Recently I saw a Facebook post by Cyrus Kirkpatrick, author of Understanding Life After Death, describing an evidential and intriguing session he'd had with Susanne Wilson. I asked Cyrus if he would tell his story here. What follows is his account of his experience.
Thanks for sharing, Cyrus!
Recently, I had my first session with a psychic medium, Susanne Wilson, whom a friend described as one of the very few authentic mental mediums she’s had the opportunity to experience. Booked several months in advance, the due-date finally rolled around, and I received my phone call from Susanne.
First, let’s get the skeptical part over with. I was very aware coming into the reading that I could become a victim of a “hot reading”. And initially this was the direction things went. Simply skimming my book (Understanding Life After Death), you can find a lot of info to construct a fake reading. So, I was a bit concerned that one of her initial comments was about a man eager to make his presence known as a “partner” of mine in the astral – the famous medium Leslie Flint. Of course I devote an entire chapter to Flint in my book, so it would be no great feat to use Flint as a tool to try and dupe me.
However, much to my relief, a gold standard of proof soon developed during the reading, beyond what could be considered a hot or cold reading (I took measures throughout the reading to minimize the information I was providing her as well, to reduce the chances of the latter form of hoax).
The high-caliber information began to roll in. Susanne first correctly identified my grandmother. She said a name was coming through that sounded like “Jules,” but that everyone always “spells it wrong.” My grandmother was always quick to note that people constantly spell her name Julya (with a “y”) incorrectly as Julia. My grandmother would always joke about this when I was a kid, and it is one of my distinct memories. Susanne identified that this character died at a very old age, close to 100, and that it was in fact my grandmother. She also identified the physical appearance of my grandfather alongside her, and that these people were all on my dad’s side.
She then identified a bunch of people playing the song “Deep in the Heart of Texas” and all my ancestors who were together on the other side, proud Texans, dressed in very dapper/upper-class clothes. That’s all my dad’s side of the family.
She then identified my living father by his first name. “She (my grandmother) keeps saying guy, guy, guy. Who is guy? Is it maybe someone’s name? She really wants to provide a message for guy.” My dad’s name is Guy.
Now for the proof-positive part: My dad had a very unusual ADC after my mom died a few months ago. My father is known for his often unusual, borderline psychedelic experiences, and I don’t always take them all that seriously. He told me one night, in a very emotional phone call, that he was “visited” by a whole group of fluttering, faery-like creatures that came through the wall, illuminating his room, and sending telepathic messages. It’s possible I mentioned this story in passing on my Facebook group (“Afterlife Topics”), but I have no memory, and I assume no other soul knew about this. Well, Susanna said, “This is going to sound really strange. I almost don’t want to say it if it sounds crazy, but there’s like these faeries that are watching over your dad, helping him heal.”
The next hits, however, are even more irrefutable, as they concern my personal contacts with my mom, who recently passed. Since my mom died, I’ve had several astral experiences, where I’ve met with her and tried to help her on a particularly rocky transition period. In my most recent encounter, my mom seemed to materialize into my bedroom while I was partially out of body. She crawled up next to me and wrapped her arm around my waist, and with her usual sense of humor said, “This must be really creepy.” Susanne correctly stated, “Your mom tried to visit you recently, and made it a point to touch you so that you could remember the experience better. She wanted to verify that you received that experience.”
During one of the times that I visited my mom, I found myself in a hospital-like environment. My mom was in a special room, where she was recovering from a kind of nervous breakdown, having been doing various self-destructive things to herself. It was there that I encountered an older lady in a nurse’s outfit, who explained to me that my mom was going through a really hard transition, and would require a lot of baby steps to become, essentially, a fully functional person again.
Susanne identified that there was a nurse with my mom, and that her name was Mrs. Connor, and that she’d met with me before in this “hospital”-like area in the afterlife, which she calls the Halls of Healing. It’s possible some of this information had been supplied by me ahead of time, but the next part was impossible for her to know: Susanne transcribed for me Mrs. Connor’s explanation of my mom’s condition. “Connor tells me that your mom arrived with her consciousness split into two parts: one of an adult, and another of a child. This regression is, of course, very bad. However, she’s gotten better since arriving. Basically, the nursing staff are trying to make her into a whole person again.”
In the months leading to my mom’s sudden death, she began acting very strange. Half the time, she had reverted to the mind of a small child. This was a truly strange experience, and one of my brothers and I knew that it was a bad sign of mental deterioration — although, oddly, the other half of the time she was as normal as ever, so we couldn’t say for sure it was even a sign of dementia. None of us could fully grasp what had happened to her, and she did not see any doctors or receive any diagnoses at this time; this information was only noted between me and a brother. Further, upon visiting my mom in the astral, I noticed she retained these issues, as she talked about her new environment with a strange, childlike vocabulary.
So, now that it’s established it was the real deal, I’ll come back to the topic of Flint. Apparently, Leslie Flint has expressed a lot of happiness for my book and dedicated afterlife-related discussions online, and that there are “really important” things planned in the future that he, and scientists on the spirit side, are trying to get me and other afterlife researchers involved with. He said there is something I’m working on that Flint wants to be “front and center” of (but I’m not sure what that might be yet!).
Susanne explained that my most closely associated “guides” are my Texas ancestors, but also a group of “consciousness researchers” out of, of all places, Poland. That they were “using” me and my innate clairaudient abilities to further their influence on Earth.
However, I am also aware of other guides higher out on the spectrum that I’m associated with, that I really wanted to know more about. So I inquired further. Susanne mentioned that a primary guide of mine is an aboriginal Australian man. She then confirmed another fact—that this guide helped to heal me “when I was traveling.” I had a bad injury in Thailand a few years ago that required lengthy and dangerous surgery. However, in my astral experiences, I’ve never encountered this entity.
Next, I clued her in on some more information about an apparent guide or astral visitor I already knew about. During that said injury, while I was in the hospital, I had a vivid lucid dream of these very beautiful Egyptian twins, who reassured me that I would be well during my injury. They told me they were spirits of the Nile crocodile, once worshiped as goddesses in ancient Egypt. I’ve never been able to get those girls out of my head. So, I brought this up with Susanne. I said “What can you tell me about Egypt, crocodiles, and a female guide?”
Susanne then said that she saw a woman appearing. She seemed to stutter a lot on the topic, and then said something about a “sister”—that the woman was bringing her sister forward. She said they were twins, and although they were two different women, they existed together as one entity.
She then explained that the twins were showing her an infinity loop tattoo on their arms. The symbol was a representation of how these spirits have existed eternally. Then, a powerful male spirit appeared, a kind of ‘pharaoh’ of sorts. This spirit was somewhat dismissive of Susanne, who explained to me through her that they prefer not to work with mediums because of how unreliable they are. However, they would indulge my request just this once.
So who are they? Well, the twins called me “Little Brother,” related to a familial relationship to them from a past life. They are not from Earth or any realm we can even understand, but they did exist briefly in Egypt. During that time, apparently I had a life in Egypt, as well. They incarnated to help “build something,” and that I assisted them with building it. However, no details were given.
I was curious about why I haven’t had further experiences with them. Apparently, these spirits are so powerful, that if I were to come into contact with them, my physical body would instantly die. They said the only way they can be communicated with is through yes/no impressions through my own clairaudient abilities. Their advice for me was to remain calm throughout family matters and work for the next few months, and to meditate more.
Susanne concluded that they were probably from another star originally. My interpretation is that perhaps they are some of the progenitors of ancient Egyptian culture, and although highly influential on our culture, they're not even from Earth originally.
So, that’s a lot to take in. A pretty extraordinary experience, not sure what else to say.
Also, my auras are pink and blue, which is funny because those aren't my favorite colors--but it makes sense concerning my personality. Apparently, pinks are empaths, and I need to be careful not to be too empathic for my own good.
I've been reading Near Death in the ICU, by Laurin Bellg, MD, and finding a lot of fascinating material in it. But before I present some examples, I need to offer a caveat. At the beginning, the author says she has done her best to conceal the identities of the patients and family members in the stories told here. That's understandable, but she goes on to say that in some cases she has even created composite stories based on two or more episodes blended together.
I'm not entirely happy about that approach, since it necessarily means blurring the details of individual accounts and suggesting a more elaborate experience than any one person may have reported. Personally, I think that when it comes to NDE accounts, composites should be avoided and the details should be changed as little as possible.
Nevertheless, there is a lot of good stuff here, and I have no reason to doubt the general accuracy of what's being reported. Much of it is consistent with other NDE accounts, but told from a fresh perspective.
One common thread involves seeing a spiritual being (or more than one) in the form of a glowing point of light or a luminous orb. Another feature in common in several accounts is the patient's relocation to an ethereal space of perfect peace.
Here is an excerpt from the account of someone identified only as Dr. John, which includes both details:
His next awareness found him completely and peacefully enveloped in what he could only describe as a soft shroud of mist with tiny points of light blinking in and out, as they darted quickly back and forth all around him. He felt completely weightless and peaceful, void of any fear. The feeling of love was immense, almost unbearable, and recalling it now, Dr. John’s voice became fragile as he paused to fight back tears.
Regaining his composure, after a few moments he continued. He described floating in such a beautiful and bright place of total peace that he lost all thoughts and concerns related to anything connected to his physical existence. He was aware of nothing except how good it felt to be there where he was – wherever that was. How long he lingered in this space he could not say because time had immediately lost meaning for him.
Out-of-body experiences feature in many of the accounts, and in some cases veridical observations are reported. I've already mentioned the next NDE in a book review of another book, The Self Does Not Die. Here is part of the story:
Howard started from the beginning and gave us a play-by-play of his experience. He recounted that at some point, he didn’t know when, he felt more than heard an intense, escalating buzzing. Not long afterward he experienced the sensation of shooting out of the top of his head with incredible speed ...
“Next thing I know,” he said, “I’m looking down on my body and it feels like I’m bobbing and bouncing against the ceiling. I was too shocked to be scared! It occurred to me that I might be dead, so I started to panic and, as crazy as it sounds, I tried swimming through the air to get back to my body. It didn’t work. That convinced me I must be dead, so I just watched and listened ...”
After this, he found himself rising up through the ceiling, where he saw the plumbing pipes and other fixtures between floors. Then he entered a strange environment in which mannequins were laid out in hospital beds. The nurses were flabbergasted when he described this detail to them, because there was no way he could have known about this room, which was used for training purposes. This part of the story is excerpted in my earlier post.
Two features of the above excerpt are interesting to me. First, the buzzing sensation is commonly reported by people who have OBEs, including people who have learned to induce these experiences at will. Exiting via the top of the head is also a pretty familiar observation. (The buzzing sensation is also reported in many cases of so-called alien abduction, a fact that lends credence to the idea that these episodes are OBEs misinterpreted as events in physical space.) Second, the business about bobbing against the ceiling reminded me of a time, some years ago, when I used to have exceptionally vivid dreams in which I would "bob and bounce" weightlessly against the ceiling of my home, sometimes exploring corners of the ceiling or treading water in midair. Was I dreaming? Or was my astral body exploring my environment while I slept?
A woman who suffered a series of heart attacks reported several NDEs that included the orb, veridical observations, and a sort of impromptu scientific experiment that she herself performed in her out-of-body state:
“What happened next was a big surprise, and that’s when I knew I must have died. I became distracted by a growing, bright light to my left, and when I turned my attention to it, it became bigger and brighter. It seemed like it should have been a blinding light, that’s how bright it was, but it wasn’t hard to look at, even though it was so intense. The more attention I gave to it, the closer it came and then, suddenly, I wasn’t concerned at all about what was going on with my body in the ER. Not one bit. In fact, in an instant, I forgot all about it. In just a blink, it was all about that incredible light for me.
“It was coming closer and I wanted it to, because the closer it came, the more intense love I felt ...
“It’s so hard to explain that kind of love. It was very intense and so real. More real than this,” [she said, indicating the room around her].
Later in the experience, she was reunited with her mother, who told her she had to go back. She didn’t want to return, and she put up quite a fight about it.
“I even tried pleading with her to let me stay. I told her, ‘It’s my life, I should get to choose. I should have a say-so.’ Then she told me, ‘It’s not that you don’t get to choose. Part of you, in fact, is choosing and participating in this decision. It would be easy for you to choose to stay here, but you understand on a level you can’t quite comprehend just now that there is more from your family relationships you need to experience and learn. And more they need to learn from you. When choosing is not an act of escape but an act of completion, then you will stay.’"
She did go back but suffered a second heart attack.
She knew it was coming. She felt a subtle buzzing sensation, then perceived a voice saying, “Get ready for it. Here it comes. It’s going to happen again.” Strangely, she said it sounded like her voice, as if she could hear aloud the thought she had spoken internally ...
Having the notion that the voice she heard was actually her own thoughts audibly manifesting so she could perceive them, she decided, in her disembodied state, to test her hypothesis and found her suspicions were correct. True to her self-professed, smarty-pants nature, she tossed out random words – butter, ping pong, tacos – and heard these very words echo aloud, although she was looking at her physical body that was unconscious, mouth unmoving, and clearly in distress. But she wasn’t in distress, not in the least. Rather, it fascinated her ...
Note that her OBE was also precipitated by a buzzing sensation.
Later, she had a third cardiac arrest. Afterward she reported a veridical observation.
She described it to me, and astonishingly, even reminded me of something I had forgotten. She was watching us from a position in middle space – not exactly floating above and not entirely standing; rather, she was somewhere in between. After having the thought, “Your heart is going to stop again,” and feeling the soft buzzing sensation tingle through her once more, she then saw the [sterile] blue drape being lifted up and the nurse reaching under it to start chest compressions.
Then she mentioned something I had forgotten entirely. She saw members of the resuscitation team try to tilt her whole body sideways to put a long, flat board under her and me saying, “Whoa, whoa, whoa, my stuff,” as I grabbed the things I had set on top of the sterile field to prevent them from falling onto the floor ...
The board is used to make the chest compressions more effective. The patient made this observation when she was totally unconscious and in need of CPR to restart her heart.
One of the book's more elaborate NDEs involves many of the above elements – and more. It is so lengthy and detailed that I have to wonder if it is one of the composite accounts. In any event, here are some excerpts from a much more extensive account:
[Marlene] soon became distracted by the presence of a soft blue orb of light that came into view on the opposite side of the room. She watched as it began to move slowly toward her the moment she had noticed it. How long it had been there hovering, watching before she had actually seen it, she could not say, but it seemed that the mere engagement of her attention drew it forward. While the orb was slowly approaching, she noticed that the voices below [in the hospital] became thinner and more distant while the visual scene grew ever smaller and more remote, as if she were looking through the wrong end of a telescope.
As the orb, about the size of a beach ball, came to rest in front of her, she felt overwhelmed with emotion and intense feelings of peace, love and complete safety. While nothing in particular was said, the thought came to her that she was going to be okay but that something was going to happen first. This was confusing to her, but she did not feel afraid or threatened ...
She passed between the floors, seeing the pipes and wiring, and then emerged into a hospital room where a patient was eating a meal in bed.
She noted a couple of vases of flowers on the window sill and perceived, more than actually smelled, their intoxicating fragrance. The flowers were the most vivid colors she had ever seen and the petals, stems and leaves all seemed to be made up of tiny particles that vibrated very fast. Remarkably, there was a palpable, humming energy emanating from the flowers that vibrated across the atmosphere, entered into her body, if she could call it that, and presented itself in such a way that she could feel the flowers ...
[After more such experiences, she concluded that] whatever she visually locked in on – from the hospital room where she had seen the flowers, to the roof and then the parking lot below – she gained an instant awareness of the sounds, smells and colors in hyper-sensory detail from a great distance. Her guide, if that is what it was, seemed in no hurry to move her along, allowing Marlene to marvel and observe with this phenomenal skill ...
Moving into lighter space, she was aware that the orb was less dense as well. Looking to her right as they moved along, she realized that her companion was actually no longer an orb but seemed to have stretched out to a filmier smudge of an elongated, cloud-like substance. She wondered why the orb had changed like that – dense and round in physical space but lighter and less formed in a more ethereal atmosphere ...
Her movement became literally as rapid as thought itself, as she whirled over the ocean and the field of rippling wheat, still accompanied by the cloudlike "guide."
Suddenly, she reported, they came to an instant stop with absolutely no sense of deceleration into a vast void that was incredibly silent. But even the silence seem to have texture. After a brief pause of floating in this splendid quiet, the environment took on more density, with subtle shifts in color and hue. At this point, Marlene really struggled to explain this to me, saying that it was like a cloud, but not really – like a mist, but not exactly. She described the feeling of silk or soft fog settling around her while, at the same time, muted colors of blues, grays, and faint pinks and greens fluctuated in and out. With the color there was a faint sound that had a somewhat musical quality, but there were no specific tones that she could identify. It was more vibrational than anything, she recounted, much like the connection she had felt from the vase of flowers ...
In this more rarefied environment, Marlene encountered deceased loved ones, as well as a barely remembered neighbor to whom she had been helpful. Though the small acts of kindness she showed him had meant little to her, they had been more important than she realized.
To her dismay, she was told she could not stay in the afterlife. A child of four or five years old was brought before her; the child, she was told, was "special" and would need her. The child would be named Crystal, and would struggle with a mental issue; the struggle would be helpful to the personal growth of the people around her. The child herself seemed to be looking forward to the assignment. Marlene "was informed, again through a thought that seemed to be deposited in her mind, that this was a preordained task agreed upon by the young child and her guides.”
After this, she retreated to physical reality and was back in her body feeling pain and exhaustion.
For years, Marlene never told her daughter or anyone else about the deepest parts of her experience; she made no mention of Crystal, the girl who was waiting to be born. Nevertheless, twenty-one years after Marlene's NDE, her daughter gave birth to a child who was named Crystal, and the child did struggle with autism and other issues. Bellg writes, “Crystal required a lot of work and attention but her ready smile, infectious humor and unqualified affection more than compensated for it." She goes on:
Marlene and Crystal had a particularly special connection, a bond that was instant and strong. They spent hours together and, living close by, Crystal often stayed the night with Marlene ... Once when Crystal was about four years old, as Marlene was tucking her into bed for the evening, she looked peacefully up at her grandmother and, lost in a soft gaze that connected her to something far away, said, “I saw you before, Grammy, remember?”
“What do you mean, Sweetheart?” Marlene did not immediately understand.
“When you died before, and came to Heaven. I saw you there. Remember?”
With a shiver of excitement, Marlene leaned in toward her granddaughter and replied softly through instant tears, “Yes, Crystal, I remember.” Marlene’s death and return to life so long ago was now a distant memory. It was something she rarely talked about, and certainly not with Crystal. There was no way that this child could have known what she seemed to know about what had happened over twenty years earlier.
“You were sad that you had to go back in your body,” Crystal became pensive as tears poured down Marlene’s cheeks. “Are you still sad?”
“No, Crystal, I’m not sad. I’m very happy to be here with you."
Again, I would prefer it if none of the stories had been conflated to create somewhat fictionalized composite accounts, and I would also prefer to have as few details altered as possible. Still, Dr. Bellg's sincerity is obvious throughout the book, and I don't doubt that she was told of these experiences, though maybe not exactly in the form in which they appear in print.
Near Death in the ICU contains several other fascinating cases. I'll provide excerpts from those in an upcoming post.
Roger Knights sent me a private message recently, suggesting that I index this blog to help people people find the subject matter that interests them without having to slog through the monthly archives.
It's a good idea. Unfortunately, creating a full index would be a time-consuming and tedious project. But a partial solution occurred to me.
Most of my posts have been tagged in different categories such as Afterlife and NDEs. Many posts are tagged in multiple categories, since the subjects often overlap. Until now, though, there hasn't been any convenient way to use these category tags to search the archives. A little bit of research into the mechanics of TypePad revealed that it's easy to post a list of categories in a sidebar.
So that's what I've done. Scroll down the left-hand side of this page, and you'll see a list of recent posts, followed by a list of recent comments, and below that, a list of all the categories. If you click on any category, all of the posts included in that category will come up.
Scrolling down further, you'll find a Google search box, which can be used to search the blog archives for specific terms. (This feature has been available for a while, though I think most people are not aware of it.) Below that, there are the monthly archives, which include everything in chronological order, all the way back to April, 2005.
This way, if you're interested only in reading about NDEs, you can just click on that category link and find a fairly comprehensive collection of the relevant posts. I say "fairly comprehensive" because I'm not sure that I always applied the category tags consistently, especially in the early years.
It's not an ideal system, but it's an improvement over what I had before.
Let us count the ways, shall we?
(Oh, and I know I said the last one would be my final post on Trump, but that's because I thought he would lose. This one really will be my last political piece for a while. Pinkie swear.)
The election, of course, is not yet over – and yet it is. At least at the presidential level, the outcome is already known. Indeed, one bookmaking outfit is already paying out to its clients who bet on Hillary Clinton. There’s no reason to think the firm will regret its decision.
Yeah, well, best-laid plans, mice and men, yada yada.
In coming months, there will be endless debate about whether or not Donald Trump, under other circumstances or following a different strategy, could have won this election. For me, the answer is simple: the Donald Trump we know, the Trump who exists in our universe, could not have won. He simply lacks the right stuff. [etc.]
Swing and a miss!
This election was the Republican Party’s to lose – and lose it they did.
Or ... not. With a Republican President, House, and (almost certainly) Senate, as well as gains in governorships (the GOP now holds 33 of them), the Republican Party is as well positioned as it could possibly hope to be. At least for the time being, it has won back the fabled Reagan Democrats and recast itself as a populist party that is not the vassal of Wall Street arbitrageurs (even if its standard-bearer is an obnoxious Manhattan plutocrat).
Most likely, a President Trump would not prove to be a dictator, if only because being a dictator requires a mental focus, determination, and courage that Trump doesn’t possess. ... Had he been elected, he probably would have spent most of his time goofing off on the golf course or on social media, while his vice president, chief of staff, and cabinet members did the heavy lifting.
At this point I have no idea what kind of president Trump will prove to be. His victory speech was surprisingly low-key and gracious, even if it did feature the usual unrealistic promises.
... it could be argued that electing Hillary Clinton actually pushes us a tad closer to banana-republic status by cementing the idea that the rich, powerful, and politically connected are above the law.
This I still believe. In fact, throughout Election Day, as I pondered the looming reality (so I thought) of a Hillary victory, I found myself increasingly depressed and angry. The idea that this kleptocratic serial liar would be rewarded with the presidency after a lifetime of cheating justice and failing upward was infuriating and deeply discouraging to me. A four-year slog through a Hillary administration seemed like an almost unbearable prospect. Honestly, if I had voted on Election Day, I might have pulled the lever for Trump just out of sheer despair at the alternative — even though I still think Trump is dangerously unqualified and temperamentally unfit for the job.
In such a discouraging political environment, it’s easy to give up hope. Some academics argue that, having crossed our own Rubicon, we’ve effected the transition from a republican system of government to an “elective monarchy” not too dissimilar from that of Imperial Rome ...
Not necessarily wrong, but last night the people reminded us that they are still in charge, and that the "elective" part is at least as significant as the "monarchy" part.
In this country there’s still enough innate suspicion of government to prevent a Hitler, Stalin, or Mussolini from gaining power, and, for most Americans, life is still comfortable enough to make manning the barricades an unviable proposition.
I think this is true, and I sincerely hope it won't be put to the test. In fact, I hold out a smidgen of hope that Trump and the Republican Congress will rein in the imperial presidency at least a little. (Okay, okay ... it's unlikely. I said it was a smidgen.)
Another unattractive feature of today’s politics is the assumption that one’s opponents have been hypnotized, duped, and brainwashed – assuming, of course, that they are not actually evil. The possibility of honest, intelligent disagreement is rarely broached.
I've been guilty of this as well — sometimes tarring Trump supporters in general with the brush of the alt-right white supremacist crowd, who represent only a small (I hope) subset of his voters. Most of the people who voted for Trump did so because they want a new direction, because they feel that the smug, self-satisfied elites are out of touch and out of control, and because they had no confidence in either the competence or the integrity of Hillary Clinton. These are valid reasons to support a candidate.
The truth is, the media and the #NeverTrump crowd (including me) made little effort to understand where Trump's support was coming from, outside of the spittle-flecked Pepe-the-Frog social-media trolls who were noisy and hateful, but probably not especially numerous. The more mainstream dimension of Trump's support largely eluded us, leaving us unprepared for his upset win.
So there you have it. That's my mea culpa, mea maxima culpa. Having been wrong in my forecasts of the last three presidential elections, I now confess I am hopelessly out of touch with the American zeitgeist. Just when I think I've got it figured out, everything changes. Sort of like life.
For people (like me) who are still worried by the potential (large) downside of a Trump presidency, I'll add that, if nothing else, last night's outcome teaches us that our powers of prognostication are limited, and wildly unexpected things can happen. This can be a calming and even liberating thought. It reminds us that, even in our personal lives, the trajectory we believe we're on can be altered at any moment, sometimes for the better. You think you're destined to be alone for the rest of your life ... and then your eyes meet hers across a restaurant. You think you'll be poor forever ... and then your latest crazy idea takes off and makes you a million bucks. You think you have nothing to look forward to ... and then suddenly you do.
If Trump's surreal victory proves anything — if the consensus-defying election of an abrasive, septuagenarian reality TV star who's never held political office carries any larger message —it's that anything is possible. And if we ever think we have all the answers, reality shows up to give us a swift kick in the ass.
Lately, as you may have noticed, I haven’t published very many new posts on this blog. The reason is that I’ve been preoccupied with politics, and I’ve found it’s exceedingly difficult to focus on spiritual matters when immersed (emotionally, at least) in the clash and grind of a presidential campaign. With this post, I hope to close the book on this election so I can get back to our usual subject matter.
The election, of course, is not yet over – and yet it is. At least at the presidential level, the outcome is already known. Indeed, one bookmaking outfit is already paying out to its clients who bet on Hillary Clinton. There’s no reason to think the firm will regret its decision.
In coming months, there will be endless debate about whether or not Donald Trump, under other circumstances or following a different strategy, could have won this election. For me, the answer is simple: the Donald Trump we know, the Trump who exists in our universe, could not have won. He simply lacks the right stuff. Nobody handicapped by Trump’s liabilities could realistically have attained the White House. He is a man with zero knowledge of public policy, a man who quite possibly cannot explain how a bill becomes a law or name the three branches of government. Worse, he has no interest in learning anything new, because he believes he’s already a universal expert. Knowing nothing about military matters, he boasts that he knows more than the generals. Knowing nothing about international trade deals, he boasts that he can make the best deals. Knowing nothing about campaign strategy, he ignores his advisers and pursues a hopelessly self-defeating course.
A candidate who won’t prepare for debates, who spends his nights tweeting insults to celebrity journalists, who limits his media appearances to a few friendly venues on Fox News and talk radio, who insults and ridicules constituencies he needs to win over, who foments pointless and destructive intraparty feuds, and who behaves like an emotionally unstable six-year-old ... is simply not going to win. There’s a story that when Donald was a small boy, he became so unhappy at a friend’s birthday party, presumably because the attention was on his friend and not on himself, that he picked up the birthday cake and threw it on the floor. Trump has said his temperament has not changed since he was in kindergarten. This appears to be true. He is still the angry little kid who throws the cake on the floor.
Still, it’s possible to argue that some version of Trump could have won this election – a Trump 2.0, a Trump from a parallel universe, a Trump who could master his worst tendencies, learn a modicum of self-discipline, memorize a smattering of salient facts, and organize a serious campaign with a competent get-out-the-vote effort. A Trump, in other words, who could pivot and act presidential, as the Trump of the primaries promised to do – which is just one of many promises that have not been fulfilled. A better Trump, a more adult, less volatile, less thin-skinned, more serious Trump who actually heeded his advisers and did the things that serious candidates do, might very well have won against the scandal-ridden, socially maladroit, and personally unlikable Hillary Clinton, who represents a continuation of eight years of policies that are widely felt to have been disappointing. This election was the Republican Party’s to lose – and lose it they did.
In an earlier post I pondered the question of whether Trump is a fascist. I concluded that he is probably not a true fascist but more of a right-wing populist with proto-fascist tendencies. To me, this still seems like an accurate assessment of Trump as he came across in the primaries; but in the general election his message became so muddled and his behavior so bizarre that I’m not sure what assessment to make of him today. Most likely, a President Trump would not prove to be a dictator, if only because being a dictator requires a mental focus, determination, and courage that Trump doesn’t possess. He’s a flighty, narcissistic popinjay mainly concerned with protecting his own image and preserving his persnickety vanity. Had he been elected, he probably would have spent most of his time goofing off on the golf course or on social media, while his vice president, chief of staff, and cabinet members did the heavy lifting.
So I don’t think we’ve dodged the bullet of fascism, as some people say. On the contrary, it could be argued that electing Hillary Clinton actually pushes us a tad closer to banana-republic status by cementing the idea that the rich, powerful, and politically connected are above the law. It’s palpably obvious that Hillary and her friends in high office saw to it that the FBI “investigation” into Hillary’s server scandal was fatally hobbled. This is hardly a surprise, but it is a disappointment and a worrying harbinger of the next four (or eight) years. We can expect Madam President to use the machineries of the IRS, the Justice Department, the EPA, and other bureaucratic organs to harass and stifle her political enemies when possible. This is, after all, the same Hillary who, as First Lady, tried to put the career civil servants of the White House Travel Office in prison simply so she could replace them with her Arkansas cronies.
In such a discouraging political environment, it’s easy to give up hope. Some academics argue that, having crossed our own Rubicon, we’ve effected the transition from a republican system of government to an “elective monarchy” not too dissimilar from that of Imperial Rome (though with the key difference that Rome never worked out a rational method for the transfer of power). Even if this perspective is valid, it doesn’t mean the United States is finished. Rome survived for hundreds of years after the republic died, achieving its greatest power, wealth, and influence in its imperial phase.
Besides, it may not be valid. The similarities between the United States and ancient Rome are arguably more superficial than real. And history doesn’t have to repeat itself.
What can we do to improve our prospects? For starters, we can eschew overheated rhetoric and irresponsible fear-mongering. Although it’s become de rigueur for each side to foresee an apocalypse if its candidate loses, the partisanship this time has been more feverish than usual. The hard left predicts a Fourth Reich if Trump wins, while the hard right predicts civil insurrection, even civil war. It’s time to remember Kipling’s advice to “keep your head when all about you are losing theirs and blaming it on you.” The American system of government and the American people have both proven exceptionally stable, a fact that has consistently frustrated radicals and revolutionaries of all stripes. In this country there’s still enough innate suspicion of government to prevent a Hitler, Stalin, or Mussolini from gaining power, and, for most Americans, life is still comfortable enough to make manning the barricades an unviable proposition.
Another unattractive feature of today’s politics is the assumption that one’s opponents have been hypnotized, duped, and brainwashed – assuming, of course, that they are not actually evil. The possibility of honest, intelligent disagreement is rarely broached. And yet trade-offs are an essential part of democracy, and sensible compromise is the key to good governance. There’s nothing disreputable or traitorous about seeking common ground; the effort to find and uphold shared values has been the cornerstone of American politics throughout our history. Our best hope for the future is to reach out to those with whom we disagree, to respect each other’s differences, and, in the famous words of Lincoln’s second inaugural address, to “bind up the nation's wounds” while showing “malice toward none [and] charity for all.”
If we want a better country, we can begin by being better people. Let’s wash the stain of this election season off our hands and get to work.
Rudolf H. Smit tells me that The Self Does Not Die, the excellent study of near-death experiences that he co-authored with Titus Rivas and Anny Dirven, is now available in a Kindle edition. I reviewed the book here.
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A new TV show, The Good Place, presents a quasi-spiritualist view of the afterlife. We are told that a very small, select number of the departed go to a paradisal community of spacious homes, green gardens, and frozen yogurt shops, while the vast majority end up in the terrifying nether regions. The Good Place bears some resemblances to the Summerland of spiritualist tradition – spirits of equal evolutionary development are drawn together, thoughts and feelings directly influence reality, much of the environment apparently consists of thought-forms, and everything is an idealized recreation of earthly life. The show's gimmick is that the main character, Eleanor, doesn't really belong in The Good Place at all, having been a pretty crappy person in her physical incarnation.
At first, the idea that only a minuscule percentage of humanity gets to enjoy a decent afterlife, while nearly all of us end up in damnation, didn't sit too well with me. Nor does it satisfy Eleanor, who argues – plausibly enough – that since most people are neither saintly nor awful but of medium quality, there ought to be a medium quality afterlife for them. Someplace like Cincinnati, she suggests.
However, even by the third episode, it's becoming clear that the situation is more complicated than it originally appeared. In some respects, the show is a sitcom version of Lost, in which an initially straightforward premise is developed in unpredictable ways. My guess is that The Good Place will not turn out to be quite as good as were told, while the bad place won't be nearly as bad.
Anyway, it's a clever idea with an appealing cast. I think it could use more laugh-out-loud moments, and some of the humor falls flat, but it's worth a look.
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I recently read Laura Hillenbrand's best-selling book Unbroken, the story of World War II POW Louis Zamperini, whose bomber crashed in the Pacific, leaving him adrift on a life raft for over a month before he was captured by the Japanese and subjected to terrible abuse. Though his suffering was undoubtedly real, I suspect that Zamperini's story became considerably embellished over decades of retelling, especially after he rediscovered Christianity in a Billy Graham revival meeting and went on tour describing his experiences to eager crowds. Some of what he talks about just seems a little bit over the top.
For instance, he claims that the raft was strafed with machine gun fire from a Japanese bomber not once but five times – yet although the raft was peppered with bullets, neither he nor the other two men aboard received a scratch. He recounts epic battles with sharks that went on for hours, as the sharks became ever more crafty and aggressive, carrying out elaborate strategies to pluck the men from the raft. As a prisoner of war, he remembers having once been subjected to punishment in which he was punched in the face more than two hundred times in succession; I'm skeptical that anyone could live through that ordeal, much less recover without disfigurement or brain damage. My guess is that, as terrible as Louis's tribulations were, he felt the need to make his story even more dramatic each time he narrated it.
I mention this only to warn that his claims have to be taken with a grain of salt. That said, he does tell of an interesting experience aboard the raft, when he was so dehydrated and famished as to be on the verge of death. At this time, he says, he began to relive incidents from his life in astonishing detail, even incidents from his very early childhood that he had never previously recalled. One incident in particular involved his interaction with a dog when he was no more than two or three years old; he had never even remembered that dog before, since it had died when he was still a toddler. He witnessed this event from an impartial, third-person perspective, seeing himself as a small child and taking in every detail of his environment. Around the same time, he also had what would conventionally be called a hallucination in which, looking up at the sky, he saw ranks of angels and heard glorious, ethereal music. In general, the whole episode bears the hallmarks of a near-death experience – the life review, the encounter with the divine. Neither the author nor Louis makes this comparison, but it's obvious to anyone familiar with NDE literature.
In another life raft episode, while he and his one remaining companion lay languishing in the doldrums, Louis experienced an overpowering sense of the beauty and wonder of the physical world, which he saw suddenly as the handiwork of divine intelligence. Even the tormenting sharks now struck him as miraculous creatures of astonishing perfection. He felt no pain, hunger, or thirst, no desire to move, no unhappiness, just a complete sense of peace. Later, the memory of this event played a role in his religious conversion at the Billy Graham tent meeting. To me, his epiphany in the doldrums was strongly reminiscent of what Richard Maurice Bucke called an experience of "cosmic consciousness."
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In one of the comments threads, I mentioned that I was reading a book called An Atheist in Heaven, an account of apparent after-death communications on the part of Forrest J Ackerman, a well-known figure in the science fiction community. Some of these ADCs are pretty impressive, and the author, a long time friend of Ackerman named Paul Davids, went to the trouble of having some physical evidence subjected to elaborate scientific analysis. Unfortunately, I don't know if I'm going to finish the book, because the good evidence is outweighed by a mass of trivial coincidences. It appears that Davids decided his best course of action was to include everything – literally everything – that could possibly relate to the ADC phenomena, even down to the most minor and seemingly meaningless events. It's too bad, because there is a core of a very good book in here. This incidental material should have been either omitted or relegated to an addendum.
Still, for those who have a fond memory of Ackerman's magazine Famous Monsters of Filmland, with its endless succession of terrible puns and cheesy horror movie photos, the book should provide a nostalgic smile. Amazingly enough, I even remember reading about an amateur movie contest sponsored by the magazine which the author entered; the title of his movie, Siegfried Saves Metropolis, had somehow stuck in my mind for more than forty years.
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Throughout the first half of 2016, I was under an unusual amount of stress, and when I look back now, I can see how it affected my thinking in unexpected ways. For one thing, my memory recall was way off. I had trouble remembering names, even very familiar ones – the names of classic movie stars, say. A name like Gary Cooper would elude me for hours. I found it difficult to concentrate. More than once I tried to read the Agatha Christie book Funerals Are Fatal, but I bogged down in the first four or five pages, finding it impossible to keep the characters straight as they were introduced. Even writing my own book, I would forget exactly what plot developments had already taken place or even the names of some of my characters!
My problems became so annoying that I tried to diagnose them. I'd read that Lyme disease can cause memory recall issues, and since I had a bull's-eye pattern on one leg that could be consistent with that illness, I decided to be tested for it. But the test came back negative. I wondered if maybe I was getting some kind of early onset dementia or if I was lacking some vital nutrient in my diet.
Eventually, however, the problem eased, and I can now see that stress itself was responsible. In fact, just recently I tried reading Funerals Are Fatal again, and though I still found the opening scene a little too exposition-heavy, I had no difficulty with it.
The episode reminded me of something I read in one of the Seth books by channeler Jane Roberts. I don't remember the exact source, but somewhere Seth says that conscious awareness varies much more from day to day and even from hour to hour than most people realize. To drive the point home, he temporarily adjusts the level of consciousness in Jane's husband, who reports feeling progressively foggier and more confused. This always struck me as an interesting idea. My guess is that we tend to remember the parts of the day when we are most alert, while forgetting other parts of the day when we are in more of a daze. I think it's likely that we spend much more of our daily activities on autopilot than we realize.
In any case, my experience drove home the close connection between mind and body. No, it doesn't follow that mind is reducible to an emergent phenomenon of physical processes, but it does suggest that there is continuing feedback between mental states and physical states, and that what we call "mind" is both more complex and more fragile than we ordinarily assume.
Matt Rouge gives us another insightful guest post, this time exploring the possibilities inherent in higher dimensions of reality. Enjoy!
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When we ask ourselves whether the Afterlife exists and make attempts to explore its nature and properties, we are, by implication, trying to explain Reality itself. Thus, it’s no surprise that Michael has written many posts about the nature of Reality on this blog, one of which was the recent The VR Thing. This post dealt with different levels of reality: is our experience “less real” at a lower level (this world) but “more real” at a higher level (the Afterlife)?
In the post, Michael provides several famous quotes that reflect this view, as well as a concise summary of his virtual reality model:
[E]arthly life is a fully immersive role-playing game. This game is designed by our higher self, with which we are in only tenuous contact while embodied. The game is meant to be challenging and instructive. The stakes are, in one sense, real — we gain real wisdom and personal growth. In another sense, the stakes are illusory —[film critic Roger] Ebert's “elaborate hoax.”
As so often happens, this post led to an interesting discussion in the comments, with many concurring to some degree with the view that “realness” can vary. The question was also raised of how the game-like aspect of the model can jibe with the seriousness of human suffering.
On the whole, the VR model appeals to me as a New Ager. We regularly talk about “dimensions” and “Ascension,” the process by which we as individuals and the physical world is rising through dimensions and increasing in vibration. I think the concept of dimensions matches well the VR model, which requires at least two: the less real or “hoax” dimension and the more real or “Higher Self” dimension. Since VR is based on some concept of information, could it be that information itself transforms based upon the dimension in which it is experienced or “presented”? Further, is it possible that our perception of “less real” and “more real” is based upon the interrelationship of information and dimension?
I think so.
Most of us have probably played the video game Tetris at some point. Pieces come down from the top of the puzzle, and the player must to rotate them so that they form solid horizontal lines, which disappear, making room for more falling pieces. Let’s take a look at the pieces:
In the second dimension, the three pieces on the left have no chirality (they are the same as their mirror image), whereas the four on the right (two pairs) do have this property (they are different from their mirror image). Those who have played Tetris will know that it is easier to deal with the three pieces on the left than the four on the right: the latter require more brainpower to understand what spaces they will fit when rotated.
Yet, the four pieces on the right completely lose this limitation in the third dimension, since we can simply pick them up and flip them over. In 2D, the green L-shaped piece is an object different from the yellow reversed-L-shaped piece. In 3D, aside from their color, they are the exact same object.
Chirality also exists in the third dimension. I first learned the word when I worked in the drug industry, as molecules can be chiral. A good everyday example is gloves: a glove for the left hand is the same for the right, except for chirality; yet this simple difference prevents a glove for one hand from being worn on the other. In the fourth dimension, however, a glove for the left hand can simply be “flipped over into” a glove for the right hand. The “flipping” process is very difficult for us to imagine, since we are used to 3D geometry; nevertheless, in 4D, a left-handed glove is the exact same object as a right-handed glove.
These are examples from geometry, but the properties of higher dimensions, as we New Agers understand them, are not limited to those pertaining to physical space. Further, “information,” as understood in the VR model, refers to much more than concrete objects and mathematically definable objects; the term would relate to virtually (no pun intended) everything we can experience, including emotions, abstractions like “justice” and “beauty,” and thought itself. Chirality, or an analogous property (binary or otherwise), could apply to any aspect of or thing within Reality; indeed, even to the category of real/unreal itself.
For an example of this, we turn to the book Reimagination of the World: A Critique of the New Age, Science, and Popular Culture by David Spangler and William Irwin Thompson (Bear & Company, 1991). (I was turned onto this book by a very smart guy named Jason Wingate, who has commented on this blog in the past.) The two authors have been leaders in the New Age movement, and their intellectual depth is impressive. Although the book is 25 years old (and some of its content comes from lectures older than that), I am pleasantly surprised at how consistent it is with current New Age thought. Or perhaps I shouldn’t be surprised if in fact our philosophy and model of Reality is “right” or “righter,” relatively speaking, than some others.
On page 120, David Spangler writes,
You may remember the story of Flatland, in which a two-dimensional square encounters a three-dimensional sphere. At first, the square cannot comprehend what the sphere is because it has no experience of that third dimension along which part of the sphere’s being extends. Viewing the sphere along the linear dimension of the two-dimensional plane that is the square’s home, the sphere appears cut up into a succession of ovals. Our experience of higher dimensional beings can be very similar.
When we try to imagine these beings, we often leave out these additional dimensions. The result is to flatten them into human caricatures. This may be important for us to initially contact and understand one of these entities, but we should remember that it is a simplified representation, often bearing as much relationship to the real entity as a stick figure does to one of Michelangelo’s paintings.
I’ll note in passing that Michael has cited on multiple occasions on this blog the novel Flatland by Edwin Abbot (1884). On page 130 of Reimagination, in a different chapter that comes from a lecture, there is this interesting exchange that deals directly with the matter of “realness”:
AUDIENCE PARTICIPANT: Are you saying that the beings who come through channels, like Ramtha and Ma Fu and Lazarus, aren’t real or are only psychological crutches? […]
DAVID: […W]hether these beings are real or not is less important to me than the impact our images of these beings can have in our lives. […] The job of the inner worlds is not to tell us how to live but to empower our ability to unfold our own higher dimensionality. We are not born individuals so we can turn our individuality over to another being, becoming a clone of his or her opinions, beliefs, and attitudes. We are individuals so that we can add a unique perspective to the universe and make a unique contribution to a higher geometry of co-creation and compassion.
Whether these beings are real or not in themselves, as they enter into our nested sphere, into our dimensionality, they must take on characteristics that allow communication to take place. In many instances, this means entering into a body of manifestation that is built up from the unconscious needs and desires of the channel and of the audience. In this instance, the being speaks to us through an interface that is part window, part mirror. […]
Channeling is an art. We oversimplify it when we think of it as an entity entering into a person’s body. That image really belongs to an earlier conception of the body and soul as truly separate things. These images abound in our spirituality and metaphysics: the body as vehicle, the soul as driver, and so on. The relationship is really more subtle and complex. The body is part of the soul and vice versa. They interrelate and co-create each other in profound ways, and both are aspects of a larger geometry that might be called our spirit. […]
Wow. There is nothing here that doesn’t sound completely fresh, modern, and insightful to me. In the space of a few paragraphs, he has cogently commented on many issues that this blog has explored, including the “transmission model” of consciousness (I think he implies here the hybrid model, which I myself believe). Further, I think Spangler’s words have deep implications for the VR model itself: instead of there being a pure dichotomy of hoax versus real or game versus higher purpose, we may be experiencing tiered co-creation in which the levels are interdependent and the hierarchy can find itself turned on its head. His use of the word “interface” is perhaps also not coincidental.
Let’s look at an example of how a channeled entity that is “unreal” here could be “real” in a higher dimension. Leonora Piper (I cited the Psi Encyclopedia!) was a famed medium whose “control,” or guide to the spirit world, in many sittings was “Phinuit.” This spirit talked about himself as though he had been a real person on earth, but research failed to provide verification of his actual existence (there is a lot about this issue at the link).
Spangler’s viewpoint, however, shows us how a spirit like Phinuit could still be “real” on some level. Phinuit could be both window and mirror, a co-creation of himself, Piper, and the sitters.
Further, going back to the example of chirality, from the viewpoint of the spirit in his higher dimension, it may appear that the “unreal” facts of his life on earth are no different than facts that to us are “real.” As we progress to higher dimensions, some differences may disappear, yet new ones may appear. The chirality of Tetris pieces disappears in 3D, but the chirality of gloves appears (since 3D objects can’t exist in 2D) and then disappears in 4D. Similarly, some distinctions between real and unreal may appear and then disappear as we go up from 3D.
The issue of human suffering may also transform as we progress through the dimensions. If you grew up a Christian as I did, you probably heard something to the effect that God would right all wrongs and dry all tears. This may be a metaphor for what I speculate “actually” happens: the “information” of suffering does not disappear in higher dimensions but rather transforms into something bearable, perhaps even desirable. Frequent commenters Art and Bruce tend to emphasize Oneness and Love as the ultimate Reality. In contrast, among the regulars here, Eric and I have tended to insist that evil is an actual issue that can’t be waved away (though I would also say we do not necessarily disagree with Art’s and Bruce’s observations, generally speaking). Perhaps we are all correct. Perhaps Oneness and Love are the “end result,” not because other aspects of reality simply go poof, but because they exist in a different manner in higher dimensions.
Obviously, this is a big topic, and I find it hard to think of any neat conclusion to my speculations and observations above. Perhaps, in a higher dimension, one already exists.
Yeah, that's right. En-psi-clopedia. See what I did there?
It's my way of introducing the new online Psi Encyclopedia created by the Society for Psychical Research. Screenshot of the homepage:
Click on a topic, such as "Mediums & Psychics," and you get a list of articles:
Choose a story, and you get a treatment of surprising depth:
The article on Palladino is balanced, reporting her apparently genuine phenomena as well as her willingness to cheat:
Though still a work in progress, the online Psi Encyclopedia promises to be an invaluable alternative to the often deliberately slanted coverage of psi in Wikipedia, where self-styled "guerrilla skeptics" have run amok, deleting any pro-psi citations. ("Why?" they ask. "Because evidence is cool." Sure ... that's why.)
Thanks to Robbie for sending me a heads-up on the encyclopedia.
Incidentally, the SPR has also revamped its website.