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“Let's think the unthinkable, let's do the undoable. Let us prepare to grapple with the ineffable itself, and see if we may not eff it after all.” -Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency Despite being brain-bound in Plato's cave, something in us resonates with the fantastic stories told by returned prisoners. And though language lacks the subtlety to communicate what they have seen in the world outside the cave, it does not necessarily follow that their remembrance becomes “a fading, distant glow, an emotional impression, a half-glimpsed, half-remembered 'something'” Indeed, one of the striking peculiarities of near-death experiences is the searing impression made upon memory. Ineffable yes. Unforgettable no. Our efforts to "eff the ineffable" may be like inarticulate prayers that wend their way to the ears of smiling angels, who do not mock our efforts as vain struggle, but beckon us on to clearer understanding.
Toggle Commented May 4, 2018 on Splinters of truth at Michael Prescott's Blog
AOD said "I have just listened to the voice of Bobby Tracy who identified himself as a 5 year-old boy. I am so sorry to say that I sincerely believe that this is not the voice of a 5 year-old child. This has got to be an adult trying to sound like a child. No 5 year-old speaks with this facility. Without a doubt this is an adult mentality speaking." My five year old friend Masato can talk circles around Bobby Tracy, and do so with equal facility in English and Japanese. And, I've listened to the Bobby Tracy audio with and without my Michael Shermer approved Black Skull earphones (with enhanced critical bias), and I was charmed both times. I don't think we fully understand how deeply personal and subjective our interpretations of sensory input are. Statements such as "this sounds like a man's falsetto rather than a woman" are biased by the fact that our prime suspect for fraud is a man and not a woman. Were Leslie Flint female, I believe that claims of a male falsetto would vanish. And, were she American, we would complain how "fake" the accents of British speakers were. None of us can possibly be objective in listening to the Flint audios. We are like the witness to a mugging, called in to view a photo gallery while the detective slyly puts his finger on the suspect in custody. We know too much to listen with totally open and unbiased ears. Listening to the supposed dead speak goes strongly against the grain of everyday experience. Our common sense naturally rebels. We want to resolve the cognitive dissonance between our desire to keep an open mind and the conviction born out of decades of experience that voices simply don't speak out of thin air. To bring truly objective ears to this content, would likely involve concealing some facts from the listeners, such as the sex of the medium, the precise type of mediumship employed, etc. And, it would be good to have ears listening to content where the context of "voices from the dead" is not obvious, to get clear of the strong bias that kicks in as to the presumed impossibility of such a thing in the first place. Also, having someone with a developed ear for accents, like the expert coaches who train actors, would be helpful for teasing out precisely which regional accent is being employed. A voice claiming to belong to Oliver Lodge said something that I think relates to this: "We want people to enter into this truth, seeking truth with an open mind and an open heart, cooperating as best they can to the best of their ability, making it possible for us to link with them in the right way. A way in which we know we can achieve success. But we don't ask you to be nincompoops and accept everything as gospel, we expect you to use that common sense that you have. But if you receive something that does not make sense, or does not seem at the moment to be acceptable, we don't necessarily think that you should discard it. We should say put it in reserve. It may be that at some later date that which makes no sense at the moment may become a real thing to you in the future." This advice squares with my experience. I don't know how many times I've listened to one of these audios, and went away more baffled then intrigued. It's only now after the passage of a few years that I feel openhearted enough to be interested in looking into this further. Those who formed a conviction of positive belief with respect to Flint's mediumship had years to formulate an opinion. Binge listening to Flint recordings does not necessarily grant one a godlike perspective. The opposite may be the case instead. Stay hungry. Stay foolish.
Toggle Commented May 31, 2017 on A close Shavian at Michael Prescott's Blog
I asked my wife the other day if she would listen to one of the audio conversations between Dr. and Mrs Nanji. She is well aware of my deep interest in matters pertaining to the afterlife, and I think at times she may regard my fascination with what lies beyond, in the undiscovered country of death, as somewhat akin to an unhealthy interest in necrophilia. Be that as it may, she said, to my surprise, “no thanks”. I was a bit taken aback by this, as I wasn’t trying to proselytize, just wishing to share something that I found both touching and quite fascinating. Most peculiar. Now I know how William James and other members of the SPR must have felt back in the day, when they could not convince their colleagues to attend a séance and witness first hand what those men of science claimed to be impossible. Sometimes you can’t even lead the horse to the trough, let alone compel him to drink. I commend those of you who have listened to some of the The Annie Nanji séances, even though what you may have heard is completely opposite to my experience. The Rashomon effect, where each witness describes a situation in mutually contradictory ways, is nicely expressed in our responses. It is understandable that some of us are inclined to hear more with the analytical mind, while the hearing of others is more aligned with the heart. That's not to say that one is better than the other, they are just attuned to different nuances. I approach these audios like the man with a nagging wife, who turns down his hearing aid while reading his book. I too registered many of the complaints voiced here, but they were a faint background rumble that didn't overly distract from listening for the language of the heart. Given the analytical frame of mind necessary to do scientific work, it is no wonder that a brilliant investigator like William James regarded much of what came through Mrs. Piper as "bosh". The Flint skeptics here are in good company.
Toggle Commented May 18, 2017 on More on Flint at Michael Prescott's Blog
His claims about Wriedt being caught by Birkeland are not referenced in footnotes but you can track down the original articles which describe the exposure, problem they are in Norwegian. I have not translated them. Dang, hvis det bare var en måte på nettet for å oversette norsk til engelsk. Deretter kan du vise denne hundens pakke den hellige sannheten til en av Norges fineste sønner!
Toggle Commented May 15, 2017 on More on Flint at Michael Prescott's Blog
poor doc nanji not know own wife him fooled heap many moons by black medicine man flint ride nanji like donkey white man see through lie in one day nanji like beaver who build lodge in tree then cut tree down he dumb as donkey ha ha ha me dumb too i sorry why I talk like spirit injun me feel power leaving i go now _____________________________ Translation for the satire impaired: We know nothing about how Mr. and Mrs Nanji conversed while in the flesh. We know even less about how they should have spoken across the threshold of death.
Toggle Commented May 15, 2017 on More on Flint at Michael Prescott's Blog
I was mistaken about there being only ten séances involving Mr. and Mrs. Nanji. Dr. Nanji met with Flint twice a year over a period of thirteen years for a total of twenty-six sessions.
Toggle Commented May 14, 2017 on More on Flint at Michael Prescott's Blog
A number of audio links have been submitted which cast doubt upon the authenticity of the Flint recordings. I would like to submit an exhibit for the defense, which I find quite convincing. The recording below is between Dr. Nanji and his deceased wife Annie. It appears to be of a private session with only Flint and Dr. Nanji in attendance. In the recording: Dr. Nanji recognizes the voice as that of his dead wife. He converses with her naturally, as though she were in the room with him. Annie Nanji doesn't philosophize vaguely about the spirit world, but rather talks of family matters that would concern a loving couple. His wife clearly reveals private information known only to herself and her husband. No fishing about. Dr. Nanji gives no indication during the conversation that he is chatting with anyone but his wife Annie. Annie describes how she is with her husband at various times and places, and he agrees that he feels her presence often and at those particular times and places. The skeptical prosecution might counter each of these arguments thusly: Blinded by grief, Dr. Nanji only thought the voice he was speaking with resembled that of his dead wife. Flint had a lifetime in which to perfect his mimicry and spontaneous conversational skills. Trivial matters are Flint's speciality. He must have been relieved to not have to consult his apparently encyclopedic knowledge of Spiritualist tropes for these private conversations. Flint almost certainly possessed genuine psychic skills, which he may have used to artfully manipulate his clients. Hypnosis may have been involved as well. Dr. Nanji likely fantasized that his wife was often with him. He would clutch at any feeble claim of her presence that Flint dished out. Dr. Nanji may have been in league with Flint and his possible other confederates. The voices of Flint's presumed co-conspirators are absent in these recordings. It's logical to presume that this was a private session between Flint and Dr. Nanji. While it is possible that a collaborator is listening in and broadcasting through a concealed speaker system, we would then be compelled to endow that person with psychic powers and a gift for convincing impersonations also. There is, of course, the ever present super-psi argument, which seems more threadbare then ever in this context. That Flint's subliminal self has somehow resurrected the psychic corpse of Annie Nanji and is using her persona, memories, and its psychic knowledge of Dr. Nanji's life to intentionally deceive him, is a logical possibility. Also logically possible is alien mind control, and any number of other arguments, which though possible and logical are highly improbable. Besides being a much more complex and convoluted explanation than accepting the conversations at face value, we would have to attribute a sadistic malevolence to such a subliminal being. Can it be that a pleasant person on the outside is host to an evil doppleganger within? Does this sound like the sort of mischief a demonic being would indulge in? I've tried to make the counter arguments as plausible as possible, but frankly I don't find them at all convincing. Perhaps some of you can supply better skeptical arguments to counter the factual evidence in this and the other nine recordings of Dr. Nanji and his wife. Zerdini believed that Independent Direct Voice mediumship was the best evidence of survival. I believe that these conversations between a man and his deceased wife compellingly support that opinion. Dr Nanji and Wife 3 March 1971 All ten of The Annie Nanji séances
Toggle Commented May 14, 2017 on More on Flint at Michael Prescott's Blog
Michael said: "Incidentally, even uncontroversial facts can be wrong on Wiki. Their entry on me says I was born in 1980, when actually I was born in 1960." I'd go with Wikipedia on that one. That you graduated from Wesleyan in the year of your birth must have made mama and papa Prescott proud.
Toggle Commented May 13, 2017 on More on Flint at Michael Prescott's Blog
“Etta Wriedt was caught in fraud by physicist Kristian Birkeland, he discovered metallic potassium in her trumpet, which she used to make fake spirit sounds.” If I read that sentence correctly, then what is being claimed is that Potassium + trumpet=“fake spirit sounds”. Now that’s one nutty professor. Exploding substances do not sound anything like the speech of humans. Ok, maybe the words "kaboom! pow! and bang!" sound a bit explosive, but really, the vocabulary of the "fake spirits" would be pretty limited. Then again, if she were channeling veterans of the Civil War, they might have been reenacting the Battle of Bull Run. Sorry at having a little fun at your expense Steven, but it is either laugh or weep, and I choose to laugh.
Toggle Commented May 12, 2017 on More on Flint at Michael Prescott's Blog
What if everything that Leslie Flint claimed about the spiritual origins of the recorded voices is 100% true? Even if I believed with an ironclad conviction, some of the doubts and questions raised here would still remain. Why do some of the voices sound spot on and others noticeably different from their previously incarnate selves? Why is it that some people come across lively, loud and vivacious, while others struggle to manage a whisper? Why are some unable to come at all? How does this mysterious ectoplasmic vocalization instrument work? Why do some physical mediums manifest a range of phenomena, while others, like Flint, specialize in vocal reproduction? Of course, not having met Flint and hearing the voices first hand I can, at best, have faith, not the kind of conviction that Woods, Greene, and others, who sat with him often, developed over the years. One of those who had such experience was Zerdini, who commented on this blog a few years back: "I have studied the paranormal for fifty years, during which time it has been my good fortune to see, and get to know, some of the best mediums in the world. I base that statement on their consistency and accuracy." "In my view, the best survival evidence has been...through Independent Direct Voice mediumship. Two of the best examples are Leslie Flint in the UK and Emily French in the USA. The former always allowed tape recordings to be made of his seances and the latter was investigated by lawyer Edward Randall, who sat with her over a period of 22 years, and had all communications recorded by a stenographer." Of course, this was Zerdini's opinion, but unlike mine, his was backed by considerable direct experience over a period of decades. I think it was Paul who said that Zerdini sat with Flint over 200 times. That has to count for something. Naturally, there are middle positions between total belief and complete disbelief. While all these combinations are logically possible, some are more probable than others. If it is true that direct voice mediumship is a reality and that Flint was the real deal, then the Flint recordings are a priceless treasure.
Toggle Commented May 12, 2017 on More on Flint at Michael Prescott's Blog
Why are we even debating today whether the Flint voices were authentic direct voice phenomena or not? Don't you find it incredible, that the scientific acumen which put men on the moon in 1969 could not definitively settle the matter yea or nay? After all, we're talking basic biology here. Either the human instrument is making the noise or it isn't. I should think that a high school science class could have established effective controls and instruments of sound source detection to settle the matter. And, if scientists are so damned curious, creative, and willing to dream truly wild ideas, like the existence of a multi-verse, dark matter/dark energy, and so forth, then what's so difficult about accepting as fact that a weird little Englishman can produce voices without the use of his physical organs of speech? I find the failure of courage and curiosity in this matter to be truly mind boggling. By comparison, buying into direct voice with conviction is a walk in the park, however you explain the damn thing. SPR president John Poynton speculates that a kind of cognitive pathology is responsible for the attitude of incredulity that afflicts the scientific mainstream with respect to paranormal phenomena. Peter Lamont addresses the history of this "cognitive pathology" in his excellent article Spiritualism and a Mid-Victorian Crisis of Evidence. Lamont's article is on Jstor, but you can register for free to read it. The mid-Victorian crisis was not a lack of evidence, but rather an embarrassing wealth of it supporting the psychic phenomena of D. D. Home. The witnesses were first class, the lighted conditions ideal, and the scientific testing by Crookes and colleagues was impeccable. Honest disagreement about interpreting strange phenomena is not the problem. It is, rather, the absurd inability to face physical facts and admit that we don't know what the hell is going on. The flaming arrogance and unwillingness of the supposedly educated mind to confront its own ignorance is beyond belief. Henry Sidgwick called it a scandal in 1882. That it continues to this day, is a testament to the power of belief systems to alter and conceal matters of clearly established fact. Facts are precious things. They are the offspring of cosmic law and universal truth. When we allow our opinions to morph into pseudo-facts, they attach themselves like barnacles to the genuine facts, and the truth becomes encrusted and disfigured, like the once beautiful statuary in sunken cities.
Toggle Commented May 10, 2017 on More on Flint at Michael Prescott's Blog
Steven informs: "David unfortunately this medium I think was a caught in fraud. Are you talking about Stanislawa P.? This was the medium exposed by Eugéne Osty at the Institut Métapsychique International. I think it is unlikely she was genuine." Thank you for this valuable piece of information Steven. After what seemed endless minutes of tireless research, I have unearthed shocking information that casts a cloud over this alleged exposé of madame Stanislawa. Unfortunately, it seems that this Eugéne Osty fellow was, himself, a rather shady character. According to his bio page on Wikipedia—which is a legendary piece of rigorous scholarship—: “his methods were criticized as non-scientific”, his claims “disputed by skeptical researchers” and "various discrepancies have come to light which throw the whole of Osty's experiments into doubt.” Further, fellow psychical researcher Harry Price said “Osty has too often shown in the past, despite some intellectual ability, evidence of an amateurish and uncritical approach to his subject." What is curious, is the question why Eugéne Osty gave a negative evaluation of the medium Stanislawa? Given that the money man behind the Institut Métapsychique International was a “militant spiritualist”, and therefore the institute little more than a front for Spiritualist disinformation, one would expect Osty to give Stanislawa a glowing report. It is a conundrum, until we indulge ourselves, as we have a little on this thread already, in a touch of creative license with historical fact. In the spirit of imaginative history, or fantaisie historique as the French would say, let us consider these possible facts: As a spiritualist, Meyer almost certainly subscribed to free-lovism. As a wealthy Frenchman, Meyer likely kept a mistress or two. Madame Stanislaw, being part of the free-love network of mediums, no doubt knew Meyer and, atracted by his wealth and prestige, may have become his lover. Their tempestuous affair might have ended badly, at which point Meyer would possibly have declared “Je vengerai mon honneur contre toi, méchante sorcière!” Stanislawa, knowing little French, could have thought he said “I’ll throw your mother the whore, into a ditch.” At which point she would have smashed a table lamp over Meyer’s head. Meyer, sore and angry, then instructed his lackey Osty to employ his infamous photographic skills to smear Stansislawa. It is my hope that these possible facts, with a few stragically placed footnotes, may be worthy of submission to the esteemed editorial team that has masterfully unmasked the rascal Osty. Vive la vérité et la justice!
Toggle Commented May 9, 2017 on Our man Flint at Michael Prescott's Blog
​ Writer Peter Elbow makes a good case for the Believing Game (PDF) as a supplementary tool to critical thinking. In critical thinking, of course, we nuture our doubts and nourish our skepticism. Ideas are submitted to the acid bath of criticism, with the aim of stripping off the varnish of falsehood and revealing what is true about an idea, proposition, or claim; or disposing of it entirely. The Believing Game, or Methodological Believing, takes the opposite approach to evaluation, and requires that skepticism be temporarily suspended as you inhabit the idea from the standpoint of a believer. My first reaction to AOD's thesis that Flint, Woods, and Greene fraudulently created the recordings of spirit voices, was one of revulsion at the idea. My skeptical reflex immediately kicked in and sought to rebut what seemed to me an unsupported and speculative accusation. This proved to be an excellent candidate for trying out the believing game. As a provisional believer in AOD's thesis, I quickly come to the source of my revulsion, as this belief elicits an immediate judgement of serious wrongdoing on the part of those allegedly concerned. While this sort of wretched behavior doesn't approach anything close to bayonetting babies, it is a clear violation of the commandment to not bear false witness. Sam Harris makes a strong case against ever engaging in fibbery in his great little read Lying. So what do you know, Sam and Moses have more in common than just a shared heritage. If AOD is correct, then this was not some petty scam, or harmless prank, but rather rises to a more sinister level of deceit and deception. Lying is wrong. Even little white lies are wrong. They corrode the fabric of relationship and weaken the ties that bind us together as a society. This, if it is a lie, is a whopper. It's a sin against science, spiritualism, and the truth. Shame, shame, shame on them if this be so. May they have at least a week or two on Satan's spit to consider the consequences of their nasty little conspiracy. Though I'm usually inclined to be charitable, forgiving and try to obey the commandment to "Judge not", this belief strongly compels me to severely condemn what I regard to be inexcusably bad behavior. As evidence of the scam, we believers submit to you our one and only exhibit: the tapes. As other fellow skeptics have already opined, there's a reasonable suspicion that some of the persons speaking on tape are not who they say they are. If true, then clearly deception is afoot, but who is the deceiver and who the deceived? I don't think that AOD is asking me to give up God, country, and eternity in order to reject the validity of the tapes. So, there may be tricksy spirits making mischief on the record. Flint's pal "Mickey" seems like a fine little fellow to me, but hardly one you want to have as a bouncer at a seance. There is the question of the quality of the recorded speech, but it varies enough in liveliness/zombiness/ordinariness that I wouldn't discount it's authenticity on that account alone. As for different voices sharing a single personality behind them, I don't have the psychic or psychological acumen to perceive whether that's the case or not. Does the fishiness of some of the recordings effectively indict Flint and his alleged conspirators? Though I'm trying to believe in their guilt, the possibility of discarnate persons pranking is a reasonable counter argument. What would help consolidate and shore up my belief, would be tangible evidence of guilt; an incriminating letter, suspicious bank statements, testimony to their low character and wicked ways, etc. I want to believe, but I need more than the tapes alone to become a true believer. One thing that temporarily adopting this belief requires of me, is a more cynical attitude towards humanity than I currently possess. Certainly, scam artists exist, and the profession of mediumship no doubt has its fair share. But, I suspect that most business people are honest most of the time, and that probably goes for mediums too. As Flint likely made a reasonable living off his gift, and fraud or authentic he certainly had a gift, monetary gain is a possible motive to commit a lifetime of fraud. However, if he was such a skilled impersonator and able to do so while bound and gagged, he really should have gotten an agent, as he would have made a killing in Vegas. As for Woods and Greene, they supposedly paid for the privilege of sitting with and recording Flint and friends. Maybe fleeting fame was a motive, or perhaps a genuine but twisted desire to promote the cause of Spiritualism. It's hard for me get much enthusiam around that idea without at least a scrap of tangible evidence to support it. It is fascinating to me that the exact same accusations of phoniness, fakery, and fraud attends the voluminous amount of photographic evidence of ectoplasm and ectoplasmic forms. A single photo, out of the hundreds I've looked at converted me to being a believer in ectoplasm. It's of a Polish medium photographed by Albert von Schrenck-Notzing that shows the precautions taken by the investigators to eliminate regurgitated cheese cloth or other material as the source of the ecotplasmic manifestation. The netting secured over her head and hands would let a vaporous substance pass but not a solid. The caption on the photo shares the alternative "fact" that "Practically all documented cases of ectoplasmic phenomena have, of course, been proven to be fraudulent." Even a cursory examination of the photo screams "white crow! white crow!" It goes with out saying, naturally, that von Schrenck-Notzing might have been a fraud himself. If so, he was one of the most anal retentive, meticulous, cautious, and exacting perpretrators of the dark art that ever lived. Given that I'm sold on ectoplasm from the photographic evidence, that it can be manipulated to form a vocal apparatus is not much of a stretch. Thanks Michael for bringing up the topic again. I'll make a point of listening to more of the recordings.
Toggle Commented May 6, 2017 on Our man Flint at Michael Prescott's Blog
Sorry mates. The comedic commandos that I previously referred to were Yanks, not Brits. I got me Jones's and Milligans mixed up.
Toggle Commented Mar 31, 2017 on Whither we goest? at Michael Prescott's Blog
I'm up for getting "In like Flint". Direct voice mediumship is a fascinating field. I very much enjoyed R. Nigel Heagerty's "The French Revelation" Which is a condensation of the writings of Edward C.Randall, who sat with direct voice medium Emily S. French for over 700 sittings, spanning two decades. On another note related to the prior posting "A World of Hurt", I saw a minute and a half video on YouTube today from film recorded during the dark days of WWII. It shows how one daring band of Brits faced down Hitler and his henchmen. I'm sure it will Spike your interest.
Toggle Commented Mar 31, 2017 on Whither we goest? at Michael Prescott's Blog
Insofar as your own writing goes, I think you should take Joseph Campbell’s advice and “follow your bliss.” The tagline of your blog “Occasional thoughts on matters of life and death” grants you the lattitude to write about whatever strikes your fancy. It’s kind of you to cater to the interest of your readers, but you should give voice to whatever speaks to you now. At the same time, you have hosted the thoughts of guest contributors from time to time on topics that are of presumed interest to the bulk of your readership. So, those themes can be pursued here without your need to constantly “poke the beast” so to speak. I hope you’re not too discouraged by the downturn in the current comment thread. As a witness outside the ferment, it has been an instructive passion play manifesting the themes of evil and suffering explored in your posting. It’s not necessarily a bad thing when a conversation goes off the rails, if you can learn something from it. It is only when we fail and founder in our foibles, that the old terrorizing spirit, that turns good people wayward, wins.
Toggle Commented Mar 29, 2017 on Whither we goest? at Michael Prescott's Blog
​Michael remarked about the increasing acrimony manifested in the comments here. Whenever I think the conversation has drifted, I often go back to the original post to compare the current comment thread to the source from which it sprang. One thing that always impresses me about Michael’s postings is the humanity and humility exposed in his writing. Though he makes provocative statements that don’t always resonate with my personal beliefs, I always sense a welcoming spirit inviting perspectives that differ from his own. So, it’s a bit sad to a witness a very interesting and deep beginning degenerate over time into something of a cesspool of petty bickering. “Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall.” I feel like I’m watching a little morality play, complete with flickering serpent tongues. The challenging commandment of Jesus to “love your enemies” has practical merit in dealing with people whose beliefs you hold to be despicable. We are all part of the sacred web of life and the muck and mire of the human condition is our joint inheritance. There are no saints here, nor evil geniuses. We’re just folk bearing the human stain like a full body tattoo, who have flocked around a kind soul with many interesting ideas. I haven’t commented on this particular post previously because it’s taken awhile for my thoughts to coalese on this very challenging topic of the problem of pain. The spiritual tradition that I come from holds that there was a time when humans harmonized with cosmic law, and that there was a gradual deviation (perhaps over centuries or millenia) before the divine presence on Earth was TARFU. The biblical story of the fall and expulsion from Eden, metaphorically describes the essence of this belief. I don’t know if there is any factual truth to this story, but it is a powerful myth that is continually reenacted in the melodrama of human experience. How do we escape this dreadful loop of rising and falling, rising and falling? There is an expression "love the sinner, hate the sin" which strikes me as, at least, partially correct. I would substitute the word "understand" for "hate" in the above saying. Virology would be a dreadful profession if it required hating the object of your study and, is the mission of medicine to hate injury and disease, or should it be to promote health and well being? There is, for instance, a world of difference between being for racial justice and being intolerant of racism. Racism itself is a form of intolerance and being intolerant of intolerance bears no small amount of cognitive dissonance. Besides "racism", the afflictions of "psychopathy" and "narcissism" have been trumpeted (pun intended) here. Narcissists can be obnoxious as hell, but I feel great pity for someone so blinded by their own reflection that they often fail to appreciate the beauty in others. And, to lack empathy for other humans and creatures, is a kind of blindness that some manage to cope with successfully while others succumb and break badly. So, when Julie called my president a "narcissistic psychopath", she might just as well have called him a gimp or a cripple, which is not just politically incorrect, but rather cruel. If there is truth to Julie's diagnosis, then pity and compassion seem more appropriate feeling to direct towards Donald Trump than hatred and shunning. Love the sinner and understand the sin. And by the way, many of Julie's comments in this very long thread exhibit a kindness and compassion that I fully endorse. And there are many other fine comments made by others, particularly early on, that have been quite insightful. It is just that a gradual corruption and, dare I say, evil has crept into the discussion and brought the vibe down. Being human is a bit like being in Alchoholics Anonymous. Hello, my name is David. I'm a human being and I foul up on a regular basis. But I'm trying to let the better angels of my nature lead me into the way of compassion and understanding. Please forgive whatever harm I've caused you.
Toggle Commented Mar 28, 2017 on A world of hurt at Michael Prescott's Blog
Michael said: "Whether death is seen as eternal existence or nonexistence, it remains the unknown. And people do fear the unknown." Of these two unknowns, nonexistence seems the less fear worthy, as there is no "you" to experience anxiety, depression, etc. Presumably, suicides anticipate nonexistence as an eternal relief from the pain that drives them to take their lives. And, believers in the finality of death claim that death is simply a return to the state of nonexistence that preceded our conception and birth. Nonexistence is likened to the timeless state of dreamless sleep. Socrates, in his meditation on death, noted that his best nights were those free of dreams. If death be such, he thought, it is a sleep to be welcomed. Raymond Moody observed, however, that dreamless sleep is enjoyed precisely because we awaken from it. The peace of dreamless sleep is familiar, it is something we regularly experience and, personally, the thought of dozing off and never awakening is rather comforting. Yes, no more joys and pleasures, but no troubles and worries either. Non-existence is 100 percent care free. So, we can comprehend what it might be to sink into a dreamless sleep from which we never awaken. Michael gives a sound remedy for those suffering from Apeirophobia, that eternity is not an infinite stretch of time. Eternity exists outside of time. This, is eternity, the ever present now. Why worry what my life will be like a million years from now, for that now to come is the same eternal present in which these words are being typed by me and read by you.
Toggle Commented Feb 17, 2017 on World without end, amen at Michael Prescott's Blog
A question that has often nagged me, when reading these stories of out of body seeing and hearing, is how the detached soul witnesses events in the physical world. The same question pops up in the séance room, where it's apparent that the spirits see clearly, even in pitch darkness. Prominent skeptic Susan Blackmore offers an informed argument (The Implausibility of Astral Bodies and Astral Worlds in chapter 17 of The Myth of an Afterlife) challenging the notion that an etheric double, made of finer substance, can see as we see. The basic facts of vision are pretty well understood, to the point where an artificial system in the form of digital cameras can be constructed. We see by virtue of light, reflected off of objects, that strikes the retina of the eye, is encoded and transmitted to the visual cortex of the brain via the optic nerves, where an image is presumably rendered. Cameras don't see, they capture, encode, and generate a representative image from collected photons, and the current understanding of the body's visual system is analogous. What neurologists can't begin to explain is the conscious experience we have of being immersed in a visual world. How does the eye of the etheric double see if light can pass through it? The darkness of the séance room and of the ceiling space where the patient "saw wiring, some pipes" may give us a clue. Cosmologists are largely in agreement that most of the matter and energy (i.e. light) in the universe is invisible to us. Perhaps it is this so called "dark" energy that illuminates the physical world that the astral body sees. It's also possible that astral seeing occurs through another mechanism, a kind of mind sight, that doesn't require an ethereal eye to register ethereal light. Just as we have visual impressions while dreaming, perhaps the mind can directly apprehend the visible world without the mechanism (physical or ethereal) of an eye. Given that discarnate persons report possessing eyes and ears, I'm inclined to believe that is how they hear and see the physical world. Susan Blackmore's chapter is available on her website, but I haven't linked to it as her site appears to have been hacked and is redirecting to another web address.
I recommend a 5 min. video of philosopher David Chalmers speaking on how VR reframes big questions in philosophy. Chalmers asks whether playing cricket with a virtual ball and bat constitutes a less real experience, and connects the emergence of VR technology to some of the age old questions in the philosophy of mind. If it is true that we are incarnate in a virtual reality, then what's to say that discarnate life is the real deal? What if death is a leveling up in the virtual realm, where old game limits are shed and new limits are imposed. Given the breadth of near death accounts, it's reasonable to assume that a wide range of experience is available to former occupants of this planet. Is all of that real, or as the silly saying goes is it "all good"? Where does the veil of illusion fall away and naked reality assert itself? I suspect that reality is as much present here and now as it will ever be. We may, instead, be experiencing an augmented reality, where our VR headset is projecting a virtual overlay upon the myriad possibilities of physical existence. Octopi project an Octopussian overlay on reality, as do butterflies their own projection and so on. The many minds in this world create many worlds of experience. There is an assumption here, prevalent in spiritualist dogma, that the purpose of incarnation is to learn. For the sake of argument, let’s set that belief aside for the moment. How would the universe, shorn of its mission to educate souls, be different? Would it be a kinder, gentler universe; or just as challenging to navigate as it presently is? Does the belief that we’re here to learn add anything to our understanding of why things are the way they are? I'm not sure that it does. Learning is a good thing, and life experience offers abundant opportunities to learn. I am optimistic that discarnate life will offer even greater learning challenges. But, as a primary life purpose, learning by itself is not enough. An artist learns technique, in order to paint, a builder learns his craft in order to build things. Learning can be an end in itself on occasion, but usually it is a means in service to another end. So, I prefer to think of the universe, and this world in particular, as a creative project and, as with any artistic medium, the inherent limitations help to focus the work in certain directions.
Toggle Commented Aug 7, 2016 on The VR thing at Michael Prescott's Blog
In the sentence "Adults who haven't accepted this reality are stuck are not really adults in the full sense." you need an "and" after "stuck".
Toggle Commented Aug 7, 2016 on Blood simple at Michael Prescott's Blog
Michael has a post from ten years ago where he makes a good case for the authenticity of Minnie Harrison's mediumship. One of the benefits of physical mediumship is that it removes two weapons from the debunker's arsenal, malobservation and hallucination, leaving fraud the only viable skeptical option. I'm not aware of any accusations of fraud against Minnie Harrison, but given the largely private nature of her mediumship this is understandable. Tom Harrison's book is, admittedly, anecdotal and unscientific. But scientific scrutiny encompasses only a tiny sliver of what human beings accept as true. If the blessings and sanctification of the scientific establishment were required to authenticate every truth claim, the world would grind to a halt. We can debate whether the ectoplasmic form is a manifestation stemming from the unconscious mind of the medium or a bonafide dead man walking, but either way, the inconvenient truth remains that the impossible appears to be possible. Harrison's book is available in print, kindle, and on iBooks.
Chel: "Can anyone comment on the accuracy/usefulness of Bill's links? I suspect the answer to both is nothing but some better-informed input on them would be nice." I sometimes feel like I'm on a fool's errand chasing down Bill's sources, but often I find something interesting there, frequently at odds with the conclusions that Bill habitually draws. Bill complains that the article God Plays Dice is from a WordPress blog and not a scientific source. Yet, the article Bill cites; The PEAR Proposition: Fact or Fallacy? appears in the Skeptical Enquirer, an organ of CSI that furthers their mission to “Maintain a network of people interested in critically examining paranormal, fringe science, and other claims, and in contributing to consumer education”. I think it’s fair to say that CSI is a political action group focused on influencing public opinion. Though many CSI members and contributors to the Inquirer have science degrees, the publication is not, to my knowledge, a peer reviewed scientific journal. Despite the fact that the Inquirer is not a bonafide “scientific source”, and therefore by Bill’s own criteria a dubious resource, the author of The PEAR Proposition: Fact or Fallacy? is a scientist and his article is couched in a pop-sci style, which to a layperson sounds scientific enough. Though I’m not competent to agree or disagree with Dr. Jeffers doubts about the work of the PEAR group, as a layman his critique comes across as a sound piece of collegial skepticism, and not the capital “S” kind, the genuine skeptical article. As an aside, I quite enjoy Bill’s contributions to the comments here and hope he breaks his vow of silence. He clearly has a passionate interest in afterlife studies, which is common ground enough for me.
For the sake of the blog archive, the TedX presentation I see dead people: Dreams and Visions of the Dying by Dr. Kerr is now available. I highly recommend it.
Toggle Commented Jan 15, 2016 on Fatal vision at Michael Prescott's Blog
Art said: "I have to wake up in the next life remembering and realizing who I am just like I do here" Amos and Bruce replied to Art with some great remarks that I heartily endorse. Perhaps some readers of this blog remember bits of their existence prior to birth, but I don't recall any of it, not a thing. And, I confess to suffering greatly as I struggled through Michael Newton's 'Journey of Souls'. It's not exactly that I'm skeptical of the validity of hypnotic regression to preexistence, it's that I am deeply resistant to any attempt to pin down in any sort of pseudo-authoritative way what that state is like. That so many NDE and mediumistic accounts describe the spiritual realm as ultimately and utterly ineffable, suggests that our human minds cannot really comprehend what it is like. Words fail. Referring back to the Diamond metaphor of soul, I'd like to use for a moment a different kind of diamond. I used to imagine that the soul was like a baseball team, and that incarnation was being on the diamond at bat. Death, after living a life that was a base hit, home run, or an out; was a return to the dugout where I would relive with my teammates the glory or ignominy of my time at bat. Art brings up a valid problem for this sort of scenario, and the problem is my apparent amnesia of what occurred back in the dugout prior to my stepping up to the plate. Now, what I'm about to say may be utterly obvious to many of you, but it's a bit of a revelation to me. I'll use a lowercase "i" to refer to the present incarnation of myself, as opposed to the greater Self that the diamond metaphor refers to. Prior to the conception and birth of this little guy i didn't exist. Before Abraham was, i wasn't. i was not back in the heavenly dugout with my mates, nor was i a facet of a diamond soul. Though my infant self had a definite and expressive personality (i was a real bawler), that baby i was very much an early work in progress. Now, this is child development 101 stuff, but you can see why some folks get seriously cheesed off when the topic of the eternal soul is raised. I mean, for crying out loud, we were all once bawling babies that pooped our pants. What kind of a divine being pulls that sort of crap? I was very disappointed initially, on reading mediumistic accounts from dead people, and at how utterly clueless the dead can be. What, no Ascension into Buddha Mind, no instant apprehension of Christ Consciousness? What a letdown. Many deceased communicators complain of how difficult it is to descend to our level and, that by doing so, they lose much of the more elevated sense of consciousness that they normally enjoy. I imagine it might be like being in bed with the flu, groggy and barely able to put together a coherent thought. Yet, many dead people seem to express quite coherent thoughts which are, nonetheless, dull as dishwater, and very much like the trivial kind of chatter that we earthlings often indulge in. The metaphor of the transition from caterpillar to butterfly is often used with respect to death. In between these two states of being is the chrysalis, where the caterpillar turns to goo on the path to becoming a butterfly. Perhaps we enter the tomb of the chrysalis on death, living on for awhile as our old familiar small "s" selves, as we are gradually transformed from earth worm back to the Self that sent part of itself into the world. And upon returning, our facet of experience adds its luster back into the greater Self from which we sprang. I truly hope that something like that is the case.