance was such that he did not require an advanced degree and he therefore became professor of mathematics at London University at the age of 22, a position he would occupy for 35 years.  He is remembered today primarily for his contributions to mathematics, especially differential calculus, and logic (De Morgan’s Laws are credited to him, even though Aristotle offered much the same reasoning centuries earlier.)  Philosopher John Stuart Mill referred to De Morgan as a mathematician with the attainments of a philosopher, logician and psychologist.  While he is little remembered in the field of psychical research, his open-minded approach to psychic phenomena is said to have influenced Sir William Crookes, a renowned scientist of that era, to undertake his investigations of mediums D. D. Home and Florence Cook, even though many other scientists of his time scoffed at the idea and even refused to join Crookes in some of his experiments with Home.

Although the lengthy preface to his wife’s 1863 book is simply signed “A.B.” De Morgan later admitted to a friend that he was the author of the preface and that his ideas and observations were in complete accord with those of his wife.  The book explores the experiments, studies, and observations of both Mr. and Mrs. De Morgan in clairvoyance, clairaudience, automatic writing, deathbed phenomena and even near-death experiences, beginning in 1853, placing them, with Judge John Edmonds, Professor Robert Hare, and Rev. Adin Ballou, as among the earliest psychical researchers and possibly the first in Great Britain.  Sophia De Morgan, while referred to as a “spiritualist” in some current biographies with a materialistic slant (apparently because of her interest, not because of any memberships), emerges as an objective investigator of psychic phenomena and possibly the first woman to devote her time and energies to psychical research.

“When a strange tale reached us, twelve years ago, of noises which had been heard in America, and attributed to spirits, everybody laughed,” Sophia De Morgan wrote in the first chapter of her 1863 book. “As the stories multiplied, a few persons in England began to think they must have some origin at least, and to wonder why, if spirits could rap in the United States, they did not do so in our country…and at length curiosity was still further excited by the appearance of a medium in London. Mrs. [Maria] Hayden became the wonder of the day; but people fancied that they could detect imposture, and, though none was ever fairly proved, the interest flagged and the ‘medium’ returned to America, having sown the seed of a tree the extent of whose growth has yet to be measured…” 

Mrs. De Morgan recalled in their first sitting with Mrs. Hayden that they waited for 15 minutes or more before anything happened, and they were becoming impatient. They then heard some throbbing or patting sound in the center of the table, and Hayden said, “They are coming.” The sounds gathered strength and Hayden said that a spirit was there. The name of the spirit was spelled out by raps (Mrs. De Morgan would run her finger along an alphabet board until a rap sounded indicating the correct letter, the medium unable to see the board). “To my astonishment, the not common name of a dear relation, who had left this world seventeen years before, and whose surname was that of my father’s, not my husband’s family, was spelt. Then this sentence. “I am happy, and with F—- and G—-(full names given).” All three names were recognized by Mrs. De Morgan,

In the 1882 book, a letter from Augustus De Morgan to Rev. W. Heald, dated July 1953, is quoted, De Morgan described his experience with Mrs. Hayden, explaining that it was his wife’s sister who had communicated.  “After some questioning, she (I speak the spirit hypothesis, though I have no theory on the subject) was asked whether I might ask a question,” De Morgan recalled.  He received an affirmative rap and then asked if he could give the question mentally.  Again, the reply was in the affirmative.  The question he mentally put to his wife’s sister (without speaking)  had to do with the subject they once discussed in a letter.  The reply came: C-H-E-S-S, which De Morgan confirmed as the proper subject.

De Morgan then heard from his deceased father and after some conversation asked his father to give the first letters of an epithets applied to him (his father) by a periodical he was thinking of, one published in 1817.  (It would have taken too much time for the communicator to give the complete epithets).  The reply came, C-D-T-F-O-C, which De Morgan confirmed as correct, commenting that he was satisfied that somebody, or some spirit, was reading his thoughts.  “This and the like went on for nearly three hours, during a great part of which Mrs. Hayden was busy reading the ‘Key to Uncle Tom’s Cabin,’ which she had never seen before, and I assure you she set to it, with just as much avidity as you may suppose an American lady would who saw it for the first time, while we were amusing ourselves with the raps in our own way.  All this I declare to be literally true.  Since that time, I have seen it my house frequently, various persons presenting themselves. The answers are given mostly by the table, on which a hand or two is gently placed, tilting up at the letters….Make what you can of it if you are a philosopher.”  (While De Morgan does not say exactly what the letters stood for, his words suggest that it was something like, “Colonel De Morgan, the fussy old codger.” )

At a later meeting with Hayden,  Mrs. De Morgan had the letters D, E, A, R, E, S, T come through the table and assumed that her name would follow, i.e., “Dearest Sophia,” but the complete message, which was from a long-deceased friend, read, “Dear Esther is with me, and we long to clasp you in our arms in this bright world of glory.”  (Nearly all the messages came through without spaces between words.) “ Mrs. De Morgan noted that the name of the communicator and Esther were both known to her. 

De Morgan continued to sit on the fence concerning the spirit hypothesis, but, also in the preface of the 1863 book, he stated: “I am perfectly convinced that I have both seen, and heard in a manner which should make unbelief impossible, things called spiritual which cannot be taken by a rational being to be capable of explanation by imposture, coincidence, or mistake, But when it comes to what is the cause of these phenomena, I find I cannot adopt any explanation which has yet been suggested. If I were bound to choose among things which I can conceive, I should say that there is some sort of action or some combination of will, intellect, and physical power, which is not that of any of the human beings present.”  He added that “the spiritual hypothesis is sufficient, but ponderously difficult.”  The fact that he did not put his name to the preface seems clearly to have suggested that severe sanctions from the academic world – both from the religious and the scientific sides – would have been imposed. 

Later, in 1866, he wrote, “I have for thirty years, and in my classroom, acted on the principle that positive theism may be made the basis of psychological explanation without violation of any law of the College.”  Wikipedia needs to rethink its branding of De Morgan as an “atheist.”

Michael Tymn is the author of The Afterlife Revealed: What Happens After We Die, Resurrecting Leonora Piper: How Science Discovered the Afterlife, and Dead Men Talking: Afterlife Communication from World War I.
His latest book, No One Really Dies: 25 Reasons to Believe in an Afterlife is published by White Crow books.

Next blog post: September 26

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What the Nuns Forgot to Teach about the Spirit World

Posted on 29 August 2022, 12:26

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

Michael Tymn is the author of The Afterlife Revealed: What Happens After We Die, Resurrecting Leonora Piper: How Science Discovered the Afterlife, and Dead Men Talking: Afterlife Communication from World War I.
His latest book, No One Really Dies: 25 Reasons to Believe in an Afterlife is published by White Crow books.

Next blog post: September 5



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A Spirit Explains Ectoplasm

Posted on 15 August 2022, 8:01

In the February 1905 issue of “The Annals of Psychical Science,” Ernest Bozzano, an Italian psychical researcher, offers an article titled “A Defence of William Stainton Moses.” It is in response to comments made by Frank Podmore, the resident skeptic of the Society for Psychical Research, relative to the mediumship of Moses. Podmore’s theory was that the “spirit lights” frequently reported around Moses were produced with bottles of phosphorized oil hidden on or about him.  He claimed that Moses (below) had pretty much indicted himself by writing about a mishap that occurred during September 1873, as it suggested that a bottle had accidentally been broken.


The charges against Moses were made by Podmore in his book Modern Spiritualism, published in 1904, some 12 years after Moses’s death. He draws from Moses’s own written account of the incident, which reads, “Suddenly there arose from below me, apparently under the table, or near the floor, right under my own nose, a cloud of luminous smoke, just like phosphorus. It fumed up in great clouds, until I seemed to be on fire, and rushed from the room in a panic. I was fairly frightened, and could not tell what was happening. I rushed to the door and opened it, and so to the front door. My hands seemed to be ablaze and left their impress on the door and handles. It blazed for a while after I had touched it, but soon went out, and no smell or trace remained. … There seemed to be no end of smoke. It smelled distinctly phosphoric, but the smell evaporated as soon as I got out of the room into the air.”

The “clouds of luminous smoke” were likely what later came to be called ectoplasm.  Researchers reported it coming in various forms from vaporish to a thick milky-like substance.  Around the same time, Sir William Crookes, a renowned chemist, observed it with medium D. D. Home and referred to it as “psychic force,” a name given to it by lawyer Serjeant Cox, a fellow psychical researcher. 

Podmore was not present, only Dr. Stanhope Speer, Moses’s friend, but Podmore jumped to the conclusion that Moses mishandled a bottle of phosphorus, causing it to break. “Now this is what Mr. Podmore does,” Bozzano explains, “... he makes extracts of phrases where the phenomenon is insufficiently described, detaches the case, thus presenting it to the reader in a state of isolation, and makes a few brief comments on it – which, as usual, resolve themselves into cutting insinuations.” Bozzano further wondered why Moses bothered to write about it if it was a trick gone astray or why Dr. Speer made no mention of broken glass, etc.

Moses mentioned it because he was given an explanation the next day by a spirit communicator. It is not clear which spirit was communicating, but apparently it was Rector or Mentor from the Imperator group of 49 spirits. By means of automatic writing, Moses asked the spirit what the phosphoric smoke the previous day was all about. Here is part of the dialogue that took place:

Spirit: “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.”

Spirit: “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.”

Spirit: “Nor would they, save by accident. The envelope was destroyed by mischance, and the substance which we had gathered escaped.”

Moses: “What substance?”

Spirit: “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?”

Spirit: “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?”

Spirit: “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.”

Spirit: “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?”

Spirit: “From many; from the nerve centers and from the spine.”

Moses: “What is this substance?”

Spirit: “In simple words, it is that which give to your bodies vitality and energy. It is the life principle.”

Moses: Very like sublimated phosphorus?

Spirit: “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, the chief of the band of 49, which included Rector and Mentor, 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 bring with him the nucleus, as we told you.”

At a sitting on September 11, 1873, Maria Speer, the wife of Dr. 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.”

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.”

Everyone who knew Moses, an Anglican priest, spoke of his honesty and integrity, especially Frederic Myers. Moreover, it seems highly unlikely that Moses would have carried on such imposture with his friends for over ten years. Podmore implied that all of Moses’ seances were in the dark, but Bozzano pointed out that many of them were in lighted conditions. This was confirmed by Dr. and Mrs. Speer and others.

Bozzano’s article also refers to other phenomena observed by Dr. and Mrs. Speer, as well as their adult son, Charlton Speer, a professional musician. Charlton reported on strange music about them with no visible instruments.  He described it as something like “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 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.” 

On July 13, 1874, Dr. Speer reported: We had last night an admirable specimen of zither playing, for a length of time. The performer (we don’t know his name yet) actually performed what is called a free prelude; that is to say, a short unbarred composition. The whole thing was most marvelous, for there is no zither in our house, and it is an instrument that cannot be mistaken.” Dr. Speer further stated that they “ascertained that the sounds were in truth evidence of the presence of individuals purporting to have long since departed from earth 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 latest book, No One Really Dies: 25 Reasons to Believe in an Afterlife is published by White Crow books.

Next blog post:  August 29

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The Balance Problem in Weighing the Afterlife Evidence

Posted on 01 August 2022, 6:24

Over the years, I have posted 20 biographies and articles about various psychic phenomena at the PSI Encyclopedia website, which is sponsored by the Society for Psychical Research (SPR). They include bios of Sir Oliver Lodge, Leonora Piper, Professor James Hyslop, and William T. Stead, along with essays on the Glastonbury Scripts, the Buried Crosses, and the mysterious Patience Worth.  Nearly all of them have been edited to some extent to overcome my bias toward accepting the credibility of the person or the genuineness of the phenomenon.  In other words, I rarely give as much weight to the debunker’s side of the story, as I do to that of the dedicated researchers. After all, the researchers had already debunked the debunkers. Nevertheless, if the debunking side is not given equal attention, it is not seen as a “balanced” report and the editor finds it necessary to rework my submission by deleting some of the testimony in favor of the genuineness of the person or the phenomenon or to add some information (or misinformation) that supposedly counters the evidence in favor of the person or the phenomenon. 

My most recent submission, the most edited of all, is on the controversial direct-voice medium, Mina Crandon, (below) better remembered as “Margery,” whose mediumship was extensively studied by scholars and scientists during the 1920s. Historians and pseudo historians have not treated her well. The “know-nothings” are certain she was a fraud.  The debunking theories extend to the possibility that her husband, Dr. LeRoi Crandon, a prominent Boston surgeon and instructor of medicine at Harvard University, enlarged her “female storehouse” so that animal lungs could be hidden there and later exuded and passed off as ectoplasm.  This “anatomical concealment” included reabsorption at the end of the séance as well as the need for a refrigeration unit of some kind.


Most of the phenomena were physical, including levitations of a table, apports (objects floating around the room), unusual lights and breezes, the materialization of hands and arms, 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.  However, the main attraction was the “master of ceremonies,” said to be Walter Stinson, Margery’s older brother, who had been killed in a railroad yard accident in 1911. Walter would speak through his entranced sister and also independently of her in a masculine voice.  He would carry on conversations with the sitters, joke with them, curse at them, whistle tunes, and do automatic writing through Margery. She is said to have produced writing in nine different languages, including Greek and Chinese. 

On the surface, the story seems trite, even laughable, involving no more than homespun vaudeville, but a verdict for Margery would have meant an indictment of mechanistic science and the philosophy of materialism.  The story made front-page news in the New York Times and other newspapers.  It included character assassinations, revenge, sexual innuendos, threatened lawsuits, the aforementioned anatomical storage, and bizarre phenomena, even a table chasing a guest around the Crandon house and down a staircase. 

My submission was melded with that of another writer and the editor’s own research and many revisions, so that I recognize very little of it being from my original paper. What bothers me most is that the key to understanding what some researchers considered “tricks” by Margery is explained in my paper, but none of that survived in the published piece.   

From earlier discussions, I gather that the editor is under pressure to provide a neutral account so as not to offend the members who prefer a materialistic explanation. Once an article becomes biased in either direction, it is no longer “scientific” and is considered “propaganda.” At that point, the materialists do not renew their memberships and the organization faces insolvency.  I understand this concern and appreciate the dilemma of the editor, but at the same time I struggle to understand how an organization or publication can have an unending quest to straddle the fence.  Shouldn’t it at some point be able to move off its perch?  If it does show some unbalance toward accepting a spiritualistic view, has it abandoned science?  It seems so stultifying and senseless for an organization to be perched on the fence for 140 years. In all fairness, I know that some of the editors at the SPR have permitted articles that lean in the direction of spiritual causes. Dr. Leo Ruickbie, whose essay earned him third place in last year’s Bigelow Institute Consciousness Studies contest, is one example.       

As I recall, William Stainton Moses, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Vice-Admiral W. Usborne Moore and Dennis Bradley all had the same concern and resigned from the organization.     

I justify my bias by saying that I am only interested in writing about people or phenomena who have, or which have, been judged authentic by researchers.  If the research pointed to the person being a charlatan or the phenomenon being fraudulent, it doesn’t interest me enough to write about it. I guess that makes me a propagandist in the dictionary sense of the word, i.e., someone who promotes an idea with zeal, even if modern-day politics has given a negative slant to the word. 

In the introduction to my book, Resurrecting Leonora Piper, I explain that I am presenting the case for Piper as a lawyer might present a case for his client in a court of law.  I focused on her many “hits,” and mentioned only a few of her “misses.”  I assumed that the intelligent reader would see that her hits went far beyond chance guessing, coincidence, or advance research by Mrs. Piper and tried to point out that mediums are not infallible living saints.  If I were writing a book about Babe Ruth, I’d focus on his 714 home runs, not his 1,330 strikeouts. However, the problem there is that most people don’t know how difficult it is to hit a 90-100 mph fastball or a breaking ball.  It looks much easier than it is.   

It’s not just the SPR.  I recall being asked by a college professor putting together an encyclopedia on psychic matters to write 5,000 words on levitations.  I did so, but it was unacceptable to him because I didn’t have enough information in the essay on the debunker’s view of it all.  He asked me to revise the submission by adding more research opposed to levitations.  Since I was asked to keep it at 5,000 words, that meant deleting 2,000 or more words supporting levitation and adding the research opposed to it.  However, I was unable to find any research opposed to it, only comments by fundamentalists of science saying it defies the laws of gravity and is not possible, or they offer theories on how the “trick” could have been carried out.  It didn’t amount to much more than 100 words, and so I gave up on that project. I do wonder how a researcher goes about proving that levitation is not possible.

About 20 years ago, I interviewed Dr. Gary Schwartz, a research professor at the University of Arizona and author of the 2002 book, The Afterlife Experiments.  He mentioned that when he was asked to appear on television for interviews to discuss his research, the program producers would always call in a paid skeptic to present the other side, suggesting that Schwartz was on the side of the mediums he had studied because he validated them. Schwartz should have been interviewed as the judge in the case, not as an advocate for the medium.  He had already dealt with the arguments of the paid skeptic. And so it should have been with all the researchers cited in my essay on levitations. 

My essay on Margery included prior research with other mediums, namely Eusapia Palladino. Kathleen Goligher, and Rudi Schneider, which if understood and accepted, would have pulled the carpet out from under the naysayers in the Margery case.  However, that was all deleted from the final product. 

The research with Palladino was some two decades before Margery came on the scene and included reports on movements well away from her reach.  That is, her fingers, hands, and feet seemed to be moving in harmony with activity distant from her, something of a puppet effect resulting from invisible ectoplasmic “strings” between the medium and the object. “When [Professor Oscar] Scarpa held Palladino’s feet in his hands, he always felt her legs moving in synchrony with ongoing displacements of the table or chair,” reported Professor Filippo Bottazi, who referred to the action as “‘synchrony.”

Adding to that is research by Dr. Karl Gruber, as reported in my blog here of March 14.  Gruber, a German physician, biologist, and zoologist, explained that, in his research involving more than 100 experiments with Rudi Schneider, he observed “synchronous movements” between the medium and objects out of his reach.  “This fact has been repeatedly misunderstood by the skeptical, who have seen in it the unmasking of a frightened medium,” he wrote in the May 1926 issues of the Journal of The American Society for Psychical Research.

Gruber cited the reports 0f Dr. William Crawford, a mechanical engineer who carried out 87 experiments with Irish medium Kathleen Goligher and reported on objects out of Goligher’s reach being moved by “psychic rods,” which apparently were made of what others called “ectoplasm.”  They originated with what Crawford referred to as “operators,” which he took to be discarnate human beings. “These particular mechanical reactions cause her to make slight involuntary motions with her feet, motions which a careless observer would set down as imposture,” Crawford wrote.

It was just such movement that contributed significantly to some researchers, as well as Houdini, the magician, condemning Margery, but there is no mention of any of this research in the PSI Encyclopedia on Margery.  Also cut from my submission were most of my comments about Dr. Mark W. Richardson, a professor of medicine at Harvard who is credited with developing a vaccine for typhus.  Although I was unable to determine how many of Margery’s sittings Richardson attended, indications are that he attended nearly all of them, probably well over one-hundred, maybe as many as two-hundred. He also carried out various tests with her to confirm that the “voice” of her deceased brother, Walter, was not coming from Margery’s body.  Even though Richardson was said to be a good friend of Dr. Crandon’s, it is difficult to believe that he could have been fooled so many times or would have collaborated with Crandon in a hoax of this magnitude for years.  If he knew that Margery was a trickster, didn’t he have better things to do?  In concluding his report on the series of sittings in which Margery produced Chinese script, Richardson wrote:

“… there comes a point at which this hypothesis of universal confederacy must stop; or if not this, that the entire present report may be dismissed off-hand as a deliberate fabrication in the interests of false mediumship. I respectfully submit that no critic who hesitates at this logical climax may by any means escape the hypothesis of validity. If the present paper is worthy of and if it receives the slightest degree of respectful attention, the facts which it chronicles must constitute proof of the existence of Margery’s supernormal faculties, and the strongest sort of evidence that these work through the agency of her deceased brother Walter.”


Dr. Mark Richardson testing Margery’s voice

Margery emerges as an attractive blue-eyed blonde, charming, giddy, outgoing to the extent of being flirtatious, and otherwise fitting the “flapper”’ stereotype of the era. She was definitely not the saintly type. When called a charlatan, she reacted with indignation at times, but laughed it off at other times. Although debatable, as so much of the story is, Margery’s flippant attitude may have extended to suggesting that if Walter, her deceased brother, was unable to produce phenomena on a particular night, which was sometimes the case, that one of her friends should go ahead and produce something fraudulent to please those in attendance.  Even if that story is true, it suggests that Margery produced genuine phenomena some, or most, of the time. 

The encyclopedic entry ends with a comment about a “negative” verdict by a committee of five.  To me, a negative verdict is one that judged Margery a fraud.  The verdict was “inconclusive,” not negative.  One of the five committee members voted in favor of Margery and one (Houdini) against her.  The other three said further investigation was necessary.  In effect, it was a “hung jury.”

The words of the renowned Italian researcher Ernesto Bozzano were not included in my submission, as I came upon them later.  He wrote, “It is true that amongst private mediums one occasionally finds persons so imbued with the spirit of sacrifice in the cause of science that they will undergo any kind of humiliation which may be inflicted on them. Such people deserve an honoured place among the saints and martyrs of a future metapsychic calendar, and in saying this, I have in mind that American lady – ‘Margery’ (Mrs. Crandon) – and her worthy husband Dr. L. Crandon.  They submitted themselves to all kinds of tests and endured untold dignity in order to convince the men of science who attended their seances. Such a spirit of sacrifice is indeed worthy of admiration, but one cannot reasonably demand that private mediums should be aspirants to the crown of martyrdom.” 

The bottom line here is that to find spirits, one has to recognize the possible existence of spirits.  Since science does not recognize that possibility, anything involving spirits of the dead must be considered fraud.  It is a Catch 22 situation and so the researcher is forever glued to the fence. 

All that said, I very much appreciate the efforts of the editor of the PSI Encyclopedia, who is faced with producing something that those stuck in the muck and mire of materialism will understand and deem “scientific.”

Michael Tymn is the author of The Afterlife Revealed: What Happens After We Die, Resurrecting Leonora Piper: How Science Discovered the Afterlife, and Dead Men Talking: Afterlife Communication from World War I.
His latest book, No One Really Dies: 25 Reasons to Believe in an Afterlife is published by White Crow books.

Next blog post: August 15


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A More Comprehensive Look at Trance Medium, Leonora Piper

Posted on 18 July 2022, 7:18

In my 2013 book, Resurrecting Leonora Piper, I attempted to make a case for the spirit and survival hypothesis, i.e., that consciousness survives death in another realm of existence sometimes called the spirit world, by offering some of the best “hits” coming through the trance-mediumship of Leonora Piper, (below) while pretty much ignoring the “misses,” what Professor William James called the “bosh” material. I assumed that most readers would recognize that “her” hits went well beyond chance guessing, coincidence, or deception of some kind. As stated in the book’s introduction, I tried to approach it as a lawyer making a case for his or her client in a courtroom.  As I also mentioned, if I were to make a case for Babe Ruth being one of the greatest, if not the greatest, baseball player ever, I would focus on his game-winning hits, not his many strikeouts and other “outs.” The fact is that Ruth’s “misses” far outnumbered his hits, just as Piper’s did.


As I saw it then, the researchers were not offering their reports in layperson’s language and that was the primary reason their findings were not better known and appreciated.  Some of their paragraphs extended to two pages and their attempts to remain scientifically objective often obscured their reports. As a journalist of sorts, I saw a challenge in attempting to convert academic writing to something the layperson might better understand.

Dr. Alan Gauld, no doubt the dean of psychical research worldwide, then and now, and most likely the world’s foremost authority on Mrs. Piper’s mediumship, gave my book a mostly positive review in the Journal of the Society for Psychical Research. He pointed out that I was not trying to write a biography or a scientific treatise,  and, quoting my own words, said that the book “is simply an attempt to explain the dynamics of [Mrs. Piper’s] mediumship, including the difficulties associated with it, and to offer some of the best evidence for survival after death that came from it.”  But Gauld went on to conclude that I was too enthusiastic in endorsing the spirit and survival hypothesis and that I approached the issues from a position at or near that of a “whole-hearted Spiritualist.”

Two of Dr. Gauld’s earlier books were among the references in my book. Before the book was published, I exchanged several emails with him. The only thing I now recall from those references is that he saw the “controls” of Mrs. Piper (Phinuit, George Pellew, Imperator,  etc.) more likely as “secondary personalities” of the medium rather than as spirits of dead and said something to the effect that most researchers agree with that position.  I inferred from that, as well as from his books, that he was a fence-sitter relative to the survival hypothesis, even though a belief that the controls were secondary personalities does not necessarily mean the person has rejected the survivalist view.  I was not then (and am not now) qualified to debate with him, but I do recall noting in our exchanges that the four researchers who spent the most time with Mrs. Piper – Dr. Richard Hodgson, Sir Oliver Lodge, Frederic W. H. Myers, and Dr. James Hyslop – all appeared to accept both the spirit and survival hypotheses while also rejecting the secondary personality aspect of the medium’s control.    “…if you assume the control is a spirit, as is more evidently the case for all who have intelligently investigated the problem, you have another mind beside that of the medium with which to deal in the problem,” Hyslop wrote.

In his recently released book, The Heyday of Mental Mediumship: 1880s – 1930s, published by White Crow Books, Dr. Gauld offers a much more balanced account of the Piper mediumship than I did in my book.  He discusses many of Piper’s misses, and there is considerably more detail about several of the key cases, including many facts about some of the sitters with Mrs. Piper that I did not encounter in my research of her. He uses the actual names of the sitters rather than the pseudonyms used in the initial reports by the researchers and in my book.  However, saying that Gauld’s account is “more balanced” is not to suggest that he debunks Mrs. Piper.  In fact, she survives his analyses as a genuine medium and seemingly remains as renowned in the field of mediumship as Babe Ruth does in the baseball arena. 

One of the more interesting chapters of Gauld’s book has to do with Tom and Lilla Perry, referred to as Jim and Mary Howard in Hodgson’s initial reports and in my book.  George Pellew (G.P.), before his death in 1892, had been close friends with the Perrys.  Tom had been one of his instructors at Harvard and the two men formed a close bond. In fact, Pellew lived with the Perrys between 1880 and 1883 and apparently was very attached to Lilla, who, 11-years-older, seems to have been like a big sister to him. Indications are that Tom was well aware of the attachment and did not see it as a threat to his marriage. 

Gauld provides quite a bit of background information on the Perrys. Besides teaching English at Harvard, Tom tutored in French and German and “was reckoned the best-read man of his time.”  Lilla, the daughter of Dr. Samuel Cabot and a descendant of Benjamin Franklin, was an accomplished musician and linguist. She published several books on poetry and became a world-famous painter, regarded as a pioneer in bringing impressionist influences to the United States. 

Gauld adds to the mystery of Pellew’s death at age 32.  The first account I read many years ago was that he fell off a horse.  Then, a subsequent report had him falling down a flight of stairs at his apartment house early in the morning. A third report had him tripping over a step or two at the entry way to his Manhattan apartment. Gauld states that his body was found in evening dress, lying in the areaway of 70 West 35th Street in the early morning of February 18, 1892, indicating that he had fallen from the area steps, breaking his neck. However, his brother, Charles, is said have identified the body in front of a cigar store that was in fact a gambling establishment. The suspicion seems to be that his parents, very prominent in New York, tried to make his death a respectable one. Whatever the cause of death, a photo of Lilla Perry was found on Pellew’s body.

John Heard (given the pseudonym John Hart in the records), was a friend of both Pellew and the Perrys.  He sat with Piper on March 22, 1892, a little over a month after Pellew’s (below) death.  Phinuit, then Piper’s control, correctly identified Heard’s father and uncle by name (both named George) as well as the nickname of another uncle named Albert, then asked, “Who is Thom-s…Thomas…Tom?” Heard replied that he is Tom Perry, who is not dead.  Phinuit responded, “There is another George who wants to speak to you. How many Georges are there about you anyway?”


Heard placed the photo of Lilla Perry taken from Pellew’s body in Mrs. Piper’s hand.  Phinuit then spelled out “ILA, EILA, LILA, LILLA,” then PELLIN and PELLEW, before Pellew broke in, saying “I want to see her awfully.  Tell her I am not dead.” (It is not clear, but apparently Pellew spoke directly to Heard using Mrs. Piper’s voice mechanism, not finding it necessary to use Phinuit as a go-between.) Either Phinuit or Pellew spelled out TOM and THOMAS again and also asked about “Mucer” which was changed to “Mercer.” Pellew mentioned that he had lent a book to Mercer.
After some muddled messages, Pellew said, “I want to see Lilla – That’s where the music is. John, if that is you, speak to me! Tell Tom I want to see him. He will hardly believe me…I want him to know where I am – O good fellow!” 

Pellew went on to say that another friend, Howells, has a book of his and he wanted Lilla Perry to have it.  It was a book of poems by Pellew that he had given to Howells for publication.  “I want him to give it to Lilla. I will it to her. Sing. She’ll play for me. She’ll play…” (Lilla was a talented pianist.)  The demand was again made at subsequent sittings. 

A pair of studs was placed in Piper’s hand and Heard asked who gave them to him. Phinuit, replying for Pellew, said they were his and that he gave them to Heard. However, he corrected himself and said that his mother had given them to Heard, then, again corrected himself and said it was his father who gave them to Heard,.  He changed again and said it was his father and mother together that gave the studs to Heard as a keepsake.  It was determined that Pellew’s stepmother took the studs from Pellew’s body and his father had sent them to Heard as a keepsake.

Near the end of the sitting, Pellew said (again through Piper’s voice mechanism), “My love to Lilla. What’s Marguerite? Tell her: she’ll know. I will solve the problems, Margaret.”  Marguerite/Margaret (referred to as Katharine in the transcript) was the Perry’s eldest daughter with whom Pellew had had frequent talks about philosophical matters.  Upon hearing from Heard about the sitting, Tom Perry was much impressed and mentioned that Pellew had once told Margaret that he would “solve the problems” and let her know. After hearing from Heard of his experience with Mrs. Piper, Tom and Lilla arranged for a sitting with her. The first of many took place on April 11, 1892.

In that first sitting, Phinuit opened, but the French accent faded away as Pellew took over and spoke directly, at times writing through Piper’s hand. Pellew asked if Howells had given Lilla the book of poems yet.  Lilla replied that Pellew’s father and his brother, Charlie, did not want her to have it. “Strange they should say that,” Pellew said. “That is one of the things we can’t understand here.”

Pellew went on to mention friends Welling and Opdycke, adding that Opdycke was always very fond of him, “though he understood me least of all my friends.”  Gauld states that Hodgson confirmed all the references by Pellew to persons, incidents, characters, etc.  There is considerably more about the Perrys and Pellew reported by Gauld, much of it veridical, including a sitting in which Lilla brought a lamp to the sitting so that she could better take notes.  Pellew apparently recognized it as a lamp he had given Lilla as a gift.  In another sitting, Edith Perry, another daughter, was present when Pellew mentioned a book he had given to her in which he had written her name and also commented that she was weak in mathematics.  Both were confirmed as fact. 

Gauld states that it is clear “that both Perrys – not just the emotionally involved Lilla, but also Tom, whose mind-set had long been that of an eighteenth-century rationalist – were soon disposed to accept the identity of the G.P. communicator with the George they had known.”

Gauld, now 90, devotes about two-thirds of his 324-page book to the study of Mrs. Piper,  including, as stated above, many of her misses.  I was reminded of much and learned much.  I haven’t yet had the opportunity to read the last one-third of the book, but I look forward to it. It includes discussions of “Mrs. Smead,” “Mrs. Soule,” Gladys Osborne Leonard, and other credible mediums of the 1880-1930 period.

The impression I got from reading Dr. Gauld’s earlier books and reports was that he was securely perched on the fence, his more materialistic hand holding tight to that fence while he was looking partly yonder in the spiritualistic direction.  After reading what he has to say in this book, I now see him partly dismounted from the fence, one leg still hooked over it and the other leg touching down on the survivalist side while more enthusiastically looking yonder in the survivalist direction.  He concludes the book with a comment that he agrees with fellow researcher Stephen Braude that with some cases it “would be not just very difficult but perhaps (in some sense hard to define) illogical to reject the survivalist hypothesis out of hand or at least to fail to give it due consideration.”  He adds that a survivalist could justifiably ask an opponent, “What more do you want, what more can you sensibly ask for?”

Michael Tymn is the author of The Afterlife Revealed: What Happens After We Die, Resurrecting Leonora Piper: How Science Discovered the Afterlife, and Dead Men Talking: Afterlife Communication from World War I.
His latest book, No One Really Dies: 25 Reasons to Believe in an Afterlife is published by White Crow books.

The Heyday of Mental Mediumship: 1880s – 1930s: Investigators, Mediums and Communicators by Alan Gauld is available from Amazon.

Next blog post:  August 1  

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What the Spirits Say on the Abortion Issue

Posted on 04 July 2022, 7:41

With the United States Supreme Court reversing a prior decision in favor of abortion rights, the country is further dividing itself and there is much self-righteousness on both sides.  I don’t want to get into politics at this blog and don’t pretend to know which side is right or whether there is an actual moral issue involved.  If those opposed to abortion are right about life beginning at conception, then it would seem that there is a moral issue.  However, I have been unable to find enough “spirit communication” on the subject to lean too much in one direction. I did find what follows.

“Conception, the union of two cells, instantly sends out a note and a light to the spiritual realm, so that a soul wanting to come to earth is attracted toward that union,” the discarnate Alvin Daniel Mattson (below) communicated through British clairvoyant Margaret Flavell during or around 1972. “In some cases, the soul may have been attracted to those potential parents before. Immediately, a subtle connection is made by the soul with the aura of the mother, and the Angels of Form begin to work on the higher planes to prepare for the entry of the soul into the fetus.”


Dr. Mattson was a Lutheran theologian before his transition from the material world in 1970. He taught for 36 years at the Augustana Theological Seminary, later the Lutheran School of Theology, in Chicago, and was chairman of the Department of Christian Ethics.  Flavell was a graduate of the London School of Paranormal Psychology and Sanctuary of Healing.  During World War II, she was commissioned by Lord Hugh Dowding, Marshal of the Royal Air Force, to use her psychic abilities to trace missing RAF pilots.  The messages were communicated from Mattson through Flavell to Ruth Mattson Taylor, Mattson’s daughter.  She was a spectro-chemist with a Master of Science degree from Northwestern University.  Fifty-five messages came through from Mattson between March 1971 and October 1973. Many of them were set forth in Taylor’s 1975 book, Witness from Beyond, but those involving abortion are drawn from her 1999 book, Evidence from Beyond.

“When the fetus quickens, the incoming soul seems to become more closely attached to the aura of the mother, but it does not actually enter the physical body at that time,” Mattson explained.  “The soul does not actually enter the physical body until the moment of birth.”

Mattson went on to say that he had witnessed the “descending soul” and it appeared to enter the physical body when the baby took its first breath.  “If a fetus is aborted in the second or third month of pregnancy, it appears that the in-coming soul has not yet drawn close enough to the auric field of the mother to be too adversely affected,” he continued. “Since it may not be aware of the fact, the disruption is not as drastic as some people believe. However, when you abort a fetus at any point after conception, you are really contravening the creative laws of the universe. You are interrupting a creative process that has been set in motion on many levels.” Mattson added that he would not advocate abortion as a routine method of population control and that family planning should be by birth control before conception.

Silver Birch, a group soul communicating through the trance mediumship of Maurice Barbanell, a London journalist without any religious attachment, was totally opposed to abortion. “From the moment of conception, the spirit has incarnated into a woman’s womb,”  Silver Birch communicated. “When it is aborted, it will continue to be a spiritual body, however immature, and grow and develop. You may have destroyed the means of physical expression, but you have not destroyed the spirit that was there.”

Silver Birch went on to say that those who practice abortion will one day be confronted by the spirits that had attached themselves to the fetus at conception.

Bill Wooton, a World War I victim, frequently communicated through the mediumship of renowned medium Lilian Bailey. “When conception takes place the real soul power has not yet entered the physical form of the child in the womb,” Wooton said. “It is well known that when a woman is pregnant, at the half-way stage she feels the “flutter of life.” There is life before that, but it isn’t spiritually evolved. It is only one of the stages of evolution preparing a physical body in the womb to receive the soul.  Then, in those first four-and-a half months the soul itself prepares, with all the help from our side to enter the physical form in its embryo condition. Within the seventh month it becomes more vigorously alive.”  Wooton did not directly address the abortion issue, but one might infer from what he said that abortion is at least morally contraindicated at some point near the middle of the pregnancy.

Alan Kardec, the famous French educator whose books gave rise to the philosophy known as Spiritism, asked a spirit if the union between spirit and body is definitive at the time of conception. “The union between them is definitive in this sense – namely that no other spirit would replace the one who has been designated for that body. But, as the links which hold them together are at first very weak, they are easily broken, and may be severed by the will of a spirit, who draws back from the trial he had chosen. But, in that case, the child does not live.”

Kardec pressed for a better answer, asking if the fetus has a soul. “The spirit who is to animate it exists, as it were, outside of it; strictly speaking, therefore, it has no soul, since the incarnation of the latter is only in course of being effected; but it is linked to the soul which it is to have.”

Kardec then asked if abortion is a crime. “Every transgression of the law of God is a crime,” came the response. “The mother, or any other, who takes the life of an unborn child, is necessarily criminal; for, by so doing, a soul is prevented from undergoing the trial of which the body thus destroyed was to have been the instrument.”

But what if the mother’s life is endangered by the birth of a child, Kardec questioned. “It is better to sacrifice the being whose existence is not yet complete than the being whose existence is complete,” was the reply.
Kardec also asked if the spirit knows beforehand that the body he has chosen has no chance of living.  “He sometimes knows it, but if he chooses it on this account, it is because shrinks from the trial he foresees.”

In her 1979 book, Life Before Life, Helen Wambach, Ph.D., (below) a psychotherapist, tells of past-life regressions she carried out with 750 patients.  Among the questions she put to them was one having to do with when the soul enters the fetus. “In summary, 89 percent of my subjects expressed the feeling that their consciousness was something separate from that of the fetus, and they did not experience inside the fetus to any degree until at least the sixth month,” Wambach writes. “A majority of the subjects did not experience the fetus until just before birth. Of those who reported joining the fetus from conception to four months, their description indicated they might have also been experiencing in and out of the fetus. Eighty-six percent of all the subjects said that they became aware of the feelings, emotions and even thoughts of their mother before they were born. Many of the subjects said that they were aware of the mother’s feelings because they themselves were not locked into the fetus, but instead seemed to be hovering around it.”


Wambach concluded that the soul “has a choice of which fetus to enter. If one fetus is aborted, apparently it is possible to choose another. In some cases, the soul who will occupy the fetus is in contact with the soul of the mother and can influence her decision regarding abortion.” Her research also indicates that souls “can elect to leave the fetus or the infant’s body and return to the between-life state.” Wambach wondered if the sudden death syndrome in infants is the result of such a decision by the soul.

Those who don’t believe in spirits and those who believe that spirits are all advanced infallible beings will likely have a good laugh at the conflicting explanations here.  I must confess that it is the first time I can recall questioning the teachings of Silver Birch, as I find the words of Wooton and the research of Wambach more consistent with other teachings coming from the spirit world.  Moreover, I lean slightly toward the final conclusion of Mattson relative to motivation.  At the same time, I accept other communication stating that spirits are at various levels of advancement and don’t have all the answers, and further that communication from them can be distorted by the medium’s subconscious mind or by devious earthbound spirits. Clearly, much discernment is required.

Michael Tymn is the author of The Afterlife Revealed: What Happens After We Die, Resurrecting Leonora Piper: How Science Discovered the Afterlife, and Dead Men Talking: Afterlife Communication from World War I.
His latest book, No One Really Dies: 25 Reasons to Believe in an Afterlife is published by White Crow books.

Next blog post: July 18


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12 Possible Reasons why Thomas Edison Failed to Communicate After Death

Posted on 20 June 2022, 7:45

A recent television program dealing with mysteries of the unknown featured a story about the great inventor Thomas Edison (below) giving the famous mentalist Joseph Dunninger 10 words that he would attempt to communicate to him through a medium after his death, as evidence that he had survived death. As I did not anticipate writing about the story I neglected to record the details, the name of the program, or even the network. A week or so later, a very skeptical friend mentioned having seen the same program and saw it as evidence that the whole idea of spirit communication is just so much bunk.


The gist of the story, as my friend and I recalled, is that sometime after Edison’s death in 1931, Dunninger, (below) who had a reputation as a debunker of mediums, arranged for a sitting with a female medium named Warner (or Werner) near the top of the Empire State Building with several other people in attendance. The location was chosen as it was “closer to heaven.” There were all kinds of raps and racket coming through initially, but eventually only one word came though the medium. It had something to do with location of Edison’s laboratory, but it was not, according to Dunninger, one of the 10 test words. Moreover, Dunninger later determined that all the noise resulted from plumbers working on some pipes floors below the séance. Thus, he supposedly ruled out “spirit raps.” I don’t recall it being stated how many of the 10 words the medium had to get through for the experiment to be a success, but I suspect that Dunninger would have deemed it a failure if only nine of the 10 words came through.


There might have been more information that we don’t remember and there is likely much more to the story that the television producers did not mention. I made a cursory attempt to search for more details on the internet and in my library, but I could find nothing about the story. The television commentator reported that Dunninger clearly proved that the medium was a fake and it might have otherwise been inferred by the viewer that Edison had not survived death. My friend asked for my thoughts on the matter and I replied with 12 possibilities:

1. Actual Fraud: Dunninger may have been right – the “medium” was a fraud. However, that does not mean that all mediums are charlatans or that Edison did not survive death. No information was given as to how the medium was chosen or how successful she had been under test conditions by objective researchers, if she had been studied by any.

2. Prearranged Failure: Having a reputation as a debunker of mediums, Dunninger may have seen success in the experiment as damaging his reputation. Therefore, he could have arranged it to fail or could have falsely reported any success. There was no indication by the TV commentator as to what others in attendance had to say about the sitting or if others confirmed the presence of plumbers causing the raps. 

3. Hostility: It has often been reported by researchers and mediums that a hostile or negative attitude prevents effective communication and that harmonious conditions provide the best results. Even if Dunninger did not set up the experiment for failure, his hostile attitude toward mediumship may have blocked Edison from making contact. In his 1901 book, The Law of Psychic Phenomena, Thomson Jay Hudson, Ph.D., LL.D., discussed this.  “Exhibitions of the phenomena of spiritism are constantly liable to utter failure in the presence of avowed sceptics,” he wrote. “Everyone who has attended a ‘spiritual’ séance is aware of the strict regard paid to securing ‘harmonious conditions,’ and all know how dismal is the failure when such conditions cannot be obtained.”

4.Telepathy: Dunninger had a reputation as a mind-reader.  If he actually had telepathic abilities, he still rejected the idea of spirits and spirit communication. Thus, if the medium had been successful in communicating some or all of the 10 words, Dunninger might have seen it as resulting from reading his mind. Rather than suggest that the medium had abilities equal to his, he opted to call her a fraud. 

5. No Sympathetic Link: The “medium” may have had mediumistic abilities, but she was unable to establish a “sympathetic link” to the spirit of Edison for the desired communication for reasons other than Dunninger’s hostility. Such is the case in many mediumistic efforts. Even the best of mediums fail completely in some sittings, partially in others. “We are persistently told at circles that mutual confidence is essential – confidence of the medium in the sitters, and confidence of the sitters in the medium,” researcher Dr. Isaac Funk wrote. “There must be a receptive conditions in the circle. The requisites are serenity of mind, confidence in the integrity of each other, and calm desire.”

6. Symbolic Language: Research indicates that many mediums must interpret messages that come through symbolically from the spirit world. Thus, if Edison had communicated, the words might have been synonyms for the actual words given to Dunninger. “The easiest things to lay hold of are what we may call ideas,” Sir William Barrett communicated after his death. “A detached word, a proper name, has no link with a train of thought except in a detached sense; that is far more difficult than any other feat of memory or association of ideas.” Barrett added that he could remember a name on his side when he had a “complete mind,” but that when he came back to the earth realm to communicate, he was forced to separate the conscious from the subconscious, thereby forgetting much. “I cannot come with my whole self, I cannot,” he told his widow. When Lady Barrett asked him to elaborate, Sir William pointed out that he has a fourth dimensional self which cannot make its fourth dimension exactly the same as the third. “It’s like measuring a third dimension by its square feet instead of by its cubic feet,” he continued, “and there is no doubt about it I have left something of myself outside which rejoins me directly I put myself into the condition in which I readjust myself.”

7. Unawakened: Indications are that most spirits are slow to awaken to the larger life, some not even realizing they are dead. Intelligence does not necessarily convert to consciousness in the spirit world, and it may be that the spirit of Edison had not yet gained the necessary consciousness to be able to communicate. I don’t recall any mention of how long after Edison’s death the Empire State Building experiment took place. After Dr. Richard Hodgson, another researcher, died in 1905, he began communicating through the mediumship of Leonora Piper, the Boston medium he had studied for 18 years, apparently then not fully awakened to the celestial life. “I find now difficulties such as a blind man would experience in trying to find his hat,” the surviving consciousness of Hodgson told Professor William Newbold in a July 23, 1906 sitting. “And I am not wholly conscious of my own utterances because they come out automatically, impressed upon the machine (Piper’s body)…I impress my thoughts on the machine which registers them at random, and which are at times doubtless difficult to understand. I understand so much better the modus operandi than I did when I was in your world.”

8. Limited Memory: Many spirit communicators have stated that their memory of their past earth life is very limited and that forgetting code words is no different than humans forgetting computer passwords or having so many computer passwords that the critical one cannon be recalled. It appears that names are no easier to remember in the spirit life than they are in the earth life. “Tell them I am more stupid than some of those I deal with,” Frederic W. H. Myers communicated as he struggled to remember the last time he had seen Sir Oliver Lodge. He mentioned that he could not remember many things, not even his mother’s name. He went on to say that he felt like he was looking at a misty picture and that he could hear himself using the medium’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,” he went on. “It is not my whole self talking. When I am awake (i.e., not communicating through a medium),I known where I am.”

9. Advanced Insight: Edison may have had the ability to communicate through a medium, but from his new perspective was able to see Dunninger’s devious motive to debunk the medium and therefore saw no point in attempting communication and playing Dunninger’s game.

10. Lacking Ability: Research suggests that only a small percentage of spirits have the ability to communicate with the physical world. In his attempts to communicate with Anne Manning Robbins though the mediumship of Leonora Piper, Augustus P. Morgan, the former mayor of Boston, Massachusetts, explained that several other spirits trained him for many months in earth time in how to communicate. “They have held me up and showed me the Light, and said, ‘do this and do that, and see this and see that,” and shown me the details, and the ins and outs and the whys and wherefores, and why shouldn’t I learn something after having it hammered into me all the time.”

11. Too Advanced: Spirit communicators also state that it is easier for lower-level spirits to communicate than more advanced spirits, as the lower-level spirits are closer to the earth frequency than those higher. The higher spirits often require lower-level spirits to relay their messages to humans and indications are that it is difficult to find reliable lower-level spirits to cooperate in such an endeavor. Edison may have found himself at too high a frequency to effectively communicate and unable to find a reliable go-between, the existence of which are apparently rare. 

12. Necessary Doubt: Edison may have settled in with an advanced soul group that believes that “doubt” is a necessary part of life’s experience and that such proof of his survival would be detrimental to human progress. Moreover, Judge John Edmonds, one of the earliest researchers, was informed that there is in the spirit world much opposition to intercourse with the physical world, “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.”

My friend wasn’t buying many of my 12 reasons because they were based on spirit messages, not on “science.” Again, there might be much more to this story recorded somewhere, possibly in one of Dunninger’s books, but, considering Dunninger’s reputation as a debunker, I would expect a biased report. One thing I did come across on the internet is how Dunninger was able to make paraffin hands, thereby supposedly demonstrating that the researches carried out by esteemed scientists in Europe in which paraffin hands were materialized were nothing more than tricks by the medium. The fact that the European researchers held the hands of the medium behind locked doors while the paraffin hand molds were being produced and otherwise controlled the conditions does not seem to have been factored into Dunninger’s analysis. It was enough that they could be made. (See blog of July 25, 2011 for more about the paraffin hands experiments.)

Michael Tymn is the author of The Afterlife Revealed: What Happens After We Die, Resurrecting Leonora Piper: How Science Discovered the Afterlife, and Dead Men Talking: Afterlife Communication from World War I.
His latest book, No One Really Dies: 25 Reasons to Believe in an Afterlife is published by White Crow books.
Next blog post: July 4

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A Longing After Immortality

Posted on 06 June 2022, 6:09

Many thanks to guest blogist Howard N. Brown, D. D. for writing this blog.  It first appeared in the March 1914 issue of the Journal of the The American Society for Psychical Research (Volume VIII, No. 3.  Since it was written entirely by Dr. Brown, (below) no quotes are used.


Much has been said of the moral value of the idea of immortality both as a warning to prospective evil-doers, and as a support to those who must endure present wrong. It is, distinctly, in these ways a moral power. But of far greater consequences it is that, in the end, our feeling and persuasion of the rationality of existence are at stake upon it.  Moral considerations have slight force when life becomes to a man what it was to the man Macbeth – “A tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury.”  Moral impulses may survive, for a long time, in the agnostic mind, which is not sure whether or not it lives in a rational universe, since that mind leaves open the possibility that reason rules, after all. But morality cannot make much headway except as it finds under its feet a strong conviction that life is a reasonable thing, and is going a road whose ultimate goal is worth what it costs to get there.

The ordinary mind may not think things out very far, but it is quick to feel when the central entrenchments of its life are being undermined; and to nothing is it more sensitive than to attacks on its belief in the immortal life.  It feels, and has a right to feel, that when this is destroyed there is nothing left, at last, but a mad and ruthless scramble for the material enjoyments of this present life.

Critics of the belief have vastly overworked the suggestion that it springs out of the desire for continued existence. If man could keep his life here indefinitely, in bodily health and vigor, no doubt that is what he would prefer.  But it is no wise probable that many people do feel so much “longing after immortality.” They are generally in no haste to take that boon when it appears to be close within their reach. While we know so little about that other life it cannot be so very attractive to us. The instinctive belief in it springs from a deeper root.  We are bound to believe if we can in a rational universe, and we know in our hearts that it cannot be made to seem rational without the idea of immortality.

But while all unsophisticated life is in the habit of taking freely what it wants and not bothering much about the logical justification of such proceedings, we have come to a time when a rapidly increasing number of people will not and can not jump these intellectual chasms.  It is not enough for them to know that they much prefer to live in a rational universe, nor even that it is essential to common morality to have it appear a rational universe.  The question still recurs: “Is it, in fact, a rational universe?”

And here is the true bearing of the work which psychic research has undertaken.  If it can find proof of the persistence of personal memory and personal intelligence after death, then there is an answer to the doubts of the cultivated man when he queries whether, after all, life is worth living. That shows him a way by which to uphold, intelligently, the rationality of existence.  Lacking this, he is thrown back into more or less uncertainty whether the great drama of the world’s life has any meaning or an end.  The academic world ought, at this moment, to be hanging with breathless interest upon the result of experiments and examinations that are being conducted with this purpose in view. That it is not, we must ascribe to the fact that, save in the use of certain technical tools, the academic world is not so very much wiser than some other folks. No doubt in a matter of such vast interest more than ordinary precaution is likely to be preserved among thinking people. But it might be more generally recognized that even a small amount of good evidence tending to uphold belief in a future life, and so to strengthen the conviction that existence is a reasonable reality, would possess untold moral value.

To champions of extreme democratic ideas this may not mean so much.  It may be said that the great mass of men always have, and always will believe in immortality, with or without evidence; and that it is only the life of this mass which really counts. But all who think that the general life is much swayed by and largely takes its tone from the character of the more intellectual classes, will realize the moral significance of the question whether or not the intellectual man is to continue to keep the idea of an immortal life. It may be frankly granted that, apart from some kind of evidence, it is practically an unbelievable idea; I think, notwithstanding all our fine-spun theories to account for its origin and rise to power, common sense will say it never could have obtained its hold upon the general mind without evidence which that mind regarded as satisfactory. The attempt now to supply the trained intellect with evidence of the continuance of life beyond death, evidence which it can and must respect, is one that every lover of his kind should wish might be finally crowned with success.

I very much doubt whether any human thought can fathom the infinite mind.  But what I want is enough of drama or plan in existence, as it is known to me, to give assurance that I can ultimately arrive at some more perfect understanding of the mysteries of being. With the future life in view I can be satisfied that the world, so far as I am able to know it, is a reasonable creation, and has a reasonable movement toward a reasonable end. This does not answer all the questions about the universe that I am disposed to ask. But for some of these answers I can wait till more light is afforded me.

Michael Tymn is the author of The Afterlife Revealed: What Happens After We Die, Resurrecting Leonora Piper: How Science Discovered the Afterlife, and Dead Men Talking: Afterlife Communication from World War I.
His latest book, No One Really Dies: 25 Reasons to Believe in an Afterlife is published by White Crow books.

Next blog post: June 20

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Canadian Physician Informed: “We Do Not Die”

Posted on 23 May 2022, 17:03

Due to failures of certain researchers to grasp the anomalies of mediumship, including the research involved with the mediums Mina Crandon, aka Margery, George Valiantine, and Rudi Schneider, during the 1920s and early ‘30s, parapsychology began replacing psychical research, the emphasis being on evidence for extrasensory perception (ESP) and away from spirits, physical mediumship and life after death, in general.  However, there was still one researcher who continued to focus on physical mediumship and other phenomena suggesting a spirit world.  He was Thomas Glendenning Hamilton (1873-1935), better known as T.G. or Glen to his friends (below).


A successful physician and surgeon in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada when he became interested in psychical research in 1918, Hamilton also taught medical jurisprudence and clinical surgery at Manitoba Medical College.  His initial interest in psychical research was a result of articles on psychic phenomena by William T. Stead of England and later after hearing from his friend, Dr. W. T. Allison, a professor at the University of Manitoba, about the investigation of the “Patience Worth” phenomena in St. Louis, Missouri, USA.

Hamilton and Allison carried out some experiments in thought-transference, or telepathy, and became convinced that there was something to it.  Hamilton then began studying the reports of esteemed members of the Society for Psychical Research, including Sir William Crookes, Sir Oliver Lodge, Professor William James, Professor Charles Richet, and Alfred Russel Wallace.  “To suggest that these trained observers were all deceived by fraudulent operations, those stupid and very tiresome performances which mislead no one but the uninformed and gullible, is to offer an explanation which offends our reason and shows willful indifference to truth,” Hamilton wrote.

Hamilton first experimented with Elizabeth Poole, a family friend who lived near him.  With her, he observed a 10-pound table move by itself and heard communicating raps come from the table.  An early message supposedly came from Frederic W. H. Myers, one of the pioneers of psychical research and read:  “Read Plato Book X.  Allegory very true.  Read Lodge.  Trust his religious sense. Myers.”
But, after 40 séances with Poole, Hamilton, concerned about the negative reaction to his research and his reputation, temporarily gave up his research of mediums.  Early in 1923, however, he had an impromptu sitting at which a message purportedly coming from William T. Stead said, “Go on with your work.  More ahead. Stead.”  Hamilton then resumed a weekly study of the Poole phenomena.  Over a five-year period (1923-27), he observed Mrs. Poole in 388 séances and observed 591 trance states containing 977 trance products of a purely mental nature.  In addition to Stead, author Robert Louis Stevenson and missionary-explorer David Livingstone were among the frequent communicators. 

Poole would go into a trance state and her hand would then begin writing.  “It seemed to be directed to one purpose only, that of setting down the script,” Hamilton recorded, referring to the writing as coming through in an extraordinarily blind sort of fashion. “But it was a blind and trusting automatism which assumed the cooperation of the observer. It displayed no awareness of the end of the paper, or of a broken pencil, or of the removal of the paper.  In all such cases the hand wrote steadily on, regardless of any circumstances which made the automatism valueless.  In order to facilitate such matters, the medium was supported in her chair and her arm was lifted at the end of each line and returned to the starting point on a fresh sheet of paper.”

Poole was semi-illiterate and lacking in spelling and basic grammar skills when writing consciously.  Hamilton was reasonably certain that she had never read any of the works of Stead, Stevenson, or Livingstone.  Yet, many details of their lives and published stories came through Poole’s trance writing.  While Hamilton, his wife Lillian, and others on the research team, had read some of their works, much of the information that was dictated was unknown to them and had to be verified by acquiring their books from various libraries.  Moreover, Hamilton noted that there were differences between the handwriting of the various trance intelligences.  In her normal state, Poole wrote slowly and with care, but in the trance state, under the influence of Stevenson, her hand wrote in a dashing, headlong, nervous style.  The Livingstone messages were written more slowly and with “manifest imperturbability.”  The Livingstone script was small and neat, Stead’s larger, while Stevenson’s was largest and roundest of all, “betraying more than the others (and particularly more than the medium’s own) that appearance which we call ‘cultivated’.”

The stream of memories and ideas from each communicator was well-defined and unmixed, Hamilton added. “Yet between the change from one dominating trance entity to the next, the medium made little stirrings and uneasy movements which were interpreted as her efforts to re-integrate herself,” he explained. “Though less marked, a similar effect was observed when there was a change of memory-topic by one of the communicators.”

Livingstone’s messages lacked the poetry and creativeness of Stevenson’s, and were more factual in content.  The messages included many tribal names and places encountered by Livingstone during his travels, most of which were unknown to the medium and sitters but later verified as part the Scottish explorer’s adventures.

Indications were that Stead, who had been very much interested in mediumship before he died in the Titanic disaster of 1912, was the director of the group of discarnates, who were cooperating with Hamilton and his group in their researches and that Stead had urged Stevenson and Livingston to present their memories in such a way as to indicate continuity of human personality and creative skill.  Moreover, Stead predicted the coming of a second medium whose powers would unite with those of Poole to produce materializations.”

The second medium was Mary Marshall, referred to in the scripts as “Dawn.”  She had displayed some psychic gifts as early as 1923, but did not begin to develop as a trance medium until 1928.  Mary’s sister-in-law, Susan Marshall, referred to as “Mercedes” in the records, also developed as a medium and was studied by the Hamilton group, which by this time consisted of Hamilton, his wife Lillian, his brother Dr. James Hamilton, and Dr. Bruce Chown, a professor of pediatrics who is remembered for his research of the Rh negative blood factor.  A fourth medium, a professional man who preferred not to be identified and was referred to as “Ewan” also contributed to the research.

Walter Stinson (“Walter”), the deceased brother of Boston medium Mina Crandon (“Margery”), claimed to be the primary control for Dawn, Mercedes, and Ewan, but “Katie King,” who manifested in the mediumship of Florence Cook nearly 60 years earlier, also controlled Mercedes, while “John King,” who had controlled Eusapia Palladino 30-40 years earlier, also controlled Ewan.

Dawn became known for her “teleplasms,” which were primarily strange two-dimensional manifestations similar to those obtained by Drs. Gustave Geley and Albert von-Schrenck-Notzing with the medium know as “Eva C.” in France. Ectoplasm, or teleplasm, as it was also called, flowed from an orifice of Dawn, after which faces would appear in the ectoplasm. Some of the faces, including Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Charles Haddon Spurgeon, were familiar to the researchers.  As Geley had come to understand them, these were incomplete or fragmentary materializations as the medium was not powerful enough for the “spirits” to fully materialize. Hamilton was able to photograph many of these teleplasms.  According to Hamilton, Walter would signal when to take the picture.

“Five years, from 1928 to 1933, we gave to this study,” Hamilton wrote.  “Through all these stages unseen intelligences led us, directed us, co-operated with us, and did their best to maintain rigorous conditions of séance-technique – intelligences claiming to be the dead.  As are most investigators in the beginning, reluctant at first to face these most astounding agencies and their equally astounding claims, we were forced – if worthwhile phenomena were to be secured and made available for examination – to capitulate and to walk humbly before their greater knowledge in these matters. I make no apology for this state of affairs.”
On March 29, 1931, members of the research team witnessed an unusual phenomenon with Dawn. “For some ten minutes the pencil was heard moving across the sheets of paper,” Margaret Lillian Hamilton, Glen Hamilton’s daughter, recorded.  “While her hand wrote for some unknown communicator, ‘Walter’ spoke through her in his usual rather offhand and joking fashion.  The three medical men present, my father, his brother, Dr. J. A. Hamilton, and Dr. Bruce Chown, all expressed amazement at witnessing two streams of diverse thought emerging simultaneously through the single organism of the entranced automatist.”
In spite of the complete darkness, the writing was neat and within the margins and on the lines of the foolscap paper. The unsigned message read, in part:  “The spirit world is not far removed from the natural world.  In appearance the spirit world closely resembles the physical world; the similarity is too startling for you to believe.  The incarnate mind views spirit in the sense of intangibility as something like misty nothingness, when the truth is, spirit, to spiritual beings, is tangible and real. The spirit world, as we term it, is the abode of undeveloped spirits, those who have not long left the body, and those who, by the law of spirit life, have not yet risen to higher spheres by progression…”
After Hamilton’s death in 1935, his wife and daughter led the research circle, primarily with Dawn.  During 1943, Dr. Hamilton communicated a number of times.  “I see you, Lillian, as a spot of vivid light,” he told his wife during an August 1943 sitting, “but to me you seem tenuous.  It is the old question of adjusting to one’s environment.  At first I could not do it; at first I had trouble in learning to adjust the amount of energy necessary to each action; so little energy is required here.”

In a later sitting, Hamilton said that he had met John King, Robert Louis Stevenson, William T. Stead, Oliver Lodge and Mary Lodge and had seen Frederic W. H. Myers, Camille Flammarion, Arthur Conan Doyle, William Barrett, Rudyard Kipling, William Crookes, “and many others who have forgotten their names.”
In still a later communication, Hamilton said that he saw a group of people looking in the graves which contained the remains of their bodies.  “With some it is an obsession which they cannot get free from while a bit of flesh remains on the bones,” he said, “and that is why Walter and Spurgeon and R.L.S. (Stevenson) and the others wish it to be known that we do not die– only in the flesh.  The soul lives on and takes a new form.”

Michael Tymn is the author of The Afterlife Revealed: What Happens After We Die, Resurrecting Leonora Piper: How Science Discovered the Afterlife, and Dead Men Talking: Afterlife Communication from World War I.
His latest book, No One Really Dies: 25 Reasons to Believe in an Afterlife is published by White Crow books.

Next blog post: June 6

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Boggled Spirit Minds & Messages – Part II

Posted on 09 May 2022, 8:17

“When we converse through a medium and with a medium or automatist we become, as it were, dependent on her thoughts, words and images, and we go wrong, we stray in that tide. It can be a River of Forgetfulness temporarily too, for the struggling communicator in many cases, and it can be a mixture; part the automatist, part the communicator, or it can come in flashes and be almost true.”

So communicated the discarnate Winifred Coombe Tennant (below) in the fifth of forty scripts recorded by renowned Irish automatic-writing medium Geraldine Cummins on February 15, 1958.  As summarized in my previous blog, Coombe Tennant (hereinafter referred to as Winifred) was a renowned medium, herself, before her death on August 31, 1956, at age 82. She began communicating through Cummins on August 28, 1957.


Winifred stressed that she was still new to it all, still learning, and there was much that she did not understand about mediumistic communication, but she could give assurance “that human souls born into this world after death in many cases pass on to a different level, where their appearance is of a kind not known to any being on earth.  They are not merely moving at a different rate; they travel on a different scale. On that scale and changed key, they are cut off from earth. Only when these souls drop back in the scale and slower rhythm and sequence [frequency?] near the physical, can they project or put on the likeness of themselves as they were on earth, so that she or he [is] whole as the inner eye perceives them or their projected images. Or they, in that minor scale and key, convey fragmentary communications to the subliminal mind of a skilled medium. But medium is an incorrect term. They should be called interpreters, and bad ones at that! So often there is mistranslation. They catch perhaps what the communicator emphasizes and then fill in their own subconscious material. Oh, the woeful mistranslations!”

In the ninth script, on February 16, 1958, Winifred directed the message to her son Henry, fully aware that Henry did not believe in an afterlife. “Far be it from me to convert you to a belief that a vestige of your mother still lives on quite comfortably, without ache or pain,” she wrote through Cummins’s hand. “Later I may explain why it is probably far better for you to keep your belief in my annihilation. But it is happiness to me to get your letter, to write to you again, and tell travellers’ tales.” She went on to tell Henry that she had some pleasant dreams, some uneasy ones, and some nightmares before she woke up from the “sleep of death” and was welcomed by her father and mother, followed by Henry’s father and her two sisters. “I was too overjoyed perhaps at getting a glimpse of George, your brother, so father and mother soothed me, calmed me, took charge of me and gave my first sense of locality and environment.” (Note: For an unexplained reason, Winifred’s oldest son, Christopher, is continually referred to as George, his middle name, throughout the scripts.)

Winifred went on to say that she now had a freer movement in space-time. She was able to relive familiar scenes from her earthly life. Her mother and father, she explained, now existed at a higher plane than she found herself in, but they were able to come down to her level and “put on their mortal semblance as I remembered them, in order to greet me.”  Had she been able to go up to their level, they would be almost unrecognizable, she added.

In the 14th script, a message from the “group” to which Winifred belonged on the Other Side added to her comment that the famous Cross-Correspondence cases in which she had participated were no longer possible as “human desire springing from imagination has failed.”  The Group added: “It is when imaginative desire fails on the part of human beings otherwise fitted for the work that ‘cases peter out,’ as you describe the process. At the present time imagination is too completely subservient to the intellect among well-educated people. The over-riding intellect produces sterility of imagination. Such people are therefore wholly incompetent as investigators: they are bound, if they can investigate, only to meet with negative results. But atheists or agnostics who do not subdue the imaginative desire of the explorer will, granted other conditions, a skilled medium, etc., obtain fruitful results. If the desire is there, the gift is there.

Several months later, in the 28th script, Winifred communicated that “even temporary belief on the part of the sitter and automatist in the personality of the communicators is a vital part of the conditions.” She pointed out that Gerald Balfour’s intellect was wholly skeptical, but his imagination was not. “It could clearly conceive a situation his intellect did not admit, for imagination has its roots in the subliminal mind. His subliminal mind, as well as his deeper emotional being could wholly believe in the communicator’s reality. Yet, in ordinary life his cold, impersonal intellect governed all his actions.”  She recalled cases in which Balfour, J. G. Piddington, and Eleanor Sidgwick (all prominent SPR researchers) accepted the reality of the communication during the sitting but later rejected it due to the intellect later overriding the imagination.

“The opposite to Gerald and Oliver Lodge is the egocentric sitter who has a deep-seated complex, such as a repressed horror of death, or inordinate vanity that derives from an insecurity fear. How dreadful to the egocentric is the thought that others might deem him credulous! Another quite useless investigator is very much a creature of his physiological brain patterns. Communicators are cut off through his being cut off from his subliminal, and through a paralyzing emanation from him.  G. B. (Balfour) and O. L. (Lodge) were fortunately free from any of these crippling hindrances which prevent any results of value being transmitted in most cases.” 

In the 16th script, Winifred stated that the human being consists of a number of selves or aspects with a primary self. “We only become unified in spirit or the other self on the higher level. When I communicate, I blend with the automatist in the sense that depend partly on her memory and her standard of intelligence for words in which to express my thoughts. Occasionally her subliminal mind enters my mind, plunders an idea or memory. It is not all a one-way traffic. Then, of course, her mind may insert in patches its own mistaken interpretation. Supernal and infernal juggling can occur.” 

As a test, Henry, still very skeptical, asked his mother about her sittings with the “scientist” during her earth life. Winifred remembered the scientist being Sir Oliver Lodge. “How may I describe that first meeting with Sir Oliver?” Winifred communicated. “Charm is not the word to apply to him. Kindliness is a more suitable noun with which to describe his gracious reception of me. He spoke very appreciatively of my brother-in-law Fred (Myers), and of the greatness of his work, and of the need for people psychically gifted, who were of good standing and repute, to devote time to experiments in order to follow up and develop his pioneer work. I was deeply impressed.”  In Winifred’s diary for April 15, 1909, she wrote: “Of the SPR, the most surprising thing to me is Oliver Lodge. His accuiel (?) to me has been astonishing – so extraordinarily kind and gentle and understanding, so unlike my idea of a Professor. I have lost any sense of shrinking in that respect which I had and feel as if I knew him already.”

In the earlier scripts, Winifred talked about being part of a group, a group that was controlling the communication. She elaborated on the group in the 28th script. “The human being’s soul belongs to, or is derived from, a Group Soul, which is inspired by one spirit,” she further explained. “If we make progress in the after-death, we become more and more aware of this Group Soul. It is more than a brotherhood, it is organic, an organized psychic or spiritual structure. Its spirit is the bond that holds together a number of souls. The spirit might be described as a thought of God, or the Light from Above –the Creative Light from Above. It has an apartness from God, as is the created thing from the One who gave it life. At first an embryo innocent, it has to gather a harvest. There are unaccountable spirits, each one connected with a Group Soul.”

In the 32nd script, Winifred informed Henry, still doubting the validity of the messages purportedly from his mother, that she no longer cared whether he accepted her continued existence beyond death.  “Oh I was filled with moral and missionary zeal and laboured in various ways to give evidence of my identity,” she communicated. “But now all desire has left me to convert you…I do not care whether to the end of your days you consider me non-existent…love, a force of gravitation in this world of the mind, will inevitably draw us together at some future date. Meantime, be as happy as you can in your nursery illusion that death means extinction. It will make the universe seem much cozier to you. But life goes on relentlessly and so does my love for you, dear son.”

Michael Tymn is the author of The Afterlife Revealed: What Happens After We Die, Resurrecting Leonora Piper: How Science Discovered the Afterlife, and Dead Men Talking: Afterlife Communication from World War I.
His latest book, No One Really Dies: 25 Reasons to Believe in an Afterlife is published by White Crow books.

Next blog post: May 23




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Why Spirit Messages are Sometimes Twisted, Garbled, and Distorted

Posted on 25 April 2022, 9:10

Although the evidence for spirit communication is overwhelming, it seems well established that messages from the spirit world coming through mediums are often distorted by the medium’s subconscious mind.  Moreover, the messages are altered, twisted, and garbled by the inability of the medium to properly interpret symbolic or pictographic messages, or to grasp ideas which are not familiar to her or words not in her vocabulary. The messages are further garbled by the inability of the spirit communicators to lower their vibrations to the earth frequency or to achieve harmonious conditions, not to mention interference by low-level spirits who are closer to the earth frequency than the more advanced spirits. One of the best references discussing the subconscious aspects in such communication is Swan on a Black Sea, first published in 1965.  It involves messages coming from Winifred Coombe Tennant through the automatic writing of renowned Irish medium Geraldine Cummins (below) between August 1957 and March 1960. In all, there were 40 separate messages, or “scripts.”


While in the earth life, which ended on August 31, 1956 at age 82, Coombe Tennant (hereinafter “Winifred”) was a leader in the women’s suffrage movement, an art patron, a philanthropist, a magistrate for her district in Wales, and a liberal politician, serving as a British delegate to the League of Nations. Thus, she used the pseudonym “Mrs. Willet” in her mediumship work to protect her privacy. Her mediumship was studied extensively by members of the Society for Psychical Research (SPR), including physicist Sir Oliver Lodge, Lord Arthur Balfour, prime minister of England from 1902 to 1905, and his brother, statesman Lord Gerald Balfour. 

The communication with Geraldine Cummins was arranged by William H. Salter, a British lawyer and officer of the SPR. He did not give Winifred’s identity to Cummins and provided only specimens of her handwriting in an envelope to psychometrize by holding the letter to her head. He arranged for Winifred’s two youngest sons, Alex and Henry, to review the messages for factual information and verification. They also had Winifred’s personal diary from which to confirm facts. 

In the first script, on August 28, 1957, Astor, Cummins’s spirit control, instructed her to put the letter to her forehead. “I see her as a very old woman in the eighties, very fragile. She lost a son when he was only a youth. He was killed when he was nineteen or twenty, I think,” Cummins recorded Astor’s words. (Winifred’s first son, Christopher, was killed in World War I.)  Astor said he got the name “Wyn” or “Win,” but he couldn’t get the complete name.  He also got the name “Henry” or “Harry” but wasn’t sure which it was.  He felt that Wyn or Win was too anxious and trying too hard to show him different memories, thus obstructing the communication. 

The following day, in the second script, Astor communicated that “Win” was more at ease and explained that she began to get automatic writing when she was a child, but it wasn’t until years later, after she was married, that the power greatly increased. Astor said others were there and got Cummins’s name, Geraldine, but corrected himself and said it was the male equivalent, Gerald. After some conversation, it was determined that it was Lord (Gerald) Balfour, who had died in 1944.  (Indications are that Winifred and Lord Balfour had become intimate at some point in his study of her and that Henry was their son.)

Astor then relayed the following message from “Win”: “There comes to me from the earth such a feeling of oppression, of worrying, or anxiety, of fear of death, and all is derived from non-belief. If they could only but realize half the glory, even a fragment of the peace of this life I now experience. Oh! If I could only make them accept it, there might at least be some rationality. Rationalists are irrational, and it makes such a confusion, creates so much fear, when death, that deliverer approaches.”

It was on the third script that Astor got the names Fred and Win.  “No, she says, they are not the names of a man and a woman,” Cummins recorded as coming from Astor. “Put these two names together and you will get mine – Fredwin – she shakes her head. Yes, I see, it is Winfred…..” Astor then explained that Winifred wanted to try to communicate directly through her (Geraldine’s) hand (rather than have Astor relay the messages).  Winifred achieved direct communication and explained that the confusion in her first message “was due to my being in a sense compelled to select from your memories while you were selecting from mine.”  She said that confusion between the names Henry and Harry was a result of Cummins’s memory of her (Cummins’s) brother Harry, who was killed in the Great War, being “stirred up” when she (Winifred) attempted to get Henry’s name through. 

“I see now how we can wander and get lost in the memories of the automatist when we so-called dead try to communicate,” Winifred added. “This kind of mutual selection is bound to be what my friend Gerald (Balfour) calls a ‘mixed grill.’ But in the communication of the second message to W.H., whose letter is beside you, I meant what I said. I was clear and collected, as clear as if I was a magistrate sitting on the Bench giving [her] verdict.  I was one, you know, who sat on the hard bench.”  The second script referred to by Winifred included a message to William H. Salter (W.H.) telling him that he had a free hand in publishing from her diary or other references from her earth life. She added: “My memory is still rather in tatters, but I seem to recollect that I left restrictions as to what should be published.  Scrap them. I am convinced – no, I think it is ‘concerned’ – W.H.S. – that people should believe.”

In the fourth script, Astor returned and said that Gerald Balfour was with him.  He explained that Balfour was the leader of a group on their side and that Winifred was acting as a kind of liaison officer for the group.  Balfour communicated that Winifred was extremely nervous and still struggling to adapt to the spirit world.  “As in the case of very old people still in the physical body, those who have experienced the full span of life on earth when they come here recall most easily fragmentary memories of the distant past and fail to recollect near events,” Balfour wrote through Cummins’s hand. “As [Winifred] says quite correctly, we seem to swim in the sea of the automatist’s subliminal mind, and any strong current may sweep us away from the memory objectives we have in view, before we attempt to communicate.” Balfour suggested that Winifred could better establish herself by attempting to write more about her early life.

There was then a change of handwriting as Winifred returned and gave the name “Morgan.” She immediately corrected herself and said to add W. G. on to Morgan, the result being Morganwg, which is Welsh for Glamorganshire, where she lived many of her early years with her husband and sons.  She then struggled to get her husband’s family home, Cadox Lodge, first getting “Cad,” then “Cadre,” “O.” “Ox,” “Cadre Ox,” and finally Cadox Lodge. “How crammed is one’s life with detail!” she communicated. “How difficult to pick out from the mass what signifies in memory. Cadox Lodge presents all that mass to me.”  She recalled Dorothy, Eveleen, and Fred, two of her sisters-in-law and brother-in-law, visiting the lodge.  (Fred was Frederic W. H. Myers, one of the pioneers of psychical research who had communicated extensively through Cummins in prior years following his death in 1901.)

In the fifth script, on September 24, 1957, Astor opened with a comment that “the lady with the darting mind” was with him and was prepared to write.  He said that she identifies herself as “Mrs. Wills.” (the first attempt at getting the name “Willet” through the medium’s mind.) Winifred then took over and said she was directed by a “Group” there –“people who once lived at Cambridge, or were connected with it,” and that the group wanted her to explain that “there is a succession of me’s throughout my life – psychic units all building up.  The outward semblance, the personality varying, as each psychic unit acts its part upon the stage, then passes on. But behind it is one’s real self, fundamental, greater than its personality. That is what the Group here say. It is what is permanent.” 

Given the Cambridge clue, along with the name Gerald Balfour, and similarity of the names Wills and Willet, Cummins began to suspect that it was Mrs. Willet communicating. She had read Lord Balfour’s study of Mrs. Willet many years earlier as well as a 1946 book, The Personality of Man, by physicist G. N. M. Tyrrell, who had devoted a chapter of his book to Mrs. Willet.  However, they did not reveal her true identity and Cummins said she was unaware of it and that she knew nothing of Winifred’s family or personal history.

Winifred continued to provide veridical information, including names, places, and experiences that were confirmed by her two sons or from her diary – information that Cummins could not possibly have known without a team of detectives digging extensively into her history and having access to the diary. Some of the experiences involved trivial matters that no detective could have uncovered. For example, in the 19th script, she recalled her dislike of a prayer asking “to deliver us from sudden death,” going on to explain that she preferred sudden death to a long illness leading to death.  Her son Alex recalled his mother telling him of her dislike of this prayer. 

In the 36th script, Winifred explained that when the messages began two years earlier, the Group had appointed Edmund Gurney as her assistant.  Gurney, one of the founders of the SPR, had died in 1888. “They considered that the difficulties were considerable for me in presenting successfully through G. C. (Geraldine Cummins) anything that would make an impression on an intellectual public….We were to work double harness, as it were, he to provide the force, I to be the actual communicator…He shaped the outlines of certain scripts I have written via G.C.  I provided the memories and was the communicator who directed the pen. But there were occasions when he trespassed on to the territory of my mind. In fact, his mind, in certain instances, blending with mine, may have, as he admits himself, taken away from the revelation of what was characteristic of me. I want to make it clear that occasionally his keen sense of humour, was too flippant and cheap in character. These I disown, and I ask that in any analysis of these writings, due allowance is made for the Gurney blend in the style and approach of certain of the scripts. There is of course a considerable reside of myself in them. Also, on my own I wrote several intimate personal letters [to Henry] that were entirely me. I am glad to perceive in your dear letter, Henry, now before me, that you recognize something of myself in the last scripts received by you.”  (Many of the later scripts involved messages to her son Henry, who did not believe in life after death, in attempt to help him believe.)

“On the other hand,” Winifred continued, “I must honestly say that I, as a newcomer to this level of life, would, I believe, owing to the great difficulties of communication, have almost totally failed, if it had not been for Edmund’s experienced assistance and driving force.”

Michael Tymn is the author of The Afterlife Revealed: What Happens After We Die, Resurrecting Leonora Piper: How Science Discovered the Afterlife, and Dead Men Talking: Afterlife Communication from World War I.
His latest book, No One Really Dies: 25 Reasons to Believe in an Afterlife is published by White Crow books.

Next blog post: May 9 (more on the Cummins-Willett scripts)  

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How An Evangelical Discovered Mediumship was Not Demonic

Posted on 11 April 2022, 8:49

As an ordained Baptist minister, Charles Mundell believed that mediumship was the work of the devil.  However, he gradually became more liberal in his thinking, especially after reading Sir Oliver Lodge’s 1916 book, Raymond or Life and Death, in which Lodge, a renowned British physicist, reported on communicating with his son Raymond, who had been killed on the World War I battlefield, through several mediums. 
On August 7, 1921,  Joe Mundell, (below) Charles’s 21-year-old younger brother, was killed in a deer-hunting accident in northern California.  There was speculation that Joe was distraught and had shot himself and there was also suspicion that he had been shot by other hunters and left to die. Family members were particularly upset at the report that Joe had taken his own life.  Charles and his wife, Margaret, left Oklahoma to be with the parents in Oakland, California, where they lived.  Joe had also lived there, working for the railroad at the West Oakland train yard.


Some five weeks after Joe’s death, Charles, his wife, and his mother, Verna, were discussing Joe, life after death, Lodge’s book, and other aspects of psychical research when they decided to try some experiments in table tipping. They opened with a prayer and then sat for about a half hour with no results. They were about to give up when Verna recalled reading books where sitters remained quiet for hours waiting for manifestations. They continued to sit and wait, and about 15 minutes later, the little table in front of them began “quivering and vibrating like something alive.”  Then, it lifted off the floor several inches.  Charles asked if a spirit was present and to signal “yes” by three tilts of the table and “no” by one tilt.  The table tilted three times.  Charles then told the invisible entity that he would slowly recite the alphabet and asked that a tilt of the table be given at the proper letter. After the tilting table spelled out H-A-R, Charles asked if it was Harriet, Verna’s mother. Three tilts followed for “yes.”  After a few familiarization questions, Verna asked if Joe was with her.  Three tilts of the table followed.  Charles then asked if Joe could communicate.  The table tilted only once, indicating “no.”  Margaret wondered out loud if perhaps Joe had not been over long enough to develop sufficient strength.  The table then tilted three times. Other deceased family members were discussed, including two of Verna’s children who had died in infancy.  They were informed that both were with Grandma Painter (Harriet). 

On September 19, Charles had a sitting with Emma Nanning, a Spiritualist medium.  He did not give his name. No sooner had he entered when Mrs. Nanning said she saw the spirit of man enter the room with Charles. She then asked if he had a brother who had recently passed into the spirit world.  Before Charles could answer, she told him that the spirit said he is his brother Joe, just recently passed out and that he was showing her an accident.  “Tell mama I didn’t do; it was an accident,” the medium passed on Joe’s words. Nanning went on to say that she was seeing Joe sitting down on a log with a gun in an area of mountains or hills.  She added that Joe was attempting to make his way to a nearby cabin.  Charles was unaware of any cabin in the area but later verified that such a cabin existed, thus concluding that this was evidence the medium was not reading his mind.

Several days later, Verna and Margaret Mundell had a sitting with Nanning.  Having read enough of debunking theories, they did not give their names or any indication that they were related to Charles.  Nanning told Verna that her mother was standing in back of her. “She says, ‘I have brought Joe to you!’”  She then got the name Harriet for Verna’s mother.  Joe then came through and told his mother that he went quickly and that she should not grieve.  “You are wiping out my spiritual life by your tears,” he told her.  Joe then explained the accident, which had still been a mystery.  He said that he was in the process of rolling a cigarette when the gun fell and fired. He added that Grandma Painter was the first to greet him on the other side.

Joe related that the over-anxious atmosphere and his mother’s crying made it difficult for him to communicate.  He said that when she had more faith, he would come to her in his own strength (apparently without a medium).

The following week, Charles, his father, Sam, and Margaret attended a public sitting with Nanning and two other mediums.  Sam’s mother, Elizabeth, had died in Los Angeles a few weeks before, not long after Joe’s death.  Nanning came to Sam and told him that “Elizabeth comes to you.  She says, ‘I’m your mother.  Everything here is so much different that I expected.  I wasn’t looking for this.  It is all so strange.  You must help me, my son.  I can’t understand it all – yet!  I am groping for light’.”  Charles interpreted that to mean that his paternal grandmother (Grandma Mundell) was confused because, as a member of an orthodox church, she had expected golden streets, pearly gates, and jasper walls.  Upon finding the spirit world no more than a continuation of this world, except pitched in a higher plane and of a more ethereal nature, she was having a difficult time getting her bearings.

On September 27, there was another table sitting at the Mundell home.  This time, Margaret Mundell’s father, Herman Brunke, came through.  As he spoke limited English, Margaret put questions to him in German and answers were received accordingly.

Seeking even more communication, Charles, Margaret, and Verna took the ferry over to San Francisco the following day for a sitting at a public Spiritualist meeting with Mrs. Marie F.S. Wallace, whom they had never met or seen.  About 20 other people were present.  After giving what appeared to Charles to be accurate and satisfactory messages to others in the room, Mrs. Wallace came to Margaret and told her that her father had a message of love.  To be sure she knew it was him, he asked her if she recalled the time he slapped her over the head with a newspaper.  Margaret replied that she remembered the incident very well.  Wallace also mentioned that he was showing her that he was killed in a fall from a high building after his foot struck something sharp, like a spike.  While Margaret was aware that her father had fallen from a Chicago skyscraper, she was unaware of the spike or cause of the fall.

Wallace then came to Verna, telling her she heard a spirit calling, “Mama.”  She went on to relate the message:  “I just sat down to rest.  I was tired. I was leaning on a gun…It all happened so quickly, like a flash.”  Wallace then got the name, Joe.  “Joe says, ‘I still live.’ He says something about black.  ‘Don’t like for mama to wear black.’ ‘Please don’t grieve for me.  I am all right.  When you grieve it makes it harder for me to get close to you – it makes aura so dense.’  He says, ‘Willie is here, too – and Annie!’ (the Mundell children who died in infancy) . Joe says, ‘I made Charlie come home.’ Joe also says, ‘If Charlie hadn’t come home, mama would have been here, too, by this time’.”  Charles interpreted the latter comment to mean that Joe had impressed him to leave Oklahoma City and return to Oakland.  He recalled the desire to return as “irresistible.”

On October 2, Charles, Margaret, Sam, and Verna again attended a public meeting with Emma Nanning in Oakland. Nanning came to Margaret and told her “Vater” (German for “father”) was present.  He then gave his name as Herman.  Charles took this as very evidential, especially since his wife looked more Spanish than German.

Two days later, the family again took the ferry to San Francisco for a private sitting with Mrs. Wallace.  Wallace came to Sam Mundell and said she saw him as an official or leader of an organization having to do with railroads.  In fact, he was general chairman of the railroad workers union.  Wallace told him that he had fathered five children.  Sam told her there were only four, forgetting that a fifth child died a few days after birth.  Charles saw this as particularly evidential in ruling out telepathy. Joe again came through, offering more evidential information and ending with the comment:  “Papa, I can go where I please, and I don’t have to wait for trains like you do.”

On October 12, Charles, Margaret, and Verna had another table sitting at the Mundell home.  They waited 20-25 minutes before the table tilted twice, indicating sprit presence.  The alphabet was recited and the name H-a-r-r-i-e-t was spelled, again Verna’s mother. Charles asked his grandmother how the table tilting phenomenon works.  “It isn’t any known law of earth,” Harriet slowly spelled out. “It is spirit magnetism. I don’t understand it, but I can use it.  Just like electricity is used on earth.  Raymond Lodge is experimenting on it in his father’s laboratory.  I am tired.”

Joe then communicated through the table.  He was asked what it was like where he was and what he was doing.  He replied that it was warm and bright with no fog or flees. He was going to school and learning what he didn’t have a chance to learn when he was a kid.  He was then asked for more details on his accident.  He explained that the gun was leaning against his leg as he rolled a cigarette.  As he reached for a match, he knocked the rifle over.  The next thing he knew he awoke in his grandmother’s arms with Willie and Annie holding his hands. He felt no pain.  He was now with many friends and loved ones.

On November 16, Charles had a sitting with another medium, Mr. F. K. Brown of Oakland.  Again, Joe communicated, stressing that his death was neither suicide nor murder, “just an accident.”  Charles continued to verify that it was actually Joe communicating.  One very veridical piece of information mentioned by Joe was the fact that Charles was wearing his old watch. When Joe mentioned that he (Joe) was still using the watch, Charles became confused and requested clarification.  Joe explained that Charles only had the shell of the watch, but that he had the real watch.  He further mentioned that he was using some of his old clothes, pointing out that the material might be in an old trunk in their mother’s house but the “life of them” is with him on his side of the veil.

In all, Charles consulted five mediums.  None of the mediums knew him or had his name on the first visit, seemingly ruling out fraud.  Several messages were unknown to the sitters and therefore suggested telepathy was not a factor. It was more than enough to convince Charles that his brother Joe and other family members were still “alive.” 

(Reference: Our Joe by Charels S. Mundell, The Austin Publishing Co., Los Angeles, CA, 1922)

Michael Tymn is the author of The Afterlife Revealed: What Happens After We Die, Resurrecting Leonora Piper: How Science Discovered the Afterlife, and Dead Men Talking: Afterlife Communication from World War I.
His latest book, No One Really Dies: 25 Reasons to Believe in an Afterlife is published by White Crow books.

Next blog post:  April 25

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Overcoming Existential Angst with Afterlife Evidence

Posted on 28 March 2022, 8:58

According to several internet references, old-age begins at 65, but 65-74 is “young-old,” while 75-84 is “old” and 85-and-up is “old-old.”  As I cross the threshold into that oldest classification, perhaps best referred to as “dotage,” it seems like an appropriate time to philosophize, including looking back at how my views on God and the afterlife have changed with the four seasons of life, as depicted in the accompanying collage – youth, young adulthood, middle-age, and old age.


My earliest beliefs were molded by the Catholic Church.  There was no question about the existence of God or an afterlife, one that had three possibilities – heaven, purgatory, and hell.  All those going to purgatory would eventually make it to heaven, although it might take a few hundred years of pain and suffering equivalent to that in hell before one had purified himself enough for graduation to heaven.  The afterlife seemed like a pretty dull place, but it was too far in the future to concern myself with the lack of entertainment and excitement there. I was a curious kid (top left photo) and often struggled with the Catholic teaching that one could live a sinful and shameful life but still make it to heaven, via purgatory, by confessing his sins on his deathbed, while another person could live a relatively virtuous life and be condemned to hell for eternity if he died with a single sin on his soul, one that he had not yet confessed. It just didn’t seem fair and I couldn’t imagine that a just God would permit a system that was based for the most part on luck. 

My high school biology teacher professed a belief in Darwin’s theory of evolution,  although he was very careful in setting it forth as dogma.  At that time, the early 1950s, I, and many others, took a belief in Darwinism to be one of atheism, and I couldn’t understand how such a nice and intelligent guy could have such a “demonic” belief.  As a college freshman, I took a philosophy course in which I was fully awakened to the idea that there might not be a God or an afterlife. But death was too far off to let nihilism really bother me too much. I clung to my Catholic beliefs but with more skepticism than before. 

During my three years of obligatory military service following college, I concluded that military life, while offering much travel and an abundance of adventure and learning experiences, was not for me. However, not long before the completion of my tour of duty, I participated in a military track meet and excelled to the point that the commanding general invited me to his office to congratulate me. The general noted from my file that I would soon complete my service and asked if I had given any consideration to making the military a career.  My athletic victories apparently outweighed my lack of a “gung-ho” attitude, as must have been evident in my file on the general’s desk. I didn’t go into detail with the general, but my primary reason for not being interested in such a career was an existential one, probably my first real existential reasoning. 

We were between the Korean War and the Vietnam War at the time and I reasoned that if I were to succeed in a career as a military officer I would have to hope for a war in order to have fulfillment in my career.  The alternative was to complete a 20-year military career without ever having put all my training into practice.  I saw it as a no-win situation – either continually hope for a war and have one or have a career in which all my efforts went for nothing beyond being prepared for something.  I discussed the dilemma with several fellow officers and was surprised to find out that they had never considered that aspect of it.  Moreover, they didn’t seem to fully grasp my mental conflict or to be interested in giving it any thought.  I was puzzled and wondered if I had been digging too deeply into the future.

No Carpe Diem
At that time, I was just beginning to struggle with the much greater existential concern of whether life had any meaning.  Even if I were to find some fulfillment in a career, I wondered to what end.  I never was a “carpe diem” person.  I could find no enjoyment in eating, drinking, and being merry in the time not allotted to preparing for war or later in working a nine-to-five job in the civilian life. I definitely wasn’t the “party animal” that many of my friends were. I could make absolutely no sense of smoking, a popular endeavor at the time, and I found beer and all other alcoholic beverages very distasteful.  The materialistic, hedonistic, or Epicurean lifestyle that most of my friends sought had no appeal, even though I made several attempts at experiencing it (top right photo). Fortunately, my “existential angst” during those early years was soon mitigated significantly by the demands of family life, a career, sport (bottom left photo), and other escapes from reality – a reality in which seemingly few pause to ask the meaning of it all.

In his 1974 Pulitzer Prize-winning book, The Denial of Death, anthropologist Ernest Becker explains that we all use repression to overcome death anxiety.  That is, we bury the idea of death deep in the subconscious.  Borrowing from Blaise Pascal, the seventeenth-century French philosopher, Becker points out that we literally drive ourselves into a blind obliviousness with social games, psychological tricks, and personal preoccupations so far removed from the reality of the situation that they are a form of madness – “agreed madness, shared madness, disguised and dignified madness, but madness all the same.”
My madness continued through most of my forties. An empty nest at home, reaching a plateau of achievement and advancement at work, and a significant decline in athletic performance due to the effects of aging all prompted me, at around age 50, to come to grips with my madness and give more thought to existential matters. I soon realized that I was a victim of what Soren Kierkegaard, known as “the father of existentialism,” referred to as philistinism – tranquilizing oneself with the trivial.  As Kierkegaard saw it, most people in despair from philistinism don’t even realize they are in despair. 

I considered the humanist approach that life is all about making it a better world for future generations, but I ran into a roadblock when I tried to put myself in the place of a descendant several generations ahead with all the leisure and comforts of a true Epicurean, and wondered what I would then do to make it even more pleasurable.  Wouldn’t it just lead to more materialism, more hedonism, then monotony or insanity? 

Now, at the mid-point of my ninth decade of life (lower right art, thanks to Michael Hughes), I often reflect on the various crossroads in life, wondering where I would be at this moment if I had chosen a different path, or even if I would still exist as a human being. 

Then What?    

All that came to mind recently while reading Return of the God Hypothesis by Stephen C. Meyer, the director of the Center for Science and Culture at Discovery Institute in Seattle.  Meyer writes that the problem of human significance began to torment him when he was 14 years old and an ardent baseball fan. He thought about a player achieving great success on the ballfield, being elected into the Baseball Hall of Fame, thereby achieving “immortality of sorts,” but then he would die. “Then what? What did any of those numbers measuring his achievements mean after that?” Meyer asked himself.  He further recalled wondering about the “lasting meaning” of a great surgeon who had saved many lives during her career – lives which had all now expired.

Meyer began to see his concerns as “a metaphysical panic, a fear of the meaninglessness of life.”  He could find no lasting value or meaning in any human achievement, nor in love or kindness.  In later years, he “encountered many other people, particularly students, who have experienced a similar metaphysical anxiety about whether their lives or human existence generally has any ultimate purpose.”  He suspects that such hopelessness has contributed to the epidemic levels of suicide among young people and that the plague of opioid addiction around the world is an attempt by people to numb themselves against a gnawing despair that has to do with what they see as a meaningless life.  To that I might add a recent report that alcohol-linked deaths surged in the pandemic’s first year, rising from 78,927 in 2019 to 99,917 in 2020.  What might the numbers be of the alcoholics who didn’t die?

Meyer has been able to overcome his angst by studying all the evidence suggesting Intelligent Design of our universe. If I am interpreting him correctly, he infers from such design that there is a God and deductively draws from that premise that consciousness must continue after death.  I don’t quite understand how Meyer moves from the reality of God to the reality of a larger life after death, but if that works for him and others, good for them.

For me, it has been inductive reasoning from some 35 years of studying psychical research and related stories that has provided a conviction that consciousness does survive death in a larger life. That conviction leads me to believe that there is an Intelligence behind it all, but I don’t see the need for searching for, identifying, and examining the Intelligence before considering the survival aspect. Moreover, the years of study have led me to believe the afterlife is much more than the humdrum heaven I envisioned during my youth and that the negative afterlife is not an eternal one.  I accept that it is beyond human comprehension, at least mine, but that, however it plays out, it is something that will not disappoint those who have lived essentially moral, productive and positive lives of love and service. 

The bottom line here is that as I advance from old age into the dotage stage of life, I am most thankful for the guidance provided, possibly from invisible sources, in understanding and overcoming much of the madness I once experienced.  I realize that a certain amount of madness is necessary to cope and survive in our complex world.  As Pascal said, “not to be mad would amount to another form of madness.”  However, tempering the madness and integrating it with a more infinite and cosmic consciousness is, I believe, the key to avoiding extremes of madness during one’s declining years. As the great German thinker Goethe put, we must plunge into experience and then reflect on the meaning of it. All reflection and no plunging drives us mad, but all plunging and no reflection makes us brutes.   

Moreover, I have no regrets about choosing the paths I took at those critical crossroads, even though, in retrospect, some of them were likely much more challenging and demanding, even more painful, than the ones I turned away from.  Would a life without adversity have any meaning? Onward Christian Soldiers!

Michael Tymn is the author of The Afterlife Revealed: What Happens After We Die, Resurrecting Leonora Piper: How Science Discovered the Afterlife, and Dead Men Talking: Afterlife Communication from World War I.
His latest book, No One Really Dies: 25 Reasons to Believe in an Afterlife is published by White Crow books.

Next Blog Post: April 11

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Mediumship: Psychic Rods, Alleged Trickery and Psychic Stuff

Posted on 14 March 2022, 9:23

Perhaps the most damning evidence against the mediumship of Mina Crandon, also known as “Margery,” came from Dr. Joseph B. Rhine (below), then a young botanist turned psychologist and later one of the founders of the field called parapsychology.  “We were disgusted to find that at the bottom of all this controversy and investigation lay such a simple system of trickery as we witnessed at the séance,” Rhine reported of his one sitting with Margery on July 1, 1926.  “We are amateurs, and we do not possess any skill or training in trickery, and we were looking for true psychic productions, but in spite of our greenness and our deep interest, we could not help but see the falseness of it all.” One thing that stood out in Rhine’s report is movement of her feet at the time psychokinetic action was taking place.


Several other investigators, including the famous magician Houdini, agreed with Rhine. He was sitting next to her, holding an arm and a leg, to rule out fraud. He said that he felt movement in her leg when a bell rang some distance from them. Others were convinced that Margery was a genuine medium and still others sat on the fence and weren’t sure what to believe.  Those with the most experience in such research and with the most experiments with Margery found in her favor. Compared with Rhine’s one sitting with Margery, Dr. Mark Richardson, a distinguished Harvard professor of medicine, had more than a hundred sittings with her, including a number of individual experiments, and was certain that there was no fraud involved. 

“There comes a point at which this hypothesis of universal confederacy must stop; or if not this, that the entire present report may be dismissed off-hand as a deliberate fabrication in the interests of false mediumship,” Richardson wrote.  “I respectfully submit that no critic who hesitates at this logical climax may by any means escape the hypothesis of validity. If the present paper is worthy of and if it receives the slightest degree of respectful attention, the facts which it chronicles must constitute proof of the existence of Margery’s supernormal faculties, and the strongest sort of evidence that these work through the agency of her deceased brother Walter.”

Present with Dr. Rhine in that one sitting with Margery was Dr. Louisa W. Rhine, his wife.  It was noted that Louisa Rhine did not recognize the “tricks,” but that she accepted her husband’s explanation of them.  Ironically, Louisa Rhine served as a translator for a two-part article by Professor Dr. Karl Gruber of Munich, Germany appearing in the May and June 1926 issues (two months before their sittings) of The Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research dealing with the problems of understanding such mediumship. No mention was made of Margery in the article, but the concerns were the same.

Gruber was a German physician, biologist, and zoologist who had conducted or participated in numerous studies of other physical mediums, including German mediums Willi and Rudi Schneider. He observed “synchronous movements” between the medium and objects out of the medium’s reach. “If this connection is broken by movements of the hand or other object across the field of activity, or if it is roughly torn away, either temporary or lasting bodily injury to the medium results,” Gruber explained, noting that his research involved more than one-hundred experiments. “This fact has been repeatedly misunderstood by the skeptical, who have seen in it the unmasking of a frightened medium.” 
Gruber cited the reports of Dr. William J Crawford, an Irish mechanical engineer. Between 1914 and 1917, Crawford carried out 87 experiments with Irish medium Kathleen Goligher and concluded that the movement of some table or other object out of Goligher’s reach resulted from invisible “psychic rods” extending from the medium to the object being moved. These psychic rods were made of what others called “ectoplasm” or “teleplasm,” though Crawford referred to it as “psychic stuff.”  They originated with what Crawford called “operators,” which he took to be discarnate human beings.  “These particular mechanical reactions cause her to make slight involuntary motions with her feet, motions which a careless observer would set down as imposture,” Crawford explained.  “The starting point of the rod then seems to be much higher up her body, for the reactionary movements are then visible on the trunk.”

Absent from all the observations and opinions of the esteemed scientists and other ‘experts’ studying Margery is evidence that might have given the doubters and deniers second thoughts before claiming fraud. That is, the researchers expressed their opinions strictly from a mechanistic/materialistic point of view.  There is no mention of the research twenty to thirty years earlier with Eusapia Palladino, an illiterate Neapolitan medium who was studied by many leading scientists.  Some of the those studying Palladino suggested that her “third arm,” an ectoplasmic extension molded by her spirit control, known as “John King,” was carrying out the activity which they saw as fraud.  Moreover, some of the investigators reported on “rhythmic actions” of her fingers, arms and legs that were in accord with activity taking place some distance from her, apparently through the invisible or mostly invisible ectoplasmic rods extending from her limbs to the point of activity, as if she, or the spirit controlling her, had become puppet masters of sorts. “When [Professor Oscar] Scarpa held Palladino’s feet in his hands (for control purposes), he always felt her legs moving in synchrony with ongoing displacements of the table or chair,” reported Professor Filippo Bottazi, who referred to the action as “synchrony.”

The fundamental problem in all such analyses, as I see it, is that the spirit hypothesis is completely disregarded, as it is “unscientific.”  Bottazi, who rejected the spirit hypothesis, mentioned that they would refer to John King to appease Palladino, who was certain he was a spirit guide, but they apparently laughed at the whole idea when they were not in her presence.  “Spirits, ha, ha, preposterous humbug,” they likely reacted while clinging to the idea that it all originated in Palladino’s subconscious in ways that science did not yet understand.

Sir Oliver Lodge, a distinguished British physicist, also suspected fraud with Palladino. When he accused her of a trick, she went into a rage and explained that when she was in a trance John King was in control. “She wanted us to understand that it was not conscious deception, but that her control took whatever means available, and, if he found an easy way of doing a thing, thus would it be done,” Lodge reported. “I am willing to give her the benefit of the doubt, so far as the morals of deception are concerned, for she was a kindly soul, with many of the instincts of a peasant, and extraordinarily charitable.” 

Present with Lodge in those experiments with Palladino was Dr. Charles Richet, later a Nobel-Prize winner in medicine.  He stated that he had nearly 200 séances with Palladino and was certain that she was not a cheat. However, he was reluctant to accept John King as the spirit of a dead person, as that would be a very unscientific approach, but he concluded that the semi-unconsciousness of the medium takes away much of her moral responsibility. “Trance turns them into automata that have but a very slight control over their muscular movements,” he explained.  “… It is also quite easy to understand that when exhausted by a long and fruitless séance, and surrounded by a number of sitters eager to see something, a medium whose consciousness is still partly in abeyance may give the push that [she] hopes will start the phenomena.”

Lodge reported on a test involving 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, a big man at 6-foot-4, scored the highest, followed by Richet, Frederic Myers, and Julian 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!” 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.”

As with John King, most of the researchers spoke with Margery’s “Walter” personality, which claimed to be Margery’s deceased brother, as if he was a real spirit, even though they refused to accept the idea of spirits.  As they saw it, the “third arm” extending from Margery could not have been that of a spirit entity, because science says that spirit entities don’t exist. It had to be a trick by Margery, even though it went beyond any scientific laws then known.  One of the exceptions was Dr. T. Glen Hamilton, a Canadian physician and psychical researcher .

“… I was privileged to take part in a tête-à-tête with Dr. Richardson’s justly famous voice cut-out machine, and found it to be absolutely fraud-proof and 100 percent effective in proving the independence of the “Walter” voice,” Hamilton wrote. “I witnessed as well a number of other successful tests with this machine. At one of these sittings, I witnessed also one of the most arresting incidents in my research experiences: a trance so profound that the medium’s respirations were reduced to six to the minute…Undoubtedly this affords a very strong additional proof of the genuineness of the Margery mediumship.”

At Hamilton’s first sitting in Winnipeg, Margery disrobed in front of Mrs. Hamilton and put on a bathrobe that was supplied for her. It took between three and four minutes for Margery to go into a trance, after which Walter spoke in what was described as a “hoarse stage-whisper.” He joked, teased, and even preached as Hamilton closely observed Margery, being controlled by two other physicians, to rule out fraud.  “I have now witnessed the Margery phenomena eleven times: eight times in the Lime Street séance room under conditions of careful control; twice in my own experimental room, also under positive control; and once in the home of an acquaintance under arrangements entirely impromptu – and in each instance typical Margery phenomena occurred…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.”

Hamilton concluded that the “trance-intelligences” of the mediums he had studied, existed apart from the mediums.  “Assuming the reality of other-world energy-forms, how then do they come to be fleetingly represented (or mirrored) in our world?” he asked.  He concluded that teleplasm (or ectoplasm) provides the answer.  “Basing my assumption on a study of the sixty-odd masses which we have photographed during the past five years (1928-1934), I regard teleplasm as a highly sensitive substance, responsive to other-world energies and at the same time visible to us in the physical world. It therefore constitutes an intervening substance by means of which transcendental intelligences are enabled, by ideoplastic or other unknown processes to transmit their conception of certain energy forms which appear objective to them, into the terms of our world and our understanding.”

And, yet, most scientists and historians still cling to the fraud hypothesis.  My guess is that the spirit world gave up in trying to prove themselves.

Michael Tymn is the author of The Afterlife Revealed: What Happens After We Die, Resurrecting Leonora Piper: How Science Discovered the Afterlife, and Dead Men Talking: Afterlife Communication from World War I.
His latest book, No One Really Dies: 25 Reasons to Believe in an Afterlife is published by White Crow books.

Next blog post: March 28

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The Saga of Ectoplasm

Posted on 28 February 2022, 9:58

No, ectoplasm has not been debunked by materialistic science.  It is true that we don’t hear much about it these days, primarily because the few mediums producing it are aware of the scorn heaped upon genuine mediums of the past by scientists intent on ruling out spirit involvement, by hook or by crook, and are therefore reluctant to subject themselves to scientific inquiry.  At the same time, few scientists dare show any interest in the subject matter, lest they be laughed out of their professions. One of the very few exceptions is Michel Granger, (below) a French chemical engineer living in Canada, with a doctorate in physical chemistry, who has been studying the subject for the past 40 years and whose book, in French, La Saga de L’Ectoplasme, was released last year (with two volumes to follow). “I have endeavored to examine the facts, as amazing as they were, in a critical and objective way,” Granger states, “sorting out the true from the false, noting the degree of credibility of the facts reported and thus constituting a veritable encyclopedia of this mythical substance that has been called ectoplasm with all the questions it raises scientifically and psychically.”


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 extruded at an opportune time, the sole purpose being to dupe those present.  However, it is difficult to believe that some of the most eminent men of science, who observed it, examined it, tested it, and proclaimed it real, could have been fooled over and over again, especially under laboratory conditions. It is equally difficult to believe that cheesecloth can be extruded from the ears, nose, and pores of the body, as sometimes reported.  “It is a whitish substance that creeps as if alive, with damp, cold, protoplasmic extensions that are transformed under the eyes of the experimenters into a hand, fingers, a head, or even into an entire figure,” explained Dr. Charles Richet, the Nobel Prize-winning French scientist who popularized the name, ectoplasm, first given to it by Dr. Julian Ochorowicz from his research with medium Eusapia Palladino. Prior to his own investigation, Richet was one of many who scoffed at the reports by Sir William Crookes, a renowned British chemist who observed it on a number of occasions during the 1870s.  “I avow with shame that I was among the willfully blind,” Richet wrote in dedicating his 1923 book, Thirty Years of Psychical Research, to Crookes, commending him for his courage and insight.

I recently put some questions to Dr. Granger by email.  He kindly responded. 

Have you observed ectoplasm? If so, have your observations been the same as those of Richet?

Yes, I have observed ectoplasm during a spiritualist séance in Britain. It was the 18th March 2006 during a séance held at Coberhill, in Scarborough, in presence of the friends of the medium Stewart Alexander. The séance took place in complete darkness. During a spot lighting, I saw something whitish around the medium’s neck. It had no movement. It was very impressive.

I also touched a materialized hand which came to stand above a red light box next to me. It was said to be the hand of Walter Stinson, Stewart’s guide, who had been the brother of American medium Margery Crandon. He died in 1911. The hand was warm and mobile like a normal human hand.  One thing is certain: this hand could not have been Stewart’s, because he was seated very far from me, immobilized on his armchair with plastic bracelets.

Yes, what I saw can be compared to what Professor Richet observed. Except what he saw in Algiers with the ghost Bien Boa who, I believe, was a fabricated puppet.

It is my understanding that Professor Richet observed Bien Boa on several occasions and also reported that he clearly saw the materialization of Bien Boa sink into the floor.  Do you really think he could have been tricked on numerous occasions?  Also, Eva C. was the same medium he studied with Dr. Gustave Geley on countless occasions. Are you suggesting that she tricked Richet in those early sittings involving Bien Boa, but that the phenomena were genuine in the later sittings with Geley, Flammarion and others?

Yes, I think Professor Richet was abused in Algiers. Bien Boa was obviously a puppet made in the dark with a coarse material which made it seem that he was sinking into the ground while his support was lying on the ground and then recovered in one way or another. Bien Boa’s complete materializations speak for themselves, they are so gross. I cannot understand how Professor Richet could allow himself to be deceived. Certain ectoplasmic phenomena with the same medium and Mrs. Bisson could have been authentic with Geley and Flammarion, but at the beginning stage only, the solid forms being made with unfolded images. Marthe Béraud, alias Eva C., was a very controversial physical medium who was able, occasionally, to produce ectoplasmic outlines with difficulty.

The ectoplasm produced by many mediums, including D. D. Home, is said to have been more vaporish and not visible to the naked eye.  Can you account for the difference between the thick, milky ectoplasm and the vaporish type?

According to my investigation, the ectoplasm first manifests itself by something invisible to the naked eye, simply detectable by infrared radiation, as recorded by Doctor Eugene Osty in tests with the medium Rudi Schneider at the International Metapsychic Institute of Paris in 1930, then becomes cloudy, and gradually solidifies.  Already in 1874, vaporous hands and children were materialized with D. D. Home. Katie King was materialized with Florence Cook that same year.  There were others, such as Leonor, in 1908 and Rosalie in 1937. The problem is that these different phases of mediumistic materializations have not been observed chronologically in the history of ectoplasm.  Most of the research has been aimed at ruling out fraud.  The materialization can be instantaneous or progressive according to the psychic force of the moment of the medium.

Your investigation seems to have been one more of the recorded research rather than by your direct observation.  Do I understand that correctly?

As I said I have only witnessed the appearance of ectoplasm once and my conclusion is that it exists.  I am convinced that what I observed with Stewart Alexander was genuine and not some trick. However, the numerous testimonies by many credible witnesses under more favorable conditions cannot be discounted. 

Is ectoplasm subject to chemical analysis?  If so, what are the results of such analysis?

Some analyses have been carried out (with the ectoplasm of Eva C. in 1911,  Stanislawa P. in 1916, and O. Schlag in 1931), but not enough to determine what the ectoplasm is made of. The analyses proved to be inconclusive. Since it leaves the medium in gaseous (pores) or semi-gaseous (natural orifices) form and returns there (dematerialization – no scalpel has detected ectoplasm in the human body) – it cannot be classified in any of the categories of natural material. Most often the analysis has shown not its nature but the residues of “pollution” that it had carried with it and which remain after its dematerialization. Ectoplasm has a limited lifespan. Only the Frenchman, Geley, thought he could stabilize it one day in order to be able to study it better. Alas, his premature death in a plane crash did not allow him to carry out his project.

Did the name “teleplasm” precede “ectoplasm”?

No, I think it’s the same, to designate something unknown and amazing. Teleplasm was mainly used in Germany and Scandinavia. But also by H. Price and G. H. Hamilton, in Winnipeg (1950). 

Is Od or Odic Force the same thing as ectoplasm and teleplasm? 

Yes, the Od, released by the odic force, can be considered as a form of “nascent” ectoplasm. It is one of the explanations which could apply to the formation of the ectoplasm when it passes from its gaseous form to its solid form.

What is the purpose of ectoplasm?

Ectoplasm is the means by which ghosts – perhaps the dead – have utilized to show themselves to us by covering themselves with it to allow us to visualize their silhouettes partially or completely – To better make themselves known to us.  Scole’s experiment in England was intended to demonstrate that materializations do not need ectoplasm to manifest. The result was not up to the challenge, unfortunately.

As I interpret the research carried out by Richet, Geley, and others, most materializations were imperfect or incomplete because either the medium did not have the power required to complete them or because the materializing spirit (assuming spirits were involved) lacked in its ability to properly visualize them and mold them to perfection.  Thus, we have some materializations that appear more like dolls or puppets than humans, as if asking a person to draw a picture of himself. Is that your interpretation?

I think rather that the success of the ectoplasmic forms depended more or less on the psychic strength of the medium, but also on the atmosphere that reigned around the séance – of the trust one places in the medium to exercise his extraordinary power of exteriorization and of the respect one owes him. As for the coarse forms, they result in my opinion from an inability of the medium to assert the materializing faculty, or indeed, sometimes when it is possible, from more or less successful non-paranormal simulations.

Exceptional paranormal experiences are unfortunately not reproducible at will. This is precisely the problem that parapsychology comes up against in order to enter the corpus of traditional sciences.

Why don’t we hear much about ectoplasm today?

Because the mediums capable of exteriorizing it are extremely rare. And because the methods of control (infrared cameras) give the medium no chance of being able to catch up with a failing faculty with a nudge, as it would be looked upon as fraudulent. These cameras force the medium into a constant ectoplasmic output, which has never been seen from most psychic paranormal phenomena. This is also why official science has always refused to study them or recognize them. The pressure to perform might inhibit the medium’s extraordinary ability and end in failure, resulting in claims of cheating and fraud.

Please summarize your conclusions as the existence and origin of ectoplasm.

My investigation over more than 40 years has convinced me that the ectoplasmic phenomenon exists. And this despite a compilation of counterfeits and “fabrications” that have discredited it with psychic researchers. I think it is a psychic faculty limited to a small minority of “white crows,” who no longer have the sacred fire required to demonstrate their ability to the whole world, preferring to reserve it for a few – some of their friends, especially in English home circles. As with Stewart Alexander, the few mediums with the ability to produce ectoplasm are reluctant to demonstrate as they suspect that the researcher is intent on finding fraud or some materialist explanation.  The medium is often a fragile and delicate being and the failure of many scientists to consider this prevents any real progress in the study of ectoplasm.

Is ectoplasm evidence of a spirit world?

The questions I have about the phenomenon remain numerous, especially concerning the spiritistic nature.  Is it proof of survival after death – the deceased still wandering for a longer or shorter time in a parallel reality and being able to emerge from it thanks to this prodigy called ectoplasm – or is it a purely bio-ideoplastic implemented from information drawn from the minds of the living by the mediums?  In the experience I had in March 2006, I was deeply disappointed as no deceased friend or relative materialized for me that day.

There were spirit messages in the late 1800s indicating that the spirit world pulled back in their efforts to reach the physical world because of the abuse and misunderstandings relative to the phenomena.  Do you give any credence to such messages?

No, I believe that the spirit world, if it exists, ignores the abuses and misunderstandings of phenomena. It manifests itself to those who deserve this great happiness to know that we do not disappear body and soul after death. Some are deemed worthy of this priceless gift. Others don’t. Unfortunately, I deplore that after a lifetime of studying this subject, I am still one of the excluded. I can’t explain why. This reflection is also a long part of the end of volume one of my investigation.

Michael Tymn is the author of The Afterlife Revealed: What Happens After We Die, Resurrecting Leonora Piper: How Science Discovered the Afterlife, and Dead Men Talking: Afterlife Communication from World War I.
His latest book, No One Really Dies: 25 Reasons to Believe in an Afterlife is published by White Crow books.

Next blog post: March 14

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After-Death Communication: The Mystery of the Widow’s Mite

Posted on 14 February 2022, 9:46

Sometime during 1894, Dr. Isaac K. Funk (below) borrowed a valuable ancient Roman coin known as the “Widow’s Mite” from Professor Charles E. West, the principal of a lady’s school in Brooklyn Heights, New York to illustrate it in The Standard Dictionary being produced by his American company, Funk & Wagnalls.  Henry Ward Beecher, a mutual friend, had told Funk about the coin and introduced him to West some years earlier.  As Funk was to recall and report in his 1904 book, The Widow’s Mite and Other Psychic Phenomena, he gave the coin to his brother, Benjamin, the company’s business manager, and asked him to return it to Professor West after a photographic plate of the coin was made.  Benjamin then gave the coin, along with another coin, both in a sealed envelope to the head cashier of the company, who placed it in the drawer of a large safe, where it would remain forgotten for some nine years.


It was in February of 1903 that Funk, a member of the American Society for Psychical Research (ASPR), was told about an apparently gifted medium in Brooklyn.  He arranged to sit with her and her small group. As the medium was strictly an amateur and wanted no publicity, Funk did not give her name in the book.  He described her, however, as a 68-year-old widow “of little school education, refined in manners.”  She had three spirit controls – a deceased son named Amos, the daughter of her brother named Mamie, who died at age 7, and George Carroll, the deceased friend of a member of the circle.

As a guest of the private circle, Funk did not feel he could impose test conditions upon the medium.  “It was all ‘upon honor,” he wrote.  “After considerable investigation, however, and fuller acquaintance with the family, I am morally certain that this confidence in the integrity of the medium and family at the time of this mite incident was not misplaced.”
The medium was of the trance, direct-voice type, i.e., the voices did not come from her vocal cords but from somewhere near her through a floating trumpet. “The voices are of a great variety,” Funk observed.  “I counted in a single evening as many as twenty – some apparently the voices of children, and others of middle-aged persons and old men and women; a few of these are the voices of Indians, and one of a jolly, typical, Virginian Negro. Each voice maintains its individuality during the evening and from one evening to another.”  Most of the communications came from deceased members of the family, especially from the brother’s deceased wife and the daughter, Mamie.

On Funk’s third visit to the medium, George Carroll spoke up in “his usual strong masculine voice” and said:  “Has any one here got anything that belonged to Mr. Beecher?”  There was no reply, but Funk, having known Beecher, a popular clergyman and social reformer who had died in 1887, asked for clarification.  Carroll bellowed: “…I am told by John Rakestraw, that Mr. Beecher, who is not present, is concerned about an ancient coin, the ‘Widow’s Mite.’  This coin is out of its place and should be returned.  It has long been away, and Mr. Beecher wishes it returned, and he looks to you, doctor, to return it.”

Funk recalled borrowing the coin, but told Carroll that it had been promptly returned.  “This one has not been returned,” Carroll replied.  Funk pressed for more information.  “I don’t know where it is,” Carroll said. “I am simply impressed that it is in a large iron safe in a drawer under a lot of papers and has been lost sight of for years, and that you can find it, and Mr. Beecher wishes you to find it.”

At his office the next day, Funk questioned his brother about the coin.  Benjamin said that he was sure he had returned it to the owner.  Funk then questioned the head cashier, who also said it had been returned to the owner.  However, they then searched the safe and found two coins, both widow’s mites, in a drawer under a lot of papers.

Upon examining the two coins, Funk concluded that the lighter one was the genuine widow’s mite.  It was the one displayed in the dictionary.  On the following Wednesday, Funk attended the Brooklyn circle.  Toward the end of the session, George Carroll began talking and Funk informed him that he had found the widow’s mite; in fact, had found two of them.  He asked Carroll if he knew which was the genuine coin.  “The black one,” Carroll replied without hesitation.  Funk checked with the Philadelphia mint and found that Carroll was right and he was wrong.  In fact, they had used the wrong coin in the dictionary illustration. The light one was simply a replica.

As a test of Carroll (or the medium), Funk then asked Carroll if he knew from whom he had borrowed the coin.  Carroll responded that it was Mr. Beecher’s friend, but he could not give a name. Carroll further reported, however, that he was being shown a picture of a college, which he identified as a lady’s college in Brooklyn Heights.  Funk also asked Carroll to whom the coin should be returned. “I can not tell you; I do not know; for some reason Mr. Beecher does not tell,” Carroll said.

At a circle with another medium the following week, Funk further heard from Beecher and was told that Beecher was not concerned about the return of the coin. “What he was concerned about was to give me a test that would prove the certainty of communication between the two worlds, and since that has been accomplished in my finding the coin, he cared nothing further about it.” As West had died, the coin was returned to his son.

Funk ruled out fraud, coincidence, and telepathy and concluded that spirit communication was the most likely explanation.  Further reporting on the sitting with the second medium, Funk was told that Beecher was there and wanted to speak with him. “Sure enough, when the curtains were parted, there was the Beecher face, wonderfully life-like,” Funk wrote. Beecher then spoke to Funk in a deep, husky voice, explaining to him that that the efforts on his side were an attempt to put an end to materialism on earth.  “Do you see my face clearly?” Beecher then asked. “It is with great difficulty that we come back into visible form. You have no adequate thought of the nature, the largeness, and the complexity of the difficulties that must be surmounted by the spiritual world in order to return in this way, but we can surmount these fully, so our scientific leaders assure us.  We have surmounted them in part; your side can largely help by supplying the proper thought and heart conditions. Do not smile when we speak of magnetism and vibrations and waves. There is such a thing as mind or soul ether. To this ether your thought and feeling and will and ours are disturbing and controlling forces – very real. You must study on your side these psychic forces and their laws.” 

Funk reported that the image of Beecher, whatever it was, slowly sank to the floor and disappeared. Before it sank, a hand was placed on his shoulder, although no one was beside him. 

“This case, certainly, represents one that has very possible claims to supernormal knowledge, to the say the least of it,” Dr. James H. Hyslop, the Columbia University professor of logic and ethics turned psychical researcher, wrote when he read Funk’s full report of the case.  “I see no way to impeach it positively.  I could imagine a theory to explain it without supposing the supernormal, but I would have no possible evidence in favor of what I can imagine.”  In fact, Hyslop, an ASPR associate, had accompanied Funk to one sitting with the Brooklyn medium and agreed with him that she was genuine. 

Funk died on April 4, 1912.  On October 2 of the same year, he began communicating with Hyslop through the mediumship of “Mrs. Chenoweth” (a pseudonym for a medium later identified as Minnie Meserve Soule).  Funk provided Hyslop with much evidential information relative to his identity and informed him that communication was not as easy as he had expected when alive.  “Thought produces images and unless the thought is concentrated on some particular thing, the image quickly melts into other images, a kaleidoscope movement,” Funk communicated through Mrs. Chenoweth’s hand while she was in trance.

Funk communicated several more times over the next few months, but did not communicate again until nearly four years later, on June 14, 1916, at which time he referred to the time Hyslop had accompanied him to a sitting with the Brooklyn medium.  This was especially evidential to Hyslop as he was certain that Mrs. Chenoweth knew nothing of the visit.

On June 27, Henry Ward Beecher communicated and also referred to the “money” message.  But neither Beecher nor Funk could get the words “widow’s mite” through the mediums mind or hand.  The words came out either “money” or “bronze medal.”  Then, on February 14, 1917, Funk’s mother communicated and said:  “I know that the idea of medals and medallions and all articles which suggest such form is a left-over impression of his most striking evidence, and he is the receiver of so many suggestions of that nature from the living and dead, because of his known interest in the ancient coin, and it always comes with force as he attempts to write.”

In his June 28, 1916 communication, Funk said, referring to the coin, that “the British Museum holds nothing better.”

Michael Tymn is the author of The Afterlife Revealed: What Happens After We Die, Resurrecting Leonora Piper: How Science Discovered the Afterlife, and Dead Men Talking: Afterlife Communication from World War I.
His latest book, No One Really Dies: 25 Reasons to Believe in an Afterlife is published by White Crow books.

Next blog post:  February 28

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World War I Victim Tells of Afterlife Experiences

Posted on 31 January 2022, 7:58

The spirit communicating through the mediumship of a Chicago woman named Joan provided his full name and enough details for Joan and her husband, Darby, to confirm that he had existed and that he was a casualty of the Great War, even the details of his death, which they were able to verify. However, for privacy reasons they provided only the name Stephen. Moreover, because of their professional standings in the Chicago area and their need for privacy, both Joan and Darby wrote under pseudonyms, their 1920 best-selling book titled Our Unseen Guest, authored simply by “Darby and Joan.” While Joan was the medium, Darby did the recording of the messages that came through her in the trance state and put questions to Stephen.


The skeptic can haughtily discount the entire book based on the fact that true names are not given. However, renowned author Stewart Edward White, the subject of the last two blog posts here, met Darby and Joan over a 20-year period, sat with them, and referred to Joan as “one of the greatest psychics, if not the greatest, in the world.”  He explained that she worked blindfolded from a state of trance, into which she entered instantly and completely as soon as Darby touched her wrist. White had no doubt as to the genuineness of Joan’s mediumship.  Initially a disbeliever in mediums, White was converted when his wife Betty developed into a medium beginning in 1919.  As a result, White wrote six books about the wisdom coming through Betty from a group of spirits referred to as the “Invisibles,” and then, after her death in 1939, about communication coming from Betty through Joan (see blog post of January 17, 2022).

Like the Whites, Darby and Joan were initially very skeptical as to the source, both subscribing to the subconscious hypothesis, i.e., it was all coming from Joan’s subconscious, even though she had no recollection of the names and other information coming through her.  Moreover, she didn’t understand much of it. To claim that the information was coming from spirits of the dead prompted scoffs and sneers from the “intellectuals” of the day, so it was best not to mention such a theory or to have their true names associated with such “bunkum.”   
Darby explained in the first chapter of their book that their first experience with psychic phenomena occurred on December 7, 1916, by way of a Ouija board which they came upon at a boardinghouse where someone else had left the board sitting on the table.  Curious, they began playing around with it, when after about 10 minutes, a message was spelled out from Stephen, who identified himself as an American soldier killed in the war.  He provided his full name and details of his death, but said that he did not want his true name made public as it would disturb his family.  Both Darby and Joan thought the other was making it all up, and when that was eliminated they concluded that it was somehow coming from Joan’s subconscious.  However, upon further investigation, they eventually came to accept that Stephen and several others communicating through Joan were who they said they were.  That explanation made more sense to them than the alternatives. 

Stephen explained that immediately following his battlefield death he was lost in a strange world. “Aimlessly I wandered, seeking I knew not what, dazed, mystified. I did not know I was, as you say and as I used to say, dead.”  Stephen communicated, adding that when death comes naturally there are always deceased loved one there to meet them, but, his death being sudden and premature, there was no one to meet him, to explain that he had graduated into a new plane of consciousness. He was eventually met by a woman who explained it all to him and because of his experience he chose such work there – that of meeting fallen soldiers and explaining the simplicity of their own mortality.

Darby asked if all persons survive death. “They become as I,” Stephen answered. “Still possessed of a degree of my own I am part of the great consciousness. I am only a part of the whole, yet the whole is I. You do not understand; later this will be made more clear to you. But don’t use the word ‘death.’ Man has read into this word so much that is somber, so much of unhappiness and despair. The earth term that corresponds to our thought here of what you call death is graduation. And as I did not die, but rather graduated into a new mode of consciousness, so be assured that graduation, not death, awaits you.”

Stephen went on to explain that he did not graduate into a higher consciousness and that his present state was much the same as that of Darby and Joan. However, there was a difference. “Here we do not see through a glass darkly. We recognize ourselves here as a whole, and perfection is the end.”

In one of his sittings with Joan, White asked Stephen about his method of communication. “I utilize a force which man does not yet understand,” Stephen replied, “but which in time he will….” White asked if it involved electricity. “But surely,” Stephen answered, “but not electricity as you now understand it. The atomic force of which I speak might be called magnetic consciousness.”

Stephen cautioned against letting their preconceived ideas and prejudices color his messages. “Keep your mind free,” he advised, “especially when I say something which you do not agree. Darby, you are the conceiving station. Remember that Joan could not communicate alone wholly successfully, nor could, I think, any one else. You can differ from me as much as you will; in fact, I rely on your questions to clarify the communication. But above all you must alleviate Joan’s prejudices. You must prevent her own opinions coloring my words. And you must also be on the watch for a form of color that is likely to result, not simply from Joan’s opinions, but from all that mass of thought and memory, her own experience, that lies dormant in her subconsciousness.” 


When Stephen went on to say that “a part of the whole is constantly reborn,” Darby asked if he was referring to reincarnation. “The transmigration of thought is but a guess at the truth,” Stephen responded, “a theory in some measure correct, yet highly colored by emotional reasoning.”  Darby was confused and asked for clarification. “I am sure to be born again – it cannot be otherwise – yet not all of me as I knew myself before,” Stephen replied. “But you do not understand. For the present accept the thought that consciousness is constantly reborn. Then accept this fact: The individual, once graduated from earthly experience, never again returns as an individual. As an individual he goes on and on; ever nearer he approaches and ultimately reaches supremacy. These two thoughts may now seem contradictory. The contradiction will disappear when you understand what I mean by rebirth.”

Stephen later explained that what he referred to as rebirth is not in any sense what Darby knew as reincarnation.  “It is true, as I once told you, that in the reincarnation idea there lies a glimpse,” Stephen communicated.  “But this Buddhistic thought is on the whole an emotional hypothesis.  Dismiss once and for all any possibility of my meaning by rebirth what the world has meant by reincarnation.”  Darby took that to mean he had never individually lived a prior life and would not live another one.  Stephen said his understanding was correct, that “part” of his consciousness would be reborn many times, but not his individual self.

Darby struggled to understand. Stephen further explained that Darby is familiar only with quantitative development of consciousness and the process of qualitative development goes beyond language, so that he could not offer words to help him understand.

To Darby’s question about God, Stephen replied that, “God is consciousness. Consciousness is God. Consciousness is within you. The germ of supremacy is yours and is mine and is in all things animate and inanimate. Consciousness is. It is all there ever was or will be, without beginning and without end.”  Darby then asked about Christ and whether he was just a man. “What else should he have been?” Stephen responded. “Yet he was in your world as the result of the rebirth of a degree of quality approaching the supreme. And he so fulfilled his quantity that his earth graduation was his last. He passed directly into supremacy.”

When Darby asked about the appearance of souls in the afterlife environment Stephen replied that all consciousness has form. “When you come here and your eyes are unsealed, those who meet you will seem quite natural and quite human, as, indeed, we are.  In fact, we are more human than you, as you now know yourself, ever dreamed of being.  We are humanity intensified many times.”


Darby asked how they recognize one another. “We recognize one another not facially, as men recognize each other, but by the individual degree of quality,” Stephen replied, adding that those on earth also have the same recognition ability but they fail to note the fact. “I have never been to what an Oriental, in his hypothetical way, might call the seventh heaven,” Stephen continued. “From it, I, like you, am many graduations removed.  Therefore my information is limited to that which I have been told here by those nearer supremacy than my myself, and to those things I have learned out of the very nature of my qualitatively free existence. And such knowledge of supreme attributes as I have I cannot make clear to you; earth lacks terms for conveying my thoughts.” 

Although Stuart Edward White said he had no need to hear from Betty, Betty communicated through Joan during his first evening with Darby and Joan after Betty’s death. Betty began by speaking of intimate matters known only to her husband.  “Here, in this first evening, she literally poured out a succession of these authentications,” White wrote in The Unobstructed Universe.  “She mentioned not one, but dozens of small events out of our past, of trivial facts in our mutual experience or surroundings, none of which could by any possibility be within Joan’s knowledge. Many of them, indeed, were gone from my own memory, until Betty recalled them to me.”

Betty, speaking through Joan, stressed what the Invisibles had communicated through her when she was still in the flesh. “All that was meant two-thousand years ago was that people who mourn seek after the truth of immortality for the sake, first, of those they mourn, and, second, for their own sakes…If your life on earth is all, why bother with it? Why bring children into the world? Why plan ahead for coming generations? Fundamentally, you know that the I-Am of man is evolution, and must go on. But man has become so engrossed in the wonders of his own obstructed universe – allowed himself to become so confused and overawed by things outside himself – that he has broken away from that simple, early faith. The world is mourning now. And it is going to mourn. It is losing much that it has valued, emotionally and materially. It is only when people who have become stiff-necked and proud in their own self-sufficiency are forced by sorrow to take time to seek after truth – when they themselves want truth – that truth can comfort them or again make them free.  If you search, you will find many such stepladders to a clearer understanding of the things I have been permitted to tell you.”

Michael Tymn is the author of The Afterlife Revealed: What Happens After We Die, Resurrecting Leonora Piper: How Science Discovered the Afterlife, and Dead Men Talking: Afterlife Communication from World War I.
His latest book, No One Really Dies: 25 Reasons to Believe in an Afterlife is published by White Crow books.

Next blog post: February 14

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Betty White: “Consciousness is Everything”

Posted on 17 January 2022, 10:12

The entities called the “Invisibles” by Stuart Edward White and Betty White communicated through Betty’s mediumship between 1919 and 1936 (see prior blog post).  The Betty Book was published in 1937, telling of Betty’s development as a medium and much of the “teachings” coming through her from the Invisibles.  Additional teachings were set forth in Stuart’s 1939 book, Across the Unknown. In addition to the words of the Invisibles, the book included Betty’s reports on her out-of-body experiences and clairvoyant visions during those experiences.

Betty died on April 5, 1939.  On the day of her departure, Betty’s doctor visited and exclaimed, “My God! The woman still smiles!”  White then began to question the wisdom of his persistence that she “hang on.”  He went into another room, sat in an easy chair, and “projected” in Betty’s direction the words that he released her.  A minute or so later, the doctor came to tell him that it was over.  He told White that Betty had spoken up clearly and gayly as had been her habit.  “It’s all right,” she said.  “I’ve had a talk with my boy.  You can take me now.”

White wrote that instead of feeling grief, as he had anticipated, he experienced a pure happiness that he had never before known, as Betty’s companionship flooded through his entire being in an intensity and purity of which he previously had no conception.  In the months following, he sensed Betty around him but could not communicate with her.

Five months later, during a trip to Chicago to promote one of his many novels, he met with Darby and Joan, the pseudonyms adopted by the husband-and-wife authors of a popular 1920 book, Our Unseen Guest.  Their story was similar to that of the Whites, Joan being the medium and Darby the recorder and author.  Because they were both professional people, they elected not to go public with their actual identities.

White, who had met Darby and Joan some years earlier as a result of their common experiences, referred to Joan as “one of the greatest psychics, if not the greatest, in the world today.”  He explained that she worked blindfolded from a state of trance, into which she entered instantly and completely as soon as Darby touched her wrist. Their book set forth wisdom communicated through Joan from a spirit identified only as Stephen, an American killed in World War I.  Stephen spoke much about consciousness, calling it the all.

Like the Whites, Darby and Joan were initially very skeptical as to the source, subscribing to the subconscious hypothesis, but they too, after much investigation, came to the conclusion that Stephen had actually lived in the flesh, and they received other evidential material pointing to the spirit hypothesis. (My next blog will discuss Stephen and his teachings.)

Although White (below) said he had no need to hear from Betty, Betty communicated through Joan during his first evening with Darby and Joan. She began by speaking of intimate matters known only to her husband.  “Here, in this first evening, she literally poured out a succession of these authentications,” White wrote in The Unobstructed Universe, published in 1940.  “She mentioned not one, but dozens of small events out of our past, of trivial facts in our mutual experience or surroundings, none of which could by any possibility be within Joan’s knowledge. Many of them, indeed, were gone from my own memory, until Betty recalled them to me. And all of them – except just one – clean-cut, air-tight, without need of interpretation.  A dyed-in-the-wool psychic researcher would have gone mad with joy over such a demonstration, which would have furnished him enough material to have lasted him for the next seven years.”  Betty also communicated some 20-odd pieces of information for Stewart to pass on to her sister, Millicient, some of which was unknown to White but later verified as fact.


Some of the very evidential information Betty communicated was so personal, that White was embarrassed to be discussing it in the presence of a woman, but Betty assured him that Joan was not “present” though her physical body was there serving as the medium.
Once she had convinced White that it was she who was communicating, Betty moved from the personal stuff to more existential and cosmic subject matter.  “Consciousness,” she said, “is the starting point for everything.”  She added that it is everything and beyond consciousness is nothing and that all manifestations can be traced to consciousness. 

And so began a series of sittings in which Betty communicated much wisdom.  She stressed that stability is what the world has lost, not security. She explained that stability involves the soul and the character of the person, and is based on faith in immortality.  “Earth-life would have no point, would be too much to ask of man, without immortality,” she communicated.”

“The old order of things has collapsed,” Betty continued.  “In some parts of the world, as in Europe, that collapse has been so complete that it seems everything of the old has been destroyed or lost.”  She added that the elements that brought about the collapse in the Old World were at work in the New.  When White asked Betty what had brought about this collapse, Betty replied bluntly: “Loss of faith in the present fact of immortality.”  She explained that she was not referring to a conscious attitude of agnosticism or denial.  “We may still profess belief in a vague and remote ‘heaven’ to which eventually we shall go,” she continued.  “But belief is not faith; and it is only faith – faith in the same sense that we accept the inevitability of death itself – that can transfer the field of our practical endeavor out of the present moment. When the present moment – the earth span of life – is all that concerns us, then the emphasis of all we think and all we do at once bases on materialism.”

Betty further pointed out that modern civilization has been drifting in that direction while tending to write off everything but the gain of the day, and “emphasizing rights rather than obligations that a real faith in immortality must impose.” She added that one of the causes of the instability in the material world was that technology had advanced faster than society’s ability to assimilate it.  “The purpose of the present divulgence is to restore in earth consciousness the necessity of individual effort, and the assurance that the effort will not be wasted,” she communicated. “The only assurance of this is a return to the belief in immortality.”
When humankind loses sight of the fact of immortality, she continued, it has to come back or perish.  Her purpose, Betty said, was to “make reasonable the hereness of immortality” rather than the thereness of immortality which most people subscribe to.

The basic thesis of the book is that there is an unobstructed universe and that it interfuses with our own.  “You must keep clearly in mind the difference,” Betty advised, “that the obstructed universe has a limited frequency and that the unobstructed universe has an unlimited frequency.  But it is not the same frequency.  It operates in the same way.  You have a frequency that permits your senses to be aware of the entire universe, up to a certain point.  That point varies with the individual.  Our frequency in the unobstructed universe is the frequency beyond the highest point reached by that vibration.”

Betty further explained that our material world has developed a greater control of space, mechanically, than of time.  They, however, have a much greater control of time and can go backward or forward in time.  Cause and effect, she said, is one of the laws of time and one of the laws of motion.  “There are those here now who could tell you things that are going to happen,” she communicated through Joan’s entranced body.  “They have proved it. It is done in time’s essence, receptivity.  Take your own experience.  You get up in the morning.  Your intent is to go to the office.  It’s perfectly true there are things that could deflect that intent.  And it is true you have to operate certain things in your present to make that future event become present.  Nevertheless, you do foresee the event. That is a very simple example.  You can will it not to take effect. There can be extraneous deflections that can stop the effect.  That is a condition of the obstructed universe.  Predestination is, with you, only a glimpse.  It is much more than a glimpse with us, though it is not a complete reality.” 

Asked about their bodies, Betty responded that she recognizes other spirits by their light and color, which reflects their frequency.  However, she added that Stewart would recognize her just as he used to know her.  “I don’t believe I can make you understand,” she lamented. “It’s that law of parallels again.  My body functions for me according to my needs.”

Betty said that she didn’t have answers for everything and that what she now understood was only a little beyond what she knew in her material life. “I know there are degrees (of consciousness) of which I know only a little more than you know about me,” she stated, adding that she had heard about higher degrees of consciousness and an ultimate or supreme degree of consciousness, and that she trusted her sources.

Having heard that spirits have difficulty communicating matters beyond the medium’s intelligence, White wondered how Joan, who seemed to have very limited knowledge of metaphysical matters in her conscious state, was able to pass on such communication.  Betty explained that Joan had the “potentiality” in her mind and that she had the ability to step up her frequency. “A station’s ability to release subconsciousness and be stepped up in frequency is a talent,” she said. “It’s part of that person’s make-up, like any other talent. You all have it to a degree, the simplicities of it.”

Betty noted that the four of them (Joan, Darby, Stuart and Betty) were very close in frequency and this facilitated the reception.  On the other hand, there was someone named Anne on her side who was at such a high frequency that she could not communicate through Joan, though she was able to assist communicators on that side. Anne was able to explain that the awareness-mechanism of the bug is to human awareness as human awareness is to her state of awareness.

Betty cautioned against thinking in terms of absolutes, as anything in evolution, as is consciousness, cannot be absolute. “Not that she rejected a Supreme Degree of Consciousness,” White recorded. “She merely pushed it back, out of the finite, into the infinite. Infinity we do not, cannot, understand, for the supreme degree is beyond our comprehension.”

Michael Tymn is the author of The Afterlife Revealed: What Happens After We Die, Resurrecting Leonora Piper: How Science Discovered the Afterlife, and Dead Men Talking: Afterlife Communication from World War I.
His latest book, No One Really Dies: 25 Reasons to Believe in an Afterlife is published by White Crow books.

Next blog post:  Jan. 31

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The Unobstructed Universe: Resurrecting Betty White

Posted on 03 January 2022, 10:45

Over a period of some 20 years, beginning in 1925, popular author Stewart Edward White (1873 -  1946) wrote 10 books dealing with communication from the spirit world.  They first came through the mediumship of his wife, Betty, (below) and then, after her death in 1939, from Betty through another medium.  The Betty Book, published in 1937, and The Unobstructed Universe, published in 1940, were both top sellers and are today considered classics in the metaphysical field.


Born in Grand Rapids, Michigan, White graduated Phi Beta Kappa from the University of Michigan in 1895 and in 1903 received his M.A. degree from Columbia University.  His first book, The Westerner. was published in 1901, followed closely by The Claim Jumper and The Blazed Trail, the latter a best-seller and considered the best of his 40 or so non-metaphysical books. He (below) moved to California in 1903 and toured the state with his good friend, Theodore Roosevelt, the 26th president of the United States, who referred to White as “the kind of young American who is making our new literature.”  During World War I, White served in the U.S. Army, achieving the rank of major. He was made a Fellow of the Royal Geographic Society for his work in mapping German East Africa.


Elizabeth “Betty” Calvert Grant was born in Panama in 1880, but raised in Newport, Rhode Island by well-to-do parents. She lived in Bermuda, Florida, and Jamaica, before moving to California, where she married Stewart in Santa Barbara in 1904.

The Whites became interested in mediumship in 1919 after Betty discovered her ability to receive messages from purported spirits, referred to by her as the “Invisibles,” by means of automatic writing, trance voice, the direct voice, and clairvoyant sensing.  “I had paid such matters very little attention; and had formed no considered opinions on them one way or another,” White wrote of his attitude before 1919, going on to say that he considered himself a skeptic and that spiritualism had meant to him either hysteria or clever conjuring.

White emphasized that he and Betty were not interested in the usual communication from deceased relatives and friends, as they had suffered no recent bereavements.  Their interest was in exploration, to find out what life was all about and why.  They concluded early-on that the objective of the Invisibles was to awaken them to the spiritual forces about us and to recognize the need for a better balance between the spiritual and the material.

Betty’s development seems to have been very similar to that of Pearl Curran, the St. Louis, Missouri medium for the entity calling herself “Patience Worth,” which took place between 1913 and 1937.  White explained that Betty’s consciousness was not taken from her in the customary deep trance, describing it as more of a disassociated state.  However, she was unaware of her surroundings and went “somewhere else,” still retaining her faculties of thought.  He further noted that when he made a mistake writing down a word he had misheard, he was instantly corrected, even though Betty was lying below the level of the writing table with her eyes blindfolded. As an example, he wrote “attitude of mind” while taking dictation and was instantly stopped by Betty and informed that the correct wording was “altitude of mind.” 

“The pencil moved very slowly, and it wrote curiously formed script, without capitals or punctuation, or even spacing, like one long continuous word,” White explained the automatic writing by Betty.  Betty assured her husband that she had nothing to do with moving the pencil or forming the script, at least consciously.  Moreover, she struggled to understand what was written.  Concluding that it was either an outside intelligence or directed by Betty’s subconscious, they continued to experiment.

After a time, the words began to flow.  Betty blindfolded her eyes and looked away from the paper in an attempt to separate herself from the writing as Stewart sat next to her as an observer. The automatic writing continued for several months before some experimentation resulted in Betty becoming a trance-voice medium with Stewart recording her words in shorthand.  At times, she spoke in her own voice, at other times the Invisibles spoke through her and there was a marked change in voice, diction, and style. Occasionally, words would come through the direct-voice, independent of but near Betty.

Subconscious Coloring

“At present there is often considerable fluency, so that I have trouble keeping up with the transcription,” White recorded.  “On other occasions there seems to be difficulty. Sometimes the direct voice speaks, at others Betty herself reports word by word as through taking dictation, and again describes her impressions and experiences in her own way. Sometimes, if difficulty arises, all three methods are tried.” 

As White understood it, Betty would, through the superconsciousness, be brought in touch with realities which she absorbed directly, and with ideas which came to her in words heard with the “inner ear,” sometimes by mental impression.  These things were transferred down to her habitual consciousness and dictated to him. Betty often complained that what came through her was diluted and a “pale shadow of the actuality.” In effect, she had no vocabulary for them.

Betty further explained that for nearly three years she struggled for comprehension, passing from automatic writing to what she calls “a curious state of freed or double consciousness in which I absorb experiences directly, somehow, and Stewart records them in words spoken through me, or by me at first hand impressions.” 

White continued to wonder what part Betty’s subconscious played in the communication.  If it was coming from her subconscious, he reasoned, it was completely foreign to her usual consciousness and outside her remembered experiences.  “The value of the thing offered must lie in itself, regardless of its source,” he concluded, adding that if it originated in Betty she is more of a wonder that he had supposed.  He also considered the theory that she was tapping into some “universal mind.” He could not completely discount that theory, but saw it as nothing more than a far-fetched hypothesis to avoid accepting the spirit hypothesis.

So much of it was foreign to both Betty and himself that he wondered how it could be coming from the subconscious of either of them. He finally decided “to accept, as a fact, that we were receiving through Betty, from outside, and apparently discarnate, intelligences, a graded and progressing and logically acceptable instruction on how to get along in life.”  He and Betty nicknamed them the Invisibles, primarily because they insisted on remaining anonymous.  They had all the characteristics of a “Group Soul,” a number of spirits speaking as one.

“The balanced proportion, the balanced ration of life is the first thing to impress on the world,” the Invisibles communicated early in Betty’s mediumship. “Balance is the big thing to emphasize.  The world is crippled now because of its withered spiritual faculties.”  They explained that they were talking about the balance between the spiritual and the material, pointing out that overbalance on either side always results in trouble.

“Welcome and accept all natural human instincts, all the savoring of life, but permeate them with the vitality of the spirit,” the Invisibles continued. “Those who savor even the highest forms of life without this permeation of the spirit will stagnate, sink backward, imprison themselves in matter.  With them the spiritual sense becomes atrophied.”

The Invisibles discussed perception, elimination, impetus, assimilation, constructive prayer, personal responsibility, the substance of thought, and other subjects related to bringing the spiritual life in balance and harmony with the physical life or, in other words, stimulating the consciousness to partake of the higher consciousness. “The active life means constant inflowing and outflowing,” they stressed. “You must never, never forget to be constantly giving out…Without this giving out there is no circulation…your outgo must equal your intake.”

No Dead-Ends

Many of the teachings of the Invisibles had to do with showing that causes and effects are not isolated, but smoothly continuous – that there are no dead-ends, not even death itself. When White requested more scientific explanations, the Invisibles told him that they can give reality as they can manage to communicate it to him.  They cautioned him about being one of those “over-sane, over-cautious people who have never sensed intangible verities” and suggested that he escape more often from the limitations of his ponderable mind.

White noted that there were many distortions in the communication, what he called “interruptions from opposing forces.”  Betty learned to discern the “false messages” from those given by the Invisibles.  “The false messages had always been delivered with feverish haste and great force in contrast to the calm and deliberation of other communications, especially those from my father,” Betty explained. “This ‘cutting-in’ haste had the virtue of making me able to recognize instantly and discount anything thus received.” 

White eagerly questioned the Invisibles as to the nature of life on their side, but was informed that explaining the afterlife was not part of their mission.  Moreover, they told White that its detail is so unlike anything he knows about or can conceive of that any approximation on their part would convey false images. “If we gave detailed specifications of our life over here, it would be impossible thereafter to concentrate your attention on broad general principles,” they told him, “on the few simple lines of your effort.  It is painfully difficult to eliminate and economize your attention.  Only by shrouding other things in mystery can we occupy your minds in due proportion to the importance of the things we select.”

It was made clear to White early in Betty’s mediumship that the Invisibles could not interfere with the free will of humans, but he still wondered why they don’t reach out to more humans.  “It is hard for us to foresee here what will be the results of this more general belief and how much we dare reveal,” was the response. “The teachers are all very cautious, for reaction must be carefully reckoned before knowledge can be given out.  There is so much danger in the present situation that it is one of the first things we are cautioned about, when we are allowed to give communications: that is to be very watchful and not go too far, to move slowly and cautiously for the present.  We have to note results carefully.  It is the most intensive and comprehensive campaign that has ever been arranged over here, they say.” 

It was also explained to White that there is an ebb and flow to such revelation. “The flood of the spiritual interest will soon rise to its height for the present,” the Invisibles told him shortly after the end of the Great War, “and then gradually subside – at least the fashion for it will – and then we shall see what really came in with the flood.  Each tide brings a little more and we have to be content.”  They further informed him that they work in rhythm, “allowing the force of each wave of effect to gain the effect of its power, to fall and break, to ebb back in gatherance for a new surge.  The pause is fruitful.  It allows the scum and windrift and jetsam to be floated away, leaving the sands clean for a new impression.”

Their object, the Invisibles said, is not to convince the world of anything except the need for continued conscious spiritual growth. They noted that technical advances, namely radio and the automobile, were already running ahead of what people could assimilate, resulting in instability, and the same would happen if they offered too much spiritual growth to too many.  “The conviction of one thing or another – or another, will come naturally and easily and inevitably to each individual when he rises by his own specific gravity to that point.  It will come to the world generally only when the common consciousness, by its own specific gravity, has also risen to that point.”
The Invisibles stressed the need for Betty to develop what they called “habitual spiritual consciousness.”  But they didn’t want Betty to think this meant retirement into a cloistered nunnery.  “It means simply that each day, when you finish your practice, you do not close the experience like a book, but carry it around like a treasured possession,” they explained. “Instead of being completely forgotten, it remains in the back of your mind, communicating its influences automatically to your actions and reactions, and ready at any moment, if specifically called upon, to lend a helping hand.”

The objective, they said, is getting to know the higher self “and a gradual training of your spiritual muscles to maintain it, once recognized.” Don’t cease the multitude of routine and mundane daily activities, they added, but make the gradual growth and expansion of the eternal self the major business of each day.

Next blog post:  January 17 (More about the Betty White story with the focus on what Betty communicated after her death).  Note:  Two of Stewart Edward White’s books –  “The Road I Know” and “With Folded Wings” are available at White Crow

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Life & Death Before Electricity – More Misery than Merriment

Posted on 20 December 2021, 10:03

During a recent power outage, the result of stormy weather and high winds, I wondered what it would be like to live permanently without electricity.  I wondered how it was for people a hundred or more years ago, living in darkened homes, even during the day – no artificial lighting, no radios, no televisions, no computers, no phones, no artificial heat or cooling devices, no refrigerators, no bidets, just the very basics. 

My thoughts wandered to Mary Lincoln, (below) the widow of our sixteenth president, who, having lost her husband to an assassin’s bullet and three sons to childhood maladies, resided in a Chicago hotel room around 1870. I pictured a dreary hotel room with basic furnishings and lighted only by whatever sun rays penetrated the window, then only a candle after sundown. I imagined her sitting at the window on a winter day in a very melancholy state, watching a horse and buggy go by every now and then wondering about the purpose of it all, whether there was any end to the monotony. 


With no family to care for and no domestic duties common at the time, Mary Lincoln likely had little with which to occupy herself beyond browsing in nearby shops. Being gregarious, she probably got to know some of the merchants fairly well and felt obligated to occasionally make purchases, even if she had no need for the items.  Based on historical reports, I imagined her going to mediums in the hope of communicating with her deceased loved ones, thereby giving her hope that there is some purpose behind all the adversity she had experienced. Going to the nearest saloon and numbing the pain like the men in similar despair was not an option for a proper woman.

Apparently, Robert Lincoln, her only surviving son, didn’t see her shopping habits or interest in spirit communication as a way of coping with her grief and boredom, as he had her declared insane by a court of law and committed to a lunatic asylum.  Fortunately, 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, appealed the lower-court decision on her behalf and Mary was released from the asylum after just three months and three weeks of incarceration.

Mary Lincoln’s Chicago residency came at a time when Darwinism was impeaching religion. “Never, perhaps, did man’s spiritual satisfaction bear a smaller proportion to his needs,” Frederic W. H. Myers, one of the pioneers of psychical research, said of that period. “The old-world sustenance, however earnestly administered, [was] too unsubstantial for the modern cravings. And thus through our civilized societies two conflicting currents [ran].  On the one hand, health, intelligence, morality – all such boons as the steady progress of planetary evolution can win for the man – [were] being achieved in increasing measure. On the other hand this very sanity, this very prosperity, [brought out] in stronger relief the underlying Weltschmerz, the decline of any real belief in the dignity, the meaning, the endlessness of life.”

Myers added that there were many who were willing to let earthly activities and pleasures dissipate and obscure the “larger hope,” but some, like himself, were upset and searched for a serious remedy.

As historian Donald J. Mrozek recorded it, the late nineteenth century was an age that emphasized energy and activity and in which “death became a special horror” especially for those who aimed at establishing power over nature. The liveliness and energy of that period, he stated, “necessitated that its ‘search for order’ would be accompanied by a search for meaning.” 

My pondering on the era brought to mind movies showing much gaiety, frivolity and mindless happiness during the late 1800s, extending through the first decade of the 1900s.  I recalled a movie with scores of smiling, carefree, innocent people all leisurely strolling down Main Street after attending church in their Sunday best – the men cheerfully tipping their hats to each other, the women smiling with delight and hope, giving no heed to their marital bondage, the children hopping and skipping while anxiously awaiting an ice cream treat at the corner fountain, all the while the tails of parked horses wagging and keeping beat with a cheery tune and the rhythmic strides of the contented people.

Was that an actual portrayal of the way it was, or was it really a doom and gloom scenario – empty streets, darkened homes, uncontrolled heat and cold, long hours of backbreaking labor, rat infestations, stench from the outhouses, the horse tails swatting swarms of flies, widespread diseases resulting in many premature deaths, teeth extracted with plyers and no anesthetics, poverty, hunger, grief, distress, and, if the new science was to be believed, total extinction, or oblivion, after it was all over? 

Perhaps the true picture is somewhere in between those two extremes, but my best guess is that it was much more misery than merriment. If there is any truth to messages purportedly coming from the spirit world through seemingly credible mediums and discerning researchers, the spirit world also took note of the misery and at least some of them in that world concluded that they should attempt to provide some relief, some light – a different kind of light than that aiding the eyes – to help those in the material world overcome the despair. Robert Hare, a professor of chemistry at the University of Pennsylvania and a renowned inventor, reported that his investigation of mediums during the mid-1850s resulted in communication stating that there had been “a deliberate effort on the part of the inhabitants of the higher spheres to break through the partition which has interfered with the attainment, by mortals, of a correct idea of their destiny after death.” 

Hare was informed by his father, in spirit, that a delegation of advanced spirits has been appointed to carry out the mission and that low spirits were allowed to interfere in the undertaking because they were, in effect, closer in vibration to the earth plane and therefore more competent to make mechanical movements and loud rappings. “Thus, it appears that at the outset, the object was to draw attention, and in the next place to induce communication,” Hare explained, adding that the manifestations quickly changed in character and that superior spirits replaced inferior ones as they experimented on their side and learned to manipulate matter. 

The phenomena went from raps, taps, and table tilting spelling out messages (so many raps, taps, or tilts for each letter of the alphabet) to the levitation of humans, musical instruments playing without human hands touching them, messages written without a human hand holding the pencil. They soon learned how to penetrate the veil in other ways, even to materialize their bodies, to control human hands to write messages from them, to take possession of human bodies to talk with us, to speak directly with us. They were experimenting on their side of the veil and their efforts often failed. When they did succeed, it was too mind-boggling for most people and especially for educated people grounded in science. It was opposed to natural law and so it was ignored or rejected as fraud. They called it humbug.

Judge John Edmonds, who began his investigation of mediums in 1851, said he was told 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.”  Edmonds also said that he 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.” 

Edmonds further stated that he had “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.” He did not explain the reasons for the opposition, but I can think of two possible reasons: 1) those opposed were unadvanced spirits who still clung to religious indoctrination that such communication is demonic; 2) our free-will decisions are tempered by the certainty of a larger life, thereby retarding our spiritual progress, i.e., the greater the adversity, the greater the lessons and the advancement. 

When Nathaniel Tallmadge, another researcher from the 1850s, asked John C. Calhoun, (below) his good friend in the earth life while also vice-president of the United States, the purpose of the manifestations he had witnessed, Calhoun replied: “My friend, the question is often put to you, ‘What good can come from these manifestations?’ I will answer it. It is to draw mankind together in harmony, and convince skeptics of the immortality of the soul.”


Tallmadge had put the same question to W. E. Channing, with whom he was communicating through another medium at an earlier date. The response was: “To unite mankind, and to convince skeptical minds of the immortality of the soul.” However, as Stainton Moses, an Anglican priest and medium, was told, very low-level spirits, what are sometimes called “earthbound” spirits, were interfering with the communication of higher spirits and the desired results were not being obtained. The advanced spirits overestimated the ability of those in the material world to discern the messages, to separate the positive from the negative, and thus they began to withdraw.

When people today comment that the phenomena observed by Hare, Edmonds, Tallmadge and others were probably all bunk because we don’t have them today, I suggest that it may have been better then, at least more dynamic than now, because people of that time needed it more than we do.  They had rougher and tougher lives and much less in the way of luxuries and escape mechanisms than we do.  Things were especially traumatic for them when science pulled the carpet out from under their religions.  Their church was their only refuge, and there was no other place to turn.

With all the comforts and escape mechanisms we now have, the spirit world apparently doesn’t see the need to intervene, and the resistance in the spirit world may be even greater now, as they see how lowly spirits interfered with what the more advanced spirits were trying to accomplish a century and more ago.  Moreover, the world is much more skeptical today than it was a century ago.  Some medium producing genuine phenomena would be labeled a fraud without any real investigation, and if an investigation were to take place the researchers would be looking for a materialistic explanation. A spiritual explanation will lack “proof” as the alternative is always something that science does not yet understand, i.e., super-psi, living-agent psi, the cosmic reservoir, etc.  A spiritual explanation will always elude science.   

My further guess is that, absent all the “noise” we now have in the world from our electrical gadgets, the people of the nineteenth century were more open to spirit communication.  They sat in front of a fire knitting or whittling, or on the front porch looking at the stars,  and their minds were more receptive to such communication.

Electricity has provided much light, but it is in some respects a “darker” world.  Searching for and receiving the right kind of “light” is the challenge.  Here’s wishing everyone more “light” for Christmas and in 2022.

Michael Tymn is the author of The Afterlife Revealed: What Happens After We Die, Resurrecting Leonora Piper: How Science Discovered the Afterlife, and Dead Men Talking: Afterlife Communication from World War I.
His latest book, No One Really Dies: 25 Reasons to Believe in an Afterlife is published by White Crow books.

Next blog, 20, December.

Next blog post: January 3

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The Missing Witness for Life After Death

Posted on 06 December 2021, 9:43

In the trial summarized in my essay for the Bigelow contest eleven witnesses testified for the plaintiff, The Survival School, in its suit against The School of Materialism, aka The School of Nihilism. They included a judge, a physician, a lawyer, three chemists, a biologist, two physicist, a theologist, and a philosopher, all with impeccable qualifications. All began as non-believers or skeptics to some high degree, but, after extensive investigations, they were convinced that spirits exist, that many of these spirits once occupied earthly bodies, and that some are able to break through the veil separating our material world from the immaterial one and occasionally communicate with us, all of which leads to a compelling belief that consciousness does survive physical death.

A twelfth witness, Professor James Hyslop, (below) perhaps the most experienced of all in the area of psychical research, was scheduled to testify, but due to court-imposed restrictions, (viz. - the 25,000 word limit of the essay) and the fact that his research followed the other witnesses in time, his testimony was not heard in court.  In his deposition, taken several months before the trial, Hyslop spoke extensively about the veridical evidence coming to him from his father, mother, wife, and other deceased members of his family through the mediumship of Leonora Piper.  However, much of his testimony had to do with the modus operandi of mediumship.


Hyslop taught philosophy at Lake Forest University, Smith College, and Bucknell University before joining the faculty of Columbia University, where he served as professor of professor of logic and ethics.  He later founded the American Institute for Scientific Research and succeeded Dr. Richard Hodgson in managing the American Society for Psychical Research.  Hyslop received his Ph.D. from Johns Hopkins University and his doctorate in law from the University of Wooster.  He authored three textbooks, Elements of Logic (1892), Elements of Ethics (1895), and Problems of Philosophy (1905). 

Hyslop’s interest in psychical research came as a result of his friendship with Harvard professor William James and a sitting with Piper, the Boston medium discussed by two of the trial witnesses, Dr. Richard Hodgson and Sir Oliver Lodge.  Hyslop’s research began around 1895 and became a full-time endeavor in 1905, continuing until his death in 1920.  This abridged transcript of his deposition focuses on the methods of his research rather than on the evidential.   

Professor Hyslop, please begin with the overall assessment of your research.  What is your conclusion relative to the survival issue?

“Personally, I regard the fact of survival after death as scientifically proved.  I agree that this opinion is not upheld in scientific quarters.  But this is neither our fault nor that of the facts. Evolution was not believed until long after it was proved. The fault lay with those who were too ignorant or too stubborn to accept the facts. History shows that every intelligent man who has gone into the investigation, if he gave it adequate examination at all, has come out believing in spirits; this circumstance places the burden or proof on the shoulders of the skeptic.” (Hyslop, 1919, 480)

But why the continual resistance?

“In the first place, when we say to the average man that we can communicate with the dead, or that we have obtained through apparitions or mediumistic phenomena facts which prove survival, they see that we are implying communication as well as survival of the discarnate, and with it they assume that the process of communication is as simple as our ordinary social intercourse.  They read the records which we present as if they were merely jotted down conversations with the dead conducted very much as we talk with each other. They make no effort to investigate the complexity of the process, but take the phenomena at their face value and ask no scientific questions.  They read an alleged message as they would a telegram or an essay.  They make no account of the conditions under which the message is transmitted when it claims to come from another world, but recognize exactly what the conditions are in the physical world…If a message, however, claims to come from the dead, they set up objections as if they knew exactly what the conditions are for the receipt and delivery of the communication.  There is, after [so many years] of research by scientific men, absolutely no excuse for such conduct or ignorance…[Unfortunately], it is more convenient to laugh than it is to make an effort to ascertain the truth.”  (Hyslop, 1918, 208)

I gather that you have studied Mrs. Chenoweth more than Mrs. Piper or any other medium. Would you mind explaining the basic protocol in your sittings with her?

“[Not at all.] I do not allow Mrs. Chenoweth to see the sitter at any time.  She goes into the trance before the sitter is admitted into the room.  Then the sitter occupies a chair behind Mrs. Chenoweth, who is in the trance and could not see the sitter even if she were normally conscious and her eyes open.  Usually the sitter says little or nothing, often merely nodding or shaking his or her head.  Before Mrs. Chenoweth comes out of the trance the sitter leaves the room and is therefore not seen by Mrs. Chenoweth in her normal state.  Mrs. Chenoweth always remains upstairs before the sitting, and she never meets the sitter, unless I introduce her after a sitting, which has been done in but two or three cases, and that after the last of the series of sittings for the given sitter.”  (Hyslop, 1925, 1)

The skeptics believe that she and other mediums are digging up information beforehand.  What do you say to them?

“The slightest patient study both of the records as a whole and of the circumstances under which they were made would prove the impossibility of any form of fraud which could pay for itself.  The slight remuneration which Mrs. Chenoweth receives does not even pay for her living, much less would it support in addition a detective bureau even to seeking for information about a single one of her own friends, to say nothing of strangers whom she would have to investigate at the ends of the earth.  The man that clings to such a theory, after looking honestly at the facts, does not need to be taken seriously.  Scientific progress cannot wait on such minds.”  (Hyslop, 1925, 2)

Leonora Piper had a series of controls.  Is that the case with Mrs. Chenoweth?

“[Yes.] There may be a whole group of personalities [involved] with [the] messages.  This was perfectly manifest in the Piper case where the personalities called themselves Imperator, Rector, Doctor, Mentor, and others and had done so before in the case of Stainton Moses.  The same group figures in the work of Mrs. Chenoweth and gave some evidence of themselves in the work of Mrs. Smead, Mrs. Verrall and others. It is only in well-developed mediumship that groups of them will easily manifest. Their product in communication might be a joint one and their several personalities indistinguishable, but in well-developed mediumship, at least after some practice, each individual personality can give evidence of himself.” (Hyslop, 1925, 27)

It is my understanding that a control is a spirit on the “other side” who is like a medium on that side, facilitating or passing on communication from the “communicator” to the “sitter” through the medium.
Do I understand correctly?

“[You do.] We have to reckon with what is always called the control, or the ‘guide,’ as it is sometimes called.  We must remember also that the guide and control may be different personalities.  They are not always, if ever, the same personality.  It depends on circumstances.  If you regard this control as a secondary personality state of the medium, you have all the complications of secondary personality in the case, serving as medium besides the automatic machinery of the living organism in the suspense of the control of the normal consciousness over it.  But if you assume that the control is a spirit, as is more evidently the case for all who have intelligently investigated the problem, you have another mind beside that of the medium with which to deal in the problem.  There is not only the third mind which we have called the medium but the fourth one complicating all its influences with those already complicated enough to make us wonder that we get any message at all from the dead.” (Hyslop, 1918, 213)

It does sound complicated.

“[Exactly!] All should remember the parlor game in which a few words are whispered into the ear of the one near you and from him to a third and a fourth person and so on, to find at the end that there is no resemblance to what was started.  The same is likely to take place in spirit messages. The control must put the message through and it will take the color of his or her mind.  Then it is doubly colored by the subconscious, sometimes by the normal consciousness of the medium as well. The fact that the incidents prove the personal identity of a deceased person and are not known by the medium suffices to justify the spiritistic hypothesis, though this origin does not prove the purity of the message, or that it came from the communicator directly.  It may have been subjected to all sorts of modifications, phonetic, visual, or interpretative. Any man who does not make allowance for this is not fit to talk about the problem.” (Hyslop, 1918, 214)

Other researchers feel that there is more subconscious influence than you do.
“… I insist on drawing a very important distinction in allowing any influence at all to the subconscious.  This is the distinction between the subconscious as function and the subconscious as content in the messages.  By this I mean that the functions of the mind may act, whether consciously or subconsciously, in receiving and delivering messages, yet not supply any of the contents of them. If this view could be established it would deprive the skeptic of half his munitions of war.  But I have not proposed any such view arbitrarily or for the purpose of getting an advantage in the discussion, but because the facts showed that the doctrine had to be maintained.  It has distinct analogies in normal experience.  One may tell a friend’s story in the language of that friend and in that way eliminate the action of his own mind upon it in all but the mere process of transmitting it.  But if he allows his own interpretation of the story to be presented then the contents of his own experience enters into the material of his version of the story.  When a man suppresses his own theories and interpretations to state any mere body of facts he eliminates the contents of his knowledge and confines himself to the bald narration of the facts.  There is no reason, then, why the same process might not be effected with the subconscious of the psychic…At any rate, the possibility of distinguishing between the functions and the contents of the subconscious must be conceded in order to understand the non-evidential matter as a whole, and this without regard to the question whether it be spiritistic or not.” (Hyslop, 1925, 7-8)

The records suggest that a lot of “fishing” for information was going on by the medium or, if one accepts the spirit hypothesis, the control.  Is that the case?

“Fishing and guessing do take place, and yet the phenomena are still genuine.  The fishing and guessing are on the other side.  That is, the psychic is not fishing and guessing to try the sitter’s response, but to try that of the communicator who labors under difficulties analogous to our communication over a telephone or whenever there are obstacles to communication with each other in normal life.  Either the psychic or the control does not receive the messages or impressions clearly and has to guess at what they mean until the communicator assents to the right name or impression.” (Hyslop, 1925, 39)

How important is the trance state for good mediumship?

“The emphasis which has been placed upon the trance state in the discussions of the Piper case has often left the impression that a trance is a necessary condition for access to transcendental messages.  But this is not true.  It is only a condition that either removes ordinary objections and proves that we are dealing with unusual mental phenomena, as compared with normal consciousness, or that tends to improve the character of the messages.  It is not a condition necessary to transmission, but only to its purity and to its more ready impressiveness on minds that have been accustomed to assume fraud and ordinary explanations.  It has no other importance.  In the case of Mrs. Chenoweth the normal [non-trance] communications are very meager, and indeed are very rare.  All her phenomena have been accompanied by some sort of trance, light or deep.” (Hyslop, 1925, 3)

In what ways does the light trance differ from the deep?

“The prevailing condition at the time that I began my work with her was the Starlight trance.  This was the one that was used for private sittings.  It is a light and perhaps hypnoidal state in which there is apparently no anaesthesia, but complete amnesia.  It is probable that there is anaesthesia, that is, normal anaesthesia, but subliminal hyperaesthesia. This would account for the amnesia which characterizes this trance.  The process of getting communication in this trance is the pictographic or ‘mental picture’ method, at least for certain specific incidents and names.  General communications in this state seem not be pictographic.  But that is a subject for further study.  The main thing is that the apperceptive or interpreting functions of the mind seem active in this hypnoidal trance, and they are bound to affect the nature of the messages, especially in the interpretation of the mental pictures.” (Hyslop, 1925, 3)

Please explain the pictographic process.

“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.  The whole mass of facts is thus systematized as a single process, whose specific form of transmission is determined by the sense through which it is expressed.  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.” (Hyslop. 1919, 117)

Why is it so difficult to get names through? Is it because many names do not lend themselves to the pictographic method?

“The difficulty of transmitting proper names has been one of great perplexity to students of this subject. At first the believer in fraud had no trouble in urging his explanation, but soon it became clear that the very uniformity of this difficulty was an evidence of some sort of genuineness in the phenomena.  Though several efforts have been made, both by Dr. Hodgson and myself, to form some tentative theory that would partly account for the difficulty, it has never been wholly explained….In the first place [the records indicate] that Mrs. Chenoweth at once gets the initials of the correct names so often that we cannot attribute the fact to chance…[and] often when the initial of a correct name has been given the medium goes on to give the complete name, and often does it very promptly.  But as often or more often the effort to give it shows a play about it which has all the characteristics of fishing and guessing…[but again] the fishing and guessing are on the other side.  Either the psychic or control does not receive the messages or impressions clearly and has to guess at what they mean until the communicator assents to the right name or impression.”  (Hyslop, 1925, 39-40)

The records indicate that some spirits are able to communicate through a medium without the assistance of a control. I believe you have referred to this as the “direct method.”  Is the pictographic process still in play here?

“It is possible, perhaps probable, that the direct method as distinguished from the pictographic process may involve wholly different functions, and indeed the fact that it finds its expressions in the motor organism while the pictographic process is primarily sensory, rather makes [this view of less subconscious content] clear and decisive, even though there may be connecting links between the two methods.  It may be that pictographic agencies prevail in all expression of thought, but they are not so apparent in the product of the direct method…Something also will depend on the nature of the medium and her development.”  (Hyslop, 1925, 24) 

I recall reading that the communicating spirit and/or the control must enter an altered state of consciousness on his or her side.  Can you comment on that?

“Quite an important piece of evidence in this direction comes from this George Pellew [control].  In explaining the conditions for ‘communicating’ he once said after having satisfied Dr. Hodgson of his identity: ‘Remember, we share and always shall have our friends in the dream life, i.e., your life, so to speak, which will attract us forever and ever, and so long as we have our friends sleeping in the material world; you to us are more like as we understand sleep, you look shut up as one in prison, and in order for us to get into communication with you, we have to enter into your sphere, as one like yourself asleep.  This is just why we make mistakes as you call them, or get confused and muddled, so to put it, Hodgson…you see I am more awake than asleep, yet I cannot come just as I am in reality, independently of the medium’s light.’” (Hyslop, 1919, 112)

Thank you, Professor Hyslop.  Any concluding thoughts?

“[Yes,] the belief in immortality is the keystone to the arch of history, or the pivotal point about which move the intellectual, the ethical, and the political forces of all time. If science cannot protect our ethical ideals it will have to succumb to the same corrosion that has worn away the church. Something must put an end to the doubt. There are many situations in life that call for heroic measures, and skepticism on the outcome of life offers no inducement to the heroic virtues.” (Hyslop, 1919, 486) 


Hyslop, James H., Science and a Future Life, Herbert B. Turner & Co., Boston, 1905

Hyslop, James, H., Life After Death, E. P. Dutton & Co., New York, 1918

Hyslop, James H., Contact with the Other World, The Century Co., New York, 1919

Hyslop, James H., Proceedings of the American Society for Psychical Research, ASPR, New York, 1925

Michael Tymn is the author of The Afterlife Revealed: What Happens After We Die, Resurrecting Leonora Piper: How Science Discovered the Afterlife, and Dead Men Talking: Afterlife Communication from World War I.
His latest book, No One Really Dies: 25 Reasons to Believe in an Afterlife is published by White Crow books.

Next blog, 20, December.

Read comments or post one of your own
Judgment After Death

Posted on 22 November 2021, 9:19

If my evangelical and fundamentalist friends are right, I face a pretty harsh judgment after I die.  My interest in the “demonic” things discussed in this blog and my books, as well as my failure to accept the “faith” and atonement doctrines, means I am headed straight into the fire and brimstone. Here’s how it might go, if they are correct.  I will stand before God for my judgment. St. Peter will hand Him a scroll that covers my life history.  God will review it and say:

“Ah, Michael, you sinner, I see here you willingly participated in the Seven Deadly Sins – pride, lust, envy, greed, sloth, wrath, and gluttony – along your journey, but you seem to have overcome them quite well, except perhaps for the last one. You could have presented yourself at least 20 pounds lighter.  Overall, though, it appears that you led a reasonably disciplined and decent life, selfish at times, but giving more than taking.  I commend you for your efforts in confronting the challenges I put before you.” 

Me: “Thanks, God.  I know I could have done better.  It was that chocolate-peanut butter ice cream to which I so selfishly succumbed that led me astray, but I hope my gluttony was not really that bad and that you’ll let me pass through those pearly gates.”

At this point St. Paul stepped toward God and pointed to a particular part of the scroll, a part that seems to have escaped God’s attention. God’s eyes widened.

God: “It says here that you wrote a blog in which you denied Me.  How could you?

Me: “Not really, God. That’s taken out of context.  I was attempting to get the non-believers to look at the evidence for your kingdom and then discover You, rather than the other way around, which was much more difficult.  So many of them pictured you as a very wrathful being who demands worship, like some Egyptian pharaoh. I was trying to suggest that they view it differently.  I recalled the words of Jesus at Matthew 6:33, ‘Seek ye first the kingdom of God.’  I felt that if they discovered the kingdom by examining the evidence, they would then find You.”

God: “You idiot. Jesus was telling them to seek My kingdom before seeking material treasures. And why shouldn’t I be worshipped?  You wouldn’t be here were it not for Me.”

Me: “Well, it seemed to me that you were beyond the need for worship?”

God:  “I don’t like your attitude. I sentence you to eternal damnation.” 

Me: “Oh, my God, the Bible thumpers were right?”
God: “You said it.  Not Me.”

Me: “But I accepted most of the Bible in a metaphorical way.  And Jesus has always been my role model, and I considered him the greatest prophet who ever lived and thought of him pretty much as chairman of the board in Your kingdom. Don’t I get any points for shouldering the burden rather than placing it all on him?”

God: “Sorry to say that you don’t.  You should have listened to your friends.”

Me: “God, I gather I am going to have a lot of time to think about my mistakes, but just so I better understand, are you saying that I could have murdered, pillaged, blasphemed, and done all kinds of nasty things but would have been allowed entry to Your kingdom if I had repented and been ‘born again’ just before I died?”
God: “You’ve got it right there.”

Me: “And I could have been perfect in loving and serving my fellow man, but still not allowed entry simply because I didn’t worship properly?  That doesn’t seem fair.”

God: “Who said anything about fairness?  Didn’t your friends tell you that My ways are not always understood by man?  And who are you to question my fairness, you disrespectful, arrogant, self-righteous, good-for-nothing, wicked, gluttonous philistine?  I’ve got a few million more people here to judge today. Move on! Begone!”

The gavel slams down and I am suddenly like the bad guy in the movie, “Ghost,” in total torment as several howling, hellish spirits rush me, take hold, and carry me downward.  All the while, my deceased friends, who had been looking on from the spectator seats, shake their heads and lament the fact that I did not heed their wise words concerning their interpretations of Scripture.


Modern Revelation

I refuse to believe in such a God or such a judgment. Modern revelation, coming to us primarily through mediumship and near-death experiences, offers us a much more sensible, rational, and fair judgment, if it can be called a “judgment,” one consistent with a loving and just God.  Many near-death experiencers have reported a “life review” in which they see definitive moments in their life flash before them during the experience.  P. M. H. Atwater, whose NDE took place during 1977, reported that she saw every thought she had ever had, every word she had ever spoken, and every deed she had ever done during her life review.  Moreover, she saw the effects of every thought, word, and deed on everyone who might have been affected by them.  As she interpreted it, she was judging herself.

Tom Sawyer, who had an NDE in 1978 when his car fell on him while he was working under it, recalled reliving every thought and attitude connected with decisive moments in his life and seeing them through the eyes of those who were affected by his actions.  He particularly recalled an incident that took place when he was driving his hot-rod pickup at age 19 and nearly hit a jaywalking pedestrian, who darted in front of him from behind another vehicle.  When Sawyer engaged in a verbal exchange with the pedestrian, the man yelled some four-letter words at him, reached through the window, and hit him with his open hand.  Sawyer responded by jumping out of his car and beating the man relentlessly. During his life review, Sawyer came to know everything about the man, including his age, the fact that his wife had recently died, and that he was in a drunken state because of his bereavement. 
“[I experienced] seeing Tom Sawyer’s fist come directly into my face,” he recalled. “And I felt the indignation, the rage, the embarrassment, the frustration, the physical pain…I felt my teeth going through my lower lip – in other words, I was in that man’s eyes.  I was in that man’s body.  I experienced everything of that inter-relationship between Tom Sawyer and that man that day.  I experienced unbelievable things about that man that are of a very personal, confidential, and private nature.”
Although he does not refer to it as a life review, Carl Gustav Jung, the eminent Swiss psychiatrist, writes of something very similar in describing a near-death experience he had in 1944 after breaking his foot and then having a heart attack. “It was as if I now carried along with me everything I had ever experienced or done, everything that had happened around me. I might also say: it was with me, and I was it. I consisted of all that, so to speak.  I consisted of my own history, and I felt with great certainty: this is what I am.  ‘I am this bundle of what has been, and what has been accomplished.’”  Jung went on to say that he had the certainty that he was about to enter an illuminated room and then understand the historical nexus of his life and what would come after. However, his vision ceased before he had such an experience.

Moral Specific Gravity

As Robert Hare, emeritus professor of chemistry at the University of Pennsylvania, came to understand it from several years of communicating with the spirit world,  one’s immediate place in the afterlife “is determined by a sort of moral specific gravity, in which merit is measured inversely as weight.”

This “moral specific gravity” is apparently built up during a person’s lifetime based on his or her good or works or lack thereof and manifests itself in the person’s energy field, or aura.  Hare called it a circumambient halo and was told that it passes from darkness to effulgence based on the degree of spirit advancement.  Moreover, one cannot be dishonest with himself as the moral specific gravity allows him to tolerate only so much light. If he were to try to cheat and go to a higher sphere, he would not be able to tolerate the light there.

After his death, pioneering psychical researcher Frederic W. H. Myers (below) communicated extensively through the mediumship of Geraldine Cummins of Ireland.  Myers referred to the period immediately after death as Hades and “The Play of the Shadow Show.”  He said that this period varies considerably from individual to individual, but generally after the soul is greeted by deceased loved ones it experiences a semi-suspended consciousness and sees fragmentary happenings of the life just lived.


“He watches this changing show as a man drowsily watches a shimmering sunny landscape on a midsummer day,” Myers explained.  “He is detached and apart, judging the individual who participates in these experiences, judging his own self with aid of the Light from Above.

Myers further explained that while this is taking place, the etheric body is loosening itself from the “husk” and when the judgment is completed, generally after three to four days, the soul takes flight, passes into the world of illusion, and resumes full consciousness.

The Rev. William Stainton Moses, an Anglican priest, developed into a medium and put many questions to an apparently advanced spirit called Imperator.  One of the questions he asked was whether there is a general judgment.  “No,” was the response.  “The judgment is complete when the spirit gravitates to the home which it has made for itself.  There can be no error.  It is placed by the eternal law of fitness.  That judgment is complete, until the spirit is fitted to pass to a higher sphere, when the same process is repeated, and so on and on until the purgatorial spheres of work are done with, and the soul passes within the inner heaven of contemplation.”

Imperator explained to Moses that the soul is the arbiter of its own destiny and that the “sentence” it imposes upon itself is based on the character it has built up by its earthly acts.

Seemingly consistent with the moral specific gravity idea is the explanation given to Frederick C. Schulthorp during his early 20th Century astral projections.  Schulthorp was told that every thought generates an electrical impulse that is impressed upon the individual’s energy field and is stored there.  Every thought, he was informed by communicating spirits, has a specific rate of vibration.  The combined vibrations over a lifetime determine the person’s initial station in the afterlife environment.  “Upon entry into spirit life, a person will naturally and automatically gravitate to his state in spirit which corresponds to his acts and thoughts throughout life as reproduced by his ‘personal tape record,’” Schulthorp explained his understanding at a time before computers made this comprehensible to the average person.

A moral specific gravity is an idea that appeals to reason and one that can be reconciled with a just and loving God.  It is a plan of attainment and attunement, of gradual spiritual growth, of reaping what we sow. 

Michael Tymn is the author of The Afterlife Revealed: What Happens After We Die, Resurrecting Leonora Piper: How Science Discovered the Afterlife, and Dead Men Talking: Afterlife Communication from World War I.
His latest book, No One Really Dies: 25 Reasons to Believe in an Afterlife is published by White Crow books.

Next blog post:  Dec. 6


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Aerospace Magnate Robert Bigelow Searches for Answers on Life After Death

Posted on 08 November 2021, 8:34

When Robert T. Bigelow, (below) the founder of Bigelow Aerospace in Las Vegas, Nevada, announced in January that he was launching the Bigelow Institute for Consciousness Studies (BICS) and sponsoring an essay competition on the best evidence for life after death, I had doubts about the success of such a contest.  It seemed to me the best evidence had already been discussed and reported by various researchers and by people experiencing paranormal events, such as near-death experiences, and I questioned whether anyone would be able to come up with fresh ideas on the subject.  I speculated that only a half-dozen people would enter the contest.  As it turned out, however, more than 1,200 applied and 200 of those were selected to submit essays.


The winners were announced on November 1, first prize of $500,000 going to Jeffrey Mishlove, Ph.D., (below) an American clinical psychologist, second prize of $300,000 to Pim Van Lommel, M.D., a Dutch cardiologist, and third prize of $150,000 to Leo Ruickbie, Ph.D., a sociologist and editor for the Society for Psychical Research in England. I was fortunate to win a runner-up prize of $50,000 for my essay titled, “Long Concealed – Now Revealed” in which I argued that the best and most overwhelming evidence was produced and documented before 1920.  Much evidence has been produced since 1920, but it is “icing on the cake” – a cake that was baked between 1850 and 1920.


The essays will be officially posted at the Bigelow Institute website within the next week or two.  Although I have not had the opportunity to read Mishlove’s winning entry, I gather that he cited both current and past evidence in his essay, offering it in a way that should make sense to the average layperson, not just to those with an academic mindset. Of course, those subscribing to a philosophy of nihilism will turn up their noses at it, but those with open minds should find much meaningful evidence to ponder on, not only in Mishlove’s essay but in all those posted. 

As I am not a researcher, academician, psychologist, parapsychologist, or doctor of any kind, I didn’t feel qualified to enter the contest, but I did consider the fact that, from some 25 years of study, I have become a historian of sorts on the early psychical research.  So few people I have met know anything about that research. I’ve talked with or interviewed a number of modern-day researchers and even they seem to know little about the pre-1920 research.  The late Carlos Alvarado, Ph.D., was probably the foremost authority on the subject and Stafford Betty, Ph.D., a retired religion and philosophy professor, is another person very familiar with the subject matter, but I think I can count on one hand the number of people I have met who have really explored the research of the pioneers – men like Judge John Edmonds, Dr. George Dexter, Professor Robert Hare, biologist Alfred Russel Wallace, Sir William Barrett, Sir William Crookes, Sir Oliver Lodge, Dr. Richard Hodgson, Professor James Hyslop and others.

As I see it, the case for survival was made by those pioneers before 1920, but because religion had been impeached by science, especially Darwinism, and because most scientists saw psychical research as having the same objectives as religion, the research carried out by those pioneers was ignored or rejected as just so much bunk.  Moreover, religions rejected it because some of it conflicted with established dogma and doctrine.  Thus, they saw it as “demonic.”

As suggested in my paper, the evidence strongly lending itself to proof that consciousness survives bodily death in a larger reality is substantial; it is nonetheless, complex, confusing, convoluted, complicated and sometimes conflicting, seemingly beyond the limits of exact or pure science. It can, however, be examined from the standpoint of more inexact science; that is, courtroom science. The objective is not absolute certainty.  It is conviction – a degree of certainty that provides much more peace of mind than the blind faith of religions. 

Based on what several of the pioneers were told by communicating spirits, they were experimenting on their side in their attempts to communicate with us.  The discarnate Benjamin Franklin, with the assistance of Emanuel Swedenborg, the great Swedish polymath of the eighteenth century, figured out how to communicate with the material world by means of raps, taps, and table turning. It gradually progressed from there to include the trance voice, the direct voice, automatic writing, materializations, and other phenomena. However, the obstacles to clear communication were many, including the need to overcome distortions by the medium’s mind.  Much of the communication involved thought-transference – the spirit communicator projecting an idea with some symbolism, which was then misinterpreted by the medium’s mind and resulted in incorrect information.  Such inaccuracies brought forth cries of fraud from the debunkers. 

Edmonds, who served as Chief Justice of the New York Supreme Court, was told by a spirit communicator that there was much opposition in the spirit world to communication between realms.  He added 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.”

Skeptics often ask why there was so much more dynamic mediumship 100-170 years ago than there is now.  My take on that is that is that people of that time needed it more than we do and the conditions were better. They had fewer escapes than we do – no radio, television, computers, phones, etc. Their church was their primary retreat in times of grief and mourning, but Darwinism had impeached religion and they had no sanctuary or any other haven for escape. The nihilism of materialism resulted in a doom and gloom mindset and a very melancholy approach to life, all at a time when hardships were abundant for most people, and when the greater part of the population was struggling to make a living, to simply survive.  When the fundamentalists of science pulled the rug out from under them and told them that this life is all there is, they lost hope.

Seeing such a condition in the material world, some in the spirit world felt that they had to make their presence known in order to assuage the hopelessness and despair.  Others, however, felt that the added adversity offered greater opportunities to learn and advance, and therefore they opposed it.  There may have been “earthbound” spirits who opposed it because they were still clinging to their earthly religious teachings. 

At some point, around 1900, the so-called Spiritualist movement was in decline, primarily because the waters had been muddied by the charlatans and the fundamentalists of science, thereby casting doubt on the genuine mediums.  On top of that, the genuine mediums were not infallible and when wrong information came through or when conditions were so inharmonious that they could not produce phenomena at all, they also were written off as frauds.  William Stainton Moses, an Anglican priest who became a gifted medium, was told by spirits that they overestimated their ability to help out, not anticipating so much abuse and ignorance on our side. Thus, they withdrew. 

The Great War resulted in a resurgence of spirit communication, but the “Roaring Twenties” that followed the war saw a return to more materialistic ways, extending to hedonism and epicureanism, and a rapid decline in the more dynamic forms of mediumship. When radio, movies, and then television came into the world, people no longer had to sit around their fireplaces knitting or whittling in a somewhat meditative state as they stared into the fire. The “noise” from their electronic gadgets prevented contact from the spirit world and the spirit world gradually gave up.

The turning point was the death of Hyslop in 1920.  A professor of logic and ethics at Columbia University before becoming a full-time researcher, Hyslop promoted the evidence for “survival” more than any other person.  Seeing the disparagement of Hyslop by those stuck in the muck and mire of materialistic science, other researchers were reluctant to step up and take his place. 

The field of parapsychology replaced psychical research during the 1930s, avoiding mediums, any mention of spirits of the dead, or of life after death.  Such mention would have discouraged funding and invited scoffs and sneers from the more “intellectual” academicians and scientists.  If science couldn’t explain the psychic phenomena, then it was left for science to figure it out in the future without invoking something as “ridiculous” as spirits of the dead.

Meanwhile, Hollywood and Madison Avenue continued to promote hedonism, epicureanism, and nihilism.  Research in past-life memories, near-death experiences, clairvoyance and other paranormal phenomena resulted in a few best-sellers and influenced some people who had abandoned orthodox religion to adopt a more spiritual philosophy, but the predominant worldview continued to be one of nihilism, which means “lights out” when we die. 

“It is probably time to end this closed-minded approach,” the introduction to the Bigelow Institute for Consciousness Studies website reads, going on to state that “One purpose of the BICS is to raise awareness among the public and within the scientific community of the importance and relevance of such [research].  BICS hopes to provide a public service by drawing increasing attention to, and encouraging research into, this fundamental and timeless topic…”

Hopefully, such interest in the “survival” issue by Bigelow and other prime movers will help the world reverse directions and see a bigger picture within a larger 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 latest book, No One Really Dies: 25 Reasons to Believe in an Afterlife is published by White Crow books.

Next blog post: November 22

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