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Nihilism:  What is it?

Posted on 17 September 2012, 14:45

Atheism….Humanism….Materialism…Realism….Idealism..…Scientism…Positivism… Determinism…Naturalism …Vitalism….Nihilism – all words one comes across in philosophical and metaphysical literature in the broad area of “non-belief”’ in a Creator and an Afterlife.  It is not always entirely clear whether the words are synonymous, whether they are overlapping, or whether they have different meanings. The most interesting treatment of this subject matter I have come across is a 1994 book by philosopher Eugene Rose (below) entitled Nihilism:  The Root of the Revolution of the Modern Age.  As Rose sees it, they all involve the “abandonment of Truth.” 


Rose, also known as Father Seraphim Rose, was an American hieromonk of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia.  He co-founded the St. Herman of Alaska monastery in a seculded area of the northern California mountains, about 40 miles west of Red Bluff and Redding.  He died in 1982 at the age of 52. The 1994 book was apparently compiled from his writings by his followers.  A back-cover statement claims that Rose, after his death, became the most popular spiritual-philosophical writer in Russia.  I came across another book of his – one dealing with the afterlife – about a dozen years ago and had a difficult time accepting some of his beliefs, which were set forth as dogma, although, as I recall, I found them easier to accept than those of orthodox Christianity.  I am not qualified to agree or disagree with Rose in this whole area of belief and disbelief, but much, though not all, of what he writes rings true to me. 

Rose questions whether there is such a thing as a true “atheist,” since most who call themselves atheists are devoting themselves to service of a false god.  Atheism is a spiritual state, Rose argues, in that the true “existential” atheist is rebelling against what he or she sees as an unjust or unmerciful God.  This “existential atheist” is really seeking God.  Borrowing from the anarchist Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, he feels that “antitheist” is a better term for this person.  In the strict sense of the word, the atheist is not a nihilist, as the atheist does not deny the absolute, while the nihilist does. Nihilism, Rose explains, is the belief that there is no Absolute Truth, that all Truth is relative.

“That there is no truth; that there is no absolute state of affairs – no thing in itself.  This alone is Nihilism, and of the most extreme kind,” he quotes Friedrich Nietszche, the late Nineteenth Century philosopher who proclaimed the “death of God.”  In effect, there is no answer to the question “why?”  So we might as well eat, drink, and be merry before we fall into the abyss of nothingness.

According to Rose, there are four stages in the Nihilist Dialectic – Liberalism, Realism, Vitalism, and the Nihilism of Destruction.

Liberalism:  Because everything is so abstract or vague to him, the Liberal, Rose declares, is more concerned with worldly affairs and for the most part indifferent to the reality of an afterlife. If he believes in God, it is as a mere idea of a vague impersonal power.  “The Liberal may be interested in culture, in learning, in business, or merely in comfort,” Rose writes, “but in every one of his pursuits the dimension of the absolute is simply absent.  He is unable, or unwilling, to think in terms of ends, of ultimate things.  The thirst for absolute truth has vanished; it has been swallowed up in worldliness.”

The academic world, Rose goes on, is in large part responsible for the corruption that brings about this first stage by diverting youth, so easily influenced,  into “comparative” studies, “and the all-pervading relativism and skepticism inculcated in these studies.”

The loss of faith is the beginning of the end of the order erected upon that faith, Rose states.

Realism: Because his own faith is empty, the Liberal calls into being a more nihilistic reaction – one that, ironically, proclaims its “love of truth,” while going one step farther on the path of error, Realism.  This, if I am interpreting Rose correctly, encompasses “naturalism,” “reductionism,” “scientism,” “materialism,” and “positivism.”  The Realist is someone who has moved from Liberal vagueness to a belief that all is clarity.

“It is the naïve, undisciplined thought of the unreflective, practical man who, in our age of oversimplification, thinks to impose his simple-minded standards and ideas upon the entire world; or, on a slightly different level, the equally naïve thought of the scientist, bound to the obvious by the requirements of his specialty, when he illegitimately attempts to extend scientific criteria beyond their proper bounds.”  Rose is quick to point out that his remarks are not directed against science itself, but against this “scientism,” also called scientific fundamentalism. 

The difference between the Liberal and the Realist, Rose states, is not so much one of doctrine, as it is of emphasis and motivation. The Liberal is simply indifferent to absolute truth, while the Realist allows this indifference to become a fanatical devotion to worldly things and hostility toward Truth, even though he might claim that his cause is the love of truth. “Where the Christian sees God in everything, the Realist sees only ‘race’ or ‘sex’ or the ‘mode of production,’” Rose explains, adding that “humanism” had a more “idealistic” and Liberal coloration in an earlier age but has had to adopt a more Realistic tone in the modern age.

Vitalism: Since Liberalism and Realism can easily lead to moral decay as well as despair in the face of extinction, there is a need to revitalize humanity with what Rose calls “pseudo-spiritual pretension” to overcome this restlessness,  Vitalism attempts to do this by finding a substitute for God. .  “Vitalism is a more advanced kind of Realism,” he further explains, “sharing the latter’s narrow view of reality and its concern to reduce everything higher to the lowest possible terms.”  But, he continues, while Realism reduces the supernatural to the natural, the revealed to the rational, truth to objectivity, Vitalism goes further and reduces everything to subjective experience and sensation.

In Vitalism, there is even more emphasis on the humanistic “religion,” which strives to find its god in science and progress and a “live and love in the moment” philosophy.  “It is the last attempt of the unbeliever to hide his abandonment of truth behind a cloud of noble rhetoric, and, more positively, it is at the same time the exaltation of petty curiosity to the place once occupied by the genuine love of truth,” Rose states. 

Being a dogmatic Christian, Rose refers to satanism, paganism, occultism, “new age” thinking, futurism, and even spiritism and Zen Buddhism as forms of Religious Vitalism. I have to part ways with Rose on some of that, but I admire his tenacity and eloquence.

The Nihilism of Destruction:  Finally, in the last step, we approach “pure” Nihilism, what Rose calls “a rage against creation and against civilization that will not be appeased until it has reduced them to absolute nothingness.”  Nihilism involves, Rose says, “the total transformation of the earth and society by machines, modern architecture and design, and the inhuman philosophy of ‘human engineering” that accompanies them.  It is worldliness unchecked and is bound to end in tyranny.

In the Nihilist world, all human energy is devoted to worldly concerns, Rose concludes.  The result is a “new man” – a rootless man of the moment without consciousness or values, a man “pretending to the humility of only asking his ‘rights,’ yet full of the pride that expects everything to be given to him in a world where nothing is authoritatively forbidden.”  This new man is a barbarian, thoroughly “reduced” and “simplified” and “capable of only the most elementary ideas, yet scornful of anyone who presumes to point out the higher things or the real complexity of life.”

Whatever name they choose to call themselves by, the non-believers – the “nones,” as they have been labeled by pollsters – are making up a bigger segment of our population, as much as 20 percent according to one recent survey. In their book, American Grace, political scientists Robert Putnam and David Campbell claim that the religious Right’s politicization of faith during the 1990s drove younger, socially liberal Christians away from churches. More and more of them have said that they don’t really care.  Unfortunately, it seems safe to say that most of the “nones” have not taken the time to make the distinction between the dogma of orthodox religion and the findings of secular research in the area of the survival of consciousness after death.  Thus, many of them appear to be fledging Nihilists, if not militant ones. 

I believe pioneering psychologist William James hit the nail on the head when he said that the luster of the present hour is always borrowed from the background of possibilities it goes with. To put it another way, we cannot effectively live in the moment without some regard, whether it be consciously or subconsciously, for what is to come. Many people succeed to some degree by escaping from reality into a world of unreality or by totaling occupying themselves with the mundane, but for the thinking person – the one who looks for some meaning in it all – the conviction that we do not die into a world of nothingness can lead to a real peace of mind, especially in his or her later years.  It is a pity that the “nones” and Nihilists don’t grasp this. 

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:  October 1





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Dr. R. Craig Hogan discusses the evidence for Life after Death

Posted on 03 September 2012, 11:58

R. Craig Hogan, Ph.D., (below) is the author of Your Eternal Self (Greater Reality Publications, 2008), co-author of Induced After-Death Communication: A New Therapy for Healing Grief and Trauma with Allan Botkin, Psy.D. (Hampton Roads 2005), and co-author of Guided Afterlife Connections: They Come to Change Lives (Greater Reality Publications, 2011) with Rochelle Wright.  He is the director of the Center for Spiritual Understanding and is on the boards of The Academy for Spiritual and Consciousness Studies, Inc., Association for Evaluation and Communication of Evidence for Survival, and American Society for Standards in Mediumship and Psychical Investigation.  He is a business writing professor with his own online business writing school at


I recently interviewed Dr. Hogan for The Searchlight, a quarterly publication for The Academy for Spiritual and Consciousness Studies, Inc.  (See for information about the Academy’s essay competition).  A slightly abridged version of that interview is set forth here.

Dr. Hogan, what prompted your interest in this whole subject of life after death?

“I was drawn to it.  Beginning in 1997, I started chancing upon psychics.  I had never met one in my life before, and suddenly they were appearing at every turn.  I befriended a woman named Greta Alexander, a psychic detective included in the book, 100 Best Psychics.  I saw evidence of her accuracy and reasoned that there is more to reality than meets the eye, literally.  I had a reading from a psychic who told me I have psychic ability.  When I tried it out, I discovered that I can remote view, seeing objects on tables with my mind’s eye that are hundreds or thousands of miles away.  I was able to hold playing cards face down on my palm and know the color, suit, and number.  Later, I found I could predict future events.  Reality wasn’t what I had assumed it to be.

“I began studying psychic phenomena and discovered Leslie Flint’s recordings of people in the afterlife speaking about themselves, the afterlife, and our eternal natures.  I purchased all the recordings I could locate and listened to them voraciously. Their content became the primary basis for my understanding of the afterlife and afterlife connections. I had sessions with mediums and became involved in studying medium activity.  That has continued to this day.  I have now dedicated my life to afterlife studies and helping people have afterlife connections.”

In your book, Your Eternal Self, you state that there is overwhelming evidence that we are eternal beings.  What do you see as the very best evidence?

“There are two forms of overwhelming evidence.  For the individual, the best evidence is experiencing an NDE, spontaneous visitation, Guided Afterlife Connection, or other direct experience connecting with someone in the afterlife.  Those who have such experiences most often change their perspectives on death immediately, and the change is stable over time. 

“For those who haven’t had such experiences, the best evidence is in the recordings from direct-voice and physical mediums.  The two whose recordings are most available are Leslie Flint and David Thompson.  Leslie Flint was a direct-voice medium from the middle of the twentieth century.  The perfectly normal, audible voices of people living in the afterlife came through ectoplasmic voice boxes generated from Flint’s body while he sat in darkness. Volunteers faithfully recorded the sessions, giving them freely to humanity. Hundreds of recordings of discarnates speaking in Flint’s sessions are available today.  I have many on my website at  Thompson’s recordings are available on the Circle of the Silver Cord website.

“These recordings are the crown jewels of afterlife connections, but they have been neglected because they are so remarkable people have difficulty accepting their authenticity.” 

Why do you think that the world is so slow to accept the evidence?

“Most of what we believe about life and the world comes to us through absorbing what people in our society believe, not from our direct experience. We then cling to the web of beliefs we develop from childhood because doing so satisfies three critical needs on Maslow’s needs hierarchy: the needs for safety, belonging, and self-esteem.  Having a stable set of beliefs we are convinced is right and true gives the world predictability, satisfying the need for safety.  When we share the beliefs with others in our group, they agree and join us in harmony, satisfying our need for a sense of belonging.  And when people pontificate about the reasons they dismiss the validity of alternative data, the adulation they receive from the group satisfies their need for a feeling of competence and self-esteem. 

“Society promulgates the beliefs that psi is trickery and afterlife communications are dark and occult.  These beliefs inculcated by society and sub-groups such as religious fundamentalists and materialist scientists are quite stable and reinforced by society and the groups. To maintain their feeling of predictability and safety in the world, to continue to be accepted by the groups they value, and to be viewed as capable and sensible, not occult and cultish, people cling to the outdated beliefs, even in the face of contrary evidence.”

Then what will make people change?

“People can’t be made to change, but they can be allowed to change.  When a new truth surfaces, the members of the group ridicule it because it doesn’t fit with their shared web of beliefs.  In ridiculing it together, they satisfy each other’s’ needs for feelings of safety, belonging, and being thought competent. 

“An increasing number of early adopters then begin speaking of the new truth as possibly true.  Over time, the new truth becomes more familiar, resulting in more converts to its veracity.  Over years, decades, or centuries, people hear about the new truth from others in their group they respect, see that it is becoming more commonplace to entertain it, and gradually feel their needs for safety, belongingness, and self-esteem are not threatened by the belief.

Finally, society and the groups actually reinforce the new belief by showing members they are safe in believing it, praising them for embracing it, and telling them they are wise or intelligent because they are among the believers.  The new belief becomes the norm. 

“None of that process is rational.  Arguments and evidence won’t result in acceptance of the belief as legitimate.  This glacially slow process of small changes in attitudes that allows individuals to advance slowly toward belief without having their needs threatened is simply a necessary process every time a new paradigm progresses from disbelief and ridicule to acceptance and legitimacy.  We’re seeing that evolution now, but it has a long way to go.  As Max Planck observed, probably psi and the afterlife will become accepted only when “its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it.” 

Are you carrying on any research yourself?

“We have incorporated the 501(c)(3) nonprofit Center for Spiritual Understanding in Illinois.  As it develops, the Center will follow a teaching-research hospital model.  Mediums and Guided Afterlife Connections psychotherapists will meet with people by appointment to connect with loved ones on the next planes of life.  Researchers will study the connections being made and develop new methods of communication the practitioners can try with clients.  Other methods of connecting will be used and studied, such as psychomanteums, hypnosis connections, and guided meditation connections.  Mediums and Guided Afterlife Connections psychotherapists will be trained to help people connect with their loved ones.  Presentations and meetings will be held to educate the public about the afterlife and afterlife connections.  Professionals who work with dying people (such as care givers, clergy, hospice workers, physicians, and counselors) will come for training to help their constituencies understand the afterlife, deal with grief and fear of death, and connect with loved ones.

“Today, the Center’s primary area of focus is on Guided Afterlife Connections.  I have completed a study of Guided Afterlife Connections showing that in one session, people’s grief reduced from an average of 9.91 on a 10-point grief and disturbance scale at the beginning of the session to 1.41 by the end.  We are continuing studies of the effects of Guided Afterlife Connections on experiencers.

“I’m also developing protocols to help individuals learn to make their own connections.  I’m using hypnosis to develop a method that will teach people how to allow the subtle impressions to come from the subconscious into the conscious mind. We are also in the early stages of developing ways to connect with the consciousness of people with medical conditions that preclude communication, such as patients with Alzheimer’s, in a coma or vegetative state, and severely mentally retarded.  We already have anecdotal evidence that shows we can do it.  We now need to collect more controlled data.”

The recent conference in Washington indicates that you are in touch with a number of mediums.  Do you feel that the present day mediumship is as dynamic as that of 75-150 years ago?  If not, why not?

“No, present-day mediumship is not as dynamic as that during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.  I believe there are three primary reasons.

“First, people involved in the mediumship activities in those earlier times spent hours each day in quiet contemplation.  There were no distractions such as the ubiquitous cell phones, radios, televisions, and the Internet that we have today.  People had little to occupy their leisure time except conversation, reading, or quiet contemplation.  That slowed their pace of life, raising their vibrations and enabling them to connect more easily.  More direct-voice, physical, and trance mediums were able to emerge. I believe many potential mediums are alive today, but they are not able to emerge because of the distractions in our lives.

“Second, people today will not take the time to sit for physical mediumship.  Everyone is too busy and harried.  Circles in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries sat for years before anything of note happened.  The Scole group, which eventually had very successful sessions with manifestations from the spirit world, sat regularly for three years before anything happened.  Minnie Harrison, the famous trance medium of the mid-twentieth century, also sat with her circle every week for three years before seeing results. Leslie Flint, the remarkable direct-voice medium, sat with his circle for seven years before anything happened.  Today, if a circle doesn’t have results in a short time, it becomes frustrated and disbands.

“Finally, to establish the clear connections that result in communication from the other side, we must raise our vibrations while they lower theirs to find just the right channel or “sweet spot” at which we and they can meet. They spend years trying to find that channel and refine the connection.  Raising our vibration requires a harmonious, loving, spiritual atmosphere. However, the energy on the Earth plane today is very dense and negative.  Those living on other planes of life describe coming into the Earth plane’s vibration as like trying to penetrate a deep, dark fog because of the conflict, hatred, greed, and violence in the world today. Instant communication today brings disturbing incidents and images into our lives daily that people in earlier periods might have witnessed once or twice in a lifetime, if at all.

“With the atmosphere today being so dense and heavy, our vibration levels are low and the generally dense spiritual or etheric atmosphere makes direct-voice, physical, and trance mediumship more difficult to attain.  I believe these impediments are the reasons we’re being led to other ways to connect today, such as Guided Afterlife Connections.  They’re being brought to us because the methods used in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries are not so available to us.  However, I am hoping that the Center for Spiritual Understanding will be able to discover other means of communication, and perhaps develop more physical, direct-voice, and trance medium circles.”

See Dr. Hogan’s web site at

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 17


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The Only Planet of Choice: Visitations – Many people use the word ‘Alien’ to describe a visitor from outer space. Extra terrestrial is another word, which is rather more user friendly. For the sake of the question and answer format, the word used by the questioner has been left, though even Tom questions our use of‘Alien’. Should we wish to foster openess between all beings of the Universe perhaps we should also look at our vocabulary? In a discussion between Andrew and Tom many years earlier, Andrew had asked Tom about UFOs and whether they were created manifestations. Tom had replied: “Many of the flying things that you call UFOs come from our place, but they come from other places also, and they do come in physical form. But many of them are not physical. They are like your movie screen”. Read here
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