I must admit, one of my guilty pleasures is reading the comments at the bottom of articles – especially where religion and spirituality are concerned. You really get to see the two extremes in thought: Bible believers who are convinced people either go to Heaven or Hell and that their book is infallible on both history, spirituality, and what their God requires, or atheists and agnostics showcasing the Bible’s inconsistencies, contradictions, and questionable morality when put under the microscope of logic and reason. Moreover, many atheists in their default to logic will point to science and declare that there is no evidence of a “soul” or “afterlife” -- so mentioning any type of future life is automatically deemed “ignorant and superstitious” and not worthy of giving a second thought, especially within the religious framework of evangelicals – who often use the afterlife as the last refuge of their argument (“Just you wait and see—you’ll be sorry!”).
But what if we were to give the survival of consciousness a “second thought” – yet without approaching it from a religious framework? Mainstream scientists balk because it goes against their belief system that life and its experiences are a product of the physical brain, thus when that apparatus “dies” so do you. In other words, there is no spirit or afterlife to investigate. Unfortunately, this paradigm doesn’t stand up with experiences held by many people from around the world – including some in the scientific fields.
Professor Gary Schwartz at the University of Arizona back in the late 1990’sstarted doing something that put both his academic credentials and reputation at risk: he began studying mediums – those people who claim to have the ability to receive information from dead people. Utilizing several different methods, including single-blind, double-blind, and even triple-blind tests, he pitted a handful of evidential mediums against volunteer sitters to determine if the information was statistically accurate. He documented the results in his 2002 book “The Afterlife Experiments” as well an HBO documentary, with the outcomes weighing in that the mediums were receiving valid and unique information. Results were still positive even when the mediums were shielded from obtaining any sort of sensory cues (typically referred to by skeptics as “cold reading”). Following in traditional scientific footsteps, Dr. Schwartz’s work has been replicated by Dr. Julie Beischel of the Windbridge Institute. In a research brief titled Process-focused Research: Investigating mediums’ experiences of communication with the deceased, the Institute stated within its “FACT” section of the record: “Proof-focused mediumship research can demonstrate the existence of Anomalous Information Reception (AIR) in which certain mediums can report accurate and specific information about deceased individuals under blinded conditions that control for all sensory explanations.”
In the UK, the belief of the deceased being able to impress messages into a medium’s consciousness is its own religion: Spiritualism. Spiritualist churches dot the British landscape, with services that have less to do with mankind needing salvation, but rather a demonstration of mediumship where the evidence describing a person’s deceased loved one inspires the notion that immortality is not just for a chosen few. Names, dates, detailed descriptions of events, certain memories connected to the deceased – all these things the mediums are able to bring through.
Skeptics will continue resisting mediumship by declaring the usual “cold reading” or “hot reading” techniques are at play and that people are simply deluding themselves. There’s also been a long history of fraud with professed mediums. However, with Gary Schwartz’s research, along with that of the Windbridge Institute (as well as others) credible mediums are being documented and the notion of death being the final act of life is gradually being swept aside.
What’s more, tests including digital voice recorders to capture EVPs (electronic voice phenomena) are also supporting the phenomena of the surviving dead connecting to the living.
The Washington State Ghost Society in the greater Seattle/Puget Sound region has specialized in spirit interaction using the combination of mediums and voice recorders to support this growing evidence. (In full disclosure, I am a member and former President of the organization). When a medium is interacting with a spirit, it becomes an expected trait these days to hear a spirit leave their voice on a recorder, corroborating the medium’s impressions. For instance, at one investigation at a haunted bar near the coastal town of Ocean Shores, I (as the medium) was conversing with the spirit of a former cargo ship captain who relayed that one of his worst missions was to transport animals down the coast to California. He stated – in a rather snide tone – that his ship “wasn’t Noah’s ark.” In addition to a local history buff validating that, indeed, cargo ships did occasionally transport livestock, a voice was captured on the recorder stating “It was insane.” None of us heard this voice at the time while on site, but it was clearly on the recorder. What’s more, it backed up the tone of the message I had received, in which the captain didn’t like his ship being used like Noah’s ark. There are many instances of this type of corroboration while using voice recorders during mediumship communication with a spirit by members of the Society.
It’s not fantasy or wishful thinking, as it is all digitally recorded. The implications of these two modes of communication – though controversial – force us to reconsider our views regarding death and the survival of consciousness. Despite what skeptics may say, there is mounting evidence that consciousness does survive the loss of the physical body. Tests are being conducted in academia as well as through various paranormal organizations which are bearing this out. In addition to proof-focused mediumship research and the disembodied voices landing on recorders corroborating mediumistic impressions, we also have scores of near-death experience survivors, inexplicable cases of reincarnation where the prior personality has been investigated and validated – all of which point to something greater than the light of consciousness being blotted out when the brain and body cease. To ignore the data out of an a priori notion that consciousness is solely a product of chemical reactions is to accept willful ignorance and is a disservice to the scientific method.
In the modern age, we have an unprecedented opportunity to potentially answer mankind’s greatest question about survival after death, and not just simply rely on an ancient faith. If the answer is indeed “Yes” (and the research is appearing to say so), then the next step will be finding out if the Other Side is anything like what the ancients believed. Indeed, there is a huge risk in further examining the survival issue, for even though there might be evidence of survival, there may not be any corroboration for how the makeup of the afterlife is according to ancient scripture – with its attendant angels or demons, streets of gold or lakes of fire.
Truth be told, this process has already begun. And it does challenge orthodox beliefs. Indeed, as the research continues it may force a spiritual revolution – a new renaissance of what it means to be an eternal consciousness that spends a fragment of time in the earthly environment. Some of the spirits who have come through mediums and who have left voices on recorders were the same type of people evangelicals have declared were bound for the lake of lava – atheists, non-Biblical believers, and homosexuals – yet none of these after-death survivors have said anything about being tortured when they hit the Other Side. Indeed, some have even declared they are enjoying their post-earth existence just as much as anybody else.
Modern spirit research, unlike ancient belief systems, is open to scrutiny and welcomes further examination. The field will continue to grow, change, and evolve as more information is brought to light; as those in the world of spirit expend their efforts in combination with our own to bridge the gap and help bring hope to our wildly dysfunctional world. It has nothing to do with supporting or validating any orthodox religious belief system – and may in fact rebuke such outdated modes of spiritual perception. Indeed, modern spirit research may provide a path to a liberated spirituality.
For materialist scientists, the objective may sound like trying to validate silly superstitions. It’s not. But it does take courage and objectivity to examine the data. For the religious, they will cling to the notion of “talking with the Devil” if the information doesn’t support their beliefs and will no doubt fight against it (even if it were their own deceased loved ones coming through the veil and saying “It’s all right, even if it doesn’t support the Bible”). However, in the search for Truth (yes, with a capital “T”), whether a materialist scientist or person of devout faith, to ignore the possibilities of modern spirit research is akin to placing your head in the sand.
We must continue… Onward!