• Paranormalia is written by Robert McLuhan, a journalist and author based in London. Please contact me at robertmcluhan@gmail.com

« Randi’s Prize Revisited | Main | The Battle for the Internet »

December 09, 2013

TrackBack

TrackBack URL for this entry:
http://www.typepad.com/services/trackback/6a00d8341c6d8553ef019b02742128970c

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference There Probably Is An Afterlife:

Comments

Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

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".

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!

The comments to this entry are closed.

ORDER ONLINE!

  • SOME REVIEWER COMMENTS
  • ‘A brisk, bracing look at this continuing controversy, exhaustively researched .. a must-read for anyone with a serious interest in parapsychology and its critics.’
  • ‘‘Packed with accurate information while at the same time surprisingly engaging and fun to read.’
  • ‘‘This is one book that gives a completely objective review of skeptical debunking, and spells out in detail a clear pattern of chicanery which pervades a well-funded and organized campaign against all psi research.’

Enter your email address:

Delivered by FeedBurner

  • ‘These disturbing phenomena seem to deny all our usual scientific ideas. How we should like to discredit them! Unfortunately the statistical evidence, at least for telepathy, is overwhelming. It is very difficult to rearrange one’s ideas so as to fit these new facts in.’ Alan Turing, computer scientist.

  • ‘I have noticed that if a small group of intelligent people, not supposed to be impressed by psychic research, get together and such matters are mentioned, and all feel that they are in safe and sane company, usually from a third to a half of them begin to relate exceptions. That is to say, each opens a little residual closet and takes out some incident which happened to them or to some member of their family, or to some friend whom they trust and which they think odd and extremely puzzling.’ Walter Prince, psychic researcher.

  • When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible he is almost certainly right. When he states that something is impossible, he is very probably wrong. Arthur C. Clarke

  • ‘Science seems to me to teach in the highest and strongest manner the great truth which is embodied in the Christian conception of entire surrender to the will of God. Sit down before fact as a little child, be prepared to give up every preconceived notion, follow humbly wherever and to whatever abysses nature leads, or you shall learn nothing.’ Thomas Henry Huxley

  • We can always immunize a theory against refutation. There are many such immunizing tactics; and if nothing better occurs to us, we can always deny the objectivity – or even the existence – of the refuting observation. Those intellectuals who are more interested in being right than in learning something interesting but unexpected are by no means rare exceptions. Karl Popper, on the defenders of materialism.

  • If we have learned one thing from the history of invention and discovery, it is that, in the long run - and often in the short one - the most daring prophecies seem laughably conservative. Arthur C. Clarke.

Become a Fan