Monday, December 5, 2016

The death of Michael Newton and the rehabilitation of Melvin Morse

Michael Newton passed away in September; something motivated me to check, which led me to his Wikipedia entry, which led me to the obituary. He wrote several seminal books about the afterlife, compiled from his own method of regressive hypnosis. The use of hypnosis as a diagnostic tool for recovering hidden memories is controversial. I am not informed enough, medically, to have a firm opinion on it, except to argue that if hypnosis is used, it should be used by a licensed medical professional, for obvious legal and ethical reasons. This is where Newton fell into a gray area. Several online critics questioned Newton's credentials. I did a cursory search and couldn't find any proof that he had a "real" PhD, as he claimed, but this is not unusual. I don't know how to find out if anyone has any degree, without contacting the candidate's school--and in Newton's case, I never could find out. The online obits did not identify the schools, except to say that he "graduated from the University of Arizona (1953) and later earned advanced degrees from California colleges."

So, unless someone embarks on a Michael Newton biography, we may never know.

Today I was surprised to receive an email from Dr. Raymond Moody's email list updating everyone on a new collaboration between Dr. Moody and Dr. Melvin Morse, who has recently been released from prison on a "misdemeanor" (though if he has been in prison for more than 364 days, it's likely a felony charge). This of course led me to Wikipedia (my one-stop shop for the current conventional wisdom), which is updated with new info on his recent child endangerment conviction. The current Wikipedia edit seems to suggest that Morse's actions were overblown and not as heinous as early reports suggested (specifically, that he had waterboarded his stepdaughter to induce an NDE).  Again, I'm really not sure that I have an informed opinion on this case. Despite claims that it was all overblown, however, I'm not sure that Americans are being routinely sentenced to prison on trumped-up charges just yet. (This may soon change, however.) For now, anyway, a felony is a felony.

My basic opinion still stands, however... if we are presuming to instruct people on what to believe on spiritual or metaphysical matters, we (and our research) should be beyond approach, even in our current post-fact reality.

11 comments:

  1. Perhaps you should rename your site to AfutureGhostGossip. Other than the obvious attempt to throw cold water upon authors to instill a bit of doubt regarding their veracity, there is no attempt to compare or evaluate their work. A rather disingenuous approach to say the least.

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    1. I will take your rename suggestion under advisement. While I am open in theory to the subject that the authors examine, I am skeptical in practice; it's a skepticism born of experience. I will never apologize for my skepticism. This is a wide-open field where anyone can become a self-proclaimed expert, and every author peddling books, lectures, and readings ought to be rigorously examined and counter-examined.

      I've read and re-read Michael Newton's books. They seem valid. He seems to be telling the truth. His findings are consistent with other works I've read. But that's all I can say about it. No one (to my knowledge) has critically examined his hypnosis regression studies or looked into his academic credentials. And I've scoured the 'net and books trying to find anything I can find about Michael Newton. There's very little out there to be found. So, if I'm going to blog about him, I can only say what I've found and what I know about Newton, the researcher--which is very little.

      Melvin Morse is another matter. I'll have to say that I don't know what went on with his criminal conviction or (apparent) subsequent rehabilitation. But Melvin Morse is a unique case is that he was a very public NDE proponent... he frequently appeared in the media and on all the paranormal-themed radio shows. He was a public face of the NDE topic. When you become public currency, you should be ready to account for any dirty laundry that might come out, and you should be prepared to have your legitimacy questioned when it does. Believers and proponents of the life-after-death subject (and I am one) ought to skeptically examine both the research, and the researchers, of the subject. That's the least we can do. If we don't, the debunkers will--and they will be merciless.

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    2. As a side note... one of the best (in my opinion) investigators of the UFO phenomenon was, essentially, a gossiper. He ran a rag called "Saucer Smear." Jim Moseley was almost always spot-on in his assessment of UFOlogists. Many years ago, when I began researching UFOs, I was very angered at the cavalier and dismissive writings of Moseley; I thought he was going harm to the "field." Many "serious" UFO researchers had the same opinion of him. In later years, however, I realized that Moseley was right--in almost everything. Behind his gossipy periodical, he hid a keen insight of the UFO field and its assorted proponents.

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  2. Thank you for your quick response. While I understand your premise regarding the mercilessness of debunkers, yet why give them the time of day? Why base one's writing in fear of what others, the "debunkers", (who you already know will criticize), will say. Who cares, really? If you have something to say that you believe has substantive value, then say.

    I expect most everyone has "dirty laundry" which they would prefer to keep hidden, but why tie that in with a person's life work as if it somehow taints their work, which of course it does in the minds of those who are not familiar with the work. Either the work stands upon its own or it does not. The implication is that Michael Newton lied about his academic background and so must be lying regarding his findings. Morse must be a lowlife so his findings are tainted as well. That is the picture you print when only things are partially told. If you are going to truly investigate, then do so. Don't leave it for others to do. You brought up the topic, so follow through. It is better than relying upon innuendo and leaving it at that.

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    1. I don't think that Newton lied about his credentials. I just can't find any information about them. Debunkers have used problems with academic credentials to invalidate the work of at least one published investigator--Philip Imbrogno, specifically. And one skeptic has raised the question of Newton's credentials (on a book review on Amazon.com). So I took it upon myself to find out what I could. Although Newton is popular in the life-after-death field, he's largely unknown to the general public, so this may be a non-issue... but it's one that I'm curious about. I still study his books, however.

      The problem with Newton's hypnotically-induced testimony--intriguing as it is--is that it's difficult to "prove." We have to accept Newton's word that he conducted these sessions (and that he was qualified to conduct them), that he faithfully transcribed and interpreted them, and that he faithfully presented them in a way that "proves" the argument that consciousness survives physical death. It's an important question. That's why his academic credentials matter (to me). It's an issue that I chose to raise, but aside from your comment, I've had no one step up and say, one way or another, to refute or affirm Newton's background. Granted, no one is obligated to satisfy the curiosity of an obscure blogger, but I think it's also an issue of Newton's relative obscurity, which is unfortunate. That having been said, I think it's improbable that Newton spun these detailed regression reports over several lengthy books out of whole cloth--I doubt that he made it all up. So I personally choose to believe him.

      I will say that after Morse was arrested, I personally began to question everything he had written and said on the NDE topic. He was convicted of attempting to induce an NDE in his stepdaughter by holding her head underwater. So his actions immediately called into question his research. But that's all I know about Morse, and it's all based on public information--which may not be accurate. I don't know if anyone else has opined about it, to refute it or qualify it. However--Dr. Raymond Moody, a researcher I respect, vouches for Morse. So I am open to being wrong.

      I'm afraid that the research that I've personally done on the subject is hobbled by the same problems that dog the work of other singular researchers--it's largely personal experience, difficult to objectively prove, subject to misinterpretation, and very undramatic. Any examination of a subject that lies outside the consensus physical reality--a "fringe" topic--will be immediately dismissed by the debunkers and uncritically accepted by the believers. Aside from blogging about it occasionally, I don't really know where to go with it. I haven't had an NDE, but I have had some experience with after-death communication, as well as OOBEs (and assorted other fringe experiences). I've had enough experience to convince me that the phenomenon is a real as--perhaps more real than--much of the exterior drama that we call "the world." I've blogged about some of it. But my personal experience is not enough to convince a debunker, or even a skeptic. What I've tried to piecemeal do in this blog is weigh the research the others and highlight some of the logical flaws and errors as a way of forcing a conversation--to push the research in a direction where it might become a proof. It's just something I've chosen to do with this particular blog. Not that I'm a self-apppointed expert in anything, but if I can see weaknesses and problems in the research, I might be able to help others who are stumbling onto this subject for the first time to sort things out. I wished I had had a resource like this when I started out researching it, forty-plus years ago.

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  3. Thanks I will take a look at his work, assuming its accessible on the internet. Though what isn't heh?

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  4. There is an important NDE researcher who is almost forgotten today. I stumbled upon him by accident--Robert Crookall. He was a geologist, but he wrote several very detailed, well-researched and scholarly books on OOBEs and NDEs. They are all out-of-print and are not in eBook format. Old copies of his books go for about $100 apiece on eBay. I've gleaned what little I could from Google book preview. When information is "largely" online, what happens to research that exists only in out-of-print books? Another example is Dorothy Eady. I found out about her in the '80s and have tried to follow her for years, but she is also largely forgotten. In my opinion, she had one of the most fascinating and verifiable survival stories ever published, but the two books examining her life are not in print (I don't think) and are not in eBook format. So they don't bubble up to the "recommended" suggestions on Amazon. I know there are others.

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  5. Ha, haven't had time to reply to the one above, but yes Crookall is a good one. Has books on afterlife communication through mediumistic communications and also delves into OBE's. I read Eady a long time ago as well,but have forgotten much of what she said unfortunately. I may have her book lying around.

    Your endeavor here is admirable and will help people who are unaware to look further. Quite frankly it is difficult to write about anything that you are not entirely sure of. While it can be looked upon as "honest" skepticism, it can be looked upon as another doubtful seeker trying to make sense of what many consider nonsensical. This is not to mean you should stop until you are entirely sure, and surety surely :) comes from continuing to explore and of course admitting to your readers your own doubts. Which you do. However, someday you will KNOW and I will be curious to read what you have to write after that day.

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    1. This blog took a skeptical turn after I got embarrassed by a few researchers who got caught up in public scandals (Phil Imbrogno is one), but I haven’t updated it in a while. I’ve gone as far as I can go with it. Until we can visit other planes fully conscious and bring back verification of what we’ve found—and that day is coming, I believe—we won’t have the proof. I’ve thought about starting a new blog with what I’ve developed in the past couple of years. It falls more into the category of “knowing.” But I haven’t figured out how to contectualize it. Writing on this subject is analogous to building a house from ground-up without a blueprint. I want to make sure it’s cobbled together well-enough that it won’t be easily kicked over.

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  6. Briefly, regarding the comment prior to this one. You are correct, Newton's work is "difficult to 'prove'" in the usual way that is accepted in the western experimental paradignm. Do you really care that something like this can be proved when it's obvious that many incarnated here for many purposes. If what Newton has found is true, then it doesn't matter whether there is proof or not. I guess what I am saying is, what ultimately matters is whether you have proved it to yourself. Whether a billion or only one believes in something does not make that something true or false... for you.

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    1. I personally think his work is true, but for the editorial purposes of my skeptical blog I thought it salutary to mention that additional verification of his work would be helpful ;).

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