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Skeptical Investigations

Paranormalia readers will enjoy the Skeptical About Skeptics website, which has just launched. There’s a lot of background about the various luminaries in the skeptic movement, along with critical articles that have been written about them and their doings over the years.

The most heavily featured seems to be Michael Shermer, with ten articles (compared with six about Richard Wiseman and eight about James Randi). I thought that interesting, especially having recently read the article in Scientific American, in which he describes his own encounter with the paranormal (definitely worth a read if you haven’t seen it).

This is actually not a brand new site, it’s a revamped version of Rupert Sheldrake’s Skeptical Investigations, which was around for quite a while. (The old link now connects to the new site.) The new editor is Cathi Carol, who I have been in touch with since the brouhaha over the attack on Rupert’s Wikipedia page last year. She doesn’t seem to get a credit on the site, so let’s hear it for her here! This is an attractively presented and readable production.

Well done, Rupert and Cathi!

 Glimpsing Heaven

I 'll be posting here soon, but in the meantime here’s Henry Brand, aka our own Rabbitdawg, with a review of a new book on NDE-type experiences. Thanks, Dawg!

I don't know if you're familiar with an influential Black Power poet from the early 1970's named Gil Scott-Heron, but he was famous during his day for his poem/song The Revolution Will Not Be Televised. Today, it would be considered soft Jazz rap, and I kinda like it, but Scott-Heron's point is what's pertinent to this review. The gist of his message is, when social paradigms are changed, they are changed from within. The gatekeepers are ultimately ignored.

I firmly believe that a revolution in the  public's perception of spirituality and the paranormal (among other things) is happening right before our eyes (the SPR Wiki project is one of the cogs in that social change machine). Responsible, professional journalism will be the driving force that will make it happen. Books and websites by scientists are good, but it takes talented writing to bring the message home.

All of this is my roundabout way of bringing your attention to yet another at-first-I-was-a-sceptic-but-now-that-I-have-researched-the-topic-I-am-a-believer book by a pedigreed journalist that I have only just started to read.

Here's the kicker - it's published by National Geographic. And it's paranormal friendly. Admittedly, National Geographic isn't a prestigious peer reviewed organ like Nature, JAMA, or the British Medical Journal, but it does command a great degree of intellectual respect in certain quarters, and it normally tends to have a materialist verve.   The book, Glimpsing Heaven, has a standard cover showing doors opening into the sky (why do they keep doing that?), and the title sounds like so many other books, but author Judy Bachrach is no slouch, as you can see by her creds at the Amazon link. Even though I have only made it past the first chapter, I am hooked.  

She avoids the term near-death experience as much as possible because she considers it inaccurate. The experiencers were actually temporarily dead. Rather, she uses phrases like death experiencers or death travelers. For those of us comfortable with the NDE phrase, this can be a little jarring at first, but I get her point.

The real difference here is how well she drills down with her research interviews.
For example, we're all familiar with the now deceased Pam Reynolds story. Ms. Bachrach takes it deeper. She interviews family and friends and walks away with a richer picture. Did you know that Pam Reynolds suffered a stroke shortly after her stand-down surgery was completed? She recovered nicely. Her psychic and healing abilities were legendary among those close to her, but she never wanted to make it publicly known. This ability was both humorous in hindsight, yet tragic in other ways.    Her daughters remember teenagehood as an affectionate nightmare because they always had to tell the truth, Mom knew what they were thinking anyway. If they tried to sneak out of the house at night, Reynolds would wake up and catch them. They were frequently embarrassed when their Mother would spontaneously embrace a stranger in public, whisper something in the stranger's ear, and then both of them would start crying. Empathy on steroids.  

On the other hand, Pam Reynolds didn't venture far from home unless she had to. She was distressed by the darkness of the thoughts she could read going through the minds of so many passers-by. She wasn't clinically depressed, in fact she was usually cheerful, but she was also fragile. Forever changed by what she called her transcendent encounter with The Knowing.  

Then there was the time when one of her daughters friends lost her purse, Pam inexplicably "knew" it could be found in another girls hall closet underneath some coats. Or the time Pam visited a teenage boy in a hospital while he was in a coma and whispered "I don't know about you, but I want to call the pizza dude and get some slices, because I hate the food here". The boy woke up, smiled and recovered.

This link is to the US Amazon site, where there are significantly more reviews. The UK version isn't available for Kindle yet, and the book only has one three star review. (The reviewer is bitchin' because Ms. Bachrach failed to talk about Muslims, and didn't attempt to offer solutions to current world problems. sigh )

It may take another generation, maybe two, but I doubt it will take much longer for the general public to become more comfortable and outspoken about their paranormal and spiritual experiences, Dawkins and Randi be damned. Journalists, at least successful ones are in touch with the beat of the street. I like to compare the information explosion happening right now with the internet and e-publishing with the invention of the printing press. It might getting off to a shaky start, but as folks discover that they aren't alone, they will seek out more information and the company of like-minded others to share their experiences and thoughts with, and change will happen. I bet the farm on it.

Okay, I don't own a farm, But if I did, I would. :)

Henry Brand