An Appeal for Seriousness
New Book on Near-Death Experiences

A Philosopher Tackles Survival

Jime Sayaka, on his blog Subversive Thinking, has published a written interview with a philosopher, Michael Sudduth, about survival. Sudduth takes the view that books by proponents of the survival hypothesis don’t amount to much. A few, by philosophers like Broad, Ducasse and H.H. Price cut the mustard, he thinks; he also likes Alan Gauld's Mediumship and Survival. But most of these are old books; more recent ones tend to overwhelm the reader with information instead of providing carefully reasoned argument.  

Survival is typically asserted as an ostensible conclusion drawn from a mass of empirical data for which there is apparently no better explanation, to which some authors append facile dismissals of materialist philosophies of mind and arguments from the data of cognitive neuroscience purporting to show the dependence of consciousness on a functioning brain.

And again:

The widespread claim among empirical survivalists—survivalists who endorse empirical evidence for survival—is that the survival hypothesis provides the best explanation of the data.  But what does it mean for a hypothesis to explain data?  How does a hypothesis explaining data convert the data into evidential cash value? What logical principles are being enlisted to show this and assess the weight of the evidence relative to competing hypotheses? And how do we arrive at judgments concerning the net plausibility of the survival hypothesis? 

These are crucial questions for evaluating the empirical case for survival, but you’ll find a deafening silence with respect to these questions in survival literature since the 1960s.  One gets the impression from much of the literature that the survival hypothesis simply wins by explanatory default:  since nothing else explains the data, survival explains the data.

Sudduth, an analytic philosopher of religion at Oxford University, is not actually arguing against survival. He calls himself a survivalist, saying he used to see apparitions as a child and had other (unspecified) paranormal experiences. Also, he was an active Christian before moving towards Indian mystical philosophy. His project, he says, is concerned with the ‘critique and dismantling of the existing and deeply entrenched tradition of classical empirical arguments for survival’, paving the way for ‘new and fruitful approaches to empirical arguments for survival.’

This immediately brought to mind the philosopher Stephen Braude, who has made similar complaints about a lack of rigour. So it was no surprise to learn that Sudduth and Braude are chums and often beef about it together. The outcome for Braude was his excellent Immortal Remains, and Sudduth too is writing a book which he says will be completed towards the end of the year.

I see the point - up to a point. Writers like Broad, Ducasse and Gauld get to grips with the data in an appropriately sceptical fashion, whereas some recent books – David Fontana’s Is There an Afterlife? comes to mind – take the view that the meaning of survival phenomena is so blindingly obvious it’s perverse to take any other view of it. I don’t think that works; for most of us the logic has to be clearly spelled out.

Chris Carter’s books are more rigorous, but clearly still fall short for Sudduth. I don’t think he even makes an exception of Robert Almeder, a philosopher whose book I read years ago when I was working this stuff out for the first time, and which I remember as a pretty thorough logical workout, especially on reincarnation-type experiences.

Like Braude, Sudduth takes the view that the standard objections against the super-psi hypothesis are much less forceful than is maintained by survival proponents such as Fontana and Carter. His arguments here are quite technical – this quote gives a flavour:

Let’s suppose that Pr(DMAX/S&K) = Pr(DMAX/C&K).  That is, the predictive power or likelihoods of S and C are equivalent. The survival hypothesis might still have a greater posterior probability than C (maybe even be more probable than not) if its prior probability is greater, especially if the prior probability is much greater.  From a Bayesian viewpoint, if Pr(e/h1&k) = Pr(e/h2&k), then Pr(h1/e&k) > Pr(h2/e&k) just if Pr(h1/k) > Pr(h2/k).  That is to say, if two hypotheses have equal predictive power (or likelihoods), then the evidence and background knowledge confers a greater probability on h1 than h2 just if h1’s prior probability is greater than h2’s prior probability.  So a survivalist might simply argue that, worst case scenario, Pr(DMAX/S&K) = Pr(DMAX/C&K), but since Pr(S/K) >> Pr(C/K), the survival hypothesis has a greater posterior probability, maybe it’s still more probable than not.  To put this otherwise, a survivalist might argue that the net effect of deflating the explanatory power of the survival hypothesis on the grounds of co-equal likelihoods is negligible since the prior probability of the survival hypothesis is much greater.

I understand what is being said here (I think), I’m just not convinced that this approach puts matters on a more sound footing. I spend a bit of time on philosophy blogs (like this one) and enjoy their logical approach to big moral questions, where, for the most part, they write in plain English. But when analytical philosophers go at each other hammer and tongs in their specialist lingo it doesn’t settle the matter for anyone, apart from peers who understand it. They may triumphantly claim to have spotted a logical flaw that makes a nonsense of their opponent’s argument - the rest of us just have to take their word for it.

Surely such life-and-death questions are never settled on narrow technical grounds. On the contrary, most people will be influenced here by the kinds of emotional factors that form their personal worldview, over which the logician can claim little influence, whatever the results of his professional efforts.

For me there are two salient points that rarely get mentioned in the survival-super-psi ding-dong. One is that there is actually a third player in this argument: materialism itself. To propose that living agents are responsible for the appearance of survival may undermine the survival hypothesis, but in acknowledging the reality of psi it also plays havoc with secular scientific materialism, the ideological norm that demands we argue against survival in the first place. If the mind is no longer be explained in purely physicalist terms, but, on the contrary, in terms that are far more hospitable to the possibility of it surviving the death of the body, how is that an argument against survival? That line of reasoning surely counts for something, but I don’t expect to see it in a narrow analysis like Sudduth’s.

Also, if we’re arguing for super-psi as opposed to survival, we still need to account for the existence so much survival-type phenomena, also the fact that they appear in such various contexts - deathbed visions, apparitions, NDEs, mediumistic communications, and so on – all pointing in the same direction, and often with remarkable clarity. A super-psi explanation of a given case over a survivalist interpretation, however devastatingly argued, leaves this mystery untouched. To be sure, an uninformed sceptic would argue for ‘wishful thinking’, that humans interpret otherwise formless impressions in a way that accords with their deepest needs and desires. But anyone who is literate in this subject knows that such experiences often occur in trance states, dreams and near-death, where the conscious mind is in abeyance and in no condition to shape or influence anything.

So we’re left considering unconscious influence. We might argue for some kind of adaptive mechanism, the evolution of a mental module that activates at moments of extreme insecurity to convince us that the ego will never die, in order to help it continue to function. But even if we felt inclined to do this – and such approaches seem to be falling somewhat out of fashion – the premise is utterly fantastic: we are bombarding ourselves with highly realistic stimuli whose purpose seems to convince us of something that is absolutely the opposite of the case.

Actually I’m glad to see a philosopher taking an interest in survival phenomena - it’s very much to be welcomed - and I look forward to reading Sudduth’s book. I do hope for a couple of things though. One is to see him getting to grips with the body of survival data, as Braude does in Immortal Remains, and without obscuring his arguments in technical abstractions. I shall be interested to see whether, having done so, the empirical data is as vulnerable as he implies.

The other is to hear less about the shortcomings of survival proponents when they argue their case. If they fail, and I don’t think they all do, this is surely only a symptom of the abysmal isolation in which parapsychology finds itself, trying to fill the gap left by contemporary philosophers who, as a profession, consider the subject beneath them.


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Hi Robert --
As far as I can see, Suddoth is arguing that Survival and super psi are both a lot less likely candidates than they seem to account for the evidence because they rely on 'bundles' of a priori unfounded assumptions to account for the data. So, for example, if you assume survival, you also have to make other assumptions about the capacities of the dead and the world in general which are currently unfounded.
This situation is made worse,because if a survivalist can do this, then so can someone positing a rival, similarly unlikely hypothesis.

In essence, we end up debating highly unlikely events in a vacuum, because there's a disconnect between robustly-held knowledge and the multiple unknowns that survivalists often are forced to invoke.

This idea is powerful because it makes explicit why survival might appear to be a strong hypothesis to those who believe in it and very weak from the outside. The issue is with the often unstated webs of assumptions -- empirically unfounded assumptions-- that survivalists often make.

I would say that this is a big reason why I, unlike Suddoth, am not hugely compelled by the survival hypothesis -- in short, it seems too disconnected with robust knowledge of the world. Please note that I say this and simultaneously reject materialist interpretations of consciousness!

I'd ask how you rigorously determine the improbability of events involving the supernatural since probability is an area of mathematics invented to deal with events in the "natural" world. Probability is of entirely unknown relevance to the supernatural as are any of the limitations or laws of natural science.

Matt Colborn | January 21, 2014 at 07:48 PM
The issue is with the often unstated webs of assumptions -- empirically unfounded assumptions-- that survivalists often make.

That also includes areas of mainstream science as well!

I'm in the Nancy Evans-Bush camp, where logic is cherished, but experience is elevated to the same level of validity as logic, perhaps even surpassing it in certain cases.
Basing a worldview on pure logic is a lot like choosing a mate by calculating the economic and genetic benefits of the relationship. It might work, but it's missing an ineffable "something".

When we present logical arguments for any passionate subject, whether it concerns politics, religion or the joys of owning a cat, we're creating a picture with words, but words are not enough. Mutual openness to an intuitive connection is always a subtle underlying feature when trying to convey a view of reality to another person, and shared experience can often play more of a role in getting one's point across as pure logic.
That's why a well crafted logical presentation can look like a high resolution photograph to one person, and a Salvador Dali painting to another.

Thank you for your comments about Professor Suddeth. I read his treatise yesterday and felt very inadequate for the rest of the day. Unlike you, I just don’t have the intelligence or energy to figure-out what he is saying. The example of his writing which you quoted is the point at which I mentally collapsed and decided that I need to go on to other things, things like carpentry, painting, gardening or anything else where I don’t have to use much of my brain. I agree that Professor Stephen Braude is better at presenting his ideas in his book Immortal Remains. Although I don’t agree with everything he says there, I do believe that Braude does try to be open-minded about the survival issue and at times tries to present both sides of the argument. (Perhaps he really is a closet survivalist and that is why I am able to warm-up to him). Braude includes some examples of organ transplant cases in his book which I don’t see discussed by survivalists. These examples are, I think, very impressive and suggestive of survival.

Thanks for the share. I've also enjoyed the other interviews on that site, especially the one with Guy Lyon Playfair.

With that said, I was disturbed that the blog also covered topics such as HIV/AIDS denialism and 9-11 trutherism. It seems that parapsychology is also welcomed more by conspiracy theorists who believe in such ideas than the general population.

The article by Etzel Cardena on the Frontiers journal did make great points about examining psi, but if psi is being associated with conspiracy theories, it won't help. Perhaps that is a possible reason that skeptics are so averse to any psi claims, and experiencers of paranormal phenomena are reluctant to discuss them more often. What do you think?


I also get really upset when psi gets associated with conspiracy theories (I'd also throw in the "Climategate" CT as seen on Skeptiko). It does start to feel like there are some people in the pro-psi crowd whose psychological motivation is to always rebel from authority, damn the facts. This is just the mirror image of those in the skeptical movement who believe that mainstream authority is always right. I admire those who can consider each issue independently, siding with the orthodoxy or heresy depending on the individual merits of each case.

I made some comments on facebook. I may as well paste them in here in case anyone is interested.

Michael Sudduth
"we have no good independent reason to suppose that some or all living persons would reincarnate on earth, much less as humans or with past life memories, congenital birth marks corresponding to the manner of their death in a former life, etc".

I'm not sure about this. If brains do not produce consciousness, so that we exist before conception and after death, then the options are we don't get born into this physical reality at all, or some are born into this physical reality 0 times and some 1 times, or some 0 times, some 1 times, some >1 times etc.

Surely the a priori likelihood that it will be 0 or 1 lives and no-one ever born into this physical reality more than once cannot be deemed more likely than being born twice or more into this reality?

Whatever "cosmic mechanism" or principle which allows us to be born once would prima facie allow selves to be born into this physical life more than once. We need a priori reasons to suppose that whatever allows us to be born once, could not operate again.

For example if being incarnated is some decision by some higher entity or even yourself, then one good reason for deciding to exist in this physical reality would be for lessons that could be learnt from ones experience of this reality. But many people die at a very young age, or even get aborted before we are born! In which case reincarnation might well then be a sensible choice.

Or perhaps reincarnation is some impersonal "mechanism". But clearly we don't have independent reasons to think it can only operate once (or indeed 0 times).

As for being reincarnated as human beings, we might hypothesise that the development of the soul might gravitate it towards less or more complex life forms. If we are here for some ultimate purpose then an appropriate life form (human beings for us) might best meet that need.

He's right about congenital birth marks though. But data can be interesting and compelling even in the absence of independent reasons for supposing its existence.

Michael Sudduth
"It’s only the unwarranted assumption that death increases the potency of psi, or some such other speculative assumption, that allows survivalists to think that they are immune from this objection to super-psi".

My own view is that the brain "filters" out our psi capacity and hence psi will be vastly greater in power and scope in any afterlife realm. Telepathy, remember, is only negatively defined as being no physical mechanism accounting for the communication between 2 or more selves. Thus it seems either that selves don't communicate with each other in the afterlife realm, or they employ telepathy. And we have accounts from NDErs that their communication is a direct knowing of what the other entity/person is saying i.e telepathy.

Also the very existence of "superpsi" suggests to me that we are fairly likely to survive. Certainly I find superpsi, or indeed standard psi, hard to reconcile with some materialist based metaphysic.

This is not to say I discount the possibility that superspi is sometimes or always operating in the context of psychics/mediumship. I have no idea. Don't know enough to give an informed opinion.

"(Almeder) argues that if reincarnation is true, then we would expect to find people with past life memories, which Almeder says is confirmed by the fact that people claim to have past life memories. Setting aside that this is not a specific prediction, Almeder makes it clear that what sanctions the prediction here is the psychological criterion of personal identity. So here’s an admission of an auxiliary hypothesis, but clearly more needs to be assumed because we would have to account for a potentially disconfirming datum, to wit, many people appear to have no past life memories".

Not the psychological criterion of personal identity surely? A person subscribing to survival would believe that we are persisting selves/souls. The fact we are persisting selves though will imply some persistence of psychological traits.

The notion of the self and that it persists from 1 second to the next is a hypothesis, but one which can be shown to be extremely likely by philosophical argumentation. So it's not an auxiliary hypothesis in the sense it is hypothesised to make the main theory true, rather we have independent reasons for supposing it to be true apart from reincarnation.

If the fact that the vast majority of us cannot recollect a previous life is a "disconfirming datum" that we had a previous life, then by parity of reasoning my failure to recollect most of my present life, and nothing before the age of about the age of 5, is equally a disconfirming datum that I existed at those times I cannot recollect.

What we would expect should reincarnation occur is that either no-one at all recollects a previous life, or very few people do. We would *not* expect that everyone would recollect previous lives since that is contrary to our experience of memories of this life.

"As for the objection that super-psi is pseudo-scientific, this is simply a category mistake. The super-psi hypothesis is no more a scientific hypothesis than deontologism in ethics, metaphysical idealism, or classical theism".

Ha Ha! I agree. I hate it when clueless materialists bang on about something not being falsifiable or not being scientific or whatever.

And the fact that they don't understand their materialism is equally not falsifiable and not scientific.

Matt Colborn said above:

"As far as I can see, Suddoth is arguing that Survival and super psi are both a lot less likely candidates than they seem to account for the evidence because they rely on 'bundles' of a priori unfounded assumptions to account for the data. So, for example, if you assume survival, you also have to make other assumptions about the capacities of the dead and the world in general which are currently unfounded".

Well we're not making any assumptions about the capacities of the dead when it comes to the evidence for reincarnation or the evidence supplied by NDEs or DBV's.

With apparitions and mediumship we don't make an assumption about the capacity of dead people, rather if we assume these experiences are what they seem, then we infer it? That is to say that at least some people are susceptible, at least on occasions, to see or hear from deceased people. Hence in order for apparitions and mediumship not to count as evidence we would have to have reasons for supposing the deceased could never make themselves seen or heard by the living. Can you think of any such reasons?

Matt Colburn is the notion that consciousness might exist after death more "disconnected with robust knowledge of the world" than the notion that consciousness exists before death? If so could you explain why? Thank you.

Copies of "Mediumship or Survival" are available online in this excellent resource, which hosts other items, but also hosts some of the main writings of Frederic Myers and William Crookes:

Myers is currently attacked by others for reasons I touched upon previously, and Crookes is also attacked for alleged duplicity. Here are refutations of the substance of the main attacks on Myers and Crookes:

On Myers:
On Crookes:

My critique of the interview.

Sudduth addresses the afterlife hypothesis as the hypotheses of physics, that is, deductive and predictive hypotheses. I think it is a mistake. The afterlife hypothesis is closer to the biological hypothesis that the physical hypothesis, because this hypothesis is abductive and lacks predictive power, but that does not make it invalid, as the evolution is a hypothesis valid but lacks predictive power.

The afterlife hypothesis has to be valued to the extent that explains a whole set of seemingly unrelated phenomena. Individually, each of these phenomena (OBEs, NDEs, mediumship, etc.) can be explained by other hypotheses with some plausibility, but if all these phenomena are taken together, these alternatives hypotheses become very implausible and the most plausible hypothesis is the afterlife hipothesis.

It is true that the afterlife hypothesis requires auxiliary hypotheses to explain these phenomena, but there is independent evidence for some of these auxiliary hypotheses. For example, the hypothesis that mediums contact with spirits of the deceased requires that the spirits of the deceased have ESP. Sudduth says there is no independant evidence that in death the individuals is acquired ESP, but this is so? No, because some NDErs have reported that they acquired ESP during their experiences, so some NDEs are independent evidence that the in death is acquired ESP.

Another point. It is not true that the hypothesis that mediums contact with spirits of the deceased need a variant superior of ESP (super-psi) for the spirits of the deceased. For example: if an information there was not in a one living being or object, but it was in one deceased, a psychic requires exploring various living and nonliving things to get that information (super-psi), while the spirit of the deceased only has to show what he / she knows (psi).

By other hand, Sudduth says there is no independent evidence of super-psi, but equally there is no independent evidence of spirits of the deceased, but the question is not relevant. What we have to ask is why the cases that show a higher psi power are precisely the cases occurring in survivalists contexts, because cases of psi outside survivalists contexts have never shown much power as those, ie Stargate project. The super-psi hypothesis has no answer to this; the afterlife hypothesis easily answered by saying that these cases are the strongest because they are not the type psi between livings, but the survivalists cases.

Finally, I agree with what you've written, Robert. I would like to add that I hope someone makes a robust afterlife hypothesis to strengthen this position.

In Michael Sudduth's interview he mentions Prof. David Fontana's "Is There An Afterlife" book (which I have) but fails to mention the Scole investigations in this!

Part of the abstract from the Scole Report (I have this): "encountered evidence favouring the hypothesis of intelligent forces, whether originating in the human psyche or from discarnate sources, able to influence material objects and to convey associated meaningful messages, both visual and aural."

If you are a field investigator, that's what you see, so er...that's it, yes? With "discarnate" the favoured surely?

The trouble with Scole, though, Alan, is (IMO) there's no actual survival evidence. Not anything that the super-psi theory couldn't cover, anyway - or fraud. But, given that I knew David Fontana, (attended one or two NAS seances with him), and Arthur Ellison, both of whom were very experienced, and the attendance of a conjurer, I think that blanket fraud does not stand up as explantion for the phenomena as reported. The report itself amounts to very sophisticated witness statements concerning psychokinetic effects. But good survival evidence? - I don't think so.

So I feel that Sudduth can be forgiven for not mentioning Scole in that context.

I think that Scole was a case of the researchers doing their best in a difficult situation. Because they were constrained by the rather capricious demands of the 'controls', and the Scole Group (filming not allowed etc.), they were forced to fall back on experiments that were really rather convoluted. And there was much for the critic to pick holes in, such as the film experiment only really working with the 'secure' box supplied by the group and failing with the really secure one made by Monty Keen.

I haven't read the report for a while, but I seem to remember that practically all of the survival evidence, as such, was available to the Scole Group - either in Robin Foy's library, or in the public domain. And some of the criticisms were warranted.

Steve, this is a rationalisation at best on your part and I would take the views of two of the authors, Montague Keen and Arthur Ellison instead - I was lucky enough to know briefly over dinners in Kensington in the late 1990's.
Note this from 5 years later (David Fontana and Montague Keen):

"And if we accept that the communicators at Scole really were the deceased, not only may this throw light on which aspects of the mind may survive physical death, it may suggest that even during our lifetime these aspects are not due solely to physical processes. At Scole we found that the communicators showed humour and other emotions, intelligence of a high order, significant powers of memory, and what seemed a genuine and continuing compassion towards others. In addition they manifested consistent signs of individual identity throughout the two years of our investigation, and never varied in terms of accent, use of words, mannerisms and interests."

"communicators" implies discarnates.

"The report itself amounts to very sophisticated witness statements concerning psychokinetic effects"

Well, some of extensive and varied *evidence*, multiply witnessed, is of spectacular intelligently directed light phenomena in various forms, independent of the investigators and sitters - you can find details in the Report and on the Web. And there are constant refs. to the "Spirit Team" in the Report.
The possibilities are frankly, discarnate sources (people once alive) or some other intelligences from some *other* unknown level of existence, shall we say - one could speculate inter-dimensional in origin (but not discarnate). Just for the record, I do have physics degrees.

Re your 3rd paragraph, really anyone reading this should read the Scole Report as a whole. And the Referee's (Crawford Knox) comments within the Report.

Finally, I think all of the three authors, were they still alive, would take issue with your last paragraph - as you imply fraud - none ever found or implied.

This is why the Abstract is important in a detailed study such as The Scole Report, "whether originating in the human psyche or from discarnate sources". One has to seriously consider whether the first of these possibilities is really a live option given the evidence. And ruling out some other intelligence (not discarnate) seems to only leave discarnate. Cheers.

I take all of your comments, above, Alan. And, although I sympathise with the general tenor of them, it remains the case that 'The Scole Report' contains no actual 'survival' evidence i.e. no information re the earthly identity of a discarnate that could not have been gleaned from 'normal' sources. I would have to check this, but I seem to remember that the authors of the report did admit that.

Yes, fraud is implied by my final paragraph. However, it was not MY intention to imply it. It is simply the case that the authors of the report this mention this themselves, and that fraud is naturally implied by those facts - or would be in the minds of many. I am very aware, however, that there is no firm evidence of fraud in that regard; and that fraud should not be assumed just because the information was available. I would also add that, although there was a lot of criticism of the Scole Group within the Noah's Ark Society, both verbally and in 'The Ark Review', I never spoke to anyone with experience of Robin Foy who thought that he would knowingly participate in fraud.

Rob and myself met one of the Scole witnesses last year, and when someone asked him his opinion of the experience, he said that (referring to the behaviour of the lights), although it was 'good fun', and although he did not think that the effects could have been the result of fraud (he mentioned the comments of the conjurers who attended) - it was not evidence of survival.

That said, I'd agree that you do have to consider the report as a whole to reach a conclusion about it. To reiterate mine: Fontana and Ellison (I only met Keen twice, very briefly) were extremely experienced and were very aware of what to watch out for in terms of fraud in the seance room. So I take their conclusions very seriously indeed. They clearly witnessed relatively advanced physical phenomena some of which is impossible to explain as being the result of fraud if one reads the account carefully. I'm thinking particularly of the witness accounts re the lights and the Rachmaninoff recording, which I've heard.


Again, yes, Fontana and Ellison were right - the 'communicators' whoever, or whatever they were did show 'intelligence' etc. The burning question, to someone like Sudduth, though, would be who (or what) were they? Why were they so, apparently, evasive in that regard? Why did they ban the use of cameras? Why was the project ended so abruptly by the 'Controls' for such odd reasons? etc. etc.

Therefore, putting myself in Sudduth's position. Why would I cite 'The Scole Report' as being evidence of human post-mortem survival? The short answer is, regrettably, that I remain unsurprised that he did not.

Steve, regarding the "communicators" the options are 1. Discarnates 2. Intelligences (not discarnates) from another realm of existence ("aliens"?). The discarnates may be restricted to our reality, which has it's own complexity (but we can't normally see them), or maybe they "go somewhere else" when they are done here (during these experiments). Given the evidence that "whoever they were" actually knew of, I think option 1. is best.

I'd just *really* like to know of any other sensible options.

There's a commentary here on this where these experiments are being taken forward. See the "ANSWERING YOUR QUESTIONS" section.

Also an interview with Professor Ivor Grattan-Guiness from the 1999 Scole Study Day (I went to this too). He also speculates on an origin from parallel universes (which have been spoken of extensively in physics over decades in the general sense) and he talks of the possibility of interaction of intelligences between such universes. Note also his comments on seeing "hands", apart from his detailed comments on the lights he saw.

So it's really 1. or 2. (or maybe a bit of both?) but I favour 1., not least because of the "hands" issue not just by him (and the spirit personalities - see the comment above - amongst so many other things), also spoken of in the Scole Report.

Physics presently favours the "multiverse" idea (to explain the fine-tuning problem) with separate distinct universes inflating all the time from some common multidimensional "ground". But it seems here above there is also the possibility of "co-present" universes, kind of next to our own. Whether these are strictly related to multiverse ideas, I don't know.

But I don't think we should be AFRAID to populate them with other intelligences - after all, we are in one.

Finally, some of this does remind me of "shared death experiences" (without the physical effects above) and also end of life phenomena - implying, I think, that some of these realities are actually really close by to ours.

(the another possibility that all this could be restricted to our reality/universe - hypercomplex - could be the simplest explanation, given that it may be incredibly difficult to hop intelligently between separate universes, parallel or otherwise)

Thanks Alan.

I'd say that there're two more logical possibilities than that. And I don’t see any logical reason why those, and the ones that you mention couldn’t all have played a part. However, my experience in this area (observations over a number of years regarding the behaviour of ‘controls’ in relation to the sitters, and the phenomena themselves in a modern context, compared to historical accounts from the mid-nineteenth century), lead me to believe that some are more likely to be at play than others.

More later if I get the time – maybe tomorrow.


The comments of Ivor Grattan-Guiness are very interesting – pretty much on a par with what the other witnesses said. See also, the separate (from The Report) comments of Alan Gauld re the lights when he attended (Donald West was also present). Given that Gauld and West were also critics, I find Gauld’s comments particularly interesting: -

As far as the options for the nature of the communicators are concerned, I feel that there should be another three: 3) Incarnates, 4) Super-PSI, 5) Discarnate ‘Fraud’ (although ‘fraud’ is probably too strong a word in many cases).

As far as 3 is concerned in relation to Scole, I would simply draw your attention to the comments of the current (post Scole Report) group themselves in the ‘ANSWERS TO YOUR QUESTIONS’ section of the Facebook page on the link you provided: -

“So, whilst fraud always has to remain an explanation for any critical investigator, it's rather unlikely if you know the circumstances under which the experiments are conducted.”

I couldn’t agree more - to both points. Any ‘critical investigator’ will be very aware of the chequered history of physical mediumship, including past cases of apparent ‘mixed’ mediumship. I have, myself, encountered this, i.e. strong phenomena under circumstances that, in my opinion, would rule out fraud; alongside brazen cheating that was admitted when the proof was presented. Ironically the very last time I spoke to David Fontana (only a few months before he died) it was about this very subject, although not in relation to Scole. David, of course, was very aware of the phenomenon of mixed mediumship and offered the comment that more research was needed into the psychology of the trance state (in particular), but also the general psychology of people around the occurrence of genuine psi activity.

Alternatively option 4, maybe, would go some way towards explaining the fact that the only survival evidence in terms of information in support of identity was available by normal means – if, that is, you feel that the good character of the Scole Group members mitigates against fraud in that regard. Of course, it could also be that the communicators, if they were discarnate humans, were unaware that the information was available normally, or did not care.

Option 5? This has always been a big bone of contention for me. All I know is that I attended hundreds of séances back in the 1990’s. This was mainly with one group, but I did sit with the pre-eminent physical mediums of that time, also. The alacrity with which many people would accept the statements of ‘communicators’ truly astonished me (and others) at times. The habit that I found most worrying, was that of unconsciously attributing one’s own ideas as to the identity of the communicators, or the modus operandi of the phenomena, as having come from the latter when, in reality, the communicators had either said nothing about an issue – or had merely answered in the affirmative to a rather leading question. At times people genuinely did not seem to realise that they were doing this. I remember several instances of me questioning communicators more closely by asking questions of them that they should have been able to answer very easily (if they really were who they had tacitly AGREED to be), only to find that the answer given was hilariously (or tragically) incorrect. We encountered (amongst others) a Joseph Stalin unable to remember anything at all about the Yalta conference, or the country of his birth; and a communicator who claimed to be French but fell curiously silent when the French circle leader started to talk back to him in that language. However, all of this was accompanied by phenomena which, at times, could not easily be explained by fraud, and other occasions when test questions were answered CORRECTLY.

Of course, there is also the ‘Conjuring Up Philip’ episode, and the work of Ken Batcheldor, both of which may be relevant.

The Scole Group came out of that same Spiritualist home circle culture. Therefore I can’t help but find it rather curious that we are presented with a new, ‘safe’, ‘energy’ method for producing phenomena that resembles, pretty much, that being produced in the early days of the SPR . Yet it still has to operate largely in the dark with the same ‘don’t touch’ constraints etc? There is also the small matter of the whole exercise being brought to a rather abrupt halt because the group had caused ‘…a violation of cosmic and interdimensional laws relating to time and space’ and so ‘…must not be allowed to continue’. Doesn’t anyone else find it rather odd that no other exercise in producing similar physical phenomena has caused such a potentially catastrophic event?

I think my main point would be that, in theory, any (or all) of these posited psi factors COULD be at operation in a Scole type situation – alongside normal human behaviour and social interactions, which can be complicated enough on their own. And, of course, the normal social interactions/attitudes between people (including researchers) are always going to be heavily involved in any psi related activity. And, yes, the communicators could have been virtually anybody, or anything – from anywhere. It has been observed often enough over the years that the ‘controls’ of mediums often show many signs that they are largely, or in whole, merely temporarily dissociated parts of the medium’s own personality. Some mediums have even suggested that themselves – Mrs Piper and Eileen Garrett spring to mind most readily. I'm aware that Fontana rejected this idea in his book in the case of the Scole mediums/controls and, as he was a psychologist of international repute, it would be pretty dumb to reject his opinion out of hand. Unfortunately, especially for the lay reader, he does not expand on this.

Without clear, readily given, information in support of identity from at least some of the allegedly discarnate parties concerned, then we are left in a position where there is little alternative but to engage in '...sterile debate', to quote Donald West from his contribution to The Report, about the true origins of the phenomena - at least to an extent. Indeed, unless I've missed something, I don't really see how Scole has taken us any further forward with regard to physical mediumship in a scientific or social sense. Virtually all of the phenomena reported, and the ensuing debate about them are very similar to the phenomena and speculation of over 100 years ago. That's because 1) The use of the most useful modern technology was, by and large, eschewed 2) The 'communicators' did not see fit to introduce anyone from their environment that was capable (or willing) to provide the sort of evidence in support of identity that would have conveyed the idea of HUMAN post-mortem survival more strongly. Given the theoretical resources available to the 'spirit team' in that regard (countless thousands of deceased contemporaries of theirs from the recent past) I find that baffling. I'm sure that at least some of the witnesses had departed relatives that could have pitched up to contribute something. One is merely left wondering what the constraints that prevented this were? I suspect that at least part of the answer might lie in comments by the Alan Kardec 'communicators' (The Medium's Book, and Spirit's Book, in particular) concerning how mediumship should be conducted. I won't go there in any depth for now, but this relates specifically to option 5. The books are out there (the Anna Blackwell translations) for free download in PDF form for anyone who's interested. So is an old article of mine about Kardec that's managed to find its way to several locations online over the years - just Google.

I'm aware that there was an instance of a witness who received quite good sounding survival evidence at a séance in America, in the presence of Keen - but I don't think that was actually in The Report itself...more's the pity.

I feel that John Beloff, quoted by Crawford Knox in The Report, was correct when he said that Scole was an 'important first step' at restarting research into physical mediumship in a modern context. It was, and was certainly still ‘worth it’, in my view. I'd say that, on balance, I'd be prepared to bet that the phenomena were genuine. And your option of choosing '1' certainly isn't illogical by any means. It's just that, unfortunately, the project on it's own, I feel, would leave too many questions inadequately answered for many people who, quite naturally, expect evidence of identity to be given precedence over what Gauld refers to as 'party tricks' in the link I provided earlier. And we shouldn’t be surprised if others use the more questionable aspects of the behaviour of the ‘spirit team’ as an excuse to reject the whole lot.

BTW, I think that you’re absolutely correct to say that we should not be afraid to broach the subject of alien intelligence, or the possibility that such might be able to communicate via a mediumistic channel – from wherever - as long as there is evidence to support that idea that amounts to more than ‘communicators’ (or the circle) baldly claiming that there are aliens involved.

An undervalued argument for survival over super-psi?

Here is an out of fashion argument that has its origins in the 1950s …. I wish to revive it and extend it :-)

If we put a classical computer in an extrasensory perception test and prevent cheating (as ESP tests with humans), prevent unintentional local signalling (as ESP tests with humans do with sound proofing, electromagnetically shielded rooms, etc.) ensure properly randomized selection, etc. (as ESP tests on humans do) then a classical computer (in theory) cannot guess better – on average – than chance expectation. Yet humans if motivated -on average – do better than chance expectation. This is proves the human mind is more than classical computer and these results cannot be modelled by classical physics that led to philosophical materialism.

But what about quantum physics? With quantum physics non-local pseudo-telepathy like effects between entangled objects can experimentally occur … but the materialists object (with justification) that it is impossible to send information via non-local signalling (although in the De Broglie/Bohm theory signal non-locality may exist but remains unproven)

If we assume signal non-locality is indeed impossible for brains, the fact lab parapsychology results indicate telepathy (or ESP) effects are still occurring (regardless of classical and QM limitations) now means that the mind has properties even deeper than current quantum mechanics and an assumption that a brain to brain type of telepathy (i.e. super-psi) is theoretically without support.

Yet while the limitations would indeed apply to super-psi which is based upon the assumption minds are just brains and ESP is just a brain function encompassed by brain physics. … the theoretical limitations of QM cannot be applied to theories which propose consciousness/mind is of a level deeper than QM, since one cannot constrain the laws of a deeper reality by mere by-laws of a classical or QM subsystems.

Science is supposed to place experimental facts higher than theory, theories change to fit experimental facts, not vice versa. Whatever remains unfalsified must be true (or at least should be favoured).

Survival which requires deeper levels of reality side steps theoretical limitations, while the reductionism to a brain with ESP (super-psi) does not.


Hmm - that's I good one, OM. I'll spend a bit of time getting my head around the last bits. But your initial proposal looks sound enough to me.

Got it OM. But does super-psi necessarily have to be directly brain to brain? Or am I misunderstanding something? I wasn't aware that super-psi had been defined as being brain dependent. Shouldn't we really be saying 'mind to mind'?

Steve, although super-psi hasn't been directly defined as being brain depedent phenomena ... the development of super-psi theory first emerged (via Charles Richet) as an alternative interpretation of survival suggestive phenomena.

I would say if one believes super-psi is emerging from a level deeper than the brain (as required for survival) that type of super-psi would surely shift from being in opposition to survival, to instead being in support of survival?

I'm just outlining the concept for others to take further (or shoot at in debate) so thanks for commenting.


Understood, OM. Thanks for the clarification.

I do not think your argument to be successful, Open Mind, because it remains a problem which is to find out the source of the mediums, although I agree with some cases point to a postmortem communication.

The argument that OM is citing, Juan, resonates with me quite strongly - as far as it goes, so far. I'm going to have to mull over it (and read around the subject) a bit more, though ;)

It is a novel idea that, I admit, I wasn't aware of previously. It would be intriguing to see what happen, when we eventually have quantum computing systems, as such, what would happen if the experiment OM mentions were to be actually carried out with one. I'd expect the theoretical result to be the same i.e. one would only get 'chance' results or, at least, chance to a greater extent than with human subjects.

I'm assuming, BTW, that nobody has actually carried out the experiment with classical computing to that specific end - I don't remember reading of anything being tried. We know, of course, that human subjects will produce results that vary significantly from chance in either direction (better or worse).

I'd agree with your point about mediums. The results I've had from scores of private readings and platform demonstrations over the years contain a (very) few that would appear to knock the cold/hot reading theory out of the stadium and strain super-psi to breaking point - debatably beyond it.


"As far as the options for the nature of the communicators are concerned, I feel that there should be another three: 3) Incarnates, 4) Super-PSI, 5) Discarnate ‘Fraud’ (although ‘fraud’ is probably too strong a word in many cases)."

1. "Incarnates" explanation.
Taking the light phenomena (and thanks for the link which I read) this is ruled out unless sophisticated tactile laser holographic equipment (operated in the dark by the sitters) producing fast moving light balls was present (plus other phenomena). Not found at Scole (you know about searches) or even *invented* - even now.

2. Super-PSI can't do this - this seems stretching as an explanation even beyond credibly saying the lights didn't happen - looking at the stature of the witnesses and the intelligent nature of the lights movements.

3. "Discarnate Fraud" doesn't make sense considering the light phenomena occurred. Clearly an intelligence(s) brought forth these lights and it wasn't a physical human (the technological cut-off I gave above).

Given the solid character of "everyone" involved what then do you do with all the rest of the evidence? Still your extra 3 suggestions?

Once one has ruled "in" that a non-physical intelligence(s) is involved (for the lights), discarnate and/or inter-dimensional (or alien), it's best to run with that. Discarnates still seems the best though.


Cheers Alan

1) Agreed

2) Agreed – to a high degree of probability. But with one qualification, which I’ve mentioned before here (just my opinion). If we’re talking in the strictest scientific terms, I don’t believe that we know enough about psi, the ‘mind’ etc, to rule super-psi out completely. I know that there have never been such strong phenomena produced in the LAB etc. But, there’s the Phillip experiment to consider. Also, I’ve seen a circle build up phenomena from scratch and, at times, (as I mentioned) it seemed to me that the ‘Controls’ and some other ‘communicators’ (in terms of personality, general characteristics) could have being built up from the incarnate group characteristics and habits of the sitters - gradually. This has been mentioned elsewhere in other contexts – but also in a circle situation. For example during the Enfield case, Guy Lyon Playfair mentioned that the poltergeist would often only do something for the first time if someone mentioned the possibillity. Could well be wrong here, but that may have been reported in the Mathew Manning case also.

I know that Maurice Gross mentioned the similarity of poltergeist activity to what was going on at Scole and, I seem to remember, that he was rejected as a witness by the group as a consequence. That was not a wise move on their part, in my opinion. Also I know that Ellison (a Theosophist) held the view that, in his experience, even apparently genuine and intelligent full-form materialisations that he’d witnessed elsewhere (under conditions that would rule out fraud) where of this ilk. He gave a talk about it at the NAS Seminar in Cardiff in 1997. Ellison may well have changed his view on that post Scole (I last spoke to him about it in 97 – so I don’t know). All I’m saying is, that the idea should be accepted as being a possible factor in at least SOME aspects of the phenomena.

3) I’m not saying that discarnates produced the phenomena fraudulently – I’m saying that they might not have been who they claimed to be or that there may have been, at least, some aspect of 2 going on – in terms of what to me seems like rather capricious behaviour in some respects. There are plenty of incarnates who can do all sorts of amazing things but are perfectly capable of pulling a fast one for their own amusement – even if they may be benign in most aspects of their character. The assumption that only ‘good’ people produce post-mortem phenomena is utterly naïve, in my view. That’s why I recommended viewing of the Kardec material – although, Stainton Moses (and others) also had rather a lot to say about this. I’m not saying that the Scole communicators were discarnate sociopaths (BTW), but that some of their actions seem to have been rather questionable.

So, in sum, my feeling is that the extra 3 suggestions should be taken into account during any serious study into this area because the evidence - from my own experience and that reported elsewhere – indicates, to me, that they should be. And it should be considered a possibility that, even if challenging survival evidence has been given (in terms of identity), that some of these factors could be playing a part – or could do at some point. That they appear to be largely taboo to Spiritualists, I feel, has proved to be an almighty barrier to serious research and getting at least some acknowledgement of the phenomena from outside of the Spiritualist/survivalist community – at least as big a barrier as ‘skeptical’ misrepresentation – and there has been plenty of that, as we all know.

I was asked to write an appraisal of Scole in 2012 for ‘Light’ magazine (as was Guy Lyon Playfair) to mark the publication of ‘The Scole Report ‘ in popular book form. I think it was the Summer 2012 issue (but could have been the Autumn one). That piece (as well as most of what I’ve written here) was based on what is contained in The Report itself (as a piece of independent scientific reporting) – rather than, for the most part, material from outside of that. I understand that the Group (or part of it) have reconvened since, so I’m presuming that the alleged violation of space-time laws that halted them before must have been mitigated, to at least a degree?!? I have not appraised myself fully with the current details of their work – but I wish them well with it, nevertheless.

Thanks Steve and really interesting chatting to you, I'll chase up some of the refs. you gave, bye for now

No problem Alan, ditto - all the best!

Unaccomplished activities of past lives are also one of the causes for reincarnation. Some of us reincarnate to complete the unfinished tasks of previous birth. The is evident from my own story of reincarnation:
“My most Revered Guru of my previous life His Holiness Maharaj Sahab, 3rd Spiritual Head of Radhasoami Faith had revealed this secret to me during trance like state of mine. This was sort of REVELATION.
HE told me, “Tum Sarkar Sahab Ho” (You are Sarkar Sahab). Sarkar Sahab was one of the most beloved disciple of His Holiness Maharj Sahab. Sarkar Sahab later on became Fourth of Spiritual Head Radhasoami Faith.
Since I don’t have any direct realization of it so I can not claim the extent of its correctness. But it seems to be correct. During my previous birth I wanted to sing the song of ‘Infinite’ (Agam Geet yeh gawan chahoon tumhri mauj nihara, mauj hoi to satguru soami karoon supanth vichara) but I could not do so then since I had to leave the mortal frame at a very early age. But through the unbounded Grace and Mercy of my most Revered Guru that desire of my past birth is being fulfilled now.”
I am one the chief expounder and supporter of Gravitation Force Theory of God. This is most scientific and secular theory of God. This is the Theory of Universal Religion. I have given Higher Theory of Everything. Sometimes back I posted this as comments to a blog on:
‘Fighting of the Cause of Allah by Governing a Smart Mathematics Based on Islamic Teology’
By Rohedi of Rohedi Laboratories, Indonesia. Rohedi termed my higher theory of everything more wonderful than which has been developed by Stephen Hawking. Some details are quoted below:
@anirudh kumar satsangi
Congratulation you have develop the higher theory of everything more wonderful than which has been developed by Stephen Hawking. Hopefully your some views for being considered for Unified Field Theory are recognized by International Science Community, hence I soon read the fundamental aspect proposed by you.
I have posted my comments to the Blog of Syed K. Mirza on Evolutionary Science vs. Creation Theory, and Intellectual Hypocrisy. Syed Mirza seems to be a very liberal muslim. He responded to my comments as mentioned below.
“Many thanks for your very high thought explanations of God.
You said:
“Hence it can be assumed that the Current of Chaitanya (Consciousness) and Gravitational Wave are the two names of the same Supreme Essence (Seed) which has brought forth the entire creation. Hence it can be assumed that the source of current of consciousness and gravitational wave is the same i.e. God or ultimate creator.
(i) Gravitation Force is the Ultimate Creator, Source of Gravitational Wave is God”
Whatever you call it, God is no living God of any religion. Yes, when I call it “Mother Nature” is the God generated from all Natural forces and Gravitational force is the nucleus of all forces or we can presume that Gravitation is the ultimate guiding principle of this Mother Nature we call it non-living God unlike living personal God of religions. I can not believe any personal God would do so much misery created for its creation. Hence, only non-living natural God can explain everything in the Universe. When we think of any living personal God, things do not ad up!”
I have also discovered the mathematical expression for emotional quotient (E.Q.) and for spiritual quotient (S.Q.).
Austrian Scientist Rudolf Steiner says,
“Just as an age was once ready to receive the Copernican theory of the universe, so is our age ready for the idea of reincarnation to be brought into the general consciousness of humanity”.

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