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The Best Evidence for Life After Death?

Posted on 20 August 2012, 14:41

What earthly phenomenon serves as the best evidence for life after death?  That question has been put to me more than a few times.  My answer is that if someone I knew very closely during life – my mother, for example – materialized in front of me and talked with me about things from the past that nobody else knew about, in the voice I remember, perhaps even mentioning things I had forgotten, I would be about 99.8% convinced.  The .2% doubt would be recognition of the possibility that there is some explanation beyond human comprehension, at least beyond my comprehension.  As it is, I am, as a vicarious experiencer,  98.8% convinced,  as I just can’t believe all the credible people who have reported just such an experience have been duped over and over again.

Consider the experience of John King, a Toronto physician. In a sitting with Joseph Jonson, (below) a Toledo, Ohio medium, King reported 19 separate materializations in one night.  He observed spirits coming from the materialization cabinet, greeting loved ones, embracing them, talking with them, etc. His deceased wife, May, was the eleventh to materialize.  She embraced him, spoke to him about personal matters, and dematerialized right into the floor in front of him.


In a different sitting, Dr. King’s deceased brother, who had died at age 18 months, materialized as an adult as did King’s daughter who had died at birth 20 years earlier.  Although King did not recognize either, he was able to ask them questions and confirm that they were who they said they were. The brother told King that he had been present along with many other relatives when May entered the spirit world. Still another materialized spirit for King was a man who had worked with him some years before and had died about three years earlier.  He was an acquaintance, not a good friend, certainly not someone whom King would have expected. 

“The majority of the forms I saw in the three séances in November materialized inside the cabinet, and returning towards the cabinet, disappeared as they got to the opening of the curtains, but without entering the cabinet,” King explained.  “A few materialized outside of the cabinet, and several were materialized inside the cabinet, while Jonson sat at one end of the semi-circle of people part of the time, and another part of the time he walked along in front of the line of sitters, drawing magnetism from them to build the forms inside the cabinet,…”

To claim fraud on the part of the Jonson is to suggest that he did a thorough investigation of King, finding out about a deceased brother, who lived only 18 months, a deceased daughter who died at birth, a man who worked with him, and also about the personal things that May, his wife talked about, then found someone who closely resembled his wife and the former co-worker to impersonate them, while also bringing in a number of other impersonators for others sitting in the circle.  He would also have to create some kind of illusion to make it appear that the “spirits” were vanishing into the floor, while also finding a way for up to 19 impersonators, including some children, to enter the room, emerge from the cabinet, and then look enough like deceased loved ones to fool everyone in the circle.  And he would have had to pay the impersonators good money to be sure they didn’t expose him later on.

The skeptic will probably claim that Jonson had a trap door at the bottom of the materialization cabinet, but King checked for this when he inspected the room before the séance began.  The skeptic might also claim that King made up the whole story so he could write a book (Dawn of the Awakened Mind).  Or possibly, King had lost touch with reality and imagined it all. 

The late Tom Harrison impressed me as a very sane and intelligent man in my communications with him several years ago, and I find it extremely difficult to believe that Tom was duped by his mother, Minnie Harrison, (below) or that he made up the stories set forth in his book, Life After Death – Living Proof


The phenomena observed by Harrison and reported by him included many full materializations of spirits – spirits of deceased relatives and friends who walked around the room, talked with sitters, laughed with them, shook their hands, kissed them, had them tug on their beards, and sometimes evaporated before their eyes.  “When we have shaken hands with our spirit visitors, their hands are quite flesh-like and warm, as are their faces when we have kissed them,”  Harrison wrote, pointing out that red lights were allowed by the “spirit scientists,” permitting them to see and photograph some of the materialized spirits.

In one sitting, Harrison’s deceased grandmother materialized and walked around the room without any visible feet.  When Harrison asked her why her feet were missing, she explained that they were always cold during her earthly life and thus she decided not to materialize them in her ectoplasmic body.  In another sitting, a sitter’s aunt materialized and he was permitted to check her heart rate at her wrist as well as examine her feet before she vanished.

If Minnie Harrison was indeed a charlatan, we must assume that she was a master illusionist and took great joy in playing tricks on her son and close friends month after month over a nine-year period before her death.  Moreover, since many of the materializations were in the home of two of the friends, she would have had to somehow sneak into their house when they were not looking in order to prepare the room for her elaborate tricks.   

“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, 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.”

Ducasse went on to explain that the material forms were recognized by other sitters and in some cases the deceased spoke and caressed the living.

Hamlin Garland, a Pulitzer Prize winning author and very skeptical researcher, wrote about observing a materialization. “After a few moments’ silence, I observed a cloud of glowing vapor slowly forming on the floor just in front of the portieres. It resembled, as it rose, a cone of fire-lit steam, like that which rolls from a locomotive smokestack on a winter morning.  It expanded as it slowly rose, and at last out of it the dim figure of a man emerged.”  The man spoke in a foreign tongue and the Polish man who sat next to Garland cried out that it was his brother. Garland noted that the materialization appeared to be almost an exact twin of the man claiming to be his brother.

When another form materialized, seemingly from a cloud of smoke, Garland went forward to shake his hand. He felt bones in the materialized man’s hand and then felt the hand “melt away” between his fingers, after which the entire figure vanished before him.  “It made no sound when it appeared and none as it disappeared. One instant it was there, the next instant it was not.” 

It is extremely difficult to believe that men like King, Harrison, Ducasse, Garland, and many others, such as Sir William Crookes, the discoverer of the element thallium and a pioneer in X-ray technology, Dr. Charles Richet, a Nobel Prize winner in medicine, Dr. Gustave Geley, a professor of medicine at the University of Lyons, Dr. T. Glen Hamilton, a respected Canadian physician and psychical researcher, and numerous others of high professional standing who witnessed materializations could have been so easily fooled over and over again under controlled conditions. And yet, their testimony has been disregarded by mainstream science and even by some parapsychologists who otherwise accept the existence of psychic phenomena.

As a last resort, the skeptic might suggest that they were all victims of collective hallucinations – all hypnotized by some very clever mediums.  I don’t know enough about hypnotism to rule that out completely, but that seems like a real stretch to me. I wonder what would have motivated Minnie Harrison to induce collective hallucinations in her son and friends nearly every week for nine years.  I’ll stick with my 98.8% conviction for now. 

Michael Tymn is the author of The Afterlife Revealed: What Happens After we Die, Transcending the Titanic, and The Afterlife Explorers Volume 1., published by White Crow Books and available from Amazon and all good online bookstores.

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Next blog:  September 6


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Is $5-Million for Life After Death Research a Waste?

Posted on 04 August 2012, 14:28

If you missed it in the news last week, The John Templeton Foundation, a philanthropic organization, awarded a three-year, $5-million grant to John M. Fischer, a humanities professor at the University of California, Riverside, to explore a wide range of issues related to “immortality.”  Fischer is quoted:  “People have been thinking about immortality throughout history.  We have a deep human need to figure out what happens to us after death.  Much of the discussion has been in literature, especially in fantasy and science fiction, and in theology in the context of an afterlife, heaven, hell, purgatory and karma.  No one has taken a comprehensive and sustained look at immortality that brings together the science, theology, and philosophy.”

The initial release states that all recent research in the near-death experience and “other experiences” is anecdotal.  Fischer is quoted in a Los Angeles Times article as saying that the project is not aimed at proving anything.  He described himself as skeptical about an afterlife, but believes it could be a good thing. 

As I have great respect for the John Templeton Foundation, I hate to be negative, but I was sickened when I read the release, especially Fischer’s words.  If he is unaware of all the comprehensive and sustained research carried out over the past 160 years – research in mediumship, reincarnation, near-death experiences, and out-of-body experiences – how can he possibly have the expertise to head up such a research project?  What is he going to be able to come up with in three years that others haven’t already discovered, especially if he is starting from scratch, as he must be if he doesn’t believe there has been anything of value produced to date? 

I can summarize what Fischer will say in three years right now. Since the Templeton Foundation seems to be pro spirituality, he will not totally dismiss survival, but will say it remains a mystery which science will hopefully solve in the future. He will confirm that certain phenomena, such as the near-death experience, suggest something more than a physical body, but will add that much more research is necessary. In the mean time, we should all live in the moment, love our neighbors, and not concern ourselves with what comes after death.  That will be the sage advice coming from a $5-million study.

One might infer from Fischer’s statement that he has never heard of men like Crookes, Barrett, Myers, Hodgson, Lodge, Richet, Hyslop, Crawford, Geley, Stevenson, and all the distinguished NDE researchers from the past 35 years – men and women who dedicated themselves to such research in spite of criticism from their scientific peers. Hodgson spent the better part of 18 years studying one woman, Leonora Piper, while Hyslop devoted the last two decades of his life to full-time psychical researcher. How anyone who has studied their detailed research reports can say that their research was not comprehensive and sustained, or just anecdotal, is beyond me. 

Of course, many scientists, who haven’t really studied it, find it easier to dismiss it as outdated.  Many assume that those distinguished researchers of yesteryear were simply duped by a bunch of charlatans. If I were a non-believer, I would say that all those distinguished men are rolling over in their graves, but since I am a believer I suspect that they are shaking their heads in disgust from some lofty perch, assuming that they are still within vibrational range of us to care enough. 

The fact is that those researchers of yesteryear offered evidence that is likely as good as we will ever get.  Studies in the NDE, OBE, and past-lives have added to their research, but their work formed a strong nucleus around which other research could add and confirm. Let me quote a few of those pioneers of psychical research:

Richard Hodgson:  “I had but one object, to discover fraud and trickery…of unmasking [Mrs. Piper].  Today, I am prepared to say that I believe in the possibility of receiving messages from what is called the world of spirits. I entered the house profoundly materialistic, not believing in the continuance of life after death; today I say I believe. The truth has been given to me in such a way as to remove from me the possibility of a doubt.”  (Dr. Hodgson taught philosophy at Cambridge before taking over the American branch of the Society for Psychical Research.)

James H. Hyslop:  “Personally I regard the fact of survival after death as scientifically proved.  I agree that this opinion is not upheld in scientific quarters.  But this is neither our fault nor the fault of the facts.  Evolution was not believed until long after it was proved.  The fault lay with those who were too ignorant or too stubborn to accept the facts.  History shows that every intelligent man who has gone into this investigation, if he gave it adequate examination at all, has come out believing in spirits; this circumstance places the burden or proof on the shoulders of the skeptic.” (Dr. Hyslop was professor of logic and ethics at Columbia University before becoming a full-time psychical researcher.)

William James: “I am able, while still holding to all the lower principles of interpretation, to imagine the process as more complex, and to share the feelings with which Hodgson came at last to regard it after his many years of familiarity, the feeling which Professor Hyslop shares, and which most of those who have good sittings are promptly inspired with.”  (Dr. James was professor of anatomy and philosophy at Harvard and a pioneer in psychology.)

Alfred Russel Wallace:  “My position is that the phenomena of Spiritualism in their entirety do not require further confirmation.  They are proved quite as well as facts are proved in other sciences.”  (Wallace was co-originator with Charles Darwin of the natural selection theory of evolution.)

Sir Oliver Lodge: (below)  “I tell you with all my strength of the conviction which I can muster that we do persist…I say it on distinct scientific grounds.  I say it because I know that certain friends of mine still exist, because I have talked with them…The dead are not dead, but alive.”  (Dr. Lodge was a professor of physics and pioneer in electricity and radio.) 


Sir William Barrett:  “I am personally convinced that the evidence we have published decidedly demonstrates (1) the existence of a spiritual world, (2) survival after death, and (3) of occasional communication from those who have passed over… It is however hardly possible to convey to others who have not had a similar experience an adequate idea of the strength and cumulative force of the evidence that has compelled [my] belief.” (Sir William was a professor of physics at the Royal College in Dublin.) 

Sir William Crookes:  “[The phenomena] point to the existence of another order of human life continuous with this, and demonstrate the possibility in certain circumstances of communication between this world and the next.” (Crookes was a world-renowned chemist and a pioneer in radiology.)

Cesare Lombroso:  “I am ashamed and grieved at having opposed with so much tenacity the possibility of psychic facts – the facts exist and I boast of being a slave to facts.  There can be no doubt that genuine psychical phenomena are produced by intelligences totally independent of the psychic and the parties present at the sittings.” (Dr. Lombroso was a psychiatrist and founder of the science of criminology.)

Charles Richet:  “It seems to me the facts are undeniable. I am convinced that I have been present at realities. Certainly I cannot say in what materialization consists. I am ready to maintain that there is something profoundly mysterious in it which will change from top to bottom our ideas on nature and on life.” (Dr. Richet was a professor of physiology and the 1913 Nobel Prize winner in medicine)

Camille Flammarion: “I do not hesitate to affirm my conviction, based on personal examination of the subject, that any man who declares the phenomena to be impossible is one who speaks without knowing what he is talking about; and, also that any man accustomed to scientific observation – provided that his mind is not biased by preconceived opinions – may acquire a radical and absolute certainty of the reality of the facts alluded to.”  (Flammarion was a pioneer astronomer.)

Robert Crookall:  “The whole of the available evidence is explicable on the hypothesis of the survival of the human soul in a Soul Body. There is no longer a ‘deadlock’ or ‘stalemate’ on the question of survival. On the contrary, survival is as well established as the theory of evolution.”  (Dr. Crookall was a respected British botanist and geologist.)

Enrico Morselli:  “If for many years academic science has depreciated the whole category of facts…so much the worse for science. And worse still for the scientists who have remained deaf and blind before affirmations, not of credulous sectarians, but of serious and worthy observers, such as Crookes, Lodge, and Richet. I, myself, as far as my modest power went, contributed to this obstinate skepticism until the day when I was enabled to break the chains in which my absolutist preconceptions had bound my judgment. I was a bitter skeptic with regard to the objective reality of the phenomena. Today, furnished with an experience, after long and mature reflections on what I have seen and touched with my hand, I have changed my belief.”  (Dr. Morselli was Director of the Clinic of Nervous and Mental Disease at the University of Genoa.)

All of the above-quoted researchers were fully aware of the alternative explanations to what they observed – fraud, telepathy, and what later came to be called superpsi. Though not subject to easy qualitative and quantitative analyses, the evidence is empirical and as solid today as it was in their day. But mainstream science resisted and ignored it.  “The aim of science has been for the most part a study of mechanism, the mechanism whereby results are achieved, an investigation into the physical processes which go on, and which appear to be coextensive with nature,” Lodge explained the ignorance. “Any theory which seems to involve the action of Higher Beings, or of any unknown entity controlling and working the mechanism, is apt to be extruded or discountenanced as a relic of primitive superstition, coming down from times when such infantile explanations were prevalent.”


Instead of attempting to reinvent the wheel, the Templeton Foundation should get someone for a fraction of that $5-million to collect and collate all the research that has already been done on the subject of immortality and then explain it to the public in a manner that is understandable to the average person.  At the same time, science needs to consider the possibility that uncertainty might very well be a good thing.  Nothing addresses that better than a message given to Victor Hugo by a spirit when the great author asked why God does not better reveal himself.  “Because doubt is the instrument which forges the human spirit,” the communicating entity told him. “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 the harvester.  The celestial seed demands that the human ploughshare remain in the furrow of life.” 

Michael Tymn is the author of The Afterlife Revealed: What Happens After we Die, Transcending the Titanic, and The Afterlife Explorers Volume 1., published by White Crow Books and available from Amazon and all good online bookstores.

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Next blog:  August 20 —The best evidence for life after death  


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