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I've listened to certain self help 'gurus' that have preached the importance of indifference, and 'waking up from the Matrix', learning to be totally unattached to things one would previously be obsessed about.

Some work related stresses occurred this week, stuff I kept running through my mind again, and again. I learned to find the source of the attachment, delete it, and re-discover that happiness is your DEFAULT state of mind. It's powerful stuff.

Anyway, as for spiritualism... Well, I don't know. The hysteria was very real, but there were certain scientists, such as Gustave Gelley, who I am not convinced were victims of hysteria, but people trying to cut through the nonsense and find what was really going on== often discovering that, in fact, spirits may have been coming through.

I've seen in other of your posts the distinction between ego and true self, and although a distinction is problematic, I can admit in general. What I would like to discuss is that the thesis that spiritualism might be an ego mania can turn around, whereas it is not in the heyday of spiritualism people saw things that did not exist, but in modern times people do not see things that exist. That is, the materialism as ego mania. An idea that is strengthened by the fact that strict spiritualism is as old as Humanity and today continues to remain a core of phenomena that have been added others such as near-death experiences and memories of past lives that are convergent evidence.

Thoughtful post, Michael. A good complement to your post "Becoming the witness":

The thing is, do we really understand the structure of the mind/spirit?

Any time there is a debate about psychology, this is the question I ask. For example, free will. We would know whether free will is "in there" if we could peer into the psyche.

That doesn't mean I think we don't know anything about the structure of the mind and spirit, but we don't know a whole lot.

Here's another tack: How much of what you attribute to ego could be attributed to simple selfishness? An organism has to serve itself in order to survive, so I'm not sure a separate "ego" has to exist in order to explain selfish and self-aggrandizing behavior.

In a way, it's like trying to explain obesity by positing the existence of an interior "fatto," when, in reality, wanting to eat a lot is an extension of needing to eat at least a little.

Yet, if we introspect, there *does* seem to be this part of the self that constantly needs to defend itself and raise itself up, so who knows.


I loved your idea of materialism as an "ego mania"!


I know what you mean, Michael. I am in a huge battle with Clorox Corp that I have no chance in Hades of winning because my school is vying for a grant that is based on how many people vote on line for your school against dozens of others (all of various sizes, so seems unfair to begin with).

Since the voting started, their site has been riddled with glitches, allowing some to vote sometimes, blocking them at others, etc. I contacted customer service and they told me basically, it must be me. I posted it on the grant's facebook page and found another poor soul at another school having a similar problem and Clorox deleted the posts.

Well, now I'm really angry. I took a video of the glitches occurring and have now sent it to their PR department as well as customer service asking why they think any of this is fair. No response. My ego won't let it go and I'm not going to stop. The unfairness of the process is so clear to all of us, yet, Clorox will grant the grant anyway, knowing, full well, they could never know who really won. One of the administrators here said that if Al Gore had me working for him with his voting dilemmas, he would have won. But, I can see it now, I am going to beat this thing into the ground and probably end up with a restraining order against me, lol

People can still text in a vote daily, if anyone feels sorry for us:-( but the next step is certified letter to corporate. Feel free to share ideas lol

"it's like trying to explain obesity by positing the existence of an interior 'fat to'"

I am definitely in touch with my inner fatto. It says, "Order pizza," and I obey.

A very thought-provoking post, Michael, but why hit on yourself? I suspect it’s because you’re overworked and overwrought, and didn’t want to spend time on something inconvenient Life has sent your way. Perhaps you have it the wrong way round? Is the ego actually the part of you that’s resisting your need to be involved and judging your reactions to the situation?

I think you were commendable to want to save the tree. Trees symbolise life! Look what happened to North Africa when the Romans cut them down. Look what happened to Easter Island. Look what’s happening in Indonesia.

In some cultures, insanity and mania have been embraced – e.g shamans, the Delphic oracle. Remember Parmenides? The descent into the underworld?

Rationality has its place, but it’s a very small part of being human. There are a million love songs, none about being rational.

Even our current economic situation in Europe is really about love. The politicians and economists love what we’ve got and want to hang on to it. So they’re inventing some more money (bad money) and throwing it after the good. Nothing rational here at all…but from a human point of view, quite understandable!

Me too,
only my fatto demands I order Kentucky....six delicious pieces and scrumptious chips. Yes !!!

OK--I'm gonna play the part of loyal opposition here once more.

The problem is, I've never understood exactly what the ego is, or how to separate it from other parts of myself. It often seems to me a catchphrase for whatever it is we dislike in ourselves (as Matt is suggesting).

It's interesting that you refer to ego as the devil. Maybe the concept of ego has as much reality to it as the devil--no more, no less.

"What the hell, man? It's only a tree."

You may have been over-reacting, but aren't you also discounting something good in yourself, like your empathy for another living being, or your need for beauty?

(Ben made some nice points about that.)

"I was able to step outside of my emotional connection to the tree."

But there's another possibility, too.

I once saved a tree on my block. City workers were going to take it down, because one of its main limbs had fallen into the street, and they were saying that the rest of the the tree could come down at any time, creating a danger to the public.

They had chain saw in hand and were ready to go. But I love the trees in my neighborhood. I kept talking to those workers, and wouldn't let them do it. I just kept arguing with them, until, much to my surprise, they left.

Fifteen years later, the tree is still there, and I feel really good about having saved it.

I'm not saying what I did was better than what you did, Michael. I'm really not. I haven't the faintest idea what the specifics were at your condo, and taking down the tree may well have been for the "highest good of all."

You just reminded me of that story, and I wanted to present a different way of looking at things. The day I let my passion rule me. The day my involvement made a difference.

There's something sane about that, too, isn't there?

I was just about to post a similar comment Bruce (tho not as articulately). I am not sure what exactly my ego is supposed to be - is it something separate or simply some inbuilt response for self-preservation?

In my opinion, the ego is not the true self, but a facsimile of the self. Most of the time we identify with the ego and think of it as "me." But occasionally we step outside the ego and see it for what it is. These periods of clarity seldom last long.

The true self is the witness to the ego, which we access at those special moments.

It may be commendable to save a tree - I think so - but not to get tied up in emotional knots about it. It's possible to go about saving the tree in a calm, coolheaded, clear minded way. That would be a more egoless approach.

The tree has not come down, by the way. This will be a longterm issue, I'm sure. Nothing happens fast in condoland.

Incidentally, have you noticed that some people seem to have an obsessive hatred of trees and are always agitating to tear them down? In my observation, very often they are senior citizens. I think some retirees are seeking a sense of power and control, and since they can no longer get it from work, they try to obtain it by controlling the neighborhood and making drastic, visible changes in the landscape. It's a final, rather petty way of imposing their will on their environment (and, not to get too Freudian about it, maybe a subconscious urge to kill something that threatens to outlive them).

Or maybe they're just bored.

BTW, kudos to Bruce for saving a tree! You must have been very persuasive.

I see the ego as the false part of us that always has to be right, that strives to be better than others just for the sake of feeling superior. If you step outside of it for even a moment, you can see it's not real, and it's not real in other people either. I know I'm not engaging my ego when I'm peaceful and not struggling and striving, or thinking about an image of myself or how I'm "right." Assuming there is an afterlife, where does the ego go? This part of us most dissolve somehow and the real "I" emerge. How could Heaven be heavenly with the insanity of egos?

Well, speaking on behalf of the tree, thank you for your efforts, Michael. Trees are a visible connection to nature. You may not notice it until one is gone, but they make a huge difference to how your environment feels to you, so it is a worthy battle to fight.

To look at nature and feel no connection such that cutting down the tree is inconsequential — that seems madness to me.

When I was a kid, my friend had a large apple tree in his yard, and a bunch of us used to sit in it and eat apples. It didn't charge us anything. It was a good tree, and life felt good sitting in it.

Maybe some people never have that kind of experience, or they forgot.

"BTW, kudos to Bruce for saving a tree! You must have been very persuasive."

Thanks. I think my persistence did the trick. :o)

And at least in this instance, being impulsive helped. Their chainsaw was ready to go.

And then, complicating our understanding of the ego is the way we can so easily turn against ourselves. I'm thinking of the way shame overtakes people who are abused. The ego is also a devil in that case, but its attacks aim inward and prevent a person from defending (or even perceiving) her interests.

Of course, it wasn't Michael's desire to save the tree that was egoic, it was the consuming quality of his obsession. Nothing egoic about hiring the tree surgeon either. That seems a reasonable thing to do. It's just the "attachment" that's insane. And, the Buddha pointed out, painful.

One day the Fifth Patriarch told his monks to express their wisdom in a poem. Whoever had true realization of his original nature (Buddha Nature) would be ordained the Sixth Patriarch. The head monk, Shen Hsiu, was the most learned, and wrote the following:

The body is the wisdom-tree,
The mind is a bright mirror in a stand;
Take care to wipe it all the time,
And allow no dust to cling.

The poem was praised, but The Fifth Patriarch knew that Shen Hsiu had not yet found his original nature, on the other hand, Hui Neng couldn't even write, so someone had to write down his poem, which read:

Fundamentally no wisdom-tree exists,
Nor the stand of a mirror bright.
Since all is empty from the beginning,
Where can the dust alight?

The Fifth Patriarch pretended that he wasn't impressed with this poem either, but in the middle of the night he summoned Hui Neng. The Fifth Patriarch gave him the insignia of his office, the Patriarch's robe and bowl.

Coincidentally(?) I've just written a poem about a tree and I'm now writing another one about the tree of knowledge as the serpent persuades Eve to pick an apple.

"It's just the "attachment" that's insane."
I guess that makes me insane, abcdefg!

I agree that we should not identify with our ego, because what we call the ego is only one part of ourselves. But I don't agree that the ego is insane. It is, or is supposed to be, a practical friend that helps us to survive. But it has to stay in its place or we do become disturbed and unhappy individuals.

Another problem with your analysis is confusion between psychotics and psychopaths. The word "psychopath" is confusing because it does seem to mean insane, but it really doesn't.

A psychotic person is insane, according to our normal concepts of insanity. They are out of touch with reality and irrational, usually because something is wrong with their brain. A psychopath (actually called sociopath now) is someone who is asocial in various possible ways.

It may be true that a psychopath is ruled by their ego, and therefore overly concerned with pride, and unable to form meaningful social connections. They can function normally, and can be extremely successful. They are not insane, although of course they are disturbed and unhappy.

The word "insane" as used by Michael (and by me) is a reference to Eckhart Tolle's use of the word, which is different from a diagnosis in the field of psychology. Tolle uses the word jokingly in that by his definition, insanity isn't "abnormal," it's the norm.

Here's a pome that was famous long ago--and now completely forgotten:

"Verses are made by fools like me
But only God can make a tree"
--Joyce Killmer

Some more thoughts:
I know, Michael, you are impressed by Jenny Wade’s “Changes of Mind”. In that book she refers to the different sub-minds we have as a result of evolution, each with its own agenda. But she seems to imply at the end that we can subsume all to a single authentic consciousness.

This is not the position taken by James Hillman in “Re-Visioning Psychology”. Following Jung, he says that we must beware of the tyranny of monolithic consciousness (forcing the rule of the ego or “personality number One”). Rather, to be free of self-tyranny, we should always pay attention to the voices of the partial personalities within us. In this way, he says we build soul rather than ego. Our psyches are a commune of many selves –they’re polytheistic or polycentric. As a writer, you doubtless do pay attention to your inner personalities –you place them in your novels. A personality not given enough attention projects outwards, finding its way into the world “outside”.

I had an idea about the tree: pin something on it saying it is not to be cut down. Something like: Warning: this tree is protected under a preservation order.

A religious person might be impressed by Genesis III 24: “So he drove out the man; and he placed at the east of the garden of Eden Cherubims, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to guard the way to the tree of life.”

The tree surgeon who inspected the tree yesterday said it's in good health and that the roots are not threatening the sidewalk. I wrote a letter to the condo board containing this info. I also offered to have the tree trimmed and shaped if the board so desires. (This isn't necessary, but you have to offer them something.)

The tree guy also told me that it's a dogwood. I had no idea. No wonder I like it. I like dogs.

Ben, the ego does have survival value in some cases, but it seems out of control in our modern world.

Does the none Ego that you're implying survives death contain any personality features and loves that the everyday self identifies with or is it impersonal as some self help gurus (like that german dude, my memory for names sucks). Just wondering?

srry Meant non-ego

In defence of the ego:
I was born to a single parent on a council estate (The "Projects" in the US) and fairly disadvantaged in relation to my peers. Despite these shortcomings, through self belief and determination I managed a first class degree, Ph.D and high level job in industry and a lovely home (mortgage payed for) and overcame a HIV diagnosis! I think this would have been impossible without a certain attachment to an ego to get me through. (although I would be nothing without the help of others).
On a different tack, here is vid of the Al Sullivan "flapping arms" case:

Wow, Michael, a dogwood--they can be stunning when in bloom. Maybe I missed this, but did the association say why they want to remove it?

I think it's a beautiful thing you feel attached to that tree and are going through such pains to save it.

Bruce, I honestly think it's just a power play by a newcomer to the community who finagled a position as association president and is throwing his weight around.

"Someone," I honestly don't know what, if anything, survives death. I used to be partial to the idea that the personality continues, but lately I've been leaning more toward the super-psi explanation of mediumship and other phenomena. This would not rule out an afterlife, but it would negate a lot of the evidence for it.

But I don't pretend to have any answers. In fact, it seems like the deeper I get in this field, the more questions I have. Maybe I'm just doing it wrong ...

"Maybe I'm just doing it wrong ..."

Or missing out on the sort of direct, personal experience that can change your perspective in a hurry. (Though I know you have had some mystical experiences of your own.) Repeatedly, during my own deepest states of altered consciousness, I would think to myself, "How in the world will I ever be able to worry about death again?"

Of course, some will say that I'm crazy to give so much weight to what I'm thinking, feeling, and experiencing in those moments. That's why it's nice to have such compelling empirical evidence from so many areas that all point in the same direction.

Through some evidence we can conclude that what survives death is the enhanced self, which would include both the ego (or selfish desires) as our higher self. But according to theosophical sources consuming ego would go up cause the so-called second death, when the higher self is freed from the ego or selfish desires.

On the superpsi hypothesis, we note that the most likely many cases of mediumship are cases of psi among the living, but there are other cases of mediumship which clearly can not be of this type, because the comunications are more or less skilled to communicate independiently of mediums or sitters, there is a relationship between the quality of communications and the time that has passed since the death of comunicators, among other features.

I find Bill Plotkin’s take on ego refreshing and very useful. His writing on the subject doesn’t contain any aversion or hostility towards the ego, but sees it as indispensable to the human condition, not merely in the survival sense but also in living one’s life purpose.

Here are a few quotes from his book Soulcraft to illustrate:

“The initial goal of the descent is to cultivate the relationship between the ego and the soul, and that is underworld business, business that might, at first, make our surface lives more difficult or lonely, or less comfortable, secure, or happy. Soulcraft practices prepare the ego to abandon its social stability and psychological composure and to be reassigned as an active, adult agent for soul, as opposed to its former role as an adolescent agent for itself.
Imagine that the soul doesn’t really know how you ought best live it. After all, how you manifest soul in your everyday life will depend in large measure upon your historical epoch and culture, where you live and what materials are available to you, and what human language you speak. Forms of embodiment, language, and cultural knowledge are the ego’s domain, not the soul’s. The soul reveals to the ego the deep nature of its gift, but it is the ego’s task to fashion ways to give it.”

Certain Norse philosophies celebrate the ego as a healthy part of the whole. In some way, I agree. The ego tends to dominate the lives of the unwitting, but in reality some aspect of the ego seems very important to me. Just learn to tame the ego so it doesn't control your life. (Would I even want my ego to go up in flames? I don't know... once it happened, I would no longer have an ego to debate the issue!)

On the superpsi hypothesis, we note that the most likely many cases of mediumship are cases of psi among the living, but there are other cases of mediumship which clearly can not be of this type, because the comunications are more or less skilled to communicate independiently of mediums or sitters, there is a relationship between the quality of communications and the time that has passed since the death of comunicators, among other features.

Neuroscience has never located 'memories' in the human brain. If we extrapolate a bit on this 'problem' it could be argued that memories are 'stored' in some extradimensional place which could be a residue after the brain dies. Maybe it's just 'leftover' memories a medium tunes into and not a spirit consciousness. A theory like this combined with super-psi could explain the inconsistencies in medium communications.


Your hypothesis seems the same as the Broad's idea on the psychic factor, but there are several reasons to reject it: first, if this hypothesis were true, then the comunicators only narrate events of his earthly life, but it is not, because there have been communicators who have narrated how they felt when they die, they have done after death, among other things. Second, mediumistic communicators not only show their memories, but also have their own motivation and initiative, as noted in the drop-in communications. Third, if this hypothesis were true, then there is no reason to expect that some communicators are more able than others to communicate, because all depend on the medium's ability to tune into the memories of the deceased, but this is not what we find, for some comunicators were more skilled at communicating than others. And fourth, on the inconsistencies of communicators, I wrote it may be that the spirits of the dead remained virtually the same beliefs as when they were alive, which can be as inconsistent as the living.

Bill Plotkin looks interesting, Hrvoje. I like Patrick Harpur's "A Complete Guide to the Soul" from a mythological and psychological persepective.

Juan - I wrote it may be that the spirits of the dead remained virtually the same beliefs as when they were alive, which can be as inconsistent as the living.

Personally I regard reincarnation research as the best existing survival evidence - it's nearly objective, 'repeatable' in the sense that new cases keeps coming up and it fits very badly with an alternative super psi explanation.

The 'inconsistency' MP wrote about in the previous thread, that reincarnation was a completely missing component in early spiritiual communications makes the entire case for spiritual communications really being 'spiritual' very bad. Obviously when you die the option to reincarnate isn't a detail you would expect the deceased not to mention at all during the first 50 years of the awakening of spiritualism.

Thanks for the tip, Ben. I'll have a look...


Its probably because reincarnation is a rare thing. Only few people, animals reincarnate. You may find this interesting and this was in the heyday of spiritualism.

Also forgot to mention work done by Allan Kardec in France, who compiled The Spirits’ Book (circa 1857).

Why have you been leaning toward Super Psi Explanations?

"Why have you been leaning toward Super Psi Explanations?"

Because sbu is the regular skeptic on this blog and only believes in Science and tries to Poo Poo anything Paranormal because he thinks Science has all the answers.

Its probably because reincarnation is a rare thing. Only few people, animals reincarnate.

According to Ian Stevenson's research one one in five hundred children remembers a past life. This makes reincarnation a quite frequent phenomena.

"Why have you been leaning toward Super Psi Explanations?"

The problems with mediumship that I listed in my previous post have made me increasingly doubtful that actual spirit communication is going on. However, there are arguments that can be made in favor of the spirit hypothesis - for instance, cases of drop-in communicators, or the fact that some spirits simply seem to be better communicators than others, or the fact that spirits seem confused in early communications but more clearheaded later (Juan has made both these points).


About super psi, what do you think of this argument?

OK, let's say that the mediums are only accessing *information,* not the spirit?

The question then is, What is the "plus alpha" were *real* spirit communication to occur? Is the spirit an *object* with which one might come in contact? And unless one comes in contact with that *thing*, is one not really engaging in *real* spirit communication?

My point being, What if spirits really are "just" information? Thus, if super psi is "just" accessing information, then it might be the same thing as accessing the spirits. In fact, if spirits are "just" information, then there would be no discernible difference between super psi and spirit communication.

That is what my gut tells me is true. Further, if we take a page from Art's holographic universe idea, then it doesn't really matter where you pull the super psi information from when you do the communication. If you are pulling information from Aunt Millie's head that is true about me in spirit, then that's just as good as pulling it from "me." Again, there may be no discernible difference.

Another way of approaching the problem is this. Is a spirit destructible? Could say, a powerful being in the universe simply annihilate the spirit so that it could never return, and no more spirit communication could be possible?

I would say most of our "guts" would tell us no. Destruction of a spirit is fundamentally, logically, mathematically impossible. And the reason is that information is indestructible. I don't mean mediated and recorded information. I mean information in the sense of "The writing finger having writ..." The "fact of the matter," as it were.

Seeing spirits as information also helps us understand why mediums never say, "I can't contact that person; they've reincarnated." The reason is because, while reincarnation is true, the information of the person as he or she used to be remains in existence.

The final point I'd make is that spirit is "living information." I.e., self-organizing. That's what makes it different from, say, the text of a book.



Do you also now find survivalist claims of NDEs, Reincarnation cases, and other areas of survival research unconvincing?

"What if spirits are really "just" information?"

A passage from Michael Tymn's recently published 'The Afterlife Revealed' that particularly struck me concerned messages given by the psychic researcher, Sir William Barrett, through a medium after his death.

Sir William explained the sometimes confused and distorted nature of his messages as being down to the fact that, after death, our conscious and subconscious minds join to form a whole - but that when he returned to the physical sphere to effect these communications his mind had to fragment again, making it difficult to recall even proper names. BTW he still gave sufficiently detailed information to convince his surviving wife, Lady Barrett,that these messages were genuine.

I think an awful lot can be unpacked out of this simple sounding idea of our conscious & subconscious minds merging in the afterlife. This larger mind may still be in some sense us, but it could well be something much richer and more complex than what we are here. So much so that, without in anyway us having suffered 'exinction' in the athiestic sense, to all intents and purposes what we were here will have ceased to exist. But they'll still be something like Matt's living information field or spirit.

In other words, everytime such a spirit attempts to communicate through a medium, the 'old' self needs to be first reconstructed from this much richer information field - in a process, perhaps, akin to an archeological reconstruction of something not now there. If so, no wonder the quality of many of these communications is so poor and ambiguous!


Do you affirm that there is no real difference between the afterlife hypothesis and the superpsi hypothesis? If so, then I disagree, because the information is not the same as the spirits of the dead: information is data only, spirits are minds that contain among other things data. The spirits are sentient beings with initiative, will, intelligence, personality and motivations, none of it be reduced to simple information.

Furthermore, the information appears to be just syntax, no semantics, so until someone proves me as the semantics reduces to the syntax, the meaning will remain irreducible to the information. You yourself have written that the spirits are living information, but that living are not reducible to mere information.


Yes, what you say is literally true. I am saying that, perhaps, spirits are the "fact of the matter" instead of the matter itself. Or, rather, in the Afterlife, there is no difference between the matter and the fact of the matter.

So that there would be no distinction between accessing information *about* the spirit (super-psi) and accessing the spirit itself (spirit communication).

Another way of putting it is this: spirits are unmediated content. If this were not so, they would be objects, and thus destroyable.




I do not understand that it is "fact of the matter", but the difference between the afterlife and superpsi think is clear: according to the idea of ​​the afterlife, the individual is conscious when the medium is in trance is a human being who died and will remain conscious regardless of medium. According to the idea of the superpsi, the individual is conscious when the medium is in trance is the unconscious of medium and conscious only when called. I do not know how are you two ideas can be the same.

According to Ian Stevenson's research one one in five hundred children remembers a past life. This makes reincarnation a quite frequent phenomena.

Yes only children too what about teenagers? adults?.

What do you think of that link i posted about a medium who gathered information about reincarnation during the heyday of spiritualism? as well as Allan Kardec's work?.

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