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There Probably Is An Afterlife

I’ve been enjoying a book about survival of death by Greg Taylor (of The Daily Grail). It’s called Stop Worrying! There Probably Is An Afterlife. It makes some important points, and I found myself agreeing with many of the approaches he takes – in fact I’d been thinking of following some of them myself in my next book.

It leads with death-bed visions - a good idea, as they obviously happen, and since they have not been the subject of much research are also not the focus of intense controversy, unlike mediums and near-death experiences. Nor they are easily explained as hallucinations caused by anoxia or drugs. Greg quotes some interesting stats. In a recent survey of doctors, nurses and hospice carers by Dr Peter Fenwick almost two thirds reported witnessing end of life experiences such as death bed visions. In a similar American survey more than half of 525 respondents said likewise, and in a small Australian sample everyone did.

Beyond that, a deathbed vision is something that people are likely to witness within their own families – Greg mentions some instances in his own. The phenomenon even occasionally surfaces in the media, as happened in the case of Steve Jobs, whose (deservedly famous) last words were said to be ‘Oh wow! Oh wow! Oh wow!’ So it’s a good reason, as people who are involved in this area as researchers or experiencers often say, for supposing that ‘something is going on’, and not something that science can usefully say much about.

There follows a chapter on near-death experiences, which among other things takes full account of the phenomenon of accurate out-of-body perception. There’s information that many readers will recognise, such as George Ritchie’s near-death experience which got Raymond Moody interested in the subject, but also some less familiar (at least to me) reports from pre-Moody times.

There’s an interesting exchange here with Dr Bruce Greyson, a psychiatrist and NDE expert at the University of Virginia. Asked to comment on the ‘neural disinhibition’ approach by Dr Jason Braithwaite – a British psychologist who argues that memories can be created only if the brain is functioning, and that therefore the brain must be functioning during an NDE – Greyson points out that this claim depends on accepting the a priori belief that the mind is what the brain does. This is a problem for sceptics, because so much of their case rests upon the assumption that the evidence itself brings into question.

Then a chapter on mediums, which takes in Leonora Piper and Gladys Leonard, the stars of early psychic research, and goes on to discuss contemporary studies and experiences. These include interviews with Trevor Hamilton, author of a recent book about experiences with mediums following the death of his son, and Dr Julie Beischel, a scientific investigator of mediumship.

Here Greg points out that many people who visit a medium, if they are impressed at all, are affected not by the entirety of the sitting, in which many pieces of information may be inaccurate, or too general to be persuasive, but by one or two items that are so correct, and so absolutely beyond coincidence, as to get their excited attention (a fictional example is when a hitherto sceptical Demi Moore in Ghost is stopped in her tracks when the medium says, “He says ‘Ditto’”.) He suggests this might be why a study of mediums by sceptic Richard Wiseman was negative, because the scoring method averaged out such hits.

Putting the evidence into a scientific context there follows a consideration of non-orthodox views of what consciousness is and how it occurs. Here Greg quotes theoretical physicist Andrei Linde, who speculates that consciousness may exist by itself, even in the absence of matter, just as gravity exists in the absence of protons and electrons. He also discusses Henry Stapp’s idea of quantum consciousness, in which mind, as a fundamental element of the cosmos, interacts with the physical world at the quantum level within our brains.

As the title suggests, this is a cheerful, uplifting book, and does not spend a lot of time forensically examining the evidence in the detatched manner of a sceptic or psychic researcher anxious not to be accused of gullibility. I think Greg’s right not to waste too much time dealing with sceptical responses – although he does deal with some, especially in the chapter on near-death experiences, also reprising his debunking of Martin Gardner on the subject of Leonora Piper – but to let the evidence speak for itself. The fact is, as he stresses, there is by now so much of it, of so many different kinds, that it makes sense to take it seriously.

Despite being considered a fring topic to science, everyday people from all over the world have these types of experiences regularly . . . if you delve into the literature the number is overwhelming, and it is difficult to transmit the convincing effect that taking in all of this information through years of reading has on an individual. And those researchers who have taken the time to consider all this evidence, generally come to the same view.

It’s the accumulation of a great many such incidents that creates the impact, one that you don’t get from just reading one or two, still less from hearing a generic description of it

The effect is existential, as discussed in the final chapter. Probably not many people live their lives fully aware of their impending death, and determined to make the most of it while it lasts – although certainly some do. Steve Jobs said that ‘remembering he would one day die’ was his most important tool in helping to make the big choices in life – ‘the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose’.

On the other hand, the impact of coming to understand that this life is just the prelude to another one can be hugely transformative. Which is why it’s such a shame that so many people alive today will never experience it, shielded as they are by scientific and social nostrums - and of course their own - about what is and is not possible. That’s why a book like this is so valuable in illuminating the subject of survival in such a clear and accessible way.

I’ve come to the view that there’s a place for an approach that dispenses with all the hand-wringing about what it means, and ‘could it true?’ and the self-conscious ‘No-one’s-going-to-make-a-monkey-out-of-me-I’m-not-going-to-have-the-wool-pulled-over-my-eyes-no-siree!’ pose, but simply accepts that this stuff happens, and now let’s move on. The approach is not uncritical – far from it, it considers obvious problems and challenges – it just doesn’t let itself get overwhelmed by scepticism. Conversations go on all the time in the media about how we deal with death. Surely time we allowed our growing awareness of these strange phenomena to enter into the debate.

Comments

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The book is well written but what definitely is missing is the research carried out by Ian Stevenson/Jim Tucker etc. about children remembering previous lives.

Rober, what will your book be about and when is it going to be published?

I like the title of the book, at least. It has always struck me, as someone, who has lifelong experience of 'mediumistic' phenomena of various types, that an afterlife is merely 'probable' or (perhaps) 'possible' - as an explanation for these.

IMO the evidence is too patchy, still (for a multitude of reasons), to come to definite conclusion. Although I don't think that it is illogical to adopt a 'belief' position on the afterlife as an act of faith - if that is what someone wants to do.

'what definitely is missing is the research carried out by Ian Stevenson/Jim Tucker etc. about children remembering previous lives.'

It turns out that there is so much evidence of post-mortem survival that one can make a good case by just referring to part of it. I like the idea of a relatively short book that doesn't feel the need to labour through all of it.

Then there's the fact that the idea of rebirth is a barrier to many people, especially traditionalist Christians. It's just one more difficult thing to come to terms with, and is perhaps better left to another time.

'what will your book be about and when is it going to be published?'

It will explore the reasons why Western society has such difficulty with the idea of psi and post-mortem survival, and how that might change in the future.

As to when, no idea! I'd hoped to get most of it done by now, but got a bit distracted by other projects, of which more later!

'the evidence is too patchy, still (for a multitude of reasons), to come to definite conclusion.'

Interesting, Steve. Care to elaborate?! It seems to me that one has to swing one way or the other, and if it's not what it seems to be, then what is the alternative?

I suppose it depends what evidence one has. I think the evidence for survival is strong when considered in the round, although individual instances can often be neutralised if they weren't well enough documented.

I suspect however that complete conviction comes only from direct personal experience. In some cases, for the person concerned, the evidence is irrefutable.

Well Rob and Paul: The short answer is that, with some things, I'm a pedant of the first order. Someone, another musician (inevitably, I think it was a drummer), once said to me (and, frankly, I think he was being a tad unreasonable under the circumstances) '..if I offered you thirty thousand quid in used notes, you'd ask for a bloody cheque!'

Even the amount of (relatively rare) 'good' evidence I've had, personally, has been much more than one could reasonably expect. And yet...why only 'probably'?

I'll bore you all with the long answer tomorrow if I get a minute (or 30) :)

The afterlife and science.
One frequently reads that time and space are perceived differently in the next world.
If correct this bodes ill for any explanation that relies upon our current concept of time and space.Or, to put it another way, can you imagine our science developing with random variable units of space and time?
----------------------------

I think the word 'perceived' could be the key there, Jack.

Carrying on from last night (and being as brief as possible). Some years ago I came to dislike casual use of the word 'believe' - in relation to MY position on THIS subject, anyway. The concept tends towards wooliness which can imply (when tending towards the mohair end of the scale), as alluded to by Rob, that you have to take a hard position one way or the other. And that, I feel, has been tremendously destructive to increasing our understanding of these issues; because it has helped to polarise the debate in a very corrosive way. The results of that, lets face it, inform a great deal of the conversation on this blog - so it's a bit difficult to avoid :)

As for the evidence: Well, as Paul has said - yes a great deal depends on your personal experience. I've had plenty of that - in pretty much every area except the NDE (but one very powerfully veridical OBE - out of many that weren't).

Yet I would still have to use the 'bundle of sticks' approach to get to the 'probably' position with my own subjective evidence. With the best of the evidence available from the research literature - I would still have to do the same, as Chris Carter did, very skilfully, in his last book. The only reason the bundle of sticks approach is necessary at all is because the evidence, from a sensibly critical position is, in my opinion, 'patchy'.

Yet, even my own bundle of sticks combined with Chris Carter's doesn't quite make the two ends of the circle meet for me. Regrettably, there simply isn't the space here to give a proper justification of that. Although Chris' deconstruction of the 'super-psi' theory is probably the best I've seen, it would still be the only realistic alternative for me - because we simply don't know enough about the nature of Psi to totally rule it out as a blanket explanation COMPLETELY. I feel that it must play, at least, a part in it all.

So, that's why I think it's possible that there's an afterlife - 'probable' on a good day. And I'd rate the degree of probability as reasonably high - at least for a while on mornings when I've had enough sleep and drunk enough coffee.

That's why I found it quite refreshing to hear of Dan Eagleman's coining of the term 'possibilian'. Although this former SPR member beat him to it by several decades (well, sort of): -

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FPGMWF7kU_8

@steve I think my position is similar to yours on this, though I can't say I have much personal evidence bar one particularly striking incident.

I don't like the word 'believe' either in this context and agree with the possible=yes, probabability=Moderate to High view.

For me the discussion is definitely about probabilities which to be honest is the way I view most things I haven't witnessed for myself. I may have an emotional reaction which makes me a 'believer' but my intellectual position is, I'd like to think, based on my assessment of the evidence, which includes testimony of those claiming to have directly experienced evidence of survival. I'd be disinclined to reject such testimony out of hand simply because it is outside my own experience.

The 'bundle of twigs' view of the evidence seems to me to be about corroboration, which I think is a perfectly reasonable factor to take into account when making a decision on evidence. How much weight to give such corroboration seems to me a personal decision and will probably vary from one individual to another.

In short, for me, survival is proven on the balance of probabilities but not beyond reasonable doubt at the moment. I accept that others' view of the evidence when combined with their personal experience might make their position different from mine.

Mr. McLuhan, I wonder if you can refute the following:

The wikipedia article on Richard Hodgson says: "Hodgson was also caught in an act of deception. Hodgson had claimed Professor Fiske from his séance with Piper was "absolutely convinced" Piper's control was the real George Pellew, however, when Pellew's brother contacted Fiske about it, he replied it was "a lie" as Piper had been "silent or entirely wrong" on all his questions.": source: Joseph McCabe. (1920). Is Spiritualism Based On Fraud? The Evidence Given By Sir A. C. Doyle and Others Drastically Examined. London: Watts & Co. pp. 101-105

Are you aware of this, and of evidence refuting it?

Ben, the Pellew family were said to be sceptical about GP's identity, and this is one of sceptics' biggest arguments. As usual in such cases the truth could be a whole lot more complicated. There's family dynamics to consider: they were convinced atheists and would have found the affair embarrassing, as well as intellectually and emotionally challenging. The history of seance mediumship shows how people later revised their earlier impressions - a process I called 'rational gravity' in my book. I doubt very much that Hodgson was lying, but it suits sceptics to say so.

There's an awful lot of this gossipy stuff in the literature and IMO it's a waste of time trying to refute all of it. Better to make one's own case, although obviously it's hard to do that on Wikipedia, which is the sceptics' domain.

Just an FYI - Bruce Greyson is a psychiatrist, not a psychologist (in other words, an MD, not a PhD).

Yes but the information concerns Fiske, not Pellew per se, so for your argument to work, Pellew would have had to been lying about Fiske. I don't see evidence of Fiske having rational gravity, so how do we resolve this, lest skeptics use this in order to discredit Hodgson, and by extension, the Piper investigation? Until addressed, this seems, to me, to be a fatal flaw for one attempting to make the case for Piper.

'Bruce Greyson is a psychiatrist, not a psychologist'

thanks, amended

Ben in the same token I could ask you how you care to explain the dazzle shots Mrs. Piper had throughout her career and information she provided that the sitters didn't even know that had to be later verified.

Seems a bit irrational to pick and choose evidence to fit your worldview does it not?

Any idea what McCabe's source was, Ben?


some guy told him it was so and then he put it in a book so it must be true. No different then the fundamental Christians. Give me a break.

That's sort of what I was thinking, Balloney. I have distinct memory of being in the Humanist Library at Conway Hall in London, back in the mid 90's, and checking out the work of the Victorian forerunners of the Wiki-fiddling crowd.

I'd started, like Rob, thinking that the claims of modern skeptics were very impressive, if a little out of the University of the Bleeding Obvious, in some respects. As you've probably guessed I found that the modern skeptical literature was a bit like the Jehovah's Witness version of the Bible - you know, rather incompetently re-edited in a hopeless attempt to remove the internal inconsistencies.

I had just wanted to see where the chain of misrepresentation had started, and so was checking out the claims of early skeptical writers, such as the unfortunately named Edward Clodd. I'm sure that McCabe was in the mix there somewhere and that I had reason think - 'oh yeah...more of the same'. I do remember thinking that, as a former ardent Catholic, whose pendulum had swung completely to the other extreme, McCabe was a good example of someone who'd merely wandered from one department of the religious fundamentalist mindset store, into another.

I'll try and dig out my old notes a bit later. Hopefully, Ben will be able to help us out, though.

This is quite interesting, given that Hodgson was also accused of less than honest behaviour the other way around - in his exposure of Blavatsky, for example.

Could you please provide proof of Clodd's misrepresentations? I am very much on your side, and I'd really appreciate it.

I take it you don't have access to McCabe's source then, Ben?

If I can grab a few minutes away from preparations for the coming Baby Jesus fest, then I'll risk the wrath of the flesh eating false widow spiders in my loft - in an attempt to find my notes from nearly twenty years ago.

OK Ben. I made it out alive! I found the Clodd stuff, but that relating to McCabe must be somewhere else. There follows a verbatim extract from Clodd's 'Pioneers of Evolution From Thales to Huxley', Grant Richards (London) 1847, pp.135-136. This is taken from my hand-written notes from the print version in the library at Conway Hall (in 1996, I think). I appear to have omitted one gratuitous sentence when taking my notes - where indicated.

I found however, after I had typed all of this out, that a free, read online version is available (see link below) for anyone who thinks that I may be quoting Clodd out of context. Just download the document and do a text search for 'Oliver Lodge' and that'll take you to the relevant paragraph: -

http://www.gutenberg.org/files/39526/39526-0.txt

Clodd is providing us with an early example of the '...all well known scientists who have time for this stuff are feeble minded fools' routine, and his target here is Oliver Lodge. Clodd is even so brazen as to give a reference for his two short quotations from Lodge.

After that is a verbatim account of what Lodge ACTUALLY said. It is somewhat longer, I'm afraid. But Lodge is commenting on quite a complex issue - rather than just dismissing it out of hand. This is taken from the online version of 'Proceedings of The Society for Psychical Research', Vol. 10 1894 Part XXVI. This is available online (see link) if you register and can master the rather arcane search facility. It's free if you are an SPR member: -

http://www.spr.ac.uk/main/page/online-library

Finally there is a brief analysis from me.

Edward Clodd's claim taken from 'Pioneers of Evolution From Thales to Huxley', Grant Richards (London) 1847, pp.135-136.

In considering, if it be deemed worth while, the evidence of genuineness of the occurrences we are thrown, not on the honesty, but on the competency of the witnesses. The most eminent of these show themselves persons of undisciplined emotions. The distinguished physicist, Professor Oliver Lodge, who has been described to the writer by an intimate friend of the Professor as 'longing to believe something' argues that in dealing with psychical phenomena, a hazy, muzzy state of mind is better than a mind 'keenly awake' and 'on the spot'' (see 'Address' to the Society for Psychical Research, Proceedings, part xxvi, pp. 14,15). With this may be compared a Mohammedan receipt for summoning spirits...Thus have the dreamy Oriental Moslem and the self-hypnotised Western professor met together to elicit truth from trance.

Oliver Lodge's Original Statement: -

It has long been known that in order to achieve remarkable results in any department of intellectual activity, the mind must be to some extent unaware of passing occurrences. To be keenly awake and " on the spot " is a highly valued accomplishment, and for the ordinary purposes of mundane affairs is a far more useful state of mind than the rather hazy and absorbed condition which is associated with the quality of mind called genius ; but it is not as effective for brilliant achievement.

When a poet or musician or mathematician feels himself inspired, his senses are, I suppose, dulled or half asleep ; and though probably some part of his brain is in a great state of activity, I am not aware of any experiments directed to test which that part is, nor whether, when in that state, any of the more ordinarily used portions are really dormant or no. It would be interesting, but difficult, to ascertain the precise physiological accompaniments of that which on a small scale is called a brown study, and on a larger scale a period of inspiration.

It does not seem unreasonable to suppose that the state is somewhat allied to the initial condition of anaesthesia—the somnambulic condition when, though the automatic processes of the body go on with greater perfection than usual, the conscious or noticing aspect of the mind is latent, so that the things which influence the person are apparently no longer the ordinary events which affect his peripheral organs, but either something internal or else something not belonging to the ordinarily known physical universe at all.

The mind is always in a receptive state perhaps, but whereas the business-like, wide-awake person receives impressions from every trivial detail of his physical surroundings, the half-asleep person seems to receive impressions from a different stratum altogether ; higher in some instances, lower in some instances, but different always from those received by ordinary men in their every-day state.

In a man of genius the state comes on of itself and the results are astounding. There exist occasionally feeble persons, usually young, who seek to attain to the appearance of genius by the easy process of assuming or encouraging an attitude of vacancy and uselessness. There may be all grades of result attained while in this state, and the state itself is of less than no value unless it is justified by the results.

By experiment and observation it has now been established that a state very similar to this can be induced by artificial means, e.g., by drugs, by hypnosis, by crystal gazing, by purposed inattention ; and also that the state can occur occasionally without provocation during sleep and during trance.

All these states seem to some extent allied, and, as is well known, Mr. Myers has elaborated their relationship in his series of articles on the subliminal consciousness.
Well now, the question arises, What is the source of the intelligence manifested during epochs of clairvoyant lucidity, as sometimes experienced in the hypnotic or the somnambulic state or during trance, or displayed automatically ?

The most striking cases of which I am now immediately or mediately cognisant, are the trance state of Mrs. Piper and the automatism of such writers as the wife of the late Rev. P. H. Newnham. {1 } Without any apparent lulling of attention at all I am experimentally assured of the possibility of conveying information between one mind and another without the aid of ordinary sense organs ; but the cases mentioned are especially striking and will serve to narrow the field to what, after all, may be considered at present the main points.

Mrs. Piper in the trance state is undoubtedly ( I use the word in the strongest sense ; I have absolutely no more doubt on the subject than I have of any friend's ordinary knowledge of me and other men), —Mrs. Piper's trance personality is undoubtedly aware of much to which she has no kind of ordinarily recognised clue, and of which in her ordinary state she knows nothing. But how does she get this knowledge? She herself when in the trance state asserts that she gets it by conversing with the deceased friends and relatives of people present. And that this is a genuine opinion of hers, i.e., that the process feels like that to her unconscious or subconscious mind, the part of her which calls itself Phinuit, I am fully prepared to believe. But that does not carry us very far towards a knowledge of what the process actually is.

Conversation implies speaking with the mouth, and when receiving or asking information she is momentarily in a deeper slumber, and certainly not occupied in speech. At times, indeed, slight mutterings of one-sided questions and replies are heard, very like the mutterings of a person in sleep undergoing a vivid dream.

{1} Phantasms of the Living, Vol. I. p. 63.

Clodd first primes the reader for what follows by using an alleged 'quote' by one of Lodge's 'intimate friends' to show that Lodge has a desire to believe almost anything. Note that he does not name this person - so he could just be making it up, or is indulging in the habit mentioned by Baloney earlier in relation to McCabe's claims. I doubt very much that this would have been allowed in the peer - refereed journal that Clodd is quoting Lodge from.

It is pretty clear to me that Clodd is saying that Lodge has recommended that a 'hazy' state of mind is better than a 'keenly awake' one and it is therefore implied strongly that Lodge's testimony as to the nature of psychical phenomena is therefore not to be trusted.

It is just as clear from Lodge's version that he is merely speculating as to the apparent nature of the trance state - as he and others have observed it. He is not referring at all to the best attitude of mind with which to act as an observer. He is actually saying the exact opposite to what Clodd is implying. And, ironically in the present context, he uses Piper as an example. What is also hilariously obvious is that Lodge doubts that Piper's Phinuit control is anything other than an aspect of her own personality - so much for 'longing to believe something' on his part.

If that isn't proof of a deliberate and utterly disgraceful misrepresentation, then I don't know what is. In my opinion it amounts to a premeditated, effective 'lie'. Are we really supposed to believe that someone of Clodd's standing didn't know exactly what he was doing? No wonder this approach has been carried forward in print and online since. Skeptics have been uncritically absorbing rubbish like this ever since Clodd's day and rarely looking beyond it to see if it's actually true. Indeed, Clodd's material in relation to this subject has often been cited by skeptics (including McCabe).

I might add that, of course, 'believers' have also absorbed a lot of rubbish uncritically. However, in the main (apart from or two debatable examples Wallace and, maybe, Crookes - in some respects), I did not find that to be the case with the early core academic SPR researchers, such as Lodge. And they were certainly not guilty of the blanket misrepresentation, much of it quite scurrilous, that they received from their opponents - Clodd, Huxley, Carpenter et al.

It does look like a gross misrepresentation of Lodge. The next question is 'why?'. Is Clodd willfully misrepresenting Lodge - which looks like dishonesty, or did he miss Lodge's point which is, putting it charitably, somewhat careless at best.

It could be 'careless', Paul. But if it is, then the only explanation to me is that it's 'careless' in the Randi sense of the word. I could do no better than point anyone to the Randi chapter of the Will Storr book re that.

The two short quotes from Lodge's 'Address' are from quite early in the piece. So it could be that Clodd just speed read the first bit and came to an astonishingly naive conclusion.

The anonymous quote from Lodge's 'friend' is the give away for me, though. IMO that betrays a streak of calculating cruelty in Clodd's character. He was a far from stupid man, being (ahem) a successful banker.

Yes I agree Steve, I did say careless if we were being charitable :)

To traduce an eminent scientist such as Lodge in this way, even if it was careless, is unforgivable and does bring into question anything else Clodd may have commented on. It is redolent of the so-called sceptical campaign on Wikipedia.

Sure Paul.

That was only one example from Clodd's book, BTW. And it turns out that hadn't actually bothered to check it out at the time. Most of the notes I had taken from that book actually related to similar attacks on Wallace. Checking them all out was on my 'to do' list. But I never got around to it because I was still mainly occupied with dealing with the more recent, post CSICOP, examples - which were bad enough - and I was starting to get a bit jaded with it all.

Time after time I'd find a claim made by a skeptical writer of similar ilk and, on checking, yet again, I'd find that they'd done something similar as with the forgoing example.

I started to find it a bit depressing and, TBH, I couldn't quite believe it. Like you, I found myself asking 'why?'. So when I actually did check that one out on Saturday at Ben's behest, and found more of the same, it was actually quite amusing, in a perverse sort of way.

In the new year I’ll have to try and find the rest of the material relating to the earlier misrepresentations (McCabe, Rinn, Houdini etc.) because I know that I did check some of those out – and they were just as bad – if not worse.

In fact Rob proved to me how common this awful skeptical habit was/is. His book has some examples from the late 19th/early 20th centuries. Yet I hadn’t come across some of them.

Another excellent example of this skeptical tactic is brought to you by James Randi:

http://www.skepticalinvestigations.org/Examskeptics/Prescott_Randi.html

Pleas do find the other material relating to Clodd and also McCabe, Rinn and Houdini as soon as possible. I will contribute something later on McCabe, but this is very important to me. These are key sources for the new wave of wikipedia attacks on historical mediums.

Ben

Please contact Rob and then feel free to communicate with me directly. He has my contact details. Cheers

The following shows intellectual dishonesty on the part of McCabe and Rational Wiki (and also the wikipedia article on Myers, which was obviously edited by the same person who put in the info on Rational Wiki):

Part of the Rational Wiki article on Frederic Myers is an attempt to attack him on his sexual activities, including vague allegations of sexual relations with mediums biasing his arguments. Then we come upon this misrepresentative assault (this version is from the Rational Wiki article on Myers as of November 14, 2013, 1:03 PST):
"The skeptic Joseph McCabe discovered false information in Myers book Phantasms of the Living (1886) a book which documented anecdotal experiences of apparitions and phantasms. Myers included an alleged "personal experience" by a retired Judge Edmund Hornby involving a visitation from a spirit, however the whole thing was a hoax and Hornby admitted there was no truth in it. Myers did not do proper research on the subject."
The reality is quite different, and when we conduct a full investigation into this, we gain extreme doubt that the RW coverage of spiritualism or any other subject they don't like is in any way reliable or, in the cases where they may accurately cite sources, if it is in any way objective. As follows:
First, McCabe did repeat such insinuations, but not in the manner alleging that Myers made things up, as RW editors defamatorily insinuate. He states of Edmund Hornby that he "could only mutter that he did not understand his own mistake": https://archive.org/stream/isspiritualismba00mccarich#page/98/mode/2up
Doing relevant primary source research we find, when we come upon commentary concerning this and the argument of Balfour that McCabe cites against this anecdote (The Nineteenth Century, Volume 16, p. 851: http://books.google.com/books?id=K9YaAAAAYAAJ&pg=PA75&dq=Visible+apparitions.+Nineteenth+century+1884&hl=en&sa=X&ei=6huFUpefBOOrjAL4g4GIBw&sqi=2&ved=0CD0Q6AEwAw#v=onepage&q=courtesy%20in%20sending%20me%20Mr.%20Balfour%27s%20letter&f=false) - you may have to scroll down to the correct page, that Hornby's defense against the assertions of Balfour, showing that even if the story can be disputed, Myers did not fabricate information - and also that McCabe gave a MARKEDLY BIASED presentation that did not represent the substance of the argument - Hornby did not state "that he did not understand his own mistake", but instead, Hornby directly challenges Balfour. He may be wrong, but the fact is that tone of the RW towards Myers on this is over the top (allegations of false information - implying he fabricated it, rather than contentious information - the assertion is that Hornby stated that there was no truth in it, such an assertion ignores his statement "If I had not believed, as I still believe, that every word of it [the story] was accurate, and that my memory was to be relied on, I should not have ever told it as a personal experience.")

Regarding Myers and his sexual activities - possibly he did have an affair with Freer. Possibly he didn't. In McLuhan's mental mediums document he provides the following citation regarding other allegations r.e. Myers: Gauld, Alan & Salter, W.H. FREDERIC MYERS AND ‘PHYLLIS’, Journal 42, 1963-64, pp. 316-24. Defences of Myers against an attack on his integrity regarding his relationship with Annie Marshall.
See also Journal 43, pp. 277-81. CC/MM/s-test

The point is that no proof is given that he faked evidence. What has just been proven is that debunkers faked evidence against him.

McLuhan provides a list of JSPR articles covering almost all of these books forming the basis of new attacks as follows - in his chronological list of books document. Here is a list of all of the relevant reviews of these books (including Clodd and McCabe), for the benefit of other researchers: monkeywah.typepad.com/files/books-listed-chronologically.doc‎

McLuhan also provides other information of relevance to this inquiry in the files section of his site: https://www.google.com/search?q=site%3Amonkeywah.typepad.com%2Ffiles%2F&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8&aq=t&rls=org.mozilla:en-US:official&client=firefox-a

Just a comment for future viewers on my above comment re. McCabe & Myers - why I phrased things the way I did:

The Rational Wiki information on Myers describes him as a "fraud" and uses this as a point against him. The Hornby story is probably not veridical, but as I clearly pointed out, the wording of the RW article as used is an attempt to completely discredit Myers - this is what I got from my initial reading of the article (the tone of the RW towards Myers on this is over the top (false information - implying he fabricated it, rather than contentious information - the assertion is that Hornby stated that there was no truth in it, such an assertion ignores his statement "If I had not believed, as I still believe, that every word of it [the story] was accurate, and that my memory was to be relied on, I should not have ever told it as a personal experience."). An alternate take on the Hornby case (from secondary sources), is given in "RANDI'S PRIZE: What sceptics say about the paranormal, why they are wrong and why it matters"

Such determined accusations of fraud are interesting in light of the following: http://www.dailygrail.com/Skepticism/2013/8/Is-the-Week-Organized-Skepticism-Imploded

This may be a future point of contention - I suggest skeptical editors of such site who are reading this at least edit their coverage of Myers in this, changing the statement from "false information" to "information that was later proven to be inaccurate" and drop the "fraud" charge. My previous commentary may have been unnecessarily polemical.

Another point - debunkers of Piper make a lot of mention of Hodgson, but little mention of James Hyslop (and regarding Piper's "confession", see: http://tinyurl.com/knvw7le, regarding Hodgson's initial attitude, see: http://tinyurl.com/jvsusqz - and of Piper, Oliver Lodge said, "By introducing anonymous strangers and by catechising her myself in various ways, I have satisfied myself that much of the information she possesses in the trance state is not acquired by ordinary common-place methods, but that she has some unusual means of acquiring information. The facts on which she discourses are usually within the knowledge of some person present, though they are often entirely out of his conscious thought at the time. Occasionally facts have been narrated which have only been verified afterwards, and which are in good faith asserted never to have been known; meaning thereby that they have left no trace on the conscious memory of any person present or in the neighbourhood and that it is highly improbable that they were ever known to such persons. She is also in the trance state able to diagnose diseases and to specify the owners or late owners of portable property, under circumstances which preclude the application of ordinary methods.": http://tinyurl.com/mbmgbzg - and regarding Piper's errors, the ever so ridiculed Michael Tymn who has written me a partial response to the Rational Wiki article on him also wrote the article "Debunking Babe Ruth & Leonora Piper": http://whitecrowbooks.com/michaeltymn/entry/debunking_babe_ruth_leonora_piper/)

Obviously from the above the veracity of Piper is not dependent on Hodgson.

Or, for accurate rendition of Myers, change "information that was later proven to be inaccurate" to "information from an unreliable source".

Finally, if people cannot open my tinyurl links, see the following on Piper, from the raw url:

"confession" : http://books.google.com/books?id=HnwzAQAAMAAJ&pg=PA151&dq=I+did+not+make+any+such+statement+as+that+published+in+the+New+York+Herald+to+the+effect+that+spirits+of+the+departed+do+not+control+me&hl=en&sa=X&ei=3sewUuvnFIH2oASF04DoDw&ved=0CC8Q6AEwAA#v=onepage&q=I%20did%20not%20make%20any%20such%20statement%20as%20that%20published%20in%20the%20New%20York%20Herald%20to%20the%20effect%20that%20spirits%20of%20the%20departed%20do%20not%20control%20me&f=false

Hodgson (I HIGHLY suggest reading the entire page): http://books.google.com/books?id=FQE8AQAAMAAJ&pg=PA437&lpg=PA437&dq=%22the+first+few+years,+I+absolutely+disbelieved+in+her+power,%22&source=bl&ots=ACKNrtFndy&sig=FTbh18Jzf2lThz7PbS2O_VscGjA&hl=en&sa=X&ei=UI-vUvqpGczkoASFgILIAw&ved=0CDMQ6AEwAQ#v=onepage&q=%22the%20first%20few%20years%2C%20I%20absolutely%20disbelieved%20in%20her%20power%2C%22&f=false

Lodge: http://books.google.com/books?id=i3QAAAAAMAAJ&pg=PA204&dq=%22By+introducing+anonymous+strangers+and+by+catechising%22&hl=en&sa=X&ei=Q8mwUrLcK8v9oASU14D4CA&ved=0CD0Q6AEwAw#v=onepage&q=%22By%20introducing%20anonymous%20strangers%20and%20by%20catechising%22&f=false

Regarding the citations I gave above - the importance of the Lodge citation, regardless of other arguments about his credulity, real or imagined, that are put forth in other cases, is as follows - according to Lodge, Piper would sometimes produce information that was unknown to any of the sitters, but that later proved to be accurate. This is a major factor distinguishing genuine mediumship from cold reading.

The other citations are much more important though. The first item challenges the traditional account r.e. Piper's confession. The second item gives info on Hodgson challenging the current counteradvocate portrayal of his initial attitude on Piper, but much more importantly, on the right hand side are accounts that would appear to demonstrate that her mediumship is veridical.

If you read the full page of the second item, you will see that because of its ramifications, it is one of the most important sources on any subject in existence.

And also, she was introduced to anonymous strangers.

McLuhanhereprovides bibliographies concerning the SPR invesstigations of the historical mediums:
monkeywah.typepad.com/files/mental-mediums.doc‎, monkeywah.typepad.com/files/physical-mediums.doc

A preliminary overview of the bibliographies shows that debunkers limit their assessment of data and will rely on whatever they can to discredit counters to philosophical materialism, when the stronger cases preclude their debunking efforts.

A comment on the Fiske/Pellew letter - this is a central argument for debunkers, so refuting it would make their case more problematic.

First - in an SPR review of Joseph Rinn's book, p. 434, the letter is dismissed as hearsay for good reason, and some of Rinn's errors are discussed in the review: https://ia601200.us.archive.org/13/items/NotesonSpiritualismandPsychicalResearch/Salters%20Review%20of%20Rinn%20JSPR%20Volume%2036_pg93to100.pdf

But much more importantly, in the following SPR article comparing the "letter" to the actual facts, Pellew's brother's charges are found, even in the case of Fiske, to be completely spurious - thus his brother is impeached as a witness, not Hodgson - Hodgson is rehabilitated as a source: https://ia601200.us.archive.org/13/items/NotesonSpiritualismandPsychicalResearch/MunvesJGpsYoungerBrotherANoteJsprVolume60_pg401to405.pdf

This blows away a major argument of debunkers.

Good work, Ben!

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