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Dealing with Existential Angst at Queen Elizabeth’s Funeral

Posted on 26 September 2022, 10:51

According to a recent survey (World Values Survey 2017-2022), only 41.7 percent of the population in the United Kingdom believes in life after death.  Thus, while watching the funeral service of Queen Elizabeth II on television on September 19, I wondered what the other 58.3 percent of those in attendance were thinking when various Church of England clergy and officials continually said or suggested that the queen is now “in Heaven,” or words to that effect. At the same time, I could visualize a number of militant nihilists around the world scoffing, sneering, and snorting in self-righteous disdain. 


Yes, there were many foreign dignitaries at the funeral and the percentages are a little higher for some of them, e.g., 56.9 percent for Canada, 53.8 percent for Australia, and 68.2 percent for the United States, but overall, assuming the survey is valid, it seems fair to accept that at least half of those in attendance considered themselves nihilists.  While listening to the Church authorities, I tried to subrogate myself to the minds of the nihilist and analyze my reaction to the words delivered as well as to the entire spiritual atmosphere surrounding me.  Rather than see myself as an absolute nihilist, closedmindedly 100 percent locked into that belief system, I chose to be a 90 percent nihilist, meaning that 10 percent of my view was still clinging to the religious “fairy tale” my mother and others brainwashed me with during those formative years.  I considered myself too smart and scientifically minded to hold on to those fairy tales, but that 10 percent helped me avoid complete existential angst when the usual escape mechanisms failed me.

Emotionally moved by the pomp, solemnity, and grandeur of the spectacular service, I found myself drifting from that 90 percent nihilistic worldview to close to 50 percent, while asking myself if it is possible that I have made a too hasty conclusion in dismissing it all as unscientific nonsense. Emotions were doing battle with my intellect.  I breathed a sigh of relief with the thought that a number of like-minded secularists – a more acceptable name than nihilists – sitting around me could not read my mind and know of my absurd thoughts. It was about then that the younger generation of royalty came within my view and, considering that the other surveys reveal that people from their generation are even more nihilistic than older ones, I wondered if they really believed the Church propaganda or if they were simply “playing the game,” so to speak, out of respect for their elders and for the sake of tradition.

As Church authorities spoke, mentioning the seemingly monotonous orthodox Heaven, the far-off Judgment Day, the so-called “sleep” until that day, the atonement doctrine, and other dreary ideas adopted by the Church of England, my belief meter worked its way back to 90 percent disbelief, maybe even touching 100 percent, and I struggled to resist the existential angst that was beginning to grip me.  “No, the queen is extinct, and so are my deceased loved ones,” I admonished myself.  “Their personalities are completely obliterated just as mine will be some day. But I won’t know it, so why concern myself with it.”

My intellect would not allow the heart-rending magnificence of all that surrounded me to triumph over reason. I was steadfast in my nihilistic worldview by the time the service ended. I would not succumb to religious propaganda, but I reasoned that it was best to hold on to that 10 percent belief factor to protect myself from future attacks of existential angst. Outwardly, however, I would pretend to be at 100 percent so as not to shame myself, even though 100 percent is a very unscientific approach and should shame me. 

The media reports after the funeral lent themselves to the nihilistic view, never distinguishing between the queen’s mortal remains and her persona.  One commentator said something to the effect that “the body of Queen Elizabeth will be laid with her husband Philip in the Windsor chapel where they will be together for eternity.”  What a dismal and depressing picture that offers. 

Back to not imagining, I thought about the comment made by Professor Augustus De Morgan, the renowned British mathematician and logician, in his letter to his mother, when he said, in effect, that if he were to return to an organized religion, he would choose the “Church of Rome” over the Church of England. (See blog of September 13, 2022).  He didn’t give a specific reason beyond saying the Church of Rome provided much more knowledge than the Church of England, but I suspect that idea of Purgatory was one of the major reasons for that comment. 

The Protestant Reformation attempted to do away with Purgatory – sort of a middle ground between heaven and hell, one in which souls would purge themselves of their sins before being allowed entrance to Heaven. The Protestant afterlife supposed souls were all good or all evil.  There were no shades of gray between the ultimate good and the ultimate evil.  It held that a person was “saved” as long as he made the right choice in selecting and worshipping his savior during his or her lifetime.  Luck was often a very big factor in finding that savior.  The unlucky one was condemned to eternity in everlasting fire. Is it any wonder that rational people abandoned organized religions?

And while Catholics offered a middle ground, it was as bad as hell except that it did not last for eternity.  Indications are that the Catholic Church now avoids any discussion of purgatory as even the person who departs the earth life with a soul a very light shade of gray has reason to fear death and what is ahead. 

Neither the Protestants nor the Catholics seem to have given any consideration to the revelations that began with Emanual Swedenborg during the middle of the eighteenth century suggesting that there are many realms or levels of consciousness in the afterlife environment, or as it is translated in the New Testament, “many mansions in my Father’s house.” 

While words of the discarnate Albert Pauchard (1878-1934) are not subject to scientific confirmation, they are consistent with many other messages coming from the Other Side relative to life on that side of the veil.  “Purgatory is not a fancy, it is a reality,” Pauchard communicated to his sister Antoinette through a medium shortly after his death, at age 56. He went on to explain that it was not a place of punishment for faults committed, but rather a place one has created for him- or herself based on the person’s mindset and earthly deeds. (Reference: The Other World, available at White Crow Books)

“One meets all kinds of people here,” Pauchard continued. “One sees everybody as they really are, and each individual spends a more or less long period in his or her own particular Purgatory. You will be the first to understand how intensely one desire to warn those on earth when seeing all this.  Because a little goodwill, the slightest effort, even without success, makes such an enormous difference in the results over here.”  He added that he lives in a four-dimensional world which is constituted of more living realities than on the material plane.  “The intensity of joy and moral suffering is multiplied more than a hundredfold, and impressions which on earth are more or less vague take an objective and symbolic form here…”

Pauchard communicated that many people there do not understand their condition.  A typical case, he explained, was that of a man who prided himself on being an intellectual.  “A materialist of course,” he continued. “You know their theories. As a consequence of their belief that after death there is no consciousness, many of these people go to sleep for a more or less long period.”  Pauchard referred to him as an “honourable” type and a theoretician.  “He continues theorizing here.  He is not even aware that physical wants and conditions have vanished.  They had never meant much to him.  He sees around him his study and bedroom and simply goes on in the old way as he did not earth. As to his Purgatory, he has not yet gone through it.  There is still room for it in his being. His incessant and rather superficial intellectual activity must first wear out a little.  Only people who have a heart and imagination pass through their Purgatory at an early stage. While those who deny life after death and are endowed with a great imagination go to sleep.  That is part of their Purgatory, for they are conscious of the only thing they had always dreamt of: their unconsciousness.”

Pauchard added that neither he nor any other soul there could make the man understand his condition. His current activity must “wear out” on its own. “In the end, he will grow tired of it, and in that way begin his Purgatory.  In a case like this, Purgatory does not take an objective, symbolic form, for the individual has no imagination.” 

Another difficult case, Pauchard told his sister, was that of a clergyman who, not having found the conditions he expected, does not believe in his own death. “He is troubled by things he cannot explain and believes himself to have grown weak in mind. I wanted to help him, but he is afraid of me.  He thinks that owing to his mental defect he may become less firmly anchored in the true doctrine and thus be misled by me.”

When asked if one gets bored there, Pauchard replied, “Oh no! One does not feel bored here, you may be sure of that.  Unless one brings along that particular sort of spirit, which is not interested in anything or finds fault with everything.  But this kind of mentality has no access to the plane where I live.”

Overall, Pauchard and other spirit communicators report on an active lifestyle on the Other Side once the soul has fully awakened to his or her condition.  “Seen from a mortal point of view, life here may seem empty and monotonous,” Pauchard stated. “But it is far from being so. It is really so intense and radiant, that in comparison, life on earth appears to us like a bad dream, a bad dream on a dark night.” Until religion awakens to this, it seems likely that it will continue to lose members.  Instead of wishing that the person “rest in peace,” in the grave until some far-off day of judgment, it might begin by wishing for a very active lifestyle for the recently departed soul.

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.

Next blog post: October 10



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Professor De Morgan Gave Meaning to “Spiritual But Not Religious”

Posted on 13 September 2022, 9:58

The biography of famed British mathematician and logician Augustus De Morgan (1806-1871) at Wikipedia is very informative and well presented, except for the section near the end when it cites psychologist John Beloff as declaring that De Morgan was barred from positions at Oxford and Cambridge because he was an atheist.  The Wikipedia biographer seems to take some relief in noting De Morgan’s (below) atheism after having explained his interest in psychic phenomena.


Having just read Memoir of Augustus De Morgan by his wife, (below) Sophia Elizabeth De Morgan (1809-1892), published in 1882, as well as rereading Mrs. De Morgan’s 1863 book, From Matter to Spirit: The Result of Ten Years’ Experience in Spirit Manifestations, I don’t see De Morgan as ever having been an atheist, unless one concludes that any person not accepting the teachings of the Church of England at the time was automatically an atheist.  As I understand it, De Morgan earned his bachelor’s degree at Trinity College, Cambridge, but he elected not to pursue an advanced degree there, or at Oxford, because he would have had to declare himself in complete accord with the teachings of the Church.  He could not accept the strict interpretations given to the Old Testament suggesting a wrathful God and had doubts about the nature of the Trinity, but he remained open-minded and his beliefs were in line with many Unitarians of his era.


“He believed that Jesus Christ, the Son of God by the gift of the Holy Spirit without measure, was, as to his nature, a man like ourselves, except in His power of receiving the Spirit of God,” Sophia De Morgan explained in her 1882 book. “That His divinity was not, like that of the Father, the Source of all things, underived and self-existent.  That the Father spoke through Him by the same Spirit, sending the message and the means of redemption or bringing back erring man to God.  That the mission was attested by His words and miraculous works, and that He rose from the dead, and was seen to rise to Heaven, from whence He sends the Spirit to whose who are able to receive it.”  She also recorded that he spent much time during his final years studying the New Testament.

De Morgan’s mother was a fundamentalist Christian who grieved over her son’s rejection of Church doctrine and dogma. In a lengthy 1836 letter to her, he wrote, in part: “Your expressions amount to the following: – If you do not take it for granted that King James’s translators chose the right Greek, and turned it into the right English, and more than that, drew all their inferences correctly, God Almighty will punish you to all eternity.”  Later in the letter, he added: “Before God I declare that I have examined closely the history of the early Church, together with abundance of controversy on both sides, not forgetting the books of the New Testament on which they are written, and can find nothing like the creed of the Churches of Rome or England. The former does not pretend to find what you call the essential doctrines of Christianity in the New Testament, but appeals to tradition. It is easy to rail at them, but to the best of my knowledge and belief, derived from historical reading and actual observation, the Church of Rome contains as much honesty as that of England, and a vast deal more knowledge. It would take one quarter as much evidence to make me a Catholic as to make me a Church of England man.”

De Morgan’s brilliance was such that he did not require an advanced degree and he therefore became professor of mathematics at London University at the age of 22, a position he would occupy for 35 years.  He is remembered today primarily for his contributions to mathematics, especially differential calculus, and logic (De Morgan’s Laws are credited to him, even though Aristotle offered much the same reasoning centuries earlier.)  Philosopher John Stuart Mill referred to De Morgan as a mathematician with the attainments of a philosopher, logician and psychologist.  While he is little remembered in the field of psychical research, his open-minded approach to psychic phenomena is said to have influenced Sir William Crookes, a renowned scientist of that era, to undertake his investigations of mediums D. D. Home and Florence Cook, even though many other scientists of his time scoffed at the idea and even refused to join Crookes in some of his experiments with Home.

Although the lengthy preface to his wife’s 1863 book is simply signed “A.B.” De Morgan later admitted to a friend that he was the author of the preface and that his ideas and observations were in complete accord with those of his wife.  The book explores the experiments, studies, and observations of both Mr. and Mrs. De Morgan in clairvoyance, clairaudience, automatic writing, deathbed phenomena and even near-death experiences, beginning in 1853, placing them, with Judge John Edmonds, Professor Robert Hare, and Rev. Adin Ballou, as among the earliest psychical researchers and possibly the first in Great Britain.  Sophia De Morgan, while referred to as a “spiritualist” in some current biographies with a materialistic slant (apparently because of her interest, not because of any memberships), emerges as an objective investigator of psychic phenomena and possibly the first woman to devote her time and energies to psychical research.

“When a strange tale reached us, twelve years ago, of noises which had been heard in America, and attributed to spirits, everybody laughed,” Sophia De Morgan wrote in the first chapter of her 1863 book. “As the stories multiplied, a few persons in England began to think they must have some origin at least, and to wonder why, if spirits could rap in the United States, they did not do so in our country…and at length curiosity was still further excited by the appearance of a medium in London. Mrs. [Maria] Hayden became the wonder of the day; but people fancied that they could detect imposture, and, though none was ever fairly proved, the interest flagged and the ‘medium’ returned to America, having sown the seed of a tree the extent of whose growth has yet to be measured…” 

Mrs. De Morgan recalled in their first sitting with Mrs. Hayden that they waited for 15 minutes or more before anything happened, and they were becoming impatient. They then heard some throbbing or patting sound in the center of the table, and Hayden said, “They are coming.” The sounds gathered strength and Hayden said that a spirit was there. The name of the spirit was spelled out by raps (Mrs. De Morgan would run her finger along an alphabet board until a rap sounded indicating the correct letter, the medium unable to see the board). “To my astonishment, the not common name of a dear relation, who had left this world seventeen years before, and whose surname was that of my father’s, not my husband’s family, was spelt. Then this sentence. “I am happy, and with F—- and G—-(full names given).” All three names were recognized by Mrs. De Morgan,

In the 1882 book, a letter from Augustus De Morgan to Rev. W. Heald, dated July 1953, is quoted, De Morgan described his experience with Mrs. Hayden, explaining that it was his wife’s sister who had communicated.  “After some questioning, she (I speak the spirit hypothesis, though I have no theory on the subject) was asked whether I might ask a question,” De Morgan recalled.  He received an affirmative rap and then asked if he could give the question mentally.  Again, the reply was in the affirmative.  The question he mentally put to his wife’s sister (without speaking)  had to do with the subject they once discussed in a letter.  The reply came: C-H-E-S-S, which De Morgan confirmed as the proper subject.

De Morgan then heard from his deceased father and after some conversation asked his father to give the first letters of an epithets applied to him (his father) by a periodical he was thinking of, one published in 1817.  (It would have taken too much time for the communicator to give the complete epithets).  The reply came, C-D-T-F-O-C, which De Morgan confirmed as correct, commenting that he was satisfied that somebody, or some spirit, was reading his thoughts.  “This and the like went on for nearly three hours, during a great part of which Mrs. Hayden was busy reading the ‘Key to Uncle Tom’s Cabin,’ which she had never seen before, and I assure you she set to it, with just as much avidity as you may suppose an American lady would who saw it for the first time, while we were amusing ourselves with the raps in our own way.  All this I declare to be literally true.  Since that time, I have seen it my house frequently, various persons presenting themselves. The answers are given mostly by the table, on which a hand or two is gently placed, tilting up at the letters….Make what you can of it if you are a philosopher.”  (While De Morgan does not say exactly what the letters stood for, his words suggest that it was something like, “Colonel De Morgan, the fussy old codger.” )

At a later meeting with Hayden,  Mrs. De Morgan had the letters D, E, A, R, E, S, T come through the table and assumed that her name would follow, i.e., “Dearest Sophia,” but the complete message, which was from a long-deceased friend, read, “Dear Esther is with me, and we long to clasp you in our arms in this bright world of glory.”  (Nearly all the messages came through without spaces between words.) “ Mrs. De Morgan noted that the name of the communicator and Esther were both known to her. 

De Morgan continued to sit on the fence concerning the spirit hypothesis, but, also in the preface of the 1863 book, he stated: “I am perfectly convinced that I have both seen, and heard in a manner which should make unbelief impossible, things called spiritual which cannot be taken by a rational being to be capable of explanation by imposture, coincidence, or mistake, But when it comes to what is the cause of these phenomena, I find I cannot adopt any explanation which has yet been suggested. If I were bound to choose among things which I can conceive, I should say that there is some sort of action or some combination of will, intellect, and physical power, which is not that of any of the human beings present.”  He added that “the spiritual hypothesis is sufficient, but ponderously difficult.”  The fact that he did not put his name to the preface seems clearly to have suggested that severe sanctions from the academic world – both from the religious and the scientific sides – would have been imposed. 

Later, in 1866, he wrote, “I have for thirty years, and in my classroom, acted on the principle that positive theism may be made the basis of psychological explanation without violation of any law of the College.”  Wikipedia needs to rethink its branding of De Morgan as an “atheist.”

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.

Next blog post: September 26

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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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