On Absolute Certainty of Life After Death
Posted on 11 October 2021, 11:11
Upon noting in the introduction of my book, No One Really Dies, that I professed my belief in life after death at 98.8% certainty, Bob Ginsberg of the Forever Family Foundation asked me, during an interview for his radio show, what it would take to get me to 100%. I responded that I don’t believe a person – one fully aware of the alternatives – can ever be at 100% on that issue and, further, that such certainty might not be in our best interest.
Getting to 98.8% from around 25% some 35 years ago took about 20 years of studying psychical research, most of it having taken place before 1920 and having been accepted by some leading scientists of the day. However, resistance on both sides – from the fundamentalists of religion on one side and the fundamentalists of science on the other – prevented it from being widely known or accepted. The churches feared that it conflicted with established dogma and doctrine, while the scientists feared that it meant a return to religious superstitions and folly. No single case did it for me; it was the cumulative evidence that came from the cases summarized in my latest book and many others, but the case of George Pellew (below) was worth a 15-point jump in itself.
Until Pellew died and began communicating through the mediumship of Leonora Piper in 1892, leading researchers preferred to think of all the purported “spirit communication” as coming from telepathy, or mind-reading, by the medium, usually by her “secondary personality” while she was in a trance state. When information came through that nobody present knew about, the researchers theorized that she could tap into minds anywhere in the world or into a “cosmic reservoir.” Although, telepathy, super telepathy, and the cosmic reservoir all defied materialistic science, they were more acceptable to science than spirits of the dead.
However, there was simply too much personality, too much volition, too much give-and-take in the conversations with Pellew to not believe that it was actually the discarnate George Pellew, a lawyer and journalist who had died in an accident at the age of 32, communicating. Since such communication upset the mechanistic and materialistic laws advanced by science, many researchers clung to telepathy and the cosmic reservoir as explanations. Science simply couldn’t accept the idea of life after death. It still can’t. (See my blog of March 11, 2013 in archives for more about Pellew.)
The paraffin hands (below) case, carried out by Professor Charles Richet, a Nobel Prize winner, and Dr. Gustave Geley, a noted French physician, was worth at least 10 points in my climb from 25% to 98.8%. The two scientists asked materialized spirits to dip their hands into a bucket of paraffin, producing paraffin casts of their hands, which are still on display in Paris to this day. Their experiments were carried out behind locked doors with the medium’s hands held by the researchers to completely rule out fraud.
The mediumship of Etta Wriedt, a Detroit, Michigan woman who spoke only “Yankee” English in her normal state but through whom the spirits spoke nine different languages, including Croatian, Serbian, French, Dutch, Norwegian, and Arabic, was another 10-pointer. The mediumship of Laura Edmonds also involved many languages unknown to her, including Hungarian, Portuguese, Italian, and Greek, but she gets only two points because it is not as well recorded as that of Wriedt. Only Laura’s father, Judge John Edmonds, Chief Justice of the New York Supreme Court, reported on Laura’s gift, noting at one point that the deceased son of a Greek immigrant communicated with his father through Laura, the father unaware at the time that his son, who remained in Greece, had died a few days earlier.
The mediumship of Cora Scott Richmond is still another 10 pointer. As young as age 14, she (or the group of 12 advanced spirits said to be speaking through her) gave extemporaneous hour-long lectures on profound subjects far beyond her education and experience. In one case, she (or the spirit speaking through her) replied in sign language.
The Confucius case should get 50 points, but it is so bizarre I give it only five points. It is like asking someone to believe in a 90-yard field goal in football or a mile run in under three minutes. It is so mindboggling that one can only laugh at it. There are a number of other five pointers, but I give only one or two points to most of them, including more modern cases, in getting up to 98.8%
Actually, I’m not sure that I am at 100%, or at absolute certainty, on anything. Newton’s law of gravity seems like something we should all accept with the absolute certainty, but there are enough reports on levitations of both humans and objects by credible scientists for me to believe that there are exceptions to that law. I dealt with some of those exceptions in Chapter Four of the book, while suggesting that the humans are not levitating themselves; they are being lifted by spirit entities. Based on testimony of scientists such as Sir William Crookes, a pioneer in x-ray technology, and Alfred Russel Wallace, co-originator with Charles Darwin of the natural selection theory of evolution, who witnessed levitations, I’m at 99.8% on levitations. Where that leaves me on the law of gravity, I’m not sure. Perhaps I am 100% on the law of gravity, but with exceptions.
I must confess that I am only at 5% certainty (95% doubt) on the existence of an anthropomorphic (humanlike) God, but I am at the same 98.8% on the existence of some Higher or Creative Force that might be called God or Cosmic Consciousness. The 1.2% doubt gives consideration to that cosmic reservoir and its cousins, the Akashic Records, Superpsi, Super ESP and Living-Agent Psi. In effect, it is a “God without an afterlife” view of the matter, perhaps a “computer in the skies” running the whole thing.
“The prima facie most impressive evidence there could be of the survival of a deceased friend or relative would be to see and touch his materialized, recognizable bodily form, which then speaks in his or her characteristic manner,” wrote C. J. Ducasse, a professor of philosophy at Brown University in his 1961 book, A Critical Examination of the Belief in Life After Death. “This is what appeared to occur in my presence on an occasion three or four years ago, when during some two hours and in very good red light throughout, some eighteen fully material forms – some male, some female, some tall, some short, and sometimes two together – came out of and returned to the curtained cabinet I had inspected beforehand, in which a medium sat, and to which I had found no avenue of surreptitious access.”
Whether it was actually his mother or not, Ducasse was fairly certain it was a materialized spirit. “I can say only that if the form I saw which said it was my mother and which patted me on the head, was a hallucination – a hallucination ‘complete’ in the sense just stated – then no difference remains between a complete hallucination on the one hand and, on the other, ordinary veridical perception of a physical object; for every further test of the physicality of the form seen and touched could then be alleged to itself hallucinatory and the allegation of complete hallucination then automatically becomes completely vacuous.”
Ducasse also had an opportunity to examine the ectoplasm giving rise to the materialization in good red light, to touch it, and take ten flash photos of the substance as it emanated from the mouth of the medium. He reported that it did not look, feel, or behave like any other substance known to him. It was definitely not cheesecloth, an explanation often suggested by debunkers.
If my mother were to materialize and appear to me under similar circumstances, I don’t think it would move me to 100% certainty, maybe from 98.8 to 99.0. I might still reason that the reverberation theory offered by parapsychologists to explain apparitions in haunted houses and at battlefields could apply. That is, it is some kind of lingering emotional energy from years ago still existing and transcending time.
To my knowledge these reverberated ghosts do not really offer any communication; however, materialized spirits who have carried on conversations with humans have been reported. Therefore, if my mother were to speak to me in the voice that I remember, about things only she could have known and that I know to be true, I might very well move to 99.5%. But I must then consider the argument that the medium was reading my mind and was a good ventriloquist. I was so enthralled by it all and with the will-to-believe that I just imagined the voice sounded like hers. I was delusional. No way can I go to 100% with those remote possibilities in mind.
If my mother were to mention something my youngest brother did that I knew nothing about, and upon checking with my brother I found it to be true, I should be able to rule out telepathy and consider going to 100%. Still, it might then be argued that I had heard about it, forgot about it, and the medium was able to tap into my subconscious mind or into the cosmic reservoir for the information.
The cosmic reservoir must be programmed like Alexa, the telephone robot connected to my land line who answers questions when I put one to her or plays a musical tune that I ask for. She is quite amazing. Thus, I must consider that the cosmic reservoir was programmed by an Intelligence. That suggests some kind of God, but it doesn’t necessarily mean an afterlife goes along with that God. There is no way I can get to 100%.
If I were able to get to absolute certainty, or 100%, would it make any difference in how I live this life? I don’t think so, at least not very much difference. But it might very well make a difference for those who are at a small degree of certainty, or are now complete nihilists, striving to be “one with their toys.” They might live less hedonistic and more hopeful and loving lives. On the other hand, it might also hold them back in their spiritual progress. It would be a deterrence to free will, prompting them to make decisions based on fear of punishment or a lower state of being in the afterlife rather than for caring and compassionate reasons. It may be that not believing helps them advance in this life.
“It is probable we shall never be able to see behind the veil with the clearness and assurance that Swedenborg claimed to possess, although he warned others off the ground he trod,” physicist Sir William Barrett provided his thoughts on the matter. “There may be, and are, I believe, good reasons for this obscure vision. If everyone were as certain as they are of day following night, that after the momentary darkness of death they would pass into an endless life of brightness and freedom, such as many spiritualists depict, it is possible few would wish to remain on earth. May be multitudes of earth-worn and weary souls would resort to some painless and lethal drug that would enable them to enter a realm where they hoped their troubles would be forever ended. A vain and foolish hope, for the discipline of life on earth is necessary for us all, and none can hope to attain a higher life without the educative experience of trial and conflict.”
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.
His latest book, No One Really Dies: 25 Reasons to Believe in an Afterlife is published by White Crow books.
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