1. How did you get interested in afterlife evidence?
It just sort of evolved over time. I was raised in the Catholic Church and the afterlife it taught made little sense to me. I tried a few Protestant churches after I left the Catholic Church during my early 30s, but what they taught made even less sense. It was all faith with the Protestants, while the Catholics at least factored works into the salvation picture and also taught a middle ground (purgatory) rather than the dichotomous heaven and hell. I read Dr. Raymond Moody’s first book on near-death experiences soon after it was released in 1975, but it wasn’t until I had read a few books about Edgar Cayce during the late 1980s that I really started digging into it. Actually, I think it was part of my life’s plan before I was born.
2. What prompted you to start writing about it?
I attended an afterlife-themed conference put on by The Academy for Spiritual and Consciousness Studies in 1999. The speakers and attendees seemed to know a lot about near-death experiences and reincarnation, but few of them knew anything about the research with mediums carried out between 1850 and 1935. I continued to meet people interested in afterlife studies who knew nothing about the psychical research of yesteryear. I was surprised as I felt it was more interesting, intriguing and evidential than what we got from NDEs and past-life studies. I concluded that the research was not well known because of the way the old researchers presented it. They were mostly academics and wrote in a very stodgy manner. As I majored in journalism in college and had done a lot of freelance writing over the years, I decided to make an attempt at simplifying the old academese by converting it to layman’s language.
It involved many trance- and direct-voice mediums and not so much of the clairvoyants we hear so much about today. There was much more to it than we get in simple clairvoyance. The pioneer of psychical research included some world-famous scientists — Robert Hare, a professor of chemistry at the University of Pennsylvania and renowned inventor; biologist Alfred Russel Wallace, co-originator with Charles Darwin of the natural selection theory of evolution; Sir William Crookes, discoverer of the element thallium and inventor of the radiometer; astronomer Camille Flammarion; physicist Sir Oliver Lodge, a pioneer in electricity and radio, to name just a few of them. These pioneers provided evidence for survival that easily goes ‘beyond a reasonable doubt’ for any open-minded person. However, mainstream science wanted nothing to do with it and when the pioneers died off, nobody stepped up to take their place. It was during the 1930s that psychical research gave way to parapsychology, which divorced itself from mediumship and focused on ESP and psychokinesis. Parapsychologists preferred to explain it all as some not-yet- understood force in the subconscious rather than spirits and survival. It was a more “scientific” approach.
As Sir Oliver Lodge said, it is the cumulative evidence from that era that is most convincing. But if I had to pick one medium as the best, it would be Etta Wriedt of Detroit, Michigan. She was a direct-voice medium. Although she knew only English, spirits communicated through her in French, German, Italian, Spanish, Norwegian, Dutch, Croatian, Arabic, and other languages, providing information that Wriedt could not have possibly known or researched. Second place would go to Leonora Piper of Boston, a trance-voice medium. It took several reads of the Piper materials before I really began to grasp it. In my book, Resurrecting Leonora Piper: How Science Discovered the Afterlife, I tried to present it in a way that is easier for the lay person to understand. But please don’t go to Wikipedia to learn more about these two mediums. The Wikipedia writers prefer to see all mediums as frauds.
When they lived, people had little to do in their leisure hours. They sat around a fire place and knitted or whittled or they sat on the front porch and stared at the stars, occasionally drifting off into a state more receptive to spirit contact. They had more quiet time and they were more open to spirit contact. Today, there is too much “noise” — television, computers, smartphones, etc., blocking reception. Also, I think the spirit world gave as much as it could and it reached a point where they realized that they were past the point of diminishing returns in what they were able to give.
I don’t know if it was created or has always been, but I like the answer Victor Hugo, the famous French author and poet, was given through a medium: “Because doubt is the instrument which forges the human spirit. If the day were to come when the human spirit no longer doubted, the human soul would fly off and leave the plough behind, for it would have acquired wings. The earth would lie fallow. Now, God is the sower and man is the harvester. The celestial seed demands that the human ploughshare remain in the furrow of life.” Let me add to that by suggesting that parents would no doubt prefer to teach their children right from wrong based on what is morally right rather than on promises of reward or threats of punishment. I assume that such reasoning would apply at a more macro level.
That argument goes only so far and does not explain meeting deceased relatives, seeing objects in another room, seeing every moment of one’s life played out in an instant, or experiencing a complete spiritual transformation. Nor do the skeptics explain why humans are “programmed” to have such similar hallucinations. Even those people not near death, e.g., on drugs or in a flight simulator, etc., who experience similar phenomena as the NDEr do not debunk the NDE. They are likely having an out-of-body experience. The NDE is just one kind of out-of-body experience and the out-of-body experience suggests more than a physical body.
I believe that our initial realm in the afterlife is based on how we lived, not on what we believed. One can be an atheist and still believe in an afterlife, but if a person is also a nihilist, not believing that consciousness survives death, yet lives a life of love and morality, I believe that person will find him- or herself at no less a realm than the believer who led an equally virtuous life. However, there are indications that the non-believer may be slower in awakening to his higher self. The biggest problem for the nihilist may be in his or her declining years in what the person believes to be a march into an abyss of nothingness. It is much easier for most people to deal with death if they believe it is not “lights out” or total extinction when they take their last breath.
I believe in reincarnation, but I don’t think it plays out in the way most people who believe in it think it does. I lean toward the group soul or higher-self concept as explained by spirits through a number of credible mediums. That is, only a small fraction of the higher self returns. “When your Buddhist speaks of the cycle of birth, of man’s continual return to earth, he utters but a half-truth,” the discarnate Frederic Myers communicated through medium Geraldine Cummins. “And often a half-truth is more inaccurate than an entire misstatement. I shall not live again on earth, but a new soul, one who will join our group, will shortly enter into the pattern of karma I have woven for him on earth.” Myers likened the soul to a spectator caught within the spell of some drama outside of its actual life, perceiving all the consequences of acts, moods, and thoughts of a kindred soul. He further pointed out that there are an infinite variety of conditions in the invisible world and that he made no claim to being infallible. He called it a “general rule” based on what he had learned and experienced on the Other Side. Similar messages have come through a number of other mediums.
I like the way it was put to Betty White, who developed as a medium between 1919 and 1936, by the spirits she referred to as “The Invisibles.” They told Betty that she should develop what they called “habitual spiritual consciousness.” They explained that this didn’t mean retirement into a cloistered nunnery. “It means simply that each day, when you finish your practice, you do not close the experience like a book, but carry it around like a treasured possession. Instead of being completely forgotten, it remains in the back of your mind, communicating its influences automatically to your actions and reactions, and ready at any moment, if specifically called upon to lend a helping hand.” The objective, they said, is getting to know the higher self and a gradual training of your spiritual muscles to maintain it, once recognized.
12. What advice would you have for someone who has a fear of death, either their own death or a loved ones death?
13. Have you experienced any serendipity or synchronicity in your
pursuit to better understand the afterlife?
I’ve had a number of such experiences, but I can’t say they have helped me better understand the afterlife. They do seem to suggest that life is more than the mechanistic/materialistic world that mainstream science offers us and encourage me to continue to explore the “larger life.”