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Nicely written Michael. This one is a keeper! - AOL

I agree with this to an extent, though I'm wary of saying "thoughts are nothing". Thoughts are something that can't be explained by materialism after all.

But I agree with the idea that there is always a "further fact" about our identity than what can be jotted down, the author who observes him/her-self and writes the observations down.

Additionally it probably is better to think "A sadness has come upon me." rather than "I am sad". (IIRC this is from an Irish view of mental content?)

Anyway great piece.

So Plato was wrong. It wouldn't be the first time.

We are here and it is now. Further than that all human knowledge is moonshine.
—H.L. Mencken

From a buddhist p.o.v., reality can be characterized by its emptiness and luminosity, or awareness. Like a dream- empty and luminous. If you only get the emptiness you could fall into nihilism and if you only focus on luminosity you can become an eternalist. Buddhism is the middle way. As all of reality boils down to experience, and that experience is empty, we can relax and not concretize thoughts or anything else. Forever changing, we cannot grip anything for long. There is nothing to grip.

Like thoughts floating in a clear blue sky; they cannot harm us if we relax with the Now, the sky itself.

Excellent post, Michael. I've moved away from thought-based self-help books in recent years, but I may take a look at this one based on what you've written. Part of that is because they all seem to say that most of our happiness is based on how we see things. As you point out, there are limits to that, and that there are places and situations where it is almost impossible to be happy or joyous, and to say otherwise trivializes the suffering people go through.

With regards to techniques that help counter negative thoughts, there's one technique I read where you talk to yourself as a neutral third party. Or, in a spiritual sense, your higher self. So if I were to get really negative thoughts, I would think to myself, "Okay, Ian, you're upset, but there's nothing wrong with that. Take some time to nurture yourself, and when you're feeling better you can come back to what's troubling you and see how you feel about it then." That approach helps you see problems from a new perspective, and has worked wonders for me. Plus, as a bonus, it also lets me ponder how God might address someone to calm them down when emotions run high.

The Dalai Lama recently said something similar to this, noting that he's just like everyone else, and that he constantly has a stream of thoughts, but he tries to observe them dispassionately, like watching cars on a freeway.

However, the ultimate path to enlightenment, at least to me, is to observe that it's the ego that it is the source of most thoughts, and that it is the ego that's the source of suffering. The ego has to always be right, to feel superior, to never feel "put down," and generates most of those thoughts that lead to suffering. Not that by any means I have mastered my own ego, but these teachings are very helpful.

Sounds like a precursor to Tolle's work, the inspiration for which was his first grounding thought, "I can't bear to live with myself,". Followed by the equally grounding question, "Who is this 'self' that I can't bear to live with?"

The only thing I would add, I don't know if he goes into that. Is how thoughts affect your behaviour. You really are what you think in every sense of the word. For example, those who are very depressed have a smaller hypocampus . Not just due to circular thinking I would say, but avoiding socialising, going places, etc. resulting in a shrinking brain.

Which is why they say, keep up with social contacts and using your brain as it promotes plasticity.

Its funny how you think really. I read Mr skeptic's post and just reading it made me feel like I was in a box.

Over the last year, don't know how it started, but I decided I would have more fun with people. Now with my family, we play silly games, talk like little kids etc., just a way to foster good feelings. So I thought, why don't I just do that with everyone. So I joke around with the guards here, and Thais people at my favourite coffee place, strike up a conversation with others and I'm amazed how people respond. They love it, it spreads good will, and we all play silly games. Makes my day as well as theres.

I would thoroughly recommend it. Lyn x.

Great post, Michael. One of your best!

"I don't know why I thought about that. It's not worth thinking about now. Or some words to that effect. Then just dismiss the thought and go on about your business."

Great advice. I find that if you follow it, the bad thought web just kinds of dissipates over time. That thought you were going to latch onto may never re-occur; or, if it does, it does so with diminished power until it just fades away for ever.

Briefly, this post relates to a semi-lucid dream I had the other night (three nights ago?). I was in a space station and I was trying to tune a radio (a receiver of some kind). There was also a cosmonaut on board and he warned me that I may not want to continue with the exercise. I thanked him for his advice, but continued. Once I got the thing working, it began receiving the thoughts from everyone on earth. It was just this overwhelming stream of continues chatter - most of it utterly meaningless. The receiver got beyond my control and the mindless cacophony of grew louder and louder and I was wishing I had headed the cosmonaut's advice.

Guess it loses something in the telling, but the experience was really something. Meaningless chatter ad nauseum encompassing the big blue sphere.

Bravo!

@ No One:

Interesting dream - thank for sharing.

Regarding thoughts as distractions it's interesting that Patanjali saw them as part of matter though - from what I gather - his conception of "matter" was as a Neutral Monist substance.

Only consciousness awareness is Mind.

-Saj

I know this in theory but it's really hard to put into practice. Oh well, keep on trying...

Well, I am wondering how this should make people feel about the "peak transgender" we seem to be in at the moment. (Don't get me wrong - I think the Republican kerfuffle about toilet use laws is a ridiculous moral panic - but with Caitlyn Jenner, never has there been a time when transgender issues have been higher in the Western consciousness.)

What I am getting at is that, for most of us, we just can't understand why the thought "my body is not the right gender" has such power over some people, especially when we live in a time when body gender has far, far fewer constraints on what can be achieved in all aspects of life.

Why does cognitive behavioural therapy (which I think works pretty much in the way Carlson method does) not work to allow such people to live a happy enough life in their present body?

Or has it been tried much on those with gender issues?

I need to do some googling on that, I guess...

It doesn't work for everything. Some phobias or neuroses are just too strong. It's more of a recipe for dealing with the ordinary ups and downs of life, not (say) clinical depression or debilitating anxiety or serious gender confusion.

After his series of books about the "small stuff," Carlson did put out a book intended to advise us on how to handle the "big stuff." But it was a disappointment. It turned out his insights don't extend that far.

The subtitle of his most famous book is "And It's ALL Small Stuff." A reassuring thought, but not really true unless you have the perfect detachment of a Buddhist master (and I'm not sure that degree of detachment is even desirable).

Still, at least 90% of the time our problems are small enough to be handled by an adjustment to our thinking. And if we can learn this skill, it will leave us better equipped to focus on the other ten percent of our problems that require a different approach.

@ Steve:

My understanding is that there are physical differences between male and female brains that cue what biological sex we feel we are. Or this is where the science seems to be heading.

As such in the same way I don't think a person with depression based on brain chemistry can be cured simply by ignoring bad thoughts I think anything to do with brain configuration won't be so easy to change.

Beyond that if we look at things from a non-materialist perspective some traditions have believed in gendered souls or at the least souls which lean toward a gender because of the previous life(s).

Until the materialist cults and religious nutters clear the way for true scientific investigation I fear we won't be getting to the bottom of why we are the way we are any time soon.


Steve from Brisbane said:

"What I am getting at is that, for most of us, we just can't understand why the thought "my body is not the right gender" has such power over some people"

Because sexual orientation isn't a thought. It comes from a deeper place. It's a reflection of how we *feel* from moment to moment.

Do you think there's a therapy that could replace your masculine desires and attitudes with feminine ones? Aren't you glad your physical appearance corresponds with who you feel yourself to be?

I learned a lot from that original Kaitlyn Jenner coming-out TV show. Though I had questioned the authenticity of transgenderism before, I doubt I ever could again.

Thoughts definitely have power. With regard to depression, research shows cognitive behaviour enlarges the hippocampus as do anti- depressants , it just takes a little longer.

As to gender, my younger daughter did a thesis on 'gay' people, and yes they are shown to have brain patterns similar to the sex they feel they are. Which is why I guess they feel that way.

When my elder daughter was three and going to kindergarden, there was a young boy there that was first in the dress-ups, heels, hand bags the lot. Much more so than the other girls. Having seen it, I could see it begins very young. Lyn x.

Maybe this is a slightly off topic, but I keep thinking of something the Dalai Lami asked. Years ago, he was visiting with brain surgeons. He asked them if the mind could ever physically change the structure of the brain. They assured him that it couldn't. Yet today, many experts in the field now say the mind - I guess that would be our thoughts and behavior - can physically change the matter and circuitry of the brain. There's also research that shows that psychopaths have different brain structures than other normal people. With that, the question is: were the psychopaths born with those different brain structures, or did their psychopathic thoughts create the altered brain structures? Because that would then literally be mind over matter.

What I can't understand is how our materialistic culture , one whose people really don't believe in God or a spirit world---although some might publicly say that they do--- and who, in large numbers, decry any efforts to present evidence that a spirit world exists and that people really are spirits having a physical experience will so bullishly accept that some people may 'feel' that they were born in the wrong body. Tell me just how would one 'feel' this unless one had some innate concept that what they really were was some intangible thinking feeling thing inhabiting a body---a body that was not the right gender! A body that was not them! They were something else apart from their body.

I think there is no better evidence of the spiritual nature of humans than the present transgender issue. I think that people have felt that they were not born in the right body for 100s maybe 1,000s of years. It's just that the cultural climate did not allow it's full expression as it does today, allowing men have the appearance of a woman, have breast implants and surgery to remove their testicles and to turn their penis inside out. This doesn't change their morphic field or their chromosomes. When their skeleton is dug up in a thousand years from now it will be identified as male, not female.

Why not just accept that there are spirits and that some spirits incarnate into a body of a certain gender for a certain purpose and to negate that purpose using free will perhaps does not allow the soul to advance in learning and love. If we really believe that life is a learning experience then, take advantage of the opportunity to learn what is like to be masculine. How appropriate this would be for a spirit who had spent lifetime after lifetime as a female. In the world of the spirit we are omnisexual beings, having the ability to manifest on the full scale of masculinity and femininity. That is the yin and yang of experience. - AOD

Great post and comments!

In addition to the main post, I think these comments by Michael are quite pertinent:

||The subtitle of his most famous book is "And It's ALL Small Stuff." A reassuring thought, but not really true unless you have the perfect detachment of a Buddhist master (and I'm not sure that degree of detachment is even desirable).

Still, at least 90% of the time our problems are small enough to be handled by an adjustment to our thinking. And if we can learn this skill, it will leave us better equipped to focus on the other ten percent of our problems that require a different approach.||

On the surface, this seems like, well, not a small problem (small stuff?) but a medium-sized problem. Moderately complex. But actually, it's really another entryway to all the big questions, to the extent that, as others have implied with their comments, an entire religion was founded to deal with it: Buddhism. Buddhism has its own very sophisticated psychology based on the concept of "skandha":

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Skandha

If we are not our thoughts, then who are we? Asking the question, "Who am I?" was *the* teaching of Sri Ramana Maharshi.

I think getting rid of the "head trash" is important, but then the question arises, even on a mundane, spiritual level, of how we should relate to goals and ambitions, and how should we react when we do and don't get what we think we want. Buddhism would pretty much state that the only worthy goal is spiritual development: all the rest is attachment.

Self-help book writers are typically all about the vision and goals (and I'm no different: gettingtowhy.com). If we are not our thoughts, however, isn't the safest way not to disturb our equanimity simply not to have goals in the first place beyond basic survival, comfort, and need fulfillment? (There is room enough for plenty of dissatisfaction with only these, of course!) It's a tough question, and there are no easy answers, I fear.

Two things occur to me as I read this thread: 1) I've met several people who are so good t putting aside things they choose not to think about that they regularly neglect issues that would be better thought about in more depth. Many people prefer to be very shallow in their thinking for the very reason that they avoid uncomfortable thoughts.

And, 2) When I'm alone I feel completely without gender. I have always assumed that everyone else does too. But then I suspect I might be more androgynous than most in my thought patterns.

Just a thought, or two. :)

Ps. "The opposite of a great truth is also true." - Niels Bohr

"I think there is no better evidence of the spiritual nature of humans than the present transgender issue."

"In the world of the spirit we are omnisexual beings, having the ability to manifest on the full scale of masculinity and femininity."

You notice that there is a contradiction between these statements. If the transgender issue is because a spirit of a sex embodied in a body of the opposite sex, then the spirits are not omnisexual beings.

Although this is off-topic, for me the best evidence for the afterlife and spiritual nature are NDEs, apparitions, mediumship and children who remember their past lives.

Ah Kathleen, I think you have hit upon something. Of course the mind (consciousness, i.e., spirit) can change the brain. It is documented more commonly in people who think negative thoughts i.e., people who are depressed.

(See Dr. Amen's SPECT scans. http://www.amenclinics.com/ Scroll down a little on the opening page for a short interesting video about brain health.)

On the other hand, the brain is a physical material structure made of molecules and is influenced by nutrition of the body, sleep habits, and exercise. The consciousness and the physical body must work together to produce a healthy brain. While thoughts may not be things they do have an effect on the physical body. - AOD

A bit off topic I guess but I found this article on Aeon and, while it oversimplifies the Spiritualism phenomenon, it does make some interesting points about Ghosts, the Internet, digitality, etc:

https://aeon.co/essays/why-is-the-internet-such-a-creepily-haunted-place

No Juan, there is no contradiction. Sexual orientation on a spirit level is like a 10-point sliding scale with archetypical femininity at one end and hyper-masculinity at the other. Most humans experience life somewhere not too far from the middle although there are those manifesting physically at the ends of the scale, e.g., Marilyn Monroe, O.J. Simpson.

Spirits who commonly are embodied in the same physical sex lifetime after lifetime may become too comfortable with that orientation and in order to restore balance or to accomplish some learning experience, must needs experience life in the opposite sex. On a spiritual level, sexuality is more of an attitude, a sense of being, rather than an anatomical difference. As such, spirits are omnisexual, meaning that they are able to move along that scale of femininity and masculinity freely, as the mood strikes them, so to speak. - AOD

The seat of thought: Where do thoughts come from?
Meditation, OBEs and psychedelics have provided me a perspective on this - conclusion; our thoughts are often a random and meaningless at best; a the end of a process arising from a veritable psychic assault from a myriad of sources.
Note; some thinking - purposeful rational goal directed problem solving is good. It helps us understand our world and make it better.

But where do thoughts come from?

Briefly -

First, there is the biological. The physical body with its cells and chemicals and electrical impulses sends signals based on its activities, processes and interactions with the physical world. The signals can be strong or subtle or somewhere in between. The food you ate are trying to digest causes certain signals to circulate through you body. The warm breeze coming through the window creates physical signals. Your thyroid condition gives rise to signals. All of the signals effect though and get interpreted in various ways as conscious and unconscious thoughts. The unconscious thoughts in turn become conscious thoughts, though probably distorted and disassociated from their original meaning as the original signal passes through various junctures on the internal communications "grapevine".

Then there are all kinds of quasi-physical variables that subtly influence the mind and give rise to thought processes, solar flares, radio waves, etc.

Some thoughts come from Skinnerian conditioning, from brainwashing by parents and other influential societal factors.

Next, psychic influences from other living humans. These get interpreted and presented as conscious thoughts. The origin of the thought and it's original meaning is lost. It appears to be a thought from own's one "head".

Then there are psychic influences from lower level astral planes. Deceased ancestors, morphic fields, various energies. More conscious thoughts are the result, but, again, the origin and first meaning is not recognized.

Then there are signals received from higher level spiritual planes. After much subconscious processing these also appear on the surface as thoughts in ones head.

Finally, there are thoughts that arise from one's own karmic history.

It seems that what we call the "ego" is the core that decides how it will filter, interpret, defend against, manage and package all of this. A schizophrenic has a weakened or damaged ego. He is aware that his thoughts are often not his - his ego's - own, but he can't handle it. He is drowning in a sea of thought creating influences. The awareness of the outside influences becomes a curse.

A psychologically healthy person learns to not pay most of it any mind (as suggested in the writing referenced in the post). The downside is a truncating of the full range of perceptual capabilities available to humans. But most people are better off staying away from what lies outside the ego defenses. The healthy person is able to engage in the thinking he choses to for purposes of problem solving. He rides the horse. The horse isn't running away with him.

The Buddhist seeks to find a calm quiet place in the midst of all this. The shaman seeks to be consciously aware of the thought producing influences and to use or even manipulate that awareness for good or bad.

Who are we though if not our thoughts? IMO, somewhere between the Buddhist and the shaman is the right approach to finding out. Probably we are a particular mix of all the above influences (the horse) and that special magical force, the rider who, at his best, observes the horse and then choses to direct it to go somewhere and do something.

So it does, Ben so it does; interesting points! Not only is the article oversimplified but superficial. Obviously the writer knows nothing about all of the real evidence of 'ghosts'. The article is a classic example of a true 'Skeptic', a young one at that I suppose, who acknowledges that he is an enlightened advanced human who knows everything about everything because that's what he was taught.

He should have stuck to his millennial knowledge about computer social technology and left the Fox sisters and spirit photography alone. - AOD

Ben,
My bad! I see that 'Rhian', the writer is a female who has published in Al Jazerra. She is not a he! - AOD

\\"Although this is off-topic, for me the best evidence for the afterlife and spiritual nature are NDEs, apparitions, mediumship and children who remember their past lives." Posted by: Juan//
---------------------

There is something about death bed visions that just strikes me as being "true". I find them very evidential, and also comforting and uplifting.

I don't even consider reincarnation to be "life after death." There has to be complete continuity between "me" and what comes after in order for me to consider it "life after death." Without that complete continuity it's not life after death. I'm not sure what to call it but it's not "life after death."

@ Ben - Interesting article, though I note the author is from Al Jazeera America. Not overly familiar with that publication but wonder if they'd be willing to speculate Muhammed hallucinated in a cave in the same way they can dismiss Spiritualism?

Re the responses made to my comment:

I don't quite understand the "big stuff" "small stuff" distinction: as I said, Carlson's insight sounds to me very much like the whole basis of Cognitive Behaviour Therapy, which I understand has indeed been shown to be quite successful for quite serious mental issues, and is actually even making inroads as part of treatment for psychosis. See, for example:

http://www.psychiatrictimes.com/special-reports/cognitive-behavioral-therapy-psychotic-disorders

As for the transgender issue comments: yes, there are clear cases where children from a very young age have always indicated a wish to be the opposite gender. Some (many, actually) do not maintain that forever, despite current transgender identity politics de-emphasising that point.

Then there is the case of men who, having led a "successful" life as a man decide at an advanced age that they must transition in order to be happy. In fact, such transition does not always have a great mental health outcome, with suicide rates still quite high for post-ops. (Or so I believe.)

It is, to my mind, the late transitioners in particular who may be helped if they could recognize that it is not a, shall we say, helpful thought that their happiness is dependent on a sex change. That they are giving too much power to a thought.

And it is hard to understand why we don't think that some people who develop peculiar thoughts about their body, such as those who think a healthy limb amputation would make them happy, or the anorexics who see themselves in the mirror as fat when in fact they are horribly and unhealthily skinny, are having "good" thoughts; but with the transgender issue, there is now near complete media sympathy to the view that they just have to have a major surgical body modification in order to be happy: to be their "true" selves.

As you can tell, I think the whole issue deserves some skepticism, and there is some on the web that is not religiously based. At the same time, I have no doubt there will always be some who will live as the opposite gender - they have always been with us, although it is only in modern times that they been able to use medical science to change their body. (Previously, they managed by merely dressing and behaving as the other gender.)

I have no desire to make the lives of those who choose such a path any more difficult that it need be; by the same token, I think people should be more skeptical about how society thinks about the issue.

Lynn I think you may be confusing gender with sexuality - it's common. Or perhaps you're generalising or I misunderstood.

Gay men and women are attracted to people of the same physical gender. The term Gay in this context says nothing about the person's own gender identity.

A man could feel they are female and attracted to men. I'm not sure what they'd identify themselves as - you'd have to ask, but I wouldn't be surprised they didn't identify as gay.

The vast majority of gay men I know would identify as male. Not 'male but feeling like they are female' or wanting to become female.

So I'm unclear as to what you think their 'brainwaves' are showing. Sorry if I misunderstood your comment.

On the question of gendered souls, I looked back at some historical metaphysical discourse and there is some back up for the idea of the "subtle body" - the aspect of one's self that reincarnates - having gender.

From Beyond Physicalism:

"This bears repeating: the subtle body is not a transcendent, time-free entity. This again entails a flexibility in terms of the capacity of the subtle body to access past and future, though in a limited way, since the notion of freedom, svātantrya, entails a fundamental openness and newness always available. The subtle body is, moreover, composed of eight components. Dubbed the “City of Eight,” the puryaṣṭaka, these eight elements include first, the five vital breaths, called prāṇas, the inbreath, the outbreath, the upward breath, the downward breath, and the breath which mixes all of these. This makes five of the eight. Next there is the antaḥkaraṇa, the inner organ, subdivided into three, the mind, the intellect, and the ego. Finally, two more components make up the eight. These are the two groups of sense organs, the buddhīndriya, including the ear for hearing, the nose for smelling, and so on, and the karmendriya, the group of organs of action, including the hand, the foot, the sex organ (ĪPVV 334). This description of the subtle body is quite similar to what we see in Sāṃkhya and Yoga, as described in the previous chapter."

-- Beyond Physicalism: Toward Reconciliation of Science and Spirituality (Kindle Locations 6837-6845). Rowman & Littlefield Publishers. Kindle Edition.

"A bit off topic I guess but I found this article on Aeon and, while it oversimplifies the Spiritualism phenomenon, it does make some interesting points about Ghosts, the Internet, digitality, etc:

https://aeon.co/essays/why-is-the-internet-such-a-creepily-haunted-place"

How the author of that article can be as arrogant and say that ghosts do not exist, when there is good evidence of apparitions of deceased in the documents of the Society for Psychical Research, for example?

Michael,

Remember that series you did nine years ago entitled Who Will Watch the Watchers (about CSICOP's investigation of Maria and the Shoe NDE in Seattle in 1977)?

http://michaelprescott.typepad.com/michael_prescotts_blog/2007/07/who-will-watch-.html

On a few other blogs, there was a skeptic who was posting links to places like CSICOP and RationalWiki. On his blog, I posted rebuttal links to show that CSI is more interested than propaganda than truth. Here is where the discussion is (in the comments):

https://theskepticzone.blogspot.com/2016/05/the-old-thermodynamics-canard.html?showComment=1464238729347#c9103757754492565311

"As such, spirits are omnisexual, meaning that they are able to move along that scale of femininity and masculinity freely, as the mood strikes them, so to speak."

I see how there is no contradiction. Another thing is to probe it with empirical evidence.

"There is something about death bed visions that just strikes me as being "true". I find them very evidential, and also comforting and uplifting."

They are included in the apparitions.

"I don't even consider reincarnation to be "life after death." There has to be complete continuity between "me" and what comes after in order for me to consider it "life after death." Without that complete continuity it's not life after death."

Children who claim to remember their past lives claim that they are the same as before, so it is a form of afterlife. And the psychological continuity is not maintained during all periods of the biological life either, like when we were one year.

Julie said: “I've met several people who are so good at putting aside things they choose not to think about that they regularly neglect issues that would be better thought about in more depth. Many people prefer to be very shallow in their thinking for the very reason that they avoid uncomfortable thoughts.”

I agree with this. I think spiritual growth – at least as experienced here – is bound at some points to be painful. Of course, we have to take care of, and where necessary defend, ourselves. For me, however, painful thoughts come with the territory. This, however, raises the issue of depression and what our attitude to that should be.

In that regard here’s a challenging quote from the Jungian analyst James Hillman:

http://www.achangeinthewind.com/2013/03/be-true-to-your-depression-james-hillman.html

From my knowledge of Hillman’s wider body of writings, I’m aware that he is not saying depression is a ‘good thing’. Neither does he underestimate the sufferings of those with clinical depression (he is not against the use of medication in such cases or anything like that). Nonetheless, Hillman’s views on depression I think go against the modern grain.

I don’t think there are any easy answers here. Hillman’s perspective on depression is, however, in my view a useful corrective against thinking that spiritual growth is about ‘moving beyond’ or evading difficult and troubling thoughts.

Juan,

There are many interesting things documented by the SPR.

If someone claimed to witness an apparition in the past and it was documented then that is great but it is impossible to know under what conditions (certainly not under scientifically controlled conditions!) these experiences happened or how to interpret this evidence. More most importantly, how can we rule out possible natural explanations? The information seems to be lacking.

Simon Newcomb (a founder of the ASPR) in an essay "Modern Occultism" summed it up best when referring to apparitional sightings documented by the SPR, he pointed out the following could not be ruled out:

"Unconscious exaggeration; the faculty of remembering what is striking and forgetting what is not; illusions of sense, mistakes of memory; the impressions left by dreams; and, finally, deceit and trickery, whether intentional or unconscious".

It's more likely that those factors are what is going on rather than the supernatural.

But I fail to see how alleged sightings of 'apparitions of deceased' from the vaults of the SPR are evidence for life after death, even those in the SPR who recorded such sightings (Edmund Gurney, Frank Podmore and other scholars) attributed such sightings to hallucinations or 'telepathic' hallucinations. This is not evidence for the survival of a soul after death.

There is a major problem with Myers, Gurney, Podmore et al's work in that field - they relied on the memory of the witnesses often weeks after these experiences, which is obviously unreliable.

No contemporary documents were ever produced. There is a paper on this which raised these criticisms, it is called "Where Are the Letters? A Cross-Examination of Certain Phantasms" by Alexander Taylor Innes. Even Gurney, failed to refute all the arguments in his reply paper (Letters on Phantasms: A Reply. Nineteenth Century 22: 522-533).

Whilst you have honest intentions Juan, I do not believe you ever choose to look at any of the skeptical literature on this subject... the problem here is you are only getting one side of the story.

As for myself I will hold my hand up and admit to being wrong when I am wrong. Steve Hume has refuted many of the statements Melvin Harris made on Eileen Garrett. This does not mean I believe Garrett was a genuine medium. It is clear to me she was a fraud like other mental mediums such as Leonora Piper or Gladys Osborne Leonard. But it does show I will retract my opinions if I am shown convincing evidence to the contrary.

As for something totally different. I have recorded recently how the magician Harry Houdini was a believer in reincarnation. He exposed many fraudulent mediums and he did not believe in spirit mediums or a spirit world, but all the evidence indicated he was a believer in the doctrine of reincarnation (though not the Hindu type).

I think Houdini has been unjustly bashed on this blog when he was probably very much on your side when it came to the topic of reincarnation.

http://www.internationalskeptics.com/forums/showthread.php?t=307385

There it is, some of the Randi fans have a hard time accepting this. Now Don't say I don't report both sides of the debate... I am helping you guys out by giving you this information which has not been widely reported. Take care.

Paul,
I agree. There does seem to be a distinction between homosexual behaviors and a person's innate gender identity. Most gay men I know do not think of themselves as female and would not want to be female but seem to be searching out a masculine experience for themselves. If anything they are dissatisfied with their middle-of-the-road masculine gender identity. They want to be more of a man, to be on the higher end of the feminine/masculine 10-point scale.

Unfortunately current medical practice can't realistically help those males who want to be 'more male' as much as it can help those with a feminine gender identity. I think that is why many of these men take up body building through weight lifting, jogging and other body-building exercise. They want to be the perfect man, much like Michelangelo's statue of David. That's how they see themselves in their gender identity and are dissatisfied if physical reality does not match their spiritual identity. It's not all about sexual organs, although that is important since a bigger penis is seen as 'more male' but more about a spiritual sense of being and feeling like a man. They can experience this feeling vicariously by being intimate with another man preferably one more masculine than themselves. The current American culture and society does not encourage men to really be masculine e.g., the use of chemicals to subdue hyperactive boys and a media which promotes 'metro-sexual' and effeminate models in advertising, TV shows, and American movies which portray the husband or boyfriend as goofy, stupid and less smart that the wise woman. Really wholesome masculine role models in the American culture are increasingly missing.

Actually homosexuality is not a simple either/or designation and I can think of several categories of homosexual presentations among males. Perhaps most people think of gay males as effeminate and often that is how they are portrayed in movies, especially in films from years back. and yes, effeminate men are still part of the homosexual scene. More recent stories about gay men portray them more realistically as regular men; men searching for a close male relationship. They don't want to be female. Many of them have lived a life swimming in estrogen;------mother, grandmothers, sisters, female teachers, cats, media dominated by female models, journalists etc.---and reject anything feminine. Often there has been an absence of masculine role models in their lives, an absent or emotionally distant father or few or no male relatives or male friends. They are searching for masculinity and want to be men, not women.

The dark side of homosexuality includes those hyper-masculine men who use sex with other men as a way to dominate and subdue them. These men have a strong male gender identity. They don't want to be women. Homosexual relationships are seen as a way to hurt and humiliate other men, preferably non-homosexual men. It's all about dominance and one-upmanship. It can also be a way to deal with hate and anger issues.

There are homosexual relationships that represent the 'only option available' and is seen in men in incarceration or otherwise isolated and in men who would have a difficult time attracting the opposite sex, i.e. grossly obese or hairy men and men who are otherwise physically, socially, or behaviorally unattractive to women. These men may have a male gender identity, they don't want to be women and would welcome a relationship with a woman but as time goes on the possibility of that relationship fades and they may develop a relationship with another man.

And then there are bisexuals. I guess these people have a gender identity that is at a 5 or 6 on a 10-point scale of sexuality and may still identify with an 'omnisexual' gender identity they had in the spirit world.

Of course I am generalizing here but gender identity and homosexuality are two separate things and not always related in ways thought by the general public. Most homosexual males do not want to be women. Perhaps that is why it might be appropriate for most true transsexuals---who do want to be women---to use the women's bathroom. I don't think a true transsexual male, displaying as a female, presents any threat to women in a restroom. On the other hand, some males who engage in homosexual behaviors and pretend to be women, could be.- AOD

Art,
Personally I don't want there to be complete continuity between me now, and the me that may come into another existence in a 'life after death'. I do expect however there to be the same sense of 'me' in any new incarnation. I expect my consciousness to be the same as now no matter what my new circumstances turn out to be. I don't want to take my current personality with me into another reincarnation. I want something different. I want a new experience. How could I have a new experience if I have to lug around all of my old doubts, worries, desires, misinformation that currently bog me down. I need to be able to shake off old memory and old training that inhibit my thinking freely in a new life. Not that all of those old memories will be forgotten in my over-soul, but in every new life I will have enough to contend with so I need to start with a blank slate if I am to build a new learning experience. - AOD

Bill,
I does amaze me that from this vantage point, many years after the deaths of Leonora Piper, Gladys Osborne Leonard and Eileen Garret, that it is clear to you that they, along with other mediums, were all frauds. I wish I had your certitude about these matters. All I am able to say is that there are a lot of opinions concerning the honesty of Piper, Leonard and Garrett. Some opinions may be based upon evidence of some kind, and other opinions may be sheer conjecture. The truth most likely, will never be known.- AOD

I know I do this a lot but would anyone give some input on this guy's writings?: https://thewisesloth.com/2014/11/24/its-okay-to-be-lost/
He has some good points but also seems to be at least verging on "smug atheist" and I'd appreciate help winnowing out the good bits.

@ AOD:

Well remember Bill is a fanatic, the type of person for whom it is almost physically painful that others can feel differently than they do about the nature of reality.

So for him clothing himself in certainty is a masturbatory act yet of course it isn't enough, he has to push others into accepting his opinion.

@ Chel:

Seems like a Bill type of personality. There's something amusing thinking of the actual history of civil rights and how it intertwines with religion when skeptics sitting on their couches blog about how "tough" they are for rejecting God.

Even in my own university experience I recall Catholics inspired by Pope Jon Paul to take part in anti sweat shop sit ins and risk expulsion.

I too have a distaste for religion but I can give credit where it's due. To me it's easy to recognize the pathetic bluster of the tough skeptic "accepting the hard reality" as hollow.

Amos,

I am in the process of writing an essay piece on fraud in psychical research or spiritualism (I deal with historical matters only, nothing recent).

It is my attempt at a rebuttal to the research of Michael Prescott, Michael E. Tymn, Andreas Sommer, Robert McLuhan, Stephen E. Braude, Tom Ruffles, Steve Hume and Ben Steigmann. I also cover Patience Worth in minor and some of your own comments Amos.

I Choose those names only because these appear to be the academics I take seriously who have defended various claims of psychical research on the internet in recent years, and so far no skeptic has attempted to take any of you on.

I limit myself to these names only because these people including yourself seem to be the most knowledgably on the subject of psychical research in the world and have defended a pro-paranormal viewpoint or at least sympathetic defensive of historical psi research from older psychical researchers such as Barrett, Myers, Crookes, Hare, Lodge, Richet, Lombroso, Wallace, Zollner etc. I will explain why I believe all these men were duped and poor observers for spiritualist phenomena.

So far I have written about 3,000 words. I was aiming at getting it done by June, but this may be pushed back slightly. Once this is completed I will email/message the various above names. It will be hosted on a website and left up indefinitely. Hopefully there will be a response.

Ben Steigmann (possibly the researcher I admire the most) because of the depth of his research has his own project. It is not possible for me to rebut all of his points but I have found flaws. I have chosen to focus mainly on physical mediums and how they have been a hindrance to psychical research.

The reception will probably be negative. But someone had to try and do something. There has been too much pseudo-skepticism. People from the modern day paranormal community like to laugh at skeptics but I will show that many of them were well informed about this subject and took it very seriously in the past. I was just giving you a heads up anyway. All my effort is currently being put into this. Cheers.

No One,
Some of what you said is difficult to follow.

Early on it seems as though you are equating chemical and electrical signals in the body to unconscious or conscious thoughts. You say that, “All of the signals effect though [thought?] and get interpreted in various ways as conscious and unconscious thoughts.”

(Might I ask, "Who does the interpreting?")

I am wondering if what you mean is that these chemical signals are interpreted in various ways by the conscious mind and/or the unconscious, i.e., the subconscious mind. I tend to think that chemical messages occurring in the body are not thoughts nor do they ever directly become thoughts. To equate a thought with a neurotransmitter seems to me to be a very materialistic view of what the thought process may be. Perhaps that is what you meant but if so, I don’t think I can agree with that view. I do agree however that unconscious thoughts sometimes bubble up into the conscious mind or may be dragged up with a lot of psychoanalytic effort and that often when subconscious thoughts are brought to the surface they may be veiled and reveal whatever they have to say in a symbolic way. - AOD

To Bill.

Whether there is life after death, spirits who appear, ESP, PSI etc, they are all part of the consciousness debate i.e do we have a conscious universe.

Many people like you have an upmost belief that science 'knows it all', and as Amos says, with such certitude. Now here's the thing, Just because science has not proven it exists, doesn't mean it doesn't.

Science knows very little in the realm of things, mainly because we don't have the knowledge, or haven't got measures fine enough to calibrate these things.

We certainly didn't back in history, and we still don't today. Some of what we don't know- What the universe is made of, how and why life began, what even makes us even human- for example, we share 50% of our DNA with a banana, and they certainly don't know what consciousness is, or why it arose in the universe.

As to consciousness, it has long been sidelined, and emphasis been put on the material, which is clearly why we are in this fix.

Quantum physics is slowly getting there and may provide means to understand consciousness, but these experiments are a lot harder, needing higher sensitivity than has ever been demonstrated before.

What we do know, is that many people have near death experiences, a number who are blind find they can see, some have also come back with information not known to science (Mellon Thomas has 9 patents and works with scientists after his NDE), many come back with information they can't have known.

Like black holes, this is of scientific interest. Many also see dead loved ones and don't appear to be hallucinating. Sure, people hallucinate, but giving an obvious answer does not mean it is right, you can always explain everything in simple terms.

I always remember a study I did which demonstrates this very well. More people drown on hot days, more people also eat ice creams on hot days, so eating ice creams is causal to drowning? Now that is just silly, but so may be simplistic ideas that every vision is a hallucination or figment of your imagination.

An absence of research does not give us answers and as science is in its infancy, and may people are having conscious experiences that can't be explained. There should be transparent debate in society to pressure science to have more efficacy, rather than ignoring matter in the universe the just don't want to research.

Lyn x.

Here's other reasons we are in this fix. Scientists espousing visions are hallucinations etc.,are all subjective evaluations. Unless they studied these cases, we can't call it science.

I am studying alcohol and drug abuse at uni at the moment. Adolescents drink hazardously, early drinking is causal to long term heavy drinking and dependence. Older adults are a growing populations, they drink frequently and often take prescription drugs. Now most research is on adults, not younger or older people, europeans, those that have no co-morbidity or are not poly drug users. Yet the world is multi -racial, co-morbidity is common with alcohol, along with drug use as well.

Why? These populations are readily available, are easier to study and show causality. Most studies are also on cognitive behavioural therapy, pharmaceutical and psycho-social therapy. So guess what gets funded, gets health insurance etc. A number of therapies are effective, but not popular with policy or the public. Some are also used, that have minimal effect e.g AA. has a 65% failure rate.

Most people do not seek help either, as health providers and the public stigmatise drug users.


All the reasons why research is not done on consciousness. Dean Radin talks of many scientists who approach him about their anomalous experiences, but are too scared to divulge in case it damages their career.

Doing cause and effect experiments makes you money, you are not going to make money on PSI, ESP and NDE. So thats why most all scientists go the material road, and we don't understand about these phenomena. Lyn x.

Here's the main argument. Like drug, alcohol abuse, if not studied, you cant know causality, where to direct treatment, or how to treat it. So more than half the population are untreated, and treatment leaves out co-morbidity, poly drug use etc, so who in the population is getting treatment, and does it work on all the others?

Sound familiar? If you don't study consciousness, you don't know causality or even where to look. Thats possibly half or may comprise most of it, that you are completely ignoring. So we have no data, no research on the basis of the universe.

It just shows how irrational we are as human beings. Lyn x.

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