Scientific Research Suggests Contact with the “Dead”
Posted on 28 December 2010, 9:34
Co-founder and Director of Research at The Windbridge Institute for Applied Research in Human Potential in Tucson, Arizona, Julie Beischel, Ph.D, is one of the leading consciousness researchers in the world today. Her focus has been on communication purportedly coming from discarnates through mediums.
Dr. Beischel received her doctorate in pharmacology and toxicology with a minor in microbiology and immunology from the University of Arizona. She is currently a member of the Parapsychological Association and the Society for Scientific Exploration and a member of the scientific advisory boards of the Rhine Research Center and Forever Family Foundation. Her academic training in several interdisciplinary scientific fields allows her to design and apply traditional research methods to investigating more unconventional topics of study. Her peer-reviewed articles have been published in a number of scientific journals.
According to its website (http://www.windbridge.org), the Windbridge Institute “is concerned with asking: What can we do with the potential that exists within our bodies, minds, and spirits? Can we heal each other? Ourselves? Can we affect events and physical reality with our thoughts? Can we know things before they happen? Are we connected to each other? To the planet? Can we communicate with our loved ones who have passed?”
I recently had the opportunity to interview Dr. Beischel for the December issue of “The Searchlight,” a quarterly publication of the Academy of Spirituality and Paranormal Studies, Inc.
(http://www.aspsi.org) Here is that interview:
How did you become interested in psychical research and mediumship?
“Science has always been in my blood, but it was always the more traditional sciences. I didn’t even know what a medium was until questions about the afterlife showed up in my backyard. When my mother committed suicide when I was 24, I turned to science for the answers to my questions. Through a series of interesting “coincidences,” I was able to begin performing survival and mediumship research after I received my PhD in 2003 and I have been doing so ever since. I quickly discovered that there was something interesting going on and a lot of research questions that still needed answers.”
Where does the name Windbridge come from?
“When Mark Boccuzzi and I decided to start our own independent research institute almost three years ago, we wanted a name that referenced the dichotomy of human existence; one part intangible (mind, spirit, or soul) and one part material (body). Like spirit, one cannot hold, weigh, or see wind, but it is very powerful. And like the body, a bridge is quite substantial and allows us to connect with the rest of the world. ‘Bridge’ also makes reference to a medium’s role as a bridge between this world and the next.”
Your web site states that survival research is your primary focus. Would you mind summarizing your findings to date relative to survival?
“At this point, we can definitively state from the results of our proof-focused research that certain mediums are capable of what we call anomalous information reception (or AIR). That is, they can report accurate and specific information about deceased individuals (or discarnates) without any prior knowledge about the discarnates or sitters (the living people interested in hearing from the discarnates), without any feedback during the reading, and without using fraud or deception. The quintuple-blind protocol we use effectively eliminates all the explanations that a skeptic may claim are responsible for a medium’s apparent accuracy: fraud, experimenter cueing, information so general it could apply to anyone, rater bias, and ‘cold reading’ (a situation in which a medium uses cues from a present sitter to fabricate an ‘accurate’ reading). The readings take place on the phone between a medium and a blinded experimenter; sitters do not hear the readings as they take place and they later score blinded transcripts.
“Though we can demonstrate AIR, we cannot determine the anomalous source of the mediums’ information using proof-focused research. In addition to survival of consciousness, the super psi and psychic reservoir theories are also supported by the data. To address that issue, we use process-focused research in which we systematically investigate the mediums’ experiences. We have found that—though there are some similarities between mediums’ experiences when receiving psychic information about the living and when communicating with the deceased—they report being able to differentiate between the two varied experiences. We are still conducting studies on this process-focused research front.
“In addition, we are very interested in applied mediumship research and determining how mediumship readings may be beneficial in society. Currently, this involves a research program investigating the therapeutic effects of readings from credentialed mediums in the treatment of grief. From the initial data we have collected, it appears that mediumship readings may indeed have several advantages over both traditional grief therapy and spontaneous personal after-death communication experiences. I am excited to start a larger study on this topic once we can locate funding for such a project.”
The old researchers like Myers, Hodgson, Lodge, Hyslop, et al., at some point professed a belief in survival, but many of today’s researchers seem to think that they must forever remain on the fence if they are to be perceived as “scientific.” What is your position on that? If you find evidence strongly suggesting survival and publish that, do you suddenly become a propagandist rather than a scientist?
“It’s a fine line around which I continue to tip-toe. Back in my traditional science days, no one would ever refer to me as a “believer” in the effect of a drug or a virus on the body, but if I were to announce that mediums can report accurate information about the deceased under blinded conditions (which I regularly do), I run the risk of being labeled a proponent or believer and viewed as some kind of zealot even though I am simply drawing the appropriate conclusion from the statistics performed on data collected using a properly designed protocol. It is a strange position in which scientists in other fields do not find themselves.
“However, I would like to point out that the modern mediumship research era differs considerably from the early days of the Society for Psychical Research in its use of technology (for example, digital recording, e-mail scoring, three-way phone calls, etc.) as well as the characteristics of the medium participants (for example, the Windbridge Certified Research Mediums do not enter a trance state during readings and do not associate their mediumship with a specific religious belief system such as Spiritualism), so grouping all the data together may not be appropriate. Thus, the new era is still in its infancy and I truly don’t think enough data has been collected to make any firm conclusions about the source of mediums’ information. I will say that taking into account only the proof- and process-focused mediumship data I have collected myself, I am certainly leaning toward survival and away from the alternative psi hypotheses.”
What is the focus of your current research?
“Currently, to provide more evidence regarding anomalous information reception, we are collecting data to replicate and extend a previously published proof-focused study. We are also screening new prospective Windbridge Certified Research Mediums and collecting phenomenological data about mediums’ experiences during communication which will allow us to determine if any specific dimensions of consciousness correlate with reading accuracy. We also recently completed an instrumental transcommunication (ITC) study of real-time communication using EVPMaker software and presented research on animal psi as well as photographic orbic artifacts at academic conferences. Perhaps most importantly, we are finishing up a paper proposing the positive therapeutic potential of mediumship readings in the treatment of grief. (More information about our presentations and papers can be found here: http://www.windbridge.org/publications.htm.)”
Has there been one medium or one case that has been particularly evidential to you?
“One medium or one reading can always be dismissed as a fluke. Therefore, at the Windbridge Institute, we are interested in collecting data from numerous mediums. That way, it is more evidential of a widespread phenomenon or ability.
“Personally, I think it is the compilation of all the readings and data I’ve collected together that provides the most evidence. It is witnessing over and over numerous mediums able to report accurate and specific information about the deceased under effectively blinded conditions and observing what seems to be communication with a volitional entity rather than the acquisition of information stored in some kind of etheric database.”
What has been the biggest obstacle in your research?
“Without question: funding. Survival of consciousness is not an area of research funded by any government grants or by any but a handful of private foundations. I have noticed that the lay public sometimes assumes that scientists do the research that they want to do when the reality is that all but a few scientists simply do the research they can get funded to do. This is true everywhere—at universities, for example, research is paid for by grants (and sometimes by private donations), not by the university. I do not fit into that majority of scientists and my position out here in the fringe is both a blessing and a curse: I get to perform research that interests me and that I find monumentally important and socially relevant but, at the same time, I cannot afford luxuries like health insurance, a car manufactured during this century, or restaurant food. It is not surprising that more people aren’t working in this field and that it takes so long for us to accomplish anything: I can’t afford the necessary equipment and personnel to perform the types and number of studies I’d like to do.”
Based on history, mainstream science will never accept evidence for survival or even for ESP in general. Do you see your research as being able to make a dent in that mindset?
“We don’t worry about what the mainstream has to say about anything. Changes don’t come about in the mainstream; they happen at the edges. Our focus is on the practical social applications of survival research—how it can serve society—and a mediumship reading isn’t going to help heal a grieving parent or spouse any less based on what the currently accepted mainstream paradigm happens to be.”
How can people get involved with the Windbridge Institute?
“There are a number of simple ways people can stay connected with us online. For example, people can sign up to volunteer as research sitters (http://www.windbridge.org/sitters.html), find us on Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/windbridge.institute), check out my blog (“http://drjuliebeischel.blogspot.com”) or become members http://www.windbridge.org/members.htm. More ways to get involved and stay connected can be found by visiting http://www.windbridge.org/connect.html. Thank you for your interest in independent research at the Windbridge Institute!”
Next blog post: January 10-11
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Admiral tells of drowning and what happened after.
Posted on 13 December 2010, 9:53
Pseudoskeptics and debunkers claim that lack of oxygen to the brain explains the tunnel effect reported by many people who have had a near-death experience (NDE) and that the other things reported are a product of fantasy, imagination, hallucination, and expectations. Before Dr. Raymond Moody named the NDE and popularized it in his 1975 best-selling book Life After Life, very few people were aware of the phenomenon and so there was little, if any, expectation. Now that many books on the subject have been published the expectation factor is more of a consideration. That is, the pseudoskeptics can now claim that people have been “programmed” to imagine similar experiences. And so it is that some of the very old NDEs give credibility to the newer ones, since those experiencers were likely not expecting anything.
Three very intriguing NDEs have been reported in prior blog posts here and can be found in the “Features” section: They are titled “The Most Dynamic NDE You’ll Ever Read About,” “The Physician Who Watched Himself Die,” and “An Early Near-Death Experience.” I recently came across another very interesting NDE involving a very credible person, one not likely to have made up such a story. It was in an 1863 book, From Matter to Spirit, authored by Sophia Elizabeth De Morgan, the wife of the renowned British mathematician and logician Augustus De Morgan, who wrote a lengthy Preface to the book setting forth his 10 years of experience in investigating psychic phenomena.
The NDE was reported by British Rear Admiral Sir Francis Beaufort (1774 to 1857), (below) who is most remembered today for devising the Beaufort Wind Scales. After his retirement from the Royal Navy, Beaufort served as a council member of the Royal Society, the Royal Observatory, and the Royal Geographic Society, the latter of which he was a founding member. After telling his experience to his physician, a Dr. Wollaston, he was asked to provide a detailed account in writing.
The experience took place sometime around 1795, when he was a young sailor on one His Majesty’s ships in Portsmouth harbor. Beaufort wrote that he was sculling about in a small boat endeavoring to fasten the boat to a ship when he stepped upon the gunwale, lost his balance, and fell into the water. Not knowing how to swim, he splashed about before he began to sink below the surface. “All hope had fled, all exertion ceased, and I felt that I was drowning,” Beaufort related in the lengthy letter to Dr. Wollaston. While his plight came to the attention of others, it took a minute or two for them to reach him.
Beaufort went on to say that one would assume that a drowning person is too much occupied in the struggle or too much absorbed by alternate hope and despair to remember what happened. “Not so, however, with the fact which immediately ensured,” he wrote. “My mind had then undergone the sudden revolution which appeared to you (Wollaston) so remarkable, and all the circumstances of which are now so vividly fresh in my memory as if they had occurred but yesterday.”
He continued the story (emphasis mine): “From the moment that all exertion had ceased – which I imagine was the immediate consequence of complete suffocation – a calm feeling of the most perfect tranquility succeeded the most tumultuous sensation. It might be called apathy, certainly not resignation; for drowning no longer appeared an evil; I no longer thought of being rescued, nor was I in any bodily pain. On the contrary, my sensations were now of rather a pleasurable cast, partaking of that dull but contented sort of feeling which precedes the sleep produced by fatigue. Though the senses were thus deadened, not so the mind; its activity seemed to be invigorated in a ratio which defies all description; for thought rose after thought with a rapidity of succession that is not only indescribably, but probably inconceivable, by anyone who has been himself in a similar situation. The course of these thoughts I can even now in a great measure retrace: the event that had just taken place, the awkwardness which produced it – the bustle it must have occasioned, for I had observed two persons jump from the chains – the effect it would have on a most affectionate father, the manner in which he would disclose it to the rest of the family, and thousand other circumstances minutely associated with home, were the first series of reflections that occurred.”
His life then played back before him. “Our last cruise – a former voyage and shipwreck – my school, the progress I had made there, the time had misspent, and even all my boyish pursuits and adventures. Thus, traveling backwards, every incident of my past life seemed to me to glance across my recollection in retrograde procession; not, however, in mere outline as here stated, but the picture filled up with every minute and collateral feature; in short, the whole period of my existence seemed to be placed before me in a kind of panoramic view, and each act of it seemed to be accompanied by a consciousness of right or wrong, or by some reflection on its cause of consequence – indeed many trifling events, which had been long forgotten, then crowded into my imagination, and with the character of recent familiarity.”
Beaufort then speculated on the meaning of it all. “May not all this be some indication of the almost infinite power of memory with which we may awaken in another world, and be compelled to contemplate our past lives? Or might it not, in some degree, warrant the inference that death is only a change or modification or our existence, in which there is no real pause or interruption? But however that may be, one circumstance was highly remarkable, that the innumerable ideas which floated into my mind were all retrospective; yet I had been religiously brought up; my hopes and fears of the next world had lost nothing of their early strength, and at any other period intense interest and awful anxiety would have been excited by the mere idea that I was floating on the threshold of eternity; yet at that inexplicable moment, when I had full consciousness that I had already crossed that threshold, not a single thought wandered into the future; I was wrapped entirely in the past. The length of time that was occupied by this deluge of ideas, or rather the shortness of time into which they were condensed, I cannot now state with precision; yet, certainly, two minutes could not have elapsed from the moment of suffocation to the time of my being hauled up.”
Author De Morgan noted that such reports after sudden death are rare, but that there are many similar stories related by those dying from prolonged illness. “…the soul often returns to the scenes of childhood, and seems to wander with its first friends in the earliest home. But a few hours before death not only is the presence of already gone friends discerned, but perceptions of beautiful scenery, sounds of exquisite music, and sometimes even the objects required for a long journey, seem to be present to the mind of the departing traveler…It is as if the walls of the prison giving way, the captive before his escape looks sometimes through one, and sometimes another opening, into the region beyond, whence the friendly inhabitants some to guide him on his way.”
The experience of Horace Abraham Ackley, M.D., of Cleveland, Ohio reported by De Morgan was not a near-death experience. It was an actual experience as communicated through a medium. Ackley reported:
“I experienced but very little suffering during the last few days of my life, though at first there were struggles, and my features were distorted; but I learned, after my spirit had burst its barriers and was freed from its connection with the external body, that these were produced by it in an attempt to sever this connection, which in all cases is more or less difficult; the vital points of contact being suddenly broken by disease, the union in other portions of the system is necessarily severed with violence, but, as far as I have learned, without consciousness of pain. Like many others, I found that I was unable to leave the form at once. I could feel myself gradually raised from my body, and in a dreamy, half-conscious state. It seemed as through I was not a united being – that I was separated into parts, and yet despite of this there seemed to be an indissoluble connecting link. My spirit was freed a short time after the organs of my physical body had entirely ceased to perform their functions. My spiritual form was then united into one, and I was raised a short distance above the body, standing over it by what power I was unable to tell. I could see those who were in the room around me, and knew by what was going on that a considerable time must have elapsed since dissolution had taken place, and I presume I must have been for a time unconscious; and this I find is a common experience, not however, universal.
Ackley then reported his life review. “As consciousness returned to me, the scenes of my whole life seemed to move before me like a panorama; every act seemed as through it were drawn in life size and was really present; it was all there, down to the closing scenes. So rapidly did it pass, that I had little time for reflection. I seemed to be in a whirlpool of excitement; and then, just as suddenly as this panorama had been presented, it was withdrawn, and I was left without a thought of the past or future to contemplate my present condition. I looked around me, and I thought, if there is a possibility of spirits (for I seemed half-conscious now that I was a spirit) manifesting themselves to those still in the form, how gladly would I now do so, and thereby inform my friends and others of my condition, at least as far as I understood it myself, which I confess was not very far. Everything seemed to be in a whirl of motion; scarcely had one desire come, before another was presented. I said to myself, ‘Death is not so bad a thing after all, and I should like to see what the country is that I am going to, if I am a spirit.”
Ackley recalled hearing that guardian spirits are there to welcome the newly arrived soul, but he saw none. “Scarcely had this thought passed through my mind, when two, with whom I was unacquainted, but toward whom I was attracted, appeared before me. They were men of intelligence, but like myself, had given no special attention to the higher principles of spirituality; they knew my name, although I did not reveal it, and they shook hands with me in a hail-fellow-well-met sort of way, that was very pleasant to me.
The two spirits then conducted Ackley from the room in which he had died. “Everything around me seemed shadowy, yet through these shadows they conducted me to a place where there were a number of spirits assembled.; these had been in spirit life a longer time than I had….I remained in conversation with these spirits for some time, and then, without knowing why or how, I was attracted back to the place in which my spirit had separated itself from the form. I then found that I must have been in their company much longer than I supposed, as, contrary to the experience of many whom I have since met, I did not attend my own funeral; and I would here remark, that it is generally gratifying to a spirit to do this, and where the body can be kept for some time, they gladly embrace the opportunity of attending on this ceremony, and listening to and aiding those who officiate on such occasions.”
De Morgan cites another case in which a communicating spirit explained that the difficulty a spirit has in freeing itself from the physical body is in proportion to its “lower desires.”
Next blog entry: December 27-28
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