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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.

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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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Dealing with Pascal’s Wager on Life After Death

Posted on 25 October 2021, 9:03

“We all die,” is the subject line of a recent email sent by the Secular Student Alliance. The message following the subject line urges members to leave a donation – a legacy – that will make the world a better place for others.  It goes on to say that the “legacy gift is a charitable vision that serves as a permanent force for good for generations of nonreligious youth to come.”  The home page of the organization says it is the largest atheist, humanist, and non-theist organization in the United States. Its goals are to empower secular students to proudly express their identity, build welcoming communities, promote secular values and set a course for lifelong activism. A photo of a dozen or so joyous, liberated young faces is shown – liberated, of course, from the fetters of religions imposed upon them by parents and their culture. They appear totally elated in their nihilistic mindset.

My first thought upon seeing the photo was to wonder if they will have the same joyous smiles in 40 or 50 years, when their loved ones and friends start dying off and when they, too, are so in decline that they struggle to visualize the abyss of nothingness they have imagined not far ahead.  But they aren’t supposed to think that far ahead.  Eat, drink, shop, play with electronic toys, have sex, escape into fantasyland with fiction, be merry, and thoroughly enjoy the moment is the philosophy instilled in them by Hollywood, the advertising industry, and the secularist worldview.

Most of those I have met or whose comments I have read on the internet seem locked into an angry god and a monotonous heaven. If they’ve heard anything about the strong evidence suggesting that consciousness survives death in a greater reality, absent an angry God and angels singing praise, they’ve checked with Wikipedia and discovered that it is all just so much bunk.  “I believe in science,” they haughtily shout, echoing “all-knowing” college professors who have helped them overcome the “false” teachings of their parents. “If you can’t replicate it, it’s fake.”  They ask for proof, not really understanding the difference between proof and evidence or realizing that such evidence is not going to reach absolute certainty. (See prior blog on the question of absolute certainty.) 

When told by the prime movers of secularism that life is all about making life better for future generations, they don’t stop to think about what “better” means. Is there a point at which life will be as it was for Nero, who fiddled as Rome burned?  To which generation full fruition? How much more comfortable and rewarding can we make things for future generations?  To what end the progeny? Why is it that I see so many older people on the internet yearning for a return to the lifestyles of the 1950s? 

You’d think the young nihilists would at least buy into Pascal’s Wager, which, in effect, says that if you can’t prove that God exists, you are better off betting that “He” does exist.  That wager, offered by seventeenth-century philosopher Blaise Pascal, holds that God and an afterlife are concomitants; that is, if there is a God, there must be an afterlife and that such an afterlife must be superior to the material life and to extinction.  So many people, both religious and non-religious, approach it deductively, figuring they require proof of God before accepting an afterlife, rather than taking an inductive approach by first examining the evidence for an afterlife and then looking for the God behind it all.

The Fear of Death

The young secularists, atheists, humanists, materialists, rationalists, nihilists, whatever label they prefer, should ponder on the story of John von Neumann (1903-1957), a Hungarian-born American mathematician, physicist, engineer, computer whiz, and overall a polymath and genius.  An internet search reveals that he was a professor of mathematics at Princeton, wrote extensively on quantum mechanics, was involved with the Manhattan Project in producing the atomic bomb, and was a pioneer in computer technology.  He was born into a Jewish family, one with “ambivalent” religious attitudes. He made a nominal conversion to Catholicism to satisfy his first wife, but continued with an agnostic belief system.  He was divorced in 1937.  Hans Bethe, a Nobel Laureate, is quoted as saying, “I have sometimes wondered whether a brain like von Neumann’s does not indicate a species superior to that of man.”

After being diagnosed with bone or pancreatic cancer in 1956, Neumann (below) is said to have expressed great fear of death. He despaired to some visitors that “he could not visualize a world which did not include himself thinking within it.”  He began having frequent visits from Father Anselm Strittmatter, a Catholic priest, telling the priest that he sided with Pascal and opted for a belief in God over extinction or, as the Church might have preached, eternal damnation. In spite of the visits, his great fear of death continued to his earthly end.


As William James, (below) one of the founders of modern psychology, put it: “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.”


It has been my observation that the pillars of humanism erode and crumble as one ages. “Living in the moment,” which is what humanists advocate, is much more difficult as they see themselves nearing “extinction” or “obliteration.”  The escape mechanisms they have used to repress the idea of death simply don’t work like they did when they were in their young adult years and so occupied with establishing themselves in careers and raising a family – when there was little or no time to do any real deep thinking about what life is all about and what might or might not come after.  When the grandchild gets her tongue pierced, her hair dyed purple, and a full sleeve of tattoos, doubts about progressive progeny enter the mind and the legacy comes into question. It’s when loved ones and friends start dying that the crumbling really accelerates. Finally, when the terminal prognosis is given, the complete collapse takes place.

Humanism to Hedonism

There is much to be said for “living in the moment,” “living in the now,” “living in the present,” “living for today,” “carpe diem,” however it is worded.  But so many young people seem to interpret that to mean “have fun at any cost.”  Moreover, they do not appear to make a distinction between fun and happiness.  Without a moral compass, they don’t know where to draw the line between humanism and hedonism, between self-discipline and self-gratification. They opt for short-term pleasure seeking over long-term peace of mind.

The problem with Pascal’s Wager, as I see it, is that the focus is on a belief in God rather than a belief in an afterlife.  It is much easier to come up with evidence for consciousness surviving death than for the existence of God. Pascal lived before the evidence for survival was being thoroughly examined by esteemed scholars and scientists. Unfortunately, the nihilists still assume that one must fully identify and prove God before giving any credibility to the evidence supporting survival, and since God is apparently beyond human comprehension they never get to the real evidence. 

One would think that a man of Neumann’s intellect might have examined some of the evidence and would have made a distinction between believing in a Higher Power and consciousness surviving death in a greater reality, but indications are that he bought into the possibility that a non-belief in God meant eternal damnation, as taught by some denominations, and that was his primary reason for going with Pascal’s Wager.  I doubt that his belief or non-belief had much of an effect on him after leaving the physical body, other than possibly a slower merging of the lower consciousness with the higher consciousness and thus a slower awakening to the greater reality. As Professor James put it: “If religion be a function by which either God’s cause or man’s cause is to be really advanced, then he who lives the life of it, however narrowly, is a better servant than he who merely knows about it, however much. Knowledge about life is one thing; effective occupation of a place in life with its dynamic currents passing through your being is another.” 

I don’t blame the secular students for rejecting religions that teach a wrathful God and a humdrum heaven. Why take Pascal’s Wager if it means curbing an Epicurean lifestyle only to spend eternity floating around on clouds, strumming harps, and praising God twenty-four-seven?  And why spend this life doing nothing but preparing for the next life? But that is not what I interpret from the psychical research and related studies being ignored by both orthodox religion and mainstream science.  The research and studies suggest a much more dynamic afterlife, one that gives meaning to this life while providing that moral compass. I lament the fact that the secular students have been kept from this knowledge by both religion and science and feel their future anguish – when those smiling faces on the website turn to distress and torture, further condemning God because “He” permits such suffering.

To end by again quoting Professor James:

“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.”

It might take secular students a few decades to grasp all that and thereby avoid the trembling, but I fear that it will be too late for some of them to change course.

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 8  

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On Absolute Certainty of Life After Death

Posted on 11 October 2021, 11:11

Upon noting in the introduction of my book, No One Really Dies, that I professed my belief in life after death at 98.8% certainty, Bob Ginsberg of the Forever Family Foundation asked me, during an interview for his radio show, what it would take to get me to 100%. I responded that I don’t believe a person – one fully aware of the alternatives – can ever be at 100% on that issue and, further, that such certainty might not be in our best interest.

Getting to 98.8% from around 25% some 35 years ago took about 20 years of studying psychical research, most of it having taken place before 1920 and having been accepted by some leading scientists of the day.  However, resistance on both sides – from the fundamentalists of religion on one side and the fundamentalists of science on the other – prevented it from being widely known or accepted. The churches feared that it conflicted with established dogma and doctrine, while the scientists feared that it meant a return to religious superstitions and folly. No single case did it for me; it was the cumulative evidence that came from the cases summarized in my latest book and many others, but the case of George Pellew (below) was worth a 15-point jump in itself.


Until Pellew died and began communicating through the mediumship of Leonora Piper in 1892, leading researchers preferred to think of all the purported “spirit communication” as coming from telepathy, or mind-reading, by the medium, usually by her “secondary personality” while she was in a trance state.  When information came through that nobody present knew about, the researchers theorized that she could tap into minds anywhere in the world or into a “cosmic reservoir.”  Although, telepathy, super telepathy, and the cosmic reservoir all defied materialistic science, they were more acceptable to science than spirits of the dead.

However, there was simply too much personality, too much volition, too much give-and-take in the conversations with Pellew to not believe that it was actually the discarnate George Pellew, a lawyer and journalist who had died in an accident at the age of 32, communicating.  Since such communication upset the mechanistic and materialistic laws advanced by science, many researchers clung to telepathy and the cosmic reservoir as explanations.  Science simply couldn’t accept the idea of life after death.  It still can’t. (See my blog of March 11, 2013 in archives for more about Pellew.)

The paraffin hands (below) case, carried out by Professor Charles Richet, a Nobel Prize winner, and Dr. Gustave Geley, a noted French physician, was worth at least 10 points in my climb from 25% to 98.8%.  The two scientists asked materialized spirits to dip their hands into a bucket of paraffin, producing paraffin casts of their hands, which are still on display in Paris to this day.  Their experiments were carried out behind locked doors with the medium’s hands held by the researchers to completely rule out fraud.


The mediumship of Etta Wriedt, a Detroit, Michigan woman who spoke only “Yankee” English in her normal state but through whom the spirits spoke nine different languages, including Croatian, Serbian, French, Dutch, Norwegian, and Arabic, was another 10-pointer.  The mediumship of Laura Edmonds also involved many languages unknown to her, including Hungarian, Portuguese, Italian, and Greek, but she gets only two points because it is not as well recorded as that of Wriedt.  Only Laura’s father, Judge John Edmonds, Chief Justice of the New York Supreme Court, reported on Laura’s gift, noting at one point that the deceased son of a Greek immigrant communicated with his father through Laura, the father unaware at the time that his son, who remained in Greece, had died a few days earlier. 

The mediumship of Cora Scott Richmond is still another 10 pointer. As young as age 14, she (or the group of 12 advanced spirits said to be speaking through her) gave extemporaneous hour-long lectures on profound subjects far beyond her education and experience. In one case, she (or the spirit speaking through her) replied in sign language.

The Confucius case should get 50 points, but it is so bizarre I give it only five points.  It is like asking someone to believe in a 90-yard field goal in football or a mile run in under three minutes. It is so mindboggling that one can only laugh at it.  There are a number of other five pointers, but I give only one or two points to most of them, including more modern cases, in getting up to 98.8% 

Actually, I’m not sure that I am at 100%, or at absolute certainty, on anything. Newton’s law of gravity seems like something we should all accept with the absolute certainty, but there are enough reports on levitations of both humans and objects by credible scientists for me to believe that there are exceptions to that law.  I dealt with some of those exceptions in Chapter Four of the book, while suggesting that the humans are not levitating themselves; they are being lifted by spirit entities. Based on testimony of scientists such as Sir William Crookes, a pioneer in x-ray technology, and Alfred Russel Wallace, co-originator with Charles Darwin of the natural selection theory of evolution, who witnessed levitations, I’m at 99.8% on levitations. Where that leaves me on the law of gravity, I’m not sure. Perhaps I am 100% on the law of gravity, but with exceptions.

I must confess that I am only at 5% certainty (95% doubt) on the existence of an anthropomorphic (humanlike) God, but I am at the same 98.8% on the existence of some Higher or Creative Force that might be called God or Cosmic Consciousness. The 1.2% doubt gives consideration to that cosmic reservoir and its cousins, the Akashic Records, Superpsi, Super ESP and Living-Agent Psi.  In effect, it is a “God without an afterlife” view of the matter, perhaps a “computer in the skies” running the whole thing. 

“The prima facie most impressive evidence there could be of the survival of a deceased friend or relative would be to see and touch his materialized, recognizable bodily form, which then speaks in his or her characteristic manner,” wrote C. J. Ducasse, a professor of philosophy at Brown University in his 1961 book, A Critical Examination of the Belief in Life After Death. “This is what appeared to occur in my presence on an occasion three or four years ago, when during some two hours and in very good red light throughout, some eighteen fully material forms – some male, some female, some tall, some short, and sometimes two together – came out of and returned to the curtained cabinet I had inspected beforehand, in which a medium sat, and to which I had found no avenue of surreptitious access.” 

Whether it was actually his mother or not, Ducasse was fairly certain it was a materialized spirit.  “I can say only that if the form I saw which said it was my mother and which patted me on the head, was a hallucination – a hallucination ‘complete’ in the sense just stated – then no difference remains between a complete hallucination on the one hand and, on the other, ordinary veridical perception of a physical object; for every further test of the physicality of the form seen and touched could then be alleged to itself hallucinatory and the allegation of complete hallucination then automatically becomes completely vacuous.”

Ducasse also had an opportunity to examine the ectoplasm giving rise to the materialization in good red light, to touch it, and take ten flash photos of the substance as it emanated from the mouth of the medium.  He reported that it did not look, feel, or behave like any other substance known to him.  It was definitely not cheesecloth, an explanation often suggested by debunkers.

If my mother were to materialize and appear to me under similar circumstances, I don’t think it would move me to 100% certainty, maybe from 98.8 to 99.0.  I might still reason that the reverberation theory offered by parapsychologists to explain apparitions in haunted houses and at battlefields could apply.  That is, it is some kind of lingering emotional energy from years ago still existing and transcending time.

To my knowledge these reverberated ghosts do not really offer any communication; however,  materialized spirits who have carried on conversations with humans have been reported. Therefore, if my mother were to speak to me in the voice that I remember, about things only she could have known and that I know to be true, I might very well move to 99.5%.  But I must then consider the argument that the medium was reading my mind and was a good ventriloquist.  I was so enthralled by it all and with the will-to-believe that I just imagined the voice sounded like hers.  I was delusional.  No way can I go to 100% with those remote possibilities in mind.   

If my mother were to mention something my youngest brother did that I knew nothing about, and upon checking with my brother I found it to be true, I should be able to rule out telepathy and consider going to 100%. Still, it might then be argued that I had heard about it, forgot about it, and the medium was able to tap into my subconscious mind or into the cosmic reservoir for the information. 

The cosmic reservoir must be programmed like Alexa, the telephone robot connected to my land line who answers questions when I put one to her or plays a musical tune that I ask for.  She is quite amazing. Thus, I must consider that the cosmic reservoir was programmed by an Intelligence.  That suggests some kind of God, but it doesn’t necessarily mean an afterlife goes along with that God. There is no way I can get to 100%.   

If I were able to get to absolute certainty, or 100%, would it make any difference in how I live this life?  I don’t think so, at least not very much difference.  But it might very well make a difference for those who are at a small degree of certainty, or are now complete nihilists, striving to be “one with their toys.”  They might live less hedonistic and more hopeful and loving lives.  On the other hand, it might also hold them back in their spiritual progress. It would be a deterrence to free will, prompting them to make decisions based on fear of punishment or a lower state of being in the afterlife rather than for caring and compassionate reasons.  It may be that not believing helps them advance in this life.

“It is probable we shall never be able to see behind the veil with the clearness and assurance that Swedenborg claimed to possess, although he warned others off the ground he trod,” physicist Sir William Barrett provided his thoughts on the matter. “There may be, and are, I believe, good reasons for this obscure vision.  If everyone were as certain as they are of day following night, that after the momentary darkness of death they would pass into an endless life of brightness and freedom, such as many spiritualists depict, it is possible few would wish to remain on earth.  May be multitudes of earth-worn and weary souls would resort to some painless and lethal drug that would enable them to enter a realm where they hoped their troubles would be forever ended.  A vain and foolish hope, for the discipline of life on earth is necessary for us all, and none can hope to attain a higher life without the educative experience of trial and conflict.” 

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 25

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A Mediumship Mystery: Who’s Sarah?

Posted on 27 September 2021, 8:31

When, in 1939, Charles J. Seymour, a British journalist, undertook an investigation of mediums, he expected to expose “the quackery” in the field.  As it turned out, however, he discovered that there were genuine mediums and ended up writing about them rather than the fakes.

One of the more interesting cases discussed by Seymour in his 1949 book, Behind the Seen, involved a woman named Sarah.  The first time it came through was on July 24, 1939 at a public sitting with a medium named Miller, who said a woman named Sarah was there for him.  Seymour responded that he could not think of anyone named Sarah in the spirit world.  He reasoned that Sarah is a pretty common name and that it could have been an attempt by the medium to simply fish for a name.  However, the name came through again and again with different mediums, 15 in all.

On August 3, 1939, he had a private sitting with medium Maude Bateman, who said, “I get for you the name Sarah.”  On October 1, 1939, medium Eileen Blaschke said, “Sarah is here.  She is helping you with your work, and I feel, has had a great influence on you for spiritual matters all your life.” At a public meeting on June 9, 1940, Grace Cooke said, “I have a message from Sarah.  She tells me that she has been close to you and has watched your progress all your life, and has noted with great satisfaction the efforts you have made.  She had no children of her own, but her wish was that she could have had a boy.  This is a very beautiful spirit, and she sends you a great deal of affection.”

The skeptic will ask why Sarah simply didn’t give her last name or her exact relationship with Seymour.  Seymour also wondered about that and eventually came to understand that most mediums, at least the clairvoyant types, rely on symbolic pictures for names.  In another book, he explained how the medium struggled to get a not so common name through.  In that case, the medium’s spirit control said she was being shown rice, but the name was not Rice.  She was shown more rice and even more rice, before the sitter realized that it was his old friend, Maurice (More-Rice). Generally, mediums report symbols for more common names, but most surnames are more difficult to symbolize. The clairaudient medium might hear the name, but it depends much on the degree of development by the medium.

“Sarah comes to greet you,” said a Miss Herbert at public meeting on December 22, 1940.  “She has a beautiful face; very fine eyes.”

“Sarah sends her love to you,” said medium Ethel Moss at a Sunday service on January 12, 1941.  She is a very sweet young person with blue-grey eyes.” More than two years later, on May 11, 1943, in a private sitting, Mary Burge said, “A Sarah, who says ‘They used to call me Sally…’ A good soul…in spirit a long time.” Still, Seymour shook his head.  The name Sally meant nothing to him, either.

“A Sarah for you, a very sweet lady,” said Eveline Canon at a public meeting on May 13, 1943. “Sarah is very much in your environment.  You get ‘hunches’ with her help,” said Olive Rutherford at a Sunday service on June 5, 1943. At a public meeting on February 19, 1944, Gertrude Rayner provided Seymour with a series of names, all of which he recognized except for Sarah and one other.

Sometime during 1943, Seymour had a sitting with the famous direct-voice medium Leslie Flint, but his record of that sitting were destroyed when a bomb fell near his home and did some damage to part of it, including the records from that sitting. As Seymour recalled it, however, it was a group sitting and the first voice to speak said, “I am Sarah,” first very softly, then more audibly.  Seymour remained silent and no one else in the room claimed the name.  Flint’s control, “Mickey” then spoke and said, “This is for the man by the fireplace.”  As Seymour was sitting by the fireplace, he said that he accepted the name.  The woman’s voice in spirit then said, “I used to be called Sally.  I have been with you many years, doing my best to help you.”  Seymour replied that he did not know a Sarah or a Sally.  The voice then responded: “You would not know me, dear.  I am your great aunt, on your mother’s side.”

Seymour now had a connection, but everybody on that side of his family had passed on and he had no easy way of confirming the actual existence of this great aunt.  However,  at a sitting with Rose Harley on February 24, 1944, the names Sarah and Alice were given.  Harley said that Sarah was in spirit, but she wasn’t sure about Alice.  “I do not know…this condition…I feel it means that the person has either passed on fairly recently or is still on the earth plane but is nearing the journey’s end,” Harley explained. “I am certain about Sarah, though. She is in spirit, and has been so a long time.”

Seymour recognized the name Alice as one of his mother’s sisters, but he had not heard from her in many years and assumed that she also had passed on.  About two weeks later, he happened upon the wife of a deceased cousin and asked her about his Aunt Alice. She informed him that his Aunt Alice was still alive and in her 80s, and provided him with her address. Seymour then contacted Aunt Alice and was informed that her mother had four siblings, Mary, Joseph, Fanny, and Sarah.  She said she had never met Sarah, because she had died before she was born, at about age 17. 

Seymour continued his investigation of mediums and the name Sarah was given three additional times.  “Mr. Sceptic, what do you make of it?” he asked. “I hope you won’t push telepathy at me here – a matter of fifteen mediums mentally searching around London for Aunt Alice, and then reading her mind when they found her and extracting from it the thought that Sarah, born 90-odd years ago, would have liked to make friends with me, had she lived.” 

Still, Seymour struggled with the problem of getting names.  He wondered why some mediums could get other facts about the person but not names.  He understood the problem with clairvoyants trying to interpret pictographic symbols such as that with “more rice” being Maurice, and he understood that that clairaudient mediums can sometimes hear the name. He encountered a clairaudient-type medium saying, “C-C-Copper,” but it did not immediately dawn on him that the name she was trying to get through was “Cooper,” which sounds more like “Cowper” in the particular dialect of the medium.

I recall John Edward, the clairvoyant who had a TV program some years ago, saying that he saw a picture of St. George when the communicator was trying to get that name through.  My most recent book, No One Really Dies, deals with this problem in Chapter 3.  When Sir William Barrett communicated with his widow through the mediumship of Gladys Osborne Leonard, he explained that it was much easier for him to get ideas through by thought impressions than simple names or words.  Lady Barrett had wondered why he identified himself as William, when she knew him as Will and why he called her Florrie, when he knew her as Flo.  He explained that it was a matter of being able to get certain names through a medium easier than other names. Much depended on the development of the medium.

In 1917, Charles Drayton Thomas, a psychical researcher, began sitting with Mrs. Leonard. He quickly made contact with his father, John D. Thomas, and his sister, Etta, receiving much veridical information proving their identities.  However, he wondered why they had such difficulty in giving their names and the names of others. “It became evident that the giving of a name involved the overcoming of some obstacle, and that usually the difficulty, whatever it might be, was too serious to permit of success,” Thomas recorded.  “There is unquestionably a difficulty in transmitting names through trance mediums, though some give them more successfully than do others.”

Thomas’s father explained that if he wanted to give the name of a man named Meadow, he might try to insert the idea of a green field, connecting it with the idea of the man himself.  When the father tried to get the name Jerusalem through the medium, it came out “Zion” instead.  His sister said she could not get her husband’s name, Whitfield, through the medium.  “I can feel it, but I cannot say it,” Etta said.  The best she could do was get the medium’s control, Feda, to say “Wh—, Whi—-, Wht—.”

Thomas noticed that Feda could more easily catch a first syllable than the whole name, but sometimes she would catch only the first letter, which he understood was pictured for her by the communicator. When one communicating entity tried to get the word “Greek” through, Feda struggled with “G—, Gre—, Grek, Greg, Greeg.” Thomas further observed that when Feda had latitude in the selection of words, e.g., Zion for Jerusalem, communication was easier. However, when it came to proper names, this alternative was not always possible.

The discarnate Thomas also told his son that when he entered the conditions of a sitting his memory would divide into its former earthly conditions of conscious and subconscious. Thus, the same forgetfulness he might have had when in the flesh with regard to names and other things still existed on his side of the veil.

Table-tilting is a more accurate method of getting names, Drayton Thomas pointed out, as the communicator can dispense with the control and, assuming enough psychic energy, can direct the tilting himself, i.e., so many tilts for each letter of the alphabet or a tilt for the proper letter when the sitter recites the alphabet. But this method is much slower and cumbrous.

As Seymour might have suggested, the skeptics can laugh when a particular medium can’t a name or gets a wrong name, but it only goes to show their ignorance of the subject matter.

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 11





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How a Dead Author Finished His Books

Posted on 13 September 2021, 9:21

When Frank R. Stockton (below) died in 1902, he left a legacy of 23 volumes of stories for adults and children.  His first book, Ting-a-Ling, a children’s book, was published in 1870.  His most famous book, The Lady or the Tiger, was published in 1884.  Because of its uncertain ending, that book would become required reading in many high school English classes, something for students to debate.


Apparently, Stockton still had a number of stories to tell when he died, because he went on to dictate seven stories, all assembled in a book published in 1913 titled The Return of Frank R. Stockton. It was produced through the automatic writing of Etta De Camp, a resident of Schenectady, New York who worked as a legal secretary. 

Upon reading a newspaper article about automatic writing early in 1909, De Camp decided to give it a try, patiently sitting with pad and pencil.  After some time, she felt a “thrill” go from her shoulder to her finger tips as though she had been touched by an electric battery. “To my utter amazement the pencil began to move,” she recalled. “I watched it, fascinated, for I was absolutely sure I was not moving it myself.  It seemed as though my arm and hand had become detached from my body and did not belong to me.”

At first, she got only circles and scrolls, then some illegible words.  It was not until her third night of experimenting that the writing became readable and expressed thought. The first message came from an Indian calling himself “Blackfoot.”  A week or so later, she received several messages from her father, who had died 12 years earlier.  The messages were for her mother and contained much information that De Camp knew nothing about.  However, her mother confirmed them as fact.

De Camp was informed that the discarnates were writing through the “law of vibration.”  She recalled fighting off the trance condition, but recorded that she was in an abnormal state when the writing came through.  She had no idea what the next word would be until she saw it on the paper.  In one case, as her hand wrote, the words, “Who said we were d…,” she assumed the last word would be “dead,” but was surprised when the word turned out to be “drunk,” which proved to her that her conscious mind had nothing to do with the writing.

On March 23, 1909, De Camp’s hand wrote in a handwriting different from her own:  “I am Frank R. Stockton.  I have many stories I wish written out.  I am glad I can write them through you.  I have one I wish to write called What Did I Do with My Wife. We will go on with it now.”
After Stockton first took control of her pencil, De Camp felt intense pain in the forehead between her eyes, “and I felt a sensation in the left side of my head as though another mind was crowding into my own.”  However, the pain subsided and the first story was completed.  Three days later, Stockton wrote another story, My Wireless Horse.  Stockton advised De Camp that best results could be obtained if she would write an hour or two each morning at a fixed time.  He told her that when she felt a pain behind her ears it would be a sign that he was ready to write.  He explained that he was anxious to go on to the next plane, but that his brain must be relieved of the stories before he could progress further.  “We must be freed from all earth vibrations before we can go on,” he wrote through De Camp’s hand.  “The mind carries too many memories for me to get free.  I must write out my book and my stories before I can get beyond the earth-vibrations which keep me here.”

Prior to becoming an instrument for Stockton, De Camp knew nothing about him, although she had read The Lady or the Tiger during her school years.  She claimed only a faint recollection of it.  While apparently realizing that subconscious memories could not be completely ruled out, De Camp was certain she had no creative literary ability of her own and that she was not controlling the pencil. Moreover, she claimed that she never saw the stories in her imagination and had never really cared for humorous stories, even as a child. She further recalled that she often resisted the writing sessions, and when she did she would awaken in the morning in a dazed condition, as though drugged.  She felt as though she were enveloped in a thick fog.  The greater she resisted, the stronger the force became until she was finally compelled to take the pencil and write in order to find relief.

Upon learning of her experiences, some friends cautioned her about continuing. She was told that there were low-level spirits who delight in masquerading under the name of some well-known person and that the spirit claiming to be Stockton might very well be one of them.  If that is possible, she reasoned, then it must be equally possible for an honest spirit to represent itself.  “I have never for one moment doubted the genuineness of the spirit claiming to be that of Mr. Stockton,” De Camp reported.  “The serious objects of his return, the development of some higher sense enabling me to feel the personality of this entity so strongly, and to know its characteristics so well, make Mr. Stockton, to me, as real as anyone I know in earth-life.”

At a sitting on August 5, 1909, Stockton wrote that he had been searching for years for the right person to continue his stories.  “I am very fortunate in finding you, my dear madam, as you are sensitive to my vibration, and so I reach you easily,” he informed her. “We are in perfect accord, and, together, will do a great work, and teach the old world what can be done even after the so-called end of man.”

At times, De Camp had difficulty in achieving the passive state necessary for effective communication.  Stockton told her not to think at all while writing, as best results are obtained when the conscious mind is not allowed to interfere with the subconscious.  “The struggle for me to overcome the opposition of your conscious mind has been very great,” Stockton counseled her.  “The strain on you has been severe also.”

Apparently, Stockton still held on to his ego as he insisted that De Camp not take credit for the stories or pass herself off as the author.  “These stories are not yours nor do they belong to anyone living on your plane,” he admonished her.  “They are mine and I shall never consent to their being sold under any other name.”  He also asked that ten percent of the proceeds from the sale of any book be given to his estate.

When De Camp questioned the frivolous and humorous nature of the stories, Stockton explained that his objective was to show that people passing from the body to other planes of existence do not suddenly change temperament and personality.  “I am no more capable of writing serious stuff now than when in the body, and if these stories were not written in a humorous style they would not be recognized as mine.”

Stockton further told De Camp that he felt like a clown at the circus because some of the greatest writers the world has ever known were waiting to find an instrument through which they could write.

When Dr. James H. Hyslop, (below) a psychical researcher, heard the story about De Camp and Stockton, he decided to investigate. He was told by the editor of Harper’s Monthly that the stories produced by De Camp’s were very much in character with those of Stockton.  Hyslop then arranged for De Camp to sit with Minnie Soule, a trance medium he had been studying.  Though Soule knew nothing about De Camp, who sat with her incognito, Stockton communicated through Soule and gave some personal history unknown to De Camp or Hyslop, but later verified as true, and also confirmed that he was the source of her stories, adding that her subconscious sometimes distorted what he had tried to say though not to any great extent.


Hyslop observed that there were many touches of personal character and wit coming through, but he asked Stockton for more evidence of personal identity.  Stockton replied:  “I really have a desire to do a certain kind of work, but deliver me from the class who cut up their relatives to see how their corpuscles match up … I think I won’t do for your business at all, but personally I have no fight with you.  You can go on and save all the critics you can, but don’t send them to me when they die … I had my share of them while I lived, and I wash my hands of the whole lot.”

After Stockton departed, George F. Duysters, who had been an international lawyer and De Camp’s employer before his death, began speaking through Mrs. Soule.  He, too, offered veridical information to confirm his identity. “It is especially significant that both personalities should appear to communicate,” Hyslop reported.  “They are not in any way connected with each other in life, and [they were not] relatives of Miss De Camp.”

Stockton’s story suggests that it is best to transition from this lifetime with no unfinished business as it might very well be difficult to find a living human to finish it for 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 book

Next blog post:  Sept. 27

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How a Spirit Explained Levitation to Allan Kardec

Posted on 30 August 2021, 9:08

As the last two posts here have been about levitations, I’m concluding the subject matter with an interview Allan Kardec, (below) the renowned French psychical researcher, had with the spirit of St. Louis, as set forth in Kardec’s 1874 book,The Book on Mediums.  The “universal fluid” referred to is apparently what later came to be called ectoplasm, teleplasm, or od, while the “perispirit” is now called the etheric or spirit body. Considering later research on od and ectoplasm, it makes much sense to me, but you can believe it or not!


Kardec:  Is the universal fluid an emanation from the Divinity?

St. Louis:  No.

Kardec:  Is the universal fluid at the same time the universal element?

St. Louis:  Yes, it is the elementary principal of all things.

Kardec:  Has it any relation to the electric fluid whose effects we know?

St. Louis:  It is its element.

Kardec:  What is the state in which the universal fluid is presented to us in its greatest purity?

St. Louis:  To find it in its absolute purity, you must mount to the pure spirits; in your world it is always more or less modified to form the compact matter that surrounds you; at the same time you may say that the state in which it approaches most nearly to purity, is that of the fluid you call animal magnetic fluid.

Kardec:  It has been said that the universal fluid is the source of life; is it at the same time the source of intelligence?

St. Louis:  No; this fluid animates only matter.

Kardec:  Since it is this fluid which composes the perispirit, it appears to be there in a kind of condensed state, which approximates it, up to a certain point, matter so called.

St. Louis:  Up to a certain point, as you say, for it has not all its properties; it is more or less condensed, according to the worlds.

Kardec:  What is the operation by which a spirit moves a solid body?

St. Louis:  He combines a portion of the universal fluid with the fluid exhaled from the medium suitable to this effect.

Kardec:  Do the spirits raise the table with the aid of their members in some degree solidified?

St. Louis: This answer will not yet lead to what you desire.  When a table is moved under your hands, the spirit evoked draws from the universal fluid what animates the table with a factitious life.  The table thus prepared, the spirit attracts it and moves it under the influence of his own fluid thrown off by his will.  When the mass he wishes to move is too heavy for him, he calls to his aid spirits who are in the same condition as himself.  By reason of his ethereal nature, the spirit proper cannot act on gross matter without intermediary, that is to say, without the link that unites it to matter:  this link, which you call perispirit, gives you the key to all material spirit phenomena.  I believe I have expressed myself clearly for you to understand.

Kardec: Are the spirits he calls to his aid inferior?  Are they under his orders?

St. Louis:  Equal, almost always; sometimes they come of themselves.

Kardec:  Are all spirits able to produce phenomena of this kind?

St. Louis: The spirits who produce these effects are always inferior spirits, who are not entirely disengaged from all material influence.

Kardec:  We understand that the superior spirits are not occupied by things that are beneath them; but we ask if, by reason, of their being more dematerialized, they would have the power if they had the will?

St. Louis:  They have the moral strength, as the others have the physical strength, when they require this strength, they make use of those who possess it.  Have they not told you that they make use of inferior spirits as you do of porters?

Kardec:  If we have thoroughly understood what you have said, the vital principal resides in the universal fluid; the spirit draws in this fluid the semi-material envelope which constitutes his perispirit, and it is by means of this fluid that he acts on inert matter. Is it so?

St. Louis:  Yes, that is to say, he animates matter with a kind of factitious life; the matter is animated with animal life.  The table that moves under your hands lives like the animal; it obeys the intelligent being.  It is not he who pushes it as a man does a burden; when the table is raised, it is not the spirit who raises it by strength of arm, it is the animated table that obeys the impulse given by the spirit.

Kardec:  What is the part of the medium in this matter?

St. Louis: I have said it; the fluid of the medium is combined with the universal fluid accumulated by the spirit: the union these two fluids is necessary; that is to say, the animalized fluid with the universal fluid, to give life to the table.  But remark that this life is only momentary;  it is extinguished with the action, and often before the end of the action, as soon as the quantity of fluid is sufficient to animate it.

Kardec:  Can the spirit act without the concurrence of a medium?

St. Louis:  It can act in spite of the medium; that is to say, that no doubt many persons serve as auxiliaries to the spirits for certain phenomena.  The spirit draws from them as from a source, the animalized fluid he needs; it is thus that the concurrence of the medium, as you understand it, is not always necessary; which is the case particularly in spontaneous phenomena.

Kardec: Does the animated table act with intelligence?

St. Louis:  It thinks no more than the stick with which you make an intelligent sign, but the vitality with which it is animated permits it to obey the impulse of an intelligence.  Understand that the table that moves does not become spirit, and that it has of itself neither thought nor will.

Kardec:  Which is the preponderating cause in the production of this phenomena, the spirit or the fluid?

St. Louis:  The spirit is the cause, the fluid is the instrument; both are necessary.

Kardec:  What part does the will of the medium play in this case?

St. Louis: To call the spirits, and to second them in the impulse given to the fluid. 

Kardec:  Is the action of the will always indispensable?

St. Louis: It adds power, but it is not always necessary.

Kardec: Why cannot everyone produce the same effect?  And why have not all mediums the same power?

St. Louis:  That depends on the organization, and the greater or less facility with which the combination of fluids can operate; then the spirit of the medium sympathizes more or less with the foreign spirits who find in him the necessary fluidic power.  This power, like that of magnetizers, is greater or less.  Under this relation there are persons who are altogether refractory; others with whom the combination operates only by an exertion of their will.  Others, finally, with whom it takes place so naturally and so easily that they are not aware of it, and serve as instruments against their will, as we have already said.

Kardec: Can persons called electric be considered as mediums?

St. Louis: These persons draw from themselves the fluid necessary to the production of the phenomena, and can act without the help of foreign spirits. Thus, they are not mediums in the sense attached to this word; but a spirit can assist them, and profit by their natural disposition.

Kardec: Is the spirit that acts on solid bodies in the substance of the bodies or outside of it?

St. Louis:  Both; we have said that matter is no obstacle to spirits; they penetrate everything; a portion of the perispirit is identified, so to say, with the object it penetrates.

Kardec:  How does the spirit manage to strike?  Does he make use of the material object?

St. Louis:  No more than of his arms to raise the table.  You well know that he has no hammer at his disposal.  His hammer is the combined fluid put in action to move or to strike.  When he moves, the light brings you the sight of the movements; when he strikes, the air brings you the sound.

Kardec: We can understand that when he strikes on a hard body, but how can he make us hear noises or articulate sounds in the air?

St. Louis:  Since he can act on matter, he can act on air as well as on the table.  As to articulate sounds, he can imitate them, as he can all other noises.

Kardec:  You say that spirits do not use their hands to remove the table; yet, in certain visual manifestations, hands have been seen to appear whose fingers have wandered over the keyboard of a piano, moved the keys, and caused sounds.  Would it not seem that in this case the movement of the keys is produced by the pressure of the fingers?  Is not this pressure as direct and real when it is felt on ourselves, when these hands leave imprints on the skin?

St. Louis:  You can understand the nature of spirits and their manner of acting only by comparisons, which give you an incomplete idea, and it is wrong to always wish to assimilate their processes to your own. Their processes must bear relation to their organization. Have I not told you that fluid of the perispirit penetrates matter, and is identified with it, that it animates it with a factitious life?  Well, when the spirit rests his fingers on the keys, he puts them there really, and even moves them; but it is not by muscular force that he presses the keys; he animates it as he animated the table, and the key, which obeys his will, moves and strikes the chord.  There is one thing you will have trouble in comprehending; it is this:  that some spirits are so little advanced, and so material in comparison to the elevated spirits, that they still have the illusions of the terrestrial life, and believe they act as when they had their body.  They can no more give a reason of the true cause of the effects they produce than a peasant can give a reason for the theory of the sounds he articulates; ask them how they play the piano, they will tell you they strike on it with their fingers, because they believe they do strike it; the effect is produced instinctively with them, without their knowing how yet by their will.  When they make you hear words, it is the same thing.

Kardec:  Among the phenomena cited in proof of the action of an occult power, there are some evidently contrary to all the known laws of nature.  Does not doubt then seem to be permitted?

St. Louis:  It is because man is far from knowing all the laws of nature.  If he knew them all he would be a superior spirit.  Every day, however, gives the lie to those who, thinking they know everything, presume to set bounds to nature, and they are none the less haughty.  In constantly unveiling new mysteries God warns men to down their own lights, for the day will come when the science of the most learned will be put to confusion. Have you not everyday examples of bodies animated by a movement capable of overcoming the force of gravity?  Does not the bullet, shot into the air, momentarily overcome this force?  Poor men, who think themselves so learned, and whose silly vanity is every instant disconcerted, that know you are still very small.

Next Blog Post: September 13

Michael Tymn is the author of The Afterlife Revealed: What Happens After We Die, Resurrecting Leonora Piper: How Science Discovered the Afterlife, and Dead Men Talking: Afterlife Communication from World War I.

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Physicist Recalls Intriguing Physical Mediumship

Posted on 16 August 2021, 8:58

When psychical researchers of the late 1920s and early ‘30s became frustrated at not being able to agree on the genuineness of various physical phenomena produced by several mediums, most notably, Mina Crandon, (aka “Margery”), George Valiantine, and Rudi Schneider, several of them formed a new field, called parapsychology.  Its focus was on extra-sensory perception and psychokinesis and away from anything even alluding to spirits of the dead or life after death. To even mention spirits or survival of the consciousness at death was to invite professional disdain and discourage any funding for research.  Nevertheless, physical mediumship continued here and there. We simply didn’t hear much about it and there was very little formal research in succeeding decades up to the present. 

All that didn’t stop Dr. Jan Vandersande, a physicist, from taking an interest in the matter. In his 2008 book, Life After Death: Some of the Best Evidence, Vandersande explores some of the most interesting cases of physical phenomena reported in the annals of psychical research while also reporting on his own observations of some genuine physical mediums. His interest began while teaching physics at the University of Witwatersrand in South Africa, during the 1970s, when he and his wife were invited to attend a séance with mediums Mickey and Sara Wolf. “We experienced trance mediumship, direct voice and trumpets flying around the dark room,” Vandersande said when I interviewed him in 2008, adding that they then sat with the two mediums every two or three weeks for about eight years. “Every time we sat with them their main guide (control), Brian, would speak through either Sara, who was in trance, or through the direct voice. His characteristic voice was always the same and easily recognizable. Also, the trumpet, with luminous paint spots on it, flew around the totally dark room quite rapidly, up to the ceiling then to the walls and then it would slow down and gently touch each of the sitters (usually between four and eight) on the knee or on the head.  Special sittings were held before Christmas, and ectoplasmic spirit children played musical toys that had been placed in the center of the circle and also unwrapped presents (which were also in the center of the circle). Then the children would touch the sitters who could feel their small fingers and hands.”

Vandersande & Thompson

Maintaining an interest in the subject over the years, Vandersande arranged for Australian trance medium David Thompson and his partner, Christine Morgan, also a medium, to visit them in Southern California in 2012 and again during January 2014, giving three demonstrations each time.  Because darkness is required, precautions were taken to rule out fraud, including a thorough search of Thompson before binding him to chair with leather straps and zip-lock ties, as well as gagging him so that he could not talk. All of the sitters, including Morgan, were required to hold hands, and Morgan wore a luminous broach which Vandersande, sitting across from her, could see, just in case someone claimed she was the real trickster.

“David has a band of spirit entities many of whom regularly materialize at his séances,” Vandersande’s notes read. “His main spirit control is William Cadwell, who materializes first at all his séances and appears to control what happens during the séance. After materializing, William started talking to the sitters while walking around. He spoke loudly and in a distinctive British accent that I found difficult to understand at times. William stepped on the piece of plywood (two feet by two feet), that we had placed at the center of the circle, making a distinct sound indicating that he was wearing heavy-soled boots (meanwhile David was wearing sneakers). He then started to answer questions of a general nature about the spirit world and about life.  After answering each question he would most of the time walk over to the sitter who had asked the question and ask if he could touch them. After the sitter said that he could, he put his hand on their head. The sitters who had that experience (from four to seven per sitting) described a very large hand (meanwhile David has very small hands). After he had answered a number of questions in each of the three sittings he walked back to the cabinet.”

Vandersande noted that as Cadwell got back to the cabinet, a red flash light was turned on so that the sitters could see Thompson still securely tied in his chair in the cabinet.  “This unexpected event clearly shows that it was not David pretending to be William, walking around the room and answering questions as some skeptics have maintained,” Vandersande explains in his notes.  “There is no way David, if he had been walking around, could have rushed back to the cabinet and re-tied himself in such a brief period of time. Also, the only way he could have seen in the dark would have been with night vision goggles and they were definitely not in the room (I checked that myself, as did the independent checkers).”

Next, an entity known as Timmy (Timothy Booth, who died in 1902) materialized and spoke with a very young, Cockney voice. Timmy then gave a demonstration in which the trumpets (with luminous paint on them), flew around the sitters. He explained that he had manipulated the ectoplasm exuded by Thompson to move the trumpets.  “The trumpets (two in the first séance, three in the second séance and only their single trumpet in the third séance) flew at great speed and with considerable precision, performing aerobatic patterns such as large and small circles, flying to the ceiling (from 10 to 12 feet high in a hotel conference room), the corners, all around the room and tapping each other in mid-air while I had the CD player play an Irish jig,” Vandersande’s report continues. “…Never at any time did the trumpets bump into any sitter or anything else in the room. There is absolutely no way any human, assuming they could see in total darkness, could move a trumpet in those random patterns, that fast and at that those heights, as all the sitters observed in the three séances.”

As the three trumpets were flying around the conference room during the second séance, Vandersande heard a thud to his left and leaves were touching his head. That was followed by a thud in front of him and then one to his right. As he was to discover, Timmy had moved three artificial trees, each about five-feet tall and in pots weighing 6-8 pounds, from three different places in the room to in front of him. “One tree was originally behind a large table so the table had to be moved by him in order to bring the tree to me,” Vandersande explains. “The other two trees were originally in two different corners of the room. Some sitters in the circle actually heard something fly over their heads. My two trumpets ended up in one of the trees between the branches… This phenomenon of moving heavier objects using ectoplasm is extremely impressive and in no way could have been done by anyone in the room in the pitch dark…”

Louis Armstrong, the famous musician known for his trumpet playing who died in 1971,  materialized in all three séances. “His voice sounded exactly like the very characteristic voice so often heard when he was alive on earth (a deep distinctive gravelly voice),” Vandersande notes, adding that he then played a harmonica for several minutes.  “You could hear him take a deep breath occasionally while playing. After that he left. I always get skeptical and nervous when famous people materialize but I now have a better understanding why they do it. To prove survival after death it makes more sense that someone who is well-known, has a characteristic voice and/or mannerisms, that just about everyone can recognize, materializes rather than an anonymous person.”

Timmy was followed in the third sitting by a Native American named White Soaring Bird, said to be Thompson’s gate-keeper or protector, who materialized and gave a blessing to the sitters, first speaking in his native tongue and then in English. 

Much more was reported by Vandersande, but space does not permit it here.  As mentioned in the prior blog about levitations, near the end of the second sitting, Vandersande and the others present heard a loud thud.  Thompson had been lifted over the sitters in his chair and deposited outside the circle, a distance of 15- to 20-feet from where he had been sitting. “The red flashlight was turned on and the tape on the door was removed and the door opened,” Vandersande’s report continues. “We all saw David sitting in his chair, tied up exactly as he was at the beginning of the séance except for the fact that his cardigan had been reversed. The cardigan was still buttoned and the five zip-ties were still in place exactly as when we placed them there. There is no way that David could have reversed the cardigan. [This] shows that the spirit entities have tremendous strength (using ectoplasm from David and likely the sitters as well). While the reversal/removal of the cardigan shows a de-materialization/re-materialization capability (or whatever technology the spirits used) that is way beyond the current laws of physics as we know them. It was truly an amazing phenomenon to have observed.”

Vandersande stresses that he carefully examined how Thompson was tied to the chair and is absolutely certain there was no way to remove himself, carry out the various phenomena, then return to the chair and tie himself back to the chair.

Victor and Wendy Zammit, authors of A Lawyer Presents the Evidence for the Afterlife,  estimate that they sat with Thompson at least 300 times between 2005 and 2014, before Thompson moved from Australia to New Zealand.  “In relation to his being levitated, it happened with David still unconscious at the end of every public séance,” Wendy informed me in a recent email. “He’s not the only one though – I’ve seen it happen with several other physical mediums. It seems that the spirit teams like to use up any remaining energy that way.”

Wendy Zammit mentioned that, according to Ron Gilkes at Jenny’s Sanctuary in the UK, Thompson was turned upside down in the chair while being levitated. The “spirits” then moved the chair so that Thompson’s head was in Gilkes’s lap before turning him right side up and depositing him some distance away.  “We were also present on at least two occasions where they levitated David, conscious and strapped into his chair, so that his head was almost touching the ceiling,” Wendy further explained, adding that, although it was dark, Victor was able to confirm the levitation, at the request of David, by reaching up and feeling the four chair legs and David’s feet.

Vandersande recalled that one of the women in attendance at the 2012 sittings happened to be a clairvoyant medium and refused to believe it was real, apparently not understanding that whatever is required for her kind of mediumship is not the same as that required for physical mediumship. I recall talking with a clairvoyant at a conference some years ago and she reacted in much the same way.  As she saw it, all that physical mediumship of yesteryear was just so much bunk.  It brings to mind the reaction of Sir David Brewster, a renowned British physicist, who observed D. D. Home being levitated.  Although seemingly quite impressed at the time, he later concluded that the only explanation was a trick he did not understand, or a delusion. “Spirit is the last thing I will give in to,” he was quoted.  Such a mindset continues to exist. 

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 30


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To Levitate or To Be Levitated:  That is the Question

Posted on 02 August 2021, 9:04

Was D. D. Home, the renowned medium of the nineteenth century, levitating or was he levitated?  In articles I wrote for three different magazines in past years, I stated each time that Home was levitated, only to have the editor change it to Home levitating.  It doesn’t seem that there is that much difference between levitating and being levitated, but there is a world of a difference – a spirit world, that is. 

If Home was, in fact, defying the law of gravity by raising himself off the ground, the superpsi hypothesis must seemingly be invoked and the spirit hypothesis rejected.  In effect, it all emanated somehow in his subconscious.  If, however, Home was being levitated, both the implication and the inference are that he was being lifted by invisible spirits or entities,

“I have been lifted in the light of day upon only one occasion, and that was in America,” Home (below) wrote in his autobiography.  “I have been lifted in a room in Sloane Street, London, with four gas-lights brightly burning, with five gentlemen present, who are willing to testify to what they saw…”  Home explained that he could feel no hands supporting him, but that he felt what he could only describe as an “electrical fullness about his feet He further wrote:  “I am generally lifted up perpendicularly, my arms frequently become rigid and drawn above my head, as if I were grasping the unseen power which slowly raises me from the floor.”


Lord Adare, one of Home’s biographers, reported with his father, the Earl of Dunraven, an archeologist and member of the Royal Society, on a number of sittings they had with Home between November 1867 and July 1869. Before any phenomenon occurred, Home would go into trance and spirits would often speak through his vocal cords. In the 40th sitting, during December 1868, a spirit began speaking through Home, saying that he would “lift him” on to the table. “Accordingly, in about a minute, Home was lifted up on to the back of my chair,” Adare recorded. “The spirit then told Adare to “take hold of Dan’s feet.” Adare complied, “and away he went up into the air so high that I was obliged to let go of his feet; he was carried along the wall, brushing past the pictures, to the opposite side of the room.”  After Home was deposited on the floor, the spirit commented that the levitation was badly done and said that “We will lift Dan up again better presently….”  However, he was not raised again that night as some other spirit wanted to speak through Home and the spirit who had lifted him gave way to the more advanced spirit.

Sir William Crookes, a world-renowned British chemist and pioneer in x-ray technology, conducted 29 experiments with Home, observing three levitations. “The most striking cases of levitation which I have witnessed have been with Mr. Home,” Crookes wrote. “On three separate occasions have I seen him raised completely from the floor of the room…”  With Home present, Crookes also observed his brother’s wife being levitated several inches above the floor while sitting in a chair.  To rule out trickery on her part, he had her kneel on the chair so that all four legs of the chair were visible. “It then rose about three inches, remained suspended for about ten seconds, and then descended,” Crookes recorded, noting that he was kneeling on the floor and keeping close watch upon the feet of the chair.

Home referred to an “intelligence” governing all the manifestations.  “”The intelligence declares itself to be a human being, and gives information known to it alone,” he wrote. “It says that it is a spirit , and in the spiritual world. It is seen as a spirit, and recognized as that of one loved on earth.”  Crookes also referred to a “directing intelligence,” but stopped short of referring to it as a spirit. He said further study would be required to determine if that intelligence is the mind of the medium or external to it. 

If Home was playing Clark Kent and not admitting to superhuman powers of his own,  then Rev. William Stainton Moses, a Church of England priest and English master at London University, was also a “liar,” a word loosely applied these days. When Moses first heard of Home’s mediumistic phenomena, he called it the “dreariest twaddle.”  However, not long thereafter. Moses developed mediumistic powers of his own. “I felt myself going from [my chair], higher and higher, with a very slow and easy movement…I remember a slight difficulty in breathing, and a sensation of fullness in the chest, with a general feeling of being lighter than the atmosphere. I was lowered down quite gently, and placed in the chair, which had settled in its old position…..”  Moses goes on to say that he was three times “raised” on to the table, and twice “levitated” in the corner of the room.

Moses further explained that the first levitation, that being on September 2, 1872, was very sudden – “a sort of instantaneous jerk” – and that he was conscious of nothing until he found himself on the table, his chair still on the floor.  In the second levitation, he was placed on the table in a standing posture. “In this case I was conscious of the withdrawal of my chair and of being raised to the level of the table, and then of being impelled forward so as to stand upon it…In the third case I was thrown on to the table, and from that position on to an adjacent sofa. The movement was instantaneous, as in the first recorded case; and though I was thrown to a considerable distance and with considerable force, I was in no way hurt….”  He added that he had no power to evoke such a manifestation.

Crookes also observed furniture levitated, as did Sir William Barrett, professor of physics at Royal College in Dublin. During December 1915, Dr. William J. Crawford was conducting experiments with Irish medium Kathleen Goligher and invited Barrett to join him. Barrett recorded that at first they heard knocks, and messages were spelled out as one of the sitters recited the alphabet.  He then observed a floating trumpet, which he tried unsuccessfully to catch. “Then the table began to rise from the floor some 18 inches and remained suspended and quite level,” Barrett wrote.  “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 put pressure on the table to try to force it back to the floor.  He exerted all his strength but was unable to budge it.  “Then I climbed on the table and sat on it, my feet off the floor, when I was swayed to and fro and finally tipped off,” Barrett continued the story.  “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.”

When Barrett stopped trying to right the table, it righted itself on its own accord.  Apparently, the spirits were having a bit of fun with Barrett as he then heard “numerous sounds displaying an amused intelligence.”

Much more recently, in 2014, Dr. Jan W. Vandersande, a retired physics professor and author of Life after Death: Some of the Best Evidence, had the opportunity to observe Australian trance medium David Thompson on three occasions after arranging for Thompson to travel to the Los Angeles, California area.  For control purposes, Thompson was tied securely to a chair. Near the end of the second sitting, Vandersande and the others heard a loud thud. They turned on the red light and observed that Thompson had been lifted over the sitters in his chair and deposited a distance of some 15- to 20-feet away from where he been sitting, still securely tied to the chair.

“Definitely, he had been lifted over the sitters,” Vandersande told me in a recent telephone call, emphasizing the word “lifted” while adding that there was not enough space between the sitters for Thompson to somehow maneuver between them, especially while tied to the chair. He later discussed it with Thompson, who agreed that his spirit guides must have carried out the levitation; however, he could not say for sure what happened because he was in a trance state at the time. 

Jon Beecher, the owner of White Crow Books, recalls observing a similar phenomenon with Thompson. “There were 20 or 21 sitters holding hands in a semi-circle with the cabinet in front of them. Thompson was in the cabinet, strapped to a heavy chair and gagged, appearing to be in a trance state. “At the end of the sitting we heard a loud thud, as if someone had dropped a bag of cement onto a wooden floor. The lights were turned on and David had been dumped in another part of the room, still strapped in the chair.” Beecher says. “We were all holding hands so it couldn’t be any of the sitters, and even if we hadn’t been, it would have taken two or three strong people to lift him strapped into a chair and move him to another part of the room. Coupled with that, they would have had to have done it in pitch darkness and maneuvered past the sitters without any of us hearing a thing. That was unlikely. 20 sitters in darkness, listening. You could hear a pin drop.”

Beecher adds that he does not believe it possible that Thompson could have freed himself from the plastic ties, picked up the chair and dropped in another part of the room, then re-tied himself back into the chair and pretend to be out cold all in the space of about a minute.

In 1892, Cesare Lombroso, a world-renowned neuropathologist known for his study of criminal behavior, observed medium Eusapia Palladino being levitated to the top of a table. He reported that he was on one side of her and holding her hand, while Professor Charles Richet was holding her hand on the other side.  Before she was lifted, Palladino complained of hands grasping her under the arms.  Then John King, her spirit control, spoke through her and said, “Now I lift my medium up on the table.”  She was then lifted to the top of the table as the two scientists continued holding her hands.

As discussed in Chapter 4 of my book, No One Really Dies, a similar levitation was reported to have taken place on May 25, 1900 with Enrico Morselli, a neurologist and professor at the University of Genoa, controlling Palladino’s hand and foot on one side and Professor Francesco Porro, a world-famous astronomer, controlling on her other side. Morselli reported that Palladino was raised to the top of the table “in such a way that her feet and two front legs of the chair rested on the surface of the table,” after which she groaned, as if intensely frightened, and then asked (apparently John King) to be placed back on the floor. As she was descending, she “was carried up again,” before being lowered to the floor.  This all took place under dim but adequate lighting.

The evidence seems overwhelming that people are levitated and are not levitating themselves, but, as Vandersande says, it’s all too much for most people to take in. He mentioned that David Thompson was ready to give up his demonstrations when he saw him in 2014, as people continued to accuse of him being a trickster of some kind and he had done all he could do to prove otherwise. He was totally frustrated with it all. (More about Vandersande’s observations of Thompson in the next blog.)

Next blog post:  August 16
Michael Tymn is the author of The Afterlife Revealed: What Happens After We Die, Resurrecting Leonora Piper: How Science Discovered the Afterlife, and Dead Men Talking: Afterlife Communication from World War I.
His latest book, No One Really Dies: 25 Reasons to Believe in an Afterlife is published by White Crow book

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Life After Death: When Skeptics Expect Too Much

Posted on 19 July 2021, 10:23

Whenever the mainstream media cover something of a paranormal nature, they are sure to call in a “skeptic” to provide the viewer or reader with the questionable aspects of the phenomenon.  Perhaps the two best-known media skeptics are Michael Shermer, Ph.D. and Susan Blackmore, Ph.D. Actually, I consider them both “debunkers” rather than skeptics, but that may be a matter of semantics. While recently browsing the PSI Encyclopedia, offered by the Society for Psychical Research, on the internet, I read the entries on both Shermer and Blackmore and was a little surprised to learn how they came about their skeptical views. 

I knew that Shermer, an American who studied experimental psychology, was a “born again” evangelical Christian at one time and had plans to be a theology professor, but I wasn’t aware how or why his worldview changed until I read the encyclopedia entry on him. It explains that the change came about as a result of his inability to overcome various ailments by using unconventional health practices.  Also, when his girlfriend was seriously injured in a car accident, his prayers didn’t seem to help her.

I find it very odd that a man with Shermer’s obvious intelligence would revert to nihilism because his prayers and holistic health practices didn’t appear to work for him. If those things had been my criteria for believing, I should have become a nihilist 50 or more years ago.  I feel fortunate in that I have been able to look back upon many adversities and failures in my life and see that valuable lessons were learned, and that in most, if not all, cases the adversity or failure eventually led to a more positive path. To again quote the advanced spirit known as Imperator: “It is necessary that afflictions come.  Jesus knew and taught that. It is necessary for the training of the soul.  It is as necessary as physical discipline for the body.  No deep knowledge is to be had without it.  None is permitted to scale the glorious heights but after discipline of sorrow.  The key of knowledge is in spirit hands, and none may wrest it to himself but the earnest soul which is disciplined by trial.” 

Blackmore, a British psychologist, headed the student psychical research society at Oxford and had a very vivid out-of-body experience (OBE) before doing some experimental laboratory work and finding it did not support a spiritual view.  “I no longer think anything leaves the body in an OBE,” she is quoted in the encyclopedia. “Rather it is the brain’s attempt to construct a convincing ‘model of reality’ from memory and imagination when its sensory input has failed to provide one.”

I also find it equally strange that Blackmore would change her views and convert to nihilism simply because she couldn’t validate her experiences in the laboratory. I can’t make claim to any laboratory experiments, but I will admit to failing in all attempts at automatic writing, remote viewing, astral travel, and the Ouija Board without being discouraged from a spiritual outlook.  I also failed in my youthful ambition to be a baseball player, but I am not one to say I can do anything if I put my mind to it.  I recognize my limitations. Apparently, not everyone does.

Professors William James of Harvard University and Charles Richet of the University of Paris were considered two of the most brilliant men of science during the late 1800s and early 1900s.  James is listed as one of the founders of modern psychology, while Richet, a physiologist, won the 1913 Nobel Prize in medicine for his research on anaphylaxis, the sensitivity of the body to alien protein substance.  He also contributed much to research on the nervous system, anesthesia, serum therapy, and neuro-muscular stimuli.  In spite of their brilliance, both men struggled with the spirit hypothesis, apparently assuming that spirits, if they exist, should be very intelligent, maybe even all-knowing.

“The primâ facie theory, which is that of spirit-control, is hard to reconcile with the extreme triviality of most of the communication,” wrote James, referring to the mediumship of Leonora Piper. “What real spirit, at last able to revisit his wife on this earth, but would find something better to say than that she had changed the place of his photograph? And yet, that is the sort of remark to which the spirits introduced by the mysterious Phinuit (Piper’s spirit control) are apt to confine themselves.” 

Surely, a man of James’s standing should have recognized that the trivial messages are the most evidential. When physicist Sir William Barrett began communicating with his widow, Florence Barrett, a physician and surgeon, through the mediumship of Gladys Osborne Leonard, he at first told her of his current existence and explained that at death the conscious and subconscious unite but that when he came back to talk with her through a medium they again separate and there was much he could not remember or relate.  Lady Barrett found all that interesting, but she didn’t see it as evidential and asked Sir William how she might satisfy people that she was really talking with him.  He replied that it depends on the type of mind, commenting that reference to a tear in the wallpaper in his old room might satisfy some people and not others.  Lady Barrett noted that a month before his death he had pointed out a tear in the wallpaper in one corner of his room.  Sir William then said that some higher minds have gone well beyond the need for such trivial verification, mentioning another distinguished British physicist, still in the flesh, Sir Oliver Lodge.  “Lodge is nearer the bigger, greater aspect of things than most,” he stated. (See Personality Survives Death: After-Death Communication from Sir William Barrett by Florence Barrett, White Crow Books)

Richet had similar concerns. He wondered why these “deceased personalities” were not providing advances in science to help mankind. “They have not helped us to a single step forward in geometry, in physics, in physiology, or in metaphysics,” Richet wrote. “They have never been able to prove that they know more than the ordinary man on any subject soever. No unexpected discovery has been indicated; no revelation has been made…”

Neither James nor Richet gives any indication of being familiar with more informal psychical research that took place between 1850 and the formation of the Society for Psychical Research in 1882.  Much of that research was carried out by scientists and scholars of the time and while not subject to strict controls there was much in the way of knowledge, truth, and wisdom that came from the spirits – knowledge that far exceeded that of the medium and was often in conflict with the ideas of the medium. To that extent, it might be considered evidential.  Judge John Edmonds, Chief Justice of the New York State Supreme Court, and Dr. George T. Dexter, a New York physician, collaborated in a 1953 book simply titled Spiritualism.  Its two volumes extended to nearly one-thousand pages of “teachings” given through Dexter’s automatic writing from the spirits of Emanuel Swedenborg, an 18th Century Swedish scientist, and Lord Francis Bacon, a 17th Century English philosopher. 

Add in the “teachings” given to Cora L. V. Scott (Richmond) and French educator Allan Kardec during the 1850s along with the teachings of the Imperator group through Anglican minister William Stainton Moses during the 1870s and you’ll have a library of references on every conceivable subject relating to the purpose of this life and the nature of the larger life, including God, universal space, the spirit world, Christ, spiritual evolution, spirit bodies, reincarnation, relationships beyond the grave, spirit influence, spirit possession, war, capital punishment, slavery, dreams, free will, suicide, and fear of death, to name just some. I cannot think of any subject covered in books published over the last 140 years that are not discussed in those references.  Much discernment is required in reading them, just as there is in reading the Bible.

If James and Richet were familiar with those four references, how they could have complained about the triviality of spirit messages is beyond me.  If Richet expected the spirits to offer scientific knowledge that would significantly advance our materialistic pursuits, he must not have considered the inability of humans to emotionally and morally adjust to progress in science, the problem we seem to be having in today’s world.  If James thought that the spirits should have provided greater enlightenment, he probably didn’t read these words of Swedenborg, as given through Dexter: “What would be the benefit conferred on man by opening to his comprehension all the mysteries of spirit life and all the beauties of the spheres – revealing the truths belonging to his material and spiritual nature, if we were not able to teach him how that life on earth should be directed; how to govern his passions, how to progress, how to live that his death may be productive of life everlasting in happiness?”

But back to Sir William Barrett.  He further explained to his widow that his objective in communicating with her was not simply to add to the mass of evidence already given concerning the survival of consciousness at death but to help find a working philosophy to guide those on earth who are struggling with finding a purpose in life.  “It seems to me from where I am most people are not even struggling but meandering on purposelessly, blindly, because they have no definite philosophy as a starting point,” he communicated.  He went on to say that knowledge of the afterlife opens the gates of inspiration and makes the intuition keener.  With that comes greater enthusiasm, greater understanding of the beauties of life, even the perceiving of beauty where ugliness had appeared to exist.

“Life on my side seems so extraordinarily easy compared to earth,” Sir William offered in a 1929 sitting with Leonard, “because we simply live according to the rules of love.”  The bottom line to all this is that one can be brilliant, yet not especially wise. Of course, the nihilist simply scoffs at that idea.

Next blog post:  August 2

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 book

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Does Consciousness 101 Violate Church-State Separation?

Posted on 05 July 2021, 8:37

Considering the insanity going on in the world today, many people believe that religion should be offered in our public schools. They claim that it will result in higher standards of morality and a more meaningful life. Those opposed argue separation of church and state and the payment of taxes for non-scientific ideas that are based on mere superstition and folly. They also point to the many wars and conflicts brought about by religion and say that morality is not related to religious beliefs. It all seems to boil down to religion vs. secularism, or theism vs. atheism.

As I see it, the issue should not involve religion, church, or even an anthropomorphic God. It should be about schools offering existential thinking – philosophy courses that explore the meaning of life and the nature of consciousness, including whether that consciousness is independent of the brain and survives bodily death. Call it Consciousness 101, Existentialism 101, or Metaphysics 1A and 1B. The subject matter would transcend religion, church, and even a humanlike deity. To put it another way, consciousness and meaning antedate religion, church, and the God of most religions, all of which grew out of the concerns people had for life’s purpose along with the nature of and survival of consciousness at the time of death; thus, there would be no Church vs. State conflict involved in such classes.

Most of the topics discussed at this blog – mediumship, near-death experiences, past-life memories, deathbed visions, and other phenomena relating to consciousness – provide evidence which science has ignored or rejected, primarily because it seemingly jumped to the conclusion that all things unseen and not subject to its methods of testing belong to religion and are therefore within the jurisdiction of the churches, when, in fact they are not. Clearly, psychical research and parapsychology are not religions or within church domain.

As a sidebar, along the same line of thinking, one might ask why a statue displaying the Ten Commandments should be under the religion and church umbrella. While my knowledge of biblical events is very limited, it is my understanding that the Ten Commandments came to Moses before he was part of any organized religion or church. Therefore, the Ten Commandments preceded church and religion, and statues depicting them in public places should not violate any laws pertaining to separation of church and state. Because religions were later organized and embraced the Ten Commandments does not give religion or the churches ownership of them or bring them within their jurisdiction.

Likewise, the teachings of Buddha, Christ, and Mohammed preceded religions, and churches were later formed around their teachings. Jesus was not turned into a God until the Council of Nicaea in 325 A.D. Is it not possible to discuss their teachings in a public- school course dealing with consciousness and meaning without imposing religion and church upon innocent children? Weren’t the Greek philosophers, headed by Socrates and Plato, once part of classroom study independent of religion and churches?

If I am correctly viewing history, we changed from inductive to deductive reasoning in our belief system over the centuries. Early Christianity was based on phenomena that defied human logic and understanding, often referred to as miracles or marvels. It was inductive reasoning, all adding up to an unseen world of spirit and the immortality of the soul. The Creator at the helm was secondary. It was an a posteriori approach – knowable upon experiences involving an unseen world, experiences reported by credible people, sometimes involving objective signs, such as apparitions, apports, levitations, stigmata, veridical dreams and unexplainable healings. However, when science began to demand proof of those paranormal occurrences, the Church gradually changed its focus, the emphasis being on worshipping and pleasing God. The afterlife became an ancillary to a belief in God. It was an a priori proposition – knowable without experience and beyond scientific inquiry. The debunkers found such an approach easier to attack and now usually begin their diatribe with arguments that there is no “proof” of God, thereby implying that there is no “evidence” of an afterlife.

“All the progress since the revival of sciences has been in the direction of achievements for materialism,” is the way psychical researcher, psychologist and philosopher James Hyslop explained it more than a century ago. “All the facts which the mediaeval philosopher appealed to support the existence of a soul are either discarded or denied in settling the case. The progress of science has been for methods of evidence which philosophy did not use in its long domination of human thought.”

The “one life at a time” argument would no doubt be made by the nihilists in opposing consciousness studies in classrooms. It says that we should be focusing on this lifetime and not concerning ourselves with a future life, whether or not such a life exists. Therefore, its proponents ask, what is the point of discussing whether consciousness continues beyond the present lifetime? They don’t grasp the fact that the meaning and purpose given to this life by the belief in a larger life adds to the appreciation and enjoyment of the present life, especially in one’s declining years. To quote Sir Oliver Lodge, the eminent physicist of yesteryear: “It is no doubt possible, as always, to overstep the happy mean, and by absorption in and premature concerns with future interests to lose the benefit and training of this present life. But although we may rightly decide to live with full vigour in the present, and do our duty from moment to moment, yet in order to be full-flavoured and really intelligent beings – not merely with mechanical draft following the line of least resistance – we ought to be aware that there is a future, a future determined to some extent by action in the present; and it is only reasonable that we should seek to ascertain, roughly and approximately, what sort of future it is likely to be. Inquiry into survival, and into the kind of experience through which we shall all certainly have to go in a few years, is therefore eminently sane, and may be vitally significant. It may colour all our actions, and give a vivid meaning both to human history and to personal experience.”

If our children are not offered some kind of existential teaching, we leave them to be dumbed down by the nihilists and continually influenced by the entertainment and advertising industries. If they are encouraged to believe that life is nothing more than a short march toward an abyss of nothingness – that it has no real meaning or purpose beyond pursuing a materialistic lifestyle – they are motivated to make the most of each day by eating, drinking, using drugs, having casual sex, and being merry without restraint. Humanists argue that morality is not dependent on religion, and they may be right. Here again, it is a matter of getting to the basic issues of consciousness and meaning through the study of paranormal phenomena which suggest survival and concomitantly give meaning to life, but the humanists, nihilists, atheists, whatever name they prefer, seem incapable of reasoning to that extent. Then again, the churches are just as guilty.

The problem, as I see it, with introducing consciousness or metaphysical studies, independent of religion and church, to fertile young minds in public schools is that the biases of the instructors would be part of their teachings. We would likely get the same materialistic-minded teachers that we now having teaching in colleges, those who do not have a good grasp of the psychic phenomena discussed at this blog and elsewhere. In all their “wisdom,” they would preach nihilism and brainwash their students as so many are doing in college. At the same time, the spiritually minded teachers would occasionally let the G- - word slip into their talks, maybe even use “heaven” to describe the survival of consciousness, and thereby would come under attack by the nihilists for contaminating innocent young minds with “religious” ideas. The school principals would be under pressure to be politically correct and, lacking any fortitude, they would have to fire them.

“Despair over the earthly or over something earthly is really despair about the eternal and over oneself, in so far as it is despair,” Soren Kierkegaard, considered the father of existentialism, offered. This is consistent with what Carl Jung, the pioneering Swiss psychiatrist, said – that most of his patients were non-believers, those who had lost their faith. “They seek position, marriage, reputation, outward success or money, and remain unhappy and neurotic even when they have attained what they were seeking,” he wrote. “Such people are usually confined within too narrow a spiritual horizon. Their life has not sufficient content, sufficient meaning.”

Toeing the line between consciousness studies and religion would be as difficult as walking a tightrope over an alligator pond. There would have to be an approved curriculum and strict adherence to that curriculum without the biases of the instructors creeping into the discussion. It would be next to impossible for the instructor to keep his biases to himself. Consciousness 101 seems like a good plan, but, sadly, it wouldn’t work. And so the world gets crazier every day.

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 19

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Was Prof. William James’s ‘White Crow’ a Scammer or a Marvel?

Posted on 21 June 2021, 8:35

Historical facts are often twisted, distorted, and misrepresented by historians and authors,  especially those who rely on hearsay or second-, third-, and fourth-hand accounts of a person or event. This is clearly the case with mediumship, in which the debunkers’ biases and slanted versions of history are accepted by many as gospel. The first two references to come up in my recent internet search for Leonora Piper, (below) the Boston medium referred to by Professor William James of Harvard as his “White Crow” – the one who proved that not all crows are black – make her out to be a scammer of some kind.  Of the first 10 references to her, only three are somewhat positive, but even they lack in critical information and analyses. 


I admit that when I first read about Piper some 35 or so years ago I struggled to see a “white crow.” She was more a light shade of gray.  It took about 10 years of off-and-on reading about her and other mediums before I began to understand all the obstacles to inter-dimensional communication and finally see her as a “white” crow.  Inasmuch as I had not come upon one reference that explained all the complexities, anomalies, and incongruities of such trance mediumship well enough for the average reader to grasp, I was prompted to write my 2013 book, Resurrecting Leonora Piper: How Science Discovered the Afterlife, in an attempt to help others better understand. 


But reporting historical fact does not easily lend itself to creative writing or entertainment for readers. Thus, I realized that I could never get the more-complete story of Mrs. Piper to even approach the awe and wonder of a Harry Potter novel or some other work of spiritual fiction. The research carried out with Mrs. Piper by a number of distinguished scientists and scholars, most of them representing the Society for Psychical Research in London (SPR) and its American branch in Boston (ASPR), over some two decades, was lacking in fantasy, and it was too convoluted for even science-fiction enthusiasts. No matter that it dealt with the most important issue facing humanity; it simply wasn’t entertaining.  The best-seller lists suggest that most readers are looking for escape and entertainment, not truth.

With all that in mind, I can understand why Casey Cep and Emily Harnett, two talented modern-day writers, can’t see a “white” crow. Moreover, I realize that there are word limitations for all publications and that there is no way to summarize the research with Piper in a few thousand words.  It was difficult enough trying to summarize it all in a 200-page book.  I was taught in journalism school to be “clear, concise, and accurate,” but mediumship is not a subject to which those standards are easily applied.  The waters are too murky and muddy, or, more accurately, the air is too ethereal. 

In an article (Why Did So Many Victorians Try To Speak With The Dead?) in a recent issue of The New Yorker, Cep makes Piper out to be part of the “Spiritualism craze” that swept over the country during the latter part of the nineteenth century. She says that Piper was not fully discredited, but many people doubted her abilities, noting her failed readings and prophecies. When she did “score” big, psychological reasons were offered to replace the spiritual ones. A reader of Cep’s article might easily infer that not being “fully” discredited means she was “mostly” discredited. The article provides only enough about Piper for the know-nothing reader to suspect or conclude that she was indeed a hustler, con-artist, huckster or scammer of some kind. 

A Dreadful Person

In the February 4, 2019 issue of Latham’s Quarterly, Harnett, in an article entitled William James and the Spiritualist’s Phone, writes that James “had been fooled by a Boston housewife who claimed to speak to dead people.”  Harnett relies heavily on the opinion of Alice James, William’s sister, who referred to her as “the dreadful Mrs. Piper.”  There is no mention of the “sweet, pure, refined and gentle countenance” of Mrs. Piper, as reported by Anne Manning Robbins, who sat with Piper on a number of occasions and wrote a book about her very meaningful and veridical experiences with her. 

Neither Cep nor Harnett mentions the extensive research carried out by Dr. Richard Hodgson of the ASPR for some 18 years, studying her on the average of three times a week for most of those years.  Nor is there any mention of the 83 experiments Sir Oliver Lodge, a renowned British physicist, conducted with her in England during the Winter of 1889-90. The all-encompassing research with Piper and other mediums reported by Professor James Hyslop, who had been teaching logic and philosophy at Columbia University before sitting with Piper and being so impressed that he decided to become a full-time researcher, is likewise ignored.  All three of those distinguished researchers and a number of others concluded that Piper was a true medium and, while initially giving some consideration to the theory that the information coming through her was the result of telepathy of a limited or expanded nature transmitted by some “secondary personality” buried in her subconscious mind, they all saw “spirits of the dead” as a much more reasonable explanation. 

The readers of The New Yorker and Latham’s Quarterly are given nothing to suggest that what was coming through Mrs. Piper was anything more than what pseudo-skeptics and debunkers of the time called humbug, bosh, hogwash, or twaddle.  No doubt the editors of the two publications saw entertainment value in the humor of past generations being so gullible as to buy into such woo-woo nonsense. 

While Harnett has Piper making a claim to talking with the dead, Cep has her making claim to “channeling” some famous people.  I was left with a picture of Piper in a Muhammad Ali-type rant about how great she is.  However, the Leonora Piper I studied for many years never made any claim other than that she remembered nothing of what took place while she was in a trance state. She left it up to the researchers to interpret what was actually going on with her.  She was much too dignified to make such claims. 

One might infer from what both writers had to say that Piper was a “Spiritualist,” but I came across nothing in my years of studying the research on her to suggest that she belonged to any Spiritualist organization.  She was baptized in the Congregational Church and is said to have read the Bible to her daughters nightly as she put them to bed. She may have had some associations with Spiritualist organizations in her later years, but I recall no evidence of this. 

In writing that Piper went “on tour” in England, Cep leads readers to infer that that she was giving readings to the public, in general. The records I read had her fully occupied with Lodge, Frederic W. H. Myers, and other researchers as they carried out experiments with her during her 1889-90 visit to England. Much the same seems to have been the case with her 1906-07 trip to England.  I recall nothing to suggest that her income increased “twenty-fold” over the years, as reported by Cep, although the way second-, third-, and fourth-hand reports written by debunkers a hundred years later exaggerate and distort facts, I would not be surprised to learn that someone surmised that without any evidence to support it.  But, so what, if she did?  Many people increase their incomes twenty-fold with experience, results, and reputation.

Candor & Honesty

Myers, one of the founders of the SPR, concluded his study of Mrs. Piper with these words: “On the whole, I believe that all observers, both in America and in England, who have seen enough of Mrs. Piper in both states [of consciousness] to be able to form a judgment, will agree in affirming (1) that many of the facts given could not have been learned even by skilled detectives; (2) that to learn others of them, although possible, would have needed an expenditure of money as well as of time which it seems impossible to suppose that Mrs. Piper could have met; and (3) that her conduct has never given any ground whatever for supposing her capable of fraud or trickery.  Few persons have been so long and so carefully observed; and she has left on all observers the impression of thorough uprightness, candor, and honesty.”

Professor William James, always very cautious in his proclamations, said: “I am persuaded by [Mrs. Piper’s] honesty, and of the genuineness of her trance…I now believe her to be in possession of a power as yet unexplained.”

Professor Herbert Nichols, a Harvard psychologist, had this to say in a note to Professor James:  “I had a wonderful sitting with Mrs. Piper.  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 wholly convinced.” 

Said Hodgson: “I had but one object, to discover fraud and trickery…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.”

This from Lodge, who served as president of the prestigious British Association for the Advancement of Science in 1913:  “Then came the revelation, through the mediumship of Mrs. Piper, in the winter of 1889, not only that the personality of certain people could survive, but that they could communicate under certain conditions with us. The proof that they retained their individuality, their memory, and their affection, forced itself upon me, as it had done upon many others. So my eyes began to open to the fact that there really was a spiritual world, as well as a material world which hitherto had seemed all sufficient, that the things which appealed to the senses were by no means the whole of existence.”

And from Professor Hyslop: “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.”

Strangely, even for intelligent people, it seems easier to believe that those esteemed researchers were all duped by a clever scammer. If nothing else, that version is more sensational and makes for more creative writing and perhaps more humor and suspense. So sad that even talented modern-day writers and internet historians don’t dig deeply enough to report the complete picture.  If James, Hodgson, Myers, Lodge, Hyslop and others are still in touch with what is going on here in the material world, they are no doubt shaking their heads in dismay and disgust. 

Next blog post: July 5

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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Spectacular Voices of the Dead Shock British Playwright

Posted on 07 June 2021, 9:10

Nearly every renowned medium of the past was called a cheat or a fraud at one time or another, thereby raising doubts as to his or her credibility and otherwise significantly detracting from the weight of the evidence supporting communication with the spirit world. In many cases, indications are that those alleging fraud were applying terrestrial standards to celestial matters that were beyond human understanding. Nevertheless, the fraud claims have been carried down over the years and often seem to outweigh the strong evidence in support of the medium.

Such may have been the case with George Valiantine, the direct-voice medium through whom Professor Neville Whymant, an Oxford-educated linguist who heard 14 languages, including an ancient Chinese dialect, come through Valiantine’s mediumship. This was discussed in the last blog post involving communication supposedly coming from the great Chinese philosopher, Confucius.  As mentioned in that blog, it is extremely difficult to come up with a debunking theory that makes sense, or at least would carry any weight in a court of law.  Add in the testimony of H. Dennis Bradley, a British playwright and author who also studied Valiantine, as set forth in his book, Toward the Stars.   

“It was fortunate that our expressions could not be seen, for my nose was tilted in scorn and my lip curled in unrestrained contempt,” Bradley (below) wrote of his initial reaction to an invitation to attend a séance with Valiantine at the country home of Joseph De Wyckoff, a retired lawyer, in Ramsey, New Jersey, not far from New York City.  Bradley, who lived in London, was a guest at the De Wyckoff home at the time.  Although extremely skeptical, Bradley thought it might provide some amusement and agreed to it.


Also present for Bradley’s first séance with Valiantine on June 16, 1923 was De Wyckoff’s 20-year-old nephew, Joseph Dasher.  The four men sat in a circle about five feet from each other with two aluminum trumpets in the center of the room to amplify the voices of the spirits. “The lights were turned off, when the whole affair struck me as being rather idiotic,” Bradley related. “I wondered at intelligent people submitting to such infantile forms of amusement.  I wondered how a shrewd mind like that of my host could be induced to waste his time on such silly exploits.”  It was explained to Bradley that they had to sing some hymns in order to achieve a certain passivity and harmony.  Bradley’s expression of “unrestrained contempt” came on after about 20 minutes into the singing, as nothing was happening.  Bradley saw it as an “exceptionally dull show.”

A Soft, Gentle Voice

But, without warning, things started to happen.  A soft and gentle woman’s voice was heard. “I was called by my name, and the voice, which sounded about three feet away on my right, was full of emotion,” Bradley explained.  Though he then went by his middle name, his first name, Herbert, was repeated twice, and then his deceased sister, Annie, identified herself.
“Her voice on earth was soft and beautifully modulated, and her elocution in public was distinguished. In conversation she was a purist in her choice of words,” Bradley recalled. “I have never met any woman who spoke in the same odd way.  When she addressed me, after ten years of silence, she said sayings in her own characteristic manner. Every syllable was perfectly enunciated and every little peculiarity of intonation was reproduced…

“Then we talked, not in whispers, but in clear, audible tones, and the notes of our voices were pitched as if we might have been speaking on earth. And that which we said to each other were things of wondrous joy.”

They talked for 15 minutes. “She told me that for several years she had been trying to get into communication with me, that she was always with me, and that she watched over me and accompanied me on my journeys.  She knew of the books that I had written and other things that I have done since she died….

“Throughout our talk the note of gladness was uppermost – the grateful gladness of eternity, the magnificent laughter of survival, the surety of supernatural progress, the knowledge of the inconceivable.”

The cynical sceptic was suddenly a believer in spirit communication.  He was certain that the information coming from his sister could not have been known by anyone else in the room.  “Any suggestion of ventriloquism is ridiculous,” he added, while also ruling out the possibility it was somehow coming from his subconscious mind.  “No man living could imitate the clear and gentle voice which spoke, and, beyond this, no man living could talk in Annie’s characteristic way, with her individual enunciation, her own choice of words, and her knowledge of the many things which she and I alone could have known.”

After his sister’s departure, five other spirits came though over the next two hours. “Each spirit was distinct and each spoke with an accent unlike the other,” Bradley recorded. One of those spirits was unknown to anyone present and identified himself as Reverend Doctor Joseph Krauskopf of 4715 Pulaski Ave., Philadelphia.  He said that he had died six days earlier. He communicated that his associates at the Hebrew Seminary were concerned that cremation would affect the life of the spirit.  He asked that they be told that the spirit survives cremation.  Bradley and Dasher confirmed the prior existence of Krauskopf, although it is not stated whether they passed on the message about cremation.

On the following night, they again sat for a séance. De Wyckoff’s cook and butler were invited to join with the four men. After a Dr. Barnett, one of Valiantine’s “controls,”  spoke to the group in a loud Scottish accent, Bradley’s sister again spoke.  She talked for some 20 minutes about Bradley’s young son, Dennis, his schooling and sensitive temperament, facts Bradley was certain Valiantine knew nothing about.  “Her tones were clear and bell-like, her notes were sympathetic and understanding, and were radiant,” Bradley recorded. “How can I describe the indescribable?”

Again, Bradley pointed out that his sister mentioned things that nobody else knew about or could have known about.  Moreover, Bradley observed De Wyckoff talking with Valiantine at the same time Bradley’s sister was communicating with him.  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.  However, De Wyckoff understood and described it as a mixture of Basque and corrupt Spanish, which he often heard them speak when Jose was alive and in his employment.  When De Wyckoff spoke directly to Jose, Jose spoke more perfect Spanish.  Jose requested De Wyckoff’s assistance in bringing their children from Spain. Bradley estimated that the conversation lasted ten to twelve minutes. “To produce the scene which took place, Anita would have to be a great actress and Valiantine a magnificent actor,” Bradley opined, “ and having produced many plays myself, I can say with confidence that they would have had to rehearse the scene for at least three weeks.”

Bradley further recorded that the butler, Percy Wheatley, then heard from his niece, who had died at age of five several years earlier. “She talked in a sweet, childish voice and her sentences were interjected with happy, childish laughter,” Bradley noted. “She said that life was splendid where she was, and that she was growing up and learning, that she was so glad she was no longer a cripple.”  Bradley thought he saw the young girl’s spirit form sitting on Wheatley’s knee, referring to it as “silvery, misty, and delicate in outline,” but the others did not see it. 

A Canadian Indian named “Kokum,” said to be one of Valiantine’s spirit guides, communicated in French and broken English. De Wyckoff had communicated with him on previous occasions and asked him to sing. He then started to sing “La Paloma.”  “Never in my life have I heard such a colossal voice,” Bradley wrote. “In all seriousness I assert that his voice could have been heard a quarter of a mile away….” Bradley thanked Kokum and asked him if he could touch him. He then felt fingers of a hand pat him gently on the head. 

Bradley called the two séances 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.”

Fraud Charges

Shortly after returning to London, Bradley received a shocking cable from De Wyckoff advising him that Valiantine had been discovered “in undeniable instance of conscious fraud.”  Thinking back to that weekend, Bradley could conceive of no possible way that a charlatan could duplicate the phenomena he had experienced – his sister’s voice, the personal knowledge, the intimate dialogue he had with his sister. He was bewildered.

On November 27, 1923, Bradley and his wife visited the renowned English medium Gladys Osborne Leonard.  The appointment had been made by a friend and their identities not given.  After Leonard went into a trance, Feda, her spirit control, announced that Bradley’s sister and W.A. were present. (The full name of “W.A.” was given but his family objected to his name being used in the book.) As W.A. was doing most of the communicating, Bradley requested that he ask his sister if she had been present at De Wyckoff’s home several months earlier. W.A. said that she had and that he (W.A.) also had been there, although he could not muster enough power to speak.  Annie then spoke and further confirmed some of the things they had talked about at De Wyckoff’s home, including Bradley’s son, Dennis.  Bradley then mentioned the fraud charges made by De Wyckoff.  His sister said that she does not know much about Valiantine, but he was genuine at the time.  W.A. was also unaware of any fraud by Valiantine, but he explained that a medium may sometimes be impelled or impressed by his unconscious knowledge of what the spirit communicators want to do or want to say and thus carry it into action.  His unconscious actions are then interpreted by the sitters as a conscious attempt to deceive them.

As Bradley would later determine, the “fraud” claimed by De Wyckoff had to do with automatic writing coming through Valiantine. Although the messages themselves were evidential, the handwriting was Valiantine’s.  De Wyckoff saw this as evidence of fraud, even though research in this area had revealed that some automatic writing came through in the handwriting of the communicating spirit, while some came through in the script of the medium. 

However, as mentioned in the last post here, it was Valiantine’s toe print, which was supposed to match up with the thumb print left by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, that cast the most suspicion on Valiantine and doomed his reputation several years later. Though said to be semi-illiterate, Valiantine appeared intelligent enough to realize that his toe print would not match Doyle’s thumb print. As mysterious as the toe print was, it had nothing to do with voices coming through in different languages and inflections, while providing facts that Valiantine had no way of knowing.  “Nobody,” said Bradley, “could shake my knowledge that for thirty-five minutes I had talked on personal matters – matters unknown to anyone but ourselves – with the discarnate but living spirit of my sister: her voice, her personality, her spirit, her soul.”

In 1901, pioneering psychical researcher Frederic W. H. Myers, who had passed to the spirit world earlier in the year, was communicating with Sir Oliver Lodge, the renowned British physicist, through the mediumship of Rosalie Thompson.  He told Lodge that he was trying to understand “how the cheating things that are not cheats are done,”  There is no indication that he ever figured it out. If he did, it may have been explained by W.A. 

Next blog post:  June 21
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

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Was It Confucius communicating from the Afterlife or a Clever Trickster?

Posted on 24 May 2021, 8:08

A friend who read Chapter 15 of my most recent book, No One Really Dies, told me that the story about Confucius communicating through the direct-voice mediumship of George Valiantine (below) in 1926 exceeds his boggle threshold. He said he accepts the reality of mediumship and spirit communication, but that one is too much for him to take in. He is highly skeptical. 


The story is told with some detail in my book as well as in my blog of April 22, 2013 in the archives at left and the White Crow book Psychic Adventures in New York. To briefly summarize, however,  Dr. Neville Whymant, (below) a professor of linguistics at Oxford and London Universities, as well as the Universities of Tokyo and Peking, who spoke some 30 languages, reported that he attended 12 séances at the home of Judge and Mrs. William M. Cannon in New York City beginning in October 1926.  He was in the United States to study the languages of Native Americans when invited to the Cannon home. There, through Valiantine’s trumpet mediumship (voices came through the trumpet, not directly from the medium), he communicated with “spirits of the dead” in 14 different languages, including Chinese, Hindi, Persian, Basque, Sanskrit, Arabic, Portuguese, Italian, Yiddish, German and modern Greek.”  One spirit identified himself as K’ung-Fu-Tzu, the actual name by which Confucius was known, and began speaking in an ancient Chinese dialect, but because Whymant was not totally familiar with that dialect, the “voice” switched to a more modern dialect.


Though highly skeptical, Whymant could not imagine a trickster knowing the ancient Chinese dialect or even the more modern dialect with its little twists of the tongue. The ancient dialect was as dead colloquially as Sanskrit or Latin, Whymant explained.  “If this was a hoax, it was a particularly clever one, far beyond the scope of any of the sinologues now living,” he recorded.  Whymant also reported that his wife’s deceased father communicated in his familiar “tone and slight drawl,” reminiscent of the West Country of England.

Whymant tested the “voice,” asking “it” about a poem written by Confucius, providing the first line. The voice responded by reciting all 15 lines of the poem.  The voice also explained a mistake made in modern translations of another poem, stating that the copyists were in error, as the character written as sê should have been i, and the character written as yen was an error for fou. 

I examined the possible skeptic’s arguments with my friend, as follows:

Valiantine was a very clever illusionist:  Sure, and this uneducated mechanic from New York learned 14 languages, including some ancient ones, even speaking them without an American accent of any kind. “Then it burst upon me that I was listening to Chinese of a purity and delicacy not now spoken in any part of China,” Whymant wrote of the ancient dialect he first heard.

Valiantine had a very educated confederate hidden away in the Cannon home: Such a confederate would have had to know and properly pronounce the ancient dialect of Confucius and be very familiar with his poems, familiar enough to recite them at length and point out errors in the modern translations.  According to Whymant, there were only a half-dozen scholars in the world capable of participating in such a hoax. However, it is highly unlikely that those half-dozen knew all 14 languages spoken, so Valiantine would have had to have many accomplices.  And the Cannons would have had to be in on the deception for those accomplices to remain hidden and have some electrical apparatus to get the voices through the trumpet. It should be noted that William M. Cannon is listed as chairman of the New York section of the American Society for Psychical Research (ASPR) in its November 1928 issue of its journal.

Whymant made up the whole story so he could sell some books: Whymant received both his Ph.D. and Litt.D. at Oxford.  In addition to his teaching positions, he served as Far East editor of the New International Encyclopedia and was on the editorial staff of the Encyclopedia Britannica. He was a foreign correspondent for the London Times, and an adviser to the embassy of the Republic of China in London.  Among his other books were Chinese and Greek Philosophical Parallels (1917), The Psychology of the Chinese Coolie (1920), and China (1923). An internet search indicates he also wrote books in Mongolian, Japanese, and Polynesian languages and that he was only 23-years-old when his 1917 book was published. Clearly, he does not seem to have been a man to be easily duped or to put his reputation on the line by telling a story that he knew most rational people would consider absurd.
If we can believe Whymant, he didn’t even want to write the book, but tired of telling the story over and over again and was persuaded by friends to write it after first reporting on it in the ASPR journal. And, if Whymant made it up, he must have shared the profits with Judge and Mrs. Cannon, along with Valiantine. 

Valiantine must have been a skilled ventriloquist:  Whymant noted that there was enough light for him to observe Valiantine speaking American English to the person sitting next to him at the same time two and three foreign voices were coming through the trumpet.  Moreover, it’s one thing to “throw” a voice, quite another for the voice to provide evidential information in 14 different languages.

Famous people don’t communicate: “Confucius, sure, and Cleopatra and Princess Diana, too,” the “wise” skeptic will say with a smirk, as if to suggest only the non-famous dead can communicate, assuming such communication exists at all.  Of course, if no one famous ever communicated, those same skeptics would ask why only unknown people communicate.  If spirit communication is possible, why wouldn’t we expect to hear from some famous people?  Of course, there are indications that devious, low-level spirits sometimes attempt to impersonate famous “dead” people and that’s why the New Testament tells us to “test the spirits” and to “discern” the messages.

“It does not seem necessary to assume the actual presence of the great Chinese Sage himself,” Sir Oliver Lodge, the renowned physicist who arranged for Valiantine to be tested by the Society for Psychical Research (SPR), wrote in the Introduction to Whymant’s book, “but it is possible that some disciple of that period may be exerting himself, as so many others on that side are exerting themselves, to give scholarly proof of survival, and to awaken our dormant minds to possibilities in the universe to which we are for the most part blind and deaf.”

As Lodge and a few other researchers came to understand, superior spirits, such as Confucius, Jesus, Socrates, and Swedenborg must be, have no need to be identified with their teachings; but because humans seem to need an identity in order to fix their ideas, elevated spirits who identify with the teachings of those superior spirits and belong to the same “soul group” may take that famous name to appease us, as it is the teaching, not the teacher, that is important.  In some cases, the communicating spirit would say that it was not one spirit talking but rather several of them offering a group essence based on the teachings of the superior spirit.  This appears to have been the case with Imperator and his group of 49 spirits who communicated through the mediumship of William Stainton Moses.

Telepathy or Super PSI might explain the voices: While telepathy and super psi defy the philosophy of materialism, a popular theory among some parapsychologists is that the medium is reading the mind of the sitters and feeding information back to them.  Since some of the information coming through to Whymant was unknown to him, this theory fails.  The super psi theory suggests that there is some “computer in the cosmos” which the medium can access.  However, it is one thing to access some bit of information in the cosmos, quite another to have the computer dialogue with the person.  The super psi theory is clearly more fantastic than the survival hypothesis.

Whymant didn’t really hear the voices as well as he suggests in the book:  This is a theory advanced by some members of the SPR in London based on a sitting Valiantine had with them in 1927. That sitting produced “whispers,” some of which sounded like Chinese to the SPR researchers but were very unclear.  When the SPR later asked Professor Whymant to listen to the gramophone recording of the voices, he couldn’t make them out, either.  One SPR researcher, in her report, pointed out that there are many “Chinamen” living in America and Valiantine probably learned a little Chinese from them, enough to make Whymant think that he was hearing Chinese with Valiantine, and he subconsciously filled in the blanks.  It suggests that Whymant was a complete idiot.  It also suggests that Valiantine learned enough of 13 other languages, including Sanskrit, to further dupe Whymant and also that he memorized the poems of “Confucius,” or Whymant just imagined he heard the voice recite a lengthy poem and also imagined that “Confucius” explained the mistakes in one of them.

Whymant gives no indication in his journal report or in his book of not being able to understand the voices, other than having difficulty understanding the ancient Chinese dialect. He stated that some of the voices were so strong that he could feel the vibrations off the floor.  He further describes the “Confucius” voice as “tremulous.” 
Valiantine was accused of cheating in 1931; therefore, he was clearly a fraud: The most damaging evidence the skeptic can offer is that sometime in 1931 Valiantine was accused of cheating. It had nothing to do with voices or languages. Rather, the case involved an attempt to fingerprint a communicating spirit claiming to be Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.  Apparently, an attempt was going to be made to compare the print with an actual thumb print left by Doyle, who had died the prior year.  A print was somehow obtained, but it turned out to be Valiantine’s big toe. Valiantine claimed he had no idea how his toe was imprinted in the plaster cast. Could Valiantine have been so stupid as to think his toe print would match up with Doyle’s thumb, or anyone’s thumb? The only conclusion one can come to here is that some devious, low-level spirits were playing games with the researchers or someone involved with the tests was intent on framing Valiantine.

The bottom line: It would have been helpful if Whymant had included more detail as to what came through in other languages for other people, but he was not there to take notes or write a book.  He reports taking notes on the Confucius communication, but not on the others. He was too busy interpreting. There is absolutely no reason to believe that Whymant was not a credible reporter of the facts he did report.  His language ability suggests a photographic memory. He was a distinguished scholar who had little to gain and much to lose by making up such a story. The phenomena he reported go far beyond any known tricks employed by charlatans and similar phenomena were observed by many other people sitting with Valiantine over a period of years.  I understand my friend’s skepticism, as the story also exceeds my boggle threshold, but I can’t come up with a debunking theory that makes sense.  Perhaps a reader of this blog can.

Next blog post:  June 7

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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Dr. Bruce Greyson Updates NDE Research

Posted on 10 May 2021, 9:06

When I interviewed Dr. Bruce Greyson in 2004, (below) I asked him how his research in the field of near-death experiences had influenced his beliefs concerning the survival of consciousness at death. I was not expecting him to say that the NDE proves survival, but I anticipated him saying something like “the NDE suggests that consciousness continues after death,” or words to that effect. However, Greyson seemed to be offended by the question and replied that his belief had nothing to do with his work as a scientist or as a physician.



In an attempt to clarify my question, I asked him, in effect, if a scientist must forever sit on the fence and never have an opinion or belief. I further asked why so many scientists can commit themselves to a belief in biological evolution but not to survival. While the evidence for evolution may be very strong, I remarked, it does not appear to extend to “absolute certainty.”  Moreover, one does not have to be a “creationist” to be a skeptic with regard to the generally accepted belief in evolution. I was curious as to the degree of certainty a scientist must have before moving off the fence. Is his reputation as an objective researcher forever tainted if he deviates even slightly away from the mainstream worldview? If the evidence increasingly points to survival, doesn’t someone have to take the lead by coming off the fence?

“…Scientists explore the evidence for and against competing hypotheses, and derive tentative conclusions that a certain hypothesis is more or less likely than others, based on the data currently available,” Greyson responded to my concern. “Because science is based on empirical observation rather than revelation, our conclusions are always subject to change as new evidence accumulates. Sometimes a concept like evolution receives such overwhelming empirical support that we act as if it were proven; but even those concepts are subject to revision as we discover contradictory evidence. Although I think there is sufficient empirical evidence to make survival the most likely explanation for some phenomena, it has not been embraced by many mainstream scientists because we have much more work to do in eliminating, competing hypotheses and developing a plausible mechanism by something could survive bodily death.”

At the time of the 2004 interview, I visualized Greyson sitting on a fence that separates the survival school from the nihilism school, more or less straddling it with one foot planted firmly on the nihilist’s side of the fence and the other foot dangling on the survival side.  Although it wasn’t discussed in detail in that interview, I inferred from his answers, perhaps more from what he had to say in other writings, that he was more interested in the transformative aspects of the NDE – that is,  how it helped people better enjoy their earthly lives. But that left me wondering what it was that gave rise to the positive transformations of so many NDErs if not the recognition that this life is part of a larger life and the purpose that gave it.  To put it another way, if the survival aspect is not at the root of it, what causes the transformation? Were those experiencers who were transformed supposed to be happier and more fulfilled without pausing to think why?  Were they mere robots?  If it was because they now saw a purpose in life, was it a purpose with a humanistic/nihilistic outlook? If so, how did that view develop?

After reading Greyson’s recently released book, After, I now visualize him with one foot on the survival side of the fence and the other foot dangling on the nihilist’s side.  “I don’t know whether some kind of continued consciousness after death is the best explanation for NDEs in which experiencers see deceased loved ones no one knew had died,” he writes in a concluding chapter. “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.”

Greyson is professor emeritus of psychiatry and neurobehavioral sciences at the University of Virginia School of Medicine. He was a co-founder of the International Association of Near-Death Studies (IANDS) and editor of the Journal of Near-Death Studies.  He received his undergraduate degree from Cornell University in 1968 and his medical degree from the State University of New York in 1973.

During the early years of his research, Greyson struggled with the fact that NDEs “smacked of religion and folklore,” which was not consistent with his upbringing in a scientific household and without any religious indoctrination.

Early in his career, while on the staff of the University of Michigan, Greyson was told by the chairman of his department that he should stop wasting his time studying NDEs because they were just “anecdotes.” As Greyson points out, however, personal anecdotes have been the source of most scientific hypotheses throughout history. “Most research starts with scientists collecting, verifying and comparing anecdotes until patterns in these stories become apparent, and then from those patterns emerge hypotheses, which can be tested and refined,” he explains in the book.

He further explains that he is not taking sides with his materialistic friends or his spiritual friends. As he sees it, both views are plausible. “But neither of these ideas, while plausible, is a scientific premise – because there is no evidence that could ever disprove either of them. They are instead articles of belief.”  Whatever their source, he is convinced that NDEs “are quite real and quite profound in their impact, and are in fact important sources of spiritual growth and insight.” 

Greyson mentions a number of paradoxes emerging from his studies.  For one, there is the extra-ordinary thinking and perceptive abilities in NDE while the brain is impaired.  You’d expect just the opposite. One such ability is the life review, something experienced by a quarter of all those who participated in his 45 years of NDE research. The majority of those described the life review as more vivid than ordinary memories. Some reported that they reexperienced past events as if they were still happening.

Although many NDErs have been thought to be suffering from some kind of mental disorder, the evidence suggests, according to Greyson, that NDEs are not associated with mental disorders. He points out that people with mental disorders may lose their sense of meaning in life, feel more fearful, and become more absorbed in their own needs and concerns, but NDEs usually leads to an enhanced sense of meaning and a greater sense of connectedness with others.

The skeptics often point to studies suggesting that stimulation of certain parts of the brain can result in the sensation of leaving the body, as can seizures and certain psychedelic drugs.  “Despite the common belief among some scientists that unusual electrical activity in the temporal lobe, like that caused by epileptic seizures or stimulation, can provoke experiences like NDEs or out-of-body experiences, we didn’t find that to be true,” Greyson states, referring to his research at an epilepsy clinic.

The skeptics also claim that decreased oxygen in the brain is the cause of “hallucinations” reported by NDErs. However, Greyson’s research, which involved measuring oxygen levels in the people during medical crises, showed that NDEs “are associated with increased oxygen levels, or with levels the same as those of non-experiencers. No study has ever shown decreased levels of oxygen during NDEs.”  He further mentions that patients given medication report fewer NDEs than do patients who don’t get any medication.

Are people who report meeting deceased loved one during NDEs simply hallucinating? Greyson says he no longer jumps to that conclusion, although there is no way to rule out the influence of the experiencers’ hopes and expectations of meeting loved ones. However, some experiencers have reported meetings with people not known to have died, which conflicts with the expectations of a reunion theory. He tells of one case in which an experiencer reported seeing his 19-year-old sister, who told him he had to go back. The experiencer was unaware that his sister had been killed in an auto accident earlier that day.

One might infer from Greyson’s comments that the NDE is the only phenomenon offering evidence that consciousness survives death. As the renowned physicist Sir Oliver Lodge said, it is the cumulative evidence that convinced him.  The NDE research provides icing (I prefer chocolate frosting) on the cake – a cake well baked by Lodge, Frederic Myers, Richard Hodgson, and James Hyslop long before Dr. Raymond Moody gave a name to the NDE and before Dr. Greyson was born. If one is to fully appreciate the cake, he or she needs to do more than savor the frosting.  I was left wondering if Greyson is even aware of the research carried out by the pioneers of psychical research and, if he is, why he doesn’t see the cumulative evidence offering the same “overwhelming” evidence that is accepted by most scientists with biological evolution. Nevertheless, having read at least 50 books on NDEs over the last 45 or so years, I would rank this book at or very near the top of the list.

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 24


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Is Einstein Still Laughing? The Strange Case of Rudi Schneider

Posted on 26 April 2021, 9:07

“I could find no evidence of fraud or trickery, and, while retaining an alert and critical attitude of mind throughout, I had a strong feeling of some mysterious power working from within the cabinet, a power for which I could imagine no mechanical or pneumatic contrivance as a cause – at least such as would be possible under the conditions of the séance.” 

So wrote Dr. William Brown, F.R.C.P., Wilde Reader in Mental Philosophy at Oxford University and founder of the Institute of Experimental Psychology, in a letter to The Times of London of May 7, 1932 in reference to the mediumship of a 23-year-old Austrian, Rudi Schneider, (below) who was known primarily for producing physical phenomena, including materialized hands, occasionally a full materialization, levitations of the medium, floating tables, and other telekinetic movements.  Brown was part of a group studying Schneider in England.  The group included astronomer Christopher Clive (better known as C. C. L.) Gregory, founder of the University of London observatory, and later, the husband of Anita Gregory, the author of The Strange Case of Rudi Schneider.


According to Anita Gregory, a British psychologist, Professor Brown was subjected to a good deal of ridicule at Oxford, notably by Professors Albert Einstein and Frederick Lindemann, both world-renowned physicists. They are said to have laughed at the phenomena reported by Brown and a number of other reputable scientists.  “No way!” they must have scoffed. 

Anita Gregory first heard about Schneider while attending a lecture given by Brown toward the end of the 1940s.  When Brown told of witnessing objects flying about the room and a hand materializing out of nothing while Schneider was in a trance state, she could not accept that a man of Brown’s standing in the academic world and in psychology would believe such things. “I recall vividly how I reacted to Dr. Brown’s lecture: by impatient contempt, a little tinged with pity,” she wrote in the Introduction of her book. “How could a learned man believe such nonsense? And how could he bring himself to admit such absurd notions in public? Why didn’t someone stop him from making such a fool of himself?  I never entertained even for a moment the possibility that there could have been some real experience underlying his assertions.”

Gregory did not believe Brown was insane or the victim of some magician; she simply considered it so absurd that she gave it no further consideration until after her marriage in 1954 to C. C. L. Gregory, when she found out that he was also present in many of the experiments with Schneider and fully supported Brown’s version. In fact, C. C. L. sat next to Schneider and controlled his arms and legs during a number of the experiments. Along with another scientist, he developed an infrared apparatus used in registering infrared “occultations” during the experiments.  Her husband’s testimony prompted Anita Gregory to begin a detailed search into all records of the experiments carried out with Schneider.

Although Gregory’s study of the research records takes 425 pages to explain, it is not Schneider’s mediumship that makes the book especially interesting and intriguing; it is the hubris involved among the many scientists who studied him.  Harry Price, an engineer who established the National Laboratory of Psychical Research in London, is quoted by Gregory from a 1929 article: “I wonder how many of my readers are aware of the number of squabbles, petty jealousies and open feuds that are taking place among those investigating psychic phenomena. In nearly every country where two or more societies or investigators are working there exists a state of affairs which is little less than a scandal. Quarrels, backbiting, lawsuits, sharp prejudice, scandal-mongering, the gratification of personal spite, these things are rampant to the detriment of the science of psychical research and a paralyzing drag on the wheel of progress. It would be bad enough if the psychic brawlers confined their activities to their own frontiers, but they do not – the internecine warfare is international…”

One might assume from that statement that Price was the victim of his peers in psychical research, but he emerges from Gregory’s research as the real “monger.”  “When he wished for widespread popular support he would court spiritualist opinion, conceding that belief in survival was accepted among the majority of those who occupied themselves with such matters, and hinting that he himself shared this belief; when, on the other hand, he wished to present himself as the champion of a new scientific discipline he would belabor spiritualism as a more of benighted superstition from which he personally had rescued the subject,” Gregory surmised. “This dual attitude, which is by no means confined to Price, must also be taken into consideration when assessing anyone’s claims in the field.” 

Perhaps the two most dedicated researchers studying Schneider were Dr. Albert von Schrenck-Notzing, a German physician who had 88 sittings with Schneider, and Dr. Eugene Osty, a French physician who carried out 77 experiments with him. Both men were convinced that he was the real deal.  “We are sure, absolutely sure, of the reality of the phenomena,” Osty reported, “but we cannot say the same for our interpretation.”  The issue there was whether “Olga,” the entity who took control of Schneider’s body when he became entranced, was the spirit of a deceased human, as she claimed to be, or a “secondary personality” surfacing from Schneider’s subconscious mind.  It was much more “scientific” to assume the latter and thereby dismiss any suggestion of spirits of the dead, something written off by the fundamentalists of science as pure superstition. 

“The phenomena were personal in the sense that there was every appearance of someone, an invisible or barely invisible ‘person’ acting upon the everyday world, moving objects, knotting handkerchiefs, patting sitters on the head or boxing their ears, as the case might be,” Anita Gregory explained, describing Olga as a “phantom person” who at times was “capable of producing tangible effects on the physical world, and of somehow or another partially clothing herself in visible and tangible substance.” 

Dr. Alois Gatterer, a Jesuit priest and professor of physics at Innsbruck University, reported observing a full phantom on April 12, 1926, which he described as “light, misty, and indistinct and which seemed to increase and decrease in size and luminosity.” He also observed materialized hands at two different sittings with Schneider and was absolutely certain they were not Schneider’s hands. “I do not hesitate to express my personal conviction on the subject of paraphysical phenomena…,” he wrote.

Many other scientists and intelligent people observed Schneider under strictly controlled conditions and attested to the genuineness of the phenomena, but some, no doubt concerned with the criticism of men like Einstein and Lindemann, hesitated in their reports, theorizing that one of the scientists in attendance “could have been” an accomplice.  Dr. Karl Foltz theorized that the phenomena “could be” explained on the supposition that Schneider made use of the mechanical vibrations of the different objects in the room and that the floor “must have been” shaky.  Some, like Dr. Eric Dingwall of the Society for Psychical Research, flip-flopped, first vouching for the authenticity of the phenomena but then retreating and saying there “could have been” an accomplice. “The pressure on the scientist to recant is unrelenting, and if the errant researcher succumbs and returns to the straight and narrow path of denial, the scientific community breathes a sigh of relief, and allows him or her to forget the lapse and the reasons for that lapse with the blandest discretion,” Anita Gregory opined.

After studying him in Austria on a number of occasions, Price arranged to have Schneider brought to London for 27 séances between February 9 to May 3, 1932.  Although eight of those 27 sittings were totally negative, and it had become clear earlier that his mediumship was in decline, enough phenomena were produced to convince Price, Brown, C. C. L. Gregory, Lord Charles Hope, Professor D. F. Fraser-Harris, an eminent biologist, Professor A. F. C. Pollard, an authority on engineering, and others that paranormal phenomena were being produced and that trickery was not a factor.  “If Rudi were ‘exposed’ a hundred times in the future, it would not invalidate or affect to the slightest degree our considered judgment that the boy has produced genuine abnormal phenomena while he has been at the National Laboratory of Psychical Research,” Price reported. “We have no fault to find with Rudi; he has cheerfully consented to our holding any test or any séance with any sitter or controller. He is the most tractable medium who has ever come under my notice.”

Although Anita Gregory never met Rudi Schneider and looked upon him as some kind of huckster when Dr. Brown told of him in a lecture, she did a complete about-face after her detailed study of the research records.  “If one insists upon regarding the phenomena as fraudulent, then one is forced to attribute the majority of instances as being due to an accomplice, an outsider, who was somehow or another smuggled into the séance room,” she concludes, wondering how Rudi, who spoke no English and had no money of his own, could have arranged for an accomplice in London and how that accomplice could have gone undetected. She adds that all who knew Rudi considered him an exemplary person.

But the story doesn’t end there.  Almost a year after Rudi left London, and after other researchers had added to earlier research in further validating him, Price claimed that a double-exposure photograph from the 1932 series that he had previously overlooked revealed that Rudi’s arm was free of control at the same time the displacement of a handkerchief was taking place. Price, himself, was holding Rudi’s hand at the time, but he claimed that because of a toothache he was not attentive to the matter and did not realize Rudi had freed his arm. The double exposure is very fuzzy and inconclusive, and it was argued by others that even if he had momentarily freed his arm, possibly a shock reaction to the photographic flash, he was too far distant from the phenomenon to have affected it.  But Price’s denouncement provided the sensationalism that the press and the skeptics desired, and Schneider was labeled a cheat by many. “Indeed, [Price’s] motives were only too obvious to all those involved: to discredit his ‘enemies,’ that is those researchers who had ‘taken Rudi away from him’ and who had declined to accept him as the ultimate and final authority on the phenomena of Rudi Schneider,” Anita Gregory concludes.  In effect, if I am interpreting all this correctly, Price didn’t intend to totally discredit Schneider. He just wanted to “muddy the waters” and create the need for additional testing in his laboratory.

Is it any wonder that psychical research gave way during the 1930s to parapsychology, in which spirits of the dead and the subject of life after death were ignored as the focus turned to extra-sensory perception (ESP) and psychokinesis (PK)?  The famous “Margery” case of the 1920s, in which Dr. Dingwall also seems to have flip-flopped from acceptance to doubt, and that of medium George Valiantine, during the late 1920s and early ‘30s, involved so much conflict and friction among researchers that it became clear that there would never be a meeting of the minds when it came to physical phenomena or any phenomena in which “spirits” were supposedly involved. The Rudi Schneider case seems to have put the final nail in the coffin of survival research.

Nevertheless, the cumulative evidence seems to have been overwhelming and one can only wonder if Professor Einstein is still laughing.

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 10


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Examining the Fear Factor on the “Titanic”

Posted on 12 April 2021, 20:40

It is difficult to measure the fear factor on the Titanic during the first two hours following its collision with an iceberg, because the preponderance of testimony suggests that very few of the passengers really believed that the “unsinkable” ship would sink. “One of the most remarkable features of this horrible affair is the length of time that elapsed after the collision before the seriousness of the situation dawned on the passengers,” Robert W. Daniel, a 27-year-old first-class passenger from Philadelphia, testified. “The officers assured everybody that there was no danger, and we all had such confidence in the Titanic that it didn’t occur to anybody that she might sink.”

Daniel jumped into the ocean before the ship went down and was picked up by one of the lifeboats.  He said that “men fought and bit and struck one another like madmen,” referring to those in the water attempting to save themselves.  He was reportedly picked up naked with wounds about his face, and then nearly died from the exposure to the cold before he was rescued. 

Since April 14-15 marks the 109th anniversary of the tragic sinking of the great ship, I thought it a good time to revisit the story, as told in more detail in my 2012 book, Transcending the Titanic, specifically to look at the fear factor.  As discussed in the book, once it was realized that the ship was going down, four different approaches to one’s fate can be recognized:  1. Dignified Expectation; 2) Stoic Resignation; 3) Controlled Trembling; 4) Panic. 

Four survivors reported seeing William Thomas Stead (below) at various places in the 2 hours and 40 minutes that elapsed between the time the floating palace hit an iceberg and the time it made its plunge to the bottom of the North Atlantic.  All of them told of a very composed and calm man, one prepared to meet his death with “dignified expectation.” 


Stead, a popular British journalist on his way to New York to give a talk on world peace at Carnegie Hall, is remembered by many for his books and articles intended to demonstrate the reality of survival after death as well as to assist in a spiritual revival. In 1909, three years before his death, he published Letters from Julia, a series of messages purportedly coming to him by means of automatic writing, from Julia T. Ames, an American newspaperwoman, who had died some months earlier. 

Juanita Parrish Shelley, a 25-year-old second-class passenger from Montana who was traveling with her mother, saw Stead assisting women and children into the lifeboats.  “Your beloved Chief,” Shelley later wrote to Edith Harper, Stead’s loyal secretary and biographer, “together with Mr. and Mrs. (Isidor) Strauss, attracted attention even in that awful hour, on account of their superhuman composure and divine work.  When we, the last lifeboat, left, and they could do no more, he stood alone, at the edge of the deck, near the stern, in silence and what seemed to me a prayerful attitude, or one of profound meditation.  You ask if he wore a life-belt.  Alas! No, they were too scarce.  My last glimpse of the Titanic showed him standing in the same attitude and place.”

Frederick Seward, a 34-year-old New York lawyer, said that Stead was one of the few on deck when the iceberg was impacted.  “I saw him soon after and [I] was thoroughly scared, but he preserved the most beautiful composure,” Seward, who boarded lifeboat 7, recalled. 

Certainly, Stead (below) was not the only victim of the Titanic to face death with relative composure and calmness, although in many cases it may not have been easy to distinguish between Stead’s “dignified expectation” and the “stoic resignation” of those of little faith or with a nihilistic view. One likely would have to search the eyes for hope or despair in order to discern the difference.  In either case, the person might be described as brave, courageous, or, if aiding others to his own detriment, as heroic.  Indeed, the stoic might be considered more brave or more courageous, though more pathetic, since he did not have the support of hope and expectation, as Stead apparently had. 

Major Archie Butt, (below) a 46-year-old aide to President William Howard Taft, was praised by several surviving passengers.  “I questioned those of the survivors who were in a condition to talk, and from them I learned that Butt, when the Titanic struck, took his position with the officers and from the moment the order to man the lifeboats was given until the last one was dropped from the sea, he aided in the maintenance of discipline and the placing of the women and children in the boats,” wrote Captain Charles Crain, a passenger on the Carpathia, which picked up survivors. “Butt, I was told, was as cool as the iceberg that had doomed the ship, and not once did he lose control of himself.  In the presence of death he was the same gallant, courteous officer that the American people had learned to know so well as a result of his constant attendance upon President Taft.”


Benjamin Guggenheim, the millionaire smelter magnate, asked John Johnson, his room steward, to give Mrs. Guggenheim a message if he (Johnson) survived, which he did.  “Tell her that I played the game straight and that no woman was left on board this ship because Benjamin Guggenheim was a coward.  Tell her that my last thoughts were of her and the girls.” Multi-millionaire John Jacob Astor, 47, is said to have initially ridiculed the idea of leaving the ship in lifeboats, saying that the solid decks of the Titanic were safer than a small lifeboat.  However, by 1:45 a.m. he had changed his mind and helped his 18-year-old wife, Madeleine, board the last lifeboat.  He asked Second Officer Charles Lightoller if he could also board and was told that no men were allowed.  Astor then stood back and reportedly stood alone as others tried to free the remaining collapsible boat.

Lawrence Beesley, a 34-year-old teacher and second-class passenger who later wrote a book about his experience and observations, described an initial calmness or lack of panic. “The fact is that the sense of fear came to the passengers very slowly – a result of the absence of any signs of danger and the peaceful night – and as it became evident gradually that there was serious damage to the ship, the fear that came with the knowledge was largely destroyed as it came.  There was no sudden overwhelming sense of danger that passed through thought so quickly that it was difficult to catch up and grapple with it – no need for the warning to ‘be not afraid of sudden fear,’ such as might have been present had we collided head-on with a crash and a shock that flung everyone out of his bunk to the floor.”

The ship’s band, or orchestra, was praised by all surviving passengers. Beesley recalled that they began playing around 12:40 a.m., an hour after the collision, and continued until after 2 a.m.  “Many brave things were done that night, but none more brave than by those few men playing minute after minute as the ship settled quietly lower and lower in the sea and the sea rose higher and higher to where they stood; the music they played serving alike as their own immortal requiem and their right to be recorded on the rolls of undying fame.”

Although the captain had given the order “women and children only” many men, including Beesley were able to board the lifeboats. Beesley explained that lifeboat 13 was only about half full when he heard the cry, “Any more ladies?”  The call was repeated twice with no response before one of the crew looked at him and told him to jump in.  After he was in the boat, three more ladies and one man showed up and boarded. “We rowed away from her in the quietness of the night, hoping and praying with all our hearts that she would sink no more and the day would find her still in the same position as she was then,” Beesley continued, stressing that the belief remained strong that the Titanic could not sink and it was only a matter of time before another ship showed up and took everyone aboard.  “Husbands expected to follow their wives and join them either in New York or by transfer in mid-ocean from steamer to steamer … It is not any wonder, then, that many elected to remain, deliberately choosing the deck of the Titanic to a place in the lifeboat.  And yet the boats had to go down, and so at first they were half full; this is the real explanation of why they were not as fully loaded as the later ones.”

Some women apparently remained on the ship because the risk of boarding a lifeboat seemed greater than that of staying on the ship.  “Many believed it was safer to stay on board the big liner even wounded as she was, than to trust themselves to the boats,” Albert Smith, a ship’s steward, was quoted.  The lifeboats hung 70-75 feet above the ocean as crew members struggled to lower them in jolts and jerks.  “Our lifeboat, with thirty-six in it, began lowering to the sea,” Elizabeth Shutes, a 40-year-old first-class passenger and governess to passenger Margaret Graham, recounted. “This was done amid the greatest confusion.  Rough seamen all giving different orders.  No officer aboard. As only one side of the ropes worked, the lifeboat at one time was in such a position that it seemed we must capsize in mid-air.  At last the ropes worked together, and we drew nearer and nearer the black, oily water.”  Shutes added that there was some reluctance to row away from the ship, as it felt much safer being near it, so certain they were that it would not sink. 

As the situation became more dire, there were reports of men rushing the life boats, jumping in them as they were being lowered, and even stowing away in them under cover.  “Some men came and tried to rush the boat,” crew member Joseph Scarrot, in charge of lifeboat 14, testified.  “They were foreigners and could not understand the orders I gave them, but I managed to keep them away.  I had to use some persuasion with a boat tiller. One man jumped in twice and I had to throw him out the third time.”

Fifth Officer H. G. Lowe reported that one passenger boarded one of the boats dressed like a woman, with a shawl over his head. As the boat was being lowered he noted a lot of passengers along the rails “glaring more of less like wild beasts, ready to spring.”  He said he fired three warning shots and did not hit anybody.

Annie May Stengel, a 43-year-old first-class passenger whose husband, Charles, escaped the ship in a later lifeboat, reported that four men jumped into her lifeboat as it was being lowered, one of them Dr. Henry Frauenthal, a New York City physician, who landed on her and knocked her unconscious.

But the stories of bravery or simple resignation in the face of fear far outnumber those of cowardice. One of the most celebrated cases of bravery reported by the press immediately following the tragedy was that of Rosalie Straus, the 63-year-old wife of New York department store magnate Isidor Straus, mentioned above. She was observed about to enter a lifeboat when she reversed directions and was overhead to say to her husband, “We have lived together for many years, where you go, I go.”  Witnesses then saw the two settle in deck chairs.  An April 17 article in the San Francisco Chronicle, quoted Mrs. Samuel Bessinger, a relative, as saying that Mrs. Straus may not have realized the gravity of the situation, but even if she had, she doubted that she would have left her husband, so devoted she was.

Next blog post: April 26

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 Easter Message: Embrace the Discomfort

Posted on 29 March 2021, 9:54


I had a “foolish” dream the other night.  I dreamt it was April Fool’s Day and I was pretending to be a priest or minister of some kind while giving a sermon for this coming Sunday, Easter Sunday. I remember thinking that the church hierarchy would not approve of one of those I was quoting, but I went ahead with it.  As near as I can remember, the sermon went something like this: 

I see a few young faces among those in attendance today but not nearly as many as I would like to see.  Nevertheless, my sermon today is primarily for you, the younger generation. At the same time, I hope the older folks will stay awake and ponder on what I am saying, keeping it in mind when attempting to offer guidance to their children, grandchildren, or other young people lacking experience in worldly ways. They seem to be more idealistic than earlier generations but not nearly as pragmatic.  But, of course, I’m being “old-fashioned.”

I don’t know how many times within the last year or two I’ve heard some young person say, “That makes me feel uncomfortable,” or “I’m not comfortable with that,” or some other declaration of discomfort, one that seems more feigned than real.  My response to all that is, “Get over it! Discomfort is a part of life’s learning experience. It’s good for you. May you be fortunate enough to feel more discomfort.”

Let me explain my response by suggesting to you that genuine discomfort is most often associated with adversity of some kind.  Call it hardship, difficulty, misfortune, grief, pain, whatever works for you.  If it’s pain, then it is only a very mild or moderate pain. The kind of discomfort suggested here falls well below the real pain threshold and might not even register on a zero to 10 gauge. It usually has to do with a disagreement. Let’s assume, however, that it’s real discomfort, not the feigned discomfort of some self-centered, know-it-all person, and that it does register on the pain scale. Call it an “affliction.” Here’s what the high spirit known as Imperator had to say about it: 

“It is necessary that afflictions come.  Jesus knew and taught that. It is necessary for the training of the soul.  It is as necessary as physical discipline for the body.  No deep knowledge is to be had without it.  None is permitted to scale the glorious heights but after discipline of sorrow.  The key of knowledge is in spirit hands, and none may wrest it to himself but the earnest soul which is disciplined by trial.  Bear that in mind.”

More recently, the late Dr. Elisabeth Kűbler-Ross wrote: 

“The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen.”

And this, from one of our former presidents, Theodore Roosevelt:

“Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty…I have never in my life envied a human being who led an easy life.  I have envied a great many people who had difficult lives and led them well.”

The bottom line here, as I see it, is that you should embrace that discomfort, not complain about it. Don’t wimp out. Don’t be a cream puff. You should dissect the discomfort and fully examine it, then figure out how it can help you grow spiritually.

Why is it that being “uncomfortable” is now such a common lament? I think I know.  It is because so many young people have been seduced by the entertainment and advertising industries, by Hollywood and Madison Ave. They have been led to believe that life is all about having fun.  Eat, drink, and be merry, and do it with many different partners. It’s about being self-absorbed in the pursuit of fun – not the pursuit of happiness.  Such a lifestyle lacks in commitment, morality, work ethic, and spirituality.  It results in people being less rugged than they were in the past, and so the discomfort threshold is significantly lower than it once was. A two-hour power outage is now a great discomfort to many – no phones, no computers, no television – whereas people once survived with no power at all.

In earlier years, the mass media was less hedonistic. Only in recent decades has it focused on having fun. I recall, not long ago, a dying man was interviewed on a popular television program.  He was asked what he would tell others battling terminal conditions.  “Live life to the fullest,” was his animated reply.  “Have Fun!!!”  He went on to describe the seemingly shallow and superficial ways he was having fun.  The program host and the audience all applauded and reacted as if the man had given sage advice.  I wanted to vomit.

Having fun when you know you are dying is not always as easy as some make it out to be.  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 of the nihilistic humanist 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.”

If we can’t deal with discomfort and the suffering it brings in our prime years, how can we possibly deal with it in our dying years?  Many people turn to drugs and alcohol because they didn’t learn how to deal with discomfort when they were younger. They were offended by being around someone who thought differently than they did, and, oh my gosh, it made them feel “terribly uncomfortable.” 

We’ve recently heard members of royalty complain about the difficulties of privilege.  It’s so tough and uncomfortable dealing with all that pomp, grandeur and luxury.  It sounds like it is even tougher than being homeless.  There appears to be a paradox there: the greater the privilege, the greater the hardships and discomforts.

Another lamentation I often hear these days is, “I deserve it.” However, I rarely, if ever, hear the person explain why he or she deserves it.  In most cases, the person seems to think it is deserved as some kind of birthright . I think they’ve been watching too many commercials.

According to child psychologist Dan Kindlon, as set forth in his book, Too Much of a Good Thing, modern parents are too indulgent with their children.  He says they give the kids too much and demand too little from them. When they are overindulged, Kindlon claims, the result is what amounts to the Seven Deadly Sins of religion: pride, wrath, envy, sloth, gluttony, lust, and greed, all of which are symptoms of narcissism.
A fairly recent book titled The Narcissism Epidemic, by Jean M. Twenge, Ph.D. and W. Keith Campbell, Ph.D., offers some interesting discussion on the narcissistic mindset. The two authors begin by stating that Americans are being persuaded that becoming more vain, materialistic, and self-centered is actually a good thing. “The narcissism epidemic has already had serious consequences,” they write. “First there has been a giant transfer of time, attention, and resources from reality to fantasy. Rather than pursuing the American dream, people are simply dreaming. Our wealth is phony, driven by credit and loose lending; this part of the narcissistic dream has already been dashed. Second, narcissism has corroded interpersonal relationships. There has been a switch from deep to shallow relationships, a destruction of social trust, and an increase in entitlement and selfishness.”

As Twenge and Campbell see it, religion has long been a deterrent to materialism and narcissistic behavior, but it has in some ways recently contributed to the narcissism problem. They point out that religions and volunteer organizations that aligned themselves with individualistic values have thrived, while those that have not have often withered. They note that some megachurch pastors, mentioning specifically Joel Osteen, pastor of the largest megachurch in the United States, stress self-love as a requirement to loving others, but they state that there is little evidence to support this idea and conclude that “loving yourself isn’t all that important for loving others.” 

Imagine, if you can, a world without discomfort, without pain, without suffering.  Might it not resemble the picture we have of Nero fiddling as Rome burned?  Is that our goal?  Don’t these superficial and frivolous “discomforts” we hear complained of so much these days suggest that we are approaching such a condition?

If it is genuine discomfort, then let’s grin and bear it, or, as suggested earlier, embrace it and learn from it. If it is fake discomfort, then wake up and face reality. Become more pragmatic. Let me end by again quoting Imperator:

“This is our Easter message to you.  Awake and arise from the dead.  Cast aside the gross cares of your lower world. Throw off the material bonds that bind and clog your spirit.  Rise from dead matter to living spirit; from earthly care to spiritual love; from earth to heaven.  Emancipate your spirit from earthly cares which are earth-born and unspiritual.  Cast aside the material and the physical which have been the necessary aids to your progress, and rise from engrossing interest in the worldly to a due appreciation of Spiritual Truth.  As the Master said to His friends, ‘Be in the world, but not of the world.’”

Next blog post: April 12

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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Absurd, If a Truth Can Be Absurd

Posted on 13 March 2021, 19:26

As discussed in Chapter 12 of my current book, No One Really Dies, the “Paraffin Hands Case” has gone down in the annals of psychical research as one of the most, if not the most, convincing case offering objective evidence of spirit life. “It is very absurd, if a truth can be absurd,” Professor Charles Richet, a Nobel Prize winner in medicine, said, referring to the results of the experiments that he and Dr. Gustave Geley, the director of the International Metaphysical Institute in Paris, had carried out with Franek Kluski, a Polish medium, during November and December 1920.

The two scientists succeeded in having “entities,” a more acceptable word to scientists than “spirits,” dip their hands and feet, and even part of the face of one, into some paraffin so that molds could be made of their body parts. They carried out their experiments under very controlled conditions in Geley’s laboratory. In one of the experiments, they added some bluish coloring matter to the paraffin to rule out any skeptical claim that Kluski had somehow smuggled ready-made molds into the laboratory.  The mold was produced with a bluish tinge to it.

Space did not permit me to include the report of Felix W. Pawlowski, professor of aeronautical engineering at the University of Michigan, in my book chapter, so I will summarize it here. While on sabbatical leave in Europe during 1924, Pawlowski, believed to be the first professor of aeronautical engineering, was invited to sit in on several seances with Kluski in Warsaw.  He reported on his observations in the September 1925 issue of the Journal of The American Society for Psychical Research and also in a 1926 issue of Zeitschrift fuer Parapsychologie (Magazine of Parapsychology). 

Pawlowski (below) reported that he was “rather skeptical” before the experiments, but that he felt there might be “something in it” and was surprised that official science had not given more attention to it. He describes Kluski as “a highly educated and cultured man of a prominent and well-known family, an accomplished poet and a very prominent figure in the big banking business.” He added that Kluski was as anxious to understand his mediumship as anyone else.


The preliminaries, Pawlowski reported, called for an examination of the room and all articles contained therein. Windows and doors were locked after Kluski appeared entirely naked (to confirm he brought nothing into the room). No ladies were allowed. The white light was turned off and the red light turned on as soon as Kluski went into the trance state. “After a few strong and distinct raps in the table or in the walls, bright bluish stars appear and begin to move high above the table, near the ceiling,” Pawlowski recorded, noting that the ceiling was more than 12-feet high. When the stars approached him and were about 16 inches away, “I noticed to my great astonishment that they were human eyes looking at me. Within a few seconds such a pair of eyes develops into a complete human head, and with a hand having a luminous palm illuminating it clearly. The hand will move around the head as if to show itself more clearly to the onlooker, the eyes looking at one intensely and the face smiling most pleasantly.”

Pawlowski added that when questions were put to the apparitions, the facial expression was always perfectly suited to the answer and that an amiable smile played constantly about their lips.  The apparitions came so close to him that he could hear them breathe and feel the breath against his face.  They would occasionally touch his face and hands.

“As the phantoms made their appearance, I saw something resembling luminous smoke or fog floating above the head of the medium like a small cloud,” he continued. “This cloud moved to one side and in a very few seconds became a human head, or else it would be extended vertically and become a complete human figure, which immediately began to walk about.”

He recalled one phantom, appearing as an old man, who was perfectly luminous by its own power. “The old man wore a high, conical headdress, and was clothed in a long robe which hung down from him in deep folds,” he reported. “He approached us with majestic strides, his robe swaying as he walked. His hands were engaged in making motions in the shape of triangles. At the same time he was speaking in a deep, solemn voice. He stopped behind me for about ten seconds, waving his luminous hands above us and speaking continually. He then withdrew to the far end of the room and vanished. His coming was accompanied by a wave of ozonated air which filled the room even after the seances had ended ... His language was rather guttural, and unknown to anyone present’ although between us we commanded twelve different tongues. To date, no one has succeeded in identifying his language, or in discovering who the phantom is. Among the members of the Circle, he is known as the Assyrian priest, a designation which fits his external appearance perfectly.”

Other phantoms belonged to different nationalities and generally spoke their native language, although Polish was most often spoken. “Nevertheless, they readily understand remarks addressed to them in any tongue,” Pawlowski continued. “They seem to have the power of reading the minds of others, for it is not necessary to utter any given wish or question; merely to think it sufficient. It is necessary only to form the wish that a phantom should do some particular thing, in order to have such a wish granted, or, as the case may be, refused.” He explained that the phantoms sometimes said the particular request was beyond their power. “However, most of them ‘fly’ in the air, across the table and high above the table and the sitters if they wish.’

“Not all apparitions are able to speak,” Pawlowski further explained. “Many prefer to make themselves understood by rappings, a very tedious and lengthy proceeding, since the raps always correspond in number to the place of a letter in the alphabet. The voices are perfectly distinct and of normal strength, sounding like a loud whisper.” Pawlowski noted that he tried to replicate the raps with various experiments, but he failed.

The most astonishing and interesting aspect of these phantoms, according to Pawlowski, was their “absolutely human behavior.” He said they acted like guests at a party. “As they passed around the table, they greeted those persons with whom they were acquainted with a smile of recognition, whereas they studied any new faces attentively. The inquisitive look in their eyes is hard to describe. I could see from their efforts to understand our expression, our smiles, our questions and answers, as well as from their actions, that they were particularly anxious to convince us of the fact that they actually existed and that they were not illusions or hallucinations.”

Moreover, Pawlowski pointed out, they were not always life size. At times, they were only half or two thirds normal size. “When I saw a phantom of this kind for the first time, I thought it was that of a child, until on closer examination, I could tell by the wrinkled face that it was an old man or woman, though much below normal size.” When the leader of the Society would petition the circle to help the medium, the group breathed deeply and regularly, apparently in an attempt to add to the medium’s power, and the phantoms would then regain full size.

Like Richet and Geley, Pawlowski observed paraffin hands being produced. (below) “The apparitions put their hands in the paraffin and drop off the glove-like molds on the table,” he explained the process. “If it is a luminous hand, it is clearly seen splashing in the perfectly transparent liquid, like a goldfish in an aquarium. The gloves are rather carelessly thrown off and on one occasion a couple of them rolled off the table on my lap and from there on the floor ... It takes the apparitions from one-half to three-quarters of a minute to produce the glove. When I tried to do it myself it took me several minutes to cool off the paraffin on my hand, and then, of course, there was no possibility of pulling off the glove unbroken. I could not do it with a single finger, immersed only to the middle of the second link.” (Photo by Pawlowski shows one of the molds.)


Pawlowski also reported seeing apports of small objects, but was told by other members of the circle that rather heavy objects had been transported to the seance room from distant places during prior experiments. He also noted that there was a significant drop in temperature, from six to eight degrees centigrade during the production of the phenomena.

“It is impossible for anyone to reject or to deny these phenomena, and it is impossible to explain them by clever trickery,” Pawlowski concluded. “To accept the possibility of creating in a few minutes live and intelligent human beings, whose bones one can feel through their flesh, and whose heart-beat one can hear and feel, is beyond our comprehension. As much spoiled as we are by the marvels of modern science, we can hardly believe nature revealing to us, in such splendor of beauty, the enigma of universal life, the divine secret so far so jealously guarded from us. To accept them would mean to change entirely our attitude toward life and death, to be obliged to revise entirely our sciences and philosophy.” Thus, he added, he was not prepared to subscribe to the spiritistic theory without more study by other scientists.

Nearly a hundred years later, we are still waiting for those “other scientists” to study the matter. On the other hand, it may be that the spirits have thrown in the towel on trying to convince humans that they exist. People check internet sources which say that Houdini claimed he made similar hand molds, and that’s enough for them to dismiss the reports by esteemed men of science. They don’t ask for evidence that Houdini observed molds made under the same conditions, if he observed them at all. And what about the other phenomena? It’s simply too mind-boggling and therefore it’s easier to believe Houdini than Richet, Geley, Pawlowski and many other credible scientists who carried out controlled experiments and replicated them. Then, there are those who believe the phenomena are real, but it’s easier for them to believe that it is some kind of subconscious manifestation than a production by an “entity” from another dimension of reality.  It appears that “absolute certainty” is not possible and that we can strive only for a high degree of conviction. 

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 29


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Boston Mayor Describes Afterlife Conditions

Posted on 01 March 2021, 10:02

While visiting the office of the Society for Psychical Research in Boston during February 1888, Anne Manning Robbins met Dr. Richard Hodgson, who, at the time, was interviewing various people who had had sittings with medium Leonora Piper. Robbins’s first sitting with Mrs. Piper was during the winter of 1884-85, not long after Piper’s mediumistic ability was discovered and before Professor William James of Harvard was introduced to it. “The personality of Mrs. Piper, then a young woman, with her sweet, pure, refined and gentle countenance, attracted me at once,” Robbins wrote in her 1909 book titled Both Sides of the Veil.

Upon learning that Robbins had stenographic abilities, Hodgson solicited her help in recording and transcribing future sittings with Mrs. Piper. Robbins accepted and assisted Hodgson for many years. It was in 1894, that Robbins first met Augustus Martin, (below) who had become Boston’s police commissioner 10 years after serving as mayor. Robbins, a graduate of Mount Holyoke College, became his administrative assistant for the next five years and later worked with him when he became the water commissioner. She remembered him as a man of “dignity, sweetness and light.”


Martin, usually referred to as “General,” after Massachusetts Governor John Long commissioned him an honorary brigadier general because of his distinguished service during the Civil War, especially at the Battle of Gettysburg, died on March 13, 1902. On May 21, 1903, Hodgson, who had been studying the mediumship of Mrs. Piper for more 15 years at that point, was informed by Rector, Piper’s spirit control at the time, that a spirit there was constantly calling for a lady in the body. After some struggling to get the name, Rector (using Piper’s hand) wrote “Robbins.” The spirit was identified as having been Augustus Martin, but it was said that he was not yet ready to speak, though he would be soon. However, it wasn’t until December 23 that year, some 21 months after his passing that Martin actually began to communicate. Rector asked Hodgson to arrange for a sitting by Robbins.

During that sitting, Rector first addressed Robbins and brought her old friend Hiram Hart to communicate with her. Hart then said, “I am bringing another friend who seeks you, who knows you as you are. ” It was explained that Martin was not yet able to speak through Piper and that Hart would relay his words.

“You have called for me in your spirit,” Hart relayed Martin’s message through Mrs. Piper. “I knew it and felt it, but I could not reach down until the conditions were arranged for it. Do you know what they all mean? Perhaps you know better than I do. But these good priests opened the way, who showed me the Light, opened the door for me and there I am. Would to God you could see me as I am! I am quite the man that I was, only my ideas are all changed. They are more now I think in harmony with your own.”

Martin apologized for not taking her seriously about spirit communication when he was alive and she attempted to tell him about her visits with Mrs. Piper. In fact, Martin didn’t seem to realize that Mrs. Piper was the medium through whom his words were being delivered that day. However, he added that what Robbins told him in those earlier days had helped him adjust to his new environment.

Some discussion then took place about Martin’s family. He said that his grandson Augustus, who was named after him and who died at age two, about six months after his death, was with him. Also, another grandson was born just a week prior to the sitting. Martin said he thought that the newborn was also named after him.  Robbins told him she didn’t know the name. When she later checked with the mother, she was told that the given name was William Everett, but they called him Augustus, as he seemed to replace the little Augustus whom they had lost.

“It is just the little details of the material life which I cannot grasp and [in] which I long to have you help me, but the actual life, and the actual life of the children, and all that, is well known to me, but the details of the material life I cannot see,” Martin communicated. Robbins again asked if Martin was speaking directly to her or if Hiram Hart was relaying his words to her. Martin replied that Hiram was doing it for him as he did not yet know how to communicate directly, without the help of others.

Robbins asked about his initial experiences following his physical death. “When I first passed out my mind was cloudy, rather confused,” Martin replied. “I felt as though I was going into space, did not know where, drifting as it were, for a few hours – that was all – and then I felt as though there was a strong hand grasped me and said to me: ‘It is all right, it is all over.’ And I said: ‘What is over?’ I could not seem to understand what it all meant, and after a little while, perhaps an hour, possibly an hour or two, I saw oh such a light! You cannot imagine it, cannot conceive what it is like. It is the most brilliant and yet the softest moonlight that you ever saw, and I thought, what a beautiful light it was! And all of a sudden I saw people moving about. I saw their heads, their figures. Then they seemed all clad in white, and I could not seem to make them out.  They were moving in the air.”

“…You could not conceive of anything more strange and beautiful,” Martin added, “in a sense – the confusion was not so beautiful, but because it was so I could not seem to retain my consciousness and could not seem to be released from the burden that hung over me, and all of a sudden, the moment I realized this hand was on my arm, then I began to see clearly; and from that moment I have been advancing and going on, and I have seen everybody I ever knew, and I have had the happiest time you could imagine. I have a mansion all my own and live in it just the same as you live in your place there, just the same. I have walls, I have pictures, I have music, I have books, I have poetry, I have everything…It is not a fac simile of that life, but that life is a miserable shadow of what this really is, and when I get strong, as I become stronger, and, that is, more accustomed to using this [light], I can tell you more clearly about it.”

Robbins asked him if he would eventually be able to communicate directly. “Yes, but not just now,” he answered. “I am trying to understand the laws and the workings of the [medium], and they put me up here so I could see. Just like a schoolboy being sent to the board to figure out a multiplication table. I am set up here, I am held here, and there are three [spirits] one behind me, and one on either side of me, holding me up here and telling me to talk, and I am talking to Hiram, and Hiram is repeating it after me, and I am trying to do a sum in geometry. That is just what I am trying to do. And since I am not fully equipped in that problem perhaps you can understand something of the difficulty.”

Robbins asked Martin if he remembered any of the public officials who used to work with him. “I think I should,” he replied. “Many names have gone from me, naturally, and new ones have come up to me. Names of places, names of people whom I knew in the mortal world, have gone from me to a certain extent, and as I go on they go still farther from me, but I shall never forget you. I remember when I was suffering so, I remember the little councils we had together, and they have lasted in my memory and will to the end of all life.”

Robbins then asked him if the spiritual sympathies are the only ones remembered. “Yes, well, those are the real vital ones, those are the real ones,” he answered. And when you understand better the conditions of life and the conditions of passing from that life to this, the changes in the life as it were, you will understand more clearly what that means. But until then it will be difficult for you to understand it fully.”

At a later sitting, Robbins told Martin that she had assembled many of his speeches and put them together in one complete copy.  She wondered if Martin knew anything about it. “Well, yes, I knew the outline, but the work itself, the actual work as it was going on, I could not fathom.” Martin explained. “But I knew the work concerned my mortal life and things that transpired in it. But the nature of it I could not define. We know what takes place in a general way, but if we were to define it, condense it and give utterance to it, it would be difficult. But such is the law of this life. Remember, now, if you could see me you would say I was a mere film, and you would say, ‘how transparent and peculiar and how light and how strange you look to me;’ and you would say, ‘where is your body? You look like a shadow, as it were,’ but still I could talk with you, we could converse with each other, and you would be surprised to see how real I am. The passing out is really beautiful, just after you once get beyond the border, it is perfectly beautiful. You know the meaning of the word heaven? Well, it is heaven indeed.  But the coming back is a little confusing at first and we have to learn.”

Martin said that he sometimes dictates thoughts to Robbins. “I want to say this, that when you are working I sometimes dictate thoughts to you, and it is surprising to me to see how clearly you register them, and I think sometimes you are surprised to think that you have done what you have, and if you just stop and give me a thought you would know why it was that you did those things, registered those thoughts. Sometimes there seems to be a barrier between you and your thoughts, they are not clear, and they seem to be a little obscure, and then they clear up, and you have always attributed that to the condition of your brain, and now if you just give me credit for a little bit of help you would do the right thing. Not that I am egotistic, but the point is that I am really with you. And I want to say one thing, that you have not grown old in spirit and not in the flesh. It looks so clear to me, so free, so bright and so young, and I think your body looks the same. I can’t see much change. Yes, I think you look about the same. I can’t see the body so clearly as I can the spirit.”

After discussing the building they once worked in, Martin asked about Orinton Hanscom, one of the higher officials in the police department, with whom he had had some differences when they were working together. Martin mentioned that he now had a higher opinion of him “because I see his principles.”

Martin further explained that it was pretty much beyond her comprehension, and said that if her eyes were opened to the spiritual life she could see him as he stood there talking with her, observing every gesture which is copied by Rector

Robbins asked if everyone leaves here just when right for him or her to go, whether he is young or old. “Yes, yes, yes,” he replied, “that is all in the hands of God, and although we never see God – I have never seen Him and never hope to – He rules us all and reigns over us all, and we are a part, a branch of Him…”

The above is significantly abridged from Chapter 8 of my book, “Resurrecting Leonora Piper.” Martin had much more tell Robbins.

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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“Why Such Silence of the Tomb?” a Sectarian Theocrat Asks

Posted on 15 February 2021, 19:14


The below letter was written to Dr. Richard Hodgson, then editor of the Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research (ASPR) and was published in the Proceedings of the ASPR in March 1889.  The writer, identified only as “Mr. N. X.”, reports on some psychic matters and expresses his frustration at not being able to directly experience such phenomena.  He wonders why strangers hear from his deceased loved ones, while he experiences only “silence of the tomb.” The letter is reproduced here primarily for its educational and entertainment value.  It is dated March 4, 1888 and sent from New Jersey.

“Sir,  – The ‘New York World’ of this morning makes reference to you, to your investigation into certain mysteries of life, and relates some peculiar facts, so far as the events or incidents may be termed.

“I am not a ‘spiritualist’ in religious faith, and therefore do not associate the phenomena I now submit with the ‘unconscious cerebration’ of that belief, for I was trained in, and retain much of the hard-headed sceptic faith as to all faiths which are not of divine revelation; but the phenomena of life and the laws of nature are a legitimate study to all sectarian theocrats.

“I propose to relate some inexplicable phenomena within my personal experience, in which personal friends, absolute strangers to the actors in the phenomena, were witnesses, and to ask, if your interest is excited, for some rational explanation, and you may use this communication at your discretion, suppressing my name.

“Colonel Jno. A. Cockerill of ‘The World’ is a personal friend, if a reference is needed, and many more can be given to sustain my identity and integrity.

“In the year 1874 my attention was first directed to psychic sympathies; that is, to the correspondence in thought existing where warm attachments lived, though vast distances separated the parties; and later reflections and experiences confirm my then crude ideas that the thought in its physical structure possesses the same material characteristics that mark magnetism, electricity, and the other ethics, so to speak, of nature. On this point I will give my views later.

“In the winter of 1874 a most dear friend was in Florida for her health. I had known her in childhood: she had married, was the mother of two fine sons, and at this date was a widow. Her husband was a dear friend. The closest friendly relations existed between us for years, so close that in his last illness he would permit only me to aid his wife in caring for him. Financial reverses came to him, and he begged me to counsel his widow for their mutual sakes. Love was not engendered through this counsel, and she now resides in California, striving to eliminate the pulmonic tendency from her youngest son, a lad of eighteen years. But the deepest sympathy for, and interest in, a noble woman – noble then and now in all true womanhood – incited me, and the correspondence strengthened the friendly ties of years, which continues. So much for the dramatis personae.  I was ever a home-body, rarely leaving my room, books, and desk, as to me the younger men came for counsel; perhaps to smoke or chat, and otherwise find a surcease from their merrier joys.

“One of these visitors was a spiritualist, as were his family, all. A man of fine and sensitive sympathetic nature, he frequented my rooms more than any of the rest. One night as we were playing ‘casino,’ he, facing the door, had a startled look, which knowing or surmising its cause, made me ask, ‘What do you see?’  – [He responded] ‘A woman’s face and bust half leaning through the door.’ – ‘Nonsense,’ I said, ‘describe her features.’ He did so to the life. I had seen this – apparition shall we call it? – frequently, hence I was unmoved; he was the startled one.  He was an absolute stranger to the lady, had never seen her, knew not her name, history, or aught about her. I could understand the psychic action that made me materialize her face, though she was at Green Cove Springs, Florida, at that moment, as her letter to me proved; but why this visible appearance to an absolute stranger? It has ever been a mystery.

“Financial reverses came to me, and my wife, residing with relatives in a remote town in south-western Virginia, died suddenly of apoplexy on a Thursday and was buried on the Saturday following. Remoteness made the telegraph useless as a summons to me, and on the Monday morning following I received two letters, – one announcing her death, and one from a lady, a school-teacher, a principal, with whom I corresponded much on educational matters affecting her, in which she informed me that a spirit had appeared to her and desired her to inform me of her identity as my wife, and of her death.

“Neither party had ever met; one was ignorant of the existence of the other. The teacher lived near the Delaware Water Gap, and I had not seen her for some years. She was a spiritualist, sixty-five years old then, and is living now.

“Quaere: Why this communication to an absolute stranger, by a vision, and not to me, the only party in interest? Nor have I ever had a vision or, or spiritual communication with my deceased wife.

“The sudden death of my wife, a few hours’ illness, her ignorance of the existence of my correspondent, preclude all physical communications or any idea of any form of material ones.  Whence this phenomenon? I married again,  – a woman of rare beauty, accomplished beyond the high average of accomplished women. We were orthodox in religious faith, but we read, thought upon, and discussed psychic phenomena. Before and after marriage, when she was in trouble (for she had much trouble with property, and was robbed under the garb of friendship), I have known when at my writing that she needed me, and though miles away, found on arrival that I was; and in marriage, when in town, and she at our country home, something told me to come home, and the necessities proved it. Our lives were a symphony: both devoted to flowers, we wandered all over these hills, glades, forests, after ferns, wood flowers, and they seemed to grow by the incense of her breath.

“In music, painting, song, in the wide magnificence of astronomy, to the subtler mysteries of vegetable life, in the natural alembic of terrestrial laboratory, she wandered with me during the four short years of our married bliss; yet, close as was our ante-nuptial sympathy, close as were the harmonies of our married life, fearless as I am known to be as to spiritual realizations, I have never had a response to the wailing cry for her presence.

“Tell me why these conditions in life, this silence of the tomb, now?

“Again, and repeatedly, for my correspondence has included many brilliant women, when remote from each other by hundreds of miles, we have felt a spirit move us to write, and from sleepless beds we have risen to write the night thoughts, only to find an identity of action as to time and theme….

“I am very truly, [signed] N. X. 

After Hodgson wrote to N.X. and requested the names and addresses of the friends so that he could verify the facts, N. X. replied on March 11, 1888:

“My Dear Sir, – In reply to your letter of the 8th inst. received yesterday, I have to state that my friend who saw the apparition is now a resident in Chicago, and there being no correspondence between us, – not from unfriendly reasons, but simply from the causes natural to a mere man of business, – I do not know his exact address, but the first time I am in town I will obtain it and send it to you. I never did attempt to learn what the lady was doing at that moment in Florida.  She was there for health, and what her social or hygienic pleasures were, to me were of little moment so long as she recovered her health.

“I possess no letters from my first wife. In the wide range of correspondence, and specially in the sacredness of the family relation, I do not believe in the retention of letters for the idle to read after I am dead, hence I retain few and have an annual holocaust of ‘friendship’s’ offerings. 

“By the term ‘idle,’ above, I refer to the curious-eyed class which are indigenous to all families.

“The school-teacher was named Miss B. of——-, N. J., where and by which name, a letter will still reach her, although she married some two years ago at the age of sixty-five: her married name I do not remember, as communication has ceased for various reasons….

“[signed] N. X.”

Hodgson then wrote to Mrs. B. Y., formerly Miss B. and received the following letter, dated April 6, 1888:

“Dear Sir,—...Mr. X’s report of my interview with his deceased wife is correct, and only one of many like experiences which have occurred to me and other members of my family.  [signed] Mrs. B. Y.”

Next blog post: March 1

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 15



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No One Really Dies:  A Preview

Posted on 01 February 2021, 10:34


When my very skeptical friend Jim found out that I had authored another book, No One Really Dies, we had our usual discussion.  I didn’t record the conversation, but it went something like this:

Jim: Another one, Mike?  How much more can you say on the subject of life after death?

Mike: Yeah, Jim, it’s my seventh book on the subject.  The evidence is so overwhelming that I could write another seven books, but the primary purpose of this book is an attempt to better explain the anomalies connected with the phenomena providing the evidence. So much is misunderstood and misinterpreted because nearly everyone insists upon applying terrestrial standards to celestial matters.

Jim:  What are you talking about?  Give me an example. 

Mike: The name thing for one.  People wonder why so many mediums struggle to get the name of the communicating spirit. Some of them might get the first letter of the first name; some might get a first name, but only a few come up with a full name.  The debunkers see all those failures as clear evidence that the medium is a charlatan.  They don’t understand why, if spirits really exist and if mediums are genuine, why they can’t get a simple name.  The first chapter of the book begins with my own experience while sitting with a medium in London and being told that George was coming through for me.  I could think of two friends named George and I was pretty sure that both were still alive.  It took me a while to figure who George was and when I later told my London experience to a friend who knew George, he wondered why George just didn’t give his last name.  Why so much mystery?

Jim: Well, why didn’t he simply give his last name?

Mike: It’s explained in Chapter 3, Jim. I’d give you a copy of the book, but I know your mind is made up and you’ll never read it.  That chapter also deals with other communication problems. You and other skeptics seem to think that inter-dimensional communication should be as simple as talking on a phone, but there are obstacles you haven’t imagined.  Add to that the fact that the medium’s subconscious can distort the message.  There is much discernment required. 

Jim: You said some mediums get the full name and others don’t?  If some can get it, why can’t the others?

Mike: It’s apparently like every other talent or ability.  Some are more advanced than others.  The same question is asked about the need for darkness in physical mediumship.  There have been a few mediums who didn’t require darkness, some who could produce under red light and others who required complete darkness.  Some are stronger than others.  You’re a big baseball fan, Jim. Why can just a few players hit 40 home runs in a seasons, some only 20 and still others not even 10?   

Jim: I’ve heard that some of these so-called mediums have been exposed as frauds when the “dead” person turned out to be alive.

Mike:  I discuss that in Chapter 20.  Do you want a copy of the book?

Jim: It doesn’t go into communication with the ghosts of Cleopatra, Elvis, and Princess Diana, does it?

Mike: No, but it does have chapters devoted to communication with Confucius and St. Stephen, the early Christian martyr.

Jim:  Confucius?  Give me a break, Mike.  I’m open-minded enough to give a little consideration to the whole idea of life after death, but I’m not gullible enough to believe that someone has been in touch with Confucius through some medium. 

Mike: That was my thinking before I read Professor Neville Whymant’s report.  Keep in mind that Whymant was a distinguished Oxford professor of linguistics, including several dialects of Chinese. He was also skeptical of mediums.  Yet, a voice came through a medium speaking to him in an ancient Chinese dialect, claiming to be Confucius, or rather the name Confucius was actually known by.  To test him, Whymant asked him about two of his poems.  The spirit claiming to be Confucius then recited the poems line by line, about 15 lines total for one of them. If we are to consider fraud, what are the chances that the medium, an American from New York, knew an ancient dialect of Chinese and had memorized the poems of Confucius?  Keep in mind that the medium had no way of knowing that Whymant would ask about the poems.  Whymant, who is said to have been conversant in 30 languages, heard 14 other languages spoken through the same medium. One who came through in English claimed to be his deceased father-in-law and Whymant noted that he had the same characteristic drawl reminiscent of the West County of England that his father-in-law had.

Jim:  Maybe the good professor made up the whole story.

Mike: Actually, with a little research you can find that some people claim that the medium cheated on several occasions, but indications are that it was what was called “unconscious fraud,” that he did certain things while in a trance state, possibly influenced by lower-level spirits, that made it appear he was consciously cheating. It had nothing to do with voices or other languages, though.  The debunkers will always find allegations of fraud by people who don’t understand the intricacies of the phenomenon.  As for the professor making it up, he had little to gain and much to lose by reporting the story. Also, he would have had to have the New York judge in whose home it all allegedly took place and others present in on the scam.  To what end? I lean more toward the group soul theory.  That is, a group soul representing Confucius communicated.

Jim:  A group soul?  What’s that?

Mike:  You’ll have to read Chapter 16 for an answer on that one.  You didn’t tell me if you want a copy of the book.

Jim: Not if you are going to get into all that ectoplasm baloney we’ve talked about before. I’ll never believe that BS. I’ve seen some of the photos of those “materialized spirits.”  They look like comic book characters and nobody in his right mind would believe they are real.

Mike: Yes, there are two chapters dealing with ectoplasm and materializations. I could write a whole book on that subject.  I believe ectoplasm, teleplasm, od, psychic force, whatever name be given to it, is the key to understanding so much of this subject and has been woefully neglected by science.  I suspect it is the same thing called “soul mist,” the vaporish substance witnessed by many leaving the body at the time of death. What you don’t get about those weird materializations looking like comic book characters is that they were likely incomplete, faulty, or failed materializations, resulting either from lack of power on the part of the medium or the inability of the spirit to show him- or herself.  I’m not saying there were no fakes among them, but I feel certain that many of those now seen as fraudulent were incomplete or failed attempts.

Jim: I believe in science.

Mike: So do I, but I recognize that there is much beyond the grasp of modern mainstream science. Consider Chapter 9 of my book, which deals with the research carried out by Drs. Charles Richet, a professor of medicine and a Nobel-Prize winner, and Gustave Geley, a laureate of the French medical academy. They observed many of these weird materializations under highly controlled conditions.  Some of them were even flat. Some looked like puppets or dolls. But there was no doubt in the minds of both Richet and Geley that they were genuine materializations.  They concluded that they were incomplete or fragmentary materializations. Either the medium lacked the necessary power for the spirit entity to complete it, or the spirit entity itself lacked in the ability to complete it.  Other credible researchers, such as Dr. Albert Schrenck-Notzing of Germany and Dr. T. Glenn Hamilton of Canada carried out similar research.  I’m not talking about a few experiments, but hundreds of experiments among them. I should add that both Richet and Schrenck-Notzing, while certain the materializations were genuine, resisted the spirit hypothesis, even though they couldn’t come up with a better explanation.  It would not have been “scientific.” However, both Geley and Hamilton had the courage to subscribe to spirits after much investigation. 

Jim: You’re talking about a hundred years ago.  What about current research?

Mike: Unfortunately, this whole area of mediumship has been taboo for scientists from the get-go, around 1850. Some esteemed scientists, like biologist Alfred Russel Wallace, co-originator with Darwin of the natural selection theory of evolution, Sir Oliver Lodge, a physics professor who was a pioneer in electricity and radio, French astronomer Camille Flammarion, and many others were courageous enough to investigate and publish their findings and opinions supporting the survival hypothesis, but sometime during the 1930s the research reached a point of diminishing returns and those interested in continuing with such research were discouraged from doing so by the closed-minds of their peers in materialistic science. 

Jim:  So your book is just all about the old research?

Mike:  No, the old research is the most convincing for those who have really studied it, but recent research in near-death experiences, induced after-death communication, past-life studies, and Instrumental Transcommunication has all added to the old research and I have chapters on those subjects.

Jim: Past-life studies?  You believe in reincarnation, Mike?

Mike: I think there is something to it, but I don’t think it plays out like most people who believe in it think it does. Here again, I prefer the group soul approach to reincarnation. That’s discussed in Chapter 23.

Jim: I don’t know, Mike.  This whole “God thing” is just too far-fetched for me. I don’t think anyone will ever prove God.

Mike:  Who said anything about God or proof? I’m talking about evidence for consciousness surviving death.  You don’t have to believe in God, at least an anthropomorphic one, to consider and weigh the evidence for survival. Anyone who seriously studies it has got to admit that there is at the very least “a preponderance of evidence” in favor of it, although I believe it reaches the “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard.

Jim: Even if you’re right, Mike, it’s one life at a time for me.  I’ve got more important things to concern myself with.

Mike: Like what?

Jim: I’ve got a football game to watch later today and then I’ve got to polish my clubs for some golf tomorrow. 

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 15



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Suspense Novelist Michael Prescott Explores the Non-Fiction of Life After Death

Posted on 18 January 2021, 10:40

Although Michael Prescott is best known as the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of 22 suspense novels, he is also known for his blog dealing primarily with paranormal and life after death subjects.  Over the past 20 years he has produced more than 1,600 blog posts with more than 50,000 comments by readers.

The end result is a departure from his fiction writing with his just-released The Far Horizon: Perspectives on Life Beyond Death, published by White Crow Books.  He begins the book by examining some of the best evidence coming to us from psychical research and parapsychology over the past 138 years, since the organization of the Society for Psychical Research, then asking why, if it is so good, it is not more widely known and accepted. He offers four models of after-death consciousness, discussing each one in separate chapters. “In all four models, the space-time universe rendered by our subjective perception is the tip of the iceberg, with the other nine-tenths hidden from sight,” Prescott explains. “Vast expanses of reality and vast realms of consciousness lie submerged beneath the surface, difficult for us to access. Difficult, but not impossible, as mystics, shamans, mediums, and psychics have attested throughout history.”

As anyone who has thoroughly studied the evidence knows, much of it is vague, abstruse, convoluted, and often inconsistent with established religious dogma and doctrine, as well as with mainstream science. A very abstract picture of the afterlife emerges, one requiring much discernment. In effect, so much of it seems beyond human comprehension.  Nevertheless, enough of it is discernible that the open-minded investigator can begin to see intelligence and clarity in the abstractness. Prescott (below) masterfully makes sense out of what seems like so much nonsense to many.  As he states, it need not be “a baffling anomaly,” but it can be seen as “a logical extension of our experience of reality here and now.” 


I recently put some questions to him by email.

I know you explain this in the book, but can you just briefly summarize how you became interested in the subject of life after death and what keeps you going on it?

The main thing was a kind of early midlife crisis in 1997 when I was 36 years old. Prior to that time, I’d been a complete skeptic with no interest in the paranormal or the afterlife. The only reading I’d done on the subject consisted of books by Martin Gardner and James Randi. I was also influenced by the skeptical opinions of Isaac Asimov and Carl Sagan, among others. I probably would’ve been a good candidate for membership in CSICOP, as it was then called, had I been more interested in the subject. But in ’97 I began to question my entire worldview. This was, in part, because of an experience I had when trying to come up with the idea for a novel.

I’d hit a brick wall on the book, was very frustrated and depressed, and had pretty much given up, when all of a sudden, out of nowhere, I felt an intense urge to sit down at my computer and start typing. I proceeded to type out a ten-page synopsis of an entirely new story that was, in effect, being dictated to me. That synopsis turned into the novel Comes the Dark, the most esoteric and “literary” thing I’ve written.

This experience deeply intrigued me. It got me interested in the subconscious and the idea that the two hemispheres of the brain operate, to some extent, independently of each other. This, in turn, got me to look into the nature of consciousness, which led me in a somewhat spiritual direction. Probably as a result of this, I began to feel that my outlook on life was cramped and shallow – that I was missing the big picture.

And so I began to take the paranormal little more seriously. I proceeded gradually and cautiously, because at first I felt almost foolish reading about this stuff. I started with Rupert Sheldrake’s morphic fields, went on to evidence for ESP, and eventually crossed the Rubicon by looking seriously at life after death. That is something I never thought I would do.

On a percentage basis, with zero being total disbelief and 100 being absolute certainty with regard to consciousness surviving death, where would you put yourself 30 years ago and where are you now?

30 years ago it was zero. These days it’s probably about 90%, or maybe 95% on some days.

What will it take to get you to 100%?

It will probably take actually dying! Or at least a near-death experience. There’s only so far you can go by reading about a subject or talking with other people, or visiting mediums, or recording dreams, synchronicities, and premonitions, or meditating. I’ve done all those things, and they’re certainly helpful, but they’re not quite enough to get me to 100%.

If you had to pick three cases from the annals of psychical research, parapsychology, and consciousness studies, as most convincing, which ones would you choose?

I think the Bobbie Newlove case, involving the medium Gladys Osborne Leonard, is quite compelling. So is the R-101 case involving Eileen Garrett. A more recent case is the Jacqui Poole murder mystery. All three of these cases are covered in my book.

On a more general level, the cross correspondences provide very good evidence of mediumship that goes beyond so-called super-psi, but this is a whole series of cases, not just one. I don’t talk about the cross correspondences in The Far Horizon, though, because the subject is too complicated to be quickly summarized.

Do you see a growing interest in this subject matter or has it pretty much flatlined, maybe even going in reverse?

My personal interest has somewhat flatlined, just because I’ve investigated it for so many years and it’s no longer fresh to me. My book is kind of a summing-up. I wouldn’t have written until I felt I’d gone pretty much as far as I could go.

For society, I think interest is increasing quite a lot. Unfortunately, there’s not that much new research being done. As you know better than almost anyone, the heyday of research into the afterlife was the late 19th century and early 20th century, when there were some very prominent people involved, notably William James. I don’t know of anyone today of similar prominence who is willing to stick up for this type of work.

Worse, there is very little funding. The quickest way to short-circuit your career in the sciences is to decide to study the paranormal, especially life after death. Very few people want to commit career suicide. I don’t think this will change any time soon because the “scientific-government complex” is implacably hostile to such ideas. And most scientific funding, as well as publication in mainstream peer-reviewed journals and tenure in academic institutions, is controlled by that complex. I’m talking about the US. Perhaps in other countries, there’s more open-mindedness. I don’t know.

Why so much resistance on a subject that seemingly should be welcomed by the masses?

I don’t think the subject is resisted by the masses. When I bring up my interest in the paranormal and the afterlife with regular folks, I often find they’ve had experiences of their own that they want to share. But they keep these accounts to themselves unless they feel comfortable opening up.

The whole idea, however, is strongly resisted by the elites, who are thoroughly materialistic in their philosophy. Even very creative, intelligent people in the establishment – for instance, Elon Musk – seem boxed in by materialistic thinking. For instance, when Musk talks about the universe as a virtual-reality simulation, he appears to see it as being literally a program run on some extraterrestrial computer. That’s a purely materialistic, and rather naïve, interpretation of an idea that can be interpreted in much more spiritual terms.

In my book, I go into the simulation hypothesis as one model of reality, but I make it clear that I’m not talking about a literal computer program. Instead, I’m speaking of an informational matrix that exists in a realm beyond the space-time universe we experience. It’s essentially the same thing as Immanuel Kant’s noumenal realm, as distinct from the phenomenal realm of direct experience. Or it could be compared to Plato’s world of Forms, the true reality that we perceive only as shadows on a wall.

Unfortunately, materialistic tendencies intrude even into afterlife studies. We’ve seen attempts by people over the years to build a machine that can communicate with the dead. One such device, dubbed Spiricom, was the subject of John Fuller’s book The Ghost of 29 Megacycles. While you never know what might work, I don’t have a particularly high opinion of such efforts. For me, it’s not about building a better mousetrap. We need to learn to adjust our consciousness, not improve our technology.

You’ve been self-publishing lately. Why did you decide to go with White Crow Books for this title?

Originally I was going to put it out myself, something I’ve been doing since around 2011 after my twenty-year traditional publishing career petered out. I’ve done well with ebooks. For a while I was making more money in that marketplace then I ever made with Penguin. But lately sales have dropped off. So when Jon Beecher of White Crow Books said he’d gotten wind of my project and was interested in it, I was happy to talk to him. He’s a really nice guy with a fascinating life story, and his company has put out many high-quality books, including yours. I felt he could do more with The Far Horizon than I could do on my own.

What is the key message of your book?

The key message is that life after death doesn’t have to be compartmentalized in our thinking. We don’t have to use one set of concepts or metaphors to understand the universe around us, and then come up with a whole new set of concepts and metaphors to make sense out of the afterlife. We can see both types of existence – our incarnational existence and our postmortem existence – as part of a continuum.

To do this requires grasping one essential fact, namely, that all experience is subjective. While I argue that there is an objective basis for our experience, this doesn’t change the fact that experience itself is, by its nature, subjective. You can’t have an experience without an object to apprehend and a subject who apprehends it, something to perceive and a mind that perceives. And as far as experience per se is concerned, perception is reality. It is impossible to detach one’s perception of the event from the event itself, because the event exists, for us, only in our perception of it.

If we see reality in these terms, then postmortem reality simply involves a shift in focus — we redirect our attention from one level of experience to another. Or we alter our consciousness from one degree of perception to another. It amounts to the same thing.

We need to get away from the idea that, in dying, we are physically traveling to some other physical location that we call the afterlife. It is more like a change in perception – a broadening or widening of perception – which is why mind-expanding drugs can bring about experiences that have a lot in common with NDEs and OBEs.

In other words, it’s all about consciousness, and if we see consciousness as existing along a spectrum of frequencies, then dying is no more than dialing up to a higher frequency. Which, of course, is another of the models I explore in The Far Horizon!

Michael Tymn is the author of The Afterlife Revealed: What Happens After We Die, Resurrecting Leonora Piper: How Science Discovered the Afterlife, and Dead Men Talking: Afterlife Communication from World War I.
His forthcoming book, No One Really Dies: 25 Reasons to Believe in an Afterlife is released on January 26, 2021.

The Far Horizon: Perspectives on Life Beyond Death by Michael Prescott is published by White Crow Books.


Next blog post:  Feb. 4.







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Opera Composer Tells of Psychic & Mediumistic Experiences

Posted on 04 January 2021, 9:40

In his 1929 book, A Curious Life, George Wehner (1890-1970) offers much food for thought relative to clairvoyance and trance mediumship, especially the speaking of foreign languages through a medium.  Although I could find little else about Wehner, he does mention being studied by researchers representing the American Society for Psychical Research and comes across as a very sincere and credible person.

My internet search for Wehner turned up a report in the archives of the New York Public Library, describing him as an “eccentric, but prolific artist.”  He was a composer, actor, writer, painter, and spiritualist who “who led an extraordinary varied, yet strangely productive life.” He produced many hit opera scores and his paintings were exhibited in various galleries. Born in Detroit, Michigan, Wehner grew up in Detroit and Newburgh, New York. 

According to the archives report, Wehner began composing music at age five.  Inspired by his interaction with an encampment of Ojibway Indians, he composed a four-act opera, which earned him a scholarship to the Michigan Conservatory of Music in 1908.  He studied composition, theory and piano and later taught at the conservatory before moving to New York City during the 1920s.  “His musical output became even more prodigious during the last two decades of his life, when he composed the music and wrote the librettos for fourteen operas,” the report states. 

The first few chapters of Wehner’s book relate many psychic experiences during his childhood, including what today might be interpreted as encounters with “grays” those little beings often associated with UFOs. “[The strange creatures] were sometimes four or five feet in height, and they wore no clothing, being sort of halfway between human and animal,” he wrote.  “They had rather short legs, long arms, and wide frog-mouths in their clumsy ill-shapen heads.  Their eyes were also froglike and faintly luminous. In color, their skins, if they can be so called, were gray like the bark of the tree from which they came, or pale yellow, and sometimes greenish.”  Wehner’s experience would have been around 1900, before other reports of grays, at least any I am aware of.

Wehner’s description of observing his mother’s death, when he was in his teens, is especially interesting.  “A misty blue-white form, the counterpart of my mother’s, but radiant, like a blue-white diamond’s flame, was slowly rising from her body in the bed,” he wrote. “This form lifted at an angle, the feet rising higher than the head.  The form now seemed to try to free itself, and after several tugs, the misty head separated from the body’s head, and the freed form righted itself in the air exactly as a log rights itself after it has been dropped into the water.  For a second, I saw several arms and hands materialize in the air and reach downward to welcome the new-born soul.  Then, like a shadow, the spirit-form of my beloved mother glided rapidly upward through a corner of the ceiling – and she was gone into the everlasting life of the Beyond!” 

Of his music ability, Wehner explained that it came from inspiration, not study. In fact, when he began studying piano, theory, and harmony at the conservatory, he struggled with reconciling what came to him “inspirationally” with what he was being taught.  While still a student, he was made assistant teacher of harmony and gave lessons to others on the piano.

It was while still attending the conservatory that Wehner suffered a strange illness, one involving many dizzy spells and which was diagnosed by a doctor as a nervous breakdown. The illness lasted for several months and the doctor told him that his recovery was doubtful.  However, one morning he heard a loud voice telling him not to pay attention to the doctor and to resume his studies. He immediately began to recover. It wasn’t long thereafter that the parents of one of his students, both spiritualists, suggested to him that they believed him to be a medium.  Until that time, Wehner had never associated his childhood clairvoyance with mediumship and had only a vague idea what a medium was.

While attending a séance with the student’s parents, Wehner observed the medium, Mrs. Marion Carpenter, speak in trance and at the same time found himself drifting off and seeing spirits. “A group of them were gathered behind the medium gazing fixedly at her as if concentrating upon her work,” he remembered. “Directly behind her stood the spirit of a man who appeared to be literally speaking into and through the back of her head.”  Wehner then realized that his past experiences were similar and that he, too, must be a medium. He was then persuaded to give trance mediumship a try. 

“I began to feel very drowsy,” he recalled his first experience. “We had said the Lord’s prayer and were singing hymns.  It seemed churchy and monotonous to me, and as I saw nothing, and nothing seemed likely to happen, I decided to yield to my drowsiness. I went to sleep.” When he awoke, he was told by his friends that he had been in a trance and that many veridical messages had come through for his friends.  An old Indian, White Cloud, had spoken and said he was Wehner’s guiding spirit and had been with him since birth.  His mother also spoke, sending messages for her sisters and telling her son that his curious illness was a result of chemical changes in his body and were necessary for him to work as a trance medium.

Many trance sessions would follow.  “We would sit for a short time in darkness, then in a subdued light.  In those days it used to take quite a while – sometimes three-quarters of an hour before I would become entranced.”  Wehner’s Aunt Lillian was part of their Saturday-night circle and was also mediumistic, producing etherealizations and partial materializations.  “As a rule, these astral forms would emerge from the cabinet, although sometimes a misty mass would appear near Aunt Lillian and gradually rear or build itself up into the semblance of a human form,” Wehner recalled. “This always frightened Lillian very much.  We never saw any distinct features, but the forms appeared to be men and women, and sometimes children. Often the forms of animals, usually cats and dogs, birds, and butterflies, would appear.  We could see straight through the ethereal forms, but the materializations were more solid.”

Wehner added that only rarely could they distinguish the clothing worn by the spirits, but when they did, it was always plain ordinary clothing. “There were times too, when we did not bother to put up the curtains of the cabinet, and the forms would appear just the same, emerging from the corner where the cabinet should have been.  Rapidly, we were becoming spiritualists.”

During a sitting with a medium referred to as Mrs. Tixier, Wehner observed mist-like substances floating around the room. “A few of these wraiths showed remarkably clear features, but most of them were indistinct and full of ghastly holes caused by lack of power to draw themselves a sufficient quantity of atoms from the mediums and the sitters,” he explained. “None of them appeared to linger, but passed rapidly through the walls, ceiling and floor, and many seemed to disintegrate in the air before our eyes.” He noted that not everyone in the room saw these manifestations with the same degree of plainness.

When World War I began in 1914, Wehner tried to enlist, but was rejected because his physical condition was not up to the required standards. “During these war years we had great difficulty with our Saturday night circles,” he recorded. “Our seances were besieged with the spirits of soldiers who had just passed over and who did not know that they were ‘dead’!  Many believed they were still fighting, others sought their relatives, and some screamed or moaned in their suffering. We could not make them believe they were no longer on the earth. Spirits told us just how long the war would last, and their prophesies proved true.”

According to what Wehner was told upon coming out of trance, spirits spoke through him in German, French, Hebrew, Hindu, Yiddish, and an American Indian dialect. “In speaking foreign languages through me, spirits are not often able to speak them fluently, or for any length of time,” he explained his understanding of it. “But they are able with words and more or less broken phrases to make their ideas clear. The reason for this difficulty is, that I, the medium, do not know these languages. Therefore, before they can pronounce a word they have to create that thought in my brain, for the brain is their seat of control. But when they are speaking my own language they have but to touch the brain-cells already charged with the desired word-thoughts. It is like playing upon the keys of an organ. In reality spirits do not need to speak their own language at all. When they do so it is only to prove that they can, or to prove identity. Thought is a universal language, and spirits have but to think their thoughts into the medium’s brain and the ideas will automatically be expressed in the medium’s native language. Spirits have often sung their native folk-songs through me in the voices of both men and women.”

Wehner pointed out that he did not need to go into trance to receive messages, but his guides preferred it, explaining to him that in the unconscious state there is less chance of his own mind or subconscious mind coloring the messages.  “With conscious clairvoyance, the medium hears what he is saying, and it is almost impossible for him to keep his mind from forming conjectures about what he is repeating for the spirit,” he further explained. “I know this to be true from my own clairvoyant readings.”

Asked about White Cloud, his chief guide, or control, and why so many American Indians filled that role, Wehner replied that his understanding was that they lived so close to the earth’s great currents and before contamination by the forces of civilization they had few real vices and natural psychical faculties that were not dulled.  “In passing from their earthly bodies Indians did not at once progress to other planes,” he went on. “They remained near, and even on earth, constituting a spiritual part of the nature-forces they had loved and worshiped.”

As for music, Wehner claimed that the rhythms of jazz, with its dissonances and often primitive noises, create an atmosphere that too often attracts the undesirable kind of spirits.  “It awakens the primitive instincts of the listeners and is too apt to stir the animal propensities…”  One can only wonder what the yelling and screaming that passes for music today attracts or awakens.

Wehner concluded the book with a story related to him by his aunts relative to the passing of his 91-year-old grandmother.  His aunts informed him that they heard his Grandmother Haslett exclaiming “Light-light-light.” They gathered in her room and found her sitting up in bed. “Look,” she said, “the beautiful light – can’t you see it filling my room?” But the aunts did not see it.  The grandmother then stretched out her arms, one which had been paralyzed for eleven years and cried out joyously, “Oh, can’t you see them coming for me – mother, father, Ben?” (Ben was her husband.)

The grandmother then greeted her children and other relatives who had preceded her in death years before.  “All my loved ones are here waiting,” she told the aunts. “It is the happiest hour of my life.  At last I am going to them.”

Next blog post: January 18

Michael Tymn is the author of The Afterlife Revealed: What Happens After We Die, Resurrecting Leonora Piper: How Science Discovered the Afterlife, and Dead Men Talking: Afterlife Communication from World War I.
His forthcoming book, No One Really Dies: 25 Reasons to Believe in an Afterlife is released on January 26, 2021.

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Roundtable on Ectoplasm and Materialization Continues (Part 3)

Posted on 21 December 2020, 10:51

A virtual roundtable involving four pioneers of psychical research on the subjects of ectoplasm and materialization began with my post of November 23, while Part 2 was posted on December 7.  This is the final part.  The roundtable members are Sir Williams Crookes, Professor Charles Richet, Dr. Gustave Geley, and Dr. Albert von Schrenck-Notzing, all identified in the first post. I am serving as moderator.

As stated in Part 1, the words here are those of the researchers, as extracted from their reports and books, except words in brackets, which are inferred to permit a meaningful flow and link. 

Moderator: I am pleased to announce that Dr. William J. Crawford is in town and will be joining us for this final session. I know that you are all familiar with his work, but for the benefit of the audience, I will note that Dr. Crawford has done extensive research with mediums. He was a lecturer in mechanical engineering at Queen’s University of Belfast and the Municipal Technical Institute of Belfast.  Beginning in 1914, he had 87 sittings with the Goligher Circle over a period of some two-and-a-half years, resulting in four books – The Reality of Psychic Phenomena (1918), Hints and Observations on the Phenomena of Spiritualism (1918), Experiments in Psychical Science (1919), and The Psychic Structure of the Goligher Circle (1921)  (The other four welcomed Dr. Crawford)

I’d like to begin by asking Dr. Crawford to summarize his experiences with ectoplasm, although I realize he referred to it simply as plasma.  It is my understanding, Dr. Crawford, that you did not actually visualize the plasma or ectoplasm until the very end of your research.


Crawford:  “[My pleasure.] On one occasion, while the table was levitated I placed my hand under it near the top.  As in previous tests, I felt no sense of pressure whatever, but I did feel a clammy, cold, almost oily sensation – in fact, an indescribable sensation, as though the air there were mixed with particles of dead and disagreeable matter.  Perhaps the best word to describe the feeling is ‘reptilian.’ I have felt the same substance often – and I think it is substance – in the vicinity of the medium, but there it has appeared to me to be moving outwards from her.  Once felt, the experimenter always recognizes it again.  This was the only occasion on which I have felt it under the levitated table, though perhaps it is always there, but not usually in such intense form.  Its presence under the table and also in the vicinity of the medium shows that it has something to do with the levitation; and in short I think there can be little doubt that it is actual matter temporarily taken from the medium’s body and put back at the end of the séance, and that it is the basic principle underlying the transmission of psychic force.  The table soon dropped when I moved my hand to and fro in amongst this psychic stuff.”

Moderator: You wrote of observing all this under a red light. However, it is somewhat unclear as to what you actually witnessed.


Crawford: “The light is usually strong enough – after the eyes get accustomed to its red color – to see quite plainly all the sitters. It is a subdued kind of light, issuing from a large surface of ordinary gas flame.  The only difficulty in the visibility is where a table or other large body casts a shadow over a portion of the floor … The greatest trouble experienced by the experimenter in tracing the outlines of the psychic structures at the Goligher circle lies in the fact they are generally quite invisible under the ordinary conditions of the séance room. They are not always quite invisible, but usually so.”

Moderator: You mentioned not being able to take photographs until the final stages of your research.

Crawford: [“True.] Only within the last six months or so has it been found possible to photograph the stuff which issues from the medium’s body – I call it ‘plasma’ for want of a better word – and from which the psychic structures are built up that produce the phenomena of raps, levitations, touchings, etc. … The operators informed me by raps that success would finally come if I would be persistent enough. The chief difficulty seemed to be in preventing injury to the medium. The operators said it was necessary gradually to work her up to withstand the shock of the flashlight upon the plasma; nor is this much to be wondered at when it is considered the plasma is part of her body exteriorized in space.”

Moderator: Thank you, Dr. Crawford. I would like to devote the remainder of this last session to the concern as to what is behind all this strange activity. Sir William, since your research preceded that of the others here, I’d ask to begin with you.

Crookes: “Without wishing at present to speak positively on this point, I may say that whilst I have observed many circumstances which appear to show that the will and intelligence of the medium have much to do with the phenomena, I have observed some circumstances which seem conclusively to point to the agency of an outside intelligence, not belonging to any human being in the room.”

Richet: “[Let’s call it what it is.] We have come to the spiritist hypothesis. It is neither to be desired nor feared. When we devote ourselves to the high task of seeking truth, we ought not to be intimidated by the opinion of the crowd, nor allured by any obscure desire for personal immortality … The hypothesis is frank and clear. By conferring omniscience on spirits it explains most of the facts, but it involves so many improbabilities that, despite its seeming simplicity, I find myself unable to adopt it. Nevertheless I oppose it half-heartedly, for I am quite unable to bring forward any wholly satisfactory counter-theory.”

Schrenck-Notzing: “[I believe] that the spirit hypothesis not only fails to explain the slightest detail of these occurrences, but it impedes and hinders in every way serious scientific investigation … Nearly all the investigators who have lately studied the phenomena of physical mediumship – which, in view of the psychogenic character of the occurrences, must always retain some connection with psychical phenomena – incline towards a rejection of the spiritistic theory in favour of the psycho-dynamical conception and towards a purely observational attitude.”

Moderator: Dr. Geley, your thoughts or position?

Geley: “It should be beyond doubt that the Self both pre-exists, and that it survives the grouping which it directs during one’s earth life; that it more particularly survives its lower objectifaction 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.”

Moderator:  Dr. Crawford, in your reports, you refer to “operators” on the other side communicating with you in carrying out your experiments.  Do you see these operators as spirits of the “dead” or some aspect of the subconscious?

Crawford: “[The subconscious] is the alternative I had in mind all through my investigations.  As months succeeded month, as each new phase of phenomena was presented, as each new experiment was done, I always said to myself, ‘Can this very determined work of seemingly intelligent beings be but a simulation after all?  Can it be all a fraud?  Is it possible that nature holds intelligences belonging to ourselves or otherwise, which could so persistently deceive?  Why should our subliminal consciousness (supposing we possess such a thing) carry out for us phenomenal demonstrations on the lines of reason and intelligence, requiring effort and system, for the object of deceiving us?’  No! It seems most unlikely and repellant to our sense of the fitness of things.  Nobody who has not delved deeply into psychic phenomena can have any conception of its tremendous variety and range.  It includes telekinetic phenomena, apports, materialization, the direct voice, clairvoyance, clairaudience, trance, etc., etc.  There are, in fact, dozens of phases of psychic action, all consistent in the inference to which they lead, namely, that man survives death, and inconsistent on any other hypothesis.”
Moderator: Some critics have a difficult time believing that spirits would be engaged in what seems to them as tomfoolery.  As I understand it from your reports, they are experimenting, just as you are? What do you say to this?

Crawford: “I admit that it is very difficult for the ordinary person to bring home to his consciousness the fact that these unseen beings can possibly be like himself in their make-up.  There is an ingrained feeling in humanity that the beings inhabiting the after-death world must be far removed from us in mental qualities and characteristics – we feel that they should a great advance in intellectual equipment over what they possessed here; that they should be, if not quite angels, at any rate not far removed from them.  Of course this instinctive feeling we all possess is due to centuries of religious instruction behind us; we feel that the next state must of necessity be either heaven or hell.  Hence it is rather a shock to us when we find the inhabitants of that other state not to be angels by any manner of means, not to exceed us appreciably in intelligence, but to be, in fact, only good-natured beings of much the same capacity as our familiar selves.”

Moderator: Did the operators tell you anything about their living conditions?

Crawford: “The entities communicating say that the next state is not a homogeneous whole, but that it is built up of ‘spheres’ and ‘realms,” and that they themselves do not all belong to one sphere.  Entities belonging to a higher sphere may come down at will to a lower, but not vice versa … The first sphere would seem to be the abode of people whose moral development was somewhat low as they passed from things terrestrial; who need a lot of cleaning up before they can rise into the second and higher spheres; in other words, the spheres next the earth are the abode of the riff-raff of humanity.  The entities tell me that all our experimental circles are guarded very strictly on their side so that no undesirable shall be able to get near.  As a matter of fact I would not care to be in the Belfast séance room if I had any doubt of the beneficent intentions of those behind the scenes.”

Moderator: Did they ever tell you why they are interested in demonstrating at these séances?

Crawford: “[Yes.] Their answer to this is that the mere fact of being engaged in producing the phenomena and thus doing useful work helps them in their own development.  For this and for other reasons I have rather come to the conclusion that one of the central ideas underlying the activities of the next state is that of service.” 

Moderator: Outside of the operators, are other spirits aware of what is going on?
Crawford:  “According to the operators the people on their side are somewhat curious about psychic phenomena.  I have often asked them if there were many looking on at our séances.  Whenever asked the questions they would begin rapping and keep on rapping until we were tired of hearing them.  They wished to indicate by this that there were great crowds of spirit people looking on.  They told me this was the case at all our séances.  They gave me the impression that the séance room and the sitters were surrounded by a huge invisible audience arranged in an orderly and disciplinary manner, perhaps tier upon tier as in a lecture theater.  The séance to many of them would appear to be as novel as it is to us.”

Moderator: Dr. Geley, I can see you want to add something.

Geley: “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 is probable 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.  Even this is not all. This directing intelligence seems to be deeply aware of much that we do not know; it can distinguish between the essence of things and their representations; it knows these sufficiently to be able to modify as its will the relations which normally govern these representations in space and time. In a word, the higher phenomena of mediumship seem to indicate, to necessitate, and to proclaim direction, knowledge and abilities which surpass the powers – even the subconscious powers – of the mediums.”

Moderator:  Sir William, as the senior person here, would you like to wrap it up?

Crookes: “In old Egyptian days, a well-known inscription was carved over the portal of the temple of Isis: ‘I am whatever hath been, is, or ever will be; and my veil no man hath yet lifted.’ Not thus do modern seekers after truth confront Nature – the word that stands for the baffling mysteries of the Universe. Steadily, unflinchingly, we strive to pierce the inmost heart of Nature, from what she is to re-construct what she has been, and to prophesy what she yet shall be. Veil after veil we have lifted, and her face grows more beautiful, august, and wonderful, with every barrier that is withdrawn.” 

Michael Tymn is the author of The Afterlife Revealed: What Happens After We Die, Resurrecting Leonora Piper: How Science Discovered the Afterlife, and Dead Men Talking: Afterlife Communication from World War I.
His forthcoming book, No One Really Dies: 25 Reasons to Believe in an Afterlife is released on January 26, 2021.




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Roundtable on Ectoplasm and Materialization Continues (Part 2)

Posted on 07 December 2020, 11:39

A virtual roundtable involving four pioneers of psychical research on the subjects of ectoplasm and materialization began with the last blog post here on November 23.  It continues here and will conclude on December 21. The roundtable members are Sir Williams Crookes, Professor Charles Richet, Dr. Gustave Geley, (below) and Dr. Albert von Schrenck-Notzing, all identified in the prior post. I am serving as moderator.


As stated in Part 1, the words here are those of the researchers, as extracted from their reports and books, except words in brackets, which are inferred to permit a meaningful flow and link. 

Moderator:  Gentlemen, before the break, you discussed the nature of ectoplasm, how it takes on different forms, from a vapor to a thick milky paste, and how materialized objects take shape from or within the ectoplasm, sometimes forming just hands or faces and occasionally a full body. 

Richet: [“Correct.] The outcome of these surprising observations is that we can state the stages in the formation of ectoplasms – a whitish steam, perhaps luminous, taking the shape of gauze or muslin, in which there develops a hand or an arm that gradually gains consistency. The ectoplasm makes personal movements.  It creeps, rises from the ground, and puts forth tentacles like an amoeba.  It is not always connected with the body of the medium but usually emanates from her, and is connected with her.”

Moderator:  “Thank you, Professor Richet.  To begin this session, I would like to ask why the so-called cabinet is necessary in the first place.  It is my understanding that these cabinets are mostly curtained-off sections of the room. 

Geley: “This dark cabinet has no other purpose than to protect the sleeping medium from disturbing influences, and especially from the action of light. It is thus possible to keep the séance-room sufficiently well lit for perfect observation.”

Schrenck-Notzing: “According to the spiritistic view, the closed cabinet opposes the dispersion of the fluid emanating from the medium. For the carping critic, the cabinet, the darkness of the reduced light, only exist in order to hide the manipulations by means of which the phenomena are fraudulently produced.  That this easily understood view is generally applauded is not surprising.”

Moderator: But why darkness in the first place?

Richet:  “For one reason or another, none, or scarcely any, are produced in full light. This does not apply to D. D. Home who gave astonishing materializations in the light; but in most cases darkness is essential. Sometimes red light, such as used by photographers, can be used and when the medium is very powerful, flashlight photographs can be taken. Nevertheless, darkness is usually so necessary that the medium must be protected by a curtain (forming a cabinet), notably at the beginnings of the phenomena. Only behind this curtain, even when the room is darkened, can preliminary changes take place. This will cause skeptics to smile; but in point of fact what does darkness matter?  Can darkness create a living face and produce a white veil?”

Crookes: “I have said that darkness is not essential. It is, however, a well-ascertained fact that when the force is weak a bright light exerts an interfering action on some of the phenomena. The power possessed by Mr. Home is sufficiently strong to withstand this antagonistic influence.”

Geley: “The detrimental action of light on ectoplasmic forms is not surprising. Light is well known to be fatal to many micro-organisms, and seems to hinder the organization of primordial forms of life.”

Schrenck-Notzing: “The recent investigations by W. J. Crawford have shown that white light acts destructively on the pseudopods or psychic projections from the medium’s body necessary for the production of telekinetic phenomena. It appears to produce a molecular softening of the invisible ‘rods’; while red light acts much more feebly.  It is, therefore, necessary to consider the reflection, refraction and absorption of the light used in the séance room … All [my] observations agree in this, that a white light has a hindering and disturbing effect on the phenomena, and an unfavorable action on the development of the teleplasm.”

Moderator: If I understand all this correctly, mediums vary in power and the ability to produce phenomena as well as to resist light depends on that power. Mr. Home must have been an exceptionally powerful medium to be able to produce in good light.

Crookes: “I may at once answer one objection which has been made in several quarters, viz., that my results would carry more weight had they been tried a greater number of times, and with persons, and with other persons besides Mr. Home. The fact is, I have been working at the subject for two years, and have found nine or ten different persons who possess psychic power in more or less degree; but its development in Mr. D. D. Home is so powerful, that, having satisfied myself by careful experiments that the phenomena observed were genuine, I have, merely as a matter of convenience, carried on my experiments with him, in preference to working with others in whom the power existed in a less striking degree.”

Schrenck-Notzing: “The exhaustion of the medium is, as a rule, in proportion to the strength of the phenomena.  But the effort involved in the action of the medium’s organism is much greater when the audience is unfavorable.  Occasionally, the mood of the medium may be adversely affected by unsympathetic personalities, or by contemptuous treatment.”

Geley: “A light, especially if sudden and unexpected, produces a painful start in the medium.  However, nothing is more variable than the light-effects; in some cases the substance can stand even full daylight.  The magnesium flashlight causes a violent start in the medium, but it is borne, and allows of instantaneous photographs. In the effects of light on the substance, and its repercussion on the medium, it is difficult to distinguish between real pain and mere reflex; both, whether pain or reflex, impede investigation.”

Moderator: I understand that the medium experiences much pain as the ectoplasm is being exuded from her or his body.

Geley: (Referring to the medium known as Eva C.)  “The phenomena appear (when they do appear) after a variable interval, sometimes very brief, sometimes an hour or more.  They always begin by painful sensations in the medium; she sighs and moans from time to time much like a woman in childbirth.  These moans reach their height just when the manifestation begins, they lessen or cease when the forms are complete.”

Moderator: Does the ectoplasm usually flow from the mouth?

Geley: “The most frequent and most easily observed origin is from the mouth; the substance is then seen to proceed from the interior surfaces of the cheeks, the roof of the palate, and the gums … [It also] exudes from the natural orifices and the extremities, from the top of the head, from the nipples, and the ends of the fingers.” (Schrenck-Notzing here leaned toward Geley and reminded him of those instances when the teleplasm/ectoplasm flowed from the vagina of Eva C.)  Geley nodded in agreement.)

Moderator: Can we go back to the materializations themselves? Some of them are so fragmentary and so strange in appearance that it is difficult to believe they are real, whatever “real” means here.

Richet: “The fact of the appearance of flat images rather than of forms in relief is no evidence of trickery.  It is imagined, quite mistakenly, that a materialization must be analogous to a human body and must be three dimensional. This is not so.  There is nothing to prove that the process of materialization is other than a development of a completed form after a first stage of coarse and rudimentary lineaments formed from the cloudy substance.”

Moderator: Knowing that Professor Richet and Dr. Schrenck-Notzing resist or are skeptical concerning the possibility that spirits are behind these materializations, I have kept this subject for the end, but I find it difficult to avoid at this point. I have heard the spiritist’s view on this, that these very imperfect productions can be likened to asking humans to do self portraits.  The very artistic person might succeed in varying degrees, but most people would fail badly and their likenesses would be as bizarre as most of the ectoplasmic formations.  Graduation to the spirit world does not enhance one’s artistic ability, it is further said.  On the other hand, the spiritist’s view set aside, if it is somehow being produced by the medium’s subconscious, the medium’s artistic ability might be a factor.  Does that make sense?

Geley: [“Exactly!] Since ectoplasmic formation is a function (a) of a dynamic and material externalization of the medium and (b) of ideoplastic organization of the externalized elements, it is easy to understand why perfect materializations should be few. 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 the great majority of materializations are incomplete, fragmentary, defective, and show lacunae in their structures. The forms are seldom other than more or less successful attempts at hands, faces, and organisms … To have produced the astonishing varieties of form, the fringes with half-formed fingers, faces, or hands in the mass would have seemed absurd to a medium who was wishing to simulate a spirit materialization ... The defects in some materializations do not imply fraud but quite otherwise.”

Moderator:  The skeptics scoff at the idea of clothes being worn by the materializations. Any thoughts on this matter?

Richet: “This objection is somewhat naïve, for the materialization of a hand is no easier to understand than of the glove that covers it. It is, however, clear that materialization may be of inanimate objects and not of the human body only. The garments are usually veils or draperies, usually white, like muslin, produced by the gradual transformation of the whitish and more or less luminous cloud with which the apparition begins.”

Crookes: [“I see that Ms. Marryat is still amongst the audience. May I ask her to tell of her observations with Katie King?”] (Florence Marryat, the renowned British author, then moves forward to the table and speaks.)

Marryat: “She was always attired in white drapery, but it varied in quality. Sometimes it looked like long cloth; at others like mull muslin or jaconet; oftenest it was a species of thick cotton net. The sitters were much given to asking ‘Katie’ for a piece of her dress to keep as a souvenir of their visit, and when they received it, would seal it up carefully in an envelope and convey it home; and were much surprised on examining their treasure to find it had totally disappeared. Katie used to say that nothing material about her could be made to last without taking away some of the medium’s vitality, and weakening her in consequence.”

Crookes: [“Tell them about Katie cutting up the dress.”]


Marryat: “One evening, when she was cutting off pieces of her dress rather lavishly, I remarked that it would require a great deal of mending. She answered, ‘I’ll show you how we mend dresses in the Spirit World.’ She then doubled up the front breadth of her garment a dozen times, and cut two or three round holes in it. I am sure when she let it fall again there must have been thirty or forty holes, and Katie said, ‘Isn’t that a nice cullender?’ She then commenced, whilst we stood close to her, to shake her skirt gently about, and in a minute it was a perfect as before, without a hole to be seen.” (Crookes then asked her to tell about cutting Katie’s hair.)

“She told me to take the scissors and cut off her hair. She had a profusion of ringlets falling to her waist that night. I obeyed religiously, hacking the hair wherever I could, whilst she kept on saying, ‘Cut more! Cut more! Not for yourself, you known, because you can’t take it away.’ So I cut off curl after curl, and as fast as they fell to the ground, the hair grew again upon her head. When I had finished, Katie asked me to examine her hair, to see if I could detect any place, where I had used the scissors, and I did so without any effect. Neither was the severed hair to be found. It had vanished out of sight.”

Part 3, which will discuss the “intelligence” behind the materializations will be posted on December 21.

Michael Tymn is the author of The Afterlife Revealed: What Happens After We Die, Resurrecting Leonora Piper: How Science Discovered the Afterlife, and Dead Men Talking: Afterlife Communication from World War I.
His forthcoming book, No One Really Dies: 25 Reasons to Believe in an Afterlife is released on January 26, 2021.

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Experts Discuss Ectoplasm and Materialization in Virtual Roundtable

Posted on 23 November 2020, 10:12

Given the recent blogs dealing with the physical mediumship of Stewart Alexander, I thought it appropriate to host a virtual roundtable here on the subjects of ectoplasm and materializations. Virtual events seem in vogue in these pandemic times, so why not here? I called upon Professor Charles Richet, Dr. Gustav Geley, Dr. Albert von Schrenck- Notzing, and Sir William Crookes, four pioneers of psychical research to participate in the three-session roundtable, which will continue with my next blog in two weeks. Here are short bios of those four researchers:

Sir William Crookes, FRS – A Fellow of the Royal Society, Crookes studied and taught at the Royal College of Chemistry before becoming a meteorologist at the Radcliffe Observatory, Oxford. He discovered the element thallium and later invented the radiometer and the Crookes Tube, which contributed to the discovery of the X-ray. He is most remembered in psychical research for his investigations of Daniel Dunglas Home and Florence Cook.  His research is summarized in his book, Researches into the Phenomena of Modern Spiritualism, first published in 1904.

Gustave Geley, M.D. – A Laureate of the French Medical Faculty at the University of Lyons, Geley gained some fame for his research into treating such diseases as smallpox and scarlatina. He 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. His primary book on the subject is From the Unconscious to the Conscious, published in 1920.

Charles Richet, M.D., Ph.D. – Winner of the 1913 Nobel Prize in Medicine, Richet was a French physiologist, chemist, bacteriologist, pathologist, psychologist, aviation pioneer, poet, novelist, editor, author, and psychical researcher. He received his Doctor of Medicine degree in 1869 and his Doctor of Science in 1878. He then served as professor of physiology at the medical school of the University of Paris for 38 years. His treatise on metapsychics is titled Thirty Years of Psychical Research.

Albert von Schrenck-Notzing, M.D. – Although educated as a neurologist, Schrenck-Notzing, a German aristocrat, was wealthy enough to devote most of his time to psychical research rather than to medicine. His laboratory and library were in his palace home outside Munich. Much of his research is set forth in a 1914 book, Phenomena of Materialization.

Schrenck-Notzing & Richet

I volunteered to serve as moderator of the roundtable. The participants agreed to let words from their various reports and books serve as their responses. Words in brackets are inferred to permit a proper flow or transition or thought. 

Moderator: Gentlemen, thank you for agreeing to participate in this virtual roundtable. I’d like to begin by asking Dr. Geley to describe ectoplasm and the materialization process.

Geley: “[My pleasure, young man.] The usual course of the phenomena is as follows: First a strong odor of ozone is perceptible…The smell of ozone comes and goes suddenly.  Then, in weak light, slightly phosphorescent vapor 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 … Different observers – Crookes and Richet among others – have, as is well known, described complete materializations … 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.”

Moderator: Very interesting, Dr. Geley. So ectoplasm does not always look like cheesecloth, as so often represented?

Geley: “[Definitely not.] This substance may be exteriorized in a gaseous or vaporous form, or again as a liquid or a solid. The vaporous form is the more frequent and the best known. Near the medium there is outlined or amassed a kind of visible vapour, a sort of fog, often connected with the body of the medium by a thin link of the same substance. In different parts of this fog there then appears what resembles a condensation … These areas of condensation finally take the appearance of organs, whose development is very rapidly completed.”

Moderator: Professor Richet, you’ve worked with Dr. Geley quite a bit. Can you add to his comment?

Richet: “[Most certainly!] In their first stage these ectoplasms are invisible, but can move objects and can give raps on a table. Later on they become visible, though nebulous and sketchy. Still later, they take human form, for they have the extraordinary property that they change their forms and their consistency and evolve under our eyes. In a few seconds, the nebulous embryo that exudes from the body of the medium becomes an actual being … Sometimes the phantom appears suddenly, without passing through the phase of luminous cloud; but this phenomenon is probably of the same order as the slower development. This ectoplasmic formation at the expense of the physiological organism of the medium is now beyond all dispute. It is prodigiously strange, prodigiously unusual, and it would seem so unlikely as to be incredible; but we must give in to the facts.”

Moderator: When they become visible and before they begin to take on some kind of form, what is their appearance?

Richet: “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. At first these formations are often very imperfect. Sometimes they show no relief, looking more like flat images than bodies, so that in spite of oneself one is inclined to imagine some fraud, since what appears seems to be the materialization of a semblance, and not of a being. But in some cases the materialization is perfect. At the Villa Carmen I saw a fully organized form rise from the floor. At first it was only a white, opaque spot like a handkerchief lying on the ground before the curtain, then this handkerchief quickly assumed the form of a human head level with the floor, and a few moments later it rose up in a straight line and became a small man enveloped in a kind of white burnous, who took two or three halting steps in front of the curtain and then sank to the floor and disappeared as if through a trap door. But there was no trap door.”

Geley: “[Permit me to further elaborate.] The substance has variable aspects. Sometimes, and most characteristically, it appears as a plastic paste, a true protoplasmic mass; sometimes as a number of fine threads; sometimes as strings of different thickness in narrow and rigid lines; sometimes as a wide band; sometimes as a fine tissue of ill-defined and irregular shape … In fine, the substance is essentially amorphous, or rather, polymorphous.”

Moderator: When it turns from vapor to a dense substance, is it always white?

Geley: “It may show three different colours: white, black, or gray. The white seems the more frequent form, perhaps because it is easiest to observe … To the touch it gives very different sensations, usually having some relation to the form of the moment; it seems soft and somewhat elastic while spreading; hard, knotty, or fibrous when it forms cords. Sometimes it feels like a spider’s web touching the hand of the observer. The threads of the substance are both stiff and elastic. It is mobile. Sometimes it is slowly evolved, rises, and falls, and moves over the medium’s shoulder, her breast, or her lap with a crawling, reptilian movement; sometimes its motion is abrupt and rapid, it appears and disappears like a flash.”

Moderator: Sir William, you were among the first to report seriously on materializations, but you didn’t really report on what Dr. Richet later called ectoplasm. You referred to a luminous cloud. What were your observations in this regard?

Crookes: “The hands and fingers do not always appear to me to be solid and life-like. Sometimes, indeed, they present more the appearance of a nebulous cloud partly condensed into the form of a hand. This is not equally visible to all present. For instance, a flower or other small object is seen to move; one person will see a luminous cloud hovering over it, another will detect a nebulous-looking hand, whilst others will see nothing at all but the moving flower. I have more than once seen, first an object move, then a luminous cloud appear to form about it, and, lastly, the cloud condense into a shape and become a perfectly formed hand. At this stage, the hand is visible to all present. It is not always a mere form, but sometimes appears perfectly life-like and graceful, the fingers moving, and the flesh apparently as human as that of any in the room. At the wrist, or arm, it becomes hazy, and fades off into a luminous cloud.”

Moderator: Have you ever felt one of these materialized hands?

Crookes: “I have retained one of these hands in my own, firmly resolved not to let it escape. There was no struggle or effort made to get loose, but it gradually seemed to resolve itself into vapour, and faded in that manner from my grasp.”

Moderator: Dr. Schrenck-Notzing, I can see you are anxious to add to the discussion and I know that you prefer the word “teleplasm” to ectoplasm.

Ectoplasm taking shape

Schrenck-Notzing: “Crookes speaks of hand forms condensed from clouds … But not only rough forms of hands, lacking all elements of life were seen, but sometimes having all the plastic characteristics of human organs. On a few occasions, organs true to life – one could almost say living – especially hands (fingers with nails) could be perceived simultaneously by sight, touch, and hearing, while the medium’s hands were kept motionless. These organs showed their living character by grasping objects held out to them, by various movements, by digging their nails into the skin of our hands, while they could not possibly be mistaken for the hands of the medium.”

Moderator: Sir William, your report on the spirit calling herself Katie King has been criticized by many of your peers in science. They claim that Florence Cook, the 15-year-old medium, was able to trick you because of the darkness required, somehow making a quick costume change and appearing as Katie King. How do you respond to them?

Crookes: “Will not my critics give me credit for the possession of some amount of common sense?”

Moderator: I sense your anger and frustration, Sir William, but would you mind elaborating a little on your observations? What exactly took place in your experiments with Miss Cook?

Crookes: “I prepare and arrange my library myself as the dark cabinet, and usually, after Miss Cook has been dining and conversing with us, and scarcely out of our sight for a minute, she walks direct into the cabinet, and I, at her request, lock its second door, and keep possession of the key all through the séance; the gas is then turned out, and Miss Cook is left in the darkness. On entering the cabinet, Miss Cook lies down upon the floor, with her head on the pillow, and is soon entranced. [Katie King then emerges from the cabinet].”

Moderator: I gather that the entranced medium, Miss Cook, remained in the cabinet as Katie King came out, but you reported seeing them both at the same time and also noted differences in appearance.

Crookes: “During a séance [in my home], after Katie had been walking amongst us and talking for some time, she retreated behind the curtain which separated my laboratory where the company was sitting, from my library which did temporary duty as a cabinet. In a minute, she came to the curtain and called me to her saying, ‘Come into the room and lift my medium’s head up, she has slipped down.’ Katie was then standing before me clothed in her usual white robes and turban head dress. I immediately walked into the library up to Miss Cook, Katie stepping aside to allow me to pass. I found Miss Cook had slipped partly off the sofa, and her head was hanging in a very awkward position. I lifted her on the sofa, and in so doing had satisfactory evidence in spite of the darkness, that Miss Cook was not attired in the ‘Katie” costume, but had on her ordinary black velvet dress, and was in a deep trance. Not more than three seconds elapsed between my seeing the white-robed Katie standing before me and my raising Miss Cook on to the sofa. from the position into which she had fallen.” 

Moderator: Excuse me, Sir William, there is a lady in the audience raising her hand and desiring to say something. (Crookes immediately recognizes her as Florence Marryat, the renowned British author, and invites her comments.)

Marryat: “[I was present at several of the séances at which Katie King materialized]. I have seen both Florrie and Katie together on several occasions, so I can have no doubt on the subject that they were two separate creatures … One evening, Katie walked out and perched herself upon my knee. I could feel she was a much plumper and heavier woman than Miss Cook, but she wonderfully resembled her in features, and I told her so… [Katie] took up her station against the drawing-room wall, with her arms extended as if she were crucified. Then the gas-burners were turned on to their full extent ... The effect upon ‘Katie King’ was marvelous. She looked like herself for the space of a second only, then she began gradually to melt away. I can compare the dematerialization of her form to nothing but a wax doll melting before a hot fire. First, the features became blurred and indistinct; they seemed to run into each other. The eyes sank in the sockets, the nose disappeared, the frontal bone fell in. Next the limbs appeared to give way under her, and she sank lower and lower on the carpet like a crumbling edifice. At last there was nothing but her head left above the ground – then a heap of white drapery only, which disappeared with a whisk, as if a hand had pulled it after her – and we were left staring by the light of three gas-burners at the spot on which ‘Katie King’ had stood.”

This roundtable discussion will continue on December 7 and conclude on December 21. Among other things, the purpose of the cabinet and the need for darkness will be discussed in Part 2.

Michael Tymn is the author of The Afterlife Revealed: What Happens After We Die, Resurrecting Leonora Piper: How Science Discovered the Afterlife, and Dead Men Talking: Afterlife Communication from World War I.
His forthcoming book, No One Really Dies: 25 Reasons to Believe in an Afterlife is due in February 2021.






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An Interview with Journalist Leslie Kean on Stewart Alexander and ‘Surviving Death’

Posted on 09 November 2020, 10:00

In her 2017 book, Surviving Death: A Journalist Investigates Evidence of an Afterlife, Leslie Kean presents compelling research on survival of consciousness along with her own unexpected personal experiences that occurred during her investigation.  “I witnessed some unbelievable things that are not supposed to be possible in our material world,” she states in the Introduction. “Yet they were unavoidably and undeniably real.”  She discusses cases suggesting reincarnation, near-death experiences, mental mediumship, physical mediumship, after-death communications, and responsive apparitions.

A resident of New York City, Kean (below) is an independent investigative journalist who co-authored a series of game-changing stories on UFOs for the New York Times beginning in 2017. She is the author of UFOs: Generals, Pilots, and Government Officials Go on the Record, a New York Times bestseller. Surviving Death received he Parapsychological Association book award and is the basis for a six-part documentary series to air within a few months on a major streaming network.


In my blog of October 12, I referred to the fact that Kean provided an Epilogue to physical medium Stewart Alexander’s 2020 book An Extraordinary Journey, in which she describes her five-year investigation into Alexander’s mediumship.  The first edition of Stewart’s book in 2014 “opened a door to a wondrous and unexplored new world,” she wrote in the Epilogue, like nothing she had ever encountered before. It was that book, now revised and updated, that inspired her to contact Alexander.  Then, years later, in 2017, Stewart wrote the final chapter to Kean’s Surviving Death

I recently had the opportunity to put some questions to Leslie Kean by email.

As a journalist who has covered all manner of topics and then focused on serious reporting on UFOs for over a decade, what was your motivation behind pursuing a study of a possible afterlife, which many would consider a “fringe” topic?

I’m interested in large mysteries, unexplained by science, which are well documented and therefore undeniable. They expand our sense of who we are and our place in the universe. I don’t consider this topic to be “fringe”—it is simply difficult to study, often misunderstood, and can’t offer “proof”, although I believe we have solid evidence that consciousness is not limited to the physical brain. Nonetheless, many scientists don’t accept the reality of phenomena that challenge their understanding of the laws of physics or belief in physicalism. And, gullible people often make sensational claims based on assumptions and not scientific evidence. But, if one is motivated by deep curiosity and has a discriminating mind, I believe this topic is worthy of serious attention given the potential it has to redefine our understanding of the nature of consciousness, and of the meaning of death itself. And, it can be studied with the same rigor and discrimination as any other area of investigation, but of course with its own unique challenges.

You reported observing some very mind-boggling phenomena in your investigation of Stewart Alexander, including ectoplasm materializing into a “living” hand, the levitation of objects, and independent voice. You also witnessed communications from loved ones and successful book tests. Is there any doubt in your mind today that these phenomena were genuine and not some kind of magic trick?

I have absolutely no doubt, not one iota. I did my due diligence. When I began sitting with Stewart’s small circle in 2015, I thoroughly checked the seance room to make sure there was no way to sneak in or out, nothing hidden in the room, and nothing strange about Stewart’s chair or seance room table. I brought my own cable ties which were pulled tightly around his bare wrists, the thinnest part of his arm, locking his wrists through a loop under his chair arms. The straps could only be removed with wire cutters.

Stewart also wore luminous pads taped to each knee, so everyone in the room could always see where he was when it was dark. The door was locked during the seance. There was no background music throughout the sitting. Every movement was detectable in the quiet of the small room. And some phenomena occur in the light. I have sat with Stewart in four locations with different sitters, and the phenomena always occurred. Also, I have interviewed him and his Circle members and come to know them well.

What about Stewart’s long history as a physical medium?

Stewart demonstrated his unusual abilities over many years with a variety of elaborate physical restraints, visible knee markers, and with his hands held on both sides. His mediumship was scrutinized by many astute investigators in multiple locations in different countries, always in spaces under the complete control of others. Hundreds of people have attended sittings with him over the decades. No major controversies or claims of fraud have been made concerning Stewart’s mediumship in the past forty years. That’s because there isn’t any.

Stewart’s mediumship took decades to develop. He had tremendous patience, sitting devotedly with the same small circle year after year. That really impressed me - there was nothing flashy about Stewart’s mediumship nor any desire on his part to attract attention. He eventually offered guest sittings simply so that more people could have the experience. Yet he always kept his mediumship private, entirely separate from his personal and professional life; even his two adult sons knew nothing about it until the first edition of An Extraordinary Journey was published in 2010.

Of all that you witnessed or reported on in your book, what was the most convincing to you?

Well, certainly Stewart’s physical mediumship is at the top of the list. I was also impacted by two readings I had with outstanding mental mediums - one American and one Irish - in which the same things occurred despite the fact that these two mediums did not know each other. They also did not know my name. Two loved ones came through for me, behaved the same way indicative of their contrasting personalities, and gave the same personal message to me in each reading, word for word. The evidential information was spectacular in its specificity.

In terms of scientific research, the mediumship of Franek Kluski and Indridi Indridason were notable (I recommend the books Other Realities? and Indridi Indridason published by White Crow). Cases of very young children providing verifiable memories from a past life, complete with emotion and unexplained knowledge from their careers in that life, provide strong evidence for reincarnation, as documented by the University of Virginia in the US. Near death experiences also represent an intriguing body of research. And, my personal after-death communications from my younger brother who died in 2013 were very convincing to me, as I describe in my book.

Have you witnessed anything of interest since completing the book that might add to your views? 

In May, 2019, I experienced a full form materialization in a seance with Stewart. His communicator Dr. Barnett, who normally speaks in independent voice, walked out of the cabinet, stood in front of me and touched my hair. He then placed both his large hands on top of my head, bouncing them up and down for about a minute and a half. (That’s a long time). These were solid “living” hands. He spoke in his recognizable voice. “I just wanted to let you know that I am a solid human being,” he said. He then returned to the cabinet and disappeared.

My comment on this otherworldly, mind-altering experience is best taken from what I wrote in Stewart’s Epilogue:

The mind can barely grasp the fantastical nature of a human form emerging from ectoplasm, walking, talking, touching, and then receding back to from where he came.  And where is that? Dr. Barnett says he once lived on this earth. Is this materialization proof that we survive physical death? Or does it mean something else? I don’t think we can answer that question with any degree of certainty. But this experience will live with me forever.

In the first months of 2020, I got one of the best surprises of my life. (I had previously been told by Stewart’s communicators that something would occur in my home.)  A clear hand print appeared on the inside of my bedroom window - five fingers and a thumb - in the frost which had accumulated during the cold night. And, a few months later, a second hand print appeared on another window in the same room. I had just cleaned this window about a week before, and no one had been in the room. And while in isolation during the pandemic, a third print appeared on the front of my refrigerator! None of these could have been made by me or anyone else. The window prints remain on the window to this day - they just need frost or steam to be seen.

None of these things really add to my views or prove survival. They are just wondrous reminders of the unexplained world which we understand so little about.

How have the five years you have been sitting with Stewart changed the way you relate to the experience?

Early on, as a probing journalist on a quest for answers, I was always looking for further “proof”; designing potential experiments in my mind; hoping to find new ways to document the phenomena; and asking endless questions. Now, after all these years, I’ve come to respect how difficult it is for any of these manifestations to be produced in the first place; the fact that they happen at all is extraordinary enough. I’ve grown to be less demanding of classic, “scientific” evidence, and recognize that there are no answers for many of my questions. So, it’s like a letting go into the mystery while at the same time remaining objective and observant. The mind state of the medium, combined with the energies of the sitters, make all the difference in terms of a successful seance; this is not something that can be easily studied in a laboratory.

Do you think ‘absolute certainty’ on this matter is possible or is even a good thing?

No, I don’t think we can prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that we survive death. As a journalist (not a scientist), I’m looking rationally at the most compelling and reliable data, and presenting it in an accessible form so that readers can make up their own minds. For me, this is an ongoing journey, an exploration, a journalistic and personal foray into unchartered waters. Proof of any kind of afterlife is not the goal. However, the unusual phenomena described in my book actually do exist—this has been proven time and time again in published papers and through observation under controlled conditions. We cannot explain what the causative forces are or what they mean. I think the state of uncertainty - of never knowing and simply dwelling in the unknown - is a good thing.

What message would you like to convey to the skeptics in regards to the evidence for survival?

I was a skeptic too when I started this investigation, as were many of the leading scientists, philosophers, and seasoned investigators who pursued this topic over the last one hundred and fifty years. They set out to disprove the existence of mysterious phenomena they thought could not possibly be real. Using the strictest controls to test physical mediums and eliminate any possibility of fraud, eventually these investigators had no choice but to acknowledge the reality of the unexplained phenomena, which included materializations. And now, today, I have witnessed the same thing they did, and I too know it is real. How many skeptics with dismissive opinions have actually studied the literature? Moreover, how many of today’s skeptics have actually sat in controlled conditions with genuine mediums to observe events that challenge a materialistic view of reality? Yes, there have been many frauds, but it’s the genuine mediums that are of interest. They are rare, but they do exist, as the literature shows.

I suggest that skeptics read An Extraordinary Journey for starters, with an open, objective mind. We must remember that it’s the interpretation of the phenomena—including the question of whether they suggest survival past death—which is open for debate, and not the existence of the phenomena themselves. Yet, many skeptics still hold on to the premise “It can’t be, therefore it isn’t”. The intelligent skeptic should have enough curiosity to welcome challenging data that points toward mysteries of Nature still to be understood by science. This is how we progress!

Michael Tymn is the author of The Afterlife Revealed: What Happens After We Die, Resurrecting Leonora Piper: How Science Discovered the Afterlife, and Dead Men Talking: Afterlife Communication from World War I.
His forthcoming book, No One Really Dies: 25 Reasons to Believe in an Afterlife is due in February 2021.

An Extraordinary Journey: The Memoirs of a Physical Medium by Stewart Alexander is published by White Crow Books.


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The NDE of The Man Who Fell Off Mt. Everest

Posted on 26 October 2020, 9:25

A friend recently asked me to identify the most interesting near-death experience (NDE) I have heard or read about. I told him that I couldn’t do that without considerable thought, but one that immediately came to mind and would certainly be among those at the top of the list was that of Roger Hart, (below) a retired geophysicist.  His NDE took place on May 29, 1962, at age 21, when he was part of an American team attempting to climb Mount Everest.


I had the opportunity to interview Hart in Newport, Oregon shortly after the release of his 2003 book The Phaselock Code, subtitled Through Time, Death, and Reality, the Metaphysical Adventures of the Man Who Fell off Everest.

As captain of the cross-country team at Tufts University, Hart had just won a race against Amherst when he met Woody Sayre, a Tufts philosophy professor.  The two became friends and shared an interest in rock climbing.  Some months after their first meeting, Sayre asked Hart to be part of a team that would attempt to climb Mt. Everest without the use of supplemental oxygen. 

During that climb, a crampon gave way and Hart and Sayre fell about 180 feet down a snowy cliff. Hart recalled stars rushing by him like tracer bullets as he yelled and screamed. As soon as he thought that he was about to die, his soul ripped free. As described in the book, he shot off into starless space, floated free in gravity, and watched his body, as if in slow motion, tumble over the ice cliffs below. “I perched on the cusp of time, where, like a water drop between watersheds, I could choose between worlds.” 

Hart further recalled a great warmth and euphoria overtaking him and feeling wonderful that he was about to die.  “I could see in all directions at once, not with the seeing of eyes but the seeing of dreams. I felt no fear and no cold; space seemed to shrink around me, or perhaps I expanded to it. At any rate, I was no longer afraid of the emptiness below me.”  He remembers thinking, Here you are about to die and you feel wonderful – you are so weird!

Although it was thought to be impossible for humans to survive a night of sub-zero temperatures without a tent, Hart and Sayre endured the night huddled together with a nylon tent shell wrapped around them. The ledge on which they had landed was too narrow to pitch a tent.

Before the experience, Hart equated being alive with material success, having control of as many possessions as possible. “I did not believe anything unless I actually experienced it or could prove it scientifically, as with electromagnetic radiation, quantum mechanics, or relativity,” explained Hart, who was a research professor at the Oregon State College school of Ocean and Atmospheric Sciences before his retirement. The fall, even though it took only a few seconds as we know it, changed Hart’s ideas in that regard, convincing him that there is life after death and that spiritual intelligence guides the universe. “Before the NDE 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.”

His graduate studies at Yale became meaningless to him and he was appalled by the greed and ambition of his fellow graduate students.  However, two of his Yale classes – quantum mechanics and statistical thermodynamics – helped him understand the experience. The pioneering NDE research of Drs. Raymond Moody and Elisabeth Kübler-Ross had not yet taken place and therefore Hart could not make any sense out of the experience. It stayed with him and “grew like a sprouting seed in my psyche.” 

Since my interview with Hart was more than 40 years after his experience, I asked him how much detail he actually remembered. “I have strong memories of the mental aspects,” he responded. “In addition, since the feeling during the NDE was so extraordinary, I’ve meditated on it, relived it so to speak, over the course of the past 40 years.” He added that beginning with Moody’s Life After Life, he’s been able to compare his experience with those of others. “There are some similarities but many differences. I felt elation, time dilation, and separation of mind from body, but I don’t recall going through a tunnel, doing a life review, or meeting with loved ones in the afterlife. I think the important thing in my case was that I abandoned the normal internal dialogue and much of the normal information processing. That allowed, momentarily, a reality free of time and interconnected with other parts of the universe, full of light with an extraordinary feeling of bliss. I believe the NDE opened new neural pathways and enabled access to a higher mind function with connections to the universal field of information.”

A second NDE while on a National Geographic sponsored expedition to the Darwin Icecap in Tierra del Fuego during 1966 added to his search for meaning and truth. Caught in a blizzard and in a state of starvation, Hart lost consciousness and found another part of himself viewing the scene below as if through a telescope from another universe. He became “sure, focused, calm, and remote” from his surroundings.

The Phaselock Code, as Hart defines it, is the field of hidden information in the fabric of reality.  Phaselock refers to the idea that the information is locked together and correlated over vast distances.  “Each of constructs our personal reality using a small part of the information from the phaselock code,” he explained his view of it. “The construction process is subconscious and most of the time we are unaware of it.  It is a matter of choosing among infinite possible interpretations.” As he further viewed it,  during an NDE and during transcendental moments the normal construction process is abandoned, allowing the experience of an expanded reality through a part of our higher mind that connects directly to the phaselock code. 

“I am not the first person to realize that the mind survives the body, or that the reality of the universe is a marvelous field of information and infinite potentials,” he mused, “or that we ourselves create time by opening static time capsules in the field of information. But I had the joy of discovering these ideas independently before I was exposed to them by 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 forthcoming book, No One Really Dies: 25 Reasons to Believe in an Afterlife is due in February 2021.

Next blog post:  November 9

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Amazing Physical Mediumship Still Exists, But ...

Posted on 12 October 2020, 13:12

We don’t hear much about physical mediumship these days, but apparently it still exists here and there.  Stewart Alexander, whose 2010 book, An Extraordinary Journey, has been revised and republished by White Crow Books, must certainly be one of the best physical mediums living.  However, we don’t hear much about him, because he has come to understand that the nature of such mediumship is beyond science and human comprehension and will always result in cynicism and contempt by those blind to any evidence suggesting spirits and survival.  “Having studied extensively the history of physical mediumship over the past forty years, I am very aware that almost without exception those mediums who cooperated with the researchers, in the hope of establishing their mediumship on a scientific level, invariably failed and were forever surrounded in bitter dispute and allegations of fraud,” Alexander explains, adding that even when tests were inconclusive (the usual case) more tests were demanded.  He sees it as a “no-win” situation.

New edition.

In effect, Alexander has concluded that no amount of evidence will convince those who quite simply refuse to believe that two plus two does not always equal four. This ‘will to disbelieve’ plus the risk of serious injury if some ‘doubting Thomas’ decides to flip a light switch on while ectoplasm is being exuded from his body, prompted Alexander to give up public demonstrations in late 2008, limiting himself to mostly small home circles among friends.

Although Alexander is the author of the book, there are plenty of testimonials and quoted reports in the book to lend credibility to his mediumship. The late Dr. David Fontana, a professor of psychology and former president of the Society for Psychical Research, expressed high praise for Alexander in the Foreword of the book. “Those of us who know and admire Stewart and his mediumship, and all those who have been fortunate enough to have had sittings with him, will be delighted to see this book in print,” Fontana wrote. “It provides us with an exceptionally clear, well-written and convincing account of what it is to be a physical medium, and of what it means to act as a channel between one level of reality and another.”

In the 2020 edition of the book, journalist Leslie Kean provides an Epilogue in which she states that the 2010 edition changed her life. “It opened the door to a wondrous and unexplored new world,” she writes, going on to explain that she had not encountered anything like it before.  She made contact with Alexander, attended a 2015 seminar he gave, and then had two sittings with him, which she describes in her popular 2017 book, Surviving Death: A Journalist Investigates Evidence of an Afterlife

Jon Beecher, the owner of White Crow Books, recalls attending an Alexander séance in 2017.  He met a man whose wife had passed away a few years earlier, leaving him with five children to raise.  During the séance, Alexander’s voice changed to a more feminine one and became tearful with joy.  The voice, apparently that of the widow of the man Beecher had been talking with, communicated with that man and mentioned three of his children by name.  After the séance, Beecher again chatted with the man, who said he was mystified as to how “Alexander” could have known the names of his children.

Chapter 11 of the current book sets forth a report from the July 2009 issue of the Journal of the Society for Psychical Research by investigator Lew Sutton, a retired engineer whose career involved research into the atmosphere for designing the parameters of future satellite communication systems. Sutton notes the strict controls taken before the start of each séance, including Alexander being secured to his chair by straps that had to be cut by pliers at the end of the séance.  After an opening prayer and music, a spirit control known as White Feather speaks through Alexander, who is apparently in trance, and gives an opening greeting.  White Feather is followed by spirit communicators known as Christopher, Freda Johnson, and Walter Stinson, the latter the primary control of his (Stinson’s) sister, Mina Crandon, aka “Margery,” many years earlier. Freda would introduce loved ones who wished to communicate with sitters and would act as a go-between when the loved ones couldn’t directly communicate.

Sutton also describes the appearance of a materialized hand. “After a few moments a blob or what is announced to be ectoplasm is seen to appear on the illuminated translucent table top on the edge nearest the medium. Slowly it forms into a large hand – which Walter claims is his. It is certainly larger than Stewart’s hand. The materialized hand moves toward the sitter’s hand and then strokes and/or grasps it before withdrawing and melting away.  The hand is invariably reported as feeling normal and warm.”

A common observation, according to Sutton, is that of the table levitating about 30 cm (approximate one foot) above the floor. Also, the aluminum trumpets though which the voices came had luminous tabs and could be seen by all sitters moving from the floor to airborne positions, then floating around the room.  “Occasionally, the trumpet will shoot towards someone and stop dead millimetres from their face and then sometimes caress their head or gently traverse around them,” Sutton explains.  “They have also been known to land on people’s hands.  All these actions indicate a controlling intelligence with a great spatial awareness in total darkness.”  He notes that the trumpets will often touch the ceiling, a height of over four meters, (over 12 feet).  He further notes that Alexander has been seen to levitate (or to be levitated by the spirits) up to 90 cm (about three feet) above the floor.  Although it is dark, luminous tabs are attached to his knees.

The voices coming through the trumpets usually begin as a soft whisper and then become louder so that everyone can hear what is being said.  Dr. Franklin Barnett, said to be a nineteenth century Scottish physician who also worked through medium George Valiantine during the 1920s, frequently speaks as does Walter Stinson.  Sutton says that two hands were touching his head while his wife experienced the same sensation as Barnett spoke to her through a trumpet.  At the same time, a voice was coming through the other trumpet on the other side of the room. 

Dr. Barnett apparently does some healing as well.  Sutton reports that his wife had a medically incurable problem that was leading to a loss of sight in one eye. She could not make out the lettering on an eye chart before Barnett’s healing, but had excellent eyesight in the three years after that healing to the time of his report. 

While the physical phenomena do not in themselves prove survival, Sutton records that there was much audible evidence in the form of personal communication from loved ones who had passed on, by both trumpet and by trance voice (from the medium’s vocal cords).  “Sometimes this evidence is outstanding,” Sutton writes, mentioning a case when a father discussed a particularly unfortunate and sad event that occurred at his funeral.

At the end of the many seances observed by Sutton over a four-year period, the sitters could confirm that Alexander was still tightly secured to his chair as he slowly returned to normal consciousness.

Journalist Kean observed much the same thing as Sutton during her sittings with Alexander in 2015.  She refers to the “straps” binding Alexander to the chair as thick cable ties and she confirms that they were tightly binding him. She describes seeing the two trumpets “come alive” and “dance” around the room, one of them tapping her face gently before a male voice, mostly unintelligible, came through.  At a later sitting, Dr. Barnett spoke clearly, as did Walter.  She observed a grayish-black foggy cloud (ectoplasm) come toward her over the table and witnessed it take on the shape of a hand, which formed a fist and banged three times on the table to demonstrate its solidity.  “From the gaseous ectoplasmic energy, a solid living hand had emerged,” she writes, going on to tell of another hand materialization, said to be Walter’s, form in front of her from a cloud.  Walter explained to her how he did it, but you’ll have to check her book for that information as well as the other phenomena she witnessed.

Kean also reports on several intriguing book tests. In one, during 2016, a man named Kevin Kussow, whose father had died two days earlier, was told to go to his father’s bookcase, to the second shelf and take the second or third book from the left, open to page 84, and near the top he would find a sentence mentioning animals or an animal. Further down would be the names “George” and “Smith.”  Kevin followed the instructions, found the second book to be a thin paper pamphlet, but the third was entitled Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee. He opened to page 84 and found reference to “Little Raven” and on the next line to “hunting buffalo.”  Farther down the page there was reference to Smith, a post trader and a “half-breed” named George.

The debunker would likely say that Alexander had a very clever confederate involved in everything recorded by Sutton, Kean, Fontana, and many others.  The debunker would have every one dwell on that possibility and ignore the veridical information coming from the voices, the healings, and the actual observations that must certainly go beyond countless group hallucinations, mass hypnotisms, or wills to believe. But how does one prove that a sly confederate was not the case, beyond suggesting that so many people could not have been duped so many times over so many years under such controlled conditions? 

One might also ask why his friends in the home circle continue with such “nonsense” to this day?  After more than a quarter of a century, wouldn’t they be on to his “tricks” by this time? What is the motivation for it all?  “If people attend a physical séance looking for ‘loopholes’ they will find them,” Alexander laments. “If none are to be bound then they will create them.  In finding them or in creating them the accusers will refuse to face the facts which fail utterly to fit neatly into their own conclusions.”

Is it any wonder that Alexander has thrown in the towel on being tested by more researchers and that he is content to keep his mediumship low-key?  “At best,” he ends his book, “it would be seen that paranormal action was a reality but it would doubtlessly be explained away as an abnormal physiological function possessed by and unconsciously directed by the medium.”

Michael Tymn is the author of The Afterlife Revealed: What Happens After We Die, Resurrecting Leonora Piper: How Science Discovered the Afterlife, and Dead Men Talking: Afterlife Communication from World War I.
His forthcoming book, No One Really Dies: 25 Reasons to Believe in an Afterlife is due in February 2021.

Next blog post:  October 26

An Extraordinary Journey: The Memoirs of a Physical Medium by Stewart Alexander is published by White Crow Books.


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From Treasure to Trash, or What Was, “Was”

Posted on 28 September 2020, 8:38

It seems somewhat selfish to die and leave one’s worthless personal possessions for someone else to sort out and discard. Thus, I took advantage of the pandemic lockdown to rummage through memorabilia stashed in nine large boxes in the closet of a spare bedroom with the objective of trashing most of it so that my wife Gina would not be burdened with it all after I die.  I failed badly, as, after many hours of sorting, selecting and sifting, I have eight boxes remaining. Many of those hours were spent reading, remembering, reminiscing and reflecting.  Disposing of a lifetime of keepsakes is a challenging task. 

Included in those nine boxes were hundreds of family photos going back to the early 1900s, elementary school class pictures, yearbooks, school report cards, numerous action shots from my competitive running days, scrapbooks with newspaper clippings, group shots with old friends now mostly deceased, military mementos, programs and scorecards from events during the 1940s and ‘50s, a dozen or more certificates and diplomas, hundreds of articles I had contributed to various newspapers, magazines and journals over the past seven decades, going back to my high school newspaper, a lock of hair from my first haircut, a bill for $1.50 from my first visit to a dentist, and sundry odds and ends. 

One of the photos has Hawaii’s Diamond Head, an extinct volcano, almost perfectly framed by tree branches as I race down Mount Tantalus (see below).  It was one of many photos I tossed in the wastebasket but then retrieved and placed back in the box.  It seemed as if I were discarding memories as well as objects.  Moreover, one of the things I’ve learned in life is that as soon as I throw away something, a need for it develops within a month.


I had already sorted out some of the family photos a few years earlier and gave them to my two daughters and brother.  Still, there were hundreds left over that they didn’t have the space or need for. I couldn’t bring myself to throw them in the trash then and was hoping to be less materialistic this time. Several years before that, I had dumped 50 or more trophies, including one about two-feet tall from the New York City Marathon. I struggled to dispose of those trophies, as my ego conflicted with Matthew 6:19, which reads, “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy…”

I did not want them to be dust-collecting ego pacifiers, but, at the same time, they served as symbols of memorable experiences.  I have forgotten much over 83-plus years and didn’t want to forget those experiences.  Many were already buried in my subconscious before being raised above the threshold of my consciousness by the trophies and photos. 

Those running souvenirs were especially difficult to part with.  Years of running helped me learn to commit myself to a goal; to discipline myself to the demands of that goal; to develop and adapt; to pace myself for the short term and long haul; to cruise, to struggle, to push on, to slowly die; then to be reborn (after crossing the finish line).  The lessons learned were applied to more serious endeavors and seemed to work. I wondered if I could hold on to those memories without the materialistic symbols. The trophies went into some big trash bags and came out again, but Matthew and Gina finally prevailed as I reluctantly put them in the trash can.  I did keep three from the Honolulu Marathon that appeared to be works of art, possibly collector’s items (see below). I talked my younger daughter into taking one of them, but the other two remain unclaimed.


I gave a grandson my old autograph book with some legendary signatures like Jackie Robinson, Bob Feller, Ernie Lombardi, Larry Doby, Luke Easter, Billy Martin, Cookie Lavagetto, and many other baseball stars from yesteryear, but he isn’t much of a baseball fan and so I held on to some old scorebooks and other sports memorabilia.  Someone suggested I could sell them on e-bay, but I don’t think it’s worth the effort or the postage. Besides, I couldn’t bring myself to sell them no matter how many dollars they might fetch.

Outside the closet with the boxes are shelves and shelves of books, maybe 700, that will overwhelm Gina when the time comes for her to move to a smaller abode. There’s one signed by “Patience Worth,” no doubt by Pearl Curran, her medium, with a long inscription to a friend, another by medium George Valiantine, still another by Lou Zamperini, subject of the hit 2014 movie Unbroken.  I should get rid of them now, but it is difficult to give them up before it is absolutely necessary.  When that “absolute” time comes, it’s too late. It’s a very ambivalent “damned if you do and damned if you don’t” situation.  I feel especially selfish holding on to the books and leaving them for Gina to get rid of, but the books still provide interest, information, inspiration, and intrigue in leisure times, which are more abundant these days.  I’d rather read them than play games or watch some second-rate television program.   

So much for our worldly treasures!  They fade, tear, rust, stain, tarnish, or end up in boxes stored in a closet or in the attic before eventually being tossed in the trash or sold for fifty cents at a garage sale. I recall once browsing at a garage sale and seeing framed family photos, the attire of the photographed subjects suggesting that they were taken during the 1940s or ‘50s, in boxes and being sold for a dollar each, subject to negotiation down to fifty cents, no doubt for the value of the frames.  I wondered if the only thing remaining of those people in the pictures might be some mention on  A few generations down the line, some distant progeny might look at his or her family tree on the Internet and wonder who the ancestor with the funny haircut and old-fashioned attire was.  The ancestor will be just a name with his or her dates of birth and death listed.  Then again, cyber wars might eliminate all electronic records by that time. It will then be as if the person never existed. Hopefully, whatever love and service the person was able to contribute during his or her lifetime will have filtered down and have had a positive effect on some descendants.

In effect, all those worldly “treasures” remaining in the eight boxes are meaningless in the long run.  They are worth nothing to anybody but myself.  Shame on me for holding on to them. Even more shame on me when I think of all the people who in recent weeks have lost all material possessions, including photo albums and other keepsakes, to wildfires, hurricanes, and floods.  They’ll be deprived of their mementos for many more years, while I had mine for nearly all my years. 

As I see it, there is only one effective way to live, and that is “to live in eternity,” which means living in the present, past, and future all at the same time. The present should dominate one’s consciousness, but the past and future must be factored in, I believe, if one is to have proper perspective.  Viewing some old photos and odds and ends from the past every now and then does serve as a reminder of how adversity can be overcome, while pondering on what comes after death can brighten the future. 

As for those eight remaining boxes, I’ve asked my wife not to bother sorting through them after I’ve departed this realm of existence, and to simply trash them.  Before that time comes, I might do a little more sorting and reminiscing. 

Next blog post:  October 12

Michael Tymn is the author of The Afterlife Revealed: What Happens After We Die, Resurrecting Leonora Piper: How Science Discovered the Afterlife, and Dead Men Talking: Afterlife Communication from World War I.
His forthcoming book, No One Really Dies: 25 Reasons to Believe in an Afterlife is due in February 2021.

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‘Life Eternal’ Explained by “Titanic” Victim

Posted on 14 September 2020, 8:28

Before writing my 2012 book, Transcending the Titanic, I read everything I could find by or about William T. Stead, the famous British journalist who was a victim of the Titanic. I recently discovered that I missed an important reference, Life Eternal, a 1933 book just republished by White Crow Books.  It is the record of afterlife communication said to be coming from Stead through the mediumship of Hester Dowden, aka Hester Travers Smith, and organized into a book by Estelle Stead, William’s daughter.

Stead was on his way to New York to give a speech at Carnegie Hall on world peace when he met his end on the infamous ocean liner.  His career as a journalist and author began during the 1860’s when he became a reporter for a newspaper called the Northern Echo, advancing to editor in 1871.  In 1880, he accepted a position as assistant editor of the Pall Mall Gazette, then became its editor in 1883.  In 1890, he founded the Review of Reviews.  He has been credited with having introduced the interview technique to British journalism while inventing the “New Journalism,” bringing important topics in bright, colorful prose to the man in the street.  Stead (below) was also well known in psychic circles as the founder of Borderland, a quarterly journal devoted to psychical matters, and as an automatic writing medium. 


In a story written by B. O. Flower, the editor of Arena, a popular American publication, Stead is referred to as a cosmopolitan journalist “with a rare blending of intellectual force with moral conviction, idealism with utilitarianism, a virile imagination, and a common sense practicality that strove to make the vision a useful reality.”  Those qualities and characteristics apparently remained with him in the afterlife. 

Dowden, (below) an Irish medium, was the daughter of Professor Edward Dowden, a distinguished Shakespearian scholar, and the wife of a prominent Dublin physician. She was primarily an automatic writing and Ouija board medium, sitting regularly with a small group of friends, including Sir William Barrett, a renowned physicist and psychical researcher. Geraldine Cummins, perhaps the most famous automatist in history, was introduced to mediumship by Dowden.


“[Dowden] is not a credulous or hasty investigator; on the contrary, the trend of her mind is healthily skeptical, and hence the opinions at which she has arrived cannot be dismissed as the product of morbid curiosity or the mere will to believe,” Barrett wrote in the Introduction to her 1919 book, Voices from the Void.

It was on April 15, 1912, when Dowden received a very rapid message stating: “Ship sinking; all hands lost. William East overboard.  Women and children weeping and wailing – sorrow, sorrow, sorrow.”  She had no idea what the message meant and no more came through at that sitting.  Later that day it was reported that the Titanic had sunk. As a spirit claiming to be Stead communicated at subsequent sittings, Dowden concluded that because of the rapidity of the message she got the last name wrong in that very first message. 

It is not clear from 1933 book when Dowden received the later communication, but indications are that it was many years after the Titanic went down, apparently during the 1920s or just before the book was published. “I have never been so fully conscious of the presence of a communicator as in the W. T. Stead case,” Dowden wrote in the preface to the book.  “I feel that he is entirely outside my personality, using me as an instrument with infinite skill. I find myself conversing with him exactly as I should if his bodily presence was beside me, discussing difficult problems and often arguing with him.”  She further noted that Stead communicated at about 3,000 words an hour, which prohibited any thinking process on her part. 

Stead communicated that his early attempts at communication were not very successful, because although he knew pretty much what to do, he didn’t know how to do it.  Initially, he could shoot only short messages.  “When we communicate with you, we have in a sense to form a body, a body that will compress the soul again to the dimensions it had before it cast off the body,” he explained. “The whole thing is a strain.  When we speak to you, we are in an unnatural condition.”  He added that the initial efforts were so difficult that he gave up on it for a few years (in earth time) before he tried again. 

Here are some of the comments made by Stead through Dowden:

Language: “I am going to use the language of the inhabitants of the Earth, although here in my sphere language is no longer a necessity. Therefore, allowances must be made, if what I describe at times seems grossly material…If I speak of food or drink, houses, poverty, wealth, you must not take it that what I speak of is precisely the equivalent of your poverty and wealth, your food and drink, your houses, etc.”

God: “In the sphere where I am now, we can still only speculate who and what ‘He’ is.  We look on God as Life, the source of life and being, and we know that he is responsible for the universe and all that it contains.  But whether he has a form similar to the human form, where he is a single personality or a vast group of personalities acting together in accord and harmony, we do not know and we can only get as far as the threshold of His house.”

Christ: “Christ came forth from God as a manifestation of God.  He was a Son of God in deed and in truth.  After His manifestation He entered into God and remained as a personality in His teachings only.  Christ as a person does not exist in any of the seven spheres, but His image can manifest there as a symbol of the personality that has passed into the Greater Life.”

Jesus: “Jesus was the vehicle through which Christ worked.  Jesus was a man, was not more divine than other men, but He was possessed of the power to give manifestation of the Divine which is not given to the ordinary man.  Jesus passed into the creative spheres after He left the world, and now He has passed into the Greater Life.” 

Devil: “We know of no devil in the universe, but we do know that certain forces work for retrogression.”

Death: “After death, the soul shoots out of the body, inflicting a terrific strain on itself.  The cord uniting the soul with the body, which resembles the cord between the mother and the child, is not always severed at the moment of death; as a rule it is, but there are exceptions, and the term of severance depends to a certain extent on the knowledge the soul possesses of its conditions. With sudden death, the shock being great, the term of severance may be delayed for a long period, but this is the exception not the rule; in most cases of sudden death the cord is severed at once.”

Subconscious: “The soul, being the whole personality, has a knowledge of the purpose for which it was created; it has also a knowledge of the development that is before it, but this knowledge is subconscious.  And by subconscious, I mean that it does not take this knowledge into the part of the its consciousness that is active.  While a man is on Earth, he only needs a fraction of his personality.”

Corrupt Souls: “When he dies, he remains in a dream or rather in a nightmare condition until the desire to grow returns to him, the desire to have another chance and to forget the past.”

Spheres: “We speak of seven spheres, seven different states, and in each of these there are seven planes.  The spheres are of different quality, and the duration of the soul’s sojourn in each is of a different length.  The state which I call a sphere, is a mental condition.  In each of the spheres we retain ‘form.’ Our bodies become more ethereal as we ascend, or if our choice prompts us to descend, we have more material bodies.”

Education: “After the fourth sphere is passed, your education is complete.  You have arrived at a stage where you no longer learn, you create.  The last three spheres through which you pass are spheres of creative activity.”

Group Soul: “Here, in the fifth sphere, you begin to pass into the Group, to create out of yourself, with the strengthening power of the Group that is behind you.  There are no incongruities here.  Quite naturally, you fall into your Group, or place, and do your work with its support.”

Spiritual Evolution: “When it reaches the seventh sphere, the soul has full realization of itself.  It understands its purpose, and then it is free to choose its destiny.  It is no longer hampered by the laws which compel it to take the next step.  It can choose its own road.  But before that, free will is limited.”

Reincarnation: “The first question you ask is: does the larger proportion of souls who come over from the Earth Sphere return to it? No, by far the larger proportion continue their development on our side, and do not enter the restriction of the physical body again.” 

While stressing that it is for the most part beyond human comprehension, Stead elaborated on much of the above and discussed other subjects, including time, afterlife relationships, activities, appearances, music, animals, and religion, in the first section of the book.  In the second section, he discusses various types of mediumship and explains many of the difficulties encountered in spirit communication, including the possible distortion of messages by the medium’s subconscious mind and “invasions” by low-level spirits stuck in the “Shadow Plane.” 

Next blog post:  September 28

Michael Tymn is the author of The Afterlife Revealed: What Happens After We Die, Resurrecting Leonora Piper: How Science Discovered the Afterlife, and Dead Men Talking: Afterlife Communication from World War I.
His forthcoming book, No One Really Dies: 25 Reasons to Believe in an Afterlife is due in February 2021.

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Professor of Religious Studies Survives Career in Exile

Posted on 31 August 2020, 9:07

After Stafford Betty read my recent Amazon review of Bob Gebelein’s book, Dirty Science, he commented that “the book explains as well as any what happened to me in the suffocating academic environment I lived in. I’m lucky to have survived until retirement, which will be official by the end of this month.”

Betty, a professor of religious studies at California State University at Bakersfield since 1972, dared to go beyond the limits of both orthodox religion and materialistic science in his lectures, discussing with his students credible research in such areas as near-death experiences, reincarnation, mediumship, and deathbed phenomena.  “My departmental colleagues are embarrassed by my interest in the paranormal,” Betty (below) explained when I interviewed him in 2014 “I have tried to share it with selected members, but none has ever shown any interest.  James Joyce once described one of his fictional characters as ‘a giraffe cropping high leafage among a herd of antelopes.’ That’s me.  No doubt several of my colleagues would be happy to see me retire.” 


Gebelein’s book discusses the resistance to paranormal phenomena and the research carried out by many esteemed scientists and scholars over the last century and a half – research strongly suggesting that consciousness survives death in a greater reality. This resistance results from the materialistic mindset which holds that there is no reality beyond the physical, all of which can be detected by our five senses.  It has been called “physicalism,’ “scientism,” ‘reductionism,” or “materialism.”  “…as long as physicalism dominates the academic community, it dominates the whole culture,” Gebelein offers. “The academic community defines that culture. The academic community decides what is ‘established’.” The academic community decides what the culture recognizes as ‘knowledge’… If the academic community is dominated by dirty science, so is culture.”  As he sees it, physicalism dominates the academic community as if it were a hypnotic command. 

Dirty science, Gebelein continues, is that resulting from bias toward psychic phenomena by mainstream scientists – a bias that results in misinterpretations, distortion, twisting, misrepresentations, and ridicule of everything outside the scope of the five senses, including scientific studies by open-minded scientists and academicians who have been brave enough to defy their colleagues and venture outside the limited boundaries of the mainstream.

In my earlier interviews and talks with Professor Betty, we talked about this very bias that has polluted academia.  I again discussed it with him last week.  He explained that impatience over his interests in psychic matters had been mounting over the years, but it was not until 15 years ago, when, as a senior member in his philosophy and religious studies department, he was in charge of hiring two new faculty, that it crested.  “There was fear that I would hire somebody with interests similar to mine,” he further explained by email. “A cabal of Betty haters rose up and began arguing, never to my face but behind my back (as I later learned) that the way I related to women in my department made them ‘uncomfortable’.”

The principle of academic freedom protected Betty from a frontal attack. “The only way to silence and eventually remove me from the department was to assail me (I later learned to my astonishment) as someone who was racist, sexist, anti-Semitic, religiously bigoted, and ageist.”

For the remainder of his career, Betty was banned from the department but continued to teach, not to philosophy or religious studies majors but rather to those majoring in other subjects, including many business majors.  He reported directly to the dean, not the department chair, and wasn’t even allowed to enter the building where his department was housed until the dean discovered such exclusion was illegal.  “The philosophers became increasingly concerned that I was lending respectability to a dualist metaphysics that contradicted the materialist worldview they all hewed to, and wanted their students to hew to,” he lamented. “Their leader swore to remove me from the department any way he could.  The department even removed my courses in Asian philosophy, philosophy of religion, and philosophy and religion in literature from the catalog.”

In spite of his banishment, Betty’s course, The Meaning of Death, became one of the most popular courses in the university. “Its popularity soared after I converted it over from a course more concerned with the sociology of death to one that deals more with metaphysics, especially with life after death,” he told me in the 2014 interview. “It is the latter that many of our students want reassurance about. They are like me thirty years ago.”  When Betty began using his book, The Afterlife Unveiled, in that course, his colleagues found that especially embarrassing. 

“For years, I asked deans and academic vice-presidents – they came and they went – to set up an impartial panel of faculty to investigate the allegations against me, clear my name, and restore my position in the department,” Betty continued. “No one would do it.  Everyone knew the charges would not stand.  To this day I have not been given the chance to face my accusers. I don’t know what they would say or how they would defend their lies. In the end, they got off scot-free.  And the real reason for this persecution?  I believed in a spiritual world and that we are spiritual beings, and I ‘poisoned’ the minds of my students with my ‘pseudoscience.’ They tolerated my teaching of my signature course, The Meaning of Death, as long as none of our majors took it.

“In the final analysis, my colleagues thought I had failed to outgrow the Catholic religion I grew up with.  It never occurred to them that I had outgrown it, too, but had from that point on gone down a different road.  To put it simply, I had felt an emptiness when I lost my faith, and they apparently had not.” 

In my earlier interview with Betty, he explained that his faith in Catholicism began to deteriorate after he returned from a stint in Vietnam as an Army engineer officer, primarily the result of reading Bertrand Russell’s Why I Am Not a Christian and not being able to counter his arguments.  While pursuing his studies at Fordham, Columbia, and Union Theological, he concentrated on Asian religious thought, especially Hinduism.  It was not until he had been teaching at Cal State for three years that he read Raymond Moody’s Life after Life, about near-death experiences, and that pieces started to come together for him. Not only did it reassure him that survival is highly probable, but it also led him to explore other paranormal phenomena.     

In retrospect, Betty sees his exile as the best thing that ever happened to him, professionally.  Shut out from departmental activities, he used the extra time to study in depth the books that really interested him – spirit accounts of their world, the one we all enter at death.  In 2011 he authored The Afterlife Unveiled, which is nearing 20,000 in sales.  That was followed by Heaven and Hell Unveiled (2014) and When did You Ever Become Less by Dying? (2016) A novel set in the afterlife, The Imprisoned Splendor, was also published in 2011. 

His new novel, The Afterlife Therapist, published by White Crow Books, is due in September 2020. As described at the White Crow web site, the protagonist, Aiden Lovejoy, a family therapist in earth life, picks up in the afterlife where he left off.  He encounters hellish zones where disfigured characters choose to live, and their suffering calls out to him. But he has troubles of his own, and souls from higher worlds inspire him to reach higher. Betty refers to it as a “more mature fictional adventure” than his earlier novel.  The novel is based on his research. 

“I have no evidence that any tenured professor in my (former) department other than my lone courageous supporter ever read a page of these books, either fiction or non-fiction,” he wrote.  “Instead of seeing me as a pioneer bringing distinction to the university, they regard me as an odd duck whose interests suggest, as one of them put it, an unfulfilled life at a physical level, which is entirely untrue.”

I asked Betty if he sees any hope that academia will move away from the materialist worldview it is now stuck in.  “Plenty of hope, but nothing like compelling evidence,” he responded. “My books produced a lot of correspondence, but not from philosophy professors.  I tell myself it’s okay.  There are many inquisitive minds out there that have not been shuttered by the requirements of a philosophy curriculum.” 

Any plans for his retirement?  “I’ll have time to set up a web page and bring together my writings into one place – also more time to market my books.  I’m just finishing a semiautobiographical novel about life at a state university – aha! – but what then? I don’t know.  For me, that’s a strange feeling.  One thing is certain, I’ll be spending more time with my three children and four grandchildren and helping my busy wife, an English professor, with the cooking!”

Michael Tymn is the author of The Afterlife Revealed: What Happens After We Die, Resurrecting Leonora Piper: How Science Discovered the Afterlife, and Dead Men Talking: Afterlife Communication from World War I.
His forthcoming book, No One Really Dies: 25 Reasons to Believe in an Afterlife is due in January 2021.

Next blog post:  September 14

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Hitting the Wall, then Oblivion?

Posted on 17 August 2020, 8:50

With Hurricane Douglas on a direct path toward Hawaii, where I live,  during the last week of July, I had doubts about making it to my next age milestone of 1000 months on August 2.  Hurricanes are fairly new to us, apparently the result of global warming, and the homes here are not constructed to resist such strong winds.  We have few shelters – just enough for the homeless – and we can’t jump in our cars and flee from it as people on the mainland do.  Thus, as Douglas moved closer and closer, I had visions of flying off with our house while grasping the leg of the heavy oak table in the dining room and embracing my wife.

A much greater fear was that I would survive the hurricane with no house and all worldly goods strewn over the nearby mountain range.  I could envision living my final days in this realm of existence in a grass shack much like the one in the accompanying photo.  If my house were to survive the hurricane winds, I thought about the good possibility that we would be without electricity for weeks, if not months, and I recalled the time a few years ago when less-than-hurricane winds left us without electricity for the better part of a day, during which time the temperature in the house, with windows boarded up, rose to an almost unbearable 115 degrees.  Those fears of living far outweighed the fear of death.


The conviction that I will survive death in a greater reality does much to mitigate the fear of death, whether from a hurricane or bodily functions shutting down.  Many of my friends share such a conviction, but I have encountered a number of nihilists who say they do not fear death because they’ll never know it when they are dead.  They think like Lucretius, the Epicurean poet, that death is a restful sleep. “Personally, I’ve never been persuaded by the argument that ‘oblivion’ is a terrible fate,” lawyer David Niose, a past-president of the American Humanist Association, expressed this humanist view in Psychology Today a few years ago. “Sure, given the choice of living or not – to be or not to be – I’d really prefer the former, but sooner or later we must all come down to the homestretch in life, and to many humanists the non-existence that awaits at the finish line is nothing to be feared.”  Niose added that he expects non-existence after death to be much like it was before birth, which he didn’t mind at all. 

Niose’s seemingly fearless approach may very well work for some, especially those still fairly distant from what they see as the abyss of nothingness.  I recall a friend with somewhat the same heroism, if it can be so called, until he was diagnosed with a terminal illness.  As I tried to console him in his final days, his fear manifested as severe trembling and a paralyses that prevented him from even talking.  “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,” wrote William James, one of the pioneers of psychology.  “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.”

Carl Jung, another pioneer of modern psychology, took something of a Pascalian view.  He wrote that “death is an important interest, especially to an aging person.”  He added that everyone should have a myth about death, “for reason shows him nothing but the dark pit into which he is descending. Myth,  however, can conjure up other images for him, helpful and enriching pictures of life in the land of the dead.  If he believes in them, or greets them with some measure of credence, he is being just as right or just as wrong as someone who does not believe in them.  But while the man who despairs marches toward nothingness, the one who has placed his faith in the archetype follows the tracks of life and lives right into his death.  Both, to be sure, remain in uncertainty, but the one lives against his instincts, the other with them.”

Jung likened life’s energy flow to that of “a runner who strives with the greatest effort and utmost expenditures of strength to reach his goal.”  Sooner or later, however, the striving ends.  “With the same intensity and irresistibility with which it strove upward before middle age, life now descends; for the goal no longer lies on the summit, but in the valley where the ascent began.”  As psychologist Herman Feifel noted, Jung stressed the point that the rationalistic view of death – that of the nihilist – tends to isolate man from his psychological self and underlines the need for psychology to digest certain parapsychological findings.  Many nihilists, however, are successful in repressing the idea of complete extinction, of obliteration, by engaging in mostly meaningless world activities – reading fiction, playing golf, watching ball games, whatever, until death comes knocking.   

Jung’s runner analogy, Niose’s metaphorical reference to the “homestretch,” and James’s to the “athletic attitude” all bring to mind the marathon running experience.  If I accurately recall the physiological aspects of running the 26.2-mile endurance challenge, the runner depends on carbohydrates in his or her body for energy and then somewhere around 20 miles, when the “carbs” are depleted, he or she switches over to fat burning to avoid “hitting the wall,” as it is called.  The runner not properly conditioned to switch from carbs to fat burning will hit that wall and painfully struggle to make it to the finish line.  As I see it, the nihilist is much like that unconditioned runner.  As he approaches life’s homestretch, his heroic approach dissipates and he begins to flounder.  His early courage is now seen as nothing more than bravado.  There may be exceptions, but I don’t recall having met one. 

Most of the nihilists I have encountered over the years are rebels against religion and have little or no understanding of the survival evidence gathered outside of orthodox religion.  When such evidence is called to their attention, they’ll check Wikipedia and parrot the debunker’s view of whatever phenomenon is being cited. They apply terrestrial standards to celestial matters of which science has no clue.  They assume that it is necessary to prove an anthropomorphic God before considering the evidence for survival of the consciousness at death.  They further assume that the afterlife is nothing more than strumming harps and praising an angry God, something that seems inconceivable for an eternity.  They are victims of scientism, scoffing and sneering at all those subscribing to “religious” superstitions.   
Alan Harrington, author of the 1969 book, The Immortalist, seems to have been a more objective humanist, or nihilist.  “An unfortunate awareness has overtaken our species,” he wrote. “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 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.  If Harrington were alive today, I suspect he would see much of the turmoil and chaos in today’s world resulting from nihilism. 

“The state of anxiety, the feeling of powerlessness and insignificance, and especially the doubt concerning one’s future after death, represent a state of mind which is practically unbearable for anybody,” wrote Erich Fromm, another humanist philosopher.

The nihilist usually interprets all that to suggest that those who are interested in an afterlife are not making the most of this life.  Sir Oliver Lodge, a renowned British physicist, was asked about this after devoting much time to psychical research.  “It is no doubt possible, as always, to overstep the happy mean, and by absorption in and premature concerns with future interests to lose the benefit and training of this present life,” he responded.  “But although we may rightly decide to live with full vigour in the present, and do our duty from moment to moment, yet in order to be full-flavoured and really intelligent beings – not merely with mechanical draft following the line of least resistance – we ought to be aware that there is a future, a future determined to some extent by action in the present; and it is only reasonable that we should seek to ascertain, roughly and approximately, what sort of future it is likely to be.”

Hurricane Douglas took a little turn and missed Hawaii by a hundred miles or so, allowing me to make that 1000-month milestone.  With other hurricanes expected to follow and with bodily functions gradually shutting down, I don’t know how many months I have left in this realm of existence, but the conviction that my consciousness will survive my physical death permits a certain peace of mind, one which I am pretty certain I would not have as a nihilist.  As the great philosopher and poet Goethe put it, “When a man is seventy-five he cannot help sometimes thinking about death. The thought of it leaves me perfectly calm, for I am convinced that our spirit is absolutely indestructible…it is like the sun which only seems to sink and in reality never sinks at all.”

Michael Tymn is the author of The Afterlife Revealed: What Happens After We Die, Resurrecting Leonora Piper: How Science Discovered the Afterlife, and Dead Men Talking: Afterlife Communication from World War I.
His forthcoming book, No One Really Dies: 25 Reasons to Believe in an Afterlife is due in January 2021.

Next blog post:  August 31

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Quoting Distinguished Scientists and Scholars on Survival

Posted on 03 August 2020, 17:04

It wasn’t long after the birth of modern Spiritualism in 1848 that scientists and scholars began investigating the phenomena.  Many of them started out with the intent of showing that all mediums were charlatans, but one by one they came to believe in the reality of mediumship and related psychic phenomena.  A few of them sat on the fence when it came to professing a belief in the spirit world, but others were more courageous.

Here are testimonials from the earliest researchers.  More recent researchers will be quoted in future posts:

Judge John W. Edmonds (1816-1874) – After serving in both houses of the New York legislature, including president of the Senate, Edmonds was elevated to the New York State Supreme Court and became its Chief Justice.  He began his investigation of mediums in 1851, assuming that he would expose them as frauds.

But all this, and much, very much more of a cognate nature went to show me that there was a high order of intelligence involved in this new phenomenon – an intelligence outside of, and beyond, mere mortal agency; for there was no other hypothesis which I could devise or hear of that could at all explain that, whose reality is established by the testimony of tens of thousands, and can easily be ascertained by anyone who take the trouble to inquire …

Governor Nathaniel P. Tallmadge (1795-1864) – Educated as a lawyer, Tallmadge served as a United States Senator from New York and as Governor of the Territory of Wisconsin. He initially considered mediumship a “delusion,” but was prompted to investigate by the testimony of Judge John W. Edmonds. He soon began communicating with the spirit of his old friend, John C. Calhoun, former vice-president of the United States.  On one occasion, Calhoun asked him to bring a guitar.

I have received numerous communications from [Calhoun] from the time of my commencing this investigation.  They have been received through rapping, writing, and speaking mediums, and are of the most extraordinary character…I have heard the guitar played by the most skillful and scientific hands, but I never could have conceived of that instrument being able to produce sounds of such marvelous and fascinating beauty, power, and even grandeur as this invisible performer that night executed. 

Professor Augustus De Morgan (1806-1871) – Considered one of the most brilliant mathematicians of the 19th Century, De Morgan became chairman of the mathematics department at University College in London at age 21.  He introduced “De Morgan’s Laws” and was a reformer in mathematical logic.  He began sitting with mediums in 1853.

…I have seen in my house frequently, various persons presenting themselves [as mediums].  The answers are given mostly by the table, on which a hand or two is gently placed, tilting up at the letters…I have no theory about it, but in a year or two something may turn up.  I am, however, satisfied of the reality of the phenomenon.  A great many other persons are as cognizant of these phenomena in their own houses as myself.  Make what you can of it if you are a philosopher. 

Professor Robert Hare, M.D.  (1751-1858) – An emeritus professor of chemistry at the University of Pennsylvania and world-renowned inventor, Hare denounced the “madness” being called “Spiritualism” and set out in 1853 to prove that the raps, taps, and table tilting purportedly bringing messages from the dead were either hallucinations or unconscious muscular actions on the part of those present.

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.

Professor Johann K. F. Zöllner (1834-1882) – A professor of astronomy at Leipzig University, he contributed to measuring the brightness of the moon and of stars that could be seen.  His book, titled Transcendental Physics, was published in 1880.

We have acquired proof of the existence of an invisible world which can enter into relation with humanity.

Professor James J. Mapes (1806-1866) – A professor of chemistry and natural philosophy at the National Academy of Design in New York and later at the American Institute, Mapes is best remembered for his inventions in sugar refining and artificial fertilizers. He set out around 1854 to rescue his friends who were “running to mental seed and imbecility” over the mediumship epidemic. After investigating many mediums, Mapes changed his views. Moreover, both his wife and daughter became mediums.

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.

Biologist Alfred Russel Wallace (1823-1913) – Co-originator with Charles Darwin of the natural selection theory of evolution, Wallace, a naturalist who provided Darwin with his parallel theory before Darwin went public with their two theories, was a hard-core materialist until he began investigating mediums in 1865.  He soon became one of Spiritualism’s greatest missionaries. 

My position is that the phenomena of Spiritualism in their entirety do not require further confirmation.  They are proved quite as well as facts are proved in other sciences.

Sir William Crookes (1832-1919) – A physicist and chemist, he discovered the element thallium and was a pioneer in radioactivity.  He invented the radiometer, the spinthariscope, and a high-vacuum tube that contributed to the discovery of the x-ray. He was knighted in 1897 and served as president of the British Association for the Advancement of Science.  He set out in 1870 to drive “the worthless residuum of spiritualism” into the “unknown limbo of magic and necromancy.”  However, after thorough investigations of Daniel D. Home and Florence Cook, he changed his views. 

[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.

Sir William Barrett, FRS (1844-1925) – Professor of physics at the Royal College of Science in Dublin for 37 years, he developed a silicon-iron alloy important to the development of the telephone and in construction of transformers.  His research on entoptic vision contributed to the invention of the entoptiscope and a new optometer.  He was knighted in 1912 for his contributions to science.
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.

Professor Camille Flammarion (1842-1925) – A world renowned astronomer, Flammarion founded the French Astronomical Society and was known for his study of Mars. He was a pioneer in the use of balloon to study the stars. He investigated psychic phenomena, including mediumship, for more than 50 years.
I do not hesitate to affirm my conviction, based on personal examination of the subject, that any man who declares the phenomena to be impossible is one who speaks without knowing what he is talking about; and, also that any man accustomed to scientific observation – provided that his mind is not biased by preconceived opinions – may acquire a radical and absolute certainty of the reality of the facts alluded to. 

Frederic W. H. Myers, M.A.  (1843-1901) – After graduating from Cambridge in 1864, he became a lecturer in classical literature there while also serving as inspector of schools at Cambridge.  Although not educated as a psychologist, he developed, independent of Freud, a theory of the subliminal self. University of Geneva psychology professor Theordor Flournoy opined that Myers name should be joined to those of Copernicus and Darwin, completing “the triad of geniuses” who most profoundly revolutionized scientific thought.  He was one of the founders of the Society for Psychical Research.

I will here briefly state what facts they are which our recorded apparitions, intimations, messages of the departing and the departed, have, to my mind actually proved:  a) In the first place, they prove survival pure and simple; the persistence of the spirit’s life as a structural law of the universe; the inalienable heritage of each several soul; b) …they prove that between the spiritual and the material worlds an avenue of communication does in fact exist; that which we call the dispatch and the receipt of telepathic messages, or the utterance and the answer of prayer and supplication; c)…they prove that the surviving spirit retains, at least in some measure, the memories and the loves of earth…”

Sir Oliver Lodge, D. Sc., FRS  (1851-1940) – Professor of physics at University College in Liverpool, England and later principal at the University of Birmingham, Lodge achieved world fame for his pioneering work in electricity, including the radio and spark plug.  Lodge was knighted in 1902 for his contributions to science. He became interested in psychical research in 1884 and sat extensively with Leonora Piper and Gladys Osborne Leonard.

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.

Professor Charles Richet, M.D., Ph.D. (1850-1909) – Professor of physiology at the University of Paris Medical School, Richet was considered a world authority on nutrition in health and in disease. He won the Nobel Prize in 1913 for his work on allergic reactions. While convinced of the reality of mediumship, he remained publicly agnostic toward survival. 

It seems to me the facts are undeniable.  I am convinced that I have been present at realities.  Certainly I cannot say in what materialization consists.  I am ready to maintain that there is something profoundly mysterious in it which will change from top to bottom our ideas on nature and on life.

Dr. Richard Hodgson (1855-1905) – After earning his M.A. and LL.D at the University of Melbourne, Hodgson moved to England and entered the University of Cambridge as a scholar studying moral sciences.  Upon graduation, he taught poetry and philosophy at University Extension, then the philosophy of Herbert Spenser at Cambridge before becoming a full-time psychical researcher in 1887.  He had hundreds of sittings with Leonora Piper over 18 years.

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.

James H. Hyslop, Ph.D., LL.D. (1854-1920) – After receiving his Ph.D. from Johns Hopkins University in 1887 and his LL.D. from University of Wooster, Hyslop taught philosophy at Lake Forest University, Smith College, and Bucknell University before joining the faculty of Columbia in 1895.  He authored three textbooks, Elements of Logic (1892), Elements of Ethics (1895), and Problems of Philosophy (1905) before becoming a full-time psychical researcher.

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.

Michael Tymn is the author of The Afterlife Revealed: What Happens After We Die, Resurrecting Leonora Piper: How Science Discovered the Afterlife, and Dead Men Talking: Afterlife Communication from World War I.
His forthcoming book, No One Really Dies: 25 Reasons to Believe in an Afterlife is due later in 2020.

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D. D. Home: Divine Music from a Moustache?

Posted on 20 July 2020, 9:47

In the August 1860 edition of Cornhill Magazine, Robert Bell, a journalist, reported on his attendance at a séance with the famous medium Daniel Dunglas Home.  He wrote of seeing a large hand floating before him.  “Somewhat too eager to satisfy my curiosity, I seized it, felt it very sensibly, but it went out, like air, in my grasp,” Bell explained, going on to report on a floating accordion playing music.  “We listened with suspended breath. The air was wild, and full of strange transitions, with a wall of the most pathetic sweetness running through it.  The execution was no less remarkable for its delicacy than its power.  When the notes swelled in some of the bold passages the sound rolled through the room with an astounding reverberation; then, gently subsiding, sank into a strain of divine tenderness … Our ears, that heard it, had never before been visited by ‘a sound so fine.’ It continued diminishing and diminishing and diminishing, and stretching far away into distance and darkness, until the attenuated thread of sound became so exquisite that it was impossible at last to fix the moment when it ceased.”

Some people thought that Home (pronounced Hume in England, Hoom in Scotland) was a talented musician, but it seems to have been the spirits overshadowing him who deserved the credit.  Sir William Crookes, (below) a world-famous chemist and physicist who discovered the element thallium and was a pioneer in x-ray technology, reported seeing an accordion, its keys untouched by human hands, play beautiful music in the presence of Home on several occasions.  Home would hold the end of the accordion with his fingertips, allowing the instrument to hang.  Apparently, the “psychic force” required for the spirits to play the instrument was transmitted through Home’s body and fingers.


In one of the experiments, Crookes enclosed the accordion in a cage, while Home (below) held the end of it from outside the cage.  “It then commenced to play, at first chords and runs, and afterwards a well-known sweet and plaintive melody, which was executed perfectly in a very beautiful manner,” Crookes reported, mentioning that he had purchased the accordion himself, not allowing Home to handle it before the experiment so that there could be no possibility of a trick or self-playing instrument.


Biologist Alfred Russel Wallace, co-originator with Charles Darwin of the natural selection theory of evolution, was present in Crookes’s home at one such experiment.  “The room was well-lighted and I distinctly saw Home’s hand holding the instrument, which moved up and down and played a tune without any visible cause,”  Wallace reported, adding that Home took away his hand and the instrument continued to be played by a “detached hand” that clearly did not belong to Home.

On another occasion, the accordion floated across the room, clearly free of Home.  “A phantom form came from a corner of the room, took an accordion in its hands, and then glided about the room playing the instrument,” Crookes wrote.  “The form was visible to all present for many minutes, Mr. Home also seen at the time.  Coming rather close to a lady who was sitting apart from the rest of the company, she gave a slight cry, upon which [the phantom] vanished.”

According to Wikipedia, magician/debunker James “The Amazing” Randi has a simple explanation for it: Home had a mouth organ hidden in his thick moustache.  Randi apparently knew someone who told him that a harmonica was found among Home’s personal belongings after his death in 1886.  Such evidence!!! 

When I read Randi’s theory, I immediately thought of the book The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat, the author being the late Oliver Sacks.  Perhaps Randi could author a book about Home titled The Man who played Divine Music from his Moustache.

Other skeptical “authorities” – most of them not even born until well after Home’s death – are cited at Wikipedia, one theorizing that Home had a music box tied to his leg, another suggesting that he used hooks and black silk which were not observable in the candlelight of the day to make it appear that the accordion was floating. Still another suggested the semblance of a keyboard concealed on his coat sleeve.  Another suspected an accomplice hidden in the room while playing another accordion.  There are many “might have” or “could have” speculations as to Home’s “conjuring.”

“It is idle to attribute these results to trickery, for I would [point out] that what I relate has not been accomplished at the house of a medium, but in my own house, where preparations have been quite impossible,” Crookes wrote.  “A medium, walking into my dining room, cannot, while seated in one part of my room with a number of persons keenly watching him, by trickery make an accordion play in my own hand when I hold it keys downward, or cause the same accordion to float about the room playing all the time. He cannot introduce machinery which will wave window curtains or pull up Venetian blinds eight feet off, tie a knot in a handkerchief and place it in a far corner of the room, sound notes on a distant piano, cause a card-plate to float about the room, raise a water bottle and tumbler from the table, make a coral necklace rise on end, cause a fan to move about and fan the company, or set in motion a pendulum when enclosed in a glass case firmly cemented to the wall.” 

As Crookes recorded, the phenomena produced by or through Home were not limited to music and luminous hands.  Home is said to have produced (or the spirits produced through him) a variety of phenomena, including levitations, materializations, and philosophical discourses delivered while he was in a trance state.

The most comprehensive account of Home’s mediumship was written by Viscount Adare, the fourth Earl of Dunraven, also known as Windham Wyndham-Quin (1841 – 1926), in an 1870 book titled Experiences in Spiritualism with D. D. Home (available from White Crow Books), which details 78 sittings Adare had with Home beginning in November 1867. In the Introduction of Adare’s book, his father, the third Earl of Dunraven (Edwin Richard Wyndham-Quin), an archaeologist and Fellow of the Royal Society, tells of his observations of Home. “To those who are familiar with mesmeric trances, the genuineness of Mr. Home’s is easily admitted,” Dunraven wrote. “To me they are among the most interesting portions of the manifestations which occur through his mediumship.  The change which takes place in him is very striking; he becomes, as it were, a being of a higher type. … At first sight much might appear to be skillful acting, but after having so frequently witnessed these trance states, I am fully convinced of their truthfulness. … That he is possessed by a power or spirit, not his own, and superior to himself, a very little experience will suffice to render manifest.” 

On November 23, 1867, Dunraven recorded that the table in the room began to vibrate and move toward Home It tilted up at an angle of about 30 degrees and the piano moved away from the wall on its own accord.  The floor vibrated strongly and five raps then indicated that the spirits wanted the alphabet.  “You are over anxious, and not sufficiently prayerful,” came the message, suggesting that the spirits were having difficulties. It was followed by a message telling them that in seeking physical phenomena, they are losing sight of God. “It was very remarkable that the indications for the word ‘God’ were made, not by common raps, but by the table giving sudden movements, whilst it was either partially or wholly off the ground,” Dunraven recorded. “At the end it was clearly so, and it made the sign of the cross by moving forward and backward, and from side to side.”

On February 9, 1869, Sacha, Home’s deceased wife, materialized for all to see.  “Her form gradually became apparent to us,” Adare wrote.  “She moved close to Home and kissed him.  She stood beside him against the window intercepting the light as a solid body, and appeared fully as material as Home himself.  No one could have told which was the mortal body and which was the spirit.” 

In another sitting, Home (more likely the spirit talking through him), then began talking about God.  “I cannot remember the exact words,” Adare continued his report, “but the substance of it was, that it was impossible for us to comprehend it; that nearly every man had really in his mind a different idea of God; that whether our conception of Him was as a unity, duality, or a trinity, it could not be of much consequence, provided that we recognized Him and obeyed His laws. He spoke much of the immensity of God, and our almost utter ignorance of Him and His works.”

Crookes reported seeing Home levitated (lifted by spirits) on three separate occasions.  In another experiment, a table was levitated and both Crookes and Wallace, the evolutionist, went to their knees to confirm that the legs were well off the floor.  What Crookes called the “most exciting and satisfactory meeting” with Home took place on April 12, 1871 at his (Crookes’s) home.  One of his guests, Frank Herne, was lifted out of his chair, “floated across the table, and dropped with a crash of pictures and ornaments at the other end of the room.”  After Herne returned to his seat, both he and Charles Williams, another guest,  were lifted by unseen forces and deposited on the table.  There is no mention of this at Wikipedia

At a sitting on June 28, 1871, Home went into a trance state and a voice began speaking through him. One of Crookes’s guests asked who was speaking.  “It is not one spirit in particular,” came the reply through Home.  “It is a general influence.  It requires two or three spirits to get complete control over Dan.  The conditions are not very good tonight.”  The communicating spirits explained that few spirits were capable of communicating at all and said something to the effect that they were experimenting on their side as well.  Crookes noted that voices were sometimes heard in which one invisible being seemed to be instructing another invisible being on how to carry out the levitation.

According to one debunker cited at Wikipedia, the vibrations and moving furniture at the Crookes’s home might best be explained by the fact that there were train tracks not far from his home and that the trains passing by caused the movement. Some of the other “tricks” might be explained by Home having holes in his socks and manipulating objects with his toes.  Wikipedia seems to give more credibility to people who weren’t even alive when Home was than to the intelligent people, like Crookes, Wallace, Adare, and Dunraven, who witnessed the phenomena time and time again. Crookes carried out 29 separate experiments with Home over a three-year period, again, most of them in his own home and under lighted conditions.  Randi would likely explain it by saying that it takes a magician to understand it all and Crookes was a scientist, not a magician. 

Sir David Brewster, a physicist known for his contributions to the optics field, is said to have witnessed Home being levitated.  Although seemingly quite impressed at the time, he later concluded that the only explanation was a trick he did not understand, or a delusion.  “Spirit is the last thing I will give in to,” he was quoted. Such a mindset continues to exist, especially with Wikipedia writers.

Michael Tymn is the author of The Afterlife Revealed: What Happens After We Die, Resurrecting Leonora Piper: How Science Discovered the Afterlife, and Dead Men Talking: Afterlife Communication from World War I.
His forthcoming book, No One Really Dies: 25 Reasons to Believe in an Afterlife is due later in 2020.

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10 Lessons Not Offered in Sunday School or Science 101

Posted on 06 July 2020, 10:13

Upon discovering my book, The Afterlife Revealed, at an Internet bookseller, a long-lost friend sent an email to me, informing me that his wife was dying and that he was looking for a good book about dying and the afterlife when he came upon my book.  He asked what I could possibly “reveal” to him about the afterlife that his brand of Christianity hadn’t already offered him.  He also asked about the sources of the “revelations” in my book. I responded by explaining that the sources included psychical research and afterlife studies in mediumship, near-death experiences, past-life recollections, instrumental transcommunication, and various other paranormal phenomena over the years.  After a little thought, I boiled it all down to 10 lessons, none of which I was taught in my Catholic catechism classes or in college science courses.  They are:

1. Faith vs. Conviction:  There is compelling evidence that consciousness survives death.

All I ever got in my catechism lessons relative to evidence are the Bible and miracles performed by a number of church saints that defied natural law.  While some of those miracles really impressed me and provided a foundation for a belief in paranormal phenomena, belief was still more a matter of faith than it was conviction based on evidence.  My science classes ignored the subject matter and left the student with a nihilistic worldview, but psychical research and related afterlife studies provided some solid evidence and filled in the blanks left by orthodox religion and mainstream science while also providing some explanations for the miracles taught by the Church. 
2. The God Factor: Proof of God is not necessary to accept evidence that consciousness survives death.

Everything I was taught in religion classes began with the a priori necessity to accept the existence of an anthropomorphic God, and everything I heard from the atheistic side began with debunking the existence of that same God.  The survival of consciousness, or afterlife, issue was always secondary and contingent upon proof of God. Not until I began studying psychical research did I realize that it is not necessary to have proof of God before examining and accepting the evidence for survival.  One can accept survival and infer some kind of Creator or Higher Intelligence without believing in a humanlike God or subscribing to the whole “worship” side of religions.  To put it another way, the evidence for survival leads to God, not the other way around.

3. No Humdrum Heaven:  The Afterlife is much more dynamic than that taught by religions. 

Religions teach a Heaven in which we don’t do much more than praise God 24-7 while strumming harps and floating around on clouds or suffering torment in a pit of fire and brimstone. The Catholic Church teaches a middle ground in Purgatory, but it is just as bad as Hell, though not eternal.  Psychical research tells us that there are many planes, spheres, dimensions, levels of vibration, whatever name be given to them, and that they are much more dynamic than the afterlife offered by religions.  As Jesus said, there are “many mansions” in his Father’s house. At the most populous level, the spirit world is much like our earth world, or, perhaps more accurately, the earth world is a replica of the spirit world to some extent.  It is a thought world, but it is much more real than the physical world.

4. Spirit Body:  We have a spiritual body, the outer rim of which is called the aura.

Different names are given to it – etheric body, astral body, celestial body, odic body, radiant body, ghost, double, phantom, subtle body, perispirit – and this body is joined to the physical body by a “silver cord,” an astral umbilical cord, and threads, which are severed at death.  The so-called aura, the outer edge of this spirit body, is an “electrical” field that connects us with the larger life. At the time of death, the silver cord is severed after the threads slowly break and the body emits a vaporish or misty substance, sometimes called soul mist, that forms a spirit body above the physical body.  The personality continues to exist in that body at a different vibration in a different dimension of reality.

5. Hades:  There is an adjustment period immediately after death.

There is a transition stage immediately following physical death in which we shed earthly habits and adapt to the spiritual environment before experiencing what has been called the “second death.” This is a staging area of sorts where the soul must adjust its vibrations to the spirit world. There may be great confusion in Hades, a “fire of the mind,” so to speak, by materialistic or spiritually-challenged souls; hence the belief by some religions that Hades is another name for Hell. It is said that even Jesus needed a period of adjustment.  Thus, he spent a day or more in Hades and then on the third day “rose into Heaven.”  That is, he apparently experienced the “second death” on the “third day.” 

6. Awakening:  We awaken on the Other Side with the degree of consciousness at which we left the material world.

Many religions would have us believe that we become all-knowing angels of some kind upon entering the spirit world, but indications are that we awaken on the Other Side with the same consciousness we had as we departed the material life.  Enlightened souls awaken quickly, while more average souls awaken in something of a stupor for a period time and more depraved souls are “earthbound,” not even realizing they are dead, as if in a dream world. The “awakening” depends on the degree of spiritual consciousness achieved during the earth life. While time takes on a different meaning there, it may take just a few days in earth time for the developed soul but hundreds of years in earth time for the undeveloped soul to fully awaken. 

7. Judgment:  There is no Judgment Day, per se.  We judge ourselves.

In my catechism classes, I was taught that I could lead a virtuous life, but then make one big mistake, i.e., sin, before death and that would result in spending eternity in Hell.  On the other hand, I could lead a life of sin, then repent on my deathbed and eventually make it to Heaven after spending a few-hundred years in Purgatory.  However, psychical research and afterlife studies suggest that we judge ourselves and settle in at a level based on what has been called a “moral specific gravity” – which is a melding of all our positive and negative moral acts during our lifetime. We can’t cheat in judging ourselves because we cannot adapt to a level in the larger life for which we are not prepared. 

8. Reunion: There is a reunion with departed loved ones and friends.

There have been countless reports coming to us through credible mediumship and near-death studies indicating that we are greeted on the Other Side by deceased loved ones and that there is a happy reunion of some kind before one of those loved ones or an independent spirit takes us under his or her “wing” and guides us, explaining how things work in that realm, while also giving us a tour of the afterlife environment and then guiding us in further development there. 

9.  Rebirth: After the adjustment period, we settle in and spiritually evolve from there.

Whether reincarnation involves a rebirth of the total personality over many lifetimes or something much more complex in which fragments of the soul are reborn as the “higher self” remains in the spirit world in a Group Soul is unclear and apparently beyond human comprehension, but one way or the other there is a spiritual evolution taking place in which the soul learns to deal with adversity and gradually perfects itself, moving to higher and higher realms.   

10. True Oneness:  We retain our individuality as we spiritually evolve.

The ultimate, according to some beliefs, is the attainment of Nirvana, at which all souls become One with the Creator. While this implies a loss of individuality, various advanced spirits have informed us that it is just the opposite – we become more of an individual.  We develop latent gifts, acquire greater knowledge, become stronger in character, and never lose ourselves.  Complete perfection is never attained, although there is a constant striving toward it.  At some point, we succeed in finding ourselves, and in the process we find greater unity with others. “You do not lose your individuality in a sea of greater consciousness, but that depth of the ocean becomes included in your individuality,” the group soul called Silver Birch explained. 

As I tried to explain in the book and to my long-lost friend, by going beyond the self-imposed limits of orthodox religion and mainstream science, we can find a much more logical, more sensible, more inviting environment – one that can be reconciled with a just and loving Creator, and a Divine Plan not based on fear. At the same time, the basic tenets of the Bible and other good books – Do unto others…, Love thy neighbor…, and You reap what you sow…remain the guiding principles in the latest revelations.

Michael Tymn is the author of The Afterlife Revealed: What Happens After We Die, Resurrecting Leonora Piper: How Science Discovered the Afterlife, and Dead Men Talking: Afterlife Communication from World War I.

His forthcoming book, No One Really Dies: 25 Reasons to Believe in an Afterlife is due later in 2020.

Next blog post: July 20


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The Mystery of Soul Mist Unsolved

Posted on 22 June 2020, 9:38

In his 2010 book, Glimpses of Eternity, Raymond Moody, M. D., Ph.D., who is known primarily for his pioneering work in near-death experiences, mentions a strange mist having been observed at deathbeds.  “Some say that it looks like smoke, while others say it is as subtle as steam,” Moody explains.  “Sometimes it seems to have a human shape.  Whatever the case, it usually drifts upward and always disappears fairly quickly.”

A hospice psychologist is quoted by Moody as saying that the misty clouds which form above the head or chest seem to have an electrical component to them. Moody also tells of a nurse seeing a mist rising from many patients as they die, including her father, with whom she saw it emanate from his chest “as if off a still river,” then hovering for a few seconds before dissipating.

Such a phenomenon can be observed in the accompanying photo which was taken by the dying man’s wife, Beverly, on January 17, 2009, in Prescott, Arizona just five minutes after her husband, Ronald, passed. For privacy reasons, Beverly prefers not to give her surname.  She provided the information to Bob Krieckhaus, who passed it on to me with Beverly’s consent. Beverly told Bob that neither she nor the hospice helpers saw the twisting semi-translucent “smoke” at the time.  The purpose of the photo was to capture the cat, which appeared to have tears in its eyes. The misty vapor was not noticed until the photo was printed. (See below.)


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

The Fenwicks quote a woman named Penny Bilcliffe, who was present when her sister died:  “I saw a fast-moving ‘Will ‘o the Wisp’ appear to leave her body by the side of her mouth on the right.  The shock and the beauty of it made me gasp.  It appeared like a fluid or gaseous diamond, pristine, sparkly, and pure, akin to the view from above of an eddy in the clearest pool you can imagine…It moved rapidly upwards and was gone.”

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

Laubscher further wrote that these caregivers, some of whom were apparently clairvoyant, reported seeing a ribbon-like cord stretching from the back of the phantom’s head to the body below and that the phantom would begin to glow as it was fully formed.

“They noticed that some were more luminous than others and there was a light all around the outline of the [phantom], which I could only compare to a neon tube,” Laubscher added, going on to say that as the phantom righted itself the connecting cord thinned out as if it was fraying away.  Sometimes these clairvoyant caregivers would report joyous faces of other deceased gathering around to welcome the person to the spirit world before the “silver cord” was severed and the visions ceased.

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


Beginning in 1840, Baron Karl von Reichenbach, a German chemist,  carried out research with an invisible energy he associated with a number of “sensitives” – people who today might be called clairvoyants or clairsensients, although he did not recognize it as being spirit related.  He called it odic force, or just od or odyle.  Some scientists have likened Reichenbach’s odic force to the prana of the ancient Hindus, the vis medicatrix naturae of Hippocrates, the mana of Polynesian culture, the chi of the Chinese,  the astral light of the Kabbalists, the telesma of Hermes Trismegistus, and the magnetic fluid of Mesmer, while others, like Laubscher, have concluded that it is the same “life force” referred to as ectoplasm, or teleplasm, by researchers investigating the physical phenomena of mediums.

Od might be best described as a “mostly” invisible energy field often associated today with the human aura and with holistic healing. It is believed to somehow interact with the physical body through what are called the chakras, the vital energy centers in the spirit body, to govern higher consciousness and spiritual awakening.

When Judge John Edmonds, of the New York Supreme Court, investigated mediums,  he asked a communicating “spirit” for an explanation as to what the “forces” involved in various manifestations were all about. “It is an electricity, but more perfected than that which you are familiar, that which you term electricity,” the communicating spirit responded, telling Edmonds that his knowledge of nature was too imperfect to permit him to understand the phenomena.  He was referred by the communicating spirit to Reichenbach’s Dynamics of Magnetism for a better grasp of the subject.  There, Edmonds read about odic force, Reichenbach describing it in his book as “an exceeding subtle fluid, existing with magnetism and electricity, found in fire and heat, and produced in the human body by the chemical action of respiration and digestion and decomposition, and issuing from the body in the shape of a pale flame, with sparks, and smoke, and material in its nature, though so much sublimated as to be visible only to persons of a peculiar vision.”

During the 1870s, William Stainton Moses, an Anglican priest who developed mediumisitic abilities, carried out various experiments.  In one such experiment, with Dr. Stanhope Speer, his good friend, and several others in attendance, the group witnessed a cloud of luminous smoke, very phosphorus like, that very much alarmed them.  The next night, Moses asked the controlling spirit, apparently Mentor, one of Imperator’s band of 49 spirits, what it was all about. As set forth by researcher Ernest Bozzano in The Annals of Psychical Research, Feb. 1905 issue, the following dialogue too place:

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

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

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

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

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

All that and much more, but mainstream science has shown no interest in odic force,  ectoplasm, or soul mist, or the possibility that they are one and the same life principle. 

Note: This subject was earlier dealt with in my blog posts of October 4, 2010 and June 11, 2012, available in the archives at left.  Numerous readers have left comments of similar experiences at the 4 October 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 forthcoming book, No One Really Dies: 25 Reasons to Believe in an Afterlife is due later in 2020.

Next blog post:  July 6

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Getting to the Root Cause of America’s Madness

Posted on 08 June 2020, 8:29

In a talk given to a church group on June 1, a well-known American politician proposed that police could cut down on killings by shooting the bad guy in the leg rather than in the upper body.  Such a comment suggests that the politician has watched too many cowboy movies and has no real experience with guns.  He might as well have suggested that the cop shoot the weapon out of the bad guy’s hand.  Anyone with any marksmanship training knows that things are not nearly so easy as Hollywood makes them out to be. 

If some madman is rushing toward you with a knife, you don’t have time to line up your target in the sights of the gun and gently “squeeze” the trigger.  If you were to shoot for the legs, you would likely, in your haste, jerk the trigger and miss the leg completely.  To be accurate, you’d want to point the gun at the madman’s center, being his manhood area.  In that case, jerking the trigger might result in a shot in the leg. Then again, you might actually hit his manhood or miss him completely.  I wouldn’t bet on either Wyatt Earp or Billy the Kid hitting the legs more than 50 percent of the time under rushed conditions at 10 paces. 

Ideally, or idealistically, we don’t want to kill anybody, and nobody should be toting a gun, but practically, or pragmatically, such inaction may very well result in more deaths, violence or harm in the long run than shooting the bad guy in the heart and killing him. Idealism or Pragmatism?  Therein seems to be the major issue in our political wars. As I see it, the entertainment and advertising industries are responsible for much of the current chaos in the United States and in the world by painting a much too idealistic picture of the “real” world – a world, according to them, of great comforts, luxuries, and hedonistic pleasures. Envy and greed kick in and then many who aspire to such unreality become frustrated and angry when they are unable to achieve the Utopian dream, which both Hollywood and Madison Avenue say they deserve.

I don’t know how many times in recent years I’ve heard the “You deserve it” enticement. I’ll sometimes ask the person what I’ve done to deserve it, but most people seem to agree that they deserve anything they can get, whether or not they’ve put any effort into earning it.  I may very well be wrong, but I see this as the mindset of many young people.   

Looking for votes and power, politicians respond to the demands for comforts, luxuries,  and hedonistic pleasures with entitlement programs.  The entitlements often approach or exceed the incomes of working people, thereby playing havoc with the work ethic of the masses.  A new government comes in and cuts back on the “free stuff” in hopes of restoring the work ethic and increasing productivity. Frustration and anger reach a boiling point, fears surface, the media polarizes and sensationalizes the issues which are otherwise in various shades of gray, protests begin, and soon there is complete mayhem. 

Renowned psychiatrist Viktor Frankl referred to it as “mass neurotic syndrome” – the result of an “existential vacuum,” a feeling of emptiness and meaninglessness in their lives. The more one seeks pleasure, Frankl observed, the more it eludes him. “Pleasure is, and must remain, a side-effect, or by-product, and is destroyed and spoiled to the degree in which it is made a goal in itself.”  A human being, he continued, is not one in pursuit of happiness, but one in search of a reason to become happy. Self-actualization, he further proclaimed, is possible only as a side effect of self-transcendence.

“Neither a person nor a nation can exist without some higher idea,” wrote Fyodor Dostoyevsky, the renowned author of Crime and Punishment and The Brothers Karamazov.  “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.”

Pioneering psychiatrist Carl Jung wrote that most of his patients were non-believers, those who had lost their faith.  They were neurotics.  “They seek position, marriage, reputation, outward success or money, and remain unhappy and neurotic even when they have attained what they were seeking,” Jung wrote. “Such people are usually confined within too narrow a spiritual horizon.  Their life has not sufficient content, sufficient meaning.” 

William James, one of the founders of modern psychology, put it this way:  “Let sanguine healthy-mindedness do its best with its strange power of living in the moment and ignoring and forgetting, still the evil background is really there to be thought of, and the skull will grin in at the banquet. In the practical life of the individual, we know how his whole gloom or glee about any present fact depends on the remoter schemes and hopes of which it stands related.  Its significance and framing give it the chief part of its value.  Let it be known to lead nowhere, and however agreeable it may be in its immediacy, its glow and gilding vanish.”

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

If I am interpreting Frankl, Dostoyevsky, Jung, James, Dowding and other great thinkers correctly, the conscious self wants the comforts, luxuries, and hedonistic pleasures of Hollywood and Madison Avenue, but the subconscious (the soul) wants peace of mind and enlightenment, and those things come 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 about social or economic conditions, than to say they are in existential despair.  If they suggest that people are in such despair, they have to explain the reason for the despair. It would not be politically, journalistically or scientifically proper to say that the pursuit of unreasonable comforts, luxuries, and pleasures as promoted by Hollywood and Madison Avenue have detracted from their spiritual values and pursuits and that they therefore 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 explain the deeper underlying causes. 

If politicians and journalists had the wisdom and courage to tackle the existential issues, they’d suffer relentless attacks from people like Harvard psychology professor Steven Pinker, who recently said that “belief in an afterlife is a malignant delusion, since it devalues actual lives and discourages action that would make them longer, safer, and happier.”  Some of our more right-wing politicians now take some pride in mentioning God, but their fundamentalist beliefs are in shallow, murky waters and therefore not very persuasive to rational people.  They only add fuel to the fire. 

I don’t know what the answer is as long as the Hollywood and Madison Avenue influences continue to encourage young malleable minds to pursue unreasonable comforts, luxuries, and hedonistic pleasures while telling them that they deserve them and need not apply any effort in achieving them.  Perhaps that is what the pandemic is all about – helping them to lower their expectations. 

Michael Tymn is the author of The Afterlife Revealed: What Happens After We Die, Resurrecting Leonora Piper: How Science Discovered the Afterlife, and Dead Men Talking: Afterlife Communication from World War I.
His forthcoming book, No One Really Dies: 25 Reasons to Believe in an Afterlife is due later in 2020.

Next blog post:  June 22






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Before Huxley & Seth:  “The Master”

Posted on 25 May 2020, 15:24

It was in early 1897 that George Wright, then living in Titusville, Pennsylvania and teaching chemistry at nearby Meadville High School, began studying paranormal phenomena by sitting in mediumship circles. On November 6, 1897, George wrote to his brother, Jay: “… I have seen enough and heard enough and felt enough to not only make me believe in the continuity of life and conscious existence after the change you call death, but to make me know its reality and to demonstrate to me the fact that communication can and does take place between those who have experienced this change and those who have not.” 

After a year or two, George began displaying mediumistic abilities of his own – abilities which would soon lead to some profound teachings from an apparently advanced spirit through George’s hand while he was in a trance state. In the absence of any identifying name, the advanced spirit was referred to initially as the “Master-Mind” and later simply as the “Master.”  The teachings were compiled between 1900 and 1912 in an unpublished green leather journal referred to as “The Green Book.” It was not until some 60 years later that Theon Wright, George’s son, told the story of his father and the teachings in a 1970 book, The Open Door.

Michael Prescott, at his popular blog, mentioned the book in his April 29 post, stating that Paul Smith, has done a reconstruction of The Green Book (Reconstructing the Green Book)

“What I find particularly interesting is that the metaphysical teaching of the ‘Master,’ as given in the Green Book, precedes by decades any generally accessible comparative teaching in the West,” Smith commented in an email to me, mentioning that it closely parallels Aldous Huxley’s The Perennial Philosophy, which was published more than 30 years after the last of George Wright’s scripts.  Others have suggested it resembles the teachings of Seth, which began around the time The Open Door was published. However, it would be more proper to say that the Seth teachings resemble the teachings of the Master.

Author Theon Wright served as a colonel in the U.S. Army during World War II and later as an executive for several corporations. His best-selling book appears to have been Rape In Paradise, a true story of mistreatment of native Hawaiians. “We now have a generation coming into active participation in life and world affairs with little or no faith in what has been learned in the past, and even less for the future,” Theon Wright offers in the first chapter. “Religion and philosophy have defaulted, and scientific materialism has failed to fill the void.  And yet the question persists: what happens to us when we die?”  He says that the book is an effort to help fill the void and explains that it is a narrative of experiments carried on by three generations of his family, seeking to establish communication between the living and the dead. 

While he was in a trance state or even while sleeping, messages would come through George Wright’s hand in peculiar handwriting.  He explained that he experienced being something apart from his body. “My body there on the chair is writing words as fast I formulate the idea, but it is only a machine obeying my will, and if it has consciousness I know nothing about it,” he recorded, further explaining that this separate consciousness was devoid of any element of space and that his ordinary consciousness seemed “cramped and absurd” compared with this broader consciousness. Many of the things he wrote about were unfamiliar to him and not in his style of writing.  In some cases, the handwriting was entirely different.

Before George married Nella Stowell on August 19, 1900, after a courtship of less than a month, he received an appointment as an instructor in chemistry at Allegheny College in Meadville.  Nella was quite surprised to find that the “young professor” was a medium, but she adapted quickly and became the primary historian of all that took place in the family circle, which included George and Jay’s parents, while maintaining The Green Book. 

Until Nella joined the family circle, the phenomena had been primarily physical and evidential, including voices and floating objects produced by lower-level spirits. However, Nella’s presence apparently brought some higher spirit links to the circle and during September 1900, after members of the circle had joined hands, a deep voice, identified as Lone Feather, an Indian who was one of a band of spirits who had been communicating with the circle members in the preceding months, informed them that someone new was there to provide “knowledge.” This new spirit was identified as “Akasta,” said to be one of Nella’s guides, and it was explained that Akasta would be an intermediary for a more advanced spirit, one at too high a vibration to directly communicate with the circle.  The circle member began referring to “him” simply as the “Master.” (The pronoun “he” is given to the advanced entity for language simplification.)

The Master explained that he was no “Savior of Man,” but simply a friend, brother, and “humble tool,” attempting to help mankind understand the bigger picture. He was drawn to them because his individualization was similar to theirs.  His teachings, he said, embodied the messages of the Master-Mind called Jesus, the Christ – “not the man, nor the God that has been created by churches for worship – but the Intelligence which manifested through Jesus, and on account of which received the reputation of a God.”

The first message from the Master extended to about a thousand words, and began: “My children, Back of and beyond the Universe you know, permeating and transcending it, there exists an Underlying Reality, the nature of which you cannot conceive or express in terms of your ordinary everyday experiences or language. It is a Cosmic Consciousness that is aware of its own Being.  It is intelligent, universal, integral in its essence and in its manifestations.  It is coherent, indivisible, and a complete Whole that expresses its potentialities in a diversity of individual manifestations….

“And in your functioning on this plane and these levels of manifestations, you gain wider and wider experience, express more and more the potentialities inherent in your particular individualization of the Underlying Reality, and thus by your specialized activity, you enrich the Whole and participate in its unfoldment …..”

The Master explained that progress toward self-realization and fulfillment is represented by different planes of development, “from the crudest, densest physical expressions through graduated and overlapping levels of consciousness to the highest spiritual individualizations.”  He further explained that on the higher levels, consciousness becomes so expanded and merged that it approaches unification with the Universal Self, the Cosmic Consciousness of the Underlying Reality. The physical universe, he said, comprises the lower, denser levels of manifestation.

The Master further communicated that below the physical plane is a sub-material world in which Cosmic Consciousness first appears under conditions that are difficult for us to comprehend because they are outside the scope of our experience.  Similarly, there is a “world” of consciousness and manifestations above our plane of existence.  He referred to it as the “Psychic Universe,” the next step in our progress and unfoldment, adding that it is superimposed upon the physical world, interpenetrating and overlapping it. It is keyed to rates of vibration and dimensions which few in the physical world can perceive.

“The condition that you know as consciousness is one of the personal attributes that man possesses while passing through a human experience,” the Master said.  “It is that which measures limitations, making everything finite and commensurable. Now I, who am outside of consciousness, must become conscious whenever I take upon myself the conditions of limitations, and while manifesting through an instrument (a medium) I am personally conscious in the ordinary sense.”  He added that normally he exists in a hyperconscious state, which bears the same relation to the conscious that the infinite does to the finite.”

The realization of “Oneness,” he continued, is the highest form of hyperconsciousness, or universal self-realization.  Nevertheless, he added, the individual spirit continues to exist whenever there is spirit activity along the particular line of their individualization.

While George and Nella moved from Pennsylvania to California, Nevada, and then Hawaii, the messages continued during their evening hours.  Upon finding that others showed no interest in the messages, they continued for their own self-knowledge.  There was apparently no thought given to making the contents of the Green Book into a published book until Theon visited his mother at her home in Honolulu in 1946, following the war and the death of his father in 1944. 

The Master further communicated that souls on the psychic plane are entities as real and as positive as the humans they meet in everyday life. “These souls have the power of exerting force in the form of influence, and can direct it upon either mind or body.  They have the power of penetrating and occupying your bodies at the same time as the permanent soul that is you.”  While much positive influence comes from them, there are “undesirable influences,” which can be overcome when the strongest self-assertion is maintained.  Other teachings of the Master:

Truth:  “As there are different degrees of knowledge, so are there different degrees of truth, different grades of steps in the approach to the Underlying Reality.”

Discord: “Discord always arises out of the attempt to make others see the truth as you see it before they are ready for it.”

Good Works: “The purpose of activity lies not in the accomplishment, but in the process itself.”

Obstructions: “Tonight I will tell you of the three chief fetters to development.  These fetters are Fear, Doubt, and Hate.”

Fear: “Fear is the shrinking of the ego from all that is objective, a terror lest in some way its individuality be lost or merged into the universe, when in reality such merging would not be a loss but a vast gain.”

Christ: “Christ’s mission, as symbolized by the Cross, was one of service to humanity, a service that tried to unite the severed bonds that once linked the inhabitants of the Earth in peace and love.”

Evolution: “When we view the process of Being in the light of future enfoldment and relate the ultimate to the process in the light of cause under the domain of Time, we call it ‘evolution.’ When the ultimate is looked upon as the effect, of the process of Being and Becoming, or better, the manifestational activity, we call this ‘involution’.”

Other Realms: “It is difficult to convey to your minds any idea of the conditions on the other plane, simply because there are no conditions as you know them.”

Warnings: “Our activity is in the realm of the abstract.  We think and act in broader and more general terms than those which enter into your limited and finite lives; thus, we cannot give you the specific information you seek, because we ourselves do not know in detail the facts of your concrete and material environment.”

Ebb & Flow: “The whole universe is one vast and mighty tide, whose ebb and flow marks cycles as it does seconds. And there is associated with this ebb and flow an attractive force that seems to draw things together, while an apparently repellent force seems to drive them apart.”

Repulsion:  “In its actual nature, so-called repulsion is only another form of attraction – the attraction that draws away toward something else.”

There is so much more in the way of teachings offered in the book, teachings which appeal to reason and are consistent with other teachings coming to us from the spirit world over the last two centuries. And yet, they were and are still buried away and ignored while Harry Potter type books become best sellers.  It is very strange. 

Michael Tymn is the author of The Afterlife Revealed: What Happens After We Die, Resurrecting Leonora Piper: How Science Discovered the Afterlife, and Dead Men Talking: Afterlife Communication from World War I.
His forthcoming book, No One Really Dies: 25 Reasons to Believe in an Afterlife is due later in 2020.

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Scientists Who Don’t Know That Earth Exists

Posted on 11 May 2020, 9:28

When it comes to the subject of life after death, some people are content to shrug it off and flippantly comment, “Well, we’ll all know some day, won’t we?”  My response to that is, “Maybe not as soon as you think.” 

As discussed in my book, The Afterlife Revealed,  there have been numerous messages and signs from the spirit world indicating that many spirits are slow in recognizing that they are “dead,” some floundering in an “earthbound” stupor for a long time, however time is measured in that apparently low realm. This phenomenon was popularized in the hit 1999 movie, The Sixth Sense, when the Bruce Willis character apparently didn’t know he had died.

A somewhat different twist on afterlife awareness is offered in a 1954 book, Through the Psychic Door, by Dr. Frederic H. Wood, a professional musician and composer, who heard from a number of departed souls in the afterlife through the mediumship of a woman given the pseudonym Rosemary (to protect her privacy). In one message, around 1950, Wood’s deceased brother Dennis, who had died in 1912, told Frederic that after he (Frederic) dies and joins him in the spirit world that he is going to arrange for him to give a lecture to a group of scientists on his side about the reality of the earth world.  Dennis explained that many scientists on his side do not believe that there is such a place as Earth.  Apparently, these are the same scientists who refused to believe in a spirit world when they were in their physical bodies. 

Whether or not Dennis Wood was jesting is not clear, but it does seem clear from many messages coming from the spirit world that the consciousness we awaken with on that side is based on the spiritual consciousness we take with us from the physical world.  In effect, we continue in the larger world with the same beliefs we left this world with, or, otherwise stated, perhaps with the same open- or closed-mindedness we leave the physical world with.

Allan Kardec, the distinguished 19th Century French educator and psychical researcher, likened the “earthbound” condition to somnambulism, as in sleepwalking, when the somnambulist thinks he is awake.  “The moral state of the soul is the condition which determines the ease, or the difficulty, with which the spirit disengages himself from his terrestrial envelope,” Kardec explained. “The strength of the affinity between the body and perispirit (spirit body) is in the exact ratio of the spirit’s attachment to materiality; it is, consequently, at the maximum in the case of those whose thoughts and interests are concentrated on the earthly life and the enjoyment of material pleasures; it is almost null in the case of those whose soul has identified itself before with the spirit life.”

Silver Birch, the spirit entity who spoke through the entranced Maurice Barbanell said the same thing.  “The higher your consciousness, the less the need for adjustment,” he communicated.  “You must always remember that ours is a mind world, a spirit world where consciousness is king.  The mind is enthroned and mind rules.  What mind dictates is reality.” Silver Birch added that the time for realization is self-determined.  It can be short or long, as measured by our duration of time.  For the enlightened, at least those whose actions in the physical world were in accordance with their enlightenment, it is a speedy process.

A very similar message comes from the writings of medium Alice A. Bailey and her teacher, the Tibetan master, Djwhal Khul. They point out that most people, being focused on the physical plane, experience a semi-consciousness in the period after death, usually one of emotional and mental bewilderment. “In the case of the [spiritually] undeveloped person, the etheric body can linger for a long time in the neighborhood of its outer disintegrating shell because the pull of the soul is not potent and the material aspect is,” we read in Death: The Great Adventure. “Where the person is advanced, and therefore detached in his thinking from the physical plane, the dissolution of the vital body can be exceedingly rapid.”

As set forth in No Death: God’s Other Door, Edgar Cayce, the “sleeping prophet,” said that “many an individual has remained in that called death for what ye call years without realizing it was dead!”  Cayce further explained that the “entity” becomes conscious gradually and that this is contingent upon “how great are the appetites and desires of a physical body.”

One of the leading psychical investigators in the United States during the early part of the 20th Century was Carl A. Wickland, M.D., whose wife was a trance medium.  Wickland recorded the information coming from the spirit world through his wife for some 40 years.  “In the case of the open-minded, unbiased individual there is no protracted death sleep, for as transition from the physical draws near he will often discern the presence of waiting friends from the Unseen, bidding him welcome into the new life…,”  Wickland wrote, going on to state that others may awaken from the death sleep entirely oblivious of their transition and remain in such oblivion for many years as “vagabond spirits.”

Much more recently, in his 2013 book, To Die For, physicist James Beichler concludes that when mind is much more evolved than consciousness, those making the transition from this life to the larger life may be faced with a very big gap, thus encountering “boarding” problems.  He opines that an enlightened person would merge with less difficulty into his or her new state of being. “In such a case where mind – one rich in rational thinking – significantly exceeds (spiritual) consciousness, the mind might be “stuck” in its four-dimensional reality and not even realize that the body is dead,” he adds. Or this “handicapped mind,” still expecting input from the five senses, might experience a total blackness or “nothingness” because of the lack of consciousness.

Beichler’s model explains many of the characteristics and properties of the near-death experience. For example, noting that not all experiencers undergo a past-life review, he concludes that those who have a highly-developed consciousness – one that has kept pace with the development of the mind – may not need a life review as they probably reviewed their lives when alive in the flesh.  At the other extreme, there are those not advanced enough in their conscious evolution to appreciate a life review, and still others who may not accept a life review because they deny their death and sense nothing at all.  “In other words, people’s minds seize upon the most familiar surroundings when they enter the new environment of the five-dimensional universe, but can still reject the experience completely depending upon their mind set and mental priorities at the time of death,” Beichler states.

If I am interpreting various metaphysical teachings correctly, there are “magnetic currents” keeping the individual in the earthbound condition. These currents should not be confused with the so-called silver cord, the connecting link between the physical body and the spirit body.  The silver cord will have been severed at the time of physical death, liberating the spirit body, but the magnetic currents can still keep the spirit body close to the physical body. Moreover, cremation does not undo the gravitational pull of a materialistic life, but it at least mitigates the pull.

But back to the Wood brothers.  Dennis cautioned Frederic about word tests, pointing out that Lodge, who died in 1940, had, while alive, arranged to communicate a secret word after his death in such a way that the recipient would know that he had survived death.  However, it was apparently unsuccessful.  “Nothing passes so quickly from the memory on This Side as the form and construction of mere word-phrases!” Dennis communicated, further explaining what many others have said, that theirs is a thought world, one in which ideas, not words, are communicated. “Lodge is very sorry, now, that he chose that particular form of test. It is not easy or natural for us to communicate with your side in this way.”

The bottom line here seems to be that the more you come to understand about the spirit world and spiritual matters in this life, the better off you will be when you first enter that life, assuming you lived in accordance with such enlightenment.  If nothing else, you will understand that you are no longer in the physical world, and you will understand that there really is an earth 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 forthcoming book, No One Really Dies: 25 Reasons to Believe in an Afterlife is due later in 2020.

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Where is God in the Pandemic?

Posted on 27 April 2020, 8:29

The pandemic has ignited another battle between the philistines of atheism and those of evangelical religions.  The atheists – more properly, the nihilists – see the God of religion as a mad puppeteer, amusing “himself” by pulling strings and pitting man against nature.  These nihilists ask the evangelicals, “Where is your great god now?”  “Why is ‘he’ permitting so many people to die?”  “What good is such a god if ‘he’ can’t protect you from such hardships?”  Indications are that most of these nihilists are former religionists who left their faith because they could never find answers to those questions.  They never looked outside of orthodox religions.

The evangelicals respond to the nihilists by saying that God’s ways are not understood by man, that adversity is necessary for us to learn and earn a place in heaven, that we always come out of such adversity better than we were before it, even if there is a price to pay. That’s just the way it is.  The nihilists, expecting a life of hedonistic pleasures with absolutely no adversity, don’t buy it, and the battle goes on. The evangelicals add fuel to the fire by constantly using the “W” word – worship, suggesting that their God is like some narcissistic king of ancient days, requiring constant praise and adoration while rewarding only those who totally idolize him. 

I’ve heard or read about a number of such exchanges over the past two weeks, the latest coming from New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, who was quoted as saying, “The number is down because we brought the number down.  God did not do that.  Faith did not do that.  Destiny did not do that. A lot of pain and suffering did that…That’s how it works.  It’s math…”  Meanwhile, the evangelicals protested hither and thither over not being able to gather together in worship services. 

During my youth, I attended obligatory Catholic mass every Sunday out of fear that if I didn’t and died before I could confess my sins that I would spend eternity in hell.  Of course, the fact that my mother expected me to attend with her was also a factor.  I recall watching the priest bowing, kneeling, petitioning, and praising God while wondering why such a benevolent and loving God would condone such pagan-like ceremonies and demand such adoration. It never made sense to me.

At some point, after my emancipation, I tried a few Protestant churches, but they used the “W” word more than the Catholics did and that turned me away from them.  Moreover, they stressed “faith” more than “works” and had no middle ground between heaven and hell, as did the Catholics. It made absolutely no sense to me that salvation would depend on what we believed or whom we accepted as God rather than how we lived our lives. Nor did it make sense that we would be judged either righteous or wicked after death, when nearly everyone seemed to be in a gray zone between the black and white of those extremes. 

I was looking for something more than a God who wanted to be worshipped incessantly. I was looking for evidence of a dynamic eternal life, not one in which we strum harps and float around on clouds for eternity, praising God twenty-four-seven.  If there is a God or Being of some kind overseeing it all, great. If it’s Jesus, well, that’s even greater. From what I had learned from the churches, he seemed like somebody I could look up to and be further taught by. However,  the Christian Bible tells us to “Seek ye first the kingdom of God.” (Matthew 6:25:33)  It doesn’t say to first look for God and then look for his kingdom. No doubt the fundamentalists can come up with their own interpretation of that, just as they can come up with a broader definition of the word “worship” than the one I and so many others give to it.   

The Catholic Church did something for me, however, that I don’t think the Protestant churches would have done had I stayed with them long enough.  It introduced me to the more mystical side of religion – apparitions, levitations, healings, and other miraculous events that defied natural law. Many of them seemed to go well beyond delusional minds and the parameters of science.  While I couldn’t accept the worship part of what the Church had to offer, the miracles provided a link to the mystical and eventually to psychical research where I got many answers. At some point in my early pursuit, I began to realize that I shouldn’t be searching for God but for the survival of consciousness at death. 

Proof of God, if there can be such proof, does not necessarily mean proof of an afterlife.  On the other hand, evidence of survival does suggest a God of some kind, perhaps not an anthropomorphic (humanlike) one, but a creative force or intelligence that is beyond human comprehension.  I was able to find that evidence in studying the research carried out by the pioneers of psychical research during the period 1850 to 1935. It provided a scientific approach to the mystical.  I know the nihilists don’t see it, because they have never really dug into it and rely on references like Wikipedia to be “informed.”  It is clear to most who have thoroughly studied the old research that Wikipedia writers have a will not-to-believe and really don’t understand the subject matter.  At the same time, the evangelicals don’t see it because there are certain things coming out of it that they can’t reconcile with church dogma and doctrine.  Therefore, they conclude that it must be demonic.

The teachings of the group soul called Imperator, an assembly of 49 advanced spirits, that communicated through William Stainton Moses, an Anglican priest who became a medium during the latter part of the nineteenth century, make much more sense to me than what I learned during my church days.  When Moses asked the Imperator group who they were, the reply came: “We are they who preach a definite, intelligible, clear system of reward and punishment, but in doing so we do not feign a fabled heaven, a brutal hell, and a human God.”

I suspect that the Council of Nicaea, under Constantine, decided to elevate Jesus to the Godhead in AD 325 because its members realized that most people need something to visualize.  Praying to an abstract picture of atoms and electrons that might constitute a creative force just doesn’t do it for most of us. We need to visualize the recipient of our prayers.  When Moses asked about Jesus, the Imperator group replied:

“You inquire from us what position we assign to Jesus the Christ.  We are careful to not enter into curious comparisons between different teachers who, in different ages, have been sent from God.  The time is not yet come for that; but this we know, that no spirit more pure, more godlike, more noble, more blessing and more blessed, ever descended to find a home on your earth.  None more worthily earned by a life of self-sacrificing love the adoring reverence devotion of mankind.  None bestowed more blessings on humanity; none wrought a greater work for God.” 

I have no problem visualizing Jesus as the “Chairman of the Board” on the Other Side, while not recognizing him as God.  And I have no problem revering him or petitioning him in prayer, but I refuse to believe that he demands or wants worship. To again quote Imperator: 

“The outcome of the Revelation of Christ, which is only now beginning to be seen amongst men, is in its truest sense the abolition of death, the demonstrations of immortality.  In that great truth – man never dies, cannot die, however he may wish it – in that great truth rests the key to the future.  The immortality of man, held not as an article of faith, a clause in a creed, but as a piece of personal knowledge and individual experience, this is the keynote of the religion of the future.  In its trail come all the grand truths we teach, all the noblest conceptions of duty, the grandest view of destiny, the truest realizations of life.”

As I see it, the animosity toward religion will continue until the churches do away with the “W” word and realize that they must first seek the Kingdom of God, not God, per se.  Unfortunately, there is no indication that such will happen in the immediate future, and so the nihilists will likely continue with their savage attacks.

Michael Tymn is the author of The Afterlife Revealed: What Happens After We Die, Resurrecting Leonora Piper: How Science Discovered the Afterlife, and Dead Men Talking: Afterlife Communication from World War I.
His forthcoming book, No One Really Dies: 25 Reasons to Believe in an Afterlife is due later in 2020.

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Musings on the Pandemic, Grief, and Death

Posted on 13 April 2020, 18:55

While watching the movie The Lost City of Z on Amazon last week, I pondered on the “adversity” we are experiencing with the current pandemic quarantine and thought about how much worse conditions could be.  The movie is about Percy Fawcett’s exploration of the Amazon during the early 1900s. It left me appreciating the comforts of my home and wondering why Fawcett would leave his comfortable home in England to endure the hardships of the Amazon jungle, not once but three times, the first two expeditions lasting around two years each. He had to deal with extreme heat, starvation, wild animals, snakes, piranha, deadly insects, and attacks by primitive natives in his search for a lost civilization.

The movie producers did a good job in depicting what life was like in England before electricity. Even though Fawcett lived in a nice home in the English countryside, it was dark and dreary during the nights, with only candlelight and not much more than a book to pass the evening hours.  It was nearly as dismal during the day, as the sun, when it occasionally peeked through the overcast, offered little light in the home. It seemed just as gloomy in the office and boardroom of the National Geographic Society in London as Fawcett discussed his expedition plans with board members. And there were many days and nights he endured in trenches in France during the Great War.  Pondering on all that, I could begin to understand why Fawcett chose adventure and light in the treacherous jungle over monotony and darkness in his home. 

Many of us are guilty of not appreciating how soft our lives have become over the past century.  Think about how our ancestors lived before electricity. There was little to do during the leisure hours beyond sitting in front of a fire place or on the front porch while knitting, whittling, or staring at the stars. As I have suggested here before, I believe there was better mediumship back then than there is now because they had so much quiet time.  I can recall sitting in front of fires on quiet evenings 70 or so years ago, before television and computers, and experiencing something of a hypnotic effect, and I can remember gazing at the stars in the still of the night while wondering what life is all about.  I have no difficulty in believing that a more sensitive person can go beyond that hypnotic effect and open him- or herself to another dimension, to the spirit world. 

In her 1946 book, You are Psychic, Sophia Williams, (below) whose direct-voice mediumship is described by researcher Hamlin Garland in his book The Mystery of the Buried Crosses (available from White Crow Books), wrote that it took her four years of sitting quietly each day while learning the art of relaxation and complete detachment before she began to develop as a medium. Williams went on to explain that the first spirit voice coming through her mediumship was weak and difficult to understand, but the voices became clearer as she continued to sit in silence. She added that the voices came through in many different languages. She stressed the need to achieve absolute relaxation as a first step and then sit in a state of expectancy with the mind cleared of all conscious thoughts and memories.  “Conscious thought must be avoided – consciously trying not to think is thinking,” she pointed out.


“I am certain that much of the information and phenomena I receive comes through intermediaries, those personalities who exist in another space dimension or function at a higher rate of frequency,” she wrote.  “It is apparent to me that when these personalities pass into the next dimension they carry with them all of the habits, faults, and ideas, which they retain until they learn to progress.”

While thinking about the “hardships” of my confinement, I also thought about Mary Lincoln, the widow of our sixteenth president.  After his assassination, and following the death of her son Tad, she lived in a downtown Chicago hotel for $45 a week, including meals.  Think what it would be like sitting in a dark hotel room day and night before electricity and electronic gadgets.  What does a person do to avoid complete boredom?  Mary found something of an escape from it all by browsing in nearby shops. Being gregarious, she probably got to know some of the merchants fairly well and felt obligated to make purchases now and then, even if she had no need for the item at the time. Shopping was a way to assuage her grief and despair.  While a man might choose refuge at a local saloon, that option was not available to respectable women. 

Indications were that Mary was living within her annual income of $8,000, a significant sum at the time. However, her only surviving son, Robert, had her confined to a lunatic asylum after testifying in court to her unsoundness of mind, the primary focus being on her unwise spending, including sitting with some mediums. With the help of friends, especially one Myra Bradwell, a Spiritualist friend who had a law degree but was not allowed to practice law because of her gender, and her husband, Judge James B. Bradwell, Mary Lincoln was released from the asylum after just three months and three weeks of confinement. 

Picturing Percy Fawcett (below) in his dark, dreary home and visualizing Mary Lincoln in a bleak hotel room with little to occupy themselves, I was able to better appreciate my current confinement. It made me wonder what life would be like without electricity and electronic gadgets to entertain ourselves.  It made me think how it might be if we are ever hit by a hurricane and lose electricity for weeks or even months. I’m living in luxury now compared with how bad it could be.  Moreover, we have no fireplaces in Hawaii.


Before writing the last paragraph, I took time out to read Bob Ginsberg’s blog, Beyond the Five Senses.  Bob mentions that Chris Cuomo, a popular CNN newsman, was doing his show a few nights earlier from the basement of his home while in the deep throes of the Covid-19 virus.  Cuomo related that he was running a consistently high fever, causing him to shiver so much that he cracked a tooth.  He then reported that during the night he saw his deceased father sitting on the bed next to him, and even engaged in some conversation with him.  However, Cuomo dismissed it as nothing more than a hallucination brought on by the high fever. 

Ginsberg, who with his wife, Phran, heads up the Forever Family Foundation, thought of an alternative explanation.  He wondered if the deviation from normal brain process might have opened Cuomo up to reception of information that was normally filtered and never made it to his consciousness.  After all, the true definition of “hallucination” is “an experience that does not exist outside known reality.”  Just because mainstream science cannot grasp that other reality does not mean there is not overwhelming evidence supporting its existence. 

Consideration was given by Ginsberg to reports by near-death experiencers, mediums, and meditators who have had clear and lucid thoughts of talking with deceased loved ones while in an altered state of consciousness, experiences that went beyond the norms of lucid dreaming.

All that brought to my mind the fact that so many of the renowned mediums of the past reported developing as mediums only after suffering a serious illness, one that probably involved a high temperature.  I have not kept a record of them, but I recall that both Etta Wriedt and Leonora Piper, possibly the two best mediums of the past, were in this category.  Of course, there were many more diseases around then than there are now and that may contribute, in addition to the greater quiet time, to an answer as to why there were more good mediums in the past than there are now.  The bottom line here is that Cuomo may have heard from his deceased father, but since science doesn’t recognize spirits or spirit communication, it couldn’t have been “real.”

It is especially sad that so many of our mental-health “experts” subscribe to such a mindset.  In her March 30 column for The Atlantic, psychotherapist Lori Gottlieb tells of the great grief she experienced at the recent passing of her 85-year-old father. The grief was compounded by the fact that she opted not to visit him on his deathbed because she had a cough and was concerned it could be the coronavirus.  Her grief was so painful that she saw her own therapist to help overcome it.  Nowhere in her column is there any indication that she believes that her father’s consciousness survived his physical death. I inferred from her words that she is a total nihilist in that regard.

When I read about such grief, I wonder if I should feel guilty about not more seriously grieving the deaths of my father, mother, brother, and other loved ones.  I don’t know how grief can be measured, but my grief was minuscule compared with that reported by Gottlieb, and I doubt that it has anything to do with loving the person less than she loved her father.  With each death I have experienced, there has been a conviction that the person still exists and that I’ll see him or her again some day.  Such conviction significantly mitigated the grief.  If I’m wrong, which I’m confident I’m not, I’ll never know it and my false conviction saved me much grief and the cost of a therapist. 

Next blog post:  April 27

Michael Tymn is the author of The Afterlife Revealed: What Happens After We Die, Resurrecting Leonora Piper: How Science Discovered the Afterlife, and Dead Men Talking: Afterlife Communication from World War I.
His forthcoming book, No One Really Dies: 25 Reasons to Believe in an Afterlife is due later in 2020.

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On Being a Deluded Moral Nihilist in 2020

Posted on 30 March 2020, 9:30

Below was to be read only on April 1st

The year was 1969.  I was living and working in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, managing an office for an international insurance company. I was invited to join a friend to participate in a weekly run by the world-famous Hash House Harriers, a group of mostly British and Australian businessmen who gathered for a four- or five-mile run through the nearby jungle, after which they enjoyed a beer bust.  A mile or so into the run, I told my friend that the pace was much too slow, so slow that I didn’t feel I was getting any cardiovascular benefit from it and therefore had to pick up the pace. He warned me that the others would brand me a show-off if I did so, but I felt it was a waste of time to proceed at such a slow jog. I lengthened my stride and passed plodder after plodder, hearing a few mumbles about the “bloody, insane Yank” before I found myself leading the pack and drawing away from them. My sudden independence was short-lived, however, as I soon found myself ankle-deep in a pool of quicksand.  When I tried to lift my right leg and extract myself, I realized I was in trouble. I was sinking.


Thirty seconds or so later, as the others caught up with me, one by one they circled around the mud pool, none of them saying anything or offering any assistance. I could see smirks on each of their faces.  By the time the last harrier, my friend, passed me, not saying a word, I was up to my knees in the thick mud and began to realize that I was in serious trouble. It was six years before Dr. Raymond Moody coined the term “near-death experience” for what I was about to experience.  As I continued to be swallowed by the mud hole, I was suddenly above my helpless body, looking down at it, and then found myself talking with someone who identified himself as one of my spirit guides.  He gave the name Milo and chastised me for my impudence, commenting that I was very selfish in my motives.  I had an instantaneous life review, seeing many other selfish acts of which I had been guilty, including a time when I was using my father’s car with a handicap placard and took a parking spot reserved for handicapped drivers. I also saw a time that I hid the ice cream in the back of the freezer so that no one else in the family would see it and finish it off before I could. 

It was then that Milo asked me if I wanted to continue living and warned me that there were rough times ahead. “How rough?” I asked.  “I’m going to take you 50 years into the future and show you what life will be like then,” he said. “I’ll begin with what it will be like if you choose to die now.”

I then found myself looking down at a table in a coffee shop.  There were two people sitting at the table and my focus was on the young male with purple hair tied back in a pony tail and with green streaks on the sides.  He was adorned with many tattoos and jewelry, including earrings and nose and lip rings. “What am I looking at?” I asked Milo.  “That’s you in the year 2020 if you choose not to return now,” Milo responded.  “You’ll be reborn in the year 1995 and you are seeing your 25-year-old self.”  I shook my head in shock and dismay.

“Is that a goat on the floor next to me?” I asked.  “Yes, that’s your emotional support pet,  Milo explained.  “Having him next to you helps you deal with life’s everyday stresses.  You look at Charlie, your goat, and unload your troubles on him.  He’s a good listener and never argues with you.  He accompanies you everywhere, even on the plane when you fly home to ask your parents for more money.”  My mouth was agape. 

The person sitting next to me appeared to be a young woman, although she had more of a male haircut than I did. She was also covered in tattoos and adorned in facial jewelry.  She had a peacock next to her, apparently her emotional support animal. She wore jeans that were all torn up, both knees with large holes in them.  “Is she destitute?” I asked Milo.  “Oh, no, that’ll be the style in 2020,” Milo said with a laugh. “It means that the person is a carefree, happy-go-lucky person, not tied down to the materialistic society of her parents.”

I asked Milo to elaborate.  “Look,” he said, “you grew up with the idea that you had to apply effort to achieve something and that you had to deal with a certain amount of adversity along the way.  At the same time, you were taught that there is a larger life for which the material life is but a preparation.  However, you won’t view that in the same way in the life you are now looking at.  The person you are in 2020 has been nurtured in a philosophy of materialism, more than that, hedonism, and with an entitlement mentality.  And, he has been sheltered from adversity.  Your president in 2020 will call your kind a ‘snowflake’.”

“How did that happen?” I asked Milo. “It’s very complicated, but in a nutshell it has do with science and technology progressing much faster than people could adapt to the changes; it’s humans looking for new powers when they haven’t adjusted to those they already have,” he responded. He went on to explain that it all started with the impeachment of religion by Darwinism and the growth of critical rationalism.  It stalled somewhat during the first half of the last century because of the two world wars, people not wanting to believe that loved ones killed during the wars were totally extinct, but then it gained steam again during the 1960s, as television came into its own and offered an easy escape from reality.

The primary culprit, Milo said, is academia, since it rejected all things spiritual as “unscientific,” thereby misleading fertile minds – minds which were at the same time being indoctrinated by the advertising and entertainment industries into thinking that life is all about pleasure seeking.  “You know the Seven Deadly Sins from your Catholic upbringing – greed, lust, sloth, wrath, envy, gluttony, and pride,” he said.  “Those negative characteristics will be turned into positive attributes by Madison Avenue and Hollywood by 2020.  Instant gratification and having fun will replace long-term fulfillment and happiness as motivators. People will become slaves to the five senses and there will be a significant moral void. You can see it now in 1969, but it will be ten-fold of what you see now in half a century.”

Milo added that by 2020 nihilism will be the philosophy of many, including an increasing number of young people. “Your heroes will be movie actors – people pretending to be real people – and athletes – people pretending to be real warriors,” he said. “The unreal will become the real for most people and that will result in a flight into self-delusion. You’ll live in a fantasy world.  Salvation will be a secular matter and dependent on government entitlement programs. You, like so many others, will live from payday to payday.  ‘Seize the day’ is your philosophy.  The American dream is no more.”

Young people will have so much in the way of material goods and toys in 2020, Milo further explained, that they’ll become bored and lonely and rebel against materialism. “They’ll become angry, arrogant, apathetic, anxious, apprehensive, alienated, and aimless, and they’ll begin to consider a more socialistic government,” he said. To overcome the loneliness, he continued, they’ll join groups to promote causes they don’t really care about; their primary objective is to socialize with other humans, no matter the cause.  “They’ll be out marching in the streets, carrying signs and protesting things they know nothing about or really care about. They’re looking for some kind of meaning in their lives even though it makes no sense to them.  Some of them trick themselves into thinking their cause makes sense. Most of them are in deep despair, even though they don’t realize it.”

I noticed that my friend and I, as well as all those around us, were occupied with some small object we were holding.  Milo referred to them as portable phones, but he said he hadn’t quite figured out what they were doing with them. He believed it to be some sort of finger flexibility exercise as he could make no sense of them otherwise. 

I asked Milo if I’ll have a job in 2020.  “You had one as a ripper,” he replied. “You were on the production line that makes those jeans your friend is wearing, and it was your job to rip them up as much as possible.  However, you came to realize that you could make more from government programs, so you spend a lot of time in the coffee shop.  You do make a few extra dollars every month from being a sperm donor.”

“Didn’t I get an education?” I reacted. “Yes, you got a Ph.D. and did your dissertation on the advantages of moral nihilism,” Milo answered.  “You had hoped to teach that subject at the local university, but like so many of your generation you trained for jobs that no longer exist or for which there is a surplus of educated people.  Yours was the latter. Technology moved too fast for the academic world, diminishing the appeal of the liberal arts and the humanities.  Most people in 2020 should be going to trade school, not college, if they are to find meaningful employment.  Incidentally, your friend there, who has a master’s degree in music, is on the production line after you.  She’s a shredder.  After you rip, she shreds, and the end result is what they consider a perfect piece of clothing. Such will be the world of 2020.”

Milo said that a big “cleansing” was going to begin in 2020 and things would gradually change.  “But it’s going to be rough going for some years,” he warned.
I told Milo that I preferred not to die and face that future, but I wondered what was ahead if I managed to free myself from the mud.  “You’ll face a lot of adversity,” he said, “but you’ll take it in stride and learn from it.  You’ll find love and meaning in life, a meaning that will totally escape you in your life as a snowflake.”  Milo then disappeared and I was back in my lower self.  My friend had returned and extended a frond from a palm tree to me, and I was able to pull myself out of the quicksand (see photo).  I feel certain I made the right decision in returning to my body in 1969.  Better to have only days, weeks, or months left in this lifetime while believing in a larger life than another 50 or 60 years in my snowflake life as a deluded moral nihilist. 

Note:  This blog was prepared to be posted April 1, but it could go up a day or two early.  I did manage to free myself from the mud before it was above my ankles.  Happy April Fools’ Day.


Michael Tymn is the author of The Afterlife Revealed: What Happens After We Die, Resurrecting Leonora Piper: How Science Discovered the Afterlife, and Dead Men Talking: Afterlife Communication from World War I.





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Famed British Physicist Communicated After Death

Posted on 16 March 2020, 9:24

During his 50 years of studying psychic phenomena, Sir William Barrett observed nearly every type of mediumship.  In his reminiscences, read at a private meeting of the Society for Psychical Research (SPR) on June 17, 1924, less than a year before his death, Barrett said:  “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… It is however hardly possible to convey to others who have not had a similar experience an adequate idea of the strength and cumulative force of the evidence that has compelled [my] belief.”

A physics professor at the Royal College of Science as well as a renowned inventor, Barrett (below) was one of the pioneers of psychical research.  It was his idea to form the SPR in London in 1882.  However, since he was living and teaching in Dublin, Ireland at the time, he was not able to take an active part in managing the Society.  He left that up to three Cambridge scholars, Henry Sedgwick, Frederic W. H. Myers, and Edmund Gurney. Barrett also encouraged Professor William James of Harvard to organize the American branch of the SPR in 1884.  He edited the SPR Journal from 1884 until 1899 and served as president of the SPR in 1904.


Barrett began to take an interest in psychic phenomena in 1874 after hearing of the research of chemist William Crookes (later Sir William) with mediums.  “In fact I began the whole investigation of these phenomena convinced that [mal-observation or hallucination] was their true explanation, and it was not until after stretching this hypothesis to illegitimate lengths that I found the actual facts completely shattered my theory,” Barrett explained his early views.

Then 29, Barrett began experimenting with hypnosis, more popularly known as “mesmerism” in those days.  He observed a young girl under hypnosis correctly identify a playing card randomly taken from a pack and placed in a book that was put next to her head.  He also observed another hypnotized person correctly identify fourteen cards taken at random from a pack.  As a scientist, he found such results very disturbing.  However, while many of his scientific colleagues simply scoffed at anything paranormal, Barrett was open-minded and determined to find some rational and scientific explanation. As he explained his 1917 book On the Threshold of the Unseen, his prior theories really began to fall apart sometime in 1876 when a prominent English solicitor (lawyer) named Clark spent the summer at a residence near his in Dublin.  Clark’s 10-year-old daughter, Florrie, produced various paranormal phenomena, including levitations and spirit “raps” that spelled out messages from an “intelligence” calling himself “Walter.”

As a result of his experiments in hypnosis and his investigation of Florrie Clark, Barrett prepared a paper to deliver to the British Association for the Advancement of Science.  The Association rejected the paper as well as Barrett’s request to present it orally to the group, such was the materialistic mindset of the organization. After Alfred Russel Wallace, co-originator with Charles Darwin of the natural selection theory of evolution, William Crookes and Lord Rayleigh protested the Association’s action, Barrett was allowed to deliver the paper but not publish it.
Barrett continued his investigation with other mediums, including Hester Travers Smith, Gladys Osborne Leonard, Etta Wriedt, Kathleen Goligher, and Geraldine Cummins.  In his 1917 book, he recalled the sitting with Goligher, who was being studied then by Dr. William Crawford of Queen’s University.  He observed a table rise from the floor some 18 inches and remain 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 explained.  “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 and had detected no trickery. “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.

Barrett is also remembered for his study of dowsing and deathbed visions. His book, Death-Bed Visions, first published in 1926, the year after his death, is still popular today. It offers a number of intriguing reports in which a dying person appears to see and recognize some deceased relative or friend, some of them involving instances where the dying person was unaware of the previous death of the spirit form he sees.  “These cases form, perhaps, one of the most cogent arguments for survival after death, as the evidential value and veridical (truth telling) character of these visions of the dying is greatly enhanced when the fact is undeniably established that the dying person was wholly ignorant of the decease of the person he or she so vividly sees,” Barrett stated in the Introduction.

Several weeks after his death, Barrett’s wife,  Dr. Florence Barrett, (below) an obstetric surgeon and dean of the London School of Medicine for Women, began receiving very evidential messages from Sir William through the mediumship of Mrs. Leonard.  Over the next eleven years, she sat with Leonard every few months, taking verbatim notes as Sir William communicated and explained how things work on his side of the veil.  Lady Barrett also received evidential messages from several other mediums. This book, Personality Survives Death, published in 1937 by Longmans, Green and Co. of London, and recently republished by White Crow Books, resulted from these sittings. 


Lady Barrett asked Sir William how she might satisfy people that she was really talking to him.  He replied that it depends on the type of mind, commenting that reference to a tear in the wallpaper in his old room might satisfy some people and not others.  Lady Barrett noted that a month before his death he had pointed out a tear in the wallpaper in one corner of his room.  Sir William then said that some higher minds have gone well beyond the need for such trivial verification, mentioning another distinguished British physicist, still in the flesh, Sir Oliver Lodge.  “Lodge is nearer the bigger, greater aspect of things than most,” he stated.

Sir William reported difficulties in communicating with his widow, explaining that in the earth body we have the separation of subconscious and conscious and that when we pass over they join and make a complete mind that knows and remembers everything.  However, when he brings himself back into the physical sphere, the conscious and the subconscious again separate and he forgets much. “I cannot come with my whole self, I cannot.” He went on to describe other obstacles to communication between the material and spirit worlds. 

Sir William further explained that his objective in communicating with his wife was not simply to add to the mass of evidence already given concerning the survival of consciousness at death but to help find a working philosophy to guide those on earth who are struggling with finding a purpose in life.  “It seems to me from where I am most people are not even struggling but meandering on purposelessly, blindly, because they have no definite philosophy as a starting point,” he communicated.  He went on to say that knowledge of the afterlife opens the gates of inspiration and makes the intuition keener.  With that comes greater enthusiasm, greater understanding of the beauties of life, even the perceiving of beauty where ugliness had appeared to exist.

“Life on my side seems so extraordinarily easy compared to earth,” Sir William offered in a 1929 sitting, “because we simply live according to the rules of love.” 

Next blog post:  March 30

Michael Tymn is the author of The Afterlife Revealed: What Happens After We Die, Resurrecting Leonora Piper: How Science Discovered the Afterlife, and Dead Men Talking: Afterlife Communication from World War I.



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How They Dress in the Afterlife

Posted on 02 March 2020, 9:55

The idea of spirits wearing clothes provokes humor among the skeptics and doubts among the believers. However, if those same spirits were to appear naked, it would likely result in more humor and more doubt. Would it be more believable if they appeared as blue flames or white orbs? 

“Can you fancy seeing me in white robes?” Raymond Lodge, a battlefield victim of World War I, asked his mother through British trance medium Gladys Osborne Leonard on November 26, 1915. “Mind, I didn’t care for them at first, and I wouldn’t wear them. Just like a fellow gone to a country where there is a hot climate – an ignorant fellow, not knowing what he is going to; it’s just like that.  He may make up his mind to wear his own clothes a little while, but he will soon be dressing like the natives.”

Raymond, (below) a second-lieutenant in the British army, had been killed in action in Flanders on September 14, a little more than two months before he communicated with his mother.  He went on to tell his mother that he was allowed to have earth clothes until he got acclimated.  “I don’t think I will ever be able to make the boys see me in white robes,” Raymond added, apparently jesting.


Raymond’s father, Sir Oliver Lodge, a distinguished British physicist and pioneer in electricity, radio and spark plug ignition, recorded the communication in his popular but controversial 1916 book, Raymond or Life and Death.  Sir Oliver and Lady Lodge began receiving messages from Raymond on September 25, 1915, 11 days after his death.  A number of them were very evidential, offering facts which Mrs. Leonard could not possibly have known, thereby convincing the Lodges that they were in fact in touch with their youngest son.

As a world-renowned scientist, Lodge took much flak from his fellow scientists for his interest in such “occult” matters.  One current reference suggests that Lodge had no interest in the subject of life after death until Raymond’s death, but the fact is that he had joined the Society for Psychical Research a year after its formation in 1882 and had 23 sittings with Leonora Piper, the famous American trance medium, in 1889.  His book, The Survival of Man, dealing with life after death, was published in 1909, six years before Raymond’s death and before he met Mrs. Leonard, and makes it clear that he accepted survival well before Raymond’s death. 

Sir Oliver continued his interest in psychical research until his death in 1940 and often heard from Raymond.  On March 11, 1932, Raymond attempted to further explain conditions on his side of the veil.  “Father, we are obliged to create conditions, and what you might call things, on our plane,” Raymond stated through Mrs. Leonard’s vocal cords. “They’ve only got a temporary life.  They are illusions, something to the same extent as a materialization is an illusion.  On your side, you have something material for the time being.  It’s something natural in appearance, in feel, apparently in every way it appeals to the senses of this body (the entranced medium touching Sir Oliver).  On our side we are bound to create certain things, houses, clothes, partially for the time being, in order to make a satisfactory harmonious and suitable setting for the soul to live in and work in.  And they become a medium of expression…It’s one of the necessary illusions of our life.”

When Sir Oliver (below) asked Raymond if he was saying that he lived in a world of illusion, Raymond said that he was in an extension of the illusory world in which his father was living.  “We are in touch with a world of reality because we are in the outer rim of the world of illusion,” he explained to his father.  “We’re more sure of the world of reality than you are.  Father, the spirit universe is the world of reality.  Spirit and mind both belong to the world of reality.”

Mr and Mrs Lodge

Sir Oliver pondered the situation in writing:  “I know that its inhabitants say it is extraordinarily like the earth, that they have flowers, and trees and houses, and can get anything they want by merely wishing for it, which seems rather strange, “but I was not prepared to think of it as a world of illusion wherein all such objects of sense were illusory.” 

In further discussing the matter with Raymond and Frederic W. H. Myers, his old friend and fellow psychical researcher who had died in 1901 and who also communicated through Mrs. Leonard, Lodge concluded that it was a temporary environment for spirits who had recently crossed over and were still making adjustments before going on to realms of higher vibration, which become less and less illusory and more and more real as a soul advances in the spirit world. “We are not transported to the full blaze of reality all at once,” Lodge surmised, pointing out that a table that feels solid and substantial is really a multitude of whirling electrons with great spaces between them and that when we stand on the floor we are bombarded upwards and supported by a great multitude of little blows delivered by the atoms beneath our feet.  “As none of this is apparent to the ordinary senses, it can be considered illusory even though we choose to interpret it in a way that appeals to our coarse-grained sense organs.”

Through another medium and to another person, Myers communicated: “We were accustomed to wear clothes that belonged to our particular period. The images of these are deeply marked in our subconscious memory. So our first instinct is to appear to those we love as we were on earth. Our minds, though unconscious of the imaginative act, fashion out of this amazingly plastic ether every thread, every inch of the garments which we habitually wore during our earth life. Naturally, after a while, we come to realize the change in ourselves and, aware at last of the creative powers of imagination, devise strange and lovely coverings for our etheric bodies. But as these fancies are largely drawn from it they are limited by the subconscious memory in character and kind. …”  Myers added that this applied primarily to souls who had just passed through the gates of death and were still in the lower realms or spheres.

The Rev. Charles Drayton Thomas, a Wesleyan minister and psychical researcher, carried on detailed conversations with his deceased father and sister through Mrs. Leonard.  He wrote that his father wanted him to understand that he now lived in a body which, to him, was as real and substantial as the body he had inhabited on earth. “Instead of the vapourish form which I had imagined to be the dwelling place of the departed soul, he described a replica of his former body, but one which possessed powers of movement, and an extension of the senses, far surpassing anything familiar to earth,” Thomas wrote. “He spoke of being suitably clad in garments, and not, as I had supposed, draped only in a cloud of light.”  His father further explained that his spirit body was built up by the character formed while in the flesh.

At a different sitting, Thomas was told that he often visits with deceased relatives when he is sleeping.  His deceased father told him that he could see Drayton’s soul leaving the body from his solar plexus during sleep, although at death it would leave from the head. He would watch the soul come out and form a sort of clothing for itself.  “That is because of one’s intuitive sense of the need of clothing, the soul naturally seeks to clothe its body (i.e., the spiritual or psychic body),” it was explained.

Many spirit communicators have stated that spirits tend to move from traditional clothing in the lower realms to robes and gown in the higher realms. After transitioning to the spirit world, Monsignor Robert Hugh Benson began communicating through the hand of Anthony Borgia.  He told of being able to visit one of the higher realms. “I observed that most of the people waiting in the gardens were not habited in their earth clothes,” he communicated, “and I assumed that most of them had been in spirit for some considerable time.  Such was not necessarily the case, Edwin (their guide) told us. They had the right to wear their spirit robes by virtue of the fact that they were inhabitants of this realm we were now in.  And the robes they wore were eminently suited to both the place and the situation.  It is difficult to describe this costume because so much rests in being able to give some comparison with a particular earthly fabric.  Here we have no such materials, but by the kind and degree of light that is the essence of the spirit robe. Those that we now saw were in ‘flowing’ form and of full length, and the colours – blue and pink in varying degrees of intensity – seemed to interweave themselves throughout the whole substance of the robes.”

Emanuel Swedenborg, an esteemed 18th Century scientist and inventor turned mystic, reported on his clairvoyant visions of the afterlife in his 1758 book, Heaven & Hell.  Referring to spirits as angels, Swedenborg said that angels live together as people on earth do and “they have clothes, houses, and many similar things.”  He explained that clothes correspond to their advancement in the spirit world.  The more advanced have clothes that gleam as if aflame, some radiant as if alight.  The less advanced have shining white clothes without radiance, while those even lower in advancement have clothes of various colors. 

A spirit calling himself Johannes communicated through medium Hester Travers-Smith to H. Dennis Bradley, a British playwright. “Now you ask me about clothes and appearance…Every soul has its own form.  It has formed itself during the earth life, and it comes to us as it makes itself.  We seem to each other to be men and women as you are; and as to our garments, we do wear garments which convey the same impression as yours.  There are merely veils for the mental part, something that gives clothing and appearance to the mental form; but you need not believe that when you pass on you live so differently as you expect.  These garments are not made in the market as yours are; they really proceed largely from the idea of the individual.  They help to demonstrate the mind as yours do.”

On September 12, 1945, Phillip Gilbert, a sailor in the British navy killed in WWII, communicated with his mother, Alice Gilbert. “You want me to tell you more of conditions here,” he communicated by means of automatic writing.  “It’s not easy to explain how one can be solid and yet not solid.  Still, anyone who knows anything about physics and electrons knows that all earthly matter is just that – seeming solid and yet really a mass of vibrating particles.  We are the same, I think, the body I use now looks to me very like my old one, but there are no organs, as you know.  I think I function through my thought, somehow. I can will myself into any clothes I want. I usually get myself into my tweed coat and flannels…Some people go about seeing themselves in the most fantastic outfits.  They are dressed as their inner nature builds them up. That is why, at first, Grandpa so often showed to mediums in a sort of black cassock, like a clergyman.”  Phillip went on to say that people in higher planes become more and more luminous and that Christ is seen as a mass of violet golden light.

The bottom line seems to be that we are our own tailors and are weaving our afterlife garments now whether we know it or not. 

Michael Tymn is the author of The Afterlife Revealed: What Happens After We Die, Resurrecting Leonora Piper: How Science Discovered the Afterlife, and Dead Men Talking: Afterlife Communication from World War I.

Next blog post:  March 16





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Exploring the Psychology-Spirituality Link with Dr. Matt Welsh

Posted on 17 February 2020, 10:41

How does a clinical psychologist avoid conflicts between science and spirituality?  That was the first question I had after discovering Spiritual Media Blog, a website that features articles, interviews, reviews, and other posts about spirituality, psychology, and inspirational entertainment by Matthew Welsh, J.D., Ph.D., (below) a clinical psychologist practicing in the Chicago area. (


According to the website, Welsh created the blog after graduating from law school, his objective being to provide a source of inspirational content, media, and entertainment.  He began his career in Hollywood working for an entertainment agency, and then worked as a trial lawyer in Indiana before he decided to pursue his calling to become a psychologist. “My initial objective was to raise awareness for emerging conscious entertainment,” he explains.  “I started it after I left Hollywood, working for a major entertainment agency, because I felt like there were a lot of inspiring movies about consciousness and spirituality being made that were not getting the attention they deserved from Hollywood filmmakers and producers. I wanted to create a blog to raise awareness for these inspirational films. Over the years, after leaving my job as a lawyer at a law firm to become a clinical psychologist, my interest has expanded to psychology. Now, part of my blog’s objective is to also provide practical information people can use to help them develop spiritually and psychologically, as well as to raise awareness for inspirational movies. I do this by featuring guest posts, reviews, and interviews with some of the thought-leaders on topics related to psychology, spirituality, and inspirational entertainment.”

I recently put some questions to Welsh by email and he graciously replied:

How did you become interested in the subject of spirituality?

I was about 20 years old studying in college and very stressed and burnt out from life. I had been putting an extreme amount of pressure on myself at the time to make the best grades so I could get a good job after I graduated. That led me to experience a lot of anxiety, stress, anger, and unhappiness. So, I began to look for something else to find happiness, purpose and peace in my life. I started reading a lot about psychology, spirituality, philosophy, and personal development. One of the most powerful and helpful materials I found was a William James essay on four signs of a mystical experience and other teachings about connecting to God, our Higher Self, or some Ultimate Reality through meditation and our intuition. I began to practice meditation on a daily basis and listen to my intuition (which I believe is the voice of our Soul). Meditation and paying more attention to my intuition really helped me to become more connected to God and my soul/spirit. Since then, I have continued to read spiritual literature and incorporate a variety of spiritual practices into my daily life. When I connect with my spirituality, I feel a deeper sense of peace, purpose, practical guidance or inner knowing even if I am going through highly difficult external circumstances I don’t understand.

How do you define “spirituality”? In your introductory “10 practical tips for finding and living your calling” at your website, you refer to intuition, synchronicity, inspiration, internal values and other character traits.  I’m sure a humanist would agree with all those.  Does your definition go beyond what humanists accept?

I define spirituality as our connection, experience, or personal relationship with our Higher Power or some Ultimate Reality. Some may refer to this Higher Power as God or Spirit. So, yes, my definition of spirituality does go beyond what a humanist would accept. A humanist would likely define spirituality as a search for meaning and connection in our life. I respect that definition and people who have that definition of spirituality. But, for me, spirituality is a belief in something that transcends this physical or material world such as the soul, afterlife, or God / Ultimate Reality.

Let me reword the question I opened with:  Can one be “spiritual” and find meaning or purpose in this life without believing in a spirit world or a larger life beyond this one? 

I do believe a person can find meaning or purpose in this life without believing in a spirit world or larger life beyond this one. For example, love, connection to others, appreciation of beauty, a sense of adventure, personal growth, family, friends, work, or living a life of integrity may provide anyone with meaning or purpose in this life even though they do not believe in a spirit world. While these values and goals are noble and can provide meaning and purpose, I do not believe they are necessarily spiritual because in my opinion spirituality includes a belief in the spirit world or a larger life beyond this one.

You’ve quoted Carl Jung in some of your writing.  Jung said that “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.”  Is such a belief acceptable to today’s mainstream psychology?  If not,  are you able to o incorporate it into your clinical practice without inviting professional sanctions or peer disdain? If so, how?

That belief is probably not acceptable in mainstream psychology. However, I can still incorporate Jung’s belief into my practice as I help my patients accomplish their goals by respecting, incorporating and working with their values and beliefs without imposing my values and beliefs on them. For example, psychological problems (e.g., depression, PTSD, anxiety, relationship problems, substance use, etc.) can be successfully treated without a belief in life after death or any spirituality. My goal as a psychologist is to help patients relieve their suffering, grow and develop as a person, or accomplish whatever goal they are hoping to achieve. It is not necessary to have any spiritual beliefs for me to help my patients achieve their goals.

However, even though it is not necessary to have any spiritual beliefs, I do believe incorporating my patients’ spiritual beliefs and practices into psychotherapy is helpful. Mainstream psychologists may not specifically endorse spiritual beliefs. However, most mainstream psychologists would encourage therapists to understand a patient’s values and religious or spiritual practices and then work with these beliefs and practices to help the patients achieve their goals.

I do this by asking patients if they have a religion or spiritual beliefs. If they say no, then I do not try to impose or incorporate spirituality into my work with them. However, if my patients do have a spiritual belief system, then I work with the patient to help them draw upon these beliefs to find greater peace, meaning, purpose, motivation, or relief. For example, if someone is grieving the death of a loved one and believes in an afterlife, then I may ask them if they believe their loved one is watching over them. Then, I may ask them how they can live their life to honor that loved one or bring their loved one peace in the afterlife, knowing their loved one is still watching over them. Further, I will also talk to many of my patients about how their faith, religion, or spirituality can help them cope with anxiety, depression, or trauma in their life. For many, their spirituality and religion provide helpful coping skills to reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety, decrease substance use or find more strength and resiliency during tough times.

The humanist claims that one can lead a fulfilling, productive, balanced, and mentally hygienic life while not believing that there is anything beyond this life, but William James didn’t agree.  As he put it,  “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.”  Does your experience disagree with Professor James?  

I disagree. I do believe that it is possible for someone to lead a mentally hygienic life while not believing that there is anything beyond this life. I think spirituality and a belief in the afterlife does help someone lead a fulfilling and mentally hygienic life, but it is not necessary.

Back to Jung, he said that most of his patients were people who had lost their faith and could no longer find meaning in life.  I suspect that a clinical psychologist today would not want to dig that deeply.  Does a modern-day clinical psychologist get into this at all? Is it possible to explore spiritual matters without getting into religion?

Yes, many psychologists attempt to incorporate meaning and purpose into their therapy and explore spiritual matters without getting into religion. For example, Victor Frankl was a Holocaust survivor who eventually founded existential psychology and wrote Man’s Search for Meaning. Many psychologists incorporate his teachings about existential psychology to help their patients find more meaning in their life. One of the easiest ways to do this is to ask patients what their values in life are or what gives their life meaning and purpose. Further, if the patient says that spirituality is one of their values or gives them meaning or purpose, then it can be very helpful to have a conversation with them about their spirituality. That can be especially useful for patients who are thinking about suicide, have experienced trauma, or have lost loved ones.

Does your clinical practice involve treating people grieving the loss of a loved one?  If so, what is your basic approach to this?

Yes, my basic approach is to give them the space to experience, express, and process their emotions. This may range from guilt, regret, anger, depression, or anxiety about their own death or their loved one’s death. One helpful exercise is to ask them to write a letter to their loved one expressing any thought or emotion they would like to communicate. Or, I may ask them what their loved one would say to them now.

Giambattista Vico, an 18th-century Italian philosopher, wrote that men first feel necessity, then look for utility, followed by comfort, then pleasure, and finally luxury, after which they finally go mad – when “each man is thinking of his own private interests.”  In that pursuit of pleasure and luxury, there is, according to Vico, a certain social disconnection, which involves moral, intellectual, and spiritual decline. Do you think such a mindset might account for the chaos and turmoil in today’s world?

Yes, it is often difficult for people to find a balance between self-care and making a contribution towards others. When we are too focused on helping others, we often neglect our basic needs, such as sleeping or taking time for ourselves. However, when we are overly focused on our own wants and needs, we risk trying to take other people’s energy, money, power, etc., and that does cause social disconnection.

How do you integrate spirituality and psychology into your life?

For me, spirituality and psychology compliment each other and have both been helpful throughout various challenges and stages of life. Psychology helps me stay grounded by better understanding and expressing my authentic emotions in a healthy manner, or identifying unhelpful thoughts or behaviors and replacing them with more helpful ones. However, my spirituality provides me peace, faith, purpose, and direction when I am facing circumstances I don’t understand or asking questions that transcend psychology and the material world. Without spirituality, my life would lack peace, faith, and purpose. But again, psychology helps me stay grounded and deal with my human emotions, needs, and experiences in a healthy manner.

Michael Tymn is the author of The Afterlife Revealed: What Happens After We Die, Resurrecting Leonora Piper: How Science Discovered the Afterlife, and Dead Men Talking: Afterlife Communication from World War I.

Next blog post:  March 2

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Titanic Victim Reported on After-Death Experiences

Posted on 03 February 2020, 9:35

William T. Stead is not listed among the 334 victims of the Titanic whose bodies were recovered as they floated in their lifejackets.  Indications are that he was struck on the head, possibly by a falling ship’s funnel, and sent to the bottom of the ocean.  However, the evidence strongly suggests that Stead did “survive,” though not in the flesh, as he began communicating through a number of mediums in the weeks and months following his physical death.

Stead, (below) a renowned British journalist, editor, author, social reformer and pacifist, was on his way to New York City to give a speech on world peace at Carnegie Hall when he became a victim of the Titanic.  On May 6, 1912, some three weeks after the tragedy,  Stead communicated with his daughter, Estelle Stead, at a sitting in Wimbledon with direct-voice medium Etta Wriedt.  Retired British naval officer turned psychical researcher Vice-Admiral William Usborne Moore was present and reported that Stead talked with his daughter for at least 40 minutes.  Moore described it as the most painful but most realistic and convincing conversation he had heard during his investigation of mediumship. (In the direct-voice, the voice comes through independent of the medium.)


A week or so later, General Sir Alfred E. Turner hosted a private sitting with Mrs. Wriedt at his home, reporting that Stead spoke in a voice that was unmistakably his while telling of the events just before the giant ship sunk to the bottom of the Atlantic. (More about Stead and his early contacts from the Other Side can be found in my 2012 book, Transcending the Titanic, published by White Crow Books.)

At the time of the disaster, Estelle Stead was on a tour with her own Shakespearean company.  One of the members of the touring group was a young man named Pardoe Woodman, who apparently had psychic abilities.  According to Estelle, a few days before the ship went down, Woodman told her over tea that there was to be a great disaster at sea and that an elderly man very close to her would be among the victims.  Some five years later, in 1917, Woodman developed as an automatic writing medium and began receiving messages from William Stead, who told of his initial experiences on the Other Side.  Estelle Stead noted that Woodman wrote with his eyes closed and that the writing was very much like her father’s.  Moreover, the writing would stop at times and go back to dot the “i’s” and cross the “t’s” a habit of her father’s which she was sure Woodman knew nothing about.

Stead also had the ability to do automatic writing when in the physical body.  In 1909, three years before his death, he authored Letters from Julia, a series of messages coming through his hand from Julia T. Ames, an American newspaperwoman, intended for her friend, Ellen, during 1892-1893.  “Automatic writing, I may explain for those unfamiliar with the term, is writing that is written by the hand of a person which is not under control of his conscious mind,” Stead explained in the 1909 book. “The hand apparently writes of itself, the person to whom the hand belongs having no knowledge of what it is about to write. It is a very familiar and simple form of mediumship.”

Considering the research suggesting that some of the information recorded by automatic writing mediums is “colored” by the medium’s subconscious, Stead wrote that he could not believe that any part of his unconscious self would deliberately practice a hoax upon his conscious self about the most serious of all subjects, and keep it up year after year with the most sincerity and consistency.  “The simple explanation that my friend who has passed over can use my hand as her own seems much more natural and probable.”

The messages coming through Woodman’s hand, as Estelle Stead sat with him to provide a sympathetic link with her deceased father, were set forth in a 1922 book, The Blue Island, just recently republished by White Crow Books. 

In his initial communication through Woodman’s hand, Stead recalled the “indescribably pathetic” scene he witnessed after the ship went down, as hundreds of souls hovered over their floating bodies, some of them not comprehending their new state and concerned with having lost their valuables.  After what seemed like a few minutes, they all seemed to rise vertically into the air at a terrific speed. “I cannot tell how long our journey lasted, nor how fast from the Earth we were when we arrived, but it was a gloriously beautiful arrival,” he communicated to his daughter through Woodman. “It was like walking from your own English winter gloom into the radiance of an Indian sky. There, all was brightness and beauty.”

Nevertheless, Stead continued, the presence or absence of contentment among the new arrivals was based on the quality of the individual’s earth life.  He referred to what is today called a “life review,” in which the individual judges himself based on the character formed, the opportunities taken and lost, the motive of his or her actions, the help given, and the person’s overall mental outlook. “To sum all these up,” Stead explained to his daughter, “it is the quality of mind control over body versus body over mind.  Mind matters and body matters; it is in your keeping entirely and is in whatever state you have made it by your life.  On your arrival here the degree of your happiness will be determined automatically by the demands of your mind.” 

Stead added that everything seemed to have a blue tinge to it, as if it were a blue island. He later referred to it as a “blue atmosphere” and explained that it was a temporary rest spot where adjustments were made before moving on to the “Real World.”  He stressed that it does not resemble the earth life; rather, the earth life is a reflection of it. 

The initial objective, he further explained, “is to get rid of the unhappiness at parting from earth ties, and therefore, for the time being the individual is allowed to indulge in most of earth’s pleasures.”  He said that that there are libraries, music halls, and athletic arenas, that one can ride on horseback, and swim in the sea.  The clothing, he said, was practically the same as people were accustomed to on earth.  Thought, he dictated, is the force that drives everything and everything has to be mental before it becomes physical.

The mysteries of life, Stead communicated, are not revealed to the person upon arrival.  “I want you first to realise that by the change of death you do not become part of the Godhead immediately,” he cautioned his daughter. “The mysteries of life are not revealed to you as a kind of welcoming gift on your arrival here. You must not think that I, or any, have full knowledge on all subjects, profound and trivial, the moment we come to spirit life.”  Understanding, he said, comes slowly and it is difficult to communicate because the conditions are so different than those experienced in the material life.  “I am only a little way on my journey, but just far enough to grasp the intense beauty of life, and in life.” 

“We are only a very little way from Earth, and consequently up to this time we have not thrown off Earth ideas,” he went on.  “We have gained some new ones, but have as yet discarded few or none.  The process of discarding is a gradual one …We get to the state of not desiring a smoke, not because we can’t have it, or think it not right, but because the desire for it is not there.  As with a smoke, so with food, so with many a dozen things; we are just as satisfied without them.”

Stead eventually moved on to a higher (in vibration) realm, but he was able to tell very little of it because it was even more beyond human language. “It is a land of freedom – a land of happiness and smiles,” he communicated, adding that they can be in close touch with loved ones still in the physical environment and can try to influence them.  “In saying we can and do influence people on Earth, I do not propose to go into the precise process of how we work,” he explained. “It is near enough to say that you know how you influence each other on Earth; here the result is the same, although the process is quite different…”  However, he stressed, while spirit friends can attempt to guide a person, they cannot act for him. “He sets his own destiny in motion and he alone can alter it.”

Stead concluded by emphasizing that the physical world is a training school.  “…you are there to learn the truth about your own character, and how to control and develop it, to make full use of all Earth’s beauties and pleasures,” he ended, “but you must be master and not allow them to master you.”

Next blog post: Feb. 17

Michael Tymn is the author of The Afterlife Revealed: What Happens After We Die, Resurrecting Leonora Piper: How Science Discovered the Afterlife, and Dead Men Talking: Afterlife Communication from World War I.

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Thirty Reasons Why the Afterlife Evidence is Ignored or Rejected: Pt. 2

Posted on 20 January 2020, 10:21

As discussed in the last blog post here, I see 30 reasons why the strong evidence in support of spirits and survival has been ignored or rejected.  Here are reasons 16 through 30. 

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

17.  Sheep-Goat Effect: The early history of mediumship clearly indicates the need for harmony in mediumistic settings. In order to produce phenomena, the spirits are said to have required the medium to be in a passive state, one apparently best achieved with music and prayer.  Some mediums could achieve the passive state in a minute or two, but there were times when it took an hour or longer for anything to happen and there were many times when a proven medium simply couldn’t produce at all on a particular night because the conditions weren’t right or she had too much nervous energy holding her back. Also, negativity by the observers defeated good results.  Some observers who got nothing on the medium’s bad night wrote off the person as a fraud and indications are that many true mediums were so disparaged. Researchers now refer to it as the “sheep-goat” hypothesis, wherein believers (sheep) in psi get results and non-believers (goats) come up empty.

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

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

20.  The Bifurcation Fallacy: Occasionally, the supposed discarnate communicator turned out to be alive, seemingly clear evidence to the debunker that the medium was a charlatan.  However, research suggests that living humans are capable of out-of-body travel, often while asleep, and further supports telepathic communication between humans. In the study of the near-death experience, debunkers argue that similar experiences can be had under LSD and other drugs, completely rejecting the idea that bifurcation of mind (soul) and body (brain) is not limited to death or a near-death experience.
21.  Trivialities:  Many of the early researchers, including William James, wondered why so much of what came through mediums was of such a trivial nature, like what happened to Uncle George’s watch or the location of a birthmark.  Why didn’t they talk about the nature of reality, what it is like on their side of the veil, etc.?  The fact is that much of the early communication did address more profound subjects.  The writings of Judge John Edmonds, Dr. George Dexter, Professor Robert Hare, educator Allan Kardec, and the Rev. William Stainton Moses offered very comprehensive reports on the greater reality,  but it was not evidential and much of it, according to the reporting spirits, was beyond human vocabulary and comprehension. It was the trivial message that was evidential and which the Society for Psychical Research focused on beginning in 1882. 

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

23. Varying Degrees of Ability:  As with most gifts or talents, mediumistic ability came in varying degrees. In physical mediumship, there were a few who were strong enough to produce manifestations under good light and some under red light, but the majority required darkness, as light affected the odic force or ectoplasm exuded by the medium and could be injurious. The researcher set on debunking the medium would see darkness as a cover for fraud, reasoning that if one medium could produce under lighted conditions then all should be able to do so.  If one medium was capable of producing a full materialization, then all should be capable of doing it. 

24.  Sainthood Expectations:  It was assumed by many that mediums should be especially holy people, candidates for sainthood. However, this was not the case. Most of them were very common in religiosity and many of them charged for a sitting, which was considered sacrilegious.  Indications are that there is no significant positive correlation between spirituality and mediumistic ability. One might result after the person recognizes his or her ability, but it does not necessarily originate with such a mindset. 

25. Historical Omissions & Distortions:  Much of the early physical phenomena was recorded following the observations and consequently lacked in detail, leaving many questions unanswered.  While much of the mental phenomena was recorded in shorthand, the reports were often abridged or highly condensed in order to avoid superfluous verbiage and wearisome reading. Moreover, researchers reported that some of the very best evidence was too personal to document. The same applies to some degree with more current research.  The net result is that much of the reporting is subject to the interests and biases of the researchers.  Second- third- and even fourth-hand summaries of the research over time by historians and pseudo-historians further abbreviate and distort much of the original research.  This is often observed today in various on-line references, especially at Wikipedia, the primary reference for many people.
26. Refocused Research:  Because psychical research conflicted with materialistic science, there was little support and funding for such research.  As the dedicated pioneers of psychical research died off, few came forward to replace them. Moreover, psychical research appeared to have reached a point of diminishing returns and was replaced during the 1930s by the field called parapsychology.  In order to attract funding, parapsychologists steered clear of the survival and spirit issues, focusing on extrasensory perception and psychokinesis.  Associating such paranormal phenomena with survival was and still is looked upon as professional suicide.

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

28. Vanishing Phenomena:  While there are mediums still producing the same kind of phenomena observed by the pioneers of psychical research, the quantity and quality of such mediumship seems to have significantly diminished.  There have been many theories as to why this is, but the most accepted one seems to be that modern technology has resulted in too much “noise” in the world.  Before radio, television, computers, smart phones and the like, people had more quiet time.  They sat around fireplaces or on porches and knitted or whittled, being more open to altered states of consciousness and spirit influence, while also having more time to develop their inner selves.  Instead of playing with their devices at night, they gathered together and experimented with contacting the spirit world. In addition, many of the trance mediums developed after a serious disease, sometimes being near death, just as modern-day near-death experiencers frequently develop psychic abilities.  But science has eradicated many of the diseases that resulted in trance abilities.

29.  Absolute Proof Fallacy:  While the debunker and lay person demand “absolute proof,” the true scientists realizes that proof is subjective and a matter of evidence.  The evidence developed in psychical research is not within the domain of pure or exact science. Nearly all the phenomena are spontaneous and not subject to replication.  It is more “courtroom” science and therefore more subject to a “preponderance of evidence” standard, although some would say it goes far beyond that and meets the “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard. 

30. Necessary Doubt: When the great author Victor Hugo asked a spirit why God doesn’t better reveal himself, the reply came: “Because doubt is the instrument which forges the human spirit.  If the day were to come when the human spirit no longer doubted, the human soul would fly off and leave the plough behind, for it would have acquired wings. The earth would lie fallow.  Now, God is the sower and man is the harvester.  The celestial seed demands that the human ploughshare remain in the furrow of life.” In effect, absolute certainty is not in our best interest. 

Michael Tymn is the author of The Afterlife Revealed: What Happens After We Die, Resurrecting Leonora Piper: How Science Discovered the Afterlife, and Dead Men Talking: Afterlife Communication from World War I.

Next blog post:  Feb. 3.

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Thirty Reasons Why the Afterlife Evidence is Ignored or Rejected

Posted on 06 January 2020, 10:36

To any open-minded person who has thoroughly studied the psychical research that took place between 1850 and 1935, the evidence suggesting that consciousness lives on after death should be overwhelming. The evidence developed in recent years, primarily in the areas of near-death experiences, clairvoyance, past-life studies, instrumental transcommunication, electronic voice phenomena, and deathbed phenomena, has added significantly to the “old” evidence, which was primarily in the area of trance mediumship. The old research produced a solid wheel and the newer research has tightened the spokes, but the prevailing materialistic mindset in the modern world resists both the old and the new.

In my blog post of November 21, 2016, I identified 15 reasons why the evidence has been ignored or rejected.  In giving the matter further thought, I realize I missed many and there are at least 30 reasons, the first 15 of which are set forth below and do not match the numbering in the 2016 post.  While some of them overlap with each other, they are distinct enough to be listed separately.  Numbers 16 through 30 will be discussed in my next blog post here.

1. Fear of Death:  “The idea of death, the fear of it, haunts the human mind like nothing else,” wrote anthropologist Ernest Becker in his 1974 Pulitzer prize-winning book, The Denial of Death. Becker explained that to free oneself of death anxiety, nearly everyone chooses the path or repression. That is, we bury the idea of death deep in the subconscious and do our best to escape from the reality of it while avoiding any discussion of what might come after, whether it be total extinction, a horrific hell, or a humdrum heaven. No consideration is given to the more dynamic and progressive afterlife suggested by modern revelation.

2. Philistinism:  In escaping from the reality of death, we concern ourselves with mostly meaningless activities – reading and watching fiction, playing games, idle chatter and texting, etc. – what Søren Kierkegaard, known as “the father of existentialism,” called philistinism.  A philistine was man fully tranquilized with the trivial.  As Kierkegaard saw it, most people are so absorbed in philistinism that they don’t even realize they are in constant despair from their fear of death.  Pioneering psychiatrist Carl Jung wrote that most of his patients were non-believers, those who had lost their faith.  They were neurotics.  “They seek position, marriage, reputation, outward success or money, and remain unhappy and neurotic even when they have attained what they were seeking,” Jung explained. “Such people are usually confined within too narrow a spiritual horizon.  Their life has not sufficient content, sufficient meaning.”  In effect, a philistine, even one who subscribes to a religion, becomes increasingly indifferent to matters of the spirit. 

3. Carpe Diem Syndrome: Being a philistine is one thing; going beyond that mundane state to “seize the day” in a pleasure-seeking life of Epicureanism (below) or hedonism is something else.  Believing in an afterlife involving punishment for our misdeeds, especially an eternity of torture in the hell of orthodoxy, conflicts with having free rein in pursuing a life of pleasure and comfort. If we are to “seize the day” in a hedonistic way, we should have no restraints, no fear of punishment after death.  Those subscribing to this philosophy find it convenient to dismiss the whole idea of an afterlife.


4. Religious Fundamentalism:  Based primarily on self-serving or misinterpreted passages in the Bible, most of orthodox religion saw the mediumship studied by psychical research as a demonic practice.  Adding fuel to the fire was the fact that some messages coming through mediums conflicted with various Church dogma and doctrine.  The position of orthodoxy remains much the same today as it was in the days of the pioneers of psychical research, thereby discouraging people who accept survival on nothing more than blind faith from moving on to true faith or conviction. 

5.  Scientism:  At the other extreme from religious fundamentalism is scientific fundamentalism, also called scientism, a belief that nothing can be accepted as truth unless subjected to testing by application of the scientific method, including replication.  The scientific method begins with a materialistic/mechanistic a priori assumption that brain and mind are one in nature and that no cause shall be invented when known causes can explain the facts. When no natural cause can be found, either deception or unexplored subliminal activity must be invoked. Since deception or unknown subliminal activity trumps spiritistic explanations, the spiritistic/survival hypothesis is defeated before it begins. It is a Catch 22 situation.

6.  The Causality Paradox: The religionist, the scientist, the media and the general public all assume that we must come up with proof of God before dealing with the survival issue.  No God, no afterlife, is their illogical reasoning. It is a deductive or a priori approach.  The inductive, or a posteriori approach, of first looking at the evidence for survival does not require identifying a Supreme Being, whether anthropomorphic (humanlike) or some abstract form of cosmic consciousness, but most people, even atheists, continue to cling to religious indoctrination that one must find and fully identify God before even considering the survival of consciousness at death.  Those stuck in the mindset that an anthropomorphic God is pulling the strings and is very cruel and vindictive in permitting all the evils we witness in the world, even allowing small children to die of diseases, are among the most steadfast deniers. 

7. Media Bias & Ignorance: Journalists like to think of themselves as intelligent investigators, and so they naturally align themselves with science.  At the same time, exposing shams and fraudulent schemes lends itself to sensationalism and makes for good copy.  Then, as now, the media frequently addressed any subject involving spirits as “woo-woo” stuff while putting a humorous or cynical twist of one kind or another on any story suggesting spirits of the dead.  In addition, today’s television producers don’t understand the “balance” issue.  When a researcher validates a medium, the producers believe they have to get a debunker involved in the program to counter the researcher, not taking into account the fact that the researcher has already dealt with and discounted the skeptical arguments.  It’s a “no-win” situation.

8. Hubris:  “Dabbling in the occult,” as some referred to it, was seen as a return to superstitions and follies of religion, and sanctioning it would have destroyed the foundation of the materialistic/mechanistic worldview and leave the majority of respected scientists and rational thinkers, especially professors who championed the materialistic worldview in academic institutions, embarrassed and humiliated.  They would have to rethink all they had taught and would not have answers for many things that go beyond known science.  Intellectual arrogance was and is characteristic of many leading scientists, while guerilla atheism has become very common in modern social media.  “We expect to prove our sanity by laughing where we are ignorant,” Dr. James Hyslop, professor of ethics and logic at Columbia University, once opined.   

9.  Fear of Peer Rejection: Many scientists and scholars were invited by pioneering researchers to observe certain mediums, but some feared for their reputations if word were to get out that they were showing interest in such “foolish” matters,” and they therefore refused.  There were a number, however, who accepted the invitations and observed genuine phenomena, but, with the same fears, they remained silent, not offering support for the more courageous researchers.  Sir David Brewster, a famous nineteenth century physicist known especially for his contributions to the optics field, is said to have witnessed a D. D. Home levitation.  Although seemingly quite impressed at the time, he later concluded that the only explanation was a trick he did not understand, or a delusion.  “Spirit is the last thing I will give in to,” he was quoted.  Such a mindset continues to exist.

10. Conflicting Objectives:  With reductionist science at one extreme and the new philosophy of Spiritualism at the other, psychical researchers attempted to remain objectively on the fence between the two as they searched for an explanation for phenomena that appeared to defy natural laws. Since the most fertile area of study was with mediums associated with Spiritualism, the researchers struggled to convince Spiritualists that strict controls, such as complete body searches and tying up the mediums, were necessary.  The Spiritualists saw such controls as counter-productive to good phenomena, as the discomfort of the medium as well as the anxiety created by the controls affected his or her ability to relax and achieve the necessary passive or receptive state.  Such discomfort and disharmony resulted in “off” nights for many mediums, who were then written off as frauds. 
11.  Too Many Variables: There were and are many different kinds of mediumship.  The physical mediumship of yesteryear included full materializations of spirit forms, partial materializations, e.g., a hand only, a face only, apports and levitations, while the mental type included the Ouija board,  trance-voice, automatic writing, clairvoyance, clairaudience, and clairsentience.  The direct voice, direct writing and table turning were a combination of the physical and mental. There were mediums who were proficient at one kind and had no ability in other kinds. There were simply too many variables for the few researchers to deal with.  They focused more on the trance mental mediumship.  It was all just too bizarre, too complex, too unworldly and too unscientific for the average person to grasp. 

12.  Semantical Issues:  Most people don’t know the difference between a psychic and a medium, and they lump gypsy fortune tellers, tarot card readers, witch doctors, astrologers, ghost hunters, psychics and mediums all together.  If they can’t predict the winner of the upcoming derby or come up with the winning lottery number, they must be frauds.  The only mediums they know about today are the clairvoyants they have seen on television and they are led to believe they succeed well beyond chance because the clairvoyant is fishing for information or has made a lucky guess.

13.  Actual Fraud: As the Spiritualism epidemic of the late nineteenth century grew, so did the number of charlatans – people pretending to have mediumistic ability by employing various tricks and duping the public for money. While Professor William James of Harvard said that Leonora Piper was his “one white crow,” the one who proved that all crows aren’t black, the more skeptical mind reasoned the other way: one black crow proved that all crows are black.

14.  Unconscious Fraud:  The spirit hypothesis held that while in the trance state, the medium’s body was controlled by a spirit or spirits and that various actions carried out by the medium’s body, which appeared to be fraud to the skeptical observer, were not consciously performed by the medium, hence not actual fraud.  If an ectoplasmic arm, sometimes referred to as the “third arm,” was produced by spirit agencies to effect certain phenomena, it was deemed fraud, whether conscious or unconscious, since spirits don’t exist under the mechanistic paradigm.  Here again, it was a Catch 22 situation.

15.  Undetectable Magic: The Great Houdini is said to have exposed a number of charlatans during the early decades of the last century, at the same time disparaging many true mediums with allegations of fraud and theories as to how they “might have” or “could have” duped many people, including men and women of science. Today, with mind-boggling tricks and illusions witnessed by tens of millions on television, such as with David Copperfield and Michael Carbonaro, no spiritual phenomenon seems outside the scope of human magic.  Moreover, “photoshopping” and other digital enhancements have calloused the senses to the extent that every visual abnormality is considered by many to be a trick of one kind or another. 

Next blog post: January 20 (reasons 16-30)  

Michael Tymn is the author of The Afterlife Revealed: What Happens After We Die, Resurrecting Leonora Piper: How Science Discovered the Afterlife, and Dead Men Talking: Afterlife Communication from World War I.

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Caught in the Middle: Renaissance Man Charles Richet

Posted on 23 December 2019, 9:37

There were three schools of thought relative to mediumship and other psychic phenomena during the early years of psychical research. The predominant school, that of scientific fundamentalism, held that it was all fraudulent – just so much trickery or tomfoolery. Most belonging to this school did little or no research, choosing to form their opinions on the non-scientific nature of the various phenomena and the belief that it represented a return to the pre-Darwinian religious humbug.

A second school, one including many esteemed scientists and scholars who thoroughly studied the phenomena, held that genuine phenomena existed and that it strongly suggested a world of spirits and the survival of consciousness at death. This school recognized that there were many charlatans and even some genuine mediums who didn’t want to disappoint observers and occasionally cheated, consciously or unconsciously, when their powers failed them. Many in this school had hundreds of observations on which to base their conclusions.

The third school agreed with the second school as to the reality of psychic phenomena but did not see it as suggesting spirits or survival. Rather, they opined that it was all a product of the mind not yet understood by science. One of the leaders of this school was Dr. Charles Richet, winner of the 1913 Nobel Prize in Medicine. A Frenchman, Richet (below) was a physician, physiologist, chemist, bacteriologist, pathologist, psychologist, inventor, philosopher, explorer, aviator, poet, novelist, playwright, editor, author, and psychical researcher. After practicing medicine for about 10 years, he served as professor of physiology at the medical school of the University of Paris for 38 years. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for his research on anaphylaxis, the sensitivity of the body to alien protein substance. He also contributed much to research on the nervous system, anesthesia, serum therapy, and neuro-muscular stimuli. He served as editor of the Revue Scientifique for 24 years and contributed to many other scientific publications. He was referred to by writers of his time as an ideal European, a visionary, and a Renaissance man.


Richet’s interest in psychical research began around 1872 when, as a medical student, he observed phenomena later classified as extra-sensory perception (ESP). His real research in the field seems to have begun in 1892 when he observed the mediumship of Eusapia Palladino, an illiterate Italian woman. He would go on to study a number of other famous mediums, including Marthe Béraud of France, Leonora Piper of the United States, and Franek Kluski and Stefan Ossowiecki, both of Poland.

Many of Richet’s studies were under strictly controlled conditions, including the medium being strip-searched in a laboratory and behind locked doors, there being no possibility of confederates or hidden material smuggled into the room. “When I think of the precautions that we have taken, twenty times, a hundred times, a thousand times, it is unacceptable that we were all twenty times, a hundred times, a thousand times, misled,” Richet wrote of his research in psychical matters, further stating that all possible psychological explanations had to be exhausted before considering the idea of discarnate, or spirit, activity. 

An excellent introduction to Richet’s research and views was just recently released by White Crow Books. Titled Charles Richet: A Nobel Prize Winning Scientist’s Exploration of Psychic Phenomena, the book is authored by Dr. Carlos S. Alvarado, probably the most knowledgeable person in the world in the fields of psychical research and parapsychology. In this 218-page book, Alvarado focuses on Richet’s psychical research and his views, describing his book as “a reference work presenting many summaries of studies, bibliographical sources, and evidential claims about psychic phenomena for the pre-1922 period.” (Further discussion here is not necessarily from Alvarado’s book, as I draw from my own study of Richet.)

Metapsychics, as Richet referred to the study of psychical matters, was something to be approached in a purely scientific manner. “We must remain on the earth, take all theory soberly, and only consider humbly whether the phenomenon studied is true, without seeking to deduce the mysteries of past or future existences,” Richet wrote in his 1923 book, Thirty Years of Psychical Research. At the same time, Richet admitted that the “discarnate agency” explanation – one holding that there are intelligent beings intervening in our lives while exercising some action over matter – was the simplest explanation for some cases.

Many researchers of the day were convinced that Palladino was a charlatan, at best a mixed medium, sometimes producing genuine phenomena and other times cheating. However, Richet, who had more than 200 sittings with her, defended her. “Even if there were no other medium than Eusapia in the world, her manifestations would suffice to establish scientifically the reality of telekinesis and ectoplasmic forms,” he wrote, going on to explain that in her trance condition “the ectoplasmic arms and hands that emerge from the body of Eusapia do only what they wish, and though Eusapia knows what they do, they are not directed by Eusapia’s will; or rather there is for the moment no Eusapia.”

One of most interesting and intriguing stories about Palladino, involving Richet, was reported by Dr. Cesare Lombroso, a renowned Italian neuropathologist. As set forth in his 1909 book, After Death-What? Lombroso wrote: “On the evening of the 28th of September (1892), while her hands were being held by MM. Richet and Lombroso (referring to himself), she complained of hands which were grasping her under the arms; then, while in trance, with the changed voice characteristic of this state, she said, ‘Now I lift my medium up on the table.’ After two or three seconds the chair with Eusapia in it was not violently dashed, but lifted without hitting anything, on to the top of the table, and M. Richet and I are sure that we did not even assist the levitation by our own force. After some talk in the trance state the medium announced her descent, and (M. Finzi having been substituted for me) was deposited on the floor with the same security and precision, while MM. Richet and Finzi followed the movements of her hands and body without at all assisting them. … Moreover, during the descent both gentlemen repeatedly felt a hand touch them on the head.”

The voice and invisible hands referenced by Lombroso were supposedly those of John King, Palladino’s spirit control. However, since recognizing the presence of spirits was not “scientific,” John King was to them only some kind of secondary personality emerging from Palladino’s subconscious. Moreover, while those accepting the spirit hypothesis saw much of the so-called cheating as movements by John King controlling Palladino’s body, those not accepting the reality of spirits could only conclude that Palladino was pulling off some sleight-of-hand, whether called conscious or unconscious fraud. 

Marthe Béraud (given the pseudonym “Eva C”) also impressed Richet. With her, Richet witnessed many strange materializations, some of them appearing like cardboard cutouts. While many laughed at the photos of these materializations, wondering how any scientist could take them seriously, Richet responded: “The fact of the appearance of flat images rather than of forms in relief is no evidence of trickery. It is imagined, quite mistakenly, that a materialization must be analogous to a human body and must be three dimensional. This is not so. There is nothing to prove that the process of materialization is other than a development of a completed form after a first stage of coarse and rudimentary lineaments formed from the cloudy substance.” This cloudy substance was otherwise referred to as ectoplasm by Richet.

Richet pointed out that there are stages in the materialization process: “[First,] a whitish steam, perhaps luminous, taking the shape of gauze or muslin, in which there develops a hand or an arm that gradually gains consistency. This ectoplasm makes personal movements. It creeps, rises from the ground, and puts forth tentacles like an amoeba. It is not always connected with the body of the medium but usually emanates from her, and is connected with her.”  The flat materializations, he explained, came in the rudimentary phase, a sort of rough draft in the phase of building up. Often the materializations stalled in the rudimentary stage, apparently due to lack of power by the medium or by the spirits (assuming spirits), thereby resulting in bizarre manifestations that only invited more scoffs from the fundamentalists of science.

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

While clearly accepting the reality of mediumship and other psychic phenomena, Richet remained skeptical as to whether the evidence suggested spirits and survival. He said he would not allow himself to be blinded by rationalism and that he opposed the spiritist hypothesis only “half-heartedly” because he was unable to bring forward any wholly satisfactory counter-theory. “In very many cases the spiritist hypothesis is obviously absurd – absurd because it is superfluous – and again absurd because it assumes that human beings of very moderate intelligence survive the destruction of the brain,” he stated his position. “All the same, in certain cases – rare indeed, but whose significance I do not disguise – there are, apparently at least, intelligent and reasoned intentions, forces, and wills in the phenomena produced; and the power has all the character of extraneous energy.”

Is mortality vs. immortality really a superfluous matter? One can only wonder how such a brilliant man could have come to such a conclusion. Certainly, there is a paradox involved there. Also, Richet’s comment about humans of a very modest intelligence surviving death suggests that he was influenced by the religious belief that all spirits are omniscient or at least of a very high order, giving no heed to revelation of the time indicating that we transition with the same consciousness we had in the material life.

Sadly, the same “intellectual” mindset continues today. It is the “scientific” approach.
Then again, if, as Victor Hugo was supposedly told by a spirit, “doubt is the instrument which forges the human spirit” (see blog of 11-11-19), we should be thankful for Richet’s wisdom. Truth is so abstract, so paradoxical.

Michael Tymn is the author of The Afterlife Revealed: What Happens After We Die, Resurrecting Leonora Piper: How Science Discovered the Afterlife, and Dead Men Talking: Afterlife Communication from World War I.

Next blog post: January 7


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What Do We Remember After Death?

Posted on 09 December 2019, 9:47

When my wife said not long ago that I should try to communicate with her after I die, I pondered on what I might be able to do or say that would be evidential to her.  I told her that I am not sure how much I’ll remember or how much of that I would be able to get through a medium or otherwise.  Based on psychical research, it’s usually a matter of the communication being by ideas and symbols and then converted into language by a medium. The ideas and symbols are often misinterpreted. 

A few days after my wife made the request, I was attempting to clear much of the clutter in a closet, some of it old photos and papers inherited from my parents after their transitions.  I came upon a letter I wrote to them in 1958 from Quantico, Virginia.  I told them of attending a football game with two friends and then finding my car would not start after the game, requiring a new coil to be installed by a mechanic dispatched by Triple A. However, I have absolutely no recollection of the game, the friends, or the car problem.  I attempted to dig into my subconscious for some recollection of them, but I was unsuccessful. There were many other things in that and other letters my parents had saved that I could not recall.  However, I do have flashing memories of little incidents here and there, many of them seemingly as insignificant as that football game and car problem.  Why remember some and not others?  I searched for an emotional aspect in those I could remember and found little or none in most of what I do remember.

During my youth, I attended dozens of baseball games, from New York to San Francisco.  Yet, there are only two memories in my brain from all those games – two very vivid mental pictures.  One is getting the great Jackie Robinson’s autograph as he approached the clubhouse from the parking lot.  As Robinson was a boyhood idol, I can understand recalling that one.  However, the other memory has long mystified me and suggests some kind of precognition.  It involved another player from the Brooklyn Dodgers, Don Newcombe.

It was a hot July day in 1949 at the old Polo Grounds in New York with the Dodgers playing the New York Giants. I was 12 at the time and was seated in deep centerfield with my seven-year-old brother. Newcombe had just been called up from the minor leagues by the Dodgers a week or two earlier and I had never heard of him until that game, which, I believe, was only his second game in the majors.  When he left the game about the seventh inning, he departed through the centerfield exit to the clubhouse, right below me.  I remember reacting with a thought, “Wow! What a big guy he is.” For some mystifying reason, I took a mental snapshot of him, one that I can still picture very clearly and sharply, more than 70 years later. 

I was up close to many other standout ballplayers during my youth, filling an autograph book with 50 or more names, some now legendary.  But I have retained no such mental snapshot of any of them, only Newcombe, who, unlike Robinson, was not one of my favorites. That snapshot of Newcombe resurfaced in my consciousness every now and then over the next 45 or so years,  and then around 1994, a friend called me at work. Knowing that I was an old Dodgers fan, he said he was accompanying Don Newcombe to a talk he was giving to a local Alcoholics Anonymous group and wanted to bring him by my office the next day.  Newcombe and I had a long talk about the old Dodgers and I told him about remembering that 1949 game, which he did not seem to have a particular recollection of. We met again on another occasion to continue our discussion.

I remain mystified as to why the mental snapshot of Newcombe (below with me) on the field is the only one from so many games of baseball that I held on to. If it had not resurfaced in my consciousness over those 45 years before meeting him, I might understand it, but it was a recurring picture over those 45 years, a dozen or more times, and precognition is the only thing I can come up with.


Just a few days before writing this, a friend invited me to a pre-Christmas luncheon and his email invitation to me and several others asked that we come prepared to relate a memorable Christmas story.  While I’m reasonably certain I enjoyed every Christmas of my youth, I could recall no particular moment and had no particular mental snapshots of anything worth relating.

All that makes me wonder how effective I would be if, after death, I try to communicate something evidential through a medium.  What might I remember that would be very evidential to my wife?  If I do remember it, will the idea be properly interpreted and symbolized by the medium? Will I remember our unusual bank account password?  If I do remember it, will I be able to somehow get it through to the medium?  There is no symbol for the password.

After his death in 1925, Sir William Barrett, (below) a distinguished British physicist and a co-founder of the Society for Psychical Research, began communicating with his wife, Florence Barrett, a physician and dean of the women’s college of medicine in London, through several mediums, including trance medium Gladys Osborne Leonard. He told her that he had to learn how to slow down his vibration in order to communicate with her.  “Sometimes I lose my memory of things from coming here,” he continued.  “I know in my own state but not here.  In dreams you do not know everything, you only get parts in a dream. A sitting is similar; when I go back to the spirit world after a sitting like this I know I have not got everything through that I wanted to say. That is due to my mind separating again.”


Sir William went on to explain that in the earth body we have the separation of subconscious and conscious and that when we pass over they join and make a complete mind that knows and remembers everything.  However, when he brings himself back into the physical sphere, the conscious and the subconscious again separate and he forgets much. “I cannot come with my whole self, I cannot.”

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.”

At a later sitting, Sir William explained that when he was in his own sphere he would remember a name, but when he came into the conditions of a sitting he could not always remember it.  “The easiest things to lay hold of are what we may call ideas,” he communicated.  “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. If you go to a medium that is new to us, I can make myself known by giving you through that medium an impression of my character and personality, my work on earth, and so forth.  Those can all be suggested by thought impressions, ideas; but if I want to say ‘I am Will,’ I find that is much more difficult than giving you a long, comprehensive study of my personality.  ‘I am Will’ sounds so simple, but you understand that in this case the word ‘Will’ becomes a detached word.”

Lady Barrett had wondered why he had identified himself as “William,” when she knew him as “Will,” and why he had called her “Florrie,” when he knew her as “Flo.”  He explained that it was a matter of being able to get certain names through a medium easier than other names. Much depended on the medium.
Sir William added that if he wanted to express an idea of his scientific interests he could do it in twenty different ways.  He could begin by showing books, then giving impressions of the nature of the book and so on until he had built up a character impression of himself, but to simply say “I am Will” was a real struggle for him.

Initially, Lady Barrett was skeptical and asked for proof that the communicator was her late husband. Sir William responded by mentioning a tear in the wall paper in the corner of his room and a broken door knob, both of which they had discussed a month or so before his death, and the fact that they had now been repaired.  This was especially evidential to Lady Barrett.

For further verification, Lady Barrett asked Sir William to tell her the circumstances of his death.  He accurately responded that he had died in the armchair in the drawing room as Lady Barrett accompanied a visitor to the front door downstairs.  She discovered his lifeless body upon her return.  Lady Barrett was certain that Mrs. Leonard could not have known such detail. Sir William added that when he passed over he had no pain at all and that he was at once met by his mother and father and others.

Not being able to think of anything that a medium might be able to properly interpret or symbolize, I told my wife that I might be at too high a vibration to effectively communicate with those at the earth vibration…or I could be at such a low vibration that I might not even realize I am dead, in which case I probably won’t be able to communicate at all.  If, however, I am at the right vibration and am able to remember the password and get it through, the skeptic will conclude that the medium successfully fished for it or even telepathically picked it up from wife’s brain.  So best not to even try.

Michael Tymn is the author of The Afterlife Revealed: What Happens After We Die, Resurrecting Leonora Piper: How Science Discovered the Afterlife, and Dead Men Talking: Afterlife Communication from World War I.

Next blog post: Dec. 23  

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On Not Wanting to be a “None”

Posted on 25 November 2019, 11:33

Several times during the past 15 years I have had to sit in front of a hospital admissions clerk and answer questions – full name, address, date and place of birth, spouse’s name, doctor, insurance, prior surgeries, blood type, etc., etc.  I rattled off the answers each time until the clerk asked for my religion.  The first time I was asked the question I was stopped in my tracks as I didn’t realize that religion was a pertinent question for a hospital admission. It quickly dawned on me, however, that they needed my religion in case things go awry and they have to call in a pastor of some kind to administer last rites or whatever it is they do.  However, understanding the reason did not help me answer the question on the first admission or on subsequent admissions. I have had to ponder on my answer each time, because I refuse to be a “None.” 


According to a recent Pew Foundation report, 26 percent of Americans are “Nones,” which includes atheists (4%), agnostics (5%) and “nothing in particular” (17%).  The report further indicates that 68 percent of those surveyed believe in God.  The math suggests that 32 percent don’t believe in God.  Thus, there are some who declare a religion but don’t believe in God (6%), no doubt some Buddhists among them.

While I’m probably overgeneralizing, my stereotypical None is a cynical know-it-all wise guy (or gal), usually someone still wet behind the ears.  In more cases than not, Nones are former fundamentalist Christians who, with the help of their biology teachers, suddenly saw the light and realized that their parents had pulled the wool over their eyes and had duped them all those years about some big guy in the sky called God.  In dismissing an anthropomorphic God, they have automatically dismissed survival.  If someone brings up the overwhelming psychical research supporting survival, they turn to Wikipedia and then espouse the debunker’s view of it all, seemingly unable to grasp the fact that there is no a priori need to identify and prove God before weighing the evidence for survival.   

To the extent that I doubt the existence of an anthropomorphic (humanlike) God, I might be considered an atheist or at least an agnostic.  But you don’t have to believe in an anthropomorphic God to believe that consciousness survives death, and that is, or should be, the governing factor behind the question in the first place.  If there is a God but no afterlife, what is the point of believing in God?  I may be an atheist by a broad definition of the word, but I am not a nihilist.

On the other hand, not believing in an anthropomorphic God but believing that consciousness survives death does provide life with meaning, although one might see God as some kind of Cosmic Consciousness or Creative Force.  “Neither a person nor a nation can exist without some higher idea,” wrote Fyodor Dostoyevsky, (below) the renowned Russian philosopher and author of Crime and Punishment. “And there is only one higher idea on earth, and it is the idea of immortality of the human soul, for all other ‘higher’ ideas of life by which humans might live derive from that idea alone.”


In effect, we can go on and on trying to prove God and never get anywhere, as it is all circumstantial evidence.  As pioneering psychologist William James put it in his classic, The Varieties of Religious Experience, “…so long as we deal with the cosmic and the general, we deal only with the symbols of reality, but as soon as we deal with private and personal phenomena as such, we deal with realities in the completest sense of the term.”  As I interpret that, we should look at the evidence coming to us from studies of mediumship, near-death experiences, deathbed visions, and other psychic phenomena suggesting the survival of consciousness and forget about trying to find evidence of God. 
If I were asked by a Pew researcher if I believe in God, I wouldn’t know how to answer the question. I’d have to request clarification.  “Do you mean an anthropomorphic God or some kind of Creative Force that is beyond human comprehension?” would be my question.  Complete silence would likely be the immediate reaction.

I can imagine the perplexed reaction of the admissions clerk if I had hit her with my concerns or questions.  I’m pretty sure her job description doesn’t call for analyzing a person’s philosophical views and condensing them down to one word.  All she wanted was that one word to fill in the blank. I could have simplified things by declaring myself as a None, but I just couldn’t bring myself to such a label. 

I considered telling the clerk that I am a spiritualist, making sure that she understood that I am a spiritualist (with a small “s” and not a capital “S”).  That is, I don’t belong to a Spiritualist church of any kind; I’m a spiritualist to the extent that I am not a materialist.  But a spiritualist (with a small “s”) is not really a religion, so that would not be a proper answer.  It might be as confusing as telling her that our 33rd president was Harry S Truman, not Harry S. Truman, i.e., no period after the S.

I still have a very vivid recollection of the time I attended a luncheon sponsored by a “lawyers for Christ” group and when the president of the organization was told by a friend that I authored a few books dealing with mediumship.  She asked me how I could live with myself before she did an immediate about-face and walked away in disgust, no doubt wondering how such an agent of Satan could be in their midst.

I also considered telling the admissions clerk that I am a panentheist, but that is more a philosophy than a religion and I might have to explain how a panentheist differs from a pantheist. I doubt that I would be up to that, even if she were interested in an explanation. 

I further considered that not wanting to be a None was a display of egoism on my part – wanting to be something rather than nothing.  A truly spiritual person would bask in the humility of being a mere nothing; only a proud person would insist on being something. 

I recalled the words of the “Master” in the classic Zen in the Art of Archery that one must become “egoless” if he is to hit the target.  That led me to the wisdom of Shivas Irons in Golf in the Kingdom, when Shivas told Michael, “Ye try too hard and ye think too much…Let nothingness into your shots.”  In spite of those flashing thoughts, pride got the best of me and I refused to declare myself a None. I could accept being a simple None, but I didn’t want to be a cynical wise-guy, know-it-all None.

Although all those thoughts took less than a second or two on that first admission, the pause was long enough for the admissions clerk to look away from her computer screen and at me in anticipation of my answer. As the hospital was run by the Seventh-Day Adventist Church, I wondered if the clerk might be of that denomination and further wondered if she might conclude that I am a heathen of some kind.  By dictionary definition, I probably am a heathen, but, here again, my ego prevailed and I did not want to be thought of as such.  Being a heathen might be worse in her eyes than being a spiritualist.

I couldn’t take up any more of the clerk’s time, so I had to come up with an answer.  So I told her to put “Christian” without denomination.  Even though I don’t believe in the atonement doctrine, the bodily resurrection, the inerrancy of the Bible,  and some other Christian beliefs, I do believe in the basic principles taught by Christ and set forth in the New Testament, e.g., Do unto others…, Love thy neighbor….,By their fruits you shall know them….etc., and I look to Jesus as the “Chairman of the Board” on the Other Side. 

I accept the words of the group soul known as Silver Birch, who said, “There has never been on earth anyone through whom the manifestation of the spirit has been greater than through the Nazarene.  There has never been any through whom the laws have revealed themselves as so great an intensity as the Nazarene.”  So even if a garden-variety Christian priest or minister shows up on my hospital deathbed, I am prepared to welcome him or her. It’s probably best, however, that I not mention my “demonic” beliefs derived from psychical research.

Next blog post:  December 2

Michael Tymn is the author of The Afterlife Revealed: What Happens After We Die, Resurrecting Leonora Piper: How Science Discovered the Afterlife, and Dead Men Talking: Afterlife Communication from World War I.



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Why Doubting the Afterlife is a Good Thing

Posted on 11 November 2019, 9:46

One of the arguments made by so-called skeptics in opposition to the belief that consciousness survives death is that if there is an omniscient God behind it all “He” should be able to do a better job of providing proof of “His” existence and that of an afterlife. They ignorantly assume that there is no reason not to know with absolute certainty that this life is part of a larger life.

When Victor Hugo, (below) the renowned French author and poet, asked a spirit claiming to have been Martin Luther when in the flesh why God doesn’t better reveal himself, the reply came:  “Because doubt is the instrument which forges the human spirit.  If the day were to come when the human spirit no longer doubted, the human soul would fly off and leave the plough behind, for it would have acquired wings. The earth would lie fallow.  Now, God is the sower and man is the harvester.  The celestial seed demands that the human ploughshare remain in the furrow of life.”


As I interpret those metaphorical words, it would not be to our benefit to know with certainty that this life is part of a larger life as the lessons learned from our free-will choices would not be as meaningful if our actions are based on the promise of reward or the fear of punishment in that larger life.  It might be likened to parents wanting to teach their children moral excellence based on kindness, love, and sympathy rather than out of expectation of reward or fear of punishment.

“Man, do not complain about the fact that you doubt,” Luther further advised Hugo. “Doubt is the specter that holds the flaming sword of genius above the gateway of the beautiful.”

Similar messages have come to us through other credible mediums. Communicating through the trance mediumship of Dr. George T. Dexter during the early 1850s, the famous scientist and mystic Emanuel Swedenborg said: “What would be the benefit conferred on man by opening to his comprehension all the mysteries of spirit life and all the beauties of the spheres – revealing the truths belonging to his material and spiritual nature, if we were not able to teach him how that life on earth should be directed; how to govern his passions, how to progress, how to live that his death may be productive of life everlasting in happiness?”

French educator and researcher Allan Kardec received this message: “The wisdom of Providence is seen in this progressive march of human conviction in regard to the continuance of our existence beyond the grave.  If the certainty of a future life had been permitted to man before his mental vision was prepared for such a prospect, he would have been dazzled thereby, and the seductions of such a certainty, too clearly seen, would have led him to neglect the present life, his diligent use of which is the condition of his physical and moral advancement.”

I like the way Belgian Maurice Maeterlinck, (below) the 1911 Nobel Prize winner in literature, put it: “We need have no hope that any one will utter on this earth the word that shall put an end to our uncertainties.  It is very probable, on the contrary, that no one in this world, nor perhaps in the next, will discover the great secret of the universe.  And, if we reflect upon this for even a moment, it is most fortunate that it should be so. We have not only to resign ourselves to living in the incomprehensible, but to rejoice that we cannot get out of it.  If there were no more insoluble questions nor impenetrable riddles, infinity would not be infinite; and then we should have for ever to curse the fate that placed us in a universe proportionate to our intelligence.  All that exists would be but a gateless prison, an irreparable evil and mistake.  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 thousand-fold loftier and thousand-fold 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.”


As I see it, absolute certainty means a person is 100-percent sure of something, that there is no doubt in his or her mind that consciousness survives death.  Below that 100-percent plateau are various degrees of faith, ranging from blind faith to true faith, or conviction.  Conviction seems to be best applied to those who have at least a 97.5-percent certainty that consciousness survives death based on evidence that has come to us through research in such areas as trance mediumship, clairvoyance, near-death experiences, out-of-body experiences, deathbed visions, past-life studies, and other psychic phenomena as carried out by men and women of science under controlled conditions. I put my conviction at 98.8-percent certainty, or 1.2-percent doubt. 

While no single case can stand alone as proof of survival, the cumulative evidence from them all strongly suggests survival.  It can be said to meet the “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard of our criminal justice system.  If not “beyond a reasonable doubt,” it most certainly meets the much lower standard of a “preponderance of evidence,” which is applied by our civil court system.  Of course, many who subscribe to a religion and proceed on blind faith would say that they know with absolute certainty that life goes on because their “good book” says so.

As pioneering psychologist William James put it, “If religion be a function by which either God’s cause or man’s cause is to be really advanced, then he who lives the life of it, however, narrowly, is a better servant than he who merely knows about it, however much. Knowledge about life is one thing; effective occupation of a place in life with its dynamic currents passing through your being is another.”

All well and good if humanism – morality without religion – influences enough non-believers and further provides the necessary peace of mind and happiness, especially in times of trial and tribulation.  However, based on the hedonism we are witnessing in today’s world, humanism clearly fails the masses. “The state of anxiety, the feeling of powerlessness and insignificance, and especially the doubt concerning one’s future after death, represent a state of mind which is practically unbearable for anybody,” wrote Erich Fromm, a humanist philosopher.  Younger generations may find all that difficult to comprehend as the real trial comes during old age.

To again quote the pioneering psychiatrist Carl Jung: “Leaving aside the rational arguments against any certainty in these matters, we must not forget that for the most people it means a great deal to assume that their lives will have an indefinite continuity beyond their present existence.  They live more sensibly, feel better, and are more at peace. One has centuries, one has an inconceivable period of time at one’s disposal.  When then is the point of this senseless mad rush?”

The group soul known as Imperator which communicated with William Stainton Moses, an Anglican priest, during the latter decades of the nineteenth century, told Moses that there is a point beyond which it is impossible for them to present evidence.  “We have frequently said that God reveals Himself as man can bear it.  It must needs be so. He is revealed through a human medium, and can only be made known in such measure as the medium can receive the communication.  It is impossible that knowledge of God should outstrip man’s capacity.  Were we now to tell you – if we could – of our more perfect theology it would seem to you strange and unintelligible.  We shall, by slow degrees, instill into your mind so much of truth as you can receive, and then you shall see your present errors. But that is not yet.  Indeed, since the conception which each frames for himself is to him his God, it cannot be that revelation can be in advance of capacity. It is in the nature of things impossible.”

Next blog post:  November 25

Michael Tymn is the author of The Afterlife Revealed: What Happens After We Die, Resurrecting Leonora Piper: How Science Discovered the Afterlife, and Dead Men Talking: Afterlife Communication from World War I.

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Does “Oneness” in the Afterlife Mean Loss of Individuality?

Posted on 28 October 2019, 22:03

For those who accept the strong evidence that consciousness survives death, there remains a very big question relative to the nature of that consciousness – namely, does the soul retain its individuality or does it merge into some kind of Oneness with the Creative Force and in so doing lose its individuality?  If the soul does lose its individuality, is such a state any more desirable than total extinction at physical death?

Based on an abundance of spirit revelation coming to us over the past two centuries, it appears fairly clear that we awaken on the Other Side with much the same personality as that we had in the earth life.  We are not suddenly transformed to angels or devils, as orthodox religions teach.  There are many realms or planes in the afterlife, not just the heaven and hell, or heaven, purgatory and hell, of major religions.  But the question then becomes whether we gradually lose that individuality as we spiritually evolve to higher and higher realms.  If such is the case, then the survival of consciousness at death is just a matter of extending consciousness until a more distant obliteration.

“….you will never lose your identity,” said the spirit claiming to be Emanuel Swedenborg, the eighteenth-century scientist and mystic who communicated through the mediumship of Dr. George Dexter (as recorded by John Edmonds, of the New York State Supreme court during the early 1850s). “ If God designed to absorb all souls into himself, there would have been no necessity at first to give off from himself distinct identical germs, possessing all the characteristics of independence.  Therefore, as every spirit is independent in his mind and its exercise, how could God contravene his own institutes?  That is impossible, and from this I reason.”

Silver Birch, the name taken by the apparent group soul communicating through the mediumship of British journalist Maurice Barbanell, put it this way:  “The ultimate is not attainment of Nirvana.  All spiritual progress is toward increasing individuality.  You do not become less of an individual, you become more of an individual.  You develop latent gifts, you acquire greater knowledge, your character becomes stronger, more of the divine is exhibited through you.  The Great Spirit is infinite and so there is an infinite development to be achieved.  Perfection is never attained, there is a constant striving towards it.  You do not ever lose yourself.  What you succeed in doing is finding yourself.”

Silver Birch went on to say that such conditions are beyond human language and that we cannot understand it until we attain it.  “You do not lose your individuality in a sea of greater consciousness, but that depth of the ocean becomes included in your individuality,” Silver Birch added. 

In their 1920 classic, Our Unseen Guest, authors Darby and Joan, received communication from a Stephen L., a casualty of the Great War, who seemed to be an advanced spirit.  When Darby asked Stephen if Nirvana is the goal, Stephen replied that the Western World misunderstands the concept of Nirvana, believing it to be a doctrine of oblivion. “True Nirvana,” he said, “is consciousness at its height.”

Frederic W. H. Myers, one of the pioneers of psychical research, is said to have communicated through several credible mediums following his death in 1901. He communicated that he belonged to a “group soul,” one with common bonds.  “ We are all of us distinct,” he said through medium Geraldine Cummins, “though we are influenced by others of our community on the various planes of being.”  Myers likened the soul to a spectator caught within the spell of some drama outside of its actual life, perceiving all the consequences of acts, moods, and thoughts of a kindred soul.

As pioneering French psychical researcher Allan Kardec came to understand, this distinctive character of a spirit’s personality is in some sort obliterated in the uniformity of perfection, and yet it preserves its individuality.  The same might be said of humans, as one’s personality at age 75 is likely not the same as it was at 15, or even 25 or 35.

When William Stainton Moses, an Anglican priest who developed mediumistic abilities, asked the group soul known as Imperator about “absorption into the Source of Life” and said that such absorption is not especially appealing to him, Imperator harshly replied that no finite mind can grasp existence on the higher realms.  “Lower your eyes lest you be blinded,” Imperator cautioned him. “Trust us, the knowledge gained by the journey of life throughout its vast extent, will amply compensate for the toil of having existed.”

Perhaps Carl Jung, one of the pioneers of modern psychology and psychiatry, summed it up best when he said that “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.”  People who do this, Jung said, “live more sensibly, feel better, and are more at peace.” However, he added, “if there is something we cannot know, we must necessarily abandon it as an intellectual problem.” 

Next blog post:  November 11

Michael Tymn is the author of The Afterlife Revealed: What Happens After We Die, Resurrecting Leonora Piper: How Science Discovered the Afterlife, and Dead Men Talking: Afterlife Communication from World War I.


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Hooey, Humbug, Hocus Pocus: Not God’s Way?

Posted on 14 October 2019, 8:42

Some of the physical mediumship observed and reported by credible investigators of psychic phenomena during the latter half of the nineteenth century, even the early twentieth century, was so bizarre, so weird, so mind-boggling that even people who today accept the reality of clairvoyance and other psychic phenomena refuse to believe that it was genuine.  They agree with the so-called skeptics that it was just so much hooey, nothing more than what the skeptics called humbug, twaddle, bosh, or just plain rubbish.  I met a clairvoyant at a conference some years ago and she was of that mindset, reasoning that if she, a “medium,” couldn’t produce that kind of phenomena, then it couldn’t be real. 

I’m referring to the kind of mediumship discussed in my last blog here, that of the “Brothers Davenport,” who gave exhibitions throughout the United States and around the world in which they were securely tied and handcuffed and then freed themselves within a few seconds, and in which musical instruments floated around the room giving off popular tunes of the day.  There were also reports of levitations of tables and of the brothers themselves being raised high off the floor while upside down.


It all sounds so vaudevillian, just some very clever illusionists or magicians as we see on television today with David Copperfield or Michael Carbonaro. Still, so much of it was witnessed by renowned men and women of science, Nobel Prize winners included, under strictly controlled conditions, some of them calling for the medium to be stripped and her or his private parts to be thoroughly examined for hidden objects, and for the phenomena to be produced in a room foreign to the medium and for the medium’s hands to be held throughout the séance, the doors locked behind them.  Conditions could not have been more “scientifically” controlled.  As Professor Charles Richet, winner of the 1913 Nobel Prize in medicine, wrote, “Yes, it is absurd, but no matter – it is true.”

Another popular indictment of the phenomena was that if it were the work of God, or of high spirits, “He” or they most certainly would offer something more sacred, sensible and respectable than floating people, tables, and musical instruments.  Surely, they would provide something more pious or virtuous.  But would they?  Could they? Or can they? 

In San Francisco, during 1869, a reporter asked the spirit controlling the Davenport Brothers why spirits involved themselves with such trivial pursuits, such as musical instruments flying about and escaping from chains and ropes.  The reply came:  “Is it trifling to convince the world of the existence of the invisible universe, in which and by which alone all things subsist? To the Spirit world Truth is an actual entity, and it is the only important thing, and the search after it is the principal and most fascinating occupation of Spirits.  Truth is not measured, as to its value, by the same criteria as men measure it; that is, not by money utility, but by its ability to make Spirits and men more happy by adding to their means of enjoyment.  If the moving of guitars through the air without hands or human direct agency is a fact, it is just as useful a truth towards establishing the fact of communication between the spiritual and physical world as though a million of dollars were created from the ultimate gaseous substance from which gold was originally condensed in nature.”

Much the same question was put to the Imperator group communicating through the mediumship of William Stainton Moses, an Anglican priest.  “Such phenomenal manifestations are necessary to reach men who can assimilate no other evidence,” Imperator responded through Moses.  “They are not any sort of proof of our claims, no evidence of the moral beauty of our teachings; but they are the means best adapted to reach the materialist.”

Imperator cautioned against applying terrestrial methods and standards to celestial matters, communicating, “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.”

Imperator added that they could not present themselves for a photograph, but that they might commission other spirits to present an image of them.  Imperator further explained that physical manifestations were produced by the lowest and most earthly spirits.  “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 a moving of furniture,” Imperator continued.  “The mighty ones, who even in the flesh were spirits sent from God to enlighten your world, are not the agents who can be used in bringing home evidence of the kind needed by your materialist.  They no longer have any power over gross matter, and would be unable to act.”

As discussed in the last post here, research suggests that the more advanced spirits are at too high a vibrational frequency to communicate directly with humans, and if and when they do communicate with humans they must have lower-level spirits relay the messages on to humans. These “lower-level” spirits are not necessarily morally corrupt spirits; they are simply not spiritually advanced and are closer to the earth frequency and therefore better able to reach us.  However, there apparently are devious low-level spirits who are more “earthbound” and capable of deception and tomfoolery. 

“These phenomena, though executed by inferior spirits, are often prompted by spirits of a more elevated order, for the purpose of convincing people of the existence of incorporeal beings, of a power superior to man,” explained pioneering French psychical researcher Allan Kardec, who communicated with many spirits. It was explained to Kardec by the spirits that the coarseness of the spirit body of the inferior spirits gives them more affinity with matter, making them more fitted for physical manifestations.  “It is for the same reason that a man of the world accustomed to the labor of intellect, whose body is frail and delicate, cannot carry a heavy burden like a porter,” he was told.
Johannes Greber, who left the Catholic priesthood to become a psychical researcher, also asked a communicating spirit about it.  “You ask to what purpose the low spirits hold such ‘a carnival at modern spiritistic seances,’ or why indeed they are allowed to do so,” the spirit responded to Greber.  “To this I can only reply that low spirits have the same latitude of conduct as low and wicked people.”  The communicating spirit went on to say that this “high carnival” often has a good effect in that it compels those who do not believe in God or a spirit world “to think of these matters, to relinquish their skeptical attitudes and to make a beginning of trying to discover the truth.”

The communicating spirit told Greber that materializations were also in this category.  “Even if the only interest in these things springs from a craving for new sensations, it often happens that many people do retain the impression that ultra-mundane forces must exist, and if this result is not all that could be desired,  it is at least better than if those individuals had not had their attention called at all to the Beyond.”

Dr. William Crawford, who taught mechanical engineering at Queen’s University in Belfast, Ireland, wrote that he witnessed hundreds of levitations and many other strange physical phenomena in his research of mediums. He referred to the spirits as “operators” and noted they seemed to be experimenting on their side as much as he was on the material side. “I admit that it is very difficult for the ordinary person to bring home to his consciousness the fact that these unseen beings can possibly be like himself in their make-up,” he explained. “There is an ingrained feeling in humanity that the beings inhabiting the after-death world must be far removed from us in mental qualities and characteristics – we feel that there should be a great advance in intellectual equipment over what they possessed here; that they should be, if not quite angels, at any rate not far removed from them.  Of course this instinctive feeling we all possess is due to centuries of religious instruction behind us; we feel that the next state must of necessity be either heaven or hell.  Hence it is rather a shock to us when we find the inhabitants of that other state not to be angels by any manner of means, not to exceed us appreciably in intelligence, but to be, in fact, only good-natured beings of much the same capacity as our familiar selves.” 

Crawford specifically asked the operators why they were involved in such séances and was told that such work helps them in their own development and that there were great crowds of spirit people looking on during the experiments.  “They told me this was the case at all our séances,” he added. “They gave me the impression that the séance room and the sitters were surrounded by a huge invisible audience arranged in an orderly and disciplinary manner, perhaps tier upon tier as in a lecture theater.  The séance to many of them would appear to be as novel as it is to us.”

The earlier research by renowned British chemist Sir William Crookes with Daniel D. Home, who also produced floating musical instruments, levitations, and other strange phenomena suggested the same thing.  At a sitting on June 28, 1871, Home went into a trance state and a voice began speaking through him, informing Crookes and the others present that the conditions were not very good that night. When asked what the conditions should be, the reply was, “That is a matter in which we cannot help you much. There are comparatively few spirits who are able to communicate at all with you.  They are constantly working and experimenting to try and render the communication easier….Sometimes they think they have found out some of the conditions which will lead to success, and the next time something occurs which shows them that they know scarcely anything about it.” 

Still, the skeptic asks why we don’t see such phenomena today. According to Imperator, it was the discarnate Benjamin Franklin, assisted by the discarnate Emanuel Swedenborg, who discovered the means of communicating with the material world by raps, i.e., so many raps for each letter of the alphabet or a set number of raps for “yes” or “no.”  “At the time of the discovery it was believed that all denizens of both worlds would be brought into ready communion,” Imperator explained. However, they assumed wrong, not taking into account the obstinate ignorance of man and the extent to which the lowest-level spirits would interfere with their efforts.  This ignorance and interference resulted in the disparagement of mediums and discredit to the cause.  Therefore, they then backed off.  The focus turned more to evidential trance mental mediumship and later to clairvoyance.

Michael Tymn is the author of The Afterlife Revealed: What Happens After We Die, Resurrecting Leonora Piper: How Science Discovered the Afterlife, and Dead Men Talking: Afterlife Communication from World War I.

Next blog post:  Oct. 28

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Were the Davenport Brothers Mere Humbugs?

Posted on 30 September 2019, 9:06

Any person who has dug deeply and objectively into the history of physical mediumship will likely recognize that the seemingly unnatural phenomena emanating through some people referred to as “mediums” went well beyond the limits of trickery or fraud.  No doubt there were some actual fakes, but there were too many credible investigators attesting to the strict controls surrounding the production of the phenomena as well as the integrity and virtue of a number of apparently genuine mediums.  Some esteemed men and women of science observed a particular medium on hundreds of occasions under conditions completely ruling out deception of any kind.  And yet, other scientists concluded that fraud was the only explanation, primarily because everything they observed defied known natural law.  Their careers would have been endangered had they subscribed to an unnatural or “unscientific” explanation.  Most of this was at a time when science was vanquishing religion, when Darwinism had seemingly shown the falsity of the Biblical accounts of creation and had brought other religious beliefs into question. 

In some cases a magician was called in to debunk the supposed medium, and usually these magicians came up with ways they “could have” simulated the phenomena.  To admit that the “medium” was capable of an illusion or “trick” beyond the capability of the debunking magician was, as with scientists and academicians, to imperil one’s reputation, not to mention his strong ego. 

Journalists and historians, wanting to appear intelligent and scientific, not as gullible fools buying into ridiculous “religious” superstition and folly, usually aligned themselves with the debunkers, completely ignoring the controlled studies by some researchers and recording only the verdicts of the debunkers.  Modern historians have further distorted the accounts in favor of fraud.  Such appears to have been the case with Ira and William Davenport of Buffalo, New York, known as the “Brothers Davenport.”

If we accept Wikipedia as a reliable source, as so many people do, the Davenports “were exposed as frauds many times.”  The stage magician John Nevil Maskelyne supposedly discovered how their spirit-cabinet illusion worked and demonstrated to an audience how he could recreate, without supernatural methods,  the brothers’ claims of being able to contact the dead. The Wikipedia entry further notes that showman P.T. Barnum included the Davenport Brothers in his book, The Humbugs of the World, and that Ira, the older of the brothers, confessed to Harry Houdini, the great illusionist, that he and his brother William had faked their spirit contacts. Several other debunkers are given as authorities,  including one not born until 1896, long after the death of William, and another born in 1944, long after the death of Ira. 

It is difficult to reconcile all that with the first-hand accounts gathered by N. Riley Heagerty in his most recent book, Wizards of the North: The Brothers Davenport

“The Davenport Brothers, above and beyond any other mediums in all of recorded Spiritualism, put their gifts to the ultimate test, traveling thousands and thousands of miles, including many cities of Europe, to demonstrate the reality of spirit power,” offers Heagerty, possibly the most knowledgeable person in the United States on the history of mediumship. “At their own expense they rented public halls and challenged the world at large to come and witness phenomena which passed the bounds of ordinary belief.  In so doing, they gained the admiration of the majority, but aroused the vile poison of the medium-hating thugs, and they were everywhere, ready to pounce, ready to condemn.”


If not mediums, the Davenports must have been greater illusionists than even Houdini, as they apparently pulled off their “tricks” much faster than Houdini did many years later.  One has to wonder why the Wikipedia writers preferred to offer only the arguments for fraud but then not recognize that the alternative was that they were perhaps the greatest illusionists or magicians of all time.

Ira was 16 and William 14 when their mediumistic abilities were first recognized in 1855. Their sister Elizabeth (Libby), only 10 at the time, is said to also have had the gift.  As recorded by two contemporary biographers of the brothers, Pascal B. Randolph and T. L. Nichols, M.D., various thumps, loud noises, cracks, and raps were heard around the Davenport house in Buffalo as early as 1846, before the advent of Spiritualism with the Fox Sisters of nearby Rochester, NY, but it wasn’t until after 1855 that the family began to recognize that some “invisible intelligence” was behind it all.  Once they recognized this and learned to communicate with the invisibles, there were many messages from deceased loved ones coming by means of both raps and automatic writing.  But it was the physical phenomena that seemed to impress everyone the most, including levitations, one in which Ira was seized by the unseen power and “was placed first upon the table, and then floated over the heads of all present, all around the room, coming in contact with the ceiling at the east end of the room, and in the twinkling of an eye, with the western end.  He floated nine feet clear of the floor, and every person in the room was offered the opportunity of feeling him while thus suspended in the air.”  Then, suddenly, both William and Libby were raised, “flitting hither and thither” in the air.

As their abilities developed, word spread of the “wonder boys” and people came from all over the country to witness the phenomena.  A Dr. Carter, who lived in their town, convinced them to tour the country and give exhibitions.  Unfortunately, entertainment was given priority over more evidential mediumship and the primary phenomena demonstrated at the exhibition involved the brothers being securely bound with cords or handcuffs, being placed in a cabinet, sometimes in a sack and nailed to the floor, and then freeing themselves almost instantaneously, seemingly something similar to the later “magic” acts of Houdini, although apparently much faster than Houdini. 

Another feature called for floating musical instruments, as many as six at one time,  playing popular music of the day.  Although audiences were amazed and awed, many assumed it was very clever conjuring, the work of illusionists. Newspaper reporters didn’t seem to know what to make of it.  “Independent of the high scientific mystery that attends this phenomena, there is a fund of amusement to those who do not aspire to look deeply into spiritual matters,” a reporter for the National Republican of Washington, D.C., wrote. 

“Their exhibitions have puzzled the brains and upset theories of some of our wisest men, and many have been constrained to admit that no human power could give such marvelous demonstrations, as have been witnessed the past week at Willard’s.”  So read the Washington, D.C. Chronicle in 1864 following their exhibition in the nation’s capital.

Their exhibitions took them as far west as San Francisco, south to Cuba and Puerto Rico, and then east to England, Ireland, France, Belgium, Spain, Portugal, Germany, Switzerland, Italy, Russia, Egypt,  Saudi Arabia, India, and Australia.  They were touring in Australia when William died on July 1, 1877 at age 36.

The Brothers Davenport preceded more formal psychical research, but one of the scientists attesting to the genuineness of their phenomena was Professor James Mapes, a renowned chemist of the day and early investigator of psychic phenomena, who said that he conversed with the spirit John King, said to be a “control” for the brothers, for a half an hour through the mediumship of the brothers.  Mapes also claimed that his hand was seized in a powerful grasp by an invisible hand and that he observed a table levitated and carried over the heads of the sitters, then deposited in a distant part of the room. This information won’t be found at the Wikipedia entry on the brothers.

Drawing from Heagerty’s book and from several other references, I came upon the following information, none of which is mentioned in the Wikipedia article:

*Ira Davenport wrote the following to Houdini near the end of his life: “We never in public affirmed our belief in Spiritualism.  That we regarded as no business of the public, or did we offer our entertainment as the result of sleight-of-hand, or, on the other hand, as Spiritualism.  We let our friends and foes settle that as best they could between themselves, but, unfortunately, we were often the victims of their disagreement.”  (By no stretch does that statement translate to “faking their spirit contacts.”)

*Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the great mystery writer and creator of Sherlock Holmes, befriended Houdini and exchanged many letters with him.  In one letter, Houdini wrote: “I was an intimate friend of Ira Erastus Davenport.  I can make the positive assertion that the Davenport Brothers never were exposed. I know more about the Davenports than anyone living….I know for a fact that it was not necessary for them to remove their bonds in order to obtain manifestations.”  (It should be noted that Houdini was born in 1874 and was only three-years-old when William Davenport died and their exhibitions came to an end.)

*Jean Eugene Robert-Houdin, considered the “father of modern magic,” and the person who initially inspired Ehrich Weiss, aka Houdini, said: “The phenomena [of the Davenports] surpassed my expectations, and the experiments are full of interest for me. I consider it my duty to add they are inexplicable.”

*English scholar and explorer Sir Richard Burton said that he had been present at the performances of the clever conjurers Anderson and Tolmaque, but that they did not approach what he had observed with the Davenports.  “I have read and listened to every explanation of the Davenport ‘tricks’ hitherto placed before the English public,” he continued, “and, believe me, if anything would make me take that tremendous jump ‘from matter to spirit,” it is the utter and complete unreason of the reasons by which the ‘manifestations’ are explained.” (I assume he meant how they are explained by the debunkers.)

*Magician John Maskelyne, who, as noted above, supposedly simulated their methods to debunk them, is quoted as saying: “The Brothers Davenport did more than all other men to familiarize England with so-called Spiritualism, and before crowded audiences and under varied conditions they produced really wonderful feats.”

*A committee of four Harvard professors studied the Davenports in 1857, apparently with the intent of exposing them, but the committee never issued a report, probably because they were dumbfounded.  However, Dr. Silas Loomis, professor of chemistry and toxicology at Georgetown Medical College, also investigated them and wrote a long report saying that their manifestations were issued through some “new unknown force” with which he was not acquainted.

*The brothers were jailed at least twice, once for 30 days, for failure to obtain a magician’s license before their exhibitions.  They argued that they were not magicians and so didn’t require a license.  Heagerty wonders why they would be so principled.  If magicians, why not admit it?  Their exhibitions would likely have drawn just as many people, if not more, if they had advertised themselves as magicians. The idea that spirits of the dead were involved invited the disdain of the fundamentalist of both religion and science and likely discouraged many people from attending their exhibitions. 

There were also those who wondered why God, if “He” was attempting to offer evidence of a spirit world and man’s immortality, would choose such weird, bizarre and absurd methods as escaping from tight bondage and floating musical instruments in a vaudeville-like setting.  Couldn’t “He” come up with something more sensible and respectable?  That question will be discussed in the next post here.

Michael Tymn is the author of The Afterlife Revealed: What Happens After We Die, Resurrecting Leonora Piper: How Science Discovered the Afterlife, and Dead Men Talking: Afterlife Communication from World War I.

Next blog post: October 14

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How the Eiffel Tower is Like the Spirit World

Posted on 16 September 2019, 9:48

“Why can’t a medium find out what happened to Flight 370?”  That was the question asked not long ago by a reader of one of my books. He was referring to Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, which disappeared somewhere over the Indian Ocean on March 8, 2014 with 227 passengers and 12 crew members presumed dead.  To this day, the final resting place of Flight 370 remains one of the greatest air mysteries of all time.

The reader was suggesting that someone should be able to go to a good medium and make contact with one of the pilots or passengers to find out what happened to them.  I inferred from our discussion that the reader assumed that spirits are omniscient, or all-knowing, which psychical research reveals, is clearly not the case. Some spirits, we are told, don’t know any more than they did when in the material world.  Nor are they sitting on some heavenly perch able to peer down and see all events taking place in the physical realm.  Quite a few don’t even know they are “dead.”  As I understand it, the spirit world is shaped something like the Eiffel Tower, (below) having a broad base and gradually narrowing to the top. As spirits advance toward the top, it becomes more and more difficult for them to communicate with the physical world.  This is because such communication is a matter of vibrational frequency.  To put it another way, the less-advanced, or less-evolved, spirits are closer in vibration to those of us in the physical world and therefore can communicate more effectively with us than advanced spirits.


If the Eiffel Tower is a valid simile, most spirits, or souls, it seems, are hovering, not far above the esplanade at ground level.  Earthbound souls are in something of a stupor, struggling to keep their feet on the ground, while slightly more developed souls are striving to make it to the first-floor observation deck at 187 feet. Those who are have reached the first deck have a better view of things than those below them, but it is mostly a local view and certainly does not extend to the Indian Ocean. They are within shouting distance of those still on the esplanade, but it requires a loud voice and harmonious wind conditions for those on the ground to hear them.  Only a few of them have voices strong enough to be distinctly heard by those on the ground and often those on the ground catch only a few words and just get the gist of the message. 

The more evolved souls – those who have reached the second observation deck at 377 feet – have an even better view of things but it is still far short of the Indian Ocean, and they are well beyond shouting distance from those on the esplanade.  Indications are, however, that they are sometimes able to communicate with humans on the esplanade by using souls on the lower deck as intermediaries, i.e., having the lower-level souls relay the messages to humans. It often happens that the soul on the first deck does not completely grasp the message from above and the person on the ground receives a distorted message or even a completely different one.

“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,” explained Professor James Hyslop, one of the foremost psychical researchers of the last century, referring to the game charades.  “The same is likely to take place in spirit messages. The control (spirit intermediary) 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.”  Hyslop (below) further explained that much communication between spirits and as received by human mediums is by means of thought-transference, or “pictographic” in form, not in language as we know it.  Such pictographic communication is subject to frequent misinterpretation.


The lessons of psychical research suggest that the very advanced, or high spirits – those metaphorically on the highest deck of the Eiffel Tower, at 907 feet – see much more of what is going on in the physical world than those on the lower decks.  They have easy access to the antennae above them and can tune in to pretty much anywhere. Their focus, however, is no longer on individuals, as may be the case with lower-level spirits, but on humanity as a whole.  While they apparently try to influence humanity in a positive direction, they are not permitted to interfere with our free-will challenges and lessons, fully recognizing that overcoming adversity is the best way to learn and spiritually evolve. 

“It is necessary that afflictions come,” said the obviously advanced spirit with the name Imperator, who communicated through the mediumship of William Stainton Moses, an Anglican priest, during the latter part of the nineteenth century.  “Jesus knew and taught that. It is necessary for the training of the soul.  It is as necessary as physical discipline for the body.  No deep knowledge is to be had without it.  None is permitted to scale the glorious heights but after discipline of sorrow.  The key of knowledge is in spirit hands, and none may wrest it to himself but the earnest soul which is disciplined by trial.”

Moses was told that Imperator headed up a “band of 49 spirits” – apparently a “group soul” – and that his messages were actually relayed through lower-level spirits making up the group soul.  We might infer that Imperator was on the top deck of the Eiffel Tower, while others in his band, elevated but not so advanced, were on the middle deck, perhaps some on the lower deck in order to facilitate communication with those still on the esplanade.  It may also be that Moses was able to raise his vibration rate to something approaching the lower deck of the Eiffel Tower, thereby receiving communication directly from the middle-level spirits.  The messages handed down through the Imperator group were not bits and pieces of information coming from a recently departed loved one to a human, as is more common in today’s clairvoyant-type mediumship; they were teachings aimed at helping humans better understand the meaning of life and see the bigger picture.

The group soul called “Silver Birch,” which communicated through the mediumship of Englishman Maurice Barbanell, said much the same thing as Imperator:  “You do not develop the spirit when everything is easy and smooth, but when you have difficulties.  But there are times when we feel justified in interfering with your judgment.  I would interfere if a very vital principle were involved.  If it meant that my work through my medium would be interrupted, then I would interfere so that the channel would still be free.  But when the problems only involve my medium’s own evolution, then they are his responsibility and he must work them out for himself.”
The afterlife hierarchy described above does not suggest that the lower-level spirit is earthbound or evil in any way, only that he or she is not all that spiritually evolved. On the other hand, there are indications that advanced spirits can temporarily come down to a lower vibration to do missionary work with those who those who have “spiritual ears” and to assist in communication. It has been recorded that a spirit coming down from a higher level is much like a human trying to hold his/her breath under water.  The spirit can hold on to the lower vibration for only a short period. 

Back to Flight 370, the research indicates that even a gifted medium cannot simply dial up a deceased person. There must be a sympathetic link of some kind – a living loved one or some person with a special connection to the spirit present with the medium in order to make contact.  However, if such a link were made between a victim of Flight 370 and a living person, there is no reason to assume that the communicating spirit, especially if just a passenger, would know where the plane went down.  Why would we expect the communicating spirit to know the coordinates of the final resting place of the plane or how the plane went astray?  If a pictograph message were to come to a medium (or to a psychic) showing a body of water, it would be meaningless.  It is not nearly as simple as the skeptics think it should be.

To again quote Imperator:  “We are 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; to change the world from a state of probation.”

Michael Tymn is the author of The Afterlife Revealed: What Happens After We Die, Resurrecting Leonora Piper: How Science Discovered the Afterlife, and Dead Men Talking: Afterlife Communication from World War I.

Next blog post:  Sept. 30

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Explaining the Death of a Parent to a Child

Posted on 02 September 2019, 8:56

When my friend Dave was asked by his nine-year-old granddaughter what happens to us when we die, he struggled and stumbled in his response, realizing that it required an answer that went beyond the trite, “we go to heaven and live with the angels.”  Fortunately, Dave’s daughter came to his rescue and explained that people have many beliefs about the afterlife, leaving the door open for her to learn about them and explore her own understanding of what happens when we die, at which point Dave told his granddaughter that he would be happy to talk to her about the subject anytime. 

My discussion with Dave was prompted by a movie in which a young girl, about five, lost her mother to an auto accident and was told by her grandmother that “she will live on in your heart.”  I had heard that hackneyed expression more than a few times before and wondered how a child is to interpret it.  It does not necessarily imply that the parent had survived death in a larger life and was still with her, and it might well be interpreted to mean that the parent was now totally extinct and nothing more than a fading memory.

I can still remember the anxieties and fears I experienced 76 years ago when my step-grandfather died.  My parents didn’t know what to tell me, and I, just six at the time, didn’t know what questions to ask.  It was all hush-hush. The trepidation multiplied 100-fold when we visited the crematorium and I struggled with grasping that what was left of my grandfather was now contained in a little metal box, one surrounded by hundreds of other little metal boxes with “people” in them. 

Is there a comforting response concerning death for a child? After discussing it with Dave, I decided to put the concern to other friends and to limit it to children under seven (the generally accepted age of reason), leaving the older children for another discussion.  I hypothesized a situation in which my friend could go back in time with his or her present experience and knowledge and attempt to explain to a five-year-old daughter and three-year-old son the death of the other parent in a traffic accident. 

I began with my most skeptical friend, Dale, who rejects all the psychical research suggesting survival that is often discussed at this blog, as “unscientific.”  “Kids, I’ve got some really terrible news,” Dale thought out his reply. “Your mommy was killed in a traffic accident. I don’t understand how or why it happened but it did. Come here and let’s hug. (We would all break down and cry). I’d answer that Mommy wouldn’t want us to see her and how she was hurt as it would only make us more sad. We will cremate her body as those were her wishes. Nobody really knows what happens when you die; maybe she’ll go to heaven and we’ll see her again some day. Meanwhile, remember all the nice things she did.”

Dale said that such reflects his belief and he doesn’t see it as giving the children false hope, like telling them there is a Santa Claus. Moreover, he would want them to think about all the good things their mother did and not dwell too much on the loss, at the same time realizing that thoughts of their mother would come back to them from time to time, when they’d just have to be strong and be grateful for the time they had with her.

Dale’s approach seems in line with that of mainstream psychology, as I was able to gather from the Internet. It avoids any discussion of consciousness surviving death.  “Kids this young often have a hard time understanding that all people and living things eventually die, and that it’s final and they won’t come back,” we read at “So even after you’ve explained this, kids may continue to ask where the loved one is or when the person is returning. As frustrating as this can be, continue to calmly reiterate that the person has died and can’t come back.”  More bluntly, as I interpret it, tell the child that the loved is extinct and to get on with life.

Keith remembers that when he was about four-years-old his great-grandfather died and he was told that it is like “falling asleep.”  He feels that this euphemism is still effective with the younger children.  “You know your mom was in her car, don’t you?” he provides his possible explanation.  “On the way a lorry did not stop at the traffic lights, and it hit your mom’s car and she was knocked out.  That is like falling asleep when you get a bang on the head.  By the time she arrived in hospital she had gone to sleep forever.  We all do that sooner or later.  So now she is at the hospital and won’t be coming home again, so you won’t have the chance to see her until you also fall asleep forever, when you are very old.”

When the children are a little older, Keith, who does not subscribe to any accepted religion nor accept the standard Christian version of heaven and hell, would use the word “died” instead of falling asleep and would explain that death is not the end of us, and that Mom is quite possibly living with her family on the other side and waiting patiently for her children to join her.

Glenda recalls the time she was working as a hospice social worker and made a call to a home where a young father fatally shot himself.  The man’s three-or four-year-old son kept asking what was wrong and was told by the police and others that everything was fine and not to worry.  “I thought it was doing a disservice to the child to lie to him and make him distrust his own observations and fears,” she says, adding that her advice in that case was not accepted and she was not allowed to follow up on it. 

“They also need assurance that they will always be cared for and safe,” Glenda continues. She does not agree with Keith in suggesting that death is like falling asleep, as it might cause the child to fear wanting to go to sleep. 

“My answer is pretty simple,” Mike replies.  “If they haven’t reached the age of reason, and assuming they still have the other parent, I would say to them, ‘God called Mommy home to help Him in Heaven. She still loves you and thinks of you and watches over you from Heaven; and you can talk to her every night before you go to bed when you say your prayers. And she will hear you. And you’ll will see her again when you someday go back to Heaven. In the meantime, I will take care of you   Talk to me any time you want. I always have time to listen to you, and help you. And I love you very much.’”

Like Mike, Norm does not accept the humdrum heaven of orthodox religions, but he believes in keeping it simple for children of that age and expanding on it when they become a little older.  “[I would] explain that an accident is like falling down and scraping your knee, but sometimes more serious because the person will not get better,” Norm states. “God wants her to live with him to make her feel better until all of us can be together again and happy forever.  Meanwhile, she sees you and knows what is happening to you, and she will be at all your birthday parties.”

When the children do indicate that they can comprehend a somewhat more complex idea, Norm would expose them to the evidence for survival as developed over the past 170 years by psychical researchers.  “In other words, I would guide them along the way as far as they might want to go, not indoctrinate them. If they chose a traditional religious faith after all that, I would not attempt to proselytize them. However, I would be happy to discuss the ridged dogmas of both organized religion and materialistic science.”

Getting back to Dave, he would tell the children that their mother has gone to a very special place where she is living with God, who is taking care of her.  “In her new home, she lives in a Spirit body that we can’t see, but she can see us, and she will be living with us and watching over us to give us all her love,” he explains it.  “It’ll be sad for us because we can’t see her anymore, but anytime you want to talk to her you can and she will hear every word you say and she will try to find a way to answer you.  When we die, we will all go see and live with God and Mommy forever.”

Like Norm, Dave would later introduce them to the evidence “that explains and reinforces this belief, educating them on the context of the world’s major religions, including reductionism and the role of science in explaining our unknowns.”

Lewis would tell the children that their mother “had gone to a better world, a happier world, the place we’ll all go to when we leave this one.  I’ll tell them she did not want to leave early and that she had no control over what happened, and that she’ll miss them and think about them for as long as they are alive. And they should talk to her, for she will pay them visits from time to time even though they probably won’t be able to see her.  She will always love them and help them in every way she can.”  Lewis adds that he would be in steady contact with his deceased wife, “sending her my love and assuring her that we love her and wish her every happiness where she is.”

Richard would explain to the children that their mother was killed in a terrible auto accident.  “She can no longer be with us,” he would continue, “but she would want us to be very strong and help each other understand.  She is actually in a ‘wonderful place’ called heaven and her “spirit’ is watching over us every day.  She loves and misses us very much.”  To support his statement, Richard would familiarize them with the stories of Colton Burpo (“Heaven is for Real”) and Akiane Kramirik’s “Portrait of Jesus.”  I would add Karen Herrick’s “Grandma, What is a Soul,” to the list of books that might help children understand death. 

All of my friends had more to say on the subject, including how they would explain it to the children at an older age, but space does not permit more here. Readers are invited to share their thought on the subject in the comments section below.

Michael Tymn is the author of The Afterlife Revealed: What Happens After We Die, Resurrecting Leonora Piper: How Science Discovered the Afterlife, and Dead Men Talking: Afterlife Communication from World War I.

Next blog post:  September 16

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Choosing Truth over Fact and Holey Jeans

Posted on 19 August 2019, 8:33

When, during a recent presidential campaign speech, former American vice-president Joe Biden said that he chooses “truth over facts,” it was assumed that he blundered and meant to say that he chooses “fact over fiction.” I’m not so sure it was a gaffe.


A number of facts do not necessarily add up to truth.  We have to consider all the facts, including facts science has yet to recognize. In effect, truth may often be greater than the facts.  “The spiritual theory is the logical outcome of the whole of the facts,” said biologist Alfred Russel Wallace, (below) co-originator with Charles Darwin of the natural selection theory of evolution.  “Those who deny it, in every instance with which I am acquainted, either from ignorance or disbelief, leave half the facts out of view.  That theory is most scientific which best explains the whole series of phenomena; and I therefore claim that the spirit hypothesis is the most scientific, since even those who oppose it most strenuously often admit that it does explain all the facts, which cannot be said of any other hypothesis.”


As set forth in the 2017 book, Modern Ethics in 77 Arguments,  Justin P. McBrayer, a professor of philosophy at Fort Lewis College in Colorado, laments the state of morality education in our schools, noting that the majority of college freshman view moral claims as mere opinion – true or untrue only relative to a culture.  He explains that our public schools now teach that all claims are either fact or opinion, and that moral claims fall into the latter camp.  Moreover, all facts must be tested and proved before they can be accepted as truths.

“Things can be true even if no one can prove them,” McBrayer counters the current mindset in our educational system. “For example, it could be true that there is life elsewhere in the universe even though no one can prove it.”  Conversely, he adds, many things once “proved” turned out to be false.  McBrayer does not go so far as to consider the maze we get into once we ask about the nature of “proof.”  Are we talking about evidence that provides “absolute certainty,” that meets the “beyond a reasonable doubt,” threshold,  or even the much lower standard of proof based on a “preponderance of evidence”?  Then again, it could be “proof”  based on personal experience.

The bottom line, as I interpret it from what McBrayer and others offer in this book, is that that there are no moral facts, and thus there are no moral truths. To view it another way, if it is only an opinion that murdering someone is morally wrong, if it is only an opinion that all men are created equal, if it is only an opinion that copying homework assignments is wrong, then there are no real truths about what is right and no one should be held accountable.  At least that seems to be the message young people are being indoctrinated with in our schools these days, according to McBrayer.  To be politically correct, the “truths” once set down in “good books” of various religions are no longer facts, just opinions.  That being the case, should we be surprised at all the moral chaos in the world today?

McBrayer applauds our educators on attempting to teach students to act humanely and with integrity, but he sees the curriculum as setting up student for “doublethink” in that “they are told there are no moral facts in one breath even as the next tells them how they ought to behave.”

Christy Wampole, an assistant professor of French at Princeton, offers an interesting observation in suggesting that many Americans born after around 1980, particularly middle-class Caucasians, live “ironically.”  If I am interpreting her correctly, she is referring to Socratic Irony, which means pretending to be ignorant, or admitting one’s own ignorance, in order to expose the ignorance of another or perhaps of the establishment.  As Wampole sees it, these younger generations seem to be suffering from an “existential malaise” and participating in some kind of “competition to see who can care the least.”  As I further interpret it, this existential malaise is in great part a result of old facts now becoming opinion and the younger generation not knowing what to believe.  This non-belief leads to cynicism and attachment to the frivolous and the kitschy.

A recent poll carried out in the UK has 89 percent of people aged 18-29 saying that their lives are meaningless and without purpose.  For those over the age of 60, the number was “only” 55 percent.

Since most young people appear to be “one with their phones,” I have not had the opportunity to interact with many of them in recent years; but when Wampole mentioned that they often attempt to look intentionally nerdy, awkward or ugly, I wondered if I finally had an answer to what has been for me one of life’s greatest mysteries – why so many young people wear raggedy and frayed jeans with holes in the knees and why they put pearls in their tongues and camouflage their bodies with ink. Those things now make some sense, I think. That is, they have not been able to find any meaning in life and have made a “preemptive surrender,” one that takes the form of reaction rather than action.  Actually, I’m still not sure I get it.

I believe we are seeing what renowned psychiatrist Viktor Frankl referred to as “mass neurotic syndrome” – the result of an “existential vacuum,” a feeling of emptiness and meaninglessness. The more one seeks pleasure, Frankl observed, the more it eludes him. “Pleasure is, and must remain, a side-effect, or by-product, and is destroyed and spoiled to the degree in which it is made a goal in itself.”  A human being, he continued, is not one in pursuit of happiness, but one in search of a reason to become happy. Self-actualization, he further opined, is possible only as a side effect of self-transcendence.

Peg O’Connor, a professor of philosophy and gender, women, and sexuality studies at Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter, Minnesota, contributes a very interesting essay to the book while drawing from William James and what he called “world sickness.”  O’Connor calls the first stage of world sickness “pleasure diminished” and the second stage “pleasure destroyed.”  The final stage she names “pathological melancholy.”  In this stage, the person is no longer able to recognize joy and happiness.  “This melancholy leads to a kind of utter hopelessness about the particular condition in which one lives and the meaning of life in general,” she explains, adding that at this point “nothing is worth anything.”

Many of the other 56 philosophers and deep thinkers contributing to this book discuss the connection, or lack of, between a belief in God and morality and ethical behavior.  Unless I missed it, they all seem to assume that finding God is a prerequisite to finding meaning in life.  Not one of them considers the strong evidence supporting the survival of consciousness at death independent of the existence or non-existence of a God, god or gods.   
As biologist Wallace recognized, the inductive approach of psychical research is scientific.  It involves looking at all the evidence coming to us through various paranormal events and closely examining this evidence to see if it suggests a spirit body and survival of the consciousness at death.  The evidence can never amount to absolute proof.  Very few things addressed by science have absolute proof.  The best we can hope for is evidence that strongly suggests survival. 

If “God” exists, but consciousness does not survive bodily death, so what?  Where does that get us?  As with atheism, humankind is still marching toward the abyss of nothingness and there is no purpose in life beyond making it better for the next generation, which will also fall into the abyss.  When we stop to ask, to which generation full fruition, it seems pretty pointless.  In fact, making things easier and better for future generations only appears to rob life of its challenges and learning experiences – things which psychical research suggest are the reasons for the detour from the real life.
On the other hand, if consciousness survives in a spirit world, then there is something to hope for, irrespective of whether there is a “God” behind it all.  Meaning in life is derived from a belief in life after death, not from the existence of a God.  It is the larger life that Christ came to announce, not the reality of a father figure sitting on a throne while demanding worship and threatening to flog anyone who dares not bow in reverence to his dictates.

Psychical research gives real meaning to the words of the Bible and helps us move from blind faith to conviction, or true faith.  True faith is not the blind faith of orthodox religion.  It is based on many facts and a strong conviction that those facts add up to truth, even if we can’t comprehend some of the facts.

Next blog post:  Sept. 2

Michael Tymn is the author of The Afterlife Revealed: What Happens After We Die, Resurrecting Leonora Piper: How Science Discovered the Afterlife, and Dead Men Talking: Afterlife Communication from World War I.

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The Horses that Defied Science

Posted on 05 August 2019, 8:08

There have been many stories of very intelligent and otherwise gifted animals over the years, but I’ve not heard of any more mind-boggling than that of the Elberfeld horses (below) of Germany (then Central Prussia). As the well-documented story goes, these horses could figure out square roots, cube roots, even fourth-power roots of numbers with six or seven figures. They could also communicate in German and French.  Professor Edouard Claparède, a distinguished Swiss psychologist of the University of Geneva, called the phenomenon “the most sensational event that has happened in the psychological world.”


As the story goes, in 1900, Wilhelm von Osten of Elberfeld taught his horse, Hans, a Russian stallion, mathematics.  He would place skittles, or bowling pins, in front of Hans and count, then ask Hans to strike as many blows with his hoof as there were skittles in front of him.  “The results were astonishing,” Dr. Claparède reported.  “The horse was capable not only of counting, but also of himself making real calculations, of solving little problems.”  But Hans was more than a mathematician.  He was a musician, able to distinguish between harmonious and dissonant chords.  And he had an extraordinary memory, able to tell the date of each day of the current week.

However, following Claparède’s investigation,  Oskar Pfungst, representing a committee of 24 professors appointed to study Hans, reported that the horse merely obeyed visual clues given by von Osten, whether conscious or unconscious. This became known as the “Clever Hans effect,” a term still used by animal trainers today.  It was later revealed that of the 24 professors on the committee, only two of them actually observed Hans.  Science was apparently satisfied with the committee’s conclusion and that pretty much put an end to all the excitement concerning Hans.

After von Osten’s death in 1909, Hans was acquired by Karl Krall, a wealthy merchant, who also brought two Arabian stallions, Muhamed and Zarif, and began to train them in the same manner von Osten had taught Hans.  Within a matter of weeks, Muhamed was doing addition, subtraction, multiplication and division and before four months had passed he was able to figure square and cube roots.  Krall then taught Muhamed spelling and reading. Zarif was a little slower in learning, but was eventually able to do almost everything Muhamed was capable of, as the aging Hans went into retirement. 
Having heard much about them, Maurice Maeterlinck, (below) a world-famous Belgian author, playwright, and Nobel prizewinner for literature, decided to visit Elberfeld and observe the horses for himself. After he was introduced to Muhamed by Krall, the horse was asked to spell Maeterlinck’s name (so many taps of the hoof for each letter of the alphabet).  Muhamed began by lifting his hoof and tapping out an “H,” followed by an “E” and an “R.”  The two men suddenly realized that Muhamed was spelling Herr, the German equivalent of Mister.  But Muhamed then struggled with the surname, first spelling M-A-Z-R-L-K.  When told by Krall that it was incorrect, Muhamed tried again, tapping M-A-R-Z-L-E-G-K.  Krall then repeated Maeterlinck’s last name and after two more attempts the horse spelled the name with one small error.  The two men concluded that it was close enough.


“I assure you that the first shock is rather disturbing, however much one expected it,” Maeterlinck wrote in his 1914 book, The Unknown Guest.  “I am quite aware that, when one describes these things, one is taken for a dupe too readily dazzled by the doubtless childish illusion of an ingeniously-contrived scene.  But what contrivances, what illusions have we here?” 

Concerning the math tests, Maeterlinck wrote that “what strikes one particularly is the facility, the quickness, I was almost saying the joyous carelessness with which the strange mathematician gives the answers.  The last figure is hardly chalked on the board before the right hoof is striking off the units, followed immediately by the left hoof marking the tens.  There is not a sign of attention or reflection; one is not even aware of the exact moment at which the horse looks at the problem, and the answer seems to spring automatically from an invisible intelligence.  Mistakes are rare or frequent according as it happens to be a good or bad day with the horse; but, when he is told of them, he nearly always corrects them.  Not unseldom, the number is reversed: 47, for instance, becomes 74; but he puts it right without demur when asked.”

Maeterlinck carried out experiments of his own in the absence of Krall. Since the horses performed without Krall’s presence and gave some answers to questions that Maeterlinck himself did not know the answers to, he discounted the Clever Hans effect. 
Another theory advanced was that of telepathy; that is, the horse was mind-reading. To test this theory, Maeterlinck took some large cards with Arabic numerals on them, shuffled them and placed them in front of the horse without looking at them himself.  “Without hesitation and unasked, Muhamed rapped out correctly the number formed by the cards,” Maeterlinck wrote.  “The experiment succeeded, as often as I cared to try it, with Hänschen, Muhamed, and Zarif alike.”  Since Maeterlinck was the only person present and did not know the numbers, there was no mind present to be read for the answers.
In one test, Maeterlinck wrote a surd – a number which had no square root – on the blackboard, not realizing that it was a surd.  Maeterlinck looked to Muhamed for a square root.  The horse lifted his hoof, paused, looked back at Maeterlinck and shook his head.  This little test also opposed both the Clever Hans effect and the telepathy theory.

One day, Zarif stopped in the middle of a lesson by Krall.  The horse was asked why and replied, “Because I am tired.”  On another occasion he stopped again and explained, “Pain in my leg.”
Maeterlinck also reported on tests run by a Dr. H. Hamel while Krall was on a trip. Hamel began by giving Muhamed simple math problems and ended with asking Muhamed for the fourth power root of 7,890,481, which Hamel himself did not know until after checking Muhamed’s correct answer of 53, which took about six seconds before he began striking out the answer. 
On another day, Krall and a Dr. Scholler decided to make an attempt to teach Muhamed to express himself in speech. The horse made several feeble efforts before stopping and striking out the message, translated from the German to read, “I have not a good voice.”  They then asked Muhamed what was necessary for him to speak.  He replied, again in German, “Open mouth.”  They asked him why he didn’t attempt to open his mouth, and the reply came, “Because I can’t.”

On another occasion, Zarif was asked how he talks to Muhamed.  “Mit Munt” (with mouth), he replied.  Krall asked Zarif why he didn’t tell him that with his mouth, to which Zarif replied, “Because I have no voice.”

Maeterlinck was clearly flabbergasted:  “You rub your eyes, question yourself, ask yourself in the presence of what humanized phenomenon, of what unknown force, of what new creature you stand,” he wrote.  “…You look around you for some sort of trace, obvious or subtle, of the mystery.  You feel yourself attacked in your innermost citadel, where you held yourself most certain and most impregnable.  You have felt a breath from the abyss upon your face.  You would not be more astonished if you suddenly heard the voice of the dead.”

At least 10 other respected scholars and scientists were reported to have studied the horses, all ruling out fraud and the Clever Hans effect, but not having any answers.  In the absence of a scientific explanation, the Clever Hans effect has gone down in recorded history as the probable explanation. 

If not the Clever Hans effect, if not some other type of fraud, if not telepathy, if not true intelligence on the part of the horses, then what other explanation is there?  Maeterlinck considered the possibility that the horses were mediums, much like human mediums, through which some higher power was working. As to why it was necessary to teach the horses in the first place, he opined that it would be like asking an automatic writing medium to do her thing without knowing how to write.  “Unconscious cerebration, however wonderful, can only take effect upon elements already acquired in some way or another,” he explained. “The subconscious cerebration of a man blind from birth will not make him see colors.”

Maeterlinck had studied the reports of psychical researchers like Frederic W. H. Myers, Richard Hodgson, and Sir Oliver Lodge, and accepted the reality of mediumship.  However, he struggled with the spirit hypothesis as he believed that if spirits actually existed they would be in a much more enlightened state, not “groping and groveling” as so many reports from the psychical researchers suggested.  In concluding, Maeterlinck admitted that he had no answers other than that a “spiritual” or “psychic” epoch was taking place.

While not suggesting there is any precedent for animal overshadowing or control by spirits, Archibald Campbell Holmes, a spiritualistic phenomena historian and author of the day, believed that spirit influence was the most logical explanation for the Elberfeld horses.  He reasoned that if spirits can take control of tables by tilting them and levitating them, and, at the other extreme, take control of human mediums, there was no reason to believe that they couldn’t influence or control a horse.  As to why they would do that is an unanswered question, although spiritualism teaches that there are many low-level and mischievous spirits hanging around the earth plane.  Then again, it could have been a mathematically adept spirit who was experimenting or just having some fun.

My more comprehensive report on the Elberfeld Horses can be found in the book, “Paradigm Busters,” edited by J. Douglas Kenyon, an anthology of 30 mysterious events.

Michael Tymn is the author of The Afterlife Revealed: What Happens After We Die, Resurrecting Leonora Piper: How Science Discovered the Afterlife, and Dead Men Talking: Afterlife Communication from World War I.

Next blog post: August 19

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Ruling out Telepathy:  “Mudder” for Mother

Posted on 22 July 2019, 8:46

It was considered “unscientific” for early psychical researchers to conclude that they were hearing from spirits of the dead through mediums. Although telepathy, or mindreading, was also considered unscientific by the fundamentalists of science, and still is to this day, it was preferred to spirits as an explanation for the messages coming through the medium.  That is, the medium, must have tapped into the mind of the sitter for information. As it was not as unscientific as spirits of the dead, psychical researchers were therefore always on guard for telepathy.  One such researcher was Lydia W. Allison, a member of the American Society for Psychical Research (ASPR). 

As reported in the February 1925 issue of the Journal of The American Society for Psychical Research, Allison (1880 – 1959), the widow of Edward Wood Allison, M.D.,  arranged for an anonymous sitting with medium Hester Travers Smith while visiting London, England during June 1924.  A resident of Dublin, Ireland, Travers Smith (1868-1949) was the daughter of Professor Edward Dowden, a distinguished Shakespearian scholar, and the wife of a prominent Dublin physician. She was primarily an automatic writing and Ouija board medium, sitting regularly with a small group of friends, including Lennox Robinson, a world-renowned Irish playwright, and the Rev. Savell Hicks.  Sir William Barrett, a distinguished physicist and psychical researcher, was a close personal friend and also attended a number of sittings with Travers Smith, attesting to the genuineness of mediumship. Geraldine Cummins, perhaps the most famous automatist in history, was introduced to mediumship by Travers Smith, who is referred to in books by Cummins by her maiden name, Hester Dowden.


In her 1919 book, Voices from the Void, Travers Smith states that she had begun experimenting with automatism six or seven years earlier to see what it was all about and if it really was evidence of survival after death. She began with the belief that automatism was, as many scientists of the day believed, merely a method of studying ourselves – that everything coming through the board and automatic writing was coming from the subconscious.  However, she came to the conclusion that there is more to automatism than the subliminal self and that disembodied souls were indeed involved, even if some of the messages were colored by the medium’s subconscious.

Allison (hereinafter “Lydia”) first sat with Travers Smith on June 27, 1924.  As instructed, she brought along several articles that belonged to her husband, who had died in 1920, including a gray suede tobacco pouch. The pouch was placed close to the Ouija board pointer and Travers Smith instructed Lydia to ask questions.  She first asked to whom the pouch belonged, and the board spelled out E-d-w-a-r-d.  She then asked by what name Edward was called.  The response came N-e-d (correct).  Lydia then asked who had been recently married. There was no response. A second try and still no response.  She then asked who gave him the pouch.  “A-n-i-t-a” was the correct reply.

At this point, they changed from the board to automatic writing and Ned was asked where Anita had given him the pouch.  “Londan” was the reply, although the second “o” in London appeared to be an “a.”  However, London was the correct answer.  He was then asked for his surname and “All——” was written in a scrawl.  Asked for his middle name, he correctly gave Wood.  Although Lydia did not ask for her name, the pencil wrote “Lydia.”  They then returned to the Ouija board.

Lydia then asked Ned who had communicated with her in a sitting she had had with another medium (Gladys Osborne Leonard) not long before. “James Hyslop” was the correct reply. Hyslop, the former director of the ASPR had also died in 1920.  “Whose name did he mention?” Lydia next asked, to which the reply correctly came “Prince.” (This was apparently a reference to Walter Franklin Prince, who was a research associate with the ASPR.)  Lydia asked who else was mentioned and the name “Bruton” was given. That name was unknown to Lydia, although she does recall that Hyslop had mentioned a number of people unknown to her and Bruton could have been one of them. As Lydia saw it, this name was opposed to the telepathic hypothesis, since it was not a name with which she was familiar and not “on her mind.”

She next asked Ned his sister’s name and he correctly replied with A-n-n-a.  When asked for his other sister’s name, he again gave the correct name, M-a-r-y.  When again asked for his surname, he slowly spelled, A-l-l-e-s-n…A-l-l-i-s-n…and finally A-l-l-i-s-o-n. 

Lydia again sat with Travers Smith on July 3.  Travers Smith rubbed the pointer of the Ouija board against the tobacco pouch and addressing her spirit guide, Johannes, asked him to call Ned to the table.  He returned with both Ned and James Hyslop.  Lydia noted that Travers Smith turned her head away from the board and closed her eyes, maintaining that position for the rest of the sitting.  Lydia had both hands free to take notes.  She first addressed Hyslop, asking him if he knew someone who just arrived in London.  Hyslop responded with T-u-b-b-y, the reference being to Gertrude Tubby, his former associate at the ASPR in New York.  Lydia noted that she had just arrived the prior afternoon and was certain that no one besides herself was aware of her arrival.

There was some further communication with Hyslop but nothing of evidential value.  She asked that Ned return to the board.  To again test him, she asked if he remembered Gretchen.  He responded that he did remember her, after which he was asked the name of Gretchen’s sister.  With Travers Smith continuing to look away and with eyes closed, her hand guided the pointer to E-l-s-a, followed by E-l-s-i-e.  Lydia noted that her baptismal name was Elsa but she was called Elsie.
Lydia then asked Ned if he remembered Jack and Marian and if he could give their last name.  He correctly spelled M-a-c-k-a-y.  She then asked for the name of her mother.  The board spelled P-a-u-l-a, which was correct, although Lydia had Polly on her mind, as that is the nickname her mother went by.  She then asked Ned for her mother’s nickname, expecting Polly, but the board spelled out M-u-d-d-e-r.  In fact, Ned always referred to her as Mudder.  As it had been some 15 years since her mother passed, she had more or less forgotten about Ned’s name for her.  When she asked Ned for her other nickname, he responded with “P-o-l-l-y.  Now do you think it is I?  You are very amusing to me.”  (hyphens omitted for clarity.)

Lydia’s third sitting with Travers Smith was on July 9.  She again asked for the names of his two sisters and both Anna and Mary were named.  She then asked for the name of his niece.  He correctly identified her as T-h-e-l-m-a.  This was the name she was looking for when she asked about someone being recently married in the first sitting. Strangely, the report ends there and there is no indication that Lydia then called Ned’s attention to the fact that Thelma had just married and if he was aware of it.

In commenting on the case, Dr. Walter Franklin Prince, ASPR Research Officer, wrote that the most surprising thing about the record is it transmission of proper names, which are usually difficult to produce.  “Did the names come from spirits or from the mind of the sitter?” he asks. “I am far from thinking that a definite conclusion can be drawn from one brief case like this.  But there are certain logical implications which ought to be stated.”  He points out that Lydia got “Paula” when she was thinking “Polly” and “Elsa” when she was thinking “Elsie, but most impressive to him was that “mudder” for her mother’s nickname when she was expecting “Polly.”  He saw this as lending itself to the spiritistic theory rather than the telepathic one.

“Finally, there is a singular fitness to the spiritistic theory in the failure of Edward to give the name of the person lately married,” Prince concluded, “though it was later given when the name of his sister’s daughter was demanded. For he would remember the name of his sister’s daughter but could not be expected to remember what had happened since his departure unless on the unreasonable assumption that spirits must know all that takes place on earth. But Mrs. Allison had the name ‘Thelma’ as definitely in mind when she asked who was married as when she asked who was the sister’s daughter.  Why should telepathy between the living observe the consistencies appropriate only to a spirit consciousness?”

Michael Tymn is the author of The Afterlife Revealed: What Happens After We Die, Resurrecting Leonora Piper: How Science Discovered the Afterlife, and Dead Men Talking: Afterlife Communication from World War I.

Next blog post: August 5

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Dissecting the Human Aura

Posted on 08 July 2019, 10:13

Professor Robert Hare, one of the earliest psychical researchers, identified two modes giving rise to the various spirit manifestations: “In the one mode, they employ the tongue to speak, the fingers to write, or hands to actuate tables or instruments for communication,” he wrote in his 1855 book Experimental Investigation of the Spirit Manifestations.  “In the other, they act upon ponderable matter directly, through a halo or aura appertaining to the medium; so that although the muscular power may be incapacitated for aiding them, they will cause a body to move, or produce raps intelligibly so as to select letters conveying their ideas, uninfluenced by those of the medium.”


Hare, an emeritus professor of chemistry at the University of Pennsylvania and a renowned inventor, further concluded that this aura was some form of electricity or light that was beyond scientific analysis and that it amounted to essentially the same thing that German chemist Baron Karl von Reichenbach called od or odyle in his research a decade or so earlier. Reichenbach first published his findings in a series of papers entitled “Researches on Magnetism, Electricity, Heat, and Light in their relations to Vital Powers,” in the March and May 1845 issues of Annals of Chemistry after studying a number of “sensitives” – people who today might be called clairvoyants or clairsentients.

While Reichenbach focused on “mind over matter” tasks, what modern parapsychologists refer to as extrasensory perception (ESP) and psychokinesis (PK), and apparently did not hypothesize or recognize any kind of spirit involvement or intervention, Hare claimed to be in contact with spirits of the dead, including his deceased father and sister, receiving much personal information that could not have been researched by the medium, as well as limited information as to how things worked on their side of the veil.  He was quick to point out, however, that most of it was beyond human comprehension. 

One thing that Hare (below) did grasp is that one’s immediate place in the afterlife is determined by a sort of “moral specific gravity,” which is apparently built up during a person’s lifetime based on his or her good works or lack thereof and manifests itself in the person’s aura, which is an energy field.  Hare called it a “circumambient halo” and was told that it passes from darkness to brilliance based on the degree of spirit advancement.  Moreover, one cannot be dishonest with himself after death as the moral specific gravity allows the soul to tolerate only so much light. If the soul were to try to cheat and go to a higher sphere, he or she would not be able to tolerate the light there.  Nevertheless, the soul can continue to advance from that point.


Hare further concluded that only a few humans are endowed with an aura that allows them to be competent as mediums and that there was a wide range of ability among mediums, only a few of them of the “higher order.”

Seemingly consistent with this moral specific gravity idea is the explanation given to Frederick C. Schulthorp during his early twentieth century astral projections or out-of-body experiences.  Schulthorp was told by spirits 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, has a specific rate of vibration and 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.

Sometime in 1892, Edward C. Randall, a prominent Buffalo, New York trial lawyer and businessman, was asked by a friend to accompany him on a visit to Emily S. French, a Rochester woman who, Randall was told, had strange powers and received messages from spirits by means of the direct-voice method of mediumship. Over the next 20 years, Randall sat with French more than 700 times, recording the messages from various spirits.  He pointed out that each voice had individuality and that they varied greatly, just as they do in earth life.  One such voice reported: “Every thought, being material, creates a condition about us and is retained in the brain.  When, therefore, anyone goes out of this life and enters the etheric, where everything, the good and the bad, is intensified beyond measure, the storehouse of the brain is opened and he is confronted with the record made.  Nothing is forgotten.”

Dr. Carl Gustav Jung, the eminent Swiss psychiatrist, told of a near-death experience he had after a heart attack in 1944. “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.’”

While Reichenbach called the energy field od, or odyle, or odic force, other researchers called it psychic force, teleplasm and ectoplasm. It has been likened to the prana of the ancient Hindus, the vis medicatrix naturae of Hippocrates, the mana of Polynesian culture, the chi of the Chinese,  the astral light of the Kabbalists, the telesma of Hermes Trismegistus, the magnetic fluid of Mesmer and the orgone energy of Dr. Wilhelm Reich.

Marjorie Aarons, a healing medium, wondered how her ability to heal worked.  White Feather (probably the name of a group soul) explained it to her through the renowned medium Lilian Bailey: “Your aura is like a gigantic spider-web, pulsating with many wavelengths upon which we can transmit the magnetic flow of cosmic rays. You are the machine; we are the batteries, the electricity.  Your batteries are always tuned in whenever we need to transmit cosmic power.  Your hands take the great flow of magnetism.  Through them the power comes streaming, but it can be received by the patient only through his aura.  But remember, if the patient has only a little, thick aura, that means he is very selfish. He will be unable to receive to any great extent that magnetic flow of healing power.”

On another occasion, White Feather communicated: “There is the soul flame, the real YOU which is enveloped by a physical body.  Around the soul flame is the soul aura which, when someone is spiritually awakened, is wide and shimmers with the magnetism that comes to it.  Then there is a vacuum – nothing. Also, there is the outer aura…..your physical aura.  As your thoughts flow through it, we see its colours change. We observe your despair and happiness.”

In his 1964 book, The Light and the Gate, physicist Raynor Johnson, Master of Queen’s College, University of Melbourne,  devotes a section to his mystical friend, Ambrose Pratt.  “He made no secret to me of a faculty which he had possessed as far back into childhood as he could remember,” Johnson wrote, “of seeing an aura surrounding the human form (also around some animals and trees).  He considered the human aura to be partly a quasi-physical luminescence, the nature of which changed considerably with the condition of health of the individual….The faintness or brilliance, transparency or opacity, conveyed to him definite impressions.  He told me that in some cases where he had known a particular disease was present, he had noticed associated changes in the aura, and he had no doubt that he could diagnose such a condition in a stranger.”

In his 1972 book, Blueprint for Immortality, Harold S. Burr, a former professor of anatomy at Yale medical school, advanced his “Electrodynamic Theory of Life,” which held that all living things are surrounded by a measurable electromagnetic field, one that has the ability to organize thoughts and experiences. He designed and devised a “voltmeter” which supposedly could predict when individuals would feel “at their best” or “below par,” and he speculated that his method might someday measure states of grief, anger and love.  However, he doubted that Science would make such progress, “because Nature seems reluctant to reveal her secrets to the intellectually arrogant.”

Michael Tymn is the author of The Afterlife Revealed: What Happens After We Die, Resurrecting Leonora Piper: How Science Discovered the Afterlife, and Dead Men Talking: Afterlife Communication from World War I.

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Famous Physicist Explains Spirit Communication Difficulties

Posted on 24 June 2019, 8:47

On October 18, 1929, Sir Oliver Lodge, a renowned British physicist, 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. Lodge, a pioneer in electricity, radio, and the spark plug, and former president of the British Association for the Advancement of Science, had befriended Myers in 1884 and joined him in 1889 for the SPR’s investigation of American trance medium Leonora Piper, who had been invited to England by the SPR.

Like so many other scientists caught up in the wake of Darwinism, Lodge (below) had become a materialist, not believing in anything spiritual.  However, he remained open-minded on the subject and was intrigued by the idea that one person could read another’s mind, something he had observed around 1883 in a stage performer called Irving Bishop.  “The verification of the fact of telepathy, indicating obscurely a kind of dislocation between mind and body, was undoubtedly impressive, so that it began to seem probable, especially under Myers’s tuition, that the two – mind and body – were not inseparably connected, as I had been led by my previous studies under Clifford, Tyndall, and Huxley to believe they were,” Lodge explained his change of mind.  “I began to feel that there was a possibility of the survival of personality.”

Lodge’s carried out 83 experiments with Mrs. Piper during her visit to England in 1889.  “Detailed knowledge of my relations was shown, and in particular an aunt of mine, to whom I have been indebted, either directly or indirectly, for much of my post-school education, ostensibly came and delivered messages,” he told the audience during that 1929 lecture. “My aunt reminded me that she had promised to come and report if she found it possible after her death, but she was a religious woman, with an orthodox faith in survival, though with no knowledge of the psychic side or the possibility of communication.”  Especially convincing to Lodge was the fact that his aunt took possession of Piper for a short period and spoke to him in her well-remembered voice. Over those 83 sittings, Lodge gradually came to accept that he was in touch with the departed and further that it went well beyond mental telepathy. (Much more about Lodge and his study of Mrs. Piper can be found in my book, Resurrecting Leonora Piper: How Science Discovered the Afterlife)

“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,” Lodge continued his lecture.  “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…” (Raymond Lodge was killed in battle during the Great War.)

Much of the communication from Myers (below) and Raymond Lodge came through the mediumship of British trance medium Gladys Osborne Leonard, following Raymond’s death in 1915.  When Leonard entered the trance state, her spirit control, named Feda, began using her voice mechanism and communicated in a voice significantly different from that of Mrs. Leonard. It was from Feda that Lodge learned of some of the difficulties spirits had in communicating. He recalled one sitting in which both Myers and Raymond had communicated before Feda again took control of Leonard. “I do not think I have to told you about this before, but there are times when Feda is not really communicating, but her shadow is,” Lodge quoted Feda, who usually referred to herself in the third person.


“Mr. Fred (Myers) can explain,” Feda continued, her grammar often faulty.  “Did you know what a thought-form is, something that you might send a long way off and the thought-form might even speak?  When you go that way you get things you want to say mixed up with other things.”  Lodge asked Feda if she was saying that what she tells him is not quite dependable.

“No, it is like going in a dream,” Feda replied. “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.” Feda then said that Myers wanted to take over and further explain.

“You talk about secondary personalities when you are in the body,” Lodge quoted Myers for the audience, pointing out that Myers came through in a different style than Feda.  “On our plane, in our condition, we have no secondary personalities, but when once we have established communication with your side and got a mental image of ourselves in your conditions, we may have a 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 many mile 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.”

Feda came back briefly, commenting, “Mr. Fred is very interested in this.” But Myers spoke up immediately:  “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 often enter into dreams. That is apt to be the same in what Feda terms the shadow self.”

Lodge told the audience that his wife, Mary, had recently transitioned and had joined the group with Myers.  He explained that she had overcome her initial repugnance to the subject long before her death.  When she communicated through Mrs. Leonard, he asked her about the so-called secondary personalities of the mediums.  Before she could respond, Raymond broke in and said, “Mother is awfully enthusiastic about all this, Father. I have had to hold her back.”  Sir Oliver asked Mary if she could talk with Phinuit, who had been Mrs. Piper’s spirit control when he first experimented with her in 1889.  “Not very much,” Mary replied.  To which Feda said, “What a funny answer.”  Mary Lodge 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, but 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.”

Sir Oliver then asked Mary if she had met John King, who had been the spirit control for Florence Cook,  Eusapia Palladino, and others.  “Yes, very much in the same way,” Mary answered. “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.”  Sir Oliver commented that there is something odd about the personalities like John King and Phinuit, to which Feda reacted by asking if she (Feda) was odd.  Sir Oliver answered that his wife had not yet discussed her.

“There is one thing I want to explain to you,” Mary Lodge continued. “When people belong to each other through long association through love, through fleshly 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 for people on earth as a kind of compensation for his shortcoming while in the body. He probably chose to work with and through a certain i