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Should We offer Religion or “Meaning” in our Classrooms?

Posted on 29 August 2017, 15:17

Should public schools put religion in classrooms?  That was the headline given to a feature editorial page article in my morning paper two weeks ago.  It came from Tribune News Services and involved a pro and con debate between Roger L. Beckett, executive director of the Ashbrook Center at Ashland University, and Max B. Sawicky, an economist.  While Beckett more or less straddled the fence and focused on the history of religion being taught in the classroom, Sawicky was concerned that God, prayer, and worship would be part of the curriculum, something he, being a non-believer, is totally against. 

As I see it, the issue should not involve religion.  It shouldn’t be religion vs. secularism, or theism vs. atheism, or Church vs. State, as the debate seemed to imply.  Nor should it be about God or gods. The issue is whether our children should be exposed to existential thinking or left without defense to be brainwashed and dumbed down by the entertainment industry, the advertising industry, and our scientific fundamentalists in academia.  If our children are led to believe that life is nothing more than a short march toward an abyss of nothingness, that it has no real meaning or purpose beyond pursuing a materialistic lifestyle, as promoted by the entertainment and advertising industries and academia, they are encouraged to make the most of each day by eating, drinking and being merry without restraint.  That clearly is the way things are going, though not just for the young people but for the majority of people. 

“Celebrity culture plunges us into a moral void,” offers Chris Hedges, a Pulitzer Prize winner, in his book Empire of Illusion.  “No one has any worth beyond his or her appearance, usefulness, or ability to ‘succeed.’ The highest achievements in a celebrity culture are wealth, sexual conquest, and fame.  It does not matter how these are obtained.  These values, as Sigmund Freud understood, are illusory.  They are hollow.  They leave us chasing vapors.  They urge us toward a life of narcissistic self-absorption.”

Hedges goes on to say that this cult of self has within it the classic traits of psychopaths, including “superficial charm, grandiosity, and self-importance; a need for constant stimulation, a penchant for lying, deception, and manipulation, and the inability to feel remorse or guilt.”

In their book, The Narcissism Epidemic, psychologists Jean Twenge and W. Keith Campbell cite various studies indicating that young people today are much more focused on “becoming well off financially” than earlier generations.  In one study, 93 percent of teenage girls said that shopping is their favorite activity.  Can there be any doubt that television and Internet commercials have been the primary instigators in this regard? 
We need to get young people out of this hedonistic carpe diem or “seize the day” mindset that humanists and other non-believers promote as a substitute for seeing this life as part of a much larger life.  We need for them to understand that life is not all about “having fun.”  At the same time, we need to get it across to our politicians and lawmakers that religion, or the “Church,” did not give rise to the search for meaning.  The search for meaning gave rise to them.  To put it another way, separation of Church and State does not mean the State must not have anything to do with a search for meaning in our lives. The same argument applies to the removal of monuments with the Ten Commandments from public places.  That is, the Church did not give us the Ten Commandments; the Ten Commandments gave us religion and the Church.  Just because the Church incorporated them within their teachings does not make them the property of the Church and in conflict with the State’s objectives. 

If the State is concerned with the overall welfare of its citizenry, its first concern should be a foundation of meaning.  This includes looking at the strong evidence supporting the concept that consciousness survives death and that the earthly life is but a preparation for a larger life and involves certain trials and tribulations to help us learn and prepare – evidence coming to us from research in the areas of near-death experiences, spirit communication, deathbed phenomena, and past-life studies.  A life of pure bliss would seemingly accomplish nothing in that regard.  Such evidence comes to us from psychical research, a science, not from religion.  In fact, orthodox religion rejects much of it because it does not completely agree with established dogma and doctrine.

Moreover, believing in an anthropomorphic God or belonging to a religion is not a prerequisite to weighing and evaluating the evidence turned up by some very distinguished scientists and scholars that this life is part of a larger life and it does have meaning and purpose.

Carl Jung, the pioneering Swiss psychiatrist, said that most of his patients were non-believers, those who had lost their faith and did not believe in a larger life.  “They seek position, marriage, reputation, outward success or money, and remain unhappy and neurotic even when they have attained what they were seeking,” he wrote.  “Such people are usually confined within too narrow a spiritual horizon.  Their life has not sufficient content, sufficient meaning.”  Jung added that “a man should be able to say he has done his best to form a conception of life after death, or to create some image of it – even if he must confess his failure. Not to have done so is a vital loss.  If they are enabled to develop into more spacious personalities, the neurosis generally disappears. For that reason the idea of [spiritual] development was always of the highest importance to me.” 

Even Sigmund Freud, who was not spiritually inclined, was concerned that one’s attitude toward death has a bearing on his or her psychological health.  “Is it not for us to confess that in our civilized attitude toward death, we are once more living psychologically beyond our means, and must reform and give truth its due?” he asked. “Would it not be better to give death the place in actuality and in our thoughts which properly belongs to it, and to yield a little more prominence to that unconscious attitude towards death which we have hitherto so carefully repressed?”

It has been suggested that sowing brings greater happiness than reaping, and we have reaped so much that we have become bored and depressed. Renowned psychiatrist Viktor Frankl referred to it as “mass neurotic syndrome” – the result of an “existential vacuum,” a feeling of emptiness and meaninglessness. The more one seeks pleasure, Frankl observed, the more it eludes him. “Pleasure is, and must remain, a side-effect, or by-product, and is destroyed and spoiled to the degree in which it is made a goal in itself.”  A human being, he continued, is not one in pursuit of happiness, but one in search of a reason to become happy. Self-actualization, he further opined, is possible only as a side effect of self-transcendence.

To answer the question stated in the first paragraph, no, we don’t need religion to be taught in the public classrooms.  We need Meaning to be taught.  Call it Existentialism 101, Cosmic Consciousness 101, or simply Larger Life 101.  However, we are not going to see that until our leaders get over the idea that meaning, consciousness, survival, and psychical research are all subheadings under religion.

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:  Sept. 11


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After Death Communication: The Book Tests - Some of the Best Evidence

Posted on 14 August 2017, 8:37

Anyone relying on popular Internet references for information on various renowned mediums from the past will likely conclude that they were all a bunch of fakes.  The debunkers have taken control of many of the popular encyclopedic sites and have obviously made it their mission to discredit, disparage, or destroy all mediums.  They make out the researchers who concluded that the mediums were genuine to have been dupes and rely on pseudoskeptics for their biographical sketches of the mediums.

Fortunately, the Society for Psychical Research (SPR) in England is making an effort to offer the true known facts about mediumship and other psychic phenomena with its Psi Encyclopedia.  I’ve had the opportunity to work on a dozen or more biographies and subjects at this site, including one just recently posted, the “Book Tests.” 

Conducted by Charles Drayton Thomas, (below) a Wesleyan minister and a member of the SPR, the book tests are considered some of the very best evidence for spirit communication.  “The primary purpose of these efforts was said [by my father] to be a demonstration that spirit people were able to do that for which telepathy from human minds could not account, a demonstration calculated to clarify the evidence already existing for the authorship of their communication,” Thomas wrote in 1922.


Thomas was especially interested in the popular theory that the medium was reading the mind of the sitter in providing information.  He said that it was his father, John Thomas, also a Wesleyan minister, who, posthumously, gave him the idea of the book tests.  It was during a sitting with Gladys Osborne Leonard, (below) a renowned British medium, early in 1917, that the father and son on different sides of the veil began collaborating in the experiments.


The senior Thomas, who died in 1903, told his son that the tests had been devised by others in a more advanced sphere than his and the idea passed on to him. At the time, Drayton Thomas (he went by his middle name) had had over 100 sittings with Mrs. Leonard, although later in his career that number exceeded 500.  He mentioned that the tests were secondary to other business which he and his father discussed and that his father continually gave other evidence of his own identity. 

Drayton Thomas would arrange a notebook on a table with a lighted lamp.  Leonard would take a seat several feet from him and after two or three minutes of silence she would go into a trance. Suddenly, in a clear and distinct voice, Feda, Leonard’s spirit control, would take over Leonard’s body and begin using her speech mechanism while relaying messages from the senior Thomas and others in the spirit world.  There was no similarity between Leonard’s voice and that of Feda, who spoke like a young girl.  Moreover, Feda spoke with an accent and had frequent lapses of grammar.

The idea behind the book tests was to communicate information gleaned by the father from a book in the son’s extensive library.  For example, in one of the earliest experiments, the father told the son to go to the lowest shelf and take the sixth book from the left.  On page 149, three-quarters down, he would find a word conveying the meaning of falling back or stumbling.  When the younger Thomas arrived home that evening after his sitting with Mrs. Leonard, he went to the book and place on the page, where he found the words, “…to whom a crucified Messiah was an insuperable stumbling-block.”

The father explained to the son, through Feda, that he was able to get the “appropriate spirit of the passage” much easier than he could the actual words. However, over a period of 18 months experimentation, he found himself able to pick up more and more words and numbers, gradually shifting from “sensing” to “clairvoyance.”  It was made abundantly clear by the father that he was experimenting on his side as much as his son was on the material side.  The debunkers don’t seem to have the ability to grasp all that, however, If the wording was not exact, it had to be, in their limited minds, fraudulent.

It was certain that Mrs. Leonard had never visited Thomas’ house and knew nothing of the library of books in it.  Realizing, however, that his subconscious might somehow have recorded such detailed information in the book when he read it years before as well as the exact location of the book in his library, Thomas decided to experiment with books in a friend’s house.  He informed his father of the plan so that the father knew where to search. In one of the tests there, Feda told Thomas that on page 2 of the second book from the right on a particular shelf, he would find a reference to sea or ocean.  She added that the discarnate Thomas was not sure which, because he got the idea and not the words.  When Drayton Thomas pulled the book from the shelf of his friend’s house, he read, “A first-rate seaman, grown old between sky and ocean.”

In another experiment, Drayton Thomas was told to look at page 9 where he would find a reference to changing of colors.  Upon opening this book, Thomas found, “Along the northern horizon the sky suddenly changes from light blue to a dark lead colour.”  In still another test at his home, Feda told Drayton Thomas to go to a book at a certain point on a shelf and he would find words looking like “A-sh-ill-ee” on the cover.  Feda explained that she was giving the sound but not the correct spelling.  When Thomas arrived home, he went to the exact spot indicated by Feda and found a book authored by Mrs. Ashley Carus-Wilson.

In yet another test, Thomas was first reminded by Feda of some strange knockings in his room recently and then was directed to the top of page 17 of a book on the second shelf, fifth from the left end.  Thomas found the book to be a volume of Shakespeare and the words, “I will not answer thee with words, but blows.”

Over a period of about two years, the father and son researchers carried out 348 tests.  Of those, 242 were deemed good, 46 indefinite, and 60 failures.  The discarnate Thomas explained the failures as his inability to get the idea through the mind of the medium or the medium’s mind somehow distorting the message.  However, if you check the references by the debunkers, all you’ll read about is the failures or the so-called researchers who didn’t get results as good as Thomas did.  For more on the book tests, go to

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:  August 28.


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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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