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The Defamation of Eusapia Palladino

Posted on 27 February 2017, 10:46

My good friend Michael Schmicker, the author of The Witch of Napoli, a somewhat fictionalized version of the story of Eusapia Palladino, an illiterate Italian medium (1854 – 1918), and I meet with other friends once a month or so over lunch in downtown Honolulu to discuss our projects.  While Mike and I are of like-mind on most everything, there is one thing we don’t agree on – whether Eusapia cheated in producing some phenomena. 

Mike accepts the historical accounts that say Eusapia was a genuine medium but that she cheated at times when her powers failed her, a theme which Mike advances in his book, now a best-seller at Amazon.  I argue, however, that there is no solid evidence that the acts taken by researchers to be cheating were consciously carried out by Eusapia. I point to the research of those scientists and scholars who observed her the most and claim that the so-called cheating was not conscious on her part, therefore not cheating, per se. That is, she was in a trance state and controlled by spirit entities, who at times used her arms and legs to produce some phenomenon. At other times, ectoplasmic arms and legs were formed and observers assumed they were Eusapia’s limbs.  Mike seems to agree that there were unconscious movements in the trance state, but he also believes that Eusapia consciously cheated at times when her powers failed her.  I do not deny that possibility, but I do not accept it as fact, as Mike does. 

Sir Oliver Lodge, a renowned British physicist and electricity pioneer, studied Eusapia with Dr. Charles Richet, the 1913 Nobel Prize winner in medicine, and two other researchers at Richet’s private retreat on Ribaud Island in the Mediterranean during 1894.  He wrote that she resented the charges of fraud and that he was willing to give her the benefit or the doubt, so far as morals of deception were concerned, referring to her as a kindly soul with many of the instincts of a peasant.  “She wanted us to understand that it was not conscious deception, but that her control (called John King) took whatever means available, and if he found an easy way of doing things, thus would it be done,” Lodge explained.

“Even if there were no other medium than Eusapia in the world, her manifestations would suffice to establish scientifically the reality of telekinesis and ectoplasmic forms,” wrote Richet, who had more than 200 sittings with Eusapia. He reported that ectoplasmic arms and hands emerged from the body of Eusapia and did what they wished, independent of Eusapia’s will, as she had vacated the body while in trance.  While Richet refused to believe in spirits, at least publicly, he referred to a “quasi-identity” between the medium and the ectoplasm that might give “the push that he (King?) hopes will start the phenomena.”

Professor Filippo Bottazzi, who held the chair of physiology at the University of Naples, studied Eusapia on a number of occasions and concluded that “during our sessions neither fraud nor cheating ever occurred.  I can affirm this with certainty, solemnly, also on behalf of other participants.  Although we all differ with regard to studies, temperament, and age, nevertheless we all agreed and were convinced that the phenomena we had observed were never the product of fraud. They were true phenomena, however mysterious and elusive in their nature.”  Bottazzi admitted that there were things happening outside the bounds of scientific observation and that some observers might have assumed that fraud was the only explanation, thereby giving rise to the claims that Eusapia sometimes cheated.

The subject came up again at our latest lunch and another friend joined in to support Mike, saying that he found it difficult to believe that the controlling spirits would be so devious as to make Eusapia appear to be a cheater.  I countered that there is evidence suggesting that such spirits don’t fully grasp what is happening on our side of the veil.  For example, the discarnate Frederic Myers communicated that he didn’t know how his thoughts were coming through the medium, whether by automatic writing or through her voice.  All he knew was that he was projecting thoughts that somehow were turned into words as they passed through the medium to the sitter. 

After my recent debate with Mike, I had a dream.  The year was 2028, the location being the lower regions of Purgatory, otherwise known as “Stuporland.”  Unlike souls below them who are completely earthbound and even unaware that they have “died,” souls in Stuporland drift in and out of consciousness, realizing at times they have died and at other times thinking they are still alive in the flesh.  The soul known as Michael Schmicker while incarnate had recently arrived and had been floundering somewhat in a confused state.  I had graduated some years before Mike and was there to greet him on his arrival. Here is the conversation that took place:

Mike S.  “Who are you?” 

Mike T.  “Don’t you remember me, Mike?  You knew me as Mike Tymn.”

Mike S.  “But I thought you died five or six years ago. And you look so much younger than the Mike Tymn I knew.”

Mike T.  “Yes, I ‘died,’ as you call it, and so have you.  The reason I look younger is that I have evolved back to my prime years.”

Mike S.  “Oh!  I know we talked about that, but I guess I never really absorbed it. Wow!  I’m really dead?”

Mike T.  “Yes, you are.  You died a few days ago and are still awakening.”

Mike S.  “Wow! Wow!”

Mike T.  “It’ll become clearer to you as you awaken.”

Mike S.  “How long does that usually take?”

Mike T.  “As we often discussed, Mike, time is different on this side, but in earth time it can be a few days or even years.  I can see from your energy field that you lived a good life and that means you should fully awaken shortly.  However, I do see a dark obstruction in your field that might delay things just a bit.”

Mike S.  What’s that?  You’re not talking about the library book I forgot to return, are you?”

Mike T.  “No, I’m referring to your having called Eusapia a cheater. You announced it to the world in one of your books.”

Mike S.  “Is that why I seem to be experiencing a nightmare here, continually hearing ‘Cheater! Cheater! Cheater!’ over and over again?”

Mike T.  “Yes, as you drift in and out of consciousness, you sometimes take on the identity of Eusapia and are now experiencing the woe that she experienced from your libellous and slanderous remarks.”

Mike S.  “But everything I read indicated that she did cheat.”

Mike T.  “Don’t you remember that we discussed this at Murphy’s over lunch?  I explained that the best observers questioned whether she was really cheating and believed that in the trance state the spirit controls were merely doing what was expected of them in carrying out certain phenomena.  These were primarily low-level spirits and didn’t really realize that they were making her appear to be cheating.”

Mike S.  “Are you telling me that is what actually happened?”

Mike T.  “Yes, that is what I have verified as fact since being here.”

Mike S.  “But how could you be so certain back then?”

Mike T.  “I wasn’t certain then, but when we don’t know things for sure, we need to be open-minded and not make hasty judgments that defame a person.  Like Lodge, Richet, Bottazzi, and even Professor James Hyslop, who probably understood the trance state better than anybody else, I gave her the benefit of the doubt.  You sort of laughed it off and pretended to know more than the distinguished men who studied her under strictly controlled conditions.” 

Mike S.  “What’s the big deal?  She was already dead when I called her a cheater.”

Mike T.  “Death does not exist.  She was very much alive and suffered greatly by your remarks and those of others.  Defaming what you call a ‘dead’ person is no different than defaming what you call a ‘live’ person.  The hurt is much the same.  More than that, though, you misled others and retarded them in their attempts to understand.”

Mike S.  “Oh, I didn’t realize that.”

Mike T.   “I tried to get that over to you when you were in the unreal life, but pride and ego got in the way.  They are now responsible for those bad dreams you are having in which you become Eusapia.”

Mike S.  “Is there any way to stop them?”

Mike T.  “I am going to try to persuade Eusapia to come down here so that you can apologize to her.  I’ll be back.”

Mike S.  “You mean she is still around?”

Mike T. “She’s at a much higher vibration than we are here, but she can drop down here for a short period.  It’s sort of like trying to hold your breath under water when you were in the earth life. I don’t think she can stay long.”

Mike S.  “At what level are you?”

Mike T.  “Between this vibration and the one Eusapia is at.  Because of that I can hold my breath down here somewhat longer than she can.  Of course, I’m speaking metaphorically.”

Mike S.  “You seemed to be a pretty righteous guy when I knew you.  What kept you from advancing to Eusapia’s level?”

Mike T.  “I rented a Blockbuster video one time and let a friend borrow it after I saw it.  I cheated the system – two for the price of one. That cost me.”

Somewhat later:

Mike T.  “Mike, I’m back.”

Mike S.  “Great, but Eusapia has already paid me a visit and said she was not offended by my cheating allegations.  We had a great talk.”

Mike T.  “Sorry to inform you, Mike, but that was not Eusapia.  That was an impostor spirit trying to mislead you into thinking what you did is OK.  You know the old saying, ‘what goes around, comes around’.”

Mike S.  “Really?  So is the real Eusapia going to visit me?”

Mike T. “Not right now.  The Chief says you still have some purging to do, but you can shorten your time in Stuporland by returning to the earth life and making it known to your readers that there was absolutely no good evidence that Eusapia was a cheater. That should get you up to Summerland by tomorrow.”

Mike S. “How can I possibly do that from here?”

Mike T. “As I said, Mike, time is different here, so it has been arranged for you to go back to 2017 and make it clear to your many fans that Eusapia was a good woman and not a cheater.”

At this point in my dream I woke up and so I don’t know what happened after that.

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.


Next blog post: March 13


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Guarding Against Premature Cremation

Posted on 14 February 2017, 9:48

After recently rereading the account of Dr. George Rodonaia’s 1976 near-death experience, I paused to remind my wife that she should wait one week before having my remains cremated.  I hope that my consciousness will have separated from my physical body well before one week, within a day or two, but I see no reason to take any chances. 

Apparently, the KGB decided to eliminate Rodonaia, a Russian neuropathologist who had dissident views, and ran him down as he crossed the street. His death was confirmed at the hospital and his corpse was placed in cold storage.  When the autopsy began three days later, Rodonaia regained consciousness.  He first went out of body and saw his physical body lying in the morgue.  On top of that, however, he was able to “see” the thoughts and emotions of his wife, Nino, and of those who killed him.  After being revived physically and when able to speak again, he told his wife how he saw her picking out a gravesite for him.  But he also read her mind and saw that she was thinking about three different men as her next husband.  She even made a list of their qualities, pro and con.  When Rodonaia told Nino, who later confirmed it as accurate, of “seeing” all this, even reciting the list to her, she was totally shocked and kept her distance from him for a year as she felt she no longer had the privacy of her own mind. 

Rodonaia also recalled being drawn to a nearby hospital, where the wife of a friend had just given birth. With x-ray like eyes, he was able to see that the baby’s hip was broken during delivery when the attending nurse dropped the infant. When he came to, he alerted the doctors to the fracture.  They had the baby x-rayed and confirmed his diagnosis. 

The evidential parts are mentioned only to give some credibility to the story that he was “dead” for some three days before being revived, or at least they thought he was “dead.”
Whether he was clinically dead or not is irrelevant; the fact is they thought he was dead.  Numerous accounts of other people having come back to life have been reported, although nearly all of them are within a few hours of the supposed death.

Coincidentally, within a day of rereading the Rodonaia NDE, I was watching a segment of the British Midsomer Murders detective series in which a man was within seconds of being cremated alive.  It was chilling enough that I again reminded my wife to wait seven days. And then that same day, I came upon a Fox News Science item on the Internet, headlined, “2 days after death, some life continues in body.”

In his 1998 book, Light & Death, Michael Sabom, an Atlanta cardiologist, cites an article by Dr. Linda Emanuel, who comments that life and death are viewed as non-overlapping, dichotomous states, whereas in reality there is no threshold event that defines death. “Several scientific observations support Emanuel’s argument that loss of biologic life, including death of the brain, is a process and does not occur at a single, definite moment,” Sabom writes.  He goes on to mention that 10 organ donors diagnosed as “brain dead” showed an average increase in blood pressure of 31 millimeters of mercury and in heart rate of 23 beats per minute in response to surgical removal of the organs. He also refers to a study at Loyola University Medical Center in which it was found that 20 percent of patients diagnosed as brain dead had persisting EEG activity up to seven days after the initial diagnosis.

More recently, cardiologist Pim van Lommel, in his 2010 book, Consciousness Beyond Life, notes that when brain death has been diagnosed, 96 percent of the body is still alive. He further comments that most people are unaware that when an organ is removed from “dead” patients, it usually requires general anesthesia of the individual because of the so-called Lazarus syndrome – “violent reflexes by the certified dead organ donor.”

Of course, the concern here is whether the consciousness has separated itself from the body in spite of the persisting activity within the body.  If it has achieved separation, there seemingly should be no concern.  However, no medical doctor is qualified to say that consciousness has separated.

“The moral state of the soul is the condition which determines the ease, or the difficulty, with which the spirit disengages himself from his terrestrial envelope,” Allan Kardec, a pioneering French psychical researcher, wrote.

“The strength of the affinity between the body and perispirit (spirit body) is in the exact ratio of the spirit’s attachment to materiality; it is, consequently, at the maximum in the case of those whose thoughts and interests are concentrated on the earthly life and the enjoyment of material pleasures; it is almost null in the case of those whose soul has identified itself before with the spirit life.”

Various metaphysical teachings refer to “magnetic currents,” which should not be confused with the so-called silver cord, the connecting link between the physical body and the spirit body.  As I understand it, the silver cord will have been severed at the time of physical death, liberating the spirit body, but the magnetic currents can still keep the spirit body close to the physical body. Moreover, cremation does not undo the gravitational pull of a materialistic life, but it at least mitigates the pull.

As physicist James Beichler sees it in his 2008 book To Die For, when consciousness is less evolved and the mind is more focused on the material/physical world of common four-dimensional space-time alone, those making the transition from this life to the afterlife in the non-material but still physical five-dimensional space-time may be faced with a very big gap, thus not recognizing that they are dead.  If the person had achieved a higher level of consciousness while occupying the material/physical body, “then the mind would already have memories of five-dimensional experience and would then merge with less difficulty into its new state of being,” he explains, adding that this mind can remain stuck in its four-dimensional material reality without any real material existence because it does not have any reference points in the higher-dimensional non-material world. 

I read somewhere that Buddhists monks ask to wait three days before cremation. But when Sir Oliver Lodge, the renowned British physicist, asked his discarnate son Raymond about it, Raymond suggested seven days.  Raymond told his father that the body doesn’t start mortifying until the spirit has left it.  He went on to say that he had witnessed a scene several days earlier in which a man was going to be cremated two days after the doctor pronounced him dead.  “When his relatives on this side heard about it, they brought a certain doctor on our side, and when they saw that the spirit hadn’t got really out of the body, they magnetized it, and helped it out,” Raymond explained through Feda, Leonard’s control.  “But there was still a cord, and it had to be severed rather quickly, and it gave a little shock to the spirit, like as if you had something amputated.  But it had to be done.”  Raymond then suggested that there should be a seven-day waiting period before cremation.  “People are so careless,” he added. “The idea seems to be ‘hurry up and get them out of the way now that they are dead.”
Silver Birch, the eloquent and apparently “high” spirit who spoke through the entranced British medium Maurice Barbanell for some 50 years, was asked if cremation is the preferred method of disposal.  “Yes, always, because essentially it has the effect of putting an end to the idea that the spirit is the physical body,” Silver Birch replied.

“Cremation always means that the spirit entity looses certain chains that might otherwise tie him to earth,” a spirit entity known as White Feather, guide to the medium Thomas Wyatt, replied in response to a similar question put to him during a séance.

“By the use of fire, all forms are dissolved; the quicker the human physical vehicle is destroyed, the quicker is its hold upon the withdrawing soul broken,” medium Alice Bailey recorded what she came to understand from communication received. She added that mummifying, as practiced in Egypt, and of embalming, as practiced in the West, have been responsible for the perpetuation of the spirit body, sometimes for centuries in earth time, especially for those who of an evil nature.

Hopefully, three days is enough, but there is really nothing to lose in waiting seven days, except perhaps for extra storage charges. 

Next blog post: Feb. 27

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.



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“Life After Death – The Communicator” by Paul Beard – If the telephone rings, naturally the caller is expected to identify himself. In post-mortem communication, necessitating something far more complex than a telephone, it is not enough to seek the speakers identity. One needs to estimate also as far as is possible his present status and stature. This involves a number of factors, overlapping and hard to keep separate, each bringing its own kind of difficulty. Four such factors can readily be named. Read here
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