Tuesday, November 27, 2018

“Changed In A Flash” by Elizabeth Krohn

When the history of this time is writ (assuming that our species is around to writ it), I predict that the prevalence of the near-death experience will be seen as the seminal event that helped jump-start our acceptance of consciousness as independent of the physical brain. Presently, established science sees the possibility of an independent consciousness as a threat, but it will not be so later in this century—again, if we are around to contemplate it.
The latest entry in the near-death genre is the very good “Changed In A Flash” by Elizabeth Krohn. Elizabeth Krohn was struck by lightning while walking through a synagogue parking lot in 1988. She was knocked unconscious and out of her body, was ushered away from the scene by a spiritual presence, and then spent an extended period of time in a place she calls the “Garden.” During this stay in the Garden, she conversed with the spiritual presence—unidentified, but possibly her guide—for about two weeks before deciding to return to physical life. Though she experienced a lengthy visit to this plane, she awakened in her body to discover that only a few minutes of earth time had passed. Like most NDErs, she returned transformed and unable to completely integrate her new self with the life she had been leading. The bulk of the book discusses the changes that this causes, while over half of the text is given over to commentary by Jeffrey Kripal (which I didn’t read).
Though Ms. Krohn’s account is short, taking up only a few chapters, it is detailed, complex, and difficult for me personally to summarize. Unlike some other published NDE accounts, I think Ms. Krohn’s is valid. I was introduced to this book via Whitley Strieber’s Dreamland interview, and I found her to be a credible witness. As far as I can tell, she hasn’t appeared on any other podcast or paranormal show, and she doesn’t have a website hawking “readings.” All-in-all, she comes across as a down-to-earth experiencer with a miraculous story. And rather than recount her story, I’d like to do is highlight a couple of areas of interest that I think are important to the subject of consciousness studies.
The NDE event—fixed, not random
The oft-heard NDE admonition, “Go back, it is not your time” has been mainstreamed enough that it is now a cliche. Behind it, however, is a profound truth: the number of our days is largely set. Death is rarely an accident
 
What, then, of the near-death?
 
While I believe that we have “free will” and are allowed to make choices (and mistakes), a recurring theme throughout the NDE accounts that I’ve read is the idea that there is a time limit placed on our physical lives. This is a “hard” (non-negotiable) limit, though some experiencers are given an option to return to life. Most, however, are made to return, with the explanation from a spirit authority figure that the terminal limit of their lives has not been met (it is not their “time”). And while some near-death experiences are true accidents, others clearly are not—such as Ms. Krohn’s.
 
The sheer number of “random” choices and variables that would need to converge to produce one near-death event such as Ms. Krohn’s would (in my opinion) be impossible to calculate. Yet, Ms. Krohn was made to understand that this event was hard-wired into her life plan; the lightning strike had to happen, if not at that exact moment, then soon after:
I now know that had I not been struck by lightning on September 2, 1988, it would have happened on some other day. All the “what ifs” I can come up with no longer apply, because what was going to happen was going to happen. My guide in the Garden told me that, free will aside, the lightning strike event and all the things I can trace back to it were going to happen, regardless of what actions I may have taken on my own. Being struck by lightning was “in the contract” before I was born.

Ms. Krohn wrestles a bit with the free-will aspect of it all, but I think it’s safe to conclude that we retain free will for most of our actions—but some experiences can’t be skipped. These pre-determined experiences are ones that we have agreed to prior to birth. Being that Ms. Krohn’s encounter with lightning was meant to offer *near*-death rather than death, it is arranged in such a way as to offer her a return ticket to life should she so choose (the NDE was pre-determined, but the option to return was her free choice). The lightning strike occurred in front of a large synagogue “near a major medical center” with at least forty physicians attending a service at that moment, with one of the physicians “a doctor who had extensive experience treating victims of lightning strikes and electrocution.” The event was arranged that, should Ms. Krohn choose to return to life, she would be able to do so with minimum disruption.
 
Why this degree of planning and attention to an event where Elizabeth Krohn could have opted to die? This is pure speculation, but I believe that it was to allow her to return and tell her story.
Linear time exists as we understand it only for physically encarnated beings
Possibly one of the most difficult concepts in the Seth material, which he referenced in every book, is that of “simultaneous time.” Though Seth hammers this concept often throughout his material, I have never entirely understood it. I can glimpse fragments of the basic idea, and I have experimented with it, but as a whole, telling me that time is simultaneous is the same as telling me that time does not exist, which is experientially impossible. My brain refuses to accept it.
Ms. Krohn is forced to reckon with a non-linear time sequence in her NDE, which she goes to great length to explain. This suggests to me that she is describing a valid experience. Why expend so much effort to explain something profoundly inexplicable, if the inexplicable did not occur?
As I wrote previously, everything appeared to be happening all at once. But once I began to converse with my companion and receive information from him, time seemed to become linear again for the duration of my visit (or so is my memory here). I have come to understand that this happened not because time actually became linear for two weeks, but because I would have no other way of “decoding” the information I received in the Garden here in this world. The only way I can understand here what was told to me there is to remember it in linear terms. I know this is confusing. I honestly do not know if the near-death experience itself was linear, or whether I just need to remember it in those terms in order to decipher it. My gut feeling is that (a) time there was not linear, but (b) linear time is my only frame of reference here.

To the extent that I have tried to understand this matter of simultaneous time, I have concluded that our concept of time is restricted to a narrow focus on one linear thread that we measure with our usual tools, making events appear to be happening one after the other. Time outside of our context exists, but not as one restricted thread; it is multi-threaded, more expansive, and is not restricted to one event needing to follow one other. It includes more events, and the normal cause-and-effect sequencing is not determinate.

Maybe one way of comprehending simultaneous time is by looking at dreams. The difficulty of trying to remember a dream before it evaporates is universal, and it may give hints about the different uses of time at different stages of consciousness. Using myself as an example, many of my dreams do not have a clear moment-by-moment narrative; I have to create one while writing the dream down. I have to remember the dream story, along with the actors, and then work out what-happens-when. The process is akin to psychologically deconstructing an elaborate three-dimensional structure, flattening it, then pasting it onto the page, while hoping that I’ve captured enough of it so that some meaning is retained. And much of this difficulty is related to problems with time translation.

Current scientific evidence suggests that our concept and perception of time is rooted in the neurological structure of our brains​ (as this recent article suggests). Our brains are designed specifically to allow our consciousness to experience physical reality in a past-present-future and moment-by-moment way.

Why is this significant to understanding the near-death experience? Well, if consciousness can exist outside the physical brain, we would *expect* time anomalies in the extra-physical experience. And we would expect consciousness to have difficulty translating this experience after returning to the body.

If, however, consciousness cannot exist independent of a physical brain, it would experience, and remember, nothing of the NDE—and certainly nothing as detailed and veridical as the thousands of near-death accounts that we have available.
Aftereffects of an NDE: electrical anomalies
One thing that I have definitely experienced at various times in my life is an apparent inexplicable effect on electronic devices. When I was a pre-teen, I could never wear an analog watch—it would always stop running within a few days. I could occasionally stop a running watch simply by holding it in my hand. And I’ve had lights turn off after I’ve gotten near them.

After her NDE Ms. Krohn documents a number of problematic interactions with electronics. Strangely, despite this universal (and materially impossible) experience, I’ve never understood, much less thought about, why this was so. There really is no known scientific reason for this to happen—but it does, nevertheless.

Ms. Krohn gives a hint about the cause:
[The guide] told me about another kind of pain I would feel as I returned to my body. He said he would have to “help” me back into my body by hugging me tightly, so tightly it would feel as if my bones were being crushed. He explained that this was necessary because my expanded soul was much larger than my body, and it needed to be squeezed back into my physical frame. My understanding of the unconditional love, and everything else I had been taught in the Garden, was now part of who I was. This knowledge and understanding had expanded the size of my soul, which was now much larger than it had been when it departed my body.

I remembered the experience that I had a few years ago when my house fire alarm kept going off inexplicably when an acquaintance died in an auto accident. We had to remove the battery to get it to stop. The fire alarms of others who knew the woman also went off. The implication was that she was frantically trying to get the attention of those she knew by triggering their fire alarms, which she discovered that she could easily do.
So something about the non-physical body allows it to affect and influence electricity, although it (usually) can’t affect matter. OOB experiencers generally move through walls with ease, and their hands go through physical objects. But influencing circuits and electrical currents is something that the non-physical discover is quite doable, and many recently-deceased try to get our attention is by manipulating our electronic devices—turning lights, radios, and televisions off and on—in a way not dissimilar to how certain experiencers can affect electronics. This suggests to me that our non-physical essence—call it what you will—has an electrical component. When Ms. Krohn was returned to her body, she carried an extra spark that she didn’t have prior to her near-death. I don’t know if this is the same as the percentage of “energy” that we carry with us when we are born, but it might be. Michael Newton and others argue that the percentage of “energy” that we choose prior to birth is fixed and can’t be increased while we are living. But what if it’s changed during a near-death experience? Could a slight increase explain the electrical anomalies? This is totally speculative, and I know that I’m traipsing into scientific territory in an unscientific manner, but I think it’s worth pondering.
Parting thoughts
Elizabeth Krohn was in the “garden” for an extended amount of time, during which she received a download of information and had numerous questions answered. And while much of this information was likely erased when she chose to return to physical life, not all of it was. I truly hope that she takes the time to publish this information somewhere. I think it would be valuable. Each NDE account brings back a piece of a larger puzzle. And the puzzle is beginning to develop into a picture that we may need to understand.
 

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

“Pascagoula - The Closest Encounter” by Calvin Parker

One half of the 1973 Pascagoula abduction case, Calvin Parker, has recently published a book about his experience: “Pascagoula - The Closest Encounter.” The book is worth the read, despite haphazard editing. The Pascagoula abduction story is distinguished by several features that make it unique within the genre. Primarily, it occurred years before the Budd Hopkins book “Missing Time” popularized the experience, so there’s no contamination from popular culture. Secondarily, it was reported and investigated immediately by local law enforcement. Parker presents evidence that his abduction report was taken very seriously by the military. And, extensive parts of the abduction are recalled consciously by both witnesses. Arguably, the widespread publicity of the case inspired a significant UFO “flap,” which probably inspired a number of copycat reports, but there’s no indication that the two experiencers, Calvin Parker and Charles Hickson, were lying or confabulating. The case certainly made a big impression on me; was it the trigger for my own UFO “dreams” during this time? Possibly.

Unbeknownst to me and possibly everyone else until now, Parker subsequently met Budd Hopkins and underwent at least two regression hypnosis sessions. It is these that I find most interesting about the account, mostly because I am fairly sure that Parker (in contrast to many subsequent experiencers) is giving a faithful account of an experience that actually happened. There is no “I saw a light and then I blacked out” scenario that is then back-filled with “memories” retrieved by hypnosis. So, what happens when a “real” abductee is put under hypnosis, albeit by someone who is arguably not qualified to perform hypnosis and who might have an agenda?

The two regression sessions that Parker underwent explore the 1973 abduction, but another (apparently separate) session explored an experience of “missing time” that Parker remembers from 1993. It is this later experience that I find more interesting, because it suggests that Parker was not physically abducted. Rather, he was apparently pulled from his body and taken into a craft or vessel of some sort. The latter apparent abduction describes a “missing time” experience of at least twelve hour during a fishing trip in 1993. Parker reports going fishing just off-shore in Mississippi in the early morning. After being on the water thirty minutes, his next memory is looking up and noticing that it was nighttime. At least twelve hours had gone “missing” that he cannot remember or account for. He notices that the water and food he had brought for the trip had disappeared. The next day, his discovers that his ice bucket is full of fish that he doesn’t remember catching. Somehow, fish were caught, the food was eaten, but he remembers none of it.

A series of events and encounters leads him to a UFO conference, where he meets Budd Hopkins, who hypnotically regresses him to that day of missing time. Parker recounts:

and I remembered seeing a haze in the sky, like a cloud, it looked just like a cloud then it was directly over me about 500 feet high. It looks grey in color and I couldn’t tell how long it was. All at one time the bottom of this ‘cloud’ opened up. I started floating up with my back toward the craft and my face looking down at the boat. I noticed that I was still in the boat and I looked like I was asleep.  As I went into the bottom of the craft the door closed but I couldn’t feel the craft moving. I then saw what looked like a female approaching me. She was gray in color, with brown eyes that were really almost black. I wasn’t afraid at all because I knew for some reason that it was going to be alright and I would be safe. That’s when I finally came to terms with what had happen in October of 1973 (with me and Charlie) and it was now 1993. I don’t know what else may have happened as I must have come out of the hypnosis. I really don’t remember nothing more.

Parker doesn’t elaborate on this experience, unfortunately, nor does he seem to note the OOBE aspect—probably because, to many students of the phenomenon, a forced OOBE is harder to fathom than a literal physical abduction. While many of us will theoretically accept the possibility of a flying saucer snatching us from buildings, pulling our bodies through walls, paralyzing us and other witnesses, an OOBE is a bridge too far. But if, in fact, memories of abductions are actually forced OOBEs, the whole nature of the abduction experience changes.

I can personally fathom a scenario where consciousness is split, with the dominant personality being whisked into an apparent UFO, while the physical consciousness carries on as normal. It’s my hunch that the bulk of “abductions” are actually forced OOBEs. I’ve experienced this myself multiple times, and I recognize the stages of an out-of-body experience in the language used by abductees (paralysis, telepathic communication, floating through walls, flying through the air). The majority of my readers have likely experienced this also; it’s a universal experience, but rarely discussed or documented. The whys and wherefores of it are unknown, but this common experience might be one reason that UFO abduction reports are both widespread yet hard to prove; no physical trace of it is left, except a confused experiencer.

Of course, we are left with the question of who, or what, has the apparent power to suck consciousness from our bodies against our will. And what benefit would this serve to anyone?

Parker includes a full transcript of his regression session exploring his 1973 abduction. This is also interesting, but for a different reason. Students of Budd Hopkins’ regression sessions will recognize common themes in the Parker transcript, including an “evil” female alien that Parker seems to know from a lifetime of abductions. Did Hopkins “lead” Parker, either during the hypnosis, or prior to it, resulting in a “memory” of a stereotypical abduction with abusive, aliens? Unfortunately, we will never know.

Sunday, October 14, 2018

“The Afterlife Revolution,” Whitley Strieber

“The Afterlife Revolution” is a book that I have been waiting a long time for Whitley Strieber to write, and it is one that I can recommend (with caveats). “Afterlife” is part of a growing body of literature in ADCs, or after-death communications, and probably won’t upset the opinions of students of this niche topic (self included).

The core narrative is Strieber’s internal conversations with his recently deceased wife, Anne. You can accept, or reject, his experience. I certainly think it’s possible that Anne is communicating with him. What she reveals about life (and the afterlife) is very interesting, but unfortunately it takes up only a small part of the book. The remainder is devoted to Strieber’s usual ruminations about the “Visitors,” speculations about mankind’s past, and various theological issues. I sincerely hope that, in future writings, Strieber continues to disclose Anne’s messages and communications, either through his online “Anne’s Diary” or in future books.

My readings of Strieber always involve a process of filtering; I’ve learned to strip out information that is contradictory, speculative, or too outlandish to be verifiable. It involves suspending my disbelief about some of his experiences to arrive at a certain narrative point, while tossing out others that I suspect did not happen in our physical consensus reality. But what I bring back from this is always worth it.

The primary impetus behind this book seems to be an effort to build a “bridge” between the world of the afterlife, and our physical world. Anne Strieber’s “return” after her passing is framed as part of a life’s work of monumental importance, something that needs to happen now, at this point in history. Why now? In his recent journal entry “Intense New Encounters and What They Mean,” Strieber declares that “what I have seen of the future is that we are about to undergo a combination of climate and economic upheaval that is going to fundamentally change our world and our lives.” While Strieber did not give the specifics of this upheaval, a plurality of my readers will doubtless agree with him.

As to the “when” of it, Strieber offers this: I ask Anne when it will happen:

“I see towers standing now that will be standing then, so not too far off.”
“A hundred years?”
“I see kids in playgrounds. That tells me, within their lifetimes.”
“You think in pictures? How does that work?”
“You see the future like that. You can’t see things that haven’t happened yet, but you can see people whose fates are intertwined with them. We don’t see futures, we see fates.”

“Anne’s” remark about not being able to foresee specific events, but being able to discern the probable future by glimpsing the fates of those living now, is one of those core truths of the type that I always find buried in Strieber’s writing. A while back, I blogged about the universal inability of many self-described seers, psychics, and prognosticators to predict events two feet ahead of them, much less in the coming months. In fact, their predictions of the future are often more “wrong” than statistically possible. But I noted that I and many others often had very accurate precognitive dreams, and some seers (such as Evelyn Paglini) could successful see future events unfold in their readings of their clients. The reasons that some predictions fail, while others succeed, is simple: our “future” exists not as an abstract series of impersonal events, but as individual life-plan experiences. There is no future outside of our consciousness. A “psychic” trying to describe events in 2050 by mentally projecting himself to that date will see only his projections. However, if he is somehow able to discern the life plan of a specific individual who will be living then, he can probably get an accurate glimpse of a general future.

(This, of course, is a gross oversimplification of the process. Our individual, specific fates exist only as probabilities, and there are many probable futures, generally speaking, that not everyone will share.)

A necessary caveat: Many prognosticators have tried to predict the specifics of these upcoming “earth changes,” and they have all failed spectacularly. Why, then, should we take Whitley Strieber’s predictions seriously?

Primarily, because anyone who has studied the climate change issue knows that these climate crises are not only serious and quite likely to happen, but the effects are beginning now. No crystal ball needed. And Strieber has been uncharacteristically consistent over the years on this one issue.

More to come...

Sunday, September 2, 2018

I blogged about this a while back, I think

While I try to avoid political discussion in my now-intermittent blogging—having argued that politics and the paranormal do not mix—and knowing that nothing is more boring to the casual surfer than politics—I ran across this:

A Neuroscientist Explains How [***] and His Media Allies Are Targeting the Mentally Ill

I stopped listening to “Coast To Coast AM” several years ago due to the show’s pronounced lurch toward unhinged conspiratorial mongering, best typified by Alex Jones and his ilk. At the time, Jones was not quite the political figure that he is now, but I saw his rants as dangerous. As best as I can recall writing, I indicted the entire paranormal field with trafficking in risky conspiratorial thought and predicted that it was liable to push more than a few unstable people over the edge. So I’m happy (relatively speaking) to find that at least one other person on this planet agrees with me:

Schizotypy refers to a thinking style that puts one at risk for developing schizophrenia-spectrum disorders and involves cognitive and socio-emotional deficits along with severe behavioral problems. For these people, the terrifying conspiracies fuel their delusions, and it is likely that such ideas have pushed many individuals with sub-threshold levels of mental illness over the edge into full-blown clinical territory.

Disregard for a moment that my linked article appears on a lefty site—in fact, forget “left” and forget “right,” and leave what’s-his-name out of it—and just consider the exposure that “Coast To Coast” has given Alex Jones and others through the years. Is there a connection between the mainstreaming of paranoid conspiratorial thought, and the increase in mass killings by the mentally unstable—who often cite the same paranoid conspiracies as motives? And what does Alex Jones have to do with UFOs, Bigfoot, and other paranormal musings anyway (aside from a shared disregard for basic common-sense fact-finding and logic)?

Before resting my case prematurely, I would like to argue that those of us who truly enjoy pondering mysteries and “exploring the unknown” are ill-serve by allowing our interest to be hijacked by conspiracy-mongers, whose motives are imprudent at best and evil at worst. But now, as then, I’m not sure how to disentangle them—aside from trashing the paranormal entirely, and starting anew.

Saturday, June 30, 2018

Here come bad news, talking this and that

Recently I’ve been dropping by unknowncountry.com and reading Whitley Strieber’s journal entries with some interest. He has been dropping hints about impending earth changes which will wreak havoc on our current environmental and economic status quo. So far, they are just hints. He has promised to flesh them out later. I think that it’s imperative that he do this, if indeed he possesses such specific information from a valid source. (In the past, however, he has had a tendency to over-promote.)

It’s easy to dismiss Whitley Strieber, as I have wanted to do on many occasions, but some of his information strikes me as too compelling to ignore. The question of climate and earth changes is one of those issues that I believe we ignore at our peril.

I have never trusted Strieber’s “Visitors,” their motives, or their information. I no longer believe in mass human abductions, and I don’t buy the premise that UFOs are the “cause” of any such abductions, if indeed they’re occurring. However, if in fact these beings are willing to go on the record with specific warnings of events that (for once) do pan out and do occur, then I’m open to changing my opinion. The fact that Earth is entering a dangerous phase is undeniable, and the issue is of such tremendous importance that I’m willing to listen to any source with a genuine offer of assistance.

Monday, May 14, 2018

In contrast to the Pam Reynolds NDE...

As I make my way through the individual nderf.org cases (chronologically), certain accounts jump out from the background. Valerie’s NDE is one such case. It is actually a fairly “ordinary” (if not stereotypical) NDE, filled with the usual iconic NDE imagery: The experiencer abruptly begins her account by describing a man dressed in a ragged and torn robe. (It is strongly implied that the robed figure is Jesus—though, as in many of these accounts, he is not specifically identified as such.) She floats upward, following him. He assures her that the “prayers of the righteous are answered.” She is almost blinded by a light issuing from a doorway, which she was blocked from passing through. She undergoes a mini-life review, which she calls a “judgement,” and is sent back to her body.

This NDE would not be remarkable except for the fact that Valerie had apparently been put in an induced near-death state (heart stopped, blood removed) to repair a brain artery aneurysm, apparently the same procedure that Pam Reynolds underwent. The surgery lasted seven hours. Pam Reynolds, by contrast, became conscious out-of-body shortly after her heart was stopped. She is aware that “she” has left her body, is able to see it, and is able to observe and remember the operating theater in clinical detail. She described the surgical instruments used, the ambient sounds that she “heard,” not to mention the non-physical people that she communicated with. Pam Reynolds was oriented in both time and place despite being out-of-body and was able to “remember” the details when she returned to physical consciousness. (To dismiss her experience as a hallucination is a bit of a stretch, particularly when contrasted with Valerie’s.)

Personally, I think that the contrast between the two experiences is evidence of an important factor that we usually forget when interpreting NDEs: NDE differences suggest that what we see out-of-body, and how we interpret what we can see, depends on not only the nature and development of the individual consciousness, but also on how much consciousness we bring with us when out-of-body. Valerie experienced what her consciousness was able to experience, and she interpreted her experience with the tools that she had available to her.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Physics of the afterlife, continued

Quite a while back, I scribbled a speculative comparison of “afterlife” environments with a view of forming some rudimentary concepts that I dubbed the “physics of the afterlife.” I took as starting point a detailed account of a non-terrestrial environment described in “The Children That Time Forgot” entitled “Boy remembers being in his aunt’s womb: Desmond Sanderson, Coventry.” This fairly detailed account of a “between-life” environment is notable for two very specific physical descriptions—a special fruit that was fed to the newly-crossed-over to help them recover from the terrestrial environment, and water. Actually, what the three-year-old Desmond describes as “water” is apparently a substance that mimics the appearance and behavior of water, but the substance isn’t a liquid in physical terms. Desmond describes being able to float on top of the “water” but he never gets wet from it. Additionally, the substance displays chromatic colors that are internal (not reflections) and makes tinkling sounds when it’s disturbed. In terms of legitimate afterlife descriptions, this is fairly specific—none of the vague sorts of lights and clouds that are usually described.  Well, I’ve come across another account of this “water” in an NDE account from the NDERF site:

I could see the water, and a bright glow surrounded it and the burbling of the water had a musical sound to it, this stream of water fairly sang! The water was so sparkling clear! I remember wanting to bend over and take a drink from the stream that was running through this garden we were walking thru. When I tried to scoop up water with my hands the water ran through my hands, literally, and it wasn’t wet!—“Derry”

Derry’s account is one of the more descriptive NDEs and is worth a read.

I may be approaching this issue from the wrong perspective by expecting the afterlife environment to be like the terrestrial one, and trying to figure out why it isn’t. (Obviously, if I were on the other end, I’d be trying to figure out why terrestrial water gets things wet and doesn’t play music.)   But I keep returning to this because it is one of the few common specific descriptions by experiencers that surprises them. (Among other common experiences are being able to travel to destinations instantly merely by thinking of them, 360-degree vision, ability to communicate without words, etc..)   I can somewhat explain these commonalities, and the experiencers don’t seemed surprised by them. But I can’t explain the “water.” Why not just have “real” water in the afterlife?  Why this substance that obviously isn’t water, despite outward appearance? The most obvious answer: “water” doesn’t, or can’t, exist on this particular afterlife plane. Other terrestrial artifacts—dirt, sky, light, buildings—are represented in forms that are somewhat analogous to earth. But not water.

This may, or may not, be related to the water anomaly: An NDE account by Jaime wherein he is presented with a cup of coffee by his deceased grandmother. When he tries to drink it he discovers that “it was not hot and had no taste. It was lukewarm; but yet there was steam coming from it like it was hot, but it was not. It's like when you are sick and there's no taste.”

Water as we know it does not, and cannot, exist on this plane—what could this mean?

As we are all taught in biology class, life as we know it can’t exist on the physical plane without water. If there is no water in the afterlife (or on that specific afterlife plane), we aren’t in bodies that function like terrestrial ones... perhaps we are in forms that mimic the physical, and appear physical, but we are governed by different laws (or “root assumptions”) that would appear alien to us. This opens up a whole world of speculation for the physics-inclined explorer, and eliminates the need to send Mars-type landers into the afterworld to scrape for subterranean ice.

Saturday, April 14, 2018

A note on the passing of Art Bell

I can’t remember when I first started listening to Art Bell—but I know that it was in the ‘90s, along with everyone else who is a fan. I followed him through his various retirements and returns and always tried to catch his shows. Recently, I realized that Art was never going to return to radio, so I started re-listening to his classic shows. I’m able to hear them now from a different perspective. His paranormal-themed shows hold up surprisingly well, but he was able to tease substance from guests on a wide gamut of topics. For example.... this week I’m listening to his 1995 show discussing the upcoming release of Windows 95. He held his own against his guest, a Microsoft software engineer, proving himself to be quite tech-savvy. I can’t think of a single interview where he failed to be engaged and knowledgeable of the topic at hand—and I can bet that he didn’t have a small army of researchers feeding him bullet points and background papers. He was a maestro, skillfully conducting his guests and his callers, gracefully dispatching malcontents, building suspense with carefully timed commercial breaks, succinctly wrapping up the interview. He seemed always to be in control. I realized that those who have followed in his wake suffer greatly by comparison. No matter how informed they seem to be—or not be—they have never been able to cause me forget that I’m listening to some guy (and it’s usually a guy) with a philosophical axe to grind, reading from a list of questions cobbled together a half hour before airtime.

Of course, this raises the question—is the paranormal topic benefitted by being treated as “just” entertainment? If you’re talking about the YouTube UFO, aliens, and conspiracy channels, the endless ghost sighting series, the Hitler-is-living-in-South-America crap—no. Because not only is that crap, it’s not entertaining. Not only was Art Bell entertaining, his audience was, to an extent, in on the shtick—and because of this, he served as a gateway to others to pursue more “serious” research later. For that, as a marginal dabbler in peripheral topics that will always haunt me, I salute Art Bell. May you go in peace, and continue your quest beyond this plane.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Evidence Of The Afterlife: The Science Of Near-Death Experiences

I finally obtained a copy of Jeffrey Long’s “Evidence Of The Afterlife,” published in 2010, which makes an excellent adjunct to his NDERF website, with its compendium of over 4000 first-person NDE accounts. A noted critic of the “supernatural” interpretation of the near-death experience wrote a short negative review of the book, which (for better or worse) I have kept in mind as I survey Dr. Long’s case reviews. Dr. Long’s book recites the major features of the NDEs as submitted by his website visitors (as of 2010), along with some basic statistical analysis. Dr. Long probably offends some materialists by concluding that the NDE accounts suggest evidence of God, “heaven,” and an afterlife, which is okay. The evidence seems to point in that direction. But I can entertain the counter-argument that it proves nothing of the sort. Obviously, we cannot “prove” the supernatural aspect of the NDE without crossing the “barrier” and doubling back to Earth to give an account thereof (which, I believe, is done in ADCs, or after-death communications, but that is a something that I think others are more qualified to argue).

Mostly I’ve read “Evidence Of The Afterlife” for the stories. The 4000+ NDE accounts on the NDERF site stand on their own—and I am currently in the process of reading every single one—but it’s interesting to me to read the ones that Dr. Long believes are most evidential. I am certainly open to skeptical arguments against the supernatural interpretation of the NDE, but only if they highlight some flaw in the methodology for collecting the information, or demonstrate a clear medical, material cause for the experience. I have been persuaded by such skeptical arguments in other paranormal areas, specifically, “alien abductions.” Several researchers have offered compelling criticisms of these cases, which I blogged about a while back. Other paranormal beliefs may be successfully refuted by highlighting questions about the proponents’ credentials, credibility, or veracity, or highlighting perceptive anomalies, among other possibilities.

While it is easy to attack the methodology or credibility of a researcher or two, it is difficult to argue against the experiences of over 4000 individuals who have been near death and have returned to write about it. When assaulted by an overwhelming number of detailed, sincere, and similar accounts, told by experiencers from different cultures, at different ages and backgrounds, the simplest response is to accept their accounts at face value. They are describing apparently real events that require no further explanation or interpretation. They are what they are, and, just as importantly, what they seem to be. The database is available to believer and skeptic alike, to sort, analyze, interpret. But the experiences deserve to stand on their own. If Dr. Long has a flaw, it might be his apparent enthusiasm for the supernatural or divine interpretation of the experiences. Skeptics will interpret this as a serious bias that contaminates his data. They have a point—if it can be demonstrated that Dr. Long is selecting only those NDE accounts that conform to a bias, while not publishing those that don’t. He might be possibly doing this. But I’m inclined to doubt it. It would not only be unethical, but time-consuming.

(On a side note: I’ve been listening to some old Art Bell shows from the ‘90s and 00s, and today I re-heard his 2002 interview with Pam Reynolds. For me, this is the classic NDE account told by probably the most credible experiencer. Coincidentally, the primary critic of the Pam Reynolds account, most cited by skeptics, is the same critic above who gave a negative review of Dr. Long’s book.)

Postscript to my side note: In her 2002 interview, Pam Reynolds mentioned that she planned to write a book on her experience. The book was never published, which is unfortunate. The most complete account of her NDE was reportedly written by Michael Sabom, but I’ve resisted buying “Light And Death” because it does seem to have a religious bias. It’s possible that this bias has skewed interpretation of Reynolds’ account and led to the skeptical outpouring. However, Reynolds avoids any overt religious sentiment in her account. She mentions “God” only once and avoids labeling her experience as a “miracle” (although the chain of coincidences that leads to her treatment is noteworthy).