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When Famous Spirits Collaborate in a Group Soul

Posted on 30 September 2018, 16:42

Much of the early mediumship, from around 1850 until about 1930, involved communication from what has been called a “group soul” – a number of discarnates speaking as one, or different discarnates taking turns communicating through a particular medium.  One of the earliest reports of such a phenomenon involved the famous trance medium, Daniel D. Home.  At a sitting on June 28, 1871 at the home of renowned British chemist William Crookes, Home (below) 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 were then asked to explain what the conditions should be. “That is a matter in which we cannot help you much,” the spirits responded.  “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.  They practice on some of you when you are asleep and in that way your dreams are influenced.  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.”  Crookes noted that voices were sometimes heard in which one invisible being seemed to be instructing another invisible being on how to effect a levitation with Home.

The communicating spirits went on to tell Crookes that it was like trying to get a wayward child to do what one wishes, but they continue to experiment.  They added that some spirits cannot do anything because even though they have the desire they don’t have the knowledge.  “There are two standing here now who would like to communicate, but it would be quite impossible for them to make the slightest manifestation to you.  They will be obliged to get others to tell what they wish to say.  You, William, should not have had that [arc lamp].  It hurt Dan’s head, and we were obliged to entrance him to calm him…It was too dazzling for Dan.”
Crookes was further informed that two spirits, both well-known when in the body, were there helping with the manifestations.  They were Augustus De Morgan, a renowned British mathematician, who had died on March 18, 1871, and Robert Chambers, a Scottish journalist and naturalist, who also had died that year.  Crookes was also informed that Dr. John Elliotson, who had died in 1868, had been there, but had to leave for some unexplained reason.  All three men had been interested in psychical research when alive. 

Allan Kardec, a pioneering French researcher, purportedly received messages from John the Evangelist, St. Augustine, St. Vincent De Paul, St. Louis, “The Spirit of Truth,” Socrates, Plato, Fénélon, Franklin, and Swedenborg.  They answered questions on every conceivable subject, including God, pantheism, universal space, biblical accounts of creation, reincarnation, relationships beyond the grave, possession, the fate of children beyond the grave, spirit influence, war, capital punishment, slavery, dreams, free will, suicide, and fear of death, to name just some.

Victor Hugo, the famous French author, claimed to have communicated with many famous names of the past through a medium on the Isle of Jersey, including Socrates, Moses, Jesus, Mohammed, and Galileo.  One communicating spirit identified itself as “Death,” another as “Angel of Light,” and still another as the “Shadow of the Sepulcher.”    Hugo wondered if these were devious spirits posing as wise men, which reportedly was a common occurrence in séances, but he apparently had also heard that the essence of advanced souls can come down through lower spirits and that “group souls” can take on a fictitious identity for want of a specific identity. Whatever the explanation, Hugo was impressed by much of what they had to say and wanted to keep the sittings going. 

Teenager Cora Scott Richmond (below) befuddled scientists, scholars, ministers, lawyers and journalists during the second half of the nineteenth century when she gave, (while in a trance state) extemporaneous hour-long lectures on many different subjects. In 1854, Professor James J. Mapes, a chemist and inventor, traveled to Buffalo, New York to observe and study the then 14-year-old girl.  Mapes asked her to speak on “primary rocks,” to which she replied with a discourse on geology that left Mapes awestruck.  “I am a college educated man, and have been all my long life an investigator of scientific subjects and associated with scientific men,” he reacted, “but I stand here this afternoon dumb before this young girl.”


It was estimated that by age 18 Cora had given over 600 lectures on social, political, scientific, religious and reform matters, including the emancipation of the slaves, many to standing-room only crowds.  During the winter of 1856, when she was just 16, she spoke to audiences of more than 5,000 in Philadelphia.  It is said that President Abraham Lincoln, at the urging of Mary Lincoln, attended, with several congressman, one of her lectures on the abolition of slavery, in Washington, D.C., and that they were very much impressed by what they heard.

One theory offered to explain Richmond’s ability was called “psychological absorption,” which held that by merely putting her hand on a book or passing through a well-stocked library, Cora could absorb all knowledge stored in the book or in the library. At the same time, she would have had to discern it, organize it in her mind, and deliver it in a coherent and persuasive manner.  Another theory was that she was mind reading, drawing from the minds of all those present.  Still another far-fetched theory held that she was en rapport with the minds of eminent living men.

The skeptics were prepared to buy into anything but spirits of the dead, the explanation given by Cora, herself, or more accurately, through her lips while she was entranced.  It was explained through her vocal cords that there were 12 spirits having different gifts or phases of knowledge controlling her.  Some of these spirit guides were said to be from an ancient period and went unnamed, but several of them were from more modern times and were named.  They included Henry Clay, John C. Calhoun, Thomas Paine, Daniel Webster, and Thomas Jefferson.  According to witnesses who had known Clay, Calhoun, and Webster, the utterances coming through the young girl in trance were much like those of the men when they were alive in the flesh. (My more complete discussion of Cora Scott Richmond appears in the just-released issue of Atlantis Rising magazine.)

During the 1870s, William Stainton Moses, an Anglican priest who developed into a medium, was said to be controlled by a band of 49 spirits under the direction of a spirit called Imperator. Some of Imperator’s subordinates had names like Rector, Mentor, and Doctor. Apparently, Imperator was too far advanced and had to relay messages through some of the 49, who were closer in vibration to the earth vibration.  When Imperator was asked about his name and the other strange names in his band of 49 spirits, he explained,  “These names are but convenient symbols for influences brought to bear upon you.  In some cases the influence is not centralized; it is impersonal, as you would say.  In many cases the messages given you are not the product of any one mind, but are the collective influence of a number.  Many who have been concerned with you are but the vehicles to you of a yet higher influence which is obliged to reach you in that way.  We deliberate, we consult, and in many instances you receive the impression of our united thought.”

After his death in 1901, Frederic W. H. Myers, one of the pioneers of psychical research, communicated through several credible mediums, including Geraldine Cummins of Ireland, a trance automatist. Among other subjects, Myers discussed the group soul and reincarnation.  “While I was on earth, I belonged to a group soul, but its branches and the spirit – which might be compared to the roots – were in the invisible,” Myers communicated through Cummins.  “Now, if you would understand psychic evolution, this group-soul must be studied and understood.  For instance, it explains many of the difficulties that people will assure you can be removed only by the doctrine of reincarnation. You may think my statement frivolous, but the fact that we do appear on earth to be paying for the sins of another life is, in a certain sense, true.  It is our life and yet not our life.”

Myers went on to explain that a soul belonging to the group of which he was part lived a previous life and built for him a framework for his own earthly life.  The spirit – the bond of the group soul – manifests, he said, many times on earth.  “We are all of us distinct,” he continued, “though we are influenced by others of our community on the various planes of being.”  He further communicated that a group soul might contain twenty souls, a hundred souls, or a thousand souls and that the Buddhist’s idea of reincarnation is but a half-truth.  “And often a half-truth is more inaccurate than an entire misstatement.  I shall not live again on earth, but a new soul, one who will join our group, will shortly enter into the pattern of karma I have woven for him on earth.”

As Kardec came to understand, the distinctive character of a spirit’s personality is in some sort obliterated in the uniformity of perfection, and yet it preserves its individuality.  “This is the case with the superior and pure spirits,” Kardec related.  “In this condition, the name they had on earth, in one of their thousand ephemeral corporeal existences, is quite an insignificant thing.  Let us remark again that spirits are attracted to each other by the similarity of their qualities, and that they thus form sympathetic groups or families … but as names are necessary to us to fix our ideas, they can take that of any known personage whose nature is best identified with their own. … It thus follows that if a person’s guardian angel gives his name as St. Peter, for instance, there is no actual proof that it is the apostle of that name; it may be he, or it may be an entirely unknown spirit belonging to the family of spirits of which St. Peter makes a part; it also follows that under whatever name the guardian angel is invoked, he comes to the call that is made, because he is attracted by the thought, and the name is indifferent to him.”

But why so much of it during the nineteenth century and so little of it in recent years?  Imperator told Stainton Moses that they (the superior spirits) overestimated their ability to communicate.  “It is true that Benjamin Franklin did discover means of communication by raps, and that he was greatly aided by Swedenborg in awakening interest among spirits in the subject,” Imperator communicated.  “At the time of the discovery it was believed that all denizens of both worlds would be brought into ready communion. But, both on account of the obstinate ignorance of man, and of the extent to which the privilege was abused by spirits who assumed well-known names and personated them and so deceived men, that privilege has been greatly narrowed.”

In effect, the superior or elevated spirits seem to have withdrawn because they had given as much as humans could absorb over a period of some 80 years and they weren’t getting through.  At the same time, inferior spirits were interfering or distorting the messages.  Who today would believe any medium claiming that Socrates, Jesus, Goethe, and Jefferson were all communicating through her or him?  “And Cleopatra, too?” would be the likely response, even mine. 

But that doesn’t mean they gave up completely.  From time to time over the last century, there have been a number of spirit communicators offering enlightenment for those open to it, such as with the Course in Miracles, Seth, and Stephen the Martyr.  I suspect that they involve group souls communicating rather than individual souls. And, as the pioneers of psychical research were told, it was the message that counted, not the messenger.  Of course, all that is simply way too much for the scientific mind.

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 15

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Shakespeare: Genius, Impostor, or Medium?

Posted on 17 September 2018, 7:43

Much has been written about the possibility that William Shakespeare (below) didn’t author the works credited to him, that he was, in effect, an impostor.  The subject is dealt with most recently in September/October issue of “Atlantis Rising” Magazine, in an article entitled “The Men & The Women Who Put Shakespeare Together,” by Steven Sora.  “William Shakespeare did not write the works attributed to him,” Sora asserts, going on to say that strong evidence now indicates that a handful of much more educated men and at least one woman penned the sonnets and plays.


In making the case against Shakespeare, Sora points out that Shakespeare could not write and that even his children and grandchildren were illiterate.  When he died, there was no indication that he owned any books, notes, correspondence, or copies of plays. Sora adds that Oxford scholar James Wilmot moved to Warwickshire, near Shakespeare’s home, during the 1780s to collect stories and write a biography on him, but came up with nothing and eventually came to the conclusion that Sir Francis Bacon was the true author of the works credited to Shakespeare.  Unlike Shakespeare, Bacon was well educated, versed in languages, and wrote many historical and philosophical essays. 

Sora also mentions other candidates, including Roger Manners, the Earl of Rutland, Christopher Marlowe, a leading literary figure of the day, and Mary Sidney Herbert, the second Countess of Pembroke. Various websites suggest as many as 80 other candidates, including Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford, and William Stanley, 6th Earl of Derby.  But why wouldn’t these people claim credit for themselves?  According to Sora, writing for the stage in Elizabethan England was considered beneath the dignity of the elite class. In fact, playwrights were often arrested for satire and possibly treasonous works.


If Wikipedia is to be believed, only a few Shakespeare scholars and literary historians give any weight to the possibility that Shakespeare did not write the works credited to him.  The vast majority see it as a fringe belief.  It is mentioned there that the lack of documentary proof of Shakespeare’s education is often part of the anti-Shakespeare arguments, but that the free King’s New School in Stratford was only a half-mile from Shakespeare’s boyhood home and could have provided an intensive education in Latin grammar, the classics, and rhetoric at no cost.

So the majority see Shakespeare as the genius history has made him to be, while a minority claims he was an impostor.  However, there is a third possibility that is likely much too fringe for scholarly consideration – that is, Shakespeare was an automatic-writing medium and took dictation from the spirit world.  In fact, in his 1917 book, Spirit Intercourse: Its Theory and Practice, psychical researcher James Hewat McKenzie states that information derived from spirit sources holds that Shakespeare was a medium and received the works from Euripides, the Greek tragedian, and that Francis Bacon collaborated with Shakespeare in the endeavor.  McKenzie does not provide any information as to the spirit sources or the medium through whom these alleged spirits communicated, nor does he explain how Bacon collaborated with Shakespeare.  Thus, his explanation is hardly evidential or convincing.

However, when we consider the cases of both Patience Worth and the Glastonbury Scripts, the spirit explanation does not seem all that far fetched.  And there are many other cases of mediumship and “overshadowing” that contribute to a belief that much creativity comes through the minds of humans from the spirit world. 

Over a period of some 24 years, from 1913 to 1937, Patience Worth would produce approximately four million words, including seven books, some short stories, several plays, thousands of poems, and countless epigrams and aphorisms. She would be acclaimed a literary genius – her works compared with Shakespeare, Chaucer, and Spenser. She was called a wit, a poet, a dramatist, and a philosopher by literary experts of the day. 

Of her book, Hope Trueblood, a reviewer for Lady’s Pictorial of London offered:  “[This book] will stand as a landmark of fiction by a new writer, who will take a prominent place among great writers.” A New York Tribune review of Hope Trueblood called it a work “approximating absolute genius.” A Chicago Mail reviewer referred to the author as a “master word builder.”

Patience’s most celebrated work, The Sorry Tale, a 644-page, 325,000 word novel about the last days of Jesus, was released in June 1917. In its review of the book, The National wondered how the mysterious story-teller became familiar with the scent and sound and color and innumerable properties of Oriental market places and wildernesses, of Roman palaces, and halls of justice. The New York Globe stated that it exceeded Ben Hur and Quo Vadis as “a quaint realistic narrative.” The Columbus (Ohio) Dispatch opined that no other book gives one so clear a view of customs, manners, and character of the peoples of the time and place.

Some readers of her books may have thought that Patience Worth was alive in the flesh, when, in fact, she had been “dead” for several centuries.  Her words were dictated through the mediumship of Pearl Curran, an American housewife with only an elementary school education, living in St. Louis, Missouri and never having traveled beyond Chicago. 

As journalist Casper Yost, who was present when much of The Sorry Tale was dictated by Patience Worth, explained, the story was begun without any previous knowledge on the part of Pearl Curran of the time and conditions of Palestine beyond what is revealed in the New Testament. Yet, the story goes far beyond what might be gleaned from the New Testament. “In one evening, 5,000 words were dictated, covering the account of the crucifixion,” Yost reported.

Professor Roland Greene Usher, dean of history at Washington University, called The Sorry Tale “the greatest story of Christ penned since the Gospels were finished.” He pointed out that the book was written in seventeenth-century English with no anachronisms.  It was noted by Prince that Pearl Curran was not raised in a religious family, and although confirmed in the Episcopal Church, she claimed that she had never read the Bible through and through.

W. T. Allison, professor of English literature at the University of Manitoba, observed that Patience Worth dictated words found only in Melton’s time and some of them had no meaning until researched in dialectic dictionaries and old books. Allison, who closely observed Curran, reported that in one evening 15 poems were produced in an hour and 15 minutes, an average of five minutes for each poem. “All were poured out with a speed that Tennyson or Browning could never have hoped to equal, and some of the 15 lyrics are so good that either of those great poets might be proud to have written them,” Allison offered. He went on to say that Patience Worth “must be regarded as the outstanding phenomenon of our age, and I cannot help thinking of all time.”

Curran’s limited education and travel were totally inconsistent with theories of conscious fraud or subconscious memories. English scholars struggled with some of the archaic Anglo-Saxon language. In one of her novels, Patience dictated, “I wot he fetcheth in daub-smeared smock.” Even in the early 1900s, the word “fetch” was rarely used, but when used it meant to “go and get” someone or something. Patience used it as synonymous with “came” or “cometh,” which philologists confirmed as the word’s original meaning.

So if Pearl Curran actually took dictation from Patience Worth in the spirit world, why couldn’t Shakespeare take dictation from Euripides?  The significant difference here is that Pearl Curran did not take credit for the books.  Patience Worth was listed as the author even though she had died several centuries earlier.

As for the “collaboration” aspect involving Bacon, it should be kept in mind that much of the research in mediumship indicates that the medium and/or the person sitting with the medium must be en rapport with the spirit communicator.  There must be a “sympathetic link” of some kind between them.  Such a link must have existed between Pearl Curran and Patience Worth but not between Captain John Allan Bartlett and the spirits of Glastonbury.  Bartlett, an automatic writing medium, received little or nothing from the spirits of the Glastonbury monks until Frederick Bligh Bond, the excavator of the Glastonbury ruins, placed two fingers on top of Bartlett’s hand as he wrote, thereby adding either psychic power and/or a sympathetic link.  In this way, Bartlett and Bond “collaborated” in receiving message from the early inhabitants of Glastonbury Abbey as to where to dig and in giving them the layout of the old abbey foundation.  Whether this “combined psychic energy” is the “collaboration” Bacon had with Shakespeare is a matter of speculation, but it seems like a reasonable possibility, at least reasonable to the open-minded person who is familiar with the research in this field.   

Consideration should also be given to the case of Rosemary Brown, a widowed London housewife who, beginning in 1964, purportedly received compositions from the spirits of many great composers, including Beethoven, Liszt, Mozart, Chopin, Bach, and Debussy.  Although Brown had taken some piano lessons, she had no real talent and was unacquainted with the technicalities of writing notes.  Mediumistic since her childhood, Brown received a message from Liszt via automatic writing in which he said that a group of composers from the spirit world would be using her to dictate new compositions through her by means of automatic writing.  “You have sufficient training for our purposes,” Liszt told her.  “Had you been given a really full musical education it would have been no help to us at all.”  He further explained that a full musical background would have been an impediment to them as she would have had too many theories and ideas of her own that they might not have been able to overcome.

Applying Liszt’s explanation to Shakespeare and Bacon, we might conclude that Euripides required a less-educated mind than that of Bacon in order to get his words through without distortion, and Shakespeare filled the bill. 

Yes, that calls for even more speculation, but it makes as much or more sense to me than does an uneducated man with no library at all writing the works attributed to Shakespeare, or Bacon or some other educated person writing all the “works” and passing it all on to Shakespeare to take credit for.  I’m not sure where that leaves Shakespeare.  If it was his hand but not his mind, does that make him an impostor?

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 1

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Facing Death with Hope

Posted on 03 September 2018, 12:43

Man cannot endure his own littleness unless he can translate it into meaningfulness on the largest possible level – Ernest Becker

As Hurricane Lane approached Hawaii, where I live, with 170 mph winds on August 23, I began having visions of my departure from this realm of existence.  Our governor announced that there are not enough evacuation centers for the majority of the population and suggested we stay in our homes, even though it is obvious that most of the single-wall frame dwellings in the state cannot resist such torrential winds, probably not even 70 mph forces.  I had visions of our roof flying off as my wife Gina and I hovered under the heavy mahogany dining room table before we too experienced “lift off” and went flying off yonder.  As Lane moved closer and closer to the island with some “scientific” projections showing a direct hit or the center of the hurricane being at least close enough to cause disastrous winds, I began to feel like a prisoner on death-row must feel while awaiting execution the next day.  My biggest fear, however, was not that I would die but that I would survive it.

Although I have come to view death itself as a transition to a larger, more real life, the dying part of it all has never seemed especially easy or appealing.  I thought that if I were alone it would not be too traumatic, but I was concerned about Gina being able to handle it all.  To put it another way, I was more or less prepared to “go west,” as they used to say about death, but I felt much anxiety about my wife and other loved ones following me at the same time.  Fortunately, Lane decided to “go west” from its path toward our island, about 150 miles short of impact, and we lived to see another day.

It was the third time this year that I thought my time remaining in the physical world was very short, the first being the false ballistic missile alert here in Hawaii during January when someone at the civil defense headquarters pushed the wrong button.  For some 38 minutes, there was considerable anxiety as the people of Hawaii ran for shelters and braced themselves. After the initial alert, I flipped on the television and saw a basketball game still in progress and programs on other channels also in progress, leading me to believe that it must be a false alarm.  But, still, it was an anxious time and I tried to mentally prepare myself for the worst, while hoping I would not survive a nuclear blast.

The second time was just two weeks before Hurricane Lane.  My A-Fib (atrial fibrillation) condition was acting up and resulting in some very shallow breathing. It was the worst I had experienced and I went to bed that night thinking that it was about 50-50 that I would wake up the next morning.  Such are the trials and tribulations of old age.

The closest to death’s threshold I can recall being at before this year was on May 13, 1969 when living in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia and getting caught up in the middle of the Sino-Malay riots, with bolo knife and machete-wielding rioters headed in my direction less than 15 seconds from me.  Around 200 people – some estimates put it at closer to 600 – were slain on the downtown streets that night, but somehow I managed to survive that one.  There was no time to think about death on that occasion.  My focus was strictly on getting my two young daughters under cover.  My recent experiences suggest that having time to really think about one’s impending demise is not a particularly good thing – unless, of course, the person survives, in which case it might provide food for reformed thought.   

“The irony of man’s condition is that the deepest need is to be free of the anxiety of death and annihilation,” wrote anthropologist Ernest Becker (below) in his 1973 Pulitzer Prize-winning book, The Denial of Death, “but it is life itself which awakens it, and so we must shrink from being fully alive.”  As Becker explains it, if I am reading him correctly, all our fears, neuroses, phobias, depressive states, however they are classified, are rooted in a fear of death, even if we don’t recognize them as such. To free oneself of death anxiety, nearly everyone chooses the path of repression.  That is, we bury the idea of death deep in the subconscious and then busy ourselves with our jobs, our families, and our toys, escape into fictitious stories in books, at the movies, and on television, and otherwise seek a mundane security that we expect to continue indefinitely, all the while oblivious to the fact that in the great scheme of things such activities are exceedingly short-term and for the most part meaningless.  “We enter into symbiotic relationships in order to get the security we need, in order to get relief from our anxieties, our aloneness and helplessness; but these relationships also bind us, they enslave us even further because they support the lie we have fashioned,” Becker goes on. “So we strain against them in order to be more free.”  In effect, Becker states, “the essence of normality is the refusal of reality,” or to look at it another way, all “normal” people are neurotics and most of those called neurotics are in touch with reality.


Becker refers to this “secure” person as the “automatic cultural man.”  He is “man confined by culture, a slave to it, who imagines that he has an identity if he pays his insurance premiums, that he has control of his life if he guns his sports car or works his electric toothbrush.”  Becker borrows his “automatic cultural man” from Søren Kierkegaard’s Philistine – man fully tranquilized with the trivial.  As Kierkegaard, referred to as the “father of existentialism,” 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, all the while using repression as a defense mechanism to overcome that despair.

“...human meanings are fragile, ephemeral; they are constantly being discredited by historical events and natural calamities,” Becker continues. “One Hitler can efface centuries of scientific and religious meanings; one earthquake [or hurricane] can negate a million times the meaning of a personal life.”

Becker explains that one’s basic narcissism is increased when one’s childhood experiences have been securely life-supporting and warmly enhancing to the sense of self.  “We might say that [a man’s] repression of the idea of his own death is made easy for him before he is fortified against it in his very narcissistic vitality.”  He mentions an increase in anxiety neuroses in children living in Southern California as a result of a number of earth tremors there.  “For these children the discovery that life really includes cataclysmic danger was too much for their still-imperfect denial systems – hence open outbursts of anxiety,” he writes, adding that adults display this same manifestation of anxiety in the face of impending catastrophe.

Although I am not aware of any study resulting from the false missile alert here in Hawaii during January, there were certainly indications of such anxiety reported in the media following the incident, and I suspect that Hurricane Lane has served as an eye-opener for many, perhaps getting them to wonder what life will be like if they have no electricity and no smartphones to play with 24/7 and thereby escape from death anxiety. However, as with the tragedies of September 11, 2001, such an awakening seems to last only a few weeks or a few months at most before people return to the ways of the Philistine. 

I can’t imagine being close to death without a conviction that my real self would survive.  Being blown into oblivion by a nuclear blast, falling asleep into oblivion as my heart gives out after more than 80 years of faithful service, or flying off into oblivion with the winds is a bit more than my psyche can handle or endure.  I know there are some nihilists who claim the idea of total extinction doesn’t bother them because there will be no consciousness to realize that one is extinct, but I suspect that such stoicism is just so much bravado (pretend courage) designed to protect the ego. 
As Becker saw it, when Science replaced the Church during the nineteenth century, it extinguished the ideas of soul and God and threw man back hopelessly on his own resources, on himself and those around him.  “Even lovers and families trap and disillusion us because they are not substitutes for absolute transcendence,” he wrote.  “We might say they are poor illusions….”  Becker saw religion as the best of all solutions for death anxiety, pointing out that it meets the two ontological motives of the human condition – the need to surrender oneself in full to the rest of nature and recognize some higher meaning, and the need to expand oneself as an individual self-sacrificing personality, “Finally, religion alone gives hope, because it holds open the dimension of the unknown and the unknowable, the fantastic mystery of creation that the human mind cannot even begin to approach, the possibility of a multidimensionality of spheres of existence, of heavens and possible embodiments that make a mockery of earthly logic – and in doing so, it relieves the absurdity of earthly life, all the impossible limitations and frustrations of living matter,” he offered. “...Religion takes one’s very creatureliness, one’s insignificance, and makes it a condition of hope.”

Becker recognized that the answer was in finding “an all-embracing and all-justifying beyond,” one that was more sensible than that subscribed to by orthodox religions.  And yet, Becker was a non-believer, at least an agnostic. He makes no distinction between religion and a non-religious belief in survival based on the research carried out by many credible scientists and scholars, and there is no indication that he was even aware of such research.  He died at the age of 50 in 1974, the year after his prize-winning book was published, and just before the introduction of near-death studies by Dr. Raymond Moody.  Nor did Becker appear to recognize that the anthropomorphic God of religion is not necessary for a belief in survival. They come across as concomitants in his discussion. He clearly struggled with his own despair and lack of hope, and surely envied Kierkegaard who was able to make a “leap of faith” into the belief of a larger life.  “What characterizes modern life,” Becker wrote, referring to the early 1970s, “is the failure of all traditional immortality ideologies to absorb and quicken man’s hunger for self-perpetuation and heroism.”

All I can end with is that I am glad to have found an ideology that Becker couldn’t find.  Moreover, it goes beyond Kierkegaard’s “faith” to “conviction” and provides hope to overcome the despair that Becker and many others have experienced in dealing with man’s greatest fear.  And now to prepare for the next hurricane, already headed in this direction.

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. 17. 

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Ukraine War: A Story of Survival, Sacrifice, and Service – If charitable service to those in need is the ultimate in spirituality here in the physical life, this book most certainly deals with spiritual matters. The author, Amber Poole, an American woman and her husband, Paul, from Scotland but with Polish roots, operated an educational center in Poland when the Russians attacked Ukraine in 2022. As many Ukrainians fled to Poland, they turned their center into a home for as many as 40 refugees. The author kept a very interesting “war diary” over the first 18 months of the war, discussing everything from the cultural adjustments required by both the Polish and the Ukrainians to her own reactions and adjustments, as well as philosophical concerns and conflicts that often surfaced. In spite of the adversity and distress, she embraced the adversity. Read here
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