Most people who look at mediumship and related phenomena in depth and with an open mind eventually reach the conclusion that non-paranormal explanations simply don’t cover all the evidence. Fraud and mistaken observation do account for some of the cases, but not for the strongest ones.
Nevertheless, the hypothesis of survival after death is not the only one that has been put forward to explain the data. A rival hypothesis is that of so-called “super-psi,” the idea that the medium’s unconscious mind is able to extract information from a variety of sources, integrate it into a consistent whole, and present it in the guise of the appropriate discarnate personality. The idea has been dubbed super-psi because, while relatively straightforward instances of telepathy and clairvoyance have been demonstrated repeatedly in the laboratory, nothing so elaborate and far-reaching has been proven to exist.
If the super-psi hypothesis is correct, then the unconscious minds of at least certain gifted individuals have extraordinary capabilities; and there is probably no reason to think that the same capabilities are not latent or dormant in the rest of us. Our unconscious, then, would have the ability (actually or potentially) to reach at will into other minds, regardless of how widely scattered they might be, and even if the minds in question belong to total strangers, people of whose existence we were and are consciously unaware. Moreover, our unconscious would have the ability to perceive, through clairvoyance, information unknown to any living person, peeking into hidden places without restriction and virtually instantaneously, on demand. It has even been hypothesized that the unconscious could peer back in time—retrocognition—or gaze into the future—precognition—in order to obtain additional information. And all of this extraordinary power would be deployed in the service of a charade–the illusion of communication with a specific deceased personality that has, in reality, ceased to exist. Even the medium herself would have not the slightest idea that her unconscious mind was carrying on this amazing deception on a colossal scale.
What would be the motivation of the unconscious to undertake such a feat? It has been argued that the natural, all-too-human fear of death is so deep-seated that the unconscious will go to any lengths to suppress it, even to the extent of conducting a remarkably elaborate ruse.
Now, if all this is true, then the unconscious mind is an almost infinitely greater thing than the conscious mind. Unlike the conscious mind, the unconscious would not be bound by material limits and would be able to interact with all other unconscious minds, as well as with the material world, deriving nuggets of information from a vast array of sources, past, present, and future. In effect, all the unconscious minds of the living would function very much like one giant unconscious that is constantly interacting with itself—a global mind spanning the species, which our ordinary waking minds would remain completely unaware of.
Yet, if this were the case, it’s hard to understand why the deception would continue, or would ever have been necessary in the first place. Yes, apparent conversations with the deceased may provide some comfort and allay the fear of death—but wouldn’t it be far more comforting, persuasive, and useful for the unconscious simply to reveal the full range of its powers? Not only would this be of immense practical value in our earthly life, assisting us with all sorts ofd mundane difficulties and vastly enhancing our survival chances, but it would seem to hold out a reasonable probability of some kind of afterlife. As has often been observed, if the mind has such phenomenal power and scope, and is not subject to material constraints, then there seems to be no good reason why it could not survive the death of the body. The nearly limitless potential of the unconscious hypothesized by the super-psi idea—a mind that transcends time and space—ought to be far more reassuring and empowering than merely exchanging reminiscences, often of a trivial nature, with the shades of our departed loved ones.
Why, then, would this global mind of ours be so secretive and duplicitous? Why would it use its enormous powers to dupe us into believing a childish lie? Why would it keep our own potential concealed from us, babying us with fantasies when the truth is so much greater?
Frankly, I just don’t see it. To me, the super-psi theory is fatally flawed.
But if we accept the best mediumistic evidence and reject super-psi, we seem to be left with postmortem survival as the only alternative. At least, I can’t think of another option. Survival appears to be the only explanation that accounts for all the known facts; and it has the additional advantages of being the most parsimonious theory and the one that mediums themselves—who after all might be expected to have some idea of what they are doing—are most prone to believe.