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From Treasure to Trash, or What Was, “Was”

Posted on 28 September 2020, 8:38

It seems somewhat selfish to die and leave one’s worthless personal possessions for someone else to sort out and discard. Thus, I took advantage of the pandemic lockdown to rummage through memorabilia stashed in nine large boxes in the closet of a spare bedroom with the objective of trashing most of it so that my wife Gina would not be burdened with it all after I die.  I failed badly, as, after many hours of sorting, selecting and sifting, I have eight boxes remaining. Many of those hours were spent reading, remembering, reminiscing and reflecting.  Disposing of a lifetime of keepsakes is a challenging task. 

Included in those nine boxes were hundreds of family photos going back to the early 1900s, elementary school class pictures, yearbooks, school report cards, numerous action shots from my competitive running days, scrapbooks with newspaper clippings, group shots with old friends now mostly deceased, military mementos, programs and scorecards from events during the 1940s and ‘50s, a dozen or more certificates and diplomas, hundreds of articles I had contributed to various newspapers, magazines and journals over the past seven decades, going back to my high school newspaper, a lock of hair from my first haircut, a bill for $1.50 from my first visit to a dentist, and sundry odds and ends. 

One of the photos has Hawaii’s Diamond Head, an extinct volcano, almost perfectly framed by tree branches as I race down Mount Tantalus (see below).  It was one of many photos I tossed in the wastebasket but then retrieved and placed back in the box.  It seemed as if I were discarding memories as well as objects.  Moreover, one of the things I’ve learned in life is that as soon as I throw away something, a need for it develops within a month.


I had already sorted out some of the family photos a few years earlier and gave them to my two daughters and brother.  Still, there were hundreds left over that they didn’t have the space or need for. I couldn’t bring myself to throw them in the trash then and was hoping to be less materialistic this time. Several years before that, I had dumped 50 or more trophies, including one about two-feet tall from the New York City Marathon. I struggled to dispose of those trophies, as my ego conflicted with Matthew 6:19, which reads, “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy…”

I did not want them to be dust-collecting ego pacifiers, but, at the same time, they served as symbols of memorable experiences.  I have forgotten much over 83-plus years and didn’t want to forget those experiences.  Many were already buried in my subconscious before being raised above the threshold of my consciousness by the trophies and photos. 

Those running souvenirs were especially difficult to part with.  Years of running helped me learn to commit myself to a goal; to discipline myself to the demands of that goal; to develop and adapt; to pace myself for the short term and long haul; to cruise, to struggle, to push on, to slowly die; then to be reborn (after crossing the finish line).  The lessons learned were applied to more serious endeavors and seemed to work. I wondered if I could hold on to those memories without the materialistic symbols. The trophies went into some big trash bags and came out again, but Matthew and Gina finally prevailed as I reluctantly put them in the trash can.  I did keep three from the Honolulu Marathon that appeared to be works of art, possibly collector’s items (see below). I talked my younger daughter into taking one of them, but the other two remain unclaimed.


I gave a grandson my old autograph book with some legendary signatures like Jackie Robinson, Bob Feller, Ernie Lombardi, Larry Doby, Luke Easter, Billy Martin, Cookie Lavagetto, and many other baseball stars from yesteryear, but he isn’t much of a baseball fan and so I held on to some old scorebooks and other sports memorabilia.  Someone suggested I could sell them on e-bay, but I don’t think it’s worth the effort or the postage. Besides, I couldn’t bring myself to sell them no matter how many dollars they might fetch.

Outside the closet with the boxes are shelves and shelves of books, maybe 700, that will overwhelm Gina when the time comes for her to move to a smaller abode. There’s one signed by “Patience Worth,” no doubt by Pearl Curran, her medium, with a long inscription to a friend, another by medium George Valiantine, still another by Lou Zamperini, subject of the hit 2014 movie Unbroken.  I should get rid of them now, but it is difficult to give them up before it is absolutely necessary.  When that “absolute” time comes, it’s too late. It’s a very ambivalent “damned if you do and damned if you don’t” situation.  I feel especially selfish holding on to the books and leaving them for Gina to get rid of, but the books still provide interest, information, inspiration, and intrigue in leisure times, which are more abundant these days.  I’d rather read them than play games or watch some second-rate television program.   

So much for our worldly treasures!  They fade, tear, rust, stain, tarnish, or end up in boxes stored in a closet or in the attic before eventually being tossed in the trash or sold for fifty cents at a garage sale. I recall once browsing at a garage sale and seeing framed family photos, the attire of the photographed subjects suggesting that they were taken during the 1940s or ‘50s, in boxes and being sold for a dollar each, subject to negotiation down to fifty cents, no doubt for the value of the frames.  I wondered if the only thing remaining of those people in the pictures might be some mention on  A few generations down the line, some distant progeny might look at his or her family tree on the Internet and wonder who the ancestor with the funny haircut and old-fashioned attire was.  The ancestor will be just a name with his or her dates of birth and death listed.  Then again, cyber wars might eliminate all electronic records by that time. It will then be as if the person never existed. Hopefully, whatever love and service the person was able to contribute during his or her lifetime will have filtered down and have had a positive effect on some descendants.

In effect, all those worldly “treasures” remaining in the eight boxes are meaningless in the long run.  They are worth nothing to anybody but myself.  Shame on me for holding on to them. Even more shame on me when I think of all the people who in recent weeks have lost all material possessions, including photo albums and other keepsakes, to wildfires, hurricanes, and floods.  They’ll be deprived of their mementos for many more years, while I had mine for nearly all my years. 

As I see it, there is only one effective way to live, and that is “to live in eternity,” which means living in the present, past, and future all at the same time. The present should dominate one’s consciousness, but the past and future must be factored in, I believe, if one is to have proper perspective.  Viewing some old photos and odds and ends from the past every now and then does serve as a reminder of how adversity can be overcome, while pondering on what comes after death can brighten the future. 

As for those eight remaining boxes, I’ve asked my wife not to bother sorting through them after I’ve departed this realm of existence, and to simply trash them.  Before that time comes, I might do a little more sorting and reminiscing. 

Next blog post:  October 12

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.
His forthcoming book, No One Really Dies: 25 Reasons to Believe in an Afterlife is due in February 2021.

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‘Life Eternal’ Explained by “Titanic” Victim

Posted on 14 September 2020, 8:28

Before writing my 2012 book, Transcending the Titanic, I read everything I could find by or about William T. Stead, the famous British journalist who was a victim of the Titanic. I recently discovered that I missed an important reference, Life Eternal, a 1933 book just republished by White Crow Books.  It is the record of afterlife communication said to be coming from Stead through the mediumship of Hester Dowden, aka Hester Travers Smith, and organized into a book by Estelle Stead, William’s daughter.

Stead was on his way to New York to give a speech at Carnegie Hall on world peace when he met his end on the infamous ocean liner.  His career as a journalist and author began during the 1860’s when he became a reporter for a newspaper called the Northern Echo, advancing to editor in 1871.  In 1880, he accepted a position as assistant editor of the Pall Mall Gazette, then became its editor in 1883.  In 1890, he founded the Review of Reviews.  He has been credited with having introduced the interview technique to British journalism while inventing the “New Journalism,” bringing important topics in bright, colorful prose to the man in the street.  Stead (below) was also well known in psychic circles as the founder of Borderland, a quarterly journal devoted to psychical matters, and as an automatic writing medium. 


In a story written by B. O. Flower, the editor of Arena, a popular American publication, Stead is referred to as a cosmopolitan journalist “with a rare blending of intellectual force with moral conviction, idealism with utilitarianism, a virile imagination, and a common sense practicality that strove to make the vision a useful reality.”  Those qualities and characteristics apparently remained with him in the afterlife. 

Dowden, (below) an Irish medium, was the daughter of Professor Edward Dowden, a distinguished Shakespearian scholar, and the wife of a prominent Dublin physician. She was primarily an automatic writing and Ouija board medium, sitting regularly with a small group of friends, including Sir William Barrett, a renowned physicist and psychical researcher. Geraldine Cummins, perhaps the most famous automatist in history, was introduced to mediumship by Dowden.


“[Dowden] is not a credulous or hasty investigator; on the contrary, the trend of her mind is healthily skeptical, and hence the opinions at which she has arrived cannot be dismissed as the product of morbid curiosity or the mere will to believe,” Barrett wrote in the Introduction to her 1919 book, Voices from the Void.

It was on April 15, 1912, when Dowden received a very rapid message stating: “Ship sinking; all hands lost. William East overboard.  Women and children weeping and wailing – sorrow, sorrow, sorrow.”  She had no idea what the message meant and no more came through at that sitting.  Later that day it was reported that the Titanic had sunk. As a spirit claiming to be Stead communicated at subsequent sittings, Dowden concluded that because of the rapidity of the message she got the last name wrong in that very first message. 

It is not clear from 1933 book when Dowden received the later communication, but indications are that it was many years after the Titanic went down, apparently during the 1920s or just before the book was published. “I have never been so fully conscious of the presence of a communicator as in the W. T. Stead case,” Dowden wrote in the preface to the book.  “I feel that he is entirely outside my personality, using me as an instrument with infinite skill. I find myself conversing with him exactly as I should if his bodily presence was beside me, discussing difficult problems and often arguing with him.”  She further noted that Stead communicated at about 3,000 words an hour, which prohibited any thinking process on her part. 

Stead communicated that his early attempts at communication were not very successful, because although he knew pretty much what to do, he didn’t know how to do it.  Initially, he could shoot only short messages.  “When we communicate with you, we have in a sense to form a body, a body that will compress the soul again to the dimensions it had before it cast off the body,” he explained. “The whole thing is a strain.  When we speak to you, we are in an unnatural condition.”  He added that the initial efforts were so difficult that he gave up on it for a few years (in earth time) before he tried again. 

Here are some of the comments made by Stead through Dowden:

Language: “I am going to use the language of the inhabitants of the Earth, although here in my sphere language is no longer a necessity. Therefore, allowances must be made, if what I describe at times seems grossly material…If I speak of food or drink, houses, poverty, wealth, you must not take it that what I speak of is precisely the equivalent of your poverty and wealth, your food and drink, your houses, etc.”

God: “In the sphere where I am now, we can still only speculate who and what ‘He’ is.  We look on God as Life, the source of life and being, and we know that he is responsible for the universe and all that it contains.  But whether he has a form similar to the human form, where he is a single personality or a vast group of personalities acting together in accord and harmony, we do not know and we can only get as far as the threshold of His house.”

Christ: “Christ came forth from God as a manifestation of God.  He was a Son of God in deed and in truth.  After His manifestation He entered into God and remained as a personality in His teachings only.  Christ as a person does not exist in any of the seven spheres, but His image can manifest there as a symbol of the personality that has passed into the Greater Life.”

Jesus: “Jesus was the vehicle through which Christ worked.  Jesus was a man, was not more divine than other men, but He was possessed of the power to give manifestation of the Divine which is not given to the ordinary man.  Jesus passed into the creative spheres after He left the world, and now He has passed into the Greater Life.” 

Devil: “We know of no devil in the universe, but we do know that certain forces work for retrogression.”

Death: “After death, the soul shoots out of the body, inflicting a terrific strain on itself.  The cord uniting the soul with the body, which resembles the cord between the mother and the child, is not always severed at the moment of death; as a rule it is, but there are exceptions, and the term of severance depends to a certain extent on the knowledge the soul possesses of its conditions. With sudden death, the shock being great, the term of severance may be delayed for a long period, but this is the exception not the rule; in most cases of sudden death the cord is severed at once.”

Subconscious: “The soul, being the whole personality, has a knowledge of the purpose for which it was created; it has also a knowledge of the development that is before it, but this knowledge is subconscious.  And by subconscious, I mean that it does not take this knowledge into the part of the its consciousness that is active.  While a man is on Earth, he only needs a fraction of his personality.”

Corrupt Souls: “When he dies, he remains in a dream or rather in a nightmare condition until the desire to grow returns to him, the desire to have another chance and to forget the past.”

Spheres: “We speak of seven spheres, seven different states, and in each of these there are seven planes.  The spheres are of different quality, and the duration of the soul’s sojourn in each is of a different length.  The state which I call a sphere, is a mental condition.  In each of the spheres we retain ‘form.’ Our bodies become more ethereal as we ascend, or if our choice prompts us to descend, we have more material bodies.”

Education: “After the fourth sphere is passed, your education is complete.  You have arrived at a stage where you no longer learn, you create.  The last three spheres through which you pass are spheres of creative activity.”

Group Soul: “Here, in the fifth sphere, you begin to pass into the Group, to create out of yourself, with the strengthening power of the Group that is behind you.  There are no incongruities here.  Quite naturally, you fall into your Group, or place, and do your work with its support.”

Spiritual Evolution: “When it reaches the seventh sphere, the soul has full realization of itself.  It understands its purpose, and then it is free to choose its destiny.  It is no longer hampered by the laws which compel it to take the next step.  It can choose its own road.  But before that, free will is limited.”

Reincarnation: “The first question you ask is: does the larger proportion of souls who come over from the Earth Sphere return to it? No, by far the larger proportion continue their development on our side, and do not enter the restriction of the physical body again.” 

While stressing that it is for the most part beyond human comprehension, Stead elaborated on much of the above and discussed other subjects, including time, afterlife relationships, activities, appearances, music, animals, and religion, in the first section of the book.  In the second section, he discusses various types of mediumship and explains many of the difficulties encountered in spirit communication, including the possible distortion of messages by the medium’s subconscious mind and “invasions” by low-level spirits stuck in the “Shadow Plane.” 

Next blog post:  September 28

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.
His forthcoming book, No One Really Dies: 25 Reasons to Believe in an Afterlife is due in February 2021.

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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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