Blog powered by Typepad

« Faster than a speeding bullet | Main | Passing in review »


Good post, Michael.

I just like to mention that, surprisingly, the afterlife could be linked to what scientists have called dark matter, according to dark plasma theory proposed by Alfred Jay.

This book sets extraordinary parallels between occultism and theosophy and modern physics. In my opinion is a breakthrough for the study of the afterlife, because in addition to physical foundation to ancient occult ideas, brings us closer to a theory of matter makes room for the spirit as a vehicle of consciousness that persists after the death of organic body.

How timely. I was just looking at this -

A guy who studied with Sigmund Freud who developed the parapsychological field. The first page of the alphabetical listing about automatisms and automatic writing seems to fit nicely with your article.

Whether we call it the subconscious mind or discarnate spirits i find an interesting parallel with these phenomena and the phenomena of "automatic yoga" which is a quasi religious phenomena where the body moves by itself when people use meditation to concentrate on God. It ties straight in with William James' Varieties of Religious Experience.

Having experienced automatic yoga myself i am inclined to believe that those movements do not come from discarnate spirits but from the INTELLIGENCE that resides in the subconscious mind and the more ancient portions of the brain. A Horizon documentary i watched today was about the unconscious and how it has evolved from the times of Freud into what is now called the "New Unconscious" theory, based on brain scanning machines etc. In the documentary several scientists studying this area are asked to represent on a big bit of paper how much of the mind is conscious and how much unconscious, and all of them mark out about 10% of the total surface area as conscious, except one guy who draws a tiny square in the middle.

Whatever it is we are dealing with here, the least we can say is that whatever vitalogical principle it is that keeps living organisms alive and that is present in the human brain has immense intelligence, and that this "thing" is responsible both for any mediumistic phenomena, NDE and ESP phenomena and religious phenomena AND any discarnate spirit phenomena.

I don't think it is possible to ascertain whether an afterlife actually exists based on any of the above mentioned phenomena. For that, we have to look into the works of Ian Stevenson and reincarnation studies and attempt to seperate the super-psi hypothesis from the reincarnation hypothesis. If it is possible to do this (and i believe it is), then we can get actual proof beyond a shadow of a doubt, that there is some kind of afterlife. Otherwise, we are dealing with phenomena that are weird and wonderful in THIS life but which say nothing about any AFTER life.

The whole idea of the human mind only being 10% conscious, seems to be the latest theory by materialists to make the case that awareness is a superfluous byproduct of unconscious processes.

This latest trendy theory still doesn't really explain why we are conscious at all - why even bother being conscious when we are unconscious machines that just happen to have a funny malfunction that means we are self aware; the whole concept sounds suspect to me.

Even if it is true that the greater part of our mind is 'unconsious', although perhaps it is not unconscious at all, it's just that we don't understand consciousness properly, these folks have missed the point that it's quality not quantity:

Without the 1% conscious part, the other 99% is utterly meaningless.


I do not agree with you that all cases of mediumship are samples of the subconscious of mediums extrasensory perception, because the drop-in communicators and cross-correspondences can not be explained in this way, but the most rational explanation is the survivalist interpretation.

Well, it's theoretically possible to explain the cross-correspondences as extreme cases of unconscious planning of the mediums through super-psi, but drop-in communicators can not be explained entirely by the creativity of the unconscious of the mediums and ESP, because we have no motives for the mediums to express to someone unknown to all present, an aspect that only the survivalist interpretation can explain.

And we also have other types of phenomena as the apparitions of the living and the dead, the extracorporeal experiences, etc., pointing to the same thesis.

"As with any “channeled” material of this type, there is no way to verify the claims independently."

You might not be able to verify the channeled material, but you can consider whether the medium routinely provides veridical information. Most working mediums do. If the channeler doesn't routinely provide veridical information you have to examine how they work. In most cases mental mediumship takes practice to develop. John Edward was a natural born psychic but before he could give readings reliably he had to practice for many years. Without feedback obtained by trying to provide veridical information, mental mediumship is not reliable. On the other hand if the medium brings through information by direct voice that itself is evidence of a paranormal origin. Automatic writing can come in many forms. Some are more likely to be reliable representations of a spirit communication than others. If the channeler is doing "mental mediumship" and writing down his impressions that is not as reliable as if he falls into a trance with his eyes closed and writes in neat lines without having to look at the paper. The channeling method does not offer proof or disproof of the content but it can tell you something about whether it is a strongly paranormal phenomena or not.

Dancing Past the Dark - the NDE and afterlife material that few want to examine. I look forward to your review. I thought it was great, but then maybe only because it confirmed what I already thought to be the facts. Another perspective from and informed and intellegent reviewer will be great.

This book "The Country Beyond" had a big effect on me but it was in fact the second book that she wrote on this subject. The first (whose title I forget) dealt with how she got into mediumship - through an attempt to contact her husband, killed in World War 1, then success in entering into communication with "Scott". But herein lies the rub. "Scott" turns out to be Lawrence of Arabia and the accident which killed him was his famous motor cycle crash. So once again we find celebrity figures appearing on the scene. In this case, though, her descriptions are so sensible and low-key that they seem to carry the ring of truth.

I didn't realize that, Peter. It's ironic that after criticizing other mediums for having exotic spirit guides, she ended up believing that her own communicator was someone colorful enough to be the subject of a blockbuster movie! Definitely raises a red flag for me. I'm suspicious of any mediumistic claims involving contact with famous people, just as I view past-life memories involving famous historical figures as suspect.

'Definitely raises a red flag for me'

Michael I completely agree, in principle. We assume that communications from Shakespeare, Beethoven, Napoleon etc are either purely imaginary, or, at best, identities claimed by teasing 'low-level' communicators.

Scott is a rather interesting exception. There's no reason in principle why some of the people who communicate might not have found fame in life. One might even argue that the focused will, and willingness to push boundaries, that made them stand out in life, make the kind of people who *would* make the effort to communicate clearly and at length after their decease, as in this case.

There are particular reasons for thinking that these communications to Sherwood were actually from TE Lawrence. They match his rather unusual psychological profile. According to her he was deeply ambivalent about his fame (as we know Lawrence was in life) and at first demanded anonymity (hence "Scott"). Lawrence was also apparently emotionally and sexually repressed to a high degree. "Scott's" early experiences following his decease reflect this strongly, as it makes him highly vulnerable in his new state.

For me, it makes the communications more credible than others, as there's a match with a recognisable public figure. Of course we could argue that Sherwood unconsciously created it from her imagination, but that's another matter.

Also, there is a vast difference between a sudden passing and a quiet and prepared one.

Perhaps not always.
I am just reading "Claude's Book" (first book) which recounts the death of a young world war one pilot killed in a dogfight.
There was little "shock" reported

"It's thought provoking at the very least to notice how one of the key aspects of near-death experiences–a subject not popularized until 1975, six years after Sherwood's book was published–is reflected in these earlier channeled communications."

Especially since she describes it the same way many NDErs have: "a speeded-up run through of a film shown backwards." Though, interestingly enough, I've also run into accounts that say the "film" is shown in the opposite sequence--from infancy to the present day.

"A point in favor of the latter interpretation is that similar ideas crop up across the globe, even in remote societies whose traditions are unlikely to have been influenced by Western spiritualist trends."

A similar phenomenon is reported by Stan Grof in a way I find quite convincing. Back in the 60's and 70's, when psychedelic research was in its heyday, he would often give LSD to terminal cancer patients to help them reconcile with their coming deaths.

These patients would then return from their sessions spouting metaphysical concepts which had previously been foreign to them, or antithetical to their worldviews. Materialists discovered the reality of the spiritual realm, fundamentalist Christians discovered the truth of reincarnation, and so on.

In the case of one patient, subsequent to his LSD session he had a medical crisis that led to an NDE. Afterwards he said that he was grateful for his prior psychedelic experience because it prepared him for the NDE. He said that without it, he might have been quite scared.

Bruce, IMO, psychedelics combined with a contemplative life style will do more to further understanding than all the books in the world and more than contemplation, by itself, could ever do.

@ no one.

Of course, there are those lucky people who get all the experiential knowledge they need though meditation, spiritual dreams, spontaneous mystical experiences, etc. But I agree that the intellectual approach by itself is sterile, and for many of us, psychedelics are a way to move beyond boundaries that might otherwise keep us forever trapped within a sadly limited perspective.

It's interesting to ponder the fact that this understanding has been with us probably throughout human history. I bet you know about the Eleusinian Mysteries. Celebrated for 2,000 years, they were sacred rituals in which initiates--including the likes of Socrates, Plato, Aristotle--were given what was probably an LSD-like potion, to give them experience into "the true nature of the soul."

"According to Albert Hofmann, a premiere scholar of the Eleusinian Mysteries, “The cultural-historical significance of the Eleusinian Mysteries, their influence on European intellectual history, can scarcely be overstated. Here suffering humankind found a cure for its rational, objective, cleft intellect, in a mystical totality experience, that let it believe in immortality, in an ever-lasting existence.”

And, as illustrated by that article I recently linked to in the NYT on helping terminal patients through carefully monitored sessions with psilocybin, it seems that society is opening up, once again, to these sorts of things.

@ myself

"it seems that society is opening up, once again, to these sorts of things."

Another possibility: the true nature and value of psychedelics, along with other triggers of altered consciousness, will remain controversial, and out of the mainstream (as were the Eleusinian Mysteries themselves, I believe), for thousands of years to come.

I mean, looking at history, that's more than a reasonable scenario. And the same goes for recognition of psi and the afterlife, which are both tightly wrapped up with altered states.

Just being realistic here. :o)


Soldiers in battle are more ready for death than most people. Even after battle they tend to be more accepting of death, for obvious reasons. I highly doubt you will find many NDEs of an unpleasant nature among this crowd, as "sudden" death is expected, regardless of the circumstances.

That point occurred to me too, Sleepers. One exception, however, is combat deaths that involve explosions. Crookall's research showed that people who died in explosions (e.g., from hand grenades) were likely to have a difficult transition. He speculated that the force of the blast actually blew apart the astral (or was it the etheric?) body, which then had to reconstitute itself.

I have a rather OT question, NPR was doing a show on various human looping
Music/ spoken word etc.
They did a segment on memory disorders...where someone has an affliction where they forget everything every 90 seconds or every 30 seconds & their mind "Reboots"
One of the example’s they used, was a lady & her daughter, the lady had some kind of head injury and was rebooting every 90 seconds so the daughter recorded the conversation she was having with her mom in the hospital room, The Mother would say "what’s the date? The Daughter would say the date,& the Mother "No way I missed my birthday?" & so on this went on and on like 6 times in a row before the daughter changed the subject, but the creepy part is the Lady had the same manner, the same shock, the same tone of voice, & she used the SAME was like a recording being played over & over she had the same stress in her voice, I thought this must be somehow be a unique case.. However the DR on the show said he has seen this time and time again... the same wording, the same facial expressions its like we are pre- programmed AND THAT is what disturbs the hell out of me
The bottom line being if we do have free will, would we change up randomly?
.... I would like to know more about this..?

Thanks Michael, that's an interesting observation - as to the explosion of the astral body. But then, it wouldn't be the shock of death, but the fact that everything needed to "re-group" before realizing what happened.
Death is so common on the battlefield, it seems like a great "investigative lab" for after-life studies where you really do get the entire gamut of experience that those communicators, NDEs, etc, claim to experience. I've heard several stories of military personnel who have had deathbed visions, NDEs, and have seen apparitions. I wouldn't chalk it all up to just the strain of the experience.

Thanks for bringing up the memory disorder thing Marty. Ive thought about this several times in the past, and would also like to know about this... and how this fits into our theory of survival after death? Has anything been written on it in the past?

FYI, I've added a clarification about the book's publication date to the end of my post. The material actually dates from 1944 (or earlier), not 1969 as I'd thought.

The comments to this entry are closed.