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On Being Prepared for Death

Posted on 29 January 2018, 9:09

As I was midway through Michael Grosso’s recently reissued book, The Final Choice: Death or Transcendence, my wife’s smartphone beeped (I have a dumbphone, so mine didn’t beep), with an emergency text alert from Hawaii civil defense authorities saying that a ballistic missile was inbound and to seek shelter.  It ended with “This is not a drill.”

As widely reported worldwide, it was a false alarm, someone having pushed the wrong button in the civil defense headquarters.  Due to bureaucratic bumbling, it took 38 minutes for authorities to notify the public that it was a mistake. During those 38 minutes, many residents and visitors who received the message reportedly suffered varying degrees of anxiety and panic attacks.

The “fallout,” as reported by the media and more directly by some friends caught up in the drama, brought to mind the words of the French philosopher Michel de Montaigne:  “They come and they go and they trot and they dance, and never a word about death. All well and good.  Yet, when death does come – to them, their wives, their children, their friends – catching them unawares and unprepared, then what storms of passion overwhelm them, what cries, what fury, what despair!”  In this case, death didn’t come, but many cries and furies were heard, even death threats made against the anonymous button pusher. The State of Hawaii went so far as to establish a Crisis Line for those unable to deal with the emotional distress and in need of counseling.   

All that is not to suggest that those who accept the reality of the survival of consciousness at death would not experience some degree of anxiety at the thought of being annihilated by a nuclear bomb or that they would simply say, “Bring it on!”  It is to suggest, however, that such anxiety might be considerably mitigated by such a belief and that psychological counseling would not be necessary.  The suggestion goes well beyond such a scenario, though, and extends to the way we grieve the deaths of our loved ones.  As August Goforth points out in his recently released book, The Risen: A Companion to Grief, knowing that life continues beyond death makes all things bearable.   

Grosso’s book examines humanity’s attitude toward death – from embracing it, as some mystics have done, to escaping from it, as is so common among the masses today. “Beneath the ceaseless changes of history, death remains a changeless fact of life,” Grosso states in the Introduction. “The fact is constant; the meaning varies from culture to culture and from age to age.  We are at present living through a twilight of worldviews, and nobody quite has the answers, in spite of science, to the perennial questions and great mysteries of life and death.”  He adds that the book is born of the discontent with the materialism of the ruling classes in many places, a discontent that ends “with the core image of nothingness waiting to swallow us up in the last act.”

Grosso further notes that the whole subject of human survival of death seems “unfairly to be ignored and even despised.”  Lacking, he says, is a picture of the world we can live with, one that we can hold onto when death seems near.  “Reductive science smothers us with machines and information,” he offers, “but is useless when it comes to matters of the heart or questions of the soul.”

The author of five other books, including The Man Who Could Fly, discussed in my October 23, 2017 post, Grosso taught humanities and philosophy at Marymount Manhattan College, City University of New York, and New Jersey City University and is affiliated with the Division of Perceptual Studies at the University of Virginia. 
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Grosso notes that while there is an ever increasing abundance of research, coming to us from mediumship, near-death experiences, reincarnation studies, and deathbed phenomena, suggestive of postmortem survival, belief in an afterlife seems to be at an all-time low.  This, he sees, as being the result, in great part, of practical materialism in everyday life leaving little space to encounter the transcendent.  In earlier societies, before all the technological advances we have witnessed in recent decades, consciousness was much more permeable to alternate realities. As I read Grosso’s words, I imagined a scene from 1800s, before electronic distractions, in which the woman of the house was knitting and her husband whittling before a fireplace, both frequently staring into the flames and allowing spirit influence to permeate the consciousness and settle in the subconscious. 
 
“Brainwashed by mainstream scientistic materialism, we feel constrained by their ideas of what is possible,” Grosso continues.  “Tied to constricted worldviews, we submit to the status quo, however soul-deadening.  Faced with more idealistic possibilities, we respond with passive skepticism.” Materialism, he says, neglects the unseen dimension and serves to keep us distracted and unaware of the Transcendent.

Leo Tolstoy’s classic story of Ivan Ilych is cited as perhaps a typical ending for many non-believers.  A judge by profession, Ilych looked to pleasure, status and power as his gods, until his world began to crumble as he approached death and what he saw as an abyss of nothingness.

The NDE, Grosso opines, is a “metaphysical paradigm-buster,” a phenomenon that points increasingly toward undermining the mechanistic universe subscribed to by mainstream science.  In Chapter Five, he summarizes a number of NDEs, pointing out how the standard debunking theory of oxygen deprivation does not explain them. “Consciousness delocalized suggests the possibility of a prolonged or even permanent out-of-body experience – also known as the afterlife,” he writes, also telling of two of his own out-of-body experiences in which he found himself light, mobile, electric, and ecstatic, at the same time feeling angst over his concern about getting lost in mental space.

Grosso quotes from a paper written by a student in one of his classes, after he had introduced the class to types of evidence for an afterlife. “The greatest problem that death presents, in my opinion, is its finality,” Mary, the student, wrote.  “When I began this course I had feelings of anger, desperation, fear and confusion.  My daughter, age six, is dying of leukemia.  Her fears were hard enough to deal with, but compounded by my own fears the task was next to impossible….[but] now I feel that when the end comes, I will still feel pain but I also feel that my child may go on to another dimension.”  Mary goes on to say that she has conveyed some of the evidence to her daughter and that her daughter now seems more relaxed and her anxiety diminished.  If nothing else, the evidential stories gave the mother and daughter hope that death was not the end. If only our world leaders could understand what Grosso so astutely explains.  I doubt that the counselors answering the Crisis Line in Hawaii will even allude to the “larger life.”  I suspect they’ll tell those victims of emotional distress to “live in the present,” and think about all the good things they still have.  Enjoy a good movie, read a good novel, play games, or escape from reality in the easiest way possible. The wisdom offered by today’s mental health experts is “overwhelming.”

“At a time when everywhere the danger of mass destruction is increasing, we need a new philosophy of life and death, an enriched mythology of transcendence,” Grosso says. “In it, the conscience of science and of consciousness would be firmly intact.”

And to again quote Montaigne:  “To practice death is to practice freedom.  Let us have nothing more in mind than death. At every instant, let us evoke it in our imagination under all aspects.  Let us wait for it everywhere.”

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. 5. 


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Researcher explains what the Spirit World is like!

Posted on 15 January 2018, 10:06

Between 1914 and 1917, William J. Crawford, D.Sc., studied the mediumship of Kathleen Goligher, a Belfast, Ireland medium. He reported on his findings in four separate books.  This is the third and final part of my “interview” based on Crawford’s words from those books.  The first two parts part can be seen in the last two posts here. The questions have been tailored to fit the comments. 

Dr. Crawford, I know that your focus was on the physical phenomena, but you seem to have communicated with the operators or spirits, quite often.  Did they tell you much about themselves?
 
“The operators emphatically declare that the fact of death does not in the least degree alter a man’s character.  He is exactly the same five minutes after the passing as five minutes before it.  So that the next state of existence contains all kinds and conditions of humanity, just as the earth does.  They say that malevolence, envy, hate and all the lower attributes inherent in earth humanity exist also in their world.  There are not the two classes only – good and bad – as theology would have us believe.  They say that the good bears a higher ratio to the bad than is the case here; so that we have an advance, if it is only a small one, so far as moral qualities are concerned.” 

So they are not much different than human beings?

“The inhabitants of the psychic world – at least those in direct contact with us in the séance room – appear to be beings similar to ourselves in regard to all essential qualities.  They possess all the characteristics of human beings.  They are sad, joyful, happy, mirthful, humorous, as the mood seizes them.  In fact, if we say they are human beings living in another world and separated from us by a veil of sense, but that they can communicate their thoughts and feelings to us through this veil, we shall have an exact representation of what seems to the facts of the case.”

Do they have bodies?

“The operators declare that each of them possesses a body, and if asked if it is what we understand by the psychic, they answer in the affirmative.  They declare that they are present in the séance room in the psychic body; that when clairvoyants see them, they see, in effect, their psychic bodies.  They say this body of theirs is not subject to decay or disorganisation corresponding to anything resembling physical decay or disorganisation.  They emphatically state that all humanity possesses two bodies, the physical and the psychical; that death really means the complete and final separation of the two.” 

Have they told you anything about their living conditions?

“I may say at once that the operators at the Belfast circle are unable to explain – even by analogy – the appearance of their world.  And I think this state of affairs holds generally at all reputable circles.  Not that the entities inhabiting it exist within the unsubstantial fabric of a vision, as it were, but simply that they are unable to explain to us in terms we can understand.  There is some reason to suppose that the psychic realm may include a dimension more than ours, i.e., it may be in four dimension, length, breadth, thickness and a something else, which we may call X.  If this is so, we need not be surprised that its inhabitants can tell us practically nothing of it.  We ourselves could give no information to beings living in a two dimensional world which would be understandable to them.” 

Have they mentioned spheres, levels, dimension, or planes as so many other communicators have? 

“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 to 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.”

But have they told you what life is like in these spheres?

“The operators say that their world is a bright and happy one, full of vital energy.  Its inhabitants are much more ‘alive’ than when they lived on earth.  This is a point they emphasise particularly.  They say they have no desire whatever to return here – they are far better off where they are.  The broad general fact seems to be that the other state is a more forcible or energetic one than this – energy seems to be the keynote.  Everybody and everything are alive in a degree much beyond our conception of being alive.  Their state of existence is altogether fuller, freer, and of higher capacity than ours.  Moreover, the operators declare most emphatically that they are very happy.”

What about activities?

“The entities communicating say that life is very full, vigorous and keen in their world.  They say that there is occupation for everybody and amusement for everybody.  They declare that many phases of activity in our world have counterparts in theirs; and that in addition they have occupations to which there are no counterparts on earth.  It appears that no one need be idle, but that all can readily find congenial duties. Most duties here are uncongenial so that if the entities tell the truth, the next state is in this respect in advance of ours.  Music and the arts also seem to have higher expression there than here.”

It’s so hard to visualize all that in an etheric world.

“From my experience in the séance room I conceive the next state as being a very material one, or perhaps I should rather say, a very solid one to the senses with which we shall be equipped when we are the inhabitants.  I do not for a moment think it is an ethereal, evanescent, quasi-real world, having no external solidity.  On the contrary, I am satisfied that it presents to those living in it an appearance of reality at any rate as great as this world does to us, and probably greater.  It seems to me to be all a matter of sense perception.  We can be quite sure that the entities existing on the other side of the veil do not possess the material senses that we do. But the peculiar thing is that they possess senses in a general way analogous to ours.”

There is no hell?

“I have been told at direct voice séances that the next stage of existence possesses what are called ‘dark’ spheres – places or states which, according to the entities, are most unpleasant and in all respect undesirable.  The entities say there is no orthodox hell, but that the dark spheres are nevertheless places of retribution whence egress can only be attained by laborious and painstaking effort.  Possibly it is only the worst of humanity who pass into these dark spheres at physical death.  Most of us, who are ordinary folk, and neither demons nor angels, will find ourselves well enough satisfied with the change. But the point I wish to emphasise is that the entities say that in their state of existence there are in reality ‘dark’ places – places which should be avoided at all cost, the way to avoid them, so we are told, being to live a normal life while on earth.”

You refer to them as operators and entities, but some researchers suggest that it is some aspect of the subconscious that is manifesting and that it does not involve spirits of the dead.  What do you say to that?

“That is the alternative I had in mind all through my investigations.  As month 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 belong to ourselves or otherwise, which could so persistently deceive?  What would be the object of it all?  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, materialisation, 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.”

Is time the same for them?

“I am satisfied from experimental observation that the inhabitants of the next state have a different conception of time from ours.  Even when they approach our world very closely, as they do at good séances, they seem to have some difficulty in getting into our way of computing time, that is, in thinking back to what they knew as time when inhabitants of the earth.  As to what the difference is I do not know.  It is possible that both time and space as we know them here are only components of something else, and the inhabitants of the other world see the resultant, as it were.”

Outside of the operators, are other spirits aware of what is going on in your experiments?

“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.”

Is there any indication that spirits are all around us?

“Indeed, a tremendous range of evidence shows that we are continually surrounded by those who exist in that other world, i.e., by those who have passed through the process of death.  Whether they are continually conscious of our proximity I think is doubtful.  That they are sometimes conscious of our presence I am sure is correct.  Even many of us here at some time or other have, I think, sensed an invisible presence with us.  But generally speaking we on this side are blind and deaf to all projections from the other state.”

It is my understanding that there are times when nothing happens at Miss Goligher’s séances.  Do you know why this is? 
 
“It is only by persistence that anything worth having can be obtained in the psychic world.  The dilettante gets nothing.  Many people seem to forget that the entities operating from the next state have themselves to experiment with every circle which is formed before even the slightest phenomenon can be produced, and that sometimes the sitters do not form an ideal combination from this point of view, with the consequences that their psychic emanations have to be mixed and worked up for quite a long time before decent results can ensue.  So that it is only to the earnest enquirer that phenomena come…I have certainly received messages via the table stating that the spirit entities mix the psychic or nervous emanations of the sitters and that sometimes there is difficulty in getting these emanations to blend, this especially being so if the circle is a promiscuous one.” 

So many of these physical mediums, such as Eusapia Palladino and Mina “Margery” Crandon, have been called frauds because the researchers believe they are using their arms or feet to move things.  We are led to believe by more keen observers that it is really a “phantom arm” of some kind originating with the spirit world.  Have you observed this with Miss Goligher?

“That there are very real energies in the next state which have some form of correspondence to the energies we have here, I have no doubt.  I have seen enough in the séance room to convince me of this.  To take only one example:—In the phenomenon of levitation of a table or other article, a psychic arm extrudes from the medium – I do not mean an arm in the sense the human arm, but a projection of some kind from her body.  Now this projection or extrusion is practically invisible and impalpable – it is impalpable except just at its free end, where it grips or presses on the body it is levitating – yet it transmits throughout its length great stresses, as is obviously the case when it sustains at its free end, as it has done, a body weighting between thirty and forty pounds.  Again, this structure seems to contain within it quite a lot of matter temporarily borrowed from the body of the medium.  In what state of condition is this matter that it should be invisible and impalpable and yet be capable of transmitting large stresses?  Certainly in no state which we know here.  A scientific friend has suggested that it has temporarily disappeared into a fourth-dimensional state, which is at any rate conceivable.”

In spite of your efforts to be strictly scientific in your experiments and reports, you’ve received much negative criticism from the scientific world.  Any thoughts on this?

“As the most voluble of the critics fails completely to understand the mechanism of the rap, a comparatively trivial phenomenon, his attempts to explain the higher phenomena, such as materialization or the direct voice, are accordingly more laughable still.  Probably no phenomena in nature have received such bizarre criticism as the psychic. Some people, it would seem, would dictate to nature as to what phenomena should be allowed and what not.  They call those who investigate these things emotional and gullible, whereas of course, the shoe is on the other foot, and it is they who are the lamentably emotional and gullible, inasmuch as they allow prejudice full play and at the same time plane an inhibition to investigate upon the intellect.” 

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 (Part III of the interview): January 15


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Interview with Dr. William J. Crawford – Part II

Posted on 01 January 2018, 10:37

Between 1914 and 1917, William J. Crawford, D.Sc., studied the mediumship of Kathleen Goligher, a Belfast, Ireland medium. He reported on his findings in four separate books.  This is the second part of a three-part “interview” based on Crawford’s words from those books.  The first part can be seen in the last post here.  The questions have been tailored to fit the comments.

During December 1915, Crawford invited Sir William Barrett, professor of physics at Royal College in Dublin, to join him.  At first, they heard knocks, and then messages were spelled out as one of the sitters recited the alphabet.  Barrett then reported observing 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.” 


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Goligher table lift

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.”

Barrett further stated:  “I can testify to the genuineness and amazing character of these physical manifestations and also to the patient care and skill which have characterized Dr. Crawford’s long and laborious investigations.”

Crawford brought in a scale large enough to hold the medium while she was sitting in her chair.  He discovered that when a table was being levitated, the weight of the table, usually around 16 pounds, was transferred to the medium through what he called “psychic rods” (ectoplasmic rods).  Most of the time, the transfer of weight would be a few ounces short of the weight of the table.  Further experimentation revealed that the extra weight was being transferred to the sitters in the room, who apparently furnished small amounts of the “psychic force.”  My “interview” continues. 

Dr. Crawford, do these levitations happen frequently in Kathleen’s mediumship?

“I have seen hundreds of levitations under all conditions; standard levitations such as that [just mentioned], abnormal levitations (such as where a stool rose four feet into the air and moved gently up and down for several minutes while we all examined it closely and while the medium was seated on a weighing machine) and freak levitations (such as where the table, being levitated, rocked in the air just like a small boat tossed about on choppy sea).  I have seen the table turn completely around in the air, and I have seen it levitated upside down and sideways.”

Is that the extent of the phenomena?

“[No.] After the exhibition of levitation ceases, the trumpet phenomena commence At the beginning of the séance a couple of thin metal cones which fit telescopically into each other and which we call ‘trumpets’ are fixed together and placed upright on the floor between the medium and her father.  The trumpets now begin to straddle over the floor with little leaps and jerks, remaining in a vertical position until the reach the table in the center of the circle where they fall or are sometimes seemingly pushed over, and are then drawn under the table.  A loud shuffling noise is now heard, for the operators are trying to detach the trumpets, a somewhat difficult process as they fit rather tightly together.  At length, however, the operators succeed in separating the two pieces, which are soon seen floating in the air, with their ends projecting from under the table.  The halves then beat time to time to a tune, like the batons of a conductor, after which a visitor is allowed to grasp the end of either and thus ‘shake hands’ with the invisible entities.  Sometimes the operators press upwards on the under-surface of the table with one or both of the floating trumpets, thus levitating it.  A little handbell is sometimes placed on the floor and this is often lifted and rung…Sometimes raps accompany the ringing of the bell.  The sitters are occasionally psychically ‘touched’ on various parts of the body.”

Some critics have a difficult time believing that spirits would be engaged in what seems to them as tomfoolery.  As I understand it, they are experimenting, just as you are? What do you say to this?

“I have asked the operators why they continue to demonstrate at seances month after month, year after year; does it not get tiring to them?  Would they not be better employed doing something else?  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.  The operators say that there are different spheres within their world.  They say that they themselves belong to different spheres, some of them being in the second, some in the third and some in the fourth.”

You mentioned observing all this under a red light. How strong is the light?

“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 hands of the sitters can nearly always be quite plainly seen, and it is a simple experiment, while the séance table is levitated a foot or more in the air , to ask the sitters to raise their hands (joined in chain order) up to the level of their heads, so that the observer can be quite sure that the hands have nothing whatever to do with the phenomenon.  The observer at this time may be within the circle, and he may move anywhere inside it so long as he does not get immediately in front of the medium…It is sometimes possible to see completely under it, as I have done, to see the feet and bodies of all present at rest and hands held together in chain order, while the table has been steadily levitated.”

According to Sir William Crookes, light did not seem to affect D. D. Home.

“A few mediums of the past have apparently been able to withstand the effects of the magnesium light fairly well.  At least no untoward results were reported.  But I am satisfied that its use is rather risky for the medium and that it should only be employed after careful thought and preparation and in conjunction with the desires of the operators.  For, whether [one] looks upon the operators as the spirit beings they claim to be, or as sub-conscious nuclei belonging to the medium or sitters, it is certain they are in charge of and produce the phenomena, and that, therefore, they may be trusted to know more about the dangers incurred by the medium than the experimenter.  Miss Goligher is a young woman and possibly her bodily functions are not yet fully developed, with the consequence that exposure to flashlight during the occurrence of the phenomena would be specially injurious to her.  At any rate the operators were always careful that nothing should be done which would in any way be likely to harm her.” 

I gather that the reason one cannot get directly in front of the medium has something to do with the psychic force flowing from her.  But can that space be observed to be sure she is not using her feet or some other form of trickery?

“I have spent many hours within the circle in all places around it, and I have continually worked under the levitated table and between the levitated table and the medium.  I have had complicated instruments below the table.  I have often placed my arm and hand in the space between the medium and the table and felt her feet and legs absolutely still during the course of experiments win which the table was levitated and the instruments were registering below it; and I say finally that if the medium had desired to impose, she could not, no matter how she tried, have kept the table levitated and the instruments registering at the same time, while my hands were on such instruments and I myself close to her feet and working between her and the table.” 

I know that Sir William Barrett, the physicist, was an observer.  Have other outsiders been witness to it?

“A great many people have been invited to visit the circle and witness the phenomena.  I think I can say that not one of all these has come away from it without the assurance that ‘there is something in psychic force,’ be he previously skeptic, believer, or a ‘sitter on the fence.’  Of course, the visitor is not always certain that the phenomena are produced by spirits of the dead; but at least he is sure of this, that they are genuine and in no way due to normal action on the part of the medium or members of the circle.”   

I recall reading in one of your reports that the psychic energy gets stronger as the séance goes on. 

[“True.]  About an hour and a half from the opening, the psychic energy available, to use a common term, is at a maximum and great forces are exerted.  For instance, although a heavy man sits upon the table it moves about the floor with great ease; or the table being levitated, a strong man pushing from the top cannot depress it to the floor; or the table moves to the side of the circle farthest from the medium and an experimenter is asked to lay hold of it and try to prevent its return to the center, but he is totally unable to do so; or the table’s weight can be temporarily so much increased that it cannot be lifted, or on the other hand so much reduced that it can be raised by an upward force of an ounce or two; or the table being turned upside down on the floor cannot be raised by a strong upward pull on the legs, being apparently fastened to the floor.”

As I understand your reports, this psychic energy, psychic stuff, plasma. or ectoplasm, whatever name be given to it, is not really visible to the naked eye, but that you were able to feel it.  Would you mind elaborating on that experience?

“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.”   

Your books show photographs of ectoplasm.  How did that come about?

“Only [during the last six months or so of my investigation was it] possible to photograph the stuff which issues from the medium’s body.  (I call it ‘plasma’ for want of any better word), and from which the psychic structures are built up that produce the phenomena of raps, levitations, touchings, etc.  For about a year I took a photograph each séance night in the hope that success might ultimately be obtained.  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 to be much wondered at when it is considered the plasma is part of her body exteriorized in space.

 kathleen_2.jpg
Goligher ectoplasm

“After innumerable attempts, very small patches of plasma were obtained in full view between the medium’s ankles.  As time went on these increased in size and variety until great quantities of this psychic stuff could be exteriorized and photographed.  Then the operators began to manipulate it in various ways, building it up into columns, or forming into single or double arms, molding it into different shapes with which I had been long familiar in a general way from previous 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.


Next blog post (Part III of the interview): January 15 


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“Children and the Light” by Peter and Elizabeth Fenwick – ALF Rose had this experience many years ago when he was ill with pneumonia as a young child of four or five. Suddenly I was out of my body and floating near the top of the window in my bedroom. I could see myself in bed and my mother kneeling at the side of the bed. She was crying and looked very distressed. I gazed at this scene for a little while and remember that I didn't feel any emotion at all and was completely indifferent to what I saw. Without any warning at all I was travelling very swiftly through a dense forest. Read here
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