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I'm certainly not a Christian or a theist but I do think that the religion's decline is troubling. For all of the faults of classical Christianity, I do think it provided some measure of protection from those dangerous(in my opinion) upstart New Age cults. The void left by its decline will open up the stage for the Scientology style tricksters. Xenu is probably licking his chops.

I believe in Angels. Here are just four interesting stories to start with.

#1. One of my stories.
The most recent angel story that I heard was from one of my wife's cousin's, "Dee". She's 71 years old. She's been on dialysis for 9 years. Two years ago she broke her left (right?) leg and was in the hospital. While in the hospital she saw two men at the foot of her bed. She said she could see them clearly. Her daughter was visiting with her and she asked her daughter what those two men were doing at the foot of her bed? Her daughter told her there was no one there and that she was hallucinating. A little while later she saw them a second time.

Dee told us the story on a Saturday evening while we were all sitting down to dinner together. At the time I didn't say anything because my FIL is a church of Christ minister and believe it or not, does not believe that people now-a-days can or do have mystical or supernatural experiences, although he claims that he believes in a literal interpretation of the Bible. Go figure. He's got some round-a-bout way of explaining them away. He's 83 years old and since I'm a "conflict avoider" I don't even try and argue with him.

So, the next Sunday morning at Church I leaned over Dee's shoulder and told her I thought those two men from her story were angels sent there to comfort her and watch out for her while she was in the hospital, and since she was so close to death that she was able to see them with her "spirit eyes." I also told her that sure someone else had told her the same thing, but she said that I was the first one to put it in those exact words.

#2. From "Amuseing" (a Physician who participates on the REHP message board on the Motely Fool):

"In May and June I was back in Pennsylvania with my 91 yr. old mother who got herself into trouble with dehydration, a bowel infection and low potassium so she went into acute renal failure. She was at first very ill and then very depressed and refused to eat or drink for 4 weeks ( she had an IV). During that time she saw a man in the room almost daily at the end of her bed or in the corner or sometimes behind a "door" that she'd ask me to open. ( There was no real door so I just pretended to open an imaginary door). I asked her if he ever said anything and she said no he was just there. Once she told me he was looking at me. She wasn't at all afraid of his presence or worried about herself that she might be seeing things.....

What I noticed about her time in the hospital was that even though it was a trying and stressful situation...... if I just sat quietly in her room watching her sleep (or watching her pretend to sleep so she wouldn't have to talk to anybody) I would have a deep feeling of peace that was refreshing and relaxing. I was in her room 6-12 hours a day and I'd get stiff from sitting and not moving but I'd also feel like it was a sort of meditation... hard to put into words."

#3. also from Amuseing:
"Also wanted to mention that one of my best friend's mom passed away a couple weeks ago and she called me this weekend to chat. She told me how her mom talked about feeling and seeing things from the other side including the two children that she had lost as a young mother. She was so comforted by what she was experiencing that she had absolutely no fear of the dying process ,.....in fact expressed positive anticipation. Her last two weeks were spent in peace and contentment. My friend is a university physician and the experience touched her deeply."

#4. from "Sphinx8" on the REHP message board:
"I worked in a hospital for many years. Here is one true story I heard.

A young woman was in intensive care, and was critical. A team of medical specialists were around her bed. She started to mumble that they were standing in her husband's way, and she kept repeating it. The room got very quiet. No one had told her that her husband had already been killed during their auto accident. A few minutes later she died.

It really makes you think. Maybe he was there, waiting for her to join him."

Reading the books by some of the pioneers of psychical research, including Myers, Hyslop, Barrett, Lodge, et al, one gets the impression that organized religion was crumbling a century ago and would be all but extinct by now.

It is not only the Angels that Christian secularists have tried to debunk. They have debunked the very foundation of Christianity, Christ himself. I recently read the comments of a leading member of a loose group called, I believe, the Jesus Seminar. Jesus, they say, never had a resurrection, he was killed and his body "thrown to the dogs." The resurrection stores are explained away as allegorical, or merely delusion. These people, some of them actually clergy, profess to call themselves practicing Christians. What kind of Christianity is this? Certainly there is nothing spiritual here. Not the kind of writings that will bring in any new converts.

Perhaps Christianity will morph into a humanistic philosophy. If we can get some of the world's other religions to do this, maybe we will be better off.

ok the Jesus seminar folks have some validity in their scholarly approach to the new testament but they are deficient in for a lack of better words understanding of the paranormal.

I believe Jesus may have indeed come back in some type of physical form. I have heard of it happening to someone that was an advanced master.

Jesus appeared to be very advanced.

now the virgin birth. not going to buy into that one.

one question I always wanted to ask a Christian. it is stated that Joseph who was Jesus's step dad was related to king David but yet they claim Jesus was of a virgin birth but yet a desendent of king david. My logical mind keeps getting in the way of that one.

anyone want to comment on that one.

I admit to some ambivalence while reading Michael's post. While it is clear that religions in general have offered genuine comfort and peace of mind to countless millions of people going back through millenia, the sense of certainty and license they have engendered have been a major cause of misery and death for humanity. Watching the changes occuring in Christianity is somewhat like observing the changes in spoken and written languages: the alterations progressing like the growth of a vine, with curvings and branchings meandering toward a distant point. I think we should be careful not to become too entangled as we watch.

With regard to Jesus' descent from David, I think that one of the templates applied to shape the story of Jesus was derived from the myth/ritual pattern of the hero prevalent in the Near East at the time. The hero had to be not only of miraculous birth, but also of royal lineage. Therefore Jesus had to be linked to the royal line even though it created a logical conflict in his case. But that this pattern was being invoked is shown by the fact that an attempt on his life in his infancy--another key element of the pattern--was added in one of the Gospels, the "slaughter of the innocents," a manufactured event not mentioned by any historian of the time. The need to conform to the ritual pattern simply overruled logic in this case.

Beware of accepting the "Historical Critical" school (like the authors of the commentary of the Catholic Study Bible or the loony "Jesus Seminar") as the last word on Biblical scholarship they would like you to believe they are. Check out, for example, N.T. Wright on the Anglican side, or Peter Kreeft (or for that matter, the current Pope) on the Catholic side. The Historical Critical school adopts the same method as the rest of "mainstream" science and scholarship: we know that materialism is true, therefore anything that might contradict materialism is rejected a priori. The best of them will cheerfully admit to this, most will duck and dodge, especially with the naive undergraduates whose faith they see it as their mission to destroy.

An example: the dates that are bandied about for some of the books of the New and Old Testaments are repeated with great authority, with the looming assumption that they have been established by some ironclad external method (I myself always assumed that they had, locked in a vault somewhere, the earliest extant copy of the Gospel of Matthew which had been carbon-dated to 70-80 A.D.) But in fact, the reasoning goes like this: in certain of these books, phrophesies of future events are made. Since we know prophesy is impossible, the book must have written after the events and "backdated" for the clueless rubes in order to convince them of its authenticity. It's certainly possible, but to portray it as settled fact without mentioning the assumptions behind it is disingenuous at best.

Oh, and "wvogt": we have very few surviving historical accounts of the period, and the slaughter of some Jewish babies in a few towns in Galilee was unlikely to be very remarked upon by anyone anyway (a ruler ordering much larger numbers of people killed on much flimsier precepts was a not uncommon occurance in the ancient world). Not to say that's evidence it happened, mind you, but thats the sort of "absence of evidence" the Critical school uses again and again as "evidence of absence".

A bit off subject here so please be patient.

17 years ago before I started my research when my dad died I was so sad even through we were not close. I was sad that his life was over and life seemed so meaningless.

It was like the end. His life was over forever in my mind. But after 16 years of research and now on the way to my mom's funeral on Thursday her passing appears different to me.

She was very crippled and suffering and after all this research that I did rather than just accept religious dogma it is like I feel different about her passing. Can’t explain it; just different.

I think this is what religion gives people a sense of hope that their life means something. Although a large amount of my research does not support much of the Christian beliefs my findings highly suggests that consciousness survives physical death.

I think the grieving part now for me is that when your parents die it is the end of an era.

Anyhow thanks for allowing me to share.

William's comments made me think about my mother's transition three years ago. She was 87 and had been suffering advanced dementia. She didn't seem to recognize me or anyone. She was in a rest home in Berkeley, CA. We decided to drive down from Oregon to bring her up to our place for Thanksgiving, even though she was on strictly a liquid diet and we knew she wouldn't be able to share in the dinner with us. When it was time to drive her back to the rest home, I carried her downstairs to put her in the wheel chair to wheel her out to the car. As I started to put her in the wheel chair, her eyes rolled back, then her head, and that was it. I think her higher self decided to die in my house rather than in the rest home, as she was only a few minutes from being wheeled out of the house to the car. The night before, my mother was talking gibberish in her sleep, as if she were arguing with someone. It was very unusual, as we had not experienced her talking in her sleep on any previous nights. I think her deceased loved ones were telling her it was time to give up the ghost. She had always been afraid of dying and what was left of her consciousness must have been rebelling. I must confess that I felt no real grief at my mother's passing, because I do believe with 99% certainty that we do live on and that I will see her again some day. I often wonder how I would feel if I were not accepting of survival. I also wonder how I would view my own final weeks or months if I thought it meant total extinction. I think I would find it extremely difficult. I sometimes feel guilty that I did not shed one tear over my mother's passing, but when I find myself feeling such guilt I immediately remind myself why I don't grieve.

>I do believe with 99% certainty that we do live on....

Michael, I wish I had your faith, and it is faith that we are talking about here isn't it. I went thru a similar experience to William's when first, my brother died in an accident, and later my Dad. Years of research have brought me to a 60 to 70% survival conclusion, I can't seem to make that final leap of faith.

Truly the death of a parent is the end of an era for us, well said, William.

Regarding the comment from William on Jesus' descent from the house of David, Mary the Mother of Jesus was also descended from David. I believe that this was common knowledge at the time. And I believe in angels.

When we first heard that my mother's cancer was terminal, I had this "dream" in which my maternal grandmother came to see me. She looked much younger than I remembered her, (she was in her eighties when she died when I was eleven), but she looked as if she was about 50 - 55. She hugged me and said how nice it was to see me again and how proud of me they all were, and she said that I was not to worry about my mother - that they would all be there for her when she died and they would look after her.

My mother was not afraid to die, although she did not want to leave us and my father especially.

I was privileged to be able to sit with her for a couple of hours every afternoon during the last five days of her life. She was unconscious by then, due to her illness and the morphine, but I just sat and held her hand and talked.

Fortunately she was able to be nursed at home by my father and sister. She died the day after my brother who lived some distance away came to see her. I'm sure she had been waiting for him.

I'm also sure that there were people there waiting to help her when the end came.

Two days after her death, I was working at my computer when I was touched just above my waist at the back. It was just the way she used to touch me and you never forget your mother's touch.

After she died, about two months I think, I "dreamed" that I met her in a hospital where she was being made well. What puzzled me was that she was with my neighbour's wife. I held her hand - she had several distinctive scars on her finger tips as she had always been an avid embroiderer and had a little dermoid cyst on her middle finger. I remember thinking, in the dream, "How can she be dead when I can feel her hand". The next week I found out that my neighbour's wife had died two days before my dream.

About ten months later I "dreamed" about her again. In the dream she said "I've just popped back to tell you how proud I am at how well you are all doing. I saw you all sitting at the table the other night having your tea and laughing and joking and it fair did my heart good". By "all" she meant my father, my sister, my husband and me.

Naturally I dreamed a lot about her after she died, because that's what happens, but these "dreams" that I have mentioned here had a different quality about them that is hard to explain. If I say that the events in them were more real, it sort of half explains it. Also with the exception of seeing my mother in the hospital where I held her hand, they were not set anywhere - if anything, they were set against a white background although that really does not explain it either.

So I do believe in angels and in an afterlife.

I agree, there is no need to throw the baby out with the bathwater, but it is probably true that while many churches teach these things, precious few actually understand the words they repeat. Nonetheless, repeating the stories, they keep them alive, and history tells us that this is better than losing them completely.

I hereby predict that, as our knowledge of the historical context of religious writings improves and as our neurocognitive understanding and especially as our understanding of the apparent dichotomy of the neuro-sociobiological system (the heavenly host) vs the prefrontal Cartesian Theatre (the fallen angel) are expanded and developed into common knowledge and core curriculum (which we see starting in the fall TV lineup), religion and the deeply accurate religious metaphors of spirits, angels, heaven and hell, prayer and pennance, as all the substrate reality of these things become common sense frames of reference, we will see a massive renaissance in church-going and liturgy, an earnest effort by each individual to make sense of themselves.

Hi, Michael a woman names Caroline Watt talked about how parapsychology is important to critical thinking just look at the not so critical thinking comments after reading the article

http://commentisfree.guardian.co.uk/caroline_watt/2007/08/making_our_presence_known.html

I dunno, those christians intelectuals might try to rationalize those biblical depictions of angels and ghosts, but that doesn't seem to be the path the Catholic Church is taking.

Recently here in Mexico there was this massive congress of exorcists (you might call it EXPO-EXORCISTS or something), with people from all over the world. We also have to remember that very recently the Roman Ritual for exrocisms was updated.

And I point to the stoies of the first post. People might stop attending churches, but New Age philosophies permit people to still believe in angelic interventions. What might change is the way these entities are perceived, going from completely spiritual beings, to ascended masters (St. Germain et all) to nordic extraterrestrials (Adamski's Orthon).

What could be happening is that people might feel the need to be part of a structured religious institution is not longer necessary to have a meaningful spiritual life.

Leo,

The comments were predictably bad, but here's one I liked:

"Unlike some of the more unscientific posters above, I clicked on the links in the article and had a good look around at the stuff. It was interesting. No subject should be off limits to research, as that is anti-science.

"If you do as I did you can look at what the members of the department are currently studying. You may be surprised. On the other hand you can just carry on shouting amongst yourselves like idiots."

Those were the worst comments I've ever read. What an embarrassment.

"What could be happening is that people might feel the need to be part of a structured religious institution is not longer necessary to have a meaningful spiritual life."

I wasn't really talking about Christianity per se, but the modern attempt to brand all institutional constraints as perverse. Personally, I think this is a mistake. Look at what happened with the New Age movement; it encouraged this mindless openness to all views so all you have left is a bunch of dumbed down incoherent mixtures of Eastern views and quantum physics being regurgitated by people like Deepak Chopra. I just think you need some institutional control to maintain disciplined thought and inquiry. I'm taking the middle ground between too much control and too little.

Michael check this out Richard Dawkins after new age fakers!!!
http://entertainment.timesonline.co.uk/tol/arts_and_entertainment/tv_and_radio/article2216595.ece

"I just think you need some institutional control to maintain disciplined thought and inquiry."

Could that be achieved through education, or a study group, instead of "submitting" to a higher authority unquestionably?

Of course, in the end I suppose all forms of organizations fall into a recognition of someone having a bigger authority or a more influencial opinion than others. Someone with "bigger credentials" as it were. But how do you keep this people in check?

Oh! I posted the comment above, sorry! :-)

Greg wrote:

<<<<>>>>

Greg, I wouldn't call it faith. It's conviction. Faith is without knowledge. Conviction is with the knowledge that comes from extensive psychical research and study.

"Of course, in the end I suppose all forms of organizations fall into a recognition of someone having a bigger authority or a more influencial opinion than others. Someone with "bigger credentials" as it were. But how do you keep this people in check?"

I don't have the slightest clue and I doubt that anybody else does either. As organizations gain power, they have a tendency to become too rigid and dogmatic. You can see this happening with the scientific establishment. It was once a great force for open inquiry but it seems like that ideal is in decline as it becomes overly bureaucratized and politicized. I guess we just have to accept that humans aren't really good at this.

It doesn't trouble me, really. I think there are lots of spiritual people around, they're just not necessarily comfortable with traditional religous labels anymore.

I think fundamentalism's rise has given religion a bad name for many moderate people of faith, who don't want to be seen as associated with the fanatics who seem to make front page news so often. Most people I know who aren't strident Bible thumpers seem to keep their beliefs fairly private, and maybe now they're even keeping them at home.

Hi All

I believe in both Angels and Demons because I have encountered both in manifestations outside of just dreams. The angel I saw flying over my home city while standing on my friends' porch after dinner - they were the first to see it... a winged, translucent humanoid figure serenely travelling against the prevailing wind.

The demon I encountered as a dark, crouching form on my neighbour's rooftop one night - my dog had nervously scratched at the door and for some reason I went out to investigate. I was startled to see the entity, but we then watched each other with seemingly mutual curiosity before I told it to depart in Jesus' Name, and it did.

So I believe in such, but I really don't know what they are. So many magical systems have attempted to describe the OtherWorld and mainstream Christianity has eschewed all the Neoplatonic hierarchies of the Medieval magicians, so we're left with many maps and few facts. The demon, for example, seemed more curious and amused than malign, though it respected Christ's name. The angel seemed to be busily "guarding" the city - it was HUGE, so I assume it was the "Watching Angel". But then again? Could it have been a Jungian exteriorisation? Could the demon have been my Shadow or even an Elemental?

"Michael check this out Richard Dawkins after new age fakers!!!"

Who cares about Dawkins? The guy is as much of a cartoon character as Sylvia Browne. Even the right wing Christians like Albert Mohler are laughing at his unintentional self-parodies:

"In the end, Orr scorches Richard Dawkins with what must be the worst dismissal The New York Review of Books is capable of publishing. The God Delusion, Orr argues, is "a book that's distinctly, even defiantly, middlebrow." Middlebrow? Now, that hurts. Professor Orr argues that the people who will take this book seriously are people who read Douglas Adams and Carl Sagan. That means it will not be taken seriously by people who read Ludwig Wittgenstein, William James, Susan Sontag, and Joan Didion."

http://www.ralbertmohler.net/blog_print.php?id=857

"The irony is that there is good evidence for miracles, for angels, and for demons -- evidence in the form of paranormal phenomena."

I'm not convinced there's any real evidence of demons that couldn't be simply based in the fears of those who experience such things.

I do believe in angels, or at least that there is sometimes a helping influence from another dimension or the other side. I was once save from injury by a fire in my parents' camper because in the seconds before the fire started, my mom saw a dust devil out on the roadside. She pointed it out to me, and I moved to look at it. If I hadn't moved my hair and clothing would certainly have caught on fire. Because I moved, I only felt the heat on the backs of my legs as flames licked out from the stove. I've always thought that dust devil was more than coincidence, though I could be wrong.

I had a really frightening experience one night when I was seventeen, just intense feelings of fear that sent me into a kind of panic. Then a sudden relaxation of that fear. I learned the next morning that my paternal grandfather had died, in another state. I wondered about it for a long time, and still wonder, but I've come to think maybe he was afraid as he neared death, and I picked up on his fear. It's likely that his fear upset him a great deal, since he was a very devout person. I've always suspected I'm a little empathic, and that makes more sense to me than the idea that he visited me after his death, because the intense fear ended suddenly in a kind of release, perhaps at the moment of death. I just suddenly relaxed and was able to sleep.

I'm not sure I understand what you're asking in your post, though, Michael. Is it appropriate for religious scholars (or church leaders) to offer opinions as to what people should believe? I personally don't think so. Even the Buddha is reported to have told his followers not to believe something just because he said it, but to form their own opinions. In the New Testament, which I trust somewhat less than Buddhist teachings for my own reasons, Jesus seems to be instructing his followers to experience and learn for themselves, rather than simply to walk around acting on learned beliefs.

I know this topic has been covered ad infinitum, but this is probably the best Hitchens bashing that I've seen:

http://www.commonwealmagazine.org/article.php3?id_article=1962

William,

I haven't read all the comments to tell whether someone has answered you or not, but it was Mary not Joseph who was a descendant of King David and the genealogy is laid out in scripture.

Wish all questions were so easy.

I haven't read all the comments to tell whether someone has answered you or not, but it was Mary not Joseph who was a descendant of King David and the genealogy is laid out in scripture. - Nicholas
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This is the only geneaology I could remember from the New Testament. - Art

Matthew 1:
6 "and Jesse the father of King David. 7 Solomon the father of Rehoboam, 8 Asa the father of Jehoshaphat, 9 Uzziah the father of Jotham, 10 Hezekiah the father of Manasseh, 11 and Josiah the father of Jeconiah and his brothers at the time of the exile to Babylon. 12 After the exile to Babylon: 13 Zerubbabel the father of Abiud, 14 Azor the father of Zadok, 15 Eliud the father of Eleazar, 16 and Jacob the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ.

>I'm not convinced there's any real evidence of demons that couldn't be simply based in the fears of those who experience such things.

An interesting book to read in this regard is The Siren Call of Hungry Ghosts, by Joe Fisher. Fisher eventually committed suicide, convinced that he had been targeted by malign entities. It's a strange story, compelling and disturbing.

Our discussion of angels reminded me of an experience that a doctor reported to my parents a few years ago. I jotted it down at the time. Here is what I wrote:

My parents went to see a doctor recently for a routine appointment. He had just lost his elderly father and told them about it.

His father was dying in bed with several family members around, including the doctor. His father suddenly looked toward the corner of the room and said with great surprise, "Do you see those two men coming toward me?" The doctor said no, there was nothing there. His father said, "Yes, I see them - they have white light all around them - they're right over there." He was very happy and contented. Then he laid his head down on his pillow and died.

He was "in complete peace," the doctor said.

Here's Richard Dawkins Enemies of Reason documentary psoted on youtube.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wwYwpIaIjlU Richard Dawkins Enemies Of Reason Part 1

I cam across another article by Professor Steve Pinker where he claims science has proven that the soul is a activity of the brain

Hi All

I was reading Plato's "The Laws" in which an Athenian and some Cretans discuss a new Cretan colony, Magnesia, and how its system of law should be established and applied. Plato gives several reasons for believing in "the gods" and why they should be feared and respected as guardians of the Law. One argument is that regular, ordered motion must have an initial cause - which Plato defines as "good soul". He hints that "bad soul" causes chaotic and disordered motion, but focuses on the likeness of the gods to Soul, because the gods propel the planets in their motions around the heavens. In turn all Souls derive their self-generated motion from the Anima Mundi, the Kosmopsuche, or World Soul.

Thanks to Descartes the idea of Soul has been reduced to a buzzing speck of awareness that illumines our brains and produces "mind". I think Pinker is correct to say that mind is caused by brain, but what causes the pattern of motion of the whole brain/body complex? And while Descartes banished Soul from the world itself he did so via a kind of sleight-of-hand, replacing the Anima Mundi, Intelligent First Cause of all motion, with a "mechanistic" cosmic fluid which moved the planets and stars via vortices. Thus Soul wasn't banished, just turned into cosmic hydraulics.

But what is the modern day physical equivalent of Soul? Is it non-existent? Or just veiled by "de-spiritualised" language? That's something I'm puzzling over. I have a few ideas, but nothing definite yet. What do you think Michael?

"But what is the modern day physical equivalent of Soul? Is it non-existent? Or just veiled by "de-spiritualised" language? That's something I'm puzzling over. I have a few ideas, but nothing definite yet. What do you think Michael?"

Vitalism is very much alive, but the language is veiled. Think of how popular it is in academia to use "information" to explain just about everything. Even Dawkins and George Williams have gotten in on the act (unwittingly perhaps). Self-organization theories seem to be the most blatant examples.

>But what is the modern day physical equivalent of Soul?

I don't think there is a physical equivalent. Soul is nonphysical.

My view is that the brain acts as a receiver and decoder of the signal of consciousness. The signal itself is what we might call the spirit or soul. It continues after the brain stops functioning. At that point it is part of a nonphysical plane that is created by the collective consciousness of many departed people.

All these souls are aspects or fragments of the higher, universal consciousness that we can call God. This cosmic consciousness creates, sustains, and infuses the physical world. The "information" that lies at the root of life itself (DNA) and the cosmos (natural laws) is an expression of this higher consciousness.

I'm not insisting this is all true, of course. It's just my opinion, largely speculative, but based on a lot of reading and thinking. I could be way off base, but this is how things look to me now.

Thanks for the book recommendation.

I'm curious how you define "demon."

I define them according to the traditional or biblical meaning, as servants of the devil, fallen angels. Since I don't believe in the devil as an individual, but as a metaphor for everyone's shadow side, the parts of us that resist love and light, I don't believe in demons as his servants, but as thought forms.

I believe "falling" is a phenomenon of physical reality. Human nature seems to fall into some pretty ugly depths and often leaves behind a legacy of wounds, terror, and cruelty. What I've heard people attribute fear of demons to, in real life, seems to be ghosts or other kinds of entities, perhaps thought forms that take on energy and a life of their own.

I see ghosts as energy leftover from traumatic or deeply emotional events. The spirits may have moved on, but the event's energy pattern remains, sometimes reenacting over and over, an energy-based PTSD, if you will. I don't know if spirits actually hang around in the same way. I think we'd have MORE ghost stories than we do if that were the case. I've heard they hang around places, but I tend to think, based on what I've read about the work of mediums, that the spirits themselves hang around family members, and don't appear in order to frighten or to dwell on negative past experience. They seem to want to identify themselves, and sometimes to resolve unfinished business. They seem intent on comforting and encouraging those left behind, helping them do better in the present.

Fear, when left unchecked, leads people into behavior that creates a self-fulfilling prophecy. A simple example is fear that people won't like me. If I act on that fear, I'll behave in ways that cause people not to like me, and I might then take what I caused as evidence that my fear was correct in the first place.

I could be wrong, and I entertain all possibilities.

My view is that the brain acts as a receiver and decoder of the signal of consciousness. The signal itself is what we might call the spirit or soul. It continues after the brain stops functioning. At that point it is part of a nonphysical plane that is created by the collective consciousness of many departed people. - Michael Prescott
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That's exactly what I believe. I think it probably has something to do with quantum physics and the holographic universe too, but am not exactly sure how. In fact, I think the reason that "visitations" from deparated spirits can't hang around long probably has something do with decoherence. The signal starts to break up. - Art

>I'm curious how you define "demon."

I see demons as low-level, earthbound spirits with a propensity for mischief or, in some cases, real malevolence. This makes them different from ghosts, which (for the most part) seem to be energy patterns expressed as repeated, stereotyped behavior.

Hi Michael

For the ancients the distinction between physical and spiritual wasn't so clear cut as it is today. Think of the Bible's descriptions of how the Spirit of God gives life to all living things, not just human beings. Like the Greeks, the Hebrews saw the heavenly bodies themselves as intelligent, living beings because they moved in orderly array around the Earth day by day. Of course the pious Hebrews didn't call them gods, unlike the Greeks, but they did call them "the heavenly hosts". In Hinduism descriptions of the "devas" associates them strongly with the heavenly hosts - "deva" means "shining one". Similarly the heavenly gods of Sumerian lore. These days we don't having "living heavens" but we still people the sky with living beings on other planets.

My point is this: If God, Spirit and Cosmic Consciousness are to have more meaning than subjective opinion then their activity must correspond to natural processes we can observe - that's what both the Greeks and Hebrews thought and taught. Spiritual philosophy lost the war when it gave way too easily to the Mechanists.

In all the descriptions I've read of "Spirit"/"Soul" it's manifest as orderly, intelligent motion in matter - as seen supremely in living things, the orderly motions of the heavens,and the orderly arrangement of the World. Since Newton and Descartes we've treated all these things as clockwork and mechanical, but quantum mechanical descriptions of biological molecules, for example, have shown us just how wrong a simplistic, mechanistic analogy really is.

Now for a slight digression: Quantum mechanics and physics.

The "Holographic Universe" and "quantum mechanics" get bandied about a lot in discussions of the esoteric, but most people who use such phrases have no idea what they're talking about. Plenty of people have read Michael Talbot, but very few people have read David Bohm's discussions of quantum mechanics that Talbot bases his "holographic universe" on.

Bohm conceived of physical systems, at the micro and macro levels, as being "directed" according to a "pilot wave" which explored all the possibilities that a physical system could evolve through. Individual particles would then follow that pilot wave for as long as the system lasted, until it was disturbed and a new configuration was formed all over again.

But this isn't the only way quantum mechanical systems can be described. Amongst many physicists there's a very popular approach known as "Many Worlds" - frequently confused with the "Multiverse" of String theory, but unrelated. In the Many Worlds scenario all the possible paths particles could take in a physical system are actualised in separate "Worlds" - alternative histories at the microscopic & macroscopic level. From the point of view of conscious observers like us the splitting of histories happens too quickly for us to ever be conscious of two histories at once - all our "quantum copies" are conscious of only ONE history. And there are ludicrously huge numbers of possible histories.

Just how many?

In our Universe, to the limit of physical connection some 45 billion light years away, there's about 10^80 particles. But that's just particles. Since the Big Bang there's been about 10^40 "events" per particle - so roughly 10^120 distinguishable events. Now raise 10 to that power, 10^120. That's how many histories - 10^10^120 possible histories have been actualised in the Many Worlds - though a certain proportion coalesce as well as separate.

Why so many alternative histories of the physical universe? Because that's, weirdly enough, the minimum necessary for quantum physics to happen without conscious observation, or a transcendental pilot wave, being involved. All three are valid interpretations of what quantum mechanics means - either a pleroma of Many Worlds, wave collapse by conscious observation (quantum events become definite because they are observed), or a pilot wave that explores all physical possibility in advance of what particles do.

Another possibility - equally valid - is that particles interact not just forward-in-time, but backwards-in-time as well. This is known as the Transactional Interpretation, developed by John Cramer. It's a little known fact, but the laws of electromagnetism and gravity are time-symmetrical - theoretically a particle doesn't just emit a wave forwards-in-time but also backwards as well. By exchange of forwards and backwards waves, particles can "know" in advance how a physical system will evolve as they travel through it. It's possible - as I am sure Michael is aware - that we all can have some perception forward in time. Cramer's Interpretation of QM would explain that fact neatly - as would Bohm's pilot wave. Many Worlds would not. Nor would the Observer-caused-Collapse scenario.

So how does that relate to "Spirit"/"Soul" - the Pilot Wave is an almost perfect analogue for "Soul"/"Spirit" as the "self generated motion" that guides the motions of all physical things. But Bohmian QM might not be correct either. But, in general, the "Wave function" that describes the evolution of quantum systems is the nearest micro-physical analogue of what Plato and Aristotle, and who knows how many others, meant by Soul/Spirit as "self generated motion" in modern physics.

Interestingly SF writer Stephen Baxter seems to have realised this in some of his Xeelee stories - he has several characters composed of purely quantum wave-functions, able to do many things commonly ascribed to "spirits" and "souls" in esoteric literature.

I'm not saying the mystery is solved, but what I do believe is that physical/spiritual division is artificial and unnecessary. Soul/spirit is out and about in the world animating all things. It's not just some post-mortem "light-bee" that generates "holographic specters". I think you said as much in your last reply, Michael, without quite realising it.

The "Holographic Universe" and "quantum mechanics" get bandied about a lot in discussions of the esoteric, but most people who use such phrases have no idea what they're talking about. - Adam
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Okay Adam, pleas explain to me how or why it is that so many near death experiencers come back and make comments that seem to collaborate or parallel what Michael Talbot wrote about in The Holographic Universe? Feelings of overwhelming connectedness and oneness, 360 degree vision, feeling others emotions during the life review, holographic life review, feeling like your literally everywhere in the Universe at once, buildings made out of knowledge, communicating by telepathy, time and space not existing, etc. Dr. Kenneth Ring wrote a whole chapter about it in his book, "Life At Death." Dr. Melvin Morse devoted several pages to the holographic universe in his book, "Where God Lives," and most recently Dr. Ozwald Harding wrote a whole book about it called "Near Death Experiences: A Holographic Explanation." Harding says that the life review is a holographic experience par excellence. No one as ever been able to explain away to me the amazing parallels between NDE's and Talbot's Holographic Universe.

Hi Art

I'm not trashing Talbot per se just his naive reading of Bohm - and, unlike his admirers, Talbot did read Bohm. But Bohm's "holomovement" isn't strictly Talbot's "holographic universe" idea either.

As for the similarities - well the explanation is easy: Talbot drew his ideas from the sources you describe. That doesn't stop the sources from being valid. I certainly think there's a lot to the idea of "soul form"/"spirit body" and the attributes learnt about it from NDEs and OBEs, as well as exteriorisations, but that still doesn't tell us what it is ontologically. Talbot teases us with analogies but doesn't have a proper physical theory either.

Talbot drew his ideas from the sources you describe. - Adam
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No he didn't. Talbot's ideas come straight out of a book called "The Holographic Paradigm" by Ken Wilber. It's a collection of essays by various scientists. I just finihsed reading it. It was published about 10 years before Talbot wrote his masterpiece. Talbot didn't write The Holographic Universe to prove NDE's. He wrote it to show the holographic nature of the Universe. He had leukemia and I suspicion was hoping that he could somehow control his disease with the knowledge of the holographic nature of the universe. Talbot died just two months after the holographic universe was published. It was his masterpiece and it has had a profound impact on my view of the world and my place in it.

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