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Defying Death in Retirement Homes

Posted on 20 September 2015, 21:20

Based on a television commercial, a certain retirement home in Hawaii is the place to be in your old age.  People who live there are content, happy, and having a lot of fun, fully enjoying their senior years.  When they are not strolling around the beautiful gardens or playing deck shuffleboard, they are probably at the nearby shopping center or playing a round of golf down the road. They’ll likely end the night with some fine dining. Yet, when I visited my in-laws at that same retirement home on a number of occasions several years ago, I found it a somewhat depressing place.  The residents looked like zombies, seemingly not knowing each other, and outside of taking meals in the dining room they were all holed up in their individual apartments. There, they kept to themselves as much as possible. I saw none of the gaiety or merriment depicted in the television commercial. 

It was much the same thing at the Armed Forces Retirement Home in Washington, D.C. when I visited an old friend there two years ago.  I had expected to see a lot of camaraderie – many old soldiers gathered around in a circle, sharing old war stories, laughing, reminiscing, slapping each other on the back, and otherwise having a ball.  However, I found it much like the Hawaii retirement home.  The residents who were not in their rooms napping or watching TV were just sitting around staring off into space, eyelids at half mast, mouths half open, drool sometimes hanging from their chins.  In the dining room, they, for the most part, sat at individual tables, seemingly not knowing each other.  My friend, now 99 and a World War II veteran who has resided there for some 20 years, usually sat alone in the dining hall and didn’t appear to know most of the other old warriors.  He knew the person in the room adjoining his just enough to nod to him whenever he saw him in the hallway, but he didn’t know much about him.     

More recently, I have observed much the same depressing environment at another Hawaii retirement home as my wife and I visited her aunt.  The building is new, the furnishings fine, the lounge comfortable, the lattes served by the lounge machine especially tasty, but on more than 20 visits to the home I have seen very little of the residents, except at meal time.  They all seem to stay in their small rooms, watching television or sleeping.  A few of them sit in the hallway staring at the walls or sleeping in a sitting position.  They head for the dining room in a parade of walkers three times a day, though they don’t eat much and don’t talk to each other at the table.  They just sit there, looking at the food, seemingly wondering if it is worth the effort to take another mouthful.  After 30 minutes or so, they slowly position themselves in front of their walkers, and shuffle back to their rooms.  The administrators appear to do their best to keep them occupied, encouraging them to engage in such activities as balloon volleyball, in which they sit on opposing couches and attempt to hit a balloon over a coffee table, or an exercise session in which they don’t do much more than windmill their arms, but only a small percentage of them participate.  Most prefer to confine themselves to their rooms. 

The sense I got at those retirement homes as well as others I have visited over the years is one of despair and hopelessness – people just waiting around to die, although not wanting to think about death.  On a couple of occasions I tried to engage some of them – the few who leave their rooms – in a conversation, hoping to get some clue as to what they are thinking about and what their thoughts are on death.  However, the mere mention of death resulted in a look of shock or dismay and I was unable to get any real philosophical musing from them.  The conversations had to be limited to the weather, the tasteless food in the dining room, or the reason their children don’t visit more often. 

As I observed the hopelessness and despair among the retirement home residents on a more recent trip to the “Old Soldier’s Home” in Washington, D.C., I thought about the interview with Julien Musolino, professor of psychology and cognitive science at Rutgers University, I had read recently on the Internet.  Musolino contends that there is no such thing as a soul and the quicker people realize that the happier they will be.  They’ll feel liberated and that liberation will lead to both truth and happiness.  That seems to be the view of so many of the philistines promoting nihilism on the Internet.  They say we should live in the moment, enjoy each day as it comes, and forget about the future.  Nearly all of them come across as young people rebelling against the God of their parents.  They are able to escape into various activities each day – texting, tweeting and phoning each other about their mundane activities, not taking the time to realize how meaningless those activities are in the great scheme of things.  I wonder if they will feel the same way when they end up in a retirement home, when living in the moment means staring at the walls and napping all day, with drool dripping, when it means graying, grunting, grumbling, grimacing, groaning, growling, griping, grieving, groveling, and groping, when the only thing you have to look forward to is the next meal, and when you make it to table you don’t even want to eat. 

Now in my 79th year, I qualify for retirement homes, but I can’t see myself living out my final years in such a depressing environment.  Philistinism – whether it be no belief at all in the survival of consciousness at death, such as that espoused by Musolino, or merely a hope that comes from the blind faith of orthodoxy – doesn’t work for me, and from what I have witnessed it doesn’t work for most others in their declining years.  The non-believers, like Musolino, can pretend to rejoice in their “heroic” march into an abyss of nothingness, but they’ll never convince me that it is anything but bravado.  As Kierkegaard saw it, such people are in despair even though they think they are happy.  “The reason is that his sensuous nature and the psycho-sensuous completely dominate him,” the famous existentialist offered. “The reason is that he lives in the sensuous categories agreeable/disagreeable, and says goodbye to truth, etc.; the reason is that he is too sensuous to have the courage to venture to be spirit or to endure it.” 

To quote William James, the pioneering psychologist and renowned philosopher:  “Let sanguine healthy-mindedness do its best with its strange power of living in the moment and ignoring and forgetting, still the evil background is really there to be thought of, and the skull will grin in at the banquet. In the practical life of the individual, we know how his whole gloom or glee about any present fact depends on the remoter schemes and hopes of which it stands related.  Its significance and framing give it the chief part of its value.  Let it be known to lead nowhere, and however agreeable it may be in its immediacy, its glow and guilding vanish.  The old man, sick with an insidious internal disease, may laugh and quaff his wine at first as well as ever, but he knows his fate now, for the doctors have revealed it, and the knowledge knocks the satisfaction out of all these functions.  They are partners of death and the worm is their brother, and they turn to a mere flatness.” 

The believers who rely on blind faith and the teachings of orthodoxy are really not much better off than the non-believers, as strumming harps and singing psalms 24/7 for eternity is hardly more appealing than extinction.  The orthodox believers repress the idea of death by escaping into the same twaddle to which the non-believer clings. They are philistines nonetheless.

I am convinced that one must move from blind faith to true faith, or conviction, if he or she is to live the retirement years with some purpose.  “Too many indeed hold the solemn verities concerning the hereafter in a sort of half consciousness, believing in them, yet nevertheless not fully realizing them,” wrote Dr. Madison Peters, a Christian author of a century ago.  “They must flame within us, setting our whole moral and intellectual nature on fire, sending a life current of energy though every part of our being, arousing us to impetuous action and to sustained effort born of strong conviction.”

Such conviction comes from giving up the 10 G’s for the 10 S’s: seeking, searching, studying, striving, struggling, sacrificing, serving, surrendering, solving and then soaring.

To quote Carl Jung, the renowned psychologist:  “Death is psychologically as important as birth, and like it, is an integral part of life. ...As a doctor, I make every effort to strengthen the belief in immortality, especially with older patients when such questions come threateningly close. For, seen in correct psychological perspective, death is not an end but a goal, and life’s inclination towards death begins as soon as the meridian is passed.”

Michael Tymn is the author of The Afterlife Revealed: What Happens After We Die is published by White Crow Books. His latest book, Resurrecting Leonora Piper: How Science Discovered the Afterlife is now available on Amazon and other online book stores.
His latest book Dead Men Talking: Afterlife Communication from World War I is published by White Crow Books.

Next blog post:  October 5

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Remembering Raymond Lodge – 100 Years Later

Posted on 06 September 2015, 20:15

Since September 14th will mark the 100th anniversary of the death of Second Lieutenant Raymond Lodge (below) on the battlefield near Ypres, Belgium, it seems like an appropriate time to look back at parts of Raymond’s story, as told by his father, Sir Oliver Lodge, a world-renowned physicist and inventor, in his 1916 book, Raymond or Life and Death – a story, along with four others, abridged in my 2014 book, Dead Men Talking, the Kindle version of which is now being offered for a limited time at just $1.99 at


Soon after his death, Raymond began communicating with his parents through two different mediums, but primarily through the mediumship of Gladys Osborne Leonard.  While skeptics of his day and today claim that Sir Oliver Lodge (below) was easily duped by charlatans because of his grief over the death of Raymond, it is clear that Sir Oliver came to his conclusions about life after death and spirit communication well before Raymond’s death.  In the wake of Darwinism, Lodge had become a materialist, but his investigation of American medium Leonora Piper 25 years before Raymond’s death converted him to a belief in spirits.


Still, Lodge was aware that there were many charlatans and was careful in his sittings.  Although Mrs. Leonard would later become as tested and as famous as Mrs. Piper, she was for the most part unknown at the time. On September 28, 1915, just two weeks after Raymond’s death, Sir Oliver and Lady Lodge had a table-tilting sitting with Mrs. Leonard, who was primarily a trance voice medium.  As a test of identity, Sir Oliver asked Raymond for his nickname.  Raymond correctly responded by correctly spelling out “Pat” with the table.  Sir Oliver then asked him to name one of his five brothers.  The table spelled out N-O-R-M-A- before Sir Oliver interrupted and commented that Raymond was confused.  He told him to begin again.  The name N-O-E-L was then spelled out, which was one of Raymond’s brothers.  It was not until Sir Oliver later discussed this with his other sons that it began to make sense.  His sons explained to him that “Norman” was a kind of general nickname used by Raymond when they played hockey together.  He would shout: “Now then, Norman,” or other words of encouragement, to any of his five older brothers whom he wished to stimulate.  Sir Oliver saw this as evidence against telepathy, since neither he nor Lady Lodge knew of the name.  He also saw it as an indication that Raymond, who had discussed psychical research with him when he was alive, was attempting to provide veridical information by giving a name unknown to him and most certainly not known to Mrs. Leonard. 

Alec Lodge, one of Raymond’s older brothers, had an anonymous sitting with Mrs. Leonard and put his own test to Raymond, asking him about his favorite music. This was a trance voice sitting in which Feda, Mrs. Leonard’s spirit control, took over her body and spoke through her vocal cords.  Alec noted that after he asked the question, he heard Feda ask Raymond, “An orange lady?”  Still confused, Feda then told Alec that “he says something about an orange lady.”  Alec felt that this was very evidential as “My Orange Girl” was the last song Raymond bought when “alive.”  Raymond also mentioned “Irish Eyes,” another of his favorites. He further tried to get a third song through, but Feda could get only “M” and “A.”  Lionel thought it might be “Ma Honey,” but at a later sitting at Mariemont, the Lodge estate, Raymond was asked what was meant by the letters M and A, and he was then able to clearly give the name “Maggie Magee,” a song unknown to anyone in the family except Norah, his sister, who was not present when the name came through.  This was still another indication that mind reading, or telepathy, was not a factor in the communication. 

In still another test, Lionel Lodge, another brother, and Norah, his sister, drove from the Lodge home, near Birmingham, to London for a sitting with Mrs. Leonard. Knowing that his brother and sister were scheduled to meet with Mrs. Leonard at noon, Alec Lodge asked two other sisters, Honor and Rosalynde, to sit with him in the drawing room and focus on asking Raymond to get the word “Honolulu” through to Lionel and Norah during the sitting.  Lionel and Norah knew nothing of this request.

During the sitting, Raymond said something about Norah playing music. Norah replied that she could not.  Feda, using Mrs. Leonard’s body, then whispered to the invisible Raymond (attention directed away from Lionel and Norah), “She can’t do what?”  Upon getting a response from Raymond, Feda then said, “He wanted to know whether you could play Hulu – Honolulu.  Well, can’t you try to?  He is rolling with laughter.”

On another occasion, Sir Oliver asked Raymond if he knew about “Mr. Jackson.”  Feda struggled with understanding Raymond’s response, but she communicated: “Fine bird…put him on a pedestal.”  This was especially evidential as Sir Oliver was certain that Mrs. Leonard did not know that Mr. Jackson was the name of Lady Lodge’s pet peacock, nor that he had died a week earlier and was in the process of being stuffed and mounted on a wooden pedestal.

Still another evidential communication came when Raymond informed his mother that the memorial tablet which she had put up at St. George’s Church, Edgbaston, had his date of death as Wednesday, September 14, when in fact September 14 had been a Tuesday.  Raymond said it didn’t bother him, but that he thought he should call her attention to it anyway. 

Other evidential information came through convincing the Lodges that they were indeed communicating with their deceased son.  But there were also things communicated by Raymond that seemed absurd, such as when Raymond mentioned that cigars and whisky sodas could still be had on his side of the veil, although they weren’t enjoyed nearly as much and eventually not enjoyed at all.  That statement became the subject of much humor around smoking rooms in England and subjected Sir Oliver to much ridicule by his peers in the scientific community.  But Sir Oliver had already come to understand that so much of the afterlife is a thought world and that in the lower realms, spirits still live is something of a dream world, often not fully grasping that they have left the material world while still desiring earthly pleasures and partaking of them in their “dreams.”

Raymond, Bob, Claude, Thomas, and Rolf – the five WWI victims whose stories are told in Dead Men Talking, all reported that they had not found themselves in some humdrum heaven or in an abyss of nothingness but rather in a world that seemed very much like the material world they had just left.  There was initially some confusion as they awakened to their new reality, and there was a period of adjustment in which they were assisted by guides, sometimes relatives who had transitioned before them.  All were surprised at the nature of the afterlife condition, saying it was nothing like they had expected.  Probably the primary message from all was that the afterlife is made up of many realms, planes, or spheres, and that, upon physical death, we transition to the realm we have prepared ourselves for during the earth life.

“He says he thinks he was lucky when he passed on because he had so many to meet him,” Feda relayed Raymond’s words in the early sittings.  “That came, he knows now, through your (Sir Oliver) having been in with this thing for so long.  He wants to impress this on those that you will be writing for; that it makes it so much easier for them if they and their friends know about it beforehand.  It’s awful when they have passed over and won’t believe it for weeks – they just think they’re dreaming.  And they won’t realize things at all sometimes.  He doesn’t mind telling you now that, just at first, when he woke up, he felt a little depression. But it didn’t last long.  He cast his eyes round, and soon he didn’t mind.  But it was like finding yourself in a strange place, like a strange city, with people you hadn’t seen, or not seen for a long time.”

Sir Oliver Lodge concluded:  “I am as convinced of continued existence on the other side of death as I am of existence here.  It may be said, you cannot be as sure as you are of sensory experience.  I say I can. A physicist is never limited to direct sensory impressions; he has to deal with a multitude of conceptions and things for which he has no physical organ – the dynamical theory of heat, for instance, and of gases, the theories of electricity, of magnetism, of chemical affinity, of cohesion, aye, and his apprehension of the ether itself, lead him into regions where sight and hearing and touch are impotent as direct witnesses, where they are no longer efficient guides.

“I shall go further and say that I am reasonably convinced of the existence of grades of being, not only lower in the scale than man but higher also, grades of every order of magnitude from zero to infinity.  And I know by experience that among these beings are some who care for and help and guide humanity, not disdaining to enter even into what must seem petty details, if by so doing they can assist souls striving on their upward course.  And further it is my faith – however humbly it may be held – that among those lofty beings, highest of those who concern themselves directly with this earth of all the myriads of worlds in infinite space, is One on whom the right instinct of Christianity has always lavished heartfelt reverence and devotion.”

Michael Tymn is the author of The Afterlife Revealed: What Happens After We Die is published by White Crow Books. His latest book, Resurrecting Leonora Piper: How Science Discovered the Afterlife is now available on Amazon and other online book stores.
His latest book Dead Men Talking: Afterlife Communication from World War I is published by White Crow Books.

Next blog post:  September 21

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Fallen Soldier Convinces His Famous Father of Life After Death – On September 14, 1915, Second Lieutenant Raymond Lodge, the youngest of six sons of Sir Oliver Lodge, a distinguished British physicist and pioneer in electricity and radio, as well as the former president of the British Association for the Advancement of Science, was killed in WWI action in Flanders. Read here
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