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On Not Wanting to be a “None”

Posted on 25 November 2019, 11:33

Several times during the past 15 years I have had to sit in front of a hospital admissions clerk and answer questions – full name, address, date and place of birth, spouse’s name, doctor, insurance, prior surgeries, blood type, etc., etc.  I rattled off the answers each time until the clerk asked for my religion.  The first time I was asked the question I was stopped in my tracks as I didn’t realize that religion was a pertinent question for a hospital admission. It quickly dawned on me, however, that they needed my religion in case things go awry and they have to call in a pastor of some kind to administer last rites or whatever it is they do.  However, understanding the reason did not help me answer the question on the first admission or on subsequent admissions. I have had to ponder on my answer each time, because I refuse to be a “None.” 


According to a recent Pew Foundation report, 26 percent of Americans are “Nones,” which includes atheists (4%), agnostics (5%) and “nothing in particular” (17%).  The report further indicates that 68 percent of those surveyed believe in God.  The math suggests that 32 percent don’t believe in God.  Thus, there are some who declare a religion but don’t believe in God (6%), no doubt some Buddhists among them.

While I’m probably overgeneralizing, my stereotypical None is a cynical know-it-all wise guy (or gal), usually someone still wet behind the ears.  In more cases than not, Nones are former fundamentalist Christians who, with the help of their biology teachers, suddenly saw the light and realized that their parents had pulled the wool over their eyes and had duped them all those years about some big guy in the sky called God.  In dismissing an anthropomorphic God, they have automatically dismissed survival.  If someone brings up the overwhelming psychical research supporting survival, they turn to Wikipedia and then espouse the debunker’s view of it all, seemingly unable to grasp the fact that there is no a priori need to identify and prove God before weighing the evidence for survival.   

To the extent that I doubt the existence of an anthropomorphic (humanlike) God, I might be considered an atheist or at least an agnostic.  But you don’t have to believe in an anthropomorphic God to believe that consciousness survives death, and that is, or should be, the governing factor behind the question in the first place.  If there is a God but no afterlife, what is the point of believing in God?  I may be an atheist by a broad definition of the word, but I am not a nihilist.

On the other hand, not believing in an anthropomorphic God but believing that consciousness survives death does provide life with meaning, although one might see God as some kind of Cosmic Consciousness or Creative Force.  “Neither a person nor a nation can exist without some higher idea,” wrote Fyodor Dostoyevsky, (below) the renowned Russian philosopher and author of Crime and Punishment. “And there is only one higher idea on earth, and it is the idea of immortality of the human soul, for all other ‘higher’ ideas of life by which humans might live derive from that idea alone.”


In effect, we can go on and on trying to prove God and never get anywhere, as it is all circumstantial evidence.  As pioneering psychologist William James put it in his classic, The Varieties of Religious Experience, “…so long as we deal with the cosmic and the general, we deal only with the symbols of reality, but as soon as we deal with private and personal phenomena as such, we deal with realities in the completest sense of the term.”  As I interpret that, we should look at the evidence coming to us from studies of mediumship, near-death experiences, deathbed visions, and other psychic phenomena suggesting the survival of consciousness and forget about trying to find evidence of God. 
If I were asked by a Pew researcher if I believe in God, I wouldn’t know how to answer the question. I’d have to request clarification.  “Do you mean an anthropomorphic God or some kind of Creative Force that is beyond human comprehension?” would be my question.  Complete silence would likely be the immediate reaction.

I can imagine the perplexed reaction of the admissions clerk if I had hit her with my concerns or questions.  I’m pretty sure her job description doesn’t call for analyzing a person’s philosophical views and condensing them down to one word.  All she wanted was that one word to fill in the blank. I could have simplified things by declaring myself as a None, but I just couldn’t bring myself to such a label. 

I considered telling the clerk that I am a spiritualist, making sure that she understood that I am a spiritualist (with a small “s” and not a capital “S”).  That is, I don’t belong to a Spiritualist church of any kind; I’m a spiritualist to the extent that I am not a materialist.  But a spiritualist (with a small “s”) is not really a religion, so that would not be a proper answer.  It might be as confusing as telling her that our 33rd president was Harry S Truman, not Harry S. Truman, i.e., no period after the S.

I still have a very vivid recollection of the time I attended a luncheon sponsored by a “lawyers for Christ” group and when the president of the organization was told by a friend that I authored a few books dealing with mediumship.  She asked me how I could live with myself before she did an immediate about-face and walked away in disgust, no doubt wondering how such an agent of Satan could be in their midst.

I also considered telling the admissions clerk that I am a panentheist, but that is more a philosophy than a religion and I might have to explain how a panentheist differs from a pantheist. I doubt that I would be up to that, even if she were interested in an explanation. 

I further considered that not wanting to be a None was a display of egoism on my part – wanting to be something rather than nothing.  A truly spiritual person would bask in the humility of being a mere nothing; only a proud person would insist on being something. 

I recalled the words of the “Master” in the classic Zen in the Art of Archery that one must become “egoless” if he is to hit the target.  That led me to the wisdom of Shivas Irons in Golf in the Kingdom, when Shivas told Michael, “Ye try too hard and ye think too much…Let nothingness into your shots.”  In spite of those flashing thoughts, pride got the best of me and I refused to declare myself a None. I could accept being a simple None, but I didn’t want to be a cynical wise-guy, know-it-all None.

Although all those thoughts took less than a second or two on that first admission, the pause was long enough for the admissions clerk to look away from her computer screen and at me in anticipation of my answer. As the hospital was run by the Seventh-Day Adventist Church, I wondered if the clerk might be of that denomination and further wondered if she might conclude that I am a heathen of some kind.  By dictionary definition, I probably am a heathen, but, here again, my ego prevailed and I did not want to be thought of as such.  Being a heathen might be worse in her eyes than being a spiritualist.

I couldn’t take up any more of the clerk’s time, so I had to come up with an answer.  So I told her to put “Christian” without denomination.  Even though I don’t believe in the atonement doctrine, the bodily resurrection, the inerrancy of the Bible,  and some other Christian beliefs, I do believe in the basic principles taught by Christ and set forth in the New Testament, e.g., Do unto others…, Love thy neighbor….,By their fruits you shall know them….etc., and I look to Jesus as the “Chairman of the Board” on the Other Side. 

I accept the words of the group soul known as Silver Birch, who said, “There has never been on earth anyone through whom the manifestation of the spirit has been greater than through the Nazarene.  There has never been any through whom the laws have revealed themselves as so great an intensity as the Nazarene.”  So even if a garden-variety Christian priest or minister shows up on my hospital deathbed, I am prepared to welcome him or her. It’s probably best, however, that I not mention my “demonic” beliefs derived from psychical research.

Next blog post:  December 2

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.



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Why Doubting the Afterlife is a Good Thing

Posted on 11 November 2019, 9:46

One of the arguments made by so-called skeptics in opposition to the belief that consciousness survives death is that if there is an omniscient God behind it all “He” should be able to do a better job of providing proof of “His” existence and that of an afterlife. They ignorantly assume that there is no reason not to know with absolute certainty that this life is part of a larger life.

When Victor Hugo, (below) the renowned French author and poet, asked a spirit claiming to have been Martin Luther when in the flesh why God doesn’t better reveal himself, the reply came:  “Because doubt is the instrument which forges the human spirit.  If the day were to come when the human spirit no longer doubted, the human soul would fly off and leave the plough behind, for it would have acquired wings. The earth would lie fallow.  Now, God is the sower and man is the harvester.  The celestial seed demands that the human ploughshare remain in the furrow of life.”


As I interpret those metaphorical words, it would not be to our benefit to know with certainty that this life is part of a larger life as the lessons learned from our free-will choices would not be as meaningful if our actions are based on the promise of reward or the fear of punishment in that larger life.  It might be likened to parents wanting to teach their children moral excellence based on kindness, love, and sympathy rather than out of expectation of reward or fear of punishment.

“Man, do not complain about the fact that you doubt,” Luther further advised Hugo. “Doubt is the specter that holds the flaming sword of genius above the gateway of the beautiful.”

Similar messages have come to us through other credible mediums. Communicating through the trance mediumship of Dr. George T. Dexter during the early 1850s, the famous scientist and mystic Emanuel Swedenborg said: “What would be the benefit conferred on man by opening to his comprehension all the mysteries of spirit life and all the beauties of the spheres – revealing the truths belonging to his material and spiritual nature, if we were not able to teach him how that life on earth should be directed; how to govern his passions, how to progress, how to live that his death may be productive of life everlasting in happiness?”

French educator and researcher Allan Kardec received this message: “The wisdom of Providence is seen in this progressive march of human conviction in regard to the continuance of our existence beyond the grave.  If the certainty of a future life had been permitted to man before his mental vision was prepared for such a prospect, he would have been dazzled thereby, and the seductions of such a certainty, too clearly seen, would have led him to neglect the present life, his diligent use of which is the condition of his physical and moral advancement.”

I like the way Belgian Maurice Maeterlinck, (below) the 1911 Nobel Prize winner in literature, put it: “We need have no hope that any one will utter on this earth the word that shall put an end to our uncertainties.  It is very probable, on the contrary, that no one in this world, nor perhaps in the next, will discover the great secret of the universe.  And, if we reflect upon this for even a moment, it is most fortunate that it should be so. We have not only to resign ourselves to living in the incomprehensible, but to rejoice that we cannot get out of it.  If there were no more insoluble questions nor impenetrable riddles, infinity would not be infinite; and then we should have for ever to curse the fate that placed us in a universe proportionate to our intelligence.  All that exists would be but a gateless prison, an irreparable evil and mistake.  The unknown and the unknowable are necessary and will perhaps always be necessary to our happiness. In any case, I would not wish my worst enemy, were his understanding a thousand-fold loftier and thousand-fold mightier than mine, to be condemned eternally to inhabit a world of which had surprised an essential secret and of which, as a man, he had begun to grasp the least tittle.”


As I see it, absolute certainty means a person is 100-percent sure of something, that there is no doubt in his or her mind that consciousness survives death.  Below that 100-percent plateau are various degrees of faith, ranging from blind faith to true faith, or conviction.  Conviction seems to be best applied to those who have at least a 97.5-percent certainty that consciousness survives death based on evidence that has come to us through research in such areas as trance mediumship, clairvoyance, near-death experiences, out-of-body experiences, deathbed visions, past-life studies, and other psychic phenomena as carried out by men and women of science under controlled conditions. I put my conviction at 98.8-percent certainty, or 1.2-percent doubt. 

While no single case can stand alone as proof of survival, the cumulative evidence from them all strongly suggests survival.  It can be said to meet the “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard of our criminal justice system.  If not “beyond a reasonable doubt,” it most certainly meets the much lower standard of a “preponderance of evidence,” which is applied by our civil court system.  Of course, many who subscribe to a religion and proceed on blind faith would say that they know with absolute certainty that life goes on because their “good book” says so.

As pioneering psychologist William James put it, “If religion be a function by which either God’s cause or man’s cause is to be really advanced, then he who lives the life of it, however, narrowly, is a better servant than he who merely knows about it, however much. Knowledge about life is one thing; effective occupation of a place in life with its dynamic currents passing through your being is another.”

All well and good if humanism – morality without religion – influences enough non-believers and further provides the necessary peace of mind and happiness, especially in times of trial and tribulation.  However, based on the hedonism we are witnessing in today’s world, humanism clearly fails the masses. “The state of anxiety, the feeling of powerlessness and insignificance, and especially the doubt concerning one’s future after death, represent a state of mind which is practically unbearable for anybody,” wrote Erich Fromm, a humanist philosopher.  Younger generations may find all that difficult to comprehend as the real trial comes during old age.

To again quote the pioneering psychiatrist Carl Jung: “Leaving aside the rational arguments against any certainty in these matters, we must not forget that for the most people it means a great deal to assume that their lives will have an indefinite continuity beyond their present existence.  They live more sensibly, feel better, and are more at peace. One has centuries, one has an inconceivable period of time at one’s disposal.  When then is the point of this senseless mad rush?”

The group soul known as Imperator which communicated with William Stainton Moses, an Anglican priest, during the latter decades of the nineteenth century, told Moses that there is a point beyond which it is impossible for them to present evidence.  “We have frequently said that God reveals Himself as man can bear it.  It must needs be so. He is revealed through a human medium, and can only be made known in such measure as the medium can receive the communication.  It is impossible that knowledge of God should outstrip man’s capacity.  Were we now to tell you – if we could – of our more perfect theology it would seem to you strange and unintelligible.  We shall, by slow degrees, instill into your mind so much of truth as you can receive, and then you shall see your present errors. But that is not yet.  Indeed, since the conception which each frames for himself is to him his God, it cannot be that revelation can be in advance of capacity. It is in the nature of things impossible.”

Next blog post:  November 25

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.

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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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