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Existentialism 101: Pondering on Life and an Afterlife

Posted on 22 May 2023, 8:32

Unfortunately, this course is not taught in our universities.  They offer only Materialism 101, Philistinism 101, & Nihilism 101.  If Existentialism 101 were taught, the teachings would center around the ideas below.


Cui Bono?  “Well, even my information is only based on hearsay; but I don’t mind at all telling you what I have heard.  I supposed that for one who is soon to leave this world there is no more suitable occupation than inquiring into our views about the future life, and trying to imagine what it is like.  What else can one do in the time before sunset?”
– Socrates (Phaedo of Plato)  Tredennick, p.104

Nihilism: “If man believes in nothing but the material world, he becomes a victim of the narrowness of his own consciousness.  He is trapped in triviality.”
– Emanuel Swedenborg  (Swedish Scientist and Polymath)

Despair: “Despair over the earthly or over something earthly is really despair also about the eternal and over oneself, in so far as it is despair, for this is the formula for all despair.”
– Soren Kirkegaard (Danish Philosopher, “Father of Existentialism”)

Death: “When one is seventy-five years old, he cannot avoid thoughts about death from time to time. These thoughts leave me quite undisturbed, for I am firmly convinced that our spirit is an essence of completely indestructible nature; it is something that works on from eternity to eternity. It is like the sun, which seems to set only to our earthly eyes, but which really never sets, but shines on perpetually.”
—Goethe (German polymath)

Life’s Meaning:  “The decisive question for man is: Is he related to something infinite or not? That is the telling question of life.  Only if we know that the thing which truly matters is the infinite can we avoid fixing our interest upon futilities, and upon all kinds of goals which are not of real importance.”
– C. G. Jung  (Swiss pioneer in psychiatry)

Fear of Death: “The idea of death, the fear of it, haunts the human animal like nothing else.  It is a mainspring of human activity – activity designed largely to avoid the fatality of death, to overcome it by denying in some way that it is the final destiny of man.”
– Ernest Becker (American anthropologist, 1973 Pulitzer Prize winner)

Aging: “With the rapidly diminishing circle of my relatives and friends, I find myself increasingly lonely, reflective.  Already the larger part of my generation have become intangible, and many of those who remain on the earth are seeking, like myself, some evidence, some assurance of a life beyond the black deep whose waters they must soon cross.  That I would welcome a hail from that dim other shore, but the voice must be real and not imaginary.”
–Hamlin Garland (American author, Pulitzer Prize winner in literature)

Scientific Mechanism: “We are infected with the chaos and decay of spiritual emptiness, even as we are vaccinated and take our antibiotics. [My patients] wait without hope, without heart, tragically unaware of the reality of their undying souls.”
– Stephen J. Iacoboni (American Oncologist and author, “The Undying Soul”)

Death Anxiety: “The state of anxiety, the feeling of powerlessness and insignificance, and especially the doubt concerning one’s future after death, represent a state of mind which is practically unbearable for anybody.”
– Erich Fromm (American psychoanalyst & humanistic philosopher)

Existential Vacuum: “Every age has its own collective neurosis, and every age needs its own psychotherapy to cope with it. This existential vacuum which is the mass neurosis of the present time can be described as a private and personal form of nihilism; for nihilism can be defined as the contention that being has no meaning.”
– Viktor Frankl (American psychiatrist, author “Man’s Search for Meaning”)

Avoidance: “They come and they go and they trot and they dance, and never a word about death.  All well and good.  Yet, when death does come – to them, their wives, their children, their friends – catching them unawares and unprepared, then what storms of passion overwhelm them, what cries, what fury, what despair!”
– Michel de Montaigne (French philosopher)

Beyond Materialism: “Human life, as we know it, is a tragic and pathetic affair which can only be redeemed by some belief or at least some hope in a larger significance than is compatible with the creed of materialism, no matter how nobly stoic a form it may be held.”
– William McDougall (British & American psychology professor)

Highest Ideal: “Neither a person nor a nation can exist without some higher idea. And there is only one higher idea on earth, and it is the idea of the immortality of the human soul, for all other ‘higher’ ideas of life by which humans might live derive from that idea alone.”
–  Fyodor Dostoyevsky (Russian author, “Crime & Punishment”)

Humanism: “The moralist (i.e., humanist) must hold his breath and keep his muscles tense; and so long as this athletic attitude is possible all goes well – morality suffices.  But the athletic attitude tends ever to break down and it inevitably does break down even in the most stalwart when the organism begins to decay, or when morbid fears invade the mind.”
—William James (American pioneer in psychiatry)
Hopelessness: “If the question should be finally decided in the negative, if all men without exception ever come to believe that there is no life beyond this life, if children were all brought up to believe that the only happiness they can ever enjoy will be upon earth, then it seems to me that the condition of man would be altogether hopeless, because there would cease to be any adequate motive for justice, for truth, for unselfishness, and no sufficient reason could be given to the poor man, to the bad man, or to the selfish man, why he should not seek his own personal welfare at the cost of others.”
– Alfred Russel Wallace (British biologist & co-originator with Darwin of the , Natural Selection Theory of Evolution)

No Doubt: “I had but one object, to discover fraud and trickery. Frankly, I went to Mrs. Piper with Professor James of Harvard University about twelve years ago with the object of unmasking her…I entered the house profoundly materialistic, not believing in the continuance of life after death; today I say I believe.  The truth has been given to me in such a way as to remove from me the possibility of a doubt.”
– Richard Hodgson (Australian philosopher, poet, researcher) 

Convinced: “I am personally convinced that the evidence we have published decidedly demonstrates (1) the existence of a spiritual world, (2) survival after death, and (3) of occasional communication from those who have passed over.”
– Sir William Barrett (British physicist and author)

Humdrum Heaven: The Church is deliberately wooly on the subject and the ordinary man is not attracted by their anemic heaven, nor frightened by their eternal hell.  Such a system just doesn’t make sense to the man in the street, so he is inclined to concentrate on this life which he thinks he know all about and leave the next life until the time comes to face it.”
– Air Chief Marshal Lord Dowding (British War Hero, author, “God’s Magic”)

Symbolisms: “All the scriptural imagery (harps, crowns, gold, etc.) is, of course, a merely symbolical attempt to express the inexpressible.”
– C. S. Lewis (British theologian and author)

Full Realization: “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. They must flame within us, setting our whole moral and intellectual nature on fire, sending a life current of energy through every part of our being, arousing us to impetuous action and to sustained effort born of strong conviction.”
– Madison Peters (American clergyman and author)

Conviction: “I should be willing to face the stake rather than be unfaithful to so vital and pregnant a truth – a conclusion so illuminating in our understanding of the meaning of existence, so instructive in relation to the scheme of the universe, and so vitally affecting the hopes and aspirations of man.  I do not even feel tempted to succumb to either ecclesiastical or philosophical censure concerning the initial stages of what may be described as the scientific discovery of the soul, as a verified and persistent entity.”
– Sir Oliver Lodge  (British physicist and electricity pioneer)

Ignorance: “I regard the existence of discarnate spirits as scientifically proved and I no longer refer to the skeptic as having any right to speak on the subject.  Any man who does not accept the existence of discarnate spirits and the proof of it is either ignorant or a moral coward. I give him short rift, and do not propose any longer to argue with him on the supposition that he knows anything about the subject.”
– James H. Hyslop (American professor of logic and ethics)

Certainty: “It cannot be doubted that the personal life is condemned to destruction, and that a life conformable to the will of God alone gives the possibility of salvation.  It is not much in comparison with the sublime belief in the future life! It is not much, but it is sure.”
– Leo Tolstoy (Russian author, “War & Peace”)

New Beginning: “For half a century I have been writing my thoughts in prose, verse, history, philosophy, drama, romance, satire, ode, song. I have tried all; but I feel I have not said the thousandth part of what is in me. When I go down to the grave, I can say, like so many others, ‘I have finished my day’s work’; but I cannot say I have finished my life. My day’s work will begin again the next morning. The tomb is not a blind alley; it is a thoroughfare. It closes in the twilight to open with the day.”
– Victor Hugo (French author)

Knowing:  “The dying experience is almost identical to the experience in birth. It is a birth into a different existence which can be proven quite simply.  For thousands of years you were made to ‘believe’ in the things concerning the beyond. But for me, it is no longer a matter of belief, but rather a matter of knowing.”
– Elisabeth Kűbler-Ross (American physician and author)

Spiritual Beings: “I maintain that the human mystery is incredibly demeaned by scientific reductionism, with its claim in promissory materialism to account eventually for all of the spiritual world in terms of patterns of neuronal activity.  This belief must be classed as superstition…We have to recognize that we are spiritual beings with souls existing in a spiritual world as well as material beings with bodies and brains existing in a material world.” 
– Sir John Eccles (Australian Nobel Prize-winning neuroscientist)  Alexander, p. 140

Another World:  “Although there is always something that will stand in the way of scientifically proving life after death, the truth about this subject may just lie with those who have experienced it.  I have listened to thousands of people tell their stories of ‘going to the other side,’ and I can tell you that I believe what they say, and can tell you that for most of them, nothing stands in the way of their faith that another world awaits them.”
– Raymond Moody (American psychiatrist, NDE researcher, author)

Dualism Confirmed: “The evidence points to the fact that we are more than brain function, more than just a speck in creation, and that something, whether we regard it as soul or consciousness, will continue in some form or another, making its journey to ‘Elsewhere.’”
– Peter Fenwick (British neuropsychiatrist, NDE researcher, author) 

Transformation: “That death is the end used to be my own belief.  But after many years of critical research into the stories of the NDErs, and after a careful exploration of current knowledge about brain functions, consciousness, and some basic principles of quantum physics, my views have undergone a complete transformation.  As a doctor and researcher, I found the most significant finding to be the conclusion of one NDEr: ‘Dead turned out to be not dead.’ I now see the continuity of our consciousness after death of our physical body as a very real possibility.” 
– Pim van Lommel (Dutch cardiologist, NDE researcher, author)

“…now that I have been privileged to understand that our life does not end with the death of the body or the brain, I see it as my duty, my calling, to tell people about what I saw beyond the body and beyond this earth.”
– Eben Alexander (American academic neurosurgeon, author, “Proof of Heaven”) (Alexander, p. 12)

Overcoming Rationalism: “Leaving rational thought behind, even momentarily, isn’t a loss we easily invite.  But if we want access to the state in which anomalous knowing might be possible, a deliberate invitation might be precisely what’s required.” – Elizabeth Lloyd Mayer (American professor of psychology, author “Extraordinary Knowing”)

Resisting Change: “It’s hard to change how people think. People have vested interests, and their projects and reputations would be threatened if certain things were shown to be true.” 
– B. D. Josephson (Welsh theoretical physicist and 1973 Nobel Laureate)

Rejection by Science: “They think that if they once admit this evidence [for consciousness survival] it will plunge them headlong back into superstition and wreck the structure of law on which science has been built. They think, as one psychologist put it, that it is a case of psychical research alive and science dead, or vice versa.”
– G. N. M. Tyrrell (British Mathematician & author)

Uncertainty: “We need have no hope that any one will utter on this earth the word that shall put an end to our uncertainties…The unknown and the unknowable are necessary and will perhaps always be necessary to our happiness.  In any case, I would not wish my worst enemy, were his understanding a thousandfold loftier and thousandfold mightier than mine, to be condemned eternally to inhabit a world of which had surprised an essential secret and of which, as a man, he had begun to grasp the least tittle.” – Maurice Maeterlinck (Belgian author and researcher, 1911 Nobel Prize winner)

Acceptance:  “[Considering the evidence] it makes sense to me to live our lives as if this is really the way things are – that we are more than our physical bodies, that some part of us may continue after our bodies stop working, and that we may be intimately connected to something greater than ourselves.  And that has tremendous implications for how we live our lives, and for what makes our lives meaningful and worthwhile.” 
– Bruce Greyson (American psychiatry professor, NDE researcher, author “After”

What’s Important: “If I had my life to live over again, I should devote myself to psychical research rather than psychoanalysis.”
– Sigmund Freud (Austrian pioneer in psychiatry)
No Boundaries:  “The soul of man is so vast that you will never find its boundaries by traveling in any direction.” 
– Heracleitus (pre-Socrates Greek philosopher, 576-480 B.C.)

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 latest book, No One Really Dies: 25 Reasons to Believe in an Afterlife is published by White Crow books.

Next blog post:  June 5

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Is Fake Mediumship Really Fake News?

Posted on 08 May 2023, 22:24

It is almost routine for researchers and writers to preface their remarks leading to the endorsement of a medium or of mediumship in general by commenting that there were no doubt many tricksters pretending to be mediums in the early years of mediumship and psychical research. I’m guilty of having made such unsubstantiated comments in my books and articles, and I apologize.  It’s a defensive measure, as if the author is attempting to block the skeptic’s first counter-punch by admitting that there was fraud in the field. Such an admission was repeated so often and carried down by other authors over the years that at some point that defensive remark – that there were many frauds – seems to have become historical fact. Moreover, many genuine mediums were written off as frauds because the observers didn’t grasp the spiritual aspect of the various phenomena. Indications are that there were a few frauds, not many.


“While recognizing that both varieties of fraud exist, I am confident that they have been much overrated,” Dr. William J. Crawford, an Irish engineer and researcher (top left photo), wrote in his 1919 book, Experiments in Psychical Science, referring to both conscious and unconscious fraud, the latter involving movements by the medium while in a trance state. “Even at séances, such as the Golighers’, where everything is above suspicion, where all phenomena can be demonstrated with the greatest ease to be genuine to the last detail, things happen which to a superficial observer might appear fraudulent.  For instance, sometimes the medium’s body, or portions of her body, make spasmodic kinds of movements when heavy raps or impacts are being experienced far out in the circle.” 

The “spasmodic” movements mentioned by Crawford were frequently observed by many researchers with Eusapia Paladino and were discussed in my blog here of April 10 having to do with kissing motions by Paladino. It was referred to as “synchrony,” and would usually involve Paladino’s arms or legs moving at the same time as activity taking place across the room from her.  “In hundreds of seances at which persons worthy of credence have been present, [Eusapia] has produced phenomena which made it impossible to doubt the reality of the phenomena or her honesty,” wrote Professor Philippe Bottazzi, director of the Physiological Institute at the University of Naples.  He went on to say that in some seances, the phenomena had been both scarce and weak and led some “to suppose that what others had seen were similar in character and force, and that they were subsequently exaggerated by human folly and credulity.”

Bottazzi observed that Paladino was both insulted and amused by the claims of fraud.  She would sometimes react by deliberately playing a little trick with one of her hairs, seemingly to make fun of someone who was not sympathetic toward her.  It was not, he believed, with an intent to deceive or with the hope of making the trick pass for a genuine phenomenon. It was her way of amusing herself, as if to say, “You want to see a trick, then I’ll show you a trick.”  He added that in seven seances, neither he nor his fellow researchers carrying out experiments with Paladino, ever observed any such tricks. “Eusapia never used any kind of expedients to deceive us; on the contrary, she always warned us every time she moved the table or the curtain with her visible hands.”  (Or John King, her spirit control speaking through her, warned them.)

Scientifically Established

Professor Charles Richet, the 1913 Nobel Prize winner in medicine (top right photo), had more than 200 sittings with Paladino, and said that her manifestations established scientifically the reality of telekinesis and ectoplasmic forms (emphasis added).  “I am very well aware that they are extraordinary, even so monstrously extraordinary that at first sight the hypothesis of immeasurable, repeated, and continual fraud seem the more probably explanation,” he wrote.  “But is such fraud possible?  I cannot think so. When I recall the precautions that all of have taken, not once, but twenty, a hundred, or even a thousand times, it is inconceivable that we should have been deceived on all these occasions.”

Dr. Gustave Geley, a French physician who collaborated with Richet in many experiments, fully agreed.  “The experimenters should be very cautious in alleging or suspecting conscious fraud,” he wrote, “but the levity with which accusations of this kind are made passes all reasonable bounds… Ill-will and ineptitude have free course, and an honest medium is disgraced without scruple on the slightest suspicion. Mere suspicion stands in place of proof.” Geley added that nine-tenths of the accusations against mediums fall in this category and this was a major reason why genuine mediums of his day refused to be tested by researchers.

The famous French astronomer Camille Flammarion, who also collaborated with Richet and Geley at times, admitted that the phenomena produced by Paladino were rather vulgar, altogether banal, and gave no clues as to the nature of the spirit world. “On the other hand, however, it is impossible not to recognize the existence of unknown forces,” he added. “The simple fact, for example, of the levitation of a table to a height of six and one-half, eight, sixteen inches from the floor is not banal at all. It seems to me, speaking for myself, so extraordinary that my opinion is very well expressed when I say that I do not dare to admit it without having seen it myself, with my own eyes: I meant that which is called seeing, in full light and under such conditions that it would be impossible to suspect…I am absolutely certain that the medium did not lift that weight of fifteen pounds either by her hands or by her legs, or by her feet, and furthermore, no one of the company was able to do it. The table was lifted by the upper surface. We are, therefore, certainly in the presence of an unknown force here which emanates from the persons present, and above all from the medium”

Flammarion said that a man could wager ninety-nine to one hundred that the phenomena he had observed were true. “I was absolutely sure of them during the séance.  But the vividness of the impressions grows weak, and we have a tendency to listen only to the voice of plain common sense,—the most reasonable and the most deceptive of our faculties.”

Sir Oliver Lodge, a renowned British physicist (bottom left photo), wrote that Paladino 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. He recalled that on more than one occasion, she took a boat to a mainland village and came back without her coat.  When asked what happened to it, she explained that she gave it to a beggar who needed it more than she did. “She wanted us to understand that it was not conscious deception, but that her control (John King) took whatever means available, and if he found an easy way of doing things, thus would it be done,” Lodge explained. 

Although Sir William Barrett, another renowned British physicist, never observed Paladino, he studied a number of other mediums and commented on the conflicting reports about Paladino.  “We may even conceive that when this psychic force is restricted or not externalized, it may create movements of the limbs of the psychic which will cause her to perform by normal actions (in perhaps a semiconscious state) what under good psychical conditions would be done supernormally,” he offered. “This would produce the impression of intentional fraud. Everyone who has had much experience in these perplexing investigations knows that what seems purposeless and stupid fraud often intrudes itself, after the most conclusive evidence of genuine phenomena has been obtained. It is this which renders the whole enquiry wholly unfitted for the hasty and unskilled investigator.”

Horace Greely, founder, publisher, and editor of the New York Tribune (bottom right photo), was one of the earliest investigators of mediumship. “The jugglery hypothesis utterly fails to account for occurrences which I have personally witnessed, to say nothing of others,” he wrote in his autobiography.  “Nor can I unreservedly accept the hypothesis which ascribes the so-called ‘spiritual’ to a demonic origin.” He added that some of the phenomena he had witnessed would require highly skilled magicians such as Houdini, Blitz, or the Fakir of Ava, and yet they were often produced by children of tender years, who were otherwise awkward and clumsy.

Blank Sitting Common

Greely further mentioned that he had many sterile sittings.  “I have known this to occur when they were particularly anxious – and for obviously good reasons – to astound and convince those who were present and expectant; yet not even the faintest ‘rap’ could they scare up.  Had they been jugglers, they could not have failed so utterly, ignominiously.”  In fact, Greely had so many sterile sittings that he gave up further investigation.  “To sit for two dreary, mortal hours in a darkened room, in a mixed company, waiting for some one’s disembodied grandfather or aunt to tip a table or rap on a door, is dull music at best, but so to sit in vain is disgusting.”

Back to Professor Bottazzi: “Those who have observed badly, a few times and under unfavourable conditions, or, worse still, who have entered upon their investigations with the idea that they are going to witness charlatanism, that is to say with a preconceived opinion, or if (worse still) they have entered the séance room with the arrogant intention of afterwards claim to consider as fools all who do not think they have been deceived, hoping thus to show their superior powers of observation and criticism; these and others who are impelled to deny by even less noble motives cannot nullify the force of the opposite affirmations, which are now numerous, affirmations by such men as Crookes, Ramsay, Lodge, Lombroso, Richet, Flammarion, Luciani, Morselli, that is to say honest savants, whose fame cannot be upset by the denunciations of a few men who seem to think that the act of denial proves their mental superiority.  Therefore, to those who deny without having seen, affirming a priori the impossibility of these phenomena, one must reply: First see, then you may argue.”

One is left to wonder how much of recorded history we can actually accept as factual, how much of it has been distorted by historians, biographers and other authors based on their acceptance of hearsay and rumor, their biases, their faulty research, their misinterpretations of what others have said or written, their choices of verbiage, their needs for sensationalism that will appeal to publishers and readers, and their need to appear informed and intelligent.

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 latest book, No One Really Dies: 25 Reasons to Believe in an Afterlife is published by White Crow books.

Next blog post:  May 22

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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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