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Why the Titanic Story Fascinates Us

Posted on 15 April 2019, 8:52

As today, April 15, marks the 107th anniversary of the day the Titanic sunk to the bottom of the Atlantic, it seems like a good time to recall that disaster and examine the fascination we have with it.  No doubt the many movies made of the disaster, especially the 1997 epic film, play a big part in our continuing knowledge of and interest in the story, but that only leads to the question of why movie makers find it so much more interesting than other disasters. The sinking of the Dona Paz in 1987, south of Manila in The Philippines, involved 4,386 fatalities, the worst peacetime maritime disaster in history, almost three times as many as the 1,517 lost on the Titanic, and yet relatively few people remember the Dona Paz tragedy. 

As I wrote in the Introduction of my book, Transcending the Titanic, The Titanic story offers us the opportunity to examine death in a safe haven with the added bonus that, unlike most stories involving death, the parties actually have time to contemplate their deaths, some to escape, some to succumb.  More than any other modern story, the Titanic might be viewed as a microcosm of life, a “community” isolated in the vast reaches of the ocean, one offering wealth and poverty, the opulence of first class and the drabness of steerage class, with a middle or second class in between.  Every type of emotion, mindset, virtue and vice is represented – love and fear, hope and despair, courage and fear, bravery and cowardice, arrogance and humbleness, pomp and shame, selfishness and brotherhood.  To accent it all, the iceberg impacted by the ship was reported as being a rare black berg looming high over the vessel, as if a giant evil predator. More than anything though, the Titanic story represents the struggle between man’s inner self and outer self, a struggle which many people are interested in but prefer to avoid except in books or movies.
One must also consider the era in which the tragedy took place.  It was a time when science was conquering religion and the educated class had not yet been able to reconcile its former religious beliefs with the “truths” provided by science.  Beginning in 1859, Darwinism accelerated the underlying Weltschmerz (despair). More and more educated people began to see life as a march toward an abyss of nothingness, toward extinction, toward obliteration.  Biological evolution had, for many, nullified God, and few seemed to be able to grasp an afterlife without God; thus, it was also dismissed.  Suddenly, life had no meaning beyond what one could leave behind for his descendants or future generations, but even this worthy goal left the reasoning man wondering to what end the progeny or to which generation full fruition.

Whether entirely fiction or not is unclear, but in a 1986 book titled The Secret Conan Doyle Correspondence, author Leslie Vernet Harper quotes her father Samuel Harper, supposedly a Titanic survivor though not listed on the passenger manifest, as seeing the Titanic as a symbol of the times and its fate as a foreboding cosmic message:  “Words are inadequate to convey the awesome impact of that enormous floating palace – the epitome in every respect of the biggest and most lavish the Western world had to offer in material luxury. In an era idolatrously committed to the proposition that science unquestionably could overcome every obstacle standing between mankind and Utopia, the Titanic was living, dynamic proof of this utopian ideal.”

As Harper further viewed it, the disaster changed the world in unfathomably deep ways. “The death of the Titanic tipped the scales in favor of those who, like historian Oswald Spengler, looked for the ‘going under of the West.’  And it fatally shook the confidence of the optimists, those who thought it possible to resolve mankind’s dilemma through science without any moral improvement in man himself…Now, the sinking of the ‘unsinkable’ Titanic having demonstrated the inadequacy of the science alternative, there remained only what a majority viewed as unworkable – the need for mankind to live the Christian ideal.” 

“We have measured the earth, the stars, and the depths of the seas; we have discovered riverbeds and mountains on the moon,” wrote renowned Russian author Leo Tolstoy.  “We have built clever machines, and every day we discover something new ... But something, some most important thing, is missing, and we do not know exactly what. We feel bad because we know lots of unnecessary things but do not know the most important — ourselves.”

Thus viewed, the Titanic story may represent a search for meaning.

There is one story involving the Titanic, however, that is little known – one of unusual heroism.  It was told by Colonel Archibald Gracie, one of the survivors. He called it a “transcendent piece of heroism that will remain fixed in my memory as the most sublime and coolest exhibition of courage and cheerful resignation to fate and fearlessness of death.”  After the ship plunged to the bottom, Gracie managed to crawl onto an Englehardt raft that was occupied by a dozen or so others. When another swimmer approached the raft, he was turned away by several occupants as it was filled to capacity. In a “deep manly voice of a powerful man,” which Gracie did not recognize, Gracie heard the swimmer reply: “All right, boys; good luck and God bless you.”  The man then swam away. 

To my knowledge the brave swimmer was never identified.  When I first read Gracie’s book many years ago, I wondered if that swimmer might have been William T. Stead, a British journalist who was observed by other passengers courageously facing up to his demise as the ship was sinking. But as I did research for my book, I came upon information suggesting that Stead was hit by the falling funnel, and other information that leads me to believe that the brave swimmer was more likely Robert J. Bateman, a 51-year-old Baptist minister and physician from Jacksonville, Florida. A second-class passenger, Bateman (below) had been visiting relatives in Bristol, England and taking part in a revival. He was returning to Jacksonville with his sister-in-law, Ada Balls, and other members of the revival group.  Ada Balls later recalled: “Brother forced me into the last boat, saying he would follow me later.  I believe I was the last person to leave the ship.  Brother threw his overcoat over my shoulders as the boat was being lowered away and as we neared the water, he took his black necktie and threw it to me with the words, ‘Goodbye, God bless you!’”

As Bateman reportedly said “God bless you!” to his sister-in-law before leaving her, and the rejected swimmer said “God bless you!” before swimming away, Bateman emerges as the best candidate for the heroic swimmer mentioned by Gracie. Moreover, Bateman was a second-class passenger and Gracie a first-class passenger, which could explain why Gracie did not recognize the man’s voice.


Ten days after the disaster, Bateman’s widow received a letter her husband had mailed to her when the Titanic had stopped for more passengers in Ireland.  “I feel that my trip has not been in vain,” Bateman wrote. “God has singularly blessed me. We had a glorious revival… It was the Time of My Life.”  His nephew, Tom, also received a letter mailed from Ireland. “Tom,” he wrote, “if this ship goes to the bottom, I shall not be there, I shall be up yonder. Think of it!”

Later, when the family opened up Bateman’s locked roll-top desk, a poem he had written was found on top of his papers. It read:

Do you shudder as you picture
All the horrors of that hour?
Ah! But Jesus was beside me
To sustain me by His power.
And He came Himself to meet me
In that way so hard to tread
And with Jesus’ arm to cling to
Could I have one doubt or dread?

Bateman’s body was recovered three weeks later by a cable-laying vessel.

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:  April 29


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My Exploration of the Deepest Part of Hell

Posted on 01 April 2019, 7:59

I had an unbelievable experience recently, one in which a spirit guide gave me a tour of hell.  We passed through a number of realms of hell and I witnessed souls who had committed varying degrees of vice and corruption. At the very lowest realm, I had expected to find mass murderers, serial killers and the like, but I was in for a big surprise. The primary occupants in that realm had committed no statutory crimes, but there they were. 

The guide, who goes by the name Hans, said that he belonged to a group soul representing the essence of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the physician turned mystery writer best known for his creation of Sherlock Holmes. Hans explained that he had been instructed to give me a tour of the lowest realms, so that I would have a better understanding of it all and be better able to report on it.  He said most people do not properly understand what hell is.  It’s not nearly as horrific as orthodox religions have made it out to be, nor is it eternal.  Nevertheless, it is extremely dark, depressing and challenging. 

Hans warned me that it would be a fast tour as the vibrational rate in those lower realms makes it feel like one is holding his breath under water.  “You can stand it for only so long,” he said, adding that he would later take me on a tour of higher realms, but, for the same reason, I could go only so high.  I’m not advanced enough to withstand the higher vibrations.  He likened that experience to a person climbing Mt. Everest and experiencing oxygen depletion.  One has to gradually adapt to the higher vibrations in his or her spiritual evolution and thus, after death, settle in at the vibration he or she has developed during the physical life. 

“Take a deep breath and follow me,” Hans said, as he dove into what looked like a swamp of muck and mire.  I hesitated but followed.  I found myself in a dark environment where everyone seemed to be in a stupor of some kind.  Hans explained that they still had not awakened to the fact that they had left the physical world.  It was as if they had fallen asleep and not yet awakened to their new reality. I had expected to be among murderers, rapists, and others of that kind, but the first person or soul I noticed was in a wheelchair on a treadmill, going nowhere at a fairly fast pace, seemingly gasping for air.  I asked Hans what happened to him.  He asked the soul’s guide standing nearby with arms folded and was told that the soul was not convicted of any crimes during his earth life, but he didn’t play fair.  After his disabled father died, he continued to use his father’s handicap placard in his car for preferred and free parking, thereby cheating the system and others.  “Wow!” I reacted.  “He was a reasonably good person when alive in the flesh,” Hans explained after further communicating with the soul’s spirit guide, “so he won’t be here long.  He’ll awaken and move up to the second sphere soon.” 

Then I noticed another person, or soul.  He wasn’t on a treadmill, but he was holding a medium-sized suitcase and continually pumping it over his head. He appeared exhausted.  I asked Hans what was going on with him.  “He was one of those baggage buttheads you often run into when traveling,” he replied.  “He always brought an oversized bag with him as a carry-on, along with a large mountaineering pack that he called his handbag, then when he got on the plane, he threw them both in the first overhead bin before continuing to his seat in the back of the plane.  The airlines let him get away with it, but he cheated the system and was inconsiderate of those who properly checked their bags. He’s now dealing with his self-centeredness.”

I shook my head in dismay at such seemingly trivial transgressions resulting in a place in hell.  “It’s not really hell,” Hans explained. “That’s just a word people in the material life have been given by the churches.  It’s a learning experience and more like a bad dream, although you could call it a nightmare in the very lowest realms, which we will get to.  You might call it a ‘fire of the mind.’  It’s a state of mind that they brought on themselves and for which they now have to deal with and learn from.”  Hans further mentioned that there was no judgment by God or any celestial tribunal.  Souls just “make their own beds” in this regard. 

As he was communicating, I noticed a woman standing over an upside-down shopping cart while spinning its wheels with her hands. “What’s that all about?” I asked Hans.  “She is one of those people who push grocery carts off the store premises and just leave them on the street, never returning it to the store property,” he remarked.  “In effect, she was a thief and is now coming to understand that.”

A man sat in front of a television set watching an old Bette Davis movie.  Hans asked the man’s guide what was going on with him.  The guide explained that he was a copyright infringer during his lifetime, illegally copying many movies and enjoying them at no cost to himself.  Now, he is watching the same movie over and over again.  “He’s watched it 417 times and must watch it 522 times before he is allowed to move to a higher vibration,” the guide explained, adding that 522 is the number of videos he had pirated during his earth life.  I recalled seeing that Bette Davis movie once and couldn’t imagine what it would take to watch it even a second time.

Hans could see that I wouldn’t be able to hold my breath much longer, so he told me that we would quickly dive to a lower realm.  “Would that be murderers and the like?” I asked him.  “No,” he responded, “that’s somewhat lower, but the stench at the next one is a bit much, so hold your nose.”  When we got down there, I observed souls sitting zombie-like at computers while picking and pecking away.  I looked at some of the computer screens and saw nothing but nonsensical gibberish.  I asked Hans what they did wrong.  “They were computer hackers,” he said with a nod and a shake of his head.

I told Hans I didn’t think I could hold on much longer, so he said we’d best skip the next realm, where some of the mass murderers and serial killers were, and go to the very bottom, what he referred to as the “pit.”  “You mean there are souls at lower levels than the murderers,” I reacted.  He nodded in the affirmative. “Who were these souls?” I wondered.  I wasn’t prepared for what I saw when we reached the pit.  The inhabitants had their heads spinning around and around while spewing vomit that engulfed them up to their necks.

“My God, Hans, what did they do?”  Hans explained that many of them were people who wrote and edited the Wikipedia and Rationalwiki entries dealing with spiritual and paranormal matters on the Internet.  “They ignorantly and maliciously disparaged good people, intentionally distorting the truth and robbing many people of the hope they looked for in overcoming times of despair,” Hans explained. “These demented souls acted out of self-righteous viciousness and vituperation. They’re not here for eternity, but it may seem like that to them now.”   

The stench on that realm was beyond human senses and comprehension.  I couldn’t take it any longer and signaled to Hans that I had to ascend.  We pushed off and shot upward.  It was then that I awakened and realized it was only a day dream, my subconscious having run amok with wishful thinking. 

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.

Happy April Fools’ Day!!

Next blog post:  April 14


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Mediumship: A Preview by Paul Beard – Mediumship is both a simple and a complex happening. To evaluate what is involved, an important balance needs to be sought between objective and subjective sides. Both must necessarily contribute if a long term and developing view is to come about. Since mediumistic material also arises at very different levels of significance, this requires to be assessed by criteria appropriate to each level. Read here
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