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Remembering History’s Forgotten Man – Alfred Russel Wallace

Posted on 23 September 2013, 12:57

Nearly everyone knows who Charles Darwin was, but very few people today recognize the name of Alfred Russel Wallace, (below) co-originator with Darwin of the natural selection theory of evolution.  While history has given Darwin all of the credit, it is well documented that Wallace was working independently of Darwin on a parallel theory and that he provided Darwin with his research on the subject, including the “survival of the fittest” concept.  When the ideas were made public before the Linnaean Society in London in 1858, it was referred to as the Darwin-Wallace paper.

wallace

Probably the main reason Darwin gets all the credit today is because his 1859 book, On the Origin of Species, really brought it to the public attention.  But another reason may be that Wallace’s reputation among the scientific fundamentalists of the day was tainted by his interest in Spiritualism.  Certain that “evolution” had pulled the rug out from under the whole idea of a spiritual universe and all the other superstitions of religion, those narrow-minded scientists simply couldn’t believe that Wallace could be so stupid as to believe such fable and folly.  Thus, when it came to writing or talking about evolution, Wallace’s name was ignored.  .

A British naturalist and explorer, Wallace (1823-1913) arrived at his conclusions concerning natural selection after years of travel in wilderness areas, including the Amazon and the Malay Archipelago.  As we approach the 100th anniversary of Wallace’s death on November 7, I thought it a good time to resurrect my “interview” of some seven or eight years ago with him.  This “interview” is based on many of his papers, including those assembled in Miracles and Modern Spiritualism, published in 1896 by George Redway, London.  All responses below are verbatim from the various papers, except for the Americanization of such words as skeptic (sceptic) and color (colour).  The questions have been tailored and arranged to fit the answers.

Sir, what were your early views relative to spiritual matters?
“Up to the time when I first became acquainted with the facts of Spiritualism, I was a confirmed philosophical skeptic, rejoicing in the works of Voltaire, Strauss, and Carl Vogt, and an ardent admirer (as I still am) of Herbert Spencer.  I was so thorough and confirmed a materialist that I could not at that time find a place in my mind for the conception of spiritual existence, or for any other agencies in the universe than matter and force.” 

So what changed your mind?
“My curiosity was at first excited by some slight but inexplicable phenomena occurring in a friend’s family, and my desire for knowledge and love of truth forced me to continue the inquiry.  The facts became more and more assured, more and more varied, more and more removed from anything that modern science taught or modern philosophy speculated on.  The facts beat me. They compelled me to accept them as facts long before I could accept the spiritual explanation of them; there was at that time no place in my fabric of thought into which it could be fitted. By slow degrees a place was made; but it was made, not by any preconceived or theoretical opinions, but by the continuous action of fact after fact, which could not be got rid of in any other way.”

Would you mind elaborating on that occurrence with the friend’s family?
“It was in the summer of 1865 that I first witnessed any of the phenomena of what is called Spiritualism, in the house of a friend – a skeptic, a man of science, and a lawyer, with none but members of his own family present.  Sitting at a good-sized round table, with our hands placed upon it, after a short time slight movements would commence, and not often ‘turnings’ or ‘tiltings,’ but a gentle intermittent movement like steps, which after a time would bring the table quite across the room. Slight but distinct tapping sounds were also heard.  They gradually increased; the taps became very distinct, and the table moved considerably, obliging us all to shift our chairs.”

What did you make of that?
“That there is an unknown power developed from the bodies of a number of persons placed in connection by sitting around a table with all their hands upon it.  And the fact that we often sat half an hour in one position without a single sound, and that the phenomena never progressed further than I have related, weighs I think very strongly against the supposition that a family of four highly intelligent and well-educated persons should occupy themselves for so many weary hours in carrying out what would be so poor and unmeaning a deception.” 

Did you witness other phenomena after that?
“In September 1865, I began a series of visits to Mrs. Marshall (a London medium), generally accompanied by a friend – a good chemist and mechanic, and of a thoroughly skeptical mind.  What we witnessed may be divided into two classes of phenomena – physical and mental.  Both were very numerous and varied.” 

I gather from your various writings that you gradually came to accept the spirit hypothesis?  Would you mind explaining that?
“Perhaps the most important characteristic of these phenomena [is that] they are from beginning to end essentially human.  They come to us with human ideas; they make use of human speech, of writing and drawing; they manifest wit and logic, humor, and pathos, that we can all appreciate and enjoy; the communications vary in character as those of human beings; some rank with the lowest, some with the highest, but all are essentially human.  When the spirits speak audibly, the voice is a human voice; when they appear visible, the hands and the faces are absolutely human; when we can touch the forms and examine them closely we find them human in character, not those of any other kind of being.  The photographs are always the photographs of our fellow creatures; never those of demons or angels and animals.  When hands, feet or faces are produced in paraffin moulds they are all in minutest details those of men and women, though not those of the medium.  All of these various phenomena are of this human character.”

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

What about the theory holding that medium has a secondary personality which is somehow giving rise to all the phenomena?
“But is this so-called explanation any real explanation, or anything more than a juggle of words which creates more difficulties than it solves?  The conception of such a double personality in each of us, a second-self, which in most cases remains unknown to us all our lives, which is said to live an independent mental life, to have means of acquiring knowledge our normal self does not possess, to exhibit all the characteristics of a distinct individuality with a different character from our own, is surely a conception more ponderously difficult, more truly supernatural than that of a spirit world, composed of beings who have lived, and learned, and suffered on earth, and whose mental nature still subsists after its separation from the earthly body.  On the second-self theory, we have to suppose that this recondite but worser half of ourselves, while possessing some knowledge we have not, does not know that it is part of us, or, if it knows, is a persistent liar, for in most cases it adopts a distinct name, and persists in speaking of us, its better half, in the third person. [But] there is yet another and I think a more fundamental objection to this view, in the impossibility of conceiving how or why this second-self was developed in us under the law of survival of the fittest. This cumbrous and unintelligible hypothesis finds great favor with those who have always been accustomed to regard the belief in a spirit-world, and more particularly a belief that the spirits of our dead friends can and do sometimes communicate with us, as unscientific, unphilosophical, and superstitious.” 

So you feel the spirit hypothesis is definitely a scientific one?
“Why it should be unscientific more than any other hypothesis which alone serves to explain intelligibly a great body of facts has never been explained.  The antagonism which it excites seems to be mainly due to the fact that it is, and has long been in some form or other, the belief of the religious world and of the ignorant and superstitious of all ages, while a total disbelief in spiritual existence has been the distinctive badge of modern scientific skepticism.” 

Do you feel there is as much evidence for survival as there is for biological evolution?
“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.”

The skeptics often point to the trivial nature of mediumistic messages.  Do you have any thoughts on that?
“The trivial and fantastic nature of the acts of some of these disembodied spirits is not to be wondered at when we consider the myriads of trivial and fantastic human beings who are daily becoming spirits, and who retain, for a time at least, their human natures in their new condition. So if we realize to ourselves the fact that spirits can in most cases only communicate with us in certain very limited modes, we shall see that the true ‘triviality’ consists in objecting to any mode of mental converse as being trivial or undignified.”

Materialists often say that you believe what you do simply because there is a will or need to believe.  Can you objectively say that is not the case with you?
“For 25 years I had been an utter skeptic as to the existence of any preter-human or super-human intelligence, and that I never for a moment contemplated the possibility that the marvels related by Spiritualism could literally be true.  If I have now changed my opinion, it is simply by the force of evidence.  It is from no dread of annihilation that I have gone into this subject; it is from no inordinate longing for eternal existence that I have come to believe in facts which render this highly probable, if they do not actually prove it.  At least three times during my travels I have had to face death as imminent or probable within a few hours, and what I felt on those occasions was at most a gentle melancholy at the thought of quitting this wonderful and beautiful earth to enter on a sleep which might know no waking.  In a state of ordinary health I did not feel even this. I knew that the great problem of conscious existence was one beyond man’s grasp, and this fact alone gave some hope that existence might be independent of the organized body.  I came to the inquiry, therefore, utterly unbiased by hopes or fears, because I knew that my belief could not affect the reality, and with an ingrained prejudice against even such a word as ‘spirit,’ which I have hardly yet overcome.” 

What do you say to those members of orthodox religion who seem to be satisfied with faith alone and ask what the use of spirit communication is?
“It substitutes a definite, real, and practical conviction for a vague, theoretical, and unsatisfying faith.  It furnishes actual knowledge on a matter of vital importance to all men and most advanced thinkers have held, and still hold, that no knowledge was attainable.” 

Thank you, Dr. Wallace. Any parting thoughts?
“If a man die shall he live again?  This is the question which in all ages has troubled the souls of men; the prophets and the wise men of antiquity were in doubt as to the answer to be given it.  Philosophy has always discussed it as one of the unsolved problems of humanity, while modern science instead of clearing up the difficulty and giving us renewed hope, either ignores the question altogether or advances powerful arguments against the affirmative reply.  Yet the ultimate decision arrived at, whether in the negative or affirmative, is not only of vital interest to each of us individually, but is calculated, I believe, to determine the future welfare or misery of mankind.  If the question should be finally decided in the negative, if all men without exception ever come to believe that there is no life beyond this life, if children were all brought up to believe that the only happiness they can ever enjoy will be upon earth, then it seems to me that the condition of man would be altogether hopeless, because there would cease to be any adequate motive for justice, for truth, for unselfishness, and no sufficient reason could be given to the poor man, to the bad man, or to the selfish man, why he should not seek his own personal welfare at the cost of others.” 

Michael Tymn is the author of The Afterlife Revealed: What Happens After We Die is published by White Crow Books. His latest book, Resurrecting Leonora Piper: How Science Discovered the Afterlife is now available on Amazon and other online book stores. 

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Next blog 7th October


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Overcoming Grief from the Loss of a Loved One

Posted on 09 September 2013, 11:01

Basically, as I have observed it over 76 years of living, there are four ways of grieving and dealing with the death of a loved one:

1 - Uncontrolled Despair – characterized by uncontrolled outward behavior, including wailing, collapsing, turning to alcohol and drugs, shutting out others, and utter hopelessness, possibly even suicide.

2.  Controlled Despair –  characterized by controlled outward behavior but with great anguish, despondency, and inner turmoil; avoids the self-centeredness and destructive behavior of the uncontrolled griever; might display hopelessness or little hope based on blind faith.  .

despair

3. Stoic Resignation – characterized by very little outward display of emotion while quickly returning to one’s usual routine; difficult to tell if the person lives with any religious hope.   

4. Contemplative Expectation – characterized by significant sadness but with hopefulness based on the conviction that the loved one lives on in another dimension of reality and that there will be a reunion with that loved one in the future.

The line separating controlled despair from stoic resignation is often blurred, and for some people those four ways of dealing with grief are stages.  The person might begin with uncontrolled despair, move to controlled despair after a week or two, and then to stoic resignation after a month or so   However, I have encountered only a few people who have started with number 4.  Usually, they arrive there after many months of searching and seeking for answers and comfort.  .

In his book, Soul Shift, Mark Ireland (below) explains how he was able to move into the fourth group after the death of his 18-year-old son Brandon on January 10, 2004, the result of a severe asthma attack and heart failure while hiking in some rugged Arizona mountains. 

mark

“Initially after this tragic event I mourned, cried, and struggled to carry on,” Ireland writes.  “After a little while I began to heal, even though I still missed Brandon very much.  In the time that passed, first months then years, I actually began to feel in a strange and almost wonderful way that everything in my life led me to this point. As difficult as this loss was for me to accept, perhaps it was actually necessary for my own evolution.”

Ireland had something of an advantage over most people, as his father, Richard Ireland, was a medium and Spiritualist minister before he transitioned in 1992.  “His talents included clairvoyance, precognition, x-ray clairvoyance, spirit communication, and much more,” Ireland explains, going on to say that he did not really appreciate his father’s gifts until after Brandon transitioned.  He just took them for granted and didn’t give them much thought until after that tragic day in 2004.  .

Two days after Brandon’s passing over, Ireland received a phone call from his uncle, Robert,  who, like his brother, also had mediumistic ability, although not as developed.  He told Mark that he had heard from Mark’s father, who said that Brandon was initially confused when he left the body, but he (grandfather Richard) was there to greet him and help him adjust.  He explained that Brandon’s heart failed due to lack of oxygen , and while he experienced shortness of breath, he felt no pain.  At the time, the cause of Brandon’s death was unknown, although the skeptic’s would call it a logical guess by the uncle along with wishful thinking.

About seven months later, Mark Ireland consulted renowned medium Allison DuBois, receiving much in the way of evidential information, including a comment, “Exit stage left,” something Richard observed Mark and his sister often humor over when watching a favorite cartoon character, Snaglepuss, during their childhood years.  Most comforting was communication from Brandon, who told his father that he was often with his grandfather.

“What had begun with Brandon and a wish not to absolutely lose someone I loved so much had turned into a quest to find the elusive meaning behind life and death and perhaps even to discover that no one is really lost,” Ireland explains.  “Brandon was central to my search, but he was no longer the only target.”

Continuing his quest, Mark sat with mediums Linda Williamson, Jamie Clark, and Laurie Campbell, receiving evidential communication and comforting words from all of them. .  Through Clark, Richard Ireland congratulated Mark and his wife, Susie, on having recently celebrated their 25th anniversary, a very evidential message.  Clark described Brandon’s death, saying that Brandon was showing him cactus and “desert stuff,” and that someone had stayed with him while someone else went for help, facts which were confirmed as fact. 

When Steven, Brandon’s older brother, sat with Clark, he was told that Brandon was referencing a photo in which they had their arms around each other.  There were mountains in the background and something like a bridge or rail behind them.  The medium said it reminded him of Hawaii.  Although Steven couldn’t immediately remember the photo, his mother later located it.  The picture had been taken at an elevated lookout in Hawaii some five years earlier, a wooden rail behind them, and both boys with arms around each other. 

Mark Ireland came to realize that there is much “static” in the messages coming through mediums, as the mediums must interpret what they are seeing or hearing and sometimes interpret it wrong or are unable to interpret it at all. “The gaps and frustrating fragments must speak to the real separation of the realms and their meanings,” he writes, accepting the fact that the “hits” he received during his sittings were far beyond chance guessing and did not result from “cold reading” or “fishing,” as the debunkers would claim.

While Ireland sees mediumship as an imperfect form of communication, he says that it definitely help alleviate his residual pain. “It also provided me with great confidence – not only in life after death but in confirming that I was on the right path and that the things happening in my life were beyond coincidence.” He adds that it took Brandon’s physical death for him to begin seeing things in more philosophical and spiritual terms, while seeking out deeper meaning.

“When something like this happens, you have two options,” Ireland offers.  “You can either give up on life or move forward, directing your energy toward something positive, to help other people.”  As cofounder of Helping Parents Heal, Ireland is doing just that.  See www.helpingparentsheal.info for more information on that organization.  He is also working on a second book, Messages From The Afterlife: A Bereaved Father’s Journey In The World Of Spirit Visitations, Psychic-Mediums, And Synchronicity, due to be released this December.

Mark’s website is at http://www.markirelandauthor.com/

Michael Tymn is the author of The Afterlife Revealed: What Happens After We Die is published by White Crow Books. His latest book, Resurrecting Leonora Piper: How Science Discovered the Afterlife is now available on Amazon and other online book stores. 

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Next blog: post:  September 9  


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